The ‘C’ word

No, not the rude one – though I’m quite partial to dropping the odd ‘c-bomb’ should the need arise. In this case I mean Christmas. Is it too early? I suspect it probably is but I shall plough on regardless.

Usually I refuse to acknowledge anything vaguely festive until at least early December; I’ve been known to huff out of shops that play Christmas songs prematurely (though I do make an exception for ‘She Came Home For Christmas’ by Mew, or the beautiful Cocteau Twins cover of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ which has the exact opposite effect) . Similarly, I haven’t been on eBay since they started the, FREAKIN’ INTRUSIVE, virtual countdown of how many days there are left for them to part you from your money.

Still, when it comes to this most commercialised of usurped Pagan festivals, you have to be vaguely organised. Unless, that is, you enjoy the special look of unrestrained indifference when you present your family with gifts hastily wrapped in newspaper or relish the thought of tucking in to a microwave macaroni cheese because you forgot to buy a turkey.

So, forgive my smugness, when I say that I’ve got Christmas dinner sewn up already. In one fell swoop I’ve jauntily side-stepped the planning, shopping, cooking and even the washing up.

“What is this black magic of which you speak?!” , I hear you cry.

We’re off oot, thanks to the hospitality of a local restaurant. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it before. Breathtaking in its simplicity and laziness, but isn’t that what Christmas is all about (What’s that? “Little baby Jesus.”, nope, never heard of him).

It also means I can knock back the breakfast Bucks Fizz and pre-lunch G&Ts without fear of becoming so ‘altered’ I manage to throw the vegetables (meticulously prepared the night before) into a sink of dirty washing up water (as in 2006) or forget to put the oven on (like in 2009).

What’s that annoying management-speak phrase? “To fail to plan, is to plan to fail, to make a flan on a plane.”? Something like that. Either way, I’ve planned. What about you?

 

We will remember them

Just because I’m anti-war (and I am) does not mean I’m anti-troops. I’m not a jingoistic, flag-waver either but I show my respect and I’m thankful for the sacrifices people made.

My Grandad served in WWII and was always full of stories of his overseas adventures. I’m sure he had some less palatable tales of his time in the forces but he never shared those. He was a motorcycle courier and lost a toe due to some fancy stunt driving avoiding enemy fire.

While I support and understand those that do, I choose not to wear a poppy at this time of year because, while others are still currently involved in a pointless conflict, I find it hard to feel like the dead are truly being honoured. In my opinion, the best way to honour them would be to stop allowing politicians to send yet more young men and women to die while washing their hands of the ones that do come back to us injured and/or emotionally scarred. Talk (and poppies) are cheap, all the Rememberance Day services in the world mean nothing if people are still dying needlessly and their sacrifice being dishonoured by not providing their returning comrades with the care they need and deserve.

Happily (I wouldn’t be here otherwise!), my Grandad made it home safe (and relatively unscathed), going on to raise his children, see his grandchildren grow up and have a few more adventures along the way. He died last year, aged 90 after a short illness but a long, full life.

This blog, such as it is, is for the servicemen and women who never had that chance to enjoy all the wonderful things life has to offer on the road to reaching such a grand old age. I thank them for their bravery and sacrifice, but, please, let there not be any more.

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori”

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

First off, I’m not a beauty junkie, I don’t have a bathroom littered with a myriad of half empty bottles of lotions and potions and I don’t spend hours discussing, deliberating or caring about them either. I’m pretty low maintenance (read ‘lazy’) in that department. I have my tried and tested favourites which I occasionally mix up with the odd speculative purchase or little treat. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the benefits of the right product, I’ll happily pay the price for something that works, but once I’ve found something that does, you basically have to prise it from my cold dead hands.

I do the basics – cleanse, tone and moisturise daily, exfoliate once or twice a week, the odd facemask and sometimes a professional facial. I must be doing something right because I’m knocking on the door of 30 and I still get ID’d with alarming regularity. More than likely it’s actually because I still dress (and act?) like a gawky teenager but I’d prefer to think it’s my, relatively, youthful looks.

One product I’ve been using for a couple of years is Biore’s Shine Control Moisturiser . I was so pleased to have discovered this as it works great for me. I apply it once in a morning, bung on the slap and I’m done for the rest of the day – whereas other moisturisers have left me with an oilslick face, eyeliner sliding down my cheek and a nose so shiny, even Rudolph would be jealous.

I’ve noticed that the product has been showing as ‘out-of-stock’ on Boots.com for some months. Having stocked up a while back (that’s the Zompocalypse training) I wasn’t too worried, hoping it’d come back into stock before I ran out. But last week I realised it was situation critical so I emailed Biore themselves who responded thusly –

“For your information the Bioré Shine Control product line has been discontinued due to sales decisions, and we can only apologise for taking away your favourite products. However, we offer a wide range of Biore products that are suitable for different skin types.”

“Discontinued”?!?!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The word that strikes fear and panic into product-loyal women’s (and, no doubt, some men’s) hearts. I’m sure you’ve all been there, be it a lipstick shade or a favourite foundation. When the news reaches us that a faithful old friend will no longer be there for us, it’s a shock to the system. And it doesn’t just happen with beauty products. I was fair gutted when they stopped making ‘Secret’ chocolate bars too. And don’t even get me started on the special packs of Quavers shaped like ghosts that would come out around Halloween a few years back but have since disappeared for good (They did exist, honest!). I’d mount a campaign to bring back my favourite Biore product if I could be bothered or thought it would do any good, but I can’t and it won’t, so I’m not. Pick your battles people, pick your battles.

It is then, with a heavy heart and a pocketful of regret for not buying more bottles of Biore than I could feasibly fit into my bathroom cupboard (and under the bed and in the loft) that I begin the, frankly chuffin’ annoying, search for another suitable moisturiser – suggestions are very welcome (please no-one say a paper bag or a mask!).

Gribble-tinted spectacles

A week or so ago, my man and I went to see Saw 3D at Hull’s super snazzy, all singing, all dancing, digital extravaganza of a cinema, Vue in Prince’s Quay. Being 3D, we were given our glasses on the way in. Observant and gobby as ever, when I noted smears and streaks on the glasses, I pointed it out to the member of staff who told me that the glasses were ‘recycled’ but, she emphasised, are cleaned after each use. I’m big on reducing, reusing and recycling, so, in principle, I’m happy with this idea. However, the ‘gribble’ (a word I use to describe general muck – perhaps made up, I’m not sure) made me wonder just how well they are actually cleaned (if they are really cleaned at all!). If Vue has some kind of dishwasher/steamer, that’s magic. But if it’s a disinterested member of staff with a bit of washing-up liquid and a scabby dishcloth, I’m going to have serious reservations as to how well the job is done – I’ve seen some people’s idea of cleaning and it isn’t mine by a long shot.

As it happens, I had some anti-bacterial/anti-virus wipes (a win – more on those in future blogs no doubt) in my bag, so they got a good going over with that. The fact that mine had – wait for it – teethmarks on the arms made me feel a little bit queasy to be honest. I’m no clean freak by any stretch of the imagination, but, having had Norovirus a few years ago, I take reasonable steps to try to make sure I never get it (or anything like it) ever again.

I’ve heard that some cinemas give you a new pair each time and others (Cineworld I think) allow you to buy a pair to keep. 3D cinema seems to be getting more prevalent and, while I can take it or leave it to be honest (I think my eyes must be wired up wrong, I don’t find 3D particularly impressive at all), if it’s going to be more commonplace there should be some guidelines/reassurances when it comes to the hygiene of the glasses we have to wear (and pay more for too, don’t forget!).

I suppose it’s only the same as re-using cutlery in a restaurant but the fact that these glasses didn’t look clean at all is what made me think. I’d MUCH rather have my own pair, or perhaps the reusable ones should be supplied with a little anti-bac wipe? I dunno. I tweeted Vue about the issue, and they suggested I contact customer services. I had a, fairly swift, acknowledgement email from the manager of Hull Vue with an assurance that he’d look into it and get back to me shortly. I’m still waiting but I’ll let you know the upshot, if there is one.

Snug as a bug in a rug

The phrase ‘life changing’ is a term I’ve probably only ever used in reference to the invention of GHDs and my discovery of Japanese food, so believe me when I say that a recent purchase is totally worthy of such a label.

Now, as much as I love this cold weather, I still like to be toasty when I’m at home. There is a rule in our house – if the living room thermometer shows 14 degrees or less, something needs to be done quick sharpish or I’m likely to die* (*have a bit of a moan and turn the heating up). Living in an eleven room Victorian terrace, you can imagine it’s pretty hard to keep warm without incurring the gas bill of a small country. I remember reading in Bizarre Magazine about Kigurumi, Japanese animal PJs and, being a cute-a-holic, the idea appealed to me no end. 10 minutes Googling and I found many potential contenders but one company seemed to stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of what they were offering. The All-In-One Company makes, among other things, adult sleep suits, designed, basically from scratch, by the customer, using a range of fabrics and add-ons.

As you can see, I’m now the proud owner of a very fetching (?!) ‘onesie’ complete with tiger ears and a delightfully swishy tail. I could have opted for built in mittens and/or slippers and ever a drop waist (to save you from having to disrobe entirely for late night trips to the bathroom). I LOVE it. Yes, I look quite silly and yes, it’s not the sexiest thing in my wardrobe but I really don’t care. Worn over normal clothes, it almost entirely negates the need to have the central heating on, with only two of us in the house, it seems crazy to heat so many rooms that we’re hardly ever in.

I think these would make amazing Christmas gifts and there is still time to get your orders in. I placed an order on a Sunday last month and it was delivered the following Thursday. Considering the sleepsuit was made to order, I feel that’s no mean feat. They’re super soft, incredibly warm, wash perfectly and, if you don’t take yourself too seriously, look fantastic.

At £70+, these are no insignificant investment BUT I think we stand to get our money back through savings on the heating bill in no time at all. Oh, yes, I said ‘our’, didn’t I? That’s because my man also bought one. So please, don’t be surprised, if, when you knock at our door between now and April, it is answered by a 6ft 2 ladybird, complete with antenna.

I beg your parkin?

It’s officially my favourite time of the year. As a retired Goth, this weather does my heart glad (no more freckles). There are leaves to kick, the air is crisp (or ‘cold’ for the more nesh readers) and I generally feel more alive and motivated (note the lack of blog posts over the summer *moves swiftly on!*).

One of my major passions is food, eating it, cooking it, wearing it – well, maybe not the last bit – and, for me, Autumn means parkin. Lovely, sticky (if it’s done just right), comforting, tasty, no-it’s-not-the-same-as-gingerbread-you-daft-southerner, parkin.

As a South Yorkshire lass now living in Hull, I see the munching of parkin a November essential so, imagine my foot-stamping horror when I couldn’t find any. I tried the local bakery and two fairly big supermarkets close to me with no luck. Never one to give up at the first sign of trouble, I decided to bake some of my own but couldn’t find any black treacle in any of my local shops either. Cue barely restrained grumbling and potential munk on, much to the bafflement of my Suffolk born beau who, as much as he is used to humouring me, doesn’t quite grasp the importance.

So hurrah for Mum, coming to the rescue as Mum’s the world over have been doing time after time, year after year. Apparently her local Tesco sells it. Disaster averted (Drama Queen, me?!). I shall now await my food parcel, open mouthed and with a rumbling tummy.

Now if I could just find somewhere that still sells Rum Babas, I think my life will finally be complete.