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stories / culture / curiosities / makers / ideas

Brave women who spark change Books that shaped us • Skinhead girls What it means to eat meat

issue 42  £6

What we’re loving A curated selection of what’s in our diaries, shopping baskets and on our minds this issue words frances ambler, bre graham and alice snape

From the handmade ceramic hearts to the playful pun – we’re obsessed with these Eye Love You earrings from Artisans & Adventurers, £39

Like foodbanks but with beauty essentials and toiletries instead We’ve all had that moment of panic when you don’t have a tampon in your handbag or you realise you’ve forgotten to brush your teeth while you’re already on your way to work. For some, this is a daily problem, unable to afford the products that we can take for granted. Beauty Banks is hoping to change that by encouraging people to donate their unwanted beauty products – shampoos, body wash, combs and the like – or buy new from their wishlists on Easho ( Follow them on Instagram for updates and how to donate @the_beauty_banks

We’re keen to join anything labelled a “comfort movement”, especially when it looks like this. ‘Ophir’ limited-edition trousers, £32, Lucy & Yak

Grit and glamour It’s unlikely you’ve heard of Elsbeth Juda – known as ‘Jay’ as a photographer – but as a Jewish émigré to Britain from Germany, she forged relationships with the modernist avant-garde. Don’t miss this chance to see her work, featuring faces from artist Peter Blake to model Barbara Goalen. At The Jewish Museum London, until 1 July

Barbara Goalen on the roof of Whitworth & Mitchell’s Manchester showroom, 1952 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We’re in love with YKRA’s 1970s-inspired backpacks, each one lovingly handmade in Hungary. YKRA Sailor bags, £75 each,

Tat’s style Outside the world of Oh Comely, our editor has been busy trotting the globe seeking out stylish tattooed folk to compile into her first book. Really, it was just an excuse to stop and find out more about those people on the street when you just have to know who did that tattoo… Tattoo Street Style (Ebury Press) by Alice Snape is in all good bookstores from 19 April, visit



Skins and suedes What does it mean to be a skinhead now? These women are reclaiming the shaven heads, jeans, shirts, and boots that grew out of social alienation and class solidarity, despite being the look being hijacked by racism and fascism. “Boots and braces don’t make me a racist”

portraits owen harvey interviews alice snape

Mollie Boyd, 22, Nottingham “I don’t like drawing attention to myself, so it upsets me when people ask me why I dress like this? Why should I have to dress in line with mainstream ideals not to be looked at? There’s such a fine line between expressing myself but also having my privacy. “My style really started evolving when I moved from my hometown in Luton to study Fine Art at Nottingham Trent. Two weeks before I moved, I had my shoulderlength hair cut into a pixie crop. Not long after that, I was dating someone who encouraged me just to shave it all off. It was liberating. Being away from home really allowed my style to develop. I felt more confident. I did get slightly worried about dressing like this when I went back

to Luton, as I knew that the area also has some bad skinheads that I would never associate myself with. “I don’t have loads of money, so I buy lots of my clothes from charity shops and also from the high street. But I don’t like to look branded, so I wear things in my own way and mix it up. Of course, I love Fred Perry, which I find online mostly. “I wouldn’t consider myself to be part of the skinhead scene, but I do love going to Ska gigs. I’m less strict with the fashion choices I make now, I just take the elements I like and wear those. I like that this look makes me appear strong, even if I don’t feel it inside. Dressing this way makes me feel like I have control over my choices, I like being androgynous.” 



Inspired by Fashion Revolution Week (23–29 April), we’re having a sort out, falling back in love with our clothes, buying ethical and asking brands, who made them? Over the following pages, join in Oh Comely’s very own fashion revolution…

PREVIOUS PAGE BLISS WEARS: Victorian pinafore, £48, Visoko Studios Earrings, £25, Gung Ho Red tights, stylist’s own Hidden on Bliss’s feet are a gorgeous pair of red Salt-Water Sandals ON SOFA: Red folk jacket, Lev Store Piano Key necklace, Jayne Fowler (made from a found piano) Shoes, Dr Martens vegan range Faux fur stole, Cardamom Clothing Red crocheted cardigan, No Way Crochet Blue shirt dress, Bamford Pink jacket, Visoko Studios

In a world full of stuff, newly launched Visoko Studios reclaim and revive. Created by designer Terri Cohen (who we met in Oh Comely issue 41), Visoko Studios sell the vintage clothes collected over years of working in fashion, discover other’s pre-loved items to pass on to new owners and also hire out for special occasions. Shop their Depop, and follow their journey on Instagram @visokostudios


Mix it up We love pairing new clothes with our treasured favourites and vintage finds. We want our clothes to tell a story. Here, Emma is wearing a dress by Bamford – sustainability is at the heart of their clothes and they work with a small number of handknitters and family-owned workshops in Scotland.

Sustainable shopping ideas Ask yourself, do you really, really, really love it? Will you regret not buying it? Enjoy taking some time to rediscover your own wardrobe – we’re all guilty of forgetting what we own. Find out about the vintage you’re buying – does it have a story and do you know which era it’s from?

EMMA WEARS: Shirt dress, £595, Bamford Jacket, £55, Visoko Studios Shoes, £120, Dr Martens vegan range Tights and socks, stylist’s own Necklace, £170, Gung Ho ON WASHING LINE: Green jumper, Blitz Remix Dress, Visoko Studios White shirt, Ilk & Ernie Red scarf, Thought Jacket, Blitz Vintage Bag, Baia from Studio B Red tights, Thought


"Every morning begins with CBD and coffee." Pictured: L'Officine Universelle Buly's catalogue with information on hemp seed oil; golden herb grinder from Serra, my favourite dispensary in Portland, Oregon


Stigma and style Marina De Salis is reshaping the way we think about cannabis and the culture surrounding it. Long gone are the stoner stereotypes, as we embrace a new era of informed and awakened cannabis users…

words and pictures marina de salis, canna curious club

Most mornings I wake up around seven, stretch, take a few deep breaths, take a moment to appreciate my environment. I start my day with a pastry, fruit, some music, coffee and CBD (the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis). Since I began using cannabis, I’ve never felt stronger, more focused, more relaxed in my body and mind – I am the best version of myself. It also inspired me to give up alcohol, so I no longer suffer from hangovers, and I thank cannabis for relieving my migraines, acne and depression.

I first discovered its positive effects on my health and creativity in my early twenties while I was an art student – there would always be a joint or two being passed around at parties – and over the past eight years, I’ve used cannabis both medicinally and recreationally. It has helped me overcome panic attacks and anxiety, numerous creative ruts, depression, ADHD, bad habits and awkward situations. It helps me be my most natural myself. When the curious ask, “How does it make you feel, what does

it do for you?” my answer is always this: inspired, self-reflective, free and thankful. It gives me peace. It’s hard to explain exactly how, but the feeling is both mental and physical. Everyone experiences it differently, and it varies depending on how you consume it. The true benefits from cannabis, at least for me, only occur when used correctly. And using cannabis correctly is something I have managed to do through trying and research – of course, we have all made some mistakes along the way. 


“Getting married to me mattered, though I wish it didn’t. The longer it evaded me, the more I had to admit I wanted it” marriage equality, it did not make sense one jot. And yet, the longer marriage evaded me, the more I had to admit I wanted it. “But I like how we are now,” M, my husband/then-boyfriend would say. And I’d agree. “I don’t know why I need it,” I’d reply. “But I do.” My parents divorced when I was 17. It was not a surprise. I’d been waiting for it to happen most of my teenage years – my heightened adolescent hormones sensitive to the ripples of unease disrupting the air 78

around me. I have always looked at older people holding hands in the street and been profoundly moved by it because I never saw my parents do it once. It’s not really marriage I idolise, but tenderness and connection. When I stood under that wedding canopy 14 days ago, M squeezed my hand; our entwined fingers separating only briefly to put into place two circles binding us together. *

I always believed in love, even when it eluded me – even through relationships with drunk boyfriends who forgot I was there, exhaustingly dull dates or that time I stayed on my sister’s sofa after a break-up on New Year’s Eve, crying bitterly into a pillow. It took experience to learn that love was not rages and tears or putting up with abuse because I thought that was my ‘lot’. Love, it transpires, is kindness and laughter, it’s feeling listened to and lifted up. Love is also imperfection – and accepting that fact. The love that brought me here arrived one day, unceremoniously, on an internet date when I was 32. M and I met in a bookshop on Tottenham Court Road, got on a bus and saw a play. We drank red wine and ordered goulash and freewheeled on life until 1am; a second date arranged before the night was even out. Even though he lived 200 miles away in Yorkshire at the time, we took a chance. A little “yes”, with a sprinkling of hope. I owe a lot to luck and the mystery of algorithms, and I’ve felt grateful each one of the 1,460 days that have passed since then. I look at these rings that I have now that I did not then and see the stories of their origin. The engagement ring is full of flash, there’s neediness in its beauty; it’s a proof of intent – a visual reminder that “Will you marry me?” really was said. For us, this was a question asked quietly on a trip last summer, while ensconced in a lowlit bar in Tokyo*, 52 storeys up, where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson had once sat and played parts. We had set out into the bright lights


of our Shinjuku neighbourhood knowing this would be the night. We sank into plush brown armchairs by a window illuminated by skyscrapers, ordered Champagne cocktails and chatted, coolly, until a natural pause grew weighty with expectation. There’s this myth about proposals peddled by rom-coms, that the question should be a surprise. But for M and I, it was a choice. Debate and discussion might not seem sexy, but deciding together to get wed became our feminist act of equality. Even though we knew what the answer would be when the question was asked, we both still cried. While love is heavenly, and marriage – I’ve so far discovered – blissful in its contented ordinariness, wedding planning is a demonic beast that grows increasingly vicious the more spreadsheets it births out. M and I bickered during wedding prep in a way we never had – though it became, as he said later in his speech, the greatest team-building exercise ever. The wedding was our mountain summit, its ascent ridged with deep steps whispering of the unknown. But each moment up there during the ceremony was intoxicating – a wide open vista of our lives ahead, an atmosphere charged by magic. Because for all the politics and planning, my logic for choosing marriage goes a little bit like this: “I like you. You like me. Let’s do this thing called life together.” It’s this simplicity of thought I see reflected in my wedding band – smooth, unbroken, unending. Jewish tradition states that the ring must be undecorated because it

* Read about Amy’s Japan trip in issue 38

“Debate and discussion might not seem sexy, but deciding together to get wed became our feminist act of equality” should shine light on the spiritual, not the material. This plain ring is what I treasure most, not just because it is imbued with solemn intentions and the memories of one hell of a day – but because, as I look up from my screen and over to where M sits now, I see on his left hand a ring just like mine. There is a calm I feel in being a wife that has surprised me, a new confidence found in the exhale of life’s anxieties. While marriage does not solve global crises or fix

careers or make you any more important, for me, it is the stability I craved as a teenager. It is confirmation of being loved. And it is a promise I have made to make someone else feel just as loved, too. The journey to marriage began with a question, but when I look at these rings they hint at answers. For now, at least – just two weeks in. I hope that in two more weeks, and two years and twenty and all the rest beyond, they’ll mean a million things more.  79


Rebel rouser With her new memoir tackling taboos from death to body hair, Viv Albertine is true punk

interview frances ambler portraits liz seabrook

“I do feel responsibility to the people I write about,” Viv Albertine takes the slightest of pauses. “At the same time, my higher responsibility is to the truth.” We’re so used to the selling of ‘punk’ – as a T-shirt, in an exhibition, as a beer – that it’s possible to forget what the original movement was about. That it was angry, confrontational, creative and challenging, that it intended to rip apart pretensions and reveal uncomfortable, ugly, and liberating truths. Viv Albertine has lived the theory. As guitarist with the Slits, she put into music a young, working class woman’s experience of the 1970s, from shoplifting to spots and smells. Her first book, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, was a riposte to the typically blokey, self-aggrandising, rock biography. Its honesty offering reassurance to women who felt that they might also be fucking things up. “I wasn’t confident about sex, I was shit at it,” Viv recalls. “That struck girls as ‘thank god that wasn’t just me’.” To Throw Away Unopened, Viv’s new book, pushes it even further – “I’ll go as far as I can go until it’s bleeding,” she says – confronting topics deemed unpalatable by Western society: ageing. Angry women. Shit and blood and body hair. Then there’s the scene that threads the book together, of what happened when her mother laid dying, as the pressure cooker of resentment that can build within families finally 98

explodes. “Because people don’t speak honestly about death in Britain, I found myself unsure of how to behave at my mother’s deathbed and therefore very illequipped to go through it,” Viv explains. “I can’t tell you how ugly I felt about it”. But, as women responded to her tales of crap sex, she’s also been contacted by people sharing similar deathbed experiences. “It’s good to hear people say, ‘I went through that’.” The anger of that episode reverberates throughout To Throw Away Unopened. It’s traced through Viv’s mother, the generation that worked during the Second World War before being pushed back into the home. “Women of her generation were so

what to do if there’s nothing to follow? Growing up when it was unheard of “to be a girl and have a voice”, Viv trawled biographies and autobiographies to read women’s stories. She’s included quotes, ranging from Simone Weil and Sylvia Plath to her best friend Tracy and her mum in both her books, as “a way of acknowledging, almost thanking those people who see you through hard times”. But, growing up in north London, role models were limited. So, she followed the boys, copying local heroes, the Kinks by heading to art school. “Not because boys were fantastic, but they had the opportunities.” It was a “survival strategy”.

“Never mind art, we still can’t get over our hair, our fat and our bodily fluids” stymied,” Viv says, “but her generation did bring up some militant girls, because of that resentment.” Viv was fortunate that punk offered her an outlet. “I always ask myself why I’d the nerve to pick up a guitar when I was younger? I was working class. No confidence. Couldn’t play, couldn’t sing. I think it’s linked to the rage.” It also relates to Viv’s interrogation of the death bed scene – how can you know

In punk, Viv discovered a way of thinking in which she, finally, felt as if she fitted – and a way out of north London, and to experiences worthy of any biography. “To travel through the States as a girl with an electric guitar in the 1970s was absolutely ground-breaking,” she says. “I knew I was seeing things to which no girl in my situation had ever been privileged.” These weren’t the only boundaries being 

Three minds meat One spring evening, three women (a butcher, a plant eater, a meat-loving pig keeper) huddled around a table to discuss death, difference and what eating animals means in 2018 words aimee-lee abraham illustration anja suťanj Tilly Paul is an ex-vegan who stumbled upon ethical butchery and farming after the premature death of her pet lamb. Today, she splits her working week between London and Suffolk, where she is restoring an old pigsty to house a small flock of rare breed chickens. Millie Diamond is a food writer and sustainable agriculture advocate. In 2017, she took on three little piglets as an experiment in a smallholding and butchered them the following year with Tilly’s help. Her blog and Instagram page @piglet2plate is a refreshingly honest examination of the process. Aimee-lee Abraham is a writer who has wrestled with her relationship with animals since 2001, when she first discovered that sausages are made from dead pigs and spent the whole night staring at the ceiling. After years of conflict and indecision, she went vegan in 2016 and has slept soundly ever since. 102


ALA: Tilly, how did you transition to butchery from veganism? People might see it as an unlikely jump. TP: It started when I visited my farmer friend during lambing season. I was eating meat at that point. Entering the pen, I immediately fixated on the tiniest, weakest lamb. Initially, thinking he was dead, I put my finger in his mouth to see if there was warmth, and I felt this suckling. He was still freezing so, ironically, we had to put him in the oven for a while to warm him up. When he opened his eyes, I was the first person he saw, and that was that. He imprinted on me as he would his mother. I ended up rearing him in my London bedroom. It was like having a newborn baby. I barely left the house. My bedroom floor was covered in hay. I had to bottle-feed him every four hours. ALA: Do you feel like you took on more than you could handle? TP: I was naïve. I’d removed him from his natural environment, made him dependent on me. It didn’t feel right. I started to panic when it dawned on me that his natural life span was 35 years. ALA: It’s so easy to jump ahead, isn’t it? My mum worked as a veterinary assistant, and there was this constant temptation to rehome animals. TP: Exactly. I had to find potential forever homes. But all these farms told me that rams were too expensive to keep, that the only option was to fatten him for

slaughter. It was impossible. Eventually, I didn’t have to decide because Bobby died prematurely of natural causes. I was so inconsolable that I slept with his corpse in my bed for a week. It was the darkest experience of my life, but it got me thinking about the fact that the world is full of Bobbys. If I hadn’t taken him, he would have ended up on the plate. That triggered my veganism, then developed into an interest in ethical butchery. MD: The financial drain is difficult. I’d a similar dilemma when I decided to raise the pigs. We were told six months is the ideal age for slaughter, but we kept them a bit longer. In the last two months, the amount of food we had to feed them doubled. From a commercial perspective, they were just putting on excess fat that would most likely end up in the bin. If you know you’re raising them for food, that’s always at the forefront of your mind. ALA: Was there a point where you considered halting the process entirely? MD: We decided if we couldn’t go through with it, we’d stop eating meat for good. I thought I’d be okay with the slaughter because I’d taken pigs to an abattoir before. But when it came to it, it was fucking horrible. Even though I’d done my research, found the best possible abattoir, it was hard to relinquish that control. ALA: I really struggle with the idea that we can reconcile our duty of care  103

#onegoodthing Embracing your inner witch

Oh Comely issue 42 spring  

If you’re anything like us, a good spring clean is that one task lurking at the bottom of our to-do list. But in our new spring issue we’re...

Oh Comely issue 42 spring  

If you’re anything like us, a good spring clean is that one task lurking at the bottom of our to-do list. But in our new spring issue we’re...