After playing catch-up on our Greek trip for the last few weeks it feels good to be talking to you in real time again. We’ve had lots going on and I’m going to write this post the opposite way round to usual because it has some sadness and I don’t want to leave you on a downer on a Friday. So I’m starting with some midlife ups and downs and then I’ll move on to happier events and what I’ve been wearing.
Midlife ups and downs
I’m typing this post with a sinking heart, trying to distract myself and some of you will understand how I’m feeling. This morning we’ve had to make the difficult decision to book an appointment with the vet. Our treasured little cat Rosie has been waning all summer and it’s come to the point now where we know she’s no longer just old, we feel she’s suffering. Of course I’m hoping that the vet will have a magic pill but deep down I suspect she won’t and so I’m getting this part of the post out of the way before it feels too sad to write.
Future pain is the penalty that you always take on when you love an animal. We’ve had Rosie and her brother Alfie for fourteen years; we adopted them as kittens from the Cats’ Protection League when we’d got over their predecessor, Isaac, being hit by a car. We went to the rescue centre for one kitten and came back with two, principally because gruff Mr MC who “never wanted a cat” couldn’t bear to part them and they’ve lived inseparably ever since. Their names were the reserves on our list of baby names – if the youngest had been a girl we’d have called her Rosie and we always loved Alfie for a boy – but UK readers will understand that with the surname of Garnett it wasn’t an option! (You can find out why here if you’re overseas).
We didn’t feel we could have pets in London but I’ve always thought it’s important for children to learn how to care for another life and for teens to have an outlet for their tenderness, especially boys who go through a phase of finding it hard to display their affection. So when we moved to this house and the boys were tiny I insisted that we needed to fill it with souls. I’ve always loved watching them rough and tumble with our dogs and having gentle moments with the cats, often cradling them like babies.
It feels especially hard letting Rosie go right now as the house is feeling so empty but I think she’s picked up on that too. It’s almost as if as the boys have departed with all their energy, hers has left too.
She limped along this summer while they were still here but now she’s tired and it’s time to let her rest.
I wrote this on Wednesday and I’m now adding a Friday update. The vet’s verdict was that it was time to let her go with dignity but as Covid restrictions meant that only one person was allowed in with her, I had to make the final decision alone. If you’ve ever done it you’ll know what an awful moment it is when you see a life that you love extinguished – human or animal. She’s now resting with Gary and the rest of our menagerie in our pet graveyard which is underneath my office window and that gives me comfort. I know if you’re a lover of cats you’ll understand how hard this is and how I hated calling the boys one by one and telling them the news.
More midlife ups and downs
And of course our situation with Rosie is, in a way, a matryoshka doll of the journey with Mr MC’s mum (I should add that even though she knows I often talk about what’s going on in all of our lives, she doesn’t have the internet or read this blog so I’m not making her feel worse and she’s happy to raise awareness of the issues that surround Alzheimer’s and Dementia). I haven’t seen her as regularly as he has recently and I was shocked by her decline in the space of a few weeks. It’s ten years this month since my own mum died and I’m realising that there are so many elements of losing a parent that you pack away and don’t process until you see someone else going through the same awful time and it makes it all vivid again but, of course, with a little more distance.
As well as seeing her struggle, I notice the toll it’s taking on those who are local and managing the day to day care which was the role that my sister and I took on with our parents. And by watching Mr MC who has taken on the job of ‘dealing with the system’, I’m appreciating more clearly just how much my brothers did from a distance, managing the forests of paperwork, the phone calls, administration and liaison that comes with caring for a life that can no longer be managed individually. Of course it’s all been horrendously impacted by Covid delays to a social care system that was already on its knees – for example we still have a 20 week wait for the LPA to even begin to be processed which is causing all kinds of problems.
I recognise the tensions that are arising between everyone who is doing their best but perhaps in their own style. And overlaying it all is the vulnerability of my mum-in-law and her changing temperament which makes it all more difficult for everyone – but especially for her. She’s the most stoical woman I know and not one to betray her feelings to the family so we’re grateful that she’s finding some release in the Alzheimer’s Hub that my sister-in-law takes her to, she seems to be able to open up more easily there.
As well as in Newcastle, at home we’re surrounded by sadness too. We have two other good friends with parents who have the same diagnosis as m-i-l but they’re a bit further on which is both helpful and scary at the same time. And although it’s difficult and sad, there is an expectation that your parents health will start to decline at this stage of life. However over the last few weeks we’ve had a number of friends our own age who’ve been given either life-threatening or terminal diagnoses too.
We can’t work out whether it’s yet another impact of Covid and the difficulty of accessing medical appointments or if it’s just a new stage of life we’ve moved in to where good health is no longer so easy to take for granted. We know so many people whose future has suddenly taken a sad turn just at the point when there seemed to be an exciting new freedom ahead – life really isn’t fair at times. We’re seeing our role as ‘fielders’, wishing we could do more, helping wherever we can and trying to remember that sometimes as a friend all you can do is be there at the end of a phone or over a cup of coffee.
But let’s balance all of this and move on to happier things. As well as being more grateful than ever for our own current good health, we’re glad that the boys are happy and thriving away from home. They keep us smiling with their little updates and antics. It feels as though this week has been the start of our empty nest proper because as you know when we came back from Greece the eldest stayed on for a while and then as he left on the Tuesday, the middle one announced that he’d be coming home on the Thursday. We then went over to Newcastle with him and so this is the first stretch when we’ve truly been home alone so we’re just starting to feel our way.
What I’ve been wearing and doing
We’re busy at work but I’ve taken photos whenever I’ve remembered – it’s so much harder now that the evenings are so dark. Maybe I’ll have to start getting ready to go out at midday now the clocks have changed!
Heading down to London
Here’s an early morning pic from a couple of weeks ago when I headed down to London for a while. It was quite a shock, very few people were wearing masks on the train which made me feel a bit uncomfortable during the almost three hour journey, especially as the person behind me had a hacking cough. I was surprised by how lax things felt in London, people certainly have a more careful approach in the north but I suppose it’s easier to have more distance here because there’s so much space and it isn’t as busy as it is down there.
I wonder if there’s anyone still reading who remembers my quandary back in 2014 over this suede jacket and whether or not to keep it. I’m so glad I did because seven years later I’m still wearing it a lot. Do drop me a line in the comments if you’re still here from those early days – you deserve a medal!.
Hobbs suede jacket (AW14); Me+Em dress (SS21); Navy suede boots
And here I just wanted to give you a preview of this lovely coat with a contrast lining, I’m wearing a sample but it’s due to arrive into Hope any day now. They’re calling it Crombie style but I’d say it’s a cocoon, my favourite shape. It’s made from Italian wool and it’s warm but light, the sort of coat you could wear on a shopping trip without overheating and if you had to carry it, it isn’t bulky or heavy. I think it’s very reasonably priced and it’s also going to be available in a lovely pine green.
And here’s the stunning lining which flashes away if you wear it open. A coat in a strong colour is such a great tool to have in your wardrobe, it means you can wear something very simple underneath and still have standout, after all at this time of year your coat is often the only part of your outfit that anyone really sees. You’ll be able to find it here when it arrives.
A long weekend in Newcastle
Moving on to Newcastle last week – what we did and what I wore. We went over on Wednesday to spend some time catching up with various members of the family and trying to help solve some of the problems that are cropping up.
We didn’t feel as if we made much progress but of course it’s going to take time for everyone to adjust. I suggested we stop off for a drink at the end of the day so that Mr MC could empty his head. Looking at this picture I can see it all weighing on him, even though he was doing his best to smile.
Happily two of our closest friends Nicky and Roy then came to join us for a couple of days. It’s crazy that they haven’t been over before but Covid has kept getting in the way and anyway we’ve had this weekend planned for a long time. Way back in March, in the dark days of lockdown I was flicking through the Sunday supplements and spotted that ex-Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson was booked for a concert at The Sage. As luck would have it, it was the same week as Roy’s big birthday and so we bought tickets never thinking it would also be their first trip over to share a taste of our other life with us.
Nicky and I are the same age – well actually she’d want me to point out that I’m 4 weeks older than her and so she always enjoys referring to me as her ‘big sister’. She’s my rock; we live in the same village and we’ve been friends since we met in the early days of the primary school playground so we’ve seen each other through years of highs and lows. Our boys are close and have grown up together – in fact if you’re a long term reader you’ll remember her from the camping trips and ‘mums and sons’ weekends away that often used to feature on here. Now we’re both adjusting to our empty nests and getting her to agree to appear in a photo is a rare treat but I got one just after they arrived on Thursday!
We had an early meal at Mr MC’s favourite Bridge Tavern and then walked over the Swing Bridge to The Sage (I’d planned to pop back and get changed for the concert but we chatted for so long that we ran out of time). It was so exciting to finally be going to a concert there, after all it’s literally on our doorstep but we just haven’t done it until now. (By the way reader Val – note the Lady Danger red lipstick is back!)
The concert was great and as you can imagine the acoustics were spectacular, making the Royal Albert Hall feel a bit second class on that front.
And it was a big thrill strolling a few hundred metres back to our apartment afterwards for a last glass of wine and more chat. The following morning we went for breakfast at The Baltic which is even handier and I decided to try out a mini skirt for the first time since about 1995.
Readers I loved it – even though I love a midi too it felt like such a refreshing change.
Cord mini (15% off with MLC15, gifted AW21); & Other Stories jumper (AW18); Hush coat (AW18); Boden boots (gifted AW20)
I’m not sure whether Mr MC was lovingly photographing his breakfast here or us but Roy and I are looking very serious.
And then we had a wander round The Baltic before going back to the flat for more coffee.
Cord mini (15% off with MLC15, gifted AW21); & Other Stories jumper (AW18); Boden boots (gifted AW20)
On Friday night I wore the showstopper of an outfit that I’d planned for the night before. If you’ve ever wanted a Helen Mirren moment this is the skirt you need but you’re going to have to be quick. It only came in at the beginning of this week and there’s still stock in all sizes now but it’s selling very quickly – it’s also available in black. (I’m wearing a slim in both pieces and they fit well).
Forgive me for an overly girly moment but I wanted to show you the incredible volume and I just want to add that I don’t think a younger woman would pull this outfit off as well as a midlifer. My friends at Hope release a ‘wait for it’ skirt every Winter and this has to be their best yet. Don’t forget that they’re a tiny team of midlife women, all doing their best to bring us unusual clothing that doesn’t follow trends. Instead their focus is on flattering the midlife body and their pieces are timeless so they will last for years. They’ve had a close eye on sustainability since they very first began seven years ago so they’ve always been ahead of the curve on that front.
Once again I want to point out that it’s a great skirt for travel (or just for storing) because all that volume scrunches into this little mesh bag.
And the colour is electrifying. The jumper’s perfect even if you just wear it with jeans on a Winter’s evening to dial up the glamour a little. The merino and cashmere blend is soft and warm but because you can wear it off the shoulder you don’t overheat. If you prefer not to have your shoulders on show, you can style it as a cowl neck which makes it a great ‘desk to dinner’ or ‘shops to bar’ option too.
Jumper (on loan)
And so the rest of our time was balanced between visiting family and spending a bit of time together. This dress is one of my picks from my monthly edit. I love the design of their tiered styles, they aren’t too loose so you can nod to trend without feeling swamped.
By the way have you heard that Baukjen won a 2021 UN Global Climate Action Award at Cop26 in the Climate Neutral Now category? You can read all about it here but it’s a phenomenal achievement. It just shows how far ahead they are; whereas so many other clothing brands posit ‘hopes for 2030’, Baukjen became carbon negative across their entire supply chain in 2020. They’re now working to become circular – you can rent clothes from them here and even return them to be resold as Pre-loved on the Baukjen website, repurposed or recycled (depending on their condition). In return you receive a £20 Baukjen voucher – details here. I know their clothes can cost more than some of our other favourite brands but at least you can see why.
Doesn’t Halloween suddenly seem to have become a big US style event? It was huge in Newcastle, everyone seemed to be dressed up but not specifically in scary costumes, just in any kind of fancy dress. The younger two both had parties to go to, the youngest sent us a shot of his Gordon Ramsey concept in Leeds.
And the middle one popped in with one of his housemates on the way to a party so they could show us their costumes and see just how high his dad’s eyebrows would go when they both appeared dressed in skirts!
My token effort was wearing black leather leggings for the first time in years when we went out, I paired them with a gold metallic blouse and pointy boots. I didn’t get a photo but once again it felt good to reverse the volume of the trousers and skirts that I’ve grown used to over the last three years.
This was the following morning when I was feeling a bit jaded and a day on the sofa dressed in comfortable athleisure was called for, again from this month’s edit. One of the pleasures we have at the moment is the view from our 12th floor eyrie which takes in not only the spectacular cityscape but also looks directly across to the top floor Baltic restaurant where the middle boy works. How we enjoyed our lazy day watching movies, looking across to see him working hard with what we knew would be a cracker of a sore head from the night before!
Half zip sweatshirt in organic cotton (15% off with MLC15, gifted AW21); Navy athleisure trousers with white and cobalt stripe (15% off with MLC15, gifted AW21); trainers (now half price)
Ethical skincare for sensitive skin
In the light of Cop26 I want to highlight Pai, a brand I’ve been trialling that goes way beyond most other beauty businesses in terms of its consideration of environmental issues. Based in London and founded by midlifer Sarah Brown, its primary focus is on developing products that can be used on the most sensitive of skins, even if they’re eczema prone. However it also very much sits alongside Baukjen in its ethos and dedication to creating natural, ethical and sustainable products. I know there are a few of you who don’t have much patience with beauty reviews so I’m going to bullet point the specific initiatives that make Pai different:
- Independently certified by:
COSMOS (Soil Association) – 98% of ingredients are of natural origin, sustainably grown with no synthetic dyes, fragrances or controversial chemicals used in the products
Cruelty Free International – they do not test products on animals or use any ingredients that have been tested on animals
The Vegan Society – all products are tested annually to ensure no animal ingredients have been used
- All products are independently patch tested to make sure they’re suitable for both sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
- Almost all packaging can be recycled at home, if not, you simply keep the original free returns label and send the packaging back to Pai who will recycle it for you – clear details are given here
- And this last point in my opinion is pretty tremendous – there is a NO QUIBBLE 90 day returns policy so if a product isn’t working for you, you can send it back for an exchange or a full refund. That’s pretty unique for a beauty brand.
Pai sent me a range of their suncare to test and if you’re lucky enough to be going on a last minute holiday I can say that it’s lovely. It’s so gentle that you don’t end up with permanently weeping eyes (something that often happens to me when I put sunscreen on my face). Sun cream often triggers eczema on my elbows too and I didn’t experience any of that. I’ve been using it as my SPF for the last three weeks and it works well under make-up with no pilling. I particularly like the fact that it has blue light protection too because sadly for the next few months I’m going to be sitting in front of a screen far more than the sun!
The product that I’m particularly impressed with is The Impossible Glow. It’s a mixture of hyaluronic acid with added bronzing colour and pearlescence that bounces light and makes skin look fresher. It doesn’t work as a self tan like other bronzing drops do so it’s particularly good if you don’t like the idea of staining your skin but want a healthy, warm glow that you can adjust to suit your skintone on a daily basis throughout the winter.
Start by adding one drop to your moisturiser and take it from there. I’ve been using it if we’re going out – I’ve settled on two drops and then I apply my foundation on top. However you can use it straight on your skin and it gives a nice sunkissed effect if you apply it to your cheeks and over the bridge of your nose. For me it stops the sallow tone that comes through in my skin during the winter months and instead just adds a sunkissed gleam.
And I just want to show you the clever packaging, no waste because all information has been included on the recyclable box. It’s so much better than getting one of those leaflets that folds out forever with every language under the sun.
I also liked the tiny sample of The Anthemis calming cream that I was sent. It’s a moisturiser developed for eczema and rosacea prone skin and I don’t suffer with either of those on my face so although I’d be perfectly happy to use it there I’ve actually found myself applying it to my elbows and it’s the first non-steroid product that’s helped the eczema prone skin I have there. It’s smoothed the skin out and I haven’t had a flare-up since it was sent to me so I’m probably going to buy a full bottle; a little goes a long way.
There are some lovely gift sets for Christmas and they include The Impossible Glow as a sustainably packaged bauble as well as a selection of skincare bundles. With the confidence of the 90 day return option it seems like one of the best options around if you’re buying a skincare gift for somebody else because it eliminates the risks.
You can buy someone a full starter regime
Or even just a very reasonably priced sample kit of the best sellers which would make a great stocking filler or secret Santa gift. It feels particularly good giving a gift when you know that everything is ethical and sustainable. Even if you don’t struggle with sensitive skin, it’s better to use products that don’t aggravate.
So Pai is a small British company led by a fellow midlife woman who is doing her best on every level. I’m happy to recommend their products – do go over and have a look.
I’ll start listing the best Christmas offers as I spot them now:
And I think that’s everything for today, we’re fully caught up. I’ll be posting more often over the next few weeks and I’ll do my best to help you with what is feeling like a very different Christmas on the retail front. More about that soon, in the meantime thank you for reading, have a lovely weekend… and hold your loved people and pets close.
Disclosure: ‘Midlife ups and downs – and what I’ve been wearing’ is not a sponsored post. Thank you to the brands who continue to support me on an ongoing basis with gifting, loans and review opportunities
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