Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A literary lust list

In honour of World Book Day tomorrow...

I'm a sucker for typography on old book pages, and this 'I like big books & I cannot lie' print would make me smile every time I saw it.  Find it on Etsy (unless I get there first).

If you haven't discovered Bookish yet, then you're in for a treat.  A beautifully designed website full of literary treats, from typewriter badges for £1 to signed first editions for upwards of £1000, this site has it all.  The ampersand necklace is my favourite (although the 'GEEK' Scrabble brooch comes a close second).

I am in love with this 'Tea and books' silkscreen print by What Katie Does.  Onto the birthday list it goes...

Monday, 27 February 2012

Music Monday: Veruca Salt

Let me take you back to a time before the internet, before Spotify, before 6Music.  A time when the only place to hear new music was on Lamacq & Whiley's Evening Session on Radio 1 or in your local indie record shop.  Nowhere to read about new artists apart from the NME, Melody Maker, and the shoddily photocopied zines that advertised in the back pages of the music press.  This was my era, when I came of age as a music fan and somehow managed to discover a new and exciting world: riot grrrl.

To be fair, Veruca Salt didn't exactly fit into the riot grrrl genre, being more a grunge/pop band in the vein of Belly.  But for sixteen year old me in suburban West Yorkshire, they seemed pretty damned riotous.  I found Number One Blind on a coloured vinyl 7" in a record shop in Halifax and proceeded to play it death.  My appreciation for the band only deepened when I was given a copy of this book, Never Mind The Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock (which you can buy for 1p on Amazon, and which has one of the coolest book covers ever), which contained a long interview with Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon and Louise Post. 

While the Deal sisters were steeped in the seedy glamour of drug addiction, Kristin Hersh was excitingly bipolar, and Courtney Love... well, she was Courtney, Louise and Nina seemed to be refreshingly normal.  Heroin use, mental breakdowns and flings with Evan Dando and Billy Corgan were clearly beyond me, but playing guitar in a band with my mates; that was something that I could aspire to. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

"You're not fat, you're curvy": some thoughts on the politics of fat

I was troubled by some of the responses when Karl Lagerfeld recently said that Adele was "a little too fat".  I mean, obviously it's a rude, dickish and horrible thing to say, and obviously Adele is absolutely beautiful, but a lot of things I read online were aghast that he'd dared to use the 'f' word - fat - and overlooked the really problematic word, "too". 

Close analysis of Lagerfeld's comments isn't what I'm here for though; I'm interested in the reactions to the 'f' word.  Because I think it's comments like "you're not fat, you're just curvy," that help to contribute to a culture in which the accepted formula is that fat = bad; fat = ugly.  People are so scared of the word, the concept, that they won't use it.  Whereas actually, as a statement of fact, it's often true.  I am fat, in that - like Adele - I have a higher proportion of subcutaneous fat than that which society currently designates as desirable.  I am fat, in that I wear size 16 clothes not size 6.  I am fat, in that I have 36H boobs which add a huge amount onto my weight and therefore my BMI.  Do I feel that being fat is a problem?  No, I really don't.

One incident apart, I have never felt less of a person or less attractive because of my weight (that's not to say I'm brimming with self-confidence, I'm really not, but if I ever feel unattractive that's more to do with not perceiving myself as pretty than due to my size).  I've only ever once been fat-shamed, by my friend's brother at her wedding in Italy.  Even though he's widely acknowledged to be a bit of a twat, even though I don't value his opinion too highly, it still hurt, but it didn't make me feel ashamed, as I suspect it was meant to.

Claire, who blogs about fashion and baking (amazing combination!) at French For Cupcake.

Until fairly recently, there were very few places to see women's bodies in all their various shapes and sizes.  The rise of the fatshion blog has changed all that.  While I've been plowing my particular fashion furrow of dress and cardi for a long time, I can't tell you what a difference it's made to my confidence seeing women my size, and over, wearing similar things to me and looking amazing.  It's so rare to see anyone over a size 8 on TV or in magazines that until discovering the world of fatshion, there was nowhere I could see a true reflection of how clothes might look on my body.  A few of my favourites include Australian blog Frocks And Frou Frou, the Northern Irish French For Cupcake, and in England Messy Carla, and Arched Eyebrow.  The last two, particularly, are expressly stated to be fatshion blogs.  I particularly like the announcement on Arched Eyebrow: "No diet talk: IDGAF what you're eating so I don't expect you to GAF what I'm eating."

Bethany from Arched Eyebrow.  I have such major coat-envy.

I know too many people who have spent years on the Weight Watchers/Slimming World treadmills, losing weight then gaining it before starting the whole sorry process all over again.  The whole idea of self-denial in relation to food is anathema to me.  If I want a biscuit, I eat a biscuit.  And then another one.  Because for me, being fat, being curvy, whatever you want to call it, is preferable to living a miserable existence trying to get into a size 10.  My body is healthy and happy: it can climb mountains, cycle 15 miles, swim endless lengths.  Karl Lagerfeld would no doubt think that I, like Adele, am a little too fat.  But I really don't care.

Friday, 24 February 2012

This weekend I'm looking forward to...

... a few drinks and lots of catching up with friends, plus some great/drunken (delete as appropriate) dance moves down the local indie disco;
... a birthday meal for my friend J, celebrating a new start after her rubbish year;
... finally finishing a - I suspect overly long - post about the politics of fat;
... hopefully getting my poorly sewing machine back.  My TV broke yesterday so now would be a really good time to start overdue projects.  Knowing my luck, though, my machine won't be ready in time, my laptop will make it three for three and I'll have to do something other than watch films, blog and sew... perhaps even (whisper it) clean?  Nah, it'll never come to that.

Right, best go and get ready.  Have a lovely weekend all, toodle pip! 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Metals by Feist

In my Best eleven of '11 post, I may have intimated that I did not think too highly of this album ("a little disappointed" were, I believe, my exact words).  Well, I feel a fool now because I am proper obsessed with it at the moment. 

I've been a Feist fan for years and listen to her first two albums, Let It Die and The Reminder, frequently.  I'm not entirely sure what it was I found lacking on Metals during my first listen, because now it seems to me a rich, satisfying and multi-layered collection of songs.  Opening track The Bad In Each Other combines crystalline vocals with handclaps and a sparse guitar track.  The highlight of the album, Graveyard, showcases her stunning voice before the addition of strings, a horn section and a backing track which sounds like a full-scale choir but is, I suspect, just Feist's own voice layered in production.  The stuttery delivery of How Come You Never Go There adds emphasis to her bleak lyrics of love and loneliness. 

While there is nothing on Metals as uplifting and delightful as breakthrough single Mushaboom  or worldwide hit 1234, it is a very beautiful album; bluesy, heartfelt and organic-sounding.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Music Monday: Weezer

Weezer's first album brings back tons of memories from the early 90s.  They were the go-to band for quirky, guitar-based-but-not-too-rocky American music for a while and I was a big fan, but then forgot about them until I was training to be a teacher in 2004.  Goodness knows why I suddenly dug out my copy of the Blue album then, but I became newly obsessed with indie-pop gems such as My Name Is Jonas and Undone (The Sweater Song)

Perhaps not coincidentally, a fellow PGCE student (who was on placement at the same god-awful, Ofsted-failing school as me, and who I had a HUGE crush on) was also a fan, and we used to listen to Weezer and Ben Folds Five while driving around the housing estate at lunchtime, smoking and bitching about our classes.  The friendship ended messily in one drunken night of ill-advised fumbling, but my love for Weezer's debut album has never waned.

Only In Dreams has the most bombastic and overwrought musical interlude (including a bass solo; whoever heard of a bass solo?!) ever commited to CD: almost 3 minutes long.  Slowly building up from the aforemention bass solo to explode in a musical climax of drums and guitars, the last half of the song is a ludicrous yet brilliant piece of rock music.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dotty about polka dots

Just a fraction of my collection.

Ah polka dots, how I love you!  I don't think nine dresses, two tops and one cardigan in the same print is excessive.  After all, each one is subtly different: a collar here, a different shade of spot there.  There's tons of great dotty stuff in the shops lately, which does make it easier to indulge my habit but leads to sulks when I see people wearing the same thing as me.

This skater dress from ASOS is my favourite recent buy (back view chosen because the model is grinning like a psychopath in the front view).  It's really comfy to wear and looks great with a red cardigan.

This H&M shirt dress is in their online sale at the moment (although word of warning: I have nothing but bad experiences of shopping with them on the web).  It's also super-comfortable and easy to wear.

Zooey Deschanel is a polka dot-wearing icon.  I know she divides opinion between people who adore her and people who think she's a twee 'manic pixie dream girl', but as a fairly twee person myself, I'm a fan.  That fringe!  Those eyes!  That wardrobe! 

She has been rocking some great spots on New Girl which, after a slow start, I am loving.  For more Zooey fashions check out amazingly bonkers websiter What Would Zooey Deschanel Wear ?  A bit like What Would Jesus Do, but with more winsome indie and pussy bows.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The death of the bookshop?

I got back late on Tuesday from a lovely few days away, which included two days in Hay-On-Wye.  As you can see from the picture above, I bought quite a few books (as well as a pile of old maps and some lovely vintage fabric).  I'm particularly excited about the stack of Penguin Classics, which look, feel and smell so lovely: they have that old book scent.  Bands On The Road is an intruiging collection of drawings by members of indie rock bands - ranging from Jeffrey Lewis to Coldplay to ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - drawn while on tour.  Beauty Secrets, which is a collection of essays and interviews about women and the politics of appearance, also looks interesting.

However, I was distraught to realise that my favourite secondhand bookshop in Hay had closed.  In fact, there seems to have been a wave of closures there, with four gaps where good bookshops used to be.  If bookshops can't survive in Hay-On-Wye - the mecca for book lovers, host of the famous literary festival - then what hope do shops in other, less book-centric towns, have?  It makes me sad that, in a shortsighted quest for a bargain, we might be killing off the bookshop as we know it.  Amazon is all well and good, but does anything really compare to an hour or three whiled away browsing the shelves, getting a crick in the neck (I always think of this as 'Hay neck') and a bag full of exciting new finds for your trouble? 

The Guardian's Book Blog had a wonderful post last week about the world's finest bookshops (check out the photograph of Richard Booth's Bookshop in Hay at the top of the article and you'll realise why I love the town so much), and For Book's Sake has a long-running feature called Battle Of The Bookshops.  Clearly, there are plenty of people out there who value bookshops and what they can add to a community.  Please support your local store: Amazon, Oxfam or Waterstones might be cheaper, but at what cost to bookshops?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Music Monday: Hadouken!

My 29th year was the best year of my life: I'd been teaching for a couple of years, and school was stress-free and easy; I was living in a great flat but paying a pittance in rent; and perhaps most importantly, some other young teachers had started working at my school and we'd discovered a shared love of indie music, festivals and road trips, and started going to the local indie dive every weekend. 

There are a handful of songs that conjure up memories - The Long Blondes' Once And Never Again (to which, on the eve of my 30th birthday, my friend Abby changed the words: "29, you're only 29 for God's sake, you don't need a boyfriend"); Two Doors Down by Mystery Jets; Hot Chip's floorfiller, Over And Over - but this one, by Leeds-based grime/guitar band Hadouken!, is the defining tune of that era.  Messy, chaotic, fast and silly, it would get us onto the dancefloor without hesitation.

As I was packing my case to go away this weekend - and realised that I was taking no fewer than four different polka dot dresses - I got That Boy, That Girl wedged firmly in my head: "That girl is an indie Cindy, Lego haircut and polka dot dress...".  I don't think Hadouken! meant it as a compliment, but I'm proud to be an indie Cindy.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

February fun

This half term holiday I am looking forward to...

... seeing Zach Braff in his play, All New People, in Manchester;
... having a knitting tutorial with my mum (having learnt to knit at craft club this week, it has become clear that although I love knitting, knitting does not love me);
... drinking lovely cider in Hereford and buying too many books in Hay-On-Wye;
... catching up with friends by letter, phone and in person;
... hopefully getting rid of the horrible throat infection which is currently plaguing me.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

I left my heart in Portland

Of all the places I visited on my month-long journey across the States last summer, Portland, Oregon was the one I fell head over heels in love with.  Those pesky American immigration laws are the only thing standing between me and the city and I adore, but in the meantime I can sublimate my affection on Portland-themed homewares.  Thanks Etsy!

I'm very taken with this screenprinted poster featuring iconic signs and sights from Portland.  I think it might make me sad if I had it in my house in oh-so-dull Leicester though.

I already have the Africa print cushion from My Bearded Pigeon's Etsy shop, but am sorely tempted to add this Portland street map cover to my collection, especially as it shows the street we stayed on when we visited there: NW Glisan and 18th forever!  Almost £40 seems steep for a cushion cover though.  That money could be better spent on a plane ticket back to Oregon, after all.

In the States, Portland is shorthand for a particular kind of bohemian, liberal, alternative culture, a fact these bingo cards use to fun effect.  They feature squares for 'Full beards', 'Sleeve tattoos', 'Strip clubs', 'Food carts' and 'Thrift stores', amongst others, and I can attest to the fact that you'd achieve a full house pretty quickly.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Music Monday: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

I listen to the I See A Darkness album - for which this is the title track - a lot during winter; it seems appropriate somehow, on these dark and frosty nights, to wrap myself in a blanket and absorb the bleak beauty of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's lyrics.  As both a reflection on the nature of depression ("Did you ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got... And then I see a darkness") and a paen to friendship ("I hope that someday buddy/We have peace in our lives...Did you know how much I love you"), this song is incomparable. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Baby it's cold outside

After weeks of dashing around visiting friends and family in my spare time, the cold and snow have made the perfect excuse to spend the entire weekend at home.  I started the weekend with a pile of wood for the fire, a stack of library books to read, a fridge full of food and drink and a list of sewing projects to tackle.  I have thoroughly enjoyed...


... sewing a lovely little brooch out of felt and vintage fabric;
... watching the snow falling outside while I sat by the fire listening to Cat Power and drinking wine;
... finally getting round to doing lots of little jobs around the house, like filling holes in the spare bedroom wall, and framing a set of Penguin Classic postcards;
... making a draft excluder for my friends who moved house recently;
... reading three books (well ok, two and a half - two crime thrillers by Elly Griffiths which I really liked, and the first half of a biography of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne);
... watching trashy TV like Take Me Out and TV Burp;
... making homemade soup.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Just because...

Found via Clumsy Kisses' tumblr.  It made this Cath Kidston kitchenware-owning, dress-wearing, lipstick-loving feminist very happy.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Oh happy days

I've had two great days in a row (although my disappointment on realising, this afternoon, that it was Wednesday and not, as I thought, Thursday, cannot be understated).  Some good things that have happened...

a lovely meal out with friends last night; my two difficult bottom sets being immaculately behaved and generally wonderful, tackling Macbeth and Beowulf with aplomb; my new dress arriving from asos (it's got OWLS on it and it is amazing); receiving lovely comments about yesterday's blog post about feminism and crafts on Twitter and via email.  Do take a read and let me know what you think; finally getting my fringe trimmed, so I can now see without squinting through a curtain of hair; and most exciting of all (drum roll...), finding out I have been accepted as a Fulbright scholar for the teaching exchange programme!  Still quite a few things that need to be sorted out, and a few things that could go wrong, but all being well, I should be teaching in America come September.  I am jumping for joy!

Cartoon by Jacky Fleming