Personal Reading Recommendations

I read a lot and I like lots of different things, and I like to have new things recommended to me. My friends and I often borrow each other’s books and we recommend things we’ve enjoyed. I also use the Emerald Street recommendations and have found some great books that way. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been working my way through the Agatha Christie Poirot series and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone alphabet series. I’ve finished the Poirots (90% of them have exactly the same plot – someone is murdered, Poirot says “someone knows something which is a clue to who the murderer is. That person needs to come and tell me before the murderer kills them too,” then the person who knows the clue gets murdered, and then he works it all out) and I’m looking forward to the new Poirot by Sophie Hannah who is one of my favourite authors. And I’ve nearly finished, or at least caught up to the author, the Kinsey Millhone books, having started U is for Undertow this weekend. (I should say I have alternated other books along with the two crime series; I haven’t just been reading crime and nothing else for 18 months!)

So I’m getting to the end of two long series and I’m looking around for what to read next. Edinburgh libraries are offering personal reading recommendations to library account holders. I’m a very frequent user of Edinburgh libraries and I’ve never found them to be anything less than friendly, helpful and generally great to deal with. I’m always interested to see what other people would recommend to me so I thought it was worth signing up. I duly filled in the form detailing what I already like, and this week they sent me an email with six recommendations.

The recommendations are

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  • I Laughed, I Cried: One Woman, One Hundred Days, The Mother Of All Challenges by Viv Groskop
  • Terra by Mitch Benn (Mitch used to perform in comedy routines in Edinburgh with  Ian Kendall who some of my friends will remember from his days doing magic tricks in Old Orleans)
  • The Room by Jonas Smith Karlsson
  • Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
  • After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry

All of those except one are completely new to me, and looking at the blurb, I might easily have passed them over, but I’ve added them to my library “to be reserved” list and I will give them a go. The last one, the Sarah Perry one, I bought for my Nook, I think because of an Emerald Street recommendation. I took it on holiday last year and despite having nothing else to do except lie on Ornos beach and read it, I could not get into it. I tried, I really did, but I think it was just too much literaryness and not enough story. The Goodreads page for After Me Comes the Flood is full of reviews praising the writing but even the most laudatory are pointing out that nothing happens. I usually do manage to finish books but I gave up on this one, bored out of my skull. Beautiful writing is all very well, but when nothing’s happening, I can’t be bothered to struggle through it. I might try it again one day, but not until I’ve read everything else I have!

The Library of Fragrance – Sweet Pea and Vetiver

I can’t remember where I read about The Library of Fragrance, but their scents intrigue me – Fiery Curry, Holy Water and Snow being some of the more unusual. So many I want to try… xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxfrdd

(That last sentence was typed by my cat’s arse. He’s four now so I’m trying to encourage his literacy skills, so I’m leaving it in).

The Library of Fragrance describe their products as colognes, meaning the perfume concentration in the product is low. Unsurprisingly, they don’t last long at all and if you want an all day scent, you’ll probably need to top up every few hours. Having said that, Jo Loves only lasts slightly longer and that’s twice the price.

The first fragrance I tried from TLoF was the Sweet Pea. Sweet peas are my favourite flower and one of my most favourite smells in all the world. I’d love a scent that smells properly of sweet peas. Jo Loves tried but didn’t quite manage it, and TLoF haven’t quite managed it either. It’s a subtle, sweet green floral, but it doesn’t smell like sweet peas. I like it very much though so I still wear it.

This pay day, I treated myself to a bottle of the Vetiver. It’s a one-note, beautiful green warm woody vetiver scent. If you like vetiver in other perfumes and you’d like to try a pure vetiver scent, this is a relatively inexpensive way of doing it.

I’m looking forward to trying more of their scents.

Police with guns on patrol? No.

Originally posted on Edinburgh Eye:

Glock 17On a summer Saturday night in Inverness, a fight broke out between two men outside a fast-food restaurant, and three police officers turned up to stop the trouble.

All three policemen should have been unarmed: that’s the fundamental rule of British policing since 1829. Our police go unarmed except for a concealed truncheon. And that has been the rule for nearly two centuries: firearms are carried as an exception, only on specific occasions when a senior officer decides guns will be necessary.

But each of the three policemen who showed up to stop the fight in Inverness were carrying handguns, identified as Glock 17 semi-automatic pistols.

Police Scotland says that these officers – and 272 others – represent less than 2% of the total force, that armed police officers won’t routinely be patrolling the beat, and that

By having a small number of specialist armed officers available 24 hours a…

View original 1,274 more words

No More Page 3 – Things That Have Happened To Me

Those of you who think that page 3 is harmless, if outdated and a bit tacky, fun and that “the feminists” are making a fuss about nothing, please read Clare Short’s book, Dear Clare. When you’ve done that, have a look at the No More Page 3 site where women have given many examples of how some men use page 3 as a starting point to harass, assault and demean women. And if that’s not enough to convince you, spend some time looking at Everyday Sexism where women talk about what happens to us – every single day.

I have never been the victim of a serious sexual assault, but I have experienced many forms of sexual harassment and assault. I do not know a single woman who has never experienced sexual harassment. It happens to us all. These are the ones that happened to me that stick in my mind the most.

1) When I was at primary school, once a month or so we would drive to the other side of town to visit my grandad’s aunt and uncle, who had brought him up. They lived in a very rural area with hardly any traffic about, a very short walk from a couple of farms. My brother (2 years younger than me) and I would go out to play and we were allowed to walk to the nearest farm and look at the animals. I don’t think I was any older than 7 when one day a farmhand offered to show us round. He walked between us, holding our hands, and I was so engrossed in not slipping in the muck and looking at the animals that it took a little while for me to realise he’d put my hand inside his trousers and wrapped it round his penis. It was broad daylight, there were people nearby, and I was no more than 7 years old. I pulled my hand away and he laughed. Once I told my parents, we weren’t allowed to go to the farm anymore.

2)  Secondary school – pushed up against a wall, had my breasts groped by a boy in my year

3) Aged 13-15 I had a weekday morning paper round. At least one morning a week the newsagent would come out from behind the counter, try to hug me and press himself against me – me, with my awful 80s perm, Deirdre Barlow specs, and newsprint-stained anorak.

4) Aged about 16, waiting for a bus with a friend, both of us wearing skirts that finished about an inch above the knee, bloke in a car queued at traffic lights spent the time shouting about our legs, then drove back to do it again.

5) Aged 20, in the summer holidays between the second and final year of my degree, I had a waitressing job in a restaurant in Edinburgh. The chef would regularly wank himself to an erection, wait until I was in the kitchen, then call me over and force my hand into his pocket so I could feel it. In August they brought family over from Italy to help out with the Festival rush. Their sisters brought their sons, aged about 7 and 5. The boys would frequently – several times a night every night – grope and squeeze my breasts and bum, hard enough to leave bruises. I told them to stop, and they laughed. Their uncles (my employers) told them to stop, but laughed and never enforced it. Their mothers told them to stop, told them off and smacked them for it, but they always carried on. Why did I put up with it? I was 20, jobs were hard to get that summer, it paid £3 an hour (which was good for waitressing in 1991) and I knew it was only for the summer, not forever. If it happened now I’d bring the full force of the law and the appropriate union down on the chef, and I’d make sure I dropped a stack of plates at the first hint of groping from the boys. (For those who are curious, it was La Rocca at the top of Broughton Street and the best day was bringing pizza & steak to Trevor & Simon).

6) Aged about 25, in a pub in town, wearing a dress which showed a bit of the tattoo on my back. A man I don’t know and had never spoken to licked his thumb and rubbed my tattoo. When I asked what the fuck he thought he was doing, he said he wanted to see if it was real. I told him he had no right to touch me. He said I wouldn’t be showing my tattoo if I didn’t want people to look. I told him you look with your eyes not with your hands and to get the fuck away from me. He was furious at being spoken back to and furious that I would challenge his right to touch a woman’s body.

7) Numerous instances of being groped, felt up, passed too closely and pressed against in pubs and clubs.

8) Numerous instances of comments on my body when cycling around town. “Nice tits” the most common, “fuck off” my preferred response.

9) More times than I can remember of men shouting in the street, following me/us (if I was with friends), blocking our way, commenting on our bodies. For the whole time I lived in Lindley and was old enough to go out without an adult, I would walk the long, isolated path at the back of Field Tops rather than go along the main street and have to walk past Carl Livesy’s butcher shop, where he and his butcher assistants would leer and yell.

10) Returning from a union thing in London, on a train with a bunch of other union activists. Everyone’s been drinking, people are falling asleep. I fall asleep, wake up to find the man next to me is allowing his hands to wander all over me while he thinks everyone’s asleep. The union dealt with that robustly. ETA: I should add that I have never felt harassed, threatened or unsafe at any other time during my years of union activity – for me, this was a one-off and I am happy that it was dealt with.

Apart from maybe the first one, I guarantee every single woman you know will have similar stories to tell, or worse.

How wealthy landowners are destroying Britain’s wild birds – and getting away with it

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

Britain’s wealthy landowners are secretly waging war on Britain’s rarest wild birds in order to make it easier to develop land or use it for so-called ‘sports’ such as grouse shooting.

And even when they break the law they’re getting away with it.

Every year, hundreds of beautiful wild birds are killed or their eggs and nests destroyed – the majority by gamekeepers wanting to illegally rid grouse moors of potential predators on shooting estates.

And just last year, the coalition government secretly allowed landowners to destroy eggs and nests from previously protected wild birds such as robins and starlings in order to make it easier for them to develop land.

In theory, it’s not just the gamekeeper or developer who is liable to be prosecuted if it is proven birds, eggs or nests of protected species are destroyed. The landowner is liable too.

Which is probably…

View original 222 more words

Really Crap Service From Nook

In about December 2013 I bought a Nook. I chose a Nook rather than a Kindle for various reasons which are not worth going into here. It has worked fine and I have been very happy with it until the past month.

In the second half of December, I tried to access my Nook library online a few times (on three different browsers on two different computers and a smartphone) but kept getting this error message

nookerrorI assumed it was a glitch at their end which would be resolved soon enough, and put it from my mind.

In the first week of January, I bought quite a few books from the Nook store, partly because of this post and this post. But when I turned my Nook wifi on, only one of the books waiting to be downloaded would download. If I had bought two or more books at once, only one of them would download onto the Nook. The rest just don’t appear. I contacted Nook and and they suggested erasing and reregistering the Nook. It’s a bit of a pain to do, but it worked. But I’ve probably bought a dozen books this month and having to erase and reregister the thing every time is more than a bit of a pain.

Then, the other day, I bought The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker. It wouldn’t download. I erased and reregistered the device. It still wouldn’t download. I tried to contact both the Nook Chat and the Chat With a Nook Expert (they connect you to different bits)

nookchat

but both connected me, allowed me to type in my problem, and then immediately disconnected me. Repeatedly. And then at about 1910 on Thursday evening, both chat functions said they were unavailable, although the top one says it’s open till 2100 on weekday evenings and the bottom one says it’s open till 2200. Both have been continuously unavailable to me since Thursday evening.

I sent an email. Nobody replied. I tweeted @nook_uk and they said “We apol that u are still having issues w ur NOOK account. We are working on the issue and hope to have it resolved shortly.” I don’t think they had any idea what the problem was and that was just their standard line. I asked if it was a really complicated problem seeing as it has been going on three weeks now. They told me to erase and reregister the device. I said I’d already done that multiple times. They didn’t answer. So I tried it. And not only did the new book not download, but ten of the books that were already on it wouldn’t re-download. It just says “this book is unavailable for download at this time.” So I have no access to eleven of the books I have paid for. When I told @nook_uk what had happened, their response was “Sorry that it did not work. We hope to have the issue resolved soon. Which device are you using?” I told them which device I’m using, and that’s the last I’ve heard from Nook. No response to my emails, no explanation for why the live chat isn’t working, and no fixing of these problems.

Oh, and I still have no access to my online library so I can’t archive or unarchive books. And Nook don’t seem to give a toss.

I understand that faults develop, glitches happen, things break. But it’s not ok to do nothing about the problem, ignore a customer, ignore emails, ignore tweets, apparently block me from live chat, and then give advice that makes things worse. So, my advice to you is this: if you’re trying to decide between a Nook, a Kindle and a Kobo, don’t get a Nook.

#thisgirlcan – despite the kyriarchy

This week, Sport England have launched a new campaign, called This Girl Can. The main thrust so far has been a tv ad.

Discussion about the ad has started. I haven’t seen much of it, but what I have seen has been about whether the ad is patronising. I’m so disappointed.

I really like the ad. It shows women of different ages, different sizes and shapes, abilities and disabilities,  different colours doing different types of sport and exercise from solo running to group fitness classes to individual swimmers competing against others to team sports. Some of the woman have athletic bodies, some of them do not. All of the women look like they’re working hard, all of the women look committed to what they’re doing, and all of them look like they’re enjoying it. This, to me, is an ad that says whatever your age, size, level of fitness or personal preference, there is a form of exercise for you.

Yes, it could show an even wider variety of activities. No, I didn’t notice anyone with a visible physical disability. Yes, the use of “girl” instead of “woman” irritates me. But in such an inclusive, varied, positive ad, those are minor quibbles.

Regardless of our weight or size, exercise is good for us, and any exercise is better than none. But while young girls are often as active as young boys, physical activity tails right off amongst teenage girls, and inactive teenagers are often inactive adults, and women generally do less sport and exercise than men.

Instead of bickering about whether or not this ad is patronising or tokenistic or objectifying or othering, let’s use this campaign as a way of opening up the discussion about why women and girls are less likely to exercise. For example, some studies have shown that teenage girls say they don’t want to exercise because they don’t want to mess up their hair or makeup, get sweaty or look “unfeminine” with visible muscles. Women earn less and have more responsibility for care of dependents and household tasks, therefore have less time and less money for exercise. Women are socialised into putting other people before themselves and often feel guilty about or unable to make time to do something for themselves. Some women live in cultures where sports clothing is not acceptable and going out is not frowned upon. Many women, including one I was talking to today, are anxious about exercising in public because of the risk of assault or street harassment.

You can make all the fantastic feelgood positive adverts you like, but until the societal and cultural barriers are kicked down, very little is going to change.So, we need more done to convince girls that their appearance isn’t the most important thing about them, and at the same time, more emphasis on exercise rather than diet as a way to control weight (I’m looking at you, women’s magazines, with your pages of juice cleanses and nothing about lifting weights). We need to see the media promoting a much more diverse range of bodies as attractive and healthy. We need safer public spaces. We need better employment opportunities and better pay for women. We need men to step up and do an equal share of the housework and care for dependents. We probably need more women-only facilities offering a wider variety of sports. We need fitness centres/gyms/pools/clubs/groups to do everything they can to attract and encourage a more diverse spread of women and girls.

If we want women to play, we have to level the playing field.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 65: Elephantine Hypocrisy

Lush are selling a perfume they’re calling “Smuggler’s Soul,” with a graphic novel called “On the Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers.” The illustrations on the perfume and the cover of the book are of a dacoit called Veerappan, who made his name smuggling sandalwood and ivory. Setting aside the rights and wrongs of smuggling, Veerappan killed hundreds of elephants and over a hundred people, until he was killed by a Tamil Nadu Special Task Force in 2004. Yes, 2004 – not 1904 or 1804, or long enough ago that his victims aren’t around to complain about the glamorising of his crimes.

Given Lush’s self-aggrandising on the grounds of their ethical, cruelty-free stance, why on earth are they using the image of a mass murderer and elephant killer to sell their products?

Petition here.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 64: How to Help New Staff Learn the Ropes

An email came in this week from an ex-Lush employee. It makes quite upsetting reading. I’m glad the woman in question is doing better now, but as always, no matter who you work for, you don’t have to be treated like this. Join a union, get help and don’t put up with being bullied.

Abbie’s words

Hi there,
 
I stumbled upon your blog last night while I was looking
for more ethical and reasonably priced alternatives to
Lush, and I’ve never been happier to see a blog in my
life. I worked for Lush for a short period of time in
2012, I was struggling financially and took on a second
job while they hired extra staff for the London Olympics. 
I was eager and happy to be working for a company that I 
loved dearly. I did my interview, aced my trial shift and 
began working almost immediately for a high wage 
(London Living Wage) and I was content. Apart from when the
assistant manager took an immediate disliking to me. 
 
No one had explained to me that you had to be on the shop 
floor for the start of your shift - I was used to working 
in retail for another large chain that held a small staff 
meeting before the beginning of each shift, maybe it was 
naive to assume that most places did that. but they do, 
they cram you in to a tiny store room and tell you that 
you’re competing with local stores and to link and up sell 
products - if someone buys shampoo tell them it won’t work 
without a conditioner, etc etc. I hate this style of 
selling. And my assistant manager noticed this, and would 
drag me into that tiny cupboard two or three times a shift 
to shout at me, to tell me that I had no personality and 
that I was under performing. It was my first few days, I 
think this is a little unfair.
 
She did this to me for three weeks, constantly telling me 
that I wasn’t happy enough, that I wasn’t energetic enough,
 that I wasn’t good enough to even learn to cut soap, or 
stock the shelves, i should just stand by the door and 
offer people baskets. She didn’t care that I come from a 
multiracial family, and understand many hair types, skin 
types and cosmetic issues, and that every customer was 
happy when I helped them, I received excellent feedback 
from everyone I helped in that shop, but because I didn’t 
want to smile 24/7 - because the weight of being poor in 
London was constantly on top of me, and I was working 3 
jobs - I wasn’t ‘Lush’ enough.
 
In the end they fired me, horrifically. She got in my face 
and shouted at me until I started sobbing and then full 
blown crying, it was only at that point that she was 
satisfied. She then got another member of staff to watch me
collect my belongings and make sure I didn’t steal anything
- even though theft had nothing to do with my dismissal, 
and having worked in retail since I was 14, I’ve never 
stolen from a place of work. She made sure all of my 
colleagues knew that the reason I was fired was because 
I’m ‘not a happy person, and happy people are Lush people’.
They made me walk through the entire shop, crying and 
forced me from the building.
 
I experienced systematic emotional abuse over three to four
weeks, but no one has ever believed me that Lush would 
treat me that way - reading all the emails from ex and 
current staff members makes me feel strangely better, as I 
know I’m not the only one to have experienced the dark side
of Lush. Her abuse of me trigged a full blown mental 
breakdown, which I’ve been recovering from for two years. 
My current employer (someone I worked for at the same time 
as I worked for Lush) has stood by me, given me extra time 
off, moved my shifts, given me emotional support etc etc 
since it happened - and they’re a company i doubt will be 
around for much longer. 
 
I hope every ‘Lushie’ can have their eyes opened by this 
blog, and the truth behind the company.
 
My name is Abbie,
and I don’t mind you printing my first name. 
 
Thanks for letting me have a rant.

Call It What It Is: Rape

I have no idea whether or not the press stories about Prince Andrew are true or not. My first thought is that I find it hard to believe anyone in his position would be stupid enough to do what he’s been accused of doing. My right-behind-my-first-thought second thought is that if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that some men in positions of privilege do what they want without fear of consequence, and that we should always believe people who say they have been abused.

But what is really pissing me off is that the news media keep referring to “sex with an underage girl” and that the girl was “forced to sleep with” the prince. There is a word for “sex with an underage girl” and there is a word for being “forced to sleep with” someone. That word is rape, and refusing to use it doesn’t make the crime any less horrific.