I have had them for about 3 years and they are absolutely the best and most comfortable things in my house. They sit in the corner of my kitchen and I do most of my reading on them, they’re an absolute joy.
What’s really nice about this set up is that you can sit in the chair and a child or husband can perch on the footstool and you can have a really cosy time.
Not cheap, but less expensive than something from, say, Ligne Roset.
I came across this author on a recommendation by India Knight – (in the paper, I’ve never met India) – and I advanced cautiously as I often find that even seemingly sensible people can rave about the weirdest books.
And when those weird books are personally recommended you end up looking at the person like, god, you really don’t know me at all. A bit like being set up on a blind date with someone really ghastly and you think “Wow… is that who you think of as a my equal? Just… wow.”
Anyway where was I – oh yes these two very good books by Lissa Evans, both set in wartime.
The first is Crooked Heart, which is about a precocious evacuee who goes to live in St Albans with a down-on-her-luck chancer called Vee.
It is darkly funny and describes life on the Home Front with such clarity and almost extra-sensory vision that it’s like she is describing another country, rather than an entirely historical situation.
The second is Their Finest Hour and a Half, which has recently been turned into a film (which I haven’t seen). Another corker.
She has just brought out a new novel, Old Baggage, which is a sort of prequel to Crooked Heart. So if you like these, you will also like this.
I am compiling, along with some fellow mums at my kids’ school, a cookbook. Don’t ask me why, the decision was a mad rush of blood to the head and we are all repenting at leisure.
I say that… it’s actually quite fun and – thanks to some people who very visually talented (i.e. aren’t me) – the book looks great. The kids have done some illustrations and it’s all pretty adorable.
I am partly responsible for the recipes working and have been doing a bit of testing, including some really wacky alternative baking, like these chocolate courgette muffins, submitted by a parent at the school.
They sound absolutely rank but considering they have no butter and no caster sugar in them, they’re really actually very okay.
I am putting this recipe on here because I did a poll on Instagram stories to see if I should and 75% said yes. Giles really liked these.
Chocolate courgette muffins
Makes 24 (n.b. 24 is a lot – halve ingredients for 12)
300g plain flour
120g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp bicarb of soda
200g dark chocolate chips (you could also use milk)
200ml coconut oil
200ml runny honey
1tsp vanilla extract
250g grated courgette (that’s about 2 courgettes)
Preheat your oven to 180C
1 Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in the biggest bowl you have, (or just swizz it round with a whisk it doesn’t matter), then put in the chocolate chips.
2 Melt the coconut oil in a pan – I actually just took a 200g jar of coconut oil and set it in some water over a very low flame and melted it like that. Then you can pour it into another medium-sized pan. Add the honey and the eggs and the vanilla extract. This makes quite the unholy-textured mixture, like golden alien spew.
3 Grate the courgette and add it to the dry ingredients. Then pour the wet into the dry and mix until just combined. Do not continue stirring in horrid fascination at what a hellish, sticky slop you have created as it will make the muffins rubbery.
4 Spoon the batter into muffin cases – fill them more or less to the top because these will not rise very much.
I found in a wash bag the other day a clutch of little sample sachets and on a whim decided to try them all out (I normally don’t bother).
And I came across one product that was genuinely incredible.
It is an eye concealer that is also an eye cream, called The Cure Sheer Eye by Natura Bisse. It is cleverly colour-correcting (like a CC or BB cream, it adjusts like magic to your own skin tone) and it was magnificently rich, hydrating and made me look absolutely terrific.
This is amazing I thought to myself. What a find!!
I wrote the name of it in biro on my hand, intending to rush to my computer first thing on Monday morning (now) in order to share this amazing discovery with you.
I Googled it to find out a price and a stockist and discovered that it is £102.
Ha ha, funny joke, universe – thanks. You got me! I need a laugh first thing on a Monday.
But, look, if your eye area is your number one face problem, you could do worse than ask for this for your birthday as it really does do £102 of work.
If you’re still a bit shy of splashing this much money on an eye concealer, hunt down a Natura Bisse stockist and say to the girl on the counter that you’ve heard amazing things, but you could possibly have a little sample sachet to try it out before you commit so many earth pounds? Only someone with a heart of stone would say no.
I’ve been reluctant to write about having the coil… what’s the right expression … put in? (urgh) because from what I have seen, read and heard, personal experiences of the coil – specifically the progesterone-leaking Mirena – are as different as childbirth. As different as skin type. As different to what books you like reading.
Really, really different.
The following is all just what happened to me, (and please leave your own experiences in the comment box at the bottom), but it is without question unrepresentative.
I had the coil fitted privately by my obstetrician Guy Thorpe-Beeston at the end of last year. I had an initial consultation, which lasted about ten minutes, and then the coil was fitted about a week later.
For the actual act itself I had pre-emptively taken 600mg of ibuprofen and was pretty much high as a kite. Even then I could tell what was happening wasn’t terribly nice – a lot of tugging and pinching – and I was glad that it was Guy doing it, who delivered both my children, so is inured to the horror show.
“Sorry!” he chirruped every now and again. “S’alright” I slurred. It was like the worst date ever.
No wait; I’ve had worse.
This was eight months ago and as well as having vague “periods” which occur roughly when my actual period is supposed to happen, there has been random and sporadic spotting and bleeding. Some periods have been accompanied by excruciating pain but almost nothing else. There have been breakouts which may or may not be related to the coil, but which have cleared up now.
My most recent “period” was negligible and in all, I am totally delighted with the whole thing and will never change it; if I had done it 4 years ago it would have saved me an awful lot of heartache.
So, do it, but do it forewarned that a) it can be unpleasant to put in
b) the effects are not instantaneous. (I was APPALLED that a reader told me that she had been advised by her GP to have a coil fitted in anticipation of her wedding, which was 6 weeks hence.)
c) it can have negative side effects, which no doubt will be listed in technicolour detail below.
But you also might be completely fine. Personally, I think the benefits are worth the gamble.
The copper coil I know nothing about.
Guy Thorpe-Beeston is at 148 Harley Street; contact his secretary on firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the rather grim story surrounding the catastrophic drug addiction of the author’s brother, Hans Kristian Rausing and his wife, Eva.
If you don’t know the bare bones of the story, the Rausings are the heirs to the packaging company Tetra Pak billions; Hans who had already been an addit met Eva in rehab. They recovered, married, had 4 kids and then relapsed really, really badly.
Eventually Eva died in her bedroom of a heart attack after taking (crack?) cocaine. Hans panicked, did not call the police and covered Eva’s body in duvets, deodorising powder, mattresses and television screens and she lay undiscovered like this for two months.
The book got mixed reviews and I can sort of see why – there is so much that the author isn’t allowed, legally, to say. Doesn’t want to say because Hans Kristian is alive and seems to be well and is now married to Julia Delves-Broughton. And the children! What about Eva and Hans Kristian’s four children?
So there are bits missing. But who cares? This is not one of those minutely workshopped and focus-grouped writing-by-numbers books that sell billions of copies because of all the pain. But, you know it’s all the better for it. It’s real, it’s a genuine glimpse into a kind of life you don’t get to witness, with all its privilege and simultaneous pitfalls.
I’ve always been a fan of Sigrid Rausing, who seems like such a good person. She has overcome the monstrous psychological disadvantage, (don’t laugh, honestly), of never having to do a day’s work in her life. Mayhem feels like it was written not out of bitterness or malice, just out of Sigrid’s almost atavistic need to tell her own story – and I think she deserves to be heard.
Alright, alright, I know this is rather random. You’re probably all planning your bijou World Cup parties right now, not wondering about the best pyjamas on the High Street right now!
You’re not? You are? Well thank God for me then.
I am a pyjama nutter. My children have about 48 pairs each and I have thousands. They’re not even that nice – I don’t spend thousands on Desmond and Dempsey or Olivia Von Halle. I just have a lot of options.
We didn’t really have new clothes as children (it was the Eighties, what child did?) and I definitely didn’t own a new pair of pyjamas until I was about 11.
So now when I spot a really good pair of pyjamas, they have to be mine.
This pair (above) is particularly good if you are sharing any accommodation this summer or will be in any situation where you will be publicly seen in your PJs.
The cotton is beautifully lightweight but not so soft that I fear it will fall apart within 3 washes; the dark colour will hide tea splashes and smears of croissant grease; the cropped length will keep the hems clear of spills and puddles and the cropped sleeves are cooling and will not need to be rolled up in order to sort breakfasts.
At £45 these are many, many pounds cheaper than a comparable D&D set, which are about £130. The sizing is pretty generous – I got an M and it’s big, but I am keeping it because I like a roomy pyjama. If you are a small 10, get an S.
If you are somewhere unbelievably hot at night you can sleep in something else but then put these on to face the world. They also work, of course, for a UK summer if you are bored with answering the door to the Ocado man in really scummy nightwear.
It is a mistake, as I’m sure you have worked out by now, to buy any sort of “shortie” pyjama set. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but if you have to bustle about with your family first thing, you will simply flash your [insert euphemism for bum here] to absolutely everyone.
These pyjamas are also available on John Lewis, if you have some other business there and would like to add these to your basket to make a next day delivery worth it.
The one drawback to these is that they have a drawstring waist so you have to untie and re-tie when going to the loo. But I have decided this is a small price to pay for an otherwise great set of pyjamas.
Just by the by, I have also had to adjust Kitty’s pyjamas – she used to wear shortie sets but the shorts wedge themselves up her crack and now she’s seven, it’s just not funny any more – so she wears these cropped sets from Boden. Is it just me or is it quite hard to find a cropped-length summer pyjama for girls? It seems to be hot shorts or nothing. Anyway so I’m quite pleased with this find.
I know I am preaching to the converted on this, but I recommend the styling service at the new John Lewis to you HIGHLY.
It’s free, no obligation to buy (though you WILL) and they are quiet at the moment so book yourself in!
If you are not within reach of the new Westfield John Lewis, the service is available at other branches – there is a branch finder here.
But at Westfield they not only have brand new, massive swankhole changing rooms with loads of space to put bags and shoes and racks and racks of clothes, there are chairs and a 3-sided mirror. They’ll even get you a drink! I had a Diet Coke.
AND at the Westfield they have a section called “Loved&Found” which is where they put all the small, independent labels that they can’t roll out en masse throughout the rest of the store, but they nevertheless want to promote.
My brief to the stylist was: non-awful summer event dressing. Also my new-obsession: CO-ORDS.
If you don’t know what that is, I mean wearing a matching skirt and top, or trousers and a top.
Stay with me. I know it sounds a bit mad but actually it’s the very most modern and new and original way to dress.
There aren’t very many around at the moment that are actually wearable (they mostly come in the form of a bandeau top and a high-waisted bottom-half… not for us, eh?)
My stylist, Lucy, who had the most wonderful bedside manner and was calm and helpful found me a couple of likely-looking co-ords and also went slightly off-piste with a navy jumpsuit, that I never would have picked out for myself, but it was terrific!
My winning outfit, at the top, which I am massively and utterly obsessed by is this skirt-and-shirt from French brand Swildens.
I am so crackersly in love with this, it’s like something my mother might have worn in the 70s and I am now actually EXCITED about maybe doing something in the summer because it means that I can wear this.
I wear the shirt sluttishly tied at the waist and the sleeves rolled up to beyond the elbow with massive earrings and wedge heels. It can also be worn in a more covered-up Ossie Clark way.
The fabric is beautiful and has a subtle shimmery gold thread running through it. I’m dead. DEAD! I love this so much.
Yes, there is additional financial outlay for both pieces, but they can then be worn separately, too giving you not one outfit but THREE! I am so all over this trend.
I am a standard size 10 and got this in a 36 and it is true to size.
A very close runner-up is this navy jumpsuit from Modern Rarity. It is made out of a crepe with a lovely weight to it and made me feel very businesslike and ready for anything, which as you can imagine is not a totally familiar sensation to me. Far nicer than it has been styled on this model.
If the day of your event dawns and it looks chilly you could add any cropped jacket that you already own – or I like these.
I also tried on a co ord from Jigsaw, these “mini-splash” trousers
and matching top, which will be online from Saturday – just search “Jigsaw Mini Splash” and it will come up.
This looks like a jumpsuit but isn’t – for any fellow jumpsuit phobes. It is light and airy, not twee but also not madly formal, it would be just the ticket for a smart/casual event like end-of-term speech day things.
With a smart pair of sandals or wedges, your best earrings and your hair done you would look terrific.
I rather love these wedge heels from Boden if you are heading for uneven terrain:
Or these shades-of-Rockstuds, also from Boden were really surprisingly comfy and walkable-in, if the venue is somewhere with more institutional flooring. In fact John Lewis offered to give me a pair and I said no and now I’m kicking myself:
John Lewis have about a million pairs of gold hoops to choose from – I like these:
If you, like me, ever feel slightly allergic to being too formal, offset any uptightness with a crazy bag like this one from Whistles:
You may not have Sky Atlantic, so be a bit allergic to the fuss that is being made about Benedict Cumberbatch’s epic performance in this TV adaptation of the Edward St Aubyn novels.
But it is great – everything about the show is mesmerising. I didn’t want it to end so sought out the original material.
The series is based on some shortish books known as “The Patrick Melrose novels” and I have approached them with a terror and trepidation that you might use when crossing a minefield in, like, Cambodia or deal with an unexploded WWII bomb discovered underneath playground of a primary school.
I say that because, if you don’t already know, the story contains child abuse and torture of the sort I’m really not okay with reading or knowing about and do not want to stumble across a lot of detail.
I’m simply not one of those people who thinks that it is part of one’s humanitarian duty to really get face to face with, say, exactly the kinds of things that happened in the Holocaust or in Serbia.
I’m quite alright not knowing, thanks! I can imagine.
I often turn, out of the corner of my eye, a coat hanging on a peg into a man coming to kill me and regularly jump at small noises. It’s a sort of gift. I don’t need exact details to freak out about anything.
Anyway the books! They are, in order:
Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, At Last.
If you are squeamish about child abuse, I have vetted for you Some Hope and Simon Conway read Bad News and we enjoyed them both enormously and there was only very fleeting references to awful stuff; mostly it was fabulous writing and highly entertaining social satire about how miserable rich people are – and who doesn’t want to read about that?
I started At Last, but to my mind it wasn’t his best stuff; I’m not touching Never Mind with a barge pole.
This works best if you have already seen some of the TV series and would like to re-live the glory in your own time. But if you haven’t seen it, a bit of imagination will probably do the trick.