Tuesday, 24 February 2015

You need to read | How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Ok, a wee disclaimer. When I say you need to read, I don't actually mean it's compulsory. I won't come round your house and beat you with a type writer if you don't. That's a special service. But we all know reading is a lot less fun with someone breathing down your neck, puffing with anticipation. So er, I won't do that. *holds breath*. I do like to rhyme though, so sue me. Or sue the person who developed the rhyming scheme of the English language. Or you could always avoid expensive litigation and take me on my word when I say this is definitely more of a friendly suggestion than an order. 

Friendly suggestion, really good book, no suing. We're all winners really. I picked up 'How to be Idle' at work because it had a gentle looking cover. 'This is the sort of book,' I thought to myself, 'that I can peruse gently.' 

Gentleness was prominent in my thoughts that day at work.

Gentle perusing is not to be underestimated, but this book turns out to have depths that bely its creamy cover. In addition to being a hymn to the pleasures of idleness (which, of course, are legion), it is a rousing call to action. Idle action, but action nonetheless.

Written by the founder of the idler magazine, Tom Hodgkinson, and follows the structure of the day, each chapter devoted to the idler's eye view of a pastime or pleasure. When a book has a chapter entitled '4pm: Time for Tea', I'll admit that it doesn't have to work hard to please me. 

However, this book did not just please me, it surprised me too. It makes the very persuasive argument that to be idle is in fact an attitude of great political power for all of us worker bees. It is an attitude which claims back your time from those who want to make us believe that the only goals worth pursuing are a job and a mortgage. The author divides the world into 'idlers' and 'botherers'. It is fairly obvious that the latter category is not his cup of tea when he places Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Mao in there ('before all else,' he says, 'they were simply petty-minded bureaucrats writ frighteningly large'). 

It is interesting to note that of all the great idlers mentioned (there are many: Ted Hughes, Dr Johnson, Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman and the oriental philosopher Lin Yutang to name a few), women are conspicuous by their absence. I wonder if this is because historically women have not had the space to glory in their idleness that men have. I have to be honest and say this is something that bothers me about the book: it never really addresses the fact that to be unabashedly idle is a luxury that to a great extent comes with privilege. We can't all be great writers / philosophers / gadabouts, and the pleasures of the idle life for most of us must for most of us mingle with the pleasures of work (paid and otherwise). At one point, for example, he suggested throwing away your alarm clock and I could hear my diary wincing from the other room. 

Having said that, this book presents  an appealing philosophy that most of us could work into our daily lives to some extent. And it most certainly does not take itself too seriously (in the chapter on  the first drink of the day he muses: 'I suppose if we were really happy, there would be no need to drink at all but a life without booze seems to be a pretty miserable prospect').

So yeah, you don't need to read it, but it may enhance your life if you do. Go forth and do whatever you want! 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

How to | Foncy jars

Recycling makes me nervous. I don't know about you, but the thought of the fate of the planet hanging on a thread does not fill me with the warm and fuzzies. And then you tell me the integrity of this thread depends on me doing the right thing with my old milk bottles? The pressure! Not to mention that the 'manky bin' (you know, the one in which you put your old teabags and potato peelings) is really, well, manky. It worked hard to earn its title and it just oozes with self importance whenever you approach it. Self importance and bin juice.

Sometimes *desperately cheerful kids TV presenter voice* recycling can be fun though! Like when you recycle glass and it makes a delightful tinkling noise. Or when you sing my special recycling song to this tune from about 35 seconds in. Orrr you can make foncy jars*! Hooray!

To make foncy jars, first you need to eat some lovely food. 

Lovely food that comes in jars includes:
- Jam
- Honey
- Olives
- Anchovies
- Capers
- Gherkins
- Coffee (although not all coffee jars come with aesthetically pleasing curves and / or edges)
- CUBES OF CHEESE IN OIL FROM LIDL. Oh those Europeans and their delicious, delicious innovations.

Less good food that comes in jars that you might like because you're strange:
- Marmalade
- Those strange pickled mussel things.

Next, you need to get the labels off the jars. Luckily, there is a magic/ legume-based way to do this! First of all, peel as much of the label off as your fingers will allow. Then give the jars a wee massage with a big handful of peanut butter. When you apply a little gentle persuasion with a scratchy sponge, the gross sticky-label glue will just slide right off. You are welcome.

Now you have naked foncy jars, and all you have to do is get them dressed. 

I used buttons, jutey stuff and fancy flower things from Poundland, a permanent marker, some glass paints and my glue gun (!!) which came into my life via some John Lewis vouchers and has subsequently occupied a dear place in my heart. 

Really the whole point of foncy jars is that you do you in jar form. More permanent and also more portable than interpretative dance.

Useful things to remember include:
- You'll need some white spirit to clean your brushes if you're using glass paint
- If your permanent marker lines are upsetting you, they come off glass with a cotton wool bud and nail polish remover. If you don't have that equipment about, you could use a tampon dipped in vodka? Or, I dunno a beard on a stick and the blood of your enemies if you're super macho. *Diverse*. Might make the glass a bit smeary though.
- You will need some sort of special glue to stick stuff to your jars. Pritt stick just won't cut it. Sad face. 

And here are my foncy jars! They are being vases and catnip jars for Kitten and stationary pots and tealight holders. Tell your jar it can be whatever it wants to be. Within reason. A jar pilot would definitely be a safety hazard and bad for crew morale. 

Go forth and foncify!

*Technically, this is reusing rather than recycling. BUT that means you're one jump up on the waste hierarchy! Go you! 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Many directions and Do you know you're beautiful?

I'm not averse to a bit of boppy-pop. In my mind, music should make you dance, cry or laugh. The musical stylings of One Direction make me do all three, albeit often for the wrong reasons. Music should also make you think, but a little thinking is a dangerous thing in the world of boppy-pop. Take One Direction's smash hit song, 'That's what makes you beautiful'. An innocent hymn to the overwhelming pleasures of hair flipping. right? Noooo! 'You don't know you're beautiful... that's what makes you beautiful.'

Sorry what? You can only be beautiful if a) some floppy hair atop a set of rock hard abs has deemed you so and b) NOT IF YOU AGREE WITH IT, wench. Jeez, you think you're so clever with your flippy hair and your lighting up of rooms, doncha?

I don't want the beauty of anyone to be filtered and narrowed through the male gaze alone, and I don't want anyone's self worth to rest outside themselves and in the eyes of another.

And so, just to help a brother out, I've written some alternative words for the boys. I confidently expect a call from One Direction's management right about... now.

Do you know you're beautiful? An alternative take.

Hello to you, you're very cute,
And I'm hoping that you know this too-oo-oo
Cos why should I, get to decide
What looks good and what just doesn't fly-y-y?

Everybody has the right to feel fierce
Everyone includes you-ou.

Baby. you're cool with yourself and you're self aware,
You don't derive your self worth from your style of hair,
And when you look straight ahead it's not hard to tell
You are more (or-ore) more than just beautiful
If you sat down and just talked with me,
I know that we could start making some history
And though the outside is nice it's not hard to see,
You are more (or-ore) more than just beautiful,
That's what makes you beautiful.

So co-come on,
If you were wrong,
I wouldn't be banging your gong-ong-ong,
But it is true, to look at you,
Means more than enjoying the view-ew-ew.

Everybody has the right to feel fierce,
Everyone includes you...

I'll be honest with you, it gets a bit repetitive here and degenerates into:

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nahs.

So I'll let you fill in the blanks but remember...

That's what makes you beautiful!

*winks cheekily to camera, strides off into sunset*

tumblr valentine's day card one direction

Happy Valentines Day! XOX