1st July 2020

Number One Bruton & Osip

The last place we stayed before lockdown is also the first place we want to go back to as soon as we’re able. This twelve-bedroom hotel, and its enclosed independent restaurant come pretty close to perfect. We won’t spoil it by describing it in too much detail, we’ll just share a few of the things we’ve been dreaming of: the creamy rice pudding for breakfast, the yellow front door, the view over the valley from bed and the best welcoming freebie ever of West Country cider and a slate of cheese. Number One Bruton occupies a former Georgian forge and our favourite bedrooms, Townhouse 4 and 5 also happen to be the cheapest (from £130 a night), a twin and a double tucked under the eaves with William Morris wallpaper and the comfiest beds.

Of the bigger rooms below, Townhouse 1 is the biggest and most luxurious with a roll-top bath.

If you’re staying longer than a night, it’s worth booking one of the three cottage rooms across the courtyard as these have their own cosy sitting rooms too with wood burners. Cottage 1 has a beautiful spindle bed, whilst Cottage 2 would work for a family.

 

Osip is an independent restaurant and lunch or dinner there must be booked separately, although hotel guests get a complimentary breakfast. It’s the creation of Merlin Labron-Johnson, the youngest Michelin-starred British chef (awarded his star aged just 24) and rightly fills up so do book ahead. The set six course evening menu (£65) is a real treat, with dishes changing accordingly with local ingredients. Such is Merlin’s passion for foraging that he handed over a tote bag and sent us out picking wild garlic and nettles in the woods during our stay.

If you’re stopping for a couple of nights you could wander up the road to At The Chapel for a wood-fired pizza, or follow the footpath to Hauser & Wirth that sits on the edge of town. The Newt is also just 10 minutes away in the car.

Both Number One Bruton and Osip will re-open on 30 July. Due to wedding cancellations there are rooms available this August and September – we urge you to snap them up!

1st July 2020

Books to make you laugh

The lockdown might be ending but there is still grim news on the television, so we’re reaching for a little light hearted distraction in the form of these comedic books.

The Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

Anyone who has read Sophie Heawood’s journalism will know what a brilliantly original and perceptive writer she is, from the hilarious column she wrote about Valentine’s Day, to a mind-boggling interview with the actor Jada Pinkett Smith. Her first book gets off to a strong start: Heawood describes taking home a stranger she meets on an app, thinking about Jesus to make herself orgasm and then being interrupted by her small child whom her date has no idea exists. We held our breath as she recounts driving her friends back from Coachella whilst she is heavily pregnant and also unable to drive. She is open-hearted in describing her own dysfunctionality: at one point, she wanders into a house she likes the look of and proceeds to flick through an engagement diary she finds. She can also see the comic absurdity in the most unlikely situations – not least at a clinic for the paternity test the father of her child insists on. It makes for reading that is both funny and moving, and certainly isn’t for anyone who shocks easily or is uncomfortable with self-revelation. If it’s her mission to épater les bourgeois then, as Lynn Barber once said of Julie Burchill, “I was well and truly épater-ed”.

A Diary of The Lady by Rachel Johnson

Whilst Rachel Johnson is undeniably talented, she occasionally spreads that talent a little too thinly – we were disappointed by her latest memoir on her attempt to become an MEP. This memoir of her time as editor of The Lady magazine, however, is a minor comic masterpiece. She tries to persuade the Duchess of Devonshire to become the magazine’s agony aunt over lunch at Chatsworth, the Devonshires’ home. Johnson prepares her maquillage carefully for the meeting but the duchess confesses to being almost blind and says “Your face to me is a sponge”. Back at the magazine, the staff seem to hate Johnson and one of them emails anonymously, calling her a “flea-bitten old bitch”. She doesn’t fare much better with The Lady’s readers initially, a typical letter of complaint reads “Joan Collins on the cover? Do you want to give us angina?” Johnson feuded so publicly with the magazine’s owners that many suspected it was a publicity stunt. Either way, it all makes very funny reading.

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Lissa Evans trilogy of comic novels will be completed when V is for Victory is published this August. We suggest that before this, you go right back to Crooked Heart, the first of them to be published (Old Baggage is the other in the trio). Noel, a 10 year old orphan lives with his godmother Mattie, an ex-militant suffragette in Hampstead. Mattie, who is wry and loving, does not however survive the Blitz and Noel is billeted as an evacuee to stay with the exploitative Vee in St Albans. Looking at Noel, Vee – who is always on the make – spies a chance: “an idea rolled into her head, fully formed as a marble”. Between them they make an ingenious double act, going door-to-door, allegedly collecting for a made up “Dunkirk widows and orphans” fund. Evans worked in TV and radio comedy prior to becoming a novelist and knows how to sharpen a comic line.

Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Scarlett Thomas seems to have accessed some kind of dark magic in her latest novel, Oligarchy, finding a portal into the teenage female brain. Its premise – a black comedy set in a boarding school full of girls with eating disorders may sound in poor taste but Thomas is far from making light of adolescent pain. When one of the girls goes missing, presumed dead, the school employs a pair of Scottish men to cure the girls of their disordered eating. As the narrator sardonically reflects: “Where do you even get two therapists who look so much like paedophiles?” The girls inevitably do their best to find something sexy about them but “there is literally nothing, which is a shame”. This is quite a different novel from Thomas, who made her name with the cult The End of Mr Y, and she gives full vent to both the monstrosity and vulnerability of adolescence to very funny effect.

If none of those take your fancy, then any novel by India Knight, David Nicholls or Marian Keyes should have you laughing. We’re also keen to read The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa, about which we’ve heard such good things.

 

1st July 2020

Sourcing Vintage Baskets

Elephants, snails and frogs form the menagerie of wicker friends available at Rococo London. This frog could be used in a bathroom to store loo rolls or magazines, or in the kitchen stuffed with Ocado bags. Vintage 1970’s wicker frog basket, £175 from Rococo London:

This elephant would make a lovely addition to a child’s bedroom. Large vintage planter, £215 from Rococo London

Channel Jane Birkin and swap your handbag for a basket this July. Straw London specialise in beautiful vintage baskets, as well as exquisite homewares, jewellery and gifts. Sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear when the July basket drop lands. Subscribers get 2 hours’ to browse before the baskets go live on the site, and they sell out fast so it’s worth having the head start. Baskets from £85 at Straw London

One of the great things to come out of lockdown has been the move to shopping locally. Ditch the car and use this wonderful vintage-inspired wicker shopping trolley instead. New trundling trolley, £95 at Pentreath & Hall

 

1st July 2020

Interiors trend: Bamboo

Bamboo accessories are particularly lovely in the summer.  Here are some of our favourites:

Geometric bamboo dinner plates, starting at £38 from Alice Naylor-Leyland

Byblos Bamboo cutlery, starting at £17.70 from The Edition 94

Bamboo salad servers, 140 Euros from Svenskt Tenn

Bamboo candle holder, 280 Euros from Svenskt Tenn

Melamine and bamboo tableware, starting at £7.99 from Zara Home

Bamboo and rattan armchair 311, 1,640 Euros from Svenskt Tenn

Bamboo and rattan stool 311, 800 Euros from Svenskt Tenn

Vintage bamboo dressing table/console, £340 from Ceraudo

Bamboo yuma mirror, £25 from Habitat

Bamboo handle cutlery set, £70 from Rebecca Udall

Brass bamboo coat hanger, £45 from Rose  Uniacke

 

 

1st July 2020

Susannah Garrod Archive Sale

Illustrator Susannah Garrod is moving to a new studio which calls for a clear out. Her Archive Sale will go live next week and you’ll be able to snap up original works on paper (no prints) in her signature style; pretty and playful illustrations in watercolour and gouache. Garrod’s client list includes Sophie Dahl, Emilia Wickstead, Cartier, Jimmy Choo and Annabel’s. The sale will run from Thursday 9 July – Sunday 12 July on her website with prices from £75 – £500. This series of original paintings of Vintage YSL’will be in the sale – sold individually:
1st July 2020

Summer shirts for Zoom and beyond

Made from laundered linen, we love this laidback ruffle neck Camille top, £175 from Ren London

Dress up or down with this Bella Singleton Cecily blouse £225 from Collen and Clare

A loose-fitting pleated shirt, comes in three colours, £195 from Caramel

The prettiest Dora pink flowers shirt, £295 from Tabitha Webb

Hard to choose a favourite from Frame’s summer shirts. We love this Panel lace button up blouse, £195 (was £290) from Trilogy

The work and attention to detail that goes into each Pero piece justifies the price tag on these exquisite pieces. Pero linen shirt £485 from Mouki Mou

We love the puffed sleeved detail on this Cobalt cotton shirt, £69 from Plumo

Soft 100% cheesecloth works just as well with jeans as over a bikini. Tunic top £99 from Rae Feather

Team with a beaded or shell necklace for simple glamour. Delave linen top, £95 from Toast

Stunning Marimekko shirts in blue and black, £12.90 from Uniqlo

This frilled lace organic cotton top says summer, £45 from And Other Stories

Indian cotton with rope string cuffs, this Delphine top comes in a voluminous slightly cropped shape, £195 from Ren London:

30th June 2020

Jelly Shoes and Summer Sandals

If you’ve had it with 2020, wind back the clock to summers gone by with a pair of retro sandals. If you were a child who grew up wearing jelly shoes to scramble across pebbly beaches, this year’s comeback will make you smile. The more glittery the better: we’re coveting a pair of Alexa Chung’s JuJu jellies with sparkly flowers. They’ve sadly sold out, but the good news is that you can still buy the more basic jellies direct from JuJu. Based in Northampton their online shop stocks a rainbow of different colours and styles for adults and children alike. Reilly multi-glitter, £25 from JuJu with free shipping.

 

Celine’s Beach Sandal in PVC comes in black or silver, £295 from Celine:

Swap summer espadrilles for this season’s woven shoes. Parisian shoemaker, Michel Vivien’s timeless woven block heels come in metallic tones that go with everything (also stocked at Aimé in London and on FarFetch). Woven strap sandals, £556 from Michel Vivian:

For a similar look at a fraction of the price, Sezane’s gold Lara Courts are hand-braided in Spain.

Also made in Spain, Penelope Chilvers’ has a new selection of woven flats in silver and black, as well as these Bancroft tan block-heels, £239 at Penelope Chilvers.

Velcro-strapped water-proof Teva sandals (invented in the 80’s) enjoyed a revival last summer. This season, find them in pared back monochrome from £59 at And Other Stories and also at Arket.

For added embellishment, Cecilie Bahnsen x Suicoke Kat’s second collaboration is landing soon. We love these, £370 at Matches:

Clogs are definitely a Marmite shoe, if you love them it’s time to invest. Lotta from Stockholm has a vast range of colours, all crafted in Sweden. Try the classic 70’s clog in black, £43.50. Or new this season, these daisy appliqué Fabrizio Viti Jean clogs, (sold out in raffia) are currently £215 (previously £430) from Matches.

 

 

 

 

 

25th June 2020

Collagerie Summer Playlist

We love what Serena Hood and Lucinda Chambers (former executive fashion editor and fashion director of Vogue) are doing on Collagerie with their excellent eye for curation and now they’ve partnered up with Zara Home to launch a new summer playlist on Spotify. From Tom Petty to The Velvet Underground and Nico, its a perfectly relaxed collection that will get you into the summer mood.  Find a quick Q&A with Hood and Chambers plus the playlist here.

25th June 2020

Thrift+: the better way to donate clothes to charity

If, like us, you’ve been clearing out your wardrobe recently (nothing a like a lockdown to feel a little Marie Kondo), then you’ll need a great new service called Thrift+ that has partnered up with shopping site Farfetch.  Order a free Thriftbag through their app, fill it up with your clothes (designer or high street but all need to be in good condition, clothes on the site range from Celine, Chanel and Gucci to Warehouse) and they will collect it for free or you can drop if off at your local  Collect+ store.  Thrift+ charges 33% of the selling price to cover their costs (there is a minimum fee of £5 per item sold) and by avoiding shop costs, Thrift+ give a 33% of the selling price to charity. Interesting fact: High Street charity shops only give 19% of the final selling price to charity because of their high  overheads.  Plus you can choose to earn the final 33% as credit to spend on Farfetch.com or donate all the proceeds to charity – any registered charity of your choosing in the UK.  As their tag line says ‘A first-class service for second-hand clothes’.  We think it’s a brilliant idea.

24th June 2020

4th July openings: ready, steady, go!

The lockdown is coming to an end and, whilst we venture out with some trepidation, we’re also very ready to start visiting some of our top London spots again.  This is our plan so far…

We will treat ourselves to a delicious meal at The River Cafe (opening 4th July, book here), The Wolseley (open from 5pm on 4th July for dinner onwards, book here), Gold (opening July 10th, booking just opened here), Padella (opening 4th July, use the @walkinldn app for walk-in bookings for al fresco seating at both Borough Market and Shoreditch) and Orasay (opening July 4th, book here).  We’ll also be visiting the Wild by Tart’s summer pop-up outside Eccleston Yards which will be serving fresh pizzas, grilled meat and fish, fresh salads, cold beers and rosé (opening 4th July, book here).  And tracking down The Blue Bar Cocktail Bike from The Berkeley who mixes cocktails on the doorsteps of Belgravia with their bespoke cocktail delivery service.

Whilst it looks like some of the bigger museums are going to open in August, the smaller London Galleries have got some great work showing.  We’re going to see David Hockney’s portraits at the Annely Juda Fine Art Gallery (including Ed Sheeran); Bridget Riley and Paul Klee at David Zwirner Gallery; prints by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore at Eames Fine Art; the show About the Human Figure featuring works by Peter Doig, Sigmar Polke and other at the Michael Werner Gallery (opens 7th July) and the solo exhibition by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra at the Marian Goodman Gallery.  The Whitechapel Gallery is opening soon in conjunction with the Barbican Gallery – keep your eyes peeled as the dates will be announced any date now.  Also, the Gardening Museum is opening on July 4th too with the rather aptly named show Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are my horizon, Hampton Court Palace Gardens are open now and Chelsea Physic Garden has some great workshops coming up in August including a botanical watercolour class (book here for the workshops or for timed entry tickets to the garden).  Outside London, enjoy an early evening picnic cooked by the chefs at The Newt in Somerset with their Garden Lates series.

And finally, we’re can’t wait to get to Kew again.  Book ahead to get your allotted slot here and enjoy their 330 acres of summer loveliness.

24th June 2020

Diana Evans

Diana Evans is the award-winning, bestselling author of Ordinary People, The Wonder and 26aHer prize nominations include the Guardian and Commonwealth Best First Book awards, and she was the inaugural winner of the Orange Award for New Writers. During lockdown, Evans has been working on her new book and has also been a Judge for The 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. (The winner of which will be announced 2nd July but you can read excerpts from the shortlist here.)  Below Evans talks to us about lockdown creativity and her favourite short stories.

What are you working on at the moment?
Another novel.  It’s bad luck to talk about work-in-progress.

How has the lockdown affected your writing?
It has made it more difficult. I have much less time and have to endlessly compartmentalise which is very exhausting. I have a recurring mirage of long uninterrupted writing days.

What have you been reading in lockdown?
Rachel Cusk’s Outline, Caryl Phillips’s The European Tribe and Anne Sexton’s The Complete Poems, among others.

What have you been watching or listening to in lockdown?
Lord of the Rings for sheer escapism, along with Big Little Lies. Music-wise I have been rediscovering my vinyl – Al Green, Arrested Development, Joan Armatrading.

What do you enjoy most about writing? 
I enjoy playing with language most of all, making sentences, the deep thinking of it. I like spending time with characters I find entertaining or relatable. Overall I like the quiet power of writing.

What would you say to authors just starting out?
Eschew premature perfectionism, it will hold you back. Throw your soul at the page and trust in it.

Finally, please can you tell us which are your 3 favourite short stories and why?
There are so many stories I love. Among them are Lucia Berlin’s ‘Unmanageable‘ – it has the most unforgettable, haunting opening of a life steeped in addiction. I also love Daphne du Maurier‘s short stories and one of the best I’ve read is ‘Monte Verita‘ – her hold on narrative and her sense of pacing are useful lessons for the writer of short fiction. And James Baldwin’s ‘Going to Meet the Man‘ is both timeless and resonant in its traumatic subject matter and sustained elegance.

24th June 2020

The most flattering swimsuits

Over the years, we’ve searched high and low for the perfect one piece swimming costume – and by perfect we mean a flattering silhouette that doesn’t rise too high around the legs, that holds us in but not so we can’t breathe and most of all, looks chic and elegant.  We’ve tried and tested and these definitely pass the test.

The Boden Santorini swimsuit (currently on sale at £48 down from £60) is one of their most popular items of clothing (it has a 4.5 star rating and comes in 14 different colour ways).  We wore one on holiday six months after giving birth to twins and it was brilliant (although top tip, don’t try to put it on when either you or the swimsuit is wet.  It gets stuck half way up your thighs!)  It has a body sculpting lining, side boning with a hidden ‘under bust support shelf’ and extremely flattering halter neck straps.  It’s also great value for money.

You need to pick your Zimmermann swimwear carefully.  We find that most of the bikinis, for example, are for people with very small boobs as we pop out of them rather alarmingly.  Their swimsuits, however, are a different matter.  Take the Zimmermann Separates Sculpt Link or the Separates Rectangle Link which comes in a variety of colours and patterns some of which, such as this navy blue one, are in the sale (£140 down from £280 or new season is £270).  They come with additional straps but we find that we don’t need them (for full disclosure, we are a D cup).  It might feel a little snug when you put it over your legs but don’t worry because it fits like a dream once it’s on and also, it does stretch over time like your favourite pair of jeans.  We also like the way that it doesn’t give us strap marks but that you can do the crawl in it.  Elegant and comfortable, this one is a winner.

Yes, it’s expensive (sometimes if you’re lucky they go on sale) but we swear, this is by far our most glamorous swimming costume that we own. Norma Kamali’s Bill Mio ruched halter neck swimsuit  (£325) has ruching but not old-lady ruching.  This is more Sophia Loren.  And whilst the ruching itself doesn’t pull you in, it does hide the supportive layer underneath. Pop on a large straw sunhat, a pair of sunglasses and you’re done.

A v shape in a swimsuit is always flattering as it draws attention away from other areas. The New Haven Halterneck plunge one piece from Heidi Klein (£182 reduced from £260) cleverly flatters with both a v neckline and the white lines that contour the body.  Or there is the Marseille V Bar one piece (£154 reduced from £220) that comes in a variety of colours and a very forgiving ribbed fabric.