Monthly Archives: May 2013

Being lax

If the truth be told, when I’m lax in the blog world, I’m busy in the real world. Sometimes I manage both, but not often. Plus, sometimes, my life is dreadfully dull. I don’t want to tell you about the two and a half hours I sat in Honda today waiting for a new remote key fob only for them to decide it’s not the emitter, it’s the receiver that’s the problem. Cue another six-week wait and a two-and-a-half hour sojourn in a car showroom looking at new baby cars and wondering how on earth I could ever afford them.

Likewise, I can’t really say very much about my teaching today either. It’s a long teacherly day on Wednesdays. I go from early readers through to GCSE and whilst I love my job, it’s not exactly blogworthy.

Okay. It kind of is.

But it has another blog all of its own.

So between picking ticks off dogs (pleasant), cleaning up dog sick (even more pleasant) and dodging the storm showers and hail (seriously) it’s been a mundane week.

Plus, I feel kind of nadgy and I realise that Facebook is playing a game with me. It’s started to ignore posts from some people and post update after update from a couple of groups I’m part of – one of which is the auto-entrepreneur site – and it just makes me cross. I’m cross at French people for being more bothered about gay marriage, which should be a total non-issue, especially since it’s now enshrined in law, and about the only good thing Hollande has done, than they are about some dim bint called Sylvia Pinel who seems to have learned how to be a politician from who knows where.

I tried to think of a weak politician to compare her to, but I can’t find one weak enough. Give Sarkozy and Chavez and Castro and Thatcher their dues… at least you know what they stood for, whether you liked it or not. She’s been a politician since she was thirty and at thirty five, you can imagine how much she knows about business. To be in charge of something so important requires a whole lot more strength than she has. She just bends to the loudest, fattest, rudest shouter.

I know I’m properly French now, since I can gripe about French politricks. Still, it seems Hollande is intent on closing as many businesses as he can. He’s certainly not making it easy. He needs a pointy reckoning.

I saw this picture today (pôle emploi is the job centre and chomeurs are unemployed people)

580325_198712363616476_643142514_nSo you can see how a lot of people in France feel about Pinel’s revelation that the auto-entrepreneur scheme will be limited. I should have three years of taxes to show by then, so it’s less of a concern to me to prove how much, or how little, I earn, should I have to change regime, but it’s an irritation. Even in post-Special-Period Cuba, it was easier to open a little business. Can it be true that having a market stall in Castro’s Cuba is easier and more fiscally transparent than it is in France? No wonder mon pays adoptif had a right old ticking-off from the EU. I don’t want a bigger business. I don’t want to employ people. I don’t want premises. I accept that this means I work odd hours and sometimes all hours, but that’s a choice I make.

Anyway, a pointy reckoning is sought for Pinel as well.

It’s been raining like billy-O. Today, there were such heavy storms that rain came into the shop I was in at the time. The woman shrugged as I got dripped on. Yesterday, it hailed. Not big hail, but this is almost June. A pointy reckoning for the weather gods as well. This is kind of a good thing because my little camera has given up the ghost and I find it really hard to blog without pictures. I’ll get round to buying a new one when I have half a minute. I could get a cheap digital from the supermarket, but I want to check out the second-hand market and get a digital SLR. I haven’t used my film SLR for a couple of years and I miss having it so much. The things we could do!

The only thing to do is go to bed early and read. Warm bed, snoring dogs, bed socks and pyjamas are about the only answer to the cloud hovering over France at the moment.

 

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Winter is Coming

I wholeheartedly apologise for being such a bad blogger last week. I was feeling empty of words and had a lot of work on. This week doesn’t look much better, but since I love my work, it’s not a bad thing.

But there is another reason for my absence, I’m afraid. It involves a series of books and a programme I have accidently got myself involved with.

Here’s a parody video to get you in the mood. I can’t apologise for the number of times the singer says ‘tits’ because it’s just about as many times as it happens in the series.

I promise you, if you watch the series, you won’t hear the opening the same way again.

I’ve already read all the books that are out. I confess I have two thoughts. One is that the writing is sometimes pretty dreadful. It makes up for bad prose by good plot. And when I say ‘good plot’, I mean a Mervyn-Peake-meets-Charles-Dickens of a plot in that it is absolutely convoluted and epic. The second thought is that I am mortally terrified that George Martin might pop his clogs before he finishes the last one and I’ll never know who gets to rule over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

I feel a bit like Sheldon does about the cancellation of Alphas. He rings the writer and then he ends up disappointed by the ending.

I feel like I’d have to go rummaging through George Martin’s rubbish to see if he jotted any ideas down before he snuffed it. Let’s face it: he’s not a young man and he doesn’t look to be in good health.

The best thing about Game of Thrones started off being Sean Bean in all his Seany-Yorkshirey magnificence. He plays Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.

It’s like the role was made for him. It doesn’t hurt that Jon Snow, Seany’s fictional son, is quite handsome too.

Basically, the novels give you several great people who you hope will rule the Seven Kingdoms, and then puts all the terrible people in charge for them to get past. Charles Dance plays the very evil Tywin Lannister, and he is just great. Diana Rigg plays the very cunning queen mother of House Tyrell. It’s just littered with great actors.

My favourite by far, though, is Peter Dinklage, who plays ‘The Imp’, Tyrion Lannister. Scratch that. I think it might be Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. Maybe. Or Ayra Stark, Seany’s fictional daughter.

Heads roll; hands get chopped off. I’m pretty sure Alfie Allen gets castrated off-screen. There’s raping and pillaging and battles.

But I made the mistake of beginning to re-read the first book again, having found myself in bed early on account of the cold weather. Shame on me. It’s like getting involved with an old flame and then realising you’re addicted again. Now I know I can’t stop until I’ve gone through once more. And with some of the books stretching to over 1,000 pages, that’s a tall order, time-wise. Silly me. I don’t have the time for a love affair of this epic passion right now.

Besides going to bed early to get some quality time with a bit of sword and sorcery fiction, I have been trying to catch up on the consequences of two weeks of rain. Nobody tells my garden to stop growing. Much Love to the potatoes that are going to be epic this year. Not Much Love to the fact we had a frost – yes, goddamn it! – a frost! – last night. Luckily, it was very light and mostly on the hills around here. My tomatoes don’t seem to have suffered.

What else have I much love for? The long days, I guess. I can actually get out in the garden from seven and fit an hour or so of gardening in before I need to do anything else. Same in the evenings. Mostly, my appointments are finished by 8pm and I can do a bit of planting. I’m sure my neighbours think it very bizarre behaviour. Mind you, I’m definitely  not the only one who gardens around a work day out here.

Not much love for Sylvia Pinel, the woman in charge of artisans in France. She’s made some kind of cagey declaration that auto-entrepreneur will cease to exist as it does now. That means I’ll have to switch regimes and pay even mpre tax. Bah. I’m convinced she operates like a Moroccan souk owner, starting with an objective in mind, announcing something WAY out of proportion with what she wants and then once the public have had their grumble (after all, as AE, we have no union and no voice) she announces something less painful but still unpalatable. Like last year’s tax raise of ‘25%’ which turned out to be 3%. She still hasn’t got her head around the fact that taxing people who earn less than the national minimum wage isn’t going to fill the coffers. Neither is it going to help businesses. AE is the nursery of bigger businesses. If you take it away, you end up with a France that is like pre-Sarkozy France in a world that has faced a five-year recession. According to the Economist, France are going to have a finger wagged at them by the IMF for being unproductive. Damn right. Not that it will make a difference. Having experienced life in Castro’s Cuba, where he’d just given permission for solo enterprises to start up, to drag Cuba out of the Special Period, France seems like it’s way behind. Its attitude is like pre-Special Period Cuba. And that’s saying something.

Anyway, bah to politics. That’s no way to share a little Monday Love. I’m off down the garden to get some corn, beans and pumpkins in, and then I’m off on my rounds with the new edition of Living. Not a bad way to spend a Monday.

This world is such a crazy place

Today’s MLM is brought to you by way of Paloma Faith with Upside Down

Edit: it was going to be, but then it was Nana-bombed by Miss Mouskouri. I shall leave you with Only Love since Nana seems to have become the new Rick Astley in my life. I loved that I could explain Rick Astley to the American Helpxrs just by saying, “you know, the Rick-Rolled guy”. I wonder if Nana bombing will take off? 

I think anyone on this gloomy Monday morning might need a little helping hand getting the sunshine back into their life. I think we could all do with a little PF glamour. She’s like a less po-faced Dita meets a less-messy Amy Winehouse.

I am NOT much loving the weather. It’s done nothing but rain for DAYS and I cannot get outside to do the grass on account of my lawnmower doesn’t actually like to cut things. It is perfectly happy doing nothing at all and is fine on short, dry grass. Give it long, wet grass and it has a hissy fit. NOT much loving the lawnmower either.

The rain, I don’t mind. I just wish it wasn’t so Manchester-Persistant. We finally got a walk in yesterday evening, waiting all day for it to be dry enough. It’s like cuckoo city out there right now. It’s funny because they sound just so very cuckoo-clock and then they just don’t stop. It’s like they’ve lost the plot. I reckon there are four or five around here and they just cuckoo to each other all the day long. The wheat is now long enough for deer to hide in, and we walked right past one before it hopped off. All you could see were the ears.

My new helpxr arrived yesterday, so it looks as if we will spend most of the day painting the ceiling in the dining room. My dining room is the dreariest, darkest, gloomiest space. I have no idea why. It has big windows and a glass-paned door. I think if I paint the ceiling white instead of the current shit-brown, it might brighten it up a little. Once I’ve done that, I can get on with wallpapering. Might as well do something on the house – spending more time in it than I’d like.

There’s a great big fireplace in there – one that seems to have no actual chimney, which is slightly weird. I’m sure it does – I just can’t tell where it goes. The previous lady painted it shiny gloss shit-brown to match the matte-shit-brown ceiling and the matte-shit-brown floors. There’s wood and then there’s too much wood. Heaven only knows – we might even finish the ceiling in the living room as well. Wouldn’t that be something? Just need to locate the ladders!

So what am I much loving this morning?

I’m loving having helpx obviously. It’s so useful to have a second pair of hands.

I’m loving Game of Thrones, although unnecessary castrations are a little out of the usual and have made me feel a little ick.

I’m loving the green, if not the mud.

I’m loving the ripening cherries.

I’m loving my lovely friends who provide me with endless support and fun.

I’m loving my baby French car, off to get her French plates this week once all the bank holidays are over and done with. Another one today that I’d totally forgotten about.

I’m loving the random searches that bring people to my blog, like ‘hooded cagoule erection’. I even had to google it myself and yes, there I was on page three (fnarr fnarr) with a post about burqas and erecting a flag in my garden. I’m sure the person who searched for hooded cagoule erection was very disappointed to stumble upon my blog, and now I’m going to have more people who end up here, having searched those very terms. Poor them. But, seriously, how many people can there be who search for those terms? Given the number of web hits, there is quite a selection of reading material.

I’m not loving Tilly snaffling all the almost-ripe strawberries. That dog would be a very good vegetarian, given the amount of bird seed and fruit she eats. She has the most healthy diet ever.

Anyway, have a good Monday. Hopefully yours will be brighter than mine.

Viva La Diva

Last night was Madame V’s annual Eurovision party. I inadvertently upped the stakes last year by representing Azerbaijan in a red sari scarf and green Moroccan shoes, along with blue false eyelashes. Mostly, you’re required to dig something out of your wardrobe since the teams are only announced late on Thursday, so that tells you a little about my wardrobe. Books and clothes. That’s all I care about. Well, not that I buy loads of either, but I don’t throw them away. Thus, I have a lot to choose from.

Anyway, the goal posts had definitely been moved this year. I set out for Madame V’s as the representative of Belarus, dressed appropriately. Appropriately meant like a drunk Minsk cross-dressing peasant in a fur-lined hat who’d accidentally fallen into a vat of sari fabric. Of course.

How else would you have represented the country??

I was wearing red and green as per the country flag. Unfortunately, this was not that far removed from last year’s colours, so I decided to go with the green wellies rather than the Moroccan slippers. Coupled with a red dress, a green top, a green scarf, a red scarf, a plate of quiche, a fur-lined hat and a fur-lined cardigan, I was every inch the epitome of Eurovision style.

However, I was outdone by virtually everyone there, from Mme V’s pencil moustache (she was France) to Rachel’s German-cross-dressing-transsexual-meets-1980s-French-housewife and Sarah’s huge fake green eyelashes. Caroline was particularly resplendent in bright-green tights and legwarmers (totally putting my electric blue tights from last year into the shade) complete with green wig and braces. It was an homage to all things dreadful. Never have curtain tie-backs, French housecoats and green pompoms found better use. I think I’m going to start collecting things for next year right this moment.

This year, we had scoring cards, judging the talent on their merits. For me, it was Romania, Greece and Ireland, but none of these three even placed. The winner was Denmark. She didn’t even have a giant carry her on stage. She didn’t have a dancing shadow man in a box and she certainly did not have a dress that was made up of flames. I was most disappointed.

If you haven’t seen Cezar (great Eurovision name) with ‘It’s my life’, it’s like Rhyddian meets Rylan. Nobody else did a falsetto disco anthem dressed as a camp Sauron surrouded by men in barely-there shorts.

If you haven’t seen Greeks in kilts doing full-on Greek dancing WHILST playing the trumpet, you haven’t lived. They’re a kind-of crazy Gogol Bordello meets System of a Down. They’re that crazy.

Finally, Ireland. They came in last and I cannot understand why. To be fair, I don’t think the judges rank contestants on their hot leather-wearing tattooed dancers. Bonnie was a disappointment, of course. England need to up their game. If we can’t beat a Maltese doctor in a waistcoat singing about investment risks then we’re doing something wrong. The Maltese doctor was very charming, that is certain, but it comes to something when out of our island we can’t even find some new talent. Malta only has half a million people living there, so England needs to take a lesson and reconsider its position.

Anyway, as a thank you to Madame V, I gave her a gift of one of the two amazing things I picked up at a giant vide grenier a couple of weeks ago. A Demis Roussos album.

And, for Natasha, representing Azerbaijan in a combination of belly dancing outfits donated by Sarah and Rachel, I gave her a gift of Nana.

Between Demis and Nana, does anybody sum up the kind of wonderful joys European music can bring?

Here’s Demis in all his glory with Quand je t’aime

And here is Nana singing Only Love.

Nana is pretty much the reason I didn’t wear my glasses in 1985, since, having dark hair and a bob cut, one bitch had already called me Fergal Sharkey and I feared for my reputation if it got out that I looked not dissimilar to Nana. Yes, even I bowed to peer pressure and bitchy comments as a youth. Unfortunately, nobody could show me a mirror into the future where nasty girls would be revealed for all their hollowness and superficiality. Rocking a bob in 1985 was not easy when you were surrounded with rich girls with big hair and perms. Now I wish I’d carved out a signature look like she did with her glasses and long straight hair. I’m kind of annoyed I didn’t spend more time thinking about a look that could last a lifetime.

Gardener crushes

You know you’re of an age when you fancy a gardener. As long as it isn’t Alan Titchmarsh, you’re okay. I have nursed a crush on Dan Pearson ever since I first read his columns and watched his BBC2 series. You also know you’re of an age when you watch BBC2. Or when you switch to BBC Radio 2.

I don’t mind. I quite like being of an age.

Anyway, there’s an article about Dan in this week’s Guardian. He has his own column, so it’s nothing new, but it’s nice to read about him for a change.

The article says he’s like a character from a DH Lawrence novel, which made me laugh because he’s definitely not a Mellors. There can only be one Mellors for me, and that is Mr Sean Bean. No question. He reminds me about why we ladies might like a gardener. Technically, I think he was a gamekeeper, but who’s splitting hairs?

Anyway, it’s not just a crush on lovely men in corduroy (yes, I’m definitely of an age now…) with floppy hair and waistcoats… I think it’s more of a crush on the kind of man that becomes a gardener, since you’ve got to be both delicate AND manly, and love a bit of green stuff as well. There’s something very attractive about a man who can appreciate a flower. I can see what the writer means when she says Dan Pearson is a bit DH Lawrency – though I’m thinking more Gabriel Oak.

It’s not just a love of the unkempt, floppy hair and crinkly eyes, but I like where Dan Pearson comes from, gardening-wise. Yeah, yeah. I know. I sound about 97. He is a man who loves Japan and who hates formality. Plus, he thinks he suffers a little with the seasons, and I know what that’s about. Winter is restful, but it makes me miserable when it drags on too long. Luckily, we usually get a fair share of sunny days here in winter, even if it is cold. He gets what gardening is really about, too – that it’s meditative and thoughtful. Gardening is a total state of mind.

I think that’s what I love most about this place. In England, I had a nice garden that I made from nothing. It was a small, modern, new garden but it was still getting to be something.

207038_4635938140_2896_n

Here, everything needs so much more space and grows so quickly. It’s been wet all week and the grass is knee-high again. One week without mowing and it’s like I never even bothered. That’s kind of good though because these warm, wet conditions means that everything grows really fast. I get to see everything that might take ages to grow in other conditions. I’m tired of waiting for a proper burst of warmth though. We’ve had two days that have broken the 20° barrier and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change much. Bloody gulf stream!

Inspiring women

One thing I miss most about working for people is working with people. Yesterday’s training session was just a reminder of how much I miss that. It’s sometimes kind of strange to have been in just so many female-orientated places in my life, from school to English departments (often with their token male teacher) and it does seem, especially here, that women are winning the networking wars, should there be a battle of the sexes. With LIFT, with social media, with Dames de FER, it certainly seems that women have got bags of initiative.

I particularly liked one lady’s bemused expression as she reenacted her day at the bandsaw (maybe that is what it was… or a table saw… I’m not well up on my saws to be honest, though I can tell a band saw from a jigsaw) as she was saying ‘I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing this…’ cue bandsaw movements. I think that is true for many ladies who were there yesterday. They just never thought that they would be running a business in rural France. Some of them had not the faintest inkling that they would move into such unusual fields as they have.

We had a very good discussion about why people ‘like’ stuff on Facebook, especially when it comes to businesses. It would seem that we do it for four major reasons.

One is that we intend to use the business in the future and we’re liking them to add to our little black Facebook books. It’s like we’re making a personal directory. We find things we like and we ‘like’ it as a way of keeping a tag on it. It’s like circling it with a highlighter for future reference. Thus, I might like a fosse septique business because I just might want to use them in the future. I don’t want to bookmark their website and a like is a nice way to keep them somewhere I can access later. It’s like a unique Yellow Pages. I wonder if Yellow Pages could get in on the act and allow you to bookmark things? Maybe they already do and I’ve not been paying attention. However, Yellow Pages entries are dullsville. At least Facebook is pretty.

Another reason we like things is post-purchase. We like it because we’re showing our appreciation and thanks for a job well done. I just liked the Café Portebleue and that was as much about the fabulous food we were served as it was anything else. I’m just saying thank you.

Then we also seemed to ‘like’ stuff because we’d been invited to by the person who runs the page, and we didn’t really want to say no. We might not buy anything from them, but every time we interact with them, our friends see. In a world where 6,000 English people live (Charente), that’s not a bad thing. If my friends interact with my page, their friends can see that they have, and they might like my business too. Hiking our likes with strangers might not be effective, but if I can reach friends-of-local-likers, I might find some custom. Heaven only knows, my friends have got me most of my business out here. Between three women, I bet I have at least half my local business through them. Word of mouth is more powerful out here – not less. Sure, that means I need to wear my smiley-happy business face every time I show my face online or in public, but I’m used to that. Being a teacher is like being a mini-celebrity and you run the risk of causing gossip in exactly the same way in rural France.

Finally, we ‘like’ stuff because it in some way reflects who we are, like having a badge or a bumper sticker. We like their values. Ethos is a funny thing in the world of purchasing, and it’s why Pepsi Cola kick themselves every time their sales figures come out in comparison with Coca Cola. Sure, Pepsi wins in taste tests. Logically, we should be a world of Pepsi drinkers. But we are not. Despite Coca Cola’s inferior product, they’ve got us by the proverbials. Something about Coca Cola’s ethos makes me a Diet Coke girl and not a Pepsi Max girl. Ethos is an amazingly powerful tool – it’s why people smoke expensive cigarettes. Bingo fags (the cheap, super king size menthols) might be the logical purchase if I fancy a bit of tar in my lungs and a bit of poison in my bloodstream, but Marlboro are always the brand kings. Ethos.

That’s what Facebook is about. Business pages are about signing up to someone’s ethos and values. It’s about identifying with them. It’s about saying “I’m a JD girl and proud of it”. Long before business pages, they were ‘fan’ pages. That’s kind of what a business page still is, in a way. A fan page. We are constantly looking for ways to define ourselves to the outside world, and that mentality of t-shirt-wearing, badge-sporting, bumper-sticker-showing behaviour allows us to define ourselves. According to my own likes, I seem to have a preference for animal charities, dogs, sad dogs, funny things, environmental stuff, homesteading stuff, local businesses I have been to and would recommend, and then my friends’ businesses. I would say that’s about right.

Anyway, that neatly summarises why people like stuff on Facebook according to 20 women in a café in France. Given the demographics of Facebook, it was pretty much us!

Some facebook for business observations

I’m running a session today in Verteuil about using Facebook for small businesses. I’ve got a good few things planned with a washing line and post-it notes, and speed-dates for business owners. I miss running training sessions. Training adults is just as fun as teaching children.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few observations about the wherefores and hows of using Facebook in a micro-business.

What do people ‘like’?

People are herd creatures. They like what their friends like. They like what their colleagues like. They share. They like things that are funny. They share things that are either amusing or useful to someone. I might share something a friend will find funny on their wall, or I might share something they might like. They sometimes share things that are controversial. I share to the general public when it’s something I know a lot of my friends will be interested in. I share special offers or money-saving offers if I think someone will be interested in it, but I don’t do that very often. People like questions. They like personal things that cross over from professional. People like interaction. They like to be able to talk to the chief of the one-man band.

What do likes mean?

They’re in indication of popularity, of course, but they do not necessarily mean customers. In fact, you’re more likely to get custom in other places and then a like afterwards. The fact is that your business page will only really be seen by people who like your page already. It doesn’t go to everyone. So you need to keep your existing likers happy. And that means entertainment, not just information. It also does not mean endless advertising of your own wares. They’ll just unlike you. If I visit a new business page, it’s nice to see interaction, humour and a friendly professionalism. It is not nice to see ‘hike those likes’ because then that makes you look desperate. I want to know that a company is genuinely liked. I want to see that they are genuinely interested in their subject and they are genuinely interested in their clientele. If they are not, well, I’ll find things elsewhere. Likes from genuine likers, not just your mum or ‘hike those likes’, means that you are probably a good business. Sure, you can move up the Google Rankings if you have a very general term like ‘gites in France’ but most of the general terms are long gone.

What else do I want to see?

Pictures. Photographs. Photographs. Pictures. Relevant news stories, snippets of information, new stuff. Helpful things. Blog bylines so I can pick out which of the blogs I want to read. Contact information (not in the header!) Important things. Links to other things so I can get lost in the internet for a little while and put off doing the things I was doing before. Events if they’re near me. Links to your website and blog if you have them.

What don’t I want to see?

Unprofessional stuff; from badly-taken photographs to inappropriate content. Desperation. Endless in-your-face offers. Endless examples of your own content. If you post more than two things in a row, it will hog my newsfeed and I won’t be able to see any of my friends’ stuff. I don’t want to see too much. A barely-alive page is much less irritating than an excessive poster. Arrogance. A total onslaught of stuff with no real interest in whether or not people are actually interested. Very personal stuff, like your child’s birthday. Bad spelling. Bad grammar. When there are ‘likes’ on the page that are purely for ‘like me back’ reasons. 21% of people ‘unlike’ a product because it is too promotional.

So how do you get ‘likers’?

Link up to Twitter, your website, your blog, your linkedin. In short, anything you have in the real world or the virtual world. If people find you elsewhere, they might visit and like you here. Treat it as a sidewalk amuse-bouche. You want to put out lots of tasty tidbits that hint at the rest of your content and business, things that whet the appetite. Be funny and be original. Share things that you have wanted to share. Comment on other professional pages in a genuine and interested manner, using your business page profile. If you want people to interact with you, you have to interact x 50 with others. Don’t sweat it. A facebook page is just another tool in your self-promotion belt. It does pictures, which Twitter doesn’t. It’s slower than Twitter, and has less content, but it is more engaging content. It is less rewarding than a blog in terms of a reading experience and it is less permanent, so keep it fresh but not too often. It should be a diverting resource, with a good balance of useful and interesting.

Look at other popular local facebook pages. Make a list of the things you like about their content and do likewise.

Then look at other popular pages offering the same service you do. What content do they post?

Ultimately, though, it is not a popularity contest. Okay. It kind of is. But it is based very much on genuine reviews, genuine interaction and genuine word-of-mouth. Likes spread between friends.

Disclaimer

Facebook could die. The internet is a fickle, fickle world. One minute we’re all over Myspace and Bebo, the next we’re Skyrocking and Instagramming. Likes do not mean sales. I love Grammarly’s page. It’s fun and I totally agree with all of their values. I share a lot of Grammarly stuff. But I’m never going to use them. Not ever. UNICEF have issued the bold statement that Facebook likes won’t save children’s lives. The same is true for your core business. Likes do not mean sales and Facebook has to be part of other things as well. Well-rounded is best. Having your fingers in plenty of well-linked pies is certainly a good way to spread your presence.

If you start me up…

Today’s MLM is brought to you with the Rolling Stones and Start Me Up. 

I ummed and ahhhed about putting on the original 1981 video but I decided I was going to because if Mick Jagger in what looks like Hanoi Jane Fonda’s workout gear doesn’t make you smile this Monday, nothing will.

I don’t know what makes me laugh more – Mick’s bizarre dancing, his pants, his skin-tight leotard thing, Keith Richards’ unkempt hair, Charlie Watts’ wry smile or the fact that Mick Jagger reminds me of a guy I know called Mossy. I like it where Charlie Watts is dying laughing and just can’t keep a straight face. Gotta love Keef and Mick. Let’s face it, Mick Jagger only just manages to keep it this side of cringingly-embarrassing-Paul-McCartneyesque. The only thing that saves him is just how good this song is. Bowie almost ended up on the Paul McCartney heap around about the same time, but has managed to retrieve himself. Funnily enough, I found a copy of the Absolute Beginners LP in a 12″ bin at a vide grenier a couple of weeks ago. That says it all. He was in there with Haircut 100 and Demis Roussos. It’s something when you are stuck in the 80s between a little-known boyband and a fat Greek. Lucky for Dave, he managed to redeem himself and is now legendary cool. He manages to look like he hasn’t had too much cosmetic surgery or hair dye. I cannot bear to speak of Paul McCartney.

So what do I love this MLM?

Well, I’m not loving the rain. No sirree. That can just get to feck. I didn’t move here to be cold in May. Can you believe I’m still turning the electric blanket on of an evening? Bah.

To be fair, it’s intemperate, as Shakespeare would have said. Sometimes it’s cracking the flags and then the next day, it’s barely scraping double figures.

The grass is long and out of control once more. The rain is very good for my plants, and it is warmer than it was last May, believe it or not. Plus, there is the promise of fruit. That’s a good thing.

I’m loving having ladies to talk to who are actually interested in management theory and in reflective triads and shadow sides and all sorts of stuff I’d started to get interested in back in 2007ish. It’s nice to be able to chat and chat about interesting, grown-up stuff.

But I love that I have silly friends too. And I don’t mean stupid or airheaded. I mean funny and daft. If you can’t have a laugh, this life is not worth living. That’s for sure. If you can’t see the funny side, then it’s probably not worth seeing the serious side. It will just depress you.

I love the stinkers, including the one who was so overcome with the chase urge that he disappeared for a full half hour or so and nearly gave me laryngitis calling for him. He’s lying on his back, his legs stretched full out, and, if you can believe it, he is smiling. I have a freaky smiling dog. The other stinker, the most stinky of the stinkers, is lying on the couch looking like the sweetest little thing. If you had no sense of smell, you would have no idea of the stench emanating from her foul body. Having a nose, you may well wonder why she smells like rotten flesh. This is because she is a filth-hound. Being cute and blonde does not mean that she is all Marilyn. She’s a dirty, dirty stink hound. She’s supposed to look like this:

In fact, we saw a couple of American cockers like this at the vide grenier a couple of weeks ago. Shannon asked me what breed they were. I told her they were the same as Tilly and she nearly died laughing. I’m pretty sure Tilly would not want to look like this. It doesn’t go with her Shirley Maclaine rooting in a bin bag look. I figure if she wanted to look like ^^^^^ she’d stop bin dipping and eating cat turds. It can’t just be my choice for her to look like this.

Anyway, it’s not like I would want her to look like a show-dog. I like it when she looks unkempt.

Incidentally, I just looked at Dave Jones’ Wikipedia page and it says that Rolling Stone voted him 39th best artist of all time. Who the hell did they have from 38 up???! Did Jesus have a band? Did the Archangel Gabriel rock out with Bruce Springsteen? I investigated further and Paul Simon is number 40. That’s insane. How are there 38 artists better than these two? They put Madonna above both of them. And above John Lennon (38) I’m so totally freaked out by that I might need to have a lie down. To be fair, I can kind of see that the other people are great artists too, like Johnny Cash, but there’s no way JC is better than Ziggy Stardust. NO WAY in the world. The Who are 29. What’s that about? They’re not an artist. They’re a band.

And so I’ve accidentally worked myself up into a frenzy where I am going to have to write a stern letter to the Rolling Stone magazine, explaining that they might think it’s cool to put JC and Smokey Robinson above the Man Who Fell To Earth, but there’s no way on earth it’s logically possible. Not a one. I looked through the rest. There was a lot of pretentiousness in that top 38. And a lot of bands. They don’t even count. That puts Bob Dylan as number 1 artist. I can live with that.

Anyway, the Stones started me up and it’s quite obvious I’m not going to stop now. Better keep going… off to the prefecture. God give me strength.

 

When someone says something…

… so eloquently and so perfectly that describes something so personal and so destructive, it’s worth a share. I follow a blog called Hyperbole and a Half and the lady who writes it hadn’t posted in a while. A long while. But when she posted this blog about depression, it was like she had written down every single thought and feeling I ever had when depressed. In every single technicolour (or omni-grey) detail.

This cartoon of hers so perfectly captures my anomie and existential angst (yes, I gave it a posh name for wallowing around contemplating the pointlessness of everything…) Sadly, I spent most of my time in Japan feeling like this, and it completely ruined what should have been an epic adventure.

It’s funny as hell because I recognise myself, right down to the slump and the dirty hoodie and the facial expression.

It made me sad reading it, especially the bits about not wanting to live any more. But it reminded me that her experience is just exactly what mine was – like some kind of uncanny process by which a thought travels like a virus, with the exact same qualities in infection. And it made me laugh when she told other people because they ended up upset and she ended up comforting them.

It also made me laugh because when you decide to get treatment, you do feel like it’s kind of pointless as well.

I also laughed the hardest at this face (below) because that was my EXACT face…

And it’s also good to know that sometimes, it feels like this:

It’s hard to tell people that suffer from depression that what they’re feeling is practically an identikit model of thinking, that millions of other people feel the exact same thing. And, if they do, doesn’t that make it all the more pointless and dumb? But it’s good when people share. If everyone shared their experiences like this, well, just maybe it wouldn’t be such a powerful, isolating and crippling experience and we could all laugh each other out of it.

I could tell you whatever you want to hear about antedotes and what helps manage it. I could tell you it’s changing the stresses in your life, or that it’s drugs, or that it’s talking therapies. I could tell you it’s diet or exercise or sleep.

I’m pretty sure, though, that a lot of it is laughter. Especially if you can laugh at the pointlessness of stuff and you find someone else who will help you laugh at it too. It is true that it becomes impossible to look sympathetic people in the eye and the only thing that makes it any better is having a friend to laugh it off with. Lucky for me, I had my sister for that bit. She is very good at not letting me wallow in my hoodie and very good at pulling faces and making me smile. Laughter is not the cure for depression, but it sure makes all the other stuff more bearable.

And if there is to be another part of it that makes it liveable, well, that’s reading about someone else’s experiences and how they are just like your own. That way, you kind of see that it’s not just you against the world, or against this condition, but that it is just a cloud that rains on people in exactly the same ways. It makes it less personal so you don’t have to beat yourself up about it along the way.

If I had one wish, it’s that everyone in the whole world would read Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t suffered from depression, it’s very likely you know someone who has – and this is just about the best description I ever read about what it’s really like.

Plus, it’s funny. That’s a bonus.

Kay Redfield Jamison, author, psychiatrist and bipolar to boot, says that you have to make a beast beautiful in order to conquer it. I’m not sure how you make depression beautiful, since it is so very, very ugly, but you sure can laugh about it with a little help.

Catching pests

I have several fruit trees which I love very dearly: two old, old cherries; two apples; two walnuts; hundreds of plum trees; a crab-apple; a fig; four peach trees; a pear tree, and a quince. And probably some more I’ve forgotten.

However, with this year’s bumper blossom and potential fruit, the ants are out in force and it’s been driving me wild watching their little ant armies race up and down the tree trunks. I mean, what are they even doing??! Apparently, they’re potentially bringing all kinds of nasty infestations to my dear trees.

So, I decided it had to stop.

I’m not a fan of killing things with pesticides and I didn’t really fancy giving the tree a hose down with something to stop all the anty festivities, so I thought I would buy some sticky tape. Apparently, this works in a similar fashion to flypaper, that odious but useful stuff that enables me to live in a buzz-free zone without zapping the bastards with Raid every so often.

Anyway, I bought myself an organic, environmentally-friendly tree tape to stop the ant processions. I should have known it would be a disaster. Anything involving me and glue is a disaster. It was inevitable.

Imagine, if you will, a cross Mancunian with strips of tree tape hanging from each of her limbs. It got stuck to my hands, stuck to my hair, stuck to my face.

It gets worse.

The glue is kind of waterproof, so I was left, once I’d pulled off the sticky tape, with a clingy, gluey residue that soap and water and even white spirit find nigh-on impossible to remove.

Not only that, I soon worked out the problem with the tape. The bark isn’t flat, so there are bumps and channels underneath it, which any crafty ant will be able to figure out. You kind of secure it with elastic, but it loosens as you are tying the knot in it and so you are left with something that may or may not make the blindest bit of difference.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who uses this and whether or not you think it makes a difference.

Of course, a part of me thinks ants are clever and will crawl underneath it in tunnels. Or eat into the bark or something. Another part of me watched them avoid running on to it this evening and come to a dead-end. They run on to the paper a little and then decide not to bother and run off.

So far, though, the only thing to get stuck to the paper is me.

Hopefully, it won’t stop all the other healthy things that come and feast on the bugs that the ants are herding. I just saw a photograph of an ant biting a ladybird’s legs and it was nasty. Those ants are not nice creatures. They remind me of the Morlocks in The Time Machine. 

I do wish I’d watched this guy first.

I’m going to be fascinated to see if the ants make little bridges. If my tape doesn’t work, I’ll be trying this guy’s method with the elastic tape and the paste. Tomorrow, I’ll be looking for little anty bridges. Those little beggars better have found something else to feast on, and it better not be my seeds or seedling.

Grrr.

Gardening is a constant battle against creatures. But trying to pick something that encourages the good beasts and discourages the bad beasts is hard work. Mostly, I don’t mind a bit of damage, and companion planting and rotation seems to be working so far, but there’s little I can plant to stop the ant march.

All I need to do now is wait for all this glue to come off me. Maybe I should just go and roll about in the garden and see what I can attract?