A Wonderful Week Doing Absolutely Nothing

It’s been a rather Autumnal week on ANTW as we bid farewell to school holidays and hello to new season clothes.

We’ve chatted with Amy from PPQ who has given us tips about all sorts of Absolutely Nothing, we’ve loved and laughed with Lanvin, heard tales of a very modern Thailand adventure and shared some AW must haves, whilst reminiscing about Miu Miu. Lovely.

Absolutely Nothing To Watch : Lanvin AW 2011 / 12 by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Talk About : Amy Molyneaux from PPQ by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Write Home About : Adventures in Lone Parenting, Koh Samui by Samantha Taylor

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : An AW Wish List by Mel Moss

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Allergies by Zebedee Helm

Absolutely Nothing To Write Home About : Adventures in Lone Parenting, Koh Samui, Part 1

I’m back in Koh Samui; an island I first visited ten years ago, as part of a brief, but fairly impromptu lone sabbatical to Thailand during a stressful time in my life.  I’d read Alex Garland’s The Beach, seen the film and needed a change of scenery, and some fun. This was back in the days of cheap long haul flights and a weak Thai Baht meant you could live pretty well on very little once there. The added lure of exotic, palm-fringed beaches and chaotic towns providing a frisson of danger, cemented the decision to throw caution to the wind and take off on an adventure. I felt ever-so-slightly reckless but incredibly brave and, landing in the madness of Bangkok was every bit as exciting and exhilarating as I’d anticipated; a vibrant sensorial pummeling. It was all completely intoxicating to me, and so, with the help of some rather fabulous transvestites selling rocket-fueled cocktails from a psychedelic camper van on the Khao San Road, I started as I meant to go on, and got suitably intoxicated.

All of that seems an entire lifetime away and, indeed, would have seemed inconceivable at the time to think of me now; married with two young boys and living only a hop, skip and a jump away from Thailand. At just over two hours flight, however, Koh Samui is – to an expat like me (in terms of distance at least) – what Spain, Italy or The Algarve is to sun-starved Brits. And so, in a moment of madness, I decided to apply a slightly reverse-escapist logic in order to flee the oppressive heat of Hong Kong in August; by preceding a planned family holiday here (with Daddy) with two weeks of me flying solo with the boys in a villa (actually a less glamorous sounding mews house, in a small private development with shared pool, but very nice nonetheless). Ordinarily the thought of holidaying alone with kids on a tropical island wouldn’t be so daunting if I was staying in a hotel, but the key words to note here are ‘self’ and  ‘catering’. That means no room service, restaurant, concierge or babysitting to provide a welcome respite or extra pair of hands; when the eyes you already don’t have in the back of your head, just aren’t enough.

I’d barely left the airport when the first curveball was served- my phone wasn’t picking up a local network. I realised it was locked to my Hong Kong provider and was therefore useless until I could get it unlocked and purchase a local Sim card. To be incommunicado in Thailand with two young children is a little unsettling. The issue was compounded by our location. We’d arrived at night so it was tricky to ascertain exactly where we were in relation to anything but it was clear we weren’t actually near to anything much at all, other than other houses. Daylight confirmed that we were, in fact, situated down a quiet residential lane – in Bang Rak on the North coast- with a couple of other small villa rental developments, and local housing which consists of rustic wooden cottages and modest bungalows amid swaying coconut palms. All very picturesque, but we needed supplies and not a taxi in sight and the couple of housekeeping staff milling around spoke no English and were little help. In fact to find a taxi would actually require a 15 minute walk to the main drag along dusty, pot-hole ridden roads with no pavements, amid throngs of mopeds and 4 wheel drives which appear, seemingly, out of nowhere. Throw in some mangey wildlife consisting of stray cats, dogs and chickens to line the way and you may see why I began to question my decision to brave it alone with a 14 month old in a pushchair and a 4 year old who hates walking.

Nice gaff..but a bit of a schlep from the main road:

I decided that ‘wing it’ was the only way forward and packed the children up, took a deep breath and we all marched out into the searing Thai sun to negotiate all of the above. Needless to say, we didn’t fall into any pot holes, get mauled by rabid dogs or even (astonishingly) get run over, though it did (and still does) get a little hairy at times out on those roads. Actually I was completely thrilled with the fact we were somewhat off the beaten track and could see right off the bat that this would be a very pleasant location and very much the ‘real’ Thailand.

My eldest was thrilled with the local wildlife (note this was at the very end of our lane which was well Tarmac’d, things actually got worse as you headed onto the road proper):

Eventually we got to the main road where we took a quick detour to check out Bang Rak beach. It was Rubbish:

I am, of course, kidding. It’s a peach of a beach actually. And so, feeling pretty happy that we had such a nice beach close(ish) by, we then flagged down a taxi which took us to what has become something of a routine trip; Tesco Lotus. Probably more ‘Lotus’ than the Tesco we know and love, but has what you need and a great little food court with Thai grub that is perfect for take-away dinner back at the house. I found a chap who unlocked the phone and gave me contact with the world. My eldest discovered Swenson ice cream and, to my slight horror (which later turned to prayers of thanks when I was tearing my hair out for distractions) one of those noisy little arcade places full of driving and shooting games and airplane rides. This definitely wasn’t the chicest of starts, but it was the beginning of our little adventure and, once the adrenaline levels had dipped somewhat, I realised we were going to be just fine. All I needed to do next was figure out how we were going to fill our days..

I’ll be posting more from sunny Koh Samui and my adventures in lone- parent vacationing over the next week or so.

Two whole weeks doing Absolutely Nothing

A packed fortnightly roundup of the very best bits from Absolutely Nothing To Wear.

And we now have a little ANTW shop which is in its very very early stages but promises to have all kinds of lovely things to buy over the coming weeks. Just click on the SHOP tab on the homepage.

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Shoes Glorious Shoes by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Write About : A Term Of Endearment by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside by Micki Myers

Absolutely Nothing To Wear / See / Do : The Wilderness Festival by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Eat : Fabulous Figs by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Too Old For Mickey Mouse? by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : When It Rains It Pours by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : Cowpats by Zebedee Helm

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : Bottlebanks by Zebedee Helm

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : ASOS, uh oh by Mel Moss

Quality Street cartoon by Zebedee Helm

Everyday Things Of Britain – Bottle Bank Neighbours : a cartoon by Zebedee Helm

Click here to see more marvelous cartoons and hilarious things

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside : A nostalgic story by Micki Myers

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent many a summer holed up in a caravan parked on some grassy cliff with a plastic flamingo planted by the door. You will have entertained yourself by scrambling down a rocky path to a beach whose sand has been formed by the relentless pummeling of the North Atlantic since the last Ice Age. There, you spread your blanket, strip off your clothes down to your rather hopeful string bikini (biting your lip so as not to gasp when the bitter summer breeze sets fire to your skin), and huddle down as close to the sand as possible so that the wind hurries over, as opposed to onto, you. If you hold a cheap paperback to your face you can somewhat avoid the exfoliating effects of the hostile air but quickly become cross-eyed.

If you are very brave, you will give in to the wailing demands of your family to be a good sport and play some kind of beach game completely unsuited to beaches, like soccer with an inflatable ball that tears off at high speed, bouncing along the flat surface at the slightest nudge, then stand around drawing hearts in the sand with your toe while the nearest player runs off for a half-hour jaunt to fetch it.

If you are not simply brave but also very stupid, you will take your life into your hands and baptize yourself in the water’s salty depths. Very likely you will turn and crouch reflexively towards the shore as soon as that first prickly wavelet crashes against your calf, but you will force yourself to edge deeper since you are now committed to a full submersion in order to justify your holiday to the coast, because unless you actually go in the sea, it’s not a seaside, holiday, is it?

Once you emerge — a shrunken, demoralized shell of the person you once were — shivering and in desperate need of a reviving flagon of brandy and an electric blanket, you will gingerly step back to your towel, noticing for the first time how damn sharp sand can be on the soles of wet feet. Not soft at all.

Swimming (well, standing armpit-deep waving your arms about while you nonchalantly pretend you aren’t having a pee) raises an almighty appetite, so you ignore the fact that it’s a full hour before lunchtime, and crack open the cooler. Huddled in your towel, you tuck in to sandwiches you would find revolting at home but which eaten under these conditions seem to you the most perfect food on Earth. I’m talking sandwiches made with Shiphams pastes and liver paté, or egg salad made with the zesty tang of Heinz Salad Creme; none of those fancy delights that nowadays you can pick up anywhere in a little triangular box. Even when your teeth meet grit you think this is LIVING, the salty air and proximity of screeching gulls trying to snag a bite somehow making the experience more authentic and satisfying.

Instead of saving the rest of your tuck for tea (your body instinctively telling you to eat! Eat as much as you can before hypothermia sets in), you reach for the fat slices of fruit cake wrapped individually in wax paper, cut fresh from the slab made seven months ago by your grandma for Christmas. Of course by now, the rum it was soaked in has thoroughly penetrated every juicy morsel, rendering you ever so slightly tipsy with each bite. Fruit cake never seemed like such a good idea as now. What a waste only eating it in the dead of winter! Surely this fruity treat was devised to be a fortifying delivery system and/or lifesaving device?

Once it has been consumed, and every little crumb picked out of the terrycloth, the skies darken. You try to judge how long the rain will last — is it worth packing up and traipsing all the way back up the cliff? — but decide what the hell, you’re down here now, you’ll wait it out. 20 minutes later, starving, you attack the apple in the tuck box and try to do the Sudoku growing steadily transparent as the newsprint it’s on gets soggier.

What you’d give for a beer. What you’d give for a woolen jumper and scarf. What you’d give for a steaming hot parcel of cod and chips, all soaked through with vinegar. What you’d give to be back in the caravan. What you’d give for the sun to come out from behind those clouds once and for all — OK, fine, just long enough to put on dry clothes and make a dash for it. What you’d give to have one fat soggy chip in your mouth; you can taste it already. What you’d give to have gone to Majorca instead, what a fool you are. What you’d give, sitting at your desk in the hot city, to be back there now, because it was paradise and it was horrible and it tasted just exactly like August in England.

A wonderful week of Absolutely Nothing

We’ve had delicious things to cook, gorgeous things to wear, fabulous things to see and pretty things to grow in glass jars – you get a little bit of everything when doing Absolutely Nothing….

Absolutely Nothing To Wear on holiday by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Cook : Cod baked with tomatoes and tarragon by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To See : A Summer with the Supersaurs by Mel Moss

In continued appreciation of the genius of When Superstars Ruled The World by David Loftus

Absolutely Nothing To Grow : Terrariums by Samantha Taylor

Absolutely Nothing To Cook : Tomato and strawberry gazpacho by Mimi Roberts

In continued appreciation of the genius of ‘When Superstars Ruled the World…..’

Best bits from a week of Absolutely Nothing….

Absolutely Nothing To Watch – Bored To Death

Absolutely Nothing To Wear – Braving The Brogue

Absolutely Nothing To Watch – Luther

Absolutely Nothing To Cook – Lemon Sole

Absolutely Nothing To Wear – Merchant and Mills

Absolutely Nothing To Wear – Bring Your Own Blanket

Lots more coming this week from a whole host of new contributors…..

And now a day of doing absolutely nothing at all.

Braving the Brogue

I love brogues, always have. On boys and girls of all ages. I think they’re just about the smartest shoe in the shop. But how ever much I admired them on others, I was never sure if they were something I would love on my very own feet. That was until I found the perfect pair and now I can’t take them off.

My love for brogues started a long long time ago when the only person who really made fashion brogues for ladies, was the wonderful Sir Paul Smith. I was given a pair by the press office as a gift / payment for writing some press releases. I chose them myself and so strong was my longing to own a pair, I took the last remaining size 7s. I’m a small size 6. They were pale pink leather and absolutely gorgeous. I still have them in the box they came in and I have never, ever worn them. They’re far too big, I look like a clown but I can’t bring myself to part with them. I just like opening the lid now and again and knowing that I own one of the finest pair of brogues ever made.

It was years and years until I finally plucked up the courage to start looking again and then last Summer I found them. A black and white pair of lace-less brogues from Urban Outfitters, purchased in Los Angeles, in Santa Monica to be exact. They are quite possibly the best shoes I’ve ever owned, I wear them almost every day and they have reignited my love and confidence in the brogue.

So, having overcome the fear that I was possibly too old or too short legged or just too afraid to wear them, last week I pushed it that one step further….and I think it was a step too far. I bought myself – online – a pair of tan leather brogue ankle boots. I’m quite a fan of summer dresses with bare legs and boots – biker boots and the like, not Uggs – and I thought that this could be the perfect, lighter alternative. I think I might have been wrong. You see, the great thing about biker boots is that they’re loose enough around the ankle to make them flattering, as soon as you wear any kind of short boot which is more on the fitted side, it doesn’t do anything for the length or shape of your legs. Well not mine anyway.

But the thing is I still like them and I’m convinced I’ll find a way to wear them. Or they might just sit alongside my pink Paul Smith brogues in their box, as a slight fashion mistake but very nice to look at all the same.

Merchant and Mills – the prettiest pins in the box

My sewing skills aren’t anything to boast about. I’m pretty good at cushion covers and Christmas stockings and I absolutely love my John Lewis Mini Sewing Machine, but when it comes to dressmaking, I’ve never been brave enough to try. But, if there’s one website to make me even consider giving it a go, it would have to be Merchant and Mills.

Not only do they have some of the loveliest patterns I’ve seen but they also have the prettiest packs of buttons and pins I could ever wish to own.

So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a dressmaker or if a box of pins could quite easily make you smile, then have a look. They’re absolutely gorgeous.