As you know from my top notch recent review of the Primark 90p lipstick, which I think we can agree was a blessing for everyone, I don’t have anything against Primark make-up generally. The 90p lipstick was actually pretty decent for under a quid. Plus I know that it isn’t just Primark who are doing this – it’s make-up brands everywhere.

But then I walked past Primark on my way to work this week and saw this advert for the Primark Insta Girl make-up range, and my hackles were instantly raised:

Primark Insta Girl make-up

(Quick question – what exactly is a hackle? Please find out and let me know.)

I hate the idea that we are bringing up a generation of young women who feel they need to be selfie ready at all, or, more to the point, that their own faces, as they are, are not good enough to be photographed.

Am I selfie ready? Yes thank you. I have A FACE. Oh, that’s not enough?  View Post

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bicycles on the pavement

I was walking to work this morning and coming towards me was a woman pushing a pushchair. (With a baby in, not just for fun.)

Another woman came up behind pushchair lady on a bike, and there was an awkward moment where they jostled for position on the pavement. As she cycled past, the woman on the bike gave pushchair lady a look, as though somehow she had been the one getting in the way. As she walked past I gave pushchair lady a friendly smile, designed to show pedestrian solidarity, but my glasses were covered with rain and I think it came out wrong.

Anyway, that’s not okay is it? It’s a pavement! And it’s actually against the law. I just looked it up.

Cycling on footways (a pavement by side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. 

(It works best if you say that in a geeky voice – I may learn it by heart so I can recite it at cyclists.)

It’s punishable by a £30 fine in fact.

Now I know that cycling on roads can be dangerous and scary. Personally I am way too much of a wimp to cycle on the road. Put me on a bike near traffic and I panic, make a funny squeaky noise, wobble and fall off. But that doesn’t mean I cycle on the pavement instead, it means I walk.

Am I being unreasonable here? Are cyclists so badly treated by drivers that they have to be on the pavement or am I right to be enraged?

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should you keep ketchup in the fridgeForget Brexit, forget Trump – the next big debate is apparently all about tomato ketchup. Specifically, whether or not you keep it in the fridge.

In a recent survey, the question of how to store tomato ketchup has proved to be a contentious one, with 53% of people opting for fridge storage and 47% of people just leaving their ketchup in the cupboard.

Let me just settle this debate once and for all – TOMATO KETCHUP SHOULD BE KEPT IN THE FRIDGE.

This may seem like an odd thing to get upset about, but I have very good reason.  View Post

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amazon packaging

First up, I know. I know I shouldn’t shop at Amazon and that if I have a problem with Amazon packaging then I should go to my local shop with a string bag and chat to the greengrocer and generally be a better person. But I’m not, so let’s get over that. Sometimes I just don’t have time.

Okay, so Amazon packaging.

I have two issues.

Firstly, what’s with the tape designed to slice off your fingers??

I’m picturing a big meeting room with one of those annoying glass tables where you’re afraid to put your mug down in case you smash it. This is how I imagine the conversation going:

‘So, packaging ideas – hit me with them.’

‘Guys! I know what we should do! We should add some hidden cheese wire to our tape, so that the next time someone innocently slides their finger underneath it to try and open their parcel, they’ll just be left in a bloody mess!’

‘Genius! Then they’ll have to order antiseptic wipes and plasters – the ultimate upsell!’

It doesn’t stop there though. If you can actually open your parcel without hospitalising yourself then you’re in for a second treat.

It looks something like this:

amazon packaging

What’s that you say? That looks just like a massive box full of scrunched up paper?

It does rather doesn’t it?

Pull out the entire tree’s worth of paper though and inside you’ll find… what? A single book? A pencil? A box of tic tacs?

Seriously Amazon – what the hell is the matter with you? Why do you feel the need to send everything in boxes as big as the world when you know then you just have to fill them all up with paper??

It drives me nuts.

*orders colouring book from Amazon to calm down*

Images – Hadrian and Jeramey Lende both from Shutterstock

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This week we had a visit from a plumber. It doesn’t happen often because I’m more of the ‘wrap something around it to absorb the leak’ school of thought, but the cupboard under our sink was a little past that. I share this story as a way to make you feel better about any awkward moments you may have had with tradespeople.

So, he arrived.

‘The sink is over here,’ I said, already feeling like a goon because he is a plumber and if he can’t recognise a sink then really, what’s the point?

‘Thanks,’ he said, ‘let’s take a look.’

Now this, I appreciate now, was the moment where I should have offered him a cup of tea. However, I knew it was going to be a quick job, and I was wary of that whole awkward ‘you’ve made me this tea so I’m going to have to drink it but it’s actually scalding my throat’ scenario.

So I hesitated.

When you hesitate in a situation like this then that’s it, you’re finished. You can’t offer a plumber a cup of tea when they’re nearly finished – that would be like me coming into the room in stockings, carrying a Cosmopolitan in a sexy way. (How do you actually do that? Cocktail glasses are very easy to spill.)

Okay, so he doesn’t get tea. I can style that out. 

He goes out to his van to get some tools. What do I do now? I don’t want to have left the room while he is gone, that feels weird, but I also don’t want to just be standing there in the middle of the kitchen, waiting, so I sit down on a dining chair and have a look at my phone.

He comes back in. I finish the email I’ve been writing.

NOW WHAT?!

He is under the sink and I am sat in silence on a dining chair.

It’s weird.

I hesitate again though, and there, I’m stuck in the chair. I can’t leave now can I? That would be odd. But I can’t really make small talk about the sink, especially as his head is underneath it. So I sit some more in silence, as though I’m an invigilator in an exam. I send a few more emails, mainly to avoid looking up and accidentally making eye contact. I feel like the whole thing has gone too far and speaking now would just draw attention to the preceding silence.

Eventually he finishes, and I look up and smile casually, as though I’d forgotten he was there and I always sit like that in the kitchen.

‘What is it you do then?’ he asks as he gets out his forms.

Oh God no. 

I hate this question, especially when it comes from sensible grown up people in their sixties who have real professions, like plumbing. I consider making something up, but I’m not a good liar.

‘I write a blog,’ I say.

He looks confused, but doesn’t say anything. I’m so exhausted by the stress of the whole ‘sitting in silence in the dining chair’ thing that I can’t even explain. I just leave it hanging silently while I sign the paperwork and show him out.

Next time I’m just going to wrap something around the leak.

awkward moment with a plumber

Image – Emanuele Ravecca/shutterstock.

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I’m a sucker for a self-help book.

I have a big stack of them at home and generally I find the messages really positive, if not exactly life-changing. I dip into them every so often as a reminder to do the basic stuff like think positive thoughts and let go of negative emotions. It’s a bit like having a session with a life coach, only cheaper. A lot of it is the same – love yourself, forgive others, embrace fear – nothing revolutionary, but nothing controversial either.

That’s what I thought at least, until I got to a particular paragraph in my latest read, a Christmas present that I put on my Amazon wish list because I do quite want to be a badass and live an awesome life.

You are a badass

I was over half way through the book and I’d not come across anything I disagreed with, apart from the God references, but I just ignore those. I may not be a God fan but each to their own. There was one particular paragraph though that I couldn’t ignore.

It was a paragraph in a section about the stories we tell ourselves and how they hold us back. Some examples included seeing yourself as the sort of person who always fails at relationships, or who is bad with money. There aren’t really no decent men out there, but we kind of fool ourselves into believing it so we don’t have to blame ourselves when it goes wrong.

Sure, I get that.

But then…

‘We pretty much don’t ever do anything that we don’t benefit from in some way…’ says Jen Sincero. ‘If you’re perpetuating something dismal in your life because of some dopey story, there’s definitely something about it that you’re getting off on.

‘Let’s say, for example, that your story is that you’re depressed. Chances are pretty good that even though it feels awful, when you feel awful you don’t have to work hard or do the laundry or go to the gym. It feels very familiar and cosy and comfortable. It gets you attention. People come in and check on you and sometimes bring you food. It allows you to not try too hard…’

Um, hello?!

Depression is not a spa Jen Sincero. View Post

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I had an email this morning.

(I had more than one obviously, but I had this one in particular.)

It started like this:

‘Hi Jo, Happy Hump Day!’

NO.

No no no no.

HAPPY HUMP DAY?!

Hump Day is just not a real thing. And even if it was, it’s not something you begin an email with, as though it’s Christmas or my birthday or something. Why can’t a Wednesday just be a Wednesday? Why do we feel the need to turn everything into an irritating meme??

The very worst possible combination for me is when it’s combined with the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ slogan, which seems to have been applied to everything in the entire world now. 

keep calm it's hump day

(This had better not get shared. I made it for ironic purposes.)

I actually quite like my job, and Wednesday for me isn’t some kind of amazing pinnacle. I don’t feel the need to measure my week by how many days there are left until I can get drunk or go to a shopping centre and spend all the money I earned in the job I hate on tat that I don’t need. 

And more to the point, even if I did, I wouldn’t give Wednesday a name, and attach it to a comedy picture of a camel, and go around wishing my colleagues a ‘happy Hump Day’ like some kind of loon. I wonder if the writer of the email would ever consider using the expression in real life? I’m imagining him turning up to a meeting with a new client:

‘Hi there,’ he says, shaking hands and holding up a picture of a camel, ‘I’m Gavin, great to meet you, and happy Hump Day!’

Sounds stupid doesn’t it? 

Hump Day.

Not a thing.

The end.

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Okay, I know I normally do short rants, but there is just so much to say on the subject of flexible working isn’t there? Plus I want to talk to you about the Hire Me My Way campaign for more part-time and flexible jobs, and I have a personal story from another blogger to share, so all in all it’s a pretty jam-packed post.

You lucky things!

When you stop to think about ‘work’ as a concept, it’s crazy really. Let’s take your basic office job. A 9am start maybe? An hour for lunch, and then home in time for Pointless and some fish fingers and chips. For starters, the whole idea of everyone going to work and going home at the same time is madness. It’s not wonder we have traffic problems is it?! I mean, who came up with that?! ‘Oh yeah, I know, it would be GREAT if we had everyone try to travel to and from work at the same time everyday! Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?’

No, it’s not awesome.

And then you’ve got the whole productivity issue. All of the research, like this, says that flexible working increases productivity, that when we trust our staff to work from home, or to work compressed hours, or whatever it might be, that we get more out of them. So why are so many employers still so scared to embrace flexible working?

Do they not trust us? Do they imagine that the minute they’re not looking, everyone will just be at home playing on Facebook? Because I hate to break it to you bosses, but there are plenty of people sat at their desks right now sneaking a look at Facebook – keeping them locked in an office for set hours every day isn’t going to solve that.

flexible working campaign hire me my way View Post

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I like gin as much as the next self-employed mother of two. It’s ace. Some ice, a good splash of decent tonic water. Boom. Job done. Some gins might taste a little nicer than others; personally I find it hard to tell the difference unless it’s Asda basics or something like that. Gin is gin. 

I was having a browse through a Christmas gift guide in a newspaper at the weekend though, and saw at advert for Silent Pool gin. I’ve never had it before and I’m sure it’s very delicious, so apologies to Silent Pool as this is nothing personal.

BUT.

There was something on the bottle that really wound me up. This gin is not just any old gin you see, this gin is ‘intricately realised’ and distilled from grain ‘precisely crafted’ in England.

Ooooh!

silent pool gin

Jesus Christ.

Intricately realised?? What does that mean? It was complicated to make?! You took a bit of care over your ingredients? Good! I didn’t expect gin would be easy to knock together, or we’d all be making our own wouldn’t we?!

It seems there is a trend that has developed over the last year or two for all of the best things to be hand crafted, by authentic, artisan makers, who live just to make the very best whatever it is that they can possibly make. At the weekends they retreat to the woods to carve spoons and nibble their hand crafted, organic quinoa biscuits because they are just so bloody precious they can’t just eat a Jaffa cake and watch TV like a normal person. View Post

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what is hygge?

Today when I got home it was cold and rainy. I went inside, (after tweeting a picture of the scary mushrooms growing outside my house), and put the heating on.

I went upstairs and put on an extra jumper and my slippers. Cosy.

I came back down and popped the kettle on. While it boiled, I lit a couple of candles. Then I made myself a cup of tea. I took it over to the sofa, my hands wrapped around it for warmth, and pulled a blanket over my knees while the room warmed up.

I did these things because I am a NORMAL HUMAN BEING WHO KNOWS HOW TO LIVE NORMALLY. View Post

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It’s half term this week, so when Belle was up and dressed – around 3pm – she walked into town to meet me at my office and we went for a mooch around the shops. First on her list was Boots to look at the make up. Specifically the pigments. 

(Don’t even get me started on pigments. Belle goes on about them all the time and I don’t even know what it means.)

My eye was caught by a display of products to help the discerning girl about town with her ‘contouring’. In case you don’t know, contouring is essentially painting your face strategically to try to change its shape e.g. giving yourself fake cheekbones. As far as I can gather it’s basically make up to try to make you look thinner.

I have two issues with contouring.

Firstly, who is it, telling our beautiful young daughters that they need to spend money on brown creams and powders to paint fake shadows on their faces?! What’s wrong with women’s faces as they are? I mean seriously, WT actual F? Make-up is a weird enough concept as it is, and not something I feel especially comfortable with, but at least you can sort of justify that as just experimenting with colour or something. Contouring seems to be saying ‘er yeah, your whole face is just wrong. You might just want to change its shape?’

NOT COOL.

Secondly, regardless of the moral issues, it looks stupid.

This is a photo I took of the display that caught my eye. It’s poor quality as far as photography goes, but you get the point:

contouring

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I see:

Top left, the before picture – normal, pretty young woman, already wearing plenty of make up but looking perfectly normal.

Bottom right, the after picture – weird blow up doll.

If you look at the top right picture, you can see the essence of contouring. Contouring is saying ‘your nose is too wide, your forehead is too high, your cheeks are too fat, your chin is too wide and your cheekbones are not defined enough.’

Seriously guys! What is going on?!

Is it just me that thinks this whole trend is messed up??

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I came downstairs on Monday morning, while Belle was getting dressed for school, to the usual collection of breakfast debris. For some reason, she seems to be under the impression that she lives in a cafe, and so every morning is a dilemma – do I ask her to tidy up after herself, and face her teenage wrath, or just do it myself and live in peace?

On Monday morning though, I didn’t come down to the usual sticky peanut butter knife or empty cereal bowl. On Monday I came downstairs to find an empty packet of bacon and tomato ketchup flavour crisps on the sofa. 

teenage fussy eater

I was feeling brave, so I decided to confront her.

“You know it’s not okay to eat crisps for breakfast don’t you?” I said, ducking down behind the table. (Metaphorically.)

“But they were bacon flavour,” she said.

?

“So it counts as breakfast,” she clarified.

Ah right. Well that’s fine then. 

Now the issue I have is that I’m actually quite fond of Belle, and don’t want her to get rickets or any other weird vitamin deficiency, but once a child gets to 14, how exactly are you meant to make them do things? This applies generally to be honest, but with food in particular, how are you actually, physically, meant to get them to eat sensible things?! I’d hoped that as she got older, she’d grow out of her fussy eating habits, and be happy to at least be in the same room as a courgette, but if anything it’s getting worse. She used to tolerate peas for instance, but even they have seemed to have slipped on to her ‘don’t make me eat that or I’ll gag’ list.

So how do you do it?

I provide her with a range of tasty options and I encourage her to try new things. I don’t especially want to never have treats in the house, (I like treats), but even if I did resort to that, at 14 she is quite capable of just stopping at the shop on her way home and buying her own crisps. Where has my authority gone?

(More to the point, was it ever there in the first place?)

I just want to be a good parent, or at least the sort that you don’t feel the need to report to anyone, but apart from holding Belle down and stuffing her cheeks with kale, how do I make her eat good things?

Photo – Only Fabrizio/shutterstock

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