Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Here are a few recent buys - I decided that it was time to treat myself, and so rather predictably ended up buying dresses, tights, bags and some pretty jewellery.
And a few little things I quite fancy getting (is it wrong that I really want a pair of dungarees...?)
Jersey Dress, Topshop; Floral dress, Miss Selfridge; Denim dungarees, Urban Outfitters; Crochet bag, River Island; Grey feather trilby, River Island; Headband, Accessorize
What have you bought yourself on the high street lately?
Sunday, 20 February 2011
I’ve been debating whether to review this one for a while. To review this book means me revealing, quite publicly, my weakness for a particular genre - namely historical, romantic fiction. No, I hasten to add now, not the Mills and Boon kind of historical fiction, but real authentic, richly described historical settings mixed with strong characters and good storylines - and, inevitably, there’s some sort of romance in there too, although this isn’t something I necessarily seek out. It may not be the hard-hitting, high-brow stuff with political and philosophical undertones and layers of symbolism that I (perhaps rather annoyingly) usually read, but it has to be said, I love historical fiction for its relaxing escapism - and, while Philippa Gregory has made it ‘ok’ to like historical fiction, I don’t often admit to reading much of the genre beyond that. But when I saw Mistress of Rome on the shelf, I knew that, as someone who loves Roman history, I had to read it…
Thea is a slave girl from Judea, a tough and strong character who serves her master’s daughter, an obnoxious young girl of a similar age to the teenage slave, named Lepida Pollia. We learn about her life as a slave girl first, and then we see her visit the arena to see the latest, most popular gladiator in the city - Arius. Nicknamed “The Barbarian”, Thea ends up having a chance and forbidden meeting with the gladiator at a dinner party hosted by Lepida Pollia and her family (…can you see where this is going by any chance?)
Yes, no matter how it’s described, the opening few chapters seem like a predictable cliché - and it would have been just that and nothing more had it not been for a few saving graces that encourage the reader to work past the predictability to discover some powerful, twisting plotlines further into the book.
One of these is Thea herself. She is a strong heroine, a little foolish but determined, and while she may be again a little clichéd, she has a convincing edge to her character. Thea has had a hard life, and she is a product of all that she has experienced, which get quite delicately touched upon throughout the book. And then there is the book’s opening scene, which make this a different read to your average historical fiction; we see Thea, crouched over a bowl, cutting her wrist to make herself bleed, to comfort herself and regain some control over her world. Yes - this book just got quite interesting, at least in terms of the subtleties of the character of Thea.
And so throughout the first half of the book, we see Thea and Arius develop a clumsy, intense and actually quite touching relationship; and then the book twists and turns as they are separated by a jealous Lepida Pollia who wants the gladiator for herself and decides that if she can’t have him, Thea certainly can’t - well, of course, any good romance would demand that the characters have to undergo the pain of forced separation, so that’s no great surprise. We watch as the years go on and Thea becomes Athena, a singer to and then Mistress of the cruel emperor Domitian, who slowly destroys her soul and sanity. And all the while, of course, she longs for her lost love, Arius, and wonders if there can ever be a way out of the life she has been sucked into.
Not an intellectual read, no, but I don’t want this to seem a negative review at all; I enjoyed this book, and it exquisitely described the city of Rome in such vivid detail that I actually could half believe I was there. Thea seemed, albeit a little clichéd, believable in the main, and just so eminently likeable that I wanted to know what happened to her; add to that Arius, an enigmatic character who, although deserving of more individual attention than he was given, was intriguing throughout.
There were negative aspects of the book, of course - the predictability at times, and in particular the character Lepida Pollia, who was thoroughly unlikeable and one-dimensional, portrayed without a flicker of a redeemable quality. But, in general, this was an atmospheric read; captivating and easy, reading Mistress of Rome is something akin to a guilty pleasure - great fun, not entirely serious or meaningful, but addictive and ultimately feel-good.
Would I recommend this book for anyone after a serious read? Not particularly; it is well-written, enjoyable, but there seems to be little meaning beyond the last page. I read this book on holiday, managing to absorb all 529 pages of this book, cover to cover, in around 48 hours while relaxing at the poolside - I just couldn’t put it down once I’d started.
My conclusion: read this for a healthy dose of escapism, a dash of romance and some beautiful descriptions - don’t expect much more than that, and you’ll find a very enjoyable read in Quinn’s Mistress of Rome.
Friday, 18 February 2011
- What ya wearing world - a new global style campaign
- New York Cliche - a new blog I've found that I love, filled with New York life and anectodes about NYFW
- A beautiful Tumblr account packed with lovely photography
- Live streaming of LFW
- Gorgeous Spanish photographer's blog
5 books currently on my to-read list
- One Way - David Nicholls
- The Help - Kathryn Stockett
- Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
- Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
- Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Turns out I was wrong, though... and it's actually a very positive and worthwhile thing for me to focus on and appreciate the good things that have happened over the last little while, instead of dwelling on some not-so-great events.
So, with that said...
5 highlights of the week
1. Seeing three of my closest friends for a girly weekend in London
2. Afternoon tea in Liberty's on said girly weekend (loose leaf tea, in a beautiful tea pot, with chocolate cake - heaven)
3. Going out dancing on said girly weekend
4. Enjoying rather too much wine with an old friend after work one evening; an old friend who has the ability to make me feel better whenever I see her
5. The ongoing, amazing support from those around me
5 things to look forward to next week
1. In a word: ROME. I'm flying out on Thursday and staying there until Monday - should be amazing and I really can't wait.
2. A friend's housewarming party on Saturday evening
3. Seeing an old, close friend all day Sunday, and doing some shopping and a lot of chatting together
4. A lovely long lie-in on Saturday morning
5. Am I allowed to say ROME again? (I am just so excited...)
How has your week been? What are you up to this weekend?
Thursday, 17 February 2011
I'm going to be a total London-based blogger cliché now, but it has to be said: I love Brick Lane market on Sundays.
So as mentioned in my previous post, last weekend my friend flew over to London from France and me and her, along with two of our close friends, had an amazing girly weekend in London. We went shopping on Oxford Street, had delicious pizza, a great night out with lots of cocktails and afternoon tea at Liberty's (seriously amazing - look here for proof!)
On Sunday, we somewhat drowsily made our way around Brick Lane market - the perfect place to browse when you're feeling a little delicate and just want to look at pretty and interesting things. For those of you not native to London/the UK, Brick Lane is an area in East London which, aside from having an amazing range of curry restaurants, also has so many interesting vintage-inspired shops and a must-see market on Sunday mornings. Visit to find clothes, art, crafts, vintage goods, jewellery, photography and, well, a lot of other things too. It has such a great atmosphere, very chilled and relaxed (quite like Brighton in that way, actually - very refreshing compared to the normal hustle and bustle of Central London) and brings with it a unique and multi-cultural experience.
While I was extremely good and refrained from buying anything at the market (due to massively overspending on Oxford Street the day before), the main things that caught my eye at the market on Sunday included lots of vintage white lace dresses, beautiful pendants and little pocketwatches on chains, brown vintage briefcases and some really gorgeous bow headbands. Lovely - and, honestly, the perfect hangover cure!
What's your favourite place to buy vintage finds? Have you ever been to Brick Lane? And can you recommend anywhere amazing around there?
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
This is now an archived post. Thank you for all your comments, and all your support; it really meant a lot to me.
10 days on.
It's been a week and a half since my relationship ended; one of the most difficult and painful times of my life so far. I can't deny there were moments where I didn't know how I was going to go on; that's not to say that I knew I could and would go on, strong, independently, but I just didn't see the way forward.
But this is not a post to mope about what happened, to dwell on the past; no, this is a post to celebrate friendship and support, and real affection from those around you, that all too often can get, even accidentally, overlooked when you're in a relationship.
Because here's the thing: for every moment when I felt like I was empty and lost and alone, I've found that someone was there to inspire me, give me hope, pick me back up and help me to be strong again. I've found that I have the most amazing friends and family that I could ever ask for. Honestly. Here is just a snippet of the support I've been offered:
My parents have listened to me talk and mull over everything repeatedly, not once complaining. My grandparents have been there to offer hugs and opinions and I had a comforting chat with my cousin. Family friends have been in touch to offer support. One of my closest friends flew over from the south of France - yes, really; a good eight-hour journey - to spend a girly weekend over here with me and our other friends (and we had so much fun - photos to follow soon). Another one of my closest friends has been in constant contact every day since it happened, offering to travel down to London from rural Bucks to see me and always on the other end of the phone - and came along to the London girly weekend, offering so much support and love. Another friend is helping me to drown my sorrows with a string of nights out at cocktail bars and long chats. Another good friend sent one of the sweetest messages I've ever read, offered to meet up whenever I want, and has called and texted every few days. On top of that, I've met concerned old university friends for drinks in London who offered hugs and laughs, and have been invited down to Brighton with other uni friends for future girly feel-good weekends. One of my oldest friends is coming back to London this weekend from where she now lives, quite far away, partly just to hang out with me and offer support. Old friends who I've drifted apart from over the last few months or years have rallied around with texts and offers to meet up and chat. Everyone at work has been kind and I've received some lovely messages of regret and support from people I wouldn't even necessarily have expected to hear from - old acquaintances and now distant friends, offering help and chats if they were needed.
Add to that, lovely readers, the amazing comments you left on my previous blog post - which really blew me away in the level of care and concern you showed, and some of the inspirational things you said - and, all in all, I hope you can agree that I am a very lucky girl to have such amazing people in my life in all these different ways. (And I will reply to your comments very soon, I promise! They meant a lot, each and every one.)
I haven't posted for 10 days because I've felt lost and completely uninspired. I knew that February 14th would be a hard day to get through; not only Valentine's Day, it was also his birthday, and so I spent the day being painfully reminded of both occasions. Hard, yes, but it turned out that even yesterday wasn't as bad as it could well have been; the end of the girly weekend, I woke up with my friend in our hotel room in London and received a gorgeous Valentine's Day card from her which almost made me tear up and made me feel strong enough to power on through the day at work, aided by supportive chats with some friends and family in the evening.
The most painful, challenging days are over now, I think; I've got through the first tough patch, and I've got through the double whammy of his birthday/Valentine's - and so, I know, it's onwards and upwards from here.
And that's not to say that I won't have days, hours, moments, where I think of him and feel that familiar tightening in my chest and that stab of painful reality running through me; but now, I know that I can be strong, and that horrible heartbreak is - very, very slowly - beginning to edge away.
Because I realised for the first time this year that Valentine's is about showing people, romantic relation or not, that you care for them; letting those around you know that you love them and realising that you are loved. And, single I may be, but if I have learnt one thing in the past 10 days, it is that I am loved by those around me more than I ever knew or appreciated.
How was your Valentine's? Who are the people you care about the most, and that care about you the most? Do you think you appreciate them enough?
images via weheartit.com
Sunday, 6 February 2011
Friday, 4 February 2011
1. The UK Curiosity Blog
2. Very cool artist Willy Rojas
3. Daydreaming of going to this place
4. Treat Someone Special this Valentine's Day and help to tackle human trafficking.
5. The Battersea Affordable Art Fair, which looks amazing and I'm definitely attending in March
5 of the best... amazing period properties in England (in my opinion)
1. Chatsworth House
2. Montacute House
3. Ightham Mote
4. Waddesdon Manor
5. Hampton Court
5 highlights of the week
1. Seeing old university friends on Friday night
2. Lazy days in Oxford
3. Making the most of the last of the sales
4. An amusing karaoke session with work colleagues
5. Writing a little article for The Times online
5 things to look forward to next week
1. Taking my boyfriend Richard out to dinner for an early birthday present
2. A big family dinner out on Sunday
3. West End show with my parents on Tuesday
4. Planning a summer holiday
5. Booking tickets to see new film Brighton Rock
How has your week been? What are you up to this weekend?
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Just a Minute is back for 2011. I found this on Daydream Lily's lovely blog via August Street, late last year, and found it to be a really lovely little monthly activity.
Want to join in? Feel free - and make sure to send me a link if you do though, so I can see what you're up to at the moment!
So, this month I am:
Reading...... Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. I'm a huge Atwood fan so I'm hoping it'll be a great read. I'm also reading A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield - so totally inspirational.
Buying........ summer dresses (optimistically)
Listening......... to Augustito by Ketamba, old school No Doubt, A Tu Lado by Juanes and Antonio Carmona, Jamie Woon, James Blake and Wonderman by Tinie Tempah
Watching...... Tribe by Bruce Parry. Over and over, with such fascination. And, for something lighter, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.
Loving.......... discovering new music, making plans for the future and exploring meditation and yoga
Planning...... my Rome itinerary - so very exciting!
How gorgeous are those photos, by the way? Stumbled across the photographer Cristina Hoch the other day and fell in love with her work! Love the first photo in particular - it describes exactly where I feel like I am in life at the moment; walking meaningfully and purposefully in the direction of something really special.