It’s a girl thing

I know that there are at least a couple of men who regularly take a look at my blog and in the interests of equality I have to say that you are most welcome to continue reading this post, indeed it may even interest you, but I’m just warning you – it’s a very girly subject and I don’t want to upset anyone’s sensibility . It’s so girly in fact that I’ve even borrowed my friend Leigh’s blog name for the title of this post because it really is a girl thing.

BRA

I am SO fed up with buying  trying to buy bras. I have friends who pick up bras from M&S or similar, choosing a colour and a style that they like the look of  and barely looking at the actual construction, and they just know they’ll fit. I have other friends who buy from a specialist lingerie shop and again, seem to have no problems. I even have one friend who picks up bras from supermarkets in packs of two, throws them in her trolley (you know who you are) and says ‘they’ll do’.  But when you are, let’s say, generously endowed, buying bras is nothing short of a nightmare. It seems that if you’re a B cup, you’re catered for pretty much anywhere. There’s not a great deal to accommodate and it’s a lot easier to adjust the bra you’ve chosen so that it fits comfortably. There are other advantages – you can buy shirts and blouses in unforgiving materials and so long as they’re your size, you’re sorted. Not so if you are a little larger: if it fits your bust it’s too large on the shoulders; if it fits correctly on the shoulders, the buttons won’t fasten. And it gapes – it always gapes. A small accolade for M&S here – they invented a double button style which has additional buttons that do up on the inside and this does help but it’s limited to only a few garments each season. I digress – back to bra buying.

For around twelve years, maybe even fifteen,  I bought repeated versions of the same bra which was sold by Ballet. Unfortunately the company went bust – pun intended. As soon as I heard this was happening, I bought up the entire remaining stock in my size from my usual store (five or six of them) and, having several already in use, was OK for quite a while. But one by one they went by the wayside and I struggled terribly to find anything which felt as comfortable or, in my opinion (and after all it was me wearing it), fitted so perfectly. It was time to find a suitable replacement style. For some timeI bought all kinds of bras, some better than others but none like my faithful Ballet style.  It was time to heed the advice and ‘get properly measured.’  Have you actually tried getting properly measured? I tried it. The results were, to say the least, interesting:

In John Lewis the recommended bra was excruciatingly tight around my back, though the ‘expert’ pronounced it a perfect fit. Apparently I was too used to ones that didn’t fit properly and was wearing them too loose. I trusted her, after all she was trained, so I handed over a small fortune and wore it the next day. By lunchtime I was back in the store to show here the deep red weals in my skin.

So I got  ‘properly  measured’ again, this time in Bravissimo (curiously a different measurement to John Lewis) and again parted with a not insubstantial amount of cash.  No red weals this time but the wire came so high under the armpit that every time I moved it felt as though I’d been stabbed.

The lady in Debenhams measured me differently again (The size matched John Lewis, the cup matched Bravissimo but neither combination matched all together). I felt as if I’d been put in a straight jacket; I could barely breathe! The larger size was certainly more comfortable even though the assistant adamantly told me was too big and would allow me to “fall beneath the wire!” I bought it and I didn’t fall beneath the wire but it soon be came clear (the first time I wore it) that the cup was too small. I may not have fallen below but I certainly rose above!

My final excursion into the world of expert bra fitters was an independent lingerie shop. Again I felt that the recommendations were too tight around my back but we eventually found one which seemed to be reasonably comfortable. I can’t bring myself to tell you how much I paid for the prettiest bra I’ve ever owned. Suffice to say it would have paid for a sizeable shop in Waitrose. But it was to wear with the dress I’d bought for my daughter’s wedding so I felt it was justified….until I’d been wearing it for about six hours. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable I went to my hotel room and discovered not only red weals but BLOOD! It had rubbed my skin so badly that I was bleeding!

No wonder so many women (or so we are told) wear the wrong size. Not only is measuring inconsistent but bras vary so much in size that it makes the whole thing completely pointless. What fits in one make doesn’t necessarily in another. What’s even more frustrating is that different bras in the same make don’t even fit the same. M&S please take note; your inconsistent sizing is probably the worst of the lot.

I gave up and decided to return to the trial & error method and trust my own judgement. I’ve found bras that fitted but none that are particularly comfortable and the shape of some is just plain weird.  I’ve given up trying them on in shops.  I now order online. I can try them at my leisure and with a variety of different clothes. Before Christmas I ordered four from M&S. None fitted well. Last month I sent an order to a specialist bra manufacturer for £350 worth (£70 each = desperation).  I returned them all – too large, too small, too scratchy, or too oddly shaped.

Even more desperately (and fast running out of time before I ended up with nothing in my bra drawer at all),  I returned to the M&S website. I ordered seven. At least the prices are reasonable. Despite all being labelled the same size, two were too tight at the back, one had straps so thin that I can’t imagine they’d have supported a 32A never mind me, one fitted at the back but the cup gaped, one was too large at the back and the sixth was just utterly hideous. The seventh looked curiously like the old favourite Bally bra. A little bit of stretch in the cup, comfortable at the back, straps that are just slightly wider than standard and not unattractive.

I tried it on… I smiled… I wore it the following day – all day…  I ordered four more of the same.

 

The Fairy Trail (and a lot of grandchildren)

The day began with me picking up eldest grandson (aged 11) at 9am and the two of us getting the train to Four Oaks. We were picked up at the station by the two younger grandsons (15 months and 2.5 years) and their mummy and taken to and taken to their home. There wasn’t room for daddy to come too! After a really good lunch of chicken and avocado salad (they know how I’m really trying for another loss at Slimming World on Monday), Mummy, the babies and myself took a trip out to the garden centre where we fed the ducks and the fish.

In a natural, rustic setting, the garden centre’s pond is home to an array of wildlife…and more!  After a short walk we happened upon the magical fairy trail. In truth I knew it was there because I’d been told but I had to express surprise. It’s the sort of thing expected of a nanny.  Hidden among the nooks and crannies of woodland is fairyland in miniature.  And it’s not just fairies; we saw trolls and unicorns, mermaids and gnomes.

The hidden village was my favourite. Sitting in a small clearing under the trees are numerous little houses and figures.

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Aimed at very young children, there is no charge for entry  and a great deal of trust is invested in visitors as many of the pieces are close enough to touch, so it’s a great shame that the fairy trail was recently vandalised and it looks as though repair work is still being carried out in places.

The Wishing Tree is strung with lines of tiny notes written by children.

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“Hungry now, Nanny. Shall go cafe?” [sic] said the little chap who had finished a bacon sandwich only an hour earlier.  We did, and I’m pleased to say that I did not indulge in the biscuits or carrot cake that was enjoyed by the others. Believe me, I so wanted to! Coffee had to suffice.

Later we returned to collect eldest grandson and catch the train home. Once there, I had just enough time for a bite to eat and a brief look at the newspaper when youngest granddaughter (7) arrived for a sleepover as her mum and dad are out for the evening. Later on Husband will be picking up her elder sister (13) from a party and she’ll join in with the sleepover.  I’m now being called upon to play ‘Barbies’ so time to sign off.

Loved to distraction they most certainly are but grandchildren are very tiring creatures. I shall sleep well tonight!

 

A day out at Conishead Priory

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Conishead Priory since visiting a few months ago. What a fascinating place it is. Located close to Ulverston in South Cumbria the main building is a stunning country house in the Gothic revival style. The detailed carvings and ornate stonework are symbolic of its beginnings in 1836 as home to the wealthy Colonel Thomas Bradyll who demanded that the architect, P.W. Wyatt, build something extravagant and ostentatious.  Inside boasts over 170 feet of cloistered corridor and a huge baronial hall, huge marble chimney pieces and vaulted hall. The house has had an interesting past; the family became bankrupt and was empty for some time. It then became a hydropathic spa and later a convalescent home for miners, it had lain empty for years, falling into near-dereliction before becoming home to an internationally renowned centre for the study of Buddhism in 1976.  Close on one million pounds and thousands of hours of volunteering has restored the priory to its former glory.

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The priory itself houses the delightful World Peace cafe selling the most enormous (and delicious) slices of chocolate fudge cake. Clearly they are not out to fleece their visitors. The bill for two of us was barely more than half the cost of similar in town-centre coffee shops.  The priory also provides accommodation for the residents who might contribute to the community as cleaners, cooks, gardeners or running the gift and bookshop or cafe. Others organise and deliver courses, facilitate meditation sessions or weekend retreats or work in the offices or studios that are situated in the seventy acres of grounds. We met a gentleman who told us although he was just visiting, he and his wife had  lived there as residents for twenty five years and had brought up their children there.

Conishead

The grounds of the priory are home to the first Kadampa temple for World Peace, part of the International temples project which aims to build such a temple in every major city in the world. So far there are twenty of the temples with plans in hand for several more. Weekend retreats cost just £65 per person. What amazing value. To experience the Buddhist life first hand by attending prayers and spiritual activities,  a full week’s accommodation with meals is available free of charge in exchange for 25 hours volunteering on a building project, cooking, decorating or office work.

TThe Priory’s website says: The spiritual community at Manjushri KMC is a modern day example of how putting Buddha’s teachings into practice creates a peaceful and harmonious environment that is a pleasure for all who visit. 

That peace and harmony was evident all over the site and are keenly felt on the woodland walk leading to the shores of Morecambe Bay. The quiet tranquility  is hard to describe but very much felt.

There is no charge to park, or to enter either the grounds or the house and visitors are welcome to attend services in the temple.

 

A Smart plan

My New Year resolution invariably has something to do with losing weight and it usually goes along the lines of the imaginative…’I’m going to lose weight’. Sometimes there’s a supplementary resolution to ‘eat more healthily’. I can’t say that I fail in the first because I do lose it. Unfortunately I also put it back on. The pattern of lose/gain/lose/gain repeats throughout the year and come January, I’m generally not far from where I started.  So far as the second resolution goes, I eat pretty healthily most of the time but whether it’s as healthy as it could be is questionable.

I had decided not to bother making a resolution at all, but then I got to thinking that perhaps the reason I don’t really achieve what I want is because my aims are too vague. Maybe I need to treat the issue as a work problem and make them SMART. I believe this acronym is now considered a little ‘old hat’ (meaning ‘out of date’ for my readers who are unfamiliar with our quaint English turns of phrase) but it’s fine for my needs.

Specific: I want to lose 28 pounds.

Measurable: I’ll weigh in at Slimming World every Monday at 5.30pm.

Achievable: Yes, if I plan my meals, shop accordingly and stay on the SW plan.

Realistic: I’d love to lose 5lb a week but that’s unrealistic. One pound per week is not.

Timebound: Six months i.e. by 30th June 2018.

Without going into the fine detail, Slimming World  advocates eating regular, balanced meals made from good sources of protein, unrefined carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit in reasonably unlimited quantities. The plan also includes two ‘healthy extras’ which ensure sufficient quantities of fibre and calcium, and allows from between five and fifteen ‘syns’ per day (each syn equating to roughly 20 calories though this is dependent on the fat and sugar content of the individual items which are ‘synned’).  When I’m in the right zone (i.e. on plan) I tend to use these to enhance meals rather than choose chocolate or biscuits, for example. I just need to be in that zone more often! The medical profession considers the Slimming World plan as one of the most sensible eating plans around.

At the group I attend there are around one hundred members including several life-members. These are people who have achieved their target weight and continue to say withing the range of 3lb either side of it. We have members who have lost six stones plus and continue to attend classes. The classes are termed IMAGE therapy (individual motivation and group experience) and they are key to staying motivated. Not everyone stays (usually around half) which is their loss, I reckon. A group may not be for everyone but Slimming World works, even though some people like myself are not very good at it. I know that when I really put my mind to it I can do well, but goodness, do I need that weekly shot of motivation! Our group also has a private Facebook page which is great for mutual support.

I weighed in on 1st January and had gained 3lb over Christmas.  I weighed in again today, and despite the cherry scone I ate when out with my daughter (which I counted as my syns for the whole day, I lost 4lb.

It’s a good start.

You have to hand it to M&S…

GLOVES

…it does sell exceedingly good leather gloves!

I have rather a liking for gloves, in particular leather ones, and specifically the ones sold by Marks and Spencer which offer outstanding value.  They are beautifully soft, especially so after just a few wearings. For many years I have been receiving them as gifts from my husband and daughter. I look after them and they serve me well. I refer here to the gloves rather than the husband and daughter, though I do try to take care of them too.  Daughter will testify to this as she was on the receiving end of a stern talk from her mother yesterday regarding a particular safety issue in which I regarded her to be negligent!

“I know,” she said, “It’s because you love me.” Spot on, daughter dear.

Back to M&S leather gloves: it’s rare for me to be without a pair (when outside, obviously) in the cold weather but I wear them not only for reasons of warmth. I like the look of them too and have colours to go with just about anything that I care to wear. Over the years some colours have been replaced as needed. I’m on the look out now for lime green ones and hope that M&S introduce this colour as, having tried other brands, I’ve found them not to be as good. I suppose there are exceptions but they probably come at an exceptional price!

Gloves have been worn as a fashion item for centuries, made from all manner of luxurious fabrics. In the past those worn by the upper classes were often lavishly embroidered or embellished with gemstones. I can’t imagine that sales today are anywhere near those reached in the fifties when women wore them for every occasion, including neat white cotton ones in summer. Following Audrey Hepburn’s look in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) long white gloves were considered very glamorous. The well groomed woman was expected to wear gloves in the city or town, when going to church, to lunch, dinner or a reception, to a dance, wedding or official function, and to the theatre.  It was expected that she remove them when eating, drinking or smoking, but not when shaking hands.

Initially worn only for protection (think workmen’s thick protective gloves and gauntlets worn for fighting), gloves have also been worn as part of custom and ritual practice by ancient societies, and as part of investiture ceremonies for monarchs where they symbolize the granting of tenure.  During the Middle Ages, knights were given a ceremonial glove to show understanding between he and the landowners. The knight was expected to provide military service and to be deprived of the glove for misdemeanor was considered very degrading.

The Fashion Museum in Bath (UK) is reputed to have one of the finest collections of gloves in the world:  https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/

Quiet Friday

Dawned the day and it was DULL. Early on it had rained heavily so it was very damp too. No one was in a hurry to get up and when we did no one felt very inclined to go out. Luca was therefore promised an extra long walk later and gently pushed out into the garden but even he wanted a lazy morning and spent most of it lying along the back of the sofa on the blanket I crocheted for daughter, not for the dog!

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Later, when the rain had stopped we visited a garden centre close to Shrewsbury where the cafe (grandly referred to as a restaurant) offers mouthwatering cherry scones. We’ve indulged previously and today repeated the experience. There were some excellent bargains on Christmas decorations and other Christmassy goods but I just can’t get very excited about it all in January. Nevertheless, I bought a half price jar of brandy butter for Husband (we still have an unopened Christmas pudding) and a jar of smokey salsa similarly discounted. And then we came home . After Luca got his promised walk  we then spent the rest of the afternoon very quietly in front of the fire.

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I read and watched television snuggled up on the sofa with Willis, one of the cats (did I mention that daughter also has three cats?) whilst she did a bit of marking. Although on annual leave from her main job, she also does online tutoring for The Open University.

Below are Viktor (white), Willis and Austin (black).

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We had a lovely roast for dinner (she’s not a bad cook, my girl) and now we’re about to settle down and watch ‘A street cat named Bob’. It’s been a lovely couple of days.

Postscript: What an absolutely brilliant film!

 

 

 

Daughter, dog and lunch out

Leaving Husband at home, I set off shortly after 9 o’clock this morning to drive to Shropshire.

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With only one day at work this week, I’m now free until Monday am staying for a couple of days with my daughter. It’s been an opportunity to meet Luca, the recently acquired, one year old, rescue dog and I must say, he seemed very pleased to make my acquaintance! He has the sleekest, most shiney black coat of any dog I’ve ever seen encountered.

After unloading my luggage (“you don’t travel light, do you, Mum?”) and  a cup of coffee we drove into Telford where first stop was Primark for a cheap pair of slippers. I was annoyed to realise that I’d forgotten to bring some with me as I have a couple of nice pairs,  but for £3, these fit the bill nicely. I will leave them here for next time.

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With £70 worth of vouchers in my bag, I thought I might be treating myself but nothing took my fancy. I did buy a new eyebrow pencil but that was it. Then we had lunch in The Novello Lounge. It’s part of a chain, but fits the ‘quirky eating place’ bill that I like so much … sort of Victoriana meets bistro. I chose the ‘All day vegetarian breakfast’ which features halloumi and sweet corn fritters. Very tasty!

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Afterwards we called in at a local retail park as I wanted to buy some baby clothing from Gap ready to gift to a friend’s daughter.  Back at daughter’s house, Luca greeted us enthusiastically. He then curled up next to me and lay still whilst I stroked his tummy.  Yes, we’ve become firm friends, which meant that I was invited along for his afternoon walk along the canalside. Here he is with My daughter.

Fortunately she works from home most of the time but on days she is away, Luca goes to Doggy daycare which he apparently loves! He’s also taken on ‘socialisation’ walks where he learns to get along with other dogs.  Given his horribly poor start in life,   I think Luca is a very lucky boy to have been chosen by such loving ‘parents’.