Sunday, 28 November 2010

And the winner is...!

Thank you to everyone who entered my recent CSN Stores giveaway.

I am very happy to announce that the winner is:



ALI!

Well done Ali! Please all give her a big clap and while your at it, why not visit her blog Another Shoot, it's fab!

Ali, please email me your email address so you can claim your £25 voucher! You can get me at hannah_renowdenATyahoo.co.uk.

:)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Folk Radio UK


 Today I am not at work.  Work recently has been an unending onslaught of change, to-do lists that don't get done and customers already starting to crack under christmas' knuckly grip.  Like anyone whose job gets a bit on top of them, the days when you don't have to go in are glorious.  I am currently reclining on my sofa, tea is sitting with me as are biscuits.  If I didn't have to take the bins out I wouldn't even be contemplating getting dressed.  I intend to read, write a bit and watch some films.  All the things I promise myself I will do on days off but always end up feeling guilty about.  I always think I should be out at the shops providing items for my man, or scrubbing under the sofa, or painting the ceiling.  But, apart from the bins, I'm going to do none of those things.

It is rather wonderful then that I have discovered the perfect website to provide the soundtrack to all my whimsical doing nothing-ness.  Folk Radio UK is a Bristol based station pouring gloriousness all over my ears.  I love the radio, but apart from BBC 6 Music I find it very difficult to find stations that play music I want to hear.  The last time I listened to Radio 1 was probably the weekend Blur beat Oasis to number one.  I wrote the other day about feeling lost in Topshop amongst the young and the backcombed, I feel a hundred times more disillusioned when I have to endure any popular music at the moment.  To me Rhianna is a girl who could sing the sweetest love song and still make it sound like pornography, Katy Perry, I'm sure is a cartoon character and RnB is just about owning lots of things and having sex with stuff now isn't it?  It's all a bit "dirrrrrrrty" and a bit cringy.

Folk Radio UK is therefore my haven.  I have been listening for an hour now and only heard one song I have heard before, everything else is new to my ears and everything is EXCELLENT. I already have a rather long list of CDs  my life is now incomplete without. I'm very excited about ploughing through the mixes provided on the site. The Lost in The Meadow mix sounds lovely  and just what I need on a day where I haven't heard from the sun in a while.  Folk, tea, biscuits and the ability to relax make for a perfect day.  What more do you need on a grey Thursday afternoon when you have promised not to do much?  To have already put the bins out, that's what.  I'll go and sort the rubbish and let you tune in.  

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hello flattering pleating, goodbye jumpers with cats on

ZARA
Photo by Dmitry Valberg

There comes a time in every girl's life when they exit TopShop and cross the road into Zara.  At 27 I feel it is my time to take that leap of faith.  This week I wandered into TopShop, ever allured by their bright pink SALE promises and I had to rub my eyes and blink a few times to convince myself I hadn’t wandered into the local under 18s disco.  All around me were girls who looked about 17 but were probably only 12. Their mother's credit cards were smoldering in their pockets.  Atop their heads were nests of perfectly messed up hair – that ever so boho look of backcombing the life out of it and scraping it from one side of the head to the other in a big ragamuffin halo.  Satchels entangled with satchels and fake thick rimmed glasses were pushed and pushed and pushed up blackhead-less noses in an orgy of phony myopia.  There was more 80s knitwear adorning 16 year old shoulders than there was in 1988. My sister, a TRUE 80s child, could only have envisioned such glorious sights after a trunk load of spangles and opal fruits.

It was too much, and before I even had time to fondle a pair of floaty culottes I was back out on the street sweating and worried.  I staggered drunk on other people’s mums perfume and crawled along the pavement. I had been shunned by the goddess of high street style. My ancient, late 20s bones shivered in my sack of a body.  I dragged myself along the wet pavement of Glasgow, a lost sheep without a flock until suddenly I was saved.  There looming over me like a mother ship was Zara.  She took me in, bathed me in space and light and wrapped my broken body in as much tweed-lite material as I could take.  

I had always avoided Zara, everything in the window looked a bit pricey, a bit *nice*, a bit……grown up.  But on a grey day in October I was enlightened.  Everything was gorgeous, I wanted, NO NEEDED every item in every colour.  The knitwear made me weep, I clutched the 100% wool labels like they were the tiny hands of my first born.  I sniffed the real leather shoes and skipped about high on its perfume.  The scarves were silken, the blazers were elbow patched, and the staff floated about unseen, there were no catty looks up and down - I was just left alone to indulge.

Zara has the layout and feel of a shop that could almost be designer, but the prices are the same, if not lower than Topshop….who knew? But unlike Topshop everyone in there seemed to be over 21; careful shoppers, taking their time to try things on, run their fingers over seams and select other items to make a complete outfit.  There was no rushing about, no shrieking, no loud indie rock, no bird nests and everyone in glasses (including me) seemed to have a medical necessity for wearing them.  I was shopping amongst adults and I liked it. 

But, it isn’t perfect – the tables were untidy – t-shirts looked like they had just come out the spin cycle and been discarded.  And the sizing is WEIRD.  I'm usually about a 10 in most places, but Zara clothes are teeeeny tiiiiiny wiiiiny ittttty so be warned.  Take a deep breath and put your inevitable weight gain down to international body differences.  I need a size 12 (if not 14!!)  skirt in Zara. I forgive them though, because its all very lovely and I'd rather have to big up for something gorgeous than be flattered by a size 10 or 8 item that is just OK.

We all need to grow up sometimes, and it can hurt.  But somethings about leaving your 20s are OK – you can eat olives without thinking about grapes, you don’t feel weird about spending Saturday night selecting a “nice loaf” for Sunday morning and you can wear tweed and elbow patches without looking like a geography teacher. Unless of course that’s the look you are going for, or you actually are a geography teacher. 

So my sisters and brothers who are crossing the road into the adult world and pulling on sensible, yet stylish knitwear, I salute you.

Monday, 15 November 2010

GIVEAWAY TIME!

N-Night
 It's getting a bit cold isn't it? If you are anything like me you are turning your mind to nesting.  I shall be stocking up on scented candles, flavoured hot beverages and thinking about getting some new bedroom furniture.  The kingdom of duvet is where I shall be living for the next few months so it only seems right.

If you ARE like me then you are clearly very lucky, which is the perfect attribute for winning my new competition.  The lovely folks at CSN Stores are giving away a whopping £25 to one of my readers to spend on any of thier UK websites.  Why not get yourself a little something, or even better, sort out that tricky Christmas present.

As before, all you need to do is leave me a comment on this here post and your name will enter the bowler hat of destiny to hopefully be drawn at random.  Competition will close at midnight on Saturday 27th November (Saturday night/Sunday morning (one of you was bound to ask)).

Good luck!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Last Nights Apprentice ep 4

Firstly let me apologise for not adorning your screens with a round-up last week.  I was incredibly shaken by the departure of Shibby.  A week of silence has helped the healing process, and I am happy to say that I'm back.  I have been told Shibby has gone to the farm where all the wrongly fired Apprentice contestants go.  Here they get to pitch successfully all day long and their order books are always full.  Knowing this I have peace. So onwards!

This week our Apprenti were trying to peddle innovation items.  As much as the sight of a woman holding a very hot looking hair dryer next to a very real looking baby doll disturbs me I'm just glad there wasn't any food involved.  I had fears this series was rapidly turning into ApprenticeChef. 

Jaime took the reigns of team Synergy after Melissa "that will be £1.82 for a bread roll" Cohen and her "skill set" was unanimously voted off the role.  Melissa, Melissa, Melissa.  What an irritable little ghetto pigeon she is. I don't think there was a scene in this episode where she wasn't rolling her eyes or doing that infuriating "err duh" face. 

I always get worried when a constantent says something I know I would have said. Something that leads them to being in the boardroom and nearly fired. I was right there with Stuart when he asked the Babyglow pitcher about how white the romper suit would have to go before a parent would need to raise an alarm.  OK so I might not have mentioned dead babies, but knowing how white is too white is surely quite important?  But bringing up infant mortality proved to be a clanger and the designer chose Apollo to take her product to trade.  Along with the babyglow Apollo picked the t-shirt that promised to suck in a man's gut, a bit like a Bruce Willis girdle while poor old Synergy were left with a high pressure money saving shower head and wait for it....a double headed spade. Sexy.

If you needed a double headed spade and a high pressure shower to wash off all the soil you have been turning over, where would you immediately head to?  Id go somewhere famed for it's wedding list service and mid-priced high street fashion.  Which is why I don't find it odd that Melissa was completely unwavering in her bulldog pitch to Debenhams.  I mean, what losers, why say no to two products that would sell massive amounts of units next to The Principles concession and in the perfume aisle?  Idiots.  Let down by a dodgy demo shower, even a DIY supplier didn't give no pitch love to Melissa.  Geez. Stewart's “calculator” face from ep 1 has been replaced in my hate brain by the vision of him biting into that shower head in a desperate attempt to weld the thing together with his fillings. I'm just glad he wasn’t pitching that weird porn Pilate's machine – an image for Halloween if ever there was one. 

Three girls that could have done with a high pressure shower were Apollo's Laura, Paloma and Sandeesh who were one huff away from having a brawl outside a shop in Soho. Personally I hope these three are forever trapped with one another just so I can witness a three-way hand slap fest in the boardroom and hear another rousing speech from Karren about how they are letting down humanity.  How can three grown up and successful women behave like this?  I'm sure that just over Laura's shoulder I could see the shop keeper creeping over to shut the door behind her, turning the key whilst silently flipping over the "closed" sign. 

In-fighting aside Apollo won, or more accurately Liz "the sane female taking part" won.  Her careful and understated pitching secured a bazillion orders and quite possibly saved a number of future babies from dangerous temperature increases.  Liz and those other people she hung about with for a day were sent off to a spa to sniff piles of fire and get covered in mud.  Synergy on the other hand (though clearly not the same day) sat in the boardroom for a bit and waited for the inevitable....

The axe fell on Mellissa for her annoying, repetitive and bizarre pitching "skills".  And though I will miss her incredible use of the English language, anyone who defends them self with the line “What has my ability to pitch got to do with how well the pitch went?” deserves to go.  Her refusal to shake Jamie's hand and accusations that he and Stewart "ganged up" on her only heaped more embarrassing female behaviour to the already rotting pile that has been exhibited in this series. Threatening another woman to stop shouting "because if we are going to shout, I can shout louder" is tacky and painful. Thank goodness for Liz, Stella and of course the wonderful Karren, who appeared to have taken inspiration for her boardroom outfit from a 1980's Avon catalogue.

P.S. Did anyone else recognise the guy pitching the face lift welding mask? Has he been on Dragons Den?

Bookworms get your purses ready!

I almost didn't want to tell anyone about this website, it's that awesome.  The kind of awesome you want to keep secret.  I was planning on buying everything from it and nonchalantly brushing off any enquires of "where did you get that amazingly awesome item?" with "oh just this place...you won't know it".  But Christmas is coming and everyone needs ideas of what to get me close relatives and extra special friends.

If those close relatives and extra special friends like books then you need to take your debit (or credit) card along to The Literary Gift Company.  This website is a gem and you will be sure to find something for the bookworm in your life.

For example, does your bookworm like cooking?  Well why not get them a retro Ladybird cake tin? Bargainously brilliant at just £5.95, this was one of my first purchases.


Does your bookworm like to adorn themself in a tie whilst projecting a well-read air? They do?! Well what about this:


Do they, like me, have an unhealthy addiction to tote bags? Well The Literary Gift Company offers many glorious examples of the eco carrier.  I am currently dusting down my shoulder in anticipation of this one


Perfect, for those moments on the early bus when reading alone isn't enough to stop the troublesome person next to you from nattering away. 

But the items I am probably most in anxious need of are the book cover posters.  I have the To Kill a Mockingbird one (and another one is awaiting to spread Christmas joy onto one lucky soul's wall) and they make a refreshing change from the familiar icons we all tack up to show what we like and that.  Band and film prints are just so last year


Oh....and once you have bought me someone special something, you will probably need some cool parcel tape to wrap it up with. Welllllll, those good chaps at The LGC have just gone ahead and thought of everything:

 Genius!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Death, Love and Cliches.

365.282 - it gets better
Picture by Nettsu

Four years ago tonight my dad died.  This is a fact. It is "something about me". It is a "defining moment" in my life.  It is something I think about everyday. It is what makes and breaks me.

The night it happened was the worst night imaginable.  The pain that coursed through our family was immense. It came like a tsunami and it drowned us.  For days and days and days we bobbed about in the aftermath in absolute danger of turning into ghosts ourselves.  This huge character that bound us together, that was absurd and brilliant, a pain and a know-it-all had simply vanished.  One minute he was there, the next he wasn't. Simple as that.

But I am not the only person to have ever lost someone and do not want to claim bereavement as "my thing". I will be eternally grateful for my friends at that time, the ones who knew when and how to talk about it.  The friends who stopped me with all their might from becoming "The Girl Whose Dad Just Died".  They resuscitated me with coffee, odd days out and blissful silences.  But when you lose someone you love throughout your soul you have to become an expert on how to cope otherwise that soul is in danger of shrivelling up.  It is a lesson you learn whether you know it or not.  Death, like love, is hounded by cliches, but I'm not ashamed to tell you that time does heal.

And the best medicine to aid the healing process? Oh yes, it's laughter. 

This was a hard lesson to learn and one I resisted as long as possible.  I don't think I even spoke coherent sentences for a while and as for laughing, it was something I was sure could never happen again.  My wonderful sister had other ideas.  At first I couldn't understand how she could buzz about still smiling, being charming to people.  She didn't seem to be feeling what I was.  But of course she was.  She was hit by the same waves and hurt in the same way.  But she understood my dad and knew that she needed to be like him.  I witnessed my dad loose his mother and brother.  He allowed himself one day on both occasions to sit mutely in his chair.  The next morning he came back.  He realised life was about the living and that we needed him to give the ok to the light and laughter.  My sister knew this too and I bow to her wisdom and thank her for calling out to us as we floundered in the shallows.

It is not a suprise to me then, that when I eventually did reach the shore I sought out the one person I knew would have me laughing for the rest of my life.  The one person I can be completely myself around.  I can be irrational, over the top, pathetic and embarrassing and this person takes it all in his stride. He sees through everything I would otherwise hide.  He keeps me afloat each day by filling my life with nonsense and comedy.  He does this unflinchingly and no matter how hard I try and plunge into a depression he just won't let me.  He may be miserable himself, he may be tired but making me happy is at the top of his to-do list. This is as close to unconditional love as you will find outside a bloodline and I adore it.  Hope and survival doesn't just rely on you finding someone like this, but it helps.  I cannot underplay how much this person's role in my life has enabled me to get up in the mornings, to get on with things and to bloody well allow myself happiness.

The one thing I will always regret is that my dad never got to meet Martin, but I won't dwell on it.  I know that the pair of them would have been firm friends and my dad would be full of thanks.  This is a fact.
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