I wrote this a long while ago for an online 'zine that sadly never came to fruition. Seems pointless to just sit on it, so I thought I would share it here.
So often in my life as Front of House/Sommelier/multiple restaurant job hat wearer, I have heard the words “Sorry, I don’t drink Chardonnay”. A flat, resounding ‘no’ to one of the most widely grown and versatile grapes of the family Vitis Vinifera. I have to wonder how many of you reading this have uttered those same words yourself. I’m betting a few of you.
Having faced so many disparaging comments about the ‘C’, I felt an overwhelming need to firstly, understand why so many people use the initialism ‘ABC’ and second, to ask, with irritation; “if you don’t drink chardonnay, then I suppose you don’t drink this…”?
So many utterly wonderful wines are made with Chardonnay. Do you love Champagne, English sparkling wine, Franciacorta? Yes? Then you’re drinking chardonnay. Probably as much as 70% Chardonnay in some examples. Do you like Chablis and wish more people knew about it? Yes? You’re drinking chardonnay. Do you like Macon-Charnay, or any white wine from Burgundy?? Yes, you’ve guessed it, you’re drinking Chardonnay!
Now, whilst I am quite old (I know I don’t look it), I’m not quite old enough to have been drinking in the 1980s, but I think this is the era from whence the Chardonnay loathing stems. Back in the 80’s it was de rigueur to drink Chardonnay, and lots of it. It was also very fashionable to drink oaked Chardonnay.
Why, oh, why, after everything we’ve learned and re-embraced after the 80s (yes, I am referring to the resurgence of Spitting Image, crimped hair and GBSB bringing back the power suit [albeit briefly]) are we not fully embracing the wonder that is Chardonnay and its charms?
So, I've not been here in a while.
I actually wrote this post on 6th April this year and never posted it. I just don't feel like I have anything to say anymore. I barely post on Instagram now mainly because I just feel like "what's the point?", nobody is looking at my account.
I logged in and looked back at old posts and the last time I actually wrote anything or even made an effort to do anything here was June 2022.
I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to catch you (or myself as I think I'm the only one who actually reads my blog!) up on what has been happening and as some sort of catharsis. I think blogs are great, and I do actually read quite a few (mainly friends, but I do enjoy others) so I wondered if maybe I should jot down more thoughts here...
Things have been "interesting" over the last 12+ months. The restaurant has seen a substantial change in staffing, the credit crisis and the war in the Ukraine along with Brexit (it's STILL causing problems, people) and the ever squeezing from all sides has made running a business like ours not only incredibly difficult, but loss-making. We understand that our guests are also being squeezed so aren't able to spend like they once did; however, without them coming in and spending well, we struggle to make ends meet. As a business owner, intent on taking care of staff and providing the best possible experience to our guests, this is causing sleepless nights, stress and anxiety and more than our fair share of grey hairs (thank goodness for Garnier Good and a bloody good eye cream).
I've had all my hair cut off, partly because I've been thinking about it for a good while and of course Michelle Williams and Jean Seberg are massive inspirations, but it was also down to the fact that I needed a bit more time to sleep; my hair now takes me literally 5 minutes to do each day (even if I have to wash it) as opposed to 25-30 minutes. It could also be the fact that I'm probably having a bit of a midlife crisis (I am 41 now after all). I freaked out when I first had it cut, as it was such a massive change, but now I really dig it. It might not be to everyone's taste, but I think I've had more compliments on this haircut than I have had with any other style. I'm keeping it for a while longer.
Whilst I'm still spending time playing with wine and cocktails, I parked those things a touch and I started training to be an accountant.... Yes, I know. Thing is, I've been doing our books for the last 4 years with no training and we've been paying external accountants to basically check on what I've been doing. My thought process was, 'I f I am trained and fully understand what I'm doing then hopefully we as a business can save a bit of cash in them checking everything I do.' I am keen to still have an independent account to to check on certain things, but they shouldn't need to check on our every day. Quite honestly, I don't think I've ever felt as utterly inept at studying anything as I have done whilst studying my AAT (though, to give myself a little credit, I had a long conversation with someone at AAT and they suggested I should start at level 3 so maybe this is why I feel dumb). Since writing this paragraph in April, I've failed my exams and have decided to leave accountancy behind. I'm still doing our books at the restaurant, but I think that's as far as it will go. Plus, £100 per exam is daylight fucking robbery!
I sadly barely bake these days, but that will come back I'm sure.
We aren't frequenting any of the food festivals this year due to working so hard, but I will miss seeing my Foodies family hugely. Please continue to see and support them.
In March 2023 I walked about 130 miles to raise money for the charity Mind. As you probably all know by now, I suffer with clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I've spent a lot of time on SSRIs though now I'm trying to rely more on natural remedies and a f**k ton of therapy (my therapist, Phil, is literally THE BEST), so I understand how hard things can be for people with mental health problems, so I wanted to bring more attention to those and try to raise some well needed funds for the charity. I'm seriously considering doing some more fundraising for them this year, but we will see how this goes.
I've had more tattoos since the last time I wrote (both hands now heavily tattooed, legs and arms catching up), we've decorated the house, had builders leg it with £10k of our money (that genuinely happened, and despite raising a court claim, we will not see that money again) and had another set of builders demolish the mess that was the front of our house and build us a drive.
Tony & I got engaged in April and are planning our wedding for September, I'm very excited, if not a little nervous and worried that I might become a bridezilla...
And lastly, and I have left this to lastly, because I didn't want to write it, but it is something that has happened and something that I feel needs to be recorded, on 24th March 2023, we lost our beautiful little sausage dog, Butch. He will be missed so very much, and of course Tony & I are utterly bereft and probably always will be. Things like this make you think though and I think I needed to just get this down on "paper".
Will I actually post this? I don't know. You'll comment if I do...
In memory of our hairy baby boy. Butch Cassidy Rodd. 4/11/2015 - 24/3/23. In our hearts always and forever. I love you little squisher.
So I know I'm a little late to the party, especially as someone who is obsessed with her Disney+ subscription, but we finally got around to watching Cruella.
I'm going to be honest, when I heard this was being made and who was playing the titular character, I was really unsure about the whole thing. I feel a little like origin stories are a bit passé now, but I had heard good things about the movie, so thought 'why not?'.
Now, some of my reservations were realised, but honestly, I really enjoyed it. You might be thinking this is a blog post reviewing the movie, and whilst there may be a little of that, this post is about the aesthetics of the film.
The stars of the film are good in their roles, the cinematography is actually rather stunning - gritty yet bold with an almost animated quality - but these things are not what shine in this film. It is the costume and sound departments that have really come into their own. The choice of music for this film is truly genius and features many of my favourite tracks.
Tracks by legendary artists like The Doors, Supertramp, Nina Simone, The Stooges and E.L.O which were perfectly placed in the movie to heighten the action. It made me realise just how much I love edgy fashion and also how fashion and music go hand in hand.
Both fashion and music have been huge parts of my life since I was young, however, due to a variety of reasons (bullying, lack of confidence, etc., etc.) I never really pursued either of them. I used to play the guitar and started to learn the ukulele, got grade 2 in flute and sang in various choirs. I was in a number of bands (still technically am) and my love of music has been with me a long time. Thing is, these days, I end up watching more TV / Movies than I do listen to music and part of me feels that this is because I am not good enough for music anymore.
I quickly realised that because designer apparel was completely out of my reach, and that I was a dreadful artist, I stopped learning and designing. I wanted to learn to make clothes, but didn't really have the patience (I have started to learn in more recent years and have made a few dresses and tops, but I've not practiced in a while). I realise that I watch so many shows and movies that centre around fashion that that desire is still there somewhat (GBSB, Devil Wears Prada, Next in Fashion, Project Runway, Making the Cut and now, Cruella!).
Watching Cruella brought home to me how fantastic the 60s, 70s and 80s were both for the fashion and music industries. So many originals came out of these decades - those trying to shun the past and focus on the future, individuals finally starting to be allowed to be who they were (Artie in Cruella is a great example of how these decades finally started to allow the LGBTQ+ communities to come forward and be seen and heard). My style more recently has edged towards a more 70s aesthetic, and I realise that this is where a lot of my music love is too.
What I loved about this movie was the influences from designers like Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Alexander McQueen, Halston, and even going back to some of the classic looks from the 40s and 50s with the Dior new look and some of the wonderful androgyny of Coco Chanel (Chanel is even mention in the movie). I have to take my hat off to Jenny Beavan who has really created an utter masterpiece with the entire collection she created for this film.
The make up too (props to Nadia Stacey) was so perfectly done; giving edge for Estella/Cruella and that perfectly put together make up for The Baroness.
Whilst the storyline may have been somewhat predictable, and those reservations I held with casting still sort of remain, I will watch this film probably on repeat for the foreseeable future. I have to thank it for giving me back something I thought I had lost, a passion for fashion.
Now, where's my sewing machine...
This is an invitation to my fantasy dinner party that I've wanted to extend since the inception of this series of blogs, but one which I kept putting off writing due to the emotions I was sure it would incite.
Like many folks my age, my first experience of Bowie - born David Robert Jones on 8th January 1947 - was in December 1989. I was at my paternal Grandparents house, and I saw an advert for a movie that was due to air on BBC One Christmas Eve. It looked magical and exciting and I remember telling my Dad and Grandad about what I had seen. Dad made sure to set up the VHS on Christmas Eve for me so we could record it. The movie in question? Labyrinth.
Not Bowie's first foray into acting, in fact he acted in many films and I lost my mind when he popped up as Nicola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), but Labyrinth is the one that introduced me to him; his impeccable song writing, his Anthony Newley inspired way of singing, and his strange and captivating beauty.
From that Christmas Eve, Labyrinth became and has remained one of my favourite films of all time and David Bowie was cemented as one of the true loves of my life.
Such is this love, that the day he died - 10th January 2016 - I received text messages from both my parents and my sister checking I was OK. A month later, I memorialised him with a tattoo on my ribs. My tattoo artist, Lucile, spent so long on this piece; I had asked for a quote to accompany the iconic Ziggy flash, and she researched into Bowie's handwriting and made it look as though he had written it on me himself. He's always close to my heart now.
David started his music career in the early 1960's calling himself Davy (or Davie) Jones. He didn't really feel satisfied with this as his stage name, and he was concerned by the confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees (or Sabrina the Teenage Witch if you watched this in the 1990's), so he changed his name. There has, and will probably always be, some contention over how his surname is pronounced (is it Bow [like something you tie with a lace or ribbon]-ee, Bow [like something you do in front of a Royal]-ee or is it Boo-ee!?), but one thing that isn't in contention is where he found the name. A Bowie is type of fighting knife, designed in Arkansas by James Bowie in 1830. His surname was pronounced Boo-ee, so this is what the knife is called and this is really how David's surname should be said, but even he stated in 1991 he wasn't sure how to pronounce it!
It seems that it has been agreed that it is pronounced Boh-ee (rhyming with Joey or doughy), and die hard fans will cut you up with a Bowie if you get it wrong...
In 1969, Bowie released 'Space Oddity', and in 1972 he introduced us to the first and possibly the most famous of his alter-egos, 'Ziggy Stardust'. Ziggy "died" in 1973; an ending that was foretold in the songs written & released during that year.
Bowie gave us many other alter-egos in his time on this earth; Major Tom, The Thin White Duke and his version of Pierrot the clown. All characters he inhabited fully, but all were aspects of the real David. Each incarnation of Bowie gave us more and more classic songs and insights into Bowie's political, ethical and spiritual beliefs.
Due to the era in which I first discovered Bowie, the first songs I became acquainted with are not always thought of as some of his best, but they will always be the ones closest to my heart. Songs like China Girl (co written with Iggy Pop in 1977 and originally released by him), Under Pressure with Queen (I adore Queen & Freddie Mercury, but that's a story for another time), Ashes to Ashes (a revisit from Major Tom), Let's Dance (the opening bars of which give me so much joy) & Fashion are those that for me are synonymous with my monumental musical discovery. I missed out on the Tin Machine years, and didn't get massively into what he released in between that and the final 2 albums. As is typical of me, and I suppose everyone who grows up, my musical tastes changed. I was bullied a lot for something of the things I was into, so, as is also typical for me, I moved towards what everyone else was listening to at the time (a reminder here - you do you!). Some of these genres and bands I still love today, much of it I question! However, a remix of the 1984 "Loving the Alien" by The Scumfrog released in 2002 reminded me of the deep love I had for Bowie and I am so glad it did.
Speeding ahead a few more years to the release of The Next Day (2013). I remember seeing the video to the song "Where are We Now?" and having this really weird emotional response to it. I loved the re-use of the 'Heroes' album cover for this album.
This is where this blog starts to get more difficult. We start drawing to a close and I have what my friend Charlotte calls 'Bowie melancholy'.
In 2016, on Bowie's 69th birthday, the album Blackstar was released. An album largely recorded in secret and was described by Tony Visconti (longtime friend and co-producer) as David's parting gift to his fans. I remember downloading this album on the train on my way home from work the day is was released, caring not a jot that I was using up all my data! Seeing the video for Lazarus you realised how ill he was, yet, that he was suffering with liver cancer wasn't shared with the public until after his death. Two days after Blackstar's release.
In case you're wondering, I am fighting back tears at this point.
OK, I've pulled myself together now.
I've talked about the contention over the pronunciation of his name, but I've not talked about his eyes. There is a general consensus that David suffered with heterochromia (the medical name for having two different coloured irises), however, this wasn't the case. Following a fight over a girl when he was 15, David was punched in the eye causing what is medically known as anisocoria - the permanent change of the pupil; for David, even after multiple eye surgeries, one of his pupils would forever remain dilated. Interestingly, many years later I was talking about Bowie with an old boss of mine, who casually mentioned he knew the girl that Bowie and his friend George were fighting over! The six degrees of separation between him and I shrank massively that day, and I very nearly lost my shit in the middle of our office!
I've given a bit of a potted history of Bowie, and hopefully I've not got any of my 'facts' wrong, but apart from basically swooning, I've not really mentioned why I would invite him for dinner.
I would love to get him to sing and ask what it was about Anthony Newley (for those of you who don't know, Anthony Newley was an actor, singer & songwriter famous in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Famous for co-writing the score to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and, incidentally, married Joan Collins in 1963. They divorced 7 years later.) that made him imitate his voice and create this signature sound. I would love to talk to him about his son Duncan (aka Zowie Bowie) who is one of my favourite film directors (hello, Moon anyone!?) and his daughter Lexi. I would like to hear him speak about his wife, Iman. You could see how much they loved each other. I would want to ask him what prompted him to write the musical, Lazarus; what happened to his faith - he famously said the Lord's Prayer on stage at the Freddie Mercury memorial concert, but then later described himself as an atheist - and whether he was still as spiritual as he used to be (he wanted to become a Buddhist monk, but was told "you don't want to be a Buddhist, you need to follow music"). I would like to discuss with him if he felt that Ziggy's androgynous bisexual nature has helped in assisting those who are struggling with their sexuality and / or gender identity? I personally feel like Bowie made it so OK to be who you are regardless of your sexuality or how you identify or how you dress.
I won't lie, this blog has been a really hard one for me to write. Throughout I am reminded of the fact I never got to see him perform live and that I never will, reminded that there will be no more music from him, reminded too that I am no longer that 7-year old with that sense of excitement and awe, but thankful that I was able to experience that movie at that time in my formative years.
I really wanted to express here how deep my love of Bowie is, but it was also important that I write something that was interesting and flowing. I am not sure I've achieved any of those things here; it feels more staccato and less legato than I had hoped.
I would love to have David Bowie over for dinner, for all the reasons I mention above, because I love him, and simply to thank him for being Jareth.
"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me."
A long time ago, I started a blog series around having a fantasy dinner party and who I would invite (alive or dead or imaginary!). It's been a while since I posted, but it was such a fun thing to write about so I thought I would resurrect it and start inviting some more people over for dinner. A nice thing to do considering we've not been able to have anyone over for dinner for over a year due to COVID-19!
You can see who the first 10 guests are by visiting the Fantasy Dinner Party posts here.
I would love to hear who you would invite over for dinner - let me know in the comments!