Getting a bit lost…

Sometimes, working for yourselves is trickier than it sounds. We’re the bosses, right, so that should be easy? No faffing about with trying to work to other people’s deadlines; we set our own timetable! No ‘making awkward conversation around the water cooler’ debacle – the closest thing we have to a water cooler is the fridge, and mostly the only people hanging round the fridge are our children, with whom it is necessary to make interesting, if sometimes annoying, conversation most of the time anyway. And they never watch The Apprentice, so it doesn’t matter if you miss an episode. You can catch up on the latest Scooby-Doo gossip though, if anyone is interested.

But sometimes working for yourself is a bit like looking at a map, if you are crap at map reading. Which I am. We can see where we are,  we can see where we want to be, but  we can’t quite work out the best way to get there. It’s all a bit squiggly and complicated. We’d head down the motorway straight to success-ville, but that is the expensive way, and we can’t. (There’s like, a road toll, or something. This analogy may have run out of road…)

And days like this, I just feel like I’m wandering about, banging my head against brick walls I hadn’t seen coming. So we’ve found a nicely cut, fairtrade t-shirt for our new girly design, but in the wrong colour. We’ve found some great alternatives, none of which are fair-trade, at least two of which are almost certainly sweat-shop produced by children, which is depressing in all manner of ways. We want to stick to our principles, so we turn them down. I have another sample sent, and ‘soft pink’ turns out to be ‘bubblegum pink’, which is hideous, though no doubt a high proportion of our younger customers might disagree. But we do not want to further the cause of bubblegum pink, so we turn it down.

Back to the drawing board (kitchen table) then. We will sort it out, in the end. We WILL make some awesome girly t’s  that do not take the Barbie aisle of Toys R Us as their colour inspiration.  And I will learn to map-read, literally as well as metaphorically. It would make going on holiday a lot easier…


Laundry, stationery and clothing-geekery in general.

Following your dreams takes courage, right? And guts, and hard work. And quite often a large injection of cash, but we’ll have to gloss over that, as so far we haven’t met a wealthy yet dim person willing to hand over a massive amount of  money, and although several fifty pence pieces have recently turned up down the back of our sofa (lucky, hey? Because usually you only ever get coppers from the Bank of Sofa-) we’re not going to be troubling the Times Rich List any time soon. But what we are rich in is ideas. Loads of them, all tumbling over each other, keeping us awake at night, scribbling furiously on random bits of paper. (Interestingly, no matter how many notebooks I buy, which is a lot, because I love notebooks and stationary generally, I never have one handy when I need one. The better the idea, the further you are from a notebook. I’m calling that Alice’s law.) We have two new designs in production, we’re picking the t-shirts really carefully (getting samples sent and everything! All very professional round here these days! ) We’re thinking of new ways to make recycled clothing easy and cool. We’ve got fab new dress fabrics. Now all we need is time…and to sell off some older stock so we can fund some fun, new bits, and so we have some more space to store the new bits. Space is crucial, as neither of us are exactly rattling about in ginormous houses with extra rooms all over the place.

We’re working on a lot of feedback that we’ve had recently that it’s all very well and good making interesting clothing for small children,  (and we’re not going to stop doing cool-wear for the smallest people) but really the gaps are in slightly older childrenswear. I’m finding this out first-hand now, as my not especially Amazonian  eldest daughter is already wearing clothes that are two sizes ‘older’ for her in some shops, and some of the stuff for that age group is a bit grown-up for a 6 year old. She’s six, and tall, not sixteen. On a recent fraught trip into Next, she was gutted that the bunny t-shirt that she had been eying up only went up to 5-6. The older t-shirts were OK, but you can’t really compete with a glittery bunny when you’re six. We found one with sunglasses on which was nice enough, but it had the word ‘cool’  on. And, as Polly pointed out, ‘the writing is a bit messy,’ – no idea where she gets this geekery from…

Boys’ clothes too are a bit of a minefield. There’s nothing wrong with star wars, lego, or spiderman t-shirts, or stripes (heavens no. If stripes had not been invented, I would nearly always be half naked. It’s very rare for me to wear a stripe-free outfit. I think I own somewhere in the region of eight variations on the Breton-stripe top.) But after a while it’s all a bit dull. You either dress them as advertizing spaces for massive franchises, mini preppy lads – a look I’m quite fond of, but the reality of skinny jeans is that they are fairly useless in superhero maneuvers – or mini middle aged men – polo shirts with the collar turned up and chinos. 5 year old trainee superman + chinos is a recipe for a lot of laundry. And I don’t like excess laundry work. You don’t get  paid overtime on it or anything.  A good, soft t-shirt  goes a long way, I think.

But also, our ideas are just our ideas. And along with a fondness for flip flops, stripes, early evening wine and croissants, Sarah and I also share most of our ideas. We think along pretty much the same lines. So we’re interested in other peoples’ ideas about what is important in childrens’ clothing, whether you like  shopping for recycled clothing, what are the gaps in the high street provision for the clothing of your offspring. All of that. Email us ( with the things that you think are important. Or accost me in the playground (that goes for Sarah too, I.O.W readers!) Or write us a long letter. You’ll have to email me for my address first, but I do love a letter through the post, so do, please! It’s a stationery thing.

A brief pause for another kind of adventure….

This Saturday in a brief but  miraculous absence of rain, I got married. A totally different kind of adventure to the ones I’ve been writing about here, but an adventure nonetheless. For years now I have declared marriage  unnecessary, pointing out that three children and a mortgage are commitment enough, and who needed a bit of paper and a cake (I agree that it is unlike me to belittle cake,) to prove that we loved each other? I also developed a phobia of formal weddings – the word ‘favour’ practically brings me out in a rash, and any mention of a seating plan induces paranoia. But over the last few years I’ve chilled out a bit. (I’ve also started to like fruitcake and marzipan a bit more. Just saying.) And so, last year, after a heady night of red wine and tapas, Richard said he had something to ask me, and I grudgingly muted the repeat of Miranda I was watching long enough for him to propose, beautifully.

And the wedding was beautiful too, even more lovely than I expected. I wore a Jane Austen-ish dress (I have ALWAYS wanted to do this, in order to indulge my ‘Emma’ fantasies, but I find it’s a tricky look to pull off in everyday life.) The children were all very excited to be involved, and were delighted to be bridesmaids and a paige boy. I took as long to choose the readings as normal brides take to choose the dress -it took me all of one trip to Monsoon and 30 seconds looking around to choose the dress – and months to pick two extracts from books for Richard’s sister to read at the ceremony.  We walked out of the church to New Order’s True Faith, a track that Rich put on the first compilation he made for me, and which kind of sums up what I think about marriage. We had a boozy version of afternoon tea in the church hall afterwards whilst the children ran riot with balloons and hula hoops. It was all strangely wonderful.

I was so happy that Sarah was there, calming me down, being my bridesmaid, decorating the hall and washing up glasses for hours on end, and it reminded me how well we work together. Although work talk was mostly banned in the run up to the ceremony, we found ten minutes (obviously all of our plans are meticulously thought out,) in Luscious Juice Bar to make some more exciting plans for a slightly different direction for Sarah&Alice, of which more to come, when I’ve come out of my Jane Austen/New Order/ pink fizz haze and got down to some work!

But before I de-haze, the readings that we picked, eventually, (well, it took so long to choose I thought I may as well use them twice!)  were these:

“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”  – Erica Jong

“Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”  David Nicholls, One Day.

I still don’t think marriage is essential, and I still don’t like the idea of very formal weddings. But I do think marriage is a great way of saying: “I know you never put your shoes away, or know where your keys are, and are a bit obsessive about the Tour de France/Grazia/Midsomer Murders, but I still want to spend our time together. I’ve watched you (me, obviously,) give birth three times  and no it wasn’t pretty but I can still look at you without the flashbacks. And we may shout at each other quite a lot, and have a house in need of total renovation and three lively children but I am taking the time to tell you, in front of these people, that I love you anyway.”