Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


Walking Tall

My status has improved. I am feeling rather elevated. I am walking around with my nose a few inches higher in the air than usual.

Here’s why:



Beautiful, aren’t they?

Here’s a picture of one in sepia, just to underscore its iconicity:


Let it be said that as a girl who prefers trainers or flip-flops, and who has never knowingly worn peep-toes before, I am getting a kick out of my new status. There’s a swing in my step. There’s a swoosh to my stride. I am towering over animals and small children and the odd crouching grown-up. I am enjoying the rarefied air of the tall.

Feels good up here. Wish you could join me.

*totters off to prepare lunch*


Charlotte’s Best of 2006

As a stay-at-home English-speaking mother-of-three who lives in Germany, I don’t go to cocktail parties, screenings, openings, launches. I very seldom go to concerts, exhibitions or movies. The books I read are found objects; from my book club, happy accidents in German bookshops, presents my husband buys me in the airport. I don’t know are what the latest hip happening restaurants, clubs or bars are. I’ve almost completely stopped buying fashion magazines, so my fashion sense is honed by what I occasionally see in H&M or Zara.

I am in no way qualified to offer a round-up of the zeitgeist 2006. Instead, I give you Charlotte’s Best of 2006:

Best Taste Sensation (Outside the Home)

Lavender ice-cream at Norfolk Lavender. It looked … lavender, and tasted … lavender. A heavenly experience.

Best Taste Sensation (Inside the Home)

Yesterday’s pomegranate pavlova. And the champagne cocktails we made in summer, with elderflower syrup, strawberries and mint.

Best (and Most Fruitful) Shopping Trip

A trip to the factory shops at Stoke-on-Trent with my friend T. I bought an exquisite blue and white cake stand from Portmerion, decorated with flowers and butterflies. I found beautiful blue and white dinner plates at Spode. And at Burleigh’s wonderful red-brick Victorian warehouse, I found smaller plates and bowls in various designs. I now eat off a wildly mixed and matched variety of blue and white crockery. It makes me happy, every single day.

Best Album With Adult Content

Without a doubt, Lily Allen’s Alright, Still. Her lyrics are darkly bitter while the sound is sweet, upbeat, with hints of reggae. It’s British pop at its very best. I’ve only seen her videos on YouTube, webwaif that I am, but I like her style too – she wears ballgowns with trainers and big chavvy earrings. It’s very Charlotte circa 1991 – I was into dresses, with trainers, and tacky jewellery. Her lyrics are explicit, so I can’t listen to it in front of the children. Instead, I like to play it loudly when I’m alone in the car (that in itself is a good feeling) and sing along and pretend I’m 21 again.

Best Album for Singing With Children

Surfer dude Jack Johnson’s soundtrack to the Curious George movie. It’s buzzy and fun, and filled with good messages – share, be kind, recycle. It has a lovely lullaby. We like it a lot. My daughter says he has a “kind voice”.

Best Album for Dancing With Children

Putumayo Kids’ African Playground for its great African rhythms. We put it on when we’re feeling a little crabby or we’re not getting what we want or someone is making us cry (and that would just be me), and it’s an immediate mood enhancer. The children are developing some great “moves” – sometimes accusing each other of “stealing my moves” – and Ollie’s got some real African knee-action going to this one.

Best Re-Read That Turned Out To Be a First Read

Apparently, in my third year of English Literature at the University of Cape Town, we studied Middlemarch. I remember attending some of the lectures, and may possibly have answered an exam question on it. I decided to reread it this year – completely delightful and to my surprise, accessible – but I couldn’t remember a word from supposedly having read it in 1989.

Best Surprise English Find in a German Bookshop

Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness. Reviewed here.

Best Novel Written by a Poet

Finuala Dowling’s What Poets Need. Reviewed here.

Best Film

Die Fetten Jahren Sind Vorbei (in English, The Edukators). This was released in 2004, but I saw it, thanks to’s DVD hire service, this year. It’s a great story: Jan and Peter, two young Berlin anarchists, break into rich people’s houses at night, rearrange their furniture (often to great effect), steal nothing but leave behind messages designed to disconcert the home owners. One night they botch a break-in and end up kidnapping someone. They find themselves on the run, with their abductee and Jan’s girlfriend Jule, with whom Peter is falling in love. As they hide out in a cottage in the mountains, they begin to feel compassion for their victim, the millionaire Hardenberg, and the debate begins – between the idealistic three who long for the passion and anarchy of 1968 and Hardenberg who has become staid and conservative since gathering his millions. It’s a thriller that isn’t, which is often my favourite kind, because it takes you right to the edge where you expect scary stuff to happen, and then it surprises you by doing an about-turn. There’s a bit of wobbly hand-held camera action to lend authenticity and some great acting, especially from Daniel Bruehl (star of Goodbye, Lenin) and Julia Jentsch (of Sophie Scholl fame).

Best Dieting Tip

Thanks to BlogLily, I discovered the Shangri-La Method, which has kept me trim since July. See my post here. I now need to reapply the method in order to recover from birthday and Christmas excess.

Best Style Purchase

A black wrap dress with white polka dots from H&M. It cost all of €15, and I have worn it once a week all year – in summer with flipflops, in winter with a long-sleeve T-shirt underneath and knee-high boots. In honour of Christmas, I glammed it up further with fake pearls. It’s very forgiving when one is carrying a little winterspeck and also very flattering over trousers. Wrap dresses rule.

Best Beauty Mantra

Yesterday’s mascara is today’s eyeliner.

Best Life Mantra

If you speak and act with integrity, you need not take responsibility for the reactions of others. The best decisions are the intuitive ones. Make time to be quiet and go within. Oh, and don’t forget to get up and feed the children.



Now that I am a mere red-talon’s flick away from forty, my thoughts turn now and again to fashion. (Serious readers avert your eyes here: extreme frivolity lies ahead.)

I am by no means a high-maintenance Frau: any manicure, pedicure and waxing activities take place in the safety and security of my own bathroom; I only require a bi-yearly visit to the hairdresser for highlights and a trim, and I make no investment purchases whatsoever. I don’t see the point of spending money on a handbag, boots or a coat that cost more than a good holiday. Now that there are three children to consider and one and one-twelfth of a salary, I can’t justify any designer purchases.

This aside, I do like to look good, taking my height (short) and my shape (hourglass with wobbly bits) into consideration. I really don’t want to let go and not care and slump around in tracky bots, but neither do I want to be challenging the local teenagers in wearing ten trends all at once. I want to refer to trends but not drip them. Whatever cocktail I do actually achieve, I need to credit any wisdom I have to two gurus who have taught me the tips and tricks that I apply on a daily basis.

The first is my friend the lovely G. When I lived in London she would phone me and say, “Get thee to a Gap this minute. There’s a black broderie anglaise skirt that is screaming your name.” I would obey, and guess what, four summers later the skirt is still in service. The other guru is a duo, England’s equally maligned and admired Trinny and Susannah. To me, they are goddesses of style, who are on earth to help us mortals look just a tiny little bit better, if only we listened to their advice.

So what follows here – in no particular order – is an amalgam of G and T and S and me:

  • Combine fun or junk jewellery with real. What happens when we gals turn 30 is that we think we must now be grown-ups and wear only our “good” jewellery. So we do the pearl necklace and pearl earring thing, or wear only gold. This is terribly aging and frumpish. By all means, wear a pearl necklace but combine it with some cheap as chips chandelier earrings. Or wear your diamond studs, but put them with strands of beads.
  • Tapering trousers are your hips’ worst enemy. Cigarette pants and skinny jeans are only for skinny bums. If you are the proud owner of a bottom, and indeed some hips, straight-legged trousers or slightly flared boot-cuts are the only way to go. Also, if you have thighs, ignore the high-waisted pants that are haunting us this autumn – they are just not flattering especially if they get pulled up too high and emphasise, ahem, the family jewels. (I was just too shy there to mention what all good fashion magazines this autumn are calling the camel’s foot.)
  • A denim jacket combined with a pair of jeans is known as the Shakin’ Stevens and is an absolute no-no. Shades of the aging rocker, what? Wear your denim jacket with cords or chinos or linen pants of any hue, but nevaire, my dears, with your denim trews. A denim skirt with a denim jacket is just as bad. Just add some rhinestones and start baah-ing quietly.
  • Black is good with white, with brown, with khaki, with pastels, bizarrely (although I was taught the opposite back home in Pietermaritzburg) with navy, but is shockingly, terribly bad with hot pink or bright yellow. The hot pink/black combo is is a fashion crime I committed often until I came across T and S and they mentioned Olivia Newton in Grease. While both are fine colours, the combination looks apparently – and sadly for me – cheap.
  • If you are short and can wear ’em, then heels are the way to lengthen legs. I keep trying with high heels but find them impossible. I have just bought a new pair in England (purple suede with stacked heels and five quid on the Asda sale, they look like something Dorothy Parker would wear) and I love them them so much I want to put them on a pedestal, but I just can’t walk in them. In my life, I need practical shoes that I can run in to prevent toddlers from wandering into a river, or abseiling down the stairs. However, at night, when I don’t have to walk very far (a party or a dinner, say) then out come the trusty heels.
  • Every girl’s BEST FRIEND – and I mean this sincerely – is the wrap dress. I own two, one black with white polka dots and one purple. They are the only two items I have ever tried on in a shop OVER MY OUTDOOR CLOTHES and said, Good God, I look fabulous. They are totally forgiving of any extra Speck that might be lingering around the middle, and over trousers, and with heels, they look a million dollars.
  • Trousers should err on the long side. Cut too short, they only make short legs look shorter.
  • Avoid too much matchy-matchiness. This is lesson I’ve had to learn only recently, so well-schooled was I in matching my shoes to my belt to my bag. I’ve just realised that too matchy is frumpy: clash a little, combine colours that you normally wouldn’t for an altogether less neat and tidy look. This season’s trendiest colour combination is grey and brown – not a marriage that would have gone down well in Pietermaritzburg, but a funky look in the autumnal northern hemisphere.

The thing about fashion is to have fun. I did mention frivolity, and that’s all it is really. I regret dressing so seriously in my twenties (too much bloody navy) and not having more fun when my body was still in its pre-baby heyday. I don’t want to look back when I’m in my sixties and think “I was so YOUNG! Why did I have to dress like an old lady/frump/rhinestone cowgirl.” That would be almost as sad as my wearing skinny jeans.