Tuesday, 30 September 2014

What's in a name ... on a Coke bottle?

Please, someone tell me--I can't be the only one ... who else has to buy a specific bottle of Coke, Diet Coke or Coke Zero according to the name that's on the label?

Call me juvenile or childish if you must, but there's something that stops me ever buying a bottle of Coke when it's got the name of a person I know on it. It's okay if it's someone I'm really fond, like family and relations. But anyone else ... somehow it feels like false advertising. And I don't want to share my Coke with them!

How many hours have I wasted, standing in front of chillers in the supermarket, local petrol station or the works canteen, turning bottle after bottle around until I find one I can drink? Too many hours, I can tell you. Maybe this is bringing out some deep seated OCD that's been inside of me.

It's okay if the name is of family or relations

The canteen staff at work are on to me. They've started to display all the bottles with the Coke logo facing outwards. Today I nearly bought a bottle with someones name on it!

I'm glad Coke have had the sense to bring out more generic titles like 'Gorgeous', 'Sis', 'Bro', 'Bestie', 'Mum' and 'Dad'. It means that at least there's a chance I can actually enjoy the beverage, instead of having to choose another type of drink.

But can somebody please tell the people at Coca-Cola, that we're bored with this game now.

And no, it's not sour grapes ... honest. But, if you're going to make bottle with names like 'Monique', 'Farah' and 'Brogan' ... is it too much to expect to find a 'Lorraine' in there once in a while?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Working my way back you (babe) ...

Three months since I posted ... has it really been that long? Well it's been a busy summer for the Red Lorry household, not that I come with any such excuse as to why I've not been around.

I'm caught between two giant communications firms, as we suffer with a dodgy landline connection to the house, which is also affecting broadband connection as well as the on-demand TV services.

Our phone, TV and internet service provider is Sky, but the lines we use belong to BT and between the two of them ... well, in the UK the phrase 'couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery' or 'couldn't organise an orgy in a brothel' are very apt! And the awful thing is, it's been like this for over two months.

The phone line is so crackly we can't hear the other person speak. Everytime I answer it I have to yell "If you know me, please ring the mobile, as the landline isn't working". And then hope the reception is good enough for them to get through.

Everytime we try to use the internet it freezes, loses connection and has to reconnect itself. It's so frustrating! And it's affecting everything we do, because--damn it(!)--as a society we've become so reliant on the internet and everyone wants us to go online for transactions. So far it's hampered several things, including:

  • online banking
  • my daughters secondary school application
  • ordering groceries
  • being able to phone anyone (mobile connections are not good where we live)
  • e-bay transactions
  • my work on Oddville 
  • even (this was so ironic) the online chat to Sky when I tried to report the problem
  • and of course, my blog posts
When both Sky and BT could finally agree the problem was beyond our control as homeowners i.e. not the phone itself or the internet filter, and therefore something they had to deal with, they sent an engineer. He confirmed the problem is caused by old wiring serving the house and said it's a common problem and a quick fix. That was over three weeks ago. 

We've had the drive and lawn marked for excavation to put in new wires, that was two weeks ago.

And we've been promised someone will come out in 14 days. That promise will expire in three days.

The must annoying thing ... when we complained about the intranet connection to Sky the advisor told my husband she could see we'd had 18 hours of uninterrupted internet connection over the previous evening and night! Great, so we should stay up all night to use the internet. What about the fact that we are paying for UNLIMITED broadband and should have continuous bloody connection!!! 

... and breathe.

In the two weeks we've been waiting for this new wiring, I will have had my whole kitchen ripped out, rewired, replastered and refitted! And yet two multi-million pound companies can't get their act together to restore communications to one home.

Anyway, rant over. I am here. I am functioning. I'm currently working on the imminent release of The Oddville Press, issue three. I've just received the proofread version of my next novel, Soul Reflection. And I'm looking forward to celebrating my daughter's 11th birthday.

I am back and--communication problems aside--I will stay up into the wee small hours if I must--I will post again soon.

UPDATE 18the Sept: Wouldn't you just know it; the day I post this BT turn up and dig a trench across the drive and front lawn to install the new cable - they didn't make a mess and it was done very quickly. But the day after, without any notice, the BT engineer arrives to attach the cable to the house. Good news: we are now working as we should. Not so good: if my builders weren't here working on the kitchen he wouldn't of got it, and then who knows how long the wait would have been for another appointment.

What is it about communications firms not actually being able to communicate? 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sugar Tax!

No weekly rundown this week. Sorry. In truth I've not had a great week and rather than vent about negative, I thought I would invest my energy in a good old rant at the powers that be. Namely British politicians.


On a recent and rare scroll through the news this week, I read that UK ministers are considering introducing a 'Sugar Tax' to help cut down obesity rates in the UK. Yet another demonstration of just how removed from the people those who run this country really are. Getting people to pay more money for sweet treats is not the answer to the problem at hand.

Every week I do my grocery shopping seeking to buy the healthiest ingredients possible at the least cost. And I'm appalled to tell you that while I could feed my family of four (2 adults, 2 children) white bread, oven chips and sausages for next to nothing, buying fruit, vegetables, unprocessed meats and wholegrain foodstuffs--as we're told are healthiest for us--renders me almost broke!!

It's not the UK's addiction to sugar that's make us a fat nation, it's that poorer families simply can't afford to eat well.

Further more, looking at the lessons my children are taught in school today, compared to what I learned thirty years ago, and what the older generations learned in the decades before that, where are the life-skills?

Home Economics is no longer a lesson--as far as I know--anywhere. Cooking from scratch; baking bread, basic pastry skills, making a roux, making your own stock, turning a Sunday joint into three day's worth of meals and creating delicious bubble and squeak with leftover veggies. These kitchen practises not only ensure we eat well, but help save money too.

Teaching children how cooking from scratch, using healthy diet staples like rice, pasta, potatoes, beans and pulses etc, means you can show them they get more ingredients for their money; enough to last a whole week, and keep you energised and healthy. It's cuts out the salts, the sugars, the fats. See our country's health improve, our values improve and our debts drop. Where's the downside?

What about teaching our children the joys of growing your own vegetables and fruit. Even those without a garden can grow a few lettuces in a pot. Give each child a pot, some soil and some seeds and set them homework of seeing what they can grow. Document the process, let them observe and learn. It's a great life skill, patience and nurturing; the hands on experience of tending a plant and the reward of being able to eat what you've grown. Much more interesting than ten spellings and some online math's problems.

There's nothing on the curriculum about budgeting an income to make sure the bills are paid and food's on the table.  These days they're too busy teaching ten year olds complex equations and making sure they can spell obscure words like 'dictatorship', which of course, is so relevant! (this should be read in a sarcastic tone)

So how do you solve the obesity problem? Well not that anyone will listen to me--why should they-- but I believe what's really needed to help address the problem is joined up thinking. The Minister of Education and the Minister of Health should get together to bring food back into schools before it's too late. I'm pretty sure there's no shortage of TV chef's who would be only too happy to support this, Jamie, Delia, Gordon, Hugh, Nigel and Nigella ... I'm looking at you here, to name but a few.

The Homemakers and gardeners of the 60s, 70s and 80s are aging, classic skills of how to feed a family need to be learned, before it's too late. This article by The Huffington Post more than demonstrates my point on the matter.

And the government needs to hold a serious intervention with food agencies to address the rising costs of feeding a family, especially in the current economic climate. Those with an influence, it's time to put what little power you have to use, where it's really needed ...

And here endeth my rant on the matter.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Red Lorry's Weekly Rundown #3

Saturday 14th June
We celebrated a fantastic win for my son's football team, the Newport Pagnell U7 Lions. Rwwarrrr!
This was the first time the team have played since a change in training regime and the first time they kept a clean sheet, beating City Colts Pythons, away, in a friendly. Final score 4-0.

He-child, very proud of his trophy
It was an extra nice celebration for them as the whole team received their trophies for great play throughout the year. Proud families gathered round to cheer each team member. I also received a beautiful bouquet as co-manager and we presented our coach with a trophy of his own as well.

In other football related news, England had their first game in the 2014 World Cup today. Kick off was 11pm! Hubby and his dad--visiting for Father's Day weekend, went out to watch it. I told them both since they're out for a curry and a drink before hand I will not tolerate a 1am return with loud voices, stumbling around and slamming doors. Bad enough I'll be a football widow for the next few weeks, even worse my sleep may be disturbed!

Oh, and England lost 2-1 to Italy. Apparently we shouldn't play Rooney anymore ...

Sunday 15th June - Father's Day
Well, there was no late night disturbance and no hangovers this morning. However the enthusiasm for the World Cup has diminished somewhat. But it didn't stop us enjoying a lovely Father's Day with hubby and father-in-law both getting a lay-in until around 9am, and then getting showered in gifts and cards.

Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to go for an Italian meal after last night's game. But I have to say Strada at The Hub in Milton Keynes was a brilliant choice for Father's Day lunch. We've never been there before, but rest assured we will be going again. Hubby and I wanted to treat his dad for once, as either him or hubby's aunt pay for lunch whenever we go out, but paying for six is a little beyond our means. However, thanks to Tesco Clubcard vouchers we quadrupled their value and they paid for the whole thing, minus the drinks--even on Father's Day. Better still, there's a few vouchers left, so hubby and I might get a sneaky meal out again in the near future.

What about Slimming World? I hear you ask. Well I stuck to plan. No starter or delicious smelling garlic bread--I did drool a lot, though. I drank Diet Coke and ordered a chicken and mushroom risotto. This was followed by my only indulgence for the day, a beautiful chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.  Yum, yum. Pasta for dinner tonight followed by lots of fruit and yummy cappuccino yoghurt. Do I feel deprived? Hell no!

Monday 16th June
Cinema buddy and I went to see Maleficent today. Cinema buddy has never really gotten over Brad Pitt breaking up with Jennifer Aniston to be with Angelina Jolie, so she wasn't keen. I didn't like what happened either, but I can't help but be enthralled by Angelina Jolie, who is, in my eyes the epitome of beauty, as well as a great actress and a wonderful celebrity mother and role model.

Angelina Jolie totally shone in Maleficent. This was better than Tomb Raider, better than Salt, this was cinematic perfection. Jolie was stunning; her on screen charisma carried the whole movie. The trailers would lead you to believe that this film is a dark fantasy. Oh no. It's so much more. This is Disney giving you Sleeping Beauty's story from a whole other perspective. And it was wonderful, beautiful and completely enthralling. The ending was totally unexpected ... I want to see it again!

I'm worried that as Disney has portrayed this as a dark, live action film, Maleficent might not get the audiences it so rightly deserves. It's a bit too intense for very young audiences, and I fear the trailers have painted it a tad too dark to entice parents with slightly older children, those who are beyond Pixar and princesses.

I plan on taking both my children to see it this weekend, once again using trusty Tesco vouchers to help reduce the cost. At 10 and a mature-minded 7, I know both my monkeys will be blown away by the fantasy settings, action sequences and spectacular special effects magic. Maleficent is simply a spellbinding story; Disney at it's best. From start to finish I was totally mesmerised.

Red Lorry rates Maleficent as Magnificent!

Tuesday 17th June
I finished reading 50 Ways to Find a Lover today. Such a great book. So much fun. If you enjoy chick-lit or comedy romance, this book is definitely for you. If you want to know more, you can read my review here, on Goodreads.

Being a complete bookworm I always like to make sure I have the next book lined, for the moment I finish the one I'm reading; a bit like a comfort blanket. And this time is no different. Except ... when Bex 'n' Books announced on Facebook that they were looking for new reviewers, I decided to give it a go. So now, I'm going to read and review at least two books a month for them, starting, appropriately enough with: Catching Red by Tara Quan.

People often ask me how I can commit to so much, but reading is such a huge part of my life now, it's not like it's a struggle to read. I've always got my Kindle with me, or a book in my bag ... or both. I can't imagine what it's like not to read. Having a daily commute to and from work most days, the 30-40 minute bus journey is the ideal time sink into a book and distract myself from the general unpleasantness of public transport and all it's colourful and fragrant users. Reading is my way of self-preparation, it's how I turn off home and get ready for work in the mornings, and it's how I unwind and chill out as I head for home at night. I would be lost without literature. So I am totally looking forward to my new reviewer role with Bex 'n' Books.

Wednesday 18th June
Wednesday night is Oddville night in my house. For those of you that don't know, I'm Managing Editor for this fine literary zine; and it's one of the most rewarding roles I've had so far in my literary pursuits, save being an author, of course. Anyhow, middle of the week is when I sit down and go through all the pieces we've selected for potential publication. Everyone on the team has a voice and everyone is encouraged to speak out about pieces they love ... or otherwise, so we can agree on what will be included in the next issue. Then it's down to me to make the tough decision about what stories, poems and artwork we'll be taking forward and what pieces are returned to the author, thanking them for their submission and asking them to try again in the future.

As an author who's been on the receiving end of many acceptances and rejections it, I know the anticipation each time a new e-mail arrives, how you scan through the entire thing looking for keywords. If you see words like 'unfortunately' or 'sorry' your heart sinks and you don't even bother to read the rest. If you see positive words, like 'love', 'publish', 'accept' ... you'll probably read that sucker twenty or thirty times, including out loud to anyone who'll listen. My personal experiences on this matter are something I always keep in mind whenever I write back to our submitters.

Thursday 19th June
I'm still laughing. Today we had our first ever use of the phrase "You're not going out wearing that!" Bless my sweet ten-year-old daughter. On a warm day she likes nothing better than to get changed out of her school uniform and put on something cool before heading out to play with her friends. But today, we realised that since last summer she's grown considerably. And shorts that were mid-thigh last year are barely an improvement on her underwear this year. As she was wheeling her bike out, hubby came by, took one look at her bending over to check the tyres and told her "You're not going out wearing that!" I had to bite back my laughter at what was a very justified comment, before directing her to more appropriate cycling shorts which could be found in her draw. I should say, it was completely unintentional on her part, her legs have grown over the last twelve months and the shorts have not. I guess as adults we're not used to growing out of our clothes. Rest assured a full review of her summer wardrobe has now taken place. However, in years to come, I wonder if we'll be able to have quite such an influence.

In terms of Slimming World, as I know some of you are wondering ... I am totally bummed. The eating plan I tried didn't knock off more than half a pound. So much less than what I hoped. As always my group rallied round, I picked myself up and I planned for next week. I will get to target, that's never been in question. But at times like this it's hard to find the enthusiasm. Still a new week starts tomorrow.

Friday 20th June
Jerry in his temporary convalescent home.
Why is it when you're watching your spending and trying to save up a little that the whole universe conspires against you to make you spend? Today's expenditure was not something I could avoid. It wasn't frivolous and it wasn't something I could put off. As a responsible pet owner when an animal becomes unwell, along with worry, vet bills are something you normally can't avoid. Last weekend I noticed our albino guinea pig, Jerry, had a bit of a lump under his chin. During the week it got bigger and bigger. Jerry was still happy and lively, eating and drinking, but where there's lumps, you can never take a chance, not matter the species. Thankfully a trip to vet's today confirmed it was nothing but a nasty abscess. It's been drained and Jerry is home in a small convalescent pen for the week to keep him clean and safe, away from his rowdy hutch-mate, Tom. He's got a week's worth of antibiotics, which nurse Red Lorry will have to administer morning and evening (hopefully he is happier about medicine than my cats and won't shred my arms). I'm about £60 ($120) down in my pocket. But on the plus side Jerry is happy, healthy and home, and with him resting indoors for a week I get a few evening cuddles to help speed his recovery.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Red Lorry's Weekly Run Down #2

Saturday 7th June
I take back what I said about supermarkets that sell nothing but food. Aldi--one such shop--is a low-cost, non-brand supermarket with great fresh fruit and veg; brilliant for those who want a small and to the point grocery shopping experience, or who are watching their pennies. Hubby and I braved Aldi this afternoon. I thought it would be quiet after 2pm. How wrong was I? I should have known the minute we pulled into the carpark. It was rammed, bumper to bumper. Hubby immediately switched into a beast mode and put my back up as we went round and around, missing spots because "the angle was wrong" or other drivers got their first. We finally got into the shop after 10 minutes in the carpark. Just as rammed! Small aisles, too many shoppers and large cages of stock being unpacked at the same time. Nightmare. We've tried all sorts of time to shop at Aldi; it's never quiet. The current economic climate is driving more and more people to these types of shop, which also only let you pay with cash or debit cards. The idea is great, but the whole things needs to be bigger. Like a supermarket that sells all that other crap too ... Ohhh. Y'know what, when it comes to shopping I think I might try my luck online.

Sunday 8th June
Well, today I did the Race for Life to raise money for Cancer Research. My reason for taking part was to honour my mum, who I lost to cancer nearly ten years ago. She battled with it for 11 years and we thought she'd won, but it turns out that disease is a tricky one, and when it comes back, it does so with a vengeance. So by taking part I was doing my bit to help fund research into future treatments and cures that will hopefully one day mean other families get to hold onto their loved ones a bit longer.

Triumphant but in need of a sit down.
Remembering why we were racing, thousands of  women ran, jogged or walked the 10k course (6 miles in total). Some pushed their babies in strollers, others walked dogs. It was 22 degrees and some even dressed up and did it in costume. Everyone had a great day. My own time was a respectable 1 hour 38 minutes for a power walk with a friend, interspersed with odd moments of madness when I jogged. But the best news was, that after only three days of fundraising between signing up and taking part, I achieved a sponsorship of around £300, inc gift aid. I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends and colleagues, who were so generous in sponsoring me.

A lovely way to end the day.
I was very achy afterward, and experienced a rush of adrenalin that had me shaking and in need of plonking myself on the grass. But hubby bought me home and after a Pepsi-Max (my personal rescue remedy) a long soak in the bath, a large bowl of pasta and a rest I was good to go. And myself and friends who took part treated ourselves to a lovely Italian meal in the evening, in celebration. Good times, good company and for most of us just a couple of soft drinks ... well it was a school night!

Monday 9th June
Walking and climbing stairs has not been easy today. My legs ache and I think I pulled a muscle in yesterday's Race for Life. I hobbled like a 90-year old all day. Thankfully by the evening I realised the more I used my legs the easier movement became.

Me and my cinema buddy finally got it together and made it to see a film again today, after a few months out because of her (stupid) job--I can say stupid job, because she knows how I feel about it, I am very vocal on this point. I love her dearly and I've missed her because her (stupid) job has kept us apart. So yeah ...

We both have a Cineworld Advantage card, so for a monthly fee we get to see as many movies as we like and get 25% off all the goodies at the concession stands as well. Today we saw The Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. My friend loved it, and whereas I do agree that it was good, it just didn't grab me. It was action packed and funny in places (not sure it was meant to be), but there was something lacking. However, Bill Paxton was also in the movie, which was a big surprise. I love Bill Paxton, ever since Twister the man can do no wrong in my eyes, even when his characters are less than likeable. Chett ... Urp!

Tuesday 10th June
I still ache ...

In other news, my son has been learning about mini-beasts at school--that's bugs and snails to those not in the know. And I don't know about the rest of the world, but I suspect largely due to the extremely wet start, it's a been bumper year for snails in the UK. Anyhow, his enthusiasm for this project has come home with him and has seen us constructing mini-beast habitats in the garden, using all manner of junk, including the large plastic container I get my grapes in from Costco. It seems this box in particular is perfect for a snail house. We've filled it with rounded pebbles, because "sharp stones will hurt the snails soft bodies" and grass cuttings. And as a gourmet treat we even gave them a piece of broccoli ...

Not a food of choice for garden pests
But here's the thing. It seems snails are as picky as children when it comes to vegetables, because the ungrateful little molluscs turned it down. That's right. They slid their slimy bodies all over it, but never ate a bit. They'll eat my flowers and the lettuces I plant in a trough, and they've demolished my love red hot poker by the front door, but they won't eat broccoli. So there you have it gardeners; if you want to plant a garden the snails wont eat, go for broccoli!

Wednesday 11th June
The ache is subsiding ... I am no longer walking like an old lady.

I'm currently reading a very funny book called: 50 Ways to Find a Lover by Lucy-Anne Holmes. Aside from making me snort with laughter on my daily commute and earning me a multitude of funny looks from the great unwashed I'm forced to travel with, it features the joys of blogging. In particular how easy (and dangerous) it can be to share your innermost thoughts with the internet masses. This comes across as very relevant to me now that I've decided to share my week with all of you.

Parts of the story also feature the London Borough where I started life: Mortlake. Apparently quite a posh area these days, despite-- according to the book--sounding like somewhere you got to drown kittens. It's a very funny read and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Thursday 12th June - The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off
You remember how I said Thursday was fast becoming my favourite weekday, because I go slimming, can have a treat and get to drool over Karl Urban when I watch Almost Human on catch-up? Well ... this week, Thursday is not my favourite day of the week. Not at all!

Firstly I did not lose weight, I gained. And that's despite having a good week and sticking to the Slimming World Eating plan. Mike, who's our consultant (along with many other members, I should add) all swear that the reason I've gained is because my body is in shock following my active Sunday when I did the 10k Race for Life.  Rather than all that activity burn off the lots of calories, my stunned and confused body doesn't understand what I did to it and is fearfully retaining water until it feels settled again, and is assured I'm not going to be exerting myself. This proves my personal, lifelong theory that exercise is actually not good for you! I was loosing weight great before I got active. And now, instead of proudly claiming my six and a half stone award this week, I'm even further away from it.  Still, thanks to the support of my fabulous group I'll stick to plan, in fact I'm trying a different plan this coming week, and hopefully next week I'll get that illusive award. I can't forget I've still lost well over 6 stone. And I can't regret doing the Race for Life, not when I raised £300 for Cancer Research.

Secondly in my disappointed and miserable state after gaining weight this week, I refuse to give myself a treat tonight and am currently waiting for a bowl of pasta to cook instead so I can enjoy it with some tuna fish and low fat mayonnaise. Delicious, but not the sweet treat I was looking forward to.

Thirdly, thanks to the bl**dy World Cup starting today, the aforementioned Karl Urban droolfest will not be taking place. Most likely not for three whole weeks while every pigging night is devoted to watching s*dding football.

Bah! At least it's Friday tomorrow.

Friday 13th June (a lucky date in my family)
I am still devastated about yesterday's weight gain! My clothes feel tighter--I am sure this is just psychological and solely because my shorts are just out of the clean wash--and I think I feel heavier. But I'm still determined to have a perfect Slimming Word week on my eating plan. I've never tried this particular plan before so I'm a bit worried that I'll actually gain more weight and move further away from my goal. I was in such a state about it this morning that I posted on my Slimming World group's FaceBook about how rubbish I was feeling. And this is where you start to understand why going to a group is so important, and really, really works. The love and support I got back from my group was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Words of wisdom, words of encouragement and the kick up the bum I needed to get out of my grump and back on track for an amazing week. So it was boiled eggs and toast for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch and homemade burgers and wedges for dinner, and don't forget the two or three measures of rum, a bar of chocolate and a bowl of strawberries. And yes, I will be losing weight next week too!

Have a great week everyone. I'll see you back here next Friday, same time, same place.