Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 11

It's been almost two months since I last posted. Things have been plodding along nicely and I'd barely realised it's been so long. There have been lots of nice goings on, like seeing Philip Glass play earlier in the month, a trip over to Liverpool to see Le Gateau Chocolat's Black as part of Homotopia Festival (seriously recommend you seek Le Gateau Chocolat out if you can; the most honest, witty, wonderful piece of theatre I've seen recently). There was a big, exciting reunion with university friends which saw 40 of us crowded around a friend's table in East Finchley, smashing at kilos of crabs with rolling pins, catching up with those back from months of travelling around the world and generally falling back in love with each other. Back in Manchester, and now that it's growing colder, I've been nesting at home, writing, exploring new podcasts and getting my head around my prehistoric storage heating system. 

At work, we were involved with an exciting project involving an artistic takeover at the beautiful Central Library with lots of free and unusual interventions, something I was so proud to see happening in our city. I often find myself disheartened by the fact that truly public spaces in cities seem increasingly few and far between; with many of them privately owned and councils quick to sell a scrap of land off to another developer rather than reserving it as a place for citizens to just sit and be. I'm always on the lookout for more public spaces to enjoy without having to justify my presence by consuming coffee, and libraries and churches are the last bastions. For this reason, it was refreshing to see lots of talented people use the library space to share their work for free, with people who might not otherwise ever get a chance to see it.

Alongside all of this, I've been popping down to Bristol on the train to spend time with my Granny who is feeling increasingly unwell, but as fabulous as ever. Last month we sat on a bench in the local park, all wrapped up against the Autumn chill and laughed that our relationship with each other will probably be the most successful, loving and understanding that either of us will have. Last weekend we stayed indoors curled up on a giant floral sofa each and talked about how long it's taken either of us to get to grips with female anatomy, how bizarrely detached we were from understanding how our bodies function. "We must have learned about all of this in biology?" "We were fifteen, I suppose we felt we had more pressing things on our minds..?" 

Without further ado, then, is a new edition of the Weekend List. Do what you need to do. Pop the kettle on, wrap a blanket over your shoulders and read, play and listen. 

Illustration by Phoebe Wahl, "Mama of Dada" Beatrice Wood and Nick Drake. 


Culture

“I have issues with the idea that if someone does or says something wrong that there is no coming back, and that is the kind of person they are now and always. That’s never been true for anybody that wants to learn and wants to grow.” Ashley Ford being interviewed as part of Women on women writing online, a new series from cool Guardian intern Sarah Galo.

"When I am creating, I love my body." Phoebe Wahl's brilliant body-positive illustrations. (Thanks to Kate for the tip.)

"The second kind of freedom to me that is important in the media if the idea of giving freely. When you feel or sense that someone is giving you something not out of profit, but out of self-respect, Christian charity, whatever it is. That has a very powerful energy. The Guardian, in my understanding, was founded by an endowment by a successful man with a social conscience who wanted to help create a voice for what I call the little guy. So they have a kind of moral mission or imperative. This has given them the latitude to try to be interesting, thoughtful, helpful. And they bring Edward Snowden to the world stage. Something that is not pleasant for a lot of people to hear about, but we need to know." If you haven't listened to Iggy Pop's John Peel Lecture for BBC 6 Music yet, save it for Sunday night when you're pottering about and getting yourself mentally prepared for Monday. It's a good sentiment to absorb before the start of a new week. (Alternatively read the transcript here)

Sustainability and sex, or the very cool Father-Daughter team behind natural condom company Sustain.

Listening

I've passed the honeymoon period with Call Your Girlfriend; we're plodding along just fine but I'm looking for new podcasts that make me guffaw or feel as thoughtful as CYG did in the early days. This week I listened to Savage Lovecast while I cooked dinner. I downloaded, heard Dan Savage talking about reclaiming the word pussy, and dispensing advice to somebody trying to recover their sexuality after sexual assault I thought this is it. Thoughtful, pragmatic, intelligent and funny (if you can overlook the comedic level of adverts). Here's Dan on the P-word:

"Remember, pussies are strong, they chew up semen and spit out humans! It's scrotums that are weak and vulnerable... you give them a tap and the guy is on the ground. So we should use the word 'scrote' instead of pussy."

Paul Smith and Peter Brewis- Barcelona (at Eye Level);



Make Our Garden Grow 

99 Percent Invisible: Three Records From Sundown. Nick Drake special. 

Snacks

Alan Turing's Love Letter Generator is true romance.

10 Female Dada artists you should know

Gabriella Boyd.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have Nothing To Wear is a lie and you know it


This evening I went over to Ali’s house and we stood on his balcony while he smoked and I mused on the fact that I’m starting to feel in a rut. I feel like I walk the same route from home to work, stopping at the same bars and coffee shops and going to the same cinema, where the people at the box office often recognize me but don’t know me (ah, the phenomenon of the regular, a cinema go-ers dream, but what for?) “February is when I get into my rut.” Said Ali. “Every February” And then I remembered just how bluesy I felt back in February and how comparatively un-bluesy I feel now and just thinking about what lies ahead, on the other side of Christmas almost made me feel bluesy again. “So I’m putting aside £50 each month until then." he said. "I’ll either go somewhere hot and inclusive and get slowly drunk by a pool, or just go somewhere different, it can be cold, just as long as it doesn’t rain.” 

Over the weekend I read an article about decluttering ones wardrobe; presumably because I wanted a vicarious taste of zen without having to make difficult decisions. I have lots of clothes and can’t remember the last time I applied some balance by letting some go. I zoomed through the ‘7 questions to ask’, resolutely not answering them. “Mm, yes, that is definitely a good question to ask.” I imagined a sizable pile of discarded wardrobe, of selling it and exchanging it for a brand new sizable pile. Then I got to work, rolled up my sleeves and dived into my drawers to survey the clothes I ‘meh’ at each morning. Watch me be resilient! I thought to myself, feeling not in the least bit resilient and instead sort of cooing over the piles of leopard skin, soothing colours and mini skirts. I let myself off the hook; if you really don’t want to let go of these clothes then you have to prove to yourself that you’ll wear them. (This is the self-directed internal monologue which has grown more sternly maternal since I started living along) No more spending hours cruising eBay and cultivating watch lists. No more starting the day with I Have Nothing to Wear because that is a lie and you know it.


I am often wooed by the excitement of new resolutions or schemes, often hatched at kitchen tables (or leaning on balconies with smokers.) The trick is following through with these plans. This week I am setting myself two resolutions: 1. Begin a holiday fund (saving at least £50 a month; a manageable starting point) and 2. Wear my wardrobe. Dig around and tease out the joys out of overlooked as if I was scavenging a friend’s. If you’re getting dressed and you’re faced with a dirty laundry basket and a drawer containing a sad, clean swimming suit then maybe maybe it is true that you have nothing to wear. Otherwise, dig, dig away. Equally, I’m going to have people over for beers instead of buying them out and be better at using my fresh ingredients before they go off. I can almost hear the first pulsing of feelgood montage music.

 In order to stay true to this resolution, I am publicly declaring my intentions, starting a ‘Take me somewhere with heat and Vitamin D’ money pot and I’ll update on the outfits I wear to work each day, just to prove that it’s possible. (Or if it isn’t) I’ll also make mark my calendar for the sake of progress-recording and maybe draw stars, because when it comes down to it, there is an inner child within us all who just wants a star chart again. God forbid, maybe I’ll create a hashtag. Something like #30daysofsteelyfrugality or #fortydaysandfortymothballs. I think I'm going to find this hard because there are plenty of things I have on my eternal mental shopping list. But I'm going to try to forge ahead. (*disclaimer; I bought a beautiful rollneck jumper earlier about an hour before I decided to kickstart a period of frugality. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and bought it from the money I've made from my first, ever writing commission.) But I'll be wearing it with some golden oldies. Feel free to join this gang; it’s less awkward than the reality of a clothing swap, and sort of like a beckon onto the internet-dancefloor of cool women dancing in skirts they love again. *Pulsing feelgood montage music fades in*

Update: We are now an *actual* club (so far it's me, Camille of Unpretentious Bouquet of Parenthesis, and Fiona of Save Our Shoes) We're using the hashtag #oldootd and uploading what we're wearing each day onto Instagram. Come join our gang! It's inspiring to have fellow supporters/money savers/old clothes re-inventors to ride the wave with. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 10

Yesterday morning I took the train down to Hathersage in the Peak District and by 10am I was gliding through the water of the outdoor swimming pool there, blinded by the sun and steam. I've been wanting to do this for ages, and was pleased to divert from my usual weekend routine in Manchester which is nicely familiar but sometimes rut-ish. I so wish we had an outdoor swimming pool in Manchester, it's so much better to swim in the open air than a clammy sports centre. As a result, this Weekend List comes a day late, so consider this a Sunday spread. 

Clockwise from top left; My Dad and me, Southern Cemetery in Manchester, Britney's Instagram, Lou Stoppard and Penny Martin in conversation. 


Culture

An hour-long interview with Penny Martin via Show Studio.

"As I was running out of my apartment, I looked in the fridge and all I had was a leftover falafel, which is the only thing I had time to eat as I wrote it. I will forever associate Betty Friedan with cold falafel." The Art of the Obituary; an interview with The New York Times's Margalit Fox.

"She is no longer the physical technician she used to be, but the less she relies on her body, the more she comes to trust her sense of humour as the backbone of her brand." We Might Finally Be Meeting The Real Britney Spears. 

Family

"We got to the B&B late and they left out tea and cookies for us and we tiptoed around the house in the dark, looking at prints of whales and family photos, all the while eating our ginger snaps... We had, it must be said, and I'm sorry to tell you this, life affirming sex." Meaghan O'Connell's short piece about the conception of her baby. 

"I delight in telling her that one day she, like me, will experience the liberation of not giving a single shit what anyone thinks. But my joy is unfathomable to her, and one morning she storms out of the house when I pliez in my Y-fronts." Father and Daughter story by Rose Bretecher.

Style

The Ugly Project via Show Studio. Essays, interviews and 'object analysis' of odd earrings and clumpy shoes.

Listening

Steve McQueen on Desert Island Discs.

Lunch. (Episode 1/5) Bill and Bella meet every month for lunch and swap news. I listened to this 15 minute drama whilst I cooked a salmon stir-fry the other night and guffawed. (Only available for one more day)

Snacks

Funkiest shit ever. Clip from Sunil Dutt's 1981 film Rocky. I'm yet to watch this film but have been listening to composer RD Burman, and in turn his score for this film.

I completed a Women in Clothes survey. 

Lena Dunham's advice videos.

10 lessons I've learned in my career via Joanna Goddard.

Steely resolve! 7 Questions to Ask When Cleaning Out Your Closet.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 9

Happy weekend! This week I have been listening mostly to Laurie Anderson, feeling rubbish about my skin, but good about my feet which are looking f-a-b-ulous after a green manicure. I've been eating lots of sweetheart cabbage, I watched Jane Pollard and Ian Forsyth's Nick Cave biopic 20,000 Days on Earth which was fabulous (as expected) and which made me fall even more in love with violinist Warren Ellis. I've been continuing to dream about finding the perfect suit after Edith Bowman wore this grey number, and last night I stayed in with a beer and watched Glengarry, Glen Ross. 

Perfume Genius, Nicki Minaj, the East Street Fruit Market from back home in Bristol (I recorded the fruit caller and included it in a mix which you can listen to below),and  paints and records and recording of said mix. 

Culture

Nicki Minaj's feminism isn't about your comfort zone. 

Meredith Graves's spoken word piece about Andrew WK and Lana Del Ray and the double standard of authenticity. (Wow alert!)

Lifestyle

"In order to tell 'tepid' to fuck off once and for all, you must recognise that life among those who don't appreciate or understand you is bullshit." Or, How Do I Find True Love and Stop Dating Half-Assed Men? 

Gardening in London when you're lonely by Maeve Higgins.

Listening

Last weekend I made a mixtape with my friend Michael. We took turns to play songs; moving from Brazil through to California via some weird shit and a sound recording of the fruit caller who yells 'Strawberries! Come and get your strawberries!" outside the greengrocers by my parents home in Bristol.  We ate tomatoes and plums and croissants and drank rooibos and god help me, I tried to mix. It was a pretty nice way of combatting that Sunday evening 'back to school' feeling. The quality varies somewhat but you can listen to side 1 here and side 2 here.

Queen by Perfume Genius.

5 Lady-powered podcasts.

Extra snacks

"People seem surprised when I tell them that being with my best friend feels like being in love, even though it's distinctly- platonic- but how insufficient a word that can seem." This post over at Right Now Forever.

Wuts_Ur_Sign, shopfronts and signage on Instagram.

Grilled greens cheese toastie.

Top 10 UK Art Blogs

Friday, September 12, 2014

What We Wear

Much of this morning has been spent sitting in the sunny room at the top of my parent's house. This was my bedroom for most of the time that I lived here. It sits at the front of the house so that you can watch the street throughout the day. This was one of my favourite things about the room when I was 12 and strange and used to stand at the window with the curtains closed and monitor the street in the evenings through a little gap. Just keeping an eye on everything like some bizarre, unelected member of a neighbourhood watch committee. Evidently this viewpoint still acts in the room's favour, although the relationship between a desk and a view is always a tricky one; is a front-facing window crucial for feeling connected to what is going on outside as you work or just a distraction from what must be done? I always like the view but drift off easily watching home-deliveries arrive from the supermarket and children shoot along the pavement on micro scooters.

Either way, the light pours in and the desk sits right in the middle of the room like a declaration of intent. No pushing to the wall here, it's right in the centre so that when you walk in it you feel you've been called into somebody's office. My Mum has three piles of CDs stacked up on the surface; an assortment of classical concertos and irresistible pop; Crash Test Dummies and Scissor Sisters and the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack alongside Mozart, The Beach Boys and Catatonia. There's a baby pink ashtray which suggests that this office might be the home of an alcoholic publisher, though clearly a drinks bar in the corner would be the olive in the martini.

I've spent much of this week at home surveying the bookshelves, which is one of the great things that comes with returning. Poking things saying "this is new" and admiring the more grown-up furniture that has been acquired since leaving. My Mum always watches my trips home as an owner might their dog after taking it off its lead, scurrying about the park sniffing the trunks of trees. I gradually work my way around the house collecting the reference books I'd forgotten, or left behind, or never found reason to read in the first place. On my bedside table a pile too impossibly large to work my way through always outstays each visit.

'Cheap Chic', a wonderful personal-style reference guide is top of this pile, and has added fuel to my current re-enthusiasm for clothes and style. The sort of apathy-free enthusiasm I had when I started this blog 8 years ago. Written by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy, and published in 1975, Cheap Chic preludes my other go-to style book The Cheap Date Guide to Style and is arguably superior. It blends personal style features on college students, photojournalists, actors and painters with long chapters dedicated to sportwear, jersey, and how to shop for clothes in markets around the world. The preoccupation with personal style shuns any element of exclusivity, which is always my major beef when it comes to mainstream glossy publications and fashion magazines. I find the presence of class, status and money on the pages of Vogue overwhelmingly off-putting, but with a book like Cheap Chic I can enjoy an image of Cher alongside a student wearing an ugly pair of boots with aplomb and feel entirely comfortable. It's all about choice; there's no whiff of frantic selling to the reader. Here it's self-expression, experimentation, frugality and investment; and the sort of investment that's actually attainable.

Some of my favourite extracts:


"In London, the painter Duggie Fields and about twenty of thirty friends put on their own "jumble sales" by hiring a church hall and bringing things to sell. "The rental goes to the church charities, and what we make we keep for ourselves. We advertise the sale in the local papers, list it in Time Out magazine, and design posters to put in neighbourhood shops. Hundreds of people come. It's fun, and it's a good way to get rid of your old stuff and get new from your friends. It's good recycling, and at the same time you can make $100 in an afternoon just for cleaning out your closet. The clothes are all piled up- our first jumble sale was chaos- and as soon as the doors open, people run in, grabbing. It's like being in a chicken coop. But it's a nice afternoon, and it's fun to see who turns up. I even see people stealing. They know I know they haven't paid, but I'm not going to say a thing... things gotta go! I only buy clothes in stores if I need something I can't find here. They're not necessarily fashionable stores. My favourite is called 'Sex' in the World's End...  bits of furs, porno embroidered T-shirts, and humorous clothes. My idea of wearing clothes is to make myself smile. I like this in others to. I don't think clothes should be serious.""


"I go to exercise class twice a week. I spend my money there and on having my hair streaked. And I've done the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises ten minutes every morning since 1962. I save money on cabs by doing everything on my bike or on foot; and year round I play tennis and ski. I'd love to be one of those great beauties, but, to make the best of myself, I have to radiate what I can get from inside: health. I think your mental attitude is based on your physical well-being." Helen Gaillet, New York photojournalist.


"My clothes are fun. They're just a collection that's evolved over the last six years, one thing here and one thing there. And it pleases me. That's what clothes are for, aside from protecting you from the rain and giant armadillos, you know... I don't shop. If the moment is right, I know it. If the thing, the money and I are all together, that's my cue... There's no one thing in my closet that I love- everything is my favourite. I never get up and think, 'I don't have a thing to wear!' It's just a matter of what I feel like mixing. The basic secret of having a style us confidence- you exude it, and people assume that what you wear if not only fashionable, but way-the-hell-ahead-of-them chic. It's a savvy you have about your clothes, and with savvy you can get away with anything." Nancy Crow, lives in New York, works in a publishing house.

As well as enjoying a good nose through Cheap Chic this week I've taken enormous pleasure from Women in Clothes. This is the collaborative project and book edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton made up of essays and insights about how women dress and feel about style and clothes and the many other personal implications that stem from those things. The book is the result of personal style surveys from over 639 women and is utterly fascinating. Women in Clothes isn't yet available to buy in the UK but I've been scrolling through the accompanying Twitter feed and returned surveys. It's cathartic to read some of these thoughts, especially when they tap into the conflicts many of us encounter when it comes to clothes, consumerism and often, feminism. For example, wanting to look brilliant, and wanting to buy clothes that will help to articulate an image I have in my head, and wanting to buy the right things but also trying to avoid overconsumption for environmental and economic reasons. I also find the question of sexiness when it comes to personal style endlessly fascinating, because I always see sexiness and confidence as going hand in hand. But at the same time there are so many complicated feelings that come with dressing sexily; many of them being linked to unwanted attention and all of those horrible feelings that remind me of being shouted at by men from white vans at the age of 12 and having my own sexuality flagged up by other people in public rather than by myself, in private. But I like the variety of the responses that come with questions about attractiveness and what they means to different people. I sometimes feel most attractive when I've just got home from somewhere; maybe the cinema or drinks with friends and my hair has that end-of-day goodness and my skin has a nice flush to it after enthusiastic conversation over a glass of wine and I'm wearing a skirt that swishes well. Sometimes on those nights I'll look in the mirror as I'm washing my face and feel good and happy and sexy and think I wish it was the start of the night now and I could go out feeling like this. But the fact that it's a glow from a well-spent evening is what makes it good.

I used to put so much value on fashion, and I think that's why I found it necessary to change this blog as I got older and my feelings about fashion changed. I used to feel obliged to obsess over cuts and fabrics and draping, fashion houses, matching a detail to a designer and being able to recall a season according to a motif. But at the heart of that fascination was always people. For me, it always comes back to people, which is why, now, I find the idea of style so much more appealing than fashion. The two are linked, of course, but now I find there's something quite boring about Fashion Week. I like occasionally checking in to see what the collections look like, but the carnival that surrounds it, of stylists and industry-people being photographed wearing ubiquitous, shiny head-to-toe looks doesn't do it for me. These aren't the people that interest me because it just all feels a bit too easy. Where's the conflict? It's like they just picked something immediately from a rack but there wasn't anything thoughtful about the process. I'm far more interested in reading about how people navigate dressing for work, people who don't themselves work in the fashion industry. This following little exchange via the Women in Clothes Twitter feed was bang on the money (and incidentally, I really want to find some of these socks. How brilliant would it be, to wear a middle finger around your ankle and have nobody know?)



And this has to be one of my favourite tidbits from the book, and seems a good place to leave these meanderings:

How important is all this? "I hate it when people say they don't care about clothes, because it's a lie. It's like when writers say they don't care about plot. Lie. We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, to be fucked, to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I'm poor, I love myself. It's the quiet poem in the waiting room, on the subway, in the movie of our lives. It's a big fucking deal." Leopoldine Core.