Olympic Torch

Day 63 was our day for the Olympic Torch Relay. Crowds gathered and lined the streets eagerly, way before the proposed time. I hadn’t anticipated this whilst trying to find a parking space and for some idiotic reason, I decided to drive through the Olympic Torch route. The crowds cheered as I drove along; I was embarrassed for the most part, though I did feel somewhat famous.

I eventually parked and raced towards the crowds to find a spot near the front. There was good atmosphere and I got into the spirit of things, which must be quite something considering I am rarely over enthused about things like this especially since I found out that there are more than one Olympic Torch. As I expected, DS went crazy over the police motorbikes.

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All in all, it was good experience and one to add on the list of things I’ve seen and done. It’s a bit of a shame that my hometown has made another embarrassing mention in the papers, though it’s not much of a shock. Gravesend, how low can you go?

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Clocking in.

I think it is extraordinary as we turn back our clocks to gain an hour, internationally they are none the wiser. We all live on time in accordance to our country, and obviously the sun, without thinking too much of it. In some countries the time is not altered at all.

As DS is now a bouncing toddler and his routine is a little more flexible, the clocks have not really affected him. Waking at 6:30AM new time meant that his normal routine could be maintained, as he would usually wake at 5:30AM anyway. I remember the last time we had to change the clocks the lead up was very different. We would adjust meal times by fifteen minutes each go and slowly pushing back naps. An hour is nothing to an adult, but to a baby it probably equates to half a day; their tiny brain can only handle so much activity.

All this messing about with time, who does it actually benefit? In the days of yore the farmers could utilise the extra hour of sunshine in the summer and sleep in during the dark months of winter. This of course is translated into modern day utilisation, where childless individuals can get that extra hour of sleep. But for the rest of us who have reproduced, and there are a lot of us, it is just a prolonged day with tiresome little rascals.

I do miss those baby baby days, this baby toddler is growing up way too fast.

Succumbing to Winter.

17th October – the day I succumbed to winter and switched on my central heating. I am quite frugal when it comes to the essentials, odd I know, which is why I have waited for DH to start moaning before the big switch on. Men usually keep their moans to themselves, so this was a sure sign that it is pretty damn cold.

Sitting with one layer of clothing on, in a room that appears to be quite toasty, is an unusual but pleasant feeling for me. I feel slightly naked without a jumper and my trousers tucked into my socks. I know this won’t last long as the warmth will dissipate as the cold sets in for the night. I have timed the heating to only last a few hours in the mornings and evenings, which leaves a large chunk of the day particularly chilling.

I refuse to have the heating on during the day in fear of the cost of our bills, even on the weekends. I know they won’t be nearly as extortionate as our old flat (no gas, pure electricity) where we had to pay £150 a month direct debit, which barely chipped away at our overall bill. But of course I still worry with the rising cost of everything nowadays.

David Cameron’s pathetic attempt to ‘urge households to cut their energy bills‘ illustrates exactly how out of touch his government is with reality. I do not own my home, therefore I have no control over the insulation, the type of boiler I use or my energy provider, and I already pay my bills by direct debit; what more would you suggest for me, Mr Cameron? It is not a leaflet with top tips on how to save money that would help households, but actually taking control and stopping the ridiculous rate of inflation.

I have grown tiresome of forking out way more than the rate of inflation for petrol, food, transport, rent, energy and childcare. Squeezed middle? What a fucking understatement.

Fur-get It.

Since forever, animal rights has been hot on the press. As a nation obsessed with pets, we hold animals in very high regard. It is probably why the whole cat in the wheelie bin thing was so outrageous and why Victoria Beckham is receiving no praise for her crocodile handbag.

What intrigues me the most is the ethical debate one undertakes before deciding their position on the matter. If one goes through it at all. Can it really be that wrong to wear an animal, if you would happily eat it anyway? Understandably the logical answer would be that fur is not a necessity, so we should not kill for the sake of fashion. But if I was to wear an animal I knew had died before it was skinned, you would most probably still find that distasteful.

Others opt for a preferential argument, in that they would contentedly wear cows (as they would be eaten anyway), but of course not their beloved animal Mr kangaroo; regardless that kangaroos would also be killed for meat. Can we really feel so strongly about animal cruelty only to selective animals? Should they not all equally have a piece of our sympathy? Of course it would be difficult to care for everything in equal measures; I certainly do not hold that much compassion in me. However on such a broad subject as animal rights, unless you are campaigning for a particular cause, it seems ludicrous to rank your ethics.

It appears individuals rank their ethics quite often, almost unknowingly. I may be obsessive over recycling anything and everything I can get my paws on, but this does not mean I am favouring the environment over the poor child in Asia who spends 18 hours a day sifting through dirt. The consequence of being a do-gooder does not always win all round and I have no qualms admitting that.

Taking us back to the animal rights example, if one was to buy a variation of an animal product for the greater good, one could consequently be condoning exploitation of workers in factories. Surely if such a statement is to be made, one should not give preference to animals over human beings?

Often these are not choices for us to make, it takes too much thinking and research for a normal day. I cannot be sure if I have killed any animals, exploited any workers, caused any heartache or aggro, when I am suckered into the world of consumerism. I can be sure that I will remain impartial, detach myself from the pictures of slaughtered animals to the meat on my plate. The struggling families working for a penny an hour are oceans away, but I will still watch the programmes, screw up my face and feel uneasy by what I see. But then I will get on with my day, save the preaching, because it is not like I give to charity or would actively help anyway.

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo..

I wish all our trains were this happy.

In recent weeks I have joined our daily commuters in the not-so-adventurous journey into London. I get the high speed train which takes me into St Pancras in shockingly 25 minutes, which is a very expensive alternative to avoiding a 1.5 hour journey on the slower Charing Cross train, to only get the tube to the other side of London. I must say, commuting has become a rather pleasant and, dare I say it, relaxing experience on the high speed. You rarely find a group of loud obnoxious teenagers hogging up all the seats and drunks are pretty much unheard of. I guess they would rather spend the extra dosh on a few more tins and get the peasant wagon.

Not to be classist or defamatory to people who get the Charing Cross train, I mean, my husband gets it for gods sake. Realistically though, the drunks and yobs are not willing to pay more for the same vandalism they can cause on a ‘cheaper’ train. I use the term ‘cheap’ lightly, because we all know how ridiculously expensive both trains have become. The Charing Cross train takes an hour to reach its destination, and with an annual season ticket, it will set you back £3,380. The St Pancras International high speed train is a comfortable 25 minutes, for an even pricier £4,368 with an annual season ticket. Isn’t it ironic that the longer you are on the train for, the less you pay; for an extra £988 you can pay to not be on the train.

And yet we factor in the losses because our time is so precious to us, we would rather pay to retain few more minutes of our lives. The train has become a rich man’s toy, leaving the rest of us in deficit. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The Luxuries in Life.

The costly expense of childcare and how many families are suffering as a result, hit our screens as breaking news last week. I did not need a study and some arbitrary statistic to tell me sending DS to nursery is expensive, I just have to review my finances.

This is hardly breaking news; I could have told you last week, last month and I can tell you today, that families are feeling the crunch. There were once a time when being a housewife and a kept woman was seen as a privilege. You did not need to work because your husband could support the family on a single income, so you would spend your days shopping, baking cakes and reading classic stories to the children. You would consider yourself as lucky to be in such a position and dismiss the world accordingly for an afternoon episode of Loose Women.

Nowadays, being a housewife is probably cheaper on the whole for families. It is ludicrous to think the expense of working makes getting a job not worthwhile; surely having a duel income should better your family financially, rather than be a hinderance? Childcare has become a luxury and exclusive to those families who can pay.

The Guardian states, ‘for four out of 10 families the cost of childcare is on a par with mortgage or rent payments’; on par is probably your limits, because you would not pay more for childcare than the cost of your home. But the reality is, if DS was to attend nursery full-time five days a week, it would set us back £835 a month. The average cost of a two bedroom property in Gravesend is somewhere between £650 – £800 a month, do the math. Fortunately DS only goes to nursery three days a week, but the cost is still excessively high for not much return.

The cost of a commute (be it trains or topping up on petrol) has drastically risen over the past few years, coupled with the increase in rent/mortgage repayments, electricity, food, childcare, the list goes on. With stagnant salaries, low wages and pay freezes, how is the average family going to survive in the long-run, Mr Cameron?

When East meets Westfield.

After counting down the days for two years, Westfield Stratford City finally opened it’s doors to public yesterday. Needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic. I ventured down after work arriving at around 5:30pm (yes, high speed is FAST). It was chaotic, as I anticipated, with people shuffling through the crowds, some deciding to randomly stop and loiter before shuffling some more. There were an assortment of people, but mainly young locals who had decided to stop by after school for a gander, not really intending on buying anything (hence the loiters). I presume the real hardcore shoppers were there at early doors.

The shops themselves were eerily quiet; the sales assistants were folding clothes with a bored expression on their face as if it was just another day. Obviously with the exception of Primark, which was manic. Strangely the clothes were not sprawled across the floor, as you would find in pretty much every other Primark in the country; a big well done to the sales assistants, that must have been hard to maintain for the full 12 hours they were open.

A not so big well done to the sales assistants in Forever 21, particularly one (I did not catch her name, let’s call her Jane) who was very rude to me. Approaching the fitting rooms with my five items, the assistant led me and another customer to our rooms. Whilst I was following, Jane grabbed me by the arm and stopped me in my tracks. She asked me rather flatly whether I had a ticket, so I informed her the other sales assistant had told me to follow. Disbelievingly, she said ‘but the other customer is with her‘, to which I responded ‘and so am I‘. The other sales assistant turned around and pointed to my cubicle and Jane strutted off without an apology. What a way to start your first day.

Another amusing experience in Forever 21 happened whilst I was browsing. A lady asked me, ‘which top do you prefer?‘. One was bright orange and sparkly, the other was black and equally as sparkly. I responded with the black top, which obviously was an insufficient answer as she pursued in asking another three times. Her reason for this persistence being, ‘you can always trust a Chinese opinion‘. Now I do not wave the racist flag very often and this was a very light-hearted comment, however I found it odd given the circumstance. Imagine if I said the same to her, ‘you can always trust the opinion of a black lady‘. That would be outrageous!

Shaking my head and brushing the awkward conversation aside, I attempted to contact a friend I was meant to be meeting. I quickly discovered that there was not one place in the centre where I could receive a signal on my phone. After attempting to call various people, I went to seek help from the concierge desk. The manager was incredibly helpful and offered me her phone to contact my friend. I could not get through as she was also in the centre and was clearly having the same issues. After attempting to call numerous times to no avail, I shuffled along to Carphone Warehouse to see if they had knowledge of any network problems. The nice, very East London, sales assistant was aware of the issue and informed me that it had been ’13 hours man’ since she last got a text.

At that point I decided to give up on my shopping venture and head back home. Sadly I did not meet the friend in the end, but all in all, my experience was positively interesting. The centre boasts of everything a shopper might want; you have the mainstream stores for a bit of stability and a selection of independent ones to throw in the mix. It is shiny and spacious, the shops are strategically categorised together and you feel at ease. Amazingly Westfield is only a 20 minute train ride for me, so I will definitely be heading back there very soon. Bluewater was once my love, but alas, I have found better…