Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Schtick It.

When I was younger, I wrote a hell of a lot of complaint letters to various companies. Mainly because I had far too much time on my hands and I was a pedantic little thing, but also because I felt this innate desire to express my opinion ALL.THE.TIME. My, how times change....*cough*


One time, I got a tiny piece of broken lolly stick in the top of an ice pop. I sent it off to the company, along with a strongly worded letter that went something along the lines of "I'm NEVER buying your ice-cream again, that could have gone through the roof of my mouth and I could have contracted a form of blood poisoning and died, all because I wasn't looking at what I was eating of your incompetence!" (not one to over-react, me). The company issued a letter of apology and a cheque for a couple of pounds - result!!

From then on, I was on a consumer rights warpath. Every time I saw something I wasn't happy with, I'd write a letter, and get a response and a cheque/vouchers in return. (I wasn't one of those precocious over-mature kids at ALL). Before you think that this is the answer to your recessionary dreams, let me just tell you, times have changed. You're lucky to get a reply now, never mind an apology.

Still, sometimes I still write a letter of complaint or send questions to companies if something bugs me, sure isn't that why they have Customer Service Departments? I can tell you, for instance, that the purpose of the little "1 heartbeat" heart on every HB ice-cream/pop/lolly wrapper can't be collected to redeem anything at the moment, but that they are considering a promotion in the future. See? Aren't you happier for knowing that?

Nothing has prompted me to send an enquiry (yeah, I like that word SO much better than complaint) in a long time, but THIS - this wrecks my head:


The commercial isn't online yet, not that I want to subject more of you to it, but for those of you who are now completely lost, this is in relation to the latest Domestos advert. At the very end of the ad, one of the creepy little cartoony slimeball characters says in a generic foreign accent "Domestos - stops germs from schticking." SCHTICKING? What the hell?! As a proud turf-rearing culchie, I'm well used to the tendencies of us countryfolk to add the letter 'h' into as many words as possible (as in "watHer", "crisHps", etc), but I can't fathom why it's being used here. It annoys me every single time I see it, and I'm going to buy Parozone in rebellion. Schtick that in yer pipe, Unilever.

Speaking of Parozone, here's their lovely not-at-all-Atomic-Bomb-like representation of how far toilet germs travel:

Nice.

S xx

Sunday, May 29, 2011

8 Things Tag



The lovely Lil over at Hazy Fairyland tagged me in her recent "8 Things" post, and seeing as I haven't indulged my passion for lists in a while, I've decided to give this one a shot.

8 TV Shows I Watch:
  1. Come Dine With Me
  2. Masterchef
  3. The Apprentice
  4. Dragons Den
  5. True Blood
  6. Greys Anatomy
  7. C.S.I (all incarnations)
  8. Law and Order S.V.U
8 Favourite Places To Eat:
I can't justify spending money on restaurants. There aren't a great deal of restaurants where I live, and to be honest I prefer knowing what's going into my food. I really enjoy cooking and I love trying out new recipes - with the exception of the very rare takeaway or wedding, I don't eat out.

8 Things I Look Forward To:
  1. Halloween!!! Ask me at any time of the year (even November 1st) what I most look forward to, and the answer's always Halloween.
  2. Christmas: I love Christmas - or, mainly, decorating for Christmas.
  3. Having my sister over for a visit - I haven't seen her in a while and I miss her. She's the only one that I can really let the crazy out with.
  4. The Postman: I've covered this before, but I have such a childlike giddy attitude to getting mail. Even junk.
  5. Fridays: Friday is my shopping day, and I love looking around different shops and having a wander around town.
  6. Dinnertime: It could be 2 a.m on a Saturday night, and I'll be thinking about what I'll cook for dinner the following Tuesday. I love to plan meals and try new recipes.
  7. 2 p.m: That's the time my son gets out of school. The house is so quiet when he's gone, and although that can be great sometimes, it just doesn't feel right without him here. So I love when 2p.m. comes, because I get to hear all about his little day.
  8. My walk: I've recently started walking 5km every morning (or every morning when the wind isn't so strong that I'd be chanelling Mary Poppins) and although it killed me at first, I've started to love it. There's nothing better to clear the head than a brisk walk with a bottle of cold water and some really good tunes!
8 Things on my Wish List:
  1. Braces. I've wanted braces since I was a teenager, but they're SO expensive! Actually, while we're on the subject of teeth, add in a permanent crown and some whitening treatment too.
  2. A redecorated sitting room. We've been meaning to do it for years, but something always comes up. I hope to get a start on it at the end of summer this year!
  3. A dog. I'd love to have a dog, but my son gets chest problems sometimes and they're aggravated by dog hair - it's just not practical for us to have one at the moment. Maybe someday!
  4. New glasses. I don't really spend money on something unless I have to, but I think I'll have to get used to the fact that it's not really normal to have to superglue the lenses back in occasionally :)
  5. An ice-cream maker. What more can I say? I want one!
  6. A proper vegetable garden.
  7. A family holiday. I haven't been on a holiday abroad since 2004, and I'd love to take himself and our son somewhere nice for a week.
  8. A metal detector. I've wanted one since I was a child, no idea why.
8 Things I'm Passionate About:
  1. My Family.
  2. Music.
  3. Cross Stitch.
  4. Books.
  5. Cooking.
  6. Animals.
  7. History.
  8. Writing.
8 6 Words or Phrases I use a Lot:
  1. Bollocks.
  2. C'mere to me (Come here to me). I think it's an Irish thing to stick it at the start of a sentence when you want to get someone's attention.
  3. Oh, sugar (in an 'oh shit' way, not an 'ooh baby' way). Sugar became the replacement for the aforementioned 'shit' when I had my sponge, sorry, I mean my son.
  4. Grand. Everything's 'grand' in Ireland. "How are you?" "Grand." Grand doesn't mean extravagant in this case, it's just a substitute for 'alright' or 'fine'.
  5. Manky. Dirty, gross, disgusting, horrible, rotten - manky covers it all.
  6. This too Shall Pass. My favourite saying - no matter how low you feel, or how bad things are - they won't be that way forever.
8 Things I've Learned From the Past:
  1. I can rely on myself.
  2. Unfortunately, there are some people out there who are just out for all they can get.
  3. Trust my instincts, especially when it comes to people.
  4. Don't tell lies! They always come out at some stage.
  5. Nobody is better than anyone else, despite what they might think.
  6. Think before you speak. What seems flippant to me can really hurt someone else.
  7. I missed out on absolutely nothing by not having my Dad around growing up.
  8. Never use the word 'promise' unless you're sure you can keep it.
8 Places I would Love to Visit:
  1. Iceland.
  2. Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania.
  3. Pyramids at Giza.
  4. Tokyo.
  5. Machu Picchu, Peru.
  6. Salem, Massachusetts.
  7. Skellig Michael.
  8. Stonehenge.
8 Things I Want or Need:
I've pretty much covered the 'wants' in the wish list earlier, and I don't need anything right now. Breakfast would be nice. :)

8 Things I Love About Winter:
  1. Burning (yankee) candles on long dark evenings.
  2. A roaring open fire.
  3. Gloves, scarves and boots.
  4. Preparing for Christmas.
  5. Fairy lights.
  6. The crunching sound of frozen grass under my feet.
  7. Outdoor markets.
  8. Full moon, snow on the ground, starry sky = heaven.

8 Bloggers I'm Tagging:
I'm not going to tag anyone. I know that even though I really enjoyed doing this post, some people feel under pressure and obligated to do it, and there are some people who don't like writing about themselves. So, if you want to do it, feel free, and if you don't, I hope you enjoyed reading mine anyway :)


S xxx

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Night Song #3

Post Removed

So Predictable...

Hello? Anyone out there? If you're reading this, then according to the prediction made by christian preacher and radio host Harold Camping, then you haven't been one of the chosen ones to be saved today. Welcome to the club! The rapture was supposedly going to happen at 18:00GMT, and given that it's almost 18:21 as I write this, it's pretty safe to say that it...eh...didn't happen. Not where I live, anyway. For those of you who had never heard of "The Rapture", here's the lowdown in its simplest possible form: The Rapture is the first stage of the second coming of Christ - he will come booming through the clouds and lift all Christians to heaven to protect them (200 million, according to Camping).

Regular readers of this blog will know my stance on anything related to the bible or man-made religion, so I'm going to leave that there, and just say that everyone's entitled to believe whatever they want. On to Mr. Camping:

Mr. Camping is 89 years old and is the president of Family Radio (a religious broadcasting network) in California. He's a christian author and radio broadcaster. Apart from predicting the event today, supposedly based on numerology and the bible, Harold also predicted that the Rapture would occur in September 1994. Which was obviously also wrong.

 In my neck of the woods, we'd describe people like Harold as having "a neck like a jockey's boll*cks" for attempting a second prediction - but I suppose when some people are willing to believe anything, then there will always be someone there ready to exploit that. Camping's "Family Radio" website still has special promotions which expire on May 28th 2011. I guess those promotions are only for the people who weren't saved...

 I'm not going to speak any more about this event in particular - there have been many, many wrong predictions documented (Y2K, Alien invasions) instead, I'm going to give you guys a top 20 of famous predictions that were hopelessly, unbelievably, and embarrassingly wrong. Enjoy!

  1. "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting The Beatles, 1962.
  2. "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad." - President of Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, 1903.
  3. "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Coroporation, 1977.
  4. "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" - H.M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1927.
  5. "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." - Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.
  6. "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." - Darryl Zanuck, Movie Producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
  7. "X-Rays will prove to be a hoax." - Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.
  8. "That virus is a pussycat." - Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular biology professor on HIV, 1988.
  9. "Good enough for our transatlantic friends, but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men." - British Parliamentary Committee on Thomas Edison's light bulb, 1878.
  10. "Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever!" - Thomas Edison, 1889.
  11. "The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't time for it." - New York Times, after the 1939 World Fair
  12. "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S market." - Business Week, August 2, 1968.
  13. "There will never be a bigger plane built." - Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.
  14. "These Google guys, they want to be billionaires and rock stars and go to conferences and all that. Let us see if they still want to run the business in two to three years." - Bill Gates in 2003
  15. "Next Christmas, the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput." - Lord Alan Sugar, February 2005
  16. "Two years from now, spam will be solved." - Bill Gates, 2004
  17. "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University Professor on Fred Smith's paper proposing a reliable overnight delivery service. Fred went on to found FedEx.
  18. "Reagan doesn't have that Presidential look" - United Artists Executive, rejecting Reagan for the role of a Presidential candidate in "The Best Man", 1964.
  19. "The singer will have to go; the BBC won't like him." Music manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching a new band perform. The singer in question? Mick Jagger.
  20. "You better get secretarial work or get married." - Emmeline Snively, to wannabe-model Marilyn Monroe in 1944.
Red faces all around, huh?

S xx

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dirty Little Secret

Time to reveal a dirty little secret... I read Mills & Boon. A lot. Yes, I can hear you sniggering as you imagine me in my old dressing gown, glasses on, coffee in hand, surrounded by cats, reading tales of strangers getting down-and-dirty. You're SO wrong. I don't even have loads of cats... *moving swiftly on*

I buy a lot of used books - mostly online, and usually from sites like Awesome Books and Better World Books - mainly because I can't justify spending huge amounts of money on something I'm not sure I'll like. Whenever I buy a used book online, I donate an old used book of mine, so in my little head, it evens itself out. Don't get me wrong - I've no problem paying full whack, but when you read as much as I do, that can turn into an expensive habit pretty quickly.

The latest Mills & Boon that I read was "Hot Wired" by Jennifer LaBrecque, and I LOVED IT. I'll give you the spiel on the back cover:

Bad boy Beau has a need for speed. The racing driver's been irresistible to women - yet feisty wedding planner Natalie is the only one who can keep up with him! But does she have the power to tame this reckless rebel for good?

Oh, Jennifer LaBrecque, you had me at Bad Boy. Just to iron out any illusions you may have at this point: I'm not single, I'm not sex-obsessed, and I'm not a big perv. Well, most of the time I'm not a perv. Who doesn't love a bit of light escapism? Frankly, the only thing that shocks me about most Mills&Boon books is that more of them haven't been turned into movies. This would be an instant movie classic, I'm telling ya.

Image: http://www.priceinspector.co.uk/
In my head, the hero never looks like the one on the book cover, but in this one, he was vaguely similar. Which got me thinking, who the heck are these people on the covers? Where do they find them? I mean, I know they're models, but is there any particular agency that Mills&Boon/Harlequin use to find their models? I'd love to know (purely for research and nosiness). I remember reading an article in a magazine once about this couple who liked to recreate Romance novel covers for the craic* and it looked like so much fun. Not that I'd ever do that, I mean, my other half is more at home under the bonnet of a car than between the pages of a book. Also, he thinks I'm strange enough as it is, that'd put me into another level of weirdness altogether!

All in all, I can't recommend Mills&Boon highly enough - laugh all you want, but the majority of them that I've read (and that's a LOT - my collection is reaching disturbing levels) have been better than any "romcom" that I've seen.

What kind of books do you guys like? Is there anything that you wouldn't admit to having in your collection?

S xxx

*craic (pronounced crack) = Irish word for having a laugh. Not shoving something up your snout.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wir Lieben "Eurovision!"

Well, maybe 'lieben' is a little strong. I don't LOVE the Eurovision, but I am strangely compelled by it - every year I swear I won't watch it, then I end up sitting through the entire thing while nervously trying to calculate the points when it gets down to the last few votes.

The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 and is the most-watched non sporting event in the world. It is broadcast live to an audience of over 600 million. Leaving aside the political voting that seems to have gripped the contest in the last few years (neighbouring countries voting for each other), the Eurovision is a treasured annual event, especially for countries like Ireland who have won it 7 times.


The Irish entry this year is Marmite - sorry, Jedward - who bring a burst of manic teen hyper energy to the stage - and the other European countries seem to love it. Jedward (twins John and Edward Grimes) were competitors in the 2009 series of the TV singing competition "The X Factor", and have gained many fans (and many haters) since then. Their debut album, "Planet Jedward", was the best-selling album in Ireland in 2010. I'm going to be honest here and tell you that I'm disgusted at the level of hate directed towards them in Ireland over the past few weeks. The begrudgery is shocking, and at times far too personal and hateful. Think about it like this: They're a pair of teenage twin brothers doing what they love and having fun. Who is that harming?!! No-one. So lay off the hate, okay? If there's one thing this country needs at the minute, it's something positive. If that positivity comes in the form of two hyperactive quiffed brothers, then so be it. C'mon Jedward!

Now, enough with the ranting, and down to something a little more "me". In the 55 years of Eurovision, there have been a wide variety of acts - from the sweet, homely Dana to the all-singing, all-rocking (slightly scary) Lordi. There are enough blogs and sites that celebrate both the good and the bad of the Eurovision acts - so, bucking the trend to show you a load of videos about transsexuals, turkeys, or Donna and Joe, I give you my top 5 favourite things about the Eurovision.

5: There's Always One...
I love watching the voting. In fact, I think I enjoy it more than watching the actual show. BUT - there's always one announcer who wants to break tradition, break the rules, and stand out during the results. This is Björn Gustafsson. He's a Swedish "comedian". In 2008, he thought it would be absolutely hilarious to deliver the results of the Swedish vote as if he was drunk. Hahaha, hohohoho, hehehehe, etc. Remember boys and girls, this man is a COMEDIAN. Being funny is his JOB.



4: The Hotness of Europeans
Yes, this is completely superficial, but it has to be said, because it's true. How many of you watch the Eurovision just to have a little perv over some of the....shall we say...more aesthetically-pleasing entrants? I've had a quick look at some of the entrants and here's my pick of the hot boys and girls due to perform tonight. Just before I do that, can I just say: Portugal, are you MAD? You send THIS when you could have sent Rui Andrade??

Instead, I'll be keeping my eye on Italy's Raphael Gualazzi:

And Slovenia's Maja Keuc:

3: The "Eccentric"Act
From the embarrasingly hilarious to the just plain embarrassing (Dustin, anyone?), Eurovision wouldn't be the same without the odd novelty act thrown in. This year, it's the wacky and weird Moldovan act Zdob și Zdub (think a Beastie Boys tribute act in wizard hats):



2: The Interval
A lot of people choose the interval as the time to make a sandwich, have a flick through the other channels, or have a cup of tea - but if you had done this in 1994, you would have missed this. Even after 17 years, it still gives me shivers. Will the 2011 German interval be as memorable? Time will tell...



1: The Commentary
I know that some people prefer the UK commentary, but for me, nothing can beat Marty Whelan on RTE.

Marty has been providing the Irish population with hilarious, witty Eurovision commentary since 2000, and it just wouldn't be the same without him.  Here's a little personal (and very weird)Marty fact: as a child, I took an awful dislike to Marty after I had a dream that he tried to break into our house. It took me years to be able to watch him on anything. Sorry, Marty.

As I write, there are only a few hours left until the Eurovision 2011 Final kicks off - so whether you're watching it in the comfort of your own home, at a party, following the online commentary (Eurovision Fact: Much more fun to watch it and simultaneously follow the commentary on twitter #eurovision) or at the pub, have fun and enjoy.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yours Forever, Glenda

Sometimes I think that my OH could have been related to Del Boy - there isn't a week that goes by without him finding some "bargain" or bringing home something that someone else is getting rid of. About three years ago, he arrived home with a little wooden locker. I cleaned it up and thought that it would be handy to store bits and pieces in the bathroom - but the little drawer at the top wouldn't open. Upon inspection, I saw why - there was an envelope wedged at the back of it. I took it out, and discovered a very heartfelt and beautiful 5-page love letter written in England in 1963.


I've done a fair bit of research over the last few years trying to find out more about the people involved - I hit a brick wall eventually, but I think that what I did find out is worth sharing. I'm going to write about the things I found out first, because I don't want to ruin the letter by analyzing it afterwards (I'm a bad-news-first kinda person).

The Postmark


I thought at first that the postmark said "15th August 1953", but that wouldn't make sense as there is also a stamped watermark saying "1963 Red Cross Centenary - A Century of Service 1963" on the envelope. The Centenary was in 1963, and though a special stamp was issued, the postage stamp on this envelope was one that was in circulation in the UK from 1952-1967. It was one of the Wilding series (a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II done by Dorothy Wilding in celebration of her coronation in 1952). I could have actually saved myself a hell of a lot of trouble had I just googled the song mentioned in the letter - "Moon River" was originally recorded in 1961, so the postmark can't possibly be from 1953.

The Hotel



This letter is written on stationery from The Cumberland Hotel, London W1. The Cumberland is a luxury 4-star hotel - a landmark in its own right, located at the end of Oxford Street on Marble Arch. It has over 1,000 rooms, and was the first hotel in the UK to feature en-suites and private telephones in all rooms. It is now part of the Guoman Hotel group, the deluxe range of Thistle Hotels. The hotel is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix - it was in this hotel that he gave his last ever interview on September 11, 1970. He used rooms 507 and 508 when he stayed there during the last days of his life. Rooms 506 and 507 are now "Junior Suite 5001", which is decorated in a 60s style in memory of Hendrix.

The hotel is also home to 5 restaurants and bars, including Gary Rhodes' Michelin Star "W1" restaurant. In 2003-2004 the hotel underwent a £95 million refurbishment. At the time this letter was written, the hotel was operated by Strand Hotels Ltd., a subsidiary of J.Lyons and Company. They built the hotel in the early 1930s and the stationery bears a variation of the Strand Hotels Ltd. crest.


The Writer



She was writing from Room 361 in the Cumberland Hotel. She is more than likely a maid - she mentions work and the fact that "we" are allowed to listen to the radio in the rooms while they work, so the same song was playing in all the rooms.

The Recipient



The recipient is called "Pickie" - the last name is either Pickery or Pickey, I can't deciper it from the envelope and the UK register of electors is drawing a blank for both surnames:



I found out through some property websites that the house at this address was sold in 2001 - so there may be no way to trace the one-time resident (such a shame). What is strange, though, is that after looking on Google Maps - I was about 15 minutes away from that address in the summer of 1995 when we went on a family holiday to the UK, and went to Wicksteed Park. Bearing in mind that I've only been to England twice - 'tis a small world.

Here's a transcript of the letter in full:

Darling Pickie

I wrote a horrid letter last night, mainly because I was feeling so frustrated, but I forgot to post it. When I read your letter, I was so very glad that it had slipped my memory.

I am now lying in bed. Are you coming to bed Darling? There is just enough room for you, if we hold each other very close.

Good, now that you are in bed with me, I will tell you of my experiences today. I started off well, I had an "early morning call" at 6am only to find (when I was ready for work at 6:30am) that I was not due at work until 8 O' clock. I went back to bed, as you can imagine, only to doze off and result in making myself late for work.

Today I booked at the hairdressers to have my hair dyed (really dyed this time). I only hope that it will be O.K.

On Saturday night the Wights of Wellingboro' have invited my family and you, to go to a small party at their house, wonder that we might see Michael's wedding on Thur, I don't want to go - I would much rather go to Sywell, and be alone, to love you quietly. I don't think that I could put off our first kiss for even one day. Still, we shall have to see how Mummy feels about it.

I am going to go to sleep now, my Pickie. I cuddle very close to you. I feel so terribly safe there, and we can just stay quietly side by side and love each other. That's what I like to do, stay quietly by your side and think to myself, that you're truly mine forever. I hope that day will come very soon.

Goodnight Darling

I must kiss you once more Darling. X.

Goodnight X

I am now at work, and I feel so much better after having had your telephone call, the only trouble is that I couldn't tell you how much I am missing you my Darling, the maids are allowed to play the radio in the rooms in which we are working, and from every room "Moon River" was blaring forth - it made me so happy, and yet so sad.

Good Darling once again

Yours Forever,

Glenda
xxxx

P.S. I don't know what time my train arrives at Northampton. I will find out and then ring you up. xxxx


S xx

I Cheated on Me with Make-Up