In which Robbo doesn’t buy some curtains

Soon after I moved into the apartment, my beloved Grandmother emailed me saying that she’d been ‘holding some things for me’ in anticipation of the day I finally moved into a place I could decorate.

My Grandparents are lovely people, my grandmother is an artist, and my grandfather a former lecturer turned managing director of a steam railway. At one point in my childhood my Grandma had a shop in Whitby that sold beautiful things, and she’s one of those people who beautiful things present themselves to. She always has beautiful clothes, beautiful jewellery, and a beautiful, beautiful house, full of lovely art and furnishings and wood floors due to my grandfather’s hideous adult onset asthma (which my mother has just developed, so I am going to make the most of beautiful furnishings while I am young and strong of lung).

So anyway, my Grandmother just drops into conversation that she has four huge toile de jouy curtains that she’ll just post down to me. I think I only stopped screaming in delight a few days ago, and they’ve been up for six weeks now. Toile de jouy, and pink toile de jouy at that, is probably my favourite colour.

I don’t remember these curtains ever hanging in their house, and neither does my mother (but my mother probably wouldn’t notice them, not being her style).

So when I moved into this flat I realised that at some point there were curtains hanging in the living room, above the huge french windows, but they had since been taken down and the holes polyfillered in. I also realised that if I tried to put up curtain rails myself I would likely somehow trepan myself with the drill I would have to buy. Also they would be wonky.

So, I did what any modern woman does, and texted a load of anonymous men on the internet until one of them said he’d come and do the hard labour in exchange for cash. I had no idea who he was, but I took the day off work, he turned up, was delightful and Portuguese, we chatted about our misspent youths, he drilled my wall something good, I gave him money, and it was totally worth it. As the old Jeremy Hardy joke goes, DIY is scabbing and I am nothing if not a dedicated socialist committed to supporting my fellow worker.

So my dream curtains arrived from the mysterious place my Grandma is saving things for me (also indicated to include at least two tea services, which once you include the tea services my father keeps offering to post me means I have an option on five separate tea services. I am British but not that British. I also have capacity for maybe one cup of tea at a time) but now I am caught in the place where my bedroom, the perennial disappointment, needs curtains. And when I say now, I mean ‘since I moved in three months ago’. I normally sleep with the curtains open anyway so its not been a pressing thing.

Obviously all these episodes of Say yes to the dress have gone to my head, because these are the curtains I want:

Robbo is saying ‘yes’ to a cascading sheet of silk she can’t afford, much like all the women on that show

They are also £400. And far too big. And are of course, cream, my least favourite colour as I have white walls and love colour. But these are giant fancy curtains and I want giant fancy curtains that are impractical and that I can get drunk and wrap myself in as I watch all the SYTTD episodes that are saved on the skybox.

I’m not sure exactly where this lust for silk curtains came from, but its here now. Its nice to have a hobby, I guess, and eBay is mine.

Anyway, here is what I’m deeming my 3 month living room update picture. This flat has a long way to go (although there is probably only so much I can do to disguise that it is a 1990s white box.


You can see the glory of the Aubusson rug, with the glory of the toile curtains and how they now totally clash with the green velvet floral sofa of dreams…but how I deal with this is something for the future.

In which Robbo doesn’t buy some curtains

Giant Fancy Thing

This week I was doing my normal procrastination thing by reading metafilter, and I ended up spending the next two days reading all of Victoria Elizabeth Barnes‘ website and stifling giggles like an idiot the entire time.

I am a woman of dramatic tastes. Sometimes I blame this on my eyesight, but as my prescription is pathetically weak I can’t even really do that. I just like big things, bright things, gilded things, unusual things.

Anyway, high on two full days of VEB’s tales of giant fancy things I went on ebay and typed in the fateful words: antique rug -oriental -persian. And there it was, no bids, 2 hours to go, some marks, but the rug of dreams. The Aubusson style, French, vaguely rococo, Chinese woven rug of dreams. In my colour scheme. In my budget.

Full picture of giant chinese style aubusson wool rug Detail of giant aubusson rug in a french chinese style with peonies

Look at it. Its so beautiful I want to scream. Yes, there are rust spots on it, it desperately needs a clean, but oh god. Aubusson rugs. Aubusson ruuuuuug. (!!!!!!)

My parents are rug obsessives. I have many vivid memories of being a bored child sitting in Singaporean rug showrooms as my parents decided which incredibly expensive rug to buy. The best part of rug shopping was always trying to get away with sitting on top of the highest pile of rugs without getting told off.

My personal favourite rugs were the delicate silk Aubusson style rugs that my parents were never going to buy in a million years. They liked enormous traditional wool beauties hand dyed with beetroot and other natural dyes and made from handspun wool, representative of a full year of hard work and toil. And those are great rugs. I am excited for when I eventually inherit them. But they are not what my inner child wants. My inner child wants the fanciest of things. This is the inner child who became entranced with lolita fashion, with gilded crap, all the way up to last summer’s obsession with the Brighton Pavillion.

Anyway I bought the rug. It was £150, which is officially a steal, but I also did not pay attention to the size of it – 4 meters x 3 meters. This is the size of my living room. Oops?

Getting it home was a trial. The rug was in Wood Green, North London. So I booked a cab. It was expensive, but I figured an Uber would end up extortionate when I inevitably got caught in traffic transitioning from North to South London. However, when the cab arrived, the cabbie refused to drive me and my rug unless I gave him an extra £15 cash. Seems he had accepted a fare meant for a normal size car, despite driving a seven seater people carrier, and he felt very strongly I should be paying for a 7 seater. I maintained that I was an idiot who genuinely thought a 4 meter rug would fit into a standard saloon car and that I had not asked for a 7 seater car and therefore I would pay the money because I wanted to go home, but I was not happy about it. He and I managed to argue about this for the best part of half an hour before we gave up and stopped talking to one another as we hit traffic on the Blackwall tunnel. I paid him the £15, and he offered to help me carry the rug up to my first floor flat, but after a few minutes I basically got frustrated and said I’d drag it up the stairs myself.

I had unfortunately been waylaid by a virus that day. I’d managed to do a lot of light DIY – putting up pictures crookedly, nailing backboards to my bookcases, watching a lot of say yes to the dress, and for some reason I thought I could drag 12 square meters of incredibly dense carpeting up the narrow stairs into my corner apartment. This essentially ended up taking the form of approximately 100 50kg deadlifts. At my fittest I could deadlift 80kg – once. I managed to get it into the apartment, but I did throw up from severe unfitness and probably the virus hiding in my blood stream and went straight to sleep the moment I got the door shut.

It doesn’t fit where I wanted it to fit, but half of it does. And it does look nice.

Giant aubusson rug in situ with damask back bookcase aubusson rug half unrolled because it is too bigIts now rolled up in my living room because I keep tripping over it, and I’m plotting which of my friends I can blackmail into helping me lay it down, and whether it will clash badly with my very green, very floral sofa. And whether I really care all that much. Giant fancy things – not even once.

Giant Fancy Thing

The sofa files

Its been a few months, but since I left off at the point of the sofa, let’s pick up there.

The last few weeks before Christmas were spent in this weird limbo where I had resigned from my job, and suddenly, after a year of doing absolutely nothing of use, had Things To Do. This got in the way of my 12 hours a day of sofa shopping, let me tell you.

I would like to think I looked at every goddamn sofa for sale in the United Kingdom over that period, but that is probably insane. I had however managed to narrow it down to two, a click-clack sofa bed from (on ebay for £450) and the Delfina Shout 3 seater from (on ebay for £399).

Every few years or so I try and push back against the form my personality has shaped me into – mostly in two ‘improving’ matters: I try and grow my hair out, and I decide that I won’t buy any more florals. I will put away childish things, and through sheer force of will, will both grow Cheryl Cole-style glossy brown locks and develop a chic and slimline capsule wardrobe in black basics that will be the envy of anyone who looks closely. This lasts precisely three months, and then there’s a dress on ASOS, or my hair reminds me that I should contact BP and ask if they’d like to drill my scalp for that sweet sweet oil. I cut it all off, buy the goddamn floral dress, hang up the tasteful minimalist necklaces, and give up.

Therefore, it should be considered inevitable that I bought a floral sofa. A velvet floral sofa. In green.

I was so close to buying the navy blue sofabed as well. So practical! So generous! I could have friends to stay and still be able to fart myself to sleep. My father said he thought the floral sofa would be hell on a hangover. That it was too small. But it was perfect, and it was in my budget, and fuck it, you can always buy a £20 inflatable navy blue velvet mattress from Argos on a moment’s notice like every goddamn person on this island.

So the Wednesday morning after I moved in, I racked up £25 of nectar points and ordered the fucking sofa of my dreams.

It was delivered the same Sunday of the week I ordered it at 7:30AM by two very nice Yorkshire gentlemen who squeezed it in, unpacked it, got me to sit on it to prove I liked it, and then left. It was a sign, being a Yorkshire lass myself. This sofa was coming from my ancestral home. It was meant to be.

Am I doing a review? I think I’ll do a formal review of the whole process of buying a sofa off t’internet, but basically its nice and soft, I can lie down on it and watch stuff, everyone who sees it thinks its pretty, and its the cornerstone of my living room.

I choose my flat to look like I live there, which can be difficult. It is sometimes so tempting to just go on Ikea and fill up an order with all the bestsellers, to have this done. To look at Apartment therapy and see all the pretty mid-century inspired scandi designed beautiful places in cool tones and get caught up on whether contact paper is the devil or a perfectly cromulent option for people renting ugly apartments. (Did you know that what americans call contact paper is what brits call sticky-back plastic? Did you know that sticky-back plastic was not a Blue Peter euphemism for sellotape? I did not know this. This may be why my Tracey Island was such a failure in 1993.)

I still get such anxiety about the flat. I tell myself that furnishing a flat is a process, not just in terms of waiting for the next paycheck so I can buy a lampshade that looks like a cloud, but also in that hopefully I will be in control of my surroundings for the rest of my life. Nothing needs to be perfect immediately. My very modern flat with its white walls and archaic heating system feels oppressive sometimes, I cannot conceive on how to bring my very white bedroom to reflect my personality, and whether its even worth it if I’m just going to drop clothes fucking everywhere so do I even fucking need a rug because this is like battling the tide ffs robbo you are useless.

But then I come into my living room and there’s my floral sofa, my toile de jouey curtains, my parrot lamp, my stupid broken antler lamp that made Jamie call me Hannibal Lecter, my gold cutlery, my wayang golek puppets, my peony and flaccid dick print cushion – and it doesn’t really matter.

I’m home.

The sofa files

The precipice

September 2015 I went to the USA for the first time. Officially it was for work, but the main point was to go and buy makeup with my good friend Lexi (oh, and visit San Francisco. Its amazing. You should go).

Things you should know about me #1: I have a really bad impulse shopping habit

Back when I lived in Indonesia I had this weird hangup that if I went into a mall I had to buy something IMMEDIATELY so I’d have a bag to carry. This hangup cost me a lot in weird necklaces or nail polishes I’d never wear, and honestly was a manifestation of the anxiety problems I’ve dealt with since the first time I had a conscious thought, but I have, and am aware, that despite my ardent socialist leanings, I love to shop, I love to acquire, and it is a Problem with a capital P.

So picture me, in Sephora for the first time, the bounty I’ve dreamed of stretching out around me, and I have a panic attack. I am gripped with the knowledge that I am about to lose control, and it terrifies me. I look at the lipsticks and my vision swims. I am aware that I lost my credit card the day before I flew, and so money I’m spending is real. Its a real thing.

I got over it, but in doing so I still managed to spend £1000 on that holiday and bought 17 lipsticks, which everyone I tell this to finds hilarious (but I wear lipstick every day and work part time as a makeup artist, I mean, its not that weird.)

The reason I mention this is because this morning, when looking at sofas on ebay, I got the same feeling that I felt when I was standing in Sephora surrounded by beautiful paints and potions. The feeling that it would be very easy right now to get my credit card out of my bag and spend, spend, spend. And that while I have spent years dreaming of the day I can furnish a house how I want, own a sofa I want to sit on, sleep in a bed untouched by strangers, I’m still paralysed at the top of the cliff. The precipice of financial ruin stretches out its arms and beckons me into its grip.

My anxiety is a lot better these days. My financial situation is stable. But there’s that pull of self inflicted financial ruin that when I look at beautiful flats on Apartment Therapy and I am overcome with want so badly that it terrifies me.

The precipice

Give peas a chance

I wanted to document the change in my life from ‘deeply confused person in a transient state living in tiny rooms’ to ‘person with flat and furniture and proper real settled job’ in something other than mostly capslock tumblr posts no one will read.

On the 14th December 2015 I will move into my ~dream flat~, a one bedroom, 460 square foot apartment in the South East London area of Brockley. To say I am excited is an understatement.

I am Robbo, I’m a 29 year old queer femme academic and researcher who also dabbles in opera singing and special effects makeup.

The place is entirely unfurnished. I own one bookcase, four underbed storage units, more clothes than one person can wear and a fuckload of tchotchkes.

This blog will ultimately be about interior design, obsessive online shopping, and credit card abuse. And probably other ‘lifestyle’ things, like DIY, solo living, etc.

Why Peas and Brockley? It sounded right, combining the obligatory Brockley/Broccoli pun with something that’s you know, available. I also like pea and broccoli soup? Also when I thought about it, I identify with the trivia spouting peas from the Mameshiba series. So peas as in creepy trivia, Brockley as in ‘please don’t doxx me’.

Give peas a chance