and a happy new year

I know its cliche on the 31st of December to start thinking about all the things that happened in the last twelve months, but I find that flicking through this blog at year's end really puts the year into perspective for me, so I think I'll do it anyway.

In January, I mostly hid out in icy Mid Wales and discovered the photography of Vivian Maier, which completely amazed me. Even more of her work has been uncovered since I posted on it last, and remains so intriguing.


In the early early spring I had a huge book to work on, so I was either working on it or buying myself secret magazine subscriptions as special treats to keep me going.

The spring turned into summer, and trips to the countryside, a Cornwall holiday, and a trip to London, where I met up with Anabela and Kate, and felt really quite pleased with myself for not being too scared to (a 2011 resolution), as they were both incredibly lovely. Then it was autumn, with many many photographs of the sea, developing my first roll of camera film, and taking a leap and booking a trip to New York.


Posts have slowed down and sped up and been regular and been sparse, but every time I've written one, every comment has been insightful and charming and so very appreciated – so thank you all so much – I hope we all have a wonderful year to come.


Icy Christmas


A few years ago, before I started this blog, I went home for Christmas (very much like I am preparing to do right now as a matter of fact) and when I got there, the weather was off the scale. The whole island was covered in ice – even the tide line, salty as it is, was frozen into sharp little shards of ice that crackled and cracked as the waves churned them about. 


As E.B. White, whose 1950s New Yorker Christmas writings I like to read at this time of year, put it: 'Everyone has one Christmas he remembers above all others, one blindingly beautiful occasion.' And I think this one is mine, in terms of on-the-surface beauty at least. 

While I'm half glad that it is not meant to freeze this year, as it makes driving the length of the country a bit of a roulette, the fact that the island won't look like this this Christmas (or perhaps ever again!) is a little sad. So I thought I would post these to remind myself, as E.B White also writes in a different Christmas essay: 'Rememberance is sufficient of the beauty we have seen' which is a thought that I quite like.


A birthday

This weekend I discovered a place that I love nestling merrily in a place that I really don't like. It was a  little cafe, all wood pannelled, with old advertising billboards all over the walls – Cadbury's, Hovis etc – and with smart waiters waiting to bring trays to tables. It was so unexpected, sitting as it does on the periphery of what I consider to be one of the most miserable shopping experiences in England.

But, I think discovering something good about something bad is quite a good way to spend a birthday, if you hope to start as you mean to go on, and it just so happened that I ended up there for some unexpected birthday cake last week.


I've written before about my December habit of buying myself presents – this year, I've had so much else to do that I haven't bought a thing, and as a consequence, all those things I would usually have already bought for myself, instead made lovely birthday presents from Ben and my sister. It's much better this way.

From my sister, this amazing Apres Ski necklace. I like this such a lot because it looks like a little triangular tortoiseshell boat – and the packaging it came in is delicious.




Wolf & Moon are fairly new to me, but Hannah, who runs it and makes everything, sent me an email a while ago, and Ben cottoned on and bought this little necklace for me. She makes beautiful pieces with all sorts of different materials. My little triangle is wooden with a sort of shiny gold inlay and some kind of universe-looking something in the middle. Perfect for last-minute Christmassing, I'd say.


Here is New York

I've been awfully out of the loop these past few weeks, and, in a roundabout way, it's all because of this place – New York. Last week I made my largest-ever purchase to date and bought plane tickets to go for a whole month in May. So I'm working all-hours to try and pay myself back.

I was definitely on the verge of being incredibly excited, but coming across this collection  of vintage images of the city has really tipped the balance. 

I'm a terrible tourist, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, and when I'm away, I do all that I can to avoid the tourist traps and blend in as much as possible. I'm a tourist of atmospheres, I find, and want to experience things just the same way as the locals do. 

Atmospheres, however modern or cutting-edge, are all borne out of the history of a place I think – out of atmospheres that have gone before. These photographs, from the early to the middle of last century, go some way to conveying the evolution of an atmosphere. I can't stop looking through them. The whole collection can be found here.



Sightseeing #4


Just a couple of bits and pieces that have caught my eye lately.

 1. PAN AM/Hair Envy
If you can ignore the awful computer generated airplane shots, PAN AM is pretty easy and fun to watch. It's not Mad Men – it's not as smart – but it is quite compelling, and does touch on some 1960s feminist themes that Mad Men only briefly grazes, which is good. 

Aside from anything else though, my hair is currenly at an unprecedented and ridiculous length right now, and the 'long bobs' that are everywhere in PAN AM all look just about perfect to me at the moment. I'm definitely leaning towards getting one for myself.

Talking of things I am leaning towards getting for myself, Anabela just posted about her and Geoff's 2012 Dreamcats calendar, which I love. I have a secret soft spot for a good calendar (this definitely qualifies), and as I'm still waiting patiently for the right time to kitten up, this calendar seems like the perfect thing to brighten up a predictably miserable January 1st, 2012.

I went to primary school with Sarah, believe it or not, and run into her every so often when we're both back at home at the same time. Her jewellery designs are all inspired by the sea, with golden barnacles and lovely glints of light sparkling from the stones that she chooses. Her work is commission only, I think, but I love it all, and just wanted to share it a little!

In other news, I answered a couple of questions about something I don't know very much about – film photography – on Nancy's blog last week, if you are interested to see. There are some other very  insightful and more interesting answers from more knowledgeable film-using people on there too, luckily.



My days have been entirely consumed by righting other people's grammar wrongs lately, so there has been little time for much else.

Inspired by this post of Kate's though, (which I try and revisit in my head every time I feel like I don't want to get out of bed – it's a good tactic!) I've been getting up as early as I can in order to get as much work done as possible. Although it's harder to do now that it's darker in the mornings, it does feel as though you are utilising a whole new period of time that didn't even exist before, which is very satisfying.

So, as a consequence, this is a slightly disjointed post of photographs that I took a month or so ago with my film camera. Next week I will be more joined up, I'm sure.



I got another film back this weekend, one that I had in my camera all through last month's 'Indian Summer' (it takes me a while to get through a film), and I just can't stop coming back to this picture of the ropes on the dockside. 

The reason I like it so much I think is because it so directly relates to to what I've been scouring both my wardrobe and the internet for over the past week or so – that is, good, seriously cosy, wintery woven things – so I was really interested to read Suzy Menkes' making a similar connection between the weave of rope and the weave of knitted fishermen's jumpers in the New York Times this morning.  

She writes: 'Thick ropes, naval knots and the diamond weave of fishing nets were absorbed into the psyche of the faithful wives and daughters ... who created the protective wear for their fishermen' 

Image via Muir Blog

It's such a romantic thought that there could be such a perfect synergy to the process: the rough untreated rope leading to the rough, untreated wool that the fisherwives knitted their men's jumpers with – the rope would work the sea, the woven knits would protect against it.

I love the way things like this evolve over time, and that waxy rough rope can be ruminated on enough through the decades to eventually evolve into something like the Missoni FW 2011 show in Milan, with its soft, droopy cables and (my other woven winter darling) tweed.

I also like the synergy of the fact that those basic woven mainstays of practical living – the cable knit sweaters, the rugs, blankets and plaited hairstyles – that were likely in use in the days of those knitting fisherwomen, are just as useful to me, in this twenty-first century winter, as they once were then.

Woven #2

 1.    2.    3.    4.    5.


Umber, Orange, Sienna

So, yesterday was Hallowe'en, of course. I lost all enthusiasm for Hallowe'en when I came to England and realised that they don't do guising here. Guising, as in 'disguising', which involves visiting people's houses, in disguise, and singing them a song in return for a boiled sweet or two.

Nevertheless, the unalterable thing about this Hallowe'eny time of year is that, wherever you are (in this hemisphere), there is always a proliferation of oranges, umbers, burnt siennas and burgundies. Falling, as it does, in the perfect part of autumn when all the trees are just about to lose their leaves and when all the best autumnal food is coming into season, you can't avoid it, really. I certainly can't after driving to work through the Cotswolds at sunrise all last week, and having some of Ben's amazing parsnip and butternut squash soup as a cosy lunch on Saturday.

The beautiful colours that I whizz past on my drive to the office have been rather inspiring the clothes that have been catching my eye recently, so after taking these photographs, I couldn't help but compile a dream selection, far out of my price range though a lot of it may be!


Also, a little hello to those of you that have arrived here from lovely Hila's blog last week – hello! I'm more than delighted to see you all here.




At 3am one recent Saturday, there was a commotion outside my bedroom window. It was one of those ill-conceived commotions – the drunken, hazy, increasingly half-hearted nighttime arguments. It's a nighttime scene repeated all over.

"Nightlife" can have such weird connotations – on one hand very 1990s rave scene, on the other, students and cheap beer and loud music – but I am starting to feel that it should be reclaimed by the sober and the curious: people looking to do everyday things that their various busy lives won't let them fit into standard opening hours. 

A few weeks ago I visited Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery at 10am on a Thursday (while everyone else was at work). It was completely empty – an entirely different experience to the hoaching museums I end up in on Saturdays in London. I took time to read plaques next to paintings, I learnt a thing or two and wasn't disturbed by anyone at all. I even took some pictures.

According to this New York Times article, museums and galleries are beginning to open after hours in the city, and are creating a whole new relationship between people who want to visit museums and the museums themselves. For my part, I can't think of a better thing to do after a meal out than taking a walk in the cold and then visiting an art gallery or museum, out of hours, in the warmth. Especially if it was this one, complete with slide.
Wouldn't it be great if night started to be a bit more like day – which when you think about it is a time that most people miss out on. Museums and galleries would open late, more cinemas would show films in the early hours (I know they do this in NYC, but it's high time it caught on) and maybe there'd be fewer people waking up in the morning full of regret at the memory of the night before. I for one would definitely appreciate that.


Battening Down

After shivering all the way back up the hill to my house this evening, I think it's safe to say that we're definitely back on track with the seasons, which means that it is safe for me to now talk about wool as much as I like. This is definitely a relief, as I do like wool. 

This weekend, I've been feeling the need to get some things in order – unpacking wool things and my collection of scarves for the long haul, sewing up long-neglected dangling coat hems, drinking as much tea as possible and thinking a lot about knitting.

My grandmother's needle book – very useful when sewing up unravelled hems. I'm entirely in love with the typography on the label, as well as the fact that some of the needles still have thread attached to them from the mending of decades past. 

My mother (queen of knitting) came to visit this weekend, and cast on this lovely purple charity-shopped Jaeger wool for me – it's just a little experiment, and I'll probably unravel it all again, but I thought it might make a good hair bow, if I scrunch it up in the middle and attach it to a bobby pin. 

We took a little trip to the Toast shop in Bath too while she was here, and the jumpers were beautiful. It is high time I learned some cable stitch – it will have to be my new season resolution.




Unexpected autumn summers, such as the one we had at the beginning of this month, are amazing, peculiar and weirdly distracting, I find. 

The good weather becomes something that you have to make the absolute most of before it disappears – as though you have to get in as much sun-time as possible before someone notices and switches on the cloud cover.

With this in mind, you come up with work schemes that require park visits and get nothing done, while at the same time, your winter coat, wool scarf and cotton summer dresses are all suddenly hanging on the same rail, lost in some awkward seasonal limbo.

It was weird, but it was also glorious.


I took these in Lyme Regis and its surrounding villages on England's south coast – the very same Lyme Regis where Louisa Musgrove falls off the pier in Persuasion and Meryl Streep gets fantastically windswept while falling off the nineteenth-century moral bandwagon in The French Lieutenant's Woman

Unfortunately, there were no such fallen women, literal or otherwise, when I visited. Perhaps if I go back in the winter, when the wind is high and the waves are fierce and the tourists are gone, I might see one or two.


Shirley, Lula, the Gentlewoman & I

I like to really make the most of my magazine reading. You have to, I think, when your favourites only come out twice a year. I plan them into my free time, deciding whether to read them at home, curled up on the couch, or in a cafe curled up in the atmosphere. I also carefully consider what to drink while I read them – every magazine has its own personality, just like every drink, I think.

I'm not ashamed to tell you that I read the whole of the new issue of The Gentlewoman in one long, coffee-fuelled sitting this weekend. It's just wonderful.
The Gentlewoman
When I begin to read a Gentlewoman article, I instantly remember why it buoys me up so much. For me, it's just like coffee, which (as I seldom drink it) buoys me up a whole lot when I do have a cup. The Gentlewoman always reminds me that a world where people who achieve amazing things really exists, and the old-fashioned profiles within it are endlessly inspiring. It's sophisticated, and deserves a sophisticated drink, I think. Too early in the day for brandy or wine, cafetiere coffee is perfect.
Lula & Shirley
Lula, on the other hand, is more of a 'shirley temple' mocktail magazine for me. I like to read as slowly as possible, drawing it out and making its whimsy charm last as long as possible. It's sweet, but can get a little saccharine if you do too much at a time. 

This lovely drink was perfect on a hot day (as Sunday was). A cool long drink with ginger ale, orange juice and grenadine, it seemed to fit old Lula's personality quite nicely.
Funny Girl, that Shirley


Winter is Coming

In these two hemispheres, there's always one season or another that we're  not satisfied with. For the southern hemispherers, it's the hot days and nights of summer (as evidenced purely by Miss Moss's recent need for her 'summer psyching' posts, feel free to correct me!); for us northerners (I'm sure that's across the board) it's the deep dark winter. And it's on the way.
Top line: 1. Hello Mr. Fox   2. The Sartorialist   3. My sister's tweed coat
Bottom line: 4. My tweed flat cap   5. Emerson's Journal (I think picture was deleted, hence bad link!)   6. Wayward Daughter

This all got me to thinking about the things that never fail to get me excited about winter. Autumn unarguably brings the best food along with it (butternut squash – so soon!), but, if fabric can be seasonal (and I'm fairly sure it can) I think it brings the best fabrics with it too.

Summer is all pulled chiffon and dull cotton, but winter, for me, is all about tweeds, wool and sequins. Add a breton stripe or two (as I always do) and you have a perfect winter wardrobe I reckon. Layer upon layer, thermal upon cosy thermal, topped off with grey wool tights, a well-wrapped scarf and a sequin or two to keep it happy, and you're away.
Top line: 1. Lolitanie   2. Hanneli   3. Good Night, Day (via)
Bottom line: 4. & 6. Maska Knits   5. Kris Atomic

I know a man who weaves tweed on a beautiful big old noisy weaving machine, have a mother who knits wool into lovely jumpers and have already sourced a sequin/glitter wholesaler or two, so I think, on my budget of air, I might just do alright this winter.

Top line: 1. Sequin clutch (it's from Zara, I recently discovered)   2. Miu Miu Boots
Middle: 3. by whimsical  
Bottom line: 4. Zara September lookbook (via)   5. The Sartorialist


Sightseeing #3


I don't pay a lot of attention to runway shows, I must say (who has the time to really pay attention?) but I do make an effort to take a look at the photographs from Erdem. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm always drawn to tiny, intricate pattern, and as I've mentioned many times, I love a simple, classic shape. I also quite like England and am curious about Canada, so British-Canadian Erdem Moralioglu is my perfect match. 
    Dear Golden Vintage is also my perfect match, for the sole reason that it must be one of the best vintage shops on Etsy. I saw this 1950s 'Mingling Elements' dress (I can certainly see why she named it that) and instantly thought of Erdem – or at least a more autumn/wintery Erdem, which is vastly more suited to the September weather that's been blustering around here of late. 

Information overload is something I really find myself suffering from on the Internet. I read fast, then I move on. But some things stick in my mind, and I find myself going back to them from time to time. It may be because my internet life is so frenetic and these images are so calm, but Anabela's guest post on Hila's lovely blog le projet d'amour a few weeks ago was one of those things. 
     The best bit about the whole affair is that there are now some beautifully atmospheric Fieldguided fog prints for sale in Anabela & Geoff's shop.

The thing I love best about autumn is the food that comes along with it. September means moules mariniere for the first time in ages (I go with the 'don't eat seafood in a month without an "r" in' rule), butternut squash risottos, and crucially (I am Scottish after all), porridge. Consequently I am very excited to see what Mallory of Where the Lovely Things Are has lined up for her forthcoming 'Food Week' (next week!), which sounds like it will be very food inspiring. 
    In the meantime, I plan to dedicate myself to a more thorough examination of Miss Moss's breakfast tumblr 'BKFST' to see if I can glean any new or revolutionary ideas for my winter morning boiled oat ritual.



There's such escape in a seascape. They're mesmerising. As L.S. Lowry explained his fascination with painting them: 'It's the battle of life – the turbulence of the sea – and life's pretty turbulent, isn't it?' 

Seascapes are blank space with lots of little details – the colour of the water, sometimes white horses, sometimes a mirror shine. When I go back home to Islay, I can't help but photograph it in all its moods – I'm especially sad to be missing all of the drama of the autumn storms that will be coming in the next few months.

I like certain clothes for similar reasons: I've never been much of a one for bold, bright, blocked patterns – something small and intricate suits me best; soft draping reminds me of waves and unpredictable tides, and muted blues and greens are all I ever really want to wear. 

The view from the ferry across the sea to Islay on a darkening night.

A Lowry seascape 'The Sea' (1963) hanging in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
Below: The view from outside my Islay house the morning I left.


Easy Influences

I've been really getting into my Tumblrs lately (unlike Pinterest, Tumblr doesn't make me want to buy things every hour of every day (see below for proof) which is good) and I've been having a bit of a fiddle with their designs for the last few weeks too. They've been sitting quietly in my sidebar for a while, but I think they have a little bit more to say for themselves nowadays.

easy influence

Easy Influence was the name of my first ever blog (I almost wish I had kept the name for this one) and is now my main Tumblr for bits and pieces and things that draw me in. What I like about it is the way the colour spread seems to change with the seasons – it spent a lot of time in the pale greens and blues in mid to late August, and is now heading for the browns and burgundies of September and October. 

girls on floral

Girls on Floral is my other Tumblr – I didn't want to flood Easy Influence with the thousands of beautiful girls/flowers/floral images that I see every week, so I flood this one instead. It doesn't seem to mind too much.
Do follow them, if you're interested. If not, there's always that dreaded bank balance destroyer Pinterest, or the relatively safe Twitter, if you fancy. Have a lovely weekend!



The self-bought gifts to myself have been rather flying through the letterbox this past week, and were all left behind in Bristol when I took myself off to Islay for the weekend. This means, of course, that I get to discover them all over again now that I'm back.

This Topshop blouse is Pinterest's fault entirely – I pinned it, I went back to it a few times, then just had to order it just to 'try'. Then I fell in love with the 1930s style (slightly 'magic eye' puzzle) print and the lovely collar, and that was that.

The New Yorker
Pancakes and Magazines
This wasn't strictly through the letterbox, but, after a long search, the New Yorker and I finally ran into each other at a newsagent in Bristol, and I brought him home with me. Then we had a pancakes & nutella breakfast together – it's a real romance.

The Rules of Civility
I've been reading reviews and hearing radio articles about The Rules of Civility for the last few months, and, typically, saw it in a bookshop, fell in love with the cover and bought it online (you can read how bad I feel about doing things like that in this post here).

So, I was intrigued by the content first, but it was the cover that clinched it – all matt black with foil on the beautiful typography – I hope that doesn't count as judging a book by its cover. I haven't started yet, but if it's a let down I'll be sure to let you know.