Wednesday, 23 September 2009


This week sees my 31st birthday and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about fact I'm not that sure how I feel about birthdays in general.

Some people find them the perfect excuse to get dressed up and indulge themselves, others ignore them and some people like me find them a reminder of time, both passing and past. This makes birthdays more of a milestone for me than others might. Some might even say it makes them a millstone.

I used to rather like birthdays, then my life derailed somewhere around the age of 25 and since then each birthday has been a simple, but painful reminder of how much of my life is being held to ransom by all the issues I have been dealing with since then. It felt difficult to celebrate the day and myself with that feeling hanging over me. Unsurprisingly I dreaded turning 30...

Luckily my family staged an intervention and planned a weekend in Barcelona to mark the event. Who could dwell on anything with copious amounts of seafood and cava to distract them? It felt easier to feel positive blowing out the candle on my birthday tomato away from home and the realities of life and I resolved that my 30s would be better than my 20s.

So far, so good. I have enjoyed 30 more than any of the last years of my 20s, but I'm apprehensive about 31. Suddenly you go from a nice even number to 'your early 30s' and that reminds me how much I had hoped to achieve by this stage in my life, and how little of that I have managed. It seems much harder to be positive in the dull light of a British autumn than the late summer sun of Spain.

Therefore I am experimenting this year and looking at my birthday as a reason to get dressed up and have fun, rather than as another grain in the egg-timer of my life. Come Saturday I will be throwing a party, complete with cake and cocktails. I'm hoping this new outlook on the actual birthday will give a different outlook to the year too...or maybe I will simply be too hungover and full of carbs to care?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


 Unless you have been living in a box all week, you will probably have heard that it is London Fashion Week. What you may be less aware of is that legions of flying pigs have been spotted in Zone 1, because the designer Mark Fast put average sized models on his catwalk in the same clothes as the other models.

Usually any designer using what are known as plus sized models tend to clothe them differently to the other girls and only allow them to walk together. I'm never sure whether this is to stop the plus sized girls inadvertantly showing just how thin regular models really are or the actions of someone who thinks they deserve a cookie for using a woman with actual breasts? But this 'ghettoization' always has the effect of re-emphasizing how different a plus size model looks and adds a touch of freak show to the proceedings. I half expect to see the designer dressed as Ripley's Believe it or Not, beckoning at you in to see some unique sight.

Mark Fast has been known in previous collections for trying to clothe a particularly slender clientele with his body con knitwear, so it was doubly interesting to see him use more generously proportioned women. It was more interesting to see that two members of staff, including his stylist left their jobs over the issue. Stylist Erika Kurihara says this is because she was unhappy about the girls' walk on the runway, but the media seems abuzz with the suggestion that she was unhappy about the size of the plus size models.

Obviously I have no idea why she quit her role at Mark Fast, but that won't stop me saying that I find it odd that the stylist was more concerned about the walk, but not about the ill fitting underwear that the three larger girls wore on the runway. Every stylist I have ever met knows the importance of decent undies to your outfit no matter where you are wearing it....

I could understand the dresses being a smaller size depending how Fast measures his samples, but I cannot understand why a stylist doesn't have the correct underwear available for models who were apparently booked in advance unless there is some fundamental problem with the decision to cast those models?

I looked at the pictures of the plus sized models in question to see if I could shed more light on this furore and realised I had been out of the fashion industry for so long that I thought the models looked stunning and that the curves they sported made a lot of taupe wool look quite sexy, while it just looked lifeless on the skinnier girls. I definitely couldn't relate to the semi-hysterical reaction this decision had caused, but seeing how the larger girls' bodies did steal the show from the clothes, I could see why the idea seemed so shocking to fashion insiders.

I have heard every reason given for why runway models are so much thinner than editorial models, let alone regular women. None of them makes particularly good business sense to me. Showing very expensive clothes on a body shape that is rarer than hen's teeth surely discourages most women from buying them? No other industry seems so hell-bent on dissuading people from using it. This makes me think that essentially the worship of incredibly thin models (and the extortionately high prices to some extent) are because the fashion industry simply wants to be an exclusive club and feel special. They are an influential global version of the cool girls at primary school who made their own badges or bracelets to mark them out from the other plebs...and nothing will make them want to share their spotlight.

Realising that (and the fact that I will never be able to afford to buy designer clothes) has made me much more sanguine about the fashion industry. I understand the unrealistic expectations it places on women and the instrinic materialism of making you want new stuff all the time, but it seems inevitable that increasing consumer savvy thanks to the internet and the pressures of the recession will force fashion to change eventually. And don't discount fashion's own perpetual love affair with the long as it doesn't see a change in the size of models as body acceptance of the average person, the Emperor's New Clothes feel of rounded women on the runway will triumph!

Who ever said fashion was shallow?

Monday, 21 September 2009


I have a terrible confession to make...I can't stand monkeys, whether they be primates or apes. To be frank they give me the dry heaves.

I don't care for any of them, big or small, but I have a particularly strong dislike of orangutans. It could be their freakishly shaped faces, it could be those bug eyes or it might be one too many 'ginger' jokes as a kid, I can't look at them without shuddering.

I blame this weird foible, not on being a cold hearted animal hater but on a traumatic childhood event featuring Miss Marple. No, there were no homicidal baboons in St Mary Mead, but there was an episode called 'Sleeping Murder' that left me unable to sleep without the light on for several nights and a lifelong mistrust of our closest cousins. It featured a killer who wore leather driving gloves to strangle a woman and these were described by a child witness as looking "like a monkey's paws"...

Since that day, monkeys' paws have filled me with a terrible dread and I always associate them with death. This was quite a turn up for the books as until then I had been inseparable from a small stuffed gorilla who I was given when I was a few months old. While the real thing gives me the heebie-jeebies, I still love this now pitiful creature who looks like a half chewed liquorice allsort and would probably save him over all else in the event of a fire. I often look at him and resolve to be less hateful toward the great apes...but it never lasts.

Aside from their deathly paws, monkeys give me the creeps since they look like small children who have prematurely aged and grown a thick coat of fur. If God hadn't invented them, Stephen King would have. The recent Stephen Fry documentary 'Last Chance to See' that featured mountain gorillas had me hiding behind the sofa, thinking insanely uncharitable thoughts about an endangered species.  I felt like a terrible person until I remembered that monkeys aren't just ugly, they gave us the HIV virus all those years ago...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


I have a strange relationship with the world of advertising. In magazines, it is something to be torn out before you can actually read the articles or simply ignored. On billboards, it tends to stay in my mind about 10 seconds before I notice something else newer and shinier and move on without purchase.

Yet TV advertising manages to grab my attention wholeheartedly...but before ad executives pat themselves on the back, it manages to do this by annoying me so much I find myself actively boycotting products.

The new GoCompare advert has me running for the mute button every time (and thanking my lucky stars I have no car to insure), the Triple Velvet baby makes me pine for the days of cut up newspaper by the loo and Calgon makes me wish the water was deep enough to drown the actors. But nothing compares to the homicidal rage and surging blood pressure I feel whenever the little red-jumpered devil pictured above appears on screen...

I want to lock both him and his mother in Paul's bathroom for all eternity to breathe in the nerve gas like spray of a Touch n'Fresh for their part in this advert. As if it wasn't already the most hideous advert on TV (since Glade's last cutesy shitting child), these two have managed to add insult to injury by making it the hammiest thing since gammon.

I realise writing about this heinous advert probably encourages an army of people who can't be discreet in the bathroom, but I'm prepared to run that risk to vent my spleen. I find myself actively avoiding any product connected to these (and all other) annoying adverts. But what about you? Does advertising woo you or warn you off? Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


This summer seems to have been punctuated at every turn with well known people dying...practically every time I open Facebook there is a slew of status updates noting how these well loved names were iconic to my friends, especially from childhood.

While it is sad when anyone dies, especially after illness and pain, I have been mildly concerned to find that very few of the big celebrity deaths in the past few months have had any great impact on me. Either I am somewhat cold hearted or I spent the 80s living in a box...

I just felt sorry for Farah Fawcett having her death overshadowed by Michael Jackson's on the same day, while his death was mainly noticeable to me for the media circus it produced. I have barely any childhood memories of him other than my best friend at primary school playing 'Bad' til I thought I might scream.

Edward Kennedy's death was notable for the feeling of the end of an era, but not being American it wasn't as momentous as it might have been. John Hughes' premature demise made me realise I had never seen any of his classic 80s films. Somehow I had no idea what Ferris Bueller got up to on his day off.

Today brought news of two more celebrity deaths as both Keith Floyd and Patrick Swayze departed this earth. Most people have been discussing the latter and obviously since I have never seen Dirty Dancing or Ghost, I have been unable to contribute much. It has been reminding me of the sad loss of my own grandmother from pancreatic cancer, but I do not feel any personal connection beyond this.

Strangely the death that has saddened and affected me most is that of Keith Floyd. I grew up watching his delightfully barmy wine soaked cookery shows in the 80s and my parents owned a selection of his cookbooks. Unlike all the other iconic deaths this summer, I feel a connection to my childhood. His shows remind me of my parents entertaining with a glass of wine in hand on sunny summer evenings and I feel both old and nostalgic for times past. I suddenly get what other people have been experiencing all summer.

Unfortunately I am unlikely to be able to avoid this feeling again in the future. More of the people I consider iconic or influential in my life, whether they be people I have never met or those dearest to me, will be checking out in the foreseeable future. I am suddenly the age when you start to feel mortality as a presence in your life, while nostalgia seems to be everywhere.

I am not about to don a veil and start lurking about the shadows looking mournful, but I am going to start looking round me more and apprectiating these people while I can. I may also want to start pretending to have a clue about popular culture in preparation!

Monday, 14 September 2009


 I like the idea of Meat Free Mondays. I'm very aware that my deep love of meat makes me shockingly un-green and possibly quite unhealthy.

I just wonder why in a climate that encourages us to think about waste and practise recycling, someone picked the day that traditionally a British household has meat based leftovers from Sunday lunch to go veggie? Shouldn't we be re-using those delicious morsels rather than going to the supermarket for more food we don't really need? It seems like a mixed message to me.

I'll be striking a compromise and going meat free another day of the week. Maybe it won't scan so nicely, but my heart'll be the same place!

Sunday, 13 September 2009


As most of you will know, I love make up. Particularly mascara...

I know that foundation adverts are air brushed to a level of falsehood that eradicates pores. I know anti aging creams don't mimic Botox, but put me in front of a mascara advert and I even though I know they are Photoshopped to hell and laden with lash inserts, I am always blindly drawn toward the promise of longer thicker lashes...I have a strange belief that life will be magically better if only my lashes touched my eyebrows.

Unsurprisingly I have been suckered in by just about every mascara product on the market over the years from lash building undercoats to cake slabs. And every single one has let me down enough to make me return to my trusty 2000 Calories by Max Factor with a heartfelt sigh of relief.

So why today did my ears prick up to hear that Maybelline are launching a vibrating mascara? How long will it take me to succumb to this temptation? Why am I suckered in by the promises of one part of the beauty industry and not the rest?

Oh, why doesn't The Beauty Myth answer these questions and save me from myself?

Friday, 11 September 2009


 Everyone has heard the phrase "charity begins at home"...except those major charities who employ street fundraisers, more commonly known as 'charity muggers'. If you live anywhere larger than a hamlet, you'll be more than familiar with the T-shirt clad clipboard clutching phenomenon that has swept British high streets in the past few years.

Someone somewhere decided the best way to encourage the 93% of Brits who don't regularly donate to charity was to harangue them, harrass them and trip them up as they try to go about their daily business. While I admire the attempt to make us more generous, I can't quite comprehend why anyone thought hiring a bunch of out of work drama students to beseech people en route to the Tube would be the answer.

Considering the average 'chugger' gets around £10 per hour and some get commission for signing someone up, I find it hard to believe that this idea was a money saving plan. I also can't imagine it really was a plan to piss the entire nation I can only imagine charities really thought this would help boost their donations. I wonder if donations have genuinely gone up since this style of campaigning became widespread?

What I have found (in my highly scientific research of asking several people I know and reading Wikipedia) is that most people, myself included, really don't like the policy of street fundraising. I have only met one person has ever signed up to a charity after meeting one...and they cancelled the direct debit within a week. I wonder how many of the 600,000 people who sign up each year after street or doorstep fundraising either cancel their pledge soon after or feel negatively towards their chosen charity once they continue to be asked for money by them almost daily? Strangely enough, I couldn't find that information anywhere...

However I have found that if you want to break the ice with strangers and have run out of weather to discuss, nothing gets people going faster than a conversation about 'chuggers'. Everyone has a horror story, everyone has an opinion, everyone wants their say.

This post was inspired by a particularly infuriating and invasive run-in with a fundraiser outside the Tube station today. She grabbed my arm to stop me then kissed her teeth at me when I told her to let go. Unsurprisingly I declined to learn more about Friends of the Earth on this occasion, but at least this one knew a bit about who she was representing. I've met a few who have almost needed to read the back of their T-shirt to know who they were selling that day. Hardly inspiring.

How secure would you feel giving your personal and bank details to someone like this? I certainly don't find it wise to dole out details like this to a total stranger, without being sure of the references required to get a job like this. I wonder if this fear is partly behind some councils' decisions to install 'cold calling zones' now that some charities are taking their 'chugging' door to door too.

Maybe this is a great way to pick up extra donations that will truly benefit charities, but I suspect it might be the straw that breaks the camel's back for most people. Personally my tipping point was reached some time ago after a male fundraiser physically blocked my path along Regent Street, hemming me in against a window and not letting me past until I began having a panic attack. I now refuse to donate to any charity who employs street or door to door fundraising, including using their charity shops.

I now prefer to make my donations to the smaller charities who are often less fashionable and overshadowed by large organisations. I think more about what charities are important to me and how my donations will be used. (Plus my local church charity shop has a cafe that serves excellent bacon sarnies...) 

In the meantime, I will be starting charity at home...and trying to dodge the clipboards better so I don't get made to feel like a bad person for not wanting to hear more about the poor animals/children/ozone layer etc. Maybe I should get a badge saying this?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


 Sadly I missed Redheadday this year, partly because I didn't know it existed and partly because popping off to the Netherlands isn't that handy...but everyday is Red Head Day for me.

I have had a love/hate relationship with my natural hair colour over the years. As a child at primary school, red hair was a one way ticket to merciless teasing. This was most likely because anything that makes you different tends to bring out the worst in children and also because red hair traditionally isn't considered conventionally attractive in the UK. The common associations with witches in bygone days made sure of that.

Blondes are admired and imitiated. Brunettes are sultry and sophisticated. Redheads are seen as fiery and angry. Combine red hair with the usual pale skin and almost inevitable freckles and the picture does not improve. Growing up with all three of these characteristics and the various cruel comments made me internalise that I was not attractive and made me ashamed of being a redhead, no matter how many times I reminded myself that Nancy Drew had 'titian' hair and was the coolest girl ever.

As soon as I could afford it, I started spending money on hair dye. To start with I experimented with obviously dyed red hair to see how looking like I had chosen my look would work. I thought people might admire the confidence required, but generally it just led to endless questions about whether "the curtains matched the carpet?" which did nothing for the self possession of a 14 year old. Unsurprisingly I began to embrace every other hue of hair possible. By only 17 I was quite the connaisseur of every brand of hair colour possible from Manic Panic to salon only shades. With the amount of money I spent I could probably have travelled the world nicely on a gap year.

Imminent bankruptcy wasn't enough to deter me and I kept up my one woman colour chart crusade throughout my 20s, trying every shade from ash blonde to aubergine. The freckles had faded due to religiously staying out of the sun and the pale skin occasionally saw fake tan. Even my temper didn't give my secret away...

Then something changed. I'd love to tell you it was a self affirming epiphany where I embraced my true self, but I have a feeling it was more to do with boredom. Blonde had become too high maintenance and brunette seemed bland; red seemed fresh and interesting. I bought a box of Natural Warm Auburn and something really did eyes looked brighter, my skin looked clear instead of cadverous. Turns out I wasn't so unattractive the way Nature made me.

It might be that I have grown up (or that those who teased have done the same) or that there is some truth in Quentin Crisp's assertion that "you can never be proud of red hair unless you dyed it yourself", but 2 years later I haven't tired of being a redhead. It feels natural and as much a part of me that something enhanced from a box can be!

Interestingly the responses have generally been positive from other women while men tend to be indifferent. I rarely hear smutty comments these day, but I also rarely get second looks either. Obviously I don't choose my hair colour to please the masses, but that invisibility reminds me how more prejudice about redheads remains here in the UK, aided and abetted by things like South Park's 'Ginger Kids" episode that suggested redheads had 'no soul'.

Obviously many other people face very real institutionalized prejudice on a daily basis for things they really can't change and in comparison 'ginger' jokes seem minor. It might be naive to hope for comedians to drop the cliches and the general public to stop the comments, but I think things are starting to change with supermodels like Karen Elson and popular characters like Ron Weasley taking some of the sting out of the sandy stigma.

In the meantime I'll be doing my part with my Nice n' Easy and hoping that all the little redheaded kids I see won't be made to feel freakish or be bullied in the same way...or if they do, unlike me they will have the wit not to reply with "it's not ginger. It's strawberry blonde" unless they never want it to stop!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Summer may be drawing to a close, but don't let the cooler weather discourage you from the ice-cold heaven that is a Coke Float!

The only way to drink full fat Coke for me, topped up with vanilla ice cream and served with a straw. Who needs booze when a drink is this good? The taste of childhood past is merely a bonus!

Monday, 7 September 2009


So far, this blogging thing feels a bit like homework. Either this is very appropriate for the first week of September or I am even more technologically challenged than I thought, because I've been having some difficulties with stuff like posting with pagebreaks...

While I love many things about the internet and my computer, I am at heart an old fashioned kind of gal. I prefer pen and paper to auto save. I don't actually know what html is. So bear with me while I work out what the hell I'm doing. I might need to find one of those annoyingly confident kids from those PC adverts to guide me through this slowly (even though I'm on a Mac.)

I don't remember starting school being like this. Maybe the new pencil case at the beginning of each year made everything feel so much better? Just don't try and explain Twitter or Tumblr to me right now!


I have an uncanny ability to have never seen an alarming number of incredibly popular and culturally relevant films. This amazes (and amuses) many people, who generally don't believe me until they spend time with me. For some reason they are all universally shocked that I have never seen Dirty Dancing...

I'm not quite sure how I have managed this being a 30 year old woman who attended an all girls' school. I still have no idea what the watermelon thing is about even now...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

LOL me alone

I can't help it and I can't contain it...I can't stand LOLspeak. I can't even be convinced when it is accompanied by pictures of little furry things. It goes against all my instincts and educational indoctrination for correct spelling and grammar amongst adults.

I am secretly pleased to be such a grumpy old bat at the age of 30 as to not to be swayed by the humour or cuteness of such things (but then I am generally immune to cute animal pictures). Instead I just seethe gently when people use it, particularly outside of actual I Can Haz Cheezburger images.

It doesn't help that LOLspeak is interbreeding with Textspeak to create a vowel-less grammatically sloppy world that it pains me to live in. LOLspeak makes me want to reach for a pencil and paper and write things out in longhand in my best handwriting neatly between the lines for all eternity.

Yep, I am one LOLcat away from shouting 'Get off my lawn" at passers-by on the internet.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


The Girl Guides were founded 100 years ago today. They started in 1909 after a group of girls attended the first Boy Scout rally in Crystal Palace and asked Robert Baden Powell for an equivalent organisation for girls...

I was a Girl Guide (and a Bunny, as the Rainbows were known in Northern Ireland, and a Brownie and also a Venture Scout). In fact I was a member of a Baden Powell organisation from the age of 5 to 17. This may surprise some of you who know me as a girl who dreads so much as breaking a nail, but what might surprise you more is that I loved being a member of all those organisations.

Sure, there were a few sticking points; the incredibly frumpy Guide uniforms, the fixation on Christianity as the only true path and the fact that the church hall was always freezing cold, but generally the experience was extremely positive. I attended an all girls school which tended toward to being bitchy shall we say? But the Guides were a different type of all-female environment where you were encouraged to stay busy, learn new skills, help each other and above all live by the good morals of the Guide Law whilst generally avoiding all the stereotypes of large groups of women.

The Guide Laws are:
o A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.
o A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.
o A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experience.
o A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.
o A Guide is polite and considerate.
o A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

I was heartened to see that this law still exists with its clear principles and strong moral code...and that I could still quote some of it about 15 years after leaving the Guides. Looking at it now with a more critical feminist eye, I feel that the Girl Guides are a valuable oasis of calmness and encouragement in a world that wants little girls to grow up too soon. Sure, they might wear funkier clothes now, but they still allow girls to develop their interests and experiences for life.

I learned a huge amount at Guides. Sadly very little of the stuff I learned for my sleeveful of badges has remained, but most of the social skills still play a part in my life even today. I am still proud of my Guiding achievements. I was a Patrol Leader in my troop and even though it gave me the dubious honour of being Leader of the Thrush Patrol, it did wonders for my self esteem as a awkward and gawky 15 year old.

I drifted away from the Guides not long after this as make up, boys and boozing became more my focus in life than campfires and canvas, but I hung around the edges of the organisation in the mixed-sex Venture Scouts where I learned to talk to boys, fire a shotgun and dig a ditch. But even that was abandoned as my A-levels loomed and in all honesty, I haven't thought much about those days until now.

I'm sure in this era of It bags, Wags and tweens, the Girl Guides are seen as deeply uncool by many girls (and boys). This would depress me as to the state of our youth, except that it was seen as geeky and uncool by many of my peers when I was attending it too, but I still went every week and loved it. And it appears that a huge number of girls are doing the very same thing even now. 50,000 girls are waiting just to join currently.

So when it seems like there is no hope for the next generation of girls, let's remember that the Girl Guides are still providing a no nonsense way to encourage self esteem, teach new skills and life experiences and keep little girls as little girls until they are ready to grow up. Perhaps I'll postpone being a grumpy old woman just a little bit longer...

Here's to another 100 years of learning to light fires, make toilet roll holders out of string and sticks and sing out of tune!

Friday, 4 September 2009


Ever since I can remember I have been deathly afraid of wasps…those pointless sharp-arsed minions of Satan that interrupt every good British summertime.

I have never looked forward to a barbeque or a picnic. Beer gardens make my heart sink. Bus stops with bins are fraught with fear. Greengrocers in August make me clench muscles I didn’t know I possessed. I put my rubbish out after dark in the summer. Windows remain firmly shut. I can’t even read sports headlines about a certain London rugby club without a shudder. Something had to be done…

And that something is hypnotherapy. The proper sort, not some end of the pier Paul McKenna malarkey before you ask. The sort that involves hypnosis and the use of specialised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to retrain your brain for good.

Sounds expensive I hear you say. I came across it through a fabulous organisation called Anxiety UK (formerly the National Phobics Society) and after joining them at around £25 a year and paying approximately £10 to access their list of therapists, I was matched up with a registered hypnotherapist within 2 weeks who charges on a sliding scale acoording to financial circumstances. For me that is around £7.50 a session.

And I tell you, rarely has money been better spent. At the time of writing I have had 3 sessions (the number needed varies from person to person) and am already feeling like a totally different person. I have been walking the autumnal streets without my eyes darting from side to side in my usual hyper-vigilant state. I have left my front door momentarily ajar. And most thrillingly of all, I have managed to kill my first ever wasp! (I ran it over with a suitcase and then danced with glee on the pavement.)

It’s looking like with the help of hypnotherapy, I have nothing to fear next summer, except possibly PETA persuing me for my new found blood lust. Hypnotherapy isn’t a magic bullet. The CBT side of it is emotionally draining, if only for hearing the word ‘wasp’ so frequently, but the hypnosis is gloriously relaxing as a contrast.

I’d recommend it to anyone suffering from anxiety or a phobia. I only wish I’d done it several years ago when I think of all the times I have embarrassed myself in public shrieking like a banshee or refused a social invite that involved being outdoorsor wanted to leave the house between June and October without feeling a heart attack was imminent.

I expect a full social diary next summer. Here’s hoping for some sun to go with it…


Everyone else I know has one...and I have finally succumbed. I have entered the world of the blog!

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea if I have anything worth reading regularly, but in trying to get my life back up and running more normally, I am embracing new things!

If you see something amiss, please let me know. If you see something you like, even better! I will be posting when I feel I have something interesting to say…so here goes!