The Gandy Man

The husband has invested in some loungewear.

This is a big deal because:

a: the husband hates clothes shopping, least of all for something as insipid as loungewear.

b: he only purchases items he ‘identifies’ with. It’s hard to fathom exactly what this means. But let’s just say the husband doesn’t identify with garments very often.

c: Just like with fishcakes and cous cous (details here), the husband can ‘turn’ on items of clothing in an instant. For example, he was happily wearing a pair of leather desert boots from Ted Baker until last week, when he suddenly announced he had no suitable winter footwear at all. When I tried to get to the bottom of what was wrong with said boots, he simply said: ‘they are too shoey’. Shoey??

This is what we are dealing with.

But back to the loungewear. Loungewear, in case you’re wondering, is the name given to casual clothing worn around the home. For men, this involves some sort of elastic-waisted, pyjama-style pant (perfect for expanding middle-aged bellies), often teamed with a loose-fitting t-shirt.

For the last five years – possibly more – the husband has been rounging (Lancashire word for lounging combined with a bit of rolling) around in a tired old pair of Ben Sherman joggers.

To sport loungewear around the home and still look stylish is a tricky look to pull off.

Word on the street was that Derek Rose was your man when it came to cool loungewear. I’d seen swanky Derek banded about in Style magazine and other high-end fashion mags.

But a quick gander on Mr Porter (posh men’s clothing site revered by stylish 30-somethings) revealed that buying a pair of Derek Rose’s silky trousers involved parting with approximately £300! Surely there was other loungewear out there that didn’t involve re-mortgaging one’s house?

Luckily, there’s a man for whom stylish sleepwear at affordable prices is his speciality. Let me introduce you to loungewear lothario and king of the cotton trousers… David Gandy.

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Gandy has been peddling his super-silky loungewear at good old Marks and Spenny’s for some time now but had somehow fallen under the radar.

We headed into town, the husband trailing reluctantly behind (muttering something about his moth-eaten Ben Shermans being perfectly functional for slovenly sofa surfing).

Pitching up at M&S, our favourite male model was very much dominating the men’s loungewear department. Take a gander at Gandy below (and spot the husband too!). This man isn’t just about shiny dressing gowns, six packs and smouldering looks; he actually purports to be a don in the ‘art of relaxation’.

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The husband was dispatched to the dressing rooms with piles of Gandy’s garbs.

There was a long wait and then he called out, ‘I’m going to take them all.’

‘ALL of them?’ I said. ‘Are you sure?!’

‘I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life,’ the husband called back. ‘They’re just SO comfortable.’

Armfuls of Gandy pants purchased, we headed off for a drink.

‘I can’t relax,’ said the husband. ‘Because all I want to do is get home so I can change into my new loungewear.’

Driving back, we decided to investigate The Curious Incident of the Tartare Sauce Sachets.

A few weeks ago, during a visit to the husband’s grandparents, his Gran mentioned that she loved tartare sauce but was struggling to find it in the supermarket. I’m not sure why this is but for some reason tartare sauce is not an easy condiment to lay your hands on.

So, on the way home, I hopped on Amazon and before you could say ‘ta-ta’ (another Lancashire favourite!), 50 sachets of Gran’s favourite sauce were winging their way to her retirement flat in Preston.

A few weeks passed and I’d actually forgotten all about the tartare sauce delivery until one night I said to the husband, ‘don’t you think it’s funny that your Gran has never mentioned the tartare sauce we bought for her?’

There was a pause and then the husband said, ‘I know what’s happened.’

‘She’s received the sachets of sauce in the post and won’t know they’re for her. Right now, they’re probably sat on her kitchen worktop and she’s panicking, thinking they’re a mistaken delivery and actually for the restaurant downstairs.’

We phoned my mother-in-law. She confirmed that yes, Gran had received a mystery parcel of 50 sachets of tartare sauce, and yes, she didn’t believe they were for her and yes, she had been wracked with worry that she’d received them in error and would be hunted down for the money she owed.

Poor Gran had, in fact, barely slept for a week. My good Samaritan sauce deed had turned sour.

That night, the husband kept mumbling how luxurious his David Gandy loungewear was.

In the morning, we checked the label to try to get to the bottom of what made them so super soft. They were made of ‘modal’ – an undisclosed mixture of materials.

”It’s a mystery ingredient,’ said the husband. ‘Gandy will never reveal it. He’s the Willy Wonka of loungewear.’

The husband was reluctant to take his Gandy-wear off. He started making noises about wearing his lounge pants out of the house and had to be cajoled out of them.

Secretly, I think he might want to be David Gandy.

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‘Perhaps David Gandy will branch out into outerwear,’ I said hopefully. ‘He’s already got swimming trunks and underpants; it’s only a matter of time before he takes his signature look outdoors’.

‘If anyone can, the Gandyman can,’ said the husband.

‘I feel like I’ve really identified with him’.

Creepy Crawlers

I suppose it stands to reason that at 6am in the morning the gym is full of fruit loops. After all, what sane person would tumble out of bed at such an ungodly hour and voluntarily start running on a treadmill or start swimming half a mile?

That’ll be me then.

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For many years now, I have (often wearily) swum 30 lengths of the pool three mornings a week – before a great race against the clock to wash and blow dry my hair, slap some make-up on, grab a coffee  – and be at my desk for 8am. Recently, I’ve upped this madness to five mornings a week, to include two gym workouts too.

In my mind, I see this early morning as a good use of time: Basically, if I wasn’t at the gym, I’d be happily catching a few extra Zs in the comfort of my own bed.

But you have to draw the line somewhere. What kind of lunatic, for example, sets their alarm at 5.30am, drives to the gym and then idly lounges around in the jacuzzi?

Every morning, as I’m feverishly front-crawling in the pool, there’s a least three people just chewing the fat in the jacuzzi/ sauna/ steam room like they’ve got all the time in the world. If you want that kind of relaxation at the crack of dawn, here’s an idea: JUST STAY IN BED.

Most early-morning gym frequenters follow the unwritten rule of going about their workout/ hair dry/ make-up application in comfortable silence. No-one wants to start making small-talk at such an early hour.

No-one that is, except for Mad Scottish Woman.

I’ve mentioned Mad Scottish Woman before. But recently she has begun to loom even larger in my life. She’s in the pool pretty much every morning, clad in a full black wet suit and thrashing around like a huge excitable whale.

When she’s not showering other swimmers with torrents of water from her noisy, showy lengths of butterfly, she’s pacing around the sides, chomping on bananas and sniffing around eagerly for anyone to talk to. If in doubt, do not make eye contact with this woman.

What amazes me the most is that despite this seemingly extensive fitness regime, Mad Scottish Woman is still about the size of a small garden shed.

Only the other morning, as I was feebly lowering myself into the water, Mad Scottish Woman started yelling and beckoning to me with over exaggerated arm movements.

‘Do you want this float?’ she bellowed.

Float? Why would I want her float?

‘No, thank you,’ I said primly. I lowered my goggles in what I hoped was a please-do-not-engage-with-me-any-futher-gesture.

Luckily for me, Mad Scottish Woman was already eyeing up her next victim: a drippy-looking man, who was doing the doggy paddle in the lane next to her. She started gesticulating to him that he was doing his stroke all wrong.

‘Like this,’ she said, as she pounded down the length of the pool, soaking several unsuspecting swimmers in the process.

On her return, she actually started man-handling Mr Doggy Paddle, showing him how to stretch out his arms. He looked nothing short of terrified.

‘This woman is out of control,’ I thought.

Now, I’m not one to usually cast judgement on the trends of exercise attire but recently, I’ve spotted some rather bizarre get-ups in the gym itself.

Exhibit A: Woman on cross-trainer in full padded coat, complete with fur trim.

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Exhibit B: Woman clad in full length dress, attempting to cross train – and, later hitching it up to her knees to grapple with the rowing machine.

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Whatever happened to a good old t-shirt and leggings?

In the coffee queue the other morning, a man quite randomly offered to buy me a coffee.

I found this a little odd.

It was 7.45am. I’d just done 30 lengths, dried my hair in a hurry, and somehow managed to fend off the advances of Mad Scottish Woman. I didn’t have any fight left in me.

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘I’ll just take a medium-sized-one-shot-extra-hot-soy-latte-easy-on-the-foam.’

‘A what?’ he said.

Pillow Talk

Someone wished me a ‘happy New Year’ yesterday. I think they may have missed the cut-off point for this.

It’s a terribly British problem but when exactly is it socially appropriate to stop saying ‘happy New Year!’? It feels like we’ve been shrouded in grey skies, beset by biting winds and plagued by slippery pavements for weeks.

Aside from sodden Uggs (aka Sluggs), January’s biggest fashion problem is Hat Hair. Hat Hair occurs when you leave the house wearing an on-trend woollen hat, only to arrive at your destination, remove said hat – and then realise that your hair is plastered to your head and flatter than a pancake.

As I type, I’m currently battling the dilemma of whether to remove my hat and expose the inevitable Hat Hair or keep it safely hiding my flattened tresses. Outside, this bushy beast passed for something relatively fashionable; now that I’m wearing it indoors – sans coat – it looks like a giant toilet brush.

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It’s so cold that I’ve become obsessed with ridiculously hot baths. It’s not even that our apartment, aka the Holiday Home, is even that cold (the heating’s been on for four years because the husband and I never did work out how to turn it off); I’ve just got The Perma-Chill Within. I literally cannot function at home without clambering straight into a scalding bath to warm my cold bones.

But the ultimate weapon against The Perma-Chill Within is the hot water bottle. Anyone who doesn’t use the trusty bottie is seriously missing a trick.

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Simply fill it up from the kettle (ignore the naysayers who warn against this), pop it under the duvet and it will heat the bed all night (White Company cashmere cover optional). I’ve even been known to leave the house with one strapped to my back. I’m now just  one step away from the ultimate statement of slobbiness: the slanket.

In other mundane/ inane news, my cleaner (she of the bizarre presents; details here) has finally returned from her extended break in Poland. Thank the Lord. (Yes, I have a cleaner. I’m far too important educating the next generation to iron my own smalls).

However, I fear she might have taken leave of her senses. Evidence as follows…

ME: Hi! Bit of a strange question but do you know what you did with the pillowcases that were on our bed? I wanted to wash them but I can find only the sheets…

CLEANER: So sorry Katy! I will ask my friend. She clean the bed today. She not answer her mobile. Oh I am so very sorry about this. I don’t check her today very carefully.

ME: Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll turn up!

CLEANER: She still not answer her phone. I can come and sort this out now because I don’t feel so good about this.

ME: It’s fine. I was just a bit puzzled. Please don’t worry.

CLEANER: I come to house now to sort this out.

ME: There’s no need to do that. It’s fine!

CLEANER: I am so sorry! Maybe she put the left this cases on the pillow and she put new cases on top?

ME: Hi! You’re right – she has. I’ve found them!

CLEANER: Oh my good! I am so very sorry. Next time I do the beds. So so sorry Katy!!! I am really sorry!

ME: Please don’t worry. Have a great weekend.

CLEANER: Thank you. I am one more time SO SO SORRY!!!!

Reading these messages, you probably now think that I keep the kowtowing cleaner locked in a cupboard and occasionally beat her with a mop.

But honestly I couldn’t be a better employer: I always make sure I’m out when she comes, eat and drink her strange Polish gifts out of guilt, and have given her jobs with at least eight other friends. I even clean up for the cleaner. Who does that?

Following The Curious Incident of the Vanishing Pillowcases, by way of apology she presented me with a fine bottle of… Zubrowka Bison Grass.

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I’m not sure exactly what it is but I can only assume from the picture that it’s a highly potent Polish vodka, mixing the blood of a bull with the semen of an ox.

Thank God for Dry January.

The Rise And Fall Of A Fashionista

I went clothes shopping last week – hoping to find a way out of the 60 denier black tights trap I’ve been stuck in for the last five years.

But I couldn’t identify with anything. All around me there were girls in Cressida scrunchies, fluffy knits and hi-top boots. I felt all at sea.

I headed straight to Topshop – the undisputed honcho of the high street. Toppers has been a trusty companion over the years: a true stalwart of my wardrobe. These days it’s gone a bit teenagery but it can still pull it out of the bag when it needs to. Need some work trousers? Head to Topshop. Going out dress? Head to Topshop. Want a crop top emblazoned with sparkly pineapples and luminous tassels? Head to Topshop.

I think it’s fair to say that as far as relationships go, Topshop and I aren’t quite what we once were. But every now and then, a little gem jumps out at me – this burgundy number for instance – and faith is fully restored. I love Topshop.

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Have you ever been to Cos? You’ll find stores dotted around London although its roots are firmly based in strange Scandinavian design. It’s completely wacky and I want to love everything in there.

But literally every item makes me look like I’m wearing a giant sheet of cardboard. Go and try it out. I promise you that any dress in there will instantly transform you into a huge cereal box. It’s the strangest shop in the world. Same goes for American Apparel. If you’re in the market for a velvet crop top and some high-waisted shiny leggings, Apparel’s your place. Apart from that, I just don’t get it… and probably never will.

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Good old H&M. Back in the day, it went by the more convivial name of Hennes – the elusive pearl of Oxford Street that regularly cropped up in fashion magazines but seemed completely out of our reach before it crept up North. These days, they seem to have adopted a ‘stack ’em high and pile ’em in’ policy. The prices are still cheap but so is the clothing.

My cool friend SLJ once took me to the store in Camden, circa 2009, and I was momentarily on board with it all. But the Leeds store is a different beast altogether: a dark basement of tat. I went in last week and it was a sordid affair: rails stuffed with too many garments and a mind-boggling mush of knitwear that would leave Mary Portas in a cold sweat. I set my sights one jumper I quite liked and briefly toyed with the idea of wrestling it off a mannequin. But then an overwhelming urge to get out of there overtook me – and I fled, gulping in air as I got back to street level. I doubt I’ll be back.

Dear old Mango. I loved Mango. It was my go-to place for super-long trousers back in the mid-noughties. I have fond memories of snapping up a brown leather biker jacket from there too, which I wore to death and still lurks in the recesses of my wardrobe somewhere. But like all Spanish lovers, Mango was a short-lived romance. The clothes became tacky; the material cheap and clingy. Mango recently made its debut in Leeds much-vaunted Trinity shopping centre but I haven’t been in for years. Are its trousers still super long? Who knows. Maybe it’s time to take my long shanks back in there.

There was a time when I could walk into Zara and want nearly everything in there. I used to head down to Zara in the out-of-town White Rose Centre after work sometimes. It was desolate and I’d have the whole store to myself. I snapped up all sorts of long-term investments: a much-loved black Audrey-style dress, a Prada-esque skirt that’s still going strong… Those were the days. But in the last couple of years, Zara’s become a slightly tired scene, with mismatched garb sardined onto rails. I think it might have lost its way – or maybe I’m out just of the loop.

Who didn’t want to wrap themselves in a twisty bin bag dress held together by safety pins and head to Back To Basics when they were 21 years old? Enter All Saints. Remember that phase around 2001 where you started distressing your jeans with a cheese grater and spraying them with silver paint? Maybe it was just me. But All Saints have been doing it for years and then charging you £80 for the pleasure.

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The problem with All Saints is it’s stuck in a noughties time warp. The grungy, distressed look went out of fashion about 10 years ago but All Saints is gamely sticking with it. Those Singer sewing machines have been adorning its window for about five years now (excuse the lamppost) – but we’ve long since parted company.

I never really got on board with River Island and I’m not quite sure why. It had quite a presence on Preston high street back in the 90s. We’d congregate at the back in the shoe section and mull over the different pairs of Kickers. But strangely, I can’t recall ever buying one garment from there. Now Rhianna’s on board, I thought I’d pay a visit. I was greeted by an array of gold sparkle, tartan and black fluff. It was a bit overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to get out. Sorry River Island, I’m afraid the island ferry has sailed.

Morgan, Morgan, Morgan… The very name fills me with nostalgia. Who could forget Morgan’s signature logo – that little red heart that oozed Parisian catwalk and class? Didn’t it even go by the name of Morgan de Toi at one point? Classy. It’s hard to believe it now but in 1998 Morgan could do no wrong. It was the essence of sophistication, with its matching floral two pieces. My friends and I would finish work on a Saturday and head straight to Morgan to spend our wage on a new dress for a night out at Preston’s infamous Tokyo Jo’s.

I can still picture the layout of Morgan: the colour-coordinated pieces hanging nearly on those wooden hangers; the tailored leather jackets; the mix of pillar-box red, oatmeal brown and marl greys. I think I might even be able to smell it. Am I getting carried away? Probably. Morgan was a true love affair of the late nineties – which made its subsequent downfall in the noughties (along with Kookai – yep, remember old Kookers?) all the more staggering.

Jane Norman. Who is she? She’s the girl at school who you kind of knew but never actually spoke to. I think our paths might have crossed once. I went into the Jane Norman store in Sheffield in 1998 and bought at bargain beige coat in the sale. It made me look like Arthur Daley. I kept it in my wardrobe for years and would wheel it out occasionally, to check if it still made me look like a secondhand car dealer. It did. What became of Jane Norman? I think she might have been crunched out in the recession. I wish I cared. But I didn’t even notice she’d gone.

Whistles/ Reiss/ Ted Baker/ Karen Millen – all stores with delusions of grandeur. Sure, they can pull out the stops when they want to (hello much-coveted Whistles navy jumper dress with a leather top) but they always seem to be punching above their weight: designer prices for a high street tag. Have you ever bought anything full price from Whistles or Reiss? Not me. You’d have to either marry an investment banker or sell a kidney. I usually wait til the inevitable 50 per cent off sale and then swoop and grab.

Actually, I lie. I waltzed into Selfridges the other month and – quite out of character – frivolously bought a dress from Ted Baker, and one from Karen Millen. I must have been in a daze when I went to pay because when I got my credit card bill the following month, I genuinely thought I’d been robbed. I was half-way to picking up the phone to Natwest to report retail fraud until I went to look at the price tags on said dresses – and realised that the only crime that had been committed was me setting foot in there in the first place.

In The Shade Of The Palms

I seem to have developed an obsession with palm trees. It kind of crept up on me. I’m not even sure I actually like palm trees. All I know about them is that they’re prickly, high maintenance and only thrive in warm climates. A bit like me really.

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My passion for palm trees developed purely because of my surname. When I was younger, I got called Palms or Palmtree. It kind of stuck.

At Sheffield University, I had a weekly horoscope column in the uni newspaper called ‘Mystic Palms’. It involved a really bad picture of me staring vacantly into a mock crystal ball. I had to come up with 12 different forecasts, as pithy and humorous as possible. Every single week. And I didn’t even get paid to do it.

In the university bar, fellow students would occasionally peer curiously at me and say, ‘Are you that weird Mystic Meg character from the uni paper?’ It didn’t do much for my street cred.

When I was 19 years old, I did some work experience at a media company in Manchester (this sounds a lot grander that it actually was; the reality being that I had to spend a whole week writing articles about gnarly feet for a podiatry website). At the end of the week, the man in charge actually wrote out a cheque for my expenses to ‘Katy Palmtree’, believing my email moniker to be my actual name. I thought this was very funny.

To my knowledge, no one has the surname Palmtree. But there are a few genuine people called Palms knocking around.

I was approached by one such person in Harrogate, resplendent in a cream suit and a man-from-Del-Monte hat – the kind of get-up you’d expect from someone who goes by the name of Mr Palms.

‘My name is Ted Palms,’ he said, shaking my hand. ‘And I wondered if you would be interested in selling me your number plate.’ (My number plate is P4LMS).

‘I’ve only just acquired it,’ I said.

But Ted Palms wouldn’t be palmed off that easily.

‘What’s your surname?’ he asked, suspiciously.

‘It’s Palm-er,’ I stuttered.

Our eyes locked in a competitive Palm-off. He was probably thinking, ‘I’m a bona fide Palms; I deserve this number plate more.’

‘But lots of my friends call me Palms,’ I hastily added.

Ted Palms shuffled off, not before pressing an embossed business card in my, er, palm – if I should ever change my mind.

And then there’s the clothes. Palm tree top? Tick. Palm tree skirt? Tick.

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Palm tree dress? Tick. Tick.

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Palm tree shoes? Not quite.

In the first throes of love, the husband was only too happy to embrace my love of palm trees, purchasing said number plate, and then – on the eve of our wedding – procuring a little palm tree pendant from Tiffany’s (cheese alert).

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These trendy palm tree slipper shoes, as endorsed by Alexa Chung no less, were on my Christmas wish list too.

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The husband, whose interest in all things palm-based has begun to wane, took one look at them and said, ‘Do you actually like these shoes, or is it simply the fact that they’ve got palm trees on them?’

‘It’s simply the fact they’ve got palm trees on,’ I said, in a small voice.

Santa never brought the shoes.

Things came to a head in Topshop Oxford Circus this Saturday, where I found myself wrestling with a two-piece palm tree suit. It looked ridiculous.

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That afternoon, I had two missed phone calls from Someone Important. Someone Important was terribly baffled because she was greeted by a recorded answerphone message of my 21-year-old self saying: ‘You’re through to Palmtree Productions. Please leave a message.’

She was convinced she’d mistakenly stumbled across some Miami-based TV studios. It took a lot of explaining.

I’m afraid there is no such thing as Palmtree Productions. I’ve had vague intentions of removing this silly message for the last 13 years – usually after a call from Someone Important – but then promptly forget.

‘You need to remove that answerphone message,’ said the husband. ‘It’s really, really embarrassing.’

I told my friend Anna about my intention to purchase the shoes with palm trees on.

‘Be careful,’ she said. ‘A woman I know once decided she liked hippos.

‘She’s now basically drowning in chintzy china hippos. Her house is cluttered with them. Soon, she might start looking like a hippo too.

‘If you’re not careful, people will start buying you ceramic palm tree ornaments,’ she went on. ‘You’ll end up being known as that weird woman with the peculiar obsession with palm trees.’

I’m not sure I want to end up as a mad old woman head-to-toe in palm leaves and surrounded by porcelain palm trees.

I think it’s time to say goodbye to Palms.

The Duke of Wellington

Thought Hunters were the daddies of the welly world? Me too.

But allow me to introduce you to Aigle: the king of rubber footwear.

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These bad-ass boots, handcrafted in France, turn everything you thought you knew about wellingtons (rubbery and er, green) on its head. I first heard whisperings about them in the last year or two (although they’ve been around since 1853).

But it wasn’t until the husband entered the market for a pair of new wellies this winter, that I knew there was only one brand I was going to turn too.

(Quick ‘foot’note here: Aigle are arguably usurped by French brand Le Chameau – the absolute crème de la crème for those in the know. But at £200+ a pop, you have to basically be Prince Charles to own a pair.)

Naturally, procuring a pair of Aigles wasn’t as straightforward as simply popping down to the local shoe shop (is it ever?). I won’t go into details but let’s just say it involved much internet research and a train ride to London. Excessive, I know.

I finally settled on a pair of Aigle’s ISO Parcours 2. With their neoprene surface, special ankle-hugging contours and anti-fatigue insulation, these water-repellant bad boys laugh in the face of puddles and sneer at cold toes.

The husband was a little sceptical about his new wellies at first. Like the electric toothbrush, I had to convince him that these really were WELLIES FOR LIFE.

But as soon as he’d paced around the lounge a few times, he deemed them incredibly comfortable and very warm (in fact there’s even been internet rumours of them being TOO warm. First world problem alert).

Today’s walk from Addingham to Ilkley was the perfect day to try them out: the first sunny day after two months of torrential rain.

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If you’ve never been to Ilkley, I urge you to get in your car and head there immediately. It’s an attractive market town nestled in the Yorkshire Dales. There’s a Betty’s tea room, independent book shops and an air of English finery about the place. It’s little wonder that is was recently dubbed the happiest place to live in the UK.

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We sat and ate a M&S sandwich on a bench outside Betty’s (the only downside to donning wellies for a muddy walk is that they don’t quite cut the mustard in posh tea rooms). Still, we love park benches (and there wasn’t a Pizza Hut pizza in sight!).

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If there’s one criticism, Ilkley is trifle twee and a bit middle class. Heck, even the buskers appear to be straight out of the local grammar school.

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Addingham is Ilkley’s little sister further up the River Wharfe: all bubbling brooks, cutesy cottages and waddling ducks.

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The village is also home to the husband’s favourite-ever house: a Georgian beast of beauty that he believes he will one day retire to.

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Anyway, before I digress into one of those smug ‘lifestyle’ blogs rambling on about bracing country walks and Gywnnie-style organic juices, let’s get back to the boots.

The husband bloomin loved them. He sloshed through sludgy mud, sploshed in bulging becks, and splashed in over-sized puddles.

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As more and more walkers passed us in their hoi-polloi Hunters (moi included), he felt like the Duke of Wellington.

And then the inevitable happened.

Striding towards him – looking every inch the country squire in his flat cap and black Labrador trotting obediently at his heels – was a man, wearing… an identical pair of brown Aigle boots.

As he passed, the husband locked eyes competitively. They exchanged a knowing look.

‘He has your boots on!’ I whispered.

‘I know,’ said the husband. ‘And he knew that I knew he had!’

‘But did he know that you knew that he knew that you knew?’ I said.

‘That makes no sense whatsoever,’ said the husband.

Back in Addingham, the duke lingered longingly over the gate of his favourite house.

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He might be the duke of wellingtons…

But he wasn’t quite the lord of Addingham.

Skirting The Issue

I’m stuck in a black opaque tights fashion trap. I wear them pretty much every single day. I don’t own a pair of jeans and I don’t feel comfortable in trousers. In fact, I only wear skirts or dresses and tights. I’m weird.

Black opaque tights are the Volkswagen Golf of the fashion world – fail safe and trustworthy. I’ve begun to dislike my ageing knees but enveloped in 60 denier, all nobbles are covered (Marks and Spencer’s Autograph Velvet Touch 60 denier, since you’re asking – trust me, I’ve tried them all); I can’t even begin to comprehend a future without them.

For a couple of years, I was quite happily cantering around at work, 60 denier-clad shanks on display until… disaster! Someone at work allegedly bent over a child in a strappy top and managed to expose an inappropriate amount of cleavage. This led to a lot of serious talk from the powers-that-be, followed by a new dress code thrust into our hands – ironically, on the very same day I had chosen to showcase my rather short pillar-box red Whistles mini-skirt.

The dress code said: No strappy tops (obvs – see cleavagegate); No leggings; Skirts to just above the knee; Culottes acceptable.

Skirts to just above the knee? CULOTTES?!

One stray boob and we were all paying the price.

I trudged dismally home and peered ruefully into my wardrobe. Of my many skirts, 90 per cent fell into the category of ‘above knee’.

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I wasn’t alone. A stealth group had formed at work. Let’s call us the Skirt Crusaders. We had one thing in common: hitched up hemlines and a depleted work wardrobe.

For a few weeks, we all played it safe: trousers and pencil skirts being the order of the day. There wasn’t a flash of thigh in sight – 60 denier or not. I even went as far as purchasing a long maroon circle skirt. The husband said I looked like a member of the Amish community. I toyed with the idea of a pair of culottes but then realised that I’d look like a Victorian school ma’am. The threat of only being able to shop at Long Tall Sally hung over us all like a grey cloud.

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One Skirt Crusader broke protocol and arrived at work in a thigh-skimming grey number. In my mind, the length of it was okay. But later that day, she was summoned to the big cheese’s office and told that although she had a ‘lovely figure’, she needed to show a little more decorum in her choice of skirts. Can you think of anything more mortifying?

After the hemline hoo-ha had died down, the skirts gradually began to creep back in: an a-line skirt here and pair of leggings there. I began to wear the odd above-knee skirt again but unzipping it slightly at the back to gain a few extra inches. It’s like when you used to roll your skirt up at school – only in reverse. My long legs had become the enemy.

I’ve been on ‘Skirt Watch’ for a while now. The worries of old seem to be diminishing. My fellow Skirt Crusader decided to brave another risqué skirt the other day. I observed it quietly, with a knowing nod of acknowledgement – but later made the following report:

‘Hello Long Limbs. Well, today’s skirt was certainly borderline, with the split at the front flashing the odd extra inch of thigh. It wasn’t quite grey skirt territory but I would describe it as your boldest move yet. However, the length was tempered by the black tights and black pumps, complemented further by the black polo neck. This created a slightly deceiving silhouette. In conclusion, this particular number was passable – just.’

She appreciated my honest feedback.

There’s a new boss at work. Rumours have circulated that he’s already said, ‘I don’t want to be able to see up it or down it’. This might be a myth though.

The black opaques are still going strong.

But, for now, the red Whistles mini-skirt has gone into retirement.