[Excerpts from book]
Toast have been sending me their catalogue for over a decade… A catalogue arrives every month these days and I was worrying about the waste of paper and thinking I’d post it back and tell them to stop, because the clothes are usually so muted you wouldn’t be able to find them in a charcoal factory. This means I never even want the clothes, let alone worry about how much they cost. But when I had a quick flick through the latest catalogue, two items hit me in the eye: a turquoise and white skirt, and a patterned turquoise dressing gown. And I swooned. If they had been any other colour, I would not have looked at them, because:
a/ I wear skirts once a heatwave – really. I like skirts, I just don’t like tights, and I don’t like my legs. Plus I only have one pair of shoes I could wear with a skirt and tights: everything else under the bed is a sandal or a boot.
b/ I already have an ancient but what my mother would call a “perfectly serviceable” towelling bathrobe, and a silk dressing gown my sister Jen gave me ten years ago, and anyway, I have a collection of silk blouses in the cupboard waiting to be made into a silk patchwork robe. So why would I want a new one, however pretty and however turquoise?
I love clothes, but I have this Puritan ethic that makes me feel guilty when I buy new ones, so I don’t do it very often. So when I was invited to a swishing party to raise money for charity, my heart soared. And I came home with two velvet tops and a jacket. Admittedly they aren’t turquoise, but they are lovely, and I’m a happy bunny.
Different people have different strengths: a parent may sail through one childhood phase, only to be floored by the next. I find new born babies irresistible, but when they get to four-months-old I find them boring, and dream of putting them in a time capsule, to get them out again when they are old enough to talk. There are some parents who do not feel up to making costumes for the nativity play at junior school, or fiddling with all those Blue Peter models. They shrink from the thought of a dozen pairs of greasy hands when it’s their turn on the class cooking rota, and they would rather sign up for a course in lion taming than help on a school trip. Other parents are a dab hand with all that primary stuff but find it too cold and tedious standing on the touch-line for pubescent hockey and football matches, and too nerve racking watching their sons risk paraplegia by playing in the school rugby team. They also get worn down by a house awash with swirling hormones, a fridge that needs restocking daily, conversations conducted at ten decibels, providing a 24 hour taxi service, and fielding phone calls from teachers pursuing missing coursework. My personal current blackspot is cooking for a teenage vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables.
Pickiness becomes truly unbearable, though, when it extends to a delusion that other people want to know your opinion about everything on every occasion even when you haven’t been asked.
comments: I have never met Sue Hepworth, but always feel we would get on well – I love and enjoy her descriptions of life for – what? – people over 40, whether fictional or diary-mode on her blog. Her life is very different from mine in some ways, but deep down we share similarities, along with a mutual friend in Chrissie Poulson, great friend to the blog (and to me).
I have featured a couple of Sue’s books on the blog, and always at least one reader has come to me afterwards and said ‘thank you for introducing me to Sue Hepworth’. She is not a big-time bestseller, but I don’t really know why not – her books do not read like London literary sensation novels, but who says that is the only way to be? I think many more people could enjoy Sue’s works if they could only come across them.
Another thing we have in common is an attraction for the Toast house of fashion, an attraction we try to talk ourselves out of (while haunting the sales looking for something that won’t make us wince at the price). I have given her previous heroines Toast outfits because I like them.
[Toast has featured a few times for other authors too.... In this post I said ‘The Toast fashion catalogue is a go-to for women looking moody in lovely quirky clothes, as seem to fit the characters here, so that is where those pictures come from.’]
This book is a collection of her blog pieces over the years, and is just a delight to read. I think of reading her as like settling in with a very welcome letter from a good friend, telling you what is going in her life in just enough detail. There is plenty of incident here, good and bad, but it comes in a real-life kind of way in the middle of discussion of food, and tidiness, and relationships.
The book is a joy to read. Funny and charming and sometimes serious, and drawing a long-term picture of her loving and hilarious relationship with her husband.
Above are some bits from the book, which is very much diary-style, that I particularly enjoyed. I came up with the same theory of parenthood (different phases suiting different people) while raising my own children, and I couldn’t agree more about pickiness.
That’s the cover of her book, which is available in paperback or on Kindle. Other pictures – of course – from Toast.