Welcome to the afternoon post, readers! Anna K here. It’s high time for a drivel post, I feel…that’s what you asked for, and my, that it what you shall get. This is a post that’s in three very great parts: Mahj’s wedding, body image and the Pen Do.
Get a cup of tea, it’s a long ‘un.
I know I speak for so many of us when I say we’ve been waiting far too long to see Mahj’s wedding in all its glory. We’ve seen Mahj’s Any Other Photo, and we have read about her experience of walking down the aisle, one of the biggest crying-fests we’ve ever featured on the blog (still remember Aisling calling me up in floods ”Waaaa”, she said, ”she said she kissed him like he had just returned from WAR”). What we never got though, was the detail of the whole day, start to finish.
It’s been a long long wait but I’m thrilled to announce that the first part of Mahj’s wedding report is up on Florence Finds for all to see, at 1pm today. I’m thrilled that Rebecca gets to feature the wedding story of someone who has remained steadfastly loyal, full of integrity and inspires us all. Mahj, we salute you.
Readers, go and read about Mahj’s wedding day. Lose yourself in the photographs, the colour, the movement, the emotion. If you haven’t passed out from how slayingly beautiful and in love she is, drop her a comment on Florence Finds. Congratualtions, Mahj and Martin.
Last week, the lovely Annabel, she of the hugely popular wedding blog Love My Dress, asked me to write a guest post. This week on the blog Annabel is hosting a “Laid Bare” week focusing on body image, with a whole range of beautiful posts and interesting topics for discussion.
“YES!” I thought. “This’ll be easy and it’s exactly the sort of thing our readers would adore!”
Famous last words. Oh my, was it tough. I didn’t want to write about body image issues I’ve had. We’ve all had them and it’s so hard to write something which doesn’t end up in sounding like a lament about your ill-proportioned body when, you know, there are famines going on.
So I wrote something a bit different, something that I think all ten-year-old girls (and boys too) should read. Something that would hit home, that would make the battle with beauty that little bit easier. Something that should be in the school toilets of every school in the country if I do say so myself. It would have helped me, anyway. Let me know what you think, readers.
The Pen Do
So a while back, Penny, she of Bad Penny Says, and commenter extraordinaire, had the madcap idea to invite a bunch of us to Leeds for the weekend. “Of course!” we all said and then proceeded to email each other non-stop for four months discussing what we were going to wear, and other crucial things. I appreciate that in this photo it looks like we colour co-ordinated, but we actually didn’t. That’s just how in tune we all are, it seems.
The thing about meeting people online is; I’m an old pro. After some dating disasters I met my husband online. I’ve also met three of the most brilliant people in my whole life online. So when it comes to meeting people off the Internet, The Fear is never really there for me. When you read people’s blogs, you get a sense of what you think of as their authentic voice. And sometimes, when you meet them, the difference between what you thought they would be and what they are is, to put it simply, quite staggering.
Not with these women.
They are EXACTLY as they write. I could tell you about what happened on the weekend, but Penny’s is funnier and I worry it will turn into a “you needed to be there because the unicorns jumping through Penny’s ears (earrings) were REALLY GREAT” So what I propose to do is tell you why I love each of these women, the highlights of the time I spent with them, and why the world is a better place with them in it. And why you should read their blogs.
We met Penny in a dark bar on the Friday night and were going to bust in doing a Backstreet Boys routine because we knew we’d never be cool enough for her friends, so thought we’d go for the opposite, be the anti-cool. Penny is so kind, and so funny, and has an imagination to rival the greatest of children’s novelists. We know she can write, Bad Penny Says makes for fantastic reading, and some of our readers’ favourite posts were written by her fair hand. And hell can she sing. Her warm-up track at karaoke was a sodding power ballad. Even though she and Sam (the one she married) inform me that it wasn’t technically a power ballad, IT WAS. As soon as she opened her mouth, none of us wanted to get up and sing, because who could follow that, hmmm? But luckily Penny does not judge. She’s cool, yes. But more importantly she’s warm, and empathetic, and the kind of friend you would call on in any emergency. Especially one that needed pipecleaners.
I’d met Kirsty before, at Any Other Party, and had a bit of a fangirl spasm, but it appeared that Kirsty had forgiven my “you’ve got amaaaazing cheekbones oh hi my name’s Anna” indiscretion. Kirsty has a massively dry humour, and can recount a story with such a straight face that you can’t see for the tears of laughter and you can’t breathe and she’ll keep going, relentlessly. We sang Bon Jovi together and No Doubt’s Don’t Speak (the latter is harder than it looks, people) – it was a special moment. Look out for our album, coming soon, with a picture of Smidgen on the cover. Kirsty mixes her Scots gallows humour with a laugh where she throws her head back. It’s brilliant, and unexpected. Nothing shocks her, either – this is an invaluable quality, especially when you are asking inappropriate questions over pancakes. Kirsty writes A Safe Mooring and if you don’t read it, you should.
Bex was a bit of an enigma to me before I talked to her properly this weekend. I knew she loved green, I knew you all went ten kinds of nuts for her detail-filled wedding post, I knew she blogged prolifically over at The Olive Dragonfly. I also knew she was Scottish, and a dentist, and so i’d always read her writing with a Scottish accent (not a Braveheart accent, thanks Kirsty). Point 1: her accent isn’t that strong. Point 2: SHE SHOULD BE BOTTLED. I have never in all my days met anyone so positive, so filled with joy, so effusive, so genuinely happy to be alive. It’s infectious. My favourite Bex memory – there are two vying for the top spot – going mad singing Pink at karaoke, and upon entering a vintage clothes shop, diving headfirst into a suitcase filled with silk scarves, and emerging with one in exactly the right shade of green, and waving it aloft victoriously.
Also, all these pictures if the Pen Do are Bex’s. We all laughed at her ubiquitous camera, but it was there to document, and by golly, document it did. I took none as I was trolleyed from two white wine spritzers (rock on, hardcore Anna K!). Thank you Bex, for allowing me to show these pictures.
Gemma is who you’d call at 3am to post bail. That’s the best way I can think of to put it. Yes, she can make me laugh until I’m choking, yes she has a story for everything, yes she constructed a bow out of Amy’s tresses using just a pipe cleaner, kirby grips (sorry “a bajillion bobby pins”) and NO HAIRSPRAY, yes she has an almost sickening sense of style, expect you aren’t jealous because she mocks herself enough to negate the raging envy you feel at her looking good in EVERYTHING she tries on. But the thing about Gemma is she has so much conviction and faith in the people around her, you simply can’t doubt yourself because she ALWAYS has your back. That’s an amazing thing to experience. She wields a devastatingly extensive vocabulary and we spent most of the weekend making up Susan Lewis protagonists who simply don’t know how beautiful they are – with their aquiline noses and their flashing eyes.
I liked Rebecca the second I met her in 2010, and I’ve liked her ever since. There’s no preamble, there’s no bull, she’s smart, grounded and you know she’d never let you down. As you’d expect from the brains behind Florence Finds everything she wore looked stylish but accessible, and yes, the lady rocked the pink trew. Before we met up with her, we all spent half an hour hyperventilating with fear that she might expect us to look Friday Frock O’Clock-worthy, but she “was having too much fun to remember to take photos”. Cue massive sigh of relief. I love that Rebecca is so unapologetically her – there’s an integrity and an authenticity there that is rare – but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s a good mix. She couples this with an inane sense of humour and an infectious laugh and an ability to solve any of your problems effortlessly. She has drive, and talent, and her blog will go from strength to strength – make sure you’re along for the ride.
I may have to quote Penny’s Sam here. Laura’s humour is “dry as f**k”. She has an answer to everything that steals your imagination and still, somehow, remains so down-to-earth it’s incongruous. Laura has enviable legs, and had us all in fits of hysteria with her storytelling. We also met her husband Bedford, and although we knew it already, because no-one grins like this for someone anything less, they are perfect together. Laura is also the only person I have ever met who unashamedly got excited when she realised “Daniel” by Elton John was on the karaoke machine. Laura writes at Parliament of Owls and you should read what she writes because it will make tea come out of your nose.
Amy is pure statuesque Amazon goddess. Seriously. Gemma and I spent about twenty minutes just staring at her bone structure and her symmetrical face (it’s not a myth, people). In retrospect, Amy may have found that awkward…er, sorry Amy. She also has the most beautiful long blonde tresses that you kind of want to touch but then realise that following the staring incident, that might be weird. Amy was the only one amongst us planning a wedding and so was the victim of many probing questions which she fielded like a pro (oh man is she going to look beautiful on the day). Amy welds and makes phenomenal head pieces and has the most matter-of-fact way of telling a story that you don’t realise you’re crying laughing.
L to the Sten, what can I say? We’ve talked before about how much we love Lucy, she’s one of the original G.I.A.T cadre, and she takes the most beautiful photographs that tell a story (Gemma’s quote “I can lose myself for hours in Lucy’s website”) Yep, been there. Take a look at Lucy Stendall Photography to see what I mean. Lucy makes life better because she finds beauty in everything she sees, and she describes what’s in her head so vividly, with such eloquence, that it’s there, in front of your eyes too. That’s compelling. She looks pure class, and then comes out with a dirty joke and the most startling laugh that never fails to surprise and delight. I love her.
And finally, it would be remiss to not include the picture that makes me laugh the most:
Pen Do Plus Sam.
Thank you ladies. I am inspired, affirmed and my sides hurt. I would do it all again in a second.