The Spike


August 2016

Meanwhile, in Which?


Surfing on the tide of the Nutribullet, err, thing – I found in a Which? magazine lying about in my parents house this interesting Best Buy thing about good blenders.

I was rather intrigued by this, not that I want to buy a blender. I make do with my mini Magimix and my stick blender. And I’d never be arsed to crush ice cubes. And what is with this stupid name? Is the brand name Sage? Sage The Boss?

The only piece of kitchen kit I’m interested in is a ThermoMix, but they look like they take up a hellish amount of space and I live in London where it’s like £4,000 per sq ft, and they’re already about £300. The numbers just don’t add up – even if it can make Hollandaise.

Is it time for…?

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The Crosley Cruiser. About £70.

Progress is such a strange thing. It has eradicated certain things forever, such as video, cassette tapes, Duo Tan, typewriters, polio and calling for a cab.

Yet some outmoded things, which did in fact briefly teeter on the brink of extinction, don’t just survive this relentless march of modernity, they thrive. I’m thinking of course about hard copy books and Royal Mail. And, of course, vinyl.

I never owned a record player, obviously. I don’t own a single vinyl record. I don’t know anything about vinyl, or music, or how vinyl is better or worse than CDs or any of that crap. My parents, like many people, got rid of their record player – a really handsome brown thing – many years ago. I wish they hadn’t, but it’s no good my saying that now.

My husband still has some vinyl records somewhere but we have nothing to play them on. Recently I think it might be nice if we did. I remember the vinyl records my parents had: I loved the smell.

In our house in Gloucestershire I often think it would be nice to have music on – but the only music we have is via our phones and a speaker. We have no AV “system”; say “Sonos” to me and I will say “I think you can get antibiotics for that”.

And I always inevitably need to wander off somewhere else with my phone, (usually to check the weather, to direct lost visitors – “turn left at the tree that looks like Oprah Winfrey” – or report a riderless horse that has just trotted past the window), thus disconnecting the music and ruining the small puff of atmosphere it has created.

So I wonder if it might now be time to invest in a new record player, something like this very handsome portable number by Crosley (above). I have dreams of putting the Inkspots on the record player on a cosy night while I mix myself a white port and tonic. Or something. In reality would it sit in a corner gathering dust? Perhaps the thing to do is make a little mark somewhere every time I wish I had a record player and if it’s more than 30 times get one. Or something.

Crosley is an American company – they sell via their website and shipping to the UK is done by special request. Urban Outfitters and good old John Lewis also sell a small selection of Crosley turntables – it’s always more appealing to me to buy something for this sort of price that I can actually go in and have a look at.

There are now going to be 400 comments about how Crosleys are no good by music nerds.

Don’t bother to floss

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Psyched to have this guy back in my life


Look I really hope this isn’t, y’know, too much – but I’m really worried about my teeth.

I don’t use an electric toothbrush and I floss infrequently. Sometimes my gums are, like… a bit itchy.

I do brush my teeth properly though. I angle the brush to the gum line and all that crap. And I brush for a long time. “You brush your teeth for such a long time,” says Giles.

I also don’t eat much sugar, really hardly any at all. But at certain points my gums are receding, I am getting, literally, long in the tooth. And I know that gums don’t grow back – and that past 35, you’re just mouthful of capped teeth waiting to happen.

I was particularly touched and affected by a scene in The Cazalets (bk 1) were a character is incredibly upset because she has just been told by the dentist that she has to have all her teeth pulled out. And this is in the Thirties where you then had to wear, I don’t know… dentures or something? And she’s only 40.

So why don’t I just floss?

Because I can’t. I just can’t. Last thing at night it’s bad enough having to wash my face, let alone floss. I know it’s not responsible, okay? I’m not asking for forgiveness.

Anyway as you can imagine I was greatly relieved to read this in the paper yesterday – about how flossing isn’t the be-all and end-all of good dental care that hygienists are constantly telling us it is; a combination of Xylitol, found in certain chewing gums and also in the sugar substitute Total Sweet – and mouthwashes will do an okay job if you, like me, have a horror of the pick string.

Here are 5 top tips that I copied out of yesterday’s Times for keeping hold of your teeth without having a floss.

1 Chew Peppersmith mints or gums after every meal.

2 Before brushing your teeth use UltraDex, which removes bacteria.

3 Brush your teeth (you do, alas, actually have to do this)

4 Use Listerine Original mouthwash. This has been proven IN CLINICAL TRIALS to be more effective than flossing.

5 Use Fluorigard before bed

Leopard print belt

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I have been looking for ages for a leopard print belt, but I have found this one – from Karen Millen of all places!! – just as our Prime Minister is the new editor-in-chief of midlife leopard accessories, and so all leopard print is now banned from polite society.

But if you don’t feel that way, this belt is very good and reassuringly (but not crazily) expensive at £55. And you would never have found it if it wasn’t for me – because it’s in KAREN MILLEN.



H&M brooches

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Brooch trio, £9.99

Brooches! What could be more stupid. Even the word… it looks like it ought to be pronouced BROOOOOOOCH, rather than BROACH. It’s one of those words like Cadogan or Heythrop, which is almost designed to catch you out in your ghastly lower middle classness.

I have never knowingly worn a brooch and never like the look of them. BUT, this trio from H&M is insane, delightful genius. I love them and I am going to get them and pin them to my denim/utility jacket as soon as I pass a store (which is approximately 18 times per hour when I am in London). I know they are going to be cheap and jejune and unsatisfying to the touch, I know that the little coloured bops of glass will fall out within six weeks like old teeth, but I don’t care.


Style vs Fashion II

You may remember a few months ago the terrifying story of my friend Annie Kelly, who lost most of her clothes in a house fire.

We went shopping together to put together some basics to see her through early summer. One or two things to wear to work, or on a Sunday. Just things to wear. I was completely and passionately consumed by this project for days, it was such an intriguing question: if you lost all your clothes and had to start again – what would you buy first?

It led to us having a conversation about style and fashion and how they are not the same thing. This is actually a really important distinction to take on board.

If you just want to have some clothes and wear them without looking like a frump or a crazy, if you want to leave behind the stress of feeling like you ought really to be wearing a brocade trouser suit or a fucking kimono, then the thing you have to absorb is that you don’t have to be fashionable in order to be stylish.

You can be stylish without being fashionable. You can certainly by fashionable without being stylish. Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and be fashionable and stylish at the same time, but that often happens more by accident than design. And at any rate, it doesn’t matter, being fashionable. Fashion is a game for very aesthetically acute people, or for the very rich. Looking stylish – or just not terrible – is a social duty.

Pinterest and Instagram are helpful here. They rather worship “classic” things: red nail varnish, stripes, chinos, a knotted scarf just so. If you were to leave the house wearing blue skinny jeans, white trainers, a breton top, a black leather jacket and some sort of tan bag, you would be hailed by both of these social media outlets as a bastion of good taste and style.

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Look how cute she looks. Why wouldn’t you want to look like this too?

But so often if you are a certain sort of person you will regard this look as “boring” or a “cliche”. But it is not. And it isn’t boring or a cliche because you are wearing it. And in those clothes is your own individual body, on top of the outfit is your excellent head, your terrific sense of humour, your swishy hair, your twinkling eyes and charming smile.

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More cuteness. And easy and inexpensively achieved. 

So as we look towards AW16 and thinking about the new term and perhaps updating one or two things about your wardrobe, or if you have just had your last baby and feel the need to get rid of everything and start again, or you’ve just got divorced, or left someone, or come back to the UK after living in Barbados for 6 years, just remember this: if you don’t know what you are doing when it comes to getting dressed, when you arrive at the shops with your credit card in your hand: buy simple things.

If you ever get the feeling that you just want to buy something, buy a navy sweater. Or a grey t-shirt, or a very white pair of trainers. Do not buy anything from Finery – (I fear it and therefore despise it) – or a neon cocktail dress.

I basically have six colours in my wardrobe:







I have trousers, dresses, shirts and other tops in most of those colours and I switch them around. So sometimes I will wear the khaki trousers with the navy top, or the denim jeans with the khaki shirt, or the black trousers with the grey top. It all goes together. I always – always  – have something to wear.

I can see you falling asleep! But that’s so boring, you’re thinking. Aha but you’re forgetting about accessories! About a bright green bag or a nice scarf or gold jewellery or something to liven it up. And you’re also forgetting about my swishy smile and charming hair. Or whatever the fuck it was I said a minute ago.

This is what I do as a person with a limited innate sense of style – I have had to learn the little sense I have, as I had to learn how to cook, or as you might learn another language. I also don’t have the inclination to drop many hundreds of pounds on a Chloe Drew bag or some sort of mad diddy Ferragamo-esque block-heel granny shoes in order to be absolutely right now.

And that’s all I wanted to say about this, really. Any questions, see me after class.


Best army jacket for AW16

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Hooded fatigue jacket (the hood folds away neatly), about £64

It has been a constant mystery to me as to where and how certain fashion people are getting hold of good khaki army jackets. I have been looking everywhere *EVERYWHERE* for a decent one for about 18 months now with no joy. I don’t mean an army “shacket” by the way – a shirt/jacket hybrid. I mean an actual jacket. With big pockets and an optional hood.

M&S are pushing this one at the moment, but if you look closer and really think about it, it’s awful: too short and boxy, too timid, too… M&S.  And what is that cotton tape all about? You could wear this for about a fortnight in September and then it would get too cold.

And that is the sort of thing that is available to you and me at the moment. But I sense that proper fashion people are swanning about in all manner of delightful, perfect khaki utility jackets. How? It is a mysterious fashion thing, I suppose, where they are privy to better things, sooner than we are. Alas, alas.

There is, of course, J Crew’s Field Mechanic jacket, but that is £178! And I cannot justify that. No, wait – it’s not that, it’s that I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better value option available.

It turns out that I am simply fashion forward and was looking for something that didn’t yet exist on general release. Like really fancying an actor in his very first film who goes onto be insanely successful but for ages they’re not in anything much and you’re stamping around going WHY WHY WHY DOES EVERY FILM NOT FEATURE TOM HARDY?? I mean, just for example.

Anyway now army jackets are really happening and as it goes, and Gap Men’s dept are doing a really very decent copy of the J Crew Field Mechanic Jacket – I like it better than the women’s version, get it in an XS if you normally take about a size 10/12 in a jacket. It is sturdy, robust. It will see you well into November. Use it to de-slut a denim mini skirt or a dress and be sure to wear with a proper pair of earrings or something lest you are mistaken for an actual Field Mechanic.

This has got nothing (everything) to do with the fact that when I met the CEO of Net a Porter – I promise I will stop mentioning that soon – she was wearing a J Crew Field Mechanic Jacket.

Anyway these have just arrived in store and I predict they are going to be absolutely bloody everywhere by October, so start buying and wearing yours right now.


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