The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…


January 2018

Hello, carbs



Right, so I have decided to let carbohydrate back in.

Are we still cool?

After reading some stuff and writing some stuff and talking to some people, I have concluded that I am not doing a low-carb diet with enough courage or conviction for it to be effective, and also I don’t think I need to eat much meat any more, (getting old, feel sorry for the cows and pigs and sheep), and also I miss spaghetti.

I’m not talking about hitting the chips, sugar, doughnuts and pizza – that shit is still evil and rots you from the inside out (brainwash, brainwash).

Instead, I have put myself on a small-portion, high-fibre diet. Which means letting back in wholewheat spaghetti and eating a lot of rye crackers, globe artichokes, porridge and cannellini beans – (not all at the same time) – and I’m in heaven. If you’re wondering if this has lead to a potentially marriage-wrecking increase in personal gas, then rest assured that personal gas levels are stable.

The keywords here, which I think are going to be a really big deal in the next 5 years, are PORTION CONTROL. The fact is that you can’t eat a shitload of anything – not really. Except fucking salad and kale or whatever, but I don’t think anyone is in danger of doing that.

Of all the foodstuffs I have missed most in recent years, it’s been pasta. Now I have it about twice a week – sometimes three times! – the secret is to get the brownest, chewiest stuff imaginable and only have a tiny amount. A portion for me for lunch or dinner is 30g, which looks like a ridiculously tiny tangle in the bowl but in fact, is enough. The breadcrumb topping is optional, but really nice.

I made this today for my husband and it was freaking awesome.

Courgette pasta for 2 with crunchy garlic breadcrumbs 

60g rough wholewheat pasta

1 small courgette, grated

1 small handful parmesan

olive oil, salt and pepper

For the breadcrumb topping

1 slice any sort of bread

1 knob butter stop giggling

1 sprinkle chili flakes

1 clove garlic

some lemon zest

some parsley – small handful?

1 whizz the bread in a whizzer with the garlic, some salt, the parsley, chilli flakes and lemon zest then fry it very slowly and gently in a pan with some butter for about, I don’t know, 10 minutes? until brownish and crunchy. maybe chuck in some capers? might be fun.

2 boil the pasta!!! (this is an instruction I don’t think I’ve ever given in 9 years of recipe writing) and drain, drizzle with olive oil and then add the courgette. Do not be freaked out by this! The courgette will add freshness and crunch and when you turn it in the warm pasta for a few minutes it will also go a bit creamy: ALL GOOD, without the necessity of having actual courgetti, which my husband simply refused to countenance.

3 Turn the courgette in the pasta over a very low heat for about 3 minutes and then add half the parmesan and stir to melt slightly. Season! Why the hell not.

4 Divide between two warmed bowls, then scatter over the rest of the parmesan and the breadcrumbs and greet like an old friend, not a foe.

Why the Cult Gaia bag is the worst thing about summer

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I am just so sick and tired of seeing this stupid bag everywhere, all summer.

Everywhere except in real life, I mean. When I say everywhere, I mean on Instagram. It’s a stupid bag, basically a fruit bowl with handles; it only looks good if it’s empty and it may or may not rain shrapnel and tampax all over the street – like Captain Barbosa drinking wine in his cursed skeleton self – should you dare to put anything in it.

And I’m not envious of it because it’s only £115. Even I, with my very modest freelance income, could buy it now on Net a Porter and be swinging it around by 4pm tomorrow.

It’s not like the other very famous bags that I hate, like the Chloe Drew or that slushy Balenciaga one with bits hanging off it, those I may well dislike just because I cannot afford them, I really don’t know.

I think what it is I dislike about it so much is how much it is pushed on us. I don’t know enough about Instagram to know if Cult Gaia just gift it like mad to Instagrammers, or they genuinely think its cute and buy it for themselves.

I know this latter reason seems unlikely but, considering the price and also considering that all things Gucci are insanely ubiquitous, despite the brand never gifting anything to anyone, (or so I hear), it might not be out of the question.

Personally, I prefer to think of Cult Gaia as purposefully flooding Instagram with this stupid bloody bag, which I’m sure functions perfectly well as a fruit bowl with handles, or as an accessory for really fucking dedicated fashioners in New York, but I loathe being made to feel like I ought to own it. Like I ought to want it. Treating me like a punk.

I have only ever seen one person in real life with this bag, in the South of France, and she looked like an absolute tool trying to hold it and deal with it and get over the fact that she was carrying a real-life IT bag – and live her life with any semblance of grace at the same time.

So my resolution between now and September is to instantly unfollow any Instagram account that features the Ark bag (this is not a threat, just a declaration of intent) – because this isn’t fashion, this is a cult. And I’m escaping.






I have such a strange relationship with H&M. I feel so conflicted about it.

On the one hand, it is the magical shop of dreams, where you can always find something and it will only be £29.99. And often the design of things is, truly, fucking great.

But then: fast fashion :( and sometimes the quality of it :( and – do I really need it? Are clothes going to change my life, or the fact I am peri-peri-menopausal? Why can’t I just be happy with the same navy sweater and blue jeans and realise it’s what’s on the INSIDE that counts?!

But then, oh THEN, best beloved, I have a little browse because I am between jobs and there’s nothing that pressing on right now. And it calls to me… it all… calls to me – I look at it and I go “Uhhhggnnnn”, like I’ve just seen a reuben sandwich when I wasn’t prepared for it.

I see the perfect pie-crust blouse, the dream of an army-green twill trouser. And, and, and… I crack. Send help. (Not crack.) (Okay send crack.)


Massively excited by these twill trousers:

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And this frill-collar blouse:

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Crepe is my favourite fabric:

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These sunglasses are so Celine:

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Hi Tops ftw:

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And maybe this yellow dress is amazing? Or maybe I have just lost it:

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My friend Dolly Alderton has just told me that she tried this yellow dress on last week and that it is “gorgeous and flattering” and that it would work best in SS with tan sandals. So if you like it get it now because if it is gorgeous and flattering it is going to sell out in 2 days.

Hush pre-Spring 18

It’s here! Get whatever you like the look of before it sells out – you know what Hush is like… I missed out on a long navy/gold lightning bolt dress last season and have a small cry whenever I see someone else wearing it. Don’t forget: Hush sizes are generous. I am a size 10 with 34C boobs and take an XS in their T-Shirts.

Raglan tees, (a la Dazed and Confused), will be everywhere quite soon, this is a very cute take on the style:

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Clean white trainers (as discussed) are going nowhere, these look just the ticket to me:

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A lovely pair of relaxed but smart navy trousers – stealth awesomeness.

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Their classic plain t-shirts, of which I am a huge fan, are also all back in stock in all colours:

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Ski-ing! (in my head)

I really don’t want to go ski-ing. I don’t like being cold, I don’t like having to wear a lot of layers. I also think ski-ing is dangerous and I hear it’s expensive. Why would I bother? I like swimming pools and the skrrt-skrrt-skrrt sounds of crickets in long grass. Plus, I am lazy.

BUT! I have been struck upside of the head by a certain kind of ski aesthetic that I think is rather fabulous. Sitting in a chalet by a big window with a view over snowy mountains having done some ski-ing, facing down some sliced boiled potatoes wiped in cheese and a glass of whatever TF you drink when you are ski-ing, sounds okay to me.

So in these cold months, I am adopting the air of ski-chalet around myself, which I may or may not have slightly confused with some Scandinavian stuff and a 70s scuzzy park vibe. And I wish to be dressed the part.

It started out with a lust for this JW Anderson top, which is just too expensive even in the sale so I’m not even going to bother with a link to it.

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Then moved on to this Madeleine Thompson cashmere sweater, which is actual heaven (fi you’re into it, it comes up small – I have this in an L).

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Other tops you could wear to channel this rather complicated set of modern social indicators are as below.

This from Other Stories:

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This from TopShop:

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This from asos:

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New for 2018 (old)

The only way, as far as I’m concerned, to make the sales work for you, is to search for gaps in your wardrobe for classic pieces and see if you can find any of these reduced.

Having felt recently very uninspired when it comes to new clothes, I got a rush of blood to the head the other night and bought new black jeans, khaki trousers and a pea coat.

My black jeans are getting a bit baggy and sad – I worked out that I have had them for 7 years now and they just plain old don’t fit any more. My new ones, from Frame aren’t exactly a bargain at £180 but they are so beautiful I can’t look directly at them and will be with me, I hope, for the next 7 years.

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Then I got a peacoat from Jigsaw via John Lewis – it was the last one so now sold out BUT I did see some others on John Lewis I thought were similarly heat-stopping; what I’m trying to say I guess is that if you don’t own a classic peacoat, or if the one you have is looking a little sad around the edges, it might be time to think about a new one.

I like this – a little longer length but nothing wrong with that (if my Jigsaw jacket ends up being a bit small, which I suspect it will, I will swap it for this, stat.)

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This is a slightly more relaxed take on the pea coat cut, which I think also works:

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Although it is New Look, so I cannot forswear to quality.

There is also this, 40% off at La Redoute – a site I almost never check, but there is good stuff there.

I’m pretty sure that there will be more pea coats coming along in the Spring, so if neither of these get you going, hang on for a few more weeks and we’ll find you something great.

I am VERY pleased with this proper, nailed-on sale bargain, a new pair of relaxed khakis from Vince at a whopping 50% off.

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Vince is one of those places where I’m a bit like “how fucking dare you charge £220 for a stripy top?? WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY NEVER HEARD A YA VINCE!!!” so I’m quite pleased to be fleecing them for a full 50% off.

These trousers haven’t actually arrived yet, so they might be unflattering as hell, but I have high hopes. My faithful old khaki trousers from H&M, which I have now worn constantly for 5 summers straight are so old and knackered that they are really emergency trousers only – though I will never EVER throw them away because I feel like Indiana Jones when I wear them.


Let’s talk about our cuticles

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If external physical habits are a signifier of internal disquiet then I am fucking mad.

I am a picker. And for years I have harassed my cuticles as if all my problems are their fault.

My hands aren’t nice anyway – stumpy, fat fingers, short little nails – and all my conscious life I have sought to make them worse by picking at them. Pick, pick, pick.

My ex-boyfriend Nick used to berate me in public for it. He would hold up my hand, turn my mangled thumbs to the assembled company and say “Look! Look at what she does to herself.” It didn’t help.

I recall clearly the dinner at which my husband realised that I didn’t just occasionally poke at a hangnail, but that the torture of my cuticles was constant, real. He doesn’t like it because he feels like it is an external expression of an internal turmoil. I mean he’s right, but my retort has always been that nobody’s perfect. And I’d rather that I attacked my cuticles than drank all the time. Oh wait, hang on

In one of my wedding photos I am tearing at a piece of thumbskin with my teeth. Sometimes I have torn at the skin of my righthand thumb so comprehensively – right the way round – that my iPhone no longer recognises my thumbprint. I do hope you aren’t eating while reading this.

But towards the end of last year I was a photoshoot and having my pitiful nails done and I was moaning on about my cuticles to a manicurist – most particularly  about how when you trim your cuticles with one of those weeny finger-secateurs, the layers of skin within 48 hours dry and separate and curl up and it’s just hangnail city.

She nodded sympathetically and talked some shit about cuticle oil that I broadly ignored but then she said something that made me pay attention. “If you moisturise your cuticles after a shower just push up the cuticles a bit with your fingers as you’re doing it. That ought to keep them from growing down over the nail – then you won’t need to trim them at all.”

She also added that if your cuticles are in bad shape after years of abuse, applying cuticle oil more like 3 times a day at first – rather than 3 times a week – is what you need to get results.

Chastened, I returned home and dusted off my Sally Hansen cuticle oil and got massaging.

And it works. 

Even after 10 days in Gloucestershire, when I spend my days plunging my hands into cleaning fluid and scrabbling around in the dirt trying to locate a non-rotten leek I can use in lieu of payment for a box of six effluent-covered eggs, my hands are okay.

And it’s more than just having nice hands and nails, more than not having to automatically hide my thumbs behind the rest of my fingers whenever I meet anyone who makes me feel a bit self-conscious – (this doesn’t happen often though) – it’s about overcoming the internal mad-machine that ordered me to pick. It’s about regarding anxiety and paranoia with as much contempt as I regard the empty calories of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

I found my Sally Hansen cuticle oil to be perfectly high-functioning as long as it is applied often enough, but a short consultation with Madeleine Spencer, the beauty editor of InStyle revealed that she also rates Dadi Oil and anything by Margaret Dabbs.

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Okay guys, I don’t want to brag, but however much you think you drank this party season just gone – I drank more. Even the two men that read this, (not wanting to be sexist), even if you are 19 stone truckers, I drank more than you in December.

I drank everything. I drank all the wine and all the sherry and all the margaritas. I drank the Manhattans and the Prosecco and the whiskey and the whisky. I drank the mystery punch and the special cocktail. I did shots and knocked back brandies. I drank and drank and drank. The entire of the 18th of December is missing from my memory.

I embarrassed myself once or twice, peed in a bush outside an incredibly smart party because the line for the loo was too long (then ruined the fact that I had got away with this grotesque behaviour by telling absolutely everyone about it, including my hostess and the CEO of Net a Porter, although not at the same time).

I woke up during my month of binge-drinking feeling progressively more and more okay. It was almost like a science experiment; how much can I really drink?

I have never drunk so much, so consistently, over such a long period. My husband was there with me, too, drinking and drinking. In those blurry evenings, I just mostly remember snapshots of him; underside of his chin, that space between his shirt collar and his skin, his tie skewed just so, the white of his eye as he steadied me on my heels, the flash of boiling teeth as he laughed at a joke at a party, the vague murmur of him talking to a taxi driver. My husband can drink and I can drink and together we went fucking mental. We had one terrifying row and that was it. We are good-natured drunks, until one of us isn’t (me) and then … kababoooooom.

But for the most part we got incredibly drunk, talked shite to each other or to anyone who stumbled across our field of vision at a party, then dutifully brushed our teeth and flossed and went to bed. Sometimes we went to bed really quite early (as my son Sam doesn’t give a shit how late you went to bed and will be up at 6am no matter what). Anyway, it was fun! But it’s time to stop. If only to prove that we can, that we are not weak and feeble and in thrall to the bottle.

My husband is such a contrarian that he has in the past not drunk a drop in December and then started drinking again in January. But this year we are just nailed-on cliches and having drunk the world dry in December, we are not drinking during the week for January. But come the weekend… ho ho!!

It’s not easy. By now both of us crave alcohol around about lunchtime with increasing panic until 6pm at which point if we can just hold on until 7pm we’re usually alright. I am mostly writing this so that I do not go and do three shots of vodka. Like I said, it’s not easy.

But I find, along with the actual physical craving for alcohol, is about 75% worth of plain old habit. So at 6pm on the evenings when I am not drinking I construct for myself a glass of plain tonic water with ice and lemon. And it’s working so far. But then it is only 6.20pm. Happy New Year!

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