Hello my friends.
‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ is now available on Kindle at £1.98. Go here for yours
Here is a little taster…
Don’t you just hate men’s timing? Only a man could drop a bombshell on you while you’re sitting in a fitting room with your tits hanging out. Not that I spend a great deal of time sitting in fitting rooms with my tits hanging out you understand. My friend Georgie had convinced me that if I am going to buy some new underwear then I really should have a proper bra fitting. It’s not like I’m Dolly Parton or anything and I hasten to point out as such.
‘Hidden Beauty is the place to go when buying a bra. They really know how to fit a woman,’ she argues.
‘But I really don’t need a fitting,’ I protest feebly.
‘You can’t just buy a bra off the peg,’ she insists, dragging me into one of the most exclusive lingerie stores in London.
I assure her that I can and that, in fact, on an NHS salary it is all I can afford.
‘You’re marrying a well-paid advertising executive in a few weeks. Your breasts are important to him. He would want you to take good care of them,’ she grins.
Important to him they may be, but in my experience Charlie has been more interested in getting bras off me than seeing me in them. I am also quite sure with his tight budgeting schemes he would, without doubt, balk at the prices in here. As it is he gets all agitated and red in the face if I leave the lights on in the flat.
I glance at the tag and try to look nonchalant as I search for a price. Just about everything is printed on this tag, and in about fifty languages. Okay a slight exaggeration, but how is it that they can get everything on this small piece of card except the price? Hidden Beauty has hidden prices it seems. This does not bode well for yours truly.
‘Lovely isn’t it?’ whispers Georgie as she strokes the lace. ‘I bought two of these last year and they were worth every penny.’
‘How many pennies exactly?’ I whisper, trying not to sound too panicky.
The Enya music in the background is doing nothing to calm my nerves. Between us, Charlie and I had just spent a small fortune on our forthcoming wedding. I really can’t afford to be extravagant.
She laughs carelessly.
‘About a hundred pounds each. Don’t worry. Enjoy your day off.’
Don’t worry, is she crazy? Georgie has no concept of money or more to the point, no concept of the lack of it. Georgie has a fantastic job as a fashion buyer for Harvey Nicholls where she is spectacularly overpaid and not in the least overworked. She always looks glamorous and toned. Two mornings she goes to the gym before work, and one evening to Pilates. With her sculptured bone structure and long thick black hair she could be mistaken for a model. Unfortunately, her (enviable) successful life also includes a prick of a boyfriend. That is if you can call him her ‘boyfriend’ seeing as he is someone else’s husband (not enviable). But Georgie is mad about James and there seems little I can do to dissuade her. She is convinced that he will leave his wife any day now, and has thought this for the past year even though I keep telling her he never will. When she is not thinking about James she has her head in a crime novel. In stark contrast I am scandalously underpaid in what must be the most unglamorous job on the planet. I am the deputy practice manager at an NHS doctor’s surgery. The truth is I am so shattered in the evenings that I can barely make it to the shower, let alone Pilates, and the only thing I do before work is hyperventilate. My stress levels are so high that I feel sure that just one session at the gym would be fatal. I would give myself a cardiac arrest just by releasing all my pent-up emotions. Even now I can feel the adrenalin rushing through my body, tinging my cheeks pink and brightening my eyes. However, I do have a lovely fiancé and a fairy-tale wedding booked. In just under a month I will be Mrs Charlie Marrow and I cannot wait.
‘I can’t pay a hundred pounds for a bra. I don’t spend that much on my highlights,’ I protest and make for the door but Georgie pulls me back to face the assistant who is rushing towards us swinging a tape measure.
After one look at me she grimaces and says,
‘Well, already I can see you’re wearing the wrong size bra. Just look at how you’re hanging.’
Good heavens, what happened to Good morning madam? That works better for me than look at how you’re hanging. I hope they don’t greet men with that when they pop into their posh underwear shops. Mind you, a man might be flattered to be told how he is hanging. I’m Alice Lane by the way, thirty-two, living with my successful fiancé, soon to be married and therefore respectable by all accounts, but not hanging at all well apparently.
Both Georgie and I look at my tits in a whole new light. Don’t you just hate shop assistants who know it all? I’ve been wearing this bra for years. Is she telling me I have been hanging wrong all that time?
‘She has a point,’ says Georgie while looking critically at one breast and then the other. ‘You’re definitely hanging lopsided’.
What does she mean I’m hanging lopsided? Surely a bad-fitting bra wouldn’t have me hanging lopsided. I feel an overwhelming urge to flee the shop but before I can, the assistant, who introduces herself as Justine, has pulled me into a fitting room. I grab Georgie for support.
‘If you really want to focus on bra nirvana it is better to come in alone,’ Justine says firmly.
Nirvana or no nirvana there is no way I am going in there alone with Justine, and I’m not sure how I can find any kind of nirvana if I’m going to bare my boobs. With Georgie’s encouragement I remove my jumper to reveal the offending bra. Justine tuts knowingly and touches it reluctantly with her finger.
‘It’s quite saggy and very unsupportive,’ she says grimacing.
I hope she is talking about the bra, and not my breast. I feel a desire to defend my saggy unsupportive brassiere but refrain.
‘Turn around,’ she orders.
I’m beginning to wonder if this is a bra shop or an army barracks. Blimey, she’ll be strip-searching me next. I do as I’m told and come face to face with myself in the fitting room mirror. Good Lord, I actually do look a little lopsided. I’m convinced they do something to the mirrors in these rooms. I am glad to see that everything else looks acceptable and not in the least lopsided. My complexion is clear, glowing in fact, and considering I was dragged out by Georgie before I had time to put my face on I look okay. My blue eyes are bright and shiny and I look altogether healthy. The light in the fitting room brings out my blonde highlights just a little too well though and I can see my roots are well overdue a treatment. Just as well I am having a complete overhaul for the wedding. But apart from hanging a little lopsided I think I look rather good for a thirty-two year old.
‘Yes, as I thought. You have it on its tightest setting. No wonder you are hanging so badly.’
‘Shame on you,’ sniggers Georgie.
‘Remove it please.’
Justine whips out her tape measure with great flourish and I jump out of my skin. I reluctantly remove the trusted Marks and Spencer bra and wonder if Justine will find fault with my breasts also. This is all becoming very cringe-worthy, so when my mobile bleeps I am quite relieved. I push my hand into my bag and Justine sighs so loudly that I remove it instantly.
Georgie sniggers again and I throw her a dirty look.
‘Just as I thought, you’ve been wearing a 34B while you are actually a 36C.’
‘Oh no,’ she squeals, ‘that’s all you need on your wedding day.’
‘But I’ve always worn 34B,’ I protest. ‘My breasts have been cushioned in a 34B for as long as I can remember.’
‘And look at the state of them.’
I’m starting to feel like a circus freak. She’ll be ordering breast surgery next. All I wanted was a bog-standard bra.
Justine disappears with a swish of the fitting room curtain to fetch an armful of 36Cs and I hastily retrieve my mobile. I’m about to read the text message when Justine breezes in again, and in one smooth movement whips the phone out of my hand and throws it into my bag and has my arms in the air before I can say Playtex.
‘There,’ she declares, turning me to face the mirror. ‘Look how perfect they hang.’
I take the catalogue she hands me and look at myself admiringly in the mirror.
‘You look fab,’ smiles Georgie. ‘Wait till Charlie sees you in your 36C.’
I’m actually quite impressed. It feels ten times more comfortable. However, after a glance at the prices in the catalogue I feel a little giddy.
‘I can’t possibly pay that,’ I stammer.
‘You would be mad not to pay it,’ responds Georgie in her usual nonchalant fashion.
‘There is absolutely nowhere else on earth where a woman should buy her bras, and you must buy two. You have to look good in your wedding dress.’
Buckling under the pressure I pull my credit card from my bag and see my phone flashing with the text message from earlier. The card is snatched from my hand and Justine strides to the cash desk. I follow, clicking into the text message as I do so. It is from Charlie.
‘Alice love, I am so sorry …’
Justine’s voice pulls my attention away.
‘That will be one hundred and thirty pounds madam, and may I say you won’t regret a penny of it.’
I hate to tell her that I am already regretting every penny of it.
‘Well, I may not eat for the next month, but at least I won’t be hanging lopsided,’ I joke.
There is nothing from the stony-faced Justine except for the immortal words Please enter your pin madam. I am given a free pair of G-string undies which, gratefully, Justine doesn’t insist on measuring me for. I look at my text as Georgie picks up the bag.
I can’t go through with the wedding. I should have told you before. I’ve left the flat and moved in with Geoff …’
What! What does he mean he has moved in with Geoff? Good God, my fiancé is a closet homosexual. He’s left me for another man. This could only happen to me.
‘Where do you want to go for lunch?’ chirps Georgie, opening the door and setting off a delicate chime.
‘Charlie’s gay,’ I blurt out, dropping the phone and falling onto the chair outside the fitting rooms and grabbing two tissues from the complimentary box that sits on the table.
I stare at the large sign above the till which reads, put your breasts in our hands. I’ve just spent one hundred and thirty pounds on two new bras after well and truly putting my breasts in their hands, and now Charlie tells me he is gay. He could have told me before I spent all that money. Good heavens, what am I thinking? Does it matter about the bras? Charlie has left me for another man. What will my mother say? What will my friends say? What will the vicar say? What about the wedding and the invitations? How can I tell people that Charlie prefers a man to me? Why couldn’t he have left me for another woman? In fact, why did he have to leave me at all?
‘What, you’re surely not serious?’
Georgie takes the phone and studies the text.
‘You mad bitch, you didn’t read it all … Here.’
I grab the phone. Oh thank God.
‘He isn’t leaving me then?’ I ask, relief flooding my body.
‘Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly.’
What does that mean? She pulls a face and gestures to Justine for some water.
… just until we get things sorted out. I promise there isn’t another woman but I’m not ready to settle with just one, at least not yet. I know I should have told you before. I’m so not ready for marriage. I’m so sorry Alice, please forgive me. This is the worst way to tell you, I know that. Forgive me. I’ll phone you in a few days. Of course you can keep the ring, no question.
The assistant hands me a glass of water and the tears I had been struggling to control burst forth.
‘He said I can keep the ring,’ I sob.
‘Oh well,’ says Georgie sarcastically, ‘that makes everything okay then.’
‘It can be an overwhelming experience when you purchase your first perfect fitted bra,’ smiles Justine while handing me another tissue.
‘Oh do shut up woman,’ snaps Georgie. ‘Your bras aren’t that bloody fantastic. Her fiancé just ditched her.’
Great, thanks a lot Georgie. I grab two more complimentary tissues and hiccup my way out of Hidden Beauty. All I did was buy a bra and now my life has gone tits up.