Monthly Archives: May 2011

View from the Broads

We’re in Norfolk – in theory cycling across the Broads, in practice going to lots of those twee little rural shopping complexes. You know, the ones with boutiques selling handmade fudge, bad jewellery and the kind of art people only ever buy on holiday.

As you can probably tell, I used to be quite snooty about these sorts of places. Then I had a kid. Oh my God, I don’t know what I was talking about. They are amazing. This one, Wroxham Barns, has a petting zoo where you can feed the animals (therefore shitting on Hackney City Farm), a funfair and a brilliant soft-play area for wee ones with a ball pit (like at Ikea!) Most of it’s free (the petting zoo’s £5.50 – six quid really, because as if you’re going to say no to the animal food), but no matter how immune you are to the charms of carved-wood barometers and pastel images of windmills, you’ll still end up spending a ton of money. I came away with armfuls of Norfolk apple juice, apple chutney, apple-and-date cake… the whole gamut of Norfolk apple-related products, in fact. Still cost less than they would’ve in Waitrose though (I think).

One toddler meeting the sheep:

And enjoying the soft-play area…

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Storage solutions for naturally disorganised people

The secret to sharing a one-bedroom flat with a man, boy and dog is storage. Not a heart-stopping revelation that, I know, but the thing about storage is that it’s a bastard to get right. Our initial solution was to call out a carpenter to fit some units, say ‘How fucking much?’ when given the quote and then go and buy a load of those souped-up shoeboxes from Ikea instead. But there comes a time when you want something more… durable. There’s also the books problem. We solved that one by fitting shelves in the beams. I know, genius, right? It’s the perfect solution, as long as you never want to retrieve them again. But I think it looks quite cosy:

I also nicked this idea from Ines de la Fressange’s book Parisian Chic. Apparently the flat she shares with her family in Paris is only 750 sq ft, which made me feel a bit better:

It’s basically lots of Muji zinc storage boxes, each labelled ‘shoe cleaning’, ‘sewing kit’, etc.

I once interviewed Romaine Lowery of the Clutter Clinic, who said that when buying storage boxes, it’s better to get lots the same, rather than collecting a load in different colours and shapes. This generally means buying them all at once, which is the off-putting part, because zinc boxes aren’t exactly a thrill-packed way to spend your wages. She also reckons that odd numbers work better than even, so displaying three or five boxes looks nicer than two or four. I think she’s right.

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90s hotspots revisited

My friend Sarah is staying at the Metropolitan hotel in Old Park Lane, home of Nobu and the Met Bar, which, if you’ll remember, was achingly cool back in the late 90s, when Meg Mathews, the Gallagher brothers and various All Saints would fall out of it all coked off their heads. So last night I went to see Sarah so I could nosy about her room, steal the free fruit and yes, have a sneaky drink in the bar.

The last time I was at the Met Bar was about 11 years ago. I say that like I was there all the time – I’ve been about twice in my life. Anyway, on one of those two occasions I found myself sitting next to Mick Hucknall. I know, calm yourself. But we got talking. With no real experience of chatting to famous people, I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to acknowledge their celebrity by saying, “Ooh, you’re Mick Hucknall”, or something to that effect, or if that was totally uncool and you should just pretend you didn’t recognise them. I gambled on the latter approach. “What’s your name?” I actually said at one point. And – oh, I cringe to think – “What do you do?” But he was nice about it, politely humouring this gauche idiot who’d clearly blagged her way in. Then his girlfriend marched over, gave me a foul look and dragged him off.

Anyway, last night there were no pop stars there, 90s or otherwise. In fact the bar was empty, save for us, therefore proving the rule of physics that says what once was hot will only get very, very cold.

This is a terrible iPhone picture, even by my low standards, but look – they have those Alice in Wonderland planters I like.

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Curious buildings

Yesterday I walked past this building in Rivington Street:

I love it when people play around with buildings. Like San Francisco’s House of Falling Furniture:

Or Oxford’s shark house:

Or, better still, Dali’s old house in Figueres, complete with giant faux-bread rolls and eggs.

I wonder why people aren’t generally more creative with buildings. Apart from, y’know, budget and planning restrictions. But it would make the world a livelier place, would it not? Better than all those bloody boring red-brick developments.

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Books to make you laugh

I’m currently reading this:

It’s a satire of the publishing industry and is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Go on, buy it. You won’t regret it.

Properly funny books are the holy grail and surprisingly tricky to find. Go to the Humour section of Waterstones and all you’ll find are books with titles like “Essential Foreign Swear Words” and ‘The Little Book of Management Bollocks” – barrel-scraping stuff that does really well because everyone has a young relative they neither really know nor like but have to buy a Christmas present for, and one of these seems marginally more thoughtful than chocolates or socks. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into myself, having once bought someone The Mighty Boosh book, a TV cash-in of such thieving laziness I might as well have been punched in the face and had the £9.99 ripped straight from my purse. It was a Number-One bestseller though, so at least Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt were laughing.

In fact, I can hardly think of any books that are genuinely snigger-on-the-Tube funny. David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day is one, as is Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim (I’d love to say what a genius David Sedaris is, but thanks to this I’m too ashamed.) Conversations With My Agent by Rob Long is also very, very funny. It’s also, shamefully, out of print now, but you can get a copy on Amazon for 0.01p (plus £27.80 postage). Oh, and let’s not forget Catch 22.

I’m always on the lookout for funny novels, but am never sure how to find them. I’ve tried trawling those ‘funniest books of all time’ lists you get online, but they always trot out the usual suspects and I don’t care what Stephen Fry says, PG Wodehouse isn’t funny. Ditto Kingsley Amis. Or A Confederacy of Dunces. The people who laugh at those books are the kind who go to see Twelfth Night and titter loudly at Malvolio in his yellow stockings just to make sure the rest of the audience knows they got the joke. So if you’d like to recommend any, I am 100-per-cent all ears.

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Yes, I know it’s twee, but…

…it was 26 quid from Columbia Road market, and a whole £137 cheaper than the one I actually wanted, which was this, designed by Gitta Gschwendtner:

Actually, I’ve just noticed that it’s on sale at SCP. Which means it’s now yours for £114, down from £163. How annoying. But it’s still a lot to pay for an oversized teacup, which must surely be the definition of something you can live without. I still like it though.

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Filed under House and home, The bits I can't think of a category for

You forget how lovely Regent’s Park is…

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