Thursday, 29 June 2017

One Year

Today marks one year since Thomas and I brought Missy home from the RSPCA.

It has been the most wonderful 12 months with her and, at the risk of sounding like a total cliché, neither of us can remember what life was like without her. Although we'd both lived with cats before, they'd always belonged to housemates which, it turns out, isn't the same thing at all.

Missy chose us, rather than the other way round. We went to the RSPCA a couple of days after Brexit, desperate to take our minds off the horror unfolding around us, and wandered around the cat section admiring puss after puss, completely baffled as to how we were meant to choose just one. And then a black cat with yellow eyes pushed herself up against the glass of her pen and 'rubbed' her head against my hand to say hello, and we were smitten.

Missy is mercurial. She is assertive. She can be very aloof and she can be very affectionate. She loves being brushed more than anything else (apart from perhaps Dreamies) and she loves to greet us when we come home from work. She will only sit on a lap if you first put a yellow cushion on said lap: no cushion, no lap snuggles from Missy. She'll hiss when displeased and occasionally strike out, but she's always careful not to use her claws on us. She's an awful wimp who makes a song and dance out of jumping onto a table, and will run away from other cats rather than confront them. She does, however, like to hunt flies. To our great disappointment, she's never shown any interest in boxes, nor in sitting in small and amusing places. Her happy place is the back garden, where she can nibble plants and watch insects to her hearts content. Most importantly, she is - as we tell her often - the best little cat in the world and we could not love her more.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

15 Facts About Me

Months and months ago Rachel tagged me in a post on Instagram challenging me to share a selfie and 10 random facts about myself. And then I totally forgot about it until Sarah wrote a post recently with her facts. I've done fact posts before but I know I always enjoy reading other people's, so here goes trying to think of 15 new facts about myself.

1. My favourite subject at school was drama and I usually took the lead role in the school plays and musicals.

2. Show tunes are my not-at-all-guilty pleasure. I love listening to the Elaine Paige show on Radio 2 on Sunday afternoons, and on long car journeys will blast the soundtracks to Wicked and Rent while singing along at the top of my voice.

3. I also have a fondness for grime and, despite the incongruity of a 30-something white woman bopping along to Stormzy in a Ford Ka, it's another of my favourite driving soundtracks.

4. Speaking of age, I turn 40 next June and I am not at all happy about it. It sounds like such an enormous milestone (frankly, it just sounds so old!). So yeah, there's lots of denial of the ageing process going on around here at the moment.

5. I was once on local television talking about zines. I was only 17 and it was about as awkward as "teenager interviewed on local Bradford cable channel" sounds.

6. My mum is deaf, so I have (rudimentary) BSL skills. However, as she lost her hearing in her 50s, none of us are exactly fluent.

7. I have multiple diagnoses - Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Pain Syndrome - that impact on my life in various ways. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out how to get through the wedding and start my MA course without a combination of the three causing havoc.

8. I don't particularly like chocolate, and especially not chocolate cake.

9. The best gig I've ever been to was Joanna Newsom at Manchester Palace Theatre in 2010, closely followed by Joanna Newsom at Manchester Albert Hall in 2015. Whenever I see her live I spend the entire time completely rapt, so I'd heartily recommend trying to bag tickets when she next tours.

10. I secretly quite enjoy supermarket shopping.

11. Before getting Missy, I'd never owned a pet. Nope, not even a goldfish when I was a child.

12. I have too many disgusting habits to name, but probably the most unappealing is picking dry skin off my feet and then chewing it. I know, I disgust me too.

13. I've never been afraid of going to the dentist but, until a few years ago, I had a phobia of going to the hairdressers.

14. I've lived in three cities as an adult - Bradford, Manchester and Leicester - the latter for 20 years. I will leave one day... maybe?

15. Things internet people have recognised me by when meeting in real life: my fringe, my Feminist Killjoy bag, my tattoo, my red hair and, on one memorable occasion, by boobs.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

To Gift List Or Not To Gift List? That Is The Question

Recently a lot of people have asked us about gift lists: Do we have one, and if not, what do we want? And it's turning out to be a thornier issue than we at first thought.

When we started planning the wedding, Thomas and I were absolutely adamant that we didn't want a traditional gift list; asking guests to first pay to travel (90% of guests are coming from outside of Leicester, with 50% of those travelling from overseas) and then to splash out on some fancy kitchen gadgets from John Lewis just didn't sit right with us. Unlike in times past, when a couple getting married would almost invariably be setting up home for the first time, Thomas and I have lived together for four years and we have pretty much everything we need. So, no gift list.

We did ponder asking for charitable donations in lieu of gifts (I was particularly keen to support the at-risk-of-closure Leicester Rape Crisis), or perhaps for Canadian dollars ahead of our planned trip next summer. But, again, we came back to the fact that asking people to cough up cash in addition to plane fares and hotel bills felt unfair. While some guests would, I am sure, be more than happy to contribute, we didn't want people to feel obliged.

As we count a huge number of talented artists amongst our friends and family, we next toyed with the idea of going with the classic mum line, "Anything you've made would be lovely." But then how would those without artistic skills (or with the skills but without time to commit to a project) feel? Again, we didn't want there to be a sense of obligation.

A few alternatives have been suggested by friends: an Etsy gift list, perhaps, or sharing our Amazon wishlists and getting books as wedding presents. In the end, though, we've gone with what's probably the least satisfactory solution from a guest's perspective - an embarrassed shrug and a muttered, "You don't need to get us anything," when asked. But we're still not entirely sure if this approach is the right one, or whether our attempts to ensure people don't feel obligated to give us something are just making it more complicated for guests who do want to give a present. So let me know: what do you think of wedding gift lists? 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Planning An Anxiety-Friendly Wedding

With just eight weeks to go, the wedding is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, so prepare for a few posts talking about it. Today's is prompted by something a couple of people have recently asked me: how I've dealt with managing my anxiety during wedding planning and how I think I'll cope on the day itself?

It was an interesting question to ponder, because in all honesty we didn't approach the planning from the perspective of making the wedding anxiety-friendly. However, once Thomas and I sat down to think about it, we quickly realised that almost all of the big decisions we've made during planning have been prompted by or related to making it a comfortable experience for us. We have - partly on purpose but mostly by accident - planned the perfect anxiety-friendly wedding.

So, what have we done to make our wedding anxiety-friendly? Here are a few things that have worked well for us.

Staying Local
When we first began talking about a wedding, I was adamant about one thing: I did not want to have it in Leicester. My love/hate relationship with the city I've called home for 20 years is a whole other post, but at the start of the planning process two years ago I was in a 'hate' phase. So we looked, in a vague and noncommittal way, at venue options from Bristol to Glasgow, Leeds to Warwickshire. But nothing felt right, or affordable, or easy.

And then, a brainwave. Where do we feel most comfortable? The Lansdowne pub here in Leicester. Which building do we both think is one of the most beautiful in England? The Guildhall here in Leicester.

Now, having booked both places, I'm very relieved we chose to be have our celebration here. I'm (luckily) very much in an 'I love Leicester' mood of late, and I'm so excited to show the city off to people from around the world who would otherwise have no reason to visit. More importantly, it has made the planning so much easier, compared with trying to pull off a big event in a city we're unfamiliar with. So you can keep your destination weddings: I'm happy to be having a local one.

Saying "No" To DIY
It would have been so very easy for me - creative, imaginative, crafty -  to become completely absorbed in a thousand DIY projects to make our wedding look Pinterest-perfect. I can imagine an alternate reality where we decided to decorate a barn or a marquee from scratch and I spent every evening for the past 12 months sobbing over table centrepieces and hand-sewn bunting.

Instead, we embarked on wedding planning with a strict "No DIY" policy. This was largely for budgetary reasons but also because we explicitly wanted a stripped-back, simple wedding: no favours (which inevitably get forgotten about and left on tables), no elaborate seating plans, no handcrafted centrepieces to fit a theme. In fact, no theme at all. This approach has meant that our energies have been concentrated on the few things - music, clothes, food - that are important to us, and has saved me many a sleepless night worrying about craft supplies.

Making Google Docs Our Best Friend
From guest lists, to keeping track of when people are arriving and where they're staying, to budget and to-do lists, everything is contained on one many-tabbed spreadsheet. And having it as a shared Google Doc means that we can both access it anywhere, any time. Having a 2am panic about unbooked hotel rooms? I can quickly check on my phone without getting out of bed. It's made it so much easier to share the planning and ensure that Thomas - against my instinct to be a complete control freak and drive myself to a breakdown - is able to do his fair share.

Saying "Yes" To Offers Of Help
Chiefly, financial help from my parents. Because, believe it or not, Janet Brown - Fiercely Feminist Independent Woman - is having a wedding almost entirely paid for by my mum and dad. And yeah, that's pretty fucking weird and something both Thomas and I struggled with and debated for a long time. Ultimately, though, we realised that turning down their incredibly generous offer to match the cash they'd given my brother and his wife for their 2015 wedding would have been foolhardy. Could we have paid for it all ourselves? Yes, by scrimping and saving these past two years, during which we were also constantly fretting about Thomas not having permanent employment. But our anxiety levels were immediately reduced the day we deposited those cheques and it's taken so much worry out of the planning process.

Of course, help hasn't only come in the form of money from my parents. So many friends have stepped up to help with everything from collecting jam jars for flowers, to volunteering assistance on the day, to lending cake stands. Knowing people who work in the wedding industry has also been hugely helpful, meaning we got our invitations, cakes, photographer and music all sorted either for free or at mate's rates.

If you're planning a wedding and someone offers to help, it's always worth considering it carefully -  I've heard nightmare stories of parents thinking that giving money entitles them to control over the guest list, for example - but if you're comfortable with what's on offer, I'd say go for it.

Planning Time Together On The Big Day
I appreciate that for many people, getting ready separately and seeing each other for the first time as one of you walks down the aisle is all part of the magic. But for Thomas and I, the worst thing we could imagine was being apart until the ceremony. There's a reason we're getting married, after all - he's my person, the one I want by my side when I'm feeling anxious or nervous - and so it felt completely counter-intuitive to be apart during the build-up.

Instead, we'll both spend the morning at a family brunch before returning to our hotel to get ready together. And when the time comes, we'll travel to the Guildhall together ready to meet and greet people as a team. Taking the decision to do away with tradition and spend the whole day together was an easy one to make, and I am so glad I'll have Thomas by my side for the whole experience.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A Buyer's Archive: May

Since February 2015, inspired by Elise's Buyer's Archive project, I've been keeping a record of all my clothing purchases in an effort to track what works and what doesn't and - in theory - cut down on my spending. 

This time last year I bought a pair of denim shorts that I later returned, a pair of sunglasses that broke just last week after lots of wear, a secondhand Topshop dress that I've sadly accepted just isn't my colour, and a basic black tee which I wear a lot, giving a total of £33.98. Could I beat that total this May? With a grand total of one clothing purchase, yes I could.
Vintage midi skirt, Sue Ryder Vintage £9
The Sue Ryder shop in Leicester is a great source of vintage goodies and I've picked up some brilliant retro fabric here over the years. It's rare, though, that I find clothes that fit me so I was excited to spot this button front midi skirt. I've already worn it a lot - with my denim jacket, tights and clumpy shoes when it was chillier, and with bare legs, sandals and a black t-shirt now the weather is better - so I reckon it will be a wardrobe staple in the months to come.

Total for May: £9

Total so far for 2017: £249.69

Total this time last year: £237.62

Look out for the #buyersarchive hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to see the other bloggers taking part.