Back home

Hello world! Hope everyone had a suitably festive Christmas and got all the goodies they wanted. I did quite well this year, but have also suffered a massive case of 'didn't think that through' - asked for dumbbells for birthday, got them, now have to lug them back to London with me tomorrow. Whoops.
Oh well, small problems. I have also acquired a new camera, which is a bit of a brick but has a truly kick-ass zoom and other fun functions I can't wait to play with. Darned instructions are on a CD-Rom...
Doesn't mean I couldn't have a little fun with my old one in the meantime...

Phwoarrrr. I do love a good old-fashioned golden light to add a Susan Hill quality to everything. This is right by my house.
No mystical churches right by my London house though (just had a fab idea to go and shoot in the churchyard one night and give myself a heart attack every time something creaks...and find a friend to be The Doctor, of course), and I return there tomorrow. Land of the small bed, the total lack of heating (well, practically) and the general state of fear. But it's not 2011 yet. I have a few more days panic-free.
Look, here's a picture of my Christmas Day outfit.
Hurrah for lace panelling and velvet! This dress is actually a gorgeous cranberry colour (I love cranberries) and it makes me happy to wear it. Will have to find a few more occassions before it gets warmer. Though apparently we can expect another cold snap soon, so it'll be back on with the Artic furs. It felt positively mild doing sales shopping (major let-down, as always).
But now it's time for one last kip in the double bed with the soft mattress before back to the Big Smoke, armed with two dumbbells, lots of new pairs of socks and the Mad Men boxset. Hang on to your hats.


Season's Greetings

How do you know when it's Christmas? Do you measure it from when you buy the first present, eat the first mince pie, hear the first corny Christmas song on the radio, see the first window on your Advent calendar?
The modern world has given us so many different ways to measure when Christmas begins for us. Whether you're religious or not, whether you buy into the whole thing or whether you detest it merely as a formality, there's no denying the whole world has been counting down to the day that begins in only an hour. We've been measuring that time in hours, in shopping days, in small chocolate shapes and in days left of work. 
But for me, Christmas really begins when I am home with my family. Christmas is a family holiday, about the joining and completion of the most unconventional of families, and what better way to feel it in your heart than when you're home with your own? When I went to a carol service earlier, and got to lift my decidedly below par voice in song and worship with my parents and grandfather, it felt like Christmas, and it felt like home. 
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Cram the next few precious days full of carols, cheesy songs, good food, presents and great company as you can, before it's all over. 
(And for me, my family includes my adorable rat Dug, who is not great at posing for photos, but is more than willing to indulge in festive biting and eating.)


Drivin' home for Christmas

Hello blog fans! Yep, it's been a week since the last post - scandalous I know. A lot has been going down recently - I turned 23 and I took my first sick day in over a decade. Good for me.
So yes, it's been a great start to the festive season! And it also means I have to miss my work Christmas party, which I was really looking forward to. But never mind. Means I get to go home a little bit earlier, snow permitting. Driving home for Christmas.

Oh, and I got my birthday wish. Just pray that it doesn't stop me from getting home.


Good things come to those who ask

I had a very active day - a nice walk by the river at lunchtime and a run along the South Bank in the evening. The lights on the water are so beautiful. Even though it is the centre of the city and bustling and grim.
This really isn't a fashiony blog any more is it? I imagine it's turned into a poor imitation of Lily 'Bleed for Fashion's blog. But that's what life is now, and that's what this blog is - a narrative of my actual life, punctuated by my love of fashion, but also by my love of inspiring and beautiful things. Be they fashion or otherwise.
Besides, it's getting harder to get decent outfit pictures, and to find the time to read all the magazines and other blogs for 'research'. I still haven't properly read this month's Elle, with its stunning cover featuring Carey Mulligan looking like something from a Bourjois campaign. As the dream of working in fashion media starts to fade, so does the need for me to constantly read these things. They just remind me of how far away I am from that old dream. They also make me question whether letting the dream die is the right thing to do. And you know I hate questions.
So instead I just dress how I want (though I chickened out of wearing the top/dress I wore today as a dress and put a skirt over it) and get on with it. One day I'll get spotted.
Oh, and for those of you who commented on my skull ring in yesterday's post, how do you like this little guy?


Elf yourself

I felt like channeling some sort of woodland, elfin creature today. Having re-dyed my hair back to its traditional, trademark blood-red, I needed some other earth tones to match. And to match the latest collection from my employer. 

Yeah. Good use of £7 right there. (Top, H&M, in the sale. Picked it up and put it back twice before making it to the till. Good move, especially belted.)
Had my obligatory existential crisis at about 10am today. After a weekend of tireless retail work, including my first abusive customer who called me an ignorant bitch, and another customer who was quizzing me about my degree. She looked scandalised when I said I couldn't get a proper job. She then made a naive observation that it won't be long before anything below a 2:1 would be useless. I did point out that it was already largely that way, and I saw her mentally remove her grandchildren from all English universities.
I was running late this morning, everyone at work is busy on a new pitch. Everywhere I look on social media channels there's talk of carol services, Christmas holidays and happiness. An old friend appeared for a conversation, only to disappear once again. A door closed.
But windows continue to open. As I said in an earlier post, every moment of happiness is matched by one of crippling sorrow. I am not crippled. I am sad sometimes. But you have to take the sad moments, when everything in your life seems so uncertain, terrifying and empty, and then you feel like a spoilt useless individual when you realise how good you have it and how small your problems are, and embrace them. Because it's that feeling of crushing fear that lets you know that you what you fear is losing the great things that you have, and never experiencing the great things that are no doubt to come. It's the fear that lets you know you're human, only human, and you have more than enough time to get everything done. And that life will find a way.


Trying to feel festive

Sorry I've been AWOL, blog fans. It's been a very, very busy week and at the moment I'm generally posting from work. I spent a luxuriously quiet Saturday night making meatballs and watching Inception - my first night in this week. That's how awesome my life is right now.
Speaking of awesome, look what finally arrived in Topshop? I've been going on and on about this dress since I first saw it in the pictures of their AW campaign, but they saw fit to save it for the festive season. I bought the dress version, as the maxiskirt I'd seen advertised would no doubt not have fitted properly.
My house is, once more, in a state of general disaray (so what's new) with a plumber crawling around in the roof (which he had to get to via my ceiling, so no lie-in for me). I'm currently sitting in the living room being cleaned up around. Maybe it's time for work.
Just as I thought things were finally falling into place, life continues to throw little spanners into the works.
But it's nice to know, if only at this time of year, that we can get away, just a little bit, and remember something good in the world.
A friend of mine invited a bunch of us over to her house to put up the tree, drink mulled wine and eat mince pies. Festive times were had.
I can't really concentrate as I'm currently mid-building-site, so I'll come back when I have something useful to say. Happy two weeks before the day after Christmas!


Elle Writing Comp Entry

So, new issue of Elle came out yesterday. The cover reminded me of a Bourjous campaign - all blacks and pinks, which a cute gamine little lady on the cover - Miss Carey Mulligan, who is akin to playing cute types obsessed with gay Paris. 
But the main story of this month's Elle was their annual talent contest, hunting for a fabulous new writer. Obviously, I entered. Obviously, I didn't win. I thought I was in with a better chance since this year I wrote about something that had actually happened to me (their last two winners tell sweet stories about family memories) and it was referencing a very on-trend pair of shoes (well, from two seasons ago). But alas, twas not to be. 
So instead, you guys get to read it, in all its glory!

ELLETalent Competition - 'Do you really need another pair of shoes?'

I feel like I'm sitting in front of a firing squad. I guess it sort of is a matter of life and death. The life being able to provide myself with food and coffee for a good while longer than I would otherwise, versus the death of a) my credit rating, b) my sensible diet as I resort to a can of soup a day and drink excessive amounts of water to try and suppress my appetite, and c) my soles.
So I guess by saving my money, I'm also saving my sole. Saving me having to worry about when I next get to eat, whether I can afford my rent, or whether I can pay my next phone bill. Things that most normal human beings need to do to get by.
Except, I'm a twentysomething woman with a fashion conscience. I have other needs, like all people. I need chocolate. I need a gin and tonic and some trashy tv at the end of the day. I need to have my personal space on the tube.
And I needed that last pair of Freja stiletto boots.
There they were, sitting among the other neglected, end-of-line pairs of size 7s in the Selfridges sale (this was pre-new Shoe Hall, I think I'd have to surrender my purse before entering if I went in now). Next to the Balmain military ankle boot that every fashionista worth her salt owned, was a quiet, unassuming black stiletto boot that set my heart aflutter.
Alexander Wang was speaking to me. I was communing with a higher being, yet it was a terrible sin. I felt lust for the beautiful boot. Jealousy of all the women who would have bought them without a second thought. And greed, the overwhelming greed that a woman experiences when nothing else matters but fashion.
I had to have those shoes.
I sat down in the middle of the shoe hall, was attended to by a sweet middle-aged salesman who could tell he was on to a winner. The fashion-hungry graduate who owns one much-loved designer bag which she carries like a trophy, looking to move to the big leagues with her first pair of designer shoes, met by the eager, sweet, earnest salesman who could sense a sale and who was subtly, masterfully going for the jugular. We were two clich̩s, united over the ultimate clich̩ Рthe half-price shoe.
He left me alone for a while with my new solemates. I tried them on. True to my mother's training (though she would have been scandalised if she was where I was) I walked at least two laps around the shoe hall, stalking in the predatory way rich socialites and French fashion editors do, brushing my hair (what hair I have) out of my eyes and looking coyly down. In my mind's eye I was six feet tall, slim and athletic. I rubbed shoulders with Carine Roitfeld and Kate Lanphear. I had made it. I looked in the mirror and felt myself transformed. I was up there with the big players.
In the few short seconds it took me to decide, my brain busily tried to solve a puzzle that most computers would take days with.
Figures and numbers ran through my head. Bank statements. Whether I could sneak the bag past my parents. Whether I could afford a pedicure for my massively neglected feet. How many outfits would be transformed by these shoes. Whether my legs were good enough to carry off a statement shoe. If I was too fat at that angle in the mirror. Whether a (then)cafe worker with no fashion parties to go to really could justify a pair of Alexander Wang boots. It had gone from 'could I afford the shoes' to 'existential crisis' in a few slightly tottering steps.
I stood and stared at the mirror, the image of beautiful, successful fashion personality fading and leaving the image of terrified, prospect-less graduate teetering awkwardly in someone else's shoes in its place. I stared myself in the face. There, in the middle of the Selfridges shoe hall, a pair of beautiful boots stopped me in my tracks.
I sat back down in my little chair, signalling for the salesman to give me more time to think. Staring at the beautiful boots that were within my grasp, yet still so far from my reach, I wondered how much longer it would be before I could look down at a pair of beautiful, expensive shoes and not feel my stomach rush with guilt and fear. I sat there, surrounded by the rich tourists and well-heeled executives and knew I didn't belong there.
But as I sadly unlaced the boots, I wondered if, perhaps, they were the first step along the way. A little reminder to myself that this is what I wanted. I wanted to be the type of woman who could own a pair of a designer boots, and everything that came with them. The station, the fame, the career, the security, the life. They would give me the mindset to put me well on my way to where I wanted to be.
And five minutes later, as I walked out of Selfridges holding the distinctive yellow carrier with my beautiful new status symbol, oracle, incentive in it, I felt just a little bit more optimistic about my prospects. Unconsciously, I walked taller. I stood straighter. I thought I could see Kate Lanphear in the distance, and even in my comfortable flats, my new Wangs urged me to stride to keep up with my own dreams.
And the boots? I still haven't worn them out of the house. But I like to take them out, put them on and look at myself in the mirror, once in a while, to see the person I might one day become. 

So there you have it. 
Incidentally, I'm selling them. The dream is gone. 


By faith I know, but ne'er can tell

Lily at Bleed for Fashion has asked her readers what happiness is.
As I said over there, I have no idea. It's just a feeling. I can't tell you what makes me happy one minute, as it will no doubt make me sad the next.
All I know is that I gave up security, stability and comfort, am alone again and have the most uncertain of futures, but as a friend observed the other night, I look happy. I haven't been this happy, or content, in a long time.


Winter Light

Everywhere I look, there are countdowns. The truly sad Absolute Radio DJ who was counting down the days 'til summer back in October. The Facebook fan page counting down the days until the Doctor Who Christmas special. The advent calendars. The 'only X shopping days until Christmas' signs. The statuses declaring X is 'ready for the weekend'. 
Stop. Whoah. Slow down. 
I'm tired of countdowns. Of people desperate to get from one moment to the next, bored of the now and always anticipating what comes next. Whatever happened to carpe diem? There's no time like the present, but there's also no time like the present for wishing it away, it would seem. 
It's apparently Christmas in 19 days. I am one of those people who experiences the post-Christmas crash like you wouldn't believe. I think it's because I'm a winter baby, and subsequently am naturally inclined to being a fan of when it's cold outside. Nothing says happiness to me like sitting infront of a roaring fire with a good book, a walk along dark cobbled streets dimly lit by streetlights, listening to carols, or the sight of snow. I'm listening to carols while writing this. Working in a shop on the weekends when I'd otherwise be wandering the city while humming O Come O Come Emmanuel to myself is rather crushing the festive spirit out of me. Nothing says Christmas quite like the ringing of tills, I'm told. 
People are wishing away the festive season to get to Christmas Day: the gifts, the turkey (I hate turkey), the sales, the anticipation of spring, and then summer. I'm clinging to every last faltering note of every carol, to every frost. Am I any worse than the people who are wishing it was warmer? No. I'll love summer when it arrives, but for now I'm hoping that these short days of winter seem longer, I'll cherish every grey, foggy morning for the sparkling, subtle beauty of the mist and frost, and the shafts of strong sunlight that cut through, and that these 19 days left until Christmas are filled with as much festivity as I can fill them with, until I'm home with my family.
I'm sad mainly because this is the first Christmas in a long time that I won't have a choir to sing carols with. Last year's festive season, thanks to the school I was working at, was filled with choir rehearsals and the singing of carols. Like this one. This Christmas will be cheesy Christmas hits, numerous Christmas presents sold to tourists, drinking mulled wine at forced festive consumer-hot-spot markets and seeing numerous friends. It won't be the same. No year will ever be the same again. And while I count that as a blessing that my life is now taking on some variety, the ghosts of Christmases past are making me a tad mournful. 
Image via Garbage Dress - the autumnal colours and burning wintry light set the scene on fire with beauty. And for a little more wintry beauty, have a carol 


Practical Magic

Don't worry, blog fans - I'm still alive. Again I can only apologise for being totally lax on my promise to post every day, and am now aware that given how busy life in the run-up to Christmas is, it was probably a Nick Clegg-type promise (ie very hard to keep). Get me with my political humour. 
The snow has all melted away, so things are back to normal. But it's still bitterly cold, so the Jadis coat, and subsequent high fashion comparisons, won't be shelved just yet. 
Chanel AW10 vs Jadis, Queen of Narnia. Or is it the other way around?


Can't Take It In

And just as I was feeling reeeeeeal left out as all the people who tweet and Facebook (is that a verb? Andrew Garfield says YES) go on and on about the snow...
It cannot be any more beautiful. I can't take it in.


Beautiful Pain

Remember when I mentioned below that some things are so beautiful they make my heart swell up and I feel like it's about to explode?
Here's another. 

I've never watched the show - all I know is that Thomas Newman is one of those few composers capable of breaking your heart and mending it in the same moment. 

Gem of Antiquity

And just in case you were worried that this has turned into some lonely Christian outreach programme, here's something fashion-related.
Have had plenty of exposure to the Pirelli 2011 Calendar, featuring twelve assorted models and celebrities styled around the theme of Mythology. More specifically, the Greek pantheon. Shot by the King of the fashion pantheon, Karl Lagerfeld.
Now, I'm not a massive fan of models in the Daisy School of Gratuitous Nipple Exposure, but I can't fault this image. It's flawless. Erin's androgyny (who's reminded of Patroclus?) - her steely determination and strong features with a gentle, pure femininity - is the perfect quality for this shoot. I can't get over this image. It's incredible. 
Now if you'll excuse me, there's a large amount of snow outside that demands my attention. 
Oh, that's right, I'm at work. Damn.


Could it BE any more festive?

Twitter, Facebook, the blogs, the retweets...you name it. They are all awash with statuses and updates along the lines of 'got my Advent calendar ready, got my Ugg boots on against the cold, and it's SNOWING! In December! Could we BE any more festive?'

And most disturbingly, this is the first image that came up on Google when I typed in 'Christmas'. You have to look past about six pictures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, snowmen and Christmas trees before you ever see a hint of Baby Jesus. Y'know, the guy whose birthday is on Christmas Day? Yeah?

The media (ok, the Daily Mail) is going nuts over how we are apparently going to see the demise of Christmas based on the old addage of 'political correctness gone mad', and that Christmas, as a heavily Christian festival, is going to fall at the wayside in favour of not offending anyone.

Of course, this is a total load of rubbish. Mainly because it's not the other religions who are going to kill Christmas. It's the commercialisation of the whole affair.

Everyone has a favourite bit of the festive season. Judging by Twitter, it currently appears to be a toss-up between Advent calendars and Christmas lights (though the Regent St ones, featuring huge advertising placards for the latest Narnia film, don't exactly warm the cockles of your heart with their subliminal 'see this film please' message). I was queueing in Tesco's the other evening to buy some...food, I think, and was surrounded by stacks of Lindt bunnies repackaged in reindeer form, Toy Story 3 advent calendars and bulk-boxes of no-doubt-non-recyclable 'Season's Greetings' cards. There's nothing like being raped in the face by merciless, aggressive commercialism. How many stores, brands and companies will be jumping on the bandwagon of Christmas to promote themselves, in the same way that (I'm told) Lord Sugar took advantage of the Twitter silence on Armistice Day to promote his new book?

Now, don't get me wrong. I do love a bit of The Pogues, my heart warms when I see the Coca Cola ad, and running round in the snow is very festive. I just think we need to take a little time to remember the myth, the legend, or the truth, that gave us the most wonderful time of the year.                        

Because it really seems to all be about the completion of a family. Having been away from home in a house full of strangers for the last few months, I for one cannot wait to rejoin my family for the festive season. That, to me, is what Christmas is about. That, and carols.


And Winter Came

The White Witch awoke, and, upon glancing out of the window, was met with the sight of the long-anticipated snow.
So she donned her warmest furs to keep out the cold (with a mustard dress Peggy Olson would be proud of)...
And advanced into the snowy wastes.


Never forget who you are, little star

Still no snow. Though it's like living in Siberia right now - the frosty cold, the temperature hardly rising above freezing...but life goes on. Another tube strike today (thankfully not affecting me) so London once again becomes a gridlocked mess.
I thought I might have had the chance to leave the gridlocked mess to apply for a serious job, that would have given me a real career advancement, back in my home city. Today I discovered that, in fact, it wouldn't be a guarentee at all, and that I'd, in fact, be mad to move home to security, job or otherwise, when compared to all that I have here. I'm starting to really like my jobs (both of them) and I have great friends here. I just wish I could spend Christmas out of the grimness of this city. I don't like the view from my window. I'll miss looking out across my home city, seeing out as far as the woods on the other side of it, seeing the mist set in on the streets and around the lampposts on my street (the number of stories I've started that feature that lamppost...) You can't even walk in a park here without hearing police sirens.
I may not have the view, but at least I'm warm.
I have a new coat. Every year I have to get a new winter coat. It's like a ritual. This year's is from Zara and is an early birthday present from my grandma.
I also have a few new items of jewellery - been on the hunt for some sweet gold pendants for a while and found these two. Been after a gold wishbone charm for ages and though this one is a tad too small, it'll do, and it's subtle enough to wear with other things. I need my luck.
And on a completely non-related note, I have a massive (and completely justified) style crush on Katie McGrath. Or rather, Katie McGrath as Morgana in Merlin. For any readers who haven't yet discovered the delights of Merlin, it's the BBC's family-friend reimagining of the Arthurian legends, told through the eyes of a teenaged Merlin, in the service of the teenage prince Arthur Pendragon (yes, they mess with the legends a lot, but that makes it even better when they weave the real legends into it). Katie, as Morgana, is all alabaster skin, beautiful hair and stunning clothes, and between her and Colin Morgan as Merlin, there's enough chiseled cheekbone to cut diamonds.
Gah. I wish I got to play dress-up in that and make eyes at Colin Morgan (sure they're 'I'm your nemesis and I'm going to kill you' eyes, but that's still a lot of locked eye contact) all day. And hang out with Richard Wilson and John Hurt.


So fair, yet so cold

You know that feeling you get when something makes you feel so euphoric and overwhelmed that you feel like your heart is swelling up?
Well, that's what I get when I see things like this.

(This can go in another category - cute animal activity - as I'm pretty sure there were baby parakeets inside that tree)

This is Richmond Park. It was so cold you would not BELIEVE, but so unbelievably beautiful and tranquil. Still no snow yet here in the capital, but I'm hoping by the time I escape from work this evening there will be.
But if not, there's always perfect autumnal days like these.


The White Witch

Still no snow for us here in the south. But it's bitterly cold and wintry, especially at 8 o'clock in the morning on a train platform. So I thought it was high time to drag out the faux-fur coat.
Bow down to Jadis, the High Queen of Narnia.


Anticipation and Coming Cold

It's nice to be out of the city. Though I am still in close proximity to a busy-ish high street, the rows of terraced houses and the local park make it feel like the country. I can't wait to wander the tiny streets when they're lit with Christmas lights while imagining a small choir singing.
I'm coming over all festive. Advent is my favourite time of year, because for me the anticipation is always better than the event. Advent - singing carols, the lights, the buzz in the air of coming festivities and the happy faces of those who can feel it too, the music, the smells of the Christmas markets. I just love it all. The first time I listen to O Come O Come Emmanuel...
Which I can technically do this Sunday. How fast the year is going.
It's getting colder, and apparently we'll get snow tomorrow. It may be an occasion for my new coat, as today I was ever so slightly chilly.
Oh, and there was frost.
Winter is here. And I'm still waiting in vain.

Forever is our today

In the one of those weird coincidences that so often occur in everyday life, I was thinking earlier about this being the last full week of Mo-vember, and how Freddie Mercury had a great moustache. And then I learned, or was reminded, that today is the 19th anniversary of Freddie's death.
I still lament the sad, closeted girl that I had the misfortune of encountering at school who asked me who Queen were. They are one of those bands that you grow up listening to if your parents have any good sense at all (I grew up on a diet of Queen, Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Genesis and Vivaldi. Just for good measure) and they're one of those rare bands who have, in their extensive repetoire, at least one song for everyone.
Freddie knew he was dying when he wrote this song, which makes it all the more poignant. It breaks my heart a little every time I hear it, because it's so full of hope for someone who knew his number was up, who knew he'd given it his all and who, in his life and in his legacy, touched and continues to touch the lives of so many people. And who, truly, went out on a cruel, untimely high note. 

RIP Freddie.


It's a no brainer

Why waste your time standing in the cold and then wrestling in the stifling heat with 100+ others for the same dress that's worth 25% of the asking price, and will probably just get put on eBay in a week...
...when you can get these instead?

For only £16. Beats getting repetitive strain injury in your fingers to try and get the last Lanvin frilly party dress that you can guarentee everyone else at your fashion party will be wearing. I'm thinking of putting these over a pair of white tights and rocking them with a loose-fit white shirt.

(It's worth adding that I was introduced to these amazing pants by my esteemed fellow historian and general mad person Paperback Rioter, who is trying to distract himself from writing his thesis by any means necessary. I don't make a habit of trawling the internet for pants featuring historical figures.)

And they aren't just for the girls! My sources tell me that you can get one with Elizabeth I's face on too! It's your lucky day, boys.