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The Spike

We just don’t gel

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I had my first gel manicure the other day and I was initially pleased as punch with it. “This is absolutely brilliant,” I thought. “Why would you ever have your nails any other way?”

And the answer is, because you will get utterly sick of it and the colour and the rather “heavy” feel of it on your nails within three days but rather resent wasting £23 on having it done and then a further £6 to have it removed.

So hurrah, then, for TopShop gel nail colours, where you apply a base coat, the colour, then a top coat and it’s pretty much as good as gel except you can get it off in the peace and quiet of your own home without needing a jackhammer.

I haven’t actually tried this yet, but most things that TopShop beauty do are good – there is no reason to think this will be otherwise.

 

Uniqlo coat

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They have styled this so horribly, but it’s a nice coat 

Only for my kids would I forgo buying this extremely good coat from Uniqlo.

I was in High Street Kensington begging seeing my friend Emma for work lunch and I was very early on purpose, hoping to bump into some of my old buddies at the Evening Standard, whose offices are just there, and also to have a quick poke round the shops.

The result was that a) Cos is amazing at the moment and b) this Del Boy coat from Uniqlo is very nice and good value at £99 and c) some joke about the Evening Standard that I can’t quite summon up the wit to make.

But the girls on the till at Uniqlo were not quick enough and I left without buying it because I had to peg it back to Kentish Town in time to fetch Kitty from school. The journey from HSK to KT is no joke and I only just made it back in time.

I suppose I can now easily buy the coat online, and I probably will because it will be a very useful coat this Autumn, but I just wanted to point out that I actually put the coat down in the shop and walked out without it, because of my dedication to not ever being late for my kids. That’s how much I love them.

Don’t forget you

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Okay a genuinely shocking thing has emerged following my Family Book post on Friday, which is that we are all taking hundreds of photos of the kids, and none of ourselves!

This is a rotten state of affairs – brought about because (sorry to be sexist) but we are the ones most usually wielding the camera, or who think to take a snap but ALSO because we don’t like photos of ourselves, because in our heads we look like Gisele and don’t want that delusion messed with. That’s my reason anyway.

But this is all topsy turvy and wrong and the real losers here are our kids. There are only a handful of photos of my mother from when we were young and hardly any of us with her. Some is better than none, but still it’s sad.

So PLEASE, everyone – just remember: you’re not asking to have a photo taken with your kids for yourself, because you’re a vain nutter: you’re taking them for your kids. I don’t care if you’re all red in the face and need to lose a stone. Your kids won’t care and they will be so sad not to have any photos of you together. They will treasure the ones that they have. DO IT. Show this post to your husband. Hand him your phone, grab the kids by the back of the neck. Get it done.

 

Family book

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Yes, Sam has his pants on his head. All-time greatest photo

As a labour of love for the past four years I have made for my husband a family album for his birthday, which falls at the end of July.

And, god almighty, it is a labour of love. Choosing the photos, schlepping down to Snappy Snaps, printing them out, finding the right sort of album, remembering what size of photo I printed out so that it will fit in the stupid slippery pockets. Collecting the photos. Ramming them in the pockets, writing out the little captions.

I’m not good at this sort of thing and it always looks a bit shit.

So this year I didn’t do it. I bought my husband a pair of upmarket espadrilles and hoped he wouldn’t notice about the photo album.

But I feel sad about it now. A yearly family album is a good thing to have and you do have to do it reasonably regularly or it gets left undone for years because it becomes such a mammoth task. Shoals of unsorted photos in shoeboxes has been replaced by shoals and shoals of photographs on the laptop, unsorted and unused.

There must be an easier way, though? And better value. I was astonished at how expensive this photo print out + album ended up being.

Then my sister pointed out that you can just create any old photo book on a Mac, using iPhoto. (So sorry, this is totally irrelevant to anyone not using a Mac.) I had no idea you could do this and possibly you don’t either, which is why I thought it might be worth pointing out.

You go to iPhotos, then up to the top left of your computer, File/New Book and you’re away! The whole thing ended up costing me about £25 and it was reasonably easy to use – and I am really hopeless at things like that.

So there you go! Your weekend craft activity is sorted.

Anyone know the equivalent on a PC? She added as an insulting afterthought.

 

The APC June bag

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June bag, APC, E415 (about £350)

I try hard not to think about how easy and beautiful my life would be if only my son, Sam, would sleep properly. He is a truly awful sleeper in all respects. Even in the scattered hours of the night when he’s actually asleep he thrashes about, talks, snores, cries out in seeming distress. There is no pattern to his crap sleeping, every night is different: always bad. Sometimes catastrophic.

We’ve tried everything. Whatever thing you’re thinking about, we tried it. I am trying again with the sticker chart as we have had some, small, tiny successes with that. Letting him cry never worked. And anyway we are too late for that now because he weighs 3 stone 4.5 lb and when he puts his head down, squares his shoulders and charges you, you know about it. Especially at 2am.

He is disrespectful of the Gro-Clock and simply didn’t understand Millpond’s stuff about the sleep fairy and having the door open and closed and all that jazz (that’s £300 I won’t be getting back). Living with Sam is like living with a tiny, angry, stupid, really needy rhinoceros. Who’s a crap sleeper.

Some nights are less bad than others. He might only wake up once, for example, and go back to sleep and sleep until past 7am. Then, those days, when I am peaceful and calm and hopeful, the world shimmers at me with a coquettish smile. The other days, the bad days, when not only has there been no sleep but I have been horrible to Sam (‘What is wrong with you? Why won’t you just let us sleep?’) everything looks bad, sharp-edged, bleak.

This morning, as both kids went downstairs with my saintful husband, I went back to sleep between 0710 and 0740, and had a dream. I am in a house and outside is a storm and there are tornados, those twisty wind-things. And I am looking out of the window and Kitty is next to me. And then I see it, the huge, wobbly column of twisting wind that is a tornado coming straight for the house. And I tuck Kitty under my arm and we lie down flat braced against the front door and we wait for the tornado to hit the house. But where is Sam? Where is he? Oh my god, where has he gone? I half-think, in my dream, that I see his shadowy form: he is behind me, sitting on the stairs. But he isn’t. That is not him. He is outside. Because SAM IS THE FUCKING TORNADO.

More than anything, I feel left behind, crammed into a kind of misty half-life where my children, in theory, ought to be much easier, there ought to be more sleep going round, we ought to be, you know, away. But it’s not, I’m not. We all, still, operate at the mercy of the roulette wheel of Sam’s sleeping. Will he!? Won’t he!? Place your bets!

Not even a good hard perve at this June bag from APC can lift my spirits. On a good day I can look at a really hot accessory and know, really absolutely know that if only it were mine my life would change. But on a bad day, I see it for what it is: just a thing. I’m so tired, I’m so tired, I’m so tired. Because what does it cost to buy this bag? Only money. Ha, money! If money was so bloody great it would make Sam sleep.

Of course by the time you read this, Sam will have had a better night and you will say “OMG – how is Sam sleeping?” and I will look up, distracted from browsing the APC website and say, puzzled: “Sam? You know, alright. He’s a good boy really.”

 

 

2-in-1 sweater

Do you remember I was talking about the 2-in-1 sweater with a pie crust frill? Here is the first high street example I have seen, from J Crew. It is a great sweater, really lovely.

There will be more of this sort of thing in all combinations of knitwear/shirting coming into all stores, I’m sure, but if you want to be absolutely au courant in your smart-casual wear, get this immediately.

The contrast between the smartness of the ruffle trim and the casual nature of the blue sweatshirt fabric is genuinely thrilling.

It also has a very gentle swing/A-Line shape, imperceptible to the naked eye, but when on, it doesn’t cling, which is really all I ask of an item of clothing these days.

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Sweatshirt with ruffle trim, £59, J.Crew

 

 

Black legging update

So skinny jeans drive you mad and you find yourself, as we meander very slowly towards chillier weather, knowing that five days out of seven you will still want to reach for a pair of black leggings: they’re cosy, comfy and slimming. Why would you not?

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David Lerner Classic coated legging £94

Taking this cost-per-wear potential on board, have a think about upgrading your Topshop calf-lengthers to a pair of coated leggings by American stretch-fabric whizz kid David Lerner. They look absolutely abysmal in this photo above, but are excellent on.

I was alerted to David Lerner when I bought a pair of cropped flares, (a very discreet flare – they’re nice), in his trademark stretch-coated fabric from a boutique in Primrose Hill two years ago and they are brilliant. They don’t sag at the knee and they have an intriguing sheen, which is less boring than jersey, more chic than lycra but not as frightening as leather.

They are only available from ShopBop, which is a bore. Be careful here on sizing – I am a 10-12 and took an S, which is a little bit snug – but I fear a M would be baggy. Anyway, make sure you’re reasonably prepared to exchange them if you go for these.

Also I must mark the fact that Hush – of which we are all fans, I know – are now stocked by John Lewis. I, for one, will be going along to try on a pair of their leather leggings, which at £330 are expensive but several hundred pounds less expensive than other kinds. Unusually for Hush, they don’t look nice in the photo, but may look better on.

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Another good value leather legging option is by Baukjen. I normally look through the catalogue just for a laugh, but their pair at £349 is worth investigating if only because it does well in the photos. I mean, I say I look through the Baukjen catalogue for a laugh but the white shirt that I am wearing right now that I get loads of compliments on is from there, so maybe just ignore me.

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Don’t freak out and get a puppy

So it’s here. Here I am. It’s the start of term and here I sit, alone alone-o.

No work to do. No kids. Nothing but time running through my fingers between drop off at 9-ish and pick up at 3.30ish from now until, well – until half term I guess.

At various moments I have felt a sort of panic, or horror or sadness or something rising up behind my solar plexus, but I try to smooth it down, press it away.

I have wanted my kids to be out having fun with their friends at school and nursery since they were born. I’m crap at entertaining kids and they know it, so when they see me they bellow “Can I watch telly can I have a biscuit??” because they know I will probably say yes. So it’s better for everyone, more fun for them, if they’re off running about with their mates.

I don’t miss them, because I know they’re coming back. And I’m not worried about them because I know they are at lovely places having a lovely time.

And yet, it’s hard not to panic. Because what now? What? Now? I have taken a look at my paid work and decided to call time on doing the sort of journalism I’ve been doing for the last 5 years – sad mummy stuff, endless photoshoots, personal pieces. I don’t want to do it any more. I’ve backed myself into a rather tight corner and the only way out is to set fire to the entire room and stunt roll out of a window. So that’s probably the end of my career in journalism.

So then there I am, staring blankly into the abyss, like Dory – waiting for help to appear out of the gloom to remind me who I am and where it was that I was going before I lost my way and it was… and then… and… then…

I’m not panicking though. I’m really not. I’m not going to get a puppy or any other small creature to take up my time. I’m not going to enrol on a curtain-making course or re-train as a yoga instructor or an aromatherapist. I’m not. I won’t! And I’m making it my mission over the next year not to do any of those things. If you can’t focus on a positive, focus on a not-negative.

Anyway while you’re thinking about it, here are some photos of some lovely Moroccan rugs from Larusi, who has a studio round the corner from my house. She didn’t start importing and selling rugs as a business until she was 40! So there’s hope.

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B&W Nikes

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I think I’m a bit sick of neon. It has been the essential accent colour in both fashion and interiors for ages now and it’s getting a bit tired. Wearing my gym trainers with their neon blue and pink splashes used to feel really modern. Now it just feels like I’m wearing my stupid gym trainers about.

So I’ve developed a crush on these black and white Nikes. I think they are these from Office. They’re nothing new, they’ve been around for ages, but they suddenly feel like the only trainers to have for AW16. Box fresh white trainers are all very well, but you do have to keep them really clean – or there’s not point. NO point going about in a grey pair of Stan Smiths with grubby laces.

So this rather takes the pressure off, as the trainers are mostly black. One still needs to take care to keep the flash and the sides reasonably muck-free, but with all the practise I’ve had keep my Stan Smiths squeaky clean it will be a breeze.

Speaking of wearing trainers in winter, I have finally caved in and bought some trainer socks. But not any trainer socks! I have got a pair of Wolford “Footsies“, which are really really brilliant and keep your feet nice and snuggly in your trainers whereas otherwise they might become sweaty and slimy. They are totally invisible and truly comfy and I recommend them to you highly. Wolford is the Chanel of hosiery, meaning that each pair of Footsies is a ruinous £9. But they are quality, I promise.

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