Under the sagging clotheslines of crepe paper
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Sunday, 2 December 2012
I love Christmas, and in an earnest bid to make the most of the season this year, I had planned to do something festive each day from the 1st of December until the 25th. I blew it... in one sensational spree yesterday. I blame my god-daughter: she's six years-old and ripe for spoiling.
It began with a lazy brunch in Lancaster Gate (croissants and orange juice for her, fresh air and vitamin drinks for me and my hangover), a game of chase around the Italian Fountains, a meeting with Peter Pan, and a gorgeous winter sun-drenched walk across the park. We spent a blissful hour ice-skating in the shadow of the Natural History Museum where she was completely fearless, I was completely proud, and we didn't even need the penguin stabilisers. (She even requested that our Victorian carousel horses go faster, but that power was out of my hands and their wooden hooves). We sipped tea at Cocomaya in an enchanted forest of exotic birds and paper flowers, and giggled at the glitter-dipped chocolate pigs locked in antique glass cabinets. I even took her for her first rose macaron at Laduree, and we ended our day together with a waltz around the Disney-themed Harrods Christmas windows.
She had a ball, but I doubt she knows how much joy she gave me in return. Christmas is at its most magical when children are involved, and her presence was a sparkly gift all of its own.
Now, what's left to do for the next 24 days?
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Sunday, 25 November 2012
With just one month to go till the big day, it's time to get your Christmas jumper out. Everyone's got one, no excuses. The camper the better so don't hold back. Mine is a natty Norwegian number with a wintry rainbow pattern and a brass buckle. I'm proud to say that I've worn it more times in shopping centres than ski chalets - it's good to keep people guessing how sane you are. Anyway, if you're looking to spruce up (oh, there's an excellent Christmas pun) your collection of woolly wonders, you won't do better than this: a bedecked and bejewelled masterpiece by Meadham Kirchoff that's glamorous and gaudy in equal measure.
Friday, 23 November 2012
Things I hate about Christmas decorating? Matching ornaments, artificial trees and silver themes. (While we're on the subject, what's up with people who refuse to wear the paper crowns in their crackers?) Things I love? Kitschy baubles. It comes from years of spending messy - but very happy - Christmases with a zoo of exotic characters, and naturally, the tree has to compliment the chaos. From the last surviving glass ornaments that my parents bought for their first Christmas together, to crumbling salt dough kindergarten creations and souvenirs from adventures around the world, our Christmas tree has the kitchen sink thrown at it. The end result is an explosion of joy, and like the orange rubber panda in the manger of my grandparents' nativity scene, I wouldn't have it any other way. I have a tradition of buying my mother a new one each year, and these are the little beauties that I'm failing to choose between this Christmas.
1. Carousel horses, £12 from Habitat
2. Champagne bottle, £3.99 from Butlers
3. Pink poodle, £4.99 from Butlers
4. Cream tea, £55.00 from Fortnum & Mason
5. Pink nutcracker, £4.99 from Butlers
6. Mummies & antiquities, £50.00 from The British Museum
And saving the best till last...
7. Brussels sprout, £1.99 from The Contemporary Home
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Did you ever meet someone this special? I doubt it.
This is Amy.
She's the kind of friend that most people dream of: loyal, generous, smart as hell, kind, wickedly funny (with a laugh that should be canned and sold) and just constant fun; she's been my friend for twenty years, which makes me one of the luckiest people in the world. We also share a birthday which she used to count down to every year, but now that we're getting older she's not so keen.
The only thing that disappoints me about Amy is that she won't watch the final episode of Sex and the City, because when Big describes the girls as the loves of Carrie's life, he's describing her: my old mate, one of the loves of my life, and a partner in crime for always.
Happy Birthday darling.
Thursday, 4 October 2012
You can't go wrong with a scone, especially not in Autumn. I'm of the firm belief that they're best enjoyed hot from the oven, tossed into a basket, and dressed up in red gingham like Mrs Mop. And even though it's controversial and may rattle a few "clotted cream and jam" cages, I think flavoured scones sometimes do it better than the originals (I like to look at them as The Bootleg Beatles of the baking world). So, staring down the barrels of Dorset & Devon natives and Beatles fans alike, here are a few adventurous takes on a classic that I hope will spice things up a bit.
1. Strawberry & almond scones by The Curvy Carrot
2. Ginger, lime & coconut scones by Hungry Rabbit
3. White cheddar & black pepper scones by Spoon Fork Bacon
P.S. Make them gluten & wheat-free with this basic recipe from The Gluten-Free Gourmand
Sunday, 30 September 2012
A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl as mad as birds
Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds
Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.
She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light through the bouncing wall,
Possessed by the skies
She sleeps in the narrow trough yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn thin by my waking tears.
And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Few days go by when I don't find myself wishing that I had my brother's talent for photography, but this summer in France I actually became a chameleon - so green with envy that I blended into my surroundings. From the moment the plane swept over Marseilles harbour, it became a holiday of firsts: the first time I've seen the sea truly sparkle, the first time I've walked with hundreds of butterflies floating around the wild flowers at my feet, the first time I've held a glow worm in my hand. The French mountains were playing to all of my senses and I was indulging them right back. I went canoeing down rivers lined with beaver dams, listened to screech owls and cicadas singing long after midnight, watched Bastille Day fireworks light up caverns in the cliffs, and witnessed the haunting sight of children dressed in medieval costume sailing paper lanterns through the gorge. There were adventures too: waiting with excitement for the Tour de France to pass by, measuring my hand against dinosaur footprints, creeping around grottos punctured with stalactites and stalagmites like ornate pillars of wax, spotting Mongolian horses on the hillside, and sitting on the terrace watching vultures circle in the expanse of unbroken blue sky. It wasn't just my eyes and ears that were feasting either as I was spoiled not only with exquisite cheese and wine, but with the most colourful and juicy fruit and vegetables, the sweetest honey, and a wonderful night of singing, laughter and playing games with the villagers as we baked pizza in the 800-year old bread oven at Castelbouc, and ate together on the steps of the church.
But of all the gloriously magical moments of this summer, one will stay crystal clear, always. Taking blankets, sweets, and a (malfunctioning) telescope out onto the terrace, we lay down on the floor and opened our eyes to the heavens. Stars. Thousands of them, burning absolutely snow white in the darkness above the mountain peaks. I've seen stars before but not like this - the cruel smoke of London has hidden them from me my whole life. Without so much as a wisp of cloud in sight, we could even see the Milky Way. I was starstruck. When a shooting star passed by with such clarity and brilliance that I felt I could catch on to its silver tail and hitch a ride, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion and feeling utterly privileged to be present at this: nature's most spectacular show. I remember remarking that the word for 'star' is gorgeous in every language that I know - etoile, estrella, stella, but when I asked what the French word for 'stargazing' was, this bountiful country became suddenly dry. It would seem that if the most beautiful words are reserved for the most beautiful things and the most beautiful things are the most precious and rare, our English skies have cloistered and not spoiled us with purpose: when the day comes where we are lucky enough to understand the true meaning of 'stargazing' and 'starstruck', we are armed with a powerful vocabulary to match the moment in all its beauty.
As I flew back into London on the very last flight of the night, the city was a string of lights bouncing against the warm wind. It was like a brush stroke of liquid gold as far as the eye could see. In all my life, I have never seen it look so good. Was it glittering for the Olympics? Was it the clear summer night? Was it the joy-inducing aeroplane cocktail of caffeine and chocolate that I wolfed down at the charmed hour of midnight?
I think it was my eyes, renewed by the beauty of a summer in France.
Saturday, 26 May 2012
I fell in love with Stevie Nicks when I was 17, the age she was when she met Lindsey at high school. My own high school boyfriend (also a musician; not called Lindsey) drove me around in his car playing the only Fleetwood Mac album we owned on repeat for months. We found it disregarded and unloved at the bottom of a bargain bucket at a record store, and the rest was history.
She's my imperfect hero; a 5'1" blonde contradiction.
Her voice is gilt at the edges with innocent, feminine beauty, and yet it rattles like a skeleton and roars like she swallowed a lion whole. In some photographs she's my beautiful mother in the 70s - except my mother has unforgettable Arctic blue irises - but in others, she's a creature wailing out from another world, hell-bent on retribution. She is a graceful ballerina and sometimes even prudish, and yet she has run feverishly through passionate affairs with more rock stars than Rolling Stone has had covers. A country girl who sings rock 'n' roll; a free spirit who got trapped in the net of two very nasty, spirit-sucking drugs; a poet who seeks truth yet tells more crazy and compelling stories than The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
But she does it all with conviction, and she's sincere, or at least I think she is. Maybe she modelled herself on Holly Golightly: "She's a phony. But she's a real phony". Maybe she's the world's best method actress. Or maybe she's just such a character that her fairytale fictionalisation into witch and princess was inevitable.
I think it's more simple than that. To be a poet, or at least a good one, you have to aim to represent truth and capture the essence of an abstract emotion in words that enlarge and enhance the idea without detracting or diverting from it. When you consider that truth is most often both light and dark, and that Stevie is primarily a poet, her rainbow of contradictions are as light and dark as a shadowy cave of Platonic forms. And I love her for it. She writes and sings what neither she nor we can explain, but what we can both feel.
She is a wild, unbroken heart. She is brave. But most importantly, her spirit towards others is loving.
She's certainly once-in-a-lifetime stuff. There is nobody even remotely like her and there never will be again. Stevie didn't have children, but she has said that her music is her child and her gift to the world. So in that way, we are all her children - everyone who loves her music. She was Jessie's girl twice over, I am Stevie's girl (twice over).
Happy Birthday Stevie Nicks.