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.

Brayce Yourself

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly.

What's the Craic?There are approximately 60 hours in the weekend. From your 6pm clock off to your alarm clock early(ish) on Monday morning, 60 whole hours to enjoy. Sometimes rest and relaxation are needed, but all too often I take weekends for granted and fritter them away on a hangover or a boxset.So this past weekend, I used my 60 hours extremely efficiently – with a trip to Dublin. A team of 5 gals all headed to the Emerald Isle. Whilst this sounds like the premise of some horrible chick flick, it was actually quite civilised.Our trip by numbers:x60 hours of weekend to spendx1 flight to Bologna that we nearly boarded by accidentx5 girlsx1 ‘Spa Hotel’ Airbnbx2 boxes of Milk Tray left on beds by Spa Hotel Hostx4 half pints of Guinnessx1 empty Guinness pint glass used to pose for social media shotsx6 donutsx1 night clubx1 times ‘Bad Blood’ by Taylor Swift was played as request to the DJ in said night clubx3 ice creamsx2 Donald Trump masksx4 cocktailsx1 selfie stickunknown number of selfiesWhat we ate:
EttoSeasonal menu that changes daily. Relaxed and friendly atmosphere – the burrata was truly scrumptious.AvocaA department store with Selfridges vibes. We went to the food section and got some delicious deli treats which we ate in the park in the sun.The Liquor RoomsWe actually only stumbled in and out of here, while we were looking for a club that played cheesy music but it looked great! A speakeasy feel with very trendy music – I would definitely give it a go.And for the culture …Hugh Lane GalleryThis was the highlight as agreed by all of us. A large gallery featuring a wide range of artists, from old masters to contemporary. It also has a dedicated Francis Bacon section – did you know he was born in Ireland? Inside the gallery they have resurrected his South Kensington Studio. Really informative on his process as an artist, accompanied by some pieces of work undertaken in the final years of his life. Very cool.Dublin CastleEveryone knows Castles are cool. This one was average but probably worth a visit if you like that kind of thing.National Gallery DublinGreat permanent collection, some good exhibitions coming up. It’s free, why not? 

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London.

This week I experienced something that causes great frustration to many women aged between 18 and 40 -  the ruthless supermarket ID challenge. Many supermarkets will ID when you go to buy alcohol and 'look' under 25 - which seems a little mean considering you can buy alcohol aged 18 years of age.  If you haven't been ID'd recently, the most frustrating part is that if you are in a group, and one of you 'looks under 25' and they have no ID on them, you will all be going home empty handed. 🍷😢

At the grand old age of 28 I get ID'd frequently, and no batting of eyelashes will persuade the kind check-out people to sell me alcohol without an ID.  I know, I know it is very flattering that I still apparently look youthful, but really, when you are on your way out in the evening and you quickly need to buy a bottle of wine enroute, and you find your driving licence is not in your wallet it can be a little annoying.

On Wednesday this week two friends and I approached Sainsbury's with trepidation.  We had decided to have a picnic on Wandsworth Common as it was a lovely evening.  Into the shopping basket went all sorts of nice picnic things, including a couple of bottles of cider.  Before reaching the checkout we decided on our strategy.  With 85 years between us, but not a single form of ID we decided to split.  I would try and buy a bottle of cider on my own at the cash desk, pretending I didn't know the other two.  The others would go to the self scan, and with one prominent baby bump, and one sharp work outfit between them, it seemed like they were in with a good chance.

I failed at the first step - 'Can I see you ID please', 'I'm afraid I haven't got it on me, but I was born in the 80s'.  Nope.  No cider for me.

The other two also had little success, no amount of 'I've been working in mergers and acquisitions for the last six years, she's pregnant,' would change his mind.

So we left Sainsbury's without any cider for our picnic, and were very sad indeed.

All was not lost however, as luckily there was small independent wine shop around the corner who very kindly sold us a far superior bottle of cider, and the pub even gave us some plastic glasses. 😊

Halfway through the picnic I realised was wearing a jumper emblazoned with the words,

'Heathfield School, Physical Eduction'.

Perhaps next time I will bring my ID 🙈.

4 British sparkling wines for you to admire:

Alice xxx

 

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world.

Susan's last exam is on Thursday, good luck Susannah!! 🙏

Brayce Yourself

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London.

Happy Friday!!

A few things this week:

A shout out to Johnny, we know you're our biggest fan 😘

Someone got very excited this week when they thought I had written a post on Emmanuel Macron (I actually wrote about something even better - Macarons.... 😍)

I went to see the Vanessa Bell Exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and it was great.

I really enjoyed the book covers Vanessa Bell designed for Virginia Woolf's books (they were sisters, who knew).

Even greater was the gift shop, I love museum / art gallery gift shops a great amount, and the Vanessa Bell Collection is spot on - I came away with a green and blue tea towel in Vanessa's Pamela Print.

(I am collecting art tea towels, I only have Vanessa Bell & Paul Nash ones so far, but this is a good start 😊))

I like art museum gift shops a lot so below are four items from: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Tate, V&A and The Royal Academy for you to enjoy.

Alice xxx

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly.

Ad Review:

M&S ‘Spend It Well’

 – Valenstein & Fatt

On the merry-go-round of ad accounts, M&S made a bit of a stir last year by hopping off Rainey Kelly Campbell Rolf and hopping on with Grey London (or the newly rebranded Valenstein & Fatt if you will). Who really cares? Probably only ad people, and even they only cared if they were snubbed during the pitching process. Regardless it was a turning point, as the M&S RKCR relationship had lasted 16 years, was rumoured to be worth 60 million and most importantly invented the concept of food porn.However this week saw the launch of their first new T.V spot by V&F which brings together their food & clothing offering together under a single tagline for the first time: ‘Spend It Well.’The ad is a montage of a diverse people all doing various ‘liberating’ things – attending a festival, quitting their job etc. To the sound of Bowie’s 'Rebel, Rebel' and narrated by the silky tones of Helen McCroy – there is a definite carpe diem sentiment. The brand encourages us to remember that our time is short and that we ought to make the most of it. The way they suggest us to ‘Spend It Well,’ is by buying knickers that fit well, wearing our best clothes and eating scrummy food. These are all notions that I can’t disagree with, and I like the overall message and the visual style. The brand is clearly stepping away from its mumsy vibe and trying to be more in touch with the ‘millennials’ that all corporates so desperately crave to connect with.  However it seems to me a step too far, it’s as if the brand is trying to step up to the plate with the other cool kids, but somehow loses it authenticity on the way there. Also their subtle jump on to the feminist bandwagon with acclamations of body positivity – although admirable seem misplaced within the narrative.M&S as a brand is somewhat confused – their food offering does significantly better than their clothing, aside from arguably their underwear (honestly where else do you buy your tights?!), as their core stock is traditionally frumpy garments – something they have tried to combat recently with collaborations with ‘trendy’ people – such as the human mannequin Alexa Chung. This traditionally bland clothing offering and perception is something they are clearly trying to offset with their funky new ad . However it is a façade that fools no one. And I think it is this disconnect between product and image that makes this new ad, and its tagline feel so blatantly vapid. It is as if they have jumped from 1 to 100 on the cool-o-metre and the maths just doesn’t add up. M&S can tell me they are trendy all they like, but I almost certainly won’t be buying my next festival outfit there – cashmere just isn’t practical in the mud?As a piece of creative it works, it looks good, it feels good and it makes you want to get up and boogie – but it feels to me better placed with a brand such as Topshop or H&M whose audience is actually young and fun.I think M&S should take their own advice, and spend their marketing budget well, on a piece of creative that is less try hard and more authentic to themselves.M&S you aint’ foolin anyone.

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world.

A little pic from Susan - since finishing her dissertation she has joined a Spice Girls tribute band.  We shall keep you updated 😉

Brayce Yourself

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London.

I just wanted to start with a little thank you to all my readers, you very kind people who read most of my posts, or at least click into the link and have a quick look.  I know who some of my biggest fans are (you know who you are), and am always pleasantly surprised when people say, 'I've seen your blog' or 'I've been following your blog', I do realise putting my thoughts, opinions and images, including quite a few of me, out into the internet ether is quite an indulgent pastime, so thank you for sticking with me 😍.I think the most important part of blogging is keeping true to who you are (I know this sounds a bit hippy happy), but I do hope that I am keeping in line with this thought, I know bloggers sometimes get a bit of a bad rep (free stuff, free holidays, bad attitude).I started my blog when I was unemployed and in need of a creative outlet / some structure to my day.  I wrote about all the things I got up to with my day, (really all the things) and discovered that there were many other people also not in full time employment, who were on all sorts of exciting non-conventional 'career' paths.  So I asked if I might be able to write about them, and many people said yes, which has been amazing.  I have always been hugely grateful to the people who have been willing to give me their time, and tell me all about their new business, or current venture. It has been greatly enjoyable - thank you!Going forward I am aiming towards writing about British brands, and promoting emerging British design, art, artists and start-ups - of course ones that I like!  I hope my posts on Young British Designers,  Arabella London Swimwear, and The Other Art Fair have been interesting and inspirational emerging British brand reading so far, there is lots more of this to come.  I will also be featuring an artist once a week for a set period of time, currently Peter Vaughan is sharing his wonderful story Safia Sails.  And of course there will continue to be a smattering of garden posts, because really, I think there is nothing better than some nice flowers to cheer you up once in a while, as you are sitting glumly staring at your computer screen at work 😘.So do keep reading, there is lots more to come, and for this week, below are 4 British brands who are all currently available to buy from A Luxe Story's pop-up in North London - 42 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, NW3 1NH. Click on the images to find out more 😍.And have a super bank holiday weekend!!Alice 💕  

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly.

Pump it up

This week, I have decided to be a positive Patricia, an upbeat Ursula and a constructive Carol. So in the spirit of that, my post will be focused on my achievements in the last seven days.Firstly, for every appointment, meeting and interaction that I have attended, I have either been early – or bang on time. I’m an optimistic timekeeper and as a result often tend to arrive a bit later than intended. But this week, a miracle happened. I was nearly an hour early for a friends’ leaving drinks – luckily she was there and we actually got to chat which was very nice as at these things it is easy not to speak to people. Then, later on that evening, I made it to supper at the agreed time (rather than half an hour late) and a couple of days later I arrived early to another drinks. All of these took people by surprise ‘you’re here already?!’ so I concluded that it’s actually better to arrive a little bit late to give people time to prepare for your stellar arrival.*Caveat – after writing this, I did arrive about 6 minutes late to supper with Alice and her housemates due to an overrunning prior engagement. However I was not the last to arrive and therefore it doesn’t count.Second positive of the week, was that for the very first time EVER, perhaps in the history of man – I bought a dress without trying it on first and it fitted. I was killing time (being early for supper) and popped into & Other Stories to check in on a dress I had been eyeing up. I found my glittery friend, but the queue for the fitting room was obscene so I had a choice, leave the dress and come back and risk it being gone, or impulse purchase and return it if it did not fit. So being the reckless risk taker I am, I decided to purchase. When I got home later that evening, I put it on just to see. And too my surprise it fitted exactly right. This literally never happens, it was fate. There’s no way I’m returning it now.THE DressThirdly, I learnt how to pump tires from a YouTube video (whilst on the side of the road) and dodged purchasing a bicycle pump, when the friendly man at Evans pointed out that there are actually lots of free ones lying around. My tires have got a bit soft recently, and I have noticed that cycling has been a bit harder. So after work I went to my local Evans to sort it out. But instead of selling me some large and over priced bicycle pump, the man pointed out that there was a pump just outside the shop for general use. So I went outside, got up a YouTube ‘how to’ video and set about pumping my tires. I think it worked, but I was very pleased to realise that there are these handy pumps lurking around the streets of our great city. I also stumbled across one at Baron’s Court tube (for all you West Londoners). Very useful and cost effective! Perhaps I will start a pump watch …On a less positive note, I wanted to air my gripe about the latest fashion ‘trend’ – what is the deal with mules? I don’t mean the animals, I have no issue with them. I mean the open-toed shoes. Literally everyone in my office is click clacking around in them. I can’t tell you exactly why I don’t like them, I think it’s because they are a weird hybrid of the hated kitten heel and the heinous slider. It’s just wrong and they look exceptionally tricky to walk in. It’s like the platform flip flop, but without the toe bit keeping everything on -  disturbing and unnatural. The only plus being, if there was some sort of emergency we could all outrun the mule wearers, as they stagger along behind.  But if you do want to indulge in this fad, I hear M&S stock a nice pair.

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world.

Susannah assures me she is writing something for this week.....coming soon.  (A quick update - she is still in Scotland with one exam left to go and her post exam soaking, and then the excitement (carnage) of grad trip).

Brayce Yourself

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly.

Thank Choux

Apparently we are talking about flowers this week. However I have decided to take my post in a loosely related direction - flour.On Tuesday evening, I dragged up my mad Leiths School of Food and Wine skills and made FROM SCRATCH profiteroles. Having existed since 1604, we allegedly stole profiteroles from the French (what’s new) and they are of course close cousins of the chocolate eclair. The Americans have their own bastardized version known as the Cream Puff.The creation of the profiterole first involves the artful, graceful and complex method of making choux pastry. However having been trained as the esteemed finishing school Heathfield – this was no problem for me. Even not having an appropriate measuring jug could not stop me, so armed with my original Leiths reciepe, and a sprinkling of improvisation – I set off. You have to melt butter in cold water with a wee bit of sugar to begin with, and to be honest this just looked like an ugly mess – but I was not deterred. When all was melted, I thrust in the flour, and salt and stirred vigorously until a paste was formed and the whole ugly mixture came away from the sides.While all this excitement had gone on, I had turned on the oven and heated to an appropriate temperature. The wallpaper paste mixture was set aside to cool, while I snacked on some leftover easter chocolate. After the cooling, I chucked in the eggs – and the mixture didn’t split, RESULT. It was glossy and ready for the oven.Next came the most masterful twist in our tale, as a piping bag is required to get the mixture into their perfect swirls on the baking tray – but my local Tesco Express doesn’t stock such things. Instead I bought some sandwich bags and cut off a small corner and piped the swirls onto the baking tray – dabbing the tops with a droplet of water (not sure why but the recipe suggested it). While the little darlings were in the oven, I set about whipping cream – with no hand held whisk, I had set my sights on using spray can cream – but apparently this is not sold in West London. So I used my blender, yes the blender. Don’t worry I washed it first – and it whipped up the cream in a neat and timely fashion.The choux buns rose perfectly in the oven and I set them aside to cool, before filling them with the expertly whipped cream, from the sandwich bag piping bag. Chocolate was melted and drizzled on top before serving.All in all a success, my Leiths examiner and cookery teachers would be so proud. And the whole event was further validated by the fact that no one was sick or got food poisoning.

Leiths Chocolate Profiteroles Recipe

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London.

After this bank holiday I am quite certain that every weekend should be four days long, and every week four days long, four days on, and four off, wouldn't that just be nice?!I spent my bank holiday in the Sussex countryside which was really very good.  We discovered the village of Firle - I would very much like to live in Firle House, it is beautiful and has ponies grazing on the lawn 😍. Took a trip to Charleston and had lunch in the tea room during which Pip (a jack russell of the long legged variety) managed to escape into the kitchen causing all sorts of excited commotion.  We walked along part of the south downs way in the sunshine, and climbed a very steep hill, but it didn't matter too much as the weather was beautiful.  And as it was Easter we had an easter egg hunt and we all ate a little bit too much chocolate, including Barney who was very happy to find some lone Easter eggs on a low table - they went down all in one, foil and all 🍫🐣🐶 ..I also spent a lot of time in the garden, and was particularly happy as all the cherry blossom was out.  I really like cherry blossom very much.  I love the way the branches of the trees look weighed down by their mass of heavily petalled flowers, but the flowers themselves appear light and airy.  That every cherry is different, some very refined with carefully arranged petals, others more haphazard, their petals a little like many layers of crinkled and hastily arranged petticoats.  And I like that they come in all sorts of colour variations, a pure white, a tinge of pink, and a hint of very pale purple.I thought I would share three very beautiful Japanese flowering cherry trees (prunus) and an apple tree (malus) with you, all from High Beeches Garden in Sussex.So from left to right (or top to bottom if you are on your phone), 1 & 2 Prunus 'Shirotae' (+ Emily), 3 & 4 Prunus 'Tai-haku', 5, & 6 Prunus Shimidsu Sakura, and 7 & 8 Malus.Alice 🌸🌸🌸🍒🍒🍒🍒🍒       

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world.

After a solid 24 hours in the library, Susannah handed in her dissertation today and has gone to bed.  She is looking forward to a post dissertation feast of Scotland's finest haggis, neeps, tatties and whiskey.  Mainly the whiskey.  With her studies approaching their end, and the real world awaiting, we she will be joining us again very soon.

Brayce Yourself

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London.

I am just so happy that the weather is getting warmer, the evenings are lighter, and we had bright sunshine again today.The good weather also means that all the all the plants are pleasantly happy and are flowering far earlier than usual.  Instagram is blooming with photos of blossom, and if you follow me on insta you will be very aware that last weekend I helped out with a flower show, and got a little snap happy.If you do want to see these flowers in all their glory, you must be quick as they are blossoming right now and always go-over much faster than you think.  My current favourites are camellia, rhododendron, cherry and magnolia which you can see below (left to right, or top to bottom): And here are four independent English gardens not all that far from London, to see all these wonderful flowers this weekend 💐🌸🌺😍:   I hope you have a lovely, lovely Easter Weekend, a flower show post to follow next week.Alice xxx

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly.

For Lent, I decided to give up coffee.

And so, at 10am on Feburary 28th 2017, I went to Press the most hipster coffee shop I could hunt in the distinctly straight laced Chancery Lane.  I purchased a medium almond milk capuccino (I think I threw in the request for it to be ‘extra hot’ because I heard an american do it once and thought it sounded authoritative). It cost me the princely sum of 3 pounds. All being well (as I write this on Friday) I will have not let a drop of coffee pass my lips for 40 whole days.What was the motivation? I have never given up anything in my life, EVER. Except for Snapchat – but that doesn’t really count because deleting an app is easy. Why coffee? It’s expensive, unnecessary and although I do like it, I’m not a mega fan – so it would be easier to give up than something truly scrumptious, like chocolate.It hasn’t been exceptionally difficult, the first few days were slightly rough, and although it might have been mental, I did feel more tired than usual. Tea, although delicious is just not the same, and I did miss my mid-morning caffeine kick. The worst part was visiting Kaffine on Great Tichfield Street and having to order an Earl Grey – it was so lame. I’m no coffee snob but the coffee there is just the best. The struggle was real, especially when meeting people for ‘coffee’ - as an alternative I consumed a lot more tea and hot chocolate than I would normally do. But overall it was a good thing, I am convinced I saved money, and towards the end I didn’t even miss it.Not quite simultaneously I decided to take up playing tennis. I can play tennis, but am very very poor at it. My friend (shout out to Jemima) had told me about ‘Will To Win’ a tennis organization that hold lessons all over London. She told me not to join the beginners, as they could barely hold their rackets up – so I opted for the six week  intermediate course at the (newly refurbished) Hyde Park center. I chose 7-8pm on a Monday night, because realistically now that Broadchurch is finished – what else would I be doing? At this point in time, I am only one session down, but I can honestly say it has been a winning decision. The class contains roughly 16 people, there are two teachers and everyone is about the same level. It is a fantastic opportunity to do some exercise, outside and enjoy long summer evenings. Furthermore you meet new people – I estimated the age range being about from 22-50 and hopefully it will mean that in future when asked to partake in a tennis match, I will actually be able to hit the ball in the right direction.On the balance of it I would recommend taking up over giving up, it makes you less of a martyr and people will actually care when you start banging on about it – because you are actually doing something, rather than smugly abstaining.

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world.

The youngest Miss Bray's dissertation is due to be handed in very soon, and she hasn't left the library for around 48 hours except to buy large quantities of Irn Bru and fish and chips to keep her going.  She will be back with us next week once the dissertation panic has subsided.  She did however take a few minutes out to send over Uncyclopedia's thoughts on St Andrews University which you can read below.  Susannah is currently studying International Relations...

"The University has four Faculties, each of which is divided into subject-specific schools:

The Faculty of Arts has 48,000,000 students, most of whom are Wanna-Be CIA Agents (International Relations) or Sloane Rangers (History of Art). 93% of them will end up working in middle management or data entry.

The Faculty of Science has 213 students, studying such diverse and uninteresting things as molecular biology, biochemistry and that one with all the numbers.

The Faculty Divinity has 12 students. No-one has ever met any of them, except God who has met them all and disliked all but one (who was later expelled and later burnt at the stake for not being Christian enough). It is said they wield magical powers such as their ability to shoot Doritos out of their hands. Divinity students tend to be overweight and non-violent.

The Faculty of Medicine has no students at all, because Hugh Macdougall refuses to smile."

Brayce Yourself

A weekly column in which Emily, Susannah and I contemplate life in our 20s.

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London

Living and working south of the river in London, some weeks I do occasionally forget to cross over it, and I always appreciate it when someone says let's do something 'central'.  This week it was dinner close to Oxford Circus, and as it was a beautiful evening I hopped on a Boris Bike by Battersea Park and peddled north to spend some time in actual London.

 I have a big love for the shops close Oxford Circus, and I always make time for the big Topshop.  Entering Topshop for me, is a bit like entering Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, as far as the eye can see is an array of beautiful items, in pretty colours happily delighting the senses.  Handbags first in pretty pastels (this one), shiny accessories by Skinny Dip (this laptop case), and then jewellery, I always find this hardest to resist.  Downstairs bright primary colours are competing with pastels, yes please to these trousers in lavender and in green and then even further down to the basement to the wonderful world of every shoe imaginable - I have no idea how I don't already own these.  And I love that Miss Selfridge is attached - it can be hit and miss, (is it too tacky?!) but this time I fell in love with this powder blue leather jacket and these wonderful shoes......😍.  This week I heard of a customer who cried, yes cried because she thought a certain brands shop display was the most beautiful thing she had every seen, perhaps retail therapy is a real thing.....

There is however one aspect of Topshop that I find very trying indeed, and certainly not therapeutic.  Once I have enough clothes to try on, I head to the changing rooms, and once there, as one does, I tend to take most of my clothes off, in order to put the other clothes on.  But there is a moment in-between items coming off and going back on again, usually when I'm just in my underwear, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the huge brightly lit mirror, and then I can't help but look properly, and then I don't entirely like what I am seeing.  WHY do they do this?! The lighting is equivalent to Macdonalds lighting, the mirror is enormous, and really I don't need to see myself in such detail, it's quite cruel.  My general reaction is - I MUST give up the creme eggs, I MUST go for more runs, and I dash (fully clothed) out of the shop as fast as possible.  Topshop, please work on kinder lighting.

With my retail therapy hit not satisfied, I headed to Liberty, maybe my favourite shop of all time and wandered through the ground floor, I really love this print at the moment.  I found myself in the chocolate shop (apparently even Topshop's cruelly lit changing rooms cannot convince me I should be giving up the sweet stuff), and I delighted in all things chocolate.  I have the sweetest tooth and am also completely taken in by pretty packaging -  Mast Brothers, I love what you are doing, I really do. The British are excellent at making chocolate and I discovered many recognisable brands and some new, and of course, with Easter on the way, they are in full swing Easter Egg mode.  So this week, my British brands below are all chocolate makers - happy Easter Egg hunting 🐰🐣.

Alice xxx

   

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly

Boom Boom Shake The RoomSitting at a desk all day can’t be good for us. So this week, I decided to shake up my exercise routine with a bit of spinning. So I’m not a complete couch potato, but I’m also no Paula Radcliffe. Sometimes I go to the gym, run when I have time and obvs cycle to work. But I wanted to add a little extra, so I found my nearest spin class and boldly signed up. 8am on a Wednesday morning in Holborn – nae problem!When my alarm went off at 6:45am I was horrified, I felt sick – I try my best never to see such hours of the day, unless catching a flight. I seriously considered going back to sleep but it was light, and I was already awake, so I hauled myself out of bed. Luckily I remembered to bring my water bottle, stole a banana from one of my housemates – and hit the road.My destination was Boom Cycle in Holborn. A trendy spin studio where they blast loud music and shout inspirational things at you to distract from the voluntary torture you are undergoing. I wasn’t going into this blind, I had been to Psycle on Great Mortimer Street before and knew what was waiting for me.I got the tube from Barons Court to Holborn, and only got slightly lost before finding my location. The first thing I noticed was how helpful and nice everyone was. The staff at these ‘clean eating’ ‘healthy’ ‘inspo’ fitness places can tend to be a frosty bunch – but these guys were great. I was assigned a pair of the funny shoes, given a towel and a locker and headed for the changing room. The changing room was trendy, not as swanky as at Psycle (but you do pay £2 more per class, and last time I went Millie Mackintosh was there – so it’s a slightly more flashy crowd) but perfectly nice. I think these places must have a partnership with REN as they have so many of their products which are just a-mazing. Boom also had lots of inspirational quotes stuck on the mirrors ‘You Look Awesome’ etc – I was pepped up and ready to go!The class started bang on 8am and I was surprised how few of us there were, perhaps the trendy fitness fad is dying (fingers crossed). If you haven’t been to such places before, imagine a small nightclub, complete with mirrors and a few spin bikes thrown in. It’s relatively dark, and the music is very loud (for the motivation – duh!) There was also a scented candle …Approximately 10 minutes in I was intensely regretting my decision. Despite only cranking up my resistance the bare minimum, I still felt like my legs were made of lead and I was going to collapse. For those of you who haven't attended spin before, it’s not just cycling. The inspirational fitness guru sits on a platform facing her sweaty congregation and tells you when to turn up (or down) the resistance, when to stand up in your saddle, or sit down. It’s basically a lot of bobbing around which is actually VERY tiring.There are also the weights. Usually I would have chosen the lightest weights for myself – but at Boom Cycle they assign you weights, and I was too much of a nervous newbie to question it. As such I was lumped with some extra heavy ones, which I subsequently struggled with during the bicep curls etc and could barely feel my arms by the end. I’m sure it was good for me though!About three quarters of the way through the 45 minute session, I actually started to push through the pain and start to enjoy myself. It did get easier, and the music was excellent. There was a moment they switched off all the lights which was a bit disorientating – but by the time the last song came on I was feeling like a regular Bradley Wiggins.I hobbled back into the changing room, grateful for the REN shower products and quotes on the back of the shower door.I was absolutely ravenous for the rest of the day, and kept smugly telling anyone who would listen that I had been to a spin class BEFORE work. And despite all my complaining, I will probably go back....

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world

'Adrian Brody joins Peaky Blinders’http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2017-03-24/adrien-brody-joins-the-cast-of-peaky-blinders-series-4Peaky Blinders is rapidly becoming the hottest spot on television, Adrien Brody is jointing the gritty Birmingham drama.People love, oh so much to comment on the accents of the actors in this show, either Irish or brummie and it does make me wonder where he will fit in. Perhaps the Americans are getting involved in fray. The show is expanding and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.Peaky blinders from onset showcased an impressive cast, Cillian Murphy, Helen McCroy, Sam Neil and Annabelle Wallis are the big names who make up the cast. An Irish man and a Londoner both playing brummies, a Kiwi and another Londoner playing the Irish. Where does Adrien Brody fit in? Odds would say not an American, so maybe he’ll pick up a Russian accent on the way over. The Russians were introduced in Series 3 when they pressed the refresh button on quite a few characters.The cast also introduced Tom Hardy and his real life wife Charlotte Riley in Series 2 so this show really is snowballing. Hardy plays London gangster Alfie Solomons, while Charlotte plays one of  Thomas Shelby's love interests. Where do you go next? This was Hardy’s first step back into television with him leading the questionable Taboo affair. That really just felt like an Ode to Tom Hardy rather than anything worth watching. Jonathan Pryce’s character seems to be on  aserious vendetta that he is only able to  express through swearing. Welcome to the post-Game of Thrones world where if there isn’t incest or extensive swearing it won’t clear the first round with the producers (even for the BBC). I relish the idea of Governor Swann the kindly but cowardly character in Pirates of the Caribbean, unjustly killed by the East India Trading Company, being reincarnated in Game of Thrones as a religious fanatic only to be blown to bits by another crazed character, to be reincarnated back as the head East India Trading Company. Life has dealt a hard hand and with that track record I certainly would have something to swear about.In all honesty I think this is where Tom Hardy should further his career:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fkoan2f-Po&t=191sLife for Thomas Shelby is tough but maybe he’ll get to break Adrien Brody’s American or Russian nose in a standoff. Somehow I think they are not going to be the pals in the show, too much bone structure for one.Peaky Blinders should be out sometime this year, although they have a intensely annoying un-reliable record for bringing the show out inconsistently.Fun fact: John Shelby and Michael, Polly’s Son are brothers Joe and Finn Cole in real life.

Brayce Yourself

A weekly column in which Emily, Susannah and I contemplate life in our 20s.

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London

This week I have been spending a lot of time answering the phone. When I was younger I would refuse, point blank, to pick up the phone, I just hated it so much -  the thought of picking up and speaking into the unknown, to a disembodied voice who would most likely ask you questions you didn't know the answer to, or how to answer.  These days, I spend a lot of time on the phone at work and am very happy to answer calls, I don't think twice and almost relish the possible challenge that might be at the other end.

People are different on the phone.  They feel they can say things they would never say to someone's face (often rude things), even more so if they do not know the person they are calling.  Dealing with phone calls correctly is about ascertaining the tone of voice from the first Hello - are they trying to pick a fight, are they upset, are they a time waster - and it's always about maintaining a tone of complete confidence, never ever giving the caller any reason to doubt you.

I sometimes wonder if the world of catalogue and online shopping has taken in the many lost souls who once upon a time would have attended church regularly, prayed often and even gone to confession.  Nowadays with no one to listen, or no one listening without judgement, women in their hoards ring up online shopping companies and order anything and everything, cashmere jumpers, toasters, hair straighteners, dog beds.  And there is always someone to listen.  'Don't worry about the hole in your cashmere jumper we can fix that'. 'You don't like the colour of the towels you bought? that's fine we can exchange them for you'.  'Of course you look great in those glitter eye lashes you bought, blue is definitely your colour (although I have no idea what you look like) and everyone is wearing blue this season'.  They love it, they love to call, they love to chat, and there is always someone at the end of the phone willing to talk and help them with any queries they have at all, to listen, and to keep listening.  And often they get hooked, I genuinely believe there are people out there who order more, just so they can chat more.

One of my current favourite phone caller curiosities is the use of phonetics.  I will happily admit my phonetics are not excellent, and I have no problem if you say B is for Beta or F is for Freddie - these are relatable and fine.  Although I do get a little annoyed if you incorrectly correct me, 'Is that W for Whiskey?' 'Yes W for Winston'.  But the best are the people put on the spot, who must have repeated their own postcode a thousand times, and when asked to repeat it say, 'T for Cup of'.... kind of clever, I like that.   But the real treat came this week in the form of the letter 'K'.  'Did you say K?', 'Yes, K for Knee'.  WHAT?!  I was so taken aback, I had an unusual prolonged hesitation in my postcode entering, 'K for Knee'... of all the K words you could have chosen.....

And below four British Brands for this week 😍

    

Alice xxx

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly

Six Of The Best

This week I have decided to write about some trendy, vacuous stuff that looks fun:Pom poms pleaseOn trousers, jewellery, hats, anything really. These babies are going to be EVERYWHERE this summer. So get ahead of the curve and get them while you can: Topshop Pom Pom Hem Jamie Jeans and @pom_bombs  earrings. In the gardenSpring is officially here. And what better way to celebrate than by dousing yourself in a new springy fragrance? Geranium by Diptique has notes of pink peppercorn, bergamot, rose & bourbon geranium (obvs). Feel smug, smelling sweet, fresh and springy – even on a sweaty morning tube.  Geranium OdorataTwelfth Night at The National Even if (like me) your only real reference point for this epic Shakespearean saga is the film ‘She’s The Man,’ this revamp of the piece will leave you in stitches. A gorgeous, rotating set that would make even the snobbiest interior designer drool and costumes to complement, there was never a dull moment in the farce that ensued. Vintage cars, shipwrecks, yellow tights and a hot tub – what’s not to love? And for all the Green Wing fans out there – it is a dream to see Dr Caroline Todd and young Boyce reunited. Twelfth Night tickets.Making a beeline  This gadget is very cool. I've yet to try it, but I really think that it would make all bike rides a lot easier. With beeline, instead of having to stop every five minutes to consult your phone - risking your life and your phone screen - you simply clip the device to your handle bars, type in your destination and a handy arrow will point you in the right direction. No more excuses for being late! They claim to make ‘smart navigation simple’ and I think I really do believe them.  BeelineChin Chin Warm weather calls for ice-cream. Everyone knows that. This whacky ice-cream parlour, Chin Chin Labs takes its product VERY seriously. If you are looking for a 99 Flake, this is the wrong place. They freeze ‘mapcap flavours’ with liquid nitrogen to spectacular effect (or so it appears from their mouth-watering Instagram feed). Intriguing creations include stout served with a potato cake & seaweed wafer, cream cheese with red velvet fondant cake & a beetroot crisp, and rhubarb sorbet served with lemon curd candy floss. It sounds a lot like Florean Fortescue but real.Caveat – I have not actually visited yet but am very keen if anyone fancies it? Chin Chin LabsAt the pubAfter work, or weekend drinks in a summer pub garden on a warm evening. There is literally nothing better. Finding space in a nice garden can be tricky but once you do, and are settled in you will never want to leave. So get yourselves to the pub with an appropriately summery beverage, a couple of pals and hope that it doesn’t rain. Maybe even take a board game? The Leather Bottle

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world

In other news this week:

In a moment of madness I sent this email to an ice cream company. From: Susannah BrayTo. info@lakenhamcreamery.co.ukSubject: Stockist Question 10:50am 24th March 2017Dear Sir/Madam,I was curious, as in need of a tasty treat, to where the nearest stockist would be to St Andrews, Fife?Best,Susannah To put this into perspective, I am quite aware this may not be an entirely normal thing to do, especially at 11am in the morning, but, apparently I wanted some ice cream. Also to reveal the ice cream in question is stocked in Norfolk. Yes, Norfolk, as I found out is slightly too far to go to get some ice cream. All I wanted was some Rich Butterscotch or Double Chocolate Chip.Just to notify you, I do not work for their marketing team. Although if they wish to send me free ice cream I would happily accept.When I was younger, as I am sure, as any of my family will tell you I used to have a slight obsession with ice cream. Most meals wouldn’t be satisfied without it, the said flavour of choice was Mint Choc Chip. My obsession probably realised itself on weekends or weeks spent in Southwold when we would go to visit my Grandmother. As soon as lunch was polished off, ice cream would appear, and then probably an hour later I would pester anyone to take me to the ice cream parlour for my fix of Mint Chocolate Chip, generally having being coaxed on a walk before.But where the source of this unusual email comes from is the first ice cream course. As we would be served, straight from the freezer dollops of Norfolk County Ice Cream. And apparently this is what opened my eyes to the world outside of Mint Chocolate Chip - what an eye opening experience that was. I discovered that I could indeed eat all flavours of ice cream, and apparently I was dissatisfied with the quality of ice cream in Scotland, or the nauseating sweetness of the mass produced Hagen Daas or Ben and Jerrys. I expect a lack of cream might be to blame in their recipes or indeed, americanised sugar. If you aren’t aware my dissertation is essentially about how America is ruining the world, and therefore I tend to blame them for everything, realised or edible and sweet. Or perhaps I had been too often traumatised by people serving, Carte D’or Vanilla, what should be the bane of any pudding eaters life. Am an ice cream snob? Perhaps, but at least my ice cream buds are more developed than whoever decided that the French could make ice cream. No-matter how inviting your apple crumble is, all anyone will taste is the sweet joy if Uniliver happened to raise the tax on it. Please, leave the marmite and keep your shitty sweet slop.Divulging from snobbery, after racking my brains, I remember the source of this ice cream being in Norfolk and therefore set out on an internet search.Discovering the creamery was situated in Norwich, I hastily type this into google maps. A mere 437 miles one way (via glasgow obviously) is what I found, and after arriving back in Fife the day before, decided that this route was not for me. In perspective that's 7h 54m drive time and £60 of petrol. Diverting from this route I next found myself on SkyScanner, with the ease and accessibility of Edinburgh airport only an hour away. A 5.50am 3h25m flight from Edinburgh to Norwich via Amsterdam seemed pretty reasonable, made all the more appealing as I had the option of 4 hours of Norwich sightseeing before my next flight, at, 5.20pm. The price also was fantastic, all for the bargain of £335. Faced with the issue that my pots of £300 ice cream would have melted by the time I got back to Scotland I decided to click the About Us button.There, to my delight, I found:'Our ice cream is available in several farms, deli's and retail establishments such as Waitrose and Co-op. You can always call us to find your nearest stockist or you can visit our factory shop where we keep the full range of both Norfolk County and Aldous flavours. We'll be very happy to supply you and your family.’The nearest Waitrose is in Edinburgh. And somehow I thought the Co-op in Anstruther would’t stock Norfolk Ice Cream. So contact it was. To my shame I decided to email them as I thought my desperate situation would come out better typed that with spoken word. Ice Cream madness apparently knows no bounds.I have yet to receive a response.

Brayce Yourself

A weekly column in which Emily, Susannah and I contemplate life in our 20s

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London

This week @thatcoat has been getting itself a little attention again (if you've not heard of #ThatCoat / having been living under a rock, you can read about it here and here).  Zara have rehashed the design (added a frill) and brought it out a sassy red and classic blue version for Summer.  It's still a classy coat, people are still buying it, and I got very excited when I passed a young style maven wearing it on her way to work this morning - keep sending us photos #CoatSquad (we love the new hashtag The Express) and Zara we'd still love to hear your thoughts...I met Paulien Riemis of Polienne blog fame and discovered something quite amazing for an instagram obsessive like myself - Paulien has TWO instagram accounts, one is her actual (you can see it here) and the other is a tester account.  She puts all her photos up on a private account to double check how they will look before she puts them up on her actual one.  Mind blown / what a great idea - the amount of times I think 'I'm sure that filter isn't quite right...)I have spent a lot of this week in Shoreditch - I really really like Shoreditch, there is so much going on, and it's perfect for exploring.  I am slightly obsessed with concept stores - specifically coffee shop / boutique ones and found two really fun ones on Redchurch Street - Modern Society which has a really good selection of independent brands and trendy attire, and also Kit & Ace whose shop till area is also a coffee bar with seats - such fun.Going forward, I am going to be focusing the blog on all things British, and I wanted to start you off with 4 British brands I am loving right now, do click on them below.Alice xxx Also do have a look at my Mother’s Day Gift Ideas on the menu drop down (3 little horizontal lines at the top right of the blog) 💐😍.

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly

This week I have been very disappointed that Spring didn’t arrive, had my umbrella actually turn inside out mid storm and tried sag aloo for the very first time (it was delicious). Also went all the way to Hogwarts (Watford) had some Butterbeer, loved the real Hogwarts Express and once again became sad about being a Muggle. Although I would almost certainly have been sorted into Ravenclaw ...It’s been a tough week for London but we keep calm and carry on. Is it just me, or when something like this happens, do people seem friendlier and kinder towards each other – especially on public transport?You will notice in my reference to public transport that I am still lurking in waiting list purgatory for my bike space at work … #notbitter(Literally as I am typing this, a friend sent me some bashed up selfies from a hospital bed in Rome – having been knocked off her bike! Starting to think perhaps the bike waiting list is trying to tell me something).I have also been thinking a lot about time. We think we have so much of it, it either drags or flies, we waste it or lose it, misuse it or are smug and incredibly productive with it. Ultimately it’s our time, and we should be using it to do what makes us happy. Easier said than done, but it’s about time we realised it. As youths in our twenties we are constantly being bombarded by inspirational Instagram quotes, Facebook posts and autobiographies of world-class entrepreneurs telling us what we SHOULD be doing. But what about what we could or even want to do?On the theme of time, the clocks go forward this weekend. I am incredibly resentful of losing an hour of sleep, but I love the prospect of longer evenings – one step closer to summer! Picnics, Pimms and pool parties (ok this isn’t the O.C but we can dream).Also despite the fact that supermarkets have been reminding us that Easter is on the way since New Year’s Day, as the big day approaches I for one am a huge fan of the orgy of chocolate on display. Crème Eggs, Malteaster Bunnies, Mini Eggs – there literally isn’t a weak link among them. Also if you haven’t tried the Mini Egg Easter cakes – with a lurid looking yellow cream inside, you absolutely must. They look hideous but taste delicious and are becoming increasingly elusive in the supermarkets of London. But if you track them down, it’s well worth the effort.It’s the small things … 

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world

This week Susannah has written a piece on her visit to the Tempietto in Rome during her university Spring break

A Harmonious Observance

Location: Rome, Italy.

The Morning of 12th March 2017.

This weekend I visited Roma, to see a friend who happens to be working there. However, what I don’t think she expected was me to force her to go and watch the sun rise at San Pietro in Montorio, or more famously the location is known to hold Bramante’s Tempietto.

The Tempietto is a highly underrated and almost entirely perfect part of Rome, and, as I discovered even better at dawn. One of the more fantastic parts about this purely simplistic and somewhat majestic building is that it is seems to avoid the draws of crowds of tourists. Leaving a visit to be one of reflective calm as you look back over the glory of Rome. As yet, I have failed to mention, the San Pietro in Montorio also holds one of the best views of Rome, although not one of the highest, and I am sure there are more majestic ones, to be able to hold Casel Sant’Angelo, St Peter’s and slightly controversial ‘Wedding Cake’ all in one eye range is truly remarkable. And, even more an ode to Bramante, when you see the various Dome’s peeking above the Roman roofs.

I have been before, but determinedly feel as if a trip to Rome without a visit is incomplete. However, this time I was determined to see the structure at dawn. And, even with danger of beginning to sound monotonous, it really was well worth the visit.

To precede such an occasion my friend whom I was visiting in Rome, Cosima, spent the evening out accompanied by various others. However, when the time came to head home, around 4 o’clock in the morning I suggested a visit to Piazza Navona to delight in the empty Piazza at night. Already ticking through my mind was the possibility of making it to 6.30am for dawn, I may have craftily looked up the time of the rising sun- so my aim was to fill the time until then. Piazza Navona soon led to a 24 hour cafe, where we revived ourselves on cups of tea and speck sandwiches. And such we found ourselves wondering home, where I informed Cosima that we would be climbing the up to visit the Tempietto and the sun. After slight protestations, I persuaded her that as we were already awake it would be silly not to. And, as we found out it really wasn’t very far away as we were staying in Trastevere. So with full energy restored we bounced, with quite a large amount of running up to the top of San Montorio. Upon the hill we were greeted by a fantastic view and were able to wish Good Morning to the Tempietto. Not a soul in sight we sat on the wall and waited around ten minutes for the sun to come up over the eastern hills. We found at that point not, much necessity to talk and instead listened to the tolling half hour bells, and the whizzing of vespas of those winding their way on early work routes through the city. To confirm, it was certainly worth it, and both of us had a sense of achievement when lazily strolling back down the hill towards the warm comfort of bed, being greeted on the way down by those tending to dogs early morning needs, where, half an hour previously had not been a soul inside, suddenly found single figures with their furry friends on mass. Sad to report on the option of another mass, that although we made plans to attend in Piazza Navona, we blissfully slept through the 11am starting time- leaving our sins for another week.

A bit about:

The Tempietto, is regarded as the epitome of the High Renaissance, for its simplistic and symmetrical form, commissioned by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The Spaniards still hold this part of Rome as the structure abuts the Spanish embassy.  What made it unique in 1502, was the use of the hemispherical dome. Dome making, perfected by the Ancient Roman’s was an lost art form, until Brunelleschi, applied it to Santi Maria del Firori in Florence about a third of the way through the 15th century. It was not until Bramante that the hemispherical Dome that, now makes up most of the Roman skyline, was rediscovered in his formation of the Tempietto. The structure was built to mark the spot where upon St Peter was martyred, however, in a Renaissance and Classical mix up, they sadly got the wrong hill.

Brayce Yourself

Welcome to our first column! Each week Emily, Susannah and I will be updating you with our thoughts from the week, so keep tuned and Brayce yourself for all the excitement to come...

Alice xxx

Alice

At the awkward late 20s stage, only minorly disillusioned by living and working in London

This week has been kind of normal, I've been to work, seen some friends, been out to dinner, remembered to do my washing, remembered to hang up washing, had a house argument over Whatsapp, had a few too many drinks on a week night, managed not to order any deliveroo yet, tried not to snack at my desk too much, overindulged in too much banana bread at my desk.  So really it's been a fun, but normal week. Except two things that shocked me out of my gentle south of the river dwelling life:First of all I was shouted at my an old man whilst riding my bicycle across Wandsworth Common.  There I am, just minding my own business, happily cycling home after work and very pleased that it is still light in the evening.  And ok, I KNOW you aren't supposed to cycle across the bridge, but I did cycle across the bridge and a man unleashed his rage upon me. It was definitely a telling off.  Not a polite 'You know you aren't supposed to cycle on this bridge?' it was a 'GET OFF YOUR BIKE THE SIGN SAYS NO CYCLING' and then a 'WHY HAVE YOU NOT STOPPED CYCLING?'.  Apparently hurling abuse at a girl on a bicycle is just fine, people do love throwing their pent up aggression at cyclists, this is not the first time it has happened, but I do not understand it - I am highly considerate, non-lycra clad (pretty slow) cyclist, who very occasionally breaks the rules ;-)The second was a confusing encounter at an interview in which everyone was at cross purposes.  A middle aged woman tried to convince me to do all sorts of work that I really didn't want to do for her at all.  And my 18 year old self would probably have been lured in, and then have been broken down during the ensuing year, and I wish I could have told  her not to be so taken in by the bright lights of a job in the 'arts world'.  Thankfully, 10 years on I left highly bemused, but also knowing that I would never work for her - and only a tiny bit put out by the highly 'understanding' recruitment agent.  Another note to my 18 year old self - beware recruitment agents, and estate agents for that matter.Have a look at my Mother's Day Gift Ideas on the menu drop down (3 little horizontal lines at the top right of the blog) 💐😍.

Emily

2 and a half years out of University, and the glamour of London working life is fading rapidly

New week, new job. Always a daunting task being the newbie. Where is the loo? What do you guys do for lunch? How can I perfectly time my new commute to ensure maximum sleep?  On top of all of these pressing questions, I have given up coffee for lent – which made remembering everyone’s names and my way around the new building significantly more arduous than usual. So far, no hideous embarrassments on my part, although being put on a ‘waiting list’ for a bicycle parking space annoyed me – it’s not like I was trying to get a table at Flat Iron in Soho on a Saturday night at 7:30pm?In other news I thoroughly enjoyed this weeks episode of Broadchurch – thank god for its return to form after a muddled second series. Also I would highly recommend a trip to the Evan’s and Peel Detective Agency in Earl’s Court if you fancy a side of sleuthing with your Friday night drinks. Tucked away in a side street, and in WEST LONDON of all places, this speakeasy will easily charm you.Finally, although the flirtation of spring is lovely, the warmer weather makes me incredibly nervous that confusing coat season is upon us. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears –you need something not too hot and not too cold. But I find that something just right is painfully hard to come by, and the odds are that the moment you find the perfectly chic lightweight companion – the weather will turn against you and become too hot. Spring coat suggestions welcome …

Susannah

About to graduate from University, excited for intrepid adventures into the real world

This week Susannah has escaped the library during university Spring break, and is seeking the cultural delights of Rome, she will be back with us next week :-)

5 Days Without My iPhone

I took 5 days off from my iphone, and you know what, it was great.No emails to answer, no pestering whats app messages, no analysing everything incase it might be Instagram worthy, and no staring at screens all the time!It was so good to be fully in the moment, and focus on the task in hand, without any distractions from incoming messages and I would highly recommend some tech time out.  You really start to notice how attached people are to their phones, in cafes, in queues, on the train, at the supper table, everyone is constantly plugged in.It also made me realise how massively reliant on my phone I am, and there are a few things you will need to consider before taking a tech detox:

  1. What's the TIME?.  On the first day I was constantly asking people what the time was (people on the street find this weird, who even talks to strangers anymore).  You definitely need a watch, I rather like this one:

  Swatch Maglietta Watch 2. And you will need an alarm clock.  Because you do still need to wake up.   The prettiness of this one may mean you don't throw it across the room every time you are rudely awakened by the shrill bell..Blooming Weather Alarm Clock 3. Getting places without Google Maps. This was tough.  You will need an A to Z  to find your way around, yes they do still exist:London A-Z 4. And you will have no idea how to find out when your train is leaving, or arriving.  Hasn't National Rail enquiries always existed?  It turns out not, but you can mail-order a Rail Timetable on 01730 813169.  And most stations do also have timetables in them, somewhere...Rail Times Great Britain 5. Music. All my music is on my phone, this was something I hadn't anticipated I would miss quite so much.  A radio is an excellent way to keep the tunes flowing... however if you want your music to travel with you, you may have to travel back in time first, and dig out that walkman or your hardly ever used mini-disc player.  And don't worry, if your walkman doesn't work anymore, Urban Outfitters is selling a snazzy new cassette tape player: Roberts Mini Radio Urban Outfitters Cassette Tape Player 6. Contacting people.  You may want to see people.  If you have a landline this is a good start.  You will have to arrange to meet people at a location and actually be at the exact place, ON TIME.  If you get stuck, pay phones do still exist in London amazingly - you need a minimum of 60p to place a call.  Or do a reverse charge call by dialling 0800-r-e-v-e-r-s-e.  So you could be a hermit for the week, but I would massively recommend spending some phone free time with people, so make arrangements before ditching the smart phone, or buy yourself a Nokia 3310 type phone (it does have a mini screen though):red_public_phone_boxes_-_covent_garden_london_england_-_july_10_2012 Doro PhoneEasy 508 7. Entertainment.  I am reading The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West and really didn't miss out on watching the telly.  Definitely do buy yourself a notebook and write things down, it's quite refreshing.The Edwardians by Vita Sackville WestOhh Dear Blue Dash Notebook8. Taking photos.  This is problematic.  Fortunately Boots sell a fun range of throw-away cameras, but you've only got 27 shots and no editing.  However, receiving developed photos is really fun and always worth the wait:Boots Single Use Camera So you should now be all set 🙌It is impossible to eliminate technology completely, and everybody has a phone, so people are going to show you photos on their phone, ask you if you've been invited to an event on Facebook, or show you YouTube videos of cats, or maybe even this video.But if you can ditch the phone and all screens for a week, I promise it really is worth it 😃.Alice xxx

A Tech Free Week

From Monday to Friday this week I am going tech free.  I KNOW.I have no idea how I am coping without technology (it's only day 1, but it might the the worst, I wonder if my hand will be twitching inadvertently at intervals towards my pocket, before realising there is no phone lurking there...).I have had a little battle about the pros and cons of technology for a while. I do love it, the opportunities it brings and how it makes many aspects of life life easier and more convenient. Due to the amazingness of modern technology, although you have only just received this post, I actually wrote it last Friday and scheduled it in to land neatly in your inbox today.But sometimes I really just want to be completely switched off from it,  and exist in a time before or without emails, Facebook and mobile phones, when people couldn't constantly contact you, and we didn't have information overload 24/7.Another reason for switching off the comms is that I just love my iphone a little bit too much.  We have, after all, been together 5 years.  And it goes absolutely everywhere with me and is almost always reliable.  I reach for it without thinking, and check my Instagram, Whatsapp, Email, Wordpress and Facebook Messenger on automatic.  Sometimes there are updates, often there aren't.  But I check anyway, even when there are no little red dots telling me how many messages I have received.  On my Instagram notifications are switched off, so every time I open the app it's a little bit exciting, perhaps someone has liked a photo....This I know, is not good.Apparently, the reason for this need to constantly check our phones is that a new notification such as a 'like' on Instagram or a Retweet, triggers dopamine in our brains which causes 'seeking behaviour'. And we are in a loop of constantly seeking, being rewarded too quickly, and seeking again straight away.  Dopamine is also stimulated by unpredictability - all those emails and texts we receive that come at random times with as yet unknown information, are also leaving us wanting a little more every time they pop up.Whether or not this is actually true, I definitely do spend far too much time looking at screens, big and small.  At work there is not a whole lot that I can do about this, but I can use my phone less.  Perhaps check only twice a day.  I have started leaving my phone in a different room at night which stops any before sleep Insta checks, and checking my phone is no longer the first thing I do in the morning.  And it turns out alarm clocks are just as good at waking you up.  (Also Suri scares me, it's likes she's always listening, maybe she's brain washing me in my sleep, who knows.)I am also aware that all this tech free stuff is a bit rich from an online blogger ... but maybe because I'm so tuned in, it's even more important to have some time out from the bright lights of the online world and social media.So I'm turning my comms off for 5 days and this will mean that:

  • My phone will be switched off, and I will not be texting or Whatsapping you (I am looking forward to having a Whatsapp free week - guys I love you all, and every whatsapp group is just as important to me, but it will be nice to have a week without being informed that a hen party date has changed again).
  • No emails (I am very excited about this one), I'm not a fan of the email, particularly of ones I never signed up for.
  • I will not be Facebooking, Tweeting or Instagramming (my heart falls slightly at the thought of no Instagram - this will be the hardest, no filter altering or hash tagging for a whole week, although it's also quite a relief).
  • No looking at any screens, so no TV or general laptop / computer time.  This I think will be ok, I shall read some books and write things down in a notebook.

Hopefully going cold turkey won't be too hard, and I'm actually looking forward to a little break.  I think your hardest part will be limiting the time I use my phone when I'm switched back on again.I hope you are all having lovely weeks too, and see you on the weekend with an update!Alice xxx

A Year of Blogging!

Happy New Year!!  I hope you enjoyed many celebrations and are looking forward to 2017 😃.January 2017 is also a bit of a milestone, as it has been entire year since I started writing my blog on a weekly basis, which is very exciting - one WHOLE year, thank you all for keeping up so far 💕.2016 Best Nine have kindly shown me which of my Instagram posts were the most popular - have a look here -  and I thought it would be fun to have a look back at nine of my blog posts too, so here they are 😘Alice xxx

1. #ThatCoat Went Viral

 Alice Frances That Coat ZaraAn Epidemic #ThatCoatThere's this blue and white printed Zara coat everyone seems to be wearing...It all got very exciting when the Daily Mail picked up mine and Emily's @thatcoat instagram account exclusively dedicated to a certain Zara Coat, and we went from 200 to 5000 followers in one week.  We still haven't heard anything from Zara (I was hoping they might send me my very own #ThatCoat for Christmas) but I am very happy to tell you, it's currently in the sale online, and might well be your last chance to pick up this very special coat 😉.  If this is your first encounter with #ThatCoat, have a little read here.

 

2. An interview with Rosanna Lonsdale

 Banana Leaf Lamp Rosanna LonsdaleRosanna Lonsdale LampsI spoke with Rosanna Lonsdale about starting her business and how she hand makes her beautiful lamps.  She has since launched her website, do have a look here

3. A vintage dress and a Magnolia tree

 Murray Arbeid Dress Magnolia SargentianaMagnolia Sargentiana in a Murray Arbeid DressMy favourite tree and my favourite dress.  I put on a vintage dress by Murray Arbeid and climbed about in the Magnolia Sargentiana var robusta Chenault at High Beeches Garden. It was fun, the photos are even more fun, and there is a tiny bit of plant knowledge in there too. 

4. Photos by Benoit at the Barbican

 Benoit Grogan Avignon BarbicanBenoît Grogan-Avignon, PhotographerI visited Benoit, a portrait, editorial and event photographer, who takes the most beautiful photos.  We chatted about his journey into photography, and he took some photos of me at the Barbican. 

Limehouse Ceramics Elizabeth MacnealLimehouse CeramicsI visited Elizabeth Macneal of Limehouse Ceramics in her studio, we spoke about her making process and starting up her business.  She has the most idyllic studio at the end of her garden, I am really quite jealous. 

6. An Afternoon at the Viaduct

 The Viaduct Lucy Wang DressThe ViaductI put on a dress by Lucy Wang and we had a fun time taking photos in the Viaduct in Sussex.  Photographs by Sarah Bray 

7. A Visit to Sophie's Shop

 Sophie's Shop East GrinsteadSophie's Shop RevisitedI spent an afternoon with Sophie in her shop in East Grinstead trying on all sorts of vintage and new designer clothes, and came away with some very exciting finds. 

8. The Garden

 IMG_8884HydrangeaI took many photos of High Beeches Garden through the year, capturing the changing of the seasons.  For some early flowering plants and camellia inspiration have a look at The Plant Lesson, for a variety of April blooms A Walk in the Garden, wonderful Cherry Blossom, Riotous Rhododendrons, a naturalised Wildflower Meadow and fiery Autumn Colour.  Oh and don't miss the Flower Show for an overdose on camellias 😍.  If you want to learn more, definitely have a look at the High Beeches Garden blog written by Sarah Bray. 

9. An Adventure in the Scilly Isles

 Tresco Scilly Isles in a Kate Spade DressThe Scilly Isles in a Kate Spade DressAnd we visited Tresco in the Scilly Isles (maybe one of my all time favourite places), and took a few photos on the beach, in this delightful dress from Kate Spade.  Photographs taken by Emily Bray and Sarah Bray

What Is A Blog?

Over the last week and the many Christmas festivities I have been asked a number of times in a variety of different ways 'Where are you working at the moment?'.People love this question, often they want to know the answer, so they can happily and safely put you in a box.But I fear I have been causing some confusion.  When asked this I tend to start off with, 'I work in a bookshop', this is easy to process, and then 'I also work for an online clothing company' also fairly easy to understand.Then I size them up and make a calculated decision as to whether they can handle 'And I also write a blog'.The thing is, reactions tend to vary from one extreme to the other, sometimes an excited 'I also write one!' or 'Where can I find it?' to the fearful, technology challenged response 'Oh I can't keep up with The Facebook and all that twittering', to the polite but I think blogging is a load of nonsense, move the conversation on of 'gosh how interesting, and what are your sisters up to at the moment?'.My absolute favourite reaction so far has been 'So you're a bit like a Kardashian?' (I mean, the thing is, no, I'm just not.  I've never had a fake tan, nor does my name begin with K and I don't have a reality TV show - I'm really quite far off Kimye, but it's an interesting thought 😘).However, the question I do get over and over again is 'What exactly is a blog?', so I thought I would do some helpful explaining:

  • A blog is a curated personal journal that exists on the internet and which anyone can read.
  • The word blog comes from 'Web Log', and essentially is your own website that you update on an ongoing basis, I use the platform WordPress to do just this.
  • Blogs are often themed - cooking and beauty feature highly - but you can find one on almost any topic, if racing cars are your thing, you are sure to find a good one.
  • Blogs are a good way of keeping in touch with people at home when you are travelling - an easily accessible travel journal.
  • Blogging is free - for better or for worse - you are free to write about what you want, when you want and how you want, and it doesn't cost you a penny.   I never have a specified angle as I am just writing for me, anything or anyone I feature I am genuinely enthusiastic about and like very much.
  • Blogging is private to an extent - as with any personal platform on the internet you decide how much your followers do or don't see.  I wouldn't like you to think that I am giving you a false view point, it's just that it is of course important to keep certain aspects private.  However if there are things you would like to know, please ask away!

What I love about blogging

  • Research, I love researching for posts and greatly enjoy learning things along the way
  • An excuse to take photos, ok I love instagram too, but it's a very good place to document goings on
  • Meeting people, I have met many fascinating people, and love hearing their stories
  • Sharing stories of the people I meet and write about, and hopefully inspiring my readers!
  • Creative outlet, I am interested in so many things, the blog is an excellent place to bring them together and display them

So, if you sit next to someone at dinner this eve and they tell you they write a blog - do ask them what it's about and where you can find it, and don't seize up terror at the thought of having a conversation about The Web.  Even my Grandmother who is nearing 90 understands the concept, she is often asking when I will have a new blog on The Net - really its not so hard 😉.And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I will see you in 2017, and thank you for sticking with me all this year, there is lots more to come 😍Alice xxx

Oh To See A Mountain Covered With A Quilt of Snow

❄️A White Christmas Photo Story ❄️

❤️Starring Susie, Ant, Emily & Pip💙

by Alice xxx 💕

Photography 📷 & Styling 👠 by Alice Frances & Emily Bray

img_6357img_6353

👧'Sisters, sisters👧There were never such devoted sistersNever had to have a chaperone, no sirI'm here to keep my eye 👀on her'

img_6421img_6423

💃'The best things happen while you're dancing 👯Things that you would not do at home come naturally on the floor 

For dancing soon becomes romancing 💘When you hold a girl in your arms that you've never held before'

img_6390 img_6396

 ⛄️'SnowIt won't be long before we'll all be there with snowSnowI want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow
SnowI long to clear a path and lift a spade of snowSnowOh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow' ⛄️
img_6426
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
❄️And may all your Christmases be white'❄️
img_6440 
img_6404
 Susannah wears:
Top by Urban Outfitters, jeans by All Saints, trainers by Superga, socks by Topshop
Ant wears:
Playsuit by Yves Saint Laurent, shoes by Carvela, vintage belt
Emily wears:
Dress by Zara, top by H&M, desert boots by Clarks, jewellery by Alex Monroe
Song Lyrics by Irving Berlin from the film 'White Christmas'

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas day, and a very Happy Christmas 😘🎁🎄!!I promised a pic of my Christmas outfit and here it is. I may have worn it to almost all Christmas parties this season, so I am sorry if you have seen me in it before now, although I am very happy to have seen you!  The green skirt is from H & M, black polo neck Zara, shoes are from Oasis, and the sparkly necklace was originally attached to a Clements Ribeiro dress I found in TK Maxx.   I often get teased for wearing a uniform of a waisted skirt with a polo neck, and I haven't strayed at all far this year, it's just a lovely combo 😉 😘.Pip, I am sure you will be happy to hear, has also had a very nice day indeed and is currently gently snoozing in the kitchen.  He was very pleased to join in with our Christmas photo earlier ❤️🐶.Alice xxximg_4019

Bookshop Musings

Over the last couple of months I have been working at Potterton Books 📚 in Chelsea.I have worked in all sorts of shops, but working in a bookshop 📚 has been by far the most enjoyable experience, mainly I think, because of the people 👧👦👴who come to visit.People who visit bookshops are often on a personal mini quest.  Once through the door, their exploration 🔭 begins, not yet knowing what they will discover, but firm in the knowledge that there will be all sorts of delights 💖.  In they come and browse in the hushed silence, getting lost in all sorts of tomes, moving from one title to the next, and discovering new authors and new topics.  They will by chance find a book 📘 on something they have long been interested in, or come across a really good yarn not yet read, there is always something to pique the interest.And often the people who visit have stories to tell, the lady who has worked for 20 years designing television adverts 📺 and comes in for inspiration, the vintage car enthusiast 🚗, always popping in to see if we have any new exciting titles, the interior designer 🎨who pops around the corner from Pimlico Road.And often people just come in for a chat 👧.  I like the way they feel they can come and sit for a little while in the shop and share their stories and I never quite know what to expect.  Dogs are very welcome too 🐾🐩😊 and we might even make you a cup of tea ☕️.We are an art and design 🎨bookshop 📚, but we specialise in other books too, vintage and new, and we have all sorts - the latest garden 🌳design book, a new children's 🚂 book, an out of print vintage cookery book 🍴.  We also represent a number of artists and illustrators, so there are many prints and paintings to be admired and bought,  we currently have an exhibition on of Beatrice Forshall's hand-coloured engravings.I love this variety, and with new books and art arriving all the time I learn snippets of all sorts of things.  We have just started a 'Book Club' 📚on the website, and this in-depth look at some of our authors and artists has been a chance to delve deeper into their work.  I have also been updating the Instagram 📱account @PottertonBooksLondon so do have a look for some daily bookshop inspiration.We hold book signings and private views, recently Maggi Hambling 🚬gave a talk about her new book 'Touch: Works on Paper' (if you get a chance to hear Maggi talk do go, she is really quite a character), a book signing for Neisha Crosland's beautiful book 'Life of a Pattern' and our next talk is to be Andrew Ginger and Peter York 'in conversation', to coincide with the launch of Ginger's book 'Cecil Beaton at Home'.  There is all sorts of exciting happenings.If you haven't been to a bookshop recently, you really should.  I know you can buy all the books on Amazon, but part of the enjoyment is the discovery, the choosing and then buying of the book, and going away happy with your next read, or the perfect present.  And you really never quite know who or what you might discover in a bookshop 💕📚.Alice xxxPotterton Books Londonimg_1252img_0976img_0615img_1004img_1572img_0289img_2077img_2167img_1955img_1959img_2600img_2092