The Day When James Was Good and Correctly Chose an Outfit for Ros

As we’ve had a busy few weeks and have both just been paid I thought it’d be nice to whizz into town and convince Ros that she deserved something nice.

We wondered into Topshop (quite by accident as I was headed to Topman) and lo and behold they had a little sale on. The Topshop/man combo store in Ipswich is both tiny and rubbish, but they do almost always seem to have a sale on.

After rummaging around I picked out a nice yellow dress, and sensing that I might well be onto a good thing I suggested that she try it on. This was totally selfless as (with all womens clothes shops) the changing rooms are right next to the bras and knickers and other womens things that I don’t pretend to understand. This of course means that unless you’re extremely brave and actually continue to browse through the store by yourself, you are stuck looking like a perv hanging around the underwear.

Anyway, the dress looked nice so we paid, were undercharged by £5, and moved on to the next ‘phase’ of the mission. Shoes.

Having not seen anything particularly good in Topshop we moved onto Office, who (incidentally) had a sale on too, but unless you had size 3 feet then there wasn’t much going on there either. Onto River Island. Bingo. Ros had indicated that sandals would be the way forward so I kept my hunting eyes open and detected these…

Again they looked good, so I sealed the deal, informing her that both they and her looked very nice. Taking them to the cash desk resulted in a £10 discount due to a slightly curled buckle strap. Extra bonus.

Anyway, the result is above, and its nice, light and summery. 10 points to Ros for being so pretty anyway, and 15 points for me for being very good and finding the new stuff!


A potted history of the Willis, Faber and Dumas Building

In Ipswich there’s a building that looks like a giant black grand piano.

It was one of the first buildings designed by the much celebrated architect Lord Foster (Norman). Built in the 1970’s actually quite an important building because it was the first building ever to be clad entirely in glass without the panels being in a frame. The beautiful towers of glass that are now commonplace are based on this pioneering design.

Why do I like it?

  • First off, its somewhat satisfying that the amazing cityscapes of the worlds megacities owe something of their design lineage to a building in a small parochial town in Suffolk.
  • Even though it would seem to be totally out of place amongst an historic town centre, in fact, its reflective glass mirrors the old buildings that surround it.
  • Its shaped to fit exactly within its irregular plot and so doesn’t breakup the flow of the street plan or look like a ‘carbuncle’

PS its also much prettier than the hideous square tower in the background which has now fortunately been demolished.

Images nabbed from wikipedia. 

Furguson Hill Speakers

Ok so after talking about a whole bunch of stuff that I want, I thought that it wouldn’t be too ostentatious to discuss something which I already own.

A few years ago I saw an article in Macworld about a new set of iPod speakers that were made from acrylic bent into horn shapes. They had a promotion on for readers whereby you got a free subwoofer otherwise priced at £299 so I bought the whole package instantly.

The sound quality is like nothing I’ve heard before or since, crisp and clear but with enough power to make things interesting. People have described the experience as thought the band or orchestra were actually in the room with you. They not so good with rock or ‘busy’ music, but for jazz, classical and soul they’re stunning.

I guess what drew me to them was the horn shape, its modern, clean, (and transparent) whilst also harking back to an old style gramophone. They always remind me of the ‘His Masters Voice’ dog.

Here they are in the publicity shot, unfortunately my desk is not so chic.

And thats what they look like in my lounge (I’m using them as Apple Airplay speakers).

Now, if your super-rich the company also make man sized speakers for extremely trendy loft apartments in London. I’m sure they’re not that strict as to their usage, but you get the idea. They’re really quite something. The price is quite something too at £10,000 a pair.

More details here

Rick Owens Wedges

So Rick Owens is an American clothes designer and he designs a range of quite expensive but pretty good looking mens and womens clothes.

He also makes a foray into something thats becoming more common. Heels on mens shoes. I think first off, its important to say that these are not big versions of women’s shoes designed for transvestites. They’re designed for men, they’re big and chunky and I think they look quite good.

Thinking about it anthropologically, you’d think that men would want to look a few inches taller. I very much doubt that men would ever wear delicate stilettos because they restrict mobility too much, but somethings like these I think would be fine. I wouldn’t have a problem wearing them. Just need to find £700.

Above are the knee high versions worn by Adam Lambert. I think you’d need to have a lot of guts to pull them off, or at least more guts than me.

I think the picture above is entirely Rick Owen’s stuff but I don’t really know enough to be able to say for sure. In any case I think they look quite good, but I reckon it’ll be a few more years before stuff like this becomes mainstream.

If you’ve been thinking to yourself, ‘damn, I have a bunch of cash and I want these’ then here they are.

Urban Planning Problem – Blackfriars Station

So you work for Network Rail and need to dramatically increase capacity at Blackfriars station. Space around you is extremely limited. You can’t dig down because they’re busy building a new underground station for Crossrail. You can’t build up because, well, its a railway and trains don’t like inclines.

You are near the river though.

Answer: You build the station on the actual approach bridge itself. Ingenious.

It utilises previously ‘dead’ space for the platforms and thereby saves space on the ground for the ticketing concourse etc. It also allows for much longer trains.

Looks swish doesn’t it?

Its an example of a bit of ‘thinking outside the box’ thats resulted in actually a far more elegant solution than could have been envisaged previously.

Smeg Fridge/Freezers

To complete the trio of posts for each of my design categories I present the following on the glory of SMEG fridge/freezers.

Let me just lay out my cards, I don’t own one of these so I don’t know if they work as good as they look – but I do know that I would really very much like one.

I could try and justify my fridge lust with some fancy verbiage, or poetry, but I think that in this case pictures are worth more so here goes:

Just look at them. They’re beautiful. I really like that chunky 50’s aesthetic. From a design perspective they’re often integrated into modern kitchens as a sort of nod to retro-futuristic hopefulness.

Also, they just look a bit different from the usual white/grey boxes that the vast majority of us have. They allow a bit of colour in the kitchen without looking gaudy or out of place.

Of course, they also cost well over a thousand pounds so it’ll be a little while before I get one! There are other things on my list first!

Pictures and more details can be found at

PS retro-futuristic…. that might well be an oxymoron.

Two posts in one day – well when your on annual leave why not? – Leggings

So, it seems that theres a bit of controversy about men wearing leggings. Some people seem to really hate it.

Here’s my theory: Women wear clothes according to their shape (or at least thats what Gok Wang says) whereas mens clothes tend to come in one shape – square and shapeless that try to hide the fact that theres a body under there somewhere.

If your body shape isn’t square then square clothes make you look squat. So why not make things a bit more interesting with some skinny jeans or leggings? Afterall, you’ve probably spent hours at the gym trying to keep fit and healthy so why not show off your handiwork?

Ok so everyone is under strict instructions to ignore the fact that the way I’m standing makes it look like I’ve horribly broken my ankle or something, but here are my latest legging based acquisitions. Why are they good: well first off they have pockets! When was the last time you saw leggings with pockets. And secondly they have sort of psuedo-industrially designed ribbing around the legs which you can’t really see on the picture but are definitely there.

Lets get this show on the road… The Shard – London

The first thing I wanted to talk about was a new building in London called ‘The Shard’. I saw a news article about it several years ago and thought it looked cool, but then the recession came along and I guess I assumed that it had been cancelled.

Wrong. I was in London a few months ago and there it was, half built, half glazed, but there nevertheless.

London is building together quite an eclectic mix of skyscrapers and I know there are some people who believe that thecity should be preserved as it was in the 1900’s and part of me agrees. Another part (a bigger part) enjoys seeing new stuff jutting up against old stuff, especially when it looks this cool. Of course, the Tower Bridge/Tower of London area is a world heritage site so sticking in a giant steel oblong would have been a mistake, but a giant spire is a different thing altogether – after all London is covered with spires from the hundreds of beautiful churches and for a long time these comprised the skyline of the capital and so weirdly, even though its 10 times taller than everything around it, a giant glass spire doesn’t look out of place. It actually looks like a cathedral, albeit a cathedral to money and wealth rather than God.

Secondly, (and more importantly) when I was younger I’m pretty sure I was promised cityscapes of gleaming glass in interesting shapes (on Mars) and this is as close as we can get!

I’m keen to know what others think – or if anyone has an examples of neat architecture from where they live please comment. More pictures can be found at the official project website.