Stories

Afternoon tea is my favourite meal. The fact that tea is central enough to be included in the title is enough. I am part woman, part tea. If something is wrong it’s usually because I need a cuppa and I firmly believe most things can be sorted out over one. I own several teapots and send official Sarah Powell teabags out to everyone on my mailing list (why yes you can sign up right here)

The Powells are a Tetley household. We have always had Tetley tea unless there was a very good offer on another brand that my mother June was swayed by. In the morning June will say “don’t speak to me I haven’t had tea yet” and never goes abroad without several sandwich bags packed full of Tetley. One year she also took Rich Tea biscuits but it turns out they don’t travel well.

The only other thing I love more than tea is tiny little sandwiches. The sort you can eat in two bites. Meaning you can eat 84 of them. Add to this, cakes, scones, cream, jam and the occasional scotch egg and you have the greatest spread on earth. As if this weren’t quite enough, there is also the option to add cocktails and fizz. I believe firmly in adding booze to things. Booze and cheese. Here there is the option for add both.

I have had a lot of afternoon teas. Mine is a body built on clotted cream. I have taken afternoon tea in fancy hotels, by the seaside, at craft afternoons, summer fetes and in the ballroom of a cruise ship. I am delighted by crumpets, squeal for macarons and will always, always have a second scone. Taking tea with someone you love, chatting the afternoon away then going for a lie down is quite simply heaven.

The Sanderson Hotel is a retro 1950’s building outside but inside it’s clever and almost cheeky. I plonked myself down on a red lips sofa in the foyer and honestly didn’t think I’d get up again. To my left was a row of barstools with a giant eye staring out of the back of each of them and to my right twirled a dangling 60s orb seat. How anyone could get in or out of that when full of scone, I will never know.

The Sanderson Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea is centered around their outdoor terrace, a square courtyard with a good breeze but covered enough to stay dry. The first thing to say is there is no fancy dress. Not even if you wanted to. There are no top hats, no bunny ears and no one in a Cheshire Cat purple body stocking. The first thing is to choose from five Alice- inspired teas. Don’t be alarmed by a lack of English Breakfast. I’m someone who only drinks builder’s tea but Alice’s bergamot and vanilla is sweet nectar. In fact it’s so gorgeous they sell it on the way out to take home. Tea is served in bucket sized amounts from fat, stout tea pots guarded by the Queen of Hearts and too heavy not to use both hands. The sugar is found in a ballerina jewellry box which sings when you open it and the menu is bound into a vintage book, the sort of thing Alice would read.

Then comes the towering glory of it all. A skyscraper of delights. The three tiered cakestand of joy. I almost rugby tackled it from the lady bringing it over. Cucumber sandwiches and crab buns  at the bottom, pocket watch macaroons in the middle and caterpillar marshmallows at the top. I am now in love with the Queen of Heart biscuits full of jam and cream and I could have eloped with Tweedle Dee’s lemon curd financier. A tiny plant pot of caramel ice cream covered in chocolate soil and honeycombe, arrived as a surprise, the very best sort of surprise. Finally let’s please talk about the darling little bottle of  cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion, which have daydreamed about at the busstop since. Obviously just in case we weren’t ready to roll home perfect scones, jam came with cream you could have stood up in.

Now look, I must tell you this because the people next to us didn’t realise until it was too late, but you can reorder anything you like. This is quite standard at any afternoon tea so always make enquiries. You want more croque monsieur? You have them. Another mocha chessboard gateau? Go for it. We had six smoked salmon scotch eggs.

Usually I am someone who demands colour to really enjoy a thing and the only thing that is bright orange is the mini macarons nestled in grass. I have to concede, the tea set is perfect in monochrome covered in prancing horses and the stripes of the White Rabbit’s waistcoat. It’s made by Luna and Curious and you can buy the lot if you’re feeling flash or a teacup and saucer to be chic at home.

As I write this, the time is now 3.15pm. Which I think we can all agree is the perfect time for tea.

xoxx

“You’re quite camp aren’t you Sarah?” is one of the best things anyone has ever said to me. I remember clearly being sat in the sixth form common room at school with a girl from the year above. “Yes! Yes I am!” I replied with RuPaul theatricality.

I was an oddball teenager. Ginger, doughy and with none of the attributes needed to be fancied by lads. I went to bed longing to wake up looking like Natalie Imbruglia in the Torn video, but instead I woke with frizzy red hair and a complexion that resembled cranberry Wensleydale. I was teased by the boys on the school bus and spent my lunch times listening to the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack, imagining Taylor Hanson would arrive at the school gates to marry me. In the end and in an effort to fit in, I became a goth. Not a real one of course, I dyed my hair purple in the summer holidays, wore black lipstick occasionally and, perhaps most baffling, started to wear men’s boxer shorts from Gap as underwear.

I can’t remember the first time I watched Ab Fab but I gazed at Edina Monsoon and everything changed. She was loud, dramatic, cartoon camp with ridiculous clothes and I adored her. I loved how large everything about her was, how extreme and hilarious a woman on a television could be. She wasn’t interested in fitting in, in fact Eddie thought normal people were boring. Suddenly the sleek women in magazines I desperately wanted to look like were dull and being fabulous was the only way to live. I became a real life embodiment of her, walking around in tye dye and calling everyone “sweetie darling.” The boys on the bus didn’t get it at all.

Marcus Longinotti is one of the most fabulous people I had ever met in my life. He was only one year above me in sixth form but seemed years away in wisdom, experience and owning exactly who he was. He paraded around the common room, throwing around dramatics and slut dropping to Melanie C. I’ll never forget him, dressed as a reverend backstage in the school production of The Crucible, doing a full dance routine to Ricky Martin’s She Bangs. He was living it, all of it and he had no time for anyone who didn’t think they were fabulous. I was in awe.

Marcus practically threw me over his shoulder and took me to Canal Street. For the first time in my life no one cared that I was fat or had corned beef legs. No one cared I didn’t look like Shakira or that I wasn’t cool or didn’t know what to do with my hair. It wasn’t weird I sang Les Mis with my mother round the piano, in fact it was marvellous. I was different and that was fabulous. I wasn’t weird, I was wonderful. I was celebrated just for being there. Just for showing up. No one ever questioned that I was straight, I was me and as long as I was a nice person then “fuck it darling, who cares!”

Throughout my whole life I have been shown acceptance and love from a community that I don’t officially belong to. It has always welcomed me with open arms. It has thrown those arms around me when I have been lonely or scared or full of self hatred. It had hammered the message “be proud of who you are” to me over and over again. It has told me to live the life I want. It has provided my best friends. It has made me who I am.

Of course this year Pride is even bigger because last week marked the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in England and Wales. There has been shitloads of amazing stuff to celebrate and this Saturday it is the epic Brighton Pride. I lived in Kemptown in Brighton for three years and lost lots of weekends being proud.

Ellie Ellie (a divine Brighton based independent brand) are celebrating the anniversary with their own Love is Love campaign. They believe “that everyone is equal, and want to spread the message that no matter who you love, you matter.” They have created fabulous t shirts as well as rainbow cufflinks with 20% of all sales going to The Kaleidoscope Trust, who work with parliamentarians, government ministers, officials and policy makers to campaign for real change. The t shirts are obscenely flattering so you can look delicious and do something good.

Because Love is Love, whoever it’s between.

xxox

Being a hopeless romantic and someone who loves love, I do enjoy a bit of matchmaking though not between actual real people. No, my liaising is between random things in my flat. Things I think are good together. I will pair them on a shelf so they can live happily ever after. Lionel the giant money pig with a gold pineapple, a plastic R2-D2 with a book about Dolly Parton, for example. The first of these happy couples to make it into The Museum of Sarah is Buddha and a Mirrorball. They’ve been together for nearly a year and are very happy.

I believe every home should have at least one mirrorball and I’ve had this one for most of my life. I’ve had it for so long I can’t remember where it came from but I think it was a present from my mother, June who would have thought it was “very fun.” It came in a brown box with the kind of satisfying polystyrene which fits around it’s shape perfectly. It’s first home was the Victorian fireplace in my bedroom before it was taken to uni, where, after several vodkas, I almost stood on it to recreate the Justin Timberlake album cover. Thankfully it was saved from this horror, moved back home with me and then to Brighton and then to London where it was happily set up with Buddha. Over the years the polystyrene has been lost so it’s taken a few knocks and lost a couple of mirrors but that’s all part of it’s charm now.

Buddha moved in two years ago when I graduated from a blogging workshop in 2015. The Blogcademy was a weekend workshop where we learnt about blogging and instagram and larked about with pineapples. Unfortunately I had a revolting cold so spent the whole thing dosed up and trying not to breathe on anyone. Throughout the weekend there was a photo competition but because I was ill and also the least competitive person in the UK, I didn’t really think about it.

It was only when they were announcing the winners that I saw the array of prizes and there he was, my neon pink light up Buddha. Much like a decent raffle, if you won you could go up and choose which prize you wanted. As the award giving went on the choice of prizes got smaller and smaller but to my bafflement, no one chose Buddha. When my name was called I darted towards the front and stopped short of grabbing him or screaming “he’s MINE! I want HIM!!” I gracefully picked him up, took the applause and Kat from The Blogcademy said “I knew someone would like him.” He’s been on my shelf, and at a disco, ever since.

photo c/o nubbytwiglet.com and Sarah Kuszelewicz. I was SO ill.

I had a good hunt around for where you could buy Buddha and most places seem to be out of stock (understandably, he is divine) but they do have him at octer if you need him in your life. Everywhere from Very to Not on The High Street sell mirror and disco ball things or if you want to real deal, you want Mirrorball Paul. Can we also just take a moment for this one designed for budgie bird cages?

xxox

Look, I’m over on Bloglovin!

There has been an ongoing debate between my sweetheart and I for some time now: whether cushions actually make a sofa more or less comfortable. Of course I have always strongly fought the side that cushions are brilliant so of course they enhance a sofa. My boyfriend claims the aesthetic does not outweigh the fact the sofa is better to sit on without them.

This may be because he’s not actually allowed to sit *on* them. Cushions are too nice to go under a bottom, no matter how lovely the bottom is. They are to be sat in front of and leaned back on to. They are not there for comfort but to look good. Cushions are to be admired and not plunge a hand into as you get up off the sofa. You can see the trouble we’ve had.

I have cushions of every size and shape. Of every pattern and colour. Cushions that look like a bag of chips, several in various 70s patterns bought from eBay and one in the shape of a dinosaur, named Dougie. These have covered my teal two seater entirely from left to right, reducing the actual sitting space by about a third. Even if you are the only person on the sofa it was crowded.

Every time we want to use the sofa bed the cushions have to be taken off and stacked neatly beside the sofa, a process that takes far longer than it should. After the bed has been used, the cushions need to be unstacked and placed back in a suitable order. However what usually happens is someone (me) loses interest and they remain on the floor until lunchtime. This meant they would inevitably be stood on. It is gave my boyfriend’s kids the idea for a stepping stone game involving the floor as the sea. Later on, when one was being used a booster seat for dinner, I decided enough was enough. I needed a cushion cull.

It was hard to choose which ones to keep and I couldn’t look Dougie in the eye as he was packed into a suitcase to take to storage. But there were two cushions I knew would always stay. Both of them were presents and both of them are fabulous women.

The first one is from one of my favourite shops in London, We Built This City, which is on Carnaby Street and you also buy everything online on their terrific website. WBTC are “revolutionising London souvenirs” and they have everything from full English breakfast pencils to pigeon washi tape. They also have work with loads of brilliant artists who are all inspired by the city.

My Queen Elizabeth I cushion is made by Victoria Crossman, who sadly seems to be offline at the moment but does promise she’ll be back soon. It’s a fabulous depiction of Liz in a very ornate ruff overseeing the empire, one hand on her globe and watching her ships coming in. I love a queen and also The Queen so anything royal I’m up for. I saw this cushion, screamed that I loved it and forgot about until my birthday when it was bought for me as a present. People who remember things you point out should always be treasured. I love it because it’s so detailed, the colours are thrilling and it’s got a terrific sense of humour.

I bought the other cushion when I’d been doing some work on the Southbank and wandered into The National Theatre for a cup of tea and their wifi. Their shop is also well worth a browse and they had a huge display for their 2015 production of The Beaux Stratagem. There were tote bags and notebooks and right in the middle, this sumptuous cushion. I bought it immediately and then went to the box office to book tickets. I love a bawdy restoration comedy and every time I see this cushion I think of fans, big wigs and high class jinks. I’m looking her in the eye right now and she’s willing me to have a G&T and a French Fancy.

I’ve been forced to concede a life with less cushions is better and these ladies are more than enough lounging on the sofa. Though I do think this Oliver Bonas sheepskin number would just sit with them nicely.

xxox

God I’m in love with this bag.

You know when you own something and it makes you happy every single time you look at it. You can’t even properly explain why you love it so much. Maybe it’s because of where it came from or how it’s made or the feel of it in your hand but it just brings you joy? That’s exactly how I feel about this bag. It’s a lovely thing for the sake of being a lovely thing. It’s something I like just because I like it.

I do love a clutch bag. They finish an outfit and look so bloody cool. I shove all my bits in a clutch and then put it in a bigger bag or leave the Filofax at home and just take said bits out in it. This one is by Venessa Arizaga, who says “I like to think of each piece I create as a treasure and a good luck charm, something special  to keep close to you to reflect upon good times…” Amen Venessa. It came in a white box with heart covered tissue paper and was the best kind of birthday present, one that you could never justify buying for yourself. It also has everything one could need in life: colours, prints and chips.

The official name of this darling bag is the “Snack Time Clutch” and to be honest, she had me at Snack Time. It’s made of teal denim and is covered in tiny brilliant food charms. There’s a donut, ice cream, burger, strawberry, hot dog and the aforementioned chips. I have looked at this charms and turned them over in my fingers so many times and I still look at them now like I’ve never seen them before. They actually physically excite me, who knew a mini taco could do that?

As if it wasn’t dreamy enough, the lining is a bright juicy halved oranges. If it’s a crap grey March day you can open this bag and you are the man from Del Monte. It is of course the ultimate holiday bag; perfectly sized for a debit card, Nurofen, a tube of suncream, a box of plasters and a Twix. I took it all round Argentina terrified of dropping red wine or mayonnaise on it.

Venessa also makes beautiful jewellery and very cool bracelets (Jules Von Hep is a big fan) The company is based in the states but they ship internationally or you can buy it on Amazon and several shops in London, including Selfridges and The Conran Shop, where this one was bought. It’s subtle, chic but still super fun and the best thing is, it’s in the sale. Go go go love.

xxox