Wednesday, 29 February 2012

# 60 Leap Year Proposals

Leap Year is a funny thing. Here and in Ireland it is a traditional for women to propose marriage. A 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (strangely aged just five), said that if the proposal was refused by the man he had to pay a fine. Compensation ranged from a kiss to a silk gown and in some places the tradition was restricted to the modern leap year day, February 29.

But I'm not entirely cynical about such things. So I'd just like to say congratulations to my brother and his girlfriend. She popped the question today and he said yes....

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

# 59 Following your own advice

I am fairly well known my no nonsense and pragmatic approach to everyone else's problems. I can rationalise everything and dish out advice by the truck load and if you follow it generally you'll be okay or so I am told. So why is it that I take so long to get my own house in order? It's one of the stupid things about me that I cannot seem to follow my own advice.

I guess it's hard to be subjective about yourself. Only you know your own heart, your own motivations, hopes and fears and your own reasons for doing what you do. You can see things far more clearly if you're not emotionally attached.

Eventually of course, I do inevitably end up doing what I know I must, but it can take a while to get there.

Sometimes the decisions are periphery and inconsequential. Fish and chips or bangers and mash? Sometimes they can be far more life changing - snog, marry, avoid. So many choices.

Thankfully, I've managed to get my house in order this week. And things are looking decidedly 'up'. This makes me truly very happy and now that everything is settling down I get on with being me.

Monday, 27 February 2012

# 58 Living outside the bubble

I have a friend who is 'blessed' with a very different perspective on life. Well, because of his life I guess. Basically 'shit happens'. In many ways he's lucky to be here at all and because of that he doesn't live in the little bubble most of us exist in of thinking that our own problems are the worst in the world.

Looking at what he has gone through, I'm ashamed of the way I've behaved these last few months. But as I said to him, we all live in our own world and the bubble is all that we know. We don't appreciate the wider story if we haven't experienced it. We just know what we know. And if something's going badly there aren't many of us who can sit down and say well it could be worse 'I could be living in war torn Afghanistan' blah blah blah....

But I would like to take a leaf out of his book because his philosophy rocks and I really don't have anything to complain about. We are all selfish to our own needs in that respect and generally we only see our own problems. But take a look at what's going on out there. It's pretty scary, but it could be so much worse if it was happening to you.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

# 57 How fast things change

Earlier this week, I made a decision. A personal one that shall remain nameless for many reasons. But no sooner had I made it than my perspective was changed by just one person who, like the decision, shall remain nameless for the time being.

They appeared out of nowhere, without provocation and sometimes in those situations you just have to accept things for what they are. Fate.

It just goes to show that no matter how much you 'will' something, or want something, or try so hard with your breaking heart to have something go the way you want it to, it isn't always meant to be.

But sometimes someone else can step into the breach. And whilst they may not be your ultimate reward or the ideal you set yourself, they may be all that it takes to get you back on the road you were meant to be on. And that may be all the purpose they serve.

And that's okay. Because you don't know until you try.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

# 56 Rat Race

These days I find myself on a constant cycle of worrying I'm not getting enough work done and it's getting irrational.

Generally Uni is a 9 - 4.30, five days a week affair. I try to switch off to it in the evenings and at weekends when I catch up on personal projects, client work or admin / website updates / blogs / promotion etc for my business. Project work is slotted in between doing the dinner and other household stuff I can't avoid. Weekends are much the same. Invariably I will have a couple of photoshoots per month which fall at the weekend. Let's say for arguments sake that takes up a day. Last weekend I worked solidly. One was a shoot, the other was finalising my dissertation for my degree.

Flicking back through my diary I have worked out that the last time I had a day that didn't involve doing something business or Uni related was 28th December. I had 6 days off for Christmas and was staying with my parents.

So why do I insist on convincing myself I don't work hard enough? I suppose it has something to do with not having any defined cut off points between home and work. This is a dangerous thing to lose sight of. I don't do a day job that I walk away from at 5 o clock. When Uni finishes my business begins and that's the work I do from home and where the blurry edges are. I don't have a 'work' room either so I can't just walk away and forget about it. I feel like I'm treading water a lot of the time, as I pick up and put down work continuously giving that feel of never quite getting anything done.

I've promised myself a week of genuine downtime at Easter when Uni is shut. By this time both of my collections will have been completed. I realise that once I finish my degree mid May there won't be any lines to blur. Work will be whenever and whatever comes my way because I will be entirely reliant on it for my keep.

Getting used to a committed work ethic now should put me in good stead but I am hoping I can find the means to take Sunday as my 'day of rest' and recharge my mental if not physical batteries.

Friday, 24 February 2012

# 55 A bit brain dead on a Friday....

It's Friday and I have nothing to say. Post dissertation my brain just cannot function at the moment. It's been very much a week of two halves, plenty of 'bits of creativity' going on but nothing terribly dramatic and little on the writing front. For this I apologise as it means there is no blog today. Just give me the weekend and all will be right with the world......

Thursday, 23 February 2012

# 54 Empowerment

Empowerment is a beautiful thing.

When you discover that you can take control, stand up as an individual and not put up with whatever people throw at you, this is empowerment. Whether it's in your work life, your personal relationships or your family, you have to remember that you are not a door mat to be walked all over. You are an individual with feelings and desires and hopes and dreams. Don't let anyone mess with that.

Be you and don't think that you need to hang on to others apron strings to achieve anything. You are an individual. Revel in it. And surround yourself with people who empower you in return, make you feel good, help you when you are down and make life worth living. If they don't, ditch them. This is my revelation this week.

Here endeth the lesson....

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

# 53 Drink

I have never been much of an 'at home' drinker and despite what you may of heard about me or what state you may or may not have invariably seen me in, I am not a drunk. And since I seem to spend most of my time at home these days working I've decided to make a concerted effort to combine the two and take up 'at home drinking' as a means to an end.

I have also inadvertently discovered that I work far better when there's a glass of wine milling around and as I am generally doing my most creative work in the evenings this also suggests alcohol is a good idea. Where it will end who knows, but if it means I can get through to the middle of May hitting my deadlines, that's all well and good.

I've never had a leaning towards addiction. I can take or leave most things and I get bored very quickly if things don't achieve their aim, the results aren't going anywhere or I don't get my way ie computer know where I'm going with this.

I am not expecting alcoholism but a relaxed and subdued feeling that enables me to switch off to most of the distracting elements of my life at the moment and switch on to work. Creativity is my best asset after all and I don't want to stifle it.

Nuff said

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

# 52 Building a Community

In our modern age we are increasingly isolated from community. We live further apart from our families. The internet and the breakdown of the family unit have caused us to drift apart in all directions, at all ages. I can remember a time when things were very different, even though I have no roots where I live now and am the furthest away from my family I have ever been.

New Ash Green from the air
I come from a small village in Kent which these days is better pinpointed by mentioning its proximity to the Ebsfleet International station (the one that goes to the Channel Tunnel) and the Bluewater shopping centre.

I was two years old when I moved with my parents and baby brother to a large modern built four bedroom off road end of terrace with a garden front and back and a double garage. 'New Ash Green' or 'SPAN Kent' as it was first named, and which sat alongside the ancient village of Ash, had been the realisation of an ideallic suburban dream by Span who's radical building designs were unique and eye catching to say the least.

Populated by '2.4' families with fathers who commuted the 40 minute train ride to London and mothers who stayed at home and raised the kids it was the perfect 1970s set up for families escaping the rat race trying to give their children a better upbringing.

One of the 'neighbourhood' area plans
The village or 'estate' (a poor description since there is nothing 'council' about it) got its initial planning permission in 1964. The idea was that the village would be broken up into 19 individually styled smaller 'neighbourhoods' each named after fields that dated back to the old Tithe maps of the 18th century.

Span had a vision‘This Village is planned as a ‘whole’ place created for Twentieth Century living and providing for Twentieth Century people’s needs’.  Residents were served by their own purpose built shopping centre which had everything from a post office to a baker and a supermarket. There were schools for every age group, nurseries, a youth club, village hall, a village green called Over Minnis, rugby club, sports fields, play parks and a bus route which took you into the nearby towns. It was a social experiment.

Despite SPAN running into problems in 1969 resulting in fewer than the proposed 2000 houses being built, the village was still a success. It was taken over by Bovis Homes in 1971 though by now New Ash Green was a community thriving. There was a solidarity and the villagers pulled together. And for a long time it served its purpose.

Part of the shopping centre - radical design
But then something went wrong. It was in part due to the deliberate neglect of offshore owners of the shopping centre who have in recent years used it as a way to get past tax laws and have no interest in the upkeep of the buildings or the welfare of residents.

As a result the place went to rack and ruin. Buildings became dilapidated, the shopkeepers moved out, the vandals moved in, and pretty soon so did trouble kids and drug addicts. Before long it was a no go area and the heart of the community was lost. Whilst businesses do still operate there it is a very far cry from what I remember.

It's been a terrible shame and I've been very sad to see it crumble in the years since I have left the village. Whilst many residents now have cars and drive further afield for shopping there is still a community dependent on the shopping centre. These days the village has lost much of its heart. It is pretty much just a collection of quirky looking retro houses but I still love it and I'm glad I was a part of the experiment.
Every house faced with a green and pleasant land

Monday, 20 February 2012

# 51 Lock down and admin hell

The last month has been a dissertation lock down. At the expense of weekends, emails to friends and loved ones and at least half of my social life I have finished my degree dissertation with a week to spare. This feels victorious. It's a really annoying pain in my backside dealt with and the one thing that was holding back the rest of my work.

Yesterday (the day I finished) I had switched off my phone in the morning, Twitter and Facebook were banned and I just got on with my final edits and referencing. By the time I'd finished at 7.30pm (yes I am a perfectionist) I had a stream of missed calls and texts piling up on my phone and updates all over the place. I just couldn't deal with it. So I poured myself a Baileys, ran a hot bath and forgot all about it.
I hope the contents are as impressive as the title page makes it seem! 

Now that dissertation is done I have to catch up with a huge admin back log. I have well over 100 personal and client emails to deal with on several business and personal accounts, a huge amount of client manufacture work to catch up on and I still have to get back to my final collection for my degree.  I have two independent collections to finish with D-Days at the end of March. So there is no time to be complacent.

I have made a point of keeping March relatively free and then I can deal with everything on a priority by deadline basis. It's the only way, divide up everything into chunks and deal with it one bite at a time - it was what I was saying the other week about all your courses turning up at dinner at once.

Deal with one at a time and it's far more palatable.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

# 50 Creative Block

Here's another inspiring letter from the archives of 'Letters of Note'. I need this right now since I have a lot of work and a lot of ideas but the physical and mental energy has dried up and I cannot see any end in sight. This is for all my creative friends struggling to find the end of the thread.

To Whom it May Inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, "in the zone" seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word: PERSIST.

PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, "Pain is temporary. Film is forever." And he of all people should know.

So next time you hit writer's block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night's work because you didn't hit save (always hit save), just remember: you're never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abysmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!

I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!

Your friend and mine,

Austin Madison

Saturday, 18 February 2012

# 49 Dear Sixteen Year Old Me

Here's a hard call from 'Letters of Note'. Celebrities were asked to write a letter to their sixteen year old self. The result was a book called 'Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self'.

So what advice would you give yourself looking back with the beauty of hindsight?

I have found this blog particularly hard to write because I don't think I should include all the advice I want to give my sixteen year old self. I didn't like myself at 16. I didn't like myself at 18, 20 or 25 either, but 16 I do remember being a particularly hard place to be. I haven't written a letter, but I have put together a list, it's the closest I can get. It reminds me of one of my favourite tracks by Baz Luhrmann 'Sunscreen' which I find heartbreakingly poignant on so many levels. So here's some of my advice to me, the bits I think it's okay for you to know:

Men are never worth the tears
Party hard
Celebrity crushes are pointless
Never be afraid to leave home
Blood is thicker than water
Don't worry about your education, you'll get there eventually but do everything sooner rather than later
Listen to your mother, her advice will all make sense
You are liberated, explore it
Procrastination only makes things worse

Of course, the path that we take is character forming. I wouldn't necessarily want to be the person I would have become had I not been through the experiences I have. I have been formed into what I consider a well rounded, sympathetic if slightly fucked up individual and that's okay because we're all a little bit fucked up anyway.

I asked a friend of mine the same question 'What advice would you give your sixteen year old self?' and he said 'nothing'. Because you are where you are and everything that you have done forms the person you are. And he didn't want to change it because he is happy where he is.

So no matter how much you regret, it's a bit too late.  I am reasonably happy with where I am but I wish I had got to certain points sooner, that perhaps I put too much energy into wasted efforts to get where I am today.

I suppose regret is the worst thing and you should learn to use what you have because that's all there is. You can't go back and change it.

Friday, 17 February 2012

# 48 Three Years Ago I Died

I wanted to share this beautiful piece of writing with you. It broke my heart because it felt like it had been written about me. It is me. I am sure there are plenty of you out there who know what I mean. This is for all of you who read this and felt it, right in your heart. It is copied and pasted verbatim.

A little over Three years ago I died.... but let me tell you a story first.
There was once a young man who had a perfect and beautiful heart.
He used to show off his heart to anyone that would look at it. Everyone said it was beautiful and perfect.
One day he came across an old man, and told the old man he had a perfect heart and would he like to see it?
The old man said yes he would and said yes is it perfect, but beautiful was subjective, and then showed the young man his heart.
It was old, worn, pieces missing, holes and scars and mismatched patches all over it.
The young man asked why he had so many holes and patches and scars?
The old man said" when I find someone I love, I give them a piece of my heart. When others give me a piece of thiers, it fills the holes.
The young man asked about the scars? The old man told him that was where that piece had been taken back...
The young man then took a piece of his heart and filled one of the old mans holes.... The old man took part of his and filled the young mans hole.
The old man said," now your heart is truly beautiful. because a part has been given away freely and a part has been freely given."
I loved... I loved so much and was loved so much in return... I had given all of my heart away to her, and my heart was made up of so much of hers.
She was my world, and was a world away.... I missed her so much... and would do anything for her. But we were so far apart...
And one day, she took her heart back.
And I could not live without a heart... nothing left but a large scar, and so I died....
But I was not allowed to go away... I was given parts of many friends hearts to keep me alive... Old friends and many many new ones.
I have been given so many parts of so many hearts.
I have been told I have a very large heart.
But it is only that large, due to all the friends that love me so much... They keep me alive even tho I feel dead so much of the time.
I am told I give and give and give, but I can only give, because I have been given so much.
Some days I feel so empty... all the scars hurt so much... from all the parts of my heart that I have given away.
Some days I feel so full, from all the parts given to me by so many...
How can a heart be so full, and yet feel so empty... guess that would be the empty scars.
I feel loved everyday, from so many people. And it fills my heart and allows me to keep going on, so I can keep giving to others... Because giving to others is all I have ever known.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

# 47 Sadness is a strange companion

I came across this as I trawled the archives on 'Letters of Note'. It is from Paul Banks, lead singer with the band 'Interpol' to a fan who had sent him a letter, but it could equally apply to so many people and so many situations. If you're feeling sad, I hope this cheers you up:

No matter how sad you may get, it's always passing. You may wake up blue, and by the afternoon, everything will be rosey. Sadness is a strange companion. And a nuisance. So try not to pay it too much mind. And be present in your happy moments — and weigh them against the sad. It's all worth it. And you will arrive somewhere wonderful with peace in your heart. 

Friends - to anyone that 'knows' me.

I know this is one blog a day but I wanted to post this short addition.

There are friends you know. And then there are friends that you 'KNOW'. And friends that 'KNOW' you. These are the people that help to keep you on the straight and narrow, the people that give you perspective, the people that make it all worth it, the people that make life worth all the effort and remind you what it's all about.

They might only know one part of your life and that's fine. And then they might know all the parts of your life. But it doesn't matter. Because if they can help you to stay true through all the crap that life throws at you, then that has to be a good thing.

In return I hope that I am an honest, true friend, trusted and straight down the middle in all things that gives advice and is loved. Because that is who I am - end of.

It's not the wine talking or the fact that it's nearly 1am in the morning, but truly that you are great and I love you. You know who you are. If you're not sure, then ask me. I can only answer you honestly. And if you think this doesn't apply to you, well you know where you can go.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

# 46 The no kid choice

I don't think there has ever been a time when I actually thought I wanted children. I've never committed these thoughts to paper before since there has always been a part of me that had a sneaking suspicion I might one day regret it as a life choice and then another part of me that didn't want to be questioned about my decision.

But now that I've started to reach that imminent 'no going back' age and have friends who are child free, I am less concerned by what anyone thinks. I've read some of the 'child free and happy' websites but I've never felt the urge to rant and rave about it or get up on my soap box and defend my right not to have kids. I don't feel the need for solidarity with similar people and I certainly don't feel marginalised by society as some of these people seem to be. I think they're being paranoid but I guess it depends on your social circle.

But I have now reached that time in my life where the choice aspect that I have always enjoyed is going to become a no going back commitment and even though my ideals haven't changed it is a more profound thought, the realisation that there is no choice anymore.

I suppose my lifestyle choices have hindered any ticking clock I may have had. I was always a career person, a main earner, driven and never had time for things like settling down. My relationships were always lacking in too many areas for me to even consider settling down to parenthood.

I suppose my greatest fear is that suddenly, post ability, I will suddenly meet the right man, everything will fall into place and then I'll inexplicably want children. We always want what we can't have - right? But is that likely to happen - really? I suspect not. We're not all built for relationships and some of us are just wired to pick the wrong people every time.

There is the additional worry of what will happen when I am old and potentially alone. I think that's what bothers me the most at the moment. I know having kids is no guarantee you won't be stranded high and dry by them, but I have seen the older relatives in my family who made the no kid choice slowly becoming more and more isolated as family members shuffle off to better climes.

Of course I've also seen people who had children abandoned by those blood relatives who should have been there to care for them and provide a lifeline.

Edith Craig - I did it my way
I have many child free friends. I don't know how happy they are, I don't know if it was their choice and I've never yet had conversations with them about it. All I know is that the future is an unknown quantity and I have no idea what lies ahead. I know I don't want to end up alone when my parents have gone and my surviving family are off doing their own thing and since I don't live that close to my relatives I don't think we shall ever live in each others pockets or have as close connections as my parents generation did.

I'd like to think I'll end up living in one of those quirky little creative community set ups somewhere like Edith Craig did with her chums in her twilight years. I can't predict anything here and now but it could be an awfully big adventure.

And I'll never have to fund someone else's University education along the way.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

# 45 Valentine's Day

Like Easter, Valentine's Day is yet another event designed to get you to part with cash for no good reason. Yes I have my cynical bitch head on today but I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one.

It's got nothing to do with the tiny matter of it being my first Valentine's Day single in 12 years. The fact that when you're in a relationship Valentine's Day happens by default because you feel obliged to acknowledge it even if you don't need to is just stupid. Why do you need a special day to tell someone you love them / fancy them / want to climb under a luxury kingsize duvet with them? Does everyone save it up for that one day of the year? If so, then we're wasting a lot of 'what if' time.

I don't think of myself as romantic. I'm not one of those slushy types and I don't worry about red roses or expensive dinners out. No really, I don't. Buy me technology and that's a whole different matter - but not red roses. They'll be droopy and depressing looking in just a few days.

And so that day that so many singles dread is upon us once again. But don't feel compelled to spend silly amounts of cash on cards, flowers, chocolates or dinner in some overpriced food joint. I'd be happy with one of these ecard things instead from somecards. It's cheaper than the post and far more entertaining, so pop it on the Facebook wall or Twitter feed of your intended and see if they accept. Done.

Monday, 13 February 2012

# 44 Falling for the trick

On Wednesday I finally reached the word count for my degree dissertation *punches the air*. I am writing about consumer psychology, specifically (since I am a fashion student) in women's fashion. It's a subject I have been interested in for a while, but it wasn't until I began researching it for my degree that I discovered what a complicated business XD (Experience Design) is.

I've written a fairly balanced research piece on it since there's everything up to PhD level papers to fill in my knowledge gaps. But here I'm going to take my cynical bitch stance, because I want to tell it like it is.

Looks attractive doesn't it?
Shopping is a minefield of temptation. You may think your favourite brands are there for you, but really they're only after your money and they don't care how in debt you're going to get as long as you're shopping with them.

M&S may have customer charter slogans all over its walls these days but they're not doing it because they actually care. They are appealing to their customers ethical standpoint in hope they'll feel better about investing in their products. M&S is losing the war on the high street to the big guys just a few doors up like Primark who are doing exactly the same thing but with the cheapest stuff they can get away with. And it's working, because the recession has hardly dented their profit margins.

But don't beat yourself up about that last time you were too weak-willed to walk away from a 2-4-1 on something you really didn't need. You're being subliminally brainwashed into product desirability. From the colour of the sales label to eye level branding as you walk down the aisles, it's all there to make your life hell as you try in vain to stick to your list.

You see, there is nothing about a shop which hasn't been specifically designed to make you want to step over the threshold and buy buy buy. Have you ever wondered why sale tickets are always red? It's because red is the colour of determination and desire. It is also the colour that our eye is first attracted to and why customers will make a beeline for the sales rails - because red will suggest you're going to get 'the one'. And it doesn't matter what brand you shop at, they'll all be trying the same tricks on you - just in slightly different ways.
Colour in store decor and advertising is designed as a mood enhancer
Not falling for it is easier when you know about it and you make a point of sticking to your shopping list, but there's no doubt it takes all the fun out of shopping - that buzz when you find the 'bargain of the year' that wasn't really. We all weaken at some point. If I can I'll let myself out to be seduced by the tactics and yes it feels good. But most of the time, I'm aware of everything that's going on which makes it kind of boring.

Experience Design - the process by which stores are designed to tick all the customer boxes - falls into a number of categories which they use to break down every aspect of the shop floor. By covering all these sections it ensures the maximum chance of the store attracting customers. In its simplest form here's what is looks at:

Duration (Initiation, Immersion, Conclusion, and Continuation)
Intensity (Reflex, Habit, Engagement)
Breadth (Products, Services, Brands, Nomenclatures, Channels/Environment/Promotion, and Price)
Interaction (Passive, Active, Interactive)
Triggers (All Human Senses, Concepts, and Symbols)
Significance (Meaning, Status, Emotion, Price, and Function)

I'm not about to bore you all with the ins and outs of consumer psychology, I couldn't possibly fit it all in to a 'blog a day' even if I wanted to, but just think about what you're doing and how you're reacting when you next step out onto the High Street. Be conscious of what's going on around you and see if you can pick up on what's happening. If you are a shopaholic and easily seduced by sales gimmicks, this could be the solution you needed.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

# 43 The Love of a Parasite is Worth Nothing

I found this fabulous page the other day. Friday's contribution was perfect. It was something I really needed just at that moment in time.

I find it ironic how sometimes a thing can come along just when you need that extra push in the right direction or to know that the decision you made was the right one. It's as if there is someone looking over my shoulder, helping me out when I need that final bit of advice.

For the purpose of 'blog a day' I have shamelessly pulled text directly from the page to bring it into context. It needs no comment, it is what it is but I wanted to share it with you all. The website is definitely worth a peruse and you will find the original sources for the text there.

In May of 1948, author Ayn Rand received a letter from a fan named Joanne Rondeau. In it, she asked Rand to explain a sentence in her bestselling 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, which reads: 

To say 'I love you' one must first know how to say the 'I'.

Rand responded with the following letter:
May 22, 1948

Dear Ms. Rondeau:

You asked me to explain the meaning of my sentence in The Fountainhead: "To say 'I love you' one must first know how to say the 'I."

The meaning of that sentence is contained in the whole of The Fountainhead. And it is stated right in the speech on page 400 from which you took the sentence. The meaning of the "I" is an independent, self-sufficient entity that does not exist for the sake of any other person.

A person who exists only for the sake of his loved one is not an independent entity, but a spiritual parasite. The love of a parasite is worth nothing.

The usual (and very vicious) nonsense preached on the subject of love claims that love is self-sacrifice. A man's self is his spirit. If one sacrifices his spirit, who or what is left to feel the love? True love is profoundly selfish, in the noblest meaning of the word — it is an expression of one's highest values. When a person is in love, he seeks his own happiness — and not his sacrifice to the loved one. And the loved one would be a monster if she wanted or expected such sacrifice.

Any person who wants to live for others — for one sweetheart or for the whole of mankind — is a selfless nonentity. An independent "I" is a person who exists for his own sake. Such a person does not make any vicious pretense of self-sacrifice and does not demand it from the person he loves. Which is the only way to be in love and the only form of a self-respecting relationship between two people.

I concur.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

# 42 Bridget Jones Syndrome

I was chatting to a friend the other night over a bottle of wine (like you do) and we got onto 'Bridget Jones syndrome (BJS)' of which we both seem to be sufferers. We lightheartedly compared notes on situations we had found ourselves in and the stupid things we had said and done that were just 'so Bridget'.

Now I've checked this up on the internet and what I think of as 'BJS' isn't always what everyone else thinks it is (30 something women still on the dating game), so I am going to go along with my version of it which is like 'foot in mouth' syndrome.

I found this blog on Wordpress and read the unfolding tale of this poor woman's attempts at dating on You could see it in your head as she rolled seamlessly from one disasterous date to another and situations which seemed totally out of her control. It wasn't the dating that was the syndrome, but the scrapes she got into along the way.

I have to admit, I'm not THAT bad (thank god), but my night out with my friend did kind of end in a Bridget Jones way for both of us thanks to the combination of two bottles of wine, some snow and a very steep hill and I think we felt a bit deflated by the end of the night.

Perhaps we shouldn't be let out at the same time? If two BJS sufferers go out together for an evening it's sure to spell disaster of some sort or another isn't it?

Friday, 10 February 2012

# 41 The internet free zone

On Wednesday evening when I got home our Virgin Media internet had stopped working. Thus, I had no internet access on my laptop or mobile phone and no television. There were a fraught few hours where we wondered what to do. Perhaps the radio, some music or god forbid a conversation???

I know I am a social media addict. I am well known for it and I don’t pretend I am not. A lot of my time is spent both directly and indirectly on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Yahoo Mail and a whole list of free free hosting websites such as Model Mayhem and Purple Port with which I am able to effectively run my business at minimal cost.

It is a distraction at times and I am sure I would work far more efficiently without them ticking away in the background. I try to have ‘down time‘ days where I don’t even switch on the computer or the phone but it is difficult since I am not only keeping up with friends scattered across the world but managing business admin, organising shoots and building my networks through these sites.

I think that once I am working for myself full time and have a more structured week (ie hopefully not 7 days a week) I will try and keep Sunday’s as social media free day and have some quality time with real people in real places. This would be liberating and preferential.

It occurred to me, as I instead began writing the next week’s blog updates, that we are so tuned in to social media and so emotionally attached to it that we would have trouble functioning if everything as we know it stopped tomorrow. I remember having pen pals that you wrote letters to with a pen and paper, stuck a stamp on an envelope with a postal address written on it and walked down the road to a quaint little red box and stuck it in.

I didn’t discover the internet until I went to work in offices in London and it wasn’t until I was able to afford my first laptop that I really embraced it. Before that, you tended to use whatever free access you could get at the office. Even so, Yahoo Mail, Ebay and Myspace were still the centre of my internet world back then.

Social media has moved on in leaps and bounds since then and so has the technology providing it. I am often astounded by what they can do these days and generally in awre of expensive tecnology like ipads and remote CCTV – things I just don’t have access to but secretly hanker over.

There is no doubt I wouldn’t be anywhere near as far ahead in my business if it weren’t for social media. But as for my real life, I’m not so sure. It has opened me up to all sorts of opportunities but you can’t beat meeting real people in real places and having real conversations. Has it turned me into a social recluse? Perhaps a little but then its free status has enabled me to be more ‘social’ whilst funds have been tight and that has been a definite advantage.  

Thursday, 9 February 2012

# 40 Regression

My mother sent me a food parcel this week. Whilst this is very sweet and exactly what I would expect my mother to do when I mentioned in passing that 'luxury' food such as cereal and fruit had become a valuable commodity, it felt like an epic fail in my book.

Not being able to stand on my own two feet, financially independent and 'holding my own' has long been one of my biggest fears. I haven't been financially dependent on anyone since 1998 when I first left home. And I have existed at both ends of the scale - two holidays abroad every year and not having to worry about anything, to having no electricity for 3 days because there wasn't a spare fiver in the place.

If nothing else it gives you a true sense of morality where money is concerned and this is in itself a valuable lesson. Never squander it, you don't know what's around the corner.

University has been one of the most frugal points of my life. It certainly feels like a regression of sorts and at times it has been incredibly frustrating and even humiliating. Living off a grant of £3,500 a year is not easy, it's little more than Jobseekers Allowance and there are copious additional expenses for course materials that just can't be avoided.

Earning again will be the one good thing about leaving University. I've really enjoyed my time at Lincoln and I'll be very sad to leave such a creatively opulent environment. It's the first time I've been allowed to indulge in what I want to do full time.

And it's been educational in so many ways more than the obvious. Once I leave the University in May, I'm on my own. Setting up a business designing and manufacturing clothing and styling photoshoots. It's an unknown quantity. How well will I do in such economically scarce times? To be honest, it scares the pants off me, but at the same time it's a liberation, because I never thought I would ever reach this goal.

It's the most important thing I have ever done in my entire life.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

# 39 How many courses can you eat at once?

Every so often we all need time out. Whether it's that twice yearly week in the sun, or a midlife crisis involving 3 weeks on a bender every night. It's all about adjustment, mindset and knowing yourself.

I have a standard format. I work work work, then crash, then I generally go on a music and alcohol induced bender and I'm fine again. But people sometimes think I'm losing the plot. It's all about knowing how you tick.

One at a time please!
I know what my pattern is so I don't panic when I go off the rails because I know it is part of my coping strategy and I'll soon be back to my default setting. I've been telling one or two friends about it and I've had some interesting perspectives on similar coping strategies from friends who have a whole different set of issues to mine.

Compartmentalisation is one of my key words for sorting things out though. The overall picture can be scary, dividing it up turns it into an evening in a restaurant. I'll explain...

If every course came at once you wouldn't know where to start, you'd be jumping from plate to plate. But when the courses are brought to you one at a time you can focus and you only have one thing to deal with at a time. Typically, multiple courses will turn up at once and some of them I won't want, but I still have to eat them because that's life. And that's when the coping strategy sometimes needs to be implemented.

Not everyone needs it of course. But sometimes coming up for air when your work schedule is hectic and it crashes headlong into a personal life you didn't know you had can prove to be quite a juggling act.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

# 38 I'm fine

According to one of those fact things on Twitter the average person tells 4 lies a day or 1460 lies a a year; a total of 87,600 by the age of 60. And the most common lie is: 'I'm fine'.

We've all done it, some more than others. Sometimes it's because we don't want to discuss what's going on in our lives, sometimes it's because we don't think anyone else wants to hear what's wrong, sometimes we just say it because it's the first thing that comes to mind.

Because really a lot of the people you meet in passing wouldn't actually want to know what was wrong and you probably wouldn't want to tell them anyway. The 'How are you?' comment is just a nicety. And the 'I'm fine' response is nothing more than an automatic response which has no bearing on whether you actually are fine.

I probably say it at least 6 times a day regardless of how I am actually feeling. Those people you know you will know if you are fine or not and will ask how you are regardless and won't stop with the 'I'm fine' response.

There are those of us who actually don't want to talk about it though, because sometimes discussing things doesn't actually solve anything, it's a personal journey, something only you can resolve in your own way. But knowing that people do care, that there are friends who would take the time to listen and advise, is a comfort, even if you don't utilise them.

Monday, 6 February 2012

# 37 Sundays

I find Sunday's the most monumentally depressing day of the week. For those of you out there who think the same thing, I bet it's because you're dreading going back to work on Monday.

Well for me it isn't that because I like my work. The problem for me is that work is a 7 day a week affair and sometimes I have to take a break. When it happens, it tends to be on a Sunday, usually if I've worked all Saturday. But I don't know what to do on a Sunday. I'm at a loose end.

As it snowed on Saturday night I hoped for a snowball fight Sunday which never happened so I worked in the morning and stared out of the window. By the afternoon, I had lost the will to live. So I made a vat of coffee, poured a generous Baileys and watched films. My line up was classic girlie, boy meets girl, happy ending material - Bridget Jones Diary (1), You've Got Mail, Sliding Doors and Someone Like You.

Let's face it, these stories are not true. They were made as escapism for us singletons who dread Sunday afternoons spent alone and not curled up on the sofa with a cosy blanket and a loved one for company.

Watching films does not get jobs done but it's better than watching the list of jobs I have to do, not getting any smaller. Procrastination is a dangerous thing. Of course, I'd rather be distracted by the cosy blanket and the loved one.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

# 36 Snow

Yep it finally arrived in Lindum Colonia yesterday afternoon in one great big white wintery dump. I don't mind the snow though. I complain about the cold that's for sure and I hate damp miserable or windy weather but I love adverse weather conditions of any sort - hurricanes, fog and epic snow fall. Strange I know.

I also love driving in dangerous weather conditions - even stranger. Don't ask me why - I guess it combines two loves - driving cars and adverse weather.

I love to walk in snow that noone else has stepped in - CHECK
I hate falling over in it - CHECK (bruise photos may follow)
I love walking around in the snow at night CHECK
I love snowball fights even  though I always lose at them - er anyone????

Lincoln High Street - pretty ain't it?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

# 35 This was the week that was....

Another incredibly busy week means I have really left it to the last minute getting today's blog out. In fact, I have failed. Boo! So what can I tell you to fill the space?

Perfect hottie
Well it snowed yesterday -  the first snow that has settled in 2012, although to be fair it didn't stop play. The absolutely freezing temperatures however have frozen my brain and just about everyone elses. We long for spring. I have craved water bottles all week but got only one. And toasty it was too. But that's another story.

In other news I have 3 weeks until dissertation final hand in and 2000 words still to go. This is poor in my book as I was doing so well up until Christmas. And then they went and insanely gave us a month off Uni for the festivities. Trying to back into work mode has been horrendously difficult. Also, I sneakily booked a few photoshoots in on Mondays which are essentially 'Dissertation Day' so that probably hasn't helped.

I am planning to redress the balance next week although I find working from home a struggle as I treat Uni like the 9 - 5 so in the evenings I just want to come home and chill out, not do more work. But as University work is only half of the story at the moment this is proving to be a bit of a tricky balancing act. Weekends tend to be work related these days, but I only have to be bear with it until the end of March and then I can take a breather until business officially begins mid May. Watch this space.

Have a good weekend all.

Friday, 3 February 2012

# 34 Ration Book Britain

I had an idea this week (one of many so don't get any ideas). What if I could combine a bit of weight loss with an historical experiment. Programmes like Ration Book Britain and Supersizers bring it all to life and I felt a bit inspired. So I thought that if people managed to survive the entire war on it. Why couldn't I?

And then I discovered Carolyn from Nova Scotia and 'The 1940's Experiment'. I shouldn't be surprised that this had already been thought of. But that this woman is aiming to spend a year on a World War Two ration diet fills me full of horror. What no chocolate? Her website is however, very interesting and loaded with information about the diet she is on, the recipes she's using and her progress, which is quite astonishing.

A weekly ration (source)
So, what was the WW2 ration diet like? Well Carolyn is using a typical weekly ration allowance of:

Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around 1/2 lb minced beef)
Butter 2 oz
Cheese 2 oz
Margarine 4 oz
Cooking fat (lard) 4 oz
Milk 3 pints
Sugar 8 oz
Preserves 1 lb every 2 months
Tea 2 oz
Eggs 1 fresh
Sweets/Candy 12 oz every 4 weeks

Additionally, during the war points were scored for every imported product you had and you were allowed 16 points every 4 weeks, so that would be for things like tinned tomatoes, imported fruit etc.
Carolyn's impressive 4 months

Certain things weren't rationed. Vegetables weren't but were often in short supply. If you grew your own, that was yours. The same with eggs. If you kept your own hens, you got as many eggs as they were laying. Bread was not rationed but they did introduce the 'National Loaf' which was a standard wholemeal loaf introduced right across the country and baked in every bakers. 

The thing is, back in the 1940s everyone survived it. People were fitter and healthier and I don't know of any cases of anyone starving to death. You got used to it because nearly everyone was doing it. That Carolyn has lost a stone every month for the 4 months she's been doing the diet is quite remarkable. When you look at her typical daily diet as well, it's not that bad. She seems to eat her socks off in the evening.

The key missing ingredient is of course processed food. Everything is from scratch or fresh. Even the recipes are devoid of artificial stuff but I suppose there was less around in the 1940s anyway. We live in a world of convenience, we're used to living the quick easy snack way and accustomed to fake flavours and artificial colourings.

Going back to basics is an interesting alternative and I think once I can start planting in the garden and the hens are laying with more enthusiasm, this could be the diet challenge I was looking for - something with a bit of substance and meaning and it's also a bit of a historical journey too.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

# 33 Price Drop or Price Hike?

I've just completed my food shop at Tescos for the month ahead. And I'm pretty shocked at how much everything has gone up since I last went at the end of December.

Frozen sweetcorn has now become a luxury item we cannot afford since it's shot up by almost 40p a bag since the last time I bought some. And soap powder? Well you can forget it. Why has this gone up nearly £1? And these are value brand products.

And despite Tesco's 'Price Drop Promise' it seems most of the goods I buy have suffered some sort of price hike or are currently not being stocked in store, thus forcing me to either go without or buy the nearest substitute. Hence I also came back missing a few things. Why should I have to buy the next expensive product just because they haven't restocked their shelves? It's all a conspiracy of course.

Price drops are a myth since the supermarkets price hike before they drop so you think you're getting a good deal. What, you thought they dropped prices out of the goodness of their heart because they are generous? It's all about profit and it has nothing to do with our budgets.

Every month less and less goes into my trolley. I can now carry home an entire month's supermarket shop on the back of my bike. Being clever in the kitchen has become an important part of making what I bring home, last for four weeks. When the direct debit with British Gas went up when they hiked prices a few months back, the extra few pounds a month had to come from somewhere.

And although we're running the house between two people on pretty much the same as this time last year, it's only because if the price of something goes up, it comes out of something else. The supermarket shop is the first place it goes from because prices are always fluctuating and if you take the time you can get pretty much the same amount of food for the same price month by month.

Visiting the supermarket is a minefield. You have to be supermarket savvy to get the best out of it, not be tempted by deals and always go with a list you stick to.

Don't accept that the best deals advertised are actually the best deals. Usually it's a clever ploy to make you buy more expensively without realising it. Check products weight by weight and see if they are actually better value than your usual choice.

Don't be scared by value brands. Often they are just as good, you're just not paying for the label on the packaging.

Are better value packs really better value?

Home made bread - perfect
Don't be lured by special offers or buy 1 get 1 free unless it is something you use. Rarely are they better, and often they are gauged against the top brands in store, so if you're not a brand shopper you won't be saving any money and are probably paying more.

Bake your own. Often buying the raw ingredients and making yourself at home are cheaper than buying ready made. Bread is the perfect example of this. I am really horrified at how much a loaf of bread costs. I haven't bought bread in 3 years, I make my own every week and it costs about £3 a month. For that I get 2 loaves and 6 rolls per week.

And that's how to stick to a tight food budget.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

# 32 Heroes

Emblem of the West Yorkshire Regiment
I watched Birdsong on Sunday night, having missed all of it so far. Things about the first world war always get to me because I know the loss my family suffered during both World Wars - the sons, fathers, brothers, and nephews that were lost and how shattering it must have been. It may be almost 100 years ago, but it changed our world and remapped our families forever.

My great grandfather was a 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment during the war. He was a career soldier though, not drafted up at the start of WW1 like so many young men. He was sent from Malta where he was stationed with his regiment in 1915, to the front at Ypres in Belgium.

Not long after he got there he was shot through the shoulder going over the top and laid out in no-man's land for 3 days before by some miracle being rescued. Quite a number of his comrades had been lost that day.

Like many soldiers injured in the line of duty he was patched up and sent back out but he managed to survive the rest of the war and came back to London and to his wife and children. He was awarded the military MBE and paraded in the celebrations that followed.
Ypres (source)

I don't know much about what happened to him afterwards. I know he retired from the army in 1920 and worked as a theatre doorman somewhere after that. But I'm sure he spent much of the rest of his life mentally fighting that war. My father remembers that he didn't talk about it much and his arm was never quite right where he had been shot.

I suspect that he was considerably luckier than most though. Physically, he was pretty much still there and mentally he must have seen it through because he died of natural causes in the 1950s.

So much of my life has been caught up in family research that I often think about those who have gone before. Some I have known, many I have not but we are all a part of a complicated web and we are all here for a reason, no matter how important we think our role.