Thursday, 24 December 2009
Despite the earlier panic, I’ve finally finished ticking off my Christmas list and am getting ready to relax with a glass of Glayva.
The presents are wrapped, the tree lights are twinkling, there’s a mince pie for Santa Claus, a carrot for Rudolph and warm wishes to all for the festive season.
And remember, if you don’t get what you want in your stocking, smile graciously because it’s the thought that counts.
Besides, there are always the January Sales to look forward to…
Lots of love and festive frolics from all at the House of Hall
Saturday, 19 December 2009
One minute you’re merrily skipping through life and the next you’re standing at the Chanel counter in Debenhams wearing an expression like a startled trout and saying, “How much?!” over and over again.
That was how, after many happy years together, my skincare and I parted.
Admittedly for a good few of those years I’ve come up with all manner of excuses and promises to cut back on other little luxuries to justify my costly cream, but with my day cream alone now weighing in at a hefty £82 (yes, that’s £82), the only way I can justify it, is if I give up food altogether.
Maybe one day we’ll kiss and make up again, but for now I’ll just have to live with my memories of our happy times together.
Monday, 14 December 2009
There are just 11 days until Santa and his sleigh arrive and I haven’t got a single present wrapped or card written. The internet order I placed to cover all possible pressie problems hasn’t arrived yet and I’m in Christmas crisis.
I’ve been planning the preparations (in my head) for weeks, but just haven’t got round to actually doing anything about them and now I realise that even if I enlisted Nigella and Delia to give a helping hand, I still wouldn’t be ready with a carrot for Rudolph.
Having decided it must be because we weren't feeling festive enough, Kevin and I celebrated our 17th Anniversary (Furniture is the official present for 17 years just in case you’re wondering) by going to see ‘The Nutcracker’ on Saturday night.
Usually that or a screening of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is enough to have us topping up the tree with tinsel and piling up the parcels beneath its branches. But this year – nothing.
The ballet was beautiful, but it didn’t fill us with the Xmas Atmos we had hoped for. I guess it’s time to hit the mulled wine and hope the elves will do the rest…
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Kevin had to be rushed in this week with pains in his neck and chest, and difficulty breathing. After a lot of tests (him) and a lot of trying not to cry (me), he was diagnosed as having a condition called Dressler’s Syndrome, which causes fluid to gather around the heart.
Honestly, the things he does to get attention!!
I’m being flippant – the reality was that I’ve never seen him in so much pain and I really thought I was going to lose him.
However, the arrival of two perfectly timed presents quickly put the smile back on our faces.
First up was the milk frother sent from London by Willie and Claudia. On their last visit to us, I had mentioned that despite being a lifelong tea drinker, Kevin had recently discovered the joy that is a latte and this was their gift to help him indulge his creamy passion.
Then a beautifully wrapped box arrived from New York. It was brimming full of spiced nuts, lovingly hand-made in April Benson’s kitchen (I’m beginning to think there is nothing this woman isn’t brilliant at) and they are delicious! I had to wrestle the box from Kevin twice and even in his fragile state, he’s quite strong.
It seems there are always little things just waiting round the corner to cheer you up when you need them the most.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Because I’ve been so busy lately (and trying to cut back on my spending) I opted to have my hair cut at a local salon, rather than my usual James Dun's House, where they throw in all kinds of lovely extras as part of the package.
The five minute journey - as opposed to travelling into the City Centre - and twenty pound less charge for a cut and blow dry was enough to have me tripping to the salon with the smug air of Cheryl Cole in the L’Oreal advert.
It was only after my hair had been washed that I realised I had made a mistake and as I wasn’t prepared to leg it back to the car with soaking wet hair, I had no choice but to sit it out. My sadistic side was refusing to let me leave anyway; it wanted to punish me for my lack of loyalty to Liam (my hairdresser).
To be fair, the haircut I left with isn’t that bad, but it took over two hours. Well, actually the haircut took about 15 minutes – the rest of the time was taken up by my snipper talking about himself, looking at himself in the mirror and fixing his own hair.
That episode has been more than enough to let me see that once you find the hairdresser of your dreams, you stick to them like the glue on your extensions.
So, how lucky am I to have opened a belated birthday card - dropped off last night by my lovely chum, Kirsty - and to have found a voucher for James Dun's House inside?
Sharpen up your scissors Liam, here I come!
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Her first op was at the very top of her spine and in the hours following her return from theatre, she had the sneaking suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. Even in her post anaesthetic confusion, she could sense that something she’d definitely had before was no longer there.
It was only when the porter arrived with a trolley bearing her pants in a plastic bag that she realised why she felt so exposed.
She’s never got to the bottom (pardon the pun) of why their removal was in any way related to an operation so near her neck, but feels in this situation 'ignorance is bliss' and will remain ever grateful for that last minute wax she went for.
It was after her second operation though that she really thought she’d lost her mind.
During the night she was convinced that her medication wasn’t right and was so distressed that she kept pressing the buzzer for the nurse. After what must have seemed like the millionth time for the poor night-duty nurse, she marched into Liz’s room to demand quite why she was so certain that her medication was wrong.
Liz – crying and completely hysterical by this point – admitted that she was hallucinating and it was terrifying her.
“I can hear animals! Parrots, monkeys, all kinds of animals and it’s like being in the jungle!”
“That, Mrs Barrie”, replied the nurse in terse tones, “is because we are right next door to the zoo.”
Monday, 23 November 2009
Not the one that I religiously treat to Clarins gel each morning, although I have to admit that stuff works brilliantly…
No, I'm talking about a letter from our bank saying they were going to charge us £1 for every day that we used our arranged overdraft. As most of our direct debits are out within a few days of us being paid, we generally use our overdraft facility quite quickly and had worked out that the new scheme could cost us around £25 a month.
That's £25 too much, but a quick call to the bank told me I could eliminate the overdraft cost by switching to another account. That sounded like a much better plan, until they told me that I’d have to pay £12.50 a month for the privilege.
So, after nearly two decades, we are waving a fond farewell to the Bank of Scotland and phasing out our accounts over the next couple of months; as are most of my friends and colleagues who use the same bank.
£1 a day might not seem like a big deal, but in the current climate, it’s a pound that would be much happier placed in my pocket.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Having missed my own 40th last year through ill health and having a very low key birthday this year through Kevin's ill health, I've decided to regress a little and it feels great!
And I can't be the only one doing it. By my calculations, Caprice was 33 for at least five years.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
That date was the 6th November and it marked the last installment of a hefty loan I had taken out to consolidate my credit card debts - and then like the true idiot I am, ran them all back up to their limit again.
In all honesty, I don’t know what I was expecting when that final payment was made.
A card from the bank congratulating me on my flawless repayment record?
A balloon in a box bearing the message “Well Done Debtor”?
A fly past from the Red Arrows?
None of those things happened, but I did give myself a little pat on the back and put the past five years of paying over £350 a month to that loan down as a lesson learned.
A very long and expensive lesson...
Monday, 9 November 2009
In between episodes of tea and sympathy, I’ve been going back to my old habit of logging on and reading the newspapers online.
Initially, I did it to stop spending money on magazines and papers that would lie unread for months before being tipped into the recycle bin, then I realised that as well as saving a small fortune, I was also saving a small forest by not wasting all that paper.
Anyway, last week, whilst having a browse through the Daily Mail, I saw that another shopaholic has held up her Gucci gloved hands and confessed to having fallen foul of debt.
Despite being the highest paid columnist in the UK - how, I wish I had her job - Liz Jones has admitted to around 150 thousand pounds worth of debt.
Interestingly enough, she has adopted exactly the same technique I did before my shopping ban, which was to completely bury my head in the sand, ignore any mail that might be a bill, and refuse to add it all up and face the awful truth.
As I’m sure hundreds of other debt-busting bloggers will agree, the only way to tackle this is head on.
So, welcome to our world Liz and here is a little advice...
Hang on to the things you truly love, work out how you can survive without all the rest, then draw up an action plan to get your finances back on track and stick to it!
It’s the only way and it’ll be a rough ride without your retail therapy to see you through, but at the end, you might just become a better person for it.
Monday, 2 November 2009
At the age of sixty six, she has decided to set off on a true African Adventure and flew out to the Gambia this morning.
She’ll be there for the next five weeks helping with the work of the Gambian Schools Trust.
She has assured me that she’ll do her best not to get eaten by a lion, but I think the most hair-raising part of her entire trip will have been her flight out of the UK this morning in some of the worst storms of the year.
While I can’t wait to see her pictures, I have the feeling that I may be the tiniest bit jealous of all that lovely sunshine.
Friday, 30 October 2009
So, I just want to use this blog entry to thank…
Liz – who despite being in agony before her spinal surgery, jumped into her shiny new Mercedes to chauffeur me over to visit Kevin on that first awful night when he was in Intensive Care. A well positioned pot hole on the way home took out two tyres and broke the axle and as we both contemplated squeezing into the high visibility vest she found in the boot, ready to sit out the long wait for the recovery truck, we did the only thing we could - laugh! Ironically the car has spent longer in Intensive Care than Kevin.
Alan, Chris, Matt, the two Marks, colleagues and friends too numerous to mention - who have been in touch every single day to offer support and assistance whenever needed. It’s always easy for people to say that, but each and every one of them truly mean it.
Susie – who arrived with soup, spaghetti sauce and sympathy. She filled my freezer with food and my eyes with tears in that one gesture. I will never forget her doing that, mainly because Kevin has been so impressed with her soup that anything I ever cook again will be deemed completely inferior.
Don’t get me wrong – shopping can be fabulous, but it’s never given me the warm feeling this lot have.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
So, when they did just that yesterday morning, it was with a rather heavy heart that I had to politely decline their invitation. The fates were conspiring against me with a poorly partner (now at home), work waiting for me to appear at my desk and the fact that I’d probably have had to pay for the flights on my credit card.
While I’m delighted that the Government has finally decided to take a look at credit card companies and the way they operate, I’m slightly distressed that it’s taken a UK wide circulation of 63 million cards with a combined debt of 63 billion pounds to get their attention.
For millions of Britons it's a case of too little, too late.
I need to stress here that no-one forced me to take – then use – credit cards. In that respect, I am entirely responsible for my own actions (and stupidity) but perhaps if the regulations surrounding them had been a little stricter, I might have been prevented from piling it all on the plastic long before my debt reached a point where it was greater than my salary.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Kevin’s skillful surgeon was able to repair his damaged valve - rather than replacing it - by pleating his own tissue to mimic the missing section.
It’s still going to be a long recovery for him, but we know we’ll get through it because we love each other - whole heartedly...
Friday, 16 October 2009
Not the real Beatles, obviously!
I doubt any hospital - no matter how lenient - would allow Paul McCartney to sit strumming on the end of your bed. And, as far as I’m aware, Ringo’s busy with voice-over work anyway.
After a four decade long denial that the band who set the Sixties screaming were any good, Kevin has relented and requested an i-pod packed with their tunes to accompany him on the long and winding road to recovery.
My job over the weekend is to load up his hospital listening and tuck a few surprises into his bag. I can write them here as he doesn’t read this blog - he already has enough to cope with putting up with me in real life!
These will include a card of the Eiffel Tower - I hope to treat him to a trip to Paris when he returns to health - and a tiny, bronze Buddha, bought for luck. Let’s be honest, when you’re facing open heart surgery, you can’t have too much luck. Or love...
And he’ll be getting plenty of both.
Monday, 12 October 2009
After much thought, cash seemed the best option; that way she can spend it on whatever she wants, whether that comes in the form of a keepsake or a night out with the friends she’s joining.
So, I set myself a target of raising £100 and have been frantically Ebay-ing over the last few weeks to achieve it.
Today I’m proud to announce that I’ve made £92.40 on items I wasn’t using and who now have happy new owners. I’m delighted!
Mother’s coming over to Glasgow tomorrow, so we can have lunch together before she jets off. All I have to do is add the last few pounds to the total, then tuck the whole lot inside the cover of the journal I’ve bought her to record her adventure and wish her ‘Bon Voyage’.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
My combination of phone answering and yoghurt pot opening left my lovely, black wool trousers from Boden looking as though they’d come under attack from a scatological seagull.
The problem is they’re dry clean only and the thought of having to trail to my favourite dry cleaners (one of the few I’ve found that doesn’t shrink / wreck / fade my clothes) and then wait a week to get them back, was too much for me.
So, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and my trousers are currently wallowing in cold water and Woolite, while I cross my fingers.
I’ve been down the road of handwashing dry clean only items before - when I stopped shopping for a year - and although it was only a few garments, they survived their swim and are still being worn.
I’ll keep you posted on whether these trousers remain the wide legged, high waisted beauties that Boden intended them to be, or whether they start a whole new life as a pair of mis-shapen, three quarter length Capri pants.
(Update - Sunday 11th: they've survived their soggy ordeal and look as good as new!)
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Admittedly these occassions are few and far between, but I’ve just experienced two of them; the birthday of a most fabulous friend and the birth of twins.
So, I’ve been on a mini spending splurge and it’s weird just how much more pleasure you get in shopping for others. By not focusing on yourself and all the little treats that you could be popping into your basket, you start to look really carefully for gifts that are special to that person.
And where better to start the search than Bumblebee in Glasgow...
Of course, that’s where the search also ended because it seems I can’t go in there without buying something.
This is the shop where I was so smitten with their Alessi cat feeder, that I bought it for Susie before she’d even got her cat! This is the shop that I step into and just wish it was mine. This is the shop where I swear they spray something into the air that makes you lose all sense of control over your credit card.
That’s how I ended up skipping back to the car with a bag containing two gorgeous baby blankets (you’re never too young for your first cuddle in cashmere) for Autumn and Rory, and a little something for Susie that will remain a secret for now (she reads this, so I don’t want to spoil it).
I can truly say that on this occassion I’d have been wrong to resist.
Friday, 2 October 2009
Instead, I made a point of seeking out little things that were not only free, but made me feel really happy, and it’s amazing just what you can find once you start looking. Although I’ve ditched the five pound a day rule for the foreseeable future, I’m still trying to control my desire to hit the shops and give my plastic a pounding. And, with everything that's going on at the moment, the thought of a quick ride on the retail roller-coaster is more than a little tempting.
So, to stop my shopping but still keep a smile on my face, I’m going to start listing my ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ and if anyone else wants to join in, I’d be delighted.
First up - Walking the dog on Autumn mornings.
The ones where the sun is bright and low, the leaves that have fallen are still crisp underfoot and there’s enough chill in the air to wrap up in a snuggly scarf and the lovely, new coat you’ve just bought to see you through the Winter.
If you’re really lucky you might even get to see a little chap like this in the undergrowth. Hobbs had startled him and he was just beginning to unroll again...
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
We’d been planning a few trips away between now and the end of the year, but with less than a week until Kevin heads into hospital, we reckoned we should just squish the whole lot together.
So, we pooled our cash, packed our cases and set off.
First stop was Slaley Hall in Northumberland where Hobbs had a snuffle-tastic time in their grounds, ate handsomely from the sausage selection of the breakfast buffet and snored loudly at the end of each day; Kevin’s time in the pool and sauna was so extensive that he almost grew webbed feet and I couldn’t resist the lure of the spa and a quick snooze through one of their relaxing facials. Combined with cocktails on the couches after dinner and a few glasses of bubbly, it was the perfect trip.
Despite having to drop into work on the way back, I was still tingling and glowing from my spa treatment when we hit the Crieff Hydro a couple of days later. Another blissful episode of being indulged, pampered and fed to the point of bursting; kicking through the autumn leaves and pulling faces for the camera.
Our final destination was Gleneagles and the afternoon tea that our fabulous chum, Alan – or Uncle Mongoose as he’s known to Hobbs - had booked for us. Two hours and about a million calories later, we were heading for home; happy and relaxed in the knowledge that we’d done everything we could to put the worry of Kevin’s impending op to the back of our minds.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
Basically, they’ve been focused on Kevin and I, and what the future holds for us.
On the back of a horrible year of health worries and recuperation, we’d started planning how we were going to move on. We’d bought a little book each to write down all the things we were going to do in the next few years; the places we wanted to visit; the cars we wanted to drive; the careers we wanted to aim for; the indulgent but needless little treats we wanted to save for.
And then the rug got pulled from under our feet...
After several weeks of appointments with doctors and consultants, my incredibly fit and apparently healthy partner was told on Monday that his heart valve is failing, causing his heart to enlarge, and that surgery is his only option. We sat stunned as the surgeon reeled off the statistics, desperately hoping to hear some good news or to wake up from the nightmare we were having, but neither of those things happened.
We’re still stunned. Our little books containing all of our hopes and dreams have been put aside, as have my promises of restriction.
There are many things that are more important than money - living and loving and having fun - and while we have no intention of going completely crazy on our credit cards, we also have no intention of denying ourselves.
It could be weeks or months before Kevin joins me in the scary scar brigade, but until that time, we’ll be making the most of every single minute.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
I realise that my recent rambling about the weather is making me sound like my mother. Also, I’m worried about scaring away the tourist trade and being sent hate mail by VisitScotland, so I promise to stop and will leave you instead with a little glimpse of how gorgeous this country can be.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
A couple of friends’ birthdays (one was the big four-oh so a decent bottle of bubbly was required) and an emergency food shop put paid to my smugness at having kept to my budget so well over the last couple of weeks.
Most people are not familiar with the ‘emergency food shop’. Most people realise long before we do that their fridge needs a top up, but as I keep all my nail varnishes in there - it stops them going gloopy - we’re usually too dazzled by their jewelled colours twinkling in the glow of the refrigerator light to see that nothing much else is on the shelves.
I would feel a bit guiltier over my inability to stick to my promise, but I doubt even Nigella Lawson could have conjured up something edible out of the one old lime and half-eaten jar of cornichons that were lurking in the back of the fridge - although if anyone has a recipe that proves me wrong, I’d love to see it.
I know I’ve fallen off the wagon but it was just a minor tumble, so I’ve put my wallet away again and clambered back on.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
The reason his fuzzy, little face seems so forlorn is that after months of dreary dog-walks in the drizzle and driving rain, he’s just found out that the Indian Summer he’d pinned his hopes on isn’t going to materialise.
So, for another year, it’s Bye-Bye to the bar-b-q that we so nearly managed to dust down and light up, and Ta-Ta to the tent that has remained locked in the loft along with its deck chair chums and picnic rug pals.
On the plus side, the flash new waterproofs (if you’re going to be wet, at least do it in style) which Kevin treated us to during our holiday will get plenty of use.
And with a birthday looming, Hobbs might just get a flash new waterproof of his own - that should put the wag back in his tail.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
The gorgeous girl in it is Lizzie Miller, a twenty year old model, who appeared airbrush-free in a recent American edition of Glamour.
In stark contrast to the usual computer enhanced images of perfection (that we all know can't be possible but still hope to attain), Lizzie and Glamour let us see the real deal.
The response to the shoot has been so positive that the magazine have announced more photos of Lizzie will appear in their November edition.
I now have two fashion fixes to look forward to in the weeks ahead and while I know the film of Vogue's September Issue will be all about skinny, I have a hunch that Glamour's November Issue will be all about natural.
I might even skip the salad today and celebrate my curves. Now, where did I hide that Toblerone?
Monday, 31 August 2009
I’m still not quite back to my previous level of exercise and I’m now locating more and more areas about my person with a higher-than-average wobble factor.
While Kevin’s new pet name for me is Lung Lung Wee (to be said in an accent usually only reserved for performances of the Mikado), I’m more inclined to think it should be Bum Bum Wide.
So, having been able to stick to my £5 a day rule without too much stress, I’m now looking for ways to curb my calories as well as my cash and salad seems to be the answer.
It’s cheap, it’s healthy and it’s going to be my main food source over the next week or so. I’ve already invested today’s £5 on a supply of fruit and veggies and can feel the temptation to make celery soup sneaking up on me.Remind me of this post when you find me face down in a vat of melted chocolate…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
The money from cashing in my Premium Bonds has been put towards a credit card debt and I even managed to sell something on Ebay for more than twenty pounds, which has to be a record for me.
During my year of not shopping I sold a jacket on Ebay and failed to take into account the fact that the buyer was overseas. She got a complete bargain at 99p and I ended up six pounds out of pocket to cover the postage.
Anyway, this week’s only weakness was forgetting I had committed to a work’s night out, but as the meal came to just £15 a head and I’d been carrying the same crisp fiver in my wallet for three days without breaking into it, the evening still fell within budget and I was able to enjoy my grub guilt free.
And it seems I’m not the only one to be curbing my cash withdrawals to a minimum.
HSBC and Barclays have said that their cash machines will soon be issuing £5 notes again to help credit crunch hit customers manage their money.
Let’s hope more banks follow suit and start listening to their customers’ needs again.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
This appears to be a favourite, tried and tested technique of his and is certainly more effective than the alarm clock in getting me out from under the duvet. I had the entire bed stripped and in the washing machine before I even realised where I was and that it was my day off from work.
Anyway, the extra time out of bed and away from dreaming about how one day I’ll wake up and the entire Joules collection will have been delivered to my door as a gift, has been well spent.
Money - and the lack of it - is never far from my thoughts and I’ve decided that a few months of revisiting my days of not shopping wouldn’t go amiss right now.
Cash flow is fine when it’s two way but when it’s heading away from you faster than a rubber dinghy on the rapids, then it’s time to throw it a life line.
So, instead of an extra hour snoozing this morning, I used the time filling out the form to cash in my premiums bonds that have won me precisely nothing in the ten years I’ve had them and started listed unloved items on Ebay, and from tomorrow I’ll be back to my £5 a day rule until the end of November. After that, my scarily huge loan that swallows up over £350 of my salary each month will be cleared and I can re-assess how best to use the extra cash to clear my remaining debt.
Hobbs might still be feeling a little queasy but I’m feeling better already!
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
The cinematography was stunning, Audrey Tautou was glorious as Gabrielle and I’m sure even the hardest hearted fashionista would be struggling to suppress a sniffle during the last ten minutes.
Much to his surprise, even Kevin enjoyed it; despite trying to trade his ticket at the last minute for something a bit more ‘blokey’.
He has, however, insisted that he won’t be accompanying me on my next viewing at the GFT and no amount of begging or bribing will persuade him.
He may be a metrosexual man and tolerant of most of my indulgences, but it seems sitting through ‘The September Issue’ is just a step too far for him.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Partly because I was thinking of the people who were affected by it, but mainly because I was terrified that I was going to get it horribly wrong and say ‘Blow Jobs’ live on air. Thankfully I never did, but there were a few other choice comments that slipped out over the years.
The reason I mention this is that I’ve suffered a bit of a ‘jobs blow’ myself recently. Just when I was smugly congratulating myself on being in a job that seemed recession proof, I find that I’m not immune to a little salary slicing after all.
I am, however, in the extraordinarily lucky position that as well as being allowed to appeal the decision, I’ve been warned almost three years in advance before my wages wane.
Although I’m quite upset about it - as the leaner, meaner proposed pay packet wouldn’t enable me to cover my mortgage and bills - a little part of me is wondering if this could be the shove I need to look for something new and exciting.
Perhaps I’ve just been going with the flow for too long and somewhere out there my dream job is just waiting for me (and Hobbs, who would be allowed to accompany me to the dream office and snooze under my dream desk).
I wonder if Boris Johnson might be prepared to share his Telegraph column?
Sunday, 9 August 2009
I am desperate to go and see the new Chanel film, but so far, work hours have delayed my date with Gabrielle and her Gallic garb.
Chanel is one of my great loves, but as saving money clearly hasn’t been, I’ve never been able to afford anything more than their make-up, perfume and skin care.
A stroll round their shop in Rome a few years back sent my heartbeat soaring, not just at the glory of the goods but also at the complete lack of labels that might have given a hint at the price.
And we all know the saying that if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it! So, I have to satisfy myself with my little bottles and jars, topped with their signature black lid and interlocking Cs.
During our recent holiday, my skincare routine consisted of wet wipes and sunscreen - although why I felt the need to slather on so quite much when it rained constantly, I don’t know. Perhaps I thought I was waterproofing myself...
On the night we got back I locked myself in the loo with all of my lotions and potions and spent a blissful half hour cleansing, toning and moisturizing courtesy of Coco. I swear my skin was positively purring by the time I’d finished and that little but of luxury really lifted me.
Call me shallow and tell me that it’s the same ingredients that go into making Hobbs’ dinner if you wish, but there are some little pleasures in life that you should be allowed to indulge in and this one is mine.
Monday, 3 August 2009
After being lured into a ‘Staycation’ by the Met Office’s predictions of more sunshine than your average Brit can soak up in a lifetime, we ended up having to come home after nine days because we’d exhausted all of our wet weather activities and just couldn’t face any more rain.
All was not lost though...
Kevin transformed himself into an expert weather watcher and for the last six days of our break was able to find little pockets of sunshine across Scotland that we basked in until the clouds came over and it was time to head for the next hot (okay then, luke warm) spot.
Battering rain on brollies replaced sausages sizzling on the bar-b-q for nearly everyone who holidayed at home this year and I can’t help feeling a little suspicious about the Met Office, their glowing forecast and subsequent apology for getting it so wrong.
At a time when we are hit by recession and swine flu, wasn’t it rather convenient to persuade us to give up our flights to sunnier climates in favour of the ‘Staycation’ that the media were so keen to promote?
Maybe I’m just being an old pessimist. Maybe it was a genuine mistake on the part of the Met Office. Or maybe it was a rather clever way of confining our cash and contamination to the one country...
Friday, 17 July 2009
As we're holidaying here in the UK, the packing covers every conceivable weather change from a nuclear winter to a day in the driest, sun parched desert.
However, one thing never changes and that's the 'Holiday Uniform' that has accompanied me on my trips to Arran since I was about 4.
It comprises wellington boots (although I have progressed from Dunlop to Hunter these days), shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt and a waterproof jacket. It's a summer staple and once I've got Hobbs' packing finished, they'll be the first things getting loaded into my suitcase.
See you all in two weeks...
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Much to Kevin's horror, I even waved to it and got a little emotional as it was driven away. But 24 hours and £120 later it was delivered back to my door, fully MOT-ed and looking as fresh as the day I first wobbled my way home on it.
So, for the last fortnight it's been farewell to the bus and a welcome return to free parking and pretending to be Italian, as I trundle to and from the office in my gilet and loafers.
Well, that would be the case if it would just stop bloody raining!
Alison is a friend I love dearly, but her horribly accurate prediction of 'Sunny at Seven, Raining by Eleven' has left me soaked almost every day and on the verge of doing her bodily harm with my brolly. Two days ago, it also left me with puddles in the soles of my favourite ballet flats and it's difficult to look cool under those circumstances.
But, no matter how dreadful the weather, there is always a little ray of sunshine and mine came bursting through the clouds when I paid a visit to the petrol pumps. As the dial hit the £3.85 mark, the pump stopped with its reassuring clunk that signals not another drop can be squeezed into the tank.
£3.85!! For just a few pennies more than my daily bus fare, I'd been whizzing around on two wheels for almost fourteen days.
I feel so pleased that I might even give the scooter a clean - twice in three years isn't too bad...
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Even more exciting though was that the carrier of said carrier was more than willing to share the secrets within and proceeded to show the rest of us what she’d just bought.
It was like watching a retail version of Mary Poppins as she pulled item after item from the Hessian tote - in actual fact there were only five items - but all added together they hadn’t even deprived her bank balance of £20. I couldn’t believe it! I can’t remember the last time I managed to buy one item for less than £20.
What does that make me? A conscientious buyer concerned about the origin of my garments and who’s made them, or just a snob? I’ve tried clothes on from the very same shop that she had just plundered and I looked like I’d raided my Grandmother’s wardrobe during a power cut.
When I thought back through many of this colleague’s outfits – trust me, I can do that; I have a near photographic memory when it comes to clothes – I realised that she never looks anything less than amazing. Then I realised why… she’s gorgeous!
A slim, toned and tanned figure that is clearly on very good terms with the gym (and hardly bosom buddies with the bakery), long blond hair, bright blue eyes and a dazzling smile are going to work well with any garment.
Some of us need a little more help and a lot more tailoring, so for now, I think I’ll just stick to my favourite stores and curb my consumerism until they have a sale on.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Susie, otherwise known as Killer Miller due to her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, has been doing her bit for her bank balance recently by trying to cut back, so you can imagine how excited she was when she spotted a month long beauty giveaway in Glamour magazine.
Like any girl, she is powerless to resist the lure of a free lipstick, so Susie set out her strategy. I’ll let her explain:
“As the prizes were things like mascara, fake eyelashes and eye creams, and they had 500 or 250 of each thing to give away, I figured that if I entered every day I would surely win something. I set my Outlook calendar to remind me to enter first thing every morning, then all I had to do was go to the Glamour website and answer an easy peasy question.
“By the end of the month I was flying through the entry form over my morning coffee and then promptly forgot all about it until a padded envelope arrived in the post last week with an Oil of Olay body lotion with sunless tanner, a night cream with tanner and the UV protection daily moisturising fluid!
“Then joy of joys another envelope arrived last Friday with a Collection 2000 lip gloss in it! Now I am eagerly awaiting the post every day in case I've been pulled out the hat for something else.”
Her postman has probably never felt so loved, but it goes to show that a little effort goes a long way in the quest for gratis goodies.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
However, anytime Kevin leaves me alone for more than an hour, he feels the need to say two things;
“Don’t dye your hair” and “Don’t go shopping”.
These are both ridiculous things to say for the following reasons;
1. I have an allergy to hair dye that means I haven’t been able to change the colour of my locks for the last 15 years. Although I admit that perhaps his anxiety is due to me terrifying him in the early stages of our relationship with several spectacular hues.
2. After my year of not shopping and subsequent (mostly) good behaviour, I was rather hoping he might trust me not to go on a crazy, buying bender whenever his back was turned.
3. You can’t shop anyway, when some turd (and I really am being very polite here) steals your bank details!!
So, instead of Kevin’s vision of me tripping round the town with armfuls of bags stuffed to the brim with all the glorious goodies that I’ve been powerless to resist, I’ve spent most of the day cancelling my cards, changing all my bank details, swearing rather a lot and going through the lists of debits made to my account by some blighter in Birmingham.
Yes, that’s right, I know where you live...
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
In an ideal world I see myself stepping out of a plush vehicle in my car-to-bar heels and tottering a few feet to my destination (or better still, being carried by Ewan McGregor).
In reality, we own a battered VW Golf that earned its latest dent courtesy of one of the poles that hold up the pet awning at the House of Bruar and a little reckless reversing on Kevin’s part.
But working in the City Centre means huge daily parking charges, which is why the car rarely ventures into the office with me and why I ditched our second car and invested in a scooter at the start of my year of not shopping.
There is nothing like free parking to turn you into a smug commuter, but when your little scooter hasn’t turned a wheel since last September and appears to have fallen into some kind of scooter coma, there is nothing for it but to take public transport.
I’m a big fan of the train, but the station is a little too far for me to walk to right now, so I’ve opted for the bus, which practically delivers me door to door.
I’m not a big fan of the bus.
Yes, it enables me to wear my car-to-bar heels, but in Glasgow where inclement weather means permanently steamed up windows, I am constantly panicking that I’ve gone past my destination and will end up at the other side of the country, walking miles in shoes that were only ever destined to travel a few feet.
Also, it’s incredibly expensive! I’ve worked out that it’s costing me nearly £100 a month to take the bus in and out of work, whereas the same amount of journeys on the scooter costs around £40. Needless to say, the mechanic has been called and the scooter will be getting kick-started back to life at the earliest opportunity.
My recovering lung might be a little alarmed about returning to two wheeled travel but my wallet is breathing a big sigh of relief!
Friday, 19 June 2009
Hippy Hoppy travelled far and wide, regaling me with tales of his tours, while Mother phoned me allegedly frantic with worry about where he might be. On each occasion I would have to calm her down, assure her that he was safe and well, and then read her his latest card, which although disguised as tiny rabbit writing (whatever that may actually look like), was always in a style rather suspiciously like her own.
After several months of humouring her, my cousins and I decided that it was time to turn the tables. A highly successful covert operation resulted in Hippy Hoppy being snatched from under her nose and sent on a real adventure across Europe and Canada.
Last week, when we were clearing out the bookshelves, Kevin found the photo album of Hippy Hoppy’s trip and thinking it might give my colleagues a laugh, I took it into work.
What I hadn’t expected was that the album would provoke such a reaction and due to the creative genius of my colleague Anya, Hippy Hoppy now has his own blog site and film of his trip.
Please check it out for the soundtrack if nothing else - it perfectly reflects Hippy Hoppy’s radical Jazz rabbit phase.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
An article in the The Times magazine this week made me flick my fringe from my eyes and focus.
It seems that despite the recession, the last thing we want to neglect are our luscious locks. Hair salons say they’re bucking the trend for our desire to downsize and clients continue to pour through their doors, and I can totally see why.
During my year of not shopping, my hair became one of my biggest obsessions. I changed my hairdresser three times before settling for the skillful scissors of Liam at JDH. And why did I do that?
Well, because I had cut everything else in my life to the bare minimum and the only way I felt I could change the way I looked, or feel groomed without spending on new products and clothes, was to keep my hair in check.
The credit crunch might mean we can’t step out in this season’s sky high stilettos, but most of us can – and do - look like we’ve just stepped out of a salon.
Sunday, 14 June 2009
So, who was I to argue when on Friday evening my consultant called to tell me that all was well, no secondary tumour had sneaked in there when we weren’t looking and that I should enjoy my weekend with a few celebratory drinks?
And what better way to do that than at the wedding of two people who the term ‘soul mates’ could have been dreamt up for. Having exchanged vows in a castle in Italy, Gillian and Jonathan returned home for a second celebration in Glasgow University and we were lucky enough to join them.
I know they say all brides are stunning, but when I saw Gillian (and the way that Jonathan was gazing at her), I almost burst into tears. And trust me when I say that it wasn’t with jealousy over her strappy, silver Jimmy Choos!
For once, I was even quite happy with my own outfit. Weddings usually see me more hysterical than your typical Bride-zilla (and with more dress fittings) but with so many previous purchases guiltily stored away, I was able to find something quite fitting. Actually it was very fitting and one of the few outfits I could fasten, having put on a stone in weight since the op.
I might not have been able to breathe in it without bursting the seams, but I did manage a few celebratory drinks. Doctors orders...
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
The blog got in there first with a starring role in an article in the Evening Times, but the book was following hot on its heels with a feature in the i-on Glasgow magazine.
Both are now basking in their fifteen minutes of fame and fighting over who got the most column inches...
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Given the choice of spending the afternoon in the presence of one of the UK’s biggest and best boy bands or in the presence of a bunch of boys on bicycles, what would you do? You can see my dilemma here...
Last year, when my daily dilemma was whether or not I could muster up enough energy to dry my hair after my shower, Kevin sought out little things that I could look forward to each month. Little things that would challenge me to not only dry my hair, but to straighten it and slap on some make up too.
So when tickets for Take That came up for sale, he snapped them up and waved them under my nose until I was powerless to resist their allure. But now with just a couple of weeks until the big gig, their force is fading.
This is despite the fact that me and Take That have a ‘history’ as they say. Anyone who has read my book knows that Hobbs and Mark Owen have shared hugs and kisses; and I’m quite sure there are very few girls who can lay claim to that honour, never mind small dogs. Secretly, I was hoping that Mark and Hobbs could rekindle their friendship through me and I could just pick up the hugs and kisses at the concert, then pass them on to my furry offspring.
The old me - the Before Shopping Ban me - would have spent the last few months tracking down the perfect outfit for the event. No expense would have been spared. On the day, I’d have grappled my way to the front in my Gucci, screamed my lungs out (okay, maybe that’s no longer appropriate under the circumstances) and considered whether to throw my three figure sum be-ribboned Damaris knickers onto the stage.
But the new me - the one that values people over purchases - has been asked by a friend if Kevin would like to join him and his cycling club for a round Arran trip, with me acting as refreshment and first aid supremo.
This is a friend who supported me through my year of not shopping, and who supported both Kevin and I during the last few months by just quietly being in the background and stepping up to help without ever needing to be asked.
So, where’s the dilemma? There isn’t one really. The tickets have been passed on to someone else who can’t wait to stand at the front of the stage and scream. And, as for me...
Well, whatever choice I made, I was going to be spending a few hours in the company of lycra clad men...
Saturday, 30 May 2009
I’d always thought that if someone told me I was ‘One in a Million’ I’d walk around all day with a great feeling and a big smile on my face, but last year I was told just that and I can tell you, the last thing I felt like doing was smiling.
You see, around one in a million people get a carcinoid tumour in their lung and I had just been told that I was that one. Nestled in my right lung was a tumour about the size of a squash ball.
My Dad had died at the age of 39 from cancer, and here I was at the same age wondering if fate had a very similar end in store for me. I know that might sound a little melodramatic, but fear and the thought of maybe not reaching 40 does that to you.
Just two weeks later, I was coming round from my anaesthetic in the High Dependency Unit of the Royal Jubilee Hospital with half a lung less than I arrived with. The operation is called a lobectomy - friends and family who previously told me I needed a lobotomy to curb my shopaholic tendencies find this hilarious - and I admit I laughed a little myself when the pain eventually started to wear off.
It’s taken me quite a while to get over the operation - I’ve only recently managed to get back to work full time and it’ll be a while yet before I can participate in lugging gazebos around with Mother.
But I have made it to 40 and I don’t intend to stop there.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Three weeks ago Mother popped over from her island home to see the fabulous ‘In The Loop’ and somehow - in between Malcolm Tucker’s magnificent expletives - managed to buy a gazebo.
Now Mother isn’t the most patient person, so instead of getting it delivered or waiting until we could take it across to her by car ferry, this 66 year old woman insisted I drive her to the harbour where she single handedly dragged the 36kg box up the ramp and onto the boat. It was like watching a caveman with a mammoth.
Please don’t think I’m a dreadful person for not assisting in the dragging - there is a very good reason for that which I’ll cover in another entry, but suffice to say that as she paused now and again from her exertions to wave lovingly to me and yet another person passed me tutting and shaking their head, I did wish the ground would open and swallow me up.
So, when we went to visit this weekend, we were hopeful of making amends by helping her assemble the new purchase, but as it seems to have rained non stop since she bought the damn thing, it remains still boxed in the porch, where she peeks in and gazes wistfully at it every now and again. Hence the picture above of her gazebo-less garden...
Here are 5 facts about Mother that might help you to get to know her a little better:
1. Her real name is Sandra but most people call her Bear
2. If she’s really angry, she purses her mouth so tight that we tell her she has ‘cat’s arse lips’ and that usually makes her laugh
3. When I told her what an idiot I’d been and how much debt I’d run up, she said only two words - ‘Jesus Christ!’
4. When I was just a few weeks old, she and the dog walked to the shops with me in my pram. Mother, the dog and the shopping all returned home - I was still in my pram outside the bank (and she wonders why I’m a neurotic adult?!)
5. Her favourite past-time is making bonfires in the garden. In the past she has managed to burn almost her entire collection of clothes (after I stupidly said that what she was wearing made her look like a bag lady) and the phone cable to the house (badly judged bonfire positioning and a very cross BT engineer). But my all time favourite fire-starter incident was when she almost blew up the old orchard area with some over enthusiastic petrol dousing in an attempt to clear the dead trees. On lighting it and hearing the low rumble of something very scary about to happen, she took off up the garden like an Olympic runner. The look of surprise on the dog’s face as she sprinted past him in her wellingtons will never leave me...
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
I could babble on for a paragraph or two about how well balanced and relatively sane they appear to be, despite sharing their lives with me, but nothing quite reveals the hidden depths of a person like a questionnaire and here are their answers...
Kevin - 43
Hobbs - 6
Kevin - 6’2”
Hobbs - 18”
Kevin - Silver fox
Hobbs - Natural blonde
Kevin - Taurus
Hobbs - Virgo
Kevin - George Clooney (he gave me £10 to write that)
Hobbs - Nicky Clarke (although in Hobbs’ world, he’s Nicky Barke)
Kevin - Anne Hathaway who has only recently replaced Kylie after a decade long reign
Hobbs - Fifi the neighbouring Westie a.k.a Fifi L’amour
Kevin - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hobbs - Dogstoyevsky
Kevin - ‘The Quiet Man’
Hobbs - ‘Cujo’
Kevin - Freshly oiled mountain bike chain
Hobbs - Other dogs’ bottoms
Most likely to say:
Kevin - "Honestly, I didn’t want to go mountain biking with the boys in Chamonix, but it would have been rude to turn them down..."
Hobbs - "I know it was yours and it was expensive but now I’ve chewed it, so it’s mine and you’ll just have to get over it!"
Least likely to say:
Kevin - "I really don’t think I want to golf this weekend.”
Hobbs - "Oh goody - a trip to the vet! I hope they’ll take my temperature."
Saturday, 16 May 2009
There aren't many things I'm prepared to stay up until the early hours of the morning for, but a live online interview with April Lane Benson, Ph.D (pictured right) is definitely one of them.
April is one of America's top psychologists specialising in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder and is the author of two books on the subject. What she doesn't know isn't worth knowing, so I was thrilled when she asked me to take part in the hour long programme.
With April based in New York, we were clearly going to be working across different time zones, so on Friday 15th May at half past one in the morning with me pyjama clad and tucked up under a cashmere blanket with my terrier, Hobbs, we set about tackling the serious subject of shopping.
Having gone an entire year without shopping, it was fascinating to talk to other people about it, to hear their stories, how they tackled their compulsive behaviour and to take questions from those listening online about my previous 'excess all areas' lifestyle. I think the most important thing we all agreed on was that support was the key to success, either from your own network of friends and family, or through a specially organised group.
I'd advise anyone - shopaholic or otherwise - to have a look at April's site (www.stoppingovershopping.com) and to read her books - after you've read mine, of course!
Friday, 15 May 2009
Many wardrobes and many years were filled in this way until the rather greedy (and let’s face it, rather stupid girl) eventually added up all the debt from her shiny plastic cards and saw to her horror that it amounted to a brand new BMW Z4 Coupe - that’s nearly £32,000 to you and me.
It seems she must have passed out and suffered a bump to the head, because when she came round and hauled herself back up onto her teetering Gina heels, she promised herself that she would never behave so greedily or stupidly again. With her hand on her Jaeger clad heart she swore that for one whole year, she would buy nothing but the bare essentials! And so ‘In The Red - The Diary of a Recovering Shopaholic’ was born.
That rather greedy girl was me - Alexis - and to mark the anniversary of the day when I decided to change my life, I’m starting this blog and hoping you’ll join me on the next phase of my ‘recovery’.