Category Archives: modern living

Debatable eating

I’m watching this thing on BBC about how a celeb chef is fighting obesity in Britain. He was going on about how the major cereal companies don’t put a traffic light system onto their products like supermarkets here do to warn you if an unhealthy element is in high concentration in the food. Lots of the parents with him said they used the traffic lights. I made pfff pfff sounds in the background. I tried to use it once. I landed up substituting a traffic light that said high in sugars for a ‘healthy eating’ yogurt only to discover it was stuffed full of colourants and that funny taste in my mouth was artificial sweetener. The ‘better’ product was far worse than the original. I switched instead to a low fat natural yogurt and started adding my own fruit into the mix instead.

So I was in Holland and Barratts and looking for a snack or two. This is the ultimate in ‘health food store chain’. It is the perfect one stop for vitamin supplements, wholegrain wheatgerm and manuka honey. It is also the place a sales assistant once chased me down the aisle with the enthusiasm of a true evangelist that I should eat according to my blood group to be healthy. The assistant claimed the store had trained them for this. I’m highly dubious of that. It felt more like a hari krishna had got into a Baptist church and was looking for converts- I do not mean that sacrilegiously but the guy was seriously converted to this blood group thing. Personally I refuse to follow a system that says my blood cells dictate I can’t have steak or peas or something because I’m not an O positive or whatever.

The fact of the matter is I can’t really call H&B a ‘health food’ store either. Who’s kidding who? Raisins, which I believe some Americans call ‘natures goodness in a box’ – who puts them in a box for petes’ sake! – are full of sugar. Bombay snacks are full of salt and fat…

Basically everything in moderation. Unless like me you aren’t too sure where the off switch is.

 

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Filed under Fitness, Food, modern living, shopping

Media junkie

It has occurred to me I may have repeated my thoughts while blogging. I’ve decided this is probably due to two things. One I have a very bad memory and can’t remember what I may or may not have written before.  So for that I can only apologise.

And two, my life probably just isn’t that interesting. I am therefore not on twitter and was never really that into the idea of Facebook updates even before people got paranoid that they were being stalked by various governments, terrorists and marketing agencies on it.

I just don’t have such an interesting life. I don’t think anyone really wants to see a picture of my lunch. Or the fact that I don’t travel around daily which means if I was to instagram my life there are only so many times you want to see the road I walk down or the flowerbed outside my office unless you are really into seeing how the homeless guy is doing or that the flowerbed has been weeded since last week. It would literally be like watching paint dry. While leftovers chucked out a lunchbox, even if strategically organised around a plate are still going to look like leftovers jumbled up.

As much as I’d like to therefore give up my job and just aim at meaningless reviews on the internet in pseudo ironic ways and get paid to do so, that just isn’t going to happen as a result. Then again I suppose if I didn’t have a job and that was my job I might have more time to sit in random hipster coffee shops posting pictures of the fern leaf pattern in my low fat almond milk latte, followed by hashtag great yoga sesh and snippy limited character commentary on the cat next door. (Which also isn’t going to happen as there is no cat next door. Then again, I’m not sure half the people online don’t just make stuff up occasionally as they are so busy visualising their lives through the eyes of others they may not actually be living it.)

 

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Obsolete

I was debating the merits of the fax machine the other day. I was watching a tv programme where the character hilariously acquired a fax machine despite it being completely obsolete technology. And then promptly had it stolen – which in itself was diabolical because it was basically dinosaur equipment.

I am actually old enough to remember when every business had one. At the time I started work although some of the staff had email addresses, most communication and instruction that had to be written and communicated was via fax. Even in the so called first world UK I’d fill in timesheets as contracted staff and have to post them in the mail or fax them to the agency that hired me.

I realised a lot of millennials won’t even have a clue what this entails. The thermal sensitive paper. The bleeping sound of the machine as it accepted a transmission. How quickly things have changed. It’s a bit like my being unable to understand how people slaughtered their own chickens if they wanted a Sunday roast or having to pack an entire trunk of clothing and get on a ship if they wanted to cross an ocean.

The new generation all instinctively use tablets and smartphones the way I used to be able to programme a vcr, confused how the older generation didn’t ‘get’ that ‘obviously’ you just click these buttons or swipe left then right and then the machine does what you want. A colleague complained he upgraded their television and the kids ran up to it and expected it to swipe left and right to change channels, leaving grubby handmarks all across the new screen.

One can only wonder what the future will bring next. I always thought I’d keep up with it but when I look back at how rapidly things have changed, I do wonder if I’m going to be like my parents with new technology and potentially trapped in my house when I’m unable to work out how the smartlocks on the doors interact with the biometric chip in my hand!

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Trashy TV

I have a secret which I don’t really like to admit. I love a bit of car crash ‘documentary’ television now and then on the sly. I was fascinated with the pure white trash value of Honey Boo Boo and was actually sad when it was cancelled – as I loved being both horrified by the family (who seemed to have a dim grasp of hygiene and food nutrition, never mind language) and enamoured by them as they managed a certain level of communication that my family is often not capable of. Not to mention they seemed to be fully aware they were complete rednecks, even going to a ‘redneck festival’ at one point.

I followed the Duggars for awhile. Their lives were horribly dull but it fascinated me they were the polar opposites of Honey Boo Boo’s family as they followed a strict Puritan lifestyle and populated the earth like rabbits believing it was ‘God’s will’ . The joys of internet downloading meaning I could fast forward the dull bits and wonder at a family so religious they don’t allow dancing or trousers/pants on their daughters (who all have to also keep long hair and never expose their shoulders) and yet the girls spend literally hours doing hair and make up. The home schooled younger children seem to live a blissful barefoot life with minimal education beyond the Bible and hands on visits to places to learn practically while many of the boys wander around like Davey Crocket Macgyver type characters. In the early episodes kids as young as nine were assigned a drill and allowed to walk in sandals to help put their house together- isn’t that child labour?

The Duggars like Honey Boo Boo have come under huge scandal lately with abuse stories and tales of rebellion rife. They really were better off before anyone hit puberty and it was all really a lot more fun when there was no real drama.

I followed some overly dramatic tattoo show at one point which was confused whether the stars of the show were the tattoos or the tattoo artists who bickered and squabbled like high school premadonnas. The body ink was interesting to see but the show was also clearly built on these highly emotion ‘reality show’ moments created which must surely have been at least partially contrived.

The latest offering I caught on Netflix in this genre this weekend was a girl based in America creating couture Japanese ‘Lolita’ style dresses and her bevvy of models and assistants. She looks young and innocent and claimed to have a boyfriend based abroad who would pop up on skype now and again. This show once again made me wonder at the star(s) of the show. There is a sort of naivety and a I-am-oblivious-to-the-camera attitude. There are hints of the models having other jobs and scraping to get by. But everyone is always immaculately attired, even after ‘all nighters’ or very coolly scruffy. And I suspect incredibly savvy. This girl probably looks younger than she is but was clearly clever enough to put together a successful business even before the show started paying her to be on it.

I wondered if her boyfriend was actually an actor too given she has been in the states for four years, when did she meet him? And his name is not particularly typical from her nation (neither was his accent to be honest). Given at least part of the show is based on her actual life it’s always good to provide a barrier between you and possible stalker types.

I debated if anyone would ever be willing to film me – or is my life just that dull? And even if they were, could I deal with all the PT in looking like I ‘just got out of bed’ but am somehow still teasingly tousled and cutely attired, not just dishevelled in an old t-shirt? I’m not saying reality tv is an easy way of making a living but ALL these shows always seem to land up at some point at a luxury spa/hotel and touring some extravagant place I could never afford. Even Honey Boo Boo. One could do worse.

 

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Filed under Fashion, modern living, social, technology

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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FITBIT

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.

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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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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.’

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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.

 

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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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