The Bridal Brassiere Debate

Weddings are expensive, I get it (trust me, after a year of planning my own, I really get it). And for the most part I also get why. If you’re fortunate enough (as we are – just) to not have to sell a kidney to pay for the event, it’s really jolly nice to have a ceremony, slap up dinner and after party with your nearest and dearest, in honour of your most auspicious and romantic union (which, all being well, will be a once in a lifetime occasion).

If you want to seal the deal in a hotel, assuming that hotel is on the nicer side of decent and you aren’t best mates with the owner, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. Fine. Everyone expects to spend a bit on the location, right? Same goes for the food, the booze, the dress – I could go on. But when it comes to what the bride wears underneath her dress, well, I’m afraid that’s where you lose me on the wedding sympathy scale.

Not that I’m keen to go into details of my smalls drawer in a public forum such as this, but for the sake of argument I’ll admit: I’m not big on underwear. Not in the sense I don’t wear it (what do you take me for? I’m not some sex starved, hormone-addled teenager), more that I don’t spend swathes of cash on expensive matching sets of it. Never have, never will. Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice bra and pants, and if M&S have got an offer on I’ll bite their hand off on a 3-for-2 deal (especially if the bra straps are detachable – instantly doubles the practicality rating). But whilst I like to look nice for my man in the bedroom as much as the next girl, I just can’t bring myself to waste money on something that so rarely sees the light of day.

So you can imagine my horror when, last weekend, I set out on a mission to find my bridal underwear at a cost that wasn’t eye watering, only to discover that EVERY set of bridal underwear in the whole of Brussels apparently IS. I started with two high end boutiques, knowing full well these would be the upper end of the scale. The sales staff were all smiles to begin with, but as soon as it became clear they weren’t making an immediate sale (200 Euros for a BRA? I don’t think so, love) turned sourer than off milk. One woman even replied to my comment about wanting to consider other underwear with ‘but we have everything here, why would you go somewhere else?’ So far so bad.

Next up, the ‘mid’ (ha!) range stores, slightly upwards of high street but still with a boutique feel. Here I found one bra that I really liked, with pretty lace detailing. But when the shop assistant told me the price – 160 Euros for the bra alone, and a further 60 for the scrappiest ‘thong’ I’d ever laid eyes on – I just couldn’t swallow it. I also failed to see the romantic element to the pair of ‘wedding night’ knickers she brazenly tried to flog me, with their less than alluring HOLE in the back (refer to previous point about not being sex starved teenager – am also not sex whore).

So, off I went to the Brussels equivalent of Debenhams, confident I would at least find something suitable and within my price range there. Within the price range, yes, suitable? No. Out of an entire department of lingerie there were just two possible options, neither of which looked particularly nice on. Feeling dejected, I began walking home, and, on a whim popped into Etam, which I remember fondly from (the irony) my teenage days. And guess what? There, in prime position, was a brand new range of satin underwear in a lovely selection of suitably bridal colours, with a set of underwear retailing at the princely sum of 50 Euros. AND it was buy one get one half price. Needless to say I snapped up two sets and a few extra pairs of pants to boot. Total price: 117 Euros.

Take THAT snooty top end boutique bitches.

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Solitude

It’s been a long old while since I’ve practiced meditation, or indeed any form of mindfulness; two of the many things I mentally flagellate myself about daily. This weekend, therefore, has been a blessing. Not because I’ve done either of those things (obvs), but because I have had the chance to spend some quality time with myself, and with nature. And because, as cheesy as it sounds, it has given me a much needed opportunity to reconnect with myself.

Life rushes by at such an alarming rate – especially, as I’ve discovered in recent months, when you have a wedding to plan. Lately (or, to be truly honest, forever) I’ve felt so time poor it’s taken all my effort just to get home from work at the end of the day, run a bath and crack on an episode of Eastenders (weird new guilty pleasure – clearly a sign of stress) before falling, exhausted, into bed. Meditation? Ha. As if. I’ve never felt less calm or more busy.

But then, last week, the soon-to-be-husband (eep!) announced he would be going back to the UK this weekend, sans moi (well, I had the choice to accompany him, but after last week’s boozy and nocturnal antics in Las Vegas the thought of spending 16 hours in a car only to hold a paint brush all weekend – they are renovating the family home, yes, I know, I’m a selfish cow – was too much to entertain). At first I was put out (see previous selfish cow comment), and sad at missing the opportunity to spend a quiet weekend together. I hastily scrambled some social options together in case I needed back up, and prepared to bunker down for a weekend alone with the bottle of Chianti hubby-to-be bought me to soften the blow (a welcome gift, and further proof, it it was needed, that he’s a keeper).

Yesterday (Saturday), I lazed around in the morning then went shopping all afternoon. So far so good. In the evening, feeling more confident about being alone (Jesus, you wouldn’t think I’ve travelled alone for months at a time in the past would you?), I declined all social plans, heated up a Marks and Spencer ready meal (God how I’ve missed those – totally forgot an M&S opened up here a few months ago. Result) and downloaded a gratuitous chick flick from Amazon. But it wasn’t until today that I felt a change occur. Yesterday was enjoyable, but in a shallow way (not that there is anything wrong with that, in my opinion, at least from time to time). I was gratified by material purchases and ‘guilty pleasure’ TV consumption, but that was as far as it went. Today I somehow knew as soon as I woke up it would be different. And it has been.

My recent back injury having put paid to any hope of a pre-wedding gym comeback, I have to make sure I still get some exercise each day. I decided, therefore, to go for a walk, the timing of which was fortuitously impeccable. It had just rained heavily, and the sun was beginning to nudge the clouds aside. I walked to Tenbosch Park, just ten minutes from home. I don’t know what it is about that place, but as soon as I get there I always feel an overwhelming sense of calm descend upon me. It’s so beautifully kept, unusual in that it is both small and spread over several levels – sort of landscaped over a small hill – and feels to me like a secret garden, a tiny oasis amidst the sprawling metropolis. I just love it, and after visiting today by myself my mind feels clearer than it has done in weeks. I spent a while just standing and listening to the birds tweeting, watching as a parrot (yes, really, apparently Brussels is famous for them) flew overhead from tree top to tree top. It was wonderful, and a welcome reminder that even if I’m not meditating every chance I get, it’s still possible to find a little piece of peace in this frenetic world.

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Eight Weeks to Wed: An Update

Last weekend I went to Las Vegas for my hen party with six close friends. It was predictably fabulous. We crammed an enormous amount of fun into a short space of time and did ourselves – and Vegas – proud. Wild, unbridled hedonism like that is harder to come by as you march inexorably further into adulthood, which is why it’s so important to appreciate it when you have it. The same applies to friendships. Whilst they should be nurtured throughout life, opportunities to  celebrate them become fewer and farther between as the myriad demands of life creep into our daily existence. And so the memories of last weekend and all the laughs we shared will stay with me forever. I am truly grateful.

And now it’s time to look ahead. Eight weeks ahead, in fact, to my wedding day. As a child I always dreamed of this occasion, wondering who I would marry (or, more specifically, who would want to marry me!) Now it’s nearly here it feels surreal, like a dream. The organisation has been a  challenge, but I know it will be worth it when we look around at the hundred or so loved ones who are so generously travelling to Austria to share it with us. I feel so blessed not only to have met the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, and to be so utterly confident in that statement, but also to have such wonderful and supportive people in my life.

Getting married feels like such a grown up thing to do. I feel ready for it, yet at the same time the little girl in me is tugging at my sleeve, chewing her nails down to the stub with worry. Will I be a good wife? A good mother? Am I actually mature enough to take this step? I have always felt a dichotomy within me. On the one hand there is the dreamer, the thinker, the artist; the one who likes to party and who yearns to travel, to explore, to be free. And on the other is the planner, the matriarch-in-waiting who wants nothing more than to care for others, to have a family and thrive on being responsible for others, instead of being concerned only with myself.

In some respects I suppose I’ve always felt that having a family would save me from myself, and stop me from pursuing the relentless search for meaning that drives my every waking moment. But now I’m on the cusp of that I’m filled with fear; of all that I ‘should’ have done up to this point in my life, and of all I will not be able to do if and when I take that next step. I suppose these worries are normal, and that everyone has them at some point in the run up to making such a big commitment to another person.

I don’t expect for one moment that getting married will mean a life free of worry and drama; far from it. But what it will do is cement our partnership in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God, in whom I do believe, at least in some form. It is a statement of intent on both our parts that we are prepared to put each other first, to work through all our issues together, and to co-create a stable and loving environment for our future children. The divorce rates reported so gleefully in the news don’t bother me at all. Marriage has always been important to me, and I am entering into it with my eyes and heart wide open.

The fun-loving, free-spirited party girl will always be a part of me, I have no intention of shunning her or locking her away. But despite my fears what is becoming ever clearer to me is that I owe it to myself to explore the other side of who I am, to get to know the girl who wants so desperately to help, to make a difference, to put love above all else.

This is a new chapter in the story of my life. And I am ready to turn the page.

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Thoughts from the here and now

I’m sitting in my living room, propped up on cushions with my laptop on my knee so I can work. It starts to rain, and the sound of the rain drops tapping against the window catches my attention. I stop working for a second and listen. It occurs to me that in my hectic city dweller life I rarely hear the pitter-patter of raindrops as they fall from the sky, nor any other natural noises, save for the occasional burst of bird song when the weather is nice enough to sit outside on the terrace (which faces away from the road, mercifully shielding us from the constant blaring of car horns). As I listen I make a conscious effort to breathe; in and out, long and slow. And I realise, too, that such moments – living in the moment – are rarer still.

Why do we race through our lives with such careless disregard for what is happening in the here and now? Are we really so desperate to get to the end of the book of our lives that we are prepared to flick through entire chapters?

Just thoughts, really. From the here and now.

Fin.

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