12 Days Till 30: The Big Fear

| Posted by Lou | The time is 1.50pm here in London UK |

I'm really, really, quite genuinely (and rather irrationally) worried that on the day I turn 30 there will be an audible biological click that will leave me wanting one of these:

It would be convenient for "OHMYGOD I WANT A BABY SOOOO BAD" to be less biological instinct and more like a light switch that can be flicked on and off, but we all know the reality is that it can hit any moment...

Unfortunately I've moved from "I AM NEVER HAVING BABIES EVER ARGH NO WAY BLURGH" to "oooh look at the cute baby". Which leads me to believe that the above will happen one day.

But having seen the effect it has had on one of my close single friends who has had a sense of desperation and urgency to meet a sperm doner, err I mean husband, cast a depressing and counter-productive fog over her life for the past couple of years, all I can say is:


13 Days Till 30: High Heels

| Posted by Lou | The time is 11.45am here in London UK |

I don't wear high heels. Ever.

I did have a pair of high-heeled boots at uni I would wear out [hideous Pulp ones with the big clunky heel - blurgh!] - but that stopped the night my knee seemed to go out of joint a little and it became physically incapacitating to wear them.

Now all high heels evoke for me these infamous McQueen creations - like an alien appendage hanging off your leg.

I will confess to seeing the appeal of high heel shoes - for example I find these McQueen ones that popped up while I was searching for the above to be utterly gorgeous:

...but who the fuck would want to wear that?

People who wear heels often tell me that it's just a matter of wearing them through the pain until your feet (and legs, and hips, and spine) adjust - and this is the real sticking point for me.

Is any aesthetic worth the pain and potential long-term damage?

YES say the lovers of high-heels across the world. NO says I.

(The women I really feel bad for are the ones who don't love high heels, but just don't see them as an optional thing in life. Yesterday a colleague was talking about how she was going out that night so was going to have to wear heels, but the ankle she twisted last year is still giving her trouble when she wears them - when I said "why not just not wear them?" her horrified response was "but I'm short!")

Anyway, the reason I write this post is that England a lot of people seem to find it utterly baffling that I go out wearing flat shoes, or - gasp - meet men wearing flat shoes.

A real conversation [with a gay man colleague] I once had regarding the fact that I was seeing a gentleman friend that evening:

"Are you going to wear high heels?"
"Do I ever wear high heels?"
"Are you going to straighten your hair??"
"But you're at least going to put on some lipstick?!"

Gasp! Didn't I get the Memo For Ladies?!

So I'm quite determined to not wear high heels. Ever.

But sometimes I find myself in shops looking forlornly at the lack of awesome "going out" flats and then gazing at the heels section and finding myself veering...

But no. Someone with a history of knee problems, a dodgy hip, and a stubborn chip on their shoulder about the physical incapacitation of women caused by the fashion industry will surely hold strong to their position?!

But... Louboutins are so pretty...

Oh well, at least I can't afford them!

14 Days Till 30: Good Hair

| Posted by Lou | The time is 4.16pm here in London UK |

Good Hair. Something I have strived for my whole life. I started out well with a full head of long, curling, golden-blonde hair. Then it started to get out of control.

Then I got that haircut - the one when I was 12-years-old that looked like a mop (I know this because other kids in my school helpfully shouted "mop!" at me to let me know) and turned my tresses brown and straight.

Then as I grew it longer it became frizzier and more out of control (again, this one was eventually helpfully made known to me after I enquired of a school-"friend" who this "baff" person I hear so much about was, to be told it was me).

And suddenly it seemed like Good Hair was a distant dream that would never be reality to me, as I made the mental shift towards being somebody who has Bad Hair.

I was flicking through old photos last night to find examples of the different attempts at controlling my hair, and discovered that there is a distinct pattern in my attempts to "do my hair":

Yep, the good old "just shove it in a bun" approach to hair. A sure sign of someone who has no idea what the fuck to do with it. (And probably better than the "wear it down to show off the straggly dead ends" option...)

But before you all suggest different ways of doing hair, please let me interject with the fact that in reality I spend about 5 minutes on my appearance in the morning, of which 20 seconds is devoted to my hair. I then pull it out, put it back in, pull it out, put it back in about a thousand times throughout the day.

I had a moment the other day when I was in a meeting involving our Managing Director and had pulled my hair out of its bun and was flicking it around my fingers and playing with my hair-tie, and I realised the MD was looking at me strangely.

At which point I finally clicked that Real Adults don't sit there playing with their hair at work. They do their hair, and they leave it like that all day (whether it's in or out).

So now that I'm a nearly-30-year-old I probably need to crank up the Good Hair quest so that I can have hair so good that I neither need to spend time on it in the morning, nor fiddle around with it all day.

I guess Step 1 was dying it red, to give it a bit of inherent oomph.

Step 2 is to get it cut more often (when I got it cut last Friday it was 7 months since the last cut (yes, my ends were disgustingly dead)), and get it cut better.

Step 3 is to stop resting on the adequacy of my satisfactory hair product (a curl crème that is better than all of the previous products I have ever tried, but not great) and seek the holy grail (great curl crème).

Step 4 is to use all the various subtle methods of keeping it moisturised (Bel said to towel dry before using conditioner, I had added to this putting a shower cap on over the conditioner and leaving for at least 4 minutes).

And Step 5 is to stop fiddling with it.

In the meantime, I am challenging myself to go from now to my 30s without a single use of "shove it in a bun".

16 Days Till 30: The Camera

| Posted by Lou | The time is5.53pm here in London UK |

One thing I really, really want to do is figure out how to use my Lomography Diana F+ well. I mean, it does look pretty sitting on my shelves:

but it would also be nice to be able to feel like I did just buy myself an extremely expensive ornament by actually, you know, taking photos with it.

My first attempt resulted in a blank film. Which left me not wanting to use the half-shot film sitting in it further - was it the way I was taking photos? Was it the fact that I loaded it in a mid-lit room?

As 120 is quite expensive to buy and process I don't really want to find myself paying for nothing, or missing great photos because I'm doing it wrong. (The blank film was of the Parthenon and Santorini.)

A colleague has told me that she had the same thing happen and that it is to do with requiring a dark room when loading/ unloading the film. But I'm still paranoid my technique is wrong.

Oh well, only one way to find out... I shall cut my losses and ditch the current film, load in a dark room, tape (as recommended by Bel & Mark), and get myself a private tutorial with aforementioned colleague.

I can figure this out, right?

17 Days Till 30: Cycling

| Posted by Lou | The time is 1.50pm here in London UK |

So as many of you know I don't ride bikes - I did learn when I was younger, but I didn't ever continue after mastering the solo cycle around the block.

Therefore I decided to learn in advance of my 30th birthday.

But you know what - I've changed my mind. Is it really such a big deal not to ride a bike? Even if I did, I wouldn't ever actually do it in London as the traffic is terrifying.

This random picture has only a precarious link to my post -
I just happen to love it and always giggle when I see it.

I can understand people learning to swim as adults* as to me that's a basic safety thing that could one day result in loss of life, but who ever died because they couldn't ride a bike?

So I am scrubbing this off my list and saying that it's okay not to be a bike rider.

*The number of British people who can't swim continues to amaze me.

Bel's morning make-up routine

| Posted by Bel | The time is 4.44pm here in Wellington NZ |


  • Vitamin C Cleansing Face Polish, from The Body Shop
  • Vitamin E SPF 15 Moisture Lotion (Moisture Lotion, people, not just a boring ole moisturiser!!)
  • Aloe Calming Toner, also from The Body Shop
  • Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner spray bottle
This Vitamin C cleanser has been my go-to for years, as it has that gentle gritty exfoliating feel I like and while heavy duty enough to get off all the make-up I never remove before I go to bed, doesn't completely strip out my skin. Thus, I can skip all that fussing late at night and safely know that I will be a panda-free zone by the time I get out of the shower.

I don't really know what the deal is with toner, but after getting in a goodie bag this Dermalogica toner in its handy dandy spray bottle, I was jumping on the bandwagon anyway. It has a delicious smell exactly like a lemonade popsicle and so I would just quickly spray a nice mist across my face and then let it dry off while I did something else like put on deodorant.

When it ran out I figured I'd just rinse it and refill with the other one I'd been ignoring (it came as 'your free gift' with a matching face cream). I'm not sure if my skin is revelling in any particular direct benefits, I'm not very good at noticing things like that, if anything I'd put it down to my moisturiser.

This Vitamin E one from The Body Shop is an absolute favourite. It is very lightweight, so doesn't make me go too greasy.

Plus! It has sunscreen in it. I love knowing that every day I already have a layer of sunscreen on. Lou has mentioned in the comments of a previous blog about how moisturisers with inbuilt sunscreens are The Business.


First up, I don't wear foundation. Never have. (Except for school productions, with a nice layer of Pond's cold cream underneath.) Tinted moisturiser is about as close as I get, but it's tough to find one that also has SPF, so I just rely on my youthful good looks and even skintone instead.

I do like to use concealor, mostly just under my eyes. I've been using a Shisedo one which doubled as a neutral base lightly over my eyelids to help my eyeshadow stay put. But that ran out and I'm too lazy/poor to restock.

  • 'Shimmer Cubes' eyeshadow quad from The Body Shop
  • Black liquid eyeliner, from The Body Shop
  • Make-up brush with synthetic bristles 
A neat little compact with complementary shades is the easiest thing to have around. Revlon do a nice one if you're into cream eyeshadows (easy to smudge on with your finger*, and no worries about dusty bits if you are a fretful contact lens wearer).

These ones above are great because the colour is shimmery without being sparkly and subtle enough for the boring ole office, although blending with a bit of water means you can go for something more dramatic quite quickly.

I use liquid eyeliner to get a dark line on my upper lids, with that cat's eye flick. For some people it is a bit much, but I am too way too obsessed by ladies like this and this and this to give it a rest. I got one of those ladies at a cosmetics counter in a store to show me how, and then it just takes practice. I am literally almost blind out one eye and can still manage to get it on evenly, so don't try your excuses here!

I get my brows and lashes tinted, so I only wear mascara when it is a Special Occasion. Or, you know, if I feel like it.

*If you are using your finger to apply eyeshadows in general, stop. Splash out and get some make-up brushes. Go on. Your make-up will last longer (on your face and in the pot), it's less icky and you will feel a bit posher. But have a heart and buy synthetic bristles. Does a nice woodland boar really need to die for you?

Cheeks and Lips:

  • Powder blush in 'Sweetness' by MAC
  • Chanel Rouge Coco lipstick in 'Gabrielle'

Despite, or perhaps because of, my lack of foundation, tint or bronzer, I am a fan of blush. I think some folks are still freaked out by the 80s connatations, but it is such a simple way to instantly look fresher and even healthier.

This MAC blush has such amazing kapow colour I only need the tiniest bit on my fold-up-able-into-its-own-lid awesome blusher brush. It gives me a ridiculous dollface look. My other blush (yes, folks, I have TWO, how sophisticated) is the also highly recommended Shisedo Colour Stick, which comes as a tube, like a thick lipstick, and is very easy to apply.

My lipstick is a garish red. Why not, I say. There's usually a lip balm rattling around my bag too and I alternate between reapplying the two throughout the day.


You'll have noticed the words 'free' and 'sample' frequently occured when I listed my belongings. That's because that shit is awesome.

I always get put off buying make-up I actually need (see: concealor) because it seems really expensive up front for something so teeny-tiny that only I use.

I forget about what joy everyone gets from the end result (SNORT LAUGH) and that actually it lasts me for ages, so is totally a worthwhile investment. But looking out for when places are doing those 'free gift' deals can actually be a cheaper way of padding out your make-up bag - oh and keep an eye on Trade Me too. There's plenty of brand name stuff on there for much less than you pay in stores.

Okay and that's all the fabulous news I have for now! Goodbye darlings!

18 Days Till 30: Dickwaddery

Posted by Lou The time is 1.20pm here in London UK

I was going to write a post about Hair, for which I took this photo of myself on Friday night, having gotten a haircut during the day:

Notice anything funny about it?

Let me point it out:

Yep, I got home after a few post-work wines and put my hoodie on backwards without actually noticing this fact until about 5 hours later when I went to bed.

What. A. Dickwad.

Now I've talked a lot about things I was to change/ start doing/ stop - but dickwaddery is one that I genuinely want to hold on to forever.

Life would be so boring without being a total dickwad from time to time.

19 Days Till 30: Shopping oaths

| Posted by Lou | The time is 1.40pm here in London UK |

Today with my internet blinking in and out and still without the ability to upload images, I'm going to do a little one:

Shopping oaths for my 30s

  • I must stop buying shoes that don't fit properly/ are hideously uncomfortable.
  • I must stop buying clothes that I'm really not sure about and will probably only wear a couple of times.
  • I must not buy skirts or tops that do not go with anything I own and thus will remain unworn.

I've said these things to myself a million times before, and yet still completely disregard them...

20 Days Till 30: The avoidable topic

| Posted by Lou | The time is 11.45 here in London UK |

I guess with no ability to post images I can stop avoiding the biggest disappointment I've caused myself in the last couple of years, which is my complete lack of follow-through on a promise I made myself 2 years ago.

There was a point in early-2008 where I decided I was not going to do anymore PA jobs as they're a big fat "go nowhere" for a woman in the commercial media organisations (and earn too little to bother in smaller ones). It lasted several months, but then I ran out of money...

I was filling in for someone when they mentioned that a new senior figure was joining the studios arm of the business, so I took it on for 6 weeks. And he and I got along well and he doesn't treat me like a secretary or a moron, and so I took the job long-term. (The money helped in this decision!)

But the compromise I made to myself was that I would get back into scriptwriting, so as to keep myself involved in film (whether literally or just psychologically). I promptly sat down and wrote the first half of a short film that has been running through my mind for years now.

And I haven't touched it since.

The variety of excuses include: I'll wait till I have my own place and can concentrate better (hmm nope no progress since moving into my new place); work is stressful - I'll wait till I can think more clearly (err no nothing changes with the waning tides of work stress); next time I have a free Sunday I'll get it out again (um nah, hasn't happened despite many a carefree Sunday); I'll wait till after summer/ Christmas/ Easter/ [whatever holiday]/ Birthday...

Basically I've just completely lost motivation and can't be fucked.

Now I'm facing potentially having to find a new job (again with the determination of not getting trapped into PA work), and realise what a difference it would make if I had a funded short film script under my belt.

Oh well, there's always my 30s...

21 Days Till 30: Au Naturale

| Posted by Lou | The time is 9.50pm here in London UK |

One thing I am trying to do as a new lifetime habit is completely cut down on commercial cleaning products - be they for the self or the home.

I have for a long time been cutting down completely on what toiletries I use and what is in them. Unfortunately the harsh London winter means that using the barest of natural soaps doesn't work in winter as it would leave me looking like I have exzema of the face, but for 6 months of the year it is one natural bar of soap for face and body.

I'm yet to find a great natural facial moisturiser that will actually combat the death of the skin that the cold is already causing (that doesn't cost a week's salary), so would welcome suggestions. The one I use is a dermalogica - not sure how they rate on earth-friendly measures (how does one find these things out rather than using their own consumer judgement?).

A homemade facial mask that I've discovered which seems to go some way towards combatting it is this (you MUST try it - it leaves the skin feeling so lovely and soft):

A big dollop of greek yogurt
A swig of vodka

Mix them together, pat onto face, leave to 25 mins, and rinse.

(I find it much more convenient to do this before getting in the shower as it's not exactly easy to wash off!)

Another homemade product I've been loving is a good old sugar scrub:

Brown sugar
Olive Oil

No precise measures, but use a pile of sugar, put the olive oil in till it feels like the right consistency, and then mix in a teaspoon/ tablespoon of honey - put in a sealed container it keeps for ages. Rub on body in circular motions, and after the shower pat dry to allow the oil to stay on the skin and keep in moisture.

Would love to hear of any homemade natural products any of you use!

In terms of home cleaning, I have for a long while used only recycled/ sustainable bamboo toilet paper, and earth-friendly cleaners. I'm adding to this by trying to use as little as possible of them - let's just say I'm not in danger of clogging a toilet with a massive bunch of toilet paper, and I do not need to buy cleaners very often.

I will actually confess that as I live by myself now I've taken this to the extent of just indulging my reluctance to clean floors. In 2.5 months in the flat I've mopped them once, using a solution of vinegar and water. The rest of the time I just sweep, and if it's good enough for me...

Something I'm struggling with is my recycling - I recycle a LOT. But not in a good way - the amount I recycle highlights how much plastic and cardboard and glass I use without even be home very much. (I have a lot more recycling than I do rubbish.) This is even with never putting fruit and veg into plastic but rather throwing them all into a reusable cotton bag together.

Anyway - suggestions on other things I can do please!

*apologies for the lack of images to jazz this up - my laptop won't upload them grrr*

22 Days Till 30: Outfits of my (late-)20s

| Posted by Lou | The time is 11.30am here in London UK |

Lotte has requested outfits of my 20s, which due to the availability of photos I have limited to:

Outfits of my late-20s*

*captured terribly in an eclectic series of photos

(My early-20s can be summed up as: a bit shit.)

Let's start with one from New Zealand, the classic bright-red wrap cardigan that both Bel and I were the proud owner of (she bought it first, I do admit), and which I wore ALL THE TIME:

Okay so you can't really see the cardy... I just like this pic :)
I do still have it - it has a few holes in it but I still bust it out from time to time.

Here is my first classic London outfit - red trench-coat with grey tights. The trench-coat was donated to charity last winter as - though I love the idea of it - in practise it was too thin for a cold day, too warm for a not-quite-so-cold day, and absolutely useless in the rain:

This pic was taken on my 26th birthday, coincidentally.

Coloured tights are the archetypical look for me in the colder months of the year. I was actually known by our Managing Director for a time as "the girl with the bright red tights". Another classic were these green ones, which had a sad death in Brussels when I found myself having lost the elasticity of the waist to the point of having to ditch them in a museum bathroom and walk around bare-legged in 0 degrees weather till we made it back to the hotel:

These cobblestones are of the Dublin variety.

Another key winter item was this grey coat, which I picked up in a cheap high street store. The waist band was perfectly placed and the grey was just right. Sadly, it didn't survive past winter 2009, and though I searched far and wide I never found a replacement in a similar style:

Visiting Corrie

Lotte specifically asked for more pics of The Deer Dress, the most popular and loved item of my 20s. It is now cut down to scraps of fabric to be turned into a Mini Deer Dress for wee Rata. This pic captures it at the beginning of what was to become the greatest clothing crisis of my life - here I am in business class flying to Cairo after 30 hours trapped in Rome, little knowing that I would arrive to no luggage, left to trek around Egypt with just this dress, a pair of black jeans, a black t-shirt, and a grey top:

Though it wasn't the most convenient item of clothing to be stuck with,
I'm pleased that The Deer Dress got to experience luxury before being ditched.
N.B: I do not travel business class - it was part of the airline's attempts to get us to our destination.

My current most-commented-on dress is this Russian doll number (bought from the same shop as The Deer Dress (Joy)). I don't seem to have any full lengths, so here is the top and bottom separately, also providing an excuse to include my cute li'l niece:

Margaritas in Miami

A reluctant Easter Bunny...

This is my current key item - the Tara Starlet dress, of which I have two in the same style. (The other is navy blue with white dots.) This is the "fuck, what am I going to wear??!" dress as it seems to work for most occasions:

This is me and a colleague doing a choreographed
dance routine in the MD's office (he was not present).
But... what's with my facial expression?!

Future key clothing items to look out for include this coat by the Mad Men costumier, which shall hereforth be called my "Joan Coat". I would show a photo of me wearing it, but apparently their sizing is nuts and the medium that arrived yesterday is a gazillion sizes too big for me:

It is reversible (brown on other side), but I'll be sticking to teal

And there you have it!

24 Days Till 30: If I could have My 30th Birthday in any other Time/Era...

| Posted by Lou | The time is 5.00pm here in London UK |

I feel like you and I and everyone else know the answer to Bel's question:

If I could have My 30th Birthday in any other Time/Era...

Instead of having a Beatles-themed birthday party, I would be having an authentic Beatles birthday party by casting myself back 49 years to Liverpool 1961*.

Alcohol features quite pleasingly in this photo

Liverpool on the 12th November 1961 would have been cold and miserably rainy, but we'd clomp down the cobblestoned street (our bouffant hair protected by plastic shawls) to The Cavern...

10 Mathew Street

...and find ourselves in the overwhelming heat of an underground space filled to the brim with not-yet-manic fans of an emerging band...

This photo was apparently taken on 8th December 1961 - close enough!

...and have the night of our lives.

Artist's impression of Lou gazing adoringly at John from the front row

*Ah, it would be so much nicer to just be able to say "50 years ago today..." but alas they weren't yet The Beatles.

25 Days Till 30: I Will Be This _____ Kind of Old Woman

| Posted by Lou | The time is 1.34pm here in London UK |

Bel asks what kind of old woman I will be.

Well, I think we all know that I'll be a pervy old lady who keeps cats and stomps her walking stick on the verandah at the troublesome neighbourhood youths.

And I'll probably look like this while doing it:

Yes, that is me (aged 23). This was the last Christmas with Grandma.

Whilst my Grandma was probably more likely to comment on the loveliness of the neighbourhood kids and give them baked treats, she did embody some traits I am sure I will inherit: finding one's own self funnier than anyone else does (or than you find anyone else); persisting in eating cakes and lollies despite your doctor telling you not to; and insisting that all positive qualities shown in Grandchildren were directly and solely passed down by your own genetics, most particularly intelligence.

I'll probably also still be emailing Bel 5 times a day, swearing a lot, and drinking too much.

26 Days Till 30: New habits

| Posted by Lou | The time is 9.00am here in London UK |

I'm trying to form some new habits for a new decade, which is much easier said than done with even remembering to watch Mad Men on Wednesday nights stretching me to the limits of my habitualness. No harm in trying though...


Ah, the big one that we all wrest with periodically. I've accepted that I need to do more exercise, and also need to deal with my sore and damaged shoulders. Taking into account the limits - lack of any clothing, shoes or equipment; and apathy that would stop me actually going somewhere in order to do the exercise - I settled on home pilates rather than the more popular "join a gym and pay for a year but go for a month" trick.

The first attempt was spectacularly unsuccessful - 3.5 minutes into a 10 minute "body blast" routine I was staring at the television going "what. the. fuck." as the instructor lifted her feet back over her head. So I took it back a step and started with Pilates for Dummies. Which is now of course too basic...

Basically the current idea is to make myself do the latter (a 40 min routine that is more like a cardio workout) at least once a week, and then the 10 minutes routines (particularly the shoulders one) 4 times per week.

Week one went well, exceeding my target. Week two was on target. Last week was absolutely terrible. And I haven't done any yet this weekend. Um. Might go do some right now...


I've been saying for probably about a decade that I'm going to learn to play the guitar. For the past 4 years or so it has been talk of the more realistic task of getting and learning to play the ukulele. And interspersed throughout that whole time has been the idea of taking singing lessons.

30 is going to be the year that I finally get in touch with some form of musicality in my life, whether it be the ukulele or singing or both or something else. Coz watching X Factor doesn't really count, does it?


I hate getting out of bed. As I have confessed before, I am very rarely ever on time to work. I've been trying hard though lately and have actually managed to get to work on time on multiple occasions. A slight problem though in that Friday was the first morning that the cold winter feeling of never wanting to get out of bed hit. But I'm going to keep at it...

Fitting in with this is that in the morning I generally am running so late that I just grab a pair of earrings and make absolutely no other effort to accessorise, I just shove my hair into a bun for the tube, and vary make-up only between black or blue eye-liner. Perhaps it might be time to start mixing it up a little (oooh). Ideas welcome!

28 Days Till 30: Places I really want to go to next year

| Posted by Lou | The time is 11.59pm here in London UK |

Moscow & St Petersburg - this was almost my 30th birthday trip but didn't work out. I think if I was given the "one place to go before you die" choice this would be it so it is going to take on Top Priority next year. Unfortunately it's not the sort of place you can go by yourself (or even as a twosome) so is dependent on others' availability.

Berlin - only a small hop away so hopefully can slip into a weekend next year. It's sort of a weird place though - known for its cultural and social craziness; but also the source of one of the most harrowing chapters of human history. Do you try and combine the two, or does it require a depressing historical trip and an awesome party trip separately?

Vancouver - sigh, unfortunately just far enough away that it turns it into a relatively major trip which has meant it hasn't fitted into my life yet. But as I have a friend with a big house and a pool maybe it can go into next summer...

A Greek Island - I loved being in Santorini and having nothing to do but soak in the sun and hang out at the beach, so am going to make a repeat trip to one of the other islands a big summer priority.

Amsterdam - I can't believe I haven't been to Amsterdam. It's so close and so cheap to get to and has such easy and obvious things to do once you get there... but as an acquaintance just moved there it might give me that extra impetus to make it...

And of course:
New Zealand! - Yes, I'll be on a whirlwind visit late-Feb to early-Mar :) The whirlwind an attempt to allow more time for the above...

29 Days Till 30: What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up When I Was Little

| Posted by Lou | The time is 11.52am here in London UK |

Today is a suggested topic from Bel:

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up When I Was Little

(That syntax makes my brain hurt (in a good way (sort of like how a series of brackets does (like these ones))).)

A Pikelet Maker

My earliest memories of thinking about what I would be when I grew up are of wanting to be a Pikelet Maker. Yes, a Pikelet Maker.

Fluffy, golden, smothered in jam and cream. Perfection.

When I was growing up we would go visit Grandma and Granddad on The Farm (of which you have seen the last remaining remnant of the family homestead in this post), often stopping at The Winton Bakery to pick up Joy Boys [aka The Taste of Childhood] and other delights. I would climb up on the ledge and gaze adoringly at the baked goods, therein planting the seeds of a lifetime appreciate of the art of baking.

This is not a Joy Boy, but the closest I could find. (NB: never google
image search "joy boy". Especially not at work.) A Joy Boy is two
little round lamingtons (not a bigger one cut in half as above),
sandwiched around The Winton Bakery's version of clotted cream
(sweet and surely laden with crack judging by its addictive nature).

The pikelet maker part came specifically from the extreme fun of making pikelets with Grandma. I have absolutely no idea whether this was a frequent experience or something we did once or twice [like making plastic bag kites that we stuck out the windows of the car on the way to the tip as we all sang "to the dump! to the dump! to the dump!"] as it is one of my very earliest precious shreds of memory (I think we are talking age 4 or thereabouts). But I do specifically recall making pikelets on a huge old fashioned gridle [oh what I would do to have that gridle now!] out front of the house, something I was never quite able to figure out in later years as I'm not exactly sure what was heating it.

Whereever, however, the fact is that I retain a great fondness for pikelets and must have picked up a bit of skill as I am still a dab hand and making them and their European and American siblings.

The Corporate/ Lawyer/ Sociologist/ Geographer

There was then a phase in my teens when I made my first became aware of the gender inequality within society and made my first attempts at grasping feminism. This involved a misguided conviction that girl power meant beating the boys at their own game, and thus I envisioned myself as some corporate high-flyer perhaps resembling this:

The social conscience then set in and the dream became of being a crusader for justice: Louise the Defence Lawyer, fighting for those wrongly accused of murder. The social conscience blended with an interest in society and I toyed with sociology and geography, eventually going to university to do a double degree in law and social sciences. During Law School the reality hit that being a Lawyer involves years of tedious research and minutiae of detail, and being a Defence Lawyer primarily involves Bad Guys. (How could I defend a rapist?) And as Introduction to Sociology was a waste of time and money I dropped out of both, shifting instead to Management School.

At which point the TV2s Awards launched and I returned to one of my more fundamental dreams...

The Filmmaker

At school I used to come up with ideas for short films and mini screen vignettes (I believe I had read something about "Z Spots" - 60 second films). They were usually based on a witty-one-liner style of story-telling (something I now hate when I see it in funded short films as it is such a fundamentally amateur and unsophisticated form).

So a couple of successful entries in the TV2s Awards later and I learned that this could actually be a career option and stuffed my Management Degree into the bottom of my suitcase, moving to Wellington to seek my way in the world of film...

30 Days Till 30 : Work

| Posted by Lou | The time is 12:40pm here in London UK |

Work, my career (or lack of), and the workplace are all things I've talked about before in-depth (particularly on my old blog).

This one is in the category of Things I Have Learned and takes the form of the golden rule that you all must learn and live by (if you don't already (which I hope you already do)).

Are you listening? Here it is:

You must stand up for yourself.

Even if you have the bestest boss in the world, even if you're buddies with your co-workers, even if you think your workplace is great: ultimately you are the only one who actually cares.

This goes for salary, job titles, promotions, or even just your everyday working conditions.

Me, standing up for myself at work
(okay it's Joan)

Such a simple thing but a lot of people (including myself) have a lot of trouble getting past the barrier of feeling like it's pushy/ demanding/ selfish/ arrogant/ etc. It's not, and you probably think that because you're probably a woman and you've probably spent the past [insert age here] years being taught to be "nice".

The reason this one is my first post is that it is top of my mind at the moment having yesterday practised what I preach and laid down the law to my boss demanding recognition and salary for What I Actually Do. The outcome is a commitment from him to see that it happens. (Watch this space!)

My advice is to know your rights in the situation, have evidence to support what you are saying, have a clear end result in mind, get to the point, and speak with confidence. Oh, and don't take no for an answer.

30 Days Till 30

| Posted by Lou | The time is 12.10pm here in London UK |

30 days stand between me and my 30s, so I thought I'd continue on the 30 Days of Me habit and do a post per day, this time setting my own subjects.

They will range from lifestyle changes I am making (or trying to make), things I want to do between now and 30, things I want to do post-30, things I'm leaving behind as I get older, random thoughts, whinging about the signs of ageing, etc.

Requests welcome from all you youngsters out there for whom the 30s are a distant nightmare...

The NZ doctors that don't trust women

| Posted by Bel | The time is 4.32pm here in Wellington NZ |

A commenter on this recent post brought up the issue of when a doctor makes a judgement call, rather than giving medical advice.

Patients are in a vulnerable position when they enter a doctor's clinic, whether it be for the 'flu or a pregnancy scare, or a weird spotty rash that came up after gardening. It's our own bodies doing something we don't really understand and we're relying on someone else to tell us what to do next. Doctors are in such a position of authority, and we have to trust that all their years of training, and ability to pronounce the labels on prescription bottles, means that they have our best interests at heart.

There are times when a doctor's own interests overrule though. Rather than presenting a patient with the most relevant medical options for their situation, they may withhold information or services because of their own judgements. Not professional ones, but personal.

Storytime, folks: I went to my doctor to get the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP, or "morning after pill"). Yes, I know, you can get it at most pharmacies, sometimes even for free (although only recently in some regions, such as the Manawatu, where it has been SPOILER ALERT hugely popular).

But I am on medication for epilepsy and that messes with all kinds of other drugs, even just simple stuff like that panadol with caffiene in. Same as how plenty of anti-depressants can't be mixed and matched with just anything off the shelf.

Anyway, I decide to be comprehensive in my paranoia and make the doctor's appointment. It turns out to be a locum (what is with them, Valleygurl??) and after explaining why I'm there (*blush*), have her tell me that she won't prescribe me the contraceptive. Because of her morals. Which apply to her. But she decided that in this case, they also applied to me. And the medical services that I needed. She told me I should go elsewhere and suggested a nearby pharmacy that would be likely to prescribe the ECP. I wasn't charged for the appointment.

The Medical Council of New Zealand is revising their guidelines to ensure that patients are not caught up in doctors' personal conflicts. Earlier this year, it specifically revised its standards for doctors, a guide called "Good Medical Practice", to state that women who come to a doctor expressing doubt about continuing with a pregnancy must be given objective information on all available options - regardless of what your own beliefs are on the matter. If your personal judgement call is not in support of her choice, you still must act as a professional and inform her of her medical service options.

It's on page 4 of this pdf entitled "Beliefs and Medical Practice" if you want to read it yourself.

This level-headed and pragmatic approach to a sensitive situation has, of course, been trashed by the conservative anti-choice camp. But most scarily, it is doctors themselves that are against these guidelines. A High Court application was filed for a review of the standards, so that doctors could, on grounds of conscience, could not just refuse to prescribe contraceptives or referrals for abortions, but also withhold any information or advice on the subject.

The NZ Herald states that one of the doctors involved in this is Dr Mary English. As in, wife of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bill English. Great. Chances of this group of over-opininated retrogrades having influence at a high level of government, then...? Ughhh.

Mrs & Mr English, looking glam, plotting to take over your uterus.

If you have not yet had your fill of fun pro-choice reading, then check out Boganette's recent post, triggering an email stating: "I saw your comment and how can you be pro-abortion? Your infertile. Doesn't that make you not want abortions?" (And high five for the Handmaid's Tale reference. I just read that book and DAMN it's good.)

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 30

Posted by Bel. The time is 5.21pm here in Wellington NZ

Your favorite song

"Glory Box" by Portishead, from their debut album Dummy.

This live version is pretty chill-giving:

I first heard the song in the movie When The Cat's Away, which is directed by Cédric Klapisch. When I was young, my mum used to take me along to the movies with her whenever something interesting was screening. The 'film festival' proper never made it to our hick town, but some arthouse releases did occasionally, and it felt like such a treat to 1) be chosen by my mum to go along with her to such a distinctly adult event and 2) watch films that I was pretty darn sure were Not Appropriate For My Age.

When The Cat's Away is one such example. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was my introduction to a French director whose work I would come to love (The Spanish Apartment, Paris, etc - sorry, Lou, I know you don't care) and an actor who I was one day destined to marry and have super cute Frenchie babies with...

He will be mine... Oh, yes - he will be mine...

Less than a few years later, my longest-known friend Jane, who had been and gone and lived in England and returned, was very much established as the understated bastion of cool. She disappeared off to Wellington (THE FAR AND DISTANT LAND OF) one weekend for a "gig". This was not something we did. I've already covered how one of the subversive acts of my younger years was going to the cinema with my mother, right??

Anyway, Jane is back at school on Monday morning, cooler than ever and still not aware of it, and she is nice enough to lend me the CD of the band she went to see. It is, of course, Portishead, and I do, of course, spend the rest of my life kicking myself for never again having the chance to see them live.*

She also did pretty much the same thing with Radiohead. I have not felt such shame until I found out my "beloved" (I hated him for quite a while for this) saw Nirvana live.

*Portishead are infamous for being wary of performing live and toured minimally before breaking up. They reformed like 10 years later, just recently, releasing what has to be one of the most hyped and most disappointed albums I have ever experienced.

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 30

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.00am here in London UK.

Your favorite song

Yikes! As if I can answer that singularly... Instead here are a few songs I love:

A Day in the Life - by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
If pushed I would probably have to name this as my favourite song. It says so much about The Beatles, about John and Paul specifically, and about fantastic song-writing.

Falling Slowly - by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (from the film Once)
Not only do I looooove this song, but I love that these two totally unexpectedly won an Oscar for it in one of the best decisions against the commercialisation of film music ever.

Here is them performing it on Irish TV after the victory - even sitting on a talk show sofa they manage to infuse it with beauty and emotion:

Moon River - by Frank Sinatra
I adore Sinatra's version of this song - his voice is like heaven.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps - by George Harrison

The version of this song on the Beatles Love album is stunning.

On My Own - from Les Miserables
I had to have a song from a musical on this list, and this one wins for being the one I most covet having the talent to be able to perform.

This version by Lea Salonga at the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary concert is hands-down the best version out there:

30 Days of Me: Lou's Day 29

Posted by Lou. The time is 3.30pm here in London UK.

In this past month, what have you learned

  • That Roger Sterling - aka John Slattery - also directs for Mad Men. Talented guy.

  • That my HR file contains absolutely nothing about the additional responsibility I've been doing for the past 2 years and I am thus fucked if/ when I find myself out of a job.
  • I am thus also a total walk-over who has let myself be shat on repeatedly by this company.
  • But that have a Partner-in-a-law-firm amongst your list of friends is very handy indeed for such situations.
  • Will Shuester - aka Matthew Morrison - from Glee is dating Kelly Brook.
  • Seeing Colm Wilkinson sing Bring Him Home in person is even more emotional than you would have imagine.

  • Lea Salonga singing I Dreamed A Dream can stun 20,000 people into complete silence.
  • The weekend bar-staff at Concrete make the cocktails a lot more potently than the weeknight staff.
  • TVNZ is despicably and inexcusably crap at dealing with racism.

30 Days of Me: Bel's Day 29

Posted by Bel. The time is 4.20pm here in Wellington NZ

In this past month, what have you learned

  • Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty are brother and sister.
  • That the leading cause of death worldwide for women aged 15 - 19 years is pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Tasty Cheese Corn Thins actually taste like tasty cheese. Or, you know, tasty cheese flavoured flavouring. But it's one of those authentic flavouring flavours. Not like the way that banana flavouring ever is.
  • That a group of protesters starting up chanting "Hey mister mister - keep your laws - off my sister" will successfully get rid of a man who has been persistently haranguing women holding placards, despite them insisting there's no point in "talking" if he's not interested in listening to their point of view. More photos here.
  • At my gym assessment, they told me I had lost 1kg this month. But don't worry! I lost my hairdryer and it turned out it was just in the bag with all the cleaning products that we hadn't unpacked, so chances are it won't stay lost.
  • 60% of purchases made at Hallensteins are made by women.
  • Boardwalk Empire was created by the guy who wrote pretty much my favourite episode of The Sopranos (other than the pilot), the one when they fuck up killing the guy and get stuck in the snow and have to eat the ketchup sachets and Paulie moans for like an hour.
  • I'm married to someone who doesn't like spring onion.
  • Internet Explorer now has less than 50% of the market share for internet browsers for the first time; gaining ground is Chrome and Firefox apparently.
  • Babies get born when they wanna. This is not usually on a schedule convenient to anyone else. I know the whole 'too posh to push' 'calendared caesarean' thing has copped a lot of flack, but SHEESH what else are we supposed to do?? Just sit around and WAIT for those little tyrants?!
  • The Coen Brothers' new movie looks awesome:
  • My 10 year old stepdaughter googles me.
  • Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are playing the Opera House in December. I will BE! THERE! BABY! Second row from the front even. (Then I will run out of my seat to right in front of the stage and block the view of those suckas in the front row MUAHAHAHAAA)
  • "You don't have to keep something just because someone gave it to you". So liberating.