Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Drawing a line under 2014

"Don't let the door slam you on the butt as you leave!"

The less I say about 2014 the better. If we sum it up as "challenging", that will be an adequate enough adjective.

So. Onwards. 2015. 

The antibiotics are working incredibly well. My chest infection is much improved and there's even a small spring in my step again. It amazed me how awful I must have been feeling, now that I feel more myself. Still got a bit of a chesty cough, but the nasty rattle has gone.

I made mention to my lovely landlady that I would like to have a proper fire, could I please borrow her man to sweep my chimney (ahem). On return from my first outing for a week, everything was ready for me. The chimney had been swept and a fire laid out ready to go.

My first real fire!

That's right. I've been in England since 1988 and this is the first time I'd got around to having a real fire in my home. 

Pyromania runs in the family. My dad and brother used to build bonfires at the drop of a hat. Any excuse. I'm not really any different I've discovered. Having said that, Dave elbowed me out the way for a chance to play with my fire (no, it's not a euphemism, stop giggling in the back). 

This morning we went shopping for the proper accoutrements for my hearth. Because Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have a hearth. My fireplace, is no longer decorative. We bought all the things for my fire. And of course, once we got home, we had to make sure everything worked properly. After all, I wouldn't want to have had a duff poker (no really, stop sniggering, it's distracting).

I've still got some rearranging to do to get things just right, and of course I need a log basket. So, that's still to come. 

The New Year.

This New Year is about my creativity. I realise how much I miss writing for myself. There has been so much that has happened during 2014, that really brought home, how little I have to lose. It's time to stop making excuses and to start applying my imagination and perseverance to my laptop.

This New Year is about my health. Ending 2014 with a chest infection emphasised how much living well is not about so called "lifestyle choices" and more about being able to do the day to day stuff with energy and enthusiasm (I seriously lacked both in December).

This New Year is about cherishing my nearest and dearest. It's never too late to annoy the crap out of my Boy and Dave. I want to have more fun doing stuff with both of the men in my life. And yes, just because Boy is all grown up and manly-like, he's still Boy to me. It's also important to me to spend more time with the lovely people in my life. Old, new and good friends.

These three areas are where my focus will primarily rest. There are other things I would like to look into. There's the counselling course I'll be starting next week. And I'm also wondering about volunteering in my local community. But these are side issues at this point and I suspect as I get further along into 2015 more opportunities will pop up.

Darlings, I wish you all good health, oodles of wealth, lots of fabulous moments with friends and loved ones and as much joy and fun as you can possible cope with.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

First Christmas in the Country

What can I say? Boy is home. 

There's a ham baking in the oven. Boy is killing things on Halo 2. My world is as it should be.

When we started this year off, I had no idea what was coming. It's been a year full of things that don't ever get mentioned and should never be mentioned in those round robin letters that people include in Christmas cards. 

There hasn't been a part of my life that hasn't been thoroughly shaken; and while I'm still standing, I do feel somewhat bruised and fragile. The time off I'm taking over the festive period is to rest up. I've still got the dregs of a cold I suffered a few weeks ago; it's happily brewing in my sinuses. I think it's probably time to talk to a consultant about having everything flushed out, but I haven't got any resilience left and an op would flatten me. That's okay. I've got the time to rest and recover and if I'm frustrated by my lack of progress, I know trying to push through would only drag it out for longer.

This is the longest Boy has been in The Cottage. Even though he's still getting used to the space (I moved while he was at uni), he seems much happier here. We are so very blessed indeed that we can be here and breathe for a bit. 

Boy took me shopping last night to the big supermarket just outside of Norwich. There, the other shoppers were grimly focused on the task at hand, pushing past and scowling randomly at tins of baked beans. 

The country life is taking some getting used to. I insisted Boy drive me to the local Co-op for some last minute purchases, I decided I had to make ponche crema (Trinidadian eggnog) today and get some more milk (I've been drinking gallons of tea lately). It's just ridiculous! People were relaxed, smiling and making eye contact. Strangers in the queue actually struck up conversations! 

I could get used to this life. 

I'm not sure what 2015 holds. I have a list of things I would like to do:

- get back to my fitness regime
- complete and market two manuscripts
- do some counselling courses

But I'm sure Life has other Plans for me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Revolting Consumer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have developed a recent problem - I have become a rebellious consumer. I don't know why I've suddenly been struck with this deep seated need to be treated like a person, a human being, rather than an account number.

I don't want my human interaction to be dictated by a script. I want to be greeted by a cheerful voice on the end of the line, to have a bit of a laugh. To have lighted the load of having to part with my hard-earned cash with a bit of banter, or to access a necessary service.

It started with Virgin Media when I moved out to the Country. As they could not provide a service out in the sticks and as I was still in contract, they charged me for £200 for the pleasure. I'd been a loyal customer since way back, when they bought my custom from Cable and Wireless. Yes, that loyal. The fact that I would be returning to Norwich, probably within 12 months was of no interest. Then they insisted on my returning their equipment in a highly convoluted manner. They were willing to waive £50 if I recommended Virgin to the next owner of the flat. I told them to get stuffed. I recommend on basis of service, not bribery. I dropped off their equipment at the Virgin Shop as I told them I would and I will never be a Virgin Media customer again.

I just did some basic maths. If my annual payment for their service is £480 and assuming that I would still be accessing their service until I was say, 80 years old, not taking into account inflation and the 12 months when I wasn't their customer, they've kissed goodbye £17,280. You'd have thought that £200 would have been worth it for a loyal customer of 14 years.

A few years ago, I went to The Lemon Tree in Norwich for a massage, a facial that sort of stuff. I drifted off to somewhere else and then stopped frequenting beauty parlours. Four months ago I received a text from The Lemon Tree with a beauty offer. I'm sure some women would be pleased. I'm sure some people would shrug and just delete. 

My mobile phone is my personal communication device. I don't give it out to companies to contact me. I started carrying one with me when Boy first went to school, so I could always be reached. I am a member of the Telephone Preference Service for both my landline and my mobile phone. The cold caller who greeted me with the words "This is an urgent call for Ms Blackthorn, for your PPI claim..." got a tirade of abuse and suddenly couldn't manage to transfer me to her manager. 

I texted back The Lemon Tree and nicely asked them to take me off their lists. Both the number that had texted me and the number quoted in the text body. The next month, after I received their offer of the month, I went in and politely asked the girl on reception to remove my details from their marketing literature. The month after that, I emailed their info email account and said that it was going to be the last time I asked nicely for them to take me off their lists.

On Saturday, I lost my cool when I got their latest offer of the month. On Sunday, I amused myself by sending pictures of flags to the text given in the body of the text.

I started with Armenia, Afghanistan and Antarctica. Other people joined in. The next suggestion was Mauritius. 

Eventually, it was suggested I could block the number, which I did. But actually, I deeply resent.

I did not give the business my permission to use my number for marketing purposes. I asked nicely and politely to be removed from their marketing lists. Tell me, as a woman who wants to fee indulged by an experience in a beauty parlour, how is ignoring her wishes, good business practice? 

I'm sure as you read this you're thinking "bloody hell woman, just block the number and leave it", but how about this as thinking fodder:

Businesses are in business to provide product/service to their customers. I am a consumer, a customer. I would like to give my custom to people/businesses who are nice to me, who are fun to deal with and who provide a good product or service.

Virgin Media didn't treat me like a customer. They treated me like a number. An inconvenience. They didn't respect my long-term intention to remain a customer. My business wasn't that important to them. They have other customers.

The Lemon Tree, didn't listen to me. Another fundamental lack of respect. How could I put myself in their hands for a massage or a facial or waxing? Treatments which potentially put me in a vulnerable position in the first place. Am I exaggerating? How would you like to undress in front of someone, have their hands on your naked body, without trust and respect? A bikini wax? I understand their marketing person is not the beauty therapist. But here's the thing, they still represent their business.

National Flag of Mauritius

I am a marketing person. I understand the desire to reach out and engage with your customers. To promote your business. I really do get it. I understand how hard it is to turn your activities into direct sales. 

I know some reading this will say "get over it, it's the way that it is." But the fact of the matter is, it's not just business blatant disregard for their customers, this lack of respect exists throughout society and on a fundamental level in our government institutions as well. 

But I'm just a number, I don't count. My opinion doesn't amount to any change at all. I should lump it. Suck it up, Man Up and go spend some more money like a good little consumer.

Here's the thing, I have many numbers and they aren't me. I am committed to making a difference. I vote with my feet and my mouth. I talk to other people who vote with their feet and their mouths. The democratic process will only evolve, if we the voters, engage with it. By the way, if you haven't registered to vote, here's the link

If you don't vote, someone else will.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Spoilt Girl

It's true, I've been spoilt. These last seven days have been proof of this. I am a spoilt brat. In the last week, I have had cause to take to social media to have a middle-class rant, worthy of The Guardian newspaper.

It started innocently enough. Last Friday, I stopped off at a diner for something to eat. It looked like it would be good. The decor was 50's all baby pink and baby blue, with placard Elvises and Marilyns on the walls. But Ladies and Gentlemen, there were warning signs. 

In and amongst the 50's rock'n'roll atmosphere...they ruined it by playing the Tamla Motown hits from the 60's. I shit you not. It was 60's soul rocking the joint. Don't get me wrong, I like 60's soul. No such thing as too much Diana Ross. Worse! I spotted next to the triptych dedicated to Sandy and Danny...London 60's posters. Pfft. What can I tell you? I was surprised. But still, I ordered a burger and chips, telling myself these inconsistencies are easy to make. They don't matter.

Then the burger arrived. 

I'll just leave you with this: cheap roll that dissolved in the burger fat; gristly, greasey burger and styrofoam chips. I stopped eating half-way and left. I regretted spending the £8.20 and the 600 calories I ingested. Don't worry. The burger had it's revenge. I had heartburn for hours later.

Dave and I went to Warwick for the weekend. The UKBC's (that's UK Barista Championship.Coffee, not law) heat was being held at the University of Warwick and although Dave wasn't judging this year, he likes to keep involved. As for me, you know I'll turn up at the opening of an envelope. 

We trudged around historic Warwick in the damp and grey, which granted would make any UK city look as appealing as a regurgitated jelly fish. We declined the £6.00 carpark fee and £18.00 per adult entry fee to Warwick Castle and instead, walked around some more until we found the Tourist Information centre. 

Saturday night, university city...awesome. Live Music. Or so I thought. Or rather, hoped. If there was live music happening somewhere in Warwick last weekend, the two lovely women ringing round all the venues they could think of, couldn't find it. Not even in a smokey pub. We did however, have a lovely cuppa with matching china in a warm and cosy tea room. Which at 3.30 in the afternoon was the most buzzing aspect about the whole city. We left Warwick and Dave showed me Banbury and Stratford (and Shakespeare's old house, obv). I have to say I liked Banbury. I'd like to go and spend more time there in daylight. I wasn't too bothered about Stratford. I crossed it off my list.

I did have a lovely time away, despite my whinging. It was good to get out of Norfolk and experience a different way of being. It was also excellent to return.

The thing is, you can have a gourmet burger in Norwich for the same money as I paid in the diner. The homemade bread roll cuddling up to the handmade patty, chances are excellent that it actually would be cow (unless you asked for a different type of animal/vegetable). And knowing some of the places we frequent, the cow would have probably spent her time running around in a field with her mates all her life, only to come into the barn every night for her usual massage with Patchouli oil. 

We went to a gig on Wednesday night. It was great. We saw Clive Gregson at Bedfords. Don't know who he is? Here's a clip (not from the gig).

Did I mention he was then off to open for Jools Holland the next day? Click here if you fancy seeing a little bit more about the evening.

Yeah, okay. So perhaps I just needed a break from Norwich. I just needed to take stock and smell the M11. I've been spoilt in Norwich. Where there's fabulous live music being played most nights. Where there's great coffee and great food and you don't feel bullied into using chain restaurants because the other local alternatives are too expensive or too questionable. 

Last year, I floated the idea to Dave that we should spend every evening for a month, looking for live music in Norwich. I reckon there would be very few days without something happening. I think it would be a totally fun project to do next Spring, though it might become a bit expensive with the tickets etc. I'll leave that thought to simmer away on the back burner  for now. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to lose two days....

This weekend, I lost two days. A decade before, it might have happened because of a Saturday night gone wonderfully right - with merriment and lots of alcohol. I'd have been sitting on my arse, holding my head gingerly, trying to tell myself off. Not this weekend. This weekend, the most fun thing I did was contemplate the inside of my eyelids and hang on to my breakfast.

I know, original party-girl, right?

I have had a couple of migraines before. It's not a regular thing, thank goodness, or I'd be forced to think of amputation. Of all the ailments to have, it's got to be one of the most, frickin' tedious. I've decided of all the ailments I could possibly suffer from, the one that I'm not going to have again is that.

There are good drugs for migraines now. If you take them as they hit, they are supposed to stop it in its tracks. I'm told. If you get them regularly, they must be a God-send. I don't. All I had was my normal drugs and I didn't bother to take them. They wouldn't have hung around too long, so I had to be big and brave and tough it out.

Let me tell you, lying in a dark room with nothing to do, sucks. All of the stuff I like to do if I'm not going to get up and be productive: reading, watching crap tv...hurt. It's boring as fuck. 

My stomach still doesn't like me very much, my head doesn't care for me much either. Ya boo sucks to both of them. I'm so fed up of being fragile. A stiff wind blows and I collapse in a heap. I haven't moved for weeks now. I'm really struggling to do more than the necessary. But ya boo sucks to that too. 

Moving on up. I'm bored with the whinge. I'm missing out on the good stuff. Great opportunities have passed me by and it's not good enough. Onward and upward.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Life as a journey

It's funny, I'm 44, technically (statistically) I'm at the mid-point in my life. I lost the first 20 years of my life growing up, doing school things, leaving home. The last 24 years has been a bit of a mish-mash really as I managed to fly in the face of any kind of life-stage planning. I really did things in a mixed up manner: left home, got a job, got married, had Boy, started a degree, got divorced, finished degree, got a job, hated job, started a degree, got a job.

My work in marketing at Insight has been the longest I've ever worked anywhere and it's fast getting to the point whereby I'll have been there longer than I was married! The only constant in my adult life has been Boy. The flat was a constant for 15 years and I'm not at all sorry to be shot of it. I'm only sorry I didn't get shot of it when I first moved out, I could have used the money to invest in another property. But there you go. It's easy to say that in hindsight. I obviously wasn't ready to let it go at that point. I still had romantic illusions about it as a home. I can't wait for it to be sold. I've been told that's likely to be in 3-4 weeks time. I don't see it myself, but it will go. That's all that matters right now. It will go. 

Driving home today, I realised I'm quite excited about the future. I'm looking forward to next year, even though it's a big, blank sheet of paper. I think that's why I'm so excited. I don't know the way Life will unfold, it's just a bud right now.

2014 sucked arse. It really did. It's got another few weeks before it permanently buggers off, to bite me again, but I'm keeping it on a short leash with a stick close to hand. I think about that amazing New Year party we went to and how I'd think with such a great start the year would have been awesome. But no. 

On the whole, I have few regrets, remarkably few experiences that make me cringe. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, that's not a bad thing at all. Especially since I'm not going to get a do-over.

I attacked my monobrow this afternoon. The magnifying mirror might be a necessity for tackling the caterpillar above my nose, but it doesn't half show off the wrinkles and parts of my skin that are struggling with gravity. It seems I'm no longer 21. Who'd have thought eh? Hah!

As the years go by, I realise how comfortable I am being me. I don't have a typical Life Path and I certainly couldn't cope with it, even if I'd have had a serious opportunity to do Normal. In fact, I'm not sure what "normal" is anymore. Perhaps there are some "normal" people out there...I bet they don't blog.

Anyway, after having spent the majority of my day writing, I'm going to blitz my soup and see if anyone wants to share. I don't intend to get dressed tomorrow, therefore, if you don't like onesies, don't call round!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Notes from the mid-Life Crisis

These are just a few of the thoughts I've had recently, in no particular order, because that's pretty much the way I think...

  • I like living in the country. I like the silence and the darkness.
  • It's funny, but apart from the deer, I see exactly the same species here, as I saw at home. I prefer being here.
  • I'm not enjoying the commute. 
  • I try to leave the house at 7.30. I am usually not successful. 
  • If I leave 5 minutes late, it adds another 15 minutes to my journey. If I leave at 8 am, I still arrive at work at 9 am. Go figure.
  • My intention is to have that extra half an hour in bed tomorrow.
  • It's been a challenge to figure out how to continue to shop cheaply. The nearest big shop is a Co-op, which adds at least another £10.00 to my weekly shop. 
  • Calling into Lidl, my discount supermarket of choice, after work requires a lot of will power. I'm usually so knackered after my working day.
  • However, if I do that, the traffic has a chance to clear a bit. 

  • I called round the flat. I picked up a few bits. Locked up and left.
  • I don't miss it.
  • I don't regret leaving there.
  • Technically, I'm living in a bungalow.
  • That's like living in a flat on the ground. But with lots more space than I had before.
  • I definitely like it. I didn't think I would like living in a bungalow. But I do. 
  • I'm beginning to think past my year here. Wondering where I'd like to go next. 
  • I'm not sure I'll be ready to move back into Norwich. 
  • However, as I don't know what I'll be feeling like in 11 months time, I'm keeping an open mind about things. 
  • It's good to have options. 

  • I ran the other day. 
  • It was so good to move again.
  • My back has hated me since. It seems I have to work on building up the strength in my muscles before I can go back to running.
  • I look like a bright lemon knob when I run.
  • Don't care. I don't want to be flattened running on country roads.
  • Besides, it's not like I look wonderful when I run anyway.
  • I have started on my 5-a-day diet again. Once I've got that sorted, I'll start upping it. My aim is for 9-a-day. You know I like a challenge.
  • I am also trying to cut down sugar.
  • I had an iced donut at work today. It tasted magnificent, but it left me feeling very weird for hours after. 
  • Fatigue is still dogging my heels. 
  • This weekend, I am starting my fitness routines again.
  • My aim is to start off very gently and build up to my previous levels.
  • I also want to get into meditating regularly. I'm still very sporadic with my meditation practice.
I took a quiz in The Guardian this week. It turns out that I'm neither happy, nor unhappy. Neutral, describes my results. I felt that was pretty accurate. I've lost that awful trapped/claustrophobic feeling. I wake up every morning and feel blessed. I am truly grateful for the life I lead. I've been very lucky.