Mama

It’s show your ma you love her day here in the UK and I do, I do love my ma. She is an absolute peach.

But before I Iaunch into an ode to my dear old mother (she’s not old, she’s only, like, 66), I think it’s only fair to take a moment to think about those who can’t be with us today. Days like this are all well and good but there are people out there who have lost their parents, some recently and it’s understandably hard to keep cheerful on occasions like this. Believe me.

So, to all the mums that can’t be here with us, I’m thinking of you too; all those left behind and you, my Nana.

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Photo credit: Imagining the City

Back to Penny M, the greatest lady in my life. Everything I know today and every good quality I have, I learnt/inherited from my mother. If I am anything at all, I am my mother’s daughter and I wouldn’t change that for the world, because it’s blimming awesome. Here are just a few reasons I adore my mum:

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Photo credit: Claudia Rose Carter
  • She very, very smart and has a thoughtful answer for everything, which I admire. I like clever but I love subtle intelligence that doesn’t feel the need to announce itself loudly and arrogantly.
  • My mother reads more than anyone I know and this is where I got my passion for the written word. I started reading mature titles early on because I had access to them and Mum never tried to stop me reading them, which is amazing.
  • When I was 18, Mum bought me my own TV for my bedroom and it was here I started to watch amazing films late into the night, thus cementing my adoration for some of the greatest ever film makers. And horror. Lots and lots of horror. Thanks ma!
  • When she swears, I die. It’s the most hilaire. But she’ll still slaps me around the head if I use a really bad word, even though I’m 37 years old!
  • I can talk to her about absolutely anything.
  • Whenever I am going through a shitty time, she’s right there telling me that it’s all good material for ‘the book’. This is the book she truly believes I have in me, even though I’m not so sure. She also doesn’t judge me as hard as I judge myself, and tells me I’m just as brilliant as other people who have actually done things like further education, great careers, etc.
  • My mum understands me and even though sometimes it shoves my nose out of joint, when I go back and really think about what she’s said, it’s normally spot on.
  • Sometimes she calls me or sends me something when I most need it, and I don’t understand how she just knows.
  • She did shots at my brother’s wedding (below), the first time I have ever witnessed that. Plus, later on she was getting low with some of the bridesmaids on the dance floor, which was amuh-az-ing!
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Photo credit: Imagining the City

My mother, the legend. I love you Mum, more than ever and forever. Happy Mother’s Day!

All photographs from Madeleine and Tim’s Whitstable Wedding, December 2014, by Imagining the City and Claudia Rose Carter.

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Pretty Eccentric

The Queen of Kooks
The Queen of Kooks

“My name Isobel,
Married to myself.
My love Isobel,
Living by herself”
~ Isobel by Bjork

There’s nothing I find more appealing that genuine eccentricity. The elderly woman who used to ride around my hometown on a shiny yellow bicycle, for instance. Or the Madam who used to bowl down St James Street in a fur hat and then got her own column in a local publication.

My mother. My fabulously theatrical mother. Who would probably wave me away with a “Oh, Darling, not me!” if I said that to her.

That’s the thing with eccentrics; they rarely know that they are. Sure, there will be a little awareness but the true kook doesn’t stop to consider other people’s perception of them and their behaviours. And that is where the wannabe falls down.

One cannot simply decide one day to become an eccentric. One is; or isn’t. It’s a rare gift, a bundle of idiosyncrasies and then some. An aura. And you can spot the genuine article a mile off. Trust me, you can.

There are different levels of eccentric, of course. Eccentricity is in some respects subjective. One man’s kooky could very well be another man’s ‘unique’ X Factor contestant but the real and true, I’m pretty sure just are, and nobody can argue with it.

Nothing but love for this dress
Nothing but love for this dress

Look at Bjork. You cannot forge a person like that from nothing, it is born. It is so delightfully nuts, so original, so poetic – it just is or, as we have established, isn’t.

When I was growing up I one day read a story, true or not, about young Bjork being told off for not getting ready for school. After much cajoling, legend has it that she got up, dragging her duvet behind her, cut a hole in the top, placed it over her head like a giant poncho and went to school as normal.

Hero. I think of that often and don’t care if it’s true or not. It’s just typical Bjork.

What I love about this woman is that everything she does has a ‘fuck it’ edge. Have you ever really read her lyrics? Bonkers. Seen her on a red carpet at a ‘serious’ conventional event? Swan dress. (I implore you to have a look at this for yet more evidence. It’s my happy place).

She may be a serious and fiercely talented individual but she makes it all look like fun and that is why I will always love her.

Incidentally, did anyone recently read the article about the woman who married herself after hearing the lyric (above) in Bjork’s Isobel? How I love that idea and what it represents.

An eccentric move if ever there was one!

NB: Sometimes it’s a shame my OBF and I aren’t talking anymore. She’d so totally get this.

Think Ink

When I was a teenager I wasn’t sure of anything really, but I did have a slightly rebellious streak (that I cultivated to push against an76467164700c60e1c37c733e0cd53e93 imaginary enemy). My lovely mum was pretty cool with most things so I was fighting myself, mostly.

When I was around 14 (in my anecdote I am 14, but I suspect I was actually 16), I convinced my uncle to take me to get a tattoo. We chose a tiny little shop in an alleyway in Hastings Old Town one Saturday and I had absolutely no plans for a design.

I am from a family that you wouldn’t exactly call ‘tattoo friendly’ and before this had never had an older family member with a secret tattoo. If my own grandfather has a fuzzy blue mermaid anywhere about his person then I have never heard of it, much less seen it.

So it was brave of me I think to walk into the buzzing atmosphere of my first tattoo parlour that afternoon. In those days it was easy to fake a birth date on a flimsy piece of paper, no ID was requested and to be fair I don’t think anyone cared all that much.

I pointed to a tiny pink butterfly on the wall and before I knew it I was in the chair, a huge man with a ring through his nose looming towards me with a needle.

I took it well, marvelling at a feeling I had never had before. I know it now to be a flush of adrenaline but my childish heart was just delighted to be doing something so unauthorised. So free.

While he waited, my uncle fell in love with a dream catcher design (or was it a mushroom?) and went back a few weeks later for his own ink. And I’ve been in love with tattoos ever since.

If I didn’t know anything else, I knew right there that one day I would be covered in them if I only had my way.

Today I have quite a few. The artwork on my body varies from very very bad to really great and there are some oddballs in between. People talk about tattoos being a map of events in your life and that is true for me to a certain extent. There’s the 18th birthday present from my high school BFF (shooting stars, ankle), the ill-advised travel tattoos (tiger cub, hip/multiple lotus flowers), the great big Fuck You.

There’s the love token (letter ‘g’, back of neck), the BFF that is no more tattoo (tiny star, behind ear) – and then there are the ones that I just had to have because I like stuff (sugar donut/nail polish bottle/hula hoop). What I have is for me and nobody else, although I do run it past Mr Bee first. It’s not a request for permission per se, just checking in.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people say, how many times they ponder when I will stop or if it will affect my ability to get a job in the future. A big oaf in the Co-op asked me if they were real and then proceeded to tell me how much he hates tattoos. Great customer service, my friend!

It is my body and if I’ve thought it through and want to do it, I will. I’m not as heavily covered as some friends, but have quite a bit more than others. Some of my friends have nothing at all and always make me think of what Ozzy Osbourne once said:

If you want to be —-ing individual, don’t get a tattoo. Every —-er’s got one these days.”

This week, today actually, I am popping in to hang out with my friend and tattooist, Alex, who is going to draw me up an epic piece. I’m at the stage where slapping things on empty space isn’t an option anymore, they have to fit in with existing pieces so that the overall ‘sleeve’ knits together.

I like colour and I love the traditional style, and I’m also a massive girl so everything I have has to have a feminine edge, even my lumberjack is drinking from a fine bone china cup and saucer. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I do know what I like so that’s half the plan sorted, right?

As for my family, well my Mum at least, she came round eventually, electing to have a tattoo to celebrate her 65th birthday. Her son-in-law paid and every time I see it I get a glimpse of the bad ass within. She gets complimented by hipster waitresses and I admire her for doing it because she wanted to.

She’s still not sold on the idea of me being covered but that’s just because I’ll always be her baby girl. She loves them on other people.

So what are your views on tattoos? Do you have them/want them/abhor them?

Adult Visions

Prompt via The Daily Post (23rd July 2014)

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?little girl shoes

I always thought that when I finally became an adult, I would feel like one. That hasn’t happened yet.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t own my own house or have a ‘proper’ job. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have children or a car. I don’t know. All I know is that it hasn’t hit me yet.

When I was a kid I don’t know what I expected from life. I was a live in the moment girl (I think). I loved music and dressing up but I didn’t dream of white weddings and horses like many of my peers. I suppose I assumed it would just happen and I would do all the things people were ‘supposed’ to do when the time came.

I have done some of it but most of my decisions in life have not been very sensible. I guess I equate adulthood with being sensible then. Although, I’m casting my mind back and growing up the only adults I really spent time around were my Mum and her cousin, Aunty Sine.

Both these women were my ultimate heroes, even though Mum was terribly uncool at times (guys she’s my Mum, of course she was!). I think I looked to them as such because neither of them needed a man to get through. Their situations were very different but they seemed so Can Do and found strength in each other. I think maybe I found strength in their strength (plus apart from them, I was surrounded by smelly boys and Star Wars toys, so had little choice).

Later on, I did turn to men for the things I thought I needed – but give a girl a break, at least I learnt eventually that’s just a crock of sh*t. Ultimately, the only hero you need to save you, is you. *VOM!*

Despite these two ladies dragging us up by the scruffs of our necks, all by themselves, I wouldn’t describe them as particularly sensible. I remember the bottles of wine once we were in bed, guys… Maybe then, being grown up is about strength; about just getting on and doing life the best way you know how?

I’ve had some cray jobs (dating agency, adult material mail order, turkey plucking), went travelling instead of going to University, fell in love with stupid boys (who hasn’t?). I’ve lived alone (for a bit) in a strange foreign city, accepted a free tattoo from a man who lives in a hut in Thailand; all of these things make up the fabric of my rites of passage and the end result is: I’m still just a kid at heart. Sensible? No, not really, but strong? Better believe it!

The most grown up things about me, to date, are: 1) I always pay my bills on time 2) I’ve committed myself for life to another human being and 3) I’ve filed my own tax returns (in 2010 and 2011).

So, to recap: how far off was my idea of adulthood? Pretty far, I guess.

I though 30 was ancient and I assumed I would have kids because Mum did and so did Sine. I don’t think I actually pictured the man I would end up with (and I like to think that’s because then, I didn’t even want one).

I thought I’d have a better job, maybe something creative like fashion designer or an artist, like Dad (shame I can’t draw for fudge). Beyond that, I don’t think I had the normal expectations. I knew I’d see the world, make friends, be happy.

Guess really, I’m not such a bad non-adult adult after all, huh?

Gramps

Definitely not my grandfather
Definitely not my grandfather

Write About A Grandparent (via Writing Exercises)

You know that old adage, “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard”? (To paraphrase the original quote by Frankin D. Roosevelt, made in reference to his Secretary of State).

That’s Gramps.

Bastard is a little strong but I’m being kind when I say he is a difficult man. It’s not like he’s pure evil or anything like that, it’s just he’s so… Gramps.

Growing up there was no closeness. In fact, I found out quite recently that when we moved to England from Canada, my mother was given strict instructions to only bring us grandkids over once a week on a Sunday, for no longer that 20 minutes at a time. Charming, eh? Considering we were so bloody adorable!

This sort of sums up the rest of our relationship with the old timer, though I have some funny memories. When you get to a certain point in life, even the tragic things start to become amusing.

I’m going to say here that these are my thoughts on my grandfather. I could wax lyrical about the ways in which he has hurt his children and how I will always hate him a little bit for that, but that’s not what this post is about, not now.

Gramps is 98. A year or so ago he was finally confused enough to be moved into a care home. He now resides in the care home where I held my first job, aged 13. My old boss, who sacked me for letting another carer pierce my ear at the end of a shift, is still there. Thankfully, she doesn’t recognise me.

She refers to Mum as “Child”.

Gramps loves it. As a young man living and working in India back in the day, he had a household staff and, as he delights in telling anyone he can pin down for long enough, he didn’t even need to dress himself then. He would have two servants to dress him and another to press a glass of whiskey on the rocks into his hand.

*Rolls eyes*

As my brother and I reached work age and became more independent, it became apparent that our grandfather (Cyril) had no interest in what a girl could do. While Nana secretly cheered me on from the sidelines (more that I realised at the time), Gramps assumed I’d marry and it wouldn’t matter much what I did anyway. Tim was the Golden Boy with the Bright Future Ahead.

As a former bank manager, Cyril is delighted Tim ended up in Futures. My brother, and our cousin, Ricky are the favourites. They earn money y’all and are men. Sadly, my Grandfather measures success in monetary terms while my family; Mum, Tim and I measure it in experience, love; richness.

Surprisingly, I once had a job working for a purveyor of filth in my hometown. We sold adult material basically and my mother was horrified. Wishing to shock him, I told Gramps what I did (it was an admin role, relax!) and he was actually supportive. He even went away and researched the company, coming back to say that he was impressed with their profit margins (or something).

My happiest memory is of my grandfather taking us for long walks after Christmas lunch every year. Each of us four grandchildren were allowed to choose a walking stick and take it with us. All these beautiful walking sticks, with carved heads like ducks and stags. I loved that the best about Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone.

When I brought my husband around for the first time to meet Gramps, he walked straight past him and barely mumbled hello. He never explained his behaviour to me but later he told Mum it was because he didn’t like us and we lived in sin.

Who says that about their granddaughter? (We’re not a religious family at all).

Still, Gramps liked my demon ex and I think this an important thing to note. He liked him because he has ‘a strong handshake’. Fabulous judge of character, Grampy, well done.

Over the years I have lost touch with my grandfather, through living away from the UK or just not bothering to see him. I’ve seen him a few times in the home and he barely knows who I am. I can safely say that I have never felt any love emanating from him, for myself or anybody else.

But he’s my grandfather and I love him. I don’t care if he can’t love me back. I’m a better person than he is, so are we all.

This post is actually quite emotional to write now that I’ve started, it was supposed to be more tongue in cheek. I’ve talked myself into feeling bad for him; that he’ll never know the utter joy we could have brought to his life. That when he’s gone we will say things like “He was our bastard though” and we’ll get on with our lives. I will watch my mother be very sad but she will be the only one, I think.

That’s not a successful life, Gramps. Sorry old boy.

Brother

250065_10150617858235018_5939880_nToday’s Random Subject via Writing Exercises – What does having siblings mean to you?

Growing up it seemed to me that as soon as we were old enough to go our separate ways, I would never see my brother again. If you’d asked me at 12, 14, 17, 19 what having a sibling meant to me, I would have probably said “Not much, I hate him”. I would have stared off into the middle distant like a good baby Goth and I would have fantasised about being an only child.

We were not what you would call ‘close’ as we grew, although I look back and he was always there. We rowed like cat and dog but he was never not there. All my memories swirl around him, all of them, even the earliest ones. Sitting in the garden with this new fat baby in my lap (my memory or one I have borrowed from a photo album?), the evening Mum told us Dad was gone.

Our old house in Canada, playing with the neighbourhood kids. The day we moved to England to stay with our reluctant grandparents, playing with our cousins, the Christmases, the childhood injuries, the arguments; climbing trees. We weren’t friends but perhaps we were uneasy allies out there in the world because who else did we have?

I was not a cool teen. Most times all I wanted was to be alone. Now I realise I was suffering typical adolescent depression but then I just wanted to be in my room, feeling things. This did not translate well to my sociable, always popular brother though maybe only in my own head. He would pick on my insecurities to cut me down and I am quite sure I did the same right back.

Still, he woke me up one night to tell me he had lost his virginity. I think it was then I thought that one day we might be okay, that I still had a use to him, even if it was just my inexperienced ear.

It was several years later but I remember the evening vividly, he was at my house for my birthday. I was 26 when I realised we’d be fine. Mum was there and my best friend, too. I was in a relationship with my demon ex then, recently moved into a big Suburban home I had never wanted, unhappy but not yet without hope.

We were laughing and talking and Tim said I was funny. Publicly, in front of other people. From that day on, to me at least, he was no longer the lazy toad who wanted to make me cry, he was my brother and my friend – and he saw me as a person, finally.

I knew he must love me because he was nice to that horrible boyfriend, tried to see the best in him when the best wasn’t much. Later, I couldn’t believe he had kept it up, after everybody else’s façade had long since slipped. That’s love, I think.

He could have told me to leave, wondered what the hell I was playing at but he didn’t, he let me find out for myself.

We’ve been close ever since, although hardly ever geographically. I’ve been in Asia and then Canada, while he lived in both Hungary and Greece for extended periods. For six months he lived in Brighton and that was one of my favourite times, though we still didn’t hang out every week. We’re just not that kind of family.10374460_10154083560640018_306736340812671119_n

Even now, my brother is in some of my very happiest memories. He gave me away at my wedding because my Dad couldn’t; made everyone cry with his speech. He made a mix CD for the sit down dinner segment and it had my favourite song on it (You’re So Cool by Hans Zimmer).

Now we meet up every couple of months or so, since Tim and his fiancé, Maddy live in Kent. When we hang out it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m so proud of the man he has finally become and now I’m getting excited to see what kind of husband and father he’s going to be.

So, if you ask me now, what does having a sibling mean to me, I will tell you: it means everything.

Kiss and Make-up: A History of My Face

Photo via Google. Not me!

Following a chat with my team this morning about make-up, I thought it might be natural to turn it into a blog post.

A lot of you know about my relationship with nail polish – how obsessed I have been in the past with the latest products, trends and my own designs; how I had thought seriously about turning this into a business. How I still might.

But make-up on the whole has always been a part of who I am and talking about it this morning has brought back a lot of memories. I think the sensible place to start is at the beginning (right?)

My first memories of wearing my own make-up come quite late in the day, maybe around twelve or thirteen. My mum didn’t often wear it (though looking back she was definitely emphasising her peepers with super 80’s mascara), so there wasn’t much around the house. She had a small selection of ‘sensible’ basics that I had a good nose through but nothing too crazy.

So I didn’t really think about it much. I was a tree climbing tomboy though so it makes sense that I didn’t start looking at myself as a girl until adolescence hit.

Having said that my aunt, Sine has these red high heels that I insisted on putting on and clacking about her front room in for years. Until she gave them to me, to own, the best day ever! So I had some notion, I suppose.

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Click to enlarge

My first memories are of over using blue and brown mascaras and being rather heavy handed on the Coffee Shimmer. A metallic brown lipstick by Rimmel, I can’t imagine this shade particularly suiting anyone but yet there it was. Switched up with it’s subtler sister, Heath Shimmer pretty much all my lippy needs were covered.

I wish I had been more experimental with red. There’s a rumour that there’s a shade to suit every person (not going to limit this to just women), but I don’t know. I’ve always felt I look overdone every time I’ve tried a strong lip.

So I’m an eye girl. It’s all about that for me. As I shuffled into my teenage years I found black kohl and I’ll never give it up completely. It’s my signature and maybe it’s old, maybe it’s not cool anymore, I don’t care.

Bridget-Bardot-And-god-created-woman-

The greatest compliment I have ever received from a stranger was, “You’ve got eyes like Bridget Bardot”. I credit my kohl for that one. I do know that it’s a strong look though and if I need to look a little less like I woke up in somebody’s bush (ding dong), I’ll skip it. I will never skip the liquid liner (also black).

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that less is more. My mother always did say this would happen, as I caked my terrible skin in crud and layered on the spider lashes. She was spot on (pun intended).

I never really liked the feel of foundation on my skin, but it always felt like a never-ending battle. You were damned if you covered your face, damned if you didn’t. As I was growing into a woman, having bad skin made me feel inferior; less than a real person. There were times that I didn’t leave the house at all just because I felt so hideous.

Now I wear a primer, minimal concealer/foundation (thankfully I finally grew out of the adult acne of my twenties, I think it was down to stress), a subtle liquid flick and a coat or two of black mascara.

Kohl is optional but I only really leave it out of my routine if it’s mega hot or I have to lookEEMAbsoluteBlackLiner_tn smart. I will always love make-up, I think it’s an incredible tool for so many reasons, I’m just glad I don’t need to lean on it as much as I did.

So what are your favourite brands, products, styles? Do you remember Coffee Shimmer? Do you have any recommendations? Hit me up!

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