On…. my fauxmance

I just found something that I wrote years ago. It was crumpled in the bottom of a box of keepsakes, old tickets, cards, letters and things.

It’s a pretend page from a fauxmance – that’s a parody of a Mills & Boon-style romance novel, of course – called Hot Nights And Cold Shoulders.

I thought I was so damn funny when I wrote it. You may not agree. Sometimes I do things that I think are hilarious and everyone else thinks are silly/pointless/unfunny. I am at peace with this. Anyway, this is the copy.


Hearing the noise, Chenille turned around.

It was him. Entering her chambers without so much as a by-your-leave.

She stood up angrily to go, but at once he was upon her, begging her with his deep brown eyes to listen, to let go of the past, to love.

‘Please -’ there was an urgency in his molten-honey voice. God, he was impenetrable.

‘What do you want from me now, Boulder Bulwark?’ she cried, throwing her lovely head back in passion. ‘You’ve taken my plantation, my hopes for the future, even my house slaves! Enough is enough!’

Beads of sweat were beading on his brow. He grabbed her passionately, his manly arms encircling her girlish waist.

‘There’s one more thing I want to take.’

Before she knew it, his firm lips pressed down on her furiously clamped mouth. He was kissing her! Her small hands pummelled against his manly chest in protest. But to no avail.

She could feel the warmth of his boy pressed against hers and smell his tanned, work-roughened skin, that curious mix of cotton-rich earth, horse sweat and home-cooked grits that only true Southern gentlemen have. Quite a change from the Yankee-educated dandy who’d darkened her doorstep just three weeks ago.

Suddenly Chenille felt something she’d never felt before. Desire. And nature took over.

Without thinking she arched her back and began to kiss him back. She could feel his throbbing manhood pressed against her thigh as his tongue probed her mouth, his hands grazing he rosebud nipples of her firm but pendulous baps through the sheer muslin gown. An urgent ache started deep inside her virgin loins, and she remembered Momma’s warnings.

But she didnt want to stop. Not now, not ever.

Chenille ran her hands through Boulder’s thick chestnut hair. His turgid member thrust against her ever-questioningly. Her response needed no words as she undulated gently in that ancient rhythm. Her body was responding to his manliness in a way she couldn’t deny.

‘Oh, Boulder,’ she sighed, as he began kissing her neck.

‘Chenille, my darling Chenille,’ he moaned. The sound of his voice brought her to her senses.

With all her strength she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you insult me like this?’ she exclaimed, ‘I may not be one of your sophisticated Yankee girls but that’s just the way the Lord, my Momma and the Confederate Union made me. You take your filthy hands off me and leave my chambers this instant.’

‘I will not,’ Boulder replied, ‘I’ve loved you since the moment you threw that damned jug of mint julep over me. You crazy, tempestuous, gorgeous Southern woman.’

He picked her up and carried her over to the bed. Like a branded filly, she was scared yet excited, and knew there was no use struggling. In the very depths of her soul she yearned for him to possess her. He placed her head tenderly on the pillow.

‘Chenille Clemency Depoise, I want you to become my wife,’ he murmured, his hands roaming and finding home in a place they’d never been before.

He caught his breath, watching, waiting for her response.

‘Yes… yes my darling, yes!’

Yep. That’s a fauxmance. I tried to twist all the classic Mills & Boon cliches, with stilted dialogue, awkwards sexual descriptions and – but of course! – adverbs a-go-go.

I found it yesterday and thought ‘now, why the hell did I write that?’

I guess I liked (still like) writing things that made me laugh, even if there was no reason for doing it. I read a few very bad Mills & Boon-esque historical romances in my early teens and I thought it would be funny to take the piss. And more than anything I had oodles of creative energy that I wasn’t using at work – I was writing a lot of financial copy at the time, ahem – so I channelled it into tiny pointless projects like this, instead.

What else did I do during that period? Well, I played silly games with friends, like making up names and straplines for pretend perfumes (Patriarchy! Daddy knows best…), I organised a series of Notting Hill-to-Chelsea pub crawls called Staggers (with their own advertising campaigns and straplines) that ended up with over 100 attendees, I made compilation CDs for friends and designed unique CD covers, I started a Cocktail Club (with Mad Men-style copy-heavy posters that changed weekly) at work, I offered free copywriting and marketing strategy to a local start up hair salon (yuh I bet they were thrilled).

I never tried to write a book. I didn’t have the concentration. I was a scattergun of creative energy, unfocused and unsatisfied, gagging to just do something.

As it turned out my permanent niggling feeling of vague dissatisfaction was because I was – light bulb moment! – not satisfied with life. Once I sorted that out, everything got a lot easier.

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On… overhighlighted hair

My hair was overhighlighted by an overzealous hairdresser about six months ago, and promptly started to break off. I’ve been trying to protect and nourish it ever since – singing to it in the morning, taking it out for quiet dinners and spoonfeeding it organic risotto at night, etc.

(That’s not what I mean, of course, I mean I’m not using hairdryers and tongs, but it seemed such an obvious thing to say that I thought I’d surprise you.)


I realised today that on a hangover, when my back hurts, I look exactly like this.

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On… an ode to my glasses

I am reclaiming my glasses.

This isn’t the pair I’m talking about. Not exactly. Mine are more or less the same shape, but bigger and clunkier. I bought The Glasses about five years ago in a little old man’s glasses shop in Hong Kong. The man got so excited that I liked such out-of-date frames that he promptly ran to the basement and fetched an box of ancient specs bearing ‘Made in West Germany’ tags. But I didn’t want them, I wanted the big black clunky ones. I wanted The Glasses.

After he fitted the lenses, I went home and showed my parents. Their immediate reaction was “why do you want to look like a blonde, female Buddy Holly?” I don’t know. I just did.

For months I’d been thinking ‘I wish I could have glasses like Michael Caine in the Ipcress File, only bigger’. I searched and searched and searched, and then, like all truly blessed sartorial findings, they finally turned up. A gift from the gods. And I loved them.

They were comfortingly heavy and sat firmly on my face (lightweight ones fly off if you jerk your head around or guffaw with gusto, which I guess I do a lot). They didn’t lose their shape, leave a mark on my nose or tangle in my hair when I put them on my head, like wireframes always do. And most of all, they went with everything. They looked amazing with old holey jeans and new tiny dresses, with a (fake) tan or red lipstick, hair up or down. I thought – probably mistakenly but I’m okay with that – that they gave a polished sheen to everything I wore: they were a look.

And then The Glasses became fashionable.

Really fashionable. People around Shoreditch and Bethnal Green started wearing them. Chloe goddamn Sevigny got a pair. Tom Ford designed a pair. I saw a cafe in Notting Hill with no fewer than nine people in it all wearing The Glasses. They were featured in a magazine as ‘geek chic’. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutchter had matching pairs, for the love of betsy. The Glasses were absogoddamnlutely everywhere.

I was nonplussed, but tried to shrug it off. It wouldn’t affect me. I wear what I wear. Who cares, right? I didn’t buy them to be fashionable or unfashionable, I bought them because I loved them.

And then I met a girl wearing The Glasses, but without any prescription. Just plain plastic lenses. As an accessory, like earrings. To get the look. And I thought ‘I can’t handle this, I’m a clone’. So I put The Glasses away and switched to wearing contacts full time. (I’m shortsighted – not severely, just -2.00 in each eye.) No other glasses would ever take their place. I saw my sister mewing like a blind baby bunny after laser surgery and swore I’d never do it, so I decided that I’d just wear contacts forever.

I just found The Glasses in a drawer. It’s been about 18 months since I wore them. They slide so nicely onto my face. They haven’t changed a bit: they’re still perfect. So I’m going to start wearing The Glasses again. I can’t help it: I love them and I always will.

This is Buddy Holly wearing The Glasses. What a groovy hipster!

This is Michael Caine wearing The Glasses. Woofwoof.

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On… Snow

There are a lot of pictures of the snow around: it’s -6 in London today. So I’m a-jumpin’ on the frosty bandwagon. This is the view from my place.

Notting Hill is quite the winter goddess, n’est-ce pas? I just saw a little girl rugged up like a teeny Arctic explorer, doing a joyful skippy-hoppy-jump into the square.

Now what the sweet hell am I going to get Fox for Christmas?

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On… writing tips

The lovely @bookgal, @bookbuzzr and @marelisa just RTd this on Twitter, and it seems like the kind of thing you lot might be interested in.

54 Writing Tips For Writers, From Writers

Mwah. x

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On… Judy Blume covers

I just remembered Judy Blume.

‘Good Lord!’ I thought (I often start thoughts with little exclamations like that), ‘How could I have not thought about her for so long? I was obsessed with her books…’ And then I thought: ‘why, I wonder how her covers have changed over the years?’

Man, did I find some doozies.

My two favourite Judy Blume books, by the way, were probably ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and STARRING SALLY J FRIEDMAN AS HERSELF (yah I read FOREVER, but I couldn’t really relate to the losing-one’s-virginity thing on account of my being about nine at the time – I didn’t get TIGER EYES as it was about a popular girl who had to wear a back brace, I think, and I was a geek so didn’t really get it – and I hated BLUBBER as any stories about kids being mean made me feel sick, on a account of my also being a wimp). I think I read all the Judy Blume books aged between eight and ten, at the same time that I was deeply obsessed with Ramona Quimby, Little Women, Enid Blyton (Famous Five and Malory Towers particularly), LM Montgomery (I had all of her books, including the short story anthologies, and could quote chunks of my two favourites – Anne Of Avonlea and Emily of New Moon – off by heart – see? Told you I was a geek) and the What Katy Did books. Then I got into the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High and Paula Danziger, and then one long, very hot summer in Hong Kong when I was 12, I was finally allowed access to my mother’s club’s no-kids-allowed library and got insanely into Mary Wesley, Georgette Heyer, Nancy Mitford, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc, and grown-up life truly began.


I went back and read Little Women over the summer, and still loved it. What books did you love? I remember some other Alcott books, including one about a girl who obsessed about ‘ear-rings’ for chapter after chapter. I will Google the title later. Maybe it will come to me. (I’m scared Google is destroying my memory as I don’t have to remember things anymore. Another sign, by the way, that one is over 30, similar to an obsession with Farrow & Ball and two-day hangovers.)

Some of these covers are early experiments in clipart, others are just HIL – wait for it – ARIOUS. Book covers from the mid-to-late 80s are my favourites, I think. One day, I want my books to have a cover that is a full painting of a girl looking pensive, probably in a bedroom (flowery duvet cover!), maybe talking with her best friend (sleepover!) and perhaps with a phone on the bed (a phone in her bedroom? she’s obviously RAD).

Take a look. The French one is the coolest… Bien sur.

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On… my little black book of London

This morning I woke up early, read some of the delicious THE HATING GAME by Talli Roland, then lost Stone-Paper-Scissors with Fox and was forced to tramp down to the Coffee Plant on Portobello. And now, as I am back in bed slurping in a deliberately-annoying-but-hopefully-endearing way, all I can think is ‘this is the best coffee in the world. I should blog about it’.

And then I thought, fuck it, what about my favourite, essential places in London?


There’s a lot of coffee in the world. And there’s a LOT of bad coffee. I don’t see the point in going to a CostaNeroBucks* when the result is bitter, watery and burnt. (Similarly I really, really don’t see the point in going to a chain bar like All Bar Shit when there’s probably something tiny and unique around the corner, and I’m confounded by the allure of Pizza Express.) I like my coffee rich and full and flavoursome, and those places just can’t offer that.

Anyway, the Coffee Plant is on Portobello Road, about 65 steps from our place, and the coffee is exceptional. The service is middling and the guy who owns it seems to have self-published a book about the 9/11 conspiracy, but it’s all part of the experience. And they sell very nice chocolate-covered cherries.

*Except in summer when it was veh hot and I discovered a love for Frappucinos: icy caffeinated goodness so sweet you can’t even tell how bad the coffee is! Then I discovered the amount of sugar in those fuckers and immediately stopped.


The Grocer On Elgin. I could not have written A GIRL LIKE YOU without this place: I tripped down at about 6pm every night for one of their freshly-made meals (soups, salads, stews, curries…).

The Grocer On Elgin
6 Elgin Crescent
W11 2HX

It also sells very good coffee, but the cups are too small, so Coffee Plant wins.


On the corner of Blenheim and Portobello, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, two delightful women sell flowers at astonishingly low prices.

Now, I never saw the point of buying flowers before, when there seemed no middle ground between a £3.99 bunch of date-raped carnations from Tesco or a £89.99 posy of hand-reared, Oxbridge-educated blooms from a shop called something like ‘Blooming Marvellous’ (sigh). But you can buy 20 huge fat roses, a big bunch of lilies and several hydrangeas from this stall, and still get change from £25, and they last at least a week.

I have no idea what I’m doing with the arranging but I love it.


Books! Those beautiful bastards. I love reading. When I was little, we belonged to three libraries, so I could get the 18 books out a week it took to occupy me. I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. I think if I’d seen Lutyens & Rubinstein, I’d have wanted to work in it instead.

So, most of you probably buy on Amazon, and one has to admit that the prices are afuckingstonishingly cheap. But if you’re after a good, soul-cheering book browse and genuinely personalised recommendations by people who truly love books – and who isn’t? – you can’t beat Lutyens & Rubinstein. Started by two literary agents about a year ago, I believe the intention was to stock the books they and their friends loved the most in the world… and wow, it works.

As I browse L&R;, I tend to make little gasping sounds of joy when I find the books that have permanently invaded my brain and heart – from Jilly Cooper to Kingsley Amis to Stella Gibbons to Leo Tolstoy to Evelyn Waugh to Nora Ephron to Dodie Smith… all in one delightful, beautiful space. It’s a bit like going to a party with all your best friends from your entire life.

Lutyens & Rubinstein
21 Kensington Park Road
W11 2EU

Daunt is, of course, also a lovely independent bookshop, but they do seem to be dreadful book snobs. Terribly worthy, with less of the joy of reading than the joy of ‘yarse I DO prefer the xx translation, you know, when I went up to Cambridge -’ blahblahblahzzz.


Fine, laugh at me. Call me a princess. But I’m the one that has to look at my hands for about 15 hours a day as I type: I like having good nails. I can do my own, if I must, but for £10 one of the gifted and delightful Nail Spa ladies can do an absolutely amazing file-and-polish. Every now and again I get a manipedi for £40. They’re in Marylebone, Maida Vale and South Kensington, and it’s amazing how, once a week, I manage to have an errand near one of the three.

My colour de jour, and the one that is on the nails taptaptapping away to you right now, is Essie Velvet Voyeur. I also like Gladioli, Hot Coco, Lapis of Luxury, Chinchilly and Sugar Daddy. For my wedding I had Berry Hard on my hands and Mink Muffs on my toes. Yes. Aren’t my conversational skills fascinating? “Do go on,” I can hear you saying, head tilted thoughtfully to the side. “Tell me more about your fingernails.”

The point is: there are a lot of cheap-n-not-that-cheerful places popping up in London these days – Julie’s Nails, I’m talking to you – but they’re pretty dreadful. Nail Spa is dependably great.

Nail Spa

5 Paddington Street
London, W1U 5QF
020 7935 3322

7 Clifton Road
London, W9 1SZ
020 7266 5588

20 Bute Street
London, SW7 3EX
020 7225 2233

Hmm I have been typing for an hour. Let’s see: coffee, food, flowers, nails, books… what else is there that I can recommend?

Clothes? I shop on the high street (Topshop, Zara and ASOS almost entirely, though I do have a penchant for J Brand jeans and dresses from Carven, Maje and Paul & Joe Sister). I get a lot of things altered to fit better, and an old pencil dress can get a new lease of life if you cut six inches off it (I cut six inches off a lot of dresses, come to think of it, I’m quite slutty like that). The place I go for alterations is always, always, always First Tailored. They’re expensive, but worth it. From Zara trousers to my wedding dress to Paul’s wedding suit, the results are consistently exceptional.

They don’t have a website, but it’s
First Tailored Alterations
85 Lower Sloane Street,
SW1W 8DA (7730 1400).
Sloane Square tube. 9am-6pm Mon-Sat.


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