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The Spike

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July 2015

AW15 part III

Although I do almost no sport, I find sportswear a good answer and/or solution to the weekday WHAT OH WHAT TO WEAR problem. Sportswear is a “look” – particularly these days. I find it a real lifesaver in Autumn and Winter when you need to cover up and be warm and also need to keep your trouser bottoms dry. (I refuse to wear tights. I HATE TIGHTS.)

Therefore I am completely in love with these very jazzy sports capris from ShopBop.com. I was suspicious of ShopBop for a long time, but then ordered something from them and it arrived and it was fine and they didn’t skim my credit card or anything, so now I am a devotee.

Anyway fuck LOOK AT THESE BAD BOYS. How awesome would I look on the school run in any of these, huh, huh?? And absolutely no-one will know that I am NOT off to Barry’s Bootcamp but off home to look at accessories on the internet.

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Denim jacket

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Denim jacket, £29.99, H&M

Hang on… haven’t I got one of those? *rummage rummage rummage*… no it seems I don’t.

Turns out the one I thought I had was the one I pinched off my sister throughout 1994, 5 and 6 whenever she wasn’t there, or looking. It was from French Connection and it was pale blue, cropped and freaking awesome.

Then it went somewhere. Probably a charity shop because denim jackets were OUT along with scrunchies and contrasting lipliner, silver/amber jewellery and such.

But denim jackets are back again. I’ve always liked them – despite never actually owning one – but now they are allowed. And they are a thing you can get that can make previously tricky items in your wardrobe suddenly work. This slightly prim dress that I never have the right garden party to go to? Put the denim jacket over it. These patterned/suede/leather shorts that make me feel a bit try-hard? Put the denim jacket over them.

I am usually banned from H&M because I end up spending £200 on a clutch of really awful things, but sometimes H&M knocks it out of the park, like with that black jersey dress with the scoop neck and 3/4 length sleeves that I wore EVERYWHERE for the whole of 2005. Or the slouchy khaki trousers I have been wearing since the end of May that my friend Irish Mary thought were from J Brand.

They’ve come right again with this denim jacket, which has a good colour wash and is a nice medium weight so that you can roll the sleeves up (which you never could with the old French Connection one, god rest its soul). Note to self: do not give it to a charity shop when denim jackets go out of fashion again… they’ll come back round sure enough.

Chewton Glen

Off we trotted to Chewton Glen to stay in one of their double-decker tree houses. Because why not?

I generally refuse to travel with Sam because his crappy sleeping is ten times worse in a strange bed, but this was no house party where I would be expected to perform and conform. This was a hotel in which I was allowed to slob about doing whatever I liked. In a treehouse! In the main house there was a kids club! Sold to the sweaty ginger lady in the back.

The tree houses are like orbs on stilts, set away from the main hotel in woodland. There are six in all, divided into two apartments. The effect is a bit like a convention centre for Bond baddies. And I mean that in a nice way.

You access the tree houses via golf buggies like these:

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Sam utterly humiliated me by refusing to go IN the buggy, so we both had to ride in the luggage rack. Hotel staff and guests alike looked on aghast.

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Our treehouse was on two levels, the kids little loft room accessed by a vertical set of steps (complete with child-gate) with a terrific library of books and boardgames (which the kids eviscerated in minutes) in between treads.

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Another marvellous thing about Chewton Glen was the communal kids tea, served at 6pm sharp, which comes in the form of a buffet. Nothing worse than arriving at a dining room with hungry and fidgety children only to have to pick something off the menu which will arrive in a portion, twenty minutes’ hence, which is enough to feed fifteen soldiers recently back from manoeuvres. You will then eat most of and not want your posh dinner two hours later.

Here, fish fingers, chips, pasta and the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had, sat under heated silver domes. There were even profiteroles! Oh my days.

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Once we had got bored with running in and out off the balcony, going up and down the ladder stairs and hiding in the huge curtains – and the kids were bored of doing it, too – there was the magnificent and well-staffed kids club:

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two excellent swimming pools, indoor or outdoor – both heated – with generous kids swimming times (in the outdoor pool, kids can swim all day).

The beach is also a twenty minute walk or five minute drive away (no prizes for guessing how the Corens got there… poop poop!). We had a sunny day, so it was totally brilliant, magical and dreamy. Probably dreadful as soon as the clouds gathered, but that’s England for you.

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Sam’s fat little feet in his action sandals make me want to die.

Other brilliant things about the treehouse include a little hatch into which your treehouse food hampers are slid, so as you blearily stagger about at 7am after a night being woken up every 1.5hrs by your son’s thrashing about and midnight/dawn whimperings you don’t have to sulkily face a smart room service waiter but only open your hatch and find your breakfast there, ready to go.

The breakfast hampers change every day, so one day we got a plateful of waffles!! It was genuinely exciting opening the box to see what was in there We toasted the waffles in our little toaster and then spread with butter and maple syrup! (Next post: dieting tips. 1. Don’t eat the free waffles.)

The breakfast hamper was otherwise also lavish: different boxes of cereal, mini pastries, a whole french stick, little whatsits of nutella, cheese and charcuterie, fruit salad. I’m still eating most of it now at 10pm in London having driven back this lunchtime.

I give this hotel an A minus! The minus for the ever so slightly slow service, but this isn’t a problem if you know and can plan ahead accordingly.

On the subject of travelling with toddlers, my life has been saved many times by these bad boys, Dream Tubes, which if you don’t know already are a sheet with pockets in them for inflatable bed bumpers. They are brilliant if you have a toddler who doesn’t like sleeping in a strange cot (both mine had issues with this) or there is no cot available.

So Sam still might be sleeping badly (the full benefit of his adenoid op will be felt in another weeks’ time, I’m told) but at least he didn’t also have a full-on nervous breakdown about being in a strange cot, too.

Easy blue cheese dressing

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I made this to go with a salad and also some hot chicken wings we were having for dinner. It was really easy and unexpectedly nice.

(The dressing is in the blender jug, I thought I was going to write about the salad, but it wasn’t as nice as I thought it was going to be.)

Easy blue cheese dressing

for 2

2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise

2 heaped tbsp yoghurt

3 glugs best olive oil

50-75g blue cheese

1 Put the mayo, yoghurt, olive oil and 50g of the blue cheese into a whizzer and whizz

2 Taste. Would you like this to be more cheesy? If so, add more cheese. Perhaps a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder? Up to you.

You can find the recipe for the hot chicken wings here

The last three books I read (over a period of about six months I ought to add)

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 13.02.24American novel about a woman’s emotional struggle with new motherhood and a new neighbourhood all at the same time, all the while still traumatised from an emergency caesarian. It’s very good in parts about the ferocious uppercut of motherhood – but the hardline breast-is-best message is a bit screechy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 13.02.45 I spent most of this book trying to work out if brain surgeon Henry Marsh is unbearably pompous and therefore hateful, or just very honest about being unbearably pompous, so hateful – but gets full marks for being honest. Anyway – do not read this if you are even slightly a little bit of a hypochondriac. Or you’re about to have an aneurysm clipped. Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 13.03.02This is pretty much a novel constructed to make use of a lot of detailed period research. If you hated Captain Corelli, you’ll hate this. I found its dreamy whimsicality really soothing. Especially after reading the previous two books.

Raincoat

While we’re on the subject of AW15, I’ve been looking for ages for a simple navy raincoat and can’t find one.

I bought my husband a perfect black raincoat from Tiger of Sweden for last winter. You wear it on its own for all kinds of weather and then layered over one of Uniqlo’s super light-weight down jackets on freezing days.

But I can’t find a similar one for women. I will not wear a trench coat, because I think they’re just vile, all flappy and stupid, making my shoulders look about six feet wide. And I’ve never suited anything belted.

While we’re on that subject, I find one of the main things about getting older is that you just give up on things that don’t, never have and never will suit you (but which you nevertheless really admire when worn on other women). So things I’ve given up on are:

– trench coats

– lipstick

– ballerina flats

– tea dresses

– skinny jeans (though sometimes these have to be worn out of necessity – i.e. rain)

– skirts generally

– anything with frills or small floral patterns

Anyway so back to this elusive raincoat. The one I really want is made by Mackintosh itself and it’s called the Banton. It’s hugely popular in China (there is an entirely separate part of the Mackintosh website in Chinese) and they cost £725. So I’m not going to get one of these. I think I might secretly really want one because my Dad has the men’s equivalent and Dad is a natty dresser.

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It’s the sort of thing that I would expect Boden (don’t shoot!) to stock, though they don’t at the moment. And you can never rely on Boden not to include some sort of devastating detail, like an unwanted toggle, a dog-motif lining or dinner plate-sized “jazzy” buttons.

So I am going to stake out the Uniqlo website, as being the shop most like to cater to the enviable style and practical demands of the pan-Asian population. They already have in stock this, and it’s on sale at £19.99, but it is black so I won’t get it because there’s just no point in not having exactly the thing that you want.

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AW15 – gold hoops

Now that the sales are upon us – like a forgotten Old Testament plague – and weather in the UK has gone to piss – like a forgotten Old Testament plague – I find myself wondering what I will be wearing this Autumn/Winter. And I feel gloomy about it.

Dressing for winter, you are so hampered by practicality. What you gain in not having to pumice your heels or even think about fake tan you lose is having to be bloody warm and dry all the time.

Last year I wore skinny jeans tucked into UGG bikers, or 3/4 length black leggings, tucked into UGG bikers. I mean, it was okay but it was a bit boring. I don’t really want to wear that for another six months straight. But what else IS there?

I’m just going to concentrate on accessories for now. Hoops are back – alongside all those mad ear crawlers, cuffs and “jackets” – and these from Dinny Hall are the best I’ve ever seen. Just gorgeous. They’re a good weight – not too heavy but you know they’re there and they swing about in an expensive way. Plus, they clip on to your ear with a butterfly fastening so they’re secure; a lot of hoops fix with a sort of lever clasp that can be a bit flimsy and come off while you’re taking a sweater off. I’ve lost a lot of decent hoops that way.

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Scoop Hoops, £125, available from Dinny Hall from Sept, pre-order yours now

There are more affordable options around – I used to buy slim medium gold hoops from TopShop for about £10, but the problem with gold jewellery that isn’t plated is that after about 3 months they go all sorts of strange colours. If you’re not bothered then you could just buy those, but if you’re at all into buying things that last and that can be polished up like new, then you can’t do better than these.

Just don’t ask me what else to wear.

Packing for hospital

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I’m writing this from a hospital room. Sam has just had his adenoids removed. “His nose was completely blocked. Really yucky. It was a mess in there,” said the surgeon in delight.

I picked Sam up from the recovery room. He was freaked. I last saw that look on a face when a pigeon flew into my kitchen last summer and had no idea what had just happened or how to get out.

Sam fell asleep after a bit of an episode – who can blame him – and I’m now just waiting for him to sleep off the drugs. I’m pretty envious. He’s snoring his head off. I’d love someone to knock me out. I’ve properly loved all the generals I’ve had. I can see why people get into it, on a long-term basis.

But this is not about my dalliances with opiates.

The picture with this post is of the suitcase I packed for our 6 hours in hospital. Initially I was only going to pack in the flowery canvas baby bag I use for trips out with the kids. I am a bit bored with people being all snide and judgey about how much stuff parents seem to need to cart about with them and I briefly toyed with packing light just to show them. (Who? Where?)

But then I thought, no, fuck it. I want to take everything. I want my laptop, and brown bunny, and some snacks, and all the chargers, and some books, and a big pack of wipes, and the little DVD player. AND the iPad. All of it.

And some stuff for Sam, too, of course.

I didn’t want to have to make any choices, to find myself suddenly without a thing.

It strikes me, often, that a trait that experienced parents have, and especially those with a lot of children, is that they don’t expect too much from their kids. My friend Jo, who has four children, drives around in a sort of A-Team van. “It’s essential that they can’t touch each other while we’re driving,” she said, matter-of-factly. Yes, because otherwise they just hit each other and scream. There’s no point in pretending that they won’t. They will fight and squabble and make the journey ghastly. So just get a massive great van to cart them around in. Done.

So I packed absolutely everything I could lay my hands on. And I’m pleased I did because we used pretty much all of it.

New pyjamas for Sam

IMG_7618 My son has to go and have his adenoids out tomorrow. The hospital rang and said “If he has his own pyjamas which button up down the front he can wear those to theatre, if not, he can wear a gown.” And I said “Why do they have to button up down the front?” thinking of what he wears to bed at the moment, which is usually just a vest as he sweats so much at night (a side effect of enlarged adenoids) I don’t make him wear much.

The admissions nurse said “Well, they have to unbutton his pyjamas in order to attach the heart monitor during the operation.”

What bothered me was not so much the heart monitor it was the thought of someone else unbuttoning his little pyjamas. Probably a nurse! I’ve lost him to another woman already.

Anyway I thought Sam would probably freak if I made him put on a hospital gown so I went straight to The White Company, like any decent human being, and bought him this natty outfit. It was on sale. I punched the air, as I cried into one of Sam’s baby photos.

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