Friday, April 30, 2010

The Military Trend for Less...

Posted: April 30, 2010 -

Snooping around the Luisa via Roma web site the other day, I noticed the latest Balmain military looks were just in off the runway, but then had to double take at the price points - I'm sorry, being an extreme fashion victim is one thing, but coughing up $15k for a distressed military coat is quite another.

I know the dollar/pound thing is quite fun when you first land in the Big Apple - for me everything seemed like half price so a buying frenzy set in for at least 2 years. Sadly now fully acclimatized (or should the be acclimated?), finding more bang for your buck, as our local countrymen like to repeat, verbatim, is kind of a good idea.


A marginally quick sleuth around the internet 5 minutes later and there are plenty of other jackets out there without this hefty price tag.

alt Try this coat from Rag and Bone for $540

alt Or this one from Top Shop for a paltry $160

alt Or this from Gryphon at $385

All that being said - the Balmain still has a certain aspirational quality to it... maybe if I spread the payment over a few credit cards....


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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuf : A slice of tween heaven found in Byram

Posted: April 29, 2010 -


Just across the border from New York to Connecticut - (no, literally, I'm not kidding here, it's about 3 paces from the State line), and tucked away in a cute little shopping district that's just beginning to bloom, there's an aptly named gem of a store called STUF that's, quite frankly, a Tween's dream.

Now I'm not even a Tween - more of a 'has been, wishing she was remotely in the same decade as a tween' really, but after stepping foot in this clothes and accessory haven I had one of those shoppers buzz moments. You know the one's when you've just clapped your eyes on some designer duds and then double take at the label when you realize that you can actually afford it and it shall be yours.

The store's owner, long time fashion savvy retailer Barbara Reinken has a magpie like eye for spotting key trends and top sellers that her tweeny clients can't do without.

You know that party present idea you've been grasping at for your 10 year old niece ? Those Tracter and IT jeans and shorts that your little cousin has been jonesing after ? That cool Vintage Havana tee that your daughter has been ogling? And yes, even those Top Trenz accessories that could fill a Holiday stocking or work as party favors? Well, look no further than the Aladdins cave that is Stuf.


My daughter's buddies better standby as this is clearly going to be my one stop shop for teen gifts this Summer.

You can find Stuf at 1 North Water Street, Greenwich, CT, 06830, Tel : (203) 813 3639

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Surviving Spin Class with Style

Posted: April 29, 2010


My first spin class... really? Is the most common thread of discussion when I 'fess up that I've never attended, looked into or even crossed the path of a spin class by accident on my way to the shops. So today was the day to take the bike by the horns and attempt my first one.

Buoyed up by a couple of professional spin buddies - 6 times a week is considered professional in my book anyway, I stepped foot into my first class bright and early this morning at super smooth Soul Cycle - yes the one that is always packed with celebs and even has a spin off barn (sorry couldn't resist) in the Hamptons for all those 'A' types who can't quite relax whilst they idle away their summer on the beach.


There have been a couple of plusses along the way in my move from 'complete spin anti hero' to 'actually liked it' which, it must be said have been mostly about the shopping. No surprise there then. But the whole notion of testing out a new sport always brings with it the fabulous opportunity to buy 'kit' - clearly in order to make me look less like a totally flummoxed first timer and more like a regular hack.


So an investment earlier in the week in a pair of skinny bike leggings from Lululemon ( my boot cut yoga pants would simply get caught up in the cogs, ) was a sharp move. It wasn't till I hit the spin room though, that I realized there's far more potential out there for 'kit' purchase.

There's a pair of cute shoes I needed - I took the loan pair with good grace but was quite keen on my buddies shoes... maybe she'll show me where to pick some up. Not to mention the bandana one might need to stay cool whilst sweat drips off the end of your nose as you rise out of the saddle for the umpteenth time to the taunting vibe of Madonna singing Alejandro.

So the upshot? It was fab - from the muzac to the burn to the 'survival' feeling at the end - sign me up for more....

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Forever friends


So I have a confession to make: on this side of the pond I am a bit of a Billy-no-mates.

I say 'bit' because I have some friends, but not many and the ones I do have are all British, which sort of feels like cheating, as if I brought them with me in my suitcase. I haven't made one American friend since I got here-unless you count the man that runs the fruit stall on 7th Avenue and gives me free bananas and a wink.

I would like to point out that I have tons of friends back home though. I want that noted in case you don't know me and you are judging me. Fine to be a Billy, but not on a international scale.

As it is, I get to live in this amazing city with my demanding and difficult wonderful husband and my daughter who's a pain in the arse great companion, but I don't get to share it with many friends.


There has been some Yank potential, but they have all come to nothing. My American says all Americans are flaky, but I think he's either just being nice or simply judging his countrymen by his own low standards.

Most notable so far is my hairdresser, who I would like to be my number one GBF. He makes my endlessly disappointing hair look like a Loreal ad, so I loved him at first blow dry. He said he would show me around Harlem, but then he didn't ask for my mobile number to make the arrangements. He is quite shy, so I didn't want to be pushy (apparently I can be pushy? persistentI prefer) but then I found out he does Tyra Bank's hair and I became a bit frantic. I knew I would have to pay- in the form of many $100 a time haircuts- in order to foster this friendship. But that will take time, as both my hair and my wallet can only afford to see him every couple of months. Not ideal, as I am an impatient cow.

When I first arrived in New York I was so keen you could smell the desperation oozing out of my pores. I tried to pick up friends in cafes, shops, parks. I look back and I cringe. "I'm so 'ronery!" said my face "Love me! Love me! I am usually so popular!" It was like being single again, except I was way less fussy. Anyone who's knew me before I met The American will understand that means my expectations were really in the toilet.


Then I realised that you can't force something that should be organic. All my mates in the UK I have met through school, uni or work, these were friendships that grew over the months and years. I never needed any more mates at home, because I'd been lucky enough to have plenty of them. Friendship came easy to me, fallen into my lap all my life. I love people and people have loved me right back.

But in my infinite wisdom I moved to another country and decided writing should be my full time occupation. A job where you work alone. This is the worse possible scenario for a social buzzy bee me. I am not good with solitude. 100 seconds of it is too much for me. Some days I go to Duane Reade just to be bitched out by someone and inhale the milk of human unkindness.

I blame my expectations on endless TV shows about how much fun it is to have friends in New York. And how they'll be there for you when the rain starts to come.


I especially blame (again) the show that we never dare speak it's name since it sold out and made an appalling saccharin big screen version. It was always like ''Blah, blah men uggh but girfriends are sugar sprinkles on the cupcake of loveliness la la la." Well guess what bitches? Your show was a croc. I said Ta Ta to heels (mostly) cos you can't wear them all the time in New Yorklike you made out and I have hardly any mates, so what I am suppose to do? Drink Manhattan dry on my own? Or with my Teenager? Let's be honest, she doesn't want to go out with her Mother and I would rather party with someone I don't have bat pervy men off all night.

So what can I do?

I could go to a million meet up groups. I could but I likely won't. I could get a proper job, except the US immigration service are using a snail they shipped in from India to process my work visa. Meeting people at the gym is not an option, I go to the YMCA, where many patrons are over 70 and wear jeans on the treadmill.

I could blame the problem on the big city, I could blame in on my age, I could blame it on boogie.

So what am I to do in this city where there is much closeness? You share tables with strangers, you squeeze next to them on trains, you cram in long lines with them. You are so close, but so far. There are a million me's as I was back home: people with enough friends, busy lives, no room for anyone else in the hearts or on their blackberries. So what am I to do?

What I am to do, I have decided- is to realise I cannot replicate 34 years of friendships in 8 months. I am to relax and be patient. I am to know that New York friends will come. I am also to be glad my mates back home still give me their time and love through emails, phone calls and SKYPE. Hell, for now I am to be my own best friend, at least I know I'm not flaky.

Or I could just follow the advice of New Yorkers when I've asked "How do you make friends in this town?" They all say the same thing.


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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Minding my P's and Q's


Of all the traits that will help you navigate your way through the urban jungle of New York-manners are pretty low on the list.

But being British means always saying you're sorry-usually in the form of two words "Excuse me?"

"Excuse me, can you help me?" "Excuse me can I just squeeze past?" "Excuse me, do you mind? "Excuse me do you know the way to Union Square/5th Avenue/ San Jose?""Excuse my breathing, excuse me living, excuse my excuses?" The only time New Yorkers say Excuse me is when you're in their way. Which I seem to be quite a lot. No matter where I stand. There's is not a genuine Excuse me though, it's a snippy forced one, spat out with vitriol and without a question mark. There is no time for punctuation. What they really mean is ''Get the hell out of my way you waste of skin."

Excuse me is the worst way you can start a conversation with an American. It confuses them, they think you're apologising for something, but they don't know what you're supposed to have done.

My own American goes so far as to say manners are annoying, frivilous and not neccesary for a New Yorker. He theorises where population is dense manners are squeezed out. I am reminded once more I am Welsh Alien and how manners run gleefully back home-through the hills and towns- where we have plenty of space, enough for there to be more sheep than people.

Bring the Welsh to New York and they get caught out all the time.

"Excuse me?" she says my Mother to a Mexican market stall holder in Boston train station, "do you happen to know where the Bolt Bus for New York goes from?"

Excuse me is even worse when the person doesn't speak American as their first language. They just stare, blank faced. It's an expression I've seen many times before so I barge in.


"Oh! Just over there. Gate 9!" he smiles back.

"You just have to shout and say less words." I tell Mum.

"Oww. Really? It just seems so...rude."

"I know, but it's the only way."

"But it's know?...British."

"Yes, but you will spend too much time repeating yourself otherwise."

Mother looks bemused by this, but I suspect that it's because she has spent a lifetime repeating herself out of choice in the form of nagging.

I explain to her that Please and Thank Yous are something of an antiquated custom here. Akin to laying your coat across a puddle Sir Walter Raleigh style. Lay out your manners in the same way and it is you, not your coat that gets stepped on. You and your P's and Q's are a novelty.

I tell her how the common courtesy of holding a door open is greeted with...nothing...not even eye contact of gratitude. How I have taken to yelling "YOU'RE WELCOME!" at the top of voice to anyone who doesn't thank me. Which is everyone.

I say I have concluded that you have to pick and choose what British affectations to keep and which ones to lose.

She looks happy when I declare Please and Thank Yous will stay. I tell her am taking a nod from Beyonce when she says ''My Momma taught me better 'dan 'dat."

She looks bemused again. She doesn't get it, she is fluent in manners but she doesn't speak much American.

She doesn't speak New York.


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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anthropologie pops up in Chelsea Market

Posted: April 17, 2010 -


I see Anthropologie just opened a new store yesterday in Manhattan, this time it's in Chelsea Market at 75 Ninth Avenue. It boasts lines from local artists and designs exclusively sold at this store.

Wendy Wurtzburger, co President and Chief Merchandising officer for the brand reflects that each Manhattan store has a different style and persona.

"It's a great way for us to express ourselves in the community", she chirps.


There are pieces sourced from Parisian Flea Markets which would be enough to draw me there for a start. On the downside, every other Anthro I've been in has their own distinctive pong that I'm not sure they mean to emanate. It's kind of essence of hippy with a dash of jostick and a sprig of summer festival thrown in for good measure. Strangely it's not strong enough to deter me from entering their stores but it has made me perfect the art of breathing through my mouth whilst in there in order to achieve my shopping goals.


Apparently the new London store in Regent Street is not smelly at all - maybe it's a culture thing....

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Season most likely to succeed...


A friend said to me recently that Spring is New York's late Valentine to you after the harsh winter.

I couldn't have put it better myself. In fact I haven't-that's why I've stolen her quote.

My many trips here since 2007 were only hinting at the true climate. To live here all year around is to be plunged fully into the schizophrenic weather that is as changeable and dramatic as the city itself. In the winter there is not just snow, but blizzards, the city closes down and 10 foot piles crowd the pavements. The summer not merely sun, but 90 degrees of oppressive heat and humidity that require one of those Clinical strength deoderants. When it rains it doesn't pitter patter. It's like God emptied his entire water tank on the island of Manhattan. When they say 'inclement weather' they mean 'monsoon'.

It's the seasons in between that offer less drama, resulting in New York at it's most perfect. Autumn with it's golden oranges and crunchy leaves underfoot, each still hot day an unexpected gift. And now- new warmth and breezy days when cherry blossoms fall on your shoulder as you walk, whispering...

"Hello, I'm Spring. Look how pretty I am! Do you love me?"


Spring is the prom queen of seasons. Young and bouncy with all the good stuff still to come. She's a bit of a tease and allows you a glimpse of her panties. Within the last week I read my book among the daffodils in Abingdon Square on a Saturday morning. I climb over the fenced off lawn at Union Square in order to lie on the grass and feel the vibrations of the subway trains underneath. I sit in a French cafe and play fashion critic, watching how other women tackle the sudden change of weather.


I secure a coveted spot on one of the sunlougers at The Highline, listening to my ipod while watching planes criss cross the baby blue sky with one eye open.

On reflection I seem like I lounge around a lot. It's not really my fault, the U.S. immigration service can take the blame. Should the green card arrive anytime this summer I will stuff it down the back of the sofa and tell everyone I'm still waiting.


Yesterday when having a cigarette on the fire escape at the back of our apartment The American spots this teeny red bird in the trees.


He is really small isn't he? Probably took you a good 30 seconds or so to even spot him (he's at the top of the picture if you're still looking) and it's true that one swallow does not make a spring, nor does a few fine days. As quickly as those moments happened, they are gone. Today as I write the city is cold, grey and lifeless again. That is the thing about the Prom Queen-she teases but she never puts out fully.

Which just makes you want her more.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Street Style with Banksy

Posted: April 15, 2010 -


Although initially I was as interested as the next person to see Banksy's 'directorial debut' : Exit through the Gift Shop, narrated by Rhys Ifans and originally the brain child of Thierry Guetta. It seems there's no chance of the documentary revealing the ID of Banksy after all.


Guetta, an avid self taught video obsessive dreamed up the idea of infiltrating the inner sanctum of the super stealthy Street Art community. It seems the tables were turned on the French director by a still incognito Banksy, who stepped in with his creative hand to salvage what he deemed as the mess that Guetta had weaved himself into with the documentary.


These days it matters not where you stand on the 'Street Art is/isn't vandalism' argument, it's complicated for sure. Sadly this dip into the creative and very athletic skills of this tight knit community reveals no more about the identity of the main player but does reveal some great Art.

Doubtless my teen son and his skatepark buddies are sure to still treat the guy with awe and reverence for years to come.

Catch it at New Yorks Lincoln Plaza or the Sunshine Theatre Friday April 16th.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Style meets Art at the Tribeca Ball 2010

Posted: April 14, 2010 -

Unaccustomed as I am to Art shows, the Tribeca Ball/Student Art Show last night, as far as I could gather, was an extremely cool occasion.

Maybe it was the paparazzi outside, or the free champagne inside, it might have even been the attendees - Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, Helena Christensen and Alek Wek were spotted. But overall it had to be the students themselves.


Each Artist displaying their work in a little nook or cranny at the New York Academy of Art, some a little more professionally than others, but all extremely individual and oozing with talent.

With a wide range of stylistic interpretation it was tricky to pin down the good from the bad from the downright ugly. There was the Tracey Emin-esque 'my bedroom as art' installation, the artist at this booth had even brought a pet pooch for additional 'reality' bites - didn't catch her name as she was too busy re-applying lippy when we passed by.


But animal rights folk will be happy to know that said pooch was later seen taking a stroll around other exhibits so it was being exercised.

Another huge installation was a Banksy type wall of graffiti displaying comic strip style images in gargantuan size.


Freaky sculptures that looked like Freddy Krueger had been having a bash at papier mache. I'm sure if I had looked a little closer the news print was probably giving me some deep message about urban waste but the bar was in the next booth so sadly I was dragged away.


I was also quite taken with the 'work in progress' pieces - clearly some students were a little more ardent than others, and whilst some squirreled away in their little dens beaverishly completing their work, others had a better idea and were working the uptown crowds with aplomb - whether they sold anything is unsure, but certainly if they were planning on giving up the day job, there was a tele-sales career ahead of them for sure.


The most interesting thing to look at had to be the attendees - some fantastic downtown chic and with the dress code having been set as 'upscale downtown', the natives of Tribeca did not disappoint.





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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy Birthday (not so sweet) sixteen


On April 2nd 1994 I was 19 years old, holding a brand new baby aloft in my arms. She smelled like Johnsons talc and had caramel coloured skin with a soft, dark, downy covering. She didn't cry, she just cooed. Like a little pidgeon. "Coo Coo".

The early hours of April 2nd 2010- I am at a downtown New York club in a pit of sweat, fist pumping 2 feet away from Calvin Harris. And I have lost my baby.


Panic begins to rise from my stomach but then she reappears in the crowd, smiling, beautiful, clad in tight black lycra dress, skin glistening from sweat and holding a $15 vodka tonic in the air. She mouths something to me. I don't understand. She waves her hand and shakes her head and smiles-our universal language for " doesn't matter." She closes her eyes, stretches her arms into the air and says ''Woo Woo."

Thank god. She is safe. And I am too old to be in a sweat pit, but more importantly I am too old to be in a sweat pit alone. She dances up to me, pushing her way through the crowd, eyes alive, sparkling, wide with wonderment at Calvin.

"I can't receive it's a ghost!" she bellows in my ear







The next morning I wake up at 7a.m. with my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth and my bladder fit to burst. No false dawn today, the hangover just kicks straight in. I wait a few hours and then Mum and I burst into The Teenager's room playing Neil Sedaka's 'Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen' on the stereo. We sing loudly and Mum does this crazy kooky dance. The Teen pulls the duvet back, opens one eye and grimaces:

"What the fuck?"

The next few days whizz by like a fast forwarded film... We have the customary Smith birthday family argument which kicks in before midday. Then I am on 7th Avenue with a giant sweet sixteen balloon and a bag filled with garish pink banners and balloons. Next, I send The American off in seach of ready to roll icing, which you can't buy anywhere. I make 16 pink roses to put on top of the Victoria Sponge I baked.


That night we go to Employees Only in the Village and drink cocktails and have Oysters. The American puts away a few double Jacks, which somehow make him funnier than me. J.D. becomes known as 'Thunder Stealing Elixir'.

When we leave I suggest The Teenager gets her fortune told by the woman that sits in the window of the restaurant. We give her 20 bucks and she gives the birthday girl some food for thought; be patient, don't be so hard on yourself, breathe, embrace womanhood.

We spill out onto the street and the American has found an abandoned locked vintage chest which he brings home in the cab and insists on powerdrilling open. At 1 a.m. Our neighbours probably hate us, but in New York no one complains about noise. I go to bed and leave Mum and The Teenager laughing at him climbing in and attempting to shut it, like some Whiskey sodden Houdini.


Just a few hours later and my alarm clock jerks me awake like a lumphammer on my sore brain. It's 5.30 a.m and time to put my Mother in a car to Newark Airport. She seems fine despite the wine she put away and she's still sanctimoniously claiming she ''doesn't do hangovers'. Neither does The Teenager and I wonder if she and a pensioner are fine-how many decades I am going to suffer the black dog after a drinking session?

That night I am half dead and nigh on suicidal thorough lack of sleep and booze consumption, but I have to make it out to the Easter burlesque show we have tickets for. 'The Burning Bush versus The Second Coming' gives us five pairs of tits, two willies and several hours of open mouthed astonishment and horror from The Teenager.

I want to warn her not to leave her mouth open for too long in a place like this.

On the cab home I ask if if her if she enjoyed the last few days. She pauses, wrinkles her lips a little.


"I know..."

"I just... miss my Boy. And my mates you know?"

"I know honey. I know. Hanging out with your Mum isn't the way you would have chosen to spend your sixteenth birthday."

"I had a great time though. Thank you."

"You're welcome sweetheart."

Is it my imagination or is she that much older now? I look at her and it seems that way. A lamb, unsteady on her feet, finding her legs but getting ready to run. Time to let go of my baby and get to know her all over again as an adult.

I look out of the cab window as we whizz down 6th Avenue. We stop in traffic outside St Joseph's church. The white romanesque pillars are lit up and people gather on the steps for the start of midnight mass. I can see inside, candlelight beats invitingly. I want to go in, not for God, but for something.

Easter tomorrow. Spring.

New beginnings and rebirth.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Dilemma of the Oxford Brogue...

Posted: April 9, 2010


So I knew I wanted a pair of brogues this Spring - great with my boyfriend jeans, preppy with my skinny chino's and who knows how cool with my slouchy linen shorts? The trouble is it's been a bit of a battle to get quite the right look.

Sienna Miller hasn't helped much, turning up on Broadway in some cute Rupert Sanderson numbers.


It all started 2 years back when I figured it was time to have a crack at this look - not wanting to splurge too early I opted for a pair from by Materia Prima, they turned out to be extremely comfy but uber pointy and not quite the right thing - still, no point in sending them back though, I was sure to get some wear out of them...

Last summer I took a different approach and tried the Burberry tumbled leather brogues, currently lying slightly dormant in my closet as the weather hasn't been quite up to it. But still not satisfied - the Burberry ones although super cute do not have the classic hole punching and contrast stitching that my heart desires.


Over the Winter months I set about my search for the perfect brogue with gusto - Topshop's offerings didn't quite cut it - their golden brogue last Fall was more weirdy dance pump than uber cool English country gent.

Aldo faired no better, their blue 'lahaie' hung in there for a while - at least I wore them around the house for a few days - but sadly the hue reminded me of the color we used to paint our Doc Martins back in the day when we thought we were young and reckless and so very punk - with hindsight, not so cool.

So the winner is (currently) - good old Church's - the Burwood metallic - a little silver here, a smattering of classic wing tip detailing there - oh and the pre requisite punched panels. The question is will they stay the course - has my quest ended or are there more out there to discover...

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