mercredi 16 mai 2018

The usual stuff.

I went to Krakow and I ate A LOT of pierogi. If you have not been, I highly recommend doing so. It’s very pretty, with a river and a Disney castle. Pleasingly, I saw a lot of nuns.

On my return, I attended the second meeting of the unofficial Preston Park Film Club. So far, we have watched Whiplash and Warrior. I’m not sure whether we should keep up this theme of selecting the most stressful films possible to watch.

Of course I also devoured To Be Read Unopened, the new Viv Albertine book, the moment it was released. She is one of my greatest inspirations. I cannot explain how glad I am she exists. She makes me feel better about life. I wanted to underline every single sentence.

I also read Purpose by Jessica Huie. Jessica and I are united by having a BFF in common, despite not actually knowing each other. This is not the sort of book I would usually read, but I have been pleased and surprised to find that important parts of it have very much stayed with me. An interesting lesson.

To complete a trilogy of fascinating reads, I was very lucky to be given an advance copy of the zeitgeisty Darling by Rachel Edwards. It’s billed as a ‘Brexit thriller’ about race and family and is as fascinating – and, at times, uncomfortable – as it sounds.

I’ve been listening almost exclusively to a playlist I madethat consists of songs whose only common denominator is I like to sing alongwith them. That and Camp Cope, who I remain passionately in love with.

Despite my aversion to podcasts in general (no shade, it’s just my brain can’t cope without something to look at!), the one exception is The Adam Buxton Podcast. Not only because I have a crush on Adam, honest. I realise this is not a particularly helpful recommendation, as pretty much everyone I know already listens to it. However, I have been doing so more than ever lately. His voice and general loveliness are very soothing to me, and we all need a bit of that. Particularly recommended old episodes I’ve been revisiting include Zadie Smith and literally anything involving Joe, Louis or Jon Ronson.

Other ephemera of current interest include, but are not limited to: buying plants from the pound shop and keeping my fingers crossed they might spring into life; being as gobsmacked as everyone else by Wild Wild Country; smashing my head against the kitchen table because I hate editing; feeling depressed but then cheering up literally only because it’s sunny and Hey Jude still exists; being a bit shit at painting pottery but having fun anyway; roof terraces in general; my new 70s mum style Iden jeans.

mardi 15 mai 2018

Holden + ECW 4ever

When I was 13, my mum gave me a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. It took me a long time to read it. During that transition between children’s books and adult, I was still secretly reading The Babysitter’s Club, while ostentatiously carrying Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis around with me (I know). My genuine favourites at that time were the early works of Jilly Cooper and everything by John Wyndham.

It took me a long time to embark on Salinger. I would look at its plain silver cover and feel weirdly overwhelmed, even though it’s a thin book. I can’t remember why. My mum had great taste – she was always introducing me to great things. For some reason, I couldn’t see why she wanted me to read this one.

When I finally did, it is no exaggeration to say my life changed. I fell in love with Holden Caulfield. So much so that I pretended in my head that he was real and he was my boyfriend. I was obsessed. The relationship between Holden and his sister made me cry. Everything he said resonated with me so strongly.

It’s one of those books, along with The Outsiders and The Bell Jar, that I read at exactly the right time. So it has stayed with me forever. There are some books you must read when you’re at the height of the reminiscence bump. My memories of sitting in my bedroom reading Salinger and listening to Nirvana on cassette sum up not only my teenage years but everything that was to come afterwards.

I bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye for my first serious boyfriend for his birthday. I gave it to him with great ceremony, saying that he must read it in order to truly understand me. Happy birthday! (In my defence, I was only 23 and very self-important.)

I was devastated when he said he ‘didn’t get it’. He didn’t want to read about a whiny posh teenager. Since then, I’ve met a lot of people who’ve said the same thing. The Catcher in the Rye is a book that you must read at the right time. It’s not one to read because a girl in a lot of eyeliner and a vintage dress has bought it for you for your twenty-eighth birthday.

However, if you do happen to read it at the right time, then it will never leave you. If anything, I relate to that book more now than I did then. I mean, I don’t reread it and fantasise about going ice-skating with Holden the way I used to (promise). I haven’t actually read it in years. Maybe I don’t need to, as I could pretty much recite it from memory. I do reread the Glass family short stories and I still love them. (If you haven’t, they’re underrated.)

I might have loved that book when I was 13, but I didn’t understand it. It was only when I was older I realised it was a book about grief. Even though it tells you explicitly in the last passage, I didn’t realise it was not a book about standard teenage angst but a book about loss. It’s a book about missing people.

The older I get, the more I think that life becomes more and more about missing people. I’m writing a new (experimental) thing at the moment. It’s a self-indulgent project, different to anything else I have ever written. I’m not sure what, if anything, will come of it.

While trying to wade through the words and edit it down into something more ‘proper’, I asked myself what it was really all about. It’s about a whole lot of feelings, anecdotes, family, friends, history and stories. But what it really is, is a book about missing people.

I seem to be racking them up. It’s still happening. I don’t know what to do about it, other than accept that it’s a part of adult life and try to see the good in it.

Which means that I disagree with my beautiful teenage boyfriend Holden, but I also totally understand what he means.

‘Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.’

jeudi 26 avril 2018

The art of precious scars.

I am a bit obsessed with this video, which my friend Edda sent to me today. I find it incredibly soothing.

I have learned that kintsugi is revered in Japan as 'the art of precious scars': literally it is Japanese for 'golden joinery'. The philosophy of it is that breakage and repair are part of the history of an object, and should be celebrated as such.

Broken pottery is fixed with a special technique using gold, not trying to hide the fact that the object has been previously broken, but treating its golden scars with pride. The object, with its visible and beautiful repairs, becomes a symbol for fragility, beauty and strength - considered stronger and more precious than before.

Isn't that a lovely metaphor for all of us?

Edda is taking a friend, who is recovering from a broken heart, on a kintsugi workshop this weekend. That is the most perfect thing I can think of.

mercredi 4 avril 2018

Fab Five

I guess we all know that Joan Didion said that ‘character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life – is the source from which self-respect springs’. J-Diddy is right about most things, after all.

However, it’s something I have been thinking about lately. A lot of our small life choices are connected to our self-respect and vice versa. In short, if you’re living poorly – which I go through phases of doing – something is wrong.

When I’m in a phase of drinking too much, not cooking enough, my house is dirty and I am behind with my work, my self-respect is not doing brilliantly. Of course, then a vicious cycle ensues.

I am saying this mostly because I have been watching a lot of Queer Eye. Yeah, I know there isn’t a lot of it to watch (eight episodes) but I have watched each of them three times. I honestly feel that there is much to be learned from them.

It is true that it is ‘more than a makeover’. Yeah, people can criticise all they like, say that Antoni only slices avocados and Tan just rolls up the sleeves on things. (Actually, no they can’t. Try it. I will fight you.)

It’s about self-respect. It’s about taking the pride in yourself to bother. It’s about making an effort with what you have. That might all sound very basic, but I struggle with it sometimes and so does pretty much everyone else – even if we’re not, as Jonathan would say, totally strugs to func.

Honestly, the power of that programme. It has not only made me laugh, cry and swoon over Antoni in a Strokes T-shirt, it has reminded me that there might be some good left in the world. We should all try our best to live our lives with the grace, kindness and generous spirit of the Fab Five.

So… Use the good bath oil (thanks, Nora). Plant some Pound Shop bulbs in pots. Do a facemask. Paint your toenails and don’t shave your armpits, if you’re me. Wear your best knickers and do a dance around the kitchen. Cook on a Sunday. Light a candle. Keep some herbs on the windowsill. And watch Practical Magic whenever you can.

mardi 3 avril 2018

Oom Sha La La

I love this song and I have been listening to it a lot.

The lyrics make me smile and I think Haley Heynderickx has a lovely voice.

I hope it brings as much optimism to your early spring day as it has to mine.

I planted some bulbs at the weekend. I totally agree with all of the sentiments therein.

While we are on favourite current songs, this one is a definite tie for first place. The vocals are so perfectly classic, the first time I listened to it, I was convinced I had heard it before, in a good way. I'm still not sure whether this is just due to the general vibe, or because there is a specific song it reminds me of - please send any and all ideas on a postcard to the usual address. The lyrics are - once again - far, FAR too relatable.

lundi 2 avril 2018

Some questions of the day.

Would you like a cup of tea?

How can we best try to live our lives with the kind and generous spirit of The Fab Five on a daily basis? Yes, of course I too am obsessed with the Queer Eye reboot. As my friend Ruth says, you'd have to be literally MADE OF STONE not to fall in love with it.

Could Antoni's face be any more perfect? Asking for a friend, etc.

Is it possible to write the last 15K or so words of a book over one bank holiday weekend?

How sexy is Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic?

Does the mythical Aldi candle really smell as good as a Jo Malone one?

Will spending my Sunday planting summer bulbs in pots on my tiny patio finally turn me into a grown-up?

Should I buy some new dungarees? Probably.

Is it really possible to block anyone from your life in This Modern Age? I mean, yeah, you can block their number but what about Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In..? Perhaps I should start writing under a pseudonym.

Is buying all new bed linen going to change my life?

How can I become friends with Adam Buxton?

Why would you not buy a 69p pineapple?

Is anything more cheering for one pound than daffodils in every room?

Does eating avocado toast while I write these self-indulgent ponderings make me a total cliche?

Can spring start now, please? I won't believe it until I can go to work wearing ballet pumps and a trench coat.

jeudi 22 mars 2018

My brilliant Korea.

So, I mentioned a little while ago that I was going to Korea, and then said no more about it. It was a whirlwind trip and a very odd time.

Five days in Seoul, a thirteen-hour flight and a nine-hour time difference - it was intense. I arrived early on a Saturday morning, bone-tired, having missed a night's sleep. I checked into my hotel early and sneaked an extra hotel breakfast in when I arrived.

Pretty much nothing was what I expected. Seoul is a grey, concrete city - at times you could be somewhere in America, if not for the signs being in Korean. It's mountainous and every street seems to be on a steep slope.

We went straight out exploring, making the most of the free time while we had it (it was a work trip with a packed schedule). We got straight onto the metro, and I was most struck by the fact that everything in Korea is cute - when you buy your metro card, you choose which cartoon character you would like on it. I went for a slightly angry-looking rabbit.

We walked around busy streets and market stalls, spotting cat cafes and a meerkat cafe and - weirdest of all - even a 'poop cafe'. We ate an incredible lunch, and I had my first proper Korean kimchi and bibimbap. I tried to drink a lot of Korean coffee, but still had to go back to the hotel that afternoon for a little sleep. Thus fortified, we had the first of quite a few nights of soju, Cass beer and Korean whisky, to the accompaniment of the Hilton hotel bar resident band (their Ace of Bass covers were my personal favourite, although I think the residents may long remember my dance routine to Footloose...).

On Sunday morning, I hiked up a mountain! It was incredible! This was my favourite thing I did in Korea. The views were really quite awe-inspiring. Seoul is a much vaster sprawling city than I could have imagined. You can see all the mountains up on the other side, as well. However, my favourite thing I saw was a special 'proposal area', clearly for the romantically inclined but unimaginative. There was even a designated spot to stand in for the perfect engagement selfie. I mean, it was obviously terrible but I loved it. Sadly didn't see any live-action proposals, although I am assured they are very common.

Of course, being in Korea, I managed to go shopping and fill my suitcase with bizarre beauty products. It was an incredible education: snail slime, placenta, collagen, acid peel, gold, swallows nest - these are apparently why everyone there has such beautiful skin. And they really do. It's fascinating.

Then on Sunday night, I received a message from my mum that made the rest of my trip very surreal and sad. She told me she was rushing to New York as one of her close friends had been involved in a terrible, tragic accident there. Unbelievably sadly, with the emphasis on utterly unbelievable, he - a beautiful 34-year-old man, who was so bright and kind and special I cannot even tell you, who my mum shared the most incredible friendship with - did not survive.

The rest of the trip was a blur. I swam in the hotel pool at five in the morning. I lay down and slept in the sauna. I drank a LOT of Japanese whisky in that hotel bar.

I pretty much had, as a boy would sagely note later, 'the full Lost in Translation experience'.

It's true. Thankfully, amid the strangeness, there is something comforting about a foreign luxury hotel. In some ways I was glad not to be at home, even if at times I wasn't exactly sure where I was.

I took two Valium on the flight home and still couldn't sleep. For the first time in my life, I did not even watch a film - I watched episode after episode of Nigella cookery shows, willing myself into her cosy kitchen.

I got home wondering if any of it had even happened.