Sunday, 28 April 2013

When your cups runneth over...

After what feels like the longest winter in the history of winters, last week the sun popped out and here in Blighty, we actually had a warm day. Halli-freakin'-lullijah! Now, when I say warm, I don't mean frolicking in bikinis, or busting out the paddling pool - but simply being able to throw on a T shirt and wear open toed shoes for the first time in 8 months... People actually smiled in the street and everything.

However, the only problem with the onslaught of summer, is how to wear all those slinky strapless dresses, or tiny tight tanks - with appropriate underwear. I'm not talking about shoving my arse into spanx or to thong or not to thong (who thongs these days? Cheesewire...) I mean in the brassiere department. It is the one time of year, when I envy all those women with bee-stings for boobs - the non moving boob type -  I mean, they can wear ANYTHING: just chuck on a boob tube maxi dress, or some thin strapped frock, or a little itsy bitsy teeney weeny bikini top in all those purdey colours... But what about all of us chicks who can carry pencils in unusual places ?

I have been a DD or and E cup since I was 17. Puberty came late and I went from being called skateboard (on account of not even having bee stings) to WHAM! Curves - overnight! And during pregnancy - jaysus - I could have taken your eye out if I turned round too quickly. I am the only women I know who has had a midwife RECOIL from my milk filled mammeries. She genuinely worried that I would smother my baby if I breast fed... Thank gawd they have snapped back into reasonable shape - but still, when I go bra shopping it is always an ordeal...

Hanging on the rails are all the dainty pretty bras - ones that have padding on the side and bows and lace and all things delicate and petite - for the petite boobs that they will duly hoist. I don't need the hoisting so much. Just the support. Two weeks ago, my Mum decided to buy me a bra for my birthday -  so we swung by the lingerie shop in my little village. The woman who eyed me up (always a bit weird - having some take a good old gawk at your knockers), said she could name my size on sight. Turns out in one bra I was a 30F. F!!!!!!! In another a 32E (which to be fair, was my size from 18 onwards). But try getting a bra in a size when you have a small back, yet your cup does indeed runneth over... nearly impossible. Every bra that I veered towards, the shop assistant would shake her head and say 'not in your size... sorry...' It made me feel slightly freakish...

So, I polled all my workmates and friends - women who have been blessed in the boob department - and asked, 'where can I get a decent friggin' bra?' Something pretty, NOT padded (I have enough of my own thanks) and not looking like something during the 'maternity years.'

They came up with this place - Freya underwear being amazing for women who want support AND style. They do fantastic swimwear as well. Who says you have to be a B cup to look amazeballs in a bikini? They also suggested I head on over to Bravissimo - which I have in fact  visited in the flesh, (in their Covent Garden store) before. Back then I invested in some uber comfy T shirt bras that husband calls affectionately my 'old lady bras'; being flesh coloured with a strap the size of a brick isn't exactly sexy. But sexy and supportive are two words that seem mutually exclusive when it comes to finding a decent bra. So, where were we? Oh yes. Back to the shop, with my Mother and the psychic bra advisor - I eventually pumped for a Empreinte bra that cost a small fortune. It ticks the boxes on support and pretty and not stratchy itchy lace, etc - but I've got to say, I think Freya and Bravissimo do the same job at a much more reasonable price.

But it really is the holy grail of the summer - finding a great bra that allows you to wear halter neck tops and all those fashionable dresses that seem to hang by mere threads. Then, I don't have to envy the (almost) skateboard girls any more... and subscribe to the theory - if you've got it, hoist it upwards, outwards - and damn well flaunt it!


Thursday, 25 April 2013

No ALWAYS means NO.

Tonight, well tonight, I was going to blog about bras.

Then I read this.

I urge you to read it. It's the story of a girl who has chosen to name her rapist - when her college administration refused to do anything about what happened to her. She took a stand, when others did not. I admire her bravery. She spoke out. Something I never did.

After I read it, I couldn't write something pithy and frothy about bras. Then I simply had to write this...

My rapist's name was Luke.

'Lovely Luke with the green eyes,' they all said - all the swooning girls at Uni who hung on his every word. He had long carefully managed dark locks that juggled around his head when he spoke, in his soft seaside town twang. I met him in the first term of my final year at Uni, predictably at the fresher's ball. Somewhere around Euston, in a darkened dry ice filled outdoor area, he was the only one left dancing on a deserted floor, from his group of friends. He swung those curls from side to side as he inched ever nearer to me, until I realised I had a new dancing partner.

I think I gave him my number. We barely talked over the loud throbbing music - maybe he bought me a beer. I don't remember. He wasn't memorable for his blinding personality, his clever turn of phrase, or his seductive charm. No I remembered him for other, darker reasons.

He must have called, because we went on a date. My first with a college boy. I'd only had a couple in my whole two and a bit years there - no one interested me - my heart still belonged to the boy I fell in love with at 17... the boy I lost my virginity with. I'd only had one other boyfriend since that first love - a summer romance that had been doomed from the start... So I wasn't versed in dating: what you wore, drank, said, did. I was still the hick from Belfast, despite having lived in London for those 2 years - I still got confused by the tube map.

We met in Covent Garden - the tragic tourist spot for those with no imagination. It was so crowded that I remember thinking he'd never see me. He did. He led me to an underground bar called Freud's that I assumed was cool and sophisticated because, well, he said it was. He wore leather braids on his wrists; jangling chains round his neck. Some awful denim shirt that he tucked into his denim jeans. I was nervous - I babbled. He thought I looked like some actress from the telly and kept asking me to repeat words and then would laugh at my accent. Like some ridiculous puppet I played his game - repeated those words, drank up his laughter, so pleased this handsome boy was impressed by me.

He suggested we go to his place - a shared student flat he said was on the Bakerloo Line. At that time I was in some godawful flatshare in Seven Sisters - above a kebab shop - and was secretly scared of the walk home from the tube. On my student grant, a taxi was out of the question; normally I always stayed at friends' houses if we all went out - such was my fear of walking home on my own. So his suggestion - and I know this sounds odd - felt safe.

The tube stopped at Queens Park - which confused me. I'd thought he said he lived a couple of stops from there - which would have been Harlsden - but no, he meant Harrow - which was right at the end of the line. No more tubes were running and before I knew it, I was in a mini cab... I don't remember when he first kissed me. He told me I had 'sexy' breath - and then kissed me more.

I know I wasn't drunk. I wasn't totally sober - but I wasn't hammered. Looking back, I sometimes wish I had been. This happened in October 1993 - almost 20 years ago. The details of his room escape me - save that his mattress was on the floor, and dotted around were pictures of him and some bikini clad babe on a camping trip.

Just like Tucker's experience - we began kissing - and with sudden speed and deftness, he had my clothes off. I remember gripping my underwear, trying desperately to hold onto it - as if it was my own little security blanket. But it was going to be fine, because we talked about it - about 'not' having sex. I said that I didn't want to, and was it ok of we just you know, fooled around a bit - but no sex. By that I meant NO penetration. All I had done was kiss him... I hadn't touched his body, taken off his clothes, nothing. He agreed.

Then he didn't. Then he began tugging at my underwear - kissing me harder, becoming more aroused. I remember saying no. I said no. I tried. He kept kissing me. I jammed my legs together. Inside, I knew that he had flatmates. I could have screamed out. Run out. But I felt foolish. I was there, in his bed. Almost naked. What would I say, where would I go?

He used his knee to flatten one of my legs against the bed - then leant his full weight on me. He was stronger than he looked. Then, he was inside me. I just lay there, in shock. Thinking 'but I said no. We agreed.' He was talking - saying something about he knew I wanted to, really. I felt so stupid. How could I expect to get naked and then say NO. Was I one of those prick teasers? Did I mean yes? I didn't... I know I didn't.

I curled on my side and lay awake the whole night. I was bruised and sore. In the morning he tried to kiss me and I shut my lips tightly. Embarrassed, I dressed and raced out the door. I had to get home - and pack... I was off to Cambridge for a school friend's 21st birthday. There, in the comfort of two female friends, I wept.

He rang. And yes, I saw him again. That is the strangest part of my story. Again, like Tucker - I needed to rationalise what happened in my brain. Lovely Luke with the green eyes, who everyone adored - he couldn't be a rapist, could he? No... it was my fault. Had to be. And - I quote Tucker here directly as this word for word, is how I felt:  the part of me that wanted sex to be a meaningful experience had "repurposed" my rape into an act of love.

I never had sex with him again. On this I am clear. He came to a house party my Uni flatmates threw - I determined to make this normal. Make it something more than what it had been. I decided I had behaved wrongly - that I hadn't done what you should do on dates - and I was sure, in my own space, in my own room, I could make it right. I had my period - he slept next to me. He didn't try and have sex with me.

We spoke once more on the phone and then about 6 months later I saw him at a party. He was dancing with every girl in the room and flirting as if his life depended on it. Lovely Luke with the green eyes. Every girls' dream.

My periods stopped, due to stress and I ended up at the doctors, filled with anxiety. But it wasn't until three years later that I accepted what happened to me. I had been drinking - far too much vodka, not enough mixer. I was with another boy - a kind boy. Someone who knew me well - was above all my friend. We'd started to sleep together and something he did - some small inane gesture took me right back. In the darkness, it all flooded back and with it my fear. He held me in his arms as I sobbed and sobbed. He told me that was what happened was wrong. That it wasn't my fault. IT WASN'T MY FAULT. I said no. NO.

The worst part about my story was telling it to others - and many had a similar tale to tell - of blurry nights and protestations and 'I tried to say no' and the fear... the ridiculousness of it all - because we don't go on dates with rapists do we???

I am in awe of Tucker and any woman like her. Who is brave enough to name and shame. To refuse to accept what happened to her - no matter how hard we try and blame ourselves.

Luke - and I don't know his second name - was my rapist. For that is what it was. No means no, no matter when we say it, what we are wearing at the time - even if we are in your bed. No is no. Plain and simple.



Saturday, 20 April 2013

Hen do hell

In Dante's version of upper hell - circles 1-5, therein lie the indulgent sins. Nestled comfortably at circle 5, I am certain, should I ever visit, is the most indulgent sin of all - The Hen do/Bachelorette party.

And today, I am going to one.

Previous generations celebrated the much prized last night of freedom with a few swift halves down the local - and that was just the blokes. Women didn't get in on the act until the 60s - and then it was just a sedate few glasses of fizz at the bride-to-be's home; which is nothing compared to the week long extravaganzas that women throw these days.

Previously, folk didn't stray that far from their front door - therefore everyone at the hen knew each other; all lived locally, everyone knew someone who knew someone's brother's aunt's dog. Now-a-days there are the hen's school mates, the Uni buddies, the colleagues, the stray mate that they met on a trip to Tenerife and still facebook monthly, their waxer, the girl in the flat beneath them, and Jules and Jen who they met at that hilarious speed dating night in 2003.... Why on earth Jules and Jen want to fork out for a week in some gawdawful Spanish resort with a bunch of GHD wielding women that they have never met before, lord only knows - but people do this!

Even if a hen doesn't expect the obligatory week in the sun - they will expect a girls' weekend filled with 'activities' and 'pampering,' which means being taught to pole dance by a woman in pink lycra called Charlene and having an unsatisfactory facial which brings you out in a rash for the rest of the weekend.

It isn't just this forced joviality in some cut price Jury's Inn in a seaside resort that brings me out in hives; my real bug bear is the decoration: the penis straws, chocolates, hats, glasses etc etc. At the best of times, no one wants a cock dangling in front of their faces - so why on earth do I want to wear millions of them and parade around a nightclub? Do men hit their stag do's wearing comedy tits? No - they pay women to get theirs out instead. Then there is the veil, the L plates (who is she trying to kid? She's shagged three quarters of the rugby team and that was before she left school...) the boas, the deeley-boppers and all the tat that screams 'I win the prize! I hooked a bloke! I am getting him up that aisle! GET ME!'

The guests are all forced into tight pink T shirts, or some fancy dress garb; to hit a restaurant,(Look at us - we are FUN!) then bar, then bar, then club, then another club - like a pack of pink screeching hyenas, braying for just one more shot. It aint pretty.

What you're wondering is, for all my bitching, did I have a hen do? Well, of sorts. I had close friends round to my best mate's house for a BBQ, followed by an evening at a comedy club. I figured I was asking people to fork out enough cash by having them fly to Ireland for my nuptials - plus there is the outfit, the gift, the accommodation etc. The last thing I wanted was mates to have to spunk a load of cash on a hen... I insisted on no tat - and my buddies, being my buddies, ignored me completely, just to piss me off... bless them. All in all, I got away quite lightly - not a penis or boa in sight.

This evening, my cousin's wife-to-be is having her pre-hen hen (the real do is a 5 day jaunt to a villa in Malta). I am praying that it will be a quiet meal out (nowhere that accepts 2 for 1 vouchers) followed by some decent cocktails - nothing featuring an umbrella for a start. But the minute someone tries to put a penis hat on my head, or a chocolate cock in my hand - I am outta there....


Sunday, 14 April 2013


Today, I turned 40.

To be fair, I've had a bit of a birthday week. Lunches and drinks and a massive party last night, filled with all the folk I have loved and laughed with over the years. I reckoned that with a free margarita bar, some fab Mexican food from these guys I couldn't go wrong.

Did I mention the theme was pimps and hookers through the ages? Gawd bless my mates - they really went to town. Secretly I think the boys loved getting their inner pimp on and the ladies all released their slutty sides. Outfit of the night was my mate Bangor, who dressed in the same outfit as his wife... fabulous corseted and in fishnets. We had Eyes wide shut masks, Grand theft auto characters, high class hookers and Parisian courtesans. There was a moment where I stopped to make a speech and glanced around the room at the bizarre motley crew around me and I felt so damn lucky, to know such ejits.

I may not have all the answers to my endless career/motherhood juggles; I maybe made choices based on my love of what I do rather than making money - and so am not wealthy - but what I do know at 40 is this: to have good friends (those you can call upon to cheer up your day, to make you belly laugh, to share your joys and disappointments - to support you and love you) is to be rich. And last night, as I raised the glass above to all those who celebrated with me, I felt like the wealthiest woman in the world.

40. Bring. It. On. Here's to another fabulous 40 years....

PS Thanks to Jess Mason for this fab picture!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

An alcoholic is someone you don't like, who drinks as much as you do....

Upon drinking two bottles of wine, the following is the conversation always had, when drinking with Oirish mates:

'No, I really should be going. Work in the morning and all that... (*Nobody replies*) Alright then, you've twisted me arm. One for the road!'

'One for the ditch!'

Followed by:
'For the puddle.. thing, water road thing... pothole, whatever, just keep pouring.'

'Theee... grasss verge. Here vergy vergy.'

A last, not completely honest, attempt to leave:
'No more. No more.  Pleasssssssssssse. Ok... A wee drop. A drop. Oh go on then....'

'What else you got? Yes, I drink martini bianco. God, it's lovely. What does it taste of?'


Do I learn? Never. In Ireland, you are never an alcoholic - just a 'good time drinker.' Now by good time, they mean 3 shots away from blacking out. Most of my mates drink in this fashion. It wasn't until my Australian Husband met my mates, did I question our drinking habits. Husband couldn't fathom how we could start drinking at midday and still be standing, albeit swaying side to side like a weeble (wobbling, but never falling down) at midnight. He now 'ripcords' around 8pm - just as I'm kicking off my heels and demanding the DJ play Gaga.

Now, as I approach 40 I am more aware than ever, of how other people drink. By other people, I mean the non-Irish folk I know. They all civilly sip a martini - maybe one more, and call it a night. Martini no2, for me is the mere starter. I'm only warming up. Or as we say in my neck of the woods 'getting a thirst on.'

I wish that I was one of those 'I know my limit' drinkers. But I don't - because I don't really have a limit - well, maybe when I'm talking on the big white telephone - or lying on the ground clicking my heels singing 'there's no place like home,' while people on the street step over me... But on most occasions, there is always time for 'just one more.' I've lost count of how many evenings I've been with FRIENDS WITH LIMITS and I say 'one for the road?' and they shake their healthy heads and say 'No, I'd better not.' I'm shamed into saying, 'Yeah. Better get the bill eh?' When inwardly I'm thinking, but I know my name. I know where I am - therefore, there is ALWAYS time for another. Probably more after that....

The enemy of me - the limitless drinker - is the pretend drinker. You know the type: they order a drink, stew on it forever, then move to soft drinks that look like double vodka tonics - and then the next day they joyously recount in minuscule detail just exactly how embarrassing you were. Because the beauty of drinking - is that you simply can't remember what you did. In your mind - you've been HILARIOUS, rather than the know-it-all blethering mess that you were. But the pretend drinker - they know the truth and by god, they're gonna tell it. Or worse, have a little video on their phone. Bless them.

I want to be a pretend drinker. Or those social types that always have a glass in hand but pace themselves so anything more than a three units and they've called a cab. These people remember to take their make up off, whereas I'm lucky to take my clothes off, and they return home with keys and their phone and not the hot barman who is barely 20.

But I am not this type of drinker. I am a lush. Or maybe one step up the ladder from that...
From the first delicious sip, Mama alcohol has me in her grip. I want more. I want the initial buzz, n the glowing haze, the slurry warm comfortable lull, that segues into 'I'm ten foot tall and bullet roof - and I dance like BeyoncĂ© - WATCH!'  I want that next drink. Followed by a shot....

So, as my liver prepares for the carnage that will be my 40th birthday party (whoop - next Saturday!!!) I salute those that know how to drink gracefully. Who neck a swift few over dinner and then have a coffee, rather than grab a bottle of port. They wake up feeling frisky and are celebrating 40 by entering marathons. I am celebrating 40 by having a margarita bar at my party, making everyone dress as pimps and hookers through the ages and forcing the DJ to play such classics as 'If I could turn back time.' What is a party without tequila and Cher, I ask you?

 If I remember any of it - it won't have been a good night....

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Welcome to the House of Fun

Oh yeah - It's just been a freakin' partay round these parts. Whoop! Whoop!

Where to begin? Well for a start - Easter - a relentless dull holiday - with no actual purpose (sorry religious folk - but it just draaaagggggggggs) and then my children turning into demons: Sproglette is teething and she has become the GRINCH. She has gone green and everything. She whines and she stamps and she moans and she cries  - and that is before she has even got out of her cot in the morning. Oh yes, no moving to a bed for Grinchy-chops. She's gonna stay in that cot prison and have her own little vomit protest - yep, she coughs so much she pukes. I may never eat cottage cheese again.

Meanwhile Sproglet is having some MAJOR testosterone rushes or something because he is answering back, stomping his feet and then adopting a stance just like the Hulk man - Eric whatsisface - before he shreds his threads and becomes all green. Sproglet wishes he could go green. He just screams and shakes instead. All very manly. So they rage and I try to keep calm and then I rage. And I drink wine, until I go green. I am sure that aint in the parenting handbook, but whatdoIcare? If I didn't drink at this point - I may run off with the circus. Or anyone.

So Easter passed - with everyone I know seeing family and mates and posting jolly photos on facebook - while I felt lonely and frustrated. Funny, I'm having a party in a week for 100 people - and yet, yes, I can still feel lonely. Something is rotten in Denmark - but I'll have to sort that out another time - because I have other fish to fry.

Husband rings up on Monday evening. Picture the scene: I have cooked a roast - my best mate came over and declared after 2 hours that my kids were doing her head in. She is godmother to them, loves them - but even she, the most patient of folk, was ready to string them up. I served up and Sproglette refused to even LOOK at my roasted sweet potatoes, creamed leeks, garlic lemon chicken, sugared carrots and peas and corn. Sproglet - all MANLY - asked for the leg. Then kind of sucked it and spat it out. 'A bit too slimey' was his declaration. So my best mate and I tried to jolly along through this dinner, and then the phone goes.

Husband announces that the wheel has come off the car. But it is ok - it just gave a massive pop and then a crunch and then the car went one way and he pulled over and was now holding up a lane of traffic and being honked at. It took many phone calls and much stress to get a tow truck to him - he got home FIVE hours later. Not a happy bunny. Reminded me of someone - oh yes, our kids.

And so began our journey into the land of insurance hell. Oh yes - the 'we'll pick your car up today and then when we have ticked a million fucking boxes and stressed the fuck out of you, we will ask more questions and then maybe, just maybe we will sort a courtesy car for you.' Except they (once again) brought the wrong tow truck to collect our car - and so this further held up the 'estimate.' They promised to call back and never did. So today - when they said it would take hours as the 'initial' estimate was in - but not a decision on whether or not the car was 'a total loss' I went all Grinch like myself. No, more Hulk. I screamed, I raged, I cried. Then I got some manager woman on the phone and finally a hire car arrived at 4pm.

But it turns out that once we pay our £400 excess and they take off 8 months insurance (as we have a contract until Dec) there aint much left... Joy! Oh, and the even better news - is that when I pay the excess on some other excess on the hire car - and more stuff - then they will come and take the fecking car back 48 hours after they pay out. And boy do they want to pay out quick - because gawd forbid you have the hire care for the 21 days you are obliged to in your insurance. God forbid insurance would EVER work in your favour.

I keep thinking of that scene in The Incredibles where Mr Incredible helps the old lady as she has so many freakin' clauses and what nots she is entitled to, well, nothing. I am that little old lady and no one is being my Mr Incredible.

So Saturday - the one day I was planning on ditching the demons and having some much needed me time - the week before the big 4 0 and all that head fuckery it brings - Husband and I now have to go to the seventh circle of hell - no, not a soft play area - that is in fact preferable... no, we'll be off to some car warehouse trying to get a cheap deal. Last time I went to one of those it took 7 hours. I can't wait. 7 hours with Husband and his frayed nerves. It'll be like a date, but with no hope of a smooch at the end.

The stress of it all is quite unbelievable. No one wants to help you when you call up Admiral - am naming and shaming -  unless you end up a stressed sobbing mess. Meanwhile, as I have been writing this Sproglette (Grinchy) has been sick twice. Once all over Husband. He is near breaking point.

I remind myself that we are all here and well and healthy. Well apart Sproglette and her cough and teething and nappies from hell. So you know, it's all good. No, really it is. Welcome to our house of fun - wanna visit??