What you reading?

You know how you hear a word for the first time and then hear it again twice more in the same week? A similar thing is happening to me with books. A couple of weeks back, I found myself documenting backstage during the month of fashion weeks. As if that weren’t exciting enough, there were books. A good few people were reading this one above, Scar Tissue (the autobiography of Red Hot Chilli Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis penned with Larry Sloman). The first I met was Canadian born model Tara Gill (above) who told me that since buying it in Toronto she could barely put it down. I concur. It’s excellent and exciting. Currently I have it on the go along with…

Ulysses. I know. Could it be any different? I like to read a few books simultaneously but James Joyce’s Ulysses, well it’s a challenge which I started yesterday on my birthday (you’ll agree that’s a good incentive as any to finish it). I’ve always wanted to read it properly so I’m digesting it in little bites. Worth mentioning, I think, that in a radical break from tradition, I’ve typing this blog post about books in public and not per usual behind my writer’s closed door. I’ve been downing copious cups of tea here in The Parlour at Sketch feeling a lot like J.K. Rowling must have done when she was doing her first Potter book in that bistro in Edinburgh. It would be optimistic, however, to claim, my efforts will have the same striking effect on the global cultural consciousness or my future. It’s nice here though handwriting first and then tapping away on my laptop. I always hand write things first (even blog posts) as my flow of thought is different on pen and paper, more free, uninhibited and relaxed. The best thing about this is that many seem to agree with me. I hope they do, anyway. It’s a nice excuse to have nice notebooks and pens. I like having physical copies of my words.

And having saved all my books (they line the walls of my boyfriend’s house in Dublin) even before clothes when I survived the ordeal of the floods at his house in Dublin a few weeks back, I decided that maybe like Marta Ortiz above I’d carry some of my most favourite hardbacks with me digitally when traveling so that they wouldn’t get scuffed and worn (of course I am a sucker for the physical book so a physical copy will be added to my little collection back in Ireland for safekeeping and when I depart and go to that big library in the sky I’d like to donate the lot to someone who might love them, like I do.) The morning after the Dublin floods I made my way back to London and in a way the incident sparked a change to my writing life. I realised that I simply have to read and write a lot more so I started by buying a copy of Ulyses at the airport. Yesterday for my birthday I promised myself I’d finally start to read it and next week I plan to reorganise my book collection. Strange behaviour? Of course, but this kind of relentless archiving makes me very happy. No doubt a psychologist would say it gives me the illusion of being in control over my life. And they’d be right.

Virgina Woolf wrote that the common reader (yes, that’d be me) “snatches now this book, now that, without caring where he finds it or of what nature it may be.” And a really good book has the power to stay with us, at first the effect is subtle but it changes us for life. T.S Eliot echoed this, “reading introduces us to one powerful personality after another and so affects us as entire human beings.” Eliot believed that an author’s views could stay with us long after we’d finished a book and even colour our own views over time. I think it’s obvious from the shots above that a good book whether on paper or digital has the power to steal us from reality just for a little while and lets us live life in a new and different world. Model Georgina Bevan backstage at Vivienne Westwood thought that The Understudy by David Nicholls gave her “a different fashion week experience.” She said she smiled more. I believe that each of us secretly has one book that has done that.

A week with Ireland’s new President (Part 1)

I can finally reveal why I’ve been flying in and out of Dublin the past few weeks. Ireland woke up to a new Irish President this week and I’ve been shadowing him. Well err… not shadowing him like a proper pol-cor (political correspondent) who continuously gets to ask him very important questions (that would just be a bit too West Wing). But shadowing him like when you’re a writer and a photographer and you travel and it allows you to try on different versions of yourself for a while, not haul around the one you wear at home. The man is utterly fascinating.

As I stood in Dublin castle between the two “hot rooms”. Results poured in from all around the country; and in the first hot room the returning officer sat receiving numbers from counting centres all across Ireland. Two huge guards guarded her door. The second “hot room”, your actual Reactor Number 4, still on fire and nuclear hot kind of hot room where the stage for the presidential results was located. The heat and pressure in this room reminded me of hot yoga a few weeks back, only much, much hotter, and with lots of photographers and foreign TV crews and politicians and zero yoga leotards.

Toward the end process I thought to myself, I m not worthy of such rare access to a President as I spoke to him, learned from him and photographed him backstage. My but it’s intimidating, stepping behind the scenes with a President. His story of poverty as a child and rise to power through books is utterly fascinating. It was poignant therefore that during my time with him I heard the sad news of Jimmy Savile’s passing. In truth, if Jim could have fixed it for me to do anything for the past few weeks it would have been exactly this.

The nice thing is that I got to bumble about inside the world of politics for a few weeks. I’ve done countless fashion designer shadows like this since writing my first book, but following a President and peeping backstage was a very new and exciting thing for me. The full story of shadowing this fascinating man as well as Peter O’ Dwyer’s lovely portraits are on The Huffington Post here with the whole shadowing story (where he reveals his favourite biscuit and TV show) here.