Small print should be big print. Fact.

As regular readers of this very blog will know, I was (and am) obsessed with a Zara dress that Frankie Sandford (the fit, but possibly evil one from The Saturdays) was photographed wearing.  My Lovely Parents bought me the dress, and I used to hang it up on my wardrobe door, just to admire its beautifulness.  But this week, I had somewhere to wear it – hurrah!  One of the girls from the office had her leaving drinks on Thursday (to be clear, I’m gutted that she’s gone, and not just because she sometimes reads my blog.  She’s hilarious, and I love her face.  Moving on…), which I thought was an ideal occasion to wear the dress, so that others could share in the beautifulness.

As the dress has been hanging around in my bedroom for a while, some of the pleats in the skirt had started to fall.  No problem, I (naively) thought, I’ll just iron the creases back in.  So, the iron was plugged in, there was a brief, but fierce struggle with the ironing board (and a briefer battle between the steam setting on the iron and my wrist – the steam won), and away we went.  Approximately 4 seconds after I started ironing the dress, a strange, burny smell reached my nostrils.  And not a nice burny smell (bonfire, barbeque, ex-boyfriend’s belongings), but a bad one (thousands of pounds of electrical equipment, hair, new Zara dress).  Turns out that the label quite clearly states (in a variety of languages, but in very small letters), Do Not Wash.  Do NOT Iron.  For the LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT IRON!  So…um…well.  Turns out that ironing was a bad idea, and the pleats look just fine in their current, dropped configuration.  (Lovely Mum, or Lovely Stepdad, if you’re reading this, the dress is fine.  You’d never notice the melted pleat.)  (Honestly though, it is ok.  Promise.)

So, in conclusion, small print should be large.  Preferably with flashing neon signs and a honking noise, to illustrate how important the information is.  Small print is sneaky, and I don’t care for it.

Once, a long time ago (about 2007), I was offered a New Look store card (I wasn’t going to name and shame them, I was going to say something witty along the lines of ‘I won’t mention the name of the shop, let’s just say that it’s a high street chain, the name of which rhymes with Blue Book.  But then I decided sod it, they deserve to be shamed), and on the basis that I’d receive a 10% discount on whatever I purchased on the day, and a choice of card colours (yes, I’m easily influenced, a marketer’s dream, etc., etc. – I’m told this often.  I also doubt whether ANYONE who has taken out a New Look store card has chosen the orange or green versions), I thought that I’d apply.  Sadly, I was accepted, and the stupid, bright pink card has been the bane of my life ever since.

I have no problem with the monthly payments.  I’ve bought the items, it’s only fair that I pay the money back.  I also understand that if I miss a payment, or go over the limit, I deserve to receive a fee.  But let me give you a couple of examples of the ridiculous crapness of this card;

1.  I was in-store, and mentioned that I wasn’t sure that I had enough money on the card to pay for whatever I was buying (I fear that it was shoes).  The card was swiped, I was told that everything was fine and that it had gone through, then (prepare your suprised face), when my monthly statement arrived, I was told that I had gone over my limit, so that would be £12.00 more this month please. 

2.  My credit limit has been increased twice without my asking for it.  Firstly, I’m not shopping, I don’t need more money.  Secondly, even when I was shopping, I’m (finally) at the stage where I don’t WANT to saddle myself with more debt – stop encouraging me to spend!

3.  I keep getting sent offers that sound amazing (free beauty treatments, 20% discount) just because I own a New Look card.  Then the SMALL PRINT lets me know that I’ll have to spend £35.00 on my card to receive any of the amazing things.  I may as well pay for my own £15.00 manicure, rather than accrue more items that I don’t need, and a ridiculous amount of interest (did you know that the interest rate is about 30% on store cards?  I used to tut when I heard things like that, without actually understand what it means – I’m sure that you’re all much more clued up than I am, but just in case – that means that if I spend £100, and don’t pay it all off before the end of the month, I’ll end up having to pay another £30, for nothing.  Do you know how many Primark bags that would buy me?!)

4.  The biggest problem that I have with this card?  Well, back in December, you may remember that there was a rather large amount of snow, which caused massive issues for the postal system, what with closed roads, blocked depots, people living in the middle of nowhere and still expecting the postie to arrive, even though (and I quote) ‘I can’t get to the depot.  The weather’s too bad, I can’t even get to the end of the road!’  Well, this meant that my card statement didn’t arrive (and still hasn’t, but I digress).  So, I decided to assume (mistake) that the minimum payment would be £5.00, as it had been for several months previously (I tend to pay off more than the minimum amount each month, but on this occasion, with it being January and a 5 week month, pay-day wise, I went for the least amount that I could pay).  I popped into my local store, handed over a rumpled fiver, and promptly forgot all about it.  Until I received my statement at the end of January (actually, if I’m honest, it was more like the middle of February), and discovered that I’d been charged a late payment fee, of £12.00.  I rang the customer service helpline.  I say ‘helpline’, I’m not sure that this is an accurate description.  The conversation went a little like this;

Me: (Quite chirpily at this point) ‘ Hi, I can see that I’ve had a late payment charge, but I actually paid in cash instore on 3rd January.’

Generic Customer Service Chap:  ‘Oh.  Ok, let me just look at your account…..’  5 minute pause, where all I can hear is his fingers tapping over the keyboard, and all he can hear is my fingers starting to drum impatiently on the windowsill  ‘….yeah, I can see that a payment went through, but it wasn’t enough to cover the minimum payment.’

Me:   ‘Riiiight.  How much was the minimum payment?’

GCSC: ‘£5.86.’

Yep, that’s right, I was charged £12.00, for 86p.  That sounds fair.  So, even when I can shop again, it’s safe to say that store cards can expect no more business from me.  Because they’re rubbish.  They do not offer value for money, they give you a small incentive to get you hooked in, and then send more offers through to encourage you to get into more debt.  The fees that they are able to charge are horrendous, and whenever I’ve spoken to someone in the Customer Service department in relation to my card, I’ve discovered that I’d get better answers if I’d asked the card itself.  I never thought I’d say this, but credit is not always a good thing.  If you must get a store card, then for the love of God (and skirts), please read the small print.  Twice.

In other news, I went to a family wedding last night, which was just lovely.  As I was getting ready for bed, I pulled my pyjama bottoms on underneath my dress, pulled the dress over my head, and then noticed The Boy looking at my waist in an odd fashion.  Turns out that I’d forgotten that I was wearing my very special, very giant Spanx pants.  I don’t think that he likes me quite as much anymore….

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Exactly how many times can you ‘fall off the wagon’ before it counts as cheating…?

Things that I’ve learned this week…

1. This last 2 months of my clothing ban is not going to be easier than the first 4.  (This is probably my own fault for jinxing it at the start of the week, by uttering the ridiculous words ‘well, I’ve lasted 4 months, the next 2 shouldn’t be that hard.’  What a fool.)

2. No matter how many hours you spend smiling at a rabbit, it will NEVER smile back.  (This little gem was brought to me, and your good selves, by The Madster – a very, very funny 3 year old, who apparently has a very grumpy rabbit.)

3.  I still have very little willpower.

4.  Bonnie Tyler is from Swansea.

 Ok, so only the first and third points are really relevant to this week’s post, but it’s nice when we share…

One day rather early in the week, I was looking through the fashion pages of several gossip magazines with the girls from work (a thrice daily occurence), which is when the ridiculous statement regarding the next 2 months being easy left my lips.  Guess what happened that very night?  I found a pair of shoes.  Kurt Geiger shoes.  They were so pretty that I actually had to bite the knuckle on my index finger.  I know, it’s a surprising turn of events – just like when a character in a soap utters the words ‘well, it can’t get any worse’, and promptly loses their job/wife/sanity.  Or when, just as it seems the heroine will escape from the evil serial killer in a horror film, it turns out that the aforementioned serial killer is still alive.  And hiding somewhere totally (un)expected.

Last week, you may remember that I told you about a website called BigWardrobe.  It was here that the shoes were displayed, almost parading up and down in front of me to illustrate their loveliness.  So, I did what’s worked so well for me in the last couple of weeks, and emailed the seller to see if she wanted to swap.

On a side note, I promised to tell you about the swaps that I was waiting for last week.   Here’s the list;

Dress with floral top and black pencil skirt bottom – is actually a tulip bottom skirt.  I LOVE it.  Even more so as it’s a size smaller than I usually take (thank you MyFitnessPal – I no longer hate you for making me go to bed hungry).

Black dress with red sash – gorgeous, but definitely a size smaller than the label suggests.  So, I have 2 choices – put it to the back of my wardrobe and swear that I’ll diet even more to get into it, or re-list it.  Guess which one I chose? 

Black dress with ruffles – actually from Lipsy, which is great.  Has no zips or other methods of doing up, meaning that it slides on and off.  In theory.  Except that it wouldn’t go over my chest, so I forced it.  And then spent 40 minute (and a very, VERY panicked phone call to my Lovely Mum) before I got it off.  It was great.

Heart print shoes – very cute.

Pink shoes – very cute.  And small.  So, as it’s rather unlikely that I can slim into a pair of shoes, these will be re-listed.  Unless anyone knows someone with smaller feet than me.  A seven year old niece perhaps?  (My feet are a 3 or a 4.)

I’m now waiting for;

A red dress

A bird print dress

A Kate Moss for Topshop dress (score!)

A blue party dress

A grey/pink/black dress

I may have too many dresses once these have all arrived…Ah well, if need be, I can always adapt them into something useful.  Like pillow cases.  Or outfits for my dogs.  Or outfits for my cats (which I’m sure that they will then adapt into decorations for their catflap.  On an unrelated note, I found something else to spend my money on, and Jiminy – my conscience in the shape of a work colleague, for those of you who’ve forgotten – can’t even complain, because it’s something practical and useful – please click hereish to see their new catflap!)

So, that was a tangeant within a tangeant.  Aplogies for that – back to this week’s topic, and the Kurt Geiger shoes.  Where had I gotten to?  Had I emailed?…Yes, yes I had.  So, I received a quick and lovely reply, letting me know that the seller was really looking for a cash offer, but would accept £20 including postage.  For a pair of shoes that cost £120, and were still in the box.  STILL IN THE BOX!  But, as you know, I’m on a clothing ban.  But £20!  So, I went and asked my Lovely Mum for some advice.  And when I say advice, what I really mean is that I wanted her to tell me that it was totally acceptable to buy them.  Which she almost did.  I explained my dilemma, and the conversation then went something like this;

‘Well darling, they are lovely, but you do have lots of lovely shoes.  Would you wear them?’

‘Of course I would, they’re so pretty, and they’re worth so much…’

‘If you want them, then that’s ok, I won’t tell anyone.  And you’ve done so well for the last 4 months.  I mean, there have been a few things that you’ve really wanted and you’ve not broken your resolution.  It would be a shame to break it as you’re getting close to finishing, but if you really want them, I understand.  I’m just so proud of you for lasting this long.’

See – Supernanny for grown ups.  She knew that by telling me how proud she was of me, and for praising me for doing so well, there was no way that I was going to buy the bloody shoes.  She also knew that reminding me that I have lots of lovely shoes that don’t get worn enough, I’d feel guilty about even thinking of buying more.  Especially when they have ankle straps, which make my legs look short, so would probably just sit in the crate under my bed.  So, Lovely Mum – thank you for keeping me on the straight and narrow, whilst acting like you were just making conversation.  You conversational wizard.

I have also taken to browsing several well known online stores, that were key to my shopping addiction in the first place.  I can’t quite explain why I’ve taken to doing this – is it because I can then share with all my friends how many nice things are around at the moment?  Is it because I like to research fashion and enjoy keeping up to date on the latest trends, even if there’s not a hope that I can recreate them with what I already have in my wardrobe?  (70s flares and chiffon blouses, I’m talking about you.)  Or is it because it’s getting towards the end of the ban now, and I’m starting to wonder if anyone would really notice if I just bought one new dress?  I think that it may be all three.  But mostly the last reason.  With this in mind;

 Boohoo, New Look, Paul’s Boutique and River Island – if you’re reading, please can you take your sites down, just until the 17th June?  I’d be incredibly grateful.

Swap Shop

So, I’m late with posting again.  But I have a proper reason and everything, I promise.  I’ve spent the afternoon with The Boy, The Beautiful One, 2 Lovely Ones and Their Boys.  And for future reference (mine and yours), drinking pink wine in the sunshine in the middle a Sunday afternoon may seem like a good idea, but 2 hours later, all you will be left with is a pounding headache and the certain knowledge that you can’t go to sleep for at least 4 hours, or will be wasting the last precious moments of the weekend (which would be a terrible shame).  But a marvellous afternoon was had by all (and The Boy bought me tulips.  He’s nice), and I’m here now, so let’s get started.

You’ll all be pleased to know that I asked the Gorgeous Burlesque Instructor how I should refer to her, and she suggested Lola.  Because it’s her name.  I’m also not sure if any of you are interested in finding out some more about it (whether you live in my area or are just a bit nosy), but if you click around hereish, you can visit her delightful website.

This week’s lesson was much more ‘burlesque-y’ (technical term) than usual.  We learnt how to take gloves and stocking off sexily.  Except I’m so wonderfully organised that I forgot both gloves AND stockings.  Luckily, one of the other, more organised (and nice) girls lent me some gloves.  And I pretended with the stockings.  Unless you were actually watching me, there’s no way that you would have been able to tell the difference…

My main obsession this week has been a rather awesome website, called Bigwardrobe.  If you have any clothes that you want to get rid of, you put them on the site, and people can either offer to swap for things in their wardrobe that they don’t want anymore, or they’ll give you money for them.  You may be surprised to hear this, but I’ve decided to mainly ask people for swaps, rather than money.  (You’re not surprised?  Oh.)  So far, I’ve sent off 1 jacket (with tags), 1 jumper (worn once), and 3 dresses (all with tags).  When I took them into work for the girls to see before I sent them, Jiminy was actually, properly horrified at how many of the items hadn’t been worn.  I hope that she never, ever ends up in my bedroom.  It could bring on an early heart attack.  Or at least some sort of Victorian style swooning.

But you’ve already heard plenty about how many things I have that have never been worn, so back to Bigwardrobe.  The person with the lowest feedback score/least amount of feedback is the one that has to post items first, so now that my items have been posted, I’ve just got to sit on my hands and stop myself from attacking the postman in the mornings, whilst waiting for my swaps to arrive.  I’m waiting for…

1 x black strapless dress with netting underneath and a red sash

1 x dress with floral detailing at the top, and a pencil skirt bottom

1 x pink shoes (well, actually 2 x pink shoes, 1 x pair)

1 x (pair) shoes with lots of pretty hearts

1 x black strapless dress with lots of ruffly bits at the bottom (this may be my first swapping mistake, but I got overexcited and agreed without thinking.  It’s a beautiful dress, but I’m a bit worried that the ruffles will make my hips look 5 times the size that they are.  So roughly the size of Wales).

I can tell that you’re as excited as I am, so as soon as they come in, I’ll be sure to write all about them.

The Boy has suggested that as I’m paying to post my items, technically this could be counted as shopping.  He’s wrong.  The person that I’m swapping with also has to pay for the postage, so it’s not like anyone’s actually gaining money…as counter-arguments go, this may not be my strongest one, but it’s pretty much all I have, so I’m stuck with it (if anyone can come up with a better one, I’m listening.  Really hard). 

I also pointed out to The Boy that this is helping me to clear out all the clothes that I no longer wear, thus making my bedroom almost minimalist.  He then pointed out (without even pausing to think), that I will be receiving things in return, therefore my dream of a minimalist bedroom (as opposed to one that looks like a room from ‘Grime Fighters’ – you know, one of the ones where the old lady living in the house has been left to her own devices for the last 47 years and as such has hoarded absolutely everything that she’s ever come into contact with) are somewhere around the slim to none mark.   It worries me how he’s able to think of these arguments.  He’s like a conversational wizard. 

So, it’s a fantastic website, and a great idea.  It has also introduced me to the word ‘swaplifting’, which is just brilliant.  The only problem that I have is that it’s quickly becoming an obsession.  I check roughly every 20 minutes to see if someone has sent me a message about one of my items, or if someone has suggested a swap.  If there’s nothing, I browse through the items that other people have put up, just in case something new has been uploaded.  The Boy tends to look over my shoulder whilst I’m on the phone, thinking that I’m Facebook stalking people (which obviously, I never, ever do), only to find that I’m frantically looking through pages and pages of dresses, just in case I missed one in my check 7 minutes previously.  I’m logging in whilst in the middle of conversations, with 1 eye on the person I’m with and one eye on the phone (a definite way to win friends, I’m sure you’ll agree), and on Friday night, for the first time EVER, The Boy fell asleep before I did, because I was checking the site.

Apparently, I should have just stuck with no form of shopping whatsoever.  And I was doing so well…

On the plus side, I’ve only thought about chocolate 46 times this week, a vast improvement on last week’s 417 times.

Welcome to Burlesque….

I forgot to mention this last week, what with all the dress related excitement, but I’ve started burlesque dancing.  (Lessons that is, you won’t find me at a club near you anytime soon.  Which is probably definitely a good thing – Dita Von Teese doesn’t have much to worry about in that area!)

Darling Sister went a couple of weeks ago, and thought that it was something I’d enjoy (either that or she wanted to make me feel a bit awkward.  Either way, she was right).  So, last week, I put on an all black ensemble (so that I’d blend into the floor) and a pair of heels.  Which I wore for 5 minutes, before realising that my feet were about to fall off, leaving me to do the rest of the class in my flats.  Turns out that dancing in heels is quite tricky, and I now have a new found respect for the entire cast of Strictly Come Dancing.

I’ve now completely lost my train of thought, because The Boy is playing Crysis 2, and has the volume ridiculously loud.  Ooo, he’s just turned it down.  I wonder if he knows that I’m talking about him?

So, where was I?  Ah yes, me and my incredible unsexiness.  As I mentioned last week, I am co-creator of the Happy Dance, which is possibly on a par with Katie Price’s Freddie Mercury impression for sheer seductiveness.  When I was younger and used to go to dance lessons on a Saturday, if we ever had to make up the last 8 counts of a dance ourselves, my group always had to do something funny.  This isn’t because I think that I’m a comedy genius or anything, it’s because I really can’t dance.  Except for the ‘6 Pints of Wine Cheesy Dance Music’ routine.  And I’m not entirely sure that it should ever see the light of day/dark of club ever again.

But back to my first burlesque lesson…

All of the music used last week was from the film ‘Burlesque’.  Sadly, the only experience that I have with the film is Christina Aguilera’s perfomance on The X Factor last year.  Maybe if I’d watched the film, I would have known what I was getting myself in for.

The instructor is gorgeous, and teeny, with long swishy hair.  (Me, jealous?  Yes.  Very.)  Every time she showed us a move, it looked A-MAY-ZING.  Whenever I tried to copy her, I just looked like a bit of a fool.  The best example of this is probably what turned out to be Darling Sister’s favourite part of the class.  During a dance with chairs (using them to sit on and such, not waltzing around the room with them, in case you were wondering) , we had to seductively swing our right leg over the back of the chair.  The reason that this was her favourite part?  The first, second AND third time I tried it, my leg got stuck halfway across the chair, and I couldn’t move.  See?!  Not sexy, not sexy in the slightest.

We also did a dance with fans, which I’m sure would have looked much better if  my stupidly small hands had managed to keep the fan open.  Sadly, it kept closing halfway through the moves (I’m told that in proper burlesque, fans are used as part of a striptease, where you’d cover yourself with 2 fans – one to the front, one to the back, swapping them over to give the audience a glimpse of what’s underneath. If I were to do this, the audiences would get less of a glimpse, more of a full on flash).  But after watching the instructor (she needs a name for next week’s post…), I got what it was meant to look like – really very good, with lots of hip shaking and sexy silhouetting going on.  I want to be her when I grow up.

At the end of the class, she told us where we could buy fans from, in case we wanted to practice at home (or, in my case, pretend to be an extra from Moulin Rouge).  Hopefully people will focus on my pretty new fan this week, rather than the bruised shins and scabby knees.  (I may in fact be the world’s first unseductive burlesque dancer.)