Showing posts with label India Knight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India Knight. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A little bit cool, a little bit nan

My last pressing book review is done and dusted - so now I can’t wait to get down to some pre-Christmas reading of my own. Top of my list are two treats I’ve been saving up. One is the just-completed manuscript of one of my best novelist friends, the other is Mutton by India Knight.

And it’s Knight who gave me the idea for this blog post. She wrote a laugh-out-loud funny piece in The Guardian at the weekend to promote her new book, explaining how, even at the advanced age of 46, she doesn’t feel like a grown-up. As the mother of an eight-year-old daughter and two grown-up sons, she explains: “… on the one hand you're the mother of adult men, and on the other you're the mother of a little child. You're both ‘the youngest mum of all my friends’ and among the oldest mothers in year 4. You're a bit cool, you're a bit nan.”

A little bit cool, a little bit nan – that just about sums it up. Apart from worsening eyesight and wrinkly skin, I don’t feel middle-aged in the slightest. I still shop at Topshop and River Island, still like Dizzee Rascal's music and still spend an inordinate amount of time pouring over the latest nail polish colours at Nails Inc. Actually, I’m half-hoping for their new leather and skulls varnish in black for Christmas, only the Oxford branch says they aren’t getting any till January.

On the other hand, I’m definitely a bit nan in lots of ways. The idea of staying out till 6am makes me feel ill, I can’t face loud music first thing in the morning and when I put sugar in someone’s coffee I still use a teaspoon. I still wear a watch, still send Christmas cards (no round robins!), still walk to the shops every morning to buy a newspaper and can’t go to bed before clearing up the chaos in the kitchen first.

My son definitely doesn’t think I’m cool though. I was telling him the other day that I quite like James Blake’s music. “James Blake?” he said crushingly. “Don’t you mean James Blunt?”

Saturday, 19 November 2011

House With No Name Weekly Digest: From the John Lewis Christmas ad to Anya Hindmarch and the art of the apostrophe

Every Saturday the House With No Name blog features a round-up of the week’s highlights.

The picture above shows the gorgeous Christmas lights that hover like mysterious planets over St Christopher’s Place in the heart of London’s West End.

While I was in the vicinity I couldn’t resist popping into H&M to see the much talked-about new Versace collection. There wasn’t a lot left in the Regent Street branch but what a disappointment. There were shocking pink patent bags, silver belts and a scary pair of palm print leggings that even Elle Macpherson would be hard-pressed to look good in.

House With No Name on grammar: Anya Hindmarch and the art of the apostrophe
House With No Name on the week’s most uplifting story: The journalist and the Afghan teenager
House With No Name on the John Lewis ad: I cry at anything, but this leaves me cold
House With No Name Book Review: India Knight’s Comfort and Joy
House With No Name Children’s Books: My obsession with Enid Blyton's Malory Towers stories

PS: Nineteen days into the National Blog Posting Month challenge and I’m nearly two-thirds of the way through!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Friday book review - Comfort and Joy by India Knight

I’m a huge fan of India Knight. She’s wise, fun and talks more sense in her Sunday Times column than most other journalists put together. In short, she sounds like the sort of best friend we’d all like to have.

If that wasn’t enough, I opened the December issue of Red magazine to find that her house boasts joyous pink walls (she says they’re “really cheering on a January morning”), huge amounts of clutter and an amazing personalised mural drawn by artist Charlotte Mann with black marker pen. She likes “books, colour and over-decoration” and, asked what she’d save in a fire, reckons she wouldn’t save anything, apart from people and her laptop. “I don’t think it would really make much difference if you had your favourite teapot or cushion,” she says. “You’d just have to start again.”

It’s for all those reasons that I knew I’d love her Christmas novel, Comfort and Joy. Out in paperback this month, it perfectly captures the chaos of a family Christmas. Knight admits that the book is “fairly autobiographical,” with lots of “mashed-up memories and experiences,” but I reckon it’s all the better for that.

Comfort and Joy is the story of a modern family Christmas hosted by mother-of-three Clara Dunphy over three consecutive festive seasons. Like most women I know, Clara is determined to make Christmas special. As she says, “I want it to be so lovely, so redemptive, so right. There’s no point in doing it craply, is there?”

But even so, it’s a tricky feat to pull off when she’s got 16 guests turning up and is doing everything single-handed. Sitting round her London table each year are her ex-husband, her about to be ex-husband, three children, eccentric mother, two half-sisters, her non-PC mother-in-law and a host of well-behaved and not so well-behaved friends.

Knight is brilliant at blending laugh-out-loud humour with real insight into the stresses and strains of a family Christmas. You’ll love her third novel if you’re hosting Christmas at your place this year (though it might make you want to book a one-way ticket to the other side of the planet) – and even if you’re not.

Comfort and Joy by India Knight (Penguin, £7.99)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sticking up for Liz Jones

Columnist Liz Jones is a mass of contradictions.

She’s forever complaining she’s broke, yet buys Prada, Bottega Veneta and most recently a top-of-the- range facelift. She splashes out on a rambling Victorian pile on Exmoor, complete with 46 acres, then gets fed up and puts it back on the market, saying: “It’s too big. I’ve got seven bedrooms and six bathrooms and about 400 animals.” She finds the men in her life exasperating, especially ex-husband Nirpal Dhaliwal, but is now canoodling with an ageing rock star. Incidentally, she refers to him as RS but he’s widely thought to be Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr.

As a result of her foibles (chronicled meticulously each week in You magazine) the 52-year-old writer comes in for more stick than virtually any journalist on the planet.

But even though she’s definitely high maintenance and at times slightly flaky, I’m a big fan. I’ve cut down massively on the Sunday papers over the years (just too much to wade through) but I turn to her page before anything else.

I occasionally get fed up with accounts of her huge menagerie of animals but even so, she writes so well and with such disarming frankness that her diary is a must-read. Apart from India Knight and Caitlin Moran, I can’t think of any other women columnists I can say that about these days.

PS: It was my birthday last week (coughs quickly when asked which one) and my lovely teenagers cooked an amazing family lunch. “I’d love Ottolenghi sort of food,” I told them beforehand, but never thought for a moment that they’d take me literally. My 16 year old son cooked chilled red pepper soup and my 19 year old daughter did roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey. Afterwards they turned to Nigella and made me these Happy Birthday cupcakes (above). They looked – and tasted – amazing.
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