Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Happy Christmas to me

I cannot believe this weather, or the fact that it's only three days until Christmas! Luckily, I'm ready, so I can stay  in, enjoy looking out of the window at the snow and eat lots of cake. Perfect.

Before I reached this state of readiness, however, I did have the usual trips round the shops and consequently nearly froze to death. This is mainly because now I have had my baby, the coat I've been wearing for the final stages of my pregnancy is now redundant and, thanks to clothes-gate, I had no coat at all. Not exactly ideal in sub-zero temperatures. So, I decided to treat myself to a new coat (or rather Mr. Martini did the treating - I just did the choosing). And this is what I got:

It's an Arctic Parka from The North Face and it's as warm as a duvet. The hood is fab too. I love it. I would highly recommend this coat if you feel the cold like I do. I wore it all day at the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and didn't feel remotely cold - and there was a blizzard. Genius. 

Whilst I was in the mood to treat myself, I also decided it was high time to purchase a decent change bag. The free one from Pampers/Boots is all well and good, but I need more of a rucksack to carry around all the gear I need for two kids plus myself. Where better than the mighty John Lewis on Oxford Street to consider the various options? Where indeed. After much consideration, I opted for this one from StorkSak:

It's enormous and clever enough to attach to a bugaboo - which is a winner with me. Enough compartments for all my stuff too, which helps. And this brilliant key chain attachment so the days of rooting around for hours on end to fish out my keys are finally over. Mr. Martini was even impressed with that. (He was less impressed about the cost of the bag - £96 - when, in his opinion, we have one already for free - but he was on dodgy ground and wisely decided to keep quiet). 

Yes, it may only be days until Father Christmas pops down the chimney, but I'm still a big fan of a treat just to help deal with the excitement. Not, you understand, a sentiment I'll be passing on to my children. I hope. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Three weeks in...

I'm finally starting to emerge from the 'newborn fog' - but only just. I can scarcely believe that Baby Martini is already three weeks old - it goes so quickly! Put simply, it's marvellous. I'm not sure if this is because I'm much more aware that I should enjoy it this time, or just because I'm more relaxed - maybe it's a combination of the two. Either way, I'm loving it! Admittedly, I'm not loving the lack of sleep (I'd somehow managed to erase that from my memory) but other than that, it's great.

We had our first major trip out yesterday - shopping, naturally. Not for me, unfortunately (and not really much Christmas stuff either - that's for later this week) but for Mr. Martini - it's his birthday today. I'd also forgotten how many people want to talk to you when you have a brand new baby in the pushchair. Most are lovely, although I can do without the very helpful "Oh, she's hungry" (she's not, I've just fed her) and "Oh, she's cold" (she's not, she has three blankets on. She is tired and needs to go to sleep) comments, but generally, I've never been so popular. 

And so, to Christmas. Only 25 days to go. I'm mostly ready and so am looking forward to wandering round Westfield (simply put, the best place ever to go with a newborn) and just enjoying the festivities. I need to buy a beautiful dress for Baby Martini and outfit for Elder Martini to wear on Christmas day. Although this could be done in about five minutes flat, I'm going to do serious research. The truth is that the clothes for baby girls are just better - I'm hoping that the boys clothes improve as they get older. Otherwise, EM will be going to Hugo Boss far earlier than I'd like!

PS Loving the snow! 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Child is Born (finally!)

After a very lengthy build up, I'm finally able to report that Baby Martini II was born on Monday, 8 November just after midday. I'm not going to lie - the ten days or so of 'false/early labour' were fairly horrendous, but (as you'd expect), when she arrived it was well worth the wait. 

Typically, I'd like to share my birth story - in the end, I'm rather proud of myself. However, if you're pregnant, you may want to hold off reading this post until after you've done the deed. Similarly, if you were in the Antenatal Day Care Unit at St. Thomas' at lunchtime on Monday, I apologise. You know why.

So, here we go:

5am - wake up with some minor stomach cramps. Nothing painful but can't go back to sleep, so wait around in bed until the rest of the family wake up.

7am - I get up with Mr. Martini and help pack Elder Martini off to nursery. Mr. Martini heads to work - "there's no point wasting time off - I'll call if I need you" - famous last words.

8.30am - call my mum to give the daily update that nothing has happened overnight. Minor contractions, but can talk through them - nothing doing. Hang up and decide to have a bath.

9.30am - contractions seem to have eased off. Make some tea and toast.

9.35am - can't eat. Seems a bit weird. Have a couple of majorly painful contractions. Assume it's nothing, take a couple of paracetamol and carry on.

10.30am - decide that even if it's a false alarm, I can't really deal with the contractions on my own any more. Call Mr. Martini and ask him to come home. I say that there's no rush, he can just jump on a bus.

10.45am - "a bus is not fine. Get in a taxi." The contractions are coming fairly regularly and I think about timing them, but haven't got a watch to hand. I figure I can wait until he gets home.

11.00am - Mr. Martini arrives home. He helps me with a couple of contractions and sorts out the kitchen - I never tidied away the breakfast that I didn't eat.

11.10am - my brother arrives to collect Elder Martini things. It turns out Mr. M. had called him on his way home. We decide that my brother should collect Elder Martini from nursery and head over to my parents. 

11.15am - horrendous contraction that actually makes me shout out. Mr. M. decides we need to go to hospital. I say that if I can still speak, we're not leaving. He ignores me and forces me out of the door. My brother mentions that he doesn't know how to get to the nursery. I say we can drive him there ("we have time") and then go straight on to St. Thomas'.

11.25am - Mr. M. takes my brother into the nursery to sign out Elder. He comes back to me practically crying in the car. Sitting down and having contractions is not recommended.

11.25am - 11.44am - drive to St. Thomas'. This is the longest journey in the world. I have four contractions. The last one is so painful we have to stop so I can get out of the car and stand.

11.45am - arrive at St. Thomas'. The car park is heaving and we can't find a space. I get out of the car and attempt to walk to the entrance. Mr. M. parks the car. After what seems like forever, he joins me at the lifts.

11.50am - we head to the 7th floor. I have two contractions in the lift. Surprisingly, no one is bothered by my pain, and the lift stops at every floor between Ground and Seven. I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone in the lift.

11.55am - the receptionist on the Antenatal Unit ushers us straight through to the midwives. Mr. M. has to book me in - now I can't speak. I have two really, really, really bad contractions at the booking in desk, in front of the whole waiting room. If any of the pregnant women in there had any questions about labour before I arrived, they certainly don't now. Apart from perhaps: is it too late to go back? Any first-time pregnant ladies have presumably been put off for life. Sorry about that - a less than ideal situation.

At this point, I have assumed I am in proper labour. I have also decided that there's no way I can do this for hours on end. I demand an epidural. Quite loudly. (Again, apologies to everyone in the waiting room). Funnily enough, most of the midwives ignore me - turns out they are sorting me a room and know full well I barely have enough time to get to a room, let alone have an epidural. I, however, have no idea whatsoever. Mr. M. also tells them I wanted to go to the Home from Home Unit (which doesn't do epidurals). I try to shout over him, but unfortunately, the contractions are stopping me from speaking.

12.00pm - I get wheel-chaired into the closest room. (Yes, this is why they are the professionals.) I want to go to the loo - my waters break. And then I have this overwhelming urge to push. Hmmm. It is the strangest feeling in the world. So maybe not enough time for an epidural then?

12.05pm - I get gas and air - which is highly recommended. That helped a lot. 

12.15pm - our baby daughter is born. 8lb 4oz and a total darling.

My discharge notes are hilarious. They say: duration of labour - 15min. Unbelievably, it took 40 minutes to deliver the placenta. Which is more annoying than anyone tells you - next time, I think I'll have the injection. 

We were home by 9.30pm. In an ideal world, the car journey to the hospital wouldn't have been so painful, and there would have been a parking space right next to the door, but all in all, it was a much better experience than the first birth. So - home birth for the next one? Let's not push it...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Child number two - the story so far...

I'm actually starting to think that this is a phantom pregnancy - instead of a baby in there, I have, in fact, just eaten too much cake. It's almost embarrassing how bad my body clearly is at delivering a baby. To give you a quick run down:

Thursday 28 October (that's right, a week ago) - had some mild contractions during the night. Perfectly bearable, but was pleased to think the baby might be arriving earlier than scheduled. (Ahh, the irony.)

Friday 29 October. Had 40 week appointment with my midwife. I told her about the mild contractions. I had a few during my assessment - she confirmed they were proper contractions (not Braxton Hicks) and said that she thought I'd have the baby in the next few days. We almost didn't make an appointment for 41 weeks - but, as it now turns out, it's lucky that we did. 

Saturday 30 October. Contractions now getting more painful and increasing in frequency. After a very uncomfortable day, we waited until the contractions were six minutes apart and then headed for the hospital. "It's finally happening," I thought. Chance would be a bloody fine thing.

Sunday 31 October. Nothing. Big fat nothing. Contractions just stop, I get monitored overnight and nothing. To be fair to the staff at St. Thomas', they were lovely, telling me this is very common and to just be patient. So, we go home (via McDonald', for a nutritious, healthy breakfast, naturally), expecting things to pick up again that evening. They did not.

Monday 1 November. Some mild contractions, but essentially nothing. 

Tuesday 2 November. As Monday.

Wednesday 3 November. I have now officially begun to question whether or not there is a baby in there. And even if there is, will it ever come out? What is s/he waiting for? Christmas?

Today (Thursday 4 November) - as yet, nothing exciting to report. I've had some quite stomach cramps, but to be honest, I don't think I'll believe anything is happening until the baby comes out. Which could be problematic, but I'll worry about that later.

In short, I am bored. Bored of waiting for it to happen, bored of having to report to numerous people that "no, there's still no baby" and bored of being in mild pain. Yes, I've tried everything (and I do mean everything) to try and encourage this baby out, but I've come to the conclusion they want to stay in there. Obviously, they aren't going to win that battle forever, but for the moment at least, it seems it's 1-0 to the baby. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Time to spare? Some ideas to fill time

I am almost officially house bound. Whilst some time out may sound appealing to some, let me assure you that I am bored. Out of my skull. Shopping is out and I think I've reached the end of the internet. Naturally, I've already resorted and filed our entire home office, re-organised all the storage in the house and cleaned all the places that you always put off until you have more time. Apparently, that time came.

I have had no choice but to find some alternatives to fill the time. These have included:

1. Getting into House. This programme is bloody brilliant - Hugh Laurie is a genius and makes you proud to be English. Apparently it's the most successful programme in the world, ever - if you use the measure of most watched programme. Good-o.

2. Knitting. Don't laugh too hard, but I am loving a bit of knitting. My Grandmother taught me when I was little, but I haven't done it for years. I bought a couple of Debbie Bliss books, some needles and wool and voila! Baby items galore. 

3. Make soap. I promise I'm not adding making jam to this list. But ever since I saw Kirstie do it on Kirstie's Homemade Christmas (which was a brilliant programme by the way) I've thought 'how hard can it be?' It takes quite a while to do, but it's very therapeutic - although I won't be able to sample the results for another four weeks. When the time comes, I'll report on whether it was worth it, or whether I should have just gone to Lush instead. 

4. Attempt to master wordpress. This is very traumatic. And is ongoing. I don't want to talk about this any further. 

5. Get ridiculously excited about Halloween. I never used to be into Halloween, but last year we had a party and it was great fun decorating the house and carving pumpkins. I'm planning on doing the same this year - without the party, but with more cupcakes. I can't decide when it's acceptable to put the decorations up - I'm thinking this weekend should be okay.

6. Plan for Christmas. Presents, cards, food - the full works. I love Christmas and now the shops have started to stock their seasonal goodies, I feel no further excuse is needed. 

If there's anything you feel I'm missing, do let me know - any inspiration gratefully received right now!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The key to success is...

...organisation. I admit it. I'm a list maker. But it really is true. Today, I had a 'good day'. Last night, for the first time in a while, I made a list of everything I wanted to get done today. Mainly boring chores (like sorting Elder Martini's clothes that he's grown out of to go into storage) that have been hanging over me for a while, but despite the fact I'm not working still don't seem to get done.

All but one item was successfully ticked off the list - and that item (buying Mr. Martini's birthday present - it's not until the end of November, but I'd like to have it sorted before Mini Martini makes an appearance) is top of the list for tomorrow. Also on the list is drawing up the Christmas list. I love Christmas, so this isn't really a chore - I starting my shopping a while back and was actually waiting for the shops to stock cards. I was surprised they arrived as early as they did (is it like this every year and I just missed it?), but I was first in line. Even the shop assistant raised an eyebrow when I took them up to the till. 

So, make a list. Hell, make two. If you're like me, just making the list will help make you feel better. Organised? Check. Relaxed? Check. Job done? Check.

Friday, 1 October 2010

8 down, 1 to go

Tomorrow it will be one month exactly until the baby is due. Thank God. I know I'm not the best at being pregnant, but I really am done with the whole malarkey. It's painful to walk, this baby is HUGE and I'm permanently uncomfortable and the indigestion is making me feel so ill, I can't even enjoy cake (okay, so there is one upside - I'm not putting on weight at the speed of light). But enough of the joys of making life. My main concern is that we're not ready. At all. I know we have a moses basket, but I probably should prioritise finding it fairly soon. And some new born nappies would probably come in handy - Elder Martini's (formerly known as Baby Martini) size 5s might be a bit on the large side. 

Apparently the time is also right for me to pack a hospital bag. I remember this well from last time. And I won't be falling for the con - what a total waste of time. A quick google search provides the following necessities (I love the way there are four sections):

For the labour:
- maternity notes (fair enough - I'll give you that one)
- birth plan - don't bother. I can remember it. Get to hospital, get drugs, get baby, get home. Straightforward.
- slippers - okay, although I don't plan on hanging about
- socks - seriously? All that pain and you'll be worried about cold feet? I think not. Besides, I can't even see my feet. 
- Old nightdress to give birth in - believe me, you won't care if you're wearing nothing at all
- lip balm - oh yes, because between contractions you'll definitely want to touch up your make up. A small mirror might come in handy too...
- snacks and drinks. Really? I'm sure all hospitals have shops and canteens that you can send your other half to if necessary - but it's not a picnic, for goodness sake - I didn't want to eat or drink anything
- a hairband (see lipbalm)
- pillows - not actually as ridiculous as it sounds. At St. Thomas', you get one. That's not enough. But I'm just throwing some in the back of the car ready for the occasion
- TENS machine - waste of time. Bring on the drugs
- toiletries (see lipbalm)
- music to listen to - I don't know who comes up with this stuff, but it isn't a bloody rock concert. Any ideas that your child will be the next Mozart because he's born to some classical CD will be drowned out by your screams (and quite possibly, your partners)

For the birth partner (oh good, I'm glad he gets a bag too):
- water spray or handheld fan - I'd say dangerous, because it's likely to be thrown back at him
- comfortable shoes - because the ones he goes into the hospital with won't be comfortable? I'd suggest changing them before you go there
- a change of clothes - nice idea. Won't happen.
- watch with a second hand to time contractions - he'll either be wearing it, or won't have one. So doesn't need to be packed
- swimwear - Christ, now it's a swimwear party. I think the idea is he might like to jump in the birthing pool with you. First - I can't imagine that it's very pleasant and second, how big exactly is this pool? Can you do some laps between contractions? Maybe some aqua aerobics to the music set up you've taken with you? Maybe you could give a class to kill some time?
- Camera - if there was a camera anywhere near me at the time, it no longer exists
- address book / mobile phone numbers - now is not the time to be writing to your penpal. Anyone who goes anywhere without a mobile phone is a very rare commodity indeed - chances are, you'll have your own anyway
- snacks and drinks - I suppose he might fancy joining your picnic

For after the birth - remind me, exactly how big is this bag? Is it, in actual fact, a suitcase?:
- a going home outfit - again, nice idea, but it's not a wedding. No one is going to see and no one is going to care
- nursing bras - good idea
- maternity pads and breast pads - yes, agree, these are worth having
- nightshirt - okay, I'll give you this too. Better than the awful hospital gowns
- hairdryer - WHAT? Good luck. If you can get into the shower, it will be an achievement. The chances of sitting around preening yourself are gone. Forever, actually, but that's another story
- arnica tablets - it's unlikely you'll care or remember about them at the bottom of your bag
- ear plugs - err, no. You won't be sleeping anyway, so what's the point?

And some stuff for the baby too - but you will actually need that, so fair dos. 

You'd better hope that your birthing partner is strong - this lot is more than I'd take on holiday!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Fashion Fix

It's been quite a while since I've done a 'fashion fix' - mainly because I haven't been able to bring myself to look at any clothes, or even shoes, in my current state. However, with just a month to go now, I'm in the home straight and already thinking about all the delightful things I can wear over Christmas (assuming, of course, that I instantly lose all the baby weight, and actually lose some pre-pregnancy weight too. Well, it is the season of dreams and all that).

This 'colour of the season' camel jumper from Zara is cosy and, at £39.99, a much cheaper alternative to the Chanel versions on the London Fashion Week catwalk.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Key, The Secret

Yesterday, total disaster struck Martini Towers. Yes, you'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing could be worse than clothes gate, but Mr. Martini decided that he'd put that theory to the test.

I was in our study, minding my own business and going through some email. Mr. Martini lets himself in and shouts up the stairs "I need your help now. There's been a disaster."

Surely it can't be that bad? Wrong. Somehow, in his haste, Mr. Martini has lost the car key. Worse, he thinks he has thrown it in one of the communal rubbish bins - the sort that have lids and that are so big, you can climb in them (yes, that's experience talking. Patience). Even worse than that, he's left the car parked in the very obviously marked 'NO PARKING' area with the windows open, the hazard lights on and the alarm activated. Brilliant. And, do you want to know the best bit? We don't have a spare key. Fantastic.

What do you do in this situation? Well, obviously, a frantic search ensued - which did include a thorough search of various rubbish bins. Revolting, but necessary. I watched, but did not participate, I hasten to add. Not in my condition. Three hours of searching later, still no key.

Okay, next step. Call locksmiths. This was not a joyous experience. All said the same thing. Given the age of the car (it's ten years old) we have to go to Mercedes directly. It's too old to be compatible with their computers. I was tempted to ask how car thieves overcome this issue, but restrained myself.

So, call Mercedes. Our closest garage is, unfortunately, Chelsea - so not a cheap option. But we're getting desperate. I can almost smell the car clampers getting ready to pounce. After speaking to about 17 helpful assistants, I am finally told that we can order a new key, but it needs to be made in Germany (again, because of the age of the car) and will take about ten days to arrive. Call me a cynic, but I don't think that's going to cut any ice with Southwark Council. However, as it starts to get dark, I'm thinking that having the car impounded will probably ensure it's safety more than leaving it out in the car park with the windows open. However, I'm not sure how long they'd keep it before crushing it.

All in all, none of the options are appealing. We decide that we have to try and move the car into a proper car parking space, so we open the doors and set the alarm off. It continues to go off intermittently until Mr. Martini call rip up all the electrics (under the driver seat) to try and pull out the right fuse. This just gets better and better. He then tries to steer it over to a  parking spot. Unfortunately, Mercedes are on top of this sort of thing, and a wheel lock kicks in, almost forcing the car into a brick wall.

By this point, I'm almost wishing someone would come and steal the car - it would solve a lot of problems. And ensure the neighbours don't start throwing eggs at us for creating such disruption. The only option is to call the AA and ask how much it will cost to come and rescue the car and take it to a safe location - namely, my parents, out in the suburbs. It's not cheap (they have to pick up the car and lift it onto the tow truck) but it's the only solution. I call my parents to warn them we're on our way. 

"No problem," my mum says, "but why don't we just run the spare key up to you now and save you the fee?"

SPARE KEY? SPARE KEY? They've had one this whole time and we didn't know??? Mr. Martini has never been so relieved in his entire life. So, not a complete disaster - although we're still recovering from the in-depth analysis performed on the local rubbish bins. And yes, another key is on it's way over from Germany. Natürlich.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Southwark Council - the pride of London

I dread this time of year. As the beginning of September looms, I have to grit my teeth and prepare to do battle - yes, it's the time of year I have to renew our parking permit. Never, in the whole history of the world, has anything been as problematic and traumatic on such a regular basis. 

The timing is crucial. The MOT has to be complete and the insurance validated for another year - only then can you apply for the permit. But these documents alone aren't enough. Oh no. I've learnt from past experience. No matter what you take, it's not enough. This year, I took:
  • My birth certificate
  • My marriage certificate (because, despite several letters to the council, they have failed to update our records to reflect my married name)
  • My passport
  • My driving licence
  • The log book for the car
  • My council tax book
After making the submission, I waited with bated breath for the inevitable call. Yesterday, it comes. "Hello, it's Michelle from the One Stop Shop. (I'd also like to point out there's nothing 'one stop' about it. You have to visit two sites to get parking permits - surely defeating the whole purpose of the name. But I digress.) Unfortunately, your log book shows the car is registered somewhere else, so we can't process your application. Sorry about that."

Every year, it's the same. Every year, I give them the previous year's permit number, to prove that they can, in fact, give out a permit for a company car, providing the insurance is in my name. Every year, they won't process it without a fight. And it's inspired. You can't call the very helpful One Stop Shop - you have to go in (open 9.30 until 4.30 - very helpful. I may actually apply for a job here, because it's the best working hours for employees I've come across). And even then, it's a total bloody nightmare. I have yet to obtain a parking permit without at least three separate trips to the One Stop Shop. One Stop my eye. 

There is only one solution to this problem. We have to move. Seriously, we had better not be in Southwark by next September. I have officially reached the end of the road with this process.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Keeping up-to-date

I knew that I hadn't blogged for a while, but I cannot believe the last time was 13 August. That's appalling. I have been ridiculously busy, but given that I'm no longer working, I don't think this is a very reasonable excuse. It's amazing how stopping suddenly makes you more tired. So, a quick re-cap on what's been happening:

1. I have been diagnosed with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction - SPD for ease. It's basically pain in your pelvis, and it bloody hurts. There's no real way to treat it, although I am seeing a specialist next week to get a very attractive belt to help hold things in place. Lovely. Also, as an extra kicker, there's a possibility I'll end up on crutches before the end of the pregnancy. Lovely again. 

2. I've got anemia. I'm prone to it in normal life anyway, so it's not exactly a shock, but I do love rattling around like a pill box. Not.

3. I have finished knitting my first proper garment - a jumper for baby Martini (soon to be renamed). It's not brilliant and it's full of mistakes, but I feel very proud of my efforts. For a first attempt, I reckon it's not a total embarrassment. See for yourself:

4. Mr. Martini and I have booked a get away to Bath. It's only two days but Baby Martini will be staying with his grandparents, so it will be a proper rest. Hopefully. I do remember that the only other time we went away childless (to a friend's wedding) our eagerly awaited lie-in lasted until an embarrassingly early 8am. The shame.

5. I am almost ready to kick off my freelancing career. I have a couple of meetings later this week, so stay tuned - there's a distinct possibility I could become a company owner before the week is out!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Friday Fashion Fix

Now, I know it's only August, but all the doom and gloom outside is making me think of winter. This coat, from the lovely Primark, is part of the new Autumn/Winter range, and is due in shops from October. If it was available now, I think I might have worn it today! I love it. And knowing Primarni it will be a bargain. Yes, the buttons will need changing and it will only last one season, but who cares? Fabulous.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Science Museum - Scientifically Proven to be a Winner

This is a good question generally, but actually refers to one of the themes currently being investigated at the Science Museum (I tried to nick their logo, but the website wouldn't let me). In short, this place was bloody amazing. Admittedly, full of school children that I could do without, but then again, it is the holidays, so what did I expect?

As I have now officially started my maternity leave, we've decided to take Baby Martini's nursery days down to only three days a week, which leaves me two days a week to fill. I have discovered that staying at home watching Judge Judy does not count as valuable entertainment for a toddler. (Or adults, if we're really honest, but let's not go there now.)

So, this morning, armed with a picnic and the pushchair, we braved the outside world. Had I done research, I would have known that there is a whole area in the basement dedicated for children to run riot in. As I hadn't, I can't really claim responsibility for this flash on genius - nevertheless, BM was in his element. And, of course, I will later claim I had planned the whole thing.

We had hours of fun playing with the springs, the various water elements, the light and sound displays and the other activities on offer. He was almost too tired to eat his lunch afterwards! And on that note, the facilities are fantastic - buggy parks, areas to picnic in (so you don't have to spend £100 on a tiny hotdog) - you name it, they've thought of it. And - and this is the best bit - it's free. They ask for a £3 donation, but it's not enforced - so you can give as much or as little as you like.

I may be a bit behind the curve here, but I really did not realise that places like this existed. There's no stopping me now. And I've got a sneaking suspicion that BM will be forever grateful that his Jeremy Kyle watching days have become a thing of the past. 

Monday, 9 August 2010

28 weeks and counting

Unbelievably, I am already 28 weeks pregnant. It's funny, because the first 12 weeks (when you can't tell anyone) went by painfully slowly - but since then, it's flown past. And whilst I haven't exactly loved this pregnancy, it hasn't been that bad either. I am, however, really bad at keeping up with the various milestones of pregnancy - so I did some Google research and this is what I've found:

1. The baby is now about 15 inches long and weighs just over 2lb. Which is interesting, because I look somewhat similar to a whale. Guess all the rest of it must be fluid. Definitely not all the additional cake I've been 'craving'. 
2. The baby's eyes are now open. Good-o. 
3. My weight gain will start to steadily increase (it hasn't already?) and I'll be more tired, apparently. Good to know that full on exhaustion is headed my way. 
4. "You may start to get headaches, backaches, more itching and heartburn. These are all common." Brilliant. 

Now I remember why I don't pay too much attention to what's going on. Apparently, I should also be thinking about packing my hospital bag. I'm not falling for this old trick again. Last time, I diligently packed snacks, my mp3 player and other items to keep me entertained. What you actually need is a big sign saying 'Give me the drugs NOW' (so you don't have to speak) and lots of pillows. Yes, really, St. Thomas' isn't so big on these luxuries. And maybe an eye mask, so you can sleep once the drugs kick in. Because, I remember well, it's the last chance I'll have for some shut eye in quite a while...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Stalking for Charity

Before I start, let me point out that I am most definitely in favour of charity giving. I have regular donations to charities that are particularly close to my heart (the British Heart Foundation, for example) and always sponsor friends in their various charity activities. Why anyone would choose to run the marathon is beyond me, but you've got to admire their dedication. 

However, what I am not in favour of is being stalked down the high street usually by young 20-somethings, sporting a branded t-shirt and a clipboard. You'll notice that they hunt in packs, with some targeting people walking one way, and the rest targeting those going in the opposite direction. This means, of course, that if you need to come back on yourself, you're likely to be harassed twice, instead of just once. 

I understand that everyone has a job to do and that this is being done in a good cause. But the simple fact is, I can't support every charity in existence and making a bee-line for me on the street is not going to embarrass me into signing up. I either already support the charity, or have decided not to. No one is convincing me mid-shop. Of course, some clipboard sporters are perfectly pleasant when I say I am not interested (I do not try to avoid eye contact and hurry past them in an attempt to avoid a conversation - although I've been told that this approach does also work). What I find more irritating is rudeness. Some recent comebacks have included:

"Everyone can spare £2 a month - even you"
"You look like you can afford to give to charity"
"You'll regret this"

Quite frankly, shouting at me is not going to induce me to sign up. I'm sure it makes the clipboard gang feel better, but, if anything, it gives me a worse impression of the charity. 

There is hardly a high street that I've been to recently that hasn't featured one charity or another recruiting for new members. So, I can only assume that this strategy must be successful - otherwise it wouldn't still be going. But I won't be handing over my details anytime soon.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Friday Fashion Fix

Yesterday, Mr. Martini and I had a very enjoyable day. With no particular plans or commitments, we wandered around Covent Garden (if you go early - say, for example, after dropping off your child at nursery) you can avoid the tourists. It's actually quite pleasant when you're not rushing back to work. We went up Neal Street and into Neal's Yard, where we both had a fantastic massage - no need to book, just walk straight in.

We had coffee and a leisurely browse in Foyles on Charing Cross Road - I've never been in there before and it's marvellous. The Selfridges of book shops, you might say. And we rounded it off with a fantastic lunch at Brasserie Blanc in the City. We were back home in time to have a cat nap before picking up Junior.

And the best bit? I even managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping. In my state, clothes are generally out, but I could not resist these absolutely fabulous Dr. Martens - a bargainous £42 reduced from £85. There is no doubt this me clinging to my younger days - yes, I used to wear these when I was 15. I used to paint my old ones and think I was hard. I was not, and tippex doesn't actually count as paint, but ah, the heady days of youth...

Of course, when I was younger, I failed to notice the very sensible aspects of these boots - 1. waterproof - so very good in the rain and 2. flat - so I'm not going to kill myself pretending I can still wear heels at six months pregnant (or not for any length of time, anyway). Nevertheless, they are still cool and will allow me to rock my inner child for some time to come...

There are still loads on sale in the store on Neal Street - failing that, check out the online store for your size.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

It's time for a holiday

I was inspired by the most recent blog post by excellent blogger Babyrambles. She was challenged to spend £9.50 on something better than a holiday (The Sun is running an offer selling holidays for £9.50. What you actually get for this price is unknown to me - I'm guessing it's not two weeks, all expenses paid at the Atlantis Dubai - but nevertheless, a holiday for less than a tenner sounds pretty good to me). 

Some ideas that occurred to me:
1. A winning lottery ticket (really goes without saying but top of the list anyway)
2. A bottle of wine that I can drink with my husband - six months in, and there are still three to go before I can properly enjoy a glass or two guilt free. The state I'm in at the moment, a bottle of wine is far less effort than traveling on holiday!
3. Some new books for mini Martini. The enjoyment he gets from his books is unbelievable and his laughter makes my heart swell every time I hear it
4. Debbie Bliss wool - although you'd only get three balls for £9.00 (at the most!). Don't judge, but I'm finding knitting increasingly therapeutic - I know, I know, I'm aging in dog years
5. Dinner at the Mirch Masala in Tooting. It may not be posh, but it's the best Indian food outside of India. And cheap - what more could you want?

In short (and you won't hear me saying this often), it would appear The Sun has got it right on this occasion. There aren't many better ways to spend £9.50 - so check out the details here.

Monday, 28 June 2010

What are you afraid of?

I haven’t been tagged for a meme in quite a while, but last week, Yummy Mummy No1 got me for the ‘What are you afraid of’ meme. I’m told that the rule is you share your fear and then tag five more lovelies, who then have to share their fears too.

Now, being completely honest, I’m not usually that open about my fears. I’d much rather pretend that I don’t have any fears. Naturally, there are the usual suspects – death, or more accurately, pain in death, bad illnesses (me and my family), not being able to lose the baby weight second time around – you know the sort of thing. But, I don’t really think it would be quite in the spirit of things to cite one of those.

So, instead, let me reveal (briefly – I don’t want to bore you to death) one of my irrational fears. The sea.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love going to the beach and I can certainly handle splashing around in a swimming pool when the weather is warm. But actually swimming in the sea is a non-starter. I think it probably stems from my childhood. I’m absolutely blind – my current prescription is minus 14 – and I’ve worn spectacles all my life. Since I was 11, I’ve worn contact lenses, but when I was smaller, I had glasses, and obviously, I couldn’t take those when I ventured down to the sea shore with my brother and sister. They thought it was hilarious that I couldn’t see them, so, despite my parents telling them to ‘look after me’ (embarrassing enough, since I am the eldest) they used to run away from me and then leave me to find my way back to my parents. Which I rarely succeeded in – usually my mum or dad had to come and rescue me.

In an attempt to overcome my problem, I used to memorise what my mum’s swimming costume looked like without wearing my glasses, and then try and find that when the lovely siblings ran away. This plan did not go so well when I started talking to a complete stranger, just because she had the same costume as my mum. After that, I just decided that it was much easier to stay on the sunbed, rather than go in the sea at all.

Of course, nowadays, it should be a completely different story. I have daily disposable contact lenses – so if the worst should happen, and they came out in the sea – I’d just be able to get out a new pair. But somehow I just can’t enjoy being in the sea, no matter how hard I try. I’m even worse on small boats or pedalos – I still rigidly, clinging on for dear life and just wait for the moment I can step on dry land. I know that I’m going to have to suffer through various traumas when the kids get older and want to do these sorts of activities on family holidays. And maybe this will help me finally overcome my fear. But I think it’s far more likely that my children will pick up where my siblings left off...

I've recently discovered some great new blogs, and I'd like to find out what they are afraid of (apologies if you've already had this meme - I did try to check but forgive me if I missed it):

The Moiderer
Purple Ramblings
Frog in the Field
20something Mum

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday Fashion Fix

I am loving the sales right now, despite being pregnant - I put myself on a very strict rule of not buying any new clothes until the baby is born. So, I have to stick to shoes. Now, I know that it's blisteringly hot outside, and I should probably be coveting flip flops, but And these beauties, from Hobbs, are just the job for the forward planner. And for pregnant women that can no longer balance on 5inch heels.

Reduced from £159 to £99.

By the way, my scan on Wednesday was inconclusive - so it's back to St. Thomas' later today for round two. Will update as soon as I have news.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

It's not as easy as I'd thought...

Tomorrow is my 20 week scan for Baby Martini 2. And I’m really looking forward to it. In fact, all things being well, it’s the milestone I’ve been waiting for since I got pregnant. But I’ve also been thinking back over the past five months (ish) and almost visibly shake my head at my total naivety going into this pregnancy.

I didn’t expect it to be easy. I thought I might be a bit tired. But, with Baby Martini settled happily at nursery and everything back to normal at work, I thought it would pretty much be a breeze. People do it all the time, right? It can’t be that hard.

Well, I can tell you that (for me at least) it bloody well has been. And it’s not exactly going to get any easier either. Obviously, I know how lucky we are – it would appear that you only have to blow on me and I’ll conceive (Mr. Martini is still lamenting the fact that we didn’t have months of ‘trying’) and, so far at least, we’ve had a healthy and straight-forward pregnancy. But, oh my God, I was not prepared for the absolute exhaustion. It’s crippling. And now I’m getting bigger, it’s getting harder to do things like carry the pushchair up the stairs. Or carry my son at all – he’s getting bigger literally by the second. Or, in fact, carry my bag to work.

And, to make matters worse, this time, I know what’s coming. There’s no doubt that I’ve taken this pregnancy a lot more seriously. Last time, I spent most the nine months pretending I wasn’t pregnant and when I finally admitted I was, I spent the remainder of the time demonstrating how it wouldn’t change me in the slightest. (Oh yes, those were the days.)

This time, not even consciously, I’ve been a lot more sensible – and I’m fairly sure it’s because I want to make sure that number two is as perfect as can be. But, I still know that: yes, it really is possible to get even bigger, the brief indigestion I’m having now will turn into a full blown 24/7 heartburn that stops me from eating, sleeping through the night is now a thing of the past, I won’t be able to go anywhere without knowing where the nearest loo is and I’m generally going to be very uncomfortable until the bundle of joy is born. Let me assure you that, in this instance, it is much better not to know what’s coming your way.

Let me be clear – I cannot wait to meet my new baby – and I love him very much already (I bet you a pound to a penny it’s a boy, by the way). I don’t regret getting pregnant in any way. But I’m ready to admit that it’s been much more difficult than I anticipated. Perhaps, when the time comes, I’ll be much more prepared for number three? Hmmm. Probably not. But, it would appear, that’s how Mother Nature works.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Just a simple get-together - or maybe not

I know that I’m a bit of an organising freak. I admit it – and quite often, I’m (secretly) quite proud of it. But every so often, I reach my limit and decide I’ve had enough. The last week has been one of those times.

I have various groups of friends I’ve acquired over the years – friends from school, different work places, and most recently ‘baby friends’ (as Mr. Martini calls them). I realised that with one particular group of friends, I only saw them when I organised a get-together. So I made the decision to wait for one of them to arrange the next night out. Two and a half years later, I’m still waiting. So, not that good a group of friends then.

Going back to the baby friends, since I went back to work much earlier than the rest of the group, I decided to organise a reunion. I sent a group email and we all agreed a date. And then, the ‘suggestions’ started rolling in. “Can we go to a different place that’s more convenient for xxx?” Fair enough. “Can we change the time so it’s easier?” Okay. Irritating, but will do. “Can we invite some other people too?” I tell you what, why don’t you organise something, and then you can do it however you like. Maybe it makes me sound mean, but to be honest, now I’m just left wondering if it wouldn’t have been easier to leave it in the first place...

Follow my blog with bloglovin

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Friday Fashion Fix

The sales are in full force right now - and even if you're five months pregnant, there are still many bargains to be had:

A great dress from Mamas and Papas - a snip at £22

If the sun comes back, this top from Blooming Marvellous is worth snapping up - £17

And if it doesn't, this jumper from ASOS will keep you warm - £22

You can never go wrong with Isabella Oliver - ever - and this dress is the best bargain yet at £28.50 - a massive 70% off!

Finally, nursing bras are always more practical than pretty, but this one does the job whilst looking at least half way decent - £26

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Breast is best, but it's not the only answer

Yummy Mummy No1 has written a brilliant post (read it here) on breast feeding and I felt compelled to write one of my own. Even before I had my first child, I was increasingly irritated by the constant barrage of literature (and nagging from midwives, I might add) about breast milk being the 'only' option for your baby. And this was before I started NCT. But I'll save that for another time, or we'll be here all week.

Yes, in an ideal world, all mothers would be whipping out their tits at every available opportunity, feeding their babies whenever the need arose. But the simple fact is, it's not that simple. And making people feel bad about it isn't going to help the baby or the child. Some myths include:

1. It's completely natural.
No, it's not. Our NCT teacher actually told us that "if your baby was born in the wild, they would come out of the birthing canal, crawl up the mother's body and latch on naturally." What utter crap. First off, a new born baby can't move, and second, latching on naturally is a fairytale. Yes, some people take to it more easily than others - but many people find it hard, and they should know that in advance, so they have time to prepare. Making out it's natural just makes people that can't do it instantly feel inadequate.

2. It can be done anywhere.
Yes, after practice at home or somewhere else quiet. No one tells you that when you see women out shopping whacking their children on their boob as soon as they start crying (the child, not the mother. We have vodka for that) that they've been doing it for a while. They did not leave hospital yesterday and the baby now knows what to do. It takes practice.

3. You don't need any help.
This is my favourite. The breastapo tell you that you must breastfeed your child come what may. Years ago, women stayed in hospital for a week after childbirth and had ample support from nurses to get the knack of breastfeeding. Now, you're kicked out in a matter of hours(which, by the way, suits me - I'd much rather be at home). If you have any problems breastfeeding, you're told to go to your nearest breastfeeding cafe. Brilliant. Your body has just been through a traumatic ordeal and then you have to get on a bus, or in your car, and then sit with a group of people you don't know and let them examine you attempt to breastfeed. And let me tell you, you do not feel like travelling three days after giving birth. Money saving? Probably. But a good idea? Absolutely not.

I'm with Yummy Mummy No1. Obviously, if you can breast feed then it is best for the baby. But not breast feeding him doesn't make you a bad mother. My theory is, if you can do it, great, and if you can't, it's not the end of the world. Take the whole thing with a pinch of salt. And remember that in ten years time, the advice will probably be completely different anyway.

I should just caveat this post with the information that I live in central London. My experiences are purely based on the services in my area. If you have more support in your area - lucky you!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Come on England

"Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life." Cecil Rhodes

Generally, I am not a huge lover of football. My whole family are huge Arsenal fans - in fact, my parents have season tickets - but I've always been more of a rugby girl. And, in more recent years, I've become quite the cricket fan - mainly because The Husband has a sneaking suspicion he actually should have been a professional cricketer, and consequently watches every match that is played globally. If you can't beat them, join them. But that's another story.

But I have to admit that World Cup fever is winning me over. At work, there are two sweepstakes running (I drew Greece - so that entry was a total waste) and friends that I didn't even know watched sport are holding parties tomorrow night. I felt compelled to buy an England t-shirt (supersized, naturally) and have even bought Baby H a football shirt so he can join in the fun. Worse, I bought some bunting and flags at the same time - which I'll be putting up in the house tonight. I did, however, draw the line at those flags for the car. Who ever came up with that bright idea should be shot. There are limits, you know.

I vaguely remember the last world cup, where strangers spoke on the street and cheered with each other, for the brief period of time we thought we might actually have a chance. My prediction this year is that we'll make it to the semi-final and then gracefully bow out (or, to some others, lose) but there are others who are far more optimistic than me. Only time will tell. As for me, well, if England don't make it, there's always Greece...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

It's all for charity

It's taken a couple of days, but I'm now ready to share my tale of woe.

As you may already know, I'm pregnant and growing at a rate of knots. Over the past month, I have been conscientiously sorting my 'normal' clothes and packing them for storage. I completed this task just before H and I decamped from the house last Wednesday, as the house was being completely rewired. We didn't come back until Sunday evening.

D was excellent throughout the process - he went back to the house everyday to help the electrician - moving furniture, lifting floorboards and generally ensuring everything was in order. To his credit, when we got home on Sunday night, the place was immaculate. And then I noticed that all my packed clothes were gone. "Amazing," I said. "You didn't mention you'd also been to the storage unit - what a great job!". D looked completely blank. "I haven't been to the unit," he replied.

"So, where's my whole wardrobe gone? Did you move it to another room? I can't see it..."

At this point, D starts to go a funny colour. "The bag that was just there?" He gesticulates at the now vacant area. "That wasn't for the charity shop?"

"Ha ha. Very funny. So you took it to the storage unit?" I replied, still smiling, because I'm assuming its a joke.

It was not. He'd very helpfully taken the bag to the charity shop on Thursday morning. Naturally, when we went back to the charity shop on Monday morning, the manager remembered him. "Oh yes," he says cheerfully. "There was loads of great stuff in there. We made sure we had it all out for first thing Saturday morning - it's our busiest day."

To be fair, as he realised what had happened, he tried not to look so happy. From a whole wardrobe that included (but is in no way limited to) six pairs of Seven For All Mankind jeans (yes, I wore them all), several Thomas Pink shirts, several Hilditch and Key shirts, a Joseph suit, more tops, skirts and dresses from Banana Republic and Hobbs than I could ever count (I admit it - I buy them - they are good for work), various Armani, Anne Fontaine, John Smedley, Amanda Wakely, Diane Von Furstenberg, D & G and Superdry items and my favourite Vera Wang dress I managed to salvage the following:

- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 Anne Fontaine top
- 1 Hilditch and Key shirt
- 1 pair of pyjamas
- 1 t-shirt

And that is it. Literally. The charity shop must have cleaned up. Although I was very disappointed to see my Hilditch and Key shirt hanging next to one from Primark, both labelled at the same price. (£2.50 by the way. Don't they cost that new in Primark?) It was very upsetting.

Come November, when I naturally bounce right back into shape and lose all my baby weight instantly, I will have absolutely no clothes. I will be naked. Or still in maternity clothes, which is just marginally worse. Of course, plans are abound for some serious shopping once baby two is born. And I am doing my best to remain philosophical about the whole affair - after all, he didn't mean to give all my clothes away, and I probably will only miss about a third of the stuff - but there is no doubt in my mind that when I spot someone at the bus stop in my shirt, it's going to be difficult not to attack them.

If you're interested, by the way, all the clothes went to Sense - so even if I'm naked, hopefully it's made a difference somewhere.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dream a little dream

This pregnancy, my dreams are definitely very vivid. I can't remember if that was true first time round, but this time I wake up and almost think I'm still in the dream. This was especially disturbing this morning, because last night I dreamt I was in prison. I appreciate that I can sometimes be too direct when I speak to people, but in my dream, I was put in prison for being rude to someone. I won't bore you with the finer details, but I was locked up for 12 weeks - so when I woke up this morning, I thought I had to cancel some summer plans. My husband thinks I'm going mad.

The one person who should be locked up, though, is the person in the UK responsible for our Eurovision entry. WHAT ON EARTH WERE THEY THINKING? Last? I ask you. Especially after the complete rubbish I saw on Saturday night. Seriously, it's an embarrassment. Yes, I know it's all a bit of a joke but to be beaten by some drunken teenager from Germany is not acceptable. And no, this isn't an opportunity to reintroduce Andrew Lloyd Webber to the mix. That didn't exactly turn out well last time. Let's either get someone decent in, or pull out all together. This half in, half not bothering attitude is making us look bad.
By the way, when did we start doing telephone votes for Eurovision? That didn't happen in my day...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Child Free Haven - of a fashion

Well, that was the weekend we've been looking forward to since 9 February this year. For the first time, we left junior with the grandparents and headed off into the hills, child free and care free. Apart from the very slight issue that I am currently with child, thus making me somewhat less care free. But, nevertheless, leaving our son for the first time was surely going to be magical? Lie-ins until 10am, perhaps a jaunt down to the spa, a romantic dinner without worrying about getting back for the babysitter? Surely, the world was our oyster. Or so I thought.

When we received the wedding invite, stating clearly that CHILDREN WERE NOT INVITED, I actually shouted out in joy. The first thing I did was book the hotel. Then, of course, I called the parents to ensure they'd be happy to help out - of course, we would have taken him if we could... (yeah, right. Trying to control a one year old while everyone else gets drunk - I think not).

And then, bring on the plans. Or, more realistically, the just bring on the idea of something to look forward to. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I discovered the hotel did not have a spa. No matter, I rallied, there is at least a swimming pool. Naturally, being preggers, I can't use the jacuzzi, but a few laps in the pool will set me up. Wrong. The pool was the size of a postage stamp. And the jacuzzi was broken. So even the husband was put out.

We carried on, going out for dinner in the delightful Watford (I didn't even know that it was appropriate to wear knickers out and pretend they are shorts - pure genius. I must put Vogue in touch with the residents). We both discussed how much we were looking forward to lie-ing in - no need to get up and no responsibilities. Imagine my horror when I woke up at 6.30 and could not get back to sleep. But 8am, I was waiting for the breakfast restaurant to open - what hotel doesn't start serving breakfast until 8.30am? Not exactly the leisurely morning I'd anticipated.

Saturday was, of course, a beautiful, hot sunny day. I was loving it. So were all the guests drinking copious amounts of champagne 'to quench their thirst - naturally'. By the time we sat down for dinner, most people were merrily on their way. I was becoming increasingly bored with lime and soda. (Of course, I did have a couple of glasses, but no where near enough to keep up with everyone else.)

By 10.30 I was exhausted - well, I had been up since 7 and I didn't have the wine coat on that always sees me through any tired lulls. By 11pm I decided to call it a night. After all, we'd have to be up early to make sure we got to my parents at a decent hour - it's not fair to leave the little guy with them all day.

On Sunday morning, we were up and had had breakfast before the majority of the wedding party surfaced. I hear that they partying went on long into the night - my first thought is that I'd have been knackered for the whole week if I'd stayed up until 3am.

An enjoyable experience? Absolutely. But the return to my young and care free days BC (before children)? I think not. It's official. I am a parent. And actually, I quite like it.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What not to wear

It may just be me, but the current offering of maternity clothes is absolutely appalling. When I was pregnant first time round, I quite enjoyed the challenge of finding decent maternity clothes - this was back in the days that I could spend all of Saturday wandering round the shops in my own world. And unfortunately, this pregnancy is at a completely different time of year, so the last wardrobe mainly doesn't work.

So, when we returned from France, I decided to drop junior in nursery and then head to Oxford Street for a mega shop. Chance would be a fine thing. First stop, TopShop Maternity. What a joke. Either the designers think that summer pregnancies are for teenage hookers, or they think it's acceptable to simply take designs for teenagers from their summer offering and then make them a bit bigger. Plus, no matter how many denim shirts you make, they'll never be suitable for work. I moved on.

H&M - not quite the working girl image. In this case, they seem to assume you must be at least 50 if you're pregnant (although, obviously, this isn't actually very likely in reality). Just because I feel awful, doesn't mean I want to look it.

Next stop - Zara. They appear to have culled their maternity range to a single rail, which is disappointing, because last time, I had quite a lot of success there. Plus, it all seemed to be old winter stock. (In hindsight, this probably would have been an investment, given that we seem to have returned to March without any notice whatsoever.)

I was looking forward to checking out the new range from Gap - but alas, everything there seemed a bit tent-like and generally not very flattering.

All in all, it was a disastrous trip. I admit that my mood probably wasn't brilliant by the time I got to Zara but when I got home there was a treat in store. I had ordered a new pair of skinny jeans from Seraphine. I was determined to get a decent pair of jeans for this pregnancy - last time, the offerings from TopShop and H&M did not cut it and went straight in the bin after a couple of wears - they both fell apart. These jeans are, quite simply, the best investment yet. They seem to be cut higher at the back, so they don't feel ridiculous when you bend down, and they actually look great - very flattering.

What I learnt from this whole experience is that sometimes, online shopping really is a better experience. Or maybe I'm just getting old.