Banking on Social Investment

A recent write up I did for a volunteering day some of my colleagues went on. NB – names and some details have been changed.

Banking on Social Investment

There are many reasons why people work for the same Financial services provider as myself but I’ll be quite frank with you, a mini-seminar on all the places a use-by date can be displayed on a tin of Tuna, that didn’t make my top three.

‘It can be on the top, the bottom, the label…’

‘Controversial.’

‘I know!’

It felt less like I was talking to a Project Manager with years of experience, but more my company’s answer to a WI revival.

I’d caught up with Lily* to find out more about the Risk Squad’s recent social investment day at the Swindon Food Collective. An independent food bank with over sixty volunteers, the charity offers food parcels to people who are facing a crisis and feeds almost 5,500 people a year. Sharon was part of a ten strong team of colleagues from across the Squad who, for one day, decided to ditch the board packs for packing boxes in very fetching hi-vis jackets.

Everyone had a role to play, from food voucher administration, to checking the sell-by dates on food-stuffs extended beyond May 2020. The contents of each food parcel were surprisingly strict; 80 tea bags, 500g pasta, meat content of 40%, firm rules needed to ensure fairness to everyone receiving a parcel.

‘Did you know those tinned Fray Bentos pies don’t have a high enough meat quantity to pass the test?’ Sharon asked.

‘Wow.’

‘Exactly! I didn’t know they still existed either!’

I wasn’t going to comment that I felt quite sure I had an emergency Bentos pie in the back of my kitchen cupboard.

‘And as for Bob*, what was he up to?’

‘Oh, he found himself at home sorting through the toiletries.’

‘Bob? On shampoo?’

Lily laughed. ‘It was his happy place!’

The more I chatted with Lily over a vending machine coffee the more I wished I’d been there to have seen it for myself. A well-oiled team, where everyone had a part to play and took on the tasks with a sense of collective spirit. It’s perhaps no surprise that by the end of the day the group managed to sort through more than the large number of boxes set aside by the charity.

‘Did Bob tell you he’s signed us up to help out next year?’

‘Wait, he was referring to December 2020?’ I responded in surprise.

‘I’ve already booked my spot. It was so much fun, and it got us talking about a lot of issues sounding austerity and homelessness. We learnt a lot.’

As I sat in one the office’s comfy seat areas with the poster-clad notice boards and suited colleagues, I couldn’t help but feel that some days my life was a little removed from reality.

‘You know, I think I’ll sign myself up too,’ I said to Lily as we started wondering back to our desks. ‘A year to prepare, I even think I might have something in my cupboard I can bring with me…’

You can find out more about the Swindon Food Collective by visiting their website:

https://www.swindonfoodcollective.org/

Swindon Food Collective

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The Snack Bar ConMANdrum

In the office (yes, I do have a respected profession beyond this blog) someone set a unique challenge…

1. Write a short story that in some way is connected to you based on this format:

THE STORY SPINE

STRUCTURE

FUNCTION

Once upon a time…

Beginning

The world of the story is introduced and the main character’s routine is established

Every Day…

But, one day…

The Event

The main character breaks the routine

Because of that…

Middle

There are dire consequences for having broken the routine. It is unclear if the main character will come out alright in the end

Because of that…

Because of that…

Until finally…

The climax

The main character embarks upon success or failure

And, even since then…

End

The main character succeeds or fails, and a new routine is established

2. Pick an image or photo that captures the essence of your story.

In essence I wrote a more condensed version of a previous blog post, the one about the letter to Jordan’s cereals: “Why Can’t Men be More Like Snack Bars?”

My submission went like this:

The Snack Bar ConMANdrum

Once upon a time, I used to be obsessed with eating breakfast cereal bars (like, “this girl is going to turn into Tony the Tiger” obsessed).

Every day, I’d power through multiple Kellogg’s bars, if not whole boxes of the sticky bars of milk coated treats.

But, one day my dealer (Mr. Asda Supermarket) well Asda, he only had “Frusli Bars” to offer me. They’re like cereal bars but more fruit, less cereal and more socially acceptable to eat as an adult.

Because of that, I developed an even stronger addition to the new substance. Frusli came in different varieties and kept me going when I needed the energy or strength to haul luggage across the London Underground. They were always there for me (in my bag) and didn’t give me grief when I wanted to eat something.

So naturally, because of that, my dating life went to pot.

Because of that, I wrote to the makers of Frusli, Jordan’s Cereals, with a well-constructed argument that the world would be a better place is men were more like snack bars. I kinda hoped they’d send me their equivalent of the Milk Tray man to help, but instead they sent me a three month supply of their products.

Until finally, after devouring everything Jordan’s had sent me, I realised that I needed to apply my energies into something other than consumption. But also, that stringing a funny tale together can get me free stuff and exposure.

And, ever since then I’m more open and honest with my writing and send more physical letters to the people I want to grab attention from. And trust me, it works.

sb

 

Originally drafted in October 2019 for later publication.

 

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“As Exciting as an East German Portrayal of Russian Culture in the 1970s” – MHAM Quiz of 2019

Wow, so that was 2019! That was a decade! What have we learned in that time?

a) Politicians still lie

b) The dating world is still a mess

c) I’m still incapable of getting through a coffee without spilling its contents everywhere

d) Through consumption of c. 50 gallons of coffee and tea at the start of the decade, I not only like, but have developed a mild addiction to hot caffeinated drinks.

Coffee Meme

Progress!

While my blog has only been going for five years (sor-ry for living in the dark all that time), I thought it would be a great time for a little 2019 quiz on the MHAM stats! Yayyyy! (Look, I’m working to a £0 budget here.)

My Housemate’s a Mermaid – the 2019 Quiz

Questions

  1. How many blog views (i.e. clicks on the homepage, pages and individual posts) did MHAM have in the year 2019? (To the nearest 500.)
  2. How many comments did the blog receive?
  3. Which five individual blog posts obtained the most views? (Nb this excludes views on the homepage and page tabs.)
  4. How many countries, globally, did viewers come from?
  5. Of the top ten countries for views, name three from the latter half (i.e. poled between 6th – 10th)?
  6. Name five African countries that accessed the blog in 2019.

Those are you questions. Ready? (Stop giving me that look.)

Your time starts…now!

Ooh I feel as excited as an East German portraying Russian culture in the 1970s!

(Just me then?)

Answers!

Rightyo, let’s do this.

Question 1) How many views did the blog get in 2019?

Answer – 11, 332 (put into context, that’s 31.04 views a day!)

**

Question 2) How many comments did the blog receive?

Answer – 6

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Question 3) – Which five individual blog posts obtained the most views? (Nb this excludes views on the homepage and page tabs)

Answer – In order…

The Morning I Re-evaluated my Relationships with Men 373 views

A Very British Complaint Letter to Cadburys Chocolate – 350 views

The Cat’s Guide to Christmas 248 views

The Time I Discovered I was a Dominatrix…At Speed Dating 170 views

While You’re Here 166 views (I’ll discount this as it’s a self promotion piece)

Five Minute Review: What the F*** is Normal?! By Francesca Martinez140 views

**

Question 4) How many countries, globally, did blog viewers come from?

Answer – 84 (including six views from an area referred to only as ‘European Union’)

**

Question 5) Name the five countries who ranked 5th – 10th in the view list

Answer – In order… Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, Spain

2019 Top Countries
Top fifteen countries with viewing numbers

**

Question 6) Name five African countries who viewed the blog in 2019

Answer – Any of the below:

  • South Africa
  • Nigeria
  • Kenya
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Libya
  • Zimbabwe
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Sierra Leone
2019 Countries.jpg
Global heat map of views – 2019

Now wasn’t that fun? Here’s to the year and decade ahead! While I’ve written this blog post I’ve successfully managed to uncork my first wine bottle. Depending on who you are, this is either the greatest human triumph of the decade (so far) or something that makes you worried for the future state of what ‘success’ looks like in the years to come. Either way, I have wine, so…

Here’s to the roaring twenties, version 2.0

AB in Dress

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The Shoes!

A video that perfectly sums up the state of my feet post Christmas party.

They’re ruddy nice shoes mind. I don’t think Swindon’s karaoke bar knew what hit it when I rocked up looking like this.

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(Me with a work colleague – excuse the slightly psychotic look, I was blinded by the world’s brightest flash in Wiltshire’s darkest room.)

Forget an alcoholic hangover, shoe hangovers are now a thing in my world!

The shoes!!

Whichever way you choose to spend your New Year’s eve, have a good (and safe) one. I’ll probably be spending mine in a pair of fluffy slippers, a glass of Baileys and a sharing bag of kettle chips, stopping only briefly from writing to shout “is it 2020 yet?”. Literally, New Year’s Eve is my least favourite day of the year.

Anyway, anti-climaxes aside, happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2020!

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(I don’t know why I picked that photo, I had a browse through my WordPress image library/achieves and the memory from Cyprus in 2015 made me happy.)

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The Cat’s Guide to Christmas

Alright? I’m Bubble. Bubble the cat.

Bubble the Cat

You may wonder why my owners would give a name like Bubble to a male cat. Well, my sister is called Squeak (Bubble and Squeak, get it?) And all the stupid humans thought I was a girl until the vets confirmed differently. It’s not a name I’m particularly fond of and, as a result, I have spent my entire life in a constant sulk, excluding the times I shout at the humans to feed me.

Like a lot of men I like to work out, only I can’t get to the gym on account of being a cat so spend most of my free time doing the next best thing; sleeping in a gym bag.

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And trust me ladies, it shows.

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I’m sexy and I know it.

Anyway, this human thing called Christmas is coming up and while I’ve tried to hide from it…

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…it has finally caught up with me. I wasn’t even going to do presents this year (thinking about the environment, y’know?) But then I walked in one day and found my sister had already started wrapping up gifts.

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So really I didn’t have a choice. Luckily I don’t have many others to buy for (my advice if you’re looking to become a self-reliant, anti-social git? Become a cat). I just needed to get something for my annoying sister, even if she does always steal the best sleeping spots in the house.

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I took inspiration from my humans and first went for a dig around the cupboards, see if there was anything from past year’s of Christmas shopping I could give her.

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But had no joy. Then I took to the online shops but kept getting messed up suggestions like this:

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(I think one of those humans has been using my browser to search for dodgy products again.)

There was no other option, I’d have to hit the high street. I hopped on the roof of the next family cab into town and away I went.

The first thing that struck me was the weird customs humans have for celebrating what is meant to be a happy time of year. If they’re not advertising surreal…

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…Then they’re hanging and impaling little elf people in some kind of pagan ritual.

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It’s no wonder you’re all fat alcoholics. You actually decorate your homes with these!

Then again, after seeing this I have a new found respect for the miracle of the Virgin birth.

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And why is this woman’s face all over bags of crisps? Is this what you humans would call ‘the height of your career?’

Mariah

(And if you think I’m being mean just remember, I’m a cat. It’s what we do.)

When it came to shopping for Christmas presents, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, many of the shops displayed their wares in a way that was perfect for the average bloke applying a scatter gun/panic buy approach to gifting.

Random

A little bit too generic female for my sister who happens to like her fur coat very much. Instead I went to the male default #2, a nice new perfume.

Perfume

Or maybe not.

I popped into a book shop because I know Squeak the cat likes to read a light weight novel or two. I was instantly drawn to a title that looked like it could have been written by the human in my family who writes for that blog, the one they call Alice. It just screamed her style of writing.

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And then I read the blurb and felt less convinced. I mean, the average writing quality was on par with Alice’s, but the plot development was anything but.

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I mean it’s completely unbelievable…it’s obvious that Daisy is sleeping with Greg (that’s why he keeps vanishing) and the Goose is mad because it’s Greg’s jilted lover. I’m a male cat and I can see that. Humans don’t half write some rubbish when they’re trying to pull sales or views.

In the same shop there was also this book:

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(One of the humans I was with said to Alice, “hey, Alice! They wrote a book about you trying to get a life!” And she said, “hey, India! They wrote a sequel where I hit you with that very book!”)

To be fair to the human called India, Alice does have a tendency to hang out in coffee shops by herself and woman-spread everywhere.

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She likes to think it makes her look smart, I think it’s just to cover up the fact that she’s constantly spilling good coffee.

Like a lot of humans, she’d buy just about anything that’s coffee-branded.

Candles

(If you had to look twice before spotting it, you’ve got a problem.)

On another note, I’m not sure what image you big humans are trying to suggest to little humans when you give them dolls with drugged up eyes.

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In the same way that I don’t fully get the need to take the Every Love Matters campaign to the extremes of inanimate objects.

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(I did try to tell her that her companion didn’t seem interested, but she told me to tinsel off – hah, and you thought Cats have no sense of poor humour…)

And as for this…

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…You humans are alright with making your spawn think they’re being spied upon but I just happen to walk in on you taking a shower and suddenly it’s completely unacceptable? Your species is seriously messed up.

But then I saw this and I restored my faith in the tat you humans gift each other:

I’ll have ten please…for myself.

And this made me laugh:

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It’s a physical chocolate replica of Bitcoin, but Bitcoin isn’t physical, it’s a virtual currency! Sadly however no one in the store seemed to get the joke. It’s as if people shopping in Poundland for Christmas presents don’t dwell on that level of humour.

God, you humans don’t have produce some weird looking babies? At least kittens are fluffy, but you guys decide to put the strangest looking ones on jigsaw puzzles! Why?

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And what the hell is this?!

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Have people literally turned to gifting c**p to each other? No wonder people have started donating money to the Slippers for Donkeys campaign or whatever far out animal charities exist nowadays.

When did the Grinch get sold into human-creature trafficking? Asking on behalf of a friend.

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It’s a niche market, granted, but humanity really has lost its heart if it can’t cough up £1 to help.

Jesus Christ! What is this?!

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Why would you even entertain the thought of inviting this into your house? It’s flipping scary!

It was around this time that I gave up with Christmas shopping. The final straw came when, after hours of searching, the one and only thing I thought I could gift my feline sister, a nice new outfit, well it turned out to be out of stock in her size. Typical!

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I give up. I knew I should have picked something from the National Trust’s Christmas store when I had the chance.

NT

All this shopping for Christmas presents just takes too much time!

Sod it, this year I’ll just wrap myself up and be my sister’s Christmas pressie, because lets be honest, family is the best damn thing you can have.

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Great, so that’s Christmas settled. Now I can crack on with watching some high-quality festive films, ones which in my view were robbed of Oscar nominations…

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…And deal with more pressing matters. How do I get this human to move out of my spot?

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Meowy pawmas everyone!

 

(Special thanks to the members of my immediate family for making this post possible by constantly spamming my WhatsApp feed with cat photos.)

 

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McDonald’s, You’re Missing A Trick!

It’s my birthday and I’ll have wine with my McDonald’s if I want to! A quiet in ahead of the Christmas craziness – new blog posts coming soon!

I’ll also bake for my team if I want to, even if ‘baking’ means staying up until crazy o’clock the night before to get it made to my demanding standards.

(The team valued it, I made two batches and they devoured both on a day. I was even told it posed a risk to productivity because it was so good.)

So yeah, go me. Go me and my baking and my wine-sipping awesomeness. Whoop.

A Whistle Stop Tour of Throwbacks

It’s my birthday this week (yay) so how better to celebrate me then a few personal favourites from the AEB playlist? Let’s waste no time, let’s get to it!

A Whistle Stop Tour of Throwbacks: A Playlist for Alice

Firstly, as with all things in life you have to make an entrance. I have always loved the bolshiness of Sledgehammer’s opening.

(Can we also take a moment to reflect on how ground-breaking the music video was at the time it was released?)

But where are my manners? I should probably introduce myself. I’m Alice, although Paul Simon keeps calling me different.

I’ve tried to stop him, but he really won’t give it up.

Most people, I hope, would think of me as a something a bit different to the norm, but still very much a product of the early 90s…

90s but not as you know it. You’ll find me catching up on Radio Four on the evenings and trying to make out I’m really listening to some hip new song by Ed Sheeran or Stormzy.

Sometimes I feel like my outlook on life is stuck decades older than my years so ‘1985’ seems apt on many levels (and only a year off one of my favourite novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four).

While I never prescribe myself to a ultimate favourite song (it changes so frequently) ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations will always sit in the premier league of faves. I’m also massive fan of international music which is why I’ve spent days of my life listening to both the English and Italian versions.

On the subject of off-beat and a little bit quirky…this striped back cover of a Britney Spears classic is just wonderful. Britney was my career icon for all of six months as a young child, nowadays if I want to unleash my inner sass I’ll mentally play this track in my head.

And in support of the many, many songs that were perfect just as they were…

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Bringing the pace back up while throwing the music right back, good luck trying to pin me down when The Kinks come on. I’ll have no embarrassment busting some abstract 60s moves to this:

When I get down to this it’s like Mr Tickle decided to release a fitness video, arms everywhere!

Similar with Mel Torme’s I’m Comin’ Home, a song which I first heard as part of the soundtrack for the movie An Education.

It’s a film set in the 60s involving slick men in suits dealing art. Hmm, I can’t think why I’m particularly drawn to the film…

And following on from that, I couldn’t possibly consider the soundtrack of An Education without giving a shout out to the 50s-set French film Popularie. ‘Golden Baby’ rightly deserves to sit as top bill on this film’s soundtrack.

And when I hear this next piece of piano music…for two minutes I transport myself somewhere completely other and fall in love with the idea of old fashioned romance.

 

Right, that’s enough soppiness, let’s up the tempo. Someone get the dance mat out!

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And if you really show off your moves maybe, just maybe, I’ll let you take me out.

(As long as you accept I will be singing along to the guitar solo.)

And why wouldn’t you want to spend a night hanging off my arm? I’m anything but common.

Nah, not me. I’m a one of a kind, I’m unique, I’m a classic.

And then… *cough*

(Or, alternatively, stick on ANY song by Marvin Gaye. They all get a massive thumbs up in my book.)

And then…

At the same time, I’ve got a life to lead and if you can’t handle that then sorry, you’re just not the bloke for me.

Sorry, not sorry for being awesome.

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When I was born (first week of December) the UK chart number one was Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You. Ironic, most of my nights out probably end with the same song.

Everyone has a song which is so truly horrific they love it and, following a seasonal line of thought, mine has to be this gem from Squeeze.

I mean, where do you even begin to start with what’s right in that video?

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In the Cotswolds it’s not Christmas in the family household until either a) Papa Bennett has attempted to play Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross and we’ve shouted him down, b) I’ve dropped the Michael Buble CD in oil/fat or c) Celtic Christmas gets played. It’s usually a close run battle between the three.

TUNNNNEEEE!

And how better to exit the day/week/year than with ‘Bat Out of Hell’ and ‘St. Elmo’s Fire back-to-back? (Rhetorical question, there is none.)

Right, I’ve gotta dash now, real life adult stuff to do. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my mind and music taste (and understand why asking me for my favourite genre and/or song is a pointless question, I don’t have one).

If you’re ever in a position where you’re feeling a bit low and missing my blog/real life lovin’ don’t you worry, I’m always here*.

*Swimsuit not included.

Happy birthday me!

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