“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer … and everything collapses. ”

― Colette

I’d make a terrible undercover cop or spy I realized last week. Over on MI6’s (the British equivalent to the CIA) website, they lure you in with the promise that they will “test your ability to maintain a simple cover story”. So I was walking in my local supermarket, and I saw a dad doing a food shop with his daughter. She must have been at college because he was insisting on all manner of superfoods, and she was insisting on all manner of junk foods. They had a rhythm that I couldn’t take my eyes off, and I proceeded to follow them round the aisles mesmerized. I’m not usually one to follow in hot – or in this case slow – pursuit, nor am I unaware that 6ft human beings are conspicuous, but it was better than saying: “My name is Kayla Hannah Jacobs. I live just down the road. I sometimes wish I was a vegetarian and I’m absolutely petrified of pigeons.” As an aside, let’s hope I didn’t freak them out or seem .. creepy?

This is all to say that the faint undertone of grief that catches at the back of your throat hit me immediately, and is still lingering in a way that perfume clings to scarves, hair and skin. My dad and I used to shop together gleefully because of our mutual love for food and cooking. We would spend hours in aisles the way one can spend hours going back and forth from a work of art. I miss being in a supermarket with him so much that the juxtaposition of detectable lingering and longing is still a shock because I always forget what grief smells like.

I was surprised at the sheer fact of my dad’s absence seemed a bit too .. fresh? In the way a perfume can seem when newly sprayed and not yet marinated into flesh. It’s hard not to love someone who’s always on your side isn’t it? That’s a dad, that was my dad, that was the dad I saw at the supermarket. I blush when I think about it, the gulf between what my heart and my head think, what we’re capable of imagining versus actual reality. I’d like to think my dad is with me always, but at that moment when I felt achy like I haven’t felt in a while, I thought on how great of him it would be if he decided to haunt me. Especially at Wholefoods.

A sensory experience is lonely if you’re missing the very person you want to share it with and will never be able to. I carried on walking those aisles (don’t worry, I stopped the ‘observation’ at some point) in a heightened state, yearning for emotional connection with my dad, but also laughing a bit at some memories piercing through the lump in my throat. Ooooh, the brain is a seductive beast, because really I just have a simple longing to see my dad again and navigate our way around the world as we used to. As I thought on him more, the nostalgia for the days gone by when so much still lay ahead made my skin tingle so much that I needed to go home and shower off the scent accumulating – I’d call it ‘Wistfully Ravenous’, but I’m not sure it would be an olfactory blockbuster.

The by-product of the permanence of reality is ardour, and the joyful synonyms of that five letter word are numerous. Particularly: passion, zeal, fire and jazz. On a whim when I got home I read a few chapters of The Book Thief and happed upon these raw lines:

“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”

Somehow they ease me back into my body, my skin, my mind and my heart.

source: Wolfgang Tillmans|alexquisite



Growing up in England, you want to be an agony aunt. Step forward my Aunty Wendy. She signs herself off on my blog as “Your Loving Aunty Wendy” lest she was trying to go undercover, and she’s all that and so much more.

Let me take you back. She gave me my first cigarette—a slim stick that I’m positive hypnotized me—encased in metallic blue and white packaging. Actually, I stole it from her with my cousin David because I’m sure we thought it would be good for our mental health or that we would look cool or that anything Wendy did was aspirational (Rothman’s side effects still unknown). She gave me my first Magic Garden, a rectangular piece of green on to which you added water and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, in three hours your flora and fauna would start to blossom. In ten, it would be fully grown, giving the term ‘topiary’ a serious run for its money. She gave me my first joy ride through Tuscany, which trying to describe all the pleasures of that ridiculously picturesque region would take a lifetime, and even then, we’d just scratch the surface. I’m pretty convinced that’s why I went to study in Florence during my GCSE’s, why I took Italian at University, and why I have such an affinity with fields dotted with olive and cypress trees.

She gave me my first serious crystal, a giant piece of amethyst on my 21st birthday that travelled across the oceans to be with me here in New York. She told me about turquoise and rose quartz and took me to The Scratch Patch in Cape Town where we picked the smallest morsels of rocks to be beaded into anklets, amulets and rainbow-hued bracelets. She introduced me to the naturopath Roderick Lane, a man who’s had a profound effect on my life and work. She’s been a sounding board through adventures of love and exploration, a soothing-voiced ally, except this one, wears skintight leather pants and heels as if they were Converse and jeans. She understands deep-seated psychological difficulties, and by the look on her face, if she hasn’t done it herself, she’ll be doing it later on (after she’s eaten 12 rusks, that is).

Everything she gave me made me feel less alone, and that’s why I think an aunt can be such a powerful creature. When I think of her, I am in awe of her intelligence, her language, her wit, her gift of loving. I don’t share her political views to find her an inspiration mind, but nothing seems to shock her, not even our most recent delve into some pretty odd shenanigans. Unlike dreams or star signs, my life to her is endlessly fascinating.

Aunts, we’re lucky to grow up with one or two (shout out to Aunty Cherry, a relationship which I can’t wait to expound on) who help our mothers free us of so much worry. The best thing about my aunt Wendy though is that we laugh a lot, actually cry with laughter a lot. I hope we continue to do so for infinity, and if that ain’t really possible, then for all the years to come.



Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. And it occurred to me after I wrote on my father that I wanted to write on my mother—hell, I felt compelled—because she is alive and I’m crazy about her. And at some point, in the interest of remembering, we can forget the present as the word “ordinary” ceases to exist. Mind you; I wouldn’t describe my parents and my relationship with them as ordinary. I doubt most of you would. Remember what Philip Larkin wrote? “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.” Always makes me howl with laughter. I was blessed to have been brought up in an eclectic home. My family brought South Africa with them to London—braais, proteas, passion fruit juice, strong accents and soul.

“And then—gone.” In the midst of life, we are in death —Episcopalians say at the graveside. But we are in the midst of living always, and my mother was the key that unlocked cavernous wooden doors slammed violently shut. At first, second by second, then minute by minute, until hour by hour I regained life. Those moments when I was abruptly overtaken by exhaustion, she fed my shrinking frame with all manner of smoothies and my favourite chips in the whole wide world: Nik Naks. If you’ve ever smelt or touched their neon knobbles, you’ll know that that’s true love right there.

In the past few years—most especially—we have unpicked death, love, illness, luck, fate, addiction, strength, will, marriage, children and memory. I think this is because we have both have taken the time and actually relish the exploration of life and all its kaleidoscopic intricacies. My mother is a recovering alcoholic and she wouldn’t mind one bit that I mention that here. She’s as open about her sobriety as I am about my passion for scent. She’s eleven years sober this year, and if anyone knows about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about sanity, about being in the trenches, it’s her. When she told me after my father died that you can move on, that you’re allowed to because there’s happiness ahead of you, I believed her.

“It’s a brave thing, loving another person.” I’m laughing now, but my mother tells me she knows when my father and she conceived me. And I still smile every time she mentions it because I think its a beautiful memory for her, and as I like to remind her, she was lucky to get me! I want for her to know these daily moments we have together—even if they are more across the oceans nowadays—they’re some potent wizards. I want her to know that she shaped the way I see women. She taught me to love them and she exposed me to friggin’ awesome women doing friggin’ awesome things. She taught me about friendship and I’m sure that’s why I’ve been blessed with the best girls. She taught me to write stories and be authentic.

My mother is hilarious. She walks in and everything is better. If she walked into a room and it was beige, it would suddenly become brightly coloured. One thing I do remember is that my mother and my father were always laughing at each other’s jokes. The afternoon of the evening that he died we were in the hospital in Cape Town and it was just mum, dad and me; a rare moment of my perfect triangle. He took her hand and squeezed it tight and didn’t want to let go. I don’t think she did either. I’d never seen that between them, only heard about it, as they divorced when I was little. Still gives me goosebumps. At that moment, everything in my life came full circle. No one was watching me and I loved it. I was watching them imagining the whole sky lighting up in perpetuity.

My mother and I have repeated rituals we love to do together. Eat. Light candles. Read to each other. Oooooh and aaaah at a certain set of annual fireworks on the edge of an ocean. Build fires (metaphorical so far). Cook (me, her watching). Behold the world go by. Fragments that matter to us. She’s the only person I know who can tell me the name of every tree and plant wherever we may be walking. She’s the only person that can eat kale and make you think she’s eating pasta and fries. She’s the only person I know who gets genuinely upset that I still don’t carry tissues on my person for every single life occasion. She’s the only baby whisperer I know and I can’t wait til’ she has mine to whisper to. She’s the most generous soul I know, and now, right here in 2016, she believes in me the most. Not just for her, but for my father. She represents as Joan Didion said, ‘the constant changing of the earth, the unending erosion of the shores and mountains, the inexorable shifting of the geological structures that could throw up mountains and islands and could just as reliably take them away.’ Ladies and gents, that’s MY mother.




First off, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and not necessarily because of me, but in spite of me. It makes me happy. As I’ve continued to prod and explore deep inside my bones and all above, below and around me, I’ve realised that I’ve shared a lot of very personal things. And frankly, I don’t intend to stop. And so to that end, I thought I’d share some more about my father; it’s Father’s Day here in America next week and I can’t escape it.

If you don’t know me from a bar of soap, my father passed away in 2008 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It’s only now, eight years later, that I can write words on this experience. Before? Forget about it. Grief is an elusive beast. At some point after his death, although I can’t remember when because my memory of that period is hazy, someone gave me a copy of C.S Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Most people, myself included, know Lewis for that most magical of series, The Chronicles of Narnia, but his primary work was teaching English at Oxford.  Not only did he gravitate toward brilliance in conversation, but also in correspondence. That’s how he met his wife, Joy. Joy was a recent convert from Judaism, and they began writing to each other (ah, sweet love letters). Eventually, the two married but she died three years later. The book is a collection of his journal entries that were compiled as he struggled through the mourning process. Here’s a gem that resonated early on:

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course, it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

I think the first year my father was gone I was on autopilot. I was also in a relationship with someone who had people around him continually serving as a good distraction from the seemingly purely physical pain I was feeling. My heart ached in such a way that an overstrained muscle does. Except it never dissipated. Not for a long, long time. My pain threshold must have gone up immeasurably. That’s why I’m convinced I managed to climb Kilimanjaro and put myself through all manner of physical feats. I thought: if it hurts this much, might as well go with it. Also, physical distractions were vital to me in those early years. If I had felt the full weight of his loss, I think I would have died of a broken heart. Truly.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

I’m not nearly as restless now as I was during the initial years after my dad died, but I recognise when I’m heading for another significant grieving cycle because I become fidgety and angsty. And about when I become a whirling dervish, BAM, grief stops me in my tracks.

There is no recipe for dealing with pain, but my hope in starting to open up the doors and write about it is that I can be of some help to ‘restless’ souls like myself, and maybe even bid my own ghosts farewell. “The death of a beloved is an amputation,” Lewis wrote, but more than that, “The same leg is cut off time after time.” I think what I’ve learned is that life is to be embraced in all its messiness. And actually, the messier the better, because even in our darkest times, we aren’t other than our flawed and jumbled selves. And that’s pretty damn grand.





Of all our senses, smell is the one I’m pretty sure (judging by the panic and upset/depression I get with a blocked nose) I’d want to lose the least. If you’ve been reading this blog a while now, you’ll know I’m obsessed. And that I abhor anything that hints at duty-free. Or is akin to the stock market. More on that later.

I definitely cloak my descriptions in overblown adjectives, because, well, perfumed water is such an elusive beast. Sometimes you need a big cacophony to even get inside the (first) front door. Sometimes you need to invoke every gorgeous flower that ever was placed in a bottle. Because fragrance is ravishing whichever way you look at it. Whether it’s devoid of sex, a bit risqué, totally virginal or romantic, olfactory taste seems to be a matter of pure aesthetics. When I’m around a person who says “man it smells good in here,” I always want to offer up my wrists and sometimes my collarbone, so they know it’s me emanating something kinda wonderful, and not just the room. Olfactory vanity? Guilty as charged.

My dalliances with perfume are best described as flirty and (mostly) unfaithful, because I’m constantly on the lookout for that fantastical, otherworldly scent made flesh. I blame my mother. Partially. She’s been wearing Fracas, that masterpiece of heady tuberose, since I was a baby, and if you grow up around that kind of velvety lushness, a one dimensional buttery-soft imprint just doesn’t really cut it. Plus, for here’s the thing I’ve discovered: people who smell, who really sniff into life, are passionate purveyors of incandescent trails, and almost by definition, more interesting to talk to. Tapping into senses for something as quixotic and emotional as smell makes them mighty, mighty grand. I’ve had some of the best nights in the company of scent junkies. Like great foodies, you find yourself instantly hooked. And maybe even diving unwittingly into an unsuspecting neck.



source: cora kps





If winter is a shower of shooting stars, then spring is a hop, skip and a jump through lush meadows. I love me a shower. I really do. The lengthier the better. But then I feel the antithesis of green and pretty guilty. I recently read that whilst working on an academic project with Nasa, Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, a Swedish industrial designer, realised there could be parallels between sustainability in space and on Earth. The extremes of space require that the vital resource of water be used in the most efficient way possible, and so, inspired by those experiences with the space agency, Mahdjoubi created a shower system that reuses the same water in a circular loop, while two filters take out impurities as it circulates. This Shower of the Future, from his company, Orbital Systems, can operate on five litres of water. The water constantly circulates for 10 minutes or so – the time of an average shower apparently – in turn saving on energy. I think we should jump on this bandwagon. Tout suite.

I go through all the typical shower rituals — washing, washing and then some — until I’m ready to steam it up a bit. I put a few drops of essential oils on the floor, giving me a rise of note and my very own makeshift inhalation. Lavender, geranium and eucalyptus are a potent little triumvirate for an invigorating and sometimes soporific boost, but I also keep Aura Cacia Shower Tablets around. Place one on the floor in the direct stream of the water and then languish under the beat, sucking in what feels like a field of herbs in Provence (that’s my kind of kick mind you), just with fun effervescent bubbles beneath your feet.

And then I go nuclear. Or Arctic to be more precise. I grab the handle for the water, pause, take a deep breath and then turn it to all-the-way-cold, or freezing. The thing that most draws me to the cold water is also the thing that most repels me: It’s really hard to do but it feels all sorts of amazing afterwards. And your circulatory system will be ever so grateful. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest reason to do it (with the caveat that if there is a water shortage in your area, you should find something else to do that is hard). It reminds me a little bit of that Mark Twain saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”



When I first saw emeralds of that colour in Victoire de Castellane’s creations for Dior Fine Jewellery, I was bewitched. Seeing stones larger than an elephant’s eye and scarfs of rough diamonds meant to evoke ivy growing through cobblestones made me fall in love with her work completely. Every collection I’ve ever seen only dazzling creations have abounded. I love her whimsical and kaleidoscopic designs that marry flowers with skulls, where rings take the shape of gold slippers (Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale after all) and all my childhood girly fantasies come true in a trail of coloured diamonds. I also love her signature blunt cut fringe because I’ll never be able to have one, and that she’s inspired by everything from vampires to snow globes – it’s sort of like a two fingers up to fine jewellery and I find it infinitely exciting.


source: luxe-magazine.com


‘And in the morning they shook their pillows violently, hoping all the dreams they lost that night would tumble out.’

No such exertion is now needed with Sharonna Karni Cohen’s (excuse the pun) dream app. With a current crop of eleven artists from cities as diverse as Warsaw, Osaka, Johannesburg and New York, Dreame allows you to choose the one whose work resonates the most, and in return you’ll get your dream turned into a one-of-a-kind illustration. For those of you who like me mine their nighttime reveries for clues to their inner lives, for creative insight, and even for premonitions, this is a fascinating exercise in objective interpretation. I think it’s hard not to believe that at least some of our sleep-time scenarios are imbued with significance and it’s a fun digital visual to refer to, perhaps helping us to decode the messages that we might otherwise miss. All you need now is a dreamcatcher!