The Origins of the Society

“At last”, he said. “We have been waiting for you for a long time.”

The woman felt a chill run through her. The events of the past few minutes had thrown her world upside down.

Recognising the woman was looking a bit perplexed, he offered her a cup of tea. Deciding the bookseller was eccentric but harmless – and hearing the torrent of rain continuing to lash down outside – she accepted.

Considering its age and fragility she thought it safest to leave it on the cash desk for the time being. She found a spare spot on the desk amongst the plethora of paperwork and books of every age, shape and size. With a sigh, she sat in a straight-backed chair upholstered in worn velvet that was placed next to the desk, and watched as the man shuffled back in to the dark alcove. The clink of cups and the rolling boil of the kettle prompted the dog to wander over to the woman, probably in the hope of a stray biscuit.

Books were everywhere, even stacked on the floor to relieve the overflowing shelves. She looked around her trying to find a place to set her wet umbrella where it wouldn’t get anything else similarly soaked and ended up stashing it under the chair, giving herself a mental note to remember to pick it up on her way out. The dampness of the weather outside added to the intensity of the mustiness in the bookshop.

Her handbag rested on her lap, and she reached in to retrieve her phone. A missed call, three texts, a few emails and social media notifications. She was about to open one of the apps to write about what had just happened but she paused, finger paused over the screen.

What would she write, and what was the point anyway? She had confided in only a couple of her closest friends when she joined the Society. Friends she knew she could trust, those who would not judge, pry, or ask too many questions. They knew she would give them updates, little snippets, when the time was right and she was ready to talk.

Everyone else? Well, they wouldn’t take it seriously, thinking she was just having a laugh, hence the secrecy.

With a frown, she locked the screen of her phone and popped it back in to her bag. Her hands tightly clenched the bag’s strap while her feet tapped up and down in a combination of excitement and nervous anxiety. The book – the book! – sat just a couple of feet away on the cash desk.

The dog nudged her for another fuss as the man reemerged with a tray bearing a tea pot, cups, a milk jug and a sugar bowl.

The crockery was old-fashioned bone china, delicate cups and saucers with a pink and green flowery print. Beautifully kept, with not a chip the china was clearly kept for best.

As he poured the tea, she leaned forward eagerly – but what to say, where to start? It would all come blurting out in a right old muddle – best to let the man start by saying what he knew.

A cup was set in front of her; the proffered milk was added, and sugar declined. “You might want some anyway,” he said. “You’ve had quite a shock.” After a moment’s hesitation she realised how light-headed she was and sweet, sugary tea always helped with that.

With shaking hands she picked up her tea; some of it spilled in to the saucer. Embarrassed about her lack of grace, especially during such a momentous occasion, she took a deep breath and told herself to get a grip.

With one hand on her tea cup and the other fussing the dog’s head, she watched as the man finally stopped fussing with the tea things and sat down on the other side of the desk.

The book sat between them. Both looked at it, cup of tea in hand.

Remembering the grunt of greeting she had received when she entered the shop, she realised she might have to start the conversation.

“I have been wanting to read about the origins of the Society for a long time. There are so few people involved in the Society, and not much is written down. There is so much hearsay, verbal history passed from member to member, so it is difficult to know what to believe.”

The man gave a barely perceptible nod, which she took as a prompt to continue

“I can’t believe I found the book here. I mean me! All these years, so many people looking for it, and I found it! Surely people must have looked? Most of the meetings are held in a place only down the road.”

Placing his cup back on his saucer with a gentle tap, the old bookseller gave a wry chuckle.

“That is because they think they know what they are looking for. You, by contrast, kept an open mind.”

“The book finds you.”

The events of this story happen directly after The Second Hand Bookshop.

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mumturnedmom

Friday Favourites: Summer Holiday Style

I don’t know about you, but when I go on holiday I think the outfits I choose to pack have to earn their place in my suitcase.

My clothes have to be easy to pack (I really can’t be doing with ironing at the best of times, least of all on holiday); be suitable for day and night (with accessories to make an item appropriate for an occasion); comfortable and easy-to-wear.

Oh, and look good, of course. I don’t want much, do I?

So for today’s Friday Favourites post, I thought I’d share with you my style choices from my recent holiday to Bordeaux and the surrounding countryside.

Butterfly Print Skirt

I love this White Stuff skirt – it’s fun and flirty. The multi-coloured butterfly print means it’s easy to wear with pretty much any colour of top. I teamed it with my Joules statement necklace – and felt fab wandering around Bordeaux.

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Excuse the detritus in the background!

Geometric print dress

I found this dress, by Lily and Me in an independent shop in my home town. I was pleased to discover them – I love their prints, and the cut of their dresses and tunics complements my shape.

Day 2 in Bordeaux was really hot: the dress was perfect for wandering around in….

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…or for enjoying a glass of wine during an al fresco lunch.

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Navy Kookai Dress

Ok, this (and the next dress, by Naf Naf) didn’t travel to my holiday in my case. In a wonderful coincidence of timing, our holiday in Bordeaux coincided with huge sales. I spent a happy hour in the department store Galeries Lafayette (while Martin spent a happy hour waiting for me outside), where I bought this and the Naf Naf dress).

I was delighted to find this dress, which was a complete bargain. It reflects  quintessential classic French style: so effortless and elegant with simple details such as little frills on the sleeves, and there’s a little fabric tie at the bottom of the V on the back of the dress.

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The shape of the dress made me step out of my comfort zone – I wasn’t sure about it at first, but glad I took the plunge.

I couldn’t wait to wear the dress, and wore it out to dinner that night. I felt very chic!

Coral Naf Naf dress

Another Galeries Lafayette bargain. Dresses in this shape are perfect for hot summer days – the way they drape helps keep me cool, while also accentuating the bits of my body I like and skimming over the bits I’m not too confident about.

The vibrant colour is beautiful.

Wearing my Naf Naf dress while holding baguettes, just to prove I really was in France...

Wearing my Naf Naf dress while holding baguettes, just to prove I really was in France…

...and with a field of sunflowers.

…and with a field of sunflowers.

White Stuff dress

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This gorgeous dress, kindly gifted to me by White Stuff was a perfect frock for the evenings, too. Worn with a statement necklace, it’s a great compromise between looking like I’ve made an effort and not being over-dressed. It’s so easy to pop on and head out for dinner and drinks.

On my feet

My trusty purple Teva sandals are fab for wandering around a city or in the woods once we got to the countryside of our holiday. Practical and comfy while being pretty, they are a holiday footwear staple.

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My pretty Clarks metallic sandals are brilliant for the evening, and were comfy in the daytime too.

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Last but not least, while I can’t walk far in flip-flops they’re invaluable for walking around the hotel, swimming pool or gardens.

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On my head

Hats are a stylish way of protecting your head from strong sunshine (not to mention avoiding a sunburnt scalp – ouch!).

I picked up this gorgeous floppy pink hat from Go Outdoors for about a fiver. It’s brilliant – it’s a lovely shade of pink and it’s made out of some kind of clever fabric that means it easily folded down small to be easily slipped in to my handbag without losing its shape. Genius!

Also vital in the sunshine are sunglasses. Being a glasses wearer, I love my Orla Kiely prescription shades (they feature the classic print on the arms), which feel very glamorous.

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What are your holiday style favourites?

 

Fashion Friday on MummysGotStyle.com

Mums' Days
Style Me Sunday

Scorchio!

My word of the week is scorchio! Predictable, yes. Unimaginative, too. But scorchio it has been!

The week began in France on holiday, in the countryside of the Poitou-Charente region. It was pretty hot there – their heatwave was about 10 degrees warmer than in England!

A field of of sunflowers in France - one of the prettiest sights I've ever seen.

A field of of sunflowers in France – one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen.

Last Saturday actually began with a steady fall of refreshing light rain, a welcome break from the heat. Fortunately, we had very little to do on holiday. The old house where we were staying was very cool inside thanks to thick stone walls, or we could sit in the garden under the gazebo when sunbathing got too hot. We could also enjoy short walks – or sit in the sun loungers with a nice cool beer!

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Sitting in a sun lounger with a nice cold beer…

The evenings were a little cooler, but not by much. Night didn’t fully fall until about 10.30pm, meaning we had really pleasant evenings outside. Even better, the lack of light pollution out in the countryside meant we had an incredible view of the night sky. We were able to make out so many constellations, and see Saturn and Venus (sadly I missed the superstar, which happened when we were back home), as well as Mars. It was like being in a planetarium!

Seeing the night sky has always made me feel rather emotional – it’s the sense of scale of how huge the universe is, how the light of the stars is already millions of years old (and they might not even exist any more), not to mention how insignificant we on Earth are in that context.

The emotions are now intertwined with thoughts of Hugo, and the connection with stars.

Tuesday brought a reluctant return home. The weather forecast a temperature of about 42 degrees – not much fun to travel in! We had to catch a train back to Bordeaux to get to the airport. French intercity trains are very comfortable, with airline style seats and lots of legroom, but this train was overcrowded, with no aircon and windows that didn’t open. Fortunately, the journey was a little less than an hour. It’s possible to get a bus from the train station to the airport, but considering the heat, our baggage, and Martin still struggling with his leg we enjoyed the bliss of a air conditioned taxi.

Rather hot and sweaty on the train last Tuesday

Rather hot and sweaty on the train last Tuesday

I’ll be writing more about my holiday in a separate post or two soon.

I’ve been back at work – there is no air conditioning and of course it was rather warm. I do however feel fortunate to be female (and not required to wear a uniform) at such times, because we are able to get away with wearing lighter clothes, while being decent of course…

Being unable to bear subjecting myself to further heat from my hairdryer, I’ve been leaving my hair to dry naturally and rocking my natural curls. It’s not too bad after all, and is certainly a lot less faff!

Rocking the curls, while enjoying some evening sunshine in my garden.

Rocking the curls, while enjoying some evening sunshine in my garden.

Fat Cat has been providing us with much entertainment during the past few hot days. We’ve had a fan on in the bedroom, and she has been relishing lying stretched out full length in the path of the cooler air. We caught her on her back, paws in the air a couple of mornings ago, but were unable to get a picture before she moved.

Fat Cat enjoying the cool of the fan, while managing to incorporate the sunshine and shade too - clever spoilt cat.

Fat Cat enjoying the cool of the fan, while managing to incorporate the sunshine and shade too – clever spoilt cat.

Last night brought an incredible electric storm, with lightening flashes that lit up the night sky. It doesn’t seem to have reduced the humidity, sadly.

While heatwaves in England can feel uncomfortable because we tend to be unprepared for them, I don’t like to complain about the heat. I do love the sunshine – it’s good for the flowers and berries in my garden, and the serotonin is good for my emotional state so I do l hope it lasts a little while.

The Reading Residence

Could ‘Before Sunrise’ Happen in 2015?

Before Sunrise was released in 1995. That was 20 years ago! It beggars belief. I watched it again at the weekend, and was struck by the thought of what such a film would be like in 2015 – and whether such a scenario could even be possible?

If you haven’t seen it, Before Sunrise begins on a train travelling through Austria. American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) gets chatting to French student Celine (Julie Delpy). They feel a connection and Celine agrees to join Jesse when he has to get off the train in Vienna, rather than continue on her journey to Paris.

Jesse and Celine spend time wandering around Vienna talking about life, the universe and everything until early the next morning, when Jesse has to leave for the airport to take his flight home. Celine boards a train to Paris. They agree to meet at same train platform exactly six months later, but don’t exchange phone numbers or addresses, preferring to leave things to fate instead.

When I first saw Before Sunrise I was 18, and at university. Basic internet and email. No social media. No mobile phones. Almost a world away from today.

It got me thinking: would Jesse and Celine even have struck up a conversation with each other on that train? In the film, they are each reading a book (made of paper!). Today, on a long train journey you are possibly more likely to be watching a film or playing a game on your tablet; listening to music; typing away on a laptop. You might still be reading a book, but it may be a Kindle rather than one with real pages.

Today, we are often far too engrossed in our online lives, especially on public transport to notice other people. In fact, often it helps us avoid having to interact with our fellow travellers.

On arrival in Vienna, Jesse and Celine wondered what to see, and ask a random couple of guys on a bridge. In 2015, say they had struck up a conversation on the train. They would have missed the bizarre conversation about the strange play the guys were in (possibly not a bad thing) because they could have found a free wifi zone to check online tourist sites, or asked Twitter for people’s recommendations.

Jesse and Celine spend the hours wandering the city talking about all sorts. They barely stop talking – except for their moments of passion, that is.

In 2015, many of us can’t stop ourselves checking texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp notifications. What would that have done to the flow of conversation? It seems these days it is difficult to have a conversation for that long without a quick check of our phones.

Do you remember the scene in the bar when Celine and Jesse pretend to call their friends to tell them about the wonderful person they had just met? I wonder whether today, they wouldn’t indulge in such make-believe, instead messaging their friends or posting a status to let them know about the crazy thing they had done in venturing around Vienna with a complete stranger.

They would have probably been taking Instagram pictures of their journey around the city, loads of selfies.

About half way through the film, Jesse makes a comment about technology saving time, but what do we do with that time? His example is a word processor like it was a fabulous thing (which to be fair it was in its time!) It prompted a mirthful laugh. I remember my old word processor from university – great clunking machine with a small green screen that showed only five lines at a time, and an integrated printer that sounded like a machine gun.

Jesse made a good point! Technology can save us time. It can connect us, enable us to collaborate and make friends with people we might otherwise never have met. Technology provides excellent opportunities for procrastination – but we’ll find a way to avoid doing something with or without social media.

We can’t deny our addiction to social media, though – and while it can save a lot of time if we’re not careful it can sap it, too (how many evenings have been spent ‘just quickly checking’ Twitter, and several hours later…)

No spoilers, but social media could have given Celine and Jesse a happier ending. They depart, having fallen in love during the past few hours, with the promise of meeting again six months later. Dear readers, that meeting doesn’t happen…

If only they had today’s technology they could have kept in touch by email, exchanged declarations of love via regular Skype calls…and probably obsessed over each other’s social media statuses. Who are they with? They’re having fun without me?!

Swings and roundabouts, then. Happy endings are never that simple.

Technology doesn’t solve everything: Before Sunrise belongs in 1995. Even if you could suspend your disbelief at getting off a train in a strange city with a complete stranger, the events of the film just would not translate to 2015.

 

Clothes As Armour: My Return-to-Work Outfit

With my anxiety about a return to work after a 15 month absence I was delighted when my favourite shop, White Stuff, offered to send me an outfit to help manage the nerves.

This was important to me because many years of low body confidence means I treat outfits as a form of armour. Feeling I look good helps me feel good. It buoys my confidence.

My wardrobe is full of White Stuff items – the cut of the dresses in particular suits my figure, and the bright colours and fun prints suit my personality.

I was delighted with the outfit I selected: the Beautiful Island Jersey Dress in Paradise Coral made me feel good the moment I put it on. The shape is very flattering; accentuating the right parts, and skimming over the bits I don’t feel so confident about.

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With its high neckline and a hem that reaches the knee, it is a perfect work wear dress because I don’t have to worry about indecency!

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The colour: a deep indigo background with blue and coral spirals is so pretty, and goes with so much.

I paired it with the Waterfall Cardi in Deep Sky Blue – the shape of the cardigan is again very flattering. The way it is cut makes the cardigan look smart, almost like a jacket – perfect for looking the part at work. That said, I can see myself wearing the dress socially, too – it’s such a versatile frock – with a purple or coral cardigan perhaps to bring out those colours.

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I was so pleased the dress has pockets – more dresses should feature pockets because they are so useful!

All dresses should have pockets.

All dresses should have pockets.

Being a fan of a statement necklace, I was very pleased with the Short Flowery Necklace in teal. It sets off the dress beautifully, and has lovely detailing without being too ‘showy’, making it the perfect addition to this work outfit.

As you can also see in this picture, the dress has tabbed sleeves – it seemed to me to be a good compromise between sleeves and sleeveless – and therefore suitable for work in warm weather.

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On my feet I have the Melrose Mid Wedge Demi Sandals. Not being a fan of heels I find platforms like these to be a perfect compromise for when I want to add a bit of height to an outfit. These sandals are the perfect complement to an outfit and, crucially, comfy on my feet. Admittedly I didn’t wear them on my first day, preferring instead the familiarity of my sensible brogues (first days and new shoes are not a happy combination!).

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The finishing flourish is this stunning Cockatiel Scarf. Not only is it double sided: a multi-coloured graphic print on one side and plain green on the other mean it can be worn with pretty much anything, it is also double-layered and huge! This means it would be invaluable as a wrap during chillier summer evenings.

It is difficult to do the scarf justice in photographs…

Trying to show how big the scarf is!

Trying to show how big the scarf is!

20150605_10145520150605_102007Arriving at work in this ensemble did not completely remove all my nerves (it’s a beautiful outfit, but sadly not a magic one!), but I felt I looked good which helped immeasurably. I received some kind compliments too, which is always lovely!

The outfit is timeless and classic, and I look forward to wearing it on many work days and to many social occasions.

About to leave for work on my first day (I opted for my sensible brogues for the first day).

About to leave for work on my first day (I opted for my sensible brogues for the first day).

Disclosure: White Stuff kindly gifted me this outfit. All words and opinions are mine.