Thursday, 29 January 2015

Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it

There is a little orange post-it stuck to my screen at work that says ‘Fake it till you make it’. It’s a mantra that my mentor had taught me and it helped me out more times than I care to admit. I faked experience and determination until I got the job; I faked calm with my loved ones until the shaky relationships strengthened. And recently I learnt to fake confidence on a spot in real life.  
A few months ago I bought this bag. It caught my eye as I was browsing the shops on my lunch hour. It was a statement bag – big, bold blue, with a splash of snake print on the side and on the outside pocket. The challenge to pull it off was overwhelming and the decision to purchase it was instant. I punched in the pin code as I bought it and I never looked back.
Since our very first outing (and by us, I mean the bag and I) I’ve been getting a steady flow of compliments and comments. All my girlfriends loved it, Mr Chateauneuf noticed it but the biggest surprise was when my boss, Mr Saville Row, commented.  Mr Saville Row collects vintage cars, dines in private members only clubs and knows his designers. When he saw my bag, he knew he was looking at something special.
The bag and I quickly became inseparable, and it turned into my wardrobe staple, my pride and joy, and my fashion comfort.  I knew as long as I had it I could wear anything I wanted. So I experimented with block colours and prints, heels and flats, smart and casual – it looked and felt great with everything. And as much I hated playing favourites with my shoes and bags, I simply couldn’t help myself. Our love affair was in full swing and I was completely zipped up.
A few weeks ago I went to Alicante for a girlie weekend away with my step sister and for the first time in months I left the bag at home. I had a cab booked for 4.45am which meant my alarm went off at 4am. It was painful but somehow I managed to arrive in Gatwick on time – freshly showered, made up and not a hair out of place. After checking in I parked myself in a coffee shop and ordered tea.
The 4am wake-up call started taking its toll and I was feeling very tired. To wake myself up I went for a walk around the shops. Zara Retail looked welcoming so I popped in. They still had the last scraps of sale on so I picked up a few dresses and went into the changing rooms.
I emerged 10 minutes later and because it was warm in the airport, I never bothered putting my coat back on. I walked around more shops. Eventually we were given the gate and I strolled towards it.
They boarded us and I was comfortably squashed in by the window next to a lovely elderly couple. I loosened the scarf and felt something scratching my neck. Perplexed, I put my fingers into the collar of my dress and to my upper horror felt the label. This meant only one thing – I was wearing my dress backwards.
It would’ve been ok if there weren’t sewn on pockets on the front of my dress, giving a very clear indication which way it was supposed to be worn. I obviously was still sleepy in the changing rooms and when getting dressed, I put the dress on backwards.
The feeling of dread washed over me as I realised that I was walking around Gatwick in that state for good 40 minutes. And I didn’t even have my blue bag with me which made me feel even worse.
I had to go to the toilet to fix my situation. So I had a choice – I could either be mortified and try to sneak out quietly, or I could walk tall and confident, making everybody believe that the pockets were meant to be at the back by design. I chose the latter.
I sashayed down the aisle towards the toilets with a smile playing on my lips. I faked the confidence and the outfit. Nobody suspected a thing.
Just like nobody suspected that my Dior looking blue bag was in fact from the limited M&S collection, bought in the summer sales for less that £30.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Ted Baker dress

Ted Baker dress

In Russian we say ‘как встретишь Новый Год, так его и проведешь’ which means you will spend the New Year the way you greet it. I greeted mine with my four favourite men - Mr Chateauneuf, DeeQ, Little Dude and a newly acquired lover I’ve been lusting after for a while - Ted Baker. In case you are wondering, his presence was entirely in a shape of a very expensive dress I wore that night.

OK, it wasn't THAT expensive but it was pricey enough for me to have a long discussion with my bank account in the changing rooms, and it was painful enough for my card to wince while I was punching in the pin code. As I walked out of the shop I couldn't believe I had just purchased my very first Ted Baker item.

Oh yes, 2014 was great; the year when the tables finally turned in my favour. Only two years earlier it was a very different story. Caught up in post-divorce turmoil, I spent far too much time in Bluewater shopping my sorrows away, maxing out a few credit cards and getting myself into serious debt.

After that I hid myself from debt collectors and the world in general. I was in a financial crisis, didn’t trust anybody including myself and permanently damaged my liver by drinking far too much. But I knew that the only person who could get me out of the mess I ended up in was the one who got there in the first place - me.

So with the help of trusty friends, Mr Chateauneuf and many books (the help which came in the shape of cheering, tough love and sound advice - in that order) I slowly started building myself up again. I stopped blaming my ex, owned up to my mistakes and I grew a thicker skin.

What followed was many disheartening months of job hunting. I ploughed through endless interviews, and having had been turned down more times than I care to remember, I developed an immunity to rejection. Until one day, when I no longer cared, I got a call and a job offer. It was everything I ever wanted and more. I finally got my finances under control and was able to afford life rather than a bare existence.

Months were going by and although I knew I could afford things, I still winced every time I completed a purchase. The painful memories of hardship were swirling around me like a bad hangover, clouding my mind and preventing me from seeing the real picture which was that I was in fact doing fine.

I didn't realize how bad it was until the Ted Baker dress. That day I walked out of the changing rooms, found Mr Chateauneuf and showed him the dress. He said he loved it and that I should definitely buy it. As I looked into his eyes I realized he knew, even before I worked it out. He knew how important it was that I bought it for myself.

He was right there and it would've been too easy for him to get his credit card out and buy it for me. But he knew I had to do it for myself. It was between me and me. For the first time in my life I loved the man more for not buying something for me.

That night, hours before the New Years party, I took my time doing hair and make up, I paired up the dress with my favorite red heels and a new clutch. I had all my lucky charms - something new, something red and someone I loved. I felt fabulous and was ready for the party and the New Year to arrive.

As I walked around the room - inhaling perfumes, admiring beautiful outfits and exchanging kisses with friends, I couldn't help but wonder, as 2015 was fast approaching and we all were pinning our hopes onto the new happy beginnings, did we take time to consider what we learnt from the past year? Did know what we were leaving behind?

The sands of time of 2014 were slipping away and as the clock struck midnight I shut my eyes, just for a second, and let go of everything bad that happened that year. And when I opened them again, I welcomed the new 2015 and everything I wished for.

Much later we left the party and walked right into cold January air. He wrapped his arm my waist and we strolled home. Chatting with the boys, laughing and swapping stories from the party we walked into the New Year, new beginnings.

That night I had all my lucky charms and everything I wished for was walking right next to me. But I also knew exactly what I was leaving behind.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Shopping insanity

Shopping Insanity

It is truth universally acknowledged that during the post-Christmas sales girls contract an infection called shopping insanity. And, as with any infection, it usually clears itself after a couple of weeks. Or once you’ve reached the limit on your credit card.

It was a rainy January morning when I arrived in the office and realised my tights were broken. On no, it wasn’t just a little ladder; it was a massive hole just above my where the boot hugged my calf. As I stared at it in horror, I vaguely remembered ‘catching’ something with my tights on the train as I was getting off.

Mortified that people might’ve seen my the-lady-is-a-tramp look, I threw my coat on and rushed to the place where I could fix my delicate situation – the changing rooms at House of Fraser.

Having spent many lunch hours browsing the store, I could navigate it with the same speed as I do my one bedroom flat, even when with a heavy hungover. As I was going up the escalators to grab some tights, I suddenly stopped. The skirt that I tried on two months ago but could not bring myself to buy had a ‘Sale’ tag on.

The tights and the rest of the world were immediately forgotten and everything was happening in slow motion. I went to the rail, picked up the skirt, found the tag and a huge grin broke onto my face – 80% off and my size.

Clutching it close to my heart, I suddenly remembered the real reason I was in House of Fraser at 9:20 on a Thursday morning. I darted for hosiery section, picked up a pair of tights and made my way to the changing rooms. On the way there I spotted the boots I’d been admiring for a few weeks. As I was walking away I spotted a sticker on their soles – 60% off…

Half an hour later I left the store with a pair of tights, a skirt, a pair of boots and a jacket for a good measure. My inner shopper was ecstatic, my inner banker was fuming. We had a deal a week before that wouldn’t shop anymore, I guess I might’ve broken my promise.

As I was walking back to the office with my hands full of signature pink bags, I was trying to convince myself that those purchases weren’t a spur of a moment splurge – they were necessary additions to my bulging wardrobe. But even in the moment of my infectious shopping insanity I knew that there was a thin line between a fashion splurge and a closet investment. I couldn’t help but wonder, how do you know when you cross that line?  

Later that day I was invited by a friend to the London Classic Car Show as his plus one. I hesitated for just a second (after all, I knew nothing about cars) but agreed to come. It was very last minute and very exciting.

As we walked around the show, admiring beautiful cars, sipping champagne and listening to various exhibitors raving about engines, mileage and something called ‘creeper gear’, I realised that coming to the car show was definitely a smart investment. I invested my time into a friendship and we had a great night together. I also broadened my horizons and even through the haze of champagne I learnt that a 1937 Bentley is a gorgeous car.

On the way home I was flicking through the pictures I took at the show, while clutching the precious purchase to my heart. I figured even if I had an infectious splurge in the morning, I most definitely compensated it with a smart investment in the evening. And with that eyewash of a reasoning I silenced my inner banker.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

PMT guide for men

I quietly sat in the corner, wanting to die. Around me people were dancing, the wine was flowing – the party was in a full swing. I wanted to cry, for no reason whatsoever; I wanted be at home under the duvet and not amongst crowds of people.
She pulled a chair up and sat next to me; she knew exactly what I was going through. We chatted and I felt better. She got her phone out and let me read her latest creation. I immediately asked if I could publish it, she said yes…
So without further ado, let me introduce our guest today - the talented poetess and a fabulous girl, Lesley Overland. Her poem very accurately describes what PMT actually feels like for a girl. Boys, read carefully, this might explain a lot.

PMT guide for men

We're feeling kinda tetchy but still have some restraint.
A wise time not to bother us with your mundane complaints.
Good practice to put your shoes away and retrieve stuff from the floor.
We're feeling inconsequential and not valued anymore.

Mild ish…
We're not so pleased to see you when you walk in through the door.
The way you eat your dinner is much louder than before.
The kids appear to argue, just to make us mad.
A simple kiss missed off a text can make us feel so sad.

The house becomes a shit hole & those jobs mentioned in jest
Become the subject of our wrath, the whole place IS a fucking mess.
Empty cans and packets, left around the place,
A stranded cup with dregs of drink we're tempted to sling in someone's face.

Moderate to severe...
Everything you utter WILL be blown out of proportion.
It's best to keep your mouth shut and proceed with utmost caution.
Our friends are all ignoring us or talking behind our back.
Don't try to convince us otherwise because it simply is just FACT!

Our paranoia's growing, our ability to cope,
Is disappearing rapidly - you do not stand a hope!
Don't question our decisions or suggest you hate your meal.
Our demeanor is unstable and we've the ability to kill.

Severe to needing help…
We'd like to rip your balls off and shove ‘em down your throat
For suggesting we have PMT, it's not a FUNNY joke
You're the reason that we suffer it's your fault in every way
Be careful what you say to her revenge may be sweet one day.

We're erratic contradictory, illogical and absurd,
So my reason for this poem is just in case you haven't heard
It's isn't just your Mrs that suffers this infliction,
When the time of the month comes around again REMOVE all knives from the kitchen.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Getting back on the horse

Getting back on the horse

Cora burst into Starbucks where I was patiently waiting for her, a cup with the last few drops of hot chocolate in front of me.  Her eyes were sparkling and she couldn’t stop smiling. She could barely contain her excitement and in the single breath she told me she finally decided to face her fears and get back on the horse – literally.
When she was a little girl, she used to love horse riding. Until one day Angelo (her horse) threw her off. They were riding in the woods when something startled him. He got nervous, threw Cora and ran off. That day Cora broke her arm and shattered her confidence in ever riding again. 

The years flew by (15 of them) and after a particularly bad month at work, Cora remembered how much she loved riding and how happy it used to make her feel. On a whim she booked a block of horse riding lessons before she had a chance to change her mind. She never looked back. 

I was thrilled for my friend, she got hurt but she faced her fears and got back in the saddle. I left the coffee shop and went for a long walk along the river. I couldn’t help but wonder, in horse riding and in life, when we get thrown off, how long does it take to get back up? And once we do get up, how many of us get back in the saddle? If it’s possible to heal a broken bone, can you really ever heal a broken heart? 

I have never been thrown off a horse but I know the feeling of losing ground under your feet. After being severely injured by divorce, I was left with a broken heart and a badly bruised bank account.  

Determined to get better I forgave and forgot - I forgave my ex and forgot he existed. I concentrated on mending the financial wound by getting a new job and working non-stopMy heart condition was mainly treated by a course of rebounds and subsequent seclusion from men. It was an invisible wound so I didn’t take it seriously. Because physically I could function, I pushed myself to the limit. 

When the time came to get back in the saddle, I got scared. The memory of the ordeal was suddenly so fresh, that I didn’t dare to participate. Instead I walked along and observed. It was the longest walk in my life until I finally accepted his hand and put my foot into a stirrup. 

That day on the way home I couldn’t resist my obsession with white Christmas decorations and popped in to M&S to check out their new collection. They had the most beautiful glass hearts with silver glitter. I held one, I fell in love with it and I put it back. Hearts shapes were off limits as they reminded Mr Chateauneuf of a very painful event in his life. 

I knew his pain would ease off eventually and heart shape will be a warm memory rather than a heart-breaking reminder. He just needed time, I thought.  

I walked out of the shop and into the rain. And as the drops of rain hit my face it dawned on me, I was so patient and understanding with Mr Chateauneuf’s grief but I was less than nice to myself. I expected a whole lot and was very disappointed with myself when it wasn’t achieved. I was my own worst nightmare. 

The truth was, I needed time too. I was not ready to gallop let alone get in the saddleMy cuts were still bleeding and I was aching. But I was already trying to work my still torn muscles. 

I turned back into the shop, went into the food hall and bought myself the nicest box of chocolates I could find. One day I knew I would be able to ride with the wind again, but first I needed a lot of medication and TLC to get better. And the first item on my prescription was chocolate.