March 13, 2011

Twelve years ago today:

There are two more photos here, if you’re feeling particularly sentimental!  I have woken up to a gorgeous bunch of white roses this morning, and we’re heading into London today to have lunch with some friends and then afternoon tea with some other friends.


Eternity ring

March 7, 2011

I woke up in an excellent mood today and skipped merrily to work.  And when I got there I bought my breakfast porridge and sat at my desk to read emails and catch up with the latest exploits of my friends and family on Facebook.  As is often my custom, I took off my rings and applied some hand cream. 

After a couple of minutes, when the cream had sunk in a bit, I went to put my rings back on … and discovered that my lovely, lovely eternity ring had vanished into thin air.  Long-term readers will recall that this is the same eternity ring that Tristan bought me in Cape Town two years ago, as a tenth wedding anniversary present.  Here it is in all its glory, on top of Table Mountain:

I spent most of the day ransacking my office.  I hadn’t moved from my chair before the ring vanished and nobody had been in my office.  I hadn’t picked up any files.  Despite this, I turned my entire office upside-down, crawled under my desk and looked at its inner workings, investigated every dusty corner of the carpet, had a bit of a cry, rang Tristan, rang my friend Chiara from a couple of offices down and got her to join me, went through my entire desk again, took everything off my desk, shook everything, patted myself down, checked my coat pockets, checked my bag, got to that mental stage where you start checking places where there is no way that a ring could hide, re-checking places that you’ve already checked several times… you get the general idea.

My ring has vanished and I am so sad.  I thought that I might have forgotten to put it on this morning (for the first time in two years), but it isn’t at home either.  I’ve posted a message about it on the firm’s online public noticeboard, but nobody has found it.  I’ve left a note for our cleaners.  I have no idea what’s happened to it.

Anyway, I’m just feeling sick when I think of it.  I am really careful with my things and I don’t often lose stuff – and I’ve certainly never lost something so lovely, so precious to me and so valuable.  It’s just terrible.


March 6, 2011

So, it’s Ash Wednesday on the 9th and I have been thinking about what to give up this year.  In the past, I’ve considered alcohol, but the whole point of self-denial is that you should try to do without something that you’ll really miss, thus providing yourself with a constant reminder of your faith (like, every time you fancy a cigarette or whatever you’ll go, ‘I would really like a cigarette, but my suffering now is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross, so I’ll get over it for now and maybe I’ll say a prayer and, perhaps, chuck some money into a charity bucket later on’). 

In years gone by I’ve figured that I don’t drink often enough to make it a worthwhile thing to give up.  However, this year it’s all very different – I’m easily drinking often enough.  However, for various reasons I’m finding that the occasional glass of wine or vodka and tonic is doing me a power of good, so I’m not depriving myself of it this year.

Similarly, I could give up sweets.  Or I could be hardcore and do what I did last year and give up all sweet things.  Last year I did without sweets, chocolate, sugar in my tea, biscuits, cakes, puddings – everything.  It was horrible and I got very grumpy towards the end, but it certainly afforded me many opportunities to contemplate my faith.  But I can’t do it again, or even give up sweets.  Most days sugar is the only thing getting me through from about 3pm onwards, and if I give it up there’s every chance that I’ll start falling asleep on the train on the way home, and waking up in the wilds of Norfolk.

Instead, I’ve designed to give up dairy products.  Party people, this is going to be hellishly hard.  I really like butter, and cheese, and milk, and ice cream (ice cream would be my junk food of choice, every time).  And chocolate.  And if I’m not eating dairy products I’m also going to be deprived of delicious things like Eggs Benedict, and I’m going for breakfast with a friend on Thursday morning and would possibly have ordered Eggs Benedict.  Damn.

36 today

February 6, 2011

I’ve had a lovely day. We visited Geoff and Jane for the weekend and I opened presents (including a fab Lulu Guinness handbag from Tristan), ate delicious pancakes made by Geoff for brunch, did a spot of shopping with Jane (three dresses bought for total of £102, because sales are awesome) and then scoffed afternoon tea at the Langham (where this photo was taken).

Me at seven

December 11, 2010

When we threw our children-themed department Christmas party last week, we got everybody in the mood by asking them to submit photos of themselves as kids and then sticking them all over the room. This was me, at my First Communion:

That nun was my teacher and her name was Sister Elizabeth (and still is, I suspect). And she was – and I’m sorry to be harsh here, but needs must – a bit of a dick. She was the kind of adult that, even as a young child, you look at and think, ‘man, you’re a geek’. I don’t remember getting on very well with me, and if memory serves me right I think that one of the reasons was her continued insistence that, because I wrote with my left hand, I was somehow likely to ‘disrupt’ the person sitting next to me – so I always had to sit at the end of a row of desks. What an idiot – she was one step away from strapping my left arm to my side and forcing me to write with my right hand, like it was still the olden days.

My abiding dislike of this woman is for another reason, though; she taught us a really dorky rhyme that, to this day, is burned in my brain. And because I’m such a compassionate and caring soul, I’m going to share it with you:

If you’ve got a job to do, do it now

If it’s one you wish was through, do it now

If you’re sure the job’s your own

Then tackle it alone

Don’t hem and haw and groan

Do it now!

Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that you’d expect from a nerdy young nun? And what a load of nonsense! Who amongst us doesn’t embrace the dark art of procrastination and do our best to rope in other people to help us with the work that is, by rights, our own, huh? If that’s wrong, do you really want to be right?

Skanky children’s clothing

December 6, 2010

(By which I mean “clothing that is skanky and that is made for children”, and not “clothing for skanky children”.)

In recent years the debate about inappropriate clothing for children has bubbled up every now and then in the UK.  This latest contribution warns that the idea of legislating on what is and isn’t ‘appropriate’ is probably not going to work.  And that’s a fairly sound attitude, I think: a skirt which is perfectly fine on a six year old of average height could be indecent on a particularly tall kid, after all.  Of course, the idea that any children’s clothing should be emblazoned with the Playboy bunny symbol or slogans like ‘MILF in training’ is just idiotic, but as Justine Roberts (the co-founder of Mumsnet) points out in the article:

“The best way is to challenge retailers to think about it a bit more, and parents too because obviously someone’s buying this stuff.

“A far better way is to raise the debate and let the consumers do the ‘nudge’, which is saying we challenge you to behave properly in this regard.”

I totally agree with her first comment: parents need to take responsibility for this issue, rather than bleating on about how inappropriate everything is.  If they don’t want their daughters wearing skanky clothes, the obvious answer is to refuse to buy the skanky clothes for their daughters.  Retailers only sell products when there is a market for them.

And the retailers who think that it’s acceptable to sell padded bras for 10 year olds and sell ‘toy’ pole-dancing kits should be mocked and avoided by any right-thinking adult, and their corporate social responsibility strategies should be pulled apart with the precision of a food critic looking for a stray fish bone in a good restaurant.  I’m looking at you here, Tesco and Asda.  And I think I’ve made my hatred of Primark known before, so just count this as yet another nail in their coffin, as far as I’m concerned.

I also agree with Roberts’s point that, by raising the issue, consumers might be encouraged to provide the ‘nudge’ to stupid retailers.  However, Roberts and I part ways later on:

But she added: “I think in commercialisation and advertising, that is the place where Government can make a difference if they’re brave. I don’t see why children need to be advertised to when it’s not their money, what you’re doing is encouraging them to pester their poor parents.”

This point is also made on the Mumsnet website, in the Let Girls Be Girls campaign section:

What about parental responsibility?

Of course we’re not suggesting that retailers should shoulder all the responsibility for turning back the tide. We understand that parents always have the option of not buying products which sexualise children, and that a small minority of parents might actively wish to dress their eight-year-olds like mini-adults, teetering in heels and a provocatively-sloganed top.

But we believe few parents make an active choice to do so – we know from experience that most parents are low on energy, and struggle to resist ‘pester power’ at the best of times. Holding the line against a furious nine-year-old who wants a padded bra ‘like everyone else’ can sometimes seem like a battle not worth fighting, and the more widely available these products are, the more acceptable – even inevitable- they are perceived to be.

Surely the answer is for parents to GROW A PAIR and learn to say no to their children in such a way that their kids are left under no illusion about the futility of continuing to nag for whatever random thing the child wants the parent to buy?  Children have ALWAYS been a prime marketing target.  I grew up in the 1980s, the era of every stupid toy and fashion trend under the sun, and yet my parents resisted the urge to buy me Cabbage Patch Dolls, My Little Ponies, a coven of Barbies, ra-ra skirts… I could go all day, listing the things that I tried (and failed) to nag my mother to buy. 

My mother, in news that may shock some modern parents, mastered the art of saying, ‘No, that’s stupid and ugly and you’ll hate it in five minutes; go outside and play and stop annoying me’ when my sisters and I were reasonably young.  And – astoundingly – we have grown up to be emotionally unscarred by this seemingly heartless lack of material goods. 

Some things that parents could also try:

  1. Restricting the time that their children spend watching TV or playing online, if that’s when they’re exposed to the influence of advertising.
  2. Responding to the cries that every other kid has a certain item of clothing by pointing out that all adults don’t dress alike, and nor should all children.  If this doesn’t work, try the ‘go outside and play and stop being annoying’ approach.
  3. Telling kids who want a dozen different toys for Christmas that they must choose the one that they want the most and tell Father Christmas – you never know, they might get it (this could also be helpful with regard to the whole ‘mental families ending up in ridiculous debt because of over-spending at Christmas’ thing that seems to be unavoidable for so many people).
  4. Not taking their children to the supermarket or shopping centres.  Two-parent families can leave one parent at home.  I appreciate that it’s harder for single parent families, but I can’t tell you how often I see entire families – Mum, Dad, three kids – at Sainsbury’s.  What is WRONG with these people?  A supermarket trip isn’t a social outing.  It’s a means to an end.
  5. Making kids realise that playing up in public is Not An Option.  It will be punished with restricted TV, restricted toys, or – if you’re kicking it old school – a swift whack on the backside.  Again, it will shock modern parents to learn that any of these disciplinary options can actually help children to understand that there are consequences to bad behaviour and that, despite what your seven year old may scream at you, they won’t really hate you forever.

Basically, kids will always be kids: they will nag and whinge for stuff that they want.  I bet that, even before TV and the evils of modern marketing, kids were nagging their parents because little Johnny down the road had a shinier hoe or whatever.  The ‘poor parents’ need to harden up and stop expecting the Government to do their job for them. 

And while I admire the spirit behind the Let Girls Be Girls campaign, I question the value of it.  Check out the retailers that back it:

Bhs, Sainsburys, Great Little Trading Co., Tesco, Next, No Added Sugar, Bread and Jam, Zara, Boots, Clarks, Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Fat Face, George at Asda, Boden, House of Fraser, TK Maxx, Mothercare, Pumpkin Patch, Start-rite, Hush Puppies,, Sweetling Bras.

No, or No Response: H&M, Gap, WH Smith, Barratts, Claire’s Accessories, Deichmann, Ethel Austin, Mackays, Monsoon, Littlewoods, Matalan, New Look, Primark, River Island, Selfridges.

See any familar names there?  What a farce.  Like I said, the corporate social responsibility people at some of these organisations should take a long, hard look at themselves.  They bring my profession into disrepute.

Butter warning

November 25, 2010

I love this kind of thing.

And a close-up:

So helpful.