When I was at school, and reached the dizzy age of seventeen, I had the strange honour of being invited to the school Burns Night (the traditional celebration of the Scottish poet, not a precursor to a night in hospital) on the night of 25 January. It was like a school disco, only there was no DJ, no dancing, just haggis. It was probably the only thing simple enough for the school canteen to cook and not ruin.

It would begin with someone who knew how to play the bagpipes piping the haggis into the room in noisy procession. When it arrived at the table, our headmaster, with all the drama he could muster, would summon his sgien dubh (a little knife, kept in one's sock), read the 'Address to a Haggis' and slice it open. My sister knows the whole address by heart, I don't really know it at all.

Despite all that tradition, it was always a fairly clinical affair, held in the echoey white school canteen. We sat at long formica tables – the kind with the plastic stools pre-attached.

Home-made Cranachan
(Last photo via macten on Flickr, whose photos are beautiful, actually)

Nowadays, shacked up with my very own sassenach (a Scottish term for those English folk) he and I forgo the dramatics and focus on the food and the whisky. On Burns Night in our little flat, we have haggis, 'neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes), sometimes we have cranachan for pudding (a creamy raspberry concoction) and afterwards we wince our way through the first few sips of whisky.

It's much quieter, much less dramatic, but I'm pleased all the same that we remember to do it. It's kind of therapeutic to return to your roots when you live life far removed from them, I find.


Country Living

When Ben's parents go on holiday, their house more often than not becomes a little country retreat for him and me. We have roaring fires, bake cakes, make soup, watch films and read books and generally pretend that we're on holiday too, which is what we did this weekend. It's a perfect way to disappear from your own life and gear up for what you have to do when you return to it.

The house is a perfect English seventeenth-century museum piece, with hidden rooms in unexpected places, dark beams, tiny doorways to duck under and mysterious windows. It's not a house for the tall (me) but it is very characterful. When we were taking these photographs, an unwelcome chicken appeared in the garden to root up the lawn, which prompted a strategic chicken chase to coerce it back to its own.

Recently it has been getting slightly warmer, and, as I mentioned in my last post, I've been overly optimistic and started spring clothes hunting already. I justify it by reasoning that I can never find what I want when I'm actually looking, so if I see something I want when I'm not looking, I really ought to buy it. Ridiculous, but there we are.

The dress is a great cut – a wide waistband and just the right amount of flare. The bag is one I have on long term loan from Ben's mother – his dad bought it for her in Florence, and she doesn't use it, so I've been making the most of it. The soup was a very delicious Ben creation.

Tonight we are back in the city, armed with a haggis and a bottle of whisky to celebrate Burn's Night, just as any self-respecting Scottish girl ought to be. I actually really like haggis, so I'm quite looking forward to it.

Dress: Topshop
Bag: Borrowed


Clean Lines


I hesitate to post something springy here, but I can't help it in this case (also I have shamefully bought two summer dresses this winter already...). I've been thinking lately that with the apparent revival of the 1970s trend clean lines are going to find themselves the underdog in a bit of a scrap this spring and summer, which makes me a bit sad.

Above all things, clean lines in clothes are what excite me – they don't clutter, they keep your shape simple (which is useful if you happen to have hips, as I do). With the 1970s, reams of swirly, floaty fabric engulf and obscure, and are much less helpful than their counterparts from decades past. In summer floaty is cooler, temperature wise, but I'd much rather be a starchy 1930s girl than a 1970s hippy.

So, I was very pleased to have come across Colenimo's late-1920s inspired SS11 collection this morning on Liebemarlene. Rhiannon posted the ethereal lookbook images, which are beautiful and here, but, as I'm addicted to the cut of clothes, I'm always more interested in seeing them clear and close up. This collection is influenced by the 1920s (which I think/hope will be a bit of a sneaky high street thing this summer) but look almost under-contol 1970s – the perfect compromise, I say.





All images from Colenimo Lookbook

I particularly like the floaty capelets and capped sleeves – 1970s flare in a useful place – mixed with the simple, clean fabrics with minimal pattern. The summer straw hat would look beautiful with the 'side chignon' hairstyle that has been doing the rounds lately too.

Another reason that I like it is that, if I ever tidy up my sewing corner and get practicing, a lot of these things are quite makeable, especially those starchy linen culottes. It's always this time of year that I get motivated to sew – I should probably make the most of the compulsion.


Vivian Maier


On Vivian Maier's walks through the city she watches a 1950s girl in a prom dress emerge from the dark into the soft light of a street lamp. She appreciates the humour in two little girls sharing secrets against a wall and sometimes she stops to take a self-conscious self-portrait of her reflection in a shop window.

We know what went on on these walks through Chicago because she recorded all of it with her Rolleiflex camera. Vivian Maier is the recently discovered Chicago street photographer of the 1950s and 1960s and took all these pictures, which were then swiftly forgotten and hidden in boxes of undeveloped films for forty years. They were discovered via a chance purchase at an auction, and now, as each set is developed, seem to enchant everyone who sees them.







Screen grabs from Chicago Tonight

What each person is thinking about is intriguing in every shot, and imagined circumstances just present themselves. My favourites are the smartly dressed man balancing on his chair and the man with the hat asleep in his car on a summer's day. That Vivian worked as a nanny all her life, and died essentially penniless makes the story behind every click of the shutter all the stronger.

Although she wasn't a street 'style' photographer, Vivian puts specialised photographers like The Sartorialist (he of the visual life) to shame with her ability to capture an eye-catching outfit alongside an intriguing story or curious atmosphere in every shot.

I wonder about this century, in which we document everything, interesting or not. While most may not have the level of skill that Vivian Maier had, and kept hidden all her life, everything we do is archived online or on hard drives, and I wonder if we early twenty-first-century people will ever hold an air of mystery for future generations. Can you imagine, in fifty years' time, getting excited at the prospect of watching a drama series set in a 2011 advertising agency in London?

These are all screen grabs from a video that you should watch if you want to hear more of the story. It can be found here. In the words of one YouTube commenter: 'Wow, breathtaking. If she had had a Tumblr, her stuff would really have gotten around.'



I've never been a duffle coat girl. 'Too much Paddington Bear, not enough shape' says my inner monologue. Sometimes though (often, actually), my inner monologue needs to be a bit more open minded, and this, to a certain extent, is one of those occasions.

Despite all of that, this is not my duffle coat, borne of a sudden change of heart after years of duffle-aversion, but my mother's, from NW3 at Hobbs (the young trendy Hobbs collection – she's neither old nor serious enough for the Hobbs part yet, she says – I agree).

The coat and I are on the rocks just outside my mother's house on the Isle of Islay. I think every child who has ever grown up in the village grew up mostly clambering and scrambling over them. My sister and I used to decorate carefully-chosen rocks with things we found on the shore, and play house; sending letters to each other via slates and chalk. When it was stormy, we'd go down and marvel at the high tide. On calm days I'd sit and watch the ripples quietly ripple in. I'm quite attached to these rocks, as it happens.

The coat's best feature, in my opinion, is the part that makes it less a typical duffle coat and more of a coat that comes in at the waist (my preference) – the lovely cut at the back. The lining is also very pretty, and the coat itself is probably the cosiest one I've ever worn. All in, I think I like it, although probably not enough to buy one for myself.

I've topped off my largely borrowed outfit with my sister's Christmas present – the vintage looking leather laptop bag, which I'm a big fan of. It's a little bit Mulberry-esque, I suppose. The gloves belong to me (a Cath Kidston Christmas present), as do the riding boots, which I got from Islay's only charity shop.

Every time I go back to Islay, I wonder if I could live there – life always seems so much simpler. Lots of peat fires, long walks on beaches and cosy whisky. I'd like to some day I think, but not soon, and not forever – it's a hard place to live in the winter when the newspapers don't arrive and the mail is cut off because of a fierce storm. On the other hand, fierce storms and stormy seas are kind of exhilarating, and who needs newspapers really?

Duffle coat: NW3 at Hobbs
Jeans: Topshop
Boots: Charity shopped
Gloves: Cath Kidston
Bag: Atwood


Sally Scott

This evening, snow is forecast in my corner of England, which always leaves me wondering once again whether it is at all possible to wear something blizzard appropriate and be happy with it. I suspect not, although this New York Times video gallery of New Yorkers and tourists in the snow over Christmas would suggest that a fur coat is the way forward. As fur coats aren't really my thing, here I turn to the Sally Scott winter lookbook.






All images from Sally Scott

My suspicion is that I'm late to this – a suspicion confirmed now that I realise that it is from last year's winter collection. This is another collection of photographs that evokes an atmosphere and a lifestyle rather than making a lot of the clothes themselves, which I am in two minds about – I like the atmosphere, but I would prefer to see more of the clothes.

As far as I can make out, Sally Scott is from Japan, making it very difficult to buy anywhere else, but it isn't so very original – similar pieces shouldn't be too difficult to find. This colour palette is something I'm always drawn to – muted mustards and chambray blues with the odd strong colour to bring out the others. It's winter clothes viewed through a springtime lens.

More than anything though, in a very British way, it is quite possible that as the temperature slowly descends outside my door, my favourite part of this lookbook is actually the stylish presence of tea.


A Happy New Year

Christmas Steps
A Christmas Swan

I've had a bit of an internet holiday this last week – I've swapped it for snowy driving to Wales for Christmas and more snowy driving to Scotland for Hogmanay. The west coast of Scotland is positively springlike compared to English temperatures, and I'm not looking forward to returning to my chilly flat on Monday.

In Bristol, the Christmas Steps are Christmassy all year round, but I always find them especially pleasing in December. I ended up going up and down them far more than I expected before Christmas due to some emergency present buying. In the end, Benjamin and I decided instead to bake chocolate and hazelnut biscotti and put them in a little bag with a ribbon around the top as little gifts for the people we forgot to buy for. They are super easy to bake and make for much-appreciated presents – the recipe we used is here, if you're interested.


My Scottish New Year has been catching up with my feral turned 2011 house cat, Muesli, falling off my mother's new horse, drinking gin made in the distillery across the road and taking long New Year's Day walks along the beach with Ben, my little sister, and Jock, the Westie who loves to run in the sand. He steals the show some. Now for some apple tarte tatin, and a viewing of a home video of my mother and grandparents in the 1960s to round off a perfect New Year's Day.

New Year's Day Walk

Wishing you all the best for the New Year! I'm looking forward to seeing what it has in store.