Postcards from Japan

Apparently, if you visit Japan, it's very easy to get very caught up in the wild atmosphere of buying things – which I suppose is what we all do here in December – the Japanese just keep that intensity up over the whole year, which sounds quite stressful.

So say our friends who came back from Japan a few weeks ago, anyway. Benjamin and I looked after their wild cat who chases her own tail while they were away, and they brought these things back for us. Faced with shops full of such sweet things, I'm not sure I could control myself at all in Japan.

Characterful Cat

Gifts from Japan

Snow Puss

The little puss paperweight at the top is so characterful. I could take photographs of him all day. The book is amazing – I'm easily seduced by Japanese book bindings. It's almost better that I can't understand the captions.



Despite a birthday at the beginning and Christmas at the end, and a real, serious frugality the rest of the year, in December, I buy things. Luckily, so does everyone else, so my wild coveting is disguised as Christmas spirit. Even I'm fooled by it.

Here are a couple of things that have been collecting in my little covetables folder all year – things I could never really justify buying for myself, but would really enjoy buying as gifts! People give to others what they like to receive themselves, after all.

1. Penguin Classic Hardbacks 2. Saint James Breton Top

These redesigned hardbacks are so unusual, and I like the way publishing is turning to fancy bindings and design to keep readers buying the classics. A set of Fitzgeralds and Hemingways would be perfect reading to prepare for a year full of 1920s influences. My current copies are so scrawled on and full of post-its that I think it might be time to buy a copy I can actually read without cringing at my terrible schoolgirl literary criticism.

1. Anthropologie dress 2. Victorian candle holder 3. Caribou Snow boots

I'm quite pleased with how incongruous clumpy snow boots are in this selection - but could there be anything more useful? Last winter I slid around on pavements, fell over six times on my way to the dentist, and swore I'd save up for these. I forgot all about it in the summer though, of course. The Victorian candle holder reminds me of dark Christmas power cuts when I was little, and of wispy Victorian gentlemen asleep in their nightcaps.

1. New Year's Shine & Sparkle Dress 2. Bialetti Espresso Pot

This is such a pretty dress if you have a New Year party to go to, in a great shape and at such a good price. I'll be secretly devastated if somebody buys it before me. I could probably console myself with the prospect of making affogatos with the espresso from an espresso pot though.



Clevedon Pier

An old English Victorian seaside town out of season, Clevedon in December is far more beautiful than it is in July. No tourists with ice cream cones buying expensive lunches in seafront locations and fighting over the outside seats – in December the sea is calm, the anglers are watchful and the sea mist swirls around and makes an atmosphere out of it all.

The pier is Clevedon's jewel. John Betjeman called it 'the most beautiful pier in England' and it must be – its long spindly legs create such delicate arches. The wet beams are recycled railway sleepers, paid for by tiny brass plaques inset into the wood and engraved with the names of the people who bought them. The glorious pavilion at the end is quiet now, but becomes a seaside cafe in the summer. I realised when I was there, that this is the pier that is used in the publicity posters for 'Never Let Me Go', the new Keira Knightley film.

Clevedon Pier

When Ben and I strolled along it, the pier was completely deserted bar the quiet anglers with their bowed heads. It was pouring with rain and the mist was rolling in. I felt like my 1940s coat deserved an attempt at 1940s hair, which I quite like I think – It's nice to have a fringe break now and again. The coat I bought in a charity shop – it's heavy and the cut is perfect for me – it feels very grand.

Coat: Vintage 1940s
Leather gloves: Vintage
Tights: H&M
Shoes: Topshop



My grandfather always used to wear brown brogues, I'm told. Brown ones. I've had a bit of a thing for them ever since finding that out. Brown brogues, a tweed suit and dark rimmed glasses. He was someone I never met, but I think following in his shoe choice footsteps is a nice option. If Benjamin does the same, then so much the better.

Brogues united

I know mine aren't brogues, more tasseled loafers (loafers has such a horribly sleazy business connotation, doesn't it? – what kind of a man wears tasseled shoes?), but they're as far as I am willing to go into what Hadley Freeman calls the age when 'it became acceptable to wear your dad's shoes'. They're a happy medium.

Details are precious in menswear – you can have a interestingly cut cuff, or a vintage tie clip, or roll your jeans, but there are far fewer particulars. Brogues are full of subtle details.

Ben's Brogues

In America, they call them wingtips, after the wing shape leather on the toe. They appeared first in Scotland – the holes were to drain the water accumulated by tramping through long wet grass. The broguing (the little holes punched into the leather) come minimalist (the austerity wingtip), or over the top (the British long wing). I think Ben's might be British long wing. My favourite bits are the long thin laces – perfect for sophisticated bows.

With all this talk of the importance of 'Heritage' recently, it seems some kind of crossed line to wear a brogue inspired girl's shoe, especially as I'm quite late to the loafer party and bought mine at the decidedly anti-heritage Topshop. I'm quite pleased with them, though, regardless.

My loafers: Topshop
Ben's brogues: (the infinitelty more respectable) Osborne Gentleman's Attire