The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…

Summer dressing 2018

Right. Here we go. You all seem to be in a right state about what to wear this Spring and Summer so I’m here to remind you about a few summer basics. And to just generally give you a little pep talk – mostly about Instagram.

For those of you on Instagram and those who particularly follow certain accounts that make you feel like, I don’t know, you’re too fat or not stylish enough or don’t have the right bag or whatever – I’ve got one word for you:


You don’t need straw bags with your name on them, sandals in the shape of a flamingo or 15 new shades of nail polish. There is no room in your life for another impractical dress you will only wear twice, a new very-slightly-different striped top from the 19 you already own or heels you can’t wear to work.

Unfollowing people who make you feel inadequate is easy and totally reversible and once you get beyond 1k followers it’s impossible to tell who is coming or going. They won’t notice or be offended. Just slide away.

I am not slating these kind of Instagram accounts at all, but I am saying that if you aren’t able to maintain a critical distance between yourself and what is basically the world’s most successful marketing tool – (i.e. so I don’t blame you) – then re-think who you follow.

I recommend Pierce Brosnan and National Geographic for a more soothing Instagram experience.

Photographs ought to be inspiration not aspiration. When you see someone on Instagram looking knock-out your first thought ought to be “Do I have similar things already I could wear to make that outfit?” not “I need to buy all that immediately.”

Here is a list of the things I think represent absolute basics for an everyday summer wardrobe. And when I say “summer” I mean days when it is too hot for jeans – this is not holiday or beachwear… I’ll take a run at those another time.

I don’t mean that these are the only clothes you should have, I’m saying that these are your building blocks and they will make the rest of your wardrobe make sense; they will get you through the occasional heatwave between now and September without having to resort to wearing flip flops and a pair of floppy linen shorts with really visible pockets to work. Flamingoes need not apply.

1 pair of good espadrillesMy pair are by Seven Boot Lane, but I see from their website that they’re “taking a break” (going bankrupt?) so some other nice ones I found on the Selfridges website are these from Dune

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or these from Kurt Geiger

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I also really fancy these from Soludos via ShopBop (I have bought off ShopBop before by the way and it’s fine). Basically impossible to find a pair of Soludos without a goddamn flamingo or a California Roll on them, but I managed.

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2 I also have bought this year a pair of Castaner high heeled wedges, which I adore beyond measure. This exact pair are sold out in a few sizes but there are other colours available. If you want a pair of these, size down. These are for occasion wear only, not for long commutes. They do stay on, but need to be re-tied once or twice for maximum security. An inconvenience I believe they are worth.

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If those are, financially, out of the question, these from Topshop look to me like a good alternative.

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3 T-Shirts. How many times do I have to say this? 3 good white t-shirts, from wherever you like, one grey, one black, will solve most problems. If yours are looking tired, replace them. My current favourite is from H&M.

4 Denim shirt – a J Crew chambray “Keeper” shirt worn reasonably loose will dig you out of many a hole but the effing website is down. This one from Gap looks like a good alternative.

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5 Midi skirts. Just find a shape that suits you. Hush are doing very nice ones at the moment, (and will be bringing one out in a very good leopard print soon), but some might find the pockets add unwanted millimetres over the hips.

I have got this exact Santana skirt and it’s great. Better than the pink, which is sold out anyway. I wore it to death in Kenya; size down.

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I also have the Rouje Gloria skirt, which is actual heaven. Take your normal size.

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Or look, here’s a nice one in pink if you really want a pink one:

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6 Culottes or cropped trousers. I feel like there are still some floating voters out there – I pushed these hard last year and some of you went for them and others took it as a personal insult and are probably throwing things at the screen to stop me fucking going on about damn culottes.

But, they’re so handy! Not jeans, swishy and cool and practical. Don’t forget – if you find a pair you like for colour and sizing round the waist but the length is wrong, you can always get them taken up.

If you are going for a high-waisted thing, try these, also from Stories:

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I do like a bit of plisse:

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These are terrific, if a bit wacky

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And I like these:

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7 Shell or tank tops. Unless you have pneumatic boobs or are willing to do a strapless bra thing, just forget spaghetti strap camisoles. Your bra always shows and it doesn’t look nice unless you are tiny and 25 and very tanned. Wide strap plain shell tops look really smart and are no hotter than a cami top.

I am a big fan of these sleeveless shirt things, like this – because I have broad shoulders and a long neck so they stop me from looking like a child’s bad drawing of a man-giraffe – but I understand they might not suit everyone.

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Otherwise I mean something like this:

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Or this:

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You will look marvellous in these, while wearing your cropped trousers and a pair of those mad earrings you bought in Ibiza in 2006.

8 1 black dress. I am a big fan of a very simple light black dress in the summer worn with tan accessories and gold jewellery. Of course, we have other dresses we buy and wear for fun because we live in the West and we are rich and idle.

But if I had to whittle my dress collection down to just one – it would be a lightweight black one. If you don’t own one, once you get one you will find yourself reaching for it pretty much every day.

Something like this:

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Or this:

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My Comptoir des Cotonniers silk dress is one of the best things I own & worth every penny, in spite of dry-clean only hassle. This is their updated version –

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This from Hush if you can do a tie-waist (I can’t):

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Anyway have a poke about; the rules are that it needs to be something you can throw on gratefully, wear with comfortable underwear and is light as a feather. Be ware of anything to-the-floor as it’s never practical with buggy wheels, escalators and car doors.

9 SIMPLE jewellery. Do you have a massive clattery collection of mad impulse-buy jewellery that you bought because it seemed like a good idea at the time, but don’t own a pair of simple studs or gold hoops? Fix this.

My favourite gold hoops are from Astrid & Miyu or Dinny Hall . I wear a lot of gold necklaces from Tilly Sveaas.

10 Fake tan. The thing that makes summer remotely possible – for me at least. At the moment I am a slavering devotee of St Tropez Express tan, which I only have to leave on for HALF an hour and then wash off and lasts for ages. It’s also available ON OCADO HELLO??

But hear amazing things about things like Vita Liberata and Isle of Paradise, too – anyone tried it?



Kenya pt 1

I sat and bit my fist as those girls came off their game drive, I tell you. They looked amazing. I stared and stared at them and thought “Jesus, yes – that is what I wanted to wear on safari.”

I was dressed like Indiana Jones (I’m almost always dressed like either Indiana Jones or Eddie Murphy c.1986) in khaki trousers and a shirt. But I was too hot. It was HOT out there, guys. And I was too hot.

And then these girls came in and I went “WOW” and my husband said “Are you insane? They look like mad old green crows” and I said “You know nothing. They look fabulous.”

They were American. And they had known, as I hadn’t, that the echt footwear on safari is a pair of dusky Palladium boots. I was wearing trainers, which was fine but… And then they all wore voluminous loose khaki dresses, neck scarves, proper safari hats and little round sunglasses. They looked just fantastic. And not too hot.

I always defer to trousers in case I’m required to do anything, but on a game drive you are generally not even allowed out of the truck let alone required to do anything, so god yes… why not a lovely loose skirt?

I know the chances of you needing to pack for a safari right now are very small, but here are my recommends for a superb safari outfit – should you suddenly have a safari dressing emergency you might remember I wrote this and refer back.

Palladium bootseveryone wears these out there, not just glamorous American girls. Last time I was doing anything major in Africa I needed climbing boots but they are a bit full-on for a 2-day safari. These boots are just right.

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Loose green dress – these are kind of what I mean. You might have something already in your wardrobe, or spot something even better. It makes perfect sense. With shorts there is all the leg-admin and trousers are too bloody hot

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Marvellous Safari hat by Fjallraven – and also because a hat that you can roll up and pack is the only hat you will not lose on holiday (or be arsed to even take).

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Natty round sunglasses

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Neutral scarf – this one is from Zara

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We stayed at the Sassaab Lodge in Samburu and got there from Nairobi with Yellow Wings.

I am hugely tempted to go back just in order to be wearing the right clothes.

Any questions? Drop me a line.


(Sorry one last thing…)

The Boden catalogue arrived and I was just going to have a huge bitch through it on my Stories, but then I actually read through it and, you know, there are some really great pieces in there.

I tend to have very little time for Boden with it’s mad prints and every goddamn thing coming with a tie waist, so it must be good if it has overcome my natural massive aversion. I am breaking my school holidays silence because for whatever reason Boden always sells out really fast so I want to alert you to the good stuff now.

Here are my favourites:

Love everything about this outfit, particularly the very now red-and-pink clashing skirt:

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Fabulous print on this top:

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And in another colourway on this dress:

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I have a couple of cream-coloured silky sleeveless shirts like this and they are incredibly useful in the summer:

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In case you don’t have a pair of bright white sneakers for this SS:

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You can never have too much navy:

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I really love this, with the gold button details and the side split. You could intimidate the shit out of some people in this sweater.

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Talking of intimidation, I have discovered the most marvellous social tactical weapon and that is the ferocious grin. Never much of a smiler in my youth, I approached most social interactions with cynicism and fear, never smiled and wondered why things never went well.

Now I approach anyone with the most huge and terrifying grin, especially if I think things might go badly (“Can I and my two fighting children in our dirty and wet rain gear please use your loo?”) I just smile it out.

The other night I went out for a drink with fellow survivors of my post-graduate diploma, noch, in “journalism” and my otherwise sensitive and always correct friend Anthony Dhanendran had picked the most terrifying sweaty boozer – sweat dripping off the ceiling, ladies – in the City.

I edged my way to the bar, trying not to touch anything as I hadn’t yet had my Typhoid or Hepatitis A jabs for Kenya, and had to buy a round, (because boys don’t half whine like little bitches if you don’t), off a man with tattoos on his face.

So I just smiled in a genuinely aggressive way and he was in fact very helpful. He even helped me choose a really nice Sauvignon Blanc, saying unexpectedly: “That is a beautiful wine.” It’s possible that he would have been that nice had I not done all that smiling but… I don’t know… I think it works.

Bye for now

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Going into the school holidays like Indiana Jones

I’ve got to sign off for a while, now as it’s the Easter holidays. Back in about a month, maybe sooner.

E x


The Reformation

Everyone was banging on about The Reformation dresses last year in a way I found incredibly off-putting.

I feel very allergic to “It-dress” mythologising; I do not want to wear an It-dress or any other dress that has been seen 4,000 times on Instagram because if you wear it to an actual party, people don’t think “Ooo, an It dress” they think “That woman has got no imagination or originality”.

Or maybe I’m the only one who’s that much of a meanie-pants.

So I didn’t even LOOK at their stupid website last year. But then just now I thought I might have a peek just to see if there was anything horrible that I could say about it, but in fact it’s all rather nice.

What it does very successfully, which is not that easy, is to create a world, an atmosphere, an aesthetic – a dream. It’s why Kate Moss for TopShop was so good – it was her style, her world, and we wanted to copy it. The French brands Sezane and Rouje do it, too. Sure, okay, we’re not going to look like those girls just because we wear the same dress, but we’ve got to put something on in the morning and feel good about it.

Business commentators have been talking lately over the 8% fall in Next’s share price – (or was it profits… I can’t remember I’m not a business commentator) – but you go in there and it’s not a surprise because the place is an absolute catastrophe. A car crash of colour and pattern and shape with absolutely no idea of who Next woman is or what she wants to look like.

Some resourceful and stylish bloggers and Instagrammers can take individual pieces from Next and style them properly and make them look okay – but as a whole, Next offers the casual browser absolutely nothing.

And if a high street giant with a boardroom full of designers and plenty of resources can’t do it, you have to give Reformation a bit of respect for presenting you with a new or distilled style of dressing as a fait accompli. These sorts of brands who are doing this, (Anine Bing is another that springs to mind), are worth looking at, even if you don’t buy anything, in order to get some inspiration.

Now look, let’s get real: these clothes may not work for you if your boobs are so huge you require a bra made by NASA, or you live on a farm in North Wales and wear gumboots indoors because otherwise the chickens go for your feet.

YES the models are improbably-shaped and YES it’s not madly cheap, but not every brand is for everyone and, while I always try to offer you things to buy whether you’re a size 8 or 18, which are fabulous quality for only £50 I can’t deliver that every time.

I AM very interested to hear from anyone who has bought anything from Reformation, particularly if they have had it shipped from the US rather than bought from Net A Porter in the past and what they think of it.

There is a waiting list for a lot of these things, but I don’t mind a wait list myself – it means I’m less likely to see someone else wearing my dress.

Here are my favourite things:

Carrie dress:

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Persimmon Dress:

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Thelma dress:

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Rosehip Dress:

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Virginia Dress:

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I also think their jeans look good. I am still trying to brainwash you all into trying some high-waisted jeans. I mean not up to your armpits, but just a little bit higher than mid-rise as it’s the quickest way, right now, to look a bit more modern.

Liza High Straight Jean

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High & Skinny jean


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I mean guys, seriously, what IS to stop you from wearing some high waisted skinnies with a band t-shirt tucked in and a gold necklace and looking – if not exactly like this girl – then at least some approximation?

I’ve just realised that I’ve written this entire post about the wrong brand – the one I had in my head when I started on this little journey was Realisation Par, which does in fact look pretty hateful in every regard, but I’m tired now.




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I am insanely in love with this new, very simple, online tech shop.

I was sent the de-bobbler fabric shaver thing (pictured above) and it is beyond awesome. It looks like a sex toy, it WORKS aaannnnnnd…. it’s rechargeable! I am a psychotic nutter about bobbles on jumpers/feel guilty about wasting batteries and this whole change-up in my life is massively appealing.

Here are other things I want:

Portable steamer – because if I hate anything more than bobbles, it’s creases. And there isn’t always an iron.

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Because I haven’t got a telly in my bedroom and q want one – this will project stuff from my iPhone onto the bedroom wall.

Eugh! Stop I know what you’re thinking, don’t be gross. I don’t watch repeats of Property Ladder any more.

Jazzy charger cable

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… because that charger? is fucking mine.

The Ordinary

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I am extremely fortunate and grateful to be able to share with you a guest post from a Spiker, Jill Horne, who emailed me with some detail about The Ordinary products and it was so good I thought it deserved to be shared, in full. 

Take it away, Jill! 

“Some background on my skin – I’ve just turned 36 and have never ever had good skin.  I’ve never had acne but it’s always been spotty and just generally pretty awful.

I have also been through a litany of skincare products and brands. Most have come recommended by well meaning beauticians or friends or ladies on make up counters offering a guaranteed product that would solve my skin issues and always left me feeling let down.

On top of that I went on to develop very prominent patches of melasma after my second son was born two years ago (two boys aged 5 and 2).  A friend sent me a link to a beauty article on melasma by Sali Hughes in which she mentioned The Ordinary’s “Vitamin C Suspension 23% HA Spheres 2%” – honestly what does that even mean as a product name?!

Anyway, I ordered and tried it – it stings a bit when you first start using it but after two kids that wasn’t really up there on my discomfort radar.  I saw a dermatologist a few months back (massive waiting list on the NHS) and she agreed I should keep using the product.

I checked my “before” photos of the patches and what an amazing difference after a few months.  This could partly be due to it being winter and the patches will get lighter without being exposed to sunlight (I live in the North of Scotland so not much danger of sunshine in the Winter at all) but it has definitely helped to lighten them.

Long story, but this then got me interested in the brand itself.  I looked at their website and it is insanely full of products that didn’t mean anything to me.  I saw a lot of beauty articles/social media buzz about their products but that doesn’t make me part with hard earned cash on its own.

I hate being beaten by anything so I spent a few nights going back and forward on the website and the various regimes they recommend.  I had congested skin with spots and blocked pores and dry patches.  I took a look at the regimes and mixed and matched my own combination which is:

  1. Cleanse with Liz Earle hot cloth cleanser to take off make up
  2. A dropper of Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (recommended for congestion but who knows what it is)
  3. A dropper of Buffet Multi-Technology Peptide Serum (their all round super serum)
  4. A dropper of 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (for rehydration – this is bloody amazing stuff for me)

I’m not one for picking up the latest trend especially on facial products having been sold just about everything in the past (Dermalogica, Clarins, Clinique, Liz Earle etc) so I thought I would give it a go for a few weeks.

I just checked and it’s been a month I’ve been using the products for now.  My husband mentioned last night my skin was really soft.  I would have to grow a second ugly head before he would say that anything about me physically wasn’t lovely – bless – but that doesn’t help when you’re trying to do a scientific review of skin products.  I asked my sister for a second opinion and she said “your skin looks amazing, it feels gorgeous”.

She also doesn’t have great skin so she knows what she’s talking about.  It really is the best I have ever seen it.  I’m so chuffed and will be continuing to use it until a) something goes wrong with my skin again or b) the end of time!

I do wish it was a touch easier to get to the bottom of what to buy for your skin type.  I love their little glass bottles with dropper tops – makes me feel like I’m an alchemist at bedtime and the price is fantastic.

This is also a plus as I’m being made redundant at the end of March and taking the rest of this year off (takes a deep breath and keeps chanting “it’ll be fine”).  Currently on gardening leave and missing the mental challenge already hence the massively long email about skin care but when it works, I want to shout it from the roof top!

Oh and this week a fourth product arrived which is the bright red/purple “AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution” which is an 10 minute exfoliating facial. (you rinse it off).  It contains beetroot so the colour is intense and freaked the kids out on Sunday when I used it.  I had to reassure the youngest that my face was fine and not in fact bleeding!  This is apparently quite serious stuff so no longer than 10 minutes once a week.  I’ve only used it once so can’t fairly comment but I’m interested to see how it goes with this.”

THANK YOU JILL! Any Londoners – The Ordinary have a store in Covent Garden and it is definitely on my list to go and quiz an actual person who can see my shitty skin so they will tell me exactly what I need.

Now let’s all say a nice big thank you in the comments box and send her the best wishes for a fabulous new job/career. Sali Hughes, watch out! 

Cool as a…

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Right – oh ho ho!!! – you are going to love this.

I was invited the other day to see a new-ish nightwear brand called Cucumber and it’s absolutely terrific.

Their USP is that it is nightwear for women who get too hot at night. It is made of a whizzy technical wicking fabric which does something with sweat like turns it directly into dreams or something. Anyway you won’t get sweaty in these.

I’m not sure if the implication is that it’s for peri-menopausal or straight-up menopausal women but the story is: if you’re too hot at night, wear this.

BUT! I went to have a look and a feel and a stroke of the merch, (which includes nightdresses and harem pants as well as pyjamas), and I quizzed one of the co-founders, Nancy, and it struck me that the fabric was a very good sort of temperature-regulating thing generally. For everyone, hot or cool.

Nancy was strangely shy about telling me what exactly the fabric was. “It’s a polyester micro fibre” she hissed in a stage whisper. She went on to say that she is reluctant to announce this because any other fabric than “cotton” goes down very badly, especially with women of un certain age who just recall the sweaty stinky manmade fabrics of the 70s and shudder.

Personally, I think cotton has got an awful lot to answer for and the fact is that fabrics have come a long way in quite a short time; this fabric has almost nothing in common with drip-dry fabrics of yore, other than the fact that neither of them are cotton.

Anyway I demanded a pair – the v neck t-shirt and cropped pyjamas in navy jersey – and wore them and they are so good. Very soft and comfy. I enjoyed the practical scrubs-ish element to them, which I require as I spend at least two hours downstairs in the kitchen every morning from 0615 before I get dressed, so any nightwear of mine needs to broadly double up as daywear. They have nearly replaced in my affections my pineapple print pyjamas from (Their new season version of those PJs is here.)

Cucumber are still a very small company – only 6 months old – run with determination and passion by two women just like you and me (if only I could count and not panic at the slightest sign of financial risk and if only you had not just had a baby). Their range is limited as they are so new but the product is great and I really do think we are seeing the start of the next Hush or Me+Em.

Now, look, these are not cheap – (a pair of cropped pyjama bottoms is £79) – but nothing good usually is, and if you are in need of a smart new pyjama set for a group holiday or a hospital trip or you do genuinely get really hot at night or, goddamnit you’re just sick of your shitty old PJs, these are for you.

These are true to fit, take your normal size.


Denim jacket

Probably the single most handy thing I have in my wardrobe is a denim jacket. It makes all sorts of otherwise unworkable things work – slightly revealing sundresses, which you had mentally already given to charity, are made whole again; worn with a white t shirt and a nice clean pair of joggers and snazzy white sneakers with perhaps a flash of colour somewhere, a denim jacket will let you hold your head up high on a warmish school run.

I get a lot of readers telling me that they are “too old” for a denim jacket, which is just such shit and I won’t stand for it. If you absolutely insist on making a concession to your age then maybe if you are, I don’t know, over 50 you might opt for a slightly darker wash. But that’s only if you would feel self-conscious in a denim jacket at all.

The only real rule that applies to denim jackets is, unless you are very confident, style-wise, possibly don’t put it together with jeans. I mean, I have seen people do double denim very effectively and I, personally, don’t like to be judgmental about such things but I concede it’s not for amateurs.

Here are some I like the look of…

This from Topshop:

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This darker wash from FatFace via JLP, absolutely perfect if you are for some reason a bit delusional about being “too old” for a denim jacket tsk:

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Good old H&M – always there when you need it – tons on there, have a rummage but this one is nice.

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Ooo look and another good one from H&M – slightly longer, with pockets … always handy – also comes in a darker wash, apologies for vair lazy screengrab:

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