The Alps are so beautiful, I wish the boy was here. We have never had the chance to ski together but I know he would love it as much as I do. Today was a bit of a trial. It is horrible falling out with one’s family especially in a far away land where there is no room for escape.
My sister and I skied together today, for whatever reason we have always been a lot quicker to fall in than we are to fall out. My sister is a gem who is extremely forgiving and tolerant, I think it has something to do with being good at yoga. I was so glad she gave the piste another go as she has come on so much over the holiday and I didn’t want her to miss out on the last day to play at being nurse. We never got to ski together when we were children because she had gone off the sport by the time I was old enough to come along. The giants method of teaching is very much the die trying variety which my eldest sister did not take well to.
A couple of years ago however she decided to give it another chance and now she has her confidence back there will be no stopping her. I took her down a red run after I had checked it out to make sure it was suitable and she handled it better than me. I was half asleep after last nights drama and I fell over at least three times on the way down; at one stage my sister had to try and prevent collisions on the roadway as I was giggling too much to get up and had fallen foolishly on the corner of a particularly speedy hairpin bend.
I wish we could have just a little longer out here. It is so peaceful; every morning when I draw back the curtains the view is so fabulous I am convinced I am staring out at a giant scenic picture postcard.
- Today’s dress is from TK Maxx. It probably could have done with some kind of petticoat under it but thanks to difficult-jet’s luggage allowance I am rather short on accessories. The boots are Kurt Geiger and the tights are from Peacocks and though they were a bargain at only a pound they have unfortunately already fallen to bits but at least this means I hav one less thing I need to pack come tomorrow.
Though the giant and I have a terse relationship when we are skiing we somehow manage to put our differences aside and enjoy each others company. When I was nine-years-old my father decided it was time to take me along on the O’Neill family annual skiing holiday. My mother has never been a big fan of the sport so she tended to stay at home with whichever tot was too young to come along. Although I was a daddy’s girl when I was younger by the time my first skiing trip came round my feet were planted firmly at my mother’s side and the idea of leaving her to go away with the giant seemed to me like an act of treason. In the end our darling Catherine managed to convince me that skiing was “really good fun” and I conceded to join her and the giant in a trip to Austria. I must admit I did not immediately take to the activity, it was freezing cold and no matter how many times I sucked on my gloves my fingers felt like icicles. By the end of the holiday however I was hooked; I loved the way the wind whipped through my hair as I hurtled down the slopes, I loved how fast me and my sister could fly down the flat runs, pausing only to size up the best path for show jumps and I loved how well we all got along without the pressures of two other siblings, housework and homework. My sister, my father and I would get up and out by half seven and stay out on the slopes till the last lift of the day. The flights back then used to cost a fortune so we would save our money by bringing Mars bars from home and the occasional slab of Milka to keep our energy levels up throughout the day. My father would share it out between us on the chair lift and we would chomp it down before embarking upon another run.
The best holidays were always those where we split into ski school groups during the morning then met up at lunchtime to swap stories. I do not know why it is we get along OK when we are skiing, perhaps like our shared love of football, having an activity which we both enjoy means we have something in common other than blood. Whatever it is we always seem to have a good time up on the mountains and we have spent whole afternoons together tearing down The Alps, racing and seeking out new challenges, chasing the sun and attempting to escape the cloud and the mist.
I feel privileged that I have been able to go skiing from a young age, although me and my sister were taken out of school I do not think we missed out on any where near as much as we gained from going. Some of my favourite and most traumatic childhood memories are from these holidays, such as all the times my sister and I used our sunglasses to check out hot men on the slopes or the time my father fell over the side of a cliff and we had to beg passing skiers to stop and help us drag him up. For some time my father and I were at a level with our ability but sadly he has now overtaken me and it makes me a little sad that we no longer ski in union. We had a race today and for the first time in years he beat me leaving me with a burning desire to get my fitness back on track as soon as we get back to the UK to make sure this travesty never happens again, I mean for goodness sake he’s practically retired!
- My sister kindly took the photos for today and we tried to get a backdrop of The Alps but the railway crossing got in the way a little as well as some rude drivers who seemed to think they had the rights over the road . Today was supposed to be Little Black Dress Friday as started by The Uniform Project a couple of weeks ago to promote creativity and sustainability. Unfortunately it has been postponed till next week but as dress supplies out here are as scarce as the snow in the valley I decided to wear my long black dinner dance dress regardless. My mother bought it for my dinner dance when I was 16 and since then I have worn it on only five other occasions; four of these were to dinners and evening dos with different boyfriends, the last was for a visit to the opera in Verona with my father, my brother and my mother. I love it to bits and even though I look rather different in it now to when I was a slender sixteen-year-old, I still think it is one of the most beautiful dresses I own.
When I opened my wardrobe this morning it was to find some frightfully slim pickings of dresses. I am by the last day of January largely down to a collection of frocks more suitable for ball gowns or beaches. As I had booked a table for myself, the boy and some friends at Cafe Bruxelles in Leicester I had to choose an outfit which I wouldn’t feel too ridiculous in once my coat and my self were parted.
Cafe Bruxelles is one of my favourite places in Leicester City Centre. Lately the city has undergone a terrifying transformation in the form of regeneration and unfortunately, as is usually the case with city centre regeneration, the result is more traditional areas are fast becoming abandoned by most shoppers and shops who have moved to the swankier area where there is less grime and graffiti but also a little less character. There is a host of chain stores and depressingly all too familiar mid-range food chains all offering overpriced dishes which taste pretty much the same whatever you order from the menu.
Amidst these culinary crapes are two fantastic places to eat, Cafe Bruxelles and Cafe Italiano; I shall save going into too much detail about Italiano till another day as the man who runs it is a legend and should I visit there this year he will command an entire post just by his greeting; there is however two very defining characteristics of both places which chains will always lack, a clear sign of who it is who is in charge of the place. When you walk into a restaurant and know immediately who it is who owns the place you know you are in for a treat. In both of these places the owner offers at least a friendly smile when you enter and it is their everyday involvement in the running of the place and the personal pride they invest which ensures you never walk away feeling duped of hard-earned cash. It is a place you take pleasure in paying because you know every pound is well deserved.
I first went to Bruxelles with my God-Mother or Fairy-God-Mother when I was fifteen. I know her as my fairy-god-mother because she used to be able to treat all maladies with the touch of her magical wooden spoon when I was a child. My mother also used to have a magic wooden spoon but this was used to ensure good behaviour; the threat of a beating by the spoon was enough to guarantee goodness and I once came very close to experiencing its wrath when I was nine and swore in front of my mother; I had never known she was a runner but she chased me round the garden path, spoon in hand, for what felt like hours but was probably only mere minutes. Anyway my fairy god mother took me there after a shopping trip to find an outfit for a family wedding. It was only a few days since my sister had died and unfortunately the wooden spoon had failed with its magic so Bruxelles was a treat to try and take my mind off our family tragedy. I still don’t think any of us believe we got on a plane a week after my sister died to attend the wedding in Ireland but people do strange things when they are grieving and even though it was a surreal and difficult experience, we would have felt worse if we had not gone.
Bruxelles was at the time everything it still is today. It was formerly a bank and has a carved out ceiling with intricate paintings all around which look as though they have been finely etched with gold. The bar is long and its fridges filled with unusual beers; we brought six and shared them between four of us, each having a little taste which sounds sensible but becomes a little silly when one glances at some of the labels afterwards only to find some are as strong as 12%. Generally when one goes to Bruxelles, one gets mussels which come with thick white freshly baked bread and frites. It is such a luxury and at £8.99 is enough for two to share as a starter or a light lunch during the day.
That day when I came with my god-mother I was allowed a very small glass of wine and a hot chocolate and though I remember feeling distraught the warmth of the place did help to wake me from the trance I had started to fall into. What is most difficult when someone close to you dies is that afterwards for a long time you feel angry at yourself when you experience joy. Happiness seems somehow inappropriate considering the enormity of what you have lost; it is of course a sign that whether you want it to or not life will go on and if you keep resisting the urge to live you will get left and the despair will eventually consume you completely.
When I chose this dress today I could not help but think of my sisters favourite dress which was a red silk Chinese dress, the one which we eventually had to bury her in as was her wish. In Irish families unlike English ones you lay the body out in the house prior to the funeral it is a tradition which is difficult for those who live in the house as you can find yourself going a little crazy hoping the person might still be able to hear you but in many ways it removes the idea of death as something which is scary and should not be talked of. Later after my sister died my parents brought me a black silk dress for my 17th birthday. It is and was beautiful and when I wear it is mas much a homage to the loss of my sister as it is to the joy she brought us. Today at Bruxelles, surrounded by friends, few of whom had known her I couldn’t help but feel sad and full of sentiment and although I meant for this posting to be about the joys of Sunday dinner at Bruxelles, which by the way was lovely, in my melancholic state thinking as I was of my darling sister it seemed a bit too trivial to post only on luncheon.
Many years ago, long before Primark came to the shores of our fair cities there was a place far far away in a land called Ireland where the legend of Primark was born. To this day it is known to its followers only as Penneys and it is from the loins of this retail giant from which Primark sprang forth; it took its inspiration from overseas as it came to mainland Britain and the other three (Britain sounds more in keeping with fairytale theme) to help us all “look good, spend less.”
When it first came about I remember being slightly horrified by the quality of the material I came across within. Though I had visited Penneys and its competitor Dunnes store many a time I had never noticed the clothing to be particularly poor of quality, but then again neither was it at that time as cheap as it is today. In Penneys, you mainly went to buy jumpers, fleeces and T-shirts, occasionally of course you would pick up an unusually fashionable item but at the time for a young girl to shop in Penneys (even in Ireland away from her peers) was the equivalent of being seen in Marks and Spencer with your mother. Times have changed, Marks and Spencer has been turned around into a fashion forward shop which caters for the younger generation as much as one’s Grandma, and the food, my god the food. The adverts are nearly as akin to pornography as Nigella sneaking downstairs to lick chocolate, goose fat enriched, pastries from the fridge. Anyway, getting back to Primark, or Pradamark as I nicknamed it a few years ago.
The first time I went was about 2004 when I bought a pair of flippy flops. The one I visited was in Sheffield; I was dating an American Football player at De Montfort then who was one of the sweetest guys I have ever known; and though I had a little look around apart from all the colours I found it quite dowdy and a bit too well-lit for my liking. I was more impressed with them when I returned the flip-flops a week later after using them on a camping/ walking trip. In spite of the fact that I was being a bit of a chancer £9 was still £9 and as I had little money for nasty wine and Baa Baa shots when they tore and the sole started to come up I felt I had no choice but to return them. The woman at the counter was very understanding and though I may have not mentioned the camping usage of the shoes, she was very sympathetic and returned my money straight away. The experience taught me two lessons, Primark may charge little but they know how to treat their customers once they buy something if not before; and when going on a camping weekend in the Peaks do not bring heels and a yoga mat rather than walking boots and a tent. I had envisioned singing round a campfire to cumbyea, big pub lunches and a little light exercise, my fellow friends from Canterbury Court, where I was social sec. at the time were geared up for hardcore mountaineering. Me and my fellow city lover Kevin were wearing designer jeans and unsuitable footwear, and though we were terrified at the sheer amount of sheep doo doo, we managed to climb Jacobs Ladder by ourselves. Well I did have to give my rucksack to my stronger friend but climb it so we did!
Years later as Primark’s popularity began to grow, I started to go there on the odd occasion to pick up various basics and watched with amazement at the purchases some of my friends had bought which really did look very high fashion. I would only usually buy basics, like vest tops and jumpers. I once got two cashmere polo-necks which are still in fantastic condition and are the backbone of my wardrobe. One black, one gray. I previously bought them from Coast but found they fell apart too quickly. I think my casual love affair with them started to end however after I started working. Although I had never really got into buying masses of things from there, I did go in to buy a spring coat. I have a gorgeous traditional Burberry trench which I will take to the grave, but I fancied something a bit more fun and light. I got a pale green thin cotton jacket with puffy sleeves and brown buttons. It came to a few inches above the knee and when you spun round quickly the skirt would tail with you leaving you feel like you were a little dancer. A few months after I bought it however I started to see it everywhere and on everyone. I would get on a flight and have to move to the back of the que because someone else would have it. It was not snobbery on my behalf just plain crossness at someone else wearing the same thing as me. There is a wonderful episode of Scrubs when Dr Cox tells Jordan that he does not need to know if she punches someone in the park because they have the same handbag as her and I am sure that whilst most women have never done this many can identify with the annoyance which comes of seeing someone in the same dress, coat or shoes as you.
This then is my primary problem with Primark; other than of course my ethical issues, but I do not know enough about the general issue to comment with any clout and these ethical issues apply to the majority of high street and even some designer stores so it may be a bit too tough to judge them at the same standard as companies who then go on to charge extortionate amounts for their clothing; the problem is that it is thoroughly ordinary. If you walk through Manchester city centre you can not look left or right without seeing tens of people carrying Primark bags. When me and my friends went it was somewhere we would scoot through as quickly as possible occasionally playing student, chav, chancer - a game where you tried to guess which group people fell into. These days the place is packed out and rather than buying a few choice items and then combining them with some quality pieces from other stores or as I have suggested in the past designer items or unusual finds from eBay, markets and charity stores they buy huge amounts of clothing and wear it all at once. Primark is an excellent resource for people on a budget and they do come up with some great items, the problem one has is making sure one chooses carefully from the piles of clothing within. Not going instantly for the fashion piece but for items like their cashmere, organic socks, shoes which are well designed and not likely to leave you with blisters. It is a pain but it is necessary to try things on. You may tell yourself you have not got time and you will return it if its not right but it will probably end up at the back of your wardrobe with the tags still on, and no item of clothing should be treated so shabbily. MAny of their clothes are unusual in the sizing and just because an 8 fits you one week doesn’t mean you wont be better in a 12 in another item the following month. The dress I am wearing today is from eBay but originally from primark, the ebayer in question cleverly negated to put the make but as I paid only a £1 for it plus p and p I can hardly complain. With regards to sizing it fits well but as I have a larger than normal cleavage I have to team it with a crop top to hide my bra especially as we went to dinner at the Yews.
After having a bath yesterday, a face mask, some sleep and putting on this dress I started to feel better and the darkness started to lift. Thank you all once again for reading and I do hope you will be as happy to read the more serious postings on this feature as well as the frivolous ones but if you comment I will know what it is you favour.
I also must take this opportunity to ask for some support. Although I am going to meet with a lady tomorrow about getting in some dresses for the project I am quickly running out and only have enough I think for another two weeks. I am sure you will all agree that 365 dresses is much more impressive than 36 so if you are able to send any dresses you are finished with or know of any shops who may be willing to help out do please let me know. If it is something you are sending yourself you could choose the charity which the sale of the dress goes to.
As a child I used to love travelling by plane. Me and my sister used to marvel at the air hostesses, giggling about the amount of make up they wore but being secretly impressed by their constant smile and cheery nature. There was something so brilliant about getting on a plane, and with our father carrying our boarding passes and often carrying us to the car there was no stress in travelling at all. As I got older and started to travel by myself I always had an idea in my mind of travelling by plane as being a very glamorous kind of adventure. In magazines I read at the time, celebrities would lend their tips on how to emerge after a long flight feeling refreshed. I dutifully carried white T-shirts in my bag to change into prior to touch down to give off the appearance of cleanliness, drank nothing but water on the plane and even invested in Evian spray for my face; it seemed very luxurious but I was dissapointed when I checked the label and found its only magical ingredient was H20.
I still feel the magic of flying and always try to make an effort to look presentable when I leave the country and arrive in another. There is obviously some ingrained memory of teachers on school trips reminding me and my schoolmates that we were representatives of our school and should look and behave as such. It is this perhaps which inspires me to try and look my best when landing. Usually I like to wear pretty but neutral coloured heels, a tan mid length skirt and a black cashmere polo neck or long fitted cardigan with a black or white t-shirt underneath for when it gets hot in the cabin. I like to carry a leather bag big enough to fit in a book, a pair of soft socks, some make up and any duty-free purchases.
The problem with flying with a budget airline is that although it gives you the opportunity to fly more often and spend more on your holiday when you get there; freeing you from spending hundreds ona part of your holiday which takes you only several hours on average; it does rather remove the romance of flying which I so loved as a child and teenager. When confronted with miniscule baggage allowance you have little choice; other than to check your bag into the hold of course which is plain madness by anyone who has watched baggage handlers at work; but to bring little and wear much. You spend much of your time at the terminal feeling semi naked in spite of wearing as much weight as possible due to being handbagless. You must also show your toiletries to strangers on demand. I have a gorgeous red patent YSL toiletries case which now lies at the bottom of my wardrobe gathering dust. If it had feelings I imagine it would use them to resent the plastic sandwich bag which has replaced it.
Prior to budget airlines I remember rejoicing at the arrival of the meal with its warm rolls, miniature chocolates and choice of tea or coffee to end. We looked forward to the time after take off where the drinks trolley came round to gibe my parents a tiny bottle of Gordon and a mini can of tonic whilst we had nuts and a can of coke served with ice and a napkin. Although the cost of these little pleasures was of course incorporated into your ticket they still felt special and part of the experience of going abroad. When traveling by budget airline, your drink is usually delivered in plastic sachet which at least have the effect of ensuring you chase down several to banish the depressing realisation that your alcohol is coming from the same place as a condiment. Although much can be said for the cheapness, reliability and availability of budget airlines there is no question that whilst standing at security, removing one’s boots, laden with layers of warm clothing whilst simultaneously attempting to work out how best to use the pockets of a coat which you never noticed were even there, the last thing to come to mind is that you are traveling in style.
Virgin Atlantic seem to have style at the forefront of their commercial conscience when they designed their current advertising campaign. The smartly dressed women, the styled hair and make up all scream luxury to the other passengers lazing sluggishly about the terminal. They do not scream cheap tickets for certain but they do all look like they are about to board a flight which will be a lot of fun and if I could find the designer who made their uniforms I would plead for them to make me a dress.
And so we come at last to the dress I wore to travel in and give me a boost on board. I went with a tartan silk dress from Marks and Spencer for the last day of our holiday which is fitted but not clingy and rarely creases. Tartan is a difficult trend to wear without looking like an aged schoolgirl or St Trinnian’s trollop but I think whoever designed this particular style hit the right balance with this dress. Although it is ever so slightly lower cut than I would usually wear with such a short skirt, the frills and dark pattern prevent it looking too garish. I apologise for the styling, I had to have a nap after the trauma of this mornings flight and was rather dishevelled by the time I woke up having had to abandon my Evian spray and moisturizer due to it being a threat to the over 100ml legislation.
Tartan has made its way on to the runway for Spring/ Summer with Louis Vuitton combining thick tartan material into one dress, with pink silk and leather worked in to the body to prevent the pattern being too overwhelming or wintry. The effect is strong but feminine and has a great punk edge with those who are keen on such a look. If you do decide to merge it into your wardrobe, note that you wear pig-tails at your peril and should only wear a tartan kilt if you are Scottish, of school age or going to a costume party.
Today I have been forced to realise the necessity and importance of ones memory. The terrifying knowledge of how it is that Ryanair has been able to make a killing when all other airlines flag and hover in their ever-expanding flight path has become painfully clear to me.
As we bumbled around on our last day in the Northern most parts of Ireland I could not help but notice that the frequency of calls from my father increased along with a rather unnecessary impatience for further details of tomorrows flight. After having told him nearly five times what time we were due to leave and or get in I answered his sixth call rather snappily. I soon checked my attitude when I noticed he had changed his tone to his most severe “I am very disappointed with your lack of ability to behave responsibly” tone. Using this most fearsome of the tools of parenthood at his disposal he uttered the breath winding words, “Elinor, your flight was yesterday.”
As the boy watched I found my face going slowly redder. I would like to pretend it was because we were finally in a place of heat but the truth is I was mortally embarrassed as I hate being called Elinor. My christian name is usually followed by bad news or a severe telling off and this evening proved to be no exception.
To fly back tomorrow, we have had to commit to rising at dawn in the icy winds from the arctic cottage, and travel with my fantastic uncle who has volunteered to take us to Londonderry airport to board our £154 flight. The plane will likely be half full as at this time of the week it is usually only idiots like ourselves and business people who will be flying. You have to give it to O’Leary, he really does find ever new and interesting ways to screw you. Perhaps he should start a Kama Sutra for his fellow business pals, “Screwed by Sugar” could be a title to which he lends his endorsement and inspiration.
Now I have had my rant, and quite satisfying it was too, we get to the point and subject of today’s blog. We have before looked at how enjoyable it can be to wear the clothes of a mother or friend, today I wanted to explore the pleasures of wearing clothes to which we have attached a certain memory. Ireland is the place of my very first kiss, and although I have always claimed it was to my first boyfriend who I dated for about six Summer days and kissed all of about three times, it was in-fact to his younger brother during a game of spin the bottle.
The eventual official first kiss was wonderfully cheesily romantic. All teeth clashing and nervous head tilting smiles. That summer I was wearing a red and white t-shirt which I had bought from saving up my allowance from New Look, and the T-shirt I am wearing underneath this dress reminds me of the day and the experience.
The dress itself is from french connection, bought for £20 in the sale nearly two and a half years ago. Gold and embellished it fits quite nicely in with recent trends and the shift is fantastically flattering for ladies who are a tad curvy wurvy. The t-shirt plays it down from being too dressy and worn as I did today with a clutch belt and thin cashmere DKNY top it saved me from the cold and helped the shore walk to be as pleasant as it could be on such a cold day.
The last time I wore the dress was on my birthday this year to meet some friends from my NCTJ course in the pub. I had taken a few days away from the course after dramatically fainting in front of a senior member of UKIP, I was filming the press conference at the time, and it was important for me to put on a brave face when I saw my colleagues again. Wearing it with a long grey cashmere cardigan, clincher belt and gold pointed kitten heels, in spite of feeling extremely self-conscious as I left the house in a taxi, by the time I arrived I felt more confident and less like a fragile child than I had done since the incident.
It’s never easy showing your vulnerable side and the memory of the last time I had worn the dress, to a successful interview, helped me when I wore it again to meet my friends and colleagues. As I put it on today I felt comforted by the memories of the previous days, and as I sit here now feeling guilty and foolish for missing my flight the dress acts as a comfort blanket whilst simultaneously reminding me of the strength of character which I can summon when needs be. As a result I feel a little more able to face my Dad tomorrow whatever the tone of voice may be.