Bits and Bobs · Living the Good Life

Too much stuff!!

I find myself exclaiming this rather a lot lately.  It feels like we are drowning in a sea of stuff.  Junk, crap,  stuff we bought or were given and have either never or rarely used, never liked or which has now been superseded by yet more STUFF.    On those (rare) occasions when I’m in housework mode, I sometimes end up with piles of stuff in my arms trying to find a place to put it.  (What I really should do is sort it all out but y’know, time and always something more interesting to do!)

In all seriousness though, it does seem to me like we as a community, a society, certainly some of the planet, are in real danger of having so much unneeded stuff (there must a better word!) that it will bury us one day.  Why do we keep buying this crap?  I’m not a fan of shopping as a pastime and my husband and I really do try to minimise the amount of new items we buy, not always successfully.  I LOATHE Black Friday and the consumerist binge that seems to get worse every year from, oh about this time onwards, as people get all worked up over what to buy other people for Christmas.  A lot of which ends up being unwanted clutter and junk and either ends up in a charity shop, or worse, in landfill.

On that note, I was recently browsing in a second-hand shop (part of my #dontbuynew aspiration).  The amount of duplicated items was unreal – ten or fifteen copies of the same book, countless plastic toys, and ornaments.  Oh the ornaments.  Mementoes from long-forgotten holidays, commemorative plates from various royal (yes, even here in Ireland) and national events, and quite a few ornaments/plates/plaques to mark various wedding anniversaries.  I’m not talking about personalised ones with names, dates etc, just the generic ones like this –

25th wedding stuff
Dustcatcher!

Why?? Why do we buy this stuff?  All that will happen is it will sit on a dresser or shelf somewhere and some poor sod will have to take it down and dust it.  Life’s too short!

Anyway, later that same day I found myself in a branch of TK Maxx, not a shop I’d ever spent much time in as I thought they only sold clothes but I had 20 minutes to kill and discovered they sell housewares, kitchen stuff, nice stationery and best of all a small selection of books.  (If I have to spend time browsing in a shop those things suit me far better.)  Then I came across this –

stuff boxes clutter
Houston, we have a problem

Yes, a box marked Stuff in which to put stuff. Seriously, if we are now using up valuable natural resources and energy to make empty boxes just to hold more stuff, then we really have lost the run of ourselves completely.   I’m not opposed to storage boxes completely, more to the mindset whereby we’d sooner buy boxes to put ‘stuff’ in, rather than reducing the amount of stuff we have.  I’m not going all KonMari here, the day anyone catches me thanking my possessions for helping me through another day, they can have me committed.   For me, its a sign that its time to declutter more thoroughly.  I thought I was fairly good at decluttering until I found six operating manuals yesterday, three of which were for items we don’t even own anymore….

Its the volume of unnecessary, unneeded and frequently unwanted STUFF we seem determined to inflict on each other that baffles me the most.  Its like people feel obliged just to buy you something – anything – because its Christmas.  And Christmas does seem to bring out the worst elements of this.  Who really wants the gadgets that you’ll use maybe twice, the gift sets of toiletries with all that useless (and often non recyclable) packaging, and innumerable other items of tacky, poorly made TAT and CRAP  (now called novelty gifts) that will be appearing in a shop near you in the next few months weeks.  And that’s without mentioning the Christmas themed cushions, bed linen, aprons, teatowels etc that people rush out to buy, never mind the fact they have perfectly good equivalents already at home and the Christmas ones will be stored away for 11 months of the year (adding to the clutter!)

How about we all stopped mindlessly buying stuff and spent a little more time thinking about what we need and what we might really like to give as a gift?  If there is someone you feel you should buy a gift for, then what about a bottle of wine?  Or some delicious nibbles and treats?  A plant for the garden (if they are gardeners), or a gift voucher for a pampering session?  Ask yourself before you pay for that useless ornament, novelty gift or gift sets of toiletries – would I want to be given this?

Before you ask, no I’m not the Grinch, I happen to love Christmas.  But I like a simple Christmas, a simple life in fact where we are not surrounded by so much stuff we feel like we can hardly breathe.  Just stop and think before you buy more stuff.  The planet and your sanity might well thank you for it.  Not to mention your wallet.

#dontbuynew

 

 

Bits and Bobs

Why I think Channel 4 are wrong to show the Diana tapes

I’m not a royalist, but have long found the institution of the royal family fascinating. I remember vividly – as do most people alive at the time – where I was when I heard that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in Paris. I watched the TV coverage and a week later I watched her funeral. I didn’t understand then and I still don’t understand the outpouring of what to me seemed like hysterical grief from people who had never met the woman. However, more than enough has been written on that subject without me adding to it.

Last week I started watching the programme about Diana as remembered by her sons. I’m not really sure why I wanted to watch it, but while it was quite a moving tribute to a clearly much loved and much missed mother, it wasn’t really that interesting. (I nodded off towards the end) So when I heard about the programme to be broadcast tonight which – as far as I can tell – largely consists of videos made of Diana when she was having training in public speaking, it didn’t strike me as something I’d be bothering to watch. Over the next couple of days press stories emerged about the subject matter of at least some of the tapes. Two that stuck in my mind were that Diana apparently discussed her sex life with Charles and also an affair she had. Channel 4 have described the programme as “Brand new documentary of Diana at her most candid, natural and charismatic which provides valuable insight into one of the most iconic women of the late 20th century”

I haven’t followed all the debate around this, but it feels wrong to me that this material be placed in the public domain. I do not care about anyone’s sex life other than my own and I cannot see how conversations Diana was having which (I assume) she did not intend to be made public, can now be considered in the public interest. If she had not died, would these tapes be broadcast now? No, of course not, because she’d have every lawyer at her disposal making damn sure they were not shown. If they were to be shown fifty years after her death would I watch them? No, because I just can’t see how this can be considered a serious insight into Diana’s life and personality. Its just prurient gossip and I’m disappointed in Channel 4 for showing it.

Bits and Bobs · History · Politics

RTE’s Rebellion – final thoughts

The first big TV programme of RTE’s 1916 commemorations finished on Sunday night. I watched all five episodes with decreasing enjoyment as the weeks went on. So here’s my final thoughts. It wasn’t complete garbage, but it wasn’t great either.

My main problems with it:

* the inaccuracies throughout – I accept that a lot of viewers would not have been aware of them but as the whole drama was about one of the major episodes in Ireland’s history I don’t think it was unreasonable to expect that the details could have been sharper.

* the whole storyline with the character of May was appallingly lame and hackneyed and added nothing to the drama, if anything it took from it.

* while I felt the acting overall was good, there were some rather weak portrayals and in particular I felt Camille O’Sullivan’s portrayal (betrayal??) of Countess Markievicz was little short of hammy.

* the character of Lizzie – while generally I liked her – was just a bit too gushy and times and no way would she have spent days (weeks?) in an armed rebellion looking like a glammed up Virgin Mary in that coat and dress. (Although I did LOVE the coat)

I think RTE overhyped it and hence expectations were high. It does seem to have inspired some viewers who wouldn’t know much about the personalities involved to go away and read up on it which is most definitely a good thing. Or maybe they said that just to shut me up from saying “But the Countess wasn’t like that!!” !!!

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

February photo a day challenge

January vanished in this house in a cloud of colds coughs and chest infections. Thankfully we are all recovered now and what passes for normal service is being resumed i.e daughter has gone back to school today after two weeks off and I’m picking my way through the clutter that sickness and lethargy create and trying to make some sense of it. Isn’t it crazy how quickly you lose touch with things on the outside when you’re not well? Having spent most of the last two and a half weeks in the house, I’ve spent more time than usual on social media. In doing so I spotted that one of my sister bloggers over at Simply Homemade from Irish Parenting Bloggers is running a challenge for February – namely that you take a photo each day of the month and each day has a specific theme. I like the idea of this, especially as it will challenge me to be more visual. I’m more into words than images so this will be interesting for me. (Yet here I am writing about it!!) I’ve even joined Instagram to take part in it! All the info you need is right here

Better open my eyes and see what I can capture for today!

Bits and Bobs

I only wanted a pair of jeans!!!

I needed a pair or two of jeans, as all my other ones had either died a death – think patches upon patches – or no longer fitted comfortably.  Now as I am currently working to lose a bit of weight and tone up, and thankfully beginning to see some changes, I decided it wasn’t worth buying decent, well cut, slightly pricey jeans as  – hopefully – they would be too big in a few months.  Cheap and cheerful seemed the way to go.  All I wanted was everyday jeans for running around in, that I could wear with boots or runners or shoes and with a variety of tops.  Not too difficult a mission you might think.  Well it seems that women can no longer just go into a shop and buy jeans.

Jeans were easy to find in every shop I went into, and I should add here that I hate clothes shopping, but then it got complicated.  I hoped to pick up a size 14 and a size 16 (cos I’m between the two sizes at present), try them on (hoping that the 14 would fit best) and then get a couple of pairs.  No such luck.  I was confronted with what to me was a mind boggling array of options and decisions to make.

Did I want bootcut, skinny, super skinny (not bloody likely), mid flare, mid rise, low cut, straight, mom jeans (actually maybe that was what I was looking for!!), boyfriend jeans, ripped jeans……..  For the love of god I just wanted a pair of jeans!!!!  After a few minutes my head was spinning.  I eventually selected a pair that seemed close to what I had in mind but then the issue of colour arose – just how many shades of blue are there???? woman-pulling-hair-out-clip-art-68089

Exasperated and bored senseless at this stage I grabbed two pairs and paid for them.  I had my daughter with me and as the shop I was in (the fourth shop that day I might add) does not have wheelchair friendly changing cubicles, I didn’t try them on.  Probably just as well.  I went for the 16’s and they are a little big (yay! but not so big that 14’s would have been better) which I don’t mind, but because I’m only 5 feet 2 inches they are rather long on me.  Long to the extent that I can only wear them with boots.  I never thought to check the length.  Feckity feckity feck.  They’ll have to do, I couldn’t face that again.  Jeans

 

 

 

Bits and Bobs

If I ever needed confirmation that I am not a girly girl!

I got it this morning. Anyone who knows me in real life will know that I am not interested in make up – own very little and use it very rarely – nor have I any fascination in fashion and clothes. Not criticising those who are interested in all of this, it’s just not me. However I am rather partial to nail polish. Or at least to buying it, I don’t wear it much now either, in between housework (bleurgh), gardening (yay) and life in general I just never get round to it. But I will still pick up the odd bottle if a colour takes my fancy.

So this morning I decided to catch up on a bit of reading, both online and in an actual book ( 🙂 ) and thought I might paint my nails while I was at it. The whole works now, base coat, two coats of colour and top coat. So I selected an unused colour from my stash, sat down at the kitchen table with book and laptop and started.

Its now nearly an hour later and I am waiting for the top coat to dry on my right hand (so am typing this left handed). My eyes are tired from looking at the screen, I’ve read a chapter of my book and my to do list looks like it might lose out against the clock. Not for the first time!    This carry on just takes too long, no wonder I don’t do it very often.    Oh and you’ll like this – the colour I used is called ‘Keep Calm and Play’.  Is someone taking the proverbial???  Its nice though, isn’t it?

Keep Calm and Play!
Keep Calm and Play!

 

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

The A-Z of me

A couple of weeks ago some of the very talented writers in the Irish Parenting Bloggers group started writing A-Z’s about themselves.  As ever, I’m a bit late to the party, but was tagged by Clare who writes at The Clevs to add mine, so here goes!

A  One of the things that infuriates me is apathy.  I really can’t get my head around the mindset of people who have no interest in what’s happening in the world, or who just sit around and whine things are bad but do nothing about it.  Drives me demented.

B All I want in life isBooks. Well there was never going to be anything else for B really was there?  I have everything in this list except not enough of 5 and 11 and will always need more 12’s.

Chocolate, crisps and cake, three of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to snacking.  I’ve never tried to make crisps or chocolate, but love to make cake……. These were my first attempt at hot cross buns (before baking)DSCF3332

D  Dandy Walker Syndrome, the rare neurological condition our beautiful daughter was born with nearly eight years ago.  Becoming a parent for the first time changes your life in ways you could never have imagined, but this diagnosis (which came prenatally) took our lives in a direction we never knew existed.

E  I love elephants, no idea where this came from or why but I just love them.

F    I can’t remember when I first heard the word feminism or discovered what it meant (and then went on to discover how it has many different interpretations) but I vividly remember the first time it was used in a derogatory sense towards me. Yes it was the classic “You must be a bra-burning feminist then” when I expressed an opinion aged 15 in the school library that I didn’t think it necessary for women to change their surname upon marriage.  F is also for Fionnuala, my amazing and adored daughter.

G  On a good day (and today is dry at least!) I can easily spend an hour just sitting in the garden listening to birds and daydreaming.  A great way to switch off.

H  my truly wonderful husband. Falling in love with him changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, and has enriched it immeasurably. And following on from F above, I didn’t take his name when we married. As he put it so well when talking to another person “She has a perfectly good name of her own.”

I  Imagination  – mine is always on the go.  Sometimes it would be nice to turn it off for a little while.

J  Growing our own fruit and veg has made me come up with ways to preserve our bounty.  Jam is something I made rather a lot of last year – gooseberry, gooseberry & elderflower, blueberry, marrow & orange, marrow & ginger, blackberry & apple (ok that was jelly).  I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet but there’s a nice feeling in seeing the jars all full and neatly labelled.

K  One of my forms of therapy is knitting.  I don’t claim to be very good at it and I’m not terribly fast, but I enjoy it and it helps me to relax and unwind.  Apart from when a pattern goes wrong and I curse it to the pit of hell.

L   Liverpool, a city very dear to me and the football team I’ve supported since I was 6 years old. The latter fact played a small part in my choices for university applications and I’ve never regretted going there as a very nervous fresher 23 years ago.  Great city, great people.  I ended up staying for 10 years.

Money.  Like many people I spend a certain amount of time having to think about money and usually how to make it go further.  I’m not however motivated by it and have zero desire to accumulate a lot of it.  Once I have enough to meet my living expenses I’m not bothered about having more.  Here’s another mindset I can’t understand: people who have made more money than they could spend in 20 lifetimes yet they carry on making more.  WHY???? A certain wealthy businessman who lives in Malta comes to mind here.

N Current affairs, politics, news, I’m a news junkie.  Two daily newspapers, the news/current affairs radio programmes, never miss at least one evening news show on TV.

O   I hold very strong opinions on a lot of topics and am not afraid to express them.  Sometimes this annoys people. See F above.  However, I maintain – well I would wouldn’t I ? – that my opinions are as valid as anyone else’s.  And hopefully better thought out than some.  I am working hard on listening better to other people’s opinions too.

P  powerPower. I had some fascinating discussions and arguments about power and its meaning, use and abuse while studying community development last year.  Still pondering this one through but I think its something we hand over way too easily.  And see A above.  

Q  As a child I asked questions constantly.  Why this? Why that?  Why does…. ? why doesn’t…….?  I keep questioning, always will.

R  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet apparently.  They are my favourite flower, apart from yellow ones.  They don’t feel or look right to me.

  Being by the sea is one of my favourite places.  It doesn’t matter which sea or where I’m near it.  But I wouldn’t want to live on the coast  – I like to keep it as somewhere to go for a treat and to relax.

T  I was never that keen on or interested in gardening as a child and teenager (probably not that unusual) but developed an interest in growing food around the time I really learnt to cook.  This would be 20 odd years ago now.  Over the years this has deepened and now we grow some fruit, some veg and herbs.  So why is this not under G for garden or F for food?  Cos deep down I really want to be Barbara from The Good Life!! Love the idea of self-sufficiency and hope to make more moves in this direction.  The Good Life

U University.  Sometimes I feel I didn’t make enough of my time at university.  Don’t be too surprised if I end up at one again in the not too distant future!

V  Vino. Red for preference.  There is something incredibly relaxing for me about sipping a glass of good red on a Friday evening.  A good way to start the weekend!

W  Walking.   I have started to walk between 4 and 5kms every day, don’t hugely enjoy it (I could be at home reading a book!!!) but I can feel the benefits so will persevere!

X  Xenophobia – the fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or their politics or culture.  That is the definition from the online Collins English Dictionary.  I cannot, and never could, understand prejudice.  Its the most frightening mindset out there and I do my best to challenge it when I hear it.

Y  I’ve only done Yoga a few times, but every time I have loved it and found it a great stress reliever.  I would love to incorporate it into my weekly routine somehow.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  I love my sleep and I love my bed!  Curling up in there with a good book is a great pleasure.

Bits and Bobs · Books

A space of one’s own – soon to be a room

Like many other women I know, I have a place in our house where a lot of my work gets done. I’m not talking about housework or cooking, no rather the researching, reading, campaigning, blogging, organising, writing, tiny bit of crafting and big pinch of staring out of the window daydreaming that makes up my average working day.

My workplace – unsurprisingly – is my kitchen table. That will largely change at some point in the next few months when the office that my lovely husband is building for me is finished. He has done all of it by himself and is now at the point of roofing. I am getting rather excited by it now. But back to my kitchen table. Its nothing unusual or special, a maple (I think) table, 4ft by 2ft. Not terribly big but then neither is our kitchen.

This table is where we eat breakfast – which apart from weekends is a staggered affair, DH and DD have theirs at 6.45 and 7.20 respectively, and then I sit down to mine in perfect peace at 8.15 when they’ve gone. Its where DH and I generally sit with a cuppa when he gets in from work and chew over our day. Its where DD likes to play her toy piano – loudly. Its where we generally eat dinner, not always, And for me its where I spend a sizeable chunk of my weekdays.

I’m the first to admit I’m not the tidiest person in the world and while by and large I keep the house clean, it often resembles an explosion in a paper mill with wool, needles and pens thrown in for good measure. Most mornings my beloved husband has to move newspapers, books and notepads of mine before he can sit down with his breakfast. Is it any wonder he suggested I might like a dedicated office space?? Once everyone else has left for the day I generally give the kitchen a quick tidy up and going over and that includes ‘sorting’ out everything that has ‘somehow’ ended up on the table over the last 24 hours.

Our little girl has been off school the last couple of days with a bit of a dose so I’ve been largely confined to barracks and have spent a lot of that time curled up with her on a sofa. Today thankfully she seems to be on the mend and so I’m back at the table a bit. It occurred to me earlier that a glance at our kitchen table on any given day would give a good indication of what I’ve been up to or where my mind is. So here’s how it looks right now:
Kitchen table

What do we have? The laptop I’m writing this blog post on, the last two days newspapers, the ever present cuppa, my sewing box, my knitting bag, Roy Foster’s Vivid Faces, a notebook and my hairbrush. I think the presence of the latter is thanks to my daughter who likes to play with hairbrushes.  So, what do you deduce from that?  I finished knitting a wee hat earlier, I am a news junkie, some days I practically mainline tea, and I love history (and I’ve cooked up an interesting research project too but more about that another day).  Just an average day for me.  Other days there might be piles of posters to be distributed, or forms to be filled in but the basics would be much the same.

I am rather attached to my little workspace, even if I do have to clear it all off so we can have dinner.  But I’m REALLY looking forward to my new office where I can finally use the big desk (about 6ft by 3ft) that came out of a solicitor’s office in Liverpool many moons ago and has languished in our storage space for 12 years.  I can organise everything how I want it and I will know exactly what is in each pile and what I will do with.  I can finally get the two filing cabinets, two small desks, two printers and three bookshelves out of our daughter’s room and set up my work space to suit myself.  And you know the best bit of all?  I won’t have to clear it away at the end of the day!!!

A Year of Living Seasonally · Bits and Bobs

Ranting and loving for Valentine’s Day

So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I hated it in my teens when all the popular pretty girls in our secondary school got inundated with cards and flowers (the sixth form used to sell single roses which they would deliver to the classroom of your Valentine – I think the proceeds went to charity) and it very quickly escalated into a contest to see who could get the most. I never got – or for that matter sent – any, and in our school that singled you out for sneering and ridicule.

In my 20’s although I had some relationships I never actually managed to be in one on Valentine’s Day and by the time I was in my mid 20’s I was heartily (ha!) sick of the whole overblown marketing fiasco that I considered it to be.

Then I fell in love. Big time. And the man I fell in love with is very romantic. Not just in the hearts and flowers way but in the little gestures and moments that mean so much. I still have the roses (now dried) that he gave me on the Valentine’s Day he asked me to marry him. The first Valentine’s Day after we were married I sent a bouquet to him at work. Over the intervening years our lives have changed, and we agree that for us spending a load of money on flowers and gifts each Feb 14th is not what we want to do – we have other things we’d sooner do with our money and we mark the day each year in a way that means something to us. A couple of years ago we bought the box set of one of our favourite TV shows and had a lovely evening cuddled up watching it.

One thing that drives us both mad about the marketing of Valentine’s Day is the way so much of it seems to be saying that it is a day when men should buy things for the woman in their life. A lot of the ads I’ve seen and heard over the last few weeks have been “what should I get her? will she like this card? Is that a big enough bunch of roses?” etc etc. If Valentine’s Day is about (so the card companies tell us) celebrating love and romance and being with the one you love the most, then doesn’t that work both ways? I cannot think of an ad on mainstream TV or radio that I have seen or heard which portrays a woman choosing a Valentine’s gift for a man. Don’t even get me started on the dominance of heterosexual relationships in these ads!

You might say that’s just marketing and advertising, well maybe so, but I have seen on social media over the last few years a tendency amongst some women to expect gifts on Valentine’s Day from their husband/boyfriend yet not even consider that maybe it should be reciprocal. I know women personally who would be upset if they did not get a card/bunch of roses/chocolates tomorrow but have not bought their lover anything. They seem to see it as a day for women to be spoiled by men. Since when did this come about? And I know that not all women think that way so please don’t jump down my throat, but in my experience and observations there are a sizeable number that do. Rant over.

So how, you might wonder, am I going to spend Valentine’s Day this year? Well, firstly and most importantly, with the two people I love the most. The three of us (that’s me, husband and daughter just in case you were wondering) are going to Termonfeckin in Co. Louth to take part in Erin’s Run, a 5km run (in my case a walk) in memory of my friend’s beautiful daughter Erin who died last year. It’s also to raise money for BUMBLEance who do such an amazing job and get no state funding at all. Other very dear friends of mine will also be there – with assorted husbands and children – so I will get to spend some time with some of the other people in my life who I love and who mean so much to me.

In the evening we are treating ourselves to a great meal from a local restaurant that does take out, a good movie or two and each other’s company. Comfort, love and contentment. That’s all I want or need. However and with whomever you spend it, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Bits and Bobs

Ten signs I am middle aged

I’ve had an mixed relationship with my age over the years. As a teenager I couldn’t wait to be 25. I don’t know why 25 appealed, it just did. I used to assume that I would be married and have my first child by the time I was 28. Turned out to be 36. As I’ve gotten older its changed a bit. Now when people say they’d love to be younger I don’t understand why. And that got me to thinking that at nearly 44 I am probably officially middle aged. So I looked for some signs……

1. Watching teenagers having a snowball fight across one of the streets in our town yesterday and thinking how cold their hands must be.

2. Saying in my head (and occasionally out loud) “Jaysus that young one must be frozen” on seeing a young woman in probably her very early twenties out for the night in a very short and skimpy dress.

3. Referring to women in their early twenties as young ones.

4. Curling up on the sofa with a sigh of relief after a rare night out having kicked off uncomfortable shoes and changed into leggings and a tshirt to watch TV for a while

5. Admitting that a lot of women’s shoes are bloody uncomfortable.

6. Not needing to examine my face for lines any more. I know where they are.

7. Reading about some famous person who has achieved such and such by such an age and realising they are at least 20 years younger than me.

8. Not having a clue who most of the people on Celebrity Big Brother are. I don’t watch it but a few years ago I would have at least heard of them!

9. Having an increasing fondness for nostalgia programmes (that might have something to do with being a history nut)

10. Reading back over this list and realising none of this bothers me. In fact, most of it reads as quite sensible or logical (to me).

And that, my friends, for me is the true sign of middle age – acceptance and contentment with who and what I am.

Middle-age
(thanks to jokeido.com for the image)