New Season, New Identity

As part of the UK’s approach to tackling Coronavirus, a number of establishments have implemented methods as part of ‘track and trace’.

I get it, makes perfect sense. What I’m less supportive of is how a lot of venues are using as a way to get hold of personal details for marketing cr*p.

Do I really need to informed by your new banana loaf range? Oh, great, you’re offering 2.5% discount because it’s the CEO’s daughter’s 25th birthday BUT ONLY THIS WEEKEND! God, can we get GDPR in to fix this again?

So, in a mark of defiance, I am now now using an alternative email and name on any wifi login that demands my details to register. Just for clarity, if it’s strictly track and trace I am providing accurate information. However, you asking me to set up an account to order a cup of coffee from the counter literally three meters away? Nah, girl ain’t having that.

In those occasions this is what I’m registering myself as:

Yes, that’s right, my name is now Ms Boom Town (although where possible I choose to not identify as a specific gender). I was born on 1st January 1950 (because we all know that was the birth of Boom Town) and my email is a randomised mix of letters @GenericEmailProvider.com.

So there you have it, from henceforth I insist all my food and drink orders sent over public access wifi are made in the name of Boom Town.

You got a problem with that? STOP EMAILING ME YOUR SPAM THEN!! (Thanks.)

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VIDEO: Staycations in York

A perhaps more sombre video (pretty blue compared to the stuff I normally produce, I admit), of the four days I recently spent in York. I wasn’t going to do anything, that was until I came back and Mumma B said, “when are we getting the picture presentation?”

So I quickly pulled this together, complete with backing music which I heard whilst watching the world go by in one of the nammed coffee shops below.

Big love to the city of York, big love to whoever controls the weather for giving me sun and zero rain and big love to ‘The North’ for giving me a warm welcome during my visit.

Places visited:

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It’s All Gone Potato-Shaped

Remember a little while back I introduced you to a new family addition called Mr Potato? He first came into family life not long after lockdown started, when Mumma B found a misshapen potato in the shopping. She took a liking to the vegetable and before you know it you’re fighting for parental love from a flipping potato.

Well patience has finally paid off and it’s now with a heavy(-ish) heart that I have to report Mr Potato is no more.

He’s wrinkly, he’s shrivelled and, in Mumma B’s own words, it’s started sprouting stuff from the back of his head.

(And technically his bum, but lets not dig too deeply into that.)

Mr Potato is now in the compost bin. Actually, given the rate of decompostation for your average potato, I’d probably say he’s more likely to be feeding Papa B’s runner beans in the polytunnel. But again, we’re really splitting hairs here.

If you are just as upset as Mumma B over this development can I kindly suggest you invest in a new hobby. Also, I have reason to believe that during his/its lifetime Mr Potato was a little bit right wing…

And trust me, in our household there are enough personalities going on to then try and fit a Boris lover in there as well.

So, in short, Mr Potato is gone and life is certainly no worse for it. Lets just leave it at that (please, Mum?)

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Why I Haven’t Published my Book…Yet

In response to the frequently asked question “hey, Alice, when do we get to read your book?” here is a list of genuine reasons why I haven’t and why I’m not sorry for it.

  • My manuscript (at time of writing) is c. 70,000 words and nearing 200 pages. That’s a lot, but I want to make it up to the 80,000 mark. My History dissertation back (in 2014) was 10,000 words and took a year of solid research and writing (with no distractions). Go figure.
  • I realised three weeks ago at least half of it needed rewriting.
  • I’ve spent about six weeks working on the opening extract (first 5000 words).
  • I have a full-time job which I have continued to do throughout pandemic.
  • Up until mid August, I had only take one day off of my allocated annual leave. One day, in all of 2020.
  • I have to do human things; shop for food, eat, sleep, poop etc.
  • Shoot me, I get writers’ block/creative fatigue.
  • Covid-19. Just Covid-19.
  • I commute frequently from family home to the actual home I pay a mortgage on. A 1.5 hour car journey will just about sap up any energy you got.
  • Some days I really can’t be bothered to write.
  • Some days I really write a load of rubbish.
  • Believe it or not, I do other creative exploits. All writers need the satisfaction of quick-win completion, which is why I’ve also been writing more short stories. I can’t post these on the blog, because then I’d be unable to make money from them at a later date and/or submit for competitions. A ‘short story’ for me is 2000 words. Nine pages (double-spaced).
  • I blog.
  • I self-promote. See TV/Radio Appearances for a flavour of how much!
  • I’m busy building up a social media following. Half the battle with any published book is having an author that people love and can market.
  • Is there a chance this will NEVER be published? Yes.
  • I therefore need an agent. And to submit to an agent means you have to have your manuscript at the absolute top of it’s game.
  • (Mumma B suggestion) – ‘why don’t you just say “the dog ate my manuscript”?’
  • And as for the publishing industry in general? Please see video below. Spoilers, it’s infamous for being a slow.

Pinky promise to keep you posted on progressed. It still means a lot that I have a massive fan base that are chomping at the bit to pre-order something I haven’t even completed yet!

Much love xx

To give you an idea of time passing…that succulent I bought, it’s dead now.

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The Battle of Cakegate

Mumma B made a coffee and walnut (but not walnut because she only had almonds) cake the other week. It was lovely.

However, very quickly battle lines were drawn when my sister, also in lockdown with us, questioned the fairness of the portion sizes. See some people in the family tend to favour the little and often approach, others the massive slab at a time. Papa Bennett is also a fan of the unheard of fad of ‘breakfast cake’ (still waiting on the proof that coffee cake is a fair substitube to the morning drink).

India, being young and thereby somewhat left of centre, proposed that a system was drawn up and rapidly used the Spode cake cutter (#MiddleClassProblems) to mark out portions on the cake. Putting to one side how badly drawn and unequal these lines were, I was happy to go along with it.

“But how will we know who has eaten what?” Mumma B cried out loud. I just shrugged, Dragon’s Den was on TV and I love that show.

So while I was half-hearted watching a television rerun Mumma B was out planning how to resolve the biggest catering crisis since home bakers having to buy substitute flour during lockdown.

I walked into the kitchen to discover my dear mother had been at it again with the cocktail sticks and PostIt notes.

Oh yeah, AND it was done through the clingfilm, making it a Middleclass nightmare to even gain access to said cake!

Funny thing is, it didn’t even stop people. It’s like the time Papa B was eating a magnum ice cream and only afterwards saw the wrapper had been labelled with a large white sticker saying ALICE. I learnt a lot about our parent/daughter relationship that day…

Anyway, people still ate cake regardless of the little flags, BUT no one complained this time. Who knows, maybe this approach could be here to stay. The battle of cakegate could be the Bennett family’s new normal.

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Your Call is Important to Us

Had to be done. Sorry, not sorry.

Because nothing is open and everything has all been moved online, I’m now spending, on reflection, an unhealthy amount of time in call centre hold queues. Thing is, the worst bit isn’t even acknowledging how much of my finite life is slipping away, oh no, the worst bit is that I’m actually starting to get off on the music.

And you learn so much about the vibe of each company from it.

Here are a selection of some of the terribly awful hold music tracks I’ve come across, either in daily life or thanks to the gold mine that are fellow disgruntled customers on the internet.

Oh, and yeah, I have officially lost the plot.

Cottages.com go for a classical theme with this cheeky little hit, “we secretly hoped you’d go away, go away, go away!”

Just think, some people pay a small fortunate to listen to classic music concerts, I got 45 minutes for free!

Barclaycard are owning their unique brand of elevator music (I may have been bopping along to this while on hold…)

Natwest – sing along if you know the words!

Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. “Hey, the 90s called. They want everything in this video back.”

I tried thinking of something witty to say about Green Flag Breakdown Cover‘s hold music, but gave up.

(Secretly I was hoping for comedian Harry Hill to answer my call.)

Contrast this with Halfords, which sounds like that cool American uncle just decided to throw a few cords together on his guitar, whilst sat on the Californian coast.

Just me? Okay.

Tui Holidays – because music is overrated

And as for UK energy giant ScottishPower, they’ve really pushed the boat out with their playlist. That said, couldn’t help but feel the company was being a bit defeatist when faced with such a down-beat soundtrack.

Alright Scottish Power, I’m only calling to pay my bill. Jeeze.

Still, could be worse…

Anyone else currently relating to this love/hate relationship with hold music? Or should I show myself out?

Update: Huh, while researching this post I found a funky little vid that explains why hold music can be so terrible in quality:

Well now we know.

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Podcast Interview: Stratford Calling

Stratford(-Upon-Avon) Calling is a new podcast series, promoting individuals and businesses in and around Warwickshire.

The series is available to download on all major podcast providers, including Spotify (search ‘Stratford Calling’).

Emma kindly interviewed me as part of episode 7, where I feature alongside the town’s new mayor and a dog grooming service (it’s a unique mix, I grant you).

In my segment you’ll find me talking all things bloggy and the challenges and opportunities it brings for creative types such as myself. I also read out my poem Sometimes It’s Hard.

(I wanted to read Mr Blobby’s Take on Mental Health, but we agreed that it would quickly turn into a lengthy discussion of everything 1990s.)

Stratford Calling Podcast

Bio: “This week I speak to the new Mayor of Stratford, Councillor Tony Jackson, and find out exactly what it is a Mayor does, and to Sophie from Happy Paws in the Shire, about doggy holidays to the beach and fussing and feeding our feline friends. I also speak to local blogger, Alice, who writes the blog ‘My Housemates A Mermaid’, about her very interesting housemate, and she shares her lockdown poem with us.”

Jump to 24:25 to listen to my interview in full.

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Alice Versus Life: The Laminator

Mumma B needed some help laminating a sign the other week. Me, with my years of office administrative experience, I jumped at the chance to do something useful* (*that doesn’t involve cleaning). I mean, it was just one piece of paper than needed feeding through the machine, how hard could it be?

Ah.

So it turns out these things can, on rare occasion, get stuck inside laminators and wrap around the hot rollers to such an extent this happens. What the manual doesn’t say is that nine times out of ten the person who does this is an absolute muppet (as per Mumma B’s summary of events).

Hours later and after Papa B had taken the whole laminator machine apart we finally managed to retrieve the item. That said, I don’t even think the UK’s strongest man winner could stretch this out, it’s that much of a concertina.

You know what? I think I’m going to stick to writing.

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Career Stories: Bucking the Stereotype

My old Secondary (High) School wanted to do a feature on me for their website. After a series of email exchanges (and some editing support from the lovely Alicia), my post-Chipping Campden School career story is now live:

Alice E Bennett: Bucking the Stereotype

Check it out and discover more about how I went from being a reclusive History graduate to an extroverted Finance professional / creative writer.

Opportunity shout out! I’m currently offering mentorship opportunities for students enrolled at my old Secondary School. Please contact the Alumni Developmental team for more information.

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Random Acts of Kindness

Since moving back into Casa Bennett I’ve been amazed at how awesome Mumma B is each and every day at keeping not only her shizzle together, but also everyone else’s.

After all she’s done for me/the rest of the family, from cooking dinner to fitting vacuum cleaning around my meetings, I felt she well and truly deserved a little something to say thanks.

In the current state of affairs getting out and about is by no means easy. Not because we’re in lockdown, shops are open and I have access to a car, but because me leaving the house right now would cause an unpresented amount of suspicion. Suspicion, followed by the whole family piling into the car with a lengthy list of errands they want to run. Three of us went to the post office the other day, it was the highlight of our week.

All things considered I decided to go down a route I’d never considered pre-Covid, flowers from an online florist. It was an initial buzz of excitement (“ooh, never done this before! Look at me, being a proper adult!”) to reading the lengthy critical reviews of the company and deep dread inside (“should I call the Visa disputes hotline now?”)

However, despite these concerns I’m happy to say the flowers arrived and Mumma B was very chuffed with the offering. And chuffed is exactly what I was paying money to get…as well as the flowers.

That said, nothing ever runs entirely smoothly in my life. The messaging inside the gift card has raised a few eyebrows (and laughs) within the family. The message I’d asked to be written was as follows:

“Thank you Mum for everything you do for us all – from cooking amazing food to staying sane in the face of insanity! Love you lots and lots. Xxx”

The message my Mum got though looked a little like this:

In the words of my bemused Dad, “are you going by the name Ruth nowadays?”

The confusion was further added by the reference to a mysterious book that someone has been reviewing. As Mum is my witness, she’s been doing a good number of things, but reviewing my manuscript is not one of them!

I just feel a bit sorry for Ruth.

But still.

Thanks again Mumma B and enjoy the flowers (no idea how weird that sounds in my head, given she’s presently in the room next door. For the record, we do talk…A LOT!)

I know you read my blog Mum, because not only are you are an email subscriber but because you always find at least one correction in each blog post. Corrections you take great glee in pointing out in front of the whole family. So yeah, thanks for that. (Jokes aside, stay awesome and please stay sane, the family depends on it.)

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Flowers purchased from Value Flora, website: https://www.valueflora.com/

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