Life Imitating Art

The bus is creeping along in pre-rush hour traffic and I couldn’t care less, for I’m in my very own Turner masterpiece.

As I gaze out towards Ham Common – muted green trees gently framing the vast expanse of frosted grass – I can’t help but sit open-mouthed. The delicate coating of early morning mist so beautifully covering the vast expanse has my full attention. It’s as if God has got all creative with a giant icing-sugar-filled sieve and I’ve been lucky enough to catch it just before it settles on the dewy grass. Heavenly. And the theoretical icing on this Turner cake? The sun starting to rise on the eastside of the common – glorious.

Landscape with a Tree on the Right, Turner

Landscape with a Tree on the Right, Turner

As I gradually move away from the 18th century, I find myself contemplating the day ahead and with the average person having approximately 50,000 thoughts per day, I wanted to get a head start (will I, for example, have yet another altercation with the office hole punch?). If you’ve ever caught sight of yourself mid-thought, you’ll realise it’s not the most glamorous of facial expressions to behold. Gormless, rabbit caught in headlights and darn right creepy spring to mind. So when I saw a fellow commuter looking more like a Rodin sculpture than a rabbit caught in headlights, I took notice. With his knee propping up his elbow and his hand elegantly supporting his chin, this man had clearly mastered, ‘The Thinker’.

If you’ve ever seen a casting of Rodin’s iconic bronze sculpture, you will no doubt agree that it completely encompasses your every thought. As a viewer looking up at this solitary figure, you can’t help but wonder, what is he thinking? My modern day Rodin is most likely waiting for his 4G connection to kick in, but regardless of the thought that so elegantly distracts him, the way in which it was being pondered was first class.

The Thinker, Rodin

The Thinker, Rodin

With café culture now a ubiquitous part of modern society (I owe many a Peak Time Tale to hours’ labouring over a single shot vanilla latte) I find the view from outside looking in, can often prove just as interesting.

I pass by a traditional Italian café every morning, and as if part of the furniture, an immaculately dressed couple take pride of place in the window every single day. The lady – her hair blonde and iridescent, her lips Tom Ford red and her shoes nude and unmistakably L.K Bennett – sits mesmerised by each sip of her espresso. Her gentleman friend – broad shouldered, briefcase in tow and utterly absorbed by whatever it is that so draws him deeper into his phone (I’d guess he’s more of an Angry Birds fan than Clash of Clans). On occasion, when the light is just right, you could very nearly mistake this couple as extras from a Hopper creation. The subtext so strong it’s impossible to ignore.

Nighthawks, Hopper

Nighthawks, Hopper

As the nights draw in and winter flirts with our extremities, so my journey home from work starts to take on an entirely new vista. Gone are the open windows and breezy net curtains, in are cosy uplighters and gigantic mugs of hot choccy. Sat on the top deck, stuck in a sea of blurry brake lights, I’m drawn to an inviting light coming from a tiny window at the top of a new-build townhouse. Just in view is an artist’s easel and canvas. I can only begin to imagine what’s on the other side…

Red Magazine’s Book Club Launch – 6 October 2014

“My children aren’t remotely interested in what I do.”                                                      This comment left me open-mouthed. But Esther Freud’s response to being asked about her children’s take on her work was as honest, as it was humbling. And it’s Freud’s openness and somewhat innocent approach that is so beautifully captured in her latest novel, Mr Mac and Me, the book chosen to launch Red Magazine’s Book Club.

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Part of #SmartWomenWeek and held at London restaurant, The Fable, team Red pulled out all the stops for what was effectively, ‘an audience with Esther Freud’. Interviewed by fellow author and journalist, Elizabeth Day, the intimate setting was perfect for us wordsmiths to fully absorb ourselves, briefly, in Freud’s fascinating world.

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Her latest novel, set on the idyllic Suffolk coastline, follows the unlikely friendship between Thomas, a young publican’s son and renowned architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  “So many people know about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but they don’t know his story,” Freud said.

Her fondness of Suffolk is evident in the beautifully poetic prose she uses to create an all-encompassing sense of place, saying: “This is my favourite place and I felt that instantly.”

Fellow Red readers and myself were treated to Freud’s dulcet tones as she read a passage from, Mr Mac and Me. Her words, that are already so full of life on the page, became more and more vivid. Even The Fables’ incredibly impressive décor was lost on me as soon as Freud began to speak.

Day’s well-informed interview gave us further insight into Freud’s approach to writing and her mind-set for this book. She revealed that routine is imperative for her words to flow and limits herself to no more than four hours of writing per day.                                    “Even if it’s going really well, I give myself a break,” she said.

I was rather surprised to hear that instead of using Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s visuals for inspiration, she drew more on his wife, Margaret’s, work. Freud hates research and whole-heartedly admitted that she tells her student’s to do everything she doesn’t!

Towards the end of the evening, we were given the opportunity to put questions to Freud. This not only opened up further dialogue, but made me, for one, feel more than a mere spectator. It offered up a sense of interaction that was not only incredibly exciting, but also clearly appreciated by those of us lucky enough to put a question to Freud. When I asked whether she saw opportunity for, Mr Mac and Me, to be developed for stage or screen, she rather surprisingly replied: “I don’t think enough happens in the book for it to be a film.” I think we all quietly disagreed.

Throughout the evening, there was a buzz of excitement; each and every one of us wanted to be there, and the openness of the event was such that mingling was welcomed.

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Book clubs tend to have a reputation for being rigid, dull and rather more suited to those approaching retirement. They’re in need of a well-overdue revamp and I can confidently say that Red, perfectly captured the balance between relaxed and engaging. Definitely one to bookmark.

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Toni Bridal Review – And the Bride Wore Red

“Did you just say ‘dresses’ plural?” This was the general reaction I got when discussing how much I was looking forward to wearing my wedding dresses.

It’s not that I was a bridezilla who simply couldn’t choose between the latest must-have fishtail and column silhouette, nor was it that I had an endless budget with which to treat myself to two dresses. The simple fact is, I am lucky enough to have married the most wonderful Chinese man and we wanted nothing more than to celebrate both our Chinese and British cultures on our special day. Cue double the amount of ‘dress stress’ associated with finding ‘The One’ – or should I say ‘Ones’?

Wedding dress shops are not ten-a-penny, but they are reasonably accessible, and with brides willing to travel to find the dress of their dreams, the wedding dress world is your ivory-coloured (or oyster-coloured)…oyster. I imagined, perhaps a little naively, the same would be true when searching for my Chinese wedding dress. How wrong I was.

After months of searching and a short-list consisting of a $75 online number, I was starting to feel a little disheartened by the whole process. I was contemplating the bespoke option when one evening, while going through a few ideas I’d sketched out, I came across an advert in a local newspaper. A new bridal shop was opening – specialising in Chinese wedding dresses – My. Jaw. Dropped.

Toni Bridal, based in Wallington, opened in July 2013, under the reassuring hands of co-owner and manager, Angela. Stocking familiar designers such as Alfred Angelo, Watters and True Bridal, not to mention a vast selection of bridal accessories, their select range of Chinese bridalwear was all I was interested in.

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“It’s hard finding Chinese dresses in the UK, so I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate it alongside the mainstream collection. It’s very much a niche market but there seems to be demand for it,” said Angela.

Unlike traditional western wedding dresses (my research into which began long before I got engaged!) my knowledge of Chinese bridalwear was fairly limited. Angela soon helped fill in any gaps, and along with her attentive team, I was in incredibly capable hands. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to achieve with my look, but faced with exquisitely hand-embroidered silks and lace, my decision was not going to be easy. All of Toni Bridal’s Chinese items are sourced directly from Hong Kong and China – as authentic and genuine as they come.

Like myself, Angela, was reluctant to purchase her Chinese wedding dress online. “Women are really happy they’ve found us as they want to try dresses on. Brides are relieved when they pop in and really rate our collection.

I first tried on a selection of kwas – traditional Chinese wedding attire comprising of a mandarin collar-style jacket and ankle skimming skirt – embellished with the most breath-taking detail. Dragons and phoenixes feature heavily on the jackets and skirts; symbolism plays a key part in Chinese wedding traditions. Angela informs me that the masculine dragons represent power and majesty, with the phoenix symbolising the power of re-birth, beauty and grace.

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I soon got used to seeing myself as the ‘lady in traditional red’, but my eyes were wandering, drawn towards a showstopper of a gown, embellished with golden flowers and sequined feathers. I just had to try her on. The beauty of Toni Bridal’s collection is that it houses as much in traditional Chinese bridalwear, as modern – there is something for every bride. Once I had refocused on the task in hand and got the haute couture out of my system, I found the perfect kwa. Hand-embroidered with the most exquisite sequins and gems, with beautifully rich peonies embellishing the skirt, I simply couldn’t resist – I had found my Chinese wedding dress (along with a few little extras that made our day all that more special).

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If you are in search of the Chinese dress of your dreams, Toni Bridal, is without question, the perfect place to source your entire Oriental wedding needs. I can honestly say that my experience at Toni Bridal, was one of the most enjoyable and memorable of the entire wedding planning process. I can’t recommend Angela and her team enough for their flawless service and knowledge.

For more information, go to: http://www.tonibridal.com/home.html

Chinese dress

The Color Run UK for @ELLEUK – 28 September 2014

Team ELLE love to run (well, most of us do) as witnessed in our tweets during ELLE’s Wednesday Run Club. Our readers enjoy running too, so when we heard ELLE reader Nic Chan was taking part in The Color Run, we asked her to join us and review the race. Here’s her account of the day…

Trainers: check. Pristine white t-shirt: check. Inexplicable amounts of coloured powder paint…um…check?

The Color Run UK is no ordinary run. Its popularity has taken the nation by storm since debuting on the running scene in 2013. Marketed as, ‘the happiest 5K on the planet’, it’s a great opportunity to dip your toe into the world of running. Having upped my running game during the last year, much thanks to ELLE Associate Health and Beauty Editor, Amy Lawrenson’s, epic #runstreak, what better way and what better location (Stratford’s, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) to reignite my childhood fun-run habit and test out my ever-increasing desire to lace up?

Whether you are new to running or a veteran competitor, The Color Run UK, provides a happy, spectrum-fuelled environment to get your race on. Taking place at various locations across the country and set over a 5K course, the basic concept is to get as covered in colour as possible.

Incredibly enthusiastic volunteers are positioned every kilometre or so along the route, dousing runners in a series of multi-coloured powder paints. Spectacular clouds of colour-pops (brighter than a Meadham Kirchhoff show) punctuate the 5K route leaving runners looking like human-sized hundreds and thousands.


There is no doubt, The Color Run UK, has channelled a festival vibe. This was used to great affect in getting runners energised before the race and for getting them in the mood for partying, post-run. Unfortunately, the festival atmosphere was somewhat lacking along the course; it would have been great to have live music positioned at different points on the route to provide that extra boost (this was, after all, a 5K run and with a few unexpected inclines and the temperature reaching a sunny 24°, I, for one, was beginning to feel it).
That said, I couldn’t praise the ‘fun’ element enough. Wherever I looked, runners young and old were smiling and laughing their way along the course. And perhaps more importantly, they were outside, in the open air, having fun and getting fit.

If you are tempted to tie up those laces and take to the asphalt, The Color Run UK, is a great race to work towards. The beauty of it is, you don’t have to take yourself too seriously, because, The Color Run UK, doesn’t. Whether you run, skip or walk, it’s a fab way to have some fitness fun. For those of you who have taken running to the next level, put the PB’s to one side and treat yourself to a multi-coloured workout. Go jump to it…


For information on next year’s color runs, go to: www.thecolorrun.co.uk