‘Patience is bitter…

;Image result for sugar-free

…but its fruit is sweet,’ said Aristotle.  He was probably thinking of loftier challenges than giving up sugar, but that is where I am and my sweet tooth clings hopefully to that little snippet of advice.

It’s been 5 weeks since I divorced myself from sugar and I still grimace when I take that first sip of unsweetened coffee.  Worse than that, I’ve had to give up normal tea – tea, people!  Because there are some things that just won’t work in my sugarless world. Instead, I grudgingly drink tea with a slice of lemon, mouth pouting although one might mistake it for a sour pucker.  Still not the same, but better than no tea at all and that is something I refuse to contemplate.

Why was it was such a wrench to give up sugary tea?  I think it’s because tea was our childhood panacea when times were hard, fraught or we were ill.  It was our comfort, along with hugging arms and I feel as though someone has whipped away my inner blankie.

I started on this ‘bitter’ path with my cousin.  I’m rubbish at motivating myself and will procrastinate, find excuses to cheat and convince myself to leave it for ‘just one more week’.  But with her conscience (and strong kicks up the arse) I have managed to remain true to our pact.  Neither of us can let the other one down and we confess our slip-ups immediately (trying a bit of the banana bread to check it is cooked; automatically grabbing a crisp off the table; taking a sip from the wrong mug [I may not have admitted that one yet, so I hope she’s not reading this]…).

The first two weeks were all about the sugary drinks.  Out went the sugar bowl completely – well, actually, figuratively, because it still sits there for the hubby and kids to indulge, but I am only allowed to look upon it wistfully.  I used to be a ‘three spoons, please’ person and have now gone cold turkey with all its attending ailments (I’ll come to those).  No sugar in tea or coffee (bleuch!), no squash or colas and no camomile with honey.

After a couple of days the headaches set in – I’m unsure if it was the lack of sugar or lack of caffeine (hating the taste of sugarless tea/coffee I drank hot water or green tea).  I had more paracetamol in that first week than I would have had sugar.

Then, the early morning wake-ups struck like unasked for extra me-time.  I’m not kidding.  2 or 3 am, I’d be wide awake and restless until around 5 am, but too tired to do anything but think of how much I wanted to sleep.  Added to which, I had restless leg syndrome (paracetamol worked great for that, too; my chemist began to worry) and I tossed and turned enough to warrant remaking the bed from scratch every morning.

After two weeks, my cousin (I might disown her) and I gave up crisps, biscuits, cakes, ice-creams and pudding.  That wasn’t as tough for me as the drinks, because I don’t normally indulge, but my cousin found it hard-going (she’d been having way too many biccies with her sugarless cuppa) and we’d both naughtily squeezed in an ice-cream pretty much every day.  Instead of crisps I have a small handful of nuts and seeds.

While I never have pudding on weekdays, I used to indulge and help myself to a slice of the cake in the staff kitchen (courtesy of someone’s birthday).  Now, all I am allowed to do is sniff that wonderful chocolate, creamy, baked-goodness aroma.  I supplement my weekend pudding with fruit platters – bananas, apples, berries, mango, papaya, pomegranate, nectarines, melon… No fruit juices, as concentrated, squished versions have way too much fructose, which the body has no resistance to.

I’m finally sleeping a little better (I wake up around 4 for an hour), but I still cringe at the taste of sugarless coffee and I want a proper cup of tea!!!   Do I feel better – not really.  Am I more alert? I don’t think so.  Do I have more energy? Nope.  Are my skin, hair and nails healthier?  No, no and no.  Have I lost weight?  I wished.

I’ll check back in another month and let you know if anything’s changed, except I have a feeling we’ll be cutting out alcohol next and I may be incarcerated for cousinicide.

We’ve told ourselves we’ll treat ourselves, sometime, somewhere.  If we’ve been good.

I’ve decided I need concrete goals; ‘somewhere, sometime’ is not a reward, it’s just teasing.

BTW – I did my research and everyone says I won’t notice the lack of sugar after a few weeks.  5 weeks on, I’m telling you THEY LIE!

Posted in Health and Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

365 likes ❤ 

Image result for thumbs up

Someone, somewhere actually spent time, money and thought in investigating the psychological responses behind sending and receiving like statuses on social media. Probably an investor in Facebook. There’s even a scale to measure Facebook addiction: the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale or BFAS for short.

We started with straightforward acknowledgements  on emails – remember those? How excited was I to get a notification that the email had been opened, although not necessarily read. In the early days of Facebook we had the same thing and we could acknowledge having read someone’s post. Then the ‘thumbs up’  arrived. Now, we have different faces so we can show just how the post made us feel and soon we’ll be able to do a full Nero and ‘thumbs down’ a post, although I’m not sure I’d know what that actually stands for – that you also agree it’s a bad thing or that you dislike the post?

Stepping back to the present and those emotional responses, I wonder how many clicked on ‘angry’ when all they really did was tut. How many clicked on ‘tearful’ when all they did was shake their head? ‘Laughing out loud’ face for a smile? We have begun to over-exaggerate our emotions online as we do with texting – rofl has been typed way more times than it actually happened in that real life situation. This is how ridiculous it is: the whole family was sat at the dining table and someone said something slightly humorous; my daughter immediately said, “lol.” She might have been laughing silently, but definitely not out loud.

So why do we do it? Because it’s the only option? From the point above, when my daughter could have remained silent, it appears to be more than that. Or does it? Is it a chicken/egg situation? People became used to exaggerated contractions in text speak and looked for the equivalent in social media to the point where it has now become perfectly valid to send a crying face to someone who tells you they’ve just wrecked their new manicure. Or do people feel inside what they portray with the emoji? Will we become so stoic in our natural responses, unable to express our true emotions unless we can display them on a screen?

You have to admire the marketing concept, the way users are desperate to see the ‘likes’ and, to try and maximise the number of likes they receive, they push them out in the hopes that people will reciprocate. You might think me cynical, but I direct you to the study I mentioned earlier. In fact, I think there are guides somewhere that tell you to do exactly that, something along the lines of ‘how to improve your online presence’.  Improve?  From what?  On what scale?  How will you know when you have ‘improved’?  What is the goal?

I am unsure which has the bigger emotional pull, the number of likes one receives on posts or the (ever-fluctuating) number of friends.

Working in a school, I can tell you that social media rules teenager’s lives completely. More than music or sport. Even teen fashion relies on the medium.  However, we have a strict ‘no devices’ policy for years 7 to 9 and I cannot begin to tell you how nice it is to see the kids talk to each other, play tag and socialise during their breaks.  Even better, most of them keep up the face to face interactions in upper years.

(I daren’t even touch upon online bullying or sexting which would involve another whole blog post.)

I wonder where this need to exaggerate will lead us?  People already post false, photo-shopped images of themselves on dating sites, develop creative language loopholes to evade answering questions unfavourably (fake news, anyone?) and we are slowly developing and encouraging a culture where I am never sure what anyone means anymore.  Language has always had the ability to be the most violent and passive of tools, able to diplomatically convey acres of feeling emotionlessly and the written word remains one of the greatest communication bridges.  What’s that rule – don’t drink and drive/don’t drink and type?  This is when written communication fails us.  Spectacularly.  It can turn into a smack in the face.  Just think of how you feel when someone sends you a message in block capitals.  And when we live in an atmosphere of exaggeration, that smack can become a full blown K.O., with tweets and circling stars.

Deconstructed, scrunched language, abbreviations (so many!) and emoticons (culturally diverse ones, too) – the written word has gone back to caveman drawings.  What will our future selves think when they come across the simplistic constructs of our chosen language of communication?

Palaoelithic-cave-art-sym-007

There is one, undeniably, positive element the two have in common: it doesn’t what language you speak, you’ll still be able to understand what the other person is trying to convey – although it’s probably exaggerated. Lol    (I’m not, though)

emoticons

Posted in New Author | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winners and Triers

There is an intriguing study into positive, encouraging language and the results are, unsurprisingly, logical.  Isn’t that always the way?  The person who first saw the wheel in use probably thought, ‘well, why didn’t we think of that before?’

I once went on a management course that focused on language, specifically on how we speak to other people, and it all made sense; the ideas were all things we know and understand, but don’t necessarily practise on a day-to-day basis because we are inured in bad habits (and laziness).

Anyway, this study split a group into two and one group was highly praised whenever they had good results in tests.  The other was praised for small, discernible achievements, without focusing on test results.  They then assessed the progress made by all these students (regardless of whether they were high or low achievers in testing).  Not, as you would expect, by giving them a written test, but by placing in front of them various tasks.  The students were encouraged to choose their own tasks and this is what the researchers discovered:

The children who were highly praised with general comments (such as: ‘you’re marvellous’, what a great piece of work’, ‘100%, that’s what I like to see’, ‘another A*, you’re so clever’, ‘you’re a genius’, etc.) tended to select less challenging tasks, ones that would not threaten their ‘excellent’ status.

The children who were praised more specifically (‘I like the way you’ve used alliteration’, ‘I’m impressed that you simplified the figures first’, ‘the use of such bright colours works well for the background’, ‘the little dance in the middle makes the whole piece stand out more’, etc.) were less threatened by the range of tasks and willing to try the more complex tasks, actively going outside of their comfort zone.

Why?  Why wouldn’t the A*, ‘brilliant’ students choose the tougher tasks and showcase their skills?

Teaching isn’t about creating children who perform well in known tasks, it is about creating and developing minds that can take a problem and break it down, creating minds focused on problem-solving rather than their own performance and retaining a high pass rate.  The assessment criteria is in the process, rather than the end result and so we have students who are more confident in their abilities, more willing to explore and who are also more accepting of other people’s differences, because they perceive value not in percentages and quantity, but in ideas and quality.  In their world, no-one is a failure.

Okay, let me clarify that last statement, because I detest the ‘everyone gets a badge’ mindset.  It isn’t that no-one fails, more that the achievement criteria is different.  While they are all trying to get to the same goal, the prize is not in reaching the goal, but in making the attempt to get there, in using their wits and brains and bodies to find a solution.  I haven’t quite got my mind round to solving how this works as regards physical intelligence and winning the 100 metre sprint, but in other areas, it has to be about taking risks and exploring different paths, expanding our minds to encompass the unknown and impossible.

Everyday we fight against the mesmerising effects of a hundred YouTube feeds and social networking pings, texts and online drama that direct our attention away from what is important.  The here, the now, the beauty of nature and creativity and pitting our minds and bodies against new challenges.  Isn’t this what we want for our children?  To excel in the face of insurmountable odds, to brave every new challenge and overcome every fear because they have the tools and wherewithal to just try.  And in trying, succeed.

Then, there are the parents who stifle their children’s endeavours, enabling their fears instead of teaching them the skills to overcome their anxieties.  Worse, they stifle our (teachers, librarians, TAs…) efforts to tease them out of their cocoons, belittle the rewards we offer and raise angry voices at the punishments; parents who instil a sense of entitlement and justification rather than building confidence and creating a ‘can-do’ child.

I came across this amazing video by Jason Momoa which made me want to go back in time and refashion my children’s childhoods, spend lazy hours outdoors climbing trees and painting shells rather than ensuring shoes were lined up neatly at the door.

All children are born able and capable, they’re little sponges waiting for the sweet nectar of possibilities to transform them into adventurous souls.  Set their minds free and teach them the only real failure is in not doing.

The best time to plant was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.   Chinese Proverb

 

Posted in children, Education | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1.5+0.5=2

The bible tells us Adam gave up a rib to create Eve.  Eve has been paying back ever since.  But Adam does not own Eve and Eve owes Adam nothing.

gender scales

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Happy IWD!  I want to highlight that IWD is composed of three separate words: International – it’s a global issue; Women – irrespective of race, age or class; Day – just the one, singular, like birthday or Independence Day.

I know the negative comments this post will attract and I’d like to address some of the more popular ones here and now.

What about International Men’s Day?
Seriously?  We live in a society where, even now, in the western, liberated, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘anything is possible’ world, women’s pay, for the exact same job, is less than men’s in the majority of cases.  The western, progressive world where employers can still stipulate ‘heels’ and ‘manicured hands’ as part of a dress code for women, but not men.  The western world is still primarily a man’s world.  1 day out of 365 when we want to bring women’s rights across the globe into focus and you want to make it about men?  For shame.

w1

I love being a stay at home mum but IWD wants me to be ashamed of that.w2
Good for you for doing what you want.  It’s great you have the choice and opportunity and that is exactly the aim – choice and opportunity, regardless of gender, race or class.  For many women, being a working mum is not an option. Every person should have the right to choose to be a stay at home parent or a working parent, without it being imposed on them by religion, society or their spouse.

I love looking sexy for my man and IWD are feminists who want me to be dowdy.
Sexy?  Great.  Look sexy, don’t look sexy.  Dress up, dress down, do your hair, don’t do your hair.  Your choice.  See that word?  Choice.  Many women do not have the freedom to dress as they please (work outfits excepted [although Hooters needs talking to]) on a day-to-day basis, not allowed to choose their own wardrobe or choose the clothes they buy.  Adult women are neither children nor dolls.  They do not need dressing.

w3

I respect men, so I don’t follow IWD.
And I respect people, irrespective of their gender assignment.  I do not respect ignorance or a stubborn resistance to acknowledging other people’s needs and circumstances.  We cannot live in this world blinkered by our own self-satisfaction.  We are intelligent beings, capable of empathy and making people’s lives better.  IWD is not anti-men.  It is about ensuring women are given a fair and equal hearing on a level platform.

w4

I don’t need IWD because I can fight for myself.w5
I respect that, but what of all the other women around the world who do not have a voice let alone the right to stand up for themselves? I am fortunate to live in a country where I can stand up for my rights and freedom, can speak up for myself.  Now, it is my turn to speak for those that cannot. Is that not what a developed world does?  When one is in a position of power it behoves one to protect the powerless.

I’m happy to have a man look after me.
And I’m happy for you.  It’s human nature to look after and be looked after.  We nurture and look for nurturing in turn.  We have parents and spouses and children and grandchildren.  We love and are loved.  It is unfortunate that there are some women who have no choice in not only whether they want to be looked after, but by whom.  No choice in whether or not they have a husband, family or lack a career.   No choice but to be regarded as only a daughter, wife and/or mother.  No identity other than that of belonging to their father or husband.  It is about being able to choose.  Yet, these are the lucky women, because there are women who live in areas of the world where they legally have no choice but have a man speak for them and if they are orphaned or unmarried or widowed or (male)childless then they effectively do not have any voice at all.

women

IWD is not about man-hating or bra burning or turning women into men.  It is not about emasculating or denying anyone the right to a decent and fair life.  It is about gender equality and, unfortunately, the scales remain tipped against women.  I am concerned primarily with the most basic and fundamental rights, such as education:

w6

The right to work and the right to a fair and equal wage:

women everyday

Many women are denied fundamental rights over their own bodies – from the use of contraception to being deemed inferior if they cannot bear children.  We still hear of FGM; of men ‘buying’ aids cures in the form of young female virgins; of women being legally raped by their husbands; of women having to live in a hut, away from the family home during their menses, all upheld under the name of religion or tradition.

Sadly, the statistics from The Independent in 2014 are still shockingly real and that is why we have to continue speaking up for those that cannot.

Only last year, I heard someone comment, ‘I hope they don’t hire a young woman; she’ll get pregnant, we’ll be stuck with maternity pay and have to get in someone else.’  See?  Even now, the expectation is that women will be the stay-at-home parent, yet the trend is changing and we have to embrace it.  Encourage it.  Make it less an accepted standard and encourage the workplace to amend its attitudes.  Encourage governments, including our own, to make childcare more affordable so women can go back to work, remove the stigma of being a bad mum when they do so and make it easier for men to be the stay-at-home dad by ensuring women have equal pay.

So, before you begin to hold up a placard that says you disagree with IWD, make sure you know what it means you are agreeing to: advocating and perpetuating the ignorance that sanctions treating women unfairly and as inferior beings.

‘I was born a woman’ is a life sentence of servitude in an embarrassingly large number of areas of the world.  Let’s change that and make it a positive statement for every woman.

Before I close off that point, I just want to say, I don’t necessarily want the statement to be, ‘I was born.  Gender irrelevant.’  I am proud to be a woman, but it shouldn’t be relevant to anyone other than my partner or my doctor.

While I’m at it, I may as well address the no-no-please-don’t-go-there God argument (from an atheist’s perspective).  Women give birth.  They create and deliver life, ergo God (creator) must be a woman.  Man is not created in the image of God, woman is, therefore the Pope should, by rights, be female.

One final quote, from the small, but determined Ms Yousafzai:

We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

Posted in New Author | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take Off Your Shirt

I wish this post was about something juicy and raunchy, but, alas, it is about something very unsavoury and that is the way in which we are slowly stripping away our economy.  They’re not taking the shark-in-homeshirt off our backs, we are literally stripping off for them, clouded, deluded and blinded by gorgeous layouts, next day service and free delivery.

Any why not?  What is so wrong in giving in to the company that has made ‘Prime’ an uncontestable market force?  They’ve made free, next day delivery the next best thing since sliced bread, especially for those of us who live half an hour away from the nearest large shop.

Is it our fault when we have been taught from a very early age to be money-conscious?  ‘Go for the best deal’ is almost ingrained. I was brought up in an era when Saturday shopping was the highlight of the week and market day meant deal-day.  But I was also brought up to buy British, keep the economy turning, stop money flowing overseas and support our nation’s workforce.

No longer.  Now, it is about convenience and speed and now, no, now!  Everything is online and geared to make our lives as hassle-free s possible.  But there is a cost and it is a huge, ticking time-bomb that we are unwittingly nourishing.

Shopping online is not, in itself, a problem.  My issue is with taxation and subsidies and the unfairness of penalising local businesses in favour of conglomerates who tread them into the ground.  Please, invite a shark into your home to nibble on your children and insist the children give up their beds and toys to the sharks.  You won’t?

Now, we have all heard the terrible news that Amazon and Google and Starbucks, et al do not pay full UK tax.  They have managed to avoid this by putting the corporate company overseas and using the overseas tax breaks that come with it.

We are assured by HM C&E and Tax and Revenue that the amount these companies are not paying is but a small drip in a much larger bucket, but what they don’t seem to understand is that the drip is poisonous.  It is slowly eroding the plastic and before we know it, the bucket will have disintegrated and we will be left high and dry.  Can you imagine it?  We will end up borrowing from the coffers that we helped fill.

I’m not being paranoid.  It is simple economics and here is why.

Company A buys from company B and sells to us, the consumers, C.  At each sell point, we pay tax and the government gains, the money going into infrastructure, school, hospitals, etc.  Money revolves within our economy.

However, we have several issues.

One: Company A in this case, with the might of sales power, has screwed company B to the narrowest margin – let’s say 35% rather than the normal 50%.  Well, that’s a little less going into the government’s coffers, it is also less to support the company and its workers.

Company A then sells to C, including the 20% VAT.  Great.  That’s 20% C has paid to keep the nation floating.  Not so, because company A has used its loophole and only pays the government 3% tax.  17% goes straight into company A’s pockets.  Okay, well, a lot of overseas companies do that, that’s their incentive and if it was that big an issue the government would do something to halt it; so what?  I don’t know about you, but I resent that I just paid 20% tax – or what I was told was tax – but in actuality the UK government only sees 3%.  How would you feel if you gave a friend a fiver to buy your kid lunch and they only spend £1.50 and pocketed the rest?  This is out and out lying, cheating and stealing.  I don’t care what agreement the company has with the government, if you take 20% tax then pay it!

Two: companies like these are given big tax breaks to open new markets in the UK – such as tax-free sales for the first 5 years.  What?  Okay, I appreciate we have to attract new business and this is a thing, but 5 years?  UK companies are given zero tax breaks for starting up and they have to compete with big conglomerates hustling in on their patch, with a golden handshake from our own government, to do so.

Three: You must have heard recently that high street shops are going to have big tax rises.  This will be passed on to the consumer, C.  They have no choice, how else will they raise the money?  Now, they are competing against golden handshake company A who is sitting-pretty abroad with their additional 17% margin and can afford to absorb this tax hike for a year or so (maybe more), exactly the amount of time it takes C to think, ‘I can’t afford to go there.  Let’s go to A instead.’  The local shop closes because its customers have walked, A has all the custom and can now raise its prices safe in the knowledge that it has no competitors.  And it is pocketing a bigger value of the 17% you think you’re passing on to the government.

Four: We are snowballing our economy into the ground.  Company A’s greed and tax avoidance means the money is not going back into the UK economy.  It is not going to build roads and school and hospitals, it is not going into UK banks, it is not being spent in the UK to be recycled – remember the burning of Welsh houses?  DON’T burn anything!  I’m just trying to remind you what a devastation it was when money was removed from the local economy.

In addition to all this, Company A is not regulated.  It has poor staff policies – zero contract hours? Points system?  Penalties for time off?  It is subsidised by the government to ensure it does not close its doors and put workers out of jobs, when in reality it is the reason so many smaller businesses closed in the first place.  We are, literally, paying them to destroy us and doing it with a smile.  Does it remind you of an abusive relationship?

Government Grants

Corporation Tax

Paying VAT

So, what do we do?  I’m not proposing you boycott the big conglomerates – why should you?  Competition is rife and money is tight and we all lead exceedingly, increasingly busy lives.  However, it is a first step.  Get back to taking that long walk round the shopping centre with your friends and pop into a local cafe – it gets you out of the house, socialising in the old fashioned-way and brings money back into the local economy.

What we can do is petition the government to make business fair and make tax payments more transparent.  If I’m paying 20% tax on item, I want the money to go where I am being told it is going!

Petition the government to remove the destructive ‘points’ system and zero contract hours.

Petition the government to stop Amazon strong-arming publishers and music companies to give them bigger and better deals over and above smaller outlets (I have heard some horrible rumours regarding this, but they are rumours; however, when I can’t get Waterstones to tell me outright why they aren’t even allowed to advertise a forthcoming book that is already available for pre-sale on Amazon, one starts to wonder).

Petition the government to stop giving massive corporate tax incentives that undermine our own companies, which in turn shaves away at our economy.

There are no easy answers, but there are small steps we can take to bar the sharks from our own homes.

Other booksellers

Use the High Street

 

 

Posted in New Author | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Drip, drip, drip…

Image result for world dripping tap

When might overcomes right.

We are fast getting to the point where the world is being run by a few big businesses.  Each year, the division between the poor and the rich grows ever wider, the number of poor increases whereas only the wealth of the rich increases.  The middlemen become marginalised and we all bow under the pressure of government sanctioned temptations.

You might say that has been the way of the world for centuries and the big will surely fall as they always do, quoting Ozymandias and pointing to the fall of the Third Reich, Hannibal and his elephants, Rome and the Ottomans.

But we are in the midst of a subtle, pervasive threat, conducted under the smiling and beneficious arms of the law, using our own laziness to run us into the ground and bleed us dry.

Paranoia, I hear you cry.  Exaggeration and scaremongering, I hear you shout.  Not so.

I recall as a child having to run down to the shops to replace my parents’ carbonated glass bottle for a few pennies – no wastage, all recycled.  Then, a few years later, Perrier widely launched their expensive, pretty-bottled, carbonated water for sale in the UK, at an exorbitant price, and we were all bemused by the yuppies who had more money than sense, spending so much on a bottle of water just because it came from a spring.

Not long after that, ‘still’ water was launched and I distinctly recall saying, “idiots.  Why on earth would anyone in the UK, which has one of the best water supplies in the world, pay for bottled water when they can drink it from the tap?”  Now, bottled water is commonplace and if you go for a meal with friends and ask for a jug of water rather than buying a bottle, you are teased for being a cheapskate, when it is all about not buying into the hype.  It is appalling that even schools sell bottled water to the children, perpetuating the fallacy that bottled is better and encouraging them to collude unwittingly in this environmentally disastrous enterprise which does nothing but line the pockets of the conglomerates at the expense of not only our own dwindling bank balances (we’ll get onto the disparity of pay rises between the working class and the politicians another day) but also at the expense of the environment.

Now, I’ve discovered the shocking news of cases in the United States where people are being sued for harvesting rainwater, including that of a man who built a lake, preserving the beauty and richness of the landscape.  While on the other side of the fence, companies like Nestle are given the government golden-handshake to purchase a $524 permit to enable them to dry out waterbeds in drought ridden states in order to bottle water in order to make a profit at a detriment to the environment (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36161580).

This is not the only place this has occurred: there’s Africa – a continent for whose drought ridden countries we constantly have charity fundraisers (https://newint.org/blog/majority/2011/06/20/africa-water-privatization/); India and Latin America (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2006/mar/19/business.india1).

There are others, but the point is this: when companies bottle water and ruin the environment it is to supply an unnecessary demand!  The solution: stop buying bottled water, then they’ll have no-one to sell to.  Petition your schools to make bottled water a thing of the past to protect the future, teach your children to use a water fountain, or better yet, take a bottle of water into school with them.

We hear enough about plastic pollution, and bottled water is not only adding to that, but it is also destroying the watertables we have now.  More worryingly still, the head of Nestle claims that access to rainwater is not a human right (http://naturalsociety.com/nestle-ceo-water-not-human-right-should-be-privatized/).

So, we have the pervasive persuasive push to encourage us to buy water in bottles, which perpetuates the drive to bottle more and so we buy more (it’s in plentiful supply right?) and create more pollution and more drought and so the cycle keeps turning.

There’s one other trap: you know how clever BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) is?  A 50% discount only prompts you to buy 1 item, whereas with BOGOF they instantly sell twice as much.  Well, it works the same in industry but on a much larger scale.  The supplier stipulates that it will offer an additional x% if the merchant manages to sell y,000 units, otherwise they get the standard discount.  So now, we have a reseller pushing his product to ensure (s)he meets that arbitrary target, which increases each year. I’ll give you an example: at my children’s school they sell bottled water (even though there are water fountains and the children have 20 minutes between lessons to fill up).  I told my children they weren’t to waste money buying water and to fill up their bottles at the fountain.  However, the school’s catering company now has a ‘meal deal’, whereby they have put the cost of the meal up by x% and it includes a bottle of water.  The children who refuse the ‘free’ bottles of water are given funny looks.

Buying bottled water is now ‘cool’, ‘sensible’ and ‘convenient’.

How did this happen?

How did we become so gullible?

Did you know there are three different categories of bottled water?  Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Table Water.  Now, get this, Table water is filtered, sourced, TAP WATER.  Yes, you heard me, tap water!

Our tap water is already safe to drink – it has to follow very strict rules and guidelines.  Bizarrely, I could buy a permit and open my own company selling filtered tap water and everyone would buy it because (I want to scream) they have been encouraged to do so and we are all in the habit of drinking bottled water!

If you’re a pre-80’s child, do you remember what you used to do before bottled water became commonplace?  If the answer is ‘yes’, start doing it again!  For the rest of you, it’s really easy: when you’re thirsty, ask someone for a glass of water.  Any establishment that serves alcohol has to serve free drinking (tap) water.  It’s the law!

I would like, at this point, to give a huge shout out to The Oxford Playhouse (https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/) who have a jug of water just sitting there (no asking required) for patrons to help themselves to.

I’ll leave you one last thought.  They say a clever salesman is one who can sell snow to eskimos (and we laugh because the purchaser is so gullible).  Well, we now have companies that sell water to the populace of a country where it rains 30% of the year (on average).

nestle-ceo

Nestlé’s Chairman – laughing

Who’s laughing now?

Posted in environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

After Twilight

In this case, I refer to the book by Stephenie Meyer, not the time of day.

Image result for twilight

There are hundreds of websites/blogs you can go to for ideas on what to read after Twilight.  I have read several of them for the same reason (probably) that you are reading this and that is because I absolutely adored the Twilight series.  What is it about them that makes me want to dive in again and again? Certainly not the writing, but I have no issue with how well, or not, it is written as it has addressed the primary premise for a fiction book:  to capture the reader’s attention, to engage them wholly and to entertain.

For me, the obsessive romantic aspect is the real draw and while many spout such an obsession as unhealthy, to me it is as deliciously pleasurable as chocolate eclairs, only less fattening.  I felt the same pull with Fifty Shades but when I went to find ‘more books like FSOG’, I was presented with lists of books on BDSM.  Not what I wanted at all.  With the ‘after Twilight’ websites, I found more vampire novels.  Again, I’m looking for obsession and romance and twists and HEA.  So, I’ve decided to put together my own list for those of you who adored the same sappy, romantic aspects of Twilight, imbued with a little action to stop it becoming too wet.

The list is in no particular order and I only mention the first book if it’s a series.

  1. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
  2. Immortal City by Scott Speer
  3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  4. The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan
  5. Finding Sky by Joss Stirling
  6. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  7. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine (very long series and I stopped at book 9!)
  8. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  9. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
  10. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  11. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  12. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  13. Angelfall by Susan Ee
  14. Need by Carrie Jones
  15. Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott
  16. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  17. Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  18. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  19. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  20. Obsidian By Jennifer Armentrout
  21. Half-Blood by Jennifer Armentrout
  22. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  23. Legend by Marie Lu
  24. Real by Katy Evans (18+)
  25. The Collector by Victoria Scott
  26. Davy Harwood by Tijan
  27. Bright Side by Kim Holden
  28. Eternal Eden by Nicole Williams
  29. Fissure by Nicole Williams
  30. Significance by Shelly Crane
  31. Relentless by Karen Lynch
  32. Thirst by Claire Farrell
  33. Slammed by Colleen Hoover (18+)
  34. Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan
  35. Beastly by Alex Flinn
  36. Fallen Crest by Tijan
  37. This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas (18+)
  38. Introductions by C.L. Stone (reverse harem)
  39. Angelic by L.P. Swalheim (unfinished series and the writing style makes you wince)
  40. Knight’s Mistress by C.C. Gibbs (18+)
  41. Soulmates by Holly Bourne
  42. Violet Eden by Jessica Shirvington
  43. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins (16+)
  44. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  45. Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan (the series is let down by book 3)
  46. Release Me by J. Kenner (18+)
  47. Hope(less) by Melissa Haag
  48. Relentless by Karen lynch
  49. City In Embers by Stacey Marie Brown (18+)
  50. Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan (18+)

 

Books/series that are touted as being Twilightesque, but I really didn’t like/didn’t work:

  1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (enjoyed first book only)
  2. Fallen by Lauren Kate (enjoyed the first book only)
  3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (tried to read this four times!)
  4. Evermore by Alyson Noel (The heroine drove me up the wall)
  5. A Shade Of Vampire – nothing like Twilight.
  6. My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent – enjoyed the first book but it quickly went downhill.
  7. Matched by Ally Condie – enjoyed the first book
  8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver – enjoyed the first book
  9. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

 

Waiting to Read (because they’ve been on ‘after Twilight’ lists):

  1. I’d tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
  2. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  3. Gone by Michael Grant (I’ve read this now and cannot see how it made those lists)
  4. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  5. Angel Evolution by David estes
  6. Sookie Stackhouse series – I’m put off by the sheer number of books
  7. Shiver & Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. House of Night by P.C. Cast
  9. Pure by Julianna Baggott
  10. Breathe by Sarah Crossan

 

Other books I’ve loved but don’t necessarily follow the Twilight obsessive romance:

  1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  2. Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
  3. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  5. Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  7. Maximum Ride by James Patterson
  8. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  9. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  10. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  11. Fallen Crest High by Tijan (18+)
  12. Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf
  13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
  14. Supernaturals by Kelly Oram
  15. Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen
  16. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  17. Deception by C.J. Redwine
  18. Runaway Mortal by Komal Kant
  19. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
  20. Eon by Alison Goodman

 

Books on Twilight lists I probably won’t read:

  1. Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith – it’s the love triangle I can’t deal with
  2. Thoughtless by S C Stephens – ditto

 

There you have it.  I may revisit and add to these lists from time to time, but it is a testament to the enduring appeal of Twilight, that I have compiled this list years after Twilight first appeared on our shelves.  It may interest you to know that I re-read the series only last year (2016) and the film is still one of my favourites to iron to.  Although, I’m not sure I ought to admit to that particular vice as the films are a whole different ballgame.

Happy reading.

Posted in Twilight | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment