Two Straws

I went to a bar a few weeks ago and ordered a coke. The waiter put two straws in my glass, and I asked him if it was company policy to put two straws in my drink, he replied that yes, it was what he was told to do.

I said that two straws are unnecessary, so he said he’d throw one away if I wanted to, but that just proved my point even more, that the second straw was unnecessary and would just end up in the bin.

I have a few friends on Facebook who live in Singapore and Thailand. These few friends are very enthusiastic and passionate about the ocean and are almost always sharing posts, photos and articles about saving marine life and the seas. I have seen many campaigns about clearing up and not polluting the oceans, such as The Last Plastic Straw, The Seabin Project, The Ocean Cleanup and others which are dedicated to clearing up our beaches and oceans, as well as saving and protecting the animals that live there.

There is loads of information on the internet about straws ending up in the ocean, and although I don’t understand how the straws I use would end up in the ocean, it is still something I would not like to contribute to. So when the bartender gave me two straws, I wasn’t too pleased.

I’ve worked in a nightclub before, and we didn’t give out straws as standard. Straws were on or behind the bar for customers to take, but I would hate to imagine how much waste and rubbish would have been made if we had to give out just one straw with each vodka coke, let alone two!

What is the second straw even for? Sharing with a friend? Drinking twice as fast? Stirring? A second straw doesn’t have any useful benefits as far as I can see, so next time I am given two straws, I will ask why and try to stop them putting two straws in my drink before they do so.

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Can’t wait to change my number

I’ve had the same UK number for a few years now (although I’ve had other phone numbers when I’ve been in Spain and China, by UK number has always stayed the same) and with my new job, I’ve decided to change my phone number too.

My last job involved a lot of networking and social media, I didn’t have a work phone, so lots of contacts from my previous job still have my number saved and are able to add me on other forms of social media that I don’t want them to have access to. We are not friends, and they have my number saved maybe just in case, or because it was available.

When I change my number, I will send a message to my friends with my new number, and the people who I have as contacts, the ones who I don’t even know (Dave… Dave who?) will not be informed of my new number and if they want to contact me, they’ll have to find my email address or something.

It will be a fresh start and I’m so excited to have a clear out of all the old contacts, and not have to worry about receiving random messages from people I don’t really know, or being added to group chats. I’ll probably still get calls from people offering me life insurance and asking me about the car accident I haven’t been in recently, but I’ll feel in control again.

I’m just going to have to remember to update not only my friends with my new number, but other people who would need my number – the bank, the doctors surgery etc.

No turning back!

The Old London Tube

I was in London last week, for the first time in five years, would you believe? And I couldn’t get over how old the tube was. Of course, I was comparing it to the modern subway systems of Hangzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing.

Shanghai’s metro lines are ever expanding, and when I was there last year, the new Disneyland metro station was one of the newest stations, but I imagine that more stations will have been opened since last May when the park opened.

The subway systems in China are (in most cities) very modern and high-tech. Some have recycling machines that give you credit for your travelcard, most have moving adverts along the inside of the tunnel, and they all have voice announcements in English and Mandarin telling you what stop is next and to be careful with your bags.

In London, there are no x-ray machines before putting your ticket in the barrier and there are no tv screens on the platforms that with video adverts or news on, as well as the information of when the next trains are coming. The whole experience in London was totally alien, comparing it to the Chinese one, where the platforms have glass doors between you and the tracks. This is a safety feature, but it’s also good, as above the windows there are tube maps so you can plan your route, and you know where the tube will stop and which way the tube is going, in London I relied on my friends to know if we were going the right way or not.

The London underground is very much underground, you lose service on your phone when you’re on the tube and there’s also a distinctive earthy smell to the underground that isn’t very pleasant. There aren’t any fans in summer, making it hot and sticky either. It’s a good way to get around the capital, and especially with Oyster visitor cards that cap spending to £6.50 per day for people who don’t visit very often, but it’s not exactly a pleasant or efficient se ice, when I compare it with metro systems in China.

Behind on the Books!

At the beginning of 2017, I set myself a reading challenge of reading 30 books this year. Since then, I have been collecting books on my wishlist when I see them in charity shops, and I have thirteen books ready, waiting to be read…I just haven’t got round to it yet.

Reading 30 books in 12 months means an average of 2.4 books per month, and so far each month I’ve fallen short of that target, with two books read each in January and February, and only one finished in March so far and I only have two days of the month left. I’m 32% through my current book, Emma by Jane Austen, but as I read it in bed, I don’t often get to read the whole chapter before I fall asleep.

I have the books, I just don’t seem to be able to make the time to read. What’s also important is the time and place of reading. Whereas before, I used to read on coach journeys on the day trips I went on, or in a café at the end of the day, waiting for the coach to leave. Now, I only read at the end of they day when I’m already tired, and I often have to turn five pages back and re-read those pages again to know where I’m up to and remind myself what’s going on.

I hope April will be more a more successful month in my 30-books-in-one-year challenge. I plan to go to bed earlier, to get in extra reading time, any other suggestions?

Swimming Comeback and Undeserved Medals

A couple of days ago, I entered my first swimming gala in eight years. I quit the sport when I was 17 due to some club politics, an unsupportive coach and also because most of my friends had quit at that time too.

I decided to come back to swimming in December last year, after working at home, besides my once a week volunteer swim session, all my exercise was done at home too. It was an unhealthy cycle and I wanted to get out and meet new people. I joined a local swimming team in January and have never looked back. I only wish I had joined back in September when I first came back to Nottingham. The coaches are nice, the pools are clean, my teammates are friendly and I’ve been swimming five times a week.

So this weekend it was my first chance to get back in the pool as a competitive swimmer. The meet was especially for Masters (swimmers aged 18 and above) and involved a series of 50m, 100m and 200m events (both individual and relays) – I entered them all. There was a special challenge set by the organisers, to enter and complete all ten races, and by doing so, I won a bottle of whisky. Nice gesture, but as not a hard-drinker, it will probably sit in the cupboard for a long time yet.

The other prizes up for grabs at the event included 1) the Overall Age Group Winner, for the swimmer in each age group who accumulated the most points during the day (points are given for the time you swam for each event – the faster you swim, the more points you get) 2) Nottinghamshire County Champion Medals for the fastest eligible swimmer in each event per age group and 3) Spot Prizes for whoever the announcer deemed worthy, like the person in this race who comes 3rd, has the jazziest trunks on, etc.

In addition to the all 10 races whisky prize, I also won the overall age group prize (a new pair of racing goggles) and all 10 county champion medals. I didn’t win any of the spot prizes, which were bottles of shampoo and other toiletries, haha I’ve written about that before

I won the County Champion medals even though I wasn’t the fastest age group swimmer in all of my races. I was only the outright fastest in my age group for three of the ten races. Only swimmers who swam for teams within Nottinghamshire were eligible for the medals, so even though I was 4th in the 50m breaststroke, I still won the medal for that race, since the other three faster swimmers swam for teams outside of Nottinghamshire, and were therefore not able to win these medals. In theory, my wins were fair wins, in the same way if I went to Shropshire and was the fastest swimmer in the Shropshire County Championships, since I’m not affiliated with Shropshire, I wouldn’t be able to win any of their medals. But still, I feel a bit like most of the medals were undeserved. I swam as fast as I could, but my times were not as fast as they were nine years ago and other people swam faster than me. I’m certain that there are other females aged 25-29 in Nottinghamshire who are faster than me at all of the events I swam at the weekend, so it’s still quite embarrassing for me to call myself ‘County Champion’.

Me and my 10 golds
Me and my 10 golds

More to come on what I will do with the medals…

How not to salsa

I go to salsa most Wednesday nights. There are salsa and bachata classes early in the evening, and straight after the classes, there is a free social salsa night where everyone goes to dance.

Last week, for some reason, I was just on a roll. Everyone wanted to dance with me. Normally I take my place in the corner and wait for a friend to arrive who I can dance with, instead of dancing with a stranger (although I’ve been going for so long now, I know a lot of their faces and have danced with them before, but never really caught their names or stopped to chat with them…shall we call them salsa-not-so-strangers?, because I feel like I kind of know them).

But last week, salsa-not-so-stranger after salsa-not-so-stranger just kept asking to dance with me. I finished one dance and as I ran back to hide in my corner, someone else would invite me to dance, it was so surreal…did this mean I was actually getting good?

Anyway, this guy asked me to dance probably my fourth dance in a row, after a few seconds, the volume of the music went up (as often happens) and I got a really bad headache, I wasn’t concentrating and our dance really did not go well.

He was a better dancer than me (not hard, but still, it’s best to state that), and I just had a lot of trouble reading his dancing signals. He held his hands in the air and actually sighed when I spun and missed the cue to take his hand again. He purposely left his hand there on several occasions and at one point rolled his eyes at me.

After about 20 seconds, when he realised he’d made a bad choice in choosing me as his dance partner, he was actively looking around at other women, deciding who he would dance with next, like he had zero focus on me and was looking for the next one. Fine, alright, cool.

As he was looking around, I decided not to look at him any longer. I wasn’t looking for my next dance partner, I was looking for a place in the room where I could sit down and take a rest. As I spun (probably in the wrong direction) I scratched the poor guy’s arm. It wasn’t even just a little scratch, it was like elbow to wrist in length, and then he made eye contact with me, and his eyes just shouted out so now you scratch me, for real?

Add all that to me stepping on his toes and generally not dancing well in his company, I think it’s safe to say we won’t dance with each other again. At the end, he didn’t even say thank you, which is standard dancing etiquette, no? I usually dance alright, it was just at that point I was tired, I had a headache and wasn’t concentrating. Maybe we should have ended the dance early and evacuated the dancefloor*.

*I tried to find a salsa version of this song but couldn’t find one

More salsa stories to come…

The Saddest News of the Day

Was one that I read this morning, about China banning the sale of children’s books from different countries.

Although it is true that children’s books could potentially influence children’s perceptions, there are thousands of children’s books now that try to break those stereotypes, just a few days ago I read about a revolutionary children’s book of true stories about 100 great women. Rebel Girls aims to educate children and show them that not every girl has to dream of being a princess, which is what most books aimed at young girls promote. But I doubt a total block on all children’s books from outside Chinese borders would stop children being influenced.

As a nation of people who stream and download thousands of MB of films and TV shows each year, it is easy for Chinese people to download children’s TV series such as Peppa Pig, Teletubbies and all the other shows that are shown to children across the world. What’s the difference between TV and books?

I was reminded this morning of Malala, another book lover, here is one of her quotes

Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.

I was also reminded of the book burnings that I know to have taken place in China from the time of the first emperor Qing Shi Huang, and later again during the Cultural Revolution. Is this another modern day method of burning books? A way to control the people’s thoughts and opinions, to forcibly guide them into only reading certain types of literature, because other types are deemed ‘unsafe’, ‘defamatory’ or ‘blasphemous’? Whatever reason China has for banning foreign children’s books being sold in the country, I’m against it.

How do ads work?

Do you ever stop and look at the adverts you’re seeing on the banners of websites, on your Facebook and Instagram news feed?

Well, recently, I’ve been very confused, a lot of the adverts that appear on my pages include things that I have not and probably will never search for, such as:

  • Am I ready for a role where I can develop the next generation of Veterinary Surgeons? No, I’m not a vet, nor do I like animals
  • Book a Renault test drive today. No thanks, I already have a car 
  • Save the Date – Wedding Fayre Nope, not even close to getting married
  • Choose and online therapist now Could be useful, but I don’t need a therapist
  • Medicine elective abroad Am not a medicine student, so nope
  • UK Coffee Shop Owners, want to improve profits? I’m not a coffee shop owner
  • Sponsor me ‘Mr Darcy’ at Dogs Trust Not a priority of mine sorrys
  • Special offer on a cruise I don’t even like boats, nope!

Then don’t get me started on Instagram, where every advert is an _cl account, from Chile. I mean, yes I spent a year there, but I’m not there anymore, and I’ve never uploaded any photos from my time in Chile to Instagram. Why Instagram is showing me all these Chilean brands is really confusing.

So how do the ads work? Does it depend on your cookies, what you google, the links you click on, the photos you like, the pages you interact with, your friends list, your location, what’s on your Amazon wishlist, or a whole algorithm based on all these factors? Sometimes the ads come true, I searched for accommodation in Glasgow, then for the next couple of days, I saw adverts for hotels in Glasgow. But some of them are downright random.

What’s the strangest ad you’ve seen today?

World Book Day

It’s World Book Day this week, and I’m forever hearing adverts on the radio, advertising fancy dress options, as children across the UK will go into schools dressed up as a character from their favourite book. Does this practice happen in other countries too?

Back in primary school, my usual costumes would be:

  • Tracy Beaker
  • Mildred Hubble (The Worst Witch)
  • Hermione Grainger
  • Sophie (from Sophie’s Tom, Sophie’s Snail etc)

The were quite easy to dress up as, because the first three had appeared on TV, and the final one had a drawing on the cover of what she looked like.

But now I’m wondering, if I had to dress up this week as my favourite book character, who would it be, and how would I dress? As an adult, many of the books I read aren’t made into films or TV series, and even less have illustrations on the front and inside the book of what the character looks like.

There would be two options: dress up as a character that people can recognise “oh you’re dressed as Hermione, that’s great”, but even better, would be to dress up as a character and have people ask who you are. That way you can describe to them in detail the character, why you chose them, what book(s) they appear in and encourage them to read a book you like too.

Characters that in recent years who have made an impact on me have been

  • Don Quijote in El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedrea
  • Empress Dowager Cixi in Empress Orchid – Anchee Min
  • Harriet Ann Jacobs in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet Ann Jacobs (does an autobiography count?)
  • Hassan in The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini 

I should have nothing in common with these people and characters, they all come from very different parts of the world, and I haven’t shared any of the same life experiences as them. But their characters show passion, enthusiasm, persistence, bravery and determination, which is something I truly admire.

If you had to dress as a character for World Book Day tomorrow, who would you choose and why?

Guys on Facebook

Something strange is going on and I’m not the only one to wonder about this. The question is, what is it with guys on Facebook?

Facebook is a strange place, and people use it differently, I get that. There are people who share all their personal photos, emotions, dreams etc on their profile, so wish to keep their friends list restricted to below 100. There are people who use it as a networking tool and add everyone they come in to contact with and end up with a friends list of over 1500 ‘friends’, even though some of these were people they met once and will never see again. Then there are the people in between, who share some aspects of their life but not all. There are Facebook lurkers who see everything, but never admit they’re watching you by ‘liking’ your photos and updates. There are enthusiastic people who go through your whole album and like every single photo, then send friend requests to the friends tagged in your photos. You get my point, people use Facebook very differently.

I have a very private Facebook profile, so people who aren’t my friends can’t see much at all, but once we’re friends, you’ll be able to see my photos, links to my blog and the articles I share. 659 friends I think is a decent amount, but I no longer rush to add people as Facebook friends.

Back to the question… what is it with guys and Facebook?

Let me just list some case studies that cause me and my girl friends to send long voice notes back and forth to each other. In all these cases, we’ve met the guys in a club, out and about, or through some other method, meaning we wouldn’t have each other on Facebook already

  • Guy tells the girl he’s dating if she added him on Facebook, he would leave her in the buffer zone (neither accepting nor rejecting the friend request) for at least two weeks. She sends him a friend request and three weeks later he accepts, even though within those three weeks the two have met up in person
  • Guy tells girl he’s really hard to find on Facebook, so there’s no point trying to find him ~ Challenge accepted, girl and her friends launch an investigation and find his profile and links to his twitter and insta
  • Guy tells girl he doesn’t use Facebook, so there’s no point adding him ~ girl and her friends find him on Facebook, he’s recently updated his profile picture and has added three new friends in the past week
  • Guy sends girl friend request after they met each other for the first time (she didn’t tell him her last name but he found her) ~ she accepts after a few days in the buffer zone and his profile is empty (I thought social media was meant to be that – social, when there’s nothing to see, alarm bells start ringing)
  • Guy goes back to old photos/status updates of the girls and unlikes them to prove some kind of point

I think these guys are all hiding something*, whether it’s another relationship, friends, political views, a child, embarrassing photos from year 9, who knows? But what other reason is there for you to not accept our friend requests, or pretend that you don’t use Facebook, when you clearly do, and have over 1000 friends. Are we not one of the select few to be blessed with access to your profile. 

Besides easy communication through Messenger, one of the reasons to add someone on Facebook is to get to know them a bit better, right? To see their photos, their updates, the articles they share, the sports teams they like etc. Not all of this information is obtained from stalking their profile. When you’re browsing your news feed, photos come up X likes this… X checked in to Y and is feeling happy. Guys, by adding girls on Facebook, she’s not going to necessarily start downloading your photos and making them into a collage, if that’s what you’re afraid of. She can’t use Facebook to access your internet history, so please, what is the deal with guys on Facebook? What are you hiding from us? What game are you playing? 

*ps, if you are hiding something, we will find out about it eventually