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post 9 on Thursday 1st March 2007 at 23:53

In Like A Lion

Whilst languishing today, I noticed it’s the first of March, which is always a date for my calendar. Why? It’s the first wash day of course! – no not mangles or carbolic, I mean, it’s dry enough to hang your smalls out isn’t it? That means line fresh baby – even in South Bank – where the air lingers with the smell of coke (that’s pre-burned carbon deposits that work like coal to anyone under fifty) and fried onion bhajis from the Imperial Food Park.

All the plants here at Oak Towers have reanimated – the word from the windowsill is that the geraniums, honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine are all experiencing an abundance of buddage. Yay, seed time! You see there aren’t many plants in my garden. In fact, there are more inside than out. So if we have a death in the family it’s a serious loss to stock. Luckily, since the great slug slaying of 2006 we’ll be having no more casualties.

Oh and there was a fruit fly in the kitchen. So there you go – it MUST be the first day of spring - and even South Bank knows it!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ]
post 13 on Thursday 8th March 2007 at 11:52

Garden 2.0

Bloomin' wonderful!I've just finished the start of this year's gardening attempt. If gardening is anything like being at University, which - hang on - It is JUST like University - all down to the first year of gardening in ANY garden being totally redundant. All you can hope for are cheap fixes - because nothing counts towards anything and you're simply giving the garden momentum to gear up for the second year, where all the action lies.

The bulbs I thought never came up did. The honeysuckle that was devoured stealthily and without detection for some months, from the root, is now spreading itself far and wide along my Venetian wall, overlooked by Steve's Rose, an octogenarian of the rose world, and only just a challenge to the beauty of the honeysuckle in full bloom.

The grape hyacinths are popping up. Even the garlic is resprouting. The failed poppies from last year have also made a reappearance! How AMAZING it is that spring is here! And as for cheap fixes - I don’t even need to go to B&Q!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ]
post 17 on Friday 30th March 2007 at 12:00

Run, It’s The Pigs

RobocopWhat is it with Oak Street? Why is it full of lecherous criminal scum? As I type, the Police are hammering down the door of number eleven. Last year my house was stormed by a SWAT team, some on horseback, six on foot (four of which feet made light work of trampling my Convolvulus to oblivion), allowing them to gain access to a house up the road via my back yard. Am I the only person stupid enough to allow such intrusion? Is it the law to let four brick-shit-house Police men storm my palace? As it happened, I was doing something illegal myself at the time, and was highly paranoid. But they didn’t get me. Thinking back on it, I needn’t have worried. Smoking grass to them is like a walk in the (druggie filled) park compared with the shit they put up with in Middlesbrough.

There are nine houses on this street. Of those houses there are only two that use their yard for anything other than a refuse dumping ground. It annoys me that my local friendly Police service think it’s OK to treat us all like dogs. I blame Ray Mallon and his Robocop tactics. What can you do? Smile, say "yes officer" and keep smoking your drugs to block it all out?

I think a society makes itself, say what? Knock it all down. Great stuff.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ boro ] [ crime ] [ domestics ] [ ray mallon ] [ south bank ]
post 22 on Sunday 22nd April 2007 at 20:47

Riverside Pizza, Previously

"How long mate?"
"Wizhin dhze hour"

Knock at the door
"Zats ninepound eighty plize" [sighs]
Hands over ten pounds
"Don’t worry about the change"
Keeps on foraging for change
"Keep the change"
"Oh sorry bizy nayt you know?"

Yeah I know. I’ve been kept waiting by you for ONE HOUR and ten minutes and I've been waiting for you to fuck on with your change unnecessarily for the last two of those minutes.

When you say wizhin dhze hour, you should be within the hour, my man!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ] [ south bank ]
post 30 on Thursday 17th May 2007 at 09:50

Rise Of The Mumnet

Sisters are logging on for themselvesI have just read on the BBC that young women now outnumber their male counterparts online. They’ll be spending an estimated $22.1bn on the interweb in 2007 - no doubt on utter tat (for evidence of this please see below). Women also now account for 38% of online gamers.

But this doesn’t reflect a seismic shift in women becoming more capable or tech-savvy, nor even does it have anything to do with women, men or gender. It’s to do with the web becoming more accessible, more advertised, more promoted; and is part of rise of the culture of the web. Every body with a face has a web site and women are still only into babies and handbags. I bet the games women play online help them grow, suckle and rear cyber babies.

But the difference between women and men, in real life and online, is that women are more comfortable with social networking. We gossip over coffee. We idle away hours wondering what everyone else is up to. And now we add unknowns to our "friend list" with the hope of idle chit-chat. And with the rise of Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, this is easily done online. Meanwhile, the men are frantically searching for women with which to engage themselves in cyber sex.

I’m starting to realise the web world is not much different to the real world. And while it used to be the domain of the technically adept, it’s fast becoming a corporate breeding ground in which greedy ethics naturally entice a full societal spectrum. And so now the masses have been admitted. The women want babies, the men want sex. As above, so below. Everybody's happy.

Top Sites For Women Age 18-34 (BBC)

tags: [ culture ] [ domestics ] [ feminist rants ] [ online ]
post 34 on Monday 28th May 2007 at 08:49

Bleach Baby

Chromatic AbstractionI’m making some magic. Specifically a moisturising face-oil comprising a sweet almond base, and a synergistic blend of two of my favourite essential oils: Geranium and petitgrain. Now here’s something interesting. The chemical components of petitgrain oil are geraniol, linalool, nerol, y-terpineol, geranyl acetate, linalyl acetate, myrcene, neryl acetate and trans-ocimene. If you saw those in a toilet cleaner, would you be surprised? These extracts are used extensively throughout the chemical and perfumery industries. Meanwhile we’re trained up with a need to buy crap, harmful products from big companies; just because it somehow fuses what we want with how we achieve it, without our having to think. It’s like someone handing you a decision on a piece of paper. It’s the same with food. How many times have you come away from the supermarket with a jar of tomato pasta sauce, when you have some olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil in your stores? We could have made a fresh pasta sauce our self, but we wanted the machine to channel us; we’re used to the machine channelling us!

The benefits to not using company bought chemicals? Fresh essential oils help to balance the mind and emotions, while stimulating the adrenal cortex/lymphatic system and balancing the hormonal system. For skin, the production of sebum is balanced, and the speed of wound healing is increased. Used correctly, essential oils are generally non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing - despite their potency!

Are the companies gonna tell you that in their adverts? Are they going to tell you what they add and take away from the raw ingredients the world was bestowed with?

But you must take what I say with a pinch of salt. I too, of course, have a few bottles of the bad stuff in my house. The training was good no? Even those who know the difference often have lapses of magpie-ism and laziness. And I figure I do my bit in the great scheme of things. But I won’t rest on my laurels. I will keep trying to find better alternatives to buying from chemical companies; alternatives that fit with my status as a cheap skate and part-time chemical chef. And like I've said before; convenience food is as much about not making a decision as it is about not cooking.

So I’ll keep cleaning my face with the free bleach I was given by my brother’s boss, then. ;)

tags: [ domestics ] [ products ]
post 45 on Sunday 9th September 2007 at 09:40

Pop Goes The Weasel

Get yer gas mask!The concept of creating an offensive term by mixing a potentially health-threatening substance or food product with the part it affects has always amused me. Childishly, I do happen to find beer-belly, lard-arse and fish-breath amusing. I could even raise a titter for something a little rarer: but popcorn-lung?

Yes you read the correctly – but only in America. It turns out that the microwave version of this presumed-friendly Friday night staple contains a chemical dangerous enough to warrant the alert of US factory workers who handle it over concerns that it may cause cancer.

Some microwave popcorn contains butter flavouring, Diacetyl, a naturally occurring substance found in products such as milk, cheese, butter, and others. So why is this causing a problem? Well, factory workers have the safety net of protective armour to shield from the ravages of working in a place that makes food (gah!).

However, the case that has caused people to talk involves a consumer at home.

Unprotected, and undoubtedly addicted to microwave popcorn; suffering all the symptoms of popcorn-lung – his case is now serving to highlight the dangers for us all.

Blame the microwave I say. Who are we to complain about cancer-causing food additives when we use the nuke power of fifty million gamma rays to heat food as a matter of course?

But what sort of food is one that, when heated, gives off vapour potent enough to cause the mutation of cells in the lungs when inhaled, anyway? Alright, the dude is obviously sat watching the bowl turn, drooling down his big old pants, totally unaware of the danger, and thinking only of losing himself in mindless oblivion in front of the goggle box some time in the next 20 seconds.

When is the US government going to realise you can't approve a food additive just because you're golf buddies with the CEO of the company that manufacturers it?

It reminds me of the Aspartame scare of a few years back. I can just imagine Ronald Reagan on the fifth hole with Mr. Monsanto, nodding his head and smiling in compliance and joviality, the words "sure you can have a licence, we could all use a little extra sweetness huh?" stumbling off his uneducated tongue.

So there we have it. Another "food" to avoid and another idiot consumer taught a harsh lesson.

tags: [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ]
post 46 on Friday 21st September 2007 at 21:24

Nectar: Trick Or Treat?

Nectar, they play treek!Be wary, sweet loyalty card investors, of Nectar’s recent ploy to coalesce with consumers through its recent misleading, but wonderfully inventive, promise of a free gift.

Tonight, I came home weary from work, thumped down into the seat at my desk, and saw there a bright shiny package from Nectar. Kicking off my shoes, and thinking the evening was about to get perhaps a single percentile more interesting, I hurriedly tore open the letter to be presented with not only a new card, but the promise of a free gift – just for being me!

Leafing through the glossy treat brochure they’d helpfully enclosed served to heighten my sense of urgency for the kind of gratification only the words "free" and "gift" can satisfy. So my fingers eagerly scurried the required five centimetres from the shredded envelope to the keyboard, where I typed in

The brightly coloured site presented me with a range of "adventure" activities and "treat" activities, and I plumped for the latter (yes - I'd like a treat), clicking on the cucumber-eyed woman, who lead me to the free facial page: "fill in the claim form" the site persuaded – "we'll do our best to send you the treat you ask for, but if it's unavailable we'll send you an alternative that we're sure you'll enjoy!"

Alarm bells are already ringing. But I leave the form in the safe storage of the web site, thinking that perhaps it will be tomorrow now before a representative will spend some time hunting down a nice spa or beauty parlour just for me.

Suspiciously soon, I receive an email. Surely Nectar’s representatives didn’t find me a salon this quickly?

"We're very sorry but we've been unable to offer you your chosen treat. Don't worry, we thought you might like this one instead!"

Let me clarify. I asked for a free facial or, as a second choice, a free Reiki session: and I actually ended up with "Killhope Lead Mining Museum" in County Durham. The name says it all. I think this is perhaps the most devious marketing scheme I’ve ever come across.

Credit though to Loyalty Management UK Limited, the promoters of this scheme - as I bet this really works for Nectar in getting rid of all of those free venue tickets for places nobody cares to visit, whilst simultaneously increasing their exposure and their "oh that’s nice of them" factor.

As someone who takes perhaps an unhealthy over-interest in advertising and marketing practices, I am probably overly suspicious. But with no contact link anywhere to be found on the entire site, what’s a girl to think?

Call me bitter, but I’m thinking Nectar doesn’t taste as sweet after all.

PS: If I do take them up on the free trip offer, I can't wait to see what the "Jigger House" is all about.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ nectar ] [ online ] [ rants ]
post 47 on Thursday 18th October 2007 at 11:05

Making Life Seem Greener?

Making life seem greener?So grandparents' favourite Sainsbury's want to buck up their green cred and be seen as an environmentally conscious retailer, enlisting fish-lipped TV gastro-arse Jamie Oliver in a new television campaign; their MARKETING director crying piteously, "we've been too humble".

You'd think all the do-gooding, Daily Mail reading morons would have tugged on JS's coat tails and lamented "why are you not offering green loyalty points?"

Well maybe these customers are clever enough to already know Sainsbury's is doing *so much* for the environment (guffaw), and are sensible enough not to make a fuss about it? Or maybe the truth - more likely, they, like most sensible people, realise that green loyalty points don't make a flying fuck's worth of difference.

Perhaps they ponder "surely it's the plastic they drive into landfill every year, rotting our earth from its delicate core" or "the fuel miles clocked up shipping carrots from the Netherlands because they're cheaper than carrots from the UK".

One thing's for sure - it's a stupid consumerist society where marketing executives are the new politicians. And I'm not buying it.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ] [ sainsburys ]
post 48 on Friday 28th December 2007 at 20:57

Returning to the Einstein Argument

LOL!Me and my better half have been wiling away the afternoon debating Albert Einstein's alleged vegetarianism. After a small amount of Googling, it transpires that the hairy-chopped genius was in fact vegetarian but, disappointingly, only for the final year of his revered life; although for many years he advocated a vegetarian diet:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." and "it is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

I wonder if the human temperament gains such benefits from goodies like fake sausage rolls, and jelly beans; anyhow, my general theory (which is shared by many others), is that if we all ate foods that were grown and sold in our own vicinity we'd do OK, and there'd be far fewer starving babies. That includes meat: it would be far more acceptable if cows, pigs, and hens, were killed by your local butcher, some place within walking distance of your spit roaster. But I'm not going to grab the Duraglit to polish my halo just yet: lots of vegetarian foods are mass produced; take Soya for instance (one shudders to imagine the amount of poor field mice killed during the harvesting of Soya, which is enjoyed by vegetarians and carnivores alike). But, meat just happens to be one of the food products that suffer the greatest volume of mass production, especially with McShitbags et al. I'm not even going to start on the rainforests.

To put the record straight once and for all, the reason I went vegetarian boils down to not enjoying meat enough to warrant killing animals and bestowing the entire world with the ensuing consequences. For all the outcomes of vegetarianism: less environmental strain, reduced animal cruelty, less food miles, better health, no starving babies, etc, it was also a healthy dose of the ideas presented by this image, which sums it up perfectly.

PS, Was Einstein Vegetarian? and Was Hitler Vegetarian? may satisfy any faintly lingering curiosity.

tags: [ domestics ] [ einstein ] [ fake meat ] [ rants ] [ vegetarian ]
post 51 on Saturday 26th January 2008 at 09:00

South Bank – Au Revoir!

Scarily like South BankTo those who don't know, I bought and moved into my house: 13 Oak Street, South Bank, Middlesbrough, in July 2004.

During that memorable summer, I can recall jubilantly sitting with my back against the bedroom wall (there was a time when you could sit on the floor, before water started seeping up), listening to next door's wind-chimes, and feeling very peaceful, exited, and also very grown up – for this was my first house! Oh the expectations, dreams, and plans I had for this place when I first moved here!

Since that time I have experienced full on disasters of Biblical proportion – lightening from the sky, famine, plague, flood, and pestilence.

A selection of such include:

Rats. Rats in the house. Rats outside of the house. Rats in the alley. Just rats!!

Mice in the toaster. Really. In the time it took me to pop a crumpet in the toaster, a crafty mouse had crept into my beautiful (£35) Morphy Richards four-slice, and was still nibbling away whilst I plunged down the handle, at the same time wondering why there was an unusual resistance in the plunge, and subsequently pondering the whiff of burning hair mingled with the smell of crumpet. Curiously, the mouse survived; although the toaster was relegated to the shelf.

Slugs. Many a morning I come downstairs to find a silver trail leading from the front door to wherever it is my invertebrate friends drag themselves to during the night. Also, in a strange yet amusing travesty, are sometimes seen feasting on the odd stray salted peanut in the kitchen. Amusingly, this only happens between the hours of 2:00am to 6:00am.

Flies. And bluebottles.

Draining Power. Dim-witted next-door neighbours - the "Power Rangers" - who wired their meter through our meter.

Cutting power. Resulting in our power being cut on Boxing Day.

The kitchen flooding. Came back from holiday to find the rats had chewed through the washing machine pipes resulting in a half a meter flood of the kitchen.

Lack of central heating. How anyone lives in a house like mine I'll never know.

Rising damp. A botanists dream, my house is probably home to innumerable species of fungi and mushroom.

Things got a little better when my brother moved in. Even though he now, too, was required to live with afore mentioned difficulties, at least I had somebody to share life's problems with; and, I'd like to verify at this stage, that Nick's a tough wee soul, and like the true Capricorn mountain goat, is hardy and not adverse to tough conditions.

Not to mention the crimes:
Breaking windows in the car three times
Smashing my front windows twice
Cutting my phone lines

And inconveniences:
Four Police men storming my house to gain access to the back alley

So you could hardly blame me for being very pleased that we'll be out of here in six weeks.

Watch out Guisborough! The South Bank intelligentsia are coming your way.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ crime ] [ domestics ] [ guisborough ] [ south bank ]
post 60 on Saturday 7th February 2009 at 12:43

Dr. Pop

Anyone for some Dr. Pop?
Dr. Pop: "Got a taste for it". Why is this funny? Who knows. Maybe it's the stark contrast between the term doctor - one who tries to maintain the health of the population (but who generally just ends up administering drugs) - and pop, something that in excess probably contributes to the disease of the nation. Or maybe it's just the the kitsch foreign supermarket brand title? Well it was spotted in Morrisons!

tags: [ domestics ] [ morrisons ] [ products ]