I gave in

In the intimate surroudings of Dalston's beautiful art deco Rio Cinema, I watched Where the Wild Things Are. And I loved it unconditionally. Sure, it had faults and it was quite clearly one person's singular interpretation of the book, but it was a truly wonderful cinematic experience. Landscapes that let the heart and imagination soar, from verdant forest to windswept dunes, sucked you into the screen, and the plaintive emotions of the (quite obviously symbolic, admittedly) eponymous 'wild things' struck chords all over the place. Complex, simple, resonant for children and adults alike, and a thing of great beauty to behold: this is what the cinematic experience is all about. My congratulations, Mr. Jonze.

And we had a White Christmas

Firstly, a belated Merry Christmas to you all.
Secondly, as those fortunate enough to dwell in the many areas of Britain that experienced the fabled cultural-meteorological phenomenon will know, this year saw the first real White Christmas that I can remember. And most likely, the only one of my lifetime thus far. Though temperatures have now started to creep back above freezing point, much of the UK actually experienced real, cold, snowy winter weather for nigh on two weeks, and, come Christmas morn, I looked outside and, lo-and-behold, all was carpeted in white.
I have to admit, I didn't venture into the subzero air to fully embrace this glacial benediction on the great day itself, but when on the night of the 23rd my friends and I saw the snow begin to fall (I mean really fall) outside from the bar in which we were quaffing, we reverted to the children that truly everyone is deep down and frolicked, screamed and generally threw snowballs for a few minutes of festive bliss. In the centre of town - beats sophistication any day.
I also am proud to have contributed to quite a large ball of snow, which you can here see me stood upon.
Who would have thought precipitation could be such a source of joy?


The annual winter weather panic. Mon Dieu, les Anglais.

Despite my sometime attempts to distance myself as some kind of nebulous 'citizen of the world' or 'internationalist,' I guess that deep down we really all are a product of the place that we grow up in. And I'm British. It's snowing outside and I'm going to get excited about it. Okay, okay, so half an inch and a few blizzards isn't something necessarily worth getting all worked up about, but the fact that it's - gasp - December and it vaguely resembles a bad Christmas Card anywhere near to a Church, park or Old Building means that the entire country has been given free reign to wax lyrical, and as I presume we will see by the morning, turn into a state of mass panic. If we get the forecast four inches (eight on high ground), there will be transport closures, offices closed, emergency service shutdowns, blackouts... everything. For some reason major cities like Moscow and Montréal deal regularly with months of feet of the white stuff, but we can't seem to cope with a few hours or a light dusting. Changing from tube to bus at Kings Cross I ambled past assembled masses unable to take the train home, following general cancellations - all this from a little snowfall. I have to admit, as it doesn't directly affect me (yet, at least), I find it all very amusing. And who doesn't like a feeling of occasion? To fall in with the old Christmas song cliché, my feelings are: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.



When the train announcer said "Next station: Stansted Airport," I realised that I had left my passport in my bedroom. I would have loved to tell you about Norwegian Christmas markets, Oslo's stunning new opera house, the beauty of the fjord surrounded by snow-capped fields, the stylish Norwegians and their boutiques and over-priced cafés, the festive joy of ice skating in Scandinavia... But I can't. Instead, I tortured myself by heading to the West End the second Saturday before Christmas and enraged myself by descending into the confused-tourist-and-shopper-filled depths of Piccadilly Circus station. Clearly I am a glutton for punishment.

Brick Lane today, however, was as spirit-lifting and comparatively-easy-on-the-wallet as always. (Though I couldn't settle on what to pick for a New Year's outfit.) At least life has its comforts and predictable pleasures.


I ♥ McQueen

Saturday dawned one of those glorious late autumn days: crisp air, a clear blue sky, and bright sunshine that still offered a little warmth. Better still, I awoke to the promise of an Alexander McQueen sample sale. Barely able to contain ourselves, my friends and I joined the melée in a crowded room in Clerkenwell. Whilst the men's section was somewhat meagre compared to the huge range of dresses and other pieces beautiful shapes and structures floating off the women's rails, there were still some sharp trousers, an industrial navy jumpsuit I desperate tried to think of an occasion I could wear on, a handful of shirts that were sadly not in my size, a luxurious burgundy blazer that fitted like a dream and cost a fortune, and a selection of wonderful shoes. I have wanted another pair of boots for a while, and the cherry creepers would have been perfect, were they not three sizes too big. Industrial silver DM-style boots caught my eye but bizzarely all six sizes had been cornered by two men who presumably have now sold them on at inflated prices. In the end though, I found my prize, a rhapsody in patent leather: a pair of dark forest green lace-up Oxfords. To say they fitted like a dream would be, at a size too small, an exaggeration; however after their first outing on Saturday night the leather had softened a little and they were definitely extremely comfortable. Now I just need a full McQueen suit to complete the outfit.


Wild Things and Shiny Rings

I have to admit, I have been loth to go and see Spike Jonze's adaptation of 'Where the Wild Things Are', because I am always dubious about film adaptations of books, and though it does look beautiful and my friends have loved it... well, I am quite attached to the images I have in my imagination since childhood of Maurice Sendak's dark and beautiful classic. One thing that I am enthusiastic about, however, is the Wild Things-inspired collection of faux fur delights for Opening Ceremony. Evoking the characters of the book/movie with lush, thick layers of surprisingly realistic fur, the collection manages to be fantastical whilst wearable, a real labour of love and artistry. http://www.openingceremony.us/p318.html

If you haven't heard of Dominic Jones by now, I don't know where you've been the last few months, but the London-based jewellery designer, whose muse is none other than rock-chic icon Alice Dellal, is making huge waves in the fashion world. His gutsy jewellery, which draws influence from punk and gang subcultures, as well as the animal kingdom, manages to be at once bold and aggressive and subtle and elegant. And I'm going to join the long list of people desperate to get my hands on a piece: a single or double (knuckle-duster referencing) claw ring, if I had to make a choice, would come just above the metal claw-detail leather gloves. Currently available at Matches Fashion but bound to be in every stylish boutique from London to NYC by the time winter is over. www.dominicjonesjewellery.com

Return to the Gothic Spires and Arctic Winds

It's funny how places take on a totally different face when you don't live there. After spending years bemoaning the cold, the grey, the small-town feel and the lack of anything remotely alternative in the Scottish capital, I return to find all these features somehow endearing. When you aren't accustomed to it, jaded by the wind, Edinburgh's beauty is striking, its gothic skyline full of dark allure, its weather almost, dare I say it, refreshing.

A weekend 'up north' couldn't have been better spent: celebrating Thanksgiving with one of my best (American) friends and her extended entourage of international acquaintances was a decadent feast and a great chance to catch up with people I haven't seen in months. The rest of the weekend passed in a haze - I didn't realise quite how many friends still lived in Edinburgh until I got there. But despite flitting around, indulging myself in mulled wine far too early in the afternoon and sleeping little, I still felt relaxed, nostalgic and heart-warmed. If, admittedly, a little on the chilly side.

(The first two photos are courtesy of my beautiful friend Jai)


The joys of springtime are back!

Vampire. Weekend.

Andddd you can download the obviously lovely 'Horchata' for free on their website,

The home page is now the video for the fantastic new single, 'Cousins' - which you can also view on youtube

Typically upbeat, with a sense of humour that comes through the giggling guitar and African-influenced percussion, this could almost be straight off their debut, but for a stronger, rockier sound that starts to come through. Whilst the humour and satire that has always permeated their lyrics remains fairly gentle, and I think we're all relieved that Koenig et al aren't exactly angry, it could be an interesting departure...

I personally can't wait til January to find out!


More mediocre attempts at capturing America on camera

Despite what you might think, freedom of speech is thriving - right opposite the White House

Monumental juxtaposition

I'd be lying if I said the colour was intentional, but you've got to love my framing.

"Hmm... leaves..."

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the sun just shone and shone

Until it set over the Pacific in a show of epic grandeur that no human will ever reproduce.


Another Weekend, Another Party (or 2)

This weekend saw me once more on the party trail across Londontown, hitting up Odd One Out's Freaks and Geeks night at the new place to be, Cable, under London Bridge station. Whilst there's no denying that this is a great venue, with the expected exposed brick, and large, slightly ramshackle, cavernous spaces, mezzanines and a vaguely Dickensian atmosphere, the event itself was something of a let down. Admittedly, I was tired from a busy week and various dramas earlier on in the night, but despite some decent music (a pretty eclectic selection including some standard electro, fun-time disco and a little bit of afrobeat), the atmosphere was somewhat confused - with a selection of Clapham yuppies, a lost looking East London contingent and some people who really went for the Freaks and Geeks theme (most people, myself included, were a little more half hearted). It didn't really seem to mesh - though drinks prices were fairly reasonable. I'd definitely give Cable another go, but maybe only for a seriously big name DJ where you know the music will be enough in itself to make the party.

The not-so-mean-anymore back streets of Dalston are where you will find Stamford Works, a warehouse space that played host to DDD's Bad Birthday Shindig on Saturday night. This was my kind of party. They didn't make a huge effort with the venue, but it divided nicely into a large, coolish room playing electro and techno deftly mixed in with splashes of jazz and world music; and a smaller, cosy, and warm (well, roasting and humid) room with velvet sofas, reclining wannabe-models pouting, and retro disco tunes. Not as crowded as you might think, and with a diverse crowd perhaps drawn by a mention in Metro (quote of the night: "What are you dressed as?" to my friends and I... Erm, ourselves?), this was one party where the fun went on, and on, and on, accompanied by impressive lights and lasers and an impressive DJ line-up: Crazy P and The Revenge alongside DDD residents. An added dimension to the Shindig was its Michael Jackson theme, which saw a decent chunk of the crowd sporting slogan t-shirts ('Hero to Paedo' sticks in the mind) or dressed as Jacko in one of his many iconic incarnations. Shame about the rain on the way home.

Things I Like That You Should Like Too

This weekend a friend recommended Taken by Trees to me. The solo project of Victoria Bergsman, formerly of the Concretes, whom I must admit I am ignorant of, other than having heard their name banded about a few times, Taken by Trees are subtle, lilting, and entirely enchanting. Combining the other worldliness of Natasha Khan with rays of sunshine and folk guitars, this is music to lift your spirits and indulge your inner Romantic poet to on a cold November evening. Even better, it is available on the wonderful Drowned in Sound to stream for free: http://drownedinsound.com/news/4137777-listen--exclusive-dis-stream-for-taken-by-trees-album-east-of-eden
Taken by Trees' official website is http://www.takenbytrees.com/ - worth a visit just for the beautiful photograph used as background, which must insipire a desire to see the world and be amazed even in those with less of a predilection for travel than me.

Which brings me on to my second recommendation for the world at large: Where's Cool.
I am biased, being a major contributor and content editor, but this really is one of the best travel websites out their for young, hip travellers on a budget. If you're looking for the coolest, cheapest, most interesting, unusual or cutting edge places to go, things to see an bars to drink in in major western cities, then www.wherescool.com is the site for you. All my favourite places are there, as well as those of a few thousand other contributors. If you disagree or think something is missing, you can join up and easily add it yourself. The layout and graphics are pretty sweet too - and whilst a lot of the world isn't covered yet, it's still early days, and the US and much of Europe is chock full of awesome spots for everyone to enjoy.


The ethics of scarves

Scarves may not seem like the most obvious subject for moral or ethical debate, but my recent choices in this area have left me more contemplative than your average winter accessory buy. The dilemma, if you can call it that, will become clear upon describing the objects at hand:

Exhibit A: A Brown, Jersey, American Apparel Circle Scarf

Exhibit B: An antique fox fur stole

Before you say anything, I am not in favour of seal clubbing or inhumane treatment of animals generally. In fact I was a vegetarian for a long time. However. There's no denying that fur both looks and feels good - so soft, so warm. Humans have been wearing it for thousands and thousands of years. Go to siberia, it's not a luxury there, it's a necessity. Not that this applies in London, but I think that when it comes to fur - yes, a lot of it is inhumanely killed or farmed, but vintage fur is already long dead and not wearing it doesn't benefit the animals. In fact, wearing a fur - especially a complete fur like mine - is a preservation of the creature's beauty, and as much of a memorial as they would ever get. You can argue that wearing a vintage fur still glorifies the trade, which does have some truth... but beauty always hurts, n'est pas.

And my circle scarf comes guilt free, from the sweatshop free icon itself. So on balance, I'm just an imperfect human. With nice scarves.

This almost makes up for not being able to afford the burberry snoods...


There were fireworks, but not the kind you'd expect on Bonfire weekend

The night didn't start off well. After getting off the diverted bus in Mare Street, we wondered why exploding rockets weren't lighting up the Hackney sky as we trudged along the canal in the chilly evening air. Two minutes later our questions were answered by a swarm of bonfire-nighters heading in the opposite direction, towards us. Clearly we had missed this year's display. On arrival at Victoria Park, sure enough, the fun fair was closing too...

But the night was still young and I do not give up on the chance to party that easily. After a somewhat surreal bus journey involving consumption of various pseudo-cocktails from plastic bottles with people in various more advanced stages of inebriation, we ended up at a house in Clapton where hilarity, involving skulls, foxes and a lot wine ensued.

But the (figurative) replacement for the missed fireworks came with a trip back down to Mare Street and the rather wonderfully named Disco Bloodbath. Despite failing to blag our way in for free (I got a discount for my effort, haha) the night was worth every shakily-remembered penny. Though I'm not paying £4 for a can of tepid beer again. Music music music. Dancing dancing dancing. Is there any greater joy in life?

Don't answer that.

How my faith in humanity was destroyed and restored.

Well, if I wasn't extremely cynical to begin with, the title might have a greater degree of truth.

In short, I was mugged.

About ten days ago, I was walking back from Highbury Corner, admiring the beautiful old houses with a certain degree of jealousy and appreciating the grandeur of the huge, old oak trees with their almost leaf-less limbs, and slipping into a semi-automatic state of gothic reverie... In other words, I was probably too unaware of my surroundings. But, I was on a well-lit street which a bus goes down, and there were other people around. I certainly didn't expect this to be the kind of place I have my pockets emptied and my bag snatched... but appearances, clearly, can be deceptive. Maybe my gothic mood was portentous.

I'd rather not discuss the actual mugging, suffice to say I was initially very shaken and subsequently massively annoyed at the huge inconvenience of having no cards, phone, access to money, ID, etc, etc.

My parents received a letter addressed to me from my local police station saying they had found something that belonged to me. How? It was this that made me realise that the police had my drivers' license, obtained when I still lived at home. This morning I went in to collect it and found they also had my bag (catch broken my the ignorant fools who stole it and mistook it for a lock), scarf, book, sunglasses and, most shockingly of all, all my (now cancelled cards). In fact everything, other than my phone and gloves. I shudder to think what they'll use the gloves for. But the fact someone even found my bag and handed it in... and that the thieves were decent enough to leave the stuff I actually needed... I don't know. I just feel as though deep down, there are a lot of people that aren't that bad.

And I'm happier for it.

(I just want my bank cards.)


Sushi: an Ode

Who would have thought that tiny pieces of uncooked fish on sticky rice with a little salty sauce, sinus-clearing paste and a few other, largely decorative, flourishes could taste quite so very good?

Here's my gripe: why is it that in California, a huge roll or the best quality sashimi will come to a price comparable to a standard take-out nigiri in the UK. Almost, at least. Clearly, the West Coast of America is closer to Japan, with a larger Japanese population, but it's not as if sushi is flown in. Britain may not have a lot of things, but a coastline is one thing we do have. We're an island! We have a lot of seafood and a big (sometimes environmentally dubious) fishing industry. The ingredients can't weigh in at much more of a cost! I would start a campaign for cheaper good quality sushi, but I really wouldn't know where or how to begin.

A special mention here must go to Sushi Spot, on Ventura Boulevard, in the depths of the Valley. Tiny and unassuming, located in the corner of a mini strip-mall, it served up quite possibly the best sushi that I have ever tasted. I was in and out in less than three-quarters of an hour, but that is one meal that I will remember when I'm old and grey. The slithers of toro literally melted on my tongue, a lingering culinary ecstasy that required not a single bite or chew. The prawn and crab tempura roll was huge, fresh, warm and succulent, rich and creamy without being overpowering. The unagi could have been caught five minutes ago and wouldn't have tasted better. Angelenos do not know how lucky they are to be blessed with this place.


I miss the Bay Area: in photographs

A picture says a thousand words, and lord knows I can ramble, so here is evidence that speaks (mainly) for itself:

The Mission's grafitti must be some of the most beautiful and creative in the world.

I spent a whole day here. Why not?

If you can find me a view that beats this, I'm yours.

Thinking about it, maybe there are things in this view that would make me even happier.

The vineyard itself isn't too bad either...

Dolores Park: It may be small, but yet again, with a view like that, I'm not complaining.

This is what the California Dream is all about: Highway 1.

Okay, so I shot in the direction with no people. But the white sand arc made up for it just a tiny bit.


When raves go wrong

Apologies for any offence caused to the organisers of Saturday's 'Canal Plus' Rave in Cambridge Heath, but this was a textbook case on how not to throw an event.

It could have been brilliant: the choice of an outdoor car park was brave in British October, but the weather held. Looming semi-complete buildings and industrial monuments added to the atmosphere. A crowd gathered...

...a crowd started to disperse. When you emphasise the need to be there at a certain time and nothing happens for forty five minutes, you're just not going to keep the whole crowd. When the event starts with a mediocre-at-best electro-pop group who repeated at least one song in a set lasting around half an hour, you know things just aren't looking up. And to top things off, the music that followed could hardly be described as appropriate for a rave.

A decent sound system? Dream on.

Did anyone dance? Was anyone going to? Come 145, we weren't sticking around to find out.

(Fun times ensued in an abandoned petrol station and a Dalston function room... but that's another story)


It rained a lot in DC

So after a sojourn in the land of almost-eternal sunshine, I headed to territories new: Washington, DC.

In some ways, DC was what I expected. The Mall is indeed both grand and vast, the Capitol imposing, the downtown area sober and full of political activists, the Washington Monument a huge phallocentric symbol of might and power. But it did hold a few surprises. The Lincoln Memorial, for instance, surprised me by its cleanliness. Perhaps a strange thing to note, but it made me realise that once upon a millennium or two ago, the crumbling temples of Rome and Greece were once gleaming white marble, and not quite so ancient.

But perhaps more worthy of note, and more general, was the fact that outside of downtown, DC is a thriving, vibrant place with a huge population of young people, and a massive selection of bars. Adams Morgan's main drag, just a hop skip and a jump from the yuppiedom of Dupont Circle, has a heady mixture of hip bars, greasy pizza joints, street art and vintage clothing. And H Street North East, close to the home of my friend I was visiting, is undergoing a renaissance from deprived, almost ghetto area into the coolest place to party, with sushi and dancing, indoor mini golf and a clutch of uber-cool cocktail bars that you wouldn't even know were there during the day.

And of special note: E Street cinema - the kind of much-loved arthouse theatre that you wish every filmhouse could be, smelling deliciously of fresh popcorn, in place of the cleaning-liquid sanitisation of your average multiplex.

But above and beyond all of this, the rain. Oh, the rain. Pretty much non-stop from the time I landed until the day of my departure, nothing marked my stay in the federal district more than the deluge of water beneath perpetually grey skies. I hear that the Smithsonian and the Monuments are quite a sight in the sunshine, but when you can barely see across the Mall... the experience just ain't the same.


Is this lycanthropy?

Amongst the treasures in this month's i-D magazine (how much do I want a sheepskin-and-leather Acne jacket now?), is the ever-wonderful Shakira. Not content with being intelligent, philantropic, a multi-million seller and a brilliant singer, she also insists on being ridiculously hot. Awoooo, indeed.


America made me like bad music.

I have no radio, and never listen to it, so for the most part I choose what I want to listen to, and of course like everyone I have my guilty pleasure songs, but I manage usually to avoid getting sucked into the mediocrity of sanitized commercialism spewed forth by 90% of radio stations. Deprived of total control of my musical choices in the US, I found my ears pricking up at the irresistibly perky yet utterly bland strains of Jay Sean's 'Down,' the catchy awfulness of LMFAO's 'I'm in Miami Bitch,' and to round things off with yet another delightfully-titled treat, I ended up succumbing to the pounding beats of David Guetta (who I by and large don't mind anyway), accompanied by possibly my least favourite 'artist' ever, the squaking, misogynistic Akon on the humourous and ultimately brilliant, umm, 'Sexy Bitch.'

Here ends my confession.


In the Valley, 75 degrees is a cold spell

I for one can't see why people complain about the weather here. Today, a more typical day for October in the San Fernando Valley, an area that has become synonymous the world over for dull, lifeless, upper-middle class suburban mediocrity, replete with strip malls and sprinkler-systems working over time, the mercury poked at a respectable 85. Lying in my friends' garden, sipping iced water, I've come to the conclusion that even suburban mediocrity can't be that bad under the benevolent rays of the California sun. Especially when there are a lot of good, cheap places to eat nearby. Everywhere has its pros and cons, I guess, but I'd pick here over the Home Counties any day of the year. Who needs winter or old buildings anyway?

My sojourn in the city of Angels has so far been a reasonably eventful one: Los Angeles may not boast the same magic of spirit or physical beauty of the Bay Area, but the chaparral cloaked mountains and endless sunshine certainly have their appeal, not to mention mile after mile of soft white sand lapped by a warmer, dirtier part of the Pacific than San Francisco. My first night here took me to the Hollywood Hills: a friend's friend's party in a luxurious modern mansion that proved upscale living in 21st century L.A. can be far more tasteful than anything you see on 'Cribs'. Sipping on Patron and swimming in the pool may seem like a ridiculous cliché, but for my money (or not, as the case may be), it's also a lot of fun. The slightly surreal experience was rounded off nicely in the morning when I awoke to be warned about the Mountain Lion in the garden, followed by the howls of what we could only imagine was a neighbour's pet meeting an untimely end.

The days that followed have consisted of pure indulgence: sunbathing, foot-high stacks of pancakes, strolling along the beach in Santa Monica, delicious tacos and Don Antonio's (an L.A. institution), and relaxation. The highlight was the Getty Center, worth a visit for its spectacular views of the L.A. basin and Santa Monica Bay and Mountains alone - the city's low density means that despite the noise, traffic, smog and smattering of skyscrapers, a lot of it still resembles a carpet of green. Although, given the arid climate and nearby desert landscapes, this verdant appearance may well have more to do with human intervention and the aforementioned sprinklers than nature's continued triumph over the ultimate postmodern sprawl. However there is much more to the Getty Center than the spectacular view: its design could serve as a model for new cultural attractions the world over - combining high quality architecture, a user-friendly yet spacious and scenic layout, well designed public spaces, gardens and generously proportioned exhibition rooms and galleries. The range of art on offer is large without being intimidating: particular highlights included Irving Penn's photographic portraits of 'Small Trades,' and impressive exhibition documenting the rise of french landscape painting. And did I mention the views?


Feel the Love Evolution

In San Francisco, the spirit of the Summer of Love never truly died. This Saturday saw a series of floats thunder down Market Street to the sound of every type of music worth dancing to blaring out across downtown. The streets were full of revellers decked out in a million kinds of finery or just their own skin, brazen or foolhardy in the public and the strong winds. This was LovEvolution, a spin-off of Berlin's fabled Love Parade that was uniquely San Franciscan in its manifestation.

I doubt there is any other major US city where the grand plaza in front of City Hall would be filled with semi-naked ravers partying, revelling in flouting the law, drinking, dancing, and enjoying all kinds of sensual pleasures in full view of every visible symbol of authority in the city. And there was no violence, no attempt to repress, just a long, sunny day of freedom and joy. A fesitival of love indeed.

Even as the evening came, the winds picked up and temperatures dropped the party kept going, as some of the world's best DJs entertained crowds with electronica, funk, rock and dubstep accompanied by dancers (though it was hard to know if these were official or not) and flame-throwers, until eventually everyone dispersed into the buses, trains and coffee shops of the surrounding area, and the more hard-core waited in line for the nearby after-party.

Maybe my love for the city and my desire to enjoy myself blinded me, but I didn't see a fight, a bottle thrown or an ambulance called at any point. When the biggest problem a festival has is the wait for a portable toilet, I think they're on to a good thing. The Summer of Love might now be a day in October that costs $10, but I think everyone there would agree, it's still most definitely alive and thriving.


The tail end of the Indian Summer

The Bay Area is probably my favourite place in the world. The smell of the ocean and the pine trees subtly pervades, even in the heart of downtown San Francisco, brought in by fresh breezes that give an edge to the warm, early autumn sun. The sky is an almost wintry, cobalt blue, and the ocean an indigo that blurs into the browner shades of the bay. The quality of the light elucidates every colour of the immaculately painted wooden Victorian houses of the city, and every shade of green in the parks and surrounding hills. A hundred Mexican kitchens in the Mission add their alluring scents to the city's heady mix of aromas, whilst the gasoline streaming from the traffic reminds you that the city is a real, throbbing, imperfect place, where urban sprawl, in its beauty and ugliness has covered the spectacular setting that nature gifted to this slice of California. I couldn't be more in love.


Reasons why I love East London

1. Brick Lane Bagels at ridiculous hours of the morning
2. Sunbathing in London Fields
3. Basements on Kingsland Road/Kingsland High Street
4. Random nights out at DJ parties in strip clubs
5. Broadway Market
6. Brick Lane Market
7. The amazing, creative outfits people wear
8. Bars in Shoreditch
9. Café 1001 and its amazing food
10. Finding amazing things to wear in Beyond Retro and cheap things to eat at Ridley Road Market


Reasons why I love London

1. The cool air in the morning with that faint city smell
2. All walks of life sat together on the bus
3. Independent cafés at lunchtime in Shoreditch
4. The purposeful walking of people after work: we work hard, now we're going to enjoy ourselves
5. Random moments of architectural grandeur and history between the soulless offices of the city remind me of just how much this city has seen
6. The river at sunset
7. The fresh air from the river at sunset
8. People spilling onto the streets from bars and pubs, flirting, flaunting or just happy to get the chance to relax
9. East London at night
10. How almost all of this is free, and that's before counting the countless museums, parks, neighbourhoods, free london festival... none of which you have to spend a penny on... except to top up your oystercard, of course.
Some day I should grow up.


Big questions about Art.

One of the best new arts events in London is Showcase London, a fortnightly exhibition of new and up-coming talent in the multi-faceted wonder-bar that is Café 1001, in the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane. There's none of the pretentiouness and snobbery that you get at many exhibitions, and instead of champagne-quaffing poseurs wondering around with permanently raised eyebrows demonstrating their tasteful disdain, there's a relaxed atmosphere, great music and a mixed bag of people, some of whom have just popped through from the bar, some who have come to support new talent, and some who are genuinely interested in art. Normally, the display is pretty impressive, but this week's offering was notably weaker... I can't be the only one who gets incredibly irritated by empty, sledgehammer symbolism and trendy news subjects obviously shoe-horned into mediocre works? Oh well, I guess democracy, beauty in the eye and all that...

But everyone should check it out next time anyway, it's completely free. What else are you doing after work on Wednesdays?


This was one of the best days of my life.

Sometimes an ending has its own quiet content, peace and satisfaction.

Or maybe I'm just a sucker for a spectacular sunset.

And the leaves fell from the trees.

When I think back over the last couple of years, we didn't really get off too badly this year when it came to summer weather. No, it's not been a summer of endless blue skies, where the heat hits you every morning as you open the window like. But I don't think it really ever felt like opening an oven door, in the UK at least. But even this Saturday the mercury, if not quite soaring, at least bubbled a little bit. After strolling around Broadway Market, my friend and I lay on the parched grass of London Fields and contemplated a life of luxury, with beautiful houses and plentiful holidays, and let the sunshine beat down on us like Midsummer. I tried not to notice that the golden blades of grass matched the golden leaves rustling on the ground.

On Sunday it was cold.

So this is autumn. And my dreams of sunshine become dreams again. I wonder how much longer I'll wish my life away waiting for the next June.

I miss my clean white linen and fancy french cologne

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier living in California in the '70s or whether it's just the seduction of Joni Mitchell's timeless music evoking some kind of false nostalgia. This is the age of fetishisation of the past after all.


I want to kiss you but your lips are venemous poison

My kind of retro

I'm not necessarily always a fan, but you have to get slightly excited about such beautiful, theatrical clothes that hark back centuries, not just to 1989. I can't wait to see how/if this theme translates through to S/S 2010. Winter would be so much more fun if I could afford just one little D&G jacket... all donations welcome...

Swift fingers and firey sunsets

When your first real experience of an act is set against the drama of the last rays of sunset over the fens, with a burning tower in the middle of a lake, and thousands of chinese lanterns being released into the sky, it'd be hard not to impress. But since seeing the amazingly talented Rodrigo y Gabriela at Secret Garden Party, I've become vaguely obsessed. Their beautiful rhythmic classical guitar playing fuses folk and rock in an entirely unique way, and there's this energy like a warm gust of wind behind the accelerating melodies that they play so dextrously that just enamours me.

If you have never heard, listen to Tamacun, the duo's most famous track.

Then buy their new album 11:11. You won't regret it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0YDlL2fa9w Doesn't give a fair impression of the experience at all, but...




Ran this town: A late summer night's trek

Is it just me or is every single basement on Kingsland High Street some kind of bar or club of questionable legitimacy? During the day, it could almost pass for any East London high road, but come weekend nights, the streets are thronged with the beautiful and the well-dressed, lining up to squeeze into bars that range from industrial chic to sleaze-and-shab, playing host to some of the capital's best nights. Yet somehow on Saturday we ended up in the one empty club in Dalston (Barden's) and spent hours trailing all over East London with plastic cups full of overpriced, low grade red wine.

It all started off so well, I cooked not entirely rubbery calamari, we quaffed a few bottles of serviceable liquids, and we headed out for the bright lights of Dalston. After deciding against a dimly lit doorway with a six foot man dressed in a Lady Gaga-esque sequined body standing inside, and an aversion to paying entry to Dalston Superstore, we hit up the mean streets of Bethnal Green, before returning once more to the land of Kings (I take the shame for the unimaginative play on words). After a brief aforementioned daliance at Barden's we somehow ended up imbibing dubious drink back on the bus to Shoreditch, where, finally, my aesthetically gifted friend managed to charm our way into a random guestlist-only party in a gallery space. It all gets a bit blurry after the five (yes, five) storey climb to a large, empty, white space, devoid of art, or life intelligent enough to see that there's more to a night out than trying to like you're not having fun.

I think we attempted to ballroom dance.


East London's best coffee?

Last week, alongside my overdiscussed passionate affair with Burberry, I fell into a more symbiotic (well, they need custom!) relationship with Brick Lane Coffee. It has to be one of the best places to chill out during the day in Shoreditch, with a fantastic music policy (no lounge jazz - not that you'd expect it in the East End), really comfy sofas that you sink into just the right amount, without feeling like your derriere is going to be entirely swallowed, friendly staff and some seriously fine coffee. I'm pretty sure those of you lucky enough to have lived in East London a while have known about it forever, but I've so far tried three types of coffee and each was superlative. And managed to keep me alert all afternoon, which is always good. Take note, Whole Foods - coffee should keep you alert, not make you shake like a crack addict. So, much love and credit where it is deserved.

I Heart Burberry

Just as a little follow on from my post on snoods... I think I've totally fallen in love with Burberry. Maybe it's the approaching autumn (though - 27 degrees today in London = amazing), but...wow, I just want pretty much every item in their menswear lines. Particularly a gorgeous blue velvet dinner suit in the pre-Fall Prosum collection. If only I had money, hey.


Carnival Time

Okay, so the Carnival was on Monday... but punctuality is overrated as a virtue. It's always fun to have an excuse to drink before midday, but the Carnival is definitely not just a binge-drinking experience. Walking around, you turn a corner and there's something different... Sound systems, food stalls, and of course the amazing parade, with floats, feathers, music and, erm, nudity. I know that everyone worries about violent crime at Notting Hill, but it really does have this amazing buzz, everyone wants to enjoy themselves, there's happiness and love in the air... Well, there's something in the air anyway. It seems Monday was the last day of summer, but the benevolent Gods blessed the debauchery with blazing sunshine to keep the party alive. Personal highlight: dancing to drum and bass whilst a dandy with an umbrella walked a tightrope, much to the amusement of local kids watching it all from a fourth-floor balcony. It comes but once a year, people...


Escape to the country

I love London, but sometimes, true to the cliché, it does get a bit busy and stressful, so - arguing that the money spent on a train ticket would be made up for in money not spent just existing in the city - I visited my friend in Suffolk for her post-birthday weekend. It was wonderful: delicious home cooked food in a cosy, beautiful house with old oak beams and sea views, what's not to like? And the company of course. Even despite the slightly chilly winds blowing off the sea (compounded by the fact I clearly was half asleep when I packed and had no form of jacket, knitwear or other protective vestment), there was something relaxing and liberating about being in the open air and open fields of East Anglia. Though I now have a pretty unpleasant ex-blister on an uncomfortable nook on my thumb as a result of my over-vigorous rowing on Sunday Morning. But I guess there's always something to complain about.

Love on the number 73 bus

Sometimes I think that the most romantic scenes you'll ever see aren't heart-wrenching displays of unbridled passion and love that transcends death (or a space-time continuum, depending on the film), but the little glances in every day life. Sat on the bus last night, I saw a couple that weren't even touching, let alone indulging in some vulgar display of affection, but from the vaguely yearning, uncertain edge to his adoring look, and the way she slightly tilted her head and smiled contendedly when he was looking the other way, you could just tell that they loved eachother. And for some reason, it made my day.



Immense. The video could be a lot better considering the song actually has really interesting lyrics ("This is lycanthropy"/"I'm starting to feel just a little abused, like a coffee machine in an office") and the potential for full on werewolf special effects just hasn't been mined. But still, despite the full on porn star blonde hair and sexy dancing, she's looking hot. And the song is great. I wish the last chorus lasted longer though... I can't wait to see what the rest of her album has in store, now she's gone down the predictable-yet-still-amaze electro pop route.

It's already doing big things in the US, I've been loving it all summer long and I'm hearing it more over here, so I imagine this will be the soundtrack to a lot of people's autumns.


So, Summer '09: Part 1

So I graduated in the glorious sunshine on July 2nd, was tapped on the head with a medieaval space bonnet (don't ask), posed for multiple photos... Packed up my room and headed for the Big Smoke. What a cliché, hey?

I spent the first two full weeks of July interning in the travel section of the Independent, and it was pretty much better than I could have imagined in every way. I learnt loads, they gave me far more useful tasks and responsibilities than I had imagined, and in the end I actually got some pieces of my writing published in the paper - obviously not full length articles, but it's still pretty amazing from where I'm standing. Google my name to see!

As for the rest of the summer, well... The word recession is banded about a lot these days, but what it really meant hadn't hit me until a few weeks ago. If anyone has any paid jobs for a talented young writer with a good work ethic and range of experience... I'll send you my CV on request!

That's not to say it hasn't been a lot of fun. I really do love London, and I can't imagine anything much better than a sunny Sunday at Brick Lane market. The food, the clothes, the people, the stalls, the atmosphere: I'm addicted. But more on that later.


Burberry eases the pain of an impending Autumn

I love Summer. More than I can probably say. I love the sunshine, I love the heat, I love the relaxed attitude, I love warm evenings where you can sit outside drinking with friends, I love going to the beach. I could go on. In Britain, as everyone is aware, Summer is hit and miss, though the last couple of weeks have been pretty decent, but Autumn on the other hand is reliable. You know what's coming: increasingly short, cold days with lots of rain. Lots. I dread it with every fibre of my being; not even the colourful leaves crisping under your feet and the poetic melancholy bring me any sort of happiness. However, reading this September's particularly excellent issue of Dazed & Confused I came across something which did cheer me up about the impending doom - sorry, season - in the form of a snood. A Snood? I hear you say, Isn't that a glorified sports scarf that joins the whole way around? Yes, yes it is. But this season, Burberry have taken the Snood and transformed it into a must-have item. In four prints, including the nova check, which I am just not a fan of, it looks snug and stylish - and I loved D&C's tip to wear it as a cummerbund when you're not protecting your neck. This is what everyone should be using to shut out the cold!


The lushly textured strains of Ms Heap

To tide you over, here is the ever-wonderful Ms Imogen Heap's gorgeous new album to listen to, online, for totally free. What a generous lady she is.

It does admittedly sound a lot like Speak for Yourself, but as that is one of my all-time favourite albums, I'm not complaining. Again she mines the multiple joys of electronic and every day sounds, mixed with her fragile, questioning lyrics. The closing track, 'Half Life,' is absolutely beautiful. The only tracks I'm not sure about are 'Wait it Out,' which whilst lovely does sound like an attempt to recreate 'Hide and Seek,' though without attaining that songs almost sublime heights; and 'Bad Body Double,' which just made me cringe a little. Sorry Immi, I still love you.

Summer in the city

It has been far too long. I realise this blog really had no direction... Rambling thoughts may be interesting to me but don't make for dynamic reading really. I'm going to overhaul. Things have changed. I graduated, I moved to London... Summer is passing by... It's time to start over.



At risk of bringing the wrath of fate upon me, I can't help but think that there is currently an overreaction to the Swine Flu outbreak. I don't mean to take away from the pain it's caused those affected and the families of those who have died, but you'd think that it was everywhere in the world and people were dropping like flies the way it's talked about. There are signs up all over Edinburgh University, telling us about hygiene, to use tissues etc, as if that would really prevent a pandemic... it almost seems like they're trying to cover their backs, so no-one could say they weren't prepared. But if it did turn into a massive pandemic, how could we be prepared anyway? Hmm, maybe I'm worrying myself now.


My flatmate told me that I was "brave" to wear Men's Gladiator Sandles, or, as she called them, 'Mandles.' But really, they're everywhere at the minute. They may have been more of a women's item really, but since when did sandles become gendered? After all, how many female gladiators were there? They're not exactly androgynous or stilettos... And the designers seem to agree (okay, okay, I'm clearly just following their lead...), not that I can afford a pair of Dolce & Gabanna sandles, but still. Gladiator Sandles look pretty cool, they're comfortable, and you can get them pretty cheap... My advice, go for it.

A chink of light shines into the abyss

One week left until my exams are pretty much over... Much boredom, stress and studying on the way... However, the exam period has turned into an unprecedented social period. Okay, so I have basically been cooped up for two weeks, but what with secret cinema screenings, international food parties, Diplo at Cab Vol and various other nights out planned, it's all looking pretty good... I'm going to miss Uni life.


Recyled fashion

The term 'recession-savvy' can be overused these days, but one of the best ideas to have come out of these financially gloomy times is the recycled fashion craze that's starting to catch on. Everyone has old clothes they no longer wear, and an economic downturn doesn't end our socially conditioned desires to buy new clothes, look sharp or different or interesting and brighten up our lives. So out come the scissors, and I pray that my sewing skills will improve with time. Exhibit one: Old navy tee becomes black and gold hand-print design vest. I'm still not sure if this one wouldn't look better in some dodgy not-even-close-to-hip warehouse gallery than on me, but it's good to experiment...no? Exhibit two: create a massive replica gingham bowtie and attach to plain, old burgundy tee... we'll see how this one goes...
Maybe better to leave it to the designers after all.

Examine me

When did exams cease to be just 'exams'? Call me traditional, but I really do prefer a sit-down exam for a few hours which is just over and done with. No ambiguity about how much secondary reading and confusion over extensions and clashes because of a "take home exam" that you either feel you haven't done enough for or end up panicking and making ridiculous amounts of work for when you'd much rather be having vaguely illegal barbequeues in the Meadows or, well, sleeping.


All things considered

It ain't so bad, 'real work.' After months of nothing but, er, 'intellectual pursuits' - in other words, my dissertation and distracting myself from my dissertation - I finally did some work that earns me something tangible (ie. money). I was dreading it for some unknown reason but then I realised, it's really not so bad. I like the people I work with, and a bar is a sociable place that keeps you going and never gets too dull, and best of all, I don't have to think too much! That may be a patronising thing to say, but it really is nice to just work and earn and not worry about french grammar and sentence length. It made me realise that perhaps even if the future doesn't follow a smooth, easy path (however all my appendages are still crossed on this one) it might not be so bad. Hopefully I'll be able to earn enough to live on at least. Combined with my renewed love for Leeds (see my previous post) and the glorious early spring weather we are enjoying, I'm beginning to rethink my writing off of Britain. Like work, I guess it ain't so bad, really.


After my post representing for Tollcross, I've really just got to say how much love I feel for my hometown, Leeds. It may not be quite there yet, it needs a bit of a scrub up in places and sometimes all the amazing projects that are being or to-be-built in the city centre seem to happen painfully slow compared to in say, Liverpool or Manchester, but there's no denying that Leeds is awesome. The nightlife, just brilliant. There are so many bars to choose from, so many brilliant club nights. Maybe it seems like paradise after the lack of choice in Edinburgh, but that still doesn't spoil it for me. And I love all the independent shops selling new designs and vintage fashions. And the victorian architecture. Some of it is crumbling, some of it is shining resplendently in all its glory, but it's all just amazing. Running around the West Park fields with the views over the rolling hills of suburbia, I realised that, in the last rays of an unusually warm and sunny spring day, my heart still belongs here, after all, I guess. If only the weather was better, hey?