Runway to school

School run fashion is a serious business.

I know Mums that make a special effort to look good at school in the morning. Its almost like a fashion parade. One Mum had a full face of make-up that wouldnt have looked amiss at a nightclub. She had clearly given a lot of thought to her clothing, layering the latest biker style jacket with coloured jeans and ankle boots…….and this was just for ‘meet the teacher’ morning.

Another Mum wears a completely different style every day. It might be the ‘Madonna does exercise’ look before bootcamp one day, featuring a black baseball cap, white long sleeved sports top and a ‘skort’. The next it will be a long black coat teamed with matching beret. Another day, the 60s ‘Mad Men’ look, with quirky glasses, brogues and turn-ups. In fact I quite like this complete change in fashion, it makes a refreshing change from jeans and a top, no make-up and hair scraped off the face, like most Mums on a weekday morning struggling to get the children out of the house.

This Mum has three children too, so how she fits in styling with breakfasts and getting ready for school, is a marvel and I say good on her, if she has the time and thats her thing then why not?

Sometimes its easy to scoff at Mums who take pride in their appearance. But for some Mums thats all they have got to retain their identity in amongst the daily routines of school runs, cooking, housework and other typical ‘housewife’ duties.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Teenager at eight

Its the start of the summer holidays and the beginnings of many day trips. I take my mum, baby boy and daughter to the zoo and baby boy takes along his toy giraffe and monkey in anticipation of meeting the real thing. He gets to see no less than six giraffe, one tiger, four zebra, two tapir, fifteen flamingo, three meerkats, two camels, lots of birds and endangered species i can’t recall their names, but very cute and rare.

While going round the zoo in the heat of the sun, i did notice one or two people get a little bit tetchy and grumpy, namely my eight going on eighteen year old daughter. She is having sleep problems,so my husband and I have enlisted the help of Bach’s flower remedies in an attempt to help wind her down. Clearly it did not work last night.

I know at times, my mum can be a little irritating, but my daughter just could not tolerate her nuances full-stop. It was exhausting to keep nagging her to be more polite and to stop her bossing us about where next to go and when she would be getting ice-cream. She was also being argumentative with my mother and, as my mum got more annoyed, my daughter removed herself more and more from making eye contact and verbal contact with her granny.   My mum then interrogated me as to what could be done and why she was behaving like this as it was extraordinary. In a hot, bothered and tired moment, I did what a lot of Mums no doubt do and blamed my husband’s gene pool.

 My mum seemed satisfied with this answer saying ‘I wasn’t like that at eight’. But kids are getting older and the goalposts changed – i just dont want her to experience the teenage attitude problems too early…..

Only another six weeks to go…..

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

A very British School Summer Fair

Things that dont normally happen at your average school summer fair:

1) you win the bid for a pair of Alexander Mcqueen Puma sneakers supposedly once worn by Miley Cyrus (they must have been worn for namoseconds as they were not remotely cheesy). My daughter is thrilled to have won them (she will have to wait a couple of years for her feet to grow) and I was semi-humiliated as it was announced how much I bid (after a glass of Pimms and mild sunstroke). I laughed it off saying it was an early Christmas present and I figured at least the money (£70) is going to the school. My daughter seemed more than happy to have them as her Christmas present, although I wonder how she will still feel about that come December. Before i bid for them I was initially disappointed as I selfishly thought i could have them for myself, but when i discovered they were size ‘4’ it then dawned on me that I have a daughter who is showing the beginnings of shoe worship like her mother. In fact she has an effortless style that i never seemed to be able to carry off when I was eight, probably because my dad was too busy enlarging my girth with frequent trips to McDonalds.

Things that normally happen:

1) Gossip and the discovery that any news from you has already raced its way through the grapevine so that you have nothing to add (except put a few facts straight)

2) Getting a bit too competitive in the Mums race – I tried not to care that i didnt get a medal for coming third (i will wear trainers next time)

3) drinking a bit too much pimms

4) Moaning about senior management decisions, in this instance changing the school logo to…..wait for it……a child’s drawing of a tree (how original) to add insult to injury it looks more like a propeller with green blades

5) Just when you successfully had a clear out of toys, books and bears for the fair donations pile, you end up walking out of there with an armful of more toys, books and bears

6) The home movie that you will watch over and over again when your son is older of his first ever race (he was too comfortable to stand up for the get set, ready, go part and came in second to last – but was one of the cutest on the track)

7) Two children with way too much sugar in their bloodstream

8) The need to lie down in a darkened room, plus lots of paracetamol afterwards

But its all good in the mummy hood.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Tom wears Toms

It is the summer, it is warm in England (so far) so it is time to purchase sandals. I am sure this purchase decision will doom the longevity if the sunny spell, but I have dusted off my nail polish in anticipation.

I dont want to faff with elaborate buckles, gladiator-esque wraps of leather. I’m a Mum so I need to slip on and go (but am not into the pool slider thing – that’s just dangerous. I also plan to go out on a boat a few times this year, but dont want to do the sailie crew deck shoe look either (reminds me of nineties school days when they were momentarily the ‘in’ thing to wear as school shoes and many of my contemporaries had the Kickers versions and would coil up the leather laces so that they hung like a jewish hairdo either side of their feet (not that there is anything wrong with a jewish hairdo, it is just better on the head not the feet).

So I am thinking espadrilles..

In my book if you are going to buy espadrilles you have to buy Toms – they do buy one get one pair free (except the other pair get given to someone who needs a pair of shoes in a third world/ developing country so it is all good. I am in to social enterprises so I am literally voting with my feet on this one.

The question is, what style to go for? There are so many. Do I play it safe with a dark or neutral colour or do I go on the zaney side? I wonder if I buy a pair covered in silver bling will a duplicate pair grace the feet of someone in the favellas of Brazil? I like to think they have a choice of the similar range but am guessing this might be a bit too much to ask for.

To make way for another pair of shoes in the household, my husband has a ‘one pair in, one pair out policy’. Over the years I have worked out ways to get round this (they are not mine they are my friends etc etc) but he has cottoned on to every excuse and has also developed the ability to spot a new pair as soon as he enters the house. He also has a good memory (in this area not others annoyingly). Sometime I buy a pair, shove them under the bed or in the attic for a while and then bring them down a few months later hoping that wont remember what my shoe collection even looks like. Nah, that doesnt work either…..’are they new’?

Before you think I am the brow-beaten dismissive ‘wife’, he cannot make any purchasing decision over £10 without my contribution – I dont insist on this, he is just a bit rubbish at making decisions. Of course it is me that gets the blame if the purchase goes wrong in any way….

If you fancy following in my footsteps (and millions of others), check out (btw they do ore than just espadrilles, although that is their bread and butter)

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.


A bottomless pit

I have put on 5 pounds on the IQS diet. Dont blame the diet though. Before I reach for a spoon of sugar in my coffee again, it has dawned on me that i may have been eating more than the rda on peanut butter, which has an effect, even the reduced sugar and salt version. So over the next month peanut butter has been put on the naughty list and i will continue my mission to be sugar free in a bid to be healthier.

A magazine article on body shape featured a comment from a woman that struck a chord with me.  She said her focus wasn’t on her lumps and bumps but on healthy eating. So, i figured if i focus on health, the lumps and bumps will follow (or rather drop off). In the meantime i continue to be repellent to sugar, in the same way that a ex-smoker dismisses offers of a cigarette, today i declined chocolate muffins and mr whippy ice-cream.

However, it is hard to focus on health when all you really want to do is decrease the land mass of your rear-end. My baby boy has discovered it as a new form of entertainment to spank it so it wobbles, a habit inspired by the actions of both my daughter and husband. I am now wondering whether it is impossible to get rid of extra bum – if your born with it you have just got to sit on it – like Kim Kardashian.

Or is it years of bouncing up and down on horses’ backs. Maybe my body’s reaction was to create a buffer, hence the big butt.

Of course there are many more things to be worrying about than the size of bottoms. Us women have to shoulder the burden of achieving the ‘ideal’ figure but ‘ideal’ for whom?

Now my husband has started to comment that my daughter’s bottom is ‘filling out’ and i instantly retaliate with an exclamation of what a beautiful butt it is.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when women are more relaxed about their body shape? Or is it a culture that will continue in perpetuity?

Maybe the way to address it is through a process of elimination, a bit like weeding out an allergy. For example what would happen if high-fashion was excluded from the public conscience for a year, or it was insisted that only plus size models (aka normal size) were used for all advertising campaigns?

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Coconut & Kitsch

I have just drunk a cup of coffee mixed with coconut milk and it tasted good. I am also wearing a small Jack Russell porcelain ornament on a necklace around my neck on an impulse buy this morning – it is a strange mixture of cute and bad taste, I suppose you would describe it as ‘kitsch’. However as I passed it dangling in the shop window it pulled me like a magnet because it looked like one of my dogs when she was a puppy. However, the way it is assembled looks as if the dog is literally hanging from its neck ie being hung, or it is playfully dangling – I see it in different lights according to my mood. It was relatively cheap (funny that) so it is not as if I spent a fortune on something whimsical  – I am a fan of spending money for better causes.

Nethertheless, like the bag I have covered in boats, it was something that ‘I had to have in my life’. My husband succumbs to these temptations too but they tend to be a lot bigger budget (machines mainly). I knew he would grumble at my hung dog so I decided not to mention it, despite the fact that it is dangling around my neck – he hasnt noticed it yet – shows how often he looks at my chest…

This is a short one today as I have had my head in a computer for long enough already filling out another job application. In an ideal world I would be a social worker, but until they bring back the one year degree conversion training, I will plough on through my existing ditch, in an effort to avoid the dead-end that is looming.

I think the message from today’s post is try something different if your gut says go with it, even if its coconut milk and porcelain miniature dogs on chains.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Angel in Angelina?

If only more celebrities could ‘make a difference’ like Angelina Jolie. So much high profile talents waste column inches on attending fashion shows, polo events, high society drinks parties and soirees, when they could be joining the campaign on climate change, fronting up the lobbying campaign against international cases of persecution or show-horning Jeremy Clarkson into a Nissan leaf. Fame is power but unfortunately fame for the most part falls upon the shoulders of those who haven’t the foggiest as to how to use it for common good. They seem to be more obsessed with making more money, as if they had graduated from the level of giving a f*** about the world.

I would like to see Kate Middleton do more humanitarian visits and follow in the footsteps of her late mother-in-law. Although i am not judging her as I am sure the palace have her ‘leashed’.

I am sure there are many celebrities who do ‘their bit’ behind closed doors but so much more can be achieved when you ‘do good’ in public because it puts the cause into the arena of the public psyche. It is almost as if Angelina delivered on her promise to God, when he/she was dishing out the long legs, cheekbones and pouty lips, that she would put these assets to good effect for the world. I’m sure God is shaking his head at Kim Kardashian and also cursing himself for overdoing it in the bottom department.

The Independent’s Rosie Millard is right to suggest that  Angelina Jolie is changing the world, after she was photographed with Hague in a meeting with world leaders to discuss rape in conflict and how to tackle it. Keep up the good work Jolie and lets hope your fellow celebrities are watching you and thinking ‘now why didnt i think of that?’

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

the people’s fashionista

I am a big fan of social enterprises, those that benefit other people and support fair trade as well as the bottom line.

I received some combat trousers from Next the other day and was shocked at how appallingly made they were. The stitching was all jagged and frayed and the material was flimsy to say the least, you could almost picture the sweat shop that it came from somewhere in Asia. When you hear on the news that they are making record-breaking profits, you have to wonder about their profit margins.

People Tree is a company that offers fair trade fashion. It is obviously more expensive than Next but the cotton it uses is thicker and softer, the quality vastly superior and their ethical credentials excellent. Their catalogues feature pictures of the people in India who make the clothing and how People Tree are ensuring they get a fair deal and work in good conditions. It is not just marketing spiel, they really do care. However, their designs are just not for me. I have tried to wear a few of their dresses and they just make me feel fat and old – never a good combo. So I tend to stick to their two piece sets as I find these more flattering. I wish they did shoes, as I have yet to find a good fair trade shoe label.

Children’s clothing is slightly better with the range of fair trade brands, with Frugi being my favourite. From time to time Marks and Spencer sell products using Fair trade cotton, but this doesn’t extend across their range.

I think fashion still has a long way to go on ethical trading, which is why I am more comfortable hunting for items in charity shops than flicking through the sale rail of a high street brand.

Kate Middleton has been commended for supporting the British high street but I would like to see her using her profile to raise awareness of fair trade and wear brands that promote the social enterprise business model. She would be doing far more good this way – Baby George should be dressed ethically too.

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Thanks for reading.


Spotting Spots for BBC Children in Need

As promised, I am going to dedicate my blog to day today to Spots and all things spotty. So here goes (I confess Wikipedia was used when my spot spotting ran dry).

But first…..a lesson on how not to do a fundraiser…….

My daughter went to school today wearing her spotty dressing gown and rose-spotted pyjamas. I offered to paint spots on her face but she declined as now she is in Year 2 she is “too old for face-painting”. They were raising money at school through a cake sale so I gave my daughter £10 to buy a couple of cakes and then all the change to be put in the pot for children in need. After 2 calls from the teacher and the headmaster, apparently my daughter had lost the £10 note somewhere between her wallet and the cake stall. I checked the bus company just in case it had fallen in the school bus trip. However the headmaster then rang to say he located the £10 note on someone else because he found it surprising that a child should be clutching a £10 note for a cake sale. Apparently my daughter gave it to a friend (and then forgot she had done so) because the friend said she would give her change when she wanted to buy a cake. All very suspect and don’t know quite where the teachers were to help out with the change situation on the stall. The Headteacher made me feel bad for sending £10 in (well I didnt have any change and besides whats so wrong with buying some cakes and donating the rest to charity – surely a good lesson for a child to learn?). My daughter then came home at the end of the day disappointed with no cakes and the £10 note still intact when I intended it to go to Children in Need. Quite how the school managed to raise any money is beyond me – what’s the point of wearing pyjamas if there is no fee to wear them – where is the fundraising element?

Right, now that’s off my chest… are the spots I have managed to spot:

Spots have always been quite fashionable (apart from the acne variety) In the fifties they donned jive dresses and bow ties. This fashion was also found on tableware of the polka dotted variety – Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and Boden are some of the household names that use spots in their designs. Galleries selling art-work use spots to mark sold pictures. Twister is a popular game that uses spots. Pirates look for spots marked X. My daughter and son enjoy reading the Spot the Dog books. Easter eggs are often decorated with spots, particuraly the Cadburys Smarties variety. Spots are often used as wayfinders in large shops and supermarkets. Spots are often spray-painted on trees to mark them for felling. Some famous people are known as ‘Spot’: the dog (as mentioned before); a chicken character in the 101 Dalmatians series; the name of a pet cat in Star Trek, the next generation; a pet dragon in The Munsters; A pet dog in the Dick and Jane books: the name of the 7up mascot; the name of one of George W Bush’s dogs. Spot is an acronym of Sex Pistols on Tour and the name of a music festival held in Denmark. You find spots in various hotspots. Before google used balloons to mark spots on a map, people used old style Michelin sponsored paper maps to mark spots across the UK. Spot is New Zealand slang for one hundred dollars. USS Spot was an American submarine used in World War 2. The single point of truth (SPOT) is a term used in software engineering to reduce chances of duplication; it is also the name of an airport security technique ‘screening passengers by observation techniques’. Monkeys, birds, fish and butterflys are often given special names for either the presence of spots or for their lack of spots. Finally, Spotland does exist… Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Oh forgot to mention Mr Blobby.

Pyjamas – term originally derived from the Persian word Peyjama meaning ‘leg garment’ and was incorporated into the English language during the British Raj period (1858). This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

In January 2012, Michael Williams, a commissioner in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, proposed an ordinance prohibiting people from wearing pajamas in public. Caddo Parish already has a law against wearing sagging pants below the waist, but Williams is pushing for a law against pajama pants after seeing a group of young men wearing loose fitting pajama pants that were about to show their private parts. According to Williams, “The moral fiber in our community is dwindling. If not now, when? Because it’s pajama pants today, next it will be underwear tomorrow.”

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Thanks for reading.

Charity shop boutiques

I live 15 minutes away from quite an exclusive area. Before you get any ideas, I live in the poor part. But it is nice to rub shoulders with the posh wankers to see what could have happened to us if we had sprung from the loins of a middle class gent. (Don’t have a chip on my shoulder at all). Anyway just to give you an idea, the town is a picturesque scene of tudor style (and a bit of mock tudor, georgian etc), ‘I saw you coming’ shops, Range Rover sports, agas, labradors and more private schools than you can shake a lacrosse stick at. Its also very handy should you need to pop into ‘town’. (Posh people’s slang for London).

A lot of workforce from the Met live in this area so they can earn the big salaries plus the London weighting but can escape the bad streets and apartheid like education system at evenings and weekends.

My Mum and I had a mooch around the shops today. My 10 month old is already a dab hand at shopping and is quite happy pontificating over bracelets and matching handbags while strapped in his buggy sucking furiously on dummy. It had been a very unsatisfying shopping excursion due to the astronomical prices. I pick up a barely there bracelet £20. Those boots look nice (£110). Oh, well what about those? (£90) slightly better but not much. “Would you like to try those on?” I glance up and towering above me is a very tall, very slim and slightly scrawny, brunette version of Joanna Lumley with eyebrows plucked almost to oblivion and a Princess Diana accent. “No thanks I’m just browsing (or dreaming)”. My Mum and I scuttle off to another area of the shop keen to discover the sale rail. We admire  the cashmere jumpers instead and start caressing them wistfully. “They are lovely aren’t they?” says brunette Lumley “particularly with the lace trim, fantastic for layering” (like I could afford to buy something else to go with the top after spending £60 alone on a skimpy little sweater).  Thankfully my baby boy distracts her, “Oh isn’t he a dear little thing?” she coos.  I would love to know how these people justify such astronomical prices – what exactly is their mark-up? You can tell it is of better quality than Tescos but really? Even if I had the money I don’t think I could bring myself to spend the best part of a £1000 on a couple of tops and jeans. Its just obscene.

As we leave the shop we cross the road to the Cancer Research shop. As soon as we are through the door, my eyes alight upon 2 tops by Whistles, a skirt complete with tags from White Stuff and a couple of other tops and cardigans – my Mum kindly bought them for me, the total? £30. I could almost make out brunette Lumley uttering ‘cheap-skates’ under her breath as she saw us emerge from the shop with a bulging bag. But you have got to be a mug to spend a fortune on clothes. My recommendation? Take a journey to the nearest town where most toffs tend to congregate and then rifle through their cast-offs in the charity shops. Its a whole new boutique shopping experience. plus helps a few other people too in the process.

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