Thursday, 29 January 2009

Shark's Te(a)th

Not to be all hyperbolic and everything, but this may be the coolest tea strainer ever! This won third prize in a design contest called "Beyond Silver." It's made out of plastic, not silver, which explains how it floats.

Unfortunately Pabloe Matteoda's neat little strainer is only a prototype designed for the contest and isn't in production.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

No Sex Please, We're British

A lovely little place I like in London is the London Review of Books bookshop. It has a great cafe, yummy cakes, good coffee, and plenty of copies of the LRB for free perusal. I probably shouldn't admit that the first thing I turn to in the LRB is the personals section, but it's definitely the most entertaining bit of the mag. It had never occurred to me that other people might find the personals section of the LRB as entertaining as I do until I saw a columnist for the Guardian post a selection of his favourites. I'm never really sure if these are meant to be taken seriously or if they are submitted for readerly entertainment, but either way they make me laugh and so I thought I'd share a few of the best:

Not only will this advert win me the woman of my dreams (25, tall, brunette, fun, likes late nights, computer games and Pop Tarts), it also wins me a place at the grown-ups’ table. Errant son, 18, swapping Dad’s Hustler subscription for this crap for the last two years.
box no. 31/02

Yesterday I was a disgusting spectacle in end-stage alcoholism with a gambling problem and not a hope in the world. Today I am the author of this magnificent life-altering statement of yearning and desire. You are a woman to 55 with plenty of cash and very little self-respect. When you reply to this advert your life will never be the same again. My name is Bernard. Never call me Bernie.
box no. 31/01

If you’re reading this hoping for a mini-biopic about battles with drugs, cancer and divorce, talk to the guy above. But if you want to know about historical battle sites in Scotland, talk to me. Alan, 45. Scottish historical battle expert and BDSM fetishist.
box no. 31/06

I make my own sexual lubricant. The secret ingredient is Bovril. Man, 56. Congleton.
box no. 31/07

I put the phrase ‘five-header bi-sexual orgy’ in this ad to increase my Google hits. Really I’m looking for someone who likes hearty soups and jigsaws of kittens. Woman, 62. Bury.
box no. 31/08

[and my personal favourite]
I hate you all. I hate London. I hate books. I hate critics. I hate this magazine, I hate this column and I hate all the goons who appear in it. But if you have large breasts, are younger than 30 and don’t want to talk about the novel you’re ‘writing’ I’ll put all that aside for approximately two hours one Saturday afternoon in January. Man, 33.
box no. 31/04

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

How to have fun in a recession...

Virtual Bubble wrap!!! You don't even need to go to the shops. Sometimes I love the internet.

Monday, 26 January 2009

On Sleep

A friend just sent me a Lawrence poem called "Shadows" and the first four lines describe my present state of mind precisely. And on that indeterminate note, I'm off for some oblivion...

And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.

~D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, 25 January 2009

La Maîtresse de Mendolssen

I got Anne-Sophie Mutter in a break up. He got my internal organs and I got the record collection. Personally I think I got the better deal...

Now, as they say, the music!

I'd been wanting to see Mutter live since The X introduced me to her second recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The first recording, made with the legendary conductor Karajan, was a technically perfect piece - the work of a dutiful protégé - a bit stuffy and refined. The second recording is something quite different - pared down, vibrant, energetic - you get the sense that this is music played for the love of it, for the fun of it, not to display pure technical skill. It's one of my all-time favourite recordings of the piece.

This is a sort of trailer for the recording:

So when I saw that she was playing with the London Philharmonic I nearly wept with joy. This lady is classical music royalty and it's not often that you get to see her perform live.

The concert was on Saturday and her performance was incredible. She played Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and I couldn't take my eyes off her - she was absolutely mesmerising.

Her phrasing is insane, tone is divine, she's lyrical, mischievous, vibrant. In my new policy of not "reviewing" events anymore, I'll just say, find a recording and check it out.

My only complaint (concern?) was that in a packed out auditorium, I must have been one of only a dozen people under 45 in attendance. What is up with that? Why don't more twenty-somethings dig classical music? Didn't your parents force you to go to classical music concerts when you were a kid? Didn't you watch Fantasia?

PS Watch Fantasia - it's insane! In a good way...

Friday, 23 January 2009

Magic House

One of the things I most love about living in London is that it's always surprising.

Through a stroke of luck, I just discovered Khadambi Asalache's house. It's on Wandsworth Road and looks like a normal Georgian house on the outside. Step inside and you're blown away by an amazing fretwork design covering every wall in the house. I'm not very knowledgeable about Asalache, but from what I can gather he was already quite busy, engaged in writing poetry, fiction, working as a civil servant, which makes the twenty some years of work behind it even more impressive. It makes the interior redesign shows on telly look laughable and simplistic compared to the amount of work (and by just one person!) that must have gone into this house.

As far as I can tell, it's not open to the public at the minute, so for now we have to settle for appreciation at a distance.

The Guardian has a great photo slideshow:

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Swimming in the Seine

I met a guy from New York a few days ago who had just been to Paris for the first time. I asked him what he thought of the city and he said, "it's too flat - where are all the skyscrapers?" What's the point in having cities look the same? Even if Paris has been stuck in a bit of an architectural time warp since the late 70's (there's a reason there aren't any skyscrapers in Paris and it's called the Montparnasse Tower. It's hideousness led to the banning the 1977 of buildings taller than 25m (82ft) in the centre, 37m (121ft)farther out) it ain't anymore.

Take Jacob Macfarlane's new Cité de la Mode et du Design. Built next to the Gare d'Austerlitz on the Seine, there's no way anyone is going to miss this. From the river side, it looks like an electric green Gumby is doing the breaststroke in the Seine (Cf. There are so many brilliant conceptual ideas in this building, all amazingly carried off in completion. The Cité houses the most prestigious fashion school in France as well as a new design gallery. But it's not a building for entry badges and students only: cut through it at ground level a wide arcade continues the Seine-side walkway. The strange, undulating green tubes house a network of paths and stairs that wander up and down the building and over the Seine. One of the best bits, however, is where you can't see - on the roof. There's a massive public square covered in decking and planted artificial hills, housing a restaurant, offices, and terraces. The views of the Paris roofscape and the Seine are meant to be fantastic. I can't wait to see it for myself.

Who needs skyscrapers anyway?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Book secret

Today I read an incredible book - maybe even the best book I've ever read. Certainly the most beautiful, the most elegiac.

But I'm not going to tell you what it was. I want to keep it to myself - all to myself. Like the last glowing embers in a once raging fire, I want to keep the warmth of this book clutched against my chest before it turns into ash.

Discover it yourself. For once, I'm keeping a secret.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I'm not an omnivore, I'm a locavore, and other social experiments...

Right now I'm listening to a US radio programme called 'The Splendid Table'. It's a great programme about food and eating and if you have any interest you can listen online at

This week's show is all about eating locally and I loved the idea of (though not so much the comments about) eating locally for an entire year. I think, as a whole, we take the origin of our food completely for granted. As a veggie, I have to be a tiny bit OCD about food because I've opted to not eat certain things. But being super attentive to where your food comes from instead of what it comes from is quite an interesting and thought provoking proposition.

My first thought was that, there's no way I could do this for a month, let alone a whole year. But having said that, I have lately been thinking about doing some kind of silly experiment. My most recent thought (after listening to another radio programme where pensioners complained about their financial situation) was that it would be interesting to try to live on a state pension (something like £90 a week) for a month.

Any thoughts? Should I try to eat locally or live frugally? Or perhaps complete and utter madness and try both at the same time? I have a feeling I'm going to regret ever having brought this up...

Since when did pop stars take fashion advice from politicians?

The woman in the top photograph is Yulia Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister of Ukraine (standing next to Vladimir Putin). In complete contrast to female politicians in the States or the UK, she actually looks pretty stylish, if a little bit Heidi meets orthodox iconography.

The woman in the bottom two photographs is Little Boots, one of 2009's "hot tips" in music, according to the Guardian. How I feel about taking "underground" music advice from the Guardian is another thing altogether.

How funy then that one of the bright young things of Brittish pop music should take her style advice from the Prime Minister of Ukraine...

Friday, 16 January 2009

Invisible Frontiers

I haven't read this book yet, but it's one of the best covers I've seen in a long time. The Chrysler building is astonishing. Gorgeous.

(Click the image for a bigger version of the photo)

To all the Frenchmen that I've loved before

Like all other PhD's, mine is obscure. It has something to do with a poet, long dead, who wrote in a dead language, about the glory days of the Roman republic, dead before he even started writing. You get the point.

So my brilliant plan was to look at the nachleben of this poet and his poem (Lucan and The Pharsalia) in seventeenth and eighteenth century France. The 18th century translation is in prose and is really quite lovely - very civilised. The 17th century translation is a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. Even the translator's contemporaries thought he was smoking crack - one calls his verse translation "obscure gobledygook".

So I put it to you, native French speakers and Francophiles, what in the world is he on about in the following passage? I've tried to translate it literally - it makes no sense. I've tried to translate it with a little poetic license - it still makes no sense. And just to make things difficult, I can't even consult the Latin for a hint because our lovable French translator has gone off on a poetic tangent and there ain't nothing in the Latin which roughly corresponds. Typical...

And before you tell me my French is all wrong and strange and completely bizzare, I say to you that's the 17th century!

Sur tous ceux que le Ciel abandonne aux Tyrans, / Sa disgrace est cuisante, et sa travaux sont grands: / Rome que tant de Rois voyoiens comme leur Reinne. / Ne peut qu’avec horreur se former a la chairne, / La honte de ses fers en augmente le poids / et cette Reine enfin ne peut souffrir les Rois. / A qui Dieux tout-puissants, qui gouvernex le terre.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

British design classics are in the post

I love post. I love receiving post. I love writing letters, putting stickers on letters. Everything about mail and letters and post I love (except junk mail). The final touch on any good letter is a good stamp.

I am a strange and silly little girl who gets excited when the USPS or the Royal Mail come out with interesting and aesthetically pleasing new stamps. These beauties were designed to celebrate 20th-century British design classics. And they rock! I'm going to get some today. Keep an eye out for a letter from me - you'll know it by the wicked stamp!

See the rest at:

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

Just been from the National Theatre after seeing Tom Stoppard's
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. If you studied music at school, you'll immediately recognise the mnemonic... Now, for a change, I'm not going to do what I normally do and write an essay about the damn play. Instead I am merely going to tell you to get your little bum bum down to the NT and see this show.

Though the drama had its premiere in 1977, the difficulties in staging a play that require a full orchestra (on stage!) in addition to the cast of actors means that it is rarely performed.

It was the composer Andre Previn (he also scored the music for the play) who put it to Stopard that he ought to write a play for a symphony orchestra. So Stoppard created a play which didn't simply have an orchestra around to play some music, but to perform a function absolutely essential to the narrative of the drama - all I will say is that the play takes place in an insane asylum (in the Soviet Union, of course) and one of the crazies has an illness which takes the form of him imagining that he "has an orchestra." You can imagine how this plays out with a full orchestra on stage.

It's pure brilliance and an absolute one of a kind. Funny, charming, disturbing, thoughtful, and provocative. Do yourself a favour and get a ticket - it's on until the end of February and since it's one of the shows with a corporate sponsor you can get a ticket for only ten quid!

And oh yeah, what instrument do you play?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

My first film...

It's horrible, but sort of amusing in its hideousness. I haven't figured out how to use any proper editing software, and though everyone always talks up Mac's great video editing, iMovie sucks. It's like ClarisWorks, if any of you are old school Mac users...

Still, considering I was just screwing around with the camera on my phone (only 2 megapixels!), it could have been worse... Maybe? Hopefully.

I'm working on it. Give me a few months and hopefully I'll have made something I can be proud of...

Why pockets rock and handbags suck

Huzzah for this Guardian article that calls for the rise the pocket and the demise of the handbag.

Perhaps the most surprising supporter of not lugging around a handbag is the Editor of the magazine most well known for perpetuating the 'It' bag craze: Vogue Magazine.

Anna Wintour never carries a handbag. Never. Despite the fact that part of her job is to sell the damn things. If that isn't a good enough sales pitch to not spend money (or just put up with the hassle) on bags, then I don't know what is...

Monday, 12 January 2009

The lost glamour of travel...

What happened to glamour in travel? Was it the collapse of capitalism? The rise of capitalism? The Metro of St Petersburg is absolutely amazing, and I'd rather have visually stunning stations to keep me calm during rush-hour than the piped in classical music at depressing Brixton station. Or maybe there never was any 'glamour' in travel and it was always the cake box 'Catch Me If You Can' Pan Am advertising fantasy of travel that sucked us into believing in this phantom glamorous, golden age of travel.

I suppose if there was ever a golden age of travel, it has long been associated with trains. And if there ever was romance associated with air travel, if was romance of the post-modern variety, while rail travel is Romantic with a capital 'R' - think of the Grand Tour or for a modern, nostalgia infested version of the Grand Tour, Paul Theroux's 'The Dark Star Safari' (which incidentally is one of my favourite books). Even now, there is last year's restoration of St. Pancras station, which knocks Heathrow's new Terminal 5 out in the first round. As for dining, the legendary Le Train Bleu restaurant at Paris' Gare du Nord station has no airport counterpart (at least not that I'm aware of).

Just compare the photos below. Airplane or train: I know which one I'd rather be on...

The horror that is Ryanair!

Much nicer... First class on the Eurostar.

Even Esquire thinks the new St Pancras station is sexy enough for a fashion spread.

Passenger hell at Heathrow Terminal 3.

The new terminal 5 - a glorified box. Yawn!

The new St Pancras - well sexy!

Le Train Bleu, aka the most amazing train station restaurant ever. It's in Paris, mais bien sûr, Gare du Lyon to be precise.

The Gare de Lyon - not as sexy as St Pancras - but still pretty...

Friday, 9 January 2009

Random Bushism Generator

This is hilarious.

A few choice examples:

"I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the president." 12 November 2008

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." 29 September 2000

The most expensive restaurant in the world?

I love eating out, but even this is a bit much.

I'm the kind of person who would happily eat out 3 meals a day, every day. I like to cook, but I hate washing up and when push comes to shove, if someone else is making the grub I'm happier. Where most people cringe at an £80 tasting menu, I think that isn't bad value - as long as the food tastes incredible.

With that in mind, it's quite surprising that I've found a restaurant (Alain Ducasse's Plaza Athénée) whose prices shock even me! This menu is absolutely ridiculous! I don't know who eats here, but my guess is you have to show proof at the door that you own a diamond mine in Africa. I mean the food does look delicious and I still want to eat here, but seriously, €135 for some lobster!!! These prices are the most ridiculous I've ever seen (congratulations M. Ducasse). And that's saying something. Makes the Fat Duck look downright cheap!

This is their 'Winter' menu:

• Black truffle marmalade and Roseval potatoes,

sea salt 125 €

• Roasted blue lobster, gnocchi, young leeks

and truffles 135 €


• Steamed langoustines served cold, Iranian osetra caviar,

reduced stock 175 € 95 € - half portion -

• Bresse chicken glazed in an Albufera sauce,

tartufi di Alba 175 €


• Vegetables and fruits cooked / raw, tomato / truffle chutney 65 €

• Sea scallops and cauliflower cream « grenobloise » style 80 €

• Guinea fowl from Challans and duck liver, truffled dressing 90 €

• Line caught sea bass flavoured with citrus / peppers, caramelized fillet 90 €

• Dover sole, clams and cockles, parsley juice 100 €

• Brittany turbot in matelote 95 €

• Rack and saddle of lamb, artichokes and fresh salad, dry fruits crumbs 95 €

• Venison with winter vegetables, reduced red wine spicy sauce 100 €

• Preserved and smoked pigeon, sweet and sour turnips 90 €

• Cheeses refined for you 25 €

• Three dishes of your choice from our "Specialities" - half portion -, cheeses and dessert 360 €

• Three dishes of your choice from "Pleasures of the table" - half portion -, cheeses and dessert

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Mass is Energy

Since The Boy started working in television, I've been making a concentrated effort to learn more about a form of mass communication I previously pretended did not exist. Easy enough to do considering I grew up in a house without TV. Even now in the familial home, la TV is absent.

I came across this programme about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on BBC's iPlayer, a brilliant thing for me as I still don't watch TV in the traditional sense. One of the things I don't like very much about TV is that is dumbs down information for the masses, to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Admittedly, this programme does the same thing, if only out of a necessity to make incredibly complicated particle physics easily digestible for a laymen audience.

In early 2007, I met presenter Brian Cox at a lecture on dark matter given at the Dana Centre (for those of you who live in London, I highly recommend an investigation into the scientific wonder that is the Dana Centre). He's engaging, very bright, and has the ability to distil the complicated tenets of particle physics into bite-sized and easily digestible pieces. I won't bore you with all the details, but if you're at all interested in physics, cosmology, or geeky science definitely check it out - it's only on the iPlayer until Friday.

Another thing, of slightly less importance perhaps, is that it's beautifully shot and edited. I can't imagine there was a huge budget to make this so it's even more of a miracle that they managed to create an hour long show that looks lovely as well. I took lots of screen captures...

Living with ghosts

I want to live here.

The super-elegant cocktail-party potential quotient is incredibly high. That this is the sort of thing I look for in choosing my domestic accommodation is perhaps alarming, but at least with lots of dead people around, my little soirées would be unlikely to draw complaints from the neighbours...