Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Viva la revolution! (NO MORE GREEN JUICE).

When all you want to do is sit on your confy sofa and read a great book <3:

I would argue that January is, in fact, the perfect time to eat a lot more and do a lot less. Like, I’m talking more than you ate at Christmas and less than you did in those few days before New Year's Eve when your brain function was so low you couldn't remember the names of members of your own family.

I implore you: don’t take up HIIT training or buy a billion pound juicer, join my revolution.

The relaxation revolution. Where we say no to diets and exercise for the entire month of January, and embrace the warm, cosy cocoon of an evening on the sofa, binge-watching Making a Murderer with a glass of wine and a huge slice of cheesecake, and moaning as much as is humanly possible in the hours that the law of time permits about how shit the weather is and how many days it is until Christmas 2016.

January sucks. Gone are the twinkly lights and promise of mulled wine and upon us are grey mornings and luke-warm cups of tea (that you probably forgot about because you were so distracted by how miserable you are). We’re all back at work, which is tough, let’s face it, and frankly the last thing I want to do when I get home is change into lycra and return to the cold outdoors for a run. No, I want to eat a steaming pile of cheesy pasta and be asleep by 9pm.

Make the most of the thick knits that cover your bulging bellies so tenderly and effectively, dear readers. And another tip for you: big scarves that cover your entire front section (technical term) are fantastically handy when you’re feeling particularly bloated.

Rather than spend money on a gym membership and a nutribullet, I’ve invested in a new pair of Trackie Bs that are SOFTER THAN CLOUDS and intend to constantly restock my cupboards with mini eggs from now until Easter. It’s in my weekly budget people. This shit is real.

You’ve got May to go “oh crap it’s nearly summer, I should probably fake tan so it’s not so obvious how disgustingly fat I’ve become” all month. For now, relax. Those out-of-date mince pies aren’t going to eat themselves.


(DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer or life coach. My opinions are founded only in my own laziness. If you choose to take my advice you do so at your own risk).

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


It cannot be a year ago that 2015 began and I last reflected on the year gone by. And yet somehow, it is. It’s January. A blessing and a curse.

I’ve been toying with the idea of not sitting down and writing this, as I have done for the five years previous, but here I am, doing it. It settles and focusses my mind, and it’s an important ritual to me, particularly when things feel a little scary and out of my control.

I should clarify. I’m not miserable, or permanently fearful, or any of the negative implications I’ve probably just thrown up. It’s been a good year, a progressive year – but it’s also been a year that has shed unflattering light on the precariousness of it all – of our lives – and on the importance of savouring quality time.

My dad – a man I deem capable of sorting out pretty much any problem and, bar the odd cold, unnaturally immune to illness – got very ill last year. I won’t go into all the details, mainly because I don’t understand medical jargon and dad’s condition is rare and complicated, according to doctors, but after a year of being in and out of hospital, copious tests and procedures and finally an operation on his heart, he now enjoys a plethora of drugs with breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s okay, his terrible sense of humour is firmly in tact, and he’s the calmest person I’ve ever known. We’re just getting on with life pretty much as normal now, but it’s been really scary and eye-opening. And life is fragile.

I don’t believe dwelling or wallowing is productive. And I’m not going to get all emotional and drippy on you, that’s not really our style. But dad’s life, and ours with it, won’t be quite the same again. All of it, everything that’s happened this year, the worry, the hospital visits, the moving into my own flat, the starting a new job, the scary, exciting reality of it all – it’s highlighted what’s important to me.

Overall 2015 was a year of reality. The beautiful and the ugly of it. I’d like 2016 to be about finding what makes me content with the time I get to spend here. When someone asks me how my day was, I want to tell them it was good, more often than I say it was okay.

Right now, peering out at the “new start” that is January, as I watch everyone make plans and resolutions and drink more green juices than can actually be healthy, I feel busy and overwhelmed and tired. I’m no busier than anyone else and I do tend to spend a large proportion of my evenings lying horizontal on my sofa because I don’t mentally feel up to much else, yet I considered not writing this because it felt like too much. I don’t think I’m lazy, I certainly like sleeping but not enough to give up my zest for life, I suspect I am just exhausted from the monotony of it all. Of the pressure and of London and being expected to get drunk on Fridays because I’m 23 and I live in Britain. 

Maybe this is just a phase, maybe I’ll feel differently once dreary January has said its goodbyes, or maybe this lingering sense of dissatisfaction is just something I need to work out – either way, I’ll keep you posted.

Also view 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

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...