Pampered calves wreak reverse revenge

I blame my gran for surely one of the most soul-destroying hours I’ve ever experienced. If I think about it I could probably blame her for some of the most-soul destroying months, nay years, of my entire life, but let’s stick with Saturday shall we?

My gran, or the Mary Nana, made many pronouncements on many things, ranging from Oliver Cromwell through teeth to shoes. Many of these same pronouncements did in fact have a vestige of truth and were rooted in her early experience of life, as the eldest girl in a large Catholic family of girls, and one poor lad. Though she was also mistress of the biting wit and searing repartee and there was no questioning how funny she could be. Oft cruel but oh so funny!

I need you to imagine the following uttered in a faux genteel Glasgow accent, her Mrs McFlannel as we called it – never to her! – “if yourrr feet arrre soore yourrr face is pure scunnered.” I realise a bit of a translation might be necessary, so for ‘scunnered’ read sour, screwed up, pained. In other words, not pretty! I first remember hearing this in a Clarks shoe shop, in October 1968, on a Saturday afternoon at about 2pm. It was the day I discovered that I had big feet, while also discovering that I could actually get slightly cooler shoes because I had big feet. The very sweet shop girl pointed to the extended choice that was now open to me and I near swooned. The rest of me was 9 years old but my feet were teenagers!  But the Mary Nana scuppered those childhood dreams, and yes several more, but perhaps more of that in another blogpost. Her pronouncement boomed out across the shoe shop, terrifying the Saturday lassies, only just coming to terms with the technology of the Clark’s foot measuring stools so recently introduced. They were being forced to consider that they alone were responsible for all the sour faced Glaswegian women stalking the streets in shoes that looked fabulous but were in fact pure agony.

And that was that. Other than a predilection for platforms shoes (which to be fair are often only flat shoes perched on scaffolding) in the 70s to this day I tend to favour comfort over fashion. I love a brogue, and I have an embarrassingly large collection of Converse, canvas supermarket cheapos and Birkenstock look-alikes. All the boots I possess all manage to look slightly threatening in their utilitarian clumpiness, and are mainly chosen for the fact that in the unlikely event that their anti-slip soles wear out my local cobbler can replace with similar. I am after all a Scot living in Yorkshire.

I can remember every instance of the ‘pure scunnered’ face where new, usually high heeled shoes, were worn: a romantic stroll around London in fabulous green Dolcis strappy, wedges; a pivotal evening in a budding relationship that should’ve involved dancing, but couldn’t…. But every so often I want to look down upon the feet of an elegant, stylish woman;  to gaze upon the pointed toe and to wear heels that let me look into the eyes of the rest of world without feeling the shame of inadequate footwear. Nah, that’s not true! But the shoe lust does occur occasionally, as testified to by the boxes under the bed…

Right, back to Saturday.  For a while now I have lusted after boots of the sort that other ‘gone blonde’ women seem to sport as a matter of course. Their legs encased in trousers from Zara, or jeans definitely not bought in Sainsbury’s, and their lower legs gleaming in fabulous boots to the knee, they stride forth taking no prisoners.  The shops are full of the damned things so clearly I need to own a pair.

It should’ve been easy. I selected five different pairs, five different makes, of sleek gorgeousness, and the Saturday girl tootled off to the dark recesses of the pain chamber and returned under a pile of large boxes. I was near breathless with trepidacious excitement at the woman I was to become.

And the result? I have calves. Properly well-developed, indeed some might say shapely, calves; moulded and rounded through years of the sole of the foot properly connecting with the ground, not honed and narrowed through years of high heel-induced perching. I couldn’t pull the pull-up variety much beyond my ankle, or zip the zip that final all-important 3cm.  Yup, not for me the gone blonde, confident, stylish woman in her fabulous 50s stride. The Saturday girl, bless, made that sound we all know and love – ‘aaaoooh’ and was clearly flummoxed by what else to offer by way of commiseration at my calf quandary. It wasn’t anything she’d encountered before apparently. Yes, that helped my self-esteem no end.

I walked through the city, heart heavy with thoughts of my leg inadequacy, but the Mary Nana’s words came back to me and I let my eyes shift from those glossy gone blonde women’s boot shod feet to their faces. My heart soared once more. Pure scunnered looking, every one.

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Knees, toes and bumpsadaisy

As much as I love the sunshine in March it means my clothing conundrum has hit slightly earlier than normal. I am a creature of habit as far as seasonal clothes are concerned. Skirts and mega dernier black tights are de rigeur pour moi in the winter months, while trousers are my leg covering of choice when the sun comes out. Oh and I don’t do leggings.

But there’s that cusp point, isn’t there? The sun comes out and my non-winter wardrobe is for the most part still in suitcases under the bed. I have a nice range of ‘tween season dresses but I cannot bring myself to wear black tights, and winter trousers just aren’t right are they?! Considerable effort is needed to put my legs out there, and my life really is not long enough.

And don’t get me started on what to wear on my feet! These feet are not for exposing to the elements just yet.

Though apparently it’s just me. A Monday morning through the streets of my hometown exposed me to much flesh, which the local populace felt they must put out there because the sun had got his hat on, hip, hip, hip, hooray and all that. Sleeveless, shirtless, legless – and less is just not more!

Don’t you love a trivial issue on a Monday?!

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I wonder what their mothers are wearing?

When I was researching my blogging niche I became an avid reader of several fashion blogs, particularly by Leeds-based bloggers. There are some great blogs around, and I am very taken with the ‘What I’m wearing today’ posts of a couple of local lasses especially A Little Bird Told Me

You will all be relieved to know, if you hadn’t already guessed, that fashion wasn’t an obvious niche for me to fall into. That’s not to say I don’t have some fairly wishy-washy ideas on most items of fashion, and some real dislikes – leggings, unironic glitter and gilt on t-shirts to name but two of what I realise is possibly a really long list (hey, I’m in my 50s, I’ve earned the right to an opinion or two!) – but a lack of a decent camera for starters and a preference for early or all day pyjamas meant that I parked that notion early on.

But one thing that kept springing to mind as I read the words and perused the lovely fashion pics was ‘I wonder what their mothers are wearing?’

It seems to me that most fashion bloggers are around the age of my eldest, most of them presumably have mothers, and most of these mothers are presumably not naturists. I have limited evidence for each of these suppositions, but it’s my blog and I’ll assume if I want to.

So, I’m a mother, and I’m very definitely not a naturist. In fact my first and only encounter with naturists began with me falling down some steps, landing face down on a beach and several naturists rushing over to help me stand up. I think you can guess what was at eyelevel as I stood up. I was young, it was awkward. Let’s leave it there.
I’m a mother who wears clothes. But more importantly I’m a mother in her 50s who wears clothes, and I know there are a lot of us about. Advice on what to wear predates Trinny and Susannah with their aversion to wearing red with black and a predilection for manhandling boobs. I remember The Clothes Show when it was on telly and not just an event off the M42, but thankfully Caryn Franklin remains sensible and stylish. But advice on what to wear as a woman of a certain age has proven itself an intellectually interesting exercise as far as I’m concerned. There’s either nothing in the shops that’s suitable hence Mary Portas sets up her own solution for women in their 40s (hello!!) (and check out House of Fraser online sale for 50% off deals on the same) or we’re told that of course we can wear anything as long as we know what shape we are and never fail to flaunt the bits we like à la Gok. And this usually takes it back to boobs. Again.

Personally I find the strident or chummy approach a not too happy reminder of several of my old school prefects. My instinct is to nod obediently, smile sweetly, then ignore them entirely.  I can’t escape the knowledge that someone wants me to buy something that they’ve chosen for me, something suitable for a woman of a certain age. No scrap that: not just a woman of a certain age but a woman in her 50s. Marketing chappies have researched me like mad apparently and lo and behold this is what I should aspire to look like… like loads of other women. Yes all that market research, and I’m not convinced any of the go get ‘em marketers either looked at or spoke to their mums, and seemingly it means looking like loads of other women in their 50s. Loads of women in their 50s, trying desperately to look like we are not in our 50s, which paradoxically results in women in their 50s looking like women trying not to look like they’re in their 50s. Phew! And I’m not even going to mention the anti-ageing bombardment. Not yet anyway…

While I don’t intend to set up a fashion blog I thought I might occasionally throw in my thoughts and my recent finds and pad out the page that I bewilderingly named Knowing Looks! I don’t intend to offer any advice, I’m just going to throw out some information about latest purchases, favourite items (the first that springs to mind is my gorgeous Ghost olive green velvet jacket, bought at Harvey Nicks in Leeds in its opening week and still going strong. In fact my daughter has asked that I pass it on to her. Sooner rather than later I’m guessing), bargains I have found and looks I am loving and hating. And yes that means I will probably have to add some pics. The horror!

Could be fun. Could be an unmitigated disaster! We’ll see, shall we?

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