Archive for March, 2004

Whilst washing up the other day I noticed that the cheeseboard had a label on the back – presumably to provide cleaning instructions. I was close, what it actually had on it were ‘Care Suggestions’. Suggestions? It ‘suggested’ that the board be washed in warm soapy water and left to dry – excuse me, but what do they think I might like to do with it instead, put it in the washing machine and then give it a spin in the tumble dryer? Honestly, it appears that manufacturers no longer provide instructions; they only suggest what you might like to do to their merchandise.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a packet of tortellini bought shortly afterward had ‘Cooking Suggestions’ on the packaging. I’ve heard of being cautious, but this is absolutely ridiculous. They suggest that you simmer them for two minutes in boiling water, but of course if you follow this suggestion and then end up with food poisoning because they’re undercooked then the company isn’t liable because they only ‘suggested’ a cooking time.

What’s next, raw joints of meat labelled with ‘we suggest you cook this product’? Are we going to reach a point where the little green man no longer tells us to cross the street, but merely advises us that it might be safe but that we cross at our own risk?

It’s a clever trick, it absolves the manufacturer of all responsibility – when you buy a product it’s now assumed that you know what you’re doing with it, so it’s up to you if you choose to follow the ‘suggestions’ on the back. What if the goods are faulty and you suffer as a result of that and not from following their suggestions (or not, as the case may be)? Will they get away with ‘suggesting’ that it was the consumer’s fault that something went wrong, rather than simply a dodgy pasta or sub-standard cheese board?

If my cheeseboard splits down the middle can I write back to the manufacturer and say that it’s their fault because making that product from wood was only the ‘suggestion’ of a designer?

Here’s a suggestion for all those smart marketing people out there, if you want me to spend my hard-earned money on your products then stop trying to cover your arses with cute little phrases and start providing real instructions again. I’m not asking you to carve them in stone, just put them on the labels so that those of us who approach cooking with trepidation and fear can prepare something to eat without undue stress.

Now where’s that pizza delivery leaflet?…

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Pop into any internet chatroom or forum these days and you’ll see it. It can surface anywhere, from a lazy chat about music to a serious discussion about freedom of religious expression – and no matter where it appears, it inevitably p*sses someone off.

Text talk, the bane of modern society.

When sending a message from a mobile phone it makes sense to abbreviate things – that way you get better value for money, squeezing more into each message, and it also doesn’t take as long. However, when you have an entire keyboard at your disposal, it’s just plain lazy to use text talk.

Not to mention the fact that it can, in large doses, render a sentence incredibly difficult to read. Many a reader has had to pause whilst skimming through a forum discussion to decipher what some lazy so-and-so has written. Honestly, is it so difficult to write out ‘thanks’ rather than ‘thanx’ or even ‘thnx’? The word ‘your’ isn’t exactly taxing, it’s monosyllabic, yet still people insist on typing ‘ur’. It’s enough to drive a person insane.

Is it their fault entirely though? After all, at school we’re all taught about the ‘three R’s’ – reading, writing and arithmetic, so is it any wonder that some poor souls end up forever confused? Perhaps it can be blamed on schooling, although those who make full use of all the letters on their keyboard, and who know that punctuation helps to make things legible (rather than it being an optional extra) would surely disagree. Shall we blame the mobile telephone companies? No, people have been using abbreviations since time out of mind, although we should certainly bear in mind the effect that their advertising has on impressionable people.

Let’s place the blame where it really belongs, on those who are just too damn lazy to type a few extra letters. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and if you have any brains whatsoever you’d give up the puerile affectation and spell like a mature adult.

Is tht clr enuff 4 u?

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Sometimes I wonder if people have their brains removed without noticing – when you fill out forms you have to tick a little box to say that you either do or don’t want them to send you more information, perhaps there’s a little box somewhere asking for consent to remove the ol’ grey matter and people just tick it on auto…

Seriously though, I’ve lost count of the number of people that will stroll onto a forum and ask questions which they can easily answer for themselves. ‘Where can I buy such-and-such?’, ‘Do you have a section on blah?’ – if people actually used their brains they’d see useful buttons on websites such as ‘Search’ – and even internet browsers have a search button. Do people really not think to type their query into a search engine and see what comes up? Are they honestly that daft, or are they just lazy? I used to think it was sheer idleness, but now I’m not so sure.

How many times has someone used the last of the milk/tea/paracetamol and then, when asked why they didn’t mention it or buy more, said ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t think’? Too many times to count, and I’m well aware that I also do it on occasion. The human brain was built to think – when we’re not thinking, then what on earth is it doing? You meet some people whose brains appear to be permanently switched off – you know the ones I mean, they have a slightly glazed expression and need verbal prodding during conversations to make any kind of contribution – if a brain isn’t used, does it start to atrophy?

It’s an interesting concept, and a very realistic one. If you spend six months studying in a library and doing precious little else then you’ll find that your conversational skills start to atrophy – it’s reasonable to assume, therefore, that if you cease using your brain then a similar thing will happen.

Is there a point to this little rant? Not really, although if you find it takes you more than thirty seconds to formulate a reply to ‘Hi, how are you?’ then you probably need to take heed and start exercising your brain a little.

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How many times have you had an afternoon to yourself, for relaxing and generally winding down, and ended up equally as exhausted as you would have been had you gone to work? We see a spare hour or two and we seek to fill it with something, it’s almost an automatic reflex. There are always things that need to be done, whether it be the dusting that you’ve been putting off, or a sudden urge to look for something you haven’t seen for a while but which involves turning out a huge cupboard to find it. It’s as though we’re unable to relax.

I call it ‘pottering’ – if I have the house to myself I potter around, doing the little bits and pieces that I’ve been putting off, and then wonder where on earth the time has gone. We can sit down to relax, but then we turn on the television and get distracted – so our bodies then get a chance to relax, but our minds are still being stimulated. Are we that incapable of sitting still and just letting ourselves go? Apparently so, which begs the question ‘why?’

Perhaps it’s fear, perhaps it’s a control issue. If we sit down and really give ourselves the time off that we need, are we afraid that we won’t be able to get back into our routines afterwards? We push ourselves harder than ever – we work hard and play hard, and we force our bodies to cope with poor diets and little sleep. It’s a way of life, we cram more things into the day, we make the day as long as possible, and we carry on more by sheer weight of momentum than anything else.

Are we scared to step off the roundabout of life in case we can’t jump back on again?

I think that’s the answer. If you disturb your routine it’s harder to get back into it – having a lie-in on the weekend makes it harder to get up on the Monday morning, and taking a day off to relax makes it infinitely harder to go back to work. Letting someone else take over the household chores is fine, but when you have to pick up the reins again there’s a slight sense of resentment. Perhaps it’s not so much a case of being unable to pick up the routine again – maybe we’re just afraid that we won’t WANT to.

Many people do jobs that they despise, have fallen into patterns that they don’t like – but they carry on because it’s expected of them, and because they’ve come to expect it of themselves. We take jobs because they offer great opportunities and fantastic salaries, and we revel in the benefits of that, but over time we start to resent them. Mature life brings responsibilities, and once you’re accustomed to living in a certain way, it makes it that much harder to re-evaluate your life and contemplate changing it.

If life stresses you out, and your job depresses you, don’t suffer needlessly. There will always be another job out there that will give you the same, if not better, benefits – you just need the courage to step off the roundabout and find it.

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Once a month women all over the world suffer from the same problem. It’s irritating, occasionally painful and sadly there’s nothing we can do about it.

Yes, that’s right, it’s misunderstanding and misconception.

It’s not their fault, men, it’s just that they’ve been exposed to all sorts of media that gives them the wrong idea. To many men a period is still either a form of punctuation or a socially taboo topic to discuss. Sweeping generalisations are made, such as about PMT – men, as a whole, seem to assume that menstruation causes us to become snarling monsters who’ll bite their head off for no reason. Ergo, when we’re in a foul temper and get into an argument their response is quite often along the lines of ‘is it that time of the month?’

No. It’s just that time of the day when you’ve p*ssed me off again by being a moron.

It’s not just a large proportion of the male population that are misguided, it’s advertising companies too. They seem to think that advertisements featuring happy, smiling women roller-blading whilst wearing white clothes will appeal to those of us who have no choice but to shop for sanitary products. Excuse me, but I’m unlikely to go roller-blading at the best of times, never mind when I’m on my rag – and as for the white clothes? Don’t even go there. They’ve mellowed a little recently though, with adverts about comfort instead of exercise – but one brand of sanitary towel has started putting ‘helpful’ little messages on their wrappers, which just drops the whole industry standard once again.

‘Feel like kicking things? Try calming those frayed nerves by adding a few drops of lavender oil to your bath’ No, when I feel like kicking something I’ll put on a pair of pointy shoes and find the nearest man to use as target practice, THEN I’ll find a bottle of vodka and pour three shots into a glass to help my frayed nerves.

What can we do? The world, as a whole, has it in for women on their periods. Some women like their periods (as an affirmation of womanhood or something like that, don’t ask me, I don’t fall into that group), some find them an inconvenience, and still others loathe them with a passion either because they’re painful, because they’re a reminder that we’re still not seen as being on equal footing with men (despite years of ‘equal opportunities’ campaigns), or for any one of a plethora of reasons. There are probably almost as many reasons as there are women, and THAT is the crux of the matter. We’re all different, we all view, and cope with, our bodies and bodily functions in different ways. Advertising companies should give up and realise that there’s no way to make sanitary products sexy or appealing, and that we’re going to buy the damn things anyway out of necessity – they should save themselves some money and throw away their lousy advertising campaigns (hmmm, save money on advertising and drop the price of the product instead, novel idea).

Men, treat us like individuals: we’re living, breathing humans, not portable uteruses that occasionally have a hissy fit.

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Answer: when you can’t walk down it for fear of being run into by a cyclist. Honestly, I’m starting to think that the money and time spent by local boroughs creating cycle lanes and special routes is completely wasted. I can’t remember the last time that I saw a cyclist using a cycle lane – scratch that, I can’t remember the last time I saw a cyclist on the road. Last week I repeatedly saw cyclists coming towards me on the pavement, apparently unable to see the cycle lane that was on the road beside them – and when I continue walking instead of jumping out of their way, I get sworn at.

Surely I’m not the only one who finds that unreasonable, or am I? As far as I’m aware, it’s not permissible to cycle on pavements unless one is seeking to directly gain access to a property – basically, people can cycle across the pavement to reach their front door. Not a problem, that makes sense, but it’s the ones who go careering down a busy high street on their bicycles and then proceed to glare at any pedestrians that dare to get in their way – that really ticks me off. There are also many cyclists that believe that cycling the wrong way up a one-way street is acceptable if they’re on the pavement… drivers reversing out of driveways check for pedestrians, and they check for cars which are coming the right way. These drivers have no way of checking if an idiot on a bike is pedalling at high speed the wrong way down the road, and so often only narrowly avoid hitting them.

I don’t have anything against cyclists as a whole; I just can’t abide those who give the rest a bad name. Cycling is an environmentally friendly, and often quicker, way to get from A to B, and it’s a genuine shame that not more people do it.

Perhaps they should introduce a driving test for cyclists, after all if someone can’t tell the difference between a pavement for pedestrians and a cycle lane then they’re obviously not safe to be let out on their own…

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Yes, courtesy – not curtsey. I’m not demanding that every little oik who passes me in the street should bow or curtsey before me (although that would be quite nice), but a simple ‘Excuse me’ or ‘Sorry’ as they shove past me wouldn’t go amiss. People these days seem to have forgotten that saying ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or ‘excuse me’ doesn’t cost anything except a couple of seconds of your time.

Gone are the days of politeness and consideration for others. These days you see women struggling to board a bus with half a dozen bags of groceries and a pushchair because most conductors wouldn’t dream of saying ‘Let me give you a hand with those’ – has society really reached a point where the majority are so uncaring that kind deeds are no longer the norm and more of an aberration? People say that ‘kids today have no manners’ but it’s not a problem that’s confined to younger generations, mature adults seem to have equal problems in remembering that a simple ‘thank you’ can make people smile, and that saying ‘excuse me’ is far more effective than simply barging people out of the way.

Is there a solution to this wholesale rudeness? I honestly can’t say. Leading by example and being a paragon of good manners probably won’t get you very far, but at least it will make a few people smile and remember that not everyone is ignorant of social etiquette.

Failing that, carry a cattle prod and use it to good effect…

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