Vermouth masterclass at Mele e Pere: a ridiculous London bargain

White and red vermouths, handmade in Mele e Pere, and a really fearsomely disgusting hyper-dark vermouth which I am not adult enough to enjoy

White and red vermouths, handmade in Mele e Pere, and a really fearsomely disgusting hyper-dark vermouth which I am not adult enough to enjoy

With Elizabeth locked away in her flat until she’s finished the first draft of The Book (I know I’m biased, but bloody hell it is SO GOOD), we put a date in the diary weeks ago for a catch up.

“Erm, do you fancy a vermouth tasting?” she said. I assured her that I am on board with pretty much anything that is suffixed by the word “tasting” and we duly booked, and headed off to the vermouth bar in the basement of Mele e Pere, an Italian restaurant on Brewer Street just across the road from the Glasshouse pub.

Now, let’s have a quick pause for you to sign up, because I haven’t encountered this sort of ridiculously good value in London in aeons. Mele e Pele’s vermouth masterclass is £15. FIFTEEN POUNDS. For reasons that will soon become apparent, this isn’t so much a steal as a giveaway by an incredibly courteous saint. Continue reading

Discovery Day

Discovery Day at Foyles

I am an adult, shut up

Having flapped around like a pair of easily distracted pigeons for the last few months, Elizabeth and I decided enough was enough. There are only so many emails you can bully each other with, along the lines of “WRITE, YOU FUCKER” and *points accusingly*, and so we signed up for Discovery Day at Foyles, to spur ourselves on to paying more attention to our writing, and to a potential nervous breakdown. Continue reading

Everyday I’m shuffalin (supposedly Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends)

To be blunt, I’d been having a bloody awful time running of late. I went out last Saturday, managed a mile and then had to walk, drowning in my own sweat and wishing that humans had evolved to wield windscreen wipers. The heat, the sun, the call of cold, cold beers and ice lollies were nixing my previously euphoric and obviously unbearable running buzz.

Also to blame was my holiday to Canadamerica. I’ve restrained myself from spilling holiday purple prose here so far, not least because it was such a good, magical holiday, that I worry that my writing it down I will kill it dead. I hope to get over this obstacle before I have to file my feature on it, or my editor will give me bad looks.

Sun, sea and battlements

Sun, sea and battlements

The whole park was littered with cannons. Of course.

The whole park was littered with cannons. Of course.

BUT! I went running in Canada! I had nothing to do when I landed in Quebec, so put together a vague route – best thing about Canada for digital types? Free wi-fi bloody everywhere – and trotted off for a jog through the  Parc de Champs-de-Bataille, or Battlefield Park. It was boiling hot, I was repeatedly lapped by bronzed gorgeous things in tiny shorts, there were roller bladers everywhere, and I was in heaven.

Gorgeous Quebec at night

Gorgeous Quebec at night (#nofilter in Instagram speak)

More lovely Quebec - all hills, sunset streaks and warmth

More lovely Quebec – all hills, sunset streaks and warmth

On the ship it was a different matter. I’d had a vague idea that I might get up early and go for a jog on the mainland whenever we stopped on one of my running days, but given we had to be back on board by 4 or 5 most days and there was a lot to explore, it didn’t really happen. As jogging was forbidden on our deck (Oh…oh what a…shame *eats seven types of eggs benedict instead*) I had a go on the treadmill.

Treadmills are the worst things ever. They are so boring I’m amazed gyms aren’t filled with more people going “FOR FUCKINGTON’S SAKE HAVE I ONLY DONE 2K THIS IS ALL TERRIBLE.” I was supposed to do 8, managed 3, and blissfully avoided the gym for the rest of the trip in favour of the on-deck hot tubs, modelled here by my partner-in-crime Elizabeth, with whom, a few days into the trip, my mind had synched and we ended up playing the surrreal “What are you thinking/going to order/wanting to do because it will be what I want” game.

Our second home on board - complete with Saturday morning cartoons drinks

Our second home on board – complete with Saturday morning cartoons drinks

Things went better this week, in that I went out at all. Admittedly, this was only managed by going to Pop-Up Choir’s gig by the Bowie mural in Brixton in my running kit, and actually running there, but afterwards I did my longest run ever – 6.7 miles! – without dying so it was all worthwhile. Particularly so because we had a massive amount of cake in the Duke of Edinburgh, which is a really nice pub in Brixton I’d never been too before, and definitely plan to go back to.

However, I realised that the pains in my hips and right foot weren’t going away any time soon, so I went to Runners Need in Monument to treat myself to the ultimate gift as L’Oreal intended: a gait analysis and new trainers. They are pristine, beautiful and I am absolutely doing the Olympics Run in them provided I break them in a bit this week.

The 10k that I ran for Special Effect on Sunday though, that made it all worthwhile. That’s going in a separate blog post because it’s all rather happy, and reading about how crap I’ve been at running recently would have destroyed the mood somewhat.

Write Club goes to Canadamerica!

Prince Edward Island: how OUTRAGEOUSLY gorgeous is that?

Prince Edward Island: how OUTRAGEOUSLY gorgeous is that?

At the end of June, Elizabeth and I are going to Canada and New England! On a cruise!

This is a joy for many reasons.

1) I have never been to either. I have been dying to. I was actually planning an autumn trip to stalk those lovely New England leaves when this came through.

2) Elizabeth and I had just re-read the Emily of New Moon trilogy by LM Montgomery, arguably one of the best series ever written. (Way better than the Anne books, but it will take this post wildly off-course if I start talking about why.) Continue reading

Latitude, with all of your ladies you are spoiling us

A cheery email announcing Latitude Festival‘s first line-up has just come a-pinging into my inbox. Here we go! Here’s the line-up. Let’s have a look at it and have vivid flashbacks to festivals we may or may not have drowned at in the past:

Latitude festival first line-up announcements

Whoah. Something weird’s going on here. Where’s the – where are the – ladies? Women? Women of pop and comedy, hello. I’m calling to you. Latitude, I can’t find the – oh no, wait.

I’VE FOUND HER. She is one half of alt-pop duo Beach House.

Latitude festival first line-up announcements - one lady

Back in the day, the day being 2006, I ran a festival website for Emap. Latitude was launched that year, and it was a complete blast, with a fantastic varied line-up and a line in food you actually wanted to eat. What a shame. What the f, Latitude? Have you seriously only managed to pin down a single one of the world’s myriad musical and comedic ladies to flag up in your first line-up announcement, and even then as part of a duo?

Mais non. The Guardian tells us that  Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, Jessie Ware, Cat Power, Laura Mvula and a load of other women I am no longer current enough to know about are also playing.

Eurgh.

Well bugger that. I’ve had a lovely week of women, as it happens.

Business women!

Tonight I’m going to troll around the Country Living Spring Fair with my entrepreneur friend Jessica. I really don’t have more to say on that as I haven’t been yet, but I haven’t seen Jess in weeks and am very, very excited about that.

This is however a great excuse for a quick tangential reminisce over an amazing picture from my 30th – Jess is Peach, her fiancé is Luigi (wrong way round!), our friends are Daisy and Mario, I’m Yoshi, and that is my Tetris piece brother on the far right who flew in from Singapore for three days just so he could come to mine and dad’s birthdays. Dude!

nintendo birthday party

Best. Party. Ever.

Large-footed women (and business women)!

Last night, I went to the launch of the 9/10 club at Opium, for women with large feet who would actually quite like to wear nice shoes. It was run by the design-your-own-shoes site Upper Street, which in turn is ran by two amazing sisters.

Shoes at Upper Street's 9/10 club launch at Opium

Shoes!

There were loads of women in one place, all gossiping, eating, trying on shoes, swapping war stories of shitty shop assistants and the world basically hoping they’d all shut up and go away so they could carry on not catering for them.

Cocktails at Opium

Booze!

Elizabeth and I kept on freaking out slightly by the unusual sensation of lots of women sharing our eyeline rather than being several inches below it. It was great fun – especially when they started bringing out cocktails in caged coconuts which appeared to be on fire.

Writing women! (who also have impressive jobs)!

And then I went to Polpo, also with friend and Write Club buddy Elizabeth, where we drank lots of prosecco, ate various delicious things in near-darkness and slurred our way through a long list of fantastic female children’s authors and Books That Made Us Who We Are before wobbling off in the direction of the Tube. Brilliant.

Dark dinner at Polpo

Somewhere in here is truffle cream

Utterly bloody funny women!

And on Monday, shortly after leaving a tablet and a box full of cheesecake on the 63 bus (FML), I went to Birthday Girls‘ comedy night at the Wilmington Arms, run by former members of the all-female, apparently all-conquering comedy troupe Lady Garden. And bugger me if there weren’t loads of people there being funny, quite a lot of whom happened to be female.

I fell a little bit in love with Mae Martin, a Canadian ex-pat who did a fantastic stand-up set. You will love her too. She also does animation, which she didn’t show off on Monday thankfully or I might have had to invade the stage and cry on her.

There was Lou Sanders (lady) and Joe Lycett (man), who weren’t my cup of tea but got plenty of laughs from the audience, and two not-women, Max and Ivan, who I absolutely adored. And then Birthday Girls of course, who were great hosts and had some lovely new sketches.

I haven’t seen any musical women this week which rather prevents this blog from ending on a powerful note of strong meaning

This is because I missed my choir rehearsal to go to the 9/10 launch and see Elizabeth. But there is a clip of another lovely Elizabeth singing solo in our new version of Heartbeats by The Knife, which is brilliant – and I’m trilling the high bits at the end, so let’s pretend that neatly wraps up my annoyance at Latitude not giving the ladies in its bill more due prominence.

Write Club

Story notes and Joan CollinsI have great difficulty concentrating. In four years of university, I don’t think I did a stitch of work in the library, just wandered through it staring at industrious people before running outside and having to breathe slowly into a paper bag. I liked to work in the coffee shop, with a fag and a constant stream of coffee, chatter and people. I spend too much time in my head, so filling it with the sound of other things is infinitely nicer.

Fast forward eight years and I am still one of life’s perpetual knuckle-crackers, always warming up and never actually getting on with it. Last month, I booked myself into the Urban Writers Retreat in Shoreditch to guarantee a few hours with no internet just so I could get cracking. It’s amazing what shelling out £40 and eating cake and drinking almost constantly will do for you: I wrote three chapters! Admittedly, I had to ask my neighbour how long a chapter should be, and then guiltily sellotape chapters one and two together, but I felt like I’d achieved something and discovered, much to my surprise, that I really adored writing again.

On Bank Holiday Monday I went to the Ritzy’s cafe (home of the best flat white this side of anywhere) to try again. It was ok, about 3000 words of babble. Since then – nothing. Even when I have the time, I make any old excuse to avoid sitting down and writing.

Happily, so too does @MissCellany, who may well be my writing soul twin. I met Elizabeth at Literary Death Match a few months ago, after weeks of talking about our love of cleaning on Twitter. We both won LDM with the only story we’d finished since 2006 and were feeling the pinch of expectation and drastic unachievement. We’re ready to get on and do it. We just aren’t quite actually…well, doing it.

So we formed Write Club. This is basically Fight Club but with laptops: write something to a deadline, otherwise the other one punches you in the face. I missed our first deadline by three weeks, and Elizabeth kindly refused to punch me, instead delivering the death by a thousand cuts of a really, really good 3,000 words for the book she’s been working out in her head for years.

“Writing is really hard,” I complained to my boyfriend back in November.

“Yes,” he replied. “Um. It is.”

The sketch group he’s in sit around a Google doc and write in it for days. They are committed and organised and Get On With Things. I write wispy bits down in my iPhone notes, get over-excited, send unedited first drafts to my writing group and then spend entire weeks in slough of despond when they reasonably point out that some of it could be clearer or just a bit less shit.

I am the queen of procrastination. Sitting down and writing, just plain getting on with it, when there are a million trivial distractions to claim your time, is difficult. It is inviting the possibility of failure into a dream that has previously consisted of “I will write the book, everyone will love it, I will buy a boat and live on it wearing a turban.” To not write, to just keep putting it off, is to keep that delicious little pipedream alive.

But fuck it. I might not finish this book this year, but I will at least get something done this weekend. And my chapters will be exactly the right length for what they are saying.

Buy Elizabeth’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon

Buy Kat’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon. Read the write-up of Kat’s Literary Death Match. Tell Kat to stop fucking talking about herself in the third person like a colossal spanner.