Productive actions in perilous times

My Twitter feed has been one long scroll of horror since 20 January (with some gloriously bright spots such as the millions around the world who took part in the Women’s Marches and the lovely Americans crowding the streets at every opportunity to protest the latest idiocy proposed by Trump).

At the moment the cockles of my cynical heart are being warmed by the numbers of immigration lawyers who have turned up at multiple airports to offer pro-bono advice and try and pry names and details out of CBP staff; the variety of Congress people turning up to support that and the judiciary who have ruled the ‘muslim ban’ as illegal.

I couldn’t do the Women’s March last weekend but in the spirit of Doing Something rather than just amplifying as many voices as possible here’s a partial list of actions I’m putting in place.

a) Signed this petition to limit any visit by Trump – and I’ll be out on the street protesting the moment his toes touch the ground.

b) Attending the Emergency Protest at Downing Street tomorrow night with a pal.

c) Signed this letter ‘from the world’ to dearest Donald letting him know that 3 million of us (and counting) don’t like him one little bit. Sometimes it’s the little things and when you’re dealing with a man that vain there’s something comforting in 3m+ people rejecting him and everything he stands for (on top of those who did a rousing job doing just that last weekend).

d) Letters sent to local councillors and local MP asking pertinent questions and for their reassurance on their positions on a number of key issues.

e) Emailed 10 Downing Street asking whether May really wants to go down in history as the Neville Chamberlain for this decade.

f) Donated to Kal Penn’s amazing fund raiser (US actor who also worked for the Obama administration) who opened what he thought might be a little fund raiser after some twit told him he didn’t belong in America.  It’s currently @ $407,000 and rising by the second.

g) Donated to and/or joined (start of a list I expect to grow over coming months)

  • Hope not Hate
  • Amnesty International
  • Greenpeace
  • Friends of the Earth

h) Trying to track down a useful blog post an American pal made about how non-Americans can donate to groups like the ACLU and other civil liberties orgs without jeopardising their status in the US.

It’s a start.  Diary dates for coming months – possible further march next Saturday, then two in March – one for preserving the NHS against all incursions and one an anti-Brexit march.

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Money leaks – £360/person/year


Interesting article from GoCompare on money leaks and how they average out to £360 per person per year on the UK.

The UK wastes a whopping £17.6bn a year by letting money leach away on takeaways, snacks, coffees, ready meals and items and services which aren’t used – that’s an average of £360 of unnecessary spending per person, per year.

Takeaway meals, paying for lunch or snacks at work and unused TV subscriptions all come high in the list.  It’s definitely worth taking a quick look at the article for the top 20 money leaks.

Gentle reader have been guilty of many of these in the past – but getting back into the gym in 2014 meant that I totally vanquished my takeaway habit (down to 3-4 times a year rather than 3-4 times a week) and increased my cooking at home from lovely fresh unprocessed ingredients (thus killing off another item on the list – buying too many ready meals).

Unused subscriptions ceased to be a problem once I started adulting like a boss and reconciling my bank accounts monthly .

However I still have some slightly guilty (from a position of fiscal responsibility) habits including:

  • the Starbucks coffee ritual (not daily but often enough to rate a mention)!
  • not prepping lunch the night before which can – at busy times – lead to a week of lunches from either the staff canteen (relatively economical) or pandering to my Itsu habit (not so economical)!
  • occasionally not being quite as on top of my credit card payments and balancing various bank accounts so I get hit by the odd overdue charge (but much improved over the last 2 years).

I’m getting better at the whole lunch prep – especially as knowing what I eat helps with achieving my gym targets.  I can certainly afford the coffee and lunches out – I just need to keep an eye out to make sure they’re the occasional treats rather than a daily thing.

One thing that helped me get a grip on spending over the last two years was making my unit of calculation either PT sessions with the lovely PT  or things for the allotment.

I’ve found it far easier to balance wants and needs when framing it that way.e g. if I have an ITSU lunch every day this week that equates to 1 PT session.  Would I rather eat out for ease or would I rather invest in having fun in the gym?  Put that way it’s much easier to go with investing in someone who is totally focused on helping me achieve my goals (and who makes me laugh a lot) rather than a nice snack!  Or if I only have one take away coffee this week rather than 4 I can buy several currant bushes or packs of seeds for the garden!

What tricks do you use for breaking some not so great habits and avoiding money leakage?

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Women’s Marches

I wasn’t able to get to the London march but did spend a couple of hours on Twitter yesterday joyfully signal boosting tweets about turnout, pics of people attending and the amazing creativity of the signs from the quintessentially British “Really Rather Annoyed” and “I’m Quite Cross” to Ian McKellen’s sign of Capt Pickard with his head in his hands tot he more serious

and the funny ones!

to the signs different groups hung over key London bridges

It was wonderful to witness the increasing size of the crowd, and realize the size of the protest when tweets came in about Trafalgar Square being full and people still queuing to join the march at Grosvenor Square.   Friends in Sydney and Melbourne sharing pics of their marches, pictures from marches in cities in Africa and India too  all started to give me hope.

Hope has been sadly lacking since before June when our politicians started using the vile rhetoric of hate and nationalism – I don’t want to return to the 30’s – we al know how well that worked out for the world.

And then the American reports started to come online and OMG!  So many cities, so many people, streets packed and people not able to march because there were so many out there. From Anchorage in sub zero temps to Arkansas and Texas, New York, LA, Denver, Chicago -city after city after city – people were there. And DC – crowds which put the inauguration attendance in real perspective.

I’m taking that hope and proof and hanging onto it and using it to galvanize my own actions. Combining practical local activism with identifying groups I want to support financially both at home and overseas (ACLU and Planned Parenthood make that list as they’re going to need all the help they can get over the next four years).

So to the people who marched yesterday and the one who signal boosted on social media and blogs yesterday.  Thank you – onwards and upwards!

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PT and Meaty Monday

Post-Christmas review of the fitness programme and the PT and I have agreed some respectable targets.

  1. Complete C25k programme by early April – my choice
  2. Flexibility / mobility / stretching – daily practice for overall improvement – his choice. We’ve made solid progress but now he really wants me to focus on the daily practice.  Also important if I’m going to complete objective 1 without borking my right knee/hip.
  3. Monkey bars at the gym – my choice, I want to swing across those suckers with the ease I used to be able to when I was 14!
  4. Fat loss and muscle definition – (yes OK weight loss) – thought long and hard about this as I’ve always said to him strength, fitness, flexibility, suppleness are my top priorities. I want to be able to bend, stretch, run and lift heavy gardening/allotment stuff. And he’s certainly turned floppy bits into solid muscle over the last 2 years – but the muscle is still hidden under a protective layer of not-muscle and I’m finally ready to commit to tackling that.

So this evening post my cardio warm up I was weighed, measured and luckily not found wanting by the lovely PT. We were both a bit surprised to find my arm and leg measurements were the same on both sides (I’d anticipated some difference since my left side is weaker – but I;m starting from a position of being in balance).

After that we went straight into a a cardio-weights workout (light weights higher reps):

* 7kg dumbbells high pulls x 20 reps
* 25kg barbell bent over rows x 20 reps
* 10kg barbell push press x 20 reps
* 6kg medicine ball slams x 15 reps
* press up position plank to failure

All of that was one set – 1 min rest at end of set and 7 sets.  (I always find it slightly frustrating doing the high reps/light weight sessions as I like heavy lifting, but I can’t lift heavy and do quite so many reps at such speed!)

Then  there was a 10 min fast row on the concept rower, finished with lots of side planks and some assisted hamstring stretches.

I tend to come out of gym sessions with an appetite so depressed I don’t want to eat much (in which case I know I’ll eat ALL THE FOOD the next day) or I come out as hungry as a ravening wolf. It was the latter today which is why I ended up spending £20  in Sainsbury’s on food I didn’t really need (but it looked so good) and ended up with a DEEEEELICIOUS dinner of a giant ribeye steak and a veg medley of squash, broccoli, sugar snap peas and asparagus which could be quickly nuked.

My post-gym refuel meal was on my plate 7 minutes after I walked in the door and I pretty much inhaled it.


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Sunday’s Shots from the Plots

I had a much needed break over Xmas and – even though the weather was lovely and sunny for a couple of days – did no work on the plots.

My cunning plan for checking progress this year is going to be taking weekly pics on Sunday so I’ve got a photo record of progress.

The smaller plot looks good – all the work before Xmas in digging and manuring was worth it. The shot below is standing at the back of the plot. You can just about seen the currant bushes along the back border.  The large bed is where the potatoes were. The small scrappy yet to be dug and manured bit is where the oca is and it needs to be dug up. Over the far side between the compost bin and lavender is a manured bed of two rhubarb crowns.


Looking from the front you can see the herb bed on the left needs some attention as does the bit of ground to the right of the bags of manure. That’s the bit where I need to do some serious digging to remove some brambles.

Slightly closer view of those bits still needing work – herb bed on the left, bed of oca on the right and the brambles and bags of manure and bark chippings below.


The big plot needs some serious work!

View from the top of the plot – there’s a pile of old carpet behind the horizontally stacked pallets which needs to go and the brambles all along the bottom of fence could so with being taken out and replaced with heavier fruting cultivars.



And above – the view from the bottom of the plot. As you can see the fence on two sides has been more or less done and held up over winter.  There’s a series of small apple trees and currants planted along the fence to the right of the plot, and a morello cherry and more currants along the fence running across the top of the plot. There’s a small section of fence to be completed in the top left corner – but the pallet for that is already painted so I just need to fix the fence post and attach it.  All the stacked painted wood is to mark out some beds.

Key areas to work on here are to finish the small section of fence linking the new pallet fence to the railing at the bottom of the plot (see pic on left below).  I have the timber post and fence foot and a pallet which fits – I just need a dry day to paint them all.  Then there’s the epic brambles. They really need to come out and be replaced.

The giant pile of carpet and rubbish you can see above all came from just in front of the fence running the length of the plot – and was excavated in November when I dug that section over to plant the apples and currants. All the painted wood in the pic on the left above is for marking out beds.

So plenty there to keep me occupied.

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Movie Monday


I did manage to see Rogue One at the cinema before going into my self-imposed hibernation mode over Christmas and New Year. I loved it and will be popping back to see it again – I hope. It felt like a grown up Star Wars movie and gave a great set up for A New Hope. Of course, having seen it, and considering the happenings over Xmas, I may have re-watched A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. 🙂

In my attempts to reduce the epic To Be Watched list (films I have stockpiled on DVDs and hard drives) I saw the following (all from the comfort of my couch):

* A Little Chaos (2014)
* Aladdin (1992)
* Ant Man (2015)
* Australia (2008)
* Bad Teacher (2011)
* Becoming Jane (2007)
* Before I Go To Sleep (2014)
* Born of Hope (2009)
* Dracula Untold (2014)
* Fracture (2007)
* Gangster Squad (2013)
* Into The Storm (2014)
* Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
* Predestination (2014)
* Serenity (2005)
* Spectre (2015)
* The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014)
* The Ledge (2011)
* Zulu (2013)

Which is, I admit, a somewhat eclectic mix 🙂

I loved A Little Chaos – Rickman, Winslet, Tucci, snark and gardening and sex – all in a historical context (though I bet Le Notre was not nearly as sexy as the delicious Matthias Schoenaerts). Also there was a glorious shirt-off-water-cascading-down-ripped-torso moment in Australia which very much reminded me of a similar scene in one of my much loved 1990s/00s TV shows – Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Ant Man was also considerably better than I’d expected it to be.

Luke Evans suitably strutted his stuff as Dracula and Ethan Hawke’s Predestination was an entertaining couple of hours – though I spotted both the big reveals very quickly.

Before I Go To Sleep was very well acted but as creepy as fuck and should come with a giant warning sign. I do not recommend at all.

The rest were entertaining but not remarkable. And I was long overdue for a Serenity re-watch – along with a Jupiter Rising re-watch (space wolves with wings – what else could a girl want?) which was my New Year’s Eve viewing!

I started the New Year with two more films:

* Another Country (1984)
* The Lazarus Effect (2015)

I saw the stage play of Another Country a couple of times in 2014 but I’d never seen the original film which stars very young and floppy-haired Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Cary Elwes. Both stage play and film were brilliant.

The Lazarus Effect was a standard bring someone back from the dead horror movie. Possibly not the best thing to watch before heading to bed.

My cunning plan for this year is to see a few more films at the cinema (and not just cram 20 or so into the BFR Flare Fest and the London Film Fest but catch some more consistently month on month) and also have a designated ‘movie night’ once a week to try and cut through some of that backlog!

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Bringing hope wherever she goes

I was 14 when Star Wars: A New Hope came out and it was the first film I’d seen that gave me a female role model.  It gave me a woman who was smart, sassy, sexy, competent, canny, uncompromising, more than capable of rescuing herself, not in the least damsel like, who flirted with all the boys, and knew her way around both a spaceship and a gun.

Between 1977/8 and 1980 (when Empire came out) I saw A New Hope over 20 times…then I stopped counting. 🙂

It took me a while to realise that though Princess Leia was a rockingly cool chick Carrie Fisher was the true definition of epic.

When The Force Awakens came out and there was General Organa – a women who’d lost her friends and family, brother AWOL, lover missing, son turned away – and she was unbowed and unbroken and still putting her big girl pants on every day to fight the good fight I teared up in the cinema.  Someone referred to the pic above as Carrie/Leia’s “done listening to men”face 🙂

Leia Organa may have been a role model for my generation and the ones who came after but Carrie Fisher was indomitable – in her openness and willingness to talk about her mental health, the way she shut down idiotic interviewers who asked her about beauty and weight issues rather than talk about more important things and her continuous epic smackdown of social media bullies.  My Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram feeds this evening have shown an astonishing outpouring of love and respect.

Despite what the reports are saying I choose to believe she “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.”

I’ve just rewatched A New Hope, am about to dive into Empire Strikes Back and save Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens for tomorrow.  Then I’ll see Rogue One again at the cinema.

There’s a suggestion making the rounds on social media that one way to honour Carrie would be to:

  • normalize discussions about mental illness and its treatment
  • take life a little less seriously
  • destroy a fascist regime

I’m so onboard with that idea.

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