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.
- 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.
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.
Come this Saturday me and the boy will have been going out four years. In spite of me having a fair few up and downs and in all honesty a couple of quite serious breakdowns during this time, I think the reason we have come the distance; aside from the fact that he has the patience of a saint and we still quite fancy one another; is because we have always right from the start applied the basic vows of marriage to our relationship. Now, I’m not one to say that marriage is essential to make a relationship work; I have plenty of friends who have got along quite nicely thank-you very much without ever feeling any urgent need to put a ring on it; but nevertheless I think that relationships work best when you apply principles such as “in sickness and in health”, “for richer for poorer”, and unless you have a really very cool/ liberal lover, “forsaking all others”.
When myself and the boy first met I was flat broke and though I was not looking for anything serious as tends to be the case we accidentally went and fell in love. At the time I was spending all my spare pennies on cigarettes and alcohol and because he was a sweetie and probably because he didn’t want to see me lose my rather curvaceous figure he kept feeding me fry ups and insisting on cooking me dinner. I remember one day when I was about to set off for home he slipped me a tenner to go and buy food. Ten minutes, 20 Marlborough mediums and a bottle of red later I came to the conclusion that yes 12p chicken noodles were a suitable source of nutrition.
Although he was the provider at the start of our relationship by the time I graduated I was making a tidy enough package so that if he was skint we could dip into my privy purse to pay for cinema outings, bottles of wine, nights on the tiles and steak.
The boy graduated two years after me, not because I am seeing a toy boy you understand but because he was rather more keen in being the drummer in every Mancunian band around the way than getting all academic. It was because he was still a student that when our one year anniversary came round, I ended up treating us to a holiday to Rome and when we were too lazy to cook it was me who paid for us to eat out in West Didsbury, Manchester’s one stop haven of heavenly cuisine.
When I lost my job though, both times, it was the boy who helped me pick up the pieces, kept me financially afloat when I was too proud to go to the job centre and who even helped me search through the rubbish to find a new role.
Although most of our relationship has been spent just below the poverty line we have always found ways to entertain ourselves; games of Scrabble where JB, Onions lead singer always wins; games of monopoly where I always win; tea and music; my ever more elaborate attempts at dinner parties for ten even when we have no table; gigs; walks in the woods; running (failed after one attempt when he smoked throughout whilst I had a series of small heart failings) tennis, technically not necessarily legally sound movies and more gigs. Although we loved it when I was making a tidy package money never brings happiness and as Neil Sedaka’s wife says to him in Laughter In The Rain, “Sometimes I miss the cold days.” Struggling together is terribly romantic and there’s nothing quite like playing cards through the night with nothing to fuel you but a pot of decaf tea.
The other issue is of course the sickness and the health. Luckily the boy is fine and dandy other than the occasional sulk and the dreaded man flu, according to the boy he has single handedly fought off swine flu and is a pillar of strength in the face of modern medicine most of which he views as being in some way linked to a conspiracy of making us weak. Maybe because of this, when we first met I waited till June to come clean with him about my crazy. I didn’t want to scare him away and if I’m honest I thought I had completely recovered, love does wonderful things for your brain and your body; eating becomes a chore and your entire mind turns to mush. if you don’t watch out you end up boring all of your friends to sleep by talking about how fabulous your lover is. Luckily however, by the time me and the boy got together I was a cynic about love and when he etched the words “I love you” on my back I told him to, “Get a grip”.
When I told him about my poorly head it was because I had decided to come off the anti-depressants I’d been taking for two years. Buoyed up by love and the wonderful newness of it all I didn’t think I needed them. With his approval and no advice from any medical practitioner I came off the drugs. Within a month I crashed so hard and so fast that some days I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I felt so ugly and frustrated with what I saw. I put on weight and because getting out of bed was so hard I would sleep for hours and rather than looking for work I would watch West Wing episodes convinced there was no point trying because I was useless. In the end I had to move home so I could survive. The boy did try to support me but he was still a student and one part-time job shared between two people equals not a lot left to live on.
With the help of some friends in the know, my family and the boy I managed to pick myself back up but it wasn’t easy. Every time I go down hill it is always the boy who has been there over these last few years who is there straight away to drag me back up again. Every time I get poorly he’s there to wipe away my tears, calm me and convince me that the world is a good place and that things will get better.
On one poorly head occasion when we somehow found ourselves at A and E after a particularly bad reaction to Sertraline, (the name still gives me the shudders), we came face to face with a psychiatrist who had obviously decided he was not a fan of women. After deciding, from looking at me rather than my notes you understand, that I was anorexic with father issues he banned the boy from hugging me, told me there was nothing wrong with me and then finished by telling me I should just go ahead and give up then and live in a mental health ward. Thankfully both the boy and the psychiatrists assistant realised I was just extremely anxious in a very scary place and needed to get some sleep and the boy got me the hell away from him before had a chance to lock me up and throw away the key.
I have never forgotten what he did that day and acknowledge that what ever happens with us in the future, without him being by my side that day I could still to this day be living in a closed ward, misdiagnosed and miserable overseen by the most tyrannical mentally unstable medical professional I have ever come across.
We never signed any contract when we got together but both of us always find a way to work it out, scream it out or just forgive regardless. I like to think that its because he like me knows that whatever our problems with us when its good it’s so very good, though at times we can of course both be wicked.
Today’s dress is fantastically floral and sixties style short, it was brought by the boy as a valentine’s Day gift, the Marks and Spencer fair trade roses fluttered a few days but are now largely dead and finished. He brought it for me from a really great vintage shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter along with three other dresses. The manager and the staff there are absolute legends and really seem to enjoy being surrounded by the beauty of such wonderful clothes. One wonders around trying not to grab and cuddle up to every item of clothing within. After a not so successful chat with Oxfam’s manager about possible dress donations my attempt to get the manager on board was rather more half hearted but she was an absolute doll, said she’d take a look at the site and as the boy is a bit Brassica at the moment gave us the dresses for £20 rather than the £35. It is a really great shop, Best Vintage for those who are about the area and comes out at the top of the vintage boutiques because they are neither uppity or ripping offity.
The images today do not really do the dress justice which is completely my fault. My super-star friend, Ms Clayton returned from rehearsals down South in a pink taxi at nine this evening and we all had a lovely night out with some old friends from our gang who had come up from London. Myself and the boy are as I mentioned the wrong side of the poverty line at the moment and added to this the frequent phantom pharting of the men at the table beside us we decided to head back to our place rather than bust a move in town. The boy and his house-mates after living together for more than five years are finally splitting up and when the boy myself, the super star Clayton and her boy and band member got home we had a right old giggle at everything and nothing and it did make me a little sad that soon these impromptu back room gatherings will be a thing of the past.
Today I have been all over the place, as the side effects have started to fade from the new invasive mood stabilizers I was in a buzzing mood and at times I felt wonderfully high. Singing, teasing and dancing about I felt better than I had in weeks and when we were out unlike last week I felt connected and present and genuinely had a great time without ever having to force a smile.
The dress was great fun to wear and though it was naughty short by shimmering up the stairs and ensuring no one was in the vicinity when I was crawling around the floor trying to find the right shoe of any suitable pair I prevented traumatising anyone with an eyeful.
We were out tonight with some of our oldest friends and though me and the boy have talked about the idea of living together I really do miss the days when we got together when we lived with our own fantastic friends who were a constant source of fun. I never felt lonely because in both my house and the boys there was always someone to horse around with. The boy lived with six other guys and we would play cards, pro-evo or just sing into the early hours. Even during the day there was always someone to watch one of my movies for my American film studies module and at my house I would play-fight with the boys and we would tease each other to the point of psychosis.
One particularly strong memory is when three weeks into our dissertations both the boys ran into my room and declared it was party time, switching my stereo on to the Beach Boys whilst we all surfed on my double bed or the numerous chairs I had around the room ready for Sunday brunch. I don’t miss being a student but I miss student living and I miss my friends all being in the same place, being a grown up sucks.
This is an extremely exciting post for me because I have had to hold back until the embargo time was breached. I have only faced an embargo once before during my short time as a writer and this was over the details of the celebration of the Girl Guides in the UK. It was I am sure very exciting for them but for me at the time it was just another press release to get through so I could get on to the juicier crime and scandal. Yesterday I let slip a little taster of what was to come, the girl who leant me both dresses over the weekend, the musical theatre superstar that is Anna Clayton is now to star in the musical about Neil Sedaka’s life story which will be showing all over the UK during the next six months and she will be playing the lead female role, well the female who is married to Neil Sedaka so I’m pretty sure this means she has the lead female role but either way it is still a lead role!
Now for those of you like me who are not entirely sure who this Neil Sedaka is before you end up getting as confused as I was last Saturday when I was entrusted with this information, only four hours after she had found out herself, I shall spare you hours of googling and possible misunderstandings about the story being about Bill Kenwright, he is the producer you see. Anyway Neil is apparently a bit of a musical theatre legend who has sung songs, performed all over the world and as well as writing songs for Elvis Presley and working with Elton John he also wrote the track Amarillo which is the best-selling single of the 21st century so far.
Now the reason this is so exciting is because when you come from a friendship group which is mainly made up of people who dream of doing a job that they enjoy, when we find proof that it is indeed possible we tend to get rather over excited. Here in our lovely Ms Clayton is living proof that if you carry on believing dreams really do come true. I know that this sounds like typical musical theatre la la land tosh but I genuinely believe that if you have a talent for something, be it football, music, rugby, writing, baking or even teaching, if you work hard, believe in it and just as importantly, if you have people around you who support you and believe in you, you can be whatever you want to be. I do emphasise though that this does not apply to people who lack talent in their dream profession, if your singing is more you tube fodder than X-Factor fabulous best reassess your career options at the old job centre.
Anna has for years been plugging away at the world of musical theatre, she has her own agent (google her) has gone on numerous courses to assist her acting skills and practices regularly. As well as all the work she puts into perfecting her acting and singing she holds down a full-time job so she can pay to attend auditions, go on the courses and just survive on a day-to-day basis. One thing the government unfortunately do not recognise is the need for an artist to have time to develop their talent and as a result unless you get a scholarship or come from a privileged background you will have to work twice as hard to climb the greasy ladder of show business.
When I finished university back in 2006 I was convinced I was going to be the next editor of Marie Claire. I had such high hopes and genuinely thought that if only I met the right people and just carried on applying for jobs and sending out positive cover letters with my CV I would be working as a writer in no time. After all I was the president of my halls, I had attained a 2:1 from a fantastic university and I had even set up my own society. It was a knock in the teeth when gradually I came to find out that who one knew has a lot of bearing on where one goes and out of necessity I worked over the next few years in various poorly paid highly stressful positions including events management for a publishing house, media sales, purchase ledger clerk and pr.
It wasn’t until I got made redundant from the pr company, due to a problem with clients paying their bills on time; though I admit it stung when they threw a massive Christmas party complete with transport, booze and ball gowns a month later; that I realised I had to make a decision about whether I was going to continue doing what I could do or whether I was going to do what I wanted. After talking to several friends and a conversation with the legendary leader of News associates in Manchester who gave me a run down on the delights of journalism, I dropped the dream of the magazine and took the dizzy dive into journalism. In spite of having to give up all of my savings to so my NCTJ - trainee certificate for journalists, I can honestly say that it is a decision I have never regretted. When there is a job that you want to do no other will ever satisfy you entirely and unless you go for it full throttle and throw all caution to the wind you will get to 40 and as you watch your children head off to follow their dreams you will be bothered by regret that you never did the same.
Ms Anna Clayton is going to be a super-star, if there is ever any dream you want to follow, do it. Nothing’s impossible, and no door stays closed forever.