There are many injustices in this world – that Idris Elba isn’t in love with me, that I wasn’t cast as Buffy the Vampire slayer and that I never came up with the idea of Just Eat. The latest one is that The Body Shop in Leeds has a private room that I am I didn’t know about and that I think not enough people know about. It’s a travesty!
The Body Shop is probably the first brand I was aware of when I was a young teenager for smelling better (hormones) and looking great. Oh the nostalgia when I think of the candy floss lip balms and the fruit shaped soaps, the apricot bubble baths and the cocoa butter body butter. We all pranced around town with the beige canvas bag thinking we were it!
Well I’m now 35 and dare I say it – I kind of moved on from The Body Shop. Then last week I was invited to the Leeds branch for a free facial and I jumped at the chance. This face needs all the help it can get.
The private room is at the back of the store and is really relaxing and cosy. I met the beautiful Jess – a skincare expert – had a herbal tea and a good old chin wag. I wasn’t drinking at the time – but they do offer a free glass of Prosecco with their treatments – I missed a trick!
They do all sorts of facials from basic to advanced (I had the advanced). They also do Mother’s Day packages, small parties and make up classes. Apparently a party of young teenagers had been in a week or so before for a make up party which I just thought was so sweet – I would have loved that.
The most interesting part was the skin test Jess did on me first – I have never known what skin type I have – but I am informed I have quite a dry face – especially on my cheeks. There was a tiny bit of oil on my forehead but generally – dry.
“So what’s your skin care routine?”
“Umm… soap and water.” I replied.
Jess wasn’t judgemental – looked like she had heard that many, many times.
I was slathered in a load of fancy products and I felt so pampered.
My husband doesn’t compliment me – really ever. But that evening he couldn’t stop complimenting my skin.
Therefore – the next day I went back and I bought all the products. I’m going to really give The Body Shop another go because I think I forgot about it for too long.
I now have a cleanser, a toner, a facial peel and a plumping moisturiser and I will definitely be going back for more. The Body shop has reclaimed its spot on my birthday and Christmas lists – it’s no longer about bubble bath sets for your Nan. It’s about serious skin care goals for knackered tired mums who fall asleep most evenings with their make up on and have no routine to speak of.
January brings with it hundreds if not thousands of folk exclaiming “Happy New Year” like it’s a command; like it’s a militant instruction. “It’s a new year – Be happy or else!” And they sure look happy don’t they? All the well dressed, well drunk, groups of comrades linking arms, counting down the clock and screeching “Happy New Year!” whilst I’m staring at my M&S meal deal in my dressing gown wondering what exactly I’m doing wrong to not feel happiness at this landmark at all.
These, of course are the perils of so called “Happy” occasions.
Weddings – I’ve had a couple. We hire a photographer to capture this happiest day of our lives – so you better sure as Hell smile till you can’t feel your face anymore. Everyone – and I mean everyone is watching. This is literally the end of every single Jane Austen novel. You’ve reached peak happiness. Then why do I feel so utterly anxious, paranoid and on edge? Why do I imagine everyone whispering “I give this one a year” under their breath. Why have I never been so aware of my weight? What if he is late? What if everyone is late? And worse still – what if I don’t feel the euphoria I am supposed to? I am happy to be married but as for my wedding day – I felt more happiness at a Carvery.
The birth of a baby. Well – not just any baby: your baby! Sure there can’t be any happier moment could there? After the birth of my first born I distinctly remember putting a status on Facebook “I have literally never been this happy in my entire life!” Wrong – what I was, was higher than I had ever been in my entire life on diamorphine, two epidurals and four days of starvation. The come down was brutal. I have never been so terrified in my life. I was convinced if I took my eyes off my baby for one second he would stop breathing. I pissed in a vase in the bedroom because I didn’t want to walk across the hall to the actual toilet. I was convinced the Health Visitor was going to take him away because I couldn’t get him to latch. And don’t get me started on pregnancy.
Christmas day. There was a moment on Christmas morning when my son was ripping through his gifts and I felt nowt. I shook myself – why don’t you feel happy? This is what Christmas is all about – and this is what you’ve been waiting for for months. So I got a black bin bag for the wrapping paper because that’s what mums do. I felt real joy on Christmas eve – don’t get me wrong – I’m not Scrooge. Maybe the build up is better than the main event.
Birthdays – never quite as happy as they should be. What’s happy about being Thirty Five on a specific date – you’re half way to seventy! Smile!
So we don’t feel happy, even though society tells us we have to be. So we feel like we’re in the wrong or not normal. And of course we feel like we’ve failed.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel happy on the occasions you’re supposed to. Maybe you’re just not like everyone else; and maybe that’s just fine.
I don’t want you to leave me thinking I’m downright miserable so I shall leave you with three moments of pure happiness* and wish you a so-so New Year. Be averagely satisfied one and all.
* my youngest son dipping his feet in the sea in Scarborough and squealing with delight and happiness. I wept happy tears.
* Sitting alone in a restaurant in Rome eating Gnocchi with a carafe of wine.
* Walking around Whitby with my first born in a sling getting coos from elderly ladies and feeling utter pride.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a new maternity store opening in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds. But to be entirely honest with you I had never heard of the name ‘Seraphine‘.
None the less, I accepted the invite, stroked my huge 33 week pregnant stomach and decided we should go – if only to get out of the house for the first time in weeks. I had a look at their website and it became glaringly obvious that there was a reason I had not heard of this brand – it was a brand worn by goddesses such as Kate Winslet, Gwen Stefani, Benedict Cumberbatch’s lucky wife and The Duchess of Cambridge herself. They had clearly made a mistake inviting me.
My main concern was that this was not a brand for the ‘normal woman‘ (yes, I’m talking about me there). If these amazingly perfect pregnant celebrities and royalty wore these clothes –
1. Would they be able to dress me? A curvy woman.
2. Will they have even seen a bump this big before? I am quite unlike these celebrities who look like they’ve had a bit of bread when they’re pregnant; my bump is in a different league.
3. Will it be affordable? I’m not rich or famous – I’m just a normal mum.
4. Will this place be pretentious? The store is located in the Victoria Quarter, near Harvey Nichols – a shop I need to spend a week dressing up to visit. We all know that horrible feeling of wondering into a small boutique and being stared at with one look and one look only “You can’t afford anything in here, and you’re the wrong size, you don’t belong here…” The Pretty Woman effect, if you will (though I rarely wear my thigh high boots anymore).
A few days later I waddled off to the Victoria Quarter in my high street maternity dress, slightly nervous to see Seraphine for myself.
The shop is not at all as I expected. It is larger than most in that arcade and spacious – you are not nose to nose with any retail assistants. Upon walking in I felt immediately at ease – there was not the pretentious air or snootiness I was concerned about. The retails assistants were polite and friendly – more personable than most and chatty – without being invasive.
I was lucky enough to meet and chat to the founder of Seraphine: Cecile Reinaud – which you would think would be quite daunting, considering her success – but she was exceedingly warm and engaging and a joy to talk to.
I quickly asked about their sizes and prices (on behalf of the ‘normal woman‘). Their sizes range from a 6 to an 18 which I was impressed with and their prices are from as low as in their twenties to a higher end – ‘The Luxe range’that boasts wedding dresses and occasion dresses in their collection.
Something I was really impressed with was that the vast majority of their clothes are designed for ease during nursing they had discreet poppers at the side, or straps with stretch. They had beautiful summer tops, a vast collection of jeans, support tights and an essential maternity set – The Bump Kit – that would keep you satisfied throughout your nine months if you adapted it with different accessories.
All of their staff are trained in bra fittings and they stock a range of underwear. They also have beautiful changing bags by StorkSak , specially designed shoes for pregnancy by shoe therapy and skincare by mama mio and Bloom and Blossom. The changing rooms are very spacious too and not as daunting as changing rooms can be.
Something I have found with many maternity clothes is that they seem to just over inflate their normal clothes (just today I am sending back several size 14 items from a shop that are absolutely enormous – marquee like pieces).
When I chose a top at Seraphine I had been eyeing up on their website they had my size (14) and I was thrilled that it fitted me just right. It wasn’t too big and I can honestly say I would wear it (and a lot of their clothes) after my pregnancy. It makes me feel very feminine and very pretty – and this is coming from a pregnant woman who has wallowed in her house for a few months weeping over how whale like she appears.
I was incredibly impressed with the store – and with the clothes – and it was a relief to see that Seraphine is not just for the likes of Kate Middleton – it is for the everyday pregnant woman too.
My only complaint is that I didn’t know about this brand sooner and my pregnancy is nearing its end (I will be going this weekend again as it just so happens to be my birthday!).
Seraphine is now open in Leeds Victoria Quarter* – go and have a look for yourself.
And afterwards I recommend going just around the corner to the Harvey Nichols cafe and having one of their non-alcoholic fruit cocktails. Or indulging in their afternoon tea – make a day of it. You deserve it; It’s what The Duchess would do!
I know we’ve been careful. We’ve skulked about and met in the twilight hours, we are sure not to even so much as look at each other when he’s about. But I fear we may not have been as careful as we should.
These past seven weeks have been magical. They say you can’t love two people at the same time – but they were wrong. As soon as I laid my eyes on you I was in love.
Don’t get me wrong – I still loved him, but in a different way.
Sometimes with you … it’s just easier. With him – it’s complicated. He wants to talk and play games and craves all my attention. Whereas you – all you want to do is stare in my eyes and be held. And you smell so good. And you’re so frickin gorgeous. Everyone says so.
My phone is full of pictures of you I fear he might see – but I can’t stop, and I can’t delete them.
We have our secret hour – at 4am, when it’s just the two of us. I make a cup of tea and we just lay together and giggle and lie in peace. The whole house sleeps unaware of our secret love affair. It makes me so happy. Just our time. But the guilt I feel is immeasurable.
The other night I just sat at the end of his bed weeping, weeping that I had betrayed him – that I had replaced him. Wept for our old relationship – when he was the one and only, the precious first.
And I thought he had no clue – I thought we were carrying on and he hadn’t noticed. How could I be so arrogant? So naive? In the last couple of weeks he’s not sleeping, he’s angry and he wants to spend much more time with me. Baby, I think he knows.
I’ve done my best to reassure him. I never mention you, I try and have one on one time and I tell him all the time that he is the only one for me. “I love you” I say 200 times a day. But I fear things will never be the same.
I’ll never forget the first time my son was walloped.
We were at a ‘mum meet up’ at the local church hall. He was not yet two and running around happily, not a care in the world, safe in the knowledge that he had a blissful, blessed life. Another, larger boy looked him up and down, thought for a moment, before opening his palm wide and pushing it with full force, very slowly, into my son’s face – forcing my son’s head back a good ten inches.
I saw the expression on my only child’s sweet, innocent face- utter devastation; shock, confusion. In his eyes was a flash of a new realisation – that life is actually pretty shite – and it’s full of bastards!
I watched the child with my seething eyes and scanned the room for the ‘bad mother’… where was the bitch? (slowly takes off earrings and tucks shoes under the chair) IT’S ON SKANK!
I couldn’t identify her … and my son was now howling and screaming so much that all eyes were on me (tag! You’re now the bad mother). So we scurried off.
I told Grandma. She wasn’t best pleased. I tried to explain to her that the police had more pressing matters on their hands and probably wouldn’t be too interested in filling out a report about the incident.
Soon after, at another kids’ group my son was bitten by another child. I saw the whole incident. Thankfully the fact I had put my son in such a chunky heavy-duty knit that morning had saved his left arm. This time I saw the mum. It’s on!
Ah! But what do I do now? What do I say? How does one start a sentence with a complete stranger that segues to “your child tried to draw blood from my child.” Do you start by complimenting her on her shoes… or remarking on the humidity… and then slamming into “I have reason to believe your spawn is feral.”
I ended up shuffling up and apologising, stuttering and falling over my words like Hugh Grant trying to declare his love. I tried to tell her what had happened in the most polite / British way possible as a look of mortification crawled over her exhausted face. She apologised profusely as I backed away saying it was no problem – of course, no problem, and I felt worse for bringing it up.
If you look up the word “Awkward” in the dictionary I think you’ll find a small picture of one parent trying to tell another parent that their child walloped theirs.
The thing is, my son grew up over the next few months and started getting a bit more boisterous, a bit more ‘playful’, a bit more heavy handed. He clomps about the play groups like a pissed up platypus knocking into the smaller children like they’re wobbly pins at a bowling alley. And slowly you realise, with horror, that one day your child will be the one who wallops another child. And it serves you right for being so judgemental.
My time at kids’ groups is sectioned into: 80% terrified my son will clobber another kid, 10% terrified my son will be pummelled by another kid and 10% being thankful another child is doing the clouting for today. I am also waiting for a not so understanding parent to launch themselves through the air at me like someone out of The Matrix.
I am much less judge-y than I used to be – I know it is only a matter of time before it’s my child doing the biting / head butting / kicking / walloping. I also know it’s not bad parenting. While my mum still scowls “but where has that girl learnt to wallop? mmm…” I know it’s not as simple as that – I know it’s the child experimenting, testing, playing, expressing.
I know this because since turning two – my own, gorgeous, innocent, wide eyed angel has head butted and bitten me. Me! As though my three day labour means NOTHING to him! He has bitten the hand that literally feeds him. And he certainly hasn’t learnt that from home – unless he can read mummy’s mind when Daddy doesn’t fill the dishwasher (not a euphemism).
And then there is the delicate politics of when you see someone else’s child get walloped. Do you intervene? Is it your place? Where is the rule book?
This morning at a huge soft play centre I witnessed a very small child head butt a larger girl around seven times. We will call the head butter child B for Butt-er. The taller child was sobbing and trying to get away. We will call her child C for Cry. So B is head butting and C is crying. I assume they must be siblings (ah…sibling love – what joys I have to come). I look around the room to see if I can identify the mum of the pair just to let her know child C is very upset.
I see a room of mums enjoying their coffees, reading the papers, chatting to friends. I have no clue which mother owns these two gladiators. I look back at the children. Child C is now lying on the floor screaming as child B punches her. Oh dear. It’s escalated. Time to do something. Yes – it will be awkward but politics means sometimes doing the hard things, putting your head above the parapet, intervening in wars.
So I approach a large table of mums and ask if they have little girls – say what I have seen and they set about going into the soft play to retreive children. Job done. You can feel very pleased with yourself now Steph.
To my horror I realise soon after that the girls were not sisters. They were strangers. And the table I have been at is child B’s mother. The head butter. I see child C in hysterics with her mother at the other end of the room trying to explain to her mum what had happened. The mum then walks up and down the room, clearly upset, looking for the offender and mum.
Lord! What do I do now?! Bloody Hell.
After much deliberation I slither up to the mum of the very upset pummelled girl. My exact words:
“Er….excuse me…I don’t really know how to do this. I haven’t done this before (I meant parenting really). But if it was my son, I would want to know.” I then kindly explain that another child had been head butting her child (and thumping) and that I would have intervened – but they were on the second level and I can’t clamber up the slide at seven months pregnant…(or usually).
The mother was very thankful that I told her what had happened – before asking “WHO IS THE MOTHER?”
Oh….Shit. Gulp. “I think, I mean, I think, I mean it could have been…but I’m not sure – it might have been her?” I subtly nod my head towards the mother in the opposite corner of the ring, I mean ‘room’.
“Thanks” she says, as she strides her way towards her, walloped child in her arms. Me left there looking shifty – like a proper grass! Like the kid in class who just told teacher! Like a drunk, meddling instigator of a fight in a dodgy pub. I have thrown the grenade and can now only sit there like a lemon.
I see the women exchange words and the child is made to apologise. I squirm in the corner trying to look at the menu of “chip butties” intently as the room stare at me – Little Miss Tattletale.
Moments later the younger child, head butter – well she decides she wants another go and does the exact same to child C.
The mum sees it now.
She exclaims something pretty rude into the air.
It’s earrings off.
Ding Ding Ding.
Grandma and I make a swift exit as we see the mother storming up to the parent – it’s on!!