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Hearts and flowers

First thing on a Sunday morning, London is like a ghost town, quietly waiting for its admirers.  A short walk from Old Street tube station, takeaways and bus routes give way to older streets with more historical buildings and over sized greenery seems to be heading towards us, as people struggle home with a new pot plant or two.  Where are we heading?  Columbia Road flower market.

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The flower market began as a Saturday market but was later moved to a Sunday to accommodate a growing number of Jewish traders, for whom Saturdays were a day of rest.  Moving it to a Sunday also allowed traders from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to sell off stock left over from Saturday trading.  Following a demise in the seventies when there were suggestions of demolition, the locals fought to save the market and the surrounding Victorian shops and since then it has gone from strength to strength.  The market now attracts people from around the world and as well as being a great place to pick up a cheap bunch of quality flowers, or a pot plant to transform that awkward corner of your home, the market also appeals to photographers and film makers.

The market is a feast for all the senses, with flowers in every colour of the rainbow available, their sweet scents filling the air, blending with the waft of freshly brewed coffee coming from the many cafes.  The day we visited, the air was filled with the sweet scent of lavender.  The second or third generation market traders call out their deals in cockney accents and there is a general hubbub as people squeeze their way along the stalls.  Music can also be heard from the street buskers.

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When you have had your fill of the plants, the Victorian shops behind offer vintage crockery, gifts and art.  Then it’s time to chill in one of the cafes.  We accidentally stumbled into a vegan cafe and I can tell you a vegan pain au chocolat doesn’t quite hit the spot, but I did feel like a hip east Londoner!

My husband bought me the most gorgeous roses which lasted way longer than your average bunch, despite being carted round London with me for the rest of the day.

It might mean an early start but the market is well worth a visit on a Sunday morning.

This was Valentine’s weekend and so after the historic market, we headed to the modern Shard to experience the view from the top, whilst sipping champagne.  I of course dressed themed for the weekend, in a top with hearts on the collar, paired with skinny jeans – both Oasis and complimented it with red ballet pumps by Mauro Leone purchased in Milan and a red heart bag by Floozie.  I wore my trusted faux leather jacket from New Look as despite the sun, it was a chilly day.

At the beginning of any romance, it’s all hearts and flowers but once you have been together a few years, that all falls by the wayside, only to be replaced with the day to day routine.  It’s important to still appreciate each other, so this year we decided to celebrate Valentines Day like we did in the early days.

The trouble with going out on Valentines is you are usually faced with an overpriced fixed menu and crammed in so tight that you virtually bash elbows with the person next to you every time you lift your fork to your mouth.  Maybe we have just been unfortunate with our choices in the past, as this year we booked our local restaurant, Eight and although it was a set menu – the price was reasonable and we were in no way crammed in.

I wanted to get proper dressed up, just as you do in the first flourish of dates.  I decided to embrace this year’s animal print trend and wore a jumpsuit from Oasis with some red wedge LK Bennett sandals.  I even had my nails themed for the day.

Rather than just cards this year, we also did gifts.  Men being notoriously hard to buy for, I got my husband some clothes from Superdry.  He got me the best kind of chocolate – one that doesn’t get you fat!  Have I discovered the holy grail I hear you ask?  No just some fantastic eyeshadow by Too Faced that is scented with chocolate!

Love comes in many shapes and forms and needs to be nourished.  Many of us spend the best years of our lives searching for our Mr Darcy, just like Bridget Jones.  When we find him though, do we forget to appreciate what we have and take it for granted?

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At the location used as Bridget Jones’ flat in the films

Along with romantic love, one of my other great loves is London.  It is such a fusion of all the cultures and traditions of the world.  It doesn’t matter how many times you visit, there is always something different to see and old and new blend together seamlessly.  I particularly like the creativity it unleashes.  A wander along the Thames from London Bridge to Blackfriars is made all the more beautiful by the entertainers.  This particular day, there was a poet, typing you an instant poem on an old typewriter and a bubbleologist.  A painting by Jimmy C of Shakespeare reminds us that London’s relationship with culture and the arts dates back centuries.

London’s people are what makes the city so wonderful and we all pull together when our centre of multiculturalism is threatened by extremists.  The love Londoners have for each other is perfectly depicted in the street art of hearts created in Brough Market by the artist Jimmy C following the terror attacks there in 2017.  Each heart represents one of the eight people who lost their lives that night.  There is so much hate in the world but ultimately love will conquer all.

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Love is Louboutin

May was our third wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to go away for a week. Having spent the last few years visiting various far flung places, we thought it was time we explored the treasures the UK has to offer and as such headed to Scotland.

We could have driven or flown but we opted to travel by the Caledonian Sleeper train, which booked in advance was very reasonably priced and hired a car once there. Now the sleeper train is not luxury but an experience none the less and it certainly is nice to fall asleep in London and wake up in the Scottish Highlands.

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We were greeted at Fort William by horrendous rain – the main problem with staying in the UK. As we were unable to book into our accommodation before 4pm, we sought refuge at the Inverlochy Castle hotel and indulged in afternoon tea.

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Highland scenery is stunning and by our bed and breakfast there was a beautiful wide expanse of lake which was ironic given that they ran out of water by the Thursday!

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A walk through Nevis Gorge to Steel Falls is well worth it, if not for the faint hearted – it’s a four and a half mile round trip. The ground is rocky and rough with sheer drops but you are rewarded with a beautiful photo opportunity. Just make sure you wear appropriate footwear – my Italian leather ballerina pumps didn’t cut it!

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Glencoe also provides beautiful views and has been used for films such as James Bond – Skyfall and Harry Potter – it’s where Hagrid’s hut was built.

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T-Shirt Oasis, cropped jeans Oasis and ballet pumps from Milan

A great way to see some of the flatter scenery the highlands have to offer is by horseback. I have always enjoyed horse riding and really enjoyed my trek in Tain – not least as I managed to tick off my bucket list, riding on the beach.

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Sweatshirt Joy, Jeans Oasis and rain jacket New Look

On our actual anniversary we boarded the Jacobite steam train for a journey from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made infamous by the Harry Potter films. We celebrated with champagne and exchanged gifts. The three year wedding anniversary is leather and as such, we couldn’t have let it pass without him adding to my shoe collection. I was ecstatic to open my very own pair of classic Pigalle Louboutins in black patent! You can read more about Louboutin in my previous blog First Steps.  I bought him a leather wallet with his initials embossed on it from Aspinal of London.  Leather is traditionally used to protect and shelter due to its durability, so as your relationship matures, a gift of this represents those qualities.

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Glenfinnan viaduct

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Butter-brew cocktail

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Harry Potter Charm

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If castles are your thing, Scotland has some fabulous examples. We visited Urquhart castle, overlooking Loch Ness, for a great example of castle ruins which date from the 13th to the 16th century and Dunrobin which is a true fairytale style castle. Interestingly Dunrobin castle was used as a boarding school for seven years – imagine going to a school that looked like that!

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Urquhart castle

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Dunrobin castle

If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the Seaxplorer fast boat trip out on Loch Leven. We got to see seals and sea birds as well as our captain doing some elaborate fast turns like they do in lifeboats to add to the thrill.

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We couldn’t visit Scotland without going to Balmoral of course. Having always been a royalist it was fabulous to see the Queen’s holiday hideaway. Balmoral castle itself is beautiful although we saw very little of the inside. The Landrover safari trip revealed how vast the grounds are, with stunning views and we got to see some majestic deer.

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Balmoral

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T-Shirt Zara and leather jacket New Look

 

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Being us it was a mad rush to get from Balmoral back to Fort William to catch the sleeper train home but we made it and got a lovely view of Ben Nevis on the journey too.

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Ben Nevis

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KIP (Krissy is Phil’s) elephant snuggling on the Caledonian sleeper

The UK really has some great sights that shouldn’t be overlooked.  We had a great anniversary and look forward to many more years happily married.  I love my husband because he knows me inside out and loves me anyway.

Ruby Romance

In May this year my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage which is an incredible 14600 days of matrimony. From that wonderful union they have 2 children and 2 grandchildren and they still love each other as much as they did on their wedding day. My brother and I clubbed together and bought them a garden companion seat with a celebratory plaque.

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Sitting on their celebratory bench

What an achievement 40 years is in this day and age where people are all too quick to file for divorce. Marriage isn’t easy and has to be worked at but my parents are testament to it being possible for love to last a lifetime.

How different the world was in 1976 when they married. Technology which we now take for granted was in its absolute infancy. Can you imagine a time when you couldn’t just google the answer to any question that popped into your head and you had to wait in at home if you were expecting someone to call you? 1976 saw Ford release the first Fiesta which was to become in 2014 the UK’s bestselling car, Concorde did its first commercial flight, England won Eurovision and number 1 the week of my parents’ marriage was ‘Silly Love Songs’ by Wings.

Traditionally the 40th wedding anniversary is referred to as the Ruby anniversary. This association is because the ruby is believed to have an eternal inner flame which glows brighter each year just like the passion and love in a marriage.

My parents decided this landmark was worthy of a big celebration so my Mum and I set about planning an event akin to a small wedding reception. Dinner was held at a golf club for family and friends with a DJ after. We decided on a theme of travel which may seem ironic to those of you who know my Dad well as he hates holidays. However I thought the travel theme was appropriate in more of a metaphorical way because of the journey they have made together through 40 years of marriage.

An old suitcase was used for the table plan and we hung a luggage tag for each table’s guests inside. Each table was named after somewhere my parents had visited together – thank goodness we didn’t have more than 5 tables or we would have been stuck on locations with their limited holidays! The table name was stuck on a cut out of a suitcase and a photo of them in the place put on the back. Place name cards featured a suitcase logo. The centre piece of each table was a single red rose – a symbol used to denote total devotion to one person.

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I made up favours for the tables which were love hearts in a ruby coloured organza bag and I made a cake for them with a photo of them cutting their wedding cake on the top.

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For the event I wore a dress from Coast, similar to the style of my bridesmaid’s dress at my wedding and reddish/pink in colour to tie in with the ruby theme. I accessorized with some silver diamanté sandals which I got in John Lewis when I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding (see I do wear some shoes more than once!) I also had this gorgeous fan shaped metal clutch with a 1920’s art deco feel to it. I got this from Vintage Styler.  I added a red butterfly clip in my hair.

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At the entrance Mum decorated a small table with old photos from the day, decorations from the wedding cake, along with her garter, which was her something blue, blue being seen as a colour representative of constancy and loyalty; and other trinkets hooked over her arm on the day including a horse shoe and a rolling pin. The rolling pin would have been seen as something useful to give a wife so she could make meals for her husband (often a wooden spoon traditionally rather than a rolling pin) and a horseshoe for good luck going back to the 10th century when horseshoes were used to mark the door of Christians thus protecting them from the devil. Many wedding customs are the same today although the gifts hooked over a brides arm are not so common nowadays – I know I didn’t receive any at my wedding.

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My Dad gave a wonderful speech which detailed how they met as a blind date and how he had always loved her and the speech ended with him presenting her with a ruby ring. I also gave a short speech which included a poem which my uncle composed music to and sang at the wedding but unfortunately he was unable to make the party for a second performance of it. The poem is called ‘The Life that I Have’ and was originally written by Leo Marks in 1943 for his girlfriend who had recently been killed in a plane crash. It was used as Poem code during the Second World War. It was common for secret messages to be passed using a poem as code but was proving unreliable as the enemy could find the original source of the poem – Marks got around this by using his own creations. The poem was famously used in the film ‘Carve her Name with Pride’.

A fantastic evening was had by all and it was beautiful to see Mum and Dad dance once again to their first song from their wedding ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing.’

The month of May also saw my husband and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Cotton is the symbol given to the second anniversary symbolic of the couple becoming closer and their lives becoming more intertwined. It is also said to represent the couple learning to be flexible and adapt to each other’s needs as cotton is both strong and soft. I bought him a shirt – which he wore to Mum and Dad’s do and some cotton trousers. He bought me a cotton vintage quilt I had fallen in love with from the shop Kiss Kiss Heart in Rochester. We celebrated with a trip to Port Lympne Safari park (one of our early dates) and a curry in a new Indian restaurant in Rainham.

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My gorgeous quilt

Two years has flown by and I’m sure the next 38 will too. I hope we can be as happy at 40 years as my Mum and Dad obviously are.

40th joint pic

 

Happily Ever After

The day of our wedding arrived at last and I woke on 17th May 2014 to sun streaming through the curtains, creating dancing rainbow patterns on the ceiling as it reflected through the crystal chandelier; a sign that mine and Phil’s weather magic still reined supreme. I ate breakfast whilst reading through the marriage service and felt like I would burst with excitement; I wondered how Phil might be feeling getting ready at his parents house. The preparations all went smoothly and whilst my bridesmaids and I were made to look our best by Emma Smission, http://www.emmasmisson.com/ the adults amongst us enjoyed sipping champagne.

My maid of honour wore a Coast baby pink dress whilst my 2 flower girls (my nieces) wore Ivory dresses with a pink sash from Demigella and pink satin shoes from Marks and Spencer. Their look was finished off with a tiara each from Accessorize and a basket with ‘happily ever after’ on it and filled with pink and cream rose petals. Along with the rose petals, the florist also delivered a tear drop bouquet of pink roses and white lithianthus’, studded with pearls for me and a slightly smaller matching bouquet for my maid of honour. All the flowers were paid for out of my paternal grandmother’s inheritance as a tribute to her, being that her passion was gardening.

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I have blogged about weddings before as the avid readers amongst you will recall and now I finally get to write about my own special day and share with you all the details – big and small which made it the perfect fairytale wedding!

Order of Service

Order of Service

A traditional rhyme, apparently originating in England in 1898 states the things a bride should wear to bring her good luck ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.’ My makeup completed and hair pinned half up with a pearl tiara; I now slipped into my wonderful Berketex gown with lace train (something new) and Mum and my maid of honour laced up the back. I then added the all important blue Manolo Blahnik shoes (my something blue) a pearl Tiffany bracelet, pearl stud earrings and my Mums pearl necklace (something borrowed). I slipped the garter onto my leg, worn by my maternal grandmother and my Mum on their wedding days (something old). As I caught my reflection – I could hardly believe it was me and I truly felt like a princess.

There was only one thing missing from my perfect day and that was my paternal grandmother but Phil being as lovely as he is, knew I would be feeling like that so left a little note saying that my Grandma would be there in spirit through a cream rose which my uncle would wear.

Mum announced that the carriage had arrived and was generating much interest from shop keepers and neighbours alike. As I stepped through the front door I felt like a star with people snapping away on cameras and mobiles and my Dad joked that they probably think I am famous, travelling in such a carriage. My maid of honour commented that it all felt like a dream. The white horses pulled away and we were off to the church – I have never seen my Dad looking as proud of me as he did that day. It was a surreal journey with cars beeping at as and more photos along the way.

My page boy (my nephew) carried the rings on a ring cushion which had the words ‘happily ever after’ on it and him and my bridesmaids followed me down the aisle. As Dad walked me towards my waiting husband to be, it felt like slow motion and it was an amazing feeling seeing so many people in the pews all filled with love for the both of us. I have never understood the concept of crying with happiness until then, when I felt myself well up. The first glimpse of my husband to be was wonderful – he looked so handsome and smart in the tails we had hired from Well Suited.

The service seemed to go by in a flash and included some beautiful readings.  The priest commented on my manicure and said what a good idea it was to mark the ring finger with gems!  Before I knew it, Phil was lifting my veil and we had our first kiss as husband and wife.

We then enjoyed another ride in the carriage to take us to the reception at Chatham Dockyard. Upon arrival we were handed champagne and then whisked off for photos whilst our guests enjoyed canapés. In true fairytale tradition, we were presented to our guests on the balcony of the Commissioners House and gave everyone a royal wave.

People found their seats on the table plan which I made from a mirror shaped like a fairytale mirror in Snow White. The Toastmaster then announced our arrival to the wedding breakfast as the newest Mr and Mrs Thompson. The tables had been set out more beautifully than I had dared to imagine. Each table had a tall martini glass filled with flowers and crystals draped around it. Every chair had a white cover and a baby pink bow around it courtesy of Ambiance. Each table was named something fairytale related with the top table being ‘Happily Ever After’ of course. Place cards matched the invitations and order of services with a prince and princess on, purchased from Confetti. Each person had a carriage shaped box as a favour which was filled with 5 pink sugared almonds and a note to explain the significance of them. For those who don’t know, they stand for health, wealth, happiness, long life and fertility. The meal was delicious thanks to A Form Catering with portions sizes which left no one feeling hungry. The meal was followed by speeches. My Dad, the best man and my husband all gave wonderful speeches especially given that they are all quite shy. I was truly touched by all of them.

More photos then followed and evening guests began to arrive – the day was flying past. Our cake was made by my aunty and was magnificent with a fairytale castle on the top.  We had our first dance to ‘Because you Loved Me’ by Celine Dion. As we shuffled about (I say shuffled as the dance lessons never materialised) I felt like the luckiest woman on earth. I then also had a father, daughter dance to ‘Have I Told You Lately’ by Rod Stewart. Again I felt so happy to see my Dad so happy and full of pride. Later in the evening we had ‘Someone Like You’ sung by my friend which was beautiful.

It pains me to have to report that by the end of the evening my shoes had been abandoned as they weren’t that comfortable but I still loved them and being a die hard Sex and the City fan it seemed only right to wear the shoes that Carrie married Big in. I personalised the shoes with diamante saying ‘I do’. We didn’t leave until well gone midnight, ironically being that Cinderella had to leave the ball on the stroke of midnight before the spell was broken. The spell of love will never be broken for us two.

We asked for no presents as we really have all we need and just wanted people to enjoy themselves but people were so kind to us so I want to say thank you to all of them. Those who brought a card will have noticed another fairytale detail in the hallway, a card box shaped like a carriage. The guest book and pen also had ‘Happily Ever After’ on it and we greatly enjoyed reading all the messages people left for us.

People all tell you how quick the day goes and that is so true and I am only grateful that we decided to have a video of the day as that was wonderful to watch and take in things you missed the first time round.

A wedding is just one day but a marriage is for life. The wedding day is steeped in tradition but every bride aims to add an original, personal touch; I only hope I succeeded. The fairytale themed day was the best day of my life and one that I will look back fondly on until my dying day. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it so special but especially to Phil for becoming my husband. I look forward to many happy years together. “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin.

Sparkling Sunset by the Whitby Coast

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis blog is my final entry before I turn the big 30 and begin a new chapter, leaving behind my twenties.  I am happy to announce that my boyfriend and I are now engaged – something I never thought I would get to experience and write about in a blog.

The other weekend my partner and I decided to go for a long weekend in Yorkshire and we happened to have some of the best weather so far this year – must be our weather magic.

We arrived on Friday in York and began by going on a haunted tour of the city.  The guide really made this tour as he took us round to the Minster, Guy Fawkes birth place and the shrine to Margaret Clitherow – the martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.  He involved different people including my other half in acting out being hung drawn and quartered.  I think even the tour guide jumped though as we stood in the historic street ‘The Shambles’ where he explained butchers would hang up their meat and people emptied chamber pots so blood etc would make a river down the street, when someone pulled loudly shut a window above us.

We then met up with my friend and her other half for dinner in the Mumbai Lounge.  Pregnancy is really suiting her.  I predict it will be a baby girl – watch this space!  That night we stayed at The Golden Fleece pub.  This is the oldest Inn in York – mentioned in archives as far back as 1503 and is believed to be haunted.  We stayed in Lady Peckett’s room.  Lady Peckett’s husband owned the Golden Fleece around 1702 and some guests have reported seeing her ghost.  The pub has great charm with its uneven floors – our bed had a block of wood under one leg to make it level.  Whilst we didn’t see the ghost of Lady Peckett the waiter at breakfast, we joked, seemed almost ghost like!

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We met up with my Mum and Dad the following day and visited York Railway museum for the 75th anniversary of Mallard doing the fastest speed of a steam train in the world at 125.88 on July 3rd 1938.  Little did I know that when my other half and my Dad went somewhere for a quiet chat it was for my now fiancé to ask my Dads permission for his daughters hand in marriage.

That evening the two of us travelled on to Whitby and had a most enjoyable fish and chip tea in the famous Magpie Cafe.  The building itself was built in around 1750 when it began a long association with fishing and shipping.  It opened as a cafe in approximately 1939 and is widely considered the best place to get fish and chips in Yorkshire.

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Full from our meal, my other half suggested a walk along the beach and then as the sun was setting, colouring the sky red, and the sea was rhythmically grazing the shore; he dropped down onto one knee and produced a stunning sapphire and diamond ring.

my ring

Engagement rings go back to the 13th century in the Western World and are worn on the second finger on the left hand as this is believed to be the shortest distance to the heart.  I was so stunned – the first thing I said was are you joking before giving an enthusiastic yes.  It couldn’t have been a more romantic proposal given that our first date had been fish and chips on the beach in Broadstairs.    We celebrated in Wetherspoons of all places with a bottle of champagne which the staff had to dust off!

Champagne was actually discovered by mistake when the cold winters halted the fermentation process only for it to start again in the spring creating a bi product of carbon dioxide which remained trapped in the wine.  It is now generally seen as the drink of choice for celebrations and in a book I am reading that I was kindly bought as an engagement present ‘How to Wear White’ it is said that the UK spends over £5million a week on champagne!  There is some suggestion however that the consumer trend this year is towards people buying Prosecco over champagne to celebrate with.

The following day was spent walking round the town, playing crazy golf (where I got a hole in one) and in arcades as well as going on a boat trip.  I’m sure those cuddly toy machines are rigged!  I couldn’t resist this gem of a satchel – so like the ones of the Cambridge Satchel Company but far cheaper, which I discovered on a market stall.

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 new bag

We had a fish and chip tea down on the beach again whilst the sun set and I dipped my toe into the cool sea.

We then finished our stay with a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and a visit to Goathland where Heartbeat was filmed.  On arrival back at Whitby, we grabbed some freshly baked doughnuts only to be dive bombed by seagulls!

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We returned home to break the good news to both sets of parents.  I still can not quite believe it has happened to me – the little girl who said no one would ever marry her.  I cannot stop admiring my ring and feel like I am on cloud nine.  This wonderful event also ticks another box on my bucket list, so I have achieved 4 out of 10 of the items – got engaged, been to India, done the Moonwalk and started riding lessons again.  The others will be carried over to my new bucket list to do before 40.

We now have around a year to plan our special day and I can’t wait to get started.  Look out for lots of wedding planning themed blogs over the next few months!

Can Men and Women Just be Friends? – A day in your Partners Shoes

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet and dramatist.

 Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

 When Harry Met Sally (1989) 

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There have been many articles and debates around the issue of heterosexual men and women being simply platonic friends but I wanted to add to those articles as I know it is an issue that has affected both me and my friends.  In films and on TV we are often shown how a friendship blossoms into romance, i.e. the friend that you always have dismissed as a partner but later end up with – take Monica and Chandler in Friends or the cult book and film One Day.

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Then there are the on/off relationships which are interspersed by periods of friendship, often where one of you is hoping for the relationship to get back on track (believe me I have been there and it’s unnecessarily painful and stops you from moving on; the relationship ended for a reason.)   Perhaps our need to remain friends with an ex is driven by our need to feel that we have done better out of the end of the relationship than they have.  Maybe it’s similar for the human need to slow down and look at an accident – a sort of morbid curiosity.  The possibility of this is now greater with technology such as Facebook.  I think one is often better off not knowing these things however; especially when they appear to have done better than you.  I recently found out my ex is selling his flat to buy a place with his new girlfriend.  Now don’t get me wrong – I ended the relationship and I couldn’t wish for a better partner than the one I have got now but I can’t help feeling somewhat put out that he was always a commitment phob and yet now he has committed; almost like I broke him in.  I think it is important to ask what positives one gets out of remaining friends with an ex?  Yes it is strange to go from being so intimate with a person to nothing and it can feel like a bereavement, so I guess it stops the end seeming so final but surely it actually just prolongs the end?  The grieving has to be done in order to move on.  

Much research has been carried out on this issue of men and women being platonic friends.  One such study by Bleaske and Buss (see link to their paper below) looked at the question from an evolutionary perspective where it would seem the function of friends was to solve various adaptive problems and therefore they predicted that women would rate benefits of protection and receiving resources highly in their opposite sex friendships and men would rate the benefit of potential sex highly in their opposite sex friends.  Through a preliminary study a selection of benefits and costs of friendships was ascertained.  People were then asked to rate the frequency of occurrence of these in their most important opposite sex friendship.  Their overall conclusion was that it depends on the sex of the person you ask as to whether men and women can be friends.  The results of the study supported the hypothesis that men were more likely to be attracted to their female friends and be rebuffed, than women were their male friends, as well as receiving sex from opposite sex friends more often.  However the second hypothesis that women were more likely than men to receive gifts or resources from an opposite sex friend was not supported.  Both men and women saw this as beneficial and occurring in high frequency.  Women did see receiving protection from an opposite sex friend as more beneficial than men did.  Both men and women reported receiving information on the opposite sex from their opposite sex friends.

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/busslab/pdffiles/just_friends_2000.pdf

Other studies suggest that it is possible for men and women to be friends and that the belief they can’t comes from an era where they only interacted in a romantic sense due to women not going out to work etc.  G. Greif carried out a study more recently and found that three quarters of men believed it possible for a man and a woman to be friends.  I have a female colleague at work with a best friend who is male and she is soon to be his best man when he gets married so perhaps there is evidence of a changing opinion on male and female platonic relationships.

When a friend is not an ex and neither of you feel a romantic connection, the friendship can be beneficial in that we can get the other gender’s opinion on things which can be a god send when trying to interpret actions of romantic partners; we all know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  You may have an interest in a shared past time and can enjoy that together too.  If you meet someone and don’t feel a spark with but get on well, why not be platonic friends?

Then there are people who have friends with benefits.  Maybe this works for some but I can’t see any benefit in it; I would have thought that in most cases someone ends up getting hurt, but I am not an authority on this as it is not something I have experience of. 

I went to a single sex secondary school as did my brother and I feel that unless you have a hobby or attend a youth club, your main friends are of the same sex and the opposite sex is seen more in a romantic way.  This is maybe different for people who attend mixed schools or go on to university with many students sharing houses with boys and girls.   The study by Bleske and Buss mentioned earlier found that participants had significantly more close same sex friends than close opposite sex friends.  My best friends certainly are my girlfriends so conceivably there is a chance that men and women can just be platonic friends but perhaps not close friends.  Possibly close male and female friendships only work if you are both single or both in relationships. 

Then there are the feelings of your new partner to consider too.  Take a walk in your current partner’s shoes when as a woman you are thinking about a close male friend.  Funny how as women we often wouldn’t want our partner to stay friends with an ex or have a close opposite sex friend but we think it’s ok if we do.  Men may see their girlfriend having male friends as an issue perhaps because they believe men are sexually driven and think that even if you see it as platonic, the male friend may still try his luck.  If the friend is an ex, this just makes the situation worse as your partner’s insecurities may mean that they think you will be wanting to get back with the ex.  Even if they are not an ex, a partner can still find male friends threatening; especially if he has not met the friend.  I know when I first mentioned my male friend, my boyfriend found it awkward but once he met him, it was fine and they got on well.  I think the key is to introduce them in a neutral setting perhaps with other friends around and perhaps avoid meeting up as just a two, arranging more group events.

There are no definitive answers and the debate still rages on.  I would love to hear what you think on this age old question, until next time……………

How High is too High?

When I was thinking about high heels and how they make you feel; my mind wandered to other uses of the word high; lately many things seem to be prefixed with it.  High fashion, high end, high rise, high price, high speed, high definition, high achiever, high life, high class to name a few.  The word high can mean of a great height in its literal sense but usually used metaphorically it means superior or above somebody or something.  Generally it suggests a positive attribute but I want to ask when is high too high; thus making it a negative connotation?

I believe high definition television is a phenomenon which men have convinced themselves improves their viewing experience.  All the women I have spoken to can not see any difference and as long as I can watch my programmes, I can’t see any advantage.  I guess when they have splashed out on all this technology (a male equivalent to shoes) they have to convince themselves it was worth it!!

The high life is certainly something you can have too much of!  Most of my late teens were spent living the high life which resulted in an awful lot of debt for one thing!  When I was in my last job, I thought it would be wonderful if I didn’t have to go to work again but once I found myself redundant; after a while I realized that you can have too much of a good thing and was actually pleased when I started my latest job.

High expectations can also be a way to set you up for disappointment especially when it comes to men and romance.  You do however sometimes find yourself pleasantly surprised such as the lovely flowers my other half got me for getting onto my teacher training course.

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Now getting back to the subject of the blog; it is generally thought that a heel of 1-2 inches is low, 2-4 inches medium and more than 4 inches high.  High heel footwear lifts the heel of the wearer’s foot appreciably higher than the toes.  As far back as the ancient Egyptian times, heels were worn by men and women, although often for practical reasons such as for butchers to walk above the blood, rather than the glamorous reasons of today.  Pattens which were a high sole attached to shoes were often worn to keep shoes out of mud and debris.  Heels were also necessary for horse riding to keep the foot in the stirrup.  Actors would wear them to depict the differing status of characters which they played.  Let me refer you to my blog on harem trousers; there is some suggestion women were made to wear heels to prevent them from escaping a harem.  Far from the high heels being used to raise the status of a woman, they were in fact repressing them by stopping them escaping from men.

The upper classes often wore heels for ceremonial purposes.  Their popularity began in France but soon spread to other countries nobility.  During the French revolution the wearing of heels declined as they were seen as a sign of wealth but they were resurrected in the late nineteenth century almost solely for women’s wear.

The stiletto heel (one of my favourites) is named after the stiletto dagger and became popular in the late 1950s.  The Beetles era saw these disappear from mainstream shops but my namesake Manolo Blahnik reintroduced them in 1974 with a heel called the Needle and shops like Biba also stocked similar styles.  The stiletto’s real comeback though was post year 2000.  Manolo Blahnik has said he tries to make women feel like princesses.  Certainly if I am ever fortunate enough to get married, the shoes will be more important than the dress to make me feel like a princess.  It’s a good job that my other half doesn’t feel intimidated by me looking taller than him as heels have always been my statement!

We often hear of the negatives of wearing heels, such as foot and tendon problems but there has also been a study which suggests that they may help tone pelvic floor muscles thus having a positive effect on women’s incontinence.  A note to my many friends now entering the motherhood period of their lives; if you don’t have time for your pelvic floor exercises, just walk around doing the house work in high heels!  Talking of which, I met my friends new baby girl the other week.  There are so many gorgeous outfits for new babies but I eventually chose a cute pink baby grow with embroidered butterflies.

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Women however are resilient and will go through no end of pain for the sake of fashion.  According to an American survey 42% of women said they would wear a shoe they liked even if it gave them discomfort. (Bouchez, C. “Tips to avoid Foot Pain From High Heels”)  I must admit I am one of these women.  People often marvel at the height of the heels I wear; only the other day two women at work commented that they liked my shoes but didn’t know how I could wear them all day long!  As a woman was quoted by the New York Times as saying to another lady, trying shoes on in Bergdorf Goodman, “if you love them, you’ll learn to walk in them.”  The Belfast Telegraph reports that the average woman owns 17 pairs of shoes – that makes me well above average, especially including my latest purchase of red ballet pumps!  It also said the average woman spends almost two thirds of her time in heels.

France has long been seen as the fashion leaders of the world and high fashion or haute couture as it is known in French refers to the design of exclusive custom fitted clothing.  It is an Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth nonetheless who is seen as the father of haute couture.  He made the dressmaker more of an artist and prepared portfolios of designs to be shown on models at the House of Worth.  The French protect the term haute couture and firms must meet certain standards to use it, although since the late 80’s it has been misused to describe more ready to wear lines.  Chanel and Christian Dior are probably two of the most well known fashion houses that can officially be called haute couture.  Now Chanel is another of my favourite brands.  The fashion house was founded by Gabrielle Chanel in 1909.  She was nicknamed “Coco” when she was singing in a French café.  I aspire to her vision of casual elegance.  Chanel is classic and is most famous for the little black dress, along with the quilted bags; launched Feb 1955, the bags have printed in them 2/55, and of course one of the only thing my budget stretches to, their perfume.  I got my first bottle of Chanel perfume at 16, Chanel Allure which was launched in 1996.  I moved on to Chance, launched 2002 but have eventually picked my favourite as the classic first perfume, Chanel No. 5 launched in 1921.  To me it is the epitome of simple elegance.  I couldn’t resist a red Chanelesque bag, a bargain in the fashion union sale!

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So fashion and good shoes come at a high price but perhaps the way they make us feel can help us to be high achievers.  I read an article once that said one should dress for the job they want, rather than the one they have.  Good clothes and shoes certainly give me an air of confidence.  Now whilst we are on the subject of high achievement; this can come with a high cost too.  Generally these people are perfectionists and this can lead to anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder.  Their work focus can sometimes cause them to neglect their personal relationships making them lonely people, vulnerable to depression.  So there is another example of when high becomes too high.

Depressing January gave way to February and we all woke on the 5th to a blanket of snow 3 ½ inches deep.  It was Rufus’s first experience and he loved it whilst my other half and I went back to childhood and built a snowman.  Interesting useless fact here, although origins of snowmen are unclear, the first illustration of a snowman seen in a book dates back to 1380!

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I shall end this blog with high hopes of the year to come; Valentine’s is tomorrow and remember girls it’s a leap year this year which means the woman can propose to the man traditionally.  When this tradition originated is unclear although there is some suggestion that it was initiated by Saint Patrick in Ireland in the 5th century.  I shall leave you with the excitement of the spring fashions; pastel denim seems to be popular (I have already bought some mint coloured skinny jeans) but more details in my next blog after I visit London fashion week at the end of the month.  I also treated myself to a sheer leopard print top which I thought was a subtle way of wearing the trend, not that my other half agreed, lol!

Remember, I like to think of HEEL as standing for Highly Elegant Efficient Lady – no heel is ever too high!