So, That’s Another Two Careers off the ‘Potentials’ List….

I fear that I may have turned into one of ‘those’ people.  You know, one of The Boy’s type of people.  Walkers.  I needed to pop into town yesterday (for various beautifying bits and pieces – don’t tell anyone that I’m still spending money on these things.  Especially not Jiminy – remember her?  She’s my work colleague who acts as my conscience, as I clearly don’t have one), and after much thought, I decided to park in the carpark furthest away from town (ok, so it’s not quite on a par with ‘let’s just march for the next 7 miles, then take it easy for the last 14, but considering I used to whinge at Uni if I had to walk to the shop 2 seconds down our very road, just to pick up some chocolate buttons, this is progress).  Except that my cunning plan didn’t work, as the carpark was full (well, it wasn’t, the free spaces were.  But the local council’s ridiculous idea to charge for parking is a rant for another day).  So I had to drive around for 10 minutes, finding somewhere far enough out for me to walk in.  I’ll be honest, it wasn’t exactly my best effort at reducing my personal carbon footprint.  But I did manage to walk into town (with a full bag of library books, might I add), so my smug face was firmly in place for at least…oh, 12 minutes.

*On a totally unrelated tangeant, I just tried to serenade The Boy with my own, adapted version of ‘She’s So Lovely’, changing the words to ‘He’s So Lovely’.  Sadly, I can’t sing, so I don’t think it was as endearing as I’d originally hoped.*

Where was I?  Oh yes, my smug face.  Well, as well as walking into town (from a residential street at least 4 minutes from the town centre no less, and a full 6 and a half minutes from the library), I also made my bed yesterday.  Yes, made made.  As in put up (I realised that it sounded like I was boasting about being able to change a pillowcase when I was talking to Lovely Mum yesterday and she looked a bit confused).  But I feel that I’ve left a suitable amount of time between Darling Sister moving out and my moving into her old room (when we ALL know, that if I’d had the choice, she would barely have left the driveway after a heartfelt and tearful goodbye before I was measuring her alcove and working out if that Ikea dressing table would fit in the gap where her ottoman used to be), and, as luck would have it, The Boy was in LA this week (he has the best job in the world.  Except for, you know, Kate Middleton), so there was plenty of time for me to move things.  Except, and I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, but making stuff is HARD.  You have to insert Screw C into Slot B, then attach Bolt G and use wrenches and Hex Keys and things (side note – I’m fairly certain that Hex Keys are, in fact, Allen/Allan/Alan Keys, but with a fancy alternative name).  And it hurt my fingers.  So I had a little rest.  An hour and a half later when I woke up, with my things still very much not moved, my smug look slid off my face.  On the plus side, half of my stuff is now in my new room, the matress is on my new bed, and I slept on it last night without it collapsing through the floor – hurrah!  And Ruby (my diva cat, who thinks that my room is actually her room, and she just lets me stay) has already found herself a spot, curled up at the bottom of the curtains.  So everyone’s happy.  And I have a new thing to spend money on – bedroom furniture, hurrah!  I wonder if I can convince The Boy to fund some of the purchases, as they’ll probably be moving with us when we get a house?  No, you’re right, it’s unlikely.

The other exciting thing that I did this weekend was driving all the way to Heathrow (Terminal 3, in case you were interested), to collect The Boy. All by my very self.  I managed to get all the way there without a problem, then got myself in a muddle in the carpark.  Amazing. People will park literally anywhere, expecting you to change the entire configuration of your car in order to get past (whilst I can twist myself into awkward positions to move around people, Sally is peculiarly unwilling to bend at the middle, just because some impatient so and so has decided to park in the middle of the through lane).  Then, some delightful soul (whom I heartily hope suffers a 10 hour delay, and then turbulence and an uncomfortable seat) left their trolley on a slope.  So it did what all wheeled things will do down a slope.  It slid.  Straight into the side of my car.  Luckily, I was driving, and only got a glancing blow, but I was still heartily hacked off.  Whilst waiting for The Boy to emerge from Arrivals (which, I was certain at one point, was going to be on Tuesday, they kept putting the expected arrival time back so much), a man who was standing right next to me (I really can’t stress how close he was standing to me – if I’m honest, he was invading my personal space a bit) turned to who I assume is his wife, and said ‘Wow, she’s even shorter than you!’.  I was tempted to pinch him (I was that close) but instead, maintained a dignified silence.  And bitched about him on Facebook.  After what seemed like a million years, The Boy’s plane landed, and we got lost on the way out.  I don’t want to say that it was his fault (because it wasn’t – I was the one who forgot which floor I’d parked my car on), but, you know, I’d gotten all the way there by myself with no problems…but he’s home now, and I can do my special Happy Dance (not when he’s looking though, that would be even worse than my singing). 

The Happy Dance will also be employed at intervals throughout the week, as I have only 5 days to go until I can shop for pretty clothes again!  And I have seen so very many, that it’s likely I’ll max out my credit and store cards, and the last 6 months will have been a waste of time.  Or, you never know – I might have learned something.  So, in honour of this being my last week of a recessionista (actually, that’s totally the wrong word.  It doesn’t even mean what I meant.  Let’s start again…) 

To commemorate the last week of my spending ban, I will be writing 1 blog post each and every single day.  To paraphrase (actually, to just repeat word for word) Tyres from ‘Spaced’ – You lucky, lucky people.  (Just for God’s sake don’t ask me to do the accent.  It will end in tears.  Mine of shame, yours from scornful laughter.) (If you don’t know who or what I’m talking about, Google it.  He’s brilliant.)

Oh, and the 2 careers in the title?  Chauffeur, and Furniture Maker/Putter Upper.  Or, ‘Carpenter’ if you will.

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Can I be Serious for a Second?

Firstly, sorry, sorry, sorry – this post is being written on a Monday, and I promised that I would always write one at the weekend.  Although, technically, as this weekend is a Bank Holiday one, that means that this is still the weekend (yep, it’s weak reasoning, but…well…I can’t think of anything else).

It was The Boy’s Birthday Barbeque yesterday (which went ahead even though the Weather Fairy refused to return our calls, and insisted on leaving the sky looking as though someone had gone over it with a roller and a tin of grey paint.  But it could have been worse – at least the rain waited until today to make its traditional Bank Holiday appearance), which meant that most of yesterday was taken up with ‘hostessing’, and when I say ‘hostessing’ I mean making random concoctions and forcing people to drink them, and gossiping with my chums.  Saturday was taken up with supermarket shopping.  Which I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER doing on a Saturday again.  Screaming children, unruly trollies, unsupervised children (including a lovely young soul who very nearly ended up under the wheels of my car, after running out in front of me in the car park, and whose parents saw absolutely no issue with her doing so), dawdling shoppers, angry couples…the list of joy is almost unending. 

On the plus side, I think that everyone enjoyed themselves.  I certainly did – partly because I got to see all of our Brilliant Friends, and partly because The Boy bought me a new dress  a few weeks ago, from a lovely shop called M Butterfly in Cambridge, which I was saving for Something Special, and people kept telling me how lovely it was – now that I’ve worn it once, I’m not sure that I’m going to take it off.  Although during an unfortunate ‘Magners falling out of the fridge and smashing all over the floor’ incident last night, the dress got covered in cider.  So I may need to take it off to wash, or nasty ‘don’t you ever wash’ accusations may start flying around, and no-one wants that (even if you don’t ever wash, it’s not nice to have it pointed out).

So, those are my excuses/reasons/explanations out of the way, now onwards and upwards…

I’d like to be serious for just a second, if I may (sorry about that).  Lovely Stepdad went over to Germany last weekend, for some motorbike riding/racing, and good, old-fashioned male bonding, with lots of other men who have bikes.  Which was great.  What wasn’t so great was the phonecall that Lovely Mum received on Monday, letting us know that Lovely Stepdad had been in an accident, involving his bike and a patch of diesel.  Very luckily for all of us, he’s ok (unless you count his left arm, which, after being landed on by his bike, is currently at Popeye proportions – not a great look unless you are actually a cartoon character with a fondness for spinach), and was allowed to come home on Tuesday (also luckily, one of the chaps that he was with drove in a car, as Lovely Stepdad’s bike is currently in a very sorry state somewhere near a German race track), and he’s at home recuperating (whilst Lovely Mum and Yes Dear, the guy that works for them) are running around like very speedy things, keeping the garage running as smoothly as possible (Did I mention that my parents own a garage?  It’s a rather good one too).  Yes Dear goes on holiday tomorrow evening.  I’ve offered to help in his absence, but apparently you can’t just sit under cars and make ‘hmmm’ noises, you actually have to do something with them.  So I’ve been informed that my services will not be required.  So my serious point is, some things are more important than shopping.  Yep, that’s right, it’s out there, I’ve said it. 

However, you didn’t come over for a bit of armchair philosophy (I say armchair, I’m actually lying on my bed, but bed philosophy just sounds a bit…well, a bit wrong), so let’s talk about clothes and other frivolous things.  Well, actually, it’s just going to be about clothes. 

 As you know, Boohoo is one of my favourite websites.  As you won’t know (unless you’re one of my lovely workmates), Boohoo sent me an email with these exact words;

‘We haven’t seen you for a while’

And a 20% discount, valid until 1st June.  So you see my problem – it would have been rude not to look at the website with a discount like that, but I wouldn’t be able to buy anything, even if I fell in love with something.  Which I did.  Two things actually – both playsuits (which usually make me look like an overgrown toddler, and like I should be carrying a bucket and spade with a knotted handkerchief on my head, but I’m an optimist).  Then Lovely Mum hit on something of a solution – as my birthday is just around the corner, and she likes to buy me things, she offered to buy me 1 of the playsuits as a gift, meaning that I could order both, then send one back (this agreement was made on Sunday, before all the bike related trauma – I may be shallow, but even I’m not callous enough to bother my Mum about chiffon related prettiness whilst someone we love is in pain.  Well, I like to think that I’m not callous enough to do that, but the situation has, fortunately, not yet presented itself).  Both were consequently ordered, arrived in double quick time, and Lovely Stepdad had to spend his first night back at home making interested noises whilst I discussed the benefits of the green over the floral design (should you be interested, this is the green one, and this is the floral one).  Lovely Mum, Darling Sister and Lovely Stepdad decided that the green would be best, but I always like a third, fourth and often, seventeenth opinion, so I took the playsuits into work, and forced the girls in the office to let me have a fashion show.  They all preferred the floral, which left me a little bit of a problem, as I really, really liked both.  So I put my ingratiating tone on, and fluttered my eyelashes at my Lovely Parents.  And they offered to let me keep both.  See – lovely.  And perhaps slightly relieved that they don’t have to do the usual last minute dash to the shops, when I decide 2 days before my birthday what I’d like (decision making isn’t my strong point – just as The Boy.  He has to ask about 20 minutes before he wants breakfast what I’d like, so that I have time to dither between toast toppings).

In other news, Darling Sister has very definitely moved out now.  I went to her new flat, and all of her things are actually there, not just hiding somewhere in our house.  Weirdly, I still keep expecting her to walk through the front door, so that I can complain that she hasn’t fed the cats.  Her flat looks like a showhome, but she’s still nice enough to invite me over (although she only lets me drink water.  From a beaker.  And I’m not allowed, under any circumstances, to actually sit on the cushions.)

In other, other news, New Look sent me a letter this week, telling me that they’re going to increase my credit limit.  Now that’s just cruel.

Small print should be big print. Fact.

As regular readers of this very blog will know, I was (and am) obsessed with a Zara dress that Frankie Sandford (the fit, but possibly evil one from The Saturdays) was photographed wearing.  My Lovely Parents bought me the dress, and I used to hang it up on my wardrobe door, just to admire its beautifulness.  But this week, I had somewhere to wear it – hurrah!  One of the girls from the office had her leaving drinks on Thursday (to be clear, I’m gutted that she’s gone, and not just because she sometimes reads my blog.  She’s hilarious, and I love her face.  Moving on…), which I thought was an ideal occasion to wear the dress, so that others could share in the beautifulness.

As the dress has been hanging around in my bedroom for a while, some of the pleats in the skirt had started to fall.  No problem, I (naively) thought, I’ll just iron the creases back in.  So, the iron was plugged in, there was a brief, but fierce struggle with the ironing board (and a briefer battle between the steam setting on the iron and my wrist – the steam won), and away we went.  Approximately 4 seconds after I started ironing the dress, a strange, burny smell reached my nostrils.  And not a nice burny smell (bonfire, barbeque, ex-boyfriend’s belongings), but a bad one (thousands of pounds of electrical equipment, hair, new Zara dress).  Turns out that the label quite clearly states (in a variety of languages, but in very small letters), Do Not Wash.  Do NOT Iron.  For the LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT IRON!  So…um…well.  Turns out that ironing was a bad idea, and the pleats look just fine in their current, dropped configuration.  (Lovely Mum, or Lovely Stepdad, if you’re reading this, the dress is fine.  You’d never notice the melted pleat.)  (Honestly though, it is ok.  Promise.)

So, in conclusion, small print should be large.  Preferably with flashing neon signs and a honking noise, to illustrate how important the information is.  Small print is sneaky, and I don’t care for it.

Once, a long time ago (about 2007), I was offered a New Look store card (I wasn’t going to name and shame them, I was going to say something witty along the lines of ‘I won’t mention the name of the shop, let’s just say that it’s a high street chain, the name of which rhymes with Blue Book.  But then I decided sod it, they deserve to be shamed), and on the basis that I’d receive a 10% discount on whatever I purchased on the day, and a choice of card colours (yes, I’m easily influenced, a marketer’s dream, etc., etc. – I’m told this often.  I also doubt whether ANYONE who has taken out a New Look store card has chosen the orange or green versions), I thought that I’d apply.  Sadly, I was accepted, and the stupid, bright pink card has been the bane of my life ever since.

I have no problem with the monthly payments.  I’ve bought the items, it’s only fair that I pay the money back.  I also understand that if I miss a payment, or go over the limit, I deserve to receive a fee.  But let me give you a couple of examples of the ridiculous crapness of this card;

1.  I was in-store, and mentioned that I wasn’t sure that I had enough money on the card to pay for whatever I was buying (I fear that it was shoes).  The card was swiped, I was told that everything was fine and that it had gone through, then (prepare your suprised face), when my monthly statement arrived, I was told that I had gone over my limit, so that would be £12.00 more this month please. 

2.  My credit limit has been increased twice without my asking for it.  Firstly, I’m not shopping, I don’t need more money.  Secondly, even when I was shopping, I’m (finally) at the stage where I don’t WANT to saddle myself with more debt – stop encouraging me to spend!

3.  I keep getting sent offers that sound amazing (free beauty treatments, 20% discount) just because I own a New Look card.  Then the SMALL PRINT lets me know that I’ll have to spend £35.00 on my card to receive any of the amazing things.  I may as well pay for my own £15.00 manicure, rather than accrue more items that I don’t need, and a ridiculous amount of interest (did you know that the interest rate is about 30% on store cards?  I used to tut when I heard things like that, without actually understand what it means – I’m sure that you’re all much more clued up than I am, but just in case – that means that if I spend £100, and don’t pay it all off before the end of the month, I’ll end up having to pay another £30, for nothing.  Do you know how many Primark bags that would buy me?!)

4.  The biggest problem that I have with this card?  Well, back in December, you may remember that there was a rather large amount of snow, which caused massive issues for the postal system, what with closed roads, blocked depots, people living in the middle of nowhere and still expecting the postie to arrive, even though (and I quote) ‘I can’t get to the depot.  The weather’s too bad, I can’t even get to the end of the road!’  Well, this meant that my card statement didn’t arrive (and still hasn’t, but I digress).  So, I decided to assume (mistake) that the minimum payment would be £5.00, as it had been for several months previously (I tend to pay off more than the minimum amount each month, but on this occasion, with it being January and a 5 week month, pay-day wise, I went for the least amount that I could pay).  I popped into my local store, handed over a rumpled fiver, and promptly forgot all about it.  Until I received my statement at the end of January (actually, if I’m honest, it was more like the middle of February), and discovered that I’d been charged a late payment fee, of £12.00.  I rang the customer service helpline.  I say ‘helpline’, I’m not sure that this is an accurate description.  The conversation went a little like this;

Me: (Quite chirpily at this point) ‘ Hi, I can see that I’ve had a late payment charge, but I actually paid in cash instore on 3rd January.’

Generic Customer Service Chap:  ‘Oh.  Ok, let me just look at your account…..’  5 minute pause, where all I can hear is his fingers tapping over the keyboard, and all he can hear is my fingers starting to drum impatiently on the windowsill  ‘….yeah, I can see that a payment went through, but it wasn’t enough to cover the minimum payment.’

Me:   ‘Riiiight.  How much was the minimum payment?’

GCSC: ‘£5.86.’

Yep, that’s right, I was charged £12.00, for 86p.  That sounds fair.  So, even when I can shop again, it’s safe to say that store cards can expect no more business from me.  Because they’re rubbish.  They do not offer value for money, they give you a small incentive to get you hooked in, and then send more offers through to encourage you to get into more debt.  The fees that they are able to charge are horrendous, and whenever I’ve spoken to someone in the Customer Service department in relation to my card, I’ve discovered that I’d get better answers if I’d asked the card itself.  I never thought I’d say this, but credit is not always a good thing.  If you must get a store card, then for the love of God (and skirts), please read the small print.  Twice.

In other news, I went to a family wedding last night, which was just lovely.  As I was getting ready for bed, I pulled my pyjama bottoms on underneath my dress, pulled the dress over my head, and then noticed The Boy looking at my waist in an odd fashion.  Turns out that I’d forgotten that I was wearing my very special, very giant Spanx pants.  I don’t think that he likes me quite as much anymore….