Despite having a lovely day with my brother and sister I am very aware that the beginnings of another depression are creeping up on me. As always I find myself trying to work out why it has come back. I am a dreadful scientist and although the Docs have told me time and time again that it has as much to do with a ‘chemical reaction in my brain due to a biological malfunction’ or some such thing I still look outward for the cause.
Perhaps I have been having too much fun of late, or maybe it is this cold that I can’t shake or the fact that I feel rather under pressure. I don’t know what it is but I find myself tearful and full of self loathing. My figure feels too full and my eyes too prone to water and generally it just kind of sucks.
I am trying to subscribe to the American way of being and think positive but it is hard and I am scared. My last high which started in October was pretty severe and according to my medical history and the famous law of what goes up must come down I cannot help but worry that this next low will be colossal.
The reason I acknowledge it here and now is that I do not want people to get the wrong idea about the nature of my illness. For those of you who are new to the blog I must admit that the lows can be quite significant and at times crippling to everything I do including friendships, work and life generally.
I am doing as far as I can see everything right. I am taking my tablets, getting plenty of sleep and seeing friends and family as often as I can. As well as having a new project to put my energy into I have even taken to eating healthily and having herbal teas, health supplements and warm baths. My only remaining vice, well more or less, is my temporary nicotine addiction and that will pass as it always does.
Fingers crossed I am just worrying without cause and tomorrow will be a brighter day. The shoes have helped in that those I have been wearing for the main part of the day are bright but comfortable without resorting to sweaty Ugg inspired slippers. I spent the most part of the day with my big sis who bought me them and according to her partner they were seen a few months ago on Dragons Den. Wearing them made a walk to the shops a hell of a lot easier but the outfit demanded heels and so they came out to play too although in the mood I’m in today the lower of the two seemed more appropriate.
Look out tomorrow for pictures of the pairs.
Getting behind with blogs always bums me out. I do like to make sure I am up to date but there are times like today when I have so many to catch up on that the task just seems too much. After many attempts to bash out a birthday blog, a tribute to the red dress and even a recollection of the night of my birthday celebrations I had to give up because I just couldn’t get them right and because in the case of the celebration blog my memory has been compromised by too many cocktails. Who knew something so delicious could be so lethal, darn you Oat Hill and your sorcerer ways.
There are times the blogs just fire from my fingers and in a matter of minutes a medley of words will shoot up on the screen. Today though no matter how hard I try I can’t finish even one, or even start it for that matter. My mind is all over the place and I’ve been on a downward slide ever since I woke up on Sunday morning. They say that alcohol is a depressant and the state I was in at the end of the day would seem to support that fact.
I do try to cheer myself up, I really do. I abandon Yoga for a three episode Glee marathon in the hope that the cheesy tunes would prove to be more spiritually cleansing than another session of singing oms. Unfortunately I fear I may have made the wrong choice and find myself wishing I had given the hippy healing another go. Glee is great but if I am honest its a little like Harry Potter, you always find yourself wishing it was real and knowing that there isn’t really a magical world or a place where spontaneous song is totally acceptable makes me a little sad.
In the end I decide to abandon my attempts to become a professional singer and opt for an early night. When I enter my room I am instantly cheered. The boy stayed over last night and I confessed to him that I was fed up of getting behind with blogs and having a room that was constantly in a state due to having a hundred dresses with no real place to put them. He has tidied up the room, put up my birthday cards, hoovered the floor and I even detect a hint of polish in the air. As well as this he has found the picture of liownn and I and mounted it on the wall opposite my bed so that the first thing I see when I wake up is the colourful drawing. Admittedly the dresses are still in a pile at the end of the bed but they are in a neat pile. This makes all the difference. Though things are tough with us living apart he still seems able to find ways to make my week easier even when he isn’t here. Now if only I could remember how to write.
- Today’s dress is from Florence and Fred sent from my mystery dress donor. Unfortunately I still know no more about the identity of this person and feel as though I am getting nowhere after ruling out my only suspect. Though I had thought the Polish Princess was the sender, the boy’s mother was away in Spain when this package arrived and unless she has gained an accomplice I think I must look elsewhere to find the culprit.
Wearing a red dress, perhaps because of all of the popular culture references which stand alongside it can be a bit like playing a part in your own private theatre. There are few things in this world which lend femininity more readily than a red dress. The little black dress the six inch high stiletto and the black pencil lined silk stockings are a short cut to traditional sex appeal but the red dress is more about the way it makes the wearer feel.
Wearing it today I feel stronger than I have been in some time and throughout the day I can not help but be pleased as punch with my reflection which betrays someone who is smiling, actually smiling! The colour is so bright and vivid that whenever I walk the light catches the red in the windows and just for a moment I get a glimpse of the person I become when I wear red. Though I have been at war with my body for months I finally feel happy with what the dress is draping.
At one stage a pigeon swoops over my head whilst I’m passing by Sainsburys and though the wretched things usually scare me stiff my body just folds forward away from the tips of its wings and standing as it soars up and on above me I smile at the strangeness of it all. I do not respond so well to compliments these days but in this dress I accept them with grace. A man in the market tells me I am a sight for his sore eyes and rather than frown, looking away and having a sulk I turn and thank him.
When I woke up this morning I did not feel confident. I fell flat when I caught sight of my now 26-year-old reflection. My footballers wife blow-dry had fallen flat and one too many glasses of wine saw circles round my eyes more fitting for a panda. Yet once I put on this dress I felt strong, feminine and elated. This will be one of the dresses that I wish I could keep if only for the way it made me feel.
- My good friend Monica Kenny picked me this particular red dress up from one of the charity shops in Kettering. It is originally from Next and the material is wonderfully heavy so it clings kindly. I don’t usually push this as I do not know when the dresses will go up for sale but whoever gets this one will be a lucky lady.
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.
Every relationship has a beginning. In the traditional American dating system, the home of The Rules, the beginning is usually quite clear to both parties. There is a first date which led on to a second, a third, marriage and children. In Britain, we tend to have a rather different approach to dating which does not involve asking a fellow whether he plans to have children in the near future by the time dessert has been served. Most of my relationships have begun by a night-time snog aided by a few apple sours or back in the day the toxic orange Reef drink. They slowly become something after the first meet, by the aid of a couple of texts and a meet up in a bar where you both sort of remember what the other look like but are still fairly surprised when they turn out to have had purple hair or a tendency to wear tight T-shirts which showcase their nipples. Although liaisons and nights spent sitting up chatting till sunrise are a common feature of the start of our relationship it is far less common to begin an affair with a traditional date. Relationships then in England tend to become official far more organically than they might in other cultures where booze is not the nation’s primary aphrodisiac.
As it turned out today was our actual anniversary I thought I would share the story of our courtship. It is a story most of our friends know and is happily lacking in sonnets and musical midnight serenades. What does feature in the tale of our coupling is a pair of “kinky” black suede boots, one of Manchester’s biggest cattle markets and an argument about Jack Johnson.
The first time myself and the boy made eyes at each other was when he played a performance gig at Jabez Clegg where I was working as a barmaid. The band was called Onions and though his other band The Schmatte Kid went their separate ways without ever really informing each other, Onions itself is still going strong today. Occasionally there are groupies at gigs which cause me a fair amount of annoyance but one can deal with them directly by planting a great big smooch on one’s musical man immediately after the gig, just as they come off stage. Admittedly this does mean one gets covered in performance perspiration but it really is necessary to mark one’s turf when there are predatory indie chicks about.
What was strange about the night myself and the boy met was that as I went amongst the crowd of annoyingly amorous students some of whom would try to “give me a hand there darling”, or put their paws on me, I couldn’t help but notice the drummer was looking over in my direction whilst he happily bippity bip bopped away. Reminding myself I had once managed to convince myself Justin Timberlake had given me the eye at a sell-out concert at the MEN I brushed the thought aside and continued to collect up the dregs and fag ends.
After the gig was over I was downstairs on the bar finishing up. I had grown a tad sick of the place as I had foolishly got involved with a guy who I worked with who was lovely but totally not interested in anything but a fling. This was fair enough but when it came to a rather abrupt ending I was left feeling rather uncomfortable in the work place. As it was he was luckily not there that night so I was feeling happier than I had done in days. A friend who I worked with, the cupid in this tale, Nicola Steele, was sitting with some friends so I went over to have a quick catch up whilst collecting the glasses. When I got over there I noticed the drummer boy sat across from her. He was dressed in a really lovely looking shirt and tie with his hair all nicely spiked up and a lovely big smile on his face. Whilst collecting the glasses from the table I stood behind the drummer and mouthed to my friend, though I do not remember this, “Who is he, he’s well fit.”
According to the boy before I had come over he had been considering whether or not to approach me and offer me a drink. After deciding I was far too much of a lady too be approached in such a way he voiced his thoughts to his friends girlfriend who told him that any girl wearing knee-high boots and fish net tights would not be mortally offended by such an intrusion.
In the end he chickened out. The next time we saw one another we were in a large group at Trof and he was acting like an eejot. After insulting my musical taste, he told me Jack Johnson was a talentless nobody and even yelled at me. As a result I decided he was far too arrogant and set off to meet a guy I’d been seeing at the cinema. I did not leave the bar however before I’d turned to him and called him a musical Nazi.
When he got home that night his friend asked him whether the girl he had spent the night insulting was in-fact the one he was trying to get with. His face fell as he said: “Yeah. I’ve blown it haven’t I? And indeed he had. I went to my date that night resolved to give the guy I was dating more of a chance; after all he might not set me alight but at least he didn’t yell at me.
- Today’s dress is another gift from my fairy god mother. I believe it is from Next and is lovely and silky. It is cute but low cut enough to prevent it looking too girly. As it was our anniversary and unfortunately pouring it down I put on some thick purple tights with hearts stencilled in to them and black knee high leather boots. Really I could have done with some brown as the black took away from the flirtiness of it and made it a little too harsh looking but I wasn’t about to ruin any shoes on the way down to watch the rugby at The Kings Head with the boy and an old friend.
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.
Four years ago I went on a Valentines date with a boy named Chris, he was sweet, good-looking, tall and had a great body. I had met him just a couple of weeks before when a friend of mine who worked at student direct, Laura Wales had called me up short of someone to take part in the paper’s blind date. At the time I had a little argument with the giant and as a result had been cut off and so the idea of food and more importantly wine was appealing whoever else might be there. I remember thinking it might be nice if my date didn’t show up so I could have more food, but he did and we had a good night. My housemates took the mick as less than a month later the pizzeria where we had eaten had burnt down, according to them it was due to our firey passion for one another. As the original date had gone well and as I was under strict instructions from my wiser slightly older housemate to play it cool I found myself on february 14 at a noodle bar with said Chris. It was a nice date and there was even a kiss but no coffee and I remember wondering if there was enough of a spark.
Today I went on a Valentines date with the boy, or Chris. He has a great body; he still works out after all these years and being a drummer for Onions means in spite of his sweet tooth he keeps on the trimmer side of cuddly. He has the kind of shoulders and arms you want your man to have and is tall enough so I can get away with wearing up to six-inch heels and still have to stand on my tippy-toes to kiss him. He is kind and sweet and this morning, once he stirs he brings me a cup of tea and a dozen red roses.
I have to swallow down my annoyance because I notice they are from Marks and Spencer and I know they cost him far too much. I am annoyed because I would have been happy without roses, happy for us to use the money for a meal or a cinema date but secretly I feel the wonderful smug feeling you only get when a man you love gives you a great big over-the-top gesture that he loves you back. Still sweet after all these years he has also got me a Valentines card with a ticket to see Midlake this Wednesday within. I am surprised even though I knew he was planning to take me to a gig for weeks (his friends have no tact and kept letting slip at which point I had to sing loudly and walk out the room as though nothing had happened) I have managed to convince myself that we were off to see The Wild Beasts, I prefer Midlake.
Unfortunately although I had planned to treat him to a wet shave and massage at the boy beauty parlour; something he would never book himself but which I know he would love; I finally got round to summoning up the courage to check on my overdraft the other day and the results were not good. In spite of me being unemployed HSBC are charging me an unseemly amount for being overdrawn and unless I get paid work soon I have no way of paying it off; because of this although I get him a card and make him cups of tea I offer to sort through his wardrobe as a gift and iron him ten shirts as a way of showing my love, and though it is not terribly romantic I pair his socks up for him because I know he hates doing it.
Our good friends are about and the boys join me to watch the football in the afternoon after the boy has had a practice; he needs to tap or the tension builds in his shoulders and he gets crotchety ; one of them is sulking as although I know his girl got him a very nice present for his birthday the day before she has not had time to get him a valentines present. As I have a dozen roses and need none, I call her quietly from the room and give her a rose to give to him. It’s nice to share the love but in the photos the boy takes later on I have to be careful to conceal the missing bloom. Thankfully the dress is remarkably busty and so his eyes are happily distracted. The dress today is on loan from the very lady, the musical theatre legend that is Anna Clayton. I believe it is from Primark and I must admit that I struggle to button myself into it as she has a much slimmer figure than me, one of the benefits of being a dancer.
After we have taken the photos I don my faux fur hat and we head out to Abode, Micheal Cain’s Michelin star dining experience. I have eaten here twice before, once with a friend on my birthday when me and the boy were having troubles and once with the boy for my birthday when we had patched things up. Both times I have loved the place. We always eat in the upstairs area as the downstairs just feels a little too formal and the tables are too big and so I feel we lose a little bit of the intimacy when we struggle to reach each other over the condiments. We are booked in for six and happily they are out of the chicken so instead they have quail, which is delicious. After Marks and Spencer irritated me the other day I rang around trying to find a reasonable deal and happily came upon Abode who had only added £5 to their usual offer of four courses for two people with one bottle of wine. It is usually £25, the same price as the M & S deal but as we didn’t have to wash up or cook it we did not mind the extra charge.
As we sit snuggled up together in the bar area after finishing our meal, sipping the last of the wine, I am so glad I met the boy before falling into something that wasn’t quite it with the Valentine’s day Chris. A week after the Valentine’s date which lacked the sparkle I bumped into The boy, The Chris, and from then on there was only him, my boy, my Chris, my Valentine.
Last night when having dinner with friends we got on to the topic of the boy to discuss my boyfriend, who was also at the meal. I have never been a fan of the term partner, it just seems a little too grown up and ambiguous. Alternatively to refer to him as my boyfriend feels too personal for me and he has said from the start he does not want me using his name for similar reasons. And so I settled on the boy when I started the blog because to me at least it sounded cute and similar to “the one” which if I believed in all that rubbish, I might say he was but I don’t so it just sounds cute and nice.
I am surprised I admit by the amount of male backlash to the term, girls seem to understand it is used affectionately, but male friends and readers, whether seriously or just to play the devils advocate, TE you know who you are, suggest they view it as a derogatory label and one reader even suggested he gave up on the posts because one of them “went all feminist”. A lot of them have a problem with the term because they think it suggests I see him as below me as being under the thumb. They also support their argument with historical about to times gone by when slaves were called boy by the masters in the plantations of the American deep south, which upsets me as I have studied the history and literature of the time and it is a rather upsetting comparison. I had never considered any of these issues so I guess I wanted to know whether any of you my lovely readers have an opinion on whether the boy should be no more. I have come up with several other terms including: The Drummer, GP, Mi-guy, C-dawg (his not mine I assure you) but am open to suggestions and your thoughts. Until I get any particularly strong reaction however I will be sticking with the boy, as both myself and my guy are happy with that and as everyone knows there are only two people who ever know what really goes on in a relationship so if those two are happy it really has no bearing whatever anyone else thinks, unless you are in an open relationship or have a lot of threesome of course.
The dress I am wearing today is from John Rocha, my mother got it for me last year in the Debenham’s sale, and though I first put it to the back of my wardrobe with little thought I have really warmed to it. I wore it to death during my journalism course in Manchester as in a city where rain is the natural forecast it is lovely and bright and the burnt oranges mean you can get away with wearing it in winter and throughout the year. It is one of those dresses which makes one feel feminine and free simultaneously. The colours on it and the pattern is fabulous and the unusual length makes it rather lady-like whilst preventing it getting covered in the tar which coats the jeans and hemlines of every pedestrian in the city. Usually I love wearing it with flip-flops in the summer and patterned black tights and ankle boots in the winter, today though I had only slouchy boots, green shoes or pink tights so I spent most of the day looking like I had an unfortunate affair with the easter bunny and telly tubbies combined.
My greatest memory of wearing this dress was one wonderful day in March last year, which I think will always rate highly in my top hundred memories of all time. Myself and some of my closest friends from my NCTJ course had decided to take a trip to the countryside bringing with us every newspaper on the stand, a couple of blankets and wearing ridiculously unsuitable gear. We took my little red lupo Freddie which was a fabulous car which could usually zip past a Porsche in seconds but with the weight of five people and the press struggled to make the speed limit. Freddie, named so because he looked like a little frog with his cute eyes and ribbit mouth was my first car and though I was devestated when my brother sold it late last year I would not have been here writing this now had I crashed whilst driving the little red one. He may have been zippy but he was nowhere near as boxy as Foxy and could well have crumpled by the third spin.
We went to Lyme Park on the outskirts of Manchester and spent the day walking, frolicking and lazing in the grass reading the papers. One of my friends had a camera and the photos from the day are spectacular and really show how well we were feeling. it was at the beginning of the course and we all felt so full of possibility and delight at finally following our dreams and having met such good friends along the way. We were also joined by one of the girl’s boyfriends; they were in the first flushes of love and I think myself, the other girl and the other guy took pleasure in watching them together as they were so cute and couldn’t keep their hands off each other – play-fighting and cuddling all the day.
The best part of our day was when whilst walking we came across a lake, or possibly it was a reservoir hidden from view by a strong stone wall and some tricky looking barbed wire. Me and my friends climbed over, stripped down to our underwear and went for what was the shortest swim of my life. The water was gorgeous, so clear and ice-cold. It was the kind of experience which shocks all of your senses into acknowledging the beauty and splendour of the world in which we live; even if we had to leave the city to remind ourselves of the beauty of our county. Heading back to the car after I wrapped the dress round me and pulled on a warm cashmere polo-neck thankful to be alive and to have such fantastic friends but shivering nevertheless.
When I opened my wardrobe this morning it was to find some frightfully slim pickings of dresses. I am by the last day of January largely down to a collection of frocks more suitable for ball gowns or beaches. As I had booked a table for myself, the boy and some friends at Cafe Bruxelles in Leicester I had to choose an outfit which I wouldn’t feel too ridiculous in once my coat and my self were parted.
Cafe Bruxelles is one of my favourite places in Leicester City Centre. Lately the city has undergone a terrifying transformation in the form of regeneration and unfortunately, as is usually the case with city centre regeneration, the result is more traditional areas are fast becoming abandoned by most shoppers and shops who have moved to the swankier area where there is less grime and graffiti but also a little less character. There is a host of chain stores and depressingly all too familiar mid-range food chains all offering overpriced dishes which taste pretty much the same whatever you order from the menu.
Amidst these culinary crapes are two fantastic places to eat, Cafe Bruxelles and Cafe Italiano; I shall save going into too much detail about Italiano till another day as the man who runs it is a legend and should I visit there this year he will command an entire post just by his greeting; there is however two very defining characteristics of both places which chains will always lack, a clear sign of who it is who is in charge of the place. When you walk into a restaurant and know immediately who it is who owns the place you know you are in for a treat. In both of these places the owner offers at least a friendly smile when you enter and it is their everyday involvement in the running of the place and the personal pride they invest which ensures you never walk away feeling duped of hard-earned cash. It is a place you take pleasure in paying because you know every pound is well deserved.
I first went to Bruxelles with my God-Mother or Fairy-God-Mother when I was fifteen. I know her as my fairy-god-mother because she used to be able to treat all maladies with the touch of her magical wooden spoon when I was a child. My mother also used to have a magic wooden spoon but this was used to ensure good behaviour; the threat of a beating by the spoon was enough to guarantee goodness and I once came very close to experiencing its wrath when I was nine and swore in front of my mother; I had never known she was a runner but she chased me round the garden path, spoon in hand, for what felt like hours but was probably only mere minutes. Anyway my fairy god mother took me there after a shopping trip to find an outfit for a family wedding. It was only a few days since my sister had died and unfortunately the wooden spoon had failed with its magic so Bruxelles was a treat to try and take my mind off our family tragedy. I still don’t think any of us believe we got on a plane a week after my sister died to attend the wedding in Ireland but people do strange things when they are grieving and even though it was a surreal and difficult experience, we would have felt worse if we had not gone.
Bruxelles was at the time everything it still is today. It was formerly a bank and has a carved out ceiling with intricate paintings all around which look as though they have been finely etched with gold. The bar is long and its fridges filled with unusual beers; we brought six and shared them between four of us, each having a little taste which sounds sensible but becomes a little silly when one glances at some of the labels afterwards only to find some are as strong as 12%. Generally when one goes to Bruxelles, one gets mussels which come with thick white freshly baked bread and frites. It is such a luxury and at £8.99 is enough for two to share as a starter or a light lunch during the day.
That day when I came with my god-mother I was allowed a very small glass of wine and a hot chocolate and though I remember feeling distraught the warmth of the place did help to wake me from the trance I had started to fall into. What is most difficult when someone close to you dies is that afterwards for a long time you feel angry at yourself when you experience joy. Happiness seems somehow inappropriate considering the enormity of what you have lost; it is of course a sign that whether you want it to or not life will go on and if you keep resisting the urge to live you will get left and the despair will eventually consume you completely.
When I chose this dress today I could not help but think of my sisters favourite dress which was a red silk Chinese dress, the one which we eventually had to bury her in as was her wish. In Irish families unlike English ones you lay the body out in the house prior to the funeral it is a tradition which is difficult for those who live in the house as you can find yourself going a little crazy hoping the person might still be able to hear you but in many ways it removes the idea of death as something which is scary and should not be talked of. Later after my sister died my parents brought me a black silk dress for my 17th birthday. It is and was beautiful and when I wear it is mas much a homage to the loss of my sister as it is to the joy she brought us. Today at Bruxelles, surrounded by friends, few of whom had known her I couldn’t help but feel sad and full of sentiment and although I meant for this posting to be about the joys of Sunday dinner at Bruxelles, which by the way was lovely, in my melancholic state thinking as I was of my darling sister it seemed a bit too trivial to post only on luncheon.
A funky little disco tune, Stand, is a tricky little track which urges us repeatedly to Stand Up for our minds. It sounds like a meaningless but pleasantly familiar lyric ideal for dancing; but as the song ends you realise Woolf was issuing an early warning to us to beware of a tune which leaves you questioning your sanity.
You can’t help but shake your hips to his soulful voice, but just when you get used to the beat, Woolf lets rip with a musical head fuck so thoroughly unexpected even Red Riding Hood would have been unprepared. You wonder if you imagined it, you might have even liked it but mostly you will probably think the DJ has messed up or that you’ve swallowed one too many dodgy disco juices.
It is clear that Woolf has gobbled his way through back catalogues of Talking Heads and Prince and found inspiration from both. What is unfortunate is that although he has clearly tasted their tracks he has failed to digest them. Instead of assimilating them into his sound with the reverence, they command they are spat out at random with little understanding of their genius. The track has got a good enough beat to keep you on the dance floor but is not quite strong enough to get you there in the first place.
The problem with Woolf is not that he has a lack of talent or is musically too narrow; it is that he has gobbled his way through so many genres that his own music sounds like a mass musical crash with too many bars that clash rather than compliment each other. It does create a new, sound which in many ways gives a great tune, but more than anything it leaves me feeling a bit dizzy and in need of a sit down.