The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…


March 2018

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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True Religion for men

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The Geno by True Religion

A very brief foray into men’s clothes now – because if you’re anything like me men’s fashion issues of magazines make you want to send the editor a rude email.

BUT, we have had a breakthrough here in Kentish Town when it comes to mens’ jeans. My husband has a slight problem with trousers generally as he has body shape most suited to being a stevedore rather than a writer and most jeans are just hellishly uncomfortable. When we met it was still alright for men to go about in sloppy grubby jeans two sizes too big all hanging down the arse – but those days are gone, my husband is 49 this year and he needs to be a bit smarter.

But “smart” jeans are tight and awful and puts him in a foul mood. “Go jeans shopping then,” I said. “WHEN?” he demanded flipping through his diary. “I’ve got to WORK WHEN can I go? WHEN WHEN?”

And then one day, he found time, and came home almost tearful with joy, relief and gratitude because he had found some jeans that looked like jeans, but felt like a pair of pyjama bottoms, made from some sort of adjusted cotton cleverly dyed to look like stiff jeans fabric.

And they are these, above, by True Religion. They are £190 but that is reasonably standard for good jeans these days and if you’re a man you will not buy another pair of jeans again, calculating for my age demographic and changing fashion, until you die.

Necklace stand

I had a question from a reader the other day about good jewellery stands to house her burgeoning gold necklace collection – possibly all my fault. Anyway it was a jolly good question and so here are a few to inspire you, if you need one as well.

This from Etsy:

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And another:

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This one looks nice and sturdy:

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Slightly more minimalist from JLP with excellent reviews:

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I like this as it has multiple access points:

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If I could be arsed I’d go for something like this to nail to the wall – but not sure my clattery necklaces are that worth being quite so on display; your stuff might be different.

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Summer event dress

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If this actually quite reasonably-priced Ganni dress looks like the sort of thing that might help you out at any tricky summer event you’ve got looming on the horizon get it NOW because it’s about to sell out in every size.

Okay that’s all, bye.


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