What no one tells you about the first trimester of pregnancy – the good, the bad and the ugly

first trimester, 12 weeks pregnant

Sex…

Firstly (obviously) to get a bun in the oven, you need to have sex. Not just any sex, sex at the right time. This may sound obvious but is a hurdle worth noting when you have a busy life and getting home late from work doesn’t exactly put you in the mood. Combine this with having been together for a long time, and if that elusive ovulation day stubbornly falls on a Wednesday then it looks like Hump Day brings a whole new knackering challenge to rise to. Make hay while the sun shines and get some in before your monthly window of opportunity closes because that window really is relatively short.

Until you get pregnant you wonder if you even can. You’ve no doubt spent years of trying not to get pregnant, taking precautions after missed pills and letting a medley of contraceptives play havoc with your weight, skin and hormones. Whether being a pin cushion for the contraceptive injection, trying out implants (and not the Pamela Anderson kind), patches or coils, us women often have a rocky road trying to navigate the hormonal hell of pregnancy prevention from our teens onwards. In school, we’re taught to avoid pregnancy like the plague (and put condoms on bananas). I’m pretty sure when Human Reproduction was covered we were sat on the back benches giggling into our text books at the pictures of genitalia. I have to say that the pregnancy and baby part completely passed me by.first trimester, 12 weeks pregnant

So if you are pregnant, Congratulations!  It truly is a miracle of timing, Biology and cell reproduction and you’ve done it. Bask in the splendour of such a natural miracle before you embark on the next few tiring, emotional and downright nauseated months.

No periods!

A very positive plus point you may have noticed, again fairly obvious, is the fact that you don’t get periods for at least 9 months. Hooray! Bring on the brass band! At last, no pesky periods making you moody, ruining your favourite white undies, getting in the way of your sex life and giving you goddamn period pains! You’d be forgiven for foolishly relishing in this positive pregnancy flipside… but before I tell you the bad and the ugly, the great news is (Yes!) you can indeed put your best white lacy knickers on ANY day of the month (and perhaps you might want to if only to cheer yourself up a bit) because as for the other theoretical benefits of no periods, think again…

You still get goddamn period pains! Well we’ll call them that because that’s what they damn well feel like as your uterus starts to expand to house your growing bean and your internal organs start moving to accommodate your ever increasing womb. You still get moody, emotional, tearful and hormonal, only not just at that time of the month but every day. You do have the excuse that you’re pregnant and it’s a pretty good one, so use it. If your partner persists in complaining or commenting on your moods, ask them if they would like to swap places with you and perhaps try passing a melon through their penis. They will quickly sympathise with your discomfort and impending fate and be grateful they are but an unburdened man. Feel free to tell them where they can shove their lucky bastard Y chromosome.

As for your liberated sex life, you must be frickin’ joking?! No pesky periods maybe, but alas try being asleep by 9pm every night, feeling permanently sick and having sore boobs. Add to that a plentiful amount of gas, constipation, heart burn and some more gas (from those lovely hormones slowing down your digestive system) and it’s doubtful much sex will be on the agenda. Not to mention it was having sex that put you in this position in the first place. Most women feel ill/ sick throughout much of during the first trimester and the hardest thing about it is that usually this is a time you don’t look pregnant yet and you haven’t gone public with your news yet, so don’t expect much sympathy!

Friends…

You remember before you became pregnant, all those years of other people popping sprogs (crazy fools) telling you about their pregnancies/ births/ babies? [*scratches head] hmmm, Kind of….? That’s because you weren’t listening and you were totally uninterested. Or maybe you listened to that odd nugget of wisdom or birthing horror story but truth be told all those stories merged into one and now you’re just relieved you remember your friend’s kids names and the odd birthday. Well, now it’s your turn. Adjust your expectations immediately if you expect your single friends and child-free-DINKY-couple friends will be anything more than totally indifferent to your pregnancy woes. It sucks, but deal with it. Remember you were that person once, blissfully ordering another cocktail.

It will feel to you as if you are the most important person in the world, experiencing everything for the first time (much like when you were a teenager), and to you and your partner you and the bean bud ARE top priority, but to everyone else you’re just another couple that are gonna be really hard to go out for drinks with once the rugrat comes. Cherish your more experienced mum friends who’ve gone through all this before (and hope they forgive your prior indifference). Hopefully they will love going through it with you and be a fountain of knowledge and support.

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Ban the “Baby Dance” and bring back the dancing baby!

Something that I strongly object to is the term “baby dance” when used in the context of having sex with the aim of getting a bun in the oven.

The only bone fide “baby dance” worth a dime is the infamous Oogachaka Baby which was one of the first online videos to go viral in the late 90s (remember it?!). It was everywhere for a while, in TV Shows and music videos at the time but most memorably of all for most of us was when it appeared in numerous episodes of Ally McBeal as the internal visualoge of Ally’s neurotic mind, her inner dancing baby symbolizing her ever-ticking body clock.

If you have ever googled anything to do with trying to get pregnant and found yourself on a confusing acronym strewn forum or fertility website full of people talking about the likes of HPKs, DPO, BFP, DH, BFN, AF, HPT, DTD (WTF… anyone???) then you may too have come across “Baby dance” in this context. So many postings on forums or websites refer to doing the “baby dance” and (get ready to vomit) the women posting on these forums (it’s never men, they’re too busy spanking one out to Hollyoaks to make up for all this über un-erotic “baby dancing”) encourage each other with hugs & kisses and sprinklings of “baby dust”. Pinkifi-fucking-cation starts here ladies. Grown women behaving like silly little girls dressed in pink in the playground with pigtails throwing one big pukesome glittering pink slumber party. What hope have future generations of womankind got if this is how their mothers-in-waiting converse, albeit online to random strangers on the forums of the obsessed? Don’t even get me started on how all the apps to chart your periods are pink and/ or mauve. GRRRRR!

Baby dust” is the Axis of Evil Vomiticious Grossness. But I digress. Let’s stick to slamming the “Baby dance”. It all at once conjures some kind of hippie patchouli scented chant in a sweat lodge with an old stoner playing a didgeridoo, everyone’s favorite Agony Aunt Claire Rayner straight from the 70s lecturing you smugly about the birds & the bees in your GCSE Biology class, most probably all sprinkled with some of that fluffy baby dust. One thing’s for sure, it’s not gonna get you in the mood, it could make you puke, or if you’re of a milder disposition than me then it might just make you grimace with disgust at being so fucking patronized.

So let’s cut to the chase. Let’s examine some more appropriate terms and their potential drawbacks, with which to replace “baby dance”:

  1. Have a shag – could be confused with a type of pile on a carpet, a hairstyle or Scooby Doo’s accomplice
  2. Make out – quite 1950s Rydell High, one might forget to go beyond second base at the drive in
  3. Get jiggy with it – could make you involuntarily start shouting NA-NA NA-NA NA-NA NAAAH, NA-NA NA-NA NA NAH!
  4. Hide the sausage – might make you want to waste an afternoon googling the Viz Profanisaurus
  5. Make love – make love not war kids, get out the Barry White album and put that baby dust away!
  6. Have sex – simple, to the point. It it what is is, let’s not beat around the bush… No let’s do exactly that!
  7. Bush whacking twerk jive – it’s always worth having new tricks up your sleeve and this one sounds fun

The web is so full of people pouring out every graphic detail of their baby making endeavors, why gloss over the actual sex bit with the pukesome term “baby dance”. So there we have it. Stop all this “baby dance” nonsense, call it what it is or at least something funny and get practicing your twerk jive in the bush whack, YO.

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Why you should love your body

This infographic of what the ‘perfect woman’ and ‘perfect man’ supposedly look like is pretty alarming. The results of these mashed up celebrity faces quite frankly look like zombie waxworks from some post-apocalyptic horror film set in Madame Tussauds.

Why does such a survey even exist? The shameless origin of it is in fact a cosmetic surgery website! So the results of this survey exist purely to reinforce every negative, shallow and vacuous stereotype of what’s attractive and to remind us all that if we just install a ski jump on our nose, inflate a new pair of breasts, vacuum out some fat from our thighs, stomach and arms, pop a chin implant in, inject some collagen into our lips and paralyse the top halves of our faces with some Botox then we’ll find that elusive magic bullet and be happy.

Well it worked so well for Anna Nicole Smith, Lola Ferrari and Michael Jackson didn’t it?

The Image of Perfection

Infographic by MYA.co.uk

It’s a telling tale of the modern air brushed western world we live in when despite the recession plastic surgery is on the rise.

Sadly, flicking through HEAT magazine, observing the new breed of fake-tanned reality-show celeb and looking around at the teenage girls unable to open their eyes from the sheer weight of their eyelash extensions or struggling to text with their acrylic diamanté encrusted talons, it’s clear we probably just don’t love ourselves enough. We end up on a never-ending and unfulfilling search for perfection or reinvention, which just doesn’t exist.

It got me thinking about why we should try to love our bodies just the way they are without putting them under the knife unnecessarily. We only get one body and just think of what it does for us.

Continually rejuvenating itself after our over-indulgences, illnesses and injuries. Keeping us fuelled and ticking over even when deprived of sleep. Warning us to slow down and get some rest. Filtering through the stress we put ourselves under every day. Giving us the adrenaline we need to accomplish things we never thought we were capable of.

Enabling us to be so immensely mentally and physically resilient. When one part of us fails, other parts of us compensate whether physically or mentally with increased determination or strength. Repeatedly detoxifying our internal systems for us.

Allowing us to taste. To touch. To feel pleasure.

Enabling us to express ourselves, communicate, bond and show love with different parts of ourselves. Letting us see, hear and smell the natural world all around us.

Cushioning us from blows and falls. Healing when we bruise and bleed. Providing us with an inbuilt comfy seat to sit on.

Empowering us to reproduce. Enabling us to feed and nurture our children.

Giving us the freedom to breathe. To feel. To dream. To do. To think. To be.

What happened to finding somebody’s subtle imperfections attractive anyway? Or falling for the little things that make each of us so unique? That’s  real. The ‘perfect man’ and the ‘perfect woman’ don’t exist. Perfect just wouldn’t be perfect as it would be so bland wouldn’t it? Cherylina Colie or Bey-ashian wannabes can kiss my imperfect butt ‘cos my seat must be in first class as my inbuilt cushion looks soooo much bigger and more goddamn comfy than theirs.

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Betsy & Me

It’s a good job Betsy my chocolate Labrador puppy is so pretty.

Betsy the chocolate labrador puppyAfter 48 hours with my 8 week old puppy as a new addition to the household, this is what I’ve learnt so far:

1. Counting poos and wees and pre-empting the next one is my new main pre-occupation

2. There is no point in ever being house proud again

3. Anything is fair game for chewing from peeling plaster on the walls to metal chair legs

4. My pockets will forever more be full of puppy training treat crumbs

5. Poo bags are my new accessory du jour. Fact.Naughty chocolate lab puppy chewing a shoe

6. Expect clothes, watch, shoelaces and hair to get a good chew at all times and face to get a good licking (but at least whilst licking is taking place no chewing is underway, PHEW! relax for 30 seconds)

7. I’m not sure if there’s any point in ever wearing nice clothes again

8. It’s only me that minds standing around in the cold rain waiting for some toilet action, the feeling is definitely not mutual for my new canine bestie who doesn’t let a spot of rain get in the way of a good roll around in a flower bed or two

9. One phone wire, socket or electric cable - ALWAYS way more fun than 10 squeaky dog toys or tasty chews

Betsy having a cuddle with daddy10. Betsy should win an Oscar for acting like butter won’t melt in her mouth whilst at the vets (not even blinking when having her vaccination), when visitors come round making them think she’s adorable and soppy, then going into a manic frenzied attempt to destroy the house once no one else is looking

What me? Be naughty? NEVER...Betsy the naughty chocolate labrador pup on her way to chew the cameraButter wouldn't melt...

Please Sir, can I have some more?

Will having children be this hard or harder, I wonder…?

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Reading Roundup of 2013

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So the sun has set on 2013, and as we put away our trees, pack away our pressies (marching our unwanted ones to the charity shop or putting them away for handy regifting) I wanted to do a roundup of my favourite reads of 2013. I always have several books on the go between my kindle and my bedside table pile, but this year I want to make more of bedtime and get that glowing contented feeling from…. absorbing myself in a bloody good book (of course).  I’m going to start by switching off the technology and not having my phone alarm next to my bed acting as a constant source of distraction for my idle thumbs. I love getting book recommendations from others and always have a wish list of things to read next, so hopefully my reading list might give you a few ideas of your own.

For my top 2013 reads, let’s start with the fiction:IMG_0071

My #1 top read of 2013 was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Fantastical story about the mysterious Cirque de Rêves (Circus of Dreams) and its creators is so intricately described with rich detail it will set your imagination alight, you won’t be able to put it down and you will hope that when you go to sleep you get to wander the circus yourself.

#2 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This was truly the most un-put-downable page-turner I’ve read in a long time. The writing is great, the characters complex, the pace is perfect and just when you think it’s one thing then you go and realise it’s something else altogether and that they’ll be twists a plenty still to come. Part psychological thriller, part murder mystery, part unravelling of a relationship with the readability and occasional resemblance to One Day by David Nicholls or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. This is truly original and a book that you will want all your friends to read so that you have someone to damn well talk about it with.

 

#3 – The Knife of Letting Go by Patrick Ness

In a town where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts through the noise, secrets can be hard to keep. This is the first in the young adult Chaos Walking trilogy where a boy and his dog journey into the unknown territories with a young girl with no noise, to escape his predetermined future and discover the truth about The New World.

 

 

 

#4 – The Hunger Games trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins

You must have been sleeping for the past few years not to have noticed this smokin’ hot franchise. Even if  Katniss’ indecision about whether she fancied a snog with Gale or Peta did get a bit dull, there’s no denying the first two books are hard to put down. In my opinion Mockingjay, the third book in the trilogy, lost it’s pace somewhat and Katniss lost her spunk but I’ll be interested to see how the movie studios spin it out into a two part movie with part 1 due out at the end of this year. If you feel like braiding your hair and donning some Katniss chic there’s even some pretty cool Hunger Games inspired jewellery on Etsy.

Katniss' Revenge - Bow and Arrow Necklace - Hunger Games by Prairieoats

I MUST have this!

And for the non-fiction:

#1 – How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

My top non-fiction read of 2013 by far. With every chapter I wanted to throw my hand in the air and shout “I HEAR YA, SISTER!” Caitlin Moran weaves in many entertaining anecdotes from her adolescence and beyond and dishes up her feminist words of wisdom on chapters on all the main hazards of being a woman  from pubes and boobs to marriage and kids. This is a book you’ll want to read again and buy for all your female friends and relatives.

 

 

#2 – At Home: A short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson doing what he does second best after travel writing, and that’s doing a ton of research and then serving it up for the layman. I loved his A Brief History of Nearly Everything in which he took on the dawn of the earth and civilization and made me wish I’d damn well listened in those school Physics lessons. This time he takes on the home, what we get up to in it, why we do what we do in it and why we live the way we do. Each chapter represents a room in his old rectory house and he retells the anthropological and historical roots of modern society as we know it with his distinctive brand of intelligence and wit. I would so want this guy at my fantasy dinner party.

 

#3 – MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
Finding friends as an adult is sooo much bloody harder than when you are at school or college. This is something that I’ve written about recently myself in Goldilocks where are you? Looking for Ms. Just right: Why does making friends past 30 seem so hard?

A lady called Rachel Bertsche took the challenge on, not only to find friends but a BFF, by having 52 friend dates in a year. Yes that’s one friend data a week for a whole year. And she did it! This book shares the story of her girl dates blended in with relevant psychological research about the challenges of making friends as an adult.  When so many women will happily and openly search for a man, it’s craziness to think that it’s so taboo and sad to admit you need a few more female friends. This book is awesome – I urge you to read it.

 

#4 – Friendships Don’t Just Happen by Shasta Nelson
After reading MWF Seeking BFF,  I got the ‘science of friendship’ bug and read this book by Shasta Nelson who founded girlfriendcircles. It’s an incredibly interesting guide to examining the existing relationships in your life, identifying the holes you want to fill and full of practical step-by-steps to understanding the process of forming and maintaining new relationships. It makes so much sense and isn’t patronising in the slightest. I found it a really enlightening read and will be a book I definately refer back to revisit certain areas. I found it particularly useful for gaining some insight into dealing with a certain FRENEMY which I plan to put into good use…

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Luckily this Christmas I didn’t get too much for my charity run and in fact got a great selection of interesting books to add to my ever-growing pile. From a man’s impulsive 600 mile journey when he goes out to post a letter, to a teenage girl writing letters about her guilty secret to a convict on death row in Texas, to one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time written in 1960, to the epic  family saga of forbidden love between a young girl and a priest to 50 shades of (air punching) feminism… Another task for 2014 is to get some decent bespoke book shelves built in my lounge so I can actually see all my books (instead of having them 3 rows deep) and have my own little personal library. I quite fancy myself sliding along on one of those old fashioned library ladders peering at my (colour coded of course) library shelves over my Lois Lane specs (I so need to get me some of those too).

 

 I’m starting with this for my new year read, and I’m totally hooked…

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Do let me know your comments on any of these books, or any recommendations of your own for my 2014 reading list.

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Princess Fallen On Hard Times Condemned to a Life of Domestic Drudgery

Betty Draper from Mad Men thinks about cleaning whilst drinking wine and smokingOn my fridge is a laundry  list of household and cleaning chores divided into weekly, fortnightly and monthly jobs for the perfectly run household. It’s totally aspirational rather than a reality, but nonetheless the list never fails to impress guests. In the reality of my domestic sluttery, it’s my inability to remember the colour of the kitchen floor, the new breed of mould growing in the bathroom or the tides of dust kitties mixed with my hair nestling in corners (it seriously gets EVERYWHERE), that prompts me to have a cleaning blitz. In an attempt to be democratic but actually resulting in the laissez-faire result of nobody doing anything, the laundry list has no names against it. But if I had my way the cleaner’s name would be against nearly everything. Let’s call her “Maria”, my imaginary Maid, Ironing & Cleaning Lady. Maria could easily keep my home clean and tidy whilst my partner and I work 80+ hours a week between us to pay the mortgage for it. 100 years ago I wouldn’t have had to spend my Sunday dusting, hovering and bleaching. I would have had staff for this kind of thing, GODDAMMIT!

Clearly I picture myself as flouncing around ‘upstairs’ at Gosford Park as opposed to scurrying around ‘downstairs’. The reality of my social class, sadly, probably means I’d have been more likely found in the scullery rather than the ballroom, or the larder rather than the library, but NEVERMIND. If I want to be BLOODY Lady Mary of Downton, or indeed a lady downin’ a Bloody Mary (even better) then so I shall!

The industrial revolution in the home has meant that technology has made domestic drudgery, well.. a lot less drudgey. And of course it freed up A clean house is a sign of a wasted lifewomen’s time in the post war era as full time housekeepers to go out to work and earn for the household. Now we have dishwashers, washing machines, blenders and supermarkets and no longer need flat irons, mangles and mincers. But even with a few modern machines and gismos there is still no magic ‘deep clean’ button that turns my house into an Ideal Home magazine spread. When I work 40+ hours a week where am I supposed to find the time for this other job as housekeeper, albeit a flimsy ‘modern’ one? This job has no training, no induction and certainly no bonus for good performance. Where the hell is Maria? Why can I not afford her?! After working all week I want to enjoy my free time and fill it with cocktails and prosecco, hobbies, me-time, quality time with my partner, entertainment, socialising and fun, and generally enjoying the home I work -to earn- to pay for.

It strikes me that what we all tend to do, is work more to earn more to spend more and buy more stuff which means we have to work even more to earn more to afford the stuff, which means we don’t have time to use the stuff because we’re working more and have way more stuff getting dusty and even less time to clean the stuff let alone use the stuff and then less room to store the stuff, which means we need to work more to earn more to afford a bigger house to keep more stuff in where we can put it all away and stop it getting dusty, and then we have to work more to earn more to pay for our bigger house which needs  SOOOOO MUCH MORE cleaning….

Fuck this domestic goddess bullshit, 50s housewife magnetSo the answer then is clearly – buy less stuff, don’t get a bigger house and hire a cleaner. Hey presto! More ME-time for wondering whether I’d like a butler…

My husband doesn’t call me ‘princess fallen on hard times’ for nothin’.

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Excuse Me Everyone, I’m Feeling Myself Having A “what I call” OVULATION!

Contraception

I have come off the pill, as we thought we might finally be ready to stop depriving the world of the continuation of our amazing genes.

Up until this landmark decision, I must admit my knowledge of the female reproductive system was… well, limited. In fact I don’t think I had thought about it much since “The Big Talk” with my mum back in the late ‘80s after finding my older sister’s tampons in a drawer, and being told “they are for big girls to stick in their ears whilst doing their homework, to drown out the whines of their little sister” just didn’t wash with me. So my mum and I had The Big Talk. About periods. About tampons. About lady things.

I was only about 8 at the time but this early Big Revelation did nothing to prepare me for when I got my first period for my 11th birthday. I was in denial for weeks hoping that it was just a one off thing. At least, please not The Big Deal that made my mum tearful with pride and made my dad pat me on the head saying “Congratulations, you’re growing up now” as I sheepishly came out of the bathroom shame-faced (after being sent in there to battle a giant pad with wings) to the expectant looking faces of my entire family all sat in the living room waiting for me. It was possibly the most traumatic toilet visit I have ever had.

Male Reproduction System

Anatomy of The Male Brain?

Of course I got used to it, and apart from popping a pill for the last 17 years to stop The Unmentionable happening, my knowledge of the female bits & bobs has been left largely unthought-of since. Even my familiarity with the male anatomy has always been pretty ‘street’ as I demonstrated in my Biology mock GCSE when I labelled the cross section diagram of the male reproductive system. I confidently labelled The Limp Penis, The Foreskin and The Bollocks, then triumphantly drew an arrow to the prostate gland and labelled it The Male Brain. The attention I got from this act of rebellion at my all girls’ convent school gave me some serious locker room notoriety. (I also labelled The Clit on the female repro’ diagram for my clearly sexually repressed Biology teacher in case she hadn’t found hers yet… Yeah, yeah.. I read ‘Just Seventeen’, I knew ALL about this kind of stuff).

Since coming off the pill and going au natural,  I got myself an app to track my periods and become more in tune with my ‘what I call’ Lady Cycle. It appears I’m not as in tune with my inner workings as some women though who can apparently feel themselves ovulate. I mean seriously? I can just imagine the Gobby Self-obsessed Upstart on their mobile phone in a quite train carriage (come on, we’ve all heard them).

“HELLLLLOOOOOO! I’M ON A TRAIN! BEAR WITH… BEAR WITH… BEAR WITH… SORRY DARLING, I JUST OVULATED. NOW WHERE WAS I…?”

So far trying to get in sync with my body has only resulted in me being convinced I am having an implantation, when really I’ve just needed a big poo.

Most baffling of all though, is the secret code of TTC (which anyone, who has been in sniffing distance of a forum on the likes of Mumsnet, will know means Trying To Conceive). Pleased with myself, as I am, for deciphering TTC and the DPO (Days Past Ovulation), I still am at an absolute loss as to what DH, BFN, AF, HPT and DTD are! These forums are a mecca of information, and I have learnt a lot about the complex inner workings of what goes on in there. It is clear, for example, that under the Lady Bonnet is a much more sophisticated engine than under the Man Bonnet. When a friend of mine recently emailed me to tell me she was TTC, I realised it’s a secret language of sisterhood that should be used with caution for fear of becoming a baby-making obsessive. It’s dangerously tempting to keep Googling every question that comes to mind and seriously freaking yourself out. I keep reassuring myself that with every period is another month of wine before the famine. Winter is coming, as they say. I better stock up on fermented grapes.

Anyway unfortunately my family has got wind of the fact that I might get a bun in the oven at any time soon. Why am I so rubbish at keeping schtum?! Maybe I thought if Baby Of The Family (that’s me) has a baby then I might regain some of my rightful attention (only Freud could confirm). When I last messaged my brother on Google Chat his opening line was “so are you pregnant yet?”.  I soon got him back by telling him how ‘busy’ at it we are and how I’ve had a ‘hot desk’ for baby making activities installed at my husband’s workplace for the ultimate in readiness & accessibility. He hasn’t asked again. This week I arranged a convenient time to FaceTime with my sister to see my nephews, and she eagerly asked, “So.. How’s “It” going?” convinced as she was that I had arranged to call her to tell her I’m pregnant (because I don’t call that regularly… oops). When I last spoke to my dad on the phone rather than questions he just said “So you two are trying for a baby, hey? Well enjoy yourselves!” Noooooooooooo.  The worst so far though was when my socially inept brother-in-law outright asked me (over a cup of tea), “So how’s trying for a baby going?” Seriously what do you say to that? Well we’re on position 47 in the Kama Sutra and we’ve introduced some equestrian style paddles, bridles and whips?! BOSH! That would stop a conversation in its tracks.

Or perhaps I should just stop the conversation by raising my hand in the air, whilst I ovulate or experience the transcendence of an implantation (or the movement of my bowels).

First this to deal with and then the fact that just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean there’s a magic gene that turns you into a cooing Julie Andrews at the sight of a baby. I dunno, having ovaries really gives us ladies a raw deal.

Follow @dawnofthedame

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50 Shades of Grey: Why grey is fashion’s new black and DIY’s new magnolia

I admit it, I am lip bitingly obsessed with grey. And it’s not Christian Grey.

Grey roomSat here poised over my paint colour charts I am entranced by the array of greys available to me to paint my walls with. From stone greys to green greys to whites that are actually grey, it’s clear from the home mags that grey is just so ‘in’ right now. When my work colleague told me she was painting her living room French Grey, I (wanting to show off my extensive paint knowledge) responded “Oh Farrow & Ball paint is so lovely, I have friends who have used that…” But oh no, it’s not F&B’s French Grey (a dark toned green tinged grey) that she had in mind, it’s Little Greene’s French Grey. An altogether lighter more ‘light grey’ grey. I’ve now been introduced to another elite range of classy colours to befuddle my mind further.  The choice is endless.

Quite simply, what’s not to like about a shade of grey on your walls?

  •  It contrasts fabulously with white woodwork, and looks particularly cool the inverted way round too (grey woodwork and lighter emulsion on the walls). There are also at least 50 shades of white so placing greys and whites together to find a perfect match is another time wasting must when in the throes of decorating decadence.
  • I can’t think of any colours that DON’T go with it. A flash of bright colour looks great (such as my bright orange satchel next to my grey wall – even if I never actually use it because of those blasted little buckles I can rest easy knowing it looks great languishing in my grey home office and doesn’t need an outing to prove it’s worth), pastel colours look soft with it, autumnal colours look cosy with it… the list goes on.
  • It lends itself to different looks. Whether you want to go for Charles Darwin’s Study with botanical prints, antlers and moose heads with a touch of steam punk or Modern Industrial with metal cabinets, theatre spotlights, exposed brickwork and wooden floorboards to Glamorous Boudoir with a velvet chaise, gilt mirrors and lots of plumped up luxury – it just seems to work every time.
  • The fact that there are so many shades of grey means there is the right tone for every shape and size of room to fit in with what natural light it gets.

The elephant in the roomVery soon the tongue and groove panelling in my bathroom will be covered in Elephant’s Breath. And this is not from the massive elephant in the room (that we’ve replaced a simple inexpensive trip to the local DIY store for overpriced paints bought from snooty suited “design consultants” in fancy showrooms that attempt to fool us into believing our homes are in the same league as the English Heritage estates)…

Fashion-wise grey is a no-brainer. I have grey knee high boots for Autumn/ Winter and they literally go with everything I have and make a welcome change to black or brown. I have a grey blazer that is similarly versatile. A grey jumper is a total must I think, teamed with jeans or with a colourful shirt collar it never fails to look effortlessly stylish. I also think grey makes everyone’s skin look good. No one’s skin tone is grey (even if you think yours is after a night of too much wine) and with the right shade (darker grey for fair skin or lighter grey for dark skins) it tends to bring out colour or a tan, or brighten lighter skin.

Grey fashion from Bellabox

I also use a couple of shades of grey on my eyes – Bobbi Brown’s Sand Dollar and Slate cream shadows – both of which I adore. I have blue/grey eyes which these compliments well, but I find it hard to imagine a skin tone and eye colour combination that they wouldn’t suit, after all who doesn’t covet the smokey eye? (There’s another grey shadow called Cement that actually looks really nice too.). What next? Matte grey nail varnish…. Hmmm I’d give it a go!

Perhaps the only grey no-no I can think of is when your comfy old white knickers have turned a shade of Motheaten Grey that no self-respecting Farrow & Ball chart will ever offer. Just please someone come find me, when I disappear against my Manor House Grey wall closing my eyes and biting my lip totally camouflaged in my grey get-up. Or better still, throw me that orange lifesaver of a satchel. I knew it would come in handy eventually.

I’ve never been an absolutist. Life is not black and white, it’s full of the many shades of grey.

 

 

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Goldilocks where are you? Looking for Ms. ‘‘Just Right’’: Why does making friends past 30 seem so hard?

Miranda Carrie Samantha & Charlotte in the Sex & The City Movie 2Back in the playground, in school and at university it just seemed so much easier. It helped we were all just thrown together in the same situations and somehow some of the friendships seemed to stick. Over the years some of these folks have faded into the memories of Good Times Past but some have endured the test of time to be firm well established friends (warm and familiar like an old loved sweater). A side effect of people being more mobile and transient these days is that most of us move about all over the place for jobs and opportunities, for new experiences and for love, so it’s rare to end up living in the same town where we grew up or where we went to college. As we move around and begin to settle our list of long distance friendships seems to grow and with it the relationships to maintain.

Although social media and email make it easier to keep in touch without the need for as many phone calls, it also means we’re less picky about who we stay ‘connected’ to and the natural shedding of past pals therefore takes a bit longer. With so many people to try and keep up with the more time it takes, and the less time there is to make new meaningful relationships closer to home. When you finally land in a place you want to settle it’s natural to want to make new local friends. Getting some new regular haunts, meeting acquaintances and (eventually) firm friends are all part of settling in and the cement around the foundations of the life that we build.

But how do you make friends in a new area after the age of 30, outside of work, and when you don’t have kids yet? It seems I’m not alone in pondering this conundrum. Rachel Bertshe has a whole blog and book dedicated to the elusive hunt for female friends – MWF Seeking BFF (Married White Female Seeks Best Friend Forever).

Blossom and Six from the 90s TV show BlossomIn my pre and early teens my favourite TV show was Blossom (1990 to 1995). For anyone that doesn’t remember Fridays at 6pm on C4 (you were seriously missing out), it starred Mayim Bialek (now a neuro-science nerd in Big Bang Theory) as sassy teenager Blossom, amidst her lovable but dysfunctional family and her best friend Six (“because that’s how many beers it took” Six explained her unusual name). Oh how I used to long for a best friend like Six. Someone who I could talk to about boys, share shoes with and invent stupid dances with (at 12 going on 16 there were ZERO boys to speak of, no decent shoes in my closet and any dancing was definitely limited to my bedroom, but still Blossom and Six made being fashionable teenagers look AWESOME).

On and off over the years I have had best friends like this, at school, at university… but, is it wrong to say at 33 I still want one now?! Someone you can shoot the breeze with, laugh your tits off with or just be quiet with and not have to fill the air waves for the sake of it. Someone who understands and encourages you, with shared passions and dreams, loves you at your best and can deal with you at your worst and laugh you out of a bad mood. Hmm, kind of sounds like what we look for, or hope to find, in a partner doesn’t it? And boy that takes time, effort and kissing A LOT of frogs. Finding that BFF sounds like it’s going to be HARD.

Ok, so let’s re-shift expectations. Finding Ms. ‘Just Right’ and then cultivating a relationship that turns into Blossom-esque BFFdom might take some time. But, in the meantime how do we find some potential Ms. ‘Might Be Just Rights?

Unless we chance upon a clone of ourselves (oh they would be so cool and witty wouldn’t they?), whoever we meet and become friends with is going to have a whole different set of interests and opinions to us, although hopefully share some too. Putting yourself into a situation where some of these interests might be more likely to overlap might increase the chances of meeting a good match and finding your Goldilocks.

So, where do you look for your Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte or Miranda:

1.       Well there’s the gym and exercise classes. If you love keeping fit then this is definitely where you will find some likeminded people. If, like me, you need a little more coaxing (from trying to squeeze your wobbly arse into your skinny jeans) to get you down the leisure centre, you’re not a natural yoga bunny and you balance your virtuous gym visit with a well-deserved bottle of Pinot, then you may find fitness fascists a tad boring. But it’s a start.

2.       Neighbours. If you live in a nice neighbourhood with fellow professionals or people in a similar demographic to you, chances are you have some friendly neighbours and here is a handy (very local) pool in which you could find a potential new friend.

3.       Clubs and groups. If you’ve got any hobbies you could find people with similar interests, or if you like a good book (or a good rant) you could join a book group?

4.       Get involved in the local community. Are there any community events going on where you could get involved or lend some of your skills or expertise to help out?

5.       Women’s Institute – there are around 6,600 WI clubs with some 210,000 members. It’s coming up to 100 years old but the outlook is fresh and modern with the aim being to provide women opportunities to learn new skills, take part in a variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities. With a WI group in most areas and with it now attracting a wide variety of ages it’s got to be worth a try. Plus, it seems the meetings are one evening a month which should be easy enough to commit to for most people. I’m going to my first local meeting next week so watch this space…

The cast of Friends in that famous black & white poster over Manhatten

So when we put ourselves out there, a smile can turn into a hello, which can turn into some shared small talk that can turn into a conversation that can turn into number swapping… oh the etiquette minefield we enter here…

It’s like serial dating but without the clear guidelines. How forward should you be with swapping numbers or suggesting doing something together? After you’ve gone out for the first time, how do you know whether a ‘second date’ is on the cards? Which bits of yourself should you hide when being on your best behaviour? If you go for a drink how many glasses of wine is ok so that they don’t think you are a wino-holic?

WLTM likeminded female BFF with a wickedly GSOH.

Let the search commence!

This Blossom theme brings back some memories!

 

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Ooh la la – French Kissing & Tipping The Velvet

I recently stayed in a brothel in Paris on Rue Chabanais for my wedding anniversary.

Not a building currently working as a brothel mind you, but now an apartment on a street famed for its luxurious brothels operating near The Louvre between 1878 and 1946 and frequented by the likes of Edward VII, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Marlene Dietrich no less. Edward VII used to visit when he was still “Bertie” Prince Of Wales, son of Queen Victoria (not to be confused with Colin Firth’s portrayal of the stammering “Bertie” in The King’s Speech who became King George VI, the current Queen’s dad). The naughty King even had a room with his coat of arms over the bed housing a large copper bath tub which he would fill with champagne and bathe with his prostitutes in. Being heavily overweight he also had himself a special ‘love seat’ built to recline on while receiving oral sex and for acts involving multiple participants. What would that nice old lady on our stamps have to say about her fat horny old Great Grandfather?!

The Kiss by Rodin, Paris, Jardin TullieresAnyway the history of where I was staying got me thinking about these frisky Frenchies and where some of what we know as the ‘language of love’ originates. The French Kiss got its name because the French were known to be much more passionate and sexually adventurous at the start of the 20th century than us Brits. It’s thought that “French Kissing” was discovered by British and American soldiers during their off duty escapades in World War 1, and before the 1920s it wasn’t a term used in English speaking countries at all. It’s strange to think that in Victorian Britain, in most households the tongue was so underused! A lack of oral stimulation of every kind for the average women then – restricted freedom of speech, no right to vote, and totally uninitiated to the art of a good tonguing.

If the French Kiss was seen as slightly risqué, then I doubt very much whether in the early 20th century ‘tipping the velvet’ was commonplace between husbands and wives either (the Victorian term for cunnilingus which Sarah Waters famously named her book after). I imagine this type of exotic activity would have been seen and experienced in the brothels and then brought home (along with syphilis) by the male patrons to the women back home. Fellatio would also certainly not have been common practice in most homes either (hence Bertie’s love seat specifically designed to enjoy some). I don’t know what the trigger point was, but somewhere along the lines those uptight Victorians must have decided to get their kit off and 69! And thank goodness they did! Perhaps we have those Parisian brothels to thank for bringing a few new naughty things to the masses by teaching their patrons a few tricks. What cunning linguists those playful Parisians must have been! Encore, ENCORE!

 

 

 

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