Birthday Blog

It’s a year to the day since I published my first blog post. Tomorrow I begin another year’s journey in which I discover whether 42 is indeed “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything”.*

In my first post, ‘Launching’, I set out my reasons for writing and what I hoped to achieve by becoming a blogger. I was optimistic to believe I’d find the time and inspiration to write every week, but my prediction that my subject matter would “meander all over the shop” was bang on. Although – with the notable exception of my post ‘Inspired by Hope’ – numbers of readers have been fairly low, it has nevertheless been gratifying to hear many compliments and lovely comments from people who have troubled to read my random musings. So thank you. (And to those of you who read via Facebook, Likes and Shares are appreciated more than you can know!!)

As far as being mini is concerned, I’ve experienced the usual frustrations when it comes to finding affordable, age-appropriate clothes that fit (roughly a two per cent success rate, on average), but there have been some pleasant, thrifty surprises. I found my favourite non-wired, padded bra (which also sells well as a mastectomy bra, interestingly enough) in the sale at my favourite online shop, Know Knockers. The shop’s owner, the ever-fabulous, friendly and empathetic Sheila, also sent me other, no obligation bras to try and buy or return. Other finds included a £2 size 6 swimsuit from Tesco (shape-creating, with padded boobs), and an evening dress, also from Tesco, reduced from £50 to £7.50. I may never wear it, but it is very pretty and I can always sell it on.

I hit this year’s highlight of skint mini clothes hunting earlier this week, however, when my friend Ingrid** took me shopping. We started early at the St Neots market where, unbeknownst to me, there has been a second hand clothes stall for goodness knows how long, before progressing to several of the high street’s charity shops. It took about two minutes for Ingrid to pick me out a Karen Millen skirt for £4, and less than two hours later I had a haul of 10 lovely items for a total cost of £20.50 – including a Principles by Ben de Lisi blouse and a fully lined, sublimely fitting H&M skirt for work with the tags still attached. But the thing that gave me the greatest boost was trying on a size 8 dress in Scope and finding, to my utter amazement, that it was too tight across the bust. “It won’t do up”, I proclaimed loudly, emerging from the changing room so that everyone could see.

My charity shop haul. Loving the retro Karen Millen skirt!
My charity shop haul. Loving the retro Karen Millen skirt!

With my clothes shopping redefined, this year’s target is to do away with heels completely and embrace my 5’ 2” stature. Heels have become a bit of a feminist issue for me recently, highlighted by the case of Nicola Thorp, the receptionist who was sent home from work without pay because of her refusal to wear them. It occurs to me that there’s no pressure on men to walk around in discomfort all day, with their centre of gravity skewed, just to make their legs appear longer. Even some women talk about shorter women “needing” the height (for shame) – for what, exactly!? Getting stuff down from the top shelf in supermarkets is the only thing I can think of, and I’m old enough these days not to feel self-conscious about asking a nice young man to help me with that (and I happen to know one already who works in my local Tesco and is 6’5”, so there).

More to the point, however, heels now hurt me. Even a couple of hours wearing one inch heels causes twinges in my right knee and an ache in my lower back. So either I switch to flats or I can no longer run. There’s no choice really, especially as I’m about to sign up for this year’s Race for Life and intend to set a new PB.

Other signs of ageing are, inevitably, creeping in upon me. Ageing is a fascinating process if you can manage to distance yourself from the sheer horror: fine lines on my cheeks even when I’m not smiling; a subtle slowing of certain mental processes (the late, great Victoria Wood’s “What did I come up here for?” syndrome, and struggling to find the right word when I’m in a hurry – “It’s on the … the … the thing; the table”, accompanied by a frantic hand flapping gesture); and, last but not least, the incongruous decision of my right nipple – just the nipple – to begin to head south (how!? It is the size of a pea and must weigh about two grams … and why is the left one not going with it!?) Still, there are positives. I am healthy and active, and I still haven’t got any grey hairs (thanks Mum – that alone is saving me a packet).

It would take more than one blog post to sum up the past 12 months of mumma-hood, so I won’t even try. Instead, through gritted teeth (as they are both so much younger and more successful as writers than I am), I want to make special mention of two other mums who have inspired me this year. First up is Sarah Turner, the Unmumsy Mum, who posts her parenting advice as a series of lessons with appealing titles such as ‘It’s OK To Lose Your Shit’ and ‘F**k You SuperMum’. It’s refreshingly honest, cathartic stuff for any parent with littlies. Next up is Jack Monroe, author of the cookbook A Girl Called Jack, whose post ‘Hunger Hurts’ completely blew me away. If you don’t know Jack’s story, you should read it now (and then order her book – it’s amazing and has cut our food bill by £15 a week).

It has been a thrifty year. I have been good. People have been kind. In the summer my family enjoyed a camping holiday in Devon, and my luscious in-laws have given us their old caravan for future trips. Hubby’s side of the family also clubbed together and bought us annual family membership of the National Trust, which I’m finding life-enhancingly wonderful. My work has increased, our debts are decreasing and for the first time in as long as I can remember we are out of overdraft and actually have some money in a savings account. I pledged we would get our heads down, tighten our belts and sort things out, and we are well along that road. I feel proud.

Except now we’ve gone and blown it all by deciding to book another Disney holiday … (Feel free to roll your eyes.) Our reasons are our own, but I’d ask you to trust me that they are good reasons (honest guv!!) And OK, the savings will go, and the knackered old carpets will have to stay a bit longer, along with the hole I accidentally kicked in my bedroom wall when I was feeling cross (in my defence I swear that plasterboard was paper thin) … but the difference this time is that we haven’t remortgaged or borrowed anything extra at all, and by the time we fly out (off-peak) next year the entire holiday will have been paid for in advance. That’s new. It will also keep me nice and skint for the rest of this year, thereby justifying the continuation of this blog – hurrah!

One final thing about this last year is my belated discovery of loads of great TV, including The Big Bang Theory and Lost, so I’m going to leave you with a lovely photo of Sayid. (Well, it’s my blog and it’s – almost – my birthday!)


*I refuse to reference this quote! There’s no excuse for unfamiliarity (unless you are young, and in that case I’m still not going to reference it because I’m jealous and churlish).

** Ingrid is a charity shop aficionado, handy with a needle and thread and the best dressed woman I know. Check out some of her clobber here – you won’t believe it. Ingrid also makes and sells beautiful silver jewellery (see link below); exactly the sort of thing I’d be doing if I wasn’t so busy lacking creative talent and sitting watching Family Guy in my pants.