Cotswold Man Versus Pheasant

So, I’m minding my own business the other day, working from home (as per usual), when I go into the kitchen to grab a coffee and spot this in the garden.

Having a spare minute or two between meetings, I pop outside to take a better look.

Just as surreal an explanation as expected. But still.

I went back to my work laptop and assumed that would be the end of that, that nothing would come of this Robinson Crusoe pheasant trap.

Half an hour (max.) later…

And a little time later still…

Unbelievable.

Shaking my head with disbelief, I bring myself back to my laptop to try and actually get some work done.

“Alice, come with me to drop off this pheasant,’ Papa B says.

“But I’ve got my next meeting in 15 minutes.”

“Well then, hurry up and get your shoes on.”

(Classic family reaction to anything of the sort. Cotswold drama > work.)

He loads the car up with the wheelie bin:

And off we go to calmly release the bird into a wooded spot up the hill.

And now, for the big finish.

We drive back down and I get back into the house just in time to join my work meeting, nobody any the wiser of the craziness that has just gone down.

What can I say? Lockdown just got weirder.

(Important disclaimer – no animals were harmed during this process. The pheasant was humanely released into the wild, flying away without injury. We stayed for a short while after the release to be certain of the animal’s welfare. He was long gone, in fact a week later the peasant actually came back. So there you go, what a success that turned out to be.)

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Time to Clear Out the Cookies

Minding my own business on emails (aka clearing out my junk folder, because, you know, what else is there to do right now?)

Anyway, I was doing that when something on the side bar caught my eye. This, the side bar which is always filled by random advertisements. For example, I’ve been invited to take out over 50s life insurance for far too long…a product of my enjoyment of Classic FM perhaps; other times it’s linked to the websites I’ve been loitering on.

Amazon, eBay, that Scientology website I once browsed at stupid o’clock. Even if the targeted adverts are sometimes questionable, it’s rare I look at these and go “where the Hell did that come from?” I’ve yet to take out the insurance, and last time I checked I hadn’t joined a cult…I think…

Right, so, what’s the point of all this preamble, you say? Well, despite all of the above, one day I got this in the side bar:

No, that’s it. Nothing more below, save the rest of the boot-shoe.

I mean…what?

First off, how are any of these items linked? Hosiery/half a mannequin (I’ll be honest, I don’t know which it is), a balaclava and two types of shoe? It’s honestly the most mixed-up selection of clothing items one could buy, let alone for a lockdown fatkins like me.

Secondly, and probably the bigger question I should be asking, WHY AM I GETTING THIS?

I’m a lazy sod who hasn’t had a need for football boots since I played hockey for the school team in 2009. Plus, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie what my rat’s patootie looks like. (I’ve just revisited that image, it looks like shapewear in the first thumbnail.)

Ain’t no shapewear containing this level of awesome!

Alright Kim…

So, the million cent question, did I click on the link to learn more, or possibly even purchase some of these dazzling products?

No.

Am I however now racing to go back through all my browsing history and clearing out the tracking cookies. It has lead me to wonder though, have I been hacked by the Scientologists?

I mean, it would certainly explain the randomness of items (can you understand a word he’s saying?)

Also, Tom Cruise.

(I think I’m going to like inserting this sound effect into my work very much.)

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Donating – A Quick Update

First off, a massive thank you to everyone who has given me monetary donations to support some of the, quite frankly, kooky writing I do, even though no one ever really asked for it. Mumma B is baffled (really; she often asks me what people are on).

While I was always aware of the fees incurred by the Buy Me a Coffee (BMC) website/platform, aka the money they take out of your donations as admin, I wasn’t quite aware of the competitive alternatives.

After conducting research, I’ve decided (at least for now) to switch my funding platform to Ko-fi. Unlike BMC, Ko-fi doesn’t charge fees for handling donations (the company make their money from users paying for “gold” subscriptions and hahahaha if they think I’m going to be doing that anytime soon!)

This is why the link at the bottom of my posts will now refer to Ko-fi.

On Ko-fi I still pay PayPal fees, but no platform costs = more money for moi. Understood? Great.

Look! I even recycled this super high-brow video to convince would-be donors who happen on my funding page:

I used to dabble in video editing/production back when I was at University, you know? No, really, I did. I used to love meddling about with film equipment, me. And, even after all these years, I think it really shows. #TeamWindowsMovieMaker

(Even if you don’t watch the video, the thumbnail should sell my charity case by itself.)

Again, this doesn’t diminish what I’ve been donated so far. I’d rather be given £1 on BMC than nothing at all. My BMC page will continue to exist and if you have a burning desire to donate there instead, a) might want to get that checked out, but in all seriousness, b) go ahead.

As per usual a quick update has turned into me rambling and now I’m telling you to get that rash looked at by a doctor. Wonderful.

Oh and PS, in return I’m going to start making a point of thanking people for donations – on social media, possibly here if source material gets tight (it’s a wonder to us all that a year into a pandemic I’m still finding shizz to type about). If you’re a bit shy you can always donate anonymously. (You’ll be like the secret valentine I never had.)

Argh, going off topic again! In short, give me your money and give it to me on Ko-fi. Thanks!

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Have a Merry (Nicolas Cage and/or Lobster Themed) Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone who reads MHAM. regardless of faith, 2020 has been a rough year for absolutely everyone, I wish you all a peaceful time with family and chocolate and Nicolas Cage.

(Things may be terrible, but now they’re terribly wonderful.)

Oh, here’s also a highly relatable photo I took of a shop window from three years back (I’m going to guess it was Ted Baker).

So go on, stuff your face with lobster too. You’re welcome again, have it on me (the enjoyment of the photo that is, I’m not a free-for-all lobster bar or anything).

I’ll be back with new content in the new year. In the meantime, there’s always my Contents of wonderful blog posts with plenty of material dating right back to 2014! (Alright, no need to roll your eyes.)

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A Very 2020 Take on the 1974 UK General Election

While the rest of the country flipped out over Covid for the billionth time that year, my sister and I chose to spend one particular Saturday night watching the high-quality coverage of the 1974 General Election.

No, I’m not joking.

One day we’ll look back on things like this and go, “yes, we really were living life to the best when in our 20s.”

(By the way, we shouted “PHONE!” When the phone was heard ringing in the studio. It’s not quite audible on the playback and I’d hate my reputation to be damaged by this one element.)

Spoilers: Harold Wilson of the Labour Part won a majority of three seats and took over from Ted Heath’s Conservative-led government (I may have Googled that – even I couldn’t face staying up until 12:45am).

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Born on This Day: Lin Biao, Deputy Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party

Happy birthday Lin Biao! Born 5th December 1907

Lin Biao was the Deputy Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party from 1966 until 1971 and was instrumental in laying the foundations for Mao Zedong’s Cult of Personality (fuelled by “The Little Red Book”). This Cult became a dominant feature underpinning the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.

Ironically, the Cult and Lin’s subsequent rise in power deeply unsettled Chairman Mao, in fact Lin would later face severe criticism from within the ruling Communist Party for being the sole cause behind the reckless cultural destruction inflicted by the youthful Red Army in the 1960s.

By 1971 Lin had fallen from favour, putting him and close supporters at risk. After an alleged assassination attempt on Mao failed, Lin was in the process of fleeing China that same year when his plane crashed just off the Russian border, killing all those on board (including his family). It was reported nationally at the time that this was due to his plane running out of fuel, however due to the nature of Lin’s political decline and the secrecy of the Communist state, the true cause of death is still speculated to this day.

Huh, now we know. So, tune in next year for another edition of “Born on this Day”!

(Oh, and happy birthday to me too.)

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Be Right Back – Quick Update

For those not already aware, I’ve been pretty rough of late.

Quick update, I seem to have turned into a floating head.

I suppose anything that gets me one step closer to forming a tribute act to Talking Heads…

Jokes aside, things are still very on/off. Moved onto new antibiotics on Thursday and I’m holding out on those to sort me out which should take a couple of weeks. I’m also on strong pain meds, probably why you might find me posting things like this:

My stomach is swollen up and burnt to shreds from the hot water bottle, but nobody wants to see that (including myself). It also means I can’t drink alcohol while on this medications OR COFFEE* (*on the particularly bad days).

I’m aware that to an outsider perspective this might look like me adopting Kerry Mucklowe levels of melodrama…

…But if you genuinely want you to know why I’m not responding to your emails or texts or anything else, that’s why. It’s not you, it’s really all down to me. Well, and Squeaky the cat.

I put her as acting secretariat but as expected, she’s a cat.

The times I feel more myself, I hurriedly blogging future posts/writing Christmas cards/doing human things, as well as the full-time job.

So please and thanks for bearing with me. x

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Oh, and I’ve had a few questions about why I’m so rough. High-level summary; cut in my arm didn’t get bandaged correctly, so that got infected. Plus complications with a routine procedure so more infection! (It took 5 weeks to get a formal diagnosis which is never ideal, especially when you’re being told to take painkillers and see how it goes. But hey, it’s in the past now. Totally over it…totally.)

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Be Right Back

Full disclaimer – I’ve been bloody rough of late. At best, I look like this:

And at worst:

(Oh, and there was a delightful interlude when my arm got infected and swelled up to the size of my face. My face, that was too sleep deprived and exhausted to even care anyone.)

I’m still rough (the water bottle and I are now exclusive). Hot drinks = pain, eating too much = pain, too much sleep = pain (wft?), ice cream = PAAAIN!

You get the idea.

I’ve been watching Selling Sunset in a bid to get my body to pull it’s shizz together:

If anything I think it’s making me worse.

It’s an unpredictable situation, after I upload this I’m going back to bed. I’m that exhausted.

I’ve got loads of great posts lined up, bear with me on this. If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only one missing my sparkling presence.

NB – this is totally unrelated to Covid, it’s not contagious and I’m being cared for and supported by a mix of family and friends.

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“Protect Swindon 18-30!”: The Unexpected Success of Community Fundraising

You’re only as valuable to the community as the last thing you did for it.

That might or might not be a plagiarised quote from someone notable or, more likely, something I just made up after two (large) glasses of wine, but I’ve put it in fancy italics so the point stands.

This is the story of a group. No, actually, not a group, a community. Thrown together by birth, work, or sometimes just passing through; a community of humans who came together under limited expectations, only to save something far greater.

The Birth of a Community

When it comes to community the good deeds you make only go so far. It’s harsh but true. Unlike the good old days, people come and people move on.

The movement of people was one of the reasons I initially established Swindon 18-30 Professionals. People were coming into the town (mostly for work) and then rapidly fleeing as soon as they’d decided it wasn’t a place for them. Not enough to do, not enough of a scene for young people. And I couldn’t blame them; I’d relocated to the area and was feeling the cold shoulder of the real world. A world outside education where you can’t make best friends with people simply by shaking hands or offering out birthday chocolates by means of bribery. The real world just simply isn’t like that, in or outside Swindon.

From Strength to Strength

It came as a massive relief to me when I won the support of a local sponsor to cover the essential website maintenance costs. With the free subscription membership blossomed, and with it the strength of having a group that arguably was the biggest apolitical collective of local voices the town had seen in many years, if ever.

Over the months and years that followed, friendships were made and romances solidified. Multiple engagements, weddings and even babies have been created as a direct impact of the conversations struck up in pubs or over bowling lane rivalries. I was humbled, that feeling that the group was now self sufficient, it didn’t need me to babysit it 24/7 anymore.

Anything But Normal

And then Coronavirus happened.

Our version of normal was now ‘old’ and everything else was now to be referred to as the new version (whatever that was). Social gatherings were illegal, mental health, financial security, a secondary concern compared to the threat of a killer virus. We watched it all slip away, like sand through our fingers.

My steadfast sponsor, like everything else, was forced to close. As their income disappeared overnight, so did the lifeline of Swindon 18-30. I sat on my bed one night, barely able to sleep. Years of hard work, of creating and building, ended before people had even the chance give it a decent send off. I was left hollow, wounded but without the blood to show for it.

“Sh*t Happens, Get Over It”

I proposed to the leadership team setting up a fundraising page. A last-ditch hope that we could scrape together enough to cover the next six months of fees (around £100).

I did some research, compared the options eventually went for GoGetFunding which was one of the few which let fundraisers withdraw money, even if they don’t make the target set on the page. This in mind, I went for a over optimistic £260 which would cover costs for a year, plus the fundraising page fees. I hit submit, the page went live.

I sent a frank and blunt email to all the members with a link to donate money and walked away. A watched pot never boils and I couldn’t bear to spend a wasted evening watching a page that got no engagement. In five years I’d never asked anything of my members, new and old, so to be begging for money now? I was adamant that they’d see me as being unrealistic.

The Kind of Thing That Only Happens in Movies

I retuned to my laptop and was taken with the number of emails in my inbox. “Probably spam,” I thought, but I was wrong. Very wrong. Because instead of the junk mail I was expecting, all the emails were notifications from the fundraising website.

Donations came in thick and fast and at values that almost made me want to cry. I probably would have if not for the personalised messages getting to me first.

There I’d been, working my socks off and building up a strong leadership team and thinking no one had noticed. That no one had particularly cared for all the effort we put in. The words I was reading now, they proved me wrong.

“Every penny well deserved!”

“An amazing organisation, I hope it carries on long into the future.”

“This group helped me take control of my social anxiety and build my confidence.”

“I owe so much to Swindon 18-30. So many incredible people I wouldn’t have even crossed paths with if it were not for the events put on.”

“Well done Alice! Keep up the good work and long live the mermaids!”

In just over 24 hours we hit my target for funding, but yet the money kept pouring in, it seemed everyone wanted to show their support and ensure the group stayed alive. And this wasn’t just current members, people who’d long left Swindon donated, keen to ensure its legacy for new batches of young professionals.

For the second time that week I found myself unable to sleep, although this time it was out of happiness and relief. The group had validated its existence, it had an army of young people prepared to fight tooth and nail to keep it running.

Stop the Press!

The local press release was published the following week with a number of last minute updates. The original purpose, framed to act as a plea for help was now repurposed as an awareness piece, to reach out to those who felt alone and isolated. That at the end of all this there would be a place to safe place to meet and engage with other people.

The finished article can be accessed online via this link.

Trouble on the Murky Crime Horizon

Like everything that happens in my life, there had to be a catch to all this positivity. For me, this came when the webpage was bombarded with fraudulent donations. The alarm bells came when the donations were coming in tiny denominations (usually £1) and from people I didn’t recognise. Later it transpired that these payments were likely stolen cards being tested out prior to the thief either selling them on or using them for bigger transactions. Wanting to do the right thing (and wanting to avoid severe penalties), I promptly returned the money back to the payment card, only to then be charged a handling fee for doing so!

I spoke with both customer services on GoGetFunding and then PayPal, voicing frustrations. They both pointed fingers at the other, both refused to acknowledge the faults in their system, both saw no reason to refund me for doing the right thing. I enchanced secrity controls, as per PayPal’s recommendation, which made things worse. The next morning I had ten transactions to refund. It was at that point, stressed and deeply angry, that I was sadly forced to close the funding page ahead of time.

If there is one top tip I can place in all of this it is to not use GoGetFunding. The commission is less but damn, you pay more in blocking fraudulent payments in the long run!

However, all said and done the final figure at the point of close spoke for itself. The group had done it, we had enough to keep going throughout the tough months to come.

The Future is Bright…

On the far side of all this (whenever that might be) it’s confirmed, that there will be a group and place for people to call their social home. A place to buy a pint or two and give toast to everything that’s made us who we are today.

Here’s to the silent supporters and the ‘this one’s on me’ drink buyers. Long live the donators of good causes, the ones who have the vision to see beyond the news headlines and the weeks on a calendar. From my heart to yours, thank you. Thank you so much.

You can find out more about Swindon 18-30 Professionals via the group’s dedicated website. https://www.meetup.com/Swindon-18-30-Professionals/

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Round Two with the Laminator

After the utter calamity that was the last time I used a laminator, I once again found myself facing my old nemesis.

With the new track and trace system, Mumma B asked me to print and laminate a sign for the holiday cottage in Devon (#MiddleClassProblems).

“Sure!” I said. “What could go wrong?”

It started off alright…

But sadly I discovered this afterwards…

It’s a little blurry, but aka it’s a black hair from one of the cats who have now taken to sleeping in the house 24/7. So there goes another perfectly useable laminator pouch.

Yes, Bubble, I am looking at you.

Oh well, nothing is ever perfect. At least I didn’t blow anything up this time…

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