Chanel trousers - what a gift!

These amazing Chanel trousers turned up in the post just the other day and were a gift from my dear friend Bun Matthews. Brand new, in pristine condition and begging to be worn I had a lovely evening trawling through my wardrobe to find the best separates to showcase them. I'm not very tall and the trousers are mega wide so I thought I needed to highlight the high waist and have a fitted top half to offset the voluminous bottom half. My initial thought had been to pair the trousers up with a cropped, frilled blouse which also had brass buttons, but when I put it all together the top was too boxy and I looked swamped. My other thought had been to go all out with the nautical theme and add a Breton striped tee shirt, but again that was just too boxy to be flattering.

So here we have it, fab Chanel pants with a beautiful shoreline backdrop - what a lovely start to the bank holiday weekend. My daughter Sasha is home for the long weekend and we are all heading out for a lazy lunch today. My next challenge is to find something to wear given that it's a half mile walk to the beach bar and it's currently tipping it down with rain. Wellies and wet gear are more de rigeur here than a fashion statement so I will be trying to find something practical but worthy of the occasion. Watch this space...

Trousers: Chanel. Tee shirt: Top shop. Cardigan: TK Maxx. Shoes: Topshop. Handbag: charity shop. Liberty doll pendant: Charlie Dodge. Rose gold bangle: Kate Spade New York. Brass cuff: Rose Cecil. Turquoise ring: old. Yellow stone ring: Martin James.


Bloomin' lovely

I'm don't really see myself as a floriferous type as a rule, but these flowery purchases seem to have made their way into my wardrobe with this explosive result. In fact the supermarkets have come up trumps as the trousers were from Sainsbury last summer and the top was a recent purchase in Tesco. I found the bomber jacket in a charity shop a while back, the brand was Zara which means great styling and fabric, so another winner.

I think my main motivator when getting dressed in the morning is not to look boring, predictable or like an old fogey. I don't mind in the least being middle aged, but it doesn't mean I want to look as if I've lost my fashion mojo. Clothes have been my passion since I was about 13 starting with when I knitted myself an amazing turquoise skirt. The majority of you probably won't remember, but there was a trend at the time for these massive plastic knitting needles where you used 8 strands of wool and the stitches were huge, but meant you were able to knit and finish your project really quickly. I knitted these two rectangles which I then sewed up the side seams of, and then lined with a lovely turquoise silky material (all hand stitched), finishing with a tube of elastic at the top. Et voila, a fabulous mini skirt! I remember the thrill of creating something original. It was a Saturday afternoon when it had it's debut, which at 13 was only a trip along the high street and back again, in the hope that someone would clock this fantastic little gem. Since then I've dabbled with customising clothes and recently have taken a couple of sewing courses and hope to do another. I'm greedy to learn more so that I can do more sewing, but actually you can apply that greed to living generally. I'm nearing 60, but there's so much I want to learn, so much I want to do. There's still a whole lot of living to be done!

Jacket: charity shop. Trousers: Sainsbury. Top: Tesco. Shoes: Office. Yellow stone ring: Martin James. Brown stone ring: East.


Liberty print Vans

Some days it's all about comfort and today was one. For me comfort starts with the shoes and these Liberty print Vans are perfect and so pretty (am currently having a bit of a Liberty print crush). That shopping urge got to me recently when I heard the news of Office having a sale and it was too much temptation. These flats are just what I need when I'm hanging paintings and have to climb up and down a ladder all day. I've teamed them with wide loose trousers and a jeans jacket for a casual look which is functional. The necklace was a gift from my daughter which she brought back from her travels in Thailand earlier on this year and it's neutral colour is great to wear with lots of different outfits.

As far as style goes I'm a bit of a chameleon never wanting to be pigeon-holed as one thing or the other. I'm happy to mix it up from an elegant dressed up look one day to a bright and bouncy, casual look the next. When I was younger I worked in a bank for a couple of years and remember the constraints of the formal dress code. For the majority of working women I know this is the norm, and there's probably room for a bit more flair now seeing as that was about 30 years ago. I'd love to hear from you if you have to wear a uniform to work or just have to be very smart every day. How do you express your own personal style? Is that something you have to keep for outside the workplace? I'm interested to hear about how you cope with the restrictions of working clothes.

Jacket: Benetton. Trousers: H&M. Shoes: Office. T-shirt: charity shop. Handbag: NW3 (charity shop). Necklace: gift. Sunglasses: Quay Australia. Pearl bracelet: old. Green bracelet: Magpie and Butterfly. Blue ring: Primark. Yellow ring: Martin James.


Summer exhibitions: 6 of 6

I can't quite believe that we're at the end of our summer exhibition schedule. It seems to have gone by like a shot, and tonight was tinged with a little sadness that the fun is over for another year. We've hosted 6 shows in 60 days with 7 artists attending their opening night and 18 artists being represented by the gallery in total. It's a terrific challenge to make it all work: for the art to arrive safely, on time and without incident, for the weather to be kind enough for our parties to spill outdoors and most importantly for the customers to come, enjoy and hopefully spend. I would like to declare the whole thing a resounding success and say thank you to the final line up.

My thanks go to Wendy McBride, attending artist for the evening, who charmed her clients and was a pleasure to have in our company. And a huge thank you goes to the support team, back to their original format of Julie McMurray, Polly Edwards and Bethany Inch. They were a dream to work with all summer and I couldn't have held it together without them.

In the flurry of our last night my fashion shoot seemed to be forgotten, but I will briefly mention this beautiful jumpsuit, yes jumpsuit not maxi dress, which hails from the alter of the mighty H&M. Purchased in their sale only last week I'm thrilled with the fit and colour and am hoping to conjure up a reason for it to be worn again soon. The flat sandals are ancient, but so comfortable and ideal at the end of a very long day, and Jessica my new and already much loved pendant is proudly accessorising this sensational outfit which adds a bit of flair to the whole shebang.

And in case you're wondering why the big cover up with the arms tonight? I have to explain that it's the low cut back of the jumpsuit and slight underwear malfuction that required the modesty layer - the arms are good!


To Appletree and beyond

My day off, and it was perfect weather for a long swim. I'd checked XC Weather the night before and wind speeds for this morning were forecast to be only 3-5 mph. It was high tide at 7.40am but even on a receding tide this was too good an opportunity to miss. So much so that when I got up at 6 o'clock I thought I really ought to just head out then before nerves set in. I have to confess, I'm not a natural water baby. This big swim is quite a challenge for me which is why I want to do it. I was a late learner as far as swimming is concerned. When all the other kids were confident at diving in at the deep end and joining up to swimming club I was still in water wings at 10 years old, much to my embarrassment. I'd had a setback when I was younger - after a swimming lesson I was climbing the steps to get out of the swimming pool and a boy put his foot onto the top of my head and kept it there as he pushed me back under, holding me there, trapped. I was out of my depth and couldn't let go of the handrail and seemed to be stuck underwater for minutes. The bully laughed as I finally surfaced, coughing and spluttering. This encounter undermined me at a time when I didn't really have much confidence anyway. Nowadays I'm a strong swimmer, but that anxiety is still with me, and I'm aware of my fear I when I'm out in the open water. I'm driven to overcome this but will always choose to swim on a calm day if I can.

And today was certainly calm. I got into the water at 9.45 am and gently headed South towards Appletree Bay. The plan was to go as far as was comfortable without aims or limits, just to see how it goes. The previous long lone swim I had was amazing and it's always going to be difficult to rival such an experience. This morning there was a bit of cloud cover making the sea more of a dull azure green. We'd had a bit of wild weather recently too which had stirred up sand into the sea so it wasn't as clear as before. However, conditions were still pretty much perfect and I was happy to at last be in the water rather than contemplating how it would be. I know it's crazy to have a hobby which makes you anxious, but I seem to need a challenge in my life and this currently is it. At a time when we're all being encouraged to be more active and improve our health, sea swimming is the perfect form of exercise as far as I'm concerned - it's free, it's right on my doorstep and the cold water is such a good boost for the immune system - why not jump in?

The practicalities of the kit are always interesting with sometimes my goggles fogging up, or the time when I wore my neoprene boots for the first time and put them over my wetsuit. That was hilarious. By the time I got out, my legs and boots were bulging with water like the Michelin Man! Today I seemed to have not tightened my neck seal firmly enough and was scooping water down my back within the first few strokes. I tried to re-adjust the tab, but as I was wearing gloves my grip wasn't very good and they also kept on getting attached to the Velcro - oh what fun! I carried on, hoping that I wouldn't fill up like a balloon again. The sea was calm for the main part, with only the odd passing boat sending it's wash my way. My breathing was relaxed leaving me the brain space to enjoy the sight of shoals of tiny fish darting around, taking cover in seaweed as I passed. It was a lower tide today so I came across more seaweed as I swam towards the sweep of Appletree Bay. I could see a couple on the beach stooping from time to time, probably picking up shells or sea glass. Hunting for cowrie shells is favourite pastime for visitors, but curiously not something I've done myself. I think it's like that thing of Londoners not seeing all the shows or visiting every the tourist attraction. If it's on your doorstep you've not got that sense of urgency, you'll get around to it sometime. I really ought to see if I can find a cowrie shell or two.

The next raft of seaweed at Carn Near neck was much more shallow too and I was quite surprised to find I was suddenly touching sand. I got up onto my feet to see a boatload of visitors had just been disgorged and were making their way along the road which overlooks the beach. Some were looking at this neoprened figure, orange buoy attached to her waist, staggering about over the rocks and seaweed - I expect I looked a strange sight. As soon as possible I lunged back into the water and headed around the rocks to Carn Near. As I rounded the quay I decided to get out to fix the leaky neck issue. I clambered up the steps and sat down for a moment. A thought occurred as to how easy it would be just to walk home from here. It felt like cheating though. I wasn't tired, but this little area on either side of the quay isn't my favourite spot. Firstly, because I feel vulnerable being where the boats dock, but mostly because the weed here makes the water taste odd. Generally sea water just tastes salty, but clean. Around here there's a pronounced taste, kind of reminiscent of smelly cabbage water. As I swim off again I'm even aware of an aroma. Maybe our sense of taste and smell are so tightly connected I'm just imagining I can smell this too. Before long I'm away and past this spot, and swim over a bed of swaying seaweed that looks just like an unmown lawn. It's a very Jacques Cousteau moment for me, as I scan the sea floor looking for fish or crustaceans lurking there. I didn't see this patch last time, so maybe my course is slightly different this time.

I head on towards the end of Bathing House beach and am looking for the way around Skirt Island where I turned the corner last time. But this reveals itself to be a dead end. The tide has gone out so far that all there's left is rocks and seaweed. I stand up and try to puzzle out what to do next. Do I hike up the beach and traverse this corner until I reach the sea or do I turn around and head out into deeper water and potentially the boat lane? Behind me some 200 yards away I see a woman on a paddle board. She's heading out around the rocks and that decides it for me, I'll follow her lead. I put my goggles back on and strike out. I round the rocks and continue to follow the paddle boarder. My focus has changed and I seem to be drawn in her wake, believing she knows the way better than I do. I swim on, hypnotised by the motion of the paddle dipping in and out of the water, a rhythmic pull, a siren's call weaving it's spell on me. The cloud has cleared, the sun is shining and the sea has taken on a wonderful turquoise hue. I see the sand below me is pristine and weed free, dotted with shells. My swim is unfolding into a charmed waterway of dreamy thoughts, the strokes a pulse of energy, making easy progress. And suddenly I'm woken out of my reverie. I notice that I'm well out into the boating channel heading towards St Martin's, but I'm not on a paddle board, nor do I have a safety boat with me. As I turn sharply left towards the shore I'm shocked at how I was lured away, my mind distracted. To be fair, the water wasn't overly deep, but I was too far from the shore if I'd suddenly got cramp as I've had before.

So here I was once again, gliding through the waters of Pentle Bay and feeling completely in the zone. Time has lost it's meaning, thoughts drift in and out, and I swim on, breathing easy, no fatigue and no reason to stop. Perhaps I can just cruise along on to Old Grimsby again? I can see a family having a picnic on the beach, toddlers bobbling about on the sand. It's a blissful summer's day, a perfect day off, a wonderful time to be out in the water. I can see Round Island Lighthouse in the distance, and a jet boat chugs lazily ahead of me in the shallow waters, crossing from Lower Town to Old Grimsby. For a moment there's the smell of boat fuel in the air and then it's gone. I can't believe I'm on the last lap as I round the sandy hump of Blockhouse Point. The tide is low as I skim over some bright green dancing seaweed, and catch sight of the scuttling sideways march of a large brown crab as he tries to make himself scarce. The final stretch across Green Beach is gone like a shot and suddenly I'm washed up onto the shoreline. The swim seems less epic this time, probably the novelty value is gone, but the distance remains - 4.2 miles I've discovered. As I make my way up the beach I meet a young couple and ask them the time. It's 12.25 pm. I'm quietly impressed. That 10 year old girl in water wings has made good progress.


British summer

Typical British summer! One day I'm off to work in a sleeveless shift dress and the next it's a woolly jacket to keep warm on even the briefest of commutes.  To be fair I don't often have occasion to wear a jacket as home and work are only a minute apart. Today however, the wind was blowing from the North making it chilly enough for me to root about in my wardrobe for the right jacket. The brand of this little number is Florence and Fred, but I wonder if you'd have guessed that such a chic style could be found in your local Tesco. A cream jacket or coat can look very smart as long as it's kept immaculately clean, so it's worth weighing up the dry cleaning bills when you're thinking about buying. What I saved by making my purchase in a charity shop can at least go towards the next few visits to the dry cleaners.  

The silky harem pants were an impulse buy quite a few years ago and this is the first time I've worn them. I've found them quite difficult to pair up with anything, but the peplum top seemed like it was worth a try. I do love the shape and colour of the top so I think that really swayed the decision. The true test will be if I can find another top to bring them out again, then I'll know they're for keeps. And the shoes have been another challenge to get the right partnership for. I think they work really well with the trousers considering my default setting would be to pop on a pair of brogues, of which I have one or two...

Jacket: Tesco. Top: H&M. Vest top: Primark. Harem pants: TK Maxx. Shoes: TK Maxx. Clutch bag: charity shop. Necklaces: charity shop. Opaque ring: New Look. Flower ring: Dorothy Perkins.


Retro shirt and Liberty doll pendant

Sometimes the inspiration for an outfit comes from a certain colour that I want to wear, other times it's a specific item, and today this retro shirt was the starting point. A recent eBay find, it's been like a lady-in-waiting loitering in the background, lingering until the moment was right. The psychedelic pattern reminds me of an orange and white dress I wore to a family wedding when I was about 10 years old. It had a small stand up collar, zip front, three quarter length sleeves, was a tent dress, and a micro mini too. The fledgling fashionista in me was excited to be in fashion thanks to the very affordable C&A.

I'm loving the mix of fabrics today: the suede belt and shoes, crepe shirt, cotton chinos and patent handbag. The richness of the fabrics makes the ensemble all the more interesting and the sea colours compliment my colouring too, but I also think the pop of fuchsia against the blue is a great ploy. All in all it's a fab feelgood outfit which just boosts my mood for the day ahead.

But a special mention must go to my doll pendant with Liberty skirt by Charlie Dodge. Newly purchased just yesterday (I forgot to put it on for the first few shots), Charlie tells me she's encouraging all her customers to name their doll (her own one is called Tallulah), so I've called mine Jessica and I think she's divine! I'm sure she's going to appear quite often over the rest of the summer, and no apologies for that. I think Charlie could have a bestseller on her hands and I wish her every success with this latest creation.

Shirt: eBay. Trousers: Fat Face. Shoes: Benetton. Belt: Benetton. Handbag: charity shop. Pearl necklace: old. Liberty doll necklace: Charlie Dodge. Blue ring: charity shop. Yellow stone ring: Martin James.


Seals and Stugeron

Well, here we are again one week later and although the weather and sea conditions are almost the same, one thing is quite different - I've overcome my seasickness! Through the magic of modern medicine, aka Stugeron, I managed to swim for about half an hour in a reasonable sea swell without any effects. I think you can tell by the relief on my face that this had been quite an enjoyable experience. Kate was as steady as ever, and I managed to keep an even pace behind her without swallowing sea water or feeling squiffy though the dips and rises of the waves. We even had a few seals as companions at the start of the swim just off Samson. The aim of our training today was to test out the Stugeron and now it's proved effective we are back on track. I know it was a shorter swim, but the swell was bigger and considering I was struggling the moment we hit the surge last week, I'm confident that I've got it covered now. Hurrah!

Many thanks to all who made contact after last week's post with comments, advice and words of support. It's great to know you're rooting for me. Thanks again to Kate and Jamie for their support and for making themselves available. And now the prospect of the long swimming day ahead is a possibility again, I'd better get out there and build up some stamina. Three weeks to go!


Summer exhibitions: 5 of 6

Tonight's team of Rachel Young, Tash Lawson, Beth Inch and yours truly

And so August rushes on. Tonight's opening party is our second last of the summer, and artist Tom Holland was as playful as ever. The fine weather ensured a great turnout again and the gallery extended into the outdoors space embracing the spectacular rosy sunset at the end of the day. We always have our photo shoot once the party is over which works best in showing us all relaxed and stress free after the event. The support team features another permutation with Rachel stepping in for Polly (get well soon) as my assistant and also gaining immediate promotion to blog photographer (the girl done good!)

The beautiful summer evening deserved a straightforward pretty party dress and this little number fits the bill. It's from Monsoon via the that amazing mega-store eBay where with a bit of clever bidding I secured it for £6.01. I bought it last year and didn't take to it immediately as I thought it might be a bit bland, however my silver Dorothy shoes and the chunky rose quartz and amethyst necklace both lift it out of the ordinary. It's really important to try things on before you dismiss them, as with a few well chosen accessories I think you can transform the blah into the bling. 

Dress: Monsoon (eBay). Shoes: eBay. Necklace: Emily Nixon. Brass cuff: Rose Cecil. Rose gold bangle: Kate Spade New York. Silver ring: charity shop. Yellow stone ring: Martin James.

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