On Wednesday night, while my kids were asleep, I slipped out of the house and boarded the Night Riviera sleeper train to London. Crossing the Tamar in the dead of night feels like a thrilling clandestine act. Ear plugs applied I slept peacefully through the rattling, juddering and shunting and finally woke to the rattle of a tea tray bought by the train attendant.
Cornish wife blinks and assumes an impression of city confidence. I’d stepped aboard from a small town station and now alighted onto platform 1 of Paddington Station. I’m a savvy fish. I’ve made this journey once or twice now and before I dive into the commuter current I head for the doors to the First Class Lounge. There’s a great perk in the sleeper ticket. It gives you access to the first class facilities with first class loos, free eats and beverages and papers to read to kill the first hour of the early morning. I love the First Great Western.
This could sound like a tragic case of countrywoman abandons family for bright lights? But actually there was a ‘responsible’ adult at home in charge – even if I was still issuing remote reminders by mobile phone – and I had been given permission to go. If I felt a tad guilty for claiming my 24 hour mini break that was because I’m not used breaking free that often.
When someone (a stranger) – albeit down the blogging route – offers the chance of an expenses paid trip to London for some magazine article and photo shoot…I’ll answer yes without a need to know anymore. At my stage of life I’m pretty reckless/desperate to do anything that is out of the ordinary.
I’m to be a ‘face’ of an ‘ordinary mum’ in Tesco magazine (pick up your free copy in store from September). There were four of us: three ‘mother’s of three’ and one ‘mum of one’ styled and dressed to compliment each other. Taking a whole day of studio hire, make artists, art director, stylist, photographer and assistants; just for a few photos I’m sure most people will flick past!
I’m the ‘older mum’ in ‘kiwi’ if you happen to stumble upon us in store. ‘Aubergine’ from Berkshire, ‘Cobalt’ from Edinburgh and ‘Magenta’ from Swindon are my new friends having shared a surreal experience. We are supposed to be debating the old classic: ‘kids or partner who comes first?’
Answer: Me, for one day only.
I had my torn, and tatty nails applied with varnish just in case they caught the lighting and would shine – manicure was not essential. I had a layer of think foundation applied and it still managed to look natural, and eye-lashes curled and mascara applied to lashes I didn’t know I had. In the mirror another, glossier, smarter, more assured looking self looked back.
The day in London was like my life in reverse. Out in the streets it is humming, the pace is frenetic and there’s tide moving so fast you can’t help yourself being pulled along and into it. I had a piece of paper, a few contact numbers (should I get lost) and an address. It’s a long way to travel from home and still have a question mark hanging over what I was doing here. Life in Cornwall is chilled; I’m cool and people here all give the impression of cruising slowly in a circle of calm. Two places cannot be more different.
On the other hand the ‘studio’ experience was a complete contrast the other way too. In my normal ‘Cornish’ day, my head is full to bursting. Work, life, family are all competing as a mind-blowing amount of information. If there were three of me, I’d cope, but since there is only one I leave all domestic things half done. Days are like rush hours on a treadmill: moving very fast and not getting anywhere very quickly. But for one day this experience was turned inside out. How could there be so many people involved to achieve nothing more at the end of it than a couple of photographs? (I could do with an assistant or two myself, methinks.) Boy, it was a slow day with a lot of hanging around and waiting your turn as every detail of clothing, jewellery and hair had to be rearranged, or faces powdered to appear more beautiful, but a curious day and a fun day too, just to get off my own particular treadmill for a bit.
By the end I felt like Tour Girl Barbie in Toy Story 2. “Can I stop smiling now? Gosh my cheeks ache!”
The four of us all had our own particular routes to escape the ‘I’m just a mum’ label and assert a sense of self. ‘Magenta Mum’ had taken to wearing high heels when she had children, from not wearing them before. It was a deliberate act to bring some ‘School Gate Chic’ when most mums go the other way. See my earlier blog “In these Heels” and you’ll see why I was impressed!
I brought my new ‘beautified’ self home on the train with me. I introduced her to the Pullman dining experience which – if you can get a seat it’s a 3 course meal and an effective upgrade to a first class seat. With a day as glamorous ‘older mum’ I felt I still deserved a final treat. The sun finally set on my escapism as the train finally passed over Brunel’s bridge but back to the Cornish reality is escapism too.