It’s been ages since I’ve done a Twit of the Day post – not because there aren’t any twits about; mainly because very little shocks me at the moment in terms of the amount of stupidity in the world.
But I couldn’t let this story pass without comment. The CEO of the manufacturers of Doritos – PepsiCo – has publicly announced that they’re looking into creating “less crunchy” crisps for women, that “fit more easily into a handbag”. Apparently women don’t like to crunch too loudly in public, or get their fingers covered in flavouring and have to lick it off, or tip the almost empty bag up to filter all the last bits of tastiness out of the corners (the best bit, IMO).
I have two questions here.
1) Who are the idiot women who responded to this survey? (presuming this is based on actual research and not some hair brained idea from someone within the company)
2) How patronising are the Doritos people?
I know there are certain unspoken rules around food consumption, like don’t order spaghetti bolognese on a first date (although I say stuff that, if you want it have it – food before dudes every time! Then again it’s easy for me, as a smug married, to surmise how I would behave, when in fact the world of modern dating and it’s throw away culture scares the bejesus out of me).
But really, crisps for women?
At a time when female equality is probably receiving the most media exposure of recent years?
At a time when the UK has just marked 100 years of women being allowed to vote?
What’s worse, PepsiCo’s CEO is a woman…
I do hope they’ll be in a pink packet.
Indra Nooyi, you’re my Twit of the Day!
What are your thoughts? Are you a loud and proud eater? Or would you welcome more discreet snack options? Let me know!
Perhaps its because prostate cancer is seen as an old man’s illness, and not something for younger guys to worry about?
Indeed, the latest figures have been explained as resulting from an aging population where men are living longer than previous generations, and so the chances of them developing and dying from prostate cancer are higher than before. Previously, deaths resulting from prostate cancer have been more difficult to quantify, because an older man with prostate cancer may die of other causes (e.g heart attack, old age) before prostate cancer can be attributed as the cause of death.
Well, let me tell you, prostate cancer is not just an old man’s disease. And it doesn’t always have symptoms. My Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer aged 57, during a routine examination for another ailment, with no prior symptoms at all. By the time he was diagnosed it was already stage 4 and inoperable – all the NHS could do was offer life lengthening treatment. He died aged 59.
Today would have been his 7th wedding anniversary to his beautiful wife. They should have had many more anniversaries together, not just the 5 they had. They should have had many more years together; years of travelling, and eating, and enjoying life.
It’s time to stop only raising awareness of the “most popular” cancers, and time to stop an awareness bias mainly to women’s cancers. I’m not talking about funding and I’m not suggesting that women’s cancers don’t need to be highlighted. What I’m saying is that men, and the women in their lives, need to start being more open, talking about prostate cancer and proactively getting checked. Men over 50 are at risk, but aren’t offered a routine test by their doctor. It’s time to take control, ask for the test, and deal with the consequences.
Advanced prostate cancer can be treated with hormones to lower the development of testosterone which contributes to the cancer’s growth. Let me put that another way – its chemical castration. No man wants to hear those words.
Meet Alexandra and Florence – the housemates with a 68 year age difference.
95 year old Florence admits to being lonely after her husband passed away and so, when she saw a homesharing initiative in a local newspaper, aiming to tackle loneliness by matching older people looking for companionship with a younger person in need of somewhere to live, she decided to investigate.
What’s in it for the housemates?
It’s a simple transaction based on needs, really. The older person gets to have some company, someone to talk to and some help around the house, while the younger person gets a reduced rate of rent,in return; often meaning they can afford to live in an area or home that would otherwise be out of reach to them; like Alexandra who is originally from Newcastle but needs to study in London.
Florence has had a number of different flatmates over the course of the pat 10 years, and she and Alexandra class themselves as friends.
Listen to them talk about how the arrangement works, in the video below.
If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I went to Rome for a few days before Christmas, to celebrate my 40th birthday.
You may also have noticed that we almost never made it out of Luton airport.
In case you don’t follow me on insta (you should, by the way, shameless plug of link to my account here) or if their silly algorithm means you don’t see my posts, here’s what happened.
Our flight from Luton was at 6.40am on the Monday morning, so we travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel near the airport. Early start (3am alarm, eek) was fairly uneventful and we checked in and went to buy some currency (because dimwit here had forgotten to collect the euros I’d pre-ordered from the Post Office, d’oh!) I bought some bits from Boots (2 more travel plugs to ad to our growing – but missing – collection) and had a tasty breakfast with a cocktail to start an exciting and momentous trip. All was well, so with 20 minutes until the departure gate opened we had a browse in WH Smith to buy some magazines for the flight.
When we came to pay, we of course needed one of our boarding passes, which of course wasn’t a problem because they were safely in an envelope in my handbag alongside the passports. Except they weren’t. No boarding cards, no envelope and no passports. Cue frantic retracing of steps to the restaurant and boots (to no avail), heart in mouth and panic sweats. The husband, it must be pointed out, was taking things remarkably well (for him) and stayed fairly level headed and non-angry, despite the fact that the look in his eyes said otherwise. We raced back to security in the hope that someone had handed them in (as I reasonably pointed out, if you found some travel documents in an airport you’d have to be a total shit to throw them away) and THANK GOD a smiling security lady located them under a desk and gave them back to a calm-on-the-outside-frantic-on-the-inside me! I hadn’t even left them in the security tray after scanning though, no, they hadn’t even got that far. When I was putting my liquids in a bag, before the security check, I’d left the envelope on a shelf. An envelope which, with being shoved in and out of my bag on the journey so far, could easily have been mistaken for some tatty old rubbish,
Total muppet – it was almost a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons…
Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to keep the passports for the rest of the trip, even though I’m usually Chief Security Officer; they remained securely in the husband’s inside pocket of his coat, and I was the butt of multiple jokes as a result!
I’m glad to report that the rest of the trip went by without incident. We arrived at Rome Fiumicino airport at around 10.30am, collected our luggage and headed out into the arrivals lounge where we were met by our pre-booked driver (I always try and do this, where possible, it saves lots of hassle and is usually cheaper than getting a cab at the airport, plus you get to feel a little bit like a famous person for a nanosecond!). The transfer to the city centre and our hotel took around 30 minutes, and the closer we got to the centre, the more evidence of Roman architecture started to appear; like random columns in the middle of modern buildings. That’s one of the things that surprised me about Rome, many of the tourist attractions are just in the middle of the working city, not on a dedicated site with a big wide open space around them. We stumbled on both the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain in this way; we turned a corner and there they were, in the middle of a piazza. It’s quite strange!
We arrived at our hotel – Antica Dimora dell Cinque Lune (I’ll review that in another post) – at around 11.30, which was too early to check in, but the receptionist was incredibly helpful and stored our luggage so we were free to set off and explore. We spent a few minutes getting our bearings, but knowing we were just steps from the River Tiber and the Palace of Justice meant we already knew where to head to if we were to get lost!
Spotting a number of hop on hop off bus tours on the main road alongside the river, we set off to find a bus stop, and by midday we were upstairs on a double decker, earphones firmly in place to listen to the commentary, and heading off on a 90 minute round trip of the city. We find that this kind of bus tour is a great way to see the highlights, get a feel for a city and an overview of what’s where, and then delve into the deeper sightseeing after that. On this occasion we used the Big Bus company, and paid 35 euros each for a 48 hour ticket, but other companies run within the city too (although your ticket is only valid for the bus company you buy it from).
As suspected, the bus tour was a great place to start. We went across the river, marvelling at the architecture of the city, winding through Via del Corso, the main shopping street, saw centuries old churches and buildings, detailed sculptures, statues and fountains, felt blown away by the magnificent sight of the colosseum at the bottom of a busy thoroughfare and imagined the site of the chariot racing on Circus Maximus.
Then we got off the bus where we’d started and stopped for lunch in a little bistro on the side of the road who did a lunch menu of bruschetta, choice of pizza or pasta and a glass of wine or beer for just 12 euros – not at all what we’d expected from reports of Rome being expensive. We sat outside on the terrace under a patio heater and it was just fabulous!
After checking into the hotel we headed out once more; this time over the river on foot and past Castel Sant’Angelo, with St Peters Basilica in our eye line. As our Vatican and St Peters visit was planned for the next day, we crossed across the River Tiber, meandered through tiny cobbled side streets, just soaking up how fabulous Rome is, declaring that we already loved the place and beaming with happiness.
Our hotel was just round the corner from Piazza Navona, which we’d read would have a Christmas market. It was all running remarkably late, setting up but not at all Christmassy, but the Fountain of Neptune and Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of the Santa Agnese in Agona church were beautiful to look at.
We found a beautiful bistro, covered in fairy lights with a rather gorgeous menu and decided we would head back there later that evening to eat, which we did – the most delicious medium rare steak wrapped in bacon with shaved truffles, accompanied by a bottle of chianti. Heading back to our hotel through Piazza Navona and past the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi it’s fair to say we were giddy with happiness and giddy with Rome.
Coming soon – day 2 at the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica.
Have you ever been to Rome? Let me know in the comments!
At the end of last year Nicola, from pink-confetti.co.uk, asked on Twitter for people who would be happy to take part in her monthly guest blog series, which would have a different theme each month.
I was lucky enough to be picked for the month of January, and the theme was 2017 highlights. Myself (and the other featured bloggers – Cat and Matt – I feel kind of bad that my name didn’t rhyme!) were asked to write about 3 blogging highlights and 3 personal highlights from last year.
I enjoy a good annual review (I didn’t do one this year, but you can read my 16 great things from 2016 here) and sometimes it’s easy to forget all the good stuff amongst the maelstrom of stress that comes with everyday life, so it was an enjoyable opportunity to look back on 365 days and take stock of the positives that 2017 brought to me.
I don’t know about you, but for me the January sales have lost a lot of the appeal they once held, because it seems like High Street stores always have some kind of offer, discount or sale and so you don’t feel like you have to hold out until after Christmas to pick up a bargain.
In fact even the term January sales is now a misnomer, because most sales start before Christmas, or at least on Boxing Day, which is still firmly December on my calendar.
Not that I’m complaining…!
In years gone by I’d have stocked up on dresses, jackets and funky shoes for my office wear wardrobe, but now I work at a company with a casual dress code there’s no need for that kind of attire in my wardrobe. So now I probably shop less buy fewer things than before.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m vocal in my support for changing the UK law to allow assisted dying. Through that support and the blog post I initially wrote around it, I’ve been in contact with Dignity in Dying, who fight tirelessly to help change the law, and last week they invited me to attend a meeting in the House of Commons where they would be presenting their latest research. I jumped at the opportunity because it’s something I feel so passionate about, and I was keen to see how their findings would be received by the meeting attendees, including research assistants and Members of Parliament.
I’ve been to the Houses of Parliament many years ago, on a school trip, although the security is (understandably) a lot tighter these days. It’s still a very impressive building, even second time around; it must be strange for somewhere so grand to be your place of work. There’s currently a lot of structural work happening as the building is showing signs of decline (not surprising, considering it’s age) but the amount of artwork, gold leaf and carved stone inside is very impressive.
The meeting was to be split into two halves – the first 30 minutes consisting presentations to the room from DiD and people who have experienced helping others with assisted dying, and the second half opened to the floor for questions and debate.
The presentations were, for me, so compelling that I don’t see a reason why anyone would vote against changing the law to allow the choice for assistive dying. My Dad’s wife was name checked as someone who had to help a loved one deal with the implications of not being legally allowed to go to Dignitas, which of course wouldn’t be necessary if assisted dying was legal in the UK. We heard from Carole Taylor OBE who, along with her husband Mick Murray, had accompanied two friends, on two separate occasions, to Switzerland to end their life on their own terms. Friends for a number of years, they’d talked in the past about how they would help each other if the time came. First was Anne, who was diagnosed with supranuclear palsy, and then, whilst he was still grieving the loss of his wife, her husband Bob following a terminal lung cancer diagnosis. That, to me, is proof that assisted dying isn’t scary or regretful. That Bob had accompanied his wife and seen everything that was involved and still wanted to seek such an end for himself is testament to the process and the compassion of all involved, and the strength of feeling he had around the alternative, which was to suffer immeasurably.
We also heard from Dr Simon Sandberg, who had accompanied a friend of many years to an alternative facility in Switzerland. He regaled us with tales of his friend’s vivacious nature, zest for life and commitment to his business; as well as as the positive way he faced his illness and his impending death. His situation got so bad that he tried and failed to take his own life by hanging before he got to Switzerland, and also to throw himself from a bedroom window. Thankfully he was able to make the final journey and end his life by choice, doing so with a great deal of humour and self respect.
Both of these real life case studies prove to me not only that it’s not a fearful process, as I stated earlier, but that knowing that assisted dying is an option helps terminally ill people to face their final months; knowing that if everything gets too much there is an option to take control and exit with dignity. As a friend, an old friend, with years of shared memories and experiences, or a family relation, it must be a difficult decision to make to help them end their life but also an incredibly easy one – you want to end their suffering and help them achieve a dying wish. The research conducted by Dignity in Dying reveals that of those people in the general public who support the case for assisted dying, very few are put off by the potential criminal investigation that might follow. The love and support they feel towards the person asking for help far outweighs any reticence around breaking the law.
The second half of the meeting was opened up to the floor for Q&A and debate. Of course, this was always going to be a mix of opinion, by very virtue of the subject matter. Interestingly Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, commented that he has always been against assisted dying but, having heard the panel speakers, was shifting his views – if not in favour of changing the law, then certainly to a point of being less against it and open to hearing more about personal experiences. This is the kind of response that Dignity in Dying were hoping for; to have an audience with people who may not have considered the personal effect on family and friends and explain not just the physical side, but the emotional and mental side for all involved.
Unfortunately from there, MP for Worthing West Peter Bottomley muddied the water somewhat by quoting ludicrous figures about euthanasia in the Netherlands – neither relevant or conducive to the conversation; although, when this was pointed out to him, he refused to back down and kept repeating the statistics (after telling the room how he visits dying people in his constituency every 2-3 weeks as though that makes him qualify for talking rot and wasting valuable debate time). It’s fare to say that he riled a lot of people with his mis-information and pigheadedness although he was firmly corrected by Professor Bronwyn Parry who independently conducted the research for DiD.
As the meeting came to an all too soon close, Lib Democrat leader Vince Cable asked to make a point. He’d missed the presentations due to other commitments, so wasn’t fully informed, which I think applies to many politicians who don’t agree with a change in the law. He expressed concern using his own Mother as an example, that the process was flawed and could be taken advantage of. He said his own Mother has a history of mental illness and is suffering from dementia, and some days she says she doesn’t want to live anymore, whereas others she’s quite content. Thanks goodness Baroness Molly Meacher, member of the House of Lords and chairwoman of Dignity in Dying, was able to make the closing statement. Speaking to Mr Cable, she quite clearly told him “your Mother wouldn’t even be eligible to be considered for assisted dying. Every person would undergo a psychiatric evaluation to ensure they’re mentally capable of making the decision to end their own life on their own terms. People with mental illness or dementia arent mentally capable of making their own decision.”
Well said Molly! This is the absolute key to the change in the law we’re campaigning for. Assisted dying would only be available to people with less than 6 months to live who are mentally competent. In truth, of the people it would be available to, only a small proportion would go ahead with the process. But knowing that they could choose that option if the pain and suffering became too much, without having to make travel arrangements and spend thousands of pounds and legally implicate family and friends would be of great mental comfort to them.
On a more positive note, it was great news that Noel Conway won his right to appeal an earlier decision rejecting his case for the right to die. It’s appalling that Noel had to go to court to even seek permission to appeal, but the law’s an ass and rules are rules. Dignity in Dying will continue to support Noel in his personal endeavour, which would of course have further reaching implications for other terminally ill people in the future.
How brave and inspiring of Noel to be fighting such a fight at a time when his own life expectancy is limited. And how unfeeling of the legal system to put him through what should be a personal right.
I like to always have at least one trip planned or booked in advance, which is why it’s very rare for me to enter a New Year without knowing what some of our travel plans will be for the coming 12 months. 2018 is no exception!
These are the trips we have booked so far:
March – North Wales
The official reason for the trip is that we’re going to the 2 day Hard Rock Hell festival in Pwllhelli (staying in a caravan, yay!) but it makes sense to have a little nosy round while we’re up there. Despite having been to the event a couple of times before we’ve never visited Criccieth castle which is just a few miles away, so that’s one for this year, and of course some bracing sea air in a walk along the beach.
We’ll catch up with friends, watch bands and ask ourselves why it’s been such a long time since our last caravan break – we love them!
May – Palma, Majorca
Taking advantage of the early May Bank Holiday, we’re going to Palma for 3 nights and my Mother in Law is coming with us. We’ve been on short trips with her before and she’s a great travel companion – she wants to see everything but isn’t a control freak (that will be me, then) so she goes with the flow and doesn’t question my itinerary (I’m making it sound like a bootcamp!) I haven’t been to Majorca since I was a little girl, and that was a beach holiday with my Mom and Dad, so I’m looking forward to exploring the capital city, wandering through the gothic quarter, oohing at the cathedral and eating tapas.
We’ll also get out of the city for a day and take a train to Port de Soller and possible Valldemossa. Temperatures should be nice without being too hot, and I’ve booked us into a 16th century traditional hotel with a rooftop view over the Cathedral. Happy days!
September – Athens and Santorini, Greece
When the husband and I got together almost 13 years ago, we used to talk about Santorini and how beautiful it looked and how much we’d like to go there. Yet somehow, in all this time, we’ve never got round to it, even though it’s on my list of top 5 places I’d like to visit . So, for our 10th wedding anniversary this coming September, we’re spending a week on the island, with a few days in Athens first (Athens was on my 2nd list of places I’d like to visit!)
We’ll fly from Birmingham to Athens, enjoy visiting historical sights, wandering the streets of Plaka (the district where we’re staying) and of course fantastic Greek food, before a 45 minute flight to Santorini where we’re staying in Oia (many of the photographs you see of Santorini on websites and in travel brochures are taken in Oia; it’s a beautifully picturesque town built into the side of the volcanic crater with stunning white and blue domed buildings).
There’s lots to see on the island so we’ll need to get the balance right between doing and chilling but, being in Oia, we’ll get the very best sunsets every night!. Definitely having some lazing by the pool days, but also keen to get down into the caldera, maybe take a boat trip to appreciate the scale of the volcanic crater, and visit some of the smaller traditional villages.
The trouble with loving travel is prioritising where to go next, as there’s always somewhere else on your list (hence why it’s taken us so long to get to Santorini!) I’d like to squeeze in another overseas break but the husband doesn’t like to tie up all his annual leave, and he keeps talking about spending time at home now that we have a lovely private garden to enjoy.
In truth, with 2018’s main trips already wrapped up (unless I get my way!), I’m already thinking ahead to 2019…
What trips do you have planned so far? Or where would you like to go? I’d love to hear from you!
With all the bullshit political stuff going on in the US right now (and by that, I obviously mean Trump) it’s good to know that the American voting public don’t always get it wrong.
Towards the end of last year, openly homophobic US State Official Robert Marshall was ousted from his position after 13 terms. Marshall had proudly called himself Virginia’s chief homophobe, and tried to introduce a bathroom bill which discriminated against transgender people by making them use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, not that which they associate with now (you can read my thoughts on the logistics of that here).
Thanks then to that bitch karma; not only for ending his reign, but for replacing him with an openly transgender candidate. Yup, Marshall was beaten by Danica Roem, who was born male but transitioned to female. She has made history by becoming the first openly transgender elected and seated in a US state legislature.
Yesterday I had a smear test. I haven’t had one in ages, but that wasn’t always the case. For a time, in my 20s, I had to have one every year, because I developed pre-cancerous cells.
I don’t remember how the discovery came about (not because I’ve blocked it out or anything, just because it was a long time ago), but I think it was just from a routine smear test (I’ve always been strict with myself about getting them done) where the results came back showing some abnormal cells. I do remember being referred to the hospital for a biopsy and not being overly excited at the thought of having a piece of my cervix taken away for further investigation. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t pleasant. The sight of the needle alone was enough to make my legs go wibbly, it seemed huge! (but when you think about how far inside they have to go, it makes sense) and seeing my post biopsy bleeding cervix on a TV screen wasn’t the best, but the nurses were incredibly kind, and my Mom held my hand throughout (actually, I held hers, very very tightly – yes I was in my 20s and yes I still wanted my Mom). And then I had to wait for the results.
Well, the first paragraph gave the game away as to what the results were; I had pre-cancerous cells. I asked the doctor what would happen if they weren’t treated; how long would it take to develop into cancer. I was told it could be 10-20 years but it would happen. Not that there was any doubt in my head to go ahead with the treatment to remove them. I was just curious.
The treatment (a colposcopy) involved me on a hospital bed with my feet in stirrups while the offending cells were cauterised (basically burnt away). Again it wasn’t overly pleasant, but I was so glad to be in that situation, with a potential problem having been identified early on, than the unthinkable alternative. I had a couple of days off work, couldn’t use tampons for a few weeks and that was pretty much that.
What’s the message here? Smear tests are very worth it. Even if an anomaly is identified, it’s better to catch it at an early stage than have to undergo invasive and life changing treatment further down the line. As I said, I was then called in for a yearly smear test, to make sure none of the cells had been missed during the procedure.
From what I can gather, the main reason people avoid going for a smear test is either embarrassment, or fear of discomfort. There’s nothing at all to be embarrassed about; these nurses and doctors look at hundreds of female genitalia every single year and they’re looking for physical and medical changes; not judging your pubic hair or anything else. As for the discomfort issue, well yes, it can be uncomfortable, but the worst thing you can do is tense up because that will only worsen the problem. No-one really enjoys having a cold speculum inserted by a stranger, but the procedure exists for your own well being, so that’s that.
My top tips:
Wear a skirt – you can just hitch it up around your waist and back down again once the procedure is done. It’s just easier then getting in and out of jeans or trousers and you feel a bit less exposed
Get an early morning appointment so you’ll feel clean and fresh after your morning shower. Not possible? Take some wetwipes with you for a quick freshen up before your appointment. Not that there’s anything to be ashamed of, but you’ll probably feel a bit more confident and at ease if you feel fresh (like when you brush your teeth before going to the dentist)
Relax. I know that’s easier said than done when a person you don’t know very well is coming at you with an unfamiliar object to shove inside, but it will definitely be less uncomfortable if you can try not to tense up. Follow the nurse’s instruction on positioning, take some deep breaths, and remember that any discomfort is only temporary. If something really hurts, speak out. Medical professionals want you to feel as comfortable as possible.
Don’t worry. The chances are that your results will come back completely clear. If you get called back for another test, it may just be because the first sample didn’t contain enough cells or there was a problem at the laboratory. If your results do come back showing issues, deal with it then rather than worrying in advance. Treatment is readily available, very successful and will be offered to you as a priority.
I’ll leave you with a funny story I read in JustSeventeen magazine (anyone remember that?) many many moons ago, about a girl who went for a smear test the day after eating indian curry. The doctor asked if she’d mind if a student doctor came in to observe the procedure, to which she agreed. The doctor stepped out of the room while she was still naked from the waist down, legs akimbo so she let out a cheeky bit of wind which – post curry – was rather stinky and filled the air, and the doctor came back with the student who was a ridiculously handsome young male doctor. You can imagine how mortified she felt!! Always makes me giggle when I go for a smear test!