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iRights: give young people a chance

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By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

There was a lot of talk in the media this week about iRights: the plan to give children the right to permanently delete posts and photographs they have posted online, and to give posts and video by under 18s an expiry date. The proposal has been led by Baroness Kidron, backed by charities (including Save the Children and Barnardos) as well as some search engines. It is designed to prevent old photographs and video from endangering job prospects in later life, and I think it is a fantastic idea.

It’s hard enough for young people to get the jobs they want, after finishing higher education with crippling debts, therefore it will be harder for them to save, harder to get onto the housing ladder and more difficult to generally live the life they want to lead. Any help we can give them in finding a job and a career has got to be a good thing. Being punished by an old photograph of someone vomiting in a bin during the school prom should not encroach upon their perceived ability to do a good job.

I think this plan should extend to all posts and video relating to a young person (or indeed any person), not just the ones they might post themselves. Sure, your future boss doesn’t want to see you swimming naked on Brighton beach when you were 17, nor do they want to see you swimming naked in the paddling pool aged 7. My Facebook thread is constantly populated by pictures of toddlers on potties, babies in the bath and parent status updates complaining about their ‘awful’ child. To those who feel it’s OK to share such private photos and thoughts: how would you feel if it was about you? Do you really intimately know everybody who is your ‘friend’ on Facebook, as well as everyone who may have access to your so-called-friend’s account? Not only do we not know where these pictures might end up, surely nobody except a biological parent (or extra-caring grandparent) is really interested in that sort of stuff. Certainly not that bloke you used to work with in Accounts.

My parents have a series of highly embarrassing pictures of me at home. I truly never want anyone to see these god-awful photographs (taken at times when I had awful hair, the years of terrible teeth, my ‘awkward’ phase where I looked like my brother, my other awkward phase where I looked like Jonathan Creek, for example). Fortunately for me all I have to do is get into my mum’s photo cupboard, remove the offending images and burn them. Job done. If these pictures were instantly uploaded to Facebook without my permission, to be circulated around the world to old family acquaintances that I have never even met, I would be beyond upset. Parents – please, just think before you share.

Children have a right to delete this sort of stuff. What you might have thought hilarious at 13, you certainly won’t at 23. Facebook is not just a social network but a database of embarrassment that continues to haunt people via Google searches for years to come. (Those video clips of someone doing the cinnamon challenge last year? Delete all you like, but they may still be able to be found online, by people who don’t even know you and were never even friends with you in the first place.) Every photograph, every post and every video should have a shelf life. Our immaturity has a shelf life (one would hope) so this should should be reflected online. Every person has a right to privacy, which should be displayed both by us (would your child really be happy to read in later life that you thought they were a terrible baby?) as well as by the internet service providers. We have a duty to help young people. Let’s not make it even harder for them.

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Killer Cleavage?

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By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

My usual world, as I know it, has been put somewhat on hold of late. Three weeks ago I found a lump in my chest. Since then I have had waves of thinking the worst, through to times of thinking everything will be fine. It’s a cliché to say that we take our health for granted but in my case it really is true.

At times of thinking the worst I do wonder – what if it is breast cancer? Will my life become a series of trips to chemotherapy, surgical procedures and, ultimately, a shorter existence? One of my many thoughts was that I was lucky at least to have these options – I’m sure plenty of women in the world do not. I also realised I am fortunate to have had the education to know what a lump in your breast might mean, and the access to a free GP, a free hospital referral and a wealth of online information to look up my next steps. A lump is certainly a more fortunate lump in the economically developed world.

Statistically I can take comfort in the fact that this may not be cancer. Although as many as 1 in 8 women (or men) will unfortunately develop breast cancer in their lifetime, around 90% of breast lumps are non-cancerous. That’s not to say it isn’t a little scary when you find one.

I wondered, if it was, could I be as brave as Angelina Jolie, and countless other women out there, or would I crumble under the weight of self-pity and indecision? I even, narcissistically, worry about what I would look like if I had to have surgery – just where would I be without my boobs (except, perhaps, a few inches further forward)?

When you have a mini heath crisis it does tend to send you a little over the edge (or, it does me at least). I began to frantically Google life assurance terms and conditions, vaguely plan letters I might write to my nearest and dearest (in  dramatic P.S I Love You style), and even which wig I would choose if I had to have chemotherapy (a long straight one, by the way – the hair I always wanted. There would have to be some sort of silver lining). After all this planning I realised something: my breasts define me no more than my unruly curly hair does (or my penchant for planning every eventuality). Sure, I was known at university for having a cup size that was almost the same diameter as my head (when running, shopping for swimwear or trying to look demure this is never a good thing) but this doesn’t define me. Perhaps all these things put together DO, but in the worst case scenario I can certainly afford to lose some of me and still be – well – me.

Two years ago I spent the day with one of the most inspiring ladies that I have ever met. She had had breast cancer, had chosen a double mastectomy and had been given the all-clear. Her husband and son were extremely proud of how she had dealt with the disease and how she had remained upbeat throughout her ordeal. As part of her recovery she had taken up ballet, her childhood hobby, and had managed to become quite an accomplished dancer. She was also modelling for the fantastic Breast Cancer Care annual Fashion Show in London, refusing to wear prosthetics under her glamorous designer gown as she wanted people to see the ‘real’ her. She even spoke of the positives of her diagnosis: that it made her realise how good her life was when she considered how much she had to lose. I learned a lot from this wonderfully brave woman.

Statistically, 3,174 women in the world will have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the three weeks since I found my lump. I am still awaiting my scan to determine the cause of mine but, whatever the result, this experience has certainly opened my eyes to a disease that transcends race, age and social class. The most important thing I have done this week was to support the life-changing charities below. Even if I am lucky enough never to fully empathise with what these women (and men) have gone through it is heartening to know that, when affected by such a cruel turn of fate, there is someone there to help. And perhaps, one day, a prevention (or even a cure) might be a very real possibility.

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Against Breast Cancer (Seeking a vaccine against breast cancer)

Breast Cancer Africa (focuses on the advancement of breast cancer surveillance and improved survival rates targeted to the most neglected population in the low income communities of East Africa)

Cancer Research UK

Breast Cancer Care (a wonderful charity supporting patients and their families affected by the disease)

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How to achieve post-baby beach body confidence

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Most mums that I know say their bodies have changed quite a bit since having children. Not necessarily in a negative way (I never had hips until I had Rupert, for example), but most women will notice things aren’t quite the same as before. Fear not – below are my ten tried and tested tips to help you feel confident on the beach and around the pool – whether you’re jetting off abroad or braving a wind-swept shore in Britain:

1. Underwired bikinis are a must for most. I cannot stress this enough. Bin your old string thing and choose a supportive separate from Boux Avenue, Bravissimo or Figleaves – all have a great range of tankinis, halter neck bikinis and swimsuits in sizes A to H cup. It’s the only sane way to go. (And, realistically, you’re not going to be relaxing on a sun lounger like you used to, pre-babies. You will be running, you will be bending over and you will be bouncing. Save yourself from constantly tucking the twins in and and give Topshop bikinis a wide berth until further notice).

2. Whilst we are on the subject, don’t neglect your bottoms. Old, saggy swimwear has been known to linger in my wardrobe longer than it should ever have been allowed to. Boux Avenue’s range of retro mix & match peplum bottoms are a stroke of genius. If you are worried about your thighs or tummy these are comfy, stylish and will cover a multitude of lumps, bumps and dreaded stretch marks.

3. Large glasses. There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of sleepless nights I enjoyed/endured and the number of crow’s feet that have appeared around my eyes. In an attempt to avoid exaggerating them a huge pair of sunglasses should do the job. (Posh Spice also claims they make your face look smaller and daintier. I’m not 100% convinced on that but it does prevent the dreaded ‘white squint-line monobrow’ that I developed in Dubai after sitting on my faithful aviators.).

4. Cover up. Now, if you have the confidence to flounce around on the beach in just a bikini then please crack on. I personally feel more comfortable building sandcastles with a kaftan on, but that might be just me. Either way, they are great for getting to/from the beach without drawing over any unwanted pervs, and you really don’t need to break the bank to get one. Primark, H&M and ASOS all have a great range of kaftans and kimonos that will be your best friend on the beach if you’re not quite ready to strip off yet.

5. Tan. Nowadays I don’t have time to make sure my front gets the same amount of tan time as my back, and so on. Sitting in weird positions whilst wrangling a toddler has led to one too many dodgy tan lines for my liking so I now prefer to fake it and stick on the SPF (your Mum would approve of this too). Garnier’s Summer Body is one of my skin essentials; it builds a safe, light, non-streaky tan that doesn’t stain the sheets (I promise).

6. Shoes. Now, I used to swear by my flip flops throughout the summer but recently I have moved onto gladiator sandals. You cannot run in flip flops on sand, and sometimes you may need to (if your little one is about to lick a dog poo, for example. This happens, believe me, and in situations such as this you need to get there fast). Check out New Look’s range: pretty, practical and perfect for summer.

7. Nails. Having time to go for manicures and pedicures is a thing of the past for me, so I try to do my own at home when I get half the chance. You may not be a fan of polish so in this instance just keep it CLEAN. There is nothing worse than having a rank-looking fingernail passing you over a home-made sandwich.

8. Sarongs. As well as being the obvious cover-up it it gets a little chilly (or when someone isn’t talking to your face) they are a life-saver in many situations (including if you need to breastfeed a baby and fancy some privacy). They can act as a temporary sun shade for a buggy, a wrap-around skirt if you have to walk any distance, and I have even witnessed one being used as an emergency nappy. I also never had to bend over much until I had a baby, so this also will save you from any possible camel-toe calamities.

9. A giant bag. Gok Wan claims a massive bag makes you look smaller and thinner. I claim that a massive bag lets you take all the stuff with you that you may (and may not) need. Everything from plasters to spare pants can be found in my giant beach bag and I am proud that I will never be caught short. This huge bulk of a bag is also a useful beach spot marker, as it can be seen from miles around, and anybody mocking me will soon feel the benefit once it single-handedly weighs all our towels down in that pesky sea breeze.

10. Magazines. Remember the time when you used to get through a whole novel on the beach, pre-babies? Well, you can forget it. Leave the Kindle in the room and opt for a magazine instead. You may just be able to read a few brief articles if your little darling naps, and if/when it gets destroyed by ice cream drips it’s a whole lot cheaper to replace. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One final point about beach body confidence after having a baby – my husband says that even though your body may have changed it is still beautiful (he is a wise man indeed). Just look at what your body gave you – the best gift imaginable – and you have been through a lot together. So cut it (and yourself) some slack. There may indeed be a bit more ‘slack’ than there was before, but it really is your badge of honour. Whatever you choose to wear on the beach this summer just make sure you wear it with pride.

On the beach in Dubai

On the beach in Dubai (pre-monobrow tan line incident)

By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

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Actually, I’ll have a chardonnay…

By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

Chardonnay is back, baby. Apparently it’s one of the wine varieties that went from geek to chic. It was the drink of the 90s, favoured by Bridget Jones and nobody who was anybody would be seen drinking it in public after 1998. However, wine critics have recently made a U-turn on this, with waves of un-oaked chards from Australia, New Zealand, France and California winning awards.008I’m not sure this news of the chard re-brand has hit Hampshire yet. When I asked for my new drink of choice in the local pub it was met with a gasp from a Northerner at a nearby pool table. The barman had to dust off an old bottle at the back of the fridge (another plus: they usually have to hunt around a bit and open a new bottle, so it’s a bit fresher than the day-old sauvignon blancs). The truth is I really don’t know much about wine, but I have to admit I really do like it.

I re-discovered the taboo tipple when my friend and I worked a few shifts on a beautiful family-run vineyard when we lived in New Zealand. Initially I hated the job: the early mornings, the bee stings, the promise of tea breaks when no tea ever actually materialised (and I won’t go into the toilet facilities – let’s just say it involved ditches). But after you taste a grape fresh from the vine, and then try the wine that has just been made, it does give you a new-found respect for the humble chard. I began to think it didn’t deserve its naff image, as we tasted some really fantastic chardonnay wines which certainly changed my opinion.

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I have friends who would rather streak naked through the bar than order anything other than their faithful pinot grigio. And even though you will draw funny looks, and probably have to repeat yourself when you order, it’s always the White Delight that is my favourite. Admittedly, it does have its drawbacks (don’t say I didn’t warn you):

  • The name is vile (and anybody calling their child this had clearly had too much of the White Delight upon making this horrendous decision. Note – naming children after a favourite food or drink is just awful – thank goodness Tikka Masala never ranked very high on Nameberry either).
  • A bad chard can taste horrific. Like a cat’s breath (but so too can a bad steak, gumball or Silvester Stallone film…therefore, chardonnay, I won’t hold it against you). If this happens in a bar simply give it as a gift to the closest person that you dislike. If it happens at home give it immediately to your least favourite plant.
  • People will think you are odd. Never mind – it means you will probably get the whole bottle to yourself – hurrah!
  • It will look like you are sipping a glass of urine. People will say it’s too sweet/sour/it smells. Everyone will have an opinion but remember they are WRONG (except about the wee thing – that is true).
  • It can make your mouth taste a bit funny. Alex James from Blur suggests eating carrots to combat this. At risk of drawing even more strange looks I would recommend a TicTac instead.
  • You will feel like Bridget Jones whilst drinking it, there is no getting around it. I usually end up even talking like her after one glass on an empty stomach. Embrace the positives: you probably know where Germany is and also you are real.

As mentioned, I really know nothing about wine. Despite numerous wine tasting experiences, I still always mutter “hmm, greengages” (I have no idea what greengages taste like, and I just hope that nobody nearby does either. It just sounds like it might be right).  So don’t take it from me – try a nice Chard for yourself – it may just be the start of something sweet.

My current favourite!

My current favourite!

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I took vitamins every day for a year and this is what happened…

By Anna Trevelyan anna pic 2

Nothing. Well, I say nothing. I diligently took a special ‘lady vitamin’ every day for a year to see just what I was missing: as it turns out, about £6.30 per month (money down the drain – or, more specifically, to the £13.5 billion supplement industry).

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Not only did I not see any specific benefits, my overall health took a nosedive. I have had more illnesses in the last year than I have had in the last ten years. Over the course of my ‘vitamin year’ I had my first ever vomiting bug, the flu (in spite of having a free flu jab at work), a chest infection and countless other bugs and viruses that left me feeling less than fantastic. I am just one feverish day away from having an official ‘sickness review’ at work for this year (if they suggest I start taking a multi vitamin to help support my immunity I will scream).

But enough about my medical woes. Is this a coincidence? I’m not prepared to fork out another £75.60 to find out (the cost of these vitamins for a 12 month supply), as I simply don’t believe in it for adults who are normally in good health*.

So what exactly are we being promised, and how does this compare with my expectations and the reality of vitamin ‘benefits’? Upon closer inspection, the box states they are ‘designed for the demands of modern life’ (an interesting one – can they charge my phone at the same time)? It also states that their carefully-packaged product ‘provides a wide range of nutrients and trace elements providing nutritional support’ and ‘the benefits of the ingredients are thought to build over time’. So, no promises; and yes ‘another-£75.60-please-per-year-may-further-benefit-you-but-we-can’t-promise’ non-promise. I’m sure the woman running around on the advert, with glossy hair, perfect nails and a really nice car will help to sway a potential vitamin purchaser as well.

Perhaps I am just unlucky. Perhaps I am too cynical to feel the benefits of a placebo effect on this one (is ‘un-placebo-able’ a word)? Or perhaps they just DO NOT WORK.

A telling article, following three comprehensive studies, was written and published by Annals of Internal Medicine: ‘Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements’ (written and compiled by Eliseo Guallar, MD, DrPH; Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD; Cynthia Mulrow, MD, MSc, Senior Deputy Editor; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; and Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD). I really don’t need to quote the article as the title says it all.

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Ben Goldacre (Doctor, author and writer for The Guardian) has published a series of articles damning the use of ‘quack’ vitamin supplements. He even points out that aggressive marketing strategies for the vitamin companies can be seriously harmful to societies:

‘Matthias Rath and the Rath Foundation vitamin empire [have] been running advertising campaigns in newspapers and poster campaigns near HIV/Aids treatment centres in several African countries, telling people that anti-retroviral drugs undermine the body’s immune system, and that “micro-nutrients alone can promote the defence against Aids”.’

Seriously worrying stuff. Ben Goldacre, along with many other medical professionals that I know, promotes the good old-fashioned healthy lifestyle and balanced diet – which cannot be replaced by simply popping a multi-vitamin pill. The body excretes what it doesn’t need, so by taking 500% of your RDA of vitamin C every day will not stop you from becoming ill – it may just give you diarrhoea and vomiting, or kidney stones. Too much calcium has also been linked to heart attacks (with a dose of D&V thrown in). In fact, one credible 2008 study found that 13.1% of people taking vitamin supplements died over the course of the trials, compared with 10.5% of people who were either taking nothing or a placebo pill.

So, supplement fans: If you feel you have money to throw away then you could carry on taking your multi-vitamins. They may make you feel better (or worse), or they may make you ill (or worse). On the other hand, you could just eat a balanced diet, spend some time outside and save yourself the bother.

I know for certain that the only supplement I am going to be regularly digesting from now on is the Culture section of the Sunday times. Cheaper – and no diarrhoea.

*Of course there are genuine benefits for certain supplements in certain situations: vitamin K injections for newborns are a no-brainer, as are folic acid supplements in pregnancy, and even multivitamins for the under 5s are recommended by the DOH. I am just talking about pointless vitamin supplements in adults who are in good health.

Links:

Dr Ben Goldacre – Bad Science: http://www.badscience.net/ (His book, of the same name, changed my life – well worth a read: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Science-Ben-Goldacre/dp/000728487X )

Annals of Internal Medicine: ‘Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements’ (written and compiled by Eliseo Guallar, MD, DrPH; Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD; Cynthia Mulrow, MD, MSc, Senior Deputy Editor; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; and Edgar R. Miller III, MD, PhD): http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1789253

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Don’t meet your heroes

By Anna Trevelyan anna pic 2

Over the last few years I have learned something – every time I am fortunate enough to meet someone whom I really admire it just hasn’t worked out.

Take Dolly Parton. We travelled up to Liverpool to interview her, amidst a hugely un-exciting, Haribo-fuelled journey through horrendous traffic. The lady herself was fantastic, inspirational and kindly. But she only had nine minutes. And we were stuck all day in a smelly male locker room; my Director and I were crushed in the shower area between a filthy sink and a suspicious-looking urinal. Not my idea of fun, and now, whenever I smell drains, it takes me right back.

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The other week I met Chris Evans – my secret career inspiration. After reading his autobiography as a student I, too, marched down to my local radio station and demanded a job. It actually worked! (I was stuck on the late-night slot, conveniently not really being paid. But still, experience is experience, I am sure somebody clever says). Although he was friendly and reasonably chatty, despite being accosted by my slightly flustered self on a street corner in Soho, I was still left feeling disappointed.

chris evans

Why was that, I wondered? Presumably it’s to do with the real and perceived personality of someone in the public eye. You want them to be as they are on screen or radio – confident, caring and interesting. But when they meet you they are generally not being paid (or, sometimes they actually are – take JLS – they were being PAID to be nice to us and still didn’t quite manage it).

Our expectations are also far too high. You wish for the perfect five-minute encounter where the person makes you laugh, comments on how much they like your outfit and perhaps even takes your number as they think you have ‘potential in the industry’. Let’s face it: it’s never going to happen. The reality, almost always, is a slightly grumpy individual who just wants to get away from you and go home to put their feet up. They are (most of them) only human, after all.

My advice is to meet your anti-heroes. (Not necessarily Rebekah Brooks, or someone who has sold their soul to the devil in dramatic Dorian Gray style) but someone whom you really dislike. Take for example Peter Andre – one of the most annoying people on TV. I hated his adverts, his silly public dramas, his face, his prawn ring…but in person – one of the nicest people I have ever met. I had to stand corrected on that one. Another example – Gok Wan. He used to drive me mad with his repetitive voiceover (‘speak-about-it-in-an-excited-high-pitched-manner…then drop-it-right-down-leaving-the-intonation-unfinished’) and unexciting hair, but he turned out to be kind, affectionate and a true gentlemen who really opened up about his life, his experiences and his troubled relationship with his father. I now have a lot of time for Gok Wan.

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Some of the other truly exciting people I have been fortunate to have met are those who aren’t on the cover of Heat magazine, but who have been successful behind the scenes through hard work and true talent. Thea Green, who started Nails Inc, is one of these people whom I truly admire: beautiful enough to be featured in the fashion mags, but with the humility to not to want to be. Her intelligence, success and business sense simply speaks for itself.

So, try meeting someone you love to hate. Ask someone annoying a question that requires a bit of thought to their answer. Don’t dismiss someone because they are on reality TV (and, equally, don’t worship them just because they are). Try meeting someone you have written off; they may just surprise you.

By Anna Trevelyan

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I need to start dressing my age

By Anna Trevelyan anna pic 2

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Today wasn’t the first time I realised I was wearing the same shoes as a toddler. Last summer I spent a few humiliating days out where I had arrived at the agreed meeting place dressed in an almost identical outfit to my five-year-old niece. “I like your shorts, Auntie Anna”, she said. I was about to comment that I liked her (identical) pair too, and that wasn’t she a bit young to be dressing in those animal print leggings, when I realised – actually – I am a bit too old.

Upon closer inspection of my wardrobe I do have a ridiculous number of sparkly shoes. If I am completely honest, I do think shoes without glitter are really quite boring. I am short, so cannot pull off a ‘midi’ skirt, so I choose shorter, above the knee (usually frilly) skirts that you can still just about cross your legs in without showing your knickers. I very much enjoy a black cardigan, which I have actually worn as part of every school uniform that I have ever been forced to wear, and I do have a bit of a penchant for blazers. Although my bags (of the accessories kind) have begun to get exponentially larger upon every year that I have aged, I do still like to take a small, pretty yet completely impractical thing with me if I go out that could just about fit a Polly Pocket in and not much else. I admit I still own Hello Kitty hair slides, and light-hearted hair bands have always been an essential accessory for me (that was, until I was sent home from work once with a migraine only to have it miraculously disappear as soon as I got in and took off my headband, which I had bought in the children’s section of H&M).

I have, however, made small steps to dressing more towards my age in the last year. When I was pregnant I seemed to morph into some sort of onesie-wearing adult baby; sporting over-sized tunics, floaty floral tops and those thick woollen tights that you often see on infants. Since then though I have tried to make an effort to replace those with 40 denier tights, empire lines and more age-appropriate underwear that does not have butterflies or a pink frilly trim on it.

I feel like society desperately wants me to start shopping in Next. I have always resisted this; shunning their high necklines, sensible hemlines and slightly-too-mature knitwear. I just can’t seem to leave New Look alone – I’ve shopped in there since I was 11 years old and it hasn’t let me down yet (we’ll ignore that top that gave me a suspicious-looking shingles-type rash, and those jeggings that made me look like I have two bottoms; an upper one and a lower one). In recognition of my recent 30th birthday though, I did buy a very mature fitted jacket that I sometimes flounce around in at work to make me feel important. On most mornings though I bypass the classy jacket and choose my favourite green parka to throw on, and weave through the throng of 13-year-olds on their way to school wearing that exact same coat. “Cool coat” a teenage girl said to me last week, her hair in a fashionably dishevelled bun and sporting ridiculously high heels for school. I know what she was thinking – ‘I wish my mum were as cool as you’, obviously. I think I’ll stick to New Look after all.

By Anna Trevelyan

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