Lost Property

Maggie and her two friends have a lot in common. They are grandmothers, one a great-grandmother. They share a passion for gardening. They have reared their families. And they have all lost their homes in the last six months

I had my eye on this house for years. Nestled in a secluded, mature development, conveniently located next door to my best friends, it had the added attraction of a wonderful garden. Wide and long, with all-day sunshine. Perfect for planting my seasonal kitchen. I even used to sneak in and prune the roses, when the owners were away.
And when my Eddie and I decided to get married, it came up for sale. Serendipity, I thought. Fate is on our side. I sold the house I had bought before I met Eddie and pumped the proceeds into our new home together. A dream come true. Here we watched the children grow up and move on. The garden flourished, with blankets of snowdrops in spring and seasonal fruits for jams and pies in autumn. Blackberries and borage, rocket and raspberries, courgettes and cabbage. Everything I planted blossomed and bloomed. I built a treehouse for the grandkids, hung rope swings from the 400-year-old oak tree. And my hens brought eggs to the table each day. Then tragically, one of my daughters died young, leaving behind her five-year-old son. He came to live with me. Now a teenager, he’s still with me, but for how much longer? My days in my dream home are numbered. Where will he go? What about me?

I was hoovering the hall when Eddie came and stood beside me, a suitcase held limply in his hand. I couldn’t understand where he might be going – we were planning a nice dinner and a quiet evening in. Where was he off to?
“I’m leaving,” he said. Just like that. I stared at him, the words not really sinking in. Leaving? What? Where? Why?
“I just need some time. I’m sorry.” He looked at the carpet as he spoke. He wouldn’t catch my eye. And then he was gone. Into the arms of my friend, I subsequently heard. I suppose I was in shock at first, then denial. He’ll come back, I thought. He’ll come to his senses. No need to panic. And in the meantime he’d help with the mortgage, the food bills. Surely he would. Surely.

This story appears in the March issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday April 2

This Month Im Feeling Dreamy

Susan Zelouf thinks zoning out can unlock potential

I just threw away a notice from my local optician, advising me I was overdue for an eye test. It’s not that I don’t need glasses; from a distance, people look like trees (the shorter ones shrubs), their approaching faces blurring into iced cupcakes. And, as my grandmother warned, a squint does eventually turn into a permanently furrowed brow, begging for frequent top-ups of facial filler. Driving sans prescription goggles is dangerous, yet, as a near-sighted passenger, traffic is as pretty as an Orla Kiely tablecloth. Without glasses, catching a vague glimpse of myself in a shop window, I might be The White Lady of Kinsale, a ghostly shimmer, only less tragic. Artfully applied make-up is more of a challenge as vision becomes less acute, but the upside is that mirrors, as if wiped clean with Vaseline, reflect dreamier versions of our faces.

Even soft Irish light can potentially damage furniture and fabric, so we installed metal-backed solar-control window blinds in every room. When closed, the diffused view is a soft-focus canvas, like living in one of Irish artist Bernadette Kiely’s chimerical Fog paintings. The effect, especially upon waking, is a prolongation of the dream state, a blissful confusion over whether one is conscious or still asleep. It’s this “dreaming wide awake” frame of mind that the artist attempts to conjure to make art, literally using dreams as palettes. Salvador Dali described his work as “hand-painted dream photographs”, summoned from his subconscious as he held a spoon over a tin plate and relaxed his body. As he fell asleep, the spoon would fall from his hand, clattering onto the tin plate, unleashing a spill of surreal images onto his blank canvas.

We sleep not only because we’re tired, but because we need to dream. Leonardo Da Vinci claimed the eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than in the imagination when awake. Experience musician Liam Ó’ MaonlaÍ in concert (still a dreamboat, post-Hothouse Flowers) the audience is drawn into a reservoir of ancient Irish language, culture and meaning. What Ó’Maonlaí does feels like channelling, so deeply connected is he to our waking dreams. He is a great artist, not solely for his technical accomplishments as composer/singer/instrumentalist, but also for his ability to connect to our collective ear, transporting us to a dreamier, mistier Celtic land.

American writer Dorothy Gilman (best known for her books featuring strong women having adventures around the world, the Mrs Pollifax series), believed that “people need dreams. There’s as much nourishment in ‘em as food.” Whether we’re daydreaming about the ultimate job, winning the lottery, meeting our soulmate, the consummate wedding gown or who might play the lead in the film version of our life story (Monica Bellucci? Penelope Cruz? Let ‘em fight it out!), it’s good to woolgather. Corrina Askin is a Donegal-born award-winning illustrator and animator with two children’s series Castle Farm and Joe and Jack currently airing on Channel Five and RTÉ. I recently met her in Paris, where she’s developing two new cartoon series and a whimsical line of ceramics, textiles and furniture with Paris-based designer Liam Dunn. “After years of mostly daydreaming, dilly-dallying and making up stuff, I find I have actually done some work, for which all of the above has actually been quite useful.” So, in March, don’t resist the urge to pull the covers up over your sleepy head for another few minutes, to return to a pleasant, curious or even frightening dream. Beneath a late winter blanket of snow, there is warmth, movement, growth, life.

Pictured: Corrina Askin’s Daydream fabric (right), for sleepyheads, young and older. Enquiries to: andrew@licensingpages.com. Bernadette Kiely’s Riverbank, fog iii (left), at Taylor Galleries, 16 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

This story appears in the March issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday April 2

Help! I’ve Lost My Label

Whether we choose to make a major change in our lives, like a career break, or have one thrust upon us, like divorce or our children leaving home, it can feel strange to stop identifying ourselves as a wife, mother or career woman. But, as Lauren Hadden suggests, perhaps it’s time to ditch the labels altogether

Spring cleaning can turn up all sorts of interesting things – my recent bout revealed a forgotten, “difficult” pair of heels two inches higher than I usually attempt, four varieties of paprika, all out of date, and no less than three different editions of the same paperback classic (Vanity Fair, which I’ve been meaning to read for two decades). It also turned up a former identity. I’d been tackling boxes of papers and there, tucked away between pay slips and white goods manuals, were some of my old journals.

As I opened them up, the efficient sorting came to a halt. There I was, age 19, bleeding my thoughts and feelings all over the page. Reading back over my plans, schemes and general wailings, I was both horrified and amused. Mostly, though, I was astonished at how much time I must have had to sit around moping and musing over who I was or – as is so crucial when you’re 19 – who I was becoming. In our teens we are lucky enough to have space to try out new versions of ourselves, which we can decide to keep or discard. We have time to ask that great, eternal question – who am I?

But then real life begins and we’re thrown onto the merry-go-round of busyness that’s called Being An Adult. Time to reflect is rare. Asking “who am I?” is a luxury we tell ourselves we can’t afford and also, perhaps, something we begin to shy away from as markers are put down, lines are drawn in the sand and we hunker down into the routine and security of jobs, marriages, motherhood.

The day your first child is born, you gain entry into a special club – you’re now a Mother, capital M; having a career brings you a network forged through endless meetings and events. And marriage makes you part of a very exclusive team of two. But what happens when some part of an identity we’ve carefully built up collapses? Losing membership to any one of these clubs, whether by choice or circumstance, can leave you feeling cast out, bereft, alone.

We are creatures of habit and routine – the shock of coming out of even a bad habit or a draining routine can be severe. For the first time in a long time you might find yourself asking, “If I’m not a wife/mother/career woman, then who am I?”
Author Anne Morrow Lindbergh recognised this problem back in the 1950s when questions about her place in the world led her to write Gift from the Sea (Chatto & Windus, £9.99). She wrote eloquently about what can happen when one or more of those labels falls away: “No longer fed by a feeling of indispensability or purposefulness, we are hungry, and not knowing what we are hungry for, we fill up the void with endless distractions, always at hand – unnecessary errands, compulsive duties, social niceties. And for the most part, to little purpose. Suddenly the spring is dry; the well is empty.”

This story appears in the March issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday April 2

10 Ways to Jumpstart SS15

A new season starts here. Navigate the trends with our guide to what to wear, what to jettison and what to (temporarily) shelve

1. Very Black & White
Good news for the colour-shy. After seasons of strong colours, B&W is most definitely having a moment. “Black and white always looks modern,” Karl Lagerfeld claims, and he’s right – at least this season. Last year’s arty, colour swatch trend now feels dated, replaced it with clean black and white prints. Go for an op-art feel, rather than just wearing black and white pieces in combination, and don’t mix in any grey – it should be high contrast and clean. If head-to-toe is too much, get a chunky black and white striped cardigan, a la Sonia Rykiel.

2. Keep the Culottes
Culottes were 2014’s must have item. Keep hold of them for this season, and wear them with strappy sandal heels – if last year it was the territory of the serious fashionista, this year, the culotte will gain a broader appeal. “At the moment the culotte customer is still young, fashion-forward and likes to experiment, but that will change,” Matches Fashion buying director Natalie Kingman told the Wall Street Journal last year, pointing out that they can be more flattering than people think – just opt for a mid-calf style. “It’s slim over the hip and bottom then kicks out, so it’s great for women with bigger thighs,” she adds. (They’re also perfect for cyclists who want to wear an A-line silhouette without giving an eyeful to pedestrians.) To take the trend one step further, wear a culottes jumpsuit, seen on the runway at Sportmax, and available for less than d20 at Penneys – or if you’re ahead of the curve, knee-length shorts are coming up next. Wearer beware!

3. Get a Sunhat
“Wearing a beautiful hat is like having a baby or a puppy,” says LA milliner Louise Green. “Everyone stops to coo and talk about it.” Aside from a conversation starter, a hat also provides an instant update. Find a style that suits you and it can work for all ages – just look at Joni Mitchell in her wide-brimmed fedora in the spring/summer Saint Laurent campaign. Our favourite hat on the runway was JW Anderson’s reinvention of the floppy, Riviera-chic sun hat, supersized and made modern in pleather. MaxMara’s Clueless-inspired fisherman hats are very “in” if you’re young enough to enjoy the 1990s revival, while visors were also a surprise hit on the runway. One to ditch? Those awful fluoro beanies. Enough.

This story appears in the March issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday April 2

50 Shades and Counting

Lynn Enright – once a twentysomething trend obsessive, now a thirtysomething grey sweater connoisseur – examines how we eschew fads as we get older, plumping for comfort instead

I always imagined a Carrie Bradshaw life for myself in my thirties. I saw a walk-in wardrobe, packed full of flamboyant, eye-catching designer pieces. Shocking pink Oscar de la Renta gowns, slinky Dior dresses, rows and rows of Manolos. Turns out, however, that only the super-rich can afford walk-in wardrobes in expensive, crammed-to-capacity cities. And turns out that thirtysomethings don’t actually wear flamboyant or eye-catching clothes; they wear grey sweaters.

Well, I – a 31-year-old journalist specialising in fashion, sex and relationships: you can see where I got the Carrie comparison – wear grey sweaters. I currently own a dozen. I have seven sweatshirts, ranging from snug to oversized; some light for spring/summer, some heavy and fleece-lined; some plain, others with embellishment, slogans or patches. And I have five sweaters, all completely plain, all crew-neck; three lambswool and two cashmere. I wear my grey sweaters with slouchy boyfriend jeans and with full pleated skirts. When I write at home, I wear a cosy and comfortable grey sweatshirt from Uniqlo, and when I went on my first date with my now-boyfriend, I wore a tight grey cashmere knit from Joseph. They serve me well, my grey sweaters, and so I keep adding to their number, eschewing flashier buys for reliable comfort.      

It hasn’t always been this way – in my twenties, I would splurge on expensive trend-influenced designer buys, as well as indulging in fast fashion on the high street – but as I have, well, aged, my shopping sensibilities have shifted, my interpretation of what it is to be a woman in my thirties seemingly influencing the way I spend my cash. And it’s not just me. A 31-year-old fashion journalist friend of mine, who writes for New York magazine and has amassed an impressive cashmere sweater collection, relates. “As the years have gone by, I’ve definitely become less experimental with fashion,” she says. “That’s because I now know what suits me, and if something doesn’t, then I don’t bother with it. I’ve become more conservative about how I spend my money.”

This story appears in the March issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday April 2