View from the Farm Café

Farm café

When you’re running a business (or a family, a department or any ordinarily-complicated life rubbing up against bills and deadlines…) there can be a constant sense of failing to achieve. Items are added to to-do-lists far more easily than they’re crossed off – and it’s easy to forget the trail of ‘jobs done’ receding behind you.

Finding a moment to take stock of all that frenetic activity can be difficult – but I thoroughly recommend it. Last year I was persuaded to find a regular spot to do just that – and so every Friday morning I head off to the café at the local Farm Shop. Away from the distractions of the ClothSpot workroom it’s an opportunity to catch up on the fashion press over (excellent) coffee before plunging myself into a specially-saved-up project. Sometimes it’s as mundane (albeit essential) as organising my to-do lists; another time I might get to be a geek for a couple of hours, delving into databases and spreadsheets to analyse sales data.

Farm café

Most of all though, it’s an opportunity to reflect without anyone asking anything of me. Such is the predictability of my farm café routine that the staff know my breakfast and coffee order – the only query being the timing of my hot chocolate later on in the morning if it’s nippy. Local ladies are chatting and sipping; new mothers are sandwiched between buggies and their own mothers in turn. Once a month a pair of retired chaps in bright Lycra and clonky cycle shoes rattle in with their helmets and rucksacks; the occasional funeral party wanders in from the newly-built crematorium up the road, all tense relief; silently courteous. When the café starts filling up for lunch (and the smell of fried fish filters into my headphoned seclusion) I beat a grateful retreat (though not without a slice of cake for afternoon tea).

It’s my favourite time of the week – and one which is highly productive too. Always so in terms of tasks accomplished – but at least as significantly in terms of getting some perspective on everything. It’s a chance to take a breath, acknowledge achievements and plan for what’s next. It feels like a luxury – but in fact it’s an absolutely essential part of my week. It’s not rock ‘n’roll; it’s not Soho – but it works. If you can find an equivalent for yourself then give it a go – it’s worth the effort I promise.

Perhaps you already have your personal version of the farm café – do tell if so.

A frequent by-product of that precious time refuge is a flurry of Post-It notes. Stuck to pages torn from the fashion magazine of the day they hold ideas for blogs, reminders, passing inspirations, references… Many are just snippets but it occurred to me that sharing them in a post every couple of weeks might be a lark (and it will keep the clutter out of the Style Crisis blogs too). So just as a warm-up, here we go with…

…this week’s obsession

Yes – I readily confess excitement at the fact that Bananarama are back together – I was there too (in the early Siobhan years). Soaped-up big hair (no ‘product’ in the shops back then), Ray-bans, layered cut-up sweatshirts and dungarees from the DIY shop. If we’d had Instagram back then I’d drop a picture inhere – but we didn’t so I can’t.

Following the announcement of their return last week there was a little bit of excited hopping in the workroom (not just me) and the weekly ClothSpot photography session kicked off with ‘Robert de Niro’s Waiting’ at full volume.

For good measure we added the whole of Deep Sea Skiving to the Spotify feed. Half an hour later, our Weekly Discover playlist followed – and a track called ‘Long Time’ began. Not really paying attention – but bouncing, strutting, singing as I pinned, tucked and draped – the world was right again. And then the penny dropped.

Was this…Blondie?

Was this a new track?

Yes indeed!

Every couple of decades, in she storms, uninvited. ‘This is how cool it is to be a proper grown up.’ Except it’s not any kind of ‘grown-up’ we’ve been encouraged to be.

In 1978 she inspired my white high-heeled mules and a tight-as-you-like scarlet pencil skirt (from Chelsea Girl on the Kings Road FYI – at that time a four-and-a-half-hour train ride away for a teenager in a decidedly uncool corner of Yorkshire). The teachers on the door to the school dance didn’t recognise me and my heart swelled.

In 1999 she helped wave goodbye to my ‘proper’ career as an employee,  a carful of us cruising round Parliament Square with the windows down, belting out ‘Maria’ at top volume.

And now here she is again.

And in a flash I knew just what I wanted to do with the purple linen I was draping – and where was that silk crepe –  and where’s that jacket pattern I saw last week? And BANG! New wardrobe alert!

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

So yes – wonderful to see Banarama out and about – we all need some Fun Girl Three. But when it comes to figuring out the next steps in life, you need someone to show you what’s possible, in ways you hadn’t imagined. As Claudia Winkleman observed recently,  ‘there has to be some middle ground between raving all night in Hoxton and beige elasticated comfort pants’ (I paraphrase but you get the drift).

Deborah Harry does it for me. Who does it for you?

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