Monday, 3 October 2016

Grocery Guilt

Today I'm talking supermarkets. I hate supermarkets.  I hate the way they have made me feel guilty  because I fell for their Buy One Get One Free blandishments and neglected my village shop, which is now closed. Now it's too late, I realise I have bought into consumerism and sacrificed the local economy to big business led by people with small brains and big off-shore bank accounts.

But no matter how much I wish supermarkets would BOGOF, I love them too. I love the convenience of them, the way you can park outside and wheel your trolley straight to the car.  I'm amused by the way I can pop in for frozen peas and come out with a bumper pack of pens, a couple of pencil sharpeners and half a dozen notebooks   - and forget the peas. I like their wide choice from their own supermarket brands to "designer" brands.

Even so, I feel guilty. When I first moved into my village 30 years ago it had a post office, village stores, a butcher's shop and a hairdresser’s. Now it has a Spar shop attached to the filling station. If you want to post a letter there is a gigantic red eyesore of a postbox on the edge of the pavement next to a busy road - or  you can visit the "outreach" post office, open for just a few hours a week. On the plus side, there is now another hairdresser's. 

So, much as I hate them I'm still shopping in supermarkets, still falling for their marketing tricks and consequently buying more than I need. But if there's a meltdown in society in the near future, I'm prepared,  with a larder full of tins of BOGOF baked beans, half price spaghetti and few dozen ballpoint pens.

I tend to swap between Sainsbury's and Tesco. As I read on the internet this week: "Sainsbury's is for people now aspiring beyond Tesco but not yet quite ready for Waitrose." So I'm hovering between common and lower middle class - but I'm eyeing up the upper classes. I've pulled myself up by my bootstraps to kale standard but I'm not quite ready  for heirloom potatoes. One day….

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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

How Did Everyone Get To Be So Angry?

HOW did everyone get to be so angry? I know people whose default setting is permanent peevishness but it’s gone beyond that. Look on social media and you will find video upon video of people losing it. They are trolling on Twitter, being incensed on Instagram and snapping on Snapchat.

The sound of teeth gnashing and the sight of veins popping assaults my senses daily. I am metaphorically covered head to toe in spit spewing from the mouths of the splenetic.

Turn on your TV  and you will see angry people shouting at angry people while Jeremy Kyle rubs his hands in glee. Reality shows should be renamed I'm Psychopathically Angry Get Me Out of Here, Irate In Chelsea and The Outraged Housewives of Angry County.

The young are fuming at the baby boomers because they can afford a house, the baby boomers are angry at the young because they see them as entitled little shits who haven't worked a proper day in their lives.

Look in your local newspaper and you will read about people incandescent with rage because there is a van parked with one wheel on the pavement or their packet of 50 turkey twizzlers had one missing.

Anger knows no religion, social class, political persuasion or gender. Various Christians, Jews and Muslims are angry at people who don't share their views. The poor are angry at the rich for not sharing enough, the rich are angry at the poor for taking too much. Political parties are angrily tearing themselves apart. The jobless are angry they are unemployed and the employed are angry they are being exploited. Men are angry at women and women are angry at men. Reasoned debate has been replaced by clashing horns, the winner the person who can shout the loudest.

Of course, not all anger is bad. There is positive anger when we rage at the injustices of the world and vow to do something about it.

But you have to pick your battles. Walk a mile in the other man's moccasins. And ask yourself, a year from now is anyone going to give a damn? And chill. Just chill.

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Website Comments

IF you read a lot of newspaper website comments you will soon suspect the world is full of ranting fuckwits with very little brain.

After years working as a reporter I already suspected the madness of the human race, I am now utterly convinced that most people in the world are barking - or at least the ones who can be arsed to write comments are.

In many posts a speck of punctuation is as rare as elephant’s feathers. Nothing has a capital letter. Nothing. No proper noun, no first letter of a sentence, no first person pronoun. i dont no why it upsets me so much but it does

No one reads the actual story but they read into it their own prejudices and deduce what they think the writer is saying.

At one point, quite a few years ago now, the website comments on the newspaper I worked for had to be moderated and the sub-editing team took it in turns to read them all. All. Every single one had to be read before it was posted. At the end of a shift you felt like your soul had been sucked from you and replaced by dust.

It was depressing how paranoid some of the readers were. I am not much of website commenter, having lot of paint to watch dry. But if  I had left a comment and it hadn’t appeared, my immediate reaction would be that there had been a technical blip or I had done something wrong. Not our readers. Oh no.


Who is this army of judgemental people with so much time on their hands that they can be bothered to fill in a  comment form to write something inane or just plain nasty? Who sits down to write horrible things about people they have never met? It's the only time I feel sorry for celebrities who come in for blistering attacks because of the way they look.

I came across this post from The Poke in 2014 where they had replaced headlines on stories with actual comments from the Daily Mail. Read it here.

I rest my case.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Man Cave

Ah. It's Sunday. The day the better half reads the Sunday papers and goes off on random rants about various articles.

I've got off lightly today. His only rant has been on the subject of "man caves", a term which really annoys him.

"If you mean an effing shed, call it an effing shed. Oo, I've put my collection of 1980s Playboy magazines in my man cave.

"NO! You're a pervert with a shed!"

Got to love him!

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016


To my friends across the world:

This is what it is like in the UK when the sun shines for longer than a couple of hours!  The weather has been glorious for TWO whole days - hot and sunny. All our news bulletins, national and local, have featured the weather and all our newspapers carry pictures of people enjoying themselves on the beach. The rest of the world must think we're nuts!

Got up this morning and it's clouding over. Normality returns...

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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Being Polite

THE story about a young man who spotted his granny's Google search, complete with please and thank you is the best I've read today! (See it in full here.)

It epitomises a generation that was always taught to say "please" and "thank you" and it also says something about innate British politeness. I can't pretend that there aren't plenty of rude and thoughtless British people, unfortunately, but for many of us, politeness is a way of life.

It's the kind of politeness that makes you say sorry to the person who bumped into you. It's when you're asked in the hairdresser's whether your haircut is to you liking and you reply, "Lovely, thank you," while hating it with a passion, or complaining bitterly about the food throughout a meal in a restaurant but when the waiter asks if everything is OK you say, "It's fine thank you." It's saying thank you to the traffic warden while he's handing you a parking ticket.

There are phrases we use which on the face of it sound polite but have a hidden meaning, like, "with all due respect" which means "no respect at all".

Then there are the simple requests that have to be voiced in a convoluted way. You can't just say to a colleague, "Give me that report," but you'll say, "I wonder, could you possibly get that report for me? If you don't mind."

Another polite pastime of the British is queuing. Queues are sacrosanct. Don't jump a queue unless you want a polite British person to tap you on the shoulder and say, "Would you mind awfully getting to the back of the queue? I'm sorry to ask but we've been waiting here longer than you." There, you've been told!

If you are confused here is a handy glossary of British terms and their translation.

One of my favourite quotes about politeness is actually by an American, the writer Robert A Heinlein, who said:  “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” 

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you liked it. But no worries if you didn't, it's perfectly fine.

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Living Off Grid

I WAS reading a post from my other blog That's Purrfect written by the genipuss Carlton Cat (I know, I know, a talking cat..... what can I say? All my cynical sensibilities fly out the window when it comes to cats.)

Anyway, it reminded me of a post I wrote for Devon Life magazine back in September. So here it is:

by Maid in Devon (that's me!)

I HAVE been reading a lot lately about living "off grid". As far as I can see this can range from complete self-sufficiency - including sourcing your own water, growing all your own food and producing your own electricity - to living in a cottage with solar power and a vegetable garden.

The latter appeals to me. The former conjures up images of Americans living in the Appalachian Mountains wearing camouflage gear, carrying AK-47 assault rifles to keep the "danged govermint" away and with enough flour, dried beans and canned goods to last a lifetime.

In fact, I spotted a book called The Prepper's Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn YourEmergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. I'm not kidding.

In my own little corner of Devon I have dispensed with weapons, a well and a barn holding enough food to live out a meltdown in civilisation. I do, however, have room to grow some vegetables.
I have visions of a "grow your own" lifestyle - eating with the seasons, doing all my own baking, making jams and chutneys and storing my turnips in a sand barrel. If only when he'd built our house the better half had thought to include a root cellar I would be well away. No forward thinking; that's his trouble.

I'd keep chickens if I could but the deeds to our house expressly forbid it. Presumably it also precludes keeping a pig for slaughter and a cow for milk. I must look it up. If it doesn't, the neighbours are going to love me.

I am already on the way to being more self-sufficient. A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a wormery. This, says all the blurb, is "an easy, efficient system of converting ordinary kitchen food waste into liquid feed and rich organic compost". I have set it up in the garden, added the tiger worms, and put some kitchen waste in it.

The Joy of Keeping A Root Cellar
So far all that has happened is that an army of tiger worms has crawled up the sides, presumably in a vain attempt to escape, and the kitchen waste has lain there, undigested and about as far from "liquid feed and rich organic compost" as you can get. But it's early days and all my wormery fanatic friends tell me to be patient and in a few weeks I will have so much fertiliser that I can dig up the field beside the house and grow wheat to make my own bread.  Must look out some plans for a mill.

We already have an efficient multifuel-burner which heats the water and runs the radiators. It's just a pity we don't have our own forest so we can chop down wood. The better half is a cabinet-maker, though, so we have plenty of off-cuts to burn. It’s “multi-fuel” so you can burn just about anything in it. We haven’t experimented as we don’t want to be throwing toxic fumes up into the atmosphere. We have also drawn the line at throwing in dead animals as I have read some farmers do. No - wood, coal, paper and the occasional piece of cardboard have been our limit.   

When I was child, living on a farm in the wilds of North Devon, we had our own generator for many years until we were connected to the mains. It was a pain having to start it up every day. I remember charging the carburettor (I think that’s what it was!) with petrol and turning the handle repeatedly until it decided, reluctantly, to cough, splutter and get going; and it was very noisy. Still, it was worth it to generate enough electricity to watch our new-fangled black and white cabinet TV showing such delights as Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and The Interlude. 

I think these days generators are quieter and easier to get going but even so I can't see myself cranking one up every day.

Solar panels are a better option – not prohibitively expensive and fairly efficient. I decided against going down the wind turbine route - the neighbours having enough trouble with my pig and cow.
It's easy to collect rain in butts to reduce the water rates and to conserve water - not that we don't get plenty of the stuff falling from the skies here in Devon. Even so, I’m told we should all do our bit to use less from our taps.

I have toyed with the idea of composting toilets having read that the flush lavatory uses 30 per cent of the UK's water supply. Even Glastonbury Festival has replaced its chemical loos with smell-free, waterless, composting toilets. Those of a delicate disposition should look away now…the fact is human faeces in the presence of oxygen breaks down into pathogen-free compost and urine is sterile and full of nitrogen - in other words, ideal fertiliser. Although I’m not, as some people do, going to start peeing on my plants, you’ll be pleased to hear – but not half so pleased as those poor long-suffering neighbours.

But all that is for the future. For the moment the pristine, flushable loo in the bathroom will have to suffice. 

I admit I have some way to go before I can in any shape or form claim to be self-sufficient. The few cherry tomatoes and my "cut and come again” lettuces I have managed to grow are hardly going to sustain the household should the country encounter some ecological or man-made catastrophe which cuts off all supplies. 

If we ever get to the stage I might have to reconsider my ban on the AK-47 assault rifle and persuade the better half to start constructing that root cellar.
  • You can subscribe to Devon Life here. There's a big offer on at the moment.

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