After yesterday’s mini breakdown I went to bed wondering whether I’d ever be able to get up again. When I woke up this morning therefore with no need for an alarm and feeling fairly fine I was a little surprised but pleasantly so. Today you see is my Grandmother’s birthday and though crying on one’s own birthday is fairly acceptable I would be a bit of a spoilsport if I was to cry on hers.
Had I been in more of a rush, her and I would have been born on the same day, I was delivered at 1am on May 13. There are rumours my father passed my mother a message from my grandma, at home looking after my two sisters, to try to hurry up but they are unconfirmed as yet.
One of my earliest memories of my grandma is baking cakes with her in the kitchen. She won prizes for her baking when she was a member of the Women’s Institute and still today she makes wonderful cakes and puddings much to the sweet toothed giants delight. I had always been allowed to lick the spoon but on this particular day there had been a health warning issued about the dangers of salmonella and my grandma was not taking any risks. She put the spoon on the side ready to be washed but as she turned around to put the cakes in the oven I reached up and snatching the spoon from the side ran upstairs to hide behind the wardrobe where I triumphantly licked off the remains of the mixture.
During the war my grandma lived in Coventry where she worked in a factory. She had three children, Margaret, Gilbert and Ian. When my father met my mother he told her his name was Paul. He was rumbled however when my mother rang his house to speak with him and was told by my grandma that there was a Gil but no Paul living there.
Until a few years ago she was still driving and did not only cut her own lawn but her neighbours lawn too. Though she struggles with arthritis she continues to knit blankets for anyone we know who is expecting a baby and crochets the sweetest little mats and crosses which are perfect for bookmarks even though she tells my mum they are to be distributed at her funeral.
We have taken her away to ski in the past and though she was not on the slopes she feels the cold as badly as me and bought herself an all in one red ski suit which clashed brilliantly with her white hair and meant we could always see her from the top of the lift. She is as big a cheat when it comes to board games as I am and while playing Scrabble on the skiing holiday she attempted to cheat a number of times including one occasion when she insisted gitesex was a word. She had put down git herself which had left us all in hysterics.
On her 80 birthday we brought her to The Grand in Brighton and though my parents had been planning to take her away for her 90 in the end she preferred to go out for lunch with us all. We took her out to The Three Swans in Harborough today and she wore a beautiful blue pussy bow blouse. As well as following the football I can still speak politics with her and she is great company. The other day I had to turn down a 90-year-old man who wanted me to do a write up about his wife’s birthday. I felt dreadful because we do not cover 90 birthdays any more. I think my grandma would enjoy seeing her name in print so the next time I see her I am going to give her a mini interview so I can tell her story through her own eyes rather than mine.
I know her as my grandma. As the woman who rocked me back and forth in a washing basket, who made us all jumpers with our initials on and who would bake us jam tarts and a chocolate coated cake with buttons. I know her as the woman who once chased off some bullies on bikes who were being mean to me and the one who basted butter on my forehead when I bumped it whilst running around with my sisters. She would give us toffees and cakes while my parents were looking the other way and still repairs cardigans and sows on buttons for all of us. I do not want her story to be of only these things, I also want to know her and write her as a worker, a mother and a woman.
- Today’s dress is from the mysterious dress donor, they arrived last week with a new cryptic message included addressed to an even stranger name. The donor asked whether I would mind putting on a bit more weight as it is difficult to find dresses in my size. This one is originally from Next and feels lovely. I felt it was dressy enough for The Three Swans but was annoyed because my epilator is yet to arrive still and so I had to wear horrid tights.
I have crab-crawled feet-first under a bush, took a running leap to clear a babbling brook and stood still, eyes frozen with terror as two hundred men came hurtling towards me; I have spent the day at the annual Bottle Kicking contest at Hallaton.
Some of you may have heard of this sport before but for the uninitiated, a little explanation will hopefully suffice. The competition, which is believed to date back a thousand years, sees villagers from both side of the brook compete to get the bottle back to their village. The only rules are no strangling and no gouging other than that competitors may do whatsoever they wish to return each of the three ceremonial bottles, filled to the brim with ale for the champions to drink, back to their village.
When I first heard of the game, I must admit I had pictured things rather differently. I had imagined a line of largely unbalanced men queuing up in a line to kick Carling bottles off the top of a brick wall. In my head I could hear the promotional voice which would speak over the contest: “Probably the best bottles in the world.”
As it turns out the Bottle Kicking contest is hands down the best way to spend a Bank Holiday. When we arrive, we cast away our city reservations and get right in with the crowd by tagging along with the parade towards the centre of Hallaton village. We passed Medbourne on the drive down here and though i am accustomed to supporting the underdog the boy and my bestest persuaded me to side with the winners and align myself with the Hallaton men. As I am reporting from the battle field I feel it would be rather rude to take sides so in the interests of soaking up the atmosphere I decide to follow the scrum wherever it may go.
I always thought I would do quite well in a war situation. Though I am petite, I am fast, strong and sneaky and as I had been a bit of a British Bulldog champ as a child I has rather assumed I may be of use to the scrum. As it turns out I am a horrible hindrance in battle. Though I keep on trying to sneak my way into the middle, whenever the lads start to drift towards me, I scream like a girl and run away as fast as I can telling everyone in my path to run for their lives. Everywhere I look there are fallen champions who are pinching at bloodied noses, gasping for breath and doing their best to slip shoulders back into place. There is a fantastic cross-section of society at this event and everywhere I look I can see society’s barriers broken down by the united aim of getting the bottle back to base.
I am fascinated to see women in the huddle who appear tougher than the men they challenge. One girl tells me she has been punched in the ribs by a rather rude chap but assures me she managed to get her own back. Whilst looking him directly in the eye she elbowed him straight to the steriles. I am amazed at what good fun the whole day is. We chase the scrum up and down the hill, through the hedges and over the fences and only after the games are done do we find the time to rest our weary heads upon the hill. There may have been blood shed, there may have been hate, but all this was over once the bottles were brought hurtling over the hill of Hallaton’s gate.
- I have made my dress as functional as humanely possible. Though I do rather look like I have been, and I quote, “shagged through a hedge backwards” I did work quite hard on finding a look for today which was not going to make me appear too girly. The dress is another of those donated by the lovely Lara but the belt and the black top are my own. The boots I am wearing are strong, structured and most importantly of all, not slippers.
Today has been a sad day for footwear. Back when I was a a 23-year-old with the world at my feet and a job as an events manager which paid a tidy little sum my main outgoing other than restaurant bills and bar tabs was shoes, I was obsessed with them. For the first time in my life since I was 18 I was totally debt free. Out of my monthly salary after all bills were paid I still had an indecent amount left over to spend on myself. Though I smoked and had a fondness for Marks & Spencer sushi and sausage and onion cobs every Friday when I was too hangover to use the phone, I had no children, no mortgage and no monthly car insurance or pension payments. I was young, free, practically single and absolutely loving the independence of it all.
The boy was living a hand to mouth existence as he was still studying for his music degree but I was free to fund our outings and as one of the girlfriend of Manchester’s hardest working band I got to play the part nearly every weekend; we would all hangout backstage drinking down the riders, dragging on rolled up cigarettes and generally just hanging out feeling ever so slightly like the cool kids.
At the time I guess I knew the life we were living would not last forever. I was having a hell of a good time but work was taking its toll on my health and I’d dropped down to my smallest size since I’d had a minor eating disorder back when I was 18. I remember looking at my bank statement and feeling sad at how little I had to show for all the brilliant nights out and evenings just spent drinking red wine round a rickety table listening to music and playing cards in between musing upon our dreams for the future.
Other than Sylvanian Families I had never really felt the desire to collect anything. My sisters had their key-rings, their badges and even at one stage their dice and my brother had the monopoly on every phase and craze out there including Thomas The Tank Engines, Thunderbirds, Power Rangers and even at one stage care bears which was extraordinarily cute. It was when I realised I was spending much of my money on momentary pleasure products that I decided to start a collection and as I had no particular interest at the time in tea cups I decided I would collect shoes. As my regular readers know I am a slave to Kurt Geiger. The shoes they make are so well balanced you can stamp around in a pair of stilettos for sixteen hours straight without feeling an ache. They are creative, original and considering how well they last lusciously priced.
This then brings us to today’s dilemma. There is a man in Market Harborough, his name is Andy but I have always known him as the saviour of shoes. Many times I have brought him a forlorn pair at the end of their life and he has carefully restored them to beauty. One time he managed to restore my red or dead spike heeled stiletto ankle boots to spanking brand new in spite of me having ground the five inch heel to a mere three inches after a weekend in Liverpool visiting a friend where we danced till we dropped to sleep in his dorm just before dawn. Today Andy very kindly explained to me there was sadly nothing he could do for two of my favourite pairs.
One of them was the first pair of pricey shoes I had ever purchased. Brought in my lunch break from Berties at Kendall they were soft white leather with five inch thick wooden heels. Generally I believe white shoes should be saved till ones wedding day and even then they should be hidden and if possible cream but these were divine. Unfortunately as I tend to run in heels as well as walk whilst racing to get the bus back to see the boy after an after work drink my heel snapped on Deansgate. It was humiliating and I actually sat down and cried. I hadn’t even had any hooch but I was just so sad for my poor innocent shoe. Andy said it could be saved in an expensive operation but the job would have to be sourced out and the operators may well break the wood in the process.
The other pair are of the Kurt Geiger variety. I bought them foolishly after getting made redundant from Webb PR a month before Christmas. I was a little heart broken about losing the job and in a fine example of someone who had temporarily given leave to their senses and indeed their financial situation I sneaked away on a Christmas shopping trip with the boy, and bought three pairs of shoes in the sale. Admittedly they should have cost £400 and came to just £120 but still I had just been made redundant and with no job on the horizon it was a foolish mistake. I guess I have never regretted it because today, 15 months after the fact, I still have the shoes and they are still stunning. Unfortunately one of them, a pair of mustard yellow t-bar three inch heels was mortally injured back in May. I was chasing a story at the time and as I tore down the road the pin snapped and I had to traipse around on tippy toes the rest of the day. Andy says there is no hope for them and though I know I should consign them to the bin they are just too lovely, perhaps at some time in the future there will be better technology for such injured shoes? I live in hope.
- Today’s dress is from the wonderful Rebecca Allison. She sent this in a lovely package from the states and as well as a pair of earrings there was a beautifully written letter. I realise the dress comes up a little short on me but I hope you will not take too much of a hump at me modifying it for the workplace by pairing it with the skin tight Lycra number from Zara sent by the lovely Clara, believe me it is to protect your eyes from a legging lovely sight. Again if you do get the chance take a little look at her website. It is a fabulous way to start ones day and has given me goosebumps in the past with the sheer poetry of her posts. http://solsticetosolsticetosolstice.tumblr.com/
I am a sleepy social media madam today. I had an ingenious idea last night that if I went into work a little earlier than expected I would get more done. It was a good idea and maybe I did get more done but now at ten or maybe even eleven at night my brain is buzzing but my body is begging me for sleep. One of the most exciting and addictive things about journalism is the thrill of being ever slave to a deadline. It can be stressful, of that there is no doubt but the pressure of knowing the clock is ticking often forces us hacks to hammer out some of the most inspirational, witty and really just rather wonderful pieces which would never have been as good if they had been given too much time to brew and mellow.
Today has been hectic. For some ridiculous reason our phones went down. This would have been okay by itself but for some reason this also meant our email, internet access and really just about everything went down at the same time. You would be amazed at how adaptable one must be in times of technological meltdown.
Today I have used the yellow pages, not the yell version, but the kind which short men would use in the past to kiss girls which were just that little bit too tall for them to reach up to. I also became acquainted with an interesting tool known as an A-Z. As a girl who is unable to find her way to her fella’s home without guidance from Shawn, my friendly Irish friend of Tom-Tom fame, I was amazed to find I can still read a map. Admittedly I lost at least half an hour on my way home after forgetting to turn the map the right way up but nevertheless I must admit I am feeling fabulously independent.
I was hoping today would be the last time I had to stumble about the town in heels as I was due to have another chat with the giant this evening about the car situation. Unfortunately my mother, the peace maker intervened early on. She apparently sensed that one was too stressed and the other was too tired and so because of her uncanny powers of perception the talk will have to wait till tomorrow.
Though I am feeling rather romantic today about old-fashioned methods of communication and information acquirement there are a number of benefits and charms of the internet and IT which must be mentioned. Copy and paste is one of the most brilliant inventions of our time; one realises this after claw hand sets in after copying endless quotes from paper, actual paper! I was also informed the other day by a friend that Microsoft Office actually gives one the opportunity to recall an email. Just think of all the relationship breakdowns and diplomatic fall outs which could have been avoided had this trick been more widely publicised. Rather than trying to get people to ping, poke or bing, or whatever the new sappy sounding buzz word of the moment is, Mr Gates should be sending out emails across the globe telling people about this, the holy grail of idiots who email.
I had better get my blogging bottom off to bed for tomorrow is my actual first deadline day as a trainee reporter. I am paranoid about getting my patch page just right and have spent the past couple of hours craning over my copy to make sure everything is just so; however my eyes are starting to stream and my head is beginning to lull and if I do not go to bed soon I risk boring the tweeting world with my angst. I think I need to get back in touch with my counsellor.
- Today’s dress is from the lovely Lara who has donated a whole heap of dresses to the project. This dress is originally from Tu which I think roughly translates as Sainsburys. I must admit I am rather impressed with the supermarket frocks at the moment, yesterdays dress was also from a supermarket and I had quite a few compliments on it. I am totally in love with the floral print on this dress and even though I found it a bit too low on the bust the cut is quite clever and it tucks you in at the waist with a tie which runs round the back. I think it was originally designed to be a knee-length frock but Lara is a creative lady who is a little shorter than me and I think she has taken the hem up herself. Mummy took the photos, don’t ask.
Last night after having a major panic about my ability to write I decided to focus on the superficial as at least it was something I might hope to change in the few hours that remained before my first day. First impressions as they say are vital and although they saw me before tomorrow is still my first proper day so I am keen to look the part. After debating with my mother over the merits of various nail polishes; dark blue was deemed too different, ruby-red too lady of the night; I decided to go with bubble pink as though it was originally dismissed for the brain-dead Barbie girl connotations once it was on it looked quite nice really.
My hair which has been allowed to do its own thing for the past few months was straightened mercilessly. I love letting my hair free to flow but there is something a lot more together looking about styled hair so I tamed the crazy curls and teased out all sign of rebellion from my locks. After moisturising and using some strange cream which claimed to get rid of wrinkles I went to bed confident I could wake in the morning with no cosmetic concern at the very least and having reversed the ageing process completely at best.
Unfortunately I had neglected to consider the dress situation. As we got in late last night I only had a chance to have a quick look through the pile of dresses I have been sent from the lovely Hannah Cantrell. This girl has gathered dresses from friends and neighbours for the project and sent them all over in a box as soon as she heard supplies were at a low. As my mother had already taken a look over it and described them on the phone I was confident there would be several suitable for work and besides as far as I could remember I had put aside a dress for my first day anyway.
It turned out I had but had forgotten to try it on. The dress which was sent to me by a wonderful fashionable friend turned out to be a little on the tight side. It was red and spotty, quirky but quite conservative enough, unfortunately it was also impossible to get over my ridiculous coat hanger shoulders. I did attempt to slip into it but only managed to get myself trapped within the folds of the fabric. Thankfully my mother was on hand to pull me free but there were a few frantic moments where we were both convinced I would be trapped in there forever.
I turned in a panic to the box of dresses but by this time the clock was ticking and my usual knack for turning a t-shirt into a dress had escaped me. As my regular readers will know I am not one to shy away from a short skirt but I was very aware of the necessity of not looking like a loose woman on my first day. Hemlines on the majority of the dresses were deemed to be too short and the ones which were long enough were more suitable for summer. There are some brilliant ones which will be perfect for the office but needed a nude coloured slip to go under them to avoid further frock fumbles as seen on day 81. Panic was settling in and just as I turned to slacks one dress caught my eye. Though it had a crazy colourful paint splash print when I saw it the previous evening I had been rather taken with it and though I tried it on as a last resort it actually looked quite wonderful and with its conservative cut and cute little belt we had finally found a frock suitable for my first day in the office.
Though usually I would not have bothered with the extras I was still conscious of going in looking too conspicuous and with a mind to the men I would be working with who were wearing smart suits when I last saw them I pulled on a grey jumper and a purple suit jacket. I love my mother so much, I do not know how I would have ever got through the dress crisis without her and once that drama was over with the rest of the day just seemed somehow more manageable.
- Today’s dress was sent by the lovely Hannah Cantrell who was my neighbour back when I was a baba. Her mother told her about the project after seeing the article in the Harborough Mail and she has been incredibly supportive since. She sourced dresses from all over the place and has sent over a dozen so far which I can not wait to showcase at weekends, in the summer and, once I am clear on the office hemlines policy, during the working week. Hannah has approached celebrities such as Daisy Lowe on my behalf in an attempt to get hold of more dresses and has promoted the blog to many more. The jumper is by Coast and is silk and incredibly soft wool it feels lovely on my skin and is suprisingly comforting. The jacket is from Primark, gifted to me by my Mum’s friend and though the buttons have fallen off the velvety feel makes it feel more riches than rags.