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The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…

Month

September 2015

Crush confession

Okay okay okay… you remember how at school there was that boy that everyone’s got a crush on and you put your head on one side and go “Whut?” You can’t see it. You’re proud that you can’t see it. You’re above such things.

But then one day he gives you a funny look in Geography and suddenly you’re sideswiped by a monsterhead of a crush.

Bear all that in mind and… here:

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PLEASE WILL YOU BE MY BOYFRIEND(S)?????? or just touch me a bit?

The bag that took over the world

Jesus is having this bag now a pre-requisite of living in London???

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Are they giving them out free? Do you get money back on your tax return if you buy one? Is there a free Toblerone with every purchase? I went into town the other day and counted TWENTY FIVE one my journey there and back.

I’m not knocking them! They’re great. But still… my god… it’s like an invasion .

I have pulled out of a dark corner of my house this Herve Chapelier navy nylon square-base shopper in protest. I bought it in Paris YES I HAVE BEEN TO PARIS LOOK AT ME for £51 in 1999.

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Fairisle sweater and a note on internet shopping

I have been searching for WEEKS for a good Fairisle sweater with very little success. I think perhaps I have “gone” a bit early – Fairisle maybe doesn’t hit the shops until mid-October or early November as people start to think about Christmas.

Still, I’ve been looking because I’ve got a terrible fear of all the marvellous cosy Fairisle sweaters selling out and I want one.

But so far the two likely sweaters I’ve found and bought and had delivered have been rotten. One from Boden, which was bulky and itchy and !!!! so fucking static !!!!!

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and another I found on ShopBop, which arrived today, which is also itchy and a bit stinky like of wet wool/dogs. They both have sleeves that seem to balloon out from the shoulder and flap around one’s elbows and forearms. So disappointing.

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This absolutely did not look like this on me when I tried it on 

I sent the Boden sweater back and the above sweater is going back, too. Because that’s the thing about internet shopping, you have to be absolutely 100% okay with the slight hassle of sending things back. Luckily I live near a Mailboxes Etc, which is always empty and queue-less, unlike any PostOffice, which has queues like something out of the Soviet Union circa 1985.

You have to be ruthless with internet purchases. Absolutely ruthless. I reckon a lot of online places make a huge margin off their customers not being arsed to send things back. You have to try the thing on assuming it’s going to be shit and you have to send it back – this requires a pretty huge doublethink, as the item in question, in the time between you hitting “Place Order” drunkenly and it arriving at your door, will have verily become the item that is going to change your life.

Then it arrives and smells of wet dog and you’re so disappointed you could cry and you think… maybe if I put it in a drawer and try it on again later it won’t be so stinky and itchy. Wrong my friend. Wrong. Put it back in its bag and send it the hell back to wherever it came from.

You have to think “I knew it. I knew it was going to be shit” and take great pleasure in sending it back because the shop is probably counting on you not doing so.

Anyway I’ve completely given up on the hunt for a Fair Isle sweater now. I found this on on Gundrun (who made Sarah Lund’s sweaters) but it’s insanely expensive and I just know it’s going to be some itchy unflattering bastard.

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Anyway I’m completely fed up now. I’ll just wait until there are 4,000 snowflake sweaters in Gap and have to make do with one of those.

Please will someone….

…. buy me these sunglasses right now. Thanks.

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OMG the theatre is so boring

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I hate going to the theatre. It’s uncomfortable, it goes on for too long, it’s expensive. If you have the drink that you need to attain the required buzz to find the play amusing/interesting, you will then need a wee from when the curtain goes up to to moment you’ve got to the top of the 400-strong queue for the 1 tiny very smelly loo under some stairs that has not been changed or refurbished since 1987.

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Despite going for that wee, you need another one as soon as the curtain goes back up. Then you start thinking about your dinner. You are starving since you weren’t able to eat anything between leaving work/travelling across town in the rush hour in order to pick up your tickets by 7.30pm and it is now 9pm and you can’t think about anything except food.

“Out! Damned hot dog,” cries the lead actress as she scrubs the tomato ketchup off her hands form the delicious pizza she’s no doubt been scoffing offstage… and other such stomach-related delusions.

When people talk about living in a big city, whether it’s London or Edinburgh or New York or wherever, they talk vaguely about being able to go to the theatre and to art galleries. Well, I have lived in London all my life – I am that rare thing, an actual Londoner – and I continue to live in this city despite it being full of boring theatres and tedious art galleries.

And yet… philistinism only gets you so far.

My husband and I get invited to the theatre every so often, sometimes to see plays that everyone is banging on about, and to say no feels so ungrateful and churlish and ill-educated. But then we recall the awful physical discomforts of the theatre and look at our diaries and we know, we just know that when the night comes to go to the theatre, with the stress of leaving the kids still awake in their beds wanting this and that and the dread of the rumbling stomach and then piss-needing, we’ll just rather not.

BUT! We might have hit on a magnificent solution to this theatre-phobia, which is…

YOU LEAVE AT THE INTERVAL

I know, it sounds mad, why would you leave at the interval? Don’t you want to know what happens next? No, not really. I’m happy to go to the theatre, to support the performing arts – but I also want my dinner and to be in bed by 11pm at the absolute latest.

If you leave the play at the interval you can have thrown down a double vodka before curtain up comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve got all the time in the world to have a wee. Then you can amble out into theatre land on stumble out onto The Cut and take the pick of your restaurants; it being 9pm you will have your pick of the restaurants, even those bastard, bastard no-bookings places will have space for two at the bar. All those 25 year olds who were queueing round the block at 6.45pm have had to get a train home to Sheen for a milky drink and early bedtime. Spuntino here we come!

This type of behaviour is in psychotherapy vaguely referred to as being “individuated”, which my husband and I tend to interpret as “doing just whatever the fuck you like”. A non-individuated person would fret vaguely that leaving the theatre at the interval was rude, wrong, bad. They would think maybe being bored and needing a piss is somehow good for you? SUFFER!

My Swiss-German grandmother, who is possibly a little bit too individuated at times, already knows this little trick. She has visited every single major art gallery in Europe – but each one only for 30 minutes. She always drives right up to the front door and always finds a parking space, (on the basis that very few people are fucking crazy enough to drive right up to the doors of any of Europe’s major art galleries), has a look around for 30 minutes – maximum – then goes and has lunch.

So there we are! The solution to having to go to the theatre while not really wanting to go to the theatre is: leave halfway through, go and have something to eat and then go home feeling really pleased about your semi-cultural evening.

And if anyone asks you what happens in the end shout “What’s that over there?” and stunt roll out of a window.

The One Colourful Thing rule….

There are certain things that naturally, instinctively stylish people do, which mean they just look stylish even when wearing jogging bottoms. I haven’t got to the bottom of all of these things that they do, but I am slowly winkling them out, one by one.

One rule that I know many stylish people follow without thinking about it is the One Colourful Thing rule. If you are wearing all white and navy or grey and black or whatever, you add one colourful thing. Not two! Or you stray into Mad Lady territory.

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Tedious fashion douchebags call the One Colourful Thing rule a “colour pop” but I cannot use that phrase because it’s so awful and nauseating. It makes me want to set fire to my laptop and go and find something better to do.

Anyway you do not need to be a tedious fashion doucebag, into harem pants, ugly Ferragamo-style block heels YUK or SnapChat in order to follow the One Colourful Thing rule. You could be a punk, or my mum or a professional gardener or a schoolteacher. My bank manager, Anne, follows the One Colourful Thing rule and always looks terrific even though she is forced to dress like a bank manager.

This is probably the first and easiest thing you can do in order to raise your style game even one notch, if that’s a thing you want to do (and if not, Jesus, good for you – sometimes life is too short for this shit.)

It’s the thing I started doing when my son, Sam, started walking and turned from hysterical, clingy, part-honey badger moron into a normal toddler who could be left for 2 secs while I thought about what to wear.

Don’t get me wrong! I am an absolute slob: when I talk about One Colourful Thing I mean adding a bright scarf to an outfit that otherwise consists of navy joggers, white Supergas, a checked shirt and a denim jacket. We are not talking Dries Van Noten here – do you have any idea the number of spillages I have to avoid every day? Do you have any idea the number of times I am successful in avoiding those spillages? I’ll leave it there.

The One Colourful Thing does not have to be expensive or exciting – or even an item of clothing. The other day I successfully used a free bright green cloth bag as my One Colourful Thing with an otherwise dreary outfit of blue boyfriend jeans, a black sweater and my prison white Nike Air Force 1s. I felt verily the “ting” (as my friend Irish Mary would say) as I strolled to Sainsbury’s for some milk.

Some other people following the One Colourful Thing rule:

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See what she’s done here?
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Ugh I just die for Taylor Swift. Love. Her. Without the green bag? Insane granny outfit. With the green bag? Gorgeous down-to-earth starlet. It’s all about the One Colourful Thing.

Top skincare advice

My friend Melinda is obsessed with her skin. I mean, aren’t we all, but she literally spends hundreds of pounds in Space NK on various snake oil concoctions that promise her different skin. I don’t see what she’s on about, her skin looks perfectly alright to me (but I suppose other people *can* never see what you’re on about when you complain about your physical imperfections).

Anyway she went to see a top, swank dermatologist, so concerned was she that her lotions and potions weren’t doing anything and wrote to tell me about it. I am certainly never going to be arsed to see a dermatologist again unless in far dire straits than I am now; one hangover of having very bad skin in your teens and into your late twenties is that the odd blotchy bit or laughter lines later on is a walk in the park compared with the pizza horror of yesteryear.

Anyway Melinda’s dermatologist was interesting nevertheless, so here, have her advice for free:

“This dermatologist was great. She was really natural and not some mad glamorpuss  – just a forty something mum with a bit of sun damage who really knows what’s what when it comes to all the different creams and treatments you can get… she told me to buy really simple products from Boots, Simple, Avene or Roche Posay. [We have no exact recommendations here, but I think we *ALL* know she is talking about the Perfect and Protect range.]

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“She said these big name companies are the best because their claims are most rigorously tested. Expensive lotions are a total waste of money as they can’t contain strong active ingredients like Retin A which are only on prescription.

It’s ALL about protecting from UVA rays and then as we get older the occasional peel or dermabrasion to stay looking fresh.

She reckons also that any ingredients in a moisturiser like anti oxidants or vitamins get broken down quickly by sunlight so are only worth putting on at  night.

She also said apply sunscreen twice a day all year round! Her advice is not to wait til bedtime to do the cleansing & night cream stuff, but do it as soon as you’re in for the evening to wash off all the SPF chemicals and makeup ASAP and give your skin longer to be nourished.”

So there you have it! Free, free, free! Right here on The Spike.

Personally, when my current SPF moisturiser runs out I will be investing in this from Avene, which is about £14 from Boots.

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For what it’s worth I have had microdermabrasion, back when my spots were about ready to take over the world, and it is painful and you are blotchy for a few days afterwards, but it does work. Plenty of places offer it, but I went to the Skin Health Spa in London and they were kind, professional and diligent. They used to be on Wigmore Street when I went about ten years ago, but they are now so successful they have now moved up to Marylebone and expanded into East London and all over the country.

If you think that something like a dermabrasion or a light peel or laser treatment – or any of that terrifying shit that they talk about in Weekend Supplements – isn’t for the likes of you, think again. This is non-scary stuff, literally, genuinely for the likes of you and me.

It’s not Botox, they’re not going to make you look like…

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…you won’t end up with Bell’s Palsy from so much interference; they key words here are NON-INVASIVE. No needles. No poisons.

Anyway, look – don’t suffer with a tedious skin complaint that bothers you every time you look in the mirror. You can go and see them with pretty much any facial issue (lines, broken veins, dullness, dryness, zits etc) and they’ll say something helpful – and consultations are free. BOOM!

The best five… low-carb lunches

Low-carb lunches are very tricky if you are not at home all day long, with both children away at nursery/school and good local shops nearby from which you can source your pernickety high-demand, low-carb, low-GI lunch “solution”.

BUT on the other hand if you are not at home all day with both children away at the thing and able to get food from the other thing then you are probably at werk and therefore you have 20 min to pop out to lunch and the Lord knows that the high street has cottoned on to the fact that around about noon every weekday there is a stampede of angry women who DO NOT WANT A SANDWICH BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE THEM SLEEPY AND THEN FAT.

If you are in such a fortunate position then the best high street lo-carb option that I’ve found is Pret’s Kimchee chicken and slaw thingy; you have to pick out the spring onion (scallions for my American readers) and dodge the few strands of noodles they put in the bottom of the bowl (why Pret, why? You don’t understand women at all.)

Alternatively, if you are the mum at home with the kids etc, your daily errands may take you within striking distance of a Pret, in which case you can buy this for yourself as a treat and eat it at 90mph in the 20 mins before you have to pick up no.2 from nursery at 1pm.

1 Pret’s Korean Chicken & Kimchi SuperBowl

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2 Halloumi and chickpea salad

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Make the chickpea salad by chopping up a lot of cucumber and baby tomatoes, parsley, coriander (if you have it) – fresh mint is particularly lovely with this, dried chilli flakes or fresh if you have it and put in a bowl. Empty over a can of rinsed chickpeas. Mix together 4 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp vinegar, the juice of half a lemon a big pinch of salt and four grinds of the pepper grinder and pour over the salad. Add a heaped teaspoon of capers. This keeps well in the fridge so don’t worry that you’ve made too much: you can have it the next day too or hand on to a grateful dieting flatmate or husband.

OMG BY THE WAY! I have discovered how to de-seed cucumbers! How have I not known this forever? You split the cucumber down the middle then take a teaspoon and just run it hard down the middle of the cucumber and it scrapes out all the seeds. You are all laughing at me now – you’ve all known this for ages.

Now slice the halloumi (buy the most expensive kind you can find) and fry it hot in a dry frying pan for about 3-5 minutes each side until brown. Do this last and do not leave the halloumi sitting about as it goes rubbery.

3 Prawn cocktail and avocado.

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This is a handy quick recipe as you can keep several tubs of frozen freshwater prawns (from Waitrose) in your freezer and defrost them as necessary. You ALWAYS ought to have several avocados maturing around your kitchen as they are the low-carb dieter’s best friend.

You ought to make the cocktail sauce yourself as it will have less sugar in it if you make it from fresh.

Cocktail sauce:

2 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp ketchup, juice 1/2 lemon, small pinch salt, tiny tiny pinch (just a few specks) cayenne pepper.

Mix with the prawns, arrange meaningfully alongside some sliced avocado.

4 Oatcakes, apple and cheese

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This is a lunch for when you are very hungry, very short on time and not feeling completely uptight about the strict no-carb thing as there is sugar in the apple and oatcakes are carbs – though low-GI so more forgiving than many other lunch options. It’s quite self-explanatory – I favour gruyere for the cheese.

5 Poached egg and spinach

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Be sure to drain both spinach and egg well before plating up as otherwise you’ll get a beastly pool of water on your plate as you eat. Yucky. Make sure you butter and season the spinach very well otherwise there’s no point and it will be depressing.

Pleather to meet you

A bad habit I picked up while pregnant was a love of leather – or let’s face it, PLEATHER – leggings. I felt so down, so gloomy, so down-trodden and put upon during those months that I went slightly barmy and wore them all the time under vast baggy shirts to go out at night. I felt like they said: I AM STILL A PERSON!

I chucked them out once I’d had Sam; “my life is just so, so over”, I thought – “I don’t want to even catch sight of those pleather bastards scrunched up like a black bin bag in the corner of my bottom drawer.” Plus, they were a size 14 and I had high hopes of losing weight.

But now – despite not being pregnant – I think pleather leggings might actually be completely adorable. Worn with the wrong things, a tight top, anything with lace, heels (during the day), you look duly crazed. But worn with a large grey sweater like this,

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(ignore strappy shoes), and a pair of trainers and, I don’t know, a large beanie hat, it takes the edge off what might otherwise be a monstrously dreary outfit.

Some other nice photos of leather leggings I’ve pinched off the internet are these:

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awesome trainers

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Again, ignore the prissy clutch and the ballet flats: pleather leggings will also work with a checked shirt like this one, or a denim shirt. You just have to make sure the top is long enough because the camel toe with a leather legging is BRRRRR horrible.

I bought a pair today from that slag’s paradise Caldezonia, which don’t look nearly as cheap as they are (£22).

If actual pleather makes you reach for your bottle opener you can also get these shiny lame leggings – £37 – from American Apparel. I know, terrifying picture, but they do the job.

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