Posts Tagged ‘indulging’

Six courses, seven wines, four amuse-bouches, one palate cleanser and a plate of petit fours

In Food & Drink on July 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

If anyone ever offers you vouchers amounting to a substantial sum of money for the restaurant of your choice in London in exchange for blogging about their dishwasher powder, then might I recommend Viajante?

Ever since watching The Trip last year, I’ve been determined that, somehow or other, I would have one amazing meal this year. And last night I did.

Now I’m not going to review the restaurant – without a Will Self App™ I simply don’t have enough adjectives – but show you what I had as one unashamed bit of showing off. Read the rest of this entry »

#54 Shoot

In Kids, midlife on August 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

It’s not every day that a national newspaper wants to shoot me for the cover of its magazine – and there are many, many reasons why, as anyone who has ever seen, or tried to take, a picture of me will testify. Read the rest of this entry »

#51 Feet

In midlife, White collar denial on July 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm

It’s hard to relax while an Eastern European woman is wrapping your feet in cling film.

It was my first proper pedicure (I know! At my age!) and while the results were silky smooth, there is nevertheless someting culturally uncomfortable about having somebody working on your feet.

Perhaps its the supplicatory position required by the practitioner, or latent imagery from Sunday School stories of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13: 3-17 if you’re interested), made slightly scarier by the fact that mysterious groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists, Anabaptists and Amish still practice it. (I’ve never had my shoes shined either.) This is all made even more awkward when you consider that this is a woman who is brilliant at her job (Hell, I don’t even HAVE a job) and whose services cost more and are more in demand than those of a freelance journalist. Read the rest of this entry »

#49 Dreaming of Soho, sandwiches and a really good cup of coffee

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on June 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

So it’s now finally official, I didn’t get that job. But before I cave in to disappointment, I thought I’d pause one last time to indulge the fantasy I’d created about what it would be like to be back working in an office…

The fantasy basically involves me meandering up through Soho in the morning, perhaps pausing to indulge in a really good shop-bought takeaway coffee, full strength, ground on the premises, and with that pleasing crema it’s impossible to replicate at home. Read the rest of this entry »

#41 Be nice

In Family on April 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I have, back in the employed day, been lucky enough to stay in some fancy places in my time.

When I wrote for Wallpaper* in its early days, I got accustomed to their prolific spending on unnecessary extravagance. I’ve gone four-star in Hamburg and Milan, and stayed in the hotel the Queen visited in Innsbruck.

When I got married we honeymooned for a night in a London hotel (the one where Pete Doherty got arrested) rather than going to the Maldives; and when the first of my best friends got married, she put all of her bridesmaids up in the RAC Club and I still regret not taking advantage of the famous swimming pool.

Needless to say, hotels have not featured heavily in my life of late. I’m more likely to be found flat swapping or house sitting, and even on one occasion camping. But a big family occasion last weekend necessitated the booking of overnight accommodation in Manchester. In the pictures, the City Inn (pictured) looked scarily expensive – lofty atrium, sculptural floral arrangements, Macs in every room – but in fact it turned out to be an exercise in how to create the illusion of grandeur through modern design and good service.

In contrast to the budget hotel I visited at Christmas for another big family get together, City Inn eschews patterned upholstery and soft focus prints of crocuses in favour of clean lines, neutral colours, and sans serif fonts. The all-inclusive breakfasts were superb (with some impressive egg poaching and a tasty kedgeree), much better than the more expensive joint on the other side of the city centre, and the service, from staff stylishly clad in black, polite to the point of putting John Lewis to shame. Aside from the Macs, everything is in fact quite pared down, but it still managed to feel sumptuous.

Of these, the biggest value added component was the one that cost the least – polite, efficient staff who knew what they were doing and, most importantly, were nice to you. This is going to sound glib, but sometimes the cost-free commodity of people being simply being nice to you can outweigh any number of marble-lined bathrooms or silk bedspreads when it comes to making you feel special. And when you’re down on your luck, feel taken for granted by your children, are sick of domestic chores, or even (as I know those who still have jobs are) just working your ass of for an ungrateful boss because half the team have been made redundant, then it’s really nice to be looked after. And even better when that niceness is also displayed by the tram operators who bought my ticket for me, siblings buying me lunch, and strangers allowing us to gatecrash their table football game.

I’ve just read my ex-Wallpaper* boss Tyler Brûlé’s recent FT column on how joyful he felt staying at the Hôtel des Bergues in Geneva. While I wouldn’t turn down a business expenses trip to the Hôtel des Bergues, on our more meagre budget we managed to capture the same joys of Spring at 1/6 of the price, albeit with a view of Piccadilly Station in place of the Alps. But then I suppose luxury is relative – I don’t expect M. Brûlé would normally have to wash school uniform or clean his own toilet.

My six-year-old son, who had already had an emotional weekend watching his team lose in the 93rd minute, almost cried when it was time to check out.

#37 Sample sales

In Save cash, White collar denial on March 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

What’s the most extravagant thing in your wardrobe? Mine is probably the £5 skirt I bought from H&M. Or the £10 high street dress.

These aren’t the items that I paid most for I have to admit – they hang next to a Marc Jacobs jacket I bought myself as a wedding present five years ago, and a fabulous pink Paul Smith coat also dating back to times of full employ – but the ones that have been costliest.

The coat cheers me, and everyone else, up with its brightness and even if I hadn’t bought it at a samples sale, pound per wear it probably comes in at about 75p so far, making it about  600% cheaper than the  high street skirt which still has its price tag on. The Marc Jacobs jacket has been around so long it is now coming back into fashion.

To be a budget epicure, rather than just an underemployed down and out, it is important to distinguish between extravagance and luxury. The irresistably cheap item bought in haste for a knock down sum often ends up being a complete waste of money.

This is a roundabout way of justifying my trip last week to London’s famous Designer Warehouse Sale (once voted by Time Out one of the 100 best reasons to live in the capital). To be fair, I haven’t been for a year and I had just been paid for some work so a small treat was due. By sticking to a few basic rules, I manged to keep the credit card under control and still rejoice in some healthy bargains:

* only buy something you feel confident walking straight out of the changing room in (now is not the time for major image makeovers)

* only buy something you already have the shoes to wear with (buying a bargain dress is not an excuse to then go out and buy a pair of expensive shoes)

* avoid loud or unconventional patterns you don’t have the panache to carry off (me, not you)

* cash in on good tailoring rather than eye catching fashion statements (TopShop is adequately on trend if that’s your priority)

* don’t waste time on basics like T-shirts or vests when you can get something identical for less at Uniqlo

* and don’t imagine for a moment you’d ever get an opportunity to wear the Vivienne Westwood suit that’s down from £1,900 to £400. That’s still £400 pounds, bargain or no.

I came out with a Betty Jackson dress, shorts, cardie and a dip-dyed silk blouse, all for a total of £102 (£41 less than the original cost price of the blouse alone). Still a lot more money than I’ve spent on myself in a very long time, but I’ve already worn two of my purchases and, unlike some cheaper items from cut-price high street stores, I’m confident they won’t have fallen apart in five years’ time.

The next men’s DWS is this weekend (26-28 March) featuring items from the wardrobes of Elton John and David Furnish (raising money for their Aids Foundation charity); the next women’s is 18-20 June.

For other sample sales in London, visit Sample Sales London. If you live in Manchester, try the Manchester Fashion Network. If you live somewhere else and know of any others, then do let us know.

#34 Eat better, not more

In Food & Drink, White collar denial on March 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Several months of comforting myself with comfort food (see post #25) have left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Not least around the waist area. So I have decided to heed the advice of my veg box supplier which is sending me leaflets saying ‘Eat Better, Not More’ and my local wine merchant which has recently emblazoned across it’s facade ‘Drink Better, Not More’. Read the rest of this entry »

#27b After Van Gogh

In Food & Drink on January 22, 2010 at 12:10 am

After visiting the Royal Academy, I thought I’d nip across the road and kill time in Fortnum & Mason, just for the Hell of it. And because I like the colour of the facade.

Now I’ve no idea who actually buys things in there, but the descriptions of some of the sweetmeats and other foodstuffs were so joyously ambrosial, I felt moved to share them: Read the rest of this entry »

#21 A little luxury

In White collar denial on December 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Is it just me, or do things feel more luxurious when they come in a black and yellow shop-box and folded in tissue paper? A sense that whatever is inside must be really precious.

It feels so long since I’ve had anything really special, or shopped at the department store with the black and yellow insignia, that it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t have mattered what was inside the tissue paper as the packaging was thrill enough (for anyone interested, it was a gorgeous scarf from a well-known knitwear specialist which I’ve been wearing to watch TV).

This year’s Christmas haul was really quite pleasing – including a  black Moleskine diary to encourage me to move on from the succession of Time Out diaries that saw me through the last decade (they still haven’t sent me the one they promised me in exchange for all the free work I did).

Meanwhile my present to myself was a Hummingbird Red Velvet cupcake, provoked by someone buying me a book of pictures of Hummingbird cakes imagining that I’d be able to replicate them in my own kitchen – as if. Again, the cake was made all the more delicious for being packaged in its own tiny box with wire handle. Divine decadence (as it should have been at that price).

We also stayed overnight in a hotel! OK, a Premier Inn. OK, a Premier Inn in Watford. OK, a Premier Inn, in Watford, with a view of Tesco car park, the ring road, and the Euston-Stoke railway line. But even these looked magical in the wintry sunrise, the light sparkling off the frozen windscreen of the VW.

For really all we want for Christmas is to feel special. And a pretty scarf in a box, or an individual cupcake, do that. I remember one year receiving an expensive set of stacking kitchen bowls, a duvet cover, and oven gloves – Finnish designed and useful additions to the house, but a brutal reinforcement of my position in it.

I’m afraid unlike more energetic recessionistas, I failed to enforce a DIY Christmas. I didn’t make a wreath for my door (and did I miss the memo that these were suddenly compulsory this year?). I didn’t string up spray-painted pine cones and dried fruit by way of festive garlands, I just dug out last year’s fairy lights and tucked the sections that didn’t work under some branches of the tree. I didn’t make my own Christmas pudding (why bother, when Dutchy originals will do it for you?). I didn’t run up Christmas Eve stockings from old clothes – I bunged some brightly coloured ‘bags for life’ in the fireplace. I bought my plum and apple chutney from the school home produce stall. And I forced my mum to make mince pies and jam tarts with my children. And they were still inedible.

I did manage to make six christmas cards in my printmaking class, though it took me a whole term and cost more than the packets of shop-bought ones. I’m not sure how festive the image of the stone harbour wall is, but perhaps it makes some sort of statement about 2009. At least I put the life belt in the picture. Not, however, the ladder.

#19 Gifts for the Doley in your life

In Down and Out, Tips on December 21, 2009 at 11:14 am
A few topical gifts for the Doley in your life:
Technically I suppose we should all be either sending charity cards to help other people, or e-cards to help the environment, or better still e-charity cards such as those from Shelter. (I especially like the one where you can click on the reindeers’ noses to hear them whistle Once in Royal David’s City.)
However, these from Manchester-based design group peddling  Christmas by Colour seem to sum up the prevailing mood.  Or at least the red one does. Sadly the C100 M75 Y2 K17 (dark blue) Mayfair and Park Lane card may be more appropriate next year. £3.95 for a pack of 6 or £11.95 for two packs of each set.
And because they are produced by just a samll independent northern design outfit trying to make their way in a harsh world, they could be argued to be a charitable cause.
Mrs Scrooge by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Posy Simmonds (£4.99 Pan Macmillan)

The uplifting little tale of cuddly eco-warrior Mrs Scrooge  that will make you appreciate Christmas and good poetry. Some of Mrs Scrooge’s husbandry might feel familiar to those who’ve also been watching the pennies this year:

‘She hated waste, consumerism, Mrs Scrooge foraged

in the London parks for chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries,

ate leftovers, recycled, mended, passed on, purchased secondhand,

turned the heating down and put on layers, walked everywhere,

drank tap-water, used public libraries, possessed a wind-up radio,

switched of lights, lit candles (darkness is cheap and Mrs Scrooge

liked it) and would not spend one penny on a plastic bag.’

Make do and Mend. An updated version of the Wartime classic from (who else?) the people’s republic of  John Lewis. I quite like the tips about cleaning your shoes with banana skins, freezing leftover wine (as if) for cooking, keeping tomatoes in the fruit bowl, and using mint as fly repellent, but perhaps the most middle class tip must be :

‘To shift stubborn deposits at the bottom of wine decanter, add crushed eggshells and a little water, swill briskly, turn out and rinse well.’ Doesn’t say whether the eggs should be barn laid or from which bird. Organic duck eggs ok?

Proof that socialist principles are not incompatible with a bourgeois lifestyle. Sadly they’d sold out yesterday when I went to buy a job lot for friends.

Why Not Socialism? GA Cohen Princeton University Press (£10.99)

Possibly the clearest argument for socialism, beautifully and wittily written, especially the chapter setting out the case for socialism in terms of a camping trip. Plus, it allows anyone down on their luck to parade newly-imposed lifestyle choices (such as state education or public transport) and political and ethical badges of honour. It’s a huge loss that leading political philosopher ‘Jerry’ Cohen died unexpectedly  of a stroke in August, just before this book was published. But brilliantly titled works such as If You’re An Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? live on.

Cuffs, wrist warmers, finger-and-thumbless gloves… whatever you want to call them, these allow you to keep typing through winter without having to give in and put the central heating on. One friend I gave them to says it’s a bit like wearing a long-sleeved studenty jumper, without having to be a student. They are also achingly on-trend (according to a piece I read in the Standard). I got mine (cashmere, pink) for a tenner from my friend Lou who has a Saturday stall at Greenwich Market. See, again selflessly helping the independent designer/maker.

Home-made marmalade, £2. Not made in my home, obviously, but bought at the school Christmas fair. Comfortingly homely with a hint of bitterness – unemployed life embodied in a condiment.