It’s been an absolute age since I did a bookshop review, which is ironic, since I spend an unconscionable amount of my time in Oxford browsing shelves for books I can’t really afford. My newest haunt is the Albion Beatnik Bookshop which recommends itself by also being a coffee/tea shop alongside a purveyor of well-curated second and firsthand books. The opening times are erratic as hell, but this is the price you pay for the beatnik moniker and the potential late nights. It also isn’t only dedicated to the Beat generation, which I was admittedly put off by, being an unrepentent Kerouac-hater. Holy hipsters! &etc.
I am, and have been for a while, an itty bitty bit in love with Margaret Howell. Tragically, I am not also possessed of boundless riches, so I can’t actually afford any of her clothes. Budget Margaret Howell involves stealing my dad’s old suit trousers, a jigsaw top and the loveliest hand-me-down brogues that ever there were, for a thoroughly Theo Decker-ish autumnal look. A similar effect can be achieved by flipping off the gender binary and raiding the ostensibly masculine shelves of Topman. Be the protagonist you want to see in the world, and all that jazz. – H.
Top – Jigsaw | Shoes and Trousers – Secondhand
Every time I try to explain why and how much I dislike Dickens, I am forced to admit that I… actually quite like Dickens. Begrudgingly. This is particularly in evidence if you get my onto the subject of my favourite book I read this year (I know, I was late to the party), which sees Donna Tartt set out to write a Dickensian Bildungsroman for the twenty-first century. And the most Dickensian thing about it, for me, aren’t the overt references (Pippa, anyone?) or the fabular tone, but how much its hero, Theo, loves people and loves things. The key to Dickens is a grand outpouring of interest and humour and love, even and especially for things that are eccentric and unloveable, and The Goldfinch gets that. It is also most definitely to blame for my current dreams of being an art student by day, art thief by night. Do not trust me. Keep an eye on your paintings. – H.
And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of an academic life, but I always see autumn (more so than even the new year) as a time for fresh starts and reinvention. Hence the haircut. The dream look is Alexa Chung or a 1960s Parisian student looking to wear black and start trouble. The reality is slightly more mundane, but has the rusty light of film cameras, rosemary and woodsmoke and a lot of Ted Hughes* to recommend it. Wishing you a wonderful autumn. – H.
*Look out for my name in the acknowledgements of Jonathan Bate’s Unauthorised Life, by the by. It is my claim to literary fame.
Amongst my friends there is a tradition called ‘eyebrows’, which dictates that if you make any kind of boast and someone yells ‘eyebrows’ then you either have to put your money where your mouth is or offer up one of your eyebrows in payment. Which is why I – having foolishly said that I’d make a ‘better vegetarian’ than my friend (I actually like vegetables) – am now a vegetarian for the month of October. It’s a hard life, but it’s doing wonders for my wallet in my first uni term with actual kitchen access, and this ludicrously easy cauliflower couscous recipe is seeing me through…
- 1 large cauliflower
- a handful of hazelnuts
- lemon juice + zest
- a handful of spinach
- mint to garnish
Break up your cauliflower and remove stems, then blitz in a blender until it has the crumbly consistency of couscous. Do the same with some hazelnuts and stir them into the mixture. Heat some oil in a pan before adding the couscous/hazelnuts, covering and cooking for 8-10 minutes. Half way through add some torn up spinach, mint, lemon juice and zest. You can serve it up with some protein or without, mourning your enforced vegetarianism. – H.
And here we have the last shots of the late British summer, taken while fossil hunting above Lyme and safe in a long tradition of golden evenings, high winds and naively hopeful seaside visits. Though I’m usually the first aboard the autumnal train, I’ve been stretching out the warm weather by experiencing a second spring in the southern hemisphere. But even here in Melbourne I think I’m still loyal, first and foremost, to the mercurial summers of my homeland. They’ve charms and traditions of their own, from jumpers through to poetry, by this distant northern sea.– H.
All secondhand; Dress – Topshop | Wellies – Hunter | Jumper – Cos
I’ve definitely talked before about my great love of things that could potentially make me look like a fisherman. Preferably a mid-twentieth century fisherman easily mistaken for a bohemian poet. It’s an admittedly specific dream. Luckily, it’s brought to life with beautiful cinematography (and a heavy dose of tragically unconsummated sapphic subtext) in the 2008 Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Loves, which is, admittedly, mostly not about Dylan Thomas. This is to the film’s credit; it leaves all the more time for Keira Knightley’s surprisingly convincing Welsh accent and running around in wellies and 40’s tea dresses. Aspirational on all levels – that aren’t to do with the characters’ hideously tangled love lives. – H.
First love’s alright, as far as it goes. Last love – that’s what I’m interested in.
Screencaps from The Edge of Love (2008)
Recently I’ve been reading and rereading a whole host of books about stubborn, independent girls viciously dedicated to the landscape they were raised in, from Naomi Novik’s new novel Uprooted and Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, to Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Each is a love letter to an imagined pastoral idyll with its roots in the real world, whether that be medieval Poland, modern Wiltshire or nineteenth century Devon and Dorset. The latter is where I took these photos – a century and a half late – at Thomas Hardy’s childhood cottage outside Dorchester. City girl though I am, I’ve found myself more than a little in love with the landscapes and narratives of these idylls – each proving slightly less idyllic than Thomas Gray might have us think, but no less worthy of their own stories. I’m also in love with the horses we met on the heath above Puddletown, which reminded me of my own Heath and my own home. – H.
Dress – Toast | Boots – Hunter
As always, my birthday has ushered in the wonderful, welcome, blessed cold of autumn and, as always, I am ecstatic. Though every Autumn/Winter season in fashion seems to bring with it shades of the gothic and witchy, I’m particularly partial to it right now. My life ambition (as my last year at university approaches) is officially hedge witch/woman who lives in the wilderness. There in my cottage I will dry a lot of herbs and read a lot of books and embark on an epic romance with some Tam Lin-esque wild spirit. It’s a calling.
No ons quite understands my autumnal fairy tale predilections as much as Angela Carter – who my father met once and described as ‘actually quite scary’ – and her inimitable The Bloody Chamber. Fairy tales to be read after dark on long evenings, and very much not for children. Here’s my personal soundtrack. – H.
She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.
The Outer (and Inner) Hebrides might be some of the most genuinely wild place I’ve ever been. Mountains rise out of the sea, castles crumble away on the Machair, the mist falls so thick that you might as well be underwater. Between contending with sunburning heat (yep, I’m that white) and torrential downpour I didn’t take as many pictures as I’d have liked, and some of my favourites ended up on my iphone. These of my sister contending with the landscape on Barra (see: mist) and North Uist (peat bog) are pretty indicative. I.e. getting dressed up like Kate Bush and striding bravely off into the wilderness. – H.
Dress – Vintage via Beyond Retro | Boots – Toast