Well I said I’d do a catch-up today and it shows how focused on Christmas prep I’ve been when I have photos and moments going all the way back to the end of October. As you know, I like this blog to be a reflection of a real midlife and while I’ve been busy getting everything ready for what will hopefully be a fun-filled Christmas, everyday stuff has been going on – as it always does. November, in particular, was a funny old month for us so here are moments going all the way from Halloween to buying the Christmas tree! Midlife lately – behind the scenes.
Midlife lately – behind the scenes – late October
We spent a week in Newcastle at the end of October – I had some meetings there and also in London. The mad thing is that even though it’s a bigger distance, it’s now far easier for me to travel to London from Newcastle than it is from home. I try not to comment too much on current affairs on here because a lot of you say you see my blog as an escape but I know there are a few MPs reading so I have to plead with them to do something about the Avanti train contract. I can no longer go to meetings in London from the North West. The service is so appalling that even if I set off at the crack of dawn I can’t be sure I’ll be there by late afternoon and then there’s the risk that I may well not get home again. It’s killing northern businesses. However if I drive two hours to the other side of the country I can have a swift and efficient trip on LNER, even though it’s much further.
So I was able to be there for a morning meeting and then meet the eldest on his lunch break when I travelled down from Newcastle. He’s just been promoted to account manager level by the media agency he works for and we’re so proud of him. It feels as though he’s really on track with his life now after the hiatus of lockdown and it’s such a relief. It did feel strange walking away from him though as I headed one way for a meeting and he went in the other direction back to his office. I guess there’s always a tug, even when you know they’re thriving and happy.
I’m back in Newcastle here after an easy journey home on the Friday night and we were meeting the middle one for lunch in Jesmond. For those of you who know it we were going to Arlo’s but the food’s really gone downhill recently so I’m not going to recommend it. I’m still finding myself drawn more towards minis than midis, especially at the weekend. I’m not sure why but Lisa Armstrong’s column in The Telegraph last week chimed with me. She mentioned that she’s veering towards “inherent simplicity” as a reaction to “the simpering Victoriana that’s starting to look a bit creepy on grown women.” My only question would be… starting? I’ve felt it’s creepy since the beginning.
Leather mini skirt; Baukjen sweatshirt (past season); M&S coat (past season); Hush boots (past season)
By the way, before I forget, Hush have an unusual 20% off everything here at the moment with code XMAS20 (ends Monday 12th December).
This was the following morning – a not very attractive selfie that I posted on our family WhatsApp because I was jubilant that I’d just beaten Mal in a run. I hadn’t wanted to go in the pouring rain but he was insistent so my victory felt extra sweet.
Everywhere was decked out for Halloween when we headed out later for lunch.
And that evening, so were we. I don’t think I’ve dressed up for Halloween since I was about 10 years old but we had a party to go to with a strict dress code. The boys felt my no effort cat look was a bit lame when I sent them the first photos so I was trying hard to convince them I was being more witches’ cat than pussycat here.
Not being a fan of fancy dress I’d taken the path of least resistance by wearing things I already have, just adding ears and a tail (actually I grew quite fond of the tail by the end of the evening!)
Oh and I had disposable green contact lenses too which you can see here. They’re brilliant, I really recommend them, I had them made up to my distance vision prescription and they were delivered within two days.
Midlife lately – behind the scenes November
We hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of energy at the end of October. When we looked back we realised we hadn’t really stopped moving since March and with an even busier few weeks ahead workwise, we decided to make November a stay at home time.
Of course life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans and November turned out to be a strange month. We’ve both been offered interesting retail contracts working for the same brand for a period of seven years, helping them with a rapid expansion strategy (unusual in retail right now – and exciting). It would mean a big change to our lives in lots of good ways but we’d also lose some of the freedom we’ve always had and I doubt I could keep my other retail contracts or Midlifechic going. So, we’re doing a lot of thinking and negotiations and discussions are ongoing (don’t worry, it would take an awful lot for me to give up Midlifechic).
One of the reasons that I bury myself in Christmas in November is that it’s a heavy month, filled with big bereavement anniversaries. This year on top of that, friends and other people we know who’ve been battling cancer journeys following delayed lockdown diagnoses have hit downturns. You’ll understand that I can’t say very much at all but when I hugged a friend whose husband had just died it was like holding a hologram. Her grief was so huge that she was evanescent. It’s awful when you can feel someone’s visceral struggle with such overwhelming pain, especially as there’s so little that you can do other than stand by. The true outcome of Covid is now becoming apparent in so many ways.
And I’m jumping ahead of the timeline here because this has just happened but I don’t want to include it at the end and leave you on a sad note. As I type, I’ve just heard that not one, but two of our village stalwarts have died. Each of them touched my life so I just want to pay a small tribute to them here.
First of all Jean who often used to babysit for the boys when they were little. She was helping out at our local CancerCare centre when I went in for a meeting a few days after my mum died – we were doing some pro bono work for them and I was trying to carry on as normal. Jean knew what I was going through and on my way out she stopped me and said, “come with me. You do enough for this place, it’s time you had something back.” She took me upstairs and arranged for me to have six sessions of bereavement counselling which I often refer to on here. As well as helping me to come to terms with Mum’s death it changed my life in a lot of other ways too. I would never have asked for it if it wasn’t for Jean’s thoughtfulness.
And then there’s Robert, the shy bachelor who was our local historian. He knew everything there was to know about the village and the nearby city of Lancaster. We used to pass each other every day on the canal, he with his greyhound, me with Ted and he was a fascinating man to stop and chat to. In fact I just saw him on Saturday and then, by Monday, he was gone. Thankfully he published quite a few books so his knowledge stays with us but we’ll all miss his familiar face. He was a village institution and such a big part of everyday life here that right now it’s impossible to believe that we won’t see him again.
There’s comfort in knowing that Jean and Robert had many long years. Our other friends are a generation younger, still with their lives in full sail. As tragedy and illness randomly start to hit some, but not others, in midlife it can feel hard to know how to go forwards with confidence can’t it? We’ve all been reminded this year that grief is the price we pay for love and that, in itself, is terrifying. However the message that comes through from those whose journey ends here is always that the rest of us must live on louder, wilder and stronger on their behalf. It’s the ultimate tribute we can pay to them as we continue to hold them close to our hearts.
And so, as you’ve seen, my Christmas planning has had more resonance than ever. As I unearth baubles and plastic fairies from Christmas boxes it’s almost like brushing fingers with people I’ve loved who are no longer here. The traditions that we follow at this time of year are all unique to our particular upbringings and families but they give us a way of staying close to them as we look both back and forwards through the generations.
Other less serious but still challenging things happened in November – poor mum-in-law had another fall and is ok but still in pain a few weeks on. My beloved car was badly smashed into when it was parked outside the house. Thankfully nobody was hurt but I’m now wading through the quagmire that is the post-Covid insurance industry and apparently getting parts and paint is so impossible right now that I won’t have it back for months.
So, despite having planned to stay at home for the whole of November, in the end we found ourselves needing to break away so we made a spontaneous trip to see the youngest in Leeds. For a bit of a treat we booked into The Queen’s Hotel which is a majestic old building next to the railway station. It’s a rather splendid city hotel, the kind you don’t often find these days. In fact I’d have said we’d found our favourite place to stay in Leeds if it hadn’t been let down by one of those disgusting buffet breakfasts served in a gloomy basement dungeon.
It gave me a chance to wear a few new things from some of my November edits. This jumper is a great option for easy Christmas dressing and Mal’s creative eye was gratified by the fact that this lady had picked the same shade to wear as me. But the lighting here didn’t pick up the subtle sparkle…
Night Sky Jumper (also available in teal, gifted AW22), Me+Em jeans (past season); Boden glitter shoes (past season)
… it was better in a darker spot. So this top is a great choice for anyone who tends to overheat because it’s light with three quarter length sleeves. You could tuck it into a skirt without adding bulk or just throw it on over jeans like this and look as if you’ve made an effort. It’s also available in teal.
Night Sky Jumper (also available in teal, gifted AW22)
We had a room with a view across City Square which was great for people watching. This robe and pyjama set has such lovely detailing. The fabric is a blend of cotton and viscose giving it a soft, almost brushed finish which feels really warm to wear. It currently has 25% off and I don’t think you could find a more tactile and yet breathable combo anywhere.
Woven robe – now 25% off, other colours available (gifted AW22)
The matching pyjamas are made from the same fabric and they have 25% off too. The piping and the embroidered detailing at the cuffs make them feel so much more expensive than they are. I was pleased to find that they don’t crease and so don’t even look as if they’ve been slept in – waking up a crumpled mess is one of my bugbears with cotton pyjamas.
We met up with the boy for a late lunch on Saturday – it was so good to see him. As well as playing hard he’s been working hard too, spurred on by a lovely surprise in the summer holidays when he was awarded a bursary by the university for his first year results. It was something he didn’t know existed but now he’s aware of it he’s keen to try to get another one for next year!
This jumper is another great option for anyone who finds woolly knits too hot. It’s a light viscose blend with a flattering chimney pot neckline, true to size but low in stock now although it does come in other colours.
Jumper; Jaeger Original coat (not M&S, past season), Me+Em jeans (past season), Hush boots (past season)
We headed out for Indian tapas which always makes Mal grumble about canny ways of charging high prices for tiny portions but it was a restaurant that the boy had been wanting to go to so he was happy! After that we spent the evening at the hotel bar. I love hearing about his French & Spanish course because it’s the same degree I did but of course there’s a whole new digital vocabulary now that didn’t even exist in the 80s. We were going down some sort of linguistic rabbit hole here – Mal had obviously glazed over and decided to take photos instead.
Whistles top (past season); Me+Em jeans (past season)
This is the next morning when we took him out for brunch before we drove home. He’d commandeered the last pastry for later and spotted a canvas in a skip on the way back, making it a bonanza start to the day in student terms. The picture was the haunting stuff of nightmares so I’m not sure if his housemates will have wanted in their living room as he imagined!
And so we returned with our spirits lifted, ready for December.
Midlife lately behind the scenes – December
I mentioned ages ago that we’re not going to corporate events this year. We’ve been working on fewer but bigger contracts since January and so for the first time in years we’ve stepped away from almost all local business. I do still like to feel festive for meetings in December though and so many of you said you loved the green suit I tried on a few weeks ago that I decided to opt for one for my December edit. This one works a bit better for my body shape because it’s a neater cut with a single breasted jacket and slimmer trousers. It’s made from very light fabric so it will be an all year round suit, looking as apt for spring as it does for Christmas.
It’s true to size but I may have the trousers shortened to a crop but as they are, they’re a good length for wearing with white trainers. I keep wondering if fashion will follow Kate Middleton’s lead and bring back the elegant, pointed court shoe with a trouser suit. I haven’t spotted it coming through yet but she wore it so well with trouser suits in Boston.
This was last Saturday when we popped out to the garden centre to get our live trees before they sold out. They’re sitting in a bucket of water on the patio now and I should just have time to put them up before the boys come home. It was one of those perfect frosty days with blue skies and winter sunshine lighting everyone up.
My jumper is just the right length for wearing with neater jeans or leggings – being slightly longer than most that are around at the moment, it tips into the body-flattering two thirds break in your outfit. It currently has 25% off – it’s obviously popular because there aren’t many sizes left and I bumped into somebody else in the village who was wearing it. I like to wear leggings sometimes, I’ve had these leather ones for years and they keep going strong – they’re such classics that you can still buy them and they have 20% off at the moment with code XMAS20 if you’re in the mood to invest.
And that brings us right up to this week. There were so many lovely party pieces to look at when the latest Boden drop came in but I’ve been matching my edits to my lifestyle all season so I’m trying not to get carried away with Christmas and stop now. So, what did I pick out to show you?
Bearing in mind that they have 30% off everything here until Tuesday 13th December with code E3H5 I thought I’d start with homewares – as they don’t have a dedicated home section on the website you might have missed them. They’re obviously just edging back into them and I think if they decide not to do pattern but keep on working along the lines of simple, beautiful, useful pieces like this throw they could do really well.
Merino wool throw collection (30% off with code E3H5)
We have baskets of throws in every room this winter so that we can wrap up in the evenings. This is 100% merino wool, it’s supersoft and light but cosy; with the current 30% off it’s a good quality buy that will last for years.
Wool throw (30% off with code E3H5, gifted AW22)
And this was as we arrived at Newcastle’s stunning Central Station on Wednesday. As you know, I love railway stations so here’s a geeky moment for you. Newcastle is said to be the UK’s second most beautiful station, topped only by Paddington in London and it’s one of ten ‘cathedral’ stations. Paddington may be a tad more imposing but it doesn’t have the grand arrival of Newcastle as you chug in across the Tyne with its beautiful bridges strung across like bracelets. So here I am having one of my weirder happy moments because it’s the first time I’ve been able to persuade Mal to travel by train with me because we have to go straight down to London for a meeting after our visit here.
As you can see, my ardour for this 70s style coat hasn’t cooled since I first mentioned it in September so it was my other choice and perfect for a trip where I need to be smart but warm too – it’s absolutely freezing right now in Newcastle.
It’s reversible and now that I’ve been able to look at it in real life I can’t get over how cleverly made it is. Every single element has been thought through from the seams that you give you a fully winter white coat on the reverse without any of the tan showing through, the product label which is concealed beneath the collar when you flip it over and the pockets which are patch on the tan side and slip on the reverse so that no extra bulk is added. This is how it looks.
I was wearing it with a sparkly skirt because I was going straight to a meeting at John Lewis – it felt suitably festive as we put the finishing touches to our Christmas event. It’s just been restocked and it’s a really good style that’s not just for Christmas – I’ll be wearing it on holiday with a t-shirt too because it’s easy to pack and it will work just as well in a beachy setting. One thing that’s always worth bearing in mind about pleated skirts is that it’s often worth sizing up so that the pleats fan gently over your midriff rather than emphasising it.
And so that’s my Midlife lately – behind the scenes, we’re up to date now. I had a lovely time at the John Lewis Newcastle event last night but I’ll tell you about that next week although I do just want to say a special thank you to the readers who made their way through the weather to join me, it was so good to meet you. We just have one more big push workwise with meetings in London on Monday, ducking and diving between the train strikes (hopefully). After that I’ll feel that I can start to slow down a bit. Not long now my friends, I hope you’re finding lots of sparkle in these December days. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next Friday.
Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately – behind the scenes’ is not a sponsored post
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