Archive for the ‘celebration’ Tag

Why I’ll Never Be a Glamour Girl

There was a weekend earlier this year when we were rather busy with social events – a 40th birthday party to attend on the Saturday, followed by a wedding on the Sunday. The birthday party had a theme of early 60s glamour.  Nothing in my current wardrobe seemed to be appropriate, so I was obliged to go out and buy a new dress. I eventually found a black and white prom dress from Bravissimo, which I thought was appropriate to the era. It was a nice dress, but it proved to be uncomfortable to wear. The bodice is quite restricting, so I had to sit up straight. There’s a lot of lace going on under the skirt to make it stick out the way it does, so sitting down requires a great deal of care.

I didn’t want to go out and get shoes – I hate shoe shopping – so I wore my patent leather court shoes. I will say at this point I hate all women’s shoes. The only shoes I can wear that don’t hurt my feet in any way are trainers. If I wear shoes with heels, they make me fall over and I get burning pain in the balls of my feet. If I wear flat shoes, they rub my feet and give me blisters. At least they do for a couple of years, until the leather gets worn and soft, by which point the shoes are looking a bit shabby.

The following day, for the wedding, I wore a mauve dress I’ve worn to other weddings. And the same shoes – because I really haven’t got many pairs of shoes (for reasons cited above).

The wedding invite said the ceremony was at 12pm. So I had to start getting ready fairly early, to do the whole hair and make up thing, which I don’t normally bother with. There was a big gap between the ceremony and the rest of the celebrations, and since the venue was rather cozy, the group I was with decided they’d rather spend time in the gardens of the venue. We’d had a lot of rain the week before the wedding. Every time I walked over the grass, my stiletto heels sank into the mud, making it even harder to walk. By about 6pm Hubby was commenting that I was decidedly grumpy. Yes, I was. I’d been wearing the uncomfortable shoes by several hours by that point, and my feet were killing me.

I tell this story to illustrate why I don’t ‘do’ glamour. Shoes I’ve already mentioned. Having a reason to put a nice dress on once in a while is fine, but I find doing so a great effort. You can’t slouch in a nice dress as it’s unladylike, so I have to remember to sit up straight. If I have make-up on I have to remember not to rub my face, and I hate lipstick marks on tea cups and glasses, which is why I generally don’t wear it. Wearing make-up also means I can’t fall into bed at the end of the evening; I have to spend extra time taking it off and cleansing my face before I can go to bed, to a avoid waking up with a face full of spots – on top of all this I have sensitive skin, and it reacts to make-up if I keep it on too long. And have I mentioned I’m allergic to perfume? I just can’t wear it; it sets off the asthma.

A fancy frock also means tights. It seems I can’t wear a pair of tights without them getting laddered in ten minutes. I’ll snag them against something, or I’ll pull them up a bit too vigorously when I use the bathroom. And this is assuming I’ve managed to make it out the front door without one of the cats getting her claws snagged in them.

Then there’s nail polish. It takes half an hour to put on and dry properly, only for it to chip the moment I do anything with my hands. Opening the tin of cat food. Putting the door key in the lock. Even rummaging around in my hand bag seems to chip nail polish.

So on the whole I can’t be doing with this ‘glamour’ business. It requires far too much maintenance. I’m far happier slobbing around in jeans and a sweater, most of the time. At least I can be me then.

I learned a lot about colour and style when I had my style session a couple of years ago (which those of you who’ve been following this blog a while might remember), but I’ve been rethinking my attitude to clothes recently. All this ‘trying to be stylish’ business is just not me. Ultimately if I like an outfit and wearing it makes me happy, then why should I not wear it, regardless of what others think of it?

It’s this attitude that prompted me to buy some biker boots recently. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to wear them, but I am looking forward to doing so. They might not be stylish, but I think they’re cool. I will endeavour to post a picture soon. In the meantime, make the most of this picture of me in my early 60s glamour, ready to go to the party. I don’t think it’s an outfit I’m going to be wearing very often – it requires far too much effort.

New Year Musings

I know a lot of people who will be glad to see the back of 2009. For me, however, it was a really good year. This was largely due to my publishing contract – well, that’s just the best thing ever, and it really doesn’t get much better than that.

Turning 40 was also a highlight of the year. Not only was the party awesome, but I end the year with a new sense of confidence, and security in who I am and where I’m going. Yes, there are a few more grey hairs and wrinkles, more saggy bits, and the older I get the harder it is to lose weight and not find it again. But I am happy to accept it all, and there’s no way I would want to be 18 again. I am 40, and I am proud.

Perhaps the day has not yet come when I can quit the day job and write full time, but I finish the year in gainful employment, at a time when a lot of people have been made redundant or face uncertainty in the job market.

So what will 2010 bring? It will bring the publication of SUFFER THE CHILDREN, which is fantastic. I’ve also decided it’s time to get going on the next book. I plan to return to my urban fantasy, and kick it out the second-draft slump it currently finds itself in. After all, with the publication of one book, I need to have another one ready to go, and since the first book is horror, it’s probably best for me not to stray too far away from that genre, at least for the time being.

2009 was a bad year for many, but it was a good one for me. I look forward to seeing what the new decade will bring.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2010 be good to you all.

Winding Down

I can’t deny it – I am looking forward to having some time off work for the festive period. One more day and then I get ten glorious lie-ins. One more day of getting up early, and leaving the house when it’s still dark to trudge to the station in the cold. One more commute in and out of London, and then a rest until 4 January.

Officially the building closes at 3pm on Christmas Eve, but staff are usually encouraged to knock off work around noon. Many commuters, of course, have taken the whole week off, as the emptiness of my train carriage in the morning testifies (it’s not empty on the way back – it seems all those people are going shopping in the West End instead of going to work). And in the run-up to the festive season, it’s difficult to get much work done. The expense claims I got authorised today will not get settled until January, because our accounts team are all on leave. Most of the emails I have sent this week are unlikely to get responses until the New Year – I’ve just been getting Out of Office messages.

Tomorrow I think I need to put on my Festive Face and accept that Christmas is here. Perhaps not much work will get done, but we might get a mince pie and a festive tipple or two before the office closes for the holidays – and in my mind it’s worth going to work just for that.

However you choose to spend the holiday season, I hope it’s peaceful and happy for you. Me, I shall be working on my edits. But at least I can do it in the comfort of my home, with wine and chocolate in close proximity. And of course, I don’t have to get out of bed at 6.15am. That’s a definite plus.

‘Tis the Season

When I was a child, I loved Christmas. Admittedly it was mostly about the presents. But there were other good things too. I used to like going into Manchester with my dad to see Santa Claus at Lewis’s department store, that always had wonderful window displays. When my mother made the Christmas cake, she used to give my sister and me big lumps of marzipan to enjoy (I still love marzipan).

But, over the years the lustre has worn off the season, and I’m a lot more cynical these days. It’s hugely, grossly overcommercialised. We are bombarded by messages encouraging us to spend money from late September onwards. Perfume ads on TV I find particularly irritating – they are all so pretentious.

Everyone’s under pressure to spend money they haven’t got on people they don’t like. We are obliged to spend time with people who drive us crazy. So instead of being a time of fun and relaxation, it’s a time of a great deal of stress.

And this is before we get to the ordeal of shopping. Now perhaps I could avoid this Hell by shopping early, but I object to Christmas starting in September. Working near Oxford Street is particularly troublesome this time of year. Oxford Circus underground station is often closed when I try to make my way home from work – either because of overcrowding due to the number of shoppers trying to get into the station, or because some dozy person has left their shopping on the train and the station is closed while the police make sure it’s not a bomb (part of London’s 40-year legacy of living with terrorism).

So on the whole, this is not my favourite time of year. Admittedly there are some things I enjoy. I do love mince pies. I am lucky enough to work for an organisation that shuts down between Christmas and New Year, so I get about ten days’ worth of lie-ins over the holidays, which I very much enjoy. And I still like getting presents (I think secretly everyone likes getting presents. We’re just not supposed to admit it).

But I don’t get into the whole festive cheer thing that seems to sweep up most of my colleagues.

Bah humbug.

Bonfire Night

For the benefit of the Americans who read this blog, I thought I would talk about the fine British tradition of Bonfire Night, a celebration that I’m sure mystifies all non-Brits.

The story is familiar to most people. A few hundred years ago, a chap named Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up Parliament. He got as far as stowing gunpowder in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament before he was rumbled, and arrested. As this was in the days before the Civil War, when Parliament was headed by the King and there was no Prime Minister, he was tortured horribly, because in those days to plot against the king was treason, punishable by torture and death.

Ever since then, every November 5th the British have thrown Guy Fawkes effigies onto bonfires and set off fireworks. So what are we celebrating? I couldn’t tell you. A few cynical types might say, these days, we’re celebrating the fact that Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament, but as I try to keep politics out of this blog, I’m not going to speculate on that.

As a child, 5 November – also known, alternatively, as Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes Night – was something to look forward to. At the end of the road where I lived as a little girl was a patch of spare land. Throughout the year everyone on the street used to take all their flammable rubbish – old furniture, bits of wood, newspapers etc – to the spare land and dump it in a big pile. On 5 November someone would set the pile alight and we’d have a big bonfire. All the children would gather round, bundled in hats and scarves and gloves (and we all had the kind that were tied together on a long piece of string that was threaded through the back of your coat and out the end of each sleeve, so you wouldn’t lose them), waving sparklers around and eating Parkin (cake made with black treacle, which to be honest I never liked) and black peas in vinegar.

We would usually have a firework display in our garden, with my dad lighting the fireworks while we huddled a safe distance away. We got lectures at school on how to stay safe on Fireworks Night – never get too close to fireworks; never approach a lit firework; NEVER NEVER throw fireworks; keep pets indoors so the don’t get scared by loud bangs.

Nowadays I find myself more cynical. Buying boxes of fireworks for personal use seems rather a waste of money. There are plenty of public displays across London, organised by councils or local organisations, but I find the concept of standing around in a crowd, in the cold, for hours, waiting for a firework display that probably won’t last more than 15 minutes, has lost its appeal.

But for reasons I can’t explain it’s still a well-established British tradition, and every 5 November the Brits contribute to global warming by lighting bonfires up and down the land, and setting off fireworks.

I just find myself preferring to stay indoors and watching the fireworks through the window these days.

Birthday Weekend

This is the last post going on about my birthday – honest. But after all the anticipation, I thought I should summarise.

The party was a huge success. 80s music and karaoke all night. There were a lot of fabulous outfits. We had Marc Knopfler, Toyah, even a fantastic Indiana Jones (being a character from an 80s film). Plenty of generic ‘yuppies’ in suits and red braces, and girls in neon leggings, fingerless gloves and plastic day-glo beads (which are apparently available in abundance from Claire’s Accessories). We had all manner of 80s hairdos – big back-combing; crimped hair; side ponytails. It was great to see everyone dressed up.

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Rock Chick


And of course, there was me in my rock chick outfit, which actually went down rather well. I’m not sure my stylist would approve. The 80s ‘rock chick’ look is not exactly an icon of understated style – especially the rather bad wig. But it worked, and it’s certainly a different look than is usual for me which was, of course, the intention.

I’ve had a houseful of relatives all weekend who came down for the party, and it’s been a fantastic weekend. There were a few minor hiccups. I got lost at Gatwick airport picking up my dad, trying to find ‘Domestic Arrivals’ and walking past it three times before realising it was just one small door, and he wasn’t waiting there anyway.

We bought party poppers to put on the tables, and then were told that the venue wouldn’t allow us to have them (something to do with them not wanting to clear up, I think).

And there is the mysterious parcel from John Lewis that turned up Saturday afternoon containing two bookends and a ‘birthday girl’ wine glass. Clearly a present from someone, but as there was no note or indication of sender, I have no idea who it was from. If anyone can enlighten me, it would be appreciated.

Now the relatives have all gone home, and I am still tidying up. Tomorrow I go back to work, as a forty-something. But it was a top weekend, and thoroughly worth all the organisation.

Bring on fifty, I say, as an excuse to do it all again.

‘P’ Minus Six Days…

The celebrations for my aforementioned imminent 40th birthday include a party, which I have actually been planning for a long time. For ten years, in fact. I had a party for my 30th birthday, and it was so much fun I decided I couldn’t wait for my 40th, so I would have an excuse for another one.

It’s also very fortuitous that my 40th birthday happens to fall on a Saturday, so I can have the party on the actual day.

I decided to give my 40th birthday party a theme – “Back to the 80s”. This was the decade during which I was a teenager, and I think the music you listen to as an adolescent you identify with more than the music that’s around at other points in your life.

With my being a bit anally retentive about these things, the arrangements have all been in place for some time. The venue has been booked since March. The pub whose function room I am hiring for the party will lay on a buffet, and that’s all arranged and paid for in advance. The DJ is booked, and he will be getting my 1980s play list later today. Invites were sent out in September, and I’m expecting about 40 people to attend. I am intrigued to see what everyone will turn up wearing, as 80s fancy dress is being encouraged. Though I don’t think costumes will be hard to get hold of – it seems that 80s fashions are popular again at the moment, and the shops are full of ra-ra skirts and leggings (I feel old. Don’t they say if you can remember a fashion the last time around, you’re too old to wear it this time around?).

I myself have decided on an ’80s rock chick’ look, and I have now managed to acquire all costume pieces for it (including 80s wig, as I decided going back to an 80s hair style for real was a bit drastic).

All that’s required now are balloons and other such adornments to decorate the venue with, and I am rather counting on getting some help with that on Saturday afternoon, as it’ll be a bit strange hanging “happy 40th birthday” banners for my own birthday party.

Apart from that, now it’s just a matter of waiting for the big day. Sadly, I feel I’ve been waiting so long for this event, it’ll all be over before I know it. I guess I should make the most of the anticipation.

Six more sleeps!