Today I’m wearing… more shades of grey (and a cold shoulder jumper)

I was dubious about the cold shoulder trend, because, well, I’m a cynic. What’s the point of flashing a bit of upper arm, I’d think, when I’ve spent all my life trying to *hide* my upper arms… And would it make any difference to feeling too hot or too cold? I didn’t think so, and I wrote off cold-shoulders as ridiculous, another way to torment those who do don’t like to show flesh, and therefore not for me.

But then I had a a revelatory moment… and it was the cold shoulder jumper. I’ve never bought anything from Lipsy before, thinking it was for small, skinny types, but I saw this jumper and despite the holes in the upper arms, I had to have it. It’s pale pink, the kind of punky pop pale pink, that cries out for bubblegum lips and smudgy kohl eyeliner… and it’s long sleeved and high necked, so a tiny bit of upper arm reveal can’t possibly be gratuitous.

I wore it on Monday and got the seal of approval with my grey jeans and the ankle sliver above my metallic trainers. After a quick wash, I wore it today, with a flippy floral skirt in pink and grey.   I just love pink and grey together, vibrant shades make the pink pop, but silvery grey and pastel pink are a soothing combination.

The photos aren’t the best, they don’t do either outfit justice.  Or maybe actually it’s just not very flattering, the ribbing and frilling emphasising as it does, curves and bumps.  But I enjoyed wearing it for a change, as after all, that’s the whole point of my fashion posts – to challenge myself to wear things I love, but otherwise wouldn’t.  Pushing my boundaries! I particularly like the way the flip of the skirt and the frills of the jumper echo each other… just sayin’… And yes, I wore it with the smudgy eyes and bubblegum pink lips described in my shopping haul!

Rosa was very taken with my outfit, when I took my coat off this evening she said “Mummy your jumper and skirt are so pretty!” Meanwhile Persie kissed the soft part of my upper arm tonight as I carried her and said “I like this nice shoulder, Mummy,” and carried on smooching it for a bit.  Got to love toddlers.

The observant amongst you will note that I also matched this week’s manicure to the shades of grey theme. This is OPI “No More Mr Night Sky” a purplish grey with a shimmer… Love it!!

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Today I’m wearing… grown up dungarees

A couple of months ago, I bough a pinstriped jumpsuit in Tesco for £12.99, when they were having a sale. But I didn’t wear it, because I couldn’t work out what to wear it with, and how to make the cropped trousers palatable, and I thought it was navy (it’s not, it’s just not a very strong black) and then I wasn’t certain if I could get away with it – whatever that means. Then there was the fact that the girls’ dad said it looked “like Madonna circa 1990” – and I knew exactly what he meant, I can picture Madonna doing the running man in a pinstriped suit, flanked by backing dancers, wearing a headset… this jumpsuit definitely has that kind of vibe.

I digress! This morning, I could have gone safe, and I could have gone floral, I could even have gone for jersey, but instead I went bold, and I wore the jumpsuit! I went for a thin red knit underneath, and my already-ubiquitous red boots, which were a bit clashy, but in a sort of deliberate way. And you can sort of see on the picture, a sliver of calf was revealed, in a nonchalant, my-ankles-aren’t-cold-today-but-I’m-still-on-trend kind of way.

A tailored jumpsuit is not actually as easy as dungarees to get on and off, thanks to a side zip on the bodice as well as poppers on the shoulders, and that really was the “if you are prepared to take the extra steps when you go to the toilet” moment for me, when I regretted my second cup of coffee this morning. But I didn’t regret the ensemble overall, although admittedly it was a bit of a statement. I could tell that some people didn’t like it, and Cindy at the nail salon asked if I got told off today for “wearing casual clothes” which goes to show how different a look it was for me. Overall, though, I’m claiming a victory – a woman from a different business stream stopped me in the cafe to tell me how much she loved my outfit and I think she’s pretty awesome, so… outfit success!  I’m looking forward to wearing it with a white tee shirt and trainers on a dress down day next.

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Emptrix Nata Sum

I had to start with a little Latin joke for all my Classicist friends out there. Back in the day, Past Times sold a shopping bag which had this slogan on it, and it means “I am a born (female) shopper” literally, so… born to shop.

Shopping is not a pastime. I like to remind myself of that when I find myself just tootling out on to the high street, with time to kill, a song in my heart and my debit card in my wallet. Shopping is not a pastime, I remind myself when I browse idly on fashion websites instead of writing. Shopping is NOT a pastime, I tell Rosa when she begs begs begs to go to Bury, or to Westfield in Stratford, so that she can go shopping. Shopping is NOT a pastime, I convince no one when I make my regular pilgrimages to Ikea and Costco.

Oh, but who am I to blow against the wind? Because I am a really good shopper. For myself and for others. I love nothing more than a shopping mission, than to track down the perfect something to a brief, I love to research and can spend hours weighing up the pros and cons of one version of the same thing versus another. But I know my tendencies (thanks Gretchen) and I am a satisficer, not a maxmiser and I love abundance, not simplicity, so I am not actually that discriminating a shopper. And if I don’t have something in mind, but am just browsing, I will quite happily make rash impulse purchases. In fact, it turns out, I’m pretty much a rash, impulsive kind of person.

Loving shopping and cheap fashion might make me shallow and unethical, and I probably ought to worry about bigger things. But sometimes, you need to think about the things that don’t matter, because if you thought about the things that really matter all the time, you’d go mad. I love the book The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, as glossing over the fact it’s about a young woman with an addiction and a debt problem, it’s the on the funniest, whip-smartest books of its kind, and if it had been written by a man would be called satire. Anyway, in it, she just longs to be ‘the girl in the Denny and George scarf’, hoping that becoming that girl will mean she is transformed into the person she feels she really is. I totally get that. We all know that having that pair of boots, that top, that dress, that hat won’t fill the holes in our souls, nor will being the girl in the red boots/ with the kick ass lipstick make life’s decisions any easier, or get someone to love us when they’re emotionally unavailable, or make being a mum any less relentless and exhausting. It’s just a plaster on the wounds. But plasters stop the wound getting infected, while your clever body gets on with mending itself. So I guess that makes shopping Savlon for the soul. It doesn’t fix anything, but it helps briefly, while you work out how to fill the hole in your soul or mend your broken heart.

With that little spot of self-justification over, I have some exciting new purchases, bought in about half an hour on the high street, and it’s all very exciting.

Firstly, Maybelline Vivid Matt Lip Colour in Nude Flush. I read about this on The Pool and I am currently all about the matt lip, so I decided to give this a try. It’s not got the staying power of the Revlon equivalent matt lipcolour, but it’s relatively long lasting and I love the colour, a pleasing slightly bubblegum tinged springy pink, that looks good with grey eyeliner.

Secondly, Rimmel Insta-fix 2-in-1 primer and finishing spray. I picked up one of these at the supermarket on Saturday and have been so impressed with the results so far that I bought a second for my handbag for work, where the air conditioning wrecks my skin, and seems to evaporate my make up regardless of what base I wear, cheap, expensive, light, heavy, liquid, powder, liquid-to-powder, cream, fluid… you name it, the work air conditioning evaporates it off. So I have high hopes that this can stop that happening, as you can use it under your make up, to fix your make up into place after applying, and during the day to refresh it, so I’m hopeful this is going to solve that problem. There are more expensive versions of this kind of thing out there, but I like cheap and cheerful and being able to buy two guilt free.

Thirdly, I’m a bit obsessed with pink and grey this week. I can’t wait to wear these cheapo New Look tops with my grey jeans. Remember I was fretting about not having a pale cardigan to wear with the yellow cold shoulder top? Well, this crochet backed long-length number will be perfect, and it’s got a slightly boho look that I really enjoy. Alongside it, I couldn’t resist the printed tee-shirt, which says Rosa Fortuna and a picture of a playing card – two of my favourite things, roses and cards…

Finally, the sun came out and my ancient M&S sunglasses had seen better days. I don’t buy expensive sunglasses, because I have children, and also I like to wear them in my hair a lot, but I am thinking of getting a prescription pair for driving and also, seeing… but in the meanwhile, these two pairs at Boots from their own range are cheap enough not to worry if you lose them, but not as cheap as New Look where all the glasses sat wonky on my wonky nose and ears. The Ray Ban style pair have floral patterns on the arms, and the cats eyes are suitably oversized for pretending you’re a 50’s film star going incognito. Oh, that’s just me?

This weekend I wore… several shades of grey and the ankle sliver

MOTHER’S DAY! Rosa and Persie excelled themselves with the help of nursery/school and their dad. Persie in particular has been very excited about this day, because she was making a 3D card which was the receptacle of two chocolates, which she and Rosa ate themselves. On Sunday morning, Persie had a moment of impressive realisation and shouted at me “IS SUNDAY! HAPPY MUVVERS’ DAY!” with true joy. My Waitrose-purchased and school created haul included a card with “I love you Mummy” written in Mandarin (oh yes!), a new Mummy mug and the biggest box of Ferrero Rocher you’ve ever seen. Cue many jokes about the ambassador’s reception etc etc…

And we went to the Suffolk coast! Aldeburgh is one of my favourite places and has been since I was quite young. There is a tiny house along the sea front that used to be painted pink, and I wanted to live in it and write books.  That’s pretty much my ambition still… Anyway, we didn’t have the famous fish and chips, because the queues for both chip shops stretched down the road (seriously!) but we did visit both the Joules shops, Fat Face (OH! So many cardigans of desire!), and had shabby chic tea and cake in a tea room. We also spent a happy forty minutes dropping serious money in Aldeburgh bookshop, where I made the most satisfying purchase of a box of 20 Poems, printed on thick buff card, by The School of Life. When we opened the box to take a look the first poem was so perfect, so apt, I simply had to buy them. The poems in the image are not that poem, which definitely deserves a post all of its own in the future. I can’t wait to find ways to display the cards and to using them for inspiration.

Poems

Finally, we went for a walk along the beach collecting pebbles. The pebble bag weighed more than Persie by the time we went back to the car.  I was delighted that I found a Hag Stone,  a naturally occurring stone with a hole.  I brought it home in my coat pocket, and put on on my windowsill, and seeing it makes me happy.

Clothes wise, I had made a recent purchase of grey jeans, and some paisley patterned springy trainers by Rocket Dog, which I got via Groupon, both items I was very excited to try out. Despite my reservations about the fact that it’s a good few degrees cooler out on the coast, I went for the bare-ankle look. My ankles were cold, I admit, but only because of the wind on the seaside, they would have been fine in town, and indeed today in the sunshine they were not cold in the slightest. No picture of the whole outfit, I teamed the grey jeans with the now-famous and faithful yellow jumper, a great colour combination, and there’s yellow in them paisley trainers, so they tied together brilliantly, and we know that yellow does indeed make me very happy.

The ankle sliver is even more of a thing this spring than it was last year, I’m finding. I was not alone in suffering for fashion in Aldeburgh on Sunday, there were many blue-grey ankles on show, freshly shaved, some with loafers, some with pumps, and some with trainers. Since the cropped trouser and the stepped hem are the new thing this Spring, I think I’ll just have to harden myself up a bit until the weather fits the fashion.

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This week I’m wearing… florals and spring boots

Autumn, traditionally, is the season of new boots, isn’t it?  Shops full of conker-shiny, Hallowe’en black footwear, ready for the onslaught of the rain, wind and cold.  

Yep, but something very exciting has happened to me this Spring… and it’s the SPRING BOOT.

Over the knee, pale and a bit slouchy, but smart enough for work.  Block heeled, bright and ankle length, and very very eye catching.  I have two new pairs of boots and I can’t wait to show them off.  Well, I already have, but just haven’t had time to blog about it!   Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been entirely dry, so it was lucky I had treated my new boots to lashings of suede protector spray, so much in fact, that I need to buy some more.

I’d been hankering for a pair of over-the-knee boots since reading Jess Cartner-Morley in the Guardian on them and feeling that I was ready to embrace them.  Like the pleather conundrum, I was concerned about the tart-factor, but you’ll see that I turned to my preppy, 40s landgirl inspired outfit from the previous week, jumper-over-tea-dress, to ensure that there was no inappropriateness, just not-cold-legs on a sunny spring day.  The trick to keeping these work-ok is to make sure that your skirt goes *over* the top of the boots.  However, I am quite looking forward to experimenting with making them non-work appropriate, and have been merrily Pinteresting “how to style over-the-knee boots” so no doubt there will be an update!  The floral dress wasn’t too cold on Monday, when combined with the boots and a mild day.  I sense it’s going to be a 2017 stalwart.


The second outfit this week, was styled twice, once with nude tights and once with navy. The nude tights made the outfit exceptionally attention grabbing, I know this because in the end my colleague consoled me with “if you’re going to get your legs out, you’re just going to have to get used to the comments”. So here’s a picture of the slightly less startling styled with dark legs, navy floral shirt dress, with military gold brassy buttons, and orangey red block heeled boots. There’s a reason all of these tone together – they’re all from the Next directory! All the sane, a triumph, I think you’ll agree. Like the other boots, I’m looking forward to styling these in different ways through spring, and hoping that in time these boots plus bare legs won’t be quite so controversial. Maybe in May…

This week I wore… all yellow

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

So then I took my turn
Oh what a thing to have done
And it was all yellow

Coldplay

Don’t scoff at the Coldplay reference, that song has been in my head all week! On Monday morning, I was feeling pretty uninspired. After the triumph of the statement lip last weekend, the dungaree goodness, how could I top that excitement when I had to dress for work? As a result, I didn’t really try, I went for a grey Boden jersey dress and yellow cardigan. Boring, unthoughtful dressing. I did the statement lip to cheer myself up and… POP! Suddenly that yellow cardigan was looking awesome.

I love yellow. Apologies to Caitlin Moran, but yellow is a neutral. My feeling is that it works on the principal that because yellow doesn’t go with anything, it goes with everything. It is my favourite colour, I love it because of sunshine, happiness, daffodils, sandy beaches, sunflowers, autumn leaves, and champagne. It’s vivid mustard, warm and golden, or pale lemon, creamy, zesty… When I imagine death, I imagine yellow.

So I set myself a challenge – I shall wear yellow all week! I thought, and then immediately felt the pressure of the restriction. Luckily, I actually own quite a lot of yellow clothing, but I found in the end that the issue wasn’t wearing yellow per se, but styling it without black as the second colour. 


Day 1 – jersey dress and yellow cardigan. Boden, both items, so the palette toned, and the grey and yellow are a fresher combination than yellow and black.
Day 2 – pleather skirt with yellow chunky jumper *tucked in*! Very exciting, until I realised it was a big work exhibition that morning and I had to keep my mac on inside as my skirt was really really short and there were lots of important people there.
Day 3 – Roadtrip day, so comfort. Jacquard shift dress in yellow, layered over black thermal top as I set off at 6:30am and arrived home late – didn’t want to be cold. I don’t normally wear midi-dresses, so this required a higher heel than usual (not shown) – platform shoe boots. 
Day 4 – cheating, really, a spring floral dress (M&S several years ago) with significant amounts of yellow in the floral, with a beige jumper layered over the top, and brogues for a change from my ankle boots. I love this outfit, loving the jumper-over-dress preppiness of it, but it was the least yellow of the days. Oh, and I was absolutely bloody freezing – not warm enough yet for a thin cotton dress!
Day 5 – Dress down Friday! Yellow cold shoulder top (New Look), over khaki jeans, showing ‘the sliver’ at the ankle (brrr!) and a black shawl cardigan over the top. I wished I’d had a pale cardigan with a shape that worked, to make the outfit a little less black, but my boots were black which sort of pulled it together.

And then at the weekend, trusty dungas and that yellow jumper again, AKA “the sexy minion” look.

I have actually gone into my storage bags to retrieve some more yellow clothes from my spring/summer wardrobe, although it is definitely too cold to be thinking truly spring-like clothing. thoughts. I could have done another week of yellow, but I’m thinking next week to go for a different challenge… maybe florals, which is also not too much of a stretch with my wardrobe. Probably the challenge should actually be “no black”- maybe that’s for another time when I’m feeling especially creative. 

Full Moon on Cambridge Station

Two disappointed believers
Two people playing the game
Negotiations and love songs
Are often mistaken for one and the same

Train in the Distance, Paul Simon

I met a friend after work one evening this week, and got a late train home. I found myself waiting on the platform, for a little while, because there’s only one train an hour. I had long enough to wait that I was able to get a seat, and the evening was mild. I had my phone, so I had music and reading material. The Norwich train was sitting at the opposite platform and when it departed the cacophony in the relative quiet of the evening was intrusive, unbearable. The train screeched away, the noise fading, and I found myself thinking, probably with some irony,
“Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, everybody thinks it’s true.”

Like magic, I pulled the song down out of the cloud. I’ve not listened to it properly for years, it’s not on Graceland or the compilation we kept in the car. I’d forgotten the story of the lyrics, and I’d forgotten the bridge, which I’ve copied above.

I watched trains come in and out on the far platforms. The London train arrived, streams of people flowing out. I saw someone I used to work with but didn’t know very well, from afar, and I wondered how he is, whether his new job makes him happy. I considered the people with the shopping bags, the parents and older children together, the commuters, the people in groups, the ones alone. As I grew tired of people watching, my attention was caught by the moon, glowing behind a misty veil. Hanging low, pregnantly round, fat and yellow against the industrial silhouettes cast by the train station furniture and the blocks of flats and houses. She was beautiful and mysterious, holding on to her secrets, casting rings of light around her in the damp air.

The song played and finished.  I listened to some more Paul Simon.  He is my favourite songwriter, ever, it feels like his songs are ‘woven indelibly into my heart and my brain’, to quote the end of the song. I boarded my train, the artificial light within the carriage hard on my eyes. The guard smiled at me when he checked my ticket, because I was looking especially pretty that evening, with red nails and my bright blue coat. I read a book on my phone but it was no sufficient distraction.

The lines kept on going round in my head, like tickertape on a loop.  Walking home, I glanced up again, the moon was half hidden behind clouds, but my heart was full and glowing with my own secrets and mysteries.  Thinking about my failed negotiations, the love songs I’ll never sing.  And thinking most of all about my own disappointed believer, the game we played, and the sadness that it had no winners but at least two losers.

This weekend I rocked… the statement lip. 

I don’t own these pyjamas, but anyone with kids recognises the sentiment!

Saturday morning I awoke to Persie sweetly whispering in my ear “I luff you mummy too”. Adorable. And we were up in plenty of time to get ready in a leisurely fashion and have breakfast and not be late for Rosa’s 8am swimming lesson.  So why then did I end up running out of the door, late for the swimming lesson with unwashed hair in a ponytail? Good question and definitely one of my truths of adulthood: the more time you think you have the later you will be! 

But it’s ok because I threw on jeans, a khaki coloured tee and my 90s throwback camo shirt/jacket, and I topped it off with true red lipstick, applied poolside (like my whole face of make up that morning). Pretty cool, I think you’ll agree. Real red lipstick, not a gloss, not a sheer balm, but gets everywhere red. Reapply frequently red. It’s a commitment. But it was worth it! Practical weekend clothes transformed into a look, simply by colouring my lips in! The transformative power of make up, etc. Plus the feminist reclaiming red lipstick thing. Girls dress and make up to please themselves and other girls, and my girl Rosa was in raptures. Mum glam, I was rocking it. 

Buoyed up by the success of the red, the following day I struggled to top the camo so went for monochrome – black dungas, striped Breton. Lip wise, I decided to go a bit Leonard Cohen (you want it darker) with a rouge noir/black cherries colour, another 90s tribute! Not quite as cheering as red, and definitely a throwback to the Rimmel black cherries and inside-the-eyes-liner, but it pleased me. 

Living in a small town

I thought I grew up in a small town. It had two main roads, lots of parades of shops, a big green which hosted cricket and the May Day fete with real Morris dancing, and lots of pubs, which in the late 90s you could visit and drink and vodka and coke and eat crisps, and be quite safe, and no one worried that you were 16 not 18. There wasn’t a train station, the buses were terrible, you were reliant on lifts from parents and getting your driving licence asap. The nearest town had a three screen cinema, and a couple of dodgy night clubs mainly populated by squaddies from the military school nearby. There were two supermarkets, including a Waitrose, two petrol stations, an Anglican Church and a Catholic church. We were half an hour away from Reading in one direction, Guildford in the other, next to the motorway to London and a short drive to a fast train to Waterloo. Classic home counties suburbia. I didn’t know how lucky I was, to live in a four bedroom house in a cul de sac, and to go to an Ofsted outstanding secondary school, or to be able to get a job easily in a shop on a Saturday when I was sixteen, or the relative safety of that underage drinking in the days before mobile phones, social media, etc. Three members of my family had their ashes interred in the cemetery in the town where I grew up, but none of us live there anymore. I visit sometimes.

Fast forward twenty years, and I now live in a small town. But it’s totally different. Not suburban, a market town, really, but unique, because of the industry here, and its history. There’s a drug problem, an inequality problem, a desperate need for more housing, a single train track to the nearest two big towns which needs to be expanded, the closest motorway is a good half an hour away. There’s still nothing for teenagers, no cinema, no late night coffee shop, and frankly all the chain restaurants and a nightclub don’t make up for the fact there isn’t a decent bookshop, but there are many bookies… There’s a Waitrose, a Tesco, a green where the work riders play cricket, and a brand new museum. It’s a unique place to live, there’s something special about hearing the scrape of horses hooves on the tarmac, or the music drifting on the breeze from the racecourse on a still summer night.

Like any place, there are people who are born, live and die in the town where I grew up, and in the town where I live, and there’s something in that that comforts me. Lots of people I grew up with don’t live far from the town I no longer call home, and I understand that, completely. Quality of life, proximity of family, jobs, security…

I remember meeting a school friend who lives locally, and she asked “aren’t you pleased you moved away?” and yes I am. Even though it’s taken years to put down roots, to find friends, to have any sense of belonging. Until very recently, all my friends were people who were also from elsewhere. I felt like an outsider. I thought I was anonymous, and unknown. But it emerged that wasn’t the case. My children came home from the hospital to this town. They go to school in this town. I planted us here. All we have to do is flourish. It’s not a hard thing to do.

My Eyelashes!

The girls at The Kimono are eyelash extension aficionados. I was always fascinated by their flirty, fluttery long lashes, but hadn’t realised that they weren’t natural. Then I was there when each of them made the effort to get a taxi across Cambridge to Salon at No. 5, the lash and brow bar, which also has a second branch where I live, and I knew then that both the lashes and the salon must be something special.

I resisted the lure of the lashes for a long time, but then one day there was a Groupon offer for a full set of eyelash extensions at Salon at No. 5. I can not resist a good Groupon! I snapped it up, booked myself in and (after a patch test) excitedly succumbed to having four fake eyelashes glued to each of my individual eyelashes in the spirit of flirty, flutteriness.

In a strange twist of fate, the day after my appointment, I ended up having a very serious job interview, but didn’t want to cancel the lashes as it had been a bit of a nightmare to book in due to my schedule and the salon’s. So I did actually end up being interviewed for my big important job role with slightly burlesque looking. I don’t know if any of the interviewers noticed or if the associated slow blinking (the lashes are a bit heavy) helped or hindered!

The extended lash look was indeed full and lush, but a bit too full on for me, for everyday. Plus there’s the fact that you have to be careful with the eye make up you wear. I like creamy eyeshadow, smudgy kohl pencils, and these are not your eyelash extensions’ friends – nothing with oil in is. You can’t wear mascara on top of them, for example – you have to really commit to just the extensions. So after an aborted infill session for the extensions, and a full and frank discussion about my love of eyeliner, Bella, the lash technician, recommended that instead I try an LVL Lash Lift instead. Pretty much, it’s a lash tint and perm.

After another patch test, I rocked up at the salon last Saturday and after removing all my eye make up with a baby wipe (effective but stingy!) the treatment took about an hour, and was actually very very relaxing, as you might imagine lying back with your eyes closed for nearly an hour might be! Like any kind of perm, you can’t get it wet for 24 hrs afterwards, and there was a touch of rain as I left the salon, but as recommended, I wore protective eyewear in the shower the following day, and I think that the effect is lasting very well.

I already have dark eyelashes, so I’m looking to enhance my lashes prior to mascara, rather than to be able to skip mascara altogether, which might be the aim if you are very fair lashed and don’t wear much make up. My next eyelash adventure is going to be with a very exciting product… but more of that another time.

Here is my before and after picture! Thanks to Bella for the photography!

 

eyelashes