THE CLOBBER

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From the kick flares I just had to have to the reduced Chloe dress I recently bought for one of a thousand weddings I’ve got lined up this year, it’s official: I am addicted to shopping.

I’ve indulged in the Zara and ASOS sales to the point that I now know the DPD driver’s name and I can identify every click and collect store in the local area. Forget cocktails or partying, it’s clothes – particularly the kind bought for a reduced price or found lying at the bottom of a bargain bin – that have become my new addiction. Just the other day I realised that, in one shopping trip, I had bought four pairs of shoes: two boots (the exact same pair but in different colours), a pair of metallic trainers and some flat gold sandals. As I struggled to mount the train home, convincing myself of their individual worth and working out their potential cost per wear, I realised that I had probably gone too far. I was now justifying my addictive splurges and something had to give.

But then I realised.

Although I have definitely noticed an unquestionable increase in my spending lately and have absolutely fallen a little more in love with sifting through rails for hours on end, I’ve come to realise that my love affair with clothes isn’t actually quite as new as I had first thought. In fact, far from being in our honeymoon phase, high waisted skirts, baggy jumpers and black jeans and I are committed.

And I have to say, our relationship is getting better with age.

When I was younger, I would slip on any pair of adult shoes I could lay my tiny hands on. Heel or no heel. A delight to the eyes or even a vulgar wedge: I would claim them as my own and clomp around the house, leaving behind my scuffed navy Start-Rites and relishing in my new and improved grown up footwear.

As I got older, like most teenagers, I experimented with style. I went through a – not quite so Kate Moss in the 90s – grunge look, which can only be described as gross yet distinctly unforgettable. I had a bad fringe. I had a good fringe. I really loved my blue, flowery clogs. I dabbled in vintage and retro, trekking over to Brick Lane each Thursday to spend my pennies on tat that I thought was cool, basically because I had found it on a rail at Rokit. I was actually so obsessed with preloved for a while that when I fell for a pair of red ankles boots in a size 7 (two sizes too big for me and, of course, being vintage, they didn’t have them in any other sizes) I bought them anyway. And, in a typically teenage bout of stubborness, I wore them until the soles wore through, gripping my toes as I walked.

Then came university.

As probably the poorest student in Exeter (which really wasn’t that hard), I wasn’t able to splash out on the clothes that I actually wanted to wear, so I played it safe and (at the very least) tried to blend in. So, baffled by everyone’s desire to wear heels and a dress to clubs that cost no more than a quid to enter, but not wanting to break the mould, I found myself dressing up in sky highs and body con just to impress. During these years, between the ages of 19 and 22, I was at my least confident. I would regularly refuse to go out because I had nothing to wear. I would wail in front of my full length mirror, leaving behind a room that looked as though it had been burgled 5 times over as I sifted through everything I owned and, with a wardrobe bursting to capacity and draws stuffed to the brim, I couldn’t understand why. But it was all because I was buying and collecting clothes that I thought I should wear as opposed to what I wanted to wear.

And then I graduated.

Returning to London is where I regained a sense of self, re-ignited my long-lost city style and remembered that wearing trainers was okay. Not only was I far more comfortable on a Friday night, I was actually more at ease in my own skin because I was decorating my body the way I wanted to. And that’s something I think people forget when critiquing the fashion industry: it might be a billion dollar, size zero heralding power house, but wearing the clothes that you love and finding your own style? So underrated when it comes to positive body image and confidence.

These days, I quite literally wear what I want. The majority of the time you’ll find me in jeans and a t shirt. If it’s cold, I’ll have a fur coat on. I mix old and new. (A little) designer and lots of high street thrown in with some (but not enough) second hand steals. I still nab clothes from mum’s wardrobe when she’s not looking and I continue to own too many pairs of shoes. But for all this dedication to the cause, I’ve realised that whenever people ask me what I’m into, it’s as if I’m on autopilot: writing, reading, music. That’s all I ever say. But, in actual fact, fashion is a huge part of who I am (and probably of who you are) today. Fashion can transcend time, but it can also document it. One item of clothing can take you back to a different era and a pair of heels can remind you of an evening spent with friends you might have otherwise forgotten.

I enjoy shopping, styling, rummaging. I love putting pieces together that make my boyfriend crumple his face so hard I think he might stay like that should the wind change. But I also get a kick out of him being surprised by pieces I’ve pulled together. I love sharing clothes, swapping clothes and talking about clothes. I appreciate form, shape and cuts and I love how finding the perfect fit makes you feel a million bucks (excuse the cliché).

I’m not saying I’m Henry fucking Holland, nor am I saying that you’ll see me enrolling for CSM in September, but I think it’s time I accepted the fact that one of my greatest passions (if you will) is fashion.

It’s an art form, a confidence builder and a chance to express yourself.

And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

THE ANSWER

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They say that bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity.

And they are right. It is about as useful as a pen without ink.

I am as scared as you and I am as helpless as you. I sit on the tube with my eyes flitting frantically from side to side, wondering if that man over there – rummaging around in the bottom of his rucksack – is going to be the death of me. I wonder on a daily basis if my friends are going to make it into work okay. I wonder whether those suits in the city will be safe behind their desks and I dread turning on the news each night to find yet another explosion, massacre or declaration of war.

However fearful or angry I feel however, I refuse to turn to violence in times such as these.

Over the course of my lifetime, I have bore witness to three, horrific acts of terror against the western world: 9/11, 7/7 and now 11/13. I should, as a result, wish to seek revenge with bombs and violence, but I don’t. Of course, I have felt fear – feel fear – on a daily basis; terrorism has become a part of my daily life since I was twelve years old. Of course I am angry, hardened and paranoid as a result of these sporadic attacks, but in order for them to lose, I must stay positive. This is something I find easy to do because the truth is: I am fed up. I am fed up of being scared. Fed up of seeing blood stained streets, guns, torture, murder and fear. I am sick of sitting here, watching history repeating itself, of hearing inhumane requests to ‘close the borders!’ and ‘batten down the hatches!’ I am sick of humans turning this beautiful world that we live in, into a playground for death and destruction, so I simply refuse to indulge in it.

Many of you will accuse me of turning a blind eye to the events of the last few years and lots of you will accuse me of being ignorant, just because I am still smiling. But I’m not ignorant, I am simply just exhausted from fear and the disappointment of using violence to defeat violence that I have no other choice but to keep loving, marching and fighting for peace because if I don’t, what else do I have? There is no front line. There are no soldiers. Just reckless human beings with a desire to kill innocent people. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, except for spread the need for love and project visions of a peaceful world as far and as wide as possible.

I have sourced great comfort from the displays of love and support that have saturated social media over the last few days because it is a sign that we, as a world, are united, resilient and strong. It reminds me that there is more good than evil in the world, no matter what the headlines say. So don’t criticise those who display their affections on social media. We all feel sad, fearful, and most importantly, a little helpless, so it is right to do whatever it is that makes us feel like we are making a difference, because by doing just that, we probably are. So if you wish to drape your Facebook profile picture in a faded Tricolore then, please, do just that. If you want to share Charlie Hebdo’s front page on your Instagram, go ahead. March. Write. Talk. Basically, do whatever you can to stand united, stay positive and promote visions of a peaceful world.

What I am trying to say is that instead of feeling hatred, anger or wishing for revenge, keep the messages of love and unity flowing because it just serves as a reminder that that our gang – of tolerance and peace – is thankfully a lot bigger than theirs, which is built on an unsteady foundation of misery, ignorance and hatred. And I’ve got so much time for that.

So, for the people of Paris and across the world who have lost loved ones, who are in pain or living in fear: I want you to know that London loves you and that we are here for you.

Keep smiling and stay strong. It really is the only answer.

THE CITY

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When people think of their happy place, it’s normally a vision of white sands, blue skies and Caipirinhas on tap, right? Well my happy place – even after 25 years – is right here in this big city, and I will tell you why.

By day, we only notice the grumpy faces, the brisk walks and the litter on the pavement. It’s hard to see past the endless rows of chicken shops and aggy kids on the bus on the way to work. You seem to always need an umbrella, even in springtime, and you pay a fortune for pretty much everything- not to mention your bag getting knicked from right under your nose.

On a good day, however, the city comes alive.

And although I love my shabby home town and was oh-so-territorial when every man and his dog moved here after university (only to realise that they had all moved to Clapham and then I didn’t mind as much), it isn’t all about this little place that I call home; it’s just urban life that I love. And I love it for the things it has taught me.

Paris, for example, is where I learnt that (unfortunately) racism does in fact still exist in the 21st century. I also learnt here that it was okay to wear black everyday. Barcelona was where I, as a twelve year old, discovered the art world. It was also where I learnt – the hard way – to keep my belongings close to my chest in public places. Bucharest is where I learnt how to survive a coach full of people en route to a festival (you stock up on water and more booze and hope for the best). It’s also where I realised that it’s possible to buy beer for a pound. London is where I learnt to fall in love. And the Big Apple? Well, that’s where I learnt how to live.

Going from London to New York felt like flying home, rather than heading into the unknown. I padded those streets like an extra in Home Alone and pretended it was no biggie that I found myself in Brooklyn. Forget jungle exploration or bumming about on a beach, this was my Nirvana. The concrete, the smell of food, even the smell of “trash”, the greyness, the bustle, the paranoia, the anonymity. It felt so comforting and familiar, so akin to something else I’d known before: my first love, London.

They say the world is your Oyster, but I say there’s only one city where there’s an Oyster Card, and it’s right on my doorstep. So if you’re unable to travel the world, then find yourself a place smack bang in the middle of the capital. Yes, it’s expensive, but each borough, district or quarter is like flying to a foreign land and is therefore worth every single penny. With an array of delicacies, cultures and occupants, a tube ride from home can give you a completely different experience from anything you’ve seen before. And I mean that.

This Ode to My Hometown is nothing you haven’t heard spouted from the mouths of Londoners a million times before me, but in the depths of winter, when the Christmas lights have gone and summers spent in Hyde Park seem too far away to even think about, it’s very easy to forget how magical this place really is.

If you’re still not buying into it, head to Kings Cross Station, to platform 9 3/4 and see where THAT train takes you…