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.
The dress I am wearing today is one of the boy’s favourites; he has been a bit of a grumpy of late ever since he realised many of the dresses would be sold. He has a bit of a thing about me lending my clothes to people as it upsets him as he then struggles to look at me in them without the memory of happy times of me wearing the dress; anniversary dates, meals out, summer days etc. are apparently tainted by someone else having worn it. It is strange but he assures me it is a boy thing. It is perhaps because of this I am unable to persuade him to go with me to a clothing swap shop in Manchester today. It is being put on at the 8th day by some students, one of whom has assured me they can set me up for dresses for the year. I am wary however as I have been fooled before by such gushing support so I try to approach the evening as cynically as possible for a person who loves the idea of getting newish clothes for free. I smile as I enter to see a swarming mass of foxy, feisty, women, trying hard to look as though they are not waiting for the whistle to break from their friendship groups and fight as politely as possible for frocks, tops or the ever coveted brand new with labels designer item. These sales are a great way of getting money for old rope and if you are lucky or selective about visitors you can get some really good finds. I have heard an awful lot about swap shopping but at first thought it sounded a little too much like swinging; however, desperate times and a lack of dresses mean I have no choice but to investigate.
In credit to the volunteers who have put this evening together every effort is made to aid visitors; strong sustainable bags are re-distributed, clothes are laid out nicely and in relatively well organised tables and they even make a flawed attempt to filter the hoard. The problem with a lot of the things available is the quality of the clothing; there was more Prada-mark than one could believe, and though I should have been more wary after seeing the waddling shuffle of ugged hooves I had carelessly handed over my bag of high-end well washed barely worn finds before seeing the state of some of the clothing. A lot of it is from the lowest possible end of the high street and some of it is neither washed, pressed or even unstained. I would be embarrassed to put my washing out in this state let alone give it to others in return for a new wardrobe but many people seem quite happy to hand over questionable clothing with no scruples.
Interestingly there is no limit to the amount of items you can walk away with which is quite good as in spite of feeling rather forced together the lack of rules means the atmosphere is fairly relaxed. I find most people reasonably polite, many of them excusing themselves after shoulder barging you or ripping a vest from your finger tips, which is unnecessary in this shop but sweet nevertheless. I end up with one or two dresses and a horde of tops but all will need some level of adjustment or dry-cleaning to make them blog worthy but I guess that’s just part of the fun of swapping.
I am considering organising my swap shop with tea and home-made cakes where people can bring unwanted dresses and swap them for luxe items from my extensive wardrobe or for other items of clothing brought by other swappers. There will be a bit more enforcement on the door as I will not have dirty hockey tops messing up my home and though we usually run a shoes on in the house policy, any Uggaly wearers will have to leave their slippers at the door and legging lovelies showing front rump will be provided with a modesty pashmina for their own good.
Today I am feeling a little bit vulnerable. It may be a result of the flimsiness of the dress which is pure silk from Topshop unique and which once gave everyone on my NCTJ course a rather raunchy display when I entered our office after being caught in a rain storm. Never forget to check in the mirror when you come in from outside and if wearing a thin dress such as this make sure you pop on some French knickers and a covering cream bra or even a slip. That is unless you think you might enjoy a day spent blushing as red as your underwear.
I think the real reason has nothing to do with the dress which is transformed easily with thick woollen tights and cashmere cardigan; it has a lot more to do with the attitude of duplicitous and down right rude men and women. Yesterday a horrible person, stole my friends wallet whilst she was dealing with the baby on the bus. What really upset me and her is they must have kept an eye on her to see whether she became distracted so they could swipe the bag from the pushchair. I don’t really understand people who rob mothers, perhaps it is because they are on crack and think of them as an easy target, or maybe they have childhood issues. Either way it seems rather rude that they take from their fellow bus riders and not going and getting a bit itchy fingered in HMV. Not that I am advocating a shop lifting campaign at this establishment for crack users, but one must admit it would be a lot better than stealing from a Mummy. I find myself thinking today that I hope rumours of the power of karma which us Catholics are kept ignorant of are true and the person in question comes back as an assistant for Naomi Campbell and gets regularly beaten and exposed to class A drugs they are not allowed to touch for fear of punishment. Obviously none of this would be the result of them being around Naomi who has apparently softened in old age like a mature but tasty brie.
I like to think such incidents of crime are isolated but two things which happened yesterday made me realise that not everyone in this world or indeed in Manchester is a nice person. I know this will seem obvious to the majority of you but I have always been a bit blinkered when it comes to spotting the b-words of both sexes. Yesterday whilst at a cash point I saw a man who looked like a student, carrying a blackberry and wearing expensive sports gear barge into a woman as she walked away from the cash point only because she had taken too much time. I muttered abuse under my breath but other than rip out his headphones and demand he follow her to apologise I wasn’t sure how to make him see that pushing a girl half your side in the chest is just plain rude.
The other incident occurred later on the same night at the students union. I was killing time after the swap shop and feeling quite pleased with myself for managing to rescue back my Next suede coat from out of the clutches of an Ugg wearer, in my defence i am saving it for the theatre starlet when she returns from London this weekend and as a reward I thought I would treat myself to a coffee/ beer in the students union whilst transcribing an interview. I have never actually been into the students bar since I was at Manchester University four years ago and fancied seeing whether all the hype about its splendour was for real. It turned out that it was but it took me such a ridiculous amount of time to get inside that the novelty was a little lost on me after a run in with a horrible bouncer who refused at first to let me in. I tried to explain I was reviewing a gig and I had a student card still but in the end let him continue his unending rant whilst getting out my sd card and silently flashing it at him at which point he backed off a bit. I tutted at the grey giant and muttered the offensive statement, “for goodness sake” at which point his uglier even larger friend decided to join in with the fun and told his friend he had made me an unhappy lady. The charmer responded crossly he didn’t care whether he had upset the stupid cow or not. Well, I was so upset I ended up telling on him to the girl behind the bar who gave me a drink for my nerves where upon I went off to hide until the boy arrived. We crossed paths with him before going to see Adam Green only to hear him threatening to blow the place up because he hated students. Now I must admit I am not the biggest fan of students myself. It is probably because I am a bit jealous of their freedom but I also get annoyed when I hear the horrible ones on the bus who dress as though hey are wearing clothing from the original fifties, not the nice fitted flattering stuff but the clothing my grandmothers mother was probably wearing whilst saying the word like a lot and asking over and over if their long-suffering friend knows what they mean and slating the North. In spite of this the majority are quite sweet and even the annoying ones don’t deserve to get blown up by a grey student despising giant.
It is horrible how some people feel they can treat others and I do wish my general response was a lot more effective than the occasional mutinous muttering. I am going to have to work on quick responses to amateur terrorists and cash point cjawhatsits or else I will run the risk of ranting for eternity without ever making a stand against them. Watch out for your handbags wear them in front of you where possible and keep your phone out of sight. Make sure you build up your arm muscles so bank barges bounce back off you and if you go to a gig at the academy make sure you do your best to avoid the wrath of the warlord.
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.
When I started the 365 dresses section of the blog it was without too much thought about the content of each post. I knew it would contain a few images of the dress I chose for each day and information about the hows, wheres and when’s it had been acquired; but originally I had no plans to merge various life experiences into each day. When talking with some friends at dinner the other day we got on to the subject of the various posts and the two who have followed mentioned their favorite days had been the one’s not focused on fashion but the more personal.
To their mind, a blogger who was open about a health condition which many people know little of or who some people are perhaps a little wary of was still a relatively rare thing. Fear not, I have no plans to suddenly make the entire focus of each and every blog a detailed account of my current mental health. There are far better blogs that cover this very well for there to be any need and besides I enjoy tippity tap typing about giants, musicians and technological assault to stop.
What I have considered however is the charity aspect of this feature. Aware of having been a little vague so far on how the dresses will be sold or for whom any money raised will go to I have now decided to give any money raised from the blog to a mental health charity. I am looking into who this will be but will hopefully announce details within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime any suggestions of mental health charities people hold in high regard would be much appreciated. I will start selling the dresses directly through the site and all the money will go directly to the charity or I will start-up an eBay shop from which they will be available to buy.
I have also come to this decision because I really would like this project to last the distance. I for one really enjoy writing every day and I know when I am going through my own bad patches it is really helpful to be able to read other peoples experiences to know you are not the only one going through it or who has been through it. One thing which struck me as I trawled through a number of blogs about bipolar and mental illness was how suddenly a lot of them ended and how infrequent posts were. As much as I at times don’t feel able to write a post especially if I am having a gray day I try to force myself because some people have been kind enough to tell me they read the blog every day and there is a large part of me which doesn’t like letting people down. Yesterday on the way out the door to see my best friend on her birthday at her home where we were due to play Monopoly I had a very foolish but a very real raging argument with my parents.
I am so lucky I have been able to return home over the years in times of financial struggle or when I just need a bit of extra support and it pains me to argue because I find it hard to check my temper especially when the subject is of my illness. The giant struggles at times to understand the ins and outs of the condition and to be fair to him I am not far in front of him myself. We all ended up having a silly tiff over my driving and whether I was ready to get back behind the wheel following my rather dramatic VW cartwheels back in December. The whole run in left me so upset more than anything because I felt as though I was behaving like a teenager, all over emotional and misunderstood. The difficulty is however that a lot of the time I do feel it can be near impossible to explain to people how it feels to be stuck in a mood, how awful it is when you can’t just shake something off, when you wake one morning and just don’t feel as though you will ever want to get out of bed again. I feel misunderstood because I don’t understand myself and if this blog ever even makes one person feel a bit more normal, or helps a parent, lover or friend understand what someone close to them is going through or just as importantly makes people giggle and gives them a pretty picture to look at then it will be worth doing every day of 2010.
Today’s dress was another eBay buy and this one was 0.99p. It looked amazing on the floor but I am not really overly keen on the shape on me as I think I look a bit boxy and perhaps as a result of the new tablets I have taken a bit too chunky round the waist. As I did not wish to disappoint you too much with the pictures, which were taken by my best friend Katharine after perhaps a little more rose than professional photographs would drink prior to a shoot I decided to upload a special picture taken by myself of one of the most fashion forward four-year olds I know. Ladies and gentlemen please see below for the début of my best friend’s boy, in his own personal creation of pyjymas and post christmas inspired tinsel pashmina. He is a genius.
One of the difficulties of writing a new blog every day is when you plan to write on a particular subject events will usually conspire to prevent one from doing so. I began the morning thinking it would be appropriate to do a blog on the wonder of YSL touche éclat after looking in the mirror and being greeted with a god awful blemish, it wasn’t long however before I realised it was just a stain on the mirror and after spending an hour on the boy’s new toy, the wiiii I thought this would be an appropriate topic as in spite of the only game I have ever been addicted to being The Sims, I must admit I was rather taken with the various sports and surprised to find out I am a terrific archer. All of my plans were abandoned however when I came across what is surely th most ridiculous statement in fashion to date; joggers are now in vogue. Well I was not about to let such a ridiculous statement go unchallenged and began to scribble furiously. I was just about to post when the boy returned out of breath and babbling about some scally wags who had apprehended him on his way home from the post office. I must admit it my jogging bottom outrage I had neglected to notice he had been gone longer than expected and felt rather guilty.
The naughty boys had turned around to face the boy who had wondered along behind them happily whistling The Shins. Perhaps they were not fans of his musical melody or maybe they are just big fat meanies but either way they turned around and assuming a rather aggressive stance asked him what his problem might be. The boy admits he was rather bemused by the two of them seeing as they were all about fifteen and though tall looked rather malnutritioned. Luckily however he remembered being lectured by both myself and his father on how the best thing to do in such situations is a combination of fight and more importantly flight. As they were not ready to let him pass and responded to his reasoning that he was just out to post his brother’s birthday card by telling him that they were going to, “Rob him up, yeah!”
Well broken down Britain connotations aside I believe the bard would have turned in anguish in his resting place had he heard this grammatically flawed statement. The boy luckily had not been carrying his wallet or prized i-phone and when they refused to move he responded to their cries of “What you gonna do about it, yeah?” by shoving the nearest scoundrel hard in the chest and running a fast as he could. Luckily a diet of crisps, chocolate and Strongbow does not lend itself to athletics and they resolved themselves to call abuse after him than giving chase. Though the boy is I think annoyed at himself for not putting up more of a fight, I must say I am very proud of him for the restraint he showed. He has worked out of late and though I am sure he could have stood his ground my greatest fear would be that the rumours of such naughty boys carrying knifes would turn out to be true and the boy would be no more.
Thankfully he bumped into some community support officers whilst on his way home and told them of the threat which lay ahead for other innocents. This additional patrolling presence is extremely welcome in our area as this is not the first time we have had trouble with scallywags. I find the whole situation extremely frustrating as though a small part of me wanted to go out on the hunt and avenge myself on these toe rags; I admit the archery and sword fighting may have given me a slightly flawed opinion of my fighting strength; there was also a huge part of me which felt painfully sorry for them. To be out on the streets on a cold miserable day than at home with one’s loved ones is a sad state of affairs indeed especially as it was the time I remember as a teenager when I would share the trials and tribulations of my school day with my family. Yes, the dinner table would usually dissolve into a bickering mass but at least we knew we had somewhere to go and someone to go to if we were feeling blue.
When we were dropped off at guides or ATC when we were teenagers me and my sisters would often pass children who would hang out at the bus stops and although they often looked intimidating my overriding feeling when I saw them was that more than anything they looked sad. I am not for a second suggesting one hugs a hoodie or worse still starts wearing this ridiculous trend. They are nearly as terrible as joggers for goodness sake and should exist only in the gym or when running the streets in pursuit of improving one’s fitness or physique. My real problem is that there is no clear answer for how to deal with this problem which is satisfactory to me. Though I detest more than anything the idea that my safety is in jeopardy and walked to the train station by myself at nine last night just to prove to myself I would not be affected by the scallywags, I can not deny I felt scared all the while.
There are thankfully many outreach programmes in the boy’s area which try to tackle these problems but after yesterdays unpleasantness I can not help but feel that the government and we as a society need to do more to stop these children becoming so disillusioned with life that they feel the only thing they have to do is to attack. One of my friends is looking to volunteer somewhere this year and I wonder if by doing so myself I can be of help to such scallywags, even if I can not give them a hug perhaps I can help with a programme which finds some way to engage them in activities which do not involve menacing music lovers.
The dress today is from a shop across the road from 111 Piccadilly in Manchester. I stayed at the boy’s house one night and had forgotten to bring anything for the morning. Having borrowed a pair of his jeans and found a couple of vest tops I was just about fit for going into town but there was no way I was going to spend the day looking like a roughian. I had less than two penny’s to my name so ran across the road to a brightly coloured bargain boasting shop and picked this up for a £5. It has a brilliant drop waist which leaves ones bottom looking rather minimal whilst the cotton material and cut keeps it looking casual. Today it needed a tad of modification to get me through the wintry winds when I went to meet a friend off my course for a drink come the evening so I paired it with a pink jumper from Topshop which my mother bought me eight years ago! With boots and black tights it proved suitable for wiii playing, drinks at Piccadilly station and a night-time walk home on high alert.