Monday, 31 October 2011

The Witching Hour

Despite having a wardrobe brimming with so much black as to make Morticia turn in her grave with envy I have to say I'm a bit of a Halloween bore.  Apart from the odd bit of pumpkin carving around Halloween we don't really celebrate.  Not much to carve this year either when this is all that is on offer from the weekly organic veggie box...

Round the 'hood however it's been Halloween galore with plenty of costume themed parties being held over the weekend.   There were numerous ghouls, spirits and spectres with convincingly deathly pallors seen walking down my high street wearing all manner of elaborate get ups, and strangely, I'm not talking about the hoodies, drug dealers and crack cocaine addicts you find round these parts on a Saturday night.

Full marks for creativity to those partying youngsters I saw out and about - I saw some fabulous costumes: an elf with a garland of flowers in her long blonde tresses wearing a green gown, a chap in a skeleton jumpsuit, a long haired, white faced fellow resplendent in tailcoats and black top hat about to get off a bus, and an angel in a white puffy meringue satin ball dress. 

Tonight it was the kids turn and tiny monsters, ghouls, demons and witches, high on sugar consumption, were out in force on my street trick or treating with weary parents in tow. Around this time every year I have a bit of bah humbug moment when I realise that I have an empty cookie jar at home which has been empty for some time, and that I have no hope of offering anything but a few withered spring onions kicking around the back of the fridge and a tiny uncarved pumpkin to those who come knocking.  Pretty lame really.  That's when I turn off all the lights and flee leaving the house in darkness to have dinner away from home at the local pub with Mr V until it's all over.

I thought I'd use the evening outing as an excuse to play Morticia and chose a bit of a Salem's Lot type coat to top it all off.  And on the topic of all things Morticia I've noticed traffic is hitting my blog from, of all things, a Goth social media site!  I'm not quite sure what to think!  Whatever you get up to - Happy Halloween all!

Lace biker jacket: Christopher Kane; Dress: Topshop Boutique; Sheer silk top underneath dress: Cos; Coat: Sportmax; Boots: Alexander McQueen; Necklace: Merle O'Grady; Belt: Vintage

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Kew Gardens

Autumn in is full swing here in London with chilly mornings, cloudy skies and strong winds blowing outside at night. The heating is back on and I'm whipping out my coats to go out. But it was a different story at the beginning of October.  Believe it or not these photos of me wearing a spaghetti strap sun dress were taken on the first Sunday of October when the UK was treated to some freakishly hot weather and the mercury hit a staggering 29 degrees!  However my reports of the "heat wave" caused great amusement to my family back in Oz where hot means temperatures  in excess of 35 degrees.

Here though such weather in October is virtually unheard of.  It was so freakish that Spring flowers such as these crocuses were out in bloom again.

Following a botanist's recommendation via the BBC, Mr V and I took a trip to Kew Gardens that record breaking weekend to see firsthand the effect of the Indian summer on plant life.  In addition to seeing crocuses so late in the year, it felt very odd to be walking through an autumnal scene with a light summer dress and sandals on, with the foliage of the trees turning colour to burnt orange, bright red and pale gold...

...with autumn leaves already covering the ground, the dry shells of fallen acorns, pine cones and chestnuts crunching underfoot...

...bright red holly berries hanging from boughs to remind us that Christmas was encroaching even though we felt it was too hot for our jackets...

...and seeing mushrooms and species of fungus sprouting from the earth and at the foot of trees despite the air feeling hot and dry.

Wearing sandals to beat the heat turned out to be poor choice of footwear to go marching across the forest floor in.  I actually sustained several painful puncture wounds from standing on one too many spiny chestnut shells to get these photos!  And I actually had a pretty bad attack of hay fever from all the pollen in the air from the confused trees that were back in bloom.

It's been years since I've been to Kew Gardens and it is such a stunning place to spend a day if you like nature, gardens and plants.  There were beautiful peaceful lakeside scenes like this one to take in.

There are several magnificent glass greenhouses around the grounds housing all manner of plant species in architecture styles spanning several centuries from the Victorian to the modern.

My favourite greenhouse is the one with the giant water lilies.  The giant lily pads floating atop the surface of the water with their magnificent blooms opening up above them never fail to fascinate me.

And I especially love the elegant architecture of the Victorian glasshouses, their multifaceted structures and crystalline windows catch the light beautifully as the sun starts to go down in the late afternoon.

My dress is about seven or eight years old.  It was the striking print that sold me.  I like that it is a kind of geometric and botanical hybrid that your imagination can twist into many familiar shapes.  Is it fans? Exotic lilies? Palm leaves? The gills on the underside of mushrooms?

So I thought it an appropriate choice for an outing to a botanical garden. I chose some zany earrings to match the print.

The pearl trim crop sleeve cardigan  was a vintage find years ago during my student days trawling Portobello Market, days when you could still actually find bargain vintage clothing at the place! The antique marcasite frog brooch with ruby red eyes was bought in Barts Bazaar in Bath. It was one of two, this frog and a smaller one, which I gave to my little sister for Christmas.

To anyone who has not yet been to Kew Garden's I highly recommend a visit.  We thoroughly enjoyed our day out there and it was a reminder that having such a wonderful place right here in London warrants another visit soon to see how it changes with the seasons.

Silk print dress: Karen Millen; Cropped red cardigan: Vintage; Marcasite Frog brooch: Vintage; Earrings, Warehouse; Jewelled Sandals: Zara; Bag: Michael Kors; Beige Leather jacket: Bershka

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Think Pink

I'm currently trying to face tackling the wardrobe changeover.  You know, that awful moment when you have to overcome the seasonal denial, start stashing away the summer things and bring out the winter ones or risk freezing to death.  It's forced me to take stock mentally of what I've been buying over the last few months.

I thought at the beginning of summer there wasn't going to be much to tempt me to buy in terms of new summer gear.  However despite having sworn to only stick to what I already had for my summer wardrobe, I now realise I actually bought quite a few things, most of them in various shades of pink!  Yes that's right, despite my tendency to wear copius amounts of black, I actually love the colour pink.

The whole colour blocking trend may have whizzed straight by me but years of ballet classes wearing quite a lot of pink put ballet chic right up there on my internal fashion radar.  Which led me to shop for clothes in the most saccharine saturated shades of pink I could get my hands on.

When it comes to food I don't really have a sweet tooth, but when it comes to injecting colour in my wardrobe then candy floss, coconut candy, Turkish Delight, sugar mice, humbugs, bubblegum, marshmallows, cupcakes with icing, pastel pink macaroons, you name it, I will readily consume its sugar loaded, candy coated, fashion equivalent and shamelessly wear it head to toe.

This ice pink jumper and pleated lace skirt that I found on sale at Whistles are staying out of storage for a while yet in the hopes of a mild autumnal day which I intend to survive by layering up with even more pink.  I just need a pink coat!

I'm especially enamoured with this skirt which simultaneously satiates a love of lace, accordian pleats, pink and all things girly.  Even Mr V remarked it reminded him of something that Carrie Bradshaw, that style hero of my generation, would probably be seen twirling down Fifth Avenue in.  I read in a magazine this month that pink is one of those colours which you should steer clear of wearing as you get older.  Yawn!  Not going to let some sourpuss style advisors spoil my fun!  I actually had people smile at me on public transport in London wearing pink - no mean feat in this city!

So here's to being old enough to make up my own mind about what I want to wear.  And for some truly inspirational advice on where to stick style advice from "experts" for the "aged" see this wonderful post by the unstoppably fabulous Vintage Vix!

Pink lace pleated skirt and silk cotton mix jumper: Whistles; Nude pink vest: Cos; Pale pink cashmere vest: Topshop; Ballet flats: Zara; Pendant: Vintage

Sunday, 23 October 2011


It may be well into Autumn but my brain is still in holiday mode.  I still need some warm thoughts to get me through the ever shortening days!  So I'd like to show you our favourite beach in Spain where Mr V and I always try to make sure we spend a day.  It's in a part of the Andalusian coastline called the Costa de Luz.  It is also where, on a clear day, you can look across the mouth of the Mediterranean and just make out the dark shape of Morocco in the distance. In fact here your mobile phone might suddenly start bleeping to notify you that it has switched to a Moroccan network provider, that's how close you are to North Africa.

This is Zahara de los Atunes and this is about as crowded as this little bay we often visit gets.  The water is crystal clear, the sand so white it sparkles and there are great waves for body surfing.

The way down to the beach.

My beach basket full of beach snacks and err... clothes!  I like to have options when we are spending the whole day out along the coast and may decide later to head impromptu into a town centre to eat.  Despite it still being baking hot during the day in September it can be very cool in the mornings and evenings.

This is somewhere you can totally relax and forget about the world at large.

We noticed that Andalusian men of all ages favour swimming shorts in the hottest shades of hot pink.  We spotted them on boys, young men, older men with families, even grandfathers.  In a culture that is still very much defined by tradition, it was almost like the menfolk here have chosen to rebelliously express their joie de vivre while enjoying a day at the beach by bucking traditional ideas of what colour should be associated with masculinity.  Mr V couldn't quite stretch to this unashamed embracing of fuchsia in male swimwear and stuck to bright orange instead.

Mr V also loves this beach because it is Great White shark free (we hope!).  There has been a distressing number of fatal shark attacks off Western Australia's coast and near my home town of Perth with two horrible incidents in last couple of weeks.  Distressing also is the Western Australian Premier pronouncing the government will consider mass shark culls without considering the ecological impact of doing such a senseless thing.  When will we learn to live with nature?  I think that had my life not turned out the way it had I might have been a marine biologist.  I have great respect for the sea and its creatures and think it is the most awe inspiring, fascinating, unexplored and misunderstood place we have on our own planet.

Yes, human lives have been lost in an unfortunate and horrific clash with nature but I'm not sure that we as a species are at any risk of extinction from the shark.  Biologists frequently stress humans are not what sharks like to eat and that many sharks remain endangered as species.  The popular media is always worked up into a feeding frenzy of its own when it is thrown some blood and gore.  If there is a perceived increase in the frequency of shark attacks it comes at a time when fish stocks are historically low and continually being depleted.  How about passing laws to protect fish stocks so that the sharks have enough to eat and to ensure that future generations will too?

Onto cheerier thoughts - here is my favourite beach dress.  This always makes it to Spain with me as part of the holiday wardrobe.

Fringed embroidered jacket: Kite and Butterfly; Bikini: Calzedonia; Cotton sundress: Kate Moss for Topshop
Mr V's shorts: Zara; Mr V's shark tee: The

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Holiday Wardrobe

When I go on on holiday I like to go somewhere very warm and spend my days indulging in a summery dress fest.  Not for me skiing holidays spent shivering on a frosty mountainside surrounded by snow, throwing myself down slopes strapped to planks in pursuit of broken bones, hoping multiple layers of thermal padding will save me from surefire misery.  The only coat I want to be wearing is the one I wear to leave grey old London.

I want to see a suitcase full of nothing but frothy frivolousness - pretty summer dresses with florals, frills and other unashamedly feminine details, indecently short shorts, spaghetti straps, bikinis, beach wraps and barely there sandals studded with glittering gems.  Speak not to me of ski boots, puffer jackets and thermal underwear - I want slinky silks, crisp cottons, floaty chiffons, bright summer whites, broderie anglaise, delicate trims and intricate embroidery.

Here is a selection of some of the things that I packed to go on holiday and a peek at where I stayed.

When Kate Moss brought out her collections for Topshop a few years back I bought quite a lot of it.  So much in fact, that when Topshop released a best hits collection last year as part of Kate's last collaboration with them I sheepishly realised I already had most of it!  I especially loved the dresses in her Spring and Summer exits.  I still find they are the perfect summer holiday pieces and they always make it into the suitcase.  I love the boho feel of the summery cotton dresses and she always does a good tea dress.

Wherever I stay on holiday I like to make it feel like home by adorning the place with the bits and pieces of my wardrobe I've brought with me.  This time we were renting a house where the owners were themselves on holiday.  There wasn't much room to hang my clothes in their wardrobe amongst their things, but this internal clothes line, mounted on the wall in a corridor, served as a hanging rail during the week.  I could walk past a showcase of my dress selection every day and remind myself which ones still hadn't yet been worn.

I usually take nothing but light cotton jackets as cover ups in the evening, and I like one of them to be white. My summer whites barely see the light of day in England so I like to bring them with me.


I also pack something to sunbathe and swim in!  When you are going to the beach daily its nice to have a spare bikini to rotate between wearing and washing.  I once read somewhere that it was handy to take two styles and rotate between them to keep very obvious tan lines at bay.

In addition to my pale green bikini with a crochet trim I brought this along as my second choice.  What better way to soak up the sun than in a glamorous macramé lace bikini with a nude lining?

As well as the fun stuff there is flamenco related gear like flamenco shoes and practice clothes that always needs to come with me.  This time I also had to pack a bata de cola flamenco skirt which unfortunately removed almost three kilos of my holiday wardrobe weight allowance all on its own!  Usually it gets lugged around town in an unattractive rucksack.  This time around I borrowed this wonderful straw basket I found in the house and got to carry my bata around in style with the frills peeking cheekily from the top.  I got very fond of this basket over the length of my stay.  It proved to be the perfect beach companion as well.

Finally not forgetting something to sleep in!  Habitually I pack a battered old tee shirt to catch some zees, but while I was out shopping locally I was totally taken by this rather sweet pyjama set with its creamy lace trim top and dreamy bird print pants.  I never really think of what I sleep in and for some reason that really hits home when you go on holiday, stay in lovely picturesque accommodation and realise how unglamourous a battered old tee shirt really is as sleepwear.  So how's this for pyjama upgrade?

What comes with you when you go on holiday?

Coral pansy print tea dress, white embroidered cotton sundress, navy broderie anglaise cotton sundress, cotton jackets: all Kate Moss for Topshop;  Cream sleeveless dress with black trim chiffon frills: Saloni; Floral print maxi dress: Tokito; Monochrome print silk dress: Aminaka Wilmont; Bikini: Calzedonia; Pyjamas: Oysho

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Photo Diary Andalucia


Words cannot describe how much I miss this place when I am not there.


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