Posts Tagged ‘wardrobe’

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officially moving out and up!

September 27, 2012

ACTUAL LEGITIMATE NEWS: we have signed the contract on the flat and we are moving to Chiswick next weekend! I am extremely excited to finally have my own place with Toby, which will have mirrors and wardrobes and a communal patio / garden, and the potential to have a parking space with a car! It feels terribly grown up to have found our first place as a couple, and somewhat accomplished to have gone from starting a flat-hunt to signing a contract in a week. I think that now I am going to compile a list of ideal housewarming / birthday gifts I need / would like to receive. Fun!

Also, Toby and I attempted to go and see Looper on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come out yet – so that was embarrassing. However, we ended up going to Fulham Broadway and having a lovely meal at Wagamama instead (and I also bought a book from Daunt Books on Fulham Road, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, which so far is hilarious). In order to get to Fulham Road from Conway Street, I took the 14 bus from Euston Square:

Short and sweet! Like the 74, the bus took forever to turn up; unlike the 74, it did not get hopelessly stuck in traffic for half an hour as soon as it did. I don’t know if I would necessarily take it again (and after next week, I’m unlikely ever to need to again), but it was a nice excuse to tick off another tube station. Look out for Turnham Green to Ravenscourt Park, likely to be snapped and posted in the near future!

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bare necessities.

September 15, 2012

Now that Toby has returned from Aberdeen and payday is imminent, my thoughts are turning to the new flat we are going to acquire in the coming weeks. We are considering a range of locations, including Earls Court, Fulham, Kensington, Putney, Hammersmith, Barons Court and Chiswick, and a lot depends on the transport links and whether we can afford one or two bedrooms (two bedrooms would be nice so that we could have friends and family over to stay, but it’s not a necessity and we’d have to be willing to sacrifice a more central location). So I’m expecting us to have a flurry of viewings over the next few weeks in order to find a suitable place! I’ve therefore been thinking about what are the essential things I need in a home, and my experience of life both in Earls Court and Fulham has taught me some valuable lessons. To wit:

  • washing machine

Since moving into Toby’s flat in Fulham, the presence of a washing machine feels like a glorious luxury. When our clothes are dirty, I can just go upstairs and put them in the washing machine; I no longer have to keep them in a River Island bag (or two) which I cart down the road for a fifteen-minute walk or five-minute bus ride each weekend. I will never live somewhere which does not have a washing machine ever again. And if I can wangle a tumble drier too, even better.

  • wardrobe

However, in contrast, living in this new flat has meant that I’ve had to be creative about storing my clothes. In Earls Court, I had two little wardrobes, which was absolutely perfect – one for casual clothes and one for my work outfits. Here, I have a drawer and a half, and I have hijacked half of a clothes rail that frequently lists from side to side and occasionally dismantles itself. I detest folding my clothes and keeping them in a drawer, because they always end up creased and it takes me five minutes to find the garment I am looking for. I much prefer to have all of my clothes hung up and ready for selection, without fear that my choice will be rumpled. So I need a good amount of hanging space.

  • mirrors

I also miss that my flat in Earls Court was liberally furnished with large mirrors. One full length mirror and one square mirror in the living / bedroom, a small mirror above the sink in the bathroom, and mirrored bathroom cabinet doors. To be honest, even I (with my vanity) found it a little superfluous, but I certainly appreciated it. In Fulham, the only mirrors of a decent size are in the bathrooms. Nothing in the living room, nothing anywhere else; I have imported my tiny circular desk mirror into our bedroom so that I can moisturise and attempt to do my hair in the morning before work, but it’s not really sufficient – I have to keep going down the corridor in order to see myself and make sure I am presentable before I leave the house. It’s not ideal – I need mirrors!

  • proximity to a large supermarket

One of the few areas where Toby and I diverge is our preferred supermarket. Toby loves Waitrose (which I generally despise), while I am cheap and cheerful and frequent Tesco. But even the Tesco Expresses and Metros of the world are not really enough for me to get everything I want. I like basic orange juice in large cartons, coconut water, and small cartons of orange juice. I find it utterly mystifying that I cannot find these items for a decent price in anything other than a large-sized supermarket – but apparently this is the case, and so I need to be within walking distance of one of these.

  • coat tree

This returns to the issue with the wardrobes, and with the unreliable clothing rack that I am now using. We hang our coats, hoodies and jackets on either end of the rack to balance its weight, but this isn’t really ideal – and it makes the whole thing ultimately heavier anyway. Back when I lived in Bristol with my parents, we had a wooden coat tree which would periodically topple over from the weight of the coats on it. My mother once exhorted me to get rid of some of my coats – this escalated into a debate where my parents and I made three piles of each of our coats. Embarrassingly, my pile was larger than both of my parents’ combined. Hence, even after purging some of my outerwear, I do like a nice coat or four and thus need a coat tree to keep them all on.

  • piano

Today Toby and I went to Westfield to meet up with his parents who’d come down to London to spend a lunchtime with us. At one point, I was in the Village and there was a very talented pianist playing, whom I stopped to listen to. The beauty of the music came close to bringing tears to my eyes. I miss my piano, and while this isn’t strictly a necessity right now (it will be when we buy a place), I would love to have space for a piano in my new flat so that I can play and compose music.

  • a large kitchen worksurface

I realise that at this point, my cookery project (which lasted an impressive 7 months out of 12) has come to an end / gone on hiatus (depending on whether I end up restarting it or not). I guess I did well enough; although I did think that sheer stubbornness would carry me through to December. I detested cooking; I detested choosing a recipe, hunting down the ingredients, and then all of the preparation and stirring and waiting and checking and tasting, only for the finished product to last about 10 minutes on the plate before I’d finished eating it. All of that effort, and for what? I’d much rather have a necklace. But Toby’s kitchen has got a larger work surface (and a hob that’s at arm level rather than eye level, which is pleasant), which makes the occasional moment when I do decide to make food a lot more tolerable. So I need a reasonably spacious kitchen.

  • library

During my time in the Royal Borough, I joined the library. Libraries are such a good resource; not only do they provide access to the internet for the elderly and run a range of semi-interesting events, but they have a wealth of media and books that you can borrow, read and then give back. You can enrich yourself (academically and personally) without spending a fortune or permanently cluttering your house. They also have a small but useful section of foreign language books which I have started utilising to keep my Italian vocabulary alive between terms (I start again at the end of the month, yay!). I really appreciate the library and I want to live near one.

I am unsure whether I will be able to have all of these things in the forthcoming flat, but as many as possible would be wonderful, and some of them are indeed necessities. But in the years to come and the homes I come to make my own, I hope to have all of these things!

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Toni Braxton – Pulse. (album review)

May 7, 2010

The first album from Toni Braxton in 5 years comes following an abbreviated residency at Las Vegas, yet more record label disputes, health scares, a neat run on Dancing With The Stars and a separation from long-term partner Keri Lewis.  So one would assume that she has a lot of life material to draw on, material that might be evident in the singer’s new album.  Well, yes and no: Toni Braxton has stuck to her strengths, which are soulful R&B ballads expertly sung.  The lyrical content of these tracks betrays barely a whisker of what the singer has been through in the past 5 years, and to look at the singer she stands stately, sophisticated and stunningly beautiful for a woman of 40 years old.  Indeed, she still has that same sexy body she had 15 years ago, although now it is dressed with a more chic, age-appropriate veneer that effortlessly walks that tightrope between sexy and classy.  Nevertheless, Braxton’s creamy, rich alto has a slight bit more depth to it now; to paraphrase from her interview in Metro this week, she has the ability to channel her experiences (be they joyful or sad) into the texture of her voice, and this is what makes Braxton one of the most enduring and valuable singers to emerge in the last 20 years: you feel her when she sings.  On Pulse this is evident throughout, particularly when her voice is reduced to a low, husky whisper such as at the beginning of “Woman”, a cover of Delta Goodrem’s track from 2007’s Delta that improves on the original because Toni Braxton’s voice brings more depth to the lyrics (although Delta Goodrem’s own version was solid in itself, perhaps making this achievement all the more impressive), and the production ranges from subtle to soaring while never overtaking Braxton’s performance.

After more leaks than Ciara’s Fantasy Ride, it would be unacceptable for Pulse to be anything less than solid, considering the 25+ tracks we’ve heard from Toni Braxton’s recording sessions for the project.  For the most part, Braxton has chosen the strongest songs for the project, although bonus tracks “Rewind” and “Stay” add little value to the album and could have been replaced with successful “Ice Box” soundalike “Clockwork” and particularly “It’s You”.  These are just little personal gripes however, and don’t affect the fact that Braxton sings each of the 11 tracks on her album with impeccable aplomb; her voice cannot be faltered, whether she’s emitting attitude on the sassy “Make My Heart” (which again improves upon Blaque’s / Mis-Teeq’s “Can’t Get It Back”, being based on the same sample) or evoking vulnerability on standout closing track “Why Won’t You Love Me”.  It is surprising that this is the only track on Pulse that gives Toni a significant songwriting credit (“Yesterday” does credit her, but only along with 4 other contributors) considering her credits on The Heat and More Than A Woman; those two albums, while not perfect, were both cohesive and consistent – they felt like albums, not just a collection of songs.

And this is where my only main gripe with Pulse comes in.  Indeed, the album contains some beautiful songs – my personal favourites are first single “Yesterday” (although it sounds like Beyoncé’s “Halo”, it is strong and sincere enough to stand on its own two feet – unlike the version with Trey Songz, which suffers from a change in production that is at once overdone and bland), the aforementioned “Make My Heart” and “Why Won’t You Love Me”, “Wardrobe” with its clever man-as-outfit metaphor that somehow avoids sounding cheesy or forced.  “Lookin’ At Me” is a welcome uptempo that bumps convincingly and brings the sass out of Toni, and perhaps in the closing stretch of the album which is ballad-heavy, another uptempo of this nature might have livened things up.  Finally, “Hands Tied” is an utterly beautiful song in lyrics, production and vocals, and has an outstanding video to match – Toni Braxton dances in front of a troupe of attractive men, stands in an eye-catching black dress in front of an ornately carved table that I would quite like in my house, and locks eyes with the camera, singing and dancing and yet conveying the determination for love inherent in the song’s lyrics.

As I said before, there are no weak tracks, and perhaps my opinion is swayed by the sheer amount of material I’ve heard from the project – unlike classic albums Secrets, The Heat and More Than A Woman, the album feels merely like a collection of lovely songs than like an album.  Previous album Libra suffered from this same problem, although Pulse has more of an identity, hewing close to soulful ballads and eschewing popular production tricks; unlike a couple of Libra‘s tracks, this album won’t sound dated, to its credit. But something intangible makes some albums more than the sum of their parts, and Pulse just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi.  In comparison with Monica’s recent Still Standing (check my review here!), both albums are a welcome embodiment of “real” R&B, both are classy efforts that dispense with unnecessary featured artists and emphasise the singers’ strengths.  Neither album possesses any repellent tracks, and all the material is beautifully sung.  But if I had to choose between them, Monica’s would win out because something about it feels more sincere, more cohesive; something connects with the listener more.  I feel bad that I can’t quite put my finger on what that “something” is, but it means that while Pulse is certainly solid and worth purchasing, as a whole it isn’t  exceptional.  Nevertheless, some of its songs are exceptional, and it is wonderful to hear a singer relying on her vocal ability and strong songwriting rather than gimmicks or collaborations with flavour-of-the-month artists.

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sexy fresh.

January 17, 2010

This weekend I haven’t felt particularly sexy or fresh, considering I have a cough like a foghorn and a proper stinking cold (as we say in England).  Yesterday I bought some new jeans from Topman, which are slim fit 32″ light grey.  Before Christmas (in anticipation of the sales) I had been appraising my wardrobe and working out what items I needed, considering I’ve lost a fair amount of weight since starting uni and a lot of my clothes are no longer fitted enough for my liking.  In view of my weight loss, I can’t believe I was ever big enough (read: heifer) to fit into my old clothes.  The problem which is slightly worrying, is that my old clothes were often no bigger than a Medium.  Now I’m a Small, I’ve got a slimmer waist (which still requires toning) and I feel a lot better about myself.  Ironically, swapping my gym membership for an increase in cigarettes and a closer monitoring of my evening snacking post-dinner (and reduction of it) has worked wonders for my frame and for my self-esteem.  But I do question my body image.  Is what we see in the mirror really ever accurate?  How do we know what to trust?

As one of my role models is Mariah Carey, so I can empathise with her desire to flaunt her body.  As a guy, I did this in a slightly different way, but after some really bad fallout from a broken friendship at school, at age 14 over the summer I shed a ridiculous amount of weight due to funnelling my anger through situps.  Suddenly, all my clothes fell off, instead of baggy t-shirts and jeans to hide my figure, I discovered fitted clothes, ways to expose a little bit of skin and just daring to dress more provocatively and wearing clothes and jewellery that my peers hadn’t thought of wearing.  In retrospect, it was perhaps a cry for attention, but I don’t think the emphasis was on “LOOK at me!”; it was more like “Look at me NOW!” For the first time in my life, I felt attractive, and I felt like a normal teenager like those I saw on television, like those who did lots of sports around me and appeared to have no body image hangups.  Between the age of 15 and 23, my weight fluctuated somewhat (again like Mariah 😉 ), but I never allowed myself to get out of proportion or feel “fat” as I had done throughout my childhood.  I learned how to dress and experimented with fashion during my time at university, and now I really like my sense of style, and having shed a lot of weight again, I feel attractive enough to wear whatever I want.

More or less.  I mentioned the grey jeans that I bought from Topman.  They look fine on, but the slim fit needs a slight bit of stretching before I can wear them in public without suffering from whatever the male equivalent of camel-toe is (TMI I know! but I’m getting there more or less, just another day’s wear I think), and pale colours make my legs look elephantine. Except I know that in reality, my legs don’t look massive.  Depending on the mirror I’m looking in, I see a completely different version of myself compared to the one I see looking down at myself.  What do I trust?  I know that my clothes sizes are shrinking down and down, and I can’t ever believe that I used to wear Large sizes, and even Medium sizes are baggy on me – yet I don’t see myself as Small or slim.  I know it must be true, because all the evidence tells me so.  But looking in the mirror, I still see a flabby stomach, a waist and chest which needs toning, situps and pressups (ceasing the gym hasn’t meant ceasing all exercise – I still try and keep fit in my own way), and all the imperfections that were there no matter what size I was.  I don’t know if I’m suffering from body dysmorphia, but sometimes I don’t see myself any differently to how I looked 1, 2, 5 years ago in terms of my body. I do feel better about myself, but that’s mainly from the sizes of clothing I’m buying, people’s nice comments and flattering compliments, and other positive things which have been happening in my life.  Buying a new wardrobe is a lot of fun, and I don’t aspire to go down another jeans size – I’m 6′ tall and anything less than a 32″ waist would look too skinny on me.  Except how would I know?  I can’t trust what I see, I just have to make my best guess.

I don’t know how to explain it any better, so I’ll say this: Before Christmas last year, me and a few of the guys from our careers guidance course ended up going for lunch together in Chipping Sodbury.  Because there was about 13 of us, there initially weren’t enough chairs around the table where we were all sitting, and I’d been upstairs watching Pete & Simon play pool. I came back, and there was a space next to Clare who was sitting on a bay window seat.  I asked if I could squeeze in next to her, and she looked at the space and said “Yeah, you’re only little!” We made a joke along the lines of “how rude!” but I don’t think I’ll ever forget her saying that, even though it was a throwaway comment which wasn’t supposed to mean anything.  I’ve never thought of myself, I’ve never felt “little” in my entire life.  She must see me in a different way to how I see myself.  Lately, people are falling over themselves to tell me how attractive I am, how I’m pretty, how I am sexier than them (even when giving an impromptu presentation at university, which is honestly not when I am trying my utmost to radiate sex appeal).  It’s bizarre, and it’s welcome and flattering because these are compliments and the validation that I’ve been aiming for my whole life (I know that I shouldn’t need it, and I don’t always, but other people’s validation feels awful nice).  I’ve never really felt attractive or sexy before, and now I do. Or at least, I’m closer to that now than I have ever been before.  But it also seems to have come at a price, and I wish that I could look at myself objectively and see what other people seem to see.  Because otherwise, will I truly know when to stop?  I feel that now is probably the time, but I know what improvements I still want to make and I just hope that I don’t go a step too far and mess it all up.  At 24, my looks haven’t come easy, and I don’t want to lose them before I can learn to appreciate them.

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untouchable.

August 30, 2009

I was sitting in the back of the car on the way back from Tetbury today, where my parents and I went for lunch.  I was in a pretty foul mood, for several reasons: since upgrading my Macbook to Snow Leopard yesterday, I’d had numerous application faults, and the latest was that I was unable to use my printer, which meant that I was unable to make a start on the preparatory task I’d been given for uni.  (I’ve since fixed the printer, and after numerous re-installs and restarts, Snow Leopard seems to be working fine now, and has also made my iPod go back to working at normal speed! 🙂 ) I was then feeling apprehensive at the prospect of having lunch with my parents, because it’s always the same: we go to a pub out in the country, have some standard food and drink, either make stiff conversation or blend into the background while my parents talk to each other, and then turn around and come home again.  I just can’t be bothered to make the effort for something so boring, and playing ‘happy families’ feels so fake.  I then had to get changed to go on this lunch, and I realised that half of my wardrobe is effectively shit, which meant that I ended up throwing a pile of clothes across the room in search of something to wear.  When I found a garment that was suitable, I had to pick these clothes up and put them back on my chair.  I dumped too much hair gel on my head in the midst of this rage, and then had to make it work. (I did.) Then I got downstairs after my mother kept hollering at me to “hurry up”, and proceeded to wait for my parents!!!  If they were telling me to hurry up, why did I end up waiting for them?

So I was in a mega-sulk.  I was listening to Courtney Love / Hole on my iPod and saying nothing, reading American Psycho.  After walking around Tetbury (since it is so tiny, it did not take long), we ended up going for lunch in a place called The Crown.  For the first half an hour, I was quite unimpressed by The Crown.  The decor was a bit run down, but that wasn’t really an issue.  However, my mother ordered a tonic water, and received half a glass, which I brought to her and then brought back to the bar to check that it was meant to be that small an amount of water. (It was.) Then two dogs (why were dogs in the pub?!?! They weren’t guide dogs) proceeded to have a loud fight in the corner, and my father brought over the food menu, which consisted of 6 items, including “lazange” and “cod & chips in sause”.  After clearing up the residue from the bottoms of our glasses, because we were not provided coasters (nor did they seem to exist anywhere in this establishment), I settled on the “lazange” because my parents were getting irritated at my mood and the fact that I could not decide what to eat (they said that we might have to go elsewhere, and I did not want to deal with the combination of their annoyance at my indecisiveness, and prolonging our stay in Tetbury any more than was necessary). It turned out that the lasagne was lovely, and so was the garlic bread that came with it.  The food was that place’s saving grace; still, I don’t think I will be going back there again.

Eventually, my parents engaged me in conversation and things started to improve as my mood slowly lifted.  We talked about my mother’s friend who looks like she is going to die of cancer quite soon, then about certain friends and relatives of mine who have pissed me off either by criticising my every decision (I am not a moron: I know the risks and possible consequences of smoking / using a sunbed / drinking a coffee at Starbucks / spending a lot of money / not getting as much sleep as would be ideal.  I’m an adult and I can make decisions for myself and weigh up the pros and cons.  If I decide to do something, I don’t need you on my back asking me if I’m sure I want to be doing that, because this is my life and I don’t tell you how to live yours. Yes, you are criticising me and my ability to choose what I want to do, and I have had enough of it thanks, so please don’t ‘impart your wisdom’ in the future, because I don’t want it and I don’t need it.) or by suddenly getting indignant that I don’t want to see whatever crappy film they choose, because I am tired of wasting my money on films I have no interest in, and going to the cinema is not a particularly sociable activity anyway, so why is it suddenly such a problem if I don’t want to see your film and am happy just to go to a café and converse?  And when somebody else is busy, I politely accept it, but now that I have other commitments, it inconveniences them and I’m supposed to feel guilty?  No way.

So I let off a bit of steam, my parents assured me that I was utterly in the right and had nothing to feel guilty about, and that to just let the people who were on my back have some space and it would all be fine.  A sensible plan I shall try to adhere to!  We left Tetbury, and I started thinking about other people who have gotten on my nerves.  My thoughts turned to my ex, and my mind went over how I had sent a text message revealing my intent to break up with him to him instead of to my friend Hannah.  He chose to believe I had done it on purpose, that I had orchestrated the whole thing on purpose for an easy escape and to humiliate him in the process.  That was totally not the case, and I tried to explain it and was sorry to have sent him that message; it was an honest accident, and Hannah was meant to receive the message (it even said her name at the beginning!).  But his friends, who had never met me, told him I must have done it on purpose, so he chose to believe them rather than me.  That’s fine, that’s his loss.  I don’t apologise twice, I didn’t want to be with him anyway, so I let him believe what he wanted – I was emancipated at the end of the day. I regret causing somebody hurt like that, but I don’t feel guilty because it was an honest mistake that I had apologised for; to have that apology thrown back in my face by not only him, but other people who don’t know me at all made the whole thing easier for me to just move on.

But thinking about it, I thought that I couldn’t believe that I let him touch me, put his hands on me, kiss me.  It makes my skin crawl, not only because he was so clingy, but sometimes the thought of physical contact makes me shudder.  I’m generally quite at ease with physical contact – I’m quite close to my parents and my friends, hugging them and such.  Obviously, I’m not a virgin so when I’m in the mood to be intimate with someone, it feels right and I’m not forced into it.  But when I put my mind to it, I don’t like people seeing my naked body (and never have); returning to the idea of façades, I try to give off the idea that I am confident in the way I look and at ease with my body, because it makes me appear more confident and flawless.  But in reality, I don’t like feeling exposed and I don’t like being touched or kissed or anything like that.  I have major trust issues, I know that.  Every single person I have dated has let me down in one way or another, and quite a few of them have just wanted sex from me and then got bored, either because they weren’t going to get it, or because they got it and then they didn’t have to pretend to be interested in me as a person anymore.  At times, it makes me sick that I’ve let these people touch me, put their hands on me and use me to further their own pleasure.  Sometimes I wish that I were untouchable; sometimes I wish that I could just disconnect my heart and mind from my body and float off somewhere while people are doing what they want to do with me, to me, for me.  Sometimes I wish that I could be with somebody who really liked me for who I am.  Because I am tired of protecting my heart, only to let somebody in and then it all goes wrong and I am hurt and used anyway.  I guess that whether it’s physical or emotional, it’s the thought that I have been used that makes me really sick, hurt and regretful.