Friday, October 21

The Friday List
Excuses for getting out of the office christmas party
(AKA more bah-humbug, bitter rantings - what is wrong with me this week?)

    I'm cutting my arm off with a blunt Bic razor
    I'm putting my head in for dry cleaning
    There's no-one at home to look after the llama
    I'm washing my courgettes
    I've got some pheasants coming to stay
    It's my garden gnome's 30th birthday bash

Thursday, October 20

Bah, humbug
For the past two years, as I've become more eco-friendly, anti-consumerist and generally Wombly, I have also become increasingly uncomfortable with Christmas shopping.

The physical act of Christmas shopping is bad enough: the crowds of people pushing and shoving, the dry hot air being pumped out through the air con systems, the queues of people with overspilling baskets in Boots and M&S, the stressed-out parents screaming at their kids to stop nagging and running up and down the aisles. (Gosh, I'm becoming a miserable old trout. I told you my barrenness was making be bitter.)

But the thing that really got to me last year was the wastefulness of it all. I trudged around the shops, getting hotter and crosser, loaded down with too much stuff to carry, spending more and more money on knick knacks to pad out people's bags of presents. I got home and unpacked it all, buried under a mountain of plastic wrapping and carrier bags, only to wrap it all back up again in Christmas paper that would just get ripped off and discarded a few days later. I just found it all a bit, well, depressing.

Don't get me wrong, I love the sparkliness of Christmas - getting together with family and friends, everyone in a caring, sharing sort of mood. But why does it have to involve so much... crap.

I came across the Adbusters site for Buy Nothing Christmas recently. Have a look, it's quite interesting.

Since thinking of all this, I've started to try to cut down on buying so much stuff. Some friends got married recently. They had a wedding list (don't get me started on those), but they've been living together for years, earn lots of money and have a fully-equipped and beautiful house. I don't think they really needed those designer napkin rings or silver gravy boat, so I bought them something from Oxfam Unwrapped. She's really into gardening, so I 'bought' them an allotment for someone in Africa. I was a bit worried that they'd think I was just a horrible old meanie, but they seemed thrilled with their 'non-gift'.

For a friend's birthday a few weeks ago, I baked a box of chocolate brownies. I bought my mother an Indian head massage for her birthday. I treated my dad to a night out at a comedy club. When we were very poor, I made Mr Meep a book of 'vouchers' for his birthday, which he could cash in throughout the year. It had things like 'Breakfast in bed', 'Get out of doing the dishes', 'Home-cooked three course meal of your choice', 'Back massage'. For our wedding anniversary, I promised him a home-made cake every month for a year.

I think that Buy Nothing Christmas is the way forward in the Meep household for 2005 (although Mr Meep needs a tad more convincing). I'm not a complete Scrooge - people will get things, but they'll get things that they can actually use or enjoy. Not things that they'll end up putting in a cupboard or giving to the charity shop in a few months' time.

So they get something they'll (hopefully) like, I don't have to join the hoardes of Christmas shoppers, the big high street stores get a little less rich and Mother Earth breathes a sigh of relief as a less pointless stuff and packaging gets produced. Everyone's a winner.

Here are some of my ideas. I'll write them down while I'm feeling inspired or I'll forget and end up with Gillette gift packs from Boots all round.

    Theatre tickets
    Gig tickets
    Cinema vouchers
    Beauty treatments
    Hair cuts
    Christmas cakes (using my new-found sugarcraft skills)
    A painting or drawing
    A framed photograph
    Magazine subscription
    Foodie treats
    Cases of wine/nice beers
    Plant a tree
    Adopt an animal

Bah. And indeed, humbug.

Wednesday, October 19

Mosquito Attack Update
On a more positive note, after my self-pitying entry below, my face looks almost normal again. There's still a bit of a lump but I don't look like a) I have mumps and b) like Peter Pumpkinhead.

Tuesday, October 18

Seven Days Into the Great TV Experiment
I have been TV-less for seven days. It hasn't been a struggle at all - until last night, when I was home alone.

Got back from work at 5 and had a long evening stretching out before me. Had a cuppa, played with Blod, made some soup, tidied the kitchen, read the paper, ate some soup, did the washing up, read my book, made some holly berries for my Christmas cake... It was only 9pm. Wife Swap was about to start. I was lonely. The house was quiet. I was tempted.

But I fought the lure of Evil Edna and put the radio on instead, then curled up on my special pink chair with a cuppa and my book. Lovely.

Things I've done in the evenings when I would have been watching telly:
    Had a long chatty dinner with Mr Meep
    Went to my sugarcraft class
    Had a friend round for dinner
    Met another friend for a drink
    Played with the Blod lots
    Read the weekend newspapers
    Finished my book (The Closed Circle - very good, but read The Rotters Club first)
    Practised my cake decorating

However, I noticed that Trinny and Susannah and Jamie Oliver have new programmes on this week, so it should be a testing time.

Monday, October 17

Mosquito Attack
On Saturday, a mosquito bit me on the cheek. Any normal person would just get an annoying itchy lump for a few days. I have a bizarre allergic reaction which has caused my face to balloon so I look like Eric Stoltz in Mask.

Friday, October 14

The Friday List
Things I hope will feature heavily in my weekend.

    Real ale
    Girlie films (no, not that kind, you perve)
    Weekend broadsheets
    Home-made pizzas
    Cups of tea
    Bubble baths
    CDs by girls with guitars
    Mumpety people

I'm easily pleased, me.

Wednesday, October 12

Seasonal Affective Disorder is Kicking In
So, 12 days into October and my short-lived annual excitement about cosy winter nights indoors with fairy lights and red wine has already slumped in an exhausted heap to make way for the arrival of the winter grumpies. The dark mornings, the rain, the cold, the hideousness of Christmas shopping, the lack of nice fruit, the sprouts, central heating, office parties...

Poor Mr Meep now has his annual feeling of despair at the thought of living with a miserable old trout for the next five months. So tonight, we are making a 'Things to look forward to about winter' list, which we will stick on the fridge as a daily motivator.

I was thinking about it on the train this morning and came up with a few things.

    Long, lazy Sunday lunches with friends
    Walks in the park, wrapped up warm
    Curling up on the sofa with red wine and a good book
    Furry coats
    Sparkly gloves and scarves
    Hot chocolate
    Pints of real ale in pubs with real fires
    Mashed potato and roasted veg
    The twinkliness of Christmas
    Wandering around deserted beaches with my dog

Ah, I feel a bit better already.

Tuesday, October 11

The TV ban experiment
I've been looking at the White Dot Campaign website today. Interesting reading - OK, it's very extreme and only gives one side of the argument, but as I think along the same lines, I think it's fab. And it's my blog, so I'll talk about it. So there (insert smiley poking its tongue out).

For the past year, I've been trying to gradually move the television out of the lounge. The big telly went earlier in the year, replaced by a teeny portable. Then it moved from being a focal point with all the chairs facing it, and crept into a corner out of sight. Ideally, I'd like it gone for good - banished to a dusty corner in the loft.

I used to watch a lot of TV - Eastenders, Corrie, Pop Idol, Cold Feet, Friends, Big Brother, Hollyoaks, Millionaire, Stars in Their Eyes... If I went out, I'd video things so I could watch them later. I'd relish a 'duvet day' where I could lie on the sofa watching This Morning and other day-time shows. If I was away for a holiday, I'd have hours of goggle-boxing to catch up on when I got home.

(In my defence, we lived in Gloucester and had no mates, so that box in the corner was... sob... my only friend...)

Anyway, one day I had an epiphany. I realised that it was all rubbish. Why was I watching people cooking when I could be learning to cook myself? Why watch Rachel, Pheobe and Monica having a good old girlie giggle when I could be out doing the same thing? So I gradually cut down, finding that the time I spent not watching telly could be spent doing all kinds of lovely things, like reading and cooking and walking - things I thought I never had time to do.

Nowadays, I probably watch an average of about four hours of TV a week. On the nights that I get in from work and don't switch the TV on, the evenings seem long and there's plenty of time to do things that I want to.

Last night, I had my latest copy of The Ecologist to read. However, I had a date with Wife Swap. I timed my whole evening around sitting down at 9pm - everything from Blod's nap time to my dinner. When it got to 9pm, I really fancied getting into bed with my mag, but the TV was there, winking seductively at me. "Come on, you like Wife Swap. You're tired and it's great to just veg out in front of the box." So I watched it. It was rubbish - people being unpleasant to each other and judging each others lives. It didn't make me feel good, I didn't feel entertained, I wished I'd (in the words of Why Don't You?) switched off the television set and done something less boring instead.

I recently read a feature in The Observer about a woman who stopped watching telly completely. Did she have any regrets? Did she feel she was missing out when friends were talking about the latest episode of Lost? Not a sausage. So I'm going to do the same. Call it a little detox for my brain.

I don't meant to sound smug or patronising - and I don't think all telly is bad - whatever floats your boat. In my current 'Gah-I-hate-my-job' state of mind, I want to milk every second of my free time. I want to make time for the mates I haven't seen in weeks, finish the paintings I've been sketching for my new niece/nephew, read all those books that have been sitting on my shelf for months.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Things to do instead of telly-watching:
    Read a novel
    Have a cwtch/snog
    Phone your Granny
    Play with your pets
    Run around the park
    Have a nice long bath
    Play Scrabble
    Go for a walk
    Cook something yummy
    Go to the cinema
    Read the newspaper
    Listen to music
    Make a cake
    Put the radio on
    Paint a picture
    Go to the pub
    Flick through magazines
    Visit a friend
    Go to the theatre
    Join an evening class
    Have an early night with a cup of cocoa

Monday, October 10

Things that I have in common with my puppy. Posted by Picasa

Over the weekend, I realised that Blod and I are really very similar. Perhaps we were destined to be friends or perhaps I have influenced her in her early weeks. But then Mr Meep has spent more time with her than me, so really she should be a computer geek dog.

These are my observations so far:

  • We both drink loads of water
  • We are fascinated by shoes
  • We love wine: I like a glass after work, she tries to drink it out of the bottles in the recycling
  • We like the Saturday Guardian: I read it, she chews it
  • We like flowers: I grow them, she eats them
  • We both like having a big old cwtch
  • We get excited when Mr Meep comes home
  • We get even more excited when it's dinner time

Friday, October 7

The Friday List
Food packets that I spotted in our office kitchen bin today.

  • Tesco Value Sausage and Onion Pie
    I still haven't found out whose this was. I have my suspicions.
  • Sliced haslet
    I had to ask what this was. I wish I hadn't.
  • A broccoli Slim-A-Soup
    Broccoli content: 0.001%. Rest: salty water

Honestly, it's like Saint Jamie never even existed.

Thursday, October 6

I've found a kindred spirit
Thursday Things I Like
A famous boffin has announced that if you spend 20 minutes a day writing about things that make you happy, then you will indeed be a super smiley person. Let's face it, I'll never to remember to do that every day but, in the style of the Friday list, each Thursday I'll spend time blogging about something I like.

This in not is a rip off of the 'Why I love...' in The Guardian G2. No way. Nope. Absolutely not.

Raindrops on roses did it for Julie Andrews, and I can see her point about the kittens' whiskers, but what I really, really like is ...

After the student years of abusing my body with endless booze and caffeine, I worked in an office with a water cooler. It was one very dull job - probably one of my lowest points employment-wise, working in a call centre for a big evil global bank, listening to idiotic business owners becoming increasingly shouty as they ranted on about their credit card machines breaking (it had usually just run out of paper or come unplugged at the wall).

So to relieve the boredom, I would make frequent trips to the water cooler for a gossip. The more bored I was, the more water I would drink. More water = more trips to the loo = more time away from the tyranny of the undereducated team leaders endlessly squawking "Calls in the queue, calls in the queue".

So water was a great excuse for getting me away from the headset. But as I drank more water, strange things started to happen. I wasn't permanently tired anymore. I wasn't as irritable. I had loads of energy and started walking absolutely everywhere.

The addiction began. First it was six glasses a day. It soon progressed to a big 2-litre bottle that had to be finished by home time. Then I needed a glass at the side of the bed, and another one when I got up in the morning.

About eight years on, it's serious. I never go anywhere without a plastic bottle in my bag. If I can't get hold of some, I start to feel a bit panicky. When I don't have any - even if I'm without it for an hour - I feel exhausted. My mouth feels mingy. I get a strange sticky film of grossness on my teeth. My wee is brown. I just feel generally icky. Oh my god, I'm an aquaholic.

Wednesday, October 5

Presenting... Baroness Blodwen of Splottlands
Here she is - my gorgeous new puppy! Here's a profile, so you can get to know her a bit.
Name: Baroness Blodwen of Splottlands (Blod to her friends)
Age: 9 weeks and five days
Likes: Eating plants, cuddles, clothes pegs, pooing
Dislikes: The baby gate that keeps her in the kitchen, eye drops
Hobbies: Chasing Zebedee the cat, wagging her tail really fast, pooing
Grrrr - I'm a savage beast! Posted by Picasa
The Baroness Blod, after her bath. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 3

Project SE
After a week off of chilling and looking after my gorgeous new puppy (more on that soon), I can't cope with office life sucking my soul out any more. Project SE (Self-employment) has officially started.

The plan is to have a few part-time jobs instead of one main job. In an ideal world, this would be a combination of:
  • Making cakes
  • Writing
  • Something to do with adult literacy
  • An easy job that is totally stress-free and where I can meet nice people (one day a week in a health food shop or arts centre)

As we're used to living frugally after Mr Meep's student days, I've worked out that we only need to earn about £10k each to have a pretty nice life - that's all the bills sorted and a little bit of spending money too.

Here's the short-term plan to put the long-term plan into practice.
  • Work on text for a website to promote myself as a freelance copywriter
  • Live mega-frugally and save some dosh to tide us over for a few months
  • Learn to decorate cakes (have already started a class)
  • Get back into freelance journalism to update my portfolio

Hurrah, it doesn't have to be this way forever. Aiming to be out of here by December 2006. Yikes.