Style Crisis: Vanity Shared, Pt. 1

Vanity Shared

It was the announcement of the Sewing Bee broadcasts that tipped the balance. Tuesdays, 9pm. Eight weeks. Slap-bang in the middle of my weekly SwimFit sessions. I like my exercise; it keeps me happy and energetic. That swim session is a particular favourite; we cover more than 2K in the space of an hour and I get to eat cake with impunity after work on a Tuesday.

What to do, then? Our trainer directed me to the swimming club’s ‘Masters’ squad. And what a find. A group of ‘old farts’ (as described by our coach) that range from late teens to 70+, we enthusiastically plough up and down the lanes for 90 minutes twice a week. Brief conversations are held in instalments as panting, pink-faced, we try to make out the instructions for the next set. Half of us can’t see the whiteboard without our glasses and those of us with earplugs and Blu-tac stuck in our ears can’t hear a thing either but it doesn’t stop us. I’m loving it, and will be carrying on even after the resumption of my usual session now that the Bee’s over for the year.

All of which was just fine until I looked in the mirror a couple of weeks ago. I might be buzzing with a sense of increased strength and energy but the reflection told a different story. My hair was beginning to resemble a distressed Brillo pad and I looked like an insomniac raccoon, red eyes peering out from goggle-induced bruised shadows. Even I had to concede that action was required.

I’ve never been very successful at being groomed; as I’ve explained before, it’s not something that comes easily. I know I need to look half-decent when I’m being photographed for ClothSpot but as my hair greys and my face ages it gets harder to avoid looking somehow faded. Colours that once worked for me, don’t any more. And while I’m happy to give up the hair dye and roll with the silver, the ‘in-between’ stage easily looks dishevelled, especially when wired up with regular doses of chlorine. Face and hair, then.

The hair bit…

In search of ‘fresh eyes’ on the hair front, on the recommendation of my friend Gina, I booked in with her hairdresser while visiting a couple of weeks ago. I arrived nervous, confessing that I’d probably prefer a visit to the dentist.
“Yes, other people tell me that, too” my stylist Mihai reassured – before we embarked on a brutally frank discussion about the state of my thatch, its thinness and thickness in different areas and my tatty hairline.

“You know, you can get these bits waxed off at the beautician” he suggested in reply to a request to get rid of my neck-fuzz.

“What is this ‘beautician’ thing of which you speak?” I wanted to ask, but instead enquired about best way to combat chlorine (a ‘hair mask’, apparently) before heading to the sinks.

One wash-and-head-melting-massage later, Mihai made short work of strimming my borders. He then whipped out a cut-throat blade and set about an amazingly swift and skilful razor cut – real 80s old-school. There then followed the kind of blow-dry that only hairdressers can do. I glanced warily at the hair straighteners he plugged in, but continued to trust. Which I was right to do, as he used them to conjure soft spirals that lifted my (now bouncy and swingy, no longer wiry) hair away from my face. With my curly casual bob I looked and felt like the inner ‘me’ and said so as I hugged him. My new BHF (Best Hairdresser Forever)! I don’t care if it’s a lengthy commute for a trim in a couple of months. Hair? A breeze, apparently. Now for the face.

The make-over

It’ll come as no surprise that I’m a bit of a make-up slowpoke. I do have a little drawer with some once-decent pieces but they’re mostly well over a decade old; some far more. Even disregarding recommended use-by dates, what might have worked in my early forties, probably isn’t working for me now. I do have a recent lipstick or two of which I’m quite fond. However ‘friends’ have a habit of greeting me after I’ve posted blogs with “We saw you with your lipstick on, Alice” followed by gales of laughter. So yes, it’s an area of concern, yet I run scared of the made-up ladies on the make-up counters in John Lewis.

Di was the first (but not the only) reader commenting on my Style Crisis posts to suggest that I get some make-up guidance from the online tutorials produced by Look Fabulous Forever (LFF). A UK-based make-up line aimed at older women and run by the elegant Trica Cusden, LFF have received glowing reviews in their five years of existence. I’d taken Di’s advice and had indeed tried to glean some tips from their excellent videos but was stumped when it came to figuring out which colours and facial products might work best for me.

Last month I was on their website and noticed that they were offering make-overs in the pop-up shop they’re running in Wimbledon. Which happened to be just where I was heading for my haircut. What better sign could there be? Without further ado, I bravely booked myself in (£50 for 1 hour, cost refunded against purchase, FYI). The morning after my haircut, I pitched up on time to be greeted warmly by Tricia herself before being handed over to Julie, my make-up artist.

Despite my twitchy gabbling, Julie put me completely at my ease; sympathetic to my lack of confidence and patiently explaining every product she applied.

Look Fabulous Forever make-up

Gradually my skin was smoothed, my raccoon eyes removed and my eyebrows rejuvenated – all with a very light touch.

She explained how to make my eyes light up and also reassured me about my colour confusion.

“If we haven’t worked out whether we can wear warm or cool shades by this age, then it’s probably because we’re in-between and can cope with bits of both – just trust your judgement of what works.”

Julie then gave me a run-down of the shades of different products that worked for me. And they did! Despite my general inexpertise in this area, I did retain a few key points about the LFF approach to make-up. Two big take-aways for me were:

  • Eyeliner is a ‘no’ – instead I learned to use a chiselled eyeshadow brush to press a soft line of colour into my lashlines.
  • There wasn’t a molecule of face powder in evidence – and yet the look isn’t in the least shiny. (LFF aims for a ‘dewy’ look, they say).

I felt very much as if the process was working with my face to make the most of it, rather than trying to obliterate or change it. Each stage Julie stepped through was documented on a diagram together with a product list. Obviously an excellent sales tool – but also genuinely helpful.

A handy pictorial guide to take home

My ClothSpot budget spent (no freebies – this isn’t a product promotion I promise) I headed off for my day out.

Reality bites

Back home and planning a Mother’s Day excursion I set aside an hour to wash my hair, style it and do my face. Given that all this usually happens in about ten minutes, I figured I was doing quite well.

Working even to that deadline however, things didn’t go quite as planned. That clammy ‘just got out of the shower and now I’m rushing around’ thing struck. I had a sweaty face and floppy hair before I knew it. Open the windows. Breathe. Dab. Turn the hairdryer to cold. Start again…

It was probably too late for my hair. Sadly my straighteners, in my hands, did exactly what they said on the label. I’ll need to practice that curling technique to do Mihai and my hair any justice as you’ll see from the pictures below.

The make-up seemed awfully complicated and despite my handy pictorial guide, confusion reigned. I discovered that my purchase hadn’t included the ‘Colour balance neutraliser’ required to eliminate my dark eye-rings so I improvised with concealer. I got there in the end, all in front of a mirror moved to a window as per LFF advice for maximum daylight.

I then returned to my bedroom and gave myself an enormous shock as I caught sight of my dramatic face in the dim light of my dressing table mirror. I will confess that cotton wool pads were deployed to knock things back a little. I think this was probably due to the bright sunlight where I made-up, combined with inexperience as well as not being used to seeing myself in make-up.

My second attempt for the purposes of this post went a little better. Here’s the ubiquitous before-and-after. (Look – no gurning! Imagine my restraint).

Alice before makeover
All moisturised and ready to go…
…and the final result (still with apologies to Mihai).

Another kind of reflection

Feedback from youngest daughter suggested I could have done with a bit more blusher colour and perhaps my lippy is a little strong. Comments invited, dare I say?

This is clearly going to take time and research – which is where those video tutorials come in handy. Lots of friends family and blog-commenters alike, have said how helpful these clips are. And they really are. LFF have a fabulous ‘pro age’ ethos as well as lovely products that seem to work well. However there is a part of me that rails against the need to bother about all this when I could be reading a book, watching a film, seeing a friend, swimming…

I’m reminded of Zadie Smith’s advice to her daughter not to spend more than 15 minutes in front of the mirror:

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up.”

Zadie Smith, Edinburgh Book Festival, 2017

And yet – this is Zadie Smith speaking, the epitome of assertive style and a woman with a fabulous line in headscarves and lipstick.

Zadie Smith, New York City, June 2016

The point is, there’s a balance to be struck. Since I’m in the business of finding fabrics for people (including me) to dress up in, I can hardly exempt myself from the notion that appearance matters. There’s no doubt that the attention I’ve paid to my hair and face in the last couple of weeks has boosted my confidence more than I had anticipated. And I obviously can’t take pictures wearing my latest make with a bag over my head. (Although now I mention it…)

So right now I’m doing some remedial work. It’ll take me longer than usual while I’m learning the new stuff – but hopefully it’ll be much easier once I’ve practiced a bit. Then I can get back to that book…

Skip this bit if you don’t swim!

On the basis that prevention is always better than a cure, I’ve also followed up my remodelling sessions with some research and purchases.

It turns out that my usual style of swimming goggle is notorious for bruising the eyes as they sit firmly on the orbital bones around the eye. I know that some of you swim, so let me introduce you to my Big Discovery: swim masks. (No! Not the kind that you snorkel with!) Often used by open-water swimmers for increased visibility, they’re much more forgiving than goggles as they cover a wider area, creating a gentler suction away from the eyes.

I purchased a mask to try last week and can report that it works brilliantly. My eyes are much less bruised and it withstood a 180-length session without leaking.

My second breakthrough was to buy a tube of ‘Swimcap’ cream from Philip Kingsley. All you need to do is wet your hair, apply before putting your cap on and then wash out after your swim. This, combined with a good post-colour shampoo & conditioner to take out any chlorine, has given me properly swingy hair. ‘Thrilled’ would be an understatement.

Finally…the sewing bit

Apologies if all this seems rather off-topic. I know that really, it’s an everyday tale of going to the hairdressers and getting some new make-up. Somehow though it seemed more than that – whether due to age, a forced change in habit or the arrival of spring. Does this stuff bother anyone else to the same extent? I’d love to know.

Just in case anyone was wondering, there is a sewing point to this story. It’s a very simple one but to do it justice, I gave it a ‘Part 2’. It’ll be up in the next few days. Have a great weekend!

20 thoughts on “Style Crisis: Vanity Shared, Pt. 1

  1. Christina Ivett says:

    Loved the post! I am a swimmer. Five breakfast swims a week for an hour or so, 70 – 100 lengths continuous front crawl, (64 is a mile) and thanks for the tip for the mask because I end up with terrible bruised eyes! Respect for the 180 lengths. Have seen the LFF website… good to get feedback. It’s also good to shake things up style wise. One of my best friends is 79 and she always looks amazing ‘better dressed as lamb than mutton’ is her mantra. But she always looks so stylish. Age should not limit your style nor diminish your interesr in looking good (says she who walks the dog looking like a bag lady)

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Five breakfast swims a week is impressive Christina – and I’m so thrilled that the goggles tip is helpful! Honestly it was getting ridiculous but my new ones are *so* much better. I also got some anti-fog spray to go with them which works a treat – although a lane-buddy told me that a smear of shampoo (and a rinse!) works just as well. *Love* the better lamb than mutton approach to life – keep on kicking!

  2. Jan says:

    This one blog more than any other has brought home to me why Clothspot is my go to site for fabric – and female understanding. So many other fabric suppliers are run by young (very) ladies and whilst I enjoy their banter and energy I need someone who understands. It’s a strange thing ageing, as his nibs becomes more dapper and into his ‘warming pinks’ I seem to have lost my way and I will whisper the next few words, beige has become alluring. Like you my hair is thinning and its colour disappears down the plug hole each time I wash it. So far I have avoided chemicals to bring back its glorious shades – if I can remember what they were. And oh boy the shock when I look in the mirror, where has my skin tone and its elasticity gone? But much worse is the loss of confidence and direction in what to wear. I’m not into make up, a visit to the hairdressers is dreaded and a fashion magazine holds no interest for me. However this year I am determined to get a grip on myself and shake off my comfortable plain monotones. A few days in Seville in January brought home to me how drab I looked when compared to Spanish Senoras, probably a decade older than me, but wow what style. It was a gorgeous textured wool biker jacket in a deep pink worn by one lady with such panache that acted as my light bulb moment or kick up the butt. For goodness sake girl what are you so afraid of? As I type this I can see my latest creation in a peachskin fabric chosen for its crease resistant tendencies ready to be crammed into a carry on bag in May, the fabric is a lovely mustard yellow and covered in white and navy BIRDS! I’ve just tried it on and I LOVE IT. Your blog though brought back memories of a family holiday in Naples, Florida with both our off spring when Mum and Dad were still hanging on to their cool status. An advert came onto the tv for DIY plastic surgery. I watched, fascinated. My interest plunged when the presenter brought out two flock covered sticky pads (the same type you put on furniture legs to stop scratches) and – wait for it – a substantial elastic band. This DIY method was guaranteed to take years if not decades off your appearance. One end of the elastic band was stuck to your face behind one ear held in place by the sticky pad (or bandaid if out of stick pads!), the elastic band was then stretched around the back of the head, under the hair, then held in place with the remaining sticky pad behind the other ear. As my son commented “a hell of a shock for someone if the elastic band suddenly snapped!”

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Jan you brought a tear to my eye and then made me laugh out loud with this! I’m absolutely delighted that my post struck a chord with you – thank you very much indeed for the reassurance! I realised that I was veering away from sewing with this one but for me, the joy of creating a garment is bound up with the excitement of wearing it – and it’s difficult to ignore all the other issues affecting personal appearance. I always feel like a make-up ingenue and even though I like a fashion magazine, the beauty bits I always flip past as they seem irrelevant.
      I *completely* understand your Seville experience – as I discovered when my chums and I went to Bologna last year, the Italians were just blazing with colour on the street. Then on the train back from the airport we saw lots of Brits in dark overcoats as we passed through Croydon station and it was *such* a downer.
      As for your DIY facelift – are you *kidding*? Blimey. I’m off to YouTube to see if I can find one – that’s hilarious – and your son was spot-on!
      Keep being brave with your choices – your birds sound fabulous – and what a thrill to make a garment that you can say in CAPITAL LETTERS that you LOVE!! Three cheers and have a fabulous weekend!

      • Marion Georgr says:

        Many years ago I was in the States on holiday. On the tv one afternoon I found myself fascinated by something very similar. A nice looking lady was demonstrating her ‘instant face lift’ which was a number of eleastic bands with sticky bits on either end. She proceeded to remove them, one by one from over her head, behind her ears , I think there three or four. As she did so she turned from a nice looking, youngish, lady to an old hag. My husband and I have often wondered if the old hag look was a result of too much stretching and speculated that the back of her neck must have looked like a cabbage when she had that lot on

        Let’s grow old gracefully but with panache

        • aliceclothspot says:

          Marion I swear I will need to put a tea-proof cover over my keyboard whenever I see a comment from you – thank you for making me cackle out loud yet again on this damp weekend! Extraordinary to think that these gadgets actually get used, when they should surely be destined to the ads at the back of a 1970s magazine… Can you imagine how that elastic must have been tangled up in her hair? Beyond that I am rendered speechless. Which doesn’t happen very often… ?
          Panache and grace shall indeed be our goals. (Remind me of that the next time I’m minded to take a picture of myself in swimming goggles, will you?)

    • Christina Ivett says:

      I remember those elastic band thingies!!! Ha ha. Too young to wear them at the time but maybe … nah! It is easy to lose a sense of self once you stop work, I found, but I never even consider that a hairstyle or an item of clothing is ‘Too young’. There is no such thing, if you feel good in something you will look good. And anyway who cares what anyone else thinks.

    • Janette Osborne says:

      Hi Alice, loved the blog. I have to say I am a make up fiend in that I cannot go to work, start at 7 am, until I have some slap on. I look like walking dead if not. The lipstick is lovely, don’t change it in fact put more on. Hair, now that is my problem. My mother was white at 30 and I am sorry to say that I have gone the same way, I keep saying it is my boy’s that did it but as they are actually men now 27 and 25, I don’t suppose boys is a good thing to say about them . Anyway, white us nit a good colour but as I am allergic to all dyes I am stuck with it. Have a good cut, wash it regularly and condition it and sod the rest. As you say you do feel better for making a bit of an effort and with a little practice it will fall into place. I did watch the video but I think I don’t have time to start applying make up with brushes and ‘push the makeup into the skin’ what a pallaver, sorry I do see her point but I don’t have time. Still loving the fabrics and good on you for swimming all that way, the gym is my limit, you should tot up how far you swim in a year, you might get a shock.

  3. Di says:

    Hi Alice

    I actually love the lipstick colour. Like you I’m not that into makeup! But after chemotherapy a couple of years ago, and now having to keep out of the sun, I’m looking ‘a whiter shade of pale’ and have started looking at makeup. I will definitely look up the LFF website , you look great, so there’s hope for me yet!
    Likewise, it’s nice to get some tips on fabric from someone of a similar age, and advice on fabric, thanks again and look forward to your next, entertaining blog.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much indeed, Di – I’m glad to know I’m not the only make-up ingenue out there! Thank you for the favourable lipstick feedback 🙂
      I bet that LFF will have helped customers with exactly the skin issue you describe – I imagine the proportion of their customer base who have had a similar experience will be significant. I understand they have well-informed people on the end of their email enquiry line too, so definitely worth asking for their advice.
      I’m delighted to entertain as well as to inform (hopefully) – and I greatly appreciate the encouragement – thank you again!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much indeed, Odette. It sounds as if I might just need to get used to it – I promise to practice! ?

  4. Jacqueline says:

    I think most women go through a phase of feeling dull and thinking that they have lost their way style wise. At 72 it has happened to me a few times over the past 50 years! I struggled to try and work out how I wanted to look when I left nursing, then when I moved on from an executive job and went freelance – fewer suits and board meetings! And again when I retired to a rather arty and wealthy town.

    Most recently I decided in my wisdom that it was easier to have a completely navy wardrobe with a few scarves to ‘brighten’ me up. I have just spent 3 days with my longest suffering friend of 46 years in Paris. I had perfectly coordinated entirely navy tops, trousers and coat. She had navy and black trousers, a navy coat but a brilliant pink sweater with coordinating scarf and a sweater in lime green with scarf! I felt dull and boring and was offered a seat on the metro on 3 occasions! Although I have a silver grey stylish bob (hair always gets compliments) and am fully made up, bright lipstick at all times, I was then one offered the seats not her.

    So whilst you Alice are attending to the bit above your neck I am going to concentrate on my colours below the neck. And hopefully like Jan will be travelling next time with a garment I ? love! Although I’m not succumbing to any DIY facelifts!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Jacqueline – thank you so much for your insights. I too went from formal employment to consultancy prior to running a business – and you’re quite right – each change in life and priorities prompted changes to how I dressed and presented myself.
      I will bet that so many of us will have gone down the ‘restrained capsule wardrobe’ at one time or another – and however practical and indeed, elegant a solution that might be, it can feel as if something is missing. It certainly sounds as if your Parisian friend (and Jan, too) found their special something in colours and garments they *love*. And since it sounds as if you’re all sorted on the amazing hair and lipstick front (good for you!) – I think it’s an inspiring piece of self-diagnosis you’ve done there. DO let us all know when you’ve found something that works for you – and have fun finding it!

  5. Di says:

    Love the look Alice and your latest blog. Was that me who suggested you view LFF videos?? I’ve been a makeup fan since I was old enough to start experimenting with it. It’s the one thing I do each day after showering etc (of course).I might be dressed in old tat to do the garden/wash car etc but my face is ‘in place’. Part agree with Zadie Smith about not spending too long–my hair takes longer to sort than my face. What she didn’t tell her daughter is that her brother will need to spend as much time, if not more, making himself presentable especially when he reaches a certain point in life when he might lose hair, or it relocates, and lifestyle choices begin to show bigtime.
    Best of luck with your lovely new hairstyle. My one ongoing problem is reminding my hairdresser not to deviate in the way I like it cut, otherwise it sticks out like chapel hatpegs, plus tongs used long term make hair ends dry. I can’t twirl a brush, to do the back, in the same way as the hairdresser, because my arms aren’t long enough and there’s a limit to how much articulation my shoulders will cope with. As for colour I’ve tried ‘slices’ of two colours to brighten up whatI see as ‘drab’. Done by my hairdresser, very expensive and, IMHO, just ‘OK’ as opposed to ‘wonderful’. I used to use a Superdrug blonde semi permanent, which was so successful they withdrew it from the market (as they do). I too use a Philip Kingsley hair product–called Elasticiser, which I put on and cover with a shower cap (nice look!) for 20mins whilst eating breakfast, then wash as normal. You don’t have to do it everytime either. Sure I read it was developed for Audrey Hepburn who had ‘hair problems’. When it arrived small free samples of ‘hairspray for wet weather’ and ‘anti dandruff shampoo’ were included. The latter developed for, I think, Sir Lawrence Olivier (who’d have guessed). Anyway both products are good even if you don’t have dandruff or walk in the rain.
    I like to think the clothes I sew look good, so makeup/hair is an extension of that.
    Lastly, why haven’t you been watching ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ on a Saturday when they do a repeat. Maybe you’re busy catching up with all those household tasks after a busy week running a business.
    Enjoy the weekend–what’s left of it.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Di – thank you for the vote of approval – and yes of course it was you who first made me aware of LFF – it just took me a while to get round to doing something with it!
      I’m very good at moisturising but I usually end up with mud all over my face if I’m gardening so I have to say I’m likely to remain a bit of a slouch in that department when I’m off-duty. I am trying to get to the stage where I can quickly and easily smarten myself up on work days however. I’ve never been one for working from home in pyjamas – I try to be presentable on the basis that it focuses my mind and makes me feel more professional – which hopefully is reflected in my work.
      I like your point about brothers needing to spend a little more time on themselves in the future – it would be nice to think that the pendulum swung back a little!
      I’ve heard about the PK ‘Elasticiser’ – does it stop hair going frizzy in the damp I wonder? I can’t imagine Audrey Hepburn having any kind of ‘hair problem’ – you may just have dashed an illusion there (but maybe that’s a good thing…?)
      I think you’e right though – make-up and hair is very much an extension of getting the clothes right – I’m just hoping that after my intensive remedial action, I will have a routine that I won’t have to think about too much. Like a wardrobe refresh, it’s probably something one has to do every year (or two) – but like my wardrobe I may have left it a decade (or two) instead.
      And yes – I know I could have watched GBSB on catch-up but I was on Twitter during the broadcast. I know that ‘faffing around on Twitter’ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it all helps with visibility (and it was quite amusing at times!).

      • Di says:

        I’m glad to have helped. I like that women support each other and aren’t afraid to share their ‘angst’ with each other.
        Re the PK ‘Elasticiser’, it helps a bit in damp weather but don’t expect miracles. I gave one of the ‘wet weather’ hairspray samples to a neighbour who said it was great. She ‘witters’ about her hair, as she spends much of her time outdoors. What better way to test a product. Might be worth a try. Come to think of it all my women neighbours have some complaint about their hair and most of us are 65+. I know lots of men do too but they don’t share their problems/personal peculiarities in the same way.
        Think you’re right about having a refresh of self, and wardrobe, every so often. It’s when you catch sight of yourself in a shop window and wonder who the old woman is, wearing the same clothes as you!!!
        Pity you missed GBSB but take your point about being ‘visible’. Maybe there’ll be a re run on one of the channels.

        • aliceclothspot says:

          It’s a really brilliant (and wholly unexpected) benefit of all this Di – I had no idea I was bringing up shared issues but it’s certainly been a revelation to me and a lovely one at that.

          Thanks for the Elasticiser account – I won’t rush out as long as my ‘Swimcap’ is working I suspect – but will hold it in reserve just in case. But I did see the GBSB! I was ‘live-tweeting’ (it’s a thing). It’s like snarking (or cheering) on the sofa with chums while you’re watching a programme, but your sofa is Twitter. All the tweets were like a running commentary or a reaction to what was happening during the actual broadcast. There was a huge wave of Twitter approval when Ben revealed that wonderful tweed coat, I can tell you. Now I just need to wean myself back off it again…

  6. Jenny says:

    Alice, I’m mightily impressed, you look wonderful. I’m extraordinarily lazy with make up, moisturiser and mascara are my go to tools. On the whole I am not a fan of obviously wearing makeup, but prefer the natural look and that’s why I am impressed with your make up, it looks so natural but the skin tones are evened out, which is something I would like to do for myself. If you ever fancy sharing how you did that and with which magic tools I would be very interested. Might kickstart me to face my make up phobia! As always a lovely entertaining and informative blogpost, Thankyou.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      You’re so kind, Jenny! I was very nervous about looking too obviously ‘done up’ but notwithstanding my unpracticed hand, I think I’m getting there. Thank you for the reassurance! I’ve been quite taken aback with the positive response – as well as how many people thought it was relevant (since I wasn’t quite sure). If it would be helpful to share the details then I’d be more than happy to – although I might need a little more practice so I can make a decent fist of it. It’s on the list then – and thank you again!

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