How to be More Like Alice

Have you ever woken up and thought ‘damn, yet another morning and I’m still not Alice E. Bennett? Heck I’m not even Alice Bennett and there are thousands of those, including this deceased bae…’

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Well fear not because below are a few simple things you can adopt in your life to be less like you and more like me. And a world with more Alice would be a fudging sweet one.

  • Make this your new backing track:
  • Or this:
  • Listen to Classic FM on lunch breaks whilst reading solid literature. Bonus points for adding an amused/coy smile when you have no idea what you’re reading about.
  • Make the same sad cheese sandwich for lunch everyday. Own the saved pennies, disown the taste!
  • Play the game ‘new mole or just melted chocolate?’
  • Walk so fast you forget to look where you’re going, trip and smash your head into the pavement. Is that concussion or are you feeling sassier already?WP_20160218_18_08_05_Pro.jpg
  • Spill tea or coffee. Just because.
  • Dresses need to become a thing in your life.
  • Either look adorable…

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  • …Or honest.

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  • Drink wine knowing almost certainly what it will bring.
  • Read books in coffee shops – initially with the pretence of looking sophisticated but then because you enjoy the experience.
  • Explore/visit things by yourself and be perfectly happy in doing so.
  • Work hard, write harder.
  • Love your family.

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  • Mock your family.
  • But most of all, never forget your humble beginnings as a pair of 90s curtains.

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  • …Or a bin bag.securedownload (3)

 

Do that and you’ll be right on track to being more like Alice E. Bennett. Just don’t come knocking round my door asking for tea bags, you can spill your own tea.

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10. There’s a Lot of Shizz in my Room

There was a room.

A room full of bits and pieces and accumulated knick-knacks gathered over the course of two years. All telling the story of Alice Bennett, the Alice Bennett Installation if you like. Small, full of rubbish and severely lacking in suitable storage. A room unable to decide whether it wanted to rival Tracey Emin or desperately try and avoid it.

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Alice Bennett’s 2017 installation – ‘Push it Against the Wall and It’ll Become Invisible’
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Tracey Emin’s 1998 installation ‘My Bed’ – what can I say, I learn from the best.

As the house sale on the property next door started drawing to its intended close, I realised I was actually going to have to tidy up and clear all my stuff out. And this wasn’t something that a bottle of Windowlene and a couple of Peter Gabriel songs could solve, it was going to involve brutal woman power and an acceptance that, indeed, my room was full of shizz.

The timing for this wasn’t great, I was in the process of re-establishing my love of porridge and the supermarket had a sale on. Plus the shared kitchen gave me no space for storing foodstuffs (see – There’s Some Weird Shizz in My Cupboard) so I started the process of cleaning my room by with piling a load of oat sachets chocolate bars and varying alcohols and taking a photo of it for Instagram, obviously.

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Remember what I said about Tracey Emin aspirations?

Then it all got too much and I wrote a blog article about something else.

Several days later, after consuming a sizeable amount of ‘the pile’, I remembered why I’d piled it in the first place. I got cracking with the tidy up.

It was a painful process. Because I’d achieve a mini-milestone of clearing one patch of floor space…

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…to turn around and see this behind me:

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That’s what hurt me most. Having to empty drawers and boxes that had previously hidden so much but now spewed everywhere. As you can probably tell, my room was tiny in the shared house, the double bed sandwiched into the small space the only way it possibly could.

The clean went on. Thanking the God’s for a decent metabolism and reasonably priced gym membership, one evening I wriggled under the low bed to pull out all the hidden ‘gems’ that had spent years in the shadows. Forget Blue Planet, my under-bed had some weirder things than the deepest depths of the Antarctic Ocean.

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But it also had a couple of bottles of wine so I was prepared to overlook some of the other things I found under there.

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Discovering bottles of wine when cleaning is like finding a five pound note when you’re tidying your room aged ten.

I learnt a lot about myself when cleaning up that space. For example, I’m a closet hoarder who’s in denial. I had enough plastic bags to fill a tanker.

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But then I realised I was British so quickly laid to rest my concerns. I wasn’t weird, just normal. In the same way I had been unable to throw away a handbag I like so mended it with a safety pin as a short term solution. Five million handbags later, I found it at the bottom of my wardrobe.

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You just wait until ‘Make Do and Mend’ comes back into fashion.

A week or so later (yes, that long) I was starting to see progress in the big tidy up.

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Yes, I saw this as progress.

I was quickly becoming numb to the difficulty of throwing stuff out. Either an item was literally falling apart or I was lazy and wanted future me in her massive house to store it. Clearing out items was as black and white as that.

When it came to my wardrobe door however I was forced to make more brutal decisions.

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I find it easier to tear up memories when it means I can spend more time looking at Andrew Lincoln’s face in Love Actually.

In rentals (or at least mine) blu tac is the substance of Satan, pretty much all landlords don’t want it anywhere near their magnolia walls. In place of that, the thin door was my only place to tac up things which meant something to me. A pin board-come-scrap-book of information and pictures that summed me up. New job cards, renters info from the Telegraph, a sassy postcard from M&S, it was, well, me. And now I had to take it all down and be a big girl for a change. Renters and school girls can do this sort of thing, homeowners with matching furniture sets and themed wallpapers couldn’t. The odd item got put to one side (sassy postcard, check!) but most of it ended up in the bin.

When the drawers were finally emptied and the shizz (well, most of) was in a black bin sack there remained little for me to do than slog over the worn down dirty mess that was the carpet. The landlord had bestowed on us a Henry hoover to enable us to keep the house tidy. Now, Alice, I hear you cry, what could possibly be wrong with that? Hurrah for landlords! Well, before you think my previous landlord was a saint…

  1. Three storey townhouses with heavy, hose-based, Henry’s do not mix.
  2. Never expect tenants to buy hoover bags, especially when most do not know what they are.
  3. No hoover will revive a cheap, well trodden, carpet that hasn’t been replaced since the property was built fifteen years ago. None.

I spent hours on my hands and knees trying to suck up every bit of dirt the machine could just about manage. I knew at the time it was a joke, trying to remove a strand of hair from the dirty beige pile. At the end of it I was so exhausted that I think I lost it a bit. On a Saturday night, a Saturday night, I put this on my Instagram:

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The filter only makes it worse.

I mean seriously.

Once that was done all that was left was to wait. Until the house sale was completed a lot of items remained bagged up in assorted suitcases donated by family and random shopping bags. It looked like I was about to go to some far flung country, about to jet off somewhere new, but in the meantime I had to sit and wait it out while messages pinged in from solicitors and I scrabbled around the square of floor to complete important documents. Like I was waiting for my plane to depart.

After the sale had completed on my house I started moving items over, often taking a heavy case down to flights of stairs, across, up another two flights of stairs, then dumping the contents in a cold, empty bedroom. Then back down and up, fill up the case again and repeat. Then do the same with kitchenware and foodstuffs and you have the makings of a very drawn out, tiring, house move. My housemates would watch me carrying out the unorthodox house move in silence, whether they thought I was crazy or not mattered little to either of us.

On the last night I packed up my case with the last of the few items of clothing and put out what else remained on the bedside table.

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The boiled down essentials of Alice Bennett, all laid out on one tiny rectangle. At first I was a little bit emotional, then I felt a bit let down by the basicness. Only I would rate the presence of Sudocrem and a lemon pip higher than books or make up. What scenario would cause me to urgently need Sudocrem and a lemon pip I do not know.

The duvet and bedding got carried round to the house bright and early the next day, alongside the final case of clothes which this time got left unopened in the bedroom. Into one of my many plastic bags I scooped up the bedside table contents and checked the tiny room for the millionth time. I knew that it would be clear and I also knew that living next door it would be a breeze to collect things should anything have been missed off, but it still didn’t stop me checking again.

Ironically, now the room was clear of junk and shizz it looked much bigger, I realised why I’d taken it on in the first place (well, cheap rent and location were the main reasons, but still).

 

I placed my bedroom door key on the bedside and with a final long look and a sigh, walked out with the latch off so that the newer housemates could peer in after I’d gone. I slipped out the front door and posted the key back through the brass-coloured letter box. Done.

 

There was a room.

A room full of bits and pieces and knick-knacks accumulated over the course of two years. A room which told the story of a kooky girl who hailed from Gloucestershire (or was it Hampshire or Warwickshire?) who worked in a solid job, with solid interests, yet always aspired to be more. She moved out of the busy house share and into her own home next door. Why? Because we all thought she was mental.

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This post is part of The First Time Buyer Diaries. To view all articles in the series (so far) click here.

The Perils of Retail Therapy

A memo to the wise; if you do too much of this:

…you’ll end up with an ankle looking like this:

Ok, granted I wasn’t posing in that exact same fashion when my ankle went, but when it started to ache during a shopping trip I decided to ignore the pain and carry on walking on it. I’d decided to venture to the fair Welsh capital of Cardiff and I didn’t want to turn back before I’d even got properly stuck into my needed dose of retail therapy.

As well as the blinking obvious (walking on a duff ankle) there were other things I didn’t fully factor in whilst hobbling around the city centre on a Sunday in mid-late October. These ‘things’ feel into three categories:

  1. The impact of a particularly bad cold virus.
  2. Excitable children on school holidays, pumped up on sugar and in want of Halloween ‘stuff’.
  3. Super eager women, pumped up on caffeine and hell-bent on obtaining Christmas wares before anyone else.

The result was pure shopping chaos, particularly when I became caught up in the shopping centre at peak time. Quickly I found myself bent and morphed into shapes usually reserved only for the most brutal of Twister games. Grunting the pain away like a reindeer on Christmas Eve, I kept my eyes straight and aimed my cold-filled, Rudolf Red, nose towards the nearest exit.

Out of nowhere they came. Turning out of a shop and charging toward me at speed came a group of teenage girls. Dressed in clothes that liberated their pre-pubescent figures, the young women clutched their semi-empty milkshakes in one hand with a firmness that was nearly as strong as their grip on the pre-ripped, bloodied, shirts that were slung over their backs.

“We’ve got the dead look covered this year girls!” One of the party exclaimed triumphantly, as she pored over a small bag of purchased make up. The others nodded in mild agreement, slupping on their milkshakes and scrolling through void blocks of information. At the command of their leader, the group circulated around a black screen to appease the tiny dot before them. The first snap failing to satisfy, they posed for another photo, and another. The look of death had a time and a place, and as far as the camera holder was concerned Snapchat wasn’t one of them.

Upon realising that my collision with the party was both inevitable and likely to write off my foot (for which I felt quite sure the girls lacked any sympathetic insurance), I decided to change my path. Like a Shakespearian character my persona as flipped into a Hellish beast as I gritted my teeth and turned on the sore ankle to walk around the female cluster.

As I hobbled on, dragging my bad leg behind me, I saw bitter sweet irony reflected in the eyes of all the ghoul clad staff who regarded me with confusion and unease. Coffee stands decorated with bloodied bandages and skulls, shops festooned with beaming figurines and tinsel, each environment looked down at me with a soulless attitude that clung onto those who dwelled beneath. Of all the shopper types it was only the husbands and boyfriends that took the crown for being more out of place than I. Loaded like a Biblical Donkey, acting like a Hollywood Zombie, the men of the city took pity and avoided my half dead shape, whilst their respective partners walked in window-display bedazzlement across my path. I gave a half smile of encouragement to these brave men and pressed onwards.

It was a circular pattern of discomfort and disinterest that punctuated the day. The simple pleasures; the reading of a book undisturbed, discovering a nicely styled boot, these glimmers of joy were hard won and so easily lost. A noisy patron in the neighbouring seat, a swollen foot rebelling against a test environment. A reminder perhaps that no one can be a God in the world of the Godless. This thought whispered around my brain in mockery as I slowly staggered towards the bus station. A hissing that ended with the slamming of doors and screeching of the brakes as I departed the capital once again for English soil.

Life, sore ankles and seasonal shoppers; nothing lasts forever.

Hat Season

I’m going to start this piece with some of top notch fashion advise from Patsy Stone:

…And Stewie Griffin’s shopping habits:

Warning: this post contains images and frank talk of hats. If you are of a delicate disposition, are allergic to, or in any way do not like the topic of hats please leave now. Go into another room, sit and think hard about your issues, wear a hat constantly for a week, learn to love them and then come back to this post. No, there is no middle ground, you either really like hats or you love them. End of.

So yeah, I kinda like hats. They make me feel like this:

198376_10150834958386050_1922974681_n Those linked to me on social media will know that recently I declared the official start of hat season with this photo of me in a Costa Coffee shop:

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Hat season does not have an official beginning nor end, there’s no set date for it (a lot like Easter and The X Factor). It’s really linked to weather patterns and air temperatures, which in the UK means you could almost wear a hat at any stage of the year. In 2013 I caused a stir when I inadvertently declared the start of hat season on the hottest day of the year:

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However on the whole it lasts from around mid-September through to late March (if you’re still unsure ask yourself, “is it Summer?” if the answer is “no”, “not sure” or “I haven’t seen daylight in five weeks, how should I know?” then the answer is yes, yes it is hat season).

Because there is no set start and end date for this period, one set day a year people rejoice in the glory of the hat. The 5th December is this day (and what a coincidence, it also happens to be my birthday!) On this day everyone should be forced encouraged to wear a hat like my office colleagues:

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But of course that shouldn’t limit one to only wearing a hat in the office one day a year…

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I like to think myself a very open and liberal individual. I know some people get very funny about what does or doesn’t constitute as a ‘hat’ (it’s like the whole tomato fruit vs. vegetable debate) but if it covers the top of your head it counts as a hat.

There are some grey areas to this theory. E.g. this counts as a ‘hat of sorts’…

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…Because a) it’s a slefie/deliberately taken that way photo and b) I was about 14/15 years old when I took it (i.e. I was trying to look cool.)

This though does not count as a ‘hat of sorts’…

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…Because a) it was a cold day and a coat was needed b) it’s a laid back photo taken with friends and c) when I didn’t have my hood up this happened:

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(I.e. the hood had a practical, not a fashion, purpose.)

Starting to get the hang of this?

So, based on these simple rules, here are some ways you can look glamorous in hats. I’m aware that I am a female (I know, what a shocker!) but humans of the male variety will quickly get the gist of this. There is no excuse why my fashion tips can’t be applied to any age and gender.

Animal Hats are always in

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I mean, you can look so deep in thought and philosophical in a penguin hat

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And so mysterious

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(Who is that girl? What is she thinking? Does she have a second eye?)

“Quick! There’s a wolf over here eating someone!…

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Oh wait, my mistake, it’s actually someone wearing a fabulous Wolf hat.”

Hosting a charity fundraising event? Better get a Moose/Reindeer hat on then.

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On the Continent

You can wear a beret in Paris, France (bonus points for wearing it to be classy, not ironic or stereotypical)

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Or in Cyrpus, Greece…

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Rome (Italy)? Yeah, that works too

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“Does wearing one as part of a Eurovision party count?”

“Is alcohol present?”

“Yes”

“Sure, I’ll take that as a foreign place”

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Special Events

Where a hat is not permitted, a mask will meet the requirements of a hat, e.g. a formal night out

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Graduation

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Posting a Christmas wish list in the North Pole Postbox in Southampton’s Disney Store

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You know, the big events in life.

In General

There is always an excuse to wear fashionable head wear during hat season. I mean, if you can’t sit on a large ball of snow with two tennis rackets and a hat when can you?

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And you can dress up with them at many historical sites nowadays…

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You could say it’s a HATucation! Here all week.

If you need a stronger reason to start wearing hats then all you need to do is turn to the old favourite, the high street. You can buy this card in Clintons:

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I mean they’re cats! In hats! CATS IN HATS!! CATS IN FLIPPIN’ ANIMAL HATS!!!!

How do I know this? Because this is the birthday card I’m giving to my lil bub sister for her upcoming birthday (India, just so you know I’m typing this post on Thursday but will have to wait until Sunday before I can upload it because I’m including this image. That’s how much I love you. Think about it. Many siblings would kill for a sister who holds off posting something just for them. Remember this before you start analysing the physical presents I’ve given you.)

Happy birthday sis.

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“Hey Alice, you look just like that weird guy from that awful Scottish comedy. The one about mountains.”

“Hmm yeah, thanks.”

“Isn’t that the hat worn by the guy on Mountain Goats Alice?”

“Well this hat has been a poor investment.”

From some of the comments I’m making in this post it may be no surprise to you that sometimes I get a little bit too excited with hats…

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At times like these I have to remind myself that I didn’t always have hats. There was a dark period when I didn’t know of their existence. In those days I only had my wits and mini umbrellas to go on. They were the BH (Before Hat) years…

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And this thought mellows me out a little bit.

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(Because ultimately I’m still wearing a hat, that’s pretty dam good whichever way you look at it)

So, what I’m trying to say is that hats come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no excuse not to wear one, no matter what the occasion or mood is. After all, if you can buy a pink cat hat (CAT HAT!!)…

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…then you can buy/wear almost anything. Where hats are concerned there is no judgement here. To be honest I’d be more insulted if you told me you weren’t wearing a hat right now.

Hat season has begun. Now go forth dear readers and do the hat industry proud.

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