Today has been a sad day for footwear. Back when I was a a 23-year-old with the world at my feet and a job as an events manager which paid a tidy little sum my main outgoing other than restaurant bills and bar tabs was shoes, I was obsessed with them. For the first time in my life since I was 18 I was totally debt free. Out of my monthly salary after all bills were paid I still had an indecent amount left over to spend on myself. Though I smoked and had a fondness for Marks & Spencer sushi and sausage and onion cobs every Friday when I was too hangover to use the phone, I had no children, no mortgage and no monthly car insurance or pension payments. I was young, free, practically single and absolutely loving the independence of it all.
The boy was living a hand to mouth existence as he was still studying for his music degree but I was free to fund our outings and as one of the girlfriend of Manchester’s hardest working band I got to play the part nearly every weekend; we would all hangout backstage drinking down the riders, dragging on rolled up cigarettes and generally just hanging out feeling ever so slightly like the cool kids.
At the time I guess I knew the life we were living would not last forever. I was having a hell of a good time but work was taking its toll on my health and I’d dropped down to my smallest size since I’d had a minor eating disorder back when I was 18. I remember looking at my bank statement and feeling sad at how little I had to show for all the brilliant nights out and evenings just spent drinking red wine round a rickety table listening to music and playing cards in between musing upon our dreams for the future.
Other than Sylvanian Families I had never really felt the desire to collect anything. My sisters had their key-rings, their badges and even at one stage their dice and my brother had the monopoly on every phase and craze out there including Thomas The Tank Engines, Thunderbirds, Power Rangers and even at one stage care bears which was extraordinarily cute. It was when I realised I was spending much of my money on momentary pleasure products that I decided to start a collection and as I had no particular interest at the time in tea cups I decided I would collect shoes. As my regular readers know I am a slave to Kurt Geiger. The shoes they make are so well balanced you can stamp around in a pair of stilettos for sixteen hours straight without feeling an ache. They are creative, original and considering how well they last lusciously priced.
This then brings us to today’s dilemma. There is a man in Market Harborough, his name is Andy but I have always known him as the saviour of shoes. Many times I have brought him a forlorn pair at the end of their life and he has carefully restored them to beauty. One time he managed to restore my red or dead spike heeled stiletto ankle boots to spanking brand new in spite of me having ground the five inch heel to a mere three inches after a weekend in Liverpool visiting a friend where we danced till we dropped to sleep in his dorm just before dawn. Today Andy very kindly explained to me there was sadly nothing he could do for two of my favourite pairs.
One of them was the first pair of pricey shoes I had ever purchased. Brought in my lunch break from Berties at Kendall they were soft white leather with five inch thick wooden heels. Generally I believe white shoes should be saved till ones wedding day and even then they should be hidden and if possible cream but these were divine. Unfortunately as I tend to run in heels as well as walk whilst racing to get the bus back to see the boy after an after work drink my heel snapped on Deansgate. It was humiliating and I actually sat down and cried. I hadn’t even had any hooch but I was just so sad for my poor innocent shoe. Andy said it could be saved in an expensive operation but the job would have to be sourced out and the operators may well break the wood in the process.
The other pair are of the Kurt Geiger variety. I bought them foolishly after getting made redundant from Webb PR a month before Christmas. I was a little heart broken about losing the job and in a fine example of someone who had temporarily given leave to their senses and indeed their financial situation I sneaked away on a Christmas shopping trip with the boy, and bought three pairs of shoes in the sale. Admittedly they should have cost £400 and came to just £120 but still I had just been made redundant and with no job on the horizon it was a foolish mistake. I guess I have never regretted it because today, 15 months after the fact, I still have the shoes and they are still stunning. Unfortunately one of them, a pair of mustard yellow t-bar three inch heels was mortally injured back in May. I was chasing a story at the time and as I tore down the road the pin snapped and I had to traipse around on tippy toes the rest of the day. Andy says there is no hope for them and though I know I should consign them to the bin they are just too lovely, perhaps at some time in the future there will be better technology for such injured shoes? I live in hope.
- Today’s dress is from the wonderful Rebecca Allison. She sent this in a lovely package from the states and as well as a pair of earrings there was a beautifully written letter. I realise the dress comes up a little short on me but I hope you will not take too much of a hump at me modifying it for the workplace by pairing it with the skin tight Lycra number from Zara sent by the lovely Clara, believe me it is to protect your eyes from a legging lovely sight. Again if you do get the chance take a little look at her website. It is a fabulous way to start ones day and has given me goosebumps in the past with the sheer poetry of her posts. http://solsticetosolsticetosolstice.tumblr.com/
This post has been difficult to put together, not because I have too few friends but because I am blessed to have so many. The only way I could think of to prevent this post turning into another never-ending essay was to try to decide which of my wonderful friends I would choose as bridesmaids if I was ever to get married. Although I am sure this list will put the fear of God into my parents financial five-year plan I couldn’t help but include so many and would have included more if I had not been trying to stop this post becoming a bore. Here in no particular order, other than the first who will always be my best friend, are the women in my life who have moved me to tears with their kindness, their generosity, their jokes and anecdotes and by always being there to clasp my hand tightly when everything around us has been falling apart.
Katharine Ryland – Whilst I was at university myself and Katherine lost touch for some time. It was inevitable in a way, although we had been the best of friends since we were 13 we both had such busy lives and it was hard to find the time to stay in touch. If I’m honest I always felt it was my fault that we’d drifted apart, she had started going out with a guy who I struggled to get on with and though I tried to hide it I’m sure she sensed it and ultimately I’m sure it effected our friendship. In spite of this we still saw each other from time to time and on my twenty-first-birthday she called me up to tell me she was pregnant. I was delighted for her but I still had another year of study up North and it wasn’t until I moved back home that we got properly back in touch.
We went out with her beautiful baby boy to Cafe Bruxelles and ended up having such a great day that I remember feeling really rather sad about all I had missed sharing with her and I made a decision to make more of an effort to get on with her partner; she was too good a friend to lose and after all she loved him and he made her happy so how could I not.
Not long after this lunch she got engaged and I was so pleased I got to share in her happiness when she told me her news. A few months later whilst out on a girls night in Leicester she turned to me and asked if I wanted to be her maid of honour. I can honestly say that even if I ever get engaged this will remain the happiest moment in my life; we had made a promise to one another when we were 16 in a bar in Lanzarote over a jug of sangria to be each other’s bridesmaids. I had assumed when she got engaged that she might ask someone else to take the job as we had been out of touch for so long so when she asked me I was ridiculously happy.
Although my dress ended up being made by her mother, when we first went shopping to find a dress I could wear she assured me I could pick anyone I wanted and whilst we were in the shop she tried on the dress she had chosen and I started to cry like a child at how beautiful she looked. The night before the wedding I stayed the night at her parents house and we shared her bed together as we had done years ago when we were kids. In the morning I helped her with her make up and getting dressed and did my best to soothe her little boy when he had a tantrum minutes before we were due to leave because he wanted to try on Mummy’s veil. There is a picture of the two of us arm in arm leaving the church and it looks as though we have just emerged from a civil ceremony and still cracks me up when I see it. She made a beautiful bride and I was inspired to give a speech after her husband and father had said their piece about what a wonderful woman she was and how truly lucky her husband was to have her by his side.
We have always shared everything with one another, although to begin with as an only child she did struggle with the concept of sharing clothing. We once had a massive fall out because she refused to let me wear her top as she was convinced I was going to stretch it. There was no secrecy or privacy between us when we were younger; after we got badly burnt on an overcast day in Devon after falling asleep together on the beach we got home and had to rub after-sun into each others ridiculous tan lines. As we soothed each others skin with aloe vera and very gentle application we were simultaneously cracking up with laughter at how silly we both looked.
We found the results of all our exams together and when we were on holiday in Lanzarote we crammed into a telephone booth on the sea-walk of Lanzarote giggling in disbelief at the amount of As Katherine had got. We also helped each other through the dark days; through heartbreak and troubles at home. It was Katherine who held my hand on the way back to my home after my parents had rung hers to ask if they could bring me home straight away because my sister had gone downhill fast and the doctors were concerned that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. She is hilarious, intelligent and caring and even with a baby boy to care for she did so well in her degree that when she graduated she had two jobs waiting for her. I will always be pleased we got back in touch, my life would be nowhere near as fun without her. I will save sharing some of my favourite memories of our friendship as she has asked if she can write a post about her three favourite memories of us but I imagine they might include the time I went skinny dipping with my sister on my sweet sixteenth in Eastbourne at midnight. Other than my sister it will be Katherine who I will tell if I ever find myself knocked up and it will be her who I will want by my side on the day of my wedding.
AC: When me and the boy first got together i always felt a little lonely when I was round at his house. he lived with six other guys, nearly all of who had long-standing girlfriends and I felt a bit of a spare wheel. The one girl who I immediately clicked with however was Anna. She had dreams of being a musical theatre star and although she enjoyed singing as much as me, people actually enjoyed it when she sang. This shared love of singing and a tendency to live our lives in a rather dramatic way means we have spent many a taxi ride home singing away even when the boys beg us to stop. When I met her I remember speaking about her with one of my friends and concluding that she was a natural beauty and that we were actually really rather jealous of her perfectly shaped eyebrows, white teeth and dancers figure. In the early days of our friendship I was rather worried that I might be a bit much for her, when I bumped into her in the library one day and started talking at her at a mile a minute about dissertations and exams and nights out I had been planning she appeared to be somewhat terrified. We became firm friends however after the boys moved to a smaller house and I think it may have helped that I opened my entire wardrobe to her and did my very best to put aside my reservations about vegetarians and would happily make her hippy friendly food whenever we had a dinner party.
The time I realised I had a friend for life was when she agreed to join me in getting dressed up as a witch to go and queue outside Waterstones for the release of the last Harry Potter book in the series. There are few friends who will partake in this kind of humiliation just to keep someone company but Anna came with me in spite of never having read any of the books. We spent the next fortnight driving the boys mad by shutting ourselves away in one of their rooms and banning them entry until we had read at least another four chapters. I think it was whilst we were lying on a bed repeating lines to one another which made us giggle that I realised I had got myself a friend for life who felt as much like a sister as my own blood.
Anna is one of those rare friends who will be by your side even when you have done everything in your power to try to hide away from the world. Three nights after I’d had a nervous breakdown and ended up in hospital I went to the launch of the boy’s first single. I was only able to do so because I had Anna with me the whole time, holding my hand reminding me that I wasn’t crazy and that everything was going to be OK even if it didn’t feel that way at the time. She is able to make me laugh at life events which are otherwise tragic and when me and the boy were having a heap of troubles last year it was Anna who held me whilst I cried my heart out over loss and love still to raw to share. We have both followed our dreams in life and I am sure I would not have had the guts to carry on going for mine if I hadn’t had her for inspiration. She never once gave up on her dream of playing a role in a musical and now she is touring the country playing the part of Neil Sedaka’s wife in the hit play, Laughter In The Rain. She is my Scrabble companion and the only one who is sweet enough not to tell me how dreadful a singer I really am.
In spite of my efforts not to make this an essay I have noticed that all to quickly the word count has crept us and so I will save the other five for another day, I promise you they are worth the space.
- Today’s dress has been donated by my Auntie Bridgeen. It was originally from Primark and thankfully has a slip to preserve my modesty. Katharine and my friend Monica took the photos and the reason I am cracking up in them is because Monica has just told me that I am in trouble with someone because of something I have said on the blog. The gingerbread man was made by Katherine’s son. Katherine gifted me another dress to wear whilst I was at her house, proof indeed that her issues with sharing have been resolved.
Today’s dress is gorgeous. I am a little biased as it is one of my own but I really am a massive fan, it is another Calvin Klein masterpiece and getting back to the idea of the memory of material wearing this dress reminds me of some really very happy times. It has slouchy pockets in the side which make me feel wonderfully casual whilst the fit prevents me from looking too busty and having a repeat of last night whilst the colour is terrific. I brought it back from the states and it reminds me of walking round New York by myself and with some very good friends taking in the atmosphere of possibility that smoulders from the subways below and the sky-rises above; or maybe that was just the heat and the smog.
I loved New York, we had been on the rail for so long and had so many mini stops that since Chicago we hadn’t really had a chance to just relax and take in a place. I went travelling with two of my best boyfriends, the boy as I have said is not the jealous type and my boys find me completely asexual. One of my favorite times was when we all took a day away from each other to go explore by ourselves. I am a sucker for nostalgia and theatre and took the opportunity to walk down 14th street as the good Rufus Wainwright himself had once done. It was terrific, I put the tune on my iPod soaked it all up and then sat in a park, people watching and drinking cups of coffee and bagels for what felt like an age. I walked around the harbour at the front and looked at the memorial to all the Irish people who came here during the famine after they were abandoned by their brethren in Britain. I felt extremely emotional knowing a lot of my relatives had fled here at the time and was struck by the beauty of the place and how they must have felt arriving off a hideous ship-ride with dreams of a new world which turned out to be very like the old but with a constant stream of positive propoganda telling them to never complain because their dream was only just around the corner.
I also went shopping and this was of course when I came across this petroleum shirt dress and feel head over heels in love. Without the boys to tell me I looked fat in it I was able to buy it with minimal banter and when I wore it on our last night they even told me I looked nice, a compliment indeed.
I have also worn this dress on two other occasions which stand out, to weddings of family and friends. Friends of mine and the boys, Ellen and Matt, got married soon after I returned from the states. It was wonderful to see them get it together and was so brilliant having our gang back together for the first time since University days had ended.
In a marquee at Ellen’s parents home in the New Forest, we stayed in a ridiculously overpriced hotel and spent a fortune on gifts and getting there, but it was all completely worth it, they are lovely people and there was no way we could have missed it, even though I had just blown most of my life savings on a flailing economy. We danced the night away and all felt very wild young and free, albeit somewhat coupled up. Ellen looked totally fabulous and though it rained the day was not at all ruined and in a handmade dress which was more incredible than any I have ever seen before with hair trailing down her back like Rapunzel the two of them got married in a ceremony where The Velveteen Rabbit was read out as a sermon whilst one of our friends played the guitar for music.
The other wedding I went to was in Ireland, and of course, there was rain. Irish weddings are terrific, and they are undoubtedly larger than the average English wedding in attendance seeing as the average Irish person has around 50 first cousins alone. It was the wedding of my oldest cousin, Stephen and his bride Rosin and I believe everyone’s favorite part other than the lovey dovey stuff was when the bride got up on stage to sing along with the groom who plays the drums in their covers band. Irish weddings are also big on dancing, there is no opportunity to sit down for more than one song at any time during the night. If you are a girl, a woman, a man, or basically anyone with the ability to move one limb you will be dragged to the dance floor again and again until you flop to the floor exhausted. It is terrific because the Irish well-known for their generosity do not scrimp on the food so by the time the music starts we usually have one hell of a waistband to burn off.
Today I wore the dress with my mothers beautiful silky red top she had when she was my age. It feels like liquid gold on your skin and as my eczema is playing up today it is a welcome relief to have something not woolen or scratchy against my skin. The boy has to go to practice and so I join a friend from my course, another Northern beauty named Anna from the part-time NCTJ who is a pretty hot writer, to go to a pub quiz. Admittedly I feel rather over dressed so don my wooly homeless look beret and green casual patent Kurt courts. The quiz turns out to be the worst I have ever been to in my life, including the one where my American studies lecturer was there and got to see just how little studying I had ever done during the literature round, in my defence who goes in for a nine am lecture?
To be fair the quiz was held in the Democratic Republic of Chorlton, where they pride themselves on being green and a bit alternative but this is just plain ridiculous. There are pretty much no normal pub rounds, even the picture round involves specific TV shows from 1997 and at one stage we have to draw a shield, write a letter to the lottery winners (mine kicks ass by the by) and come up with an emblem. I love the pub, it is Irish and makes me wish I was with my parents back across the Irish Sea not in rainy Manchester trying to keep warm and sneak away from the worlds worst quiz, but I am with a friend and so it all seems rather funny though I cannot deny I am glad to get back home to the boy for a cuddle and a good gossip. Unfortunately though the side effects are at large again and before I know it is 4am and I am lying awake and alone having missed out on the chitter chatter I love so much wearing a silk nightie not my pretty dress, I bloody hate Quetiapine.
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.
I was lucky enough to come across a fantastic blog the other day in which a girl who is really into flea markets has given herself a budget of 365 American pounds to dress herself for a year by scouring flea markets and re-working dresses she finds there. I saw a brilliant post where she took a faded lavender nightgown, dyed it and reworked it into a stunning dress worthy of London Fashion Week. This is a worthy example of how re-working a dress to make something far cooler and most importantly more suited to yourself; the dress I am wearing today is an example of why one should be careful of assuming DIY dress design is not for everyone.
When I was head bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding her incredibly talented mother made my bridesmaid dress from a vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s. Being involved in the process of creating a dress is a brilliant experience. You might get the occasional pin in an unexpected place but I got to watch as what started as a pair of old cotton curtains got turned into a fantastic fitted silk dress with a tiered petticoat which was carefully stitched and crafted by my friend’s mother. It was an absolute honour being maid of honor and having a dress which wasn’t being worn by every other bridesmaid around the country added to this privilege. Dress making is tragically a dying art in the majority of households. Back in the day mothers used to make the majority of their children’s clothing; my grandmother would knit us cardigans for school and indeed one of my friends received matching booties, hats and cardigans for her baby from a wonderful elderly friend of hers.
The difficulty with dress making and indeed clothes making is that with clothes available now so cheaply there is no incentive to spend considerable amounts of money or what is more important for most of us these days, our time, in creating something from nothing but material, needle and a love of design. In our time then it makes far more sense to take the clothes we have, particularly those which have gotten a little frayed, loose, tight or faded and create something new. Stitch and Bitch classes are at large all around the country and for my Manchester followers I know of one taking place at Fuel Cafe on a Sunday. What you have to be aware of though is that re-working a dress is not as easy as taking a pair of scissors to a demure hemlines and turning it into something suitable only for showing one’s smalls.
This danger is I am sorry to say illustrated by the dress I am wearing today which was purchased from a girl on eBay. Though I thought it looked quite cute when I brought it I failed to look carefully enough at the hem of the dress. Bare in mind, a bad hemlines and stitching will ruin an outfit and can make one look crumpled and cheap. Whether you buy your clothing from Primark or Prada make sure you check the quality of the stitching on the hemlines, cost is not necessarily a guarantee of quality.
When this little frock arrived I was a tad worried for two reasons; first it was not as I had originally thought a hand-made frock, it was brought by its previous owner from Bay Trading and re-mastered into a foxy little bustier dress/ boob tube. It is undeniably sweet looking and reminds me of Manga but has unfortunately been cut so short it would only be suitable for someone who is around the 5ft mark. At 5ft 5″ I am hardly tall but on me, as the boy takes great pain in pointing out it looks as though it is designed for a 13-year-old girl.
As I packed in a hurry last night and had not previously tried it on I only realised the unsuitability of the outfit this morning. As with the T-Shirt dress of last Sunday I felt as though once chosen I have no choice but to wear a dress till the day’s end and ignoring the boy and struggling into a pair of form-fitting 60 denier black tights and my life saving M & S T-Shirt I bit the bullet and went in search of a full length mirror. To be fair it has been a reasonably nice choice and once I got used to having to keep my back to the wall when in company I started to warm to it.
It is so brilliantly cheerful even though I was woken four hours after i got to sleep by the enthusiastic alarm clock that is the best friend’s son, I felt rather chirpy. After I had gotten up and persuaded him to wake the boy as well we spent the day pleasantly telling stories, taking it in turns to snooze and fighting off the hoards at M & S to get the dine in deal. In spite of my disheveled experience me and the boy had a lovely dinner date together and got to relish in a rare opportunity for it to be jut the two of us to dine. When you are in a long distance relationship and both have a dream you want to pursue the time you do get to see each other can I find at times be rather stressful as you are so concerned about fitting a weeks worth of dates into one weekend; we try to see our friends; go out to gigs and restaurants and movies all the while trying to make sure we look our best and don’t end up having a tiff and ending the weekend on a bad note. Perhaps because of this then it is when we get to just chill out on our own together, catching up on the week behind us lazy eyed and unkempt with my panda eyes and his weekend stubble that we often have the most fun together. When you get a night to relax in it can sometimes be the nicest thing in the world, even if you are disheveled and sleepy it can be really great slowing down with someone especially with someone with whom the clock is always ticking on your time together.