Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Choir Envy

So, this weekend, I spent several hours rehearsing and performing a concert of music in celebration of the BVM* to an audience of about 65 in a beautiful but tiny provincial Essex church.

And then The Husband showed me the TV coverage he'd recorded of the BBC Electric Proms. This is the gig I would have been doing instead, if I lived just 30 minutes nearer to my old choir.

I like my current choir, I really do, but they're just a bit, well, *meh* in comparison. They make a great sound and don't often disappoint me, but this gig, we tackled 2 pieces that the conductor featured on the video taught me, and did it with such passion I'd end up nearly in tears in the performance**. It makes me sad when I do them again and remain mostly unmoved.

* That would be Blessed Virgin Mary, by the way
** O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, and Bogoroditse Dyevo by Rachmaninov.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Underhand Marketing Tactics 2

Following on from my recent post, here's a new development. Pester Power has grown up!

Nivea are running the following ad for a man's moisturiser in women's glossy magazines at the moment:

'He brushes his teeth; he washes his hair; he even conditions it. Isn't it time he started looking after his skin?

Every time your man shaves he removes a layer of skin and the natural oils that help protect him from harmful UVAs and UVBs. Encourage him to use an Extra Soothing Moisturiser, specially formulated for a man's skin after shaving. This will soothe his skin and help protect his face from skin-ageing rays. Tell him if he wants to stay on top of his game, it's time he started using it.

Nivea Extra Soothing Moisturiser is available in all the same places you buy yours'

I think we're all very familiar with the marketing theories that play on women's insecurities about ageing in order to shift cosmetic products. But I can't quite figure out their game on this one. Are they perhaps realising that this kind of insecurity-based button pushing doesn't work on men, because in general, men aren't afraid of ageing in the same way that women are? (there's a whole post to be had out of that sentence, but not now...).

If so, then this leaves 2 options;

a) they are attempting to foster similar insecurities in men by creating the impression that a life without the product makes you less attractive.
b) they are in need of a short-term boost in sales, and have decided to shift the product by getting women to buy it for their partners.

If my boy starts worrying about this sort of stuff, then I will be introducing him to the wonders that are Aqueous Cream and Coconut Oil. Bollocks to expensive products, you don't need it.

N.B. I am well aware that these sort of rants can be avoided by simply not buying glossy magazines. It was out of character, I regretted it the moment that I opened it, and have been ranting about it ever since. In my defence, I had 2 hours to kill between rehearsal and gig and I hadn't realised that my fellow singers were too tight to go the pub. Packed bloody sandwiches, good grief.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Melissaria's First Law of Toddler Lunchtime Naps

Length of Nap = (Time Taken to Do Chores)+(Bottom Meets Sofa)+7 seconds

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Underhand Marketing Tactics 1

I have many a bee in my bonnet, but the one with the loudest buzz of all concerns what I believe to be underhand marketing or advertising methods. It's the cause of many a debate between The Husband and I, as he's an entrepreneur who genuinely believes that all's fair in love, war and sales tactics.

It's really hard to draw a line between 'fair' and 'underhand' promotional tactics, and I realise I've got a long way to go with my thinking on the subject. But as I'm here and I haven't posted for a couple of days, here are two examples I have spotted or been told about.

Mothercare - will not be getting a visit from me any time soon after a verbal report from my friend ChiefBoobyMum. She says that they are currently employing tactics based on Pester Power to boost sales of this year's Must Have Christmas present; a large, dancing Iggle Piggle toy. They have put the big display of the toys right next to the tills, and the sales assistant encouraged her to buy the toy as her three-year-old was practically crying for it by the time she got served. She has more sense, thankfully, but still felt like a miserable old ratbag of a mother for standing firm.

Sainsbury's - are having a laugh if they think I can't spot Vanity Sizing when I see it. I am well aware of what size the old bootylicious can be squeezed into on a good day, and in my opinion, those knickers were a good 2 sizes bigger than the size stated on the label. Am I supposed to think 'I know, I'm going to do all my shopping at Sainsbury's in future, because just walking through their doors magically makes my arse shrink'?


UPDATE: I saw the Iggle Piggle toy on a child-free shopping trip this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to examine and play with it. It is complete and utter crap.

For the same amount of money you can get a laughing Elmo toy which is much more useful. Another friend of mine has one, and her little girl is so scared of it that she can put it in the doorway of any room she doesn't want her going into, and it immediately becomes a little, menacing, furry bouncer. Now that's what I call value for money.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

An Open Letter

Chief Executive Officer
Corporate Megabastards plc

Dear Sir,

It's about time that someone told you what happens when your website forces customers to give a reason for their purchase 'for marketing purposes'.

We lie to you.

This is for 3 reasons:

  1. We are annoyed that we had to fill in all our details twice because 'some important information was missing' from our first attempt.
  2. None of your offered options came close to reality and in any case...
  3.'s none of your business, you nosey bastards.

If you continue to give us no choice but to answer your poxy questions in order to buy your product, then we will have no choice but to tell you deliberate big fat porkies in order to spoil your marketing fun.

You are all very irritating.

Kind Regards,


Friday, 19 October 2007

The Philosophy of Malcontentment

Apparently, I am 'not satisfied with anything I have'. This accusation was levelled at me yesterday morning, and not for the first time, either.

It's got me thinking, and two key questions are begging to be dealt with.

1) Am I guilty of this crime of which I stand accused?
2) Would that really be such a bad thing?

Let's deal with the first one. I've given it serious thought and reflection, and I'm going to have to plead Not Guilty and ask to be acquitted on a technicality.

I have so much to be grateful for in my life, and I have no intention of forgetting that there are billions of people out there with far, far less. Put like that, it almost seems rude to continue posting. But I decided to blog about stuff that we all often think, but don't necessarily like to say out loud. It's my belief that a permanent state of low-level dissatisfaction with life is a lot more usual than you might think.

For me, as for many of us I'm sure, this simmering low-level grumbliness has nothing to do with being dissatisfied with 'anything that I have'. In case I wasn't clear the first time, I'm happy with all of it.

It's about what I don't have, and in may cases, what I used to have, but don't have now. All of these things are intangible, and some of them are no longer realistic or appropriate, but that doesn't stop me missing them.

For example, I can no longer expect the level of freedom and autonomy that I had as a single late-20-something living and working in London. I have a husband and a child, and I therefore can't just pop out for a drink, and end up rattling home at 3 am in a cab, realising as we pull up outside the door that I have no cash left, and I am too shit-faced to write a legible cheque, or even sign the one that the driver has written out for me because I am on my sixth attempt and he is getting a bit bored with me by now.

I'm not saying that given the choice, that's what I'd do, but I miss having the freedom to make that call. I miss spontaneous visits to concerts and galleries, popping out for lunch, 'popping' anywhere! I miss being able to go to the gym any day I like, rather than when I can get a babysitter. And yes, sometimes I do get pissed off with all the restrictions that security and responsibility bring.

But is that such a bad thing? Let's look at it this way;

I chose to do a degree in Music and followed it up with a diploma in Arts Management. This was for a reason - I care about these subjects, and get great pleasure from being around them in real life. Yet I live in a town which is a cultural and creative vacuum. There is approximately fuck all going on within at least a 30 minute car-driven radius. I simply cannot fill that gap with shopping and TV. It would spell disaster for my marriage if I did.

So, I'm sorry if sometimes, I come across as a bit miserable, I really am. But I am not going to stop trying to achieve some of the things that meant a lot to me when I had unlimited Freedom and Choices instead of Family and Security.

They are the clotted cream in the jam doughnut, the gravy on the chips, the freshly chopped mint in the Pimms. But settling for life without them would be Giving Up. It would be the first step on the slippery slope towards Really Letting Myself Go. It is a path than can only culminate in weekends spent traipsing round Homebase in leggings looking for the latest crappy niknaks to fill the emotional void that my brain used to manage before I let it turn to mush.

And that's just not the way we do things around here.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Mummy's Day Off - Retrospective Introspection

So, I went to Cambridge for the weekend, and now I am all out of sorts.

One of my 'mummy' books told me that, whilst it is great to go back to your old ways once in a while, you can expect to find it all a bit shallow and meaningless in comparison to your new family life. Am I a terrible wife and mother because I had an amazing time, and really wish there could be a bit more of the same around here?

If a day in my old life had been mooching round some shitty shopping centre, and going out to a bar to get pissed, then yes, I see the problem. But the shops in Cambridge are lovely and the pubs are gorgeous and civilised, even on a Saturday night. My favourite chapel is there, where we heard music sung by one of the best choirs in the world, who were just sublime. We browsed in fantastic bookshops, where I was able to buy books about Logic and Postmodernism, as opposed to here, where it's all Jodie Marsh or Diets For People Who Can't Leave Chips Alone, But Don't Get Why They're A Bit Fat.

We also paid a visit to our real old life, on the other side of Reality Checkpoint and got all nostalgic over the lovely, quirky little independent shops that characterise Mill Road. And everywhere we looked, there were motivated people, doing real activities, not just dragging themselves round the shops looking for stuff to buy out of boredom.

And we laughed out loud when we saw this shop front along the main tourist drag. It's a ladies sportswear shop, in case you were wondering....

I think the only logical conclusion to come to is that unless you happen to be one of the very few people who have it all in life, or genuinely want very little, there are always going to be gaps that you still want to fill. I am hugely grateful that for me, those gaps are simply cultural. I would far rather have it that way round than be able to go to King's College Chapel every evening, but go home on my own to an empty house, or have to haul arse every day to the kind of job that nearly drove me to insanity back in 1997.

I'll just have to hope that SweatyBetty decides that she does want to do her theological training in Cambridge after all. I'll be buying a comfy airbed and a big rucksack, and she'll never see the back of me. And if that doesn't send her scuttling to Oxford or Durham, then nothing will!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Blog Action Day - 3 steps to easy Eco-Cheapskating

As part of my decision to post something related to the environment for Blog Action Day, I have been thinking about the best way to communicate my own deeply flawed, but manageable approach to eco-living. I call it Eco-Cheapskating. Or 21st Century Wombling.

I am convinced that deliberate lifestyle alterations work best, and last longest when taken one step at a time. Change one habit, wait until the new approach has become a habit, and then change another one. I've been at it for 10 months now, and whilst my home is not a likely candidate for a feature in The Green Parent any time soon, we are certainly doing a lot better than we were a year ago.

Here's how I do it.

  1. You don't need it. This is pretty much my mission statement for life. It's all about reducing your consumption of brand new goods which use raw materials, energy, transportation, fuel etc. Such consumption also drives the need for further production of said goods. I find it easiest to live by this rule if I deliberately stay away from ads and 'consumer culture' - I don't buy magazines, I don't go to Lakeside or Bluewater just for fun, I don't watch ads on TV. As a result, I find that I don't want 'stuff' anywhere near as much as I used to. Try it for month. You'll save a fortune, I guarantee it.

  2. Freecycle and Ebay. If you really can't do without something, the next best alternative is to try and get it without buying something new from a shop. Have a look at your local Freecycle site - there's plenty to be had that would otherwise have gone to landfill. It definitely depends on the area you live in as to whether this will work for you. My local group advertises a lot of 'hardcore' and I'm still not certain as to whether this is material intended for builders or porn addicts. You can also save time and hassle by offloading your own clutter onto other freecyclers instead of sending them to landfill. If Freecycle won't do it, then there's always good old Ebay. Try to buy 'Used' stuff where possible - again, it keeps consumer demand for the manufacture of new stuff down.

  3. Go Organic. Following steps 1 & 2 regularly will mean that you will are able to hang onto a lot more of your hard earned filthy lucre. There's now less of an excuse to avoid buying organic produce, even if it does cost a bit more. Whether it's food, clothing, beer or cosmetics, I find that the difference in quality is always worth the difference in price, and it benefits the environment too.
So there we have it. Go forth and Eco-Cheapskate.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Mummy's Day Off

I am going away for the weekend for the first time since getting pregnant 2 years ago.

I'm meeting my best friend from my college years - I'm calling her Betty, with apologies to Ms R, because despite having racked my brains for some suitable alternative, that really is what we used to call her at college and it suits her. Sweaty Betty of Baghdad to be precise. I can't remember why - in reality, she is a clean-smelling Anglo-Saxon lady from Salisbury. Students, eh?

We are going to have a nice lunch, a leisurely browse round some of the lovely shops, then go on to a chapel service in an amazing building featuring beautiful music sung by some of the finest young male choral scholars this country has to offer. Then a concert, then out to dinner with friends. In the morning, we will have a lazy breakfast and then go mooching around all the old haunts where we regularly fell over pissed.

It won't sound all that amazing or glamorous, unless perhaps you have small children yourself, but I am delirious with excitement. I haven't been let off my lead for 2 years, and I am going to make this one count.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Tesco Organic Veg Box

Today, I saw that Tesco are selling Organic Veg Boxes. Right there, amongst all the other organic veg that they sell and that you can pick out for yourself.

There's so much wrong with this picture, that I don't even know where to start. Give me time, there's a great rant to be had, I promise. But right now I need to sleep.

Also, you have my solemn promise that when I have a just a little bit more time and money, and when the area in which I live catches up a bit on the organic produce front, I will no longer go to Tesco. It makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way.

Tales from The Chair, Chapter 2

The boy is unwell, so I have relented on my easy food campaign a little and am making him a lovely, wholesome, slow-cooked beef stew. We're about even on the scores this week - I got him to eat his first freshly-cooked meal yesterday (cold roast chicken and penne with a tomato sauce and mixed veg), but he equalised by chucking a spoonful of the red stuff up the sofa. Which isn't leather, and doesn't wipe clean. His aim is improving in both accuracy and distance now, and as it's too cold and wet to feed him in the garden where I could just hose everything down, I think I might be in for a very messy winter.

What is it about the smell of some beef and onions being chucked in a pan to brown that renders him incapable of having his ususal 2 hour lunchtime nap? He's dosed up to the eyeballs on Medised, so it beats me how he's able to keep his eyes open. But somehow, the smell of beef and onions is doing it's trick and he's wide awake, jumping and shouting, shouting and jumping.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Work in Progress

Please note that the below is very much work in progress and should be taken with an entire cellar of salt. Do come and have a go if you think you're hard enough, though - I'm loathe to leave it half done.

I'm well aware of the major flaw with taking this sort of thing through to it's logical conclusion - you end up wanting an Aryan Master Race, or starting to think that, actually, the Taliban do sort of have a point.

Don't worry, that's not where I'm at. I just don't like adverts.

Neo-Prudism - Basic Tenets and Principles

Neo-Prudism: Reclaiming Hearts, Minds and Bodies

  • Neo-Prudism aims to liberate our society and its citizens from the tyranny of constant over-sexualisation.
  • NP recognises that continuous exposure to sexualised imagery and ideals (commercial or otherwise) is psychologically damaging to girls and young women, and actively seeks to criticse and incite reaction against it.
  • NP believes that 'overt sexiness' has replaced 'domesticity' as the perceived ideal for young girls and women. As the Women's Liberation Movement sought to free women from gender-based domesticity, so Neo-Prudism seeks to free women from the constant pressure to conform to a commercially-driven sexual ideal.
  • NP recognises that the development of a healthy attitude towards sexuality is crucial to the development of good mental health in young boys and girls, and in adults. It does not seek to deny sexuality, nor does it encourage sexual repression. It accepts that sexuality has a crucial role in our lives, and promotes a healthy acceptance of it.
  • NP seeks to debunk the notion that sexual desirability is of the utmost importance. It seeks the promotion of more traditional aspirations, such as intellectual achievement, practical or artistic accomplishment, entrepreneurship, athleticism, honour and consideration for others.

Friday, 5 October 2007

My new political movement

Prompted by the comments on Ms R's fabulous blog, and in the face of ever-increasing quantities of revolting skank parading as intellectual feminism, I am starting my own political movement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you-Neo-Prudism.

It only gets 4 results on Google, so clearly I stand almost alone. I will be back with more when I've had time to think it through a bit.

Don't hold your breath...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Meat Marketing

I normally hate getting junk mail, especially from companies I have never heard of or ordered anything from. I'm signed up to the MPS dammit, my name, address and consumer habits should not be available for purchase!

But this one, from
Donald Russell made me laugh. They sell home deliveries of posh beef.

Anyway, on the back of the envelope was one of the most unapologetic apologies I have ever seen. It said:

WARNING: This envelope contains beautiful photographs of delicious, juicy steaks. If this is likely to cause offence, please accept our sincere apologies, and return this package unopened.

The best bit was that the whole warning was rendered irrelevant by the big picture of a juicy, rare steak on the front of the envelope. Sod the vegetarians, this would have caused mayhem on the carpet back in my 'morning sickness' days.

I'm really hungry now and want a steak. Bastards. I will not buy anything from you, even though you amused me briefly.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Tiny Talk

So, I have attended the Tiny Talk classes, I have forked out for the DVD and I have baby-signed continuously and consistently for 8 months.

This week, the boy finally started to get the hang of it. He can now sign DRINK and FISH.

He is is father's son on so many levels.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Tales from The Chair, Chapter 1

Every day, at least once, and sometimes up to three times, I am obliged to play the game we call The Chair.

I have a 14 month old son. I think you know where I'm going with this...

Three times a day, between 7am and 6pm, he gets strapped into his chair to face his opponent, who is armed with a bowl of food, a few spoons, possibly a fork, a drink, some fruit or a yoghurt and a big pack of wipes. Then the game commences. It normally ends when one or the other of us starts crying.

I'm lucky - my boy isn't really all that bad. He regularly eats good quantities of healthy food, so long as it is food that he likes. Unfortunately, 'what he likes' tends to be lovingly prepared, slow-cooked stews; hearty, wholesome soups, basically anything that takes the entire fucking afternoon to pre-cook and freeze.

Let's have a look at what he won't eat shall we. What do you think all of these ingredients have in common?

Ham, cheese, eggs (poached, boiled, scrambled), baked potato, baked beans, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, pasta in tomato sauce, fish fingers, tomato, prawns, carrot sticks, olives, rice.

10 points if you answered 'they are all things that fall into the category 'Nutritious, Quick, and Easy to Prepare' of course!'

My strategy for October's round of The Chair must involve effecting some reduction in the pre-cooked hot mush . I have a book on order called 'Finger Food' which I really hope will strengthen my game. I will keep you posted.