The house has been taken over by women and it is fabulous. There is make up piled upon the sides, glitter lines all of our carefully faded terracotta floor tiles and there are shoes, handbags and even a bra strewn everywhere. The place smells of a dozen perfumes and best of all it is warm, oh so warm.
The giant and my mother have gone away to the poet’s country for the Easter holidays and have left me alone with an empty house crying out for company. My little brother tried to return yesterday for a snack but was shooed away for fear he would ruin my table setting or worse still try to steal one of the carefully baked fish cakes. I passed him over a strawberry yoghurt and encouraged him to go out for the night and treat himself to a take away.
The girls have come over to stay for the weekend and it has been lovely having our home female again. Long ago, when girls dominated the house with a majority of two to one, the leaving up of a toilet seat was an unforgivable offence. Bathroom time back then had to be limited between the four of us, with staggered shower times to accommodate the appalling length of time we would each spend caring for our long brown locks with lovely lotions and potions. There would be constant crowing about who had used whose best shampoo or “where the hell is my hairbrush gone”.
There was also always a stand-off at the hall mirror where most of the morning battles were fought between the sexes. It was a perfect place as it fell between all five bedrooms and was directly outside the bathroom. It was at this spot that we would stand to shout from about “how long can it take to brush your teeth” and “what the hell do you think you’re doing, its my time now.” My sister Catherine actually used a timer to brush her perfect pegs and it was at least five minutes of careful circular brushing before she even got round to gurgling the mouthwash.
The mirror was also the place where we jostled for position. The giant used to have a beard when we were teens and most days it needed trimming. Unfortunately he always seemed to time this at the exact same point at which we all needed the mirror to preen, tame our locks and pose. In all fairness to our father he did try to resolve the problem by installing another mirror in the hallway but there were no plug sockets, perfect lighting or even a nice little shelf there for us to put our make up on so we quickly gravitated back to the main mirror. Though the new mirror did have its problems I think the real reason we never stuck to the new seeing glass was we actually rather enjoyed the teasing and the tussles of the morning.
I remember the giant yelling up to us from where he stood downstairs by the door insisting that unless we were all in the car in five minutes he would be driving down to the bus stop without us. My mother made the mistake of pointing out on one occasion how pointless this would be but the threat continued nevertheless. We were all so dreadful at getting ready in the mornings that on account of one bathroom battle or another we missed the school bus pick up from the town at least once a week. On these occasions, the giant who is a very safe but very fast driver would chase down the bus, taking it over on close corners to get in front to the following bus stop so we could get to school. It was hysterical and one of the best bits was watching as all the other school children gazed out at us hurtling past hoping we would once again beat the bus and make it to school in time.
Having the girls here for the weekend reminds me of how brilliant it is to live in a female focused house. It smells lovely, there is always chocolate and wine hidden somewhere and there is always someone to gossip about the day with and best of all the heating never gets turned off, but don’t let the giant in on that one.
- Today’s dress is a donation from Hannah Cantrell. It is from Miss Selfridge and though I think it looks very smart it is a little short for the workplace. The rabbit and the strange flowers, which I am slightly afraid might well open up and eat me were Easter presents from the boy. I would like to think I have the will power to make the bunny last as long as the flowers but as its ears have already been lopped off the odds are not looking good on the time it has left in this world.
Though I appear to the untrained eye to be a brunette people have often asked me whether I was a blonde in a previous life. I did actually have blonde hair up until I was six but then it all darkened and the last time I was even a little bit light was when I was 17 with honey and burnt red highlights.
For whatever reason today has been a bit of a blonde day for me, or a ditz day if you are blonde and at risk of being offended. I was researching a story this week about a group to get a cinema for Harborough. The dear young girl who had set it up was refusing to speak with me about it as she had been advised by Alistair Campbell not to do any publicity. At first I thought she was taking the mick and then, because I am a bit of a blonde I started to genuinely believe it was The Alistair Campbell.
When I mentioned the joke in the news room trying to case out whether it was true that Alistair had in some way involved himself in the campaign for a cinema the boys confirmed the fact. Today I got an email through from the girl requesting we did not publish because Alistair did not wish it to be so. I had a little rant about it and during a discussion one of the lads mentioned how strange it was that he had the same name as the Alistair Campbell, previously friend of downing street. Too disappointed to hide my mistake I said sadly: “So is it not actually the same Alistair?” It was not.
As though that wasn’t bad enough later on in the day I got my first follow-up phone call from an article I had written. The worst thing was I was left a message and for the life of me I could not remember where it was from. I checked through my contacts, my quote write ups and scanned through my stories but there was no sign of the woman who had asked that I call her back. I started to get a little nervous. In another example of negative thought; rather than thinking it was someone calling to tell me how much they loved my article I was convinced it was a cross patch reader who had taken issue with something I’d written.
In the end I forced myself to deal with the issue head on; I called up the woman and was greeted by a lady from the church. I had run an article about a job swap between a vicar and a landlord due to take place in a couple of weeks. The reverend had given me a great quote about just wanting to be like Jesus who after all had turned water into wine at Cana. Unfortunately I had somehow managed to write it out as wine into water which didn’t really portray poor Jesus in the best of lights. There are worse mistakes I could have made and yes it is quite funny but it was my first page three lead in the paper and I was a bit upset I had gone and got it wrong.
I went somewhere today. A place I have been putting off going to for weeks because I was too scared. There is a group in Harborough, it is affiliated loosely with Mind but is mainly a place to go, a support group for people with mental health problems of any kind. It took a lot of courage to go but I am glad I did. The people there were kind, welcoming and accepting and the group leader, the one who first contacted me months ago to tell me about the group was great. Support groups like these are so important because unfortunately there is not a lot of funding for mental health. Psychiatrists and counsellors are in short supply and so having somewhere to go where one can get advice from others about handling one’s health is essential. There are volunteers who help to run such groups and though the world at times can seem a dark place, even to those of us who are not visited by the black dog, it is people like these who give without want of reward that make our earth just that little bit lighter.
- Today’s dress is from Lara. It was a pleasure to wear but I unfortunately did not understand how to use the panels to transform it until the evening. It has an orange layer sowed into the body of the dress and can be buttoned up as high or low as one wants. I wore my wedges today because having been working from home for two days I felt the need to make an effort. They are death traps and one must totter rather than stride but I still get a kick out of wearing them. I had my first major wardrobe malfunction in town today whilst walking to the group. As I past the farmers market where half the town had assembled to purchase meats and sweet treats my entire skirt was blown up by the wind in my blonde moment of the day.
This post has been difficult to put together, not because I have too few friends but because I am blessed to have so many. The only way I could think of to prevent this post turning into another never-ending essay was to try to decide which of my wonderful friends I would choose as bridesmaids if I was ever to get married. Although I am sure this list will put the fear of God into my parents financial five-year plan I couldn’t help but include so many and would have included more if I had not been trying to stop this post becoming a bore. Here in no particular order, other than the first who will always be my best friend, are the women in my life who have moved me to tears with their kindness, their generosity, their jokes and anecdotes and by always being there to clasp my hand tightly when everything around us has been falling apart.
Katharine Ryland – Whilst I was at university myself and Katherine lost touch for some time. It was inevitable in a way, although we had been the best of friends since we were 13 we both had such busy lives and it was hard to find the time to stay in touch. If I’m honest I always felt it was my fault that we’d drifted apart, she had started going out with a guy who I struggled to get on with and though I tried to hide it I’m sure she sensed it and ultimately I’m sure it effected our friendship. In spite of this we still saw each other from time to time and on my twenty-first-birthday she called me up to tell me she was pregnant. I was delighted for her but I still had another year of study up North and it wasn’t until I moved back home that we got properly back in touch.
We went out with her beautiful baby boy to Cafe Bruxelles and ended up having such a great day that I remember feeling really rather sad about all I had missed sharing with her and I made a decision to make more of an effort to get on with her partner; she was too good a friend to lose and after all she loved him and he made her happy so how could I not.
Not long after this lunch she got engaged and I was so pleased I got to share in her happiness when she told me her news. A few months later whilst out on a girls night in Leicester she turned to me and asked if I wanted to be her maid of honour. I can honestly say that even if I ever get engaged this will remain the happiest moment in my life; we had made a promise to one another when we were 16 in a bar in Lanzarote over a jug of sangria to be each other’s bridesmaids. I had assumed when she got engaged that she might ask someone else to take the job as we had been out of touch for so long so when she asked me I was ridiculously happy.
Although my dress ended up being made by her mother, when we first went shopping to find a dress I could wear she assured me I could pick anyone I wanted and whilst we were in the shop she tried on the dress she had chosen and I started to cry like a child at how beautiful she looked. The night before the wedding I stayed the night at her parents house and we shared her bed together as we had done years ago when we were kids. In the morning I helped her with her make up and getting dressed and did my best to soothe her little boy when he had a tantrum minutes before we were due to leave because he wanted to try on Mummy’s veil. There is a picture of the two of us arm in arm leaving the church and it looks as though we have just emerged from a civil ceremony and still cracks me up when I see it. She made a beautiful bride and I was inspired to give a speech after her husband and father had said their piece about what a wonderful woman she was and how truly lucky her husband was to have her by his side.
We have always shared everything with one another, although to begin with as an only child she did struggle with the concept of sharing clothing. We once had a massive fall out because she refused to let me wear her top as she was convinced I was going to stretch it. There was no secrecy or privacy between us when we were younger; after we got badly burnt on an overcast day in Devon after falling asleep together on the beach we got home and had to rub after-sun into each others ridiculous tan lines. As we soothed each others skin with aloe vera and very gentle application we were simultaneously cracking up with laughter at how silly we both looked.
We found the results of all our exams together and when we were on holiday in Lanzarote we crammed into a telephone booth on the sea-walk of Lanzarote giggling in disbelief at the amount of As Katherine had got. We also helped each other through the dark days; through heartbreak and troubles at home. It was Katherine who held my hand on the way back to my home after my parents had rung hers to ask if they could bring me home straight away because my sister had gone downhill fast and the doctors were concerned that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. She is hilarious, intelligent and caring and even with a baby boy to care for she did so well in her degree that when she graduated she had two jobs waiting for her. I will always be pleased we got back in touch, my life would be nowhere near as fun without her. I will save sharing some of my favourite memories of our friendship as she has asked if she can write a post about her three favourite memories of us but I imagine they might include the time I went skinny dipping with my sister on my sweet sixteenth in Eastbourne at midnight. Other than my sister it will be Katherine who I will tell if I ever find myself knocked up and it will be her who I will want by my side on the day of my wedding.
AC: When me and the boy first got together i always felt a little lonely when I was round at his house. he lived with six other guys, nearly all of who had long-standing girlfriends and I felt a bit of a spare wheel. The one girl who I immediately clicked with however was Anna. She had dreams of being a musical theatre star and although she enjoyed singing as much as me, people actually enjoyed it when she sang. This shared love of singing and a tendency to live our lives in a rather dramatic way means we have spent many a taxi ride home singing away even when the boys beg us to stop. When I met her I remember speaking about her with one of my friends and concluding that she was a natural beauty and that we were actually really rather jealous of her perfectly shaped eyebrows, white teeth and dancers figure. In the early days of our friendship I was rather worried that I might be a bit much for her, when I bumped into her in the library one day and started talking at her at a mile a minute about dissertations and exams and nights out I had been planning she appeared to be somewhat terrified. We became firm friends however after the boys moved to a smaller house and I think it may have helped that I opened my entire wardrobe to her and did my very best to put aside my reservations about vegetarians and would happily make her hippy friendly food whenever we had a dinner party.
The time I realised I had a friend for life was when she agreed to join me in getting dressed up as a witch to go and queue outside Waterstones for the release of the last Harry Potter book in the series. There are few friends who will partake in this kind of humiliation just to keep someone company but Anna came with me in spite of never having read any of the books. We spent the next fortnight driving the boys mad by shutting ourselves away in one of their rooms and banning them entry until we had read at least another four chapters. I think it was whilst we were lying on a bed repeating lines to one another which made us giggle that I realised I had got myself a friend for life who felt as much like a sister as my own blood.
Anna is one of those rare friends who will be by your side even when you have done everything in your power to try to hide away from the world. Three nights after I’d had a nervous breakdown and ended up in hospital I went to the launch of the boy’s first single. I was only able to do so because I had Anna with me the whole time, holding my hand reminding me that I wasn’t crazy and that everything was going to be OK even if it didn’t feel that way at the time. She is able to make me laugh at life events which are otherwise tragic and when me and the boy were having a heap of troubles last year it was Anna who held me whilst I cried my heart out over loss and love still to raw to share. We have both followed our dreams in life and I am sure I would not have had the guts to carry on going for mine if I hadn’t had her for inspiration. She never once gave up on her dream of playing a role in a musical and now she is touring the country playing the part of Neil Sedaka’s wife in the hit play, Laughter In The Rain. She is my Scrabble companion and the only one who is sweet enough not to tell me how dreadful a singer I really am.
In spite of my efforts not to make this an essay I have noticed that all to quickly the word count has crept us and so I will save the other five for another day, I promise you they are worth the space.
- Today’s dress has been donated by my Auntie Bridgeen. It was originally from Primark and thankfully has a slip to preserve my modesty. Katharine and my friend Monica took the photos and the reason I am cracking up in them is because Monica has just told me that I am in trouble with someone because of something I have said on the blog. The gingerbread man was made by Katherine’s son. Katherine gifted me another dress to wear whilst I was at her house, proof indeed that her issues with sharing have been resolved.
Today’s dress is gorgeous. I am a little biased as it is one of my own but I really am a massive fan, it is another Calvin Klein masterpiece and getting back to the idea of the memory of material wearing this dress reminds me of some really very happy times. It has slouchy pockets in the side which make me feel wonderfully casual whilst the fit prevents me from looking too busty and having a repeat of last night whilst the colour is terrific. I brought it back from the states and it reminds me of walking round New York by myself and with some very good friends taking in the atmosphere of possibility that smoulders from the subways below and the sky-rises above; or maybe that was just the heat and the smog.
I loved New York, we had been on the rail for so long and had so many mini stops that since Chicago we hadn’t really had a chance to just relax and take in a place. I went travelling with two of my best boyfriends, the boy as I have said is not the jealous type and my boys find me completely asexual. One of my favorite times was when we all took a day away from each other to go explore by ourselves. I am a sucker for nostalgia and theatre and took the opportunity to walk down 14th street as the good Rufus Wainwright himself had once done. It was terrific, I put the tune on my iPod soaked it all up and then sat in a park, people watching and drinking cups of coffee and bagels for what felt like an age. I walked around the harbour at the front and looked at the memorial to all the Irish people who came here during the famine after they were abandoned by their brethren in Britain. I felt extremely emotional knowing a lot of my relatives had fled here at the time and was struck by the beauty of the place and how they must have felt arriving off a hideous ship-ride with dreams of a new world which turned out to be very like the old but with a constant stream of positive propoganda telling them to never complain because their dream was only just around the corner.
I also went shopping and this was of course when I came across this petroleum shirt dress and feel head over heels in love. Without the boys to tell me I looked fat in it I was able to buy it with minimal banter and when I wore it on our last night they even told me I looked nice, a compliment indeed.
I have also worn this dress on two other occasions which stand out, to weddings of family and friends. Friends of mine and the boys, Ellen and Matt, got married soon after I returned from the states. It was wonderful to see them get it together and was so brilliant having our gang back together for the first time since University days had ended.
In a marquee at Ellen’s parents home in the New Forest, we stayed in a ridiculously overpriced hotel and spent a fortune on gifts and getting there, but it was all completely worth it, they are lovely people and there was no way we could have missed it, even though I had just blown most of my life savings on a flailing economy. We danced the night away and all felt very wild young and free, albeit somewhat coupled up. Ellen looked totally fabulous and though it rained the day was not at all ruined and in a handmade dress which was more incredible than any I have ever seen before with hair trailing down her back like Rapunzel the two of them got married in a ceremony where The Velveteen Rabbit was read out as a sermon whilst one of our friends played the guitar for music.
The other wedding I went to was in Ireland, and of course, there was rain. Irish weddings are terrific, and they are undoubtedly larger than the average English wedding in attendance seeing as the average Irish person has around 50 first cousins alone. It was the wedding of my oldest cousin, Stephen and his bride Rosin and I believe everyone’s favorite part other than the lovey dovey stuff was when the bride got up on stage to sing along with the groom who plays the drums in their covers band. Irish weddings are also big on dancing, there is no opportunity to sit down for more than one song at any time during the night. If you are a girl, a woman, a man, or basically anyone with the ability to move one limb you will be dragged to the dance floor again and again until you flop to the floor exhausted. It is terrific because the Irish well-known for their generosity do not scrimp on the food so by the time the music starts we usually have one hell of a waistband to burn off.
Today I wore the dress with my mothers beautiful silky red top she had when she was my age. It feels like liquid gold on your skin and as my eczema is playing up today it is a welcome relief to have something not woolen or scratchy against my skin. The boy has to go to practice and so I join a friend from my course, another Northern beauty named Anna from the part-time NCTJ who is a pretty hot writer, to go to a pub quiz. Admittedly I feel rather over dressed so don my wooly homeless look beret and green casual patent Kurt courts. The quiz turns out to be the worst I have ever been to in my life, including the one where my American studies lecturer was there and got to see just how little studying I had ever done during the literature round, in my defence who goes in for a nine am lecture?
To be fair the quiz was held in the Democratic Republic of Chorlton, where they pride themselves on being green and a bit alternative but this is just plain ridiculous. There are pretty much no normal pub rounds, even the picture round involves specific TV shows from 1997 and at one stage we have to draw a shield, write a letter to the lottery winners (mine kicks ass by the by) and come up with an emblem. I love the pub, it is Irish and makes me wish I was with my parents back across the Irish Sea not in rainy Manchester trying to keep warm and sneak away from the worlds worst quiz, but I am with a friend and so it all seems rather funny though I cannot deny I am glad to get back home to the boy for a cuddle and a good gossip. Unfortunately though the side effects are at large again and before I know it is 4am and I am lying awake and alone having missed out on the chitter chatter I love so much wearing a silk nightie not my pretty dress, I bloody hate Quetiapine.