Loyalty Cards

I recently joined another supermarket’s loyalty card reward scheme, and when I got the letter and card through the post at first, the promise of a £5 voucher after collecting points sounded good. But after reading how many points I needed to accrue before I got that voucher, I had second thoughts on how rewarding the scheme actually is. I’d have to spend £1000 in store (or more on petrol) to get a £5 voucher. It’s not where I do my usual grocery shopping, and even if I did all my shopping there, it would probably take me a year to get enough points for a £5 voucher that I’d probably squander on chocolate or a cheeky breakfast.

That’s probably the worst offender in my purse. A coffee loyalty card I have allows you to collect points when you spend money in-store. To get my usual coffee for free, I have to spend just over £50. With the traditional paper loyalty cards, where you’d buy 9 and get your 10th free, you wouldn’t have to spend that much and with a paper card, you don’t have to do any online registration, so your inbox stays free of all the emails from shops telling you about their latest products and deals of the week (The Works was particularly bad for spamming my inbox).

 

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Just ten of the many loyalty cards I have in my purse

 

Is it a waste to have all these cards in my purse, when the rewards are not that great and my email inbox is full of offers I don’t need? Not forgetting that ‘we haven’t seen you in a while Leona’ email.

I could cut down the number of loyalty cards to two that I use on a weekly basis, and that I have had some good rewards from. The rest are a bit of an ache to carry around when I know I won’t use them. Maybe it’s time they get relegated to a stay-at-home purse. I mean, when was the last time I had a Subway? I don’t need that card cluttering my purse!

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!

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?

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

Mayday’s Latest Album 五月天最新的歌曲选

I don’t often write about music here, but I started listening to an album last night, and can’t get enough of it. It’s by Mayday, 五月天, a popular Taiwanese rockband who have been going strong since the 1990’s. The members now are all pretty much in their 40’s, they’re not anything like the young heartthrobs of One Direction.

Their latest 2016 album《自传》(History of Tomorrow) is said to be their penultimate album, and although I haven’t listened to any of their other albums from start to finish, this is one that I keep playing on repeat.

I understand Chinese, but often with songs, it’s harder to tell the meaning on the first time of hearing the words > see misheard lyrics so as it’s only the second time of me listening to the songs, I’m commenting more on the sound of the album rather than the lyrics. But Mayday are renowned and famous for their hard-hitting lyrics that are easy to relate to, talking about courage, patience, heartbreak and other such matters.

This album has a mixture of titles ‘party animal’, ‘what if we had never met’, ‘greatest day’ etc and they’re all pretty upbeat. They’re just an all round great boy band that’s stood the test of time.

Here’s a video to one of their new songs, it has English subtitles too if you switch them on on Youtube. The band are in the future as old men, they open a special vault, go back to the past (present day) and make all these people stop working hard and start partying, including yes, the token laowai (foreigner) and a girl who looks like she’s studying for her gaokao (Chinese college entrance exams you take in secondary school).

I plan to listen to the album a few more times, and look up the lyrics to some of my favourite songs, since Spotify isn’t like QQ Music and doesn’t give you lyrics (unless that’s on the premium version?)

I stumbled on the album by chance, after wanting to listen to one of my favourite soppy nostalgic Chinese songs 《倔强》 also by the band. I thought the band was done with recording, so was pleasantly surprised to hear some new music from them. Keep it up guys, I’m waiting for your last album and next world tour!

 

Compost and the neighbours

I’ve never been a fan of food waste, but when you’re living alone, it’s really hard to avoid wasting fresh food. Usual culprits of what I throw in the bin are spinach, curly kale, mushrooms and potatoes. I’d like to blame the supermarkets for packaging them all in plastic bags rather than selling them individually, but I’m just as much to blame, since I could cook them into meals and freeze them, but never get around to.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading up on composting. A blog post came into my inbox about composting and it seemed like a logic thing to do. I would love to compost myself, but there are several issues: compost takes 9-12 months to create and I haven’t lived in the same house for longer than that for a long time, gardening isn’t a hobby of mine and lastly, I live in a contained flat and the house is a corner house without a garden. So yeah, I know the landlord has a rule that says no pets or smoking, and I’m sure indoor composting wouldn’t be approved of either.

But I’m still on a quest to compost the spinach I never get to eat, and the odd apple I throw away after not eating it. I’ve decided the best course of action will be to find someone else in my local area that composts, and simply add my scraps to their compost bin, this is a good idea right? Surely if you’re creating compost, the more stuff you put in, the more stuff you get out? I am slightly concerned it could turn into a situation a bit like a charity shop where this poor composting neighbour keeps receiving my unwanted goods (50 Shades of Grey) that he’s unable to use (or sell) but he still feels obliged to take them, cos every little helps.

Either way, it will give me an opportunity to get to know my neighbours, even if it is just them remembering me as ‘the strange girl who wants to dump her bags of rotting veg on our pile’, it’s worth a go. I’ve got two places that I’m going to target first of all – one is a large house on my road that had a very well kept garden. There are potted plants of all colours and it looks like the person likes gardening. I’m not sure whether to snoop around their bins at the back to see if they have a compost bin, or whether to just knock the door and ask.

Then, there’s Arthur Street. For some reason the postman confuses my street with Arthur Street. I started to think the postman fancied me when he kept accidentally delivering packages for Arthur Street to my door, but he hasn’t been in a few weeks, so either he’s found Arthur Street or they’re not ordering parcels anymore. Anyway, there is an undelivered package for someone on Arthur Street in our hallway. Nobody here (there are 5 flats) have gone to take it round (such good neighbours we are) and when I looked earlier, the package was dated November. So I will take the parcel to their house and whilst delivering their missing parcel, I’ll ask them if they compost, or know anyone on the street who does.

So I’ve got a mission – to find a compost bin in my area that I can add my food scraps to AND to try to get to know my neighbours a bit better. Which will be easiest? Will they come hand in hand? I’ll keep you updated.

Finding a suitable working café

Finding a café in the UK is not so hard, if you need a caffeine fix there is usually 5 Greggs within a mile radius in any city centre, and now chains like Costa and Starbucks not only have standalone cafés, but also now have drive-thoughs, are inside clothes and book shops, you’re never too far from a hot beverage.

But when you want to sit down and enjoy your coffee, whilst working on a laptop or tablet…that’s more difficult.

Parking/walking distance from home

When I first moved into my flat, there was no wifi, so I had to find places to work – in hindsight the library would have been a good choice, but I only remembered that public libraries existed about 10 days into my wifi-less home situation. It needs to be somewhere close enough to walk to, because carrying your laptop, charger, phone, notepad, diary, pencil case, purse, hand cream (etc etc, you get the picture) is heavy, even if you have a proper rucksack. If you drive to a cafe on a retail park, you need to check there’s not some silly maximum 2 hour parking rule if you’re planning on spending the whole day there (which of course you are). Or if it’s near a football stadium on match day and there’s a one hour max or £50 in purchases rule to park there…Don’t think you’ll get away with it cos you haven’t seen a parking warden – ANPR (that’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition). As soon as you drive into the car park, the cameras know you’re there and if you’re even just one minute over your time, you’ll be sent a fine.

Free, unlocked* wifi

And not just free wifi for 30 minutes, or free wifi that only works intermittently, you need a good solid wifi connection if you’re working online and using the Cloud to save everything. Also, I need to be able to connect more than one device. Generally, I trust and can rely on The Cloud wifi hotspots (but sometimes that doesn’t let you use Whatsapp).

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Plug socket

This is the bane of my life. I cannot understand why nobody in the UK seems to care about letting their devices run out of charge. Looking around me, I hardly see anybody with portable power packs and there is a serious shortage of plug sockets in BRITISH (the Chinese are on it with the plug socket thing) libraries (even university libraries, let alone the public ones), coffee shops, airports and hotels. Virgin trains must be commended here, they provide plenty of plug sockets and have done a very good job in that respect, but nowhere else are there enough plug sockets.

But seriously, in a cafe like Starbucks or Costa, that will have seats for 60 customers, why are there only 4 or 5 plug sockets? If there were more plug sockets, I would spend more time, buy more coffee and maybe even a cake. C’mon, wake up! Normally, after assessing the wifi, the first thing I will do is scout for a plug socket and plug my laptop straight in, that way I get fully charged so if someone comes along with their phone on 4% I will let them use it. Plug sockets are 98% of the time on the wall and not on the floor, so there’s no point looking at the tables in the middle of the cafe, start by searching the walls. Sometimes in Starbucks they are on the wall but under the seat, so check there too.

There’s nothing worse than seeing your pc screen go darker as it runs into ‘low battery’ mode and then having no way to charge it. I have quite a long cable to my laptop, luckily I’ve never needed to bring an extension cable with me – a trick I learnt on one of China’s slow trains. The train will have one plug socket in each carriage, so that’s what one per 100 people? 200? A woman travelling with her extended family brought 3 extension cables with 6 sockets in each, meaning that one plug socket turned into 15. Everyone probably got a tiny trickle of charge but it was enough and other people used the plugs too, thinking about it, she could have charged a few kuai for letting them use it.

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Check amount and location of plug sockets

Chair with a back

It’s better to sit with a chair that has a back on it. After getting there, checking the wifi is good and finding a plug socket, you need a chair with a back on. No stools! A table is kind of a luxury, most places have them, but I’m fine balancing things on my lap if there isn’t a table available.

A drink

After all that (and once you’ve found that perfect spot and reserving it in the truly British style by putting your coat on the seat), it’s probably time to go get a drink. By this point, I don’t care about roasted arabica beans or rainforests or decaf or skinny and any of the rest of that coffee talk. I just want something warm, that I can sit with for a while, so the baristers will leave me alone to enjoy. Try to keep hold of your mug for a while, so that when new staff come on shift (remember, you’re playing the long game) they won’t turf you out for not having purchased anything. If there is free tap water available, take a glass of that and leave it topped up on the table. If they take your mugs/cups/plates away and although you probably won’t be directly asked to leave or purchase something, you’ll be made to feel guilty by other customers (looking at that plug socket you’re hogging) or staff who wonder why you are here, alone, sitting on your laptop and haven’t moved for a good 2 hours. You’ll see it in their eyes.

In summary, finding a suitable working café for me involves (in this order):

  • Ease of access – free parking, or within walking distance of my home
  • Good, reliable wifi – that I can use with no time or device limit
  • A power source – the more plug sockets the better, and they should be in reach of my table
  • A chair with a back – for sitting back in and resting – no stools
  • Drink – reasonably priced hot drinks available – preferably loose green tea with a huge flask of hot water for refills, but I haven’t found such place yet.

*This isn’t China any more where you can guarantee that 98% of the time, locked wifi passwords in places are either 88888888 or 12345678, or less common but still good to try if the first two don’t work – 66666666.

Caribbean Hair Care

When I go to a specialist hair shop in the UK – you those ones with all the wigs in the window, I am taken aback. There are hundreds and hundreds of products for people with black or caribbean hair. There is much more than what you’ll find in Boots (and it’s cheaper too).

Usually, I try to go in and find something new or good for my hair, but I have no idea where to go. Me and my sisters all have different types of hair, and I have never learnt how best to manage it. These shops are usually not staffed with helpful assistants (like Boots is), where people who have thick locks of curly hair can tell you what does and doesn’t work for them. Normally, there is a man behind the counter who doesn’t have much hair at all – maybe I should consider cutting it all off and buying a wig for £14.99 does often go through my head, but I know that my curly hair is really a blessing and there are so many people who are jealous of my hair, or would go into a hair salon asking to have curls like mine that would only last for a couple of days.

Back to these shops…Shea butter, cocoa butter I’ve heard of, but hair cream, hair mayonnaise, hair custard…what are they for? What do they do? Are they really for putting on your hair or can you eat them too? Cos it’s not always clear to me!

I’ve tried plenty of hair products from different brands and some of them leave my hair greasy, some of them leave bits in my hair (was probably supposed to wash it out after a day but of course the bottle never tells you that), and some of them really aren’t as tangle taming as they make out to be.

If you know me personally, you will know about my hair, and only in the past couple of years have I become more confident about wearing it out (yes out…my hair doesn’t go down, it just goes out) in public. Before I would always tie it up. Now I wear it out more often, I do wish to find products that will keep it moisturised, easy to handle and smelling good without grease or slime!

I am going to have to try to find a blogger on the internet with hair like mine and see what advice they have, because going into those shops and being confronted with too many choices is just too overbearing!

 

My New Favourite Machine

I bought a rice cooker a couple of months ago and it is the best investment I have made in a while. In my new flat, I have an electric hob, and well, we all know how difficult it is to cook rice well on a gas hob without having the rice sticking to the pan or burning…let alone on an electric one where it’s harder to control the temperature.

The one I bought also has a steaming tray, so it is already multifunctional in that sense, but last week I used it to cook something even better!

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My friend came over, we made Chinese hotpot in the rice cooker and it was such a good meal. The paste was £1.50 from a Chinese supermarket and all we really had to do was chop the vegetables (we had a meat-free hotpot).

Hotpot is a real winter staple in China, and it’s different from a normal soup. Using chopsticks, you cook your own food in the pot bit by bit. There are things like potatoes and tofu which kind of fall to the bottom and are difficult to grab again, and broccoli and sweetcorn that float on the top. Once your pieces are ready, you can eat them straight from the main pot, or leave them to cool a little bit in your own personal bowl. Typically, in Chinese restaurants there are various bits and pieces you can mix together to create your own sauce – my favourite being peanut sauce, sesame oil and garlic.

It’s spicy, warm, filling and all done in my new favourite machine – the rice cooker. It’s now going to be a staple piece of equipment for my home.

UK deliveries

When you get a delivery of something larger than your letterbox, it’s a pain. Our system is outdated and very inconvenient, as I have found in the past few weeks.

I live in a house that’s divided into 5 separate flats, but the buzzers and doorbells don’t work to any of our flats, so when the postman comes and rings the doorbell, nobody hears it. Sometimes I’ve heard people knocking loudly at the front door, but that’s only if I’ve got no music on and usually they don’t knock, despite all the notes left on the door.

So they can’t make the delivery…I don’t know if it’s a local system, or a general UK one, but our parcels never go to the neighbours house, we always get a red slip through the letterbox, saying our parcel will be ready to collect from the nearest sorting office from the next day.

It happened to me last week that my colleague sent some tickets by guaranteed delivery, I was in all day, and expecting the mail, but didn’t hear the doorbell, when I went to check the post at 12pm, I saw that familiar red card that said the postman had called just 15 mins ago, and I had missed it. Although my tickets were here in Nottingham, I still had to wait another day to go and collect them… to add insult to injury , the delivery office that parcels are sent to is 4 miles away.

Then when you get there, you can’t even collect parcels for other people in the same building…it really is problematic!

Now take China, where online shopping and e-commerce has boomed in the past 3 years. You order something online and most of the time, they won’t even attempt to deliver it to your door. They will leave it in a secure box within 200m of your house, and then text you the password to go and open that box and collect the parcel whenever you’re ready. Or they will leave it at a local store, whether it’s a supermarket, a hairdresser, an electronics store…just whatever is on your road. Again, you’ll get a text telling you where it is, then you go to the place, tell the person your name, phone number’s last 4 digits and address and you can pick up your parcel like that… no ID, no fuss, no driving and you can collect parcels for your friends too.

I much prefer the Chinese system, even if sometimes boxes and parcels are left out on the street, or it takes you 20 mins to decode the text and figure out where your parcel actually is, it’s much more convenient than having to go at a certain time to the office which is miles away the day after you had a failed delivery.

 

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An example of packages arriving and being left on the street before sorting