Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Not Just A Pretty Face

My best friend growing up was called KP.  KP was immaculate – even as a seven year old, she had beautifully brushed long locks, shoe laces tied to perfection, and neat little finger nails. I, on the other hand, was a scruffy thing, with unkempt straggly hair which I liked to chew on, scuffed Clarks, Dana Scully-inspired glasses and skinned knees. Looking through old photographs, I’m convinced that the only time during my entire childhood that I looked well put together was on the day of my First Holy Communion. Even then, I was outshone by KP, whose mum had sewed her a Disney princess-esque pink dress so that she didn’t feel left out at the after-party, on account of not being Catholic… 

Twenty years later and there has been some improvement. Mostly aided by fellow bloggers, I’ve learned how to style my hair, apply eye liner (although never without a healthy dose of swearing first) and tweeze my eyebrows. However, one thing I haven’t ever been able to master are those neat little finger nails that I so envied KP for. The first two weeks of January were frantic at work, and by the weekend I realised how battered and bruised the tips of my fingers had become. As a child, I bit my nails. As an adult, it seems that I’ve developed a habit of biting the skin around my nails. Gross, I know. 

Well, it stops today! 

No more being embarrassed of going for a manicure because my fingers look like they’ve been mauled by a hungry Chihuahua! No more accidentally bleeding onto witness statements because I couldn’t resist the temptation to nibble! 

First step in my quest to break this filthy habit – two new nail polishes. Unfortunately, however, it seems as though I’ve fallen into the same trap yet again. Though described by Essie as "Not Just A Pretty Face", you and I both know that pink is pink..and I already have (on the last count) 16 pink nail polishes. 

Do you have a habit that you’re trying to break? How are you managing?

Post-script: KP is actually still my best friend and I can confirm that she is just as immaculate as a 27 year old, and is never seen without beautifully manicured nails. I’m still jealous, even twenty years later…

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Antique and Vintage Guide to Margate

You may recall that just before Christmas, the Texan and I headed to the coast, to Margate, to take in the sea air and wander around the increasing number of antique and vintage shops that have been popping up in this once-bustling seaside town. It was absolutely freezing, but we certainly weren’t short of treasure troves to dip into for warmth and a cheeky browse. Given it was less than a week to Christmas, I had to seriously restrain myself, but, inevitably, I didn’t come home empty handed (sorry, bank balance!!). Margate is just an hour and thirty minutes away from St Pancras, so definitely worth sparing a Saturday for. And if you do, make sure not to miss the following little gems…

Margate Retro General Store, 27 Fort Road
This little shop is filled to the brim with retro furniture, lighting, bits and bobs for the home, as well as local produce, sweeties and Margate rock. It is also a coffee shop, so you can enjoy a hot beverage while spending all your pennies on old milk bottles and wire baskets. I was particularly fond of the old wooden sledge in the window, but sadly we haven’t yet had any snow!

Fort Road Yard, opposite Margate Retro General Store
The treasures in Margate Retro General Store appear to stray across the road to Fort Road Yard, which is, as you might expect, a yard with a few bits and pieces of retro furniture strewn about. I spotted a gorgeous retro bureau, but sadly it had already been sold (and the Texan might have been a bit peeved with me if I ended up buying yet another piece of furniture…). I have later discovered that Fort Road Yard often hosts local events, including live jazz music, so perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to stumble across such an event when you visit.

Paraphernalia, 8 King Street
This was my favourite shop in Margate! It is packed with retro furniture, as well as some older Arts and Crafts pieces, paintings, cameras, typewriters, ceramics, ephemera, vintage toys – you’re bound to find something that you love. Prices were very reasonable – I had to resist the large wire baskets for £28 (I already have too many boxes and baskets!) – and the owner was very nice, with no pressure to buy and more than happy for us to take photos and browse.

HFW Vintage, 12a King Street
A vintage clothes shop, this tiny space was crowded with what I can only assume was a local rock band when I visited, and I can see why – denim jackets, plaid shirts, an array of knitwear and sheepskin coats, HFW Vintage sells clothes for cool kids. Although I certainly don’t consider myself to be remotely cool, I did like the sixties vibe of their coat collection – so definitely worth a quick browse.

Madam Popoff Vintage, 4 King Street
This kooky vintage clothes shop houses an impressive selection of dresses dating from the 1950s-1980s, as well as some colourful knitwear, wool skirts and silk blouses. They also have a display cabinet of fun vintage and new jewellery, including some Tatty Devine pieces which I was told have been selling like hot cakes!

Margate Retro, 16 King Street
Another mid-century treasure trove of furniture, lighting and industrial pieces, Margate Retro also has smaller bits on offer, such as old radios, baskets, cameras, trunks, kitchenalia, clocks and bottles – and the shopkeeper wears a brown coat like they did in the olden days, cute!

T.W. Stigant, 26 King Street
This beautiful shop-front houses what is really more of a junk shop, but amongst the unwanted hoovers and board games, there are some goodies to be found – in particular, old suitcases, West German pottery and vintage train sets. Just come prepared to rummage.

The Shop, Market Place
This is not strictly an antique or vintage shop, but it is vintage-inspired and certainly deserves a mention. It sells lots of old style kitchenalia, cushions, throws (one of which I bought, and Chutney has taken a liking to!), scented candles and gifts, and is a really well laid out and pretty shop. It also hosts workshops and classes in the back of the shop, but I’m afraid I couldn’t find a website (it must have one, can anyone assist?) to link to. In any case, don’t miss it – it’s on the corner of Market Place. 

Breuer & Dawson, 7 King Street
One for the boys, this vintage clothes shop is packed to the rafters with tweed, wool coats, lumberjack shirts, denim and shearling and leather. It is a Kinfolk subscriber’s dream shop, with its Midwest American vibe and Nordic winter knits. The Texan isn’t hip enough for Breuer & Dawson, but your beau might be…!

Dolly Miller's, 20 Market Place
Browsing this sweet vintage shop is like raiding Nana’s wardrobe, but in a good way! The rails of clothes were a little twee for my taste, but the jewellery selection was delicious – 1960s gold bracelets, pearls, brooches – I couldn’t help myself but part with my pennies for this little Edwardian brooch (my collection is getting to be quite impressive!).

Frocks 'N' Stock, 9 Market Street
Frocks ‘N’ Stock is actually a charity shop, for Pilgrims Hospices. When I visited, a young lady was trying on a cinnamon coloured coat which looked incredible on her. Two old ladies in the shop (you can just about see them through the window in the photo!) were comically complimentary of said coat, and I did wonder if they had been paid to persuade people to buy! I ended up coming away with a gorgeous grey jacket for my mum, for just 15 quid – it was promptly added to her ridiculous pile of Christmas presents, and I think she liked it very much!

Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous
And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the shop in the Turner Contemporary. Although it doesn’t sell antique or vintage bits, it does have a solid collection of unique pieces from local designers. The Texan treated me to a pair of earrings, which I’ve pretty much worn every day since! 

A few extras which I didn’t have a chance to visit:
  • Junk Deluxe, located inside R G Scott Furniture Mart, within the The Old Ice Works, in Bath Place
  • Rough Trade, 5 Fort Road 
  • Helter Skelter, 13 Market Place (I couldn’t find it!)

After all that shopping, I can assure you that your tummy will be rumbling! Mullins Brasserie in Market Place does an awesome mussels and frites, or why not grab a takeaway fish and chips and have them on the seaside? 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Take Courage Book Club #1

You may have seen that, as part of my New Year’s resolutions, I suggested starting a Take Courage book club in a bid to help me read more fiction and less Law textbooks during 2015.  I was surprised and thrilled by the number of you who said you’d like to join, so, well, here we go!

Now, I’m not actually quite sure how this is meant to work because (1) I’ve never been part of a book club, and (2) I’ve never been part of a book club. But I suppose we have to start somewhere, so I’ve gone for the familiar with the latest book from one of my favourite writers – David Sedaris. When I first met the Texan in 2006, he introduced me to This American Life (which is amazing, by the way, and you should add it to your list of podcasts immediately), which in turn introduced me to David Sedaris. Sedaris is the funniest, sharpest, wittiest writer I’ve ever known. He is probably more famous for his book readings / audio recordings, because his voice is so unique – in fact, he’s touring the UK this June (we’ve got tickets to see him in Liverpool!). I’ve seen Sedaris read live from his books on a couple of occasions, one during which he signed a book for me and asked if my hair was real… 

Needless to say, if anyone is going to get me into the habit of reading, Sedaris will.  

So the plan is to allow myself and you lovely lot four weeks to read book #1 – “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls”, David Sedaris – and to congregate back here on Thursday 19 February to hear what we all thought about it! I’d also like to welcome suggestions for book #2, so please share in the comments. Happy reading!