Ok, I promised we’d have a catch up and I have so much to tell you – October has been a blur but let’s start where I left you last time, just before the funeral.
It was, as you can imagine, heartbreaking. When you’re inside a family, you never really see the impact that your relative has beyond your immediate enclave until something like this happens. As we arrived at the crematorium, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd that had gathered to say goodbye to my brother-in-law. Inside, all of the seats were filled. Even with people standing three deep around the edges and at the back, they couldn’t fit everyone in.
It was a very emotional service. Even though it focused on the upsides of his role as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, psychiatric nurse and fanatical Newcastle United supporter, it was hard, but everyone got through it. Geordie funerals (or at least the ones in my husband’s family) remind me very much of Irish ones and once the ceremony is over there is a wake that goes on until late. It’s very much a celebration of the person’s life. Funerals at our side of the country tend to be more sombre affairs so it’s taken me years to get used to wakes but I can see the benefit of family and friends coming together to focus on the happy times rather than dwelling on the sad.
I don’t usually do outfit shots at times like this but it was Mr MC’s idea. You see I get lots of emails on the subject of what to wear for a funeral – far more than I do for weddings. My answer is always to tailor it to the expectations of the family and the relationship you had with the person. I say that you need to consider both of these aspects because when Mr MC’s dad died, I got it wrong. He was such a happy, jolly person that it didn’t seem right to wear black so I wore the brightest green velvet coat I had. It was the first Geordie funeral that I’d been to and I immediately learned that everyone wears black. Nobody was offended by my green coat but I felt out of place.
I still didn’t want to wear black for my brother-in-law so I went for a dark navy. I bought this dress a few weeks ago for the rather serious meetings that we often attend with our legal clients. It’s so beautifully constructed that as soon as I saw it I thought ‘Armani’ – even though it’s a fraction of the price. I particularly love the detail of the sleeves and the way that it flares softly. Here we’d popped out of the car for a breath of fresh air after our long journey and as you can see, it hasn’t creased so it’s the perfect dress if you commute. I’ve had a number of requests from barristers and solicitors who have to wear black or navy recently – so this one is particularly for you.
The week that followed
As you know, after the funeral I took a week off; we just needed to catch our breath and allow the shock to sink in. Now that it has, it’s easier to deal with. I’ve received incredible emails and messages from so many of you, sharing similar stories. If I haven’t had a chance to reply to you, it’s purely because it’s taking a while to get through them but I will. I feel honoured that you feel able to tell me things like this and it’s very humbling to know that so many of you are living bravely with so much.
There are two thoughts that keep going through my head. The first one is the Instagram favourite: ‘be kind – you never know what someone is going through.’ It’s true. We’re getting back to normal now but for a while we were snappy / weepy / vague / incoherent… and reacting in ways we wouldn’t usually. People take offence so quickly these days, we need to remember to give others the benefit of the doubt.
The other thing that I want to talk about is fear because this feels terrifying. Not only has this sudden death happened to us but from your stories, it’s clearly something that happens to a lot of people. My dad had a huge heart attack when I was ten. I woke up one morning to find my brother’s girlfriend babysitting because the rest of the family had been at the hospital all night. They were trying to protect me but it was far more frightening and isolating being the one who wasn’t part of what was going on, especially in those days when communication was less easy. From then on I lived with a silent but ever-present terror that it would happen again. As it turned out, he lived until he was 81 but I never managed to fix the impact of that night.
And this of course has brought the terror back. I usually dig around in my brain for a line of poetry or a mantra when this kind of thing is happening and the one that keeps on springing to mind comes from my CofE upbringing. I’m amending the original slightly here but as a linguist I know that translation is a matter of interpretation
‘yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will not be afraid.’
It’s helping me to go forward and I just wanted to write this because I now know that so many of you have had similar experiences so maybe it will help you too – you don’t have to have a religious belief for it to make sense. What I’m trying to remind myself is that although we live with the knowledge of what can happen, we mustn’t let it limit us.
So now let’s move on to happier things because life doesn’t stop and this has taught me more than ever that we have to seize joy whenever it presents itself. My brother-in-law was mystified by Midlifechic but a great supporter of it nevertheless – so he would have been the first to say “stop bubblin’ noo Nikki and move on.”
I’ve had to cancel a number of trips down to London recently but last week a few events coincided and for once, I gave myself permission to go down and live the high octane life of a blogger. Mr MC still wasn’t ready to go back to work so he came too which means we have photographs.
Behind the scenes at a photoshoot
We arrived on Tuesday and went straight to the offices of ad agency Manning Gottlieb. As you know, I work with Specsavers a lot and this time they wanted a photoshoot for their magazine and blog. The timing for me wasn’t great because I’ve had to cancel so many hair appointments that I was feeling like the woman who came out of the woods. Not only was my hair long but the week before my colourist warned me that it was so damaged that I mustn’t use any heat on it until it was cut again, otherwise I was in danger of losing it up to the roots! So, there I was with fabulous scenery and a pro photographer… feeling a long way from my best.
Anyway there isn’t time to show you much of this today but here’s a little glimpse…
Baukjen jumpsuit (g SS17)
… this was a rather surreal moment when a group of tourists started taking photos of Mr MC taking photos of the photographer taking photos of me!
Finery dress (gSS17)
So, that was a crazy Tuesday afternoon. I’d like to tell you that I come to life in front of the camera but even though he was the most patient of photographers, I’m still rubbish at having my photo taken so it was hard work. I can’t do the pouty stuff or the ‘gazing moodily into the middle distance’. In the end, he found that the best way to get me to smile naturally was to say “I want you to be serious now” and each time he did, I laughed.
Out for dinner
It sounds ridiculous but I was exhausted at the end of it so we checked into our hotel, got changed and walked along the Thames for an early dinner.
Finery top (AW17); Hush velvet joggers (AW17); Crossbody XL converted to clutch
We were both in the mood for Thai so we went to Kanchana’s Kitchen which is based at the back of The Kings Arms pub in Roupell Street SE1 (at the back of Waterloo Station). It was only 6pm but it was almost full – we managed to get the very last table. The food was delicious and very reasonably priced. It wasn’t a freebie and this isn’t sponsored, I just highly recommend it.
And this is unheard of for us but we were back at our hotel by 9pm, we’ve just been so tired recently.
A glamorous breakfast
The next morning we were up and out early because I’d been invited to a breakfast. If I lived in London and didn’t have a day job, this is the sort of rarefied life I could lead. As it is, I nearly always have to say no so it was a real treat. It was held at the Gallery Mess at The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea and our hosts were Really Wild Clothing. I’m going to introduce them as a brand to you soon but in the meantime, here’s a little taste of my morning. All but one of the other bloggers were new to me so it was really lovely to sit down and have a good chat over breakfast. I’d had to pack four changes of clothes based on black that would match the glasses for the Specsavers shoot and so that dictated what I wore – as you know I’ve been trying to eliminate black from my wardrobe so it wasn’t easy.
We then went on to the new pop up shop around the corner in Duke of York Square to have a look at the clothes. More chatting ensued… here I am with new friends – the very lovely Hayley aka ladyofthemanor77 on Instagram (I can hear my mum telling me to stop standing like a fishwife).
… with Coral from StripeyCoral…
… and with Jane from What Lulu Loves – we were having a serious conversation about a project that we’re both working on that is proving problematic.
As I mentioned, I’m going to talk more about Really Wild soon so I’ll save the rest for then.
A haircut – at long last!
To my great joy, the next stop was Hershesons. As I mentioned, everything has been so chaotic that I haven’t been down to London for a haircut since 19th July which is why it was in such a state and I will never leave it that long again. It’s been bleached and coloured twice in the interim as well as frying for nearly three weeks in hot Turkish sun and sea so it was like straw. The only solution was to cut it very short again and here I am afterwards – with possibly the fifth most important man in my life – Premlee! I pay for my haircuts so this really does come from the heart – if you want to be transformed (and have a lovely counselling session at the same time) he’s your man. He’s expensive but given that you wear your hair every day, he’s worth it.
And after that I popped into Bobbi Brown to have my make-up done because I had a rather important evening ahead. It was the party to celebrate Woman & Home’s 50 most amazing women over 50 – and I still can’t believe that I’m one of them.
Amazing women over 50
It’s funny because you may remember that before the UK Blog Awards we got stuck in traffic and had to jump out at Claridge’s. I had my photo taken outside and then went around the corner to the very ordinary Marriott. This time though, the evening was being held at Claridge’s itself – I’ve been to events at most of the big London hotels but not this one so it was really exciting. Unfortunately the photos of my outfit are really poor because the lighting was atmospheric but hopefully you can get an idea of it – a midnight blue velvet dress with a full skirt and dipped hem worn with black velvet heels.
It was an early start with a champagne reception and photos with some of the other amazing women. Here I am with the brilliant Country Wives who were category winners (there are more glamorous photos but I’m trying to bring you along behind the scenes here and show you what it was really like to be there).
Walking into the room it was lovely to see lots of people that I knew from brands, PR agencies and, of course, other bloggers. After the reception we went through to the presentation headed by Jo Whiley to hear stories of so many amazing women who are doing truly amazing things. I love the fact that Woman and Home have decided to dedicate their magazine to midlifers, in fact I’m going to encourage you to support them by taking out a subscription here . It’s so inspiring to hear about women who are finding themselves reinvigorated at 50 and going on to be more than they’ve ever been before. At the end of it, everyone was truly moved and the room was high on emotion.
The evening had begun with a hum of civilised conversation but now it was heating up. And that’s the great thing about midlife women, they’re intelligent and wise and great to chat to… but they’re also fun and they know how (and when) to let their hair down. We spent a lot of time with Ashley from LazyDaisyJones and Laurie from Vanity&Me along with their other halves. You’ve seen them on here before but we hadn’t caught up for ages and we had a really good giggle.
And here are Nayna and Amanda from Hope Fashion – (apologies, the photos are getting very blurry now which may have had something to do with the fact that our glasses were constantly being refilled).
And then the DJ started up and this happened… a pile of (very glamorous clutches) began to accrue in the middle of the room as we created a makeshift dance floor.
It started off slowly but then the opening bars of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” rang out… and the amazing women hit the dance floor en masse. It occurred to me that the events that I usually go to which are dominated by 20 and 30 something bloggers are rather serious affairs. I guess everyone is trying very hard to be grown up. And yet this was like a university disco with everyone waving their arms in the air and singing at the top of their voices. The difference is that when we were doing it at university 30 years ago, most of us had survived very little whereas now we have – and this song means something to everyone, even if it is overlaid with irony.
So it was all great fun. Here I am with the wonderful Kath Brown, who is the editor of Woman & Home. I’ve subscribed to W&H for years and I had the feeling that she was going to be a bit aloof but she absolutely wasn’t. Beneath her glossy midlife exterior runs a seam of mischief… which is the thing I find with all of the best midlife women.
I will just say that we had a lucky escape on the sartorial front though. She was wearing a pine green velvet jumpsuit from Whistles which was my other choice of outfit for the evening (it’s limited edition and has already sold out in green but it’s just been released here in gold velvet). I returned it because the cropped legs hit the widest part of my calf and so I looked like a shotputter. Kath didn’t of course but it wouldn’t have been good if I’d been wearing the same outfit as the editor!
And so the evening went on and it was just what Mr MC and I needed. As you know we seize any opportunity to dance and this was like the best kind of wedding disco. I did my best to fulfil the role of Midlifechic though – I was encouraged to be ‘amazing’ for a photo at the flower wall:
… and I was doing ok until Mr MC decided he deserved a share of the credit too!
We ended up going on with the fab team of Northerners from JD Williams who, like us, were determined to make the most of a night in London. We hit Ronnie Scotts and then Little Italy but not for long. It did us both the world of good and when we got home the next day, we felt ready to switch back into normality after a turbulent month. Obviously normal is now a new normal because things will never be quite the same again. I’m not saying that our grief has healed overnight but we do have a new perspective. We’re both more determined than ever to squeeze life to the pips and I’m thinking about how I can make what I’m doing here count. So, I’m planning to do more for charity, more for smaller brands and place more focus on quality over quantity. The fact that fast fashion is killing the planet is a topic for another day but it’s one that needs to be dealt with.
I hope you’ll all stay with me on this journey because your voices are really helping me to get Midlifechic heard. I believe that we can continue to enjoy style mindfully but there’s so much more we can do along the way too. Thank you, as always, for reading and for sharing all of this with me.
And don’t forget the Woman and Home subscription offer here
Disclosure: ‘amazing women over 50’ is not a sponsored post
Other Autumn/Winter 18 posts you may have missed
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