News for November 2013

A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote (extract)

As I’m off to India for Christmas I’m trying my hardest to get my fill of that ‘proper British Christmas feeling’. You know, mince pies and homemade decorations, the smell of orange and cinnamon, a roaring fire and that kind of thing. When I recently read this lovely short story, A Christmas Memory (1956) by Truman Capote it chimed with that spirit and I wanted to share an extract of it here:

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. [...]

Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth. Soon, by the edge of knee-deep, rapid-running water, we have to abandon the buggy. Queenie wades the stream first, paddles across barking complaints at the swiftness of the current, the pneumonia-making coldness of it. We follow, holding our shoes and equipment (a hatchet, a burlap sack) above our heads. A mile more: of chastising thorns, burs and briers that catch at our clothes; of rusty pine needles brilliant with gaudy fungus and molted feathers. Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south. Always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels. Another creek to cross: a disturbed armada of speckled trout froths the water round us, and frogs the size of plates practice belly flops; beaver workmen are building a dam. On the farther shore, Queenie shakes herself and trembles. My friend shivers, too: not with cold but enthusiasm. One of her hat’s ragged roses sheds a petal as she lifts her head and inhales the pine-heavy air. ‘We’re almost there; can you smell it, Buddy?’ she says, as though we were approaching an ocean.

And, indeed, it is a kind of ocean. Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about choosing a tree. ‘It should be,’ muses my friend, ‘twice as tall as a boy. So a boy can’t steal the star.’ The one we pick is twice as tall as me. A brave handsome brute that survives thirty hatchet strokes before it keels with a creaking, rending cry. Lugging it like a kill, we commence the long trek out. Every few yards we abandon the struggle, sit down and pant. But we have the strength of triumphant huntsmen; that and the tree’s virile, icy perfume revive us, goad us on. Many compliments accompany our sunset return along the red clay road to town; but my friend is sly and noncommittal when passers-by praise the treasure perched on our buggy: what a fine tree and where did it come from? ‘Yonderways,’ she murmurs vaguely. Once a car stops and the rich mill owner’s lazy wife leans out and whines: ‘Giveya two-bits cash for that ol tree.’ Ordinarily my friend is afraid of saying no; but on this occasion she promptly shakes her head: ‘We wouldn’t take a dollar.’ The mill owner’s wife persists. ‘A dollar, my foot! Fifty cents. That’s my last offer. Goodness, woman, you can get another one.’ In answer, my friend gently reflects: ‘I doubt it. There’s never two of anything.’

Home: Queenie slumps by the fire and sleeps till tomorrow, snoring loud as a human.

Posted: November 29th, 2013
Categories: Read
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What to pack for Goa

While Goa sounds glamorous for Christmas, the combination of heat, suncream, sweat and dust has me worrying about my wardrobe. So the likelihood is I’ll pick up some cheap pieces to see me through the two-week break. The best thing about shopping for summer weather in the British winter is that a) there’s not much on offer, so there’s no getting overwhelmed and b) a lot of items that are suitable are likely to be reduced.

While it’s going to be 30 degrees, because I’m so pale (practically reflectively white on a beach..) I’d rather ensure I’ve got layers if I’m feeling uncomfortable. This Celia Birtwell for Uniqlo long-sleeved cotton top, £7.90 is fun and colourful way of covering up.

Ditto for legs – these Uniqlo draped trousers £9.90 are light and comfortable, and perfect for pairing with a vest top.

This Uniqlo grey flowy dress £9.90 is perfect for the flight as much as throwing over a bikini to go down to the beach and will look great with bright accessories bought from local markets.

As for beauty products – Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream is a cult and this special Sun Defense for Face cream in SPF 50, £25 will ensure that I don’t go wrinkly before my time.

I can’t resist this smell; I’ve put this luxurious REN exfoliating body polish, £32 on my birthday wishlist. It’d be perfect for scrubbing away dead skin cells and maximising my tan.

For hand luggage/the beach this vivid turquoise Folli Follie bag, €105 in the sale, is a good size with lots of individual pockets, and it’ll be sure to add zing to my outfits when I get back to the British winter.

and if money were no object, I’d be shuffling around in these badboys by Marni..

Posted: November 18th, 2013
Categories: Fashion, Travel
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Night Tales

It’s funny that as street food is such a big deal right now no-one is letting Winter stop them from carrying on with the craze. The latest foodie venture to open is Night Tales, an outdoor pop-up by the people behind Dalston Roof Park. On Friday I went to check it out.

Nestled into a small space in Abbot Street car park (off the road next to McDonald’s on Kingsland Rd), you wouldn’t know it was there unless you were looking for it. Kept warm with plenty of heaters and by letting in as many people as possible, everyone seemed to be in high spirits. One girl was obviously so excited by the new street food destination that she’d rolled around in cutlery and was sporting a fork on the back of her jacket.. (lolz).

While much smaller than its nearby neighbour Street Feast, Night Tales has a certain charm about it, a wintry novelty perhaps.  There are only a few stalls offering food and two bars serving drinks. I liked that it had a DJ (the programme changes with line-ups from NTS, House of Disco, Seth Troxler & Vortez Jazz Club) and, potentially, space for dancing, under which a mezzanine area spilled over with revelers.

Lovely people from Patty & Bun serving up beef

Whilst we were tempted by a P&B burger, we ended up going for Smokey Tails’ pulled pork in brioche buns with pickled red cabbage and a side of smoked mac’n’cheese. (There was also BAO steamed pork buns and Rainbo’s gyozas on offer.) The negroni bar was a bit unloved (ice cold drinks at £7.50 a pop are probably not the way to go), but the Hot Toddy (£5) and Hot Spiced Cider (£4.50) went down a treat.

It is slightly disappointing that places such as Night Tales are charging an entrance fee of £3 per person, but the fact of the matter is Dalston foodies will lap it up and pay the cover charge (- the alternative FOMO syndrome doesn’t bear thinking about). I just hope that at least in this case a good proportion of that is going towards a good cause, as Bootstrap Company (Night Tales’ daddy organisation) supports Bootstrap Campus, a project to help young East Londoners get into work.

My advice is get down there early if you can and bagsy a table for your eats. It’s a popular one.

Night Tales, open Thurs-Saturday until 14th Dec

Thurs 6-11pm / Fri 6pm – 12am / Sat 3pm – 12am


Posted: November 17th, 2013
Categories: Food
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Project Bush

Following Mother London’s participation in an ELLE magazine project to makeover outdated preconceptions about feminism, the creative agency has gone on to launch a provocative visual debate.

Project Bush showcases and celebrates the right to choose how we fashion our nether regions, photographed by celebrity photographer Alisa Connan. In a hypersexualised and -beautified climate, it’s refreshing to see such a stark questioning of a culture that has become the status quo. Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit you can’t ignore 93 vaginas.

See the full display of anonymous participants (bravo) from 14-18th at Mother London, 10 Redchurch Street E1 7DD.

Posted: November 11th, 2013
Categories: Event, Thought
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