Monday, 24 June 2013


Last weekend my eldest had her School Prom.

Speaks volumes doesn't it? In fact, I'm not actually sure where to start. I could base this post on the fact....

1. that I have a child old enough to go to a prom;
2. that girls who are so young can look so groomed and, let's face it, adult;
3. that the contrast between the physical and mental maturity of the boys and girls is still very marked, even at 16;
4. that we seem to have an entire industry grown up around something that was unheard of on these shores not that many moons ago;
5. that the Prom is a source of mental anguish for almost every girl attending it for months beforehand;
6. that the amount of money spent at this, a very modest Prom, verges on the obscene;
7. that we are buying into the whole celebrity glamour thing by encouraging our daughters to behave like them when they are barely out of puberty.

See? I could go on and on.

I think the reason why I couldn't decide on an angle for this post is because my mind is so mixed on the subject. I was lucky. The whole event seem to pass off with only minimal drama in this house. I gave my eldest a budget three months ago with firm instructions that she had to pay for everything Prom related out of it. How she chose to divide the money was up to her but that was all she was going to get from us.

So she bought a dress and shoes, paid for nails and tan, did her own hair and makeup and bought a space on a bus with a gang of other girls to get her there. The only minor crisis required me to make an emergency dash to the supermarket at Departure Time minus twenty minutes to source more eyelashes, the first lot having come to a sticky end.

And on the night the end result of three months of planning and fretting and hoping was that my daughter looked beautiful, I nearly burst with pride and she had a lovely evening. So what's not to like?

Well, I can't help thinking that a similar amount of fun could be had a more low key celebration of the end of compulsory education. If someone had, before the Prom expectation had been raised, suggested that they all attend an End of School Party in a village hall somewhere.....

But the genie is out of the bottle and we cannot go back. So each year expectations get higher, dresses pricier and grooming more slick. And if this is how high you're aiming at just 16, I can't help but worry that real life is going to be a bit of a disappointment.

On the other hand.....why shouldn't they have a big, fancy blow out at Ilkley's red-carpeted hotel? They've worked hard for five years and now they are on the cusp of starting college, sixth form or work. They are so much more sophisticated than me and my friends were at their age and if that makes them a product of their environment then what's wrong with that? They shouldn't be held back just because no one had invented GHDs when I was 16.

In the end, I have decided not to overthink it all. It is as it is and that is that. And will be that all over again next year when Daughter 2 reaches the end of Year 11. I wonder if they could do a prom for the parents?!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


'Fancy having a sneaky experience?' asked my husband a few weeks back. He has a fondness for odd nights out. The last one was a Twin Peaks night in an old, Egyptian inspired flax mill in Leeds.
'Ok,' I replied doubtfully.

But I was wrong to be nervous. The Sneaky Experience turned out to be great fun. Basically, we bought tickets to see a film. We didn't know what it was going to be but the evening's organisers gave us clues in the period running up to the night. By the time we got there, we knew it was going to be an 80's classic. We had guessed Footloose but when we arrived just in time to see men in overalls direct a model plane into the warehouse, we worked out it was going to be Top Gun.

The 80's theme was well developed and fancy dress was the order of the day. Now, I turned 13 in 1979 so my popular culture and fashion antennae are highly tuned to the 80s. I can remember what it looked like, how it felt. From Lady Di sloanes to jeans with coloured piping down the side. From huge shoulder pads to rockabilly, Phil Oakley's fringe to Shakin' Stevens' denim. I remember it all.

There wasn't much of what I know as 80's clobber on display though. There were a few film characters, a couple of quirky Molly Ringwald lookalikes and Vyvyan from The Young Ones. And me of course. Almost everyone else was wearing either neon lycra or netting. Of course they were. Think 80s, think neon lycra and netting. Or legwarmers with high heels. That was another popular one. But did you actually ever wear either of these? Rara skirts maybe but they weren't made of net. Madonna wore a bit of lace early on and Cyndy Lauper might have had some net but wasn't that about it?

I didn't wear net or neon and neither did any of the people that I knew. Huge jumpers. Yes. Leggings. Yes. Docs. Well, not personally but yes. Frankie Says t shirts - ashamed to say yes.

Of course, the reason why the fashion of the 80's has been mutated into this bizarre, not quite accurate melting pot is because these are the items that are cheap to make and easy for fancy dress shops to cross brand. Buy in a load of tutus and then you can ship them out for hen nights, teenage parties, tarts and vicars and '80s nights and let period accuracy be damned.

But you can't really blame the party goers. ( Here is a sample!) Most of them weren't even born in the 80s, let alone able to make accurate fashion notes for future reference. Pretty soon even those of us who were actually there will be convincing that everyone wore striped tights and tutus. And this made me wonder whether the 50s or the 60s were actually as I imagine or whether Grease and Mad Men  have given us a skewed picture. I should ask my mum.

Anyway, fancy dress issues aside, we had a fantastic night with our Sneaky Experience. There was a mini roller disco,  we sang and wolf whistled our way through Top Gun and then enjoyed a top 80's disco to finish off the evening. Keep your eyes open for the next Sneaky Experience. It's well worth all the mystery.
 (Here I am in my homage to Dexy's /Banarama!)

Sunday, 2 June 2013


There are some lovely photos of my childhood. Fewer of my brother but then that's the price you pay for not being the first born. They are kept in a series of well loved and consequently shabby albums, the oldest pictures held in place with white paper corners and then later, under sticky clear plastic which has lost its stick.

There's cine film too. Funny, slightly too fast images of my family self-consciously waving and then performing some trick for the camera. It's all very charming and allows me to hold on tight to a few cherished memories that would otherwise be lost.

Fast forward forty years and my children's childhood is being recorded very differently. They straddle two ages. The older ones have photos of them that were taken on film. (Remember that? You popped the cartridge in an envelope, sent it off and then waited, hoping that you remembered to take the lens cap off on at least some of the shots.) There are tapes of their early days too which we filmed on a video camera the size of a loaf of bread.

Now that we've entered the digital age, things photographic are very different. We all have millions of photos which we fail to upload or print off and consequently are left with the feeling that we have been somewhat short changed by this technological revolution.

It's rare that you see a real camera these days. Smart phones are the top dog for day to day shots - a compromise of convenience over quality. I take pictures of things that amuse me and then, trusting that my friends will be amused by them also, I post them on Facebook in the blink of an eye. I don't think that's a bad effort for a woman closer to fifty than forty.

But my children's generation have a totally different attitude. They photograph everything! Food, shoes,  school books, hair styles, everything. But mainly they photograph themselves pulling Zoolander pouts, their right shoulder always slightly out of alignment from holding the camera up. Narcissus had nothing on them.

And now there's Snapchat allowing you to send instantaneous clips of yourself to your friends, knowing that they will self combust in a matter of seconds (unless the recipient is quick-witted enough to record it). Even my nine year old's at it, sending us countless little pastiche each day.

The trouble is, all these hilarious films and photos are on my children's gadgetry and as we all know, time and the passing thereof means nothing to them. They are unaware that the precious little archive that they are building up of their own childhood, whilst it seems ephemeral today, will be the stuff of memories when they are my age.

So I'm going to make this 'Upload It Sunday'. That way, at that at least some of it can be preserved somewhere central and then the magic moments of childhood that the four of them are sharing will be kept safe. Just like my mum's beloved photo albums.