Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Zora Neale Hurston

"There are years that ask questions, and years that answer them."
Zora Neale Hurston

Monday, 30 December 2013

Friday, 27 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Elf

"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, syrup."
Buddy the Elf

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... JK Rowling

"One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books."
Albus Dumbledore

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Victor Borge

Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas

"Santa Claus has the right idea, visit people only once a year."
Victor Borge

Monday, 23 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Phyllis Diller

"What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day."
Phyllis Diller

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Haruki Murakami

"When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person that walked in. That's what the storm is all about."
Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Ivana Trump

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."
Ivana Trump (not entirely selling the concept)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Michelle Davis

"Men have the luxury of being average."
Michelle Howard, US Navy's first female four-star admiral 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Jane Austen

"We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be."
Jane Austen, born today 1775

Friday, 13 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Nelson Mandela

"It's not where you start, but how high you aim that matters for success."
Nelson Mandela (18 June 1918 - 5 December 2013, will be buried on Sunday)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Angelina Jolie

"When I get logical, and I don't trust my instincts - that's when I get in trouble."
Angelina Jolie

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Hedy Lamarr

"Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."
Hedy Lamarr, actress, inventor

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Leonardo da Vinci

"It had come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them, they went out and happened to things."
Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, 9 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Judi Dench

"You should take your job seriously, but not yourself - that is the best combination."
Judi Dench (born today 1934)

Sunday, 8 December 2013


1. DO visit during Advent
Scandinavians know how to do Christmas. Advent starts four weeks before Christmas and every Sunday is a mini celebration, so for the whole of December the city is alive with light. Every window - home or office, shop or restaurant - boasts an advent star ablaze 24/7. It's the perfect excuse to get those decs up early.

2. DON'T be afraid of the dark
Because you can forget about daylight. This time of year it doesn't get light until around 9am, and twilight starts setting in around 1pm. By 3pm it's dark - and I mean middle of the night dark.

3. DO cycle
Or walk. Or both. The metro is fast and easy to negotiate, but not particularly cheap. And if you take the metro, you miss the side streets, and little gems like this...

4. DO drink coffee
Stockholm is the city of coffee. The best coffee I've ever drunk in my life, ever, came from Kaffe on Saint Paulsgatan (pictured below) - if you're not staying in Sodermalm it's worth a trip south of the river just to taste it (also excellent buns and sandwiches). But you don't have to travel far for decent coffee in Stockholm. There's a coffee shop on every corner, and chains are rare (although Stockholm has its own - Wayne's). No sign of Starbuck's from the moment I left Heathrow until I got back here.

5. DON'T hit the bottle
This is the home of the £35 bottle of house red. Thirty. Five. Pounds.

6. DO get lost in the old town
Yes, it's quaint - but as its origins are more than seven hundred years old, it's allowed to be. This area (Gamla Stan) is the perfect place to lose several hours wandering the back streets and peering through doorways.

7. DON'T worry about being a tourist
Like it or not, Stockholm can't get away from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. If you're feeling really lit-grock you can go for the whole tour (yes, there is one). Failing that, just wander nonchalantly into Mellqvist Kaffebar on Hornsgaten, where Steig Larrson wrote some of the series and which features in first book, and treat yourself to a cardamom bun. The staff will be tolerant, they're clearly used to it. While you're down in that neck of the woods, pop into the bar or cafe at Hotel Rival. Sightings of the owner, Benny from Abba, are rare but not unheard of. (Someone I met whilst there claimed he'd taken their coat the day before.)

8. DO windowshop
About the same time Isabel Marant entered our lives, so did Scandinavian fashion. Stockholm is home to Acne, the label that started it all, so a visit to their Normalmstorg global flagship is a must. Other worth-sees include Danish lifestyle concept store Illums Bolighus and the H&M flagship, both on Hamngatan and the designer shops in the district known, cringily, as SOFO (South of Folkungagatan). If you like a department store, Greta Garbo used to work in a hat shop in PUB on Hortoget. (I won't pretend it's not a stretch to envisage it.)

Acne's flagship store on Normalmstorg

9. DON'T believe anyone who tells you scandinavian designers are a bargain here
They're not. Stick to H&M.

10. DON'T calculate the exchange rate
Or you won't leave your hotel room. (In fact, are you sure you can afford to be in that hotel room?) They don't say Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in the world for no reason, but it's still one of the loveliest. And they do great buns.

11. DO hang out in the local supermarket
I have a theory that if you want to get a feel for a place, visit a supermarket. The place to go to test my theory in Stockholm is Ostermalm, one of world's finest food halls. Failing that, though, any supermarket will do for a window on the average Swedish shopping basket.

12. DON'T be on a diet
Did I mention cinnamon buns?


Last week's British Fashion Awards - and the press surrounding a whole host of other things about what women should and shouldn't do... - got me thinking about last year's BFAs and a piece I wrote about the winner of two major gongs, Stella McCartney. I decided it's just as relevant now as it was then, so here it is again.

Everyone needs a little motivation in their life. A little something that gives them a kick in the butt just at the right (or even wrong) time. What shape that motivation takes will vary from person to person, man to woman, woman to woman, but the example Stella McCartney gave as she collected the first of two major gongs last night at the British Fashion Awards in London certainly resonated with me. When she took the stage to rapturous applause to pick up her International Brand of the Year award (the second was the biggie: Designer of the Year) Stella looked more than a little chuffed. And with good reason.

What came next was a story many – especially, but not exclusively, women – will recognise. A story of being told a girl like you can't.

After years of working – very successfully – at a French fashion house, McCartney said, she had decided it was time to come home to London, to the city she loved, to her friends and family, to try to start her own business, her own label, in her own name. She had done a good job, and loved her time in Paris, but it was TIME. Time to do something for her.

It can have come as no surprise to her that when she went to resign her boss didn't take it particularly kindly. Bosses don't, on the whole, not when good people jump ship. She was making a mistake her French boss told her. No-one – no WOMAN – had ever launched a label, let alone a label bearing that woman's name and turned it into an international force, anywhere but Paris. It couldn't be done. (Even then, it wasn't true… Diane Von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood just for starters, but put that aside for now). She was making a grievous error. It could not be done. She would regret it.

Sitting there, wearing Stella McCartney (in my case, gold brocade shoes – spectacularly high, weirdly comfortable) I and a thousand other people burst out laughing. They knew, as did McCartney herself, that she had proved him wrong. And how. From ready to wear to fragrance, from bags to accessories, from kidswear to sportswear, to the Team GB kit. Stella - one name, a woman's name, a British name, launched out of London, with ethical values to boot – is an international brand to be reckoned with.

So, to the French boss who told Stella she was a little girl who couldn't… On behalf of women everywhere, I thank you.

(This piece first appeared on my blog www.redonline.co.uk/blogs 28 November 2012.)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Neil Gaiman (I wish)

"This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard."
Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Nigella

"I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem..."
Nigella Lawson #teamnigella

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... Julianne Moore

"In school I was a complete geek. You know there's always the kid who's too short, the one who wears glasses, the one who's not athletic. Well, I was all three." (She left out ginger and freckly - and I should know...)
Julianne Moore (born today 1960)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Today I'm channelling... William Goldman

"Who says life is unfair... where is that written?"
The Princess Bride, William Goldman