Loved Hearing David Lynch's Thoughts In The Documentary: Meditation Creativity Peace

Yotam Ottolenghi at The Royal Geographical Society, London

Talking at The Royal Geographical Society on December 6th 2013, Yotam Ottolenghi revealed that his fourth book will revert to the earlier format of collecting his Guardian recipes as opposed to being another personal book like Jerusalem. He said too that after closing the tiny hole in the wall Ottolenghi deli in Kensington (I didn't even realise it had closed), he's gearing up to open a larger Ottolenghi deli "like the Islington one" somewhere in Central London during 2014. Delivered with a winning and very Israeli tone of irreverent mischief, he also said that he likes to eat just about anything - including Pot Noodles. 

Before Midnight = First Half You're Really Into Having Grown Up With These Characters + But In The Second Half You End Up Finding Them Really Irritating And Wish The Conversation Formula Would Just Change

Stuck In Love by Josh Boone = Really Great Movie = Very Emotional, Great Music, Strong Characters, Excellent Performances, Beautiful Raymond Carver Quote = Brilliant Debut

David Lynch Quote Blackboard Outside Fork Deli, Marchmont Street, London = They Also Make A Great Cup of Coffee Here

Bluebelles, Portobello Road, London = Great Place For Brunch

Ongoing Blackboard Fun On Great Titchfield Street, London


Scandinavian Kitchen

Tommi's Burger Joint, Marylebone = Another Dose Of Vegeburger/ Fries Heaven = My Go To Place In London When I Fancy a Burger

La Fromagerie, Marylebone, London = Great Place For A Warming Soup

Blue Is The Warmest Colour = Adele Exarchopoulos is Amazing + More Emotional Than Couscous But Still Very Cassavetes-esque In Its Verite Style + Great Scene Featuring Lykke Li's I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix)

Paris Manhattan = uneven but worth sticking it out for the Lovely Ending

"Do You Have A Faith?"

Last week someone asked me the following question: "Do you have a faith? A religion?” 

My answer was something like, “No, none.” 

The person then asked: "Not a Buddhist? Not anything?" 

“No”, I said. “I’m a very spiritual person, but I wasn’t raised with any religion.” 

She nodded and things ended there. 

But of course, things didn’t end there. 

Her question kept coming back to me. It came back to me at the end of the same day as I queued to buy food for dinner. It came back to me later that evening, when I was waiting for the kettle to boil. It came back to me at breakfast the following morning when I told my wife about the question and how it had set me off thinking about what it is that I do believe in. And it came back to me on my yoga mat when I went to a weekend yoga class. The bottom line was this: what is my “faith”, what is my “religion” and what is it exactly that I believe in at this point in my life? 

Out of that contemplating, I came up with a list of 12 things or people that I believe in. Here they are in no particular order: 

1. Jivamukti Yoga 

I used to take incendiary Jivamukti classes over 2005/ 2006 with Manizeh Rimer and Durga Devi. After a lengthy hiatus, I'm now back studying at the London centre, with Cat Alip-Douglas. Her classes confront everything I never want to get confronted about and for this reason, they're so very, very good for me. I spent the last few years "hiding under the table". Cat doesn't let her students hide under any table. 

2. India

Inspired by yoga, I’ve now been to India three times. Every trip has been a transformation. A skin-shedding. A humbler. A leveller. Country and People as mass enlightenment. There have been times in India when a child’s face or a burst of bright colour or a palm tree or the light at a certain time of day has made me want to describe what I’m feeling using the word “God”. It’s a magical, spiritual country and like nowhere else I've ever been. I carry the lessons of those three trips with me wherever I go. 

3. Vegetarianism

I don't eat meat or fish and that's a locked belief for me. Recently, I stopped eating eggs and drinking cows' milk, too. A plant based diet (more on who inspired that in a bit) works just fine for me. 

4. Spiritual Reading

I love books that are spiritually enlightening, that help us live better, think better. You can never have enough teachers, whether that's Deepak Chopra, The Mother or Lao Tzu. 

5. Kris Carr

After Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin's book, Skinny Bitch, opened my eyes to eating healthily and safely, Kris Carr and her Crazy Sexy motivational teachings about all things healthy and uplifting, became and continue to be one of my family's most important gurus. 

Her book Crazy Sexy Diet literally changed our lives. 

6. Ayurveda

Yoga led me to India and India introduced me to Ayurveda, which I follow as closely as possible.  

7. Nature

As I get older, I’m ever more attuned to nature. A simple walk in Hyde Park these days - trees, birds, light - is pretty much a spiritual experience. 

8. Children Are Our Best Teachers

When my wife was midway pregnant with our daughter, I interviewed Perry Farrell and he was new to being a father and shining from having conquered his drug addiction and deep inside a mounting personal spiritual journey (he sent me away from the interview inspired to order copies of The Torah, The Koran, The Bhagavad Gita and a book about Kabbalah). When I told him I was soon to be a father too, he told me that our children are our best teachers; that everything we say and do gets sponged up by them via osmosis and that in turn, makes us rethink all the messages we send out through life. I have thought of what he said almost every day since becoming a parent. 

9. Meditation 

I find meditation the toughest of the toughest (headstand is right up there too) but I credit Gabrielle Bernstein with teaching me how to have a meditation practice. She made it accessible and relatable where so many before her couldn't. Now I'm at it everywhere - on the bus, walking down the street (listening to her meditations), in the bath, in bed. 

10. Music

It's always been there right since I was a child, soundtracking my life, setting and defining moments and eras, offering mentors and guidance. 

11. Movies

Films take me far away from everything like very few things can. 

12. Perseverance

No matter what the challenges have been in my life, I’ve always believed in perseverance. Yes, I’ve bent as far as I go many times, but I’ve never broken. Everybody I respect bent too, but didn't break. I continue to believe that no matter how tough things get, there is always the potential for change, for things to start over, to transform, to get better, to improve. I wrote a piece the other year about this for Sophie Chiche’s Life By Me. You can read it here.

Can that be everything? 

I’m sure I’ve missed loads of stuff out. I’m sure the second I post this, I’ll get a rush of things I forgot to include. That’s okay. Like Cat Alip-Douglas is fond of saying in her Jivamukti yoga classes, life is a work in progress, everything is a work in progress. 

Thanks for reading.

Delfina Delettrez: Amazing Frog (!) Ring

Renoir = Uneven, Good In Parts, Slightly Rambling But Has A Firecracker Performance by Christa Theret

Spring Breakers = unforgettable James Franco performance = Good Companion piece to The Bling Ring

Even Unlit Le Labo Candles Perfume A Room

Masters Of Sex = Really Liking This Show (Tuesdays C4 in the UK)

Love this Illustrated Portrait of Delfina Delettrez for Interview (Russia)

Piercing Blue Sky Over Oxford Street

Skyline Over Hyde Park, London

Hyde Park Music in the Leaves

Seventies Lips In Window of American Apparel, Oxford Street, London

Current Favourite Listening: Rolling Stones Black And Blue

Remembering Lou Reed

I still remember the first time I heard a Lou Reed song: as was the case for millions, that song was Walk On The Wild Side. To me, a 14 year old in the suburbs of London, this was exotic in every sense: his laidback, dropping off a cliff delivery; the thrilling Hubert Selby Jr inspired short story he packed the song with; the jazzy rumble of the music itself. I was sold on the spot and so began a lifelong love of Lou Reed's music. 

During my teens, I was particularly obsessed with Berlin, that dark, claustrophobic nightmare of an album. I remember a friend who I swapped endless music with, sent me home with it (his older brother had it) and I got the goose bumps hearing the way the music climbed happily up for the chorus of Caroline Says II while the lyrics were turning down towards sheer unbearableness. Those kinds of paradoxes were always so well executed by Lou Reed. 

Over the years that followed, I ate up his entire output and became a huge fan of The Bells, The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts - a confessional trilogy that saw Lou move out of alcoholism and drug abuse, into a new sober life. Though Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle are also high up on my favourites list, I still love those three albums the best.

When the album New York came out, I saw him live for the first time: mesmerising. When I went to New York for the time, I spent half my time wandering the city looking for Lou Reed references. When he put out a book of selected lyrics called Between Thought And Expression, I went to see him read from it. When Mo Tucker played a solo show, I met her afterwards and also managed to speak with Sterling Morrison who was part of her band: meaning I'd met two of the core Velvet Underground members. 

Later, during my season as a music journalist, I interviewed John Cale twice - taking the number of Velvet Underground members I'd met up to three. And each time I was sitting with John Cale, I kept thinking, I'm one step removed from Lou Reed. 

Allan Jones, long time editor of Melody Maker before launching Uncut magazine, played matchmaker many times over for my youthful rock 'n' roll dreams and he was the one who sent me to interview Lou Reed in anticipation of his Ecstasy album coming out. 

I turned up to the Four Seasons hotel off Park Lane and was led to a suite, where I waited in a corridor. Around the corner, I could hear that soft New York drawl speaking, the one I'd listened to for years. Those ten or so minutes spent waiting, were insanely exciting. 

When I was led through, Lou Reed walked into the suite, his charisma gigantic. As with all these encounters with giants (I met a lot of them in a short space of time), that split second when he said hello and shook my hand, was entirely surreal and I had to order myself to breathe and act as much as possible like a human being who was not in meltdown mode. 

I had a proof copy of the then new Saul Bellow novel Ravelstein in my bag (I was doing a lot of literary reviewing at the time) and the novel opened with a line contemplating desire in life, which I reckoned chimed pretty well with the themes of Ecstasy. 

As Lou Reed crunched on pistachio nuts, shelling them and munching them, while staring very intensely and directly into my eyes, I read the line from the book and put out my theory about Ecstasy and there was a long pause. Then the ice thawed instantly and Lou started talking about his appreciation for Saul Bellow and man's inherent movement to the beat of the push and pull of life and how that was absolutely centre-stage as a theme throughout Ecstasy. 

We spent more than two hours together in the end and talked about his entire career and shared a very intimate conversation at one point about our respective struggles with alcoholism. Throughout the interview, he was incredibly smart and insightful and wanted to chew on every detail: he seemed to want the core of every single subject and was happy to drill down at all times. What struck me most was that behind the hard shell of New York attitude and artist's bravado, there was an incredibly gentle man. 

When the interview was published in Uncut, it ran for six or seven pages and I was incredibly grateful to Allan Jones for choosing me to be the one who went and met Lou Reed. It meant by then that I'd met all the core members of The Velvet Underground, except Nico, who had passed away in 1988. One major mission in life, accomplished. 

Since that afternoon when I met Lou Reed, Saul Bellow passed away in 2005. And now Lou Reed has gone to join him. I will always remember hearing Lou Reed's voice from around that corridor before I was actually in a room with him and I will always remember the way he ate those pistachio nuts and I will always remember at the end of our interview how he signed his then new, second book of lyrics, Pass Thru Fire, for me and wrote his message over the top of The Last Shot, one of several, harrowing songs he wrote about alcoholism. 

Mademoiselle C = Too Restrained, Too Elliptical, Lacks Any Real Substance

Le Labo Laurier 62 Classic Candle

My first thought back in mid-October when I saw Le Labo announce a new candle on Instagram was, 'At last!'. Not because I was anywhere near being done with exploring the rest of their candle range, but because Camelia who runs their London boutique, had mentioned "a new candle coming very soon" the two previous times I'd been into the boutique to buy first, the Figue 15 candle and then, the Cedre 11 candle, and had pointed both times to an empty plinth on their candle display where the "new candle" would go. Tantalising, indeed. 

So when the news went out on Instagram that this candle had 62 ingredients and smelled "like a mess", I got excited: what does a mess smell like? My imagination started throwing out rock 'n' roll suggestiveness: The Stones' Black and Blue album; Alex Chilton's disastrous Like Flies On Sherbet album; The Replacements' All Shook Down; Lou Reed's Berlin; John Cale's Music For a New Society; Neil Young's On The Beach - all those great, scuffed, luminous because-they-were-created-on-a-knife-edge albums. Well, anyway, that's just me and I got it in my head that Laurier 62 was going to be the candle equivalent of that pile of albums. 

I bought the candle on Halloween. I'd been waiting for the right moment. When the urge to self-treat with a Le Labo candle comes along, it's like a bell that starts ringing that tells you everything's lined up for a new beautiful candle, beautifully packaged and with a label message that sets my intention for as long as the candle lasts. 

What I mean is that I like to use the 'For ....' part of the Le Labo label (which is essentially a gift label) to have a one or two word intention that will be in place for as long as the candle lasts. I like lighting a candle with purpose. I don't believe in mindlessly sparking up a candle. I believe a candle flame is a living light. And I like relating that 'aliveness' to an intention printed on the candle label: it's meditative and cumulative in effect every time I light the candle. Until I know what the intention is going to be, I don't go and buy a new candle. That's what I mean about things needing to line up. 

So after much anticipation and darkness finally drawing in, I lit this new Laurier 62 candle and well, as it turns out, it's actually quite simple. Not "a mess" at all. Nor a "total mess" (as they called it on a box in the window of the London boutique). I think Le Labo threw so much at it, that the end effect is quite simple. It's like a whole orchestra being present, instruments in hand and then letting the lone violinist solo. That's this candle when you light it: those 62 ingredients are all there, but in the end, it's like you're just hearing the lone violinist play her lovely Wintry solo. 

When I say Wintry, I mean it's their most seasonally specific candle after Figue 15 which is just so damn summery and gorgeous. This candle's much darker, very Wintry: conjuring up a mood board of fir cones, fireplace smells, chestnuts being roasted, a walk in the woods, a bowl of mulled wine. In its spiciness, it feels festive. And even though, in the end, there's nothing of those albums in the candle, it smells pretty good if you burn it while cranking out Black And Blue.   

Global Generation Skip Garden Project, King's Cross, London