in my life

In my life, I have spent countless winter holidays in Florida, but the one that remains in my memory the most magical, the most full of hope and happiness and infinite possibilities, is the one shown in the pictures here: the winter of 1964. I don't know if it was my first trip to Miami with my family, but it was right after the Beatles had their first visit, on their first US tour. They had stayed at the Deauville, a pretty swish beachfront Miami hotel, and - no one remembers who the connection is now. A friend of my parents', or the best friends we were staying with (Joe was my dad's best friend, and his wife Chickie was my mom's - everyone met at college). And their girls - Anne, Jodie and Kari - were the coolest girls we knew. Anne especially, the older sister I wished I had (and who is still that way for me to this day: we'll be seeing them, if all goes well, this winter, in Miami).

Whoever this mystery man was, we were his guest that day at the Deauville. The Beatles had just stayed there, and our host was the first guest in the suite they'd occupied. He was telling the grown ups, as we listened with rapt attention, that girls were constantly showing up at their door, crying and touching the walls and the carpet.. that was the winter that the Beatles - their music, their very being - were transforming our lives. Our play involved imagining that we were their girlfriends: I always got Paul, who did look so much like my dad. I don't know that any music, at any time of my life, ever affected me as strongly as those songs, on that holiday. And has, all through my life.

This is that end of the year time when I look back, and look forward. One year ago today, my father's cousin Cliff Kimmel - the brother he wished he had, his lifelong closest male relative - was still alive. He died on New Year's Eve, in Florida. My dear friend Major Bobby Collins died here in London, one month later, on the 31st January, and in the spring, one of my father's closest friends, Paul Lazrove, died suddenly of complications from simple heart surgery. I remember what Major Bobby said a year earlier, when - in a strange twist of fate - he chose me to be there, as his next of kin. For a month, I visited him in hospital every day. They thought, the first night, that he might not make it through, and, drifting in and out of consciousness, he told me that if he died that night, it would be okay: he had had a rich and full life, and he had no regrets. And then, switching gears, he told me one of his many amusing stories.

All photos by my father, apart from the ones of the Beatles. And I guess my mom took the shot of my father, with their first dog, Junior, sometime before I was born. And it's funny - girls and their dads - because in this photo of my father, I can also see a lot of my husband. And on it goes.

I can picture them all, sitting round a pool - my dad either diving off the high board, or watching someone doing it. The sky is blue, the water is warm, the palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze: that is my idea of heaven. I bet John and George are there too, and pretty girls, and everyone is laughing.


me, i'm still on the road: the butchers' arms in woolhope

How was your Christmas? Ours was lovely: quiet, small, perfectly formed. It's funny, about life, when you don't have any expectations.. I've developed, over the years, Jill's Inverse Proportional Theory of Expectation and Happiness. The less I expect, I've discovered, the more surprised and happy I am with the results. This applies to just about everything, but especially, to a lunch we had on Boxing Day.

It was just the most perfect pub lunch in every way.

We were driving home to London on Boxing Day, after a brisk walk with Mum in Law and the dogs in the gorgeous Herefordshire countryside. We'd booked lunch at the Butchers Arms in Woolhope, not knowing what to expect really, apart from knowing it was on the way home, and that Stephen Bull had bought it in 2009. My father in law had had what he proclaimed was his worst Christmas, ever - he's having a real time of it, health wise, and couldn't even make it downstairs for Christmas lunch - but he was bright enough on Boxing Day to come downstairs, and give us directions to Woolhope, which is really in the absolute middle of nowhere. Which means it's in the middle of the most heavenly countryside.
When we had called to confirm the reservation, the dogs - cartoon dogs, really - Scrabble is a black and white Jack Russell who must have been crossed with a pig at some point - and Kipper is some kind of hilarious terrier of some description, she can bounce higher and farther than any creature on earth - and they were barking while my husband was on the phone with the pub. They asked if he'd be bringing the dogs. 'Not these dogs,' he answered, but when we got to the pub there was a big shiny glass jar on the bar, filled with dog biscuits, and a huge blonde dog arrived with a group, and then a charming black Scottie.. I've never seen such a charming place. Everyone felt welcome. Even those crazy dogs would have felt at home. Outside it was cold and grey and wet, and the minute we came into the dining room - beams low enough to knock a grown man out - fire going, walls about eight feet thick, it felt like sinking into a warm bath.

It felt like everything an inn or a pub should be: a shelter from the storm, a place where strangers come in from far away places, and the staff ask how your Christmas was like the mean it. And you ask how theirs was, and they tell you. And strangers start asking each other where they got their dog (the Scottie, actually, was bought from Harrods). And someone bangs their head on the beam and everyone says 'mind your head' and laughs. And everyone leaves feeling like they've made some new friends.

The Butchers Arms is owned by Stephen Bull, who you might not know as well as, say, Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, but he is one of the founders of what we know today as modern British food.
The Head Chef is Mr Fran Snell, who came on board two years ago from The Dukes Hotel in Bath. With a grounding in fine dining they offer honest but brilliant food, and I really can't praise him highly enough. He works with two other chefs in the Kitchen; Lydia Taylor, responsible for the starters and Hannah Telfer, puddings.
From the moment we shared Lydia's starter of chicken and mushroom croquettes - light, rich, crispy balloons that seemed to hover above the plate, served with a truffle aioli and wild green salad that might have had a walnut oil dressing - sitting at our wooden table next to the open fire - we knew we were in the hands of true artists. It's not a large place: two small rooms, a small number of covers, and yet we noticed probably four wait staff - male and female - all friendly, charming, and attractive. It takes real skill and professionalism to make it seem so effortless.

'This is the best pub,' my husband said to our waiter - in the course of our visit, we were served and looked in on by about four charming staff people - as he passed on the way back to the kitchen. 'You haven't had the main yet,' he quipped, 'it could still go terribly wrong.'

But it didn't. It just kept getting better. It's done as a two or three course lunch: £19.50 or £24.50, respectively, and we opted for two courses each, sharing a starter and dessert. I had a luscious goats cheese and chutney roulade with vegetables and potatoes and parsley sauce - layer upon layer of texture and colour and flavour - and he had what was billed as 'sausage roll and chips'. I'll never know how good it was because he wouldn't let me taste any.

And then, pudding. We couldn't decide between warm ginger cake with toffee ice cream, or cherry and chocolate torte with chantilly cream. I was flipping a penny and he was mocking me for not flipping it the right way, so our waiter made the decision for us: 'It's Christmas, go for the chocolate.' He then said something about seeing if he could get us an offcut. It's a good thing we shared it: it was rich and heavenly and we could barely finish it, delicious as it was, when suddenly - true to his word - he dropped another plate on us: a small slice of the warm ginger cake, with a tiny globe of the homemade toffee ice cream.

It's those kind of touches that you remember. And make you want to return. With the in-laws, as a thank you for what was, in its own weird way, the loveliest of Christmases.

It was my plan to illustrate this post with Shelter from the Storm, but do you have any idea how hard it is to capture the illusive Bob Dylan on YouTube? Instead, you might be able to open this - Tangle up in Blue - in a separate window, but I bet by the time you get to this, he will be gone.


21.12.12: still here, feeling fine

Yesterday - the day before the end of the world as we know it - I was having lunch with my friend Sophia, and couldn't stop staring at her hair. It looked just like Olivia Palermo's, shown here in a shot I took of her at fashion week. I'm extra noticing gorgeous hair at the moment because I can't stop stroking my own. It's like having a cat on my head: it's so silky and just feels so good.

And the reason my hair is feeling so good is because of James Brown. Not the singer, although you can play his song by clicking here, but James Brown the hairdresser. Besides being basically hairdressing royalty here in London - I mean, he does the best people's hair - he's also making these products that are just so yummy.One thing I find particularly great about the JBL Signature range is that the products don't contain any silicone - personally as much as silicone gives great shine and 'slip' to hair, I prefer products that contain natural extracts for their conditioning and detangling properties. And the High Gloss conditioner has been formulated with red seaweed extract to give a silken feel and a reflective sheen, but it is entirely plant derived so won't build up on the hair.

I mean - I wouldn't want silicone in my lips or my boobs, why would I want it in my hair?

So yesterday, after what feels like weeks in a TB ward, surrounded by mountains of Kleenex and drippingly dirty hair, to shampoo with these beautiful white products, and the heady scents - my husband even noticed, when I came out of the shower, how great the room smelled - well, I'm hooked.

And my friend Stephanie - Odyssey - has reported in from Texas, and so far, they're still feeling fine.. as another friend, Melinda, said yesterday 'I guess it's not the end of the world if the Mayans turn out to be wrong about tomorrow.' (Love that line: I mean, think about it).

It's already twilight here - I've bought these cool little blue pinpoints of light that are winding around the olive tree we smuggled back in a suitcase from a holiday in Spain, and the scent of these vanilla ricotta cheesecakes I've been baking is wafting round our home - and I'm feeling rather good. So far, I think I like this new Mayan phase!


back on the street: life of pi

Spotted Emily near Dover Street Market, in Mayfair. She was lovely to talk to - works in the fashion industry, and was warm and friendly. And - because you never know until you start taking someone's portrait - she was the most zen subject I've had. I'm looking at the photos now: I took about eight, maybe more - when I shot in film, if you look back to my posts in 2009, I was only taking one shot, two tops - to save film - but when I look at these shots of her, they're all absolutely identical. I've never seen someone so composed. So still.

Like she has absolutely no noise in her head.

So I'm reading The Life of Pi now. My husband read it years ago and said it was the best book he'd ever read. And the film's coming out, and I can't see it til I've read the book. It took me ages to get started, but now that I have, I'm savouring it slowly. Reading little bits, then putting it down, but it stays with me. I can't, for example, see leopard print, or leather, without imagining the animals in the Pondicherry zoo.


you think this has nothing to do with you: 12.12.12

Woke up this morning: the sky is bright, deep, cerulean blue. Like Anne Hathaway's jumper in The Devil Wears Prada. And I realised, it's 12.12.12. I love that stuff. It's not going to be 12.12.12. for another thousand years. And I want today to count.

And here's the irony: only six years on, and Anne's jumper - which was chosen because it was so deeply uncool - is now so bang on trend. It's like they've just discovered jumpers. And the fashion industry is all over themselves about the idea of blue: cobalt, electric. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes - but then again, that's what fashion is all about. And here's the funny thing: I'm loving it, too.

It's such an easy trend to wear, because we've all got a bit of blue in our wardrobe. Unlike many of the others - shoes, especially, because it's hard to just pull the latest trend in shoes out of the back of our wardrobes - most of us still have something bright, something blue. And especially in London: when it's grey outside, the tendency is to sink into nudes and soft shades of grey and beige, like nursing a nice cup of tea, all cosy (although that's when I most want to be bold: stark black and white) - but when the sun is out, what I reach for is my brightest blues.

And I've got the best coup of all: a genuine Perri Ellis knitted long cardigan - and midi skirt - in cobalt blue cotton. It cost me more than a months' rent, in my early 20s, and I saved it all these years just in case.. the only thing that dates it are the softest of shoulder pads: apart from that, it's a classic, classy, simple white buttoned take on an upper class knitted 1920s lady's suit.. gorgeous sillhouette. I wish I could show it to you, but my camera has died and I'm not quite up to speed with my other one just yet. Hence going back thru the virtual wardrobe of my photo files, and finally finding the shot I've been looking for for ages: this smashing girl in stars, below.

I wish someone would have left a comment on my post last night ('for Azza'). Maybe no one's read it. That's okay: I wrote it, from the heart, and that's all that matters.

And after I've done a bit of work, cold or no cold, I plan to go outside. In my Perri Ellis jumper, probably over tight black riding trousers and riding boots, maybe my Uniqlo heattech turtle neck jumper. Celebrate today. Because it's not gonna come around again for another thousand years.


for azza

It was a simple, humble request from a woman I'd never met. She works with Amnesty International, and she asked me to watch a video on Vivienne Westwood, talking about Azza Suleiman. The letter arrived on the 26th of November - the day before my late father's birthday - and it lay, unopened, in my inbox until yesterday. Which happened to be International Human Rights Day.

Everything - more with each passing day - is starting to feel so connected.

On December 2011 49-year-old Azza Suleiman attended a large protest near Tahrir Square. As she started to leave, she saw a group of soldiers violently beat and strip another female protestor.

Concerned, Azza and some others tried to help carry the woman away. But the soldiers reacted violently: they beat Azza so severely that she lost consciousness. Even then they did not stop.

Their attack was so vicious it left Azza with a fractured skull and impaired memory. Azza lodged a formal complaint but to date no one has been held accountable for this violence.

I only learned of this a year later. On a day that what everyone was still talking about - and still is - is who is culpable, is it the DJs in Australia, or the radio station that employs them, or was the nurse herself unstable.. and no matter what side we are on, it still remains an unbelievably sad story, a tragedy - and as that conversation continues, and more information is being revealed- who did what when, who is paying who what amount - I continue to talk with my dear, sweet, kind, beautiful Egyptian friend, who happens to be with her newly wed husband, in Cairo.

And what we are talking about, between conversations about how far she is from the Palace and the riots (not far, she can see most from their windows), and how her grandmother has come home from hospital, is the idea that - always, always, we are accountable for our actions.

There is so much more I want to say.. I want to share a song with you that I feel is so beautiful, so poignant, and - another coincidence - happened to have been made at an Amnesty International conference, years ago. Because I think of times in my life.. I've never knowingly harmed any soul, I'm not wired that way - and I know that neither of those two DJs, the male or the female, ever intended this to come from a prank, I believe that - but I do believe that there are consequences of our actions. And sometimes - and I can think of moments when I was guilty of this crime - sometimes, when we do nothing, when we allow cruelty in any form to occur, and stand by and do nothing, because it might put us in risk - sometimes that inactivity, in itself, has consequences.

As Vivienne said so beautifully: 'It is our compassion that makes us human.'

Or as Jackson Browne said in this song: make it on your own if you think you can, but somewhere later on you'll have to take a stand..

Photos all by me: from top, Dree Hemingway, Ernest's great granddaughter, then my friend who is now in Egypt, comforting a girl she just met, at London Fashion week, and then an angel, looking over a soul in the cemetery on Old Brompton Road. To see Vivienne Westwood's beautiful little piece for Azza, click here.


two hands clapping

As before: two shots, taken moments apart: someone's shoes in the front row of the Topshop Unique show at Waterloo Station, then Olivia Palermo's hands, clapping. Note the slight cut on her pinkie: proof that she is, after all, Human.

Once we get into the winter season, I always wish I could do red. I see girls with pale skin and perfect red lips, or even nails, and wish I could do it. But red is not for me. So I settle for cool fuschias and pink. But it's not the same thing. I can't even do orange. But that doesn't stop me from trying!

Oh, new addiction: LookBible. Like Pinterest, for fashion. It's great for people like me: lazy people. Once I've posted this, I can just click on the button on my bookmark strip, click on anything I want, and it posts to my wall - and even if people re-post, the original source link comes with it. Great for budding bloggers who want to raise their profile. It's just launched, spreading through word of mouth, invite only, but really easy to set up. Simply click here - or on the button on my sidebar. Tell them Jill sent you.


juxtaposition: waterloo station

Just because my camera died - of exhaustion, according to the lovely Greek camera guy who assured me that it had had a good innings - I don't want it to have died in vain. And I'm discovering so many, many photos that I've never shown you. So while I rest up at home, fighting off a silly winter bug, I'm going back through my images, like memories. I'm more interested in the relationship between two still images - movements in time.

These are from one of the Topshop Unique catwalk shows. Waterloo Station, London. More to come. With thanks to my lovely Canon E0S: you live on, through the images you've provided me with. Like a trusty stead of days of yore, we worked as a team, you and I, and we lived each day to the fullest.


four stories (or, the girl in the pearl dress)

Every life, I feel, is a film.

Everyone has a story to tell. I love the idea that everyone - even the 'bad guys' - are the hero, or heroine, in the film in their head. The film that is their life.

So when I received an invite to FOUR STORIES, designed in a way that reminded me of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, which reminded me of Carrie in Homeland, and which also reminded me of the opening sequence in the brilliant The Talented Mr. Ripley, (everything is somehow a film or music reference for me) - well, I had to go to the premiere last Tuesday. And I brought my husband along.

It was held in a small theatre space across a cobbled mews from the London W hotel, where the after party was held, and these photos taken. We were handed drinks and whisked into our seats, and Mark Kermode - who we love, from the BBC Culture Show, did the introductions and the Q&A after.

The concept is simple, and clever: W Hotels teamed with Intel Ultrabook Experience, to showcase new film talent. 1000 screenwriters entered a contest last August, submitting a ten minute script, on anything they felt like, with only two rules: 1), the film must take place in a W hotel, somewhere in the world and 2) it must somehow involve an Intel Ultrabook.

Immediately, my husband became cynical. 'It's just a big commercial,' he sneered, while drinking our hosts' white wine and eating their popcorn. 'Sssh,' said I, wondering who the girl was with the pearls on her back, and kicking myself that I hadn't brought my camera, as she - and a girl with a black bob - would have been great streetstyle shooting.

And as the films started - and in the first, I discovered that the girl in the dress with the pearls was the star of the first one, Naomi Scott - I started thinking about the relationship between patron and artist. How the corporations - the luxury hotel chains, the computer manufacturers - are in truth, the Medicis of our day. And how wonderful it is, that someone is willing to spend money to help launch new talent. And if it raises our estimation of said Patron, is that really such a bad thing?

But more than that, I truly liked the films. And so did my cynical husband. Our favourite took place in their Washington DC hotel, titled Eugene. It was written by Adam Blampied, who's a student at the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts, shown above on the left (that's Roman Coppola, who, with his production company The Directors Bureau, created the competition, in the centre, above, with Margarita Kallas, who starred in his film - the fifth, it turns out, in the Four Stories series). When Adam spoke at the Q&A afterwards, I was touched and moved at how nervous he was, at first. After all, I've written screenplays, been paid to be in development, and yet, nothing I've made has been made into a film. Yet. And I imagined what that must feel like: to be sat in front of a group of strangers, being judged, and being asked to talk about your work.

And he did himself proud, Adam did. I loved what he said about his process: how he started writing one film, while a second one seemed to grow in his imagination. In the end, the first film didn't quite work, but the second one - the one that was just itching to come out - was the one he submitted.

And I thought of how often that happens in my life. How one thing leads to another. And how, hopefully, we learn from our 'failures'. And grow. (And how, if I were to get my hair cut, I'd really want that bob that Margarita was sporting). And that's pretty much what Roman was saying, too: just do it. Just go for it. Because you never know. And life's too short not to even try.

And then afterwards, the funniest coincidence: I was talking to two of the lovely girls who works with W hotels, and one of them - Charlotte Rose - said that I'd helped her with her dissertation. She had asked me to take part in an online interview, and I'd said yes. And it was funny that of all things, it was W hotels. Because of another story. Which I might just talk about another time. But I guess what I'm trying to say is, everything is connected, which is why, just in case, I try to 1), show up and 2), be kind to the fellow creatures in my world. Because you never know. And because Karma's a bitch!

The London (world) premiere was last week, and the LA premiere was last night, 4th of December. From top to bottom: Naomi Scott, of Modern/Love, Will.I.Am, a girl with very blue eyes, Margarita Kallas with Naomi, and the very cute boy is Douglas Booth. To see the films, click here, on the Ultrabook Experience. When you do, please let me know which film you liked the best.

Thank you to Helen, and Lotte, and everyone else who put this lovely event together. Even my cynical husband, on the way home, admitted he had fun, and was very glad he showed up. So, I guess you could say it all ended up happily ever after. But I really want to go to the W hotel and spa in the Maldives. The one featured in 'The Mirror Between Us.' I mean, right this very minute.