BEST OF: 10 Perfect Autumn Jumpers

I’m not saying summer is over yet – but I am saying that I spent the last weekend wearing jumpers for the first time in what feels like about six months! So, what better than to share my top ten reproduction vintage jumpers, as we reel from the summer sales and think about getting cosy and ready for September to come round?

 

1. Miss Fortune: Bobbie ‘Space Age’ Jumper

Price: £38.49

Sizes: XS-XXL

Blast off into autumn with your own piece of retro spacey cuteness – head to Miss Fortune’s website

 

2. Lindy Bop: ‘Menise’ Black Stripe Cardigan

Black and white striped lindy bop cardigan

Price: £25

Sizes: 6-26

I am obsessed with stripes. OBSESSED. Get yours here.

 

3. Mak: Jennie Cardigan

Top Vintage image of the MAK cardigan

Price: €34.95 (Top Vintage are based overseas, but are currently customs free for UK buyers)

Sizes: S-XL

Top Vintage currently stocks these gorgeous 50s-style cardis in a range of different colours, including this dreamy green Jennie. Check out the range from Top Vintage

 

4. Collectif: Rose Brocade Jumper

Collectif rose brocade jumper

Price: £39

Sizes: 6-22

(How many Collectif jumpers is too many jumpers? Asking for a friend.) I missed out on this green rose brocade jumper last year, so I am over the moon they’ve brought it back for AW18. Shop yours now.

 

5. Heart of Haute: Betty Bolero

Image from Top Vintage - this is the Betty bolero

Price: €44.95 (Top Vintage are based overseas, but are currently customs free for UK buyers)

Sizes: XS-XL

Boleros are perfect as the nights get cooler, but you don’t want anything too heavy. I am ample chested and often find that boleros end up getting stuck in my armpits, so a massive HELL YES to this genius tie-front option. This is currently only available in XS from Top Vintage, but I am praying they restock my size soon.

 

6. Monki: Fine knit cotton top

Price: £20

Sizes: XXS-XL

I recently discovered Monki, and I can’t get enough of them. Their sizing is generous, in tops at least, and I love finding little pieces like this that give me serious 40s/50s vibes. You can buy Monki items online here.

 

7. Voodoo Vixen: Cora ‘Panther’ Cardigan

 

Price: £32

Sizes: S-XXL

I love my fashion to be playful and quirky, and this cardigan ticks both of those boxes! Slightly sock-puppet-esque, this is honestly one of the best novelty jumpers I’ve seen this year. Snap up this purrfect cardi here.

 

8. Banned: Hudson Bolero

Hudson bolero in black from Top Vintage

Price: €29.95

Sizes: S-4XL

This lovely soft bolero comes in such a range of colours, including mint and baby yellow, but I still love a good black wardrobe staple. It also comes in a huge variety of sizes too! Banned Apparel is available from Top Vintage, and you can shop the range of colours here.

 

9. Voodoo Vixen: Julia Cardigan

Red burgundy cardigan from Voodoo Vixen

Price: £37

Sizes: S-XXL

I love the range of 40s knitwear I’ve seen coming out this year, and as a cheaper alternative to some of the other brands out there, this Julia jumper is just the ticket. If red isn’t your colour, there’s also a bright mustard version. Both are available from Voodoo Vixen’s website.

 

10. Hell Bunny: Vamp Jumper

Black jumper with white collar and bat detailing. Hell Bunny knitwear.

Price: £35.99

Sizes: XS-XL

Not that I’m getting excited for Hallowe’en or anything, but I am batsh*t crazy for this! Wing your way over to Hell Bunny’s new (and very fancy) website to get your hands on one of these amazing jumpers.

 

* Please note: All product images are from the product links as seen here, I do not own any of these images. These are NOT ads or affiliate links, I just love these jumpers! x

Out At Sea: A Coastal-Inspired Summer Look

There are two things I love in life (other than Norman, my long-suffering plant buddy) and they are both patterns – tartan, and stripes. I live in tartan through winter, and most staples in my wardrobe do share a theme. Stripes are catching up though – and is it no wonder when Collectif bring out beauties like their lovely gathered Jasmine skirts in a vertical navy and white stripe?! From the very second I saw this skirt, I knew I needed it. I hope you agree that the purchase was entirely justified – it’s beautiful!

standing in front of mural with sun hat wearing collectif skirt

The weather was forecast to be sunny and somewhere between 25 and 27 degrees, so I actually started with my silly oversized sun hat, and thought I’d build an outfit around it. I felt as though it was sending me beachy coastal vibes, so I naturally reached for my striped Jasmine skirt, and dressed entirely in navy and white to match. My bag adds a little subtle colour, and I think softens the look a little – and last I checked, this was in the Asos sale so you might be able to get hold of it for a bargain price!

I’m not going to review the hat, as it was just an Accessorize one I got in an airport…maybe six years ago? I can’t remember where I was going but it was definitely hot enough that I felt compelled to buy the largest and silliest hat on offer. Or maybe it was the cheapest – either way, this was in the pre-Instagram days, and before now I don’t actually think I’ve ever been pictured in it. I thought I’d take it out of retirement and try to make it part of a summery nautical outfit – and I think it works!

The real star of this outfit though is the Jasmine skirt. She’s a gathered skirt with a matching fabric waistband and navy and white stripes. I’m wearing her with a Malco Modes ‘Jennifer’ petticoat, which helps give it fullness and that gorgeous 50s silhouette. Length-wise, this skirt is longer than the other Jasmine skirts at 26” long. If it helps, I am just over 5’8” and when wearing her at my natural waist, it sits at about 1.5” below the knee. I imagine it might be too long for those ladies lucky enough to be shorter than me and might need to be hemmed to sit just right.

sunglasses side view of Asos bag

As with all my Collectif items, it washes well. I’m so tired of buying the perfect item, only to find marked in tiny words on the label the dreaded words ‘DRY CLEAN ONLY’. No problem with this striped beauty! I wash all my items on a 30 degrees wash, and this has washed perfectly with no colour bleeding. (Though it’s worth saying that I do always throw in a colour catcher, just in case, if i’m washing anything with white in it!)

The skirt has my favourite feature – a hidden back zip, but best of all a hook-and-eye at the top. This means the zip doesn’t run the risk of undoing itself and adds extra fit and security. And if the item is a tiny bit big at the waist, I can always unpick the hook and eye and move them so it fits a bit more snugly.

To me, the fabric has less of a stretch cotton feel and more of a slight woven linen feel – it definitely seems to have less stretch than other Collectif Jasmine skirts. The Collectif website says it is 97% cotton and 3% spandex though, so it should stretch a little. It just feels less generous to me. I sized up from my normal size 10 to a size 12 and whilst it is slightly loose, I think it would have felt uncomfortable in a size 10 so I’m glad I did. For comparison, I’m currently waist 29”- the 10 is 28” and the 12 is 30” so I would say this is pretty true to the size chart. That said, I do have cotton Jasmine’s in a 10 that fit me well with my 29” waist – I honestly feel like the fabric of them alters their fit and for me, this one is on the ‘less stretch but true to size’ side of things. I also notice that the price point is different for them too – this striped one is currently £40.50, whereas the fruit print skirts are £45.50. (The fruit skirts are also just over 25” long rather than 26”, so the cuts seem inconsistent too!)

So, to summarise, I would wholeheartedly recommend trying on your Jasmine for fit beforehand as you may find yourself – like me – buying the same skirt style in two different sizes if the fabric is a little different.

wearing floppy sun hat with arm on top of head

 

I wore my skirt with a navy vest top from Next, in a size 10. I love these vest tops and I have about ten of them in all sorts of colours. Why? Well, firstly they’re cheap – I think they’re 3 for £12.99. They’re long enough in the body for me to be able to tuck them in and hold them in place, and they fit my 30G boobs without showing all of my bra and without drowning my waist in fabric. They also wash superbly. Ample-chested friends? These might just be the vest tops of your dreams. You’re welcome.

showing cropped bag side view from Asos with sunglasses

The white cropped cardigan is a MAK one and I really think it goes with the white/navy theme. They’re available in a number of colours at Deadly Is The Female which is my go-to place for these darling cardigans. They’re the perfect thing to throw over your shoulders as a light cover-up, whether it’s the sun or a light breeze. I imagine I’ll be wearing a rainbow of them over summer! I’m wearing this one in size medium, which fits me perfectly. Medium is equivalent to a size UK 10-12. To match in with the white, I added these fabulous vintage-inspired acrylic showstopper earrings from Oh So Flamingo, whose earrings are outrageously cheap and outstandingly beautiful. These are the ‘Petal’ earrings in white, which I bought from her Etsy shop for a budget-friendly £5.

oh so flamingo earring

To bring everything together, I decided to wear this cute little shell pink scalloped cross body bag, which is the perfect size for a phone, a wallet, and a lip balm. I think it also adds a nice finish to the rest of the outfit! I love Asos for lovely little novelty and cross body bags.

showing cropped bag side view from Asos

Overall, I really love this coastal-inspired look and it was a really comfortable outfit to wear for a day out – even if the wind kept trying to steal away my hat! Is this picture below showing me wistfully staring after my hat as it tumbles away across East London? Um…probably.

jasmine skirt from collectif in front of mural in east london

Floppy sun hat : Accessorize (old)

Navy vest top : Next 

White cropped cardigan : MAK via Deadly Is The Female 

‘Jasmine’ Skirt : Collectif 

Pink scalloped bag : Asos

Earrings : Oh So Flamingo 

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

 

 


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!”
“£415?”
“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.”


View this post on Instagram

in the beginning

A post shared by Poorly Drawn Lines (@poorlydrawnlines) on

 


 

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

caitlin-swing-dress

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


 

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

Pudding.

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)


1.

 

I saw her lying there, beckoning with one finger

a dark lock of her dark hair carelessly caressing her temple.

I knew what she wanted. I could see. She was hungry, but so was I.

 

She was belly-up, round folds of skin with dark creases

melting into the armchair.

Her jumper hoisted up by its rough fabric, but not tweed

Inexpensive. Patchy in places.

but not her smooth velvety skin. Soft, and gently rolling.

 

She was exposed and alone and I wanted to look away but I was addicted to the plush shirring of her body

I wanted to tell her, but her warm creamy thigh was flashing like a beacon and I can’t tear my eyes away from the freckle that winks as she flexes her leg.

Her eyes, oh her eyes. Melting my core with a complicated deep chocolate streak and the burning green fire iris.

The wicked flames burn something within me; a soft and delicate centre that oozes perverted leering and drips with saliva and wit.

Her eyes are locked onto me and finally

 

yes, just like that

 

but more, I need more

 

she gently leans forwards, and I eagerly lean up towards her to glimpse the gaping neckline as it drops towards me and


2.

 

Once again the unstopping mechanism we call time whiles away my day

and we arrive home exhausted, tumbled through the vacuum packed train that aches and groans across the city.

The smog rolls off me as I roll off my uniform and discard it uncaringly on the floor, where it will lie forlorn until Thursday.

The pause as I unthinkingly do it again. We. That word. That loaded, cruel word.

We were two letters, joined together, only making sense as a couple, a duo. Like us, just two letters, but so warm and tender with intimacy.

I am the single lonely letter, always detached and always flying solo.

My heart reaches out to you with every afflicted limb but I’m torn apart and there is no limb left.

I’m just an echo where there used to be a person and a voice, but now there is just a shadowy reminder that I existed.

 

Stop it.

 

I feel it, I burn with desire but I self-douse with a shower of guilt and fading memories of we, of us

of once two letters, now one.

I am starved of you but learning what it means to be without you.

 

Stop it.

 

Casting my eyes about the room, my amatory senses awaken. I prepared for this. I fucking prepared.

A conquest to be had, an affair to be met and forgotten: my aphrodisiac knight in shining armour, my sick fantasy.

I lick my lips and sink into the forgiving armchair and I forget to judge myself, but I’m judging the sweet divine pudding of my dreams staring back at me.

No longer I, but back to me. Now us, now we. I already have a fork in my hand, and there is no time for flirting. I’m an uncouth, capricious delinquent with no time for manners, I lean forwards, and I cry like a baby as I devour you whole.


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.


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.