Monday, August 31, 2009

Cole Haan - things are looking up

I have always thought of American accessories retailer Cole Haan as the place that successful women in their thirties or forties who like well made, stylish but not fashionable clothes go to to buy shoes & bags. They want good leather & a little bit of a heel, (but not enough to scare the horses). They are lawyers, senior management, bankers.

The last time I entered a Cole Haan store was with my mother in New York last November. She always finds several pairs of shoes she likes at the Columbus Circle branch on her annual Manhattan Christmas shopping trips.

I've never been that enthused: my usual MO in the Cole Haan store is to flop on the nearest chair with all the shopping bags, pecking away at my Blackberry whilst she makes some commission-based assistant's day.

Don't get me wrong: I always run a quick eye over the offer - my mama is very generous - just in case anything appeals but nope, never anything. The heels are always too low, the styles just the wrong side of frump chic and, to cap it all, pretty damn expensive for a shoe that doesn't have Alaia or Nick Kirkwood stamped on the sole.

I do like the concept of the super comfy Nike Air technology (Cole Haan is wholly owned by Nike), but never understood why they bothered putting it in a 3" heel: that's a starter shoe as far as I am concerned. My feet don't start to ache until my heels reach 4”.

Then I did a press appointment for Cole Haan last year when I was on the American publication, must have been for SS09, and was blown away. I saw plenty to like and a little to lust after. There were proper high heels, great bags and interesting skins. Sure there was a lot of ahem, influence, from the runways, but the finish was excellent and the designs fashion-y enough not to be immediately recognizable as Cole Haan. (This is absolutely a good thing.)

Browsing through the website today I saw a pair of shoes I think I might actually buy. Granted they are remarkably familiar to a pair I bought in Paris three seasons ago – but they would be my everyday shoes (finally a higher heel shoe from Cole Haan with Nike Air technology) for this season, and I wouldn't expect them to last style-wise beyond this winter.

The Nancy Air Sandal

cole haan nancy air sandal

I am, however, going to draw a veil over the boot offer. ($498 for a faux cropped cowboy boot? Please.) And the website still needs work. A lot of work. No zoom function, no 360 views, only one picture of each shoe, no view all function, and a very slow load.

(I'd be interested to know from my American readers what they think about Maria Sharapova's new line for Cole Haan. There's an interesting pair of black suede flat over the knee boots, that come with Nike Air bounce. Kind of appealing for trekking round fashion week. Believe me, even if you have a car & driver, your feet HURT.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

J Crew Fall 2009: a virtual shopping list

My arrival back in New Jersey was heralded by torrential rain and sticky humidity. Any plans for Saturday were ditched and, faced, with a day indoors, we opted to spend it at Short Hills, a mall spoken of in the same breathless tones as Westfield in London.

We had a splendid afternoon poking through Chanel, Vuitton et al, marvelling at the women buying thousands of dollars of accessories in what is supposed to be a crippling recession.

Disliking shopping intensely, I cannot remember the last time I saw any mainline fashion in a store, as opposed to on a runway/on a rail in a fashion cupboard/ being clamped around a model's body on a shoot, so I was fascinated by the whole customer experience. I had a grand time requesting bags to be shown to me, poking through displays and turning garments inside out to check hems & finishes, with assistants hovering, clearly slightly bemused by the dissonance between my distressed denim shorts, hedge backwards coiffeur & cork wedges and my obvious insider knowledge.

Of course I was virtual shopping, as opposed to real shopping: I'm broke until some clients decide to pay me. But I did do some trying on in the stores I can actually afford to dress from. J Crew in particular has raised its game to a level as to be unrecognisable from the store's offer even two years ago.

Because of my bizarro body shape (apple: long stick legs, huge bosom, tummy), if I find one thing I like AND which fits me in a store, I am doing remarkably well. J Crew scored & scored again. So, instead of making this a post of immense length, I have turned to Polyvore, dear reader, & created a composite of the pieces on my virtual wishlist. If you click through to Polyvore, it will show you a list of the pieces, with all the prices and links to the J Crew website.

J Crew Fall 2009

August wasn't quite what I expected. Part One

August has been a rollercoaster. Still homeless in America, through an unfortunate combination of other’s caprice and my fiscal incompetency, I was living in New Jersey with a pair of heavenly hosts and two Basset Hounds when the call came to tell me that one of my mother's oldest friends, my godmother's husband, & a man I loved very much had died.

My father very generously bought me a plane ticket home and, three days later, I was being driven to Newark at 6am to catch a flight to Heathrow. I had booked it a day and a half early to avoid any delays – the weather on the East Coast has been atrocious this summer, with electric storms turning airports into hi tech plane parks most weeks.

Arriving late into London, I headed to the post-work calm of Clerkenwell, and the loving welcome of old friends.

I spent the first morning in my home city in back to back meetings, followed by an epic eleven hour lunch fuelled more by streams of converstion than by rivers of booze, although I’d be lying if I said we weren't well-lubricated. I blame Charlie McVeigh for choosing lots of delicious wine for our meal at his glorious Café Anglais and setting Mrs Trefusis, IK & myself off on the path of badness, which ended up with plates of chips and guacamole at Lucky Seven at some very advanced hour, via seats in the sun & buckets of wine at The Westbourne.

The next morning I dressed carefully and caught a train from a heaving Kings Cross, packed with children and tourists and police, arriving in Sandy in the rain.

I handed out my mother & sister’s birthday presents from the back seat of the condensation filled car and we headed to church.

The next few days I spent at home in the country with family & other animals, before heading to London to see, variously, Miss P and her family playing on the grass in Regent’s Park, BA & her husband M in Chelsea for a Saturday dinner party at their glass & light filled first marital home (I had been a bridesmaid at their wedding in Cap Ferrat last October and hadn’t seen them since).

I forced literary L to Shoreditch House at an unearthly hour for a Sunday, and we spent the morning slathered in conditioner & moisturizer in the steam room, before hunkering down on an outside bed on the sun terrace. Lunch was spent with C at Dim T in Highgate, wedged between two delightful infants, each of which carefully laid a sticky, loving set of paws on the arms of my new silk shirt. The joys of Godparenting.

Which continued next day, when they considerately checked that I was awake bright & early. After all, I wouldn’t want to miss a single moment of the dawn, now would I?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bye bye baby

I was thrilled to discover today that J, one of my friends from university, is pregnant with her second child. For the time being, I'm all about the vicarious baby experience: infants are cute, & I'm always happy to welcome my friends' offspring into the world and coo over them.

However, other people's babies, however close my relationship with the parents, remain adorable & interesting for about twenty minutes, tops.

I'm not a baby hater & I'm not jealous. It's just that I'm not particularly maternal & I don't have a ticking clock: for me (& my sister) children would have to be the product of a relationship, and neither of us have met a man yet with whom we would like to have babies.

I was horrified - and faintly amused - to be asked by one of my oldest friends on my last trip to London if I had researched sperm banks. I was able to answer truthfully that the idea had never occurred to me.

But her question did illustrate the yawning gulf between the child bearers and the child free. The (usually first time) child bearers seem so often unable to grasp that life could be complete without infants. So lost in the grip of the most enduring and obsessive love affair of their lives, they lose all perspective, unable to grasp that a child free life could be an active choice & that conversation can exist without discussing little Johnnie's bowel movements.

I know it works both ways: I'm sure that discussing my latest deadbeat boyfriend can be dull as f&&K, but I swear that the baby talk is even more catatonia inducing, probably because whilst we can all relate to crap boyfriends, the child free have no experience or interest in the minutiae of child-rearing beyond the basics.

Even those girlfriends who, having endured years of baby gibber from friends-turned-mothers, promised never to do the same, turn into baby gibberers the moment their first-born arrived. It's relentless for the child-free. And brain numbing. It's the equivalent of the party bore or the avid stamp collector cornering you.

Of course I am there for the baby mothers if they are depressed, lonely or in need of a shoulder or a babysitter, but being there as an empty vessel onto which they spout endless baby gibber is quite another.

Conversations which are continually broken off because baby Johnnie is decimating a daisy or toddling into a puddle are best left to husbands and other mothers. I quite understand that Mummy would rather stick pins in her eyes than be parted from the infant prodigy, so I am very happy to leave them together to enjoy their mutual adoration society.

It is wonderful that they are so blissfully ensconced with each other, and I really wouldn't want it to be any other way. I just don't need to be observing it for the time being. I'd rather read a good book. And wait for them to have a baby free slot in which to talk. Which could be tomorrow, or next year, depending on the person.

Which leads me to the delightful weekend I've just spent with C. We've been best friends since we were sixteen. That's a lot of water under the bridge and our friendship, as often the best ones do, has waxed & waned through the years.

When my godson O was tiny, C & I saw each other a few times a year, even tho I was in London then - she was involved in baby stuff, I was probably two thirds of the way down a vodka tonic in Soho House.

Now that her infants are three and four I see her every time I return to London, often staying over. The children are charming, rewarding and huge fun to be around. I give O his breakfast when I stay over, we have conversations about randomness together, play on the Wii Fit, and generally all hang out as an extended family. It's enormous fun.

But I also get alone time with C. Her husband loans me her for a morning or the odd evening so we can catch up properly: we discuss our lives equally, our problems, joys, worries all get dissected and discussed. We make time for each other. We do not discuss her offspring's bowel movements.

ps I rather love this entry by West End Mum, who is always funny about the life of a new mother. She refers to the baby bores half way down

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The continuing adventures of LLG...

I spent a good part of yesterday morning at Towcester Police Station trying to persuade some lovely policemen that it was perfectly normal that I should have 500 rounds of live ammunition on the front seat of my convertible, and that there was no pressing need to call the bomb squad, and the afternoon sitting tear stained on a plush kneeler in the side chapel of a country church at the funeral of a friend’s adored mother.

Today was merely miniature ponies, a flat battery, lost wallet and a Good Samaritan stranger knocking on my sister’s door to tell me that the upstairs pensioner neighbour was in the Royal Free, having had a bad fall, and could I possibly hunt down her husband? Cue me sprinting up & down the street in the rain, knocking on random doors looking for the daughter, about whom I knew only that she had a white window box.

Tomorrow has a lot to live up to in the way of drama.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

Before I moved to America I swam nearly every day in the Highgate Ladies Pond on the east side of Hampstead Heath. The pond, unheated & home to ducks & plentiful aquatic life, looks a lot like murky brown soup. Somehow this doesn't detract from its appeal.

I was determined to get at least one swim in this trip, so on Sunday morning we palmed the infants off on C's husband P, whilst C & I walked to the Pond from Highgate Village, down Merton Lane, past the ice cream van,

Ice cream van Hampstead Heath

and right onto the shady narrow lane that edges the Heath. It's here that the transition from urban noise to bucolic tranquility is complete:

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

There’s been swimming on the Heath since the 1860s and today there are three natural swimming ponds, fed by the River Fleet which runs underground, south from Kenwood House underneath all three ponds.

The Corporation of London tried to argue for the closure of the ponds in 2004, citing water quality & maintenance issues. Defeated by public opinion, the ponds remain gloriously open, with the Ladies & Men's Ponds being the UK’s only life-guarded open-water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year.

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

As you turn off the lane into the Ladies Pond grove, the path passes a tree encircled sunbathing lawn where women joyfully roll down their swimsuits & doff their bikini tops to dry off in the weak sunshine.

At the end of this path is the entrance to the Pond itself. A thrust out pontoon houses the facilities: lifeguards' hut, loos and disabled hoist. There is an open air changing room with narrow wooden benches & simple hooks for bags & frocks. No lockers, no privacy.

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

Don't be taken in by the sign below: 20C is bloody freezing. The pond is silted up, so you have to enter from ladders down into the water. It's deep, so there's no choice but to launch yourself into the water, swearing under your breath or shrieking, depending upon temperament. The truly hardy swallow dive but I am a lesser woman, and edge my body off the ladder, holding my breath as the cold bites into my fingers & toes.

You can't stop suspended in the water: the cold takes your breath away. The only solution to strike out forcefully, swimming forward to acclimatise as quickly as possible.

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

There are lifebuoys floating off towards the sides, for grabbing onto after treading water whilst chatting becomes exhausting, but these are for the dilettantes. Proper Pond swimmers head for the far end, scything through the water, trying hard not to drink in any of the murk. I fall somewhere in between, adopting a leisurely breast stroke, usually in tandem with a girlfriend I've persuaded to the Pond, handily forgetting to mention just how bloody cold it is.

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

For me the pleasure comes in a complete abandonment of London: apart from the planes above on the Heathrow flight path, one could be anywhere, but least of all a scant four miles from Oxford Circus. Occasionally I catch a flash of cobalt, as one of the resident kingfishers flies by, sometimes a heron perches on the fallen tree at the far end, eyeing lunch, and always there are mallards tipping their bottoms in the air & courting dragonflies wheeling above.

C & I swam six lengths of the Pond, we reckon about 600 metres, before admitting defeat and hauling ourselves up the slippery, rope clad ladder to the dock. We dripped brown water on our way to the lawn, where we stripped to the waist, and basked on an ancient, faded towel in the 27C sunshine.

As we lazily chatted and flicked hoverflies off our skin, we watched the women around us. There is nothing, absolutely nothing as reassuring as the display of female bodies at the Pond. There is all female life there, in all its lumpy, bumpy, cellulite-y, hairy, gorgeous variety.

We were so lost in contemplation that we lost track of time, before coming to our senses, removing bits of pondweed from our cleavages as we speedily pulled on shorts & tops and marched south on the Heath, past the Fishing Pond,

Hampstead Heath

and the array of tightie whities & tighter buns in serried ranks by the Mens Pond, before exiting at Parliament Hill.

And so to Kalendar to await P & the marauding infants for a well earned lunch.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My beautiful friend

I have had no children, frankly am not entirely sure about the whole process but, one thing I know for sure, is that if I knew I was going to glow like this ravishing creature at six months up the duff I'd be very happy indeed.

Pregnant six months

I tried to force feed her a Konditor & Cook organic chocolate brownie that I picked up at Kalendar on Swains Lane in an attempt to make her look like a human being, but it didn't work. She still looked like a goddess afterwards, even with cake crumbs around her chops. Sigh. Some people are just naturally drop dead gorgeous, six months pregnant or not.

Look: there's a bump!


ps I forced her to pose for me at the base of Parliament Hill by sticking a camera in her nose until she acquiesced. She had zero choice in the matter.

pps Okay - I've had a few messages, pointing out that my friend is slim, and I appear to be promoting slimness in pregnancy. As a woman who has never had a baby, I have no view on the matter.

My point here, & I am sorry if I did not express it clearly enough, was that I think her face is beautiful. I think her face glows with even more joy & beauty than it does normally, & I was not referring to her weight or size or suggesting that that is something to which other women should aspire. Each woman must do what she feels comfortable with, surely? When referring to eating I just meant smeary chocolate & mess, rather than gaining weight...and I am sorry if anyone thought otherwise. LLGxx

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kalendar, London N6: Vegetarian English Fried Breakfast

vegetarian English breakfast

Is there anything as beautiful on the plate on a Sunday morning as a traditional English breakfast? This is the vegetarian version, as I am trying to be a little bit healthy, with poached eggs and a vege sausage, substituting for piggy bits & fried eggs.

I am quite aware that the term 'healthy English Breakfast' is an oxymoron, so I attempted to redress the balance with a basket of buttered granary toast and the bowl of excellent fat chips.

This particular breakfast was courtesy of Kalendar on Swains Lane, just by Parliament Hill in North London. C & I repaired there at lunchtime on Sunday to await the arrival of the tiny terrorists & their father, after our wonderful (infant-free) morning swim at the Highgate Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath.

Sitting outside in the 27C sunshine, but protected from the direct heat by an awning, we ordered the large meze plate to get us through the wait, which featured upfront skewered slabs of marinated & grilled halloumi which elevated it from plain old squeaky cheese to salty, chewy heaven, and great puddles of smoky aubergine dip, houmus, & tzatziki, accompanied by skewers of grilled chicken, fat queen olives & brilliant tabouleh with each ingredient coming to the fore rather than the overdressed mush so common in London.

Because we have great big saucer eyes even bigger than our stomachs, P & I plumped for trad breakfasts, mine as above, P with porky products, whilst C had a textbook halloumi wrap and the infants shared a deep bowl of perfectly al dente penne with peas & home made pesto.

Altho, if truth be told, O-Monster homed in on my frankly ambrosial chips which I handed to him one at a time, coated in lashings of ketchup, in obvious preference to his delicious & nutritious lunch.

Kalendar is the kind of neighbourhood restaurant you wish existed in every part of London. With meat from Elite Meats just down the parade, cakes from Konditor & Cook & cheeses from Neal's Yard, along with free range eggs & organic bread, you'd expect the prices to be higher - but my vege breakfast was just £6.95.

Kalendar, 15A Swains Lane, Highgate, N6 6QX

Photo: by me, me, me

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lil'sis and Posetta Baddog: a Dachshund love story

If anyone doubts how much lil'sis and Posetta Baddog love each other, then these pictures should do the trick. They're a bit out of focus, and normally I'd bin them, but I couldn't resist their expressions:




ps Baddog isn't trying to escape in the last picture: what you can't see is my father waving slices of bacon around about twelve inches from her nose. She is modelling the well known Dacshie fixed stare of evil intent here.

As usual Blogger has chopped the RHS of my pics. No idea how to change this, but clicking on the images brings them up full size on Flickr

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Pete Firman Show at Edinburgh

Think Vegas, via Middlesbrough, with blood, sharp spiky things and floating ladies...Yup, Pete Firman is back at Edinburgh.

Described in The Independent last year as looking ‘indie-rocker, part Addams Family member’, which, personally, I feel is a little harsh, Pete Firman is widely considered to be Britain’s best comedian/magician. He's been on the telly more times than I can count, and counts a Montreux Golden Rose nomination amongst his plaudits.

So, if you are heading to Edinburgh for the Festival over the next ten days, may I entreat you please to beg, borrow, steal or, preferably, pay for a ticket to see The Pete Firman Magic Show at The Underbelly?

His third year at the Fringe sees him with a venue that fits 300 people and a show that starts at the perfectly respectable time of 7.25pm. Makes a pleasant change from most Edinburgh shows I ever want to see which generally seat 15 people, smell of warm beer & start at 1am.

I should 'fess up and say that I know & like Pete which, as his acts have included Magimix-ing a mouse, and mucking around with maggots, should actually stand in his favour.

Pete is interviewed about his Festival show here. And you can see one of his tricks here

"Firman is responsible for making it socially acceptable to say that you like magic again" – The Guardian

Peach, mint & buffalo mozzarella salad

My father prepared & cooked supper for lil'sis & I last week. This was the starter:


With just a drizzle of olive oil, some aged Balsamic and a grind of black pepper, this is summer on a plate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chloe Beeney named fashion director at British InStyle

I'm absolutely thrilled at the news that stylist Chloe Beeney is to head up the fashion department at British InStyle, under editor-in-chief Eilidh MacAskill.

We first met when we were working on the same floor at Vague House, Chloe toiling away as junior fashion editor at Brides, battling poofiness & meringues on a daily basis, me battling egos & the weather on a different magazine as I produced shoots in every corner of the world for some of the most legendary (& legendarily difficult) photographers.

I stayed put for a few more years, but Chloe moved on to work with Isabella Blow as a contributing fashion editor at The Sunday Times Style section for four years, before going freelance as a stylist.

She's created beautiful editorials for Harper's Bazaar US, Russia & Australia, Dansk, Nylon & Vogue, personally styled celebrities too famous to name, and worked with photographers from Mario Testino to Alexei Lubomirski.

Congratulations to Chloe.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Staying put for another week

So I am in London for another week owing to some bad news. I miss Finch, my boys & America.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rant du jour: Women & the C21 ideal of beauty

I had my weekly mani-pedi in Manhattan last week, whilst succumbing to my guilty pleasure: the stack of US Weeklies & People mags sitting in the salon. I could pretend that I am above such stuff, but hell, I like seeing what people are up to and, especially, what they are wearing. As an editor, it's fascinating to see which trends filter through to the world at large.

However, whilst I'm all for staring at frocks & shoes, the trend that really scares me in these magazines is that for body shapes, shown in frequent paparazzi bikini shots. So many of the women look exactly the same, with their neat noses, little hipless hard bodies, bolted on grapefruit breasts and lollipop heads.

That these women would manipulate their bodies to fit a fixed ideal of beauty that is so, so far from the reality of the female shape is so dystopian, so just plain wrong that it's almost impossible to comprehend that it is now considered perfectly normal to spend thousands of pounds on major, life threatening surgery to alter the shape of breasts, bottoms, faces and more.

I'm not talking about procedures such as breast reduction or the pinning back of flapping ears or even liposuction here but operations that actually change your physical shape by inserting implants, or shaving bone. When did society become so obsessed with one ideal of beauty?

I was looking at pictures of Hugh Hefner's bunnies from the 1950s & 1960s yesterday. They were curvy, long legged, blowsy even. With bits that wobbled and breasts that spilled rather than staying clamped under their clavicles), they looked like more beautiful versions of everyday women.

Today's bunnies, the Kendras et al look like alien boiled eggs atop their contorted bodies. Sure the hair stringy & dull from bleach and eyebrows plucked to permanently amazed lines would be familiar to a screen siren of the 1930s, but the faces shiny from chemical peels, the lips inflated to blow job pillows would not.

Women have always tried to conform to an idea of beauty: from the bust of Nefertiti with her kohl'd eyes to the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I with her plucked hairline, leaded face and ginger wig, but when did they decide that their idea of beauty was to look like a sexualised dummy for the use of men?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Trying to fit everything in

I’m still trying to work out exactly why I thought it a brilliant idea to arrive in London at 10pm from New York, and then get up for a 9am breakfast the next morning.

I set an alarm for 0730hrs. It duly woke me. I stared at it, turned it off & went back to sleep. Not ideal. Still, in the fifteen minutes left for getting ready when I was finally ejected from my duvet by a concerned M, I managed to scrape together a veneer of professionalism, thanks to high heels, warpaint and curling tongs. Although, if given a few more minutes to get ready, I maybe wouldn’t have worn short shorts, given the knee freezing temperatures outside.

I tripped out of my black cab in Golden Square and into the clean, quiet & empty surroundings of the Nordic Bakery for my breakfast with the delightful features editor of Food Illustrated, who was sitting in solitary splendour. We split a rather good glazed cinnamon roll, the size of a baby’s head, and I sucked down an Americano, chosen for its jet lag beating properties.

As we talked the place started to fill, and by the time we left women in heels and alarming frocks, and shaven headed men talking production deals and scripts surrounded us. Just an hour later than anyone in Manhattan would consider taking a breakfast meeting.

Power walking to Goodge Street afterwards, I cursed the lack of cabs – and the sudden sunshine, as I started to overheat. My shorts started to seem like a clever idea. Meeting number two at a production company went swimmingly well, and it looks like I am now going to be working on my first original television script with an executive producer with whom I know I can collaborate. Whether or not I have any talent for it remains to be seen.

Then it was into a black cab and off to meet an agent who had contacted me recently. She was utterly charming too, so charming I suddenly realised that, unless I scooted out of their meeting room tout suite, I was going to be unforgivably late for lunch at the superb Café Anglais. Of which more later.

So, a good morning in all. As I remarked to a friend at lunch, how could it have been better? I got to spend the morning talking about myself to interesting people feigning interest. Lovely.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Using IRIS scanners at Heathrow

I have to recommend signing up for IRIS, the Home Office's biometric alternative to Passport Control, at Heathrow next time you fly. I sing praises to lovely, CLEVER Show Me Your Wardrobe every time I bypass the monstrous Immigration queues at Heathrow for persuading me to sign up a few years ago on our first flight together to New York. (The little office is just after Security & just before Customs, on the RHS in Terminal 3. They take a digital photo in addition to the initial eye scan.)

She is a genius: the initial signing up process to register your iris takes maybe ten minutes and, in return, when you arrive at Heathrow (or Gatwick or Manchester) there is never, ever a line to use the IRIS machines. Of course it helps if you are not clumsy/spatially f**ked as you have to line your eye reflection up on a digital mirror glass contraption and it usually takes a few frustrating minutes to get this right if you are me. Still much quicker & certainly more interesting in a Star Trek type of way than lining up all cross eyed with tiredness to be stared at by a grumpy & doubtless over-worked Customs person.

I know some people have privacy & Big Brother type reservations about having their biometric details used in this way but, as they scan your passport anyway on re-entry, I can’t really see the difference in methods: your arrival will be registered for perpetuity either way. I rather like the fact that no one can ever pretend to be me using this system. And, of course, I travel so much that anything that cuts down my journey time wins with me: I've found that using IRIS is generally even quicker than a Business Class Fast Track voucher (not that I get to use those as much as I would like).

Everything changes

So. England. It’s already Thursday and, although I’ve been writing blog posts in my head, there hasn’t been space or time to type them. Each day has run onto the other, leaving me so drained & jet-lagged that I slept until 1pm today.

The journey over here from Newark was a model of ease. Slathered in moisturiser, coddled in cashmere, pretending I wasn’t travelling in Goat, I read, watched crap films (17 Again & something I can’t even remember), fended off the flirtatious advances of the man in the aisle seat by wearing headphones even though I wan't listening to anything, even managed to choke down the microwaved egg & cheese breakfast bagel (hmm, Virgin you are really spoiling us) and was off the plane and on the Tube within 20 minutes of landing.

That miracle turnaround was because I’ve had my irises scanned so don’t have to queue at Immigration, and because my huge Tumi came out first at Baggage Reclaim. Joy all round. I immediately hopped it to the Underground and thence to Farringdon Station in Clerkenwell.

I spent so much time in EC1 in my twenties: eating in Cicada right back when it first opened, getting film biked to & from Metro (I started my career as an art assistant on a magazine), dancing in Turnmills, borrowing chairs from Vitra from shoots. Walking past all these places felt so nostalgic and so distant. My life has changed so much since then I can hardly recognise the person I once was.

As I turned onto dimly lit & empty Northburgh Street, H appeared simultaneously from another side road. I stuck out my tongue at him and he stopped for a classic double take. Wonderful timing. Especially as he then lugged my case up the entrance stairs.

M was home too, and we sat around the big dining table in the vast open space living area laughing and catching up, me shoveling in buttery Marmite toast and drinking Campari & tonic, H making his supper. As we talked, I thought about the hedonism that had gone on in that apartment before H met M, and how it has become the home of two of my most favourite people who are now building their new life together.

We’ve all changed so much (for the better), even in the short two and a half years since I moved to America.

Monday, August 10, 2009

19 Entertainment acquires Storm Model Management

19 Entertainment has acquired a 51% ownership stake in Storm Model Management, mother agency of Kate Moss & Lily Cole. With the impending launch of Fashionair, 19's collaboration with RolandMouret and 19 client Victoria's Beckham's dress line, 19 is fast becoming a major player in the modern fashion media industry.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Apologies in advance for any break in blogging

I leave for London at 8am tomorrow morning. I wish I were going under happier circumstances but, equally, I am glad that I am able to say goodbye properly to Uncle Ian. I've picked out my brightest print dress to wear to the funeral. It seems appropriate to celebrate him.

My trip back also coincides with both my sister's and my mother's birthdays, which fall on consecutive days, so it'll be lovely to be able to see them then: the first time in years I've been around for both.

I'll barely be in London, for a few days at most, and will be taking meetings when I am there, with little time for catching up. This really is a fleeting trip, so apologies in advance to those I won't get to see.

Exploring the High Line park

The High Line deserves all the superlatives which have been thrown its way this year. Manhattan’s newest urban park, it’s an old elevated rail track which currently is open to the public from 14th-20th Street.

High Line August 2009

Filed with daisies, perennials, drifting grasses and shrubby bushes, the planting was inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks.

High Line August 2009

High Line August 2009

There are benches made from sleepers, a walkway inspired by the tracks, and wonderful views down the side streets and toward the Empire State Building to the north

High Line August 2009

and the Hudson River and New Jersey to the west.

High Line August 2009

Calvin Klein threw the most extraordinary party up there for the label’s 40th anniversary during the SS09 collections last September. The High Line was still six months from opening to the public, with no stairs built to access it, so John Pawson was commissioned to build a spectacular stepped entrance venue to take guests upward from the street to the High Line. It cost over $1 million and was pulled down the next day (with the materials going to philanthropic projects in the city). There was also a site-specific installation by James Turrell in the building.

As we walked out on to the High Line that night, we were arrested by the smell of roses: the track had been planted with thousands of white roses and other scented flowers, with lanterns and tea lights strategically placed, glowing in the dusk. It was a truly amazing night.

John Pawson CK40th anniversary

Every editor and celebrity you could think of, all milling about under the sky, and then getting down on the dance floor in the Pawson building. I was dancing barefoot by the end, Champagne in hand and crippled by my borrowed & beautiful Celine shoes.

The rest of my photos of The High Line are on my Flickr. Just click on any image to take you there.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A common or garden Manhattan Saturday

Going back to London always seems to involve a day spent running around Manhattan like a freak buying presents, running errands and searching out esoterica. I haven’t stopped moving for the past seven hours and my feet hurt.

As does my left shin which is purple & red & looks like I have been whacked with a big stick, courtesy of an extremely heavy crate which fell on it from up on high in my storage container. The box contains all the clips and tears of my work from the magazines & newspapers I have worked on over the past ten years, so I can truthfully say that my leg was savaged by my career. Nice.

After that, along with hundreds of pieces of paper, I gathered up what remained of my dignity (there had been quite a lot of cursing and then snuffly weeping with pain), and limped off to the High Line elevated park a block away for a sit down, carrying the bag of coats & shoes from storage that I deem necessary for braving an English summer.

Then it was off to blissful Strand Books to poke around the cookery section, and find a good book for the flight back to London: nothing worse than being reliant on airport bookshops, especially the one at Newark. (I bought AS Byatt's Shadow of the Sun - I really wanted The Children's Book, but it's not out here 'till October - and The Likeness by Tana French, having been gripped by her debut novel, In The Woods.)

I’ve also managed to tick off the Old Bay Seasoning that Tim Hayward begged for over Twitter, my sister & mother’s birthday presents (Tuesday & Weds respectively), shoot a whole load of clips for my Fashionair Style Diary and spend an hour or so mentally furnishing my dream house in ABC Carpet & Home.

Kind of a perfect day really. Apart from the bruised shin of course.

A slow week

It's been a funny old week. Wednesday went by in a blur after this, and Thursday was about meetings, and maybe a quick lunch at Shake Shack. I went out for drinks at The Bowery Hotel with an interesting new friend in the evening, and two delicious and extremely strong cocktails had me wobbling across the road to Bianca for supper. We managed to close down that restaurant before wobbling across Bleecker for raspberry jam cocktails at my favourite bar Madame Geneva which we managed to close down too.

Consequently Friday was not as productive as I had hoped. I got distracted in the Union Square Greenmarket on the way to take JK for a birthday lunch on University Place and started filming and taking photographs, but I had my camera on the wrong settings so most of the images I shot were unusable.

Union Square Greenmarket eggplants

Union Square Greenmarket berries

After our lunch I just admitted defeat. I sat in Jackson Square

Jackson Square, NYC

for a while answering emails on my Blackberry, before heading to Soho House to play on the internets and hang out with lovely L on the squishy sofas. Recovery was aided first by the large slab of freebie chocolate cake that magically appeared next to us and, secondly, by spending an hour in the Cowshed Spa, wafting between the steam room (hair plastered in conditioner) and the rain shower, before slathering myself in various exotic Cowshed unguents and lesiurely blow drying my hair. Best hangover cure ever.

I shall draw a veil over the activities of last night and admit merely that I have a lot of catching up to do today.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Product of the day: Caudalie Energising Concentrate

Caudalie Energising Concentrate

The humidity of a Manhattan summer usually keeps my dry sensitive skin hydrated, but I've been sleeping in an air conditioned bedroom for the past month and I can see the effect it has had on my skin.

Fine lines were appearing, and my skin felt dry, so I reached for the little phial of Caudalie Energising Concentrate $39 last week to see if it would give my skin an extra boost.

Normally I wouldn't write about a product until I'd tried it for a month, but I am blown away by the difference it has made in just seven days. I have absolutely no blemishes or marks on my face any more, and the skin is plump & glowing. It's made a very visible difference.

I have rosacea so have to be careful about what I use on my skin. This blend of essential oils is particularly unadulterated, containing,(apart from Caudalie's patented stabilized grape seed polyphenols, the following ingredients.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Rosa Moschata Seed Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

I especially like that there are no parabens, phenoxyethanol, mineral oils or artificial colorings in the Concentrate.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Running around Manhattan

I’m back in New York for a few days, and there couldn’t be a greater contrast to living in a forest in New Jersey. There are fire trucks honking, police sirens wailing and the continual low hum of the traffic on Lexington.

I was here last week, but tried to pack in too much into two days, so this time I am taking the simple route. No plans. Bar a few meetings and going out tonight with a friend. Mainly I am running around with a Flip video camera shooting my Style Diary, rummaging around in my Chelsea storage container for possessions I’ve decided I cannot live without, and sucking up all that New York goodness.

In fact I’m off to Shake Shack to suck up their particular brand of goodness right now.

Tomorrow I’m off over the bridge to explore Brooklyn for the day. I haven’t had a good rummage around Beacon’s Closet vintage store in Williamsburg for a while, and I want to poke about in Red Hook. It’s ridiculous that there are huge swathes of the Five Boroughs that I haven’t investigated properly. If it wasn’t for Yankees games I wouldn’t even be able to say I’d visited the Bronx.

Darling S has gone kitesurfing in Chile for the next ten days, and left me with the keys to his swish bachelor pulling pad in Gramercy, which is immensely kind of him. (I've been crashing at my girlfriends apts and I am sure they will be glad to have a break from me sleeping in their beds.)

I’m still trying to work out if I will go back to London for the funeral next Wednesday. And, of course, there are my lovely boys and the Basset Hounds in New Jersey. Decisions. Decisions.

Requiescat in pace Uncle Ian

My Uncle Ian died yesterday morning.

He was a kind man, a quiet man, a good man, a private man.

He taught me about ornithology, stamps and how to get slugs off dahlias.

He designed an extraordinary house for him and my godmother which showed me that architecture and good design were an essential part of daily life.

He had a passion for dessert wine, for puddings, and for good chocolate.

He often wore bizarre ties, didn’t like cats and usually did the washing up at parties so he didn’t have to talk to idiots.

He had the verbal equivalent of a single raised eyebrow.

I loved him very, very much.

Fashionair password update

Don't say I never do anything for you! The lovely people at Fashionair have arranged for LLG readers to access Fashionair now, before the official launch in September.

Just go to to enter your email address and use the password 'lipstick' and you'll get instant access.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Yoann Ricau Interior Design

My friend Monsieur Y, doesn't just clean the swimming pool in his SCUBA suit. He is a man of many, many talents including those of his day job as an interior designer extraordinaire.

Of course, as a very successful interior designer, Y is no stranger to competitions and seeing his work in print, but nonetheless we were thrilled to discover that his work on a Notting Hill, London client's living space concept has made the final three from a shortlist of ten in the Living Space Design category in The Designer magazine's Annual Design Awards. (Last year he was a finalist in the New Bathroom Design category.)

Notting Hill living room

Notting Hill study

The rest of the house interiors which he designed can be seen on my Flickr here.

For further information Yoann can be contacted at

Shooting my Style Diary for Fashionair

Back to Manhattan today: sexy S is off to do kitesurfing and all manner of Action Man activities in Chile for the next ten days and offered up (unsolicited) the keys to his huge bachelor pad in Gramercy.

It’s good timing, as I have a little film to make in the city. Yup, there’s no end to the things in which I get involved. (Although this isn’t quite as leftfield as it sounds: in my past life I broadcast for the BBC about all things style & fashion related.)

This time around, I have been asked to put together a New York Style Diary from my point of view for new website Although I have previously turned down all offers from websites to get LLG involved, I was firstly intrigued by Fashionair and then, once I had visited their London offices back in June to talk to them and get a sneak peek at the site, I was chomping at the bit to get on board.


It’s a new multi-platform fashion media brand, revolving around a website, which has been set up by media mogul Simon Fuller, the man behind entertainment powerhouse 19 Entertainment (who represent the Beckhams and Roland Mouret amongst others) and fashion entrepreneur Sojin Lee (ex Net a Porter).

The website makes full use of 19’s extraordinarily well connected address book: if there’s someone you admire in the fashion industry they are likely to be involved, whether they are designers – big or small, buyers, photographers, stylists, bloggers or makeup artists.

What I find appealing about Fashionair, apart from its connected-ness, is that there are many sites out there that offer some of Fashionair’s content, but none that I know of that are so comprehensive or so beautifully designed.

Through a series of snappy & engaging short films, it covers everything from designer interviews & profiles, insider address books, show reports, & backstage footage to street chic round ups, new season trends, destination information, fashion news & user interactivity. There’s even a section that takes the views on tours around the home of famous designers.

Strands like Seven Days of Chic chronicles the fashion lives of creative women, Chic Fix gives a weekly rundown on the latest fashion news, shops, restaurants and exhibitions, (complete with links and booking features), and Style Counsel features international style experts, like buyer Yasmin Sewell, presenting the season’s trends and suggesting ways to work them into the viewer’s wardrobe.

But it’s not just editorialised content: it’s fully interactive for the users: they can create their own personalised Fashion File, with shopping wish lists, files for favorite shows quick links to favorite shops and designers’ web sites, as well as uploading their own video & photography.

Although of course, Fashionair is there to make money, so there’s a whole lot of affiliate marketing going on: alongside every film, there are product suggestions and shopping links to online stores.

I'm looking forward to running around Manhattan & Brooklyn with my little camera, filming what I get up to, and looking at my favourite stores, restaurants and people.

The site is in Beta now, and goes live in September. You can get a sneak peek here

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Living out of a suitcase: it's not ideal

I'm all at sixes and sevens right now. Living in Jersey has been unexpectedly wonderful, but all good things must come to an end and now, with August underway, I need to engage with where I want to live in September. (The boys are wonderful, generous, kind hosts but I cannot impinge on them for too long.)

As I was based in the West Coast for nearly two months, and followed that with trips to England & to Switzerland, I've barely spent any time in New York this year, the city in which I ostensibly live.

I've been surprised at how visceral my reaction has been when I've made fleeting visits: I love New York passionately, and feel a thump to the chest when I arrive at Penn Station each week on my work trips. (Although I am perversely relieved that it has rained so much there this summer otherwise I might have felt I was missing out on all the fabulous Manhattan outdoor activities.)


Because I took the decision to leave full time employment again last year, and I have no family, boyfriend or dependents here in America, I can live anywhere I like, so long as I have an internet connection. I'm suffering from an embarrassment of choice.

My plan at the beginning of the summer was to move to the West Coast in September, at least until Christmas, and probably longer, to finish my book, get a different perspective on America and spend time with my wonderful friends out there, whilst flying back to NY once a month or so.

One thought is to take a lease on my own place in Manhattan, ship over my stuff from the UK and use that apartment as my American base, renting it out for holiday and work lets whenever I am in Los Angeles.

Or I could just commit wholeheartedly to LA.

I think the reason why i am twitching so much is that I'm getting too old not to have a permanent base. I miss my London flat enormously: I own it, and lived there for eight years, decorating it and making it mine. Living out of suitcases, storage containers and the boots (trunks) of cars as I have done this year is unsettling and no way for a grown-up to conduct their life.

Really, what I need to do is get my book into proper shape, attack my other (exciting!) projects and rustle up some more long term freelance work, so I have some fiscal stability.

Maybe then the decision about where to live will be simpler.

Object of desire: Topshop Boutique sequin dress

topshop sequin shift dress

From the Topshop Boutique AW09 collection, via the Topshop blog

Monday, August 03, 2009

S'mores. Delicious: who knew?

Until this evening, the closest I had come to a roasted marshmallow was seeing Charlie Brown holding speared marshmallows over a fire in the Peanuts cartoons.

peanuts marshmallow roast

Whilst roasting marshmallows does happen in the UK, it's definitely an American rather than an English tradition. Most American of all are s'mores, which definitely do not happen in the UK. As I discovered tonight, they are roasted marshmallows squished together with a square of Hershey's chocolate between two Graham crackers.

We've had house guests overnight with two little children, so an outdoor barbecue supper inevitably meant s'mores for pudding. GG set the fire pit going, and we speared marshmallows onto twigs from the kindling bag.

Roasting marshmallows

This is shortly before I got over-confident and my marshmallow slid off my twig and into the fire.

roasting marshmallows

Second time around I managed to get my carefully browned & melted marshmallow off my twig and squished successfully onto a Graham cracker.

melted marshmallow s'more

Then followed a careful application of a double square of Hershey's dark chocolate.

s'more with  dark Herseys

A final Graham cracker completed the sandwich.


Two minutes later my fingers, my camera, my chin and my hair were all glued together with melted marshmallow.


Manbags part two

Okay, so my last selection of manbags was considered interesting but not quite what was required by Mr Avocado. He pointed out in a typyically verbose comment that he was,

"concerned that I will sweat all over it (my walks are, minimally, five miles, and I do these walks in the heat and humidity of summer in New York), thereby ruining it and also making it smell like a locker room. Men have to think about these things when choosing a man-bag.

Perhaps the solution is to continue to use my falling-apart Victorinox backpack for walking (during which walks I would carry my man-bag in my backpack), and then to carry a man-bag at all other times (during which times I would carry my backpack in my man-bag).

Maybe I'm over-thinking this -- you've accused me of that before, possibly accurately -- but I'm not over-thinking the fact that I don't want for my man-bag to smell like the dorm rooms of the hockey players at my high school who kept their hockey gear IN THEIR ROOMS."


But I would argue that if he is using a man-bag slung diagonally over one shoulder then it isn't going to be sweatily rubbing over his back.

I forgot about Tumi when I wrote the last post, and I am adding these bags to the solution pool:

The Tumi Sundance Collection Las Cruces East/West Day Bag $245

Tumi Sundance messenger bag

and a different take on the backpack: the Tumi Sundance Collection Alamogordo Backpack $445 (It also comes in black canvas for $295, but my guess is that the canvas won't be able to stand up to the wear & tear. or the SWEAT.

Tumi Alamogordo backpack black

Although given the fact that it would seem that what Mr Avocado really needs is a remedial looking backpack for his daily commute, and a stylich non-remedial bag for weekends, evenings engagements etc, maybe I should just admit defeat on a one bag fits all mission, and suggest a German military surplus canvas backpack for day to day use.

A bargain at a recession friendly $22.95, it's water-resistant, with a heavy duty vinyl bottom and can hold approximately 2200 cubic inches. That should cope with the SWEAT.


Monday, trying to get motivated

It’s a glorious day here in Stepford, NJ. I don’t take this for granted any more. Usually an East Coast summer consists of a series of unrelentingly humid and hot days, interspersed with the very occasional shower. Not this year. In June in New York there were only four days when it didn’t rain, and the thunderstorms in July were sensational – so long as you were indoors.

The water level in our swimming pool is nearly reaching the flood line after yesterday’s torrential rain and the lawns are still waterlogged. Finchley is very confused by this as he tries to wade across to the deck, his droopy Basset ears dragging behind him in the puddles.

Still, the rain hasn’t dropped the temperature in the pool much (it isn’t heated), and I spent thirty minutes this morning swimming laps, doing pull-ups on the diving board and various complicated water exercises with the help of my $1 fluorescent green foam pool noodle.


This exercise routine is not only enjoyable, it’s a necessity. After a month here I have gained a good six pounds of blubber: it’s impossible to keep to a regimen when you live with two men whose favourite activity is eating.

On Saturday afternoon, as I walked in the house from my Target mission, they presented me with a cookbook, with three pages marked: the recipes for pâte sablée, lemon cream, and individual tartes aux citrons. You’re making this tonight, they said with glee.

I sighed. How on earth can I not eat a tarte au citron when I’ve spent two hours making the bloody thing?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Perfect travel makeup brushes: Sonia Kashuk

As I've got older both I & my makeup routine require more attention. No longer can I just swipe on some lipstick & mascara and hope to look dewy skinned and perky of visage. Nope, I require a little more in the way of reconstructive work.

And, as we all know, courtesy of every single glossy magazine we've ever flicked through, convincing makeup requires correct application with the correct tools. In addition, the kind of makeup I wear nowadays is a little more sophisticated than the stuff I wore in my early twenties: gel eyeliners require specific brushes and decent pigmented eyeshadow needs to be applied with more than one type of brush.

That inch tall free sponge applicator nestling in your new eyeshadow quad is useless for more than a random stabbing in the general direction of your eyelid.

Whilst ferreting about in my new favourite store* on Saturday, I came across this brilliant set of magnetic makeup brush heads from Sonia Kashuk, which attach securely to the supplied handle.

Sonia Kashuk magnetic make up brushes

The inexpensive price point ($14.99) means these can stay in your handbag as a second set, so you don't need to haul around your entire arsenal of makeup tools each time you leave the house. They are more hygienic too as they can be stored in the compact little case they are sold in, rather than rolling around in a grubby makeup bag.

Don't be put off by the cheapo price point. In this instance it doesn't mean scratchy nylon brushes. Like most of the products in the Sonia Kashuk range, these are exceptionally well made with good, soft bristles, and compare well to brushes at twice, even three times the price. After all, there is a reason why Space NK have picked up the line and are selling it in their standalone beauty boutiques in Bloomingdales.