30 April 2012

The Hit List

I am now on Day 14 of my new non smoking life.  Overall, I think I have been doing ok with the cravings and carrying on with life as normal. 

I purposely did not plan to stop when I had a quiet period with nothing to do and nothing stressful on the horizon.  Most say that you should plan for quiet for a period, until you wean yourself away from cigarettes.  Like with everything though, I like to do things my own way.  My life isn’t naturally quiet or stress free so I see little point in hiding away.  I prefer to deal with every situation as it comes.

My aim is that at the end of the first month, I will be craving free and I can turn my back on that part of my life completely.  The journey is different for everyone but given the progress I’ve made so far, I feel it is achievable.

Feeling strong and excited today, I thought it was time for my hit list of things I want to buy with my regained money.  Being the sensible kind, despite having previously blown £180.00 away in smoke each month, some of it will go on sensible things but the rest, is play time.

Top of the list has to be going to a Formula One race.  I have opened a new bank account, entitled “F1” and money will now be going in there every month to fund a European race next year. 

Next on the list?  A watch.  Why?  I don’t own one and haven’t for years.  Watches are one of the things that I believe you need to invest it.  There is nothing worse than having a tacky piece of plastic hanging on your wrist.  I’ve never owned a watch because I have never had the money to spend on a decent one.

I found this at the back of my wardrobe the other day.  Hideously tacky, but as a savings box it will serve it’s purpose and save my pound coins until I have enough for the watch I want.  I can take my time (haha) with this one, having previously used my mobile as a clock all these years, I am in no rush.
Number three, inevitably is shoes.  Not just a pair of shoes.  “The” shoes.  I’m not talking about buying a pair of Louboutins either.   Although I love them, me being me I would no doubt manage to scuff the heel or scrape the front.  I would be too scared to wear them. 

Instead, I have found a website called Shoes of Prey which let you design your own shoes.  I have done that and after a few months of putting some money aside, I will have the shoes I have always wanted, but have never been able to find.

Lastly, to offset in a small way some of the frivolous and self related spending, I am upping my monthly charity contribution.  If I can  now afford to buy myself all of the above, I can certainly afford to spend more than £2 a month on charity. 

So there we go.  That is my little ex smoker hit list of purchases.  Now time to put action into plan and then reality.

24 April 2012

Taking the Leap

If you have read my blog before, you may have seen a couple of posts I did back in the beginning of January this year.  In these posts I was talking about the fact that I had decided to cut down smoking over the Christmas/New Year period and was trying to continue.

Well fast forward three and a half months and the state of play is a little different.  The cut down didn't work.  I did try and kept up with it for a couple of weeks after I had done the posts, but my heart wasn't really in it.  I found that I was getting stressed out by counting the number of cigarettes I was "allowed" each day in which turn just made me want to smoke more.

Back on my 20 a day habit again I soon realised that "cutting down" doesn't achieve anything.  What does achieve something is quitting completely.   I have been smoking since the age 14, nearly 20 years and over that period I have occasionally toyed with the idea of quitting, but have never carried it through.

The cutting down experiment had made me wonder if I could actually quit.  If I had the willpower to do it.  The added price on cigarettes was another factor.  The fact that I was spending around £180.00 a month on cigarettes was something I could no longer ignore.

So last Monday night I decided.  I would have a go and attempt to quit.  I decided "cold turkey" was the best approach for me.  I knew that it would be harder that way but I would rather speed up the process rather than dragging it out. 

Being honest now, if I was a betting person, I wouldn't have bet on myself.  I am not the best at willpower, especially with something I want.  My mum has even confessed that she didn't think I would make it.  Cheers for that!

The first two days were horrible. Climbing the walls, emotional wreck stuff.  Luckily for me, someone I talk to on Twitter told me about a book written by Allen Carr (not the comedian) called "Easy way to Stop Smoking".  I was dubious to say the least but at that point would have given anything a try.

The next day, the book arrived, was quickly read and amazingly, worked!  Now I'm not saying that you immediately stop all cravings and are feeling bright as a daisy, but damn close.  The book deals with the psychological addiction you have to cigarettes and explains everything in such a way that you don't have the need to smoke anymore.

I am now on Day 8.  I haven't smoked and after reading the book, I know I never will again.

So if you are thinking about quitting, buy the book.  He claims to have a 90% success and before reading, I was convinced that I would be in that 10% that it didn't work on.  Let's face it, you can pick up the book for less than the price of a packet of cigarettes these days so you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

20 April 2012

Safety for Gold

So, the Bahrain Grand Prix. Should F1 have gone this weekend?  No, in my opinion. 

This kind of subject is a dicey one if you don’t wish to become embroiled in a political and moral debate, which I don’t.  Commenting merely from a safety and not moral perspective, I keep seeing people mentioning the gun incident with Jenson Button in Brazil and the situation currently in Bahrain as if they are comparable.

There is no comparison.  Although (we hope and pray) that nothing will happen to any of the teams, drivers and reporters this weekend, there is a possibility that it could happen.  Protests, rioting, petrol bombs and tear gas on the streets does not scream “safe” to me.  What happened with Jenson could have happened at any number of the places on the race calendar.

Safety cannot be guaranteed.  Bernie may well have offered to escort Force India back from the track “without an escort” but anyone can see that this is a merely for publicity.  He has to save face now.

The FIA have made the decision and now the teams have to live with it.  The drivers have been asked to comment with their opinion and the answers vary depending it seems on how well versed at PR they are.

Sebastian Vettel however, just gave me another reason to hate him.

"I heard about the Force India issue," "I think generally being in the paddock it seems to be no problem. Surely outside the paddock there is a risk, but there is a risk everywhere we go.

"You imagine when we go to Brazil it is not the place you want to be, depending on the area you are in. It is not a big problem and I am happy once we start testing tomorrow because then we worry about stuff that really matters - tyre temperatures, and cars."

After two years of having the best car on the track and having the adoration of Red Bull, it seems Mr Vettel truly believes that the world revolves around him.  Yes Sebastian, don’t worry about the people getting hurt outside the track, you just concentrate what really matters……… You.

10 April 2012

An F1 Dilemma

Unless you have been living under ground over the past few weeks, you will have read, and probably engaged in discussion regarding the Bahrain Grand Prix.

From an F1 fan point of view, I haven’t yet seen a single fan who supports the race going ahead.  Safety is more important than an F1 race and yet here we are, the Shanghai Grand Prix is almost upon us with Sakhir following the next week, and the race is still on.

It has been said that to guarantee (and you can never guarantee anything really in those circumstances) that nothing less than a complete military lockdown would ensure the safety of the teams, the drivers, the fans. 

It is only two years ago that Jenson Button was faced with men brandishing machine guns at his car on the way back to his hotel and had it not been for the quick thinking of his driver, who knows what could have happened.  That was Brazil.  The threat is far, far greater in Bahrain, anything can happen.

As I have said, so many fans have spoken out against the race going ahead, myself included.  But there, we face a quandary.  The race seems to be on.  We know it is unsafe.  We have all said that it shouldn’t happen.  But will we still watch it?

For me, the answer is I don’t know.  On the one hand my head says nothing may happen, I don’t want to miss the race.  Then there is a pause.  For if I truly believe that the race going ahead is wrong in the current circumstances, am I feeding the beast by watching?

Formula One is a circus is fuelled by money.  Open up Bernie Ecclestone and you would probably find coins running through him, not blood.  But if we watch the race, are we any better?

In other aspects of my life the answer is simple.  I abhor horse racing and believe it is barbaric, the Grand National in particular.  I will not watch and I am actively trying to encourage others not to watch and not to bet.  The Grand National is something again fuelled by money and only the power of people turning against it, not watching and not betting is going to make a difference.

With Formula One however this is just one race.  Next year things may be different and the controversy surrounding the race may be gone.  Can I watch this year, knowing lives may be on the line for the sake of sport?

The answer to this question is I don’t know.  Do you?

6 April 2012

Reintroduction–From the Outside

Reintroduction of an animal species is a subject that most people haven’t ever thought about.  Also, with so many people living in towns and cities, reintroduction of an animal species is something that won’t impact their lives.

Reintroduction isn’t something that would impact on me in any way, so with that said I can only put my point of view forward from the outside, neither being part of a reintroduction process nor someone who may be affected by it.

I’ve been aware of this subject for a few years.  The first instance I personally heard about was the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park.  This was brought about in 1995 and since then, the wolves are doing well.  The over population of elk is reduced but not overhunted, flora and fauna have flourished and the beaver population has increased.

The ecological balance has been redressed and the Park has benefited from it.  In addition, the grey wolf is now off the endangered list.

In relation to a non predatory species, beavers have been reintroduced into Scotland and last year the first wild beavers were born.  Salmon populations have not gone down as the opposition said it would, but then again, beavers don’t eat fish, they eat vegetation. 

Some reintroduction ideas will never work.  The idea of returning wolves to Scotland for example will never work.  For one, much of Great Britain is privately owned and so the land isn’t available and also, the country is too populated to consider reintroducing a predatory species.  But wild boar?  Why not.

I honestly believe that reintroducing animals species that have previously lived in the area is important, where feasible.   This can help in so many ways, from bringing animals from off the endangered list to bringing the ecological balance back into play.

After all, these creatures were here for a reason, and the only reason they disappeared was from hunting and eradication.  From us.  It is our responsibility to bring these animals back to where they should be again.

4 April 2012

Delusional or Fame Hungry?

I, like thousands of others read the article Samantha Brick wrote in the Daily Mail yesterday Why women hate me for being beautiful.  The reactions to the article have been numerous and varied.

The majority of people seemed to have the same reaction of saying that she is not beautiful and that she is obviously deluded, vain and self obsessed.  I thought pretty much the same, and the article made me laugh at the fact that someone could rate themselves so highly, and be happy to publish it.

Today, after thousands of comments on the Daily Mail site and on Twitter she has written another article saying on the one hand, she is upset and disgusted at some of the comments received, but on the other, she doesn't regret it and she has been proved right.

Personally I have no problem with someone is extremely pretty or beautiful.  If you look like that, lucky you!  Samantha Brick however isn't beautiful.  She is nice looking but nothing over the top.  She said that if Angelina Jolie was quoted saying that she was beautiful, there would be a massive public backlash.  I don't think there would be, because after all, Angelina Jolie is beautiful.

I think it was last year that Katherine Jenkins said that her looks prevented her from being taken seriously. She said

“It’s hard being beautiful,” she says, “it can work against you. It creates a certain lack of credibility.”
There was no public backlash.  She is beautiful and I do expect that her looks may have worked against her in certain ways. 

I really don't know how to place Samantha Brick.  On the one hand, she does genuinely think that she is beautiful.  Her previous articles in the Mail are littered with photographs of her and are full of comments about her looks, weight, clothes etc.

If she is that naive then whatever anyone says to the contrary, she will continue to think that way.  It would be nice I suppose to be convinced that you were beautiful.  If that was the case, she would be a one article wonder, forgotten in a week.

I don't think she is a one article wonder however.  From that one article, she immediately had the "follow up" the next day, is now appearing on This Morning tomorrow and will no doubt have countless interviews, TV appearances and yes, more articles written about her.

I think what she actually is, is a woman who wanted publicity on a massive scale, to become an instant quote unquote "celebrity" and through this article she was able to get it.  On looking at her previous offerings, I think she was aiming for this when she wrote I use my sex appeal to get ahead at work. 

This woman has gone from a complete unknown to infamous in 24 hours.  I genuinely think that that is exactly what she wanted, and if she isn't on Celebrity Big Brother or I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here within a year, I'll eat my hat.