Anxious Hands

Over two years, as she wrote her first novel, Sara Baume kept panic at bay by fashioning small objects out of detritis – and writing Post-its that became art …

I don’t think supermarkets do this any more, but when I was a child, every autumn the checkout girls would distribute free school copybooks in accordance with each grocery bill. My mother always ended up with far more than my sister and I needed for school. She would stockpile the surplus for us to make into storybooks throughout the year, and so we devoted countless hours to festooning their pages with varicoloured drawings. Our characters always had speech bubbles tagged on, and each scene was underscored by a couple of scribbled, breathless sentences of narrative. As children, our favourite TV programme was Mary Fitzgerald’s “make and do” slot on the Den. Under Mary’s tutelage, we transformed many an empty cereal box, yoghurt pot and washing-up liquid bottle into precarious masterpieces.
My sister and I make a joke of it now; of how she grew up properly and got a real job, whereas I’m still writing stories and trying to make art out of household scraps. I rebut that I’ve got a couple of university degrees to somewhat justify my atypical lifestyle, but in most situations I find it uncomfortable to try and explain to strangers what it is I actually do. In truth, it’s just a sophisticated version of what I’ve always done.

Almost five springs ago now, I moved from a bedsit in Rathmines to a little house in a seaside village on the southern coast. I had quixotic notions about living as simply and cheaply as possible, dedicating myself solely to artistic pursuits. I adopted a needy rescue dog and together we roamed the rocky coastline, gathering any interesting rubbish which drifted in on the tide. But come winter, the house grew freezing and the rent became hard to pay. The ground floor flooded in stormy weather; the dog bit one of my neighbours. The portentous silence of the countryside was more difficult to bear than I had expected; I started to apply for part-time jobs.

It was shortly after my 28th birthday, and while I was working as a waitress, that I started writing a novel. I’d been contributing art criticism to small journals for a couple of years, and I’d had some short stories published, but I wanted to see if I was capable of a longer work of fiction. I’d read somewhere that two years is a reasonable length of time to complete a novel, and so I appointed my 30th birthday as the deadline.

This story appears in the February issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Saturday March 7

10 Things We’d like to Bring Back

Call us old-fashioned, but we miss the rituals of the past. When we dressed up to go the airport, took our phone calls in the hall and wrote our diaries in private ...

1. The Phone in the Hall
We never thought we’d want to bring back the Phone in the Hall. But remember the civility of taking calls outside, its chunky ergonomic receiver that cradled your ear from the world, its spiral chord to squiggle through your fingers. Even if it was always engaged when you tried to ring other people (or worse, on an ignored “Call Waiting” chant), we miss that phone. Now, only telemarketers call us at home. Whatever the inconvenience of not being able to feed four while discussing someone’s relationship breakdown, or the cringe when it came to phoning first boyfriends, it beat hands down the incessantly irritating pocket presence of a buzzing, flashing, jingling gizmo. Let’s banish these pests from the kitchen. Arianna Huffington bans phones from her bedroom. She seems to be handling the world just fine.

2. The Weekly Wash & Set
Look at old photos at home, and you’ll get “past envy” too. Our chic antecedents knew the power instilled by a good hairdresser visited regularly. They probably got a sweet deal, the clever wartime economisers. Groomed hair that does not move for days is now a thing of the ultra-privileged, and we fear it will be a push to bring back. Notice the silken curls sported by the beautiful shoe designer Charlotte Olympia. She has her Wash and Set every week, she’s said. We’d at least like to revive the every-few-Fridays blow-dry – or for worker bees, the every-few-Mondays morning blow-dry. A “do” is a mentality, a calm before the storm. If feeling impecunious, remember rollers. Don’t diss rollers.

This story appears in the February issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Saturday March 7

Give Us A Break

Fairytale weddings are becoming ever more trying – for the guests. Zoe Rocha navigates a crowded calendar of nupitals

It starts slowly at first. A few non-threatening laser-cut, heart-shaped “Save the Dates” begin creeping onto your fridge door. Then the Photobooth-style images of your friends grinning manically become the morning wake-up call as you stumble towards the fridge, late for work. Before you know it, you’ve involuntarily sacrificed the majority of your weekends from June to September to hear Corinthian’s Love is Patient rattled through again while attempting, with varying degrees of success, to upcycle that classic dress that’s supposed to work for every occasion. Welcome to wedding season, a period of time that encourages you to disregard all the financial knowledge you’ve obtained over the course of your adult life, and suspend any disbelief that your nearest and dearest have simply lost the plot as they attempt to act out their own epic film in which they are the stars.

I had heard from various friends that this happens. You hit your early 30s and almost immediately all your friends with the successful careers, who shop for organic foods in their lunch break and host dinner parties bristling with intellectual chitchat, who look magnificent at all times and travel all over the world, decide to take the plunge and get married. While I appreciate that it’s a beautiful thing when two souls find each other, I’m not entirely sure the modern wedding and accompanying pressure among peers to outdo each other is a positive evolution of marriage. Traditions by their very nature are based on repetition, yet from my own experience, couples who are marrying slightly later are finding themselves in more financially lucrative positions and ultimately, in competitive battles to live out their fantasies and create an event to top anything seen before. All well and good, but from cultural hen weekends in Paris to week-long wedding extravaganzas in Miami, the modern fairytale wedding has the potential to hit your credit card hard.

This story appears in the February issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Saturday March 7

A Simple Recipe

In a $40 frock and spray-painted shoes, Órla Dukes tied the knot with zero fuss. Now, years later, what would she do differently?

And have you met my current husband?” I usually say when introducing him, facetiously of course. We’ve been married for almost 19 years (child bride, I insist, and longer than your average life sentence, he would probably point out) and we got married on a golden September day with a party in our new-at-the-time back garden.

I got married on the cheap. And cheerfully. We hadn’t two cents – or pennies, as the littlest brown coins were in those far-off days – to rub together as we had just bought a house, which meant there was zero pingin left to spend on the details of an elaborate ceremony.

He bought my dress without me on a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco, for the not quite Vera Wang sum of $40. Being a turquoise cheongsam it ticked all the boxes for something old (traditional), something new (still in its wrapper), something borrowed (from another culture) and something blue. A vintage pair of white high-heeled sandals were made to match the dress with the liberal application of metallic blue car spray paint. He picked an image we both liked, drew a version of it as an invitation, I stuck glitter fairly haphazardly along the bottom of it and off it went, irritating everyone who opened it with a shower of impossible to get off, sticky sparkly stuff.

Chef friends made our food, set out on tables under a canopy in the garden, his Aunt Eithne made the cake, I decorated it with icing sugar hearts and flowers and he drew a cartoon of the pair of us to put on top. My mamo and her two sisters, my great aunts, stayed up later than usual the night before to make a buttonhole and a bouquet each for me and my sister, dyeing fresh roses with blue food colouring and mixing them with chintzy carnations and baby’s breath from her garden to make me a fabulously retro cascade that matched the brocade flowers on my dress.

This story appears in the February issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Saturday March 7

Star-Crossed Suppers

Many of us have followed a celebrity diet, but few with the tenacity of Rebecca Harrington. Her endeavours to eat like an A-lister are disclosed in her absurdly humorous new book, I’ll Have What She’s Having

In her cackle-inducing diet memoir, I’ll Have What She’s Having, Rebecca Harringon tries just about everything. She tries Victoria Beckham’s Five Hands Diet, in which you eat five handfuls of food a day. (“A fun surprise is that a portion is not actually the size of a hand,” she enlightens us. “It’s the size of a palm.”) She attempts to live, like Karl Lagerfeld, on protein sachets, quail and Diet Coke (“after four [cans] I decide I’m so jittery I can’t eat lunch”) and on Beyoncé’s Salt Water Flush, best imbibed “while looking at yourself in the mirror”. In a quest to better understand that elusive breed known as the celebrity – and to shed a few pounds along the way – Harrington embarks on a journey of self-discovery that takes in Marilyn Monroe’s raw eggs, Pippa Middleton’s haggis and a Greta Garbo celery loaf that smells “like a rotting body”. The result is a brilliantly raucous insight not only into the bizarre foodstuffs of the rarefied, but also more than you’d expect of each starlet’s personality. Here, she gives the lowdown on what happened when she tried to diet like Elizabeth Hurley.

I Tried… Elizabeth Hurley’s Diet
If you Google Elizabeth Hurley, her diets are one of the first things you’ll come across. Liz diets routinely and publicly. She seems especially to enjoy fad dieting and scandalising people who work in nutrition. For example: after she had her son, she confessed she didn’t believe in breakfast for women over 40. I honestly thought the nutritionist at the Daily Mail was going to jump off a bridge.

I plan on doing several of Liz’s most famous diets, deploying white jeans and dinner parties where appropriate.

Day 1 The Daily Mail, in its infinite wisdom, recently reported that Liz was on the “flapper diet” – more commonly known as the Hay Diet – which was invented by Dr William Hay in the 1920s.

Dr Hay was a paunchy man with tiny wire-rimmed glasses, who lost a lot of weight with a system that he made up. He preached that what you ate was less important than the combinations of food you ate together. In the Hay framework, you eat vegetables with proteins, starches with vegetables and melons all by themselves. He also glommed onto the idea that some foods are essentially acidic and others are basic, and if a person eats the correct combination of basic substances (and avoids acidic foods) then they can reduce indigestion and heartburn.

I start the day off with some melon and then, several hours later, snack on some yogurt. By the time lunch comes around, I’m very hungry. I have beans with kale. But what’s the point of beans without the satisfying crunch of bread?

Later, for happy hour, I decide to have a glass of white wine, even though that is not strictly a Liz thing to do. She used to drink wine all the time, until she realised that it often gives women over 40 stomach bloat. At that point she stopped and started drinking vodka sodas exclusively. “Initially it’s like medicine but I’ve got used to it now” is an encouraging thing Liz Hurley once said about vodka soda. The other day she tweeted she was only going to have a vodka soda for dinner.

For my dinner I have steak and asparagus. It’s pretty delicious, but I’m still hungry at the end, which makes me feel full of journalistic integrity, since Liz says she goes hungry to bed every single night.

This story appears in the February issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Saturday March 7