A Bewitching Interview with Bougie London Literary Woman

The enigma behind the Twitter account winning hearts and minds sat down to tell us more.

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22 November 2018, 9:15am

Image via Wikimedia Commons

You'll find her nestled in the corner of an east London pub in folds of vintage satin, pencilling dreamy, half-formed thoughts into a much-thumbed copy of Ariel. Or perhaps you'll spy her digging through the wild garlic at a farmer's market, determined to find the one bulb that sings more sweetly than the rest. If you're especially fortunate, you might stumble upon her reading from her novella ("A deeply searching new take on femininity," croons the TLS) while wearing a 1920s smoking jacket rescued from a west London flea, repurposed around her shoulders as a sort of cloak.

She is Bougie London Literary Woman, the Twitter sensation who has lately taken the internet in her opal-ringed grasp. Her enigmatic observations of her life as a woman of words have garnered a fast following of people who hang on her every tweet, from quips about her penchant for kimonos to heartfelt musings on jam-making.

Amid a busy schedule of skimming through pleasantly-browning Brontë editions and cooking hearty veggie stews from A Modern Way to Eat, @BougieLitWoman graciously made time to answer some questions. Read on for a closer glimpse at the interior life of the London literary scene's newest darling.

VICE: Tell me about your home. Is it important for you to have a sanctuary away from the hubbub of city life?
Bougie London Literary Woman: Absolutely. My little flat is in some ways the most potent expression of my inner self, filled only with things I know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Often, they are both. At the moment I am obsessed with milk jugs. I like to reposition them around the flat to see them in different lights throughout the day.

What does a typical Saturday look like for you?
Up with the dawn, to paint it if I feel moved to. Caring for my pot plants, a constitutional walk to the canal with my partner and, if time, baking a sumptuously herby cake. I have had to stop curling up with a book after dinner as I put my back out doing it with a particularly hefty volume of Elizabeth Gaskell: in the bath is best.

What is your writing process like? Are there any particular spots you like to take refuge in, where revelation usually strikes?
First I make a collage in what you could term a fugue state. Sometimes this can take all night, but it’s absolutely essential and I have always been an exceedingly talented afternoon napper. A bracing swim at first light is the ideal next step, before settling down, wet but elated, in a pleasantly crowded café. I write in a notebook with a green ink fountain pen for 25 minutes at a time, punctuated by observing my fellow clientele with respectful interest.

Who are the authors you look to for inspiration?
Dickinson, HD, Carrington, Woolf, Kate Bush, the three Smiths: Ali, Patti and Zadie, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Maggie Nelson, Heidi Julavits, and Our Lady Laing.

You talk lots about food on your delightful Twitter account. What’s your favourite meal?
A rich and beguiling bouillabaisse I had in the port of Marseille one woozy summer night in 2015. I shan't see its like again, I daresay, but I taste it in my dreams.

Have you any special recipes you’d like to share?
Cook whatever makes your heart sing, but an evergreen tip from me: always add saffron.

You seem like a bit of a magpie – what’s been your best vintage find? Would you recommend any places for our readers to have a rummage?
A heart-stopping velvet cape with a little note in the pocket that simply read "farewell". If you can hop on the Eurostar, I’ve not been able to top a little shop near the Rue de Charonne, but I shan’t say more in case I return to find the place stripped of all its many treasures.

What’s your book of the year?
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, but that set me on the trail to Eileen, which is the superior book.

Tell me about your last holiday.
I find it a balm to consider each moment snatched from the jaws of productivity as a holiday all of its own. I am therefore on holiday this very moment.

How will you be spending the festive period? Have you any special traditions?
I’ll be spending it in the Cotswolds with my dear ma and pa. We have long partaken in what we like to call our "carol service crawl", culminating in a tipple or two at the village pub. I will no doubt make my own zimtsterne again this year, too.

Finally, what’s your life motto?
I don’t live by a motto, but I keep this line of poetry close to me:

The rounded world is cradled
and felt for once,
and if a plum’s like this,
then what can be wasted? -

"Plum", Charles Atkinson.

Thank you, Bougie London Literary Woman!

@hiyalauren / @BougieLitWoman

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