Tag Archives: shopping

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me?” Helene Hanff

I’ve just read this delightful non fiction book and I absolutely loved it! It consists of the two-decade long correspondence and friendship between the reserved Frank Doel, an employee at Marks & Co. Booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Rd in London and the New York based writer and bibliophile Helene Hanff. She is an avid and enthusiastic reader looking for rare second hand books who doesn’t like the dirty, broken editions she can find on NY stalls so she prefers buying them overseas. From the start we can appreciate the contrast between her American informality and Frank’s British professionalism, but as long as the story goes she establish a friendship with him, his family and all the employees of the library and the correspondence becomes informal and heartfelt. We gradually see Helene becoming intimately involved in the lives of the shop’s staff, sending them food parcels during England’s post-war shortages and sharing with them details of her life and career.

I’m grateful that this book had been published in the 70s and that it’s a true story, a modern fictional writer would have inserted a love affair between Helene and Frank who was married and had two daughters, ruining the spirit of the book. Because the magic of this book it’s in its innocence. The rare and pure friendship established between people who live so many miles away thanks to letters.

That’s so relatable to me: I feel so unloved and underappreciated by everyone I live with, while I feel like I’m another person when I’m virtually or in person, with my overseas friends.

I recommend this read to all the book lovers, those who like to browse little bookshops or used book stalls and, like Helene, love “inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins”, like “the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned” and are fond of “second hand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest”.

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The Marks & Co book shop located at 84 Charing Cross road has closed, but the street, located in the Charing Cross district at the west end of the Strand in London, is still renowned for the variety of the second hand books shops and independent book stores. The biggest and most known one is for sure Foyles opened more than 100 years ago, but the main road and also the side streets are full of little gems.

The road is named after the homonym district, where, in front of the railway was placed one of the twelve crosses that marked the route of Queen Eleanor funeral procession. It is in central London, very close both to Oxford street and Leicester Square, so with countless of shops, theatres and places to eat.

A little curiosity: in the Harry Potter books, The Leaky Cauldron pub is in Charing Cross Road.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Friends will be Friends – Queen

 

“I like good strong words that mean something” Louisa May Alcott

As I stated in my previous post, this blog doesn’t contain any sponsored content: everything you will find here comes to my personal tastes.

I got to know MyIntent thanks to JD because they engraved the word Evaride, that it’s his band. I was curious to know more about this project so I started browsing the web and visited their site. First of all it’s not a jewellery company but a service project whose aim is to encourage people to share more truth and inspiration with each other.

How? Simple: you have to choose a word that represents you or the one you need in your life or something you need to look up to and fill the form. Words are engraved on a round token, you can choose between silver, gold or black (I chose this last one because it’s my favourite colour). You can have it as a twist bracelet, adjustable necklace (like mine) or chain, dainty or bead necklace. There is also a keychain option. If you want you can share your story not only with the person who’s going to make your jewel (in order to put more commitment in the process), but also with the community through social media.

MyIntent motto is “What is your word?” because words are very powerful, not only in a negative way ( “loose lips sink ships” or as we say in Italy “tongues kill more than swords”), but also in a positive way. Wearing your word may be either a powerful reminder or a daily inspiration; it can also lead to productive conversations: you will be amazed in finding out that everyone has an intent for their life and how many interesting, inspiring, moving stories are behind a simple word. It also helps you to question your life asking yourself:

You can also choose to make a gift to a friend or a relative, offering them the word they need the most.

Here’s my necklace, my word is quite peculiar since it’s an acronym.

F8 stands for many different things.

-It’s the FATE I can’t choose.

-It reminds me to have FAITH because things can eventually get better.

-It’s a daily reminder to FIGHT.

 JJD are the initials of a person who daily inspires me, gives me strength, pushes me to look for the light in every situation, reminds me I’m loved and worth.

Check MyIntent site for further informations, more inspiration, models and prices.

https://www.myintent.org/

So: What’s your intent?

TRACK OF THE DAY: More than Words- Extreme

“And the city itself was just a glow on the dark earth” Monica Ali

As I said before, I’ve just read “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali and I totally fell in love with it. I borrowed it from the library only because I liked the title (lately I’m only looking for novels set in London) and it was a positive surprise. It’s a choral novel even if the main point of view is Nazneen’s, a Bangladeshi woman relocated to London through an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. The books tells her story, but also many other of the people of Bangladeshi origin she meets, with a look on what happens in her country of origin through what’s happening to her sister Hasina. The book is not properly set in Brick Lane, maybe “Mile End” would have been a better title, but if you’re familiar to that part of East London, there are many places that can be easily recognised. The plot is pleasant and interesting, characters are well depicted, the descriptions are vivid and the reader’s interest is always kept alive. I loved seeing the main character growth: at first she’s submitted to her husband, unhappy and prefers taking refuge into her past and happy childhood rather than taking pleasure in daily life. Then she learns English, she starts earning her own money, she gets a lover who helps her to see over the four walls of her apartment. In the end she realizes who she is and what she wants to be, so she gets rid both of her husband and lover and opens a sewing workshop with some friends of her and finally fulfill her desire to ice-skating even in a sari.

If you want to visit Brick Lane you have to hop off at Aldgate and walk for a 5 minutes. Besides the street art, the first thing that strikes the attention is the Old Truman brewery, once home to London’s largest brewery and now location to a hive of creative businesses like independent shops, galleries, markets (only at the weekends), bars and restaurants.

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If you keep walking along this long lane, you will find The Cereal Killer Cafe that sells over 100 different types of cereal from around the world. You can eat there and they have vegan and gluten free options.

Another well known place is the Beigel shop, open 24/7 whose menu is focused on beigels (not bagels, it keeps the yddish pronunciation) baked in the traditional Jewish style (it’s being boiled in water before baking, a step that produces its crisp crust and moist, chewy interior) with  a lot of tasty fillings. It also serves pastries, cakes and sweets as well as white, rye and black bread. It’s not expensive, but it has no gluten free option.

If you raise your eyes, once you pass under the railway bridge, you will see the 123 building that is a four-storey mini department store packed with recycled clothing.

And on the less known part of Brick lane, just crossed Bethnal Green Road, there’s Tatty Devine my favourite handmade jewellery shop, where you can find some original, playful, colourful, laser cut acrylic things. There’s another shop in Covent Garden, but I use to go there.

TRACK OF THE DAY: Brimful of Asha- Cornershop

“Books are a uniquely portable magic” Stephen King

Last Thursday it was World’s Book Day, the day in which most people brag to have read at classic, when they never have opened it in their life. I’m a bookworm since I was three, when I finally started reading on my own. I’m also a very fast reader, this is a blessing since I can perfectly optimise the hours spent in the doctor’s waiting room, but also a curse, for I always need new books. Luckily I can satisfy my constant desire of reading by borrowing books at the public library, I’m sorry for the librarians who have to see my ugly face every now and then and who try to keep me away as long as possible, by suggesting me huge volumes.

There are three books that marked the different stages of my life. The first is “Little Women” by Louise-May Alcott: I was 7/8 when I read it and I immediately identified myself with Jo March, she was exactly the person I wanted to be. She wasn’t girly, she refused to conform to society and she wanted to be a writer. And in the following books she also married the man she loved without caring about age gap or other people’s opinion.

The second book I read when I was 12, is “The diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. Despite of the huge differences due to the historical situation and her condition, I totally bonded with her. She was me and I was her, since we felt the same things: intolerance for our family members and adult, first love problems, facing period for first time and above all, the love for writing and the fact we both kept a diary.

I read “100 Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez when I was 15 and when I finished it I thought that it was the kind of book I wanted to write. It opened me the magic gates of South American Literature and Gabo was quickly flanked by the immense Isabel Allende, Julio Cortazar, Mario Benedetti and Eduardo Galeano. During high school I developed an insane passion for Joyce and later I fell in love with Sylvia Plath, Jeanette Winterson and Anais Nin (have I ever mentioned that I love erotica?).

For a late celebration of World’s book day, I leave you the link of a book I read last year and that I literally loved: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B01KPBNBG8?ref_=kw8_store_search_detail

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The book is “Psy” and its author is the eclectic Joey Slater who’s also a songwriter and a band member both for Wheatus and Ventura Project. I will write a review of it soon: if you love young adult fiction and you know English, this is a must read book.

TRACK OF THE DAY: The Book of Love- Gavin James

 

“I was so thin I could slice bread with my shoulderblades, only I seldom had bread” Charles Bukowski

There is something I’m always reluctant to talk about and it’s my unintentional weight loss. And while everybody seems having the opposite problem and struggles between diets and gym courses, it’s hard to say that I’m losing weight without dieting or increasing physical activity. To be completely frank, I never went to a gym, I love to walk, but the closest I can ever be to a sport, is yelling at the tv while watching football, rugby or golf.

So I never talk about this, because people won’t understand, they will probably say that I’m lucky and because I noticed that skinny people are often body shamed by being called unhealthy, bunch of bones or anorexic. Should I be ashamed of my skin and bones (just to say it in Coldplay’s words)? According to the nasty looks people give me on the beach, I should and that’s so unfair.

The real problem is not being fat or being thin, but looking at the others’ bodies to imitate them or to criticise them. No one is bearer of an absolute truth, let alone the perfect body type. So, look at yourself and yourself only, lose or gain weight only for health reasons or if you (and only you) like your body and stop thinking that people like underwear models are an evil example.

So here it comes the second part of this post: visiting Victoria’s Secrets store in London. I know, I already blamed those who go to London only to show their purchases in popular places, but in my defence, I have to say that I buy my underwear in the kids section and that I was dragged there, by someone who thought I would have loved luxury and invisible panties. Let me say that lace thongs are a big NO from me, since it’s like having a rose stem in the middle of the butt cheeks, but if you fancy sexy lingerie, here’s my tips.

There are three Victoria’s Secrets stores in London: one, I’ve never been to, is next to Brent Cross area, another one, the most famous, is located in Central London at 111 New Bond Street and you can get there by hopping off either at Bond Street or Oxford Circus station. It’s not hard to find, just a cross street of Regent’s Street.

 

 

The third store is inside the Westfield Mall, next to Sheperd’s Bush Station. Well, to be clear, there are two shops: the classic and bland Victoria’s Secrets and the Pink store for younger women that has cuter and more comfortable items (according to me). Anyway both have workout clothes, tank tops, underwear… just in a different style.

 

 

So, if you like this brand and you want to wear something sexy (and expensive) for a hot night under London stars, here you are. And don’t ask me what we bought, I won’t tell you: it’s a (Victoria’s) secret.

 

 

TRACK OF THE DAY: Little Things – One Direction