The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…



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.


More on “treats”

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This is not your friend

I have had a lot of emails about my previous very sneering of the use of the word “treat” in accordance with food.

“Why,” some have said “should we not have a treat? Life is hard, you have to be kind to yourself.”

Okay, why shouldn’t you use the word “treat”? Because applying any sort of morality to food is not helpful. Children are not “good” eaters or “bad” eaters, they eat when they are hungry. This sort of food is not “good for you” or “bad for you” – it just does different things to your body and mind.

So if you are aiming to change the way you eat, categorising some food as a “treat” and therefore other kinds of food “not a treat” is to set yourself up for a fall somewhere along the line.

If you want to lose some weight, you have to spend most of your time eating a certain sort of food. Labelling some food a “treat” and therefore other food “not a treat” means that you are expecting to spend most of your life eating “non-treat” food. And how is anyone supposed to keep that up?

If you’re wondering, yes, this post is entirely about semantics – but it’s important, because eating has meaning to us, it is emotional; we are attached to and define ourselves by the sort of food we eat; the literal word label we apply to food, (both out loud and inside our heads), matters.

Changing your diet is not easy and you have to be your own coach, your own support boat. And life is hard, sometimes miserable. Even my life, which is mostly easy, is occasionally sad and stressful. Why would we not want to be kind to ourselves? Why would we not need a “treat”?

Picture the scene: it’s day 6 of trying to eat differently and you’ve had a long day and you’ve fought back through the shitty awful traffic and the slow-moving, smelly stupid general population and you’re at home.

You have been “good” all week. But now you are lonely and tired and unmotivated and there is a long evening at home stretching ahead of you. If you have continued in the last 6 days to see in your mind certain food as a treat, you immediately, in your vulnerable state, open the door to internal bargaining.

“Ugh that commute was awful/I’m so stressed about that thing that happened today…. I’ll just have one little treat...”

And weight gain is not immediate – you will “treat” yourself and the sky will not fall on your head. No-one will know. The diet police will not arrive at your door. So what’s to stop you doing it again, and more, and another one as a little perk because life is so awful? After all, it’s just a naughty little treat… and today was a bitch.

Most of the time, food that gets categorised as a treat is designed to do one thing and one thing only, which is to make you want more of it. That insidious combination of salt and fat and sugar and chemicals is what makes it basically impossible to eat only one Malteser.

Large food manufacturers and takeaway merchants do not want their food to be easy to resist. Some of them just come out and say it: “Irresistable”, says the lady on the voiceover. Some ice cream brands hide their many, many thousands of calories and sky high sodium content behind cute cartoons and wacky names. Brands also push hard and have pushed hard for years the notion that their food is a treat, that you are being “kind” to yourself by eating a bar of Galaxy in the bath or whatever.

(That, for me, is the biggest turn-off – that every time I eat a Toffee Crisp I am basically just dancing to the tune of a load of MNCs and marketing men. It stings the mindless contrarian in me. I consider every orange I eat instead of a Jaffa Cake to be a tiny dent in the share price of United Biscuits. Yes that is a real company.)

I’m using junk food as an example but “treating” yourself even with another bowlful of stew or another homemade roast potato is more or less the same thing.

My point is this: take it just because you want it. Understand that you JUST. WANT. IT  because it is a delicious, irresistible thing and you cannot say no. Not for any other reason.

I’m not saying don’t eat what you want – do whatever you like! – what I am saying is: don’t lie to yourself.

Don’t tell yourself that you are eating this thing because you are being kind to yourself, because it is a “treat”. Take the reward element out of it and just say “I want that potato”, “I am eating a Kit-Kat”, “I am going to have some of this delicious cheesecake.” You can even add a “because” if you like: “Because I am sad. Because I am happy. Because it is the only good thing about my day. Because I am bored.” That works, too.

If you can train yourself out of seeing any sort of food as a treat or ever rewarding yourself with food I promise that losing weight will be easier long-term. Find something else – a non-food, non-addictive item – to use as a reward or a comforter.

The fact that you’re sitting there now feeling angry and defensive and going “but WHAT am I supposed to reward myself with instead?” just shows how ingrained in our entire culture and imagination the idea of food as reward is. We can put men in space and get them home again but we are basically still as simple as pigeons pecking at a button for a snack.

My relationship with food is alright and always has been, but my relationship with alcohol is not, so I do know what I am talking about. Half a bottle of chilled white wine, I have had to learn, is not my friend. It isn’t a treat, I want it because I want to to anaesthetise myself against a bad bathtime, or a boring day, or because I’m feeling inadequate in some way.

I can’t explain why, but understanding that has helped me to drink less. And over-drinking and over-eating are really two sides of the same coin – so if it can help me, it must be able to help you, too.

***As a disclaimer to this – I am worried by any message I get from any mother with a baby who wants to lose weight: DON’T BOTHER. If you are at home with a baby you really just need to get to the end of the day with everyone still alive. You can go on a diet when they’re at nursery. Have a biscuit. Have ten! Just don’t call it a “treat”.***




Filorga Optim-Eyes

This is the eye cream that I was talking about on my Stories; I was sent the entire Filorga range recently and I tried it all faithfully for two weeks. It’s nice stuff but I didn’t see any massive change in my skin, except I do think that this eye cream makes a difference to dark circles.

AND it’s stocked in Marks and Spencer, which I always find reassuring.

It is £40, which is not funny, but if you are in the middle of a spending spree and/or are pre-menstrual, this is a better purchase than some cockatoo salt and pepper shakers from Anthropologie or an in-home exercise bike.

You can read more reviews about it and buy it if you want here:

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The Spike is on holiday

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Back next week! I will post on Instagram if it rains, which it inevitably will as I am there and everything goes wrong for me, always, every time.

Until then, talk amongst yourselves… though you usually do anyway.


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