Thursday, September 25, 2008

London Fashion Weekend

When fashion week is over and the world's fashion press has moved away from London but the resulting photographs of next seasons trends have inspired you to do a little shopping, where better than a quick visit to London Fashion Weekend? Especially in this down sizing, down scaling economic climate there is nothing like a little 'investment' shopping of some designer pieces at not so designer prices that makes a twenty something feel like she is doing something about her money.
Essentially, London Fashion Weekend is a consumer heaven set up like a trade show with designers each having a stand in a purpose built marquee in the grounds of the National History Museum. Visitors book allocated time slots and then fill the carpeted aisles between the stands with posing and hair tossing and spending. To make it easier on the wallet and mind at each stand you are presented with a docket for your purchases. No money changes hands, you merely collect them all and pay at the tills at the end and go back round and collect your items. Tricks the brain, it does. "Do you really need an orange passport cover?" the rational part of my brain stated boldly, as I squatted inelegantly on the floor looking through a box of leather goods. "But I've always wanted one and Look. Here is a beautiful leather one. For £4. £4. Reduced from £29.99. It is A BARGAIN" shouted the other part, drowning out the other, "and look, I can hand it to the lady, who puts it in a bag, and gives me the docket and it's, well, it's almost free isn't it...". And everywhere across the weird tented two layer structure this mental argument is being played out in every stand.
Of course, it's not just about the shopping, or the posing. It isn't? No, there are sponsors who put on events, make-up lessons, blow dries, styling sessions, show off the latest in TVs, coffee machines, drinks and cocktails. There are goody bags to be bought and paraded. And a catwalk show to watch where the latest trends are shown and make-up and hair dressing tips handed out like favours at a wedding. One stand was showing a Miele washing machine in which they were washing roses to demonstrate the new cold wash short silk cycle - the wash was so gentle that the roses came out beautifully. It looked so incongruous though, delicate flowers in a machine that I stopped to take some photos.

Above: Roses which had just been washed in a washing machine.

In previous years I have attended the event on the Saturday or even Sunday. This year I decided to go on the Thursday night and managed to get there before the crowds. It was an altogether more pleasant experience. There was room to walk around, to try on clothes, to hesitate, to think, to return. I stopped and drank espresso, sat there on a high bar stool and watched the other visitors drifting past in ones, twos and the occasional child with her mother, clearly brought along straight after school. At the other end of the show I stopped to try and campari and orange juice. Upstairs I had my eyebrows threaded - and what a skill that is, although the first yank did bring a tear to my eye - and watched the catwalk show from a corner.
And then, suddenly, I was tired. Laden with the weekend bag that I purchased, for a mere £15, and the goody bag which included all sorts of interesting items including some kind of scary micro-dermabrasion device, the music was too repetitive and the place was too full of teenagers, so I beat a hasty retreat. Until next fashion week, that is.
Below (and top photo): Folk trend on the catwalk

Images by me


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Moment of Need

It was just as I reached the bus-stop this evening that another wave of stomach pains hit me. I sat down on the bench and breathed in and breathed out and stared at the floor, fixated on the slightly old vomit where someone else had been unlucky earlier in the weekend. The pains didn't subside and I started to wonder what I was going to do. My phone was in the bathroom at home; there was no-one at work; I had an appointment to get to. I was on my own. The thought of fainting into someone else's vomit was too much so I moved away from the bus stop and lent against the wall at the side of the pavement, staring at the floor and people's feet trotting past, going home, going out, going past all the while trying not to let my panic escalate. "Come on Rachel" I told myself, "breathe and get on the bus. Once you're home you can ring up, cancel the appointment and then lie down".

A hand reached out and took my arm. I looked up and a kind lady slightly older than me said "Let's get you to a cafe so you can sit down and I'll get you some water. Do you need me to call you a doctor?" and with that she walked me over the road and did exactly that. I declined the doctor but almost cried, well, actually, I cried a little bit, at her kindness. She lent me her phone and I cancelled my appointment and then called M who called me an Addison Lee car to come and rescue me. And she waited there, with me, in that cafe, until my taxi arrived and I gave her a lift to her office on the way. On the way, we talked. Two strangers, thrust together into a shared situation. She too was a lawyer who had followed a slightly different career path. She was qualified and successful. She told me that I would be too.

So many people tell me that they could never live in London; it's too dangerous and too impersonal, that no-one cares, that you could die and no-one would notice. Ok, so I once had my purse stolen on a bus but not today. Today I was in the city of London. I needed help and in my moment of need, someone helped me. And I am very grateful.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Lying in the park earlier, propped against a picnic hamper on one of those plastic backed picnic rugs and the sun warming my face, I looked around my group of friends and though "some people don't have birthday parties this great yet this, for us, is just a normal weekend". A dinner party until 3am on Friday night, lounging and then dinner and a party on Saturday and a Sunday afternoon picnic and pub visit to round off the weekend; a large group of our closest friends and some of the last decent weather of the year. Perhaps I am not so old yet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's the Matter with Fabric?

Oh, I should be a headline writer... Or not. But last night I did get to taste a little of someone else's job: that of a music journalist. Now, you might have heard of a night club called Fabric. And you've no doubt heard of the 02 centre (otherwise known as the Dome). Well, Fabric has opened a sister super club at the 02 centre called Matter. Is the headline thing making sense now? Anyway, BestFriend's boyfriend got us 2 press passes to the press launch. So BestFriend and I dressed up and went out. On a school night.

Matter is like a cathedral for dance music lovers to worship their DJs. If God is a DJ he is surely to be found at Matter. That is, if he can find it. It is a long walk from the tube station along a bumpy track which did not have high-heels in mind. Inside however the sound pumps out of enormous speakers and soars to the very rafters of the club (well, VIP and VVIP area anyway). Lasers cut their way through the smoke machined air which hovers low over a sprung dance floor which makes the crowd lift as one as the beats lift you higher and higher. It also makes you, ahem, vibrate. Yes, all parts of you. The lights cast shadows over the lower areas illuminating auditorium style concrete benches, last night prettily occupied with posers, soon to be occupied with those dance music lovers which could be mistaken for refugees by the time the night is out. Look to the left and there is a bar which runs the whole length of the wall, grey, concrete, metal, the whole place is grey and clinical, and staffed by hundreds of Matter worker bees who fill drinks, collect glasses, keep control, signal to the smoking area. Look up, which you will, as you will wonder why it is so light for a night club and you will see higher seating areas and a strange walkway, which looks rather like the guitar track in Guitar hero, only upside down, and then right right at the top, a red tinged area, the VIP section. Find the stairs, if you can, being careful not to scratch your jewellery or silk dress against the rough metal railings or concrete edges, or to trip your satin shoe against a rough step (trainers are better footwear here by far) and enter the VIP area and you will find cosy seating instead of concrete benches and a birds eye view of the whole club, reinforcing your impression that once you are a VIP you are on top of the world and have the world's permission to look down on everyone else. Once you have grown bored of the unusual view of the sound booth and countless posing people - have you ever seen primping like that of a male band about to have their photo taken - you wind your way back down the steps (or take the lift if you are so inclined) and return to ground level and to cold clinical concrete. The bar area is full now, so you have to push past people gathering around strange alien tables, the noise so loud that it almost feels silent - you can see people's mouths moving but you cannot work out what they say - the blue UV lights casting a hospital like glow over everyone. Once past the crowds round the bar you head back up to the middle floor, in search of loos. Unisex ones or up the metal staircase to the girls only? It matters not, they are roughly the same. Cubicles round the edges, big metal rectangular troughs in the middle. Not as cool as the huge round metal ones at Fabric with their complicated foot pedal system which immediately singles out the newbies, but still trough like enough that the animal illusion is complete once pilled up people start washing in them, or more pleasantly, vomiting in them. The doors are kinder on the ear than the prison style clanking ones at Fabric; the loo paper however is of substandard quality. Thankfully the Dyson hand-dryers make up for it. Wander around, for that is what people seem to spend most of their time doing, a pointless continuous movement of people, until you have seen your fill, listened to your body weight in sound, carried yourself into oblivion on a tidal wave of intensifying beats which lift you up and up and up... Fabric is not a venue, it's a scene, someone once told me. Matter is more of a venue, I think, but time will tell.

Matter, The O2, Peninsula Square, London, SE10 ODY

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What would I take from my desk?

The BBC asks: "if you loss your job today, what would you take from your desk?". In other words, what personal items do we have in and on our desks to make the long working days just a little bit more personal?

So here goes:

  • University mug
  • Mug given to me for my birthday
  • Coca-cola glass
  • 10 novels which I have finished reading at work and never made it home
  • Contact lens solution
  • Painkillers, spare tights, tampons etc
  • Files of work from law school
  • Law books which belong to me
  • hand cream
  • personal file (e.g. records of work/courses etc)
  • photo of M and I on holiday
  • fountain pen
  • umbrella
  • small pretty mirror given to me by BestFriend which sits on my computer
There are obviously a few other things I have at work too like mustard, orange squash etc but I think if I had to leave, right now, I wouldn't bother to save them. Likewise I would not make off with confidential client information, the contents of the stationery cupboard or any expensive but useful text books. And that's not just because by the time I loaded all of the things I do own into a box there would be no room for anything else...

The Times also had an interesting article about the wives of bankers/traders who gave up work to look after the children etc and now their husbands are out of work with limited options. Not many people feel sorry for them. Only last night I was discussing with M what conversations were happening in those households. One can only hope that if you'd made your fortune as a trader or banker you would have been clever enough to follow some sound financial advice, realised that you make a lot when the going is good but that it can all very easily be lost and so diversified portfolios and kept an emergency easy access account so that you could still pay the mortgage, school fees and household expenses until you found something else to do. Like become a maths teacher. There's a shortage of those.

Monday, September 15, 2008

50 Things Every British Girl Should Have...

... according to the Sunday Times... (blue text by them, purple added by me)

1 GOLD HOOP EARRINGS For days when you wanna look J.Lo glam. These shouldn’t be so big as to look like you haven’t got over the gypsy trend, nor so small as to make you look like a three-year-old on a council estate.

Seems I have failed already. No gold hoop earrings in this British girl's jewellery box. But seeing as I have only ever had one day when I wished to look J.Lo glam (and that was at a fancy dress party with the dress code Bling Bling) I suppose I am not missing out. My earring taste is a lot more subtle. Pearls, shells, that sort of thing.


2 A BERET For bad-hair days. It will take you straight to Kim Basinger in Batman. Just don’t obsess about the angle: they should be worn with nonchalance.

Gosh, not getting off to the best start am I? Berets to me are less Kim Basinger, more too old for CCF. Beanies or trilbies are my hat of choice these days.


3 A VINTAGE OSSIE CLARK DRESS Separates the women from the girls. Fabulously flattering at any age, from 18 to 80.

Doesn't so much separate the women from the girls as the haves and have-nots. Do you know how much a vintage ossie clark dress costs? Well, Shikasuki, my favourite vintage shop, sells them. I tried one on when wedding dress shopping. Thankfully it didn't fit - it was £750 for an ankle length crepe dress which made my (size 8-10) hips look fat. Beautiful, yes. Fabulously flattering, I think not.


4 EXPENSIVE BLACK LACE LINGERIE At least one set. For obvious reasons.

Finally, something I do own. Although it depends on your definition of 'expensive'. For obvious reasons.


5 A PAIR OF THERMAL SHORTS For when you want to wear a skirt without tights, but it’s a bit parky outside.

What? OK, who is writing this? This is England. If it's cold you wear tights. Even in August. Thermal shorts? Never even heard of them and I thought I knew about these things...


6 SILK STOCKINGS A rite of passage for every woman — and, subsequently, for her man. In slightly unusual shades — such as petrol or burgundy — they make an outfit. And in this country they can be worn for three-quarters of the year.

Exactly - so why the need for (5)? Mine actually happen to be burgundy (and are tights, but near enough).


7 A DECENT TRENCH COAT Some people are scared of trenches because they look fussy — they’re not. Everyone from Burberry to M&S does them, so there’s no excuse.

I think I need to go shopping... Actually, this is something which I have been trying to buy for a while but can never find anything I am satisfied with at a price which is agreeable. Although sister-in-law to be recommends the ones from Ted Baker.


8 A LEATHER JACKET It should be cropped and fitted nicely around your waist. Takes you from a gig to the supermarket via your mum’s and a first date. Enough said.

Aha. I have one of these. Very useful and actually a lot warmer than I thought it would be. Mine is dark bottle green as I thought it would be nice to own something that wasn't black and has a nipped in ruched waist.


9 A GOOD WALLET Because if a bag matters, so does your purse — and people see it all the time. Jimmy Choo’s, we feel, are particularly well thought-out.

It isn't Jimmy Choo but it is decent. Nice leather, size of a small clutch bag, holds everything. I love it. Makes me smile every time I use it. A decent investment at London Fashion Weekend several years ago.


10 A PAIR OF FALSIES (eyelashes, that is). Instant divadom.

Mine are so long that they are like wearing sun visors, only a mini pair for each eye. Best kept for festivals and the like as they are rather OTT. The smaller pair I had reached a sorry end on a fantastic Audrey Hepburn themed hen weekend in Bath...


11 A VINTAGE DRESS One that’s seen much better days — for being very trashy in.

That's more like it... yes, I have several of these, mostly from the aforementioned Shikasuki although a couple from my mother's wardrobe via the old dressing up box. My favourite is bright emerald/turquoise silk shift which is just trashed enough you don't mind wearing it but fab enough that it looks the part.


12 A PAIR OF MAD SUNGLASSES They should be too mad to go on a date in, but just mad enough to feel liberated.

Tick. In fact, I have such a small face that all sunglasses look slightly mad on me. My favourite pair is a pair of RayBan aviators which are enormous but still look cool...


13 A SHORT, BLACK BOB WIG Check out of you-ness and be Louise Brooks for the day.

Nope, can't say I have one of these? Does anyone? I rather prefer my own long-ish, blonde-ish hair thanks.


14 A STRING OF REAL PEARLS OR REAL PEARL EARRINGS Great for the complexion, as they diffuse light across your face.

Tick. Not much else to say about pearls is there?


15 A T-SHIRT DRESS One you’ve had since you were 22. Just throw it on and go.

Many of these - mostly from American Apparel who make the best ones. Just right for a summers night raving at Fabric.


16 A PAIR OF MEN’S BROGUES For looking playfully serious.

There are lots of these in our house but M wears them so well that I leave that look to him...


17 SOMETHING DELICATE AND ANCIENT It must be kept in acid-free tissue paper — anything made of Victorian lace, for example.

I think my turquoise 60s style hat fits this. In it's original hat box too.


18 DEREK ROSE FLANNEL PYJAMAS For spending Sundays and sickies in.

Sickies - what are those?! No derek rose pyjamas for me, I still wear my old teddy bears ones which I've had since my early teens when I am ill...


19 WHITE CORDS Less flash than white denim, more elegant than jeans. Wear with a navy pea coat, and you are Jackie O.

White trousers, yes, black cords, no. White cords are still too a little Elizabeth Hurley for me. Either that or Boden mummy...


20 A KHAKI PARKA Just like the one Kate Moss wore with those Westwood boots in 2000. Never goes out of style, always looks cool — whatever anyone says.

Yep, got one of those. Doesn't everyone? Good old 'primarni'...


21 GREEK SANDALS Ones that age beautifully and last for ever.

I suppose, technically, since mine are Massimo Dutti they are not Greek but they are in style and spirit. Plain enough to wear to work with a summer dress, fab enough that they go with anything. I barely take them off in summer yet already they are back in their box for next year.


22 BOLD STATEMENT HEELS Six inches? Toe cleavage? Huge platform? Orange PVC? Perfect. Shoes that get people talking. And never stop.

I don't actually tend to go in very much for plain shoes - so all mine are statement pieces one way or another. See wedding shoes for confirmation...


23 A BLACK CASHMERE ROLLNECK If you must wear basics, console yourself with luxury. Audrey Hepburnesque and great with jeans and minis.

Well, it's a black roll neck, at any rate. Goes with everything especially to work.


24 HAIRSPRAY (ELNETT) AND KIRBY GRIPS For dramatic evening up-dos.

Not much more to add to this, is there?


25 A CAMEO BROOCH These are practical, but always remarkable, and their colours don’t clash with outfits — unlike jewelled brooches.

Not a fan of brooches really. I prefer a statement necklace or scarf...


26 BOAT NECKS If you have a strong collarbone, show off this alternative erogenous zone.

Looks better on my skinny frame than some styles... I prefer mine in jersey rather than jumper material as I think they hang better. My favourite is by C & C California.


27 A WATCH Needn’t be expensive, but should either have a small face and a fabric or leather strap; or be chunky and sporty — aka the “boyfriend watch”.

I think some people are watch people and some people are not. I am NOT. I rarely wear one, mainly because I refuse to spend much money on one and consequently it is always broken. Has nothing to do with my inability to be on time...


28 JAPANESE DARK DENIM JEANS Very simple, narrow, but not skinny, wide or bootcut. Never, ever wash them.

Mine are actually Topshop but same overall affect. Haha. Looks good with a grey jumper.


29 A SLIGHTLY-TOO-SHORT LCD (little coloured dress). Black is okay, but purple (see Michelle Obama), red or jade are better.

The same one that falls under the vintage dress category above.


30 A COLOSSAL COCKTAIL RING For when you need instant cheer.

I have a red one from Shikasuki but these days I find my engagement ring does the same job...


31 DECENT WELLINGTON BOOTS Le Chameau, Argyll and Hunter all pass muster. Never be caught in a shiny novelty pair — you will be outed as a novice in an instant.

A novice what? Mine are dark purply-blue and are Hunters. I love them: the most comfortable boots I have ever worn. Essential for festivals (I wore mine the entire weekend at Camp Bestival despite a lack of rain or even mud) and good for Sunday afternoon walks in the country as well, as they are not so bright they will frighten cows.


32 LEATHER DRIVING GLOVES. For looking murderously chic. Get them from the high street — no point spending a fortune, as gloves are so easily lost.

Tick. Marks & Spencer's outlet village. When you wear a suit to work you don't want to be let down by orange cashmere ones...


33 A BRETON TOP Insouciant, witty, timeless, French, sexy.

I have a couple but am careful when to wear them as it is my Mother's signature style.


34 CASHMERE SOCKS It’s not a style thing, it’s a love thing: a love-yourself thing.

One of my favourite things about winter...


35 A SILK SQUARE It can serve as a belt, a neckscarf, a duster — and as a headscarf, is just perfect for autumn bike rides.

My favourite was my mother's. also looks good tied on a handbag or round the brim of a hat.


36 A HIDDEN TATTOO The element of surprise is essential.

Nope, none. Hidden or otherwise. I just can't imagine finding something I wanted written on my body for the rest of my life


37 RUBY SLIPPERS Just the one pair?

Mine are actually pink. And there are 2 pairs. One pair has silk flowers on. Never fails to cheer me up.


38 A GREY HOODIE Otherwise you’ll look like you were never a teenager.

It's not grey but does have the Rage Against the Machine logo on. A favourite teenage keepsake which I still wear. Takes people by surprise that a blonde 20 something almost lawyer still loves her heavy music!


39 A FAMILY HEIRLOOM Bracelet, brooch or diamond-set watch — to ignite conversation.

Sadly none as yet. Although that can also be seen as a good thing.


40 A SHAG-ME BRA To be seen peeking out from your top.

Hmmm. Not a fan of visible underwear. But yes, I do own a couple...


41 A PAIR OF GOLD LAME LEGGINGS Because you never know when you might be called upon to go dancing, and it’s hard to keep up with what the kids wear in clubs these days.

Nope. Never. I don't even own a pair of leggings. Boring...


42 A TINY DECADENT EVENING BAG It should only have space for a note and a credit card.

I have a gold sequined one from Granny.


43 SOMETHING FROM CHANEL Anything at all.

Not yet; I am working on it...


44 A PAIR OF FAKE SPECTACLES For last-minute librarian chic.

Who needs fake ones when you can have the real thing?


45 A FUR STOLE Fake works fine. Guaranteed to elicit attention when worn flung over shoulders with red lipstick.

No fur stole, fake or otherwise, much as I would like one. Maybe I will keep looking in the vintage shops as I could never buy one new.


46 A BROWN LEATHER TOTE These look better the more battered and bruised they get.

My work bag. A firm favourite.


47 A BIG, PATTERNED, WOOLLEN SCARF Something hippie-ish you can swathe yourself in come rain or shine. The best are bought on holiday and have bright and pretty colours. Will take a T-shirt and jeans to stylish and original levels.

I own many, many of these. I can't remember a holiday when I didn't return with a new one. My favourites though are limited to two: the red and gold silk knitted one with peacock feathers that my father brought back from China and a grey & red woven one that my sister found for me in Vietnam.


48 A TEA DRESS The greatest thing to come out of the 1940s — utterly wearable and endlessly flattering. Vintage numbers are always best.

I have one which is my wedding outfit standby. That worked better when I went to fewer weddings where the guests were a different set of friends each time.


49 A 100% SILK SLIP Like the one Rachel from Friends wore on her date with Joshua. Every girl needs one for night-time. A pain to wash, but totally worth it.

I don't remember that Rachel's one but I am a fan of mine, especially in summer.


50 SPANX Because, sigh, we all have days when we need them.

Not yet, thankfully...

35/50 (70%): I think I should stop shopping.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On feeling old

I had a telephone call last night which I answered just as I returned home from BestFriends house, at the respectable time of 10.30pm. It was Littler A, back at university and on a train heading towards London. At least I think she was on a train. It's what I think she said, but then it was hard to hear her over the din. She may have been in the monkey enclosure at the zoo, or the common room of a public school. There was definitely shrieking. "Rachi baby!" she giggled, "what clubs in London stay open all night on a Thursday?". I thought back to the days when I used to be able to party all night, on a whim. I thought back to the last club I had been to on a school night, Mamalanji, where I had danced til 4am and still made it to work. I thought of my sister's budget and reached for Time Out.

I have spoken before of my love of e-bay. Sometimes I look at shoes, sometimes clothes, handbags, things. Last week I bought a vintage embroidered tablecloth and 8 wicker place mats. The tablecloth arrived yesterday. Once I had finished organising Littler A's night out (having to terminate the call when I could no longer hear whether I was being listened to or not) I spread it over our table and thought "this is the difference between 26 and 21, between being a fiancee and being single. She dances all night. I try to beautify my flat and my table and practice being a housewife". All at once I felt contented but sadly nostalgic.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sunshine and housewives

When is the last time I saw some sunshine? I need some sunshine in my life. Everything is so grey, even the jumpers I am wearing are grey. It is cold, chilly, too chilly for the second week of September. Where is the Indian summer that we were promised to compensate for the greyest August on record?

I am practising being a house wife. We picked blackberries at the weekend, two bagfuls. Thankfully we had Lily the dog with us. Dogs = plastic bags (unused). We brought home, well, back to the holiday cottage, two large food bags bursting with sweet smelling carefully picked purply-black ripe blackberries and I made them into blackberry goo. Perhaps it has a proper name but I do not know it. The blackberry goo is now in the freezer. Back in London I made applesauce. Two carrier bags of Shropshire garden apples. I cut and cored and peeled and persuaded M to help as well. We made a pressure cooker full of apple sauce. The apple sauce too is in the freezer, in small Tupperware boxes. Next weekend when friends come for Sunday lunch I shall make some pastry and fill it with home made apple and blackberry goo. And make custard to go with it. On Tuesday I made banana and ginger and chocolate muffins with some left over bananas, a bit of ginger and the ends of two packets of Green & Blacks dark chocolate. I went to open the cake-tin to put the cooled muffins in but it was already occupied by some white furry mould and what might have been the end of something else I made a few weeks ago. The muffins are now in a Tupperware jug. I think I need some more practice.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Autumn Weekends I

Image by M

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to School

If ever there was a weather to signify the start of a new school term than surely a chill to the air and torrential rain must be high up on the list. Despite sunshine yesterday small autumnal leaves drifted down onto me as I walked to the tube. Today I am going to have to move fast or I will look like a drowned rat by the time I walk out of my front gate.

Whilst I do love summer, and who doesn't, there is a small part of me excited by the change in the seasons, the nip in the air, the earthy smells and colours of autumn. For me, autumn rather spring will always be the backdrop of new beginnings: school, university, law school, my first proper job. It may have been 8 years since I went off to university but there is still that undercurrent that something has ended and something even more exciting is about to begin... would just be nice if it could remain as summer for one more week as we are off to the beach at the weekend for one last trip this season. After that, it can be as autumnal as it likes.