Let me begin by reassuring you that despite appearances to the contrary this dress is not a shirt. Though I chose it thinking it would work quite well for a night on the town as well as a day dozing in the garden it turned out to be rather unsuitable for both.
I decided to take today off so I could squeeze in some extra time in Manchester and finally get the chance to catch up with my friend who has been on a show stopping musical theatre tour all over the UK. After having a lovely lie in I sat outside in the garden to have my coffee and it was so nice that I didn’t really move much during the rest of the day. My friend came to join me outside and I got so lost in catching up that I foolishly forgot about the wonder that is sun cream. By the time the boy had returned I was a ridiculous shade of pink which did not at all suit today’s dress and is extremely painful.
As we are going out to a gig tonight I tried to calm it down and undo the damage by applying layers of after-sun. After the tenth layer I started to wonder why it was having no cooling affect in spite of the cucumber coloured bottle. At this point I had a look at the label and realised that what I had in-fact been applying was body glitter which had no healing affects but did make me look like an orange disco ball.
There was no time to take it off so I slipped on some other sparkly stuff in the hope of creating an overall impression of a woman hell bent on matching every accessory, arm make up included. The gig was set to take place at a mansion in South Manchester so I treated my feet to fancy shoes and wincing from the pain of my arms clambered in the taxi with the rest of the band.
I must admit that when I hear the word mansion my first thought is Mr Darcy’s estate at Pemberley. For this reason when we arrived at a rather beautiful but derelict mansion which had soil where I was hoping for grounds I was a little disappointed. It was still however a location for a gig and once I got over the soil which was staining the bottoms of my feet it actually turned out to be okay. There were bands playing sets in their pyjamas, toddlers singing magic penny to a hundred people and if one dared to explore the mansion there was an artists rabbit run inside. There were books on every subject you would ever want to study from the 60s and beyond, a grand piano, an artists easel and rooms where musicians could record, for free.
It was quirky but it was my day off and with my limbs burning, my shoes ruined and my tummy rumbling we went in search of a more structurally sound place to hang out.
- The dress is originally from H&M, the belt from Topshop, the shoes from Kurt Geiger and the jewellery from Pilgrim. This was one of those dresses donated by the lovely Lara. Though it made for difficult descents from the taxi it is a cute little number and on someone shorter may be rather less revealing.
Once upon a time I was fifteen, my skin was fair and clear, I had long brown hair with natural blonde highlights, I fell in love regularly and completely. I had many friends all of whom made me giggle and had little tolerance for boys or girls who refused to be charmed by me or who made me cry. My sister had not yet died, as far as I was concerned she was going to get better and soon. I believed that my sheer will power was enough to heal her. There is a photo of me at this age, I literally have stars on my eyes, little silver ones stuck around my eyelids which catch the light.
My head is tilting to the side, my hair swooshing along with me. I am wearing my sisters brown suede coat from Gap and one of her favourite shirts. If Catherine had not died nine months after the photo was taken I often wonder how our lives might now be.
The photo captures my youth and my unquestioning belief in happy ever after. As far as I was concerned my sister had cancer but the treatment was going to work quite well thank you very much and any statistics I saw about Ewin’s Sarcoma patient’s low survival rate were ignored by me or brushed aside as mere propaganda to encourage charity donations. After all how could she possibly die when we all wanted her to live so much.
Cathy was the beauty of the two of us. Men I lusted after would in turn go lusting after her; once they had a glance of her dark chocolate-brown eyes, olive skin and soft lipped smile with straight teeth, pale old gappy toothed quirky me would slip far into the further most reaches of their mind where I would forever stay. My sister could and from time to time did reduce grown men into quivering wrecks. One valentines day she received gifts from three different guys whilst another called up the local radio, Harborough FM and asked them to play Bryan Adams, Everything I Do I Do It For You. It was utterly hilarious when it happened as we managed to somehow record it on tape and laughed the whole way through at the thought a boy would do something so silly for a chance at a snog.
Another time some poor soul who had become utterly enchanted by her brought her a gold watch, she kept it for one evening until my mother assured her there was no such thing as a free gift and reluctantly she parted ways with the gift and eventually the guy gave up on her being his lady.
Much like most girls when she was younger she went through a million and one occupations she wanted to do. Whereas my eldest sister wanted to be a pilot and I had toyed with the idea of a career as a sweet shop owner, a sandwich maker or after watching Pretty Woman when I was ten, a hooker, Catherine wanted to do something worthwhile and meaningful. Although she had abandoned her dream of becoming Britain’s first female astronaut she continued to pursue Greenpeace with letters requesting she take part in their quest to become warriors of the whale; even when she looked into her options for A-Level study she chose subjects which would take her into marine biology.
In spite of all these qualities my sister was no angel. When she caught me wearing her clothes we had such an animated confrontation she threw a washing basket at my head. The best thing about her however is unlike me she would never gossip or bitch about anyone. One of her friends once wrote to us after she’d died and said how they never felt comfortable bitching in front of her as she would never join in and though she did not preach her quiet disapproval was enough to set their wagging tongues to rest.
I am telling you this today because when I saw the photo today it hurt me, because the girl in the photo has no idea whatsoever of what she is about to lose. When I think of my sister I do not only think of what she would have been or could have been had she still been here today, I also think of what each of us would have been if we had never lost her.
I think of our family without the burning gap in the middle of the four siblings; I think of telling new friends or strangers that I have two sisters and one brother and not having to check myself when I realise I have lied to the person and included a sibling no longer of this land. I wonder if I would have been any less crazy, if we would have become as close as we did had she never been ill and I feel sad, oh so sad.
Today myself and my good friend MK went over to Leicester to visit my oldest best friend; a girl with the same name as my beautiful sister, Katherine is someone I have known since before my family lost its light. It is Katherine I would have been bumbling around with on the day the photo was taken.
We all have a wonderful evening in spite of my melancholy state. My girls as always are able to pull me out of it up kicking and screaming into the present although I do have more than my fair share of moaning time. Before we head home we get on to the subject of age and whether or not we look better now we are women and not girls. As we look into the mirror together, craning our eyes at the lines upon our faces I think about the cause of the etchings and about the girl in the photo. It stings a little to do so because what I think of as we stand here examining our faces is what my sister may have looked like now. Whether she would be the kind of girl who wore Uggs, whether she would have leant me some of her own dresses or whether she might be too big or too small to do so. I wonder too if she would have raised one of her perfectly sculpted eyebrows when I bitch and moan about people during the evening and if in doing so she would inspire me to chat about sweeter things. I miss our beauty and the goodness she inspired in me.
- Today’s dress is lovely layered silk with leather panelling and a hard zip up the front to stop it ending up looking too girly. I probably should have saved it for a big night out but supplies are running seriously low. Opaque tights and a black T-shirt from gap make it winter suitable and Kurt Geiger wedges make it deliciously difficult to totter around in. I got it from another sample sale and once nearly ruined it by putting it in the wash after spilling balsamic oil down it