Darcy Clay – Jesus I Was Evil

I’m hitting all my Kiwi music favourites up on  Youtube today. In less than two weeks I’m making my regular February pilgrimage to the sweet shores of Aotearoa. I always get really nervous before a trip home – what if everything has changed? What if I’ve changed too much? What if none of my friends love me anymore? What if I decide I can’t leave again? I just become a stressed out knot of feelings. I’m not ready to leave London yet, but New Zealand in the summer is just so damn amazing…

Daily photo: Retro roosters

Chicken licken

Chicken licken… A throwback to 2005, when I went travelling with my friend Richard in Thailand. This is from somewhere in Bangkok; a flock of golden cockerels.

I feel a little bit ill to think that it was a whole decade ago we ventured into the smoggy heat, exploring South East Asia for the first time. I’ll spare you the self-portrait – but think bleach blonde hair, white t-shirts and aqua-marine cotton skirts with a hem skimming my ankles.

Some things…

A little list of things I am really into right now… There’s nothing better than a personal recommendation, and these are my January picks.

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The Doughnut Hatch: On Kingsland Road in the heart of Shoreditch there’s a window that serves just two things: doughnuts and filter coffee. From 9am until they sell out, there’s two daily choices of flavours which could be anything from salted caramel to lemon curd to cherry, Oreo or pistachio.

Ozone cafe, Old Street: good coffee, tick. Smashed avo and radish bruschetta, double tick. Baked eggs and beans, seconds please. This massive cafe and coffee roasters is kiwi run – possibly why it consistently blows all newcomers out of the water.

Walking/canal life:  One of the most pleasurable things about living in Hoxton is the proximity to Regent’s Canal. I love nothing more than putting on my shoes ad taking Duchess out for a stroll up or down the canal. There’s always something to see – from terrapins to cute narrowboats – and at the moment it’s particularly lovely in the evenings as all the boats start a wood-burning fire. It smells amazing, and the air is so crisp… Winter perfection.

COYO: Coconut yoghurt is amazing. I’m like a year late on this but as someone who can’t eat dairy/abide by soy alternatives this is AMAZING. My favourite is made by the Coconut Collaborative, who have very funny packaging to boot.

Kent hairbrushes: I have just spent a wild amount of money for me on a hairbrush. I’m trying to upgrade the things I use or touch daily – to make sure they‘re of quality, and that I invest enough so they last longer.  Boar bristle brushes spread the natural oils your scalp produces from root to tip, resulting in healthier, shinier hair. They’re particularly awesome for people like me with baby-fine locks.

Shoes for life: In a similar vein I’m trying to invest in shoes of a higher quality, rather than just buying some Primark sneakers every eight weeks. Brands such as Loake (UK) feature a Goodyear welted leather sole. This is a method  of shoe construction from Northamptonshire that allows shoes to be repaired over and over again, perfect for boots subjected to daily abuse from gritty London pavements.

Sadly I don’t own a pair of Loake boots (yet! The Anne brogue boots will be mine, oh yes.) but their commitment to customer service has already won me over. The store manager in Piccadilly has ordered in various sizes from the warehouse for me, texted me updates, and  has generally just been lovely.

Darkness

watery depths

As the singer Gillian Welch wrote, “Some girls are bright as the morning / And some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind.” I like the word “blessed.” I like to think that demons can sometimes be angels, that probing through the mire, we can recognize the glint of those small things that sustain us.

– Kim Addonizio in the NY Times

(This is my favourite-ever photo/self portrait.  I still have a dark turn of mind, but I’m open to spending time with the curtains open and the sunlight streaming in now.)

Spruce up

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Last weekend Thom and I took Duchess for a walk around the madness that is Columbia Road on Sunday morning. I’ve never been there in the throes of Christmas before (even though we’ve lived in the neighbourhood for nearly four years). Sprigs of mistletoe, holy holly wreaths, clementines, and huge stacks of fir trees. Suddenly I’m feeling Christmassy after all.

Duchess of Hoxton

Duchess

It’s about high time I properly introduced you to the new fuzzy love of my life, Duchess. Those of you who know me well, will be aware that my one singular and consistent desire in life has been to get a dog. Even as a precocious 6-year-old, I was asking my parents for an entire farm, in the hopes that they’d downgrade and just get me a pup. No dice. A childhood of turtles, kittens, fish, bunnies, mice, budgies and axolotls followed (all very much adored). But there still was no dog.

When I was a little bit older I was lucky enough to date a guy who had a fantastic dog, Lucy, with guest appearances by Hugo the Brussels Griffon, and got to know a few other canines owned by friends (including my nephew #instahank, who is also a Griffon). Things just never really lined up for me…

Until this past Christmas, when Thom and I asked our lovely landlords if we could get a pet. Despite our rather archaic lease stating that we couldn’t keep guinea fowl in the backyard, a dog was fine by them. I don’t think I’ve ever been so giddy. There was a quite a bit of kitchen dancing.

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When it came to getting a dog, there was only one option: adopting. Personally, I couldn’t bear the thought of buying a dog from a breeder when there are hundreds of dogs looking for homes. It’s the sort of thing that brings me to tears… Admittedly I am a massive softie.

So we headed to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home with our friend Rob to meet some of their residents. We were able to register (and have an interview) on the spot – joining the list so Battersea could match us to the right dog.

So began a two-month cycle of obsessively checking the new dogs page, calling the shelter to see if there were any matches, and buying rubber bones, and the cute paw-printed blankets clearly required. Finally, one Friday, I called and we had a match. I reserved her (which just means no one else could adopt her), and arranged to go the next day with Thom and our flatmate to meet her.

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It was love at first sight. Duchess is around 7 or 8 years old, loves carrots, napping in the sun, and chewing her soft hedgehog. She dislikes the cold, being ignored, and all traditional dog activities like fetch.

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She’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a breed which unfairly gets some bad press. Because Staffies are strong and muscular, they’re often favoured by young posturing men who put them on chains and encourage them to fight. Duchess? She’s just a wimp who loves nothing better than plopping on to the couch, or flirting with a sunbeam in the garden. The Kennel Club says they are “Extremely reliable, highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.” I can’t help but agree.

Life is so much better with a dog.