When I was ten, I wrote a short story.

 It was for a competition. I never entered it, of course, but I wrote it none the less. I recall a limit of 500 words which, in retrospect, seems excessive. Anyway, the story was set sometime in 1945, where a festive street party in London was happening. It was warm but breezy, with a sweet scent in the air that ran alongside the children that scattered the narrow streets. I remember writing about the food: the gigantic wobbly green jelly, the neatly cut crustless sandwiches and pink and yellow sweets that spilled from crisp white china bowls.  Mouths were stuffed and people were happy, not content or relaxed, but undeniably, truly happy.  In fact, the scene I set is not dissimilar to how I hope the streets to be after this lockdown. People desperate to speak to each other, to hold each other, to laugh, to drink, to play and just be with each other. But this short story I wrote wasn’t about all these people, it wasn’t about the joy or the relief or the celebration. My story was about one small boy. He begins at one end of the street and walks alongside the chaos of chatter, movement, and motion. I remember writing about his slow and steady pace. How he seemed somewhat distant from the moment and the occasion. An outsider looking in and being entirely without. He feels the warmth of his hand in another’s. He cherishes the feeling of it. The comfort of a father’s hand, a gentle squeeze or movement reassures any woes. The continuous pulse that runs through one to the other. The beat of blood replies to one another and sometimes even moves in sync. I remember once, at a car boot sale, my sister had accidently held the hand of an unassuming old man. Walking up and down the grassy isles, there was no doubt in her mind that she was still with us both. It was only when we passed her in the other direction that she realised her error and came running back to cling on the arm of our mum. The little boy in my story was doing the same, he was feeling and holding this hand with a similar blind assurance. Perhaps actually, in this case, more a hope or a dream. Clenching to the last moment or memories he had of this hand. The story ends as the warm wind falls. The circulating breeze had been weaving in and out of the fingers of the little boy; until all was still. The boy looked down at his small soft palm to realise it was empty; for the hand he so longed for had fallen to the ground of foreign soil.

I called the story Air hand. Which really tainted the deceptive element of surprise I think I was going for.  




Fuzzy cotton pads.

I forgot my bra. It was quite late in the day by the time I realised my mistake, as I didn’t really need one, but I hugged my small lumps with folded arms regardless until the bell rang at 3pm. I wanted boobs so bad. Big, round, squidgy, juicy boobs that shook when I ran and peeped ever so slightly out of my top. I wanted to be able to hold my own boob in my hand, rather than grabbing at taught skin. My very first bra was half green and half purple. It did up with a single clasp at the front and had no adjustments on the straps. It was cute and pretty, but it didn’t work for what I had planned for it. The material was thin and everything I stuffed in it kept the same lumpy shape even once I had a shirt on. Tissue was out of the question, I had to be sneakier. Socks worked alright. The trick was the fold one in half and position it at the bottom of the outer side. However, you still had to place a flattened sock over that to try and even out the shape, and by then your original triple A’s were becoming C’s and that just wasn’t believable. Cotton pads saved my boob crisis. They were malleable, soft and thin enough to layer up to the perfect and more believable size. Of course, this didn’t give me cleavage. And the allusion only worked under my clothes. I remember getting undressed for swimming and facing the plastic maroon partition to hide the truth from my friends as I slid my sizeable handful of cotton pads into my P.E bag. The hard part was not removing the pads, it was putting them back afterwards. Damp fingers and a frenzied atmosphere of clothing children made the reconstruction of my cotton pad boobs somewhat difficult. Some were made fuzzy and others would fall on the wet floor until now only a small handful of pads were left. I would always leave the swimming changing room with boobs a whole size smaller than when I went in.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.

Judy Blume’s words of reassurance. Girls have had boob struggles since the 70’s?! I don’t remember much of this book; but what I do remember has a permanent existence in my mind. “We must, we must, we must increase our busts.” A chant that haunts me to this day. Back then it was a beacon of hope. A way of defying the laws of biology and rapidly increasing the size of my, then, sorry excuse of a pair of boob’s. This book, my diary and my fairy dust were my triple threat weapon to having a Pamela Anderson worthy chest. One fateful night I sat on the bottom bunk of my friends’ bed and chanted the words as Margaret had done three times, before throwing a pinch of pink sparkly dust into the air. It was done. I had blind fate that THIS was it. I’d wake up in the morning with a big bouncy pair of boobs of my own. This wasn’t the case, but fast forward two years and my weedy frame blossomed a weighty chest of fat that I didn’t know what to do with. My first bra had been tossed out and replaced by a sensibly cream coloured, multiple adjust bra with not one but three clasps situated at the back. God this was an embarrassing time. Imagine being 5ft 3, weighing just under 7 stone, in my first year at secondary school and fashioning two, rather out of place, D size boobs under my shirt. My first public bikini bonanza saw me, gripping the bottom edge of an oversized t shirt until the water was touching my toes. The t shirt was off and the first thing I heard from a boy three years older than me was “Fucking hell, it’s a miracle she doesn’t just topple over”. And if you’re wondering if I blame Judy Blume’s chant for this ‘miracle’ the answer is yes. I should never have made that stupid wish.

But my mum shops at Bravissimo.

I found the perfect dress for my year 11 prom. It was a beautiful bright red, v neck, floor length gown. It was 150 quid from Mango and by far the best thing I’ve ever spent my nan and grandad’s money on. There was one small flaw in this perfect dress however, and that was that it had a cross over back. Shit. I tried it on with my discreet black bra with tiny straps that didn’t even fit me when I bought it so not entirely sure why I still had it bra and it just looked lumpy. I chanced it with my supportive, sturdy but utterly ugly bra and the 3-inch straps took centre stage of my new look. All my strappy bras were useless, and I had only one option left. To set out on a journey of disappointment to find a strapless bra. From the age of 14 to 16 I didn’t get fitted once. I had convinced myself that I was an E cup and I didn’t want to let the ladies in Debenhams tell me otherwise. But strapless bras are hard. There a whole different breed of bras and I knew I was going to need the perfect size to pull off this dress. I enlisted the help of my mum. Which really hit some home truths as she dragged me into bravissimo for a fitting. I remember feeling increasingly uncomfortable as we browed the aisles, assistants awaiting like vultures round ever corner to ‘lend a helping hand’. I’d purposely worn a jumper that hid any notion of my large boobs and instead made me look rather out of place amongst the large chested advertisement plastered all over the walls. I hurried through rails and a picked up a handful that I thought would fit. The changing room was weird as hell. It had plush cushioned walls and a purple divan in the corner. There was a small buzzer by the door that read ‘press for assistance’. I had noted that I wasn’t going to need a fitting as I knew my own boobs well enough thank you very much. But after what felt like 100 bras later, I realised I was wrong. I pressed the buzzer and awaited my fate. A very sweet lady joined me in my indecent state and offered a free fitting. Fuck it, I remember thinking “maybe I’m just getting the measurement wrong. Perhaps I’m a 32 E instead of a 30”. I was wrong. I was very wrong. The lady left and returned with stacks of strapless bras. These were not bras though. Each cup was at least the size of my head and by the quick exit she made out of the changing room I knew they weren’t an E. I left bravissimo with a 34 double G bra that was later on nicknamed ‘The parachute’.