The Spike


May 2016


Cheerio, then!

I’m off on my first holiday for a calendar year.

My skin has celebrated by breaking out into a giant boil in the space between my shoulder and breastbone. Thanks a fucking bunch!

I, on the other hand, celebrated a few days ago by going mad in &OtherStories, which is a very chic shop that I don’t get to much.

My friends Danielle and Irish Mary are insanely fashionable and always immaculate and get everything from Isabel Marant and I know all their clothes come from Isabel Marant because I see them in magazines or spend my evenings foaming over them on Net A Porter and they sometimes say to me about a jacket or a top “Love that, where’s that from?” and every single time I have to say “Zara”.

It’s getting embarrassing, so I went to &OtherStories to see if I could change things up a bit. I found some nice things I’d like to share with you and it was a novelty to try things on in store rather than take a random punt on something online and then have to return it.

Like I had to return a few things in H&M the other day and the girl at the till was so fucking mean to me! I mean she didn’t actually swear at me but she was definitely being horrible – another customer in the queue gave me this rueful apologetic look like: “Why does she hate you so much?” I think it was because I didn’t have my receipt ready. Anyway, Anastasia at the Oxford Street branch of H&M: fuck you!!!!

But on to sunnier places and &OtherStories.

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Very lovely lightweight summer knit, £40
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Off-shoulder dress. Probably only for holiday nights, but easier to wear than you fear: £65
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“Drape dress” £65

This last dress is insanely slutty and you cannot wear a bra with it, but it is surprisingly supportive and it’s only me and my kids and my husband on holiday, so I thought… fuck it and bought it. It’s also made of washed silk and feels gorgeous and isn’t unflattering. But I appreciate that this isn’t an especially helpful recommendation.

I won’t be around next week as I am on the aforementioned holiday, but keep up with me on Instagram @esthermcoren.

Must say, I can’t stand looking at pics of other people’s holidays on Instagram – (apart from @rvk_loves who can do no wrong) – but you might have a stronger stomach than mine.


Little ears

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Philips Small in-ear design colour buds, £6.30

We are all, in our own way, freakish. I, for example, have incredibly small hands and weirdly tiny ear-holes. Any normal, standard earbud falls out of my ears, particularly the right one.

They always have, all my life. I end up so furious with a sore right earhole from jamming the ear bud in over and over again that I usually tuck the right earbud into the neck of my sweater and have to listen to only the left-hand audio of whatever it is.

It never occurred to me that companies might make earbuds specifically for tiny freak hobbit ears until the other night, when I returned from a run just utterly fuming because I need both left and right audio if I am going to really actually run and not just slop along feeling bored. I don’t want to wear my great big cans because I feel like a dickhead. I want to wear buds like everyone else. I want to be normal.

For all its many faults, Amazon does come to the rescue at times such as these – type in “ear buds small ears” and up pops a solution to your very particular problem and they arrive the next day.


A Little Life. Contains spoilers.

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Does what it says on the tin

**This piece contains spoilers**

I recently started reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara because I didn’t think it was a  traumatising book where awful things happen to small children *pause for laughter*.

I had initially assumed that, it being a very long book written by someone with a complicated-sounding name, that it would be about a rough childhood in a rough part of the world and, you know, I’ve had quite enough of reading miserable books where someone has an awful time.

But then I read a vague summary of the Little Life plot and said to myself: “I am wrong! I am borderline racist! This is not a traumatising book where awful things happen to small children! This is a perfectly urbane book about four young dudes in New York. And everyone says it’s brilliant.”

Then – jokes on me! – it turned out to be the most traumatising of all traumatising books ever written. It’s not a book about child abuse. It’s the book about child abuse.

Why did I keep reading? I honestly don’t know. I think I kept expecting it to turn into the urbane and witty comedy of manners I had been expecting. Like when I went to Gary Barlow’s book party by mistake and persisted in thinking that it was Derren Brown’s book party (which was next door) even after Gary Barlow came up to me and went “‘Iya are you from the Times?” I was just standing there going “Wow I didn’t realised Gary Barlow and Derren Brown were such good friends!”

I abandoned A Little Life at about 89% when the hero’s best friend/boyfriend/guardian angel is squashed by a lorry in the most hugely unlikely and annoying accident since thingy got run over in One Day. I mean FUCKS SAKE the car accident is just the most stupid, stupid and lazy trope in novel-writing.

“Ugh,” I said to no-one in particular, “I’m not reading this anymore. I don’t like it.”

I just… I mean… why has this woman written a book like this? It’s so fucked and weird. She’s a great writer but why, why, why has she chosen this subject? And you know, it’s not even a subject actually, because the awful shit that happens is not exactly a thing happening to children all over the world.

Yes there is child abuse, yes there is enforced child prostitution, yes there are paedophiles, yes there are people living in constant pain. Yes people cut themselves. Yes loved ones get squashed by lorries. Yes there are evil monks and sadistic architects. Yes to all of that. But why all at the same time, all in one story? Why make it all happen to one person?

And also why all the nauseating, sentimental puke later one? Why does Jude, our hero, only encounter people who are either complete evil monsters who want to buttrape him or saints who slobber over him like fawning shop assistants? It’s so clumsy and irritating. And, you know? A bit fucking psychotic, like how most tyrants and despots always also have a strong sentimental streak and weep over sick puppies, while also being happy to wipe out entire tribes/races.

Look, don’t listen to me. Most people love this book and think it’s a masterpiece. I’m not saying it’s not a masterpiece, I’m just saying that I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING READ ABOUT BUTTRAPE AND CHILD ABUSE. Yanagihara has said that she doesn’t think that readers want to be a”babied”. Me, mate – me: I want to be babied. Thank you.

Anyway I removed A Little Life from my Kindle – I was that fed up with it, didn’t give a fuck what happened next, bored with reading about shit thing after shit thing that happens to this poor bastard – and took to Twitter to find something else to read.

Because the main reason I had been persisting with this book was because to have a book on the go is life-changing. I spend a lot of time with my kids when they need minding but don’t need actual interaction – I am living the dream, ladies – and even I reach the limits of what I can do on my phone in these hours. It’s so much better to be reading a book.

Rather than posing Twitter the question: “I need a new book to read”, to which you mostly get suggestions to read A Little Life, I asked for a mild-mannered book, style-heavy, not a comedy (there are enough jokes in my house without needing to seek out more in a book), and no child abuse if possible.

Twitter went nuts – I got tens of recommendations. So I have started on the Cazalet series by Elizabeth Jane Howard, which I’ve never even heard of I’m such a philistine and so far I am enjoying it enormously. I just hope that the Second World War doesn’t come along and ruin all the fun. But don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson: one whiff of a sad baby and I’m out of there.

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No child abuse please, I’m British


Man chair

All my husband really wants to do is watch cricket. And there’s a lot of it about at the moment. But he can’t really watch cricket whenever he wants to because we only have one telly and whenever he puts the cricket on – whether or not the kids are watching some programme of their own – the kids will scream NOT BORING CRICKET DADDY and pelt him with plastic fire engines and colouring books and shoes until he turns CBeebies on and they then slump in front of the telly in their pants with dazed expressions until teatime.

So I am making one corner of Giles’s office into a cricket corner with an extra telly (unheard of for such rank intellectual snobs as my husband us) specifically for watching the cricket on. But what to do about a chair? I have absolutely had it with trying to find good sofas and the armchairs I’ve seen… I dunno I kind of think they’re just not right.

My husband’s telly-watching position is stretched out with his hands behind his head, feet up, newspaper balanced on his knee, cup of tea on the go somewhere. The armchairs and sofas I’ve seen are more for formal sitting or my kind of telly-watching, which is all scrunched-up, knees-bent.

But then I found this extremely marvellous Eames chair copy by a company I’d never heard before, Wallace Sacks. By the looks of their website all they do is churn out very affordable copies of rare – and therefore unavailable, therefore priceless – mid-Century design gems. Perfect telly-watching chair for the ardent cricket fan.

And they had a sale on! AND – here’s the best bit – my husband likes the chair. This is a miracle as he turns his nose up at almost all of my design suggestions.

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Eames-inspired chair and Ottoman, on sale now for £499


A note about catalogues

It is catalogue season, my friends. They can sense you panicking about what to wear on your summer holidays and they are flinging themselves through your post box in the hope that you will buy a hideous knee-length chambray dress covered in patterns of sailboats.

And I’m here to say – just pause before you buy anything, okay? Just have a pause. Put the catalogue down. Think to yourself: do I have something like this – that I never wear – in my wardrobe already? Think to yourself: do stylish people I know and admire wear things like this?

The answers are probably yes – and no.

I was minded to write this to you on receiving the SeaSalt catalogue yesterday and finding myself in a trance thinking: “Maybe a navy linen shift dress is really what I need for SS16?” or “Maybe that little dark green wrap dress in the lighthouse print is actually very cute?”

It isn’t, it’s not.

The worst offenders catalogue-wise, when it comes to dressing up basically horrible clothes as winning are: SeaSalt (just everything about how and why anyone dresses badly – except for their rainwear, which is good, and their breton tops, which any idiot with a sewing machine can run up), Wrap and Pure. Awful, all of them. But flicking through you will think: hmmmmmm…. mayyyybeeeeee.

When you do that, think of me. Put the catalogue down, take a deep breath. Stop.

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This won’t look nice on you


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This won’t look nice on you
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This won’t look nice on you
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This won’t look nice on you

News from Oxfordshire

My Oxfordshire correspondent, next-eldest sister Hannah, has some important information about Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley’s collaboration with Marks and Spencer on make-up.

“Personally, I am not a great believer in celebrity collaborations but I am  preparing to do a major U-turn having discovered Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s beauty range for Autograph at M&S.
The packaging is pretty but a bit cheap and plasticky, and also a tad rip-offy of Charlotte Tilbury, but there’s some truly great products.
I bought the Instant-Glow bronzing powder which is sheer and biscuity and AMAZING for fluffing on in vast quantities to perk up sad summer skin without being sparkly or looking like dirt.
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I also got a fat lip balm pencil called a Lip-Glossy in a shade irritatingly named Sweet Nothing Kisses which you can swipe on quickly without it feeling sticky or gluey. It lives in my handbag and when I put it on I feel like I have made An Effort which is rare. 
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I could easily have bought the Amazing Radiance Cream and any of the Cream Eye Shadow sticks, but I thought that was enough as I’d only popped in for some chicken teddies.”
More news from Banbury and the surrounding area as I have it.

Denim jacket

I was very annoyed the other day to read on The Pool that my beloved denim jacket is no longer cool. It’s too fitted, they said. It’s too tight. It’s too Britney Spears. Tears started to come to my eyes as I read on.

What you have to do, said The Pool, is buy a massive ugly denim jacket, something from the late 80s or early 90s. Think Shannon Doherty.

I turned away, disgusted. I will have no more of this fashion, I thought. What care the mums and baristas of Tufnell Park whether I am fashion or not. And then they showed a picture of this jacket from Monki, a feminine, denim version of the Norfolk Work Jacket I was on about – and I thought… hmmm. Actually rather tasty. £40 from

This is how suggestible I am. Someone fucking shoot me.

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Is this jacket nice because it’s nice? Or just because the model is thin?

Now if you’ll excuse me, after a massive month-long work drought I am now insanely stressed and busy, so there might be a blank space where Monday’s post ought to be. Just close your eyes and think of a dress – any dress.

Have a great weekend, Spikers!


Summer pyjamas

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Woven chambray pyjamas, about £17, John Lewis

I got these summer pyjamas for Kitty and we all love them. All roomy and crisp and marvellous.

Kitty is not especially big for a 5 yo and wears those in a size 6yo.

They’re selling fast so get yours now if you fancy them.

The devil drink

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My husband has been away this week and when that happens, I normally just drink all evening, which is just pathetic and self-pitying and it really has to stop. Plus, cutting out booze is one of the fastest ways – as well all know – to get thinner.

I did go through a phase of drinking vodka, fresh lime and soda when I found myself alone in the evening. Great idea in theory, but in practice by that point in the day I was usually so fed up that I couldn’t even be bothered to mix all three ingredients together and ended up just sloshing 250ml of chardonnay into a glass. Again.

But this week I have a new tactic, which is working and feels a bit mad but also inspired. What happens is this: I put the kids in bed then go downstairs and eat my dinner (fish and chickpeas, fish and lentils, fish and greens) and then after dinner I neck one shot of very cold vodka.

And that’s it. You can’t do a shot on an empty stomach because that’s just suicide, (in the way that a few sips of golden, buttery Chardonnay isn’t), there’s no mucking about with it, it does exactly what you want it to – takes the edge off, blurs the lines – and it’s quite grim so you won’t want to do another one and therefore get far too pissed for a Tuesday night.

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