Be Kind For A Month – Posted A Penguin

Oct 22 2014

Once again, I didn’t get to the post office before it shut and then kind of forgot about the Be Kind thing until 11pm, so I posted a pic of a penguin on my friend Helen’s Facebook wall, because she likes penguins.

Baby-penguin

The note I left sellotaped to the bus stop on Tuesday had finally gone (it had been there all day – I know this because I kept looking out the window through my binoculars like a weirdo, checking up on it). I’m hoping one of the schoolchildren picked it up in the morning when they were waiting for their bus and drew a penis on it (the note, not the bus – although that would be funny, especially if they did it on the windscreen, right above the driver’s head), like we would have done in my day and didn’t just say ‘lol’, then chuck it on the floor.

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Be Kind For A Month – Left A Note At The Bus Stop

Oct 21 2014

I woke up with a plan in my head for today’s Be Kind thing but that plan was scuppered before it was even eight o’clock in the morning, dammit. Still, that didn’t let me off the kindness hook, especially as I haven’t been kind for two days because, as I said in my previous post, I had food poisoning all day Sunday and wasn’t up to much yesterday, either. But I’m all better now and decided to leave a little note at the bus stop for someone to find. Originally, I was going to write that I hoped they were having a nice day but then I thought, what if they were having a really shit day or they were on the way to a funeral or something? The note might really piss them off then along the lines of wanting to punch people who say, ‘Cheer up, it might never happen’ when something actually has just happened and you have no intention of cheering up, especially just because some wanker in the street told you to.

So, I kind of hedged my bets and wrote something in between and hoped it came across neutral and didn’t provoke anyone into finding me and punching me.

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note

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I’m beginning to feel like the Banksy of Kindness, leaving all these anonymous notes around. Well, I say ‘all’; what I mean is, ‘two so far’.

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Be Kind For A Month – Took Brownies To The Pub

Oct 18 2014

No, not these kinds of Brownies,

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but these kinds of brownies.

chocolate-brownies

 

Yes, I took some homemade chocolate brownies to the pub and very well they were received, too. Look at the happy smiley I’ve-got-brownies-yum face.

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t be kind on Sunday or Monday because I had food poisoning. And no, it wasn’t because of the brownies. Cheek.

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Be Kind For A Month – Gave Clothes To Charity

Oct 17 2014

My wardrobes – like most people’s I would imagine – are bursting with clothes I either a) have never worn; b) haven’t worn for years; or c) can’t fit into any more. In fact, on seeing some of the clothes I pulled out of my wardrobes today I wondered how I ever managed to squeeze into them in the first place. Was I really the size of a five-year-old, five years ago? I had a good sort through and got a bundle together to give to a local charity shop. There were clothes I was sorry to see go (dresses I like but would feel too muttony in), clothes I’d worn once and wouldn’t wear again (dresses from Jigsaw and Bench), clothes I have no intention of wearing again (a suit and ‘officey’ type trousers) and various other items.

charity-clothes

But which charity shop to take them to? I’m fussy about my charity shops – any that fund animal testing are definitely off my list, so I walked past the Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation shops and went straight to the PDSA shop; partly because, you know… animals… and partly because the last time I took clothes in there to donate, the old lady behind the till was so grateful you’d have thought I’d just changed my name to Noah and personally saved not just two of each animal but every single animal in the world.

Then I had a dilemma. The PDSA shop was shut for refurbishment (my cast offs had obviously made them a lot of money) and was empty except for a man cleaning the shiny new wooden floor. The sign on the door said it was re-opening tomorrow but I couldn’t see how unless they were planning to put all the furniture and stock back overnight but, still, I wasn’t going to lug all the clothes back home and bring them back tomorrow (I’m not that charitable) so I had to find a Plan B charity shop. Ashford is full of charity shops and I thought about giving them to Oxfam but then thought, don’t they get lots of funding and make loads of money anyway? Then I pondered taking the clothes to the YMCA shop but I’m not really sure what the YMCA does and doesn’t the C stand for Christian? I don’t want to give my clothes to some dodgy God thing and then I spotted up a side street a Pilgrims Hospice shop. Hooray!

I unloaded my rucksack full of clothes and gave them  to the woman behind the counter, then went over to the bookshelves and filled my rucksack back up with books. (When I say ‘fill’, I mean ‘three’ and yes, I did pay for them first.)

charity-books

 

These books were a bargain – just £1 each, and the Complete Bread Machine Cookbook has been in my Amazon wishlist for approximately forever. I was also mega-tempted to buy the ‘200 Best Panini’ book (yes, really, such a book exists) but as I only like mozzarella and tomato panini, I left it on the shelf.

I think I’ve found my new favourite charity book shop. Yay.

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Be Kind For A Month – Blog Commenting

Oct 16 2014

You know I mentioned on the first day of Be Kind For A Month that I’d made a list of ideas of kind things to do this month and a few of them involved not leaving the house? Well, today I decided to do one of the kindnesses that didn’t involve leaving the house. I told Twitter I would comment on anyone’s blog post if they asked me to. Surprisingly, only one person asked me (and even that was more of a ‘okay, if you really want to’ than a ‘yes please’) – Twitter’s usually full of links to blog posts but it seems bloggers turn shy when you actually ask for links to blogs. Ho hum.

So, I asked on Facebook too and a couple of friends left me links to their blogs, so I duly commented on them.

blog

Thanks to Stefan, Gene and Diane for helping me complete today’s Be Kind For A Month thing.

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Be Kind For A Month – Sent A Haiku

Oct 15 2014

I know this doesn’t bode well for the next twenty-nine days but I was stuck for an idea today. I pondered whether not swearing at the people who get PAID to email me to ask me to write for FREE counted (sorry about the caps; I can’t bear the words ‘we have no budget’, when THEY approached ME in the first place. Grr), then decided that counting that as kindness creeps into territory so tenuous it would put some of the Janathon and Juneathon ‘activities’ to shame. So what actual concrete kindness could I do? I’d already decided to at some point this month send someone a surprise gift. I would have done it today but the local post office is only open from 10am to 1pm on Wednesdays but I was out all morning and didn’t get back in time and I wasn’t feeling generous enough to cycle two miles to the next nearest (yeah, I’m not really getting into the spirit of this today, am I?) But, I like sending things in the post so I decided to send a haiku to someone. I am aware that I can’t just send things to people every day because a) it will cost a lot of money and I’d have to go back to the church to take back the food I gave for the foodbank so I could eat (see yesterday’s post); b) I’d be bound to miss someone out I should have sent something to; and c) I should probably try and be a bit more creative than do the same thing all month.

So, yeah. I sent a haiku in a little card.

haiku

I hope the recipient likes it.

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Be Kind For A Month – Kindness or Cowardice?

Oct 14 2014

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time is take some food down to the foodbank. A few months ago I’d even got as far as going through my cupboards and seeing what I had. Unfortunately, what I had was a cupboard full of tins and packets well past their best before date but I did have a box of gluten-free muesli and a packet of falafel mix. Surely someone would like that? Well, maybe not so much the gluten-free muesli, but everyone likes falafel, don’t they?

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I’d heard the foodbank in town had closed down but that the local church was a distribution centre, so I again went through the cupboard and along with the falafel mix and the muesli, I found a can of condensed tomato soup (with the added bonus of it being in an Andy Warhol-esque tin) and also pulled out a tin of baked beans, a slow cooker casserole mix, a tin of chickpeas, a tin of carrots and a carton of orange juice (ssh, don’t tell Shaun I gave away his orange juice to poor people). So far so good, but what did I do once I got to the church? Do I just go in and look for someone to give it to or what? I got to the church and the door was closed. I don’t know if it was closed shut and locked as I was too shy to try, so I decided to leave the bag of food on the doorstep but now I don’t know if I did the right thing or not. I didn’t label it ‘for the foodbank’ or anything so what if a church official finds it but doesn’t want to give away food he or she’s found lying on the doorstep? Have I just thrown away perfectly good food because I was too chicken to go inside and look for someone to ask?

church

Dammit.

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Be Kind For A Month – Left A Book At A Bus Stop

Oct 13 2014

Update: Oops, that’ll teach me to spy on people without putting my glasses on. The recipient(s) of the book was a woman and her little girl, not boy. A friend’s wife and daughter, in fact. In my defence, I’ve never met his wife or daughter and I didn’t see their faces and it’s not like she was wearing pink and dressed as a fairy or anything (not that I believe boys shouldn’t be allowed to wear pink and dress as fairies if they want to).

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Apparently, it’s World Be Kind Day on 13 November, and for the month leading up to it, there’s a Facebook event called Be Kind For A Month – you can guess what it involves. I’ve made a list of a few things I can do during the month (some of them don’t even involve leaving the house – yay) and today I started off by leaving Atonement by Ian McEwan at the bus stop. I didn’t enjoy Atonement at all; I got bored after just a few pages and didn’t finish it, so I wondered if maybe it wasn’t very kind inflicting it on someone else but that someone else may well enjoy it.

be-kind-for-a-month-book

 

I didn’t have long to wait after leaving the book at the bus stop; after just a few minutes, a woman and a little boy walked past. The boy stopped and picked up the book, the mum stopped to see what he’d got, read the note and carried on walking down the road, the little boy clutching his prize. I’m so happy I got to see who found the book – I wasn’t skulking round a corner spying, honest – I can see the bus stop from where I’m sitting now, I just happened to look out the window at the right time.

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I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow but if you want to join in the fun, sign up at the Be Kind For A Month Facebook Page.

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Essay on The Collector by John Fowles

Sep 12 2014

The Collector by John Fowles has cropped up a few times in the current Facebook ‘list 10 books that have stuck in your mind’ thing, so I thought I’d post the essay I wrote on it for the Crossing Genre Boundaries module in the second year at university. *Just* missed getting a 1st for this essay – the tutor said I should have referenced more. I referenced the shit out of everything in my third year.

Warning: Massive spoiler. (I said ‘spoiler’, not ‘spider’, calm down.)

the-collector-john-fowles

How effectively do the writers you have studied present social difference/class anxiety?

This essay will analyse and discuss how the social and class differences between the characters are effectively presented in ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles. ‘The Collector’ is a novel based around the relationship between Frederick Clegg and Miranda Grey. Frederick is obsessed with Miranda, seeing her as a rare, beautiful butterfly and kidnaps her, believing that once she gets to know him, she will fall in love with him.

The novel is written in four parts; the first, third and fourth parts are narrated in the first person from Frederick’s point of view, with the second part also being told in the first person but from Miranda’s point of view and in the form of a diary. With the novel being set out in this way, the reader gets an insight into the mind of each individual character; we can see everything through their eyes and know their thoughts and feelings.

This essay will primarily focus on each of the character’s social class (including background, upbringing, education, vocabulary and occupation) and how the social classes are different between the two characters. It will also discuss and analyse how the format of the novel (being told from the two characters’ own points of view) illustrates these differences in an effective way.

We can see from the beginning of the novel that Miranda is from a middle-class background when Frederick says: “When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes …” (Fowles 9). Boarding-schools were (as they are today) not used frequently by the working-class as they were costly to attend and only the wealthy could afford to send their children to them unless the parents had saved up to send their children to boarding-school, but this would still be beyond the means of most working-class people.

We do not know at this point know that Frederick feels inferior but as he mentions with regard to Miranda’s parents that her father is a doctor: “The year she was still at school I didn’t know who she was, only how her father was Doctor Grey …” (Fowles 9) and says with regard to Miranda’s mother: “I heard her mother speak once in a shop, she had a la-di-da voice …” (Fowles 10) we get the feeling that Frederick feels they are of a higher social class than him. Frederick comments on ‘la-di-da’ voices quite often throughout the novel, suggesting that he feels people often put on airs and graces. As we can see from his comment regarding Miranda: “I can’t say what was special in her voice. Of course it was very educated, but it wasn’t la-di-da …” (Fowles 18), we can tell Frederick feels there is a difference between being educated and ‘having airs and graces’.

Miranda lives in Hampstead – an affluent London suburb – with her parents. Frederick’s aunt brought him up after a car accident killed his father: “My father was killed driving. I was two” (Fowles 11), shortly after which his mother left: “… she went off soon after …” (Fowles 11). Being brought up by relatives other than his biological parents could make Frederick feel different to other people who had been brought up in the more traditional nuclear family.

The first part of the book – because it is narrated by Frederick – uses a straightforward vocabulary to reflect his personality and status; there are no fancy words and phrases, unlike the second part which is narrated by Miranda in a diary format. For example, Miranda uses phrases such as: “It’s all the vile unspeakable things …”, “Hateful primitive wash-stand and place”, “I can’t stand the absolute darkness” (Fowles 118, 119). A less educated person would use language that was less flowery and this is a good example of how the crossed genres of the novel (straight narrative from one character’s point of view and the narrative in diary form from another character’s point of view) presents the differences in the characters in an effective way.

This genre-crossing device further emphasises the differences in their backgrounds when we get the same events narrated through their own particular voices, commenting on the same incident. For example, after Frederick has bought and furnished the house with the money he won playing the football pools, Miranda derides his choice of decor: “A lovely old house really, done up in the most excruciating women’s magazine ‘good taste’. Ghastliest colour-clashes, mix-up of furniture styles, bits of suburban fuss, phoney antiques, awful brass ornaments” (Fowles 125) and criticises his choice of paintings: “You wouldn’t believe me if I described the awfulness of the pictures” (Fowles 125). However, Frederick believed that because they cost a lot of money: “They cost enough” (Fowles 52) this meant that they must be of a high quality and standard. We also have a similar comparison with the clothes that Frederick has bought Miranda. He puts a lot of thought into it: “I bought a lot of clothes for her at a store in London … I saw an assistant just her size and I gave her the colours I always saw Miranda wear” (Fowles 24) and spends a lot of money on them: “I paid out nearly ninety pounds that morning” (Fowles 25) (ninety pounds in 1960 would be the equivalent of over one thousand five hundred pounds in today’s money (This is Money website)). Miranda, however, as we can see from her diary, does not like the clothes Frederick has bought for her: “… wearing the least horrid of the shirts he’d bought for me” (Fowles 126).

As well as the football pools being a hobby more likely to be undertaken by working-class people rather than middle-class, Frederick’s feelings of being outside society are also reflected in the way in which he played the football pools, as he played the football pools on his own, rather than joining in with the work syndicate as we can see from: “Old Tom and Crutchley, who were in Rates with me, and some of the girls clubbed together and did a big one and they were always going at me to join in, but I stayed the lone wolf” (Fowles 12).

The difference in Miranda’s and Frederick’s education is emphasised in the novel by how we are shown that Miranda is well-read, by the mentions of classic novels in her diary, for example: “I have marked the days on the side of the screen, like Robinson Crusoe” (Fowles 151) and by dropping references into conversation: “So your aunt took you over. Yes. Like Mrs Joe and Pip. Who?” (Fowles 183), and by deriding him for not having any books in the house except for his butterfly books and the art books he has bought for her: “There aren’t any books … You can jolly well read The Catcher in the Rye. I’ve almost finished it” (Fowles 148). Miranda at one point compares Frederick to Holden Caulfield, the main character in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’: “You’re a Holden Caulfield. He doesn’t fit anywhere and you don’t” (Fowles 205).

There are further literary references throughout the book, especially ‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare, which is alluded to throughout. In ‘The Tempest’ there are characters called Miranda, Ferdinand and Caliban. Miranda – as we already know – is one of the main characters in ‘The Collector’. Ferdinand is what Frederick tells Miranda his real name is, as to him it sounds more distinguished: “She wasn’t to know F stood for Frederick. I’ve always liked Ferdinand … There’s something foreign and distinguished about it” (Fowles 39). In ‘The Tempest’, Ferdinand and Miranda are lovers and as Frederick’s/Ferdinand’s behaviour is anything but lovely, Miranda decides to call him Caliban – a beast/monster in ‘The Tempest’ who tries to rape Miranda (Frederick does not rape Miranda in ‘The Collector’ but he does at one point in the book tie her up and take photographs of her semi-naked).

Although the name Caliban is the only reference to ‘The Tempest’ Miranda explicitly makes, the themes throughout ‘The Collector’ are clear. Despite Frederick telling Miranda his name is Ferdinand and believing he is in love with her: “I love you. It’s driven me mad” (Fowles 37), because he is not well read, Frederick does not make the Ferdinand/Caliban connection and does not even question why Miranda is calling him this: “… sometimes she would call me Caliban, sometimes Ferdinand” (Fowles 66).

As well as Miranda’s distaste for Frederick’s taste in clothes and decor and his lack of literary knowledge, she also looks down on him for his apparent lack of art appreciation. Miranda drew a bowl of fruit several times and showed them to Frederick: “Another day she drew a bowl of fruit. She drew them about ten times, and … asked me to pick the best” (Fowles 60). Frederick displayed his lack of knowledge by choosing the one that looked the most realistic. Miranda looked down on him for doing so as we can see from her dialogue in the part of the novel from Frederick’s point of view: “That’s the worst. That’s a clever little art student’s picture” (Fowles 60) and also from Miranda’s point of view in her diary: “Of course he picked all those that looked most like the wretched bowl of fruit” (Fowles 132). Miranda, although an art student, also gets her views on art from a friend of hers – George Paston (that she calls G.P.). G.P. is older than her and she looks up to and admires him. When Miranda tells Frederick that he does not know what good art is, she is merely making herself sound knowledgeable by repeating what she has learnt from G.P. (who does not think much of her artistic skills), for example when she recalls: “He came and stood beside me and picked out one of the new abstracts I’d done at home … You’re using a camera … You’re photographing here. That’s all” (Fowles 159).

Although not as well educated as Miranda, Frederick is not unintelligent but he does lack a certain social awareness. For example, throughout the novel, Frederick calls Miranda his guest. A guest is someone that you invite into your home – not someone you render unconscious with chloroform, bundle into the back of a van and lock in a cellar.

Throughout the novel, although Frederick kidnapped Miranda and holds her against her will and this would usually give him the upper hand, because Frederick believes he is in love with Miranda, he does anything she asks (except for setting her free). In the end, however, Frederick has the ultimate power when Miranda gets ill and Frederick leaves her to die, instead of getting her help.

Despite Frederick saying: “Of course I shall never have a guest again …” (Fowles 282), it does not take long for another girl to catch his eye as a possible future guest: “Still as a matter of interest I have since been looking into the problems there would be with the girl in Woolworths” (Fowles 282). He admits that he made a mistake setting his sights on Miranda as she was of a higher social class than he: “… she’s only an ordinary common shop-girl, but that was my mistake before, aiming too high” (Fowles 282) and so if he were to have a new guest, it would be someone who would respect him and who would learn from him, instead of the other way round as it was between Frederick and Miranda: “I ought to have got someone who would respect me more. Someone ordinary I could teach” (Fowles 282). This is a conclusion he comes to after he has read Miranda’s diary and finds out that she never really loved him and felt superior to him.

This essay set out to analyse and discuss the social and class differences between Miranda and Frederick, by discussing how the novel portrays their backgrounds, the language they use, their jobs and education. It also set out to discuss how the format of the novel – being written in both characters’ points of view (one as a straight narrative and one in a diary format) presented these differences in an effective way.

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Leave The House Friday – Waitrose Cafe

Aug 29 2014

waitrose-cafe

After last week’s LTHF trip to Costa Coffee in my local Tesco, I decided I’d do a tour of supermarket cafes. I know I should be using local independent cafes and, if we had any decent ones here, I would, believe me. As it is though, the town centre is slickly awash with greasy spoons but no other kind of cafe except for chains like Caffe Nero and Starbucks and although there’s nothing wrong with a greasy spoon (I’ll have egg, beans, chips and mushrooms, please), I feel it’s more of a Bank Holiday breakfast kind of venue, rather than a Friday lunchtime one.

And, anyway, a tour of supermarket cafes sounds fun. Doesn’t it? And when I’ve run out of supermarkets with cafes (which I think will be next week), I’m going to progress onto department stores. (If any potential employers read this – I’m not as tragic as I sound, honest.)

Today, I thought I’d give Waitrose a go. And if they didn’t let me in, I’d sit on the wall outside and eat a packet of cheese and onion crisps. However, they did let me in, even though, as I am the Queen Of Going In The Wrong Direction, I spent five miles cycling in the pouring rain to get there even though it’s only about three miles away and so wasn’t looking particularly posh when I arrived. I would have asked directions when I begun to get lost but I didn’t go past anyone I thought would shop in Waitrose. One good thing about going the wrong way though was I went past the new-ish John Lewis which led me to add that to my list of shops to have lunch in on a Friday. One especially bad thing about going the wrong way was the car driver who decided red lights didn’t apply to him and were I not of a paranoid persuasion and deeply mistrusting of motorists and like to wait at the lights to make sure all the cars have actually stopped, I would not be here typing this; I would be in hospital eating hospital food and although I’ve never had hospital food, I’d put money on mozzarella, basil and tomato panini not being on the menu.

The Waitrose cafe is open plan and in the corner of the store which means you’re eating and drinking in front of people doing their shopping which is a bit off-putting. It’s also deeply disappointing with its selection of food. The only vegetarian sandwich they had was a cheese and onion toastie and I really wanted a panini (I ALWAYS want a panini) but the only one they had was mozzarella, chicken and bacon. Being a vegetarian, I’m probably not the best person to judge the merits of a mozzarella/chicken/bacon combination but, even if I still ate meat, that would not appeal in the slightest. They probably cater more for the tea and cake brigade, as there was a wide selection of cakes and pastries by the till.

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I sat down with my posh Cranberry Presse drink (you know things are posh when they add an extra ‘e’ onto stuff) which stated on the label it was 100% good. This is a lie. In my opinion, it was only about 66% good. I also thought it was lying about containing nothing artificial as I couldn’t remember ever seeing a citric acid tree but on undertaking an extensive and time-consuming investigation (i.e. I looked it up on Wikipedia) I found out citric acid is a natural preservative/conservative which occurs naturally in citrus fruits. That’s me told then.

Waitrose’s poshness evaporated when, because they don’t give you a number on a stick to take away with you so the waiters know where to bring the food, the girl behind the counter came out from behind the counter shouting CHEESE AND ONION TOASTIE and so I had to kind of gesture and wave and get her attention while everyone looked around and starting pointing the girl in my direction. Awkward.

The cheese and onion toastie was greasy and made me feel slightly sick and I didn’t hang around for long and soon went into the main part of the shop to see if they had any interesting vegetarian food (I’d brought my rucksack specifically for this purpose). Whoever says Waitrose is expensive obviously hasn’t been there on a day when they’re selling Linda McCartney Fishless Scampi for 99p (usually £2.60) or Quorn Mozzarella and Pesto Escalopes for 99p (usually £2.80). Bargain. I decided to wander round and see what was the poshest thing I could find and I reckon the roasted shallot and star anise dip takes that trophy. While I was on the lookout for posh stuff, I ventured over to the crisp aisle. It’s tiny and about a tenth of the size of the crisp aisle at Tesco but I did get some plantain crisps with lime and chilli which I reckon Tesco probably don’t do.

The poshest bit about Waitrose though by far were the fresh flowers and Dyson Airblade in the toilet. On the whole though, for a lunch experience in terms of food and atmosphere, Tesco was far better.

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