I know, I know, it has been a long time. I have not had a moment spare for frocks and frivolity, which saddens me. But when I saw this dress, I just had to post. ‘Tis the season for prints and amazing dresses and a hint of kitsch. I’m back on it.
I love Christmas, and holiday-themed clothing. I love the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I love prints. I love Fifties shapes and fit-and-flare. I want this dress so badly.
Costiness: $155.99 from Modcloth
I blame my friend Igg for this one, as she asked us to choose between two dresses on Twitter, and I just *had* to look at what else was on the website she linked to.
Oh, serious dress envy. I really want this one. No budget for it, like, but it’s stunning (if you wear the belt with it, otherwise it’s an attractively patterned sack). This Japanese Bird Print Drapey Maxi Dress does exactly what it says on the tin. Not for 18andEast the trend of giving frocks girls’ names or whathaveyou. No, full on Ronseal. Gawd bless ‘em.
Costiness:£30 (in the sale, so hurry) from 18andEast
As part of the Writing Squad, I was asked to write a new story that had to begin in Wykebeck Woods for East Leeds FM, and perform it alongside a second story that would act as an introduction to my writing. The two stories were broadcast on ELFM on Tuesday 19th June as part of the Write Place show during their radio festival.
My introductory story, Root Ginger, was recorded in the Artspace at Leeds Art Gallery by ELFM and my Wykebeck story, Cow Parsley Heart, was recorded and produced in my home studio with my sound design incorporating field recordings made by me in the woods.
This is the cow parsley heart:
Photographs I took on my phone in Wykebeck Woods when writing and recording for Cow Parsley Heart:
Full disclosure: I was asked by Aidan at Wahanda to make this post and was given a voucher to use to test the booking system. I was asked specifically to look at Hair Offers & Deals in Leeds City Centre. The questions I answer below come from Wahanda.
What is your initial impression of Wahanda as an online home for health and beauty?
It doesn’t feel like one at all. It looks like a much less attractive version of Groupon or Wish, with a much more restrictive set of deals. The name and the look of the site don’t shout health and beauty, or spa and luxury, or even fun and leisure. It all feels very utilitarian.
Is it a site you would visit for the online community?
No. I did read the reviews when deciding where to book, but most weren’t very helpful (many refer to free events rather than purchases) and there isn’t much of a community aspect going on. Unlike Yelp, Lush forums, Mumsnet, Twitter etc – there’s nothing that makes me want to stick around after I’ve got the basic information I’m after.
Would you recommend your readers to use it as a tool to find the best hair offers and deals in their local area?
No. There are very few deals on the site for my area. Most listings ask you to contact the salon via a button rather than stating an actual deal – why would I do this rather than just ring the salon myself and ask if they had any good deals, bypassing Wahanda? The listings are far from comprehensive, and there aren’t many good city centre or local salons on there. The limits on the deals that are there are fairly extensive – the one provider I had heard of had so many restrictions it made me never want to go back there even outside a deal.
I struggled to find somewhere to spend my voucher, though decided in the end (a bit like when your nan gives you a voucher for some shop you never use) and haven’t yet phoned up to book the actual apppointment. I am less than enthused about it. Most of the deals seem to either include a glass of wine (with no similarly treat-like alternative for non-drinkers) or require you to take a friend for the exact same service or both. The reviews also indicate that, much like Groupon, the savings on the normal salon prices are vastly overstated. None of the reviews are overwhelmingly positive about the salons visited. More along the lines of “well, it was OK for what I paid on a deal”. The salon spaces don’t seem to be that nice, descriptions of being in a busy area or far too small. Obviously none of the leading businesses in this sector in Leeds are on the site, and nor are any of the cool up and coming independents. It seems to be tired old salons or desperate new stylists within them in need of a new customer boost. Not my style.
What hair deals would you like to see more of in your local area?
More deals for people going on their own (I don’t understand why I would want to take a chum with me for a haircut or colour), more deals on colours and treatments without cuts (I’m more likely to take a risk with a new stylist on the former than the latter), less of an emphasis on cheap glasses of wine as a sweetener, more and better salons, more actual deals. Only two salons in the city centre when I tested the site last week actually had current hair deals. It strikes me that I would be more likely to buy e.g. a spa voucher (if the selection was MUCH better) for a present for someone on this site than bag a decent hair and beauty deal for myself. And I wouldn’t right now as things are.
Sorry Wahanda. The concept is good, but the execution is poor in pretty much every way. And my email provider thinks you’re spammers, which is unsurprising given the nature of the mails I have received since signing up to the site. I will write a second review when I have booked and received my treatment.
I always struggle for shoes to wear day to day with pretty dresses. I often default to boots when it’s not sandals weather, but find that I am a bit bored of the stompy ’90s look. I do have properly glamorous heels, but anybody who has seen me out and about knows that my CP leads to rubbish balance, and frankly they hurt. That’s fine for events, but not so good for daytime wear.
These F-Troupe wedges from Urban Outfitters were something I spotted in filming pics from the set of Doctor Who’s 2013 series. Jenna-Louise Coleman, the new companion, is sporting a pair. A lightbulb went off in my head…WANT. They’re exactly what I need. Work well with tights and skirts/dresses, black, bit of heel from the wedge, flat rubber sole, lovely to look at, comfortable. Practical without being a statement. Perfect.
Costiness: £145 from Urban Outfitters
Last week was jam-packed with meetings and important phone calls, for somebody who doesn’t have a proper job or get any financial benefit for such things at any rate.
The week began with a lovely chat with Jane at the OU about their disabled student services conference this November. I will be attending to talk to staff about my experiences and supporting students with autistic spectrum conditions. During the week, I met with various other groups and asked the Leeds Autism Partnership Board for support for my involvement in the Undiscovered Workforce campaign. It ended with Jayne from Rachel Reeves‘ office and Debbie from the NAS.
Rachel has been a keen supporter of my work on the campaign and is going to help me to improve the situation regarding employment for people with autism in Leeds. I have been working hard lately with a variety of different people towards organising a big event next year involving all the stakeholders around employment and autism in Leeds. The support of my MP and her team is vital in this and making things better generally, and it was great to talk to Jayne and Debbie about the situation as it is and the next steps we can take. Rachel has helped members of the local community with many things recently, from re-opening post offices to improving bus services and saving the historic Bramley Baths.
If employers and Jobcentre Plus fully understood the issues people with autism face in getting and sustaining employment, the positive aspects of the condition and the simplicity and ease of some of the reasonable adjustments that can make productive work possible, the level of unemployment for people with autistic spectrum conditions could drop dramatically. Employers in Leeds should be trying to diversify and support their workforce. People like me have skills and traits like loyalty, focus, creativity, an alternative approach to ideas and the passion and commitment that organisations should be harnessing to give themselves the competitive edge that helps companies to survive and thrive in a difficult economic situation. All it takes is flexibility and true understanding. Awareness doesn’t amount to much if attitudes don’t change.
Blue Peter is moving to the CBBC channel. It will no longer be on BBC1. Adults secretly still watching will have to tune in to a children’s channel. Well, we did it anyway for The Sarah Jane Adventures and will do so for Wizards vs Aliens, right?
Anyone who knew me as a child knows that one of my major special interests (a feature of autistic spectrum conditions) was Blue Peter. Everywhere we went, I would look in charity shops and car boot sales to increase my collection of Blue Peter Books (what they call their annuals) and associated memorabilia. I watched the programme obsessively, had a Blue Peter diary made by Letts and regularly wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to ask if I could be a presenter for the day. OK, being wobbly wouldn’t have helped me get through the famous audition process, which involves (or did) interviewing somebody while bouncing on a trampoline, but it was my dream for a long time. I even went to a CBBC open audition when I was 19. Not for BP, for the “broom cupboard”, but I was dreadful.
I didn’t have many friends when I was young. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that I have Asperger Syndrome. I was lonely and miserable and having a difficult time at both home – my father was an abusive alcoholic – and at school, where I was bullied. I wrote letters to my favourite programme, Blue Peter. It didn’t hurt that it also had links to my other favourite, Doctor Who, and still does.The first Blue Peter badge I won was the Green badge, for writing about the environment. I was a keen environmentalist as a child, having the Blue Peter Green Book, and I collected large numbers of aluminium cans to be recycled for charity.
Then I won the Blue badge. I sent in pictures, stories, ideas for “makes”. I wrote near-constantly to the BP office. I was miserable. They responded. Not just with form letters, but with help and advice. They made me feel appreciated, like somebody was listening. They knew I collected memorabilia, so sent me signed photos of new presenters and pets, old promo cards for previous presenters, any booklets they had lying around. It was amazing.
I won the Silver badge because I ran a Blue Peter Bring & Buy Sale with my mum, and covered every surface with the stickers they sent. My sister won a badge herself, but mostly the family used mine to get the two of us and other children into visitor attractions for free. That element of the badge has always been open to abuse, especially once grown-up winners were able to sell their badges on Ebay, and these days children have a photocard to present as well as the badge. We went to the Yorvik Viking Centre what felt like a million times. Beamish. Loads of places. The BP office sent a booklet with all the places we could go, in the days before many museums had free entry.
When I was perhaps a bit too old to watch the programme, at 14, I won the Competition badge, which was then as it appears above and not the new orange design. I was a runner-up in a design competition. I had been away on a German exchange with school and had a rotten time, but came back to find the badge and our family’s first computer. The latter changed my life, the former was the last link to my childhood. I couldn’t win any more badges. In those days, there was no purple badge for reviewing the programme, and I had missed out on any of the special “birthday” badges for programme anniversaries. I stopped sending letters some time after that. I was too scared to take their advice of phoning ChildLine, but I knew they wouldn’t keep sending a teenager stickers and long letters. A few years later, my father threw much of my memorabilia into the fire, including two of the badges, and later still the remaining badges were stolen off a jacket at a gig. I still have the books.
What about the Gold badge? Well, it remains my goal… When I was regularly writing to the programme, the only people who appeared to get one were departing presenters, Olympic athletes and people who had done amazing things like save lives. I knew I hadn’t done anything as good as that, I wasn’t exceptional. I wasn’t a hero. But these days, Gary Barlow has one, David Tennant has one…maybe I CAN do enough to get one. It would mean more to me than any other honour. I don’t want to be an OBE or Dame; I don’t need a medal or any other award, whatever I do. I just want a Gold Blue Peter badge.
Thank you to the BP office from 1987-1995 for being so kind to a lonely, autistic kid. I will never forget you.