Let’s take a break from The Politics and talk about the good stuff, the life fuel – food, books and music.
Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty
‘Free Fallin” was the first song I ever taught myself on guitar. It’s ludicrously easy (capo on the third fret and the chord pattern D-G-G-D-A) but aged 12, I was so proud of myself for figuring it out. My uncle had started playing the album to me, having introduced me to Bruce Springsteen and Sheryl Crow, among others, and I remember having that feeling you get when you first discover music that will eventually take root in your very bones: “how has this not revealed itself to me already?”
Recently I returned to it – it’s a great summer album; something about it is perfect for warm, breezy, blue-sky days. There’s bittersweet joy in ‘Free Fallin”, the album’s opener, and then, in ‘I Won’t Back Down’, the mood switches to swaggering defiance – it’s an anthem for every ‘maverick cop’ / ‘loner genius’ character ever. ‘A Face In The Crowd’ aches with wistfulness, and ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ revisits the liberated feel of the first two tracks and closes with a cracking guitar solo. Fever ends with ‘Zombie Zoo’, which perplexed critics as it’s at complete odds with the rest of the record, but I love it – the lyrics are nothing to write home about but it’s got a gloriously fun, silly, dance-around-your-kitchen vibe. And what’s wrong with that?
I am not one for career guides or self-help books. Careers are so individual – and how your own will pan out depends on a combination of sheer dumb luck, your personal circumstances, and making your own mistakes and decisions – that I’m not convinced taking a book’s worth of advice is helpful. And self-help books are largely – to use the technical term – self-indugent wank. Weird in a World That’s Not is incredibly refreshing – Romolini’s tone is so friendly but no-bullshit that I absolutely stormed through this.
I don’t really consider myself a fuck-up or an abject failure, but I have experienced all-consuming moments of “I don’t fit in here” in previous workplaces, and have sometimes wondered if I’m doomed to feel like that in every role I ever occupy. A previous line manager once paid me the best compliment I’ve ever received: “I see you as a bit of an original. You don’t seem to follow the crowd”, which was lovely of her, and a huge exaggeration, but it didn’t do much to ease the sense of professional loneliness I was facing on a daily basis. (I might revisit this subject at a later date, actually.) Romolini’s book is a practical guide for those of us who often feel like the office oddball, and gives a much-needed alternative template for what a “successful” woman looks like. For too long, the main female model for career success has been all power-suits and killer heels, a glossy, lacquered glamazon – this book tells the jeans-loving, reticent, creative types that they can have a crack at the whip too.
The Circle, Dave Eggers
I mentioned this book a few weeks ago but am still recommending it to everyone I meet. I blitzed through it in the space of one hot, sunny weekend about a month ago, and got sunburned from sitting, transfixed by it, in our little garden. Like all the best stories, it takes you into its world and doesn’t let you leave. Trouble is, the world of The Circle isn’t too far from our own – you’ll finish it and find yourself considering a life lived completely offline. Good luck with that.
Hot Little Hands, Abigail Ulman
Another book, another short story collection. These are exquisitely written, and all centre around girls and young women. Ulman captures the awkwardness and uncertainty of late girlhood and young womanhood perfectly. The story about the Russian gymnasts broke my heart – the clues to what’s really going on are there, planted skilfully by Ulman, but I missed them – and the final story, about a girl caught up in US immigration restrictions, had me pinned to my seat in horror.
My new sweatshirt
Lisa Macario started embroidering slogans onto t-shirts and sweatshirts around the time of the Women’s March – terms that were being thrown at anyone who confessed to being educated, liberal and vaguely left-wing, like “metropolitan liberal elite” and “feminist killjoy”. The word started to spread, and as well as her own phrases, she started doing custom ones too.
When Piers Morgan complained on Twitter that he got the most grief from “Guardian-reading feminists”, it was a done deal – I ordered mine. It came with a sweet little note (see above) and the first person to compliment me on it – when I was walking through Hove, where else? – was a man. At one of the recent London protests, a photographer stopped me and asked if she could take a picture. The bad news is, demand for Macario’s work has gone mad, so she’s not currently taking any orders, but do keep an eye on her website and Instagram profile. Wear your heart on your sleeve and your politics on your chest.
I’ve wanted to go to Market for ages – every time I walk past its green tiled front, I stop to gaze longingly at the menu – so when Work Best Mate came down to visit last weekend, I had the perfect excuse to book a table. Market specialises in Anglo-Spanish small plates, and serves local meats and cheeses, and a range of Sussex and European wines. In short: it was one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. Drummer Boy tagged along, which meant that we were able to try a variety of dishes without feeling greedy.
Pork belly came with rich, salty chorizo, cheese croquetas oozed pleasingly, a dish of broccoli came topped with crispy kale and pumpkins seeds and elevated a plate of green veg to something utterly mouth-watering. Sitting at the bar, we had a front-row view of the cooking action, and by talking a bit too loudly about what the chef was doing, accidentally scored a free dish of yellowfin tuna with watermelon. (We weren’t angling for free food, honest. Ha, angling, fish, look at that.) As if that wasn’t enough, pudding was an absolute show-stopper: a plate of moussy chocolate with crunchy bits and truffles and salted caramel. “It’s real girl food, isn’t it?” said our waitress, apparently unaware of how keenly Drummer Boy was scraping the dish with his spoon for every last smear of chocolatey goodness. Dinner for three, including pudding and a carafe of red wine that yielded three hefty glasses, came to £77. Given the quality, service and atmosphere – and the way all three of us were still thinking about the food the following morning – we thought it was incredibly reasonable. This little piggy can’t wait to return to Market.