I read a report on Women’s emotional responses to retail therapy today (K. Pine, University of Hertfordshire). They sent the survey forms out in a trendy women’s magazine and then branded the results as “Sheconomics™” (gettit?). I found the report pretty fascinating, but probably not in the same way as K. Pine did. According to the results, here are the top reasons that women go shopping.

I want to cheer myself up 79%
I want to treat others         75%
I feel I’m looking good      61%
I’m feeling a bit low            61%
I’m feeling happy                53%

Brilliant. So, 61% of women go shopping because they’re feeling a bit down, and 53% of women say they go shopping because they’re feeling a bit up. Now, maybe I’m wrong about this, but this looks to me like pretty inconclusive proof that anything much is a happening when women go shopping. Other than they’ve got:

a) got nothing better to do.
b) er, that’s it.

Interestingly, none of the respondents cited “getting something I genuinely need”, as a reason to go shopping. If I spent long enough on t’internet I could probably find a research project where some student got a £130,000 grant to study her own serotonin levels when she went in and out of Top Shop and we might have some more conclusive evidence, but obviously, I’ve got better things to do.

The “Sheconomics™” survey then probes more deeply into the underlying causes getting respondents to ask themselves, “Why-oh-why do I do it?” (Let’s have a look shall we?)

Sheconomics asked over 700 women to finish the following question:
“I would spend less than I currently do if:…

I had more self-control                                                      70%
I understood how my moods affect my spending  55%
I had other ways of cheering myself up                      55%
I had more hobbies and interests                                  45%
I could break the shopping habit                                   41%
I felt happier with my life                                                 38%
I felt happier about the way I look                               38%
I didn’t worry or get anxious                                          34%
I had a more fulfilling job/role                                      32%
I didn’t experience cravings                                           28%
I was thinner                                                                          22%

Love this. There are a couple of things about this that really stand out for me. The first is the tone of the questions, so freakin’ dependent. Just go back up to the list and insert “Oh, if only..”, said in a resigned tone, in front of every question.

“Oh, if only ……I had other ways of cheering myself up.” Look lady, where do you live? Are you chained up in a department store? Do they give free frontal lobotomies with your facial now, or what? Haven’t you heard of a “t’internet search?” Yep, you just type in the place where you live, or work and then write next to it, “what’s on?” Then, (if it’s after 5.30pm and the shops are shut), you can just go along. Honest, it’s true, I’ve read in glossy magazines about people who’ve done it.

“Oh, if I only…..I had more hobbies and interests.” Yep, shame that avenue is completely closed off to you, isn’t it? Don’t forget, the amount of clothing and equipment you’d need to buy if you take up a new hobby though, especially if it involves exercise. Feeling a little more motivated now?

The last one that I’m going to draw your attention to is this little beauty.
“Oh, if only………..I was thinner”. Sorry, Katie Price, did you write this survey in English, this century?  Or is this a study from another era, like when Reuben was alive and chubby water nymphs were all the rage? So, women answered this survey saying if they get thinner they’d shop less? Right, they’ll get all slim and then decide to wear all their fat clothes, the ones they felt so awful in.  Really? Ladies, have you answered this survey completely honestly?

There are a few questions I would like to add to the end of the survey, just for purposes of clarification.

Has a partner (gay/straight/bi/hermaphrodite) ever described you as;

1.  Dependent?
2.  Boring?

If your partner (gay/straight/bi/hermaphrodite) “agrees strongly” with either of the above, you’ll need to immediately buy yourself a “life”. (Prices can vary; from £29.99 in Hull, to £9.7 million in the Bahamas).

Y’know, it’s crossed my mind on more than one occasion; if the suffragettes could have seen womankind 100 years on, would they really have bothered?
What if instead, they’d just said, “Fuck it, we’re going to the haberdashers.”

"Oh, Agamemnon, I've got nothing to wear!"

“Oh, Agamemnon, I’ve got nothing to wear!”

Bye x

Planet Organic

19 June, 2013

Last weekend saw the Festival of the Chariots go through London, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.  It’s a traditional hindu festival imported to London from Puri, a city in the State of Orissa, on the North East Coast of India.  The festival revolves around three huge brightly decorated chariots being pulled by ropes along the streets.  A deity sits on each one.  The meaning of Ratha-yatra, is fairly literal.  The Journey (yatra) of the Chariots (ratha).  Ok, maybe it should be called Yatra-ratha, but it’s not, ok?

Rathayatra London. If you think this is busy, you should see it in Orissa

Stupidly, one time I must have mentioned to the kids that there is an Indian myth that if you die beneath the wheels of one of the chariots, you will attain liberation.  I can’t remember telling them this, but god do I wish I hadn’t.  All day long, I got this sort of thing;

Amba:  “Oh, I can’t look, has someone died yet?”
Me: “No, no one is going to die.”
Sami: “If someone fell and died under the wheels, would everyone be happy for them cos they’re liberated or sad that they’re dead?”
Me: “No one is going to die under the wheels, it doesn’t happen, ok?”
Sami: “But if they accidently fell near the wheels and didn’t get up in time, and the wheels crushed them flat like a pancake. Would their family be happy or sad?”
Me: “Neither.  No one is going to fall under the wheels, it’s doesn’t happen, do you understand?  It’s just a nice family day out, at which no one ever dies.”
Asha: “When are they kill someone under the wheels, do we all get pancakes?”
Me:  “There’s no dying and no pancakes.  Do you understand me?”
Asha: “That is so rubbish.  Sami, when’s the killing bit on?”

Rathayatra in Orissa. Did anyone die? Who knows.

The festival came to a close and we went back to the car in Queensway.  Sami waited with our friend, Sri, while I took Amba off for a desperate wee.  She was running out of time, I dodged round a couple of skinny chicks in designer jeans, strolling in front of us, and ran across the road into Planet Organic (PO) with Asha following behind me.  I found the loo for Amba, then browsed the Organic Pizza Tofu Fillets (£2.99) with Asha, while we waited for her.  At this point, the two chicks in skinny jeans passed us.  Unexpectedly, one of them launched into a tirade about what a shite parent I was.  Apparently, I’d crossed the road and accidently left Asha on the busy street outside, when I rushed Amba in.  She made it clear that people like me shouldn’t be raising kids, because we’re too stupid (and I suspect a bit too “high street”).  It was a full-on sneery bitchfest, with a  “I’m so much better than you” undercurrent.  Initially, I was just shocked, not at what she said, just at the nastiness that it came with.  I brooded over it, as I considered the Green Spelt and Hazelnut Cutlets (£3.39).  It required a response, I considered chucking a Dr Hauschka Deoderant (£11.99), at her.  But it was too risky, they might make me pay for it.  I considered coming back  with a devastating put down, but the real problem was  she was right, I wasn’t watching him properly.  Ok, it maybe a reoccurring theme in his life, but hell, she didn’t know that and she’d been a total bitch about it.  Then, I remembered the festival.  I remembered that in conflict the spiritual position is to use humility to disarm the ego.  I was still wearing a sari after-all.  So I went over to them, I drained all irritation from my face and anger from my body; and with all the sincerity I could muster, I said “Thank you”.  She was more than shocked and tried again to tell me what a crap parent I was.  So again, I listened and just said “Thank you.”  Nothing more.  Then the other one had a go too, but she was a bit nicer, so I gently put my hand on her arm and said, “Thank you so much.”  I left them wide eyed and totally speechless, as I walked off to find Amba in the loos.  Oh yeah, top-that bitches, I thought.

Amba had made it to the loo, just in time. If the last person in there had only left the seat cover up, not down, then there it would have worked out so differently for her.  It was flooded, there were no staff around and no mops.  So, I held my head high, passed the bitches again and swooned out of there, sari swishing, Amba’s shoes sloshing.  Self esteem in pieces.

We got back to the car, found Sami and Sri, and said our goodbyes.  Amba made me promise not to tell Sri what had happened.
“Is she coming back to our house?” Asha asked as we drove off.
“No, she’s getting the train to the airport, she’s going home now. “ I replied.
“No. “ said Sami, “She’s going to use the loo in Planet Organic first.”

Planet Donut

Bye   x

Goodbye my lover

24 February, 2013

My tears and anxiety over leaving the old house didn’t last as long as I’d expected.  Surprisingly, I was over the horrendous loss of home and hearth a mere 24 hours later.  The first house I viewed was great so within ten days we’d moved on, moved in and pretty much unpacked (except for all the stuff we pretended didn’t exist).

The new house happened to be almost exactly the same as the old one, except for a few small differences.  Fantastic I thought, we’ll learn to adapt to the changes, but this could be brilliant.  And adapt we have.  Central heating, an upstairs bathroom – which is heated, a brand new kitchen, tidy low-maintenance garden, double glazing, wooden kitchen floor and beautifully painted, yes I’m coping with the changes.  Also, we’re in Witney now instead of being an inconvenient £15 taxi ride home after a night out.  Ok, we’ll miss getting cut off by snow and flood water through the year.  We’ll miss those AA call-outs when I’d forgot to put petrol in the car before driving home.  When I’d have to pretend there was some “unknown” problem with my car.  Ok, maybe the breakdown guys pretty much always found me out, but they were very nice about it.  The thing with the AA is, if you just act really dumb they totally believe you have an IQ of about 20 and work around you.  One time I was taking care of my friend’s car and all I had to do was move it from one driveway to another before she came back from holiday.  So the fated evening came when I went to move the car and predictably, it wouldn’t start.  She was in the AA so I had to pretend I was her when I called them out.  So the breakdown guy arrives, checks the engine and announces to my utter amazement that my car has an immobilizer – situated on the dashboard.  What could I say but, “Really, has it?”  So the guy just stares at me and says, “What’s the code for it? You need to punch the code in and then your car will start”.  So, obviously, like any normal car owner with an immobilizer I replied, “Really, will it?”   Now at this point, I think that a normal person might have a teensy weensy intuitive suspicion that I had possibly not driven my car much/ever.  But no, the AA man didn’t bat an eyelid when I explained that my er, husband, always er, starts the car for me if I’m going anywhere and that I’d have to, er, call him and ask him for the immobilizer code in order to drive my er, own car off my er, own driveway.  Nope, Mr AA though it was completely normal thing to happen – I suspect to a woman.  The RAC, on the other hand, are not quite so un-judgemental, understanding or helpful.  They chucked me out of the RAC for what?  Locking my keys in the car five times in the first month.  Unreasonable or what?

The day before I’d left the old house I’d got an unexpected call from “Fearsome Reenie”, my landlord’s right-hand woman.  Now, Reenie has evicted tenants at Xmas with newborn babies, so I was rightfully a bit scared to find her on my phone. What’s coming now, I thought.  Reenie said “Joe wants to come and see you, to say goodbye, is that ok?”  I could hear Joe barking in the background – he doesn’t do phones (and no, he’s not a dog, ok?).  “I’d love Joe to come and see me” I said with heartfelt enthusiasm, Reenie laughed.  Y’see, Joe was my secret love, you didn’t know about him, in fact, I don’t think anyone knows about me and Joe (ok possibly Reenie).  He arrived in my life when I moved into the house and despite grumbling and moaning every time I broke the shower, taps, stair rail, light fittings, cupboard doors, kitchen drawers etc, I was his love and he was mine.  He’d sit in my kitchen drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with me about the state of the world (according to the Sun) for an hour or two, before looking at any task he was going to undertake.  Then he’d go off to get parts and come back the next day and have another hour or two of coffee with me before he got started.  And many a day he’d have a coffee with me before he finished at 3pm.  And, in the course of ten years of damage that we inflicted on that house, Joe and I built ourselves quite a friendship.  Sure, there was a lot of scorn and deprecating humour on his part (nice), but beyond that Joe and I came to a fine understanding of the world – one we shared.  Now on paper there wasn’t much about us that was a match.  Bad matches between me and Joe include:

  1. He was married – to Fearsome Reenie (and still is).
  2. He had four children all of which are my generation.
  3. He is interested in the news – whereas, I visit the Daily Mail online (but only to look at the plastic surgery gone-wrong photos).
  4. I break stuff; he fixes stuff.
priscilla presley after plastic surgery OMG WTF Did You Do to Your Face?!: Celebrity Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong

Btw, my fav bad plastic surgery remains Priscilla Presley (this photo is of her, not Joe).

And here’s some things you should know about Joe.

  1. Joe is very honest and has no time for BS.  We shared this quality (I like to think).  We pretty much agreed on the general state of play of the world (er, it’s full of BS).
  2. He had a great sense of humour (well, I assumed he was joking when he said those things about me).
  3. Every year he gave Reenie the same birthday card, when it came down off the mantle piece he’d put it away for the next year.  After 40 years he noticed it was getting a bit worn, so he got her a new one as a surprise (a couple of years ago).
  4. Joe went abroad once and didn’t like it, so he didn’t bother with “abroad” ever again.
  5. I didn’t think Joe could read (the Sun doesn’t count), but I found out he reads historical novels for pleasure, which I have to say was quite a shock.
  6. His youngest son died in a car crash at 17.  He said they just cried for months; but eventually he found himself laughing about all the wild things his wild child had gotten up to while he’d lived life to the full.
  7. Joe fixed things, not people, but he always gave great parenting advice.
  8. If you crossed Joe, he’d never forgive you.  He’d speak to you, but he wouldn’t forget it.

So, Joe came over for a last chat round my kitchen table, I interrupted my rubbish attempt at packing-up my rubbish and had coffee with him instead.  I have to say, I’ve learned a lot from him over these years, he’s given me a lot of advice – while coarsely laughing in my face.  Joe and I both know I’ve left that house a different person from the girl who moved in, and we both know there are a lot of memories I’ll happily leave behind.  But you know what?  All my memories of Joe are good.  As we parted he told me to call him if there is anything I need, anytime.  He always had this catchphrase he used  to say as a goodbye to me, in his broad Oxfordshire accent.  But weirdly, he didn’t say it this time, dunno why not.  So when he reached the door I said to him,

“Goodbye my luvvur, I’d best get on.”


++ Another Joe says goodbye ++


17 January, 2013


An average trendy coffee shop makes about £3,000 a day.  Amazing isn’t it?  I mean there used to be one coffee shop in Witney a few years ago.  I remember taking a friend there and her laughing at its hard wooden dining chairs, it was a café not a “coffee shop”.  In the past two years the market for designer coffee has grown exponentially here and across the UK.  We now have Costa and Café Nero, both bursting with relaxed chatty caffeine-fuelled customers. Plus four independent ones, that’s not counting the likes of M&S opening them instore  and various pubs also selling posh overpriced coffee.  This is big business and it is an entirely created need.

They used to run a coffee shop in the Church on the corner. I went in there once with the kids, I couldn’t face dragging them back across town to Costa.  I remember watching a disabled woman on sticks walk up to the door, when we got there behind her, she held it open for us.  Sweet eh?  The coffee shop was in the church hall,  square formica tables with table cloths, laid out with little flower arrangements on each one.  There were even some toys out for the children to play with.  The other customers were older, some disabled, some disenfranchised and those ever-so-kind churchy ladies bustling about.  I remember I ordered 1 coffee, 3 juices and 3 large slices of sponge cake.  I handed my tenner over and there was a flurry of anxiety behind the tea hatch, as two grey haired ladies looked in the pale green saucer they called the “till”.

“We really sorry, but we don’t have nine pounds in change”, they said.

Ten seconds later, when my mind had processed  I was being charged £1 for all that,  I offered to leave and get change to pay them.  By this time though, the kids were halfway through their cakes and starting to bicker over who was going on the ride-on tractor first.  It wasn’t going to be easy to get out.

“Don’t worry, bring it next time.”  They said.

As I turned to sit down, still incredulous that I could get all the free cake I wanted, so long as I never came back.  I realized that the disabled woman on sticks was still waiting patiently behind me.   And when she paid for her cup of tea, she handed over an extra pound and paid for our coffee and cakes too.

You know, that never happened to me in Costa.

Getting dressed can be difficult when you’re on crutches.

Xmas: it’s a wrap

28 December, 2012

Earth Mother flew off to Bali this Xmas, so for the first time in years, I realised it was me cooking the big lunch.  I did a Sainsburys run on the 20th and bought the frozen veggie stuff I can’t get elsewhere.  Upon entering, I realised my error, the check-out queues were 3 miles long, so I grabbed the little bits I needed and promised myself I’d finish the rest in Tesco Express (which I did –  empty of people and full of food).  My hot tip for getting out of the supermarket quickly at Xmas is, simply drag your bulging trolley towards the 10 items or less queue and divide your load up into individual baskets on the conveyor belt.  There are no supermarket laws about how many baskets you can pay for in this line – so long as each one stays within the 10 item limit.  Simple.  (Expect to be attacked by the person queuing behind you when you get to the car park though).


Some supermarkets provide covered parking, ideal for rainy winter days.

This year, Mr Ex and I worked it so that he had the kids from 10 till 2pm on Xmas day and I had them basically the rest of the holiday.  This meant that after they’d woken up, opened all their presents, gone mad on chocolate, they disappeared.  So, my friend Sri, my mum and I all went for a lie down, just in case we were doing-too-much.  Then I got up and started cooking without anyone hassling me about who’s had more chocolate off the tree, or whose go it was on the Scalectrix.  Yep, Mum and Sri played really nicely after a little nap.

So it turned out to be a good one.  The kids loved their presents.  Afforded with some clever charity shopping, a bit of ebay and a generous refund from Southern Electricity -who I’d overpaid by several hundred pounds. Ah, isn’t it funny how those “estimated” bills work out so well in their favour?  Sami got a sledge which he slept with (hey, he’s only ten).  Amba got a second hand ipod which cost £20 and she sang her heart out, like living a day in the X-factor auditions. Asha got micro-scalectrix, which they all loved.  They built an epic series of ramps by using the various remote controls, boxes and general stuff lying around the living room together.  UF and Kat, who’d blown in from New York, were taught a lesson in speed that they won’t forget in a hurry.

If we were a typical American TV family I would be expecting that either, Mr Ex and I would finally realise that we can’t live without each other and be reconciling.  Or, the kids would realise that their step mom had their best interests at heart all along and we’d all spend Xmas lovingly together.  Happily for me, neither of these scenarios came true, but I did have a little miracle of my own.  Mr Ex, bought me a present from the children this year.  Shocking but true; having ignored me for some time, bringing them home on days like my birthday and Mother’s Day without even a folder bit of paper with “Mummy” on it, I was certainly awe-struck to hear this generous news.  Wide-eyed, Amba confided that he’d spent “seven pounds” on me this year, so I’d better get him something amazing in return.  (She also mentioned that he had specified “no liquorice”, fussy eh?).  So our haul of riches for him began with a very expensive packet of Guiness crisps (£2.87), Sami chose these.  Amba got him a set of chutneys from Cargo (half price but I didn’t tell her, £3) and Asha chose him an ex-library book (20p) about South African freedom fighters which he’d really like (because he fantasises that he was one, even though he was posh white boy in a Surrey boarding school at the time).  I also suggested that the kids get their Stepmum and her kids presents; they mentioned this to Mr Ex, who told them I should buy them myself, so I did.

There were two reasons for this.  Firstly, because they go to her house every Friday, which I really do appreciate.  (It’s technically called “their” house, but we all know he only has lodger’s rights).  Secondly, she’s been, what I can only describe as,  a “fairytale stepmother” to them recently.  I thought I’d tackle the problem with a bit of lurve (for now anyway).  The kids discussed it and chose her some organic chocolates.  Nice.


Initially, the kids loved visiting their stepmother’s house.

I received a box of fresh macaroons which had sat under the warm Xmas tree for a couple of days.  Amba recommended the sooner I ate them the better.   We had our annual traditions  such as showing up at the village carol service embarrassingly late on Xmas eve, and playing “losing-the-money-Sakti-has-sent-us” on Xmas day. This year, Sakti excelled herself, we didn’t located it until 27th, thus setting a new family record; a perfect end to an Olympian year.

The other great present was a “Now, That’s What I (don’t) Call Music” cd which Mr Ex bought the kids.  Unfortunately, by Boxing Day someone had removed the power cable from the cd player (and hidden it in the kitchen), so the kids spent a few days, sitting in my car playing it at top volume, sharing their festive joy with our retired neighbours.

After Xmas I asked them if Mrs Ex had liked their present.  Unbelievably, they shook their innocent little heads at me.

“No?”, I cried.

“No”, they replied, “She didn’t.”

I looked down at my three angels, so, so, brave – even when faced with so much rejection.

“Y’see, she hates chocolate and we didn’t want to get her anything she liked.  So it was perfect.” They eagerly explained.

Their little faces beamed up at me, bright with Xmas spirit.


How to Leave Feedback

26 April, 2012

My basic rule of thumb with leaving feedback has always been; the worse the event – the better the feedback I leave it.  Sort of like leaving reverse feedback actually.  So if I go to something that I think is utterly, mind blowingly shite, then I often just feel sorry for them and tell them it was good.  I mean if they don’t know how crap they are, then they’re a long way from change.  So, instead of shattering their reality and spending months resetting their dysmorphic self belief (back down to zero), I tend to leave them happy in ignorance.

I once received a copy of Oxford Montessori’s school brochure (when I  only had one child and actually cared about that sort of thing – his education and stuff).  It was full of spelling mistakes, incorrectly used words and even a map which had one of the schools located on the wrong side of the street.  Here’s a quote I remember;

“We will inform you if your child is illegible for the government voucher scheme”.

Illegible instead of eligible?  I think they were offering my child the chance of their amazing education skills for only £5,000 a year.  I thought the brochure was the best indicator of the school they could possibly send out to be honest.  I didn’t ring up with corrections, I rang the local state school and had a look round instead.

With workshops I’ve enjoyed, I’ll often leave a bit of feedback on small things that could be improved like, “move the venue from East London to Birmingham” etc., all helpful stuff.   Generally speaking, it’s received by the host with, er, hostility.  This happened recently, so I’ve decided to have a bit of a re-think on feedback and how to leave it.

My new forumla for feedback is based on my many years of research, trial and, oh-s0-many errors.  I think I’ve now developed an exciting new approach which will give you incredible results.  Soon, you will find people hanging on your every word and inviting you to be a public speaker at their events.   Please feel free to copy it, or expand on it in your own intimate style.  Although no two situations are ever exactly the same, with this method you will get massive-results-which-blow-your-mind. The conversation should typically go along these lines;

Host(ile) facilitator:  Hey, How was my workshop?

You:  “Oh your workshop……” (pause for thought, like you’re thinking back to the actual day, instead of remembering your lines.  Basically the more you pause at this stage the better the overall effect.  So fill that pause with something like imagining yourself walking backwards through your whole house – include garage and/or sheds).  Then when you’ve done that, you can begin…

You: “Oh it was, well, really fantastic”

Host(ile): Really?  Do you really think so?  I mean I know I’m relatively new to this but….

 You;  (interrupt with enthusiasm) “Oh, yeah, you’re not the biggest, that’s true, but OMG! you’re so the best, the best, it was fan-tas-tic. Really, really good.

Host(ile): Wow, that’s so nice of you, I’m so glad you liked it.  We’ll be doing some more later in the year…

You: (interrupting enthusiastically)  More! (a slight scream should enter your voice now)  Oh, yeah, I’d like more, yeah more.  I’m just going to keep coming again and again and again it was sooooo amazing.  Thanks. (Deeply exhale and if light up a cigarette if you’re outside). 


Host(ile):  You’re welcome (he looks happy). I’ll tell you what, shall I put you on our mailing list.

You:  Yes, Yes, YES!

I guarantee, you’ll get a much better result if you use this method anytime you’re asked for feedback.  If you need to practise this complex technique before you use it then write some feedback about my blog below.  (Just scroll up if you need help remembering the formula.)

Introductory price: £7,777.99  (cash/paypal)

H x

Wembley Great Hall, 1st and 2nd Oct 2011

You’ve probably heard of Paul McKenna (McK) right, but might not have heard of Richard Bandler.  He’s something of a big guru in the world of NLP and hypnosis.  A controversial character for many reasons, none of which I can be bothered to bitch on about here.  His innovative techniques for phobias, metaphorical language and personal change, I’ve used with success.  I’ve never seen him because his training seminars are way out of my price range.  I have read some of his books one of which “A Guide to Trance-formation” I rate highly as a guide to learning hypnosis – if you ever want to.  Overall, I didn’t really know what to think, other than he’s got quite a dedicated fan club who dangle on his every hypnotic syllable (eugh).  So when the chance to see him for two days for £188 arrived in my inbox I took it, well I bought it from NLP Life actually.  Most of his training seminars cost thousands of pounds to attend (hence I haven’t done any of them) and this seemed (comparatively) a good deal.

In terms of “getting the life I wanted”, well when I booked this seminar I have to admit I didn’t really think that was something I particularly needed.  I’ve been feeling pretty happy with my life for a while now.  I do struggle to understand the pseudo spiritual culture rife at the moment like “The Secret” where the goal of life is – getting what you want.  If I was leading a seminar it would be called “Want the life you’ve already got” (and no one would come).  The real “secret” of a lot of this bull is about giving people unattainable dreams and then convincing them they can have them.  Then if they aren’t able to attain that dream (because it’s totally unrealistic and implausible and unachievable) then the problem is that they didn’t “believe” in it enough to make it happen.  So it’s their own stupid fault they’ve failed again.  I think there are kinder ways of seeing the world than this.  To be honest, I think it’s probably better for people if you just cut out the middle bit and told them at the start that the “Secret” is it’s all their own fault.  I think if you did it in a slightly mystical way with some soft music and a faraway look in your eye then it could be really effective.  I’ll try it out on people over the next couple of weeks and let you know how it goes.  Maybe in the playground, next time one of my mum chums comes to complain about her husband leaving dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, I can go into a slightly altered state and tell her that I “feel” (because a lot of this stuff runs on how we “feel” about things), yes, I feel that ultimately she is creating this situation and that only she can resolve it (because there is no longer any such thing as “fault” only incomplete solutions).

Ok, so you can see that I wasn’t the most ideal candidate for this seminar, but by the time it actually came round, I have to say I was feeling pretty uncertain about some of the decisions I was making about my future.  I’d lost my mojo somewhere around early August and blamed it on six weeks of holidays with my three darlings at home (what to speak of two weeks in a tent with them).  But it wasn’t really true, I had properly lost my mojo and didn’t know where or how to get it back.  I was happy enough, but just not as sparkly as I normally feel.  For example, I’d look at my blog and just not write it, even though I used to love it.  So I was sort of curious by the time it came round to see if it would help me, or if it would fill me with impossible dreams and then leave me on Sunday evening, waiting for a tube in the rain with big fantasy umbrella keeping me dry – if you know what I mean.

The first thing about the seminar that made a real impression on me was that McK opened it alone.  Yep, Bandler hadn’t bothered to get out of bed for 1,300 people (at an average price of £270 pp).  Unbelievable.  None of the “Hi, it’s like really lovely of you all to be here, this is gonna be so fabulous” etc etc ad nauseum.  I had to admit I sort of liked it him for it.  I mean how many of us sit through all sorts of shite just for the social nicety of it all.  Bandler didn’t.  I think I was envious as I was sitting through yet another McK enactment of his dream life as Sean Connery.  (He obviously hasn’t seen Megamind yet).

McKenna smoking during the break

McKenna smoking during the break

I think it went a bit like this the night before:

Bandler:  “Fuck it, McKenna you do the fucking morning, I’m not getting out of bed and driving all the way to fucking Wembley till I’ve had my fucking brunch.”

McK: “Er, ok, I’ll warm them up using my rather fabulous James Bond persona.  The natural charm and confidence I adopt will spread good feelings through the audience and……”

Bandler (interrupting) : “Do what the fuck you like, make them cluck like fucking chickens but don’t expect me there before 3pm”.

McKenna: “Ok M, leave it to me, ”.

Bandler: “What did you fucking call me?”

McK : “Nothing”

So McKenna did the morning.

Now I have to say I’ve seen McK a few times in the past.  The first time I saw him he was in a really bad mood.  I don’t know what was up with him – he was living the Bond life he wanted after all. Wearing a Bond suit, telling the time on a Bond watch, driving a Bond car, planning his career with a real life Money Penny;  and dating Bond girls – who turn in psychos and stab him in the back – hey what more could a guy want?  Anyway, I went to his I can make you thin event a few times, I bought tickets, I won tickets, I couldn’t get away.  And I couldn’t get thin either.

Ok, so let’s get back to Bandler, when he eventually got up and had brunch (he’s American and I believe they all have brunch every day; then hot dogs with yellow mustard in the afternoon when they’re doing their police jobs; then they have dinner somewhere swanky in the evening. Trust me, I’ve seen it ont’elly).  He managed to spur himself towards our event and arrive mid afternoon.  No rush, no rush.  Then he proceeded to tell outrageously funny (and seemingly embellished) stories of inventive therapy sessions he’d conducted.  Couldn’t help but like his stories and his irreverential style.  During all this he was spinning something called “nested loops”.  It’s a hypnotic technique where you begin a story and then digress with another story, and another etc building different levels within each story.  Then you do some subliminal work on the clients (us) and close the stories one by one in the right order.  Well, that’s how Bandler teaches it, but it’s certainly not how he does it himself.  I have to say many of the loops were not closed and I have no idea what the hell he was doing with them all over the place.  But I sure felt good by the end of the day and felt like he actually gave a shit about people’s mental well being.  This was also reflected in the imaginative and kind work he did with people on the stage.  Humble he is not, but skilled he certainly is.

On the second day there was an interesting exercise with McK where we looked at our values and from there our goals (yes, yawn, is there anyone who hasn’t done that a thousand times before), but then we put them on a time line and played around with them on there.  A timeline is an imaginary line depicting your life in chronological time.  You can move stuff around on it, change things and do interesting stuff with it therapeutically.  Anyway, eventually we went to the end of our lines (metaphorically our old age) and looked back over the part we’d been planning with our values etc and checked we were happy with it.  McK, then asked a few people in the audience about theirs.  Now a lot of the audience were NLPers (you can tell cos they look like estate agents.  “Height phobia Madam? I want you to imagine yourself in a low lying bungalow in Southend, feel how big the rooms are, notice how small and grey the price appears, would you like a viewing?”).  So, from the audience we got all the typical  I want, I want, I wants.  There were famous writers, famous musicians, famous filmmakers and famous photographers (notice a theme anyone?). Fine.

But as I looked down my own timeline there wasn’t anything famous on it.  I saw myself responsibly bringing up three children on my own, who I love.  I saw myself working as a hypnotherapist, which I love.  And I saw myself spending an inordinate amount of time getting a science degree from the Open University, which I will love.  Nothing sexy, glamorous, award winning, rich or famous along this line.  But as I looked back from my old age perspective I felt an incredibly powerful sense of well being, I felt the reward of being responsible to my children, the joy of helping people with their problems and the challenge of study.  And I felt an incredible sense of simple satisfaction that I’d spent those years of my life on those things.  And to be honest, there’s something a bit priceless about feeling that good about the life you’re living; the one you’re already actually living, not an imaginary life that you wish you had.  And right at that moment, I realized I’d found my mojo again.

Paul McKenna

Richard Bandler

The other good news is that I’ve picked up my blog and started writing (obviously) and begun to manically walk everywhere I go.  I’ve stopped over-eating and one week after the seminar have lost 5lbs.  I have also more strangely found myself doing stomach crunches at 5am in the living room before going back to bed (!!). I don’t know if it was Bandler or McK, but I have to say, I’m really glad I went along.

Bye xx

High Fives

3 February, 2010

I got tagged by a Anna to share my “high fives”. It doesn’t mean posting pictures of my kids after a pint of cola. It’s a deep meaningful thang. About what inspires me in life……..

1.  My first high five has to be (er, er thinking now) oh yeah, my kids?  That’s right.   Yes, to be totally honest, having 3 young children as a single parent has fulfilled me totally in life.  They have transformed my life and my vision of the future in lots of ways.  Financially, in terms of my freedom, independence, autonomy… to mention a few.

2.  Second on the list of high fives is laughing.  I love this.  It’s totally free and it can happen anywhere you like at any time – even I’ve found it can happen at the most inappropriate times.    I’ve had to find ways to make myself laugh over the years and one of the best ways to pick yourself up from a bit of self indulgent pity is to make yourself laugh till you’re crying.  How to do this exactly?  Easy, three simple steps:

1. Think of your most embarrassing or funny moments and laugh.

2.  Think of other  people’s embarrassing moments and laugh – a lot more.

3.  Carry on repeating steps one and two till your sides hurt.

The other brilliant thing about this method is that you have to regularly ask people for their most embarrassing moments, which means you get to have a great laugh as you go along compiling research material for those low moments.  I’ve pondered on why it is I love embarrassing moments just so much and it’s the vicarious nature of them.  It’s as if you were really there, you share the cringing discomfort of them, but you dont have to own it.  So I guess you’re expecting me to share one with you now, hmm.  One of mine was before I learnt how to a park a car.  I was trying to park my rusty shite ole car in a really posh narrow shopping street in Cheltenham.    I’d envisaged – car parked tidily at side of road.  Eventually, with a lot of effort, I managed to get three of its wheels up on the pavement and found that the front of the car was sticking out blocking the whole pavement, so no one could walk past.  A lot of people had walked around me by this stage and I needed a solution.  So, I decided it was a good time to abandon the car.  So I got out (and instantly felt a lot better) then I went in the nearest pub and asked someone to park it for me.   This was not the brightest move.  I think you can imagine the response from a bunch of Cheltenham rugby blokes, I just stood there, going “oh, excuse me,   er, could anyone help me park my car please?”.  So after a lot of laughing one of the blokes came striding out to help. When he saw my brown Austin Allegro strewn across the pavement, he actually let out a scream.  Then his friends followed him out.  There was little point in him parking in, because as soon as he did, I had to get in and drive away because they were taking the piss so much.

3.  So I think next would be writing.  I love writing and talking is nearly as good, but writing is definitely better in important ways.  I get to say everything I want and no one interrupts.  I can go on and on for ever if I like- this will probably be the case.  Whereas with talking, people tend to roll their eyes or run away etc (I’m sure these things happen to you too).

4.  I love the sky, it’s my favourite thing.  I’ve been looking at it all my life and it still fascinates  and amazes me every day.  It’s the most wonderful art I’ve ever seen.  Last year Laura and I went to see an artist who paints these really wonderful skies.  We drove for miles to get to her house and when we got there, they were shit.  Not like the real sky at all, hers were all static.  What a con.

5.  People.  I like people.  I really do.  (I lurve you all).  Oh I can’t be bothered to go into all the stuff about people I like.  But one of the top things, is that they are full of surprises.  You find out something about them that you can’t believe, or they do the opposite of what you imagined.  They are full of unexpectedness, and that’s what makes them so interesting.

There are other things I could have included, but these 5 are the things that make me smile in life.  The deeper stuff keeps me going too, but in a different way.

love and good lives to y’all.

PS.  If you want to share a little embarrassing story of your own on here, please feel free.


Here's one I didn't park

I hit my toddler

22 November, 2009

I hit my toddler,  Asha.  I hit him again, over and over. I can’t stop.  Time opens like a wide cave and we fall, between dark seconds. There is no here, no now, only Asha and the beat of my hand on his back. I look down at his now burgandy face, he looks straight ahead, eyes wide, no sound. Someone shouts for me to turn him upside-down, but I don’t listen. A distant voice says “Do you want a first aider, do you want a first aider?”. It’s the check out girl – full of initiative. I ignore her. An urgent terrifying thought comes to my mind, I throw it out and hit his back again. Something moves in his mouth and he gently throws up into my welcoming hands, he breathes. I breathe.

Check out girl stares at me and I ask her for a tissue. She kindly offers me two of their cheapest tissues and then as an afterthought, a jay cloth. I wipe my slimy hands into a jay-ball of sick, then I hand it confidently back to her. The woman next to me looks away from me in disgust. It’s not the jay-ball, I think it’s to do with my holding up the queue.

Inside I am shaking. I am cracking into a thousand tiny pieces of relief. Calmly I reach for my card, as if nothing has happened and slot it into the machine. Check-out girl says “I’ve never seen a kid do that before?”, She is too shocked to ask if I have a points card. No one else speaks to me, no one asks if he’s ok, I wheel Asha away and we cling gladly to each other. To celebrate his survival we split a chocolate Ripple at the fag counter and leave the supermarket. The sun is shining and the world looks good to me. I smile at everyone I pass, and they smile back. Strangely normal in Witney, but that’s they way of small market towns, they are still very local places. And that’s the strangest thing about what happened. No one said anything to us. If Asha falls on the footpath, people stop and see if he’s OK. If he’s feeding the ducks, people pass and smile, and say “hello”. When he played at the check out, people were smiling and watching him. Pointing when he hid from my sight, telling me he was right there – just a few seconds before it happened. But no one spoke to us. I struggle to understand it.

Is this the world I’ve heard about on the news? That world where no one cares about anyone else? The one where people walk the other way, rather than help someone in distress? Am I out of touch with reality? I stopped watching the news a while back, because I objected to it being just so negative. Good things do also happen everyday, but they don’t make dramatic headlines, they dont stike the beats of Big Ben in quite the same way. If the news was renamed, “All the bad things that happened in the world today”, people would think twice about tuning in at the end of a long day.

As we walk across the meadow, safely hand in hand, thoughts come to me. Someone did call out, “turn that kid upside-down”, but I ignored them. The check-out girl did want to get a first aider, but I ignored her. Perhaps people really did want to help. I only looked at the woman next to me, frosty for sure, but I didn’t look down the queues at the others. I paid and left. What if they had wanted to say something to us? Maybe, they were concerned at the little boy choking infront of them? The one they’d just been watching and smiling at.  But we, The English, are not good with sticky situations outside our preset social boundaries.  We are not easy with the warm words and actions of other cultures.    I too played my great british role of  “good in a crisis”, to perfection.   The irony of it dawns on me, that it was me, who did not look up to meet their concerned eyes.   I didn’t let their kindness in.

The Other Woman

15 November, 2009

I’m sitting in the hairdressers reading a Tatler article on how some posh skinny woman found “The One”. He isn’t her boyfriend or husband, but her hairdresser, and according to her, every woman must change hairdressers until we find “The One”. He will not only be a hairdresser, but a psychic and have a qualification in speed counseling too. Once we find him neither our hair, or our life, will ever be the same again. He will lift us in times of despair and in his eyes we are truly beautiful. She doesn’t mention how much we tip him. I notice Nerf glance down at the page I’m scanning. He still hasn’t said a word to me. To be honest if he wasn’t the best hairdresser in the whole of Oxfordshire, then I would search for another. I’d find one who never shut up, who pryed unnecessarily into my private life, who would know my kids names and who would keep digging till she has me in tears each visit. And of course, then she would step in as my rock, and bring my joy and hope back with her encouraging salon wisdom, borrowed from the glossies. Yes, I long for a hairdresser full of twisted curiosity and fake kindness. But till then, I have no choice. No other hairdresser has ever made my hair look so, well, normal. Normal isn’t really what he does with it, he makes it look abnormal, like proper TV hair.   When I leave the salon people mutter “Maybe she’s born with it?”, and men stop their expensive sports cars to give me bunches of flowers.

The girl washing my hair is telling me all about her “blended” family. She is the second youngest of six kids. Her father brought one  child to the relationship, her mother already had three and then they had another two together. Then he left this wife and moved in with his new wife.  Hair washing girl went with her dad to live with his new wife and her two kids. That’s eight children if you’re having trouble keeping up.  Apparently, there was a lot of disharmony in his new family unit, until he did the right thing and left the evil stepmother. I love every moment of it, but I wonder what her manager would say if she knew what I’d learned in five minutes.  Anyway, we’re in luck and no one else is interested. Life really is better than fiction. Then she tells me how her mum bought itching powder for her to put in the step mother’s clothes. And you know what? She used it. To this day the stepmother has no idea that her pants, clothes and sheets were laced with itching powder. I am amazed.

I think about Mr. Ex’s woman – we’ll just call her Mrs Ex. (Although technically she’s married to her own husband). I look at the hair washing girl and I realise how different it is for me and mine. And I tell her how grateful I am to Mrs. Ex. who takes such good care of my children. It was a struggle not to slate her to my kids, to tolerate her when I was pregnant. But it’s paid off.

“The fact is, it’s Saturday. She has five children to look after and I”, I pause mid sentance and hairwash girl interrupts with a sly smile,  “And you are at the hairdressers” she says.  Sniggering like a couple of kids, she leads me back to Nerf for the silent cut.  I dont mind, I’ve had my dose of gossip and enlightenment at the salon.

I am greateful to Mrs Ex., the so-called “Other Woman”. You are the one that fills this rainy Saturday entertaining five children, changing nappies and cooking meals which will be half eaten.  You’re doing a great job, keep it up.

I am the Other Woman. The one with Tatler on her lap and TV hair.

stanwyck 2