My gift this Valentine’s Day was a positive Covid test. I couldn’t believe it – having avoided the dreaded lurgy for almost two years, two lines were staring back at me. The day was spent under a duvet in front of Netflix and binge watching Emily in Paris. I did get a beautiful single red rose from my husband which cheered me up a bit though.
This year I really wanted to celebrate properly, after last year being in lockdown – was that lockdown part three? I lose track. So, it’s just as well we planned our celebrations for the Saturday before Valentine’s, after all who wants to celebrate on a Monday anyway?
Despite lockdown last year, we did make the best of it and still celebrate with an afternoon tea delivered from Cutter and Squidge in London. I wore a jumper from Oasis with heart buttons on the sleeves and was spoilt with my favourite red roses and some heart earrings from Pandora, so I can’t really complain.
I know a lot of people see Valentine’s as commercialised and so don’t bother to celebrate it at all, but I think any opportunity to celebrate love is worth taking. Having said that I do try to avoid restaurants with set Valentine’s menus, as it is usually inferior food and service at an inflated price.
This year, we did something a little different to the norm. The huge slide at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, ArcelorMittal Orbit, had been on my bucket list for a while and as I can see it from my new office window, I figured it was time to take the plunge. I’ve always enjoyed theme park rides so thought this would be great, until I read that the last part of the slide is corkscrewing in the dark that is! Flashbacks hit me of Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris, aged 13 – the only ride I’ve ever hated.
The slide is the world’s longest tunnel slide at 178m long. There are viewing platforms to take in the views across London before you slide and they are breath-taking. You can see as far as the Shard, the O2 and Canary Wharf. Once up there and seeing the slide, my nerve started to go. There are transparent sections of the slide to take in the views and I was watching people go down. Was I too old for all this now? Did I really want to be doing it? I figured the slide has been there for ten years now (how were the Olympics ten years ago?) so it must be safe and you are only on it for 40 seconds so how bad could it really be?
Anyway our slot came and we put on the head protection and elbow pads and joined the queue. I decided to go first and get it over with and I really don’t know what I was worried about – if anything it was quite tame and I really enjoyed it. My other half on the other hand wasn’t so keen!
Afterwards as we walked round the structure, trying to get a good picture, you could hear people screaming as they came down and we looked at each other and said we were glad we hadn’t heard that before we went on it or we may have chickened out!
We finished the evening with a more traditional celebration – a meal at The Real Greek with prosecco and cocktails!
It’s so easy for day to day life to take over and to stop spending quality time with the one you love, so Valentine’s is the perfect reminder to appreciate each other.
So here I am again, finally putting a blog together, after some eighteen months plus absence.
Next Tuesday 23 March, marks a year since lockdown began in England. We were so sure it would only be for 3-4 weeks and here we are a year later! Although there has been some rule relaxation over that time, life as we know it has not been able to resume.
Now in many ways I know I am one of the lucky ones. Up to this point, I have been lucky enough not to suffer Covid-19 myself and my family are thankfully all safe. The vaccine programme is well underway and we have a roadmap for getting out of this, but still a year locked down has taken its toll, particularly with the additional personal challenges – those close to me know what I am referring to. The hardest part has been this stretch since Christmas where we have been back in full lockdown but without the sunshine of last year’s full lockdown. I think what was once a novelty, has started to become quite tiresome now. A holiday to look forward to or even a meal out would be nice.
Now I vowed a year ago to start blogging again – after all lack of time could no longer be used as an excuse – however somehow or another, weekend after weekend would pass without me getting around to it. Well now as we have a roadmap for hopefully being back to normal by June, I really need to get on with this before time does become an issue again.
So, what am I going to write about you might ask, given that most of the last year has revolved around my four walls and the latest Netflix series? Well there is plenty to catch you up on prior to the pandemic changing our lives beyond recognition, but I’ll start with a reflection on our current situation.
There have amazingly been some positives to come out of this world crisis and I only realised quite how many at New Year, when I went to post my top ten photos of the year from my camera roll on Instagram and struggled to narrow it down.
In January 2020, we got our new rabbit, Benji – a continental giant. I had been keen to get another, since we lost our beloved Rufus the previous October and I’m so glad we did before the pandemic hit, as he has been a great comfort during the lockdown, even if we do now have a lot less carpet than then, thanks to his chewing! Next month we will be adding to our pet family with a girlfriend for him – double trouble here we come!
I had never been a great one for gardening before the pandemic, but last year, my husband and I really got stuck in and grew runner beans, courgettes and peppers successfully. The peppers I was particularly proud of as I grew them from seeds I dried out of peppers from the supermarket. The BBQ was used more than it had been in all the years of having it too!
Having lived in Medway ten years next month, it had never really felt like home, mainly I think as I used it much like a hotel as I worked in London all week and visited friends and family in the London boroughs most weekends. Now while I would still like to move back to a London borough, the pandemic has made me appreciate my local area far more. We have discovered and appreciated some great beauty spots on our doorstep and as well as keeping up our running (despite there being no parkruns) we have also realised the pleasure a good walk can bring. We’ve also got to know our neighbours better and it feels more like a community – particularly on VE Day in May, when we had a street party.
Our wedding anniversaries have always been grand celebrations, usually involving a holiday, but I actually found our 2020 celebration of six years together far more special than any of those, because so much more thought went into it– read more about that in a later blog.
I started volunteering for the Rainbows, part of Girlguiding, it’s for the 5–7-year-olds before Brownies. Volunteering with Girlguiding was something I had wanted to do for a long time but somehow, again never got around to. So far it has all been on Zoom but I am looking forward to finally meeting them all in person after Easter, all being well. Volunteering really is so rewarding and I’d encourage anyone to look for opportunities, even if you only have limited time available.
I got to see one of my closest friends get married and get her well-deserved happy ever after, the weekend before they cut wedding numbers from 30 to 15. The ceremony was beautiful and held at The Old Marylebone Town Hall. I felt so privileged to be included in the intimate ceremony and the smaller numbers made it all the more special. She looked absolutely stunning and they both looked so happy. It was a cold, windy day but we still managed confetti on the steps as they came out, followed by prosecco and the favour was a facemask to remember the occasion. I wore a purple dress from Silk Fred, with my wonderful Sophia Webster sandals which I had bought for her original do, planned for April 2020 but cancelled due to the lockdown.
One of our proudest moments of last year was being selected to be Godparents to my best friend’s son. Again, the ceremony was small given restrictions and we went with my friend and her husband for afternoon tea after the service. It just felt extra special somehow because it was a small affair. I wore a floral maxi dress from Oasis, with a navy waterfall jacket from New Look and my espadrilles by Castaner that I got in Barcelona a few years back.
In amongst all the craziness, my husband and I even managed a short break to Whitby in August, which we last visited to get engaged in 2013. We stayed in a lovely little cottage and of course visited the famous Magpies restaurant for Fish and Chips.
One of the things I am so grateful for is technology. If it hadn’t been for Zoom and FaceTime, I’m not sure how I would have coped. While nowhere near as good as meeting people face to face, it is a good consolation and I have enjoyed video calls with friends and family, including quizzes! I have never researched so many quiz questions in my life! We have regularly had dinner over facetime with my Mum and Dad which actually works really well and you almost forget the camera is there. Christmas lunch was done like this and we told cracker jokes and opened our presents over it too.
I’ve loved spending more time with my husband, even if we have driven each other crazy at times and when I have managed to see friends, it has been more quality time, without distractions and I feel we’ve got to know each other even better.
I certainly haven’t missed the commute, although it will be nice to see work colleagues in the flesh again. It will be lovely to get some routine back and a push to get out of bed in the morning, rather than leaving it to the last possible minute to roll into the spare bedroom and start work. One phrase I definitely won’t miss is ‘you’re on mute.’
I will miss some of the simple pleasures that lockdown has brought though, not least that quality time spent with people. A slower pace of life has been nice and time to notice some of the nature around us – maybe the answer is a blended approach. I won’t be giving up my Sunday evening baths with Lush bath bombs, candles and a book, that’s for sure! I’m sure we will all be glad when the hairdressers open though – there’s a reason I never trained as one – me and clippers are not a match made in heaven, as my husband can testify!
We all hope we are on the home straight now, but why not take some time to look for the positives in this nightmare and like me, you might be surprised at how long your list is!
Looking for a night out with a twist? Look no further than the Evans & Peel detective agency in Earls Court, London.
My friend, who has fabulous vintage style and can always be relied upon for a good night out, announced that the theme of her birthday celebrations this year would be film noir. Apart from the obvious translation to ‘a black film’, I’m ashamed to say that I knew little else about this, but Google is always on hand to help.
Film noir is a genre, retrospectively assigned by film critics, to Hollywood crime dramas from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. The Big Sleep, This Gun for Hire, The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are a few of examples of classic film noir. The films tended to be quite pessimistic as was the general mood in post war America. They are usually saturated with cynicism as well as using stark light/dark contrasts and dramatic shadowing, as a visual style.
For the occasion, I wore a black pencil dress from Pretty Kitty Fashion with wartime seamed tights and a cream faux fur jacket from New Look. I set the outfit off with red Sarah Jessica Parker shoes in a classic t-bar style and a black vintage frame, clip top bag which incidentally, was bought for me years back by the birthday girl. I styled my hair using a Heidi roll tool also from Pretty Kitty Fashion and topped it off with a burgundy pill box hat from Kiss Kiss Heart.
On arrival at the venue, you would never guess in a million years that it was a bar. You are greeted by a simple door with Evans and Peel detective agency written on it and a buzzer. After pressing said buzzer, you follow the stairs down to a dark office, where you are asked to state your case. One of our group stated that their wedding ring had been stolen and they believed the culprit to be someone in our group. The agency agreed to take the case on, at which point, a bookcase opens to reveal the bar. Menus in brown case file envelopes are given out which list aptly named prohibition radiator moonshine beer amongst a selection of cocktails and it’s there I’m afraid, that the theme sadly ends.
Not for us however, as our case had been thought up, based on prior knowledge of the evening’s events that were still to come. Suddenly a member of our group pointed at my friend’s boyfriend and said “it was you who stole the ring!” To this, the smartly dressed ‘doctor’ dropped to one knee and proposed to my friend who was dressed as the classic Coco Chanel. Her expression was priceless, she was completely shocked and clearly not expecting it, but very quickly that turned to pure joy as she accepted.
It was a beautiful moment between them that I feel very privileged to have been a part of. I am so happy for my friend as she so deserves the happiness she has clearly now found. I await their wedding in June with anticipation – I know it will be another beautifully styled vintage event.
Congratulations guys – who says film noir is dark and pessimistic – it certainly brought you guys great joy and happiness.
May was our third wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to go away for a week. Having spent the last few years visiting various far flung places, we thought it was time we explored the treasures the UK has to offer and as such headed to Scotland.
We could have driven or flown but we opted to travel by the Caledonian Sleeper train, which booked in advance was very reasonably priced and hired a car once there. Now the sleeper train is not luxury but an experience none the less and it certainly is nice to fall asleep in London and wake up in the Scottish Highlands.
We were greeted at Fort William by horrendous rain – the main problem with staying in the UK. As we were unable to book into our accommodation before 4pm, we sought refuge at the Inverlochy Castle hotel and indulged in afternoon tea.
Highland scenery is stunning and by our bed and breakfast there was a beautiful wide expanse of lake which was ironic given that they ran out of water by the Thursday!
A walk through Nevis Gorge to Steel Falls is well worth it, if not for the faint hearted – it’s a four and a half mile round trip. The ground is rocky and rough with sheer drops but you are rewarded with a beautiful photo opportunity. Just make sure you wear appropriate footwear – my Italian leather ballerina pumps didn’t cut it!
Glencoe also provides beautiful views and has been used for films such as James Bond – Skyfall and Harry Potter – it’s where Hagrid’s hut was built.
T-Shirt Oasis, cropped jeans Oasis and ballet pumps from Milan
A great way to see some of the flatter scenery the highlands have to offer is by horseback. I have always enjoyed horse riding and really enjoyed my trek in Tain – not least as I managed to tick off my bucket list, riding on the beach.
Sweatshirt Joy, Jeans Oasis and rain jacket New Look
On our actual anniversary we boarded the Jacobite steam train for a journey from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made infamous by the Harry Potter films. We celebrated with champagne and exchanged gifts. The three year wedding anniversary is leather and as such, we couldn’t have let it pass without him adding to my shoe collection. I was ecstatic to open my very own pair of classic Pigalle Louboutins in black patent! You can read more about Louboutin in my previous blog First Steps. I bought him a leather wallet with his initials embossed on it from Aspinal of London. Leather is traditionally used to protect and shelter due to its durability, so as your relationship matures, a gift of this represents those qualities.
Harry Potter Charm
If castles are your thing, Scotland has some fabulous examples. We visited Urquhart castle, overlooking Loch Ness, for a great example of castle ruins which date from the 13th to the 16th century and Dunrobin which is a true fairytale style castle. Interestingly Dunrobin castle was used as a boarding school for seven years – imagine going to a school that looked like that!
If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the Seaxplorer fast boat trip out on Loch Leven. We got to see seals and sea birds as well as our captain doing some elaborate fast turns like they do in lifeboats to add to the thrill.
We couldn’t visit Scotland without going to Balmoral of course. Having always been a royalist it was fabulous to see the Queen’s holiday hideaway. Balmoral castle itself is beautiful although we saw very little of the inside. The Landrover safari trip revealed how vast the grounds are, with stunning views and we got to see some majestic deer.
T-Shirt Zara and leather jacket New Look
Being us it was a mad rush to get from Balmoral back to Fort William to catch the sleeper train home but we made it and got a lovely view of Ben Nevis on the journey too.
KIP (Krissy is Phil’s) elephant snuggling on the Caledonian sleeper
The UK really has some great sights that shouldn’t be overlooked. We had a great anniversary and look forward to many more years happily married. I love my husband because he knows me inside out and loves me anyway.
This post marks a momentous occasion in my blogging history – it’s my ‘centiblog’ or hundredth post! Have I really managed to pull together circa 100,000 words on my little life over the last six plus years?!
Blogging has a longer history than many people might be aware of, with the first blog being attributed to a student, Justin Hall in 1994. It wasn’t referred to as a blog then though and it was another three years, before the term ‘weblog’ was coined and further two years, before it became shortened to ‘blog’. Since then it has evolved significantly, gaining peak popularity around 2004. In February 2011 there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. You could say then, that I was somewhat of a late comer, launching my blog in April 2011.
Having always had a passion for writing, as well as keeping a diary since childhood, it was a friend who suggested I write a blog, around the time I moved in with my now husband. Being I was also an avid follower of Sex and the City, I obviously had desires to live like its lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker who wrote a newspaper column about her life in order to earn a living.
I would define my blog as a ‘lifestyle’ blog with a focus on fashion and shoes. What’s a ‘lifestyle’ blog I hear you say? Some people see it as a catch-all subject that means the blog lacks a focus, whilst I see it more as a description of what life is like for a person of a certain age in a certain location; a little like a diary. I think blogs will be used in the future to inform history, in much the same way as diaries, such as that of Anne Frank, have informed our knowledge today, of years gone by. If nothing else it may be something my future children will enjoy reading.
Other than writing, I have long been a dedicated follower of fashion with a particular devotion to shoes and therefore love to entwine my outfits of the day with experiences abroad or in London, from afternoon tea to exhibitions. Of course my blog may have a change of direction if and when my husband and I cease to be D.I.N.Ks (double income, no kids) which is the beauty of a lifestyle blog – it evolves as your life does.
So what makes a successful blog? I don’t have a secret formula – being I am still waiting for mine to take off but what I can do is share some of the tips I have learnt along the way.
My number one rule has to be draft, re-draft and draft again! If you can get someone else to read it before you publish even better, as often you become blind to your own errors.
I write more as a hobby – fitting in time as and when, but if you truly want your blog to become a commercial enterprise you need to post at regular intervals so it is probably worth setting aside time each day to write. What day and time you choose to post your blog can have an effect on subscribers so I would advise trial and error using analytic tools to see what works. I found I get greatest readership if I post on a Sunday evening, so I try to stick to this time now.
Inspiration often comes unannounced so it is handy to carry a notebook with you that you can jot ideas down in as they come to you. You may find it helpful to create a space in which to write that you feel enhances the creative juices and somewhere you can remain uninterrupted. I have a beautiful desk area under the stairs which I am continually kitting out with my latest stationery purchases. I particularly love Kikki K products. I do also enjoy writing in my summer-house when weather permits.
Social media is a fantastic tool for any blogger. I had always used Facebook and so share a link to each new post there, but I have found that Twitter is even better for getting you noticed. Twitter has the added bonus of you being able to link posts to companies, whom you have featured.
Brand is important for your blog but often difficult to achieve, especially if you are blogging through a platform such as WordPress or Blogspot. It seems unless you can master CCS coding, something that continues to be beyond my capabilities, you are stuck using the templates available in terms of background for your blog. I did however create a logo for myself which is at least a start at branding.
This brings me neatly on to hosting platforms, which is how I do my blog and therefore what I have the greatest knowledge of. WordPress also allow you to add tags which work in a similar way to hashtags on twitter and make it easier for people to find you on the site. The best way to increase followers is to interact with other bloggers on the platform. Read as many blogs as possible and not only follow them but comment on them too. If someone comments on your blog, don’t let the conversation dry up – interact with that person.
I hope you have found some useful tips and you are inspired to follow my blog. I look forward to entertaining you with my next 100 blogs!
All little girls love princesses and Diana certainly was the fairytale princess. The Royal family has always been admired the world over and is quintessentially British but Diana challenged their old-fashioned ways and appealed to a whole new generation.
I was 14 when my Mum woke me one Sunday morning to tell me Diana had died, aged just 36. The whole world went into shock and there was a huge outpour of public grief.
I went to see the sea of flowers at Kensington Palace, signed a local condolence book, queued at Woolworths for Elton John’s Candle in the Wind tribute single and was glued to the TV for the funeral. Along with most of the nation, I mourned the people’s princess. She was someone who was so compassionate and gave so much to so many.
Flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace September 1997
It’s hard to believe that it’s 20 years ago today that Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris. The world has moved on so, that Diana would scarcely recognise it – social media for one thing, but still today people remember the wonderful Diana. She is one of the few people who can still sell a paper 20 years after her death.
Diana loved fashion and an exhibition which opened in February at Kensington Palace, shows her transition from shy teenager to style icon. In April, my Mum and I went to visit Diana: Her Fashion Story.
Many of Diana’s dresses were auctioned in June 1997 to raise money for her charities, so this exhibition has relied on the kindness of collectors to lend the dresses for it. One of those dresses is the Catherine Walker dress she wore to the Christie’s dress auction.
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
25 dresses are on display and show how the girl who owned very few of her own clothes evolved into the most photographed woman in the world, championing British designers and making clothes work for her. She once asked Jasper Conran: ‘What message will I be giving out if I wear this?’ This is something we can all relate to. Fashion is fun but we also use fashion to portray a certain image of ourselves.
The exhibition looks at her early fashion choices which drew on the romantic style of the 1980’s through to her power dressing in the 90’s.
Her first official portrait in 1981 saw her wearing a pretty pussy bow frilly blouse designed by the Emanuel’s, who went on to design her wedding dress.
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
Her honeymoon tweed suit that she wore in Balmoral was on display.
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
Some of her glamorous evening gowns were on display such as the ‘Travolta’ dress. She wore this midnight blue velvet dress by Victor Edelstein at the White House in 1985 when she danced with John Travolta. Diana worked a lot with the designer Catherine Walker and in the late 1980’s wore her dress, that became known as the ‘Elvis’ dress, to the British Fashion Awards.
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
Her charity work increased during the 90’s and she wanted her causes to be taken seriously, rather than for her to be just seen as a clothes horse. As such she amended her style and opted for simple suits.
Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces Press Office
The exhibition also included some of the many magazines she graced the front cover of and sketches of some of her wonderful outfits.
The one dress I was disappointed not to see in the exhibition is what many referred to as the ‘revenge’ dress which she wore to a dinner at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994, the same night Charles admitted to an affair with Camilla. This is when I think she looked her most stunning.
Image courtesy of Google
Alongside this exhibition the garden team at Kensington Palace have created the ‘White Garden’ as a tribute to Diana. Diana often chatted with the gardeners and admired the floral displays in the 15 years she lived at Kensington Palace.
For this day I wore a pink dress with bunnies on the collar by Victoria Beckham x Target and pink rose pumps from Oasis.
After the exhibition Mum and I went and joined the Afternoon Tea Bus Tour to continue with the stereotypically British traditions. Run by Brigit’s Bakery which has a shop in Covent Garden, this tea is served on a restored 1960’s routemaster bus. Brigit’s Bakery or B Bakery as it is otherwise known as, was founded in 2011 by Brigit Bloch and is fun, girly, quirky and has a French twist.
As tea is served, the bus takes you around all the big sights of London including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Royal Albert Hall, Notting Hill and the London Eye. The tour comes with a commentary so you learn some great facts about London’s sights too. Did you know for example, 100,000 people come to shop at Harrods everyday or that the Houses of Parliament have been home to the British government for over 900 years? All these facts can be discovered whilst you enjoy a fantastic tea prepared by French pastry chefs. There was also a fantastic sight on the bus, in the shape of one of the waiters, lol!
At the end of the tour they allowed us to keep our branded plastic coffee cups.
So to return to the main theme of this blog – 20 years on what is Diana’s legacy? Her two wonderful boys, William and Harry continue with the charity work she started and have grown into men she would have been proud of.
Her fairytale sadly didn’t have a happy ending but girls still dream of being a princess like her. As Elizabeth Emanuel so eloquently put it: ‘there are loads of movie stars and celebrities but there will be only one Diana.’ Rest in peace the ‘Queen of our Hearts’.
In April I went to the Classic Car Boot Sale held in London’s Kings Cross.
What springs to mind when I say boot sale? 5am start, a muddy field and people’s junk on sale – this event is as much like that, as glamping is to camping!
Run by House of Hemingway, people bring their classic cars and sell all manor of fine vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, homeware and vinyl.
Now as you can imagine this was right up my street, I love classic cars having owned a 1970’s VW Beetle and you all know how I love all things vintage. It was also a bargain event given it was in London, with tickets costing just £5 on the door or £4 if booked in advance.
To add to the atmosphere there was a DJ on the top deck of a vintage bus playing all the golden oldies and many people came in vintage dress.
There were bars on vintage buses, some great food stalls also in vintage vehicles and even a mobile cinema.
Unfortunately for me, vintage clothes tend to be quite small, as women have in general got bigger over the years, so there was little there that would fit me. I did however find a stall selling new items in vintage styles, called Weekend Doll and bought this red t-shirt.
For the day I wore a black pleated skirt from Asos, plain black vest top from New Look, my trusted biker jacket also from New Look and a scarf from Victoria Beckham for Target. I wore black flat, multi strap shoes from Zara and finished the look an Forever 21 suede look saddle bag, which toned with the orange on the scarf and a Lulu Guinness umbrella – after all this is England, so the event enjoyed sunshine and showers.
Talking of 5am starts, there was one thing I was willing to do that for and that was earlier this month, one Sunday when Victoria Beckham x Target went on sale! Magazines had been building up to the release for weeks so I stayed up on the Saturday thinking it would go live at midnight Sunday, only to find it didn’t, so then set the alarm for 5am, which would be midnight in the USA and still nothing. After constantly hitting refresh on the webpage, it finally went live at well-gone 9am. I was lucky enough to bag the scarf above and a dress before it sold out though so was quite pleased with myself.
If you like the sound of what you have read, there is another classic car boot sale being held on 9th and 10th September in London Kings Cross. For tickets visit www.classiccarbootsale.co.uk
If ever there was a city that was made for me it’s Milan, What’s not to like? A fashion capital, in a country where they are connoisseurs of coffee, creators of prosecco and masters of food.
Our trip in March was somewhat a last minute affair and to be completely honest only came about when I heard that Manolo Blahnik was holding an exhibition there. I managed to convince my husband that this was just something I had to go to being that he is my favourite shoe designer of all time.
Dress by Sugarhill Boutique, Converse shoes and bag from New Look
The exhibition, held in Palazzo Morando, certainly didn’t disappoint. Manolo is an absolute genius. His design drawings are works of art in their own right and the shoes are just stunning. His imagination is infinite and he takes inspiration from people, nature, travel, artists and architecture. Born in 1942 in the Canary Islands to a Spanish mother and Czech father, his journey into shoe design happened by accident. He went to art school in Paris, before moving to London in the late 1960’s. The feet of Greek sculptures had always fascinated him and then in 1971 he met the editor in chief of American Vogue and as she perused his portfolio, she was taken by his shoe drawings and she told him to ‘Stick to extremities and make shoes’. He then learnt his trade through observations of factories in England and Italy and actually received no formal training in shoe making. He did some collaborative work before opening his first store in London in 1973. Since then his career has gone from strength to strength and he has won numerous awards and received a CBE from the Queen.
I first fell in love with his designs following my obsession with Sex and the City, where the main character, Carrie has an addiction to his footwear. I was married in the same blue satin Manolo’s as Carrie married Big in and they remain one of my most treasured possessions.
Hangisi by Manolo Blahnik
The collection on display takes you on a journey through Manolo’s imagination with over 80 original drawings and 52 shoes. Each shoe is crafted with such attention to detail and he sees them like characters in a story, giving each a proper name. Some of the embellishments are absolutely stunning as are the range of different materials utilised by Manolo.
Following the visit to the exhibition it was time for a cappuccino and a flick through the trusted Lonely Planet guidebook.
We then took the opportunity to get some exercise and explore a pretty local park, giardini pubblici, before admiring the fantastically alluring designer shop window displays in the Quadrilatero d’Oro or golden quarter. There was time for a quick espresso stop at a very glam espresso bar, Sant’Ambroeus that has an impressive chandelier and given the time of year some beautifully wrapped Easter Eggs.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat before joining our tour party at the Castello Sforzesco. This 15th century fortress was the home of the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan during the Renaissance. Following a long walk around with what felt like an intense history lesson, we finally got to see what we had booked the tour for – Leonardo Da Vinci the Last Supper painting. It is an amazing sight and it is hard to believe it was painted in the 15th century. We refuelled with a delicious Italian icecream before jumping on one of their vintage trams.
The second day we walked around the awe inspiring Domino, a gothic cathedral of elaborate marble construction with no less than 135 spires. The nearby shopping arcade, Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II is worth a look whilst you are in the vicinity. More than just a shopping arcade, the neoclassical building is constructed of iron and glass and shaped like a cross. Even if you hate shopping it is well worth popping inside to admire the incredible architecture. It was then time for a refreshing cosmopolitan on the roof terrace of Aperol, overlooking the magnificent cathedral. The bar is an ode to the 1970’s drink with a huge sculpted orange bar. I then had to nip back to the hotel to put on jeans in order to go and look inside the cathedral, which is just a magnificent inside as out.
Blouse Mango, Skirt with braces Dorothy Perkins, Converse shoes, Socks Oasis, Bag New Look
My cultural brain suitably enriched, my shopping urges were once again calling so we took the opportunity to browse a couple of vintage shops before regrouping with a latte.
That evening we visited the Nottingham Forest cocktail bar. You have to get there prior to opening and queue as it is so small, but it was so worth the wait. The cocktails are just so varied and imaginative. Some even use liquid nitrogen and come smoking. I of course had to order the Sex and the City. The glass of cosmopolitan was brought to me in a plastic stiletto and there was a surprise flavoured free gift from Samantha – I’ll let you guess what that might have been!
The final day we booked a classic Fiat 500 tour of the city. A car so iconic to Italy was the only choice for me. The sun shone brightly and our enthusiastic guide and driver showed us all the key sights of the city in just over an hour and a half. It is strange as I ended up owning a Fiat 500 by chance but I now love them almost as much as I love VW Beetles – I only said almost!
Jeans Oasis, Converse shoes, T-shirt Kiss Kiss Heart and bag Biba
We then ventured down to Navigli, the canal district where I had a delicious pizza and even got my husband to sample one as they offer a cheese free pizza. Of course there was an ulterior motive for me visiting this area. Mentioned in the guidebook was a shoe shop called Mauro Leone – for fashionistas on a budget. I bought a gorgeous pair of red patent leather ballet pumps and I can honestly say they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever bought.
At the airport on the way home, I bought another souvenir of my trip – a Pandora charm shaped as a stiletto.
It was a truly amazing trip and I remain ever grateful to my long-suffering husband for agreeing to go just for a shoe exhibition. I absolutely loved Milan and suggest it is a right of passage for any fashionista.
My friend and I attended the second annual Glamour Beauty Festival at the beginning of March, which was held at Saatchi Gallery London.
I have been a dedicated subscriber to Glamour magazine for many years and when I saw this advertised I just knew this was a perfect girls day out. In case I needed further persuasion, this years festival was being sponsored by Fiat 500 and there would be an opportunity for a mock up Glamour cover shoot with the new Fiat 500 Riva. That’s it I was sold!
I got my very own Fiat 500 last October, from my old boss who had owned it from new and I have now become quite a fan of the cute iconic car which celebrates its diamond anniversary of production this year.
For the festival I wore a grey t-shirt dress with cute black tie up ribbon at the back from New Look, a denim floral jacket also from New Look and some black suede slouch boots from House of Fraser. I accessorised my hair with a Orelia cute star clip from Asos and the piece de la resistance of the outfit was a monogrammed clutch from Oasis.
First stop on arrival was of course the Fiat 500 pool party. They had a classic Fiat 500 on display and of course the new Fiat Riva. The make up artists covered us in sparkle in keeping with the fact it was the diamond jubilee year and we then got to pose in the Riva whilst a photographer snapped away. The photo was then inserted onto a Glamour mock cover and emailed to us.
Next stop had to be to collect our goodie bags. I have to say this goody bag was something else with an estimated value of over £100, making the £45 ticket to the festival more than worth it! I have since used many of the products and particularly recommend the Garnier Micellar water, Garnier moisture bomb UV mist, Estee Edit pink peony overnight water pack and the Nars blush in Orgasm.
There were so many stands and so little time to try everything, given many of the stands had queues but we managed to fit in quite a bit.
The Garnier Ultimate Blends stand was excellent and I had some honey restore hand cream tested on me. I have incredibly dry hands and couldn’t believe the difference this cream instantly made. My friend persuaded the lady to give me a free tube too which was fantastic.
Next we visited the Eylure stand to have false eyelashes applied. I had opulent ones applied.
My favourite one was the last stand we went to which was Fresh. The brand was founded in 1991 by Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg who opened a store in Boston curating upscale natural beauty products from around the world. In 1993 they launched the iconic oval soap and the brand has grown since then with them celebrating their 25th anniversary last year. I must confess that I hadn’t heard of them before but anything that uses natural ingredients always gets my endorsement. There are 2 stores in London and Harrods also stocks their products.
The mask bar allowed you to test out some of their face masks although I had them tested on the back of my hand rather than ruin the makeup I had already had done. I also tested the sugar lip polish which was amazing – my lips had never felt so smooth afterwards. Fresh first used sugar in a body exfoliant in 1998 and it ignited an industry wide trend of using sugar in beauty products. The festival goodie bag included a Fresh soy facial cleanser and we also got some free samples of the masks from the stand along with a tinted lip treatment.
I was totally sold on these products and went on to order online after the festival the rose deep hydration face cream and the sugar lip polish. When they were delivered the products were presented in a lovely box tied with a ribbon and the box was lined with pretty vintage print tissue. You also received some free sample sachets and a small jar of vitamin nectar vibrancy boosting facemask.
Tickets to the festival are sold as morning or afternoon sessions. We purchased just the morning but some people had purchased both and that would be my only criticism of the day that those who had paid for both sessions had to leave the gallery for an hour at lunch time.
We finished our visit with prosecco from the bar there. It was a wonderful girly day of pampering that I highly recommend to any beauty product fan.
As an avid shoe lover, I have long admired the great designs of Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Sophia Webster, to name but a few. For one day only, thanks to a wonderfully thoughtful Christmas gift from my husband, I got to experience what it’s like to be that designer, on the amazing ‘become a shoe design icon’ course, run by ‘I Can Make Shoes’.
It was a wet Sunday when I made my way by train over to trendy East London – Bethnal Green and found The Pill Box where the courses are run; but nothing was going to dampen my enthusiasm.
The arty Pill Box
It was a nice small class of 3 which made for a great learning environment. Our teacher Kiren was inspiring when she shared how she too had attended this course a few years back and now not only teaches but also is designing and making her own collection of shoes.
The class began with an introduction to the anatomy of a shoe. Before being able to design a shoe, it is important to understand all the components that make one up as this can have an influence on the art of the possible.
It can be quite daunting to be faced with a blank sheet of paper and just a template of a foot to design around, but we were given various books to get the creative juices flowing. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that my favourite of these was ‘Manolo’s New Shoes’.
Manolo uses watercolours, pencils and china ink to create his drawings which are works of art in their own right. Some are sketches and design concepts whereas others are created after the shoe has been made as a kind of portrait of the shoe. I would love to own one of his original drawings and came so close when I signed up for the launch of his wedding collection event where each attendee would receive a drawing but alas I was too late and the event was already full.
No one can fail to be inspired by his work and further books showed me the kinds of sources of inspiration designers use. I was particularly taken by the use of travel to inspire and from that began to look through photos of my own travels on my phone. My creativity was sparked by a photo I had taken at Parc Guell in Barcelona.
The tower turned upside down was the basis for the heel on my peep toe sandal which would be blue and white woven leather, with a blue ribbon to fasten it around the ankle. I also designed a second shoe based around some of my favourite things; it was a black court shoe with pink ribbons that laced up the ankle. On the front was a butterfly and the heel was designed like a champagne flute. I could have happily continued designing all day but the next step was making a template which would be used to cut out the leather.
A last in the shoe size required is used to create this template. A last is like a mould made of wood or hard plastic which has a shape similar to a human foot. There are different lasts depending on the type of shoe being made i.e. flat shoe, heeled shoe, boot etc.
There are various ways of making the template which can then be used to cut the leather. The technique we were shown involved using masking tape. The strips of tape are applied in a certain order until the entire last is covered.
The next step is then to transfer the 2D design onto the last thus making it 3D and ensuring that each section is suitable comfort wise in relation to the foot. We all made a template for a simple court shoe as that forms the base of many high heels so is then a transferable skill.
Once the shoe is marked out, including the side seam as courts are rarely made in one piece; a craft knife is then used to cut round the lines. Excess tape is then removed leaving just the template design which can then also be carefully peeled off the last.
The template is then laid flat on a plain sheet of paper and stuck down. In order to make it flat, some little snips are required around the vamp (piece that covers the toes or the front part of the shoe) and the side seam. It is important to then write the last reference and the size on your template for future reference.
A line is then drawn around the masking tape to allow a 2.5cm lasting allowance which is the leather that will fold under the last and be joined to the inner-sole board and a 0.5cm folding allowance for the seam on the topline of the shoe as well as at the side seam where the two sides are joined.
This was as far as we went on this course but the next step in the shoe making process would be to cut out the template around the pencil lines, lay it on the leather and then cut the leather.
This has definitely made me want to go on to learn more and I would love to make my Parc Guell sandals – depicted on the left in my drawings above.
I highly recommend this course to any shoe fanatic! Many shoes are now mass-produced but the best ones are still hand-made and when you see the amount of work that goes into the process, it is no surprise that hand-made shoes command top dollar!