Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hopping Mad

"You're not going to bloody blog about this, are you?" asks my friend The Milliner, as she orders a serving of chips. She puts on a bitchy falsetto "Ooh, my evening got a whole lot better as I watched her devour a double portion of chips with mayonnaise..."

I smirk, sip Prosecco and adopt an inscrutable expression. It's already been a good night, albeit one that nearly didn't happen (the usual malarkey, for both me and The Editor, of settling children, late-home husbands with switched-off phones and, in her case, a broken boiler) Earlier in the day we'd been at the nursery Christmas party, complete with a visit from the moodiest, least jolly Santa you could ever hope to encounter. The kids have had a ball and now, at the end of a long and, for various reasons, stressful week, it really feels like it's our turn. I've had to drive, so getting hammered is not an option, but I've consoled myself by dressing in a Chloe LBD over Black Rats and suede Sam Edelman shoeboots. It's not freezing like it was a week or so ago, but certainly chilly enough to warrant a coat, and I've opted for my rabbit skin. I bought it 2nd hand for about £30, back in the days when I ate red meat and when my attitude to fur and skin was, "If I'll eat it, I'll wear it." I used to love rabbit. Now that I no longer eat it, I still love the coat.

Almost time to go, and I grab it from the back of my chair. "I bloody love that. Can I try it on?" asks The Milliner. She slides into it, thrusts one shoulder forward and then the other, strokes the fur. "God, that's lovely," she sighs. "Can you find me one?"

Her - friend? acquaintance? I'm not sure - reaches out and touches it. Recoils. "That's real, isn't it?" she askes with a face that is less disapproving, more repulsed. Should I deny? Sod it.

OMFG. The floodgates that open are terrifyingly vitriolic. I find myself adopting my "uh huh, uh huh" face, head on one side, nodding, smiling encouragingly. I find myself saying "I really appreciate what you're saying." I find myself thinking "You nutter!! bring it on!!"

I admire passion and commitment in others. I have similar qualities, although not about animal welfare, particularly. But she is all over the shop. Nearly in tears, so impassioned is she - yet she tells us she eats meat. "Meat that is bred for survival is different from meat that is bred for your vanity," she shouts. She finds it extraordinary that I am a vegetarian. I consider telling her that this is also for reasons of vanity (ditching whole food groups is the lazy dieter's key to weight control) but think better of it. Even so, I'm intrigued by her definition of survival. What kind of survival is it that requires you to eat red meat? She's wearing leather boots. Rabbits are not an endangered species. I'm interested in what she has to say, still more so in how agitated she is getting, but I'm not convinced. Not enough to ditch the jacket, anyway.

I don't feel like I'm being attacked, particularly, but I do bridle somewhat when she says that she finds it hard to believe that I'm a mother. "How can you collude in the torture of animals when you have children of your own?? How would you like it if they were tortured for their skin or hair?" Whoa whoa whoa, stop right there lady - I may respect your opinions, but don't bring my devotion to my children into this. Besides which, I am not one of those people who places animals on the same level as children. Especially not my children. I'm just not. Sorry.

It really is time to go and The Editor and I make noises about it having been nice to meet you, see you again etc etc. She stands to go the loo and says, with reasonable vehemence, "Just remember, you are what you eat and you are what you wear." For the first time that night, I get a look at her size and outfit. Oh my. She speaks the truth.

It's not nice of us, but the Editor and I cackle gleefully nearly all the way home.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

False Economy

Being of the hirsute persuasion means that decent hair removal is vital. Being a disorganised type, however, means that, more often than not, I am sporting something akin to two caterpillars above my eyes. Fringes are the poor man's botox, yes, but they also hide a multitude of hair-removal sins.

Anyway, given half a chance, I'd do a Sunday morning sprint to Clapham to visit the Glow beauty bar in Debenhams. £14 and it's like you've had a facelift. But then an Asian friend - let's call her Miss Z-to-3 - expressed her horror at such prices.

"No more than £3" was her stern instruction. £3?? I live in London, doncha know. Still, allowing for a bit of Southern inflation, I kept my eyes peeled for less expensive options - not an easy task with my fringe hanging halfway down my face and stray caterpillar tendrils getting caught up in my eyelashes.

So, £5. £5 is good, right?

It is. If you're going for the straight in, straight out, take no prisoners approach, then £5 is great. If, on the other hand, you're travelling with Baby L and desirous of him falling asleep before you subject yourself to the not-so-soothing ministrations of a cotton-wielding threader , you may encounter some problems. If Baby L decides that observing the, ahem, rather colourful half-term shopping crowds (pink glittery slogan outfit for your daughter's Pixie Photo portrait anyone??) is more his scene than sleeping, well, then, you may very well be screwed.

I put money into the Iggle Piggle Ride. The Batman ride. The Iggle Piggle Ride again. I bought him a muffin. It was gluten free and delicious, so I ate most of it myself and bought him another one (not GF this time, lest I be tempted to scoff that one too). I bought him a babycino, and myself a flat white. I walked him up and down, up and down. And still his eyes did not glaze over. And nor, for that matter, did mine. They honed straight in on TKMaxx, and I was in like a shot.

I've been slightly obsessed with the idea of fine chain detailing ever since trying on this Chloe dress in Selfridges a few weeks ago - so much so that I even took a photo of myself on my iPhone in the dressing room mirror. Yes, apparently I am one of those people.

So how could I resist when I spotted a sweater with chain-embellished shoulders? Navy, tick, bit of sparkle, tick, slight military feel, button-up back, tick. I love it. And Baby L is still not asleep. No, he saves that party trick for just a few moments after I pay for the sweater, a pair of Anne Klein lace tights, a Calvin Klein dress and a Becksondergaard plaited belt, plus a knit for my mum and some Halloween tat for The Princess and Master C. Right now, £14 for hair removal is looking pretty good.

Anyway, he's asleep, and it's still "Attack of the Killer 'Pillars" under my fringe. I hoon it down to the other end of the centre and am nearly stopped in my tracks by the wailing and caterwauling that assaults my ears. What in the Sam Hill is that?? Oh, of course. A talent contest. And I though the Pixie Photo stand was bad.

So I'm subjected to the torture of simultaneous threading and cat-on-acid-being-violently-ill singing. Just to add to my joy, they're singing songs from Annie.

"The sun'll come out ... toooomoooorrrrow... bet your bottom dollllllaaaaaaaaaah..." Ha! I've pretty much spent my bottom dollar on waiting for my tinker of a baby to go to sleep! I wince, and am swiftly instructed by the stern Bengali lady to stretch my skin tighter. "And you have too much hair," she scolds, not referring to my fringe. "Too much!! When you last come?!! You need come every 3 weeks, so."

"Yes, if we remortgage the house and I get some earplugs," I mutter.

And from the stage - "You're ooooonly... a daaaaay ... aaaaaaaa... WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY."

Baby L starts, shudders and is awake. He is confronted by the sight of a lady bending menacingly over me, and wails. It is indicative of what's going on over on the stage that his cry sounds very small. Trust me, that boy has lungs.

Eventually, we're out of there, a few hundred quid down (I may have gone into the M&S foodhall to soothe my nerves after the threading incident... ) and suffering mild sensory overload. But the caterpillars have been squashed underfoot, and I totally love my new clothes. And really, in the scheme of things, £50 for a CK dress (and it's a classic number, honest - very Aniston, black, chic, quite timeless) is as bargainous as, well, £5 threading isn't it?

Maybe next time I'll just skip the muffin.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Côte d'Brrrrrrrrrrr

Every so often, I put my yearnings for Sydney aside for a few minutes and get kind of psyched about everything that London has to offer. What this generally means is that The Bearded One, desperate to relax on his own sofa after a week or two on the road, gets dragged out of bed early on a Saturday morning so that I can indulge my need to escape the confines of South East London and travel further afield with the children than I would feel comfortable doing solo.

Weirdly, when a visit to the in-laws on the outskirts of London is suggested, I am, like, in love with South East London. Seriously, why would you want to be anywhere else on a weekend?

So anyway, way back at the beginning of the year, I joined the Barbican Family Film Club and we duly set off to see The Wind in The Willows. Given that Master C had just upgraded to Big Boy Pants from a pull-up 3 days previously, my timing was, not for the first time, a bit off. It meant that The Bearded One had to keep harassing him about whether or not he needed a wee, and taking him out of the cinema to 'try'. It meant that when Master C decided to sit on The Bearded One's lap during a scary bit, he weed on him. Fine for Master C, who had a change of clothes. Not so good for the Bearded One, who didn't.

Anyway, for one reason or another, we've not been back since May and now all of a sudden it's coat weather. This is when my longing for Sydney becomes harder to ignore. I hate the cold, hate all the stuff you have to wear, hate it even more now that I have three little people to dress. I resent having to buy a coat, because to do so is an admission of the fact of that any semblance of warm weather is over for a good few months. For years, I shivered through the grey dismalness of October and November, as if my refusal to acknowledge the cold could somehow will it out of existence, as if retail abstinence could effect some form of climate control. Finally, I crack under the unrelenting pressure of frostbite in December, buying a coat in the sales that is just alright, saying that I don't need anything special because it's going to be warm again in a few weeks, isn't it?

With similarly perverse tendencies, the children only sat through half an hour or so of Cars on Saturday, preferring to hang out in the foyer and raid the art trolley for the materials with which to make their very own Lightning McQueen. When we get home, after lunch and much pigeon-chasing, I take out the felt tips and colouring books, and they clamour for a DVD. The Bearded One is already ensconced on the sofa having 'quality time' (read - sleeping) with The Bub. I take off my coat and hang it beside the three others I've acquired so far this season. When I catch on, I really catch on. And being cold sucks almost as much as having to do something on a weekend that you really, really don't want to do.

Wearing: Jaeger red wool & cashmere coat, Gap merino sweater dress in charcoal, Falke tights, Primark scarf and Belstaff boots.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Who gives a Falke?

Well, I do actually (although not so much about the state of my house, as you can probably tell). At £22 a pop, Falkes are more expensive than the sum total of either of the outfits (if such raggle-taggle assortments of clothes can be called such) shown here, but oh my, so soft and warm!! And really, when you spend half the day on all fours impersonating lions and brrrrrrrrrmmming toy cars across the floor, a bit of toasty texture on the knees is no bad thing.

On a slightly less appealing note, there's also the fact that having children, combined with my generally crap approach to time management, means that my legs err on the side of Neanderthalism more often than not. What better than a pair of thick, luscious tights to keep follicular activity hidden from public view? If only my Falkes could work such magic elsewhere, too, deflecting attention from the appallingly badly groomed state of my face and hair - seriously, at the age of 37 (okay, nearly 38), it's about time I started actually doing something about wearing makeup and at least brushing my hair, if not having regular cuts, colours and treatments. That dewy, unkempt, been-partying-all-night-but -still-pass-muster look that worked so well for me in my 20s is no longer relevant, really. And I'm doing that classic couple-y thing of growing more similar in appearance to The Bearded One as time goes on. I mean, I don't have a beard yet. (Yet). And the Bearded One is a handsome devil. But personal grooming? Ha!! Now there's someone who really doesn't give a flying Falke.

wearing Mango tweed shorts (charity shop), Zara sweater (charity shop) and Atmsophere biker boots (Primark) in first picture, same Zara sweater and Atmosphere boots but with Diesel denim mini (eBay) in second. Falke tights from

Friday, 22 October 2010

Matchy Matchy

So I'm totally down with the fact that matching your shoes to your bag is a big sartorial no-no. Big. Huge!! And it's fine by me, since I favour a slightly haphazard approach to dressing anyway. Some would jokily refer to it as ''getting dressed in the dark." I say, where's the joke? Fact of the matter is, I do get dressed in the dark. I set my alarm so as to have 20 minutes of shower, coffee and dressing before the children wake up - I mean, whatever people may say about the perils of co-sleeping, the fact that it hinders your ability to read in bed at night or survey the contents of your wardrobe in the morning is like, hardly ever mentioned.

Anyway. Shoes, bag, no match, natch.

But what about matching your daughter's new winter boots to your favourite bag? Is that ever okay?

I didn't mean to do it, honest. In fact, I didn't even have my pink Marc by Marc Jacobs bag with me on the day we bought The Princess's new boots. But Mini-Me matchiness aside, aren't they lovely? Just pink enough, just embellished enough to be fab and girly, not so pink or sparkly that they reduce me to the sort of trembling rage that bloody Snow White and Disney Princesses of her insipid ilk inspire in me.

A trembling lip though - that's another matter altogether. Suddenly realising that the new boots were, if I remembered correctly, very similar in colour to The Princess's first shoes, I dug them out of the cupboard and peeled back the tissue paper in which they've been wrapped for the last 3 and half or so years.

Look, just look - so diddy!!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Toodle-Loo, Choos

When it comes to kids, some things change quite slowly: conventional wisdom about toilet-training, or attitudes to punishment/ reward, for example. Other things change more or less overnight, so that for me, who had my three in the space of three years (three years and eight weeks, to be precise) it was something of a shock to find that being pregnant with The Bub was going to entitle me to a £190 grant from the government aimed at being healthier in pregnancy.

"It's so you can buy more fruit and veg," explained my midwife, with a roll of the eye that more than ably conveyed exactly what she, for one, thought of such initiatives.

More fruit and veg?? All I bloody eat is fruit and veg. What isn't off limits, in my wheat-free, meat-free and, until I got pregnant again, dairy-free world apart from fruit and veg?

In my wisdom, I decree that The Bub and I are about as healthy as we can possibly be and have no need of the Health in Pregnancy grant.

No, Health in Pregnancy is not my issue. Mental Health in Pregnancy, on the other hand- yes please, can we sort out some kind of government initiative or grant for that? That, I could use.

Happy Mum, Happy Baby, I decide - and gaily, without so much as a glance at the Riverford website or the 2 for 1 asparagus deals in Sainsbury's, use my HiP grant to buy Jimmy Choo's utterly fabulous and totally impractical China Strappy sandals.

Actually, if I'm honest, I use the grant to buy a little less than one of them. The price for the pair? £435.

"Step into these Jimmy Choo sandals for a touch of Studio 54 drama," entices netaporter. "Partner them with matching accessories and your party LBD for disco diva decadence. Heel measures approximately 120mm / 4.5 inches with a 20mm / 1 inch platform."

Yes, because , as a woman who has 2 children under the age of 3 and is pregnant with the 3rd, my life just is full of Studio 54-style drama, isn't it? 'Can't Get a Mum and Baby Parking Space at the Supermarket' drama, yes. 'Really Want Some Raspberries with Greek Yoghurt and Honey Right Now' drama, yes. 'Can't Get Out of the Bath Without Assistance' drama, yes.

Studio 54 drama?? And as for the party LBD and disco diva decadence - my waters might break, I'm laughing so hard.

The shoes arrive, all mirrored loveliness. I try them on for all of 3 minutes, my pregnancy feet making even the 42s a squeeze, my shifting center of gravity making the 4.5 inch heel a terrifying proposition, even standing still.

Still! I won't be pregnant forever! The Bub is due in September; by my birthday in December, I decide, I will be svelte and gorgeous, and celebrating in suitably dramatic Studio 54 style.

My birthday was a lovely, lovely day, make no mistake. I weighed about 16lb more than the maximum that I consider acceptable and breastfed almost constantly. It was freezing, and I wore a purple Princesse Tam Tam dress with a deep button-front for easy boob access, tights and boots. We went for lunch at Jamie's Italian and had friends over in the evening for cake and champagne. It was great. But a Choo-appropriate occasion? Nah.

The Bub turned one 2 weeks ago and the shoes still languished, unworn, tags on, in the box. And, truth be told, I still teetered in them, despite being back down to a normal weight, and they still hurt my gargantuan feet, without the excuse of fluid retention to fall (literally) back on. As the list of things I have bought and am no doubt yet to buy for AW10 expands, the Choos are burning a £435 hole in my wardrobe. At night, they stand over my bed, glinting and winking metallically, maniacally, mocking my aspirational glamour, while my Ash high tops weep muddily in a corner of the porch, sighing that they have served me well; why do I treat them thus?

Enough's enough. I listed them on eBay and, sure enough, they sold. I actually didn't lose that much money on them. And I've gained some valuable closet space.

Now, what to fill it with?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A(fluffy)head of the pack

Fashion forward, moi?

Check out the Persian cat on the head of Stella Maxwell, on the right of Elle Italia's September issue

And then cast your mind back to my alpaca hat post

Master C, you are miles ahead of the game.

I actually don't think he gets it from me, despite the fact that I can lay some claim to having had my finger on the fluffball pulse as far back as 2001/ 2002. Indeed, I am so far behind the game that this particular issue of Elle was my holiday reading and, due to my disitinctly below-par Italian (and the demands that The Princess, Master C and The Bub put on my time) I am still plowing my way through it. We'll be in to SS11 before I've managed to get it into my head that "un vestito morbido" does not mean a sack-like dress for a morbidly obese woman (it's the word association thing, it's a killer).

Our Italian sojourn unearthed another fashion truth, namely that this H&M striped maxi was possibly my worst buy for SS10.

Don't get me wrong: I heart it big time. But let us chart its tale of woe:

I buy it for under a tenner. I am accompanied by Master C and The Bub; trying on is not an option. It looks insanely long - but I'm tall. It'll be fine. I get it home. I try it on - oh my god, it is insanely long, puddling around my feet in a molten pool of purple and white. I get it taken up. It costs as much as the dress. It's still too long. I get it taken up again. The alterations have now cost double the price of the dress, but the length is perfect. Unfortunately, however, the dress is completely see-through; that soft fine cotton I so admired in H&M feels lovely, but the sensation that people can see what I had for breakfast, rather less so. No matter! It will be fine over a cossie. I take the dress on holiday and debut it by the pool. The Bearded One tells me that I look like The Cat in the Hat. The Princess wipes gelato-stickied fingers on me. I wash the dress.

It shrinks to mid-calf length.

But hey. I've been ahead of the game before; maybe I will be again. Hot tip for SS11 - see through, shrunken and mid-calf will be key. You heard it right here from the Cat in the Hat.

So - 'fess up: what were your worst buys this year?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Faux Fur and Fashion Friends - part deux

Having three young children means that my head is on almost constant Linda Blair-stylee swivel, especially when we're out in public. Call me paranoid but, as I often to say to them, "If I can't see you, then you're in the wrong place."

So I rather like the fact that all three of them will happily be pushed on the swings for hours on end. It's a bit of pain, yes: finding three swings in a row in these far-exceeding-the-national-average-number-of-children-per-family neighbourhoods is never easy but, once that hurdle has been overcome, at least the children are contained. And I can push with one hand and sneak peeks at my iPhone with the other.

My head is still on constant swivel though: for other children. My three are total swing hogs; none of this "Can I get off now please mummy?" business that you hear from other kids. Mindful of the wrath of park mums, I keep an eye open for wistful children and huffy, impatient looking carers and, once they're spotted, always wrestle my children away.

Eager to get out and make the most of the increasingly rare sunshine, we headed to the park this afternoon and quickly snaffled all but one of the swings. A little blonde girl ran over and nabbed the fourth, announcing "I'm wearing a Hello Kitty top!" She was. I was impressed: a girl who strikes up conversations about clothing with complete strangers is my kind of kid. I glanced over at her mum, still busy with the pushchair. She walked over and smiled.

"Have you got another one in there?" I ask, gesturing towards the pushchair. "Just let me know if you need another swing or else my lot will be here until Christmas".

"No, just the one," she says. And then: "I love what you're wearing. I love those fur gilets; I keep looking for one but I'm not sure I can pull it off. You look great."

At last: validation.

It's not the Zara one over which I bonded (if it could be called such) with the Supermoggle; mum volunteers at a Red Cross shop and brought an Atmosphere (read - Primark) one home a few days ago. Do I need two fur gilets? Yes I do: it's a different colour, different length and reminiscent of the Yeti from the Myths and Monsters exhibition, with whom Master C is rather enamoured (he has requested a Yeti cake for his birthday in December, with the added instruction that I make a blue, no, a dark blue one).

She's wearing a pair of khaki combats that look suspiciously like Houlihans. "Are they Houlihans?" I ask. They are; she is delighted that I've noticed and we converse earnestly about the placement of the side pockets and how they can make thighs look tree-trunkish, but she sized up to a 27 so that they'd look slouchier and less clingy, how she bought them on US eBay for about half what you'd pay for them here, how she fights the occasional urge to think "why bother looking nice? I'm just a mum," in response to which I quote my friend Tracey: "It takes just as long to get dressed in ugly clothes as nice ones." The children swing like pendulums: we cover Uggs (the rights and wrongs of) children's footwear (the exorbitant cost of) and office wear (the current lack of need for)

Hours later, the children and I have fed the ducks, had a picnic of sorts and I am covered in smears of yoghurt. Bits of fur are sticking to the Bub's damp, slightly sniffly nose (from which I can deduce that there are traces of snot on my gilet). On the drive home, they want to play Shrek and Fiona, which basically means that I have to be Dragon and speak in an odd, croaky voice. They're shrieking with laughter; it's bright and cold and nearly the weekend, and The Bearded One isn't going to be working. What a great afternoon.

Wearing: Atmosphere gilet, Primark jeans, American Vintage long-sleeve tee and Bloch ballet pumps.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Ice Breakers and Heartbreakers

Being a mother can be kind of an ice-breaker; it gives you virtual carte blanche to chat to complete strangers in the park, at softplay centres, in cafes, in supermarket queues. It starts with a sympathetic, knowing look and quickly moves on to "Ooooh, you've got your hands full haven't you?" or "Isn't he adorable! How old?" - or, if you're the sort of person who used to go all the way on a first date: "When the hell is this bloody place going to get a booze license sorted out?" 

It's nice, mostly. In a day where the main people to benefit from my wit and sparkle (it's there after a few coffees, honest. For, like, a good half hour at least) are my three children, the eldest of whom is a tender 4 years old, it can be refreshing to exchange a few banal pleasantries with someone from my own age group. 

But even that can get a little dull (I mean, it's just more 'kids, kids, kids' isn't it?) - not to mention weird. I can't tell you how many times I've parted ways with a new acquaintance only to think: hang on. You tried for 16 months to conceive your child, eventually managed it by only ever having sex under the light of a full moon, and only in the missionary position with a spot of recumbent cycling afterwards, you tore horribly during labour and needed 38 stitches which was such a shock because you'd been faithfully listening to your hypnobirthing CD every night ... but, um, sorry, I don't actually think you told me your name

And anyway, I've got enough problems of my own without hearing about yours. Sheesh. Can't we talk something a little more superficial? 

So with the confidence born of 4 years of chatting with complete strangers, I make it a habit, these days, to always, always tell someone that I think they look ace, if in fact they do. "I love that dress", "Where did you get your skirt?" - so innocuous, but they love the compliment, and I love the chance to talk about something that doesn't involve the fertility-enhancing properties of bull semen. 

There was a gorgeous girl at one of the playgrounds in Italy last week. She looked amazing in clothes that weren't my style, and would never have suited me, but any chance to speak not only fashion but also in Italian is not to be sniffed at. I approached her and falteringly said, gesturing at her outfit "Mi piace molto il suo stilo." She looked stunned, and then delighted. "Io??" she said. And there followed a conversation as fashioncentric as my limited Italian would allow, including what we'd read and seen in the latest Elle. 

I wasn't expecting to make a new Fashion Friend in Starbucks the other day: it wasn't that kind of day. My new iPhone, needed after The Bub threw the old one on the floor after a 4-hour wait at Pisa airport (and who could blame him? Bloody Ryanair) wasn't in stock and we'd just had a fairly disastrous nappy changing incident. I was pretty much desperate for that triple shot soy capp. But when a girl walked in, all 6 feet, 8 stone and 19 years of her, wearing the faux fur gilet that I'd bought at Zara just a few weeks ago, I felt my mood brighten. She was wearing it exactly as I planned to - with skinny jeans and high lace-up suedy boots in a shade of camel. Except that, since she was clearly an aspiring supermoggle, she looked a million bucks. Clearly the baristas, forgetting my triple shot soy capp in the lunge to serve her, thought so too. 

I smile. "I bought that gilet the other day. I was going to save it until the weather got colder but it looks so great on you that I think you may have ruined it for me now." 

She looks me up and down. Smiles, but not in a friendly way. Raises one eyebrow. "Oh? Sorry about that." 

She takes her coffee and goes, leaving smitten baristas in puddles on the floor. I suddenly see myself the way she must see me - no supermoggle, not even supermum, just a frazzled 37 year old with no make up, unkempt hair, grey skinnies and a black sweater, balancing a baby and sporting a broken iPhone. I can't help but laugh: I should be miffed but actually she has made my day. 

A few nights later I accept that autumn is happening, whether I like it or not, and wear the gilet, complete with indigo skinines and camel boots, out to dinner with The Bearded One. As we leave the restaurant, a lady accosts me. She is possibly about my mum's age, wearing an ugly floral dress and a jacket that doesn't look good with it at all. 

"I love your coat! where did you get it?" she asks. 

Instantly, I am transported to a state of teenage petulance, a flashback to my mum expressing approval for an outfit choice or new purchase - if she likes it then it's going straight on the bonfire!! And then I remember the Supermoggle. 

"Thank you! It's from Zara. It was only about £40." I smile at her. "You should get one. I bet it would look great on you." 

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Loss of Late Night Shopping

Weaning is a double-edged sword, not just for me but for many women. On the one hand, it's yet another step that your baby takes away from you, from dependence on you and from the dark, secret world you kept him or her hidden for nine magical (yes magical!! despite weight gain, night sweats and piles!) months. On the other, it's liberation from "breastfeeding-friendly" clothes and from the ugly boob slingage that is otherwise known as the nursing bra. It's dresses rather than tops, it's being able to leave the house without a handy scarf, it's not having to worry about yanking clothes down and revealing your breasts or hoiking them up and revealing a mummy tummy.

For me, The Bub's decision to drop feeds - down to 4 a day, then down to 3 .. now it's just once, at 5am, which at least means that I get to snooze through my last few bedtime hours snuggled up with him - has also been tinged with sadness because he's probably my last baby (but let's never say never, eh?).

And, let's be honest, I'm also a bit gutted about the lost shopping opportunities. It's all very well getting your baby to sleep through the night, but let me tell you, there is a world of retail out there and it is open for business all night. What better way to pass the time on the seemingly never-ending 2am feed? (and we all know that most experts advise against falling asleep whilst breastfeeding, don't we?)

So the absence of bags beneath my eyes is being pretty much matched by the absence of bags left in my porch by obliging DHL and Interlink men, which is kind of a shame. But, always one to exit on a high note, on one of the last late-night feeds I was up for, I found the most gorgeous dress, a hummingbird print silk maxi by Tibi. It was in the sale. It was £94. It had been close to £500. I had to have it, despite it being a size or two too big. I clicked to buy. I bought.

Or so I thought. Early the next morning, an email came from the retailer, Question Air. Sorry, it said, due to technical error blah blah actually out of stock, you want something else? No, I do not. My (possibly) last baby is growing up way too fast and you won't give me the lovely dress I had my heart set on. I am in a pit of despair. A pit, I tell you! Not much call for anything else from your website down here.

A few days later, after I've done a few fashion-y good turns for others (a discount code passed on here, a dress loaned there) the fashion fairies intervene and, in an example of possibly the best customer service I have ever encountered, a Charlotte from Question Air phones. There's been a return. Would I still like the dress? She remembers how disappointed I was not to get it last week (I promise I didn't swear or shout at her).

A day later, it's in my hands, yards and yards of swooshy, silky hummingbird loveliness. Yes, it's too big and yes, when I wear it out for dinner at fifteen a few nights later I have to sit bolt upright to stop it slipping it down and revealing my no-longer-fit-for-anything-more-than-a-5am-feed breasts. So what. Good posture is no bad thing. And my dress is divine.

wearing Tibi Hummingbird-print silk chiffon maxi gown, Swedish Hasbeens and Gap denim jacket. All photos by The Bearded One - Dave Miller Cinematography

Friday, 20 August 2010

Smokin' Mirrors

So I'm using the loo at Silvestina's house. I'm not that fond of Silvestina, and I'm not that fond of peeing and handwashing whilst simultaneously and soothingly jiggling The Bub, although it has to be said that I have that part of it down to a fine art.

All in all, not my most glamorous moment.

Until I step out of the bathroom and, OMG, nearly drop The Bub. Where. Is. My. Modelling. Contract. I am heaven!! I am 7 foot tall and weigh, like, hardly anything.

The Princess runs upstairs, anxious not to be separated from me for too long (I am wearing her favourite shoes, after all). Standing beside me, her button-bright face looks positively gaunt and I am brought back to earth with a Heffalumpian thud.

I can't get the image out of my head though; every mirror, every shop window I've caught my reflection in since has carried with it the mild sting of disappointment. I'm slightly (and not very kindly) cheered by the fact that, a-ha, so that explains some of Silvestina's tendencies towards inverse dysmorphia. Flattering clothes choices? Maybe not so much.

But oh god. Italy and daily cossie-wearing in just over a week. How much happier would my holiday (indeed, my life) be if I could live in that joke mirror. As long as it wasn't hanging in Silvestina's bedroom, that is. I'll do a lot for vanity, but there are limits, I tell you. Limits.

Wearing Primark skinnies, Zara linen tee and Bloch ballet pumps.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Princess and the (not glass, not ruby) Slippers

So somehow I have a 4 year old daughter. I know that it's slightly nauseating when mums do the whole "I can't believe my baby is (insert number with appropriate disbelieving wistfulness)" and the reason I know this is because loads of people have done it to me and they've always made me feel slightly queasy. And yet ... I mean, 4 whole years? 4 years ago I was...? My little baby girl is...? Well, you know what I'm thinking.

Needless to say, a party of Princess-worthy proportions was in order and, unsurprisingly, The Princess requested a cake in the shape of a castle. That wasn't so bad; I quite like doing themed cakes and have a slew of Australian Women's Weekly cake books to help me on my spatula-wielding way. Actually, this year it was these slightly scary women who provided the know-how, most significantly introducing me to the joys of the crumb-coat. Oh my god! All of my frosting nightmares are now a thing of the past.

No, the hardest thing was keeping in check the amount of pink, princess-y stuff that The Princess seemed to see as not only desirable, but necessary to her enjoyment of the day. I have pretty much zero tolerance for the simpering idiocy of Disney Princesses - although I was curious enough to see how much a Snow White cake topper might go for on eBay. You what?? Bloody hell. I bought a unicorn. Master C, only 16 months behind his big sister, is accustomed to being included in everything she does, so her control over all things birthdayish was a little hard for him to understand - hence the inclusion of a blue pond, with three frogs placed upon it by his own chubby, brown little hand.

Anyway. The party was a big success, as was the cake, the packed lunches eaten on blankets in the garden, and the treasure hunt, which involved clues leading from fairy tattoos, to apples that had fallen from our tree (a curt nod to Snow White), to a treasure chest where gold coins marked with a 4 could be traded in for a party bag. Thanks for coming ... and fare thee well.

With so much to do (and not a whole lot of input from The Bearded One - see photo, taken when he was 'keeping the kids out of my hair so that I could get on with stuff') I didn't get a chance to put much thought into a party outfit, and trotted out an old Leona Edmiston halter dress. No matter - it looked okay and, besides, I was basking in the glow of the future love and adoration The Princess will feel for me when she looks back on how much effort her mother put in to making sure her birthdays were special and memorable.

Or so I thought. Next day, as we sat in the garden, me playing horsey with the Bub and Master C busy with his Handy Manny sticker book, The Princess appeared with the Rainbow Magic Keepsake Secrets Diary I'd given her as a token of things pink, sparkly and a bit too girly to sit well with me. She dutifully filled out sections devoted to her name, her age, her favourite colour, details about her siblings and parents. Then it got personal. What's the worst thing about you? "I can't reach really high things." Um, okay. What's the best thing about your mother?

The Princess looks at me, thoughtfully. Flashbacks to castle cakes, crumb coats and clue couplets dance through my mind.

"Um, you know those purple and kind of orange shoes you have? Those."

One of my pairs of Bloch ballet pumps. Right, missy. It's off to Asda for your birthday cake next year. If only I'd known it was that simple. I mean, shoes!! Upstairs, they're spilling out of my wardrobe and across the floor. My beautiful 4 year old girl will still adore me when she's 90.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

I don't dress for the school run, I dress for my life!!

Thus said a wise (and avid ;-D) friend of mine recently. Let's call her Esher Mummy. These women who bark on about the high-falutin' ways of mothers who dare to look presentable at 9am - what, may I ask, is their problem? Is it that they think you've negelected your child(ren) in the pursuit of early morning fabulousness? Plonked them in front of the telly with a Mars Bar for brekkie while you beautify in the bathroom, agonise over outfits and eventually teeter downstairs with a tinkling "Come on then! You'll be late!" An acquaintance once sagely advised me "Tidy house, bad mother" - implying, you can't possibly be engaging with your child in a meaningful way if your house isn't a toy-strewn disaster zone. God only knows what she'd make of mascara'ed lashes and tinted lips.

But as Esher Mummy so rightly says - who's to say the day begins and ends with the school run? What about the endless trips to the supermarket, the fortifying coffees, the park dates and the interminable post office queues (returns: the downside of online clothes ordering..)? Fine if your post-school-gate plans are picking dried-out cornflakes out of your labrador's coat: by all means, wear your trackie pants to drop your child off. Just don't expect him - or you - to get invited to any parties of note.

I don't even do a school run, as such, yet. Nursery a few mornings a week, that's all - and that's bad enough. Recently, in the course of a riveting discussion about 'introducing solids' with a mum whose youngest is similarly aged to The Bub, I expressed interest in Baby Led Weaning but said I'd not done it for any of my three. She looked me up and down and said "Well, you wouldn't - not with the way you dress. It's very messy."

Hmm. Because kids are otherwise so very, very clean and tidy, is that it??

Anyway. It made me think - as did the fact that the longest day is now a good month behind us and the nights, while still light, are drawing in unmistakably earlier. Already my thoughts are turning towards camel capes and cashmere - even while SS10 purchases hang, unworn, in my wardrobe. Time to wear, wear, wear. Thank goodness for children, say I - baby led weaning or not, they're mucky as anything, generally providing excuses and opportunities for several outfit changes a day. Like Esher Mummy, I don't dress for the school run, I dress for my life.

Horniman Museum Myths & Monsters exhibition with the children. Wearing Leona Edmiston dress, charity shop belt, Gap denim jacket, Bloch ballet pumps.

Friday night: Jools Holland at the Greenwich Sessions. Wearing Arrogant Cat harem jumpsuit from, Antik Batik sandals from eBay and Primark necklace.

Friends over for lunch. Wearing River Island maxi, charity shop bangle and Primark gladiators.

Local Nature Reserve: wearing Diesel denim mini (99p on eBay) with Zara stripe top, Havaianas and canvas bag.

Monday: working from home on High Maintenance Mummy with the children in tow; heading out in the afternoon for a haircut - bye bye bird's nest! Wearing Primark skinnies, charity shop blouse (have been told it's Cacharel and am more than happy to believe it!) Bloch ballet pumps and charity shop trench.

The day after the haircut. The Bub cried hysterically when he saw me, clinging to The Bearded One and refusing to come to me. Even The Princess, usually my Best Fashion Friend, told me I looked silly. Wearing Theory skirt, Fruit of the Loom top from eBay and silver flip flops from some dodgy shop in Peckham.

Afternoon at the park. I'm impressed with the way I've co-ordinated with the pushchair even, almost, down to the coffee stains in the hood and crumb-covered seat. Wearing Primark grey skinnies, Bloch ballet pumps, grey Oushka Oakley and Vero Moda cowl neck tunic from

OMG, I have an interview. For like, regular, paid work. For the record, this picture was taken after the event. I didn't rock up with a creased dress. Wearing Banana Republic dress that I found in Traid for £14, £1 belt from same store and Swedish Hasbeens from And how handy to have a trenchcoat (£4.95 from a charity shop in Cornwall) to cover tell-tale travel crinkles and nervous sweat patches. Of which, let's hope, there were none. Just think, if I get the job I might even be able to spend more than £20 on an outfit.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

That Warm, Furry Feeling

Years ago, in the halcyon days when 'sans enfants' was a fact of life rather than an occasional something that needed to be planned (meticulously) and paid for (exorbitantly), The Bearded One and I shouldered our rucksacks and 'went travelling': a journey home to Sydney for Christmas became a RTW trip that took in Nepal, India, Malaysia and South America. From trekking through the Himalayas to climbing Bolivia's highest mountain, we really did nothing that thousands of middle-class kids hadn't done before us, but boy did we feel adventurous.

With hindsight, however, probably the most adventurous thing I did on that trip was to not only buy an alpaca fur hat from a vendor hawking by the rails of the high-altitude railway from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, but to wear it, without a scrap of irony, when I got back to London. I thought it gave me a certain Bond Girl quality: kind of Anna Karenina, kind of Russian spy.

Kind of stupid, my friend the Coal-Eating Geordie told me bluntly, between polishing off pints of lager and sucking back on Marlboro Lights with evident relish. I ignored her: she wore skater-girl jeans and had an odd running style. But as more and more people came out of the woodwork to express their doubts about my sartorial wisdom, and the weather started to brighten up, the hat was put away; the next winter was spent in Australia in cold-weather avoidance and the hat was forgotten.

Until moving house and the inevitable wardrobe cull unearthed it: no way was I getting rid of it. I donned it for the amusement of the children, a riotous game of "What's the Time, Mr Wolf?" ensued, and my alpaca hat found a new home in the dressing-up basket.

A recent obsession with The Wizard of Oz has seen it take on a new incarnation: The Princess, aka Dorothy, has sparkly crimson pumps that pass muster as ruby slippers while Master C is the Lion, with a mane so fabulous that any imagined lack of courage must surely be amply compensated by sheer fluffy glamour. And, just like his mother (aka The Good Witch, The Wicked Witch or Aunty Em, as necessity dictates) back in the days before warm weather and mockery took over, he wears it in public without a trace of self-consciousness. It's such a regular part of his dress now that I barely even register it any more - so I was a bit bemused to notice people hanging out of car windows and smiling widely as we stood at the traffic lights to cross to the Natural History Museum last week. Only when I laid my hand on his head to keep him back from the road did I get the mild shock of fur and the realisation that no, I hadn't forgotten to pull my top back down after The Bub's last feed.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the hat stayed on as Master C faced the T-Rex with a roar and the declaration that he'd "got his courage back now". The smiles from strangers followed us all day; my own grew broader and broader, never more so than when my boy went running up to the glass-cased lion saying, in a friendly manner, "Hello Lion! You got mane, me got mane too!!" I've always imagined The Princess wearing my fashion mistakes and triumphs in years to come; I don't think I ever imagined that my heart would swell quite so much at the sight of a child of mine in a piece of dead alpaca.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Carrots and Pears

Pretty much the only thing that stops me from being gargantuan is my love of clothes; I am, by nature, greedy. And, probably like most mothers, I fret if my children don't eat 'enough' - partly because I don't want them waking up (read - waking me up) in the night asking for a piece of toast and partly because it just goes against my gob-stuffing grain. You don't want any more?? But how can that be??

The Princess and Master C took to eating solids with gusto; The Bub was a bit slower on the uptake. Part of me was horrified (what!! are you sure you're my child?) and the other, soppily relieved - as my (probably) last baby, I'm in no hurry to wean. Kind of. If only breastfeeding didn't limit one's wardrobe options quite so much.

Having read, first time 'round, all the baby/ parenting stuff (come on, no one really bothers with all of that once it gets to Baby 2, Baby 3 etc - which is just one of the reasons that you constantly berate yourself for 'favouring' your first-born) I know that babies get quite the sweet tooth in utero and that you should avoid encouraging this by ensuring that their first solids are of the more savoury variety - potato, rather than sweet potato, for instance. But I've got two other children, aged 3 and 2, who demand a fair bit of my attention at mealtimes: I simply don't have the time or, truth be told, patience, to coax and cajole The Bub to eat his pureed carrot. I glance at the clock: dammit, this mealtime is taking far too long and I'd like a bit of an evening before I drag myself exhaustedly to bed, thanks all the same. It's cheating, but sod it: I refuse to believe that my little boy will be mainlining sugar in his teens as a result of my actions. I shove a spoonful of pureed pear into the bowl of orange goop and watch his rosebud mouth, previously firmly clamped, open into an eager "O". Half an hour later, the three of them are fed, bathed and asleep - and I am free to play dress up.

I'm quickly learning that there are other carrots and pears that don't work together to such good effect, however: namely tapered (carrot leg) trousers and me. Unfortunately, the hips that have so successfully birthed three babies are really doing me no favours in the SS10 fashion stakes, at least not the stakes that are shaped like inverted triangles.

Harems, on the other hand, might be a touch more forgiving. Alternatively they're so daft looking that people are too busy trying to work out whether you've taken a leaf out of your baby's book and cacked your pants to notice that your bum actually does look really, really big. I was in H&M the other day when I saw these light grey cropped numbers. They were inexpensive, the fabric felt beautifully light and cool and, with a bright tank, they've become my "kids are in bed, time to relax" staple. Pretty soon I will (maybe) have the guts to wear this style in public; I'm only glad that I didn't see the picture from the H&M website because if I had, I probably wouldn't have bought them. I swear they look better than that in real life (by which I mean - on me.)

And here's the other thing: I am fast realising that the best blogs are the ones where the bloggers include pics of themselves striking all manner of poses in the clothes about which they are writing. I'm not about to flounce fetchingly for the camera and I may not seek advice of a child-rearing sort any more but in this case it's honest opinions I'm after: should I post photos (of me) or no?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Sartorial Sixth Sense

I can just about cope with the grey/ black/ charcoal/ indigo thing in the colder months although I do rail against the endless drear of winter with the odd burst of turquoise, fuschia or red - admittedly mostly in safe (okay, boring) ways involving scarves and wristwarmers. Spring and summer: different matter altogether. I feel like I've failed, somehow, if I don't dress in proper, shout-it-from-the-rooftops colour - but on mornings when I'm racing to get out the door with all three children fed, clothed and clean, oh, how easy it would be to fall back on fail-safe indigo skinnies and a black tank.

My inner-Tanya Turner/ Amber Gates (oh yes, they are alive and well, although I'll still swear blind that The Princess's name has nothing to do with what Amber called her first-born, nothing, I tell you!!) would love to wear white jeans but I know for a fact that they'd be covered in Marmite-y fingerprints and felt-tip within minutes... so these washed-out grey skinnies (£8 from Primark) have been a welcome step away from the reliably slimming properties of dark denim, now that the bulk added by The Bub's arrival has disappeared. And I'm loving them with orange and coral: a Zara linen tee, a French Connection cami that I picked up for a couple of quid at Traid, and an Orla Kiely top that I was contemplating getting rid of on the grounds of being, well, Orla Kiely.

About to dash out in one of these combinations the other day, I stop. I dither. It's raining and miserable outside; I'm single-parenting for the weekend (The Bearded One is away again, sigh) and, in the absence of time for my second coffee of the day, I probably need the cheering properties of a colour-pop. Nevertheless, something in me says 'no'. I quickly change into indigo skinnies and an oversized Breton.

The drive to the Science Museum - Saturday morning, Bank Holiday, half-term, raining - takes nigh on two hours; the hunt for a parking space almost as long. By the time I unload the kids from the car, I have just about lost the will to live, a state of affairs that's not improved by getting lost in a nightmarish maze of lifts, none of which lead to the basement where we're meeting our friends. When we finally meet up, I'm limp with relief, not least because The Antipodean Beauty is dressed in grey skinnies and coral cardi. Praise the Wardrobe Gods for that sartorial sixth sense: the last thing I need today is some kind of Brenda/ Kelly/ 90210 prom moment (sans the love rivalry, natch). By the time the children have enjoyed the Bubble Show and I've had a (surprisingly decent) coffee, all is right with the world. I'll wear colour tomorrow.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Flower Power

Friday night. I'm supposed to be at the Chelsea Flower Show with The Antipodean Beauty. The reasons I'm not are an annoying mish-mash of The Bearded One being away for work, breastfeeding and Flower Show rules forbidding the presence of babies.

The Beauty and I went last year; we've been friends for almost 20 years, having met during the course of my weekly buying raids on the boutique in which she worked. Eventually she took pity on me and gave me a job so that I could get staff discount. With such beginnings, it's no wonder that the fun of going to the Flower Show last year was as much to do with what we wore and what everyone else was wearing as it was about the gardens. I was particularly taken with a woman, dressed head to toe in yellow, taking photo after photo of the daffodils with a concentration I'd usually reserve for a session with the latest Vogue. Which reminds me: my summer wardrobe could do with a burst of sunshine. (I am hankering after a playsuit, legs permitting - I love the DVF Leana but would settle for the Dahlia. In the words of Crowded House - always take the weather with you...)

I had several outfits in mind for tonight, none of which were the skinny jeans, Blondie tee, Isabella Oliver cable cosy and fluffy leopard skin slippers in which I'm currently curled up on the sofa (I've just watched Gok and have now got one eye on Supersize vs Superskinny - the glamour!). The strapless snakeskin, the bodycon Breton, the Hawaiian print halter - oh well, they'll keep. In the meantime, I'm sticking my tongue out at Flower Show organisers with the thought that The Bub may not have been welcome this year, but he was there last year as I proudly displayed my 22-week bump in an American Vintage maxi, Gap denim jacket and flat gold sandals from Primark. And besides, the extra cuddles that we're having because I'm too lazy - or maybe just too soppy - to go upstairs and put my sleeping boy in his cot are definitely worth staying home for.