Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Years Resolutions. N.B. this isn't fiction.

It's that time of year again!
Yesterday out of interest I had a look at my resolutions for last year. Then, I had a good think about how much I have achieved.
Resolutions 1 & 2) Pay off overdraft, improve finances and approach to money.
I have completely paid off my overdraft and, wait for it, wait for it... have savings to the tune of £800! I have very much changed the way I approach money. In fact yesterday, I was in a shop and there was a lovely pair of red peeptoes on sale for £30 and a similarly lovely pair of nude peeptoes for £35. I walked out of the shop without buying either, reasoning with myself that I already owned three red pairs of shoes and a nude pair I never wore enough anyway.
Resolution 3) Improve my punctuation.
I'm sure it will never be my strongest point, but in the summer this year, I did have a meeting with my previous boss and he said he felt my punctuation was much improved. Hurrah hurrah hurrah.
Resolution 4) Get back to a healthier way of living.
I will go to the gym after work and then not have any sweets at the cinema. I will, I will, I will!
Resolution 5) Start being more crafty and making my own clothes, chutney and jam.
Errrrm, what?!
Resolution 6) Get better at web design.
Marginally improved. I think my site does look prettier. Probably can't be bothered to make it any better. 

And then we go to that sneaky bit at the bottom about about being a dignified lady and handling the menfolk better... well, it's safe to say that the money issue is where I have really excelled this year!

And so to my resolutions for 2011. Every year I make resolutions about money and health and to be honest, I will always try to improve myself in this way New Years Resolution or not, so for 2011 I have decided to take a different course:

1) Stop putting so much pressure on myself because I always do my very best anyway.
2) Like and accept myself for who and what I am, because I do quite well and am quite nice really.
3) Show more kindness to others, especially the homeless.
4) Stop getting into debates with people. It only gets you feeling wound up and upset.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The history of the dumped coffee table.

Nicola found the coffee table in the local recycling bin on a Saturday night.
It's a beautiful bit of furniture. Ornate and elaborate in design carved from thick, extremely good quality wood. Nicola knew it would be expensive, she had an eye for these things. So she did what any self-respecting Phd student would do. She got her dad to pick it up and take it home.
It looked just perfect next to the book shelf with her twenties style retro lamp (purchased four years ago from TKMaxx for only £24.99) sat atop it. Her materialistic sister and flatmate loved it as well. It appealed to her faux bohemian sensibilities.
Not once did Nicola ask herself why someone would throw such a lovely piece of furniture away. Not once did she wonder where the coffee table had come from. She was too busy relishing her damn good luck that she had found it.
Just four days prior, a couple stood in their flat, either side of the coffee table. And they were screaming at each other. This wasn't some little lovers tiff, they were ready to destroy each other, rip each other to shreds. You see Jack (that's the boyfriend) had discovered that Amy (the girlfriend) had slept with his best friend. But she insisted that she only did it because she knew that Jack had slept with every woman from Mile End to Earls Court and back again. Yep, he was a busy man on that District Line.
Amy also found Jack's best mate bloody attractive but that's by the by, she was too consumed with hatred and revenge for her philandering, womanising arsehole of a soon to be ex-boyfriend.
His face was also contorted with rage. He couldn't believe the little slut had just blamed him for her betrayal, that she had slapped him round the face.
As Nicola had calmly cooked her boyfriend and her sister seafood spaghetti and apple crumble, Jack had smacked Amy so hard that she had flown head first towards to coffee table, cracked her skull open and died as her blood seeped into the carpet and her soul into the table. The table was very special to Amy, it had been a gift from her late and very wealthy grandmother.
Panicked, Jack had wrapped up Amy's body in bin bags and, in the middle of the night, crept down to Regent's Canal and chucked her into the water. He had used Vanish stain remover to sort out the carpet and reported Amy missing to the police. For just four short seconds, Jack thought he had got away with manslaughter.
But the coffee table had other ideas. For four days the table haunted him. Whispering at him with her voice. Filling his mind with grotesque images, plaguing him with guilt for cheating on her and killing her. Sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, he could see Amy, covered in blood and crawling out of the table. Of course, when he looked over, there was nothing there. He barely slept, his dreams were filled with torment.
By day four it had got too much. In a fit of rage, which tempered on borderline insanity, he picked up the coffee table and flung it in the local recycling bin before joining Amy in the canal.
Just four minutes later, unsuspecting of the tables dark and trecherous past, Nicola put out the weekly recycling and was delighted to make her discovery.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Tale of the Wonky Poster.

Once upon a time there was a poster named Amelie.
Amelie was wonky. She sat on the far wall, pretty much the first thing everyone saw when they entered the large, white living room. She could have been beautiful, with her green background, red dress, dark hair and big eyes. If it weren't for that damn wonk, she could have been the most beautiful poster in all of Flat 7, 52 Globe Road, perhaps beyond.
All the other posters in the living room were perfectly perpendicular, not to mention practically perfect in every way. The twin Banksy posters were perfectly aligned in look, thought and feel. The jazz singer and her contemporaries stood perfectly straight and elegant.
Being surrounded by such perfection must have been bloody depressing. Amelie felt like the fat, ugly sibling, not perfect in any way. This was of course, Amelie being a touch overdramatic, she was only imperfect by an approximately 27 degree angle, but hey, just you try to reason with neurotic, teenage shiny paper, it's like talking to a wall...
Amelie was desperate to straighten out. Every time someone entered the living room they stared at her with mild irritation upon their faces. She heard comments, how annoying she was because of her wonkyness. If she hadn't been so shy and retiring she might have got angry and accused them all of bullying her. But Amelie was so mild mannered she just took the nasty, prejudiced anti-wonky comments to heart and drooped further down the wall.
For some bizarre reason, her two owners loved her wonky disposition. Whenever she heard comments from guests about how she 'just needed to be straightened out and then this room would be perfect' (I mean seriously guests, how hurtful, what must those words have done to poor Amelie's self-esteem?!) her owners spouted that it gave her and the room character, how they celebrated her difference, and because of her wonk she was 'special' and 'unique.'
Amelie cringed when she heard her owners say these things. "Why can't the lazy buggers just get up on a chair and straighten me out?" she thought to herself.
Then, everything changed. One Saturday night in early November, her owners held a gathering. The comments about her wonkyness were coming thick and fast. This particular group of guests found her wonkyness particularly offensive. Amelie desperately tried to pull up, to make herself appear as straight as possible. But nothing worked, the more she pulled, the more irritated the group got. Eventually, they all left. Her hideous wonkyness forced them out of the living room and down to the local pub. They couldn't take her anymore it seemed.
Miserable and lonely, Amelie dozed off to sleep.
Then, in the middle of the night she was woken by a rough pulling. Opening her eyes she discovered a beautiful maiden with tumbling brown hair removing her from the wall.
"I can't handle this poster anymore," the maiden muttered, "I know Shell will be pissed off, but I have to straighten it out."
STRAIGHTEN IT OUT! Oh wonder and joy! Amelie was on top of the world. Finally, she would join the world of perfection. No more comments and mutterings anymore, no more stares of mild irritation. Amelie was going to be just like everyone else!
Amelie couldn't sleep anymore that night from sheer excitement. She couldn't wait for daylight when she could announce herself to the world as a 'perfect poster.' Part of the perfection gang.
But daybreak did not bring her the adulation she craved and hoped for. In fact, the look of utter disappointment on her owners faces made her feel mild shame.
But it was the response of the guests that upset her most. None of them admired her for her straight beauty. In fact, they didn't seem to notice her at all. They were indifferent to her, it was like she was invisible.
It was then that the jazz singer poster rather bitchily said something (in poster language, it's not something us humans can hear) that made her new found joy crash to smithereens: "I'm glad they straightened you out. All your character meant that you always got the attention. Our owners always loved you more, we were all ignored because compared to you we were straight and boring."
And that's when Amelie realised, being the same as everyone else is all well and good but there is nothing special or unique about aligned perfection.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

By request: Cheeky the grumpy kitchen monkey.

I wish it could be said that Cheeky is a happy soul.
Unfortunately his name couldn't be more of a juxtaposition to his temperament. Cheeky is grumpy, difficult and always complaining about his balconette home above the kitchen cooker. First it's too hot, then it's too cold, and then it's not enough temperature of any kind at all. Good lord, Cheeky is not a happy monkey.
Many have blamed his stature, or rather lack of it, for the giant chip on his shoulder. It's a tough life for a chap suffering from short monkey syndrome. Or perhaps it's a monkey lady from his past, a romantic disappointment that has caused him such pain and turned him into a life hating grump. Maybe she ran off with a towering and much more handsome monkey. Maybe that's why people irritate Cheeky so.
Like those chavvy Essex girls that insist on cooking in his kitchen. Do they have to be so loud? Do they have to squeal so?  And most of the time, they certainly don't understand the delicate science that is cooking. What do they think they are doing, shoving vegetables into a frying pan with a pre-made pesto sauce from Lidl? Or eating eggs and baked beans for dinner? They consider that food?! And this 'sauce factory' they create every fortnight, that they freeze and then defrost at a later date to sip out of a bowl with bread or mix with cheap twirly pasta. It's an abomination as far as Cheeky is concerned. A destruction of all that is good in the culinary world. As well as being a grumpy bugger, Cheeky is somewhat of a food snob.
But to be fair to the girls, sometimes they do pull some classy meals out of the bag and then, well then,  Cheeky is in seventh heaven.
In quieter times, when the girls are skint and living off the aforementioned sauce factory Cheeky dreams of those days, the grilled mango and halloumi salad, roasted whole chickens stuffed with an entire lemon and herbs, beef lasagne made entirely from scratch (even the bechamel sauce!), chicken and cream puff pie, giant chocolate whoopie pie cakes with marshmellow filling, banana cake and Cheeky's absolute favourite, peanut butter cookies. Oh, how his lips tremble with hunger, he salivates as the smells waft up from the cooker and make him delirious with pleasure.
It really is the most tragic thing that Cheeky's lips are nothing more than a piece of string across his furry face and he will never get to taste the foods he covets.
Suddenly, it's not such a mystery why Cheeky the kitchen monkey is so grumpy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A bit of Microfiction: The buddha clan on my windowsill.

"We must assemble in random formation!' screams General Pewter Buddha. His importance bourne from his weight. Pewter is heavier than wood and plastic and all the other buddha's on the windowsill know this.
"How can you have a random formation?" mutters one of the triplets. The triplet buddhas are identical but for their colouring. One is brown, one silver and the other is brown and gold.
But he is merely being facetious, a rebellious desire to back chat to the rather pompous General Pewter. They all know why their assembly is random. It is to please the artistic temperaments of the brunette and ginger goddesses.
The goddesses are giant and rather odd beings, just the other day one of them seemed to be knotting herself into odd positions in front of the television, all for the sake of fitness. The other one stares at a small computer screen for hours, muttering mathematic equations and burning long smelly sticks from the chest of holy buddha - so called because of the hole in his chest. It is a sad fate for him, but one he must bear for the greater good of the clan.
For it is at the whim of these two goddesses that the buddha clan survives. If the two goddesses wish, they can remove the entire clan, throw them into the dark sack of evil next to the fridge. But for now the goddesses are merciful, leaving the clan to live in peace. And this is all thanks to King Pink Buddha. He knows the brunette goddess well and has served her for many years. At one time, she housed him on the skin of a goat to reward him for his devotion and service. He has promised that one day they shall all be on the goat skin - even keyring buddhas, which are the lowest of the low. They fear the dark sack of evil more than anyone.
King Pink Buddha is flanked by two of the slenderest, most serene and beautiful buddhas in existance, these two guards are originals from the holy land - Thailand. They whisper sweet fables, of a giant gold buddha lying in the ground. It must be a lovely life for King Pink Buddha to listen to them day after day.
But recently, even the King is nervous. There has been talk of a new King Buddha to take over the clan. The ginger goddess has spoken of a 'disco buddha' to usurp him. This King shimmers and shines in the light, he is covered in beautiful mirrors of joy. King Pink Buddha is frantic and feels betrayed after all his years of loyal service for brunette goddess. He misses the days when he had brunette goddess to himself on the goat skin.
Now he lays in wait for ginger goddess to make her decision. It is agony. Worse than when the goddesses watch that programme The X factor and you're waiting to see who will leave the competition. He gives General Pewter more power to boss the others around and hopes she will remain appeased. But he doesn't know what more he can do to save himself.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Discretion. Where's the line?

I struggle with discretion.
This may be due to my former job as a journalist, or as the newsdesk used to jokingly call ourselves, a professional gossip. And even now, working as a PR my entire life pretty much revolves around giving people information that I would like them to broadcast to the nation.
So it seems, I just don't know where to stop. I'm very open with colleagues if I'm dating someone, I admit I can be very open with my friends about my sexual preferences, I'm just a very open, honest person, I'll tell anyone anything if they want to know, give me alcohol and I'll tell people anything even if they don't want to know.
And on some levels, I think it may work for me. People often confide in me because I have been so open with them, it signals trust I guess doesn't it? I find it very easy to make friends because I am so open with who and what I am and how I am feeling.
And I would far rather be friendly and open than closed, snobby and unable to trust.
If someone does tell me something in confidence, I do, on the most part, keep my gob shut. I admit, I may tell my sister... but she is much better at discretion than me and knows when to stop talking.
Similarly I'm careful about bitching. A sorry lesson learnt from years of teenage angst. I have to really trust someone before I am open with my dislike for or upset over a colleague or somebody in a circle of friends and often I will ask them to keep my comments private.  I admit sometimes, if it is a mutual friend or colleague, I should think more about the situation I am putting them in and that I may be making them feel uncomfortable just by knowing this information.
Similarly, I sometimes worry, do my revelations make people feel uncomfortable? When is it alright to tell people about that crazy one night stand or drunken shenanigan? How close a friend do they have to be?
I especially worry about co workers, how much do you give away there? (N.B. I know enough not to tell co workers about crazy one night stands.) Where is the line between appropriate and chatty and over sharing? 
Also, I will never be able to pull off mysterious. I so envy those people who have an aura of mystery about them. Who play their cards close to their chests, who you never quite know what they are thinking. It's sexy and intriguing. Everyone knows what I'm thinking because I happily blurt it out. Not so sexy and intriguing.
It has to be said that social media was the final nail in the coffin for discretion. If a woman can tweet about her miscarriage and Belle Du Jour can blog about her sex life, what chance do I have with keeping my gob shut?
Shockingly, it only very recently occured to me  - while reading about how Kimberly of Girls Aloud has only ever had two lovers - a persons sex life isn't anyone's business but their own! It's meant to be private! I know, such is the loss of discretion in the modern world that it took me until I was 26 to realise that my sex life belonged to me alone, I didn't have to tell the world about it and also, if people asked, I didn't actually have to answer them honestly.  If a new boyfriend asks about my past, I don't technically have to tell him anything that doesn't relate to sexual health and contraception. I can just reply something vague like: 'A couple of long-term boyfriends and a smattering of flings.' Rather than giving him dates, times and scores out of ten. 
As someone who isn't particularly discretion savvy, I have decided to hunt out advice. What is the correct way to behave? How much information should I give out to the world, does my openness make people feel uncomfortable or gossip about me in a way I wouldn't like? It's certainly something I am to be more careful with in future. I just hope this doesn't make me less fun!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Girls just love clothes! Well, no, I really do...

Last night, I read an article on The F Word moaning about shopping. The author of this article hates shopping. She bemoans the enormous gendering of clothing and in some cases, she does have a point, why are socks gendered? I had never contemplated this before. That is indeed stupid. Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I need pink socks, although all my running socks are pink... anyway, I digress.
Her comments about women who are forced into terrible conditions to make the clothes in our throw away culture is similarly concerning. They are issues I am very concerned about and am researching ways to shop ethically. 
And if this lady doesn't like shopping, then fair enough, not everyone has to find it a pleasurable experience.
However, I do. I find shopping a massively wonderful pleasurable experience. It really does give me great joy in life, pretty shoes make me smile.
Does this make me less of a feminist? Does the fact that I like dressing up in clothes that make me feel attractive make me shallow, vapid and a sorry excuse for an educated woman?
Admittedly, my little shopping issue has caused me some financial woe (on a small scale). But no one has forced me into this financial woe, I got into it (and then out of it) all on my own, I just like buying new shiny things too much. I see fashion as a form of art and indeed decorate my little flat with it.
Is enjoying clothing and flaunting your figure sexist? By happily conforming to gender stereotypes are you undoing all the good work of feminists from previous years? Even if you're not an airhead wag (although I wouldn't say some of them are so airhead) but have yourself a very fulfilling career, do what you feel is good, important and enjoyable work and support yourself?
Even if it's 100 per cent for your own enjoyment, you don't dress for men but for yourself entirely? If wearing a pair of killer heels and a nice skirt really does make you feel more confident in a meeting?
Am I just brainwashed? Am I just conforming to this because it's expected of me? Should I not shave my legs or get my hair done or wear a bra? Should I fling my underwear on that mythical bonfire that only existed in the minds of male journalists who tried to demonise feminism?
I have had men in my life ridicule me for my enjoyment of clothes... surely this is just another form of marginalisation? Another way of saying women's interests are not important or significant.
Fashion has given me great bonding experiences with other women in my life. One of my closest friends first approached me because she liked my dress. My mum and I go shopping before every birthday and christmas and it's more than her buying me presents, this way I actually get to spend valuable time with her.
Perhaps I am lucky but I actually don't find 'tight' clothing or high heels particularly uncomfortable and if a pair of shoes are proving uncomfortable, I stop wearing them. Despite appearances, I'm no slave.
It's not like I believe stripping to be empowering or anything (I have read a magazine article arguing that, the mind boggles) but I do feel I use clothes as a form of armour against the world. 
Perhaps liking clothes and shopping doesn't fit the feminist archetype, but you know what, I ain't apologising. I want equality for men and women and I want it while wearing a pretty dress that I can't really afford, simple as that.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Fuck dating guides.

This is to ladies out there who have read 'He's Just Not That Into You' or Zoe Strimpel's recent dating guide: 'What the Hell is he thinking'?
Although there is sound advice in both - I particularly enjoyed the whole, don't take any rubbish stance of 'He's just not that into you' - there is something very unfeminist about both books.
'He's just not that into you' is rather negative as it still suggests there is something wrong with the women. It's basically saying, any man who doesn't treat you wonderfully doesn't like you and thus, you are kind of rubbish aren't you. Perhaps a title such as 'He's just not good enough for you' would have been more sufficient.
Also, it's too cut and dry, even for a very black and white soul such as me. It doesn't take into account shyness. I've known men who have liked me but haven't asked me out because they are shy or think I am out of their league. When in fact, I was sitting there thinking 'I wish they would ask me out.'
Similarly, after reading the book, I was scared to make any move on a man, even a subtle one. When in fact, without those subtle hints that it's ok to ask the girl out, he's just going to be thinking 'oh, she doesn't like me, she'll just reject me.' Not all men are the world conquoring heroes the book suggests they are, some of them get shy, intimidated or frightened of rejection. Life is far more complicated than this book makes out.
With 'What the hell is he thinking' (I've already had a previous rant about this book after reading an article about it in The Times Style magazine.) Well,  I tried to read it, I tried to read it twice and then I just got annoyed. You know what, I DON'T CARE WHAT HE IS THINKING. I've spent far far far far far too much of my life trying to work out what a man is thinking and trying to predict what he might do next.   
And you know what, I have my own life thanks, my own thoughts, my own feelings and the prospect of spending my precious time reading a book of what is essentially a bunch of male bloody excuses as to why they can't be decent didn't exactly fill me with fucking joy.
Also, it would be bloody nice if for once in a blue bloody moon, a man sat with his mates going 'I wonder what she is thinking.' Because for a start, it would suggest that they actually give a damn about me.
If I feel good about how the relationship is going, I will to continue seeing the chap. If I don't feel right about it, I'm offsky. In the words of the Meercats: Simples. I'm sure if the bloke is really that into me, he'll be trying to win me back.
My new rule with the whole dating thing? Fuck dating guides, fuck analysing his every move with my mates, I'm just going to follow my instincts and find what's right for me.

Friday, 30 July 2010

5 things I love and 5 things I hate about alcohol.

1) That first sip of rum/southern comfort/wine after a hectic week. Amazing how after just one sip I feel so much more relaxed and how, after one glass, that the world is a GREAT place to be.
2) How much better I become at conversation. After two or three drinks, even the most tedious person is fascinating and I am, of course, charm personified.
3) How it makes me forward. If I have a crush on a chap, I simply have to drink in his presence. By the end of the evening I will have suggested what a fabulous idea it is that we have a snog. (Amazingly, I usually get one too.)
4) How two or three drinks stops me feeling hungry or tired.
5) Dancing, laughter and an ability to be sentimental and 'huggy' (not something I am sober - it could be said that I am in fact rather cold with my lack of touchy feelyness) that ensues after a shot of sambuca or two. This is positive as it enables me to show in a tactile fashion how much I love my friends in a way that might make me feel awkward or uncomfortable when sober.

1) How sometimes alcohol can make me cry, make me clumsy or become aggressive to random passerbys and vomit on inappropriate occassions. Oh and I must stay away from all forms of communication when drunk. Especially facebook, many a terrible message has been sent over facebook when I have been drinking.
2) McDonalds cheeseburgers (yes, plural) at 2am after too many rum and cokes. Oh the calories.
3) My hangovers don't generally just involve a headache or dehydration but usually an enormous feeling of depression, loneliness and the conviction that everyone on the planet hates me. Even if I haven't said or done anything embarrassing the night before. Oh yes, and the inability to sleep through my hangovers is a total killer. It doesn't matter what time I get to bed, if I have been drinking, I will be wide awake just four hours later, conscious of every second of my pain.
4) Want a secret out of me? Just get me drunk. Alcohol is like truth juice to me and I can't stop my bloody mouth. You won't even have to interrogate me, I'll just happily blab all my secrets without any forethought. Especially sexual secrets. I'm very good at confessing those.
5) Alcohol poo the next morning, from me or anyone else. I need say no more.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Social Media for Dummies: 10 things I learnt setting up a charity twitter feed

After two illustrious years, I am leaving my current job as Press, PR & Social Media Officer for World Cancer Research Fund and moving to pastures new. As part of my handover, I have been asked to write a 'social media for dummies' document for the newbie who takes over the @WCRF_UK twitter feed
This feed is very much my baby. I pushed to set it up and have single-handedly managed it ever since. Now considering I did have all my other PR bits and bobs to do as well, I think the fact that we are at nearly 800 followers is quite the feat. So here below are the 10 most important things I learnt setting up the feed.
1)    Be friendly, informal and  interact, interact, interact. Don’t just promote your blog or services, talk to people. Respond when they talk to you. It’s a great way to talk to other charities and supporters. I even managed to sign people up for WCRF's Beat the Banana run via twitter. 
2) Use hashtags! My personal favourites are #kickcancer (this is a great campaign created by a girl who actually had cancer.) #health #recipe and #badjoke that I used at least once a week for WCRF's badjoke of the week and healthy recipe of the week. These are quite popular with WCRF's followers and it’s good to create little regular ‘features’ to make the feed enjoyable for followers. For example:
Oh and our GGC #badjoke of the week: What kind of room can't you walk into? A mushroom!
Our #health #recipe of the week is this yummy Mediterranean chickpea salad
While we are on hashtags, never forget a #charitytuesday or #followfriday. For example, tweet this on a Tuesday: 
Happy #charitytuesday! @DiabetesUK, @DiabetesUKCymru, @CRUKWalton, @royalmarsden, @BCCare and @CR_UK #kickcancer
It’s a great way to spread the love and often people will do a #charitytuesday or #followfriday in return (you can also do #ff for Follow Friday if you don’t have space.) Another one people do is #fundraisingthursday but that isn’t as common. Always thank people or return the compliment if they do this for you. It’s just nice and to ignore it can come across as rude. Also, RT other people! I RT @NHSChoices, @BCCare, @DiabetesUK, @thebhf and @CR_UK a lot because their messages were often similar to WCRF's and it’s a way of showing support.
3)   Use applications, set up tweetdeck. This application is invaluable to me. You can also get it on your phone so you can tweet on the move! (I never did this, preferring to, er, have a life.)  
Hootsuite is also great, it's free and easy to set up. You can follow multiple twitter accounts, and schedule automated tweets for the weekend or just later in the day when you might be busy. This is not regarded as good social media practice however, so don’t do it too much, however, it’s a good tool if you are busy/would like your own weekend. If anyone retweets or speaks to you over the weekend, do respond first thing Monday morning. Again, it’s not the best social media practice but I think many people understand when you are a small organisation and responding or thanking them for the RT on Monday is better than nothing.
Socialoomph is another free and user friendly tool. You can create automated DM messages to new followers, among other things.    
4) is the website used to shorten URLs but you can also do this in hootsuite and tweetdeck. 
5) Twitpics! People love a good picture, so do add pictures to your account from the twitpic website as much as you can.
6)If you have a lot of pictures all at once, just put them on facebook. You can set it up so they will then automatically load onto your twitter feed as soon as you put them on facebook.
In fact, you can set it up so everything you put on facebook will then automatically load to twitter. I still like to then put another separate tweet about the same thing onto twitter though. Just because it’s then a direct link to whatever I’m promoting. It doesn’t matter that it’s a duplicate. Other twitter feeds duplicate all the time. Don’t do this too much though.
7)In terms of timings, I’ve been told that good times to tweet are first thing in the morning, lunchtime, and between 5-6pm in the evening. This is when people are most likely to finish/take a break from work and may check their accounts. 11am and 3pm are also good times. All of Friday afternoon is an especially good time! I often tweeted a silly game from WCRF's Great Grub Club children's website as a ‘relieve your Friday fatigue’ type thing. At the weekend or on bank holidays it’s best to tweet between 11am and 2pm as this is when most people are online.
8)Time management! I tended to spend an hour in the mornings on twitter and then just responded to things as and when/scheduled tweets throughout the rest of the day. Otherwise you really could be on there all day and never get any work done. It’s good to keep a half an eye on it though.
9)Be a person from an organisation, not a monolithic organisation voice. So, tell people who you are and tweeting the occasional ‘I did a 10k today, my legs are sore’ will make the feed a lot more accessible to followers. Although, of course, keep it on message. And make sure this is the case with any personal feed you may have. As far as my personal followers know, I am an extremely active health geek (which is mostly true) and this is in line with the WCRF's messages. If you are not comfortable with this, up your privacy settings. This goes for facebook too.
10)It’s ok to use exclamation marks! When I used to be a journalist I was told it's frowned upon to use too many 'dogs dicks' and in the most part I agree. But you don’t have many characters here, so it’s ok to use extreme punctuation to make your point quickly. It’s also ok to use shortcuts, such as 2 for two, to, too. There is a function in tweetdeck that can do this for you. (It can also change the language!) Although normal grammar applies of course. Not that other tweeters always follow that, but let’s rise above.

For any newbies to twitter setting up their own corporate or charity feeds I hope this is helpful! I am by no means an expert and most of this is quite basic stuff I have learnt as I went along. Just watch what other corporate or charity feeds are doing. This really is the best way to learn. Any questions? I'm @Shell3870, come find me on twitter.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Five years ago today...

Five years ago today I was doing a work experience internship at More! magazine and while sitting on a train into Liverpool street had a call from my mum.
"Are you ok?" She yelled as soon as I picked up.
"Yeah mum, I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" I responded, thinking my mum was being a tad over the top. I'd only been out of the house for an hour.
She mumbled something about a newsflash, some trouble on the tubes. I told her to not worry about it. There were delays on the tube every day. It would be fine.
When I got into Liverpool street, there were people running everywhere. I have never before or since seen so many people running in my life - and I've taken part in half marathons.
I tried to get on the tube, but was only met with lots of burly men telling me to get a bus. I tried to get a bus but was only met with empty buses rushing by, doors closed, nobody being allowed on.
I called More! and a panicked receptionist told me not to get on any transport, there were bombs all over the city. I should go home. 
I lived in Essex. An hour train ride from the city.
So, I walked, in high heeled cowgirl boots. Luckily I got chatting to a bloke who showed me the way back to Stratford. No trains running from there, so I walked back to Ilford and then managed to bus it back to Wickford. All the way getting panicked calls from friends, family, my then boyfriend. I finally managed to get home at 3pm that afternoon.
But anyway, this post wasn't meant to be about the bombings. But more about the last five years.Yep, forgive me while I take a narcissistic look at the last five years of my life.
A lot has changed. My once tumbling long curly hair has all been cut off and tentatively regrown into a long bob, I no longer own those cowgirl boots, maxi skirts have gone and returned to fashion, my style has gone from romantic student hippy to retro with killer heels and has now settled at somewhere in between, I have lived in Cardiff as a regional journalist for three years but after getting some bad family news I did some real soul searching and realised that working in charity PR was what I really wanted and so I returned to London to be closer to my family. It's long over with my then boyfriend, two more relationships have followed but sadly not worked out. Friendships have died, new ones have been formed, others have grown stronger. I have lived in four different houses, become interested in things I never thought I would be, been to places I never thought I would, fallen in love with people I never thought I would.
Comparing myself now to who and how I was back then has made me nostalgic for the past five years, and it's funny how it has taken a major event like 7/7 for me to recognise my achievements and all the cool things I have done with my life. I have written for national magazines and newspapers, set up the social media and organised fundraising PR campaigns for a charity almost entirely on my own, run a half marathon in two hours, lived alone, been brave enough to ask a boy I liked out for a drink (in fact, I've done this on numerous occasions!). Things my much shyer 21-year-old self would not have thought possible.
7/7 was a horrible day and I am not ignoring all the pain that it caused many families and my heart goes out to them today. I read a story from a woman who lost her sister in the bombings the other day and had to hold back tears (I am a soppy wotsit and couldn't imagine the grief I would feel if I were to lose one of my sisters.) But what I got from that day was not the panic, the horror, (although I of course felt all that) but actually, how god damn nice people can be. That a man would walk all the way back to Stratford with a girl to make sure she didn't get lost, that so many people cared enough to call and check I was ok. In a time of crisis, I didn't see selfishness or hostility, I saw complete strangers helping each other.
In everything, one thing is always true: Life moves on. And you never know what might happen, who you might talk to, what amazing job you might land when you least expect it, who you might fall for. To quote my favourite Banksy painting: "There is always hope."
My goodness. I am going for the cheese saturation today aren't I.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Scaremongered by The Sunday Times Style magazine.

Before I launch into this full blown rant, may I say how I enjoy The Sunday Times Style magazine. I think Mrs Mills is hilarious, the clothes are always covetable, the recipes always make me salivate. But yesterday when I picked up the magazine it ruined what had otherwise been one of the most enjoyable days I've had in a while. (And this was after we had lost 4-1 to Germany, so you can see how dire the situation is here.)
Anyway, that morning I had slept in till 11am. As someone who struggles to sleep, especially in hot weather, this was marvellous. Managed to get my contacts in fairly easily, an enjoyable rarity and, as my contacts are still new, I am still enjoying the novelty of actually being able to see, well you know, people and stuff.
Put on my favourite new halterneck summer dress with my new dangly cherry earrings, a birthday present from a friend. Even painted my toenails a bright red to match my dress. Lovely.
Met the boys (and girl, Claire) at the train station and walked to a very nice pub, The Green Man in Putney, in the sunshine. Picked up a Fab ice lolly (only 79 calories per lolly and only 65p - fantastic) on the way.
When we get to the pub, we discover a fantastic beer garden with giant chess, giant connect four and giant jenga. My inner child is getting very excited. And then, I actually beat Claire twice at connect four! A true miracle for a strategically challenged individual such as myself.
The boys get in some drinks. Pear cider for me. The pub also has strawberry cider, which I drink later. Yay. Being the true lightweight I am, this makes me very happy, very fast.
Then I eat scampi and chips. Play giant jenga with my buddy Oscar. He beats me after I arrogantly claim that I think I'm better at the game than him. Serves me right.
Watch the football. That's a bit depressing but more cider and a game of giant chess with my friend Dan cheers me, even though he does totally whip my arse.
It's such a lovely day that these antics carry on into the evening when we decide to head down to the riverside for dinner. I enjoy a lovely pumpkin and tomato risotto and tell all the lads that this has been a really marvellous day. They are not listening, they are watching the Argentina vs Mexico match. I'm so happy/pissed I'm not really that bothered. But then, dun dun duuuuun. I pick up The Sunday Times Style magazine. Massive and totally sobering mistake.
I flick to one article, it's by a lady called Zoe Strimpel. She has apparently interviewed hundreds of men about how they treat their girlfriends and written a dating book about it. The general outcome of her interviews? Men are arrogant commitment phobic arseholes who will only treat you badly and make you miserable. In fact, she gives a case study where a man can be the perfect boyfriend for a year, AN ENTIRE YEAR, and then go cold on you. So, it's not like some three month fling where you can tell pretty soon this man isn't right but figure, hey, I had some fun. This is a year of them telling you they love you, always being on time, buying you presents, taking you on holiday, being there for you, putting you before their friends, talking about a future, marriage, babies, you think he is it and then he totally fucks you over. He pulls down all your defences, lulls you into a false sense of security and then buggers off to male childhood land.
Does this woman not realise how terrifying/depressing this kind of bloody article is for a single woman? As previous posts have shown, I don't have the best dating repertoire as it is. This just makes me want to run for the hills and never speak to a man again. (Unless we are playing a giant version of a childhood game that is.)
When I make this complaint to my male buddies, my friend Gary only comments with: "I would respond to that article with an opinion, but I can't really commit to one." (Groan) 
A heave a great sigh and turn to the next page. This is an article by Kathryn Flett about unhealthy eating habits. Apparently my little fascination with eating chocolate for comfort and my inability to give it up actually means that I use chocolate like a drug. That I, in fact, am a full blown raving drug addict because I can't go a few days without having a small amount of the sweet stuff.
Any feelings of happiness, joy or contentment about my nice day have gone out of the window. Now I see the truth, I shall die alone with only the memory of a string of commitment phobic boyfriends and my chocolate addiction for company.
It's fair to say that I have been well and truly scaremongered. And it's really starting to grate that the media does this to us ladies. Men don't get any of that bullshit. Men don't get double page articles in the newspaper telling them to 'be wary of those commitment phobic women!' even though I know for sure there are commitment phobic women out there (I've even been one in a past relationship), just as there are many men who do want to settle down. Men also don't get guilt tripping articles about enjoying chocolate. Men very rarely get told how to live their lives in the way that women do. They get commentary on events, analysis, news articles. They don't get do this, eat that, behave this way around the opposite sex if you want to be even slightly good enough to deserve a partner.
I can't believe I am actually going to say this. But I think I might start reading a section with zero guilt tripping and lots of fit, buff and healthy men to look at. Yep, you guessed it: the sport section.
Oh yes, but sportsmen do have a tendency to cheat on their wives don't they. Fucksakes.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Chocolate experiment = a massive fail

Ok, so my attempts at giving up chocolate completely failed. I have been eating a lot less chocolate but after my last post, I kind of gave up, lost all motivation. I have a sweet tooth and am unable to resist.
So, unsurpriseingly, I feel absolutely no different and cannot make any observations whatsoever relating to the link between depression and chocolate.
However, I did notice something. Yes, sometimes I eat chocolate for comfort because I've had a bad afternoon or whatever. But on the most part, I eat chocolate because I'm really hungry and it's the most convenient and speedily energy boosting thing to hand.
I did a small test and without chocolate it seems I only eat around 1,300 calories a day. Considering that we ladies are meant to eat 2,000 calories, no wonder I'm so bloody hungry.
So I shall try and eat much more healthy foods in the hope that my hunger won't turn me to naughty things but not chastise myself too much when the need for sweet takes over.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

10 ways to humiliate yourself when dating...

At work they find my dating stories rather amusing. In fact, one of them has suggested I keep a diary of my dating life as they believe these anecdotes will make a very amusing book, such as '101 ways to totally humiliate yourself.' (N.B. When I suggested this title a male colleague piped up 'I'd buy it'... maybe this is how I shall make my fortune!)
Anyway, the single life can be rather brutal. Often to deal with said brutality and the fact that actually I'm rather shy and the prospect of being incredibly charming over dinner scares the bejesus out of me, I may drink a bit. I'm also rather a lightweight. Cue getting blotto on said dates and making rather a prat of myself.
So that others don't have to suffer my fate, I am very generously giving you my top 10 tips to avoid the things you must NOT do while on a date!

1. Trust your instincts. Don't ever go on a date with a slightly sleazy Albanian barman from your local pub because you're feeling a 'bit bored' even though you feel very unsure about him. The barman will try to grope you, make offensive gestures at you and then call you frigid when miraculously you don't want to sleep with him.
2. Don't drink too much. Never, ever, drink three bottles of wine on a date. You will vomit repeatedly, sob mercilessly for a couple of hours and then spend the next day in bed with a terrible hangover thinking 'I am mental, I am actually mental!' This does not mean you won't hear from the guy again, however if he does ask you out again it will start with 'despite what happened...' and you will feel far too embarrassed to ever see him again.
3. If you're not over your ex, don't date. Never drunkenly email/text/telephone/twitter DM/facebook message/turn up at his house/all of the above your ex-boyfriend after a bad date. A bad date does not make your ex suddenly right for you or make any of the reasons why you split up disappear.
4. If you're not over your ex, don't date x2. Never drunkenly lose your temper with a guy you have just started seeing because he did something a bit like your ex-boyfriend used to do that really pissed you off. This new man is not your ex-boyfriend and so does not deserve any of the rage you seem to be harboring for said ex-boyfriend. It will also totally freak him out.
5. Insist on paying half. Just because a man has bought you dinner and some fancy cocktails it doesn't mean that you have to snog him if you have decided by the end of the night that you don't fancy him. Twice I have snogged a man out of guilt because he has treated me to a nice evening but I don't want to see him again. The first time I nearly vomited afterwards because he had a weird mole on his lip and it freaked me out. The second led to a very awkward kiss outside Clapham Junction station where I legged it before he had a chance to shove his tongue in. 
6. Respect yourself. If you are on a date and the man starts talking about how he thinks your mate is 'really hot' or starts watching 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' on the TV behind your head while you are trying to have a conversation with him, don't snog his face off... he is so obviously not that into you and has very little respect for you (and possibly women generally). In fact the right thing to do (and what I wish I had done) is to stand up, politely thank him for the drink and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
7. Don't be inappropriately forward. Never proposition a man over facebook when you have had too much to drink. Even if you are just after something quite casual, it never works and you just wind up feeling a bit stupid.
8. Pick somewhere with good lighting. I once went for a drink with a guy and the bar had this terrible strip lighting that for some reason made me look as though I had a green moustache on my upper lip. I only realised this at the end of the drink and amazingly, I didn't hear from him again.
9. Don't try to force things. In my experience trying to force the dating process by internet dating doesn't really work. I just met rather dull, unattractive - and in one case massively patronizing - men who I didn't feel any semblance of a spark with. A man can be witty and pithy over email and have the most flattering picture imaginable but it's how he is face to face that matters. These things work best when they happen organically and sometimes that means having to be patient for it. 
10. Have some privacy and a sense of decorum. Never give any details about your dating life on a public forum like your blog, twitter or facebook, you will offend people and... oh bugger.

Monday, 17 May 2010

I cannot give up chocolate for even one month.

So a little update post on my experiment into giving up chocolate for a month. The aim of which was to see if this had any effect on my mood and I decided to take it on after reading about a scientific study that suggested there was a link between chocolate and depression.
I have been conducting the experiment for 17 days and admittedly I have failed twice already. On my birthday my sister gave me a peanut butter cookie and I scoffed the lot before realising that it did in fact contain chocolate chunks. Also today, a colleague had hand made some chocolate macaroons. I honestly don't care if this means I have failed in my quest. The chocolate macaroon was so bloody good!
Despite this, I have made some observations about life without chocolate (or just, a lot less chocolate). Firstly, not eating chocolate has meant that I have discovered a whole world of naughty foods I used to ignore. I forgot about the amazingness of crisps, jelly beans, strawberry laces, jelly tots, foam bananas and shrimps, carrot cake... I could go on. Yes, it is true, as predicted I just replaced the chocolate with other sugery crap.
So, my intial experiment analysis was that it's not chocolate I am addicted to and has any effect over my mood but in fact it was sugar... and occasionally salt. This fits in very well with the theory of GI and energy highs and slumps.
Then, after eating the wonderful macaroon this morning and feeling completely satisfied for the first time in weeks, I realised something...
Just as a warning, total indiscretion alert coming up:
Not eating chocolate has made me even more horny than usual. It seems that chocolate curbs any, er, sexual needs in me.
Perhaps that's why chocolate lovers are more depressed, they aren't getting laid?!
This is a theory I must test further. I am to get back on the wagon and I will extend my experiment. I aim to give up pointlessly sugary things until the end of the month. This means no cake, no sweeties and other sugary rubbish. This way I can have a further analysis of my cravings (rather than just stuffing my face with jelly beans instead).

Friday, 30 April 2010

Depressing new scientific study: chocolate lovers are more depressive

I always believed that chocolate lifted your mood. All the serotonin and what not. But according to a new scientific study reported on BBC News, people who regularly eat chocolate are more depressive. People who eat at least a bar every week are more glum than those who only eat chocolate every now and again and there isn't much scientific evidence for the theory that chocolate lifts mood.
Hmmmm, what does this mean for someone who eats chocolate every day?
Dr Natalie Rose, from the University of California, led the study and admits that this is rather a chicken and egg situation. They cannot tell if chocolate is the cause of depression or if people who are depressive tend to eat more chocolate believing this will cheer them up.
I've never been on anti-depressants or anything like that but I have long been a believer in the effect of healthy eating and mood elevation, so I have decided to conduct a little experiment.
As of tomorrow, I will not be eating chocolate for the entire month of May. It's a little experiment to see if not eating chocolate has any effect of my mood whatsoever, if it makes me feel better or turns me into a grumpy lady desperate for serotonin. Also it will be interesting to see when I crave chocolate the most, if I'm feeling sad, or grumpy or stressed, or just a bit hungry.
Of course I am aware that my experiment is totally useless in the scientific field. You may need to stay away from chocolate a lot longer than a month to see the true effects, it may not be the chocolate itself causing the depression but perhaps, if you believe in the theory of GI, the sugar the chocolate contains (N.B. I will probably still eat cake, I have a lot of birthdays in May) causing glucose highs and crashes. Or perhaps depressive people just tend to have a sweet tooth, the two are not linked and it's a random coincidence. Also, I'm just one person and in the grand scheme of things, my experiences don't amount to much in the way of evidence.
Ah, the perils of science.
All this aside, I am intrigued to see what effect it will have on me if I kick my bar a day habit. I imagine I will find this pretty tough. To be honest, the most likely outcome is that chocolate will be replaced with some other sugary confection... then again, I should have more faith in myself. Maybe I will feel happier at the end of it. Perhaps I won't miss chocolate at all. Maybe I'll get that washboard stomach I've been dreaming of forever!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A post that discusses Christianity, Prejudice and Freud. Oooh!

This week in Stylist, that delightfully colourful freesheet for girls, I read an interesting article about the prejudices against christianity. According to the article, 70% of us claim christianity is their faith, so, Stylist asks, why do practicing believers face prejudices on a daily basis?
For a freesheet it was certainly an interesting read from a viewpoint that is rarely discussed. So top marks to Stylist on that front. And the colourful products are all so pretty... 
Anyways, as an athiest, I have long felt that there is nothing there. This may be a reaction to the intolerance of certain walks of life the christian faith can preach, this may be a reaction to the barbaric wars, sexism, homophobia and, well, murder that has taken place throughout history in the name of god. Perhaps it is common sense, if I were born on the other side of the world, my religious beliefs would be completely different, thus religion is circumstantial and doesn't that make faith redundant?
However in truth, my lack of belief in god is something I feel in my gut. My non-faith as it were. At university I read an article written by Freud, this article stated that religion was merely an expression of fear of death. Perhaps to many that is rather insulting and Freud did say a lot of weird shit, but this article resonated with me. It made sense.
And religion can be comfort in difficult times. And for that there is nothing wrong with Christianity. Far better to pray for comfort when you are in emotional or physical turmoil than to drink yourself stupid or do drugs. Also, Christianity has defined right and wrong in our society in many ways, i.e. no stealing, no adultery, respecting thy neighbour, helping others less fortunate than yourself and what not.
However, having encountered prejudice and hypocrisy from various Christians I have met I found this article moaning about prejudice rather difficult to swallow.
For example, the Christian women who stands outside the abortion centre near my office giving out pro-life leaflets and shouting abuse at any poor young girl going inside, despite the fact she is probably about to make the hardest decision of her life, makes it hard for me to not judge Christians as being judgmental.
As another example, when I first went to university I went to Christian Union Barn Dance with some new flatmates. Being the liberal, free-thinking, everyone has their own path hippie I was, I had no problem attending. I thought it would be fun, besides, one of the lads was cute. That was until I was forced to sit down and listen to a lecture about how non-Christians were all going to hell and it was the job of all Christians to turn them to the path of light... Despite my anger at this fucking awful and almost cult-esque speech I continued to be friendly to everyone, counting the minutes till I could get out of there. I got chatting to this one bloke - now, I was a virgin at this time, romantically saving myself for a man I could love - and this chap asked which church I was from. I told him the truth, that I was an athiest and just looking to meet new friends. He replied 'Oh don't worry, I love non-christian girls, total freaks in the sack.'
I think I have made my point. And yes, it was quite funny.
But I do feel sympathy for individual Christians who may not have any intolerances against those from other walks of life but are shoved in a bible basher box for which they don't deserve. Christians who do use their faith for their own comfort, if it's something they believe in their own gut, something for them rather than something they try to impose on others.
Possibly that old adage 'two wrongs don't make a right' is rather fitting here. Shall we cut a deal Christianity? You don't judge me, I won't judge you.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Election Fever...

Last night telly history happened. I'm sure you are aware of this, unless you are hidden under a rock somewhere?
The leaders of our three political parties, Gordon Brown of Labour, Tory David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg were involved in a live debate on ITV. Admittedly it was a rather 'eighties Britain' looking affair not helped at all by Gordon Brown's awful pink tie, dark brown suit and light blue shirt combination. However the debate was enthralling, I haven't got this excited by telly since vampire Bill Compton and Suki finally got it on in True Blood. In fact, I got so excited, that I forgot all about The Outnet first birthday designer £1 sale.
David Cameron looked so plastic I spent more time searching out a wrinkle on his face than listening to what he was saying. It bothers me that this man should spend so much time on his appearance. Surely he is going to be so busy with his botox injections, his facials and his suit fittings that he's not going to have time to really run this country? That and there is his child on the way, a dad I know is so knackered from his newborn that sometimes he isn't aware what day of the week it is, let alone anything about national debt, how many bobbies are on the beat and the state of the health service.
Gordon Brown I felt came across in a very gentle and trustworthy manner with his warm scottish accent. I was surprised by how I warmed to him, regardless of the terrible suit. And contrary to claims that he is nothing but a dour, bullying Scot he raised the biggest laugh of the night with his 'You can't airbrush your policies like you do your posters David' quip.
However, his comments about the economy left me running scared. It was like he was suggesting that we should just keep muddling on as we are. Keep spending as we are. Now, I don't know a huge amount about politics but I do know about budgeting. In short, there is no way you can pay off a debt without making cut backs and I think, as a country, we are prepared for this. We are aware that we, somewhere, at some point, are going to have to pay more taxes to sort out the national debt. All I want is a government who can sort this out in an efficient and responsible manner.
Perhaps it is irresponsible of me to admit on my blog which way I am planning to vote at present, but hey, I've admitted that I suffer from mild depression if I don't exercise, the rate of my debt just a year ago and if you check out my posterous blog, you can see what undercrackers I've bought recently, so obviously discretion isn't a strong point of mine.
Anyway, based on his performance last night, I'm going with Lib Dem and to me, Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the night. I also did an online quiz about who I should vote for this morning, Lib Dem was the outcome and if a quiz says so, it must be the right choice (I'm ignoring that the quiz suggested that the Conservatives should be my second choice).
Nick Clegg really stepped up to the bar and used this opportunity with all his might. The way he kept sticking his hands in his pockets after earnestly gesticulating his points and the fact that his suit was slightly too big for him reminded me of a young and enthusiastic teacher who really does want to do everything he can to make things better. He seemed to be the only one out of the three who talked about saving us from national debt in a practical everyman manner, scrapping all the bureaucratic crap and spending the money on real people, things that really matter. His only pitfall was the nuclear stuff - does he want us to be a sitting duck?!
Admittedly I am biased, I've always voted Lib Dem and always got irritated when people have told me my vote is 'wasted.' If everyone who wanted to vote Lib Dem but voted for someone else because they were worried about a 'wasted vote' actually voted Lib Dem then parliament might look very different.
After the disaster of the recession and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan people are deeply unhappy with the current government and I still don't think there is a great deal of trust for David Cameron, being the slimy, smooth-foreheaded character he is. So now more than ever I think Lib Dem has a chance, at the very least to form part of a coalition government - something both David Cameron and Gordon Brown were obviously considering. Brown made attempts in the debate to argue their compatibility in this way and Cameron posed all 'buddy buddy' with Clegg for photographers at the end.
Reading the papers this morning, I got very different stories about the election debate last night. As the Media Guardian today notes, "British newspaper readers woke up this morning to news of nine different debates between the main party leaders, with a range of outcomes to suit every taste."
Don't you just love the freedom of the press?!
Don't listen to what the papers say, make up your own mind... take a quiz.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A big FatSecret

Sometimes in life you overdo it. I am guilty of this. I have been guilty of this a lot recently. Too much chocolate, too much alcohol, too much cheese, too much, of well, everything.
And it has given me a double chin. Nobody likes a double chin.
So, time to hit a health kick and hit it hard. 
But it's not just a vanity thing really. This is not something I have admitted to before but if I don't look after myself, I get depressed. And I mean massively depressed. I feel totally out of control, like I can't handle anything about the world.
I started being a health geek in the second year of university. My gran had just died and I was really upset, I had all these new subjects and exams that I was nervous about and even though I had a nice boyfriend, good friends and family I was always very shy, socially anxious and scared about what the world held.
However, when I worked out and ate healthy foods, I felt on top of it. Like I could handle anything this world threw at me. And the double chin disappeared, result!
Ever since the health geekery has slowly taken over much of my life. That was until the end of last year. At the end of last year, it all went a bit wrong. Which is a shame because I think last year was a time when I needed those endorphins a hell of a lot. For the months of December and January I didn't work out at all. Not once. And since that it has been pretty sporadic. I also ate a lot of crappy high-fat but very comforting foods too. I couldn't say no to chocolate or crisps. I tried to give them up for lent, I failed. I was using cake to fill the hole of sadness and it was only making me feel worse.
Last Saturday morning, while lying in bed feeling shockingly terrible from yet another hangover and eating an entire tub of glace cherries, I decided that this bullshit had to stop. This was not me, this undisciplined, weeping mess of a woman was not the woman I was just a couple of years ago. I'm fucking tougher than this.
So, on Sunday I went for a five mile run with my marathon runner friend (yep, his average Sunday consists of a marathon, he is a machine) and I felt uncommonly better. A bit of that old 'I can handle this fucking world' was back. And hurrah for it.
In a restaurant on Monday I went for the healthy fish and salad option and didn't eat any chocolate for the first time in fucking ages.
Today I have ignored the Easter egg and packet of Turkish Delight sitting on the office cabinet behind me.
And yesterday my sister introduced me to my new obsession: FatSecret.
It's AMAZING and free! It's an online food and exercise diary that automatically records the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates you are eating everyday and then compares them to the amount of activity you are doing. You can do a daily weigh in to see how much weight you should have lost from the diet and exercise regime you have been following. They also have tips, recipes and a forum so you can make dieting buddies. It's so cute, practical and useful! Although admittedly somewhat American.
But my lord, I didn't realise quite how many calories there were in everything, (260 calories in a snickers bar, ouch) and also, just how easy they are to burn. Just by sitting on the tube for twenty minutes, you can burn 84 calories.
Happily there is nothing pro-anorexia about it. If recordings show that you are getting underweight it sends you dire warnings that you should go to your doctor. And it can even help you maintain your weight but just be healthier.
I'm pretty excited thus far about this personal calorie calculator. Fingers crossed for a happier and healthier few months ahead.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Another Mad Men thought: Old-fashioned romance.

When it comes to old-fashioned courtship, I think many of us women are complete hopeless romantics. As far as we are concerned, the old-fashioned gentlemanly way is how we should be treated.
Flights of fancy and old-fashioned whimsy are very fashionable right now, just look at the darling Paloma Faith, the beautiful retro clothes shop Vivian of Holloway and sites like, where forties enthusiast Fleur de Guerre very beautifully waxes lyrical about the fashions of a bygone age.
This obsession isn't just about the beauty of the clothes - although that does have a lot to do with it - this is about romance. This is about the idea that a man asked you out to dinner and treated you with respect, who took your coat and paid for the meal and you wouldn't have to feel awkward while he did. (As I always do anyway as I have a thing about penniless creative types and usually earn more than the bloke.) This is about a perfect kiss at your front door and a man taking off his hat in respect towards you and giving you his coat at the end of the night in case you might be cold. This is about men behaving like a gentleman who is trying to win your affections rather than thinking they will shag you on a first date and then forget you.
That's how men behaved back then wasn't it? Beautiful stories like The Notebook, old movies like An Affair to Remember, old re-runs of Goodnight Sweetheart and the story of how my grandpa courted my grandma when they were young (he proposed several times and she initially only agreed out of pity for him, but gradually he won her over and by the time they were married she was madly in love. Awww.) have made me believe that in contrast men of modern times are rubbish when it comes to romance.
It is said so often, that modern men wouldn't know chivalry if it bit them in the arse. So many articles claim that thanks to feminism and female emancipation modern men are nothing more than frightened little boys ruled by battered egos, hence why they cheat, why they lie, why they treat us with disrespect. Because some women are just too fabulous and some men just can't live up to us. Cheryl Tweedy and Ashley Cole being a case in point...
Mad Men has shown me to reject such rose-tinted notions of the past. As far as Mad Men is concerned, it's not that romance is dead. It was never really there to begin with.
Some men have always been complete pricks no matter what age they come from. For example, Don and Betty Draper's marriage from Mad Men fills me with untold despair.
Don courted Betty by sending her the coat he saw her admiring but couldn't afford. So far, so romantic and chivalrous. But after a couple of years of marriage and a couple of kids he cheats on her regularly, despite her being the spit of Grace Kelly, he is also mentally and physically abusive to her.
And the poor woman is stuck, stuck in her gilted cage of a house with no escape. Even when she attempts to make a career by taking some modeling jobs Don sabotages it for her. And this man is meant to be our dashing hero despite the fact that he treats his wife like shit. (But it's because he's so complicated and tortured, yep, that old chestnut. And so it seems, that just as I have thought about many modern men, Don Draper needs to man the hell up.)
And he's far from the only one. Peter Campbell cheats on his new wife with secretary Peggy, Roger Sterling is completely open about using prostitutes and having affairs behind the back of his wife of many years. They muck women around, treat them with disdain and disrespect quite openly in their little boys club. 
Compared to the men of the 50's and 60's advertising agencies modern men are rather wonderful creatures. Do you know why? Because they are forced to take responsibility for their actions. Women are no longer afraid to hold their men to account. Women can walk away from a serial philanderer, she can divorce without shame, it is they who should now feel ashamed. While she can have her own career and know she will survive.
So men might not wear a fabulous trilby anymore (a loss I do lament) and there will always be something quite lovely about a man offering me his arm or giving me his coat if it's cold (that's just good manners!) but I think I might cut the modern man a break. In comparison, he really ain't so bad. 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Converting myself into a Mad Men lady.

I was rather late into the Mad Men obsession. It was only when a colleague said: 'You must love Joan Holloway, she's very you.' I thought, who is this Joan Holloway? I must seek out a kindred spirit of red-head womanliness. So I purchased Seasons 1 & 2. Last night I finished Season 1, which enthralled, disgusted and delighted me in equal measures. It was so compelling, so stylish, so darkly funny, so slick but so misogynist and so much smoking!
Anyway, I decided to turn myself into a walking Mad Men woman: See the picture right to see how I would look! A woman who wears stockings and corsets and has perfect nails and rollored hair, even in the middle of the night she is perfectly coiffed with a pretty nightie and floaty silk dressing gown. A woman who puts her appearance before all else and accepts men as sexist pigs because that's 'just how men are.' Luckily, no man has been a sexist pig towards me, what with us living in 2010, so thankfully I haven't had to grit my teeth and be all sweetness and light in that situation.

Now two Mad Men style things I will not be doing is 1) constantly smoking as it's a) now illegal to smoke in most of the places the Mad Men ladies smoke and b) rather detrimental to my health. 2) I will also not drink copious amounts of whiskey when I'm meant to be working. There is a distinct possibility that whiskey may make me more creative in the office but I can't see my superior managers thinking much of me as I slur my way through a four-hour strategic planning meeting and then vomiting in a bin. I can assure you this is what will happen if I drink too much whiskey.
So anyway, onto the experiment:

The Wardrobe: 
I have a rather retro style wardrobe anyway so luckily I am not having to go shopping to purchase some Joan Holloway or Betty Draper style outfits. I'm also used to strutting about in pencil skirts with nipped in waists. And oh, I've always thought it's lovely.

The stockings and suspenders:
I do already own rather intense underwearage like stockings and such. Although these were purchased as treats for the boyfriend rather than everyday wear...
Putting the fiddling stockings and suspenders on first thing in the morning, while my still bleary eyes trouble to even focus let alone concentrate on something so delicate, is rather a pain in the arse. It does definitely look a hell of a lot sexier than a pair of tights, however, even though my pencil skirt is well passed my knees I do feel rather self-conscious as I walk around the office feeling the relentless tug tug of the stockings around my thighs. Like everyone knows I am wearing this underwear like some kind of strumpet - even though fifty years ago these are the kind of things women wore on a daily basis. And even when I take them off I can feel them there, tugging, pressing, pulling on my skin. On the plus side, the stockings are cheaper than tights and if one ladders it's not a big deal, you can still wear the other one and just match it to one of the others in your stocking drawer. However, the handwashing may be a pain.
Also, and this is rather delicate, but going to the toilet? Ha! I work on just holding it all in until I can't take it anymore and then have to wiggle everything off just enough to go without going through the palava of taking everything off and then putting it back on again. This may explain why women took ages in the loo back then. Although it doesn't really explain why we take ages now...
Anyway, it may look sexy but if a gentleman did actually, er, come to call, there isn't actually that much in the way of ease of access. Getting all this underwear off is actually like Fort Knox. Not as sexy as you would think.

The corset:
Ouch! Maybe that's why men thought women the lesser sex, with such a lack of oxygen they couldn't breathe let alone think. Admittedly I do have a far more hour-glass silhouette which looks rather nice indeed. And it does make me feel more flirtatious, submissive and like I'm oozing sex or something. But to be honest, that's all a bit much for the office. That and I'd rather be able to concentrate on something other than the pain I'm feeling in my ribs.

I'm going to have to buy falsies, with my actually having to live a life, growing my own perfect nails is unlikely to happen.

I have been wearing vintage nighties to bed and floating around my flat in a silk dressing gown rather than my fluffy pink toweling dressing gown. Which has felt rather glamorous indeed, if a bit cold.

The Hair:
It takes a team of hairdressing experts three hours to construct Joan Holloway's hairstyles. I have, oooh, half an hour in the morning. But I make do with some heated rollers and the outcome is pretty good. But my hair looks, well, too bitty. The curls are all too individual. Then I remember something my gran once said to me. 'Sheryl dear, you always look like your hair needs a good brush.' My gran would have been about Betty Drapers age in 1960 so maybe she has a point. I carefully brush my curls. Et Voila! I look very retro. That is, until I go out in the rain and my hair just becomes a frizz bomb.

So what am I learning from my Mad Men experience? It's all a lot of effort. For a special occasion, the underwear, the clothes, the hair, it will all make you feel marvellous. But for everyday wear? I'm thinking I'll stick to tights thanks.

Monday, 22 March 2010

My apologies...

I know I haven't blogged in months. I'm sorry. I've been really busy!
And this post is little more than a promise to myself to be more proactive in the blogging sense. I've had a pretty redesign (doesn't Rita look just lovely above?!) and I've made a decision.  Obviously paying off my overdraft was a major deal for my blog previously. Well, the amazing news is that I have done it. I have paid off my overdraft, woohoo! I am no longer in major debt (aside from my student loan) and am free to write about other things...
Following this triumph over debt I have been trying to figure out how to fit my blog into a niche. Trying to work out what kind of blogger I wanted to be. There are so many different types of blogs and bloggers out there. There are foodie blogs, fashion blogs, sex blogs, feminist blogs, cancer blogs. You only need to pick up a copy of this months Company to see that there are blogs out there related to every single subject under the sun. Whenever I go to blogger networking events (I know, how geeky am I?!) I'm asked, 'what kind of blog do you write?' (For which I used to respond: paying off debts, fashion.) But I've decided I no longer want to typecast my blog into a particular label or subject. I have too much to say on too many different things to limit myself.
I only write this blog for me really. This isn't my job. I have one of those. I can't imagine I even have that many regular readers (aside from my sister, Hi Nic!) So this is more a creative outlet for anything else I want to write about... admittedly themes may crop up: food, fashion, health, charity, music, books, film, general geekery. But on here I will generally write about anything. Aside from my private life. That's private. And if you want to read about that you will have to break into my room and read the notebook hidden under my bed. (How very tantalising for you all...)

Thursday, 7 January 2010

And I am inspired...

At work yesterday I interviewed a woman who is hula hooping her way up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the charity I work for (World Cancer Research Fund) because she has two close friends battling cancer.
She is taking the Lemosho Route, known as the second timers route because it's the longest of the outfield routes, the climb will take eight days, sometimes climbing for six hours at a time and up to approx 12,000 feet every day. Some people suffer terrible sickness and nausea. And this woman, who admits she is 'athletically disinclined', plans to not only climb the mountain but also hula hoop at particular points all the way up and then hula hoop at the summit, despite probably being tired, dirty and in agonizing pain!
I talk to a lot of fundraisers in my job and don't get me wrong, I always enjoy hearing about the amazing things they are doing for us, it always puts a smile on my face.
But talking to this girl made me feel particularly invincable, like anything is possible.
Her positivity was amazing, I just loved her chipper personality, her 'I can do anything' point of view. Doing something this amazing because it would make her two friends smile. And she is taking Hula Hooping classes in North London! ( I am so going!
But anyway, back to the amazing fundraiser, Julianne McGregor who is 28. She plans to raise £3,350 for WCRF and will climb the mountain this September.
"Like most people, I have close friends and family in my life who are fighting, or have fought, cancer." she said, "They come from all walks of life but the one thing they have in common is an overwhelming positivity in the face of trials and a fantastic sense of humour. At the risk of sounding cheesy, they inspire me every day and brighten the lives of those around them, so I thought it was high time I returned the favour."
She has a youtube channel too,, and will be making videos of her progress as she trains and when she does climb the mountain and you can sponsor her at
She's inspired me so much I think I might take up a challenge of my own... any ideas anyone?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

So, it's 2010 and I have a New Years resolution or two...

1) Pay off my overdraft (currently only £526 overdrawn so I have high hopes for this one! And yes, I had this one last year, but at the beginning of last year my overdraft was nearer to the £3,000 mark so I feel I have done rather well.) 
2) Improve my finances generally and change the way I spend money.
3) Improve my punctuation.
4) Get back to a more healthier way of living.
5) Start being a bit more crafty, making my own clothes, making jam and chutney, etc (I bet you lot are well excited about your birthday presents now aren't you?!)
6) Get better at this web design thing.

And there are some others, generally about being a more dignified lady (especially at parties) and some other stuff about handling the menfolk better. But that's all a bit too personal to go into here.

So, what are everyone else's New Years resolutions?