Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Dressing For Your Body Shape

Dear Girl I saw at Canonmills the other week,

I am writing to ask whether I have missed a meeting about patterned tights/leggings vis a vis the legs of ladies who are blessed with a pear-shaped body.

Of course I am aware of the predilection many people have for donning coloured or patterned tights underneath denim shorts/hot pants, but I had always worked on the basis that this is a look that can only be pulled off by the slimmer lady and therefore ignored it.

However, having seen you out and about and drawing attention to your rather larger than average thighs by stretching leopard print across them under shorts that were bursting at the seams, I can only conclude that the rules must have changed when I wasn't looking.

Either that or dressing for your body shape is out, and wearing the first thing to catch your eye in the hosiery department is in.

I love pink leopard print as much as the next girl (probably more, actually - I am genuinely quite drawn to the stuff, like toddlers are drawn to things with sharp edges), but when you're curvier you need to accept there is a time and a place and a complimentary wardrobe that the hot pant is not part of. You can still wear the tights, but for the love of Betsy pair them with a black dress or skirt that falls closer to the knee than the bummock. One statement piece at a time, woman.

Kind Regards,


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Surprise Ninja Full Body Massage

Once Upon A Time I had a Very Stressful Job, and the less said about that the better. In fact, during the later months the only way I coped was by developing a policy of not talking about it to anyone other than my colleagues, and keeping it totally separate from the rest of my life. When Captain Tact asked how my day was, there was no way I was going to make him listen to it all again, so I just said ‘fine’, ‘rubbish’, or ‘usual’.

My teenage monosyllables were not enough to fool him into thinking it had all got better, however. He’s quite canny when the need arises. So he decided to help by buying me a relaxing beauty treatment for my birthday. Don't laugh, I have inner beauty.

He wanted to surprise me, so he dispatched a flatmate to deliver me unto a mysterious facility at Ocean Terminal whereupon I would be offered a choice of treatments. Something involving getting my nails done, or a facial, or whatever. You probably know more about spas than me.

Unfortunately, this is not what transpired.

Flatmate got me to Ocean Terminal OK – we’re not idiots, we can catch a 36 bus. She then delivered me into the hands of a bevy of beauty experts and said she would see me in an hour or two.

The exact nature of what Captain Tact had paid for was unclear to us both, although it later transpired he had told the spa it was a birthday surprise and he wanted to take advantage of this offer they were doing where you can have one of three treatments, according to your whim. He wasn’t sure which of these I’d choose, but vaguely thought maybe I might go for a massage, maybe.

Beauty therapists apparently don’t do nuance. I was bundled through the back with a dressing gown, and told to get my clothes off and await further instruction.

Standing in the changing cubicle I did my best not to panic. Was I supposed to get totally naked, or could I conserve a smidgen of dignity by keeping my knickers on? I considered texting someone to ask, but who would know the answer to this question and be sitting on their phone just waiting to reply to a message from me? Nobody, that's who, and anyway there wasn’t time, the beautiful people were expecting my imminent arrival in a room filled with sofas and fish tanks.

You might think it strange, but I have never seen the attraction of lying in a darkened room and being rubbed by a stranger. It strikes me as a violation of privacy; something that’s probably fun between two consenting adults who know what’s planned but not one to be farmed out to bored looking girls who probably compare notes on which of their clients feels the most like a manatee. That’s what I’d do, anyway.

Given a couple of months notice and some giggling female company, I could probably build up a tolerance to the idea of being massaged. But with five minutes warning and the pressure of having to pretend you’re up for it because it’s a thoughtful birthday gift, the experience is actually pretty stressful. It certainly isn’t long enough to get over a lifetime of disinterest / outright mistrust of the practice.

The woman was probably nice enough, but it’s hard to say that for sure when you’re lying face down on a table in the dark, taut with the tension of knowing you’re about to be touched but with no idea which part of you, or for how long. I don’t know whether it’s common to carry out a massage in complete silence, but that's what happened in mine. Silent but deadly, like the ninja. I flinched almost every time she touched me.

It genuinely never occurred to me to just say no. It would have been churlish, I thought, after the Captain went to such trouble to come up with a thoughtful birthday surprise. At this stage I had no idea he hadn’t just booked a straightforward massage, and I spent most of the time trying to concoct a convincing sounding lie of gratitude.

The best I came up with was that it was ‘an experience’, although by the end of the ordeal I was nearly in tears and fairly sure that anything I said to him later on would bring on an attack of the weepies. The masseuse later admitted (when Captain Tact phoned up to complain) that I hadn’t seemed entirely comfortable. But what was she supposed to do? She presumably had no idea that I hadn’t signed up, and was probably a bit confused as to why I was there if I was so averse to the idea.

Nearly a year on the anxiety dreams have subsided, and I think we all learned from the experience. The spa learned that when a customer says they want a choice of three treatments as per the advert, they may not mean 'rub my girlfriend'. Captain Tact learned that sometimes you should not concentrate so heavily on the aspect of surprise. And I learned that I was right to fear masseuses, and if anything I should have been actively arming myself against them for years rather than dispassionately saying 'it'll never happen to me'.

You have been warned.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sensible Shoes

There are only a few periods in life when you can get away without owning a sensible pair of sensible shoes, and all of them are related to employment - or lack thereof.

If you are a student, for example, you can get away with dossing about in the same pair of converse with the sole flapping off for 3-4 years (assuming you aren't working in a restaurant / bar / hotel / shop to pay your way, in which case your manager will probably call you on it after about year two).

Similarly (although not in the literal sense of the word), if you're 8 months pregnant you can probably forgo the smart patent kitten heels for a time. And I'm sure there are other exceptions that could be listed here for the sake of padding out the word count, but the upshot is that sooner or later you're going to have to bite the bullet and get yourself some comfortable, non-trainer type footwear to model about the workplace.

If you're me (which you probably aren't but I wouldn't want to rule it out completely - there are several copies of the Fortean Times in my bathroom so I know to expect the unexpected), you may have a bit of a bee in your bonnet about forcing exercise into your daily routine on the grounds you're too busy/lazy to do it as an extra thing on top of all your writing.

That being the case, the aforementioned work shoes will also need to be sturdy enough to walk to and from the office/library/ice cream van in. Ballerina pumps look cute to begin with, sure, but walk the streets of Edinburgh in them for a minimum 3 miles a day and they get shredded.

One must therefore consider what shop is synonymous with the description 'sensible, reasonably smart and well priced work shoes'?

I got my current pair from Clarks for £35 - a bit more than I wanted to spend, if I'm honest, but that's because I'm a bit cheap on account of never knowing where my next contract is coming from. They're basically fine, except for one rather discomfiting design flaw in the form of the elastic trim.

Living in Edinburgh, you come into contact with a high percentage of cobbled streets. If you catch a cobble at a funny angle, it's pretty easy to twist your ankle.

The fun thing about the cross bar on these shoes is that if your foot hits a cobble at a funny angle the elastic stretches, so your shoe doesn't necessarily go in the same direction as your foot, exponentially increasing the possibility of ankle sprainage. Undoubtedly this is good comedy value for people walking behind you, but it's damnably awkward and uncomfortable for you as the wearer.

Then there's the side trim, elastic again, which make these shoes nearly impossible to wear with bare feet. It catches and rubs at the skin, creating blisters or at the very least sexy red marks that make it look as if you've had an allergic reaction to your own ankles.

They're basically fine with tights, but sometimes (alright, three that I've counted so far this year) you don't want to get your deniers on because it's too warm. Sadly if you're on a restricted budget of one pair of work shoes at a time, you either have to sweat it out or invest in a layer of plaster to go across most of the foot area. The plus side to this is that you can invent a series of outlandish stories about how you gained your injuries.

I also discovered in one of the monsoons we had the other week that these shoes are not entirely averse to letting water in. You might even say they were pro. Quite frankly it's a wonder I'm not laid up in bed with two broken ankles and a case of pneumonia, all as a result of buying a pair of not-amazing-but-not-terrible-enough-to-justify-the-expense-of-new shoes.

It is, as they say on the twitter, one of those #firstworldproblems that would never have come up if we had simply embraced Communism when we were told. But such is life.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A Plug

This is totally off theme but I'm not going to write about eyeshadow or pretty dresses today anyway, so I thought I would direct you instead to a free EP download by the inimitable DanDanDan.

The band are named for this clip in Alan Partridge, their music is eclectic to say the least, and the bass player is ttly dreamy. He can also eat an entire box of spring rolls without being sick, which is some kind of achievement as yet without category.

Click on the squiggly picture to go to their bandcamp and download 'Happy Happy Joy Joy' for free / a donation of your choosing.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Everybody has a fringe at some point in their lifetime. I think there's some sort of law about it. But the way is fraught with peril, for that little curtain of hair only needs to be cut a teeny bit too short for you to look like a special child. This might be facilitated by your mum, or a hairdresser, or an accident with a lighter / school bully / piece of chewing gum. And when you trim it yourself (we've all been there) you will almost certainly do it squint on at least one occasion, which means that as you try to even it out it regresses ever closer to Dave Hill length.

Of course there are people who can pull off a very short fringe - very stylish indie chicks, mainly, and Beyonce - but I am not one of them.

When my fringe is cut too short - as happened the last time I got it done - I look slightly deranged. The combination of partially revealed forehead and too-straight hair is reminiscent of the pudding bowl cut, as in done by your mum using an actual bowl rather than you consciously deciding to create something chunky and retro.

These days I don't hold an allegiance to any particular hairdresser, and as such I've visited a number of salons in the city in a quest to find someone who'll do my do in a way that makes me want to commit.

I think it's fairly safe to say I haven't found it yet. This most recent time, I asked for it to be at eyebrow level and came out like David Sowerbutts in Psychoville. I also got charged extra for a deep conditioning treatment which the work experience girl left on for about two minutes.

OK, it wasn't that bad. If I straighten it, it even reaches the top of my eyebrows. And it's growing out a bit now.

But I'm still not going back. It's only my mad photography skills that prevent it having the appearance of an unconvincing wig.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

A lot of people will tell you that in order to run a really successful blog, with lots of comments and followers and traffic, you need to find a niche area and basically stick to talking about that and little else. That way you will build up an audience, who can go away for a while and trust you to still be talking about the same sorts of things when they come back.

This is not that sort of blog.

However, I do like doing different themes where possible, because it gives me a bit of structure. Frinstance, the theme for the last couple of weeks was News in Briefs, aka spoof news stories of the type I used to write at university to try and get Captain Tact to like me.

But that was just to take us up to the end of May, for I would like to dedicate the month of June to the modern-day phenomenon that is beauty blogging. Although not in a particularly sensible way, I hasten to add.

Beauty blogging is popular, like cheerleaders and hard drugs. In the last couple of months, two totally disparate people of my acquaintance (an illustrator and a trainee lawyer/freelance writer) have started up beauty blogs in addition to their main pages (called Give Yer Face a Wash and On Beauty, should you wish to have a look). At the start of this year, The Edinburgh Reporter did a series of interviews with local bloggers, and far and away the most popular one was Cupcake Couture, which is a beauty and baking blog. And of course there's Go Fug Yourself, which is celebrity fashion gone wrong.

The basic premise of these sites is that people share their thoughts and tips on clothes, makeup, hair, and other girly paraphernalia. If you find a girl whose style is like yours, you follow her avidly and leave lots of comments saying 'OMG your hair looks amazing there' and so on.

I do not propose to copy the method wholesale, because frankly this area is perfectly well covered by ladies who are far better equipped than I. What I am going to write about, however, is the disasters and misfortunes of my style career.

Want to hear about the time I got a surprise ninja full body massage against my will? Stay tuned. Fancy hearing some artistic uses for colours of nail varnish you're unlikely to ever use again? I've got a suggestion or two. And then there's the history of my hair, a grim and terrible warning to anyone with follicles.

I'll be aiming to update two or three times a week, so check back in a couple of days if you're compiling a list of what not to do, or if you fancy feeling a bit better about yourself. I'm totally pro-schadenfreude...