The launch will be at fab female den The Trouble Club in Kingly Court from 7-10pm on Monday 27 April. Yes Mondays are the new Thursdays. Early bird tickets are on sale for a limited time at £7 (regular price £10) which includes drinks* all evening, a copy of Pamf13 and an exclusive Pamflet bookbag, plus other surprise treats.
We cannot wait to print another Pamflet and this one has been years in the making. Readers can expect the return of our old favorites including Agatha Christie, Victoria Beckham and Try-hard Trends and lots lots more.
Tickets and further details are available here and pre-order links for anyone who can’t make it along to the launch will be posted very soon.
Christie and Read convey this with power and precision, perhaps because they were of that generation, and it’s a rare and welcome alternative view of the so-called swinging ’60s that we don’t often encounter.
Agatha Christie uses the massive social upheavals of the ’60s as a handy plot device – people aren’t always who they seem, so many records were destroyed during the war that a young woman turning up in a village with a small child can say she’s a widow who’s husband died in battle – but is she? Equally, that cantankerous old colonel tells a convincingly tedious tale of his years in India, but is he the real deal?
Without the system of recommendation that used to be the glue that held society together – a letter from an aunt to the local vicar, someone’s godfather vouching for a young man’s credentials etc – identity becomes a slippery concept and one that can be used and abused.
The traditional English village that defines the Miss Marple stories is intact, but there’s a council estate on its outskirts and young girls in mini skirts pushing prams jostle the old maids on the pavements. Teddy boys loiter on corners and there’s a pervasive sense of anxiety, of connections being broken and histories lost.
There’s a definite sense of ambivalence in Agatha Christie’s writing when confronting the modern age. She mourns the passing of old structures and systems and the comforting familiarity they offered – swept away with the enthusiasm of zealous youth and replaced with… what exactly? In Christie’s mind, a vacuum is a dangerous thing.
But Miss Read (or Dora Saint as she was in real life) is more pragmatic about change. Her Fairacre and Thrush Green novels also chart the passing of life in quiet rural communities and again the massive social upheavals of the ’60s make themselves felt. The traditions of the country calendar continue – harvest festival, the annual village outing to the seaside, the WI’s summer fete – but advances in agriculture mean the young men of the area no longer work for the farmer, but travel to the nearby nuclear power plant everyday instead.
She is a realist, not overly sentimental about the vanishing past. She points out that the children no longer arrive at the village school with Victorian ailments such as chilblains and mumps – their diets are better, their homes have central heating and indoor plumbing, they are stronger and healthier. Those olde worlde thatched cottages might look picturesque but they too often concealed damp, bad sanitation and serious deprivation and hunger.
My love of these novels feeds into a greater passion for the work of women writers of the twentieth century. Domestic fiction (sneering phrase) doesn’t get much credit but in my opinion if you want a real insight into the soul of a period and its people you’ll read the stuff written by women about everyday life.
It’s human sized. They notice stuff, like the difference between veg in a new suburb (small, pale, withered) compared to what you find in a country village, or how unbelievably difficult it was for a lone teacher to manage a class of 50 or even 60 children. It’s these tiny domestic details – seemingly unimportant ‘wallpaper’ that is far from being trivial, but reveals so much.
Oh and finally, these two writers are also good for showing that spinsterhood need not be regarded as a lonely, frustrating fate worse than death, but rather as a liberating, fulfilling state. So THERE!
I 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.
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.
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.
I line up the Aesop bottles on the windowsill so the light shines through the sturdy brown apothecary glass, casting a comforting glow on the tiles. If it wasn’t for their ‘Resurrection’ handwash sitting by the sink, washing my hands would be a tedious chore. I am a firm believer in everyday luxuries.
So I was more than a little thrilled to be invited on a trip to visit the new Aesop store, out in lovely, leafy Richmond. And when I saw our transportation for the day – a jazzy little forest green 1938 bus which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Miss Marple film – I was speechless* with delight.
Off we went on our merry way on our Venga bus and my travelling companions couldn’t have been a more delightful bunch: there was my old xoJane buddy Olivia Singer, now doing amazing things for the likes of Into The Gloss, and the ridiculously talented make-up artist Emma Day who prettifies people for Miu Miu and Chanel and all the lovely faces you can think of, and dapper interiors editor Talib Chaudry, who tried to nick my bag (not really).
This wondrous pile of glossy green tubes is the new Resolute Hydrating Body Balm which in typical Aesop style doesn’t smell like your average sickly-flowery-soapy moisturiser. Instead essential oils of crushed Coriander Seeds, Black Peppercorns and Patchouli blend to make a scent that’s intriguing, complex and grown-up- quite masculine, very clean and bracing and slightly medicinal, like something you could imagine Brother Cadfael mashing up in his pestle and mortar. Yes at £25 for 120ml it’s not exactly a budget option, but a little goes a long way – this stuff sinks in like sexy, scented butter – and you really do get what you pay for.
The new Richmond store occupies a Georgian town house in the village and has scrubbed floorboards, a lovely old fireplace, panelled walls painted in a soft greenish-grey shade and a massive, cool sink in the middle of the floor. Here I am posing more woodenly than the woodwork in front of one of the windows. The store feels light, bright, fresh and welcoming – as if it’s always been there.
If you’re interested in skincare and/or architecture and aren’t already following Aesop on Instagram (@aesopskincare) do so immediately. Their stores are miniature masterpieces of craftsmanship, designed by interesting architects using beautiful materials to create spaces that manage to be both perfectly appropriate for the setting while also reflecting the Aesop ethos. Hey, maybe the Aesop ethos is fitting in with one’s surroundings, chameleon-like, while still being recognisable. It’s no mean feat and not something many brands pull off.
Oh and a final note: there is something endearing about the way outside every Aesop store you’ll find a couple of bottles of hand cream which are there to be pumped by any passerby. That’s a very cool, generous, clever gesture.
*A lie. I am never speechless.