The Spike


October 2016

*THAT* play farm


It’s the half term that won’t die – *horror scream face* – Kitty’s school, in its wisdom, has decided that the Autumn term, being very long, needs a two week break in the middle of it.

Kitty is five and a half, so hanging out with her for a week while Sam is banged up at nursery is, in fact, not too much of a hardship. But it does so take me away from my laptop.

So here is a scrap, a piece of paper edged out to you in the slim gap underneath the closed door of full-time childcare.

Over half term we discovered someone who had the same play farm set that we had. In order to encourage children to actually play with it, they had taken all the component parts and glued them down to a board.

We dashed home and did this – leaving one or two gates, the roofs of the farm buildings and the animals loose – and it transformed this toy from a clattery collection of bits to an actual thing that Sam can play with.

If you have this farm set, too, and are mystified as to why your kids don’t play with it, try glueing the sucker down and see what happens.

The Spike is watching…

Who’s your favourite?

…SAS: Who Dares Wins.

This programme is not what you think it is. Okay it’s sort of what you think it is – it’s about putting the selection process for the SAS on the telly.

I don’t need to describe it to you, do I? There’s hill marches and shouting and mock-interrogations. Sweating. Not much sleeping. A lot of casual swearing. (“I had a soft spot for him, but it turns out he’s a bag of shit.” “It was pretty poor. No wait, not pretty poor – fucking pathetic.”)

But what it is, under all that, what it really is, is X Factor for people who don’t like singing or dancing. All the candidates all have weird back stories, they all have to do things they thought they were good at, but now they’re not so sure. They are pushed to their absolute limits and put under terrible pressure. There are tears! There are eliminations!

And I am totally hooked in the same way that people are hooked on X Factor and Strictly. It is brilliant. It is tense. It is surprisingly emotional and touching.

I am watching Series 1 on catch-up and a new series, set in the jungle, is on C4 9pm on Tuesday nights.

Nice underwear

Plunge Bralette £29. This is not me.

I gave up on underwired bras years ago. Terrible things, so uncomfortable. I replaced them swiftly with super-stretchy crop-tops, which give complete and seamless support. With all the bending and stretching, scampering, hefting and heavy-duty wiping and weeping that goes with small children, it was the practical choice.

But my kids are older now, and it’s not such a bun fight. When we go out locally we don’t take the buggy. I folded it up a few months ago to make space for something else and I just haven’t had to unfold it since. My kids tear ahead of me on scooter and balance bike, and I saunter along behind them, carrying my tote bag on one shoulder (which anyone can tell you is the mark of new-phase parenting – up until recently it’s been a cross-body bag or rucksack or you risk emptying all your shit on the ground as you bend over for the 4,000th time to do something. Also, try pushing a buggy with a shoulder bag. Doesn’t work).

So parenting isn’t quite the active task it used to be. But my underwear is still all really, really practical. Not all of it grubby and depressing, but some of it, yes, a bit discoloured I guess. And the other night as I was getting undressed for bed my husband looked up from where he was reading something (Twitter, probably) and said: “You could wear nice underwear, you know.”

Normally I would scream “FUCK YOU, FOUR-EYES!” and not speak to him for a month for saying something like that – but I didn’t. Because he’s right and he knows he’s right and I know he’s right. I could wear nice underwear.

If I get sick of the sight of my husband’s pants, for example, I simply buy him some new ones, which are to my liking. Ditto all of his clothes, his haircut, his swimwear, his shoes and his luggage. I’ll just get him something different and present it to him as a fait accompli and he takes it, wordlessly.

But he can’t do that to me. And he wouldn’t try because I’d be annoyed and, also, he is a true feminist where I fail (q.v.) If he were a girl Christ we’d all have to hide. He’d be outside Parliament with blood on his pants, screaming SEXIST FUCKER! at builders and stuff. We all ought to be grateful.

Anyway so he doesn’t tell me what to wear. He sometimes does a little pretend sick at some of my more directional shoes, (“Do you need me to rescue you from those things that have attached themselves to your feet?”), but mainly keeps quiet.

And I’m grateful for that. So when I wandered past a Victoria’s Secret the other day, I went in.  I do sort of think that Victoria’s Secret, particularly that ghastly bra-and-knicker catwalk show they do, is maybe the root of all evil. Even that the stores are possibly active hell mouths. But I have had luck in VS before and really couldn’t face the sucked-in Dignitas air of the M&S or John Lewis lingerie department. (See? Shit Feminist.)

And I found a good thing, which is this wireless plunge “bralette” (sad emotion face), which was really actually not uncomfortable, so I bought three and the matching pants and to hell with it.

I am a C-cup and got these in M and one in an S, which fits if you let the catch at the back all the way out. I can’t imagine you’d want to wear one of these for long if you’ve got really seriously massive tits and normally have to wear bras made especially for you by NASA, (we’ve all been there), but for a C cup or under, they are a terrific mid-ground between the sexless sports bra and the padded plunge underwired torture device.

Celine box bag

Celine medium box bag in dark red. Do not ask how much it costs.

Following on from Polly Vernon’s misunderstood non-fiction book, Hot Feminist, I think I might have to write a book called “Shit Feminist”.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, what a shit feminist I am. It all started with Miuccia Prada going on about how she hadn’t a thing to say to any woman who didn’t have a job – no wait… not a job, a career. An amazing career. “If you depend on a man for your bread,” said Mrs Prada, “how can you be happy? If you are one of those women [who doesn’t work] then I really have no conversation.”

I didn’t even have to look that quote up, it’s burned on my soul.

And first I thought oh FUCK YOU Mrs Prada you horrible dinosaur. Horrible lucky dinosaur, by the way. Your functional minimalist “geek”clothing and accessories may well be super fashionable, but you could have been a flop you know!!! 90% perspiration, 10% just being fucking lucky, mate.

And p.s. let’s not forget that all your fortunes are basically built on bulk sales of nylon shoppers that Little Sam could probably run up with the hand-crank sewing machine on the craft table at nursery.

Anyway it went on in my head like that for a while and it continued to bother me for a bit. And then feminism went mad. Like crazy. The whole of Twitter was just all about feminism and Everyday Sexism and FGM. And I stood by, just flummoxed.

Anyone who survived the 90s as a teenager – God almighty that decade has a lot to answer for -these days is so delighted and relieved that baggy clothes are back in fashion and we are no longer expected to go out for dinner wearing a pink vinyl mini skirt and a tight white t-shirt with “So Porno” written in rhinestones on the front that we feel just in that, just in the fact that it’s okay to wear trainers, like, all the time – that we have won.

But it’s not enough! We’ve got to have a girl gang and be very girl-gangy publicly and point at men who steal our jokes or talk over us or man spread and shout SEXIST SEXIST YOU ARE A SEXIST. And what about those girls protesting outside parliament about FGM with the red paint on their pants! Jesus Christ! Am I supposed to be doing that?

I can’t do it! I told you, I’m a shit feminist! Pretty much any question anyone asks me, I say “I’m sorry, I’ll have to ask my husband.” If we are in mixed company and someone throws a question out there that is not about childcare or Uniqlo cashmere sweaters I put on my “Hmmm interesting” face, and then turn to Giles and say “What do you think?”

I am fine with Kitty’s career choice at the moment being “Ninja Rock-Climber” but I also forcibly pin her down to put bows in her hair and say “don’t pick your nose it’s not nice” and sometimes say “OMG you look so pretty today,” which I know you’re not supposed to.

And I let Little Sam mansplain things to me and talk over me, partly just in, like, awe of how early all that stuff starts but also because I think it’s cute. And, and, and – I’m just a shit feminist, basically.

But mostly because through all of this, what I am mostly thinking, all the time is: how can I get my husband to buy me this Celine bag? Because I sure as hell don’t earn enough to buy it for myself.

Excellent sweater

Mock-turtleneck sweater, £40

More urgent an autumn/winter task than finding a new coat, bag or shoes, is the task of finding a great black sweater. It ought to occupy the forefront of your mind and if it doesn’t, you’re no Spiker.

The all-purpose black sweater is the t-shirt of A/W and you will wear it all the time. I have hitherto bought thick black or grey wool sweaters from J Crew and worn them every day but they don’t half bobble up like crazy. J Crew’s bestselling Tippi sweater is, for me, just cut too close and too short- it’s just too 1950s a shape and makes me feet titty and fat.

So rejoice then for this mock-turtleneck sweater from &OtherStories! It is a fine knit merino wool, which means no (or not many, and small) bobbles, and it’s long with long emo sleeves and drapey all round the bits I’d rather not have material cling to and you can tuck it into things. It’s remarkable in its unremarkable-ness. It is a tiny bit sheer, but not badly so – with a good t-shirt bra in beige and you’re away.

I have got one in black, in a M, which is probably larger than I need (I am a 10-12 and a C-cup) but I wanted it loose. But I am considering one in beige and also one in dark red to be worn with navy, as the Ox Blood/Navy colour combination isn’t going anywhere for a while.

I didn’t get one in grey because I think I’m bored with grey.


Though, in fact…

Suede mid-heeled shoes, £56, Zara

Forgetting grunge for a sec and turning to a pair of only semi-impractical shoes that will also update your “look” to right on the money 2016, without being as completely hideous as their original counterparts, check these out.

Dirty pink weirdo slitty shoes from Zara. Are the original utterly hideous ones from Celine?  I can’t remember now.

They didn’t have them in my size in the shop just now, or I would have bought them. Wear with skinny jeans and a crisp white shirt *dies*.





Alternative shoes

Wooo and lordy and phew there is a lot of hoo haa on my email and Twitter and text and swirling around my head about footwear for the modern fleet-footed here-and-there lady of the daytime.

You’re all in such a tizz about it! Like you are running, running, running, from your future self you know lurks around about in February/March, when you will be wearing UGGs or other wretched but comfortable boots and you will be cosy and warm but hate yourself for a lack of style, dash and smarts.

Brogues! I hear you scream. Crepe-soled wedge-heeled black desert boots!

Where is it? What and where is the shoe that is modern and cosy, non-clackety, non ankle-breaky, PRACTICAL?

Look, I don’t have the answers, okay? I don’t know of a shoe that can take you from a 7am dog-walk through to brunch with a smart friend, a tussle with Waitrose, past the school run, through an unexpected rain storm, round an encounter with that woman you hate and out like an arrow out for cocktails, which will also flatter your big feet, hide your crow’s feet, not make you look like a man and force your fucking hair to behave.

I don’t know of that shoe!

But, while we’re pondering the tragedy of how we all only want one good shoe, but can’t find one, which leads us to buying seven or eight thousand, none of which quite get the job done – let’s have a look at these clog boots from Clarks. Yes, I know Clarks, but no-one will know unless they look very closely, and they are very comfy.

Ledella Abby clog boots, £80


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