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Showing posts from February, 2018

The currant state of hot cross buns and the LNDR Freefall leggings

As if we haven't got enough to deal with, there's a global raisin shortage now. Raisins, currants and sultanas are all in short supply and this will see the cost of hot cross buns soar this Easter, with serious fears over how Christmas puddings will fare later in the year.

Who do we blame? Not Brexit as it turns out, but the wildfires at vineyards in California. The fires last year saw a loss of 275,000 tons of Californian crop, driving costs up by a massive 40 per cent.

Cunning bakers are expected to swap the dried fruits for alternatives such as chocolate chips and orange peel. Excellent news, if you don't like currants.

Poor Jamie Oliver. The superstar chef, with the propensity for saying "pukka", has been forced to close 12 branches of his Italian restaurant chain due to declining profits. He has received relentless criticism from the media - saying this is what happens when a chef starts playing at being a businessman.

However, it's not just Jamie who is…

Balaclavas, avocado proposals and the Alexa Chung jumpsuit

We need to approach this new balaclava trend with trepidation. Not just because it's a challenging look to pull off and the words, "I saw Joan in town and she was wearing a rather fetching balaclava", are seldom heard. But because of what the balaclava signifies.

This reporter fears it is no co-incidence that, as we run the daily risk of waking up in a nuclear missile-shaped crater with tattered pyjamas and only half a packet of prawn cocktail crisps and a cockroach for company, the fashion world has thrust this woolly-helmeted symbol of war upon us.

Let us trot back in time a moment and recall that the balaclava actually originates from 1854 when British women knitted and posted out to Balaclava, Ukraine, head coverings for unprepared troops fighting in the bitterly cold Crimean War. Now they are being sported by models prancing the catwalks of designers like Calvin Klein and Gucci.

Meanwhile, the mind-boggling appeal of the avocado continues to flourish, with romantic-…

Plastic drinking straws, "ambitious managed divergence" and the Princess Diana boots

Despite no longer being Education Secretary, Michael Gove has still managed to come up with a scheme to effectively destroy many a happy childhood. In his guise as Minister for Environment, Mr Gove is proposing to ban plastic drinking straws.

An entirely meritorious idea when faced with the stark reality of what these straws do to our marine wildlife, however, it does seem fairly typical of the Gove-meister that he would implement a change which would banish all those joyful childhood moments - jabbing a little plastic straw into a drinks carton with a satisfying 'suck, pop', slurping up the last dregs of juice with a rude gurgling sound, blowing bubbles into milkshake with fat, round cheeks.

Elsewhere, it was the Brexit War Cabinet's away day at the prime minister's country residence, Chequers. And once they'd thrown the coloured bean bags around to ensure everyone knew each other's names, it was time for the MPs to settle down to the important business of wha…

Cinnamon-coated millennials and the Danish party frock

Millennials, snowflakes, the "youth of today". Call them what disparaging term you wish but the underlying truth is young people are being given a disproportionately hard time of it.

Perhaps no more so than any other younger generation coming up before them - there will always be the pervasive idea that how the elders did things, how they behaved, was the right, the only, way. But what is different for the young people who are growing up now compared to those who have gone before, is the very bottom of what has kept past generations rooted to the earth has been pulled out from underneath them.

The ability to earn a steady, reliable and sufficient wage, the opportunity to buy a permanent roof to put over their heads, the chance to purchase the little fripperies and delights which ease the toil of their daily lives.

These aspects of life which past generations have enjoyed guilt free, are now being picked up and used to beat young people around the head with. The little comfor…

Cadbury Creme Egg-gate and the Fjallraven Kanken backpack

This reporter can barely put pen to paper - and yes that is how she prefers to scribe - when it comes to Brexit recently without her words becoming outdated before the ink has even dried. What with all the turns and about turns over the whole sorry palarver.

Take yesterday (Wednesday) for example when we were informed plans were afoot to have an extended transition period after leaving the EU, to run way beyond the previously stipulated two years, and enable businesses and general Jo public to acclimatise to change for as long as was needed.

Excellent news this reporter thought, as, ever keen to find a loophole, she hatched out a mighty fine plan which would see us leave the European Union, in essence, in March 2019 and gambol happily into this transition period - where vitally we would still be part of the customs union and single market - and stay quite contentedly in this limbo state, forever.

"No", we would declare when questioned on whether we were yet settled enough to…

The Stella McCartney Eclipse super sneakers and the Queen on the Front Row

In her "Laura Loves" Vogue column this week, model and photographer Laura Bailey writes about her burgeoning passion for the Stella McCartney Eclipse super sneakers. She said she slipped her feet into the attention-seeking, silvery hologrammed footwear on a day last week when the first shy burst of spring emerged, and strangers stopped her on the street.

Laura said these were the trainers she had dreamt of when she was twelve. She also pledged that one day she would be the kind of old lady who wore this type of trainer, with vintage Chanel and a plait to her waist. Some things change and some things don't, she concluded.

That's the end state for all of us right there, this reporter believes. No one wants to end up a dried out old husk, draped in elasticated polyester. We want to be eccentric old birds with disco balls on our feet.

Speaking of which, the Queen surprised absolutely everyone - even those, it appeared, who invited her - when taking her place on the Front…

When hero worship turns sour and the bonsai bucket bag

The fallout from the Oxfam sex scandal has taken an unexpected turn, tipping our opinion of a man upheld as something of a national inspiration completely on its head.
We were informed last week that Oxfam aid workers had hired prostitutes, some of them just children, whilst out in Haiti a decade ago. Thus followed revelations that this was just the tip of the iceberg of a far darker side of the charitable sector where sexual exploits and assaults worked as a sordid undertone to the much good these charities perform.
Enter Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, who for many has been an emblem of goodness, morality and superhuman strength in the face of unimaginable grief. However, the Oxfam sex scandal has led to the unearthing of previously smothered allegations, that Mr Cox had sexually assaulted several women whilst working for the Save the Children charity, and more recently in 2015, had assaulted a woman in her 30s at Harvard University.
As a result of the allegations he ha…

The friendship bracelet and the Time's Up dress code

The friendship bracelet. Three strands of brightly coloured thread plaited together with feverish fingers and tied onto a best friend's wrist. There it remains, slowly fraying, coated in equal parts sticky food residue and love.
A small, childish token of insignificant value which speaks a thousand words of comradeship, dedication and shared experience – dipped into sand pits, spaghetti hoops and Matey bubble baths. Taking into itself the laughs, tears and grazed knees of a child's friendship. Powerful as a talisman.
Then we have the BAFTAs. Yet another glittering awards ceremony with an all-black dress code. Actresses from film and television donning black gowns to stand together in support of the UK's Time's Up campaign – a rousing cry to end sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
This is becoming an all too familiar sight perhaps, following on as it does from the Golden Globes and the Grammy Awards, where the red carpet was equally awash with rustling black …

A woman accompanies her handbag into an x-ray scanner – it must have been Chanel

So here we are in 2018, witnessing what must be the greatest building of momentum towards gender equality since the mass availability of the contraceptive pill in the 1960's and before that, the small matter of the Suffrage movement.
We have seen women, and men, take to the streets of our capital cities in their thousands upon thousands in Women's Marches against American President, the ever misogynistic, Donald Trump. We have watched the social media campaign against sexual harassment #MeToo gain such momentum that essays and articles have been set aside to discuss whether it is really a force for good or men's undoing – a sure sign it's working.
We have seen the net around Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein start to tighten as legal charges are brought against him, along with the dawning realisation that a stint in a swish rehab centre in Arizona is not going to be enough to atone publicly for his sins.
We have witnessed the great and good of Hollywood stand a…

Labour want all tenants to be allowed a pet – until then there's the Leo trainers from Hush

There's a plethora of things we declare we will do once we grow up and own our own house. We'll have a West Elm navy blue sofa, slather all our walls in charcoal grey paint, host sophisticated dinner parties with three courses cooked lovingly, and proficiently, from out of the Nigella cook book. We'll own a table runner, scatter cushions, Tupperware and cake forks. Napkin holders, mugs without chips.
We'll grow herbs and radishes and rambling roses in our very own garden, with a summer house at the bottom which will become our office, once we finally ditch our job and go freelance. Steadily taking over the world from our Ikea work station, with self-closing drawers – when we're all grown up and own our own house.
But top of the list above all of this domestic paraphernalia is the wish, the hope, the life-fulfilling statement, that one day when we're all grown up and have our own place, we'll have a pet. A miniature Schnauzer, a long-haired Dachshund, a p…

We don't need a female James Bond – Women's stories are just as valid in floaty florals as masculine tuxedos

Hollywood actress Rachel Weisz has spoken out this week saying she does not believe James Bond need ever be played by a woman. I didn't realise it before – but I agree.
There is always heightened speculation around who will play the next James Bond. By design it is ever changeable and the choice, arguably, reflects what is a la mode at the time. Therefore at this cultural crossroads in our history - which appears to have come about through a mixture of ultra political correctness combined with naturally freer attitudes to stereotypes - the next actor, or actress, to play Bond could be especially interesting. There has been speculation over whether the role will be given to a white man as appears to be tradition or whether a black actor or even a woman could fill Bond's shoes.
One actress who won't be putting herself forward for Bond casting is Rachel Weisz, who happens to be married to current James Bond actor Daniel Craig. Speaking to The Telegraph, she said she believes…

Banning sexist advertising is like the lilac lapel coat from Acne Studios – impractical yet desirable

Sweden – the mystical land of unbreakable darkness and enduring daylight. Of fresh, crisp air and achingly cool style. A haven for all things foodie, as long as it's fermented or laced in lingonberries. The fatherland of Ikea flat pack furniture, Abba, picture postcard forests and story book bears.
And now also the land where all outdoor sexist advertising is banned – in Stockholm at least, with other Swedish cities set to follow suit. The question is, do we the British adopt the same policy for our own advertising, as we have taken in H&M, & Other Stories and Monki to our own high streets, or does what constitutes sexist prove so problematic, it's akin to asking how long is a piece of string? Let's delve in.
Stockholm City Council recently agreed to ban all outdoor advertising that perpetuated sexist stereotypes from its city. Daniel Hellden, one of the capital city's deputy mayors has been pushing for the ban for three years. He explained that sexist adverti…

Revelations Oxfam hired sex workers proves the snowball of scandal isn't stopping. The solution – glasses on a chain

We are as a nation becoming addicted to scandal. Whether it be news of the latest Hollywood actress to be sexually assaulted by film producer Harvey Weinstein, tales of MPs making inappropriate moves on party activists or seedy men-only black tie dinners at posh hotels where hostesses are asked 'how much they charge', our appetite for the sexual misdeeds of others is becoming insatiable, and the media our willing force-feeders.
Revelations that Oxfam staff hired the services of sex workers whilst out in Haiti providing aid in 2011 are a case in point. Here is an industry which many would believe impervious to scandal, though anyone who has ever read a Dickens novel will know that the moral of the story is always be wary of a philanthropist. But charities, just like politics and the entertainment industry, appear to have their own shady, dark side where prostitutes and sexual assault are just as rife, if you only scratch the surface.
The incident in Haiti appears not to be an …

Women's liberation took a wrong turn somewhere - instead of freedom it discovered hostessing

There has been uproar again this week over the fact hostesses have been employed at a major gambling conference. The general feeling seemed to be that because grid girls and darts girls were abolished last week, other industries would simply follow suit and ban glamour girls working at their own events.
Not so in the case of the ICE Totally Gambling conference where organisers flew in the face of opposition from the Gambling Commission's Chief Executive Sarah Harrison no less, to go ahead and employ girls not only to work as hostesses wearing swimwear but for pole dancers and show-dancing playboy bunnies to be recruited to entertain the predominantly male crowd.
Our society continues to be divided about whether women should be employed under these conditions. What appears to be agreed upon is the now defunct President's Club - which arguably triggered off this whole debate - held particularly sleazy events.
But that's where any sense of agreement ends. Even women are pola…

“You can't make an omelette using only nostalgia” – wise words for Brexiteers and vegans alike

Brexit is a lot like the current trend for veganism – it looks an enticing idea at the outset – a way towards a 'fitter, happier, healthier you' until you run out of your stockpile of Marks and Spencer's vegan ready meals and are faced with whipping up an omelette of an evening. And then you remember - vegans can't eat eggs.
It has been a relatively entertaining week for Brexit as far as things go and I know that's pushing the truth somewhat, but we really must stick with it. To disengage with Brexit now would be, I'm sure, tantamount to waking up one morning to a Trump-style wall around the United Kingdom and to find eating Camembert has become a criminal offence.
We began the week reeling from the revelations, or not as it turned out, of those Brexit assessment papers put together by Whitehall civil servants, which said Brexit amounted to social and economic suicide whichever of the three main outcomes the government decided upon.
There was much talk amongst…

This week's must-have purchase – the yeti faux fur coat

OK, strap yourselves in because we're going on a journey to the murky underbelly of the crime world – to a land where money launderers, human traffickers and horses heads reign. (As you can tell, I am an expert.) So put on your dark glasses, brush your smart suits free of lint because we're going in. Cue Mission Impossible music.
Here we are – and it all amounts to the government watching a bit too much of the BBC's current dark and twisted crime drama, McMafia on BBC One. The series follows the story of the son of a Russian oligarch, Alex Godman, who has lived and been educated in England most of his life in a bid to distance himself from the dirty dealings and criminal past of his father, who has since been expelled from Russia on pain of death from rival gangs should he return.
All is going well for Alex – he has his own financial business, a pretty yet rather boring girlfriend, a closet full of white shirts, but it all goes pear-shaped when his Uncle Bob is killed b…

Thanks Doritos – Women always knew it was the crisps holding them back

It is a truth universally acknowledged that crisps are man food. Without a lady-friendly version – one which doesn't crunch too loudly, leave fingers too greasy or fit easily into a handbag – women will never be able to achieve the equality with men they have been eternally striving for.
Um, no.
I don't doubt that Doritos, the tortilla crisp manufacturers, thought they were addressing a 'need', for crisps geared specifically for women - but that makes it perhaps all the more depressing.
Whilst women continue to be 'interfered' with on a daily basis at work, fail to reach gender parity for doing exactly the same job and, as we found out just yesterday (Monday), are still living in 'period poverty' right here in the UK, then hackneyed attempts to address gender balance like this on the part of Doritos are only going to rub further salt into the wounds.
Doritos' marketeers, however, insist they have identified a real problem. They say women do not…

The Spice Girls are reuniting - and as a 90's teenager, I should be over the moon

The drive to make all things 90's desirable again has proved so strong, it has caught up mega girl group of the decade, the Spice Girls, on the end of its over-sized, mannish shirt tails.

The news that all five of the Spice Girls had been spotted meeting at Geri Halliwell's house in Hertfordshire for the first time in six years, was delivered with a high kick of joy by the media at the end of last week. We were told this was concrete evidence that Posh, Sporty, Scary, Ginger and Baby were getting back together and a photo of them all posing together on Instagram was absolute living proof.

Rumour has it they have all been paid a mighty generous £10million each to reform but this could be the most perplexing of reunions yet. With 80's and 90's bands reforming for one-off concerts and greatest hits albums all the time, we have been informed that the Spice Girls are getting back together to work on a number of projects - maybe a talent show, endorsing products and working …

Review of the week - from an all new anti-Brexit super group to Kim Kardashian breaking the internet, again

This week a new super group has been formed in opposition to hard Brexit in a bid to get the public's voice heard on the final deal. The group, headed by Labour MP Chuka Umunna, has the modest aim of uniting the views of all those who have opposed Brexit from the outset, so they can come together with a cohesive plan. This will probably involve some form of second referendum, says Umunna. Yawn. The group includes Tory mutineer Anna Sourby, the Green party's Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson. It also unites a whopping 500,000 members of pro-European groups including Open Britain.
A female London fire chief has received hate mail after encouraging the use of 'Firefighter Sam' instead of 'Fireman Sam'. Outrageous. Head of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Coton, said she was “bombarded” with abuse and had hate mail sent to her workplace after launching a campaign to encourage people to refer to 'firefighters' rather than 'firemen'. She said the…

As the row over equal pay at the BBC continues, isn't it becoming clear the solution is to have a woman in charge?

Carrie Gracie proves the BBC would be better run by a woman. The former China editor for BBC News, who resigned from her post at the beginning of the year due to a row with her bosses over gender equal pay, headed to the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday) to try and get MPs on board with the matter. She argued that the BBC was incapable of resolving its gender pay crisis on its own and needed external help.
She was accompanied by an impressive support club of fellow female BBC presenters, both past and present, including Kate Adie, Mariella Fostrup, Kate Silverton and Naga Munchetty. Her address to MPs came off the back of a PriceWaterhouseCooper report commissioned by the BBC into whether there was gender inequality over pay at the corporation.
The report claimed to find no evidence of gender inequality, much to the exasperation of BBC Women, a group that represents female journalists and producers. The group said it had not even been consulted by PwC and referred to even more…