On… summer in France

So, at the end of June we spent a week in Barcelona for a family wedding. Wow.  I heart that city. Why the sweet hell didn’t I go there before I got hitched and knocked up and had a delicious-but-demanding baby in tow? I had a blast. That city was made to lose 48 hours in.
Then we drove to France, to Autignac, yes, village in A Girl Like You, and also, yes, the village my parents have a place in real life. (I used a fake village for the first few drafts, then I thought, fuck it, I’m thinking of Autignac, may as well be honest.)
So far, so classic family holiday…. the day starts with croissants and ends with rose, in between we take little trips to nearby towns and lovely lazy lunches. Well, I am not having that much rose, alas. I am drinking a lot of coffee and writing writing writing every moment the baby is sleeping. (No, writers don’t really get vacations. Someone once described it as constant homework, a nagging I-Should-Be-Writing feeling. One day I will take a month off. Maybe.)

My parents are besotted with Errol. First grandchild syndrome. They may try to get him bronzed. Errol ate anchovies for the first time and has never loved anything so much. Foxy was loudly horrified. (Foxy is generally loud, by the way. We have been asked to keep it down in restaurants all over the world. For a long time he convinced me that he was only loud because he was partially deaf in one ear, but he’s not. He’s just from a big family and knows how to get attention: be the loudest. I find a gentle ‘inside voices, darling’ helps. It’s so deliciously patronizing, too.)

What else have I done? I cried about Nora Ephron, then told myself I had no right to be so upset as I didn’t even know her, and then cried again anyway. I went through all my childhood books and picked out my favourites to keep forever. (Anne Of Green  Gables, comment je t’aime.) I contemplated cutting my hair, which is insanely stupidly long at the moment, but then I decided to just put it in braids after the shower and enjoy a sort of Splash-Daryl-Hannah thing the rest of the time. I cut the sleeves off all my tshirts and flannel shirts and am utterly delighted with the results. There’s a touch of The Outsiders about it, a touch of Rob Lowe in St Elmo’s Fire, and I get to show off my baby-honed guns. (You want guns, my friends, pick up and put down a 10-kg 10-month-old baby eighty times a day. Incidentally, why did I waste so much time at the gym in my 20s? I swear it actually made me fatter as I was just so damn hungry all the time.) 

Rob Lowe in St Elmo’s Fire. By the way I have watched this film about 80 times.

The Outsiders poster. Look at Tom Cruise trying to buff his guns. Hah. Dork.

Let’s see, what else… I just finished The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John LeCarre. I am totally digging the whole spy thang right now. I also just read Restless by WilliamBoyd and The Expats by Chris Pavone. I decided to go through a spy phase, as it’s so different to anything I would ever write and I thought it might teach me a bit about plotting, but I think I might be already over it. They were great books, particularly the LeCarre, they just lacked a certain something that I like in my novels… (If you have a favourite spy novel, by the way, please let me know. I’m still in the market for them.) Right now I’m reading The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, because I like me some Old Hollywood stories and I love her informal, witty tone of voice. And I’m about to start Paris In Love by Eloisa James which looks delicious. (All of those links take you to the Book Depository, by the way, a website that sends books anywhere in the world for free. It rocks. And no, I’m not being paid by them, I’m just tired of paying exorbitant delivery fees for things. Although, while we’re on the subject, if anyone wants to pay me to mention their brand in my books or blog, I’m down with that. Yes. I am a total whore.)

ANYWAY. I could blather on for hours like this, my friends, but I am sure you have better things to do. I know I should pick a topic and blog on it, you know, have opinions and shit, but honestly, sometimes I’d rather just have a chat.
Here are some photos of Autignac, taken this morning as we went to get bread, croissants and coffee. Just in case you’d like to see what it looks like. (I’m a terrible photographer. Good at spelling, though.)

(Do you like the totally arty croissant? Yeah. Thought you would.)
And in case you’d like to see us, here’s Errol and Fox and me in the pool. In black and white, because we thought it looked cool.
And Errol and me, alone. Sorry for the horrific hat. I bought it from some dude on the street in New York. It rolls up flat in a little cone. It’s my grandma hat.
Read more about French pharmacy stuff here. I am currently trialling a bunch of products so I will report back to you guys in a few days on more French Pharmacy Must Haves. God, I love me some French pharmacies.

PS: Edit. I read Paris In Love and my friends, I do not recommend it. The writing is fussy and self-indulgent. Every sentence is crafted to be as irritatingly long and flowery as possible. The tone of voice attempts arch and witty but is actually snide and superior. All in all, a cold book that is more in love with the idea of itself than Paris. I got to halfway through, the writer used the word ‘behoove’ and I thought ‘this is a joke’ and put it down. I don’t normally post negative reviews of books, as I know that it is so upsetting to the writer. But this book has had so many bizarre rave reviews, and this woman has such a high opinion of herself, that my little narky one won’t matter.

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On… speeddatenighting

So, Fox and I stole Tuesday afternoon last week.
It was our last week in New York before a summer break in Europe. Fox had been travelling a lot, I’d been writing a lot, and between friends and work and Errol, we almost never got time alone that wasn’t about the baby, general life admin and planning, or sleep. We didn’t want a late night, or a big extravaganza, or a huge ‘date night’ dinner. We didn’t want to bother with booking a babysitter or reservations or tickets or any of that. We simply wanted a teeny weeny bit of alone time, out of the house, without the baby. Just the two of us.

So we asked our lovely nanny if she’d work a little late. It would be the first time that I’d miss doing the 5.30pm Hour Of Power (dinner, bath, bottle, story, bed) in the whole ten months since Errol was born, so I was extremely excited about seeing the world at that time. (And predictably worried Errol would implode without my calming, nurturing presence. Apparently he barely noticed.)

Anyway. It was raining in Manhattan, and we almost cancelled the night. Our original plan was to walk down to Nolita (sort of a Disney Does Manhattan type area), have a drink in the Spring Lounge or Fonda Nolita, grab a bite in Cafe Gitane or Cafe Habana, and generally meander and flaneur and window-shop and people-watch. But, given the rain, that was out.  

“What shall we do?” said Fox.

We stared at each other for a long moment.

“PJs.”

At 5pm I closed my laptop. We didn’t bother to change or dress up. We kissed Errol goodbye, left probably over-specific Hour Of Power instructions, and got a taxi uptown.  

Looking out the window of the taxi at early-evening Manhattan, I got a delicious and unexpected tingle of excitement in my stomach. There’s an electricity in the air between 5pm and 8pm in any big city, and most of all New York. The night is very, very young. Everyone is finishing work and shaking off the day, everyone is planning dates or dinners or drinks or blissful nights at home alone with the box set of True Blood. In other words, everyone has something fun ahead of them, time that’s theirs and theirs alone.

And so did we.

PJ Clarke’sis the place we spent the day after our wedding two years ago. (Our friends and family took over the place from midday to midnight. It was raucous.) So, we took a seat at the bar and had a couple of beers and some sliders (tiny burgers that are, for some reason, way more fun to eat than normal burgers, and dudes, I like me a normal burger).

Then I had a martini, because I really like them, even though they are a starspangled rocketship of booze that my system is in no shape to process these days. Then we shared a Reuben sandwich. Because we like them, too. And talked and talked and talked.

Then we went to McSorleys, which is a famous old Irish bar in Manhattan.

McSorleys serves light beer and dark beer, and that’s it. It prides itself on being old school, and dude, it is. Sawdust on the floor, the whole bit. This is more of a Fox joint than a Gem joint, but I gamely soldiered on. (I know. I’m such a trooper.)

Then – it was just past 7pm by now – the rain was lessening, or maybe we were too tipsy to really notice is. So we skipped down to Whiskey Town.
Whiskey Town is just the kind of bar I’d like to lose an afternoon in, if I was still in the business of losing afternoons in bars. (Damn, that was a good business.) Gently dilapidated interior, cool but comfortable, chatty (but not overchatty) bartender, drinks that give you a gentle punch, and microwave popcorn. I was pretty goddamn tipsy by now so apparently I was slapping the bar in delight at my own wit a lot. (One of my more charming traits.) Just a really goddamn nice bar.

We rolled home at 8pm, relieved our lovely nanny so she could go home, checked on the sleeping baby and agreed we were extremely clever and talented for making such a perfect child, watched some Family Guy, collapsed asleep by 10pm and woke without a hangover. It was like speeddating, but in a slightly more boring married way. Speeddatenighting.

I highly recommend it.

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On… Tatler and summer

Pick up Tatler this month to read an article by moi about the joys of stealing from your baby!

This is what the cover looks like. Run, run, run and get it, my lovelies. The perfect summer magazine.  For realsies.

In other news, I’m about to go en vacances. High fives all round. Heading to a wedding in Barcelona later this week, then to France with my folks and Fox and Errol. I will still be working because, hey, that’s just how I roll. Also because I have deadlines. And actually, I’m not afraid to admit it: I love writing, dudes. It’s one of the best things in my life. Taking a break from it makes me sad. So I never do. And I’ve nearly finished the second book in the series… (I know it’s a long time coming – but we are lauching them both close together so you don’t have to wait! Thank you for your patience, dudes. Really, really, thank you.)

Anyway, I need your help… what are the top three things I should do in Barcelona?  

I have never been, and know almost nothing about it apart from the whole Gaudi thing, La Rambla, the fact that everyone sleeps in the afternoon and parties all night. Oh, and I think there’s a beach, but I could be wrong about that.
Bear in mind that I am quite a lazy tourist and need a lot of pitstops and coffee breaks, and am only really interested in eating, drinking, and a sprinkle – just a sprinkle – of art and history. Oh, and I am almost never in the mood to walk too far. Or up more than ten steps at a time. No, really, I’m totally serious. That whole Montmartre thing in Paris? Could be a myth for all I know. I will never find out because of the whole endless stairway situation.

Below: the mythical Montmartre in Paris. God, I get tired just looking at that photo. Let’s sit down and have a drink.

 

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On… Things I Like Right Now

Sea Salt Soap – the divine Lydia sent me a great stack of these as an early birthday present and I ADORE them. Anything with sea salt is pretty much guaranteed to be on my ‘fuck, yeah’ list.

(Image via @thesocialvixen)

Salty Caramel icecream from Steve’s Ice Cream. See above re: sea salt.


Per-Fekt Skin Perfection Gel in Luminous.
Let’s ignore the ridiculous brand name, shall we? This is like being airbrushed. By God.
In the UK you can buy it here.

Barleans Greens. If you drink this once a day you never have to eat a fruit or a vegetable again.

(Okay, that is a lie.)

These old man pyjamas. Fox, if you are reading this, I would like these for my birthday.

(Actually, can someone please forward this to him? Thank you.)

The Darlings by Cristina Alger. A Madoff-inspired tale with brains, wit and compassion. This book continually surprised and charmed me. Loved it. Just a damn good book.


This bikini
. Almost everything that Nasty Gal makes is too slutty-hipster for me, but I adore it anyway. Actually, Fox, can I have this bikini for my birthday too, please?

Le Fashion blog. I would wear anything this chick told me to wear.

Superbus. My band du jour.

You know what I don’t like? The new Blogger interface. It just took me half an hour to make the images and text line up for this not-awfully-impressive-anyway post. Ricockulous. Am I doing something wrong? Or does anyone know if I can do back to the old way? And how are you guys, anyway?

Edit: It turns out I was using the Blogger thingummy in HTML rather than straightforward Compose. I’m just gonna bite my finger and stare into space bashfully for a while, okay?

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On… Errol aged 9 months

 

 

He’s just so goddamn cool.

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On… [INSERT TITLE HERE]

Okay, ladykats (and gentlemankats). I need your help.
We’re trying to name my new book series. And it’s HARD.

Naming a book is like coming up with a new name for your best friend. You know your friend so well – how can you possibly pick a name that sums up everything they mean to you, so new people meeting them will think ‘ooo, great name, I bet she’s cool/funny/nice/interesting’, too?

So naming a book SERIES is twice as hard. Make that twenty. Because you can’t just describe one character, or one plot, or one theme. You need to come up with a sort of umbrella title. Like Sweet Valley High, or The Babysitter’s Club, or The Famous Five, or whatever. It has to be big, it has to encompass everything, it has to be memorable and have a little bit of magic.

Then, after you’ve named the series, you need to name the individual book titles. Which is, of course, easier – as you can use that particular book’s plot as a jumping off point. So I’m not too worried about them.

Okay, shall I tell you a little about it?

The basics: It’s a series about five best friends sharing a house as they navigate their early 20s. They’re starting adult life, figuring out what they want to do and how they’re going to do it, having relationship meltdowns, throwing parties, getting drunk, making mistakes, you know. All the good stuff. (And yah, I know about the damn HBO series GIRLS. I first pitched this series idea two years ago*, goddamnit, way before that idea was a twinkle in Lena Dunham’s eye. And mine is way funnier. Way. Funnier.)

The personality: It’s an action-packed wild ride of new adulthood, starring girls you’d want to have a drink with, dudes you want to slap or salivate over, and the kind of storylines that make you gasp and weep and bark with laughter and above all, turn the page. (Is that overselling it? Screw it, let’s run with it.)

Each book in the series is narrated by a different character. So she’ll have her own exciting story to tell.

We’ve been calling it UNION STREET up till now because, well, we just did. But it’s not very exciting. And then for a while I wanted to call it ROOKIES, but I am the only person who is dancing to that particular tune, which is never a good sign. I’m also toying with my original title for it, which was TWENTYSOMETHINGS, what do you think of that? And THE BEST OF ANYTHING, which is a play on THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, which I have loved forever. I fear none of them have that zingthwack! that happens when you hear the right title. Like A GIRL LIKE YOU. That title had an immediate zingthwack! (THE DATING DETOX, not so much. But that’s another story.)

Any ideas, dearest readers?

*It takes a long time to launch a book series. A VERY LONG TIME. Planning and writing it is just the half of it. So, thank you for your patience, my loves, I have been working my ass off, and soon I will have SO MANY books for you to read that you’ll be sick to death of me. In a good way.

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On…. NARS Carthage

Confession.

Despite owning more makeup than I could ever, ever wear (so much in fact that it’s slightly shameful, and friends of friends sometimes say ‘can I see your makeup drawer?’ when they come over, because they’ve heard through the grapevine just how excessive it is), I just bought a new lipstick.

NARS Carthage.

My first thought, after ‘oooo I look nice!’ was ‘hot damn, this would look great on my friend Amy’. Then I thought how great it would look on Susan, and Sarah, and Catherine, and Kirsty, and Lydia, and Andrea, and Trini and Maddy and Eleanor and Victoria and Kat and Fi and my sister and my mother and my agent and oh my God pretty much every woman I know.

Allegedly Emma Stone is wearing it in this shot. She is cool.

It’s a bright hot pink with red and coral in it, super-opaque, smooth, long-lasting. Yah, it’s bold, and yah, it takes a smooth chap-free lip (Lansinoh or Vaseline and an old toothbrush will sort you out). The kind of lipstick you would wear if you were one of those bathing beauties in an Esther Williams movie. It’s incredible with pale skin (I am still pre-fake-tan this year, so I’m milky-white. You know, the kind of white with a bit of blue in it? Yah that’s me), and I saw a very bronzed girl trying it on and she looked breathtaking. It would look amazing on Asian skintones and phenomenal on darker skin. It makes your teeth whiter and your eyes brighter. It’s hopelessly devoted to you. Like a young Olivia Newton-John.

So for Pete’s sake stop reading my stooopid blog and go and buy it. Or at least try it on.

PS Yah I am a writer. Yah I have no right to talk about cosmetics. Yah I’m going to do it anyway.

PPS The other day I found this photo of James Spader on my desktop. How did it get there? I don’t know. I like to think that it found me. Let’s just run with it and bemoan the fact that in this day an age it’s almost impossible to find a man who will rock a sockless loafer, pale grey suit, open-neck shirt, Lady Di hair and come-hither eyes, a lit cigarette and a glass ashtray balanced so perfectly on his knee. I need to re-do my website this year, and get some photos taken, and honestly, I’d be delighted if I could pose EXACTLY like this.

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On…. hello New York

I was going to tell you guys every detail about our first week in New York, about jetlag and flights and writing stuff and baby admin and you know, all that sort of thing. But do you really want to hear about my lost morning in Buy Buy Baby? I think not. Let me sum it up: we’ve spent the week settling in and New York is just big and beautiful and sunny and gorgeous and generally double-fist-pump-in-the-air perfect. I feel very happy and lucky and thankful. And hungry.
I shouldn’t be hungry, we’ve eaten ricockulously well since arriving. And as you probably know, I like restaurants. I like bars. I like eating. I like drinking. I like talking to people whilst eating and drinking in restaurants and bars. (You see where I am going with this.) And I thought you guys might like to know where I’ve been so far…

The Mermaid Inn

Met up with a lovely friend Susan. We sat at the bar, drank prosecco and ate blackened catfish. Highly highly recommend.


Saxon + Parole

Dinner with Fox and two of our guy friends in NYC. Mike was thrilled to find out that I’m using his last name in my next book. He was less thrilled to discover that it’s a girl’s last name rather than a totally awesome dude. Anyway, I had beet and goats cheese salad followed by an excellent pork belly.

Elsa

My new favourite cocktail bar. I drank Two French Sisters. I’m not the biggest drinker in the world since Errol was born, unsurprisingly, so after one I was a giggly wreck.


Peels

The fried chicken sandwich. I DIE.

La Colombe

Best coffee I have ever tasted in Manhattan. Errol likes the brioche.


Gemma
Cool Italian in the Bowery Hotel. We had breakfast there. Baked eggs. Apparently you can bake them. Who knew? (And yah, it was totally named after me. Shh, don’t tell anyone.)


Cookshop

Went with BFF Sarah and her husband. Sarah is preggers, by the way, and I hadn’t seen her since she got preggers, and in fact we haven’t even lived in the same country for about nine years, so I thoroughly embarrassed myself by bursting into happy tears when I saw her for the first time. I am tres uncool. The company was exceptional, but the food was meh.

Coming soon: food adventures in Brooklyn.

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