Text speak, Nina Simone and capitalism through clothing

Turns out IRL means “in real life”.  Surely I wasn’t the only person who didn’t know that?!  I am one acronym closer to understanding modern colloquialisms.


In June 2015, Netflix released a documentary about Nina Simone, “What Happened, Miss Simone?”.  The documentary consists largely of archived footage and interviews, most pertinently with her daughter, Lisa.  On reading about this film in the context of being Charlotte Gainsbourg’s “On my radar” (Guardian) favourite documentary, I realised that I too know very little about Nina Simone’s life.  For example, she was a concert pianist first, though having sung in church, and only made herself sing once she had moved from classical to jazz and blues because a particular piano bar she worked at said she could only continue playing there if she also sang.


In terms far more basic and vague than should probably be acceptable, capitalism kind of came about during the latter 1700s with Britain’s Industrial Revolution when, for example, a textile worker’s pay, the yarn, machines and factory costs amounted to X [eg £100] but the product generated Y [eg £170], meaning a profit of Z [£70].  As Z is so attractive, trying to reduce X became increasingly appealing.  With improvements to technology thus production capabilities, England, as one of the northern hemisphere regions that benefitted most, ensured more viability as the provider of mass market end-product goods than, say, Bangladesh, which was still using traditional, non-mechanical methods.  Thus regions like Bangladesh ended up merely supplying the raw materials for England’s burgeoning textile industry, a far less profitable enterprise than exporting the finished garments.  With a need for fewer skilled artisans and a much diminished ease for making profit, less skilled work and raw material production flourished, thus an economic divide was created and endures 250 years later.

I had never thought of how/when/where the concept of capitalism emerged nor the concept of finished product = profit potential versus raw material = exploitation potential, but I find it unexpectedly fascinating that and how we in the UK, with only a small scale textile industry now, rely on both raw materials and garment manufacture from, for example Bangladesh, yet we’re still considerably better off.

I reiterate that I am well aware how much more there is to it, but it’s a small point that struck a chord with me while reading the below book.

[Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand clothes by Andrew Brooks]




It still amazes me that for 14 months I posted a 500-word blog post every day.  Most of the contact lacked research or depth, but literary brilliance was never my intention.  I wanted to slip easily from daily blog writing (500 words every day for six months equated to pretty much a novel – so, yes, I totally overachieved/postponed with 14 months) to novel.  I did actually almost finish that novel but, like my first attempt, it wasn’t the work of genius I had envisaged.

I am now not planning a daily blog nor to prepare myself for writing a book, and I’m certainly not proffering high quality reading matter.  I like blogs because they might not be read by anyone, but they might just be, and something you share might even pique the interest or curiosity of someone else and that, for me, makes the whole process worthwhile and rewarding.

“Things I learned today” has come out of my frustration at my perceived diminishing memory capacity, an aide memoire perhaps, a need to feel that the snippets of information I read about, hear about at work and/or am told about can be used and shared in some way and to get back into the habit of writing regularly.

So as to not write an introduction and then not get around to posting instalment one – check me out – I will be writing my first post on this alarmingly general theme soon after publishing this.


*Particularly for British friends, yes I did make a conscious decision to use “learned” instead of “learnt” as that is officially the spelling adopted in the US and generally accepted in the UK too.  Whether to use “learnt” or “learned” has long bothered me.

{29/11/2012}   Snaffling pens

I have become a pen thief … well, actually I have been one for quite a few years.  I have loads of them and just can’t stop myself pilfering more.  I am referring to freebie/advertising pens, which I get mainly from hotels and offices, I do not take pens from shops or other people!  There is something strangely satisfying about secreting pens about your person to later fill your bag with and it’s unexpectedly thrilling (I don’t get out much, except to pen-snaffling places, clearly!) to try out the new pens, with an additional bonus if there is also a notepad in the offing!

Yesterday I worked at a solicitors’ office, a very nice building with lots of friendly staff and a ready supply of pens and a variant on beloved millionaire’s shortbread (but more on that would be a confession too far!).  I only discovered the pen supply as I was leaving but I’ll be back tomorrow.  It’s advertising, right; I’m doing them a favour.  The immediacy with which I felt my thieving paws lunging for the pen pot yesterday was rather alarming.  It was then, having secured the goods, I contemplated my pen collection.  In the bag I had with me yesterday, I had a pen from Hilton, another from a random company I don’t remember going to and a Barclays pen.

I know someone who has probably hundreds of pens from hotels, often taken by the handful. I am not that bad but I do feel I’ve missed out if I leave a pen-supplying venue pen-less. What is it about pens? I think it’s in part the fact it’s a freebie that’s worth something to you, after all there are few free things these days.  I don’t ever feel smug for having “stolen” from, particularly, a lawyers’ office as the pens are clearly there for the taking, I just find it incredibly satisfying.

In my younger days I collected erasers and bookmarks, all paid for I hasten to add.  Maybe pen snaffling is my adult collecting habit? Mind you, I do not revere them in the same way I did with my eraser and bookmark collections, I merely look at the name on the side every now and then and give myself a little smile, sometimes remembering a good hotel/job/experience, sometimes just appreciative if it’s a particularly good pen.

In addition to the pen thing, I do also have a good line in post-it notes, notepads, pencils and two-biscuit packets of biscuits, which, incidentally, at my current job are exceptionally posh (lime chocolate organic being one pack – v limey, not too much chocolate … mmm, they were good, though looking forward to trying the lemon melts tomorrow!).  Anyway, I say all this as a bit of a confessional, but I just know I am far from being alone on the pilfering front!

I have absolutely no interest in being a celebrity and it is supremely unlikely I will ever be one; it would be hell, largely because of the paparazzi and supposed public interest in my daily activities.  Thinking about my activities yesterday (nothing out of the ordinary and certainly no boobs on display), I wondered what it would have been like to have done those things knowing that I was being watched and photographed and that at some point the most “interesting” or risqué photos would have been published with some kind of tag line.

I have long suspected, due in part to mild hay fever, that I am a nose fiddler – “picker” is more visual and gross than I care to associate myself with – so there were probably plenty of finger-up-nostril moments.  I would not have enjoyed seeing these splashed across the weeklies.

There was a near incident with a duvet that I had drying on my balcony, namely that it almost blew away so I had to make a perilous lean.  I suspect there was some cleavage on display, though I reiterate no boobs on display (I do feel very sorry for Kate Middleton).  I suspect that could have attracted some interest, though surely scraping the barrel.

It may have seemed odd that I moved my car a bit for seemingly no reason.  The exciting truth was that I wanted to move my car from being under a notorious seagull and pigeon toilet perch as I have recently had it cleaned.  It may also have been noticed that I retrieved a bottle of wine from the boot (good job it wasn’t the day before, when I retrieved three large bags of wine from the boot!).  That, coupled with a mistaken belief that my hair could go three days without washing, could easily have led to rumours of my hitting the bottle, which would have been untrue I hasten to add.

I petted a neighbour’s small dog at the top of the flight of steps up to the house in which my flat is located, which suggests I could have given pappers an unrestricted view of my bottom from a most unflattering angle.

I walked to the train station with – scandal – a man.  I later sat on a bench where a (very odd) man circled my bench on his bicycle.  It could have been manipulated to look like an illicit tryst or some such.

I put a bin bag into the wheelie bin.  Some prying creep could easily have had a rummage in that for gossip fodder.  They would have largely found blue mussels (long story but they were retrieved from a toilet full of blue colouring, a Bloo toilet flush), sachets of cat food and remnants of French food packaging.  I could have been labelled a binge eater (hmm, not as far off the truth in this case than it would normally be!).

I went out briefly later on to post some letters, I’m sure the subject of them could have been scandalised/incorrectly guessed.

I really did do very little that was outside or near a window viewable from the road.  However, just writing this makes me see to a certain extent how easy it could be to make my life a figment of other people’s imagination and unrecognisable to me as my daily life.  It must be so hard to maintain normality if you’re hounded by the press and you must always be aware of what you’re doing, what you’re wearing and even what you’re throwing out.  It actually makes me feel repulsed to think about it and sad that so many young people aspire to be celebrities.

I have just read a quick-fire interview with Tom Jones by Rosanna Greenstreet in The Guardian Weekend from Saturday.  I thought I could pretend to be of great importance and answer the interview.   I am not intending to linger over them so will answer with the first thing that comes into my head and there is a chance my answers might be a bit naff and unexciting.  Here goes:

When were you happiest?

For about a year when I was working in Japan.  I realised I had gone there on my own and was a version of me unhindered by familiarity to others and type and had made great friends, was earning decent money and my memories of a week gone by were of fun things I’d done, not work.

What is your biggest fear?

The deaths of those I love.

What is your earliest memory?

I have confused what I “remember” from photographs with what I really can remember.  I vaguely remember walking up Thurnham Lane with my mum toward my school, possibly on my first day, so I was five.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

There’s no one person but I always find myself in awe and admiration of people who devote a lot of their time to looking after others.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Having no comprehension or regard to the feelings of others in pursuit of what they want.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

There have been many but the most recent was my exchange with Harry Hill over a genuine neighbourly issue that rendered me a jabbering rollercoaster of unfunny one-liners.  I am cringing as I think about it.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am trying to detach myself from possessions so I resent thinking about that.

What would your super power be?

To fly.

What makes you unhappy?

Feeling unable to DO something about an issue or situation.

What is your favourite smell?


What is your favourite book?

A horrible question as there are favourites for different moods and times in my life but I have read Haruki Murakami’s “A Wild Sheep Chase” at least three times and I rarely read a book more than once.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?

I would do everything possible to avoid fancy dress, but if I had loads of money and could rent a perfect outfit, I’ve always wanted to wear a medieval dress.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?

Anything unjust, uncalled for and deliberately hurtful or mean.

Cat or dog?


Is it better to give or to receive?

They are inextricably linked so both in equal measures.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I hate this question.  I might think X would be a great person based on my knowledge of them from TV etc, but in reality they might be a prize idiot, and anyway I wouldn’t want a table full of strangers at my dream dinner party.  So a select few of my friends gathered from all over the world.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I know there are many because people mimic my repeated phrases but I can’t think of any as I guess I’m not particularly aware I’m overusing phrases, except that when people tell me them I realise I do use them a lot!

What is the worst job you’ve ever done?

Nothing springs to mind.

When did you last cry, and why?

At various times throughout the Paralympics and Olympics at people’s amazing stories and achievements.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Feeling confident that I can do things on my own.

What keeps you awake at night?

Stress and seagulls.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Something cheerful and upbeat.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good friend .

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

There are too many to answer with one for life is a wealth of lessons that you can choose or ignore learning from.  [I am beginning to feel sorry for celebrities who get interviewed and asked these questions all the time]

Where would you most like to be right now?

In the Blue Lagoon in Iceland: hot water, cold air, blue sky, floating on my back with my eyes closed to the sun, feeling the weight of the world being drawn away … there with friends and unlimited funds on my wristband so I could have the odd beer at the water bar.

{30/07/2012}   Lazy day off

Courts are pretty much on holiday for the summer and I find myself with days off, no holiday sorted, nothing specific to do and a bank balance that matches the philosophy that when you have time you don’t have money.  Plus, my blogging is getting a bit slack and I am far too consumed by holiday planning to write anything of particular interest.  Therein lies my current problem, apathy (or maybe atrophy would be more appropriate as I am veering very much towards armchair travel!) making my ramblings far less pointful than ever.

So I shall write about my day in the hope it makes me realise it was a little more worthwhile than I currently think, extracting all the bad bits of sitting around, swearing at the computer and travel companies causing me rage (seriously, this single supplement thing is going to cause me to have an embolism).

Roughly twice a year I feel a need for a sausage and egg McMuffin meal and once the need strikes, it will linger until it’s fulfilled.  I have needed this breakfast for about three weeks now and this morning, I finally had my McDonald’s breakfast.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and even my reluctant dining companion enjoyed it, in fact so much so he had two meals.  It hit the spot for me and I won’t need another one until the new year.  We then had a coffee elsewhere before heading for a walk by the beach and sitting down admiring the choppy sea for a while.  There, that was a good morning.

Fast forward, fast forward, holiday issues, stress about stressing about a holiday, tax bill panic, stress about being stressed, fast forward … at around lunch time I headed into town to buy a guidebook on Greece, having decided I would go to Ithaca.  Then, by virtue of having borrowed a friend’s tongs for a BBQ on Friday evening, I went to said friend’s house to return the tongs, whereupon I was fed a lovely homemade gorgonzola and tomato puff pie (flaky pastry, it’s not puff, I know, but puff sounds funny!) and a salad.

By the time I got home, I was less sure about Greece.  Then I had the revelation to go to Germany by car.  I have visions of me as Jack Kerouac on a European road trip adventure.  Minus the drugs, alcohol, women, cigarettes … anyway, I shall be beat and bohemian.  Ish.  But I haven’t booked my channel crossing, decided when exactly to go or thoroughly thought out the possible expense.  One friend has already suggested it would be cheaper to fly.  But it’s not very Kerouac Does Europe, is it?!  Plus, I am unexpectedly enthusiastic about taking my German car back to her roots so she can try out the autobahn and “get a good run”!   So I walked back into town and exchanged my Greek guidebook for a German one, to the amusement of the sales assistant.  As an aside, if anyone I know is planning to go to any of the following, I have (bit sad, I know) guide booked myself out so feel free to borrow: Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, South America, Southeast Asia, Central America, Vietnam, Madagascar or the Caribbean Islands.  Pff, I never thought I’d end up going to Germany, it doesn’t have the excitement factor of Madagascar and I fear there won’t be lemurs roaming wild.

I think best to end my day there.  But I have had the mindset of going to Germany for a good half day now and I am getting quite enthusiastic and I suspect bookings may well be made tomorrow, hurrah!


{08/07/2012}   Envy

                I often want to covet things that are not mine, from experiences to possessions.  I guess it’s human nature to want what we don’t have (not necessarily what we can’t have though).  So long as it doesn’t extend into jealousy (which I see as being potentially nasty), I think envy can be channelled into quite a productive direction.  However, I wonder if I, maybe even we, have re-defined envy, for it is envy that is one of the biblical seven deadly sins.

                I have just looked up a few definitions of “envy” and “jealousy” and I still think jealousy is a stronger negative feeling as I think it’s related to resentment.  I think of envy as being more of an appreciation of what someone else has to the extent that you want it.  Is it envy or jealousy that has us standing at a “neighbour’s” fence admiring the perceived greener grass on their side?  Or maybe it’s a matter of how you deal with it.

To me, jealousy is something I associate with boy/girlfriends and friends.  The only recent (maybe ten years ago) occasion when I have had an overwhelming feeling of jealousy (and I knew it was jealously because I was reminded that I’d only ever felt that way at school and it was never pretty) was when a group of friends went on holiday and didn’t invite me (by not giving the details I am overdramatizing it, but how I felt at the time is the point).  It felt horrible and I didn’t like that feeling at all.  As for envy, a friend went on a day trip to France yesterday, I was envious because I love going over there for daytrips and had visions of all the things I could eat (yes, yes, I know I went two weeks ago!).  I had no bitter or spiteful thoughts about her going, I was pleased for her, and anyway she’s brought me back a box of macaroons!

As for it being a positive thing, I feel envious that some of my friends in recent years have lost weight.  They have all worked hard at it and it’s paid off.  I feel inspired by their efforts and seeing them looking better and happier is a great motivator for me.  Surely that’s a case of envy being a positive thing?  I don’t know why this all bothers me but I think it stemmed from being on train platforms with school children a few years ago when I commuted from Whitstable.  I overheard so many horrible things and was reminded that throughout your childhood you experience pretty much all human emotions, indeed that’s how and when we learn behaviours, but it was all so raw and largely horrible to hear and see.  I was surprised by how many feelings it made me think about and be thankful I had learnt to harness!  It would be one of the cruelest punishments possible to have 30 years taken off me and to send me back to the early years of school.  Maybe envy on the grand scale of early experiences of wanting someone’s [insert a current coveted thing that most parents can’t afford] is where the “sin” element of envy is apparent.  I can remember flying into tantrums and rages about not being able to have the Barbie house that a friend had.  What a brat.  It was an unleashing of frustration, anger, resentment … ugh, so ugly.

I guess a point of sorts has developed, which is that a feeling like envy can be controlled and, I think, be seen as a positive.  But in its raw unconsidered state, I guess it probably could lead to sin.  As for jealousy, that brews.  Right, yes, I’ve lost the point a bit!

{27/06/2012}   Memory

My memory’s not what it used to be.  Or maybe I’ve forgotten how it used to be?  Or maybe I don’t challenge it.  From birth until you get to the end of your academic life, your memory is probably your biggest asset in terms of your development, most of the rest comes from how you use this incredible resource.

Since leaving university at 22, the only studies I have done are to learn stenography, a year of, essentially, learning a new language.  I know that if I did a further degree now, I would struggle, but I can see this would largely be as a result of being out of the habit of studying.  I would also blame my, as I perceive it, poor memory on probably more than would be justified.

I think the decline of my memory started when I was about 24/25 and teaching English in Japan.  Actually, it wasn’t so much my memory, more my use of “big words”, which was a bit of a slippery slope.  When you live abroad, and particularly when your language skills appropriate to that country are lacking, you learn to *new word alert* thesaurusise your vocabulary to make it both less colloquial and easier to understand.  I then feel I kind of forgot how to use some words correctly and I’m sure my vocabulary has narrowed, though I do have some niche vocabulary as a result of my job!

I very often hear myself saying, “Oh, what’s that word”; is that because because my memory is on the slide or that I’m not challenging my vocabulary on a day to day basis?  Likewise spellings, there are words I can no longer spell.  But it’s ok, I don’t have to use a dictionary, because most writing I do is using a keyboard and all things keyboard have a spell checker!

So is technology to blame?  Mobile phones and computers can do the remembering for you, and we let them.  Technological advances are wonderful but they are, in my mind, taking over jobs our brains used to do, indeed are designed to do.  Phones and computers are one thing but now there are more automatic cars around and more functions in cars, things we used to be able to do ourselves, like engaging in the process of parking rather than having bippers and even video cameras to assist.  Technology is helping us to allow ourselves to become brain and body lazy.

Years ago, I read a story about a teacher in a US school who, on the day, or perhaps day after, JFK was shot asked everyone in his class (all pre-teen) what they were doing when they found out.  The memory was fresh and lengthy descriptions were given.  He asked them to write down their memory, saying he would return their descriptions when they graduated high school.  Everyone was adamant they would remember.  Correct, they did all remember, because the teacher, maybe ten years later, asked them what they were doing when JFK died.  But all of their recollections deviated from what they had written, the smaller details had changed with time.

I worry that a lot of my memories are enhanced, altered perhaps, by photographs.  Sometimes I think I recall an event because I have recently seen a photo and have merely embellished that.  Some of my friends can remember amazing detail of our primary school years.  I think they are probably largely correct.  I struggle to think what my first memory is and I’m pretty sure my first big memories are from my school years between seven and eleven, though I can remember snippets.  For example, I can sort of picture the dining hall of my primary school and the tables and benches.  I also have a feeling of repulsion at having to drink milk.  But I don’t remember if I forced it down or got excused from drinking it.  I can also picture a water fountain and my friend punching me in the stomach and winding me.  I also remember the toilets were portacabins and that the roll towels were dirty and I hated drying my hands.  Ha, funny, I don’t dry my hands after washing them as a general rule!

Perhaps what annoys me most about my “failing” memory is that I can’t remember things I’ve read or seen.  I know if I’ve seen a film or read a book and I can tell you whether I liked it and how it made me feel.  But I can’t tell you what happened.  People can “spoil” a story by telling me the ending, I will then read or see it and won’t know the spoiler until I see if for myself.  What’s that about?  Maybe that’s a lack of concentration when it comes to reading or watching things.  I can watch, say, the news and be staring at the TV and hearing what’s going on, then someone watching with me can comment on it and I won’t know that they’re talking about something I’ve just heard.  I think my problem with reading or watching a film/TV is that I am usually thinking about other things I should be doing or that are on my mind.  All the above, infuriatingly, also applies to things people tell me.  I’m great at keeping secrets, because I don’t chuffing remember them, other than bits.

I find the brain and its memory function absolutely incredible and utterly fascinating.  Maybe writing and thinking about this will set me on a path to learning in an attempt to re-engage my memory.  It would be wonderful to remember the interesting things people tell me!

For a variety of reasons, the people involved in this will not be named.  I am writing this because it is something that is troubling me hugely and because I would appreciate any opinions or advice.

What follows will be an abridged version of events as they stand and a few minor alterations for the purposes of discretion.

A bit of background:  it is unexpectedly announced by Z that a building of historical interest which is used by a small rural community is to be closed in two weeks.  The only people who know about this are those who happen to be present on that day, collectively Y.  There are some locals who pay a direct debit to help keep that building going, they are not told that their direct debit will be going to a different building until those who happened to hear the news of the building’s imminent closure asked them if they knew.  They were, unsurprisingly, very angry.

Within Y a few decide to get a petition together to prove there is support for the building and that it is used more than Z implied.  There is no blame, the petition is merely to keep the building open, both for its guaranteed upkeep and for those who use it.

There is a lot of support for the petition.  However, Z has a lot of loyal “friends” and it transpires that some are a little scared to, as they see it, go behind Z so some people refuse to sign, though verbally offer their support for the building’s upkeep.

Z then starts bad mouthing some of Y to his “friends”, even publically naming and accusing one of them of spreading lies.

Now comes X, someone who was part of Y and who helped with the petition.  It is her situation that has upset me and caused me to write here.  It is a very long and detailed story and I am missing out a lot.  X is a female who lives on her own, maybe 15 years older than Z, a married man.

The petition was for Z’s boss, to prove the use and support for the building.  Z’s boss was not happy as it seemed that Z had told him otherwise.  Z’s boss seems to be progressing the case for saving the building, so there should be a happy ending.  However, Z is very angry about people having gone to his boss and he has, in a rage, gone round to the houses of at least two others from Y, both women living on their own.  Neither woman has opened the door to him and on those grounds one of them was shouted at through her door and told that not opening the door was tantamount to her not being open to discussion.  She didn’t open the door because she was scared to have an uninvited angry man banging at her door to come in.

Meanwhile, the local press got wind of the possible closure of this building.  Z was interviewed, saying how much he supported the building and how he hoped it would be kept open.  Members of Y and others who used the building were interviewed and photographed outside the building, X included.  Many of these people also wrote to the local paper.  Only X’s piece was published.  It did not mention Z, it was just about saving the building, though Z would have known it was because of his actions that the article was written.

Z does not know X’s phone number.  So Z phoned and left a message on the answer machine of friends of X’s who live approximately a two-minute walk up the same road.  X’s friends were shocked by the message, as was X who went over to listen to the message.  It was aggressive and angry and accused X of running a campaign against him, about which he demanded to know more.  X was very upset.  There is no campaign against any individual, there is just a petition out to save the building and keep it open.

Z, however, knows where X lives.  On a daily basis for the past few days, Z has been banging on X’s door.  X is frightened, particularly in light of what happened to people she knew from Y and other things X has heard about Z.  It came to a bit of a head the other day as X was outside in her garden when she heard the front door bell.  Then the back gate bell.  Then the front door bell.  Then the back gate bell.  And so on.  For a long time.  X had only got home shortly before this started, likewise when Z had rung round before, X had not long been home.  X was scared so stayed in the garden for quite a long time.  Previously Z had driven round and parked on X’s drive but now it seems that Z is walking round.

A short time later, around 7.30pm, X was inside her home.  The front door and back gate ringing started again.  X was scared so hid.  It continued so she phoned the neighbours up the road who had received the answer phone message.  X’s friend said she would come round immediately (bearing in mind Z had been at the house ringing for quite some time before X called her friend and it takes up to two minutes to walk between their houses).  X meanwhile was left in her own home, terrified.  Some time later there was heavy banging on X’s front door.  Then silence.  X still didn’t move, unsure if and when Z had gone.  Then X’s phone rang, her friend was ringing to tell her that she had gone round to X’s front door and spotted Z balancing very precariously on X’s front door step, leaning onto the window ledge of X’s living room, quite a way away, trying to see in.  X’s friend had addressed a very shocked and flustered Z by name, it was X’s friend who had banged on the door, she’d then announced to Z that X obviously wasn’t in and had walked with him up the road and was ringing X to tell her that she had escorted Z part of his way home.

Although X’s friend had believed X about how scared, etc, she was and how harassed she felt by Z, X’s friend hadn’t quite grasped how determined and completely out of order Z was being.  X has reluctantly told Z’s boss and asked neighbours she knows to be alert for her (at least two are now a phone call away).  X is also reluctant to tell the police but I hope will, especially as it transpires that other people have complained to the police about Z’s behaviour before.  The unfortunate thing, and part of the reason X is so uncomfortable about seeking the support and protection she has every right to expect is that Z appears to have been bad mouthing X and Y, so much so that at a street Jubilee party on Tuesday X was blanked by two of Z’s “friends”, people with whom X had previously been neighbourhood friends with.  We have no idea what Z has been saying about X and Y.  X is now ill (not seriously), which she can only put down to the stress and fear of Z confronting her unawares while she is at home or out in the local area.

Oh, and the other reason X is so worried about talking to Z’s boss and the police and why Z has so many friends is – and does this change what you think about all this so far – because the building is an old Norman church and Z is a vicar.

*I wrote the above yesterday.  Since then, Z went to X’s again, the same persistent back to front door ringing.  X called the local police and an officer came round to take an informal statement.  X was told that for harassment to be a crime, X must tell Z that his behaviour must stop and if it persists, it will then be investigated as harassment.  So, under the advice and help of the police, X wrote down a message that she later read to the answer phone of Z saying that there was no campaign, just the petition to show support for the building, and that X had nothing more to say and requested that Z did not call around again and left her alone.  I would like to think that will be the end of it, but I am not at all convinced, even if it’s “only” that X’s neighbours, the strong contingent of supporters of Z, continue to blank her.  Horrible, bullying school playground stuff

**I have worried about posting this.  Because of Z’s “social standing”, not that I’ve given any names or locations.  Why on earth should I feel bad about writing what’s been happening to X?  It begs another issue, doesn’t it, how people with power and influence can get away with things.  This whole situation is making me very angry and disappointed in certain people.

{06/06/2012}   Tipping

I have huge issues about tipping, both the concept and the amount.  It all came to a bit of a tipping head a few months ago when I had to get a £110 taxi from the airport home, having pre-paid the fare.  What to do?

I am under the belief that tipping is a consideration for taxis, restaurant staff, hairdressers, take-away deliveries and chamber maids (is that the right job title?).  There are probably more.  I pretty much always tip the former three, sometimes the latter two.  But why is it custom to tip in these circumstances, based at least in part on their relatively low incomes, when there are so, so many other customer facing staff whose salaries are on a par?

I think standards of service in the UK are generally poor, though particularly in restaurants this is often the fault of places being understaffed. I object massively to the increasingly popular system of adding a discretionary tip to a food bill.  A friend and I once had dinner at the St Pancras Grand, a treat.  Fortunately we weren’t catching a train because the service was atrocious.  In the end, having wondered repeatedly what had happened to our main course, the manager informed us that they were busy because of a large group.  Er, hello, just because there’s a large group in your large restaurant does not mean one of your tables of two can be ignored.  It was a while ago and I can’t remember how long we waited but I know I we passed the one-hour (adding times between each course) mark.  When the bill was finally produced, after we stood up, coats on, and walked to the server area, fed up of waiting, the discretionary tip was part of the bill, 12.5 % I believe.  It caused no end of trouble to have that deducted off the bill.  I am the customer, I decide how good the service is and if/how much to tip.  Isn’t that how it works in the tipping capital of the world, the US: you pay according to the service you get.

As for my £110 taxi fare, where no money needed to have changed hands, I spent the duration of the journey thinking about what to do.  In the end, I gave the taxi driver £10.  He chatted the whole way (actually a good thing as I had been on a late night flight, was tired and didn’t want to sleep) and was interesting (lots of local Folkestone gossip!).  He even offered to detour to a 24-hour shop so I could get milk and any other breakfast stuff.

However, a tip is kind of an extra thank you for your service.  But if your job is to drive, wait tables, cut hair, etc, why should there be an expectation of a little something extra.  In my job, I provide a service, at times it is apparent that I am exhausted and suffering, yet I neither expect nor get a tip.  I see people at supermarket check outs at busy times, they look tired and are working hard, why shouldn’t they get a tip?  Is it because you spend longer with a hairdresser or waitress, thus you become a little familiar with them, that a tip is appropriate?

I had a discussion with some friends the other day about whether to put in a tip for the person who was about to deliver our take-away.  We were divided.  Someone pointed out, “But it’s his job”.  True.  But that also applies to waitresses, etc.

I do not like the American philosophy whereby a member of waiting staff is paid a pitifully low wage with the knowledge that their salary will be boosted by tips.  I pay to eat in the restaurant, why should I be expected to pay part of someone’s salary in addition to that?  It is a nice gesture, a thank you for being attentive.  But if I spend a long time in a clothes shop trying to find something that fits, I might spend a long time with a sales assistant, but no one would expect me to tip.  Would they?  I used to work in a hotel restaurant over university holidays.  We were paid roughly minimum wage and worked hard.  Knowing you get tips as a waitress, I was every so excited about the prospect of extra cash.  In that hotel, most evening diners were residents and signed for their meals as part of their hotel bill.  If they were going to tip they would usually add it to their room bill.  The hotel got that money not us.  Nowadays, I think that has changed, ie the restaurant staff get a share of the tips added to, for example, credit card transactions.  But I will always leave cash tips.

A final issue I want to bring up about tipping in restaurants is whether the kitchen staff get a share of the tip.  I think the tip should be for the person you have interacted with throughout your meal, I have no idea who prepared my meal.  I know a lot of restaurants have a tip kitty which is divided amongst staff, or maybe that’s how credit card tips are allocated?  If I leave a tip for the waiting staff, it is because they have been nice, or whatever.  If that then gets shared out, where do you draw the line?  Does a waiter get the same share as a sous chef or washer upper?  Oh, it all annoys me hugely.

I wish I felt like I could tip if I wanted to, if the service were exceptional, but I wish I wouldn’t be made to feel stingy and unwelcome if I didn’t tip.  So I’ve come full circle and have merely confirmed that I hate the system of tipping, which I knew before I started writing this!

et cetera