Wednesday 10 April 2024

Pulling wool over the eyes

Drug companies, bottled water companies, food company giants, domestic chemical purveyors . . .

We're in bullshit territory, and have been for so long that most people don't even notice it, but, in part, thanks to the free information out there on the net (not all of it reliable obviously) and in part thanks to a certain general angst that all is not good on our shared sphere perhaps people are beginning to question that what manufacturers and marketing agencies etc state may not in fact be true - at all.

Our bathroom sink has been semi-blocked for several months; we've tried the plungy thing, the coiled metal drain unblocker, taking the mysterious tubage under the sink apart and cleaning it many times hot water, vinegar and bicarb, shouting at it, and I even bought a bottle of blasto-drain or similar title but as it has to not contain anything very caustic because of our lovely reed bed, I was very doubtful that it would work - which it didn't.

None of it worked so I finally called the plumbers who turned up yesterday with a massive black plastic tube and suction handle - thing, and proceeded to grunt away for a good half an hour until finally the stuff deep within our 1980s bathroom system finally gave up and moved on towards said reed bed - lucky it!

After congratulating him on his skill and determination I asked about 'blasto-drain' and he said - beh, NON - faut pas! or, "do not ever use this shit or similar shit as it does nothing at all except cost loads of dosh and is very bad for the nature!" I could have hugged him except he would have been very frightened - it was so amazing to hear a young (very) person in the building trade stating such truths.

I worked - for my sins - in advertising for years (on the side of producing the visual elements for campaigns), so have clear memories of sitting in mind-crushingly boring meetings concerning the best way to dupe the public and the best way to sell as much as possible of whatever the products happened to be - anything from kitchen carpet (weird!) to dog food, paint, biscuites, shoes, office furniture, curtains and sanitary towels. I think it was at this meeting that I finally knew I had to escape . . .  'so, what colour should the fluid be? and which colour ribbon to dress the item with . . . flowers? ideas, Kate? 

In my head, I had whapped the boney, nicotine-drenched art director about the head with a fully saturated (blue fluid) sanitary pad and had ran from the room laughing manically into Oxford Street and all its over-stocked shops of unnecessary goods. In reality, I marked that as a point that I would up the writing and illustration and leave the easier money world of styling.

Back to the wool. It's continually being pulled, over-hyped, or even made to be a one and only option in the case of pharmaceuticals for example. Drugs certainly have their place and wonders such as antibiotics are life savers when used correctly, but maybe we should all be doing our own serious research into other ways of coping with aches and pains of body and mind. I've just listened to an excellent talk featuring psychiatrist Mark Horowitz who himself suffered for years while trying to get off antidepressants and other drugs which were added as his side effects required other treatments. It took him eight years and he now spends his time writing and lecturing to help similar sufferers find their lives again.

About ten years ago I went to see a nerve specialist in our old town as I was having very unpleasant and scary attacks in the face  - see very old posts a long time ago... After slapping me a bit he suggested that the 'beast was asleep' but as it would likely awaken again I had to take drugs every day . . . for the rest of my life. I explained that it was indeed intermittent and I certainly didn't want to take strong drugs (and they are very strong) forever, when there might be other possibilities. If I had mentioned meditation or restricting screen time - both of which I use to help the condition now - he probably would have eyed me quizzically then called for security to remove a clearly deranged person from his office. 

When I got back from the pharmacy with afore-mentioned box of drugs which he had insisted again I take, I read the first item on the side effect list: may cause suicidal thoughts. Great. I can admit that one or two had already sidled into my terrified mind, and I certainly didn't want easy access to any more . . .

Food companies. Writer flexes hands and approachers keyboard. Nope - enough for now. That's a massive rant for another time. Suffice to say the food industry pulls more wool over more eyes than anything else does. Check out Ultra Processed People, by Chris Van Tulleken. think I did a whole blog post about his book a while ago. A real eye-opener...

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Fateful encounters - good ones!

About two months ago I set about trying to find a useful 'Workaway' (for those who don't know - people that have signed up to said site to help out others while being lodged, fed and hopefully enjoying some cultural exchange) to help out in our scarily rampant early spring garden.

It can be a mixed bag - Workaway; we've found some fascinating, warm hearted and hard working folks over the years, and others who have wished to find themselves (or not) while smoking and sitting on the terrace, the work reluctantly done, without care and timed to the millisecond. 

The last woman, who arrived with allergies, barely concealed anger over her unraveled life and an annoying habit of telling me how everything should be done, gleefully announced after a few days she had contracted covid and would therefore be taking up residence in our almost finished gite, while I trotted backwards and forwards with carefully prepared meals. I consider myself to be a mostly very tolerant person, but I almost revelled in telling to remove herself to wherever she had appeared from. We are pretty sure that the covid deal was an excuse to settle in to our lives and welcome a steady stream of pity and food. We didn't contract the malady, despite her hissing into my face - don't put a comment on Workaway and I won't put one on you as she left.

I almost closed my account after that episode but decided she was just one amongst hundreds of good souls, ands therefore started a search for someone who knew a fair bit about gardening, and or DIY. All these types were well and truly booked up, and this time I really wanted someone with actual knowledge so I could show them the outdoor madness and say -off you go, lunch at 12.

After a week of no replies I was contacted by an enthusiastic young Swedish guy who issued me that although he didn't actually have plant knowledge that he was good humoured, hard working and 'self-propelled'. The latter part of the paragraph made me smile, and encouraged me to hit reply with a yes, why not.

I went to collect Gustav from Tours station late one evening, and despite that he had been on a bus for 50 hours, he was alert, super friendly and interesting. We struck up an immediate friendship as if we had known each other for years; the drive back a melange of discussions over politics, literature, nature, cookery - his next project is to take up chef studies.

After a very long lie in - understandably - he emerged blinking into the early spring sunshine, amazed at the early spring colour after a more winter-bound Sweden, and we continued our conversations over lunch. The next day he started on the work and despite a lack of knowledge was incredibly helpful in the garden especially with things I have rather had to give up on - moving rocks, gravel, reinstating collapsed rose structures, etc. 

Over the week he fitted in more and more with all of us, until it seemed as he was really living with us, and could continue to do so pretty much indefinitely. This is the best side of Workaway, finding someone who shares many interests, wishes to exchange things about their life and culture, and is genuinely enthusiastic about helping out and leaving their own positive mark on their hosts' lives.

I'm sure we will see Gustav again. And I wouldn't mind a trip to Stockholm one day to discover the city with a knowledgable guide.