Ilana Fox's Blog

June 11, 2014

I used to love going to gigs. When I was 16 my parents thought I was sweet and sensible – but instead of spending my evenings with friends doing homework (like I said I was), I secretly hung out with Britpop d-listers in smoke-filled pubs in Camden. I wasn’t a groupie (not unless you count a drunken kiss with a member of Blur as significant, which I don’t) but I was in love with music – rock and indie and metal and punk – and my favourite part of the year was festival season.


Back then (and we’re talking the late 1990s), festivals were places for real music fans. It never crossed our minds to plan our outfits and to think about ‘festival fashion’, and we certainly didn’t need magazine tips on what to pack. We chucked our clothes in our rucksacks, pitched up our tents in a muddy field somewhere far from London, and then drank watered-down cider as we stared up at our idols on stage. Those were the happiest days of my life.


Fast-forward to festival season now, and it’s all completely different. Maybe I’m looking at festivals with cynical, 30-something eyes, but the thought of going to an actual festival now leaves me cold. I’m sick of being surrounded by girls in denim hotpants and Hunters who don’t know who the bands are, and I’m fed up with how sanitised everything’s become. It’s now less about the music and is more style over substance. At the risk of sounding old before my time, things aren’t as good as they used to be.


The last festival I went to was in the Cotswolds. We ate margaritas from the Pizza Express van, drank coconut water handed out by promo girls, and then hung out with David Cameron, John Craven and Noel Edmunds in the VIP tent. It was a fun weekend, but it didn’t feel like a festival because it wasn’t about the music: music seemed to be at the bottom of the agenda for everyone (me excluded).


I still go to gigs when I can face the journey from Camden to East Dulwich late at night, but I’ve given up going to festivals and I’ve made my peace with it. Festivals have changed for the worse … and it appears that I’ve grown up too – I’m no longer the 16-year-old kid who thinks sleeping in a tent is an adventure. And while I may not be sweet, I could definitely be considered sensible, and that’s cool with me: at the very least I don’t have to lie to my parents any more.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, June 2014

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Published on June 11, 2014 07:38 • 11 views

May 20, 2014

I’ll admit it: I’ve never really been an outdoorsy kind of person. Despite saying that I like ‘long strolls in the countryside’ like I’m a walking, talking dating advert, the truth is that I kind of don’t. I mean I do – in theory – but the reality is that I’d much prefer to be at home watching a Mad Men boxset. I like fresh air, spring flowers and clear blue skies as much as the next person, but if I’m going for a walk I’d like it to be to an actual place; I’ve never much seen the point of an aimless amble.


Of course, I know I may not be in the majority. When my friends suggest we go for a saunter on Peckham Rye after a Sunday lunch in the pub, I feel my heart sink. I understand the logic of wanting to burn off a few calories (of course I do: I’m a girl, after all), but when we’re out on a walk and debating if it’s ‘crocuses’ or ‘croci’, I yearn for other stimuluses or stimuli – such as the Sunday papers, alcohol, and perhaps a game of Scrabble. I like simple, indoor pleasures. I can’t help it.


Things recently came to a head when I arranged to meet a friend last weekend. He was getting the Overground and I was to find him near Honor Oak station. “Shall we meet at a bar?” I asked. He said no. “A cafe?” I suggested. He said no again. “I want to meet at the WW1 gun emplacement on top of One Tree Hill,” he declared.


Because he lives in East London and doesn’t see trees very often, I begrudgingly agreed. But as I began that almighty nightmare of a trek up the hill I began to feel guilty as well as breathless: I get to go to woods every day if I want to, whereas our non-SE22 friends don’t have the same luck. “This is brilliant,” my friend said as he gazed down at the city through the clearing. “It’s great to be outside.”


I murmured my agreement, but my mind and gaze were elsewhere. For partially hidden under some trees (sycamore and ash, apparently), was a couple who were enjoying the great outdoors in a different kind of way. As they began to moan, my friend and I began to laugh, and I realised that the great outdoors isn’t so boring after all. Especially when it comes to stimuli like that.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, May 2014

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Published on May 20, 2014 07:34 • 8 views

April 20, 2014

I’ve never been sure about how I feel about weddings. On the one hand, yes, they’re beautiful – they’re a celebration of love and commitment and togetherness. But the pessimist in me isn’t persuaded: I’ve never really been convinced that partnerships can last a lifetime. Should you let them, weddings can cost a fortune that I think would be better invested in property rather than a party – although going by East Dulwich prices you wouldn’t get much bang for your buck.


A friend of mine is getting married next year and she’s become Bridezilla: she avidly watches Say Yes to the Dress to get ideas about what she wants to wear (current thinking: a lace, tulle, mermaid dress that’s not too mermaidy, tulley or lacy), she scours the internet for wedding venues, and she’s begged me to help write her vows. Which is sweet, of course, but I’m the last person to ask: I’m the biggest cynic going, not least because the concept of love confuses me.


To try to clarify matters I pretended to be Haddaway and asked my Facebook friends ‘what is love?’ Answers ranged from ‘passion’ to ‘giddiness’ to ‘respect’ to ‘peacefulness’, and while I agree with all of these, they also confused me. If there are so many types of love, how do you know which one is the one you should lock down? And should you even do it?


I realise I’m in the minority. I’ve never fantasised about getting married, never dreamed of having a big white dress, and can think of nothing worse than showing off the fact that I’ve met someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with me. For me, love and commitment are intensely private: marriage shouldn’t be about putting on a party and pretending to be a princess for the day.


I know I should grin and bear it – weddings are most definitely a thing, and I’m willing to be persuaded that I’m wrong. But when I do tell people that I’m not a fan of weddings (which, by the way, is not a good idea to do when you’re a bridesmaid – lesson learned!), I get looks of pity and am told that I’ll change my mind; that I’ll be swept off my feet and will be subscribing to bridal magazines before I know it. The thing is, I know that will never happen. To be true to myself I can’t follow convention and I’m definitely not a sheep. In the words of Haddaway, baby don’t herd me.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, April 2014

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Published on April 20, 2014 07:22 • 6 views

April 7, 2014

SUNLOUNGER 2 SHORT STORY COMPETITION!


Would you like to see your story published alongside some of the hottest names in women’s fiction? (including me, obvs – my story is called WE FOUND LOVE and it’s set in Havana!)


Last year’s winner Holly Martin made it to #5 in the UK Kindle Charts with her debut novel The Guestbook! Now it’s your turn to shine!


WORD COUNT: Between 1,000 and 3,000 words

DEADLINE: May 7th 2014

SETTING: Somewhere summery outside the UK

EMAIL: sunloungerstories@gmail.com for full entry details


(We know this is an ULTRA quick turnaround but you can do it – start your mini masterpiece TODAY!)

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Published on April 07, 2014 14:33 • 13 views

March 24, 2014

Me Havana nice time in Cuba


I’m very excited to announced that I’ve contributed a short story to SUNLOUNGER 2, which follows hot on the heels of Belinda Jones’ best-selling SUNLOUNGER anthology from last summer.


WE FOUND LOVE is set in the future (and part imaginary!) city of New Havana in 2075. I love Havana: I can’t get enough of the colours and the history of the buildings, the spirit and sense of fun in the people who live there, and the beautiful weather. Cuba also has a very different political system to ours, yet despite this the city was my first choice for my displaced Londoners to end up – I can’t think of anywhere nicer (apart from maybe Buenos Aires!) to start a life again.


This is the first sci-fi story I’ve ever written (I thought I’d try something different) and I LOVED writing it. I want to live in my version of the world in 2075.


Sneak peek of WE FOUND LOVE: London, England, February 14 2014: It was a grey, stormy day when the first explosion erupted. At first there was only silence: a stunned pause where everyone drew in a sharp, bitter gasp. Those in their offices raced to their windows to watch a ribbon of thick black smoke twist into the sky. Others – tourists who’d been battling the rain as they’d walked along Oxford St, and Londoners who’d been looking for last-minute Valentine’s Day presents – stood still and allowed themselves to make eye contact with strangers. Had there really been a bang? Or had they imagined it? Could they have done?


More news about SUNLOUNGER 2 coming soon!

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Published on March 24, 2014 05:06 • 11 views

March 9, 2014

If there’s one thing South London is really, really good at, it’s art. It may have something to do with Camberwell Art College pulsing out plenty of talent, but sometimes it feels as though you can’t move for art students pounding the pavements. They’re easy to spot – they’re the ones who next season’s catwalk shows are based on, the ones who you do a double take at because you can’t quite work out if the bird nest in their hair – featuring an actual, taxidermied chick – is ‘arty’ or marks them as a bit crazy. Often I wonder if it’s both.


But while Camberwell and Peckham feature the cooler-than-thou kidz, my beloved East Dulwich has it’s own version of artistic dressing. People from other London boroughs may think it’s just middle-aged, middle-class laziness, but I reckon there is art in dressing head-to-toe in a combination of Boden, Fat Face, and Mint Velvet. For if art is all about causing an emotional reaction (and that’s my take on it), then the standard East Dulwich uniform certainly provokes it in me.


Not a day goes past when I don’t play ‘fashion bingo’ on Lordship Lane. Chance of rain? Then I award myself 50 points for spotting someone in Hunter wellington boots (mud from the woods optional). A bit of sun peeping out from the everlasting clouds of this winter? Then the sunglasses come out – and the East Dulwich yummy mummies make like Victoria Beckham as they drag their mini Harper-likes across the pavement. They’re less sunglasses and more horse blinkers – if you’re not dressed like one of the tribe then you may as well not exist.


And while I may sound a bit fed up of the East Dulwich uniform, I’m certainly not exempt from it. Many a time I’ve hopped on the Overground to Shoreditch dressed in my East Dulwich clothes only to been looked at oddly by my friends. “Why are you wearing UGGs and yoga pants?” they ask me in horror. “What has happened to you?”


The thing is, I don’t quite know how to reply. The longer I live here (and the older I get) the more I transition from Camberwell cool to Dulwich dull, and it happens so seamlessly that I don’t even realise it’s happening. Thank God for the art students who sneer at me like I used to do to my elders. But what they don’t know – and what I do – is that sensible dressing – so apt in our pretend little village – happens to us all in the end.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, March 2014

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Published on March 09, 2014 05:26 • 6 views

If there’s one thing South London is really, really good at, it’s art. It may have something to do with Camberwell Art College pulsing out plenty of talent, but sometimes it feels as though you can’t move for art students pounding the pavements. They’re easy to spot – they’re the ones who next season’s catwalk shows are based on, the ones who you do a double take at because you can’t quite work out if the bird nest in their hair – featuring an actual, taxidermied chick – is ‘arty’ or marks them as a bit crazy. Often I wonder if it’s both.


But while Camberwell and Peckham feature the cooler-than-thou kidz, my beloved East Dulwich has it’s own version of artistic dressing. People from other London boroughs may think it’s just middle-aged, middle-class laziness, but I reckon there is art in dressing head-to-toe in a combination of Boden, Fat Face, and Mint Velvet. For if art is all about causing an emotional reaction (and that’s my take on it), then the standard East Dulwich uniform certainly provokes it in me.


Not a day goes past when I don’t play ‘fashion bingo’ on Lordship Lane. Chance of rain? Then I award myself 50 points for spotting someone in Hunter wellington boots (mud from the woods optional). A bit of sun peeping out from the everlasting clouds of this winter? Then the sunglasses come out – and the East Dulwich yummy mummies make like Victoria Beckham as they drag their mini Harper-likes across the pavement. They’re less sunglasses and more horse blinkers – if you’re not dressed like one of the tribe then you may as well not exist.


And while I may sound a bit fed up of the East Dulwich uniform, I’m certainly not exempt from it. Many a time I’ve hopped on the Overground to Shoreditch dressed in my East Dulwich clothes only to been looked at oddly by my friends. “Why are you wearing UGGs and yoga pants?” they ask me in horror. “What has happened to you?”


The thing is, I don’t quite know how to reply. The longer I live here (and the older I get) the more I transition from Camberwell cool to Dulwich dull, and it happens so seamlessly that I don’t even realise it’s happening. Thank God for the art students who sneer at me like I used to do to my elders. But what they don’t know – and what I do – is that sensible dressing – so apt in our pretend little village – happens to us all in the end.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, March 2013

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Published on March 09, 2014 05:26 • 8 views

February 9, 2014

Valentine’s Day comes but once a year, and while many of us are planning romantic surprises for our loved ones, I’ve been stuck in a funk and have been questioning my love affair with south London. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s that my flat was broken into on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve been dreaming of lands afar – ones with crystal clear waters, brilliantly sunny skies, and people who smile and say hullo rather than looking straight through you. It’s not too much to ask for, is it?


The problem with daydreaming about travelling the world is that it’s just that – a fantasy. Faced with the unavoidable responsibilities of attention-seeking cats, a flat, a career and a life, I’m stuck in London … and while I can’t travel the world I can certainly broaden my horizons and leave SE22. I can do it; I can be brave.


Thus began my exploration of south London in more detail. This year I’ve so far eaten my own weight in food at Brixton Village, have gorged myself at Angels & Gypsies in Camberwell and have had a lovely time at Donde Tapas in Honor Oak. I’m also planning to go dancing at the Rivoli very soon – not least because I need to exercise off all these additional calories – and I’m very excited that the Streatham Ice Rink has reopened.


But as we all know, south London is more than just food. We have brilliant pubs (I recently discovered the Mayflower in Bermondsey) excellent museums (I always see something new at the Horniman – and the walrus is back!), and of course, we have plenty of outside space (my new favourite spot is the secret view of St Paul’s in Nunhead Cemetary).


“I’m really proud of you,” a friend said to me the other day, when I told her what I’d been up to. I felt vaguely ashamed of myself, rather like I’ve been a hermit who refused to leave her little village – but I was also happy that I’ve discovered more cool places to hang out. “Are you going to cross the river and go to north London next?” she continued. I stared at her in shock. Me? Leave my beloved south London? Sometimes I feel as though my friends don’t know me at all.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines February 2013

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Published on February 09, 2014 04:17 • 7 views

January 9, 2014

Like most of the population, I set myself resolutions at the start of the year – but unlike many others, I’m one of those unbearably smug people who does everything they resolved to do. In 2012 I stopped smoking and gave up wheat and potatoes, and in 2013 I started rifle shooting competitively, lost that final half a stone (women! It is possible!), took up Pilates and gave up gluten. If you hear a squeaking that’s me polishing my halo. (I hate me too).


But the problem with doing everything you set out to achieve is that it means finding new stuff to do gets harder and harder. I want to be able to relax more (and have more massages with the amazing Stephen Nock who does Ayurvedic treatments on Crebor St – look him up!), but I also want to set up my own tech start-up, finally finish the novel I’ve been working on – and then I also want to write another. There is no rest for the wickedly ambitious.


I was sharing my resolutions with a friend when she told me I’ve been doing it wrong. “You’re meant to give up things that are bad for you – not increase your workload,” she said. I thought about it for a moment. “I could finally give up processed sugar?” I said doubtfully and she sighed at me. Apparently I’m not spiritual enough and my resolutions do little to enrich my soul.


So after some deep thought, my resolution is to stop forming meaningless – but extremely fun – ‘friendships’ with good-looking bad boys. I am to treat men not as my playthings but as my equals, and I’m going to try to have an actual, normal, healthy, functioning relationship with them. Or, apparently, I am to try to do this with just one.


“And to make sure you carry out this resolution, you’re going to write about this in your column,” my friend continued. “I want all the landlords of the pubs in East Dulwich to keep an eye on you and make sure you keep to this.” I nodded and said I‘d write about it – which I have! Thanks for reading! – but the moment I waved goodbye to my mate I realised there were two additional resolutions I’d try to keep to: I’m going to learn to say no to bossy friends and to start drinking in Crystal Palace again. 2014 is going to be a whole lot of fun.


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, January 2013

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Published on January 09, 2014 07:16 • 19 views

December 9, 2013

For the first eleven months of the year I’d consider myself to be fairly responsible. Despite dressing age-inappropriately I pay my bills on time, I donate old clothes to the refugee centre at the bottom of Barry Road, and I take in my neighbours’ endless packages when they’re at work. But come December – and the onset of party season – I down tools (erm, my trusty laptop) and transform into someone who could give Miley Cyrus a run for her money: I become Dulwich Party Girl.


For most of my 20s I lived in Clapham Junction – a land where young professionals mingle with Australians, rugby players and end up wasted in Infernos. Party season wasn’t just for Christmas, it was for every day, and my flatmates and I used to regularly host bashes that ensured we weren’t going to get the deposit on our rented flats back: floors were ruined, red wine ended up on the ceiling, and on one memorable occasion a boy took acid and hung – naked – from a kitchen cupboard while squeaking ‘I am a bat!’


But since entering my 30s and retiring to East Dulwich, parties have taken on a more somber tone: instead of bowls of crisps the food is homemade (the meat from William Rose, everything else from Franklins), we only drink white wine so as not to accidentally ruin the cream carpets, and the party ends well before 12am as the babysitters’ rates double after then. I love my friends and these parties, but I can’t help wondering when this change happened – when did we decide to stop mixing our drinks because we want to be able to go walking in Sydenham Woods the following day?


And that’s why I love December – because we’re forced to party like we used to and all responsibility goes out the window. It’s a bit like falling in lust – when you can’t concentrate because the hot boy you fancy just sent you a text – only it’s kind of better than that. Because for the whole of December it’s practically the law to wear tight, glittery dresses and more make-up than a Strictly Come Dancing contestant. It’s mandatory that we drink too much and flirt wildly … and above all else it’s not party season if we don’t sob at least one saccharine Christmas advert on TV.


Because that’s what Christmas is all about right? Let’s eat, drink – and party like we used to. Happy Christmas, neighbours!


An edited version of this column appeared in Absolutely Dulwich and Absolutely South East magazines, December 2013

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Published on December 09, 2013 07:07 • 15 views