Category Archives: modern living

Washing optional

This has been a horrendous week on public transport. One of those where the fat people always want to sit next to me and then bump me the whole time that I need to give them part of my seat. To be honest I don’t really mind that much.

Possibly because it has been freezing cold a number of people seem to have decided that cleaning is optional. I speak of themselves. Their bodies, their hair, their teeth. It’s a toss up what is worse. The cloying sour-floral smell of B.O. and layers of perfume, the stench of the unbrushed dog breath or the overpowering cutting aroma of a chain smoker’s tobacco mouth.

This is often combined with the concept that drycleaning or airing a coat is unnecessary and mothballs are the scent of success.

But that is probably a really cruel thing for me to say and it therefore serves me right when Plus One comments it’s astounding how easily my hair picks up the odour of food when I open the oven and bend over it. That it is roast chicken scented for hours after!


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Filed under anecdotes, modern living, social


So last year I came down with a cold/cough thing that seemed to last forever. (In point of fact, although I am now ‘healthy’ I still seem to be getting up every morning and hocking up a tiny phlegm ball – like a smoker or a distressed cat with hairballs – note: I am not a smoker or a cat).

At some stage while waiting to heal I developed this insane urge to firstly ‘treat’ myself so I felt less sorry for myself and secondly I started to wonder how much my fitness levels were dropping off because I was in some state of imposed bedrest involving work-food-sleep-work-food-sleep-work with no social life per say as I was too tired (and coughy) to be much fun.

Somewhere in the midst of this I decided what I REALLY wanted was a fitness tracker with a heartrate monitor that doesn’t look like one particularly. (which really narrowed the field) And I didn’t want to pay full price. So I got a really nice little fitbit off ebay from a very nice gentleman who let me pay immediately without bidding as I can’t deal with the bidding auction frenzy thing that was in perfect condition and I then scraped the face all by myself on the first hour of wearing. (sigh)

So this thing has been tracking my movements for about a month but I’m getting a bit bored of this. I miss the two watches I own as there is no point in wearing a normal watch if you have a tracker with time attached to it already. The watches are just more comfy as on my wrist as the tracker doesn’t wrap sufficiently and personally I feel it consequently keeps poking into my arm in a way that it would not if I had a fatter arm (not that I want a fatter arm). This is despite what is a serious charm for my shallow self of being able to easily switch out the straps to suit fashion/activity etc. Two completely different straps fit differently but still the straps can only bend so far and the little light sensor things dig into my arm.

I am more fascinated than I thought I would be at this wearable tech. I keep worrying – especially since my wrist feels dented by the tracker – that the little light sensor things are going to give me cancer. Has anyone tested this? Or am I doomed anyways due to too many hours on early design mobile phones (think Motorola brick)? Is this thing really accurately monitoring my heartrate anyway or is it just making up some kind of guestimate that is also based off my blood pressure etc? And how does that sleep function work anyway? It actually subtracts time off for being ‘awake’ even though you are in bed. Occasionally when I think back I can vaguely remember being awake in the night as I tried to turn over or had a duvet war with Plus One but there are other periods of ‘awake’ I do not recall and I seem to have big problems hitting REM (Although this may be due to the fact that I’m plain not sleeping enough as there isn’t enough time in the day).

Strange to think though how ‘normal’ the whole concept of these trackers has become. Since owning one I notice them in various shapes, guises and brands on other people. And it’s astounding how many people of various fitness levels, sizes, ages, wear one. Will the ability to track our motions become so bog standard in the future we won’t even think about it? Like we don’t think twice now about being late meeting people because we are all connected via phones.


Filed under Fitness, modern living, technology

And the point is what?

So this woman climbed on the bus the other day with one of those mega prams that appears deceptively small but has 4×4 wheels that run over your feet if you don’t watch out because the wheels are spread like a squatting spider below the seat.

She had child who was getting too big for a pram, a shopping bag and a snack in hand. Curiously I looked at the snack. (I am naturally greedy.) It was a clear box of Quorn veggie cocktail sausages that she was scarfing at speed. Quorn was something I was unfamiliar with before moving countries because South Africans tend to look rather mockingly at people who don’t believe in meat. Quorn being the big brand name for a company that turns soya into a dizzy variety of meat-like products from sausages to mince to breaded chicken cutlets.

Mo Farah endorses it so it must work, even for athletes. And we are not above using a bit of the mince (with its strange squidgy soft tofu texture) to bulk out our normal lean beef mince when in economy mode. But I am not really a Quorn fan.

Looking through the opaque shopping bag I noted it contained a pot of carrot and coriander soup and a pack of ‘Lincolnshire style veggie sausages’ by a supermarket brand.

This to me was even more absurd than Quorn as a brand. This was clearly someone who believed in being a vegetarian for some reason – health/religion/love of fluffy animals – I have no idea. She was probably teaching her kid to be a veggie too. But obviously in denial about the lack of animal in her diet. Why on EARTH would she fill 2/3 of her shopping of imitation meat products? Surely if you are going to be vegetarian, you should embrace the plant. Enthuse on how you can spice and season and appreciate the delectable freshness of vegetables. And what is she teaching her child? Don’t eat meat but let me make your palate accustomed to things vaguely umami meat-ish?

I can fully understand why these products exist on the market but frankly, basing your diet around them is absurd. If you can’t work out how to live on eggs, nuts, cheese, lentils and vegetables maybe you just weren’t cut out to be a herbivore.

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Filed under Food, modern living

Unique codifier

I’m not really a fan of hugely unique names for children. I think naming your child ‘Apple’ or ‘Lourdes’, even if you are a celebrity, something akin to child abuse. I’m never too sure some of the old names that went quaintly and quietly out of fashion bouncing back was a good idea either, even if I like a sense of history. (See the host of Rosies and Emelias and Gerties and Noahs that popped up for awhile)

I am starting to see the merit in giving children not too common names, even if not too unusual, as my parents somehow succeeded in doing. I also really like my surname more than Plus One’s. I tried to explain to him this is because it is far more unique in the world than his.

Lately I’m really valuing the merits of this. I am finding the projects I’m working a through pain in the backside because so many of the names on the projects are repeated. It’s inconceivable how many times a Dave and a Mark and Smit and an Addams or whatever has been repeated. Sometimes the first names. Sometimes almost surprisingly the surnames too, or variations thereof. So Smit and Smith and Smuts. Not really the same but similar enough for someone like me with an auto fill function to my email to hit the wrong person. Likewise for the first names.

Sometimes I get lucky and the wrong first name still has some relevance to the email. Sometimes the person is so out of context in terms of project and job function this results in quizzical emails back with the person on the other end clearly questioning my competence.

I exaggerate slightly quite how often this has gone wrong but if you ask me, once is one time too many.

I fully understand now why my old boss said, after we hired someone with the same first name as him, after three months of misdirected calls and a really delusional misdirection aimed at a twentysomething just starting out life with an active social life instead of a staid director in the prime of managerial hell, ‘We are NEVER employing someone with the same name as me ever again. No,’ (to the other director trying to placate him) ‘If that person really appears to be so AMAZING you want to hire him, he can bloody well change his first name if he wants to work here.’


Filed under anecdote, modern living, social

The things we surf

Was just debating the stuff I have looked up on the internet over the past year. And what these idiotic search engines that stalk and memorise the sites I go to must profile me out as.

My searches have included:

  • Video footage of a guinea fowl running (they cheer me up no end without fail)
  • Where is Dawid Malan the English cricketer from because with a name like that can he really be English?
  • World War 1 flying aces
  • Properties near my house
  • Places – tourist traps, hotels, transport – where I might one day go holiday if I had a sackload of money
  • Furniture
  • The option of getting an owl as a pet – specifically a burrowing owl
  • Body fat muscle ratios of women
  • How to make a yorkshire pudding
  • Restaurant menus in places I will never go eat at due to location/price/menu choices
  • How to grow various vegetables (which I have promptly never bothered to grow)
  • Random items on Amazon – rarely books – that I might one day want to own from jewellery to toasters
  • The fourth state of matter – I thought there was only gas/water/solid but the Science Museum said plasma counted (I think it was plasma)
  • Currency exchange rates
  • What time the shops open
  • Where is the bank
  • News24
  • Which universities were top in the world
  • Cellphones that could explode on planes
  • When a Brazilean musician is touring again internationally

The thing that I really resent is that these searches ARE being tracked as I’ve been getting adverts appropriate to these random searches.

Just a pity that if these people had any sense, they would realise there is no correlation between what I read on the internet and my own personal reality half the time.



Filed under anecdote, modern living, social, technology

Ageing gracefully

There is a lady who catches the same bus as me most mornings now. It sounds cruel but if one were to describe her, you are likely to use the words ‘drab’ or ‘stodgy’. Her hair is regularly coloured and clipped, but lank and limp. She’s picked up a few kilos over time and tries to hide this with dark coloured shapeless long skirts, blouses and jackets. She walks like someone who struggles a bit with her health.

If she was a bit richer or vainer, she’d probably get hair extensions and blow dries, structured designer clothing and maybe a personal trainer who would shape up her figure and add a bit more vim to her walk. If she had more natural flair (like my beloved blogger friend, Footloose) she’d just exude flair irrespective of what she was wearing. She’d give off a sense of vitality and energy. As it is, everything just seems a little bit run down for her.

My mother used to be very vain. Even when there was very little money while I was growing up she somehow found petty cash to perm and colour her hair. As she got older, she got a bit more indifferent to exactly how good her hair looked. (To be fair, she has pointed out once it thins to a certain point, it’s optimism and nothing else that will allow you to do anything with it). She’s also thrown out dressy in favour of comfy. The woman who would wear skirts so short and tight she couldn’t sit now believes stretchy pants are the way forward.

Some people never seem to cross that line between image and comfort. Some slide oh, so easily over it, even in youth.

I’m wondering which way I’d go?

It’s hard to say when elements like health, wealth and time must obviously feature in a massive way on this, unless your ego is so massive it overwhelms all of these external factors.


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Filed under modern living, motivation, social

All Change

I was standing on the platform last Friday, waiting for a train. The notice board tiresomely said ‘next train not in service’. Which seems to happen a lot on that line. It’s like at that junction point they remove a third of the trains from service because they think there is a lesser population stupid enough to go northwards to nowhere.

Which is sort of true except an INSANE number of people, including myself, want to go one stop north and we want to get out the barriers as soon as possible which is at the front of the train. So I shuffled to the head of the track and tried to position myself near where an entering door might ultimately stop. This was not helped by the fact that, as usual, what are usually young east European or Asian (see ‘Indian’ if you are South African) women – not to generalise of course – tend to quite aggressively calculate where the space is and then park DIRECTLY in front of it. So they bump backwards into you when a train stops and people have to get off to let them on. They stand as close to the edge as is possible without you pushing them onto the track and elbow outwards with their oversized tote bags to maximise surface area (of very skinny girl) in front of the doorway. There was one there on Friday.

The station master was getting quite fed up with staring across a cold platform at what were clearly, to him, mentally deficient people. ‘The train on Platform 2 is terminating here. Do NOT get on the train. It stops here. If you don’t want to listen to me, at least try observe and notice that when everyone gets off, you should not get on because the train won’t go anywhere.’ And when it pulled in, ‘To the people ON the train, get off the train. This train terminates here. Follow the other people who already got off.’

So the train departed and the top end of the platform crowded up with all the idiots like me trying to get on a carriage near the exit on the next stop, bunched up together like penguins in a polar gale keeping warm.

‘There are two minutes until the next train, I’d advise all of you squashed up at the top to move down the platform. You have a better chance of boarding if you move down the platform. The train after the next train is not in service and this next train will be full. You have a MUCH better chance of getting onto this next train if you move now. You have two minutes and you have legs, I’d advise you to use them and move down while there is still time… or you can just stay where you are and ignore me.’ (Obviously we were ignoring him.) In all fairness, he had guessed right, the next train WAS full and it WAS very hard for people to get on. I was just lucky to be hot on the heels of the crazy chick as I’d actually been on the platform before her and before most of the crowd of people.

Oddly enough I seemed to be the only person on the platform who was amused by the conductor’s sarcastic personality. The rest of them didn’t seem insulted either. They all seemed to be deaf to what he was saying. So maybe he was onto something when he questioned our general listening capability and/or understanding of English?


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Filed under anecdote, modern living, travel


Homelessness is a growing problem. What with refugees and economic migrants escaping into ‘safe’ countries then falling through cracks, ex-military staff, people escaping abuse, drug addicts, the list goes on and so does the list of homeless.

I once thought if I was ever about to become homeless I would use the last of my savings to buy a ticket to somewhere permanently warm and verdant, like the north of Brazil. Where I would require less clothes to sleep on a beach and be able to poach coconuts from neighbouring trees.

Apparently there is a growing list of people who may hold jobs but still not be legally living in sheltered accommodation and paying rent. Difficult conditions, especially in the northern hemisphere where, this weekend for example, the sun shone gloriously and the frost sparkled underfoot as we ran through the park. But sitting freezing in the park overnight… that may be a different story.

This weekend I got on a train and immediately thought, I need to move seats. But unfortunately, have been in Britain just long enough, my blunt SA self would not kick in to allow me to very obviously get up and move half a carriage down from a man passed out face down across two seats. He smelled vaguely of sick and someone who had not properly been (literally) face to face with hot water and soap for awhile.

What was worse was when he finally got up and started scrabbling around in his bag. We all pretended we couldn’t see him. As much as it is no doubt terrible to be stared at, perhaps it is worse when people act like there is an invisible black hole around you.

He was scrabbling for a cigarette and succeeded in lighting up a stub of very ‘fragrant’ tobacco, causing a bunch of us to choke. Still we said nothing although we all stared at each other shifty eyed. None of us looked at the Problem however. You could see us thinking, ‘Maybe he will go away soon? What if he gets violent if I ask him to stop? Is someone else going to do something?’.

In the end the Problem resolved itself in that the stub only had a few drags in it and Mr Man stumbled off the train shortly after.

But I felt embarrassed how I had handled the Condition of Being Alive. The same way I am slightly embarrassed and irritated that, after texting a man to donate to him quite a good oil heater and having someone meet him to hand it on (it’s very hard to donate electrics in the UK, they need to be safety checked and ‘normal’ people have gas/central heating with no need for oil heaters), he, who is on some dodgy verge of being homeless, although has somewhere to plug this heater in, promptly bombarded me with requests if, please, Sister Juliet (that is NOT me but the person who put me in touch with him), I had blankets and warm clothing to help him out. On top of my work place looking for help for Syria.

I have more coats than I really need. And I can say I worked hard to have them, therefore deserve them. I have enough food in my belly. I could drop a few coins a few times into a number of hats that may or may not convert to food or drink. But where does it end?Others would say, there, but for the grace of God, it could be me so should I not be sharing them? As my eyes slide over that space where ‘invisible’ lurks…


Filed under anecdote, Housing, modern living, social

Crush ’em

The Pokemon-go thing seems to have calmed. There have been less incidences of my being run over by random hipsters standing in spastic clusters pointing from their phone to spaces of air on the roadside. Funny how quickly some trends blow over. I thought it would last at least as long as those terrible little elastic bands loom band things that even the British Royals were seen wearing at some point. (No doubt gifted by some little child at a function instead of a more easily disposed of posy.)

One trend that still seems to be going strong is Candy Crush, more than two years on. I’m not going to lie, I play it sometimes on the train as it doesn’t take a lot of brain and uses up time when I’m too tired to read or have nothing to read. (I’ve also been stuck on the same level for weeks now so the allure is paling.)

I tend to try not to let people I know know I have it on my phone though. It’s like admitting to frequenting those dodgy no name brand fried chicken shops they have here, picking your nose, shopping at Ackermans and, in the Big Smoke, admitting you voted Brexit.

It was therefore astounding to me that two young strapping Aussies sat opposite each other on the train  yesterday leaning over a communal phone. I think one of them was teaching the other about the game. Frequent exclamations of ‘ahh yeah’, ‘yeah, ah yeah’, ‘ah, that’s a bummer those chocolate blocks,’ emitting from the two of them. The guy who’s phone it was admitting with pride that it was a great little time waster while travelling.

Candy Crush, despite it’s name, it’s brightly jewelled graphics and cheesy cartoon characters, has transcended both genders and a huge age demographic. I’ve been surprised at who else has been playing it next to me on occasion.

Still, those two put me off a bit.

It might be time to find the next big thing.



Filed under anecdote, modern living, technology

Lateral Career Moves


My poor long suffering mother has gotten used to her children’s differences in options regarding work ethic to herself. She was of a time and era where you tried to stay gainfully employed and you stuck it out, no matter how good or bad it was. You brought home the bacon (or bread or milk) and were glad of your contribution to household and society.

I am of a different ilk. As are my siblings. The last time I said, ‘I’m fed up I may change jobs’, my sibling sent a picture of a tree, ‘you are not a tree rooted, if you don’t like your work, change’. So I said, ‘I’ve resigned’. Mom, promptly, after only a millisecond of a pause, ‘oh well, if you weren’t happy… Hopefully you’ll get something soon.’

I could feel her poor heart sinking at the thought yet again one of her miscreant children could be attempting to rebound back on her. Secretly she loves having us around but publicly she would prefer us to show some sign of outward success.

She sort of has a point. I lost my job when the economy took a huge hit in 2008. About a third of my industry landed up jobless.

At this point I thought, I’ll go intern somewhere, change careers, or at least, work in an office because my little legs are too tired to want to stand all day like I used to in student retail and restaurant jobs. How hard can it be? I know my alphabet. I can file. I can add. I can even touch type, although I can never actually format anything in Word or Excel.’

HAH. Turns out that temporary jobs are harder to get than you think. One temping agency turned me down before I even turned up as I had ‘no experience’. Another let me in the door and tested my touch typing etc in a horrible hour long test. They then also pointed out I was somehow underqualified (and probably overaged although they didn’t say this) to answer phones, file and play general girl friday.

Not to worry, they would get back to me when something came up. I’m still waiting.

In some ways I do feel for the unemployed.

It was a thoroughly degrading experience dressing up repeatedly for these people, trying to get a slightly above minimum wage job that wouldn’t require standing on the street with a sandwich board handing out flyers or flipping burgers.

I was just apparently completely unqualified for the basics required.

Despite all my so called qualifications and work experience.

Fortunately (or not) I managed to get an opening back into the industry I was already in.

So I took it.

It involved the commute from hell.

But it did pay above minimum wage.

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Filed under modern living, work