Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris due in the autumn; "Out of Tune book 2" edited by Jonathan Maberry, and "Crises and Conflicts" edited by Ian Whates, available now; and Lara Croft: the Blade of Gwynnever, due for release in September.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Savant… Countdown to the Launch

I wrote a book. I put it away and more-or-less forgot about it.

Eventually, I used the book as a calling card when Jonathan Oliver at Solaris invited me to submit a pitch for a novel.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I never did pitch a novel, because Jon liked my calling card so much that he decided to buy it.

That novel is ‘Savant’.

I saw, and posted on my FaceBook page, an article about art and artists pretty recently. It said everything I believe about art. That is, that the best art comes direct from the mind and craft of the artist.

We live in a remarkably interactive age. As soon as we say anything, as soon as we make anything, the World can respond. What matters is how we choose to deal with the response.

When I wrote ‘Savant’, I did so only because I had an idea that I wanted to work through, and writing it seemed like the best option. I didn’t expect other people to respond to the story, and I never expected it to be published.

I’ve been writing to order for a long time. That doesn’t mean I don’t bring my own ideas and agendas to the work, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a connection to the work, but it’s a very different experience from making something only for myself.

If the consumer has a say in the artistic process, he will not benefit from the full extent of the artist’s vision.

I like to eat in good restaurants. I am not a chef, nor am I sommelier. So, if I’m asked how I’d like my meat served, I say that I’ll eat it the way the chef prefers to prepare and cook it. A good chef knows his meat much better than I could. If I’m ordering wine with a good dinner then I simply ask the sommelier to choose a glass of something wonderful to drink with each course. I like wine, but I’m no expert on it.

I have eaten some wonderful meat that would have tasted much less good if I’d interfered in the preparation and cooking of it, and I’ve drunk amazing wines that I know nothing about and would never have chosen from a wine menu. I have reaped the benefits of the chef’s knowledge and his craft, and I have enjoyed the skills of the sommelier.

I know what to do when I’m contracted to write a piece of work, and I understand that it’s important to give the client what he wants. ‘Savant’ doesn’t fit these remits, but that’s because it is all me. It is a combination of my art and my craft, and it pleases me.

Savant will be widely available very soon
I hope that ‘Savant’ will please others, too. Since it’s launch date was released, and copies are available for early review on Net Galley, I have been gratified to note that there is some interest in work that is unconventional and yet to be proven commercial.

‘Savant’ has popped up on a number of blogs as  an interesting prospect, and I’ve even been hit up for some press interviews.

As artists, it seems natural to follow our own paths. I generally have a ready-made audience for the stuff that I do; I know what readers are expecting, and I do my best to give it to them.

This time, with ‘Savant’ my expectations were only that I express my own ideas, and only in a way that satisfied me and the story. It’s a liberating process, but a frightening one too.

People might have expectations of ‘Savant, and they might not be fulfilled; I hope that if that’s the case, readers will keep an open mind and be transported by my ideas and how I’ve set them out, rather than by their own expectations of what this book might or should be like or about.

Do I care about reviews? Do I care whether people like what I’ve done?

I suspect that this novel will divide readers, and I’m absolutely fine with that. I wrote the book, not because I was asked to, or because I pitched to do it, but because I had an idea that I wanted to play with. This is my world, inhabited by my characters, exploring themes that I think are interesting.

The point of the reader is the writer, always… But once any book is in a reader’s hands, it belongs exclusively to him, and he can think whatever he likes about it.

I’m a writer; I’ve taken a lot of rejection over the years, but if that allows me to keep doing what I do, and to keep making the things that matter to me, I’ll take the rejection.

‘Savant’ is available for pre-order. I hope that some of you will be sufficiently interested to reserve a copy, and with any luck, some of you will get something out of it. I know that I’ve got a great deal out of the process.

No, doubt, once the reviews start rolling in, I’ll be revisiting this book and this experience.


Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Family Values and the Single Parent

It crossed my mind last night that an awful lot of people seem to be very interested in The Family, by which, of course, they mean two married heterosexual people, raising children together.

It seems to me that people who advocate The Family, or Family Values are basing their ideas either on religion or on what is considered normal in a patriarchal society.

Unconventional families are not for them.

That’s OK, but I want to go back to the idea of what is ‘normal’.

Children are a wonderful thing, except that they’re just little people. People have always survived, and in a myriad different groups and societies.

Marriage used to be about money, alliances and keeping things in the family. Yes, people who were closely related were regularly married, until the law got involved. Having said that, it is legal for cousins to marry, in the UK, but there are groups of people who are not genetically related who are forbidden marriage. This has to be a moral judgement call. We don’t want a man to marry his mother-in-law because it feels creepy. 

But I’m getting off the point, which is that romantic marriage, and therefore the sort of marriage that most traditionalists are talking about is only about three hundred years old.

That never stopped anyone reproducing, and, presumably, it didn’t prevent effective parenting, either.

And, not for nothing, men have traditionally had a lot of latitude when it comes to extra-marital affairs. They held the purse strings. Women were generally trapped in a form of institution, going from their father’s houses to their husband’s. Some of those marriages may have been happy, and some at least tolerable, but we’re really talking about happy or tolerable for women. For the women who were miserable, abused, neglected and controlled there was no way out. 

Talking of purse strings, right into the 1970s, in the UK, women were denied mortgages if they could not produce a male guarantor.

Much of the notion of romantic marriage is based around the idea that men work to maintain their families, financially, and women do the caring.

Of course, women have always had to work, and have always done so. Only a hundred and fifty years ago, the children of the rich were raised by almost anyone other than their parents: nannies, tutors, governesses and private schools, and the children of the poor were put to work. How much parenting was accomplished then? Well, children grew to adulthood and took on families and responsibilities of their own, and they did it in conditions that few of us could even contemplate.

Parenting, as we imagine it now, has never really been a thing. 

What a lot of people seem to object to is single-parent families and gay families. How often have you heard or seen phrases like, ‘children need two parents’ and ‘children need a male role model’?

The twentieth century was littered with single parents, the vast majority of them women, but it wasn’t until divorce became a practical solution to a bad marriage that single-parenthood was questioned.

How many fatherless children grew up in single-parent families after the First and Second World Wars? Not to mention all of those children who were, essentially, fatherless while their fathers fought those wars. We’re talking about two generations of men conscripted between the ages of 18 and 41 for the first war and between the ages of 18 and 51 for the second. 

It takes young men to fight a war, and many of those young men would have had young children.

No one, as far as I can tell, ever vilified those single mothers. They were an accepted norm. Society did not break down, and neither did anyone expect it to, simply because widowed women still had to raise their children.

So, the problem clearly isn’t single mothers. 

The problem appears to me to be that women are now freer than ever to divorce the fathers of their children. What the traditionalist appears to dislike is empowered women.

There was never a better time to be an empowered woman. We can buy our own mortgages, without a male guarantor; we can expect equal pay for equal work, and the same educational resources are available to us. Of course we’re going to make relationship choices.

I don’t know who these people think they’re kidding when they claim they are trying to preserve our society, by insisting that a child needs two parents, or that those two parents should not be of the same gender.

Children need to be loved and cared for, and they need to be encouraged in their endeavours.

I know great single parents and very average married ones. I know wonderful men and women coping on their own, holding down jobs and setting great examples for their children. I also know two parent families where neither adult is in work or adequately caring for their children.

I know children who were planned, but have had very little real parenting, and I know children who were conceived by accident who couldn’t have better more loving parents.

I have no problem with traditionalists saying that children should be a priority. I have a huge problem with traditionalists claiming that the reasons children don’t have an ideal start in life is because they lack one of their parents.
My own extended family in 2007, including a mixed bag
of individual family situations... And look at all those happy faces!

Of course children need role models. We all need role models. Those people, and let’s all have any number of them, don’t have to be the children’s parents. Other family members can fill that role, so can family friends, teachers, scout leaders… you name it. People who are not personally known to a child can be great role models, too, including people at the top of their profession, sports-people, and the great and the good wherever we seek them out.

I believe in family, and, as it happens, I believe in romantic love. In our society there are very few things that are permanent, and relationships are one of those things. A family is simply a group of caring people who share a life together and depend upon each other. Any happily functioning family is a good thing, however it is comprised.

If we could all begin to look at modern single parents and remember those two generations of the twentieth century raised in single parent families, our perspective might just shift a little.


Having and raising children happens within a broad set of circumstances, but some of those circumstances are being questioned, largely by old, white men. As a result, women, yet again, are being made to feel inadequate, guilty, less than. When did we decide that foisting negative attitudes on anyone would make them better able to cope with life or the situations they find themselves in? Undermining a woman’s choices and her strengths does not make her a better mother.

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Hashtag

As a Twitter user for quite a while, now, I’m fully aware of the hashtag, I even use a few of them.

I don’t see why there should be rules for such things, but I tend to start typing a hashtag, and if it doesn’t appear on its own, I look around for something that’s already in regular use. There’s no point, after all, using a hashtag that no one’s looking for.

I tend to hashtag work that the husband’s doing or has done on Twitter, which is simple enough, but I don’t tend to use hashtags for fun or even, necessarily, when I’m being political. I also don’t go looking for hashtags to follow. Life is busy enough, and Twitter isn’t my first consideration when it comes to allocating more of my time. I do, if I stumble upon them, use hashtags or tap into them when I have a few spare minutes. #visiblewomen is a good example of that.

#visiblewomen is being used to promote women in the male-dominated arts, notably comics, so it buys into my political affiliations as much as it does to my work… perhaps more-so. It's a good example of a good thing.

Several months ago… gosh! It could be more than a year, I came across a hashtag for women writers who blog. I added a column to my Tweetdeck, and checked out some of the tweets. The hashtag led me to all kinds of fascinating blogs by women writers. Some of them were professional writers and some of them wannabes, but many of the blogs were interesting. The hashtag was allocated to a particular day of the week, so I began to use it regularly, partly to publicise my own blog, and partly to tap into what other women writers were thinking and doing.

I liked the hashtag. I liked the women who used it. I even suggested that other women writers of my acquaintance might want to tap into it.

Time passed, and the column for my chosen hashtag began to fill more quickly with more users over the next several months. It took forever to wade through them, and much of the wading was a waste of my time, because a decent percentage of the users were so-called specialists trying to tell me how to maximise the numbers of readers for my blog, or how to better organise my blog, or any number of ways to be noticed.

I suppose in their ways, the people cluttering up my hashtag column were writers, too, but what they were really doing was selling their wares, in one way or another, and it wasn’t always easy to distinguish these blogs from the women writers blogs that I actually wanted to read.

I began to scroll through, looking for the avatars of my favourite contributors. I was aware that I was probably missing great new users who actually were women who wrote, but time and being cheesed off were both factors in my hunting techniques.

More time passed, and I found that I wasn’t taking as much interest in one of my very few regular hashtags as I had at the beginning.

Then, as I scrolled down the column of tweets, one day, I began to see male faces among the avatars.

Avatars are a funny thing; they can be very personal, or not personal at all. A friend of mine, who happens to be a woman who writes, has a photo of her favourite hen as an avatar; many writers use the covers of their books, and some use images that are even less personal.

Any man who really felt the need to join this hashtag for women who write might have made himself anonymous by using any avatar other than his face... Although, deception might be even less acceptable than the brazen approach.

Of course, I could simply ignore the fact that men were present in this column, using a hashtag that had ‘women’ in its name. Anyone can look at any hashtag anytime they like. These things are not private, there are no membership criteria. Nevertheless, I was put out.

I wouldn’t use a hashtag that was specifically for men, or aviators, or scuba divers, or fundamentalist christians, or any of the other things that I am not. If I did, I’d probably do it sheepishly, hopefully respectfully, and probably not with an avatar that proved I was not naturally associated with the hashtag.

Entitlement is a funny thing, and it’s a double-edged sword.

I feel entitled not to have men use my women writers hashtag.

Men feel entitled to use my women writers hashtag.

I wonder which of us has a better case.

The problem now, is that I don’t use this hashtag the way I did originally, and I don’t use it the way I would like to. I still post, using it, but I don’t join in anything like as much as once I did, and it’s a great pity.

Perhaps, as with many things in life, hashtags have natural lifespans, and simply run their courses. Perhaps anything that is remotely successful will have some kind of bandwagon effect attached to it.


I miss the early days of this particular hashtag, but I still read several of the blogs that I first found by using it, so I guess some good has come of it. I do wish it had endured, though.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Bra is a Feminist Issue

And I'm not talking about members of the Women's Liberation Movement of the '70s burning their undergarments, although I can't help thinking they had the right idea.

I was having a conversation the other day with a very lovely man that I’ve known for upwards of two decades. He’s also a friend of the husband, and almost exactly my age.

This man, we’ll call him Jon, knows bodies… It’s his job to know bodies.

I don’t remember what led to the conversation, but it might have been that I was talking about sewing. Lately, I’ve been sewing and baking quite a lot.

I have been drafting bras to sew that will fit me and be comfortable.

For me, the bra is a feminist issue as much as it is an engineering problem.

It surprises me a little to realise this, because half of patents for bras have been registered by women. Of course, that means that the other half have been registered by men, but the ratio is still better than for many products.

Have you ever put on a bra?

If not, this is how it’s done, although some women might approach the problem differently from the general norm.

Put arms through bra straps.
Shamnabanu wrote a blog about women's underwear,
 including this post about 10 common mistakes women make when buying a bra
Lean forward and drop breasts into cups.
Reach around back to fasten bra.

Have you ever taken a bra off, and I do mean of your own body?

If not, this is how it’s done, with the exception of those women who find alternative methods.

Reach around your back with both hands.
Unhook bra.
Lean forward and release breasts.

It doesn’t sound too terrible or too technical, does it? Unless you really think about it, which I have, and my chat about it with Jon led us down some interesting routes where gender politics are concerned.

Putting on and taking off a bra requires the adoption of submissive postures. We lean over to put a bra on, and to fasten or unfasten a bra, we reach both hands behind our backs. It’s the latter that’s the really tough one.

Why do bras generally fasten halfway up our backs? Removing our bras puts us in a submissive, vulnerable posture. The action throws out our chests, exposing our breasts, and while we’re messing about with the hooks and eyes, we might just as well be in a full-Nelson.

I have never been terribly comfortable taking my bra off in front of anyone. It’s not because I’m a prude. Nudity doesn’t faze me, and I’m quite happy for others to unfasten my bra for me. 

It was only in discussion with Jon that I finally realised it’s because of the submissive, vulnerable position that removing my bra puts me in that I don’t like to do it in front of anyone. I'm happily compliant in all kinds of situations, but I don't think I could ever be accused of being submissive.

Perhaps the back fastening of the bra is one reason why some men like to watch women undressing. Taking a bra off disables women while putting them in an exposing, submissive pose, and who can take off their knickers without bending over?

The other problem with bras is one of engineering. Bras that fasten at the back tension outwards, towards the back when, actually, my preference would be for a bra that tensions towards the centre front.

Of course, there have been front fastening bras for a long time. I’ve worn them, and some of them haven’t been terrible.

Check out this ad for Playtex, Cross Your Heart
I believe there are better solutions, though, and I’m working on them. I’m not a bra designer, but I can sew a bit, and I know how to draft a pattern. I’m working on alternative positions for fastenings, and alternative strap configurations to avoid the inevitable slippage.

I also wear a size that isn’t common to all brands or styles. Not for nothing, there doesn’t seem to be standard sizing in underwear across the industry, so every single bra has to be tried on in-store ever to get anything that fits properly.

According to one article I read on the web, more than 80% of women are wearing the incorrect bra size, but what choice do we have when the range of standard bra sizes is as limited as it is? I’m a standard dress size. I can almost always fit comfortably into a size ten, but my bra strap size is a 30 or sometimes a 32. Sizing has become more extensive than it was when I began wearing a bra, but a 30 inch strap is still not included in all ranges.

Many women wearing a size ten dress are wearing a strap size 34 bra, because it’s a standard size, and because they don’t expect better. It’s easy to buy underwear without having a fitting… too easy; and it’s too easy to become used to wearing an ill-fitting garment.


Breasts are cool, and it’s a good idea to look after them. I’m working on finding a home-sewn way to do mine some justice.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

An Exception to the Rule: Do not Create for Free

I do not work for free.

I feel as if I’ve said it a million times.

Artists should not work for nothing. If you give your work away, you devalue it in the worst ways. I like my work, and it has some commercial value. It is work! It’s fun at times, and can be rewarding, but people who pretend that making something isn’t work are fooling no one but themselves.

Today, I am embarking on a new project. It is writing, so it must be work.

I’m not getting paid for it… Not in terms of cash, anyway.

I hope that my reward will take the form of pride, delight, and the value of the experience. I also hope that I will learn a thing or two… I suspect that I shall.

I’ve written stories for a long time. I wrote my first novel when I was fourteen. I’ve written for comics and for computer games, and I’ve worked in advertising. I’ve even written training manuals.

The first thing I wrote that anyone other than I or a teacher knew about was when I was nine, and in primary school. We’d call it year 5 now. Every year, each class in my school put on a play for the parents. I landed lead roles in productions when I was in years 3 and 4, but I was more ambitious than that, or I wanted more control. I’m not sure I remember my motivation. Anyway… When I was in year 5, I wrote a play. It was the first thing of any consequence that I had written.

My year 5 teacher was young and lovely. He was my first ever male teacher, and he couldn’t have been out of college for very long. He was small and lean with fair hair and a beard… At least, that’s the way I remember him, and his name was Mr Tapley.

Mr Tapley read my play, and, in his wisdom, he decided that the class would perform it in the annual drama extravaganza. I don’t know how coherent my attempt at scriptwriting was, and I’m not sure whether the parents who saw our performance ‘got it’ or not. What I do know, is that Mr Tapley was a hero to put on the work of a nine year old child for public consumption, even if the public consisted of parents.

I’ve always written, but mostly prose fiction. I wrote another play in the mid-nineties, and, of course, there’s always the chance to write dialogue in any format, long fiction, short stories, comics… You name it.

My  new project is my third play, and, like my juvenile first attempt, this, too, is destined for production and performance. I’m rather looking forward to it all.

The dort is studying drama at university, and she belongs to an extracurricular group that performs. The dort wanted to pitch to direct something for one of the theatre slots available to the group, and she wanted to have a lot of input into the work. The dort pitched some ideas, and won that slot. Now, it’s down to me to produce a script for her.

It’s been lovely talking about the project, exchanging ideas and building character profiles. The dort has had a lot of input, and now it’s simply time for me to write something.

I’m a writer, and I don’t write for free.

I am making an exception for the dort, partly because she asked me too, but partly because the opportunity to collaborate with her talent, and the chance to sit-in on rehearsals, are just too cool.
The dort in some of her myriad guises


Writing is my work, not my hobby, but there’s enough pleasure in this project, and enough new experiences to make this one very well worth doing. Sometimes you just have to give something back.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

I have a new hobby

I might have mentioned that my interest in photography has been rekindled in the past several months.

I was given a camera in my teens, and I liked it. 

I worked for a small magazine publishing house after I graduated, and assisted in making photographs for its publications, too. The camera was more sophisticated than the basic, Russian SLR I’d started out on, but we still made pictures on film in the pre-digital age.

When the kids were small, I used a little instant camera with Advantix film, which, looking back, was nasty stuff.

Then came digital.

I had a pretty decent digital camera, a gift from the husband, but over the next couple of years I found myself making fewer and fewer photographs.

Then of course, I got a phone that made pictures as well as my digital camera ever had, and I stopped carrying a machine around at all.

With every advance in technology, I made fewer and fewer photographs, until I was only making snaps and reference pictures.

Then, several months ago, I found a couple of little box brownies in a junk shop. They were in perfect condition and cost a few pounds each. I sourced some film, and began at the beginning with a camera that had fixed everything… shutter speed, aperture, focus… everything! The cameras are so basic that the shutter will fire without the film being wound on; they’re so basic that they take 8 pictures on 120 film.

I used them, and I loved them.

After that, every time I went into a junk shop, I seemed to see cameras. I bought anything and everything that was pre-digital and in working order.

Taking photos on film is all about the light
It’s not difficult to check a camera to make sure that it’s operational. Simply open the body, hold the camera up to the light and press the shutter button. It’s easy to see the shutter working. If the shutter isn’t fixed, it’s also a good idea to check the shutter speeds, with the camera body open. It’s difficult to discern small differences in shutter speed, but at either end of the spectrum, the differences are visible. If the camera has an aperture ring, this can also be checked, in much the same way. Set the aperture ring to the various stops, press the shutter and you can see the differences in aperture. If the camera has bellows, it’s important that they’re light-proof. Again, open the body of the camera and extend the bellows. Then hold the camera up to the light. If the bellows are perforated light will show through the cracks, and the camera is useless unless the bellows can be repaired or replaced.

Once I’d collected about a dozen cameras, and was using them, I began to research old machines and make a wish list of those I’d like to own. I stopped buying everything, and began to buy the things on my wish list when they cropped up, which was surprisingly often, and very cheaply.

Of course, I had to source some specialist films for medium format and 127 cameras, and I needed specialist labs for cameras that made 50 square pictures on a 36 roll of 35mm film. There are still good labs, many of them independent who do this work, and I’ve been pleased with the results.

Every camera is different, each has a distinct personality.

Love the light flare on this shot of the Gothic Temple
I regularly use a tiny little 35mm Rollei, which I keep in my handbag. I use a medium format Rolleicord or Kowa, and I absolutely love the 35mm square format of my Robot Star… In fact, I loved the camera so much that I now have a little collection of them. None of my cameras has electronics and they are all film cameras.

I take my regular 35mm films to my local photography shop, the brilliant Ronald White’s, which gives a great service and offers lots of pre-loved bits and pieces to add to my collection. For other formats, I have a very generous friend, the photographer James Barnett, who regularly runs my films with his. And when I have a lot of film, and James is busy, I use Nik and Trick, which also offers lots of great film on various formats in its online shop.

I’m thoroughly enchanted with my new pastime; it’s a great creative outlet, the machines are beautiful in their own rights, and, even when the pictures aren’t wonderful, the process of taking them really is.

Last night, I took the next step in my adventures with film, and, with James’s help, developed my first ever roll of black and white. It’s a kind of alchemy, and, when I can muster the confidence, I shall try it again… This time, on my own.


What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Look Around, and Make a Change - Home Decor

Gosh the blog has suffered!

Sometimes, there’s a hiatus, and sometimes that’s because the thought of writing a new post for the blog is just too much.

Sometimes, as has happened recently, I just have too much to do.

We’ve been overhauling the house.

We haven’t done anything huge… yet…

We’ve been switching out furniture and re-dressing. Trust me, if you want to rehang a couple of dozen pictures… per room! that’s going to take a little time. It is, however, a lot of fun. I can highly recommend rehanging your art, if you have it. It stimulates the senses and you begin to look at pictures in a new light.

We’ve also given away furniture… A LOT of furniture, again from several rooms in the house. We rationalised and rejigged, and then we added another couple of layers of stuff and things… because that’s what we do.
This is my office:
A little bit of granny chic goes a long way.

It’s a fun house, and, I think, an interesting one; it has to be if we’re going to live and work, and spend vast amounts of time in these four walls. When you work as much as we do, there isn’t a lot of time to spend out of the house. We need stimulation, comfort, relaxation and more stimulation. We also need masses and masses of storage space.

We like colour, and we like visual stimulus. We like to have things to do, to touch, to look at.

I don’t visit a great many houses, but it’s never hard to tell when I’m in the home of a creator, someone with an artistic temperament. They are always great spaces, tailored to their users. They vary in structure and in degrees of chaos, but there is always stuff to look at, to listen to, to wonder over or admire. Creativity often shows in a person’s dress, make-up, hair and accessories; I see no reason why that creativity shouldn’t show up in people’s homes.

I’ve enjoyed playing with my environment during the past few weeks, and I would urge you all to look around and think about your own spaces. Do something new and different. There are accepted norms for decor, and I’ve spent much of my life subverting them.

I have never painted a wall magnolia, and if I make an error on a colour, I paint over it. The cheapest way to change things up is with a can of paint. I’ve never installed wall to wall carpets. I rarely dress windows, and I’ve never bought a three-piece suite.

When I was young and broke, I took what I could get; I borrowed, built and bought pre-owned. Things haven’t changed very much.

Furnishing and dressing a home in an interesting and even unique fashion doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the bits and bobs that I’m most attached to cost little or nothing. Paint is cheap and can be used pretty well anywhere: OK, walls, woodwork, ceilings, but I also use paint on floors and sometimes furniture. Fabrics can make a big difference too: use them for window dressings if that’s what you like, but cover a cheap, old screen or a piece of furniture; make some cushions or pad a headboard, and if you’re concerned about your skills, simply throw lengths of fabric, throws or blankets over pieces of furniture.

I buy from everywhere, but my first port of call for ANYTHING is the little clutch of junk shops that I’ve managed to find over the years. The same goes for books and records; we buy a lot of both, but rarely buy new. I own lots of gorgeous crockery, and almost none of it came to me new. 

There are, of course, things I probably wouldn’t buy second-hand, and that includes linens, but I only buy them in sales, and I buy good quality, but never pay more than 50% of the regular retail price. If you don’t like the colours, simply chuck them in the washing machine with a dye.

Homes are living, breathing entities. They change, and change is good, it’s a kind of evolution.

I don’t suppose our home will ever be ‘finished’. It’s a working machine and it needs some TLC, and some of that comes in the form of dressing it up and keeping it stimulating for us.


Look around you, and then think about making a change.