A March Reading List

Supposedly spring is on its way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still freaking freezing outside. There may be daffodils and even some lambs about, but they are hardly basking in the spring sunshine. So I’m continuing my winter hibernation and, if you are too, these are the books I suggest you occupy yourself with…

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*For something a little special: When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman. I’ve just finished Sarah Winman’s new book, A Year of Marvellous Ways, and to be honest I didn’t love it. The prose is completely beautiful, to the point of being poetic, but the story was lost in the words and I didn’t feel anything for the characters. Happily though, I was reminded of how much I loved her debut – When God Was a Rabbit. Set in two halves with the protagonist Elly as first a child, and then an adult, it follows the lives and loves of her, her brother and their family and friends. The story is  beautifully told and completely captivating, Elly’s voice will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

*For a slice of history: A Dangerous Inheritance, Alison Weir. Anyone searching for historical fiction will be directed straight to Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. I love Philippa Gregory, but after devouring her entire Cousin’s War series, I was left wanting more – which lead me to Alison Weir. A Dangerous Inheritance follows both Lady Katherine Grey, rival to Queen Elizabeth I’s throne, and Kate Plantagent, bastard daughter of Richard III, who are linked by history’s most famous murder mystery, the Princes in the Tower. It’s a completely absorbing story and you just might find yourself learning something along the way.

*For a bit of excitement: The Bones of You, Debbie Howells. I have just finished this new(ish) psychological thriller and I’m still reeling. Set in an idyllic village, The Bones of You is told from the point of view of Kate, a local mother, as she comes to know the Anderson family following the disappearance of their eldest daughter. Debbie Howells creates and tears apart her characters in a complex story of twisted minds and destructive relationships set against a beautiful landscape. The cleverness of the story and her characters is what makes it such a thrilling read, rather than constant action. But, believe me, there’s still plenty of fast-paced action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

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Afternoon Tea with the Biscuiteers

When in England, afternoon tea is a must.

Whether you want to have afternoon tea on the Thames while watching the Houses of Parliament and Southbank sail past, or melt into enormous sofas at the Ritz or Savoy, London has an afternoon tea for every occasion. But they all come at a steep price. Today, I have a great alternative for you.

The Biscuiteers, with boutique cafes in Notting Hill and Battersea, is absolutely not to be missed. Starting out as an online biscuit gift company, every biscuit is handmade and individually iced by artists. They are simply the most beautiful biscuits I have ever come across. Their boutique cafes are pretty small but absolutely gorgeous, and they do a London Afternoon Tea!

Their London Afternoon tea includes a selection of their iconic biscuits, alongside finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. We were a little disappointed that there was only one bite-sized scone each (as great scone lovers), but for just £48 for two people it is one of London’s most reasonably priced afternoon teas.

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The Biscuiteers aren’t limited to biscuits though, they also do chocolate and cake gifts and offer bespoke services so you can commission whatever you want. They’re also not limited to London, they have worldwide shipping so you can enjoy these treats wherever you are.

Even if you can’t make it to their afternoon tea any time soon, their biscuits make incredible gifts – or just something special to treat yourself to!

Magazine Career Must Reads

Journalism careers are always a topic of interest. From the big screen world of The Devil Wears Prada, the retelling of great investigative journalism such as All the President’s Men and, more recently, Spotlight, TV documentaries taking you inside Tatler’s offices and the phone hacking scandal hitting front pages, journalists inspire stories as much as they actually write them.

I’ve wanted to work as a journalist since my Year 5 teacher mentioned the idea to me aged 9, and I’ve wanted to work in magazines since my first work placement at Horse magazine aged 14. But even when you are on a placement it’s hard to get a sense of what it is really like to work there, and films like The Devil Wears Prada are more drama and nonsense than anything remotely real.

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But I have discovered the best way to delve into magazine offices, learn about publishing history and hear stories about the greatest parties with the biggest names is through memoirs by magazine editors. These books are almost impossible to track down. All three I have here I discovered pretty much by accident. I’m still on the search for more, and I promise to report back if/when I find them…

*Mama Mia, by Mia Freedman: Mia became editor of Australian Cosmopolitan at just 24. Her memoir documents her rise to the editor’s chair, her highs and lows as editor and her departure from the world of magazines alongside an intimate glimpse into her personal life. My aunt gave me this book for my birthday, and I became completely absorbed by it. Mia is witty and honest, and gives us a very real look into what it is like to work in magazines. We see the glamorous side of her career but she doesn’t allow it to overwhelm the book and she isn’t a name-dropper, you learn more about her co-workers than the celebs. I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in magazines.

*A Diary of The Lady, by Rachel Johnson: This couldn’t be funnier even if it tried. Rachel Johnson’s memoir of her time as editor of The Lady takes on the form of a diary, with almost daily entries documenting the havoc at Lady HQ. I particularly loved this one because I have done placements at The Lady (they are always looking for workies!), so I was familiar with the offices, the setting and many of the characters. She includes hilarious email chains trying to secure cover girls and columnists, past covers (including the one her beloved dog, Coco, “guest-edited”) and daily updates on her in-tray (in which she always laments the lack of chocolate). We don’t see much into her personal life, but I don’t think the book misses this. She is so funny and engaging, you just want to hear about each fast-paced and nutty new day at The Lady.

*The Vogue Factor, by Kirstie Clements:  Kirstie Clements was editor in chief of Vogue Australia for thirteen years when she was unceremoniously fired in 2012, and this is where the book begins. She then goes back to tell all on her career at Vogue, from answering the phones to the editor’s chair. You don’t see as much into the magazine offices in this book as you do with the other two. I felt it was all famous names, luxury travel and big parties, but that wasn’t balanced up with what it is like to produce Vogue every month. Having said that, she has some great anecdotes. I loved the chapters about Karl Largerfeld as guest editor, and when she managed to shoot and interview the royal couple of Denmark (the princess being an Aussie). It doesn’t quite have the lightness of touch of the other two and takes itself a little too seriously at times, but if fashion journalism is more your thing, this is definitely one to read.

If you guys know of any more memoirs like these, then please, please share – I’m desperate to get my hands on them!

A London Bucket List

As you all know from my 2016 Goals post, exploring London is one of my resolutions. There’s just so much to do here, you can never run out of inspiration. As promised, I am blogging all of my adventures, but I’ve been creating a mental list of ‘places to visit’ for quite a while now and I thought it was about time I shared.

Whether you live here, are planning a trip or just need some inspiration for your own hometown, I hope this comes in handy!

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*26 Grains: This is top because it was my obsession with wanting to go here that inspired this blog post! Neal’s Yard is a little crook of Covent Garden that I’m desperate to explore anyway, but 26 Grains serves up London’s prettiest porridge. If you like Instagramming your food, bookmark this one.

*Bob Bob Ricard: This wonderfully eccentric restaurant is decorated in the style of a first-class dining car of an Edwardian train, with Art Deco booths and the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button. It’s a little pricey so best saved for a special occasion.

*Columbia Road Flower Market: A blogger’s favourite. If you haven’t admired pictures of the blooms at Columbia Road, I strongly suggest you do. East London’s flower market is open every Sunday and with independent shops and cafes also lining the street, there’s plenty to explore after picking your bunch.

*Madison: Famed for it’s incredible view of St Pauls, I am cheating a little bit here because I’ve already visited this rooftop bar. But that was a few years ago and I’m itching to go back! With an amazing cocktail menu and plenty of tapas to choose from, this is the perfect stop for evening drinks.

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*National Portrait Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style: I love the National Portrait Gallery, it is easily my favourite museum in London. Their Audrey Hepburn exhibition caused quite a stir last summer (and it was amazing), but I’m now desperate to visit Vogue 100. Celebrating British Vogue’s centenary by showcasing its photography through the years, this one is a magazine junkie’s dream.

*Duck & Waffle: London’s highest restaurant and open 24/7 – I’d love to get up super early and watch the sun rise over London from here. The lift is almost as well known as the restaurant itself, glass-sided and ‘express’, it whizzes you up those 40 floors in unbeatable style!

*Modern Pantry: Apparently, this is the spot to eat amazing eggs. Though to be honest, it was the seating thar first caught my attention. Set in a traffic-free courtyard which acts as a suntrap, it sounds like the perfect place for a casual, alfresco brunch one summery weekend. 

*Go to the ballet: When I was younger, I was a very keen dancer so I’ve been lucky enough to see a few ballets in London. It’s been a few years though, and I’d love to go back. My preference would be The Nutcracker (because is there anything more festive?) but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that looks interesting before next Christmas.       

How to Spend… February

Can anyone else feel that sense of spring in the air? Temperatures are still pretty low, but the days are getting longer, brighter clothes are starting to pop up in the shops and there are even some daffodils blooming. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to wear something other than a jumper and jeans. And there’s plenty to be getting on with until spring fully arrives. With pancakes to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday, cards to be sent on Valentine’s Day and a whole extra day on the 29th – have a great month!

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*Buy yourself freshly cut flowers: You don’t need a Valentine to have flowers in your house this month. Treat yourself! There’s just something so uplifting about having flowers around, they give a sense of life when the weather is still bleak outside. And, when you’re buying flowers for yourself, you can pick your favourites. Skip the clichéd (and extortionate) red roses for some daffodils to remind you that spring is on it’s way.

*Rethink your resolutions: Now is about the time that the New Year’s resolutions become a distant memory. If they are too hard don’t admit defeat, just alter them. Perhaps going to the gym every day was unrealistic, so change it to every other day. If that is what it takes to keep you on track and doing something positive then it’s a good thing, not a failure. Or, perhaps they are a little too easy, so with that confidence the first month has given you – amp them up!

*Create a new bedtime routine: January tends to be a bit crazy, adjusting back into work after the Christmas break, but we’re firmly back in those routines now. With the peace of Christmas (and the large food babies) it was easy to drift off to sleep, but with the worries of work, emails buzzing around our heads and plans forming for the following day, it can be harder to get some proper sleep. Spend some time creating a new bedtime routine to make sure you get to sleep when you need to. Turn off all those electrical devices (resist the temptation to check Instagram before bed!) and have a bath, read a book or make a cup of tea. A proper night’s sleep makes the world of difference the following day.

*Take something up for Lent: Ah, Lent. Just as we’re halfheartedly trying to keep our resolutions on track, we throw Lent into the mix. I always find that giving something up is quite a negative attitude. Telling yourself you can’t have something is guaranteed to make you want that one thing. So, rather than giving up chocolate, take up having fruit instead. You can still have chocolate when you really want it, but you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot less of it. Instead of giving up alcohol, take up making mocktails. Take up running, cooking or even an earlier bedtime. This kind of positive attitude to achieving something will make those 40 days and 40 nights fly past!

Brighton’s Favourite: Cafe Coho

I always jump at the chance to visit Brighton. It’s just such a happening place. Whether you visit in summer to sit on the beach, eat ice creams and pick your favourite beach hut, or in winter to duck in and out of the shops in the Lanes and find the best cafe for tea, there’s always something to do.

After spending the morning wandering around the Lanes, Tiarnan and I felt in need of a spot of lunch. Located in the heart of Brighton’s famous lanes and just two minutes away from the beach, Cafe Coho seemed a great shout.

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Cafe Coho occupies a Grade II listed building on Ship Street. With free wi-fi and over 60 seats, including outdoor seating with blankets, it’s the perfect place to hide away with a book for a couple of hours. It has also won the accolade ‘Brighton’s Best Loved Cafe’ – a big claim.

The vibe is rustic and friendly. With exposed brickwork and reclaimed wooden surfaces, the seating is a bit squished but that adds to the cosy atmosphere. They also have a pretty good food selection, although I’d recommend stopping by for a snack rather than a full on meal (but I have heard their breakfast is particularly good). It is their coffee they are proudest of, though. With a good selection and the promise of latte art, it’s a fun place to stop for a caffeine pick-me-up.

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If I’m honest, I’m not in a tearing hurry to go back. It’s nice, but I prefer the warm, bready smell and delicious cake selection at the Flour Pot Bakery in Sidney Street. But then Brighton is all about the eclectic mix of cafes and if you’re into your coffee, this is a great one to check out.