Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Help! I'm Not Adequately Equipped to be 40...

Help! I'm Not Adequately Equipped to be 40...

In exactly 10 days time, I'll turn 40.  I don't know how this happened, but I'm led to believe it an unavoidable consequence for everyone lucky enough to live this long. After losing a lovely school friend a couple of months ago, I've quickly realised that being 40 isn't really a big deal and that I should be thankful;  and I am. However, it doesn't escape my mind for a second that I'm not entirely sure I'm up to the job. 

I'm not sure what it is that 40 year olds do, but I'm absolutely certain I'm not doing it. When I was, like, 20 or something, and 40 seemed so unbelievably old and distant, I assumed you had to have a steady job, house, husband, kids, and maybe a dog and a decent car thrown in.  Looking back, I've had a few houses, a few jobs, two husbands (one current), one step-kid, several dogs, and quite a few cars. On the surface, I look like I'm fairly responsible. However, lurking just beneath that calm exterior of seeming togetherness is thinly veiled chaos.  

Twisted (Non) Fire Starter
I can't start a fire. I've been on the earth for 40 years and I can't do it.  I've tried - God knows I've tried - but the knack escapes me.  Not only can't I properly start a fire (to heat my home, you understand; not just to randomly set the middle of the woods ablaze or anything), I can't even do it with assistance. Granted, for most of my adult life, this has never been an issue.  Now that I live in the middle of nowhere, and have a stove in my lounge, it's a skill that would be useful in keeping me alive during the long, cold, Welsh winters.  I have attempted to build pyramids; use coal; firelighters; wood; paper and, dare I admit it, a miniature bottle of schnapps that, when tossed into the fire, caused a moment of sheer panic as an alarmingly large and rather angry looking flame flew out of the stove before pathetically dying out as quickly as it came.  I am, people, simply incapable of starting a fire.   

Washing Machine
I can operate the washing machine, you'll be pleased to hear.  However, I can only operate it on a single setting.  I tell myself it's all I'll ever need and have, therefore, stuck to that rule for actual YEARS.  I know nothing of RPMs in terms of the spin cycle and have never, ever messed with the myriad of buttons that my machine seems to be furnished with.  I wash everything I own at 40 degrees on a 30 minute cycle (also known as a Number 3).  This drives my husband crazy because, unfortunately for me, he's fully aware that there's more than one setting.  He has, on those infrequent occasions he's allowed me to go near it, told me to: 'put the load on 1600 rpm for 40 minutes at 43.25 degrees and then put it on a secondary mega-fast spin programme for 12 minutes', to which I've responded: 'Okaaaaay' before immediately going back to do the only thing I know how.  If that wasn't bad enough - and I can't believe my husband might actually read this (I'm sorry, please don't divorce me) - I don't even know which tray is for the powder and which is for the softener.  I'm not even kidding.  I never haveFor my entire existence, I've just chucked stuff in and hoped for the best.  

Cars
Since I passed my driving test way back in Ye Olde Times gone by, I have pretty much constantly owned a car.  Not the same one, mind, but various models.  I know how to make my car go forward and, if I'm feeling particularly confident, how to make it go backwards.  I also have experience of making my car roll forward, seemingly of its own accord, into the next door's neighbour's brick wall, but that's a story for another time. What I'm trying to point out is this: I will get a new car and do nothing, *nothing* to work out how to use any of its features apart from the basic essential of how to get it started. This means that I work out where my lights are the first time I drive in the dark and where my washers are the first time it rains.  I live in Wales, so those two things often occur simultaneously and then I really have to be on the ball.  I, Suzanne No Middle Name Tam, at almost 40 years old, have never known how to check oil, barely know how to fill water, and am constantly surprised at finding secret little compartments to store loose change in.   

Casting
Don't get me wrong, I own a smart phone, iPad, and smart TV, and I can operate them all.  I don't profess knowing everything they're capable of, but I don't need to.  However, what I appear incapable of doing is making Netflix cast on to my bedroom TV and understanding how the whole thing actually works.  I know it has something to do with the Chromecast, and I bought a wireless extender (go me, right?) so that I have a stronger signal on the second floor, but I'm just not sure how they all fit together.  I've been watching Les fiddle with his phone for years and making stuff happen on the TV, but I've never quite managed to get to the bottom of what kind of black magic he's involved in.  This means that, when I'm on my own at home (which is often), I am fairly clueless about which buttons to press and in which order they should be pressed.  I find it sad that a woman of my age (who expertly made Alexa bark at her friend's cat recently), can't project episodes of Criminal Minds from her iPad to her TV without lots of swearing and some level of husbandly intervention.

Sense of Direction
It's a long standing joke in my life that I have no - absolutely zero - sense of direction.  When I was employed by VisitScotland, it wasn't uncommon for me to check into a hotel room,  leave it to go for a run, and then have no idea how to get back to it. It's not that I'm incapable of working it out, it's just that I'm so absent minded, I don't think about it until it's too late.  My ability to get lost is legendary.  I am an avid traveller, so you can only guess at the situations I've gotten myself into over the years.  I also have the uncanny ability to get lost while in control of a satnav or a map.  Sometimes both.  I can get lost in places I know fairly well; like my home village.  I can go for a run, take a wrong turn and end up somewhere I've never seen beforeWhen I watch movies about people getting lost in the woods and dying *just* before they find a trail to lead them home, it makes me feel better, because this would never happen to me. There's no chance in Hell I'd be anywhere near an exit when I took my last breath.  

I guess I always thought that, as I got older, these were all skills I'd pick up. You know the way you learn processes when you do them repeatedly?? Yes?  Well, I don't.  Much of my life has been spent learning how to sing harmonies along with Chris Stapleton, reading true crime books and understanding how to avoid becoming the victim of a serial killer, and petting as many canine friends as humanly possible.  It might not seem as important as knowing how operate the numerous cycles on my washing machine, but at least I can say I've never been murdered while walking my dog and singing along to country tunes.  If nothing else, that's possibly what's contributed to me living long enough to see my 40th birthday, no? 

Suz  x

   

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Mysterious Case of The Black Sweater

The Mysterious Case of The Black Sweater
This is NOT the sweater in question, so please don't run out and get one.

I was recently reading the news, as I do several times each day, and I was rather surprised to see that one of the leading printed stories on Sky and BBC's website was about a black sweater.  This report was lined up against news of mudslides in California and whoever Donald Trump was bullying on Twitter at the time, and the details of the story struck me as quite incredible.

This particular piece of news I was reading was about Meghan Markle's recent visit to Brixton in London.  I have no idea why she was there as that wasn't really the focus of the story I read, but what I *do* know is the Most Important Thing and that is, of course, what she was wearing. 

As the story reported, Miss Markle, soon to be Duchess of Carbunkle, or wherever, visited Brixton, dressed in a £45 black sweater (with bell sleeves, no less) which is part of a range by UK retailer, Marks and Spencer.  

'That's not even the amazing bit because, as I'm sure you're aware, people in Britain literally wear jumpers every day.  Even in Summer...' 

However, in the days since this visit, the item in question has completely sold out.  What I take from this is that women across Britain (and possibly further afield) have rushed to their local branch of M&S and paid £45 for a jumper they spotted on a random woman in Brixton.  I don't know how often that happens there, but I suspect it's not a lot.  

Obviously, this isn't a new thing.  Women across the world have been rushing out to buy some rather expensive dresses that have been seen on Kate Middleton ever since we started seeing her in public a few years ago.  We rarely hear much of what the woman has to say, but we *always* know where she bought the outfit in which she was saying it.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that public figures are used constantly to market products; and that's fine. I also know that, even when they're not being paid for it, they're pretty much marketing the stuff anyway.  What I don't get it why anyone would run out and buy them. The only instance in my life where I even Googled an outfit was when watching Strictly Come Dancing a few seasons back and spotted Claudia Winkleman in the most beautiful dress I've ever seen.  I managed to stop at an internet search, though.  In Claudia's defence, it turned out to be a *touch* out of my price range but, as I'm an introvert who hates going out, I don't have much call for fancy dresses anyway.  But I digress.  The point I'm making is this: Firstly, I don't get why anyone would spend £45 on a jumper, but what I completely fail to understand is why they would buy one just because Prince Harry's fiancĂ©e was seen wearing it.  

Let's face it, the chances of ever seeing Markle in that jumper again are slim at most.  It' s not like you'll be at work one day and she'll show up on the news and you can be all like:  'Well, what do you know, Meg's got my sweater on!' or something like that.  So, given this is unlikely, why have so many people bought one?  I mean, if you were already in the market for a black sweater and had a budget of around £50, then fine; I get it.  If you weren't, then what the Hell? 

In one way, it's great that this American - who's soon to be part of the Royal Family - is buying British brands. I'm not buying them, so I appreciate that someone is.  However, all that's really happened is that thousands more women will now be out and about wearing the same jumpers and that, if nothing else, makes the whole point of having one a whole lot less attractive, no? 

'I don't recall the £56k dress she wore to her engagement announcement flying off the shelves in quite the same way, which is probably good because, OMG what if you bought it and then tipped your red wine on it??!...'

If nothing else, buying a black sweater from M&S means you can probably spill as much vino down it as you like and still be able to stick it in the machine and wear it again.  There has to be some perk of buying your clothes based on what you see someone else wearing, hasn't there?

Have you ever bought something purely based on seeing a celebrity wearing it??

Suz x


Monday, 8 January 2018

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

'I'm one of those people who likes to start a task but doesn't necessarily like to finish it.  I am The Queen of The Incomplete, The Empress of the Unfinished; HRH Half a Job...'

I'm not sure *why* I'm like this, but I get bored very easily and have a tendency towards extreme procrastination. One of my ways of making myself think I'm not procrastinating is starting something and then promising I'll 'finish it later'.  Often, this is a complete lie, particularly when it's something I'm doing by choice. If it's actual work - by which I mean I'm paid for it - I'm not quite as bad.  Although, saying this, I will absolutely still start various tasks and leave them until the last minute to compete.  You have never seen me work as hard as I do when I'm finishing up in the office on a Thursday night.  

Anyway, the whole work thing isn't the main problem (although, clearly I hope my boss doesn't read this...), but it's the stuff I do on my personal time that drives me to distraction.  I know my habits well, but I don't seem capable of changing them.  

'This is why I've come up with a plan.  I have decided, ladies and gents, that I am ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN from spending money on New Stuff until I finish everything I have...'

I am an avid buyer of audiobooks and I listen to them every night without fail. It started in 2012 as a way to deal with insomnia and it's still going strong today (the insomnia and the book buying). I have amassed 70 titles, each varying in length between 6-24 hours and I've listened to many of them (I love you, Bill Bryson) countless times.  However, I also have 16 of these books that I've never finished.  I've started them, got bored mid way and moved on to something else.  Given that each book has cost me £6, that's almost £100 of books I have in my library - that I own - but haven't read.  

I have a Netflix and a NOW TV account; both of which I flit between, depending on my interest on any day.  This costs me almost £16 each month and I rarely finish watching shows on either of them. I have seen the first episode of more programmes that you would believe. 

I don't wear much makeup, but own a shed load of it.  As with everything else, I buy a new mascara or foundation and use half of it.  Then I spot another new brand (claiming to be the Next Best Thing) and I'll buy that.  As you've probably worked out, I will then use half of that and repeat the process.  I've no idea how much money I've spent, or indeed, how many bottles and tubes of stuff I have in my bathroom cabinet (and bathroom cupboard, various make-up bags, Birchboxes, etc).  

I can apply exactly the same principle to all aspects of my life in that I will buy stuff and never get to the end of it. Therefore, my aim for 2018 is two fold: stop buying stuff AND finish the stuff I already have.  Seems like a do-able challenge, right?  

In the spirit of taking care of unfinished business, I've just frozen my Audible account, cancelled Netflix in favour of NOW TV (it has the entire box set of Criminal Minds and therefore wins hands down), and I've been wildly raking through my make-up bags, looking for what needs to be used up first.  I actually think it might be kind of fun.  I'd be interested to see how much money it saves me, as well as how much space it frees up in my house, but I guess I'll only know what impact I'm making when my local Superdrug closes down due to massively reduced sales of fruity smelling shower gel.  

This is my pledge for 2018.   I wonder how long I can keep it up?  

What are your resolutions for this year?

Suz xx


Sunday, 7 January 2018

7 Ways to Get Your Sh1t Together in January



The start of a New Year is always filled with the hope of all things new and organised.  I tend not to overstretch myself with my resolutions as there's no point in experiencing crushing disappointment before it's absolutely necessary, is there? 

I try to give myself smaller tasks so there's more chance I'll carry them out without suddenly feeling overwhelmed and having to go for a lie down.  This is my official To Do list for January: 

Get Organised in New Year
So many dresses, so few parties...

Clothes

We all have clothes in wardrobes, shelves and cupboards (or in my case, all of these) that we never wear.  Whether you can no longer squeeze into them, they're simply out of fashion, or you were clearly drunk when you bought them, there's usually little need to hold on to them.  Personally, I have the biggest part of three full closets and a large airing cupboard literally crammed full of dresses, shoes, jackets and other assorted outfits that I either haven't worn or don't fit.  Why I keep them is anyone's business, but the longer they spend hanging around my house, the shorter the time they could be spending in my local charity shops and then, hopefully, in the homes of other 39 year old women with Too Much Stuff.  

If you're hanging on to that strapless party dress that you absolutely cannot envisage yourself EVER having cause to wear (for me, this is mainly because I don't like going to parties...), or you think you'll eventually get back to being the size 8 you once were; the start of a new year is the perfect time to go through every item of clothing you own and get rid of anything you haven't worn for the past 6 months.  You'll be amazed (if not a little stunned) by just how many items end up in a sorry pile on the bedroom floor.  However, not only will it give you all the feels to donate your clothes to your local charity store, the extra space will make it SO much easier to find what you're looking for on a freezing Monday morning when you needed to be in the car ages ago and have spent the past 10 minutes raking through unsuitable attire for something acceptable for a day in the office.



Bric a Brac

I'm talking books, CDs, DVDs and all the other crap that builds up in our homes that collects dust and, quite frankly, we could live without.  I have piles of CDs in a box under the bed in my guest room and I don't even own a facility capable of playing them at home.  I seem to have kept them purely for sentimental reasons (I'm looking at you, first Barenaked Ladies album I ever bought...).  Whilst I could play them in the car, I tend to use my phone these days and most of the CDs I own I now have on iTunes.  I'm not suggesting you throw everything out as, but in the age of Netflix, Kindle and Apple Music; do you really need to have a physical copy?  Now, although I do think having a massive clear out is good for the soul, I also admit to having things I will just never ever part with.  These are mainly books, with the occasional CD and DVD that is no longer available.  This is partly because I wish to impose some of my crap on my nephews when I die and don't see why they should get away with not having to sit through a viewing of Big Business or tune into The Eagles Greatest Hits, if just teach them just how incredibly cool their Auntie Suzi was.  Decide what you want to keep for posterity and get rid of the rest to your local charity store. 



Cosmetics

I honestly couldn't count the sheer volume of cosmetics that I have in my bathroom. My cabinet alone houses 4 mascaras, a huge range of eye and brow pencils, and about 5 bottles of foundation at various stages of life.  I am the type of person who buys something, gets bored, and then buys something to replace it without getting rid of the original thing I don't use.  My everyday make-up consists of foundation.  That's literally all I have time for.  If I'm feeling particularly upbeat, I might even use some bronzer.  Quite how I've come to amass so much make up that I don't use is anyone's guess.  I haven't worn eye shadow more than a handful of times in my entire adult life, but I've got it in a range of colours from a plethora of expensive brands.  Why?  I know not.  For the New Year, I've promised myself that I'm not allowed to buy any more foundation until I finish all the bottles I have and I will NOT buy any more eyebrow pencils when I am, quite frankly, too lazy to use them on a normal day.  Instead, I've been slowly getting rid of the stuff I do have and don't use.  No one needs 4 tubes of mascara, regardless of how much they plaster on. A single quality brand is more than sufficient.  Otherwise, it'll just end up wasting away in a dingy make-up bag getting clumpy and gross.  Go through all that pretty packaging and put anything you haven't used for months in a pile.  Either offer it to your more make-up friendly family members or mates, or simply throw it out.  I swear you'll feel better.   Honest. 



The Shit Under The Sink

I think every home has a cupboard under the sink that is full of unknown stuff.  I have a nasty habit of buying polish and fruity smelling air freshener that festers away in the dark recesses beneath my kitchen sink in the vain hope that they'll ever fulfil their purpose of making my utility room smell like a really small orchard. In amongst the crap I keep in there are several bottles of Flash liquid, candles, wax melts, scourers, feather dusters, various bottles of bleach, and a few hundred bottles of liquid soap.  For reasons unknown, I continue to purchase stuff that I see on sale, despite the fact that I don't need it. I have now decanted all the bottle of Flash into one big bottle, cleared out the candles and lined them up for use, chucked out a few rather disturbing looking cloth dusters and a bag full of utter crap from 2003. Tidy it up, chuck it out and only keep what you actually use around the house.  Or in my case, what your husband actually uses around the house....



Unused Apps

Moving on slightly from actual stuff that lies around the house, apps are another thing that take up space on my phone and iPad and which I largely have no use for. I can't tell you the number of things I've downloaded over the years and then barely used. My rule now is: if I haven't used it in a month, it gets deleted. This leaves me enough room for the apps I *do* use, and space to download true crime podcasts, country music and gory stuff from Netflix. It also helps my phone to run a bit quicker and stops me swearing every time I want something that my iPad tells me I have no room for.   As well as clearing out my devices, I now also store my apps in handy folders on my desktop under excellent titles, such as 'Music', 'Social Media' and, I kid you not, 'Random Shit'.   This way, I instantly know where everything is and don’t have to scroll through four or five screen trying to locate something I want to log in to. 



Social Media

I'm talking all the crap that takes up your time and stops you doing something, well...more productive.  I use social media a LOT, but much of this is to do with my blogs as it is as a vehicle to communicate with friends and family back home in Scotland and across the world.  As life transforming as social media can be, it also has a really dark side and can be a pretty negative influence on mental health, in some cases.  Over the past few months, I've had a wee clear out of people  that I honestly have nothing in common with; those that post things that get my back right up (racist, xenophobic, sectarian nonsense, mainly).  I also have to block posts on animal cruelty because I just can't bear looking at it.  I like my feed to be filled with immature memes, stupidity, and dogs dressed as lobster.  I also find it difficult to look at pictures of people's babies all the time.  I guess they feel exactly the same way about constant photos of my dog, but that's just the way the world goes round, isn't it?  If we all liked the same thing, it'd be a pretty dull life. 



Emails

I spend a large percentage of my time scrolling through my emails, just trying to locate the ones I actually need to read.  I have a main email and one for each of my two blogs, so it's not wonder I get bogged down from time to time.  I have started unsubscribing from all emails that I tend to simply delete unread. If I'm not reading them, I clearly don't need them and this saves me so much time in the long run.  Sometimes I feel a pang of regret about that Nigerian Prince that once reached out to me, but then I get a Buzzfeed's 'A Dog a Day' newsletter and then all's well with the world once again. Simply selecting a few emails each day that I don't need and subscribing from them makes life so much easier over the course of a few weeks and helps me not to miss the important emails I actually need to see. 

What are you clearing out in the New Year?


Suz x