Weekly Newsletter – Issue 05

Issue 05 : 11 February 2018

Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

So January went quickly – or it went slowly, depending on who you ask. For me, it sauntered along at first, stumbled a little bit in the middle and tumbled unexpectedly right smack-bang into February.

I kind of feel sorry for Feb. It’s normally the month that brings yet another blanket of snow, and this time round we’re all a bit tired of it so it isn’t all excitement and sleds – instead, it’s trying to get to work only the trains are all broken and I fell over on the ice this morning and my bum hurts and my coffee went everywhere and can I please go back to bed now. Generally, it’s still cold and miserable enough for people to think that winter will never end. I’m actually trying to be optimistic – the shortest day of the year is behind us now and that means that it’s going to start getting lighter in the evenings. And every day that passes in February is a day closer to it being summer again.


You know Grandfather clocks? Those tall clocks that appear in plenty of period dramas, or perhaps stood in the corridor at your uncle’s house where it would deafen everyone on the hour with its obnoxious ringing? Those clocks? Well. It turns out that we’ve been calling them by the wrong name for all these years. They’re actually called long case clocks. (I know, I think that’s a much more boring name too.) Apparently they earned this adorable nickname thanks to a 1876 hit called ‘My Grandfather’s Clock‘ and the name just stuck.


More here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longcase_clock



1. Deaths-Head Hawkmoth Necklace (SUGAR AND VICE)

This amazing acrylic statement necklace is from the talented Sarah and Matt who run Sugar and Vice Designs. I’m in love with the detail on this, and I can’t wait to make her mine! (£25)

> Available from Sugar and Vice’s website


2. Kingfisher Necklace (TATTY DEVINE)

You probably know by now how much a love my novelty items, and my acrylic jewellery – making the list is this colourful kingfisher necklace from Tatty Devine, which is on the pricier side – but you can’t go wrong with the quality and craftsmanship and TD are pretty much my go-to for statement items. I love the little things, like the mirrored feathers and the little fish. Absolutely beautiful. (£125)

> Find it here, at Tatty Devine’s online store


3. Hipster Chic ‘Hepburn’ Dress (LADY VINTAGE LONDON)

Every time Lady Vintage release a new collection, I feel like they’ve outdone themselves – and yet they continue to bring out increasingly diverse and fabulous dresses! I love all their latest items – but especially this hipster-themed one, which is hilarious yet still glamorous. I live in my Hepburn dresses, and own at least 12 of them. What harm would one more do, I moustache you? (£50)

>Available in sizes 8-28 from the Lady V site


4. Harlequin 50s Dress (HELL BUNNY)

I don’t know about you but the second I saw this dress, I knew immediately that it had to be mine. I literally ordered it that very minute – the pink and black harlequin design is such a stunning combination, and with the rose detailing? Beautiful. And I am a complete sucker for a gathered waist, such a rare treat in the repro vintage world! I hope I am united with this, the love of my life, before Valentine’s Day arrives. Hurry up DPD, I can’t wait this long!! (£46.99)

> Hell Bunny Harlequin 50’s dress is available in sizes XS-4XL


5. Orange Puffins ‘Audrina’ Dress (LINDY BOP)

Lindy Bop always do the most amazing prints, and whilst I find the quality of their clothing to vary wildly, I have to say that their recent collection has made me want to buy EVERYTHING. I don’t know if you can see, but this dress has the loveliest puffin print, and on such a vibrant peach background, it has me aching for long summer evenings and iced tea. 

The Audrina dress is a shorter ‘above knee’ version of the Audrey dress, which is another one of my favourites. A shorter length would be ideal for summer…if I can wait that long to buy it and wear it, that is. (£38)

> The Audrina dress is available in sizes 8 to 26 from the Lindy Bop website



Story Time : Calamari

One of the foods I miss the most is calamari.

My journey into the living hell of a gluten-free life started in 2012, and I’ve spent the past six years thinking about eight-legged sea creatures an unhealthy amount. I’ve never been the biggest seafood eater, and I mostly blame my parents for that. They are horrified at even the thought of eating something as small and adorable as baby prawns, and seem very happy on a diet of steak and chips. I’ve been a stubborn vegetarian since I was about five, so I guess my diet until I left home was basically chips. I had a hard life.

Calamari though. Crispy, and breaded, with a soft chewy middle. Like the savoury fishy equivalent of posh cookies.

I discovered calamari mostly by accident as a kid, when I was on holiday in Spain. I found these breaded things on the dinner buffet, labelled with a peculiar name I’d not seen before, and thought I’d try one, chancing that they were onion rings.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I may have been a little mean about my parents’ diet. They don’t just eat steak and chips – sometimes they eat onion rings too. It isn’t unusual to go out to a restaurant and for my dad to order an enormous side portion of onion rings that he polishes off himself without offering to anyone else. My dad loves his onion rings.

Anyway, let’s go back to Spain (which is preferable to the cold winter evening I’m experiencing here in the UK right now) and imagine my childish curiosity when faced with this weird onion ring. Being an overly sensible child – or perhaps, less greedy than my parents – I get just one from the buffet. I sit down, and examine the onion ring. It looks delicious. I ditch the knife and fork and my manners and I pick it up with my fingers, and – as delicately as you can do as a seven-year old eating with their hands – I bite into it.

It is not what I am expecting, but actually, it isn’t bad. It’s a bit chewy, with a slightly strange taste I can’t really put my finger on, but it isn’t completely unpleasant. I have no idea what it is, but it seems nice. At this point, I look up to see that my dad is watching me. Well, correction, he’s watching the little breaded guy in my hand.

“You didn’t mention they had any of those.” The saliva is virtually dribbling down his chin. “What are they like?”

I look him in the eye. I am seven years old, but I am an awesome seven-year old. I smile. “Nice. A bit chewy,” I say to him, going in for a second bite.

He hasn’t even waited to hear past the word ‘nice’ – he is not a small person, and has to physically tug himself out of the chair to release himself from the table and he is basically running as fast as he can towards the trestle tables with the buffet. I watch him. He takes a small plate, and I count as he loads the calamari onto his plate. One. Two. Three. Ten. Fifteen. Eighteen.

“Ho, ho, ho,” he says gleefully as he arrives back at the table. Yes, I’m not kidding, he does genuinely say ‘ho ho ho’. He’s not emulating Father Christmas, I don’t think it’s a jolly “well, presents for aallll, ho ho!” kind of thing. He is just so pleased that he didn’t make the same mistake as me to just get one. No, he’s fooled the system. He has eighteen of the fuckers. He’s ho-ho-hoing in the ho-ho-hopes that he can eat them as quickly as possible and get another eighteen because he is possibly the world’s greediest person.

I watch as he takes a bite out of one of them. There is a small delay, before the horror reaches his face. He removes half the calamari from his mouth.

“What the-?!” he says, appalled. “It’s bloody squid!” My mum starts laughing. Then my sister, and my brother. Until we’re all laughing, and he’s sitting there sadly looking at his eighteen fake onion rings – not at all sad because it’s a waste that he’s just going to leave them, but sad because now he isn’t going to be able to eat eighteen onion rings in one sitting.

This isn’t the reason I miss calamari though. That was just the first time I remember eating it. And I have to admit it has left me with somewhat of a sweet spot for them.

No, the real reason I miss calamari is because they are breaded, so they’re cooked with wheat, and so far I haven’t found a gluten-free alternative. That means that it has been six years now where I haven’t been able to savour one of my favourite foods. What makes it worse, is that most of my favourite restaurants serves calamari as a starter, so I have this constant reminder every time I eat out that I can’t enjoy nice foods anymore.

So I guess this is really a plea to all the eight-legged friends out there – could you evade detection for the foreseeable future? If they can’t catch you, then they can’t cook you, and if they can’t cook you then they won’t cut off your delicious legs and cover you with gluteny breadcrumbs, and serve you on the menu in most restaurants I visit.

What it means to be queer

I’ve gone through many stages in my life. At times I’d have described myself as heterosexual, regarding homosexual couples with a strange judgement that probably came from a deep-seated denial, helped along with an upbringing that showed very little liberal thinking and encouraged an ‘us and them’ mentality. As far as anyone told me, my dream in life was to marry a lawyer, settle down, get married and have two children. I had no role models in my life that showed an alternative to that – and, I’ve come to realise, all the heterosexual relationships I was surrounded by were dysfunctional and broken. My expectation in life really became about finding a partner who was just less dysfunctional than my immediate family were.

Being a teenager was awkward and confusing. I had a string of ‘boyfriends’ but these were really just companions. I was so afraid of intimacy that I would actually run away whenever things looked like they would cross the line into a territory I wasn’t comfortable with. At one time when I was in my mid-teens, my boyfriend leaned in to kiss me. Just as he was centimetres away from my mouth, I panicked and shouted “You’re it!” and actually sprinted off across a carpark to find somewhere to hide. So it would be no news to say that sex was completely off the menu, and I honestly couldn’t understand why people seemed to actually like, or want, something so horribly intimate.

A few years later I would have described myself as bi-curious, but this was still a little muddled. I was still confused about my identity and who I was, and really couldn’t shake off that weird sense of judgement I’d had drummed into me as a child. If that wasn’t enough, society also convinced me that being bi-curious was just something that all women were, and this was only reinforced by the fact that it seemed most men I came across were interested in women that showed more ‘exotic’ preferences. Being asked to kiss your female friend in a nightclub seemed to be something that impressed the lads, but at the same time, I wasn’t exactly mad at it. In fact, I was more than okay about it. But that’s just being a ‘bit bi’ as all women are, isn’t it?

It was a few years later that I realised that not all women who described themselves as bi-curious actually enjoyed their sexual encounters with women and regularly daydreamed about having them. I thought that was all totally normal. I don’t watch porn, and I never really have. Mostly this is because I can’t find much porn that turns me on. I’m also not exactly into all the unrealistic expectations it sets women in general – really? Am I expected to pay for a Brazilian every two months just because that’s what people are used to seeing? I remember struggling to find anything that matched my fantasies, and actually, I find my imagination in many ways far more pleasurable. I have the freedom to imagine whatever I want to.

When I did first try porn, just really out of curiosity, I remember being primarily drawn to videos that were just women, or both men and women. The only video I still remember watching and being turned on by was a home-video quality clip of a beautiful blonde woman sitting on a chair masturbating. I liked the raw ‘realness’ of it, and I guess what I took away from that was that real experiences to me felt more exciting. I didn’t want to watch someone else’s imagining of something; I wanted to know it first hand (pun intended). Sex wasn’t exciting really unless it felt ‘real’ – unless it felt human.

Then came a number of years of what I would call my ‘sexual exploration’. I didn’t really define my sexuality but instead went on a journey of self-discovery in the hopes that I could find out who I was and what I wanted. I’m bursting with pride at that younger naïve me who realised that there was a wider world out there and just wanted to try everything out, just to see what it was all like.

I actively sought out experiences with different people, mostly casual one- or two-night occasions with men and women – anyone who I thought was attractive. I wasn’t in it for any long-term relationship – I just had a burning fire inside me and I desperately wanted to learn what I liked, and what I didn’t like. It was like an evolution. I came out of it knowing that I hated it when people slapped or punched me in the bedroom. I also discovered that I actually quite enjoy threesomes. I learned that I really can’t stand it when people ‘talk dirty’. And I found out that I like to laugh a lot, I like to get to know the other person. Sex isn’t sex if it isn’t with someone else, and the best sex was sex that was shared – it was sweaty, funny, beautiful, and all about finding that happy place where you share a rhythm with that other person.

That period of my life helped me understand myself so much better, yet it still didn’t help me understand the lables that people inevitably seem to apply to each other. I still wasn’t quite able to assign myself a label I was comfortable with. I was a lesbian when I was in an unhappy whirlwind relationship with a woman I’d drunkenly hooked up with in a bar. After that, I was bisexual. I described myself as bisexual for years as it seemed to cover how I felt I was. However, the more I have felt a sense of belonging within the LGBT+ community, the more I have challenged and questioned myself and these labels we give ourselves. Being bisexual actually isn’t something I’m happy calling myself now, as it suggests that I would never date anyone who wasn’t the gender they were assigned at birth, if they weren’t male or female. The truth is that I’ve never dated anyone who wasn’t cisgender, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed off to the idea. I like to date people because their personalities are beautiful. I don’t really care about their gender. I could call myself pansexual, but pansexual seems to be specifically taking a fancy to anyone and everyone and for me, it is more than just liking anyone – it’s about acknowledging that you don’t have to look or act a certain way to be LGBT+, and feeling like there’s an uncomfortable tinge of politics about it. The role of a patriarchal society growing up did nothing to help me understand myself and I shouldn’t have to be defined by such a specific label. It’s strange to be living in a world where people feel so entitled to question or understand your sexuality, and where you’re either considered their ‘normal’ or you’re something strange to be ogled at.

I’ll be honest. I really struggled with the word queer at first. I thought for a long time that it was just another word for lesbian. I feel really stupid now, as that was clearly lack of research on my part and in some ways judgement of women in a relationship with another woman. I know this might sound really obvious, but it turns out that not every woman in a relationship with a woman is only interested in relationships with women. It also turns out that some women don’t want to appear closed minded, or feel that lesbian can be a loaded term and could exclude those who identify as women.

After a lot of consideration, and a lot of research, I’ve become much more comfortable with being queer. Queer for me is a reclaimed word, but its new meaning is just someone who doesn’t fit within the current heterosexual standard. It feels like an all-encompassing umbrella term that means that I don’t have to define who I am; I’m just not straight. And it’s that simple.



Further reading:

3 differences between the terms ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ – and why it matters

A glossary of LGBTQIA terms


Missing Stars

I have a really good habit of missing good things. I don’t know how it happens, but I just find out about them last minute, or I live in a place that makes them impossible to appreciate in person. A prime example of this is last weekend; it was the Perseid meteor shower, a breathtaking sky of falling stars that happens once a year. I think I’ve forgotten about this for about four years running now, although this year I remembered two days before. Hurrah, I thought to myself, now I can plan to watch them, and get a cosy blanket and a thermos flask of tea (note to self: buy a thermos flask) and sit on a hill somewhere with a great view of the sky. What a brilliant plan.

Then I checked the weather. And of course it’s summer here in the UK, so it was overcast and miserable all fucking weekend. Just my luck.

Two years ago, I went on the holiday of a lifetime. I went to the island of Fiji, which is about a thousand miles north of New Zealand, and stayed in a hotel on the north of the island. It is probably one of the most remote places on the planet, and is one of the best star-gazing spots I have ever experienced. Seriously, if you are into your stars, I thoroughly recommend a trip there. It was so clear that I could see the Large Magellanic Cloud – which might not sound very impressive, as I bet you see clouds all the time, right? But the Large Magellanic Cloud is a pretty misleading name. It’s actually a galaxy – that’s right, an actual galaxy – about 163,000 light years away. And in Fiji, it’s visible to the naked eye. Whilst lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. To try to put that into any kind of personal context, in London I struggle sometimes to even make out the moon clearly (although to be honest, sometimes that might be because I’ve had too many cocktails and I can’t tell the difference between the moon and the reflection of a lamp in the window).

On the last two nights in Fiji, after spotting the Large Magellanic Cloud in the sky, I planned to spend some time down on the beach with my DSLR trying my hand at photographing the stars. Not celebrities, as I wasn’t cool enough to be hanging out with them, I mean, actual stars. Turns out, on the last two nights it poured down with rain both evenings and I couldn’t see a thing, let alone take any photographs. As I said, I have a real habit of missing good things.

Weekly Newsletter – Issue 04

Issue 04 : 19 June 2017

Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

The weather here in the UK has suddenly become too hot – perfect temperature for me is about 20 degrees celsius, and today it has been 31. I’m literally melting and I don’t think I have sweated so much in my entire life. I am dreading the tube journey tomorrow.

It’s a little sad that every week I’ve been writing my newsletter, something terrible has dominated the news. Sadly again this week there was another shocking accident in London, when Grenfell Tower caught fire and many residents perished. Hundreds of others found themselves homeless. When I came into work the morning after, you could look across to where the fire services were still working hard to put out the flames, hours later. I spent the day in shock, imagining what it must have been like, how they felt. I cried reading stories of mothers throwing their children out of windows to try and save them. The fallout has been just as heartbreaking as it turns out that the cladding used in a £10m renovation last year was not even fire-proof. If only people’s lives were worth more than the money saved by using a cheaper, poorer product.

I don’t really want to talk too much about it as I still feel quite upset. London has responded amazingly though; donating money and clothing, and quite rightly asking why the government has failed to address buildings like Grenfall, where the fire risk has been continually raised by residents and ignored. I hope this means that the government and property developers can ensure that this kind of accident can be avoided in the future.


I was rudely awoken a number of times this week by the birds, sitting outside the window, having a morning sing-song. Which is great, if you like that sort of thing, but I very much like sleeping. And I don’t think 5am is a reasonable time to get up and have a happy chorus with your mates – and if all this wasn’t bad enough, my morning alarm is birdsong so that alone has been pretty confusing for me this week. “Alarm? Why you mysteriously go off at 5am?” “It wasn’t me!”

All this early morning tweeting and whistling, and the fact that they just WON’T SHUT UP, has been making me tired, grumpy and irritable. Why won’t they just go back to bed?! And that in turn got me thinking: I’ve never seen a bird asleep. Where do they go? Do they have little nests? Do ducks sleep in trees? Do they snuggle?

I can’t really get a decent answer on the last one, so let’s just assume that birds are super cuddly little dudes and you should definitely hug the next sparrow you see.

I did a little bit of research, and it turns out that…bird sleep is AWESOME. I warn you – there may be more than one fact this week because our chirpy little friends are actually super cool.

Some of us might have seen geese or ducks having a cheeky nap in the sun, but I’ll bet you haven’t seen a blackbird having a kip. It turns out, much like humans, birds like to sleep in places that protect them from being eaten in the middle of the night. (I guess in that case, the ducks you see having a snooze along the river are like intoxicated humans and will just sleep anywhere, regardless of the possible danger.)

Interesting fact one: Most birds don’t actually sleep in nests. It turns out that once they’ve laid eggs in there, and the hungry chicks have grown up and left home, it’s a pretty stinky place to be; covered with bird poo (no, they don’t always aim for Uncle Jeff’s car or your shirt on interview day; they do sometimes poo in their own home too) and sometimes infested with mites. Sounds pretty minging.

Instead, most birds find hedges and dense foliage, or bird houses, a cliff edge, or a small cave to sleep in. Generally they sleep off the ground, which is safer. Even wild turkeys roost in trees. (See this video!) So it isn’t really all that weird to imagine a partridge in a pear tree, really. Thanks Christmas. Thanks for not all being lies.

Second interesting fact: Wading birds, and those that live on the water, just float into the middle of the water for an evening kip. Any disturbances on the water immediately wake them up, meaning they get advanced warning of any approaching predators. Smart move, but what if the wind blows you to the water’s edge whilst you’re asleep, and you get gobbled up by a passing fox?

This is where a bird superpower known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep comes in. Basically, this is a state where only half the brain is asleep, and one eye remains open and one half of the brain alert, meaning that they can respond very quickly to any immediate threat. They don’t always sleep like this; if a bird feels protected, it might drop into a deeper and more complete sleep. If it’s having a quick kip in the bush, it’s probably only half asleep.

USWS is probably most useful to migrating birds, who literally sleep whilst they’re flying. Very little has really been scientifically studied, but it looks like swifts and albatrosses use this to fly so far in one stint. Which solves another mystery of how birds can fly so far without needed to stop. I feel like I need a little USWS in my life.

Third interesting fact: The Spruce tells me that some birds sleep in flocks, for protection and warmth:

“Sleeping in flocks is another defensive strategy many birds use. By roosting communally – with some species creating nighttime roosts of thousands of individuals – there are more birds to notice predators as well as more targets should a predator attack, giving each individual bird a greater chance of survival. In winter, many birds, particularly small passerines such as chickadees, tits and bluebirds, roost together in confined spaces to share body heat and survive lower nighttime temperatures.”

These defensive strategies aren’t just used in sleeping. It also happens when flocking birds are awake, as seen in this viral video showing some turkeys circling a dead cat. Animal behaviourists have suggested that the turkeys perceive the cat to be a threat, and they are trying to intimidate with their numbers and prevent it from singling one out. It also has the added consequence of freaking out humans, which means the tactic works, right?

Last interesting fact: The last thing to mention is the physiological aspects of a birds body that helps it sleep. A bird’s talons, or feet, are constantly being worked, as their natural muscular position is to be tightly locked, meaning that the muscles are relaxed when gripping onto, say, a branch – meaning they don’t just fall off their perch when they fall asleep. It does instead mean that when they splay their toes out as they walk, they are actually contracting their muscles and it is much harder work for them. You can see why they prefer flying right? (I mean, other than flying being REALLY COOL.)



A post shared by Dallas Clayton (@dallasclayton) on

Dolly and Dotty is a relatively new brand on the pin-up scene, but they’ve got a fantastic range of items on the lower end of the scale, offering a range of prints in various styles. These styles often have cute names – this is the ‘Anna’ dress; I own a ‘Cindy’ and an ‘Annie’. Most of their dresses are lined, and of a nice quality, but sadly for me a little less than generous in the bosom department. That said, I’ve still got my eye on this navy/white striped ‘Anna’ – at £34.99 I’m not sure how long I can keep telling myself I just don’t need it. That striped skirt!!

This style often sells out, so if it isn’t available in your size, you can always sign up to find out when it’s back in stock. This dress comes in UK sizes 8-24.

> ‘Anna’ Adorable Striped 50s Swing Dress in Navy/White



Lady Vintage was the first company I bought from when I was making my first foray into 50s clothing, back in 2015. I love their tea dresses; cute shorter dresses with a v-back, and now – pockets!! I am so thrilled to see that pockets have been included in the newer styles, and I’m head-over-heels in love with the flamingo border print range from their SS17 line. This blue one has particularly taken my fancy, and I am gutted it is sold out in my size! Here’s hoping there is a restock soon… The flamingo border print tea dress is £55  and comes in UK sizes 8-22.

> Lady Vintage Flamingo Tea Dress in Blue



I love this chunky charm necklace from Sourpuss; a summery nautical design, but with a slightly gothy vibe! I love my acrylic jewellery, and for only £12 from Collectif Clothing, this is an absolute bargain.

Sourpuss ‘Anchors Aweigh’ charm necklace (via Collectif)

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like the Wizard of Oz?! Even if you’re not a fan of the amazing West End performance, or the 1939 film, you MUST at least love the fact that it has introduced red glittery shoes into mainstream fashion?

Lulu Hun’s shoes are a little small in sizing for me, so I always size up – which is why I am so annoyed I didn’t buy these beauties when I first saw them on the Collectif site as they have now sold out of my size! These really are selling fast, and as of writing only UK sizes 3 to 5 are available via Collectif currently priced at a mere £41.75.

Lulu Hun ‘Dorothy’ Block Heels (via Collectif)



No, YOU are obsessed with dinosaurs.

I can’t get over just how incredible this bag is! Origami? Mint? Dinosaur? In one perfect bag?? I KNOW, I KNOW. It’s still available from Thunder Egg, for a slightly pricey (but totally worth it) £39.95. I just dino if I can hold myself back from buying it.

House of Disaster Origami Dinosaur Bag (via Thunder Egg)


Weekly Newsletter – issue 03

Issue 03 : 12 June 2017

Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

Oh my goodness, WHAT a week. I’m not sure I could do a weekly summary without mentioning the UK election. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week (probably very happy and blissfully unaware of this strange new world that is unfolding around us) you’ll know that it was the UK general election on Thursday. And what a nail-biter it was too!

Election chat:

Short story: Imagine it’s a few months ago. Theresa May (UK Prime Minister) is ahead in the popularity polls, and unexpectedly – after denying that she’ll call a general election – calls a general election in a thinly-veiled attempt to try and gain a further majority to push through some horrendous legislation. She refuses to debate the leader of the opposition on television. Both manage to eat hot dogs and bacon sandwiches without being made into memes. The country is pleased that Jeremy Corbyn under Labour will offer free school meals and a fully-costed manifesto, although they are a bit worried about money matters (who isn’t?). They go to the polls on Thursday to cast their vote. The election coverage starts at 10pm, and it all seems to be normal; everyone is expecting a Tory majority.

When SUDDENLY – this mad-looking chap called John Curtice appears, and tells everyone that the exit poll predicts a hung parliament. There is plenty of “oh but the exit poll might be wrong” and “well, you never know with these polls” – and everyone is STILL shocked when Labour gain over thirty seats. THIRTY. And the Tory party lose seats. It’s a hung parliament, meaning there is no overall winner, and everyone is very British about it. Confused about what happens next (Tory and DUP coalition? But they want to remove abortion, and think Creationism should be taught as scientific fact, and don’t believe in climate change – what madness is this?) it looks like everyone has lost the election.

So here we are, in this weird place where our politicians are confused, we’re confused, and nobody knows what on earth is going on. ISN’T POLITICS FUN.

I, for one, screamed in joy at the exit poll and danced up the hallway. Because in a harsh world that continues to horrify me, these small things (like half the British people realising that the Tories might not be the good guys, and Comey’s frank testimony to congress over in the U.S.) fills me with hope. And as a bleeding-heart liberal, hope is about all I’ve got.

Trump chat:

I do recommend watching at least the highlights of Comey’s testimony. It’s very interesting to listen to – but he does also say some fantastically weird things, besides “I can’t answer that in an open setting” over and over again. One of my favourites was, “I worried it was like feeding seagulls at the beach.”. He also quotes Henry II: “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

It’s worth a watch. A fascinating insight into the Trump administration.

Other news:

Beyond biting my nails down to the quick thanks to one hell of a week in politics (students in 50 years time are going to have fun analysing 2015-2017 aren’t they?) I haven’t done an awful lot this week. I’ve been working on a podcast with someone, which is quite good fun, but I still haven’t quite nailed the whole being-in-front-of-a-microphone thing. Is there anyone out there who actually likes the sound of their own voice!?

I’ve also been watching the original Twilight Zone from the 50s. I’ve been putting off watching it for a while, but now I.AM.HOOKED. They are such lovely 25-minute shorts, all with a sci-fi theme to them. Considering they are 60 years old now (gulp) they are still very relatable, and thoroughly fascinating. Growing up with Hollywood of the 80s and 90s, I’ve been trained to expect the plot beats, Save The Cat style, but these always seem to surprise me. The pilot episode had me guessing all the way through, and I really didn’t see that end coming. Please someone, watch the Twilight Zone too, so I can excitedly talk about it with you!

> The Twilight Zone, Season One (1959)

Mark Devenport: ‘DUP deals and dialogue: where are we now?’

Anthony J. Williams : ‘making sense of white domestic terrorism’

The School Of Life: ‘How To Be Sad’ (video)

Sarah Schuster: ‘Texts To Send Someone With Depression’

Tobias Stone: ‘Trump has damaged America, not the environment’

Elizabeth Gilbert: ‘Fear is boring, and other tips for living a creative life’

Nathan Hill: ‘The Nix’ (book)

This week, the Madrid transport authorities tackled a problem that is quite close to my heart: manspreading. In case you’re linguistically curious, in Spanish, they translate that as ‘El Manspreading’. (I’m personally pretty disappointed that they didn’t just make up their own attractive-sounding word; ‘el hombre-extensión’ or, even better, ‘persona-untada’.)

They’ve not gone as far as to make it illegal, but they have put signs up all over the metro asking people to take up their fair share of seat. I only wish they’d bring the same signage over here, as it’s not really the height of summer yet and I’m already at my limit of sweaty strangers’ legs. I was surprised to learn this week that there doesn’t seem to be any similar signage anywhere else in the word, beyond a more generic “don’t be rude, dude” which has popped up on the NYC metro.

I did however discover that -whilst manspreading seems to be okay to do everywhere but Madrid – kissing on the train carries a penalty fine of £42 in Austria. They classify kissing as ‘discourteous behaviour’, which I think is a pretty weird definition of kissing. Eating smelly food? Fine. Putting your feet on the seats? Sure, be my guest. A polite peck on the lips at the end of a date night? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

It’s also outlawed in Eboli in Italy, where kissing in a moving vehicle can incur a fine of up to £415. No, I’m not sure how they reached that number either.

“Kissing must be stamped out!”
“But how much shall we fine those rude individuals who flaunt the rules?”
“How about £40?”
“What are you on, Roberto? I was thinking more…£345?”
“That seems a bit too random. How about £400?”
“Seems a bit…too rounded to me. And I don’t like zeros. Don’t ask me why – probably some childhood trauma.”
“Okay…um, £425?”
“Way too much!”
“Hm, okay. I guess that sounds okay. Of course, nobody will question a fine with such a random amount.”
“I guess it’s quite romantic to chance a £415 fine for the person you love.”
“You disgust me, Roberto.”

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in the beginning

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Support bras by @gemmacorrell #supportbras #gemmacorrell #illustration

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I have no idea where they’ve all come from, but I suddenly have A LOT of brooches. And is that a surprise when cute bonsai brooches like this exist?! I was quite excited when Lottie & Lu launched, selling Baccurelli, Erstwilder and Deer Arrow brooches to us poor sods in the UK whom might otherwise have to deal with expensive import fees – finally, somewhere I can go to get my weird and wonderful brooches! I’m in love with the Japanese collection from Erstwilder, in particular this sweet bonsai brooch, with a little red background. This striking beauty is available from the Lottie & Lu website for £22.

‘Breathtaking Bonsai’ from Erstwilder (via Lottie & Lu)

Oh my goodness – how amazing is this dress?! I am particularly in love with the red, but it turns out there are loads of other colours available on the UV website, including a lovely polka dot. I’m normally not a huge fan of halterneck dresses (as I, um, struggle without a bra, and I think bra straps ruin the look somewhat!) but I love the way this one crosses over at the front, which seems to be a bit more supportive. And I adore the shape, and the flare! Simple, but beautiful. It’s only $78 direct from Unique Vintage, but that might incur some customs fees, which can be quite steep for me in the UK. I found this red version available at Deadly Is The Female, which is a gorgeous store based in Frome, Somerset, which also has a speedy online counterpart. They deliver DPD too (I avoid Yodel like the plague) and their customer service is second to none, so I thoroughly recommend them!

> For UK buyers, ‘Rita’ is still available from Deadly Is The Female for £90 in sizes Medium to XL


Anyone who knows me well will know that my wardrobe is pretty much 90% Collectif clothing. Which isn’t exactly surprising, when they keep releasing cute prints like this one! The blue is such a lovely mid-blue, and it’s covered in teeny anchors and helms. A subtle but summery nautical dress. I love their thicker belts too! Sadly, I can’t justify buying this blue dream (yet) as I splashed out on the Jade dress recently, as well as a Jasmine skirt. Here are fingers and toes crossed that this pops up in a sale sometime soon…

This is available in sizes 6 to 22 (the wide range of sizes is one thing I am especially fond of Collectif for!) and is £51. Collectif delivery is £5.50, but is IS DPD, which is one of the more reliable couriers.

> The ‘Caitlin’ Nautical Swing Dress is available direct from the Collectif website


Weekly newsletter – Issue 02

Issue 02 : 04 June 2017

Welcome to my weekly digest, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram (including one this week that makes me so freaking happy) and a few things I’ve spotted that are on my shopping list. 

I woke up this morning to some horrific news about the attack around London Bridge, and a number of missed calls from friends worried about me. I was absolutely fine; I came back from a wonderful BBQ at about 8pm, and ended up having an early night – luckily I’m an old granny so Saturday nights for me are all about pyjamas, Dr Who, and 11-hours of sleep. It was definitely plausible that it could have been me sitting in one of those bars along Borough High Street though, so I appreciate every single worried message and phone call I had, even if I didn’t reply until I finally woke up at around 10am.

Once again, we’ve been targeted by individuals who feel entitled to the lives of other people. My heart goes out to all those affected – a few friends had near-misses in the area, and a number of my loved ones had stories of other friends who were trapped inside pubs as the police shouted “get down” to them, other who were told by taxi drivers to keep clear of the area, and others who ended up walking/running quite far to get a train home. This is terrifyingly close to home for me, but I am warmed by how much people seem to care about each other, and the way that we once again demonstrate that London’s spirit will not be broken.

Moving on to something a bit happier, I hope those of you who were lucky enough to experience a bank holiday last weekend had a lovely one. I spent two out of three days decorating my office, which was enormous fun. Having painted it all an expensive paint from Dulux (not to be confused with Durex) which cost me £53 a tin (yikes! It’s supposed to ‘disperse light’ or something, so I can only expect that the light reflecting fragments are made from pure gold) I decided to roll up my sleeves and do something potentially very destructive. I grabbed some random paint (and makeup) brushes, and some grey paint…and I started to daub some random blobs all over my wall. A part of me was panicking about how terrible this could have gone, but when I stood back (into the newly painted wall on the other side of the room, sigh) …actually, it looked dead good. Like, really good. I’ve been sharing some of my painting experience on Instagram this week, so I’m sorry for the DIY spam.

I’ve been trying to watch the pennies this month, so it’s no surprise that it’s May when I get accidentally overcharged for things, or that it just so happens that my 2-year domain name payments come out this month and I’d forgotten about them. Luckily, I had the foresight to eBay a few things last week, so I can just about cover everything. I hope.


Anthony J. Williams : ‘making sense of white domestic terrorism’

Miss Victory Violet : Working The Gym For YOU

Christopher Luu : ‘NASA Is Going To The Sun’

Cici Marie : ‘The best true red matte liquid lipsticks: a ten lipstick comparison’

Gemma Seagar: ‘When is a Crop Top Not a Crop Top?’

Hadley Freeman : ‘Forget age-appropriate clothes – you’re never too old for cats and flamingos’

Kehinde Andrews : ‘Oxford’s move to decolonise history degrees is a start. But there’s a long way to go’


Dummy Alert: A short time ago, I spent an agonising ten minutes with a friend trying to name the ‘seven seas’. I was sure that, during a pub quiz a few years ago, they’d asked us to name the seven seas. Perhaps what they may have asked was ‘name seven seas’, meaning, name only seven of the numerous seas. Foolishly I came away thinking that there were only seven seas, and this has caused some confusion over the years when I could count more than seven. Was it that some seas weren’t actually seas? I could name the North, the Bering, the Caspian, the Aegean, the Yellow, the Irish, the Mediterranean…wait, is that one? How about the Arabian Sea, or the Sulu?

Yeah, it turns out that I was completely wrong, and I’m an idiot. Obviously the above are all seas, and there are also no fewer than 70 different bodies of water called ‘seas’. So much for seven.

The source of my confusion comes from the word ‘sea’, which I understood to be different from ‘ocean’. It turns out I’m not a complete muppet, as The National Ocean Service agrees with me:

“Seas are smaller than oceans and are usually located where the land and ocean meet. Typically, seas are partially enclosed by land.”

Okay, so if seas and oceans are different, what’s so special about these seven seas? What’s wrong with the other sixty or so seas?

A quick internet search tells me that the ‘Seven Seas’ is actually a super old-fashioned phrase for the world’s oceans. The ‘Seven Seas’ are actually the:

  • Arctic Ocean
  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • South Atlantic Ocean
  • Indian Ocean
  • North Pacific Ocean
  • South Pacific Ocean
  • Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean

Bonus fact: the ‘world ocean’ (which comprises of all the interconnecting bodies of water in the hydrosphere, yes, hydrosphere) is colloquially referred to as ‘the sea’, which means that there is one sea, but also 70 smaller seas. Confused yet?

Let’s talk about the word ‘hydrosphere’.

“The hydrosphere (from Greek ὕδωρ hydōr, “water” and σφαῖρα sphaira, “sphere”) is the combined mass of water found on, under, and above the surface of a planet, minor planet or natural satellite.”

How cool is this word? So now we know what it means, we can ruin a nice day out to the beach with a discussion over the colour of the ‘hydrosphere’ and get that word back into use, mostly because it’s cool, but also so we can stop people referring to the ocean as ‘the sea’ and confusing people like me who think that there are only seven seas, but also only one big one. (I’m beginning to wonder whether Inception was inspired by the sea/ocean/hydrosphere.)


💔🇬🇧 #london

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I have this cut in the Laneway print, which is a gorgeous orange and blue, but I’ve been eyeing up the red and blue colours, as the thin stripe is PERFECT for summer! I’m feeling straw-hat and ice cream vibes with this dress. It retails at £39.99 (so cheap!) and at the moment Tiger Milly have it available in both colours, and new customers get 10% off, which is awesome! Sadly the sizes are limited to 8-16.

> The Banned Apparel ‘Front Row’ dress at Tiger Milly


Last week Lady Vintage released an epic PANDA print (I KNOW!!!) which frustratingly sold out in my size almost immediately, and THIS week they’ve launched Nancy (also sold out in my size, arghhh!) which is this gorgeous sleeveless dress, with built-in petticoat. And in a cat print!! It’s so adorable! ‘Nancy’ in ‘Fantastic Cats’ is available in sizes 8-22, and there are a few sizes still available on their website.

> ‘Nancy’ in ‘Fantastic Cats’ at Lady Vintage London


Weekly newsletter – Issue 01

Issue 01 : 28 May 2017

I’ve been thinking about digesting some of the things that I come across every week into a little newsletter, covering things I’ve been reading, and interesting fact, my favourite posts on Instagram (there’s a theme this week, no prizes for guessing what that might be) and a few things I’ve spotted that I really, really want to buy. Top of the list is Lindy Bop’s new ‘Imelda’ dress, because it’s just so…mustard. Heart-eyes. I’d love to know what you think of my little newsletter, and I hope you enjoy reading it!

How is it summer already? Can’t I have a few weeks to wear my gorgeous cropped jackets before I Today was so swelteringly hot I think the tube cooked my legs. (So I guess that’s dinner sorted. Oh wait, I’m vegetarian.)

This week has been quite a relaxed affair really, for me personally. I’ve finally got round to buying some mounts and frames for some pictures I’ve had lying around since…um, 2012. In a bid to make my spare room a nice place to work, I’ve been on a mission to do it up. I’ve bought marble-look contact paper, and covered a £5 2-metre Ikea table I picked up on eBay with it. I had a bit of a war with Amazon getting this damned contact paper; it’s a brilliant way to easily and non-destructively do something up (books, tables, bathrooms, anything that you can put a thin vinyl layer over) so I ordered a 2m-long roll from Amazon. Then waited. And waited. And waited.

About two months later, the seller cancelled the order and sent a replacement. That never arrived. They finally refunded me, but that didn’t help much. I ended up buying a slightly more expensive roll of the SAME contact paper from another seller, which arrived in about three days.

It would have been more of a celebration, had I not then spotted it at half the price in Wilkos about four days later. OH WELL.

Getting the eBay bargain table here itself here was another story. My £5 bid won, and it was ‘collection only’ from an artist’s studio near Brick Lane, which is a couple of miles (or a 15-minute bus ride) from my place in Bow. What I wasn’t counting on was the bus driver refusing to let me on the bus, because I was carrying a 2-metre long table. I think he thought it posed a security risk. I’d love to know what he thought was going to happen.

Let’s just say that by the time I got home, I was pretty tired.

Janey Stephenson : It’s not Muslims or people with mental health problems who are most likely to kill you in a terrorist attack – it’s men

Christopher May : Gen X in the Trumpian Age

Emily Hallock : All Bodies ARE Good Bodies

Bridie Pearson-Jones : This woman got promoted ahead of her male co-worker. What he did next was awful.

Jessica Sillers : Productive Nightly Routines To Borrow From Remarkably Successful People

Carey Dunne : My month with chemtrails conspiracy theorists

Money Diary: 23-Year-Old Advertising Executive On 25k

I can’t say that I’m an Eastenders fan, but I can’t think of the last time I heard of a melodrama consisting of detergent and singing, can you? So why do they call it a ‘soap opera’?

Luckily, Wikipedia has my back:

“The first serial considered to be a “soap opera” was Painted Dreams, which debuted on October 20, 1930 on Chicago radio station WGN. Early radio series such as Painted Dreams were broadcast in weekday daytime slots, usually five days a week, when most of the listeners would be housewives; thus, the shows were aimed at and consumed by a predominantly female audience. In the name, “soap” refers to the soap and detergent commercials originally broadcast during the shows, which were aimed at women who were cleaning their houses at the time of listening or viewing, and “opera” refers to the melodramatic character of the shows.”

So, there we have it. An entire genre borne out of the predictable nature of advertising, and sexism. What a rich, enlightened society we live in.


I spotted this on the Lindy Bop website the other day, and immediately fell madly in love with it! I’m not sure if it’s the design – which looks similar to the Bernice, which I have in three colourways – or the lovely yellow and mustard colour; perhaps both! They also do a purple ‘paris’ pattern, but I feel oddly attracted to this one. I’m trying to hold myself back from splashing out, but payday is coming soon and I think I might need this in my life…

It’s currently a *bargain* at £32, and available on the Lindy Bop site in sizes 8-26.

I’m on a bit of a hair flower buying spree as they’re such an easy way to upgrade your outfit, if you’re like me and just don’t have the time to set your hair everyday, but still want to look like the vintage goddess you feel on the inside. Collectif have released SO MANY beautiful hair flowers this season, but it’s actually this delicate pink double rose one that caught my fancy. The warm pink is so summery, and matches a few pieces I already have in my wardrobe.

It’s a snip at £6.50, though Collectif totally get you with the postage; £5.50 per order. So at the moment I’m waiting until I have the money and a large enough shopping list to buy this little beauty. It’s available in this summery pink, but also white and purple.


Tatty Devine keep hitting me with new gorgeous items that I just HAVE to buy! This cute gold dino might cost a small mortgage, but he’s SO GORGEOUS. £110 to have this flashy little fella travel round with you. Bonus fact: the t-rex wasn’t actually a Jurassic dino, and was around much later, roaming the planet during the Cretaceous period.

Check out Tatty Devine’s gold dinosaur, and their other awesomely quirky jewellery, here. #NoAd,JustAFan

Hell Bunny have blown me away with their dresses this past season. I’ve seen this tropical piece pop up everywhere, including the blog of the lovely Miss Amy May (her review of this fantastic dress is here) and Miss Victory Violet on Instagram. Every time I see it, I play the game of putting it into my basket and out again. I love the mint base colour, and the slightly muted purples and greens. And those wooden buttons! Agh. Someone please gift it to me so I can wear it forever! It’s available here, in sizes UK 10-24.

In the dark, ALWAYS watch your shadow.

The other night, I was walking home from the station. It’s so dark in the evenings now, and cold, and I was looking forward to getting in, pulling off my ridiculously beautiful but incredibly restricting ankle boots, crawling into my jammies and familiarising myself with a delicious bar of Hotel Chocolat 70% orange flavoured dark chocolate. Mmmm.

I was minding my own business, listening to some Clean Bandit and generally having a great (cold) time thinking about how cold penguins’ feet must get and shouldn’t we send them socks when it gets really cold?, when I pass the lamp-post and I notice an extra shadow. This shadow doesn’t bob in time to me, and as my shadow spreads ahead with the outline of my bag, this new shadow it somewhat streamlined and clearly does not belong to me. I casually glance into the window of the car next to me, using the reflection to subtly take a peek at the owner of the streamlined shadow, and there’s a gentleman with a scarf around his face walking uncomfortably hot on my heels.

To be fair, it was freezing cold and no doubt he was just eager to get home and willing to ignore the British social convention of ‘keep back at least 5 paces’. Just to be sure nothing was going on here, I act as if I hadn’t just sneaked a peak at him and mildly panicked – and I cross the road. My headphones are hidden underneath my scarf/hat, and better than a female James Bond I pretend to caress my ear and as my hand travels back down I tug the headphones out from my phone.

Suddenly it becomes deadly silent. It’s weird how music can give you this false sense of security; like you’re in a musical and any minute some dancing kangaroos are going to conga out from behind a tree singing something about how much better summer is. Instead, I hear my heart thumping and the quick steps of someone behind me.

Shit, I think. He’s crossed the road. There are cars lined up along the road and I use the glass to check. Yep – still hot on my heels. Dammit.

Now I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or not. Maybe he lives on this side of the road, and it JUST so happened we crossed at the same time? My brain is running through all the excuses, trying to find one that convinces me to stop worrying about it.

No chance. I’ve quickened my pace; his has quickened too. No doubt left. He’s following me.

I gulp back the metallic taste of adrenalin in my mouth and force myself to stop panicking. It dawns on me that there are three options. 1) He’s genuinely on his way home. 2) He’s going to try to mug me. 3) He’s going to chop me up into tiny bits and feed me to his rabbit.

So far, it seems like option 1 is increasingly unlikely, and option 3 is a little far-fetched. The road is well-lit until right at the end, when you’re suddenly plunged into darkness. This was the bit I was concerned about, really. This was, as I had always thought when walking home, a prime spot to jump someone – out of the way of CCTV and after dark it was pitch black so even if you were filming it, you wouldn’t see anything.

I walk past the penultimate lamp-post and glance down at our competing shadows. The distance between us has narrowed. He’s definitely catching up, but I doubt he’ll do anything until I hit the corner. I look ahead – about twenty yards. Right. I’m walking briskly, but not quite power walking; I don’t think he’s twigged that I might have caught on to him and I don’t want to make it too obvious.

Ten yards. I walk past the last lamp-post – he’s even closer. My heart is in my mouth. Questions run through my head; what if he takes my Foyles loyalty card? What if he uses up all the points I’ve collected? What if he takes my Westfield VIP card and uses my 20% discount whilst I’m left crying at the counter begging for the salad man at Tossed to not charge me the full amount? What if he runs off with my whole bag, keys included, and I freeze to death and in the morning a dog discovers me when he starts licking the huge icicle that’s suddenly materialised at the side of the road?

Five yards. And suddenly –


My Foyles loyalty card is on the line here, and I take that really fucking seriously. My bag is banging against my spine as I run, and it really hurts, but i’m trying to ignore it. I can hear that he’s started running too – there are four slapping shoe-meets-pavement sounds. I am properly panicking – but there’s a road just 30 yards away, and I’m running for it like my life depends on it. Like my VIP discount card depends on it. I’ve probably got less than a second on him, and that’s not a lot of time considering I’m weighed down with my bag. I only have to get past the pitch black 15 metres and then I’m exposed to the bright lights of a main street again.

I don’t think he counted on me begin able to sprint, because luck has it that I make it to the road, and I hear him slow down and stop suddenly behind me, when the slapping sounds of shoes on the pavement halves from four to two. SLAP, SLAP, SLAP, SLAP. I don’t stop running. I wave breathlessly at the car who had to screech to a halt at the zebra crossing  and the driver who (probably quite rightly) waves back with his middle finger. I don’t care – I am back in the light and I am ALIVE.

Not rabbit food tonight, Mister Mugger.

I run all the way to the door. Tears are streaming down my face, but that’s mostly because it’s fucking cold and the frozen air is blowing straight into my eyes. I can’t really see, but I can make out the pavement through my blurry vision.

I get to the door, and brave a look back.

Nothing. Nobody. Just one mad woman, me, breathlessly panicking at the front door, and cars gliding along the road as though nothing happened. And, to be fair to them, nothing actually did happen.

I let myself in, I sit on the stairs, and I sadly retrieve a popped bag of popcorn from my bag. There is crushed popcorn absolutely everywhere, and I spend days afterwards trying to get bits of it out of the lining of my handbag.

A true story. Originally written in February 2017 on a really fucking cold night.

My top ten favourite books: fiction edition

As I was a child with a huge imagination, it’s hardly surprising that as an adult, I can’t get enough of a good book! I’ve gotten pretty fussy though as I’ve aged, and whilst I grew up on a potent cocktail of sci-fi, fantasy, and homicide detective stories, I now find myself reaching out towards a non-fiction book. I wonder if it’s because I’m not in education anymore; I miss being forced to learn new things every day, so perhaps I somehow need to keep my brain feeling fresh.

In any case, it has sadly become more of a rarity for me to read a novel, which is a shame because there are so many good books out there. I guess I’m old enough and well-read enough now that I recognise poor writing, and there are so many exciting things battling for my attention that I’m fussy; if the writing is poor and the plotting feels odd, then I just can’t be bothered to finish reading it. A bad book, or a cuppa and a bit of drawing? I know which I choose, every time.

I’ve been thinking about those books that I read (over and over and over again, like that entire year I watched Disney’s Sleeping Beauty every day when I came home from school because –  to a 5 year old – it is terrifying and wonderful in equal proportions) over the years, that each sparked something in me. I’ve definitely read great fiction, or books that might not be brilliant in academic terms but have left me thinking, or inspired me in some way. And I thought I’d remind myself just how absolutely flipping fantastic some of these books were, by sharing my top ten fiction reads.

Because I like saving the best until last (no, really, I do – this is precisely how I eat my food. Anyone eating the best bit first either suffers from death anxiety, or is a sociopath. Sorry if this is you, but someone had to let you know.), here they are in reverse order:


10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

I don’t think any fiction list would be complete without Neil Gaiman. Sadly, I don’t own a physical copy of this book – I didn’t realise I was going to enjoy it that much when I downloaded it onto my Kindle. In fact, I wasn’t really sure about it when I started reading this short novel; intended at a young adult audience, I was merely curious to see what the fuss about Neil Gaiman was all about. And MY GOODNESS this is a book that grabs you at the feels.

It starts with an unnamed protagonist visiting the farm where he grew up, and remembering events from 40 years before. It doesn’t start on a happy note. His parents’ lodger commits suicide in their car. He makes friends with the Hempstock women, living at the end of the lane, and is haunted by happenings he can’t explain. There’s something weird about that duck pond, and a strange power he doesn’t understand – but Lettie Hempstock seems to know more than she lets on.

There are things that really resonated with the child within me; the feeling that you know something quite bad is going on, but adults seemingly unaware of the imminent danger they’re in. There’s a fist-bump too towards those children that just survive by discovering things themselves, left to figure things out, which is how I felt as a kid growing up in a world where adults just didn’t get me.



9. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emma Orczy)

A swashbuckling hero, a love story, spies, smuggling, the French Revolution? A classic by a sassy female playwright-novelist-artist? A genuinely easy-read classic, that isn’t written is overly formal language? YES PLEASE!

This is the first in a series of books about dashing aloof fop Percy Blakeney, who has a secret identity. It’s the French Revolution, and a lot of people are being unnecessarily murdered by those in power, and a secret freedom fighter is helping smuggle those endangered people to safety in England. I wonder who that secret freedom fighter might be? Socialite Marguerite St. Just is also wondering that; she’s being blackmailed into spying for the French authorities, to find out who the Pimpernel is, or they’ll guillotine her brother. And to make things even more stressful, her marriage to air-headed husband Percy is on the rocks.

I dare you to find a novel as fun as this one!


8. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

Sadly my copy of this wonderful book (as you’ll see from the picture further down!) has had a traumatised life so far, and experienced a near-fatality with a glass of water a couple of years ago. It just about survived (although needless to say, the clumsy oaf who spilled the water and took their sweet time to clear it up – not me – wasn’t so lucky).

Back in my early twenties, in a youthful attempt to be all bourgeoisie, I purchased a copy of Woolf’s To The Lighthouse at Foyle’s. Although I made it to the end eventually, after starting it again a number of times, I really struggled with it – so I put off reading Mrs Dalloway for a long time. I wish I hadn’t – it’s a beautifully written book. You need some time to digest the sentences as it isn’t the easiest read in the world, but this novel following the day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she preps for a party is the equivalent of people-watching from the window of a coffee shop. It’s all those thoughts you have whilst you’re just experiencing life, but instead of confused splutterings of your mind they are expressed in gorgeous turns of phrase, such as:

“Her life was a tissue of vanity and deceit.”

There are also very quotable laugh-out-loud sentences you aren’t expecting, like: “I prefer men to cauliflowers”. This isn’t a book to get excited about, and it isn’t inspirational or motivational. That doesn’t make it any less good though. This is a book to make you think about the inner workings of other people, and yourself. Grab yourself a cup of tea (by cup of tea, I obviously mean a bottle of wine) and some gentle jazz and snuggle into this reflection on life.


7. Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

This isn’t a piece of classic literature. It’s very well written, but it’s not on the list necessarily because of that alone; it’s here because it was hugely influential to me growing up. I read this when it was released in 1998 (as with many books I read at that age, this was one that my Dad had bought and I found lying around the house – probably in the downstairs toilet – and decided to read because I liked the look of the woman on the cover. I know, I judged a book based on it’s cover. Nine-year old me was terrible.) and it helped me design a fantasy world in my head where politics, magic and swordplay really came alive and could feature altogether in the same book. I was only 9 when I read it, and it’s no surprise that I started writing fantasy novels when I was 12. Unlike Terry Pratchett (who I just didn’t understand when I was nine) it was seriously written, and I was hooked from the very beginning.

The premise is this: a young woman comes across a dying man in the forest, impaled by two arrows, and just before he dies he asks her to deliver the message he was unable to. The recipient? Oh just, you know, the King. She’s given some jewellery, and although reluctant to at first, she tries very hard to deliver the message – only, she’s pursued by cloaked assassins who seem hell-bent on killing her. You can see why she wouldn’t be so keen. This is the first in a series of Green Rider novels, and this is an absolute cracker, even as a standalone novel. If you like fantasy, definitely have a go at this one.


6. Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)

Interesting fact: Diana Wynne Jones went to Oxford University and attended lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien – and if that wasn’t good enough, she also attended lectures by C.S. Lewis. So it’ll be no shock to anyone to know that she ended up becoming a very successful author of children’s fantasy fiction.

I must have read this first book in the Chrestomanci series aged 7 or 8. At the time, I was immersing myself in the best escapism I knew; books about magic, and strange faraway lands. I have read this countless times over the years, and even reading it again as an adult it just doesn’t lose its charm. It’s about sibling rivalry, classism and expectation, selfishness, and an aloof sorcerer known as Chrestomanci. I won’t spoil it too much for you, but the idea is that in this world you are born with magical talent, and that talent gives you privilege. Cat, the younger brother of talented witch Gwendolyn, has no magical powers. When they move in with an enchanter, Gwendolyn is unhappy that her talents aren’t recognised by him, whilst Cat feels as though he is disappointing to the enchanter because he lacks the same powers. Gwendolyn starts making plans that involve parallel worlds, and somehow Cat is caught up in the middle of it all.

I love the different characters, the way the dialogue flows so beautifully, and how Diana Wynne Jones constructs, seemingly effortlessly, this world that is a bit like ours but somehow more magical. It was another influential book on me growing up: to realise that magic and fantasy doesn’t just have to feature in a medieval-like world of kings, queens, knights and swords; it can be anywhere, even in a world like ours. How mind-opening is that as a kid?


5. The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)

I read this before watching the Hitchcock film – and I’m glad I did, because the film is brilliant too and I may have never read it in fear of not enjoying it as much! It’s rare to find that I love both the film and the book of something, and even rarer to love the play too! I saw this at the Criterion Theatre in London in 2011 or 2012 and it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. Slightly slapstick, and a comedy masterpiece.

The book though is a different kettle of fish. Published in 1915 (originally as a series of magazine articles) it follows Richard Hannay, an ordinary man whose life changes when a stranger is murdered in his house. Before he dies, the stranger tells him of a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Greece. Not wanting to be implicated for murder, and trusting nobody, Hannay steals the stranger’s coat, and evades German spies watching his apartment by leaving in disguise. He travels to Scotland, where he plans to hide out and decipher the notes in the stranger’s notebook; something about 39 steps. As with a classic war spy-thriller, he is tirelessly pursued by enemies, and tries to get the information he has to the right authorities before the assassination happens.

It’s a really short novel but has plenty of action, lots of cliff-hangers, and it just fast-paced and fun. It isn’t exactly award-winning prose, but then, it’s a good, entertaining read!


4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)

I absolutely ADORE Philip K. Dick. His short stories are incredibly thought-provoking, and he seems to create poignant psychological stories that are sucked from our deepest fears or thoughts. Famous for science fiction, he’s a master of dystopian fiction, and so many of his books have been made into films or tv series – for example, The Man in the High Castle was a recent Amazon Studios remake of his 1962 alternate history. Even more famous is Blade Runner, which is Hollywood’s version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

If you’ve seen Blade Runner and didn’t like it, then don’t worry – the book is completely different. And if you did like Blade Runner, then you should be pretty excited about the upcoming release of Blade Runner 2049, I imagine? Ryan Gosling AND Harrison Ford?! I KNOW, I KNOW. Anyway, I digress.

This novel is based in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he pursues six renegade Nexus-6 androids in order to ‘retire’ them. There’s an issue though – humans and androids look identical and there’s no easy way to tell them apart – just some crummy test that appears to identify empathy through some pretty weird questions.

There are a number of themes in the book; it explores the psychological and sociological meaning of what it is to be human, it carefully touches on religious figures and the dangers of believing everything we are told, it looks at the class systems we create, and the value we attribute to material goods. And it ends abruptly, leaving you to think about everything you’ve just read – and trust me, you’ll be thinking about it for a while.


3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)

I’d never ever heard of Murakami before I randomly picked a copy of this up in the bookshop (not because I had a sudden urge to read Japanese novels; I’ll come clean. It’s because the cover had on it black, red and white minimalist drawings by Israeli graphic designer Noma Bar, artwork I recognised. I didn’t even pick it up for the words. I know, I am ashamed.) but I don’t regret it. After coo-ing over the gorgeous cover, I idly flicked through it, only to end up settling on a page, and – as with any good book – lost track of time a bit. I bought the book then and there, and honestly? I read it on the train home. I read it walking from the station to my street. I read it whilst I fumbled about for my keys. I read it on the sofa. I took lunch in to work and read it over my lunch break. I was addicted.

The plot is weird, I’ll be honest with you. A cat has gone missing, and the main protagonist’s wife might be down a well. Add in politicians, morbid teenagers, psychic prostitutes and a netherworld underneath Tokyo; yeah, this is a pretty surreal kind of detective story. But it does all tie together, and it does so beautifully. I think it’s the only book I’ve read as an adult that I genuinely couldn’t put down.


2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

This was my favourite book growing up, and I have re-read it so often. It started the wrong way round really, when I watched the BBC adaptation in 1995. I remember coming home from school and waiting excitedly for 8pm to come round so we could watch the latest episode; I fell in love with Jennifer Ehle’s hair, I hated Lydia and Charlotte, and I was just way too young to appreciate Colin Firth removing his shirt and jumping into a lake (at the time all I could think was – eww, isn’t he going to be really dirty now from all the dirt in the water? And did they not have Weil’s disease then? – I’d learned all about Weil’s disease when I did sailing in year 5, and it sounded horrific.). Once the series had ended, my mum used to read the original novel at night before we went to bed. I loved the way the language sounded, and even better, I loved the way that there was even more in the book that they’d shown on television – there were so many other characters! Who knew that Mr Bennet was actually really witty? And Charlotte was actually not that bad; she just prioritised different things in life. And Lizzie? Oh god, I wanted so much to be her.

I doubt I need to summarise the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but just for fun – this book charts the journey of proud Mr Darcy and prejudiced Miss Bennett as they learn to be less proud, less prejudiced, and end up falling madly in love with each other. Also, there are some other characters, many of whom are absolute farts but all of whom are charming in their own way.

If you’re one of those people that likes the idea of reading the classics but perhaps hasn’t actually managed to read many, toss aside Ulysses, Great Expectations and Moby Dick and try this one out for size. It’s hilariously witty, beautifully plotted, and the language isn’t too much of a barrier; it was published in 1813, so it isn’t modern, but as classics go it’s quite informal. Warning: you may fall madly in love with Elizabeth Bennet.


1. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

I think I first read Nineteen Eighty-Four in my early teens, when I was incredibly depressed. I got quite into my dystopian fiction, reading Brave New World, War of the Worlds and The Chrysalids, which maybe didn’t help in making me any happier. None of these touched me in the same way as this book though. There is something about it; every time I read it, I notice something new. And once I’ve raced to the end, I begin looking around me in despair – but in that despair, I’m noticing the things I’m unhappy with and I’m addressing them.

This novel is where the phrase ‘big brother’ stems from; it’s based in a future authoritarian surveillance state. It’s a world of war, and manipulation, where even thinking the wrong thing can get you arrested. It’s a world where the government have invented Newspeak, and their leader – the famous Big Brother – might not even exist. Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites articles and amends the news, but he actually hates Big Brother and the government and seeks the truth. On his quest for revolution, Winston faces a number of challenges. Will his hatred for the Party be discovered, and will he end up defeating Big Brother? Spoiler alert: he doesn’t, in fact, the opposite.

There are things happening today that make me want to go back and read this book again. All this nonsense about ‘alternative facts’; it’s so worrying. What I love about this book is how it explores the dark underbelly of all of us; betrayal, hatred, revenge, but mainly, control. It has political intrigue, psychology, spying, language. It’s a guidebook for the worst side in every right-wing party, and shows us how bad things can be, reminding us – me – that we need to fight to preserve the freedoms we DO have, and make sure we don’t slip into a world like this. Every re-read is a lesson in appreciation. In Newspeak, this book is “Double Plus Good”.


A pile of books

So, in summary, my top 10:

  1. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

  3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)

  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)

  5. The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)

  6. Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)

  7. Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

  8. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

  9. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emma Orczy)

  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)


PS. But what about [enter book title]?

A few of you might be wondering where these are, so here we go:

Harry Potter

The first book I absolutely ADORED. I loved the inventive world she submerges you in, and The Philosopher’s Stone is probably number 11 or 12 on my list. I did get a bit lost after about book six though – I felt like the books became less cleanly edited, and I enjoyed them less and less. I just didn’t find the time to read them all. I know there are probably loads of you screaming at your screen “WHYY WHYYY BUT NOW I HAVE TO HATE YOUUU” but there we have it – sorry JKR, if you ever read my little blog, but you sort of lost me a bit. It’s not to say I don’t like Harry Potter at all – as I say, the first book nearly made the final cut as it is so frigging good – she fits so much plot and creates such a gorgeously vivid world in such a (relatively) short novel.  Compare that to the overwhelmingly boring descriptions of trees in some fantasy books (yes, I am looking at you, J.R.R. Tolkien). Which leads me nicely onto:

Lord of the Rings

Okay, so, The Hobbit (a book for ‘children’) was one of the books my Mum used to read to me at bedtime when I was really tiny, and it is a wonderful read. It’s for kids in the same way that ice cream is – seriously, you can just appreciate it more when you’re older. The Hobbit as a book is probably in my top twenty best fiction books. But Lord of the Rings? Jeesh. Give me the films any day. I think I’d sooner fight Sauron one-on-one armed with just a jellied eel than force myself to sit down and read those long, yawn-inducing landscape descriptions and horrible archaic expressions that go on for, I don’t know, a million pages? I like the ideas, and I can appreciate the details – inventing a genuine Elvish language is pretty cool – but this is a series of books I can only think of using as a very effective doorstop. Or as a bourgeois form of torture for middle class convicts. Anyone who genuinely thinks that the Fellowship of the Ring is their favourite book is trying very hard to impress you with a book they probably haven’t actually read from cover-to-cover.

Any Roald Dahl

Oh, the lovely, quotable, witty Roald Dahl. It’s a shame he isn’t in my top ten. I love his books A LOT – I read Matilda and The BFG a lot as a child – but I just don’t feel they touched me in the same way as many of my top ten do. I love his wordplay, and I think he’s an incredibly talented author – I just don’t feel that they resonate as much. Perhaps they feel a bit too twee or nice – even the bit where Miss Trunchbull twirls the young lady round by her pigtails is written in a light and humorous way. Maybe I never took his books seriously enough – and maybe I should give a few of them another read to see how I feel, twenty years or so later.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Yes, you’re right. This definitely should have been in my top ten. It isn’t a very taxing read, but it is an important tale with MORALS. Eat all the delicious food, and you too will become a beautiful butterfly (actual words I say when I empty Hotel Chocolat of their entire supply of Honey and Pistachio mini-slabs. Mmmm).

Any Dr Seuss, but in particular ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’

I love Dr Seuss because he is totally bonkers. This nonsensical poem has always made me laugh, and I often find myself writing little Dr Seuss-style rhymes, but I thought you probably wouldn’t all take me very seriously if I’d included this one. In case you haven’t ever read it, I’ll quote you some at random (not, of course, that I know this sing-song poem off-by-heart):

Some are sad.
And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they
Sad and glad and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.
Some are thin.
And some are fat.
The fat one has
A yellow hat.

What a nutter. Thinking about it, perhaps I could knock out Virginia Woolf and replace her with Dr Seuss? She’ll never find out. It can be our secret.

Phew, we are finally at the end of an exhaustingly long post, all about one of my favourite things, books. Luckily for you that’s it – that’s my top ten fiction books!

What are your top ten faves? Any of them the same?

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