Wednesday, 24 March 2010

For the Record

Ok... I'm often peturbed by how people with miniscule talent and giant bleached teeth take good airtime from truly amazing talents, but on this occasion it's just silly.

So how on earth is Cheryl 'struggling to sing my own song' Cole MURDERING this on Live Lounge, and they haven't booked the lovely Tori Allen-Martin a spot? This is what we call singing, Live Lounge producers. Note how she's emitting pleasant sounds, whilst simultaneously being able to produce more than three words in one breath.

Just saying.

The worst bit, if you can pick one, is at 1:39. Ouch.

Smooth and creamy as a Bailey's Latte.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Rules are for fools

Just an update on my Break the Rules self-challenge to wear some of the trends I would usually consider a no-no. I tried out #1: White Tights last week, and was pleasantly surprised. I decided to go for a full on Alice in Wonderland look with a belted high-waist skirt, hairband and china blue and white tones, but having worn them I think they'd go pretty well with lots of little dresses I own.

I'd say they require a short-ish skirt or dress and quite lofty heels if you're a 5"4 munchkin like me, and I went for little black round-toe dolly shoes which I thought worked pretty well for a birthday meal. Overall, very cute, a nice winter-spring crossover look and made me feel very quirky and chic. Big tick for trend experiment number one.


Lying in bed this morning, trying to prepare for an interview by catching up with the weekend's magazines and supplements, I came across a rare wave of honesty in a sea of upbeat features. I cannot criticize the novelty and wit of the entertaining pieces that for the most part fill our national magazines, they are the sort of thing I like to write myself: general musings on current or trending topics. But now and again a piece is commissioned that is distinctly less comfortable, jarring with your weekend cuppa and comfy sofa. The Guardian is good at slipping these in; just the other week I was both sickened and compelled by an investigative piece about child abuse and social work cases which was emotional yet detached, and intensely uncomfortable to read. But I learned something and was glad I hadn't instinctively flipped the page. Saturday's Guardian Weekend mag was its usual mix of style, famous faces, a nod to politics and gastronomy, but the article that caught my eye was an unassuming black and white two-pager by novelist Lionel Shriver.

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I haven't read any of Shriver's books, even though her comment pieces in various magazines and papers have always stood out to me just as this one did. Having heard of her via several recommendations to read We Need to Talk abut Kevin from a couple of years back, I wasn't even aware until last year that the author was female (real name Margaret Ann.) Shriver has a knack for completely baring her soul while keeping her writing succinct, factual and candid. The piece that caught my eye was this one, a confessional outpouring of regret at not spending more time with her best friend before she died of cancer. Outpouring isn't the right word, actually - it was a critical analysis of her own behaviour during her friend's terminal illness. With cancer seemingly everywhere, it can seem overexposed or not 'niche' enough (in the businesslike world of planning and editing a magazine) to gain sympathy with a mainstream audience, but this wasn't a cancer awareness piece - this, it seemed, was a bid for atonement, a small act that might cancel out her professed neglect prior to losing her friend.

It might seem self-indulgent or distasteful to use the death of a loved one to talk about your own feelings, but how else do we make sense of something as cruel and superior as cancer? After years of finding we cannot combat it, even where we can stall and delay it, the topic has fallen fairly silent in the media in favour of more exotic conditions or winnable wars. The article is about a universal fear of those around us dying, and how people use their busy modern lives and commitments to avoid immersing themselves in such everyday tragedy. I recognised myself in the writer. I have always had a slight neurosis about hospitals (I hesitate to say phobia) and not because I find myself overwhelmed with feeling and compassion for their patients, but because, well... they're full of ill people. This is not an attractive trait, and one I had to overcome many times when my elder sister's genetic disease deteriorated over a period of years. The sterile smells, the neon lighting and the whirr of machinery is imprinted on my brain, and I do fear selfishly for my own eventual demise. The thought of slipping away in the habitat I can least endure is a terrifying prospect. And all this without ever suffering a serious illness or a hospital stint since my fairly uneventful birth.

So Shriver's tale of how she let anxiety about her dying friend lead her to distract herself with her career and her schedule really struck me. When my sister was ill, I feel I was there as much as someone at university in another city could be there - I remember reading through Measure for Measure out loud by her bedside while a ventilator breathed for her, and making notes for my exam the following day. I remember people in the waiting room kindly asking what my essays were about as I scribbled them from a plastic seat, waiting for visiting hours to resume. But I also remember the elation of being 'free' to return to my new friends and social life the minute she was stable, and I do remember the fleeting disappointment, even resentment, at missing the new term's parties and socials. I would never have dared admit it at the time, but I was scheduling her in along with my exam timetable. Maybe I can only admit this now because she did get better (thanks to the wonders of organ donation) and as a product of my relief at still having many more years to make memories with her.

The problem is, drama and literature would have us believe that good people rush to the bedside of a dying friend or relative, dropping everything and cancelling all plans to make their last days or months a little easier. But the spanner in the works is the long, drawn-out nature of modern death. No one deserves it, and it shouldn't be an excuse, but it is simply impractical and impossible to be there and undiverted for months or years of ill-health and uncertainty, and the guilt we suffer for not being there enough can be unbearable. Shriver's guilt is that her career as a novelist was just taking off as her friend Terri was diagnosed, but would Terri really have wanted her to put that on hold to sit by her through the bad times? Another problem for the writer was that her friend couldn't or wouldn't bring herself to consider the inevitable, leading their meetings and lighthearted talk to become heart-wrenching for Shriver:

Pretending that the treatments were working and she was going to come through this injected an artifice in our relationship at odds with the confidences we'd shared for 25 years.

She notes that the last bit of time they had together, the two women 'spent an appalling proportion of that final visit talking about mashed potatoes.' I can understand how hard this must have been as the friend, but I am also of the belief that the way someone wants to play out their own death is the way it should be. If they want to be their own cheerleader, rooting for a miracle, then everyone around them should wipe their tears and grab their pom-poms. If the ill person wants to talk through their greatest fears and cry for all the things they'll never see and do, then their beloved should provide the Kleenex and a listening ear. I don't think there should be any guilt on Shriver's part, because she was giving her friend what she needed at the time, even if that was potato-mashing tips. There is no right way to support an ill loved one. Every person copes differently, and no one else can say how you'd feel and what you'd want if you were the one sentenced to your final months. All you can do is make time, scale down, and adapt. For those who recognize mine and Shriver's instinct to flee the situation, you are not a bad person. You are simply the person who dares to admit it.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Single woman + flat = cat?

Something very small and easy to brush off as bad journalism really irritated me on the ITV London news this morning. On one of their headline reports between GMTV segments, there was a short piece on how 'most women' enjoy having a cat as their companion. Infuriatingly, it was such a hit-and-run item that I can't even find it on their website. Perhaps they've realised how dazzlingly patronizing it was and removed it. The 'report' basically went like this:

Lots of women, as opposed to men, are cat owners. Some live alone and really enjoy the company. *Cue interview with a woman with two frighteningly muscley sphinx cats climbing menacingly over her armchair while she coos over them.* Short summary: lonely women like cats, they make good company.

Now, unable to find the clip, I feel like I hallucinated this around 8am. It was staggeringly badly researched and directed with no apparent factual anchor, and I felt quite offended. I am a real dog person. I've wanted a dog pretty much since the day my toddler mind grasped what a dog was, I often get more excited and sentimental over people's dogs than their babies and my absolute dream pet is a big, slobbery, loving, loyal canine. I just finished reading Marley and Me and embarrassingly wept no fewer than five times while reading it on packed trains and tubes (a great read - a story of man's realizations about family and life as well as some damn funny anecdotes about their behaviourally-challenged labrador.) I honestly think if I found Mr Perfect and he told me he wasn't a dog lover, it would be as wounding as finding out he was a BNP supporter or secretly waxed his chest. In other words, a deal breaker.

I feel I'm owed some sort of explanation from ITV about their surreal feline revelation - was it just to contribute to the film, TV and book myth that women unable to find a man end up shacking up with a cat just to have someone to talk to at the end of the day? I don't know many women who would describe themselves as a cat lover, and I myself think they are fickle and cruel animals with a cold, mercenary look in their eyes. Give me a giant, clumsy, boundy dog to curl up at my feet any day of the week. Dogs for men, cats for women? The strangest example of mass gender-based assumption I've seen for a while.

Ostensibly male Andrew Lloyd Webber told press in the build up to his new casting show Over the Rainbow that he'd rather cast a cat as Dorothy's Toto as he's not a dog person at all. You may be interested to know that other self-proclaimed cat lovers have included Freddie Mercury (who had several named Tom & Jerry, Delilah and Romeo), Andy Warhol and, ironically, Snoop Dogg. The Pope also has a cat called Chico - perhaps an homage to the latino X-Factor contestant?

Conversely, President Obama, Audrey Hepburn and Thandie Newton are all Team Canine. I feel I'm in good company here (we'll ignore Paris Hilton - her dogs barely qualify.) Let's just keep the divide to dog people and cat people and leave any mention of gender and sex (or lack thereof) out of it.

PS. Here are some of my dream dogs. In case anyone wants to gift me one...

Just playin'... pretty damn cute though!

Thursday, 18 March 2010


I try to read as many other blogs that I come across, but some immediately grab you and make you want to go back again and again. One such piece of genius is Jezebel. Granted, unlike most 'organic' blogs it is staffed like a small magazine rather than by one musing author, but these various female writers post witty, observant and interesting things going on in the world every day, often setting trends for mag features.

If you want an idea of what Jezebel are all about, check out this post. And then scroll down, because the real heroes of this blog are actually the commenters... you have to post a trial comment and be approved by the creators to have a reader identity and leave your thoughts, so the quality ends up being amazing. Not only do these clued-up gals leave brilliant witticisms below each blog post, but they make some damn good points too.

I really recommend it to women and men alike for a short, sharp look at the world of women, entertainment and culture, or just to absorb a good debate.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Sexual Heaving

*WARNING: some sexual references appear in this post*

As you may have gleaned, I haven't been working the past few weeks. In the odd, bug-stuck-in-amber world of unemployment, real life whizzes by you and inevitably you start to hear yourself starting sentences with, 'There was this thing on Loose Women the other day...' while your employed friends nod along in quiet pity. One of the least stimulating ways to pass the time is to stick on This Morning between 10.30 and 12.30 - somewhere between the buzzy morning segments of GMTV and the raucous hysteria of Loose Women, this bizarre two-hour festival of novelty news, low-budget props and D-list guest dominates daytime TV. I was a student in the heyday of Phil'n'Fern, and enjoyed their rapport - the giggling fits, the empathy of their interviews and a general feel of not taking it too seriously. I love Holly Willoughby, but she doesn't strike a blow in the name of female journalism. She's very blonde and made-up, playing to the dumb 'I can't cook and I sure as hell don't know where Finland is' persona and just not really having anything interesting to say.

So - picture a sofa-bound Monday 16th March, and nothing much to flick on to but This Morning. Harmless fun, I thought, but how wrong I was. Sex week. Great, I mused, it's a little odd at this time of day but I'm all for opening up the sex debate and making it more of a light-hearted, natural pastime that we should talk about freely. I'm no prude, but fluffy daytime TV in all its uncomfortably live glory managed to defeat me on this occasion. I only lasted about fifteen minutes before flicking over to The Wright Stuff (actually quite good morning TV: news analysis, discussion, some bizarre viewer phone-ins). I felt unbearably straight-laced for not surviving the 10am sexathon, but their pre-watershed 'frank discussion' demanded constant warnings about the delicacy of the subject and this combined with the awkward way things were demonstrated did not make for great viewing.

For those of your poor souls that missed it, the first sex-themed show involved the following: a young woman suffering from anorgasmia being coached in how to have an orgasm by a much older sex therapist, with the aid of a rubber vagina 'dummy' and a giant trunk of sex toys and lube. Their age gap and the neutral sofa setting gave the unnerving impression that we were eavesdropping on a bizarre mother and daughter lesson in masturbation. The poor girl was then plonked on the TM sofa where Phil and Holly eagerly asked how she had been doing with her home practicals since her pre-recorded consultation. Basically, 'Have you had one yet?' No pressure, dear. Then 'Sexpert' Tracey Cox (who seems to pop up everywhere like a pesky erection) talked Phil and Holly through the most common sex problems she wanted to tackle, using morning-friendly language and way too much emphasis on 'fun', of course. I half expected them to whip out the whipped cream and insert some swannee-whistle sound effects (don't laugh too hard - food/sex games are scheduled later on this week. Making me even more relieved to be back at work.)

The problem is, when it comes to palettable sex-focused TV, for me (and I'm not alone, I had facebook-status feedback agreeing that it was unwatchable) it has to be sciencey docu-style or late-night erotic advice. Any show centred around a sofa and a fruit bowl is not going to make successful strides in spicing up the nation's sex life. The dislike i'm registering here is not part of the Daily Mail Outrage school of thought - Sex Week didn't offend me, it just proved a massive turn off in all senses of that phrase. I know ITV is fielding complaints and Philip Schofield is defending the show's choice right, left and Twitter, but I stand firmly by my choice to avoid the saucy antics in favour of some traditional breakfast TV banter. Mine wasn't a disgusted channel change, but a 'I'd actually rather watch anything other than two sixty-somethings being told to get into the 'lazy sex' position' sort of impulse. Perfectly reasonable, I feel. Do let me know if you were disgusted, enthralled or if Sex Week is even on your radar, I'd be interested to know just where I feature on the Prudence McPrude scale of prudiness.

It might have been more 'frank' to make Phil and Holly demonstrate the sexual positions, perhaps with a Benny Hill-style musical accompaniment

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cooking up a Storm

I think I've replaced love with baking. Actually I've replaced work, relationships and normality with it. Baking and I are very happy together - it gives me what I need, is always sweet and delightful and I don't even mind cleaning up after it.

Don't get baking confused with cooking - cooking and I have been going strong since I was about fourteen. I love to throw together a vibrant stir-fry, cook carby, creamy comfort food like macaroni cheese or even just put a new spin on a classic like scrambled eggs. Baking is a new thing in my life. It's a separate concept - cakes, cookies and brownies are not necessary, they are treats. Taking the time to bake something delicious that's both unnecessary and a little naughty takes love and patience. There is something unbelievably satisfying about beating a cake mix until it's perfectly smooth and airy, or sieving flour, or whipping up creamy icing. Sharing your baked goods with other people is like introducing them to a boyfriend - you're half proud, half scared no one will like it, with just a pinch of wanting to keep it all to yourself.

My latest baking challenge is Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake. It's the sort of mix of indulgent and quirky that you wish you had created yourself. I added some melted Bournville chocolate (I refuse to believe that merely cocoa powder and sugar is enough for a rich chocolate cake) and it's still baking, but I'll update with the results and a picture. I'm not a huge Guinness drinker, but alcohol in puddings is only ever a great thing in my experience, and the mixture smelled irresistable pre-oven. I still have to make the cream cheese/sugar/double cream whipped icing, but not a lot can go wrong from here.

Cooking is totally cathartic (as well as a brilliant skill to have, especially if you can trade off cooking for the person/people you live with shopping or washing up) and while some people love going for a run or a swim to clear their head, for me - tragically, for my waistline - it is cooking that does the trick. I recently read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, and it's such a great read for anyone interested in blogging or cooking. Julie was in a dead-end, depressing job in New York in the aftermath of 9/11, and felt trapped and suffocated by the pressures of her life. She set herself a mad goal to cook every one of the 524 recipe's in Julia Child's hefty Mastering the Art of French Cooking book in one year, and to document her efforts, her victories and failures in a blog (back when blogging was still a new concept.) The book is not published with blog entries but as a more fluid story, with some references to her readers' comments and her personal life. It is fascinating, and takes some getting into (Julie is a somewhat acerbic character and not at all concerned with being likeable, which I loved) and it's really just about being a normal person with problems and joys and ambitions, trying not to get swallowed up by a big city in turmoil. I highly recommend it, as well as suggesting that you persevere if you find it slightly slow-moving or inaccessible - I was totally absorbed and rooting for Julie by the end.

Essentially, Julie comes to feel a huge personal satisfaction in setting herself little goals in the form of complex dishes, and also in feeding those she loves. It's a primal thing to nourish those around you, and I can totally relate to her turning her life around in the kitchen. This is not to say that this will become a cooking blog, but just that baking is putting a smile on my face these days (not least because I'm blasting Journey in the background and singing along) and I kind of like it.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

I've followed the hype for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland as much as anyone else, but I wasn't entirely sure it would be my cup of tea. I have a bit of an issue with the fantasy genre; I kept way out of Lord of the Rings, Beowulf and Pan's Labyrinth, and the Harry Potter films have been a constant source of disappointment. I don't believe the plots, I don't get absorbed in the fantasy worlds, and my mind just wanders. If there's a book original involved, it's often ripped apart and cut down, with casting that clashes with my mind's interpretation. With CGI still in its pubescent years, a lot of the action sequences and setting choices just seem like a way to flex various technological muscles. All in all, they end up feeling less like a story and more like an epic film experiment.

Since seeing Avatar just before Christmas, I've opened my mind up to fantasy a little more. For once I just appreciated it for being something truly beautiful, and I let myself be absorbed (ironically, as this was the fantasy narrative other people slated the most.) So with Alice in Wonderland, I decided to ignore the Burton 'cult' factor, the slightly tired-sounding casting, the fact that I absolutely hated what he did to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - bring back Gene Wilder and the orange oompa loompas! - and give it a go. More specifically I decided to go on my own, in the spirit of falling down the rabbit hole, and to an unsociable screening time. It was essentially me, a massive screen and my imagination. I don't often take solitary cinema trips, but having done it to review things before, I knew it was the best way to avoid taking on other people's reactions or getting distracted at crucial moments.

Luckily, distraction wasn't a problem as Alice is totally gripping. It wasn't too wacky, it used the CGI and the surreal dimension to enhance certain things, but it didn't dominate the story. Having heard nothing but Johnny Depp this and Helena B-C that, I was delighted to hear Stephen Fry as a purring, whimsical Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman as the pipe-smoking blue caterpillar. Factor in Babs Windsor as the Dormouse and Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, and you've got an impressive range of character actors. But the celebrity casting didn't distract too much from the beautifully detailed characters - one of my favourite moments was when the heroine finds herself in the forest of Wonderland being berated by talking flowers, rabbits, mice, chubby twins and caterpillars for being the wrong Alice. It was so beautiful and striking after the bleached, genteel reality we had just come from, and that's when I started to believe that this was a journey I really wanted to go on.

Mia Wasikowska, looking remarkably like a young Kate Moss (but with 100% more personality), more than holds her own in the title role. I had prejudged her supermodel looks and waiflike stature, but Burton clearly knows what he is doing. She is odd and curious in a way I could totally relate to. I don't know if all girls feel a bit isolated and inclined to say socially unacceptable things, but I often do, and Alice's detached nature and 'mad' statements really worked for me. This Alice is out of place in a regulated and polite human world, then finds herself amongst creatures much madder than she. It made the transition from reality to Wonderland much more interesting. It made me want to go back to the original animated version, where I seem to remember Alice as being a lot more normal and confused by the wacky things she sees. This Alice fits right into the madness and goes with the flow, which I enjoyed. She is not picture perfect, but pale and interesting, with dark inquisitive eyes and a sort of physical resilience that makes her at home in the suit of armour she wears at the climax of the film.

Helena Bonham Carter is suitably posh, lisping and full of tantrums. I liked the animated additions to her character, but it was all as cliched as I'd suspected. Johnny Depp is featured much more than the Mad Hatter demands, and becomes an unnecessary hero of Wonderland (something in his contract?) but just about gets away with it by being believably barking and utterly charming. How much this has to do with his giant, graphically-enhanced green eyes, I don't know. The odd decision to have his accent flit from BBC English to gruff Scottish didn't really do it for me... perhaps another aspect of his insanity, perhaps a chance to fully showcase the skills section of his CV. I found it distracting, just as I found the White Queen's affected 'grace' - I like the imaginative nature of Burton's direction, I just don't like being able to see the mechanics and decisions behind a character.

I did think for the first time that Burton should have snapped up the Harry Potter films; the man knows how to make things odd, quirky and otherworldly without overly explaining or domesticating them. He got the balance between human and other so right in this film, while I found every installment of the HP films jarringly badly scripted and imagined at times. I think he would have stripped them down to the important parts and really brought the characters to life. But perhaps the concept was just too commercial for him. Here, they have taken a classic with enough distance to completely reinvent some parts, while keeping in the familiar ponderings that spring to mind when we think of Lewis Carroll: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

I enjoyed the script, I felt the story bounded along through the 'Drink Me' potions, the Red Queen's court and the Mad Hatter's tea party, and nothing felt too long-winded. I loved the little touches of Tweedledum and Tweedledees yoda-like speech, Alice's wound making her tougher and more warrior-like and the Tudor references in the Red Queen's palace. I think a little more humour and lightness could have improved the adventure, but Burton was understandably going for a crueller, darker and more violent Wonderland. The nonsense and riddle was done well and it didn't become a pantomime, Alice returning to her world genuinely jolted me, and I liked the way she was revisiting as a young woman, having thought the place a dream in childhood.

What I find hard in fantasy films is when the world they create is inconsistent, badly communicated or cliched. This Wonderland was solid - characters spoke of people and places as if we were all in on the facts, and this is the root of the story: everyone seems to be speaking a different language and it is Alice who is the oddity. I'm glad Burton didn't try and make Wonderland too easy for us to enter, it shouldn't be. It felt just right as a dash through foreign landscapes, nonsensical speeches and fascinating characters, with the sole aim of widening Alice's perspective so she doesn't settle for the ordinary in the real world. She is made to feel extraordinary in a good way, and goes back to her life with confidence, and this layer of grown-up narrative really gave the film an edge. Yes, I cringed a bit when Depp burst into his 'futterwhacken' dance at the end, and yes there was an over-long 'look what we can do' CGI chase by a Bandysnatch, but overall these indulgences were eclipsed by so many great performances. This is no mean feat, reinventing one of the most imagined and interpreted stories of all time. Google images for 'Alice in Wonderland' and you'll see how many illustrations and ideas have come out of this one book.

I do recommend you take a trip to Wonderland, but do it when you're feeling a bit odd, and if you're brave enough, go alone. I guarantee it will improve the experience.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Break the Rules

I'm quite strict with myself when it comes to style. I don't live and breathe fashion but I am a firm believer that your shape suits certain things, and you shouldn't deviate from the flattering, well-worn path you've followed since becoming that shape. Basically - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My unbroken rules include lots of LBDs, short skirts with long sleeves, opaque black tights, wrap-dress necklines and sky-high heels. I am and always will be a curvy girl, which counts out frilly-detailed tops, waif-perfect volume and athletic playsuits. With curves comes the grave responsibility of not looking like a potato sack.

There has to be waist belts and block colours and no high necklines. As a bit of a shortie, hosiery and shoes must elongate legs, which leaves very little room for pattern or t-bars cutting across the ankles. If I dare to wear a very eighties-flashdance oversized T, every other aspect of the outfit has to scream slim. A flash of shoulder or collarbone, black leggings or skinny jeans, more heels. It's all about balance and proportion for the curvalicious, a logistical nightmare for some trends. I quietly admire most catwalk highlights before mentally putting them back on the rack. This Spring/Summer, massive tribal prints and baggy trousers (which look great on who, exactly?) cropped tops, dungarees, double denim and clogs will all be huge fat no-nos for girls like me. On the other hand, we can console ourselves with military jackets, trench coats and nude-toned shoes (structure, structure, leg-lengthening. Tick.)

This may sound a little style-nazi, but I just don't think shapely women look or feel comfortable in 'arty', experimental clothing. A size 12-14 in a classic DVF wrap dress is ravishing - wedged into futuristic shapes or microscopic hotpants, not so. I think it's great that we get to look to old-school Hollywood starlets for inspiration and can fill out corsets and get that coveted waist-to-hip ratio in voluptuous red carpet dresses. But I don't think 80% of what comes out of fashion week is meant for us. It's like any modern art; lots of us can appreciate the innovative nature of a stained bed or signed urinal, but that doesn't mean we want it in pride of place in our living room.

This year, however, I've realized I'm only inches away from becoming the fashion Grinch when it comes to new trends. So I'm setting myself the challenge to spend this Spring trying the bits that my mind immediately stamped a 'NO' on when I was flicking through the trend reports.

Cute, but will it work on real women?

White tights
Is it Alice in Wonderland fever or just us longing to get back to our party-dress thrill? When I was about six I had white opaque tights with a sparkly Little Mermaid illustration near the ankle that I absolutely adored. Can the thick white tight be resurrected in my 23rd year? Asos magazine seems to think so. I'll have a browse for a suitable pair in the next couple of weeks and get back to you on whether it's nostalgia-chic or just lamb-dressed-as-foetus horror.

Oh, to be Blake-shaped

Oh so flirty and cute on tall athletic chicks, I have long admired and feared the playsuit. Arrogance aside, I think I have the legs for it, but it may have to be a slinky, belted design for me to get away with the look. Might also be time to haul out the fake tan, my legs have had little or no exposure this winter.

The ultimate 'don't'?

Socks and sandals
Whether it reminds you of your grandad or your woodwork teacher, the S'n'S has been a long-running fashion joke. But lo, this month both Glamour and Cosmo are filled with leggy models rocking the (delicate) ankle sock with (epically high) sandal trend. The best real world way to work this would probably be a sheer or lacy black ankle sock with vertigo-inducing black heels, but I kind of love the way Glamour did brights with clashing brights. Either way, this is the one I feel will be the hardest to pull off in urban Surrey.

Hello, boys

Dare to bare
I've always admired a curvy woman who's content to put it all out there and say 'yes - I am a goddess' with everything she wears. In classic terms, this is always Marilyn; a modern day equivalent might be Kelly Brook. When you're ample of bosom and generous of hip, it can be so comfortable to hide under long sleeves, wrap necklines and pencil skirts. But the Marilyn effect of just wearing it, no matter how sheer, strappy or cleavage-enhancing is really quite something. I need the right event for this one (and God knows, the right dress) but I'm determined to do it.

Loud and proud

Loud prints and baggy clothing are about as far from my idea of style heaven as you can possibly get. The enviable figures on are sporting baggy pantaloons, psychadelic dresses and jumpsuits and chunky jewellery. While all of this extra volume may compliment a slim wrist or legs up to one's armpits, how do us mediocre 5-something footers wear it? I'm seriously asking! Fashion bloggers' thoughts welcome.

So I'll get back to you when all boxes are ticked (I've set myself months rather than weeks to try these out... I don't have the budget for weekly fashion experiments right now.) I recommend you set yourself a similar style challenge and step outside your trusty shape-flattering box this season. There are few starting points for someone exceeding a size zero - even Mark Fast's generous casting of size 12s on his runway was undermined by his dressing them in shapeless, badly-fitting knitted dresses that I personally wouldn't touch with a barge pole. But it's the thought that counts.