I Bloody Hate Having To Come Up with Titles

First week of the summer holidays done and dusted – just like that. The children and I have done very little this week except to perfect the art of lolling around. There are books in various stages of being read propped up in every nook and cranny of the house. This is very pleasing to all of us. It’s not good to be stranded without a book, even on the stairs.

My reading has been pretty sparse (for me) of late, even though I have so many wonderful things to read. I’m hoping that I get my reading mojo back soon, particularly as I’ve just signed up for Net Galley and it looks amazing.

I’m pretty proud that the kids are trained so that if we announce they need to get ready because we’re going somewhere, the first thing they pick up is a book. They’re still terrible at the coats/shoes/appropriate clothing stuff, but the book stuff is in the bag.

We are also deep into watching season six of Parks and Recreation and thanks to Tilly and her boyfriend who happened to start watching it and lured us in, starting season three of Shameless. I’d forgotten how much I love that show. I know it’s not appropriate for Oscar, but he’s too small to shut in a cupboard anymore anytime the television goes on, so I’ve stuck another twenty quid in the therapy jar and decided it probably won’t kill him.

Tilly said to me last night that every time she watches an episode of Shameless it reminds her how much of an accent she has when she speaks, even though most of the time she doesn’t think of herself as having one. A ‘Lestah’ accent rather than a Mancunian accent, obviously. I said, as we were driving to the chippy, and she had to buy them because I couldn’t be bothered to change out of my pjs, that I was reminded how much like the Gallagher family we are, only in a nicer house.

Tallulah gave me a pedicure yesterday. It took a long time because it is fair to say that my feet are like hooves. Years of walking around barefoot and a total disregard for doing anything to a part of my body I can cover up 99% of the year means I am never  going to make my living as a foot model. Tallulah however, is up for the challenge. She tells me that if she keeps working on me for a few months I might even be able to go to an actual nail salon and not frighten the proprietors. I left her drawing up a rota of treatments which may have had: ‘N.B. borrow the belt sander from the shed,’ on it.

We have left the house a few times, correctly dressed for once. On Monday I went into town to meet my friend Rosalind. Rosalind and I met at the age our oldest children are now (18), which is a pretty mind-blowing thought. Despite the fact that we have always lived the nearest to each other of all my uni friends, we often go for long swathes of time without seeing each other. This is not down to any rancour and entirely down to the fact that we have seven children between us and really busy lives.  When we were chatting over tea on Monday morning, we worked out that we haven’t seen each other for eight years. When we parted company we decided not to leave it that long again, although as she said; ‘Even if we did, we’d just carry on as if we’d seen each other the previous day.’ It’s true. It’s just one of those easy, comfortable friendships that just works, which is rather lovely.

Also lovely was popping round to see my splendid friend Jenn’s newest niece, who was born last Friday and who really is teeny weeny like a new born chick. Weighing in at six pounds it was quite marvellous strange to be holding such a tiny dot of a human being when Tilly can drop kisses on the top of my head from her vast height, and Oscar makes my thighs go numb if he sits on me for too long.

It was delightful to cuddle her for a while. I had forgotten how easy it is to slip into that rhythm of jiggling a baby when you’re holding them and it reminded me of the first time I went shopping without Tilly (she was at the child minder’s) and I was so unused to being solo, I kept rocking the shopping trolley in the supermarket, much to the alarm of my fellow shoppers. Holding a newborn did make me a little nostalgic for a while, but not enough for me to want to sacrifice sleep, and the fact that I may no longer be able to jiggle Tilly in my arms, but she can make a mean jug of Pimms’, makes up in practicality what it lacks in cuteness.

Health wise, I’m a week into withdrawal from the menopause drug and the side effects are not quite as horrible as I had feared, which is bloody marvellous. Headaches are a thing however, which is one of the reasons for a lot of lolling this week, as is nausea, mild cramps and weirdly intense but short mood swings. Hot flushes continue much the same. It’s not great, but it’s not buckets of blood and nihilism, which is what I thought might happen. I see the consultant next Wednesday. I’m hoping to hang on to some kind of manageable life until then.

Doctor Her

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will know that today the BBC announced who the thirteenth Doctor Who will be. I had hoped for Sue Perkins with Idris Elba as her assistant, but frankly I think the rising libido of most right thinking people on the planet caused by such an alliance would have melted what’s left of the polar ice caps, so it was never going to happen.

Instead we have Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor and OMFG I actually cried, and I’ve been stealth crying on and off all evening because this is fantastic, fantastic news. Firstly Whittaker is a brilliant actor and deserves the recognition. Secondly, it’s only taken fifty four years to get a woman Doctor.

Only fifty four.

But you know it’s not all party hats and streamers. Already the Daily Mail are picturing nude shots of Whittaker on their website, and Twitter is in an inferno of misogynistic, sexist crap (not my time line, because all my people are the best fucking people) in which people who haven’t seen her act or sat through a single episode are already saying they aren’t sexist but the can’t possibly watch now because the show is ruined.

They aren’t sexist but (They’re always ‘not sexist, but…’) they’re willing to base their whole argument on the fact that the only difference between her and Peter Capaldi is that she has tits and a vagina where he has man nipples and a penis. Because, you know, genitals are the root of all acting chops.

As an aside – Laurence Olivier had unfeasibly large testicles, which is the only reason why his Hamlet is so acclaimed. And his tights were under so much strain.

Also apparently female Time Lords are not ‘natural’. Because it’s totally logical that an imaginary, time travelling, Gallifreyan Time Lord with two hearts, who can regenerate into anyone and anything, and who travels through timey wimey stuff in a Police Box saving the universe every Saturday can only be a man.

So apart from that, it’s all good, and I’m just delighted.

I’ve already debated this far and wide across social media, but I wanted to note it here for posterity. I want to remember this day, because I really hope that one day people will look back at this furore, and wonder why it was such big deal. I really hope I’m still alive to witness it.

Jason caught me crying about the news and was utterly baffled as to why I thought it was such a big deal.  I read him this amazing blog post about it, and it made me cry all over again and is utterly brilliant.

Then I showed him what one of my friends who has a baby daughter wrote. She said that it’s amazing that her daughter is going to be able to grow up thinking that it’s totally normal for girls to be Ghost Busters, or Jedi Knights or Time Lords, and how wonderful it is that she won’t have to make do with being a side kick or a Disney Princess (unless she wants to).

And he got it.

And I tweeted Jodie Whittaker, and I told her that the last Comic Con I went to, I went as David Tennant’s Doctor Who, but that it’s going to be better at my next one, which I will go to as her, the thirteenth Doctor Who.

 

 

Real News

OK, already bored of two days being a fashion maven. Is that the right word, maven? Maybe I mean fashion’s John Craven. That’s probably more like it.

Have a few choice selections from this week that haven’t involved vomit, or clothes. I mean, advice about clothes rather than wearing or not wearing them.

Oscar has been auditioning for the school’s co-production of Hamlet alongside the Curve theatre next year. He found out today he got a part. He is Laertes. He is pretty excited. ‘I wanted to be Hamlet, but he’s got loads of lines, so I’m quite pleased X got that really. But I didn’t want no lines, because that would be rubbish. Laertes has just the right amount of lines.’  Quite. Also: ‘I don’t understand how Laertes can poison Hamlet first and yet Laertes dies before Hamlet.’  We had the, ‘the most important person in Shakespeare always takes the longest time to die,’ discussion. I’m wondering if he’ll pay this any heed, or spend several minutes dying theatrically in the background, stealing Hamlet’s thunder whilst still not being obliged to learn any more lines?

Tallulah went to Drayton Manor Park on the school’s reward day. To qualify for the reward day you have to turn up regularly and not kill anyone or get pregnant as far as I understand it. She enjoyed it, despite being banned from the tea cups. ‘I tried to get off before it finished. I didn’t know it hadn’t finished. He was so grumpy about it.’ I asked her if she had been upset. ‘Nope. It was a boring ride and we only had ten minutes before we had to go back to the coach anyway.’

Tallulah has also had sports’ day. ‘I came 16th out of 17th in the high jump. My event was nearly last so I got to spend all the rest of the time eating snacks.’ I asked her if she was sad about her placing. ‘Nope. Sports are mostly stupid. Why would you want to fling yourself around like that? Anyway, Mr. Redman loved my ‘Fight Like A Girl Badge’ and he’s going to get one for next term.’ Fair.

I have finished the woodland section of my garden and taken delivery of my beautiful Gertrude Jekyll climbing roses from David Austin. I spent large parts of yesterday evening covered in bark, earth, compost and picking rose thorns out of my hands/hair. Also saw a spider with a luminous green/white body. Very disturbing. It looked exactly like the sort that would climb into an orifice and lay eggs, waiting for you to explode with spider babies. I confess to hitting it with a trowel. I relinquish my ambition to be the Dalai Lama yet again.

Derek is having hunting success this week having caught two mice. She loves Jason most of all in the entire universe at the moment and has brought both mice in for him as a gift.  We managed to chase the first mouse out of the house. Derek scooped it up and carried it down the garden path. I followed in hot pursuit. I persuaded her to drop it. It sat on its haunches and smacked her on the nose with its mouse paw. I swear by Cheezus this totally happened. It was at this point Derek noticed it again, rather than the packet of Dreamies in my hand, and promptly picked it up and legged it through the hole in the fence where I could not follow, and no Dreamies would tempt her back. At first I was all like ‘Go! Team mice!’ and then I was like, ‘You idiot. You could have used that biffing on the nose time to bugger off into the undergrowth. Mouse imbecile.’

The second mouse arrived last night just as Jason was about to go to bed. This mouse was very small, and very lithe, which caused many problems. The last mouse had been rather fat, which meant that when Derek carried it about, she dented it rather, thus slowing it down and making it easier to work with. This mouse was so teeny it could basically sit inside the damp mouth of Derek with only its tail poking out like a Fu Manchu moustache, therefore it was bewildered but largely unharmed when she unleashed it under Jason’s desk.

Every time we managed to corner it, it leapt over obstacles with aplomb, unlike Tallulah at sport’s day. Eventually it wedged itself behind a book case and everyone but me and Derek went to bed. I systematically cleared away any debris from the floor to allow me ease of access when the mouse eventually came out. In doing this I found a mummified frog carcass and became somewhat ashamed at my slatternly housewifery. Then I was just glad that it was mummified and it didn’t smell, and learned to live with the shame. It was like a life time of therapy rolled into about sixty, intense seconds of my life.

I settled down to watch Craig Revel Horwood discover his ancestry in Who Do You Think You Are? (I am stunned that he is Australian. It explains his accent. I’d always put it down to a mild stroke he didn’t really want to talk about). Derek settled down under Jason’s desk, preening at her hunting skilz. At about half past one, just as I was darning a beloved Jigsaw sweater that was more holes than sweater, there was a kerfuffle and the mouse and Derek went into combat.

I leapt up, impressively not losing my needle nor impaling myself on it absentmindedly. I swooped, swooped on the mouse, who ran up the blanket I was wearing as a shawl, at which point I leapt athletically around, slithering out of the shawl and fashioning it into an impromptu Dick Whittington style bag, with the mouse scribbling about in the middle of it. I whipped it out and threw it all on the decking with a thunk and a somewhat spitty and concussed mouse made its way to freedom. While all this was going on, Derek, who is as thick as swill, was wandering around under Jason’s desk lamenting her lost love and making pouncing motions towards the bookcase where the mouse no longer was. The idiot.

In unrelated news I have done some pretty intense hoovering this afternoon.

Even more unwanted fashion tips from the least fashionable woman on earth. Roll up.

I’m having fun with this fashion thing so I may continue offering unwanted fashion advice today, just because I can. Also, because the alternative is cleaning the floors.

I’ve instagrammed yesterday’s bargains and today’s ‘look’ over @thevoiceofboo if you’re not bored rigid yet.

Thanks for all your comments, which were excellent and which prompted today’s post.

I totally appreciate the fact that it is way easier to shop charity/vintage if you’re a smaller size. I also appreciate that bosoms are a total fecker and a game changer for many. Despite my runty size I have a 32F bra size which is an utter pain in the tits, frankly and means that I have to be creative around the bosom area. I know your pain.

Someone suggested Oxfam online in the comments. A wider range of sizes and free returns. What’s not to like? Also look at EBay. I have a particular love for Gudrun Sjoden clothing, which comes in a vast array of sizes, is spectacularly generously cut and is available in absolutely beautiful colours/patterns. It’s also really expensive, but really not so much second hand. Check her out. Also, for layering looks, on Ebay search ‘lagenlook’ which was a thing a few years ago. There are some glorious things there. You will not be sorry.

However, I will reiterate the whole ‘ignore sizing’ thing as a keep searching, pom pom waving encouragement. Example. One of yesterday’s bargains was a cotton/t shirt dress by Sandwich in navy. It claims to be a size 36, which is a UK 8. I tried it on. To say that it’s generous is an understatement. I could probably get me and one of the kids in there. In my opinion it could easily fit a UK 14 if you’re comfortable with a clingy fit.

Also, think about how you’re going to wear something. For example, the Sandwich dress would look fab on a taller/bigger sized person as a tunic with jeans or leggings. It doesn’t need to be worn as a dress just because it says it is a dress. I very often wear small dresses as t-shirts/tops. I also wear very large dresses with huge belts, or narrow belts, or ties or scarves which I sometimes utilise when I can’t find a belt I actually like.

Be bold in how you think about wearing stuff. Not only can you wear dresses as tops, but you can also wear shirts that you can’t do up, simply as shirts you can’t do up, over t shirts/vests etc. I often do this due to my unruly bosom issues. I also do this with coats. You do not have to do the buttons up. Your world will not end if your chest gets a bit breezy. If it’s bothering you, cover it up with a ruddy huge scarf. Problem solved. Try not to die in an Isadora Duncan style incident if you do go for the huge scarf resolution. My mother worries about this daily.

I bought a magnificent shirt recently. It’s white with huge bell sleeves and some kind of flared, bustle type detailing that sits on the hips. It’s basically a bastard massive pirate shirt and I lusted after it. Sadly it was a tiny size and I could not get it done up over the acreage of bosom. But I still lusted after it. I carried it around the shop while I browsed other stuff and then hit upon a genius idea as to how to wear it and promptly parted with my £3 and carried it home. I wear it with a waistcoat over the top, which does button up, and a vest underneath which you can’t really see, but which will save me should the waistcoat buttons give up. It makes it look even more swash buckling and piratical and it’s excellent fun to wear. Although big sleeves and soup eating should be avoided at all costs.

Top fashion tip there, re soup/sleeves by the way.

Other ways to make stuff fit include not bothering with doing up zips/buttons on things like pinafores. I simply whack a t shirt on underneath and throw the pinafore on top and leave it totally undone. If someone comments I just say something like ‘Fashion.’ very darkly, or if pushed will look wise and tap my nose and say: ‘Autumn/Winter 17’ or whatever the coming fashion season is about to be. Turns out most people know much less about clothes than I do, and I know fuck all. This always works.

Ballgowns work brilliantly with jumpers on top. Who knew? I have a particularly daring scarlet ball gown which I love, but is a bit Nell Gwynn on the tits front. If I want to wear it in the day I pair it with a navy Gap jumper and it looks fab. Try it. Honestly it will revolutionise your life. Ball gowns are the way forward. Waistcoats and shirts/blouses also work to normalise more glittery offerings in the day. Pairing evening wear with Doc Martens or Converse also works hugely well.

With skirts, employ the time honoured pregnancy tip of doing stuff up with safety pins/knicker elastic and then hiding it all with long tops. You can also use safety pins when skirts are too roomy, by creating a new ‘pleat’ and just folding the material until it fits and safety pinning the whole lot together. Of course, you could always get stuff altered, but it depends if you think it’s worth it and you’ll wear and wear the stuff. If, like me, you’re probably going to give it back to the charity shop in six months, safety pins rule.

Also think about wearing skirts as dresses. Tilly often does this. Sometimes she uses a belt to gather it in at the waist. Sometimes she just goes totally A-line. Basically a skirt worn as a dress is simply a version of the classic Vivienne Westwood tube dress and if anyone tells you any different point them at Vivienne, scowl and walk/waddle away, depending on how tight the skirt is. Seventies wrap skirts are pretty excellent for this kind of dressing, and also fit anyone at all, as each skirt is made with roughly seventy metres of material and could be turned into a family sized bivouac at a push. Take note for the coming zombie apocalypse.

Layering is something I do a lot with clothes that don’t really fit. I have a vast array of very long vests in every imaginable colour and I use these as the foundation of all layering experiments. I have to layer a lot as many t-shirts are cut too high and show my collapsed parachute of a stomach, which is no fun for anyone. Also, I tend to buy beautiful wool jumpers, forget I have beautiful wool jumpers and then shrink them. I never say never, so I simply stretch them with my super human strength and wear them as weeny jumpers over a vest. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that jazz.

With layering I have rediscovered leggings, which I cast aside once I’d had children. I have stout, lycra leggings in basic colours which I actually do buy new as a rule due to the fact that I hate it when the knees on leggings blow (whilst doing ninety on the M6). I wear these instead of footless tights (which I snag to buggery), and wear them under skirts, under shorts etc. I also buy crazy leggings from charity shops on occasion because I just like to upset the children. I have some stained glass patterned ones they all find particularly offensive and which I wear when I have a ‘fuck my life, why didn’t I breed chihuahuas?’ moment. It’s a tiny revolution, but it’s very satisfying.

Other layering genius involves harem pants and wide legged linen/cotton trousers which are usually one size fits all and brilliant with all kinds of things you wouldn’t necessarily think to layer them with, i.e. shirts and huge jumpers (menswear section is your friend), tunics and of course, dresses. I know it’s a bit All Saints (the pop group, not the fashion emporium), but if you like the look, then wear it and remember that most ‘youth’ think Shaznay is a swear word and are too young to remember anything that makes you feel old.

If you’re trying to hide stomach areas, using huge beach scarves as a kind of skirt/sarong malarkey and pinning them with huge costume jewellery brooches works well. Also the layering thing. If you wear ninety layers of contrasting cloth people will get so confused as to what you’re wearing they will give up worrying about whether you’re fat. Not that it’s any of their fucking business in the first place anyway. People who do that just need jabbing in the eye with a sharp stick anyway. Fuck em.

I’ve also used huge scarves as tops, being creative with safety pins and belts, head wraps, and as actual scarves. Amazing but true.

Another trick I use a lot is to wear incongruous things together. Like huge skater combat trousers with too small t shirts under the ubiquitous vest, and then a very formal jacket on top. People get so confused about what the hell you’re doing they just fail to comment as their head spins round.

Beachwear is brilliant for ‘unstructured’ clothing for layering/belting etc. I am not talking about bikinis, although I sometimes buy bikini vests as regular vests because they tend to be more supportive. I am talking about sarongs, kaftans and beach coveralls. Nobody said you had to only use them on the beach.

Also, if you live in an area with a large Asian population you might be lucky enough to find salwar kameez, which are basically gorgeous tunics and harem pants, which you can split and use for all kinds of things. See also pyjamas. I wear pyjama tops as blouses. I wear nighties as dresses. It’s all good. A particular favourite is a nightie with a denim or leather jacket on top.

Also remember menswear. Men’s shirting is usually superior to women’s and there is an increasing range of width fittings for men these days.  And, you can pick up shirts that need cufflinks and buy cufflinks, which are a joy. Also if, like me you have the bosom issue, unfitted is good, and I just whack a waistcoat on top if I want a more fitted look. Waistcoats are fantastic. I have a selection from mens and womenswear. They have these little cinch in bits on the back panel that means that they’re fantastically self sizing. They’re an absolute essential for me. Mens jackets are also good and are cut more generously, and generally better than women’s suit jackets. As an aside, if you like a suit jacket or trousers but not the other half, charity shop suits are so cheap you would be mad not to buy the suit, keep the half you want and give the other half to a different charity shop so they can sell it as a separate. Job done.

Final tip. Wear hats. Hats are excellent. There are not enough hat wearing people in the world. Also fascinators are good, and you can get them ridiculously cheaply in charity shops. Don’t wear them for posh. Wear them every day. I wore one covered in pearls and feathers last week to a meeting about cuts to the NHS. It cheered everyone up, including me. Go hats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing Advice That Nobody Asked For

I’ve just come out of two days of ‘my migraine hell,’ and am feeling frail and blinky and extremely out of sorts. I am sure it’s down to the effects of my menopause jab wearing off. I should have been having another jab today, but I can’t do anything until the 26th when my appointment with the consultant rolls around. It had better not be cancelled. That is all.

I have a million ideas in my head for nonsensical blog posts. I have no time to write them. I am woefully behind this week due to two days of vomiting, sweating and crying over the fact that my skull bones were trying to squeeze themselves out of my ears and I couldn’t keep any pain relief down.

Here’s one of the things that I’ve been thinking about this week on my bed of pain.

I have been avidly reading Esther Walker’s (Coren for Instagram) capsule wardrobe posts from On The Spike this week. I find the whole site compelling in a strange way, given that it bears no relation whatsoever to my life, style, budget etc. I feel rather like an anthropologist when I visit. The capsule wardrobe thing is a wonder to me, a veritable wonder.

I am not criticising in any way, by the way. If you are the sort of person who believes that they need a capsule wardrobe, then this stuff is probably gold. Judging by the responses to the posts, it is what a lot of people want/need. I’m genuinely intrigued by this. I’ve never had a capsule wardrobe in my life. I’ve never had a capsule anything come to think of it.

I thought about what I would write if someone asked me my advice about wardrobes.

Like that’s ever going to happen.

Let’s ignore the fact that it won’t and theorise that someone has asked me for my words of wisdom on clothing. Let’s not say fashion. I have never been in fashion in my life and have no plans to be so now.

My best advice is to start charity shopping. Posh people call this vintage shopping. Call it what the hell you like, I don’t care, but do it.

Seriously, get over your squeamishness and just do it. It’s better for the planet, you don’t have to feel so guilty about stuff coming from sweat shops because the money you pay is going to charity, not big businesses, and your money goes a hell of a lot further.

When I say a hell of a lot further, I mean stupendously far. Shopping with my friend Kim the other day I bought a Noa Noa raw silk kimono with the tags still on for a tenner, a Monsoon sun dress that is my favourite garment ever (flattering, washes like a dream, doesn’t crease) for a fiver, brand new 70 denier tights for £2, a black silk Wallis shift dress with emerald birds and leaves all over it for £4, and that’s just for starters. The list goes on.

If you’re patient, you will pick up the most wonderful items for a song. I have a vintage Hugo Boss tweed jacket I bought for a fiver. I have a vintage Jaeger smock smothered in poppies I pushed the boat out and paid £15 for. My wardrobe is crammed with labels and fabrics I could never afford if I were to shop in the actual shops, but I buy by the cart load from charity shops.

If you’re really hung up about these clothes having been worn by dead people, do bear in mind that lots of charities have deals with big clothing companies these days and often sell their seconds/old stock, brand new but at a fraction of the price. Oxfam is in cahoots with M&S, which is a sadness to me as I hate M&S, but it might delight you to know that most of their shops are at least 50% brand new stuff now. One of the shops near me has a deal going with Boden on the same principle. This excites me much more, although they seem to have stopped doing the shift dresses I lived and died in for a while, which upsets me. There are also way more people than you think who buy clothes they never wear and just get bored of them taking up space, so they give them away. There are lots of times I have bought stuff which still has all its original labels attached.

The great thing about things being inexpensive is that you can afford to experiment. You might always secretly have hankered to have a gold cat suit, but decided that the latest one from Dior is too expensive to risk. If you find one down the local chazza for a fiver you can snap it up, wear it once, decide it’s not for you and then give it back to the charity shop. It’s in this way I found out I am not a natural shape for a body con Herve Leger knock off (I look like a snake who’s swallowed a sofa). I also look like an absolute tit in jodhpurs. I cannot wear Twenties style flapper dresses no matter how much I love them, because ‘bosom’, and for me, jeggings are the work of the devil. But I also found out I love halter necks and they don’t make my tits look as saggy as I thought, and I am all about the Fifties silhouette.

The other good thing about charity shops is that if you, like me, are not that bothered about fashion trends, but are very interested in certain shapes and styles that you know work for you, but which may not be in trend at the moment, the charity shop is your friend. I have a particular penchant for: A line smock dresses, military style coats/jackets, slash neck striped t shirts with long sleeves, t shirts/tops that are long and cover saggy belly overhang, ball gowns and jeans that are already worn in by someone else. It doesn’t matter if these are in or out at Top Shop, you’ll find what you want in charity shops if you search hard enough.

So charity shop till you drop. It’s no good doing it half heartedly. My advice, ask someone in the know where is good and go there. Take your time, rushing is the worst in these places. It will not work if you walk in, skim the rails and walk out. You need to look properly at stuff. Know that if you have a wish list, it might take time to fill it, but you will get there. I am still searching for a particular cut of baggy dungarees. Their time will come.

The quality of fabric is something I swear by. I usually feel everything as I browse and if it feels nice, regardless of size, pattern etc, I’ll pull it off the rail and inspect it. If I still like it, I try it on.

Ignore sizing. I am, and have been all my adult life (apart from during pregnancy) a size ten. I have in my wardrobe everything from a size six to a size 18. If you like something, ignore the label and try it on. You will already know sizing is random depending on brand, but also learn from me that ball gowns, no matter who makes them, always seem to be cut small, so don’t dismiss something if you think it’s going to be too big.

Also remember you can pay for alterations. I once bought a pair of Alexander McQueen trousers for £20 that were far too long. £20 of alterations later and they were perfect, and £40 was a steal for those trousers. They were magnificent.

Ignore all advice that prohibits you from trying something on. Stuff like; ‘large girls should not wear stripes.’ or rules on colour or clashing, or whether you should show your knees over the age of forty or whatever the hell it is. Christ on a bike, if we were to follow all this advice, all women over size six and over age 25 would be going around like Uncle Fester with a sack on our heads apologising for taking up valuable space and oxygen.

Here’s the deal. If you like it, try it on. It won’t kill you to try it on. Nobody will actually shoot you in the face for it. You’d be amazed at what you feel good in if you let yourself, actively amazed. Really? You want to wear hot pink and silver with gold disco pants? Go for it.

Remember that clothes are just bits of cloth. They’re not gendered. It’s us who decide if they’re boys clothes or girls clothes, colours, shapes etc. I have stuff in my wardrobe that is labelled for children.  I have stuff in my wardrobe that is menswear. Menswear is particularly good for decent shirts and slouchy jumpers.

Esther is big on accessories. Me too, only all mine, as you would expect, come from charity shops. I am dreadful at keeping jewellery nice. My wedding ring has had two diamonds missing for 18 months now. I had a diamond replaced already three years ago and have now given up.  It’s no good buying me nice stuff. I lose it. I break it. It mysteriously falls apart. Instead I always check the jewellery/scarves and bags in charity shops. I have beautiful, vintage hand rolled silk scarves by the bag full, that cost me pennies. I have costume jewellery up the yin yang. I have a Mulberry bag that my husband bought me (because he is the best husband in the world) that is my mainstay bag, but every other bag I own has come from a charity shop, and I have some nice ones, some really nice ones.

Esther says you should wear clothes, clothes should not wear you. I get what she’s saying, but my advice on this is to basically always wear what you feel good in, regardless. That’s the real test. Do you like it? Does it make you feel good? It’s the Marie Kondo test of clothing.

Thinking about my own wardrobe, which as those of you who are now following me on Instagram will see, is pretty extensive, I can attest that many of my clothes are more like costumes. I often have an idea or theme in my head when I wake up and get dressed, and  the good thing about owning nine million items is that I can generally service that desire. I quite like the idea of clothes wearing me, particularly on the days when I don’t really want people to see me. People think it’s brave to wear wild clothes, but it isn’t. I can quite believe that burglars often get away with daring daylight robberies because they dress as policemen or milkmen. Nine times out of ten, if you’re wearing something wild people will only ever remember the clothes and not you in them, and some days that suits me very well indeed.

So do this. Wear what the hell makes you happy, every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a party dress and you’re only going up the Asda. It doesn’t matter if you’re digging the garden in raw silk. It doesn’t matter because it’s just cloth and it’s all good. I swear we would all be happier if we treated every day like dress up day, like we did when we were children. Wear an anorak and hot pants if that’s what dings your bell. Just do it. I swear it will take all the stress out of buying and wearing clothes forever no matter what size and shape you are. And if you want pure chazzing/vintage genius you need to check out Vintage Vix. She is my idol. One day I’m actually going to organise myself to meet her and buy all her stock. She is amazing.

I’m going to start Instagramming some of my charity shop finds from today to be ‘inspirational’ and because I love to brag about a good bargain. I’m at @thevoiceofboo if you’re not already amazed by my fuzzy photographs and inconsequential chatter over there.

 

Tallulah is Fourteen

Darling Tallulah, you’re fourteen today. Happy, happy birthday my love.

You tell me that fourteen is going to be the most exciting and best year of your life to date. I don’t doubt it for an instant.

You are an amazing young woman. I am in awe of your strength of character and your sheer determination. When you were teeny, weeny like a new born chick I used to worry that this determination would be the end of you. Given that it was largely channelled into spectacular tantrums I worried it would also be the end of us. Now that you’re older I see it as the making of you.  You figure out what you want and where you want to be, and then you just do it, whether it be teaching yourself guitar or being determined to move up to top set in maths. If you tell me that fourteen is THE year, then I absolutely know it will be. It wouldn’t dare be anything less.

Last year on your birthday I wished you a bit of inner peace, and looking back today I think you’ve found it. Not too much, but just enough to give you breathing room, to let you pause to think and reflect and decide what you want, rather than being pulled by forces outside of you. You’ve taken some big steps towards growing up this year. You’ve faced some difficult times and difficult people and every time you have risen to the occasion magnificently and inhabited your own skin that bit more confidently. I’m so proud of you my darling.

I told you a few weeks ago that you were a spectacular person to spend time with and that I didn’t know anyone who makes me laugh as much as you do. I told you that you had just as many skills and wonderful traits as your sainted sister, and that if anyone told you any different they were, and I quote; ‘a big knob head.’ I wanted to put it in print so that one day you’ll come across this and know it to be true enough for me to have taken the time to write it down.

You’re not the same as each other, and let’s face it, who’d want you to be? You are both splendid, valuable, wonderful people, in totally different ways. And I wouldn’t change you for the world, Tallulah. Not one jot, not even on the days when you stick your bottom lip out at me, and we still get a few of those.

Life without you would be monochrome instead of glorious technicolour and that would be rubbish, so I really hope that number 12 on your ongoing list of fears, that a member of your immediate family might rise up and kill you, isn’t going to happen. I’m fairly sure it won’t, to be honest. After all, if we’ve survived the first fourteen years, the rest of your life should be a doddle.

I’d also like to mention on record that I am highly doubtful that number 14, ‘being seduced into crippling debt by a loan shark’ and number 3, ‘doing a manslaughter, maybe accidentally on purpose’ are also unlikely to happen. I hope that gives you comfort in the wee, small hours. I know what I’m talking about. I’m your mum.

This year I’ve danced with you at an Elbow concert, I’ve had your back during options, and I was proud to march by your side at the Women’s March earlier this year. I’ll be prouder to march by your side wherever life takes you in the future. I’ll also bring my maracas in case your music career means I get my Bez moment on stage. I’m sure you’ll have come round to the idea by the time it happens.

I love you so much that there really aren’t adequate words to describe it. You are definitely my favourite child (along with the other two). I can’t tell you enough, so I’ll show you by making enough macaroni cheese that you can definitely have four helpings for your tea tonight. Leave room for cake though. It’s your favourite.

Love you till my heart aches.

Mum. xx

 

Domesticity

Mentally I’m a fair bit better this week. Resigned to my fate might be a good way to describe it in terms of panicking about my near hormonal future. There’s not really anything I can do about it, so after a good few days of stomping, flouncing and flinging I am back to eating biscuits and buggering on.

Physically I have my suspicions that my body is acclimatising to the chemical menopause drugs in some way, so I have a feeling that they would not be a long term solution instead of surgery. The joint pain has been gradually decreasing, but I still have it, and it is noticeably uncomfortable. It is no longer making me cry, but it makes doing certain things difficult. I am also in hot flush central at the moment, to the point where my legs actually slide off each other if I try to cross them and a flush happens.  It’s all slowing me down, which aggravates the crap out of me, but again, I am buggering on.

This is all a pre cursor to a long and rambling post about my garden. If you’re interested in gardens, you might be delighted. If not, I suggest wandering off and coming back later.

Oh, and the dressing room is almost finished. There are a few shelves to go up where we ran out of brackets, which still haven’t arrived, but other than that it’s all good. Photos, should you wish to see my slapdash handiwork, are on Instagram. I am @thevoiceofboo

The garden progresses slowly. I have painted three more doors of the door fence. I envisaged one as a sky scape with a beautiful golden sun rising and spreading its rays. I painted it. Tallulah came out and said: ‘That looks like a wizened potato with hair.’ I stepped back to survey my artistic efforts. She was indeed correct. Although at some angles it does look like a lot of dogs’ bottoms disappearing over a barren hill. I was going to get Tilly, who has all the art skills, to paint over it for me and create something more like my mind’s eye view. However, every time I go outside and see the door it makes me laugh, so we’re stuck with wizened potato/dogs’ bums forever now.

As for the rest of the garden, my wonderful friend Jenn came over yesterday and as well as bringing me pandan cake and curried octopus and aubergine, she also helped me dig up the rest of the grass.

When we bought our house, the garden was a cross between an apocalyptic wasteland and a builder’s yard. The previous owner had been minded to landscape it, but had only got as far as craning in an enormous hot tub, which at that time was sitting on a hillock of twisted metal, shards of broken glass and fire debris. It was all a bit Mad Max meets hot tub time machine.

Two years ago we got round to tackling the garden rather than just ignoring it and hoping that Monty Don had popped in overnight to work his magic.

It’s an awkward space. We have a corner plot and instead of it narrowing like a wedge of cheese, as many corner plots do, ours gets wider. It’s huge. Not only is it huge, but there is no side access as we are attached to the neighbours on one side, and the previous owner extended the house on the other side. This means any grass clippings/plants etc have to come through the house. Our area has an erratic green bin collection system, which you pay for. If we went too grass/foliage/plant heavy, this would mean lots of mess and lots of tip runs all through the summer. Also, we are not very green fingered.

I designed the garden with the aid of Pinterest. I wanted a third decking, a third raised beds and walk ways, and a third, secret garden hidden behind the door fence, which the children could run wild in.

I wanted no grass whatsoever. Partly this is because I hate grass. I find it boring to look at, uncomfortable to sit on, and a hot bed for ant activity. Ants mostly make me shudder. The lack of grass is also because mowing has always been a marital bone of contention. Mowing should not be a marital bone of contention because frankly grass and mowing are far too boring to get aerated about. Hence my solution to remove all the grass and retain marital harmony.

Unfortunately, Jason is a big fan of grass. He is an advocate for lawns, he is that passionate about them. Despite this fixation on the need for every proper family to have a lawn, he never sits on grass and hates mowing it. Hence the marital strife. In previous years he has used child labour, but this is erratic and prone to tantrums, and causes more marital strife. It’s all been very wearying.

We used to argue about duvet ownership. I solved this by buying two king sized duvets and we now have one each. No more arguing about duvets. It has enhanced our marriage to an unimaginable degree. I believed eradicating lawns would up the levels of marital bliss 100 fold.

I put this to him. Would he listen? Would he buggery. It took months of negotiating until we reached a compromise. Down each side of the garden would sit a small, grassed area, big enough for a couple of chairs and a table for those members of the family who wished to lounge on the lawn. Sort of garden side burns if you will. He was satisfied. I was not. I thought it was a bloody stupid idea, but as I had won most of the argument, I yielded.

As the garden company we hired were putting my plans into action, they demonstrated to us that on one side of the garden, the grass would be about two foot long, and would look ridiculous. It was clear to see, and therefore unarguable with. That grass went, much to my relief. This left the grass on the left hand side of the garden intact. It sat as a small hill with a shed on top, and tapered down to the door fence area. I thought of it in my mind as ‘the grassy knoll’. Sadly, nobody was shot on it, which was a shame, because that would at least have made it interesting.

As I predicted, even though it was only a small area of lawn, it still proved to be an MBOC (marital bone of contention). Despite the fact it took approximately five minutes to mow, the mowing argument was still going strong and protesting child labour was involved. Also, nobody ever sat on it, played on it, did anything with it at all. And because there were times when mowing strikes occurred as various parties downed tools and denied all mowing responsibility, the grass would grow to such an extent that you couldn’t get the shed door open to get the bloody mower until you cut the grass’ hair with kitchen scissors.

Also ants. Red ants.

We ran out of money before we had entirely finished the garden, just as we ran out of money before we’d entirely finished the house to our satisfaction. This year there is a little wiggle room money wise, and we decided to use it to try and finish as many domestic projects as we could before the money would inevitably run out again. Hence all the activity in recent weeks.

Jason finally admitted that the grassy knoll was not a success, and agreed that I could get rid of the lawn. Budget restrictions mean that we are doing as much of the work ourselves as we can so that we can make the funds stretch further. I knew that despite the admission of lawn failure, if we paid someone to dig it up, it would get put to the bottom of the list of things to be done, because there is a residual lawn love hanging in there sub consciously, so it was down to me to eradicate it entirely.

Yesterday the last forkful of grass went the way of all things, and I cannot tell you what pleasure that hacked up piece of cloddy earth gives me. We have gifted the mower to a friend, and I have never been so pleased to see the back of an appliance in my life.

Today is planting day, and I have trees, trees, lovely trees to plant. I am going to make a mini wood. This is pleasing for many reasons. Firstly lack of grass involved. Secondly, trees are fucking excellent.

Thirdly it will spite the neighbours who overturned a tree protection order on the gorgeous, ancient trees on our boundary line (next to the grassy knoll) and had three felled last year, and have killed one of the remaining three stone dead this year. I have not and will not forgive them for the diaspora of woodpeckers and squirrels, and also the fact that I miss the beautiful swishing of the wind in the foliage singing me to sleep every night. And I don’t want to see them sun bathing on their immaculate lawn while I am painting dog’s bottoms. We have stuck up a fence, which I have painted blue and am going to grow rambling roses all over, and now I shall have my very own forest as well, and because it’s on my land they can do one. Ha.

I’d like to say that the advent of the trees will also promote more marital harmony, but I suspect we’ll find something to fill the gap left by lawn arguments with quicker than the trees will grow.