The God of Litter Picking

For a long time I’ve been taking part in mini beach cleans. By this, I mean collecting bits of plastic and other detritus whenever I am walking the pooches at a beach.

I came across the #2minute beach clean and that seemed to sum up my own philosophy. Except I can never only take 2 minutes – there’s always so much to pick up. You may think you’re walking along a clean beach, but if you really start looking, it won’t take you long to discover your first piece of plastic.

#2minute beach clean Widemouth Bay

As well as beach walks, I love walking in the woods. Any woods. Woods large, woods small. Forests, if I find one. But in the past few months I have noticed a depressing trend for littering. Sweet wrappers, discarded fag packets and just the other day I found a pristine can of Stella Artois. Sadly empty, but still shiny.

So I’ve started litter picking in the woods, filling my pockets with bits of rubbish and carrying anything large. Bringing home the empty can of Stella at 9am made me feel quite the lush (in fact it reminded me of my youth….).

At the weekends I like to get out for a longer walk with the dogs, at Woodbury Common, Blackborough Woods, or East Hill across to Fire Beacon Hill. Blows the cobwebs away, and sometimes a few brain cells, of which there are a diminishing number anyway.

So there I was, wandering through a quiet peace of woodland (already with a few bits of litter in my pocket) when I spotted something. A large piece of litter, stuck under a log. I started grumbling out loud about the stupidity of litter louts (the mad dog woman talking to herself again).

But when I came up to the litter, it wasn’t litter at all. It was a pristine, and I mean pristine, ten pound note. I looked around for cameras. I tentatively touched it, thinking it might be stuck down for a joke. But no, it was there for the taking! I picked it up, I put it in a pocket without litter in. I walked on.

I felt bad, I felt guilty. I thought about ringing the police station in case someone had reported losing a tenner. Then I realised that no-one at the police station would answer the phone, and if I took the tenner in… (insert your own thoughts here).

Then it struck me. Only someone concerned about litter would have found that tenner. My friends said it was Karma. But for me, it must have been the God or Goddess of Litter Picking. It must.

Suffice to say, I now feel obliged to pick up even more litter than I did before. But hey, I’ve been paid so what’s to worry about?

Don’t Eat That!

It seems to me that just about everything on the menu is bad for us these days.

SUGAR! GLUTEN! LACTOSE! MORE SUGAR! (Tax it).

I don’t doubt that there is an issue of obesity and likewise, I don’t doubt that there’s an increase in allergies. When I was a schoolkid, I was the only one in my class with asthma, wheezing away in the corner. Now it seems every other child has asthma. My own son has a peanut allergy. I don’t know why – no-one seems to know why. Did I, or did I not eat peanuts during my pregnancy? Am I guilty of doing something to give him that allergy (as if I don’t feel guilt enough already at my less than perfect attempts at parenting).

What I find amazing is that the diet of my generation growing up in the 1970s was pretty appalling, yet many of us seem to have survived (relatively) unscathed.

The diet of the 1970s

Think about it. Did you, come on, own up, ever eat Vesta Beef Curry? All those chunks of delicious, rehydrated meat… or the Vesta Chow Mein with crispy noodles – flat yellowy strips that you coSpamoked in a pan of boiling fat until they puffed up – full of the fat. Nice. Fat had a lot to do with Spam. If you’ve ever eaten a Spam fritter you might wonder why you’re still alive today.

How about Findus Crispy Pancakes? Pancakes covered in breadcrumbs available in various fillings (including, we learnt a few years ago, horsemeat). I couldn’t believe it when I discovered these were still being made until this year. Why oh why?

And who could forget Smash? For mash, get Smash. Nasty beige coloured powder that you added boiling water too and fluffed it up into a bowl of nasty beige goo. It had a certain tang that remains with me to this day.

For pudding, Angel Delight. What WAS that made of? Certainly nothing celestial.

And the non-processed food?

I remembered recently that my mother not only made a big tray of Yorkshire Pud for our Sunday roast, if any was left over after the meat course, we’d eat the rest for pudding, with great daubs of golden syrup. Lovely. And chips, although cut from fresh potatoes, were cooked in a deep fat fryer with fat that seemed to last around 10 years before it was changed.

Vegetables boiled to within an inch of their life! No such thing as a steamer in our household. Just a pan of water filled with carrots, bubbling away for hours. Sprouts? They took approximately two days to cook properly.

Okay, I exaggerate slightly. But what I’m not sure about is what is it now that’s making the difference? Most of us have some awareness of healthy eating. I call myself a mix and match parent. Sometimes I don’t have time, or I’m just too tired, or I haven’t been able to get to the shops, so the pizza will come out of the freezer. Other times I love to create homemade stew, make a pie or rustle up a stir fry. My children seem okay, they are relatively slender. They both exercise, which helps (although I heard today that you’d have to run half a football field to burn off the sugar in one M&M…

I suppose the moral of this story is nothing strikingly original. Moderation is key. Balance is important. Even too many aduki beans won’t do you that much good in the end. I don’t think you need to ask why.

Vesta

Penny-pinching, moi?

When my children were young and we were living more or less on a single salary (and not a high one at that), finances were an endless juggle. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. And neither of them were wealthy either.

Both being self-employed, there wasn’t much in the way of support from the State, maternity pay was hilarious at £50 a week, and tax credits gave us £34 per month for a few months (and we had to pay some of that back some years’ later, I’ll never know why!). So I made do, and somehow made it work.

Now, I wasn’t brought up to be ungenerous or thrifty – my widowed mum was forever splurging out on things she couldn’t afford; holidays, dinners out, treating friends, theatre trips – including, once, double glazing which had me shouting down the ‘phone at an unscrupulous salesman of the type that preyed on widows who really should have known better. Apart from the windows, my attitude was ‘Good for you mum – life’s too short!).

I too, have a habit of wanting to punch above my  financial weight. I’m not stupid or profligate, I just want my children to try out things: ballet, horse riding, Tae Kwando, or learn to play a musical instrument, and definitely have plenty of pants and socks without holes in them for heaven’s sake. That’s the way I roll…

But even now, when things are a little easier with an upsurge in income (equalled by an upsurge in working hours), I’m finding it hard to shake off that feeling of guilt every time I buy something.

“Do we really need that?”

I have one of those magnifying mirrors (no, I don’t need to shave) which for a couple of years has been loose with the consequence that I have to crouch in all sorts of weird positions when I’m trying to apply mascara. I need a new one, but how do I justify it?
When I decide to buy towels to replace nasty old ones that can stand upright on their own so stiff are they, oh what a dilemma I have. Heaven forbid we have fluffy towels that actually dry us rather than exfoliate our skin.

I wonder at what point, if any, I will shake off the guilt of spending money on things I want to enjoy. Well today is the day! I’ve ordered the magnifying mirror from Argos and I’m on my way to pick it up. As long as I can prise my debit card from my purse when I get there…

Mirror (2)

Oh how the other half lives

David Playford sxc (playboy)I do like Graham Norton, I’ve always loved his irreverence. No guest is entirely safe. On a recent Star Wars-centric episode, it was fantastic to see Carrie Fisher. She looks naturally aged, I love her for that – irreverent and slouchy, just fabulous. Another guest, Kylie Minogue, shockingly didn’t look like Kylie anymore. Pop Princess with an immobile forehead. That’s sad.
The show included an appearance by David Beckham. Famous for football and for being quite a pretty bloke. Well don’t get me started there, football schmootzball. I actually think Mr Beckham is a decent fellow, but why he’s so famous I will never understand. Looks, pop star/fashion designer wife, loads of money. Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s enough.
Beckham was asked if his sons went to the Star Wars premiere. Well of course they did. And they were probably taken there in a private car, bless them. But I wondered just why these particular children had been given invites to the premiere, save for the fact that they are sons of ‘celebs’ and one of them has lots of followers on Twitter. Yay. I hope he has some real friends too.
How much nicer would it have been if invitations had been given to children who don’t have the privilege of wealth? Some kids who aren’t going to get thousands of pounds-worth of the latest must-have ‘stuff’ for Christmas, who aren’t able to borrow their dad’s Armani jumper.
I often mentally rant about the injustice of the division of wealth, usually while I’m walking the dogs in my leaky wellie boots and my socks have just got wet.
But there’s a recent thing I keep seeing on TV that’s causing my jaw to drop, in a most unsightly fashion. It’s called ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’ – all to do with how the young uber-rich like to flaunt their wealth. Buying a Birkin bag for £30,000 (seriously?) and ‘stuffing wads of cash in their pockets to show off’.
Apparently the rest of us are desperate to know about the lives of these people. Really? Are we? Or would most of ‘the rest of us’ actually prefer not to know that some young idiot pours himself a bath of champagne that costs the same amount of money as most people earn in a month, or horrifyingly, a year?
I know I’m ancient, old-fashioned and probably a little bitter, but I’m also principled, always have been, and this sort of thing, so blatant, worries me, it really does.
In fairness, I did ask myself the question if my children had been offered tickets to the premiere of Star Wars, what would I have done? Well I’d have probably agreed to them going, because for them it would have been the experience of a lifetime. And yes, the popcorn would have gone everywhere. It might even have bounced off Kylie’s forehead. Graham Norton would have been entertained.

Queue Jumping and (almost) Sweet Revenge

TaikoRecently I took the teen to see a Taiko drumming group, Mugenkyo. It was a Sunday night and a special treat for him, and me. We arrived in good time, and he said he really fancied a hot chocolate.
The queuing system at the bar was undefined – it seemed there was one queue for hot drinks and another for the main bar. The folk behind me appeared bemused, too, so I suggested they moved ahead of me if they wanted drinks from the bar, which they did, soon walking back past me with their drinks.
I stood patiently in my ‘hot drink’ queue with the teenager for a very long time. The man in front of me was getting antsy, and I was feeling a little fidgety, especially when I realised that there was in fact no separate queue. If I’d gone to the main bar I would have been served much more quickly.
Finally it was my turn and a pleasant barman took my order. Further along the bar, a lady spoke out in that loud type of whisper that can be so, so irritating. “She pushed in!” I realised she was referring to me, and I turned full sail, as it were, glared at the woman and boomed in my best Lady Bracknell, “I DID NOT push in! I’ve been waiting here patiently for a very long time!”
The woman, who was with a thin, balding man (saying that gives me pleasure I’m afraid), looked visibly shocked. “Calm down,” she said. Calm down? That was a red rag to a bull. I can’t remember my exact response but the teen asked me to hush (although he agreed later with my actions, admitting the woman was ‘very rude’).
During the show we sat five or six rows behind the couple. It took me a while to calm down from the queue debacle. The loud drumming helped, or maybe not. The biggest distraction was my burning desire to grab a handful of Josh’s sweets, Skittles, and rain them down upon the silly woman and her baldy partner.

 Now that would have been ‘sweet revenge’.

“Somewhere in a field… in Bristol”

Can there be a better way to spend a weekend than with a bunch of old farts in the sunshine at a retro festival? This was the 1980s revisited – my favourite era, when I was a drama student without a care in the world (apart from having to find time to crimp my hair between pints of vodka and lime).

First time facepaintedThere we all were, somewhere in a field in Bristol, the forty, fifty and even sixty-somethings, some dressed in what looked like rambling gear, others in Lycra that really shouldn’t be seen in the vicinity of a muffin top. There were quite a few bald heads going nicely pink in the sun. In the campsite, posh campervans and tents with blow up frames. We were armed with loo roll and anti-bacterial wet wipes – and I got my face painted for the first time ever. Ain’t no stopping us now….Bucks FizzWhat a mix of music! From Bucks Fizz with Cheryl Baker looking distinctly stiff in her high heels, to the Jam (without Paul Weller) who didn’t look any different. And this via Aswad, Betty Boo, Howard Jones, Jimmy Somerville and Nick Heyward. How invigorating it was to realise that most of the performers were older than us. In fact, some of them had their grown up kids performing on stage with them. No grandchildren yet, but give it another couple of years…

Hey – we were bolshie and fought our way right to the front for Chas and Dave. Once there, we were stuck and couldn’t escape the ‘Rabbit’ and some dubiously sexist lyrics. Oh well, what the heck, the simple solutions was to have another drink and sing along. When I say sing, that is debatable. At least we didn’t have the repeat from last year when a bloke turned round and demanded: ‘If you don’t know the words, DON’T SING!”

On the last day of the festival we took a well-earned break from nostalgia, lying back on rugs in the sun, relaxed and happy. Suddenly it was time for the Boomtown Rats – so we leapt to our feet. ‘Leapt’. Hm. We attempted to get up without groaning at the aches and pains in our aging bodies. But hey, we did it, and hobbled off to the arena to see Sir Bob leap around with the energy of an 18 year old. But he still doesn’t like Mondays.The Boomtown Rats (2656 x 1494)

Welcome to my middle-life ramblings!

So, how did I get here, to this middle life? Well mainly through the usual channels: being born, having fun, getting hormonal, getting drunk, having children, becoming sober, getting hormonal (again), reinventing myself. Is this usual? Who knows? We are individuals, unique and lovely or unlovely in our own ways. There aren’t two of me, although people say I look a little like Linda Hamilton who played Sarah Connor in Terminator (I think I look more like her dog).Blog image 1This blog is simply a way of recording some of the many thoughts that pop into my head on a daily basis. At this time of my life, this includes reminiscing about my past, gritting my teeth about my present, and worrying about my future. If that sounds grim, it isn’t. And if you’re lucky I’ll record a few of ‘those’ moments experienced by myself and my friends. If you’re a similar age, you’ll know what I mean.