Sometimes its nice to look back….in Vera Wang-er

I AM feverishly eyeing a colleague’s packet of newly opened chocolate digestives. She must have a bladder the size of an elephant’s. When IS she going to leave her desk for five minutes? I’m supposed to be looking at wedding outfits online in my lunch hour. There are, apparently, only three styles of wedding dress in the whole of the world wide web and I loathe every one.

My wedding, or `dreading’ as it’s now known, is, happily, on the 21st of June…..and I’ve been told I’ve left the whole dress thing VERY late indeed. This is, of course, because I have nil interest in presenting myself to marry the man I love dressed as Miss Haversham. Yes, horrors, I’m a first time bride at 48.

If you’ve recently browsed anything bridal and you’re a female post 30s, it is all a bit dispiriting. Plus it is compounded by the fact that I will also be the largest bride in the world, easily picked out from space like the Great Wall of China.

The good news is I have got some blue diet tablets from the GP, so by rights I should be a size zero by then. The new problem will be the flowing folds of saggy skin. I’ll see what my trusty frock wizard suggests. Perhaps I should go for a ruched look to complement this or just spray myself ivory and opt for lots of burly bridesmaids to haul it after me like a train. Well, we’ve a way to go yet.

But it really is irksome. Even the Brides of Dracula, to a woman all over 400 years old, somehow managed to pull off the old bride thing, but hey I’m not prepared to go quite that far.

My brief to the frock wizard was `hide everything’. Even the digestives, I hear you thinking, but what I meant was the bingo wings, the bum, the tum, I could go on. Ideally, on the day, I’d like to peek out of a twitcher’s hide that Bill Oddie had recently vacated having left binoculars and a `decoy’ bride propped up in the corner. You know, smaller, younger, looks great from the back.

And then there is the coven of good friends who have turned into Trinny and Susannah fuelled with righteous indignation. All stylish women who, I have to say, look back on their own wedding pictures 20 years ago and deeply regret the meringue, the his and hers curly perms, the soft focus wedding pictures.

Didn’t stop one of them frog marching me to a lingerie shop for a bra fitting and then hooting triumphantly when it was confirmed that I was indeed wearing the wrong cup size. I managed to swot at her feebly with a rolled up copy of something glossy with `wedding’ in the title until she left me alone in the cubicle. Actually the bra’s great. I hate that she’s right.

As advice is something I’m not short of I should really count myself lucky. The fact that I’d prefer to get married in pyjamas is no one’s business but my own. My daily ration of advisory calls goes like this. I make a suggestion and all of my senior design gurus yell `Nooooooooo you can’t do that’. I show them a picture of hair, clothing or mumble about undies or try to form the word `trousers’ and again I’m subjected to a low snarling. Blimey, you wouldn’t want to spoil their day now would you!

There are, of course, advantages. My fiancé John is the biggest of these, obviously. As he’s 47, he’s also a little bemused by all the fuss a wedding seems to involve.

His views summed up are: “I don’t know why we need to spend all this money, I could do it all for a grand.” Plus, as he works in construction management and they have a brilliant canteen that feeds 500 construction workers every day, he did offer to ask the canteen cook to do our catering, bless.

“They’re brilliant, pies like your Mam used to make, proper gravy, lovely apple pie and custard,” he assured me, adding thoughtfully – “or we could have disposable BBQs!”

My reaction? “Yes, well, while there is nothing more attractive than a bride covered in gravy sauce, I’m not sure pies and custard aren’t a step too far for a wedding, even for me.” But I have to say, I like his thinking.

Although he does have his romantic moments. Like the day he asked me to marry him – proposing by climbing the highest peak in Spain (while I lay next to a pool at the villa) and journeying down with crystallised ice `diamonds’ from above the snow line.

Inside he’d buried an engagement ring. I got a thousand diamonds from the roof of Spain, the one that didn’t melt in the sun while we drank chilled white Rioja and nibbled olives was mine!

Enjoying the moment

With that spirit in mind we’ve decided that doing things the non-traditional way for our big day could be fun too. Do we have to have wedding cake? Well, no. Do we have to invite lots of people we don’t really know very well or like very much? Not really, no.

Do we have to have The Birdy Song, an irritating DJ, melon, followed by Chicken Supreme and raspberry cheesecake with some manner of coulis from a squirty bottle? Again, no.

Leaving one nod to tradition – we are not allowed to see each other the night before the wedding. A rule we’ll both enjoy snapping like a twig.

Can we `revenge’ months of advice via a wicked seating plan and evil speech? Oh yes. Can the groom stop saying `how much!’ at every turn? No.

I think someone out there should give us older brides a break. Mutton or lamb you are what you are but as a confirmed trouser wearer and devotee of slimming black the whole thing is more than a challenge. I know my friends are right and of course I love them to bits, and I need to do my best to look `stunning’ on the day. But somehow I can’t get that image of the Vicar of Dibley out of my head. She just looked so darned comfy in those pjs!



I may have gone a little Real Housewives of Wolverine – hair-wise


So my colleague is sitting in her house, I’m in mine.  We are both in our home offices trying to work.  We’re on the phone.  We both have loud drilling coming at us from an outside wall.

Her builders are harmonising – very poorly – to some Elvis, we think,  mine are just shouting to each other.

She and I are now shouting at each other down the phone and moving from room to room … and eventually outside to talk strategy for a shared client.

I run my hand through my hair as I walk and talk.  I take a moment to disentangle my hand from my hair and realise my hair has stayed exactly where I pushed it.  I look in the mirror in the conservatory.  I have matching Wolverine ‘wings’ of hair framing my angry face.  Brick dust – the ultimate volume and hold product apparently.

Her bed, she tells me, is wrapped in some sort of cling film and this has to be unwrapped every night for her and her husband to get in.  The family labradoodle (who’s bed is also shrink-wrapped) is prematurely grey with plaster and won’t leave the sanctity of her mistresses’ slippered feet under the desk.

Another big honking blast of ‘burning love’ and we bring our high-level strategy conf call to a close.

As I disconnect JF hoves to, builders’ boots on, funny hat, big red pencil behind his ear.  His opening line: “I’ve had a brilliant idea.”

The frown I’m sporting deepens as I prepare myself for another eye-opener on practical housebuilding.

Thing is, I don’t want a practical house, I want a beautiful house, a radiant house, one I can smooth and caress and slide along the surfaces of.  One I can dress up,  accent and ‘colour pop’ – one I can hermetically seal from ingress by cement, old render and some sort of – WHAT IS THAT SMELL – I think sump oil??

My very clever husband isn’t put off, he plunges on:

“Why don’t I make a heated towel rail for the new en suite out of plumbing scrap.  It will look really steam-punk?  I’ll include the old fashioned valves on the end of the brass pipe and I’ll bend the pipe to suit.  What do you think?” he asks, beaming.

I do the eyebrow thing.

“And it would be more practical to have a washing machine in the bathroom upstairs,” he says.

Muttering joins the eyebrow thing.  He opens his mouth again and I cut in.

“No, No to everything, Not any of that, No.”

He’s crestfallen.

I pipe up again.

“If we have to live in the extension while we do the rest of the house I don’t want it practical or easy, I want it irritating as F*** and twice as inconvenient.  So inconvenient you don’t get comfortable in a microclimate that you crag rats (mountaineers), hobos and hibernating bears feel right at home in.  I want the house finished while the bitter beige anorak, first-hand issues of People’s Fiend (sic), Wednesday morning shampoo and set and the Honda Jazz years are still just a darkly brooding presence beyond the horizon.

“I understand you have to make the kitchen cabinets out of Marine Ply (in case we have to sail around the world in them), I know you want to do everything properly and you are totally brilliant, and I know that the toddler tantrum I’m having right now is inappropriate for a woman of my age – but.”

I have no more, there is nothing.  I flounce off to locate a copy of Homes and Gardens for later – fully intending to add to my consolation stash of pointless scatter cushions.





Give BT its due, Gavin’s personal office person (?)rang me the day my rant landed



It seems the prospect of national media exposure and the discovery that Pixie Dust is in fact ‘a real thing’ for conveying broadbandery at BT spurred the comms monolith into motion.

The telegraph pole (that supplied our telephone line) laid low on Christmas Day, or at least its successor, is now up – the service is restored.  Just the one month then, go Gav.  And a series of other intertaining untruths from BT along the way.  No joined up thinking there either, but we’ll gloss over the pretty far-fetched excuses that are up there with ‘the dog ate my BT van’.

Internet is back, and we have a month’s free telephony on offer (wow, thanks.  Is it the good stuff, powered by Pixies?)  Not much recompense given the amount of hours lost to pointless titting about and listening to hold musak.  I must commend CEO Gavin Patterson’s personal office person though.  She called pretty much every day.  On my mobile, obviously.

Somehow I think my husband was right when he said, write them an actual letter, and  send it recorded delivery.  And a good friend and colleague suggested I address it to Gav, she was right too.  After all, an email wasn’t going to cut the mustard was it.


My letter to BT’s head bandit Gavin Patterson, CEO: Stop dancing round the pole and get the bloody thing fixed

13 1 2017

Gavin Patterson

CEO BT Group plc BT Centre 81 Newgate Street London EC1A 7AJ

Notice of intent: Legal Action & media initiative


BT job number VOL013173774938400 | Police incident number 0682251216

Phone number 0151 526 2130


Dear Mr Patterson,


I would advise you to have someone investigate this. My media & communications business has now been without a telephone connection since the evening of December 25th when a traffic accident knocked down a telegraph pole, bringing with it the telephone line. I am losing time and money.


What makes this doubly concerning – and is something you may actually want to look at – is that your BT account handlers lied to us. It is galling enough to be told the pole will be restored – variously by Dec 30th, Jan 11th and now Jan 18th – but lying is no way to handle customer relations. Here are those lies:


  1. We were told that BT requires planning permission (from the council, obviously) to reinstate a telegraph pole.       We both know that is nonsense. However, in the spirit of nailing the lie, yes we checked with the council, yes they confirmed it was, indeed, nonsense.
  2. We were told by your call centre that the telegraph pole would be fixed by Dec 30th the first time around.       The job wasn’t logged with Openreach until January 4th.


Interestingly we were also informed that loss of broadband would be an issue for our broadband supplier, not for BT. How does that work then, alternative pixie dust rival to BT’s monopoly copper-to-the-home and FTTC?


So, we are now taking legal action to recover costs, lost business and damages in the hope that this will encourage your engineers to site a new pole. Otherwise, we are unhappy to undertake this work ourselves, supply and fit the pole, for your engineers to work to. We will, of course, be inviting national TV to join us should that be the case and billing you for the work. A response would be a bonus.





Mrs Denise France

Birthday Girl’s Panoramic Hissy-fit


I have been married for a while now, so realise that hints about birthday presents are useless.  Hints don’t have any husband Velcro.  They just don’t stick.

A better outcome is achieved by telling one’s husband that 1. your birthday is coming up and 2. this is what you would like and (possibly) 3. this is what you’ll be ordering for yourself from your husband.

November the 19th came around.  I had asked for an ice cream maker.  He likes to eat ice cream, I like to tit about making stuff, he knew where to get the ice cream maker from.  All good.

I’d lashed out on cider making equipment for his birthday so was looking forward to a Christmas of appley wooziness while operating not very heavy machinery.

Not to be.  Not even a card (frowny face).

I got up all birthday-ish: nothing. (He’d been busy – true – we had made an abortive arrangement to go and shop for the ice-cream maker – true too).

He then suggested we go to A PUB for a birthday dinner. Er no.

Where can you buy a bludgeon, I thought, a thing for bludgeoning people….

The day wore on.  He bought himself some presents – cycle helmet, light and tyre pump for his bike he’d got for his birthday with money from his mum, while I waited in the car.

I asked if he was enjoying all his PRESENTS to be told he needed them for his bike.  Of course.

Then I stood by the trolley in the supermarket while he selected a card for me.  #notsospecialnowareyouyouoldbaggage.

We got home and, like the good man he is, the rusted penny clunked down the chute of shame.  He said: “I need to book a restaurant”.  No argument from me.

JF likes to eat, he has a good appetite and he is fit and active.  ‘Mucked about food’ – as he calls it -isn’t his thing.   This is the man who suggested, for our wedding, that his construction canteen concession people catered our wedding ‘Pies like yer Mam used to make’ he said, eyes moist. FYI that didn’t happen.

Bless him he booked one of the most expensive and standout restaurants in the city and agreed, grudgingly, that we’d also go in a taxi.  I was almost faint with gratitude.

The call was made.  They couldn’t do a table till 9.30pm ‘and that would be too late wouldn’t it?’ he asked.

‘No that would be perfect’ I said.

‘OK, yes we’ll book that.’  he said in a rich and confident baritone.

‘They do a tasting menu for £65 a head’ he frowns.

‘That would be lovely’ I add.

Off the phone, all booked and tail wagging he adds, ‘let’s go into town early and have a couple of drinks in a bar.’

Wow, yeah!!

FYI the man eats like a bear and drinks like a fruit fly.  This was going to be interesting.

In the bar I bump into an old paparazzi acquaintance.  The beers flow.  We’ve consumed scrambled egg on toast at 10.30am that morning and stuff all else.  I have 2 large glasses of Sav Blanc, husband has two pints.  Somehow the pap pal elicits 3 pints from us.

We leave the bar and get to the 23 storey building that houses the restaurant.  We’re pointed toward the lift.  We’re giggling and we keep pushing the call button.  There are clearly cameras in the lobby, someone comes in and turns us toward the actual lift.  We’re pressing the buttons on the service elevator, not the glossy mirrored thing that we should be poking at.

We get into the lift and faux-pounce on each other hoping to cause a CCTV outrage.

We get to the top of the world and are seated at a table, spectacular view.  It’s everything I love.  Beautiful view, linen, nice glasses, interesting food that doesn’t over-face and isn’t delivered in slices shaved from a rotating triangular mass under a 2 bar electric fire.

The attentive hostess suggests the seven-course tasting menu is served with matched wine, for just £95 a head.  JF agrees and smiles his 2 pints smile.  We’re chatting to the manager, a spoon with an abused mush (as it’s known in Liverpool) is brought.  Johnny looks a question.  I drink mine and he follows suit.  Well ‘swallow’ would be a better description.  We drink the glass of wine that comes with it, a fizzy affair, very lovely.

Next course comes out.  It’s roughly the size of  half a sprout with 3 blobs of something of ladybird proportion, accompanied by a different glass of wine.

There are no bread rolls.  Johnny is getting louder and his stomach is rumbling.

We plough on through another five courses – and their accompanying wine.  It is delightful I think as I concentrate on tuning out the moaning; and the rumbling.

At one point I donate half my (quarter of a KitKat-finger-sized) pudding to JF and give up with the pudding wine.  JF eats the pudding and drinks the dessert wine, his and mine.  Oh dear.

We have a row.  John wants fish and ‘bloody’ chips on the way home.  We think he may be sick in the cab.  By now we have spent £300.  This figure will be bandied about for a further 3 days (keeping step with his receding hangover) until I finally snap.

‘Look, date per date for 2016 – if we ever went on dates – £300 is a bloody bargain,’ I yell unnecessarily loudly into his face, enjoying the wince.

Two days later I receive a Kitchen Aid hand held blender and my bike has been restored and fixed up.  The card had a fox on it.

PS that picture of the Happy Birthday thing at The Panoramic didn’t happen, just found it on Google, and that’s a very generous portion compared with what we were served.  However – Panoramic – I loved it, just perfect, thank you, do you do a table for one?





Squid and Cake. All food groups covered – why’s he moaning?


My husband is the poster boy for ‘frugal’ – but fortunately better looking than Gordon Brown (who?)

So when I produced a delicious, though unlikely, meal of squid (seasoned and lightly battered, but with nothing else) followed by a piece of homemade apple and almond cake (from a batch in the freezer) it was received with the usual gusto and compliments.  Apart, of course, from asking: ‘is this it?’ on the squid front.

I challenged the comment.  ‘I’m being frugal, and I haven’t been shopping.’  All true.  Was being lazy too if truth be known.  He raised an eyebrow.

‘Look you’re just fortunate I didn’t make squid cake,’ was the crisp rejoinder.  Hmmm.

Now I’m thinking…