So far I have had two front pages. One with a shared by-line whilst working for the Manchester Evening News and one whilst working at the Mail. My first front page at the Mail was a bit of a dud as I didn’t feel as though I deserved the by-line. Though I had done the research, got the quotes and done the running around, when it came to writing the story I stalled. I had no confidence and felt as though I had forgotten every lesson my tutor ever taught us, all in all I bottled it.
For this reason, when the bosses decided the splash for the week was going to be the piece I was working on I wondered immediately whether I would be able to hide under the desk without either of them noticing me. Unfortunately today’s dress has minimal scope for manoeuvrability so instead I had to settle for going to get a glass of water.
I am trying to adjust my behaviour to stop myself from self destructing every time I am presented with a challenge so I took the sensible option and discussed the best way to write the story with my seasoned colleague. What was really amazing was that in the end, other than the original urge to hide I did not freak out any further. I wrote the story, submitted it and actually felt fairly pleased with what I had written.
Tomorrow morning when I walk into work there will be shops selling our paper which will have my name and my story on the front. I remember watching an episode of The Wire when a reporter got up before sunrise and drove down to the printing press to see her first ever front page. Whatever hours you have to do, or how tense things get on deadline day it all becomes worth it when you pick up the paper on Thursday morning and see your work published for all to see; so long as they live within the Harborough district. Doing what you love is an absolute privilege and even if it does make me want to hide under a desk from time to time i wouldn’t do anything else.
- Today’s dress is on loan from my Fairy God Mother. Along with my mystery donor she is perhaps the woman who has contributed the most to the continuation of the blog. As well as loaning me some incredible dresses from when she was a girl she has bought me dresses from charity shops and even lent me jackets to make my racier outfits better suited for work. As well as this she has encouraged friends and family to read the blog and whenever possible comment and rate each post. This dress was one she wore to a wedding. It is from Minuet which is stocked by Debenhams and House of Fraser.
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.
When I was studying to be a journalist two of the women I was most impressed with were Rebekah Wade and Anna Wintour. I read bits about Rebekah in Piers Morgan’s autobiography and I was impressed with how fearless and ferocious she was. There was one incident described by Morgan when she hides out in the boys toilet with a hat covering her auburn curls just so she can snatch the paper from the printing room for.
What attracted me about these women was there ability to survive in what is so often a male dominated industry and not just survive but excel. Today, faced with a flurry of stories I succumbed to tears in the girls bathroom and thinking of these two women I felt ashamed. I want to be ferocious, cut throat and ambitious but sometimes I find myself filled with self doubt. Taking on a new job will always be daunting and I am assured by many that tears in the toilets is an occupational hazard of any job but still I wish I could be a bit stronger.
I hope that this is all a part of a learning curb which will soon become a little more level, but whatever might occur I must still my moans. I am living the dream and must lap up all that lady luck has granted upon me. Whilst talking to the boy tonight he said something which made me cry even more than I have already done today. ”You might wish it was all over, but what if this is all we’ve got?” Sometimes it is these kind of stark statements which bring you back if only just to realise how much there is to lose by giving it all up.
This is the job and this is the dream and I guess I just have to dry the tears, hide the fears and fight through it wondering all the while what Rebekah would have done on the same day.
- Today’s dress is Marks & Spencer, the jumper is Prada-mark and the belt is Topshop. I felt a little stocky in it but I was cold and didn’t ant to freeze and after all the colourful choices of the past few days the chance to just be in black was too good to miss. Big thanks to my secret donor who I believe sent this in a shoe box of love.
- My dress has already been criticised today by the head of Harborough police. I saw him on the streets and he said he was not overly keen on my combination of colours; the pink tights I believe were a little too garish for him. I was a little offended and thought about suggesting he focus his attentions on arresting the legging lovelies flashing their front rumps nearby but I was running a little late for work and had to go on my merry way. The dress got me into a rather uncomfortable situation later on the same day when the Liberal Democrat councillors came to call. As a sleep deprived reporter I had not even considered the political connotations of my choice and had to come clean and admit the dress was down to an overall shortage of office wear rather than an attempt to fly the colours of any clan. Today’s dress is a present from my Godmother who bought it from a shop in Harborough called Labels for Less. As I said I was a little but sleep deprived and in a rush to get ready I paired it with Kurt Geiger wedges and police officer displeasing pink tights.
I last had a letter from the mysterious dress donor last Friday. She sent another shoe box package filled with beautiful dresses and pretty belts in all sorts of colours and styles. After a friend suggested last weeks letter had Germanic influences I decided to investigate more thoroughly. The boy’s mama, the polish princess has always had a good eye for charity shopping. In the past she and I have trawled around the garden city in search of cheap treats and both get giddy when we find designer clobber in great shape and at a fraction of its original price. As the Polish Princess is, well Polish I start to wonder whether or not it could be she who is my secret sender. I am not sure how best to make enquires so I spend some time studying the latest letter for a hint of her land, customs or language.
My dearest Ellie (Scottish?)
Unudr weeck haf parst. I am sendeeng yoo sum moor dresess und de beltses.
Another week has past. I am sending you some more dresses and these belts. (Dutch perhaps?)
Howp dem ees onlite. eye howps de oder wones were sewtibl. Eet ees veree hardee too fynd wones een yur syzes wot ees alsow sooteebl fovr vorck boot ey vil bee triing two fynded dem fo yoo. (What now?)
Hope these dresses are all right. I hope also the other dresses which I sent to you last week were suitable. It is very difficult to find ones in your size which are also suitable for work but I will endeavour to seek them out from the four corners of the earth for you. (Somebody familiar with my size and that I have a job, interesting.)
eet masted bea veree diefkootd twoo fynd ay deefrend dress vor eetch dey – sevenn wonses eetch weec.
It must be very difficult to find a different dress for each day – seven dresses each week. (A person obviously familiar with the basic principals of mathematics).
Good luck to you in your quest. How are you keeping? I am okay and enjoying the delightful weather. Thank goodness it is sunny. (The Polish Princess is a sun worshipper and garden enthusiast, could this be a clue?)
ekskoos may speleeng bat mi enklish ees nod sow gut.
Excuse my spelling but my English is not so good. (A foreigner!)
Ryt two yew soons wid unnudr parcle.
I shall write to you soon with another parcel.
I am puzzled indeed. From the look of the letter the sender could be a member of any EU state or simply a child let loose with a marker and an antiquated spell check. Perhaps they used a defunct quick quotes quill at the end of the line, oh if only Potter life was real. Anyway back to the mystery. Armed with the second letter and my suspicions about the Polish Princess I approached the boy. He denied all knowledge but as he was giggling giddily I am not sure how honest he is being with me.
I call the Polish Princess hoping for a confession. I ask her out right but she genuinely sounds as though she has no idea what it is I’m talking of. At first I think she is playing a part but when she says she does not know what a blog is I remember her aversion to technology and start to believe her. When I tell her about the notes she suggests the frocks are being sent by a mad woman. If she is lying, she is good. Though she lets slips she has been trailing the treasure shops for clothes for herself she does not falter in her flat out denial and in the end I have to accept my press powers are no match for the Polish Princess. I do not now know who it could be who is sending the dresses and wonder if I will have to wait till the next note to find out more.
- Today’s dress is from my donor who is not necessarily the Polish Princess. As I can not find the person to thank, do know, whoever you might be that I am grateful for the frocks. So many people have now donated dresses to the project or loaned ones of their own to keep me going. As well as the mystery donors there have been parcels sent from Florida, Germany, friends, family and even a fairy (God mother). One thing which has surprised me is how difficult it has been to gain support from actual shops. I had rather hoped the interview might lead to a few local shops in the Harborough area getting in touch, but so far I have had no luck.
- Today’s dress is perfect for work as it is not too short or too low and actually looks like a pretty serious piece of work wear. It is perfect for work as it has little pockets where I can stow away a pencil and paper. I always think it is better to approach people with stationary out of sight so as not to alarm people scared of seeing their name in the paper. I feel I rather destroy my attempt at sophisticated office chic with my choice of stack gold heels and purple tights but I’m still rather ropey from last night’s poorly and I need a little lift to get me through the day. My brother took today’s photos which I tried to make a little different with the shades. Also I had a headache and they helped protect my eyes from the flashing light.
There are days like today when I truly love my job. I am being sent to a selection event where I will join with four other women of character to choose this year’s carnival queen. I am still a little sulky about the fact that I was not allowed to throw my hat into the race but considering the average age of the candidate is ten years younger than myself I may well have left it a little late in life to apply.
There are seven girls from whom we have to choose and though this is an all too common phrase in such contests, the competition between them all is close. We come up with some pretty tough questions about their views on politics, their idol and the all important desert island selection test but they all come up class. There is one 13-year-old who is so eloquent she fills me with hope for all those compelled to end every sentence with “like” or “you know what I mean”. When asked who her idol would be she states Rosa Parkes and has good reason for doing so. There are girls who want to teach abroad, to study law and to perform and they are all active in the community.
Young people often get a bad deal in the press and in all honesty I often find myself frustrated by gaggling gangs of girls shrieking on buses. These girls though give you hope, they are truly little women. They are firm in their opinions and they seem to know both who they are now and who they want to be. When I was 13 I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was too busy chasing boys and falling in crush to think too much about it. The only difficulty of the evening is their insistence on wearing leggings but I guess they are young and I can only hope such choices are a phase. There is the occasional Ugg but being the professional judge I force myself not to let my prejudices affect my decision making and force myself not to give them fashion advice for their future.
It is great fun trying to decide which of these girls will be best suited to represent our town through the year and though I feel sad we can not give the crown to each of them there is only one tiara. The two girls we pick I am sure are capable. They are both confident and caring and I am sure they will do their best throughout the year to do well by the town. I feel bad for the girls who are not chosen but one of the town’s jewellers has given charm bracelets for the runners up and I hope the sparkle of the silver will go some way to ease their disappointment.
- Today’s dress is on loan from my good friend Kat Ingham. It is from George and is a bit gorgeous. My mother says it is her favourite dress so far which is high praise indeed. Though I hate to admit it I was a little bit worried about the evening as the judges all have to be photographed and I didn’t want to appear in my own paper looking rough. I made a lot more effort with my make up than usual and use my Chanel powder for the first time in months, a special occasion product indeed. Looking in the mirror I remember what it was like to be 13, a time when make up was for fun not for function. I remember sticking stars to my eyelids, coating my lips in cherry tinted lip-balm and trying to learn how to apply just the right amount of blush not to look like I had spent the morning on a marathon rush. I miss my teen skin but at least these days I have the luxury of using Mac rather than Rimmel.
I have sunk. Over the past few days I have felt myself falling and today I am just totally flat. I am worried about work, about the way I write and about how long it takes me to get a good introduction done. I am anxious and annoyed at myself for not getting on quicker; I am trying desperately hard but I just want to be there so much faster than it seems to be taking me.
I was gifted with the opportunity to write and research the splash, the front page of the paper. I managed to get the quotes and the contacts which is often the hardest part but when it came to writing it I froze. I couldn’t seem to convey what I wanted to say in the opening paragraph and after writing it and discarding it twelve times panic set in. It was so annoying because I had the time I just folded under the pressure. I was starting to feel last week as though I was finally getting the hang of things but after fluffing up today I just feel so angry with myself for not being able to follow things through. I know I can write but I just seem to be struggling.
I do not think that it helps that I have been coming home to an empty house the past couple of days. I like to think I am an independent woman who is happy in her own company, and most of the time I am. It is times like this evening though that I feel myself getting a bit tearful and wish the boy was here so I could curl up on his chest and warble out my worries from the day. As it is though I am alone and sad and have little enthusiasm for anything. The football was on and I watched it for a little while but couldn’t seem to summon the usual love of the sport. I knew I should eat but there was nothing I wanted and I did not see the point in cooking for myself. I had started to wonder whether it might be good for me to move into a place by myself, where any stresses were all my own but on days like this I worry how I would cope. Perhaps I will be one of those women who ends up with seven kittens or maybe I shall be sensible for once and take up Tai Chi.
- Today’s dress was brought for me by the boy as a cheer up treat yesterday. It is some unusual make but it was from British Heart Foundation and was only £3.99. I wore it with my checker tights and some huge heels to give me a bit of a boost. I am not usually a fan of purple but according to the boy it suits my hair colour. My baby brother took the photos for me before having to head out to see his lovely lady. He is a big fan of strange angles which he creates by spinning the camera around and randomly taking the photos when I am least expecting it.
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.
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.