Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ Category

Rebel Girls: the (written) lives of Vita Sackville-West and Viv Albertine

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Vita and Viv: what polar opposites. One born into immense wealth and privilege, blessed with an unhealthy arrogance, unblinkingly forging her own path on her own terms, the other brought up without money or connections, lacking in self-confidence, but equally determined to make her mark on the world and stay true to herself. Both pioneers of their age. Vita could never be her true self in public while Viv lived in boundary-smashing times. The age of punk was also a time of squats, art colleges and student grants, when living on the dole while honing your art or music or simply personal style was a viable, nay commendable, lifestyle choice.

I have to say Viv is the more sympathetic character of the two – Vita reminded me of Vivienne Westwood, who Viv describes as “scary, for the reason any truthful, plain-talking person is scary – she exposes you… She’s uncompromising in every way: what she says, what she stands for, what she expects from you and how she dresses.” That could just as easily have been written about Vita.

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A Design For Life: Liberty London Girl’s Friends, Food, Family

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2I own a lot of recipe books, and I bet you do too. And I’m equally willing to wager only a tiny proportion of them are covered in flour and greasy fingermarks like a well-used, well-loved recipe book should be. The one I refer to most often because it contains delicious recipes that look impressive but are relatively simple to make, is Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites. But I think that might change very soon, as the latest addition to my kitchen windowsill is Sasha Wilkins aka Liberty London Girl’s new recipe book,Friends, Food, Family.

Last year I was one of the lucky, greedy guinea pigs who enjoyed the bounty of Sasha’s dinner table while she exhaustively trialled the recipes for her book so I can confirm that they are very tasty indeed. And last week I attempted one of the mushroom-on-toast recipes to prove that they were easy to follow too.

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But what comes across in both the words and the pictures in this beautiful book is a message that’s more important than how to make a Victoria Sponge rise (though this is obviously crucial information.) What Sasha delivers is a lesson in living well – enjoying the company of your nearest and dearest, nurturing them with the food you make, yes, but also nurturing yourself by creating shared moments of kinship.

Drunken dinner parties where you set the world to rights over bottles of prosecco and something warm in a casserole dish, Sunday lunches that go on for hours with children and small dogs crawling around under the table, impromptu picnics, al desco snacks that lift the spirits rather than crushing the soul.

Sasha makes her point elegantly and emphatically: cooking good food should be a pleasure, not a stressful chore. Buy the best ingredients you can find and afford, cheat whenever possible to minimise your time in the kitchen and maximise your time at the table, because ultimately what matters is the memories you make, not whether the soufflé rose properly.

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Peppered in between the recipes are handy lists based on Sasha’s travels – the best flower markets in cities across the world, ingenious ways to arrange flowers to look fancy, and a killer dinner party playlist featuring Taylor Swift and Patsy Kline – all drawn from her experiences as a globetrotting, multitasking blogger and editor. Oh and praise be, she calls them FAIRY cakes NOT cupcakes and if that doesn’t convince you of this book’s credibility I don’t know what will.


Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake

kate bush ticket

Sitting in my seat admiring the art deco splendour of the Hammersmith Apollo, I really had no idea what to expect from Kate Bush’s return to the stage after 35 years. As she walked onto the stage the emotion in the audience was palpable and she was clearly delighted by it and responded graciously and gratefully. Any worries that she might be nervous or stiff performing were soon dispelled as she launched into an energetic and evocative rendition of Hounds of Love, note-perfect and immediately, amazingly bringing back all sorts of happy emotions from my childhood – a kind of musical muscle memory.

Kate Bush

I found myself wondering, how did she get to be so confident? This woman who was writing songs like The Man With the Child In His Eyes and Wuthering Heights as a teenager and bringing them to life with such fearless vision. Where does that imagination and absolute conviction come from? All the snide comments about how she’s – gasp, clutch skirts – grown older makes my blood boil. No, she isn’t a teenager anymore, she’s a grown woman with a teenage son of her own (who performs with terrifying confidence, he is truly his mother’s son). But you can easily see the ghost of that eerily precocious, creative girl in the woman today – there’s the same strength and sweetness in her face and that haunting, unique voice remains pure and clear as a bell.

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**I didn’t break the ‘no photos’ rule btw, this is an official pic!**

It also struck me that Kate Bush is totally, absolutely English and this performance – right down to the ever so slightly am-drammy bits – could only ever happen in England. You could’t imagine Kate Bush shakin’ her booty ‘in da club’ – she’d more likely be striding across bleak grey fells in a stout jersey or hamming it up in a unitard. She’s goofy, eccentric, never cynical or arch and I think that’s part of the reason people are bewitched by the music she makes – her lyrics and those dreamy soundscapes are often challenging, sometimes downright weird, but because she offers them with such honesty, you have to respect her. That and she writes a bloody good pop song.

In that respect she makes me think of other ‘out there’ female artists – the likes of Bjork, Tori Amos, Paloma Faith – they charm their fans because they are unselfconscious, there’s no pretension. They couldn’t care less about being ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’ – and by virtue of that fact (and because they are insanely talented) they are infinitely more attractive than any sad pop puppet. It’s not about age, size or whether someone is or isn’t conventionally attractive – it’s an innate quality, some charisma that you just can’t manufacture or fake.

I can’t really put into words how I felt seeing songs that are such a part of me performed live before my very eyes. Kate Bush has been an icon in the truest sense since I was small, reassuring me that it’s not only ok to be a bit weird and to stand apart from the mainstream, it’s actually something to embrace and celebrate. I will remain forever grateful to her for that knowledge, which I clung to like a lifebelt through choppy youthful waters, and for giving me a truly unique experience to treasure one night in Hammersmith.

Oh and some thoughts on gig-going etiquette:

If you have to go to the toilet three songs into a show maybe don’t drink so many pints?

And if you really need a drink so badly you have go to the bar in the middle of a once in a lifetime show you paid good money to see rather than wait til the intermission then you definitely have problems. FFS.

Also, please don’t ‘sexy dance’ at the Kate Bush concert. Or anywhere for that matter, but definitely not ever at the Kate Bush concert.


REVIEW: Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Note the chant of that title and how long it takes to type: that’s just the beginning of the uncompromising life story that Viv Albertine shares in her new book. Guitarist in The Slits, Laura Ashley model, musician, director, actor, artist, mother – she has had a fascinating fifty-nine years and there’s a lot more to talk about than being a girl in the punk world (but that’s a good place to start).

In CCCMMMBBB (Faber, £14.99) she scrapbooks her vividly recalled memories together and tacks on a helpful appendix at the end detailing the most crucial bits of her biography – what she was wearing, listening to and who she was seeing during each of her eras. Her unconventional path through creative careers, various lovers and finally motherhood makes for compelling reading and her story illuminates some of life’s joyous feminist contradictions.  It’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t read a book which so unashamedly and refreshingly reveals the secrets of the female bedroom since Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, bedsheets, wardrobe, dressing table and all.

Albertine laments the fact that she had no female role models as a would-be guitarist in the late seventies, but luckily for us with this book she’s shown why she should be a heroine to every music-loving, clothes-obsessed, outsider girl out there.


Announcement: Pamflet x Twin

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Phoebe’s to-read pile

After a short break over December and January (see Instagram for further details) we’re back blogging here at Pamflet and are also delighted to announce a special collaboration with our favourite style biannual Twin‘s blog.

From February we’ll be their new book bloggers, posting monthly book reviews and recommendations as well as reports on literary festivals and happenings. We’ll mostly be covering fiction (classic and contemporary), style, fashion and pop culture titles (what else really?) and can’t wait to get started!

Keep an eye on Twitter and Twin for our first roundup which is coming very soon.

 


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"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi

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