I thought I’d write this blog as I think I need to.
So, I’m working on my computer listing like a mad women on eBay. I only had dial up in those days, so if anyone called the landline it would go straight to answerphone. Anyhoo. I finished work just before I had to pick James up from school, and realised I had a couple of messages on my answerphone. Just thinking about this makes me feel dizzy
“Hello, miss Ellis. This is Queen Mary’s hospital. We have your mum in as she was found at home unconscious, and is unresponsive. Could you please call us on ***, thank you”
When I put the phone down i cried and panicked. Mum had been unwell for years..she had emphysema which had restricted her going out, and this along with anxiety and agrophobia had literally made her housebound at 56. Not only this but she was in the middle of a rather stressful legal fight with my dad about the house she lived in (they divorced in 1982 yet his name wasn’t removed from deeds so mum went to court and it was decided that he would be awarded 6k when my mum found sheltered accommodation to move into.I don’t think his solicitor hounding her everyday helped her anxiety much the pricks) I was lucky to have amazing friends at the time, one of which picked James up and baby sat him, and the other took me to the hospital to see my mum.
When I arrived it was the worst thing ever seeing your mum lying in a bed unconscious..but i was able to communiate by asking her to blink. When my brother arrived we were ushered to a private room and was told mum was dying and that all we could do was let her die. It was fucking awful. Her lungs were failing, and there was nothing that could be done apart from giving her oxygen and keeping her comfortable . Poor thing must of been petrified, she was reliant on Diazapham ( after having a breakdown yeas ago the Dr prescribed these and – along with the cigarettes- helped her cope on a day to day basis) and with hindsight I wish I’d demanded she was given something for her nerves as she lay there dying.
The next few hours are a blur, I think I went home and packed a bag for her and myself.I remember rubbing cream into her hands and talking to her. We were in a private room but in the geriatrics ward and there was an old lady who wouldn’t stop screaming. I was too scared to sleep that night. I stayed awake just looking at mum, removing her oxygen and wiping her face, holding her hand and crying. I think I called her friends and family to tell them what had happened and for them to come the next day to say their goodbyes. It’s so strange but over the next day I could smell and sense my grandad. I’d like to think he was waiting to take her with him to a better place.
Through her last day on this earth she had many visitors who came and said goodbye as well as James who was 6 then . I think she was fully unconscious now. She was a well liked lady. All through the day and the next evening the nurse kept checking up on her and her heart was beating strong. I tried to stay awake but fell asleep around 2am as I thought her heart would keep her going. But unfortunately she passed away some time when I was sleeping next to her. I never forget myself for that, I only hope she knew she wasnt alone when she passed away.
Im back after a hiatus of a few weeks… so hello!
Where were we? Oh yes.Its 2002 – Ive just moved into a two bedroom new build just down the road from the tower block. And I couldnt be happier.. James is able to play out the front with all the children ( and swing off lamposts/ get stuck up trees etc) and my neighbours are nice enough. No more worrying about having to drag a pushchair and shopping up 8 flights of stairs when the lifts werent working and dodging piss in the lift. Not only that but we get our first pet, a tabby cat called Scooterboy. He was a little kitten when we got him and he was so cute ( he decided he’d had enough and moved in with the lady next door after a few years haha)
I was still going to jumbles for my fashion fix and also accummulating a vast amount of clothes, and used to go to one close to the house of which was held every couple of months. I had just got a credit card, from which I had slowly built my credit… and I was able to buy a computer with it – I was at college by then doing another Pre degree in art and design due to the crap portfolio so could warrant buying it for that. I also bought a digital sony camera on the never never through the catalogue so was able to use that for my course as I decided to do my final project on fashion photography which is a great love of mine. I passed the course with a merit and an A level in art..
Anyway.. around this time there was a site called Friends reunited..and i got online with good old dial up indoors and started catching up with old mates online … One of them was a mate who I started seeing a lot ( not in that way) and after Id had quite a fruitful haul at a jumble he suggested I go onto a site called eBay and list my stuff on there. So I did. The first thing I listed on there was a pair of Levis buckle back 201s that i bought for the pricely sum of 30p… and i sold them on eBay for £50. I was amazed and this was the start of my business! Been selling for over 13 years now, but back then I also sold nearly new stuff, designer stuff.. what ever I knew I could turn a pretty profit around on, and, thanks to being proper skint for most my life, had a bloody good eye for things! Not only that but Ihave been blessed with long arms, perfect for grabbing things at jumble sale!
So through the next few years i was going to charity shops each day, either with friends or on the bus ( I hadnt learnt to drive then) as well as bringing up a child who was so obviously adhd yet the doctors would rebuff me and make me feel like it was all my fault.. Trust me when I say it hasnt been easy! But then I guess Im stronger than I think I am. And life was going to get a lot more trying throughout the next few years…
So there I am, without a pot to piss in and with a huge list of things that were essential for attending the course. After getting myself in a state with worry (like I usually do) the resourceful side of me kicked in and I went down the library again to research my options. I ended up finding a huge list of organisations that could possibly help me so I hand wrote a letter to each of them, explaining my situation. I received lots of lovely financial help so I was able to buy every thing that was needed – this was thanks to places like Trust Thamesmead, The Rotary Club and Face Stockholm that also gave me loads of make up.
I had a baby sitter for one day of whom I paid out of my benefits, and then James went to his Dads for a couple of nights? a week so I could go to London and study. The course was amazing, I was in my element. Not only did we learn about make -up and hair but also we studied Art, contextual studies of fashion, history, film and lots of other subjects..And I also made some friends for life. Of course the first friend I made was a Gay man Anthony (who is now a very successful wig maker for stage). The worst thing about the course was the actual make-up – I realised I didnt actually like touching peoples faces and that I was far too cack handed to do elaborate hair styles..However I still wanted to go onto film make up and work in prosthetics.. but when I applied to go on the degree my portfolio was too crap so wasn’t able to join and had to take a year out before going through ucas agin. Gutted.
Anyway.. through Trust Thamesmead I had my first taste of film work as a costume assistant ( Id already done make up on film) and this is what also convinced me that perhaps costume was where my love lay instead of make-up. I was contacted by the organisation as the BBC had asked a group of up and coming directors to do a series of short films, and one of them was going to be shot in Thamesmead so the trust were asked to find suitable candidates to help. I had a brief interview with a wonderful lady who decided I was the right gal for the job so set me the task of going around Woolwich taking photos of chavs for research. On set was hard work but I learnt ever so much, I was second in charge, and the team I was working with were pretty stellar.. the director was Andrea Arnold ( who went on to win an Oscar) and the costume designer was Jacqueline Durran who has also gone on to win an Oscar for her wonderful costumes in Atonement (that Green dress..swoon) .Click here to see more info about DOG .Fate has a funny way of showing people the way to go in life. Im still involved in film, and am costume designer for a series of shorts that are being filmed.. the last one is being shown soon and starred Stephen Graham, Hannah Walters and Seamus O’Neill.
After the course at London College of Fashion ended I took a year out and also got out of the tower block with the help of my mum writing strong letters to a counselor friend of hers, and also on the fact James was always bloody climbing (due to the undiagnosed adhd) so I moved to a lovely new build two bedroom house in Britannia Close, Erith from which Madam Popoff Vintage started a few years later….
So, carrying on from yesterdays “This is who I am and where I’ve come from” post, Its 1999, James is one years old and I’m taking an ITEC in beauty therapy and Make -up to try improve our lives. I did try going to college to carry on studying law ( I had studying a little law before and had enrolled on an evening course to train as a legal executive but found it hard to find baby sitters) so this course was ideal… James was happy in the creche one day a week and I had time out to study and learn without my baby screaming or climbing everywhere!
Anyway – it was all going well and then I found out I was pregnant again from a condom that must of split. I was in a relationship but it wasn’t a secure one. So I had to make one of the worst decisions in my life and decided I couldn’t have the baby as I really wouldn’t of been able to cope with two children under 3 as my own mental health wasn’t good and I was under the mental health people for my depression and also my General Anxiety Disorder. So it was decided I would have a termination. So I spent seeing the new millennium in feeling sick with morning sickness and also knowing I was going to have an operation in a few days time of which I was in two minds about. I was so upset about the whole thing that I even had a massive panic attack when they put me under as I was still unsure… it was too late when I woke up. I lay in that hospital and made a pact with myself that I would sort my life out from then and that I didn’t go through that procedure for nothing.
So, after getting over the operation (although I don’t think you really do get over something like this) I went on and got a distinction in my exams.. and decided I wanted to be a professional Makeup artist so after researching down the library (I didn’t have internet or a computer) about courses , I applied to London college of Fashion to study on their Access to Fashion and Media make-up course. I went for the interview and was overwhelmed when I found out I had been accepted! However, with the acceptance letter there also came a huge list of things to buy needed to attend the course. Hairdressing kits, Make up kits, reading list and art equipment. And there was the train fare to London and child sitting fees. Shit.
To be continued …
Thought I’d write a personal blog today about me and a brief history of my life prior to Madam Popoff Vintage and also why I am as I am (ha ha)
So, I’ve been selling vintage for 13 years now. I first started on eBay, and got my first shop 6 years ago. I think people are aware of the whole story with regards to the start of Popoffs, but shit hasn’t been easy and I’ve been fighting for the last 18 years with all sorts of shit. As they say “What doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger…” And to be honest I’m surprised I haven’t ended up dribbling in the fetal position in a hospital somewhere!
I guess my real story begins when my son James was born in Queen Marys hospital on 24th April 1998. That in itself was a nightmare. Not only did James not want to come out ( he was two weeks late) but then he decided to cause me to haemorrhage on his way out ( he was 9lb 7 so a bit of a bruiser) causing me lose over a litre of blood which meant I had to stay in hospital for a week. I refused a transfusion, so was severely anaemic and could barely pick him up when he screamed for milk – which was most of the time ( turns out he is severe adhd but that’s another story).
Anyway – when I saw his little face it was there and then I decided enough was enough it was me and this little soul against the world. I had split up with James dad when pregnant so it was just me and my boy that went back to that 8th floor tower block flat (smack bang in the middle of a notorious estate in Erith) when I came out of hospital. I didn’t have much either, thankfully James Dads Mum and my family and friends got him the essentials but I didn’t even have a hob to cook on so I lived on microwave meals for over a year. James never slept through the night until he was at least a year, so I was sleep deprived as well living in poverty thanks to being on benefits! Fun!
My mum tried to help but as James was so much of a handful she couldn’t cope so wasn’t able to babysit. She had emphysema, agoraphobia and also severe mental health issues so it was impossible for her to do much apart from give me emotional support ( we only bonded when I fell pregnant at 24 as before that I was a bit of a selfish bitch and lost soul) so to have her there was a god send. James Nan the other side was a great help too.
Anyway – I think it was in 1999 that I decided I needed to do something with my life. I loved make up, so decided to attend a make up/ beauty course held in Thamesmead. James was in the creche of which he loved ( he was very advanced for his age – walking at 10 months and climbing all over the place) and I was starting the journey of which brought me here (via a very random path)
To be continued…
I’m so excited that Margate is going to have it’s own Pride again next weekend. I really feel its an important event as its a time for people to be able to be out and not have to hide and also for Margate to celebrate diversity. There’s still a big stigma about homosexuality, just look at some of the vile reactions to the possibility that the HIV drug PrEp will be readily available on the NHS for people. Straight away homophobic and disgusting comments appeared in the media, proving that people still aren’t educated enough and that there’s still a lot of hostility out there towards humans whose sexuality isn’t heterosexual.
Anyway , there’s lots going on in Margate next week, Pride will be taking place over by the clock tower, and there’s lot of shops and businesses also partaking in the event, I’m having a pop up salon as provided by Solarium Point, and also Mimi from Little M clothing is exhibiting her art work in an exhibition called Porno! expect lots of gay icons, willies, sequins and glitter! we will also be selling things off to raise funds for Stonewall , who are an amazing charity.
In the evening Sink the Pink are hosting a wonderful evening called Cockles and Muscles in the wonderful Dreamland amusement park. Expect all the usual fun and frolics from the gang, and there’s also 90’s Legend Living Joy performing their top tunes including dreamer… so exciting.. I need to decide on my costume!
So put next Saturday in your diaries and dig out your sequins, glitter and feathers- its going to be a great day… and you also have all the shops, bars and restaurants of Margate to peruse!
Finally we have summer! I personally love this weather.. those balmy nights when you can sit by the sea drinking with friends, and also the chance to wear lovely frocks without having to cover up!
Its been quite an eventful week, both personally and with the business.. I took a real good look at myself and realised I don’t give myself enough credit or have enough self respect for myself so have dealt with both those issues! No more fawning over guys who just ain’t that interested, and also keep telling myself just how wonderful everything I have achieved is even though I’ve had enough shit slung at me time and time again.
I shot Monica yesterday at a place I see everyday, and thought i’d give it a whirl with a few white dresses in front of it. Unfortunately my photography let me down again so I didn’t get the images I really wanted as I’m so stressed at the moment and just cant concentrate on much. Gutted. But I’m still going to list them, but just upset not producing the images Id like to. Ho Hum. I spoke to a good friend and he said i’m better off getting someone to do it for me so I’m on the lookout for a photographer who understands the difficulties of running a business and who is willing to work and not take the piss!
I was also asked to participate in a discussion at the BBC about 1976 – still waiting to hear as they wanted to do it Friday (no shop cover) and then Monday (having my tooth yanked out- cacking myself) so again Ill probably lose out due to not having enough cover. Just wish I had an investor so I could start doing what I need to do!
Anyway – have a great Thursday