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The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…

I can’t decide

Whether or not to get these two white dresses from H&M, who are having the most fabulous season.

I really do having a flipping great shitload of summer wear at the moment, all of which I love. I 100% don’t need these. Though maybe I will regret it because they both look very Chloe? And white cotton dresses are just so bang right now.

And god if I saw someone else wearing them I would freak and there are only a few left… so maybe I will buy them after all??? Help me. 

This one:

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And this one – ignore how it has been styled and just imagine it with the collar open and the breeze flowing round your areas just so… mmmm…

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The Spike has been reading…

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… The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, a name that always looks to me like a massive mis-type of Graham Simpson.

This book has got nearly 3,000 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.5 stars. I almost never take that to mean I will like a book because I’m not like most people. But I was curious!

And, I don’t know, it was a strange book, written by this Simsion guy who spend 25 years in IT, being a bit of a weirdo, spending time with a lot of weirdos. Our unlikely hero is a sort of Aspergersy weirdo who is trying to find a wife. Although it is never claimed that he has Aspergers because of course the author didn’t want the entire Aspergers community on his head accusing him of getting it all wrong.

There is a lot of semi/not-autistic “oddball” POV books at the moment, like Eleanor Oliphant, and they seem to be crazily successful.

Rosie was good and I read it all the way to the end but I found the voice of the narrator a little exhausting at times, (it is telling that I probably won’t read the follow-up, The Rosie Effect), and I’m not sure how crazy I am about someone with no actual knowledge or personal experience of this reasonably serious and complex condition aligning himself with it for material gain.

Fortunately, I read in an interview that the Asperger’s community, (if that’s the right word), totally love it. So that’s that, I guess.

I don’t usually post about books that I haven’t really loved, but with this one, I kind of feel like, y’know,  3,000 people can’t be wrong.

 

Secret Cinema

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Secret Cinema is the kind of thing I am least likely to want to go to.

It is part immersive theatre, part watching a film in public. I hate the cinema. HATE it. Not the actual idea of films, but the physical theatre – sitting with a bunch of rustling morons texting their stupid friends and eating YUCK and talking URGH Jesus drives me utterly mental.

So when my friend Max said “I’m running Secret Cinema now, you must come along” I gave him epic side-eye.

“No but really you’ll love it,” bellowed Max, because Max is a giant Scotsman, possibly deaf, now I come to think of it, considering how loudly he talks at all times.

He also has a terrifying laugh, like an arch-villain who has just pressed a button to blow up Lithuania for fun. “OOAA HA HA HA,” he goes. “HAA HA HAAAAAAA!

Occasionally, just to wrong-foot you, Max will make you drink 19 shots in a row and start a conversation about string theory. Max has the constitution of an ox – no not an ox, because an ox would never go out until 5am and then fly to New York for a high pressure meeting with, like, a Russian, and declare himself truthfully to feel “fine”.

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Max wonders which country to destroy next

So – Secret Cinema? No thanks.

But you see I’ve got this friend, Simon. And Simon lives for shit like this and there were free tickets and it had just been his birthday so I said “Let’s go.”

The film on was Blade Runner and I’ll come clean; I was dreading it. I’ve never seen Blade Runner, don’t give a fig for it. The event space was miles away and I just, it’s just…. it’s just not me.

But there was Simon. And I couldn’t wriggle out. I put on my costume of sorts, (you can dress up as much or as little as you like – there were people who’d made NO effort), patted black stuff round my eyes, did a shot with Simon in my kitchen, got in an Uber, went along and had the most fantastic time.

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It was partly the drink (but isn’t anything?) There are lots of bars, all easily-accessible, all taking contactless payment. There was also a noodle bar (Blade Runner, get it?) serving honest-to-god the best szechuan noodles I’ve ever had – and as you can imagine, I’ve had a few. Giles really would hate Secret Cinema and so wasn’t there, but I was genuinely sad he didn’t come to try the noodles.

I watched the first bit of the film, then stumbled back out to the bar, had more drinks, set off from Canning Town at around 10 and was home by 10.45, off my fucking blot.

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Squinting because so pissed. Simon is very shy.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS?

It is about an hour and a half-ish of immersive theatre, (which you can take part in or just observe, there’s no pressure), which takes place in an incredibly carefully-construted and realistic “set”, staffed by a lot of actors. You can wander about in rooms recreated from the film. I mean if this was Raiders of the Lost Ark I would have been on my knees, weeping, overwhelmed to be able to be in my best film. But it was Blade Runner, so I was merely massively impressed. They made it rain! They made it rain inside.

There are the aforementioned bars and places to get delicious food. You can opt into the drama and follow a “storyline” or, like I did, just drink. Simon tried to get involved but I just pointed and laughed.

Then follows the movie that you can watch or not watch, depending on how dedicated/pissed you are.

The next production is the Baz Luhrman Romeo & Juliet and I urge you to consider going. It will be in London in a “secret location” which I will get in trouble for revealing but it’s not Canning Town and the action starts early, from 6pm, so you will most likely need to skip bath and bedtime for this.

The food, I’m informed, (because I know you, like me, freak out if you think you might miss your dinner), will be Tex/Mex and Italian – representing the two houses of Montague and Capulet and if the food is anything like those noodles I’m going for dinner alone. Vegans and vegetarians are fully catered for.

The show runs from 8th August – 25th August, tickets start at £49 – you can find out more here.

Any questions? You know where to find me.

 

 

 

Blown away

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Let’s talk about blow-drying shall we.

I’m inspired to this because I was sent the new T3 Featherweight 2 hairdryer to try out (pictured above). I already own a Parlux 3800, which is the one that my hairdresser Nadia uses, because I am very sniffy about hairdryers. And I use a hairdryer most days. So really I am the very best person to talk to about hairdrying.

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I liked the T3! Stylists on shoots use them all the time. I didn’t notice an appreciable difference in performance between the T3 and my Parlux – but that’s a compliment as my Parlux is brilliant.

The T3 is slightly bigger, yet lighter and comes in a snazzy white – or HQHair has a folding pink version. At £155, the T3 is about the right price for a new, salon-quality drier.

You are now going to ask me if the Dyson hairdryer is worth it. I just don’t know. Nadia has now moved onto a Dyson and thinks it’s amazing. “I’d never go back to a conventional hairdryer now,” she says. But, guys, it’s THREE HUNDRED QUID!!

Next – brushes. I do not understand at all how one would use those round brushes for home drying. Absolutely baffling. I found a rounded (but not round) vented brush with boar bristles by a company called Macadamia, but they are sold out everywhere, which is SO ANNOYING. I will write to the company on your behalf and see when these might be available again because they are brilliant. If anyone else has a good vent brush, tell me.

Next – blow drying product! If you are looking for a sleek and groomed style, you need Keratase Oleo-Relax. It is absolutely brilliant –  a hair product that genuinely does something noticeable!

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I have gone through bottles and bottles of this stuff in my time and nothing else gives a lovely smoothing effect that lasts pretty much all day. What it WON’T do is give you lots of hold and volume and bounce… for that you need loads of mousse, (literally any old hair mousse from Boots or Superdrug – I like John Frieda), and a Babyliss Big Hair.

Oh hang on just a damned sec! While we’re talking about hair, I have just re-found these fab hair turbans. These micro fibre hair turbans are BRILLIANT, especially on holiday. You can jimmy up your hair with them while getting on with doing other stuff – even the best hotels in the world cannot be relied upon to have good hair-drying towels. I have forgotten mine on so many holidays and cursed myself to hell for it. Not this year! I fancy one in pink!

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As usual, if you have any great blow-drying products for your individual hair type please leave a note in the handy box!

 

For an appointment with Nadia Dean at John Frieda in Mayfair, please visit their site here. She is great! 

3 new dresses (and a jumpsuit)

Do you ever get that confident feeling that you have an item of clothing – but actually you don’t?

It happens to me all the time. I think I have got a button-through printed sundress, but I don’t. I think I’ve got a navy jumpsuit, but I don’t. I think I have got a long embroidered dress, but I don’t. I think I’ve got a long floaty beach dress but (altogether now) I DON’T.

I blame Instagram! I blame it for all of this. I look at other people wearing button through sundresses and navy jumpsuits and long embroidered dresses and I think it’s me. I think I’m looking at pictures of me in my clothes.

What? I never said I wasn’t crazy!

It’s also slightly that I might have versions of these things that don’t fit or that crease horribly as soon as you sneeze or require ludicrous underwear or somehow else don’t work.

So I went online and bought 4 things that I literally, genuinely – it turns out – don’t have in my wardrobe.

My main criteria was regarding underwear, in that you mustn’t need any thing mad or strapless or stick-on. None of these plunge alarmingly or ride up; they can all also be worn with either trainers or heels and are suitable for day or night and don’t need dry-cleaning.

Anyway they arrived and they are all massive successes, which is unusual for me, and I’m absolutely delighted. Over on Instagram TV there is a video of me wearing all of these clothes, but the models here wear them just fine, too.

1 Monsoon Margot lemon poplin dress. I love this crazy print. The very long length gets a bit of getting used to but once you’re “there” it’s a delight. Sizing is reasonably generous. I took an 8 in this and I am not an 8 in, say, TopShop. The corset is supportive enough that I didn’t need to wear a bra with this, but if I wanted to, it wouldn’t show.

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2 Monsoon linen navy jumpsuit. Monsoon are having a brilliant season and I was astonished that this jumpsuit actually fit me (having dismissed jumpsuits as an item for other people without long back disease). Now I see why jumpsuit devotees feel that way. I feel smart and put-together in this in a way that I rarely do in my life. I also like the fact you can wear this for lunch with nice sandals or so some sort of really smart thing with a block-heeled sandal or a wedge. Sizing same as before – I am in an 8 but I am normally a 10.

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3 It’s harder than you think to find a long, embroidered dress without stupid flappy annoying sleeves or a clashing print or made of teeth-setting-on-edge viscose, that isn’t slashed to the waist or drags on the ground. OR that doesn’t cost £40m. This one I saw on Asos and immediately loved although the keen price made me fret about its provenance. This was a 10 so I’d say take your normal size.

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4 I think I have a long floaty beach dress, but in fact I don’t. I have some short beach dresses that I’ve worn for the last 3 years and are now all stained to shite and a long white cheesecloth shirt thing that has sleeves. But I have nothing jaunty, like this! It is from a brand called Aratta via Asos and is reassuringly expensive at £120. Not for town, of course, but for a proper beach or pool where the slightly mad colours and beads will come alive and look absolutely splendid. I took an S, which was pretty roomy – I’d say it would fit up to a small 12.

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Habitat Tisno armchair

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My kitchen armchair and footstool appeared on Instagram the other day and I had a lot of requests about their provenance.

I am very pleased to be able to tell you that they are both from Habitat. This is the link to the chairthis is the link to the footstool.

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.

The Spike has been reading…

Two books by Lissa Evans.

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.

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The second is Their Finest Hour and a Half, which has recently been turned into a film (which I haven’t seen). Another corker.

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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.

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Chocolate courgette muffins

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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

4 eggs

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.

5 Bake for 20 – 22 min.

 

 

 

 

Natura Bisse The Cure Sheer Eye

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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.

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