Lots of pillocks in the pool tonight

  1. The very very very slow man who doesn’t let anyone pass at the end
  2. The man doing a very asymmetrical breaststroke who decides to overtake the people stuck behind 1, no matter what’s going on around him and how little space there is to do so
  3. The man who, stuck behind 1, decides to kick as hard as he can, creating as much splash as he can, regardless of the person (ie me) right behind him
  4. The man whose average speed really should have put him in the medium lane
  5. The women not swimming, clinging to the end, yakking and blocking everyone’s way
  6. The man who gets his kicks by speeding up to overtake at the end of the lane, then setting off really slowly and blocking the way for the next length
  7. The numerous people who swim towards the middle of the shared lane instead of keeping to their side, with really weird wide strokes who kept punching/kicking me as they went past

On the other hand, I did 1km tonight in 26m40s, an average time per 50m length of 1m20s. I think that’s the fastest I’ve managed for a km over 50m lengths.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 39: Christmas fun for Lush managers (in mid-November)

The blog has received an email from a Lush employee. I’m going to post it here unedited.

I truly can’t believe what has happened now!

Lush have organised a November managers meeting.  More about that in a bit.  The first time they did this November meeting was in 2011 when all managers had to go down to Poole just for one night to receive some important information about the way that head office structure was changing – like when the helping hands department was set up and who was running which department.

This was really inconvenient for managers to just down tools and go down to Poole, at short notice, as they were just getting into the swing of Christmas, just getting their teams used to taking more money, organising and training temps, making their shops look Christmassy, putting into play all the things they learned at the 3 day long Christmas managers meeting held in a 5* hotel just 2 months before etc.  But of course everyone went and did what they were told realizing that it must be a really crucial meeting in order for them to be ‘summoned’.  The trainees were left in charge and off the managers went to their important meeting.
It wasn’t! It was a glorified piss up in another 5* hotel, another Christmas meal and the vital information was handed to us in the form of a pink and a blue laminated sheet of paper with some phone numbers on which could have been posted – or emailed even!
Most managers just enjoyed the party and drank lots at Lush’s expense.  A few managers felt guilty that their trainees were left holding the baby while they partied away – especially as no staff holiday is allowed in November and December at Lush due to Christmas being so crucial to the business.  It is stated in the Contract of Employment. (hold that thought)
Last year, due to everyone having such a lovely time in 2011, they did it again.  Again the majority of managers enjoyed their ‘meeting’ and a good time was had by all but a few who just wanted to concentrate on Christmas and being a good manager and making money, not that that does you any favours with Lush.  
We have just got this email:

Hello all Managers,

It’s the season to have fun and be jolly and this year we would like you to join us in the captivating city of Amsterdam for Marks Special Party!!

You will be flying out on Sunday 17th November to experience this charming and charismatic city which starts its Christmas Season on that very day when Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) arrives by boat into the city to begin the festive period. Many people take to the streets to celebrate and we would LOVE you to be one of them! Providing the current agenda doesn’t change, the day is yours to do as you wish until the evening. We take great pleasure in attaching your party invite and details about what we have planned for your evenings entertainment! 
Amsterdam will be full of enthusiasm and excitedly busy which is why we want to fly you out early on Sunday to be involved in this festively unique event. Please consider how you will get to your chosen airport in the early hours of Sunday.
We have attached your booking form that we would ask you kindly to fill in and return no later than Sunday 27th October. We are also giving you the option to stay extra days and take in the wonders of Amsterdam. We are more than happy to organise your flights for this, however the cost of the room will have to be paid by yourself. We have managed to get some great rates with the hotel. Please email xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx if you are interested.
(Please note that the Sunday is a work day and you can claim this back as a lieu day)
We hope you are all as excited as we are and will be able to join us for this fantastic celebration with our European neighbours. Its going to be one hell of a party!!! Look out Amsterdam… Here we come!
Flying? (105 managers and god knows how many head office staff and hangers on)  
Extra days (when no holiday is allowed)
Here’s the itinerary of what crucial business learning will be taking place:
We are super excited to take ONE LUSH into the festive season and where better to do this than the magical city of Amsterdam!You will be staying in the Five Star Grand Krasnapolsky Hotel on the world famous Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might just catch a glimpse of Sinterklaas as he makes his way through the city.
Your 1920’s outfit is essential as we dine and dance the night away with our exciting Great Gatsby themed night.Let’s get the festive period off to a great start and celebrate this Christmas season with good friends and good cheer!
There is various information about what to wear and what hairstyles to have – all compulsory so staff will have to get all their costumes etc. in their hand luggage.
We really appreciate all the effort you will be making and to reward you on the night we will be giving prizes away for:
– Best LADIES HairStyle
– Best LADIES Headdress
– Best Charleston dancing
So boys and girls…
Come as a flapper or come as you are,
Come as a gangster or a silent movie star,
Its going to be fun no matter how you dress
Just bring yourself, LUSH will do the rest!
The reaction on the staff facebook page is mixed. 
“Just a little bit excited for the Novembers Managers Meeting……Amstadam”
“How very exciting – a well deserved treat”  (yes, it’s only been 2 months since the last 5* Christmas managers meeting, another piss up and Christmas meal.
Most were concerned with passport issues, especially if they didn’t have one: 
“What if you’ve not got a current Passport?”  
 “I reckon there’ll be a few of us without a passport, and like xxxx says, even if you get fast track or premium you could wait up to 3 weeks for an appointment to order the passport. Really hope they can extend the booking form. Be a shame to miss out.”    
“Amsterdam is completely out of the question for me. I don’t have a passport and nor can I afford the £75 to get one. Living in  xxxxxx, there’s no fast track office nearby either.  Not only that, but personal reasons too;  A 5* hotel in Amsterdam during this whole Christmas festival sounds absolutely fantastic, really really amazing and I want to go so badly, but I just cant. Honestly, this is supposed to be a motivating meeting but I feel really flat because I know that I’m missing out now. But in all, I really hope that the managers who can make it have a good time!
“i do think if it’s a mandatory meeting outside of the UK, it would only be fair if Lush paid for Passports for managers who don’t already have one. Who can afford £100 odd for fast track when we cant even heat our homes properly without being on debt?!”
During the discussion about passports and flying, just one member of staff questioned the ethics of an Amsterdam party by showing this link:
To which the reply was:  “You need a passport whichever form of transport you take, I managed to get a passport in one day from the london passport office. Obviously that was just a replacement so completely new applications will prob take longer. Hope everybody gets I sorted!    
This person B completely missed the point so it was re-stated by the person who posted the link (Person A):
“Sorry, my point was that are we not supposed to be limiting air travel where possible? I don’t see this event as being business critical especially in these financially difficult times.”
Person B replied: “Oh right. Yeah I can see what you mean but rallying the troops and motivating is highly important too. You could say they same of the store Xmas parties. I know they do not cost the same as this but collectively that’s a lot of money that we spend and that’s just a lovely way for us to thank our teams and celebrate how amazing we are, i guess what i mean by that is in both cases christmas will still happen next year without it but its still an amazing thing for lush to provide us. Obviously, we’ve never gone to Amsterdam but this November meeting has happened for a few years now, so Whoever makes the decision on these meetings does see it as business critical or at least business effective else it wouldn’t get done xx”  
(Parties are clearly business critical now)!
(Person A):  “I’m happy that you get motivation from attending such meetings, I really am, but where is the motivation for everyone else? What motivation do I get when myself and the rest of xxxx had our bonus scheme removed 4 months ago and have not received a penny for project based bonuses that were previously agreed.  The November meeting could quite easily be held in the UK, putting the managers up in a 5 star hotel is just a smack in the face to those of us who are struggling to make ends meet.  I am aware that others are in similar situations but that does not excuse the fact that this event could just as easily take place in the UK and at a lower cost. How about investing in your staff, so everyone is recognised and has some standard of living, people keep falling for these quick fixes of fun rather than stable good salaries and achievable bonuses. “
Someone else jumped in with: “European managers coming to the U.K. Vs uk managers going to Europe. I’d imagine the cost is similar? Either way I’m excited”  (there are far less euro managers and no need for head office staff to fly out to Amsterdam if it was held in the UK,  so it would cost less and be better for the environment with far less flights. 

(Person A): Ok, I didn’t realise that this was a European managers meeting as well, so that means even more expense. I would be interested to see the budget for this event, it’s probably as ludicrous as the Lushfest events! I hope you all enjoy getting drunk at the expense of other peoples bonuses.”


And some further comments: “Well, well, well this explains why the front line staff eg shop floor didn’t get a Xmas box !!!!! Thanks for being so kind to the people that actually make the money for this company feeling really motivated for crimbo now NOT !!!!”

 “Guys, I think we should all calm down and put things into perspective… it isn’t like they are being flown out of the country for a boozy trip 5 weeks before the biggest and most important time of the year for the company that single handedly keeps it afloat…. oh… wait…”

  “We’ll have fun in Amsterdam everyone while the lowly shop floor staff sell their butts off to make sure managers get all the treats, feeling very let down”


Sadly these staff will probably get the sack now for speaking out of turn and not being pleased for their managers or pro Lush.

 This Amsterdam trip will clearly motivate everyone and will help bring the staff and management together as one big happy family.   Just shows Lush’s lack of any business sense whatsoever.  But I’m sure a good time will be had by all.   One Lush! 

As far as I’m concerned, Lush can spend their money how they want. But I am appalled (yet not surprised, unsurprisingly) that they are flying their staff around Europe for a party. Remember, Lush are very vocal about their commitment to the environment and they support Plane Stupid, as discussed in this Guardian article from 2008. But they’re paying to fly their staff around for a night on the ran-dan that could easily have taken place in the UK. What utter hypocrites.

If any of the staff who have commented negatively on the facebook page are reading this, I urge you to join an appropriate union straight away. Protect yourselves. If Lush start to make life difficult for you because you’ve criticised their stupidity, you might need union help. Those of you who fear management action because you’re unable to attend (because you can’t afford to, or for any other reason), join a union, protect yourselves. And all those of you who are on minimum wage and have had your Christmas bonuses removed – it’s time for every single one of you to join an appropriate union, get organised, and start fighting for better terms and conditions.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 38: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

In this post, I talked about how Mark Constantine said Lush wanted to make things better on their international forum.

So, what’s happened since then? Many people on the forum took him at his word and said where they felt things had gone wrong and made constructive suggestions for how things could be improved. Forumite A posted about her experience. After several days, she received an email from a Lush employee, to which she replied. She’s had no further contact from anyone at Lush. Lush employees set up threads on the forum listing the complaints, and then ignored the complaints. Then Lush announced that none of their staff would use the forum because it was too horrible, and that from then onwards, the forum would be moderated – in complete contrast to numerous posts from Lush big cheese Hilary who had said time after time after time, year after year after year, that the forum should not and would not be moderated. People were very annoyed about that. Then a couple of moderators were appointed who spend several days going through the forum removing swear words, falsely accusing people of insulting them, and refusing to apologise. Meanwhile, not of the legitimate questions people asked have been answered. And now people who contact Lush customer service are told that the forum is going to be shut down.

Well done, Lush. Well done, Mark. You had a fantastic loyal fan base, a fantastic sounding-board, a fantastic source of feedback. You used it when it suited you, you flattered it when it suited you to, and through your own greed, selfishness, stubbornness and stupidity, you destroyed it. The community will find another home – bonds that strong can’t be broken by anything as weak as you. You’re the loser.


It’s nearly Bonfire Night, and as a woman who was Yorkshire-bred if not Yorkshire-born, that means it’s time for parkin. Make it this weekend, wrap it up in greaseproof paper, and by Bonfire Night it will be just right. This is how you do it:

4ozs lard/butter or margarine
4ozs golden syrup
4ozs black treacle
4ozs soft brown sugar
8ozs plain flour
8ozs medium oatmeal
pinch of salt

4 teasp. ground ginger
2 teasp. ground cinnamon
1 teasp. bicarb. of soda
1 egg  – beaten
1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)

Heat the oven to 150C or gas mark 1.

Melt the fat. Add the syrup, treacle and sugar and warm over a very low heat till the sugar begins to dissolve. Avoid overheating the mixture, keeping the saucepan warm rather than hot.
Sieve the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and gradually beat in the liquid from the saucepan & the beaten egg. -(taste and add dark rum if wanted). Mix to a soft consistency, adding a little milk if required.
Pour into a greased flat tin (lined with grease proof paper) so that the mixture is 1 inch in depth.
Bake for 1 hour in a cool oven on bottom shelf  (300 degrees,or mark 1) – check during cooking and if necessary add 5-10 minutes (if browning too quickly add foil and then take off during last 10 minutes). Partly cool it in the tin, then turn out to finish cooling.

Serve the parkin cut into squares. Serve with stewed gooseberries, if you have any, but it’s fine without.

I am starting to learn fold-forming

Those who know me know I’ve been doing a silver jewellery adult ed class since I think 2008. I didn’t go last year because hip, but I think this is my 9th or 10th term. I’m pretty terrible really, I’m clumsy and impatient and not good at fiddly stuff, so fold-forming, which is mainly hitting things with hammers, might be my jewellery spiritual home.

Fold-forming means folding metal, then hammering repeatedly along either the folded edge or the open edges. As you hammer, each hammer strike pushes the metal it hits out of the way so eventually the metal stretches and curves under the blows. Once you’ve hammered it to the degree of curve you want, you open it up and see what fantastic shape you have made.

After some practice hammering, I started on a piece of copper, about 20cm long and maybe 6cm wide – I can’t quite remember the original dimensions. I folded it in half so it was 20x3cm and then spent hours – roughly 4-4.5 hours hammering along the closed edge, annealing to keep the metal soft after every two go-overs. Once the metal had curved round to just beyond horseshoe shaped, I heated it again, then opened it out by working the other end of tweezers into it and twisting, then spreading the edges out out a bit more by hand. I filed and smoothed the jaggy edges off, then pickled it to clean it. Then I used the brass brush to give one side a high-shine finish, and on the other side did the same just around the inner edge. And this is what I got.

DSCF3270 DSCF3271 DSCF3273I want to do more!


And here are some of my earlier efforts

Reticulated silver pendant, with matching earrings

Reticulated pendant and earrings

Reticulated star pendant

Reticulated star pendant

Leaf textured pendant done on the rolling mill

Rolling mill leaf pendant

Bangle textured with a toffee hammer


Hammered cuff

Hammered cuff


I was making a reticulated bangle, but melted it, so I saved the pieces and made it into a bracelet

Bracelet of reticulated pieces


Many-textured bracelet

Hammering, reticulation, wire

Bracelet of rings

Loopy bracelet

Textured bangle



Pendant of many textures

Bike. You can see it got a bit chewed up – the soldering was very fiddly


Silver dream machine

Novelty plectrum


Leaf pendant

Leaf pendant on the rolling mill


Textured brooch

Leaf pendant

Leaves on stalk pendant



















Christmas Cake recipe

This is my mum’s Christmas cake recipe, and it really is the nicest Christmas cake I’ve ever tasted. She’s given the recipe out to people many many times, and on several occasions people have said to her “I must give you my Christmas cake recipe that my friend gave me years ago, it’s lovely”  – only to hand her a photocopy of her own handwritten recipe!

10 oz butter (softened)
10 oz finely chopped mixed fruit peel
10 oz sultanas
8 oz currants
5 oz seedless raisins
4 oz glace cherries, halved
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 oz chopped angelica
8 oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 oz soft brown sugar
6 oz ground almonds
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons brandy

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150C/310F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ round cake tin with 1 oz of the softened butter, using a pastry brush. Grease one side of a 20″ strip of greaseproof paper with 1 oz of butter and fit the paper, greased side up, inside the tin.

Put the fruit (peel, sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries and angelica) into a large bowl. Sprinkle it with 2 oz of the flour, tossing it about with a spoon to coat the pieces evenly. Set aside. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the rest of the butter with the sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and baking powder mix, about 6 tablespoons at a time, beating well. Beat the fruit mixture into the batter. Finally, add the brandy, mix well, pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hr 45 minutes, then lower the heat to gas mark 1/100C/290F and bake for a further 2 hours 15 minutes until a fine skewer inserted comes out cleanly.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before removing the sides of the tin, then slip it off the bottom of the tin and onto a cake rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, remove the paper. Several times before the cake is marzipanned and iced, sprinkle two or three tablespoons of brandy over the cake.