It's probably very clichéd to say so, but I truly cannot believe that it's nearly christmas! As excited as I am, what with it being not only the season to be jolly, but my favourite holiday of all time, I still haven't really got around to unpacking my winter wardrobe and hiding away all my summer frocks, yet suddenly Santa's about to drop down my chimney.
The fact I do not have a chimney, living in a flat and all that jazz, is far beside the point, because regular readers will know I am a quite a bit of a party girl and well, what better way to get me into the swing of things but a seasonal soirée or five? Last December there was not a single night when either Lolita or I were plan-less with everybody throwing celebrations left, right and centre. I think we hit four on the 23rd alone.
To get a true feel of winter, i.e., freezing ourselves silly, we grabbed hold of our dear friend Allie by both hands and dragged her, not unwillingly, mind, up to Madrid, the ice capital of the universe (okay, there are, obviously, colder places in the World. The North Pole for one, springs to mind, but having been here so long my blood is now Spanish, alright?! And I am a naturally freezing person. My winters are permanent chilblains and goose pimples. And I do like to exaggerate, too.) It was my last week of holidays for 2008 and we decided to do something completely spontaneous. We found some crazily cheap flights on the internet (it took Lolita a fair while to click on to just why Spanair flights might be so cheap at the moment, poor love, cue panic at the airport before boarding) and flew to the big City to crash at our good friend G's loft for a few days and be nerdy tourists.
Lolita and I are huge Madrid lovers, we could stroll up and down the Gran Vía and up to Chueca all our lives. Lolita also has a new love IN Madrid, so she was more than eager to get up there to see him. We arrived on a Tuesday morning, found our way to our G's just fine, and sat on a bench while we waited for him to get home. Which was when we realised just how different temperatures were to how mild it is here, and so proceeded to scramble about in our suitcases for woolly berets, fur hats, scarves and gloves right in the middle of the street. Once decked out, we looked like we were about to trek up Everest, and got the complete giggles just looking at each other. We were already a little hysterical, having been completely ridiculous on the flight, surrounded by Tuesday-morning-meeting businessmen wishing for a quiet journey to the City. Well, we made sure that didn't happen! Allie is an out-of-work actress, desperate for a chance to vent her pent-up energy and imagination, and spent the entire flight announcing loudly to everybody that she was late for her reading with Almodovar, asking me how shooting in Africa went with the Jolie-Pitts and making sure Lolita had her schedule worked out for the next month, what with all the press conferences, signings and film launches coming up.
G was an hour late to meet us, which proved to be a precedent for the rest of the trip, but that's a whole other story, and by that time we had calmed right down and were just plain cold. We were realising winter was here, and the fact there was some guys hanging Christmas lights in G's road got us a bit flustered, but G had the remedy - nice hot coffee, dumping the suitcases at his, and hitting the shops! Blanco stock, Lefties (Inditex outlet) and H&M accessories were the first stops for us three tightwads on our pressie shopping spree, but I can assure all my nearest and dearest who are reading this and thinking oh dear god she's bought us some cheap old crap, that I shall be Mother Christmas this year, as I have come home laden with fantastic goodies all round. Could not help treating myself either, naturally, namely some awesome sunglasses- yes, still shades-obsessed, even after Summer - and some beautiful silver earrings in the shape of swallows.
Simultaneously, my dearest mother, who also lives in VLC, was in good ol' Blighty visiting la familia Darling, but also squeezing in some good old retail therapy. She has the best taste in clothes, and has never bought me an item that hasn't then become a staple in my wardrobe. She is a shopping genius, pulling things off racks that I never would have even taken a second glance at. And this time was no different. A particular star buy in her purchases for yours truly was an incredible navy satin dress with a bandaged corset top covered in silver jewels and a super-short ra-ra skirt. Think Herve Léger on steroids and LSD. I am already imagining the ways I can dress it up and down throughout the upcoming party season of all seasons: over skinny jeans and a white tshirt with sparkly flats for dinner dates, with lacy tights (so hot right now) and killer platform studded sandles (don't have these yet, but am trawling eBay every day for some bargain Gucci knockoffs) and a cropped tuxedo jacket for a night on the tiles with friends, and with latex leggings, hair in a sloppy bun and hundreds of silver bangles for a cocktail party.
Ooh I think I'm getting in the spirit of things just writing about it.
New Year's Resolutions
Vote me Most Unlikely to Succeed if you must, but here are a few of mine for '09:
· Give Up Smoking. Obviously. And even though I love it...
· Become More Organised. Need whole new Ikea-type arrangement for my desk and actually whole bedroom - lots of drawers, pretty boxes, labels, filing system, and Personal Assistant to run it all. Bring on Ikea in Sedaví!
· Make More of My Own Clothes. This might be the one I keep, actually, as I have already put one cute checkered dress together and indeed then worn it out on the street without it falling apart as I walked. Have dug out marvellous sewing machine and original Liberty print fabrics from my grandmother from a chest full of beautiful samples of textiles, beads, buttons and more. Will have to invest in some new material though or I shall spend 2009 looking like a patchwork quilt. You never know, I may just start a new fashion.
The month of October has officially been my busiest month of the year so far. With parties, concerts, dinners, lunches, birthdays and new friendships popping up all over the show, there has not been a minute to stop and think. The thisisvalencia.com Black and White Party was an absolute must on the social calendar, and caused great excitement in the Lolita Devine/Anita Darling household as we dug deep into the depths of our practically communal wardrobes during a Martini fuelled evening in with our girlfriends in search of the most incredible monochrome outfits imaginable. Lolita spend several hours under the heat of a table lamp sewing thousands of pearls onto a plain black tank top and I found a long-forgotton, ridiculously low-cut dress I once wore to a wedding with a ra-ra skirt and crazy flowers all over. Once teamed with a polka dot Eley Kishimoto blazer and super high black and white patent brogues I was ready to hit the floor. The girls and boys in charge were ecstatic to see all the punters turn up dressed accordingly to theme and brand new house music straight from London blasted out of the speakers keeping the party going well into the early hours. The free jelly shots on offer for those in colour-free get-up were deliciously addictive, but literally rather sticky to get out of the glass, and needed much poking avec straws. Much fun and we cannot wait for the next shindig, Saturday 7th November at the ultra chic 39º27N in the port, on a jetty looking across the Malvarossa just behind the Dockas building. The theme this time around is hats and masks, and the girls and I are already hard a working with superglue, sequins, beads and feathers trying to realise our Marie Antoinette Masquerade Ball dreams (referencing Sofia Coppola's incarnation, of course), and trying to not end up with something that looks like a preschooler made it for carnival. We shall hit Las Animas Puerto straight after in all our 18th Century regalia (probably paired with ultra skinny jeans and blazers, hardly very bourgeois, but that is how we roll) for a boogie afterwards, taking the party well into the night. If the Blue Peter style DIY sessions turn out to be a disaster, I have seen a bargainous bowler hat in Casa Picó, the Valencian fancy dress emporium, which is actually one of my favourite shops in the city. Lolita laughs at me and says my obsession with fancy dress is unhealthy and that I really should have grown out of it by this stage in my life, tut tut, etc., but however hard I try I am still endlessly thrilled at the sight of feather boas, angel wings, wigs and plastic jewellery. So a bowler hat it most likely will be, in the nature of Keira Knightley and Peaches Geldof, my current style icons.
On a whim, the girls from work and I decided to try our hands at sushi, and got together of an evening at my flat to see how easy it was. Which it wasn't. We ended up blackening three of my pots and pans in an attempt to make perfect sushi rice, completely misread the instructions for the tempura vegetable mix - err, what? It's SUPPOSED to be lumpy? - and ate dinner at 1.30 a.m., after Alfie (our cheeky kitten) got up on the table and ran away with several California rolls. The fact that we finally got together outside the office was worth it though, and we now know to start the process at 6 p.m. rather than half an hour before we plan on eating. Stumbling into the kitchen for breakfast the morning after I was repulsed as clumps of rice stuck to my wooly socks and the mystery of the avocado stuck all over the cooker hood remains unsolved - never have we made such a mess cooking a single meal for five people!
The next night we braved the ghastly weather, that awful rain that falls in a light mist and manages to get right under every layer of clothing despite one's best attempts with an umbrella, and headed over to the Plaza de Toros for a Back to University concert. None of us are actually students, and thought we might feel a little out of place, but the average age was probably about 50 as the vintage rocker group Tequila was set to play later on in the evening. We, on the other hand, were there for La Casa Azul, electronic music with a sugar overdose, and Orxata Soundsystem, a crazy mix of Drum'n'Bass, rap, and folk music - in Valenciano. We loved them, and even though we were too fussy and too worried about our suede booties to get down in the crowd with the hardcore fans, we found a spot in the first row up in the seating areas to dance our little feet off, getting completely drenched in the process. At midnight we set off, before Tequila started doing their thing -it was a school night, and we had to get to work in the morning!
Oh, work. Work has been hectic, a nightmare! All this "Crisis" talk has everybody's knickers in a complete and utter twist and observing things from inside The Bank has not been an all too pleasant experience. The big bosses seem to spend all day running from desk to desk - my colleague J and I have been in stitches imagining that their bonuses are calculated based on how fast they run and how many metres they cover per month. Our boss is definitely up there in the top three, she is going to wear her heels down soon if she's not careful. It's cruel I know, but we are waiting for one of them to slip over on a wet floor. It's only a matter of time! I wonder if they get penalised for accidents?
Piece of this!
· My new favourite artist, Lil Jackie - put Cryin' for the Queen on and I am ready to party, pronto.
· Italians. I have always had a bit of a thing for the stallions, and some friends brought two round to the flat the other day that were just the epitome of the Italian stereotype. Add a shaved head and a cheeky grin into the mix and I am all yours.
Diss on that!
· The rain. I am starting to feel responsible for the terrible weather. Were all my pleas for drops in the temperatures and silly here-comes-the-cold skips and prances around my bedroom interpreted as rain dances by mother nature? That's enough now, thanks. Not supposed to have monsoons in Valencia.
Well it's finally starting to cool down, though thankfully things stayed rather "scorchio"-hot for Lolita's big birthday bash I spent a week off the day job at The Bank planning. I was, unusually for me, as genetically programmed as I am to loathe the heat, delighted Summer decided to stick around one more weekend otherwise my plans for a champagne reception on the roof terrace, then dinner and all-night dancing under the stars would have been completely dashed, as all of us residents in VLC know full well that there is no Autumn here, only a week or two of sporadic torrential rain showers that mark the transition from Summer into Winter.
The party was a rip-roaring success, we managed to keep it a secret (just - many careless slips of the tongue caused one or two friends severe kicks in the shins under dinner tables) that not only was Lolita's BFF from the UK hopping over but also two of her lovely aunts and her hunky cousin, who proved to be a total hit with all the ladies present. Despite the fact that our lift to dinner got a flat battery and we were an hour late to dinner, deemed too late to be fashionable by all 40 attendees, judging by the fit-for-a-Colgate-ad ear-to-ear grin on L.'s face in all of the photos, I would say she had a terrific time.
In other, totally unrelated news, Lolita and I's new flatmates have finally arrived on the scene! Our two adorable kittens, named Alfie and Annie Rose after the Shirley Hughes books we both thoroughly enjoyed and fondly remember reading and re-reading hundreds of times as children. Think Alfie has cat ADD, he is scrambling up and down my trouser leg at this very moment, and Annie Rose we just want to scoop up and squeeze at every minute of the day, Alfie's quieter, teensy tiny little sister is a curious little angel sitting on my desk and watching placidly as I type away. They inexplicably smell divinely of chocolate yoghourt, too. Yum. And here I am rambling on about my cats, which I imagine is step one towards my girlfriends' prediction for my desperate future - I am going to become the Old Cat Lady, an eccentric old spinster surrounded by cats, living on my own in a cat-themed decorated bed-sit (think cat trinkets, cat pictures, shrines to my other dead cats) and dressed entirely in purple from head to toe. Beret and strings of lilac beads included.
I sincerely hope things do not get to that stage, and I am doing all in my power to prevent it happening, though I am beginning to feel like my fate as a singleton has been sealed. I recently broke ties with a long-term on-off dangerous, lothario type fling man. It was time to put an end to time wasting and have a little fun and games. I believe I might have a blind date to go on in the next few weeks too, Mr. M thinks he has found my ideal man at his work in the form of a tall, thin, skinny jean clad, shaven headed Adonis. (Well, I made up the Adonis bit, but one must always be positiva, innit?) He sounds just my type anyway, and can hopefully turn me away from the colour purple and my furry, chocolatey companions, leading me off into a golden sunset. If only for a weekend.
Unfortunately, though, I don't actually have any time to think about my love life right now. Helping the Gooru out with research for the book deal of the century has proven more strenuous than we expected and he is waaay off deadline, needing my every spare minute and anyone else's who is free to help! His sympathetic editor, however, has saved us from nervous breakdowns and let us breathe a sigh of relief with a few extra days legroom. I have also been struck down by the flu - as is tradition this time of year for me - and so has Lolita; sometimes living and working together does have its down side. According to my friend SC, who has returned to London after a fabulous summer over here, (boo hoo miss him already) it is from too much partying all season - though personally I think its from the stress of planning Lolita's birthday. All the secrets, the private phone calls, the running around like a lunatic have finally taken their toll.
Any hoos, arriving home the other day with Lolita, we came across a scene reminiscent of a tacky 1980s movie set in the Bronx or some other 'hood - the electricity had gone in our entire area and all our neighbours right down the length of the street were leaning over their balconies, sitting on the doorsteps, handing out candles and chatting loudly over each other as only the Spanish do. It was announced, or rather belted out from balcony to balcony and window to window, that we would probably not get the lights back on for another four hours. Somebody had phoned the Electricity Co. only to be informed that there were no problems in our area, while one of their very own technicians was simultaneously desperately trying to fix the Transformer. A little communication between ranks here, please, people! At last, there was light, welcomed by cheers al the way down the road, although we were told to expect problems for at least another four days until they could arrange for a new transformer to be fitted. What a disaster.
To add insult to injury, our (electric, of course) boiler then broke down - its been sporadic, candlelit, cold showers all weekend as we were plunged in and out of darkness. And its so hard to snuggle down and watch a movie, all one fancies doing with the flu, when there's no electricity! The only plus point is that Lolita is ill too to keep me company, though of course, if she wasn't around I would always have Alfie, Annie Rose and my cosy purple beret.
Piece of this!
· Following the stars and celebs in and out of Bryant Park during New York Fashion Week during September and the glossies' reports in their October editions have provided divine fashion inspiration for the Autumn up ahead.
· My gorgeous Yaya charcoal grey, fine knit waistcoat/wrap/shawl from Spabrus, the jewellery and clothes shop. I am officially in love, this piece of winter clothing was made with me in mind. Snuggly and so elegant at the same time; loose, wrapped around my shoulders, belted over a dress - it looks amazing however I wear it. Not being big-headed or anything.
· Is it really uncool and immature for me to admit just how obsessed I am with Rihanna's new song, Disturbia? Too sexy for words, though the video is disconcertingly bizarre. Nightmare material, even.
Diss on that!
· My Boss. Just had to say it. Subjective, contradictory, hypocritical... One of my colleagues at work and I have had endless fun inventing stories about her and the new intern on our fag breaks. We have decided the intern is her new boyfriend, the swimming pool maintenance guy from her hotel on holiday in Barbados, who runs Mafia-type operations on the side and who she brought over to keep an eye on and look after. Oh, and he sleeps in her garage because her parents don't approve. (Yes, My Boss still lives with her parents. Enough said.)
It's September again, time to buy pencils and books and pens and paper and get back in the mood to go back to school. Or not, if as in my case, you have been working all summer through anyway, but most people are getting ready for things to get back to normal now - local shops going back to regular opening hours will be greatly appreciated!
Despite the fact that summer came pretty late this year, I am already desperate for it to vamoose, and leave me to don my boots, tights, scarves and jumpers in peace. I don't know if it's because I didn't grow up here, so I don't have the summer dressing mentality already instilled in my very being, but I have just always been a layers girl, I am extremely uncomfortable in only a vest top and shorts or skirt. In Winter my uniform is skinny jeans, tank top, T shirt, jumper, cardie, wrap, and jacket - if things start to heat up I can remove a layer at a time and still look chic, yet in Summer, in just a single skimpy layer, what on earth am I supposed to do when I inevitably get hot? Strip down to my underwear? Go bare-naked? We don't exactly have a dress code at work but I really think I would be pushing things if I sat typing at my computer in bra and knickers, even if they were Agent Provocateur and very pretty to look at.
The one thing I do love about the super sweltering season is that I can wear sunglasses all the time without looking like a wannabe. I am a total eyewear junkie, I have about ten pairs, and they are all absolutely huge. No exception - in this case, size does matter I'm afraid. From the white futuristic pair I found in Copenhagen (probably men's as they slip off. All the time) to the fashionista staple, the obvious 70s style oversized sunnies I have in black, tortoiseshell and my favourites in neon yellow and green (the biggest, most over-designed pair I own, only to be worn with a seriously tan face and at a music festival) it is a rare thing to see me without them. But I am not trying to look like I am hiding from the paparazzi, thought they do obviously help what with me being such an A-lister about town, ha!, I genuinely wear them to protect my poor little eyes. As if sitting in front of a computer screen all day wasn't enough, my eyes are a very light green, and I find the sun makes me squint, a lot, and I am not going to look like a raisin from all the wrinkling up of forehead and ojos when I get to 40. It's SPF30 cream and the maxi-sunnies all the way.
And decked in my shades I headed up to Benicassim once again for my favourite gig of the year, FIB. My style idol, Roisin Murphy, the ultra fresh Gnarls Barkley and the trendy French hipster Yelle were all more than enough fashion inspiration for at least up to next summer. We danced ourselves silly to Mika, got wet in the car wash of love, and ate kebabs at four o'clock in the morning to get our energy levels back up for some shape-throwing to the more hard-core DJs. And all in three days!
After an incredibly hectic summer, where most of my friends were chilling on various beaches down the coast and across Europe and I was stuck in the office going crazy with double the workload, I am now really looking forward to getting back into the routine. To be able to get a bus to work again will be amazing - I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on taxis over the last few weeks as most of the bus routes are either dramatically reduced or even suspended for Summer. I am convinced that more people than ever have stayed in the city this year, yet public transport has been down to a bare minimum! So, I have decided to save for a motorbike - easy to park, so chic and would get me anywhere I need within Valencia in minutes. Having a car and living in El Carmen without a garage space are two utterly incompatible concepts, but I reckon I could rock up on a Vespa and park it just about anywhere. I am even mentally fantasising about what helmet I would get - would it match the upholstery on the bike? What if it clashed with my outfit? Would I need more than one? Ever since I saw Jude Law's Alfie I have been dying to zip around on two wheels myself. And we all know I would be a lot safer than on my bicycle - having storage space for my bag and lunch would prevent a repeat performance of February's whole food-in-spokes-me-over-handlebars debacle. No more black eyes for me thank you very much!
Talking of new accessories and black eyes, Lolita and I have decided to adopt some kittens. They are white with superhero mask black marks around their eyes and the girl who works in the bar downstairs is looking after them for us at the moment but we just can't wait to get them home and spoil them silly. We are even thinking about getting leads and taking them for walks but we can't decide whether that would be cruel or not, considering all the stray cats that live in our road anyway. We don't want them being the laughing stock of their new neighbourhood.
Piece of this!
· Lolita is seriously regretting hacking up her boyfriend's jeans to make them into shorts right now as the major new look sported by everyone who's anyone right now seems to be structured, ultra high heels à la Louboutin zip sandals and baggy-ish denims with the cuff casually rolled up to reveal tanned ankles. Katie Holmes, Rachel Bilson and SJP are the pioneers but we are sure that everyone and anyone will be quick to follow suit.
· Blazers are back! If there's one thing you buy this autumn let it be a blazer, please. It will transition your flowery summer dresses into winter, and rock up a concert T-shirt in seconds. Gorgeous.
· Little Jackie - my new discovery, music-wise, she is a mix between Lauryn Hill, India Arie and Miss Dynamite. Her relaxed summery vibe will keep you beach bunnies content when the temperatures start to drop.
JULY/AUGUST - HEAT
I have an utter love/hate relationship with Summer. Some days I think it's my favourite season, I love the idea of throwing on a pretty dress and some sandals and not having to worry about a jacket all day - though the A/C at The Bank where I work can be pretty brutal. I love the balmy nights for the cocktails on the terrace outdoors, sleeping with the windows open and waking to the hustle and bustle of El Carmen coming to life on the streets below. I love the fact everyone's in a better mood and the old cliché of love being in the air as we say goodbye to Spring.
The clothes in fashion for the hot months are gorgeous. I have my eye on two MAXI dresses - maxi is the new mini I'll have you know - two flowery, floor-length creations. One green and tropical from H&M, the other girly and pretty from Blanco, both are ultra-cool, layered chiffon with spaghetti straps, perfect for work-to-eveningwear once the gold chains and trinkety bangles are piled on and some wedges added to the ensemble.
I enjoy having more hours of daylight to get things done and for some reason feel the need to sleep less this time of year, when I am usually craving my z's and could nod off absolutely anywhere. And I am most happiest in all-out beach bum mode - my iPod shuffle, a good book and a skimpy bikini will keep me entertained and in total bliss for hours on end of a sunny Sunday. Not forgetting the all-important sun-tan lotion, of course. Lolita's second beach visit the other day ended with her face down on her bed back at the flat and me literally shovelling on the after-sun as she winced when I touched the burning red skin on her shoulders. Silly girl!
When I can't bear July and August is when, like this morning, it is too hot to even think. When walking down a street without melting means literally fighting off one's fellow pedestrians for the shaded strip of pavement and the heat creates a hazy mirage across the surface of the tarmac. When not even an ice-pop - it has become my new tradition to grab a 20 cent "flash" on my way to The Bank every day from my corner shop, I am trying to emulate the ice-cream van in my head and it's the closest I can get for under a euro - will stop the feeling your insides are boiling under your skin. I am just not one of those enviable folk who heat up glamourously and exclaim how unbearable it all is while their skin stays matte, hair frizz-free and appearance immaculate. Red faces run in my mother's family and it is absolutely mortifying to be told you look hot all the time, especially when you are doing all in your power to remain calm and collected.
The worst bit is saying goodbye to all my friends as they jet off all over the country/Europe/the world for their well-earned vacations and it looks like all I will be doing til September is work, work, work. But then the plus side is I always have somewhere to go at the weekends when the muggy City just sizzles under the Summer sun. As I said, I adore the beach... Sorry, where did you say you summered again?
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