Saturday, March 30, 2013

Letter From Manchester


In Manchester, the End is Nigh. Of course, only for those who are at the end of their University experience and must remind themselves this is a rite of passage and one that has been lived by many before. There are those, like myself, who live everyday leaning towards some Reality Bites inspired 'end of University angst', occasionally sighing forlornly 'only 8 weeks to go now. We'll never see each other again.' There are also those who roll their eyes in response, swig their last slug of beer from their can before realising, equally panicked that the End is indeed Nigh. The time is 2am and that was the last can. Such small crises continue in the midst of the bigger one.

Final papers are being handed in, bikes are cycled through bitter winds and into University to collect grades which finally mean something. Those in relationships are determinedly ignoring June and the future, and others are snogging old friends before it is too late.

Future plans consist for some of blank pages, for others trips to Malaysia or graduate schemes in which one must once again start at the bottom as the runt of the litter, but with the pride of telling relatives at parties that a salary is in sight. While we stir our meals in big communal pots at dinnertime someone asks 'who will be the first of all of us to have a baby?' with the same wariness and excitement reserved for the one who will cure cancer. Gigi, obviously, we quickly conclude and go to scrape the lentils which started to burn in the pan while we shallowly contemplated our own lives as if we were starting to sketch the storyboard for our own future-montage scene. The rest refill their glasses and continue with the next and darker instalment of 'Would You Rather?' with a gruesome scenario which involves a life of being forced to watch your parents most intimate moments, or worse.

Lots of us have left already for Easter and today me and Nanon spent all of our time together, walking along desirable streets after stopping at the greengrocers, pointing at the houses we fantasise about living in next year. I put on a comedy Lancashire accent and tell Nanon "ooh, you could be a modern day Lowry with all them bricks around you, stand still and I'll take a picture." She poses and says "I'm just like Ian Dury" before realising that she meant Curtis, but that Curtis definitely wouldn't have worn a camel coloured coat with slightly puffed shoulders. We continue the househunting like an older and wiser couple and come up with equally fantastical life plans and wonder if they might actually be achievable. We'll get jobs as waitresses and rake in the tips which are currently elusive to us, and in the evenings write the screenplay for a truthful sitcom all about women in their early twenties which will be dazzling and successful and will inevitably recieve comparisons to Girls, because it's about girls, but that's okay, you can't change everything at once. We'll never fall victim to those days when try as you might you can't get out of bed and we'll do all the things and more.

We come home to mine once the snow has returned and our eyelids are too cold to take any more fantasising outdoors and we cook more lentils and together with Yas we youtube 'Can't Hold Us Down' by Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim and remember who great it is, being overly nostalgic about something that only happened in 2002. We think about how nostalgic we'll be in 10 years time, we'll really have license then, but realise that in 10 years time nostalgia will probably be a luxury, and just a way for students with few hours of classes and no real concerns to pass the time, which is okay for now.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Conversation

Click for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

It is rare that I read or watch an interview and feel that I've been left with something useful. Every month a glut of interview features amass the shelves of newsagents and supermarkets and bookshops and yet they mostly lack any wisdom or thought-provoking nuggets. The work commitments of actors, creatives, business people and musicians who have albums, books and records to promote seem to be viewed as separate from an opportunity to have interesting conversation. It is understandable, I've watched Notting Hill, I know how these tedious press junkets work. But it is disheartening to buy a glossy magazine and to always read the same formula. Female subjects are usually wrapped up in an oversize mohair jumper, looking natural and wearing little make-up and talking about things that ultimately aren't massively interesting in a self-deprecating way. Or maybe the problem is that so many of these subjects aren't massively interesting to me in the first place. So you have a slightly bland star dominating the interview feature for 4 pages and then someone who really is interesting- Tilda Swinton, say, who is featured in the 'My Life in Books' feature, with something a little more meaningful crammed into 300 words. It is frustrating but also a practice that I shouldn't expect mainstream glossy magazines to move past anytime soon.

If I want something really satisfying I have learnt to bypass the usual titles (even those fashion magazines that parade as different and as promoting strong women but ultimately don't) and stick to some tried and tested formulas. Jessica Stanley's blog is one of my absolute favourites and I always feel satisfied after reading one of her compilation posts of interesting articles and interviews from across the internet. She has a knack of finding opinion pieces or articles, from random blogs I would never have found, or maybe something from the Paris Review archive. Maybe it will be about the romance of being single, or the creative process or a really touching and well-written piece about a memory of living in New York. Either way it is the sort of thing I'll read while I eat my porridge in the morning and it will stay with me for the rest of the day, or maybe even longer. Magazines like The Gentlewoman and Apartamento also hit the mark for me in terms of insightful encounters with subjects and I remember enjoying this interview with Sheila Heti on KCRW via 10.17.

When I read an interview I'm ultimately curious about how people live their lives, because if we're not making it up as we go along, then we're quietly watching others for clues. I want to know about their routines or their self-doubts or what they've recently watched or read or thought about. I'm a big fan of 'isms' and maybe my requirements of interviews are ultimately selfish, by wishing to be left with something for myself at the expense of a subject revealing something about themselves. Really though, I know it isn't selfish, more a wish to be left with something more meaningful than the release date for a film.

Last weekend I spent 45 minutes or so watching a 4-part interview with Nick Cave on Youtube and it is absolutely an example of the 'satisfying interview'. A conversation between the interviewer and the subject rather than a personal portrait laden with a heavy portion of flattery. The interview is from 10 years ago, and very informal with the conversation between the two men starting with some memories of the last time they met and Nick Cave asking "Are we doing this? Are you filming?" about 3 minutes in, after their conversation has become the interview but without a cue to indicate it. I would really recommend sticking the kettle on for a cup of something hot and watching the 4 parts which are broken into the topics of discussion 'Habits and Routines', 'The Creative Process', 'The Love Song Lecture' and 'Self Image'. A lot of the brilliance of this interview is down to the interviewer himself, by asking interesting questions and knowing what Nick Cave has to share. Nick Cave, cigarette in hand, is all the time speaking very much within himself, and using his energy to find the right words rather than channelling it into being self-deprecating and fun and liked. This is definitely something I notice a lot in a majority of interviews and I think it is something we do on a daily basis in our conversations with each other and sometimes it takes away from what we're actually saying. Not that we have to always be serious and thoughtful, but the very British habit of being self-deprecating is one that sometimes becomes draining in social situations. Either way, I recommend all 4 parts to be enjoyed with a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of Banana bread and a blanket over the knees.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Apron Appreciation

I bought this dress from the JW Anderson x Topshop collection last week and man, I like it. It makes me feel like a French painter or a baker who means business. I work at the cafe in the Whitworth Gallery and there is a woman who works at the gallery who always comes in for a bowl of soup at lunchtime wearing a fantastic denim apron. It is sturdy and a dark wash of indigo with paint flecks and cutting dust along the sides. All good aprons should have various dust on the sides- the greatest pleasure in wearing one is being able to wipe your hands on yourself when they're dirty like you did as a child without any adult instincts getting in the way, and for the muck to actually add to the personality of the denim. A crumb, paint, coffee gradual, jammed, free-for-all.

My dress isn't quite in the same category as hers but I like it with its little frills. I wore it to my Aunt's 40th over the weekend. Before I left the house- in some anti-Coco Chanel philosophy- I added a couple of accessories. (Sacre bleu! She always says to remove them! Well, I'm never much the accessories type, so if anything I should always follow the opposite of her 'isms') So on when my banana brooch and up went a ponytail. All after a brush of the teeth, of course. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hot Stuff

Jumper: Uniqlo, Dress: secondhand, Bumbag: Mr Ben Handbag + Luggage, Clogs: Topshop, Neon Nail Varnish: American Apparel.

I wore this a couple of nights ago for a fantastic night of dancing and blowing off some post-essay steam. There has been an increasing trend in Manchester (and I'm sure many other UK cities) of clubs advertising nights as playing Disco and Boogie when in fact all they do is play Deep House for half an hour and then the night descends into a tedious beat from midnight with a room of people pretending thats what they're really into. It's not what I'm into. I don't understand why there has to be ambiguity about clubs advertising a certain genre of music which they have no intention of playing just to tap into some retro nostalgia. The point is, I like dancing to Disco and I get bummed out when promises are broken. The beauty of Thursday night however was that it was disco and boogie and soul and perfect merriment free of House music pretension. Just good old lashings of Donna Summer and Kool and The Gang and lots of rosy cheeks and wide smiles and a mirrorball  So anyone in the Manchester area, I urge you to keep your eyes peeled for Stevie Wonderland. (My own enjoyment of the night had absolutely nothing may have had something to do with it being my namesake.)

In other news I've sacked off being a blonde and returned to the reddish shade I had a few years ago and it feels good. 

Lastly, here are two videos for your Saturday viewing pleasure:
( I recommend them thoroughly and personally can't stop myself from watching Sunset Sam and Lucy and Ramona hanging out in their rollerskates and tight pants.)

Monday, March 11, 2013


Hello, hello. It's Monday, the start of a new week already. How does it keep happening? I'm back from a weekend away in Snowdonia with a big group of friends for a birthday. We hired a big lodge beside Llyn Gwynant and after arriving in the dark, my weekend started with an astonishingly beautiful view of the lake as I opened the blinds, the steep slopes of Snowdon visible amongst fog. Picking my way through the bottles of wine from the night before and sharing a cup of Earl Grey and the view with some of the bleary eyed gang in a novel location was a great start to the weekend. Later we went on a walk which blew the cobwebs away and spent the afternoon playing cards and Jenga, a perfect antidote to the stresses of the final year of university and the slight uncertainty surrounding our futures which is something we're all experiencing at the moment. Now it is back to reality, but here are some of the cool things that have been pleasing me and punctuating my essay writing. 

Some cool things: (Clockwise from top left) This guy with a snake around this neck from the Spring Summer 2013 collections editorial in the March issue of Dazed and Confused. / Tom Waits, as ever. But particularly so in this photo. I've been listening to Nighthawks At The Diner a lot recently, particularly 'Better Off Without A Wife' for its celebration of the romance of singledom. ("Goin' out when I want to, comin' home when I please, I don't have to ask permission if want to go out fishing, and I never have to ask for the keys") / The fantastic Supreme x Comme des Garcons lookbook with Chloe Sevigny and Jason Dill. While the streets (at least in England) have become somewhat saturated with Supreme logos and similar knock-off streetwear odes, this lookbook still looks fresh. It's Chloe. It's always because of Chloe.. / Bay Garnett's instagram -her daughter's transfer tattoos and two badges reading 'lover' and fighter'/ Beautiful snapshots of the American outdoors by photographer Jocelyn Catterson via Miss Moss / A poster on a wall in my friend's house which reads "How to survive times of austerity.. loot the shops and paaarty!" Smashing sentiment!/ A Jenny Holzer truism- 'Raise Boys and Girls the same way."