Getting Hitched…Bad Bride

The dude and I are getting married in September. When I was a little girl, I used to dream about being a superhero. I would lie in my bed imagining myself flying over my home town until my lids dosily lowered and my night-time superhero took on a life of her own. When I was a bit older, I dreamt about being a farmer. When I was a teenager, my daydreams moved on to working in a library with medieval manuscripts, or being a writer, or a gardener, or teacher, or someone who owned a collection of fabulous shoes. Or all of the above.

I have never dreamt about being a bride. Getting married wasn’t particularly something I ever seriously considered. I knew it might happen one day, but it was something floating around in my future, and not something to dream about. Marrying the dude is exciting, it’s a new adventure for both of us and planning our wedding day as a team is a lot of fun. But…I am beginning to realise that society views a wedding day, as the bride’s day.

I don’t think I am making a good bride. I get asked a lot of questions, by people who are happy and excited for the dude and me. It’s lovely, but I can see their looks of puzzlement when I respond by saying “no, I didn’t cry when I found ‘the dress’ because it’s an item of clothing.” And “no, I am not making any bunting, or origami cranes, or any crafts, because I can’t be bothered.” Genuinely, I can’t be arsed to spend evenings and weekends making decorations which will get about seven hours of use. I have three ‘bridesmaids’ who are mature, fabulous women who do not need me to tell them how to dress. So, they are choosing for themselves. Some brides even dictate the bridesmaids’ hair and make-up. I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, and have had my toenail varnish colour dictated to me. I couldn’t care less what my wing women go for. Their eyeshadow has no bearing on my marriage.

The average wedding costs around £21,000 excluding the cost of the honeymoon. That’s great for people who are loaded, but for those of us who aren’t it can be an unreasonably expensive endeavour. The wedding business  is an industry that encourages people to go to extreme lengths for what is essentially a party. I don’t know about you, but give me a glass of fizz, a twiglet and some MC Hammer on the stereo and I am havin’ myself a partay!

See…bad bride.

So, what are we doing? We are committing ourselves to one another in front of our loved ones. We are promising to take care of each other always, to support each other, and to make the effort to be the best team we can be. I don’t dream about being a bride, but I do dream about being old with the dude, looking back at our wedding day and laughing together about the number of pairs of shoes I tried to cram in… some dreams do come true.

BB x

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My wedding shoes… the first pair. They are from Carvela by Kurt Geiger.

Testament of Youth

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The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.

I have always been fascinated by the early twentieth century. The literature, the music, the art, the fashion. I think about dancing the Charleston, gramophones, 1920’s bobbed hair and rouge lips. Sometimes, I imagine myself in a 1930’s style silk robe that wafts around me as I casually drag on a Woodbine. Again, the red lips feature. I do love a red lip.

Anyway, when I am back in the twenty-first century I often read books about, or set during, the period spanning 1900-1950. I have just finished Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. This autobiography spans Brittain’s life from early adolescence through to her early thirties and focuses on the cataclysmic impact of the First World War on her own generation.

Vera grew up in Buxton, and was the daughter of middle-class, affluent parents. She had a younger brother who was sent to Uppingham school and who, it was expected, would go to Oxford. Vera however was expected to ‘come out’ and then promptly get married and run a household. She had different ideas, and determinedly pursued a place at Somerville College, Oxford.

The First World War broke out during her first year at Oxford and her brother, who was at New College, signed up immediately. Vera’s fiancée also signed up, and off the boys went to war. Vera carried on studying but eventually gained permission to suspend her studies whilst she became a volunteer nurse with the British Red Cross. She didn’t realise that nursing would become her life for the next three years.

Brittain manages to weave her own life events around the wider political and societal changes that were happening during those turbulent years in British history. She focuses, at some length, on her work with the League of Nations in the second half of the book, and commentary on early feminism is given all the way through. At some points this does run a bit dry, especially as her own agenda is very much pursued. She wrote this in the 1930’s and it’s clear that her political activism is still going strong at that point, she has her points to prove. These points are made all the way through, that educated women at that time had to struggle to make use of their education when it was expected that all professional activity would cease on marriage. And also, that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles did not honour the loss of life of millions of young men, including the young men who were the brightest and best. Not ground-breaking for readers now, but for those reading this in the early 1930’s when the legacy of WW1 was still very much felt, I imagine it was thought-provoking.

Is it wrong to say I don’t really warm to her? There is a pervasive sense of arrogance. I know that she had a hard won struggle to get to Oxford, and then to establish a writing career, but…there is something of a cold detachment in the way that she writes.

Nevertheless, it has made me think about women today. I am getting married in September, and thankfully I don’t even have to think about giving up my career as a result. But…I have also realised that middle-class women of Vera’s generation had rather a lot of help at home. They had charwomen, or maids, or housekeepers. Other women who would come in and cook and clean for them. Vera’s own mother had a nervous breakdown during the war, because she simply couldn’t find any servants. She had no idea how to boil an egg, or how to clean their Chelsea flat. I imagine that the strain of worrying about their children (both in France at that time) was the primary cause, but Vera highlights the burden of domesticity on women for whom ‘running the house’ had always been managing other people to do the grunt work. When these women had to do it themselves, they fell apart.

And what of us now? We (women and men) are doing all our own cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and hoovering, as well as working and, in some cases, raising children. How on earth do we do it? And then we have all the social media to keep up with, and instagram photos of other people’s perfectly put together homes to feel inadequate over…surely it’s nervous breakdowns a-go-go for us all?! I think Vera’s mother would have gone up in a puff of smoke if she knew how much we all try and do now. Something has to give, surely. For me, I know what that is… I don’t iron, I barely tidy (thanks go to the dude for the tidying) and, I never feel on top of anything at the moment. So, for all our equality and emancipation, I am sure that a couple of generations ago we never would have thought of going without a housekeeper. Virginia Woolf had a whole host of servants (managing them drove her to her wits end). If Virginia Woolf was alive now, she would be someone who ‘works from home’ and would end up doing the cooking and housework herself. Probably. And how much time/energy would that have left for writing?

Vera Brittain describes living in a small London flat with Winifred Holtby during her twenties. Both women were writing novels and pursuing careers in journalism at that time, they were busy, young and starting out. And then, she casually mentions the housekeeper who would cook and clean for them. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud on the train, what a hard life those ‘struggling writers’ led. Try being out of the house from 07.30 – 19.30 to work to your employers’ schedule, and then come home to make dinner, and maybe do some remedial housework or just fall asleep. When is there time for writing, thinking, research, ideas?

I don’t know that my mother’s generation during the women’s lib movement of the 1970s, really realised that the burden of running a home would still fall to their daughters even after they gained equal opportunities for us in education and the workplace. If the dude is reading this, he’s just spat out his beverage at that last sentence. But, generally women do still expend more energy (psychological and physical) on housework, cooking, making plans and arrangements with friends and family, and basically keeping the show on the road. I can’t talk about childcare, but it seems to me that women do tend to lead on this one as well, and that’s a whole lifetime of work for a person.

So, instead of clean the house this weekend. I’m going to dance around in my red lipstick, enjoy a cocktail or two, and maybe….just maybe work on that piece of writing that I started.

Happy Friday everyone!

BB x

Scribe & Spires

header scribeSince finishing my master’s degree in 2006 I have been fortunate enough to work for some great organisations in their marketing and communications teams. I have recently started my freelance business as a marketing and communications consultant and copywriter. If your business needs engaging and effective online content, or you need someone to point you in the right direction with your marketing strategy, get in touch for a chat and let’s see how we can work together to achieve the results you need. Take a look at my website over at Scribe & Spires.

What should I do with Bloomsbury Bell?

I started this blog in 2009, is that really six years ago?! And it was originally a place for me to write about books, I met some great people through blogging and was lucky enough to be sent the odd free book from some lovely publishing houses. Then I moved to Oxford and things got a bit more hit and miss….I lived in a cottage and blogged a bit about my life in the country. Then I didn’t blog for a while. And then, last year I thought I’d try the whole ‘lifestyle’ thing which lasted 5 minutes….and now it’s 2015 and I don’t know what to do with Bloomsbury Bell.

So… how do you solve a problem like Bloomsbury Bell? Books?…Gardening?…Home-making?…Wedding planning (gulp)?…or should I scrap it and start again?

The hills are alive…

me on mountain

I don’t know where August went…. we moved house and then time seemed to go into warp speed. We went to France for a week with some members of the Dude’s family and stayed in a villa near Pau. Essentially, the week was spent eating meat, cheese and pastries and drinking many a G&T and imbibing all the wine the vineyards could produce. Or at least it felt like it. It was a great, restorative week which was much needed after moving house. I also got to demonstrate my considerable air guitar skills… but the least said about ‘air guitar gate’ the better.

For the final two nights of the holiday, the Dude and I stayed in a teepee near the Cirque de Gavarnie in the heart of the Pyrenees. The camp site consisted of four teepees with stunning views across the mountain range. It was simply breathtaking.

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And talking of breathtaking, whilst we were walking on the Plateau de Saugue, the Dude asked me to marry him. I was, quite literally, stunned. The pictures of me prancing about like Maria Von Trapp were actually taken before he popped the question, so I can’t use that as an excuse. I blame the mountain air for my cavorting around, that and the fact that you can’t help but dance when the world is so beautiful.

me in mountain 2