Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How private is your vanity?

My Spanish cohorts at the course that I have just done in the Canaries set me thinking about how we approach beautifying ourselves in every day life.
How much time do you allow for general titivating and would you or could you spend more?
I am lazy, I have to confess I can go days without brushing my hair, when I do remember, it is usually because I am brushing one of the dogs and I don't mind sharing me-time (and brushes) with them.  I wear make up when I go out in the evening (probably 3 times a month) and never in the day, as I often shower a couple of times and no mascara is actually waterproof.  I dye my roots when the roots are showing, I wait till I start to look really grey around the edges so it is about every 6 weeks.  I go to the hairdressers every 3 months, but I hate it so try to get away with every four months if I can.  I usually fake tan while I am waiting for home hair dyes to take and when I go out in the evening. And that's it, it is quite slovenly, I probably don't even manage 20 minutes a day on average.  But is this complete lack of care the ultimate vanity? Is it because I think that I don't need to bother?  I'm fairly sure that it's not that, it is more like exam revision, I'd rather take my chances on not preparing than do my best and fail.
These were pics that I took from the only night that I 'dressed up' and wet hair, no make-up and jeans didn't really cut it with crowd that I was going with! The top is one of the amazing hand embroidered beautifully intricate, wedding kameez that I bought a while back.  I think my love of clothes that are a 'statement' and wear me, is precisely because I am so lazy about personal grooming, with any luck you'll be so dazzelled by my sequin and beading you won't see the rest.

My Spanish friends would be horrified, since from what I can gather, most of their free time centres around looking good, and they really put the effort in.
Their day starts at around 6am when they wake and do housework, then they go to work for 8- 8.30 and work until 2, they are free from 2 until 5, this is usually time for the gym/hairdresser/spa and then back to work from 5-8 and dinner any time from 9pm onwards (often out and fully 'dressed' and made up) and bed by midnight.  This is a 'normal' day, to me it seems exhausting.

The key thing about the 'vanity' time is that it is extremely private, rarely do they go with friends and it is never talked about with the men in their lives, who think their svelte frames and perfect skin and hair are effortless.
I was wondering if we are not more honest about our indulgences in the UK.  We go to manicure bars where we hang out together, we meet at the gym for coffees, we'll tell the family that lunch will be late as we can only get a hair appointment at midday etc
And I wonder if honesty is the best policy here. I know that my husband is quite suspicious of any kind of vanity time.  He's OK about anything that involves nudity and could lead to nookie, ie fake tanning and all over moisturising, particularly if oil is involved and it's not the aromatherapy essences that he likes.
But anything else he sees as a waste of time, misleading, possibly even the physical equivalent of lying.
He's also not keen on anything that takes up time and he sees as a pointless activity, hours spent shopping on-line and shopping generally if nothing is 'needed'
And of course he's not wrong, there are many more worthwhile things that I could be doing, but is he right that vanity time is time wasted?
How much time do you dedicate to how you look? Would you feel guilty about spending more time or is it just that you can't be bothered? How much do you share or are there beauty regime things that you keep quiet from your nearest and dearest?

Monday, 28 October 2013

Back in Blighty...

Spain and  the Spanish islands have never been my first choice for a quick hop abroad, I got to know France well and the South would be my preferred destination for a cheeky bit of sunshine.
I went to Tenerife to do a 4 day course using exercise for rehabilitation, not as in-depth as physio work, but class based activities for attendees who are recovered/recovering from previous physical impairment.
It was a great course, and spending time with locals (most of the teachers were from Valencia) was a fascinating insight into another feminine culture.

A more glamorous group of women I have never met.  Most sports people are permanently in gym gear, with lank hair, no make up and no accessories.  This lot rocked their keep fit gear with sparkling jewellery, flash watches and statement bags, and of course those long luscious locks that are genetic magic unique to Southern Med beauties.
If, like me, you thought that the natural slimness of Southern climes was another genetic blessing, you would be wrong, they work out like loonies, even in 30+ heat and seem to survive almost solely on fresh fish and salad.  Every night was treated like an opportunity to put on an outfit suitable for dining at the Ritz, the favoured look was black fitted dress, jewellery and sky high heels.  I have been to Tenerife before, but this time was a completely different experience.  The recurring question in my mind was how everyone afforded to look quite as fabulous as they did, since most were on less than UK minimum wage and living costs in Tenerife are not that much cheaper than in the UK.

Then I realised that most of the outfits were made by their fantastic sparkling gems, which in most cases were total fakes picked up for a few euros from the tourist shops by the ports.  But worn with the right outfit, that beautiful olive skin and luscious thick hair, you noticed an overall opulence rather than any obvious faux sparkle.  I think that there came a time in the UK when we stopped wearing jewellery that could be real (if it wasn't) and opted instead for big, obviously over the top neon, plastic and glass 'statement' necklaces.  The idea of dressing with a sense of humour, or with your tongue a little in cheek is totally alien to the Spanish babes who always dress to look their most beautiful, most alluring and most expensive.

Of course I hadn't packed anything even as glamorous as they all wore to work out let along for nights out, so I was the obvious English, who, it has to be said, in the main, are considered a different species by this group. 

They are totally the reverse of me, where I was trying to work out how they looked so amazing with so little, they would ask, how can these people stay in a hotel that cost 500 euro a night and look as they do? I think the inference was that with that kind of disposible income there is access to every sort of aesthetic improvement, so why do the Brits get it so wrong?  Feeling obliged to defend the nation, I took the line, that in the main, Brits just don't set much store by how they look.  The time and energy required to maintain the Spanish ideal, is spent looking after other people, so they may not look like supermodels at 50, but Bits are generally kind, understanding, patient and friendly.  And may be when those qualities become less important than the size of your waist, it is time to reassess your priorities. 

What would you have said if you were asked the same? Is our laziness defensible? Should we try harder? Or are the nicest people the least vain ones?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Last chance saloon...

Just when I was hunkering down for a British Winter, I got an offer that a couldn't refuse for a course in the Canary Islands. Off tomorrow, can't wait another chance for a bit more sun even if it is only for four days.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Christmas Market....

I  have signed up to do this Christmas sale, it is a fabulous hotel that I used to visit 20 years ago when we were convinced that it had underworld connections, a story that I am sure we concocted to make our lunches more entertaining.
The house used to be the country retreat of Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame.  It was the perfect escape from town for a long leisurely lunch and a dip in the guitar shaped swimming pool on a hot day.  It all felt vicariously rock and roll and we could only imagine the sort of parties that once must have been hosted there.
I'm going back for a trip down memory lane, but a Christmas sale and mulled wine feel like the perfect excuse.
What have you got planned to get you in to the spirit of Christmas? Do you have annual traditions or do you do new things each year?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

1/2 a stone heavier...

Over the last month I have been eating more protein than ever and exercising at a much higher rate than before.  The upside of the protein rich diet, is that I can feel the difference in my muscles, I can push them harder for longer and not suffer from the exhausting post exercise fatigue that I put down to getting older.
I can also 'fire up' most of the muscles in my body, even when sedentary, there is an energy that I can feel flowing around in arms and legs that is new.

I have gained about half a stone and now weigh over 10 stone.  I work in fitness, so I know that the number on the scales is irrelevant.  But it is still counter-intuitive to everything that I have been told all my life!

Size 10s are no longer a 'squeeze', I am comfortably a size 8 in most brands, which still surprises me, as it doesn't feel like long ago that I automatically reached for a 14 and crossed my fingers that I could get it on.

(pic from Pinterest)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

How to spend it....

A throwaway comment in Does My Bum Look 40 in this? has started me thinking again about how we shop now. Kat was just debating whether it was worth blowing the budget on the luxe version of the M&S jacket she had found, or stick with the cheap one.
The idea of having a 'budget' is quite alien to me. My budget has pretty much always been defined by what's in my bank account and what my immediate earning potential is.
Even when I was pretty flush with cash, I always had an 'off' button, but having said that, if I found an unrepeatable deal, I could easily spend £1000+ on one trip to Bicester Village.  The consequence of this is that I have a fairly large wardrobe of high-end designer clothes, shoes and handbags, and I will never 'need' to buy anything again....
...and yet I still do...
What is it that makes us shop when it is no longer about need?
In one click we can buy anything that we desire, so what makes us press that button on some occasions and not on others?
I'm rubbish at sending things back, way too disorganised so everything I buy I know I am keeping.
If you shop online, how often do you buy things knowing that much of what you have bought is going to be returned?
Do you have a monthly/annual budget or do you just buy what you want?
Most of us work,  have worked, work sporadically, but do know what it is like to earn and spend our own money, do you find it more difficult to spend when it is not your own money or does it not make a difference?
Even though your income may have been unaffected by the credit crunch/recession, do you spend/shop less than before?

I am finding it quite liberating to no longer shop, I keep thinking that I should get back into a corporate job, but actually, by not spending, I tick along quite happily (actually much more happily) and spend time doing 'work' that I enjoy, as long as I am not greedy about what I want.  However, as already mentioned, I bought pretty well when I did have a high disposable income.  Thank goodness I went for the classic vintage LV luggage, some nice bits of jewellery and lots of Valentino (clothes), Chanel (shoes) and Versace (evening dresses), they don't really seem to date and I can still wear most of it today without looking like I am 20 years out of fashion. 
When you do click to buy or get your purse out of your handbag what is it that takes you past 'just looking' to buying?

Are you influenced by what you read in the editorial of magazines?
Do you feel the glamour of glossy advertising campaigns? I have to confess there is a Cavalli tv ad with a tiger print dress that I would buy in a heartbeat if I ever found it. 
Do you read the more homespun style bloggers and respond because they are like you?
Do you like to wear what your friends wear?
Do you like to wear clothes that you know your friends will KNOW are expensive?
Do you care about designer names?
Do you care about fabrics and finishes more than anything else?
Do you love certain colours and seek out colour above all else?
Do you try to dress like celebs? Generally I would say 'no' to this, but I quite fancy this dress for Christmas evening this year....
 ...obviously it won't be the real McQueen one, but something similar!

For my part, I think that I am mainly influenced by what I see wherever I am...which is a poor excuse to keep shopping, but probably the truth.  We go to the same places every year and my wardrobe reflects 'the look' of each of them;

St Barths: Pure glamour, jewellery and accessories, with a back to nature feel (mainly designer clothes, labels will be noticed here, bought mainly from Bicester Village, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill)

St Tropez: A touch of boho with some sexy dresses, barefoot or sky high heels, nothing in-between (it's more about the look than the label, so I buy lots online, most of which disappoints and is given away, I tend to buy based on fabrics, linen or silk, rather than with particular labels in mind.  Although I have to confess that Missoni has been a bit of an obsession recently, definitely NOT because of their ads, more because all the cool crowd seem to wear Missoni on the beach)

London: Smarter, more office like, fitted clean lines a designer piece, shoes or bag (London clothes need to be more pulled together, freshly ironed, dry cleaned, spot free, simple shapes and good shoes.  I know at some point soon I will probably invest in a classic black Alaia, it is sad to say it, but it would give me a lift in an environment where I might feel like the visiting country cousin, ditto Valentino Rockstud shoes)

Cotswolds: Jeans and cashmere in Winter and jeans and tunic tops in Summer, like the pics above, but without any of the bling accessories or bags, far too 'look at me' for the Shires!

In short my shopping choices are informed by location, following the 'crowd' that I think look like they are having the best time, and insecurity (I'll spend, spend, spend for a confidence boost!)

What is it that makes you shop? And how do you spend it?....

PS I still don't have a 'budget' but I think I probably average about £100 a month now.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Young at Heart show review...

I posted about this show here, and this weekend I have spent the last 48 hours lugging boxes, talking to visitors, taking names and and email addresses and selling cutlery sets and then lugging boxes, driving for hours and then unloading it all again at home.  It is like a full work out combined with relentless talking.
It was a nice show, with lovely people.  Everyone had come for a free day out and very few tickets were sold, but the show organisers did their best to fill the hall with visitors, which is more than a lot of event organisers bother doing!
Many of the stands around me had a disastrous time for business, so if you are thinking of exhibiting at this show, be warned, your prices need to be very, very low to actually sell anything. 
If any one visits or exhibits at these kind of shows, I would love to hear about your experiences.  I am quite keen to try some of the local, smaller events so let me know if you have ever been to one that you think might be worth a visit!
 Apparently these machines can burn 150 cals in 10 minutes by just standing on them 'Flabelos'!
 The fashion shows were great, with some super glamorous evening wear.

Success Story..

At a size 16 AP was always stunning, but she wanted more photo evidence of how far she has come in less than 6 months...