Category Archives: Consumerism

‘You Wish’

In my case, I wish I was good at shopping. As everyone knows: I am rubbish at it. Still, there’s always this song to groove to after looking at literally thousands of products, with NO SUCCESS. If you’ve had a birthday recently, all I can offer on the gift front is: I am behind. Sorry!

January Sales

I am too old to be trying on rubbish in the sales these days. Actually, I am too old to try on all-year round and I am a Crappy Shopper. When I shop these days, I just get distracted. I look at fabrics and listen to the music, and in some of the charity shops I eavesdrop on the old ladies who can give good value, sometimes comic.

I found myself in one such shop the day after New Year’s Day and it was heaving, with old ladies, who seemed like the whole Christmas period had starved them of human contact… I pretended to be looking at things, when actually I was completely listening to two of them having a conversation, remarkable in both its length and level of unhappiness. I think the one who said she was in her eighties broke down in tears for a brief period. It seemed to centre on the fact that she was the carer for her brother, and he just didn’t understand that she herself was not up to that much. The brother was painted as a bit of a thoughtless, or selfish, dictator, but that might just have been her low mood speaking. Far be it from me to start throwing around sexist accusations, although I confess the thought did cross my mind. Anyway, after the hankies all round moment, her friend said they should go for a cup of tea, but the woman said she’d already done that. She’d had a teacake, untoasted. She said she prefers them that way.

Old age isn’t for cissies, they say. They ain’t wrong.

I left the shop awash with the sadness of others, and probably as a direct result, made an ill-advised sales purchase elsewhere. I didn’t need to try it on either, other than hang it off my shoulder.

My other excuse for the purchase other than as an antidote to all melancholia, mine and others, is that I want to be a Cowboy. You will see me coming a mile off now.

cowboys

I’ve debated the term ‘old ladies’ in my head for this blog. We don’t want to be called ladies, now do we? We are women. You can’t say old women though, can you? And if you can’t, why not? I wonder, is it something to do with men talking about their ‘old woman’…

Ghosts on the Underground

These days I find, somewhat to my surprise, I have a deep connection with London, and particularly the Tube. It features both love and hate, a suck me in yet spit me out tension, but because I travel on it so infrequently these days, I am more aware of the memories that haunt its subterranean tunnels and chambers. It’s a place where the old and the new, the dead and the living, the fleet and the sloth, are shaken together in an overwhelming sense overload.

It’s a place where chasms open up under your feet ready to swallow you whole; where you can be pulled asunder by fellow man if you founder on rocks between the torrents raging in opposite directions. Keep left, stay right, flow up, flood down…

In the hallowed passenger halls I see apparitions of savage men in bowler hats: tap, tap, tap on the new butter cream tiles. They have room to move and leap and whirl before swinging their briefcases round in a final self-satisfied pas de deux, and boarding the train home to leaden-footed suburban wives in aprons.

Swivelling, they vanish and I am trampled underfoot by consumers travelling home from the decked emporia that ejaculate premature West End festive commerce over the face of the city. The bowler hats need to keep moving, like sharks, and the shoppers are Munchian Workers Returning Home.

Work as death and shopping as work.

Underground stuff.

There’s a link here to a photographic exhibition from the summer, marking the Underground’s 150th anniversary. The artist is Yangchen Lin. It’s good stuff – I have an idea of my own that I will get around to some day…

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)

That fake ‘I give a shit’ face

Yesterday, as the government announced Chinese investment in a French company to provide us with more nuclear power, David Cameron tipped up in Hinkley for a photo call in a blue boiler suit attempting to arrange his features into a suitably sympathetic expression for the benefit of us plebs. Do these guys practice it at public school I wonder?

David Cameron fakes both listening and concern. The blue boiler suit enhances his authenticity (in his head only). Via the BBC

Here’s another offender from yesterday too. Npower’s boss, Paul Massara, as they raise energy prices by 10.2%. He’s so concerned about you that he parked himself outside the men’s toilets, wedged between a tea urn and an aspidistra and urged you contact him if you have any concerns about paying your energy bill.

If you are an Npower customer – feel free to shoot him a couple of questions paul.massara@rwenpower.com

He’s also on Twitter, going under the ironic name of @energy2live4 The account’s also protected, so I’m going to give that a follow and see if I get accepted…

Housekeeping

I have noticed that some visitors to this blog may now be subjected to the occasional advertisement. (I have no idea what is being advertised…) To prevent this from happening I must buy a $99 annual upgrade which, at the moment, I can’t afford. I do not gain anything from the advertising that appears here, it goes to the platform hosts to defray their own overheads.

I have had a WordPress blog since 2008, for free, more or less if you don’t dwell on the upgrades I have paid for in the past (to embed MP3s and to redirect traffic). I don’t think it’s been a bad deal, and I’m not complaining. It’s just that I am not sure that I want my blog all messed up with advertising.

I am thinking what to do about it. Any thoughts – please share!

In the meantime, if all ads could be like this one, the world would be a gentler place indeed.

Take Two

It’s an astounding act of hubris isn’t it?  To write a post about a film you watched.  As if anyone even cares.

But some films have such integrity that they demand you bear witness.  Not  just by watching them, but by saying you did and perhaps by considering some of the wider issues highlighted.  Such a film was The Turin Horse from yesterday’s post; such a film was The Moo Man.  You may of course say that such a notion is nonsense, a film, is a film, is a film, but I believe a good film contains essential truths that it is good to reflect on in the aftermath of the watching.  This means my idea of a good film may not be widely shared – for instance I would not have Jaws in my top ten, but I would have Harold and Maude.

Anyway, that’s another story, back to The Moo Man.  I am not sure about the title myself, but the hero, farmer Stephen Hook is an appealing character and the film was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – what I like to think of as Cannes with soul.   Hook is an understated, thinking stockman who chooses to have a smaller organic herd and build real relationships with his herd.  His unlikely heroine is a cow called Ida.  There are moments of humour and moments of gravity, often involving Ida, and on one occasion, Eastbourne.  The Moo Man is not as slow as yesterday’s offering, with its 30 takes only approach, but the pace is as sedate and the scenes mooch through as if channelling Hook Farm’s Friesian herd of heifers ambling towards the milking parlour.  That’s not to say nothing goes on – a lot does – the whole cycle of life as it happens, which is, I suppose, what it has in common with the visually grimmer The Turin Horse.

There is a baddie too.  It’s the supermarkets, who buy the milk from dairy farmers for less than it costs the farmers to produce.  If you don’t think that’s got anything to do with you, watch the film and consider the nation’s balance sheet.  Stephen Hook is taking some of his milk straight to market in its raw form to try and keep the farm in the family.  Organic milk has got to be better for you than the chemical cocktail variety, and untreated raw milk claims even more health benefits.  Having watched The Moo Man,  it’s also definitely far better for the cows.

If you are interested in what the farm does, visit the website of Hook & Son here.

Practising non-attachment to things

Warning: this post contains metaphysics that might be irritating to some readers.

It’s not easy to do, but when one experiences suffering it can act as a signpost that we are too attached to things: objects, thoughts, feelings, outcomes, even people. I went to some Buddhist classes (last year now) and this is what we were taught: attachment causes suffering. I don’t follow Buddhism especially, but this is one teaching that has stuck; the other was that of observing the mind through mindfulness.

Anyway to illustrate the point in the case of objects, today, when I dropped my phone, face down, in the supermarket car park and cracked the screen, I immediately began to suffer. I felt angry with myself, with the phone. Then I was upset because it looked spoiled, with a big spider crack across the top of the screen. Then I rang someone to moan, and they didn’t say the right thing, so then I was cross with them too, and after a couple of minutes of making this big ball of anger and upset and frustration and the whole why is life just so damn unfair? shebang… I caught myself at it.

I was causing myself to suffer all these feelings simply through attachment to an object. Ok, it’s a nice object, and I use it a lot, and I wouldn’t want to be without a phone for the rest of my life, but still… phones break if you drop them, and people drop things (I drop things a lot). It’s just what happens.

I looked at the crack again. It struck me that I go round taking photos of rusty things and old things and dead things and generally say that imperfection is more interesting than plain old perfection, so why was I freaking out about a crack? As cracks go, it wasn’t that bad. And it could be fixed, if I wanted.

Now, I must admit at this point that the phone had not lost all functionality. I think I would have suffered a little longer over that, but maybe one day I’ll be able to let that go too. Now that really would be some proper non-attachment to something. It might sound odd, but it helps me step out from the old suffering loop, which in turn keeps the mind in balance, so I just wanted to pass it on.

My perfect life (not)

There’s a blog I visit and read often. It’s a good blog because it’s written by a professional writer and because although the exterior of the thing always looks glossy and fabulous (nature, dogs, horses) and peaceful, the interior landscape of the writer sounds more or less interchangeable with your human experience, or mine, or anyone’s really. Different events and people, but same pain, angst and suffering.

So, here’s a blog that is not about my interior landscape. It is a post that would never appear on this other blog because these things just don’t seem to happen to everyone. Or maybe they do and have the sense to keep bloody quiet about it. This post is also designed for a certain member of the Wray Barton Wrecking Crew who has been having a torrid time lately, but has been the usual stalwart in the face it all. Perhaps it will make her smile. In which case it would all have been worth it.

The dog, have I mentioned the bloody dog on here? Oh yes. Often. He’s appeared in photos here looking winsome and he’s appeared looking snarly and people have commented on his looks and it’s all rather jolly having a dog to put on the blog on a slow day, or when he’s done something entertaining. The trouble is that lately the dog has been, literally, driving me mad. Or if not driving me mad, holding up a mirror to my madness.

We went out the other day, for a walk and thence to a pet superstore, only because I dared not return home without cat food (we had run out) and the cat was looking for my head on a stick by late lunchtime; she had not eaten since early breakfast and requires five meals a day minimum to maintain her usual surly and superior demeanour towards me. So I had to stop at this gargantuan warehouse of a pet shop because I didn’t have any cash on me and it’s the only place you can buy a cheap box of cat food with your card without the assistant hating you to your face.

As soon as I parked, which I did badly, hitting a kerb in the process, the dog started up whining because he knows that in that shop there is a pick and mix for mammals and birds which he likes to peruse. I took him in. We walked round and round the central island of pick and mix and he stuck his nose in various binnacles. Pink biscuits, yellow bones, multi-coloured bird seed and hay bars for rabbits – they have them all. It’s additive heaven. The dog enjoys it though and so did I until I realised that I had been conversing with him throughout…

I had started the chatting to him on the earlier walk and it didn’t really matter so much then because no-one was around but once I clocked myself in a busy pet emporium I had enough self-preservation left to realise what I might look like: a bit crazy. So then I told the dog, I really had to stop chatting out loud to him and could he just select his chosen pick and mix biscuits for me to put in a bag and then we could leave. Which, after some further deliberation and more accidentally verbalising what should have remained in my head from me, he did.

This will have to be continued. In my perfect life (not) I have to finish another thing I haven’t started yet and quickly tell the cat something, before I forget. Don’t worry though, I’ll get back to this story and it will so totally be worth the wait…

NO PICTURES OF ME IN A SHOP, WITH THE DOG, TALKING TO HIM, IN PUBLIC, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE EMBARRASSING.

Yesterday, someone told me I should write a blog…

Oh, I do replied, otherwise, as you see, my head would explode.

My daughter returned from her school trip today. We had a few positives and then the long list of negatives – usually crimes against the personages of children by The Teachers.

Top of the heinous crimes list was hogging the salad cream.

Yesterday I passed an elderly couple in TK Maxx. For once, I was just passing through that emporium of things you never knew you’d really need when you finally found out they even existed. Honest, I really was just passing through – down their escalators is a short cut to the car park. Down amongst the garden furniture and the house furniture and the statuary and the crockery the old lady planted her feet like a racehorse refusing to enter the stalls.

‘I’m not taking one more step until you tell me where you’re going’ she said. She was about eighty at a guess. Her husband looked at least the same. His reply was lost on the wind as I passed through on my short cut to the car park. This was against my better judgement. If I hadn’t have had the non-school trip child in tow I would have definitely hidden behind a giant Moroccan lantern to watch the denouement. For all I know he refused to tell her and they are still there now…

…locked in an elderly married couple’s infinite shopping stand-off.

The other thing my daughter did on her return from the school trip was comment on a clock I have been lent by a student to help my own children finally nail this learning to tell the time on the clock face, instead of reading it off a digital display.

I don’t want you lying in bed staring at your clock on the wall wondering ‘what it all means’ anymore, I said.

Oh I don’t need that thing you’ve got, she said. I can tell some of the times.

She’s ten. ‘Some of the times,’ indeed.

I blame the salad cream hogging teachers…

A thing I never knew I must have

A thing I never knew I must have

Morrisons: Doomed?

I used to pop into the supermarket Morrisons a fair bit. It is a few miles away, further than any of the other supermarkets (apart from Asda but they don’t sell much of an edible nature there anyway), but I felt the extra distance was made up for because the car park is opposite a huge wild ‘park’ that the dog can run in. I also have a soft spot for the Morrisons hand-raised pork pies (no jelly). So if I wasn’t in a hurry I could have good walk, a quick shop followed by a quality pork pie with hard-boiled egg for lunch (cranberry jelly on the side, left over from Christmas).

I went back there today, the first time this year; in fact the first time in months. Six maybe. I wondered why it had been so long, the walk went so well. The dog was very happy to be able to run to his heart’s content, conduct a spot of light hunting in a spinney and both of us were overjoyed to not have to deal with any other bugger or his or her dog. We had the space to ourselves. Perfect. Then I went into Morrisons…

Firstly, there were no hand-raised pork pies. There were slabs of giant pork pie in the reduced chiller cabinet and there were mini pork pies of a different brand, but sadly these were not the boys for me. No hand-raised? No pie of the pork. Lunch was off. I bought a few other bog standard items one must have with children to feed and one other item which pleased me a little and minded me to forgive the lack of hand-raised pork pies on the shelves (even whilst the deli area was overflowing with some filthy pasty concoction filled with spicy chicken). As I shuffled down to the tills I was half-thinking, ‘Oh it’s not too bad, I mustn’t leave it so long again.’ And then there it was: the queue for the self-service tills.

I attempted to join an ordinary queue, for those with trolleys, but it was hopeless. No room at the inn. So I joined the queue for the automated shopping experience and as I waited it all came back to me: why I had stopped coming here over six months before. The self-service tills are the most inefficient ones in the known universe. Sainsburys can be annoying,yes; Tescos are not too bad, but the Morrisons self-service machines are down there in the pits along with WH Smiths (that shop is a whole new post altogether).

For a start, they don’t bloody work. Or, Morrisons customers can’t work them. This means that one member of staff has to work the self-service tills with the customers in a very tight space with a packed audience, circumstances which contrive to make the customer feel stupid and the staff member very snappy. The machines shout incessantly. They shout at the customers (who are getting it all wrong) and then the staff member shouts at the machine or the customer, depending on how their stress levels are doing. Strangely, we the customers, the most put upon in the whole transaction do not shout at all but the self-service debacle/spectacle fills those of us patiently waiting with irritation, or dread. It is self-evident the self-service till is going to make a fool of us too, we just have to stand in line and worry about what manner of humiliation this will take.

For the man in front of me it was the ‘Notes In’ part of the transaction. For me it was that when I stepped up to the plate that one machine would not take cash. I went to the back of the queue and did not collect one hundred pounds. When it was my turn (again) on the one machine deigning to take card payments on this, the 23rd day in the month of the year 2013 AD, I thought I made a good start. I thought, for a moment, I was doing quite well with the self-service wheeze. I was not. The shop assistant who works like a demon across two self-service tills, self-served me to a repacking of my bag. I had constructed a wobbling edifice of eggs, goose fat and pizza because the weighing and packing areas are the size of a postage stamp. As she rearranged my goods to her satisfaction, she patronisingly pointed out my idiocy and transferred some of my goods to the other, secret packing area I had not seen.

doombar

Of course she was simply exacting revenge on me because when the old man in front had been defeated by the ‘Notes In’ section of the machine, I had helpfully suggested he shoved his tenner in another of the machine’s many orifices. My helpful suggestion proved to be the wrong orifice too and when the shop assistant had told us both off for being so thick I had mildly protested that she was being a touch impatient with the customers.

After all, we don’t actually work there. We haven’t had any self-service till training. This cut no ice with the Morrisons staff.

‘That man,’ she said, as I was leaving (he was about 80 years old), ‘that man… He comes in here every day and uses these machines every day!’.

‘Perhaps,’ I said, ‘he has a short memory.’

‘Selective more like!’ she snapped.

I took my goods. It had taken me 5 minutes to get the basket full of shopping and 10 to pass through the self-service feather and tarring of customers. This is why Morrisons is doomed.

On the other hand, I did get two bottles of my favourite beer for £1.50 each and I had a nice chat whilst I was waiting to be made a fool of by an inanimate object and paid staff with a lady whose niece goes to the Judi Dench School of Acting. Or something. This proves that all Morrisons customers are lovely, a little bit old, reliant on public transport or simply misguided. Those of us that have the choice not to be put upon and abused by machinery and stressed out by supermarket staff with the hump are probably shopping elsewhere now.