Spare Filofax? Set it free!!!!!

Steve at Philofaxy posted this blog earlier in the week about an idea that I'd had - a way of road-testing a new Filofax to see if it would suit your needs - a "try before you buy" type of service.

I know from personal experience that people have an abundance of Filofaxes (a recent survey proved that many owners have two or more Filofaxes) stuffed in drawers or displayed on shelves, mainly unused because they no longer fulfil their purpose. How about releasing that Filofax back into the community where it would be loved and appreciated, either on loan or as a swap?

Come and join us at the Google Group that Steve has created and see if you can join in the fun.

Word Clouds


I compiled this "Wordle" earlier using the words from this blog:

Wordle: Typcast
(click the image for the full-size view)

Why don't you have a go? Here is their website:

Also, you might like to try a Facebook application that is very similar. It uses your status updates from the past week, month or year and creates a "Status Cloud":

Here's mine:

I'm liking the frequent use of the words "brew", "wine", "assignment" and "twitter"... that just about sums up my life!!


An open letter to Liz Jones of the Daily Mail

(click first paragraph for original Daily Mail article)
Living on benefits isn’t something that you can pick and choose to do one week at a time, when you feel like it. Circumstances take over and this becomes a way of life. Do you imagine that the majority of claimants, in the current climate, enjoy living on (or below) the breadline? And yet you chose to write a patronising article about how “difficult” it is and how you haven’t got a clue how much things cost complimenting that by bragging about how much you’re already in debt. You may be trying to show that you are eating humble pie but what steps have you taken since this experiment to rectify your situation? Your attitude to debt astounds me. You’ll see why as you read on.
I’ve been on benefits. Up until 5 years ago, my family lived on benefits for approximately 10 years. During this time we had to arrange to pay our bills weekly because monthly budgeting is near impossible. We also had card meters installed so we could easily see how much money was being spent on the heating and the electric. If there wasn’t enough to last the week, we turned the lights off, we wore another jumper and put another blanket on the bed. We had to buy “own brand” foods from the cheapest supermarket and we had to accept offers of second hand furniture (these were the days before Freecycle even existed, never mind being hip). Decorating the (local authority housing) house was a luxury we could ill afford so we used cheap wallpaper and cheap paint once in a blue moon. Carpeting was similar – usually cord or “end of rolls”.
At one point in those 10 years I managed to find a job in a nursing home as an auxiliary carer. I messed my housing benefit claim up and subsequently was convicted of fraud to the tune of £4000 – YES, FOUR THOUSAND POUNDS... NOT £150,000 - £2000 in housing benefit, £2000 in council tax benefit. Why? Because I’d written the wrong date down on one part of the form. I narrowly missed going to prison for this – my family (two young children and my husband) were distraught. That criminal conviction stays with me and almost prevented me from getting a mortgage four years ago.
We managed to turn our life around and I started work. Because of ill-health, it was decided that I would go to work full time and my husband would be the at-home parent. We literally scrape by on just my wage. What you spend on your appearance in one month is three-quarters of my monthly salary. How can you justify that? Also, the clothes that you are pictured in are “rags”. I can honestly say that at any time in my life – claiming benefits or working full time – that I have never, EVER, dressed in torn clothing (even when it was fashionable) – I take pride in my appearance but it doesn’t cost me £800 a month. What WAS the point in that photograph?
Even now, we have to budget our monthly spend and we find that there is often more month than money. The recent recession has increased prices for everyday items but my salary hasn’t increased accordingly. I am now in a position where I am worrying about how to provide for Christmas because, after the bills are paid to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, there simply isn’t anything left. And, yes, we use every budgeting tool available to us. I daren’t tell you about the expensive petrol I put into my car and how I squeeze out every last drop before I fill up again. I’d love to be able to use public transport (yes, the bus!!) but my office is based off the beaten track. We do have little luxuries like a budget package for Sky (phone calls, TV and broadband) for approximately £32 per month so why your broadband package alone is over £100 per month is beyond me. Do you have a special gold-plated modem?
You tried to cram every stereotype into your one week as possible. Why did you go and try and pawn your jewellery? You may have needed to wear your (fake) pearls to an event the week after. Would you really have bought clothes from Primark? If your “friend” didn’t pay for her glass of champagne why didn’t you shout after her and demand that she pays her share? And just in case you hadn’t noticed, you managed to spend £265, not £64. Where did the extra £201 materialise from? I’m damn sure I could do with a magic £200 every week. That would solve all my problems in one fail swoop.
Sell your frivolous purchases and start paying off your debts. You have had your designer sunglasses whipped off and proclaim to have seen the light but I’m sure you’re putting them back on again before you are blinded. You may think you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of those who live on the breadline but, believe me, you’ve only taken a couple of baby steps.
©Nicola O’Hara
aged 37 and a half
wife to one, mother of three, grandmother to two (almost)
living life to the max, frugally

Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Another Day...

Driving to work this morning and I got stuck in a traffic jam. Nothing unusual there - it's the rush hour after all - but this was an odd sort of place to get stuck. I use this route because it's fairly quiet and there doesn't seem to be any bottlenecks on the way up to the motorway junction.

Anyway, this is the UK. There's been a bit of rain. There is a dip in the road. Water has collected at the bottom of the dip (no surprise there). Here is how deep the water was....

*rolls eyes*
There was also a random bloke (not council - probably some do-gooder who had no good to do anywhere else) attempting to stop the traffic so that he could poke at a drain with a big stick (it was definitely a stick, not a dyno-rod or anything) assuming that would help. Er, no love, it wasn't helping.


Things that money can't buy... well, they obviously can, for a start...

It's that time of year again... the Children In Need night on Friday 20th November and my friends seem to be split into two camps when it comes to the actual show. We have the "Yay, CIN! Gratuitous crap TV" group and the "OFFS, CIN! Gratuitous crap TV" group. I am in the former group.

All week I've been listening to the grand job that Sir Terry Wogan does for Children in Need, auctioning off the "Things That Money Can't Buy" to raise money for the fund. There are some fantastic auctions on offer this year but the minute the bids go over ten quid, it sort of puts me out of the running, giving me a feeling of inadequacy. And I'm sure there are a lot of people who feel the same way.

The winners of these auctions don't actually need these prizes. It seems to be more about how much cash they can flash rather than doing it for the good of the cause and, if they're being honest, the amount of money that they've bid could actually buy what they are bidding for!!!!!

I know there's a 50p-to-enter-plus-standard-network-charge text-in competition for us minions to enter but the prize for that isn't exactly fantastic... a day at the Radio 2 studios sitting in on all the main daytime shows - but you probably won't be allowed to talk or anything normal like that. I'd quite fancy helping Jeremy Vine with his phone-in but the winner will be eating lunch with Ken Bruce (in the BBC canteen?) whilst that is going on.

I don't deny that the money raised by Sir Tel this week is going to a fantastic cause but I do feel that it eliminates probably 80% of his audience from taking part.

Yr6 Homework – present tense, past tense

So, the 10 year old is getting regular homework now that he’s in the top class at his primary school. It’s all in preparation for his SAT’s next year and, whilst I’m not a big advocator of homework (I have the knowledge to help, just not the inclination), I can see how much he is improving. He has ADHD which includes a short attention span and a low reading age so homework can take a bit longer than anticipated.
Last night was no exception. At 7.30pm he wafted 8 pages of pre-printed sheets under my nose and pronounced that it (his homework) had to be handed in on Friday morning and he wouldn’t have time to do it on Thursday night because he was at his gymnastics training session for three hours.
We sat down at the table and, to encourage him, I got my Uni assignment out and thought that we could study in companionable silence.
Oh no... nothing in the O’Hara household is that simple.
Every question needed to be read with him or I had to listen. to. the. staccato. sound. of. him. sounding. out. each. word. and then I had to try and explain what the teacher expected from him (don’t they cover this in class?).
The first task was transposing given sentences from present tense into past tense. The conversation went a little like this:
Jake: So the sentence is “I want an Action Man for my birthday” and I have to put that into past tense. How do I do that, Mum?
Me: Well, think about when you wrote out your birthday list back in May and all the presents that you listed. You know you didn’t get all of them. Imagine that one of those had been an Action Man. What would you be saying to me now?
Jake: I’d say “I didn’t get an Action Man”!
Me: Um... I suppose that’s right but that’s not how you need to write it down. You need to change a word in the original sentence.
Jake: Do I say “No-one would get me an Action Man for my birthday”?
Me: Oh for God’s sake, it’s NOT supposed to be this difficult.... Er... you know when you asked for a biscuit an hour ago and I said ‘No’ and now you were going to go and tell Dad about it, what would you say to him?
Jake: I’d say “Dad, can I have a biscuit because Mum didn’t let me have one” and he’d probably say “Yes”.
Me: muttering under my breath *hhmm that’s about right*... Listen love, you have to write that you as if you were telling someone about the list for your birthday and you didn’t get the present....
Jake: I could have had... I needed... I wanted... WANTED!!! That’s the right word, isn’t it, Mum? Where’s my pencil? sticks tongue in the corner of his mouth and writes very slowly and neatly “I. wanted. an. Action. Man. for. my. birthday.” Right ... Question 2...
Last night we covered present tense transposition into past tense, imagination using the words could/should/would, division using number lines (wtf? what is wrong with putting a curly bracket around the bigger number and dividing each number?), marking weights on scales and a letter to home from a soldier in the first World War trenches. Come 9pm we were both shattered and drained!!
At least I know he’s probably got most of it right. When his dad and his 16-year old brother “helped” him with his homework one night they “helped” him to do it all wrong. Oh, what joy parents evening is going to be next week!

Please NOTE That...

Without music life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

I love my music and it surrounds me all day - mp3 player, radio, Spotify... Without it, even just playing in the background, I feel lost. The first tune of the day can set my mood for the next few hours or can irritate me by playing on a loop inside my head during moments of silence.

There are certain songs or melodies which immediately transport me back in time to a certain event or emotion, there are film scores which will make my eyes prickle with tears
and there are genres that I just don't get (my friend Sam tries to get me to like all sorts of weird stuff - she's a strange one, for sure).

I used to participate in a "music thread" on a forum on a Friday night. It was mainly a bunch of women (and the odd bloke), sitting in front of their computer, with a bottle of their favourite tipple, posting links from YouTube. Some were favourite songs, some were long forgotten songs that have jumped into the forefront of the memory after hearing another song, some were just bizarre, some were meaningful, some were current chart hits and some were special. But basically, it was a night "in" with my friends, gossiping and toasting the week gone by and no paying for babysitters!!! It's my favourite night of the week. I think you have to join in to appreciate it - it's not geeky at all....

I also believe that the accessibility we have to music these days is amazing, as is the diversity. I really miss the days of waiting for a new record to be released by my favourite band, saving up to buy it from the record shop and then watching it climb the charts as its popularity increased. Nowadays, because of downloads, a new release from a popular band is expected to hit the top spot in the charts and creates more furore if it doesn't. However, the turnaround of new music gives us much more choice and variety.


PLEASE help me find this book...

OK, I knew there was a reason for starting this blog - I now need the help of all my readers... YES, THAT'S YOU!!!
I bought a book many years ago (well, about 1993/4) and read it over and over and over again. It was falling to bits but lovingly sellotaped back together again until one day, it was lost forever during a house move :-(
I can even envisage the cover... it was a drawing (not a photo) of the back view of a woman in a fitted red dress, turning slightly as though she was viewing herself in the mirror.
I bought it in a book club 3-for-2 deal and the other two books were "Hungry Women" by Laramie Dunaway and the other was "Wicked Women" by the same author, both published by Warner (I think). It will have been written/published around 1990-1991 possibly.
Here is the story line:
A lady needs a break from "real life" and goes off wandering in town. She walks down a side street that she's not noticed before and stumbles upon a dress shop. She goes into the dress shop and wanders round the rails. Each rail is dresses from a different era; 80's, 70's, 60's, etc. She tries on a couple of dresses but the shopkeeper encourages her to try something on a bit older. She offers her a red, floor length dress that is from the 1920's but looks brand new (it's a bit like Mr Benn at this stage). 
As she's trying on the dress she feels a bit dizzy but admits that it fits like a glove, and looks fantastic. She pays for it and goes home. 
In the evening, she tries the dress on again and feels dizzy again and faints. When she comes too she's travelled back in time to the era of the dress but everyone thinks she's another woman. When she checks out pictures of this other woman, she realises that they indeed do look very similar. She carries on the life of this other woman. 
In the meantime - the other woman is now in the 1990's and is trying to come to terms with HER new life (modern, fast living) with only the knowledge of the 1920's.
Anyway - it's about how they cope with what's thrown at them, how they seem more suited to the era that they've travelled to and how they make contact with each other.

PLEASE help me to find the book as I am convinced I imagined it!!!!

The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

Whilst browsing through Twitter earlier today I had noticed that Derren Brown had tweeted the link to his latest blog post. I had 5 minutes to spare so I thought I'd give it the once over.


The subject matter isn't the issue... it's the choice of wording!!

"... few things disturb me more about modern TV than people being humiliated and misled for our entertainment..."

Oh dear, Mr Brown! Could you remind us what your Channel 4 commissions have been recently?
all of which involve people being humiliated and misled for our entertainment.

All of the above links have been taken from Derren Brown's Wikipedia page which, funnily enough, describes him as a "mentalist". That made me snigger for some strange reason.....

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