Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Meanwhile, here at SmileBay

This morning I received my annual dividend from my Co-op membership (£32, thank you very much), along with my magazine and sudry other items. Co-op are noted for their environmental concern, and the back of the envelope informs me that it was made from sustainable sources. Underneath that, it says 'Once you have finished with this, please pass it on or recycle'.

The envelope has a plastic window, making it a little hard to recycle, so if anyone out there is in the market for a bright yellow A4-size envelope, which says 'The Co-operative membership' (with a picture of a bee) in the top left, and 'Thanks for a fantastic year.' in big letters under the window, do let me know. The envelope has been folded in the middle, and the flap (which is on the right-hand side if you're looking at it from the front) has a tear and would not re-stick. You could glue it, though.

Monday, 23 June 2008

In Which The First Photos of the Organic Garden are Revealed

The organic garden is going swimmingly; thus, the time is opportune to show you some photos.


Here are the potato plants, in their barrel:

You will note that the plants have a lot of leaves but no flowers yet. Once they grow flowers the potatoes are nearly ready for harvesting. At the moment there are tiny flower buds but no actual flowers, so the harvest is still some way off.


This is the largest lettuce:

This will be ready to harvest in a few weeks, although it could be eaten now if there was good reason.

These are lots of the lettuces, in their window boxes:

The ones at the back look smaller because of perspective.

Herbs And Other Miscellany, Including Carrots

Here is a view of the 'Herbs And Other Miscellany, Including Carrots' section:

To the top left you can see the more developed herbs; the carrots are in the pot which can be seen on the top right. In front of the carrots are little pots mainly containing lettuces (except for two of them, which have small herb plants). If you look closely on the extreme right of the photo you will see a water bottle containing compost; it occurred to me that, with the top chopped off, this would be precisely the right size and shape of container for one carrot, so there are carrot seeds in there. The propagator at the back is where everything started, but it's mostly empty because things have been planted on to other places. The remainder of the pots contain herbs and flower seedlings. Note the judicious use of a Stork carton for a saucer.

These are herbs in purple pots:

This is what the carrots look like from above:

I will post further updates as things progress.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Some Things I Dislike

I wish I could write clever stuff like Zoomtard does. But I can't.

So instead, in no particular order, here are some things I dislike:

1. Stupid email forwards. In order of increasing dislike (note that these are what I consider to be the 'building blocks' of a stupid email forward; they can of course be joined in a near-endless range of even more tortuous combinations):
a. Ones where the last 17 senders haven't bothered to delete the headers, so you get 6 feet of other peoples' email addresses before you come to the actual content of the email.
b. Ones which are accompanied by things saying that I will live long and prosper if I send the email on to 79 people within 30 seconds, and otherwise I will die. Even if I wanted to do this, I don't have 79 friends, and yet I have never died by not doing this, so far.
c. Ones with pictures of cute puppies and kittens, accompanied by unrelated Bible verses.
d. Ones with pictures of cute puppies and kittens, accompanied by a soppy prayer.
e. Ones with pictures of cute puppies and kittens, accompanied by a prayer which in almost any other context would be really quite meaningful.

2. Tesco Newtownbreda.

3. People who get to the top of an escalator, step off, and then stop moving (unless they stopped moving because they died, in which case of course I would be sympathetic).

4. Creationist writings. I know I should be tolerant of differences of opinion, and be prepared to engage in debate and deepen understanding and so on, but, to be honest, secretly I just think they're stupid.

5. Windows Vista. Really any version of Windows, but especially Vista.

6. Justin Timberlake. I don't really know why. Also Will Smith. And Tony Blair and George Bush.

7. The Methodist Church moving ministers around every few years. They just moved two of my favourite people in the world to Cullybackey.

8. The Daily Mail.

9. Comic Sans being used for important documents. In fact, from now on, I will automatically treat anything written in Comic Sans as comedy; on your own head be it.

10. Potato salad.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

The rumours are true, and WhyNotSmile has had a birthday (2 days ago now); she is into a new decade.

I have to thank The Housemate Formerly Known As Dozavtra for managing an impressively impressive birthday celebration, working from fairly unpromising raw material: given that I am still incapable of going out for a meal or to the cinema, or even of much in the way of eating a fancy dinner at home, adding fun to the occasion required more than the average amount of imagination. But she successfully coordinated several birthday cards and gifts from a range of sources, including one from my ex-colleagues and one signed by a significant proportion of the congregation in church; she also put balloons everywhere, and as Piglet said, 'Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon'.

It was amusing to get a text message from one of my younger friends, saying 'Happy Birthday. What did you get?', reminding us that materialism is not dead. Anyway, I got a cycling top, a patio table and chairs, earrings, gift vouchers, chocolate, a huge bunch of flowers, and many, many book tokens. The latter will put me in my mother's bad books for a while; I have mentioned before that she bans me from asking for books for birthdays and Christmas, on the grounds that they're not enjoyable and therefore not proper presents, or something.

And so WhyNotSmile would like to thank everyone who sent messages, texts, Facebook wall posts and superpokes, cards, presents and general happy thoughts.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Things That Baffle Me #4: Running For Pleasure, in Public

Now that summer is upon us, as it were, the streets are positively packed with joggers. This is a fetish I have never understood: why would grown adults run about in public, for pleasure?

As far as I can think on the matter, there are only two good reasons why I would ever run in public, neither of them pleasurable:

1. If there was something scary behind me and I wanted to get away from it:

2. If there was something in front of me that I wanted to get to quickly:

And apart from these I cannot think of any reason to run in public.

I feel lied to

I am a bit of a traditionalist at heart, at least as far as my household utility shopping habits are concerned. I generally feel that long-established companies are better to deal with than newfangled ones, because they have the experience and good procedures and so on, and they wouldn't have got away with things for 75 years if they hadn't.

This is possibly not a well-founded opinion, I freely admit, but it has kept me with my phone company (which we'll call TB) for almost 10 years now, on the grounds that, while they may have been a little more expensive than the competition, they at least had decent customer service and would do something if things went wrong, and also that generally there were no hidden do-das or unmentioned terms and conditions, and you knew what you were paying for.

However. A few weeks ago, I got a letter from them advertising their new Broadband deals, claiming that they start from 'as little as £4.99 a month'. Since I have been interested in getting Broadband at home (owing to no longer being able to freeload from work), I thought this really sounded quite good; they would be a reliable supplier and it would also have avoided having to get a man to come and rewire things and so on and so forth. But then I went online and investigated, and discovered that you have to sign up to a long contract (12 months, from memory), and that the £4.99 deal is only for the first 3 months, after which you have to pay something like £14.99 on top of your line rental. So actually, they do Broadband from as little as £14.99 a month, but give you a discount for the first 3 months, which is rather a different matter.

And now I feel like I have been lied to; if they had told me upfront that it was £14.99 a month, but that the first few months came at a reduced rate, I might have been interested (although it would still be too expensive), and even if I didn't take up the offer, I would have felt that they had given me all the pertinent facts; instead I now feel like they are a bunch of lying toe-rags, and I think I might change my telephone provider, just because.

So they should not have done that, and I hope they will learn from their mistake.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Yes, No, Maybe

I'm a little worried that I may have lost the power, or will, to form opinions on things. Let me give some examples, by way of illustration.

The other night, we had our friends M and D round, and discussed various weighty matters. I say discussed, but frankly I rather lost track of the discussion around about the stage when D began arguing that introducing a Congestion Charge in Belfast would discriminate against the poor, and only really started following things again when we got onto the subject of our favourite Olympic events. I pointed out that I quite like the gymnastics, especially when they fall off those high bar things, but then gave myself a fit of giggling hysterics during which I only just managed to retain control over several essential bodily functions, so even that opinion was lost (and the conversation, I'd like to point out, was rather the poorer for it). However, I am pleased to report that we were able to conclude that everyone is stupid except us, so the debate was not entirely without merit.

Then there's the Lisbon Treaty, to which the Irish last week voted 'No' (I am thrilled to note, incidentally, that the British government have decided to vote 'yes' to it on my behalf); frankly I have no idea what it is, even in the vaguest possible terms. From what I can glean from the newspaper coverage, it encompasses abortion, The EU, and the possibility that we're all going to be conscripted to a European Army some time in the undefined future (all of which seems like an unneccessarily ambitious range of affairs to tackle in a single document) and that it may well have been defeated due to everyone's mum voting against it.

You may also recall that I was struggling to form an opinion on the American elections; I have now abandoned this notion entirely, since it would appear that after all that, we're only finished round 1.

So I wonder whether I am losing the power to form opinions, or whether I simply need to find something more to my taste to opine about. I did hear on the grapevine that Richard Dawkins is writing a book on atheism for children, which may prove to be a useful yardstick by which to measure things.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Gardening Update

I promised you an update on the organic garden, and am pleased to report that it continues apace, albeit not without incident. The flowers have been a little slow to grow, but this is probably because I put the seeds in the ground, forgot, and then raked all the soil about before digging it up to plant a rose and a clematis. Anyway, something is growing now; whether it be friend or foe is to be determined.

The herbs are looking lovely; resplendent in their little purple pots, and growing with youthful vigour.

The lettuces were going well, planted in their windowboxes, until my dad needed to ask me something when he was inside and I was outside; the ensuing opening of the window, general falling-off of window boxes and splattering of soil and lettuces all over the ground was punctuated by the kind of language you don't hear on Songs of Praise, but fortunately the lettuces seem to be hardy souls and after being scooped up and stuck back in have, in all cases but one, recovered admirably.

The carrots are a harder bunch to check on, since they do most of their growing under the soil. I had to do some thinning out a few days ago, and there wasn't much that would obviously pass as carrot attached to the leafy bits when they were pulled out, but perhaps they'll put a bit more effort in now that there are fewer of them in the space.

The potatoes have been most pleasing of all; I beg you, please, if you have never done so, go and get yourself a barrel, or a bin bag, or any kind of receptacle, and plant yourself some potatoes, for they are truly joyous things to grow. I am growing them vertically; this means, basically, that every time they grow out of the top of the soil, you stick a few more inches of compost on top of them. Eventually the plants are about a metre high; this is the stage my lot are at (this is why you can grow them in a bin bag – just keep adding layers of compost, a few inches at a time, until the bin bag is full). Once the soil level has reached the top of the barrel/bag/receptacle, you stop adding more (obviously), and just leave the plants to their own devices for a while. Then in a few weeks (or maybe months – I have to read the instructions again), you poke about at the bottom of the soil (this is easy if you have a potato barrel like mine, with nice sliding bits at the bottom; it might not be so easy with a bin bag), and there will be potatoes aplenty.

I do rather get the feeling that one of these weeks I'm going to have a very intensive potato, lettuce and carrot diet, so next year, now that the basic technique has been mastered, I'm going to have to look into staggering the harvest a bit.

Unemployment Update

The job-hunting continues to go well; so far I have avoided any form of gainful employment, and this looks set to continue well into the summer. The strategy I use is this: the Jobfinder comes out on Tuesdays and Fridays; I have elected to only buy it once every few weeks, so as not to stress myself too much. On buying the Belfast Telegraph containing the Jobfinder, I separate out the main bit of the paper and do the crossword. The Jobfinder then stays on the dining room table, so that I can browse it while I have dinner; in the event, of course, it gets used as a placemat. Once it has accumulated enough bits of food to be hazardous, I throw it out.

By this method, I have so far been able to avoid applying for a single job, or, indeed, even reading an advert, thinking, 'oh, that looks interesting', and circling it.

So I remain gainfully unemployed. Of course, when you are unemployed, word gets around, and you soon find yourself as busy as when you had a job, except that you don't get paid (or if you do, it's in promises of a cup of coffee next time you feel up to it). Everyone thinks 'oh, I wish I had someone to help with that' and then instead of shrugging the thought off and doing it themselves, they think 'oh, maybe WhyNotSmile would like to help', and hence you end up doing all sorts of exciting things and being naive enough to feel pleasure at being asked.

I continue to help with the Parent and Toddlers group in church; we have renamed it 'Tots & Co.' (on account of 'Parents' not featuring heavily in the array of adults who bring children along) and I have helped to develop a logo, so I really am earning my cup of tea and half a pancake every week. I also help with a creche; owing to this, I am now well-informed on Dora, the Tombliboos and even Ben 10, which is getting into die-hard kids' TV territory; thus we see that it can hardly be said that time off is time wasted, and I shall treat myself to another Jobfinder-free week.