As a child I was a penpal collector. There’s something satisfying about the indulgence of telling someone about your life, leaving out the boring details and spinning a delicious web with your pen. Back then, everything was done by snail mail and adding a personal touch to your envelope or letter with drawings and glitter was part of the fun of the process. Whenever I went on holiday, even with my family, I seemed to collect a group of friends who I would correspond with over a year or so, telling them which horses I was in love with or writing about ‘lush’ boys in my class. The exotic joy of sending a letter to Beckinham, Swansea or even Europe was undeniable.
15 years later, my friends are all moving abroad and I’m re-discovering the art of the penpal. I recently lost one of my best friends to the bright lights of Los Angeles. Quaking with jealousy and sadness, I decided to start writing long letters to her, helping her through those first anxious weeks and she, in return helped me with my insecurities and uncertainties about the next few months of my life. Writing long letters helps to put your life in to perspective much more than instant message or even talking on the telephone. Sometimes I look back through my messages from years past and savour the feelings I was feeling at the time. At a point where fun seems to have dried up and the dark side of life is threatening to capsize HMS Rhiannon, these letters inject a little bit of happiness and bittersweet nostalgia.
Letters take time, thought and effort; most of which are in short supply in our busy lives, but once you pick up that pen or start that message it’s difficult to stop. The key is to find someone you are emotionally connected with, who understands your ramblings aren’t self indulgent or neurotic and who is prepared to give back the same amount as you. The truth is, I’m so proud of my friend in LA who has picked up her life and decided to give it a go on the other side of the world that the letters give me a small piece of sunshine as I imagine inhaling the American air or cycling down the promenade on a second hand bicycle.
Someone recently said to me, when thinking about the great unknown ‘it’s the difference between seeing a holiday in a brochure and actually travelling there’. Penpals help you taste the unknown, muse on your own situation or cement a decision that’s been playing on your mind for months. If I had no-one in this world, I would send letters to strangers to find out about their lives and re-assure myself that nobody really knows what this life is all about.
In the end, when we wonder what life is all about, it’s re-assuring to know there is someone out there in the great wide world sharing our insecurities.
Whilst some of us are sitting in our bedrooms thinking about doing something meaningful with our lives, others are busy making hay while the sun shines; my friend Pam is one of them. We all like to think we could turn our hand to something creative; photography, fashion or entrepreneurship, but Pam has poured her talent in to the fantastic project ‘Accessory Freaks‘ and is starting to see the fruits of her labour pay off big time. Pam was recently named Designer of the Month by Seven Halos magazine, and she’s clearly got far to go promoting her ‘Street Chic’ products.
The custom made jewellery on the site is right up my street. Statement necklaces, rings, earrings, buttons and cufflinks are being snapped up from every angle and have garnered quite the celebrity following. Most recently a bespoke ‘OMG’ necklace was worn by up and coming singer Rye Rye in her video for a collaboration with edgy songstress Robyn. Exciting times over at the AF camp.
Hurry over to the site and grab some investment pieces whilst they’re fresh and follow on Twitter for the latest and best accessory news.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about friends, who they are, what they mean and I haven’t come to any real solid conclusions yet. Sometimes people who you imagined you would never drift away from quickly dissipate and are never seen again. Worse, sometimes your friends don’t even realise the self- absorbed way that they have changed and morphed in to people you both used to hate. Yet they continue to speak to you as if nothing has changed, when you can see it as clear as day. You both laugh and talk about ‘things’ but behind your eyes you’re dead and afterwards you take several showers, feeling the uncleanliness of fraudulent affection.
Someone recently told me ‘the more you pursue people, the less they respect you’. I hated that, it goes against everything I’ve done for the past 24 years but I started to realise it probably is true in the case of friendship groups. The sad reality is that everything is a game. We’re all playing a delicate game of friendship Russian roulette and the next statement you make could be the bullet that signifies the end of your relationship.
The friendship cynic has only arisen in the past few months, before that existed the eternal frienship optimist. The feeling was that friendships and relationships take work and if you put that in, you will definitely reap the rewards. This is not true, people are generally shits and there are only a few who transcend workplace, country and situation. These are the people who need to be held on to as the rest of the ship sinks.
I’m working on a project with my old friend Jennie. Jennie studies fashion at Nottingham Trent, dresses models at London Fashion Week and does internships with Mary Portas…Jeals?
As a social experiment, I’m wearing a pair of New Balance trainers as much as possible for three weeks, recording comments and acting as a ‘connector’. I’m not sure how much influence I’m having on people walking around central London but I guess we’ll see in a few months… I’m not much of a trainer wearer, and I thought NB were all about sports runners but I picked out a pair of amazing hi-tops which I am genuinely in love with. I’ll be posting a picture of them soon, let’s just say they have sparked comments of ‘awesome’ and ‘fit’ around the office and flat.
One part of the project is recording every brand I use, every day. I have never really thought about how many brands I interact with on a daily basis and chronicling them has been quite an eye-opener. By the time I’ve reached work in the morning I have already raced through Colgate, Twinings, GHD, not to mention the plethora of cosmetics- I almost felt ashamed- then I remembered I don’t wear half as much make-up as I probably should. Then I’m off again, using Oyster (is that a brand?) my iPod, chatting on my Blackberry, stopping off for breakfast at Pret and starting up my computer. I’ve only been recording this for three days and I’m already wondering…am I stuck in a rut? Perhaps I should start mixing things up a bit? Drink a different brand of tea? Is this really living?
It’s an interesting proposition- do the brands we use begin to define us, slowly and surely? One thing I can say is that every day, something on my list is guaranteed to be from Topshop but I have never considered myself a New Balance girl, so perhaps I’ve introduced a bit of flavour into my wardrobe…
Like men, fashion comes and goes -as my mum loves to tell me often, ‘everything comes back around’. Friendships can last a lifetime and in celebration of this wonderful fact this is the first in a number of features about my fashionable friends. Starting with our very own Little J (Jennie), studying fashion at Nottingham Trent and partying with the breakdance crew every night.
1.) Fashion Forward
The rule here is that it isn’t always wearing the most fancy or expensive outfits, the mixture of basics and standout accessories is always something J is constantly top of the class for. Necklaces, hats and tights always add that something extra to the outfits. It is also the attitude with which it is worn which really shines through.
Jennie is never afraid to mix up vintage pieces with high street or home-made. Self confessed American Apparel obsessive, she also hits up Uniqlo & Topshop for those key pieces to team with those little gems picked up in charity and vintage shops. I love Jennie’s fearless dressing.
3.) Salute Your Idols & Embrace Insanity
From Gaga to Bowie, Jennis takes inspiration from her idols and incorporates hints of their style into her own, creating that ultimately individual look. In turn, our friends take inspiration from her- we call it flattery, not just stealing.
4.) Keeping It Real
No matter what she does, what we love about Jennie’s style is that she always keeps it real, day to night and throughout the week. This is what shows that Jennie & her style are not separate entities, she lives fashion in every sense.
Chemistry is like a good sense of style, either you have it or you don’t. You can dress it up in a million disguises, designer dresses, romantic dinners and whispered sweet nothings but noone can deny that sinking feeling when you realise you don’t spark. Friend chemistry, romantic chemistry, biochemistry- they are almost inherent within us.
Being compulsively honest about onesself and a realist when it comes to relationships with others has its flaws, people find you ‘too quiet’, ‘bitchy eyed’ or downright weird but at least in the morning, whilst you might regret spending £30 in MacDonalds or cringe at the photos of makeup running down your face you can rest easy in the knowledge that you didn’t schmooze around with the confidence of a coke addict, selling your soul to egregious onlookers in the hope of scoring some back-handed compliment. That’s the cool thing about chemistry- sometimes it takes you by surprise, sometimes you discover a delicious electricity is just hiding away, waiting to be uncovered.
True chemistry very rarely manifests itself in a physical form. All too often it burns out as comfort sets in and those flaws begin to dampen the illusion. It is all in the eyes, often platonic but there is always a creeping curiosity veiled beneath dark lids and often lost in the haze of darkened nights and unnaturally lit days.
But it’s all about chemistry.