Books I am LOVING right now

“A well-read woman is a dangerous creature” – Lisa Kleypas

booksI’ve been an absolute BOOK WORM this month and I am loving it. It is also universally acknowledged that to become a better writer you have to become a committed reader- which is no chore for me I can tell you. I’ve also realised that I love the feel of proper books, I have a Kindle which I adore especially for a beach holiday/long flights, but when I am in the comfort of my own home I love physically holding and turning the pages of a book. I used to be the weird kid in Waterstones that would smell the pages. I also love looking at the covers and you don’t get the same effect looking on a Kindle. Anyway… onto the books.

(ps. omg, there are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS out there right now especially if you’re into feministy reads/memoirs. Lots of celebrations of being a female basically.) 

  • The Vagenda by Holly Baxter/Rhiannon Lucy Coissiett: A Zero Tolerance Guide to Media – I’ve preordered this book by the absolute legends behind the feminist blog The Vagenda. One of my favourite blogs on t’internet. If you order it from the Guardian Bookshop here and get £3.00 off.
  • #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso: No, don’t worry – this isn’t anything to do with Tulisa from N-Dubz (remember when she realised that tragic book/perfume called the Female Boss?) This is much cooler. Also it is a HASHTAG as a book title, hello? Sophia is the founder of the US clothing site Nasty Gal which basically sells loads of dreamy clothes fit for Coachella and a (sort of) afforable price. Also it makes me happy that Lena Dunham is besties with Sophia – any endorsement from Lena is more than enough for me to part ways with my hard-earned cash. Oh, I’m so easy sold. Amazon link here.
  • Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates: I’ve only just ordered this but cannot wait to give it a read having been following the Twitter feed for yonks. It’s a great cause to get behind as “casual” sexism is my pet peeve. Small little remarks that go unnoticed is still extremely prevalent in modern society as well as the bigger issues which Laura is not afraid to raise. I also LOVE that a website/Twitter feed campaign that can then be turned into a book that can be passed down. Amazon link here.
  • Goose by Dawn O’Porter: Not going to lie, I’m so very smug that I have a signed copy. I had a great time meeting Dawn at Waterstone’s Piccadilly and hearing all about her writing process and inspiration behind the book. I read it in a less than day. That’s sort of what I loved about Paper Aeroplanes too, that fact that I could read it in one sitting and have a lovely afternoon reading with a cuppa tea. I love the subject matter: friendship, sex, religion – Dawn touches on topics in a confident way and makes you really get to grips with the characters personalities, emotions and flaws. Can’t wait for the next TWO in the series. Amazon link here. Oh and if that’s not enough, the lovely Dawn has also been a busy bee and written a book about vintage clothes too (and soon to launch a clothing line I hear) as part of a Channel 4 series. Here’s the link to “This Old Thing” – looks way better than Trinny and Susannah FYI.
  • The Manrepeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls by Leandra Medine: I’m nearly finished with this book and it’s been an ABSOLUTE DREAM to read. It’s fashion meets feminism. Leandra is a total babe who has had an embarassing childhood like the rest of us but used that old age trick of ‘being yourself’ to turn herself into an unconventional ‘IT’ girl telling an unconventional love story. Every chapter is marked by an item of clothing that meant something to her – a great way of telling her narrative. Whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who is ambitious but also likes day-dreaming. Amazon link here.
  • Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham: I have no idea what this is going to be like really, except for the fact that IT’S LENA BLOODY DUNHAM and I love love love her. It’s not out until October, which I think is really mean actually – first we are without Girls as the series is over and then she leaves us hanging for her book. She could have timed it so we all had our Lena fix with Girls over. Anywho, I’ve pre-ordered this bad boy and can’t wait to tuck into it. Amazon link here.
  • Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch: I haven’t started this yet but it was recommended to me by my friend Pat McNulty who knows a good book when she sees it. I instantly bought it online and can’t wait to dip in. It’s set in the 80′s in NYC, before social media/the Internet took over, before SATC and Girls, but is meant to be an amazing book for getting inspiration for writing your own novel. It’s out of print now, but you can still nab a copy on Amazon here
  • The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon: This isn’t out until June (sob sob) and I haven’t been contacted by any PRs about reviewing it so I am very sad! But, I cannot wait to read it as I’ve heard marvellous things through the people who have had a sneeky peek, I believe it’s all about the ‘chaotic’ period of her 20′s. Plus Bryony’s columns such as this one for the Telegraph make me love her, so pretty sure I’ll love her book too. Amazon link here.
  • How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran: Caitlin’s back, back again. Caitlin’s back, tell a friend. THIS IS SO EXCITING. For anyone that has a major career/girl crush on Caitlin Moran, especially after reading How To Be A Woman (which I have read six times and own two copies of as I am paranoid of losing it) and a fan of watching her drunken Twitter rants, then this is the book for you to get your hands on! It’s not out until July (again, someone let me review it please!) but you can pre-order from Amazon here. It’s a novel, but has a lot of similarities with her own upbringing (woo, Wolverhampton!) so I’m guessing it has ‘autobiographical qualities’ but apparently that is an annoying thing to say to a novelist so I will shhh now. Anyway, buy it and please talk to me about it once you have!
  • Vagina by Naomi Woolf: I’ve had to pause reading this as I’ve had so many on the go but I’ve loved it so far. It’s sort of sciency but in a total readable way. It’s made me question things in society that I also just take for granted and listen to. Naomi Woolf is also an idol of mine and I’m looking forward to studying her language in more detail so I can learn from her. Amazon link here.
  • A Life in Agony By Irma Kurtz: This book was sent to me via my blog and I really enjoyed reading it. It is a memoir by Irma who is one of the most well-known ‘agony aunt’ columnists, her career spanning 40 odd years (for Cosmopolitan magazine). She has had a very interesting life and I love how she had been giving people advice (without really realising it) from a really early age (during her school years). It made me think that what you enjoy/are good at as a child can really shape what career you step into and bring to the world. Her life hasn’t been plain sailing either, making it a very moving book. Amazon link here.
  • Your Voice In My Head By Emma Forrest: This book made me cry like a baby. In a sad but good way. This is Emma Forrest’s memoir, which describes the part of her life that was sadly filled with depression and therapy sessions. She has the most amazing relationship with her therapist but after he passes away she has to face up to things alone – it’s moving, funny and extremely well-written. Emma’s ‘Gypsy Husband’ in the book is supposedly Colin Farrell. Emma is also a columnist forELLE UK at the moment and her writing is very ‘romantic’ especially the way she talks about LA – it makes me want to move there immediately. I also think there is a film version being made of this book which is very exciting indeed (although apparently Emma Watson is cast as Emma Forrest, not so sure about that, we’ll see!) 

Phew, that’s it for now. But PLEASE do let me know if you have any suggestions! I’m going to be keeping up my book worm status for the time being.

 

Why writing is good for the soul

diaryWriting = immortality.

On the news last night of Sue Townsend passing I was obviously really saddened, she was only 68 and according to sources in the middle of writing of writing another Adrian Mole book. Her books were genius, they tapped into so many truths of adolescence, they were funny, sad, honest and really endearing to all that read them. The other thing I thought immediately after I heard the news, was that her books will live on. They are something that will continue to be read by so many. They will be passed down to more generations and will continue to touch people for decades to come. The thought of people still reading your words after you are not here anymore makes me want to write more and one day be in a position where I can write lots of different books that will hopefully mean something. 

I’m probably an introvert.

I read a really lovely article recently in Company magazine by Stevie Martin who talks about being an introvert. I must admit, I had preconceptions of what an introvert is and I thought it meant “to be shy”. Turns out it doesn’t mean that all, it just means that you “recharge” or get energized by being on your alone more so that being surrounded constantly by people. I love going out, meeting people and seeing friends and family more than anything, but I do feed off being alone and it helps when I need to get my mojo back to not be a busy scenario and have my me-time. I used to miss living with my sister because I was always so used to just popping her to bedroom to say hello or watch a film and it would feel like I was on my own but just quietly with someone else. I get that from my best friend who I live with as well but we are both so busy with our different schedules that I do have moments where I am alone. I’ve learnt to be totally comfortable in my own company and love mornings or evenings on my own where I can get some thoughts down.

It’s therapeutic.

Not everyone wants to hear you rant, and equally not everyone wants to hear your life story or moments when you just want to talk about yourself or something that has really interested you. You can of course deliver a water-downed version in the pub of what you think and believe, or your opinion on what happened in the last episode of True Detective, but quite frankly no one wants to hear you drivel on for hours. Well, except for a handful of close friends. That is why it is so therapeutic and relaxing to have an outlet whether you can write down whatever you want, whenever you want and get it out of your system.

I still to this day write down things in a paper diary when things have really upset me, be it a situation or a person. Getting it physically out and written out means, for me, it’s not in my head anymore and I can say ‘good riddance’ to any negative feelings.

You learn to take criticism.

Leading on from that point above about “writing whatever you want” there comes a price. Writing what you want, in whatever tone you want can resonate with some people and really ruffle a few feathers too. I think if you want to write and have a public blog you have to really be OK with the fact that not everyone will agree with you.

My first foray into this world was when I started writing for the Huffington Post years ago and got what I thought at the time was “backlash”, really it wasn’t any cause for concern, just a few people didn’t agree with me. And that’s totally fine, not everyone will agree with you, or like you, quite frankly. Everyone on the planet has a few haters and that is totally normal. To be honest, if any of my articles result in people leaving a comment that is good or bad, I feel like I’ve spoken about something worthwhile.

Practice actually works.

When I look back on some of my old blog posts I do cringe a little bit. It’s not because the content was anything I don’t still think is still interesting, but it was just the sentences a bit mixed up and I hadn’t yet found my style, or my ‘voice’. I actually find writing still as hard as I used to, but that’s because I’ve learnt (and still learning!) what makes a good post or article.

I am so glad I started this blog when I did as I’ve seen my writing improve and change over time, and spotted ways that I can get better. It feels like playing the piano, if you exercise the muscle every day or every week at least, you can only get better at writing but also get better at coming up with new ideas more easily and don’t find yourself bashing your head again your desk quite so often.

The Stylist’s Rail is back!

This is the lovely Plum. @PlumsTweets.

plumPlum is someone I really respect personally and professionally (after finding each other on Twitter ages ago) after we soon realised we had the same sort of ambition and vision for ourselves. I love following what she gets up to as we both live in East London, she knows ALL the hotspots and she is a really positive person. She is a real inspiration, fabulous writer and someone who has a such a “go get ‘em” attitude. If that wasn’t enough she is also very creative too, having co-founded Pinned it, Made it! group. She certainly is a busy bee.

But that’s not just it either. Plum also runs the awesome The Stylist’s Rail which is back TOMORROW at the Hoxton Hotel and after an absolutely amazing time last time I wanted to tell everyone to come along!

I got some amazing bargains last time and I find that getting a good pick of the rail gives you such a greater buzz than coming home with something from the high street that everyone else will have in their wardrobes too! 

It’s also a really good opportunity to check out all the upcoming designers or companies you may not have heard of – it gives a lot of inspiration to try new looks or experiment with something that is a little bit different to what you would normally wear. 

This month there is fashion editors from Who’s Jack, GRAZIA and COMPANY selling and welcome back Bohemian Rose VintageThe Style Merchants and celebrity fashion designer Nikita Karizma and loads more! Check the Facebook page for more info.

Bloom Gin will provide the perfect summer drink of their signature floral and fruity G&Ts and the Hoxton Radio DJs bring the noise, playing a selection of get-up-and-dance party tunes throughout the day. What’s not to love?

SEE. YOU. THERE.

Sorry Dove, but We Don’t Need a Beauty “Patch”, We Need Honest Conversation

patch

Dove’s Beauty Sketches campaign was a huge viral sensation and so it should have been. It was a genius creation, a simple and effective storyline resulting in anyone who stumbled across it admitting to having a huge lump in their throat and reaching for the tissues by the end of it. The clip was shared over and over (and over and over) again, clocking up the video views to over 62 million hits, and that was just on YouTube. It wasn’t just a campaign; it was a movement, and the world wanted to be a part of it. We believed the message. We are more beautiful than we think. Globally we hashtagged it until we couldn’t hashtag it any more: #WeAreBeautiful, we said. 

Like with any successful campaign it tapped into a universal insight: we (women) are often extremely self-deprecating but friends or even strangers wouldn’t usually hesitate to compliment us without a seconds thought. Dove raised the question: why aren’t we nicer to ourselves? Seriously? If a stranger can see all your best bits, then why can’t you? It was full of positivity and it wasn’t coated in a shiny commercial glossiness; it just a lovely story of a group of random women who made each other feel good about themselves. It had added layers to it as well, perhaps symbolising this digital era we live in and how the Internet has probably got us even more confused about how we should see ourselves and how we are perceived by others. We’re constantly tagged in good pictures, bad pictures, at different angles, using different filters – we are constantly nitpicking at our worst bits online and offline. To realise we are “not too bad after all” and laugh (through tears) at our ridiculous nature of inwardly bullying ourselves is a lovely sentiment to share. It was a communal “what are we like” eye-rolling moment. There’s a reason the video was the most watched online advert of all time.Dove appeared authentic and nurturing, the way we want it to be, from a much-loved brand that is as old as our grandmothers.

So with Dove’s audience being primarily women, and clever, feisty intelligent women at that, I was slightly disappointed by the new advert and this introduction of Dove Beauty “Patches”. Dove’s fictional RBX patch is a product that they stick on their arm “for 12 hours” that aims to change the women’s perception of themselves. It felt instantly negative and clinical to me. Sharing compliments, or talking about beauty or inspiring each other I totally understand – but to give the girls a made-up cosmetic product and then gently deceive them into thinking differently? It sort of suggests that women need to be tricked into feeling good about themselves. Trickery is the opposite of what women need; we are consistently being tricked by the media, bad ex-boyfriends, mannequins, models, incorrectly sized pieces of clothing, Topshop changing room mirrors… Being tricked is at the very heart of all our body hang-up woes. Slapping on a patch because you’re “not feeling very pretty today” instantly suggests that there is an illness and there is a cure. It all seems a bit extreme, like these ladies need to get off smoking on 40 fags a day. There is nothing wrong with us Dove! We just feel a bit tubby and unsexy sometimes! We are happy with being mini Lena Dunhams!

It also seems slightly odd that any young girl would take an unknown “drug” even from a well-known brand such as Dove. Leading psychologist Ann Kearney-Cookeruns the experiment and tells the girls that the RBX patch is a new “revolutionary product” that will increase their confidence. Yup, it’s all about the products again. However the patch itself turns out to be a placebo and it is an experiment for the girls to see if they are relying on the patch in order to help them “feel more beautiful”. What’s in the patch, they ask? Nothing, Dove says. Cue the water works – but this time it felt really quite sad, the realization that we need to rely on something so physical on our bodies to feel beautiful. To me, that’s different from genuinely believing it.

Sadly Dove Patches does not deliver along the same lines as Dove Beauty Sketches. Even though the girls are “real” (i.e not actresses) there is a strong testimonial feel to it and sadly this means it appears inauthentic. It conjures up assumptions that women are addicted to being their own worst enemy, that we need “a patch” to physically brainwash ourselves into thinking we are “beautiful”. It’s not like we need to go to rehab and get dosed up with radioactive patches every time we think “ah, my hair is flicking the wrong way today”. Brands need to do an even bigger job of being on a level with their consumers especially with the rise of social media, everyone and everything is exposed. We can see straight through a glossy advert that just wants to sell. If Dove wants to rebel against the beauty stereotypes, it needs to be something a lot more rough and ready next time. Not an ad that replicates a hair-flicking, pearly-white smiling Dream Phone advert from the 90’s.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a great message and I applaud the people behind the idea – but as soon as we turn the topic of beauty into a big, no holds barred honest conversation rather than something that can only be cured by cosmetics it will be brighter future for everyone. 

Social Media Has Made Us Feel Like We Know People We’ve Never Met. Why?

Two strange things happened yesterday, one was wonderful, and one was definitely was not. 

The wonderful bit: I met Dawn O’Porter at her book signing for her new novel Goose at Piccadilly Waterstones. Dawn is someone I have been completely obsessed with from when I was a teen as someone in the industry who I have a total “career crush” on. I love getting a glimpse into her career and personal life through her Twitter page and her writing tone is such a delight to read with a cup of tea in the evenings. She is so refreshingly honest; sometimes I feel we lack some real uncensored honesty in the media world. It really was a lovely evening with brilliant questions from Glamour editor Jo Elvin, but it was also coated with sadness because of course it was also the night the world was told some seriously sad news.

The news that 25-year-old Peaches Geldof had died. My friend Polly was sat in Café Nero opposite Waterstones as I arrived for the event, she looked glum:

“I’m in shock. Peaches Geldof….”
“What? What? Was she in here..?” I said, looking around.

No. Polly showed me the BBC News tweet on her phone.

Along with the same reaction that the entire world had, I was totally shocked and saddened. Since I heard I’ve been thinking about it non stop. I’ve also been thinking about how Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms have enabled people to form real life feelings of admiration and friendship for people we have only come across online. How can I be feeling this sad, I thought? What gives me the right to be mourning her so much? But through following Peaches’ various social networks for years I actually felt like I knew her a bit.  Of course it’s debatable whether that is actually true.

Before there was barrier between the readers and what the media brought to us. We’d never know the person behind the cover. Now with the power of the Internet we are starting to feel like we know people, even if we don’t really. When I met Dawn yesterday it was a weird moment of feeling like she was a really really old friend, as I follow her life daily via Twitter from the exciting (when her now husband proposed) to the mundane bits of her life (like off to walk the dog). It’s actually strange that I know so much about her. I wanted to ask her about her cat, the fact that her husband is in the play Of Mice and Men on Broadway that I’ve booked tickets to see, the fact that I loved her Internet dating book, the fact that I’ve been religiously reading every single article (on her personal blog or publication) for years and years. I blurted out last night that I actually wrote her an email when I was much younger asking her how to become a TV presenter. I also use to send her emails when at an old PR job and sent her freebies on the sly. I’m a total unashamed fangirl and Twitter has made us feel like it’s OK to “follow” people. Really we are just being harmlessly curious about their lives that they allow us to peep into them. Social media has allowed us all to have a little pry. 

peachesThe Internet and rise of Twitter has definitely made that distance between fans and celebrities a lot narrower. We can talk to or receive a reply (or retweet) within seconds from someone who you will probably never meet. You can know intimate details about their life and see pictures of the ‘behind the scenes’ of their messy house or what they are cooking for dinner. Without the IRL (in real life) bit, you can essentially know the same about certain celebs/people in the public eye as your very own mates.

After hearing about Peaches I almost felt stupid or insensitive that I was posting words about how upset I felt on social media about her death. I don’t know her. I never met her. I’ve only ever followed her online and in magazines. But I felt a deep deep sadness as I grew up at the same time as her, and would look to her as someone I could identify with during my teen years, albeit she was a lot more crazy than me and dealt with issues whilst in the public eye, which I doubt she could control. We were born in the same year and there is something so incredibly tragic about hearing about a death of someone the same age as you.

I remember reading her column in Elle Girl, when she had peroxide long blonde hair and she looked so tough, she made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted to. Whenever I went up to London with my friends it was always such a big deal and we’d always talk about “going to KOKO in Camden because we might spot Peaches Geldof!!”. She was the person we all wanted to spot in the crowds, because she was an IT-girl in a non-conformist way and was always ahead of the trend and onto the next big thing. I remember seeing her last year at a British Heart Foundation charity auction event and I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was so cool. 

I’ve been reading articles about her from her friends and people who knew her all day, feeling sadder each time and still as fascinated by her life as I was when I was 16. 

Whether people think it’s a good or bad thing, it’s fair to say that social media has become an surprising outlet for dealing with death. Peaches’ Twitter account has grown by 90,000 followers overnight since the news. One thing cannot be denied and that is the relationship we have with the Internet is growing each day. I don’t know what to think about the fact that I’m finding myself crying in the toilets at work because of someone I never ever knew. And I don’t know think I am the only one either.

 

Why Do People Think It’s OK To Take Pictures of Strangers?

tube

It seems to be happening all around us, with no one really batting an eyelid. Until now that is. Taking a quick piccie of a cute boy in a dapper suit to send via Snapchat to a friend, or documenting the ‘look-a-like’ who you can’t help document for later, we’re all guilty of it. Even if we take a picture of the fluffy dog on the table next to us in the restaurant, should we be technically asking it’s owner’s permission? It’s not our dog. Or have we reached a new level of advanced technology that is engrained within our society that we think it’s totally within our rights to snap away at whoever we want to, whenever we want to? 

The reason this has now become an issue, and in fact a social ‘fear’, is because it takes seconds for a photo to go viral and hit mainstream media. It’s also possible to be really subtle without having camera sound on your phone. It’s not like you’re getting a heavy Canon 600d out of your bag, you just need to pretend to be playing Candy Crush at a weird angle and you’re in. Snap snap. One sneaky photo harmlessly uploaded onto Twitter is then in the public domain and has the potential to be spread anywhere, by anyone, and even end up on the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Forget skiving off work or having sex in the street, these days you could be made a fool of for just eating or sleeping on public transport. This is now a reality.

I must admit until now, I’ve often scrolled through blogs and poked fun behind my screen at Tumblrs that crowd source photos of the general public. Sites such as LAMFRT” (that’s Look At My F*cking Red Trousers). Essentially it’s a Tumblr for people to upload pictures of “posh idiots” who roam such events such as the Polo or Henley Regatta who wear the same silly red trousers. It’s funny to laugh at these members of society who thinks it’s cool to dress up wearing the same red trousers, isn’t it? However, something happened last week that made me feel exceptionally guilty about laughing at these posh people. I feel guilty that I could happily laugh along at a public Tumblr group that could have seriously upset the people that were on there and that it took a public group that posted pictures of women eating that made me think: oh shoot, I could so easily be pictured and mocked online too.

Let me explain: the latest victims of people snapping away without permission or any sense of decency, is the Facebook group “Women Who Eat on Tubes”. Suddenly, I felt a pang of absolute disgust over the fact that some horrible men have been taking secret photos of women eating at unflattering angles. It is a horrible, seedy group, and it’s not just the pictures that make it hard to look at; it’s the vile comments and captions underneath each picture that add an extra layer of evil. It’s the fact that these women are completely unaware and just enjoying a harmless bite to each on public transport. Soon to be seen and laughed at by thousands.

I don’t think this is a specific gender issue, or that it’s all about the battle between men and women, but I do find the whole thing very intimidating. I must admit I have recently paused when thinking about having a snack on the tube since discovering this group because it has become so main stream and has happened to a soon-to-be colleague. If it was the other way around and it was a group of women taking pictures of men eating it would be just as disgusting and invasive. I think the issue just needs to raised with Facebook and with the general public to reinforce the fact that it is just bad manners. It’s not OK to take pictures of people in a cruel way. It’s not OK full stop.

What I honestly cannot believe above all, is that Facebook hasn’t yet removed this group. It’s still there and what’s worse is it’s an ‘open group’ which means anyone can access it and anyone can post to it.  What’s even more sinister is the fact that the groups founder, recently interviewed by Telegraph’s Wonder Women compared it to capturing “wildlife” which honestly sends shivers down my spine: “It should cherish its subjects in the way a wildlife photographer cherishes a kingfisher in a river.” Ew.

I for one will be having second thoughts whenever I am tempted to photograph anyone without permission or for the sake of ‘sharing’, with friends or on the Internet. That includes snapping the backs of heads of nearby celebrities or anyone I don’t know even if it’s to capture the fact that I like their shoes. Just because we have portable cameras doesn’t mean we have any right to be snapping away in stranger’s faces.

 

 

Farringdon Fun

pantry

Sooooo I’ve teamed up with FlexiOffices in London to bring to you some lunchtime inspiration around Farringdon. The guys there recently sent me through a survey that said that sadly as few as 30% of people actually take a lunch break, and scoffing a sandwich at your desk doesn’t exactly count. I’m guilty myself of doing it although I’ll always go for a little walk to stretch my leggies at the very least. We should be making more of our lunch breaks though shouldn’t we? There are still office stigmas around taking too long a lunch break or even leaving the office at all, but it doesn’t have to be anything mad, just physically eating away from your desk is good enough to break up the day. 

So if you work in Farringdon and fancy a lunch out, I thought I would list my top five places to splash out on a nice hearty lunch:

Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London

They do a nice ‘group lunch’ menu, which I think is a slightly discounted if you all go off the same menu. There is normally a really nice fish, like smoked cod on the menu. They also do a pretty banging breakfast with croissants and eggs etc.

Foxlow 69-73 St John St, London 

If you fancy an energizing steak for lunch then Foxlow is the place. It’s the little brother of the Hawksmoor brand and literally does one of best steaks I’ve ever had, and a bonus is all the cuts are straight from the Ginger Pig. The sides are really yummy too, as well as chips there are things like Spring Greens with Lemon & Garlic and sausage stuffed onion. Mmmmmmm.

Dovetail 9-10 Jerusalem Passage, London

Two words: MOULE FRITES. I went here the other day and it was really fun and chilled. It’s a very relaxed pub-like environment but unlike most pubs they do really good, fresh mussels (in white wine sauce) that come with naughty bread and chips. Boom.

St John’s Pantry36 Saint John’s Lane, London

Fancy a refreshing salad? JUST GO HERE. Reminds me of a NYC deli type joint. 

J&A Cafe, J+A Cafe, First Floor + Bar, 1+4 Sutton Lane, London

This is a really nice tucked away café in Clerkenwell with a really nice outside seating area, perfect for a bite to eat in the sun. It’s pretty healthy yummy stuff too like smoked salmon and goat’s cheese salads with cous cous.

Tweet @flexioffices with your lunchbreak tips and use the hashtag #LiveYourLunchbreak if you’re planning to get out of your desk eating rut any time soon.

 

some really exciting news….

deb

It’s no real surprise to those who know me and read my blog that I live and breathe all things to do with writing, women’s lifestyle media AND social media. 

What’s that phrase again? “Find what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve absolutely loved working in the social/marketing industry and have met some incredible people who have become my closest friends. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have started my career working for a WPP agency, and to learn from the best at the world’s largest digital agency, Edelman, and then to learn from brilliant editorial and creative teams at a company that is only five years old but completely leading and innovating what it is to be doing social media marketing in 2014: We Are Social.

But I’ve always found myself filling the gaps that those jobs left me with, by producing own content, writing in the evenings or meeting up with other journalists/people that work in social for publications. I’ve always believed in working hard and working silly hours but also wanting to enjoy every minute of it so that I don’t notice how hard I’m working. So just this year I’ve been looking for the perfect job that marries all these things together. 

For years now I have been writing for many different magazines and online newspapers and nothing gives me more of a buzz than publishing stories, getting traction, receiving feedback from readers or seeing someone has been moved or motivated by what you’ve written or shared. Creating content that evokes emotion, makes people laugh, cry or feel inspired really is what the Internet is made for.

SO GET TO THE POINT THEN:

On this note I have EXCITING NEWS that I am officially jumping ship from social media agency life to handling the social media activities for a new publication for 20-something year old girls (Grazia’s lil sis) called The Debrief.

So in a few weeks I join Bauer Media as the social media editor of the Debrief.. And I am SUPER excited.

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Moving from the marketing world to journalism is quite a big change but it feels so completely right for me – this role embodies all of my passions and interests and I just cannot wait to get stuck in and work with a really amazing team of people.

Make sure you follow the website and the Twitter feed as it’s a brilliant brilliant place for all the latest content for women, (and men!) about people, life, getting ready, staying in, going out…. And it’s consistently evolving which makes it extra exciting……. 

Over and out :-)

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hi fashion industry: are you glamourising or mocking fast food? Both are silly things to do

 

 

mmLook, I enjoy a hearty Maccy D’s the same as the next hungover person. Whether it’s some sort of fast food “breakfast” the next day whilst still out and about in central London at 6am, or a cheeky Burger King at a service station to break up the hideous drive ahead when you’ve planned a nice getaway but ruined it with boozing the night before: we’ve all been there. An unashamed fast food moment is a normal part of any busy person’s life.

When talking fashion however, my one pet hate is when there is an interview with a stunning model/actress/(delete as applicable) and they are always described by the interviewer to be eating something unhealthy before the questions commence. I think the last one I read was with Mila Kunis, described first as looking “very petite” and then described in detail to be chowing down on a massive packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Only then could the interview commence. There is a trend in magazines where the girl in question must appear to EAT LOADS or ordering something huge whilst looking titchy.

I’m only poking fun at this trend because it has shocked me over time how much of an actual “trend” this is because every time I pick up a cover interview I look out for the little hints of LOOK HOW MUCH [INSERT PERSON] IS EATING DURING THIS INTERVIEW. I’m not suggesting anything sinister, but I just find it very odd, because a) we don’t really need to know and b) we know full well that these celebrities are on absolutely crazy diets and fitness regimes as part of their job.

To expand on this, the hot trend on a bigger scale appears to be fast food. Lots of top-end fashion designers and models are becoming obsessed with greasy fries and sloppy burgers. This rings two alarm bells to me: either they are glamourising it (for being something cool) or they are mocking it (because people like them don’t touch that sort of grub). Either way, it’s quite disconcerting. Maybe it’s just a couple of different billion pound businesses partnering up to laugh at the poor unsuspecting consumers that we are, who eat up anything that is fed to us on billboards and they get to grab headlines and rake in some extra cash.

McDonalds at midnight in Hackney Central is FAR from glamourous, in fact, it’s a dive, and it’s depressing. And here we all are ogling at the designers and celebrities who endorse it, but only from their shiny five star hotel rooms, not from the unhygienic toilets of an East-end McDonald’s chain.

The idea itself isn’t new. Back in 2010, the Cool Hunter launched McFancy, a new creative project by TCA Access, who rebranded familiar fast food meals with a designer twist. The images are beautiful and the artwork really is tip top. The concept included the plans to launch “a restaurant that offers a traditional McDonald’s menu but packaged in a way that makes a playful yet stylish nod to the lifestyle of the highly desirable, influential consumers that attend Fashion Weeks.” They is something quite cool about this as a project, a concept, an artistic idea, a new stylish restaurant — but what about bringing this sort of collaboration to the catwalk?

Cool Hunter's McFancy

Cool Hunter’s McFancy

So fast forward four and a bit years and it’s become en vogue to bring fast food to the runway. But unlike this art project, it’s been delivered in a way that has a somewhat cheapened aesthetic. It’s all very bright, shiny and in your face. Moschino was one of the first to bring the idea of actually included a model delivering a McDonald’s meal tray down the runway and others may disagree but I thought it looked tacky. Is it meant to be ironic, or does it make sense commercially? What is it? It is a hilarious juxtaposition of a skinny model holding a fast food tray — are we meant to be laughing at this explicit oxymoron?

Moschino McDonalds

Moschino McDonalds

Then comes the celebrities, the mass media vehicles, following the trends and carrying forward any messages that the general public may have missed at first dibs at the fashion shows. The latest trend-setters to wear the Moschino McDonalds piece is Katy Perry, Jourdan Dunn and Rita Ora – don’t get me wrong, they look fab as always and I admire them both in their own ways, but to blatantly advertise McDonalds as an vacuous fashion statement seems very strange. At least those three are more likely to actually visit a McDonalds. Anna Dello Russo however definitely does not  have a personal brand that screams fast food. It’s as hilarious as Victoria Beckham signing up as the new face of Lidl. Either way though, these celebrities are not using their T-shirt space right now to brand any sort of initiative that is “for good”, they are mocking the fast food industry by having a “LOL” moment.

The same can be said for the Chanel supermarket, this year’s wacky hook by Largerfeld to launch a massive Chanel branded store with everything you’d find in Sainsbury’s but with a couture edge to it. I am a massive Chanel fan and ADORE their bags (even though still trying to scrape together the cash for one) but the whole thing cheapened the brand for me. The strange dread-lock hair for Cara Delevigne and Rihanna pretending to drink from a big carton of milk, both things not really something they’d do in their spare time, but I might be wrong.

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Chanel Supermarket

Chanel Supermarket

The picture below is from this month’s Company magazine and was sort of what spurred me on to write this post. Who in their right mind would wear a bikini which resembles the inside of a Big Mac? I’ll tell you the only person who actually would: A MODEL. And only a model. No one in their right mind, or who is even the tiniest bit insecure about their body (which is unfortunately probably a large proportion of women who are normal) is going to wear that with confidence. Well I certainly wouldn’t. It’s the fashion industry poking fun at the fact that the fashion elite are so perfect and sleek that they can laugh ironically with their Brazilian blow dries and wear alien burger relish on their clothes and swimwear.

From @Companymagazine

From @Companymagazine

Fashion is always trying to break boundaries to deliver new and interesting concepts which I understand from someone who works in the media industry. But these new ideas shouldn’t be at the expense of glamourising unhealthy food just because the fashion industry can get away with being ironic, or trying to pretend that they have a normal attitude to food. I don’t think it’s good to be giving the fast food industry any more limelight (c’mon, it’s not good for us) and I certainly don’t like the air of pretence of showing size zero models pretending to scoff a burger every night. Sorry supermodels, but you can’t have your cake McDonalds and eat it. What happened to what our mums and teachers always told us, to just be healthy?

 

Why I think “girl power” is a better term than feminism

geri

A week or so ago, I was sat on the train leaving London, reading the April issue of Marie Claire. Before I go on, I must stress that I do truly love this magazine, but the editor’s letter this month jarred with me for some reason. I tried to ignore it and give the benefit of the doubt, but it kept surfacing in my mind and I had to write it down. It read:

“It may be the explosion of social media, or it could be the straightened circumstances young women find themselves in thanks to the past five years of economic downturn, but feminism is, to put in mildly, having a moment”.

I had to really dig into my brain to figure why it made me feel a bit funny all over. It might be because it sounded like a flippant fashion trend, such as: “It may be the cold rainy weather, or the watery circumstances that young women find themselves in thanks to the unsheltered shops on Oxford Street, but flip flops are, to put it mildly, having a moment”. Maybe it was also because feminism is suggested here to only really have a proper look-in because ‘of the past five years’ of shitty economic mess or the fact that we can all rant and rave on Twitter. I don’t think I’m going mad here, but feminism is NOT “having a moment”; feminism has always been a word to sum up equality between men and woman. I sincerely hope that the idea of equality is not just having a moment in 2014 – if so I think we should all be VERY worried. Thanks to Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman published in 2011 the WORD feminism did have a very big media moment, but it’s not to say that it didn’t exist before, or that aspects of feminism weren’t already going on around us. I certainly wouldn’t want feminism to be thought of as something that’s currently on trend and on the ‘what’s hot’ list. 

It IS good that fashion magazines are talking about feminism, it truly is. In particular I love the debates that ELLE have had recently and I was lucky enough to attend an event last year about how women can be feminist AND feminine. I love the conversations around the fact that it’s totally possible to wear heels and be a feminist or wear floral floaty dresses but still stomp around a board room in the same sort of professional manner as men. It openly challenged stereotypes that women can be all things they want to be, and I liked the way that ELLE brought that to the table in an unapologetic way, (they are a fashion magazine that focuses on aesthetics after all.) Also Lorraine Candy seems like a tough cookie and to talk about these topics publicly with some elements of unavoidable controversy has to be admired.

Talking about feminism, I was reminded of the Spice Girls the other day and I smiled when I remembered how they were the biggest feminists of the 90′s but didn’t take themselves too seriously. No one sat around writing long essays or screaming at other women on Twitter. They just publicly misbehaved in a PG way, and inspired a nation of young girls to buy massive platform shoes, shout about Girl Power and feel invincible and truly equal to men. I liked how casual the term was- it wasn’t offensive or aggressive or serious- it just succeeded in making young girls feel like they can do whatever they want to do, and have fun whilst doing it.

The Spice Girls were also really naughty. Geri pinched Prince Charles bum, they would run away from their agents and sneak off in the middle of the night. Anyone that has watched Spice World The Movie will understand that sort of mischievous vibe they had, and the film sort of sums up their spontaneous, strange approach to life. The other funny thing I always noticed in that film is that all the men are totally at the girls beck and call. No one was the boss of them. Their poor manager (Richard E Grant) cannot control them, Meatloaf (LOL, the driver) gets annoyed when they won’t get back on the tour bus. They run away from Michael Barrymore (not sure what exactly his role is meant to be) and dress up in military suits and march around, kicking and shouting. They are not being extreme or serious, they are just being girls, but being powerful girls at the same time.

I don’t necessarily want it to be come across like I’m ‘bored’ with the feminism chat, because it is quite the opposite. I feel more strongly about the subject that ever before especially as I go deeper and deeper into my career and into my life in general which can only get more complicated. But if I ever had to sit down with a young girl now who was looking to me for advice, (like I was in the 90′s!) I would want to inspire her to explore and believe in girl power. I wouldn’t want to approach equality or feminism in a way that is fashionable or a topic that will ever go away; I would encourage her to think about gender equality even if it’s not being covered by her favourite magazines that month.

It’s Never Been Cooler To Be Yourself

I was going to call this post “It’s never been cooler to be normal”: but I don’t really like the word “normal”, what does even mean anyway? 

When I was younger I wanted be like everyone else. Most people do because it’s safer that way, especially in a small town. I wanted the ugg boots, the stupid expensive jeans, the straightened hair, the branded t-shirts. To an extent now I obviously like the idea of “trends” as I read the Sunday Times Style religiously – but I also fell in love with the idea of embracing being different since I left university. How BORING to be like everyone else? How dull and uncreative would it be to look like a clone? I remember hating my bright bright blonde hair because most of the girls at schools had mousey brown hair – now I feel so lucky to have a distinctive feature – in fact I wish I had more of them. Merging into the crowd makes me shudder.

Since the eruption of GIRLS on TV, I identified, like most of us did, with Lena Dunham more than the others. Not so much with Hannah Horvath’s personality I hope, but hopefully this idea of being successful with it not depending too much on looks. As soon as she became completely “accepted” in the mainstream media world, (being in Vogue, presenting SNL, etc) this was a massive sign – it meant we could all be ourselves, finally. It meant that you don’t HAVE to worry all the time about having make-up on or about killing yourself over that ‘stubborn quarter of a stone’ you’re trying to shift. To be honest it shouldn’t have taken me that long to realise that anyway. Life can be so much better when not beating yourself up. (It’s the real-life equivalent of trolling yourself.)

Hand on heart, I would SO rather be like Lena, writing in my pyjamas, being passionate about things, and not knowing what exactly quinoa is, than trying my whole life to be some sort of bronzed yoga supermodel which just isn’t me at all. It would a waste of a life because it doesn’t suit me and isn’t in my DNA. I’d be doing it for external pressures that aren’t coming from within me.

Also along came the birth of Instagram which, depending on who you follow, can be a source of loads of people just sharing who they actually are, opposed to a Photoshopped cover photo. I mean, you get to see Oprah cooking dinner in her comfies, or famous groups of mates doing exactly what you and your mates do, people pulling stupid faces, Alexa Chung admitting she has a spot – it’s amazing. A nice remember too that you can be whatever you want to be, because “being perfect” is not cool anymore; in fact it’s frowned upon. And HOW cool is that?

 

the delightful mussel men

From the outside, you could mistake the “Mussel Men” establishment for a seedy East London gym. There are drawings of old men plastered all over the front of door and you can’t quite see in properly. It’s scattered in between off licences and empty shops, you could quite easily walk straight past it. 

I had to blog about this place. It’s just the most amazing experience. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with it, mainly because I love love love seafood. I also had that sort of emotional moment that I sometimes get in London when I think “god we really do have everything right here on our door step!” A fresh, seafood pop-up dining heaven just 15 minutes down the road.

I think my undying love of prawns and mussels and all things fresh from the ocean was first sparked by family musseltrips to Cornwall where you could hear the waves lapping just outside the restaurant; I just loved the atmosphere of being by the sea and eating fresh mussels that had just been caught there and then.

So it was to my utter delight that I went along with some friends to Mussel Men on Sunday afternoon which is situated on Kingsland Road, near Haggerston station. I was incredibly hungover so I thought that the seafood might not go down too well, but how wrong I was! It was delicious and made me feel 100% better. The Prosecco helped, naturally.

There’s a time and a place for a classic Sunday roast, but there is always a massive time and place for a Seafood Roast. I had never tried this before and it was just amazing. It came out in two platters, for the five of us and it was such a delicious feast. The Oysters in particular slipped on down a treat. 

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What also added to the experience was the fact that the dining environment is really chilled out, family friendly and quite small (only a few tables so you should definitely book) so it means it doesn’t get too chaotic and you get amazing service. Our waiter was Captain Bob who tasks you with ‘trying to beat him in a thumb war’ and in return you could win your very own Mussel Men T-Shirt. Obviously we all tried and failed. He was a very nice man and treated us well. 

Thanks Captain Bob and co. 

www.musselmen.com

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Will Smoking Ever Stop Being Glamourised?

kate moss

I haven’t smoked a cigarette for three months. That doesn’t seem like a huge deal or amount of time but I used to puff on one most days (and sometimes I’d even have one whilst reading the morning paper) so it’s fair to say I was a bit (or a lot) addicted. I’ve always grown up with my mates smoking around me and a few people in the family have had an on-and-off affair with cigarettes so it’s just been one of those things that I didn’t really analyse; it was just a casual lifestyle choice.

But I’ll tell you what, since giving up I’ve never felt better: full of energy, better sleeping patterns, shinier hair and better fitness levels. I’ve really noticed a difference, and why should I even be surprised by that? Smoking is really bad for you – we’ve had doctors, biologists and disappointed parents telling us for years but for some reason most people just shrug it off: meh, whatever, my lungs will be fine. “I’ll just have one more/ I’m pissed/ I’m a social smoker”. 

Like with most break-ups, once you’ve moved on and it’s behind you, you wonder why you even went there in the first place. I feel like that with smoking. Now I’m sitting in smug “Non Smoker” camp, ticking that box on the doctor’s form and not lying for once. When sitting on the bus I now spot people puffing away at 8am along Kingsland Road with their little ashtray and black coffee and I watch as those fumes going into their mouths and out their noses. Now, I can’t even remember why I did it or why I received any pleasure from putting so many horrible chemicals inside me. “You know they put rat’s poison in Marlborough Lights”, people would say, whilst continuing to smoke on said Marlborough Light.

lindsay lohanI can’t even really remember what led me to think I needed to stop. I think with most things in my life whether it’s a small decision or a milestone moment, I just wake up one morning, look out of the window and think “that’s enough”. The decision was cemented. Admittedly I did go out and purchase an e-cigarette which actually has really helped whenever I get a bit tipsy or stressed out; basically it’s a bit of a safety net from any of those moments that could potentially be an ‘oh f*ck it’ moment. Especially when on a writing deadline I’d need some sort of ‘break’ so I would have a little go on the e-cig or have a cup of tea. I once tweeted Caitlin Moran asking her how she wrote How To Be A Woman in 5 months and she replied “smoke a f*ck load of cigarettes”. SEE. It’s happens.

Even though I am bigging up the e-cigs for helping me kick the habit, things like the new Shoreditch “beyond-Hipster” establishment called the Vape Shop makes me cringe a little. Fair enough if this ‘vaping’ malarky becomes a new cool trend, but then it would silly if people started ‘vaping’ for the sake of it. They’re not glam in the slightest. It basically takes two hands to even pick up the thing to put in your mouth – they’re pretty heavy and awkward.

Since giving up I’ve seen it around me more than ever. I smell it as someone passes me with a lit cigarette, or can tell if someones been smoking when they hug me. I never used to be aware of it until now (because I was ‘one of them’) but it really is the worst sort of smell, especially when it’s a bit stale, like sweat. We are all polluted enough as it is in London, let alone having another layer of dark smog over us. 

I also see it more than ever on the TV and in theatre. It’s always been there, but it’s also a sign of showing a particular time in history: whether it’s setting the 1920′s scene in the Great Gatsby with their fancy cigarette holders or showing the old advertising world with workers smoking in the office in 1960′s Mad Men. Even in Bridget Jones it’s cool in a weird twisted way – smoking round the table at the dinner parties, “Oh Bridge! Pass me a lighter darling”.smoke

We know that smoking used to be glamorous, I mean the fact that Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn puffed away in their slinky addresses basically proves that it was pretty bloody glam. Or for men, very “Marlon Brando”. Even Obama can rock the “do you have a light?” in this fake photograph. Thing is, we don’t REALLY do anything that is overly glam these days do we? We can’t smoke inside, and it’s just a bit of a faff really. Take a modern day glamorous event for example, like the Oscars or something, would mean a celebrity nipping out in their flats, under an umbrella (held by a bouncer/bodyguard) whilst they chuffed away on their fag and then nipped back in – breathing smokey breath over everyone. It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Same with the boys, it’s no longer ‘James Dean’ vibes is it? It’s more drunken men smoking and accidentally tapping their ash on your nice clothes. 

Thanks to the smoking ban our lungs have been spared slightly, but it’s still seen as cool and glamourised by celebrities and models. It’s still a myth that models look the way they do because they just chain smoke instead of eating 3D objects.

At least if I ever feel tempted to pick up another cigarette I could just look at the pictures of Simon Cowell smoking on a jet-ski. Totally grim.

The Clapton Pot Dinner Party

I am so hungover I can hardly type this. Writing this post is going to be a struggle this morning but I really want to do the evening justice. I am bursting at the seams to share how wonderful last night was. I’ll tell you why: the Clapton Pot happened.

Let me tell you a little bit more about this wonderful creation. It’s described by the lovely hosts Violaine (V) and Anna as this: “each month we invite 6 people for dinner in our homes in Clapton E5, to meet locals and share stories around the table”. No bells, no whistles – that is exactly what it is – it’s a chance to meet new people in the local area, (and it’s also free, which is also pretty darn amazing for those who get on the list.) 

cp1

As me and my housemate (the other Emma) walked towards the house clutching our many bottles of wine we started to wonder what we had signed ourselves up for…What were the people going to be like? Would we find stuff to talk about? Would it be awkward and a bit weird? We had no idea what the evening would be like. But that was the best bit about it.

We were fools for even having those thoughts. Why is there still such a stigma attached to meeting up with people from the Internet anyway? It felt so natural to be meeting up with these people who live in the neighbourhood and with who we have so much in common. I feel that in the UK we have a reputation of keeping ourselves to ourselves and not being that keen on mingling with new people – like on the tube when someone tries to strike up a conversation and people look at them like they have just grown an extra arm out of their head. I’ve met people for dinner quite a few times through chatting on Twitter, but somehow this was different because it was at someone’s home, and we knew it was going to be a real eclectic mix of people sat round the table.

As we arrived, V and Anna were hanging out on the front step waiting for us to arrive and embraced me and Emma like we were old friends; they are so inviting and friendly and poured us a hefty glass of wine – the kitchen was beautiful, we instantly felt so relaxed and happy to be there.

The next guests arrived: Mia, Willy and Lucy. Mia and Willy came as a new couple and were Clapton locals too. Mia was from South Africa originally and Willy from New Zealand, both saying how much they loved living in London and specifically Hackney which feels like home to them. They looked a little bit nervous as they arrived, which was funny because me and Emma must have looked exactly the same when we first walked in, but as we were already tucked into our wine we were able to help make them feel welcome too. 

To break the ice, we all reminisced about those token awkward dinner parties that we’ve all had (you know the ones), where the conversation is one word answers, or someone has very strong views that no-one agrees with, nervous glances around the table and everyone “clams up in pairs” (Emma always manages to sum up social observations so well). When the dinner party is more about the food and less about the conversation you know you’re in trouble. But this wasn’t going to be one of those.

We all joked around when Mia told us her housemate was like “LOL, don’t get murdered!” because, on paper, yes we were going to a stranger’s house in the middle of Hackney. Then V and Anna mentioned that dinner was actually going to be in the “den” aka, in the basement. Cue lots of jokes about dungeons and being locked down there, ha-ha-ha *gulp*. Anyway, we followed them both down into the depths of the basement, down some rickety wooden steps – and….we gasped. It looked absolutely magnificent. 

The Clapton Pot "den"

The Clapton Pot “den”

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Massimo, the last guest to arrive rocked up just as we dishing out the starter and he was also really great company. He look a bit mortified that he had been late to a ‘ticketed event’, but he shouldn’t have been, the vibe at the Clapton Pot was so calm and welcoming. Everyone felt like they had so much to share about themselves with absolutely no judgement at all. It’s amazing how good it feels to chat about things with new people. 

I’m going to sum up what we ate but as I’m not a big foody blogger I’m going to freestyle what I remember eating: We ate a pesto garlic dreamboat of a starter with new potatoes and green beans, followed by Quinoa cakes and curly Kale (I LOVE KALE) and a tomato salsa sauce with a chocolate mousse in vintage tea cups of dessert. An absolutely dreamy menu, basically.

cp

From the resounding success of last night, I thought I’d put down the top 5 things to make an amazing dinner party based on the brilliance of The Clapton Pot. Can’t wait until the next time!

1. A good mix of people 

This is the number one rule. It’s also hard to strike a balance, but make sure you have invited an eclectic group. The amazing thing about the Clapton Pot is that they only allow two people max who already know each other and you are actively encourage to swap seats which we all did as the night goes on.

2. Chilled out hosts

V and Anna were lovely hosts, and what made them extra brilliant was that they were so relaxed which in turn created a really relaxed atmosphere. I don’t know how they did it. They just slipped out here and there to sort stuff out but they were in the moment and made the time to chat and got to know everyone.

3. Loads of booze

Where wine flows, so does the conversation. We got through a stonking amount last night but it relaxed everyone, directed the conversation to new places, and we all felt much more open with each other more quickly. As we were sipping as we went, we weren’t falling around wasted, but we were a lovely level of tipsiness all through the night.

4. The right atmosphere

People enjoy themselves more when they are in a relaxing setting, the amazing den was just this. There were candles, there were fur rugs, there were vintage lamps and fairy lights, it was just perfect.

5. Avoid talk about the 9-5

I used to dread dinner parties when the last few I went to were all about career table tennis of people trying to outdo you with their “mental career” and “completely busy lifestyle”. There was none of that at the Clapton Pot, I think we spoke about work for about 15 minutes near the end and that was enough. 

but I’m not inspired, though

type

I listened to a really lovely podcast by Neil Gaiman today. I’d never really read much of his stuff before but after looking back through at this amazing career and everything he has achieved I’ve become a little bit obsessed with him and his view on writing. (I go through spells of being obsessed with people; it’s normal I promise). He’s written countless novels, short fiction and basically has garnered a bit of a cult following – so he must be doing something right.

Whilst listening to his podcast (I’ve put it below), he mentioned something in particular really stuck with me in particular as it rang a very familiar bell to how I feel when I write things. He spoke about how you shouldn’t wait to be “inspired” every time you write:

He said:

“If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written.”

So here’s the thing: I only EVER touch this blog when I am feeling inspired. I’m known to put things off because I don’t feel inspired enough. I never ever ‘just write’, for no reason. It’s always because of something I’ve read that day, or felt, or something that’s happened to me, or something that got me thinking on tube. I always come here and write write write when (and only when) I feel inspired. Sometimes I’ll go for weeks without writing on here because nothing really touches or affects me specifically – I’ll feel like empty and things will just roll off my back, not really making me angry, happy or sad: just meh.

Once I got so “inspired” by an idea I was writing on a train I wrote 50 pages without coming up for air. I also missed my stop and ended up having to pay a fortune to get back onto the right train and figure out my route from the middle of nowhere. “Inspiration” really sucked that day. Although I got a lot done in a short space of time it really caught me off-guard. I haven’t had a lightbulb moment since then and it’s made me realise that I can’t just wait and wait to be randomly inspired – I have to inspire myself. I have to give some ideas a go at more convenient times.

Neil says you can’t wait for these lightbulb moments or feeling like you’ve got the right setting or the right thoughts. If you want to write a novel or you want to practise your writing regularly, you have to put word after word and get ideas down. He says that first drafts don’t matter so I’ve started not being afraid of what I put down in my notebooks, so that the barrier of ‘that’s a shit idea’ is broken down, because if it’s in a notebook it doesn’t count – until it makes it onto the computer it’s not “real” – it’s just practice.

To any aspiring writers, or anyone thinking about their book, have a listen of this short podcast from Neil, he gives some nice little tips on how to ease yourself in, but to be hard on yourself at the same time. As I’m finding with my book ideas – they don’t just crop up out of thin air…..

put something into perspective

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How hard would it be to “put things into perspective” every morning when you brush your teeth? 

Usually, a sharp dose of perspective comes when we hear awful news breaking, the death of someone young, reports from a war-zone, or an unexpected loss: our brain suddenly jars with us and everything is put very harshly into place. We suddenly see how minuscule our problems are. 

They say our generation, the dreaded group of “millennials” are narcissistic or even “sociopaths” who only really care about what their latest Instagram photo is going to be and the wittiness of their next social media one-liner. We’re apparently becoming a bit self-absorbed. And let’s be honest, there’s an element of truth in that; or at least the problem is potentially brewing. A percentage of many people’s lives is wrapped up into a self-perpetuating online bubble. Similar to back in the day when people used to live caves in the middle of nowhere, anything beyond their immediate community would cease to exist. There is the same sort of thing happening within certain social media networks, namely Facebook, where it is forming a strange bubble. Eli Pariser touched on the concept of a “Filter Bubble” a long time ago – and he was right: we are only really looking at what is being served to us on a daily basis. A lack of perspective could become a problem. 

Now, to be able to go and put things into perspective, you either get smacked in the face with it unexpectedly (something hideous happening, or catching the eye of someone less fortunate than you). Or: (there’s an ‘or’) you go actively looking for it. 

Tonight, I went to a talk by Gena Turgel, an amazing 91-year-old lady who had a very very moving and sad story. As part of an International Women’s Day event, she stunned the huge auditorium of people who clung to her every word as she told her incredibly inspirational tale. She sat comfortably in a chair, as if she was situated in her own living room, and intimately told her story, which was quite an amazing feat considering there were hundreds of people looking up at her. It was hard to believe that this lady, sitting right there in front of us in March 2014, had survived the horrors of Auschwitz in 1944. She had survived the atrocities of a concentration camps, watched both her brother and sister die, lost all her possessions and acted as a nurse as a coping mechanism.

The story was deep, depressing but above all: brave. She didn’t hold back in telling us the minor details and why should she. To use the word ‘inspiration’ doesn’t quite cut it. Her story transcended all levels of comprehension, it was difficult to physically imagine the stuff she was telling us. All we could do is close our eyes and reflect along with her; empathise and show our respect. 

The one message that really stuck with me was this: you would surprise yourself with what you can do if your life depended on it.

Why does it take these moments of shock and deep reflection to trigger us into us to be grateful for the little things in life? It is amazing that Gena can tell her story and that she has written her memoir which will be something that will be read by generations of children to come. This story will become more and more alien to them. But it is important for everyone to remember, to properly remember these turning points in history. It’s not that we should dwell on history every minute of every day, but it is so important to be aware of how lucky we are to have so much freedom in every area of our lives. This story seems like light-years away from city life, complaining about work/life balance or complaining about boiler problems. The reality is that what Gena spoke about was less than a hundred years ago. To Gena and her family, it’s still raw.

The real challenge is to remind people (and I’m talking about myself here) to come back down to earth amidst the flurry of modern day busy connected life. Being the same room as people such as Gena made me feel guilty and ridiculous for comparing holiday pictures to the next person, or worrying about the size of my thighs, or about being stressed out if I miss my train or loose my wallet. Yes, all these things might be mildly irritating at the time, but perspective is so important, more now and ever.

songs that i’ve played at a house party and no one danced

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Look, it happens to everybody. But, unfortunately, it tends to happen to some people more than others: and I, unfortunately, am one of those people.

Let me paint you a picture: So you’ve got the invite (through a tenuous friendship link) to a very cool and edgy house party. It’s the talk of the town and anybody who’s anybody is going. People are dancing to garage tunes, the host is some random hotty who is wearing a backwards baseball cap with tanned arms, and as you look around you realise everyone is effortlessly cool. People are chatting and laughing and throwing their heads back as they bond over their cheap wine and beer. Crockery is breaking in the kitchen, people are flirting over their ‘supplies’ and the patio is full of people who have probably been featured in Harper’s Bazaar

Anyway, the DJ has disappeared and the Apple laptop rests invitingly on the coffee table, and everyone’s on the makeshift dance-floor happily bumping, grinding and spilling their drinks onto the now soggy carpet. And with the speakers booming off the walls, a dangerous thought creeps into your head: GO OVER AND PICK. A. SONG.

I do not know what possessed me at the time, but here are a list of the songs that over the last few years I have picked, under pressure, to play at a house party which resulted in a stunned silence and someone immediately changing it to something else.

- Part Time Lover - Stevie Wonder

What’s the Time Mr Wolf – Southside of Bombay

- Crying at the Discoteque – Alcazar

- Scandalous – Misteeq

- Afrodisiac – Brandy

- Ain’t Nobody - Chaka Kan

- Gotta Get Thru This – Daniel Bedingfield

- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

- Freed From Desire – Gala

- Pump up the jam – Technotronic

- Moving on Up – M People

And unsurprisingly they have all gone down like a lead ballon. At a ‘cool’ house party NO ONE DANCES TO THESE SONGS. Trust me. Even if people secretly like them as their SGP (Secret Guilty Pleasure). Your tipsy state of mind will lull you into a false sense of security as you completely misjudge ‘the vibe of the room’. Everyone will stare at you: half angry, half disappointed whilst you beg the floor to swallow you whole. From then on, you’ll always be known as That One who picked the shit song at the Cool House Party. This is my gift to you, so you don’t make the same innocent mistake.*

*(Obviously all these can be played, on repeat, at small gatherings with friends, or by yourself in your room).

dumping Facebook: A month on

I thought it would be funny to do a tongue in cheek ‘check-in’ post about my first month without the ‘Book. After all it’s one of the most addictive drug-sites of them all.

So I’ve been reading A LOT this past month. In total, 12 books and countless blog posts, articles, online diaries, inspiration pep talk videos. Soaking it all up like a crazy little sponge.

To cut a long story short: I HAVE MORE TIME ON MY HANDS on public transport and filling spare moments throughout the day and evenings in different ways now since quitting the big F B. 

By the end I wouldn’t say I was even on it that often, but it was always there. Clogging up my phone, my computer, my life — with its never ending garbage.

It’s awesome not having it. I feel very detoxed, very refreshed, like that feeling when you’ve tidied your room and put fresh linen on your bed sheets, it’s very AIRY up in my head right now. Yes OK, I don’t know what Jemima* from primary school is up to RIGHT this second or what she’s having for dinner, BUT I do know more about my actual friends and family than I have for ages. Instead of assuming everything is fine and dandy with them through rose-tinted filters, I’ve actually spoken to them properly – which can often be a secondary priority when you have the option to quickly scroll through their Facebook page instead. FaceTiming is way better than FaceBooking with randoms who you met once. (*Jemima is made up name. Or is it?)

A month on I am feeling really happy that I’ve done it. Spring is for spring-cleaning after all – and I also haven’t smoked any cigarettes for three months. Plus I’ve got a posh leather diary that I am actually writing in (I always used to buy them and never write anything) and the ideas are piling up. I have had so many more concrete ideas for articles, short books, birthday presents, holidays ETC since I’ve cut out scrolling through constant streams of unnecessary noise and pointless crap. 

Talking of spring-cleaning, they say you should spring-clean your friendship circles to make sure you are keeping your dearest nearest to you and cutting out any of the fluff. This post on the Debrief is what I mean: “Why I’m dumping all my friend non-essential friends“. I don’t like the idea of just culling people out of the blue, but I totally get the point of this article – and I guess for me, deleting Facebook was dumping the non-essentials. What’s more I’ve also been meeting up with new people I’ve met through networking the industry (through Twitter and the like) and it’s been lovely to chat about things we both have in common. I’ve now met around 10 people this year from Twitter alone who have turned into great friends.

With my new pockets for free time I’ve been really inspired by really looking at things (not just glancing or skim-reading) such as Wes Anderson’s latest film Grand Budapest Hotel, my favourite magazines W, Wonderland, LOVE and DAZED, plus Origrami (an Instagram printing service) to have more of a keen interest in beautiful visuals, paintings, fashion and interior designing; the art of making things look beautiful in general especially as I start to plan the interiors of my new flat next year. I also dyed my hair pink at Blue Tit London which has definitely added to my spring feeling. Plus the impromptu sunshine is obviously making a massive different to feeling positive and upbeat. Looking out of the window is also massive underrated. Must remember to LOOK UP.

I have lots of exciting things coming up this year. I’m off to NYC in June, have my 25th birthday coming up. Some of it I am not quite ready to divulge but all in good time.

If anyone’s considering dumping Facebook (meaning personal page; I still use it for work purposes), I whole heartedly recommend it; nothing will be lost, only gained. 

 

P I N K H A I R

Yay, I finally did it! I went for the bubblegum pastel pink colour. Blonde got boring so I wanted to shake things up a bit without going too crazy at first. However I do feel like this is the start of a new relationship with hair dye..

The amazing Sam Boggia died it at Blue Tit London, my favourite hair salon in East London. I do feel that you need to have a good relationship with your hairdresser, as it’s not always that cheap and they have the power to potentially run your lid forever: but not Blue Tit, they are such a creative, awesome bunch. They were also the first ones to chop all my hair off back in 2011 and I’ve been loving them ever since.

Since back then, they’ve gone from strength to strength, opening another salon in Clapton and then Peckham shortly after. There is no other place like it and I 100% recommend going there if you want to feel inspired through a new hair cut or colour. It sounds cheesy but it really is an all-round lovely experience rather than just in and out. They also ply you with a lovely selection of beverages (fruit juices, beer, all kinds of tea) which is always a good thing.

I absolutely LOVE my new look and want to thank the lovely Fran and Sam for hooking me up. xoxo

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Thank you, Jane Pratt

There are two things I really don’t understand/like: 1) when people frequently complain that they ‘are bored’ and 2) when people have no interest who moving even the smallest inch outside of their comfort zone. HOW CAN YOU BE BORED WITH SO MUCH AROUND YOU TO PLAY WITH AND INSPIRE YOU. Everybody is different I know, but these two things frustrate me slightly; more so in the workplace than in my personal life, but it’s something I am consciously aware of. Even the simple fact that there are hundreds of incredible Ted Talks which are completely free to watch, that can give you a little spark of a idea that may lead to something bigger. There are free thoughts, opinions and ideas all around you, all you have to do is dip in.

Since the explosion of the Internet, the world is literally at our fingertips and the combination of an impassioned brain and a WIFI connection means you really can make your own luck. You can connect, spread an idea, and inspire others, in a relatively easy, quick and low budget way.

 So, this brings me onto the most recent thing that got me all fired up inside. I was having a little look at what the fuss of #SXSW was all about and stumbled across a video clip from last year, a talk from Jane Pratt called “Secrets of a Publishing Renegade”. Jane Pratt was the founding editor of Sassy magazine at the age of 24 and since then built her own media powerhouse with the most amazing team of writers. I’ve always been a massive fan of Jane, especially xoJane.com and some of her other online properties. She is a massive ambassador of the ‘get on and do it’ mentally, as well as: moving well and truly out of your comfort zone. I agree with her: if you aren’t doing something regularly that scares the crap out of you, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

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I absolutely love and respect many US blog sites for women, I think the UK need a bit more of a push. I think we are often too scared to be REALLY honest with our posts. When I wrote for Amanda De Cadenet’s The Conversation and Zoey Deschanel’s HelloGiggles I felt I could be more honest, they just had a different aura to them. Same with XOJane, Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie mag is another one that clearly so inspired by the days of Sassy magazine that allow younger girls to have a space to really feel they can connect with other like-minded teens.

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The thing about Jane Pratt is she actually cares about helping young women feel better about themselves. As Simon Sinek famously said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” She wasn’t just the editor, she was intensely involved, she describes the magazine community are her friends, her writers are her family. 

Embarrassingly I had to admit I actually had some tears in eyes when watching her speech. Do you know why? Because hardly anyone TELLS THE TRUTH in the media industry anymore so when they do it’s just SO BRILLIANT. Most female magazines always start the interview with a token famous female celebrity sitting with their Fendi bag, in the Savoy hotel, ordering some ‘unhealthy’ food that they clearly don’t actually eat, whilst looking perfectly tanned and slim. This does not make us feel great or inspired. Writers at XOJane literally say it how it is, sometimes at the expense of their own dignity, and I really thank them for it, ‘cos it makes everyone feel like a human being.

Here are 7 quotes from her speech that I absolutely love:

  1. “Employ a bunch of freaks who make you feel normal”.
  2. “I am at my most comfortable when I am being entirely inappropriate”
  3. “It takes a tremendous amount of passion to do innovative things every day.”
  4. “I think the idea behind putting #firstworldproblem after your tweet is the admit you wrote something superficial and lame”
  5. “Ignore anyone, or the even the voice inside your head, that says you’re under qualified for something. Be bold, be preposterous. “
  6. “Someone else’s loss is not your gain, someone’s else gain is not your loss.”
  7. “A success for one woman is for all women.”
  8. “At XOJane we like to be radically transparent about our flawed lives.”
  9. “I was always more interested in the behind the scenes bits, or that little insight into what was actually going on. So what wanted to produce a media that was ALL about the behind the scenes”.

 Happy International Women’s Day – and THANK YOU, JANE.

Comedy panels and the token female – why it’s still an issue

Comedy panels and the lack of women. For the year of 2014 which sounds all futuristic and stuff, it’s hard to believe that in this particular area of the media industry women are still NFI (not f**king invited).

As it’s a subject I’ve been following for some time, I found it very interesting indeed to stumble across this article today on the Guardian that read:

Danny Cohen, head of the BBC‘s television output, has promised viewers that the corporation will not make any more all-male comedy panel shows.”

It sounds great doesn’t it, to feminists all around the globe (me included) to think this is a great start to getting more females on these comedy panels that men currently hog each week.

Woohooo! Thanks so much! You let us play sport with you (sometimes) and now we can come to your comedy panels too! Too kind, gents, too kind.

However, call me a cynic, but it doesn’t really seem to address the problem. It sounds a bit ‘token’, a bit ‘gesture of goodwill’ – a bit ‘let’s just get one (woman) on there to shut the angry Twitter feminists up’. I think the bit that riled me up over the most was this bit from Cohen: “every episode recorded from now on will include at least one woman.” AT LEAST ONE WOMAN. This is a short-term fix yes – but plonking down a female comedian for purposes of a new ratio just sounds like a quick fire decision in a board room so that they can just get on with the show.

What people don’t seem to understand, is that it’s actually not that women want to be involved in every thing, all the time, it’s simply the freedomperception and equality of being able to have a choice to go on the show as much as we (women) should want to.

If there’s 8 men one week, that’s great! If there’s 3 girls 5 men another week that’s great! It shouldn’t be ground-breaking to have 8 women on week either! It’s not that we (women) are trying to ruin the men’s bachelor party, it’s just that we are all equal and men and women are both funny in different ways, so just pick the best combination of PEOPLE each week?

I recently watched an episode of 8 out of 10 cats with Dawn O’Porter as a guest (the new ratio, at least one woman!). Now I am a massive fan and she was a hoot – just brilliant – but there was still a weird tension with the male overshadowing her and even making a few snide comments. It was subtle, but it was definitely there. The air time on her was a lot less, which I know a lot of female viewers especially would have been disappointed about. I don’t think it’s about getting “at least one” on there, it’s to make it equal and make it more enjoyable for the viewer. To be honest I think just having one women with the rest of the panel as men it still incredibly sexist, because the woman’s voice will always be quieter if the men are shouting the loudest and spurring each other on. 

AND: if you can spare TWO seats on 8 out of 10 cats for JEDWARD, then you can bloody well shuffle over for some more female comedians.

It’s a weird one. But I wanted to put my two pence in. What are your thoughts?

Why I Loved This Week’s Episode of Girls More Than All The Others

I had an actual lump in my throat watching the latest episode of Girls. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds, it’s just that there are times when I really feel the show conveys the ups and downs of female friendship so uncannily well, and it’s SO REFRESHING.

Girls ARE mean. Sorry but they are. If you say that your closest friends have never once been mean to you then I don’t think they are as good a friend as you think they are. And it’s totally not a completely bad thing, either.

The whole reason the show has been such a success is because it is in keeping with this new generation of truth-tellers. Well, as much as we can be without revealing too much about ourselves that would make appear too vulnerable to socialise (there’s a line). By and large, we have improved at casually showing our bad sides, writing opinion pieces, posting ugly selfies and saying to the world “go on judge me – I’ll post it anyway”. We let people in to the ‘real us’ a bit more now, and admit silly things on Twitter like that we have ordered pizza because we can’t be bothered to cook and tell people stuff that isn’t particularly classy or chic, but it’s nice because we don’t feel pressured to lie or keep up too many appearances. Facebook is still a bit too fake and playground-y for my liking, hence why I deleted it personally, but that’s a different story.

Honest writing sites like the ThoughtCatalog are booming growing to nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter and some massive advertising deals with a host of writers who are admitting to all sorts of relatable things about themselves: about broken hearts, estranged family members, weird eating habits, spending Valentine’s Day alone, fundamental flaws in their personalities etc. They’ve tapped into a human truth that it is healing to know someone else feel as shit, or shitter than you do.

So this Girls episode, like many of them, struck a chord with me, because it was real.

In a nutshell, the girls go away to a house in the country, get drunk and don’t hold back in telling each other what they really of their friendship group: and the truth really hurts. It clearly hit a chord with many others as lots of journalists and also one Sarah Jessica Parker have had opinions on this episode too, agreeing or disagreeing that girls are/aren’t mean to each other. Most of them are shocked, that girls can be mean sometimes. It’s not that shocking really, I mean Lindsay Lohan told us how it was ten years ago (feeling old) in the original Mean Girls. We laughed it off, but it was based on non-fictional events you guys.

Sarah Jessica Parker told Harper’s Bazaar this:  “I like to remember that Carrie and the other women in Sex and the City were really nice to each otherand that it was “more of an innocent time”. The thing is, Sex and the City, for me was simply perfect escapism.

Yes, SATC did remind me of times where my friends and I were having the best experiences, or holidays, or cocktail nights ever. On payday, having some posh beverages, laughing, reminiscing about the good old days and telling each other everything. I have girl friends that I call my best friends who I have known for over half my life and for that I am so grateful to have them – they know everything there is to know. They are amazing and yes we have brilliant times together like lots of girl groups often do. When we’re all out together, we feel like a million dollars.

However, Girls talks about the times on the flip-side of the coin when it isn’t all so perfect. These painful times come with any relationship where you bare all to someone. Your best friends know the ins and outs of ever nook and cranny of your personality, and when everything is stripped back on display: there is no hiding. If you are being a dick, they will tell you very directly that you are being a dick, in between delicate sips of their Pinot Grigio.

And these are the times that you can’t see on Facebook or behind that perfectly filtered Instagram picture. It’s the times where you get too drunk and everything that is bottled up inside comes crashing out. People take sides, people say things that cut to your core, people go too far, and things spiral quickly and ferociously out of control. It’s awkward, and you may have to sit in a taxi in silence and sheepishly climb into bed next to each other and mutter a “goodnight”, before saying a delayed and embarrassed sorry over breakfast.

That is why I loved this episode so much. The spitefulness of the moment when your best friend has done something so unforgivable at the time, or the inward bitterness that comes spitting out, or snide words brewing into a verbal storm is a real thing that exists. It is unpleasant, and often not something that happens regularly, but there is a reason that it happens: friends have to be honest, and these arguments are actually an effort to save the relationship.

Usually you are saying horrible things to try and hurt them because actually you love them so bloody much and you want things to be fixed and you don’t really know how. You also know deep deep down that these words won’t kill the relationship because you know it can survive. But unfortunately things can’t be fixed or change unless something has risen to the surface and is dealt with. True, real friendships are often painful, you will go through times where they will bail on you, see their boyfriend more than you, leave you out by accident, get you a rubbish birthday present or tell you that your outfit sucks. But a friend, a real friend will probably be able to quite easily tear my heart into two, is also the very same friend would do absolutely anything for me. If I wanted to only have a handful of friends who I only saw on nights out or in the most perfect swanky shallow scenarios I could easily do that: but I enjoy the responsibility of having the closest friends in the world who occasionally piss me off to the moon and back, as do I, to them. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why You Should Care (A lot) about having a “personal brand”

I’ve been banging on about this “personal brand” thing for a while now – as I’m sure a lot of other people have. It is something that I think more people should care about, especially those trying to navigate their way in a competitive jobs market en route for “the dream job”. It just means that you are consciously managing your reputation through an element of branding so that you have a bit more control and people find it easier to identify with you as a person. And I’m not just talking about having a LinkedIn profile here, people.

For example: Virgin is the brand, Richard Branson is the “personal brand”. The brand behind the brand. #mindboggles

GOOD personal brand:
Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Group) Nice guy. Trustworthy. Cool. Likeable.

BAD personal brand:
Michael O’Leary (CEO of RyanAir) Money-obsessed. Meanie. Bad press. Not likeable. Not as successful as Richard Branson.

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What exactly is a “personal brand” any way and why should you care? Well, according to Wikipedia, it is defined as this: 

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Personal branding also involves creating an asset by defining an individual’s bodyclothingphysical appearance, digital and online presence and areas of knowledge in a way leading to a uniquely distinguishable, and ideally memorable, impression.

Someone who I think has this personal branding thing down to a tee, is Zoe Hellewell aka the voice and fashionista behind The London Lipgloss which has now been rebranded as Zoe LDN. Zoe is an amazing example of someone who crafted a strong tone and identity through her online voice, strong views and distinct aesthetics. She has taken an Internet connection and a keyboard and curated her own online world that she shares with her audience of thousands who religiously follow her updates on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and of course her blog itself.

A really interesting thing about Zoe is she also took a bit of a reality check at the end of last year and asked herself whether her blog was still current and also whether she was being true to passions – she decided to branch out from being a “beauty blogger” and has now redefined herself as a lifestyle blogger and DJ. As we can all see she is so much more than just a blogger who would receive some free make up, she’s gone from strength to strength to find who she is in different areas of lifestyle media (and vlogging) and has some awesome opportunities off the back of it. I’ve always been interesting in rebranding – like that time when Gap changed it’s logo and everyone hated it *gasp* – but that’s just a logo. To rebrand yourself is actually a pretty tricky scenario which must be dealt with careful consideration. Victoria Beckham did the seemingly impossible: to go from a cheesy teenage pop star to one of the most well-respected fashion designers. 

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The reason I use Zoe’s rebranding exercise as an example of a successful “personal brand” is that she has taken the time to really own her brand and understand all the little details about why people should visit her blog over others. Blogs are in an increasingly crowded environment just like product brands are. If one blog is AquaFresh, another is Colgate, and another one with a more niche following is Sensodyne. So how do you distinguish between them and follow the right personal brand behind the blog when they could all potentially be offering the same content?

Zoe has now pretty much launched her own magazine through Zoe LDN which is highly impressive for someone in her 20′s who is pretty much her own art director, writer, editor, photographer and videographer and much more. She’s kept it simple but also used her new layout to talk about the different things that she’s interested in through her new “content pillars” are fashion, music, lifestyle, beauty, travel and videos. The new launch of Zoe LDN shows dedication, inspiration, motivation and a real creative talent. 

I’ve always recommended starting a blog, to anyone and everyone. And for people that kind of turn their nose up at the word “blog” (there are many) it doesn’t have to be a so-called “blog”. It could just be an online space with your CV and a few sentences about who you are and what you do. Paper CV’s are dead, and if you have a website or something to show who YOU are it’s definitely worth doing, to show off your skillz. xox

A Long Weekend in Venice

Errrr…. Venice is so incredibly beautiful. My boyfriend Paul got us some flights for my chrimbo present and I thought the day would never arrive.

What a lovely weekend of red wine, pizza, prosecco, pasta and strolling along the water’s edge, stopping along the way for more food and booze. I actually can’t move properly right now. I am one big piece of carbohydrate. We definitely got into the “f*ck it, we’re on holiday!” mode asap; the tricky part now will be trying to snap out of it. Hoping my housemate will force feed me vegetables after my boozy blow out weekend. KALE. I need kale. Anything green will do.

We found our lovely apartment in an amazing location through Air B’n’B (we also used it for our trip to Amsterdam which was also brilliant and SO much better than a crappy hotel room). Totally recommend it. We met a lovely lady called Fulvia who gave us some Venetian cookies and wine on arrival, plus so many tips of where to eat and good local cheap places to eat. Although we didn’t get to sample the restaurant just below the flat which was a shame as apparently it was the place to go for Venetian cuisine. The apartment itself was the perfect size with a massive comfy bed with so many layers, felt like princess and the pea. It was kind of retro and we played CD’s on her old stereo which felt a bit weird but relaxing all the same.

She also showed us the wellies cupboard. She told us that “high tide” in Venice meant water and puddles everywhere and the salty water can ruin your shoes. And mine were new from Topshop so, no thank you. Luckily, we didn’t have to use them as after the first day of hiding under umbrellas (and being grumpy ‘cos of the rain) the sun shone for two days straight and the skies were clear and bright blue.

It was also the time of the Venice carnival so we saw about a million different elaborately designed masks and amazing fancy dress. Some of the effort that went into dressing up was very impressive and lovely to look at. Such a wonderful amount of history and culture on such a tiny island.

The other brilliant thing about Venice was how easy it was to get to the airport via the water taxi. A nice German couple gave us their boat tickets that they didn’t need so we hopped out the boat and fell asleep with the sun on our faces and shortly arrived at the airport after about half an hour. Lush.

Want to go back already. Makes such a relaxing holiday having no cars, only the soft sounds of the boat engines. Italy for the win. Rome next?

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Dumping Facebook on Valentine’s Weekend.

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This weekend, I deleted my Facebook page.

AND IT FEELS GREAT!

After the initial feeling of shock and HORROR had died down, I texted my best friends to tell them I’d done it, thinking they might think I am mentally unstable and potentially secretly crying out for help/emotional support. But, conversely most of the responses were along the lines of: “cool man, I was thinking of doing the same actually”. In a nutshell: it’s no real shocker.

Facebook was fantastic back in the 2007-2010. It was simple, and definitely the best way of checking out what my mates were doing – much easier than sending individual messages to people. It was a novelty to have your own photo albums and to have an online scrapbook of your life.

It also introduced a new behaviour that wasn’t socially acceptable before: the opportunity to “stalk” your nearest and dearest. Before Facebook, it was much easier to remain mysterious with your weekend plans, wonder if you hadn’t been invited to a party, or actually let someone know you were going away on holiday. It also brought with it the evolving behaviour of “online bragging” in which people would master the art of making their lives look beautiful without a speck of imperfection. i.e, too busy taking pictures and crafting witty statuses to have a good time. 

Now, don’t get me wrong: I do feel that Facebook has a place on the Internet. I think, if done correctly there are many opportunities for brands to market themselves in this arena, it’s still a place that encourages and enables most of the world’s population to engage with images and information. If information is targeted correctly and strategically, there is proof that the majority of people do want to hear about offers, giveaways or just really cool visual pieces of content from a product or company. Mark Zuckerberg certainly knows what he is doing, and it is still the world’s number one social network.

Facebook needn’t worry that everyone is going to flee I don’t think. Maybe just some of the younger users with short attention spans. I think, that quite simply, there are just more options now. Facebook seemed to go into this default mode of being somewhere that people dump or duplicate their content from other networks such as Twitter or Instagram. Facebook for me, conjures up memories of what Nokia used to be before Apple came along. At first, it was at the top of its game. When you don’t have many other options, obviously there is going to be a clear market leader, but only until the day that new shiny, more modern competitors come along.

For me personally, it was the end of the road. I had been whinging about how much time I was wasting on it for months now; the fact that I would just scroll endlessly and acquire nothing but bitterness as I clocked up so much time in the evenings looking at people’s lives I just didn’t care about. I wasn’t learning anything new, I was hardly posting, and it was just notifying me of stuff I didn’t need to look at.

With three email addresses, an Instagram account, a blog, newspaper apps, a busy Twitter feed and a job, it was just the last thing on my mind to check my personal Facebook account. It was just a combination of tumbleweeds, people having a good time at things I wasn’t at, holidays I wasn’t on, or people I would rather forget about.

I must admit, I didn’t actually just go “cold turkey”, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone a few weeks ago as a little ‘test’, and actually forgot I had done it. It made no difference to my daily habits. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t checked out Facebook for weeks before then going onto my desktop and seeing my unread notifications, for some stuff that was pointless anyway. I have so many other ways of reaching my friends, sharing photos, chatting to them or video calling. If anything, I was enjoying the fact that I knew what my friends and family were up to because I had verbally spoken to them, without needing to go on their Facebook page. 

Without sounding dramatic, I am genuinely excited for the beginning of being a more productive me, of being able to use this time to read more books, call people for a catch up if I have a spare hour in the evenings, and to not having to share everything with a group of people that I hardly ever speak to, or see. Now a days, I can just send pictures via my phone to people, make scenic pictures look pretty on Instagram or actually follow interesting people on Twitter who don’t mind saying it how it is with less judgement.

The only thing that will affect my day to day life is I will now have to make a real effort to write down people’s birthdays. Oh shit. 

Sorry to dump you on Valentine’s Weekend, Facey B, it’s not you – it’s me xox

What Google+ tried to do with friendship circles

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I know most people love any opportunity to slag off Google+. But I do think that Google was on to something with the “circles” thing. Why haven’t other platforms picked up on that more? I think it’s a great idea. Everyone loves a bit of organisation.

Social networks have got a bit messy. The privacy and algorithms have got a bit messy. I like the idea of tidying it all up a bit, being a bit more in control. One day schools will have to teach kids how to organise their online profiles and make sure they are using them in a safe and controlled way – and let’s be honest we’re already spreading ourselves pretty thinly across a whole range of apps, networks, platforms already. I always get confused how to reach my individual friends because they all use different things. Going back to basics normally helps (the telephone. You put it to your ear).

OK, so the Google+ launch wasn’t really seen as a massive success. It was something everyone panicked and joined. Quick, secure your URL, quick!

So now we’re all on it, posting empty words and blog posts to it. Every one of these blog posts gets sent to my Google+ account. Does anyone read it? Dunno. Does it help my “search discoverability”? Dunno. I could look into it though. Maybe I will.

But, the one thing that makes me wish Google+ was more popular, is the way that I could section up my friends, or “community’. Sometimes, I don’t want everyone to see everything. Facebook offered a similar, but more complicated way of doing it, create your “lists” or you can manually hide people. It was a struggle and I got bored with it.

It’s not like I would be trying to hide anything from anyone, but I’d know what was more relevant to one group of friends over another.  I guess this is what Whatsapp offers over and above all of my current apps, it lets me create different groups of people; let’s me differentiate between talking to one person, or a group of friends who I want to talk to at the same time.

It’s like person A, for example, who has one mini social network for his band mates, one for his family, one for his 6 best friends, and one for his colleagues. Only Google+ really offers that experience. Problem is, no one’s using it.

Basically no one wants to see everyone’s statuses. Sorry. Not every body cares.

It’s the same with brands. One brand doesn’t ever really have ONE target audience. There might be a preferred audience, but it’s just often a bit genderist and finger in the air. A brand is the people who buy it. If your core buyers are 50 year old females and teenage boys, so be it. You can try and recruit new people or rebrand yourself, that’s fine, but really you shouldn’t forget the people that want to buy you. You should have a process in place that lets you cater for your audiences and different groups of people who want to engage with you in different ways. So, who’s going to take on Google+?