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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Moving Parts Puppetry Festival

So despite a long week, headed off to try the delights of the Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival on Friday. Founded in 2017 and running every two years (at present), the festival runs for nine days and offers a range of shows across the city, from city centre parades to workshops and events, including an all-day free event in Ouseburn. Unfortunately, while I would have loved to have seen more of it, a slew of prior commitments meant I only managed to squeeze in a couple of shows. (Review here.)

The Seed Carriers by Stephen Mottram was probably what most people think of when they think of traditional puppetry: traditional jointed marionettes, a dark stage, the puppeteer mostly half hidden. It was beautiful to look at, intricately designed and oddly moving – it’s amazing how fast people humanise inanimate objects, and when bad things befell the poor puppets, there were proper groans from the audience. I was also excited to be trying out another new venue – Dance City – which so far I haven’t managed to visit. I’m no expert on dance, as you may have guessed, but it seems to have an interesting mix of shows, as well as hosting classes (there’s a barre pilates class I am keen to try), so I am betting I will be back.

Just round the corner at Alphabetti was Seaside Terror. As one of the main venues, Alphabetti was properly tricked out for the festival: the bar was full of puppets, there was a puppet caravan parked outside (and an outdoor, large scale puppet show was held as a taster before the main event), and I must admit I was easily tempted into buying a notebook at the cute little merch stall inside, manned by Kerrin, who I later discover is the artistic director of the festival (and who agreed to let me take his photo). (I also donated a ton of books to the theatre’s bookshop, so was pleased to clear some space on my groaning shelves).

I enjoyed this show more – I enjoyed the atmospherics and cleverness of Seed Carriers, but there is only so much I can handle without dialogue – though weirdly its seaside bawdiness made me oddly homesick for Brighton. I did end up chatting merrily to both some of the audience and, afterwards, some of the volunteers, which was a fascinating way to find out more not just about the festival but about the kind of shows people in Newcastle go to, and how they feel about the various theatres – that stuff always interests me.

Plus: I went home with a notebook. So – always a win.

Dabbawal and Stack

Belated birthday night out last night for my lovely friend S. Reconnecting with him since moving back – after so many years out of touch – has been a real joy, and it doesn’t hurt that he always has great recs for restaurants (Kiln was also his idea).

Last night we went to Stack for a quick drink before dinner. I’ve been, as you know, in the summer, but was interested to see how it fared in winter. I was slightly disappointed to see the covered gin bar replaced with a beer tent – it looked slightly dark, fusty and unfinished inside so we decided to brave the outdoor tables instead. These are certainly well-heated – the table heaters were so hot I couldn’t keep my coat on – and I can imagine nearer Christmas the whole fairy lights vibe will feel very festive.

Next up, Dabbawal, on High Bridge Street, which is becoming my local. I’d actually been here years ago with L of Raven in a Graveyard – she’d suggested it on one of my previous visits back from London, I think – so I had vague memories of liking it. And, mmmmmm, was I right.

The food – which is comprehensively labelled for allergies and diets, which always gives a nice sense of comfort – is Indian street food, and the choice is enormous, with a ton of vegetarian dishes. S and I plumped to share, and ordered a selection of sides and starters, all of which were delicious, though my eyes turned out to be too big for my belly, and that, combined with still feeling a tad ropey from the other week’s cold, meant I had to call it a night quite early – which, disappointingly, meant I didn’t get to try their advertised Espresso Martinis!

But the service was friendly, the food lovely, the vibe nice and low key – and, best of all, I discovered they sell their own notebooks. I’m definitely going back!

Loving my birthday notebooks

Alas I am taking all my housewarming and birthday cards down this weekend – they are making it hard to get into my cupboard. The place will look a little bare without them, but at least I have lots of gorgeous presents to distract myself with.

Today I started using two of them: these gorgeous notebooks, both of which are lined, high quality and with lovely interior details so exactly in my wheelhouse…

Geordie giftage and notebook love

It’s my birthday at the weekend so after being inundated with lovely housewarming cards and gifts, I am now enjoying an influx of birthday stuff (I am keeping all the cards up, I don’t care, it makes me feel wanted and I look super popular if you don’t look closely enough to spot they are from the same people). God knows I will be facing the emotional equivalent of a sugar crash when the gifts stop but for the minute I am very much enjoying being spoiled.

And what gifts! As well the always welcome Amazon vouchers – which I am using for a mix of house stuff and pre-ordering books, which stretches out the whole present thing a bit longer, and champagne and chocolates (because, dahling, one must have champagne and chocolates in the house) I have had a stash of wonderful notebooks. People often ask if I regret saying I love notebooks because that means they are often a default gift, to which I say: hell, nah. I write most things in longhand and I journal, which means I get through a huge number a year – easily over 100 – and while I love buying them, there is also a particular pleasure in using ones people have sent.

So I am rather thrilled with this stash. I also love that my friend U chose a Geordie theme for my birthday gifts (and included some Halloween chocolate, which I am utilising for shameless promo…

Paperchasing

As anyone familiar with me knows, I am a bit of a stationery fiend. The good thing about this is, as a writer, notebooks are a justifiable tool of the trade – my collection is enormous, but none of them go to waste. Also, having a reputation for loving notebooks makes me super easy to buy presents for, and every birthday and Christmas brings a glorious stash (not to count the steady stream of ‘I saw this and thought of you’ gifts from around the globe).

Since returning to Newcastle, I have of course been on the look-out for new stationery shops. Old favourites like Fenwick’s (which now contains a Paperchase concession) and Waterstone’s are still a treasure trove; and I got a great haul in the Scribbler sale. Geeky themed notebooks abound in the Geek Quarter, and I was delighted to discover Blackwell’s glorious stationery department, where my friend had to physically restrain me from buying all the shiny Leuchtturm1917 notebooks. So, in fairness, I am spoiled for choice so far… but if anyone has any tips they’d like to share…