Squad Goals 

Apart from a penchant for red lipstick; full skirted sundresses; tall, blonde-curly-haired men (in my alternate reality I married Tom Hiddlestone) and heartbreak, I am nothing, nothing like Taylor Swift. This is one of life’s sadnesses – I will never be a twenty-something skinny, uber-successful ingenue songstress. I bloomed *way* too late for that. But I do have something Taylor’s got, and it took me this long to discover it…

I’ve got a SQUAD!  
My squad have swung into action over the past week, during a proper low. There are some long-term squad members, but also people who have surprised me. It makes me feel so bloody lucky and loved. They include: 
My former teacher and his wife. The kind of people you can call at 10am on a Saturday morning and tell them your heart is broken and you need to get the hell out of town, and they agree in an instant that you should be with them. So you turn up at their door three hours later, and cry, and they feed you and give you glasses of wine, and are kind when you cry some more. And you leave the next day knowing you’ll be OK because you have beautiful people like them in your life. And you have three gorgeous books to read that they’ve lent to you, and the fire in your heart to be yourself and to pursue your dreams.  
My boss, who when I called on Monday morning and told her I couldn’t stop crying because of a boy, swore with “the worst swearword I know”. I returned on Wednesday and she visited my desk with purpose and Germanic humour.  

Her: “Let me see your eyes.” *Teutonic psychic stare*. “You’ll be OK!”  

Me: “That’s the problem, I’m always ok.” 

Note – my eyes were still really puffy. Crying is not my friend.  
Welsh girl, let’s call her Cerys, who meets me for lunch, gives me a lift home on Thursday when Storm Doris wrecks the trains, and texts me tonight about her creme egg and sofa problem… and when I say I need a night out in Bury, she agrees without hesitation, even though apparently the club I want to go to ‘has sticky floors’. 
Nicole, my Aussie bridesmaid, the sender of Patron, poet and consummate facebook messenger. I love her with a true love that came about through *can’t stop laughing inappropriately in the office* circa 2007/8. She sends me messages of support telling me I am now Britain’s premier fashion blogger and a photo of her looking at a very large dildo to cheer me up, whilst confessing to inappropriate mum-drunkeness. Can’t wait for Summer 2018! It is *locked in*! 
Cambridge Historian, who is emigrating to the US, but believes in my club night idea, and when I said I needed distraction, immediately offered wine and a baby to cuddle.
My ex-husband. He’s allergic to chlorine but is doing something for me that exposes him to that eczema inducing chemical once a week. That’s love, even though it didn’t work out. The love is probably for Persie, but hey-ho, she’s part of me, so it counts.  
My psychotherapist. Emergency session on Monday because you can’t stop crying and left a sobbing message on her voicemail on Saturday morning? Hell yes. And on Monday when you get there she agrees “yes, this session was inevitable.”

 
Betty – well, she got a whole blog post, but everyone needs a straight talking Northern friend…
The slimming club ladies, together and separately, true friends. From Norwich brunch, to organising seeing Beauty and the Beast, to a long voicemail that didn’t make much sense, I know they’ve got my back.  
The girls at the nail bar, who are due a whole post of their own soon! But they fixed my gel polish twice this week, and when I said I didn’t know what was wrong with my right hand said “stress”. And also let me feel their new fake boobs… 
More work peoples! The girls who invited me on their spa day for women getting divorced and/or having a hard time. I was stupidly touched by the kindness because it’s sometimes quite lonely having been the boss. My team, who all could tell something was wrong but didn’t comment. Last but by no means least, the two -cky’s, my colleagues, and two very fabulous women, both of whom think in a structured way. It turns out I don’t think in a structured way at all! The first -cky has been there since I admitted to her… well it doesn’t matter what I admitted, but everything ridiculous I do, she laughs at and then understands… and she doesn’t judge my Boden habit. She looks me in the eyes and says “do you think you deserve happiness?” The second -cky is new to the squad, but is going to feature heavily. She told me a secret a couple of weeks ago; it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She wears very short skirts because she is very skinny; I am a bit jealous of that ability. 
And others, just because they don’t feature doesn’t mean they’re not there and special. I know that you’re mean to have, like, squad goals, like frolicking on a beach in bikinis, and writing BFF in the sand and photos with filters… but I’m too old for all that instagrammable crap. We just want for everyone to be happy and well adjusted and prosperous and fulfilled, whether you’re going through divorce or bereavement or boyfriend problems or work hard times or don’t know how to get creme egg off your sofa.  
My squad. Average age of 45! They drink decent wine! They worry about parenting! They book spa days! They read real literature and watch proper films! They are super mature and awesome.  
Thanks for being there.  

Today I’m wearing… a slogan jumper

Mum clothes at the weekend are an inevitability.  I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that this Surrey girl went native a few years ago, and that at the weekends there’s a fair amount of Joules and gilet wearing… when in Rome!

Today comfort and practicality were the name of the game in the face of a long car journey.  I decided that I might have to wear jeans and a jumper, but I could elevate my outfit with a message.  Life may be shit in many ways… but I’m still lovely.

Jumper from Boden, last season (they sold out, I wish they’d do more).  Picture by Rosa.

Jamie Dornan’s a really good actor

So I went to see Fifty Shades Darker. It had to be done. Two years ago, I went to see the first Fifty with my friend Betty. I’d not read the books at that point and was pleasantly surprised by how stylish the film was. I went home and I did read the books (because I wanted to find out what happened), and subsequently re-read the trilogy at least four times that year and the next. I’m not sure why it had such an effect, but clearly it was a phase I had to work through… best not to analyse it too deeply!

Last night, Betty and I, after some serious calendar synchronisation, finally made it out to see the latest instalment.

It is not a good film. It makes me sad to say so, as I was a passionate defender of the first film, which was stylish and tense and had that great sudden ending… this film has none of that. The thing that intrigued me most about this film was, of course, Dakota Johnson’s lipstick.  And the most disappointing bit was Jamie Dornan.
Jamie Dornan is a really good actor. I know, because I’ve watched The Fall. I loved The Fall. He was menacing, evil, calculating and really really sexy. I worried about how much I wanted to shag that serial killer… I did not want to shag Christian Grey in this film. I did, however, feel very very sorry for Jamie Dornan, whose acting talents were neglected in favour of him simply removing his clothes. Although he doesn’t seem too bothered about it, as you can see from his grin in the picture – he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

But I digress! Because really the best thing about my evening out was not eating an entire bag of Maltesers to myself, but spending some time with Betty. Having whispered to her at an opportune moment that Jamie Dornan’s acting talents were being shamefully wasted, the next time he appeared in a gratuitous top off shot, doing that standing up pull up thing men do at the gym to show off, and hoisting his body weight above a pommel horse, Betty leant towards me and whispered “he’s a really good actor you know.”

People didn’t quite shush us, but they did look around to see who was making all the noise. You know that thing where you laugh, and someone else laughs and it makes you laugh, and the next thing you know you can’t stop laughing? Turns out that is really what I needed.

And then I discovered that Betty also knows all the words to Jenny From the Block – even the rap part – and You Can Call Me Al, so we passed a very happy journey back home singing along to the Happiness Playlist with the car stereo at full volume, with seat dancing and hand gestures too.  When I ate my snack when I got in, I felt a twinge in my jaw, and I realised it hurt from all the smiling.

Today I’m wearing… double denim

There’s something risky about double denim, but I think you’ll agree, today it’s paid off! I did some googling around “how to style” double denim, and there were lots of denim skirts and jackets, and even a denim shirt dress, all adorning cute girls walking down the street (because if you google “how to style” anything, that’s what the pictures are like).  To my mind, I don’t think double denim counts as double denim unless one of the items is *a pair of jeans*, but maybe that’s just me. However, that does mean that, playing by my own rules, I am definitely doing the double today.

I’ll admit, the trousers are from M&S, and ages old now, because I tumble dried them to the perfect fit.  Although I won’t apologise for wearing M&S trousers ever because they cut them for women with waists, bums and hips. The denim shirt is from New Look, and while not unrelated to my cargo shacket (more on that another time), it’s definitely more shirt than jacket; light enough to wear layered over my t-shirt, without being bulky, but has poppers not buttons.

I did want to girlie this outfit up a little, as I often feel when I wear jeans and trainers with a shirt that I look like Mel presenting the Bake Off, and that is one of the reasons why I stopped wearing brightly coloured jackets. So to counter the masculine lines, I went slightly leftfield with metallic accents. Gold spots on the layered tee, sequins and leopardprint on the trainers. Because metallic and leopardprint are both neutrals (thank you, Caitlin Moran) it’s not too out there, but it brought a little something extra to dress-down Friday.

Photo by my seven year old, who was non-plussed when I told her I’d be editing my face out not least because it was pre-make-up… but for the interested among you, I finally did my face once I’d eaten my breakfast in the canteen and encountered the CEO while I was pretending not to be ravenously stuffing down with bacon and beans to counter a teeny tiny hangover.  Going with the denim theme, I went for blue eye make up including my super smudgy Maybelline chubby eye liner, which I am devoted to, and a pinky lip.  img_1664

The Power of the Playlist

I love Spotify. No Taylor Swift, of course, but apart from that minor detail, I love Spotify. I love that nearly all my music is there, waiting for me, in the aether. I love that as soon as I hear something on the radio, it’s there, waiting for me. The other night I added a song to my playlist *while I was listening to it on the radio* (Love, by Lana Del Ray, actually). For an instant gratification junkie like me, that’s a result.

And I may be in my (ahem) mid-thirties, but who doesn’t love to make a playlist? Because it’s just a mixtape by another name, and mixtapes are, as we know, very important. They’re how you express your personality. They’re how you tell someone they’re your friend, your love interest, your fellow geek/nerd. They’re a little slice of your soul, in music and lyrics. If you commute, a playlist is a vital component of your day. It makes the difference between feeling like you’re an automaton standing on a cramped train on the way to work versus starring in your very own indie movie about a cool girl who wears leather shift dresses, listening to the soundtrack you have curated. Although if, like me, you’re a devotee of the shuffle button, genuine curation isn’t even a consideration.

My last playlist had the creative title of “March 2016” and had swelled to a 100-plus behemoth which you could use to track the story of my last seven months, plus the songs which really genuinely are my favourites. It was a mix of songs from the Frozen soundtrack, Miley Cyrus, who I really shouldn’t like but I do, and all the cool stuff I listen to as well. Honest. But it was feeling a bit too memory laden. As all us students of English Literature know, the past is a foreign country (and as anyone who’s ever pondered why certain acts are “big in Germany”, or wondered why they bought that summer holiday hit); they do music differently there. I’ve lost my commuting buddy, I’m starting a new job… it was time to change my aural landscape and rewrite my soundtrack! I started a new playlist.

My new playlist is called “February 2017“. It’s almost relentlessly upbeat, positive and life affirming. No one can feel sad when they’re strutting down Hills Road listening to Aretha, or Beyonce at her most fierce, and while Jess Glynne might be a “cheery one-woman M People” © Alexis Petridis, she’s bloody cheery, and on a blustery February day, I think we could all do with some cheer.

Take a little look!  And suggest some more songs, please. I’m aiming for a behemoth of happiness.

Today I’m wearing… Pleather

Welcome back to my mid-life-crisis! So the dungarees are obviously a nod towards more playful, more innocent times, but my Pleather dress is surely all rebellion. Today it’s the turn of my Warehouse pleather shift dress.  
Basically, it’s a black dress. I wear it with black tights and either a dark red t shirt, or a striped one, and low heeled ankle boots. Shrug it on, a flick or a smudge of eyeliner, and I’m good to go. It’s a no-brainer, easy in the mornings, and every time I wear it I get *compliments*. I got a compliment from one of my older gentleman reports at work. Girls stop me in the canteen to tell me they love my dress. 

 I often reply “thank you, it’s wipe clean!” That’s because I’ve got a dirty sense of humour, and also because I have children so anything that you can attack with a baby wipe is good with me.  

I had always been of the impression that leather clothing items that weren’t shoes and bags, and at a push a leather jacket were a bit… well… erm, mutton dressed as lamb. This is clearly because of my experience of going to see The Chippendales for a friend’s 18th birthday party and it was a woman in leather jeans (and vest top and long dyed blonde hair) who got pulled out of the audience for some mortifying grinding action delivered by an oiled up Chip. This longstanding prejudice confirms the theory of a dear English teacher I knew, who died last year, that sixth formers are the most moralistic human beings on the planet, particularly those studying English Lit, as most essays contain attitudes completely at odds with what most 17 and 18 year olds get up to on an average weekend… 

But back to the Pleather! I’ll admit, exposure caused my attitude to soften. The leather look leggings of last year passed me by as a fashion opportunity. I was a bit dubious about thighs and non-stretch materials. But I was zooming by Warehouse in the Grand Arcade one lunchtime, and feeling a bit hot-to-shop, and there it was. I had to have it. But it still took me a few weeks to actually wear it, I think because I was worried it would be a bit warm. But also, you know, because pleather. What if other people shared my Chippendale experience prejudice? Isn’t it a bit try hard? What about not being taken seriously at work?

Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn. My pleather dress is fabulous; rock-chick in the meeting room chic (and I spend a lot of my time in meeting rooms). The pleather elevates the plain black shiftness of a potentially boring outfit to something with a touch of the daring rebel, and because I wisely bought the size up, my concerns about no-give in the plastic have proved to be unfounded, even though the dress has a fixed waistband.  

Finally, my seven year old was my fashion photographer tonight. It was she who styled me ready for my close up. And a very good job she did too.  

Friendship (and Cafe Britannia)

Weeks ago, I arranged to visit my friend who moved away last summer.  Sometimes being organised is a gift to your future self, as it can turn out that you’ve arranged good things for just when you need them most.  Yesterday I took a trip on the A11 to Norwich, which was enjoyable not just because I got to visit a city I’d never been to before (not being of these East Anglian parts, I’d not yet made it much past Thetford, Norfolk-wise), but also because I drove through the rain in Suffolk to a beautiful day, listening to music on my car stereo at a volume which is probably not sensible.  More pleasurable than all of that, of course, was that I got to see my friend.  At one point we did talk about eyelashes, but in the main we only spoke about the things that really matter and that’s why I love her – she’s just not superficial.  We joked about funerals, and cancer, and not being able to believe it when someone you love has died, and therapy and panic attacks.  You know, all the good stuff.  At points I had tears in my eyes, and so did she.  That’s a real conversation, and real friendship.  I also know that, in her own words, she won’t blow smoke up my arse, and she will tell it to me straight, and that’s friendship too.

We went to Cafe Britannia for brunch, which is a really lovely place and I was delighted that  she knew I’d love it for our girl-date.  In converted barracks, it’s got that shabby-chic Keep Calm and Carry On retro vibe, and is utterly unpretentious.  It’s staffed by low-risk prisoners, which is obviously A Good Thing, in both the cafe and the shop.  The menu was unfussy, but with plenty of choice, and the breakfast I ate was good and not too pricey.  Thirdly, the views over Norwich were spectacular.

 

Today I’m wearing… dungarees

OHMIGOD DUNGAREES!  The summer of 1997, I had a pair of denim short dungarees, probably from BHS, I seem to recall, and I *loved* them.  I remember wearing them with a white t shirt and 90s trainers, which probably had a Spice Girls style flatform heel… Flash forward twenty years later, and here I am, wearing dungarees.  Again.

About a year ago, I started hankering after a pair of dunagarees. The comfort! The practicality!  The kooky manic-pixie-dreamgirl-ness of them!  But I had a crisis of judgement, and having put out to Facebook’s hive mind, dungarees, yes or no? I got back a bit of a variety of responses which ranged from “if you are prepared for the extra steps when you go to the toilet, then go for it,” to “absolutely no way, not flattering, only for pregnancy and allotments,” and remained uncertain.

My confidence levels were a bit low at the time,  as I was still feeling a bit podge post Persie’s birth, so I didn’t pursue the dungaree option.  I was afeared that I’d look ridiculous.  Then I had my mid-life-crisis and did some pretty ridiculous stuff anyway, and suddenly voila! I am in possession of two pairs of dungarees.  One black, one blue, both denim.  And let me tell you, they are awesome!

Of course, I’m behind the fashion curve on this one. I know I am, because I bought both my pairs of dungarees from Boden, whereas M&S were selling them a year ago and are no more. At least the Boden buy means that, like the kidswear, they will wash well. And while I’m not at the zeitgeist, I did at least impress the twenty-something baby team member when I wore them on dress-down Friday last week.  So in my mind, that wins me maybe about five cool points.

Now I must admit, that I am a big fan of the ‘all in one’ option in any form, not really bothering with separates for working days instead favouring a dress/cardigan uniform which is really only a step up from my tunic/leggings/cardigan/pumps uniform of the mid-noughties.  I had mistakenly thought that the dungarees,  would fall into the all-in-one category.  However, whilst they do have the flattering proportions of an all in one, creating a longer line down the body, and the straight cut legs of my pair are obviously cooler than the now distinctly old fashioned skinnies that I generally wear, dungarees are not actually a non-faff option.

The issue is obviously *what to wear underneath*.  So far combination wise I’ve only managed to pull off breton variations and a glittery spot t-shirt.  But I’m thinking about a crisp blue striped shirt, the type that’s suddenly everywhere from New Look upwards for my next dress-down Friday. And I’m planning on experimenting with some spring-weight but chunkyish knitwear for the warmer days when we can get away without a jacket.  So far, so good.

The only thing so far that actually hasn’t worked, which should have done, is a plaid shirt.  Too Barbara in the Good Life, and definitely only for allotments.

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Everything in life is writable about

If there was one thing I didn’t want to do again, it was blog.  Been there, done that, I thought, remembering back to the livejournal days, the blogspot days, even the early days of twitter.  And I certainly didn’t want to be a pale imitation of all those mummy-bloggers out there, the Gin O’Clocks and SelfishMothers, or Peter and Jane.

But… for too long I’ve been pretending that writing isn’t the thing I’ve been missing; that finding an audience for the things I want to say doesn’t matter to me. I know that writing comes as naturally to me as breathing, and even that when I’m writing, I’m satisfied in a way that even the best things in my life (my daughters, my lovely home, a successful career, a wardrobe full of brightly coloured clothes) haven’t managed to entirely penetrate.  After a period of more than a little bit of emotional and practical turmoil, I realise, it’s up to me to be truthful with myself.  Time to really make myself happy. Time to commit to this writing thing.

My therapist (because somehow in the mess that was 2016, thanks to my amazing employers, very tolerant manager, and an excellent benefits scheme, I ended up seeing a psychotherapist) asked me, “Do you think that if you write more, you will live more?” Yes – yes I do.

So here we are, a place to write about life.  That’s not to say that I won’t be doing other writing, the plan is to definitely definitely write something more substantial.  But here is my space for all the bits that don’t fit in to the stories I’ll be writing.  Names will be changed to protect the innocent. My daughters I’ve granted the pseudonyms of Rosa and Persie, they are seven and two and a half, respectively.  Their dad will feature, too, I’m sure.  As for me, well, you probably know me already, if you’re reading this.  I hope you enjoy it.