Monday, 19 February 2018

On being a dedicated follower of fashion... but only in the world of swimwear!

Last week I was invited out on a girl’s night out. All very lovely up to the point when I realized that I had an early training session booked the following morning, and that meant an early departure from what promised to be an outstanding night out. Historically these nights are spontaneous, fun, alcoholic, noisy, busy and late… very late, and in a previous life, wild horses would not have seen me leave early.

Skip forward, and it’s dawned on me that my life was a far cry from my pre-swimming days, when leaving early never happened, in fact it was frowned upon (by myself no less), and getting ready for the night took days, if not weeks of military precision planning and executing, starting with a shopping trip to buy a new outfit (sometimes several), hair and nail appointments secured, chicken nuggets purchased (for the kids), and the day of the night out was given over to the prep work that goes along with the same said night out, including a ban on all small people, no matter the sudden and immediate urgency to use that particular toilet, despite there being several others in the house, entering the bathroom. Music was cranked up to prevent myself from hearing those small people informing me, by yelling under the door, of things like the happy news that the dog had been sick all over the carpet, having eaten the chocolate mousse they had spilt, and that they also felt sick having eaten 3 each, and that they ‘may’ have also spilt some on the sofa too (despite there being a rule that all food is eaten at the table…).

I’d already given the girls the heads up that I’d be leaving at 10pm at the latest and I wouldn’t be drinking. The response was to question whether I would actually be any fun (!?!), to which I pointed out that I may not be fun, but I was handy as I could actually drive them home (I negated to tell them there was a condition attached- that to benefit from this offer they too must leave at 10pm). And so, after feeding the kids (who are now old enough to cater for themselves…), walking the dog, washing the dog who suddenly felt compelled to roll in something sinister, putting on some laundry (my now wet through, and dirty clothes having bathed the feral looking dog), I calculated that I had all of 40 minutes to get ready, which was to include an extended period of time in the shower washing and re washing my hair to rid myself of the embedded smell of chlorine, however the need to wash the dog used up all of the hot water, which meant that it was a speedier shower than I was hoping for, meaning I was unable to do my legs (oh well), drying my hair before giving up on any style whatsoever and hastily putting it in a pony tail, putting on some make-up (I have forgotten how fiddly and time consuming it actually is), finding something to wear that wasn’t sports wear or swim wear, staring for a long period of time into my wardrobe, despairing at my lack of ‘going out’ clothes in it, and then despairing again at the lack of any clothes, last seasons or otherwise, trying on the lowest high heeled shoes I own, that held the least risk of me breaking my neck in. There was no time, or inclination to paint of manicure my nails although did manage to find the time to pack my swim kit ready for the next morning, and after dropping my second born off in town, in completely the opposite direction, I managed to arrive (I felt) fashionably not too late.

I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable and there was a distinct lack of any complements on my outfit choice (can you believe that?), unlike my friend Tinks, who had complements arriving thick and fast from everyone (me included) the second she glided in, about everything from her coordinated nail varnish to her carefully chosen complementary jewellery and perfume choice. She looked amazing I’ll admit, and when she casually asked my what the make of my ‘unusual’ smelling perfume, I realized that I’d even forgotten to put any on! I replied, “Eau du Chlorine”, a far cry from my pre-swimming self when the perfume of choice was Chanel (not to be confused with Channel!)! Tinks gave me one of those hugs that are difficult to interpret. It could have meant you poor, poor thing, or equally it could have meant you rock the chlorine look… Turns out it was the former, as she then offered to take me on a shopping trip to revamp my wardrobe. She could have added “to move you out of the ‘90’s” but she didn’t, even though we both know that’s what she meant…

The evening came swiftly to an end, and being honest, it couldn’t have happened soon enough. Once home I began reflecting on my evening. Had I actually let myself go? I mean, I didn’t bother with nail varnish anymore as it just never survived the pool, and I didn’t have the time to apply the several coats required to ensure it was still in place after even 1 swim, and it was disheartening having to constantly remove it. I didn’t change my earrings anymore. Gold studs are standard issue (base metal takes the longest to tarnish apparently, however if anyone of you wishes to disagree, feel free – I have no clue!). They also often come out when I take my cap off, so go through so many pairs. I leave the pool wearing gym attire, and as I work from home, generally remained in it for the rest of the day, without make-up (I say without, this isn’t completely true… always, and I mean always with mascara), without really bothering how I look.

There was nothing else for it; I arranged a coffee with my glam friend Tinks to seek some sartorial advice. She threatened to take me under her wing, by starting with a shopping trip, and whilst I love shopping, I explained that I really don’t have much free time at the moment (although this is true, it’s also true that I just don’t have the inclination either), at which point she waggled her perfectly manicured finger at me and told me that I must make the effort. She wasn’t actually saying I looked a bit shit, but there was no doubt she was implying it – very effectively!

Tinks said that fashion was fickle and that unless I was prepared to shop frequently, I would be out of fashion in one season. I’ve been out of season for the past erm… few years or so. Who’s actually counting? One season seemed not too bad to me. She instead suggested I go for a timeless and classic wardrobe that would stand the test of time (I’m taking from that that, as she looked disapprovingly, that she didn’t think the corduroy trousers I was wearing would…), and therefore less time shopping, and more time swimming (she had me at the mention of swimming – she knew this was a weak point and was prepared to go low to get her way). And so the (attempted) transformation began. We walked straight out of the café and straight into Boots, where she hotfooted it to the nail varnish aisle. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of colours stared back at me, I was completely lost, especially as I don’t do colour, in nail varnish or clothes. I do black, and to add a splash of colour I add grey, and if I’m pushing the boat out, perhaps some khaki. Bright coloured nail varnish is not for me -never was, except for my first GNS swim, where I made the mistake of thinking it would be great to match the splashes of blue on my wetsuit to some coordinated nail varnish. I wish now that I’d matched the main part of it (black) now, I felt so uncomfortable wearing it – nothing draws attention to your gigantic hands quite like a bright aqua blue! Fast forward and nail varnish had certainly moved on since I last bought some, back in the day when you chose your colour, paid for it and then left the shop, applied it, and waited an hour for each coat to dry, these days there’s shiny, not shiny, gel, accessories to put on your nails, literally all sorts. And then I saw it… the 60 seconds drying nail varnish. 60 seconds? Was that it? Only 60 seconds! And it came in lovely dull, lifeless colours too. Hooray!

Clever me bought some (in standard clear and a just off clear kind of skin colour called Nude) and felt quite pleased with myself, I mean, if it comes off or looks shabby, only a keen eye would notice, a great compromise I felt… that was until Tinks pointed out that my chosen colours were kind of missing the point, however I reminded her that I would need gently guiding into the new me. Rome was not built in a day.

Next stop, which meant walking past the window displaying a black sparkly swimming costume, and although clearly for a holiday, I was drawn like a magnet. Tinks reminded me that a swimming costume, sparkly of other, does not count towards a capsule wardrobe, and ushered me on. Trying to remain enthusiastic, I followed her row of clothes after row of clothes, until she had two arms full of colour… At this point she noticed my distress, and pointed to the one piece of black clothing – a t-shirt with ‘glamorous’ written in it in a silver cursive, sequined script, and said “these are all for me, that one’s for you.” I sagged in relief, as I feel that trades descriptions would be onto me like a shot if I bought it, however entering the spirit of the day, AND because I’d asked her, I went to try it on.

The t-shirt was not the success Tinks was hoping for. The cursive ‘glamorous,’ once on changed somewhat, and looked more like ‘amorous’ which is lots, lots worse than the former. The sparkly swimming costume that I’d snuck in to the changing room, on the other hand, was an absolute triumph, and then I was faced with the dilemma; do I come clean about the costume, or do I buy the t-shirt as well, using it as a red herring to buy the costume? I very suddenly had a brilliant idea, and after some conspiratorial whispering with the changing room attendant, I slip her the money and the label for the costume, and she returns with my receipt and my chance. The transaction was completed in next to no time, and I leave the shop dressed in my newly purchased costume, but rather than in a bag it was under my clothes. Genius!

3 hours, and 2 essential coffee breaks later (needed to regain my strength, and her sanity), and I have purchased the following:

2 x nail varnishes (assorted colours (ish)).
1 x sparkly swimming costume (shhh).
1 x flip-flops (also useful lakeside)

Not the most successful of trip, and Tinks is ready to throw in the metaphorical towel, when I spot a beautiful blue dress. Blue (I know!) and kind of swirly, and I think I love it. A very excited Tinks would have probably shoved it over my head to try on there and then in the middle of the shop, but instead frog marched me to the changing rooms. I laughed and told her I’d changed out of clothes in the open air, lakeside on many occasion. Tinks looks horrified at the thought of me walking round the shop in a state of undress, however little does she know that even if I were to strip off, I’d be in less of a state of undress than she knows!

And it was whilst I was trying it on that I began thinking. Had I actually let myself go? I may not wear nail varnish anymore, I may not have this seasons ‘must have’ dress, make-up is a minimum, I can’t walk in 7” (or 177.8mm) heels anymore (who am I kidding? I never really could) and my hair is styled (and I use this term very loosely indeed) for ease, but here’s the thing- I am fitter than I’ve been in years, I eat more carefully (the odd cake being the exception), I am focused, and determined and I feel great. So I suppose if you’re asking if I have let myself go, I would say it depends on who you’re asking. Is it the end of the world if I turn up to a night out wearing my corduroy from the ‘90’s or even wearing my gym gear? No it won’t. Having said that, I will buy the dress (which is lovely by the way) and I will wear it on our next night out, and I will make a conscious effort to block out 60 seconds beforehand to apply one of my new nail varnishes, I may also decide to team it up with the flip flops, which I’m sure is a big fat fashion no-no, but probably a huge improvement on last time’s outfit! And as I have our next girls night out outfit in the bag, I can spend my time and money instead on new swimwear; something that I will wear far more frequently. I may not rock the fashion world anymore, and I may not know whether orange or pink or green or blue is the new black, but what I do know is my Speedo from my Swimzi and my Deakin and Blue from my Dolfin... And so you see (as I have demonstrated here), in my own world, I am actually very much a dedicated follower of fashion!

Finally, it's a year since I first began writing my little blog, which stared as a way of writing about my recovery, the training and the swim I did last year (Windermere one way). I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the amazing response, and lovely messages of support I have had. After I had completed the swim I was asked if I would consider putting last year’s journey into a book. Going from a blog to an e-book is something quite different, and a lot scarier, however I decided after a lot of consideration to take the plunge (no pun intended) and do it, and finally has now been published this week on Amazon. How amazing (but mostly scary) is that? I hope that for those of you that read it feel inspired to not only take on difficult challenges, but also to never underestimate how far you can push yourself to achieve what you set out to do.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere is available on Amazon

I also have a 'group' page on Facebook and am on Twitter and Instagram, where I post daily shenanigans and such like. If you'd like to join/follow you'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊

Open Water Woman

1 comment:

  1. Just laughed till I cried. This describes my life to the letter... In the same boat, and don't care. I too like the fact that I am madly geared up for sport....