Fearless women and rap music

28 July

I hate changing rooms so much that I buy all my clothes online and then have to send them back because they don’t suit me.

This means I have had nothing new in my wardrobe since 1992, so Lucy has booked me in to see her personal shopper at Debenhams in Birmingham.

I daren’t say no, especially as Harry and the Princess are also coming and, as matriarch, I have to set a good example to my two-month-old grand-daughter as a Fearless Woman.

Stacey, the personal shopper, is in her twenties and looks nothing like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t know why I thought she would. How silly I am.

She asks me what I usually like wearing; I haven’t given any thought to this of course, and so I have to just make up random items of clothing that I don't actually need because I am thrown into a state of panic. Skirts! Blouses! Jumpsuits! I yelp helplessly, all the while cursing my contrary subconscious.

Stacey is writing these items down, nodding tactfully, as if she hasn't spotted the fact that I am wearing scruffy skinny jeans and a leather jacket and thus am clearly not an habitually elegant dresser. She disappears briskly and comes back with an entire rack of colourful clothing. Presumably all blouses, skirts and jumpsuits. My heart sinks.

Harriet feeds The Princess, who promptly falls asleep and so misses my Fearless Woman performance as, in front of hall of full-length mirrors, I bravely strip off and try on a multitude of outfits – most of which look quite ghastly to me when they’re hanging up on the rail, and which I would never, not in a million years dream on trying on left to my own devices...but which, quite miraculously, look very, well, flattering, once I’m actually wearing them. Who'd have thought I actually might have some sophistication just waiting to be liberated. Clever old subconscious.

Remarkably, for me, I end up buying eight items of clothing, none of which I would have ever have looked twice, thrice, quice at normally, but Stacey clearly knows me better than I know myself.

The Princess has slept through the whole thing, but I’ll just have to teach her all about capsule wardrobes when she’s older, now that I'm an expert.

Or my subconscious will.

1 August

As my Couch to 5K effort failed so dismally after my dramatic knee injury, I have now decided to join a gym instead. It is expensive – and this one is pricier than most, as it has a pool, and staff who smile at you and give you towels when you arrive, and there’s a café area with free newspapers – but I’ve joined on a three-month trial basis just to see if I’ll make full use of it and get my money’s worth.

And there are so many classes; yoga, spinning (cycling, not the rustic art of creating yarn), Pilates, body combat, body pump, body balance, something just called Grit – which sounds terrifying – and kinder things like Simply Stretch, which is presumably for people who’ve just staggered out of the Grit classes.

I have a (pathetic) go at a few of the weight machines, and then decide to invest in a personal trainer, and book four sessions with Giuseppe, on the basis that he looks the least likely to snigger.

“What do you want to achieve?” he asks me.

I guess he’s just being polite, as we both know I want to lose weight and get fit because I’m standing in front of him looking overweight and unfit.

“I’d really like to lose weight and get fit,” I say. Giuseppe tries to look surprised.

I decide to elaborate. “Because I’m sixty next year, and I want to be super-fit. I want to be a super-fit Granny.”

He nods again.

I hold up an arm, as if I was making a bicep. We both watch the skin below slump sadly, swaying gently in the breeze from the air conditioning. No discernible bicep appears. “I’d like arms like Michelle Obama, ideally,” I say, just to test his reaction. He’s good. He’d be a great poker player.

“Ok,” he says. “If you work hard, we could get there.” I make a scoffing noise.

“No, really, it’s a combination of nutrition, cardio and weight training. Consistency. If you do all of that, regularly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t see a real improvement.”

And do you know what? I believe him!

The Princess will be nearly eighteen months old by the time I’m sixty. She’s going to be amazed when I show her my biceps and triceps.

I'll be amazed too.

5 August

Harry and Jonny have taken The Princess to Nice. With a capital N. Which is not nice for me. With a small n. Because I miss her.

I have seen pictures of her in the pool, staring fiercely at the water, dressed from head to toe in the modern version of the sort of bathing costume that modest Victorian ladies used to wear, plus perky cap, in order to keep off the sun. I’ve seen pictures of her in the shade, on other people’s knees, out for breakfast, having cocktails, asleep in the travel cot.

But there’s always a certain look in her eyes in these pictures. There’s no doubt about it. I can tell she’s yearning for me.

6 August

Tom, Renaissance man that he is – being both gifted in the maths and comedy world (or perhaps the two go naturally hand in hand? Is that a thing?) – is currently up at the Edinburgh Fringe, in a show called Improv Drinkov. It’s where one of the cast takes it in turns to, well, get steadily drunk during the show. Creating even more potential for laughs than the usual improvised sketch show. We’ve seen him in non-drinking shows there before, and he is hilarious – yes, obviously I would say that, but it’s true, but we can’t make it this year.

Just as well. What mother would choose to see her son publicly drunk?

The last time I witnessed that was at Harry’s wedding. Mind you, he was pretty hilarious then as well. Especially on the dance floor.

As was I.

And what son would choose to see his mother publicly drunk?


12 August

Giuseppe would be proud. Consistency? That means more than once, right?

So I went again today, did the squatting thing, the lunging thing, the deadlift thing. And I’ve found an exercise bike that has a screen where you can set it to show a film so that it looks as if you’re cycling along a road in the Italian Alps (if you peer really closely at it and try and ignore everyone around you).

It’s amazingly good fun, especially if you’re also listening to suitably energising music. I did a full thirty minutes, and was so sweaty by the time I’d finished that there was a small pool on the floor.

I was still listening to Gangsta’s Paradise when I slid off the saddle; it was only when I swaggered into the changing room that I realised that it really matters what music you’re listening to when you make your entrance.

Rap music clearly terrifies small children who are being towel-dried by their mothers, especially when the lyrics are being bellowed by large, scarlet-faced middle-aged women who suddenly appear from round the corner.

Being a Fearless Woman isn’t always a good thing.