Remove stubborn lipstick with this one (cheap) miracle product

I don’t know about you, but I am having a real love affair with liquid lipsticks at the moment – the best ones stay all day, don’t transfer, and survive the messiest of foods. Yeah, I’m looking at you, tacos. I have a few liquid lipsticks in bold colours because I live in the school of thought that says GO BIG, OR GO HOME. (I spend a lot of time at home these days, so maybe I need a better phrase.)

I have one issue with these beautiful matte colours though. (Well, besides the fact that they are DRYING AF and if I forget to scrub my poor lips, they go all dry and awful). And this issue is this – after a long day of lots of delicious foods, I thoroughly wash my face…and the lipstick is still there. Wash again. Still there. I then panic and/or go to bed with my lipstick on. At least I’ll wake up looking gorgeous.

I know what you’re thinking. But, Caz – why don’t you just use makeup remover like everyone else? Well, I do. And I tell you what, I have sensitive skin, and my lovely gentle L’Oreal and Soap and Glory makeup removers have a good try but they still can’t get it all off. Waterproof mascara? No problem. Lipstick? Hahaha…no.

Slight tangent. You know when you buy a notebook or something, and it has a barcode sticker on it? Or you buy a gift for a mate and you got it at 20% off because the stars were aligned or something, and then you go home to get that damn sticker off and it half rips off but leaves a sticky papery residue? You know those stickers? The ones that were invented to make you cry? Yeah. Well, I had a bit of a Sticker Situation a few months ago and after consulting Doctor Google – it turns out that you can remove sticky residue with oil. OIL. All this time i’ve been scrubbing away with soap and water  (or even vinegar and bicarbonate of soda because someone on the internet said it worked, but I guess this is the same person who said that you can clean forks more quickly if you microwave them. YOU CAN’T, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT.) and it turns out that the best way to get rid of stickers is oil. I know, whaaattt?

So I got thinking. What if it was the same for lipsticks? I mean, they get kind of tacky and sticky when you’ve tried to wash them off but they’re still being a stubborn little shit about it. What if they’re the face’s version of a Sticker Situation? So I got thinking more.

Now, I didn’t want to use my indulgently expensive Kiehl’s face oil to try this out, so maybe that would work even better. But I did nip to the shops and I picked up some baby oil. And I’ll just cut to the chase – IT WORKS. It actually works!

Sorry-not-sorry for all the lips you’re about to see. Maybe you like that kind of thing, in which case, you’re welcome.

Here is Mac’s retro matte liquid lipstick in ‘Carnivorous’, which I absolutely love. I have applied it fairly haphazardly so I’m sorry about that.

Carnivorous liquid lipstick by Mac
And here is what it looks like after I’ve wash my face twice. Yes, twice.

patchy half removed lipstick

Ugh. And here is what it looks like after I’ve reapplied it fully, waited ten minutes for it to dry, then firmly swiped some baby oil all over my lips to remove it.

lipstick removed

Not a trace left behind! It is actual magic. Here’s what I do.

I grab a little cotton face pad or cotton ball, douse it in baby oil, and firmly swipe towards my inner mouth (to reduce smearing colour all over my cheeks/chin) – and the lipstick just comes right off! And the biggest bonus of it all is that baby oil is super, super cheap. Much cheaper than my makeup remover which I can save for the eyes (which I guess you probably don’t want to get baby oil in – so I don’t recommend for removing eyeliner or mascara, I’m not a sadist.)

Swipe, swipe. Oh look, half gone already!

swiping off the lipstick half removed lipstick

My recommendation is to swipe it off before removing the rest of your makeup and continuing with your normal skincare routine, as sometimes the colour smudges as you take it off, and you really could do with washing off all that oil with a cleanser.

So, that’s my miracle product! Baby oil. It is just the best. And, top tip, you can use it to remove those stubborn stickers with it too!

Do you have any makeup removal hacks? Or do you use baby oil?

10 fragrances to make your home smell amazing

Don’t you love it when you walk into someone’s home, and it smells absolutely divine? Well, I’m going to share some of my favourite home fragrances at the moment, so you can make your home smell gorgeous too!

I’ve put them into three budget categories to make it easier to find one within your budget range – Low, Medium and High. Low means that they are the lowest cost, Medium means they are pretty average, and High means that you might need to take out a small mortgage to buy them.

I also calculate the price per gram or millilitre where I can, so you can see how much bang you get for your buck. And please note that prices I state here are as they were when I wrote this, which was in April 2018 – they may have changed since.

So, without further ado, I present my top 10 candles and diffusers in no particular order…

Read More

My First…holiday abroad

HOLIDAY ABROAD

My first holiday abroad was in 1997, when my family went to Ibiza for a week. I remember being so excited about it, rushing around imagining what it was going to be like on a plane, what the food was going to be like, whether there would be a beach or a pool. I packed carefully, over the space of about three months, conducting a little social experiment with my toys to check which ones were suitable to remove from the group for a week and to weed out those who might not deal well with the aeroplane. My brother had this fantastic book which had drawings of all sorts of vehicles that had been visually chopped in half so you could peep into all the rooms. It was meticulously labelled, and I pored for hours over the image of a military aeroplane so I knew exactly what to expect from our flight.

It’s amazing how much detail you remember as a child. I can remember the name of the person who took care of our table at the hotel restaurant – Raquel, her name was. She had a kind face and bright auburn hair, and teased us over our Spanish pronunciation. The hotel felt like a 5 star mansion to me, and I explored it as if I were its king. The restaurant was tired and clearly hadn’t been updated since the 80s, the ornate coving around the top of the room had paint peeling off it. But to me, it was a fancy palace. It was so fancy that they had wall-to-wall buffets where you could choose to eat whatever you wanted. I could eat chips for dessert? I didn’t have to eat mushrooms? I was giddy with all that power.

I feel like that was my first true taste of what it is to be able to choose, a privilege that middle-class westerners like myself are very much spoilt for. It’s a bit sad that I can remember this being a novelty. Now it’s just life, I guess.

I got carted off to some kind of activity camp for children for a number of days a week. Actually, now I think about it, I can’t remember whether I was forced to or whether I chose to. Thinking about it, I imagine I probably wanted to – I liked meeting new people. We did arts and crafts all day, and there were water fights and origami planes, and these wire bound notebooks with a very special pen that we could write in over the course of the week. There were tasks and activities in the books that we could do when we were back with our families, and we could note them down and win awards. At the end of the week there was a prize-giving ceremony, and the kids that received the awards had these weird cardboard cutouts of armless people that I now realise were supposed to look like Oscars, but at the time I had no idea what that was, of course.

The holiday wasn’t just my first trip abroad. This was the holiday where I first learned to dive, something I was both petrified and excited about. I was awful at it. Belly-flop after belly-flop I went down, red marks stretching across my tummy and my goggles dislodged. Chlorine in one eye. A tear of frustration quickly wiped away.

But I practised. Diligently, every single day, I insisted that we go to the pool. I marched us to the deep end, and I asked for help. And over and over and over again I threw myself into the water until finally – I did it. I remember that feeling of my arms outstretched, the water coming towards me and my dumpy little legs held as straight as I possibly could. And then that feeling of euphoria as I find myself suddenly able to glide down into the water with no resistance, the water pushing on my body and that second that I crash to the surface, momentarily so blinded by excitement that I forget to breathe.

I did it. But, I wasn’t done. With a determination that I wish I had even half of as an adult, I got straight back up and did it again. And again. And again. Until I could do it perfectly.

On the last day of our holiday, I was so nervous I would forget all about everything that I needed to buy a momento I could keep forever. I used all my pocket money on a terracotta figure in the tourist shop, a dancing woman with a determined grin and the fanciest ra-ra skirt. Black and white polka dot. And although I think she disappeared in about 2002 when my parents moved house, I can still remember her tiny painted face perfectly, forever engraved in my memory.

Weekly Quirk – Issue 06


Issue 06 : 08 May 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. 

I feel like I’ve walked out of a dark room after being trapped inside for about 6 months – finally, the sun is peeping through my window at about 6:30, and the city feels more…alive. It’s amazing how just a little taste of summer makes everyone that much nicer.

I’m really sad that the bank holiday weekend is over, as it has been absolute perfection. We’ve been spoiled by the blue skies and the unusually warm weather, and I’ve eaten ALL.THE.FOOD. On Sunday, I had two ice creams in one day.

This is the time of the year that I suddenly go from being miserable to briefly relaxed, as the sunshine is a novelty. I haven’t endured days of sticky tube journeys where Londoners are irritable and shouting profanities at each other for little more reason than the fact that it’s over 40 degrees and we all just want to go home. At the moment we’re unzipping our summer wardrobes and ambling around in awe of the weather, as though we can scarcely believe our luck. We’re planning trips to the beach. We’re laughing because the sun is in our eyes – isn’t that strange? The sun, in our eyes? Almost as if it’s summer! – and we’re not yet crying because we’re squinting hopelessly at our computer screens as the deadlines loom and the salty stench of summer is just sitting in the room, pressing down on our motivation and telling us to go put our face in the fridge.

For now, I’m enjoying this novel weather though. Perhaps I’ll plan a trip to the beach. Perhaps I’ll put my face in the fridge instead.

 


Susan Pinker/Brian Gallagher : ‘Why women choose differently at work’

Which came first, orange the fruit, or orange the colour? Apparently the word orange was originally used to describe the tree the fruit grew on – a fruit that actually doesn’t exist in the wild, it was a hybrid between two other fruits created in South-East Asia. Only as language evolved did it come to describe the fruit itself – which wasn’t actually orange! In fact, in many areas across South-East Asia, oranges are bright green on the outside. This is because oranges are sub-tropical, and in cooler climates they turn orange on the outside – in hotter countries, the chlorophyll is preserved in the skin and so they remain green.

The word orange was first used to describe the colour in English in 1542 – weirdly enough, the first recorded example of the word appears in a will!

More here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(fruit)


I can’t say I’ve been pumping out the summer tunes this week, but here are three albums I listened to, in no particular order!

Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

This self-titled album is a rare dip into post 2000s music for me. I heard the single New Rules a number of times, and I loved how catchy but confident it was. I looked up the album, and there are just so many strong and emotional tracks on here – apparently she leans into hip-hop, which I can hear, but I’d classify this as pretty pop. This has been my go-to “I had a difficult day and I need something to make me strong again” album recently. (You can check out the album here)

 

Rubber Soul (UK release) – The Beatles

On Sunday evening, as the hot sun rolled behind the houses opposite and the temperature dipped a bit and the sky began to get darker, I put some candles out, popped this album on my record player and sat on the balcony to write for a bit. It was great, until I had to get up halfway through to turn the record over (I really need to upgrade to a record player that automatically flips the LP over) but I have one of those cosy mermaid tail blankets and my legs were somewhat trapped in. Wriggling out of it every 20 minutes was a bit of a pain, but it’s okay, because this album is so fun and energetic and happy that I didn’t mind too much at all. This is such an upbeat and happy album – well, unless you start listening to the lyrics. Any song that refers to grown women as girls kind of infuriates me, and Nowhere Man makes me cry a bit if I start thinking about the lyrics too much. Anyone else…? (You can check out the album here)

 

Aja – Steely Dan

I love how peculiar yet immediately familiar this album is to me. Each track feels like it has been etched somewhere in my memory but my brain doesn’t quite recall where. This was released in 1977 and although it has really split opinion, it is an album that I keep coming back to when I need something peaceful, uplifting, but at the same time with enough urgency that I still get the little things done. (You can check out the album here)


Basically the entirety of Collectifs SS18 collection, if you wanted to know. I mean, have you seen it?! A cracking mix of pastels and tropical fruits. And one jacket that I NEED.

1. ‘Outlaw’ Holographic Biker Jacket (COLLECTIF)

 Collectif Holographic Biker Jacket image

Sadly for me and perhaps thankfully for my wallet, this is a little bit steep for an instant buy – I guess I’ll agonise over it for a while before making the plunge! What is there to dislike? Holographic rainbow 80s feels that I can mix and match with my pastel-inspired spring wardrobe? Hell yes. Postage with Collectif is £5.50 if you’re in the UK. I tend to save up for a few bits and buy them altogether, or look out for the free postage events that they have every month or so. I’m praying this beauty won’t have sold out before then. (£67.50)

> Available from Collectif’s website in sizes 6 to 22

2. ‘Camilla’ Candy Stripes Skirt (COLLECTIF)

image of camilla skirt from collectif

This skirt just screams neapolitan ice cream to me. I’m a big fan of stripes, but the navy and pastel combo here (yes, that is navy and not black!) is really unique. I can see her matched with ruffly white peasant tops, or a vest top for days where you’re going to don a pair of sunnies and make a dash to the shops. The 97% cotton and 3% spandex is also screaming neapolitan ice cream – maybe even second helpings. And the best thing about it? It’s machine washable too, for when I drop that second helping of ice cream all down myself.  (£52.50)

> This skirt is available in sizes 4 to 22 from Collectif, but is currently sold out in some sizes

3. ‘Joyce’ Plain Swing Dress (COLLECTIF)

Joyce plain swing dress collectif image

If I asked you to describe a dress that looked like summer, could it look any more like summer than this? As you might already know, I am a member of the squeaky “It has pockets!?!” club, and these pockets look roomy enough for your wallet and your phone. I’m almost going off the pockets that are sewn (or should I say hidden?) in the side seam as I’ve nearly washed my debit card too many times to count now. It’s nice to have pockets where you can see them. I feel like you can match this piece of sunshine with a pair of wedges and a floppy straw hat, and you are BEACH READY. Or park ready. Or shop ready. Or wherever the hell you want to go, it’s your choice, ready. (£65)

>You can get your hands on Joyce by heading here – available in sizes 6 to 22

4. Hawaiian Circle Skirt (VIVIEN OF HOLLOWAY)

image of vivien of holloway hawaiian skirt

I was just having a peek at the Vivien of Holloway spring sale when I saw this tropical darling pop up. It’s a shame she isn’t discounted and she is very similar to the birds of paradise pattern (which I believe IS on sale!) – but on this one the colours are more muted and the pattern larger. It feels like the more serious skirt – those dusky red flowers and the dark background really contrast against the leafy greens. It feels like the kind of skirt I’d either dress down with cork heels and a white halter neck, or I’d wear a a long-sleeved black wrap top and a pair of heels – and make her fabulous print the absolute centre of attention. (£59)

The Hawaiian skirt is currently available from waist size 24 to 38


The London Marathon was a few weekends ago, so here’s the oldest entrant in the race crossing the finish line. And some happiness from the Happy Newspaper, because it’s nice to remember that there is some good in the world.

 

 


 

Thank you for making it all the way to the end! You, my friend, are very special to me. I hope you’re having the loveliest of weeks.

Let me know if any of these items are on your wish list too, and if not, what is? And what are you listening to at the moment? (I feel like people used to ask that all the time when I was a teenager!) I love discovering new artists and albums so please spam me with all your music recommendations! The only thing I’m afraid I really can’t listen to is heavy metal, but I’m all ears to anything else.

image of my signature

Hot Tramp, I Love You So! (Review: Vixen by Micheline Pitt, Collectif and Noisy May)

As a kid, I grew up listening to the best kind of music: REM, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and my favourite rock-star chameleon, David Bowie. I think I might know every lyric to Life On Mars (and I would be happy to demonstrate this at your local karaoke bar). I think it’s worth pointing out to those who aren’t so familiar with Bowie’s works that I don’t really think I am a hot tramp, this is a quote from his song Rebel, Rebel. Because this slogan tee really made me think of the song, and I feel it compliments my new-to-me Micheline Pitt skirt gloriously.

Caz leaning against a wall in her outfit

Let’s talk about tees. I rarely see them worn within the vintage communities unless as part of a rockabilly look, usually in those cases with worn or muted colours, 50s patterns and southern-style typography. Most of the beautiful women I see on Instagram wear blouses or long-sleeved tops – or just ditch separates altogether and wear 50s dresses, which I think are far easier to find. However I’ve seen a few t-shirts being worn with vintage styling recently, and I thought the summery weather was the perfect excuse to try out a bit of a new look. And you know? I think I kind of love it. I know slogan t-shirts are quite popular at the moment, and they’re flying off the shelves at H&M, New Look, Topshop, Missguided – you know, all those mainstream stores that I don’t really delve into anymore because their sizing seems to be geared towards women with a very different figure from mine.

Caz looking down wearing her Rebel Noisy May t-shirt © Quirk and Folly

I’m not sure Noisy May really intended this t-shirt to be an homage to Bowie, but part of fashion isn’t how you see it, it’s how you feel in it. And wearing this, I feel like that chameleon rock star whose image changed so much over the years. It feels like a nice change. It doesn’t mean I’ll be binning all my vintage fashion (hell no) but it does mean I’ll be more comfortable experimenting a bit. And that’s what fashion is, really – it’s the adult version of going through the dressing up box and throwing on something that feels different, maybe reflects a part of you that you didn’t even know existed.

In terms of fit, Asos describe this t-shirt as ‘standard fit’ but I can see from the image that it is intended to be quite loose, it has dropped shoulders and a scoop neck which means that it’s comfortable to wear, and doesn’t cling. I did my hair and makeup before I put it on and had a moment of panic when I thought that I’d have to pull it over my freshly hair-sprayed hair and in the process not only ruin my fringe but also smear my foundation all over the collar. Imagine my relief when I realised that it was scooped enough to not be a problem at all. Phew!

Quirky lady sitting in a cafe drinking a cappuccino

The fabric is a nice soft jersey cotton and is thick enough that even though its white you can’t really see the underwear I’m wearing (my favourite peach-coloured satin bra from Bravissimo). The only qualm I have is that the word ‘Rebel’ isn’t always clear, if my hands are slightly in front of me all you can see is ‘EBEI’ which sounds like it could be the name of my cat. I imagine this is because of my enormous bust – I’m a 30G – which means that it’s pulling the fabric in a way to obscure the R and the L. Other than this, I think it’s a perfect fit. I’m wearing a size medium (listed as size 10 on Asos, but I think it’s more generously sized than they suggest) which is slightly loose on me even with my generous bust. The fabric doesn’t bunch in the back either, which is often an issue I come across – if I need to size up because of my cup size, it’s almost always too large around the band size (I’m only a 30!) which can mean I get lots and lots of fabric hanging out above my waist at the back. In this t-shirt, not a problem. If I believed in such things, I might say that it is a miracle.

Cropped image of Caz leaning against a wall in skirt and t-shirt © Quirk and Folly

The Vixen by Micheline Pitt skirt is one that has been on my wish list ever since it came out, and oh my goodness I am regretting waiting so long to get her! This is the Frisky print skirt, a black background with hot pink and white illustrations all over it. At a distance it looks very cutesy 1950s, a wide band with a generously gathered skirt, and I had a couple of people stop me to compliment my beautiful skirt. If you look closer at the designs though, they are all themed around the subject of BDSM. I adore how this skirt is both sweet and at further glance, a lot more interesting. I love the illustrations, and I think it’s a really fun piece to wear, and I think it teams up perfectly with my t-shirt.

I really struggled with choosing the perfect fit for me though. My waist at the moment is between 29 and 30 inches, which is a couple of inches more than it was last year. I’ve struggled a little bit with my mental health over the past 12 months, and that has really taken its toll on my body. I get into real purge and binge cycles and at the moment, I’m trying really hard to get into a better and healthier mindset. When I went to purchase this skirt – which I spotted on the Deadly Is The Female website for a ridiculously discounted price – I really dithered. Do I buy this skirt for the body I want, or the body I have? And what will the fit be like, will it be generous or will it be a bit snug? I did my research, and found this was on the snugger side but with fabric that relaxes over time, like many of Micheline’s designs. On the Deadly website they also helpfully have a little guide next to the item sizes with accurate measurements taken by the team, another thing I really love about them. I could opt for a skirt that was 28-29 inches at the waist (a Medium) or 30-31 inches at the waist (Large). Ideally, there would be the perfect 29-30” option for me.

Of course, life doesn’t always present us with the perfect option. In the end, I went for the Large, and I’m really glad I did. I’d actually put this at 30”, it has a little bit of room and definitely isn’t a squeeze to get into, which means I don’t have to suck my tummy in and pray as I do the zip up. It also means I can fit in a cheeky cake and not worry too much that I’ll be uncomfortable for the rest of the day. And if I do manage to get my health back under control and my waist magically shrinks again to its former 27-28 inches? Then I can wear a belt, or I can have it taken in. At least with the larger size, I have that option available.

Image of the Collectif Kitty Shoulder bag © Quirk & Folly

And where would i be without Ebei, my cat? I picked up the purrfect outfit accessory in the Collectif sale at Christmas. The body of the bag is a matte black PU leather and is has embroidered details on the front, including mesmerizing green/yellow eyes. I love the gold metal chain with an extra band of the reinforced PU leather fabric all along it, making it feel sturdier. And I adore the expression on his face – truly the Mona Lisa of cats!

The biggest drawback for this bag is that it’s quite tricky to get things in and out of it. The actual body of the bag only goes 2/3 up, so you have to navigate past the flap of fabric on either side that make up Ebei’s little head. It’s just about big enough to fit in your phone, your card, your keys, a small pair of sunglasses at a bit of a push – and maybe a lipstick and a mirror. Once you’ve got all those things in your bag though, do expect to be standing there for about five minutes in front of an increasingly frustrated cashier as you try to find your card in amongst all the other bits you’ve managed to successfully cram in.

Side view of the Collectif cat bag

If you’re just nipping out for a walk though, it’s a great lightweight little bag. A warning though – you might find yourself suddenly surrounded by children whom have surreptitiously sidled up next to you to secretly play with your bag. Try to pretend you haven’t noticed.

Image of Rebel t-shirt with Greenwich in the background © Quirk and Folly

Slogan t-shirt : Noisy May via Asos

Vixen Swing Skirt in Frisky Fetish print : Vixen by Micheline Pitt via Deadly Is The Female

Rose gold hooped earrings : Asos (old season)

Kitty Shoulder Bag : Collectif Clothing (sold out)

Petticoat: Malco Modes ‘Jennifer’

Shoes: George at Asda

May The Fourth Be With You

I’m a few days late to the Star Wars party, sorry about that. But let’s all pretend that it is actually Star Wars Day today, and that my t-shirt says ‘alliance’ underneath, yeah?

sassy woman holding a delicious cake

For anyone else in London or the South East, there seems to be a feeling of collective euphoria – Londoners are offering each other seats on the tube and in a demonstration of highly irregular behaviour are even going out of their way to help tourists. Why, you ask? Well, it’s a Bank Holiday so a delicious three-day weekend – and if that wasn’t enough, the weather is forecast as sunshine all weekend, a veery light breeze, and between 22 and 25 degrees celsius. I’m currently sitting under an arch in the old Royal Naval College in Greenwich listening to conservatoire students polishing their piano and violin pieces and bathing my toes in the sunlight.

As with many of us, I really struggle with winter. The days are so awfully short and the weak sunlight begins to fade from about 3pm. Trudging home in the dark, shivering as I lose the feeling in the ends of my fingers and close to tears because I forgot my gloves or someone shouted at me on the train for shoving them when it was the person behind me pushing me forward. People seem terser, meaner, and colder in all senses of the word. Winter feels like a million miles away as I’m sitting here in May, the sun bright and warm, in just a t-shirt. These moments where I look back on just a few months ago bring a strange sense of calm. I’m grateful when winter ends, and I’m grateful for these days when I remember just how lucky we are to have some days where the stars align and bring us the perfect day.

I hope you all manage to find something perfect in your long weekend. And if you don’t, or you’re not lucky enough to have a long weekend, I hope you remember how you feel now so when the perfect day does come along, you can be grateful to have experienced it.

(Also, I ate a cake today and there’s a chance I’m actually just feeling really happy because cake is bloody excellent, and this one had a little doughnut on it and it was all gloriously gluten-free. Or it’s the lovely weather and the fact winter has cleared off. Could be either.)

image of my signature


For delicious gluten-free cakes in London, I can heartily recommend Ruby’s of London who have a stall at Greenwich Market at the weekends. They have plenty of vegan options (and gluten-ful options for you lucky ol’ wheat eaters out there!) – but get in early, as the cakes sell out fast!

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

 

 


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

Wikipedia

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?

image of my signature

Blank Page.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


The blank page.

Blank. Totally, unapologetically blank.

Fingers hovering above the keys, waiting — just waiting — for something brilliant to type. You’d like to type something brilliant. Something meaningful, that people will look at approvingly and think “Yes! This is me!” or frown at whilst internalising a shout of “I disagree!” — or they will be so incredibly moved by the profanity of what you’ve written that they will cry; heavy, choking, nasty tears. Or silent deadly ones that will slide down their face uncontrollably and they’ll hastily wipe away hoping nobody will notice.

The page is still blank.

You are hoping and willing for your brain to conjure up something so beautiful, something so brilliant.

Yet, inevitably, time goes on, and the page is still blank, still empty. You’ve got so much crammed in your head, but nothing wants to come out.


I remember a time when writing was a breeze. When I was seven, I fashioned a ‘night torch pen’, a tiny flashlight tied to a biro, which meant I could stay up until the small hours, scribbling away in one of the many notebooks I had to hand. All sorts of stories would pour out; tales of crazy Mayors, who only dressed in brown and held dinner parties for the local fishermen on a Tuesday, or stories of a cat that thought it was a fondant fancy. Half-written science-fiction novels that started with such vigour but ran out as soon as I realised I knew nothing about aeronautical engineering and that gravity was still a little bit of a puzzle to me. (I still to this day wonder how on earth the Millennium Falcon could come out of hyperspace into the area where Alderaan was supposed to be, and somehow it automatically adjusted for the change in gravity without leaving them splatted against the back of the cabin. I can explain that one to you over a glass of wine if you’d like to discuss further. I am truly a delight at dinner parties.)

I was told off at school frequently for not paying attention — because I was reading ahead, or because I was secretly writing away under the desk. I wrote a 6-part novel when I was 9 about a haunted house, which was based on a school trip we’d been on when I was 7, and I was sent to the headmaster’s office for not working. Instead, he read the entire thing over two hours (okay, 6-part novella, if you will) whilst I sat outside writing in yet another notebook, convinced I was in trouble. Eventually he called me in, told me quietly that I was very talented, and he was happy to read any other stories I’d written.

I started a fantasy thriller when I was 11. I submitted the first chapter — a graphic description of an elf being beheaded by a magician — into a competition for under-14s. It was, perhaps, a bit gory and in hindsight maybe a little more adult that the other entries might have been, but it was good enough to win. I got the impression that it blew most of the other entries completely out of the water. I had the story published, and was given an award, and I was incredibly proud of myself. I continued writing the fantasy thriller — in fact, I even rewrote and completely changed the first chapter. Award-winning or not, I had new ideas I wanted to inject into it. New characters, new approaches. I was buzzing with plotlines and imagined maps of this fantasy world I was creating.

If anyone was destined to spend the rest of their life writing, it was me. But did I? Absolutely not.

I can’t even begin to work out what happened. I was bursting with stories, and then I just seemed to run into some trouble. I wrote poetry and songs at university, and tinkered about with a story — which I wrote a good 75,000 words of. Then about five years ago — I just ran out. It’s like my brain just switched off. Am I an adult now? Was this inevitable? Or have I broken myself, somehow? And if I have, can I ever be repaired?


My fingers tentatively hover over the keys again. I have tried bringing it back, I have really, really tried. I’ve tried notebooks. I used to fill up hundreds of notebooks, with ideas or names or drawings of things that I liked. Now, I have hundreds of notebooks but they reflect what it feels like inside my head. They’re just empty, waiting to be filled, sadly knowing that they never will.

My heart aches slightly as I’m writing this, because I know it to be true. I know it to be the saddest secret I ever have. I still habitually buy notebooks because I know I have the want to fill them, but they just pile up and up and up, and I’m thinking about how much I want to write but how little I have left to say. They will never be filled, and I will never be fulfilled. And that is why I will always be thinking about the blank page. I will always allow my fingers to hover above the keys, as I think about how much I want to say and how I just can’t find the words to write.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.