Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Putting the e into abc

This autumnal drizzle is playing havoc with my attempts to be something even vaguely resembling a Yummy Mummy.  As soon as I leave the house, I can feel the frizz slowly rising, made only worse by the inevitable horror of walking straight into a dewy spiderweb, and the ensuing flapping about and squealing.  Climbing into the car, flustered, frizzing and fielding questions about Spiderman / God / words that rhyme, I sometimes think of my mid-20 something self with a little sigh.

Don't get me wrong, the frizz was always an issue.  But there was a time when starting the day involved matching bags to shoes, having an iPod ready to go, and learning all I needed to know about the world that day from Metro.  I used to work in the colourful world that is Adland.  A place where grown ups might meet in rooms for Blue Sky Thinking (complete with painted blue skies on the ceiling); where grown ups might have their morning toast and tea made for them because they are Creative, and therefore presumably incapable of operating such complicated culinary equipment; where people might indeed spend £500K of their clients' money and then declare "Hmmm, yes, that was a learning experience, and we've all learned that our idea didn't work.  Another biscuit, Barbara?"

It was a place I loved.  Sure, it had its downsides, but there was so much colour, so much drama, so much energy.  When I joined my first agency, I was fresh from University, and new to life in London.  That first year was essentially one enormous frat party.  Somehow ads got made in and around a fairly demanding schedule of fresh bacon rolls at your desk for breakfast, lunch at the local Italian (always rounded off with fiery limoncello), followed by drinks and dancing somewhere till the early hours.  It was one of those golden moments in time where everyone is briefly at the same life stage.  The yes-it's-Tuesday-but-that-table-needs-to-be-danced-on-dammit stage.  When the moment passed, it was as if someone had turned off the music.  Gradually, each of us seemed to get the memo that it was time to move on and push onto the next rung on the career ladder, and that core group of people dispersed within the space of a summer, myself included.  We had to move on, or risk becoming the end-of-series Fonz. And no-one wants to be that guy. 

For me, 'getting the memo', led me down a path where I learned more about the kind of person I was and the kind of agencies I could therefore thrive in,  and ultimately to a point at which I decided that I would like to be an at-home Mum.  The cheesy club dance music might have been switched off, but there is music in my life, for sure.

I clocked up so many experiences in advertising, met so many wonderful and awful people, that it seemed to be only natural that my blog should include that life, which is where the title came from.  You may be glad (or possibly disappointed) to know that the 'e' refers not to class A substances, but to the book of the same title, by Matt Beaumont.  Set in an ad agency rumoured to be my first place of employment, and written entirely as emails between all the characters, it is a great picture of the chaos and arrogance and sheer fun of life in advertising.  I agree "From e to abc: My journey from junkie to mummy" sounds awesome, but I'm afraid it is not to be.  I do promise to give you my best Blue Sky Thinking, though.  And if I leave the kids alone with some crayons, I might even have my own Blue Sky Room to do it in...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Wedding World

This weekend I had a brave new experience.  The National Wedding Show, no less.  I must confess I was slightly disappointed at how orderly and civilised the whole affair was - I was secretly hoping to need elbow pads and a whistle (think Monica wedding dress shopping in Friends).  When I was planning my own wedding, I didn't go to any of these shows, and as I stood at the door at Earls Court, amazed at the sheer scale of it all, I was rather glad to be there simply as Maid of Honour, rather than The Bride, as my sister was.

Of course, we all know that weddings are big business.  From Penis Pinatas to emergency Teeth Whitening, the show had everything a Bride could want (and plenty more besides).  I'd forgotten how much stuff you're supposed to need, and I'd definitely forgotten the timings involved.  Tell a wedding professional that you're getting married in less than 42 years' time and you get the sucking in of air through teeth that any plumber would be proud of.  In the end, I found myself wading in like an old veteran on the wedding circuit, tutting "Come come, Giles, you know full well that 10 months is PLENTY of time in which to print some invitations."

I had the odd pang of "Oh I wish I'd known about this when we were getting married" (most notably when four young men dressed as waiters burst into a surprise a cappella rendition of 'Livin' on a prayer'), and of course plenty of envy watching The Bride trying on lots of gorgeous dresses, but really, on the whole, I was glad that the Wedding stage was behind me and that I was now into the Marriage stage.  Because for all the dreaming, doodling and dieting (who am I kidding, there was very little dieting, I felt it would be an insult to Castiliagno's corsetry not to give her something to work with), I found myself far too nervous to be the radiant bride.  I wept so much coming down the aisle that Mr W thought I'd been struck by some hideous flu bug since the rehearsal the day before.  Sniffling, wobbly, and with a gentle frizz rising in my up-do, I wasn't really an A grade Bride.  But I'd like to think I'm at least a B+ Wife.

That's not just false modesty (although if Mr W has any sense he's either scrolling down to the Comments section to bump up my grade, or ideally reaching for the Interflora number...).  Really it's more a reflection of the sort of journey that I think marriage is.  I think it is possible to be an A grade bride because it's only for one day.  Being a wife (and a husband, of course) is, I think, more of a course-work based approach.

Anyway, as experiences go, the Wedding Show was a fairly magnificent whirl of royal icing, french lace and hairspray.  I tried on tiaras, sampled cakes (purely in the name of duty) and entered more prize draws than you can shake a Swarovski encrusted stick at.  And at the end of it all I came away with three very clear feelings:

1) I am so pleased that my sister is so happy.
2) I am so pleased that I got to marry my best friend.
3) I have GOT to dig out my wedding dress and veil and twirl around in them once the kids are in bed.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Pampered bliss

Today I am an oasis of zen-like calm.  Forty five minutes' work in the mighty Glamour Nails, and I have emerged, slowly recovering from the assault on the senses that is hearing Diana Ross paired with Westlife so early in the day.  Goodbye raggedy tired cuticles, helloooo polished paws.

The importance of beautifying was instilled in me at a young age.  Somewhat mortifyingly, about as soon as puberty hit, Mum whisked me to a beautician's and I was made aware of the importance of waxing, and the role it was to play in my life henceforth.  The downside to having lots of nice thick Asian hair is, well, having lots of nice thick Asian hair.  Then came nails... I was a terrible nail biter as a child.  My parents tried everything to make me stop, including many promises of lovely manicures and a veritable rainbow of polishes if I would just let them grow enough to warrant some.  I sometimes wish that I'd got them to write down all of these pledges, so that I could cash them in now.  Funnily enough, the nail biting stopped almost exactly around when I got engaged.  It was as if an inner confidence light just switched on and that was the end of that.

As I got older and started earning, beauty treatments became a regular and much loved fixture. I began to really cherish the time alone with my thoughts.  I'm still not entirely comfortable in spas, mind you.  There's always that hideous anxiety about when to remove clothing.  I fret that I'll reveal my entire wobbly splendour to the 20yr old beautician with a majestic "ta-dah!" only to find she just wanted to know if I wanted whale music or pan pipes.  At the moment I'm still recovering from a fairly traumatic experience at a spa in May.  Mid massage, blissfully floating away on a cloud of oily, pan-pipey bliss, I was asked to turn over.  As I did so, the entire massage table came crashing down.  As I hit the floor, naked, oily and let's say somewhat surprised, I was horrified.  My first thought was that of course, this was entirely my fault for carrying more than a few extra pounds.  As the mortified beautician (my goodness, she must have laughed till she cried that night) explained that actually the table had been broken for a while, a flood of giggles gurgled up to the surface from me, and washed around the little beauty room.  I giggled and chuckled and am still laughing now as I remember it.  The women on spa posters always look so serene, so poised, so gently knowing.  I am not one of those women.

Mr W is frequently baffled by the necessity for a beauty budget.  We have even discussed whether some of the basic essentials could be done at home.  I'd like to think my recollections of the times I tried to do my own bikini waxing in my first flat have turned him sufficiently green to put him off this plan.  Still, I am trying to be a little thriftier.  Last Friday night I did my own hair colouring.  Unfortunately, I forgot to find a top that was easy to remove, so had to sit downstairs for the 45min colour treatment completely topless, hoping that there would be no emergencies that would require running outside.  I'm also trying out the mighty Bio-Oil, in a bid to have glowing beautiful skin by Christmas.  After initial enthusiasm at the prospect of being in charge of greasing me up of an evening, Mr W is starting to look reluctant.  I think he's perhaps recalling our early months with our eldest son, where the health visitors' advice for everything was to slather him in either breast milk or olive oil.  We reached a point where holding our precious baby required having the agility and grip of a high school quarterback.  Given the story above, it's probably unideal for me to take to our bed slicked in oil.  Still, it could make for an interesting story at A&E.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Voices & Viakal

I wonder if anyone's ever won an award for being a reasonably good writer with an impeccably clean bathroom?  I'd like to think JK Rowling had a quick whip round her kitchen with the ol' Mr Muscle before immersing herself in Harry's latest exploits.  Potter, that is, not Windsor.  Poor boy, has no-one heard of 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'?  Anyway, I digress.

I would like to think that there's an organisation out there just waiting to recognise what I've achieved this morning.  "You mean to say you've dropped both children at their respective nurseries, cleaned the bathroom AND sat down to write, all before 10am?  Bravo, Madam, bravo."  It would be a gentle sort of awards ceremony, perhaps the sort of affair Phil & Holly might like to preside over.  Absolutely no frou frou canapés.  Gino D'Acampo could pop in and cook everyone a nice Carbonara with lashings of hammy flirting and parmesan.  Everyone would wobble home, Spanx bursting, but comfortably pleased with what a lovely job they were doing.

When the reality of having two whole mornings a week to myself started to dawn on me, I promised myself that I wouldn't do any housework at all.  I would pour every last minute into writing, creating a witty, heart warming and sparkling triumph that will leave its mark on British TV for all to see.  Perhaps I set the bar too high.  Perhaps it's a little less daunting to just aim for a really clean bath tub.  There is something very exciting about the first flutters of trying out writing wings.  To finally put down somewhere the various musings that ramble through my head, to offer them up and see if they raise a smile or knowing nod.  But it also brings with it a degree of anxiety, particularly in this era when Mummy blogs are everywhere and my musings are by no means the first.  I had a similar discussion with Mr W when we talked about my TV idea.  We agreed that the story itself may not be earth shattering, but it will be my voice, my way of telling it, that could make it stand out.

I remember when I first joined my local community choir, they were holding auditions for solo spots in the forthcoming concert.  My youngest was 6 months old, and I was just coming out of those hazy early months of feeling completely exhausted.  I put my name down to audition before really thinking about it, and hugged the secret to myself for a few weeks before finally declaring the news to Mr W with a flourish that probably warranted slightly more exciting news.  When the evening came, and the time to sing in front of 80 or so choristers approached, my heart was racing, in a sort of good way.  I prayed that I would be able to sing out loud as though I was on my own in the car.  And as moments go, it was one I hope I'll always remember.  Singing 'Amazing Grace', eyes firmly shut, and hearing my voice ringing out around the church we practise in.  It was like meeting a new person, in a way.  I don't entirely buy this business of having to completely re-discover one's identity after having children, but it has certainly been true for me that I've had more opportunities to work myself out a bit.  Hearing that voice leaping out made me feel as though there was much more to Mrs W than even I had realised.  And I'm hoping the same will happen with writing.