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Friday, 22 August 2014

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Once you get the right bra, everything falls into place

The last time it happened, I was nine and it made me cry. Things have changed a bit since then. Before going any further, I should, for reasons of safety and decorum, advise men of nervous or smutty disposition to look away. Turn to the sports pages, perhaps. Go put the kettle on.

We women are talking bras here. Bras, cold hands, fits of giggles and the traumatic business of rearranging the female anatomy – without recourse to surgery but with alarming similarity to chicken-trussing. Girls’ subjects only.

Most Carlisle girls, I’m told, are well rehearsed in this necessary ritual. Unfortunately, it’s one I’ve overlooked for too long – as was pointed out to me recently by my helpful friend Sarah.

“I can’t believe you’ve lived in Cumbria all these years and never done the Turnbulls thing,” she said, sipping her peppermint tea – all ladylike, pinky sticking out.

“Gosh, is it compulsory?”

“Very nearly.”

“Time to rectify then.”

She was talking bra-fitting, which to the uninitiated – there must be one somewhere – is as daunting as having a filling... only you keep your mouth closed and your top off. And in this neck of the woods, that means Turnbulls.

Big breaths... no pun intended. This is no easy excursion when you’ve been doing a DIY fitting job since you were 10. There are flutters of trepidation when confronting a lingerie cache of hundreds and hundreds of items of meticulously engineered lacy undergarment.

Then, when Pauline approaches, with close to clinical purpose, casts an expert eye over an imperfect form, makes allowances for the fact that you’re breathing in so tightly you’re turning blue and actually two sizes away from what you display – a kind of panic.

Now – and I do hope you chaps are still looking away – we women are well aware of the myriad of bras available to us in this magazine age.

There’s the push-up and pull-in, the plump-out and flatten, expander and reducer, half-cup and full-cup, sports bra, balcony bra and don’t move lest you fall out bra.

But a bra that fits – well, that’s the Holy Grail. Crusaders are still scouring the Middle East for that one. I took the short cut to Carlisle.

There was some shifting and lifting, adjusting and manoeuvring. Arm up, arm down, arm across body and heave it all in.

“I never thought I’d allow a strange woman to be this intimate,” I quipped. Nervousness usually beckons me towards bad jokes. “Not that I’m saying you’re strange...”

Pauline had heard them all.

“Lean forward and jiggle,” she instructed.

“Jiggle? Have I been putting on my bra incorrectly for all these years? I never jiggle.”

“Always jiggle,” she said.

I was beginning to giggle. Not at Pauline, the mistress of her craft, but at myself for having lived so long without a single bra jiggle.

We of the – shall we say – more ample form are kind of used to the odd wriggle. Like when we dig two holes in the sand to facilitate lying flat on the beach for tanning the back. We know all about wiggling into ill-fitting undies, in denial of our real size and in terror of tape measures.

But jiggling into a bra? You learn something every day.

“I’m the one with the cold hands.”

We weren’t done yet. Pauline’s colleague was required to check over her project. And cold was right.

“Blimey! I bet you make good pastry.”

“I do, actually,” she said. “Sit. Stand. Fine. Now put on your top and take a look.”

“Heck! Is that where they’re supposed to be? Who’d have thought it? They haven’t been there for years.”

Holy Grail. Thanks to Pauline’s genius.

Opting to take two – of and for good measure – I decided it would be churlish to waste all that jiggling.

“I’ll keep this on. Would you mind putting the one I came in with in a bag, please?”

Pauline’s glance asked no specific question. But she got the answer anyway.

“Marks and Spencer sale, £7. It was a while ago.”

“Yes.” she said.

I hope she’ll be pleased to know... I’m still jiggling.

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