Monday, 26 January 2015

School-gate Fashionista

Nearly three years have passed since, inspired by a new generation of mummy bloggers, I shared my tips on how to conquer the school-gate catwalk. Things change in three years. Fashion moves on, circumstances alter and body parts start slipping. High time, therefore, that I show you how my style has evolved to meet the demands of 2015 and how you too can get the look that turns heads on the school run - or, in our case, hike.

Logistically, this sharing has proved a challenge. My usual photographer has started secondary school and is unavailable and the Vicar eats muesli at 8.30am and can't be disturbed. Moreover, the 10-year-old has refused to capture some of my more, er, retro ensembles. Here, however, is a photo log of my sartorial week so you can see how a woman's wardrobe moves with the times.


2012                                        2015

Some of the striking fashion differences in this picture can be explained by the fact that the first was taken at the beginning of summer and the most recent in mid January. Winter, for instance, calls for The Hat. The Hat guarantees you stunned stares from fellow parents and is a useful nesting place for tissues when you don't have pockets. It was a Christmas present from my mother three years ago, so you'll have to guess the price and origins. The scarf was courtesy of the Vicar and, if moth holes are as reliable an indicator of age as tree rings, it's passed its fifth birthday and is equally priceless. Who needs plastic surgery with a coat like this (£32 from Harpers Bazaar army surplus stores in Malvern)? Beneath it I'm wearing tartan pyjamas (Primark £8) and a pair of pink bedsocks (99p from the 99p Stores). The most obvious transformation is the wellies. Alas, my original Hunters only lasted two years before admitting several gallons of the local stream on one morning commute. This replacement pair was also a present from my mother. Genuine Hunters, don't you know. Price on application. Total price: £40.99 and some. Plus the Hunters.


The secret of sartorial success is to turn heads while adapting seamlessly to circumstance. My legs are modelling skinny jeans (£21 from M&S before you were born). Luckily the coat (£32 from Harpers Bazaar army surplus store) hides the evidence that cream is far too pale a hue for the unpredictability of our route to school. If you zoom in you'll see the label on those boots show they're genuine Hunters. Total price: £74 plus The Hat and Hunters.


Ditto Tuesday. The jeans are the same as yesterday. No point muddying two pairs of trousers. Note the designer Hunters which lift the whole ensemble. Total cost: £74 plus the Hunters.


2012                                                            2015  

A menacing forecast and a tardy alarm clock mean we're driving today. That allows the mud to dry on my army waterproofing while I show off my contours in spring green. The coat was bought in the Next Christmas sale in 2007. £35 I think it was.  I should point out to those wanting instant gratification that that coveted distressed vintage look takes years of patience to achieve. Within it I'm sporting a skirt bought in the same Christmas sales as the coat, only across the mall at Boden (£35), and a jumper from Debenhams (£20) with Oxfam polyknit as insulation(£4). The boots bore a £180 price tag from Hobbs. To calm me, the assistant told me they should last five years. Ten years on they still have most of their parts attached. Total price: £274.


If you want to speed up the morning drop-off, wear moss green corduroy cut-offs and watch your little ones sprint the last hundred yards to school to avoid being seen with you. These were £4 from Barnardo's in Godalming. The average property price in Godalming is £513,000, so probably these crops were worn by a stockbroker's wife before me. The day after this picture was taken, though, they mysteriously disappeared from my wardrobe. You'll notice the scarf and coat have changed. It's essential for a woman's wardrobe to show variety. The former was a tenner from Covent Garden market. The latter is a genuine designer Barbour, although not the right kind of genuine designer Barbour according to the 12-year-old who only recognises the shiny quilted Gold Label Glamour range. A tissue in the pocket dates it to circa 2008 when I bought a box of Superdrug multi-coloured 2-ply by mistake. £80 as I recall (the Barbour, not the tissues). And no, those aren't my Hunters. I had to borrow the 12-year-old's wellies due to an aquatic calamity on yesterday's school hike home. But I hope you appreciate that they still bear the Hunters label (£19 from TK Maxx). Total cost: £113.

Now it's your turn. How do you combine glamour and adaptability on the obstacle course that is the school run?

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not for Publication

The 10-year-old is sagging over his homework book. He has, he explains, to write about Something Funny that has happened in the family.

An unwanted thought comes to mind: 'You know that story I was telling yesterday about Great Grandma's lavatory light switch and the chipolata?' I say.
'Oh yes!' he exclaims, brightening.
'Just make sure you don't use that one.'

There's a crestfallen pause. Then he perks up.
'What about the thing you and Auntie did at Christmas with the Brussels sprout?'
'That,' I say firmly, 'is not for publication.'

Further silence. A procession of memories discomforts me. I censor each one of them and cast urgently about for an example of wholesome hilarity which will show the vicarage in decorous light in the school staff room. 'I suppose you could use the humping game,' I suggest doubtfully. The humping game is a high-suspense competition involving ant hills and always takes place in public. The 12-year-old groans: 'That's not funny, Mum, that's just sad.'

I decide that the safest option is for the 10 year-old to make something up. 'But don't make it embarrassing or undignified,' I say, 'and show it to me first because Dad has to face school assembly tomorrow.'

A short while later he returns with a scribbled sheet. 'Mum and Auntie were washing up,' he reads out. 'Us kids went rushing in because of the terrible noise. They were both wearing saucepans on their heads and yelling a Tina Turner song into a potato masher. We thought it would be safer to join in so we all grabbed kitchen utensils as microphones and then Grandpa stuck his head round the door and waved his good leg to the music and Dad rushed in to complain about the noise, but even he couldn't resist and he grabbed a whisk and began boogying round Mum's tea towel.'

'That,' I say, 'is very original. There's only one problem.'
'What's that?' asks the 10-year-old.
'You might have to read it out in class and, as you know perfectly well, it's the gospel truth!'

Auntie in washing up mode

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Friday, 16 January 2015

A Day Off

9.15am Return from the muddy two-mile hike to and from school drop-off.

9.40am Arrive in church No I to set out forty chairs and six tables for the community singing group. Commence nine commutes down the aisle with the water jug to fill up the tea urn.

11.00am  Serve tea to 107 singers.

11.20am Wash up 107 tea cups in the last three inches of hot water dispensed by the tea urn.

Noon Clear away forty chairs and six tables.

1.30pm Chaperone the Vicar's cassock on an emergency dash to the dry cleaner.

2.40pm Repeat the muddy mile to church No II by the school to fill the tea urn.

3.15pm Serve tea and squash to 13 parents and children.

4.15pm Clear away 13 tea and squash cups and mop juvenile footprints off the new laminate in the church hall.

5.00pm Start writing a press release on the Heritage Lottery grant towards the church organ appeal .

5.30pm Return to church No I to make up 12 mattresses for the winter night shelter. Set out three tables and 14 chairs for the guests. Commence nine commutes down the aisle with the water jug to fill up the tea urn.

In the midst of the mass irrigation of singers, an elderly lady pauses to receive a cup of tea from me: 'So,' she says conversationally, 'you're not working today then?'

 Do you work?!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sunday School

It's 8.53am. In seven minutes my Sunday school is due to start a mile up the road, unless, by divine providence, the Vicar has forgotten his sermon notes again and has to dash back home to retrieve them.

I am supposed to be in the church hall laying out pots of craft glue and orange plastic chairs for my handful of young charges. Instead I am on my knees in the vicarage guest room, rummaging through the wardrobe for a ball of brown wool. It's impossible, I've realised, to explain the baptism of Jesus without brown wool.

All I can find is a skein of glittery red tapestry thread. Jesus and John the Baptist will have to be scarlet-headed punk rockers rearing out of a tissue-paper River Jordan. It's now 8.57am. Only the 10-year-old is coated and shod, ready for the high-octane speed trip in the Skoda. The 12-year-old is lying across her bed wearing one leg of a pair of track suit bottoms and diamante headphones. The amorous agonies of Jesse J have deafened her to my bellowed summons. 'Nothing to worry about!' she says as she hunts out coordinating accessories. 'Sunday's meant to be all about lying in!'

9.03am and we are careering up the lane where the church is. The congregation is already half way through the first hymn as I sprint to the door, sowing Pritt Sticks among the memorial stones through the holes in my craft bag. 'Nothing to worry about!' says the 12-year-old, laconically following. 'There probably won't be any children there.'

Once I've wrestled the moody iron door handle into submission and fired two last Pritt Sticks down the nave, most of the congregation have clocked our arrival. And I have clocked the fact that half the infant population of the borough are awaiting me in the children's corner.

Twenty of us cram into the hall. I explain about the river baptism and the Holy Spirit hovering like a dove over Jesus while two of the audience embark on a game of shriek-tag round the table legs. We slather glue over the tables and each other's coat sleeves and a residual amount makes it onto craft paper to enable us to recreate the baptism with tissue paper and stripy fabric squares. The planned half hour turns into 50 minutes. I suspect the Vicar extends his sermons when my name's on the Sunday School rota to test my faith and fortitude.

Then I see the church warden waving frantically through the window. The mayhem of my ministry has drowned out the bell summoning us for Holy Communion. The congregation has embarked on the final hymn as we surge dinfully back into church, trailing a collage of punk John and Jesus and pooling glue over the parquet.

Luckily, the worshippers look kindly upon the infant flock as they hold up their handiwork. Even more luckily, the Vicar looks impressed. 'So, what does the picture show?' he asks. There's silence and I panic. Did I actually remember to name the river Jordan and John the Baptist? I'm relieved when a small boy puts up his hand. 'It shows two men in pyjamas with a hula hoop,' he explains.

The Vicar is looking less impressed. 'Do you know what this is?' he asks, holding up the large red Sunday School bible. This time there is no hesitation. Another small child shrills in reply: 'It's a bus!'

Does anyone else want to take over as Sunday School teacher?