Friday 31 October 2008

Stopping the Junk Mail and Cold Calls

In the UK we have the Preference Services. I’ve registered with them all and it has stopped all the junk mail I used to get through the mail, and all those annoying calls from people trying to sell me double glazing etc. Unfortunately, as spam email comes from all over the world, it just keeps multiplying even though I’ve registered with the email Preference Service.

Anyway just now, through SocialSpark, I’ve learnt what you can do if you live in the US. Join The Privacy Council. It looks like you pay them just $9 and they get you ON the National Do Not Call List, and OFF all the databases that germinate the dreaded junk mail etc, such as:
- The Direct Marketing Association's List, which takes your name off of most catalog lists
- the Advo, PennySaver, The Flyer, and ValPak direct mail lists
- most Catalogs, Mail Order, and Magazine Lists
- Pre-approved Credit Card Offers mailing list
- Reverse Phone Directories
- Sweepstakes Lists

So that really should do the same job that I’m benefiting from here.

I’m going to tell my cousin in Memphis and all my US pals. Can all you new Privacy Council members let me know how it affects your email spam too?


Here and There - a Comparison

Tonight I opened the door to a knock and had to crouch down to be level with the two tiny witches chanting, “Trick or treat.” I offered my basket of treats and one took an apple, the other a toffee ├ęclair. Thump and rustle went their pails of treats and a shadowy mum at the end of the garden path echoed their thanks. Those kids were having a great time out in the dark and a grown up was keeping them safe.

I couldn’t help comparing it with the horrific scenes from Africa that were on the TV news tonight. Congolese refugees outside an aid station had been waiting with no food for two days. They ran out of patience and broke through the gates to get at food for their families. It was a stampede and the children got in the way. The images of terrified tiny faces were heartbreaking. The news team and aid workers intervened and pulled tiny bodies out from under the scrum while the cameras rolled on. Children were separated from their families for long periods. Some were injured with blood streaming down their faces. Why do we let these things happen in this day and age? I am aching for them as I write. Saddened and furious.

Things don’t change much. Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid was the source of this photo of an African refugee camp in 2005.
But here it’s Halloween.

Photo by D’Arcy Norman: licence as

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Some Blog Awards

A few days ago, I received these three awards from Jon at The Ups, Downs and Sometimes Insane World of Freelance Writing. Thanks, Jon. That is so good for my morale.

I’ve copied his instructions word for word.

"Most bloggers are familiar with the routine, but for those of you who aren’t here’s what to do if you’re tagged in this post.

Pass the award on to seven blogs of your choice.

Link back to the blogger who gave you the award / awards.

Let the new winners know they have received an award by commenting on their blog.

You don’t have to accept the awards. You can take one or take all three, the choice is yours."

There are so many awards doing the round these days, it’s quite difficult to choose blogs that haven’t already received these awards before. I’ve tried not to duplicate all three but I know some of the following have already received at least one of them before, so please forgive any duplications. These are all blogs that I find a pleasure to read:

A Postcard a Day

A Singaporean in London

Daisy the Curly Cat

I hope you will click on their links and share my enjoyment of them.

Monday 27 October 2008

A Poem

I'm feeling a bit down today - some family problems. I'm not feeling much like writing so I looked out a poem from last year. I wrote it while travelling on a stormy day. On re-reading it, it seemed to run a gamut of emotions but end on a note of hope. That's what I need right now.

To Exeter from the coast

On a wild, wet, windy day
white horses surging shorewards,
with sea spray leaping high
as the train roars by.

Birds clustering on the waves
in the wide estuary.
Little boats bobbing the swell,
the train flies pell-mell.

By the river the pub looks bleak
and the cows seek shelter;
rain strafes the sodden sheep
while travelling children weep.

Seagulls sit in the city park,
branches flail, leaves flurry.
Sun breaks out to rekindle passion
as the train draws to the station.

Friday 24 October 2008

Have you Been to a Swishing Party?

There's been a lot of talk on the TV recently about swishing. Actually I only heard the term for the first time this evening, but when the presenter gave the definition I realised I'd seen quite a bit about it before.

It's the new word for swapping clothes. Apparently it's really big in America, and it's taking off here too. It may be coincidental, but the fact that we're all getting short of cash, or expecting to very soon, could account for its fast growing popularity.

Enterprising professionals arrange events in large premises and charge a small entrance fee for people to bring and buy clothes. Private swishing parties cost nothing but entry is by invitation only to friends, and friends of friends, willing to bring something to swap.

The idea has been promoted by model, Twiggy, in a BBC TV series, Twiggy's Frock Exchange. I saw a bit of one of the programmes and noted that it was furnished with experts who made over many of the items donated for swapping to give them a completely new identity.

Even if you don't have experts like that around, I'd say it's a jolly good way to perk up your wardrobe frequently without breaking the bank.

What do you think? What are the pros and cons? Have you done any swapping and would you do it again?

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Had a Great Time but Not Feeling Too Well

Here I am, home again from my wanderings. But I'm not really compos mentos (is that spelt correctly, I wonder?) I have returned with yet another ferocious cold, and it's only two weeks since I felt free of the last one. I knew it was coming before I went, and I'd called two friends to help me decide whether to cry off. They both begged me to come anyway, so I did.

It was probably a mistake. I've been on trains and buses between here, London and Leeds, and can just imagine my germs spreading wide from the south to the north of the country. If you are in the UK and have caught my cold, I can only apologise.

For most of the time I was away, I held the worst of it at bay. I was out enjoying myself with people I don't see all that often. I got plenty of fresh air but didn't stay out late. After lunch with a final group of buddies yesterday, when I got back to my daughter's house in South London, I really started to feel rough. Because there were no more jolly jaunts planned, I guess my mind decided I could allow myself to be sick.

So this morning I prepared for the train journey by buying Lockets lozenges and fresh supplies of tissues, and then tucked myself away in the rear-most corner of the railway carriage. And now I'm home and have loads of catching up to do, while all I feel like doing is tucking myself in with a hot water bottle.

So I'll stop writing for now and promise something more interesting for my next post.

Friday 17 October 2008

Apologies in Advance

I'm off on another jolly with friends and family and I won't be here again till Thursday or Friday next week. I'd hoped to be able to prepost in my blogs but had system problems yesterday so I ran out of time.

Since neither Kaspersky, nor SuperAntiSpyWare was sorting out my problems, I was advised to download Malwarebyte and run its full scan. That took 9 hours and then I realised it hadn't been updated for a month so I updated it and ran another quick scan. It found and quarantined loads of infections that had been slowing down the system and making IE give me sites I didn't want while I was working in Firefox. I've now deleted all the suspect stuff and things should be better, but I probably can't be sure until I'm back in working mode next week.

Unfortunately my entrecard is going to be on some really good sites while I'm away, and I won't be able to return many drops, if any at all. So apologies in advance to everyone. I promise I'll catch up asap when I get back.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day when bloggers all over the world are writing to raise awareness of the poverty that still exists despite all the G8 summits and government promises. More important, to remind ourselves that we all need to find ways to help alleviate this poverty, whether it is close to home or half way around the world.

Humanity is responsible for humanity. The ‘haves’ should be helping the ‘have nots’. Here in the UK, there are hundreds of charities that help people who live below the poverty line. Different people are inclined to help different charities because of their focus.

My own passion is to help the homeless. I often buy The Big Issue. This is one charity that, at least gives people who are homeless something to do with their days that might earn them a temporary roof. I donate to Shelter monthly by direct debit. And at Christmas I donate to The Salvation Army, who do such a stalwart job in helping the homeless year round and especially at Xmastime.

Many people in third world countries are far worse off even than the poorest people here. I was filled with admiration for my former sister-in-law when she told me about her holiday this year. She went to Africa with a group from her church. They all forked out over £500 to go to an orphanage in Africa and spend the three weeks of their holiday building new dormitories that are desperately needed. My heart went out to the children in her photos, all of whom had turned up there out of the blue, often abandoned by parents who just didn’t have the wherewithal to feed them.

What do you do about helping those who are less fortunate than you?

Monday 13 October 2008


When JenaIsle invited me to join Helium recently, I took some time to think about it. I revisited the site and found much better opportunities there than when I looked at it about 18 months ago. And I’d already been considering diversifying and spreading my writing around the web a bit more, so I soon decided to give it a go.

Once I’d joined up I found I was already too busy with other writing projects to start anything specifically for Helium. It seemed like I’d have to put it on hold again. Then I read another of Jena’s blog posts and realised that I could post up any article for which I hold the copyright, even if it had already been published elsewhere.

This is brilliant because I have several articles at Constant Content that have sold once for usage rights only. CC recently changed their policy so that after such a sale, full rights can no longer be offered, so they are still for sale there but only for usage rights, and whoever buys them knows that they might also appear elsewhere.

So I’m starting to post there in the hope of earning a few more bucks while my stuff sits around waiting for a buyer. I also have a few blog pieces that could be suitable for Helium. You probably know that writers earn from readers clicking their work at Helium, so if you’d like to see some of mine, you will do me a favour by reading my articles there. You’ll find the list here.

The only problem I have with Helium is the quality of some of the writing I am asked to rate. Mostly the ideas are great, but many people simply don't seem to understand to concepts of editing and proofreading. With some, it's obvious that English is not their first language so errors are more understandable; others are native English speakers, using either UK or US spelling, both of which I'm familiar with.

When rating, it's easy to say which of two articles is the best, but I'm used to reviewing and giving advice, and it rankles not to feel able to do that. There apparently is a facility but I don't yet know how to use it, or whether it would be welcomed. No doubt I'll get that sorted in time.

The other way I'm diversifying, or trying to, is with socialspark. When I couldn’t get any opportunities at payperpost, I thought I’d try that out. I have found opportunities there, but I can’t seem to find out what to do about them. If there’s anyone out there who can tell me how to accept an opportunity, I’ll be eternally grateful.

Friday 10 October 2008

Lovely, Loving Downs Syndrome People

I’ve been reading this heart-rending blog by the mother of a Downs Syndrome child. It reminded me of this poem written as a memorial to a wonderful young woman with DS, who defied all the medics’ predictions of an early demise but eventually succumbed to a devastating cancer. When she was a child she was often cared for by my sister and we grew to love her dearly. My sister is still friendly with her parents and I meet them occasionally when I visit her. Her mother wrote this poem, which was read out at her memorial service.

A Glimpse of Juliet

Full of life and full of fun
She touched the hearts of everyone.
Lots of laughs and lots of tears
Have been the order of the years.
Pranks, too many to relate
And rows about the food she ate.
Music, dancing, disco queen
She loved the lights, loved to be seen.
Many times we'd hear the hum
And then into the room she'd come.
These few words help to recall
A life which will be missed by all.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Monday 6 October 2008

A Super Saturday

Photo by Trident13 at Wikimedia.
I didn't take any pics of my own but this is a fair
example of the sort of floats we get on the Wessex Carnival Circuit.

It was indeed a lovely family weekend. We decided to give the duck racing a miss and drive to Yeovil for shopping. Both my daughter and I needed to buy birthday presents and it was an opportunity to get ahead with the Xmas ones as well. Eryn was very well-behaved until she became very hungry when the clock had passed lunchtime.

Unfortunately the traffic had piled up and just getting onto the road for home took for ever. So we decided to stop for lunch on the A30 in a pub called The Tippling Philosopher at Milborne Port. It was good move. The steak pie was to die for and only £6.50, while Eryn's ham, egg and chips cost even less. And we were all fuelled up for the evening's fun time.

It did rain in the afternoon and was very cold, so although we were back in time, we didn't go to the children's carnival procession, but preserved our energy, and wrapped ourselves in layers, for the big one in the evening. And the gods smiled on us and stopped the rain for the duration.

Seven of us met up opposite our local pub on the route of the procession. There were we three girls and my son's partner, plus hubby, son and his friend who had chauffered them there from Shaftesbury on a roundabout route to bypass the road closures. We managed to get a spot with a flat-topped wall behind us so Eryn could be held up there and have a good view.

She was wild with excitement as the first great steam engines rolled by. My daughter got caught up in it too. "It's just wonderful how these old traditions are being kept alive," was her comment. Next we saw about five sets of marionettes from our various local towns; first the older and very accomplished ones, with the tiny tots bringing up the rear, and all in identical sparkly costumes. For their sakes, I was so glad about the lack of rain.

Then the bands marched past, interspersed with various carnival queens and princesses, with their attendants in limousines or sitting on decorated truck beds and looking rather cold in their flimsy attire. The Shaftesbury band leader turned out to be the father of my son's girlfriend and gave us a big smile as she took a photo with her mobile phone.

We were all throwing small change into the collection vehicles or putting it into the buckets carried along the route by the walking collectors. A few thousand is usually collected for various charities. The totals will be reported in next week's local papers.

But everyone was waiting for the star attractions - the enormous decorated and brightly lit floats that have taken months to design and prepare. The trucks or tractors that lead them pull along up to three trailors that include their own power generators. Each one has several marshalls and guides. One walks backwards in front to direct and help the driver to get around tricky corners on our narrow streets. Others make sure no members of the public are in danger of being mown down and that all the trailer connections remain safely locked in place.

It's very competitive and the ideas are kept secret until the carnival circuit begins. Among the designs this year, we saw a Chinese theme and an Indian theme, but the most memorable one was called Disco Babes. As it came twards us, we could hear the disco music and see the frontispeace - a 40 something man sitting on the floor of his platform, moving manically to the music, dressed only in an outsize nappy (diaper). It was the funniest sight. What a hero - not embarrassed about any of his floppy bits and having to keep moving to stop himself freezing to death. We just rolled up. Other people on the floats behind him portrayed other aspects of babyhood and were equally funny, but they were all well covered.

Eryn was upset when it ended. She wanted it to go on all night. But the rest of us were secretly relieved. It had been great fun but we had been standing up for at least an hour and a half. We headed for home, leaving the yellow-coated marshalls moving the metal barriers that were placed to try and stop the public wandering into the path of the procession, picking up all the plastic glasses that had allowed us all to bring our drinks out of the pub, and still picking up silver and pennies that hadn't found their way into the collection boxes.

A fun night indeed - quite a contrast to all the doom and gloom that greets us on the TV news programmes at present.

Friday 3 October 2008

It's Carnival Time

My two girls arrived this evening for our carnival weekend. It's so lovely to see them and get great big hugs. Unfortunately the weather forecast is not too good for tomorrow and my daughter and I decided, on the spur of the moment, to take young Eryn to the funfair, which has been on here all week, instead of waiting for tomorrow's festivities. We all had great fun just watching her on the littl'uns rides. She won two soft toys and a beach ball attached to a little bat with elastic. Finally we persuaded her to take her mummy on the dodgems and I stood on the sidelines and watched the hilarity as they dodged and bumped. Of course there were tears when it was time to leave, but she's fast asleep now. I was miffed with myself as I forgot to take my camera.

Tomorrow there is duck racing in the morning, when we all congregate on the town bridge and watch the yellow plastic ducks wash through to the end of the race. Any gambling will benefit charities as well as the winners. Three o'clock sees the start of the children's procession, and sadly that's when the rain is forecast to start.

Later in the evening the main procession will be preceeded by various bands marching through the town, then all the steam engines, and finally, at around 8 pm, all the carnival floats and other entries, which take over an hour to pass any particular place. We are on the Wessex Carnival Circuit and those taking part will have been working all year on their floats and costumes. They take it very seriously and it's quite a spectacle.

I do hope it's not so wet it puts a real dampener on things. I'll let you know on Monday.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Going off on Tangents

Looking down on the port of Mahon

My head has been back in Menorca today, which means, of course, that I’m writing about the island. As usual, I top up my personal experience with a bit of research, so I learn loads more about it. And then I want to go back and see what I missed on my last visit. One day, perhaps.

I also have a tendency to get sidetracked and go off on tangents. Trying to find out more about the gin distillery in Mahon, I discovered all sorts of facts about the tipple. I think there is another article there.

Yesterday, I followed JenaIsle to Helium, joined up and had a look around. She came second in one of their article competitions. Well done, Jena.

Some of the competition titles gave me another idea and I was sidetracked into dashing off something else. It wasn’t right for the competition and now I’m not sure whether to post it in Helium or Constant Content. Potential for more headaches, I fear.

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