Monday, 18 July 2011

A fete worse than death

As someone who has grown up in what outsiders might call a ‘churchy family’, I am well versed in the church fete.

And so it was with a mix of excitement and a resolve that I would no doubt end up doing the raffle, that I discovered I would be at home visiting my parents on the day of the church summer fete 2011.

The forecast was glorious, the bunting was hanging, and the rain was pouring. The summer fete was heading for a washout.

In the church grounds there was a scene of dampened misery. The bouncy castle was looking more like a water ride, and people sheltered under non-waterproof gazebos trying to keep the strawberries and cream dry.

As predicted I am handed a hamper to raffle off. ‘Rachel, lovely to see you – be a dear and raffle this hamper.’ Pause. ‘Oh and make sure to tell people that you don’t get the actual hamper.’


I look at the hamper. I am greeted by a 1 litre bottle of milk, (long life -  the worst of all the milks) a fair amount of tinned tuna and a lonely tin of tesco value spaghetti. On the top sits a packet of ritz crackers that look as if they have been opened. And there’s a disclaimer on the winning of the actual hamper? This is going to be a hard sell.

It’s amazing what a lovely jar of M&S preserve and a box of heros can do for a hamper. And the wine. Let’s not forget the wine. My main selling point is that we have 3 bottles of wine.

I determine a ticket pricing structure under the guidance of the vicar. Apparently it is so revolutionary that someone asks if I am on another planet. I take this as a compliment – after all - they are the one buying a raffle ticket for a hamper of long life milk.

There was the usual array of games outside, including the fête staple of the coconut shy, which requires you to hit a coconut of its stand with a ball. I mean, who needs television?

The competitive dads are out in force. They are trying to get the highest score on all the games, mainly for the glory rather than the fiver prize-money. I see one man kick his own child away from the football stall when he discovers that there is only one football left to be won. Mind you, I do find myself barging a granny out of the way to secure the final square on the ‘win a tenner’ treasure-hunt. If it makes it better – I didn’t win.

The tombola is in full swing. I invest a full four pounds in tickets. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to which number went with which prize, but it turned out that, along with my pack of (Lidl’s own) fizzy chews, I had won one of the star prizes – a ceramic ring holder in the shape of a shoe.

The bottle of whiskey was long gone. Not won by a church member mind you – because if it had of been, they would have asked them to leave it displayed on the stand to keep enticing people to play for it. Is deception a sin when it could actually help church funds? Probably not.

The dancers who hire out the church hall are booked for a slot. Small girls in a fair amount of make up strut their lycra clad stuff. The man controlling the music accidentally cuts it off too early. Uproar ensues. Apparently, we missed all the best moves.

I’ll be back next year with 4 bottles of booze, and no doubt a new maverick ticket price. The dancers will be back to pull off their finale. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll throw in the actual hamper.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Money Saving Madam: A Memoir

This year is flying by.

I suppose time flies when you’re having… well, fun, I suppose, or some peculiar version of it.

I have decided to celebrate the rename (did you notice the rename) by listing the positive developments that have taken place since I began my blog back in January – and it is all about the positive.

I have written on my blog at least once a week since January.

Lots of lovely people read it each month.

People have laughed, picked up tips and been encouraged. I have been encouraged too.

As per my plan (I knew planning had a place) I have indeed become a published and paid writer.

(I am not going to focus on the fact that this has not allowed me to quit my job and become a brunette version of Carrie Bradshaw.)

I re-embraced the fringe I last sported as a 5 year old, and it is working out well.

I have given up my Zara habit. This is in part due to the money saving, and in part due to developing an unnatural hatred of the manager of Zara. Both have contributed to the paying off of my credit card and steps in the direction of becoming a fully fledged grown up.

I now own a coffee table and have ‘coffee-table’ books on it that make me look intelligent and sophisticated. Some of them have been read.

I bought home-wear from John Lewis for the first time, and realised why people only order home-wear from John Lewis as part of their wedding list - when other people are paying.

I have shunned the fear of change and renamed the blog. Money Saving Madam was great, but she’s stopped writing solely about money saving, and as such, was dabbling in a spot of false advertising.

I hope you’ll stay with me/ embrace the change/ forgive me/ read on.

I really was rubbish at saving money anyway.

Monday, 4 July 2011

A public service announcement about getting sacked

My brother got fired last week. Don’t worry he consented to me publishing it here on the tinterweb - I did ask.
He hated his job. It really was a dreadful job at a dreadful place. I won’t say where, just in case they want to sue me for libel. They would probably try, what with them being so dreadful. And as you know, I’ve got no money to pay the lawyers bill.
He often talked of resigning, but he had no other job to go to – and surely a small salary where the price is misery is better than no job or money at all?
I’m not so sure.
I have a few friends whose jobs are genuinely grinding them down.
Things are not going well. They wake up in the night worried sick. The thought of work is making them physically ill.
Sound familiar?
Ok, well how about you imagine that you were fired last week. You have no choice but to accept it – so you may as well see it a good thing.
You hated your situation and this has forced change to happen.
What a wonderful opportunity.
Breathe a sigh of relief – they literally LET YOU GO.
Genuinely – perhaps getting fired is the best thing that can happen to you?
Perhaps it means that you are at odds with the company. I told my brother to rejoice. Clearly he is not moronic enough to be employed by morons.
Now I know that people have bills to pay and kids to feed and we are in a recession - so please do not think that I am in any way making light of losing your job. But I am talking here about those jobs that are causing people genuine misery, depression, or self doubt.
I reckon that if you were fired you’d find a way. If I was fired from my job tomorrow I can think of ways (all legal) that I could make the money to pay this month’s rent.
Luckily I do not hate my job. But if I did, if I really hated it...
If people constantly reject your ideas and what you have to offer – then you should leave. And if they fire you – then thank them.
They've inadvertently done you a favour.

Ps. if anyone has any jobs in the West Midlands region where misery, depression and self loathing are not key criteria of the role, please message my brother.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Always a bridesmaid

It could, of course, have been worse.
Having been a (blushing) bridesmaid twice in the past 18 months, I am starting to feel a little panicky about the old adage.

So it was with great interest, and a slight sense of the autobiographical, that I headed to the cinema to see Bridesmaids.

I needn’t have worried. I was holding onto the seat in front, convulsing with laughter as tears streamed down my face. And, even at my young age, was considering the merits of tena ladies.
If you haven’t been to see it, then stop reading this and go immediately. It is very funny. And definitely do not judge a film by its poster. There is not a pink dress or cowboy hat in sight.
And, for anyone that has ever worried about what hideous dress their bride-to-be friend might put them in, loathed a fellow bridesmaid, or fretted over a hen-doo, it may be a little close to the bone.
I’m going to tell you a story. It is January 2010. One of my two University best friends has just gotten herself hitched. I was a bridesmaid at this wonderful wedding alongside my other university pal.
The bride and groom looked as if they were straight off the pages of a wedding magazine. The historical village church was touched with frost on an icy January morn. Save the toastmaster, who was dressed a little like a lion-tamer, it really was the most perfect and romantic occasion.
And then, just like that, I was home. Alone. In a freezing cold Scotland, with post wedding blues, January blues and blue digits.
I was in a depression worthy of Bridget Jones. My best friend was married; I was pushing 30, and definitely going to die alone surrounded by cats. This was especially distressing given that I really hate cats.
And so, on a bleak January evening, as I ate my pasta and pesto dinner (did I mention I was also having the broke-as-hell-blues?) my phone rang. It was University best friend number 2. I joked to my flatmate, ‘If she’s calling to tell me she’s engaged, I’m probably going to have to kill myself.’
Luckily for everyone I am prone to exaggeration.
And so I empathised somewhat with Annie, as Lil, her old and dear friend announced her engagement. Panic. ‘I’m feeling a bit hot’, said Annie as Lil flashed her rock. Annie must whoop and hug with delight, but in her heart, she is horrified by Lillian's disloyalty at leaving her behind in the dismal pit of spinsterhood.
NB: (as they may be reading) being bridesmaid for my best friends was a delight and an honour. I still maintain that there is something intrinsically strange about dressing adults in the same clothes, but it was moving, special and an utter pleasure.
But, as anyone who has ever been a bridesmaid will know, that there is something about someone else's impending marriage that makes your existence seem second best.
In this brilliant film, even the married bridesmaids – those who have attained the great prize – instantly become disenchanted with their lives. A gentle bridesmaid, newly married, confesses her discontent with never having sex. A bridesmaid mother confesses her horror at sharing the house with three teenage sons "There's semen everywhere. One blanket actually cracked", and at her husband's insatiable conjugal needs, "I just want to watch the Daily Show once without him entering me".
I spat my malteasers clean out.
There is vomiting, there is drunkenness, there are jokes about sex, (all of which featured in my own bridesmaid experiences) but at its heart this is a lovely little film about friendship, and what it means to be female.
This film is not clichéd or lazy. It is witty and honest, providing a refreshingly true portrayal of what it is to be a modern woman; not one of the dreadful vacuous chick flick stereotypes that we have come to know and hate in so many films of recent years, but one of the lass who is suffering frostbite in Scotland whilst her best friends are getting hitched left right and centre.
Luckily for us, reality has made its way into this Hollywood movie.
Unfortunately the reality is that many of us are just one engagement away from a breakdown.
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