Alert! Alert! There is no recipe in this post! Nothing to see here! (If you want to miss out on my rant, scroll to the bottom for behind the scenes photos at a recent shoot).
Regular readers will know I so rarely write without a recipe post. I’m a purist and the very name of this blog means I feel compelled to publish a recipe whenever I feel the urge to write. So when I don’t, it’s usually because something had gotten to me. It usually means I am typing furiously.
The name of the blog is important in this blog post. I’ll come back to it.
So I am lucky enough in my line of work to every so often get the opportunity to have my photo taken by a professional. This almost always involves having my hair and make up done professionally. I sometimes have clothes picked out for me. Sometimes the team spend hours on the lighting. Other times it’s all a little more natural. Sometimes there is retouching after the photos are taken. Yes! Little old me being retouched. I am not ashamed. It’s not like I have 2 stone shaved off my body. Usually it’s to remove a shadow or a stray hair. Not major stuff.
Anyway. Recently I had my photo taken for a local magazine. It was a little different to the usual kind of shoot I do. My default look is ‘natural’, standing in the kitchen, often holding some kind of baked goods. Now let me tell you, to achieve that natural English rose look takes hours. Katy (who usually does my make up) has spent over 40 minutes before just covering my eye bags, spots, open pores and slightly knackered by having three kids skin. So there is nothing especially natural about it. Hair wise, ditto. That slightly messy up do you see in my first book? That took quite some time. In fact I think we undid the first go and tried again. It looked too ‘done’. But people are okay with this – because it looks natural and how a mum ‘should’ look. A normal mum that is.
A quick interlude about the name of the blog. I have a love/hate relationship with it. Some people don’t get it and send me uppity messages saying ‘this isn’t the food of a normal mum’ or ‘you don’t look like a normal mum’ or ‘normal mums don’t go on the telly’. Well, these folks are totally missing the point. I called the blog what it is because it was poking fun at how mums often undersell themselves. Time and time again I hear extraordinary women describe themselves as ‘normal mums’ when they are all wonderful and unique and have great things to offer. From being ace at prescribing life saving drugs (hello to my mum Dr pals!) to being uber patient when their toddler needs to inspect that stick just for the 43rd time (hello to my stay at home mum pals!). We all offer something that only WE can offer.
So, back to the photo story. I had my photo taken in a bath of popcorn with the illusion of being naked. I had huge hair and lots of smokey make up. Here is the finished photo:
Why oh why did I sit in a bath of popcorn? Well we had this idea to do something a bit American Beauty in style. But then we couldn’t think of any food stuff in budget and easy to get lots of. And then we realised that popcorn fits the bill and is also a nifty way of me talking about the brownie business I am launching. (I might be selling a version with popcorn and white chocolate in). And I did indeed have a wobble about it. I worried about embarrassing my sons. I worried about showing a little too much flesh. I worried about being made fun of. Yes, yes, yes, I am like anyone else and feel stressed and worried about decisions I make. But in the end I thought that maybe when I am 80 and sitting there talking to my grandkids/carers/the dog about my life, I might regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did. So I did it. And it was fun. If a little uncomfortable. We popped 3 kg of corn.
I put the photo out there on social media saying that it had taken a whole team to look so ‘done’. I am not in the game of perpetuating myths about manufactured ‘beauty’. Anyway who follows my social media accounts can see I often post not so flattering pics of me and my life. I am not one of the perfect Instagram generation who sugar coat every element of life, art directing every flower and cup of tea. But I also don’t post pictures of me washing up or sitting on the sofa in my PJs. I have, and deserve an interior life. Anyway, then the comments began. Most people were kind enough to say something nice or not say anything at all. Thanks to them. And then there was one comment which sent me into a tailspin. It was something along the lines of ‘Looking great but this is not what a normal mum looks like. I am just being honest.’ There are SO MANY things wrong with this comment I admit I wrote a lengthy comment back. (Deleted now admittedly).
First off, the sh*t sandwich approach irritates me. Start off with a positive, add a filling of negativity and then lastly finish off with a disclaimer that you can write whatever you like because you’re ‘just being honest’. (Adding ‘lol’ to the end makes this offence doubley worse in my humble opinion). Some of the most irritating people I have met in my life are those who hide behind honesty as the reason for their rudeness and general lack of care for others. Being honest is not always the best policy. There’s a lot to be said for just keeping your mouth zipped. When someone tweets me asking for me to write them a bespoke recipe within 30 minutes, in 140 characters, do I give them an honest reply? That I am busy working and I don’t have the time to be their personal google? No I do not. I just point them in the direction of a resource that might be useful to them. There is no need to spread misery and anger. The world is bad enough. Being nice is not dull.
Moving on, the main thing the annoys me is the assumption that a ‘normal mum’ looks a certain way. This is where I get right up on my soapbox. Nobody has the right to tell me or any other mum/person what they should or should not look like. Pray tell, what does a normal mum look like? Have you met her? I haven’t. Every mum (‘normal’ or not!) is different. My normal is not your normal.
In a bid to dispel any myths of glamour around the aforementioned shoot I am uploading lots of behind the scenes pictures. Just scroll down. And for the record I was wearing leggings, bed socks and a strapless summer dress under the duvet and popcorn. And we are still finding popcorn in the house. It was very scratchy.
With love and apologies for any ranting/anger,
We shot at Plug in Leicester. I look pretty moody here. I promise I wasn’t. I was definitely nervous though. I was also focusing on not setting my arms down too hard on the side of the bath as it left marks. I was under strict instructions:
I can’t recall why this was so serious. But it was. (P.S. The popcorn was burnt in parts. It smelt bad).
This is my ‘look how easy I am to work with when my legs have gone to sleep’ face.
Being preened by Neil. Everyone needs Neil in their life. (He’s from Barrie Stephens Hairdressers).
I am eating burnt popcorn here (again):
We did flirt with having all my hair off my face but then I decided I quite liked the slight shield of a back combed fringe.
By the way, Frances, who was assisting, took all these pics.
Yes I am eating brownies. I didn’t dare have a drink. Just in case I needed the loo.
This is a dreadful photo of both myself and Katy – who is an amazing make up artist and usually gets to work on folks who are famous. Lucky for me she lives nearby.
Neil, being very kind and helping to scoop out burnt popcorn from the bath.
You can just see my £6 strapless beach dress in this pic.
We didn’t send this photo to print. We could only chose one. This is not a retouched image by the way.
An arty photo of the shoot taken by another photographer.
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