Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Archive for December 2008

Just another stressful Christmas

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This week is going to be much better than last week. It is a promise I have made to myself and I am determined to see the funny side of life.
Last week, I experienced disheartenment, frustration and bewildermen. So close to Christmas, too.
First, I had the mother of all colds. Yes, I know you probably had one, too, but this is all about me. My cold was worse than the previous four years’ worth put together. I lay under a duvet for two days and snivelled, ached and flopped, while child number two came out in sympathy and joined me for a weekend of coughing and spluttering.
But, a Christmas tree had to be bought, so I dragged my aching carcass to the local farm to see a handful of pathetic specimens left (“Should have come last week, love,” I was told, by a ruddy-faced farmer, who clearly has not seen any evidence of the credit crunch this year. “I had more than 600 then.”).
I chose the least ridiculous looking one and took it home. And there it stood it the garage, all forlorn for two days before I could muster the energy to find the decorations. I’m afraid it looks fairly rubbish with the adornments.
Low number two came in the guise of a bizarre self-inflicted accident on the way to work. Still weary and delicate from man ‘flu, I reached into my car boot for my handbag. Then, in slow motion (as it always seem to be, but you cannot do a darned thing about it), I banged my head on the lock, which caused me to bring my gloved hand down to rub my head.
Instead, my gloved hand overreached my noggin and – for reasons that I cannot fathom – I ended up punching myself very hard on the bridge of my nose. There were chunters, a few tears of anger and sheer embarrassment and a throbbing sensation that was to last the day. A black eye for Christmas, madam? Oh, just what I always wanted.
Then I spent a fruitless day searching for a Christmas present that mother-in-law claimed wasn’t in her bag of goodies that I’d bought for the children.
With an ill son resting in the lounge, I spent a total of FIVE hours looking for the missing DS game. Wardrobes were turned inside out, drawers were emptied repeatedly and beds were moved. Just in case.
Now in full panic mode, I try to re-buy the game online (now not available until January) and almost weep (again) in frustration.
I confess to m-i-l that the game is missing in action. It cannot be found. There is nothing we can do.
“What DS game?” she asks, puzzled.
“The one that you said was missing from the bag of presents,” I wail.
“Oh, I’ve got that. It’s the CD that’s missing,” she chirrups. The CD she said she was going to get.
Anger? Frustration? Helplessness? Tears?
Ah, yes. It must be Christmas. Happy Christmas to you all.


Written by CommonPeople

December 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Eye, eye, it’s a new advertising gimmick

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It has to be the easiest £100 you can earn: carry a company’s advertising logo on your eyelids and earn 10p per wink.

There were three things I thought when I saw this:

1.       Is it April 1?

2.       Is this for real?

3.       Is it silly season?

Well, two out of three ain’t bad…

But it appears to be true. Cosmetics company feelunique.com is actually offering to pay people per wink if they turn their eyelids into advertising hoardings, displaying their company logo. It will pay 10p per wink up to a maximum of £100 once the logo (a temporary transfer, you’ll be relieved to hear) is transferred onto the eyelid.

What kind of flawed genius thought this up? I can’t decide if it is woeful or utterly brilliant.

But, truthfully, would you notice if there was a logo on someone’s eyelid? On average, we blink 20 times a minute and, if we are honest, we don’t stare into someone’s eyes constantly when we are having a conversation. Not only would that be rude, it would be downright weird and would hasten the end of a friendship or association pdq.

Might it be the next big thing when it comes to advertising? We’ve already had adverts placed at the bottom of golf holes (or whatever they are called), then there’s the more sinister subliminal messaging that sometimes mesmerise us and I’m sure it won’t be long before there are ads along urinals that can be aimed at by customers.

 So would we notice if we had a tattoo on our eyelids? I’m not convinced, but I might apply for a laugh and see if anyone spots it.

 I’m a speccy four-eyes, though, so I wonder if I might be disqualified. One way to find out…




Written by CommonPeople

December 17, 2008 at 4:57 pm

My childhood bedroom: a blast from the past

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When you go back to your childhood bedroom, do you feel like you are stepping back in time?

Have your parents kept your room as it was when there were Adam and the Ants posters adorning the walls and a record player under the desk with a stack of dusty 45s and 33s?

Apparently there are more than four million of us who are transported back to our formative years when we visit our parents because our bedrooms are decorated the same.

And how weird must that be when you stay overnight? Does the child in you come out again?

A survey by Prudential has revealed that 4.6 million UK adults have their former bedrooms preserved by parents who cannot quite let go of earlier memories of their children.

But, just as importantly, almost half of UK adults whose parents still live in the family home say they still regard their childhood bedroom as their room despite moving out.

But is that so strange? I live close to my parents, so when my children go for a sleepover they choose which room they want to go in: mine or my brother’s.

My bedroom has changed a little (there are new curtains and carpet), but it has the same furniture and bed and the book shelves that once housed my revision notes, dictionaries and text books are still strewn with remnants from my past, including my game of Toggle (I think it was called), a couple of animal figurines and a photograph of me and my mum.

When I open the cupboard door there is still the large poster of Dougal from The Magic Roundabout I stuck on there in a fit of teenage irony; there are games under the bed that I used to play with (Sorry! – which I hated; Ludo; Monopoly; some fuzzy felt).

The lamp is the same. My first record player is hidden away (a red portable one; it was great. You could put your favourite record on repeat and listen to it for hours. Drove my parents mad) at the back of the cupboard.

Even in the drawers there are items of clothing that tell the story of my life: my old Brownie uniform; a purple knitted sleeveless cardigan that seemed to grow with me between the ages of five and ten; hair ribbons from my “Like A Virgin” incarnation; even a rotting dummy from when I was a baby (honest).

The Prudential survey found that many of us are faced with our past when we return to our childhood bedrooms. There are toys, certificates, trophies, photos and school books adorning the space.

Having such a familiar space is comforting for the vast majority of us who enjoyed happy childhoods. We like thinking about our past; it makes us who we are.

I’m not going to go into childhood psychology, but suffice it to say here that our memories fashion our adult life.

I like looking at the things in my old bedroom: they bring back memories (not always good; I don’t have a rose-tinted view of my childhood), make me feel part of a secure unit. It makes me feel safe. I know I’m lucky; others wouldn’t necessarily that point of view.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for how odd I felt when I stayed in my old bedroom (with the same single bed that I had as a youngster) the night before I got married.

It was weird. I felt at odds with myself: here I was on the verge of embarking on a very grown-up adventure, lying in my childhood bed in my old bedroom, surrounded by my memories.

Now, years on, when I walk into that room, I remember that feeling still. It has taken a place in my memory bank and it is there, nestling for attention alongside the homework books, the teddies and the Dougal poster.

Written by CommonPeople

December 11, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Why do we need video games to enjoy exercise?

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I had mixed feelings – I often do – when I read that children were more likely to get their daily quota of exercise when it was combined with video games.

The University of Cumbria in England, which carried out a study into children’s exercise habits, found that youngsters can get their daily exercise if they combine it with CERTAIN video games.

It found that 90 per cent of the children interviewed said they wanted to play video games at the same time as exercising because it helps to reduce the boredom factor.

But, and there is always a big BUT with these types of research, the sample was only 50 children aged between 11 and 12 and they used exercise equipment combined with a set of video games provided by Gamercize.

Hardly a massive poll of children, is it? And just the one kind of video game provider? Smacks of a bit of desperate marketing to me.

The research said that children could play their games only while they maintained movement on the fitness machines. If they stopped exercising, the games paused.

From the small sample of children who took part in this research, it was found that only one in five of them managed to fit in one hour of exercise a day, while more than 75 per cent played video games found that their 60 minute gaming sessions were easily accommodated into their busy daily schedules.

But combining the two, it is suggested in this study, offers the best of both worlds.

So why do I have mixed feelings about this?

I’d agree that this gaming-with-exercise model is better than nothing. Even the National Obesity Forum acknowledged that when he was asked to comment about the study.

The clinical director Dr David Haslam said that physical inactivity in children was a major cause of the obesity epidemic.

 “This study begins to show that by providing more novel opportunities, it is possible to increase a child’s activity in a painless and effective way,” he said.

Video games and so on certainly have their place in our lives and we are lucky to have many forms of media at our disposal. Children are fickle creatures; their attention spans are short and, from my experience, need not so much caring and nurturing on a daily basis, but constant access to activities and diversions.

Parents are taking on the role of entertainment managers: they are frightened to let their children get bored. If they are not ferrying them hither and thither to an organised activity (academic or otherwise) then they are parked in front of their gaming consoles. At least, the argument goes, we know where they are and they are safe.

That is fair comment to a point, but we parents are culpable in this, surely?

It’s up to us to get them out and about. If we slob around, watching TV, playing on the PlayStation and pretending that doing Wii sport is a physical activity to replace “proper” exercise or even a brisk walk in the park, is it any wonder that’s what the children do? They model their behaviour on what the adults do.

And before you ask, I’m as guilty as the next parent. I don’t go to the gym, but I do limit the use of the DS/Wii and whatever other small screen there is to occupy them.

And if they do kick up a fuss about leaving the DS behind so they can take part in a family bike ride, then remember who is in charge. I’m rather hoping it is the adult in the family.

It is our duty as parents to go out and enjoy some sport; to take them to the swimming pool; even to take a walk to the park and feed the ducks. It is all exercise.

So while Gamercize et al have their place (and even Derbyshire Sport introduced Gamercize equipment into schools this year), we must put it into perspective.

We don’t need the help of machines to have fun exercising. Just see any child running around a park with their friends.

You never know, I might even take up my own advice …