Freaking out slightly

Curious Workings - Dublin Uniform

I’ve been working freelance for a while now, but I still get nervous when I have to change location.  Naturally my work is just as doable on a train, in cafe in New York, on a houseboat in Kerala (wifi permitting), but tomorrow I am going to Dublin for a week with the children but no John.  I’ll have my Dad with me, but I probably won’t be able to ditch the children with him for very long on any given day.  It’s fine. There are mornings and evenings – they’re not awake around the clock, so I’ll still get several hours a day in, but it means that I need to get all my location-specific things done today – my VAT return, sending out Tradescant & Son swatches etc.

I haven’t gone away from Oxford with the children but without John for a week before.  I’m looking forward to spending a week in Dublin, but am also more than a little jealous of the unbroken peace and quiet that John is going to have!  I have been able to set up two unusual playdates though – one with somebody I haven’t seen since primary school, but with whom I reconnected online a year or two ago, who has children the same age as mine (give or take), and one with somebody I have never actually met!  We met online, on a makeup discussion board of all places (also where I met my now best friend, as it happens!), about 10 years ago, and stayed vaguely in touch via social media over the years as we blogged, got married, had children and shared a love of COS.  So this week we are meeting in person in the very playground that I practically grew up in, in Merrion Square.

So yeah.  I shouldn’t be freaking out.  I’ll still have masses of time to work and I get to meet old-but-new friends.  Will also bring swimming kit and aim to bring the children to the pool if they’ll go for it.

Packing light.  Will have to bring a hell of a lot of My Little Ponies for infant entertainment, so will be limiting my own wardrobe pretty strictly.  Leather jacket, white shirt, jeans.  New Stan Smiths (a breakaway purchase for me, having finally realised that Converse are a bit Mum) and have dug out old cheerful Mar Jacobs bag.

Curious Worknings - Dublin Accessories


Whistles shirt, Topshop leather jacket, Topshop slouchy jeans, Adidas Stan Smith trainers, Marc by Marc Jacobs colourblock Memphis satchel.

It was not a good week. But Petite Meller.

Curious Workings - Petite Meller

This week was troublesome.  Admittedly, a lot of it was motivated by the fact that my office is a bit too hot and I can’t make it be less hot, so there is a general overheated malaise (in my head, anyway), but I also spent as much time losing my mind over integrating woocommerce subscriptions as achieving anything concrete, and that left me feeling fractious and moody by yesterday afternoon.

It has been a very long time since I was last stumped by WordPress, and I am lucky enough to work with a team of fantastic freelancers, so I was able to pass the problem over to my WordPress guru, at least, but it still annoyed me not to be able to finish it myself.

Nevertheless, I hope to be making websites for a number of lovely, inspirational people in the coming weeks, so it’s not all bad (especially as none of them is likely to want woocommerce subscriptions!).

Anyway. Do you know about Petite Meller yet? She is an alarmingly young Parisian singer, with remarkably few singles under her belt but an assiduous PR team who have successfully relaunched her this Spring.  She has a number of completely transfixing videos – Babylove (this Spring’s fantastic single), 2013’s Backpack and 2012’s NYC Time.  I don’t know what the hiatus was about (she may have been finishing her Master’s degree in philosophy at the Sorbonne, which is fair enough), but I get the impression from her increased visibility this Spring that she is going to be on the general radar for now.

The American Apparel-ish sexy/unflattering lighting some of her in her videos is no coincidence, as they are co-directed by Napoleon Habeica (see his commercial work here), and sits well with her unique style.  Read an interview with her in Dazed from a couple of years ago to learn more about her look.

I find her completely charming. She is adorable on Facebook, and has been performing live in London (we missed her when I had a chest infection a couple of weeks ago, and I will miss her again when I am in Dublin next week!), taking a sweet, genuine pleasure in singing live for the first time in front of her small but adoring audience.

When I was 18 I would have loved her to distraction and I think that is why I am so charmed by her now – a combination of appreciation and nostalia, which I think she would be completely okay with.  Humour me, and please take a few minutes to enjoy (and dance around the room to) Babylove.

Or if you want something full-on weird, enjoy her cover of Icebear featuring Joe Fleisch.  Apparently it’s a Yiddish cover of a Swiss classic.

Building a new business (and having some fun along the way!)

Sarah Lidwell-Durnin - Univ Not-a-Ball

I have been consulting for a few companies over the last year, and it has become something I really love doing.  I have been very lucky over the last few years to experience a few different ways of working, with lots of ups and downs, of course, but consulting is incredibly invigorating and diverse work, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot more of it.  I have been invited to send proposals to a few potential clients in the last couple of weeks, some for one off projects, others for ongoing retainers, and have been researching new platforms until my head is a whirl of ecommerce, landing pages and e-learning!

To give myself something calming to do, I put together a personal website that will just focus on what I offer professionally.  It’s very slender just now, which is how I prefer websites to be, really, but I’m looking into adding more content and possibly an online course on starting a creative business on a shoestring. I was going to share it with you now, but I’m going to be a tease and wait until tomorrow as I have a couple of things I want to tweak before I open it up to criticism!

I’m very interested in the idea of an online course though.  There are so many great ways to present it, and I have had so much fun in the past giving group and one-to-one workshops, that I have a LOT of material to share.  I have been meaning to learn about creating video content forever, and creating an online course would be both fruitful in itself as well as giving me the opportunity to delve deeper into the techniques and platforms involved.  Watch this space…

(I haven’t JUST been working, of course – I might have found the time to dig out my prettiest dress and go to a ball at University College, Oxford last week!)

Maddie Ziegler: Bigger than Sia

In many ways I live under a rock.  For some time, I had been hearing Chandelier by Sia without giving it any thought.  It seemed a little cheesy, if lovely, and that was it.

Until one day, Youtube suggested I watch the video.  I can honestly say I have never watched any other music video as often as I have the clip of Maddie Ziegler performing alone in that dilapidated apartment.  I have watched recordings of her performances.  I have ecstatically texted my husband when her video for Elastic Heart came out, and the release of the newest Maddie Ziegler video, Big Girls Cry, has been the high point of this week.

The three clips are incredible. Take a moment to watch Chandelier now, if you haven’t seen it before (or even if you have, because it’s just so great).

Looking at her performances on Dance Moms, where she is guided by the dubious aesthetic and direction of a collection of women who make the Toddlers & Tiaras mothers seem positively laid back, casting Maddie Zielger, a home-educated 12 year old from Pennsylvania, for the Sia videos seems brave, but she has risen to the role in the most extraordinary manner.  Free of the heavy makeup and sexualised costumes and routines pushed onto her by her mother, her performances are a jawdropping combination of technical skill and childlike freedom.

My daughters love the Chandelier video (referred to as “The Girl”) and Elastic Heart (“The Angry Girl and Boy” – they deserve a blog post of their own, so I won’t discuss here), which I am happy to let them watch on the grounds of featuring a physically strong, insanely talented, unpink, unsexualised young girl (anything is better than Tinkerbell, really).

However, the videos have been divisive.  Some people have seen them as disturbingly sexual.  Others see them as art.  Most people definitely have an opinion either way.  It’s odd how her completely non-sexual dancing is seen as more objectionable than her hyper-adult dancing when she is in her Dance Moms world, though, right?  In Chandelier, she wears a blonde wig to mimic Sia’s own hair, “pretty”/light makeup, and a basic flesh-toned leotard.  In her “normal” world, she is caked in heavy glamour makeup, glitzy, sexy costumes and a frozen smile.

Compare these two pictures:

Curious Workings - Maddie Zielger 2

Curious Workings - Maddie ZieglerIt’s the FIRST one that many people say is inappropriately sexualising the child.  What? Is it because she is dressed up as an adult, and is so false and hard as to be just a little bit repulsive that lets people be unbothered by her appearance in the second picture, despite the “sexy” posing?  While her relative simplicity and aura of neglect makes her seem more sexually vulnerable in the Chandelier video?  As a mother of little girls, I’m shocked by the lipstick and bikini persona, but other mothers I know are far more shocked by Chandelier.  She’s wearing very little in each appearance, but I think that the overtly sexy bikini and sarong is more inappropriate than a standard issue ballet class uniform, and I would say that the choreography in Chandelier is quite carefully unsexy.  Maddie herself said she was quite surprised by the routine, in which she was instructed to relax and be 11 years old, not to point her leg and pose the way she usually does.

I know I’m going on about this a lot.  Sorry.

Anyway, the third video, certainly the most creepy of the three, features just Maddie’s head and shoulders (mostly) and is as startling a performance as the first two.



It bears watching a few times – the way it is lit, the way it goes out of focus a little, Sia’s own hands.  It’s not an especially easy watch, and I’m not showing it to the children, but it gives Maddie the opportunity to impress us with her acting alone, and while I imagine that she probably won’t do more Sia videos (or else people like me will just become Maddie fans instead of Sia fans!) I really hope that we will see more and more of her talent in the years to come (and not on Dance Moms).


Mensch it up

Curious Workings - Moscot Mensch Glasses on Jenna Lyons JCrew

I’m a glasses character.  I have worn glasses since I was 10 years old (they were red and light blue) and although I have, from time to time, resented my specs, I have come to love them as being pretty fantastic accessories.  It had never crossed my mind until a couple of years ago (probably when designer glasses and more avant garde styles became affordable), that glasses could contribute positively to your look, and in response, my glasses have been getting heavier with each upgrade.

At the moment, I wear London Retro Bakerloo glasses and I love them.  They were a replacement for a pair of similar Givenchy glasses that my daughter broke and had been discontinued.  They’re lovely and big, but I’d like something a little heavier, especially now that I have grown out my fringe again.

I have always admired Jenna Lyons’ glasses, which are the Mensch frames by Moscot, and I feel that they might be in my future, perhaps this summer.  They have several stockists in London, so next time I go there I’m going to find somewhere with the Mensch frames and try them on, although looking online now I’m not spotting anywhere that stocks Mensch (although I’ll be in the US this summer, prescription lenses seem to be far more expensive than here).  I’ll work it out.

Already gearing up for the weekend

Curious Workings - Hedda Gabler Abbey Theatre DublinIt’s an incredibly sunny day today, and I am about to dash out of the office after a busy day promoting two of my brands, building admin-cutting forms for my best client, and dreaming up a name for my newest project (there’s always a newest project).

This weekend I am going to Dublin for four glorious days, ostensibly to help my father after a minor operation.  As he is already planning where we should go out to dinner the evening of his operation, I don’t predict much mopping of brow, or pouring of tea.  I have booked tickets for Hedda Gabler at the Abbey, dinner at One Pico, lunch at Rustic Stone and a meeting with a potential new client, so I have a very busy weekend of unsullied enjoyment ahead of me!

Dublin has changed dramatically in the last few years, and it’s fantastic to go back and find all the new cafes, roasters, restaurants and more.  Naturally, my interest revolves around coffee and food, but that’s only to be expected of me, really.

Sneak Peek: Crete

Crete House - Back Living Room


Crete House - Still a building site!

We’re back in Oxford now.  Getting away for 18 glorious days was wonderful and my longest time away from here in quite a while.  We may not have been able to stay in our own house, and it may have rained and stormed a bit more than you would normally expect for Crete, but it was wonderful.

Crete House - front living room

Of course, the whole point was to see our HOUSE.  I am so deliriously excited about it that I can hardly breathe.  It’s BEAUTIFUL.  Even in the wind and rain, with downstairs seeming like a giant grey mudbath, with planks forming bridges across the worst bits, you could see how lovely it is.

Crete House - Children's Bedroom

It’s remarkably difficult to take photographs of, and we only had our phones, but when it is finished we will have it professionally shot, so you can see it properly then, but for now, here are just a few details that I wanted to share with you.

Crete House - Stairs

I’ll be sharing more as we go, and focussing on some of the details that have occupied me over the last few weeks.  Bear with me!

Bougatsa, Zara Home, Bougatsa


Curious Workings - Bougatsa

We’re still in Crete, which is great, but it’s also 8 degrees and hailing.  And we’re not in our house.  I have given up on actually staying in our house on this trip by this stage of course, but annoyingly, because it’s still off season (and 8 degrees and HAILING), we can’t make any of the usual sort of escapes that we would if we were in this situation otherwise – the island of Gavdos is essentially “closed” for a few more weeks, for example.  Besides, it’s no harm being close to our own house to make decisions etc., and at least we’re close to lots of entertaining things to do (beaches, Rethymnon etc.).

Tomorrow we go to Heraklion to do some alarming budget things with the builder.  My main feelings about Heraklion are:

1) Bougatsa

2) Zara Home

3) Bougatsa

I don’t feel especially guilty about this.  I am sure that if I had ever visited Heraklion without tiny children I would have experienced the thrilling nightlife that supposedly exists there, but as things stand, it’s mostly about bougatsa for me.  It’s AMAZING.  I’m very excited about having it for brunch tomorrow morning.  Take a look a great recipe for it here on Greek Vegetarian, not that I could be bothered trying to make it, but perhaps you are so inclined (it’s her lovely picture above, so a visit would be kind).

Sorrowful Children

Curious Workings - Mad Children

Poor Honor.  She is four, so although she is articulate and highly opinionated, she is also very little and dependent on routine and stability, and this trip to Crete where we have stayed in three different places so far, with a constant “threat” of moving into our own house hanging over her head, has not been easy for her, even though she is usually the one bouncing off the walls, compared to serene Beatrice.

Moody, fighty and tired, she has been very difficult to get along with (not least for her much-put-upon older sister), but when she is alone with me she calms down and just potters about, doing her bit.  The minute everyone else comes back, she remembers that she is upset and she’s off again.  It breaks my heart (and drives me crazy).  To make it worse, she fell over yesterday during one of her rare cheerful moods and smacked her face on the table and now has a black eye to add to her list of sorrows.  She calls it her “grey bit”.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom.  She loves the beach and is very excited by the waves. I kept her home with me this afternoon and we’ve been watching Aladdin, admiring her new socks and drinking tea in bed, tea being her latest grown-up thing.

Tomorrow morning we’ll bring her back to the beach, and hopefully she will forget her woes for a few hours, and give me a break from my role of constant consoler.