Potatoes?

I realized that yesterday was my 4 year blogversary! I’ve picked one of my very first posts to share – and it’s not a fashion related one either! Thank you all for your continued support and here’s to another 4 years!

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One of the difficult decisions to be made when starting a blog is what to call it.  I thought I had some inspired ideas but when it came to getting the url it appeared others had had the same idea. So when I named this blog Poppy’s Style I was not only trying to make it personal to me and therefore hopefully more unique, but also ‘style’ was used to be all encompassing regarding my style of doing things as well as my fashion style. I want to take the opportunity in this blog to talk about all things I have done, dream to do and even things I have questioned doing…in addition to my passion for fashion.

After turning 40 last year I think I went through one of those ‘oh my goodness I haven’t achieved anything with my life’ moments.  Yes I know I have 2 brilliant children and a fabulous man but what about my achievements as an individual? As I looked back all the way to starting secondary school (middle school age for US readers) certain themes emerged.  I’ve always been driven to do my best, never doubting my academic abilities, but I get bored easily and need variety. In my career, before my current role, I’ve never stayed with a company for more than 2 years – my resume looks awful due to the number of companies listed on there…it took me a while to realize the grass is never greener and actually the corporate life just isn’t for me.  I tried to stick with it as I was driven to keep getting the higher salary, bigger office and better title but as often happens the added responsibility, hours etc. just didn’t make me happy especially with 2 little ones.  I wanted to be ‘SuperMom’ but my heart wasn’t in it and my enthusiasm for work was dwindling which meant I actually wasn’t doing a very good job.

Sometimes I think I ‘failed’ in the corporate world and often wonder what career would have suited me better?  I remember career counseling at school when I was in my early teens and I always dreamt of being a Doctor – a pediatrician actually, but maybe my fear of failures stopped me from pursuing it as only really smart people become Doctors no? So instead of medicine I decided to be a research scientist. In the UK it’s unfortunate that your University discipline is pretty much decided at 16 when you choose your A’level topics – or at least that’s how it was back in 1986.  I was good at science and far more interested in it than any of the humanities and I actually loved wearing a lab coat and doing practicals – I loved numbers too which helps – I still get excited creating formulas in spreadsheets:) Anyway my A’levels were Biology, Chemistry and Physics and I ended up studying Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of St. Andrews.

I had a great experience at St. Andrews and long before Will and Kate ever made headlines I met MM there working in a bar together. I was 19 and he was 24 doing his PhD in Byzantine History. Twenty years on he’s still the love of my life, my best friend and my greatest cheer leader (he was the one that suggested I start blogging), and there are many stories along the way of how we have survived through thick and thin which I will no doubt divulge in later posts. Anyway the point is HE had a PhD – therefore I must get one!!  Yes that was one of my main motivators for applying for my PhD – plus back in the early ’90s there were very few jobs to be had so being a student for another 4 years seemed like a better option than the dole.

Hence the title of this post – I studied potatoes for 4 years…the mind boggles that I managed to stick it out and complete my thesis when so many of my peers were abandoning their studies on far more interesting, relevant topics. “The Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of Bruising in Potatoes” is the title of my thesis – it was written in a tiny flat, with no central heating and various fungi growing in it (a Biochemist should be thrilled no?) on Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, on one of the first Apple Mac computers. My acknowledgments in my thesis thank my FIL who provided us with many dinners out when the bailiffs were knocking on our door. It was certainly an odd time – living in one of the most glamorous areas in London with zero money to our name.

Well I got my Doctorate and published a couple of papers but oddly enough the most important thing I learned in those 4 years was that I never wanted to see a test tube or a lab coat ever again – I was done with exploring potatoes – the only place I wanted to see them again was on a plate next to a piece of fish. An achievement of sorts but one that only led to more decisions – wrong and right – about how I should earn a living.

Photos show my thesis which sits in a display cabinet collecting dust.

The book

For Mum and DadTitle pageAcknowledgementsGels

21 years later.

My final repost for now – dedicated to MM – thanks for all your love and support xx

First published May 2nd 2012:

21 years ago today MM and I became an ‘item’.  I’d known him for a while beforehand but a romance with him, quite frankly, had never crossed my mind.  He is 5 years older than me and back then, at the tender age of 19, a 24 year old PhD student seemed well out of my dating league.  We met while we were both students at the University of St. Andrews.  He was studying for his PhD in Byzantine History and I was doing my undergraduate degree.  We both worked in The Central bar where I knew him as somewhat of a ladies man, schmoozing the female punters with his extensive vocabulary, sardonic sense of humor, and couldn’t care less attitude.  That was until May 2nd 1991.

I was in the university library studying for exams when I saw him sauntering down the corridor in his laissez-faire manner.  I kept my head down not wanting to have an awkward conversational encounter with him but in the corner of my eye I could see him approaching.  I made a couple of whispered, flippant remarks and he asked if I’d be in the bar later.  Well of course I would be – even when I wasn’t working pulling pints of 80 Shilling I was in there enjoying a Newcastle Brown – so I thought nothing of it.  Later that afternoon when my brain was overloaded with glycolysis and other fun stuff, I perched myself in the corner of the bar by the water tap – my usual spot.  MM wandered in not long after – he lived upstairs so was often popping in for his caffeine fix in between translating Ancient Greek texts.  He looked surprised to see me there so early and I was equally surprised that he sat down next to me with his Gualoises legers and ordered a drink.  There were plenty of his football buddies around so why would he choose to sit with me?  I was just someone he worked with?  Our mutual friend S. was working behind the bar and at this stage he offered me a large Moscow Mule – why not I thought – it was a thirsty Thursday after all.  Time passed, cigarettes were smoked, laughs were had, the bar filled up and S. kept the drinks flowing.  Now it is 21 years ago and the blue label makes it a little hazy, but for some reason we must have started flirting a little and before I knew it MM was standing on his bar stool telling me and every Yah in St. Andrews that he was ‘infatuated’ with me.  I was caught quite off guard.  Little did I know that he and S. had been together all afternoon plotting some kind of rendezvous with me.  It appears he had ‘fancied’ me for sometime – which completely blew me away as, as I mentioned earlier, my romantic radar (which was always operational) hadn’t even detected him as a potential suitor.  Well as the story goes we embarked on a very intense love affair walking the beaches of St. Andrews and then of course drinking in the many bars to keep warm.  The summer of 1991 led to a separation due to summer jobs and then I went off to Lisbon for 3 months to study.  In those 3 months, in the days before easy access to email, he wrote a long hand letter to me EVERY day.  I kept those letters for years but they were lost when some containers were stolen on the move to Atlanta.

Through all the ups and downs (mostly ups) of the past 21 years he is still my best friend, the love of my life and he can still irritate the hell out of me!:)

We truly are evidence that opposites attract and you could not pick two people more different to fall in love:

1. He is a Southerner from ‘posh’ Cheltenham and I am a Northerner from ‘not so posh’ Bury.

2. He had traveled extensively and lived abroad, I didn’t visit London until I was 22.

3. He is incredibly well read and still reads The Economist every week cover to cover, I grew up on Enid Blyton and enjoy my US Weekly every week.

4. He was a history student, I was a science student.

5. He is terrified of conforming, I am terrified of not conforming.

6. He’s very secretive, I have never kept a secret.

7. He saves all his money and then buys lavish gifts, I spend all my money on me.

8. He never raises his voice, I yell.

9. He doesn’t ever worry about not making an effort with people or people not liking him, I am a people pleaser.

10. He is Scorpio, I am Leo.

Over the years he has learned to conform a little and I have enjoyed not conforming a little more, so as in all good relationships we have met in the middle – if not a little closer to my side – I don’t like to compromise too much:)

My Man back in 1990 standing in Ajax football stadium with the University of St. Andrews football team.  From Left to Right: Martin (one of our Best Men), my Brother-in-law (our other Best Man), and MM in his usual get up back then of ripped Levi 501s, red Converse boots, bandana and oversize cardigan. 

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