Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Egg-sacting times for Tefal

Occasionally on this blog I write about a gadget. Occasionally they're even affordable. This one is: the Toast'n'egg from Tefal. My thanks to the PR company for sending me a sample. I can confirm that it works - and for under £40 is a reasonable enough buy if you want to cut down a bit on washing up.

Of course I'm not completely satisfied. It's great if you're making breakfast for yourself. Two slices in the toaster, egg in the poacher and you're away. So far, so excellent. But there's another option. It will take up to four eggs for boiling.

This is another good thing but - and here's the rub - if I'm cooking four eggs then I'm probably cooking them for more than just me. And if it's all the same to everyone, I'd quite like the option of a four-slice toaster.

No doubt someone in product development thought of this, looked at the size, told someone in marketing about it and someone decided the thing would just be too big. If I'm right, that's probably not a bad call - but then why make it cook so many eggs if the whole lot won't be ready and hot all at once?

This is probably a quibble. For the price it's a perfectly good kitchen gadget. I'd bet, though, that loads of people will stick with a saucepan and separate toaster.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Some nice Chess pieces

To Mayfair and the launch of a new designer brand. Chess London started selling good quality clothes with good fabrics at the end of last week. For the moment it's online only, and the first howler is that they don't appear to have reserved the domain alongside - anytime they want a seminar on online presence I've written books on the subject...

No matter. The clothes look very good and with prices like £130 a shirt they'd better; clearly this is good in comparison to the top-end designer labels but when online tailors will make something  to measure exactly for a similar price the quality had better sing out.

For the most part it does. Designer Ali Riaz told me about the quality, about the detailing (and a lot of work has clearly gone into the lining of the jackets) and the fabrics. He cited Holland and Sherry as one of the top-end fabric suppliers the company uses (although once again I have to point out that two of my suits are tailored from fabrics from exactly that company put together by King and Allen, for similar prices to the off-the-peg stuff available here). His view was that every supplier has a basic range and a luxury range and Chess London sells only the top; if I'm honest I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

He was also a little bemused when I asked whether there was a full floating canvas in the jackets, not fully understanding what I meant (here's where I explain it in a previous post). From what I could gather the facing is indeed sewn into place so your jacket won't pucker up if it gets rained on.

And the jackets did look pretty damned good, as did the trousers. Some of the knitwear was a bit young (see the post on mid-life crisis) - if you're reading this blog because you're actually over 35 I'd be a bit careful of some of that.

But if I can find room I might well be in the market for a jacket and couple of shirts sometime soon. It's good to see a British brand starting up to compete with the international set. It's all online at the moment and at last week's launch they were hoping some retailers would turn up. There's every reason to wish Chess London well for the future.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Avoiding the mid-life crisis look

It’s another one of those weeks. You know, the ones in which the style magazines and women’s pages are telling women they shouldn’t have their hair long beyond a certain age, their bodies need to be a particular shape, men need to wear darker suits as we get older. Every damned week, in other words.
There’s actually something in some of this – there are few things worse than someone desperately trying to cling on to a youth which has pretty clearly departed the premises some time previously. But the ‘rules’ needn’t be that stringent. Here are a few thoughts on avoiding looking as though you’re trying too hard:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Decked out for the Jubilee

My thanks to the people at Chatham Marine for making me aware of their GB 2012 deck shoes. Deck shoes tend to hover around the outskirts of what's in and out of vogue if that matters to you; what matters to me is that they're comfortable, casual and look good with jeans. I hate to over-think things.

These are going to be "in" just for this year, though. As you can see, they're coloured red, white and blue, and this is entirely because there's this Olympics happening in the same summer the Queen has her Jubilee celebrations. The soles are also coloured as you can see from the second illustration, with a full-blown Union Flag (not called the Union Jack unless it's at sea, and if Scotland pootles off as it's threatening to then it could well end up as the disunion flag - but I digress).

They're fun and attractive for the right street party occasion. They'll date before the two-year guarantee wears out, of course (I'd suggest a Tardis blue model for a 50th anniversary I happen to know of next year...look, stop staring...) and at £99 from sizes 1-9 they're not a cheapie. But they're proper deck shoes made by a company with a seafaring history, so they'll grip a wet deck properly, the eyelets won't rot and they're made of proper leather. So if you want proper deck shoes for actual decks, they'll do very nicely - although for designs less tied to a particular event you might want to check the website and consider a slightly quieter design.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Body confidence: clothes that help

I’ve just been attending a conference at London’s Olympia, all about making communications work on technology. I know, it’s an exciting life. I sat through presentation after presentation and concluded, very quickly, that the shallow stuff matters. The worst presenters were the ones in the least well-fitted clothes.

OK, I’ll amend that. The worst was the guy who wore the ill fitting clothes then didn’t notice he was standing in front of his presentation so the audience couldn’t see it. But you get the idea. The more awkward the fit, the more awkward the manner. This is true of both sexes and it’s interesting to see how attitudes to what sort of body type ‘works’ in different historical contexts.

For the rest of this post please click this link for the Wizard Jeans blog where it appears.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Discounts on Smithfield Case

Yesterday I wrote about the success of the Smithfield Case personal shopping service. There was nothing to be gained for me in doing this, I was genuinely pleased to be recommending a service I found useful.

They took payment from my card as agreed - this really is an easy process - and sent me a discount code for anyone else who wants to try it. Feel free to order a case of clothes and add the code "CLAPPERTON-30" at the checkout and they'll give you £15 off your first selection.

This offer will expire on 7 April, and in the interests of full declaration I should say they'll give me a fiver for everyone who orders, up to a maximum of fifty quid. Once again I had no knowledge of this before the two previous blogs on the subject, which weren't written with any gain in mind - but I'd be daft not to mention this discount to you now.

If anyone else orders with them I'd be delighted to hear how you got on in the comments section below.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Genius or idiocy? The Smithfield Case

Just over a week ago I wrote about the Smithfield Box, this idea of ordering clothes from someone who'd choose them for you based on a few sizes and hints on your taste. Was it a good idea or plain crazy? Here's the blog entry and here's the service. As promised I tried it, and here's what I found.

I opted for smart casual clothes, set a budget, put my sizes and a few colour preferences in but deliberately left out the photo. Let's see what they send, I thought.

Signing up was painless. It took them a couple of days to get back to me but then they had to choose the clothes. There were, to be fair, a couple of stinkers - a Boss jacket that was too young on me as well as being too small (they'll replace mis-sized items of course; given that size varies from brand to brand it's no surprise that they allow a bit of leeway and occasionally send something that's large rather than XL as I asked, or XXL just in case). Loads of detailing on the pockets, not my taste at all. A Paul Smith floral shirt was marked XL but also had that appalling slogan "slim fit", and a pair of Paul Smith plimsols - I don't call those trainers - just didn't do anything for me.

Most of the clothes, though, were pretty damned good. I've kept a Polo Ralph Lauren cotton ribbed V-neck and would happily have helped myself to a zip top one as well if I hadn't found it cheaper on the House of Fraser website (Smithfield claims to be convenient, not the cheapest); a pair of brown chinos were not my usual colour but my wife assured me they looked great so they've gone into the wardrobe rather than the returns box, and a paid of Pied a Terre tan Chelsea boots were excellent - no way were they going back, until the tag on the back snapped. Smithfield is of course happy to replace them.

I'm sending a couple of Polo Ralph Lauren shirts back because they were in L rather than XL - it was worth checking - but also because I'm not short of shirts. Had I been in that market then the pink/red stripe shirt and the blue linen they sent would have done very well.

So on balance I'd have to quantify this as a resounding success. Friendly staff - I have a personal shopper called Beatrice on hand anytime I want to order again - no obligation and above all convenience. They delivered free on Saturday morning and collected yesterday evening at no extra charge - they'll simply debit my card with the value of the items I've kept.

I'm going on holiday in a few months' time and depending on what I find needs replacing in my summer wardrobe I'll certainly be in touch with these guys again. Aside from not getting the same discount I found elsewhere - which is absolutely not something they claim to offer - I can't think of a single drawback.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Is size(ing) important?

Today I start something new - an occasional paid-for blog entry on the Wizard Jeans site. You might recall I blogged about the jeans towards Christmas - we got talking and they've asked me to submit a few entries.

There will be nothing biased in this, the entries will be on similar subjects to the normal blogs here and there will be no sneaky product placement - but I'll be giving you the first paragraph here, the rest will appear on the Wizard blog.

So, entry 1: Is size important?

Today I am in a good mood because I am down to a size 14. Granted I am of the male of the species and therefore shouldn’t be, but I’d almost bet someone, somewhere would make a size 14 that fits.


Give away a suit for homelessness

Before and after pictures of the case study candidates below
OK, time for a bit of a change - I'm going to write about suits again but this time it's not about buying one, it's about getting rid of one.

Tailor A Suit That Fits has announced it's teaming up with three charities, Amber, Broadway and Emmaus. These are homelessness charities and they've found that people picking themselves up after being made homeless is difficult partly because of confidence levels when they get into a job interview. They have nothing suitable to wear so they go in nervous and the interview doesn't go well.

So, quite simply, A Suit That Fits will hand over a £50 voucher for any old suit (in clean and wearable condition), men's or women's, that you donate to their offices or those of the charities between now and 26 April. They'll also welcome clean shirts and ties, as well as smart shoes. The scheme is called "A Suit for Success".

Of course this isn't a complete answer to homelessness but if it helps someone who's been affected by it and ended up getting as far as a hostel to get back into the job market it's an excellent start. Details of where to drop suits can be found here.

The tailor has offered some examples of people who've benefited from the charities' activities (I've just cut and paste this from the press release):

Paul is a trustee at Broadway – he is 57 and came to Broadway in 2008

In 2003, Paul was married with two children, and living in London, where he owned his own construction business with a childhood friend. When he caught his wife having an affair with his business partner, not only did his marriage breakdown, but it also signalled the end of his business. When he approached the council for help, he was informed that he was not a priority for housing, and he ended up sleeping on the streets. Due to the trauma of this, Paul started drinking heavily as a coping mechanism. After a long process of rehab, social services put Paul in touch with Broadway. Paul is now an incredibly active member of not just Broadway, but homelessness services throughout London. He is now living completely independently, and looking for a job. 

Jared, aged 20, came to Amber in August 2011

Jared spent 2 weeks living on the streets following a period of ‘sofa surfing’ - being homeless meant he was unable to get a job. Jared says “I recently attended an army selection weekend and interview; for the interview I used the money I had saved since being at Amber to purchase a suit as I wanted to make a good impression.”

Hollie, aged 19, was at Amber from April to December 2011

Hollie was forced out of home because of violence in the household and then was subjected to domestic violence by her boyfriend. Holly says, “Amber supported me through everything; they helped me increase my confidence. Now I have a managerial role at one of the biggest food companies in the world!"

It's a tremendous idea, and I urge anyone who has a suit they no longer use or which no longer fits to consider donating it in this way.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Weekend silliness: There was a Welshman, an Irishman....

It's that "weekend" time again - so with a belated Happy St. David's Day to any Welsh readers and a forthcoming Happy St. Patrick's Day in the middle of the month for any Irish followers, here's a Guinness film that made me smile.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

More ties that bind

Regular readers will be aware that I've been looking at hand-painted or at least individually designed ties recently. I was on stage speaking on social media for O2 this week and had a few compliments on the Victoria Richards blue bar model I was wearing at the time. She's due to put some new designs up this month, more on which when they arrive.

There are also some good new designs on Sue Forrest's site this week; I'm getting Pink Link from the Spring 2012 collection which will add a nice splash of colour to my neckware. Today, though, I wanted to draw your attention to Julie Riisnaes. She sells through Etsy which defaults to dollar prices but you can select pounds and she's in the UK.

Some of her ties are a bit brash for me but I have one of the Mosaic pattern (pictured with her permission) and it looks very good with a grey suit. The reason I draw these to people's attention is simple: they're hand painted, therefore unique, and look good - and at £16 only just over a quarter of the price you'll pay for a Victoria Richards, a third compared to one of Sue Forrest's.

There are reasons for this. Julie tells me she buys plain ties in and paints them - which is absolutely fine. they don't feel quite as solid as one of Victoria's, but then that's fine. So she doesn't make ties. She also paints the visible side and leaves the other blank apart from a signature.

So that's pretty much where the cost differential comes in - they're attractive and lively and I may well wear mine on TV sometime; I probably wouldn't if I were moving around on stage as the blank underside might show. But as long as you understand what you're getting, a hand painted design at this price makes something unique accessible to a much wider market. Recommended.

Prostate cancer awareness month

OK, serious blog post time. No picture, even.

It's Prostate Cancer Awareness month. The most common cancer among men, 10,000 of us die of it every year and if you're over 50 - and I know this site is aimed at people starting at a younger age but some of you are in that category - there's no reason your GP won't happily test, advise on prevention and try to see you don't end up as one of that 10,000.

I don't fall for the various bits of cancer charity propaganda saying "we can beat this" - we're not immortal, something's going to get us eventually. But you can shorten the odds through lifestyle and getting yourself checked periodically.

Tomorrow I'll write about brightly coloured shirts or something - but meanwhile do have a think about getting your prostate checked if you haven't already done so.