Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not Another Nonchalant Gift Guide

Crosley turntable / City cycling guides by Rapha/ 'Badass bitch brooches' (Patsy and Buffy- natch) from Nappy Happy/ Croc loafer heels/ Marvis Cinnamon Mint toothpaste/ Velvet cigarette trousers/ Whowhat whale bag/ Total Exposure by Las Kellies/

Hey! Ready for another slice of nonchalant gift-guiding? It's six days until Christmas. But it's okay, it's okay. Shhh-sh. You don't need to be one of those people that go out on a sweat-filled panic-buy in their lunchbreak. Just buy cinnamon mint toothpaste and city cycling guides and 'badass bitch brooches' online for your loved ones and they'll arrive just in time. Easy.

And if you're somebody that doesn't celebrate 'Christmas' in the christian sense you should just buy yourself a copy of Total Exposure by Las Kellies anyway because it's a pretty good album and you can blast it at home while you potter about doing things that don't involve trying to remember what your distant uncle does for a living.

Season's greetings!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


It's been a while since I did one of these outfit post things. Me and Rose went on a very successful charity shopping binge in Chorlton the other week. We came back laden with photo frames, some 'work appropriate clothes' for me (a wardrobe 'genre' I'm enjoying getting to grips with) and bric-a-brac for Rose's room which is an Aladdin's cave of cool and strange knick knacks. (A mini tiger-head vase in which to house a cactus? Why not)

This Rockport jacket was amongst the haul and is the jacket I've been wearing during the weekends when I like to pretend that I'm a business man who is 'dressing down for the weekend'. Think a Steve Martin American Dad type who wears casual sports jackets, white trainers and shoots hoops on a Sunday morning.

The dress is from Asos and I picked up the baby pink leather bumbag whilst Christmas shopping. I'm serious about the 'one for you, one for me' Christmas shopping philosophy. Nanon and I had a pleasant afternoon of shopping in the Northern Quarter; it's perfect for stress-free present buying. Record shops, a great Oxfam, places to buy local beer and a chocolate shop with such an outstanding cocoa odour as soon as you walk in that you're half expecting to find Juliette Binoche behind the counter. Interspersed among the shops are bars- and lots of them. Come 5pm I was enjoying the warm glow they were beaming onto the streets and the sight of shoppers inside, hats and gloves on the tables, swaddled between their shopping bags and refuelling with a well-earned beer. Before I knew it myself and Nanon were doing the same at Soup Kitchen, my brother's glow-in-the-dark-stars at my feet and a pint of Aspalls in my hand. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Moodboard

Hello Weekend, you old chestnut. It's come around quickly once again, hasn't it? This week I've been enjoying reading A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. I've been coming to terms with not having a mobile phone (what- no instagram?!) after having mine stolen last week. Clue: oddly liberating. I've been eating homemade lentil, red cabbage, kale and bacon soup at lunchtimes and working my way through the Piccadilly Records Top 100 playlist, which is stellar.

Now I'll do that thing when I finally tackle the overzealous collection of tabs cluttering my screen and compile them into a snazzy moodboard. Have a wonderful weekend, all.

Hand-rolled cigarette russes with sparkling neon sprinkles- are these not the kittens of the baking world? So small, so pretty, so coo-inducing. I haven't baked for blooming ages (I get more out of cooking these days but that's also because this usually happens when I go down the sweet route..) but these, nestled in a pretty tissue-papered box would a brilliant Christmas present make. Via Smitten Kitchen (you know the drill- only click on that link if you have a full stomach and a spare hour)

Cocktail Boyfriend Jeans The other day my colleague Polly asked "If you could take up a whole new look without any judgement from the outside world, how would you dress?" We pondered everything from promiscuous thigh-high boots to 1920s flappers dresses. Now that I've had the time to reflect I'm kicking myself- of course it would be 'Miami Beach Divorcee', no questions asked. All manicured nails and tassles and big sunglasses and cocktail print flares. House of Holland understands this quasi-trashy aesthetic which my brain likes to revisit. Woah mama.

Like many people, before the obligation of regular homework and the distraction of The Sims and MSN and MySpace I used to spend all my time drawing. I'd draw babies, teenagers, families, groups of best friends; experimenting with how realistic or cartoonish I could make the eyes and realising the more varied a group of people was in size and shape, the most interesting they were. I'd write little bios next to these imagined people and then create stories about them. 'Erin, 14, best friends with Claire, supports Liverpool FC, favourite colour; yellow, likes to eat pasta and hang out with her sisters.' I can't remember how long I did this for but I'm fairly sure it was a matter of years, stopping around the time I went to secondary school. One of the best things about this pastime was that I was completely unselfconscious about having a pen in my hand. now whenever I draw I'm often pausing to decide if it looks 'good'. Later on at A-Level I studied graphic art and got the same pleasure from redesigning the album art for a Beirut album, scanning the insides of envelopes and photographs of my Mum as a teenager, ripping pages from National Geographic and bringing everything together on photoshop. I miss spending so much time cutting and sticking and making but most of all I miss feeling unselfconscious. I'm trying to be better at leaving my laptop at work in the evenings to allow myself time to revisit my pens in the evening. A spate of illustrators websites have been sitting in my tabs recently which has only increased the urge. In particular I've been enjoying Sam Brewster's drawings, which remind me of 1950s children's books and old matchbox illustrations.

YMC brushed wool jumper Goes together with Christmas evening like turkey and cranberry sauce.

Igor Termenon has his fingers in lots of pies. He's the editor of photography zines Girls on Film and Boys on Film and is part of the team behind Future Positive. I've been enjoying going through his personal site, in particular his photographs of Glasgow. For me, Glasgow is the mistress. If I was to leave Manchester for anywhere else in the UK, it would be Glasgow, and Termenon reaffirms why.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Atelier Bingo


I've the serious joneses for these screenprint designs by French illustrator/design team Atelier Bingo (aka Maxime Prou and Adele Favreau)

You can check out their site here.
Here's their Etsy shop if you feel like treating yourself to something.
Read an interview with Prou and Favreau over at

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Gift Giving: The Reading List

The seasonal gift guide continues with books. It is universally known that one of the greatest pleasures that comes with Christmas/Winter festivals is reading. To me the sign of shared familial love and understanding is the lull of silence that descends over the sitting room on the afternoon of the 25th, bar for the occasional cracking of the fire or interruption of rustling wrappers and the question "Quality Street?" Simple pleasures. 

I've mentioned before that myself, Mum and Step-Dad have a 'book and a bottle' rule each Christmas. Sometimes my Stepdad will play a wildcard and buy me a pair of slippers but this rule makes everything hassle-free in the gift shopping department. I can spend an afternoon lazily perusing the shelves at Waterstones and still be A Good Person. These are some of my picks for the best books to give to friends, relatives and lovers this December:

The Monocle Guide to Better Living: Whoa mama. I picked this up recently in Magma and suddenly found myself all 'pro-coffee table books' again. After a period of seeing them as a frivolity (seriously, when was the last time you leafed through all of those £40 fashion tomes you bought as a teenager?) the substance of this guide won me over again. This book is full of recommendations on locations, products and ideas that inspire better living across the globe. Cue gorgeous shots of people taking morning swims in open air pools and looking like they're having the best time ever in cities from Beirut to Berlin. 

2. Eames by Gloria Koenig and Peter Gossel: This book is a comprehensive guide to the careers of Ray and Charles Eames. Crammed with interiors-porn it's also a great 'new relationship' litmus test. Just leave it self-consciously lying open when you have a new friend or lover in the house and see if they take the bate!

3. Powers of Ten: A Flip-book: "More of the Eameses?" I hear you ask. This is Eames in bitesize; their Power of Ten film is even more seductive in flip-book form. Perfect for influencing the small children in your life with big ideas! (One of those presents for them that's really for you..)

4. Autobiography by Morrissey: Come on, of course you're going to buy this for someone this Christmas. If everybody and their uncle read Fifty Shades of Grey then the unofficial national bookclub should give this a go too. I did spend the first couple of pages chortling under my breath when I picked this up in a bookshop. But to be honest that may have been from all the pressure to have a visible public reaction in a Manchester bookshop. 

5. The Pop-Up Kama Sutra by Sir Richard Burton and F. F. Vatsyayana: No, not that Richard Burton. My Mum once bought this for Aunty Megan, the matriarch of our family who passed away this year just before her 102nd birthday. I was affected as a thirteen year old by how brave and awesome this act of gift-giving was. 

6. Tokyo: A Very Brief Introduction by Herb Lester I love Herb Lester guidebooks. You love Herb Lester guidebooks. Let's all put ourselves out of our misery this Christmas and buy someone a goddamn Herb Lester guidebook. 

7. Girls Are Not Chicks colouring book by Jacinta Bunnell: "We have had enough of books that make girls think that they are not any good. Girls are not chicks. Girls are thinkers, creators, fighters, healers and superheroes." *Clicks 'Add to Basket'*

And while we're on the subject, Bluestockings Magazine wrote this great post on the Top 7 Colouring Books for Feminists

Want to scroll through the sickening amount of gift guides I've compiled in previous years? Here, here, here, here and heere

And this is a picture of Edmund from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which is exactly how i'll look on Christmas Day as I work my way through a pile of books. Like a greedy little bugger with a mouthful of turkish delight.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Tis The Season of (gift) guidance

I can't fault gift guides. They're as ubiquitous as mince pies and each December I overdose on both and don't even care. Ah yes, gift guides. I love finding them tucked away in the weekend papers whilst I'm eating my eggs and hot sauce but I like making them even more. They're loaded with all of the pleasure of the Christmas lists we wrote as children* except thinly veiled as an attempt to guide others, because tis the season of goodwill. The season of heartwarming advice like "your Aunty will just love this £300 jumper."

I'm on a pretty tight budget this year and trying to be creative when it comes to handmade gifts that actually mean something. I've spent much of my Saturday night teaching myself 'The Lambton Worm' which is a Northumbrian folk song my Dad used to sing to me when I was younger. He still performs it as his party trick every now and then when he's drunk. My Dad doesn't really like present giving- his response to gifts is a consistently grateful but unbothered so this year I hope to whip this out (after a few glasses of dutch courage) and watch him shed salty tears of joy. Dazzled by his eldest daughter's commitment to learning a tricky Northumbrian dialect all in the name of miserliness. I'll let you know how it goes..

Want to scroll through the sickening amount of gift guides I've compiled in previous years? Herehereherehere and heere.

*This is my own Christmas list, written around aged 6. Displaying an early and acute awareness of the relationship between wine and bribery. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Moodboard: My Week

1. 'Start a Revolution'; neon light piece by Tim Etchells via his notebook. 2. A fried egg badge that I really dig via minimal needs. 3. Photograph by Philip-Lorca DiCorcia whose work I have only just come across after reading about his upcoming exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield.

This weekend passed without much fanfare. But in a nice way. It was one of those grey weekends when it feels like the sky is sitting very low and you just sort of plod along, doing things as half-speed. One of those weekends when spending time in the pub in the company of friends but not even talking that much is a good solution. 

I've been indulging quite a lot in winter laziness recently, when a sort of semi-hibernation feels necessary in the evenings. Hot, comfort food and piling into bed earlier than is perhaps acceptable with a few squares of salted toffee chocolate from the Co-op. Having my bed suited and booted for the cold months with a new thick duck feather duvet has done nothing to discourage my hermitage, but for now I'm okay with it. 

These are some of the things that have been inhabiting my brain (and my computer tabs) over the past few days:

I'm a new Bill Callahan fan. I've been getting so much enjoyment from his latest album Dream River ('The Sing' and 'Small Plane' are my current favourites, particularly this line in the latter: "Sometimes you sleep while I take us home, that's how I know we really have a home") I really liked this Bill Callahan profile on which joins him hanging out at home in Austin with his partner, jamming in his shed and jumping from high spots at the springs. 

While I've been sort of obsessed with hearing about other peoples routines for a while, my interest is starting to dissipate. Mostly because I recognise that this interest in other peoples way of doing things stems from procrastination and escapism. Maybe it's also because I feel less of a need for the 'guidance' of others as a way of validating my own way of doing things. There are only so many times you can read about Franklin's time management schemes. Despite all of this, I did enjoy reading about Molly Young's Sunday Routine. I've read Molly's blog on and off since 2010 and when I was 17 I thought she was the coolest person ever, so it was nice revisiting her world. 

Tim Adams' interview with Jon Hamm. I don't often have the patience to read a celebrity profile in the papers, but this Jon Hamm profile is great. "People tell me they look up to Don, like they look up to Tony Soprano or Walter White. People have these weird fascinations with people who in reality you would not want to be for a second."

Dmitry Gudkov's blog #BikeNYC Project is great but what I really liked were these photographs of Lance Jacobs which led me to his fantastic blog The Virtuous Cyclist. It's full of tips and illustrations for riding safely in New York. Which is perfect for when I'm cycling there in my dreams. My confidence on the roads has really improved in the last year, particularly after cycling to Paris and I feel much safer and in control but I'm still tediously conscious of my own mortality when I'm on my bike. Of course everyone is aware of their own mortality but there is nothing like zipping past buses and avoiding drivers who can't use their indicators to make you ponder death. Lance's blog makes an interesting read, especially in relation to taking responsibility but also taking charge as a cyclist. One of his tips which has stayed with me: make eye contact with motorists. 

A special thanks goes out to my fabulous Granny and long-time no. 1 blog fan who mailed me some cashmere gloves as a surprise after reading my last post. I'm now back to wearing socks strictly on my feet and not my hands and cycling is so much better because of it. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

My Morning Route

It's November. When I go to bed I climb under four blankets and my duvet and I'm wearing the fluorescent striped socks my Great Granny knitted me for me when I was fourteen. After spending much of the past fortnight lying in bed in the evenings, under the layers, watching Mad Men (through my own breath) because it was too cold to do much else, Rose gently suggested that we put the heating on this week. She had tried to send a text but she couldn't feel her own fingers so she came into my room and said 'Stevie. The time has come'. So, it's November and the beginnings of Winter proper. 

Despite all of this there is a clan of stubborn sunflowers on Santiago Road and they're standing in the face of the first frost. They're planted in a small unofficial allotment at the side of the road which is my favourite part of the route I take when I cycle into work each morning. On Thursday the sky was bright and the air was bitter and I was that person who is wearing socks on their hands instead of gloves because 'buy gloves' remains at the end of my to-do list that never gets scribbled off. 

After roads and roads of potholes I turn onto Santiago Street where the surface is smoother and everything is a bit quieter. Sometimes there might be a van parked at junction with men unloading hanging meat to take into the nearby shop. (I took a photo of them sometime last year) There'll be some kids walking to school, sometimes by themselves and sometimes trailing after a parent. And there is the man who stands outside of his house on Newark Avenue, the front of which is filled with potted plants which spill right up to his neighbours' front doors too. He stands out on the street dragging on a cigarette intensely, starring off somewhere. This always makes me think of my own Dad. Whenever I visit him at home in Bristol he'll usually be in the back garden, sitting in his wooden chair, rolling a cigarette with liquorice paper and then sitting back with deep relief to smoke it. His smaller children are safely on the other side of the sliding doors, the glass stopping noise from entering his little zone and I wonder how it is that he still has children under the age of seven, but I won't say anything because he just gives me a look that says "I know". The man on Newark Avenue has the same endearing look of distance on his face, but I like to think that he stands outside not just to escape but to admire and guard his prized plants, too. 

I'll pass the allotment and the sunflowers. On Thursday there was a small pile of discarded DVDs next to the plants. One of them was Secretary. Then there is the basketball court which is always brightly lit by the sun at that time in the morning and next the 'Hans Knitwear' factory which is now an Islamic Centre and sometimes has groups of men standing and talking outside. 

I continue onto Deramore Street. If I time it right I pass as the 'Biker Grove' man is there. He's in his sixties and wears a high-vis jacket and shouts 'Yeah! Biker Grove!' in a patois accent at passing cyclists and the familiar pun always makes me laugh. Midway down the street on the right is the old woman who is always, always sitting on her sofa surrounded by books. There are books everywhere and her blinds are always drawn so you can really get a good look in. Shelves full of them and then piles on every table surface and one open in her lap so that it looks like she has a project on the go, except that she is always leaning to watch the television. This woman in her sitting room is my very favourite part of this stretch because she is always there whether I pass in the morning or the evening. There is nothing sad about the sight and something about the blinds being thrust open means I never feel that I'm intruding on her by peeking into her space. I always just think that it looks like a nice cosy set-up and I bet she has a pretty enviable biscuit tin. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dancing in the Street

Now tell me that this video doesn't do it for you. It's probably how you think you look when you're on a dancefloor and then how you wish you'd looked when you replay it in your head the next day. (I'm talking from experience.) Videos like this make me adore the internet one hundred times over. Shishi Yamazaki, I salute you.

Monday, September 09, 2013

This is England

One of the cool things about my new job is that I get to spend a lot of time scouring the internet for information about upcoming exhibitions and arts festivals across the UK. Which is sort of an extension of what I do in my spare time anyway. It also means that I'm constantly left wanting to hop on a train to visit some great sounding exhibition in Dundee or Nottingham or Sunderland or Blackpool, and yes, sometimes even London. I hear about new artists and photographers and come across cute little videos or bigger, more serious articles with increasing speed and they all buzz around my head. New tabs grow and spread across my browser faster than an October cold and so in the end it's quite a good job that I have a blog to regurgitate it all into.

As a fan of Martin Parr's eponymous beach-scenes and the familiar black and white snapshots of Bill Owens's suburbia, Tony Ray-Jones's photographs appeal to that same interest in documenting the people of a country or a culture. That style of documenting; like the technicoloured Manhattan captured by Joel Meyerowitz, is now very, very familiar. But like Martin Parr, much of Ray-Jones's work captures something intrinsically British, or at least the sort of 'bygone Britishness' which can be so appealing as a slice of photographic nostalgia. Large ladies on beaches, old geezers in tweed flatcaps and waistcoats, queues at bus stops. People who don't look like the people on the street today; a less diverse crowd maybe, and then people who do; universal images of teenagers touching each others bums or bellies, and small children with skinny legs pushing toy prams.

Given the parallels between their work, it's not surprising that Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr have been paired together in an upcoming exhibition at the National Media Museum in the new year. (That's how I heard of Tony Ray-Jones in the first place; amidst all that cultural calendar hawking.) Bradford, I'm popping you on the list.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Beacons Festival or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Boutique

Last month I went to Beacons Festival and I have a couple of confessions to make. I (whisper it) "glamped". I glamped so hard that I even took a small carry-on style wheeley suitcase. In all honesty it was in lieu of a weekend bag which I do not own, because I am not a real adult yet. But still, I like, showered and stuff. And the thing is- it all felt really good. I woke up in the mornings and my hair wasn't sweatily slapped across my forehead. I didn't have to smell the crevices of my own body over the course of the weekend And I only felt about 5% like I was part of some fascist festival club. 

Beacons really showed us a great time and felt like such a hassle-free weekend after the amazing but tiring experience that Glastonbury is. Me and my friend Nanon hopped on the train to Skipton after work and what followed was a fantastic weekend of delicious food and drink, music, arts and crafts, some whiskey tasting and a lot of time spent hanging out in the film tent which was a womb-like haven of sofas and bean bags.  The line-up was really impressive, including short-film marathons, and screenings of The Spirit of '45, Sightseers, The Arbor and a packed-out Shane Meadows Q+A which followed Made of Stone.

Watching The Arbor was probably one of my highlights of the weekend. Based on the life of playwright Andrea Dunbar and her family it is a mish-mash of oral interviews from friends and family, reenactments by actors on the estate she lived in and archive footage of Dunbar during the time that she was receiving attention for her play Bob, Sue and Rita Too. The unusual form of the whole thing was immediately absorbing and I've been thinking a lot about the film since. A Q+A with director Clio Barnard followed afterwards in which she talked about the 'ethical nightmare' of documentary-making and the impossibility of accurately representing the truth of a place, a story, or the people involved. I've talked about this in previous posts, but it's the same thought process I have in relation to writing diaries or letters and which truths we include, what gets left out and how that impacts the bigger picture. I keep diaries for catharsis in the present but also so that I can enjoy reading over them again later in years to come and I often think about this difficulty in recording an 'ultimate truth'. So it was interesting hearing Clio Barnard's thoughts about this in relation to documentary, especially when the lives she was recording and representing were real ones. 

When we weren't in the film tent, we were grabbing chicken burgers and perfectly peppered fries from Mother Clucker, making new friends in the Whitelock's Ale Tent, watching Bonobo and John Talabot, screenprinting in the Urban Outfitters tent and generally cooing every hour or so about "how nice it was to be at a 'relaxed boutique festival'" like a couple of world-weary festival-goers. 

Beacons looking gorgeous in the sun, the creamiest Eton Mess flavoured ice-cream ever tasted from the Everyday is Like a Sundae van, Vondelpark, the Tipi village, deadpan and gormless (always), a beautiful, blushing bride. 

Another highlight of the weekend was the screening of Made of Stone, the Stone Roses documentary directed by Shane Meadows. If me and Nanon were absorbed by The Arbor then this trumped all as we fell into an entrancing rabbit-hole of bucket hats and endearingly-intense fan-dom. The couple of beers already in our bellies probably helped but the screening was fantastic with a gig-like atmosphere as the brimming tent bobbed their heads along to the songs, and danced on their bums, all crammed in on the floor like some Madchester carpet-time. The film was beautifully shot- in the Q+A afterwards Shane Meadows told us that he wanted it to be a visually pleasing piece that wasn't just another rock documentary, that because the band had asked a film director rather than a documentary maker he felt that was the right approach. 

Hearing Meadows admit that he loves kicking back and watching Tyra Banks to relax was an unexpected bonus. (What??) He was deadly serious. "There's no middle ground. I either want utter cheese like Tyra Banks or something really great." Also hearing his anecdotes about hanging out with the Stone Roses during the course of filming was fascinating. My personal favourite was his story of getting into a lift with the band and feeling like he had finally made it as the cool kid, only to have the weight restriction alarm go off as soon as he got in, and with defeat having to tell the others he'd just meet them downstairs instead. Ah, the never ending appeal of the self-deprecating anecdote. 

A Mother Clucker chicken burger for lunch, and burritos for dinner, the Into The Woods film tent, 'No Shoes, Please', buckets of Yorkshire Tea, the zine library courtesy of Village Bookstore, Leeds.

Nighttime in the 'Space Between' arts field, the Whitelock's Ale tent, pulled pork at El Kantina, the ideal tipi scenario (fyi, we stayed in a slightly more modest bell-tent..) 'New Pals'- embracing the drizzle with Rob and Dave. 

One of the things I really loved about Beacons, was that the festival felt like a celebration of the North; of the brilliant culture, food and drink, music and art that it has to offer. With the exception of a few, the food stalls were outposts from bars and cafes in Leeds, Wakefield, Morecambe, Manchester and Liverpool. The Into The Woods film tent was a collaboration between CineYorkshire, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and Leeds Film Festival and the zine libraries, fancy-dress boutiques and various art collectives had all travelled from nearby cities. As much as I love and enjoy London, celebrating non-London-centric art and culture is increasingly important to me and I think that's why Beacons ticked so many boxes for me, by showcasing this in the foothills of the Yorkshire dales.

Oh hey Shane Meadows, kitsch galore inside the Everyday is Like a Sundae van, ...more ale, our 'Camping Under the Stars' nest, Nanon screenprinting and showing off her bounty from the Urban Outfitters arts station. 

I'd also like to add a little postscript to Charlie at Urban Outfitters and the two Simons at iLikePress who sorted us out with tickets for the festival and allowed us to have such a bloody great time. We didn't need convincing that Beacons was going to be brilliant but we were 'sold' regardless.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sharing Letters (and Margaret Howell)

A couple of days ago I woke up from a bizarrely vivid dream about interacting with Margaret Howell who was being uncharacteristically unpleasant and snooty. (On a side note, I seem to have an obscene amount of 'celebrity dreams'- I have canoed with John Malkovich, hung out in a kitchen with Damon Albarn, taken selfies with Nick Cave and- quite the best- George Clooney once gave himself a mangina and then sent the results to my best friend. Waking up is always a heavy disappointment) 

Waking up from my Margaret Howell edition wasn't too bad because when I checked my email I found that Mel from Two Breads, Please? had sent me a brilliant email of 'minutes' from the Margaret Howell and Penny Martin in Conversation V&A event that I missed a couple of months ago. A spooky coincidence but a very happy one as I'd jokily asked for some in-depth 'event minutes' a while ago and she actually delivered!

I wanted to share her email because I loved the tidbits she chose to share "she showed us some pencil sketches of fields. Her pencil strokes were light but quite precise." and "Margaret Howell was captain of her netball team!" I've also been thinking about the sharing of letters and email recently. This is mostly after signing up to Miranda July's 'We Think Alone' project which leaves a weekly email in your inbox full of other peoples exchanges covering one topic. Last weeks was 'Emails to Mothers', for example and there is something strangely comforting about reading exchanges which are at times moving and mundane and never intended to be shared. I've also been reading Brainpickings an awful lot of the past few months. It is one of my favourite websites and editor Maria Popova is often posting extracts from anthologies of letters; there is John Steinbeck's letter to his son on the subject of falling in love, Sartre's letters to Simone De Beauvoir, the handwritten marriage proposal from Charles to Ray Eames, and a stack of parental advice from great Americans to their children. I know a lot of people read published letters in the same way that they might read an autobiography; I have rarely read either but when I next get paid a lot of these will be on my book list. It also strikes me that blogging is a sort of form of letter sharing. In this way it is similar to writing a journal; when I'm writing my journal I always wonder 'who' I am writing to but at the same time I am fairly sure that it is a future version of myself, someone who is older and affection towards their own youthful naivety. So in this way my entries always have an underlying awareness of the fact that the words may seem sweet or funny or ridiculous in years to come. It adds another quite bizarre dimension to the simple process of writing in a diary. I suppose that is why I like reading letters or emails, because I actually find that they are less self-conscious.

Digressions aside, here is Mel's email. I may end up posting some of our subsequent communications as part of a 'bloggers in conversation series', we shall see.

Hey Stevie,

Sorry for not getting back to your comment! I've unintentionally been on a mini internet detox recently - no blogs or facebook (but instagram keeps me coming back like a sucker).

The talk was interesting and structured chronologically, talking about her life generally and what sounded like the very organic development of her brand. Of course, Margaret was really charming (FYI, she wore a great breton top, crisp cropped trousers and lace-up shoes). As requested, a quick(ish) round-up of my favourite bits:

  • Margaret was captain of her high school netball team! There was a great photo of her with her team, gym skirts and polo shirts, in front of her modernist-style school building (apparently her school has been demolished now).
  • She studied Fine Art at university and she showed us some pencil sketches of fields. Her pencil strokes were light but quite precise which seemed to echo her personality to me. She spoke about drawing and practising fine art like a proper craft, completely separate to what she does now, and said something like "you need to practise every day and think about it all the time in order to be any good". 
  • There were great photos of Margaret's early studios/factories. I think she started making shirts in her flat before expanding. There was a Hockney poster from an old V&A exhibition on the wall in one of the studios, which she bought after visiting the exhibition herself!
  • An early Margaret Howell ad featured her PA (or something similar?) wearing a trenchcoat tied with Margaret's old leather belt and wet hair (they'd showered her with cold water for the effect).
  • We looked at a few different adverts and editorial from the Margaret Howell archive. It was interesting to hear that she didn't like the recent Dree Hemingway shots as much because they seemed "too posed". She was much more enthusiastic about shots where the clothes were worn "as they would be in real life".
  • Margaret said that she tries on every piece of women's clothing that they design every season. There's something about that which felt very reassuring - if it's good enough for margaret, it's definitely good enough for me. It was a running theme throughout the talk that she designs clothes for herself. She spoke a lot about "practicality" and "quality" but without looking "too smart". Which in my head sort of translates into "things that look good with loads of pockets but not too many frilly bits".
  • She's a patron of Open House which is the BEST because I love Open House.
  • She swims regularly at a lido in Blackheath. My boyfriend told me it would be creepy to make the trip and try to accidentally on purpose bump into her.

Also, Penny Martin was a total babe. A good, intelligent interviewer. Keeping the conversation flowing and on-topic. I am so easily charmed by clever, modest, northern women.

I hope that was interesting rather than too long and boring! Let me know if you're ever down in London. It would be lovely to meet and I had the dreamiest peach and raspberry meringue slice at Ottolenghi's last week which I'm eager to scoff again.

Mel xx

Life Now

How to update the blog after a two month hiatus? A blank box is always sort of overwhelming but there are lots of fun things to talk about like 'GRADUATING' and 'REAL LIFE STARTING' although those topics can be tackled in a fairly easy way with these two photographs:

In other news I got a job! This is a very exciting development for me as I'm working at Creative Tourist which is a website that I've hawked from afar over the past 3 years and which helped me to locate the interesting 'non-studenty' stuff going on around Manchester while I was new to the city. In the mornings I get out of bed, make myself some porridge and then travel into work with 'I'm Every Woman' by Chaka Khan blasting in the background, just like Bridget Jones when she walks to work over Waterloo Bridge with her hair all tucked under her scarf. Just like that. 

I'm living with two of my best friends and a red cornsnake called Morpheus who we are looking after for a friend who has moved to America. We have little mice frozen in the bottom drawer of the freezer for him to eat every 10 days. 'Morpheus fed!' is marked on the calendar every few rows and watching him attack and consume a partially defrosted little mouse whole is fascinating and morbid in equal measures. Sort of like the footage you occasionally see from nature programmes of giant serpents lying very fat and still after tucking into a small piglet from a nearby village, but a lot of more bearable. I still haven't quite plucked up the courage to take him out of his tank (I'm more of warm-blooded pet person) but time will tell. 

In the evenings we have been working our way through the first season of Twin Peaks, drinking slightly too much wine and singing passionately along to the theme tune and shouting 'She's dead! Wrapped in plah-stic!' We all then hastily handwash our shirts to be worn the next day, hang them in the shower and head to bed.