The February Issue

Happy February!

We have made it here at last, I feel it has been a particularly never ending, rather blue January, and I was so happy to see sunshine, real almost-warm sunshine this morning 🌞It is also over two years now since I started the blog, and it seems to be growing steadily, or at least more people are arriving on the blog in search of something.I am forever being asked, 'What are your stats like?', although I never answer this question, as first of all it's very nosy (I dislike people who pry) and secondly I currently have quite a resentment towards the dopamine fuelled social media numbers game, the way in which a photo on Instagram or a blog post is classed as 'good' or 'bad' purely by the number of 'likes' it has received. Of course I check my blog stats, and it's nice to see a post has been viewed by a lot of people. But it's always nicer and more rewarding to hear just one person say they really enjoyed reading a certain piece.For me the blog has never been a way of gaining followers quickly. It was initially more of a personal journey, first as a way of documenting my activities and interests, and of sharing other peoples ventures, and more recently it has become a platform of sorts, on which other people can share their stories, knowledge and experience.It is constantly evolving, 'growing organically' as someone (who loves a good buzz word 😉) put it, and at the moment I see it as a bit of an experimental space, a place to try projects out (I loved our Millennial Mega Babe photo shoot), where others can share their interests (Sarah Cape's piece on artist Alicia Gradon), one in which they can be creative (I am a big fan of Olivia Dueser's illustrations), and one in which they can share their experiences (Flo Wollstonecraft's piece on life in Cairo).  And of course I am still writing lots, I am thoroughly enjoying interviewing people, and will be doing more, a particular highlight recently was speaking with Natasha Hulse.

And from March I will be mixing it up ever so slightly, with a bit more energy, and more content so do keep tuned in.

Below I have also shared a few things I have learnt about blogging over the last two years.

I hope you enjoy all the February posts and see you in March!

Alice xxx 💕👧

Blogging Realities

1.It is possible that for the first year, the only people who read your blog are you parents, your boyfriend, your dog and the boy who fancied you at high school but has never let on.

2.Some people will never understand why you are writing a blog (half of them think you are writing an open online diary, the other half haven't got the faintest idea what a blog is).

3. Some of your friends will never read it.

4.A lot of people you know will think it's just a silly phase.

5. Your Granny will however ask you regularly if you have done a blog this week, even though she can't see a computer screen anymore. This enthusiasm is worth all the silence.

6. It is incredibly easy to set up a Wordpress account and type out a few heart-felt posts. It's much much harder to keep up the momentum over a long period of time.

7. Blogging regularly is time consuming, particularly when you are fitting it around a full time job.

8. Having a blog plan is imperative,

9. And so is sticking to what you believe in.

10. The most reliable of people can be incredibly unreliable (best to move on), but the people who do take it seriously and share in your project make it completely worth it.

11. It is totally understandable that it is not the top priority on other peoples lists, although it is at the top of yours - you are constantly planning, reviewing, reassessing and moving forward with the next part of the plan.

12. Your friends will never accept that you can't come to the pub because you are 'blogging', best to say your at yoga or caring for your sick goldfish.

13. People don't 'just give you free stuff', you have to ask for it. If you are deemed 'too small' (too few followers) a lot of companies won't give it to you.

14. But then again, you're not writing a blog for 'the free stuff', this is not 1997.

15. Some people will however be incredibly kind, will help you out and will offer useful advice when they don't need too.

16. You will have many many blog crises, Why am I doing this? Why I am spending my time doing this? Why am I still looking at a computer screen once I've left work? Is it turning my brain to mush? When did I last read a book, do people even read books anymore?! Shouldn't I be moving offline completely? Isn't the internet an evil place?!

But then you will remember that really it's very enjoyable and really quite satisfying, and leads to many new and exciting people and opportunities.

And so I shall keep blogging for another year 💕😍

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The painting in the header is by Annabel Ridley

British Brands We're Loving Right Now

Alice takes a look at some British brands, and recommends her favourite pieces.

Blessed London

I love everything by Blessed London, jewellery in bright colours and fun designs, all hand made in London. 10% of every online sale goes to Caudwell Children, a UK charity that provides family support services, equipment and therapies for disabled children.  I love these Queen Bee Tassel Earrings, they are really light making them easy to wear all evening.

Octo Chocolate

I was very kindly given a box of these Craft Raw Coconut Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts recently, and have to admit the idea didn't hugely appeal. However when the cupboard was bare of all types of unhealthy chocolate, my eyes turned to these (a chocolate fix is a chocolate fix, after all), and I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised, they are quite delicious. So much so, that I can't wait to get my hands on another box. It turns out 'healthy' chocolate can taste good too - YES Octo Chocolate.

William Waterhouse

I am still totally in love with William Waterhouse's mobiles, he now makes a range of combinations, and I have this one very happily hanging from my (just about still living) palm plant.  They are rather magical, although Max assures me he could knock one up in about 10 minutes, I have yet to witness this. So for now, I may be buying another one to add to my collection... and do also have a look at Louisa Loakes' super designs once you've finished perusing mobiles.

Sarah Fennell

I really like Sarah Fennell's designs, beautiful bold brushstrokes of colours, I particularly like her lampshades, perfect for brightening up a room. Each lampshade is first stencilled and then screen printed onto linen using water based inks, and each one is completely unique.  So happy making, I really like this Melba Lampshade, her cushions are fun too.

Milk Tops

Now this isn't something I am currently needing (no babies on the way), but lots of my friends are producing offspring at a rapid rate and Milk Tops does exactly what it says kind of... Essentially they make nice clothes, clothes you actually want to wear, clothes you can wear and look tidy in, when you are breastfeeding. The designs are really nice, I really like their skater dress.

Joanna Cave

Always earrings. I love Joanna Cave's whimsical jewellery, I like that her pieces are often big, with very intricate, delicate looking designs. They remind me of Jan Pienkowski's silhouettes from his book 'The Necklace of Raindrops' - they would definitely be worn by a princess in a fairy take. I like these, Kalysta B, but she does all sorts, necklaces and rings too, do go have a look.

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Serial Flake?

Emily explores a widespread epidemic, the symptoms, effects and a possible cure. 

Imagine this.

It’s some time in the late 1950s. Doris and Bertha have (over the LANDLINE) arranged to meet at a trendy Soho spot for after-work drinks on Thursday to gossip and generally chew the fat. But when Thursday comes, Doris can’t be arsed - because she got a little crazy on Wednesday with Cynthia in Accounts and is hungover and wants to go to bed. BUT she can’t just whack Bertha a Whatsapp to lie about having terrible period pains to get out of the drinks. If she doesn’t show, Bertha will be left hanging, all tarted up with nowhere to go. And she can’t just call or message her - because A. mobile phones don’t exist yet and B. Bertha is out at meetings all day and therefore couldn’t be contacted on the landline - even if she wanted to be. So guess what? Doris has to go, hangover and all because she has no other choice. So she shows up and the two of them actually have a really great time.

What a dreamy state of affairs? People make plans and actually stick to them.

However today sadly the concept of reliability is so alien I bet Charlie Brooker makes an episode of Black Mirror about it.

As usual technology is to blame. Out constant state of connectivity means that we can formulate and cancel plans in the blink of an eye. Nothing is set in stone (or even in pen) and this has lead to the acceptance of serial cancellations. Our digital lives have made everything more informal, more detached. Where once one would receive and RSVP to a party invitation on paper, now we compulsively click ‘attending’ on Facebook events, with no intention of actually going. We speculatively make plans with friends weeks in advance, with no thought as to how we will feel at the time: perhaps we will be tired, or busy at work? But because we know that we have the option of changing plans last minute - we don’t consider the future.

This is what has lead to the emergence of THE  SERIAL FLAKES.

Flaking is a dangerous game, if done infrequently it can be fine, but like most things if done in excess - it can have disastrous consequences. Chronic flakiness breeds resentment and even if unintended can come across as exceptionally rude. It assumes that the flaker takes you for granted, and doesn’t value your time or friendship. Our time is precious and when frittered away by an inconsiderate flaker can cause trouble.

CAVEAT

(I’ll admit that my own flakiness record isn’t exactly pristine. I’ve flaked many times on some of my nearest and dearest for a plethora of legitimate, such as norovirus, and non-legitimate, reasons aka I was tired and wanted to spend time alone watching Netflix. But I always try to manage the expectations of my friends and respect their time.)

From my perception of Flakers in the wild, I have discovered four prevalent types:

The Tired Flake

Our mentality is very much ‘work hard, play hard.’ This means that we are expected to give 100% to both our work life and our social life. So we plan, and we feel like if we don’t plan then we are somehow missing out. I have friends who I have tried to organise plans with and they don’t have any space in their diary for at least a month in advance?!  Extracurriculars are admirable and can be important for personal development - but that is just silly. But with our diaries choc-full of drinks, dinners, cinema trips, tennis lessons, volunteering, dates etc we eventually burn-out and that is when the ‘Tired Flaker’ comes into play. This is usually someone who has taken on too much and is so exhausted from their constant parade of engagements that they just need a break. They will be honest in their flakiness, they will give you fair warning, apologize profusely and rearrange (maybe more than once).

The Legitimate Flake

You can tell a legitimate flaker by the totally unexpected nature of the flake. Usually reliable in their organisation, they themselves will be just as surprised as you are by the flaking. It will rarely happen but when it does, be down to illness, work or a family commitment.

The Scatty Flake

You should never bother to make plans with the scatty flake. They rarely know if they are coming or going. They will probably have double booked you, turn up on the wrong day and if they do arrive, they will be late. They have no concept of time, or the importance of other peoples. If you do make plans with the scatty flake - make them at your own home so when they do cancel, it doesn’t matter.

The Distance Related Flake

Do you have friends who do their best to avoid travelling any distance out of their way? Who you always find yourself moving mountains to go an visit and yet there is no way they would ever return the favour? Those that fall into this category usually have a desperate phobia of leaving Zones 1&2. If you make plans with them outside their comfort zone(s) they will devise chronic lies to avoid travelling any distance. Best to meet them in Sloane Square.

The Lying Flake

This is the worst and most devious type of Flaker. They are the ones who will always wait until the last minute to flake. They text just a couple of minutes before you arrive for a drink to say they aren’t coming, or ruin a seating plan by cancelling at the last possible second before a dinner party. They will have a repertoire of excuses: ‘I had Zumba with my Granny’ or ‘I had to take my dog to the masseuse.’ You always know they are lying, either because they got a better offer, or they just can’t be bothered, but either way it is no way to behave. When making plans with The Liar - ensure it’s in groups of more than two, so they can’t totally ruin your plans.

Flaking is a vicious circle. In the worst possible way, I find myself feeling less and less bad about about flaking on my flaky friends. Which, I imagine leads them to flaking on me. And so round and round it goes, chipping away at friendships until there is nothing left except for a resentful mess.

Worse still is that flaking is now affecting bodies like the NHS - with missed appointments costing the health service nearly 1bn a year! It’s one thing to flake on drinks with Araminta at The Sloaney Pony on a Friday, but to flake on a GP that you have presumably booked an appointment with because you had some medical concerns - is in my (hypochondriacal) mind, totally obscene.

I was speaking to someone very wise about the flaking epidemic last week and he said that what we really need to do is:

Plan less and show up more.

And I am in total agreement.

Illustration Olivia Dueser

Words Emily Bray

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A Day in the Life Of...

...a Russell & Bromley Tassel Loafer

7:30am ah that must be the morning bell! Octavia’s up and rushing to the shower before you can say “Rise and Shine!”

Speaking of shine, how fly do I look today?

What a quick shower - must be a personal best. Ha! She beat the rest of those Sleepy Susans to it.

Uniform on, hair perfectly blow dried, tie straightened and she slips me on to complete the look. There never was a more chic Head Girl.

Down to breakfast. Out of the way you stupid First Formers - urgh they are so cocky these days - didn’t even bother to hold the door open!

Yasssss! It’s Friday and that means MUFFIN DAY - her fave. I wish they wouldn’t drop bits on the floor though - very squishy ewwww.

Off to the first lesson - photography. Obviously Octavia is top of the class, her Andy Warhol inspired self-portraits are SO original.

Textiles up next. Corset dress nearly complete, and the look is finished off with me - edgy but classic. Srsly she is the next Vivienne Westwood.

Free period! Thank God. Sooo much O.C to catch up on. It’s been SUCH a busy morning, poor darling needs a rest.

Lunch - hmmmm. Nothing suitable on the menu so Octavia and Podge order a pizza from Dominoes and eat it behind the Cookery Hut. SO naughty! Not much fun for me, it’s a bit gritty round the back here - and my soles are a bit sensitive to rough surfaces. I was designed for the Kings Road, not THIS.

Maths - urgh who needs it. Especially when Daddy owns a bank - surely everyone has other people to do their maths for them?

Quick ciggie break behind the Sports Hall - What a thrill! Not enjoying the mud though, and traipsing through years of cigarette butts is v nasty.

Finally a sports lesson! And today we are watching Wimbledon to learn how to play tennis - how heavenly.

Dash to Tuck Shop to get a packet of Discos and Diet Coke to see her through until supper time. What an array of footwear the younger girls wear these days - surely Doc Martins aren’t classed as school shoes … ?

Spending the evening working on the old UCAS application - but Octavia will probably get into Oxford anyway, when Daddy donates a library.

Another perfect day in boarding school paradise.

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Words Emily Bray, Illustration Olivia Dueser 

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The Real Truth About Life In Your 20s

A perspective on life in yours 20s by yours truly (Olivia Dueser 💁🏼) - a single, white, unemployed female just trying to be distinctly average. 

This story is not a ‘woe is me moment’, nor a bleak rhapsody of pessimistic words. I just want to share what to expect when the unexpected happens – it’s ok to be in your 20s, unemployed and feeling unloved and average. Trust me when I say you are neither the first, nor the last to feel like this #staypositive.Society's expectations, Disney films and childhood literature do not prepare most of us for the harsh realities of life in your 20s. Nobody warns us that no matter how many frogs you kiss, Prince Charming is as likely to exist as you being killed by a vending machine (1 in 112 million). And ‘dream jobs’ are as likely to happen as you finding Prince Charming…Where is the Disney film where the girl doesn’t get her happily ever after? Where is the ‘Little Miss Unemployed' book? I am 26, single, unemployed, confused and going through my ‘quarter-life crisis’. I feel more lost and hopeless than ever. As I write this article late at night in my sexy silk pyjamas (scruffy may be more fitting), eating ‘Carte D’or Caramel’ ice cream from the tub and puffing away on my e-cig – and yes this is actually happening - I ask myself, ‘How on earth did I get here?’…Damian Barr, author of the book ‘Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarter Life Crisis’ aptly describes your 20s as, “You’re expected to be having the time of your life but all is your do is stress about career prospects, scary debts and a rocky relationships.” Now just substitute “scary debts” for “spending money not saving ” and “a rocky relationship” for “perpetually single” and hey presto, you have the story of my life. Today I share with you two pivotal phases of my current existence: My Career (lack of) and love life (currently platonic loves rule my astrosphere).

Part 1

Unemployment is a Dangerous Occupation

From the company ‘going under’ to being ‘let go’; to quitting in a blaze of glory, to forever being an intern, or simply getting ‘fired’ – I have been there, done that, got the bloomin’ t-shirt. Unemployment is a convoluted state of reality…We have been brought up to pursue our passions, become the next thought-provoking leaders of the world, to fight for what we believe in and the world is our oyster. What they forget to tell you is that, that oyster is dodgy and not as open as it should be… It’s like we are doomed to fail from the start, because, what they do not prepare you at school for is failure. They do not tell you that it lurks at every corner or explain how you should cope when it attacks. To fail even once, does damage to ones psyche – years of therapy needed and perhaps could have been avoided, if maybe my school had spent less time on teaching me how to cook the ultimate roast or encouraging me to partake in important competitions such as inter-house ‘Harry Potter Quiz’ and more time on what to do when life isn’t going your way.Imagine day after day, week after week, month after month of one rejection after another – an ever reminder that you’re not useful, have no skills and can contribute nothing to society. Recently I have experienced a new rejection, one so dark that even the Dark Lord himself would be sent into a state of despair…ladies and gentlemen I present to you “not the right fit” for no reason rejection. They tell you that it isn’t because you’re not clever enough or sporty enough or young enough, no – somehow, even with a good degree from a good university, a financial qualification, fluent in two languages, sporty, creative, artistic, willing to work for free (no I am not bragging, merely highlighting my positive attributes in case any potential employers read this) you still “aren’t the right fit”…I feel like I’m Lindsay Lohan in ‘Mean Girls’ being told “you can’t sit with us” just for being yourself… #BeingYourselfIsntEnoughUnemployment also affects your relationships in ways you did not think possible. You are lead to a double-edged sword when interacting with your friends and family: if they don’t ask about how your job hunt is going, you think they don’t care and this makes you angry and anxious. On the other hand, if they do, that can lead to awkward conversations of why, how and that you might need to think of alternative paths – again you are angry and anxious – they cannot win, neither can you. You become massively oversensitive (not great for those, like me, who are already sensitive, dramatic hypochondriacs) and snap a lot more at your friends and family for no reason. You over think every little detail and situation in your life – situations which were not situations until you made it into a situation – even just writing that out makes me feel drained…you unintentionally make your life harder #Drama.Quick word of advice for the unemployed – try not to snap at your friends and family – this is when you need them more than ever and they are your lifeboat through this thorny journey…For all the cynicism I have been spouting in this article, I do have positive vibes and hopes for the future…Unemployment has inspired a period of self-reflection in me and I am learning a lot about who I am and that I’m capable of more than I think. And most of all it has taught me to use what makes you happiest as a starting point for your career search.

Olivia xoxo

To be continued..

Next week at the same time Olivia delves deeper into the dubiety of dating in your 20s.

 

A Day In the Life of...

...  Jo Malone's Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne

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Goodness, what a beautiful morning. Ah! There's nothing like the sun streaming through a large Chelsea window on a sunny morning.Gosh, the light really bounces off the marble in the most gorgeous way. Although I'm not sure this bathroom is big enough, the one in St Tropez is much roomier.Ah, she does look lovely today. Looks like she's off to yoga. Yes, as I thought, a spritz of me is the perfect addition to her Luluemon ensemble. Although I do wish she wouldn't wear those garish trainers. Monochrome is much more chic...Oh no, she's forgotten her Chanel hand cream! Someone's going to regret that later...La la la, what a divine day. Although I do wish she would store me further along the shelf from those hideous Nivea products - so tacky.URGHThe wonderful Maria is here to clean - at last! Hmm not very thorough. Spent more time checking her phone than cleaning. I can feel the dust building up on my side - how unsightly.Yay, she's back from yoga, glowing as usual. How does she do it? Yes a nice bath with some of my bath oil variant is exactly what she needs. I really do smell splendid.Go on, light the candle...LIGHT THE CANDLE.She lit the candle!Oofttt - bathroom got a big fogged up with all the overpowering fragrance. Just heavenly.Off she goes to her book club. Pearls on. Latest Jilly Cooper in hand.What a wonderful life...

Words Emily Bray

Illustration Olivia Dueser

A Day in the Life Of...

... An Alex Monroe Bumblebee Necklace

London is brimming with fashion clichés, whether it is a sloaney pony catwalking the Kings Road in her Zara staple, or an edgy kid trudging the streets of Dalston in their Vans stripe trainers.  For this post Alex Monroe's Bumblebee, a common sight in London's Parsons Green, shares a typical day with us..."URGH - dragged out of the Smythson jewellery box again this morning at some ungodly hour. It's so dark and cluttered in there...I can't believe she stuffs me in there every night with those tacky bits from Accessorize and Topshop. Puts me on just after she's had a shower - what an idiot...I will start to lose my shine if she continues to do that - I REALLY don't like water.Brilliant, she's decided to go with the black polo neck again, she really has no style - I definitely go best with a blue or a green. Late for the tube, classic. Every morning she gets up and procrastinates for about half an hour about how to do her hair - it literally looks the same every day. When will she realise that?At the desk just in time, god Barbara looks hideous today - what was she doing last night? I've noticed she has a knock off version of me on - wonder where on earth she got it?Meetings, meetings, meetings.Another boring trip to Pret for lunch. Ohh, treated herself to a Choc Bar did she? Someone's going to have to hit the gym later ...Admin, admin, admin.When will this day ever end?Finally she's escaped. Back on the tube - ewww. Why is everyone here wearing Zara?Ah going for a quick drink with Quentin after work are we? He complemented me - I like him!A glass of Rose? Honestly she couldn't get more basic if she tried. I'm really getting bored of The Orange Pub, she really needs to get more original in her date spot choices.I noticed about 5 other Bumblebees draped around Sloaney necks at the pub. God - when did I become so generic?Quick snog with Quentin at the tube - he was wearing a Schoffel gilet, it was quite cosy to snuggle up to.Back home - it took her about three goes to get the key in the door. If this wasn't Kensington she would have 100% been mugged by now. What a piss head.No food in the fridge - so she eats about half a loaf of bread with butter and marmite - she really needs to get her shit together.Oh no! Clarissa is home and crying about something boring. Thankfully we slip past her unnoticed and get into our room before she stops us for a DMC. THANK GOD.Now she falls asleep watching 'Gossip Girl' - with me and the light on. Good times...Well, at least it's better than that bloody box.xoxo

Words Emily Bray

Genoa More Than This

In our first ‘Brits Abroad’ post, Basil Wedgwick, contemporary Grand Tourist with a penchant for a good Campari and a splendid Italian palazzo (preferably both at the same time), shares his musings on a recent jaunt to Genoa.‘Genoa - More Than This’ is the current tagline used by the Genoese tourist board.  I mean more than what? On asking several of my friends what they thought of when asked about Genoa the most they could come up with was ‘It’s in Italy’. ‘How about Christopher Columbus, Focaccia Italy’s largest port and being one of the great historical maritime powers in Europe?’  ‘I thought Focaccia and Columbus were from Spain or Portugal’ was the response that summed up the collective shrug of indifference, though that follows most things I say when I talk about travelling.I have therefore come up with a new tagline for the Genoese tourist board ‘Genoa - Pesto, Prozzies[1] and Palazzos’.Quite the trifecta, I know.  But before you book your one way flights with nothing but a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Van Dyck’ and a fifty pack of johnnies I want to go some way in to explaining why it actually is even more than this trio of delights.It’s very rare to go somewhere that is genuinely bizarre.  Everywhere is unusual in its way.[2]  But I can count on one hand the amount of places I’ve been to and thought ‘yeah, this reality doesn’t quite match up with my frame of reference’.  It could be something like it being built on stilts in a swamp (Venice) or ethnically segregated (Sittwe in Myanmar) or just a je ne sais qua perhaps born from the weight of history (Berlin).  Of course this is completely subjective but those are the three places my mind goes to (As a fun game, try it! There are no wrong answers, other than Birmingham)  Genoa is most definitely on that list of bizarre places.To start with the geography of it.  On one side you have the Mediterranean, on the other side you have the mountains.  This mountainous landscape looms inescapably behind the city and is more than imposing, it’s wild.  Wild in a way that you don’t seem to get in cultivated and populous Europe.  I’m not talking about anything dramatic like bears and tigers.  It just seems like humans couldn’t and  shouldn’t be stupid enough to try and perch themselves on it.  Looking at it you can’t imagine what grows easily there.  A few things do though, and grow very well, and they are Basil, Garlic, Olives and Pine nuts.These four ingredients are of course the key components of Pesto[3] and the first of the trio of Genoese delights.  Pesto is one of those things that is almost unanimously loved (apart from if you’re allergic to nuts, or a vampire).  Having it in Genoa though is special, it feels like the landscape of Liguria condensed and made edible.  My travelling companion and I couldn’t work out at first whether the Genoese had got lucky that their main ingredients were this good or that they were genius for combining them in such a versatile and delicious way.We realised they were genius when it became apparent that all of their food combined this extraordinary flavour with simplicity for results that are so evocative of the place itself.  Take Focaccia, in Genoa it tastes like the Mediterranean, salty and a little sour with some aromatic dried herbs across it, the crispy flat variety reminding me slightly of crispy seaweed you get in Asian restaurants.  Their chickpea flour chips (kind of like a better Polenta chip) are the moreish snack you can imagine sailors picking at ten at a time whilst they down carafes of wine when they are on shore leave.  Rabbit (a rare mammal that can survive on the hills) with olives tastes fresh and simple like a terraced farmer’s treat, the list can go on.Another mammal that has managed to eke out existence are humans, and against the odds they have managed to build a city of 600,000 people against this wall of wild hills. The necessity of the small area they have to work with has bred the unique cityscape of its old town.  It is, apparently, the largest medieval city centre left in Europe[4], whether it is or not, it’s a bloody maze.   It is also nearly unchanged.  I don’t mean that in the romantic candlelit strolls and quaint restaurants way, I mean that in a ‘Oh shit I’m going to get knifed’ Game of Thrones way.[5] In an effort to complete this magical time travel effect they have decided even to replicate the smell of a medieval city by having their bins all grouped together in open air shop fronts, lit in a blue light that puts the ‘scent’ in ‘aggressive fluorescent light’.  There are no boulevards, few pretty avenues, it is an utter warren of criss-crossing, narrow and almost unnaturally confusing streets.It also is full of the second of the trio of delights, that is sex workers.  It’s a hard subject to broach really without sounding like a voyeuristic gawper, so I will dispense with any pretence that I will be addressing the serious socio-economic or moral concerns and frivolously discuss in the immediate context of the culture of Genoa.My mother at times refers to sex workers in the euphemistic (and slightly vampiric) ‘Ladies of the night’ but it would be a very inaccurate term, ‘Ladies of the day’ would be much more accurate.[6].  When first wandering the streets at 3pm on a Sunday my travelling companion and I found it disconcerting and thought we’d ended up in to the wrong part of town (our colossal hangovers didn’t help). I mean in gentrified London it is something that you no longer really see.  When we realised it was every part of town we stopped being as worried, but were confused.  We also took our lead from the local Genoese, who seemed utterly unconcerned and unjudgmental .  From the locals there wasn’t a second glance, a tightening of a handbag to the chest, a hand put protectively in a pocket over a wallet.  Indeed in one case I saw a young family with a pram have their photo taken by one of the ladies of the day.This commendable ‘let people get on with what they want to get on with’ seemed to stretch to every aspect of Genoese life.  In one of the most bizarre moments of my life I was sat at a bar at the end of the jetty that was hosting a tango night for young professionals, 50 yards behind us a big band concert was going on, 50 yards behind that about a hundred African migrants were playing drums and dancing.  With no warning a 10 minute firework display went off out at sea, all three groups didn’t look up from the entertainment they were engaged in, and though all three were audible to each other nobody seemed to care.  I have since read and was unsurprised that it was one of the only places that the police and locals tolerate the enterprise of migrants (for example selling handbags on the street). Without engaging in shakedowns and arbitrary cruelty.  It also has one of the lowest crime rates of any major city in Italy.This oddity may make it sound unappealing, but it isn’t.  The atmosphere and peculiar streets, or Vicolo, brings out a sense of genuine discovery and vibrancy to the city.  The Vicolo, too narrow for cars, are intimate and quiet, and you never know when they will open out in to a small buzzing piazza, which almost unanimously have chairs and tables laid out for a busy local bar.The Tardis like churches and Palazzi are seemingly plonked at random through the city, jostling for space with medieval high rise buildings.  Most had the majority of their façade covered by other buildings, maybe a lady of the day or two leaning against it.  There is a famous street that has at least 6 Palazzi on it called Via Garibaldi, if you were to look it up on google though one wouldn’t see what the fuss was about, so uncaring of photogenic boulevards or the needs of voracious Instagrammers.This may contribute to the lack of tourists, which for a large Italian city in the middle of July is amazing.  In a personal pilgrimage to the church of the Doria family and the burial site of Andrea Doria (hero of Lepanto, scourge of Tunisia and Eponym of SampDoria F.C) we were the only people inside.  The custodian of the church showed us the art and decided (after a garbled question by me about football) that he would unlock Andrea Doria’s crypt for us and show us his tomb, designed by Montosorli.The interiors of the Palazzi themselves are as finely decorated and maintained as any in Italy.  Unable to boast any famous ‘home-grown’ artists like Venice or Florence it became a meeting ground of artists from around Europe.[7] I lost count of the Van Dyck’s and Reubens, and saw one of the most peculiar and impressive Brueghels I’ve seen.Even if one were to take the paintings off the walls of the Palazzei they would be worth visiting.  The murals and frescoes were so extraordinary.  In one room in a Palazzo I visited I was so dumbstruck by the majesty I managed to achieve peak middle class and dropped my Campari Spritz on the floor, narrowly avoiding a beautiful Turkish carpet.I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the amazing and bizarre things I saw- like one of Europe’s largest cemeteries, which also contains the best and largest collection of 19th century sculpture in the world.  Or the seafront prison where Marco Polo composed his memoir, which in a normal city would be the focal point, in Genoa it’s façade obscured (like the rest of the sea front) by a raised motorway, a museum to Genoa F.C tucked behind it, day trips to beautiful Ligurian beach towns, where you can have takeaway pesto whilst watching the sea attack 800 year old forts.If all of this doesn’t drag you in though I can only say one thing, there was ‘more than this’.[1] I apologise for using this insensitive terms - sex workers, sea views and cemeteries didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  For a serious discussion on the term this is a good, sensitive article that I slightly disagree with:  http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/12/why-we-shouldnt-rebrand-prostitution-sex-work[2] Bucharest for example falls squarely in to that category, it is a city of unfinished buildings built in to the side of other unfinished buildings.[3] Missing, of course, is Parmesan which is from the inland region of Emilia-Romagna.[4] I struggle to believe this though, for a start Venice is bigger and is nearly unchanged from 1700.  Prague I suspect too is considerably larger, as is Krakow, Naples, Valencia and Seville.  It is likely though it has the largest pedestrian pavement area, but that isn’t as catchy.[5] People have asked me when I said this whether it was like the Assassin’s Creed games, to which I had to say no, because being an assassin there would be boringly easy).[6] There are a couple of large tourist destinations where prostitution is so common it has become part of the ‘attraction’ (Bangkok and Amsterdam) but in Bangkok it is very much a ‘when the sun goes down’ situation, and Amsterdam there is a clearly delineated area. [7] That is not to say it didn’t produce any artists, their was some objectively decent renaissance art produced by the Genoese school, subjectively though it wasn’t to my taste as it seemed slightly too posed. 

Strangers on a Train

Emily 🙋🏽

On Sunday, a group of us were getting the 12:15 train from Gleneagles to London. We had spent the most spectacular weekend in Scotland and a little worse for wear, were looking forward to a painless journey.The train was a bit delayed, but nothing too sinister and it meant we got a bit more time in Scotland which was great news. When it finally arrived, we bundled on and settled down for a relaxing six hour journey. Having all booked separately, we were peppered throughout the train.Everything was going exceptionally smoothly, I had a window seat and a table, a cold coke to drink and found 'Summer Heights High' on BBC iPlayer. However, just outside of York things took a turn for the worse. We just stopped dead...There was some incessant apologising and muttering from the guard about wires above the track but he assured us that we would be shortly on the move...Now this post isn't to bitch about or berate Virgin Trains (rest assured this has already been done - and a full refund supplied); But rather to recount something miraculous that happened. About 2 hours into the stationary state, I got up to go and treat myself to a free bottle of water that was being offered (on account of the delay) and the nice man sitting next to me offered to go and get them for our whole table. I was genuinely shocked. It is a truth universally acknowledged that British people never EVER speak to randoms. I myself hate talking to strangers and will often freak out when shop assistants ask if I need help. However, bravely, I took up his offer and also requested a tea and any free snacks that might be on offer.He returned about ten minutes later bearing tea, fizzy water and crisps that he had blagged from the cafe. I don't think I have ever encountered such thoughtfulness from a total stranger. With our complimentary treats, something even more surprising then happened - we began to chat. Imagine that?! Four British strangers voluntarily speaking to one another.It turned out that he was a barrister who had been to a family wedding, and the couple sitting opposite had been on holiday to Skye. We sat and chatted about who we were and where we were from. They all seemed really very nice, and I think in another life we might have been friends. The chatting continued for about forty five minutes as we discussed important topics, such as, what we would eat if we ever got back to London (McDonald's for me; a gourmet three-course meal for the barrister - to be cooked by his boyfriend and an as yet, undecided take away for the couple). We laughed, joked and kept each other positive as rumours of broken loos on the train began to circulate.After nearly 3 stationary hours the train began to move and we settled back into our solitary activities.When we finally got to London - at 9pm (thanks Virgin) we all said our goodbyes, and pottered off going our separate ways. I'm pretty sure one of them even said 'have a nice life' - and I really hope they do.It was a weird, transient moment where total strangers are actually nice to each other - and made me feel uncharacteristically positive about the great British public!But please don't ask me if I need help in a shop, I really am just browsing - if I wanted something specific I would have bought it on Amazon.Emily xxYou can read all about Emily and Olivia’s blog take over here.