Friday, 7 September 2012

Being a Bridesmaid - Part 2: The Hen Do

It feels like forever since I was a bridesmaid and it feels like even longer since the hen do but it’s not a night that will be forgotten in a hurry.

Apparently in my mother’s day (the mid-80s) a hen do consisted of going down the local with your best friends and that was that.  Twenty-five years on and things have evolved somewhat.  Luckily in my case I wasn’t organising a trip to Faliraki or anything equally horrific, expensive and classless to see my best friend enter married life.

To get me prepared for what was involved I read a book on how to be a good bridesmaid.  Sadly it was aimed at the sort of vacuous woman who thinks liking cocktails and shoes constitutes as a personality.  The key, so the book told me, to all elements of being a bridesmaid was to be ‘fabulous’.  This was not the practical advice I had hoped for.  See below the picture of the aforementioned useless book.

The hen that I organised was for 26 people.  That is a lot of folk.  But whether organising for six hens or a hundred, the only thing you have to do is make sure whatever you do the bride has fun.  Obviously nothing so niche that the rest of the group are going to hate it but as long as you play to the bride’s tastes she is going to love it and that is all that matters.

The bride picked the venue, the activity and the meal as she was 1. incredibly organised and 2. she lives in Glasgow, I no longer do, so it ensured she got the night she wanted rather than me guessing on what places would be good.

I asked everyone for a deposit about four months prior to the event.  This weeded out the people who were never going to come but who may have dropped out later.  On the actual day I only had one person drop out due to illness rather than seven who could have quietly agreed to attend but had no real intention of being there.

On the evening itself games are incredibly important.  They give structure to proceedings and define it as something different to an ordinary night out.  We played Mr and Mrs.  It’s easy to find questions online, just compile your list of favourite questions from a simple Google and adapt it to be more personal to your friend.  I made it multiple choice and added in extra answers that I knew might catch her out.  For every question she answered correctly I gave her a bit of hen do tat - tiara and veil, sash, bride to be straw and shot glass etc.  I opted for nothing in the shape of a veiny penis.  She’s going to see one veiny penis for the rest of her life, one in neon pink is neither romantic nor becoming of an evening for ladies in their mid-twenties.

We played a second game that was of my own devising.  It was called ‘Play Your Kevs Right’, a rare moment where I used a pun for the purposes of enjoyment.  I sent a group email to those attending asking for pictures of the bride and groom looking happy together and ones of Kev (the groom) doing generally stupid things.  I then put the best on bits of card and the bride had to guess if the next picture in the pile was a good one (Moragulous) or him being daft (Kevastating).  It was in the style of Play Your Cards Right and highlighted something you should not underestimate in planning a hen - you will have to deal with stupidity in people you’d previously assumed were intelligent.  I asked for unique pictures that Morag may not have seen and more than three people copied ones from Facebook and then sent them to me thinking they were doing me a favour.  I could have done that, why would I be asking strangers to do this for me?

Nudity was also not part of my plans, I chose not to have a stripper.  I did have a ganders to see what was available locally.  It turns out strippers are surprisingly expensive and none that I found in the Glasgow area were remotely attractive - tattooed middle aged muscle man anyone? 

Obviously every person is different but as the bridesmaid you should know what makes your bride different and what she will and will not love.  Once the activity and games are out the way you get to enjoy the night like all the rest of your hens and you get the added thrill, if everyone is having fun, that you organised it and helped do something special in preparation of the big day.  Remember, should the worse happen and it is an absolute disaster everyone is guaranteed to get drunk and probably won’t remember how bad it was in the morning anyway.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


New Year’s resolutions are funny things.  Usually they are made in the knowledge that it sounds like a great idea but will never succeed.  I do not like failing and so have started to only makes ones which I am sure I will be able to keep.  This year’s was to go to the theatre at least once a month.  Two-thirds of the way through the year, so far, so good:

January:  A Round Heeled Woman
February:  Wicked
March:  Absent Friends
April:  Jersey Boys
May:  One Man Two Guvnors
June:  Abigail’s Party
July:  Sunshine Boys

The inclusion of musicals in my life isn’t something I would normally condone but if I can get a cheeky £10 ticket I'll go with an open mind and usually don't hate them.  As a rule though, I’m still against spontaneous singing.

Speaking of deals, that is how I ended up going to see the Jumpy matinee on Saturday.  I got restricted view tickets for a bargain £15.  Buying restricted view is always a bit of a worry if you don’t know the theatre.  I’d been to see One Man Two Guvnors in restricted view as it was the only way to see James Corden in the role in December.  How much I actually saw of him was dependent on the movements the man in front of me made while laughing and the handrail next to my face. 

So scared was I about buying restricted view that I had a dream a few nights before where I got to my seat and all that was in my line of vision was a wall, I was convinced it was going to be a nightmare.  I really shouldn’t have feared as when I collected my £15 ticket I got an upgrade to the Royal Circle.  That meant I saved £40 on an unrestricted view, happy, happy days. 

As much as I love a bargain, spending any meagre amount is still a waste if the play is no good.  

A loud burst of Florence and the Machine indicated the start of the show.  Immediately I was a bit concerned.  Blaring pop music to fill time as the actors re-arrange the set or to indicate a change in scene can sometimes feel a bit am-dram, thankfully Jumpy managed to shrug off that concern very quickly.

Tamsin Greig plays Hilary, a 50-year-old woman with a teenage daughter who is more concerned about going out than her GCSEs.  Hilary’s relationships with her child, her husband and best friend all disintegrate.  Her job is in jeopardy.  She is dealing with a life where aspirations remain unfulfilled as her daughter, Tilly, sets off on a journey that she does not understand will feature disappointment and compromise. 

Generally the acting was very well pitched although at times the daughter was just a bit too Kevin the Teenager for my liking.

Jumpy is on until 3rd November at the Duke of York’s Theatre, it's funny and touching and definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


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To Be Norwegian

This blog has been abandoned the last few weeks.  Firstly due to a massive freelance job I had that was taking up every evening and secondly because of my long anticipated, very much needed Scandinavian adventure.   We started in Copenhagen, then Oslo for  the Oya Festival and then Gothenburg – all in the space of a week.  I was concerned all that travelling about would be stressful but it helped to break up the days and made it feel like the holiday was much longer, who doesn’t want that on a jaunt away?

Copenhagen was lovely, had great shops but horrendous weather.  En route to the Oslo ferry at Copenhagen docks we were planning on looking at The Mermaid, you know, the only thing anyone knows is in Copenhagen.  First of all the boy suggested taking a shortcut which led to us being greeted by some military fort that was entirely cobbled meaning he had to carry both suitcases rather than roll them behind him.  By the time we were back on smooth pavements he was incredibly grumpy from all the manual labour on holiday time.  This was then amplified by the downpour which led to him being “piss wet through” and therefore unwilling to walk further than was needed to see a statue about some story he hadn’t read anyway.

Gothenburg was somewhere I’d spent a few weeks when I was 18.  Due to being a poor student I didn’t really explore much the first time.  On a second visit it proved itself a thoroughly nice place but without a huge amount to do.  The highlight was undoubtedly when I managed to get us upgraded to a suite so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Oslo was where it was really at.  Everyone is so well dressed, the standard of living is amazeballs (yeah, I said amazeballs) and even though it’s a major city it’s not all London and stressful on your arse. 

They also have the best building I’ve ever seen – the Oslo Opera House.  Now I’m not into architecture, I went out with an architect in my early 20s and in my experience, architects are pompous bores.  I love arty farty people generally and I am sure there are some delightful architects out there in society, I however have never met one.  Anyway, I digress, the Oslo Opera House looks like the future and you can climb up it, it's amazing.

The purpose of our stop-off in Norway was the Oya Festival which proved itself to be marvellous.  For instance, no-one was incredibly drunk and throwing cups of their own urine, something that puts me off all major British festivals.  I got to see my favourite Norwegian singer, Sondre Lerche, perform twice on the one day and we discovered Norwegian rap.  Something I was dubious about but now am finding myself mildly obsessed with.  See below for a combination of the two.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Feeling Very Olympic

Two golds have been won today by Great Britain, it’s making me feel very Olympic and patriotic – odd emotions for someone who isn’t generally either.

My air of Olympic-ness began, along with most of the country, during the Opening Ceremony when the whole world was shown the most perfect, quirky representation of Britishness.  The sheer joy I felt as the actual Queen Elizabeth II called Daniel Craig ‘Mr Bond’ was only tarnished by the fact I was clock watching during the proceedings due to an exceptionally early rise the next morning.  For the record, my definition of ‘early rise’ is anything before 7.30 on a weekday and anything before 10 on a weekend.  On Saturday I had to get up at 6.20.  Let’s all think about his for a second, that’s almost TWO HOURS earlier than I get up for work.  The fact I managed to do it and not die I view in the same league of achievements as Wiggins winning the Tour de France and the Olympic gold in the same fortnight.

I was up early to attend the first session of heats at the Aquatic Centre at 10am.  They recommend you get to the Olympic Park two hours in advance but the lines for security were non-existent and we got through in seconds.  Plus in an amazing bonus the helpers around the park were actually nice, not like those brutes that usually patrol big gigs and events.

Once inside the park I took obligatory grainy pictures of the sights before heading to the Aquatic Centre.  There was only one thing on my mind by this point - coffee.  Due to all that corporate sponsorship nonsense there is a fairly limited choice of food and drink.  I thought I had nothing to fear as Cadburys would be on sale and I could have some chocolate with my coffee to kick me up the arse into awakeness.  Alas, all they had when I got to the front of the queue was Nature Valley bars – thanks but no thanks kiosk worker.

Swimming just happens to be the sport we managed to get tickets for.  Prior to Saturday I’d never been overly bothered by it.  Seeing the heats didn’t necessarily make me aspire to be a keen amateur or want to go to watch more competitions but it was amazing to be a part of proceedings.  

Most of the heats we saw were of male swimmers.  Personally, men with very toned bodies don’t do it for me but seeing them all buffed and in their little pants gave me a real respect for their athleticism (not a pervert’s comment, promise).  As well as that, I hadn’t anticipated how people would cheer along and get into the spirit of things.  At points it was properly wild. 

I got to see Michael Phelps swim (he did not do well at the session I attended) but even better than that I got to see the actual Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.  The royals are a guilty, guilty pleasure of mine – it was like hitting the jackpot.

Upon leaving the park I went straight home to watch the road race and I’ve been glued to my screen watching all kinds of sports I had no idea I cared about ever since.  Somehow just by living in the city that the Olympics are taking place in makes me feel a duty to watch it all, to ensure that we maintain what we started in the Opening Ceremony.  

Is everyone else feeling Olympic too?

Friday, 27 July 2012

I Did

Were it not for an imminent adventure in Scandinavia my life would be feeling a bit empty at the moment.  The wedding of my two best friends has passed meaning I am no longer in full-on bridesmaid stress mode.  There is no more worry my dress will not fit, that I will mysteriously get ill and faint as I walk down the aisle, etc, etc.  No horrors occurred, the big day was beautiful and perfect and it didn't even rain or anything.  

As this blog testifies, my biggest fear regarding my duties was the speech I was asked to give.  Seeing as I banged on about it so much here, on Twitter and even in real-life to people’s faces I’ve copied it below for the whole world to admire…

Hello everyone.  Hope you’re all having a lovely day so far and that what I say in the next few minutes doesn’t ruin it.

I’m Samantha, Chief Bridesmaid.  Best friend of Morag from primary school and good friend of Kevin’s since uni.  Which means I’m in a very rare, very privileged position of knowing them both so well that I could fill a good hour with embarrassing stories about both the bride and groom. 

I am the reason Morag and Kev met, if I hadn’t invited Morag to Kev’s flat warming party four years ago we may all be doing something else today.  The fact that I know two such lovely, funny, and today now they’ve scrubbed up, attractive people speaks volumes about what a great judge of character I am. 

They are the only couple I have ever played a part in their getting together.  So if you’re single and looking for love if you come and see me after the meal we’ll discuss a fee and I’ll try and find you your own husband or wife.

As I said, I’ve known Morag since primary school, since we were both five.  I don’t remember the specific moment we became friends but I do remember lots about our adventures.

For instance when we were wee one of Morag’s favourite games was pretending to be a teacher, a game she still insists on playing to this very day. 

When we were growing up, our conversations about potential husbands never really went past members of Boyzone or Take That.  Little did we know that one day she would become Mrs Argue.  Married to the sort of domesticated soul that I once watched spend an hour lovingly prepare a dinner that was immediately trumped by the arrival of a Vienetta for dessert.

As me and Morag have got older we’ve remained close.  We’ve been on holidays together to Greece, Bulgaria, Oslo.  Norway’s not the only Scandinavian country that we are fans of, many a Saturday night has been spent on what we imaginatively named Sweden night.  This is a very complicated process.  It involves us going to Ikea, buying a lot of food and pear cider and then watching trashy telly while consuming it all and it’s a ritual I’ve really missed since I moved away.

Because I’m in London now I’ve missed lots of nights out with Mo and keeping in touch with her extended group of friends so it was really nice to see everyone who came to the Moragulous hen do.  Thank you to everyone who came and made it such a great night.  An extra special thank you to anyone who sent me pictures for Play Your Kevs Right and an extra extra special thank you if you sent me pictures of the hen when I emailed asking for those.  I’ve used them to get this photo album made, which is for you Mo.  Along with your new found cocktail making skills, it’s a little momento of the evening.

When I first moved down to England, Mo and Kev joined me for my first New Year away from home.  They had only been going out three or four months and as we sat in a pub on Hogmanay both of them were talking about how they were going to get married, going to buy a house, how many children they wanted, when they wanted them.  When I asked Kev how he could be so sure that he and Morag were going to end up doing all those things he said “when you know, you know”. 

Although he did recently tell me that he was looking forward to married life as then he’d become Morag’s problem for life, so he’s not always so romantic. 

I’m so pleased that the plans you both set out that night three and a half years ago are turning into reality and that two of my best friends have made one another so happy...

The speech ended with a toast and then obviously, rapturous applause (at least in my head it did anyway).  

Friday, 13 July 2012

Being a Bridesmaid - Part 1: The Dress

Before being asked to be a bridesmaid it was a role I had given little thought.  About the only thing I knew I’d have to do was wear a dress that was chosen by committee and not by myself.  As I am a vain fool, this was a big deal to me.  Normally I attempt to be the only person wearing my style, colour and cut of dress.  As a bridesmaid (unless you are solo) you are going to be wearing the exact same thing as someone else.  It’s a gut wrenching thought.

These are the cold hard facts of buying a bridesmaid’s dress...

A LOT of people will see you in your underwear

This was the biggest shock to me.  I’m no prude but I’m also not an exhibitionist.  People who need to (and most importantly, want to) see me in the nip are welcomed with no blushes or mock shyness.  However I’ve never been able to change in the open of a gym locker room without being sure that everyone else is staring at my little belly and thinking ‘fat cow’.

So imagine my horror when I discovered trying on bridesmaid dresses involved numerous middle-aged women seeing me in my sensible pants and bra.  Most bridal shops only stock one of each dress style in only one colour option so the dresses you try on are in sizes that most people will be able to fit into (smaller people are pinned in, larger people might not be able to do the zipper up).  The result of this is that a woman comes into the changing room with you, helps you into the dress and then secures you in it. 

After a while you start to get used to someone watching you dress and assisting, it feels sort of like having a lady servant which is pleasing for a short spell.  In overcoming my fear of a strangers seeing me in my pants I felt liberated, it made me feel in touch with my European easygoing side.  It wasn’t a sensation that lasted.

You will wear satin (or some other material you would choose to avoid for day-to-day living)

Problems with satin: it’s very unforgiving, it creases as soon as you sit, it can feel both too light or too heavy with the slightest change in temperature.  The truth is the majority of traditional bridesmaid dresses come in satin, it’s a horror you will have to live with. 

To minimise the paunch that the satin will inevitably make you look like you have, invest in some good seamless sucky-in knickers.  Even if you don’t need your belly held flat in normal outfits you will for this one.  Also aim to have zero VPL.  Pippa Middleton proved you can shine in a bridesmaid’s dress as long your arse looks good, follow her posh pert lead.

You will have to fight to maintain your own identity

Being a bridesmaid is an odd thing, for a day one of your best friends dictates things about your appearance that, should she attempt at any other time, you’d tell her to bugger off.  But because it’s her special day you don’t say anything out loud about the colour scheme or the satin because if that’s what she wants then you are more than happy to oblige.

As well as the bride, there are also the other bridesmaids to consider.  You have to work as a team, decide what is most important to you all about what you wear and push for that as one unit.  It’s remarkably different to any clothes shopping you will do again where your priority is to wear something that feels entirely ‘you’.

You will be wearing something that looks decent on all of you rather than the dress that looked AMAZING on you but not so good on the others but you are still you.  Refuse any suggestions that you should; all have the same hairstyle, same skin tone (it was briefly mentioned I was ‘too pale’ compared to others!), wear shoes of differing heels to be the exact same height,  have identical make-up.  You will only be a bridesmaid one or two days of your life, do not allow what you are for the rest of them to be forgotten.

The actual day that you shop, although testing at times, is best dealt with if you approach it as your moment to create a montage of you trying on different prom dresses ala a cheesy 90s teen movie.

That’s the dress covered.  Posts about the hen and the big day itself to follow soon.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Us and Them

This blog post has spent several days in my head, numerous times the tips of my fingers have hovered over a keyboard ready to write but I’ve never got past the first few lines due to my increasingly sore head.  Like a sickly heroine from an Austen novel I'm prone to feeling lightheaded and faint from being in ‘the wrong sort’ of light.  This is always worst when it’s gloomy outside and we have to use the dodgy overhead lights found in all offices that somehow bounce pain straight into the back of my brain.  Anyway, this is finally me committing words to screen – hurrah!

So what pertinent, amazing thoughts have I been thinking during those lost days?  Mainly they have been about doing up my new flat and my imminent bridesmaid duties.  Amongst all that, I also had a conversation about the differences between the Scottish and the English sparked by Andy Murray and the incredibly boring 'is he British or Scottish' debate.  He is of course both so let’s all stop having that conversation and making ‘Come on Tim’ comments too while we're at it, it’s incredibly tedious.

I’m Scottish and have lived down south for almost four years (a year and a bit in Norwich of all places and the rest in London town) and before I moved I never ever thought about my cultural identity.  Since I’ve been here it’s something I have to talk about more often that I’d like.  Obviously there are differences, my accent, words I say that I don’t realise - until uttering and seeing confused reactions - are colloquial, food I crave but somehow hasn’t found its way into the English diet.  But there are only three truly fundamental differences between us and them, well, as far as I can tell anyway.

1. Talking about the weather
In Scotland it rains A LOT, it's cold A LOT and when there is no rain the sky is still an ominous shade of grey.  So, on days where the sun shines and it is above 15°C we rejoice at our good fortune.  In England people seem to be in a permanent state of confusion as to why it is not a tropical paradise.  Unless it is beautifully sunny I am subjected to several conversations a day about why the weather is so bad.  It’s not bad, weather cannot be categorised as ‘bad’ until your house is flooded or you’re snowed in. When that happens, let's have that chat.

2.  Zebra crossings
The rules of the road are that when a pedestrian walks on a zebra crossing cars MUST stop.  In Scotland this seems to be understood and people walk onto the road and expect the people in the cars to know what to do.  In England this rule seems to not be taught to anyone.  I walk past two zebra crossings on my way to work and every day see people dithering at the side of the road waiting for the traffic to stop.  Hint, it will not stop until you step on the bloody road.

3. Puns
I like to pride myself on being fairly amusing and being able to find comedy in most things.  There is only one form of humour that I do not understand – puns.  The English LOVE a pun.  Up until moving I think I heard a pun-based joke as rarely as I saw sunshine.  Now I hear them regularly and am unable to respond because I just don’t get it.

Now, I’m no anthropologist so this is just my anecdotal musings.  However, I’m pretty sure that if David Cameron worked on the three things above then there’d be no independence debate and we'd be one big happy family.

Friday, 6 July 2012

I Do (At Least I’ll Try)

Later this month my two best friends are getting married.  The bride I have known since I was four, the groom since I started university.  As I know them both so well, I have the honour of being chief bridesmaid.  Now obviously I am delighted by this.  I’ve never been a bridesmaid, I like wearing dresses and I get a little slither of the spotlight.  However this privilege comes with one condition - that I give a speech at the reception.

While I admire the bride for asking that the voice of a female cohort is heard in amongst men telling bawdy stories, as it is me that will be speaking, I’m finding it all a little stressful.

Maid of honour speeches, if Google is correct, appear to be pretty common in America.  Here in the UK, not so.  Unlike a best man, I don’t have lots of friends who have also been in the same position and can tell me what did and did not work for them.  And as I’m not expecting my audience to be expecting a bridesmaid to speak will they think that I’m just a very pushy lady who loves the sound of her own voice?

The actual writing, while tricky to know what to include, I am capable enough to do.  I’m sure I’ll be able to get a few laughs, I’ve always made up for my lack of faith in my face with my ability to make jokes.  What I’m struggling to imagine is the public speaking whilst trying to emote. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very emotional person.  I cry regularly, primarily at terribly trashy television shows and sad adverts (the one for lottery funding where the mother watches her daughter live her dream is making me well up just at the memory).  My family are touchy feely in the very best sense of the term and we all tell each other we love one another every time we speak.  Yet the idea of standing in front of a room of people that I know well and telling them how I feel about the occasion is impossible for me to fathom.  This is probably a sign I’ve been in England too long and my ability to express my feelings is being repressed by association.

So while I use this blog as a distraction from writing the actual speech I can’t imagine giving, I think there is one important lesson for us all to learn.  The only couple I have ever played a part in the setting up of are getting married.  If you want a match made I will charge a very competitive fee to find you a partner for life – I do have a 100% success rate.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Around about this time last week I got my first ever job as a freelance writer - 7 x 4.5 minute shows for broadcast.  Despite creating for broadcast in my day job, it felt like validation that I am in fact a real, authentic, genuine writer.  Up until the commission I had reassured myself I was ‘definitely a writer’ by staring at the word count (82,000) of my work in progress novel and the fact I write that on a MacBook.

It’s a miracle I got any writing work at all as there’s no proof of any recent scribings on this here blog, I’ve been so consumed with the novel that keeping this up-to-date just didn’t factor in. 

Having thought about it, I’ve decided it won’t hurt to get away from my page a night of ‘the book’ after work routine now and again.  So expect to see more posts than my usual once a year.  Exciting.