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A Frock for Friday – London Calling

A Frock for Friday.  Can I do it?  Well, ‘London Calling’ and so that’s got to be a resounding ‘Yes’.

A trip to London to see old friends on the weekend.  The Clash on the ipod.  How could I not do it?

Now if Proust and dresses was a shocker in the last post ( let’s be honest, it was a veritable affront),  let me introduce you to my even more skewed association of The Clash with the sewing of floral frocks.  Yes, indeedy. Listening to ‘The Clash’ is going to give me the strength to sew.  Particularly ‘London Calling’ which has always been my rallying cry, ever since I was at University in London in the 80’s.

Listening to ‘London Calling’ on my Walkman as I travelled back up to London on the National Express Coach always, and I mean always, made me hopeful for the future; then  years later it made me strong before a tough day at the chalk face; and later again ( now!)  it makes me ready to take on the sewing challenge of making a floral frock for Friday. Oh feel that bang as my aspirations fall through the floor! And all through the medium of song.

Johnny Marr tweeting that David Cameron is not allowed to choose ‘This Charming Man’ as one of his Desert Island Discs springs to mind. I don’t know why…Still, I think I’m safe. Can’t see many Clash members trawling through blogs on sewing.

Perhaps I should have stuck with my sixth form rallying cry of  ‘Awake, arise or be forever fallen’?  Definitely not a chance in hell (satanic pun intended) of Milton getting in touch.

Now, I don’t like the association with David Cameron but I’m not averse to having things in common with a long and illustrious line of comic heroes and heroines who represent the ‘little man’.

David Jason in ‘Only Fools and Horses’  takes my top prize with his tragi-comic ‘He who dares wins’ to justify his funny but desperately sad attempts at greatness. Followed closely by Buzz Lightyear with ‘To Infinity and Beyond!’.  Bathetic heroes and heroines, I salute you. ‘London’s Calling’ and now I have an appointment with a sewing machine.

‘Tu m’as donné tu boue et j’en ai fait de l’or’ (oh no, I’ve not tampered with Baudelaire as well…?!).

So cultured…

A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur – live life to the fullest

IMG_2031[1]My ‘en fleur’ days are behind me but this Proust title crossed my mind when I saw my next fabric choice…The pattern reminds me of a dress I wore when I was, fleetingly, ‘en fleur’ and so I had to get it.

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I apologise to any Proust fans out there (who may have stumbled across this lowly blog about dresses in the course of their no[stone-unturned research) for the tenuous link…. This dress is not to be my madeleine- dipped- in- tilleul moment.

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Now I know that I’m not going to be able to recapture ‘le temps perdu’ ( lost time ! Another laboured Proustian link…)  in one sense but I boldly intend to create a dress that at least for me recalls a time when I was blooming.

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Oh how potentially painful, you might think, and it would be if that were to be the main reason for making it. But no ,  as the fundamental point of making a dress in a fabric which reminds me of my supposed ‘Hay Day’  would be to remind me to –

enjoy the moment

seize the day

gather rosebuds while I can

appreciate what I’ve got.

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When I was blooming I really was oblivious to the fact.  When I was ‘en fleur’ I had no idea. I was awkward, uncomfortable with myself and hid myself away. I was at my most beautiful ( note that I say my most beautiful. Not to be confused with the most beautiful…) and I did not enjoy it.

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Time  has helped me to see that.  And so now, wearing my en fleur dress I do not foolishly seek to recapture my lost youthful self, rather I hope to remind myself that I must live in the moment and enjoy who I am now. I may not be the most anything but I owe it to myself to be my most something. Right here, right now ( isn’t that from a song?  I think I’d better round this post off now as if I’m not careful I’ll lead myself down the Eminem song route. You know the one. Think cricket. Mad cultural references stop here. STOP)

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And with that I cut out the dress in the en fleur fabric with my mother’s words ringing in my ears ‘Wear it while you can Izz! ‘ And I will.

But I’ll have to finish it first… Time to ‘lose myself’ (stop, stop, stop…) as this opportunity only ‘comes once in a lifetime’ (STOP).

Felt Families

                                         The Angel Sylvia with some present ideas…

Wild blond curls... surely not a bad hair day?
Wild blond curls… surely not a bad hair day?

Time to move away from the sewing machine and give my handsewing talents a chance…

Project: to make a very special present for my brother to celebrate his 40th birthday and the moving in to his new house

Materials used: felt, coloured thread, pearlised white sequins, a picture frame with mount

But what should I do? No present ideas?  I love felt and making felt pictures and I have made a few over the years. They give instant colour  and their very jolliness help to mask my ‘Issy-aged-6’ embroidery skills ( let’s just say that these are not good as you can see from my loopy chain stitch and saggy blanket stitch in ‘The Angel Sylvia’). And when I decided that I wanted to make a ‘special’ present for my brother it was to the felt picture that I turned. However, ‘here are some I made earlier’ and you can see my dilemma.

Present ideas 1 – fit for a princess!

Here we have The Angel Sylvia again
Here we have The Angel Sylvia again

 

and here is the Angel Cupcake
and here is the Angel Cupcake

 

excuse this very dark picture, but you can just about make out another angel with a cake...
excuse this very dark picture, but you can just about make out another angel with a cake…

 

and this looks like the angel who fell off the top of the tree. Not my finest sewing moment…

 

and here is my Queen of the Cupcakes

All friends, fairies and angels. All female. Not easily translatable into a special birthday present for a 40 year old man. Hmm. What to do?

I indulged in a little ‘artistic’ experimentation (no,  not like that…). Firstly with trees. More masculine? Well at least I didn’t call it ‘Tamara the Tree’!

Present ideas 2 – fit for nesting lovebirds

the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree...
the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree…
my singing ringing tree
my singing ringing tree

Then, inspired by many a happy hour playing ‘Fuzzy Felts’ when I was little, I made a house. A new house present to celebrate moving in to his new house with his family after waiting (and waiting and waiting) for so long for it to be finished.  Perfect. The challenge was set – to finish the picture in time.  And so I cut out some shapes and moved them round until they looked right. In a fuzzy felts sort of way. Then I sewed them in place.

Present ideas 3 – Happy House

my first attempt...
my first attempt…

Unfortunately, as you can see, my first attempt was indeed colourful but even I had to admit that it was a little nursery school. My first attempt got consigned to the darkest part on the staircase wall…

What to do? Take two. This time I decided to PLAN. I drew the pattern out first and took my time.

Pulliing together my angels ( for Mike, his wife and their three children), the trees (for his lovely garden) and the fuzzy felt house (to symbolize his new home) I drew up a design which would represent exactly what I intended as well as drawing on my existing sewing ‘talents’.. .I still had a month. And, although the end product still looks a little naive and my needlework still lacks refinement the overall impression , at least for me, is happy. Happy Birthday Michael!

three happy children playing by the house
three happy children playing by the house

 

Felt picture of brother, brother’s wife and their 3 children, dancing around their new family home

IMG_1852 Who would believe that this picture took me hours and hours and hours to make?!

And guess what, Mike has given it pride of place in his…toilet!

my brother and his wife by his house wearing crowns...
my brother and his wife by his house wearing crowns…

Next time I’ll get him some Amazon gift vouchers.

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Weekend Wardrobe

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Monday

Mission Statement for the week : to create my weekend wardrobe

How exciting! A whole week in front of me. I am going to make

a black gingham skirt,

‘the dress’ in purple polka dots,

a navy polka dot skirt.

Now that’s what I call a Sewing Sandwich!

(although, aesthetically speaking, the gingham should be in the middle as the bread should be strictly polka dot…Mmm! Hope this doesn’t make for a messy sandwich…On verra…But then again, two skirts with a dress filling? That makes symmetrical sense too…)

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Step 1 – a trip to Fabricland to buy black gingham and a skirt pattern.

After wasting  more minutes than I care to confess to pouring over skirt patterns I eventually succumbed to the charms, once again, of the Burda YOUNG range. Don’t ask me why. I don’t like the patterns. I don’t even like the look of the garments on the front of the wallet. I would imagine that it’s the ‘young’ that wins me over. It has to be, even though I go through the same ridiculous dialogue with myself discussing why I should not go there, only to go on to do so. That and the feeling of hysteria which threatens to envelop me if I don’t get out of the ugly, overlit fabric hell that Fabricland can quickly become and fast.  As well as the lack of a sensible skirt pattern in any of the other pattern books. I look through them all again – it can’t be that hard to find a suitable skirt pattern.

My head gets to beat so loud I feel lightheaded and slightly nauseous. I come across the Burda YOUNG skirt and it looks do-able. I could always adapt it. ‘I’ve got to get out of here…’ I can feel that terrible sense of failure that I can’t even buy a simple skirt pattern without having a meltdown. I ring the bell.

‘Could I have this pattern please?’ The young shop assistant gets the pattern, looks at it, then at me. Is that a smile she’s giving me? Or a smirk?

I grab  a roll of black gingham, one of white lining, mustn’t forget the zip. I double-take as I read that the zip should be 18 inches long. 18 inches long?  This throws me on the pattern and gives me a hint as to why it’s YOUNG but I’m so close to finishing the transaction that I mustn’t lose heart now. The shop assistant’s smirk didn’t shake me, nor should the statement zip (even if the statement is ‘I can only get away with this pointlessly oversized zip because I am young.’)

5 minutes later I’m out of the shop. I can breathe again and I saunter to the carpark swinging my yellow Fabricland bag. Step 1 accomplished…

Step 2 –  make the skirt

Before – I believed that working with gingham would be easy. How could it be otherwise? Gingham check = the material equivalent of graph paper.

After –  well, you can be the judge of that.  How is it that the checks can meet up so perfectly at the top and then be so out as the checks work themselves down? Look at that hemline – I thought that it would be easy to get a straight edge along a gingham check…

Tricky-to-match (at least, for me) gingham...
Tricky-to-match (at least, for me) gingham…

As for the zip,  no wonder I looked twice when I saw how long it should be.  I should have heeded the warning on the pattern. It didn’t say YOUNG for nothing.

Just a small section of a very long zip...
Just a small section of a very long zip…

It’s something that you can only get away with when you’re young as it really is over-the-top and ridiculous.  When I bought the zip I said ‘why?’ and as I sew it in I say ‘Why?’ As I try it on I say ‘Why?’ as I attempt to fold it away in the pleats of the skirt…

I add some lining which makes it feel a little more substantial and pleasant to wear but as I look in the mirror I’m not really sure if it’s going to make it into my Weekend Wardrobe. It looks like a skirt, just. Yet it doesn’t quite work. It’s the sort of shape that makes me think it’s me. I spend 45 minutes trying on every black, white and red top I possess in an attempt to make it work.

But it doesn’t.

Remind me never to go for YOUNG Burda again…

the best match...
the best match…

step 3 – make the purple polka dot dress

I’m making my old favourite – a dress I know I can make (give or take a few aberrations which have come about as a result of over-confidence!). I have also got all that I need to get on with it – purple polka dot material, purple lining, purple thread and a purple zip. Pur-fect.

But as my first Weekend Wardrobe item was ‘requiring improvement’  I now have to make this ‘good’ if not ‘outstanding’. So. Slow down.

It’s all in the accuracy of the pattern cutting. I cut out the pattern carefully, resisting the temptation to add width and length ‘just in case’.

I take a break. I plan my next steps so that I can do them fluently as once I start I am always reluctant to stop even when I know I’ve made a mistake. Some sewing demon gets hold of me, driving me on to the hemline. I throw caution to the wind which in turn makes me deaf to any appeal to reason-  I just want to finish it and nothing, I repeat nothing ( not even knowing that the dress isn’t going to fit, is going to be too short in the body, too long on the shoulders, off-centre with the zip…) gets in my way.

And so, knowing the madness that is to soon descend upon me I take stock. I plan with the madness in mind. I plan to make it work for me not against me.

I go through the sequence again in my head. Yes, I think I have it. Then I begin.

Pins fly everywhere. I hold up to three at a time in my mouth as I pin and tuck my way to dress perfection. I tell myself that this isn’t the best of ideas but during this sew I can do nothing about it. Next time I’ll plan it out.

I get to the zip. This is where my plan stops. Deliberately so. My intention had been to review progress, adjust and then plan for the sewing denouement (perhaps not the best word to use as it suggests some unravelling…). I hold the dress up so far. It looks neatly sewn. There are no sewing issues. So I could just crack on. Planless. It won’t hurt. I’ve done it before. I look at my gingham skirt with the young zip and the uneven hemline. A timely reality check

I force myself to have a teabreak. I even iron the dress. I’m chomping at the bit. It’s clear that I’m not going to make a plan but I know that by heading straight to the sewing machine  I could ruin all the lovely work I’ve done so far. I reach a compromise (with myself) and decide to iron and hand sew the zip into place.

Done.

Then I zipper foot my way to glory, rush to the ironing board to iron myself a hemline, then gently sew my way to the finish while watching ‘Escape to the Country’.

Here’s one, at least while it’s on the hanger, for the Weekend Wardrobe!

I try it on…

Now the gingham skirt was a mistake on oh so many levels but the purple polka dot dress works in nearly every respect. Except one.

bustier...
bustier…

 

and bustier...not to mention the expanding tummy!
and bustier…not to mention the expanding tummy!
but it is such a lovely colour!
but it is such a lovely colour!

When I put on weight (which I have)  it turns my chest, to use a furniture metaphor, into a sideboard. Or should that be ‘shelf’? Regardless of the most appropriate item, either piece of furniture is not welcome when it’s displaying itself unappealingly  over the top of my dress. Yet another age issue threatens to dash my weekend wardrobe…What might possibly have been interpreted as an attractively heaving bosom in my youth now looks  fat and frumpy. And shapeless in a jelly-escaping-from-its-mould sort of way.    Perhaps I could wear a scarf…or a matching vest top…

in front of the pond at 'The Drunken Duck', the Lake District
in front of the pond at ‘The Drunken Duck’, the Lake District
walking towards the pond
walking towards the pond

Step 4

Step 4 was to have been the navy polka dot skirt but I’m having second thoughts. As it’s only Wednesday I’ve still got time on my side so I think I’ll change course for a while and make Simon the waist coat I promised him. Well, promised suggests that he can’t wait, that the waistcoat is seen as a great treat by him, as if I’m doing him a favour by devoting so much of my skill and time to the making of a fine waistcoat for him. In actual fact he’s doing me a favour as I begged, cajoled, teased him into letting me make something for him.

And so I have and rather dapper it is too. So one shoulder might be broader than the other one (I do wish Simon would stop harping on about it ) but no one will ever notice I assure him. ‘Sometimes the right side of my dress is bigger than the left side but I still wear it!’ His face crinkles. I’m not making him feel any better about the assymetrical shoulder look. Best to keep quiet. Time to get some buttons…

Step 5 – navy polka dots

I love Navy Polka Dots
I love Navy Polka Dots

As I look for buttons in the material shop that has become a second home for me these past weeks I am drawn to the roll of navy polka dots. But no! No! As I pick the roll up I immediately put it down.  Just next to it is another roll with even bigger polka dots. In cream. Big 10p piece cream dots.  And as I fondle the fabric I notice that it is thick. Almost drill-like. Is that a good thing? Would that make a better dress? Or would I look like a table cloth or a funky sofa? I go for the bigger polka dots and make my way to the till. Big. Little. Thick. Thin. Cream. White. I go over it all again and again. I ask the shop assistant what she thinks.

full skirt
full skirt

10 minutes later I leave the shop with the little-thin-white material. I look back at the table cloth material. Lucky escape…

Now I’ve got to make it. It’s Thursday so I don’t have long. I get down to it. I remember the heavy bosom problem with the purple dress . I feel sure that I can adapt the pattern to solve the problem.  I cut the front piece higher than the pattern.  That should do it.  I forge ahead.  I can finish it. I can.

And I do.

I love polka dots!

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Going off piste…

As I look up from my machine and out of the window I realise it’s time to take a break from the sewing.

The loveliest day of the year. Sunday. Sunny day. Breeze caressing my arms. Hair flying behind me…
STOP. I’ll stop right there. Before I descend into the alluring depths of Mills and Boon.

Start again.

Last Sunday I woke up and went for a bike ride as the weather was pretty good for a change.
After searching for hours the night before for gloves, helmet, sports bra, lycra leggings and jaunty Italian cycling top, not to mention a pair of socks (more difficult than it sounds) and my tatty cycling trainers I woke up without an excuse not to go out on the bike ( apart from looking ridiculous ).
Still, some things age does give you and that’s a little bit more ‘So I look faintly ridiculous. Am I bothered?’

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Bike. Check. Water bottle. Check. Money for refuelling (read ‘cakes’). Check. And I was set. And so off I tootled with some girlie chums , along the take-your-life-in-your-hands city roads, roaring and alive with cars and assorted motor vehicles, big and small, in order to get to the traffic-free route that is the Bristol to Bath cycle path.

Not that it was without its own obstacles – namely my school’s Most-Wanted (or should that be my school’s ‘Least-Wanted’?) pupils. Whereas my friends  saw it as a place for healthy recreational pursuits of the cycling and walking variety I knew that the charmless pupils who spent lessons talking about smoking and drinking cider clearly saw it as the place  to indulge themselves in these their preferred activities fully. No teachers to stop them. No houses with windows with parents’ friends with eyes to see them and call said parents. And add to that the added bonus of being able to hurl abuse at cyclists in lycra ( scoring the occasional bullseye when a hapless teacher came along), and you can see why they liked to loiter around the cycle path. 

I did know this. I recall an incident last year when I came across a group ( no, scrap that, read ‘pack’ ) of them who, on spotting me, started off fairly politely. ‘Was that…? Could it be…? Hi Miss Morgan…’ (It’s true, as those of you familiar with year 9 vernacular will have undoubtedly surmised. These weren’t the precise words they used. ..) And as my identity became obvious their language got worse. The mob took over and I was so very pleased that I was on a bike and they were not.

So forewarned I donned the sunglasses. They are a glitzy-glam Dolce and Gabbana pair given to me by my mother. But as they 1) cover most of my face and 2) cost me nothing I put them on at any rate.
They didn’t exactly go with the rest of my very pro-cyclist attire but, as I’ve said before, ‘So I look faintly ridiculous. Am I bothered?’

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Well I survived. 18 miles of cycling. Slow chatters’ pace (apart from when we saw my smoking and drinking charges. In which case I speeded up.)  And I felt great afterwards. Even though I had encountered drunken jeering teenagers . I even fell off my bike  ( although I’m not sure how. It was the bike equivalent of falling over your own feet. One minute I was cycling, the next I was sprawled across a road by a roundabout…) . But even all this has not dented the way I feel about cycling. And, perhaps more importantly, that hasn’t changed the way cycling makes me feel. About me.

There aren’t many moments in my life when I can look so completely ridiculous and not give a stuff/ fig/monkey’s/jot/damn…But cycling is certainly one of them.

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Downsizing…

There are only so many dresses I can make and, although I’ve not reached my limit (yet) I am looking forward to a bit of a change.

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After spending a weekend in the arty, hippy, handmade enclave that is Brighton I have been inspired to make pinafores for little girls. Just think, a use for the piles and piles of  material leftover from my manic V8555 dressmaking phase so that whoever I make the dresses for will end up looking like a mini-me. That’s if I ever decide to wear my adult-size dress (which I won’t)  in the same fabric when we go and visit. And that’s also pre-supposing that my hosts will dress their cherub in the dress that I have made (which, heaven forefend, they just might not!).

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Perhaps that should be a pre-requisite before I start to churn the dresses out –
‘1 dress – made by Isabella – must be worn when Isabella comes to see us.’

Now I’ve done a little bit of internet research ( hours of pouring over myriad pictures of pinafores for children) and I’m feeling reasonably confident that I’ll be able to sew a few myself (wait for it)
WITHOUT A PATTERN.

I mean, some are so simple. 4 pieces only. No darts. What could possibly go wrong?

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The first pinafore style does look so very easy that even with my track record of disaster when I go off piste (I was tempted to make a joke there but realised, just in time, that it would be in particularly bad taste…) I can’t imagine that I won’t be able to make a garment that’s wearable…( ‘Bad Izzy’ on my shoulder is whispering ‘Want to bet?!’ provocatively into my ear but no, I will not let myself be put off…).

It’s true that I will have to ‘do buttonholes’, a task so intimidating that it has caused me to hyperventilate in the past and want to hurl my lovely new sewing machine over the back of the table in a fit of screaming frustration. Yet, from the comfort of my sofa and after a glass of wine even the dreaded buttonholes seem do-able. Perhaps because I will have to do so many that I can’t do anything other than get better. Total buttonhole immersion! That’s the way to go. …isn’t it?

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And as I’ll be making the garments for little girls (only after I’ve used up my remnants of course), I can buy all that ridiculous material patterned with cakes, Russian dolls and teddy bears over which I always linger but have never brought myself to buy. Up until now.

So, here we go.  To Sew a Pinafore. Take 1

My first attempt in mad hen material with contrasting red buttons.
My first attempt in mad hen material with contrasting red buttons.

 

 

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plus ca change…

…plus c’est la meme chose?

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style rebel…?

Unfortunately for me ‘plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose’ does not apply. On the contrary. In fact, when I think that ‘c’est la meme chose’ I  find for me ‘plus ca change’. If that makes any sense… Let me explain by way of a little fashion anecdote.

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brown leather ‘toffee’ buttons on blue corduroy

You see , when I was young I loved to wear tweed and corduroy. Tweed skirts. Corduroy jackets. Long old men’s tweed coats ( one, a particular favourite of mine, so insensed my father that he placed it in the bin and poured cooking oil over it –  just in case I was tempted to get it out…). As for when I wore tweed mini skirts with matching tweed jackets, all adults over the age of 30 clearly thought I looked a trollop…

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easy collar

So retro! And I thought that I looked so unspeakably chic in it all. And, strangely, provocative to all decent-thinking grown-ups.

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lovely blanket check

And so, who could blame me, when, having discovered a way with a sewing machine, I thought that I would re-introduce tweed into my wardrobe? And, while I’m at it, a nice little bit of corduroy. A lovely, jaunty tweedy cordy suit? And, if I’m completely honest, the thought of offending with a nice two piece tickled me… So, in the pursuit of my youth and that belief that it really is ‘la meme chose’ I have rushed to make a super suit – half corduroy half check/tweedy-type fabric.  In my mind’s eye I see myself in a ‘jaunty’ suit , a modernist take on the twinset-and-pearls look.
BUT NO! (I’ve just been to see an opera so bear with me with the excess of exclamation marks suggesting high camp tragedy…)
BUT NO! say I again. When I look in the mirror I see…I see…Miss Country Casuals. No. I see MRS Country Casuals. Quality, granted. But…tailored. Sensible. Decent. Prim.

The hemline is above the knee, for goodness’ sake. I’m wearing boots. I wear dangly ear-rings.
BUT NO!
(thrice say I…just in case you weren’t counting…)
My lovely little suit is certainly NOT la meme chose…

Very Miss Jean Brodie
Very Miss Jean Brodie

Just as the caption says, I look more Miss Jean Brodie, less ironic style rebel.  But when one is in one’s prime why would one want to look like anyone else?!

Mission Statement

Well, that was a horrible January.It rendered me so senseless that I nigh on failed to register February.
As I lay on the bed in A and E alternately chanting my very own personal mantra ‘Please be a time-waster, please be a time waster’  to the backing track of Gloria Gaynor’s  ‘I will survive’  I mused at the power of music to speed recovery. Perhaps it should be an NHS initiative to play GG in all its hospitals? Perhaps not. But it worked for me and  now I’m back…
And now, a Miraculous Mystery to Modern Medicine, I have decided to pull myself back up to the surface of existence by the most effective way I know. Yes, that’s right. I intend to SEW myself to health and happiness and I’m beginning with navy blue.

Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you’re nice

I’d been thinking a lot about King Lear and the importance of being a good daughter. I’d listened to friends complaining about the unreasonable demands of their ageing mothers. I had felt anguish when I put myself in their shoes (of the mothers not the friends…) – lonely, helpless, too proud to demand company or help.
And then I got slapped around the head by…well, you will see.
And although I wasn’t slapped around the head precisely what happened left me just as dazed.
I arrived at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the newly finished theatre next to The Globe, to see Webster’s ‘Duchess of Malfi’. As I entered the pit I could smell the recently sawn wood, all sawdusty with a hint of preservative. The seats were just banquettes – cushionless, backless wooden benches shaped in an angular U shape with the stage, very close, running along the two ends of the U.
As I entered the space I marvelled at its intimacy. It was all so beautiful and close. The lightfittings were candles suspended low from the painted wooden ceiling (to be lit and hoisted up as the play began). I imagined candle wax dripping down upon me so made a mental note to myself not to look up. And I could touch the stage. I felt a little apprehensive at the prospect of hours of twisting my neck to watch the play and hyperventilated momentarily just thinking about sitting upright, back unsupported. But I was thrilled to feel a part of it.
Then I saw her. A woman,  an elderly woman, probably in her 80’s. Or her 70’s. Or perhaps in her 60’s. She moved swiftly and nimbly and started talking loudly and unhappily about her seat. She was grumbly and as she pushed past me for the first time to get to her place (just next to mine) I silently forgave her. She was an old woman after all and probably hadn’t pushed past me deliberately.
I did sense animosity towards me, and indeed to everyone else seated near her, but I banished this from my mind, preferring to experience the wellbeing that accompanies ‘being a good person’.
I understood her pain and when she pushed her large, heavy handbag on my feet I took it, assuming that she couldn’t help it and had no idea that she had done it. 
The play began. It was wonderful – I drank it up and the proximity of the action distracted me from the physical discomfort I had anticipated. Even my neighbour’s heavy handbag squashing my toes felt as nothing.
As soon as the candles came down the woman got up. She pushed past me for the second time. I had tried to move aside but clearly was not quick enough for her. As I lurched into the side of the stage (old she may have been but she was surprisingly strong) I managed to put my hands out in time to break my fall. My instinct was to say something but as I heard her exclaim ‘Get out of my way. I need the toilet!’ I kept myself in check. She must have been suffering to be so impatient to make for the door. As I am strong on empathy I understood.
The second part of the play was to start in two minutes. I was in my seat and my elderly neighbour came in holding coffees. I went to stand up for her and she pushed me. For the third time.  I fell into another spectator who was very understanding, ‘It wasn’t your fault my dear.’ I quickly said sorry and , before I could check myself, I turned to my neighbour and said, quite foolishly, ‘Excuse me but you just pushed me.’
I was then subjected to a vitriolic attack. All around people were stunned. My husband was rendered mute and impotent (!). And as she screeched at me all I could think about was ‘But I can’t. She’s an old woman. I can’t say anything. She’s an old woman.’
I kept it together reasonably well but could not stop myself from saying ‘ You are a very rude person’.
I couldn’t help it.  ‘Shut up!’ ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up!’ That two words could be expressed with such acerbic bite stunned me and at this time all I could think of was , ‘Oh God , no! People will think that I’ve been horrid to an old person. What do I do? What can I do?’
As the play recommenced I had visions of her attacking me.  Scenes of mad people unfolded on the stage but it was the even more horrifying scene of madness that was developing beside me which I found  more disconcerting. When the candles were put out and darkness descended so my heart pounded with fear and dread. I mean, if this evil harpy ( for that is what I now saw her as, let’s be honest) had attacked me it would have been me that would  have looked bad. I had visions of my picture slapped across tabloid front pages with the headline ‘Tis Pity She’s a Bully – elderly woman subjected to physical attack in London theatre by this woman’.  
I breathed deeply, not moving for fear of provoking her. I was shocked but felt that I couldn’t do anything. I nearly went to find an attendant to ‘tell’ them and ask for assistance. And all the while I thought ‘But who would believe me? She is an elderly woman.’ An elderly woman, an elderly woman. I couldn’t get round it. Couldn’t get over it. Elderly or not she was the most unpleasant person I had ever come across.
At the end of the play I decided to be speedy ( I did not want to be pushed over again). This time it was my turn to rush to the toilets to check that I didn’t have a post-it stuck to my forehead that said ‘Push me’.  As I walked to the car Simon admitted too that he hadn’t known what to do. He and the people next to him were all shocked at what was happening ( although, I wouldn’t mind betting, not as shocked as I myself was). After all she was an elderly woman.
I went over the incident all the way home. Did she have Alzheimers? A personality disorder?  Or was she simply a very nasty person?
Either way, I will never forget the time I went to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to see ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ while sitting in the pit, cheek by jowl with the other members of the audience, one of whom seemed as evil as any character on the stage. 
So thank you, very nasty person, for a timely reality-check.  I vow never to be patronisingly kind to elderly women again…ever.

The Cloak of Shame

That’s what I’m wearing now.
However, on Saturday night I was wearing my latest same-dress-that-I-always-make. In black Chinese satin. Shiny and luxurious.
I had been procrastinating all week about what to wear. I’d decided to make do with something in my wardrobe. There had to be something there. Until I went off for a routine mammogram. And then it occurred to me that I should go and buy myself a new bra. Actually enjoy it rather than see it as something that I had to do when all my bras had turned grey.  In true glass-half-empty fashion I grimly warned myself that this might be my last chance.
Having tried on 5 different bras in 3 different sizes my mind inevitably wandered on to ‘bodyshapers’. I couldn’t get away from the sight of my sagging tummy in the mirror.  No matter how hard I tried not to notice it  (or breath in and think that it wasn’t that bad) I had to accept that it was. That bad.
So, fuelled by my mammogram raison d’etre I had to do something about it. Other women, even friends, wore such alien undergarments. Many had recommended Spanx to me ( and now, after having been forced to look at my distended tummy in the mirror for the best part of an hour, I could understand why…).
The price shocked me but I made myself buy some big girl’s knickers (or crushers as I now call them…) intended to ‘sculpt and contour’…and ‘crush’.
There. Underwear done. Never before  had I spent so long buying a bra and a pair of knickers.
I went off for the time-to-think-about-life mammogram. What an unpleasant experience, made all the more unpleasant for having been conducted by a sour-faced, unfriendly woman. 
Pulled. Pressed. Squashed. And delivered without even a smile or a kind word. I accept that the job can’t be easy, might be boring, could be distressing. However, I thank aforementioned sourpuss for reminding me how important it is to be kind to others and encouraging me (in some strange, reverse-psychology way) to be supportive to all the people I deal with in the course of my day.
Mammogram endured. Life thought about. Time for me to go to Fabricland.
A dress for Saturday. A dress for Saturday. A dress for Saturday. I chanted these words over and over. Do I go for the black lace over cream stain? Or, how about over mustard satin? I toyed with pink, white, even green before deciding that cream was the best option. But which cream?
Then, as my eyes perused the satins and brocades I came across the Chinese dragon material, whereupon I immediately abandoned the black lace idea. I picked up rolls and duly let them slide  from my arms in red, green, turquoise, pink, black and even yellow. I was instantly drawn to the yellow but soon dismissed it as too bright. Perhaps a little too life-affirming even after the mammogram. As I worked down the colour chart I found myself hovering over the black. Funereal? How could something so smooth and shiny be described as such?
I picked it up, hitching it up every few seconds until I got to the cashdesk where I bought it, plus lining and zip. All for just over £11!
I took it home.
 ‘Let’s sew!’
I’d manoeuvred this pattern so many times before. What could possibly go wrong? But then it did.
I did the darts without pinning or basting them first only to find the slippery slide-y silkiness of the material had caused the fold to slip and move. Result – at least 6 darts on an unnecessarily jaunty angle (I grabbed the remaining 4 tightly). Not having learnt my lesson the same slippery slide-y silkiness caused my seams to stray rendering the side seam a quarter of the way over the back panel. And if I had intended to create an assymetric zip, well, now you’re talking. Yet did I baulk at the slightly skewed to one side look? Not at all. I did see it but forged on regardless. Hellbent on finishing. I would have a dress.
And I did. To the trained eye its manifold imperfections would be obvious but as I would be going to a party where the guests would be plied with champagne right from the word go I felt that I was safe. Indeed, you would think that I’d downed quite a few glasses while making it. But I hadn’t.  I would stand, contraposto, my black dress blinding onlookers with its glowing surface. With its very shiny, slippery-slide-y, glowing surface.
Very shiny, slippery-slide-y. I should have known. Three hours into the party and five glasses of champagne it was time for a photo opportunity. As I sat on my husband’s knee and leant back ready to say cheese I just kept on sliding.
Then crack. The sound of the back of my head on the stone floor (if only they had fitted carpet…). And now, 48 hours later, as I nurse a very bad headache and read dubious websites about head injuries I am wearing my very own ‘cloak of shame’.
I’m still blaming the shiny, slippery-slide-y dress. And my husband. But I know that the incriminating glass of champagne I had just put down prior to my photo shoot speaks volumes.
Time to live life to the full but next time with my glass a little less so…