Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hack it off

Sometimes there's a great joy in paying somebody for a service which will be done very well. Taking a watch, for example, to be mended rather than leaving it to accumulate dust in one of those miscellaneous saucers which sit on shelves and contain safety pins and coins and other broken oddities. I guess if I was the sort of person who took clothing for alterations, then that too. There's joy too in going to the hairdressers on a Saturday once every few weeks. Having somebody swaddle you in a black gown and giving yourself up to that strangely intimate yet delicious ritual of having your scalp scratched and hair washed by a stranger. You can enjoy a complimentary coffee and one of those strange malty biscuits which only ever come with complimentary coffees and you can leaf through the magazines you're too cynical to spend your own money on and give in to convention and discuss holidays as you watch somebody snip snip snip away and then walk out, after handing over some money and really feel sorted. I think that so often it's that feeling of sortedness that you're paying for.

All of the above is true, but a little DIY should never be knocked, and sometimes just feels better for the soul. I've spent much of the past fortnight doing a lot of standing in front of the mirror and knocking my hair behind my shoulders to visualise a shorter length. We all do that when we're thinking about a haircut, don't we? Contort lengths from the front into fake fringe. Or pulling a ponytail loose to test a bob and realising that you just look like Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. To hack or not to hack?

In the end, I just decided to do it myself at home, which I haven't done since I got a 'proper job' last year and felt that being one of those people who has their hair foiled every 6-8 weeks is the right sort of person to employ. I was listening to Solange, no doubt it had something to do with Solange. You can't sing with gusto to an EP called 'True" without actually being true, and, you know, reassessing the financial implications of bi-monthly hair snipping. It's so damned rewarding to just grab the waste paper basket, twist locks and hack with a pair of scissors from the kitchen. Snip snip. Shit! Snip snip snip. Cutting your hair at home feels super good if you're a fan of instant gratification, feel you can conquer a straight line, or don't mind either way. Swish swish swish. You walk differently when you have a haircut you like and which cost you £0. Bounce bounce bounce, down the street- that saved haircut money just bought a cosy little caffeine kick and a trip to the cinema. Imagine yourself at the cinema, one of those up-close shots of your beaming face with light moving across, echoing the face of the universal cinema-goers reflected back to us from various screens. Your beaming face and that free blunt haircut. Money for popcorn or tear-jerking catharsis on a Sunday afternoon. Real joy.

Paying for a 'service' is something I still yo-yo over. It seems like the right thing to do, the adult thing to do. But then I come back to thinking about the relationship between full time work and consumption and expenditures and just feel incredibly tired. I subscribe to the thinking that it's very convenient to keep people wanting more, consuming more, working more. And why is spending a great sum of money associated with glossiness and good upkeep? I always tell myself that if I came into a comfy sum of money I would buy myself a killer Saville Row suit, but then I think of my Great Aunty Megan who wore the killer suits that she had made herself 40 years previously. Has paying for frequent haircuts over the past year been worth it? Would I have looked scruffier at the office if I snipped my hair at home, or would I have been able to afford a couple more trips away at the weekend instead? (NB, Carrie Bradshaw; you have enriched my life in many ways but I wish you hadn't dulled the impact of a good rhetorical question.) Maybe looking scruffier at the office wouldn't matter so much if it bought me the chance to do more wonderful things at the weekend, to take a train to London and gently glide through the waters at the Hampstead Heath Ponds, buy a friend a bottle of wine to say 'I'm thinking of you' and pop some red tulips into the shopping basket at the last minute, just before the sound of "Till Number 3 please". I think I'll always quite enjoy exploring where to practice frugality and where it might be worth spending more. (HELLO sleeping at Stansted Airport before that early-morning Ryanair flight.) For now though, there's quite a nice smugness to doing it yourself. Hack hack hack, instant gratification.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Birthday Suits (or, feeling okay about nakedness)

Photographer Lucy Hilmer has taken a photograph of herself wearing nothing but a pair of comfy white cotton pants and some socks and moccasins on every one of her birthdays since 1974. This series- the aptly named Birthday Suits- is wonderful, chronicling the changes which in life are usually so subtle, but much clearer when captured in staggered succession.

Visible changes to Hilmer's face, and body and additions to her family tell of the life lived along the way. Nothing extraordinary; unless, that is, you count standing nearly naked at the roadside in Death Valley as extraordinary, which you just might. This is a body that isn't so dissimilar from my own when starkers, or it could be the process of ageing and perhaps a glimpse of motherhood that make them feel universal. This private view into the life of a stranger felt oddly familiar, like memories of seeing my Mum naked in the bath and how normal and comfortable that felt, even though I would unlikely see it now. Chattering and chattering away on the loo while she floated about in the water, or, when I was really little lathering up a loofah and giving her back a good scrub; really getting to the dead skins cells, to that part of the back that only gets tended to by other people. The part that translates as "can you do my back?" when on the beach.

Either way, these photographs have lodged themselves into my brain and have stayed since. It's because there's something about them that illicit an acceptance of the body.

I've come a good way overcoming body hang-ups in the last 4 years or so. I was never hugely body-conscious as a teenager. My Dad told me from a young age that fat was a horrible word. And my Granny- who supplied me with issues of Vogue from the start- once held an issue up whilst we were basking in the sun of her back garden and pointed at Kate Moss on the cover. "Look! Look at that," she squinted at her waist, "You do know this isn't real, don't you?" I can't remember my Mum saying much about bodies at all. But as soon as I hit 18 and grew hips and stuff and all of those nights during my A-Levels of going to bed and staying up late with a sweet heap of sugary granola for company started to show. There were moments of looking down at my body in the bath and thinking "huh. look at that roll," and for some reason this little niggle developed more by the time I went to university until I found myself having those negative body conversations with girlfriends over beers at the pub. Those conversations in which you sort of jeer each other on, moaning in equal parts about how you both wished you could be better. Resolutions about going to the gym, and self control that doesn't account for pragmatism or fun and only parades as stemming from self respect, and really, it all comes back to comparing yourself to a particular body ideal you feel obliged to follow. All of this instead of viewing a changing body as a cool, womanly thing and tummy wobbles as natural, so natural that the paintings of irresistible sirens in local galleries even have them.

I've found dancing, being naked with nice people and going topless on a beach in Croatia all things that have helped along the way, but I understand that being really confident about your own body when you're in your 20s is still a tricky path to navigate. Not for everybody, but certainly for myself and I know for many others. One of the nice things that comes with this stage of trial and error, comfort and discomfort are the mini revelations that can come along the way. The sort of revelations that women in their thirties and forties maybe don't think about as much as they did in their twenties. But they're the revelations that come with grasping the attractiveness of flaws and variety; of watching older women on the beaches with dimply arses and sprouting hair wading back to shore after an intense butterfly crawl in the clear. Or the lovely surprise of sharing or exploring a new body, and of how wonderful and powerful the female body can be whether it is strengthened through dance or exercise, changed and/or recovered through illness, pregnancy and life changes. They're ideas that all seem fairly obvious when you're feeling in a positive space about yourself, and standing in front of a mirror starkers and thinking "yeah!" but it's easy enough to have hiccups and forget. Usually induced by finding yourself in a changing room with a pair of trousers around your thighs, perhaps. (Or apply appropriate hang-up as applicable) These are the things I wish I had learnt at school, but which I realise I probably couldn't have; these things come with time.

In short, this photo series gives a good nudge in the right direction. Bodies are great, and I just wish I hadn't wasted so much time thinking otherwise, or feeling shy about doing cool stuff with my body, like dancing in PE lessons without shame. I hope these photographs can stay in my head and bamboozle those moments in which I still find myself counting down weeks to specific events based on my ability to lose weight; beaches or men or family events onto which I project a slimmer-chinned version of myself.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Outfit: Sandals for weeks

I'm relishing summer at the moment. Clammy and upper-lip-sweat-inducing sometimes, yes. But that ease of slipping your bare feet into a pair of sandals and living in them for weeks, or of leaving the house in the evening without a coat. Sleeping most of the night with the sheets kicked off and keeping a jug of cold water permanently in the fridge. Oh, it's good.

These are a couple of outfits I've been kicking about in recently. Special shout-out to the lilac hairclip, which I found on the pavement and have been sliding in when I want to cheaply imitate Margot Tenenbaum. (I don't smoke and I have all of my fingers, it's not going very well.)
Denim top, Warehouse. Stripy silk skirt, Asos White. Sandals, Urban Outfitters. 
Top and trousers, both secondhand. Birky Birkinstocks. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 7

Happy Weekend! This morning I listened to Bowie (I'm exploring the albums I've never listened to; starting today, with 'Pin Ups') cleaned my bathroom and swept my floors, recycled an accumulation of glass bottles and then headed around the corner to Takk, where I drank a latte and enjoyed being indoors with the door open whilst the rain clattered down outside. Being indoors, but being able to smell the outdoors, mmm the best place to be when it's raining. A quick thank you to you lovely people who donated a coffee to me; it really means a lot and blogging this morning was a much more enjoyable experience for it. 

The Weekend List


"Just because I achieved some microcosmic degree of success in a field that people romanticise, it doesn’t feel to me that I have to make a career out of it." Interview with writer David Shapiro on creative expectations, the art of choosing an alias pen-name and relationships with parents. 

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something." Why Louis CK hates mobile phones.

If you watched Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' and you wondered which tracks were included on Ethan Hawke's post-Beatles 'best of the solo material' compilation mix then you're in luck; the tracklist is here.


Wyatting. The verb referring to the act of taking a pub hostage through the playing of terrible songs on the jukebox. Ned Beauman wrote about it in The Guardian some years back. Deliciously mischievous or the work of a snobbish party pooper; you decide.

A song for your weekend: I Talk To The Wind (2) by Giles, Giles and Fripp.


"The sort of thing that a college boy will shovel into his mouth before hitting a weights room that smells of Tuesday's socks" << Now that's the way to describe a lentil, mint and feta omelette. The Quadrille blog features recipes from their latest releases with opening gems like this.


Pamela Anderson wrote a poem and posted it on Facebook.

"My peanut butter and jam both ran out in the same sandwich, so truly romance is alive in the world today." I went to a poetry reading in Berlin and was really bummed out to have to leave to catch a bus before Crispin Best came on. (Thanks to Harriet for the heads up!) Next time, next time. I thoroughly recommend watching this video of one of his readings a couple of years ago.

Thought For The Day:

Dancing out of the sunroof. 16 seconds of goodness and only 86 views; the internet was made for small joys like this YouTube clip of a woman (aka my new hero) dancing in a moving car in snowy Cleveland.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Moving Moodboard

I think it's time for another moving moodboard. I've just returned from a splendid week-long holiday in Germany. Most of the time was spent in Berlin with a couple of nights in Leipzig too. One of my highlights of the trip was the V&A David Bowie exhibition which is currently showing at Martin Gropius Bau. I could have spent hours in there. Well, I did. But I could have spent more hours. I found myself absolutely enraptured watching some of Bowie's music videos; many that I've already seen before, but even more powerful when watched in the company of a small crowd drifting through the gallery, like a strange gig with the man himself everywhere but also nowhere. I've always been a big Bowie fan but standing in that gallery I found myself thinking 'Man. Bowie is everything. He is my Number 1.' (I don't think there were 'cult chemicals' in the air conditioning.) The Boys Keep Swinging video especially stayed with me; now I just want to master those uber-sexy Presley-pelvis moves for myself. 

So here's a moving moodboard, dedicated as ever to people and movement:

Step 1: Press play on Hubbabubbaklubb's 'Mopedbart' just above. 
Step 2. Press play on each of the video boxes, hitting mute at the same time, or experimenting with however much sound you would like from each. Scroll up and down, watch it all come together. 
Step 3: Enjoy David Bowie's pelvis, revellers at the pavement egg-frying festival in Oatman, Arizona, Sam Rockwell's screentest, a car spinning in the snow to a soundtrack of Burt Bacharach, Trisha Brown dancers in Shanghai and a zen fish tank.
Step 4: When it is all over, go on as you were.
Step: or, explore past moving moodboards here and here.