The Spike


April 2016

Only when chased

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Here comes now, I’m afraid, my Running Story.

Running stories are boring. They all go “I hated exercise I was so shit then I took up running and now I run the marathon and I love life and tra la la la la!”

But I really did hate exercise. Seriously. From little. I failed the bleep test at school, I purposefully walked during all the running-round-the-park exercise test things. I bunked off games, I got notes off games. Anything to avoid it.

There were dabbles with it later in life, but I just couldn’t be arsed, it wasn’t my thing. I loathed how much time it took up, (not that I had anything better to do), was astonished at how crushingly boring it all was. How shit I was at it, how I never seemed to get any better, how it never made me feel better. I hated the bouncy, positive evangelical people it seemed to attract.

Then I had two children and got fat and unfit and wobbly and knackered and hated myself. Then recently I found spinning and got fit and thinner and thought FUCKING HELL YES MAN YES YES YES THIS IS IT.

Then my spin class got bloody cancelled – some spat between the exercise dudes and the church hall ladies – and that was months ago and it still hasn’t been resolved.

So before the Easter holidays I went for a run. A slow one. I didn’t take off like a shot, like I’ve always done in past dalliances with running, only to knacker myself and my knees and my lungs within minutes, then get a stitch, then dawdle a bit and walk home and never go again.

I rumbled along slowly and kept going and going and going until the short playlist on my phone ran out. Then I walked home. Then I had three days off and then I went out again for another run and went up a hill, which wasn’t very nice, but I stopped at the top and blew my nose on my sleeve – and at least everything else was downhill from there.

The thing I find a bit annoying about running is that it is a truism that the first twenty minutes are ghastly and all jangly and shit and you constantly want to go home and you’re a bit asthmatic and phlegmy and then after twenty minutes things clear and lighten up and breathing is easier and you’re cantering along without really realising it.

But 30 minutes is pretty much my limit for a run because I squeeze it in after bath time and before dinner with my husband and there is only, frankly, so long I am willing to wait for my dinner and a glass of wine. Such dedication! But that knowledge, that after twenty minutes it suddenly gets easier, is enough to turf me out onto the streets once or twice a week.

Anyway, here are my very predictable tips for first time runners. If anyone has anything insightful and useful to add to this list, please leave a comment in the handy box at the bottom of the page.

1 No-one knows you’re a first time runner. No-one knows that you’re red-faced from just pottering down the road. No-one knows when you heave to a slap-footed stop that you’ve only been going for three minutes. No-one knows.

2 You don’t need to stretch before. You don’t even need to stretch immediately after – but it IS important to stretch after the post-run bath or shower. It will also be more effective. Just a bit. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

3 Likewise don’t tank up on a lot of water before you go, or take water with you, it will just slosh around in your stomach and make you feel sick. Have a glass when you come back.

4 Hold this truth dear: all you need to do is work your way up to being able to run gently for 20 minutes non-stop and then it will stop jangling and start being fine. Not, like, lovely or anything – but fine.

5 Have rest days. If you’re new to running leave at least two days clear before runs, otherwise you will hurt yourself. I have in the past ignored this advice and I properly crippled myself for about a week. It was awful and I felt like such a dick.

5 Runner’s high is a myth (I think). So are all those mood and emotional benefits of exercise everyone goes on about. The only thing that I like about exercise is that it means I fit back into certain clothes that I had dismissed as Never-Agains.

The exercise I do doesn’t even mean I can eat what I like. I still eat fucking nothing but weeds, fish and pulses and I have to go running to stay in shape. Getting older is no laughing matter.

6 Don’t go running expecting it to change your life, or to be nice because you will only be disappointed when it doesn’t. No-one likes going for a run. Everyone likes having gone for a run and for it to be the longest possible time before they need to go for a run again.

But do go.

If you need extra inspiration from a proper expert, read this book.


Best rain mac

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Chic mac from APC

I have been looking for years for a chic rain mac – not a trenchcoat because I don’t suit trenchcoats and I also think they make you look a bit try hard – and also in the wrong circumstances, like a stripper.

I mean a mac. Like an old fashioned Mackintosh from the Mackintosh shop – but not actually one of those because they are seven hundred pounds.

Just a sturdy single breasted mac! Could I find one? No. So I got a beige men’s mac from Gap, worn it crumpled and large in a nod to those hateful Frenchies, Vetements (if you think I’m going to bother dignifying them with a circonoflex, you can forget it).

But had I known about this total, complete and utter beauty from the very underrated APC I would have saved up for it. It is E420, which is about £320 but it is just so great. Shame it doesn’t come in beige, but you can’t have everything.

Two things from Zara

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Embroidered flowing jacket, £49.99

This  is a very clever jacket from Zara. It is a jacket, so it is fitted and flattering, but it also has large, bell sleeves, which are so on the money at the moment BUT the sleeves stop billowing at your elbow, so will not drag in your smashed avocado or catch in car doors

The long frill at the bottom also skims over your … I hesitate to say “mum tum” because my husband always comes skipping along shrieking “mum tum!” at me in falsetto and flapping his hands whenever I use the phrase in writing, but that’s what it is I suppose. Unless you’re not a mum, in which case it skims over your tum tum.

They have styled this very badly on the website so ignore that – you will look excellent in this and a pair of denim cut-offs IF IT EVER WARMS UP.

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Tweed dress with layered skirt, £49.99

This dress you will have dismissed as for supermodels only, but it is not! What it’s good for is if you have quite a lot of boobs and bum but respectable middle and alright legs and desperately long to look “gamine”. That’s me. I have the exterior of a blow up doll but the interior monologue of Twiggy. Or perhaps Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. There’s probably enough room for Audrey Hepburn to squeeze in there, too.

Anyway this dress is nice thick material, won’t cling too badly, skims over your hips and the big black bow draws attention away from your giant knockers.

And if you’re thinking: this dress is too smart, I do not have anywhere to wear this dress – you just need to think about wearing it with a black leather jacket and black boots and then I think you’ll find it’s acceptable evening wear to pretty much anywhere. OR put it with a smart pair of heels and a black jacket and it’s off to the ball with you, my dear.

Empty nest stage 1

Is there anything more annoying than a parent with all children recently in full-time nursery/school, shrugging their shoulders and saying “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself!”

It’s so annoying. “I could think of a million things I would do,” you fume, as you push one kid in a buggy and shriek at the other one to hurry up, undo a packet of Pom Bears with one hand, answer the phone to your husband who wants to talk about a parking ticket – where, why, how, WHY?? – steering the buggy with your knees, drinking a flat white and blowing your stupid bloody hair out of your eyes that just will not fucking behave.

I would have a massage, you think. I would calmly re-organise neglected corners of my house. I would read a book. I would fuck off for hours into town with no-one asking where I was going or what time I would be back. I would get really fit. I would cook elaborate dinners. I would write a novel. I would re-do the garden in the manner of the grounds at Sudeley Castle. I would… I would… I would…

And then it comes to it and it’s your turn. You come back to an empty house after dropping the youngest wherever and you’ve made no plans because what if the youngest freaks out and wants to come home, is sad, tired, lonely, can’t deal with it. So you sit blankly, staring into space, going “Shit, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.” It’s just one of those miracles of physics that the less time you have, the more you find to do. Give me an hour and I will give you the world – give me all day and I will fall to drink and despair.

I am lucky. Sam is going to nursery 9.30am – 3pm only two days per week this term, so I have got time to get used to this sudden sheer-cliff drop of empty hours until he goes full-time next year from 9-3pm every day.

I am choosing to relish the feeling and trying not to panic. It’s panic that makes you do insane things like get a puppy or have another baby. And I am also trying to luxuriate in the free time. All I did before this was complain that I never had any free time to just read a book or go for a walk. But when it comes to it, you can feel a bit guilty about just sitting about all day reading your surprisingly gripping history book about piracy in the Caribbean in the 18th Century or memorising the calls of of English garden birds with your Chirp! app. This is despite spending the last five years mired up to the eyeballs 24 hours a day in shit, vomit, smeared food, snot and tears. And the kids were a bit messy, too.

To feel adrift in a sudden influx of spare time must be natural and is probably just some sort of process one emerges out the other side of. Like having your eyesight corrected, or your hearing, or getting a new leg or a dishwasher or a twin tub – anything that frees you both mentally and physically, it all must require adjustment.

At the moment I am looking around the room that I occupy in our house, “my” room, which resembles nothing so much as a “junk” room. As I suspect I will be spending quite a lot of time in here, I think I might have to smarten it up – Polyfilla and paint over that awful crack on that wall, throw out those boxes, store that wrapping paper properly, find a new place for those suitcases.

And get myself somewhere to sit that is not my desk – for all that important pirate history book-reading. At the moment I am eyeing up this Soderhamn chaise longue from Ikea at £335.

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Although this Kolton chair, from at £449 also looks jolly comfy.

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Best emergency suncream

It’s the season of the unexpected – possibly unwanted – sunbathing session whereby you can suddenly find yourself stuck in full, pelting sunlight, with no sun protection and no hat. If you are not a person who just goes a smooth golden brown by simply reading Conde Nast Traveller there is a genuine possibility that you will get very nastily burnt and it will be awful.

So on top of the SPF facial moisturiser that I do so hope, dear god, that you already use every day, like this one, for about £6…

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… please also put in your bag every morning, alongside your rape alarm, iPhone charger and Pickled Onion flavour Monster Munch (what other life essentials are there?) this SPF spritzing mist from BioDerma.

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It’s very clever. You can just mist it lightly over your face (over make-up) and over anything else exposed that, when burnt, will mark you out as a terrible cliche (tops of shoulders, a v-shape stamped in red on your decolletage. It’s only £9 and will last you the entire summer.

Phoebe Coleman

It is surprisingly hard to find tasteful jewellery that feels meaningful and individual, that doesn’t also cost a total fucking bomb. You might point to Alex Monroe, and that’s all very well but I just feel like the designs are kind of … everywhere. If I see one more bumblebee necklace I’m going to, like, *mimes shooting self in head*.

One option is Phoebe Coleman, who produces a range of really beautiful, tasteful and delicate jewellery, which is reassuringly expensive (unlike, say, Orelia) but also affordable for a special occasion.

Here are some of my favourites:

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Love Me Tender ring £115
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Braveheart bracelet £85
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Red heart necklace £145
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Star stacking rings £140
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Warrior arrow necklace £135


Oh my GAWD…

… I love these shoes.

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Casablanca bow trim sneaker, more colours available at Russell and Bromley. Prices start at £175


Super countertop shelves

I was looking for some countertop shelves for a tricky bathroom the other day and came across these really ace ones from that wretched clip-joint Urban Outfitters, of all places.

These are very good for a tricky bathroom but also stylish and practical for a small kitchen. Or to be honest, any kitchen. Mine is the size of a tennis court and I still feel like I could use a bit more space.

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Kassita countertop shelf, £45


Laugh Out Loud Childrens’ Book Awards

A quick note about this excellent award, which favours, as I always do, funny books.

I have seen all the finalists and my personal favourite is Hoot Owl, which is about a ravenous and sort of mad and hubristic owl. My children didn’t quite get it, but forget about them. I thought it was amazing.

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Another favourite in our house at the moment is The Princess and the Pony, which has the word “fart” in it, so obviously we are just fucking beside ourselves every bedtime.

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