It’s been a while since we had a midlife lately catch up because I’ve been so busy with everything Christmas but it’s starting to feel as though most of the planning is done now so I can come up for air. Wasn’t November a funny old month? Even more of a nothingness than November usually is so I’m not sure how interesting this post is going to be but I suppose we’re all in the same boat. As always, ours is just the story of an everyday family living through Covid times. Before I start, I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that every single person I know has experienced this year differently and there are people who’ve had a truly terrible time. I’m not writing this because ours has been extraordinary, in fact it’s been very ordinary and just that makes us very lucky. This is simply my record of how it’s affected us so that we can look back in years to come and remember how it really felt. As I usually do, I’m going to start by getting the downs off my chest before moving onto the ups and then at the end I’ll run through what I’ve been wearing. So here we go: midlife lately and what I wore in November – and by the way it’s a long one – cup of tea or glass of wine? You’ll need one or the other.
Midlife lately – the downs
My month felt a bit dull so I’ll begin with news of the boys. Over in Newcastle, the middle one has continued to enjoy the (limited) social side of his uni life – my goodness he’s been lucky with his lovely flatmates – but he’s become ever more frustrated with his course. He’s shown us some of his online lectures when we’ve been Face-Timing him and they really aren’t great. Beyond them, there doesn’t seem to be much support for the students on a one to one basis. There have been lots of small but discouraging episodes when he’s tried to have the kind of conversation with tutors that would have been so easy at the end of a normal lecture or seminar. For example he was sent an assignment with a bit of an obscure title that he was struggling to interpret and so he sent a few emails asking for more detail only to be sent the title again in return. Repeatedly.
There have been lots of little incidents like this where it’s felt almost as though his course has been completely automated with nobody at a human level to speak to. They’re little things but he’s now coming to the end of the first term feeling utterly disengaged from his course and finding that he hasn’t achieved anything whatsoever academically. The system, as it stands, isn’t working – and meanwhile his student loan mounts up as he pays the price of an education that isn’t really being delivered. I have nothing to compare it with so I’m not saying that his experience is unique to Northumbria but it does feel as though this is going to be a wasted year and I wonder how that will pan out.
Back at home, the eldest has continued with his thirteen hour shifts at the Covid testing centre. When he started they were processing thirty people every half hour but now it’s unusual for them to see more than twelve a day. He’s a tough rugby boy who rarely complains but he came home after one day of standing in howling winds and rain to say that he’d looked across at the university where he’d studied so hard and wondered at the outcome. He’s working there with so many people he knows, the best and the brightest from his grammar school among them, a whole generation of young graduates living back in their childhood homes. They share hopeful dreams of the jobs that they’re applying for… and then support each other weeks later as they swallow down the fact that they haven’t received any replies… and probably won’t.
The youngest has been lucky – it looks as though he’ll make it through a whole term without being sent home for self-isolation which makes his form one of the only ones in his school. We were surprised by his reaction to the news about this year’s A Levels being made easier though. Although he understands that it’s probably better for a lot of other students he’s found it really frustrating. Since March his determination to rise above the circumstances and get good exam results has really kept him going. He says that whatever he gets now though, his A Level results will always feel phoney. I think the drive to get good grades has something to do with being the youngest sibling – you always want to beat the others – as a youngest myself I felt exactly the same.
As for me, as someone whose default setting is cheery, I have to admit that I’ve found this second lockdown really hard work. Hasn’t it dragged? We sit right on the boundary of Tier 3 and Tier 2 and we notice that an awful lot of places in Tier 2 haven’t reopened so far which doesn’t bode well. Apart from the gym opening its doors, it doesn’t really feel as if anything has lifted here. Most of my friends are very quiet, nobody has had the appetite for Zoom catch-ups this time around or even chatty WhatsApp groups. We’re communicating via occasional texts where emojis of gritted teeth and swearing faces proliferate.
Our exciting (far) away week after Christmas is, of course, cancelled and the apartment purchase is driving us nuts. The whole thing is hanging on one clause in the leasehold contract that our solicitor needs an answer to but just can’t get… because of lockdown and furlough and all of the other Covid related reasons that stand in the way of any kind of bureaucratic progress these days. And two people close to us have new simmering health concerns that are worrying when hospital appointments and tests aren’t easy to get. It’s hard when we can’t even visit them to help or just to cheer them up. Please know that this is not me feeling sorry for myself, I know that all of these things and far worse are happening to everybody all over this country – and the rest of the world. I’m just putting it all down here so that before too long we’ll be able to look back and see how far we’ve come.
Midlife lately – the ups
And breathe… because we’re coming to the ups. Thanks to the new uni Covid regulations the middle boy is coming home this weekend, two weeks early. It feels like such a long time since we dropped him off in September so as soon as he’s had his Covid all-clear we’ll be driving over to get him… along with his washing. As a communal area, the laundry has been closed all term so it really doesn’t bear thinking about – needless to say we’ll be driving home with all of the windows open, regardless of how cold it is. While we’re over there, we’re going to visit ‘our’ apartment to measure up. If you remember we’ve only seen it once and I didn’t look at it very carefully because I didn’t think they’d ever accept our offer so it feels exciting. It gives me hope for next year and a whole new urban future opening up.
The insurance claim for the flood that we had in August has finally been settled – it’s no joke trying to claim on listed building insurance in normal times never mind during a pandemic. For the last four weeks we’ve been living in chaos with furniture stacked up in every room and workmen creating more dust and mess than I’ve ever seen but… when we get back from Newcastle it will be finished. We’ll be able to clean, put everything back where it should be and decorate the house for Christmas.
Lockdown’s gym closure forced me to start running seriously again. My weight has yo-yoed this year – I’m increasingly finding that if I don’t keep a close eye on it I can go up two sizes in the space of a few weeks. I knew that if I didn’t make some kind of effort in November it would hang over me all through Christmas. So, I started back at week four of C25K, Mr MC has been coming too and it’s been good for both of us to do something different together. I’m now running comfortably again and so far I’ve had no problem with my achilles. We’d never have considered running if lockdown hadn’t happened so it’s been an upside.
As part of the same ‘wellness’ project (I loathe that word), I decided to pay for a private review of my HRT. It was a personal decision, nothing to do with the blog but it’s been such an enlightening experience that I’m going to talk about it in more detail on Midlifechic in January. I’ve learned a lot and by then I’ll know if my new, much more comprehensive regime is making a difference. I’m a month in now and I feel as though it is but I don’t want to say any more until I’m absolutely sure.
And then of course there’s Christmas ahead which I always love so I’m looking forward to it even though it’s going to be very different. Just waking up on Tuesday knowing that it was December rather than November gave me a boost. Never again will I set myself a project of wearing only neutrals in my least favourite month of the year. Know that as I sit here typing today, I’m wearing red! It’s so strange when I look at the outfits for November. Usually we’d have had a few early Christmas parties so there would have been at least a bit of sparkle but no, it’s all been very ordinary this year.
Before I show you what I wore in November though, I’ve saved the biggest piece of news until last. On the morning after his day of doom, the eldest had a phone call from one of the recruitment consultants he’d registered with. She wanted to know if he could do an interview with one of the most exciting London media agencies that afternoon. Without any hesitation he agreed, read through the brief for the role and did his best to prepare, even though he knew he was going to have to perform on the wing. The interview went ahead, he felt it had gone well and so we prepared to wait… but within an hour they called back and offered him the job. For now it’s a three month contract because amidst the current uncertainty they’re not offering permanent roles but at least it gives him an opportunity to impress them. Since then, our dining table has turned into a satellite hub and from there, he spends his days planning and managing campaigns in the Scandinavian region for a well known European fashion retailer. I’m so grateful that he’s been given a chance. Now it’s down to him to prove himself in the hope that by the time his contract comes up for renewal Covid is in abeyance and his dream of a London life can at last come true.
I know that quite a few of you have young graduates who are looking for jobs and from our recent experience of direct applications versus recruitment agencies I can only advise registering with as many of the latter as they can find. Some companies are still looking for immediate hires and so rather than recruiting direct, they’re going to agencies who already have a shortlist of profiled candidates. If they can get onto the system in December, it will give them a head start for the vacancies that will appear in January. I hope our boy’s story gives you hope because this is such a tough time for our children’s generation and as a parent it’s so worrying. For me, it’s the best Christmas present I could have had and I’m seeing it as a sign of hope that the new year will bring promise.
Midlife lately – what I wore in November
Right, let’s move on to a quick whiz through what I wore in November. This was the last day before lockdown – we went to the farm in the village that has a lovely café for one last lunch made by somebody else.
A few days later was Uncle Stan’s funeral which I’ve already told you about. It’s always hard to know what to wear but I tend to opt for navy rather than black.
Jumpsuit – Me+Em AW19; Coat – Jaeger AW17; Boots – Hush AW18; Bag
And since then we’ve been village based, working from home like almost everyone else. You’ve seen this dress lots of times but usually in summer. I wear it in colder weather too with layers underneath.
Dress – Hush SS19; Poloneck – M&S SS19; Boots
This was the first hard frost when the garden stayed white all day in the shade so layers were needed. It’s so long since I’ve worn a scarf that I tied it too short – a single loop is always better.
The wide leg crops and boots in this outfit are actually navy but they look black in this bright light. It must seem as though the sun always shines here in November – it doesn’t – they’re just the days when I remember to take a photo!
Autumn colours here but not my usual brights so I’m still counting them as November neutrals.
You may remember that Hobbs asked me to do an edit and this coat was the other piece I chose (the first was the red dress I showed you a couple of weeks ago). It’s amazing value – about £100 cheaper than other faux fur coats but still sumptuous quality. It’s upgrading the many winter walks that I’m taking on days when I just don’t want to wear yet another down quilt.
Coat (gifted AW20); Jumper – H&M AW15; Grey skinny jeans; Boots – Duo AW18
This was the anniversary of my mum’s death which hit me harder than usual because there were no distractions. It made me realise just how tough it must be for anyone who has lost someone they love this year when there’s so much more time to dwell on things.
And then, at last, came December and the end of my self imposed colour prohibition. Our friends at Hope sent me this outfit to show you and it felt so good to dress up in something different that is still practical enough to wear. Really? Yes – the skirt has drama but it also has an elasticated waist, it’s washable and it will never need ironing. I always say that Hope are my favourite brand for knitwear and they’re rapidly becoming my number one for skirts too. I still regularly wear the satin skirts that they did two years ago and this is just fabulous. It has fifteen metres of mesh to make it hang the way it does and it swishes and sways as you walk. I dressed it down with flat boots here to try it as a daytime look…
… and then up with low heels for more of an evening at home, Christmas 2020 style. Now Nayna at Hope concentrates hard on the way midlife women feel as their midriff thickens and so she’s designed this jumper to go with the skirt to give you the rule of two thirds, even if your waist isn’t quite what it was. However if you prefer something lighter or more fitted on top, there’s a thinner merino jumper in the same tones. Of course, you could also wear it with a blouse or a jumper in another colour – black, ivory, grey, camel, brown or even clashing shades of pink or bright red. There’s a scarf to match in the same stunning colour and although it’s made from wool, I actually thought it was cotton because there is zero itch when you wear it against your skin.
One last thing to add, the skirt arrives scrunched up in a little mesh bag which means it takes up hardly any space in your wardrobe (or suitcase). The bag helps to keep the distressed crinkles in place and when you wash it, you simply put it back into it to dry. It’s a skirt with maximum impact and minimum fuss, very rare in my experience. As always I’ll remind you that Hope is a tiny brand run by midlife women so please support them if you can.
So yes, I’m raving about this one, it’s the outfit that helped me to recover from what I wore in November – my month of muted tones – and put me in the mood for December. Dressing up will give us the boost of levity that I think we’re all desperate for so let’s do it, even if we aren’t going further than our own front room.
On the subject of small brands, I’m finishing with my promise to include reader recommended businesses. It’s a shame that more weren’t sent through because a listing on here will give them a big boost on Google. You see I’m very particular about who I link to and so as a result, Midlifechic has a very high page ranking. It’s the closest I can get to being a Christmas fairy godmother, waving a magic wand on the algorithm and sharing a little magic with smaller brands who need a leg-up. Anyway, I’ll continue to do a ‘reader recommended’ every so often next year so that we can help tiny businesses over the months ahead. In the meantime, here are the ones you’ve sent through.
Small reader recommended brands
Clothes & Accessories
Sass & Edge – independent womenswear boutique
Escape Boutique – independent womenswear boutique
Turtle Doves – recycled cashmere accessories (I have the fingerless gloves and can recommend them)
Joanie clothing – slogan tops, tees and other clothing – not completely tiny but loved by readers
Cleverly Wrapped – a favourite of mine , particularly good for the most stunning scarves, good cashmere too
Mantra Jewellery – meaningful jewellery that carries a message as you wear it
Claudia Bradby – my favourite jewellery, 20% off here with code MIDLIFECHIC20
BekbekMakes – glittery handmade jewellery – great stocking fillers
Lily & Roo – chic jewellery
Powder – stunning and affordable scarves along with quirky socks for men and women
Ark Skincare – skincare designed for different age groups
Lily & Faith – candles, diffusers and melts
The Recycled Candle Company – they collect the wax remnants of used candles and turn them into beautiful new ones
Torera Essentials – soy candles from a new black owned business
Cards and books
Cards from Katherine – really lovely Christmas (and other) cards.
Head Over Heels – a trilogy written by Sara, a Midlifechic reader and she’s offering the first book free here.
That’s it from me for today, I’ll be back on Tuesday, in the meantime have a great weekend, especially if you’re in Tier 2 – or even Tier 1 – quelle idée!
Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately and what I wore in November’ is not a sponsored post
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