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Trying to Change

Here it is upon us again. New Year’s Eve. That went fast didn’t it?

Rather than feeling daunted, I find I am quite addicted to the hopefulness of setting goals – something many of you will no doubt be torturing yourselves with today. Why must we make it such an ordeal?

Last year’s resolution was to ‘be crafty’. I’m sat here now, one year later, guiltily glancing at the Make Your Own Pompoms set that still lies untouched in a Bloomindales bag on the floor – well, at least they have enjoyed a chic 12 months.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really have the imagination to be imaginative. I need a tour guide. It was the hardy estate-agent-cum-craftswoman, Kirstie Allsopp, who guided me into the world of pompom crafts. I couldn’t have done it alone.

Despite this handicap I think it important, really important, that we let our creativity run free every once in a while – even those of us aren’t quite gifted enough to create without a kit. Or without copying someone else. I love copying. I did it religiously as a child and I do it still. But what’s wrong with that? All I’m doing is flexing a muscle. And while that muscle gets some exercise, the others in my brain can switch off. With this in mind I think my plan for 2015 will be, simply, To Play.

We forget to play as we become adults. It’s not our fault – we don’t have the time when there are so many more pressing, important and boring things to attend to. Things that absorb all of our time and head space. But this is exactly why remembering how to play is so important.

Remember the invigoration that came from childhood play? The total abandon. The thrill at discovery. This is the stuff that keeps us going. Helps to fill the hole that creeps open as we age and the fun sort of dries up, becomes very much expected.

Of course, there are those humans for whom surprise is their raison d’etre. The kind that throw themselves at challenges in far flung locations, like white water rafting in places that have… I don’t know… white water? Those who do something noble like volunteering in Africa.

But for the less adventurous and admittedly more lazier and, well, timid of us – there is play. Good old-fashioned messing about. MFI springs to mind. Yes, the furniture store. I’ve never visited an MFI as an adult, but as a child – oh! The fun my sister and I had! Allowed to roam free around the store as my parents browsed kitchen units stressfully. We acted out mini melodramas in secluded kitchens. Hid from the adults in bedroom wardrobes. Fondled the pretend fruit. Bounced on the beds when no-one was looking. Pretended to be pretend home furniture. It was such a treat, going to MFI. It is within the walls of this store only that I have imagined being a housewife.

Whenever life gets tough, or incredibly dull, I think back to those gentle MFI adventures. Go and hide in the bedroom for a while, behind the door. Play out a little story in my head.

Play must lurk like this in my subconscious somewhere, because without me even realising what I was doing for Christmas this year I got my boyfriend stuff that will enable him to make his own watch. Luckily, he does actually want to make his own watch. Now.

There he is in the corner, soldering wires together. Having a blast. Bigger projects are already emerging – a torch. More ambitiously, a light up table. Who knows where his imagination will take him.

And that’s the point isn’t it – why not wake up your inner child next year? Play up – you deserve it.

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Recycling. I think we can all agree it is a crucial and moral act we must all make some effort to incorporate into our daily lives, however small.

Whether it’s putting your empty cardboard coffee cup into the correct bin at Pret A Manger.

Or donating that Steven Seagal DVD to your local Age Concern, brother, hated work colleague etc instead of just throwing it away.

This is all our duty, right? Apparently I was wrong.

I will admit upfront that I am not exactly a recycling evangelist – I am very aware that I could and should do a whole lot more saving-the-planet-wise.

I do wash all my clothes at 30 degrees. However, I buy most of said clothes from the High Street, and not often from the pricier sustainable organic cotton range…not that organic cotton actually is all that sustainable anyhow…but more on that later.

But I’ve got my basics covered. Paper (no matter how small, scrappy and incredibly irritating when you’re trying to shove into the recycling bin), appropriate plastics, tins and cans all get recycled, and I make sure to donate any of my unwanted stuff.

I’ve done so since childhood and as a result it is ingrained in my psyche. Recycling is in my code.

So I just cannot believe it when I see people throw their newspaper in the bin, or worse, on the floor (aargh littering! Separate issue).

I just can’t believe every other person on earth wouldn’t make the effort to put something in the recycling bin instead of the regular bin. It’s not even an effort now, is it? It is so damn easy to recycle with facilities available in the street, in shops and cafés, at your home – you almost have to go out of your way to not recycle. There really is no excuse.

Which is why my wrath knew no bounds when, last year, the recycling facilities were withdrawn from our apartment building.

Why the hell would they do that?! I hear you ask. Can they even do that? I don’t know. But it happened and, a year later, I am still having to travel three and a half miles (in the car – sorry Earth. It’s too much stuff to carry and I’m not sure travelling with rubbish on the bus is acceptable. Even on the 50) to use the recycling bins in the car park of the Asda supermarket I used to shop in when I actually lived in that area.

The apparent reason for this outrageous removal of services was because the recycling bins were being abused by residents.

Now bear with me here because I can imagine why you’d struggle to understand how and why a recycling bin could be abused, but I’ll try my best to explain.

People – grown men and women – were dumping their normal rubbish in the recycling bins for paper, glass and cans.

I know of other residents who would argue this is actually an improvement on alternative behaviour witnessed, which is to simply leave the rubbish – not always even secured in bags – right there on the floor, just next to the perfectly acceptable bin. Sometimes, not even in the designated bin area at all – just out in the street. A number of times in the hall. One time even in the lift. But I digress.

Unfortunately this confirms for me that I am forced to share my living space actual idiots. Here we have grown adults, who have worked hard enough to be able to afford to buy or rent a city centre flat, who are unable to dispose of their waste in a socially acceptable manner. How can they go about the world with such little pride in themselves and their surroundings? Life shouldn’t have to be like this.

It is, of course, frustrating when others do not share the same standards and vision of a happy social balance as you. I suppose it is one of the common problems of modern life in the city. Sharing your space with ever increasing numbers of people. Increasing numbers of whom are leaving their manners behind when they leave home. You just have to become resigned to it. Accept thy inconsiderate neighbour – otherwise, you may just kill them.

Are plain basic good manners an abnormality now? Not even good manners – just ok ones…

It may just be me getting older, and a city dweller to boot, but I can’t see what hope social responsibility has if a person will spit in the street, leave a used nappy in a public lift, or dump their general waste in a paper recycling bin before they will swallow, or before they will remove their child’s nappy in their own home a matter of feet away. Before they will use a recycling bin.

I hope the cynic in me is wrong. Maybe as soon as people start recycling old-fashioned manners, the rest will follow.

We all have to face up to the fact that we can’t go on living in and with such waste. We can’t get away with it forever. Something has to give. People have to give. Even if we won’t be here to see the impact we make, and it’s our old curtains that are getting taken away by end-of-life recyclers.

And on the subject of fabric, I must take this opportunity to mention The Ecologist Guide to Fashion, one of an amazing series of books WHICH YOU MUST READ. You could be forgiven for considering the fashion world simple and frivolous and a world that plays no impact in your life – but it is a complicated business that affects us all. This book will open your eyes to the real cost of the clothes you buy and wear.

Something big and important has happened.

I am now the proud owner* of a landline. I have an actual home phone. Yes. Two phones, actually.**

I can now confidently complete the Home Tel. No. section of official forms, which is great. For years I have felt somewhat off the map, dodgy even, not having a home phone number to provide to the authorities – whoever they are.

It’s like I legitimately exist now.

This silliness aside, it really does feel like a momentous event in our household (for me at least) having a landline. I’ve been trying to work out why. I mean, it’s just a bloody phone – right?

I’ve had a home phone before, of course, as a child.

Plus, I’ve already got my own phone – a mobile one, constantly glued to my hand (more on that shortly).

And to complete the equation, I’ve had my own home before also.

But up until now, I’ve never had my own home with my own home phone in it. It all feels very grown up and proper. I feel accountable, more responsible.

However, thinking so much about phones in one go has also reminded me of the rage that I normally try and ignore – does anyone else not buy into this total reliance on devices?

Devices – ugh. Makes me think of surgery. And aliens.

Lately my hand always seems to have a phone in it. Especially so since my introduction to Twitter. It’s genuinely frightening. Will I wake up one morning to find I no longer have hands, but phones?

Remember the old days? When having a landline was essential – literally. Short of posting you a letter, coming round to your house (God forbid) or pinning you down in your local pub, if you didn’t have a phone you didn’t get contacted. Remember how you answered the home phone? With the last four digits of your number?

It’s not like that at all now, is it? Just ‘Hello’ if you’re lucky. ‘Yeah?” if you’re not.

But look – I am aware that I’m doing a lot of romanticising here.

The reality of the landline – well, I hated it as a child and still do now.  I just hate speaking on the phone. Full stop.

There are the awkward silences, the extra protracted explanations you have to throw around because the listener can’t see what you see, and can’t read emotional cues from your face. It’s painful. Worse than making conversation at the hairdressers.

Writing this blog post I am experiencing massive flashbacks to when I was a teenager. My best friends, two of them in particular, would phone me – pointlessly – almost every weekday evening, despite the fact we spent the daylight hours of every weekday in each other’s company. And we would be on the phone for hours. I mean HOURS. I wouldn’t even be saying anything.

I was essentially forced to listen to them going about their family activities, grunting every now and again to show I was still awake for this torture.

All I wanted to do was watch Home Front and Changing Rooms.

You’d think then, considering my adverse reaction to the general concept of telephony, that I’d quite appreciate the control offered by the mobile. You can see who’s calling, and choose not to answer. You can just bloody text.

But no – I hate it. It all feels back door and shady. Criminals use mobiles don’t they? It’s a bit too anonymous for this fussy phone user.

To boot, mobiles just encourage people take advantage of you, imposing on your life in new ways. They expect you at the drop of a hat, make pulls on your time any hour they see fit. It’s just not on. There’s no hiding from people when you have a mobile.

I just hate all phones.

Unless they are used as a means for watching the internet on the TV. (The only reason we got said landline in the first place.)

Then phones are great.

So on the one phone-clad hand I do feel more like a proper grown up since this landline.

But, on the other hand, if you decide to take the risk and call*** me on it…I’ll panic and run away.

*Disclaimer: Ok, well technically I’m not the owner. Technically my boyfriend is. Strange, half-existence demonstrated through living arrangement… perhaps rendering this whole blog post void. Sorry.

**Neither phone actually works

***No-one can actually contact us should the phones eventually work – we haven’t given our number out

As far as I am concerned alcohol is, and always has been, very much needed to overcome (alright, numb) the Terror Of Life.

Wine o'clock_edited

I enjoy a drink. More than one at a time. And surely, that’s ok?

I don’t have any responsibilities – other than to myself, if you count that. Probably should.

I don’t have any children to fail at being a role model for.

As a consenting adult I feel confident, unashamed and guilt-free in my drinking choices…or do I?

I decided to download an app. Yes. The Change4Life Drinks Tracker app.

It all started with a wall chart at the hospital – hang on, reader! I was not in as a result of drinking. I was actually getting some wisdom teeth removed. All four of them. (Bloody HELL, reader – take care of your teeth!)

Anyway I was sat on a bed, naked from the waist up, being hooked up to an ECG machine – this takes forever. It’s like being seduced very slowly by an electronic octopus. In this awkward social situation I thought it safest to just stare at the wall. And there, on said wall, was an enormous alcohol unit chart. Really, it took up the whole wall.

Lovely little pictures, depicting all alcoholic beverages imaginable. Along with the units each little bugger came with. I decided to fill the time by attempting some maths. It was quite sobering.

Already feeling vulnerable – sat half-naked on a hospital bed about to be drilled and hammered – I became panicked by my apparent drinking disorder, and decided to behave like a responsible adult, take some action.

Hence, the app.

A couple of months in, I am finding that this app makes me feel incredibly guilty about the way I lead my day to day life, without actually inhibiting me from continuing drinking in any way…hmmm.

According to the stats and charts that this app has created for me, it turns out that yes – I am in fact a binge drinker.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not surprised. I haven’t been living in a bubble or anything. I know about units and I can sort-of count. But I do feel rather unjustly labelled.

Up to now I’ve been ignoring all the talk of binge drinking on the TV, because I don’t relate to it;
a) The coverage is almost entirely about young people and the binge drinking epidemic. I’m no longer a young person – supposedly, I’m now a ‘grown up’. Also, all this coverage is painfully predictable and over the top – can’t the reporters remember being young?
b) The general perception of binge drinkers doesn’t feel like me. I’m not one of those horrendous ladettes (can I still use that word?), crawling around shoe-less on Broad Street, with my pants round my ankles, falling into unmarked cabs. Surely this is all a mistake and the app has got it wrong…

I know I’m no angel. But it’s not like I’m going out partying like I did in my twenties. Hardly. More likely to be sitting in front of the TV, watching The Honourable Woman or such like, cradling a glass of wine to get through the tension.

Basically, it’s harder, harder than you may think, to drink less than 6 units when you go out (…or stay in). Especially if you’re a woman and have less units to work with.

It’s not like our contemporaries of the past didn’t drink – in fact, surely they drank more? It makes me wonder if there is, in fact, an epidemic. Or have social attitudes to drinking alcohol just changed so much now we’ve been brainwashed with all this unit-speak; something constructed by the Government to protect the NHS? Fair enough, but it hardly seems right that I’m made to feel guilty if I want to share a bottle of wine with my meal, and then have a cocktail afterwards.

Martini_edited

I’m being flippant, I know. It’s the 21-year-old in me lingering on and encouraging me to carry bad habits into my thirties. But now, thanks to this app, I am more educated. Whilst it all may be a bit nanny-state, understanding units has helped us to become more clued up about the facts of drinking alcohol, and take control of our health. And it all must have sunk in, struck a nerve with me – otherwise, I would never have downloaded this app in the first place. I must have grown up after all…

The reality – a fact I can’t hide behind with a glass of wine – is that excess alcohol raises the risk of developing more than 200 diseases. That really is quite frightening. And although you could argue that merely being alive increases the bloody risk, I’m going to persevere. One glass at a time.

I just need to learn how to transfer the charts and stats into real life, change my bad habits. Next time I’m watching tense TV, instead of reaching for the vino I think I’ll switch over to comedy, instead.

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