Spacemasks and stationery – a Liberty shopping spree

Liberty of London is one of my favourite places in the world. When I lived in London, I shopped there regularly – which might make me sound like a millionaire, but like any good department store, it actually caters for a range of budgets. I got a half-price Vivienne Westwood dress that I wore to several weddings (which got me lots of compliments along the lines or ‘ooh, that could almost be a Vivienne Westwood’ from people who clearly thought I couldn’t afford the real thing!), my favourite silver shoes that I destroyed on a walk of shame* home in the rain from a very fancy party, and a gorgeous pair of Ash boots that I wore until they fell to bits and had to abandon in a New York hotel room because I knew if I brought them home I’d never throw them away. I’ve got drunk and shopped unwisely at their ‘card holders’ loyalty nights, and found bargains that I have treasured for years. They sell Ren, one of my favourite toiletries brands, and over the years I have bought everything from a glass of champagne to a pair of knickers under its roof. Usually when my plan had been to do nothing but pop in for five minutes to kill some time before meeting people for a drink.

I’ve bought an endless array of presents there – when something comes in that little purple bag, you don’t need to wrap it, which is good cos everything I wrap looks like I did it with my feet – and given into the temptations of its seriously indulgent chocolate department, but the scene of most of my sins has not been the cosmetics department – although that has done a fair amount of damage to my budget over the years – but the stationery store.

Oh, the Liberty stationery store. If my heaven is anywhere, it’s in a giant bookshop with a good coffee shop and cocktail bar attached, and a door to Liberty stationery hall. Not only do they stock their own iconic Liberty notebooks in print or leather covers (the leather ones are a bit above my usual price range, though I have been bought some by generous friends, and they are luxury incarnate), but an excellent and regularly changing stock of other brands. As well as trying some indie brands (one of my favourite ever notebooks was purchased there, and I hung onto it long after it was used up, whcih I normally don’t do, because the brand went defunct and I’ve never managed to replace it.) I’ve bought (and been gifted) a number of Christian Lacroix notebooks over the year, and indulged in Kate Spade cards and journals (weirdly, they have a better selection of these than the actual Kate Spade store, which is down the road on Regent Street).

Since moving away from London, I’ve visited less often. Most of my trips are business or theatre related, so I tend to avoid the bustle of Oxford Circus and Regent Street for less crowded parts of town. But since I was seeing Betrayal on Panton Street – from which Liberty was a mere stroll up Regent Street on a sunny day – I decided I was overdue a trip. I’m so sorry, dear wallet.

Yup, I couldn’t help but indulge. I used the rationale that I’ve been feeling a bit stalled on my book and some nice notebooks might give me a boost, but to be honest that’s just an excuse: I love fancy notebooks, and I don’t mind paying for them. (An unexpected bit of work funded the spree – I figured I wasn’t expecting the money so why not spend it? This explains a lot about my life). I opted for a larger Lacroix (gold, lined paper – gotta be lined!) and a smaller blue metallic one, as it was a colour I hadn’t seen before. The Kate Spade was a cheat: I actually bought the same one in Fenwick’s a while back, and loved it so much I’ve been itching for a reason to buy another.

The cosmetics department didn’t escape my attention either: I bought a couple of boxes of Spacemasks. If you are unfamiliar with these, they are worth checking out: herbal, warming eye masks that are great for unwinding or relaxing, and though they don’t dent my insomnia – nothing does – I have become a bit addicted to them. (I usually, I admit, order them online from Selfridges, where they are slightly cheaper – plus I pay an annual fee so I don’t get charged postage on each order – but fond as I am of Selfridges, it’s never won me over quite like Liberty has, and you have to support the shops you love, right? Right?)

All in all, an expensive afternoon, then – but there are worse vices for a writer to have…

*I pulled – those were the days! – so it was more of a walk of ‘quite pleased with myself, actually’, but the rain did knacker the shoes.

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In which I try Birchbox

I admit I am a sucker for subscription boxes. I love getting things through the post (and am lucky enough that I have lovely friends who regularly send me things!) and subscription boxes feel like a little present you buy yourself. The magpie nature of them – ooh, a box of tiny treats! – appeals, even though it’s usually that which also ends up frustrating me. The year before last I tried out several book and stationery subscription boxes, but in the end cancelled all of them because I felt like the joy of receiving a box of goodies was outweighed by adding more clutter and tat to my home. So why sign up to another?In part, for no better reason than I had insomnia and an ad for Birchbox came up on my Instagram with a special offer for 2 boxes, so on a sleep-deprived whim I signed up. In part, though, my commitment to getting out of my comfort zone hasn’t extended to my beauty routine (in which I am, to say the least, a Basic Bitch), and I thought being nudged to try some new products might be good for me. Also, I have a disproportionate love of travel sizes. Yes, my fear of commitment extends even to products (“I have to use that whole bottle?”) and while I know it’s not that environmentally friendly, it’s an indulgence I allow myself.My first delivery was this week – two boxes as per the special offer. My thoughts were initially mixed. Of course I expected to get some things that wouldn’t apply (a lipstick and a lip liner have gone into the ‘present box’ and will be added as a stocking filler to someone’s birthday or Christmas gift), but both boxes contained a hair masque, which seemed overkill. Still, there were definitely some goodies I would use: I love Nux oil, and mini mascaras and shimmery eyeshadows are very me, plus a full size shower gel won’t go amiss. And since in fairness my hair gets very little attention, maybe the hair treatments aren’t a bad idea: I tried one this morning, and my hair does feel rather silky!Will I stick with it? In truth, probably not: I’ll give it a few months then get bored or sick of my bathroom becoming cluttered, and it’ll start to feel like a pointless expense. But in the meantime, I might as well have fun experimenting. And I do so love getting a parcel…

Tom Hiddleston in Betrayal

Yesterday I did another day trip to London to see a Betrayal in the West End (Yup, it’s insane that I can live here, and can afford to make two (advance booked, obvs) first class trips to London to the theatre a month and STILL save money on what I was paying in Brighton for rent.) I admit I booked the ticket as much out of FOMO as anything else: several of my theatre friends had seen it and seeing Tom Hiddleston seemed like the year’s ‘hot ticket’. But in truth, once I booked the ticket, the excitement started to wane: I’m ambivalent about both director Jamie Lloyd and about Pinter, and I’ve already see the play Betrayal (in the same theatre!) and I don’t love it as a play.

So I felt a bit of a fake, sitting in the theatre beside all the superfans in a ‘I guess I bought the ticket so I might as well’ way. (I’m not kidding: the woman next to me was an American who had flown over just to see the play, and had also been at the previous evening’s performance: the two German girls in front of me had done the same). Besides, the ticket had been expensive, so I might as well get the most out of it – nearly 100 quid, although admittedly for a very good seat in the stalls.

In the end, though, I was completely won over by the production. The sparse, stripped back staging really worked, and although the cast all felt too slightly young for the roles of jaded old marrieds who’ve been friends for decades, you could forgive that for strong performances (the tired old trope of comedy foreigner can get in the bin, but at least that was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene). Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton were both great, but it was Tom Hiddleston who stole the show: he delivered a beautifully nuanced performance that wrung both the humour and the heartbreak out of the piece, and the audience hung on every tiny gesture. (In fact, my main criticism would be that his charisma over-balanced the production: since the three main actors were on stage pretty much non-stop throughout, even when they had no part in a scene, all too often the eye was drawn to Hiddleston, standing stoically in the background, rather than what was happening between the other characters.

On top of it all it was a glorious London day – sunny and bright and full of character. (I popped into the Waterstones on Jermyn Street on the way, being passed by a man strolling through the sunshine yelling into his phone ‘I’m working from home today!’. Are you, my dude? Are you really?). I then strolled up to Liberty and spent far too much money in the stationery department before meeting my friends for drinks at the German Gymnasium.

London is always that dodgy ex who tries to charm you and make you forget all its bad points, and every time I go back it very nearly succeeds, but like your dodgy ex there’s always the warning sign: so my ‘I love London and why did I ever move?’ lasted only until I got to Oxford Circus and the Victoria Line was suspended and so I found myself crammed on a packed tube literally pressed bum-to-bum with a fellow commuter who had strangely and intensely warm buttocks. I mean, seeing Tom Hiddleston on stage was worth that – but only just…

Ockham’s Razor coming to Dance City

I blogged recently about my first trip to Dance City, to see a show during the Moving Parts Puppetry Festival. It’s a venue I wasn’t overly familiar with – I vaguely recall doing a couple of classes there Back in the Day – so I was surprised to discover that it doesn’t just run classes but also has a pretty impressive schedule of performances, too.

One show that looks to be interesting is the upcoming Ockham’s Razor piece, This Time. It’s a contemporary show that uses daring choreography, circus equipment and aerial acrobatics (which I am *always* a sucker for – how do they do it?) to address the idea of strength and how we navigate the challenges of our ever-changing lives. (Plus it’s just over an hour long, which is the perfect length for a dance piece. Y’all know I love short.)

Dance City is a great local space (the cafe / bar is very welcoming, as well – light and airy and with friendly staff) and it’s only a few minutes from Central Station, so it’s worth adding to your list of local venues to check out.

The show runs at Dance City from 23rd – 26th May before heading to Salford then the Edinburgh Fringe. You can get tickets here. Maybe I’ll see you there…

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(Photo courtesy of Nik Mackey. Thanks to Chloe Nelkin Consultancy for making me aware of the show).

 

 

Shine at Live Theatre

Last week was a quiet one, as I was still ill for most of it and determined to actually spend time recovering, rather than pretending I was fine and going on as normal. I did drag myself from my sick bed on Saturday to see the new show at Live, Kema Sikazwe’s solo show Shine. Energetic and uplifting, it could do with a bit of a polish but it definitely marks out Sikazwe as a talent to watch: he was incredibly charismatic, both likeable and funny but also managing the darker parts of the show – which dealt with racism and isolation – well.

You can read my review here, or a longer and more detailed piece by Lauren Vevers here. The show is touring to Edinburgh and at a mere 70 minutes is worth your time.

A busy week and then a wall

It’s been a pretty crazy month in April, but I have also, for most of it, been pretty ill. Last week my usual, ahem, failsafe plan of powering through and ignoring it did what it always does: works until it didn’t, when my body finally said enough and a three-day migraine wiped the feet from under me. So this week, work aside, I plan to take it easy: lots of green veg, lots of rest, lots of naps and nights in.

I did manage to do some fun stuff last week, though. Saw Avengers Endgame, a little movie you might have heard of, and went for cocktails at Beelim House again. Went to another gig in the Cluny – this time Cluny 2, which I liked a lot less, since it seemed to have been set up with no thought to the sightlines, and I’m never that fond of being in a basement. Still, it was to see Simone Felice, who my friend L is mad about (she was right at the front of the stage, while I sat at the back and felt a bit sorry for myself). While I am not totally converted, it was a good gig and we met him afterwards (I shamelessly insisted she took a photo with him), and he seemed very nice.

Yesterday I was back at Northern Stage to see Isle of Brimsker, a lovely wee play by Frozen Lights, a company that specialise in theatre for people with profound and multiple disabilities. It was a really well-done show: thoughtful, clever and performed with bags of charm, and I am pleased that Northern Stage is making such an effort to engage wider audiences.

But now, this week? Just lots and lots of naps.

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Warhol in Edinburgh

As per my previous post, I was in Edinburgh this week. Mainly this was to see a show – Cora Bissett’s excellent What Girls Are Made of – but it also provided a great chance to catch up with friends.

My friend A and her husband moved back to Scotland a few years ago, and I hadn’t seen their new place since, so A & I met for drinks and dinner before the show (an OK-but not-stellar chips and halloumi burger at Red Squirrel, mostly because it was handy for the theatre, though it was a perfectly fine stopping point: friendly staff, very decent selection of veggie options). I stayed the night at their gorgeous house, which gave me major home envy: my room (just one of their guest rooms!) had an en suite, and the whole place was just so lovely and elegantly fitted out, I am now planning to secretly move in and see how long till they notice (it’s a big house – could be a while)…

A and I stayed up chatting till the early hours, so I admit I was more than a little hungover when I went back into town the next day to meet my friend D, through from Glasgow. Still, we didn’t let that deter us from taking in some culture, and decided to head to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art.

It’s been years since I have been – I’ve never even set foot in Modern Two – but we started there, keen to see I want to be a machine, an exhibition of Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi pieces that included many of the famous Warhol prints and movie posters. I’m less familiar with Paolozzi, but his work was a fascinating counterpoint, and the exhibit is well laid out across five rooms, with plenty of explanation as to what’s what and why it matters. It’s also free, which is always a bonus.

NOW at Modern One was more of a mixed bag. A selection of works by Monster Chetwynd, Henry Coombes, Moyna Flannigan, Betye Saar, and Wael Shawky, it covered most of the ground floor, and some bits took me more than others, though as again it was free, I was happy to have a mooch.

D and I then had lunch and a wander, before he had to head back to Glasgow, so before my evening train I met A again for a few drinks in a pub off the Royal Mile (we powered bravely through our hangovers). The pub had a sign on the bar that said ‘those that drink langest live langest’ and at this rate A and I will be around till our 80s…