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.
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.
Miller Harris has opened a Xmas shop on Bruton St. There’s nothing better than the smells of Christmas – fig, cinnamon, orange…
They have lots of lovely pictures of their Christmas shop on their blog. Those candles in red boxes are irresistible.
Plus Brit homeware brand Thornback & Peel has opened a pop-up furniture shop in Liberty. Their illustrations are really pretty – they’re quirky without being too twee. They have some beautiful gifts, such as a robin tea towel or a box of old school hankerchiefs printed with animal illustrations.
I’ve already been thoroughly spoilt and there are still **days** to go until Christmas day..
The reason for this premature indulgence is ultimately due to the fact that I am starting a new job in January*. As such I’ve had to say goodbye to arguably the two best bosses a girl could ask for in the fashion industry. Although as a freelancer my time during this past year has been spread out amongst various projects like Twin, Dazed, Ligature, 1883, etc. I really owe a lot to these two women who plucked me from obscurity and helped me make a name for myself, not to mention taught me multitudinous skills and gave me a regular wage. And although my new role is quite ad hoc and flexible, it is predominantly full-time, at least until London Fashion Week’s over, meaning that as of January I will have my hands full.
So I have given over my Christmas/Thank you cards and presents – small tokens of appreciation as much as Christmas presents, not even considering for a second that I might be getting something myself. (Honestly .. I’m not just saying that to sound modest!) But it seems that I did have some presents coming my way – and what lovely gifts!
The Shirt Company Christmas card
Donna at The Shirt Company took me on for one day’s work in August 2010 and I have worked with her ever since. At times I’ve spent the majority of my week there, dealing with everything from PR and marketing to the website and budgeting – it’s been a really hands on experience. Anyway, Donna sent me over a ridiculously indulgent present which I officially received by courier just today – I will be getting the Cowgroom Maintenance treatment at the Cowshed spa in Shoreditch House. The blurb goes something like this:
“Two therapists work in synchronised movements ensuring complete pampering and relaxation. All treatments begin with the feet and an invigorating exfoliation with peppermint salt scrub. This is followed by a forehead pressure point massage and a de-stressing shoulder massage to prepare you for your chosen Cowgroom.”
I’m having the Cowgroom ‘Maintenance’ – an all-encompassing MOT for tired bods like mine! A Cowshed Facial, Eyebrow Tidy and Cowshed Manicure (or Pedicure). I literally cannot wait!
Then yesterday I did my last day’s work with Sasha at LibertyLondonGirl.com, who clearly needs no introduction with her 40,000 odd Twitter followers and winning of awards. I was frantically beavering away not only trying to get all Sasha’s receipts in order (so that she can complete her tax return) but also surreptitiously ordering a festive bouquet of flowers from Rebel Rebel for her. At the end of the day when I was just about ready to start packing up Sasha started murmuring about Christmas presents and before I knew it not one, but two bags were thrust in my direction..
One contained the most chic, yet somehow also eccentric (green with a pink bookmark – I love it!) notebook from Smythson of Bond Street, the elegant stationery brand whose sleek notebooks I have always coveted but never dared dream I’d be able to lay my clammy mitts on. The front cover says ‘Dreams and Thoughts’ – highly appropriate for me considering I’m always either away with the fairies pondering or making lists! I may have to get my fountain pen out to scrawl in this bad boy.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the second bag contained – and this was most definitely too much – the most beautiful faux snakeskin bag in a delicious berry hue from Angel Jackson. I am beyond delighted with it – indeed, both gifts are so me – and I think I was so overwhelmed that I felt altogether emotional as I stumbled out of Sasha’s office for the last time to walk home smiling absentmindedly like a goon.
This year Columbia Road is again hosting its ‘Christmas Wednesdays’. The shops at the beloved Columbia Road market are usually only open at the precious weekends, but in the run up to Christmas they open their doors every Wednesday evening (well, everyone’s out to make a bit of extra cash to see them through the long month of January, right?)
Cynicism aside, this is a romantic setting, a great non-high street place to look for quirky presents and will undoubtedly be filled with brilliant street music, droves of cool kids and mince pies galore. I’ll be there to celebrate my birthday on 30th with some festive shopping. Wrap up warm, it’s gonna be a good’un.
Opening times will be 5-9pm on Wednesday 30th November and the 7th, 14th, 21st of December.
Shops open on Christmas Wednesdays include:
Bob & Blossom
Columbia Road Gallery
Idonia Van Der Bijl
Jessie Chorley and Buddug
Kay Symons Leather Goods
Marcos and Trump
Our House Gallery
Queenie and Ted
Stoned and Plastered
Suck and Chew
The Future Mapping Company
The Powder Room
The Red Mud Hut
The Royal Oak
Two Columbia Road
After a short stint discovering the joy of the Selfridges candle department a new obsession was born. (If you rarely venture to the lower ground floor, trust me, it’s worth a browse.)
I’ve always loved the whole pillar candle look and let’s be honest, birthday cake just isn’t the same without birthday candles, but that’s as far as my dalliance went. But now, after Selfridges, and fanned by the flames of wintry circumstance, my obsession is at an all-time high. (more…)
Rather then head to the hullabaloo of Oxford Street for your last-minute Christmas shopping why not try something different?
This evening Columbia Road and Ezra Street, the cobbled East End streets famed for the Sunday flower market, will be buzzing as the independent shops and galleries open up especially for a night of shopping.
Ok, ok, so it *might* get a little busy there too, but why face Oxford Street again when you can have a shufty around the independent boutiques, which are packed with hand-made treats rather than mass-produced tat? Fortysomething shops, which usually only trade on Sundays alongside the market, will be open from 5pm until 9pm.
Pop along for unique gifts, live music and festive cheer.