Friday, November 28, 2008

International Buy Nothing Day

So, in the UK at least, the government wants us all to do more spending to help the economy and to try and convince us, VAT has been lowered as of next Monday. Whether or not this will actually be passed to the consumer will remain to be seen.

In the meantime, tomorrow is international BUY NOTHING DAY. We can all help our own economies and spend nothing. As all bills increase, now is the time to mend things, re-use things, offer your clutter on free-cycle and collect someone else's tat instead of buying yet more things.

Obviously some things we still have to buy, but, for tomorrow at least, perhaps try and only buy it if you actually need it.

Which is harder than it sounds but worth the effort I think. Let me know how you got on.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Things you need for a perfect night in...

Blankets by melin tregwynt
via The Cwtch

  • A hot shower with beautiful smelling shampoo, Cowshed toiletries, the largest bottle of Redken conditioner you've ever seen and enough time to leave the conditioner to work
  • Soft flannel pyjamas, Ugg boots, a cosy cardigan, a Cath Kidston blanket and a whole sofa to myself
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Marks and Spencers mulled wine hot in a mug with slices of orange
  • iplayer and a weeks worth of It takes Two
  • A trashy novel (Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson if you wondered
  • An early night in our beautiful bed, the comfiest ever, with goose down pillows and duvet and white bedding
  • A cowshed candle
  • Peace and quiet and time to reflect on a very stressful week
However you are spending your night, I hope it is fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baby P

A few years ago, I did some research into the Climbie Inquiry in preparation for a job interview. I found what I read disturbing but I hoped that the only positive thing to have come from that child's suffering would be that others would not have to live and die in such a fashion.

After reading the commentary I have always been left with a sense that on some occasions, social services really are damned if they do, damned if they don't. In fact, you only have to contrast two stories in the Times to see this first hand. The first was about a women with mental difficulties who has disappeared with her 5 children after social services expressed concerns and one commenter said this: "What kind of society is this that, time after time, rips families apart "for their own good". Now we're "out to get her". Couldn't some other solution be found while keeping the family together? This mother needs help, perhaps, but not by inflicting her with the loss of her beloved family". Yet the second article was about the death of Baby P and had people calling out for the resignation of the head of Haringey social services for failing to remove Baby P from his family.


"Death is too good for X, torture the b***h that killed baby P" was the name of the facebook group which popped up on my list of groups which friends of mine on facebook had joined. Only it didn't say X, it had a name.

I clicked on the link. There was a photo of the woman allegedly baby P's mother. Further down the page a name purported to be the step-father's name was mentioned. There was also a link to a News of the World investigation. And then a petition to be signed to give baby P's mother, step father and lodger the death sentence.

Further down there were almost 1000 posts on the wall and 29 topics of 'discussion' (I use the word loosely), mainly by women, with titles such as 'you evil sla*' and 'why is this women smiling' as well as more expected things and some titles which I cannot even bring myself to copy type even using stars.

This group shocked me.

I was going to write more but I am not sure what to write. I cannot believe someone would treat a baby like Baby P's mother and step-father and their lodger did, but I cannot also believe people could seriously post things on facebook without seeing the hypocrisy. I am not saying they are in the same league at all, actions vs words, but what is wrong with our society that people think it is appropriate to punish like with like?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Strictly Come ...

John & Kristina

One of my favourite treats comes on a Monday night. On Mondays M plays football and I usually head home after work, perhaps do a little clearing up or laundery and then settle down with a cup of tea and watch Strictly Come Dancing followed by the results show on iplayer.

As always the dancing is what draws me to the show, but there is something more than that which keeps me interested. After all I do not watch other types of professional dancing on the TV although I will watch shows such as Dancing on Ice. I even tuned into Children in Need on Friday to watch Tess (who I thought was actually very good). I am not particularly fond of Brucie, although he does physically remind me of my late great uncle and Tess has her moments and I do enjoy seeing what she is wearing each week and mostly wondering who on earth picked it for her.

To be honest, as well as some of the couples can dance, it is not them I enjoy watching so much. It is the amusement of watching people who are not born or trained in dance or music attempting to ballroom dance, improving week on week (even if the judges don't acknowledge this). It is certainly not the judges that I watch the show for - I think the show would be vastly improved without their constant bickering.

But there has to be something else and I think it may be the celebrity attitudes and their relationships with their partners. For example, I read that Rachel hopes to relaunch her career off the back of Strictly and it does seem that she takes everything very seriously (i.e. I find the crying after being in the dance off odd, not her wish to put in many hours) and is allegedly rather off putting to the others before she show doing breathing exercises. I am not sure that the world needs Rachel's career, pretty as she is she doesn't appear to be able to sing. I wouldn't vote for her and if she left next week I wouldn't miss her. Likewise, Lisa, who I find to be extremely irritating and cannot see how she possibly pursued a career as a model and television presenter (although the show has proved an interesting insight into reasons Mr Clooney might have used to end their relationship)

On the other hand, some of the celebrities who have no dance training or pop careers who had no dancing ability were less watchable. Perhaps it was their less than charasmatic relationships with the professional dancers, but I did not miss Jessie and Gary nor did I find their routines anything less than an embarrassment to watch. John on the other hand has no natural dancing ability but is still very endearing and I enjoy watching his performances. I think his partner, Kristina's, choreography is outstanding. Jodie is another who is less than able to dance but has improved no end and I have enjoyed her performances.

Camilla is my favourite of the professional partners, so it is no surprise that I have enjoyed watching her and Tom dance, although I cannot decide if his now wife is insane or too nice to have moved around their wedding, allowed Camilla on the mini-moon and generally had her life disrupted by what boils down to Saturday night family entertainment. It certainly doesn't endure me to him...

I have read though, over the last week or so, that the judges and some of the professional partners are saying that John should have gone as he is making a mockery of the people that work hard and can dance. Only last week Tess said, however, that John was putting in the third most hours a week out of all the couples. It is quotes like this 'This is supposed to be a dance contest. Please, please, people at home vote for the dancing' which make me want to vote for John. It is an entertainment show featuring dancing. He is doing both things even if he cannot dance brilliantly. The public are asked to vote to save "their favourite". It all seems a bit much for people to be calling for John to resign from the show. Why should he?

Friday, November 14, 2008

One quote, 2 ways

Now, I may have watched the X-Factor once or twice but in general I do not care who wins nor the news/entertainment stories which surround it. I was interested in this though, which I am sure I first noticed on the BBC but can find no mention of it anymore. Quite why last years winner cares which singer wins is beyond me, but it seems odd that she is quoted as saying something in two different ways... (and for the record, I am sure that I read the Heat version on the BBC on Monday although their article mentions nothing now)

“It was a real shocker this week,” says Leona Lewis. “I wasn't outraged, screaming at the TV and stuff, but I was surprised.” (Heat Magazine)

Leona Lewis, last year's winner expressed her surprise at the outcome saying: "I was outraged, screaming at the TV and stuff. I was surprised." (Daily Telegraph)

And Leona Lewis, last year's winner, and Lily Allen have expressed their surprise at the outcome, with Lewis saying: "I was outraged, screaming at the TV and stuff. I was surprised." (Press Association report).

Or maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all. I'm sure newspapers edit quotes to fit their stance. It would just usually, to my mind, be Heat that sensationalised something rather than the Telegraph.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Colour Boards

Image from here via here

Some pretty colours to cheer up a grey and rainy day. Or perhaps these are more appropriate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tagged: Bookworm Meme

I have been tagged by The Cwtch, so here goes:

First off is "The Bookworm". The rules are that you have to open the nearest book to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence as well as the following few sentences. It has to be the closest book, not your favourite, or the most intellectual!

Well, the nearest book to me at present is Andrew Marr's A History of Modern Britain and says:

"The Church of England saw one of the sharpest declines in membership in the decade from 1935 to the end of the war, losing half a million communicants, down to just under three million. (Another half million would be lost by 1970 and more than a million by 1990.) The Roman Catholics rose in numbers after the war, perhaps because of Polish, Irish and other European immigration, while the Presbyterians and the smaller churches also suffered decline. Though the first mosque in Britain had been built in Woking, Surrey as early as 1889, there were few Muslims or Hindus."

Two things struck me whilst writing out that passage; (1) how appropriate that on the 11th November that the quote should be about the decade following the war and (2) who knew Woking and Surrey were so liberal as to have built the first mosque, and as early as 1889. Speaking of remembrance day there is another post to come on that subject later today.

Second Tag ( I have changed this to four not six as I have run out of writing time):

Things I Value

  • Freedom: As it is Remembrance Day perhaps I should start with this one. Freedom is something I value in many senses: the ability to act and think freely and to not be dictated to by state or religion, not to be subordinate to anyone or anything, the freedom to vote, for freedom of speech, for equal opportunities. Every time we have an election I always make sure that I vote: wars were fought for our democratic freedom, wars are being fought now to free other countries to allow them democratic freedom and less than a century ago women were not allowed to vote. Indeed, it was not until 1928 that women were allowed to vote and stand for election in the UK. But freedom should not be confused with the ability to do what one likes, come what may. That is not something I value.
  • Life and limb and being healthy: I value the fact that I am alive, that I am intact and healthy. It may not sound much but it is not something that everyone can take for granted. I also value living in a country with free health care to ensure that everyone has the ability to seek medical help.
  • Love and support of my friends and family: I feel so incredibly lucky to have parents who are still together as well as four grandparents, supportive parents-in-law, sisters, a brother and sister-in-law, and soon to be top of this list, a wonderful husband-to-be.
  • Sunshine and Rain: Whilst we often moan about the weather in the UK and I am no exception (see yesterdays post) we are so very lucky to live in a country which has seasons, proper seasons, and generally speaking a weather system which is not too extreme, i.e. no real droughts, or flooding of biblical proportions, or winters where everyone is snowed in for days, weeks, months on end.

Things I Don't

  • Incompetence: I think this probably goes against what I have said above, but people being incompetent really drives me mad.
  • Selfishness: While I could probably do to heed this myself, I also find this extremely irritating.
  • People who don't stand their rounds: If you don't want to participate in the round buying, don't accept drinks from other people. Just buy your own, but don't force people to have to point out when it is your round.
  • Vendors who add an extra mark-up when they hear the word 'wedding': It either costs that much or it doesn't. Stop trying to extort people for extra. Thankfully I think the lack of funds available to pump into expensive weddings will make vendors realise that they are lucky for the custom at all...

And now I tag: Suzi/Echo, Potty Mummy, Catherine and Rachel. Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rain rain go away

Or perhaps one of these images by my favourite illustrator, David Downton, would cheer me up.
More images to come.
Image by David Downton available from Fashion Illustration Gallery if you are feeling generous!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"It's a new dawn, a new day... and we're feeling good"

An historic day then, today (well, today in GMT times) as we learnt that Mr Obama has become the 44th President-Elect of the USA. I stayed up until I could keep my eyes open no longer, following the BBC, CNN and webchat on Iain Dale's diary. When Obama had taken over 100 of the electoral college votes to McCain's 34 I went to bed. I left the TV on though and woke, disorientated, a few hours later to hear Obama's acceptance speech. For the first time in a long time I feel ignited about politics, that people really did use their vote. For some reason I found the idea of ordinary Americans queuing for hours to cast their vote extraordinarily moving. Suddenly, it feels as if the world has caught up with itself. Where less than a century ago only male white citizens could vote we now have the most charismatic US (and dare I say it, world) President-Elect I have known in my lifetime. History was certainly made last night and I look forward to new, enlightened, changed times.

An historic day, today, in the UK as well. Bonfire Night, that oddest of British traditions, the celebration of a failure to blow up the houses of parliament by a one Mr Guy Fawkes (the ringleader of the execution of the plot rather than the ringleader itself) in 1605. 400 years later the celebrations are still marked by bonfires and fireworks and traditional food. An historic tradition that I don't think we are celebrating this year. In a time of belt-tightening it seems a little unsuitable to literally set fire to hard earned precious money.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

US Elections

20 years ago today I was a small girl of just 6 years old living in California because of her Daddy's job. We lived in a small town in Northern California, opposite the school which I attended. 20 years ago today my parents took me to the school where a polling station was set up, to see how the voting took place. Each person was given some pieces of paper and went to a small cubicle where they used a hole punch type device to make marks against the candidates. I didn't know much (i.e. anything) about politics but that trip to the polls, and the need to use my vote, stuck with me. In the diary which I kept of the whole trip, which turned out to be almost two years in the end, I have stuck in the spoilt voting card which the lovely people manning the polling station let me keep.

The next morning I woke up and went to school and knew that George Bush Senior had won. We all went out into the playground and spelt out 'Bush' in the playground as he flew over in his helicopter.

Today, tonight, I sit in my flat in London, watching the BBC and thinking back to that day in America, hoping that the people of America use their vote and make a better choice than they did that day when as a 6 year old, I learnt about using my vote.

Please Vote!

Rachel says it better than I can (as it is lunchtime and I am on a course)

"Dear American readers, If you are lucky enough to have a vote in the US elections, please use it. Even though the lines may be long, the system chaotic, the weather bad, your feet sore, the pollsters telling you that you don't need to, he'll win anyway...please vote. Thank you. Really, thank you. And I hope that you have a great day."