I’ve been interviewed for a few magazines and websites recently. So, given that quite a few of you said you’d enjoyed the FAQ post I did last year, I thought I’d pull some of the questions together just to fill the gap while we’re away. I’ve added some of the questions that I’m asked regularly by readers too so it’s a bit random… but welcome to the inside of my head (my family would tell you that it can be a strange place!)
Midlifechic – questions from readers
Who takes your photos?
Usually Mr MC, sometimes my sons. It’s probably why I tend to look very relaxed. I’ve tried using professional photographers but whatever I gain in perfect composition, I lose in the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ expression on my face. I’m actually quite shy about having my photo taken you see. The upside is that the side of me you see in my photos is the one that you would know if we had the chance to be friends in real life.
Why don’t you feature cheaper brands – it would be great to get your thoughts on supermarket fashion
I have quite a personal take on this and it isn’t about me being snooty. During the year that I worked for a home fragrance manufacturer, I experienced what it’s like to be a supplier to most of the large UK multiples. It gave me a useful (if somewhat disheartening) insight into how they treat their suppliers.
The big brands that were really great to work with included Asda, Aldi and Boots. They were always professional and collaborative, treating us fairly and respecting the deadlines and commercial restraints that affected us. Many of the others were shocking, continually expecting us to turn things round for them in a matter of hours, cancelling orders at the last minute and expecting refunds for products that they’d ordered to be made under their own label if they didn’t sell.
The buyers have huge commercial power and despite the fact that many retailers have introduced ‘anti-bullying’ lines for suppliers to report them to, there is no way that anybody would risk using them because brands are easily identifiable and simply cannot risk losing their business. So manufacturers continue complying with increasingly unreasonable demands.
I saw it affect the mental wellbeing of my own team to an unacceptable degree. Obviously some blame should be apportioned to the top tier management of the company I was working with for not pushing back. However if retailers are behaving like this with UK suppliers, I dread to think how they pressure overseas factories who are so easily interchangeable. It means that I have a dislike for many of the large retail chains who operate on a high turnover, low margin model. Not just supermarkets but some of the big high street retailers with huge inventories of stock that extend into homewares too.
I am forever bound by a non-disclosure contract so I can’t expose them. However, regardless of how much money they offer me to include their clothes (and they do), I will not feature them on Midlifechic and yes – I always tell them why.
I’m forever seeing other over-40 bloggers attending events with brands on social media. I’d love to see Midlifechic there – do you not get invited?
I don’t get invited to everything but I have had some really lovely invitations this year. The trouble is that I have a day job too and so I’ve had to create some rules for myself. It’s a seven hour round-trip for me to travel down to London so I have to be able to justify it. I decided last year that the most useful thing I can do is help to change retail for midlife women behind-the-scenes. So when I say that I’m working in London, it’s usually on something that I can’t share.
I do go to press days but I tend not to talk about it because I really don’t think you want to hear about winter clothes in summer and vice versa. Plus I find it a bit passive aggressive – in my view bloggers are starting to use these invitations as a bit of a ‘look how popular I am’ badge of success and I never want to get into that kind of one-upmanship. So, I go to things that I feel I can justify and rather wistfully decline the rest.
Why don’t you do more on social media?
It just isn’t my natural comfort zone. I’ve given it a lot of thought over the last few months because I know I ‘should’ do more. In the end I think that there are two types of people who blog – those who want to be seen and those who want to be heard.
I fall into the latter camp. For me it’s all about the words whereas social media tends to be more about the picture and a bit of a quip. I’m interested in communicating with people who want to read rather than just ‘look.’ So I’m happiest on my blog writing long posts. I find that by a process of natural selection, women who like to read and chew over things are drawn to Midlifechic whereas women who want to just glance and move on are more comfortable with Instagrammers.
Midlifechic – questions from magazine and website interviews
Desert Island blogs – if you could only have seven blogs delivered to you for the rest of your life, which ones would you choose?
This was a really hard one to answer when I was asked because I didn’t want to offend anybody. There are lots of blogs that I enjoy, however if I were stuck on a desert island (we won’t worry about wi-fi and electricity for now), I’d go for the ones that feel like a letter from a friend… and also make me think. The trouble is that posts like these take much more work than the ones that focus on a single outfit taken from lots of different angles, so the downside is that they tend not to be written as often. But here goes, seven good writers (in no particular order):
Joanna writes far less often than she used to but can be forgiven because she’s just completed the huge task of relocating her family back to the UK after living in the states for 18 years. I have an affinity with her because she’s Lancashire born and bred (even though she’s moved to Yorkshire now!) and I love the openness and immediacy of her writing, the thoughtful self-analysis and her way with words. I’m hoping that when she’s fully settled, she’ll write more often. We’re supposed to be meeting up in the autumn so if we do, I’ll give her a nudge. Poppy’s style
A Life To Style
I’ve followed Avril for years, I love her lack of pretension and writing style that never fawns to brands. I like the fact that she integrates her blog with her life so you feel as though you know her even if you haven’t met her. She’s never fluffy and she shares her ups and downs. We’ve met a few times and that makes me enjoy it even more because I know that she’s exactly the same in real life as she is on her blog – a genuine and warm-hearted person. A Life to Style
No Fear of Fashion
Greetje is another blogger who has become a friend of mine and she often comments on my posts. She’s Dutch and she doesn’t mess around, she says exactly what she thinks and you either take it on the chin or you don’t. We clicked instantly the first time we met and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I enjoy her blog for the snapshots of Dutch life she gives and also because she never takes herself too seriously which can be a relief in the rather esoteric world of blogging. No Fear of Fashion
Another friend I’ve made through blogging, Lisa has an absolutely fascinating life-story. I love her sometimes outrée outfits but it’s her lifestyle posts that I enjoy the most. Every so often she reveals another chapter of her past or present on her blog and she writes insightfully and beautifully. Mum of a little one, I’m hoping she’s going to have time to write more often when the school term starts again. The Sequinist
Best Before End Date
Sharon is quite new to the over 40 blogging scene but she won Vuelio’s coveted ‘best newcomer award’ last year. She’s down to earth, open and I often find myself thinking ‘yes, yes, yes…’ as I’m reading her blog because we seem to think along the same lines, especially when it comes to views on things like Instagram and Awards.
In fact one of her most recent posts has helped me to decide that I probably won’t be entering the UK Blog Awards this year. I initially entered as a group attempt by the Over40Collective to raise the profile of older bloggers. However it’s become apparent that these particular awards are unrecognised by the majority of brands and bloggers. So I’m going to drive in a different direction and channel those energies elsewhere next year (especially since my accountant pointed out that it costs me almost £1,000 to enter and attend). It’s a weight off my mind so thank you Sharon. Best Before End Date
Hayley Hall UK
I’ve followed Hayley since she was writing as London Beauty Queen and it’s been interesting watching her expand into other topics this year. She’s younger than me and I enjoy reading her perspectives on life as a thirty-something, plus she’s still the blogger that I trust most to give an honest and qualified review on the many new beaty products that come to market. HayleyHallUK
Does My Bum Look 40
I’d need some light relief on my desert island and Kat rarely fails to make me laugh out loud. She’s a blogging machine and I don’t know how she does it. Somehow, despite the fact that our style is so different, I never tire of reading her posts. Whenever I meet her, she’s exactly the same as she is on her blog, great fun and kind spirited. She works tirelessly and she’s done more than anyone else to raise the profile of over-40 bloggers. Does My Bum Look 40
What strikes me about these blogs is that (apart from Hayley and Kat) the women behind them probably wouldn’t describe themselves as bloggers. Like me, they’re people who just happen to blog in addition to everything else they do. I wonder if it gives a perspective to their posts that is perhaps harder for people who blog day in, day out to achieve.
Tell us a fact we might not know
Blimey that’s tricky, I’m a bit of an open book on my blog. How about this? The creative agency I run with my husband was commissioned by the tourist board to produce a guidebook for the North West of England. It was a fabulous project and (much to my sons’ horror) an extract of the writing I did for them has been featured in the OCR revision guide for English Language GCSE as a test question. Candidates are asked to compare a piece that I wrote for the guide book against something written by Bill Bryson (and yes, I did do a little dance when they asked my permission to set my words against his).
Share your top five style rules
Surprisingly they have very little to do with clothes:
- Start with your hair – nothing has more of an impact on your look than a great haircut, particularly if you don’t follow trends and find a style that you can own.
- Move on to grooming – keep on top of your eyebrows, your manicure, make sure your skin glows and watch your top lip – whiskers that glint in the sunshine are never a good look!
- Know your body – assess your horizontals – your shoulders, your bust, the base of your ribs, your waist, your hips, your ankles. If you have points that narrow, emphasise them and if you don’t, column dressing is your friend.
- Don’t be afraid of colour – it’s far kinder to you than black or beige. Learn which colours suit you and make them the core of your wardrobe. It may sound odd but colours often work better as tonal blocks than as accents. For example I tend to wear a lot of head-to-toe red rather than teaming it with a contrast like black which can be harsh and ageing.
- The most important style tip is… Smile! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing – if your smile is genuine you will always look fabulous.
What has been the best thing you’ve achieved in life?
Top of the list is a happy marriage and a happy family. I work hard at the relationships I have and I’ve made career sacrifices for them but it’s been absolutely worth it. Beyond that of course, my biggest achievement has to be Midlifechic. When I started it from scratch four years ago, I pulled together all of the skills that I’d gained throughout my career and it’s an amazing feeling knowing that my posts are now read more than half a million times a month.
What are you most enjoying about this part of your life?
My sons are growing older and although there’s a lot that I miss about being the mum of young children, I’m also enjoying the extra time that I have for myself. I can focus again for the first time in years and make plans that don’t have to be centred around everyone else. It reminds me of my final year at university when I knew that in a short time, endless new opportunities would open up. I have the same feeling of a blank canvas although this time I have wisdom and a little more financial security under my belt.
What’s been your biggest life lesson so far and how did you learn it?
This is an important one because it has taken me all of my life to recognise it. I have finally learned how important it is to trust my instinct. Whenever I look back at the things that have gone wrong in life, I know that it’s because I overruled the niggling voice inside warning me that something was wrong.
The jobs that I’ve hated, the friendships that have been toxic and the commitments that have caused me stress all had warning bells ringing from the very beginning. To make sure I don’t keep on repeating this mistake, I’ve armed myself with polite ways of saying ‘no’ and as soon as my gut tells me something is wrong, I use them.
Would you rather regret things you have done or haven’t done?
The obvious answer (and the one that most people give) is that I’d rather regret the things I have done – and when it comes to big, life-changing choices I believe that we should all be brave and take risks. However regret isn’t always as straightforward as that.
My mum’s last words to me before she died were ‘don’t regret’ and so I hold them close to my heart. It was particularly surprising given the mindset she’d been in since her cancer diagnosis. So often our conversations were peppered with her regrets, both large and small. A side-effect of chemotherapy meant that she lost her sense of taste and she regretted a lifetime spent dieting and restricting herself from all of the delicious foods that life has to offer. She also regretted some of her priorities such as placing her career and desire for an immaculate house over spending time with us.
In those years her thoughts were filled with regrets for both the things she had and hadn’t done. For a while this haunted me because it felt as though as a woman, there was no way to win. In the end though I decided that there was a lesson to be learned from her tussle with hindsight. Whether you are of a religious persuasion or not, the serenity prayer says it all:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
On that rather serious note I will leave you but I’ll be back again soon. Until then thank you… for taking the time to read this and every other post I write.
Disclosure: ‘Midlifechic – questions I’m often asked’ is not a sponsored post