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.

Waiting for Paint to Dry

Yesterday evening, I thought I'd finished the triptych. I kicked back, drank a glass of raspberry beer and contemplated my work. As I co...