Monthly Archives: June 2013

What to wear to Wimbledon if you don’t look like Sharapova

Woman in dress for Wimbledon

Dressed to kill: Me in my Wimbledon outfit

Every now and then my husband does something that blows me away. It doesn’t happen often and it usually is a pure stroke of luck that required no planning or effort on his part, but I take what I can get.

He chose his moment carefully, waiting for me to be particularly annoyed with him for turning a blind eye to the overflowing rubbish bin spewing deadly fumes around the kitchen and feeding our children their own bodyweight in junk food.

Tickets to Wimbledon

“By the way, I’ve got tickets to Wimbledon.” Deadpan delivery. No emotion, no excitement – Germans don’t do excitement in my experience – as if this was as much part of our daily routine as the school run. (He won the tickets in a work lottery, but he only revealed this much later after I’d sufficiently swooned at his feet)

“Wimbledon! WOW!” I was beside myself. Jumping up and down and screaming  “Oh YEAH!” so loudly the grumpy old lady next door slammed her window shut.

And as it turns out, not only are we going to Wimbledon, we are going ‘corporate’ on Centre Court and we will be picked up by a chauffeur from home! This is seriously unlike us – we don’t do style. Our idea of style is shouting abuse at each other while repacking suitcases in full public view in airport halls because my curling tongs had caused the suitcase to tip the scales over the limit.

Panic attack

Once the excitement subsided, I had my first little panic attack – “OMG! What am I going to wear?”I knew straightaway that nothing in my wardrobe would live up to this occasion. What do you wear to Wimbledon if you don’t quite look like Maria Sharapova and your budget can just about stretch to the odd supermarket T-shirt sneaked in during the grocery shop?

I was actually getting myself into quite a state about this, when I happened to stumble across a free personal styling session by the lovely Kate Battrick @TwistedSkirt, a personal stylist employed by TK MAXX for the day at a conference I went to.On the impulse I thought I’d mention to her that I’m going to Wimbledon and had no idea what to wear.

Kate‘s face lit up as if she’d been waiting for exactly this challenge all day: How to turn a mousy, frumpy mum-of-three into a Centre Court sensation. She took one look at me and dismissed my toga-like top, especially chosen by me to hide the after-effects of two large glasses of Chardonnay every night.

Hourglass figure 

“This is exactly the wrong outfit for your ‘hourglass’ figure,” she said.

I almost kissed her.  No one had ever mentioned the word hourglass in relation to my figure and I was expecting the more familiar – heavy bottomed pear shape – so, I was willing to hear her out.

“You need to accentuate your waist,” she said, pointing to a rather garish, tight floral dress with an open back – the kind much more suited to the Sharapovas of this world.

I was beginning to worry about the lighting in the room, because if she thought I had a waist, never mind one that had to be accentuated, her eyesight must be worse than mine and I’d had a retinal detachment in one eye.

Dressing on a budget

Two women talking

Personal stylist Kate Battrick in action

To cut a long story short, she made me try on the dress – it was a size 10 (US-sizes) of course – I’ve been nowhere near a size ten since having my first child.

But believe it or not, the dress fit me and looked amazing (everything is relative of course, as my husband would say). It created a waist and the floral print made me look fashionable and dare I say- younger than my tender 43 years.

I knew I had to have the dress. My mind was working overtime trying to figure out how I would be able to afford the dress and whether I could wear it with flip-flops as I certainly had no matching footwear and would not be able to fork out on a pair of shoes too.

That was when she announced the price:  £20!

My jaw dropped to the floor. Not only would I never have tried this dress had it not been for the stylist, but I would not have dreamed that I could actually afford it without cancelling our summer holiday. Next, Kate advised me to buy a pair of almond court shoes for £49 from M&S and combine the dress with a white linen jacket, which luckily, I already owned.

My husband usually doesn’t get involved in what I wear, apart from telling me I didn’t need it – So, I was chuffed when he LOVED the dress – and that was BEFORE I told him the price.

So, I’m off to Wimbledon with my head held high. My shoes might just cut off all circulation to my little toes by the end of the day, but my flip-flops are in the bag, just in case.  No idea who I’m going to be watching, but if you’re watching telly – I’ll be the woman in the bright floral dress waving madly every time the camera points in my direction. I might even stand up and do a little twirl to show off the back of the dress.

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Father’s Day treats for immature dads

George Clooney?

George Clooney?

The simplest shopping trip or family day out needs to be carefully planned down to the last pit stop, treat and distraction to avoid armageddon-style meltdown – from my husband. I can put up with low-key wingeing from the kids, but it’s my husband’s spectacular temper tantrums – the kind that would put any respectable two-year-old to shame – that I try to avoid at all cost.

Surprise! Women mature long before men

So, of course it comes as no news to me – or any other mum around the world – that men only grow up around the age of 43 – a full 11 years after women mature, according to a study by Nickelodeon which was pinged around the web this week.

Finding their own farts and burps hilarious, driving too fast, not talking about themselves or staying silent during arguments and trying to beat children at games and sports are some of the examples of ‘immaturity’ listed in the study that I can relate to.

Cringe-worthy memory

I still cringe when I recall the ‘fun’ table tennis tournament for families we were invited to at a friend’s house, when my husband insisted on wiping every child off the table with a huge grin on his face – and the day ended with many of the children in tears.

I’ve given up on asking him about his day or anything else for that matter – because the response would usually amount to: “Nothing happened.” or perhaps a few grunts that’s meant to pass for conversation.

George Clooney look-alike…

Every time he sets off to the hairdressers with a picture of George Clooney in his pocket – convinced that the unfortunate stylist will be able to transform the fast disappearing hairline and rather prominent German features into Hollywood material, I try my best not to snigger.

A friend’s husband recently boasted at a dinner party how he let all the air out of a stranger’s bicycle after the fellow commuter – quite possibly a little old lady on her way to visit a relative in hospital – accidentally chained their bicycles together outside the station.

Another respectable dad-of-three and stalwart of the community almost came to fisticuffs with a local policeman after he lost his train ticket and once surprised unsuspecting dinner party guests – most of them close friends and family in his defence – by prancing around in a bright yellow mankini he happened to stumble across in the guest loo – as you do.

So, what’s my point?

Men are immature – and in true male fashion, they wear their immaturity like a badge – for the world to see. If us women do something a bit foolish in a weak moment, we agonise over it for months, questioning our parenting skills and our whole beings to the point of self-destruction.

My husband has been 43 for almost a year now, and although I’ve seen the odd hint of maturity, I wouldn’t exactly call him grown up.

5 Father’s Day treats for immature dads 

But in the interest of Fathers Day, I thought I’d cut him some slack – and indulge his childishness for a day:

So, here are my five Father’s Day treats for immature dads: 

  • Let them lie-in and fart the room blue, while you prepare a scrumptious English breakfast
  • Get the kids in on the act, challenge him to a few games and let him win every time
  • Buy him the Sunday paper and don’t attempt to make meaningful conversation with him at any point during the day.
  • Tell him he looks just like George Clooney
  • Strategically place a bright mankini in the bathroom

How are you indulging your immature man? Care to share some of your coping techniques?

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Marrakech without kids – proper travelling!

Marrakech - square in old town

Sunset in Marrakech old town (medina)

I have travelled this half term. No, I don’t mean Disneyland, waterslides or eat-till-you-pop all-inclusive buffets. I mean exposing yourself to a different culture in an almost violent way – the kind of travel you can’t do with children.

My husband and I (guiltily) left our children with their grandparents at our home and skulked off in the middle of the night to Gatwick – heading for one of the most exotic places on the planet.

By the time we arrived in Marrakech – three and a half hours later – we’d (nearly) forgotten that we’d ever had a child, never mind three. From the plane, the ochre-hued city set against the parched backdrop of the sub-Saharan desert hinted at the culture shock ahead.

Maps are futile

The airport bus deposited us in the madness of every day life and we quickly realised the futility of a tourist map. We would probably still be looking for our riad (hotel) if I hadn’t accepted some local ‘guide’s’ ‘generous’ offer of showing us the way, to my husband’s dismay.

We snaked our way past locals in kaftans and headscarves crowding in doorways and around street shops and trolleys, selling anything from toiletries, sweets, spare parts for motorbikes, raw meat, jewellery and spices to the ubiquitous flatbreads, that accompany every Moroccan meal. The smell of burning meat skewered over open fires mixed with the stench of overflowing drains and bins to welcome us to what would be our home over the next few days.

Our little oasis

Hotel courtyard Marrakech

Riad El Noujoum – our oasis from the African sun and sensory overload

Silver tea pot and pastries

Mint tea and pastries at our hotel

 The Riad El Noujoum became our lovely oasis from the scorching African sun and sensory overload, located within the medina or old Arab town, which is still enclosed and separated from the modern European part of the city by high salmon-coloured walls. We had the first of many pots of fresh mint tea and Moroccan pastries at a mosaic-tiled table in the courtyard of our hotel, overlooking a tiny pool. Our room featured typical Moroccan décor and lampshades and a stunning black marble bathroom with walk-in shower.  No Disney channel, no television and Wifi only really worked from the rooftop terrace, but we didn’t care.


Jemaa square in Marrakech

The Jemaa – magical setting

Street hawker selling spice cake and tea

Ginger tea and spice cake from street hawker on the square

The pulse of the old town

The throbbing pulse of the old town is the Jemaa el Fna – a huge square, maddening at every hour, but which really comes alive after sunset when locals and tourists flood the area like swarms of locusts on their way in and out of the surrounding souks (markets) and restaurants.

It is the kind of place where you need all your wits about you. Roads become meaningless as speeding mopeds, cars, cyclists, donkey carts and horse carriages swerve through crowds of people, narrowly averting fatal accidents every few seconds. The thought of negotiating your way across this square with three children in tow is enough to make the most easygoing of mums reach for a gin and tonic.

Traditional Arabic storytellers hold their audiences spellbound – even if you don’t understand a word. Monkeys hop from shoulder to shoulder, flute players entice dancing snakes to rise from baskets and acrobats and other performers thrill the crowds. Beware the tourist who tries to take a photograph of this spectacle – as nothing is free in Marrakech!

We learned this the hard way as a street hawker offered each of us a glass of ‘free’ ginger tea and sticky mud-like spice cake before charging us a small fortune. At least we got to take a picture of him!

Arab and Western culture side-by-side

The call to prayer broadcast from mosques and traditional Arabic music contrast with booming pop music to create a background track to the madness, but the most memorable sound of the trip remain the honking of motorbikes slicing their way through the crowds.

From a rooftop terrace we watched Muslim men line their little mats for the afternoon prayer ritual in front of the square’s mosque against the backdrop of flashing tourist cameras and fast-food restaurants. The juxtaposition of traditional Arabic culture and Western ways is evident in every part of the city, but appears to co-exist in some sort of chaotic harmony.

 A never-ending Aladdin’s cave

The markets - or souks in Marrakech

Never-ending Aladdin’s cave – the souks

cosmetic stall in the souks of Marrakech

Sweet-smelling spices and cosmetics in the souks

Entering the labyrinth of souks spilling over with collection upon collection of lampshades, carpets, shoes, handbags, belts, and colourful mountains of spices, silver jewellery – is an overwhelming experience. The never-ending Aladdin’s cave is every woman’s shopping dream come true, but the aggressive hawking and necessary haggling is hard work.

By the end of our trip my husband and I had perfected a good cop, bad cop routine, whereby I would first avoid all eye contact, ignoring any advances – then once I’d identified a potential purchase I’d show some interest and my husband would take over and stomp off in disgust a few times before settling on a much reduced price.

Scrubbed clean in a hammam

My husband is not quite the spa-type and has never had a massage, so I was surprised when he agreed to experience a hammam with me.  A bit of sunstroke probably.

Two women splashed us with numerous buckets of water, covered us in a gooey plant extract and then scrubbed us down with something akin to sandpaper, before giving each of us a full-body four hand massage. As we lay sipping mint tea, covered in white robes and glowing from head to toe afterwards, my husband could not stop grinning.

Eating in Morocco

Couscous, tagine and skewered meat

Feast of tagine, skewered meat and couscous on the square

Despite the heat and slightly unsettled tummies, we enjoyed numerous rooftop meals consisting of spicy vegetarian soup (harira), tagines of chicken and stewed fruit or chicken and lemon, skewered meat, couscous topped with vegetables, a spicy tomato-based salad and homemade yoghurt or slices of orange splashed with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon for desert. All of this was washed down with litres of Fanta, freshly squeezed orange juice or mint tea – you can’t get alcohol in any restaurants or shops, which made for a sobering experience in itself as Chardonnay usually features strongly on our holidays.

Moroccan meal

Moroccan feast – skewered meat, olives, salad and vegetables

Although the children were always on our minds and we love spending time with them, we really enjoyed exposing ourselves to a different culture in a way that was out of our comfort zone. This week I returned to the school run routine revitalised and inspired, vowing to book at least one weekend away a year just for us.

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