Tuesday, 30 June 2009


I've just finished reading a book which has really affected me. Just then, just there it had me in tears.

Have most people had a 'When Harry Met Sally' type of relationship? This book is all about one, a weird kind of love story with all those invisible lines which if crossed take two people from being friends to being lovers. I definitely had one of these bittersweet kinds of friendship and that, combined with listening to my entire back catalog of blur albums since watching them play Glastonbury on tv, is probably why this book hit me, tight in the back of my throat.

It all started when I was at school and supposed to be on leave studying for my exams. I met him in the local library, but I had known who he was for a while before then. R was one of the boys from the Catholic school, particularly pretty that year and far more exotic in comparison to the boys in my class who I'd grown up alongside and had to suffer them pinging my bra. The Catholic boys were unknown and that year more often than not, my friends and I would find ourselves loitering at their school bus drop off point casually around 4.45.

I'd decided that there would be less to distract me from studying in the library than at home, but how wrong could I be. He was there the first day, and the second day, until gradually it became obvious that he was looking out for me too and we gravitated together outside puffing surreptiously on a Marlboro Light. We started spending all our days together, quizzing each other in my garden in the spring sunshine, smoking in the nearby park, watching films under a blanket in his room, my heart crying kiss me, kiss me, kiss me . He was handsome, tall and beautiful that summer and I'm sure I would have gotten better exam results if he hadn't come along. When we eventually did get it together after an extremely drunken evening depleting his parents drinks cabinet and the homebrew hidden under his bed he disappeared. Literally. No calls, no sightings, nothing. I engineered to bump into his big sister (now one of my oldest and best friends) who said he'd gone off on tour with his band. A few weeks later, which seemed like months, he showed up at my house, and without really talking about what happened our friendship resumed. He became my best friend.

We were as thick as thieves for most of my late teens and early 20's. Boyfriends came and went, but he was always there. When I went off to university we wrote to each other, long, funny rambling letters accompanied by silly cards. He was working in an office in a tiny little town bored out of his mind, I was unhappy on a course I wasn't enjoying with people I didn't have a lot in common with. He'd come to stay for the weekend, and tried to teach me to cook curry, and we'd drink beer, and flirt and fall asleep in my single bed always the unsaid remaining unsaid. He even pretended to be my cousin on these weekends, so as 'not to cramp my style'.

It couldn't really continue. I dropped out of my course, he left his job and we were back in our home town, in limbo, undecided, searching for direction and a shape to the future. That New Year's Eve a group of us went out clubbing, as the clock hit midnight and the bells sounded I searched for him in the dark, but was pulled into the arms of another. "Where were you?" he asked, "I was looking for you everywhere for the bells" and I can remember his face, crestfallen when he saw I had someone else holding my hand. That someone else turned into my first serious boyfriend. He felt threatened by R, and R in return was unimpressed and we started to see less of each other, although always talking, always on the phone, and whenever I was upset it was always R I'd turn to. I split up with my boyfriend just as R became embroiled in a relationship. She didn't like us seeing each other, especially as she had overhead R talking about me one night, a drunken conversation with his best friend about how much I meant to him. I started a new course in a new city, and he too went to college. We made new friends, did more apart than together, but the pull was always there. I have a picture of my 21st birthday party and it's him I'm stting next to.

I graduated and on the eve of my move to London he said he always imagined us, grown up, sophisticated, getting together over dinner and wine. I became ensconsed in my London life, he got on with his in Scotland. I hadn't seen him for years but I remember him calling me at work out of the blue to tell me he'd proposed to his girlfriend on a Goan beach on New Years Eve "You can't say I'm not romantic now!" and when we both married our respective partners a few years later we didn't invite each other to our weddings.

So strange how two people can fit, but not fit. Perhaps it was our age, just children really when we first made friends with so much changing and growing up to do. Or maybe it's just that a man and a woman can never really just be friends? Drifting, drifting away, drifting apart. Moving on. So many, many years ago. The gap between the way we were and how we are now.

And this book captures the essence of all that and reading each page brought it all back. Emma and Dexter meet on their graduation day and the next day they go their separate ways. The book documents what happens to them on that same day, every year for the next 20 years. But unlike me and my BFF from old they stay in touch and their relationship continues with many twists and turns along the way. They are great characters, not always likeable but always real. In some ways it reminded me of the Time Traveller's Wife. It's the funniest, most bittersweet book I've read in ages. Each page is true, cringingly so. I loved it.

One Day by David Nicholls

Friday, 26 June 2009


An Education by Lynn Barber

I've just finished reading this memoir in two sunny afternoons sitting in the garden. I've long been a fan of Barber's interviews in the Observer. She uses the first person and actually gives her opinion on her subjects, rather than that week's PR angle and her selection of interviewees is so varied. From icons to daytime telly she covers them all with insight and aplomb. I love it when she is in 'Demon Barber' mode, and I love it even more when she falls for the person she is interviewing. She massively raised the profile of art in this country by covering the YBA's and has an unlikely friendship with Tracey Emin.

So when I heard her on talking about her book on Women's Hour while driving back from Devon the other week I got on to Amazon straight away. Her memoir is extraordinary, and quite peculiar at times but is an insight into the 1960's and when Fleet Street was Grubb Street with sexisim, long lunches, booze and cigarettes.

It begins with her relationship with Simon, an associate of Peter Rachmann when she was just 16 which has been turned into a screenplay by Nick Hornby (out this summer starring Carey Mulligan). This affair shaped the adult that she turned out to be, and she notes with sadness on several occasions that it taught her that people are 'unknowable', when after charming her parents and proposing marriage she discovers that he was married with two children. She flings herself wholeheartedly into a life at Oxford in pursuit of pleasure, but you get the feeling that for all her verve and bravado she was brittle, lost and unsure of what she was searching for, until she meets that man who was to become her husband and anchor.

I had no idea that she crafted her journalistic skills by way of Penthouse magazine, or that she wrote a bestselling sex manual! It's a really good read, very open and honest and I raced through it.

Friday, 19 June 2009


Things to do this weekend

Visit a gigantic purple cow!

Check out the Udderbelly festival on the Southbank. E4's gigantic purple cow will be grazing between the London Eye and Royal Festival hall hosting a fantastic seven week festival. There are some amazing shows for all ages, as well as some lovely free things too. We'll be strolling along, enjoying the vibe and taking the tots to see the performance of The Little Mermaid.

Enjoy the great outdoors

Looks like the weather will be fine this weekend, perfect for a picnic. This week's TimeOut magazine has lots of inspiration with parks to visit, outdoor cafes to brunch in and even suggestions for the perfect picnic menu. In there is our favourite, the beautiful Victoria Park, with it's no longer local's best kept secret The Pavillion cafe. If you are an Aussie longing for a flat white as good as back home this is the place to find it. We'll be picking up some goodies from Broadway Market, packing the stomp rockets and throwing our blanket out there for a special Father's Day lunch on Sunday. Our picnic finale will be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Carrot and Honey cake which O and me tried out yesterday. It looks pretty good and is in the fridge awaiting it's cream cheese frosting to take with us.

Also on in Victoria Park this weekend is the free Paradise Gardens Festival with live music, a tea dance tent, village fete and lots more. We went last year, and even though the weather was bad had a blast.

Go Dancing

The Paradise Gardens After Party is on at Passing Clouds. Headlining are The Dynamics plus a set by Planet Man and the Internationalz.

Monday, 8 June 2009


What to wear?

I'm hoping to return to work this year so I find myself for the first time in almost 4 years wondering what to wear to interviews? I'm finding it very hard to think beyond my usual daily choices of skinny jeans, converse and top or dress and gladiators if the sun is shining. I look and feel completely different to when I last went to work. My hair is shorter than it's ever been in a chin length bob rather than halfway down my shoulders and my body shape has completely changed (mostly in a good way.) My working wardrobe no longer exists. My last working look was maternity wear! I want to look together, composed but sassy and a little bit funky.

I like this look, but maybe it's a bit too everyday?

Image from Jigsaw

How do I pull together a look that will work for me? What do women wear to work these days? I won't be in the corporate world, so no Apprentice style suits needed thank god. What were they all thinking? Does a 26 year old really think that a polo neck and grey suit combo is the way to go? Or, heaven forbid a tie? Diane Keaton does boardroom!

More pondering and shopping needed.


Well not me dancing, but the English National Ballet. Olive has been doing ballet and tap classes on a Saturday since the beginning of the year and loves it. I've been looking out for a good introduction to a ballet performance for a while and saw that the English National Ballet were touring with an Angelina Ballerina show. Perfect, a well loved character to make it accessible, but proper dancing and lovely music from the Philarmonic Orchestra. There were no central London dates so we had to drive over to Wimbledon to see it but it was well worth sitting in traffic for an hour as Olive loved it. She was entranced. She found it a bit strange that there was no talking but soon got to grips with the dancing and music telling the story. She even got a bit panicked when the lights came up for the interval as she didn't want it to end. Afterwards she said that she would like to see it again, at least 5 times! It was a perfectly judged performance for little ones, with plenty of humour and sparkle. The length was just right too, with a twenty minute interval.

Angelina's Big Audition
Touring until the 12th August
Image from the English National Ballet