Saturday 25 May 2013

My Life In Magazines

A post I originally wrote 11 years ago, updated with more pictures!

Were you a magazine addict, in the long ago days before the internet and the Kindle?  I adored and used to buy stacks of them, all through my teens, twenties and early thirties.  Seeing the new edition of Cosmo, Elle, Honey etc on the shelves in W H Smiths was always something of a thrill - that shiny, unread newness, with the promise of articles that would shape my life into something exciting and glossy.  I loved reading the beauty articles, hoping that if I did everything they said I would be beautiful, ignoring my suspicion that their purpose was merely to make you buy expensive products.  

Aside from glossies, a not-at-all guilty pleasure was the new copy of Slimming magazine, usually read whilst eating a bag of assorted toffees.  Loved all those obese-to-slim stories! 

I haven't bought any of these publications for decades; I don't know which ones still exist.  In the supermarket a while back, I took a look at one of those handbag-sized copies of Cosmo, and saw that it no longer contained long, interesting, in depth articles, but was filled with adverts and the magazine version of soundbites.  A nod to our dwindling concentration spans, perhaps, as more periodicals appear online only.

In remembrance of times past, I would like to share with you my magazine memories - did you read any of these?


When I was a child, my sister and I used to get June and School Friend every week.  I can't remember us ever arguing about who read it first - maybe it was automatically Julia, as she was the eldest!  I recall little about the contents, apart from one story called 'Swimming To Fame', about some girls who competed in swimming competitions. I was fascinated by all the different strokes, particularly the butterfly.  Didn't do me any good - I never got past half a width.

We also used to get those 'doll dressing' comics, where you could cut out the picture of a girl, stand her up on the flimsy stand, then cut out the clothes to put on her.  Julia and I used to make them, too.

From children's comics we moved on to Jackie, which we got from about 1968 to 1971. I was a bit too young for it (age 9 in 1968) but young teenage magazines in those days weren't as they are now; the most risque thing you might read about was whether or not to snog on the first date.  

What most people remember most about Jackie is The Cathy & Claire Page (the problem page).  How can I make him fancy me?  Why hasn't the boy I met on holiday replied to my letters?  How I longed to be grown up like those 13 year olds, wearing white lipstick and bell bottom trousers and going out with boys! Then there were the pin-ups on the back page - long forgotten names like Jack Wild, Ben Murphy, George Best... and David Cassidy, of course. 😁

By the time I was 12, I had my own magazine, all to myself.  Every Saturday evening, the wonder that was Fabulous 208

As well as being a mag for teenage girls, generally, it was all about Radio Luxembourg (the frequency of which was 208) - I used to listen to the station all the time, with DJs Kid Jenson, Dave Christian, Mark Wesley.  I adored this magazine.  Its arrival was the highlight of my week. My friend Sally and I used to ring each other up to discuss what was in it, cut out the pictures, etc... 😁 
In those days, teenage magazines often featured a column allegedly written by a pop star - there was a David Cassidy one in Fab 208.  Sally would insist it was really by him - even then, I knew it wasn't.  Was I was born jaded?

Another big favourite around this time was Disco 45, which, if I remember rightly, consisted of all the lyrics to songs in the Top 20.  And doubtless a column 'written by' Marc Bolan or Rod Stewart, I imagine.

There - it was all of 5p!!

I then moved on to more girly magazines, few of which existed after the mid 1970s: Valentine, Mirabelle, Petticoat, Romeo.  A new one came out in about 1972 - Look Now.  I think that one lasted a bit longer.

I must just take a step back for a moment; I remember going to stay with Julia's godmother in the summer of 1971, when I was 11 or just 12, and sitting in her conservatory sneakily looking at a copy of her glossy, glamorous Vanity Fair...

Judging by the cover, it must have been this very edition.  I sat on a sun lounger reading an article, furtively looking up to make sure no-one caught me doing so.  It was about a new book that had just been published called The Sensuous Woman, by some woman called 'J'.  In the interview with her she talked about oral sex - and I really, really did think that oral sex meant talking about it.  I hadn't come across the term before (as one would hope, at that age), and I couldn't work out why the practice was worthy of such discussion.  

When I was about 14-15, I used to buy the NME (New Musical Express), which fuelled my fledgling love of rock music.  That was back when everyone looked like this, of course.

On to the late seventies - who remembers those magazines you could buy in weekly parts, followed by all the binders to put them in?  I had a boyfriend who used to buy Supercook, because his ex had been really into cooking exotic dishes, and he carried on buying it; what a disappointment I must have been!  I think I made about 4 of the recipes in the whole collection.  Jiffy Tuna Surprise, Arroz Con Pollo, a thing with pork chops and wine ... and American Apple Pie, which was lush.

In the mid-late teens I read Honey and 19 ...

...and, of course, Cosmo!  That magazine taught me so much - I kid you not!  In this article I've tried to find issues with the covers that I actually remember.  I loved this one in 1976 of Jerry Hall; I believe it came out around the time she danced with Bryan Ferry in the video for Roxy Music's 'Let's Stick Together' - that was in her pre-Jagger days, of course.

In the 1980s I read Company (one of the best, I think), and Options...

and I was also introduced, by my boyfriend of the time who I later married, to The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.  He had piles of them.  I wonder if he's still got them.  

One day in the mid-late 80s, my brother came round with this brilliant new publication he'd discovered when he'd been working up north:

It was only about twelve pages long at the time, until it caught on and became available everywhere.  I bought it for many years.  My favourites were Modern Parents, The Critics, the Drunk Bakers, Mr Logic - and then there are the old favourites like Sid The Sexist, Paul Wicker the tall vicar, and the Pathetic Sharks. 

From about 1988 to 1992, going to see rock bands became a huge part of my life, and I used to buy Kerrang every week.  The gig guide!  I'd to read articles about bands and go buy their stuff if it sounded as though I'd like it.  Thunder, Faith No More, Dan Reed Network...

...and I discovered Aerosmith by reading Q magazine.  I was late to the party as far as they were concerned!

That's pretty much when I stopped buying magazines.  I moved onto Marie Claire for a while, but I found that, by then, I just wasn't very interested in many of the articles.  I'd feel like I'd read them all before - or just, quite simply, that they were aimed at people younger than me.  I'd buy one, finished reading it in about half an hour and think, well, that was a waste of £3.50, or whatever it cost. 

Recently I've discovered that people sell these old mags on ebay, and have bought a few copies of Jackie and Petticoat from the early 1970s.  A fascinating look back to a world that no longer exists, indeed :)

A final word - I remembered the other night that when we were about 12, friend Sally and I decided to make our own magazine to sell to our school friends.  It contained a problem page, pictures of pop stars, an article about someone famous, and a story.  Only problem was we didn't have access to any sort of printer or copier (did they exist in 1971???), so we wrote every page out by hand.  The idea was that the money we made would buy wool which we would knit into squares to make patchwork blankets for the cold and needy.  It never got past the first issue and the blanket was never made, but I remember sitting at the dining table of an evening, writing out that article about Rod Stewart, over and over again....

Sunday 19 May 2013

How do you mend a broken heart?

How do you mend a broken heart?  

Although I have experienced a few times the shock to the system, the period of adjustment, the loneliness and all the rest of the emotions that go with the end of a relationship, I've had my heart badly broken just once - and it was so bloody awful it had quite an impact on me and made me much more empathetic towards others who go through it.  I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  But I got over it, and went on to be 'better off without him', as people tell you you will be (and no, of course you can't see it at the time!)

When I thought about it in some depth, I realised there were a few things I did that really helped me get through it.  So I thought I'd write about it in the hope that even one of them might help someone else who's going through it now.

Nb: I've changed his name.  

I met Nick when I was 30, and we were together for 6 years, living together for 4.  In 1996 he left me for someone else, though I'd suspected he was going off me for about a year.  I had never been so completely in love with anyone before, and did not feel that strongly for anyone again for quite some time afterwards.  When he left me I collapsed; I remember actually falling against the wall when he finally drove away.  I couldn't eat; I really couldn't, I retched when I tried.  I couldn't sleep.  But in stronger moments I kept telling myself, every day I live through this is a day closer to getting over it.  I remember looking out of the back door onto the sunlit garden on the 3rd day (it was a Monday in late May) and thinking, it's like this now, but it won't always be.

I'll start off with something positive - I lost the stone (or possibly more!) that I'd piled on over the past year and went blonde again (he'd liked me dark) - suddenly I looked and felt more attractive, and that did wonders for my confidence.  Even in my depths of despair I found myself trying clothes on that previously I couldn't get into, and thinking, wow!!! This is usually the first good thing about any break up.... now, the rest of it....

About two days after he left me, I had a phone call from his mother, herself a veteran of many relationships.  We'd never been particularly close but we liked each other well enough.  She told me these things, which I took on board, and I'm so glad I did:

"Don't take him back, he'll only do it again, then you'll be back at square one."  (I can hear her voice saying that!).  He will find the shock to the system of the break up hard too, and may have a few 'oo-er' moments, but unless he can really show you that he's made a genuine mistake, he'll probably do it again some time, because the things that made him want to leave in the first place won't have gone away - and then you'll have to go through this all over again. (Incidentally, Nick started playing around behind the back of my successor after 3 or 4 years, too - I just thanked my lucky stars I was out of it!)

Get out and start living your life again as soon as you possibly can.  Every day you do this is a day you're building up your new life apart from him/her. 

I'd also like to add these few words of wisdom of my own, because they're things I did that helped me - look, I won't keep doing the him/her he/she thing, okay? If you've had your heart broken by a woman, just read the 'him' as 'her'!  I can't comment on what it's like when you have children, because I don't have any, and this is nothing about the practicalities of a break-up - just the way to help mend a broken heart.

Right - the first thing is, refuse to see him.  He may want to come round to talk to you, just to see you, because he will miss many things about your relationship, even though he doesn't actually want to be in it anymore.  Every time he leaves, though, you'll be hurting as bad as you were at the beginning, all over again.  Nick still wanted to see me; I told him on the day he left that it wasn't going to happen. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it.  He tried; I just didn't answer the door.   This was before mobile phones were everywhere, thank goodness; must be so much harder now, with texting, Facebook and all the rest of it.

Watch the drink.  Everyone drinks a bit more when they're heartbroken; what I did was drink enough to blur the edges a bit but not enough to get totally slaughtered. On the one time I did, in the company of a friend who had a drink problem and wanted me to drink with her, using "it'll help" as an excuse to get me drinking as much as she did, I felt much, much worse, and then had to cope with the hangover depression in the morning, too.  Also, you run the risk of making those late night drunken phone calls that make you feel such a prat the next day.

At the beginning, you're in shock.  All your friends rally round.  In some ways this is the easy bit.  Give it two weeks down the line, though, and they'll expect you to be pulling yourself together a bit.  This is when the grief bit sets in, and sometimes you have to go through this alone.  Don't bore your friends witless. If you show them you're helping yourself, they'll be more likely to help you, too.  I had terrific, supportive friends, but they had things going on in their lives, too; I couldn't expect them to 'be there for me' all the time.

Rebound relationships - I'm in two minds about them.  I started one 6 weeks after Nick left, with someone who was totally wrong for me.  2 months later, I had to work out how to evict him from my life, too ...  I don't blame myself for this, because he was an idiot, but I don't know that I should have got into the situation in the first place.  On the other hand, it turned my focus away from my broken heart.  So I'd say don't do it if a) you're just using the person, because it's not kind or b) it's someone who exhibits the sort of behaviour from which you would usually run a mile!  But a fling never hurt anyone, and can buck up your spirits.  Unless intimacy with someone else is likely to make you cry because it's not him, of course, in which case you're not ready for it.

This is a cliche, but it really works.  Think about all the bad things about them. Nick was unreliable, late for everything, and a compulsive gambler.  He was horrendously untidy.  His gambling went in phases, but when he was 'on one' I would spend hours in casinos; it was the only way I got to spend any time with him.  When he went out, saying he would be back at such and such a time, I never knew if he would be or not.  I knew he sometimes lied to me about where he was/had been.  Once he left, though, all the anxiety about this was over, too.  I didn't have to worry about where he was or what he was doing.  It became someone else's problem. 

Even during the first month, when your pain is at its worst, you will have whole half hours when you don't feel quite so bad.  Use these times to do something that will help you in the long run - things like packing up any of his remaining things and putting them away somewhere where you can't see them - thus, the sight of his favourite soup bowl will no longer set you off on another crying jag when you're in the next 'my life is over' phase!

Talking of getting rid of anything he's left behind, get a friend to be with you when you're doing it.  I got my brother to stand and talk to me in the bedroom while I moved all the furniture round - I made it look as much like a different room as possible!

Your favourite sad records.  Play them and cry.  Everyone has the ones that work for them - for me it was Aerosmith's 'What It Takes'.  It's a bit of self-indulgence (especially coupled with the aforementioned carefully controlled drinking) that can help, just a little.
Make yourself look as good as you can.  Spend those lone, lonely evenings doing your nails and trying out different combinations of clothes, organising your wardrobe, plucking your eyebrows, applying your fake tan - whatever!  It sounds superficial, but looking your best never did anyone any harm, and increases your confidence.

Most women lose weight and have something fab done with their hair after a relationship break-up.  But it's such a bad idea to start deliberately turning up at places where you know he'll be, hoping to 'show him what he's missing'.  He knows what he's missing, he's seen it at its best and its worst and all the stages in between, and he's decided he doesn't want it anymore.  If you're just doing it to show him how great you look, and that you don't care, for your pride's sake, then yeeh-hah! Arrive there with a new man on your arm too, why not, it'll make you feel marvellous - just don't expect it to make him fall in love with you all over again!

When you're having a bad day, go out in the sunshine.  Have a long bath with lots of bubbles. Wear a big furry dressing gown.  Watch something you love.  Do things that make you feel physically comfortable.  It won't make the bad day good, but it might make it just bearable.  I used to sit in the garden drinking my (weak!) vodka and cokes and crying.  The warmth of the sun on my skin made me feel better - oh, and I got a tan without noticing I was getting one, which was a bonus!  Don't try to do anything socially that you don't feel up to - it'll make you feel worse.  

If you go out to work, and it's at all possible, take some annual leave in the early stage.  Or explain to your superior that you need a bit of time off, and say why. Collapsing into tears at work is horrible, and you probably won't be able to do your job properly anyway.

And finally.... once you're over it and you've moved on with your life (whether this takes 3 months or a year), be there for other people like they've been there for you - it might not be the same people, of course, but try to use the experience to help others through it a bit.  I don't mean to sound preachy or like some ghastly Pollyanna type, but doing this really is a way of getting the positive out of an awful experience.  I remember one day, about 3 weeks after Nick left me, I was sitting at home on a bright sunny morning feeling as though I wanted to end it all, when I got a card in the post.  It was from a friend of a friend, someone I hardly knew, but it was just a nice card to say that she was thinking of me.  It made so much difference to that day - it made me cry (in fact it's made me feel a bit teary thinking about it now!) but it helped SO much.  It made the day bearable.  

I hope this has been a help to anyone who is suffering at the moment.  You WILL get over it, and be happy again - maybe even happier than you were with HIM!


Note: I met up with 'Nick' again in August 2013, having not seen him for 10 years; he got in touch with me through a mutual friend.  We still got on like a house on fire, but then we always did.  I really noticed, though, how I'd sort of 'moved on' but he hadn't - he was still starting up relationships without thinking about anything but momentary gratification.  He was currently single, and sleeping in his brother's spare room.  When we met we were 29 & 30 - we're now in our early 50s.  It was really nice to see him though!  At one point he said to me "I think our relationship ended because it was so intense at the beginning that it couldn't have remained that strong".  I said, "No, Nick, our relationship ended because you started shagging someone else."  

And who says women aren't the practical ones???!!