Evidence that Romance Isn’t Dead

I now work in a jewellers, it’s a great place as you never know who will come through the door, what they will bring, what stories they have and what they want to buy. We have a mismatch of customers, of all ages, nationalities and it’s also a place where we get to hear and see signs of love at least three times a week.

Yesterday, two customers I helped serve stood out.

One was a local customer, who had just received our new catalogue through the door. His wife had looked through it and saw a bracelet that she liked, she pointed it out to him and he didn’t make much of a fuss about it at the time. He came into the shop, without her knowing and looked at the bracelet and the others in the same range – 18ct gold beads on an elasticated band. Some had diamonds and some did not.

After some expert modelling from myself, he decided to take the bracelet without diamonds (because after all, this wasn’t any special occasion) and then asked about matching earrings, which we have too. He bought the set, spending over £1000 and asked us to gift-wrap them. I couldn’t stop thinking about how pleased, excited and surprised his wife would have been to come home to receive such a nice gift.

Later that day, a Chinese group came in. They had already bought some watches from a shop in Manchester the day before and were comparing prices and styles. One man had bought an Omega the day before, and looked at our Omega display. A couple caught his eye and he saw a watch from the same collection as his, that matched his very nicely. In Asian cultures, matching watches for couples is quite a common thing, and I think it is really cute. What was even cuter, was that he FaceTime’d his wife (who was in bed – China is GMT+8) and showed her the two watches he was thinking about buying.

 

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Matching Ladies Omega Watch

She didn’t ask for a watch but you could see from his face that he really wanted to buy her one, saying that what happens if he goes back and they go out to dinner, he dresses up with his new watch and she doesn’t have one. He bought the watch with a darker dial to match his and walked away very happy with his purchase (pictured).

 

 

 

So…where do I find one of those?

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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!

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 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?

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

Native Speakers and the Equality Act

When applying for jobs, especially in languages, you often come across the words ‘native speaker’. Whether it’s for a language teacher, a translator, an interpreter or any other general roles that require you to speak another language. Some companies are direct and put in the job description ‘must be a XX native speaker’, which kind of makes sense when it’s a language teaching role, or translating – you should always translate from a foreign language to your native language, rather than vice-versa.

But then again, does it make sense? During secondary school, all the teachers in the language department were British, and that didn’t effect my grades or learning experiences. We had native language assistants who would come in a few days a week for conversation classes, cultural immersion and other things, but the majority of my Spanish was learnt from a British teacher.

So now, as I’m actively seeking a job where I can use my language skills – particularly my Mandarin skills, I do get disheartened and angry when I see employers demand native speakers. In some cases, native Chinese speakers’ native language isn’t even standard Mandarin, their native language is a Chinese dialect, and many dialects in China are incomprehensible to speakers of other dialects. Whereas my Chinese is so 标准 that native speakers are amazed at my almost textbook/newsreader style of correct pronunciation.

I know if I was invited for an interview, I could probably impress the employer with my Mandarin skills, but I’m often either dissuaded from making an application because they ask for a native speaker, or am rejected at the first stage (because I’m not a native speaker).

It seems some employers are aware of this possible breach of the Equality Act, so they sometimes include a line that says something like you must have terrifically great Chinese language skills, and have good English skills too.  This to me shouts ‘we want a native Chinese speaker but are too afraid to state it so directly’.

So, are employers breaking the Equality Act by requesting native speakers? I have studied Mandarin for over 5 years, including a year and a half studying at Chinese universities. I have passed the HSK Level 6 exam (HSK is the international standardised test for non-native Mandarin speakers). Level 6 is the highest, and the description says ‘…[HSK Level 6 holder’s] language application ability is close to that of a native speaker’s’. I often sit here thinking to myself, what more do I need to do to apply the skills I’ve spent so much time on acquiring in a suitable job? I have a university degree, an international qualification, firsthand experience of living in China and I am so passionate.

The UK Government is currently pushing for more people to apply to be language teachers, but from my experience, continuing languages at higher education has not reaped me the rewards I believed it would have so far. If the UK wants to encourage language learning, there should be opportunities for linguists to flourish in jobs that are challenging and rewarding, not restrictions imposed on us because we were born in Britain.

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!

 

You can’t swim with me.

What is it with guys that want to go swimming when girls do? I don’t mean in general, I mean I’m sure most men go swimming because they want to keep fit and enjoy being in the pool, but within the last week, whenever I’ve told a male friend that I’m going swimming, they have almost exploded with a huge desire to suddenly come swimming with me. If it was running, or yoga, or boxing that I told them I was going to, they would not say anything about it, but as soon as it’s swimming, they get animated. But no, you can’t swim with me.

Maybe I am being selfish or rude or just awkward, but there are several reasons behind my refusal in letting them join me swimming.

1. You don’t swim like I do

After years of swimming competitively, I get in a pool and swim at least 750m for a warm up. How many lengths is that? That’s another reason why you can’t swim with me…swimmers like myself not only swim longer and more structured sets than your average public swimmer, but we count differently too. My standard warm up looks like this

3 x (150 S/K/P per 50 +10s)

which to you would be 2 lengths normal swim, 2 lengths using the kickboard (legs only), 2 lengths using a pull buoy (arms only), then rest for ten seconds after doing those 6 lengths. Repeat three times.

I also use the clock a lot, so will be thinking in terms of ‘red top, black bottom’ (which are the same thing) instead of looking at the actual time, seconds count a lot in my swimming session. There is a huge difference between a 10 second rest and a 15 second rest.

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My swimming style

2. It’s not sociable

Swimming with me is not sociable. I get in, I swim and I rarely stop for chats. If you came swimming with me, what would you be doing besides trying to race me or watch me?

3. You can’t teach me

I’m a very good swimmer, I know the weaknesses of my strokes and I have plenty of sets and workouts for myself. Unless you’re a swimming coach with years of experience, there’s really nothing you can teach me that I don’t already know.

4. I won’t teach you

If I pay for a public swimming session (average price seems to be about £3.90 these days) I want to make the most out of my time and session. Teaching a beginner how to swim is hard and it takes months, even years for a beginner to learn how to swim, it’s not possible to learn in an hour.

So, sorry guys, but actually I’m not sorry. You can’t swim with me unless you are a dedicated lane swimmer who agrees with me about these nuances , until then – you can’t swim with me!

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Boy bye