Wednesday, 14 September 2011

New year resolution, month 9

I've got to September with no new clothes.  I don't think I've ever got so far with a new year's resolution!

It's interesting.  Not buying new clothes has really shown me some interesting things about my wardrobe, I've noticed that certain clothes fall in and out of favour - things I love might suddenly not get worn at all for a while, for no particular reason - while others are favourites and stay that way.

I don't need any more white vests!  Ok, I don't need any more vests of any colour...

I've had a bit of fun dyeing a few white tops that had been put in the wrong wash and that has given me 'new' tops without buying.  Mind you I now have 4 tops in the same dark purple/red, which is great, if a little odd.

Accessories have been a real life-saver!  I've been rediscovering my jewellery box and finding necklaces to match outfits.  That's been a LOT of fun!

Have I changed any habits really?  No, probably not.  I still look at clothes shops and websites, I still would like to shop - though sometimes I do enter a perfect zen-like state of self-denial and purity.  BUT, I think I might be changing my approach to clothes - quality over quantity seems to be becoming more important.  And the Jaeger A/W stuff is looking very lovely!

Isn't this skirt DIVINE...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Big Society? You really think so?

I've been a volunteer independent visitor (IV) for nearly 6 years, matched with the same young person - we've been friends since he was 10.

I'm not some super-hero, and I'm not some angel of mercy swooping in to "do good", I just happen to go to the cinema with a lad, watch some good films (and some really awful ones!  Little Man was a very low point, and takes first place for the worst film I've ever seen) and eat hot dogs.  We have fun, I don't know if I'm a 'role model' or a 'good influence' - and it's not about overt tags like that anyway - if I am those things it's only as a side-effect of spending a few hours together, chatting about stuff and listening to Lady Gaga...

I volunteer for a lot of reasons - not one of them is money.

When I began volunteering it was a children's charitable organisation who provided the service for the local authority, but had autonomy and independence and, crucially, was completely focused on the children who used their services.

Then the local authority decided to take the IVs back in-house and run it through a section of Children's Services.  The project co-ordinator was transferred and employed by the local authority - which is just as well since she is a brilliant person, great with the kids, has their interests so completely at the forefront of what she does - she's a true advocate for the kids that come her way...

So far so good.  To begin with, it was ok - not much seemed to change, we carried on visiting as frequently as ever.  As a volunteer I am reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses - the things I spend when we have our day out.

2 years into my volunteering I moved from my home to another part of the country.  I asked the co-ordinator if I would be supported in this and whether I could still volunteer even though I would now be over 200 miles away.  It was agreed that as long as it was ok for me, then they would support that.

So, I started a 415 mile round trip to see him, driving for about 8 hours each time.

Then petrol prices started to steadily increase.  And the cost of servicing and maintaining the car started to increase.   

And so four years later the mileage rate was becoming was pretty inadequate, as well as being far below the amount recommended for employees, which according to best practice should be extended to volunteers. 

I mentioned this and wondered if there could perhaps be a slight increase and was very happy when our mileage rate was brought in line with council employees.  I felt valued and treated well. 

And then last year the coalition formed a government and embarked on their slash-and-burn policy of local authority budgets, backed up by the collossal lie that all public spending is BAD and MUST BE STOPPED.

A few months ago the LA suggested that I might cut down my visits from monthly to just seeing him during the holidays.  This seemed like rather a radical reduction.  I asked if this was summer and Christmas or did it include Easter and half terms as well.  They didn't know the answer to that, they hadn't really thought about it...

As it was purely budget-based rather than being at all about what might be best for me or my friend, I offered a compromise which would reduce the miles claimed - not the miles I drove, just what I claimed.

Not surprisingly this was eagerly accepted.

Today I have been told that the accountants have ordered that visits will be only every other month, that there will be limits on what can be spent during visits, and crucially a 33% cut in the mileage rate.

From next Tuesday.

Now, bearing in mind that we're talking about a volunteer activity - the keystone of Cameron's Big Society - it seems more than a little bizarre that the funding for this is being drastically reduced.  Surely volunteering activity is what 'call-me-dave' wants?  Isn't it?  Or have I TOTALLY misunderstood him?

Because cutting the service is hardly encouraging the people you've already got doing it, let alone getting new people in.

What fucks me off more than anything else is that the accountants know that none of us is going to just jack it in, none of us will say "y'know what, fuck you, I'll just not do it anymore", none of us will jeopardise the relationship we have, the one we've spent years building.  They know that and they are abusing it.

None of these new edicts are about what's best for the child, it's bean counting at it's most basic - the co-ordinator said today that she's been told that they'll do the minimum - it is a statutory duty so they can't cut it totally, but I bet they would if they could.

The service has been classed as excellent for years, the accountants said they should now aim for adequate.

Is this acceptable? 

We're talking about children who have had hard starts in life having what might the single most consistent point in their life reduced with no warning.

We're talking about children who might have no-one else that they trust.

We're talking about some of our most vulnerable members of society.

The big society?  Really?  This is how 'call-me-dave' thinks volunteering works - we do the stuff, we look after the services and the vulnerable, and he lets the rich off their tax liabilities.

I said a few months ago that I had an increasingly regular image of 'call-me-dave' and his millionaire friends rubbing their hands together and saying "what can we do next to fuck everyone up".

Today I believe this even more.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Not wavy but downy

I thought that over-straightened hair was a bit passe.  Not so in the hairdresser I visited yesterday.  My hair is wavy.  I told the stylist it was wavy.  She could see it was wavy.  I asked her for advice about maintaining the curl and reducing the fly-away-ness of it.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand naturally, following all that, she dried it straight and plonked a load of serum on top to reduce the fluffiness from blow-drying it.

Weirdest of all about this, she had very nice wavy hair with well defined curls and waves and no straight fluffiness in sight!!


The search for a good hairdresser continues........

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Delicious day off

Today I had the day off and went out for a marvellous lunch with Mr Bookworm and 2 of our friends.  It was my friend's birthday on Feb 1st and it's mine on 18th so the lunch was a treat and a celebration.

We had wanted to go to Morston Hall, but sadly it doesn't do weekday lunch :-(  So we chose The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe.

We had a nice leisurely drive up to the coast in perfect sunshine, stopping off in Wells along the way for a coffee and a bit of window shopping.

Back on our way we saw lots of people with binoculars and long lenses by the side of the road - I wonder what bird they were looking for.  We saw a Barn Owl which was a surprise at 12.30 in the afternoon.  They are huge!

Then we got to The White Horse which is a lovely pub with a lot of flint wall, and pale blue paint. It has a very pretty setting looking out over the north norfolk marshes to the sea.  Our table was in the conservatory right by the window and a view.

I'd already had a pre-emptive look at the menu, not that it helped with choosing as it all sounded delicious.  It's a relatively small menu for lunch but I was still stumped - we all were, even Mr B had 4 veggie choices available.  Being on the coast there was a lot of fish and shellfish and for a moment 2 of us wavered over choosing a sea platter. Or oysters.  Or mussels.  In the end I chose bouillabaisse and a pork belly porchetta with truffled butter beans and crayfish tail sauce.

The bouillabaisse was rich and delicious, and came with a really nice rouille and a gruyere toast.  It was a big and satisfying dish, tomatoey, slightly aniseedy from dill and pernod, and packed with pieces of fish, prawns and mussels.  Then the porchetta which was really good - a small hit of chilli in the rolled pork belly, lovely white beans, lots of crayfish tail and a lovely sauce with truffle and crayfish and something creamy.  The meat was really tender from long cooking, that dead giveaway of soft fibrous meat that gives at a slight pressure of fork, and the beans were a delicious contrast.  I would not have thought of putting pork with crayfish but it really worked, and there were lots of them.

We were too full for pudding!

Then we had a stroll along the edge of the marsh and spotted lots of birds - Curlew, Avocet (we think), Starling, a Redshank, Gulls and many others that I didn't know. 

Then we returned home, taking a different route through Blakeney,Cley and Holt.

It was such a lovely day that we think we might like to do this perhaps once every few months.

A fab day with friends and delicious food - what more can a person ask?

Monday, 7 February 2011


I sometimes spend a few moments in idle fantasy about living elsewhere - not that I don't love my home, I just wonder about other lives in other places. An alternative me perhaps.

Sometimes it's a place I know well, other times it's completely based on nothing more than a travel feature or a good photo.

One of these elaborately woven dreams comes from our summer holiday 2 years ago. I fancy I'd quite like to live on Jura. Well, I'd like the life of a girl we met in the tea tent at Jura House. She made cakes and gardened and did 'stuff'. It sounded rather idyllic, on a beautiful island with the gulf stream and some rather fine whisky and stags.

And then I remember that the island population is small and one's personal business might not be as personal as a person might like!

And on a day like today, when all is gusty outside and I'm seriously wondering if my car will actually stay anchored to the road or if it's going to go all "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore", I wonder if the wind would drive me bonkers.

And that's when thoughts turn to a high-ceilinged apartment in an old palazzo, with tiled floors and a balcony or two, and the sea nearby. And a bit less wind TYVM. And southern Italy's beauty and loveliness on my doorstep.

Today it's an Italian day.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011


There are certain things I expect from my work/employers. Simple stuff like being paid on time, or having some direction.  Or having a manager.

Most of these seem relatively easy to fulfil, however, the whole manager thing appears to be beyond the ken of my employers. 

I'm not going to get into extensive employer-bashing, but I would quite like someone to approve my leave, or check I'm not overloaded, or set some objectives.  Or give me some feedback...

It's all a bit wearing really.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Things I haven't bought.

So far this year I haven't bought:

Grey leggings
A new day dress
A black skater skirt
A tunicy thing with owls on it

I am doing quite well with the whole not shopping for clothes thing...

Books, on the other hand, are not banned.  Nor is kitchen equipment!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Carbon reduction for 2011

I am thinking about the 10:10 challenge and reducing my carbon footprint.

I wonder if it's possible to not buy any clothes for a whole year - I read an article (last week?) in which the correspondent didn't buy new clothes for a year.  Oddly he remarked about how tatty his clothes were by the end which I find puzzling - I mean I don't wear ALL my clothes ALL the time so I expect that what I have would last quite nicely TYVM...

Anyway, I have decided to see how long I can go without buying new clothes - I have a couple of exemptions:

a) tights - they can snag so easily!
b) if something completely wears out and I don't have a replacement I will allow myself a new one, and I will try charity shops first.
c) a new pair of boots which I NEED!

I am quite looking forward to the challenge, I have unsubscribed from all the shopping website updates I usually get, and I am really looking forward to the money-saving - there are many things to do to the house this year which will be a good encouragement if I waver!