Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympic Fever

It is a moment in time I have never experienced before so you will have to forgive me for my indulgence and continued Olympic fever. I had no idea when seven years ago they announced London had won the Olympic bid that I would be living here or going to the games.

On July 6th 2005 I was driving my car along Zetland Road in Bristol listening to Radio 5 Live as they announced the decision. I was also pregnant. The next day London was hit by bombs. Mr MDS was working in London as he did a couple of days a week, as did I. We happily commuted from Bristol to London as required. When I worked for Orange it was usually 3 days a week, when I became freelance it was as and when. I knew he was all right even though I couldn't contact him because the mobile networks would go into agreed disaster protocol. I also had to switch off from it all as I was 5 months pregnant. I just lay down and didn't move.

The most poignant moment of the opening ceremony on Friday night was in the midst of a fantasy of bonkers Britishness a moment was taken to remember all those who wouldn't be with us due to the 7/7 bombings. Londoners or commuters from elsewhere in the UK and visitors from other countries, they were remembered because one minute it was all happiness and light the next grief and disbelief. They are not here to be part of London 2012 or to ignore at their will.

Now it is here and I am making the most of it. I officially have Olympic fever. I am throwing myself into it all because I can and I can share it all with the petit garcon. I fully appreciate not everyone likes sports but this is a live pageant of performance. Twice I have stood by a roadside to cheer on men and women cyclists from all over. Yesterday one minute I was being high fived by a police outrider, the next it was torrential rain as they went past!

 Roadside on Saturday for the men's cycle road race

 Bradley Wiggins captured by me!!

 Official London 2012 image of race, as you can see these were the conditions, this shot is taken were we were and I couldn't have done it.
Tomorrow I go to see the Volleyball at Earls Court. I was very fortunate to apply for four events in the first ballot and got tickets to see two of the four. Next Monday I will be watching water polo in the Olympic Park.  And it is now I am regretting not buying replica kit or Olympic apparel from the Olympic Shop when they sent me all those emails eons ago. Because now it seems the only way to go is fully kitted out in the gear as anything else seems somewhat dull and try hard.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Give Me Sunshine

It has been the start of the school holidays which usually spells the onset of rain. However this time it has brought sunshine - good old fashioned proper summer holidays sunshine like wot I had as a kid. Will it last, will it heck, we've already been warned of rain and lower temperatures just when the Olympics start. But folks this week was definitely not one for blogging when the sunshine was enticing and demanding we played.

And play we did, the petit garcon and I. On Monday we kicked off with Olympic flame weaving its way through the streets of London. We had a few options for viewing it and I choose Sutton as an easy one as we could go a couple of stops and walk to the high street, rather than cycle or drive to the others which were mainly more early morning starts as well.

It was worth the wait despite it was so quick. I have embraced Olympic fever and the flag is up outside loud and proud for all the non believers to mutter as they pass en route to the bus stop. The joiners will be happy to have their views ratified.

This weekend we will be an island as we live on the London/Surrey border and are cut off due to the cycle race. I am going to have to work out the logistics to go and see it safely on foot or bicycle with the petit garcon.

The week mainly has been about the London 2012 Olympics but I have managed to fit in a book signing with a friend undertaken by Jo Nesbo at the Leadenhall Waterstones branch. If you are a fan of Jo Nesbo and I was to say he is so Harry Hole you'd know what I mean.

 See what I mean!

I leant in as far as I could and still kept it acceptable, before I entered total obsessed fan realm. Although he was still there signing copies of The Phantom when we went passed after a spot of lunch. To the horror of the Waterstones publicity machine, I walked right back in and said 'you're not still signing books! You should have come to lunch with us.' He did agree in a very nice way and of course I left promptly after such boldness, keeping it all breezy and jovial (not stalkerish).

My lovely friend as well as accompanying me to the book signing introduced me to another book James Duigan's Clean and Lean Diet Cook book. Given I am in need of a dietary and fitness kick up the backside and spurred on by Olympic fever and sunshine not to mention wishing I had a body a la Elle Macphearson for the next time I bump into Jo Nesbo (I'll stop now), I got all three of his books. The fact is I know all this stuff and nothing in his books are new, but as a reader I like to read and reference information with ease and for once I have the books that deliver what I want in lieu of being able to afford a personal trainer. People I am motivated so watch this space.

So motivated I took these most healthiest picnic to the beach at West Wittering on Wednesday. For those of you who are in the know Keith Richards lives there or rather has a house there. It is lovely and the beach is the nearest I'm going to get to Keith. I'm halfway through Life as I'm making it last as long as possible. It is the easiest book to read in fits and starts because it is so interesting. I like dragging it out as I don't want the moment to pass. The last book I did that with was Simone de Beauvoir's Prime of Life. I've read it twice and the first time I devoured it and the next time years later I did what I'm doing with Life. A really good autobiography allows you to do this. 

 The beach read option 1

 A packed West Wittering

 More packed views looking back to the Beach Huts

The look I was not sporting at the beach, hence no shots of me. It was a good read too in a voyeuristic way of looking into another life you have not lived but you could if you wanted to.. and maybe get a flat stomach. It does mean no alcohol for 14 days and then not much ever again in your life. After two days of sticking to the foods recommended, although I am not on the clean and lean kick start diet plan yet, I do feel really good and I've not done any exercise other than walk the dog. It is more of a lifestyle choice when it comes to food and drink not a calorie restricted diet, I don't and couldn't do that. There is a 6 day option which is restrictive at 1500 calories a day but it is a quick fix option when you needed it.

The petit garcon with his safe beach band. You write your mobile phone number on it in case you lose your offspring in the crowds. A really good idea but it did make me feel slightly anxious for a moment, the thought of losing him.

It was all very relaxing and as well as getting in some nice reading time I managed to earwig a fair few conversations which is always entertaining. Long may the sunshine.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What took me so long!

For years I have resisted the jeggings phenomena. Firstly it was the name, secondly I wasn't big on leggings either preferring bare legs or tights, although I gave in to those too. You would have thought that I might have realised resistance is futile, but no I dug my stubborn mule heels in and ignored shop edit after shop edit in magazines et al that mentioned jeggings.

Recently desperation hit. The £14.99 jeans in H&M were becoming a struggle suddenly my legs couldn't squeeze in them and if they could they were baggy around my hips and stomach. I coudln't afford a sleek hip brand pair of black jeans so unwittingly I nipped into M&S in Kingston and tried on their black premium plain stretch jegging at £35. People I was sold!

The changing room shot of the jeggings

I am hoping to remove donkey as my middle name on all other things I've resisted over the years - see you in a jeggings/treggings race off.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

In praise of the humble Weetabix

How did it comer to this? The fact I need to remind people that when it comes to fashion we get our head turned by marketing ploys and aspirational stuff. In fairness before I tell you off I have severely admonished myself. When I say fashion I don't just mean clothes but food and lifestyle choices.

My head has been, over the years, turned by what can only be described as 'middle class marketing madness'. Take granola or Innocent or Dorset Cereals. All three have hijacked the notion of breakfast and sold us a lifestyle option of wholesome goodness and proper parenting. They have been riding on the back of those expressing moral indignation of Nestle and its third world dealings. Those people who couldn't stomach the idea of supporting a company who despite poor water and little income were selling baby milk as an aspirational choice to the developing world and therefore adding to infant mortality.

Anti capitalism and anti global initiatives and uprisings have paved the way for modern wholesome capitalists to fill the gap of the big bad boys. These new boys (for they are mainly male) come in the shape of shorts, ruffled hair and an unassuming manner. I can't swear for sure what they look like but they convey a bountiful sense of nostalgia, a love of camper vans or a cute retro Fiat or any small cute retro car, they cite camping as pastimes or sporting interests that don't involve F1 cars or helicopters. You get the sense that they prefer a Jamie Oliver style get together with friends rather than a recommended Giles Coren Michelin star restaurant or current in place. In essence as you inhale in their world, you inhale goodness and love not the love of luxury and exclusivity. We get the feeling we are them or they are us or something like that.

In vague notions of FAQs and lovely crafted titles of 'things we do' - Innocent and Dorset Cereals sell us honest natural goodness for ourselves and more importantly our kids. In fairness if you stick to a tiny glass of orange juice and a bowl of porridge from these companies then you are ingesting health, but beyond that if you think they are selling you goodness and you are eating healthy then think again.

I watched a marvellous programme hidden on BBC2 called The Men Who Made Us Fat - in which Jacques Peretti investigate our notions of healthy food. It shocked me to the core and reminded me of all that is wrong with marketing and our obsession with goods. The issue is so complex I really am not going to enter any further on this matter in this post but I am building up to it!

Simply this programme really got to the nub of the tosh we are being sold. My favourite line was 'if you eat organic ice cream and organic chips you will get fat in the same way if your were eating non organic ice cream and non organic chips'. There were lots of slim older male academics and great female journalist who have encountered and challenged the food industry. Do watch if on iPlayer if you can and then lets all have a chat on how we can sort out the fashion industry and challenge the notions of design, taste and the workings of it all.

I'm sticking to the simple things and am going to design a traffic light system for fashion to help people buy wisely and within their means. I want to debunk the notions of luxury and status on many layers maybe it is time to reread No Logo again. The food industry traffic lights was to help consumer with their choice red is obviously bad, amber ok and green good. Porridge would be green but the rest of Dorset Cereal stuff would be red - have you seen how much fat is contained in their products ditto Innocent with sugar. It may be natural sugar but it is in far too high a quantity to be good.

I freely admit I want a Louis Vuitton card holder, for that is all I could realistically afford, I know that on one level it is aspiration and on another I have bought into a collective view when any old card holder would do. I want the logo in short. But soon I hope I can free myself from these trappings as I have done on the breakfast front. By switching to the humble sturdy no thrills Weetabix I am saving my waistline and saving  the pennies. Those pennies won't be going to purchases but towards reducing the debt in the shape of the mortgage. I'm keeping it simple. Which is why only the humble Weetabix will do ...don't go touching their Alpen and Weetos ^&*t. and come the winter it will be porridge all the way.

Talking of humble, good and not a bunch of blokes, I'm dedicating today's post to Who Made Your Pants? A truly honest, marvellous company who had it not been for weather issues mucking up my work and the demands of the last week of school I would have been at their open day today and have reported back on their wonderful workings.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sale stuff

There are quite a few nice items for sale on my Stella & Dot website which I'm highlighting as I have a friend who has hosted a trunk show (in UK English jewellery party) for a charity she recently did a Capital to Coast bike ride for.

If you fancy splashing some cash on sale stuff or any of the range then do use this link to put the items against her show and raise more funds for her efforts - trunk show link.

Here are some of my top picks.

A great bargain is this versatile and stunning Sierra Necklace down from £130 to £78

For that easy boho look (when the sun shines!) Rio Chandelier Earrings Silver down from £32 to £24

Friday, 13 July 2012

High Street Pick of the Week

It has been a hard job of late selecting something from the High St that is actually worth nipping out and buying due to [inserts] weather. Yes the WEATHER. Normally Britain is mildly obsessed by the weather but now we have reached weather saturation in more ways than one. Nothing we do or say is without reference to the weather. Why I'm surprised the politicians aren't suggesting all our London 2012 malfunctions aren't due to the weather.

In lieu of proper appreciation of high street offerings I'm mainly obsessing over tweets from folk in hot countries. Vicarious vaccination(ing) via twitter is cheap and thrilling. Not to mention non fattening as I was drooling over Lay's Oregano crisps a favourite Greek indulgence of mine as tweeted by the lovely Donna Ida, we are both urgently seeking future supplies! If anyone knows any proper Greek stores filled with real Greek stuff including Lay crisps of any kind let me know. Luckily I have found a British supplier of my other favourites the Italian San Carlo classica courtesy of Valentina Fine Foods.

But it is the Spanish that I'm turning to right now in the shape of high street hit Zara. It's not often I rave about a humble t-shirt but these linen numbers are perfect for now and for the much hoped for Indian summer we are now setting our sights on. Wear with skinny jeans, trousers, shorts or a-line skirt for an easy look.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Travel in Style, hopefully...

No this is not a post done with the vain hope of bagging some free travel luggage for my Hong Kong trip but I have tweeted about that. It is a late late late Louis Vuitton press day post. Back in early April or was it late March, I rocked up to Bond Street in sweltering heat wearing white jeans and a Marni top. Who knew that was the last of our summer hey! As I was entering I was greeted by the fabulous Elle team leaving resplendent in black, I fell back in love with black from that moment.

It was also at the press day when I realised I would never be VB, as I was the only person tucking into the macaroons. I had 2 to everyone else's zero, which made me think were they only there for display purposes and did I mess up the aesthetics of the press day?!

Also  I was also the only one taking notes in my trusted notebook but I need to write then and there to capture the moment. Although looking back at them they are slightly illegible.Overall I was transported back in time, the intention was to convey the art of travel but it was less jumbo jet and more steam train in essence. In truth the notion of travel still falls into 3 categories
1. Orient Express as epitomised by Agatha Christie
2. Pan Am and the sleek age of air travel in the 1960s
3. Out of Africa, the photographer come explorer come eccentric

The Louis Vuitton view of travel fell very much into the first category. Downtown Abbey was very much in my mind as packing was more about ones trunk or suitcase than a wheelie or backpack. The clothes and bag apparel fell very much between the 1854 beginnings of Vuitton and the 1930s launch of the iconic Alama bag with its Edwardian vibe.

The Alam bags are in the background of this photo as I was lusting after this very very expensive crocodile Never Full. The luxury oozed out of the bag and because I admired it so much I didn't experience envy for those who can afford it!! Although I always suffer a pang of LV trunk envy whenever I see one.

Marc Jacobs take on the late Edwardian era, pre Ballet Ruses's influence on fashion, was sedate in terms of colour but lavish with detail and as always with his nod to the 1970s especially in the shoe department, the collection was juxtaposed in its reference to a glorious past era of travel and the context of now. (I've always wanted to get juxtaposition in on a blog post so thank you MJ) 

Everything felt timely even though it was a past time, one never experienced and certainly never likely to. It is somewhat bonkers given our iPads and Twitter that our desire it to contextualise the rest of our possessions in an almost Enid Blyton time warp. The bike and basket, the bench, or a discreet notebook cover for you iPad to name a few items conveying pastiche as well as flowers and a travel journal.

The art of packing was captivating and inspiring if you are a capsule wardrobe junky like myself. I completely forgot to take a photo of the man demonstrating good packing as of course I was utterly absorbed. And in lieu of the trunk I'd settle for the suitcase!

Clever Mr Jacobs also introduced resin to Louis Vuitton which he used in his 1997 ready to wear collection and may be I will be able to stretch to one of these gorgeous resin bangles at a push.

It was a 20 minutes well spent and I leave you with teh rest of my images from the day as a flavour of the Louis Vuitton AW12 collection, which by now you will have admired due to the fantastic Steven Meisal ad campaign images.

It does seem slightly incongruous in the midst of our recession to be transported to another world of which you are probably not able to step into but I still love Enid Blyton's 'The Magic Faraway Tree' and I've never held it against her that it wasn't real for me.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

This Christmas I give you ...a preview

It was actually sunny last Wednesday in London town. It rained in the morning but by 4pm there was a sweltering heat which no one really believed was happening. After my day temping as a personal stylist, it was like riding a bike, I took my assistant for the day with me to the M&S Christmas press day.

The lovely Annabel, the NHJ Style Academy intern

Although before I share the M&S press day info, I have to say that John Lewis Oxford Street is now a wonderful place to shop. Everything has improved, the area, the buying, the changing rooms and the lovely staff are more chipper these days. I was so impressed and as much as I am not a fan of 'diffusing' brand clothes into lines the home grown John Lewis range now appearing as John Lewis, Collection by John Lewis and John Lewis Weekend are much improved. The same point needs to be made as I did with M&S 'know your audience' or how will you cater for the future (Luckily I'm still on the M&S press list because I do love them!). The items are a little on the conservative side but there are some gems and the quality is pretty good. I think John Lewis need to look at Maje and see how they can adapt and grow the Collection by John Lewis element if they really want it to be a success. I did put the client in a great little knit from this range and both Annabel and I agreed we'd get one.

Having successful re-styled the client we walked to the M&S event via a quick late late lunch at Pret in St Christopher's Place. We were so busy chatting we missed the ruddy big snowman marking the event! Re-tracing our steps and spotting the bouncer and snowman (durr) we entered into a winter wonderland. Sadly there was no ice cold temperature to accompany it.

 I wanted these deer

 Hoping to persuade petit garcon into one of these for Christmas Day

 Sorry for blur but I was super excited to see a Christmas penguin

I loved the throw, gorgeous feel and perfect colour - a must have!

 Waylaid by drinks, this was a cocktail made with the Damson Gin 

 A perfect tree

 And a divine table arrangement

 I know we were meant to be here for the fashion but the foodie bit was way laying us, all I can say is peppermint bar and a chocolate nut one in gorgeous tins are the fashionable choice for Christmas gifts.

 Finally, made it to the clothes and I headed straight for the Doris Day/ Marilyn Monroe inspired rail. It was very Marilyn in  How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) or Doris in Pillow Talk (1959)

 If you need Mad Men back up in the underwear department look no further

 My favourite dress which was in the Autograph range

 Perfect lounging around at home attire 

 There were some nice details on the garments

 A nod to Downtown appeared in the use of devore

 A surprising good peplum dress in the Per Una range *coughs* - a better green than in this image. A great dinner date dress and good sleeves. I might be a joiner!

 Another good dress from Per Una *picks herself up* in the Speziale bit of it

 And then on the way out I couldn't resist these utterly adorable gorgeous dresses for girls. I even got a man cooing over them too, they were so cute.

I also had a delightful goody bag and as well as some great Christmas items including Damson Gin which I'm saving for the festive frolics ahead there were some rather super beauty products. including the Docteur Renaud Raspberry Soft Cream which is divine if like me you love raspberries. In fact the range of beauty products at M&S has gone into over drive and there are some great choices including cult French brand Nuxe.

After a full on day I was very happy to get home to Patches Valentino who was waiting patiently for my return.