You’re Either a Swift or a Swallow…

Ahh, June. Weather gets (marginally) better, pasty white legs come out, fake tan gets badly applied in lieu of a proper spray tan and we can hear cheers of ‘COME ON!!! GO! GO! GO!!!’ at school Sports Day up and down the country.

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Or is that all just applicable to me? (The fake tan at least.)

My kids’ school has ‘Houses’ – the school splits into two and you are a ‘Swift or a ‘Swallow’ (denoted by the tie colour you wear to school.) Watching my two at Sports Day fills me with joy and fear in equal measure.

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Joy…

1. They’re ‘taking part’ and learning about team spirit.

2. They believe the medals are made of real gold. Youngest at least.

3. They know that a pre-midday finish means a going somewhere usually reserved for school holidays that will (hopefully) not be too rammed. Mega Jump here we come!

Fear…

1. If they hurt themselves. (Bag fully stocked with antiseptic spray, water, plasters, foil blanket like the Marathon finishers get given. Okay maybe not in my bag but I have one in my boot. No, I really do.)

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2. I’ll miss capturing the moment on my iPhone because husband keeps texting through to ask, “Well? Well? How are they doing?”

3. That the school will surprise us with a ‘Parents Race’. (I have nightmares about this.)

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If Carlsberg did Sports Day

So after all their ‘relentless’ training (running back and forth in the garden and jumping over ‘three tiles’ in the hallway) , it reminded me of my own Sports Day fifteen.. no, twenty.. shit, thirty-odd years ago.

Like the Swifts and Swallows, you were one of four houses: ‘Pine’ (green, me!), ‘Willow’ (yellow), ‘Rowan’ (red) and ‘Birch’ (blue). We had to wear those bands of coloured material across our chest to denote our competing House colours. We would then all pretend to have broken arms, using the sash as a sling. Crazy kids….

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Simpler times

Even today, given the choice of those four colours, I would till choose green. I stick with what I know. Pine through and through. A bit like my Spurs-mad husband, he would never ‘turn Arsenal’.

But every now and then I like to mess with the balance of my Libran scales and do things out of my comfort zone. Big or small, they (usually) make me feel happy or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo the Folding Queen says…

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Such as:

Food – some people have ‘sticky chop’ night. ‘Fish night’. ‘Pot-luck’ dinner night. For my family, as previously mentioned, Monday night is up-the-bum chicken night. My family look forward to it come rain or ridiculously-sweltering-shine of recent days in London. In light of sweaty weather, last Monday I thought I would serve the chicken with a cold salad. No-one spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

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How she deserves to be served. With rice

Going out-out – Last year, a friend’s husband asked if I wanted in on Guns n’ Roses concert tickets and I immediately said yes. As the date came around I did question my 40+-year-old decision to trek to Hackney Wick on a Friday night, but it was the most amazing concert, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. On the way back to the station, whilst trying to avoid eye contact with men pee’ing all along the barriers, my fellow giggers asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I said, as much fun as last year’s Secret Cinema ‘Dirty Dancing’ event. (I’m no longer invited to the Metallica gig.)

Online shop – It always comes on a Wednesday. Every Tuesday at swimming, I bore my swimming mum friend with what interesting things I can add to my final order. One week, friend didn’t show up and I got paranoid she was avoiding my food interrogation – so I went all gung-ho and swapped my delivery day to Tuesday.  Liberating I tell you. (I just run out of things by Thursday.)

New restaurants – I love food. Literally. Obsessed. So when we go to a new restaurant, I go with a vague idea of what’s on the menu. For those who are diet-restricted, I appreciate that checking beforehand is a necessity, but I love the surprise of a menu and checking out what dishes are going to other tables. when I go out with my Uni girls, one of them always seems to order wrong – it’s fine we’re used to it. There are five of us to basically feed her bits of our meal. She’s like a toddler that won’t eat something, but put it on your plate and she wants it. (Except she’s 41.)

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Diary – if you’re still a paper-diary fan like me, then you fall into one of two camps. Mid-year buyers (freaks) or January buyers (me, completely normal). I can’t be swayed on this.

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Petrol – I had a friend (still my friend 35 years on) whose mum would never let her petrol tank go below half-full. (Or half-empty depending on the type of person that you are.) A shrewd way to operate, sure, but often I quite enjoy that reckless feeling of ‘will I/won’t I make it’. That said, the initial thrill soon disappears when the petrol station you had in mind is closed. Panic sets in and you begin to sweat. “Does the car always judder like this?”

Some handy advice in case you didn’t know…

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… the arrow next to the fuel pump denotes which side your petrol cap is on, particularly handy on a hire car. nB. Not all cars have this, but lots do.

Go on – you know you want to check yours. Or maybe you’re one of those reckless types that parks up regardless and drag the hose the whole way across the back of the car if necessary.

(Sorry, but that’s not for me.)

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….

I would’ve liked to have called this post ‘Changing Rooms‘, but was worried you’d be hoping for home improvement tips from Handy Andy and Lawrence Lleweyn Bowen.

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Fixing and florals

I’m talking actual changing rooms, in a shop. For the most part, I try to do everything online as I just find it more efficient (and I’m all about efficiency), but from time to time I like to have a ‘shmy‘. Shmy is a wonderful word of yiddish origin (I think), which essentially means ‘to browse, have a looksie, without necessarily having something in mind that you’re looking to buy.’

I’m sure there have been a hundred blog posts about these horrific confined spaces that we voluntarily enter into, but here’s my observational two bobs worth…

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1. The Gathering

Once I’ve lacerated both arms and almost cut off my circulation from holding existing shopping bags, my handbag and potential purchases, I finally make it to the changing room.

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Serious arm damage

I long for the service you get in the States: “Hey, would you like me to go on and start a fitting room for you?” (Yes please, I just may need a reminder of where it is.)

 

2. How Many is Too Many?

Some shops’ changing rooms have a five items or less policy, some take you up to ten. I like the ones where they are completely unmanned and you just stroll right in armed with the entire store’s ‘nueva colección’. Basically stuff you like, stuff you know won’t suit you but someone was wandering around holding it and stuff you want to try because your favourite blogger said it was ‘the’ seasonal piece and it’s sold out everywhere.

The issue with the number tags they allocate against your item is when you start swapping stuff in and out. So, unless Carol Vorderman is manning the changing room, you’re leaving there holding six items, giving back a tag for ten items and there are three excess hangers on the floor, that may or may not have been there previously. (Either way, you’re made to feel like a shoplifter.)

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Scene of the crime

3. Curtain or door?

I must admit I like a door, preferably with a lock. Curtains don’t tend to close all the way and it plays havoc with my OCD, whilst I faff about trying to get it central enough to hide my modesty.

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The one on the right’s killing me

I also like to be positioned near enough to the rail of swap-in potentials. This means you have the ability to do the ‘peek-round-in-your-undies-with-the-curtain-wrapped-round-you’, politely asking staff if they’ll pass you the red top with the frilled sleeves. (And no, you’re not keeping the frayed hem jeans.)

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“Have you got this in a size 10?”

4. Added Extras

A stool, or even better, a chair is a nice touch. A shelf is always useful too. Big fan of the buzzer to alert staff that you need another size or just to ask their opinion without having to do the head poke.

A mirror is a given – preferably a flattering one. And shame on you Selfridges – some of your departments have changing rooms WITHOUT A MIRROR!! I don’t to share a mirror with a Russian model.

Plus, stepping outside is always a risk, especially when you need a particular item in a different size and the person right next to you has the only one left on the shop floor/in the entire country. *prays they abandon it upon exit*

Hooks, double hooks, rails… chuck it all in. The more hanging space the better.

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New Look hook situ, if you’re interested.

5. Order! Order!

The likelihood is, you’re shmying in your active wear and wearing the most unflattering sports bra. (And that’s just the men.) So, if you’ve got a variety of things to try on, strip off and do it properly – the floaty Vitakin dress is never going to look right with gym leggings and a battered pair of Asics poking out the bottom of it.

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Strong look

7. What’s That You Say?

You hear all sorts when you’re in a changing room:

…Crying baby and nappy definitely being changed (yuk) – Primark 

…Click of iPhone camera. Someone definitely taking multiple shots of themselves in different outfits and sending to a friend. I know this for sure as I heard them follow up with a phone call to said friend, demanding an immediate opinion – Topshop

…Teens discussing whether to get the black vest top for £2.99 one or the white one – New Look

…People taking calls and pretending they are at work/just not shopping in general – Zara (for the record I hate their changing rooms – they’re so tiny that your nose is almost against the mirror, so you’ve little choice but to swoosh back the curtain for a proper look in the big mirrors outside.

“I”m busy, Doll. Will call you back in a minute, I just need to finish something.” Me, today, Brent Cross, Fenwick changing room, on phone to husband dearest, taking photos of myself, Whatsapping to stylist friend. Standing, sitting and jumping up and inspecting from every angle. And if I like the item, I will of course take a ‘fresh one’ from the shop floor.

Oh come on, you know you do it too…