Sunday, 22 November 2015

A winter walk.

The temperature had dropped and the light was waning. I pulled on a thick jumper, boots and my winter coat and we walked through the park in search of coffee. Clutching warm cardboard cups we visited a Christmas tree hut that has just opened down the road. We're in the market for a small, fat guy, but were gifted a free miniature which we've taken home as a substitute while we continue to make the very important decision. The sky turned from grey to pink to orange to a deep blue - my personal favourite - and now, home again and drinking my apple and cinnamon tea, the last of the sun has gone. It's still early, but there's plenty of telly to watch and at least three blankets available.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lisa's - a Scandinavian review

We wandered down to Portobello Road. It was around 11am on a Saturday morning and my friend Juliet and I wanted to have a serious catch up over a delicious but reasonably-priced breakfast. After a fight through the crush of the market we found our chosen destination, Lisa’s, my first Scandinavian café experience, where two enviably pretty girls setting up the tables outside welcomed us in.

The Swedish café had just opened and we were the first customers there. It was impeccably clean. We were ushered past carefully sanded wooden tables and benches covered in cushions, through to the conservatory at the back where we sat at a sweet little table in the corner. There were jars of fresh flowers everywhere and I got a bit emotional about how visually pleasing I found it all.

One of the waitresses came over and offered us teas and coffees to start. It all felt very relaxed and sophisticated. We ordered tea for Juliet, which appeared soon after in a tall glass, and coffee and fresh orange juice for me. I’m fussy about my coffee. I drink a lot of milky lattes from Starbucks that I’m suspicious don’t even contain coffee so can’t offend me too much, but if it’s too strong or too bitter, or has a little bit of a burnt aftertaste, I just can’t stomach it. However, as was the case on this occasion, if I can contentedly drink that sweet nectar black, I’m probably going to inappropriately embrace the barista and adopt a very good mood for at least the next 3 hours.

We chatted and sipped our drinks in the peace and quiet. Juliet is an old colleague of mine so there was much to catch up on – namely office gossip and Major Life News. A Swedish family soon joined the large table beside us. They seemed to be regulars and I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign.

The menu featured meatballs, pickled vegetables, pastries, and fras vafflor (crispy Swedish waffles) and much else besides. We went for the fras vafflor. And they were good.

My very-clearly freshly made waffle was both crisp and doughy, and adorned with fresh berries and a generous dollop of whipped cream. It was light but decadent. My only complaint being that it was quite small and I could have quite easily put away six.

The dinner and lunch menu also looked excellent, and I plan to make a return in the very near future to test it. I’ve got my eye on the meatball sandwich with pickled cucumber and the Swedish apple pie for afters.

I was very, very impressed with Lisa’s.  I'd go so far as to stay it's jumped to the top of my list of London cafes. It met my very high expectations of an idyllic Scandinavian haven and since that Saturday morning I’ve been desperately trying to shoehorn another visit into my schedule.

Read about my obsession with Scandinavia here. There will be another blog instalment in my pursuit to live a more Scandinavian life in London very shortly. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Can you really live Danishly in London?

Good Morning!:

Hygge (“hoo-gah”). The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive. To create well-being, connection and warmth. A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. Celebrating the everyday.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may have noticed my current obsession with all things Scandinavian, which has been partially inspired by a wonderful book called The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. Their simple, contemporary design, focus on comfort and ABUNDANCE OF PASTRIES, makes it a very Claire-friendly nation. I was smitten by the first page.

At the beginning of her tale, Helen Russell is a glossy magazine editor living in London; fully immersed in the dawdler-despising big city but feeling somewhat dissatisfied. An opportunity arises when her husband is offered a job in dark, cold Denmark, so they pack up their London flat, don their winter warmers and hop on a plane, embarking on a year of learning, experimenting and fully embracing the art of Living Danishly.

I read about hygge and Helen’s first taste of a real Danish pastry while I was travelling to work with a fellow commuter’s crotch pressed against my forearm. I learned that in Denmark people clock off work at 4pm to spend time with their families. I learned that their citizens can voluntarily leave their job in search of a more fulfilling path and their government will pay them 90% of their salary for up to two years. I learned that people leave their babies outside restaurants while they eat because there is such a high level of trust in their fellow man. I learned that they embrace their long, sub-zero winters by lighting a lot of candles and snuggling up under blankets. I learned that I could really get on board with a Danish way of life.

But, unfortunately (in some ways) I live in London. And can one really live Danishly in London? When you get a badge of honour for staying at your desk till 9pm or answering an email at midnight on a Friday.

Even though we don’t have the same social security or levels of trust (because, let’s be honest, if I left my bike unlocked and turned around to tie my shoelaces I would probably be wishing I had the insurance I decided I couldn’t afford), perhaps the Danish state-of-mind is something we can adopt. The art of hygge is what particularly interests me. It is, essentially, how I want to live my life, and it’s nice to have a word for it.

Embracing simplicity doesn’t make life duller, I don’t think, in fact stripping it back is actually about creating room for more. In the last few days I’ve visited three Scandinavian cafes – one Danish, one Swedish and one Norwegian – and what I noticed besides the spectacular coffee, baked goods and abundance of rye, was the atmosphere. It was like stepping out of a world where everyone is anxious and in a rush and saying yes to stopping. This was no Pret a Manger, where you get elbowed in the kidneys for taking too long to choose your baguette, this was somewhere you could go to relax and spend 4 hours over a cup of coffee with a friend.

I’ve decided to start trying to live a bit more Danishly in London, and, of course, along the way, I’m going to blog about it. I’ll invite friends round for hearty meals, I’ll light a multitude of candles and watch The Bridge with a steaming cup of tea, and I’ll try out all the Scandinavian cafes and restaurants that London has to offer.

I’m going to try and appreciate the now, the simple things and I’m not going to feel bad for wanting to lie on my sofa most of the time. 

Get your copy of The Year of Living Danishly here, and the paperback is out in January.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Do you really need a degree to get into publishing? - a post for BookMachine

‘You’re not going to get anywhere without a degree’ was one sentence I heard often, and got sick of quickly, while I was desperately trying to work out how my adult life was going to pan out at the age of 18.
I wanted to get into publishing but I didn’t want to spend another three years in education, racking up huge amounts of debt and putting off the inevitable. I wasn’t sure that publishing was an industry – like medicine or law, for example – that needed three years plus in a classroom, and decided that for a year or two, depending on how miserable I became, I’d make the most of having parents who lived near London and try my best to get into the coveted world of books.
While there is no fool-proof way of getting a job, you don’t necessarily need a degree. No matter how many people at school or on your internships tell you you do. That is what I want to argue.
I, in fact, don’t even have good A Levels, let alone a Bachelors Honours in English Literature as so many of my (very talented) colleagues do. I left school at 16, did two A Levels via distance learning due to ill health and gained grades I don’t particularly want to include on job applications.
However, I did do a couple of work experience placements at Hodder & Stoughton and worked in a bookshop for a short time, which turned out to be an invaluable asset to my CV. I eventually got my first full time job at a newspaper at the age of 21 – the other end of the phone to where I find myself now. I worked on local news stories by day and by night I built up a reasonable blog and social media following; reviewing books, waxing lyrical about what I was doing that weekend and taking pretty pictures of latte art.
When I came to leave my job at the newspaper, aged 22, and start seriously looking for a job in PR in a publishing house, I told myself I had everything a recent graduate had, if not more. It helps to give yourself a pep talk before a stressful interrogation, but it was also true. I’d had a year or so of stellar hands-on experience in the real world of work, media and PR. I’d created something successful from scratch and effectively promoted myself and my work via social channels. I wasn’t a high school drop-out with no prospects, as I was made to believe at the naïve and terrified age of 18, I was going to be just fine.
I believe that while there is a place for higher education, a lack-of is not to be scoffed at. Encouraging people not to go to university encourages a more creative approach to early career progression and a wider variety of experience within the companies these people end up working for. There are other, sometimes more effective, routes.
I’m still only 23 years old, but I’m now on my second job in publishing as the publicity manager at a thriving independent publisher in North London. And in my last round of job interviews I was not asked once about my lack of degree.
Original piece on BookMachine

Monday, 5 October 2015


I've ventured into the world of vlogging. About 6 years late but here I am - WITH CAKE.

I'm planning on centring my channel around food; making videos of baking, cooking and eating out. It might expand though, who knows. It's all up for grabs.

Make yourself a cup of tea and have a watch of my first video...

Monday, 28 September 2015


I didn't do a summer bucket list this year, something I do every year to encourage myself to you know... have experiences. But I barely ever tick more than 20% off the list, which I'm choosing to put down to the fact that I don't like summer, nor often the activities it provides. The leaves are falling off the trees though now and the air is getting colder so I'm happy and my nose is pink...


- guarantee at least 15 instagram likes by taking a photo of my leather boot-clad feet in a pile of leaves

- drink a chai latte approximately once every three days 

- throw dinner parties and be the type of person that leaves a lit candle in the bathroom so that every activity is of optimum pleasure (weird)

- never spend a Sunday night without tea, pyjamas and Downton

- explore my new section of London and BLOG ABOUT IT

- take at least one photo every day

- start a book club

- clean out my wardrobe so that it actually becomes a wardrobe, rather than just a cupboard in which I throw my clothes when guests come round

- go home to my parents house and sit in front of the fire with a book and their new puppy on my lap

- spend Friday night movie nights with my lady friends and get classy-drunk on red wine

- start vlogging (more on this later)

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Far too much excitement for one Claire (and pictures of my new house).

If I could go back in time and tell my 17-year-old anxiety-riddled self that in just 6 short years I'd be about to start a new job as Publicity Manager at an independent London based publishing house and be living in a small but perfectly proportioned one-bed flat in Maida Vale, I think she'd be reasonably surprised. 

There were times when I thought I might be living with my parents till I was 40 and barren, so this is pretty satisfactory. 

I'm currently drinking a cloudy apple juice in The Elgin, an officially-cool pub with bare stone walls and bearded bar staff, reflecting on the last few weeks. Three things of particular note have happened:

1. I moved into my new house.

2. I got a new job.

3. I was invited to Ellie Goulding's album listening party and met the lady herself, in all her bronzed glory. 

The first is going fabulously. Tim and I have combined our books, crockery and wall art and the finished effect feels a lot like home. Nowhere I've lived since I left my parent's house has felt like home, so this move has sneakily become a bigger deal than I'd maybe anticipated. In a good way, a very good way, but definitely big. I guess I'm growing up. I sometimes even put leftovers in tupperware.

The second is very exciting and a little daunting. I'm leaving SPCK, where I've been their publicist for the last 18 months, and moving to Icon Books to manage their publicity department. It's a huge step, a very different list, and what seems like a wonderful team.

Finally, and arguably the most important point of all, I met Ellie Goulding. As many of you will know, I've loved and admired Ellie for the past 6 years, ever since her first single Under The Sheets debuted at number 53. For reasons I won't go into too much because you'll all just think I'm weird, she/her manager invited me to her album listening party at The Langham hotel this week. It was fun and surreal, I felt a little too old, but more than anything it felt like a cheeky and poignant nod to a stage of my life that seems quite distant now. 

Here's some pictures of my flat. I apologise for the quality - I lost my camera battery because I'm actually not very good at being an organised grownup.