Commute like a total nutter with this one weird tip

Mile End in rush hour is like the next level down from Hell where even Satan refuses to go to; throngs of people armed with what seems like a million suitcases, and armies of commuter clones ready to elbow you out of the way for the benefit of added room for their Starbucks extra-wet skinny soya mocha-latte.

I arrive to the central line platform of Hell at the beginning of rush hour this morning to find the expected crowds are somewhat larger than usual, thanks to a well-timed signal failure.
Figuring I am at the back of a queue of about 500 angry now-late Eastenders, I pop out for a cheeky coffee whilst the queues subside slightly.

30 minutes later, fully caffeinated and ready for some commuter action, I saunter downstairs and wait patiently for the train to arrive on the, now significantly emptier, platform.

The train pulls in — and I am pleasantly surprised to spot a seat available in the middle of a row. Hungry for the touch of that worn, soft, blue fabric that has graced the derrières of thousands of strangers, I gingerly approach, warding off any other seat predators with my best ‘don’t fuck with me’ expression. There aren’t many, so I just look like a mildly disturbed young woman (which is not far from true).
With an expert precision known only to regular Central Line travellers, I twist about and tuck myself into my seaty prize without headbutting the pole. Win.

Immediately, I register a problem. No, it is not the seat itself — which is, it had to be said, just averagely sticky at the edges and only mildly stained.

No, it is a lot worse than that. The large (and by this, I mean tall and broad and with the mean look of someone who could knock a man dead just by tapping his shoulder) businessman next to me has a problem. Which is now my problem too.

This man is a very serious manspreader.
I mean, THE WORST.
Imagine you measured every manspreader in history with a metre stick to mark the distance between the knees: this man would require at least four metre sticks, and is definitely in the upper percentile of gentlemen-whose-legs-are-extremely-wide-apart-when-seated-on-public-transport.
The distance between New York and Beijing would have nothing on this guy; he is virtually running his own airline from knee to knee. Each leg has its own ecosystem.

Initially, feeling that my personal space is being violated by these offending ecosystems, I privately bubble with fury over how selfish and inconsiderate he is being. I find myself getting increasingly angry at the touch of his enormous knee on mine. His patella is doing an excavation to find my hip bone, and it was in every way just as bad as it sounds. It hurts.

Then I have a thought. Why am I just sitting here and letting it happen? Am I not becoming part of the problem if I just sit back, silently infuriated, and allow this kind of behaviour to happen?

London, it was time to make a stand. I do what I’m sure every one of us poor individuals imposed on by these power-high twitheads has always wanted to do, but felt too angry and violated and British about the whole thing to do so.

I TACKLE THE MANSPREADER. HEAD-ON (or leg-on, whatever) in the most passive-aggressive way I can possibly think of.

I widen my legs (luckily I am not wearing a skirt) (actually, so what if I am? I have nothing to hide and that would just add extra drama to my story) and gently nudge my thigh back into his enormous leg — which is no small feat, I tell you.
And because he was just so large and so imposing, just for extra points I push out my elbows. Just slowly, so it isn’t too obvious.

And just like that — war has been declared.

In retaliation, he pushes his knee into mine and the silent battle well and truly begins. I respond by sitting further back in my seat and widening my legs even further. Then everyone else gets off the tube and we’re both still sat there, many other seats now available but still pushing knees. His leg starts shaking so I guess at least he’s putting some effort into it.

This continues for a number of stops. I think about all the empty seats opposite us and dream of a parallel world where I had got on a different carriage and was having a nice, uneventful journey to work. Instead, I am locked in an endless battle of pride and strength with a total stranger, neither of us willing to just give up and move to one of the many, many beautiful empty blue seats around us.
It’s gross; his leg is so firmly wedged into mine that our femurs are basically kissing.

I eventually realise that like true war, this was not going to be won by the troops downstairs. (In fact, my knee is beginning to hurt a bit. And anyway, by this time my legs are so far apart I’m virtually doing the splits. On the Central Line. It’s very uncomfortable.)

No, this needed to be won through charm and diplomacy.

I tap his knee with my finger.
“Do you mind?” I say, edging my knee further into his.

His head snaps up like one ugly balding Jack-in-the-box and he glowers at me furiously. “Yeah, I do actually.”

“Well maybe you could consider how much space you’re taking up.”

He looks incredulous. Oh good, I think. Touched a nerve. Excellent.

And it then descends into everyone’s childhood.
“Maybe YOU should!” He gesticulates at my lap.

I shrug. “You set the example, I’m just imitating it.”

“But you’re on my side of the seat!”

Laughable, because I point out where the line between the two seats should be, were it not for his leg/bottom/existence. (If I could do the emoji face for how I felt right then it would be the squinty grinning face with those little tears of laughter coming from both eyes.) “Actually, see, I’m not,” I reply. “You’ve imposed yourself on both sides around you. That woman to your left has been squashed into the glass. And you’ve actually moved your legs closer since I pointed it out.”

He pauses. “And so what if I am?”
He shoves his knee back into mine. (Mature.)

“Wow. I’m not sure I’ve sat next to someone before with such a total lack of respect for the people around them.”

“And I don’t think I’ve sat next to such a total nutter before. Justify it, so what if I am?”

“Well, I think it could be viewed as sexist if you’re imposing yourself into women’s personal space because you think you can get away with it. I bet you wouldn’t be acting this rudely if I were a large burly man.”

Silence. He looks at me, and it is not a glare, it actually looks like a mixture of embarrassment and horror.

I break the silence.
“You’ve never been pulled up on this before have you.”

Small pause. “No.”

I move my legs back to a normal seating position, and in a voice reserved for only those in which I am EXTREMELY disappointed, I say, “Well, next time be a bit more considerate of those sat next to you.”

The train comes to a stop at the next station.
And wordlessly, he gets off.


Originally written in 2016. Whilst nobody was harmed in the making of this story, some egos may have been.


My search for the perfect vintage winter coat

Summer in London last year stretched until September, and I managed to kid myself that it was still summer until about mid-October. Realising that the temperatures were plummeting pretty quickly, i reluctantly pulled out my navy trench coat out from the back of the cupboard. But – disaster. It no longer fit me.

I’ve had this problem quite a lot over the past year and a half; thanks to what seems like as-yet undiagnosed medical complications, I lost a significant amount of weight. Most people might wonder why i wouldn’t feel pleased about that, and my answer is two-fold:

  1. I never set out with any aim to lose weight, my diet hasn’t changed, and I made no efforts to change my figure. I have body dysmorphia, and my changing body has made me less able to rely on the ‘safe’ clothes I wear when i have bad days – even my old safe clothes don’t fit now. I no longer know, or trust, my body, and that causes some level of psychological difficulty. Readjusting is hard, when you spend your life pretending you’ve adjusted.
  2. If you’ve shrunk out of all your clothes, replacing everything gets pretty expensive. Literally nothing fits. I have spent so much money on clothes, and I really need to learn how to sew.

I struggled through November and December layering cardigans underneath a denim jacket, or my favourite jacket (a faux leather bolero I bought in my first ever purchase from American retailer Pinup Girl Clothing!) with a couple of scarves and a pair of gloves, but I got to Christmas and I realised it just wasn’t enough. If i wanted to survive until summer, I needed to find myself something warm to wear.

And here the anxiety starts – I love pinup style clothing, but I find shopping a stress, and I hated the idea of trying on hundreds of coats or panic-buying one that didn’t fit. You can’t really hide if a coat doesn’t fit you. I’d already tried on all the coats in M&S and Next, but the only sizes that fitted my waist were a size 6, and they hardly accommodated for my, um, ‘generous’ curves. They also lacked a vintage aesthetic. It struck me that I could have a look around for some coats I liked online, that accentuated the waist and flowed out across the hips, and try and hook one on the Boxing Day sales – it would mean spending less, and perhaps even justifying buying two and then sending them back if they didn’t fit.

Because I am a little sad and take my research VERY seriously, I drew up a list of requirements:

  • It needed pockets. I am so fed up of coats with pretend pockets in them – if you’re not going to bother putting them in, don’t pretend you thought about it!
  • It needed to be warm; I love the Pearl Collectif coat but i felt it might be too long-waisted for my figure. However, I was in love with the cuffs and the lovely faux-fur neckline!
  • It needed buttons at the front, so I can cocoon myself inside it and button away the cold. None of this zip rubbish, and forget coats that don’t even do up at the front! I’m freezing just thinking about them. Brr.
  • It needed to accentuate my tiniest part, my 27.5” waist, with about an inch to move around in so I can layer with jumpers and cardigans.
  • It needed to be generous enough to accommodate both my bust and my hips (37”, and 39” respectively) and preferably skim over my hips.
  • It needed to have enough of a flare in the skirted part to allow me to wear my ploofiest petticoats underneath, and still close over them!
  • Preferably, it needed to be vintage compatible, so it didn’t look out of place with my 1950s wardrobe.

What a list.

I spent some time (okay, about a week) studying size guides, assessing reviews and generally shortlisting, and came across a number of beautiful coats that seemed to fit the bill:


Collectif: ‘Gina’ coat

image of Gina coat

I saw this one on the Collectif site and absolutely fell in love! The leopard-print cuffs are so perfect, and it ticked all the boxes. I wondered about the skirt though; would it be full enough to manage my gorgeously fluffy Malco Modes petticoat? And the sizing tip suggested sizing up if layering – did that mean it ran small, or would I need to size up? So many unknowns…

  • Price: £116.50 (from Collectif)
  • Pros: Warm cuffs, size guide suggests perfect fit
  • Cons: Unsure about the sizing in reality, and whether this coat could tame the petticoats!

Hell Bunny: ‘Isadora’ (was ‘Elvira’) coat

Image of Isadora coat

 

I saw a review by Miss Amy May and instantly wanted to buy this! The addition of a hood is just too cute for words, and then I saw Miss Victory Violet in it and I knew this was a coat I had to track down. Then I saw the price. Eep.

  • Price: £167.99 (from Hell Bunny)
  • Pros: Hood! Fluff! Pockets! Ahhhh!
  • Cons: Bloody hell it’s expensive.

Banned Apparel: ‘Vintage Style Leopard Collar’ coat

Image of Banned Apparel leopard trim coat

I spotted this one on Tiger Milly, and loved the cut of the front. I wondered about the sizing though – and it seemed a little shorter than some of the other coats too. I want all the warmth I can get…

  • Price: £99.99 (from Tiger Milly)
  • Pros: Cheaper than the alternatives, lovely fluffy neckline
  • Cons: Sizing guide wasn’t perfect for me, and might have been a problem for my bust, and it also looked a little shorter than I’d like

 

Just before the sales were announced across most of the vintage retailers, I had a long think (about five minutes) – and I decided to go on an online hunt for an Isadora/Elvira coat. The sizing guide for it seemed to fit my figure best, and I loved the generous swing of the skirt. And that hood!!

Hell Bunny were offering 20% off over the festive period, but I felt this still made it a little dear. Collectif generally hold 50% sales in the first days of the New Year, and I knew the Gina was likely to be up for grabs.

Whilst I was perusing the various sites for a third party seller that had an Isadora/Elvira coat, I actually unexpectedly came across this beauty on eBay:


Hell Bunny: Vivien coat

Image of the Vivien coat

It was in a camel and black colouring, rather than the blue and black that are still available on the Hell Bunny website, and it blew my socks off. Not just because it had the pockets, the fluff, but – it was SO CHEAP! I spotted it on eBay, as new, by a seller who clearly hadn’t realised what a vintage repro diamond they had on their hands.

  • Price: £29(!!!)
  • Pros: A lovely fur collar, two horizontal waist buttons, and deep pockets – with a very generous swing skirt
  • Cons: No hood

To be honest, with no hood being the only real con I could find, I wondered whether such a low price would be a con. Despite worrying about whether it was legit, I felt that this was a deal I could NOT leave behind me! I pressed the ‘buy it now button’ and prayed that it would be the miracle coat I hoped it would be – and if it didn’t fit, I could always pop it back up on eBay. For £29, it seemed worth the risk, and a lot better than the £99 retailing price.

Whilst I waited for my coat to be delivered, the Collectif sale arrived. And I spotted the Gina – down to about £40. There was a worry in my head about there being an issue with the Hell Bunny coat, and I pondered for about an hour with the Gina going in and out of my shopping basket. Then I just took the risk – and figured, I could always return it if there was an issue, right?

Let’s fast forwards to April.

Short story: the Hell Bunny coat is the most perfect coat there has ever been. I’ll do a full review later. And the Gina coat arrived too, and the skirt is less generous as I had thought, but it fits like a glove! So…I kept both. Considering that at full price these would have cost me about £220, and I bought them both for less than £70 (a mere 31% of the original price!) it seems worth it to not have to go through the ho-ha of finding the perfect winter coat for another couple of years!

Longer story: luckily, the size guides for Hell Bunny and Collectif are pretty accurate, if not a little generous, and DEFINITELY follow them if you’re unsure on sizing. The other thing I’ve learned is that vintage repro coats are quite rare to find on eBay, despite finding my wildcard Vivien on there, and I recommend waiting for the Collectif sales to pick up one of their gorgeous pieces at a discounted price, and look out for third party sellers for Hell Bunny. You can sometimes pick up some discounts throughout the year, just after New Year, around Easter, in about August, and around Black Friday in November. Definitely save up, and splash out when it comes to sale time, if you are flexible with the pieces you’d like to buy. I heartily recommend that you have a look at Miss Amy May’s blog too, where she often shares discount codes for items.

So – Vivien and Gina are hanging in my hallway, and I have survived the past four months without dying of frostbite. Hurrah! It’s worth noting that my Hell Bunny coat is incredibly warm, and I always get compliments when I wear it, so if you’re thinking about investing in a coat do have a look at their collection. They’ve also just released a line of gorgeous summery skirts I’ve got my beady eye on – like this orange somerset apples skirt!

What has been your go-to vintage coat to get you through the winter months?

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