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The Spike

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November 2016

Shopping for the apocalypse

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If you have a power cut, dial 105 from any phone

 

We had a power cut last night. It was quite full-on and came off the back of two other brief power cuts last week. On top of this, over the summer the other side of the street was without power for a whole day and then the West End had a four hour power cut over the weekend. So when the lights just cut out, blammo, at 7pm, I did sort of think “Christ… is this is? Is this how it’s going to be? Is this the beginning of the end?”

In fact I might have rather enjoyed the cut if it hadn’t been for our bastard burglar alarm going haywire going NEEEEEEEEEP NOP NEEEEEEEEP NOP at top goddamn volume every five minutes. This was to tell me that it was unable to connect to mains power – yes thank you I know there’s a power cut you stupid stupid bastard plastic piece of shrieking shit.

My children were hysterical (“What’s the bad sound mummy?? Are we going to die mummy?”) and the alarm people were unable to instruct me on how to silence the fucking thing. They got a rocket off me, I tell you.

Anyway I eventually managed to make the alarm emit a regular but much quieter neeep noise, muffled the alarm unit with loads of cushions, shut the living room door and went upstairs.

But the whole alarm/apocalypse thing didn’t half leave me a bit jangled and I realised, as I peered in the dim candlelight at my iPhone battery standing at 31% how woefully underprepared in this house for any power cut lasting longer then a few minutes.

So the next day (the power having come back on after three hours) I went to the shops and bought:

1. More pillar candles

2. 2 x battery operated camping lanterns. I was really after cool oil-powered hurricane lanterns but Homebase didn’t stock them

3 An ENORMOUS flashlight

4 More hot water bottles. Our boiler goes off during a power cut and we only have 1 hot water bottle, so I got more to keep our spirits up if it happens again on a chilly night.

5 A landline phone that doesn’t need to be plugged in. Because you feel like an absolute tool during a power cut when you cannot use your landline because it’s a stupid cordless set that needs an electricity source.

I was insanely grateful to find that I had an extra battery for my mobile, which was in my house from sheer dumb luck. It’s a fob thingy that I got free in a goodie bag over the summer. I had charged it up, intending to keep it in the car, but in fact found it lying in my bedside table drawer looking like a cross between a flashlight and an executive sex toy.

There are many extra battery options for mobiles available, from charging cases to devices in the manner of the executive sex-toy design and I recommend that you get one for emergencies such as these.

While we’re on the subject of “prepping”, *wipes foam off chin*, I also keep in my kitchen an empty plastic 4-pint milk tank. On a chilly morning such as the one I woke up to this morning you fill it with luke warm water (it doesn’t need to be at all hot) and a dash of screen wash, which contains anti-freeze, and glug it over your windows to clear them fast. Make sure you clear the driver’s side last otherwise it will have started to re-freeze by the time you’ve done the rest of the car and by the time you get in to drive away, you won’t be able to see out.

Once again, don’t forget that if you experience a power cut you dial 105 from any mobile or landline and it will connect you to your local national grid.

If you have any brilliant tips on shopping for the apocalypse, please leave them as a comment in the handy box below.

 

Socks

A mum friend of mine at Kitty’s school asked me about socks the other day.

“I just want some socks,” she said, “that are warm and also not hideous.”

I pondered the enormity of how my friend could possibly not already own, as I do, socks in a million different shapes, sizes and textures. But she doesn’t! I saw her yesterday in a pair of black ankle socks and I went “Are those your fucking socks, mate?”

And she stuttered, (I am a bit alarming when I am on the attack at pick-up): “These are just because I’ve been working out!”

And I went “But are these basically your socks?”

And she went “Well yeah. I mean, I’ve got some Falke ones…” And I went “RIGHT I see, okay yes you need my advice about socks…”

These are the socks that everyone ought to have in their wardrobe, come winter:

1 Bridgedale walking socks. Ignore, if you can, that these are walking socks. These are the best warm socks ever made. They have a cunning elasticated grip thing  around the arch of the foot that means the socks don’t slide off your goddamn feet when in boots. Also brilliant for padding round the house in. I had two pairs when I trekked through Namibia when I was 19 and they saved my feet. Best socks ever.

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2 Long black knee-high socks. Not to be worn actually over the knee, but ruched down around the top of any given boot or trainer. A nod to Fame, here. But only a nod. I’ve got some from TopShop – these from John Lewis are very similar, for £10.

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3 I love wearing boys’ sports socks. I sometimes wear a pair of my husband’s football socks when he’s away. They are bright yellow and they are fabulous when worn with trainers and  some junky old joggers tucked in and, like, a denim jacket. The louder, stripier and more colourful the better. These cute ones are from John Lewis again, £8.

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4 An alternative to the Bridgedale walking socks are these nice Norwegian ones from Burlington, by Falke. Reassuringly expensive at £16.

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Postcodes

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I have for ages been trying to get thing in the paper about postcodes, but I’m constantly met with commissioning editors’  blank silence on the end of the phone as I go: “No it’s interesting! It is! It is!?” and so I gave up. But I’ve got to tell someone!! And it might as well be you.

So the thing is that if your house has a weird or inaccurate postcode, or the postcode that you have been assigned sends deliverymen and – more important – the emergency services to a McDonald’s three miles way, there is a solution!

All you have to do is write an email to Royal Mail explaining this problem (and it is such a goddamned bore if you do have this problem) and they will most probably assign you a new, more accurate postcode! The email address is addressmaintenance@royalmail.com.

They did for us in our house in Gloucestershire and I am slobberingly grateful for it.

Royal Mail’s records are updated within 48 hours but it can take SatNavs, (who buy new and updated information from Ordnance Survey), up to six weeks to register a new postcode.

Anyway that’s it. For some of you this will be like a thunderbolt and will change your lives. And for that, you are most welcome.

My favourite norovirus story

I know this is a weird thing to have here, but ever since I read about this noro story, back in 2005 as a 25-year-old down-desk writer in a dark corner on the third floor of Times House, I have been totally fascinated by it.

It’s the first time I became aware that the norovirus even existed, having never caught it or known anyone who caught it (IS it just me, or is noro quite a new thing? Not around in the 80s?) and I was horrified and captivated by the tale, which goes like this:

After a Charlatans concert in Abderdeen’s Music Hall in 2004, 500 of the 1,500 concert-goers were struck down with severe vomiting and diarrhoea. No-one knew how or why or what had happened: was it food-poisoning? Some other airborne toxin?

It was so strange and so scary – possibly a genuine health crisis – that the local health authority, NHS Grampian, produced an entire scientific report into what happened, which you can read here.

It isn’t very long and I find it fascinating, but if you can’t be bothered to read it, the conclusion is that all of those people got noro from one single person vomiting on the steps outside the concert hall before the performance.

Everyone stepped in it as they walked into the venue and there you have it. You only need 100 virus particles to start an infection and a single vomit releases 30 million.

I don’t know why I think this is so interesting, possibly it’s just a demonstration of the awesome and unstoppable power of nature, which I find amusing to gawp at (I’m also to frightened to watch Planet Earth and so have to find amusement elsewhere).

The unexpected item

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There has been in my wardrobe for an awfully long time a black lace tunic that I bought in my massive Isabel Marant-for-H&M-splurge about three years ago. I basically have never worn it because I don’t know how. On its own it looks like Hallowe’en fancy dress. It is too long to tuck into things satisfactorily, it is to short to be a dress. Do not be fooled by the picture: it is entirely see-through.

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But it was hard-won, well-made and I like it and don’t want to get rid of it. I just thought – at some point, I will work out what to do with this and how to wear it.

And yesterday, I think I found the answer.

I have been for a while following a French girl on Instagram called @meleponym. I try to overlook the fact that she is a size eight, probably about 23 with a cool minimalist Parisian apartment, (rage, vomit, die),  and just bleed her for outfit inspiration. She wears only black, grey, denim, white and sometimes a leopard print accessory and just mixes it all around in the epitome of a capsule wardrobe in action.

She has recently been wearing a lot of lace under denim as casual daywear and actually, it looks perfectly alright, not slutty or weird (especially with a pair of trainers). So I followed suit, putting that grey Uniqlo cardigan over the whole lot and rescued my lace tunic from a lonely life on the hanger.

It is a good philosophy generally when looking at your wardrobe in despair, to see if you can take a racy, mad thing you bought in a fit of hormonal madness and drown it in dowdy items in order to turn it from slutty mc-slutsville into the unexpected item in your outfit, which makes the whole thing shine – like a 23 year old French girl.

Christmas dress

A reader drew my attention to a problem around this time of year of being cold in your party dress.

I told her what I told my friend Katharine the other day who was going to a wedding in Scotland and terrified of being cold, which was: wear a velvet dress, with sleeves.

Absolutely, 100% fashionable, warm and festive.

Here are a few examples from asos.com – but they are no means the only ones available – it’s just for inspiration.

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This one is my favourite

 

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Christmas decorating I

 

Is it too early to start talking about Christmas decorations yet? Only that’s what I was thinking about this weekend to distract myself from the double-noro situation I had.

Genuinely, on Saturday morning at 3am as I held out a bowl for Kitty to be sick into while simultaneously vomiting into the sink myself, trying to keep everyone quiet so’s not to wake up Little Sam who was slumbering upstairs, (he was down with noro for all of Wednesday night), I had a half-formed thought, which I recognise now as: “I am going to spend so much fucking money on Christmas decorations as a reward for this.”

And John Lewis has terrific Christmas decoration game this year. I went round the Oxford Circus branch with Kitty a few weeks ago and was stunned by how good it was.

I particularly like their really mad and colourful range they’ve called, dubiously, Shangri-La (above). We are entering a new world this year of being able to buy and hang breakable ornaments on the tree as we have no toddlers and don’t plan to get a puppy. My husband also used to have a few very colourful ornaments, all of which have broken over the years – and which I used to turn my nose up at, but I now think are rather marvellous.

I’m not including a link to any of these because they are all, rather depressingly, sold out online. But they’re available instore and although I love online shopping, something about buying actual Christmas decorations online feels wrong.

I have also always wanted a mini Christmas tree to put somewhere, and M&S has this one for £15.

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John Lewis, £12

Last year Becky Bacon got me a make your own gingerbread house kit and it was so much fun that this year I am buying one for myself.

Not the last that you’ll hear from me on the subject and rather a mad selection of random things … I think this weekend may have sent me a bit mad.

 

 

Snow boots

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Glacy Explorer Shortie boot, £110. Really love these.

There’s a strange sociological thing going on in footwear at the moment that is a knock-on effect from when the polar vortex hit New York during fashion week in 2014 – and that is, that snow boots are in.

It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really get cold enough in this country to really justify them, (or a Canada Goose, really): so many fashion people had to buy them during that fateful February fashion week that they’re still wearing them in order to get that cost-per-wear down.

And that all filters down to us mortals.

Last year I bought myself a pair of UGG Adirondacks, which were on sale, down from £220 to £150 or something. I like them, they are good, although sometimes my toes get unacceptably cold in them. I know! It’s weird – you’d think their main function would be to not let your toes get cold. I wouldn’t buy them again – it possibly explains why they were on sale.

Anyway if you are thinking about investing in snow boots for this year (do not be fooled by the balmy weather at the moment… it is going to get c-c-c-cold) do what I would do if I were buying snow boots with my wits about me, rather than in a panic in late Februrary, and go directly to Sorel.

Sorel boots sell out all the time, because they are good but also because also because they are not insanely expensive. There are still some sizes left on their website. Take advantage of the warmer weather at the moment and buy now before we get a cold snap and everyone wises up and they’re gone forever.

The New Badedas

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£48 – not cheap, I know

If you’re starting to get worried about Christmas presents then quite right you bloody should be.

May I make a start by recommending this? It is called Olverum, some of you will know about it already, it is a bath oil with a really seriously modern and delightful scent, sort of like a new and refined Badedas. One for the MIL.

 

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