The Spike


February 2017

The Spike has been reading…



I loved this book. It was gripping without really anything especially happening. I want to say that it was very atmospheric, but my husband tells me I use that word too much. (It is, though, it is really atmospheric.)

Push on through the initial slightly slow first chapter. If you still don’t like it after Chapter 3 you have my permission to move on to something else.

It also has, hands-down, the most delicious-sounding feast in a book I’ve ever read.

“…. the boy left a tray of beer upon the sideboard. This was followed by a platter of cheese and cold beef marbled with yellow fat, and a plaited white loaf, and a dish of pale butter sprinkled with salt, and lastly a cake studded with cherries and giving off the scent of brandy…”

There is genuinely no moment when I wouldn’t be really pleased to sit down to eat all that.

How about you: read any good books lately?

Rita Konig interior workshop


I went to Rita Konig’s one-day interior workshop and it was terrific. Let me tell you about it.

I arrived at her house (her actual house) at 10.30am and was greeted with a cup of coffee by her appropriately slim and dazzling assistant. The place was packed! There must have been ten of us sitting in Rita’s beautifully proportioned and light-filled living room (despite a gruesome dark day outside). A fire was crackling in the grate and a Jo Malone triple-wicked candle flickered on the coffee table.

The first part of the day covers buying a property and building work, how to think about laying out the rooms of a house in a new or different way, moving walls, not being afraid to put things back to front and so on.

We poked around the house, taking photos of pretty corners, flashes of mad wallpaper; we quizzed Rita about paint, different shades of white – the domestic politics but the absolute essential-ness of sometimes painting an entire room pale pink.

Then we looked at pictures of inspiring interiors on a large screen in the living room, which was hooked up to an iPad. Now this was great. Real proper bliss. Sitting with a load of interiors-obsessed women and our high priestess, flicking through pictures going “ooooohhh… ahhhhhh”.




Rita would sometimes say things like “Can you see here how the yellow tiles accentuate the cornicing while concealing this rather narrow area here?” and we’d all nod and go “Mm yes. We see.” It was a bit like being a bunch of doctors sitting about looking at tricky X-Rays with a very senior consultant. Well, that’s what it felt like to me.

And then we had an incredibly delicious lunch of chicken and vegetable soup, with some amazing cheese, the name of which I forgot to ask.

In the afternoon we lazed about, lotus-eaters, discussing colour, the importance of Pinterest, the perils of pushing all your furniture against walls, (guilty), and alternatives to having a huge kitchen island. Here I sank very low into my chair as my kitchen island is the size of Barbados.

Towards 3.30, when things wound up, I felt like Rita worried she was boring us. Little did she know that I could have sat there all day. I wish that I had gone on this workshop at the start of re-doing my current London house or the one in Gloucestershire – I would have dodged lots of bad decisions, which are now very difficult (read expensive) to undo or change.

If you are half-thinking about doing this workshop and have a house renovation project coming up, go. Do it. Rita will have answers and clever ideas to any and all of the millions of questions you will inevitably have.

I stuffed a last slice of lemon cake in my mouth, swilled down the ends of my tea and went out into the cold, dark afternoon, vowing to one day have a pink room.

There are two places left on the late March workshop – book here. At £375 it’s not cheap, but it will save you from making expensive mistakes.

Bell sleeves


Okay so you’ve added some ruffles to your SS17 wardrobe and some fabulous huge earrings. Now please consider some bell sleeves.

I know! I know, I know, they seem impractical and mad. But as long as, in fact, you choose a sleeve that stops a goodly way up your arm, between your elbow and your wrist, then it will not drag in your soup or get caught in the car door and you will just feel very modern and fabulous not like a King Charles Spaniel done up for a local dogshow.

You do have to try a few of these on, though, to find a good one. A lot of tops at the moment stop hellishly short

This shirt from J Crew comes in Regular and Tall, so if you know you suffer a bit from Long Back Disease, as I do, you can go for a Tall and reckon it will make up the distance.


If you really can’t bear the thought of bell sleeves, consider a tie-sleeve instead, which is less tricky to get your head round – something like this from H&M:




Little girls’ hair


About a year ago, Kitty insisted on growing her hair. Up until then, she had been very happy to have a cute little Lousie Brooks bob. It was brilliant: it looked fabulous, unusual and it was very low-maintenece.

But now she’s got longer hair and it’s a total pain. Kitty is not what I’d call girly, or fastidious. Her hair spontaneously, in the night or just generally ties and scrunches itself up into the most terrible knots, despite me washing, brushing and conditioning it once a week. She is starting to develop dreads. Should I be doing it more? Am I right to get annoyed when she complains about having it brushed? (“This was your idea, Kitty!”)

What is the answer? I see other little girls with long flowing hair and no knots anywhere, how is it done?

This is a genuine question. Please leave suggestions in the handy comment box below.

The Meddler


If you ask me, Jeremy Paxman has done  Elizabeth Clough, the mother of his children and partner of 35 years, a massive favour by leaving her.

When you are married to or living with a famous man, you live in his shadow completely. It’s all about him, even more so than it is with any other man. Giles isn’t famous like Jeremy Paxman, but he’s well-known enough for me to know what that means.

It’s not horrible! It’s not a bad place to be; there’s live entertainment and the drinks are free… but one day, you might have to give your table back, that’s all.

And then what? Sure, it’s not ideal, it’s not what you dream of. But…it does give you an opportunity to construct for yourself a life out of that shadow.  I’m sure it doesn’t feel like that right now to Elizabeth Clough, but that is what it is.

I was watching last night as it happens on just this subject: an absolutely terrific movie called The Meddler. Susan Sarandon has to build a new existence for herself after her husband dies. She moves from New York to LA to be closer to her daughter and starts again, mostly by meddling in everyone’s lives, to completely positive ends. This cheers me up hugely of course as I am the world’s biggest meddler and doler-out of unsolicited advice.

I laughed my head off throughout, it’s such a sweet film, nothing awful happens and J.K. Simmons is in it. I recommend you seek it out as it’s not a massive action film so you might otherwise miss it.



Resort wear

So obviously you have chosen and booked your summer holidays by now, seeing as it’s nearly the end of February. What do you mean you haven’t?? Get on with it!!!

And then once you’ve done that you can concentrate on what the hell you are going to WEAR. Don’t, please, ask me about bikinis or swimwear. It’s all just totally fucked-up and impossible to find a nice swimsuit, as far as I can see. I am quite pleased with my blue and white Heidi Klein swimmers, I suppose, but God: at what cost!

What I really want to say, or beg you rather, is not to buy a massive floaty white kaftan covered in neon tassels or pompoms. I can confirm that a) we all look horrible in them, like stupid albino bats and b) they are suddenly just totally passé, they are the sarong of 2017.

In fact, dodge neon altogether, it’s gone over to bad.

Look instead this year, when you are doing your summer holiday clothes shop, for light blue, pink and pale yellow.

Replace your giant kaftan with anything that looks like a shirt – like this one from Solid and Stiped but even longer if possible:



This one is particularly nice from J Crew:



If you insist on having something kaftan-y consider this sort of thing, again from J Crew. Beautiful… and no neon in sight.


Then for evening wear, something new perhaps. I was just in Oman over half term (do not be envious, it rained almost continuously) and saw two women wearing really terrific outfits. The first was a lovely white broderie anglaise dress with sleeves and a full skirt to the knee. I really feel like I’ve seen it before: Isabel Marant Etoile? – but cannot find actual evidence online.

The other was a pale pink palazzo trouser with a short white lace top on. Really, really pretty – although I fear you do have to have quite a flat tummy to get away with it.

These are fun, from Anthropologie


Or these, from


At night also white broderie dress lady had put her hair in a ponytail and was wearing some dramatic earrings and looked brilliant. I am a bit scared of all these weird, geometric, “statement” earrings but in fact they look great on, very modern.

I like these, just for example:


or these from Whistles:


But the madder the better, really. There will be some crazy ones in the shops soon, I’m sure – with tassels and pompoms and all sorts of crazy shit. Don’t rule them out, is all I’m saying.


On the subject of trousers, I don’t really want to see anyone wearing these sort of tapered printed trousers this summer. They’ve had their moment, put them away for another time.




M&S florals

Two things you really ought to consider adding to your wardrobe to make it SS17 rather than SS16 (although there are things left over from last year that you can still wear – culottes, massive pale blue shirts, your Arizona Birkies) are ruffles q.v. and also florals.

Of course, anyone who is clever enough to put away favourite clothes that are no longer in fashion, (rather than just chucking them out to charity like me), will be able to pull out a lot of florals and ruffles from the 80s/90s.

There is also a lot of talk about “power dresses” at the moment, which are broadly midi-length flowy dresses with a large floral print with sleeves – to be worn with a black polo neck and boots now and sandals later.

There aren’t that many in the shops yet – I don’t know if that’s because spring stock hasn’t really come in yet or what.

I WAS in M&S yesterday though and was wowed by their collection of floral prints. They’ve really committed to this trend. The fabrics and design were great but as is so often the case with M&S the cut was really disappointing – huge and gapey under the arms and tight across the chest. I can’t really imagine what shape they think women are – huge swimmer’s shoulders and no bosom?

There were two that were wearable, though – this short navy jersey high-necked dress with lovely floral sprigs – really nice with a denim jacket and white trainers in the spring:


And this rather mad thing; with its belt and pyjama collar it’s a bit like wearing a dressing gown – but it was really flattering, it felt very modern and grown-up, I loved the print and the fabric was a good weight and fell nicely.


This skirt I also tried on and liked – it is an almost identical copy, I think, of a D&G skirt (or is it Dior?) anyway if you’re into this kind of this thing is great. But it was one of those things that I couldn’t imagine where I would wear it.



Well here we are in February, guys, and nothing is much clearer, is it? Well not for me anyway. Dry January didn’t happen – not in any defiant, cool way, it just sort of started and stopped and then some weeks I didn’t drink, just on the weekend. And sometimes it was all the time. And some days I went without sugar, but mostly not.

And in my head I was at a spin class twice a week but in actual fact I was sitting by the fire watching Blindspot on Catch up. (Just between you and me every morning right now feels like I’ve woken up in Times Square with no memory and my body is covered in strange tattoos.)


And my skin… Jesus Christ my skin! Some really, really seriously bad hormonal shift seems to have happened and the entire lower half of my face is, like… I mean… there aren’t really words to describe it. My husband isn’t even making jokes about it because it’s so bad.

My skin has always been an absolute fucking bitch but after I had Kitty and Sam it calmed down. The odd actual zit perhaps three times a year but other than that it was plain sailing. I mean, I still looked exhausted and baggy and like something that got caught in a drain – but no actual spots.

Then in November last year it started up again, like a thousand demented deep-sea monsters had woken up from a long sleep and vomited their fury onto my face.

So I did the only sensible thing and sank into a deep depression. During the brief patches when I only had perhaps one giant chin-cyst and not three or four, that was a good day, I could be cheerful.

Then I bumped into my old friend and former boss Jemima who said: “Go to the London Hormone Clinic, they will sort you out.” I always do whatever Jemima says (it’s a bit of a hangover from her being my actual boss for two years) and so made an appointment.

The London Hormone Clinic is on Welbeck Street in London and is an offshoot of the Marion Gluck clinic, which also specialises in hormone therapy. LHC is run by two GPs who used to work for Gluck but have gone out on their own – a bit like Dave Grohl with the Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain died, even though Marion Gluck hasn’t died I don’t think. Actually I don’t know. In fact, forget that whole analogy.

At the LHC we had a very nice chat about me, which is my favourite subject, and then I am to go back and have a blood test on the 20th day of my cycle or some shit like that. I haven’t gone yet, but I can tell you what it will say when I do go, though, it will say that my progesterone is at 0 and my oestrogen is at 45,000, which is why my face looks like the 8th wonder of the world.

And then with any luck I will be prescribed a very promising thing called progesterone cream, which you just rub onto the inside of your arms. Score! I love the sound of that. I love a magic cream.

Of course, all this comes with some kind of very frightening price tag, (I will let you know when I have the final reckoning), but I can guarantee that it won’t be half as frightening as my zits.

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