How I Got Free Stuff From Innocent Drinks

Ah, the great immortal question; how does one get free stuff from large companies?

Over the years, I seem to have developed a knack for getting free stuff, whether it be from Jordan’s Cereals, who sent me a crate of snack bars and breakfast cereals, down to vouchers from an independent coffee house.

My most recent acquisition? Innocent Drinks. Namely, a bumper bundle of blue spark smoothies.

So, how did I get all this for free, I hear you cry.

How I got free stuff from Innocent Drinks

The honest, simple, answer? I was a nice human being.

I sent a note to say how much I enjoyed Innocent Drinks’ online content, also to say thanks for the continued efforts of those in the supply chain who have continued to through the pandemic.

About four months after my first contact, I got an email from a delightful member of the customer services team.

Electronic email exchanges ensued. Before long I was telling them about my former mermaid housemate and then conversations quickly unravelled into our favourite scenes from the film Splash.

I say “our”, there were multiple customer service personnel involved.

Several weeks later, Innocent asked if I’d be interested in getting some freebies to say thanks for lightening their collective days (and for reminding them of Tom Hanks at his 80s finest).

This is what I got delivered:

Perfectly insulated in a compostable protective layer. So very green of them.

There was also this lovely little note:

It reads:

Hey Alice,

Here are some of your faves to say thank you for your top-notch writing skills.

Enjoy,

Innocent

So there you go. My experience of getting free stuff from the Innocent Drinks brand. Don’t be a jerk, be kind and be prepared to sit through a lot of mermaid-related media to ensure your banter game is on top-form.

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That’s When the Cleaning Fumes Got to Me

You know how it is. It’s a Friday night, you’re a single woman with the world at your fingertips and anything is possible. You could go out, let your hair down or…you could stay in and give your kitchen a deep clean.

Thing is, I’m not even embarrassed to admit this. In the same way I’m not at all ashamed to say the only bottles this girl was demolishing the other night were these:

(Obviously in non-drinking, sense. Please don’t call 111.)

With cleaning plans firmly lodged in my head, I changed out of my dress and put on a black vest, thus transforming me into a low-budget search engine result for “contemporary dancer near me”.

(No refunds for crimes against the aeroplane dance move.)

First item in my line of cleaning sight (yes, this was genuinely how I spent my Friday night), the fridge. Breaking this mighty deliverable down into smaller, manageable, chunks (who said bringing the day job into personal life isn’t exotic?), I went for the bottom drawer first.

This was followed by a healthy amount of neighbour stalking / Alice rambling (feat. actual cleaning).

Several hours later, and after inhaling quite a considerable about of cleaning fumes in a confined space, this happened.

I’m not going to explain nor apologise. I sent it to my close friends and the responses speak for themselves.

So that’s how I spent my crazy Friday night, what about you?

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It’s Official: I’m a FULLY Vaxxer!

This is my obligatory public service announcement that I’ve now had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. Whoop! Go me/science/go-away pandemic.

And, because I’m also that kind of person, I used it as an excuse to post a number of letters on the way home. That’s right, I’m so productive!

I spent the vaccination part of my appointment talking to the nurse about my fabulous taste in dresses (best two minutes of any girl’s life) and the fifteen minutes wait time afterwards reading a book. I could have taken a photo of either one of these two activities but it really wasn’t that exciting. Posting letters in a pillar box, that was more exciting.

In short, the process to get both my vaccines was so laid back, it was virtually horizontal. All super friendly people, with big smiles and even bigger bottles of hand sanitiser.

I’m not going to get overly-preachy, but I’d highly encourage anyone to get jabbed (*if it’s something that’s offered to you and something you can medically take).

Still unsure? Browse information published on medically recognised websites, log onto your national health webpages (in the UK, anything endorsed by the NHS), talk to medicine women/men. Don’t listen to idiotic turnips, the ones who own little more in the technical department than a cheap keyboard and have way too much time on their hands to write whacky blogs (oh, wait…)

Anyway, this is my little bit to inform people that yes, I’ve had my second dose of the Covid vaccine and yes, that does mean 14 days from now there’s a heightened risk that I’ll start running around and hugging people for no apparent reason. Also, I may start crying. No reason, I just might.

You have been warned.

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Opinion: Don’t use Covid-19 as an Excuse for “Closure Culture” of the Arts

It’s not often I hop onto my soapbox, least of all on anything bordering on political. That’s not what 99% of you guys came here for, to be quite honest it’s not really what I came here for. However it has now reached a stage where I cannot sit here in good faith and say nothing.

Back in March 2020, at the start of the first UK wide lockdown, all museums and attractions across England were forced to close. This included Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG), a small site located in the heart of the town’s oldest district. Like all respecting patrons of art and culture institutions up and down the country, I fully supported this government-enforced directive.

On the ending of the first lockdown in Summer 2020, Swindon Borough Council refused to reopen SMAG. While other heritage sites reopened their doors, awash with safety posters and guidance on basic handwashing, the chains around SMAG’s grand entranceway continued to rust with dejection. Now, in August 2021, dejection has slipped into acceptance, the rust into rot. It feels like culture was never here at all.

Throughout the assorted protests and disjointed cries from local residents, the council has strongly defended their decision, stating this move is only intended as a short-term measure. Other rumours speculate Covid being used as a thin veil of scapegoating the closure on underlying problems the council had been failing to redress for years, including low footfall, costly repairs and accessibility issues. This, and the proposed £33,000 per year saving it would make to the local budget, at a time when the council needs to urgently balance the books.

Apsley House, location of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, until it’s closure in March 2020. Photo credit: https://englandrover.com/listing/swindon-museum-and-art-gallery/

For the years I have lived in Swindon, I openly admit to being less that a frequent visitor to SMAG. In fact, one of the few visitations I made was on a first date with my (now) ex boyfriend, which dates it very well. It was a long time ago.

I had thicker brows then, but (unsurprisingly) the same clothes.

But, on the few times I went, I enjoyed it. Aside from the unchanging artefact exhibits (complete with the much-loved “Apsley the Croc”), there was also an extensive art collection which went through frequent rotations. I was never a fan of the 1960s extension, bolted on in the 1960s, but as far as the contents was concerned I respected and enjoyed the contents for what they offered. Only in hindsight do I realise how little I fully appreciated what we had; now it’s gone.

In some ways the council’s decision to close SMAG is predictable. For years, concern was tempered with optimism over plans to relocate the museum to a newly constructed “Cultural Quarter”, proposed as part of a 2019 bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. Housed closer to the train station, the site would also contain a digital media centre, dance studio, and an expanded 1200-seat Wyvern Theatre. It was estimated to cost £80 million to build, create up to 1200 jobs and pump in an estimated £35 million into the local economy. Sadly, this bid proved to be unsuccessful.

Artist impression of new museum, situated in Swindon’s “Cultural Quarter”. Phot credit: Swindon Advertiser
Architectural “cut through” of the proposed museum design. Photo credit: Swindon Advertiser

At the time of writing (August 2021), all capital investment projects are on hold. Headlines will often cite the pandemic as the main reason, however the pessimist in me would also cite that by the council’s own omission, work on constructing the theatre alone wasn’t due to start until 2025. In other words, this project was always going to be a slow burner.

During the course of writing this article, I’ve discovered Swindon Borough Council are now considering different options, including having an “Art Pavilion”, and/or touring Art and collections in pop-up spaces, in a format being referred to as “Museums Without Walls”. Citing the museum elsewhere is also being considered. But these conversations are incredibly early in the process, and this response is quite possibly driven by community action by the Friends Swindon Museum and Art Gallery group (and local news coverage). Where the preservation of Arts and Culture is concerned, it shouldn’t take a group of people shouting and screaming to force the hand of local government. When the justification reads as “temporary closure, due to Covid”, was the expectation that we’d all forget? That we wouldn’t care?

Why does it matter?

I get it, not everyone is big into History; not everyone enjoys stuffy old exhibits and random bits of art. And that’s absolutely fine. But here’s the thing, when you’re sat in a boxy little room, planning ahead for the future, it becomes increasingly harder to pitch your town as being a “place to be”, “up and coming” or a “desirable” if with the other hand, you’re eroding the cultural bedrock on which it stands.

It’s why most towns in the UK will have a heritage centre of some size. It celebrates and brings communities together or, to be a bit more cold-hearted, it adds to the sales pitch. “Move to Swindon, we have…houses”, it doesn’t quite butter the parsnips.

Yes, the museum had a small footfall and yes, there were many areas in which it was crying out for improvement, but we’ve slept-walked into losing another thing that celebrated this town for what it was. With it, and an increasing trend of young professionals adopting WFB (Work From Bedroom) jobs, I fear we’ll start losing the point of why any of us are here at all.

So, where does this place the arts and culture in this sprawling town? It seems the future is set to remain uncertain indefinitely. And this post only relates to one type of cultural attraction; novels could be written of the erosion of a good deal of other services (libraries, community groups etc) in the years leading up to 2020.

In light of all this, I have only one thing to ask of the local council; don’t use Covid-19 as an excuse for a move that can only be described as closure culture. Because, at the end of the day, I think we’re all smarter than that, don’t you?

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Swindon Museum and Art Gallery website: https://www.swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk/

Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://friendsofsmag.org/

Petition to Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://www.change.org/p/swindon-borough-council-save-the-swindon-museum-and-art-gallery

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Supporter Shout Out: Baker Tea House, Cardiff

A massive thank you to the team at Baker Tea House in Cardiff for the lovely card and coffee and cake vouchers! Super unexpected but a wonderful delight.

Baker Tea House is my absolute, number one, favourite coffee shop, quite possibly ever (definitely in Cardiff). I have been frequenting it for years. Located in the High Street Arcade (opposite Cardiff Castle), this multi-level venue stocks oodles of teas, alongside the coffee classics.

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been unable to go for over a year. Which sucks. Wales said that English people weren’t welcome to cross the border, the politicians in power said so. And we all know what happens when people say no? That’s right, it turns it into forbidden fruit.

Gareth Bale…

Gareth Bale makes decision on offers to leave Real Madrid during summer  transfer window - football.london

Welsh footballer, Gareth Bale, now counts as ‘exotic’, on account of him being someone that, at one stage, it was illegal for me to visit.

Huh? No, I don’t fancy him. Just, *whispers*, forbidden fruitttt. (I’d probably fancy a chimp in a suit if it was classed as forbidden fruit…don’t tell my employers I said that.)

And don’t tell me I’m using the pandemic as an excuse; it still counts.

What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, Baker Tea House.

For anyone interested in visiting, here’s a handy link – https://www.barkerteahouse.com/

(The same management also operate Coffee Barker. Handy link – https://www.coffeebarker.com/)

NB – for the avoidance of doubt, no one sponsored or asked me to write this post. It’s written it in thanks and appreciation to the staff and owners.

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Alice, The Influencer

Just had this slide into my Insta DMs…

And you know what? It’s about ruddy time. About time someone appreciated ‘My’ skills as a potential influencer (that’s what I’m going to call myself from now on, My).

One only need look at a sample of my recent work to appreciate my modelling abilities.

Sex, on, legs (or back…I can be a very malleable sack of potatoes when it comes to hospital visitations).

I can totally work basic photography functions on a modern camera phone.

And Mumma B is always saying I have eyes like the possessed child from Sixth Sense, which can only be a good thing!

Yes, I can see a lot of brands going for this. After all, everyone knows about me being a notorious snob for fashion.

Yes, that is indeed a photo of me rummaging through a box labelled ‘free stuff’.

I also perform all my own dance moves!

(Although that was cracking on ten years ago. May need refresher training on that one.)

Look out world! I’ll see you on the other side, once I go global with my first fashion brand campaign.

Update: Grace has yet to take me up on my services.

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Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

Some of the photos and posts that I wanted to write for My Housemate’s a Mermaid, but didn’t quite have enough material (pictorial and verbal) to fill.

Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

  1. The time how, at the start of the pandemic, Mumma B spent hours cutting squares of old fabric to make laundry bags for NHS key workers

2. When I stayed up so late that I ended up watching a much younger Nicky Campbell presenting a Top of the Pops episode from 1990

Some people had more fun than others.

I continued to watch it, even when this was played from the UK top twenty for the week.

3. How very surreal my office was when I went back to empty my locker

4. My sister’s attempts with one of those packet face masks from South Korea

It ripped off a load of skin, but not a lot else.

5. Squeak, the cat, being rebellious

6. The time I saw my old/favourite History lecturer from University on the BBC and I absolutely lost my cool

I mean, WITH LUCY WORSLEY!!

7. The time I found this in a shop and it perked up my mood

(But not enough that I bought it.)

8. The generous gin measures down the local pub

9. The generous measures of lunch portions while living with family

10. The thinking behind this at the Travel Lodge Hotel in York

It was in the foyer for several days…

11. A post detailing the contents of my bookshelf

12. Everything about this account that started following me on Twitter

How did it take you to spot that’s a semi naked woman?

13. A post on me rekindling my creative mojo during the pandemic

14. The importance of good friends who call-out when you have really bad body odour

15. The ‘what the fudge-ness’ of this targeted advert

Yes, I did tap the link and yes, I am still getting adverts for werewolf fan-fiction as a result.

16. Lockdown birthdays

17. The large number of self-published books with Covid themes

18. The other strange things being self-published

Although I am still a bit in love with the title of this book.

19. My attempts to have a massive clear-out

…which were ultimately foiled by a mixture of procrastination / charity shops being closed / Bubble the cat.

So there you go, a snippet of how much gets filtered before making it onto this website. What can I say? You get what you pay for.

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God Dammit, The Jehovah’s Found Me

If you guys know me, you’ll know I like to write a letter or two, or three…mostly after an unhealthy amount of tea.

So I was going through a mountain of post and, in amongst all the junk, there was this:

Call me intrigued. Also semi expecting it to be Neil (I think his name was Neil), from the Petemoor community football club asking me for money again, because “Tom” hadn’t paid his annual subscription fees. Addressing a hand-written note to “the householder”, that is such a Neil thing to do. He knows “Tom” doesn’t live here, I’ve told him twice already. He’s playing a very, VERY long game to try to get to me.

Telephone calls go like this, “Neil, Tom doesn’t live here. I’m not Tom. Uh-huh, thanks.” End scene. (almost five years and this is the extent of our flirty chat.)

Yeah…the letter wasn’t from Neil. It was this:

It reads:

Dear neighbour,

Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy at the moment discussing the Kingdom we pray for (Matt 6:9,10), by writing to our neighbours. We would like you to know that God’s kingdom will undo all the harm that millenious (sp?) of human rule have done. It will provide perfect health, peace and security, meaningfull (sp?) work and a clean environment.

Hopefully, you will want to know more, in which case please get in touch with the above address or visit Jehovah’s Witnesses official website http://www.JW.org.

We hope this letter finds you well.

Yours sincerely,

Daphne(?)

(I’ve ‘?’ and ‘sp?’ the words I’m not 100% sure on/fairly convinced they’re written with typos.)

There are many questions I have about this letter from the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW).

Has Daphne been writing letters to everyone in the area, on the street, or just me? How long did Daphne wait on my porch for me to answer the door? Did Daphne scribble this note, hoping that at any moment I’d throw the door wide and yell “come on in, Daphne! I have cake!”? Does Daphne keep a stash of notelet paper on her for times like these?

EDIT (seconds after writing the above), just remembered there was a stamp on the envelope. NOW THERE ARE ONLY MORE QUESTIONS!! How have the JW got my address AND WHY?!

…I don’t think this was the kind of response the JW’s were expecting, or hoping for.

I did enjoy this letter, and I really would love to get more hand written letters. In the interest of open mindedness, I decided to do some additional research before jumping to conclusions.

I browsed multiple videos to refresh me on the fundamentals of JW (most of which I viewed at well-gone midnight, on several glasses of wine, but let’s not dwell heavily on that).

(FYI I struggled to find videos without derogatory titles. I really did try.)

After viewing some clips I’m going to have to say it’s not for me. At the age of 28, I’m still far too attached to my 1990s collection of Beanie Babies to start believing they “make Jehovah sad”. You read the delightful little poems inside the name tags and tell me they make anyone sad. Jehovah must have a heart of stone is all I can say.

Forget about the not celebrating birthdays/Christmas part, the Beanie Babies are a non-negotiable for me. And if you honestly think I’m joking, then my darling friend you really are mistaken.

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For Anyone Questioning The Quality of My Work

Remember the post I did, titled Very Cotswold Problems, #3001? It turns out Mr Maverick Lawn Mowing services (catchy name) liked the video upload, and they liked it a lot.

24 seconds of top-notch video footage of my Mumma B and her lawn mower shed antics and the dude has both liked and subscribed to my YouTube channel (still working on getting them to like the actual blog content).

If that doesn’t scream quality comedy, I don’t know what does.

Hang on…have they liked this just because of my Mum?

Seesh. Anyway, moving on…

UPDATE: Maverick has taken down their comment. Rats.

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My Take on the England Vs Scotland Game: Welsh Cakes Would Have Helped

Now, I’m no super fan, nor am I Scottish-leaning (I’m actually part Welsh. 75% English, but I like to pull the minority card when stuffing my face full of Welsh cakes – “I can’t help it, I’m genetically programmed!”)

Twenty seconds in the old popty microdon and seriously, I’ll do pretty much anything for these sweet babies.

*Deep sigh*, God, I love Welsh cakes.

Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, football.

I’m not a massive football obsessive, BUT I couldn’t help watch the outcome of tonight’s Euro match of England versus Scotland and be strongly reminded of a series of targeted advertisements that were doing the rounds earlier this week.

All I’m going to do is put this here:

And all I’m going to say is this: hahahahahahahahahaha.

My final thoughts? Pelting both teams with plates of Welsh cakes would have made the match more interesting. (Just sayin’.)

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