26 October 2012

When I get older

Milestone birthdays have always managed to unnerve me. Admittedly I haven't experienced all that many, but the ones I have seem to have set the tone. That being fear.

Turning 18 for example filled me with so much dread - was I now meant to be responsible and a grown up? Was I meant to think about bills and what the hell I really wanted to do with my life? Obviously not the case at all, but 18 when you've only ever known being a child (no matter how "mature" you feel) sounds so terribly grown up: I could now go to pubs (legally - I'd been drinking in pubs underage for a good two to three years before then). More importantly, I could now vote. With age comes great responsibility you see.

21 threw me even more. I spent the night before my birthday listening to Ladytron's 'Seventeen' on repeat, my childish heart mortified that 21 would render me "no fun". Still clearly not the case, though I was starting to feel like one of the slightly older girls when going to indie clubs (do we all grow up so fast?)
I didn't do anything to particularly mark the coming of age birthdays - 18 didn't really feel of age, and by the time I turned 21 it felt like a missed opportunity, beyond finally being able to buy my own alcohol in the US.

25, while not really a milestone caused another wobble - what the hell was I doing with my life? What did I want to do? It certainly threw me in terms of what I thought I wanted to do, as I fell foul of the first wave of recession. Ultimately though, it set me on the path of knowing what I wanted to do.

So this year, I had to face up to the biggest one so far - 30. In the run up, I remembered a scene from 90's law drama Ally McBeal where the title character checks her face for wrinkles on the morning of her 30th birthday. I toyed with the idea of having a bucket list of things to do before I turned 30, until I remembered that I had probably ticked off most of it by the time I was 21 and I didn't want to live my life over again. The only other desire was to get married before I was 30, and since that had happened back in May (and for the right reasons, before you ask!) there was little to do but wait.

The day itself arrived with little fanfare - I didn't suddenly get wrinkly and old overnight, nor did I have some strange personality shift and become composed and serious. Best of all, I still get ID'ed when buying wine. It's not all bad: all those I've asked who got there before me say your 30's are the best years of your life. And I think they are probably right. You leave behind the crippling insecurity of your early 20's, you are more comfortable in your own skin (indeed, you don't actually age overnight) and if you're lucky, you're in a job you love and feel at ease with the direction your life is going. Just don't mention turning 40.

22 October 2012

Pear, walnut and blue cheese salad

A few weeks back, I bolted to France avec ma famille for a long weekend with the intention of avoiding turning 30. Sadly, I didn't manage to avoid getting older, but by way of compromise I was well and truly spoiled. Despite coming down with a cold, I was taken out for a fantastic lunch at Beffroi Tentations in St Antonin Noble Val ahead of a magnificent dinner where my sister, mother and husband all took turns to produce a course - pear and walnut salad, gorgeous monkfish with capers, and a birthday ice cream instead of a cake!

This was my sister's course and was an absolute treat: crisp, autumnal pears, creamy Saint Agur and nutty, bitter walnuts. She used Saint Agur, but any blue cheese would work depending on your tastes - a pungent Roquefort or creamy Dolcelatte would both be delicious. As there's no cooking involved, it's very easy to put together. Perfect when you're a little short of time but still want to impress!

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the salad:
100g rocket
100g seedless grapes, cut in half
50g crushed walnuts
50g Saint Agur, crumbled
2 ripe Williams pears

For the dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red white vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard


Divide the rocket between four salad plates. Scatter the grapes over the rocket and then sprinkle over the crushed walnuts and crumbled Saint Agur. Make sure you have a reasonably even balance of all three ingredients.

Peel the pears, slice in half and remove the core. Slice it into 5mm slithers and place half a pear on each salad.

Mix up the dressing and drizzle over your salad. Easy as, well, salad!

Hollywood Costume at the V&A

Rainy October Sundays require rainy day activities - what better then, than a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum? The V&A is pretty much my favourite major museum in London, and they have recently had a slew of fantastic exhibitions (Ballgowns, Grace Kelly: Style Icon, The Golden Age of Couture, the upcoming Bowie retrospective) and Hollywood Costume is no exception.

The exhibition takes you through the role of the costume designer and the vital role they play in bringing characters to life. Clothing is one of the most important means of finding a character believeable - that they had a life before the film begins. The actor or actress has to inhabit these clothes to "find" the character they play. The costumes are as much about being noticed (Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's) as they are about blending into the background and playing a supporting role (Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity).

Of course, one of the most important exhibits is Dorothy's gingham dress and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. For the opening two weeks of the exhibition, the original slippers are in the same room as the gingham dress for the first time since filming wrapped in 1939. I was lucky enough to get to see these (pictured above), though talk about saving the best til last! Most of the exhibition was too dark to take any photos so as not to damage some of these extremely beautiful and very, very old costumes. As a result it wasn't particularly suited to photography, plus I suspect the V&A would have something to say about people snapping away. I couldn't resist taking a sneaky snap of the original ruby slippers, however.

I highly recommend paying this exhibition a visit - it's on until the 27th January and is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in a long time. It is so well put together and fantastically well researched, with seamless commentary from a number of actors and actresses, along with the costume designers. My favourite costumes were the shimmering red dress from The Bride Wore Red, the flowergirl outfit from the beginning of My Fair Lady, and of course the original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Exhibition until the 27th January 2013