Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Miami Mummy!

Thank the Lord - we are back in civilisation. We flew yesterday from Raleigh Durham to Miami - there were no problems on the plane or at the airport at all. I'm beginning to think the little fella is a born traveller. However, I won't confirm this until we land safely back on UK soil.

Arriving today at the Ritz was amazing - the guys on reception were expecting us and escorted us straight to the lounge so we could wait for our room. I'm currently sitting nine floors up, looking out over the beach and drinking champagne. It's not a bad life. (Pictures to follow - I'm still struggling with the technology here that seems to be significantly lagging behind ours...)

Which brings me on to the Christmas we just had. It was a lovely family Christmas - although I'm always going to think that you need roast potatoes with Christmas dinner; mashed potatoes simply do not cut it - but it is a simple fact that I cannot cope with four days of no blackberry and no mobile phone. I wasn't even aware that there were still places in the world where a mobile wouldn't work, but let me assure you that there are. It's not fun. Yes, it all sounds very romantic - a break away where people really can't get in touch with you, and that lasts for about five minutes. Then I'm itching to know what is happening in the real world. CNN is no match for the BBC.

I'm off to have some more to drink (praise be that I'm not pregnant this Christmas) and then head out to find the shops. After four days in seclusion I have some making up to do!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas from North Carolina!

Well, we made it. Junior was an absolute superstar on the flight - people sitting three rows back told us at the end of the flight they hadn't even realised there was a baby on the plane (which, surely, is the best possible compliment?) - but American Airlines didn't fare so well. I wasn't aware that there are still planes flying that don't have television screens in the backs of every seat - but after our flight yesterday, I can assure you that there are.

But, we're here and coping with the jet lag as well as can be expected. So, here's to a fantastic Christmas - I hope that you have a very enjoyable one wherever you are :o)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas come early

I am one very lucky lady! As a late birthday present, I've just been given a brand spanking new Samsung netbook - very sexy indeed. It's absolutely amazing - and will really add to my new blogging habit - and best of all, it's not even a Christmas present!! This baby is definitely coming to the US with me - it weighs less than my make up bag. Hurrah for slimline technology.

PS Did anyone else watch The Restaurant? Does anyone else feel that it was an absolute travesty that JJ and James won? Seriously, my nine month old son is a better chef than JJ... Definitely one restaurant I won't be going to...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Domestic Goddess - Christmas style

I finished sewing the advent calendar and stocking this weekend. This is something of a triumph for me, given that a) I'm not a natural seamstress and b) I'm not a natural seamstress. The classes helped (i.e. they gave me the confidence to switch on my sewing machine) and although the finished works don't quite look as shop bought as I'd like, I am very proud of my home projects.


I can't believe how timely this foray into craftsmanship (or at least attempt at it) is. I watched smugly as Kirsty Allsopp made a Christmas Stocking on Kirsty's Homemade Christmas (my stocking was way better). So, inspired by my general brilliance on the sewing machine, I decided to move my skills into the kitchen. Delia Smith I am not, but nevertheless, these are the homemade mince pies - homemade mincemeat and pastry (not that cheating ready made stuff for me - oh no!):





And these are my homemade sausage rolls:


And so, to the obvious question: where are the photos of my stocking and advent calendar? Alas, my domesticity did not stretch to me remembering to charge the battery on my camera. I was quite distraught when I kept snapping and nothing was happening. I might be on my way to being a proper mum, but I'm not there yet. Stay tuned for more photos.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Happy Holidays? It's Christmas, actually...

I love Christmas. I love the cold weather (although I can take or leave the rain), the lights, the hustle and bustle in the shops and the general feeling that lingers in the air. What I cannot stand is the Americanisation (is that a word?) of Christmas in this country.

I fully appreciate and understand that the U.S.A. is secular and that there are various 'holidays' that are encompassed in the generic 'Happy Holidays' slogan that the US adopts. But, the U.K. is a Christian country and we celebrate Christmas.

I work at an American firm, and every year we have the same argument. They refuse to do separate Christmas cards for our European clients - instead we have one global Holiday card. The argument is that a Christmas card isn't fully inclusive and is therefore offensive. Personally, I'm offended that we don't send Christmas cards. Every year, I lose the argument. Fair enough, it's their company, but I think I have a point.

Perhaps I am more sensitive now working at a US firm, but I am increasingly irritated by firms like Coca Cola using a global message for a religious holiday. Yes, it is one of the most recognised symbols in the world - so they are obviously doing something right - but just using a 'one size fits all' strategy for your marketing and branding is lazy in my opinion. Maybe it works because Coke is a simple product that doesn't change no matter which market they are in. If McDonald's operated the same strategy, they'd be out of business. Can you imagine the conversation:

McDonald's person (MP): "It's called a quarter pounder. It's very popular in the US."
French person (FP): "What's a quarter pounder? Is that what it's made of?"
MP: "No - that's the weight of the meat."
FP: "We use metric weight here - the expression quarter pounder will be meaningless."
MP: "But that's what we use in the US. Surely if we just carry on, we can bring everyone round to our way of thinking..."

I think not. I'm not tempted by the McDonald's Festive Pie but I bet it sells well! Now, if I can just convince the management in the US that if it works for the golden arches, it might well work for us... Maybe next year we'll get our Christmas card...

Monday, 7 December 2009

Apologies - it's been quite a while...

Good Lord, I didn't realise it had been so long since my last post. Time has absolutely flown recently - between the illnesses (me and junior - god damn those nurseries), the family disaster, Christmas shopping (I'm done. Praise be) and attempting to see my family before we head state-side, it's just too much. There simply are not enough hours in the day.

The good news is that the advent calendar (yes, I know we're a week in - but quite frankly, he's eight months old and won't know the difference) and his stocking are almost done. The bad news is that I have another three sacks and another stocking still to start. I may have to leave these until next year - and start in about July. I absolutely love sewing and the general whole idea of 'make do and mend' but it's bloody time consuming. (As an aside, I've just found Topshop's Inside-Out blog - definitely worth a read if you've got time.)

It's our office Christmas party (sorry, 'drinks' - the credit crunch has well and truly bitten) on Thursday. I have mixed feelings about this. After the last office social (where I got very drunk to celebrate the fact I was out sans enfant), I need to make sure I maintain some level of dignity this time. But it is Christmas, so I fear the dancing shoes will be making an appearance whether I want them to or not... Either way, it's the attire that is always difficult for me. Tinsel in the hair is a definite no. So are flashing badges (or flashing earrings - in fact anything flashing should be avoided full stop), or any Christmassy headgear. You have to make an effort, but you don't want it to look too much like hard work. Will keep you posted on the final decision...

Monday, 23 November 2009

I am not alone

It's been a tough weekend. First of all, D's grandmother passed away on Saturday, which in itself, is awful. But I've also been thrown, feet first, into the world of single parenting. And it's bloody not easy. Naturally, there was no option, and I don't think for a single second that D shouldn't have flown out to the U.S. to be with his family. But there's no doubt that caring for an eight month old baby 24 hours a day on your own is no walk in the park.

Coming to work this morning was almost a relief. I seriously don't know how the carers at nursery do it all day, everyday. They need to be saluted. Anyway, when I came in this morning, I read this post and it made me smile. That could be my life Alyson's talking about. I'd love to roam around Kennington Park, swaddled in cashmere and my Uggs and kick the leaves around whilst entertaining my son. And then effortlessly pull on my Vivianne Westwood suit (which I don't have, this is in my dream, you understand) on Monday morning and swan out of the door looking together and collected. In reality, trying to do everything usually ends up with me doing about 90% and spending the other 10% permanently trying to catch up.

In exciting news though, I made H's first Christmas sack at the weekend. It was a practice one - but it's come out well, so I'm going to use anyway. It's not like he won't have enough presents to fill several sacks! This week, in the evenings, I'm going to attempt the advent calendar and a couple of stockings. I'm loving Christmas already. If you love it too, you should visit Lite FM - it's a New York radio station that plays only Christmas music between now (Thanksgiving for them) and Christmas. I love it - it drives D crazy, but he's not here, so he'll never know! Check it out if you love Christmas as much as I do... Lite FM

Friday, 20 November 2009

It's been a long time coming...

Quite a bit has happened since the Halloween party. We've had our first family holiday abroad since H was born (and as an aside; child + long airport wait + plane journey = definitely not a holiday), H has started crawling and standing with a vengeance and we've also had some very bad news that a family member has fallen critically ill. We landed in the UK from Spain and D was literally back at terminal three within twelve hours - straight on a plane to Miami to see his Grandmother before the inevitable happens. All in all, less than ideal. It puts everything else into perspective when something like this occurs.

I'd like to write more, but at this point I'm at a bit of a loss. Thank goodness it's Friday.

Monday, 2 November 2009

So good, it's scary


On Saturday, straight after my sewing class (that's a whole other post - watch this space), I headed home to prepare for the Halloween party we were having. The first job was to carve the pumpkin. (See above.) Now, it may not be brilliant (by the way, it's bats in case you were wondering) but it's definitely a good first attempt. However, it did take the best part of 90 minutes to complete. I knew I should have started on Friday night, but I was tired and thought I'd be able to do everything in the three hours I had on Saturday afternoon before people started arriving. On the positive side, the pumpkin was carved. On the slightly more negative side, I wasn't ready, the mulled wine wasn't ready and the cupcakes weren't iced.

Luckily, D managed to divert attention by setting off a ridiculous number of fireworks (all men seem to love this activity. Personally, I think the potential danger of blowing your own face off is not that enjoyable, but who am I to question?). I never did get round to putting on any make-up, but then we were all sitting in the dark, so fingers crossed no one noticed. Either that, or they'll think I looked amazing (because I put almost as much brandy as wine into the mulled wine. Genius).

Overall, it was fantastic. Loads of kids came and 'trick or treated' and they loved all our decorations - there was a really good atmosphere. Also, it's a great precursor for Christmas - one lot of decorations to come down, soon to be replaced with others - what more could you want?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Shoe special

Regular readers already know that I love shoes. It is possible for me to spend £500 on a pair of shoes and actually think it's good value for money - although let me reassure you that these shopping outings occur rarely. Especially now, when I have so many things to buy for Junior. Like high chairs. And Gro bags. And other stuff that is boring to buy but irritatingly expensive. But I digress. My point was that I love shoes.

Years ago, I decided that the days of buying cheap shoes was over. To clarify, by 'cheap' I mean shoes from the likes of Faith, Dolcis and New Look. The end finally came when I got slightly carried away with the idea that I could walk (and by this I mean, walk to the tube station, travel on the tube and then walk to my destination at the other end) in 5 inch heels. I could not. In an attempt to save my poor feet I popped in to the nearest shop, which happened to be Dorothy Perkins. I bought a pair of ballet flats for £30. A bargain - or so I thought. They cut my feet up so badly I had to resort to putting my 5 inchers back on - which I think says quite a lot about these supposedly comfortable flats. The shoes were so covered in blood I couldn't take them back and rant. So, I threw them in the bin and swore that I would never again buy cheap shoes. And I've stuck to that ever since.


However. This week I have again stepped over to the dark side. The point is, I cannot resist a bargain. These shoes were simply too good to miss:
It's hard to believe, but these shoes were just £22. That's right, £22. Our Friday treat takeaway costs more than that. So, I decided to chance it. They are available online from Peacocks - but I didn't trust the picture online - I wanted to see them in real life. I've never heard of this shop Peacocks, but, happy day, I found out that there is one very close to my house. In the shopping centre at Elephant & Castle. Which explains why I didn't know it existed - because I have never been inside this shopping centre. And with good reason. Westfield it is not. However, I hotfooted it through the centre, found the shop and tried on the shoes. They were definitely worth a go. So, today is their first outing. So far, so good - but then I've only been sitting at my desk, so they should pass that test. Lunch will be more interesting.

Whether these shoes last the distance remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure - these shoes are a definite bargain!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Happy Halloween



This year, I'm getting ridiculously excited about Halloween. Never before have I marked the 'holiday' (it's not really a holiday) in any way at all. Of course, when I was about ten, I did go out trick or treating with my brother and sister, but that's as far as it's ever gone. I can only attribute this excitement to having a child - there seems no other logical explanation for it.


We're even having a party on Saturday (although, admittedly, H won't be enjoying that. He'll be in bed). It will be a BBQ - not very happy about the forecast of rain, but we're English, so we won't let that stop us - and the pumpkins have already arrived. I've got two templates to attempt - a witch and some bats. Photos of these will follow, providing I manage to complete the lantern without ruining the whole thing. I'm going to make Halloween cupcakes (any excuse) and try and find some spooky sound effects to play.


Overall, I think it's going to be lots of fun. I haven't gone as far as decorations but who knows? If this is a success, maybe I'll get some next year...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Flu-tastic - of the swine varity

It's been quite a while since my last post, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'd come to an unfortunate end on my bike, given my most recent updates. However, this is not the case. In fact, I've been struck down by the dreaded swine flu, which I've discovered is not pleasant at all. It's been ages since I've had any type of flu - we get the flu jab at work every year (it's a company benefit apparently - I bet I'm paying tax on that somewhere along the line) but this is a good reminder why I do it.

Now, I'm not usually one for going to the doctor - I generally feel I can take care of myself - but yesterday the final straw was reached when I couldn't actually get out of bed to go to the loo. Enough, I thought. I'm getting a doctor to come to me. Admittedly, I haven't done this in a long time - in fact, I've done it once, when I was 15 (so, technically, it was my mother who called out the doctor) because my appendix was in the process of bursting, so I figure that I'm due a call out - right? Wrong. I call my doctor's surgery, who inform me the doctor doesn't do home visits. If I'm concerned, I should call NHS Direct or go to A&E. Brilliant. What sound advice. I'd much rather head to St. Thomas' and wait for 19 hours to see a nurse - if I'm not dead before I go in, I definitely will be when I come out.

I was so desperate to get whatever drugs I needed to make this suffering go away, I practically crawled to my doctors - luckily it's not too far from my house. It was then that I noticed the opening hours for the surgery. I always knew they were pretty limited but 9-11am and 4-5.15pm? ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH? What on earth are the doctors doing during the other five hours of the day if they're not making house calls? I remember reading somewhere that GPs have an average salary of £70,000. If I could get a job paying me £70k for doing just over three hours a day (except on Wednesdays, when they are closed in the afternoons, so it's only two hours that day) then I'd be a happy lady.

Don't get me wrong, I know people train for a long time to become doctors and I'm sure not all their patients are pleasant etc etc. It's a hard life. But how on earth can you justify only being open for 3 hours 15 minutes each day? Surely you need to be open longer than that to give people the opportunity to see you? Plus, I'm not sure I agree with the advice - 'Go to A&E'. With A&E departments being closed down all over the place, surely the ones that are left are already bursting at the seams with actual emergencies?

The surgery wants to be grateful I'm so knocked out with swine flu. If they thought I was rude on the phone yesterday, they want to see me in action when I'm actually feeling well... but then again, I suppose that's how they get away with it in the first place...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Road Rage

Finally, after what seems like months of waiting (it's only been weeks, but still), I got the call that my bike was ready. Well, actually, I called them but let's not get distracted by rants about the incompetent staff at Evans Cycles. If you'd like to hear more about that, then go here.

Like a child on Christmas morning, I hot footed it down to Spitalfields and collected my bike and all the paraphernalia I'd ordered to go with it - boring (but essential) things like lights and a lock, and the more interested stuff - like the wicker basket to go on the front so I can pretend it's a Pashley. The child seat for H (which cost almost as much as the bike) was also attached. It looks fantastic (see above picture for proof). But the question was: could I ride it?

Unfortunately, the answer is: no. There are various reasons for this:

1. Apparently, you have to be quite fit to actually ride a bike for more than two minutes. As I live more than two minutes away from my office, this is going to be a problem.

2. There is other traffic to contend with on the road. Not just the obvious things that might kill you - like bendy buses and lorries - but cars and other cyclists. Hell, even pedestrians are causing a problem.

3. Allegedly, London is full of cycle routes, dedicated only to the needs of cyclists. However, the location of such routes is a secret and therefore if you are not 'in the know' then you have to brave the roads (see 2 for reasons why this is bad).

One of my colleagues has told me that all London boroughs offer free cycle lessons for people that either live or work in London. My lesson is booked for this weekend. If I make it to the end of the week alive, I'm sure that it will be very beneficial. In the meantime, I'll persevere - after all, you can't just give up. That would be like admitting defeat!

Monday, 12 October 2009

On my bike...finally

It's been a manic week - hence the lack of posting. Both D and I have been exceptionally busy at work and this, combined with an entirely necessary week-long celebration of my birthday has meant a few things have slipped.

One of these 'things' was the arrival of my now long awaited bike. It was supposed to arrive three weeks ago, but the staff at Evans Cycles are totally and utterly incompetent. Usually, I would overcome such issues by taking control of the situation, but as other things took priority (like going to the theatre to see Les Miserables - which was excellent and a fantastic present), the result is that I'm still waiting for my bike.

Finally, finally, today I get a call informing me that the two items I ordered (a basket - well, it may not be a Pashley, but it is damn well going to look like one) and H's child helmet have arrived in stock. 'Brilliant,' I told the caller. 'And are you planning to put the basket on the bike as I requested?'. 'Errr, did you ask for that?' was the response. No, I felt like saying. No - I'd much rather bring everything home in pieces and attempt to put it together myself. Because attempt is the right word. Success wouldn't be the outcome. 'Yes I did,' I responded. So, after explaining for the 59th time that I want them to put everything on the bike, I told them I will be collecting it tomorrow.

The problem with this our Ride to Work scheme is that you're completely tied to this retailer - there is no choice and therefore no incentive for them to actually be any good. All this aside, however, I'm really excited to pick up my bike tomorrow. And I will get it tomorrow. If they haven't built it, I'll do it myself in the shop. That will scare them into action.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Christmas has come early




It's official: Christmas is well and truly here. This morning, I received my Christmas Gift Guide from Mothercare (I know, live the dream). I didn't open it. I do love Christmas, and so I thought I would save this treat for tonight.


Then, on my way into work, I popped into M&S to pick up some lunch. This organisation is based purely on need - the only thing close to my office is Pret a Manger, and the amount of mayonnaise they feature in all their sandwiches makes me gag. But I digress. So, as I wander in, I am greeted by a mix of Halloween goodies and yes, you've guessed it, a range of advent calendars and Christmas chocolates.


The final indication was waiting for me in my inbox when I logged in. John Lewis has sent me an email announcing that their Christmas shop is now open online (I assume they are also selling Christmas paraphernalia in their shops, but I haven't been to one in the past couple of days - so I couldn't swear to it). It's 6 October. Why not just be done with it, and make advent calendars start from 1 October? Then again, I suppose that would encourage the shops to start selling them July...

Christmas - only 79 days to go. Having said that, if you want your Christmas cards to arrive in time, given the Royal Mail's recent performance, you might need to send them out this week!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

An evening's work

5.10pm - leave work. I'm late - I should really leave at 5. Rush to the bus stop. Needless to say, no buses are remotely in sight.

5.20pm - a bus finally arrives. People are packed in like sardines, but this doesn't stop me pushing my way on. I have a child to pick up, you know. There is general tutting from those around me. I look defiant and pretend to look at my BlackBerry.

5.30pm - I think I could walk faster than this bus.

5.40pm - joy of joy, I arrive at my stop and then attempt the half walk, half run look that I have never managed to master.

5.45pm - arrive at the nursery out of breath and totally harassed. The gatekeeper gives me a disapproving look. I collect the pushchair and then literally run to H's classroom.

5.50pm - I am officially a 'Bad Mother'. The teacher (is that what they are? Well, they make me feel like a naughty 12 year old again, so I'm sticking with that title) looks at the clock and points out that I am 5 minutes late. I apologise, grab my son and try to exit with some dignity still in tact. I'm not sure that I managed it. Seriously, this is much harder than my day job.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

One would like to pass on thanks...

A big shout out to Hot Cross Mum who has awarded me the 'Queen of Alll Things Awe-Summm!!!' award - it's an honour!

As is traditional, I would like to pass on this award to some other blogs that I have recently discovered and enjoy:

Dulwich Divorcee
Some Mothers Do Ave Em
Nappy Valley Girl

Apologies if you've already received this award - but if you have, then you're obviously worthy twice over!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sew exciting

I started my sewing course at the London College of Fashion on Saturday, and it was fantastic! When it comes to anything related to tailoring, I am worse than useless. But finally, I have become tired of paying over the odds for someone else to take up my trousers (I'm not short - or tall - and somehow trousers are just never the right length). Plus, Project Runway convinced me that it can't be that hard - some of the people on there are complete morons and they manage to make clothes (well, most of the time anyway).

Being slightly negative, everyone else in the class is about 12. And I was slightly taken aback at the lack of organisation - when the teacher came into the room and got the name of the class totally wrong I did think that maybe I'd made a mistake. However, when we got going, it was fabulous. It helps that all the machines are professional standard, but in just one class I made a bag. Really. Okay, not a full blown Anya Hindmarch number, but a simple tote bag that actually holds items without falling apart. It's brilliant. Not the bag, you understand - but the feeling that I've made something from scratch. Who knows, maybe I am the next Christian Siriano...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

It's birth, baby, but not as you know it

Yesterday, I took H for his health visitor check up and I was very pleased to discover he weighs 18lb 13oz - obviously, those four meals a day (plus all his milk) are serving him well. Or so I thought.

This morning, I read this and can't help feeling impressed. Seriously, one of my friends gave birth to an 11lb baby, and I thought that was hard going. This Indonesian woman makes my friend look like she wasn't even trying. "The baby, who is still unnamed and is 24.4 inches (62 centimetres) long, was born by Caesarean section on Monday at a public hospital in North Sumatra province." Damn bloody right! Can you imagine even attempting a natural birth? I think not. But all birth questions aside, what I really want to know is: how on earth did this lady carry around such a ginormous baby for nine months? She must be exhausted. Suddenly, my 7lb 8oz newborn looks like a walk in the park.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Farewell Summer...



It's refreshing to see so many positive posts regarding the onset of Autumn; Four Down, Mum to Go, Hot Cross Mum and A Life Reclaimed are all welcoming the start of the new season (and are all great posts too). All too often, people seem glum about the passing of summer - but not me - I love everything about the days getting shorter, the wind getting more blustery and the leaves starting to fall off the trees. Don't get me wrong - it's been a brilliant summer. How can you complain about winning The Ashes (although the less said about our ODI record, the better)? And the weather has been pretty good compared to previous years. And, obviously, it's been my first summer as a mother, which has been fantastic.

But this time of year always strikes a feeling of new beginnings in me - probably still from my school days and the beginning of a new school year. This time last year, I was four months pregnant and unable to participate fully (by that, I mean drink alcohol) in various celebrations - my 30th birthday, my hen do and my wedding. That's right, a shot-gun wedding. Which, apparently, causes a lot more of a stir than having a child out of wedlock. But that's another story.

So, this year, I'm looking forward to a decent birthday shindig (the babysitter is already booked) and some fun and games around Halloween. And I'm going to make sure I get some outdoor ice skating booked in too - I'm absolutely rubbish at ice skating, which is why I couldn't risk it last year - but it's become part of my Christmas tradition and I really missed it.

Best of all, it's 100 days until the end of the year. Which means, yes, it's only 93 days until Christmas. Personally, I love Christmas and so this is excellent news for me - but I appreciate that not everyone has the same attitude, so I'll keep a lid on it (for now).



PS I should note that I received my first Christmas mail shot this morning - a 'Gifts Delivered' brochure from M&S. Whilst I appreciate this effort for early business, even I think the Autumn Equinox is overly-enthusiastic, to say the least. Turn around twice and I'll be getting Easter Egg brochures next.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Thank God it's Friday

It's been a long week. In fact, it's been the longest week ever. Partly, this is because I cavorted around New York last weekend and then went straight into work on Monday but mainly, it's because it's my first full week back since having H.

This isn't a shock to the system - I was back in the office eight weeks after giving birth - but doing five days straight is much harder than I thought it would be. Not least because I miss the little guy - the morning routine of attempting to leave the house without killing either myself of anyone else does not count as quality time. But I'm amazed how tired I am. We have absolutely nothing planned for the weekend, which is good, because I'm going to be sleeping as much as humanly possible with a six month old baby.

However, this does worry me slightly for the forthcoming weeks. I signed up to do a short sewing course at the London College of Fashion months ago (I think it was just after H was born, and I was still full of the joys of spring), inspired by a combination of Project Runway and looming maternity pay. "I've got a sewing machine," I thought "how hard can it be?".

Having signed up, and paid the (very expensive) fee, I promptly forgot about the whole thing. Until this week, when I got a reminder that it starts next week and that I need to prepare for the first lesson by sharpening some pencils and finding an exercise book (okay - that's not completely accurate, but the email definitely had the 'school days / teacher' ring to it). The course lessons are every Saturday from next week until the end of November and last all morning. What on earth was I thinking? Maybe that combining childcare and a full time job wasn't enough - I needed another challenge?

On the other hand, it will give me some precious 'me' time - and maybe I'll be the next Vivianne Westwood. Admittedly, unlikely, but always worth a shot if the lottery doesn't come through. And, I'll be able to ride my new bike to the lessons - it's due to arrive a week today! Hurrah.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Sun-shade

There is nothing better than arriving at work to find a parcel on your desk that you weren't expecting. I'd actually forgotten that I'd ordered some new sunglasses, because it was so long ago. I'd been after some Tom Ford sunglasses for a while - ever since my brand new Lulu Guinness ones fell apart as I took them out of the box - but I couldn't quite justify spending the £300 (especially as I was planning on shopping for England when I got to New York). When I saw them on sale on Brand Alley it was too good an opportunity to miss, but when you buy items from that site, you have to wait for the sale to finish. They were worth the wait:



It might seem strange to be buying sunglasses at this time of year, but they can hide a whole multitude of sins at any time - plus, they go with anything. It's perfect. And I love them.

Monday, 14 September 2009

New York, New York

I love New York. I like the convenience, I like the choice and I like the people. My sister doesn't live in Manhattan (I have no idea why, but she prefers it out in the 'burbs) so we decided to treat ourselves and stay at The Gansevoort for the weekend. It was fabulous. Well, the location was. The hotel itself was good, but there was no full length mirror, no tea or coffee making facilities and practically no lights. It might be atmospheric, but these ridiculous low level lights do not help me pick out good clothes in the morning.

As I promised, following my recent 'You Are A Good Read' award (thanks again to Not Supermum!), a list of my highlights:
  1. Travelling Club (an upgrade, naturally. Much as I'd love to be in a position to pay £5000 for a business class fare, I'm not).
  2. The Great Jones Spa - what an experience! Lil' sis and I even braved the plunge pool - something I never do - and it was fantastic. The treatments rock too.
  3. Buddakan. Great atmosphere, fab food and the manager was Australian, so I could give him plenty of advice on how to win The Ashes. He loved me.
  4. The shops on Bleecker Street. There are shops all over downtown Manhattan that sell bling earrings, necklaces and hair clips. While some look distinctly like they've come out of a Christmas cracker, some of the items are great. The shops along Bleecker had the best offerings - I bought a wicked brooch, two pairs of earrings and two head scarves. For less than $40. Result.
  5. New York Fashion Week. Late night opening, free champagne. What's not to like?
  6. Pastis. Since we were staying opposite, it would have been rude not to.
  7. Chelsea Market. We stumbled on this quite by chance - what a find. Great food shops and even a wine store. Fabulous.
  8. The cinnamon buns at Amy's Bread. Probably not the best for my waist line but absolutely delicious. It's a good thing they are so far away - I'd be the size of a house if this bakery was on the Strand.
  9. I also had my hair cut at Hair Rules. The salon has only opened recently, so the whole experience is a bit hit and miss, but the stylist, Dickey, is an absolute genius.
  10. Coming home. I was only away for three days, but I almost cried when I saw little H and his father waiting for me at the airport. New York was great, but there really is no better place than home with your family.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

My first blog award!

When I woke up this morning, I was excited - I fly to New York this afternoon, for a girl's weekend with my sister. I thought I'd log on quickly to check my emails, and I found out that I've been given an award! How cool is that?? A great blogger, Not Supermum, had received the award from Hot Cross Mum and she wanted to pass on the accolade. I've got to say, I'm absolutely delighted that someone thinks I'm a good read - this is obviously the benefit of the written word. When I start ranting verbally, I seem to have an astounding capability to clear a room in five minutes flat. And that's with my husband, who's supposed to at least feign interest.

I love blogging - both reading other people's and writing my own - and I'm glad that others feel the same way. I need to do two things - list a top ten and nominate some other blogs for the award. The top ten will follow - I'm going to list my top ten highlights from a very short trip to NY - but these are some blogs that I have recently discovered that I nominate as a good read:
Right, I'm off to pack and then head to T5. Fingers crossed for an upgrade to Club...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Fashion Forward

A fantastic article in yesterday's Sunday Times by India Knight. We've all thought it at some point: “I wonder if you ever get to an age when you’re just bored with fashion. Since fashion is basically dressing up and pretending - it is to be hoped that eventually you get to the point when you think “ah, sod it” and potter about in comfy clothes that you personally consider non-hideous instead.” 

Don't get me wrong - I love my heels (the higher the better) but for a full on shopping trip, it has to be flats. Simple as that. Converse are my preferred choice, although there is something very liberating about flip flops. I'll be at Terminal 5 (Heathrow) on Thursday and this is another place where high heels should be avoided at all costs. I haven't checked the weather, but my usual choice in this situation is Ugg boots. Like slippers but considered appropriate for wear in public, these are my ideal travelling companion. Uggs, and a big cashmere jumper, because I always freeze on the plane.

I've travelled from T5 a couple of times, but on both occasions I've been late, and not been able to shop properly. I'm looking forward to getting there with plenty of time to spare, to make sure I can do proper research. I've heard the shopping is brilliant, but I'd like to find out for myself...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Not so Specialized...

I was really looking forward to swanning around on my Pashley bike - I had visions of drifting along with French bread in my front basket and generally looking very sophisticated. These hopes were dashed when I returned to Evans Cycles. Apparently, the 'helpful' assistant on the phone was not so helpful - in fact, he was misinformed. No child seat can be fitted to a Pashley bike (something to do with the position of the frame. I stopped paying attention at that point).

So, no Princess Sovereign bike for me. Instead, it looks like I'm going for a Specialized:

I'll have to lower the saddle so I'm reaching up for the handle bars and sitting upright, rather than leaning forward. Also, I'm going to put a wicker basket on the front (I will have that French bread) and add some mudguards to customise it up a bit. I am gutted - but naturally, H comes before the bike - just :o)

Monday, 31 August 2009

What not to wear

Without a doubt, having children in tow reduces the amount of 'dressing time' for any woman. Whilst some people care about this far more than others, here's a list of things that should be avoided at all costs:

1. Never, ever, revert to maternity clothes. Ever. Yes, they are comfortable but they will never be flattering for someone that isn't pregnant.
2. Your partners' clothes. Especially rugby / football shirts and jumpers.
3. Leopard print. It may be on trend, but unless you're 15, don't do it.
4. Tracksuits. Juicy has got a lot to answer for.
5. Ecco shoes. They make you look 60 regardless of your actual age.
6. Anything that needs hand washing or special care. You won't do it and it will be dirty within five minutes of putting it on.
7. Clothes that are too tight. They just look bad.
8. Too many bags - you'll just end up looking like a bag lady. Invest in two good quality bags - one for you and one for the children - and make sure both are big enough to hold what you need. Clutch bags are unlikely to work. Then be ruthless - if it doesn't fit in the right bag, it doesn't go.
9. Odd socks. Yes, it might have been dark when you were getting dressed, but a pair of mismatched socks will make you look dappy no matter how many excuses you make. If in doubt, find the socks the night before so there can be no mistakes.
10. Dirty clothes. It might sound obvious, but there's nothing worse than dirty clothes - all composure immediately goes out of the window. If necessary, take spares with you - but certainly never accept it as inevitable. It is not.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

On your bike

I've always said that I would never ride a bike to work. It's true that the idea of travelling by bike has always appealed, in the same way that always eating healthily, exercising properly and only having two glasses of wine sound easy enough to achieve - but somehow it never works out that way. Riding a bike in central London seems like an accident waiting to happen - literally. No matter how competent I am (and actually, I'm not competent at all - but more of that later) the fact is there's no accounting for other drivers on the road - black cabs and buses being particularly dangerous.

My vision of people riding bikes to work are sporty types, in full lycra get-up, pedalling nineteen to the dozen. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was a child until a couple of years ago, and then I tried one of these ridiculously energetic bikes that you clip your feet into - not my finest hour. I got a bit cocky and ended up falling off the bike at the side of the A3. I concluded that I was too old for a bike and would never do it again.

However, I recently rethought this decision - for a couple of reasons. First, I hate the tube and although I can get the bus to work now, we're moving at the end of the year, and so I'll be forced back on to the Northern line - even I can't handle three bus changes in a single commute. Second, a friend came to dinner wearing a dress and looking 100% normal until I noticed the cycling helmet. I asked why she was carrying that, and she replied that she always rides her bike to work - much cheaper and quicker. I can certainly believe that. So, on my subsequent bus journeys to work, I started taking a bit more notice of all the cyclists on the route. True, there are many of the hyper-keen, lycra-clad nutters, that race with the lorries as if they are on a level playing field. But there are also many commuters in 'normal' clothes travelling at a much more leisurely pace. Moreover, when I started 'racing' these bikers (me on the bus, them on their bikes) I discovered that they still won most of the time. Hmm.

Then I found out about the 'bike to work' tax scheme - where essentially, you pay for the bike out of your gross income - saving 40% of the price of the bike. Perfect! So, I began shopping around (really, any excuse...). After significant research, I've decided that I'm going to order a Pashley Princess Sovereign:
It's got a brilliant wicker basket on the front, and I'll quite happily be able to wear skirts while riding it - no lycra in sight. Which is a result not just for me, but for anyone that will see me on the bike. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Evans at London Bridge to get fitted...

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend

Thank goodness for Bank Holiday weekends. I definitely think that permanent four day weeks should be investigated more thoroughly. For the first time in a long time, we have absolutely no plans for the whole weekend - and personally, I think there is nothing better than three days in front of you with nothing to do. We might, if we feel really adventurous, venture to Toys R Us on the Old Kent Road - H is definitely in need of some new toys, and I've discovered that when you're shopping for your child, that money doesn't count. I'm thinking a walker could be a good investment. But that's it. Nothing else. No seeing family, no day trips that we have to get up at the crack of dawn for. A Sunday lunch at the pub might be in order, but only if we decide we want to. As a planner to the last minute, this is a wholly liberating experience - and I can't wait!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Uniform Project

I was intrigued when I read about The Uniform Project this week. Sheena Matheiken, who works at an ad agency in New York, had pledged to wear the same little black dress (designed by Eliza Starbuck) every day for a year to raise money for charity. Well, not the same dress everyday - she has seven identical dresses that she'll rotate. At first, it sounds totally impossible, but actually, the dress is very versatile and lends itself well to accessories. Every day, Sheena takes a picture of her outfit and posts it online. She's three months into the project, and personally, by now, I'd be totally out of ideas. Clearly, however, she is far more imaginative than me.

This does remind me, though, of my maternity wardrobe. Whilst I could not have managed with just one dress, I didn't actually have that much more. I made it through my 30th birthday, two weddings and the whole Christmas season with just one dress and a couple of different scarves. Yes, I was sick of the dress by the end of it, but rather than purchase multiple maternity dresses I decided that I'd rather save the money for a post-pregnancy splurge. But, now I'm back in my 'normal' clothes, I've realised just how much excess there is in there. When I packed away all my clothes when I finally couldn't squeeze myself into them any longer, I was proud of my wardrobe 'cull' - the local charity shop probably couldn't believe it's luck with all the brand new clothes with tags still on them that I'd finally admitted I would never be wearing. However, when I unpacked these clothes again four months ago, I couldn't believe how reserved I'd been.

This second cull has left plenty of hanging space in my cupboard. Rest assured, though, it will not be empty for long. The one dress strategy is not for me. But, eco shopping definitely is. Vintage, second hand and ebay buys are the order of the day - there will be no more tags on for me!


Monday, 17 August 2009

Me - cynical? Never

I have to admit that I was somewhat sceptical when we were invited to attend a Naming Ceremony last weekend. I'm not really opposed to them - I just didn't really see the point. If you're not religious then why bother with anything? But I have to say, it was a very enjoyable experience.

After the service, we all went outside for a picnic and to put the time capsule together (ah, now the scepticism becomes clearer). The invite had made it clear that presents were not wanted - instead every attendee had to donate one item that they felt was 'of the moment'. The plan is to give the capsule to said child on his 18th birthday. Yup, I rolled my eyes slightly at this too, but the donations were brilliant - a real range of ideas. Our donation was a Michael Jackson biography. Other items included magazines, a bottle of wine, DVD sets, information about the latest HD technology from Sky (I bet he'll laugh when he sees that in 18 years time - a bit like someone telling us cassette tapes were once cutting edge) and an NHS leaflet about swine flu. Genius!

Overall, it was a great opportunity to get together with friends and celebrate a new life. And, having experienced one, I definitely think this shouldn't only be reserved for people with a more religious take on life. Even better - there's no false pretence about the motive behind the ceremony. What more could you ask for? Roll on the next one, please...

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Corporate Fashion? It's a good question

The blog Fashionista raises a good point in the article Corporate Fashion? Whilst the people in the corporate world are those most likely to afford the latest pair of Prada over-the-knee boots, they probably don't get to wear them as often as someone that, say, works in the offices of Vogue. There is no doubt that before I had H, I'd become pretty lazy when it came to arranging my working wardrobe. I've always been quite the follower of fashion, but working in a very corporate law environment means that anything other than a traditional black skirt suit tends to raise an eyebrow or two. And the simple fact was, it's easy to put on a suit, pull out one (of several) Thomas Pink shirts and walk out the door.

Having H changed all that. During my maternity leave, I'd started to feel that I was living in tracksuits and t-shirts. That's fine one week after you've given birth, but it does start to get you down after a month. Especially since I was lucky enough to have bounced right back into all my pre-pregnancy clothes. (Actually, they were a bit loose, since I seem to have lost weight, but that's another story.)

Going back to work was the perfect reason to start caring about my appearance again. I did notice that other mothers tend to look on with a mixture of scorn and patronising concern if you make too much of an effort for baby group meetings (thank God I don't have to endure those any more) - the inference is that if I've taken too much time putting on makeup, I'm very likely to have neglected my child in the process.

Quite simply, I like arranging what I'm going to wear for the week. Previously, I wouldn't have worn my precious Louboutins at work ('they're far too good for that') but now, there's no stopping me. It's definitely made a difference - both in terms of how I feel and how I'm perceived at work. It was tough to keep the smug look off my face when my boss said I looked like I'd 'just stepped off the catwalk' but I did manage it...just. Admittedly, he probably has no idea what a catwalk looks like, but it was very pleasing just the same. It's not quite roll on Monday - but almost. And that's good enough for me.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Babylicious - food just like you'd make it yourself

What a find! Quite possibly, the best baby food in the world. Don't get me wrong, Hipp Organic is all very well (and jars are great for being out and about) but after finding out the process the food is treated with in order to give it a longer shelf life, I wanted to find an alternative. (You can read about the process here.) Bablylicious is basically food prepared exactly as I would at home, and then frozen immediately. It comes in little cubes so you can use as much or as little as you like. It's not the cheapest option - obviously, that would be to do it myself - but it is convenient and healthy. What more could you want?

Babylicious used to be available online from their website, but alas, no more. Ocado is the only place I've managed to buy it. They do say that Asda stocks it too, but I've never been able to find any in store. I'll just be sticking to the online shopping fix then.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Anyone for coffee?

Over Saturday night, we had friends over for dinner (just months ago, we'd have gone out, but that's another story...) and I decided to experiment with some cocktails. I love having cocktails when I go out - lychee martinis are a particular favourite - but I rarely make them at home. Somehow it just seems too fussy. However, we had the previously untouched cocktail glasses from our wedding list (yes, it was last November and no, I don't know what we were saving them for) and I was feeling particularly like a domestic goddess, so I decided to give it a go.

My first choice was dirty martinis because I remembered spying some olives in brine in the fridge. What I hadn't spotted was the decidedly cloudy colour the brine had turned - perhaps indicating that the olives were past their best? A quick check of the best before date confirmed my suspicions. So an alternative was needed. A friend had recently been waxing lyrical about the fabulous espresso martinis at One Aldwych - 'how hard can it be?' I thought. Well, harder than anticipated. As well as espresso (very strong coffee had to make do in my house), the recipe also called for toffee vodka. Toffee vodka? Who on earth ever has that? Not Tescos or Sainsburys near me, that's for sure. Refusing to be beaten, however, I did come across some toffee fudge ice cream topping that I decided would probably serve just as well.

Despite only having one of the actual ingredients required - vodka - as I'd also had to substitute Kuluha for a bottle of Tia Maria I found at the back (way at the back) of the drinks cupboard - I began cocktail shaking like a demon. And, despite not having the right ingredients, or the space in the freezer to chill the glasses appropriately, they actually turned out remarkably well. Very well, in fact. Luckily, there's more than enough of the ice cream topping to last for several more rounds.

If you're interested, this is how I made them:

Ingredients - vodka, tia maria, toffee fudge sauce, very strong coffee

1. Put a handful of ice cubes in each martini glass
2. Put a handful of ice cubes in the cocktail shaker
3. Add a single shot (or double if you can handle your drink) of coffee, tia maria and vodka per person. Then add a teaspoon of the fudge sauce per person - this can be more or less depending on your taste - and shake vigorously
4. Pour over the ice in each glass and drink immediately

The next time I make this, I'm going to try adding Baileys instead of the fudge sauce - I think that might taste good too.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

New York, New York

Finally, the time has come. Every mother goes through it. I'm referring to the first time you leave your child for a prolonged period of time (i.e. longer than the couple of hours where the babysitter sits in your house and gets paid to make sure your child is sleeping). My sister is having man trouble (ahh, the heady days of man trouble and a worry free life) and so, as the dutiful sister, I've booked a ticket out to NYC for a much needed girls night. Indulgent? Yup. But (and this probably goes against all PC lines) I'm quite looking forward to two nights of girlie eating, drinking and a baby-free existence. Don't get me wrong, I love H, but there is something quite intoxicating about a completely stress free night - no feeding, no worrying the baby is suffocating, no having to get up in the middle of the night. Freedom!

We're staying at The Gansevoort and I'm in the process of planning various bars, shops and restaurants to visits during my flying visit. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with my sis whilst at the same time enjoying some 'me' time. H will be six months old and it will be the first time I've left him overnight. I'm sure he'll cope - and I'm sure I will too (once I've downed a couple of large glasses of wine).

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Shopping in style - the vintage way

I'm fairly new to the whole vintage craze (I know, I know) but recently I've taken to having a good old rummage around Rokit - a vintage shop close to my office. It's a great way to spend the lunch hour - I don't have huge amounts of spare cash at the moment but an hour of window shopping sans Junior makes me feel human again, without depressing myself that I can't buy the latest Farhi offering.

Today saw my first vintage purchase - a Gucci belt bag. It was a snip at £10 and I've been looking for a bag that will be practical while I'm pushing the buggy round, so it's a double winner. Brand new, these bags retail for £320. So, it's official. I'm a vintage convert. It's my first vintage purchase, but it definitely won't be my last!




Tuesday, 28 July 2009

London Fashion Week is a-coming

The countdown is well and truly on. London Fashion Week will soon be upon us - and if the previews are anything to go by, we're in for some rocking fashion. Christopher Kane's preview in particular looks fantastic. This is my favourite:




Roll on September.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Alliance no more

What is it with banks in this country? Useless doesn't even begin to cover it. I've been using Alliance & Leicester for about seven years now (it feels like a lot longer, believe me) and without doubt, they've got worse, not better over time.

The final straw came when I misplaced / had stolen my debit card. I immediately phoned the bank. It took them about five minutes to answer the phone, and I was then on hold for a good 20 minutes. Hmmm. If my card had been stolen, I'm sure the perpetrator was having a high old time at my expense. A less than ideal situation. Finally, just before I die of old age, a chirpy call centre representative answers the phone. She's a helpful lady, providing she doesn't have to deviate from the obvious script she is following. We go through the rigmarole of cancelling my card. I then ask (and it's my own fault for not checking sooner) when I can expect my new debit card. "Seven to ten working days," is the response. SEVEN TO TEN WORKING DAYS - are you having a laugh? How am I supposed to get any cash in the meantime? Apparently, head down to my local A&L branch. Which is miles away. Brilliant. The only response from the now less than happy call centre lady is that it's in my terms and conditions and there's nothing else they are obliged to do.

This, combined with hefty fees for no apparent reason, an inability to link my accounts and the fact that it takes at least 15 minutes to get through on the phone (and then you have to deal with the automated droning rather than actually talk to another human being), has resulted in only one possible outcome - I am leaving the bank. I'm fairly sure that this will not single-handedly bring A&L (or Santander for that matter) to their knees, but enough is enough. I have reached my limit and can't take any more. Which then brings me to the next question. Which bank should I now opt for? That's still up for debate, but one thing's for sure: it won't be a hard act to follow.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Eating, sleeping, eating...

It's been a hell of a week. On Monday, H rolled over for the first time - a milestone in development, apparently. It's amazing. I really didn't think I'd be so bothered, but after weeks of watching him desperately trying to turn over, it's fantastic to finally see him achieve it. He looked so pleased with himself he reminded me of his dad - until his neck muscles gave way and he proceeded to bury his head in his baby gym. Now I long for the day he can roll himself back over. He has done it once (yesterday, actually) but he hasn't done it again, so I fear that might have been a fluke. It's a strange thing - you spend so long waiting for something to happen and then when it does, you almost wish it hadn't, because now he needs constant monitoring.

As well as the rolling over, this has been the week of introducing solid food. I use that term loosely, because a mush of baby rice and carrot puree really does not constitute solid food in my humble opinion. However, it's yet another milestone, and there is something satisfying about feeding Junior - even if the offering doesn't actually look that appealing to me. Perhaps this is because I know that solid food ultimately = no dream feed. He loves it. As you'd expect, I've bought all the gear - weaning pots, weaning spoons, some starter bowls, bibs - but it was messy and there's no getting away from it. I really hope carrot doesn't stain in a puree form, because I ended up wearing quite a bit of it.

I'm working a full week next week. Whilst the money will be nice, I'm slightly traumatised about a full five days before having a day to tidy / do washing / sterilise multiple bottles etc. This makes me more concerned about my full time return in September. I hoping that by some miracle I'll have developed a skill (that currently eludes me) that enables me to maintain my usual life and look after the little guy. But I'm not convinced that will happen...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

To feed or not to feed?

Introducing Junior to food is an interesting one. You can't wait to do it, but apparently, once you start, it's a total nightmare. There seems to be a growing trend towards Baby Led Weaning (or BLW for those in the know) but personally, I'm all for the spoonfed choice. H will be 17 weeks next Monday and I've already bought the baby rice in preparation. Yes, I know, the recommendation is to wait until six months. But I started eating solid foods at 17 weeks and it hasn't done me any harm. And, fingers crossed, it will encourage him to drop the 10.30pm feed - my latest holy grail. Who knows what will happen when we have our evenings totally back to ourselves - restaurants, theatre trips?? Goodness, the world will be our oyster. But, more likely, we'll go to bed at 10pm and get some sleep. Ah, the glamourous life of new parents.

I, on the other hand, will not be eating at all for the next week. This is mainly due to the new pair of shoes I've just bought - simply too good to miss in the sales. A fantastic pair of Georgina Goodman heels reduced from £302 to just £75. Bargain. Plus, the lack of food will help me slim down for those skinny jeans. I hope.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Shopping the sales

Why is it that the moment you don't have any spare cash, all the sales come along and reduce things you actually want to buy? I knew that having a baby would limit my shopping habit, but I wasn't quite prepared to cease all activity in favour of buying very mundane items like travel cots instead of a fabulous pair of Nicole Farhi shoes, reduced from £260 to a mere £80. (Okay, if I'm honest, I did still get the shoes - it was too good a deal to pass up. Besides, I rationalised that I almost did spend £260 on the shoes, so I saved money. Sort of.) H is only three months old, but he still seems to need a fair amount of new gear and I just can't really get excited about high chairs. Tiny baby clothes, yes. Parasols for a buggy, no.

Perhaps it's because the credit crunch is really starting to hit, and so shops are trying to tempt us into braving the sales. Perhaps it's because nobody bought the stuff in the first place because no one has got any money. Whatever the reason, the sales at the moment are GOOD. And when you've got no spare cash whatsoever, that's just bloody typical.