Monday, 26 November 2012


I thought I'd pop in to post this, in case you'd missed it.
Scroll down to the bit where it says "Scent Lighten Up".

Friday, 23 November 2012

Spent it like the 70s - Part 8:

Dusting down the power of will.

A snowman in Africa

It's been busy here at 4160 HQ. Not so much here, as everywhere else we've been: Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands and Ireland. But at least when I'm away I can't make the house less tidy. On the other hand it can accumulate washing, floor fluff - where does it all come from? - and unopened post.

So in order to continue the long quest for less stuff, I'm invoking my long lost willpower. The last time I felt that it was in charge was when I was about 12. At that time, I'd think through the consequences before acting. Since then, it's all come apart. Recently, apart from filling up a room with my perfumery - which means that I've cluttered up the guest room so badly that actual guests have to carry out Crystal Maze-like tasks to get to the bed - I've been indulging my love of Arts and Crafts Movement pots: some hand-thrown Bretby from before they were using moulds, and some French stuff from the world's biggest car boot fair, the Lille Braderie. (No, of course, I shoudln't have gone there. I know that. I went anyway.) They've taken over the dining room table. This is impractical, as we really need it for eating. 

So once again I take a pledge of austerity, and this time my watchword is old fashioned willpower. I believe I can dredge it up, wash it down and get it working again.

At the end of last year I found myself in Cork running a workshop on plain English. At the company canteen I got a winning scratchcard and won myself a small soft toy. It was the Snowman, you know, the 'I'm walking through the air' snowman. Until that point I neither wanted nor needed a snowman soft toy. I didn't imagine I'd win it, but once he was mine, I felt quite unreasonably attached to him. One of my coursemates said that it was very rare to win one; people have been offered money for them. Another mentioned that soft toys never last long in his house as his wife runs a project for charity, packing up shoesboxes for children around the world who have next to nothing.

Rational 12-year-old willpower-driven me said, "There's no room in your house for a snowman toy; there isn't even room in your suitcase.' But hopelessly untidy, easy-to-form-attachments me said, 'I love the snowman; I won him and he's mine.' So I took him away with me. On day two. I gave him to Keiren, and the snowman is now in a shoebox on the way to Africa, where I hope he'll give some small child a great deal of pleasure, even if the small child doesn't know what a snowman is.

It's a small triumph of willpower over quite unreasonable attachment. I hope to bring news of more. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

A perfume secret, byJ12 of the M4

Playing with the big boys

There are lines you have to cross when you want to start selling your scents. Like other stuff you can make at home, like jam, cakes and chutney, when you go from blends for friends to retail, there's a whole extra stash of paperwork.
That's what we've been working on, me and my perfume pals, since April.

Getting our certificates

I've got lots of certificates, including a mass of O Levels and one for teaching yoga. Some have been harder to earn, but none of them have been as tricky as my EU and IFRA papers.

First, every material you use for a perfume has to have its own material safety data sheet, which list EU allergens by quantity, and many other things; they're usually around 16 pages. Some suppliers either don't have them, or have incomplete ones. Not good enough.

But now we're there.

Let's hear it for Streatley Software

On a business park by a lake, by the M4, you'll find the answer to an indie perfumer's prayers. Streatley Software have put together a really impressive ...thing. It's complex, it's comprehensive and it's not cheap, and it's mine. So now I have access to all the official databases and their updates, and a way to make sure that all my formulae comply with every regulation you can shake a stick at.

Want to try it?

Indie perfumers all have a hard time getting legal, so I'm happy to help.
Now, indie perfumers might worry that I'd try to copy their formulae, but to be honest, I'm only interested in creating my own.

 So give me a wave if you want a go.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Being Legal

That on the right is a one litre bottle of Lady Rose Lion (Monkey Unicorn) made by me a couple of weeks ago. It needs to hang around in that form for another month before it'll smell just right. The materials will macerate, mix together and combine to make a smooth lovely scent.

I know this because I've done it before.

Lady Rose Lion (Monkey Unicorn) is made with lovely things like rose absolute, jasmine absolute, honey absolute, patchouli, oakmoss and ladbanum. It also has a sparkle of gamma undecalactone, a peachy material that doesn't exist in nature, and Iso E Super, another synthetic that's woody, musky and subtle.

Without the two synthetics it wouldn't be as lovely as it is. It would be a bit heavy and dull, hard to wear. It would also be outrageously expensive.

But today's post is not about the synthetics, because it's the natural materials which are causingme the grief. I could make a whole perfume with just the Iso E Super and sell it perfectly legally. (Someone did, and hyped the hell out of it.)

No, it's the rose, jasmine and oakmoss that are causing me grief, and causing the same amount to every perfumer in the EU who loves using natural materials. They are restricted, just in case they give someone a rash. It's true, they might. But I can wear oakmoss at 20% concentration my skin and I'm fine. That's 50 times the EU legal limit.

Every wondered why you can no longer buy something at perfume strength, but you can get Eau de Toilette. Ever wondered why a lovely scent from the 90s disappeared entirely in the 00s? That's the new EU regulations. And they're going to be even tougher from 2013. It's partly safety, but it's partly the perfume people not wanting to tell you what they put in their scents.

Anyway, I've found some great techies who make software linked to the databases I need to produce my materials safety data sheets. The software will tell me if I've got too much of a material in my formula, so I can readjust it to make it legal. It costs several arms and legs, but if I want to sell through shops, I need to have my certificates. (A bit like people who make great biscuits then get an order from Waitrose, you're suddenly up a league and enveloped in legislation.)

So not long now, and I'll be in that nice shop who've been chasing me since April to get five of my scents. I'll keep you posted.      

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Spend it like the 70s 7: Smelling like the 70s

I usually write about perfume elsewhere, but this week it's crossed over into this part of life.
As soon as I get onto eBay to sell things - which I'm doing at the moment, honest I am - I start to glance at other stuff.
And I got it into my head that I wanted a bottle of 1970s Diorella perfume, the one I discovered when I was 16 and wore for years, until it seemed to disappear and I forgot about it and bought something different. 
In those days most people rarely had more than one bottle of perfume at a time, and you wore whatever you'd been given for Christmas. Generally I got something in a twist-up stick from Avon, then there was Aqua Manda, with its daring ad slogan "Love me for my body". It comes up on eBay occasionally but I can't bring myself to pay £50 for it, so I'll wait for a car boot find. My gran - my dad's mam - used to give my mother Lentheric's Tweed for Christmas. My mother, with her perverse way of looking at the world, decided that this was because Grandma McCartney didn't like her. I think it was because she used to thank her so convincingly that my gran was convinced, so she went back for more every year.
My mother also had a bottle of Chanel No 5 which had come from my French penfriend's family. It was MASSIVE, and it just sat there. I think she somehow didn't feel that she was the Chanel No 5 kind of person. So she saved it for best and best never happened. Later they bought her Givenchy III and L'Air du Temps. By that time she'd actually started to wear them occasionally.
Perfume has changed in lots of ways, physically with reformulations, and in the way we buy it. We would dab it on carefully, on special occasions because it cost loads of money. It came from smart department stores, with cream carpets around the well lit perfumery booths. These days, pretty much everyone can afford a bottle of scent and you can get it at Boots and Superdrug. Posh brands and bankable celebs licence out their names to massive marketing companies. The materials costs have been cut to be competitive and the individuality and character have been sucked out of scent. They are now mass market, so they've got to be innovensive to 98% of scent buyers.

Back when I first got my Diorella (as described elsewhere) I'd saved up my holiday money, and a lovely Scottish women at a Dundee department store helped me choose. It was so beautiful I fell in love at once. I'm still in love with it. I was delighted to find out that it's recognised as one of the all time greats, but that's not really the point. The point is that I can't live without it.
Your scent shouldn't be something you can just try on and throw out, something you quite like on paper (in both senses of the phrase), shell out £15 for then get bored with. Your perfume should be something you feel passionately about. And let's be honest, women wear perfume because they love it, not because they think it'll help them be more attractive. Frankly, we don't give a monkey's about that. In fact, I know women who only wear perfume when they're out of their partners' smelling distance.
I now own some reformulated* Diorella, newly released by the LVMH empire. It's OK, pretty good even. But from eBay I got my hands on half a 150ml bottle of the 1970s stuff. Its bright top notes might be a little less buzzing, but after 10 minutes you've got the orignal beautiful smell. It's supposed to be Eau de Toilette but it lasts all day. That's another difference between now and then. Now, give it 20 minutes and modern commercial scent has all but vanished. They call it "fine fragrance" but most of it's not.
So now we have a handful of bottles hanging around until we give them away or pour the juice down the sink and recycle them. There's no connection between the nose and the heart. So I ask you only to buy scent that sings to you, that murmers "love me love me love me" when you put it on your skin. Forget the paper. And wear it to please yourself, every day if you like.

Right, that's where it started,  but then I'd put some searches into place. And I got a little obsessed with smelling the before and after versions of perfume reformulations. EU regulations and US recommendations have all but forced perfume companies to take oakmoss out of scents; this is vital to the depth and darkness of classic 60s and 70s formulas.
The accountants have forced perfumers to find less expensive ways to create something that smells almost the same as the original. And let's be fair to the health and safely people; some very early scents had beautifully smelling materials in them that were plain straight poisonous, and some that weren't biodegradable.
If you used to like Coty's L'Aimant in the 70s you will hate it now. The current version is a despicable shadow of its namesake. Likewise Chantilly, the creamy, fruity, flowergarden of a scent made by Houbigant, now a heartless stink made by Dana. (Who? Exactly.)
So this week - even though I've sold my university probability theory book on Amazon for £30, dropped stuff off at charity shops, been to the recycling centre and got 16 things up on eBay - I've had a bit of a setback. Because in California is a man called Jaime who's inherited his grandfather's perfume warehouse, which had stuff in the back corners that had been there since the 1930s. A small box of those will be crossing the Atlantic heading for Ealing very shortly. The man even had some original Trophee Lancome.
But it's not just for me. My plan is to decant it into little bottles and share it with the scent lovers of the world.
And if you do want to find the perfume love of your life, it's still possible. Just bear in mind that if you want a really top pong, you'll probably have to spend time searching, and save up your pence like we did in the 70s.
That way, it's been something worth the bother; there's a connection to it. It's a relationship that's going to last, not just one more forgettable purchase on the road to filling the unfillable desire for more stuff.

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I do think that if a thing's worth having it's worth trying a bit hard to get the right one.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Spend it like the 70s 6: Je ne regrette rien (ish)

There was an article in the Guardian last week called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Look it up; it's interesting. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse wrote it after she'd spent time working with people in the last 12 weeks of their lives and realised that there were common themes that kept coming up.

One of them was "I wish I hadn't worked so hard." Then there was, "I wish I'd allowed myself to be happier." They are related, I imagine, in most cases. How much time do we spend worrying not just about working hard, but being seen to be working hard? Who are we trying to impress? What good does it do?
I spent 13 years with one company, writing so hard that my fingerprints wore off. They didn't notice. They just thought it was normal.They thought that was what I was like. I don't regret that though. I learned lots and got quite good at writing and there's still time to put it to better use. But I do question why I bothered trying to impress the people who wrote the cheques. Probably because they kept promising me that great rewards awaited me, but it turns out they didn't.

Anyway, people were adding their comments to the article using Facebook, saying what they thought their own last regrets would be. I thought about how I'd feel if I found out I only had twelve weeks left and I wrote:

"I'd wish that I hadn't aquired so much stuff that people were going to have to tidy up, and that I'd spent the money on travelling instead."

In two days I got 56 "likes" and a reply that said, "sell ur stuff and go travelling now" from Emma Butterfly Walsh. That got 32 "likes. My answer, "Emma Butterfly Walsh, I will" has had 44 and a request for me to post the pictures and keep everyone updated.

So this week I searched among my books for ones I thought might be worth more than Amazon's default £0.01 and put a load of them up for sale. They can stay there until I get tired of them. The ones that were selling for £0.01, I decided to take to the Oxfam book shop. Even if it doesn't help my travel fund (currently needed retrospectively to pay off October's Japan trip) it'll be less to do for the people who'll have to tidy up when I pop my clogs.

How lovely would it be for all our nieces and nephews to walk into a tidy clean house, keep a few beautiful things and not have to spend months gasping in frustration as they open another box full of my "interesting" things. I mean, I do like to have several colours of sealing wax handy for just in case, but most people can manage without.

I've also assembled 18 stackable cubes for putting stuff in while it's in transition. They are my in-boxes and out-boxes. A white one is my photography studio; it's great for eBay pictures. I shot a load of stuff yesterday reading for putting up next week. (This week I've got real work and when you're freelance, you take it while it's there.)

Two cubes are taken up with first editions of magazines and newspapers from the 1980s and 1990s, including a Judge Dred which should fetch me £50. (Woo hoo!) The rest are probably worth about fourpence each. Let me know if you're interested.

As a nation, we've not grown any happier since the 70s, despite all the extra things we've all got. I'd be interested to see if I get happier as I empty the boxes, the cupboards and the bookshelves.

PS And where it went wrong.
I'm easily distracted by lovely things, I confess this openly.
For Christmas Mr Tuesdays got me a day out perfume sniffing at a perfume shop. Was that wise? Anyway, I bought perfume. I also discovered that you can snap up many beautiful vintage scents, that are no longer made, on eBay (particularly if you speak French and go to and Etsy. So now I have a box full of vintage Je Reviens, Chantilly by Houbigant, Soir de Paris and Diorella 70s edition. My 1970s Bal a Versailles is on its way. I also bought 288 2ml bottles (they come in packs of 288) and I'm going to share my treasure a tiny bit at a time with the perfume sniffing fraternity, but it does take up a bit of space.
I have one good excuse. I really am writing a book about it. Promise.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Spend it like the 70s 5: Friday 13th Fail

I was in Hemel Hempstead, with some really great people on a two day writing workshop. I do get a bit hyper when I'm leading an event; I feel as if I have to keep the energy levels up all the time (except when they're writing quietly) so I like to go all quiet in the evenings.

So there I am on Facebook, and there's a heated debate with L'Artisan Parfumeur about not getting on to their  sale site, so I joined in and told them I'd been toppled at the last hurdle and they got back to me, said sorry and said they'd fixed it. Also in the thread L'A P said that they had discontinued one of my favourite scents, Tea for Two. It's a weird one - which is probably why it's gone - but I like it.

One way to push my spending buttons is to tell me that I'll never be able to buy something I like again. I do realise that there's always going to be something similar in future and that I'll probably want that too, but Tea for Two? Dammit. I confess, I went back onto the site and tried to buy it. Failed again.
A second way is when I say to myself, "Ah, but it's part of a project, so I need it." Tick. So when I got off the train at Euston, I got the Northern Line to Charing Cross, walked to the L'Artisan Parfumer shop in Covent Garden and bought it. And maybe some others too.

On Saturday we did good things, went out in the sunshine and walked up the twirly hill next to the A40, walked into Ealing and paid cheques into the bank. 10000 steps at least.

Yesterday, I went to a car boot sale in Pimlico with a view to going there to sell stuff one day. I took a small amount of cash and came back with half of it, got a yellow Bakelite necklace for £1 and an unopened bottle of YSL In Love Again, the 1990s discontinued original, for £12. I ought to sell it on eBay and make back everything I spend on Friday. Truth: I probably won't.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Spend it like the 70s 4: What I didn't buy

So here I am not buying anything I don't need on a quest for less stuff and more happiness.
But around sale time, I'm always tempted.

In the 70s my finest purchase was a pair of navy blue shimmery leather, platform soled, knee high boots. I had a budget of £5 (their full price was around £25 and Susan Malloy told me I'd no chance) but I was undeterred and went to almost every shoe shop in the north east before I found them in Washington. With my hand-embroidered denim skirt and checked cheesecloth shirt over a ribbed polo neck sweater, I was the coolest I'd ever been.

Sales bring back happy memories of shopping triumphs, when I could finally have some of the things I usually couldn't afford.
Also embedded was the belief that if I didn't get them while they were a bargain, then I'd miss my chance for ever. Later, I began to realise that these chances keep on coming back. I might miss one thing, but there would always be others.

Now, I can stay out of the shops, but now their emails still come tumbling into my inbox, inviting me to click.
Last night I went to the L'Artisan Parfumeur website to see what was in their sale. I even got as far as adding everything I wanted to my inbox, but when I got to the point of putting in my card details, I cancelled it. There is no more space in my perfume cupboard. (Yes, I know. I do know, really.) So I left, and I visited the perfume cupboard to try out something I already own.

What I did buy:
Sticking to the rules - only replacing things that have run or worn out and things I really do need - I got a webcam for the PC I got last year. The laptop, which had one built in, was near collapse and it's my livelyhood, so I did need the PC. Then I realised that I couldn't do my Skyping properly, so I got the webcam.
Where to put it? I had to get an extra 4 x USB port adapter things because I'd run out of holes.
I bought the cat a new collar, because the old one was scratched to bits, and some moisturiser. Technically, I've enough STEAMCREAM to last me a couple of months so that was a transgression, but I do like this one too.
For work, when I run writing workshops, I like to give everyone a small notebook to keep their ideas in. The V&A's sale email tempted me and I got 26 notebooks for £50 (bargain) ready for my two day sessions this week and next. It's a business expense, and while I suppose I don't have to do it, I like to because it creates a good atmosphere; everyone likes presents.

I also bid for some things on eBay, but I've already been outbid on all of them so that's a relief. I shouldn't go there, in the way that slimmers shouldn't walk into sweet shops just to see what's there, not if I want to stick to my guidelines.

And I sold a yoga mat to one of my students, so that's one more small space created in the front room.

I feel quite good about not buying the perfumes. When the sale ends and they are no longer available I might have a moment's panic about what I missed, but I'll get over it. There'll be another. I'll worry about that in six months' time.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Spend it like the 70s 3: When we get a bigger house...

When I was a kid there was this theme running through the family dialogue. "When we get a bigger house..."
My parents would aquire stuff to prepare for moving to the next destination. My dad's aim was always to save up enough to buy the house he'd lived in as a schoolboy during World War II, which you can read about here if you like. It didn't belong to his family; he'd been sent to live with an elderly doctor, his grown-up daughter and his second wife in a tiny Teesdale village. At the back of his mind, my dad always planned to live in Carrowcroft, which is why my mum's modernish 60s house is filled with Victorian furniture. Dating from when I was 11, my parents always lived in the same place. The thing about Carrowcroft was that it was a long narrow, unlit road away from all the things my dad liked to do: go to the theatre, get the train to London, poke about second hand book shops. The house he had, the wrong one, was in the right place. The right one was in the middle of a very beautiful nowhere.

I realise that I've been planning along the same lines. The text I learned by heart - buy lovely antiques, get books, aquire skills, take up hobbies - always prepared me for the next (bigger) house. Unless we win the Lottery, I think it's fair to say that the next house will be smaller. I'm going to have to memorise a different script. I buy Lottery tickets - despite the scorn I occasionally see in my friends glances - because:
1) You have to be in it to win it.
2) We win every month indirectly, because the Heritage Lottery Fund pays Nick's wages so they deserve our support.
3) A long story about my grandad and the football pools. Shortish version: he won just enough to make up the shortfall to put a deposit on a house when the builder increased the price at the last moment. £25 was a lot of money in those days, as we always have to say when we tell that story.

Another thing I noticed this week. We were out in Chelsea because we'd got vouchers for a cinema chain and the only one showing The Artist was in the Fulham Road. When we came out we went looking for somewhere to eat. The restaurants looked fine, but the customers scared me. All the men were wearing brightly coloured cords, brightly coloured v-necked cashmere jumpers and checked poplin shirts, and they had wavy hair. I just don't fit in with the upper middle classes. Down the King's Road it's more cosmopolitan so we got a table at the New Cultural Revolution and ate dumplings with a Spanish family one one side, some young British people on the other and an Iranian family over the way. Much more up our street. I'd thought that if I won the Lottery I might have fancied living in Chelsea, but now I realise I'd rather stay here in Ealing. (And I'd put in a bid for Carrowcroft.)

People have gazed astonished at the amount of stuff I've aquired. (Most of it is mine, let's be fair.) Many of them have said, "You need a bigger house." We don't. We need less stuff.

On Saturday some nice people took away 13 boxes and seven bags of stuff to sell on their website. Shared proceeds. Phew. Today I took some rather late Christmas presents to the post office. (It took me longer to knit them than I'd planned.) And I dropped off a bag of random stuff at the British Heart Foundation shop, including a men's belt that both the nephew and the husband deny owning and no-one else has ever claimed.

So now we're planning for the smaller house, the one we get when we stop earning and still haven't paid off the mortgage. It's taken off some of the pressure I hadn't realised I'd been under.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Spending it like the 70s 2

It'll be a bit dull if all I write about is staying in and trying to avoid the shops. Really what I've been doing is staying inside, doing a bit of yoga and trying to avoid being soaked (see left) or blown over by high winds.

I've put three 1930s detective novels in my Amazon basket, but I've not pressed go yet because I've got unread books around that I want to get stuck into, and if I bought new ones that would just distract me.

But I've sold a book on my Amazon seller account. That's a very interesting place, because it's supply and demand in the raw.

Your book's value is based on rarity and condition. Some people want a book that's brand new, and if they get it direct from Amazon they can get free postage. If they buy it from another seller it's £2.75 p&p. That means that the seller has to reduce the price by £2.75 to attract a buyer.
I was selling a book of iron-on transfers that was in perfect condition, so I decided to sell it at 5p less than the lowest available at the time. That worked and it sold last night.

I looked up the other books I'd put up at the lowest price, and found that other people have decided to sell their copies at a lower price, so it's unlikely mine will sell until theirs have all gone, unless I reduce mine further. Price war. Price skirmish anyway.

It cost me £1.46 to post my thing today (at the 250-500g large envelope Post Office rate) and Amazon takes a chunk of the price, but I do get a couple of quid in the bank. With hardback books, unless you sell them for around £5, or have your own account with one of the alternative delivery services, you'll make a loss on the postage.

So what we've got are thousands of popular books selling for 1p each (+£2.75 postage and packing of course). That's their true market value. There's very little sense of loyalty when all Amazon online sellers look pretty much the same on screen. The only reason to pay more is to get a copy that's in better condition. The only way to make a profit is to sell something that's in better condition than all the others.

I won't buy books for one penny.
I get the system, but I don't like it. I understand that there's no point paying more, but I still do. I pick what I think is a fair price for the book, and I pay that. Books are worth more than a penny. You've got to stand up for what you think is right.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Spent it Like the 70s. Revisited

There are clever people who've written books that prove we're no happier now we've got loads of stuff and "freedom of choice" (more loads of stuff). We peaked in the 1970s.
I know I've written about this before, but I want another go at it. And this time, why not put it into practice?
I was alive in the 70s and I wasn't that happy myself, but that was mostly because I was at school, had loads of exams to do, and had to do what other people told me. It's like that when you live in someone else's house (parents) and lived off someone else's income (parents).
So now, with my own house and income, can I make myself happier by living like we did in the 70s?

What did we do then that we don't do now?
I think it was this:
We bought things when the old ones fell to bits, or when we really needed a new thing. We then used them.
We thought it was important to be kind and polite. But I don't think we really understood why.
In the words of Mr. Spock, we believed that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, or of the one. But at the time, we didn't know how that was going to work, exactly. It all seemed a bit theoretical when the school bullies had pushed you in the mud and stolen your dinner money. How would being kind to them be a good idea? How about hiding?

It was the 80s when we were taught that being greedy and selfish was a really good idea and that owning more stuff would make us very happy indeed. (The US had had that since the 50s, but it only caught on in the UK when Mrs. Thatcher unleashed her new non-paternalistic form of capitalist conservatism.)

In the 80s there wasn't any good scientific research to support putting the needs of others before yourself; that was one of the things that made Thatcherism so popular. To many people, it seemed obvious that working hard, earning lots and getting stuff was the answer. There was the God Squad telling us that behaving like Jesus was the best way to be, but no-one could see how, not on earth anyway. It's interesting to know that kindness and selflessness really do make people happier. You don't have to be religious, you just have to be lovely.

My family had been brought up (my mum's side) believing that kindness had to work both ways, directly back and forth. You'd be kind to someone if and only if they deserved it. This led to surprising scenes where my mother could turn into an evil, revengeful harpy, but only if they started it.
I think I've learned that it's the consistently kind people who end up happy, not the conditionally kind ones. Karma works in unexpected directions. Kindness with no expectation of a payback works best in the happiness stakes.

Another thing. You've got to be kind to yourself too. There are these constant givers, who often turn up in the caring professions, who tell you they don't expect any thanks for what they do. They think they're being kind, but they're just building up a deficit in their accounts, enumerating and mentally recording every selfless act. There's a worry that it'll all burst out one day and they'll stab someone with a fork 23 times then tell the nice policeman that it just all got a bit much. Don't be one of them. Be kind, but be fair, and that includes being fair to yourself and your own.

So what's the plan.
1) Stuff the stuff
2) Be lovely

I have too much stuff. I was saving it for when I got a bigger house, but we've got a lovely house and I'll probably live here for the rest of my life, so what's the use?
I'm going to take my stuff and do one of four things with it: use it, sell it, give it away, recycle it.
And I'm going to lower my need threshhold. I think I need a constant supply of beautiful new stuff. (And old stuff; I love Arts & Crafts Movement pottery. See picture.) I don't. I just need to play with the stuff I've got.

I'm going to try to be kinder, particularly to the people I know well. Random acts of kindness to complete strangers are all well and good, but they're easy.

I've just put up a load of books to sell on Amazon and next I'm going to get off the computer and make the lad a cup of coffee. And does anyone need a box of fabric paints?