Sensing Spaces

I was lucky enough to get an invite to the private view of the Royal Academy of Art’s latest exhibit, Sensing Spaces. I cannot believe that after almost 8 years of living in London I’d actually never been inside the RA, despite walking past numerous times. It was bizarre exploring the gallery for the first time finding that there were structures in place hindering and inviting visitors to interact with the space in a new way when I wasn’t even au fait with the traditional way *slaps wrist*. Either way, this exhibit begs some interesting questions about how we interact with space, and the traditions of design, curation, interaction and architecture.

For starters we went to the top of the wooden structure by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and said hello to the angels on the ceiling.

Moving through the exhibition you really engage all senses (hence the exhibit title, duh) – from Kengo Kuma’s traditional Japanese bamboo scent/light scultpures that were altogether satisfying and soporific (below), to Li Xiaodong’s hide-and-seek labyrinth…

…and Diébédo Francis Kéré’s interactive structure (pic below) that boasts a fun colour sensitivity and invites visitors to contribute to its shape, which feels like a really innocent and childlike way to ask questions about architecture.

This exhibit is perfect date fodder. Go play!

The Aviator

For our anniversary S and I took to Mr & Mrs Smith to find an English country hideaway – you know the kind where you can enjoy a whisky while sitting by the fire. We didn’t quite find anything that matched that criteria, though we did find something better. The Aviator on the Surrey/Hampshire border.

This luxury hotel sits next to the Farnborough airfield, so is oft used by pilots. Rather than eschewing this would-be mundane fact, the hotel has embraced it. It could have gone the way of a literal homage to all things aviation, but instead the hotel simply nods to its neighbouring venue with a sleek aesthetic and bachelor pad feel that recalls the early days of air travel – when it was an expensive luxury rather than a mass-marketed quickie portal to Europe.

We stayed in a Sky suite, an impressive room that’s larger than our East London flat. A large corner sofa separated the living area from bedroom, though both areas had a television and was pleasingly decorated with walnut and leather furniture and Egyptian cotton sheets. I loved the walk-in wardrobe, especially important on relaxation weekends away as they keep our suitcases and clutter out of sight. What’s great about staying here as a couple is that the airplanes are a constant reminder of escapism, and of course appeal to the boy inside the man.. The gentle hum of planes taking off weren’t a disturbance, but an attraction.

Since the hotel has just started offering spa treatments we got the chance to try them out. The hotel doesn’t yet have a spa per se, but undertakes spa treatments in a hotel suite that has been kitted out for the purpose. We were treated to a couples massage and facial. The massage itself was gentle and relaxing and segued beautifully into a sumptuous facial which left me smelling sweet and feeling refreshed. The only downside was that post-treatment the relaxation room was a walk down the corridor which jarred slightly with the intimate pampering experience. Complete with current issues of Vogue, GQ, etc. as well as cucumber water and fruit, it hinted at what the hotel’s spa facilities could become in time.

With the spa facilities, restaurant, bar, and in-room free mini-bar and DVD library it’s very easy to hibernate here all weekend long.

Posted: January 24th, 2014
Categories: Travel
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Congrats to all the amazing menswear designers I’ve had the privilege of working with

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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Music listening

At work I seem to have inherited the only set of speakers in the office which means I’m pretty much in charge of the music. With this development comes great responsibility. Keeping everyone happy is no mean feat. The music not only has to please the tastes of no less than six people but it cannot distract from the task at hand – getting on with work. Herein lies the rub. Music is no longer an entertainment 100% of the time. It provides the soundtrack.

In our parents’ day this wasn’t the case. When my parents scraped the money together to rent a flat the first thing they bought to furnish it was a record player to listen to their records on while they sat on makeshift cardboard boxes. They would put on a record in the same way we would sit down to watch a boxset nowadays (though arguably with the rise of mobile, said boxset is often accompanied by a twitter debate and indb’ing). Listening was the whole thing.

Nowadays my father – a stout music fan, a musicians’ accountant and a man who knows what he likes – says even he cannot muster the energy to listen to a record any more. They’re too short he says. ‘And when I’m cooking why would I want to have to walk back to the record player after 20 minutes to change sides?’ So there – even a former purist cannot enjoy music-listening in itself. It is an accompaniment to the ‘other stuff’ we find ourselves doing.

At one of the first places I worked (a home office with an incredible editor) radio 4 provided the sound. So perhaps it’s not about music losing its original grasp on our attention so much as a thirst for information, sound bites and entertainment that we think ourselves too busy to quench individually. We live in a multitasking era.

That said – I miss the art of listening to a record.

Posted: October 26th, 2013
Categories: Music
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LFW – fantasy looks


Roksanda Ilincic

Jonathan Saunders

Simone Rocha

Meadham Kirchhoff


Antonio Berardi

Preen by Thornton Bregazzi

Michael van der Ham


Burberry Prorsum

Topshop Unique

Christopher Kane

Pringle of Scotland

Richard Nicoll

Peter Pilotto

Ryan Lo – Fashion East

Claire Barrow – Fashion East

Ashley Williams – Fashion East

Tom Ford


House of Holland

James Long

Marios Schwab

John Rocha

Guilty Pleasure

After LFW everyone deserves a bit of down time and a guilty pleasure and I’m not afraid to say that mine this season is Gilmore Girls. I’m obsessed with Babette, her gnomes and her wicked raspy voice. Here she is explaining to Rory how sometimes women can’t help themselves when it comes to bad boys (aka Jess, circa season 2).

My friend Sophie is fanatic about the show and often posts factoids and interesting articles on her sisters’ FB pages in a bid to educate them further about GG. Such as: did you know Lorelai aka Lauren Graham used to date Chandler from Friends? & that she’s friends with Ellen Degeneres?

While it has a bad rep for being a girly show, it’s actually filled with pop culture references galore in a way that reminds me of an Angela Carter novel – so jam packed that you want to google anything you don’t know and are certain you’re probably even missing subtle references. (Making a case for this, see this blog feature). Not to mention, the show is inextricably tied to Rory’s bookishness, so for anyone who loves academia and literature it’s a fun world to escape to. It is wrong that I feel like I’m learning something when I watch it?

Posted: September 19th, 2013
Categories: TV
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