What was your best Halloween costume?
When I was a teenager I came first in a best Halloween costume competition. Only thing was, I didn't actually realize it was Halloween (it wasn't a big deal to a teen growing up in remote South West England in the 80s). I was extremely proud of my outfit of a horizontal black-and-white-striped sleeveless t-shirt minidress and black-and-white hooped tights, which I considered to be tres Body Map (a cool London label which did monochrome stretch separates). I had anticipated that this cosmopolitan ensemble on my gangly 5'10" frame topped with an orange back-combed beehive may have been wasted in the Laughing Pirate in Falmouth, so to win first prize as a Belisha Beacon seriously exceeded my expectations.
What are some nicknames you've had in the past? How did you come by them?
In the sixth grade I was known as Olive Oyl. See above.
What was the worst job you've ever had?
Christmas cashier in a Superdrug in Falmouth. It was the first shop in town to have automatic doors, which didn't go well with the Cornish habit of standing in the doorway to have a little chat. By the time Mrs. Parry had gone through, "Right, bird?", "Erss, right my lover?", and inquired after the entire extended family of her acquaintance, I was freezing and the fascist acne-faced manager wouldn't let us wear a cardigan over our uniforms. And cardigans were not generally garments that I reached for naturally.
What book, movie, TV show, or album has changed your life, and how?
When I was twenty I discovered a book called Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy in a charity shop. First published in the US in 1975, it became a cult classic and confirmed my nascent belief that glamour and style were a state of mind. This inspiring tribute to tongue-in-cheek cool is full of suave scenesters sporting cut-off trouser legs on their heads. Recently, my husband tracked down a copy of Native Funk and Flash by Jacopetti and Wainwright, a rare book on crazy hippie folk art from San Francisco in 1974, which he'd read about in Dominic Lutyens's and Kristy Hislop's brilliant book 70s Style and Design. Both these publications were low-budget labors of love and are true things of beauty, but it was Cheap Chic that backed up my personal theory that heaven will be the best flea market you ever imagined.
Do you cook? If so, is there any particular dish that you've mastered and would like to share?
For my last birthday party I made deviled ham which is a kind of spiced meat spread that I put on toast with gherkins. I told everyone that it was an eighteenth-century recipe that I'd just discovered, but actually I lied---it was a mixture of Jane Grigson's potted ham and deviled turkey recipes from English Food (a seminal seventies cookbook of historic dishes) that I cobbled together to get the result I wanted.