A blog! A whole blog!

Well, hello.

Lots has changed around these parts since I last posted. I have a post in draft, grumbling about many of the barriers I was facing in my old job, and talking about how my manager was encouraging me to get out.

Then I blinked, skipped a few months and I’m out! So all my grumbles from the old place have gone, to be replaced with grumbles at the new place! One might say that this giraffe is never happy.

It’s been a big change. I hit the infamous glass ceiling in the last place; there was nowhere to go and no promotion prospects. Growing ever-disillusioned with the civil service, I looked at the possibility of leaving. Imagine that! Nearly 8 years of Civil Service life, and I was planning to step outside. The thought scared me immensely.

As I say, my manager was encouraging me to leave. I spoke to her at length, showed her applications and job specs, and she encouraged me with all her heart. I later found out that’s because she is looking to escape too. She knows that there is a finite time that one can spend in that particular Civil Service department, and her and I had reached our limit. She’s a lifer in the CS though, and it was interesting to listen to her thoughts on how people today shouldn’t spend their lives in the CS: it’s moved on from the institution that it was 15, 30 years ago. Nowadays people use it as a stepping stone, and move on.

So that’s what I did. I was quite nervous at leaving the Civil Service; I was used to the obvious flexible work/life benefits that it brought: I could start early and finish early, but when we needed to drop C off in the mornings, I could go in later without any penalty. I was based in the centre of Glasgow, not far from L, and we lift-shared in. It was lovely, quite frankly, and I don’t think I knew at the time just how good it was.

I went for a few interviews; all in the same area of work that I’m used to: no point rocking the boat too much! Some were just too inflexible for me: a rigid 9.30-5.30 and for someone who is used to working 8-4 (and has done for over 10 years), I’m not prepared to lose my evenings, thank you. Also: outside of the world of the Civil Service: holidays. Since when did people expect you to work on bank holidays, and when was 22 days an acceptable allowance for holidays? I almost stopped looking and went into teaching!

I was lucky in interview terms: I didn’t have that many. I was chased for one job that I later rejected: I’d got to the second interview but decided that losing nearly 2 weeks holidays in a year was a step too far for me. My second interview was the job I eventually took; I was the second person interviewed and 5pm that night on the way home I got a phone call to ask me if I’d accept the job. I was astounded. It took a bit of wrangling, and obtaining a few extra days’ holiday, but I eventually accepted, and started on the 1 September.

Of course, wherever you end up, compromises must be made, and I have. I work for a Local Government organisation now; my hours aren’t as flexible as they used to be, but that’s a small trade-off for the pension and pay that I’m getting. Flexible working seems to ‘exist’ but not be utilised here; so one of my challenges is to try and create a working environment that permits flexible working at each end of the day. No prizes for guessing which end of the day I will be working when I get that in place!

I’ve also moved to 4 weekly pay, which is odder than odd to me and has taken some getting used to. My first payday was 2 weeks into working here, which has threatened to rock my very tight financial ship with regard to paying all bills within the first three days of the month. With only 2 weeks’ pay to last me until the second week of October, I’ve had to borrow from my savings to ensure that the bills are paid in October. Only for a couple of weeks, and then I’m back on an even keel again. I have a convoluted system of bank accounts paying each other at different times of the month as a result.

One thing I will find difficult forever more is the commute. I’m up to a 45mins commute now, from the shared commute with L three days a week that took 20mins on average. Now me and my little car have to pootle off twice as far, for double the time, on our own. No longer can I whinge about rubbish drivers to L, or play the Yellow Car game. I miss that already. I think 45mins is about my personal limit. I detest finishing work and spending 45mins of my own time in the car, when I could be home in half that time… I think the answer is story CDs, starting with Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy… and to forget the quick commute that I used to have.

2.5 weeks in now, sometimes it feels like forever, and other times it feels like no time at all. I have a vast amount to learn, an even bigger amount to change and a new helpdesk to put in. I would be lying if I said I was bricking it, and I’m already questioning if I am the right person for the job. I’ve joined at possibly the busiest time of the year, ever, and am feeling quite under pressure at times, yet I have no autonomy to change anything; I’m just toeing the line until the ‘holy grail’ of the new software arrives, and then the pressure is on to deliver. I guess, as they all say, time will tell.

5:2 – see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya

9 weeks after starting my 5:2 journey, I’ve decided that it isn’t right for me. I have lost a bit of weight, nowhere near enough that the success stories have you believe, but I’ve learned three things from doing it….

1. Those reporting huge losses are generally those who have a lot to lose (I didn’t, in the grand scheme of things
2. It made me want to graze all day the following day, negating the whole purpose of fasting in the first place
3. L, and my colleague at work, both said I was much more moody and grumpy on fasting days.

In the last 4 weeks my pattern went -1, +1, -2, +2. At that point, I figured that happiness was more important, so made the decision to stop.

There’ll probably still be days where I do fast. Today was my first non Thursday fast and it felt odd… I gave it a fair shot but it didn’t play nice with me.

As I’m back running again, 3x a week and nearly at the end of couch to 5k once more, I think that my running has probably done more for the 7lbs that I have lost than 5:2 ever did for me.

The next month will be telling….

5:2 – commencing the journey

I hate diets. Even the word is painful. The fact that the first three letter spell die isn’t ironic in the slightest, because the mindset that I find myself slipping into (one of dejection and frustration at not being able to eat as I please) makes me feel as if I would rather die than engage in a painfully elongated diet process.

With intrigue and a little trepidation, I have researched and started (today!) the 5:2 diet. Most people seem to know what this entails, but for the uninitiated, you have 5 days of eating normally (well, within reason, less than 2000 calories if you’re female) and 2 days of the week (of your choosing) of ‘fasting’, where you don’t exceed 500 calories (women, 600 men). Seems so straightforward until you realise that there are calories in EVERYTHING. An apple: 50 calories. A banana: 100+ (my usual hunger-quelling snacks). Even breathing wastes calories (well, it doesn’t, but reading the books, it felt like it). It’s going to take some severe willpower and attentiveness on my part.

As a veggie, I’m sort of in a quandary: fasting for 2 days isn’t easy – I can’t bulk my meals out as easily as meat eaters. Egg features a lot on the menus, although at 75cals per medium egg (oh deity I’m counting everything already) I won’t be indulging in too many, too often. Many of the recipe books scream “eat an omelette for breakfast!”… I’m fasting on Mondays and Thursdays; therefore at work. Omelettes aren’t possible in work, oh no. I figured that if I documented what I ate here, it’d serve as a reminder for what breakfasts are possible!

I’m not going to tell you how heavy I am nor how much I need to lose; instead I’ll report any gains/losses and how the 2 fasting days are going for me. Fingers crossed….

In a vain attempt to motivate myself through this, I’m going to list out what I’m eating and see what I can conjur up on fasting days that actually curb some of the hunger pangs. So, today:

2x Kallo corn cakes (52cals)
2tsp Marmite (20cals)

Miso soup (29cals) (found in Whole Foods – a single portion to make a soup. Need to find better sources of Miso paste that won’t break the bank)
1x Kallo corn cake (26 cals)

Dinner will be a tofu and mushroom south Indian curry, from the marvellous Celia Brooks’ 5:2 Vegetarian book (147 cals) with a wholemeal pitta bread (138 cals, but I need some carbs).

Drinks:

Fruit teas in abundance. I have Lidl’s Very Berry Knightsbridge tea, and we found a Yogi Sweet Chilli tea in the local Whole Foods store, and several Twinings variations to try as well. They’re all 0 calories and many of the books suggest that drinking them can curb your hunger. I may become very bad and invest in Pepsi Max as I find that carbonated drinks tend to fool my stomach into thinking it’s had something, so I might commit the cardinal sin of resorting to fizzy; but not making it a regular habit – a last resort.

Allowance for at least one cup of tea with skimmed milk (how I always have my tea anyway – I like to taste the tea, not the milk!): 30cals

Total for the day (barring any slipups): 442cals.

As I posted this (10:45am), I was just beginning to feel hungry, but haven’t had anything other than a fruit trees and point of water. I’ll try and teach my body not to expect food quite so early in the mornings!

Abomination Towers: The Beginning

It’s been four months (and three days, to be precise) since we got the keys to our home, and it’s taken us that long just to clean the place! I do jest a little, but those on Facebook and Twitter will know only too well of my #OvenGate woes – we moved in to a half working hob (two rings faulty, most of it held together with grease), and an oven that was so filthy I’d have been embarrassed to leave it behind when I moved.

Still, it’s our home and bit by bit we are changing it from a house into a home. I haven’t done a photo post, so now is as good a time as any – I’ll post it as a separate photo post which will be protected. Contact me via any means of email or Twitter if you want to be nosey and check out the photos. I’m using a new password, you see.

Why Abomination Towers? Well, quite simply, the houses are built on the site of an old convent. The sisters were doin’ it for themselves and flogged the entire lane to two developers, making a fortune and getting themselves a shiny new convent built at the same time. Our road is named after the name of the convent, and the second road that was built off of it was helpfully called ‘Convent Road’. The thought of us, a same-sex family in the very grounds where the highly religious sisters lived makes me laugh… and through telling the story of the convent and the road to a friend of ours, the name Abomination Towers was suggested. We are, after all, the very abomination that the sisters wouldn’t have wanted in their grounds…!

It also leans somewhat towards the description of the house itself. On moving in, it was, in places, a complete abomination. On top of #OvenGate, we inherited:

1) A bathroom that hadn’t been cleaned in months (used by two teenage boys and a teenage girl)
2) A toilet seat in said bathroom that we suspect was once white (say no more)
3) An ensuite with a curtain (curtains! In a bathroom!), original bathroom suite (in beige) and a shower that hadn’t been cleaned in (oh, you get the picture – they didn’t *do* cleaning)
4) Bedrooms in somewhat choice colours, self-painted by the children (no removal of sockets or care taken with wall:ceiling lines, resulting in paint everywhere)
5) Two bedrooms where the walls had served as dartboards (yes, seriously)
6) A royal blue cloakroom (the smallest room in the house is painted in the darkest colour)
7) A kitchen, where:
a. some of the doors had been replaced with red gloss, leaving the original wood effect doors on some drawers
b. at least two of said red gloss doors hanging off, with others held closed with Blu-Tack
c. a larder cupboard with half-depth shelves (it’s the biggest waste of space ever)
d. a leak under the sink
e. poorly fitted shiny work surfaces which never look clean or dry
f. the original four ring gas hob, with only two rings working, and four control knobs glued down with grease (and goodness knows what else)
g. The oven: the poor, poor oven, with years of fat splattering, no cleaning, abused by all in the house.
h. A dishwasher – installed without an end panel next to it, so when the dishwasher opens it hits the handles on the door of the cupboard that it’s at 90 degrees to. The handle is battered and bent. Oh and the dishwasher? Split and broken wheels and brackets, and filthy beyond all recognition.
8) A garden with a pond (emptied before we moved in but the lining left in. In Scotland it rains from September-May. It was full in weeks), with decking that had never been treated, installed up to the side of the house; with the water running off towards the house…….
9) Two monster (40ft plus) trees in the garden
10) Three (including the pond) water features.

I make it sound a lot worse than it actually is. The house is liveable – ie we could move all of our stuff (and the stuff we’ve had to buy since to fill it, for a 2 bed flat to this house was a big jump!), and more to the point, we inherited a few good things as well; such as a conservatory with a utility area (no need for the washing machine in the kitchen!), nearly-new double glazing, a part boarded loft, more space than we ever wanted, cupboards to stash stuff in aplenty and the blank canvas that we actually did want – whilst it’s liveable, it’s going to be transformed by us into our home. It’s getting there, slowly, but it will take a lot of effort on our part. The thing is, although we said we didn’t want a project (and by that we were thinking of the pink artex on the walls of a 1950s house we saw around the time we offered on this one), we have a project, but it’s a more manageable project because not everything needs to be done at once.

The joys of home ownership. Photos to follow…

Women: unite in provocative attire for violence

I sometimes wonder what goes through a Marketing guru’s mind, when they’re planning their next advertising campaign. I’m aware that almost all marketing revolves around the peak times of the year, and even before the current campaign is out of the way (e.g. Christmas), marketing departments are already looking to the next stage – in this case Valentine’s day.

Take Amazon.co.uk, for example. A huge, multinational company with a far and widespread reputation. I daresay that Amazon have cost me more than they’ve saved me over the years, with their heavily discounted prices and to-my-door delivery. I’m not afraid to say that whilst I don’t always agree with the ethical side of their business, I’m too tight to pay more and buy things elsewhere.

A while back, I subscribed to their Clothing newsletter. Incidentally I did this purely to save 20% off of something (which the voucher didn’t work for anyway), and I forgot to cancel the newsletter. It trickled in regularly, trying to entice me to go and buy discount clothing. Sunday morning’s email, however, had me reaching for the cancel button before I’d even got past the subject line:

Floor him | What to wear this Valentine’s

Now, I’m pretty sure that the marketing team must’ve just had a little too much Christmas fizz when they came up with this one. “I know, let’s use our customer profiles and make sure that we target the women with one email and the men with another. We can promote sultry clothes and lingerie to the women and tell them that they can use these as a weapon to get their men all warmed up for the big V day.” (disclaimer: I don’t know if the men got a different email; my customer profile says I’m signed up to the Women’s Clothing email. That in itself is quite funny as I’m sure I signed up to a generic clothing email from Amazon.).

I’m insulted that as one of 750,000 LGBT people in the UK1 (and of the 14,500 declared lesbians), Amazon feel that they can pigeonhole me and my peers into their little tick box that says that women should look to astound their men on Valentine’s Day. Just their men, because all women have men to dress up for, right?

Actually, let’s think about that for a moment. The inference itself is that women should make an effort to dress up (since this is a clothing email after all) for their men on a Hallmark day of the year. Suffice to say, the email contained links to skimpy dresses and underwear, as well as clothes with names such as a ‘select femme blouse’. Women: you must ooze femininity for your man and he shall desire you. What sort of message does that send out to younger women and the rest of society?

Where does it leave me, though? Amazon are telling me and the other 1.5% of the population that we should all look to capitalise on our femininity to ‘floor’ our men. What about my girlfriend? Am I not entitled to want to ‘floor’ her on Valentine’s Day? In one single word Amazon have denied my right to feel as valued as the next woman, because I don’t have a man to floor. Single ladies (“all the…”) may ‘hear hear’ at this point too.

Even the term ‘floor’ itself is a little iffy in my book. It was picked up by some on my Twitter feed and interpreted as the idea of domestically abusing someone. As well as meaning ‘to astound’, the vast majority of online dictionaries list ‘to floor’ as: “to knock someone down with a punch”. I’m sure that the growing number of domestic abuse support groups will greatly appreciate Amazon’s inference that domestic abuse is fine too. With men being victims of just over a quarter of domestic violence2, it’s not something that should be read lightly.

Long trawls on the internet to try and find Amazon’s LGBT policies for employees proved fruitless, but many employees online speak warmly of a diverse and inclusive working environment. With this in mind, one wonders how marketing could get something quite so wrong. Indeed, I doubt very much that such a company would intend to flout regulations which outlaw “discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services… on the grounds of sexual orientation”3. Not every person in this world is heterosexual, or coupled up. It’s time that society stopped assuming and denouncing people for not conforming to a historical view. With the likes of equal marriage (people; it’s marriage now. Not gay marriage, not equal marriage. Just marriage) laws being passed, and the backlash over Russia’s hideously anti-LGBT laws; society is changing: we don’t fit into your taught vision that it’s one man for one woman. Far from it: it’s time to change perception.

As a gay woman, I see no reason for marketing departments to focus so heavily upon gender and target email groups in this way. Remove the word ‘him’ and put ‘your partner’ / ‘your loved one’, and immediately you stop ostracising a large percentage of customers. Quite frankly, Amazon, you need to rethink your marketing strategies and catch up with the rest of the world.

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1 Source: “Measuring Sexual Identity: Evaluation Report, 2010” (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ethnicity/measuring-sexual-identity—evaluation-report/2010/index.html)

2 British Crime Survey, 2010

3 The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, secondary legislation of the Equality Act 2010