Stating the obvious but half-term was a wash out. In previous entries I have moaned about how the persistent rain has messed with my spring/summer wardrobe and that was at the beginning of May. The glorious week of sun we were bequeathed a couple of weeks ago was cruelly taken away with some of us wondering if it really happened.
This made my half-term getaway packing as challenging as ever. My small suitcase usually sufficient for the family for two days turned into a large suitcase, a gardener's trug for transporting kids' boots and cagoules, a plastic bag-for-life for the overspill of boots and cagoules and a cool bag full of the food we didn't want to eat at home and thought a 100 mile journey might help change our mind.
It was just past Winchester services, as the rain poured down and the heating stayed on, that I realised, the inevitable would happen at our destination. No matter how much I pack and carefully consider my perfect off -duty look or how many times I check the BBC 5 day forecast, I will always end up turning to the Wardrobe of Much Despair to help.
The WoMD resides at my parents' flat by the sea. It's an innocuous looking piece of furniture, standing in the corner of the kids' bedroom, made of white MDF, sporting gold handles with two unopenable drawers underneath. But inside there lurks such cruelty, such doom and anguish, a space so devoid of hope, a stark reminder of the passing of time and mortality. It is the place where fashion comes to die.
The WoMD is a waiting room for clothes before their inevitable journey to the charity shop. It is where they have come to retire. They were too good to say goodbye to forever and never wear again. They are honest clothes; the thick dusty pink cable knit jumper that was never on trend; the rust coloured jogging bottoms with floral embroidered patch pockets and baggy knees; a yellow crochet satin lined bed jacket with missing ribbons; a peach puffa jacket that looks like the top half of a sumo suit. But on the lowest rung of this horrendous hierarchy lurks an unforgivable affront to all that is aesthetically pleasing. A navy size 16 noisy nylon anorak, the thickness and size of single 10.5 tog microfibre filled duvet that is rain/wind/tornado proof with a brushed cotton bottle-green tartan lining and pockets containing used kitchen towelling, dried lip balm and a Monkey World map. This is what I had to wear due to my lacking packing. The puffa jacket went to my oldest niece who doesn't deserve to know such misery at her impressionable age.
I drowned myself in this inexplicable style-less garment that made me look like Henry VIII, (less the beard and the cod-piece ) pre gout and post second wife beheading. I was all stick-like sheep legs and massive upper body. I wore it over my pale denim skinny Mother jeans, my Goat Library cream cardigan, my Gap hoodie and my Carven map print silk blouse. I, at least, had to know , like those designer-obsessed women in burkas, that underneath, I hadn't given up. I donned my Tom Ford Jennifer shades to ensure a modicum of fashion was visible. I wanted people to know that this look isn't me. I have not taken leave of my style senses. I was just wearing this because I was cold and my need for heat had outweighed my desire for fashion. At least it's not Boden.
On our arrival to the beach I was confronted with a sea of indescribable horror. There were clothes that have never featured in any fashion era, clothes of a practical nature, clothes fit for purpose. There were primary coloured fleeces that roamed in flocks, sweatshirts that showed no signage for Abercrombie and Hollister, t-shirts that were giveaways at beer festivals, jeans that were shapeless and nameless, hiking boots that trudged in sludgey hues. It was a style graveyard.
But then I noticed something else. A feeling of utter relaxation and relief washed over me. I felt the tidal swell of comfort, a freedom of movement like I had never experienced before, a fearlessness of dirt and stain potential. My cold front felt warm again. It was, in its own way, a type of luxury. In that navy anorak, the initial feeling of despair turned into a sense of elation and belonging. I was a fully dressed up member of the "I don't give a s**t what I look like" club and I liked it. Fashion has no place on an English beach. It looks ridiculous.
The Wardrobe of Much Despair had taken me into a new world, past the coats of hopelessness and into the land of the style vacuum. It also taught me an important lesson - the restorative powers of a short break, from fashion.