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So soak me!


It’s been a week of controversy over the ice bucket challenge. I did it on Saturday, I selflessly attach the video here for your enjoyment. What’s prompted me to blog is the reaction of many people to this ‘challenge’. Two things in particular: firstly the implication that we’re so mean we have to be challenged to give to charity by doing ridiculous things to ourselves and posting them online, and secondly that all the challenge does is highlight that in many areas of the world, people would kill to have a bucket of icy water, let alone chuck it over themselves. So here are my thoughts on the matter*.

To respond to the idea that we are, to all intents and purposes, too mean to give to charity without a challenge to our egos: I think this is unfair. I personally give to charity whenever a friend is doing any sort of run, skydive, Sober September, Movember, sponsored walk, sponsored fast, sponsored ride or simply asks. I know, hand on heart, that I’m not mean. I’m skint, and I still give to charity when I’m asked. I don’t, however, give without being asked. I don’t think I’ve ever considered why not, except that unless it directly impacts me, i.e. a friend asks me to, I would consider that I can’t afford it. After all, £10 could go towards Nigel’s feed, shoeing, insurance or vet bills, my diesel and bills, food shopping, insurance etc etc. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. 

Then why are we so keen to post videos of ourselves getting soaked and shivering or taking selfies without makeup in order to give to charity? I say who cares, after all, if one of my friends who wouldn’t normally give money to charity or even thought of a charity to give towards without being prompted has donated then it’s a good thing. And I defy you not to laugh at some of them, and that’s a good thing too. There’s nowhere near enough laughter in the world.

So the second point. You’ll all have seen this picture going round social media:

ice bucket

My reply to everyone in the UK – please look out of the window. Cold water is one thing the UK will NEVER want for. If we lived in a desert country then tipping valuable water over ourselves would be selfish, stupid and wasteful. Maybe in the UK throwing sandbags at each other for fun would be a more valid point but in all honesty, that water ain’t gonna be missed. And hopefully you’ll think about choosing a charity which would use the money to directly benefit countries where children have to walk 3km to fetch a bucket of potentially filthy water. And that’s a really good thing – because I wouldn’t have thought of choosing one of them.

I think most of us are nominating charities which support something which we’ve all been touched by, be it cancer, Motor Neurone Disease or ALS, Parkinson’s Disease or MIND, your money helps. I’ve also read the articles which tell us the charities are mis-using the money or don’t know what to do with it. Well, personally I’d rather they had that problem than had too little to make a difference.

So, go on, soak me!

_________________________

* Usual disclaimer applies: these are my thoughts and opinions. I don’t ask or force you to read them, I don’t expect you to agree with them. Putting your opinions on t’interweb to be read by the world and potentially judged is scary enough. Please don’t add trolls:)

Desiderata


“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

(Bilbo Baggins, Lord of The Rings)

Being wanted, and being needed, aside from being completely different things, are two essential parts of my psyche. I have always wanted to feel needed, but only recently have I discovered the more important fact that I need to feel wanted. It’s not actually where I was going with this ramble, but it’s relevant because I think more of us feel that way than we acknowledge, even to ourselves.

We work so hard, or at least most of us do, or at least most of us put in so many hours doing jobs or parts of jobs we really don’t enjoy. Then we get home and we have to do more jobs we don’t enjoy: cooking (not in my case, I love that bit), laundry (how can one person generate so many pairs of dirty pants?), the washing up (as if the cooking wasn’t enough), hoover the stairs, clean the bathroom, scrub the toilets, dust EVERYTHING – the list is simply endless. And if you live with animals, those perpetual bringers of joy, bad smells and dead mice, cleaning the house is like painting the Forth Bridge.

There are two parts to my solution to this problem. The first is my new mantra “It’s FINE”. This doesn’t mean sticking your head in the sand and pretending there isn’t a problem when clearly, there is. It simply means accepting that making the effort is a really good place to start. If you make the effort to see your friends once a month, that’s a good start and your friends will not only appreciate the effort but they will understand that you’re doing your best. That you know your best is better than you are giving doesn’t matter. You can improve on a basic start but you can’t improve something which doesn’t exist.

DontletyoumindbullyyourbodyMy second resolution is that we need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to accept that life is tough, the world isn’t going to give us a break and that we have limited amounts of time and energy. To this end, going a bit easier on ourselves isn’t a cop out, it’s essential maintenance. Working to the limits of your energy 24/7 is neither healthy nor productive. Imagine if you drove a car like that. Result? Short-term burnout, and humans are no different. It also has the added bonus that being kind to yourself makes you kinder to other people. Charity begins in the home after all.

So for me, being kinder to myself is going to mean not getting upset if I run out of time to ride the horse or clean the bathroom, and I will learn to accept that as long as the kitchen sink is empty most mornings then that’s FINE.

After all, there’s more to life than a spotless house. Like wine. And food.

And above all, read this:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

 Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

 Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

 Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

 Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

 Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

 Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

 Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

 Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

 Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

 Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”


psychiatrist

Following a fragmented conversation with a single friend the other evening – we were both schooling our horses so interchanges only took place when we were passing (outdoor arena) – I have been musing on the move from singledom to coupledom and what we say to our single friends. Then this excellent blog was published and spurred me to make some observations.

Horses are therapy. They are a balm, a tonic for the soul, especially for single ladies. Horses do not ask you to keep your legs smooth, your bikini line neat, your eyebrows plucked, your makeup immaculate and they only protest when you REALLY pile on the pounds (wait for the bill from the vet/osteopath/chiropractor/masseur to tell you to go on a diet).

However, there are some ugly truths which single equestriennes really need to face up to:

1: You won’t meet the man of your dreams at the yard. At least, not if it’s the same small livery yard you’ve been on for the last 8 years, where no-one new arrives and no-one ever leaves. The only boys you’ll meet there are other people’s boyfriends, farriers and feed delivery merchants. The former you want to steer clear of and the latter two, well, that’s your call. You will of course come into regular contact with your vet. Assuming your vet is male, this is also not a good idea. Here’s why (although written about a female vet, you can see where I’m going with this).

2: There’s truth in the cliché that all men involved with horses are gay; horses do tend to attract guys who are more in touch with their feminine side. Admittedly not all of them: a large proportion of show jumpers are straight and there are some mad, bad and dangerous to know hunting and eventing boys. The point is that unless you’re out competing, hunting or work in the equestrian industry, these men are as accessible to you as Jonny Depp. If you’re lucky enough to have a straight, adult guy on your yard, the chance that he’ll be interested in anything other than his horse or his girlfriend are, unfortunately, slim.

3: Get off the yard. Go to a competition, clinic or local show, even it’s only to do a clear round. Work towards doing a dressage test, jumping bigger or getting out hunting. You’ll widen your social circle, you’ll be getting you and your horse fitter and you’ll be leaving behind the fence-leaning expert from the yard. I won’t say “you never know who you might meet” but you’ll definitely have a laugh.

4: Be social. Female riders are notoriously self-obsessed. We spend so much time and attention on our horses that we have nothing left to give socially. We’re either too tired to go out, can’t be bothered to make the effort to get clean or we have simply nothing to talk about except our horses. Be bothered. Try doing something a bit different: have a go at roller derby, join a choir, take up netball again. You’ll have a new set of friends AND you’ll have a whole new obsession and a group of friends to talk to about it.

Your horse may be your best friend and even your soulmate and being single means having the personal freedom to spend as much time with him or her as you like. And that’s ok. But if it isn’t enough, it’s up to you to change things.


It’s also worth mentioning that so SO often the shops who are the bane of our lives employ some of the most wonderful people. I lose count of the times I’ve said to the person on the end of the phone “It’s not personal you understand, I know this isn’t your fault”.

I’ve experienced customer service of the highest calibre from staff working for at least two of the companies topping my hate list. Helpful to customers in store, kind and understanding on the phone, willing to go an extra mile and always, always let down by the companies who pay them.

They are also let down by the minority jobsworths who can’t be bothered to answer the till-call, take a break whenever they think someone won’t miss them, don’t answer the constantly ringing phone and generally piss off their colleagues and customers.

It’s no surprise to us when we hear of suicides in assembly-line factories and workers ‘going postal’ – we shrug and nod and think “I’d probably go nuts too if I worked for them.”

So here’s to the angels employed by the a-holes, the diamonds in the rough. You’re doing a great job, we salute you and wish you better luck with your employers in the future!


It’s post Black Friday and Cyber Monday and once more we hear of banks defrauding their customers, shops refusing to give refunds and all the other general misery that starts to rear its ugly head around this season of goodwill. Shopping. Shouldn’t be hard should it?

This is how it’s gonna work.

1. I will walk into your shop / visit your website

2. I will select the goods I wish to purchase, with or without your help and advice

3. I will come to the till, at which point either I will pay for the goods and you will hand them over to me, or you will tell me the date they will be delivered and I will agree that my account will be debited on that day.

4. I leave your shop/website a happy customer

5. My goods arrive, I pay for them, I leave you a glowing review and my 350+ followers on Twitter get to hear how great you are.

This is how it currently works:

1. I walk into your shop / visit your website

2. I select the goods I wish to purchase, with or without your help and advice

3. I come to the till, at which point either I pay for the goods despite the fact that I couldn’t find a whole set and/or neither could you, or the one I could find was faulty/damaged; alternatively you tell me the date the goods will be delivered and take my money, giving me no guarantee that I will ever, in fact, receive my purchase.

4. I leave your shop/website feeling cheated and apprehensive

5. I recommend to all my 350+ followers on Twitter that they never buy anything ever again from your store/website.

Shops, this is not rocket science. When you sell goods, you should already own the goods (or at least the materials and the labour to make the goods) before you sell them to your customers. Then, when (if)  there is a problem, you can either refund or replace them. This is how it’s worked for hundreds of years – get the magic word there, worked

We don’t want to hear any of the following:

a) Sorry, we don’t know why your order is delayed

b) We can’t give you a refund over the phone, you’ll have to go back to the store you bought it from

c) It’s not our problem

d) There’s nothing we can do

e) That we have to call your horrible automated call centre – and inevitably wait on hold until the next ice age

All the above make your company seem not only callous, but demean the concept of customer service. When your automated on-hold voiceover actor says “Your call is important to us, please hold” we no longer believe you. The fifteenth time we hear that, it loses all value – to be honest it lost its value some time around 1982 but there you go.

Over the last month I have heard some real horror stories: small businesses having their mobile phones cut off and the company responsible denying all knowledge of it; a friend’s house broken into so an energy company could install a meter, and being charged for the privilege; I could go on. I could tell you about how desperately unhappy I now become every time I see the gouge out of the work surface in my new kitchen and knowing I’ve got all I ever will from the grasping, uncaring corporation who fleeced me for it. Middle class problems I know, but hey, I am middle class, and I pay for the other classes, so cut me some slack and let me have my problems.

Truth to tell, I think we, as the public, need to stop complaining to each other, stop relying on the Ombudsman to resolve matters (the fact that there is an organisation devoted to resolving customer service complaints says it all) and demand our rights from these companies who simply don’t care. They rely on us being too tired, dispirited and cowed to fight back. They know how hard we have to work to keep a roof over our heads, and that we don’t have the time or the energy to fight them on our own.

Or do we…

PBIntimidate


After last night’s comedy routine on the phone to Ikea, this morning has thrown some new and bizarre challenges at me. Despite a wonderful night’s sleep, I find myself being irrationally annoyed by many things today.

Of the things which are currently annoying me most are not hanging offences, but they appear to be getting my goat, tweaking my beard and getting on my chesticles. I’ve divided these into home and public based: 

  • people who ask for ‘half a teaspoonful’ of sugar/coffee/ricin (likely to get a whole spoonful of the last)
  • toothpaste dribblers (in the sink, not down jumpers, that’s just amusing)
  • soothing-voiced call centre operatives – don’t talk to me like I’m an imbecile. You’re the ones who cocked up. I’m shouting at you FOR A REASON.
  • the bloody English weather. Make your mind up already.

call centre

 

And office based:

  • Knee jigglers – MY SCREEN IS NOW BOUNCING. PLEASE STOP.
  • Stinky food eaters (ONLY ok if accompanied by profuse apologies and clear embarrassment, in which case I will make you squirm for as long as I feel like it before saying I don’t mind)
  • Whistlers (no-one knows how to whistle any more, at least, not like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQQ5sEOhbjQ)
  • Hummers (it doesn’t matter what you THOUGHT you were humming, it wasn’t recognisable)

Do please feel free to add to the list. I may do so myself. Do not judge me for commenting on my own post.


I am currently triumphing, in triumph, in the throes of triumph, however you want to (incorrectly) phrase it, for making a call centre operative laugh. When I say laugh, I don’t mean giggle in embarrassment (which they do surprisingly often) or laugh quietly AT me (which happens more often than we deserve), but full on, head thrown back belly laugh.

lionwitchwardrobe

I broke my wardrobe, and this is where the story starts. I decided to have the whole house rewired so to have the sockets in my bedroom replaced with shiny new ones I needed to move the enormous IKEA self-assembled monstrosity I had personally designed and put together. It was made so that I could open a sliding door and watch my telly while I was lying in my IKEA bed. Like I’m ever awake long enough to watch telly in bed! Hahahahaha. Sorry.

The situation was such that I was short on manpower and long on one very helpful (and strong) girlfriend, and we looked at this wardrobe and thought, hell, if I could assemble it it shouldn’t take a MAN to move it. So we heaved and shoved and both put our backs out and the upshot was (having forgotten to bolt the two frames together), one side slid sideways and the other side didn’t. And the front rail bent and the doors no longer slide and the wardrobe. Didn’t. Move.

So now I have a defunct socket behind a wardrobe with sliding doors which don’t, with a huge hole in the back which I had to punch out so I could remove the expensive extension lead I had wired through the back of the wardrobe. It turns out I can’t replace the bent rail for the doors because the rail (and doors) have been discontinued.

And THAT is the story I just told the lovely girl at IKEA, after 52 minutes on hold (I kid you not) to get to her. I may have been ever-so-slightly hysterical by that point but I give her kudos for laughing as it really did defuse what could have been a slightly explosive phone call.

You gotta laugh really, haven’t you?

laugh

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