Jumpers for school boys

I did the move to my winter wardrobe a few weeks ago, after reading the writing on the wall. AKA getting a bit cold. It turns out that not listening to your mother about washing your wool jumpers in a kind of…careful way renders them unwearable. She is a clever lady, my mother, and she did an excellent job of mothering and one example of that is she told me to hand wash your woollens in a special mild liquid soap and then you gently stretch them back into place and lay them on a towel to let them dry. I heard her, I did it a few times, then I got bored of it and thought ‘If They (The Man, that is) can send a bloke to the moon then surely They can make washing machines and detergents work in a harmonious way to not ruin my Bella Freud jumpers’.

Reader, it seems that They have not managed to work out this particular sartorial sweet spot and so if you chuck your jumpers into the wash with all manner of pissy boy’s pyjamas, muddy rugby socks and diaphanous silks then some things don’t survive. My jumpers are now very small. They can only fit the boys aged ten and under. I remember with a bit of wide-eyed shame that last winter these jumpers were just as ruined and just as tiny but I wore them anyway. I was either very thin (unlikely) or I was so pleased not to be postpartum anymore with that lagging inability to fit things that I reckon I probably just shoved those tiny jumpers on anyway and to hell with the red welts around the elbow joints where your arms sort of refuse to bend and the accidental crop top situation every time your arms venture higher than your ears. I mean, all power to me.

But now, the jumpers look just a bit wrong and so what is a sustainably-minded lady to do? Particularly when the weather in this country is all nice and mild for so long and you just wear flattering dresses and t-shirts until one day it changes and you only have about a three day window to wear your eclectic and carefully-curated-from-eBay-and-sample-sales-over-a-long-time jacket/blazer collection and then BAM it’s time for coats and jumpers.

Coats and jumpers. Great, sure, yes. There is magic in a leopard print coat (I am still relying on my Stella McCartney £1250 coat which was reduced to £150 in a magnificent Selfridges sale triumph) or my dusky pink Whistles dropped shoulder cocoon coat or my vintage rabbit fur number or even my boring but quite useful leather biker jacket worn with a scarf. (I don’t own any proper scarves really because they make me feel like I am asphyxiating and/or itchy but in my mind I have a lovely collection). Anyway. What do you do? Long time readers will know I am a terrible clothes snob and cannot just buy any old jumper. It needs to have something expensive about it. A cashmere element or a high price tag or some quirky zhoug about it. And of course you can’t go to the High Street for jumpers in the correct size anymore because:

a. All the local shops in Queensway have been picked off over the years: sacrificial lambs to the Westbourne Grove curse, then to the bloated Westfield down the road and then to a tortured, loud and never-ending development/gutting of the former department store Whiteleys which used to have a Zara, an H&M, a movie theatre, an M&S, a greeting card place, a book shop, a jewellers, a fountain, cafes and which is now a literal block of rubble with the heritage-listed original facade still barely in place. When they first started demolishing it you could hear deep drilling into survivalist-level storeys below ground and it sounded just like an unbalanced washing machine. Like an unbalanced washing machine that happened to be HAUNTING YOU, a distant ‘thump thump thump’ all the time. I quite liked it. It was like having my cheerful noisy companion which is perfect for people like me who get lonely in their own company after fifteen minutes but it did drive many of the neighbours mental.

b. Covid makes it very boring to go into shops now, but ordering online seems to be very lazy and is often full of similar potential incorrect sizing hazards. The mask thing is understandable but it is horrible when you are wearing glasses or lipstick or if you want to communicate in a nonverbal way with another human being – even if you want to communicate in a verbal way the masks make it all a bit joyless. BUT I’M STILL WEARING MINE OK? I do what I am told, like.

c. The High Street jumpers are not designer-y enough for me and more importantly are most likely made by a small boy in a terrible factory somewhere and then, of course, end up in landfill. I’ve seen the Attenborough film and so I know.

It leaves me with the charity shops (the ones that are still open, that is) and Portobello Road on a Saturday which is very good for ivory woollen cardigans and vintage Fair Isle ones.

That’s what a sustainably-minded lady should do.

In Other News

I turned 43 in the beginning of October. We went out for brunch at Honey & Co on Friday, had unlimited pizza and drinks with the very lovely primary school fellow parents, then out for dinner and a movie (On the Rocks) at the Electric Cinema.

On Sunday I slept in and we ate all the small cakes we bought from Ottolenghi – all eight of them. We were going to share them magnanimously with the children, honestly. When we bought them, squeezed into the tiny Notting Hill deli with our masks and the awkward socially distanced queue which snaked outside, pointing and shouting and arching our backs to let the staff past, we were all: “Let’s have that one and yes, I’ll take that slice of carrot cake too and I think the boys will like the look of that raspberry cheesecake thing”, etc etc. Plenty for all. But when we got home we realised children have no real appreciation for expensive lemon and polenta cakes or blueberry clafoutis or flourless mousse chocolate cakes and so we hid them and scoffed them later.

It was short, that birthday suspension of normal rules and normal aggravations and aggressions. There was a definite half-day where my Birthday Princess-like Self was venerated and adored by all. Where people treaded softly and wished me the happiest of days and where small hands drew balloons with lead pencils and wrote my name with lashings of curlicues. By afternoon the goodwill was nearing its natural end and there was squabbling and a husband who had tired little piggy eyes and who really deeply desired an afternoon nap but I said NO!

NO! It is my birthday and so you must not let yourself slip into unconsciousness, even for a minute because then I would be doing all the boring childcare and for this day, THIS DAY ONLY, please spare me from the drudge of that.

And he said yes, he would cheer up and shake off his afternoon lethargy and so we went out into the driving rain with our masks on and fogged-up glasses and had a birthday date featuring chilli pisco sours and Bill Murray. And it, and they, and he, were good.

Cute baby wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. Nothing much to do with my birthday except that he is a gift that keeps on giving (except when he screams and when he pretends to be in a boxing match with you with balled-up chubby little hands that hurt a little). I’ve no idea why his body and head are so squashed in this photo but be assured, he has normal girth for a baby his size:

An apple with quite rude bits, as delightedly found by Otis:

Portobello Market Spicy Korean Chicken birthday lunch complete with a Moscow Mule so that we can sit at the open air bar tables for free:

Honey & Co Birthday bun:

Birthday earrings and 43 year old face:

And there it ends. I am now 53,000 words into my novel which has so far had two rejections from agents. I also have to try and work out where the baby is going to sleep now that he has outgrown the hallway cot.

Wish me luck.

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4 Responses to Jumpers for school boys

  1. rose says:

    Wonderful birthday and the very best wishes for your new year! You look wonderful. Thank you for the pictures and news and … the joys of you posting.
    Hoping you solve the wardrobe issues and share pictures as well as where you end up finding the solutions (mall/tiny shops/on-line/or???)! How many of your children are now attending in person and how many are on-line learning only?
    Holding on.

    • theharridan says:

      Thank you Rose! Love your encouragement to keep writing. As for the kids, we just have the baby at home and everyone else is attending school, though my second eldest did have to self isolate for a week which has been quite calm and nice, actually! xx

  2. Steph says:

    Perhaps you could borrow the drilling equipment from up the road and install a secret subterranean second bedroom? I’m sure the landlord wouldn’t mind, although the extra dust and mess on top of the normal 8 people sitch may send you over the edge, thinking about it. Maybe some sort of hallway hammock? Failing that Ikea.

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