Just Charlie G

Since I started this incarnation of my blog, I made it clear it was never going to be just about beauty. While beauty has remained its primary focus and will continue to be so, I’ve also shared personal stories about my children, book reviews, my crochet hobby, posts about my vaping habit as well as the rare and occasional political post.

I was all set to post about The Body Shop Vitamin E range today, and I still will this week, but today, I just can’t. Having sat here for the last hour, in front of my computer in tears, with the deep sense of worry I’ve felt since the US elections, and with a feeling of foreboding about the political climate of the world in the last few years, I cannot at least post something about what is going on.

Before I start though, I have to say this: I’ve heard that there are some on social media, and in blogging circles who are taking it upon themselves to berate anyone who ISN’T using their voice as a blogger to condemn what is happening in the world right now. I have to say that I feel this is completely and utterly unacceptable. We cannot dwell on the horrors all the time, it is not good for our mental health and well being. It is okay to step back, and spend some time reading about lipsticks or whatever it takes to restore happiness. If we are not happy and well balanced, we may not have the strength to be useful to anyone at all!

With that in mind, to turn away completely, to not think on these issues, whatever your view point… well here’s some tweets from people I admire:

I’m not the best person with words, nor can I sit here and say I understand everything well enough to talk about things with any authority, but what I can say is that all of this, this fascism, this right wing hatred, has been brewing so long, the public have been drip fed fear and hatred through the media, and through organisations such as Britain First and it’s been going on a long time. I don’t entirely blame people, fear is a big thing to manage, and there are people who still don’t understand or accept media bias, who hear about terrorist attacks and and top of the drip feeding of fear and hatred they read or hear in the media, they become fearful and hateful themselves.

But let history teach us, this is where it starts, this where as a planet, we decide whether to hate, or whether to love, whether to fact check or whether to believe lies without question, whether we keep fearing or we take a stand and unite. This is the moment. This is where it happens. This is where you decide how history views you.

And while we’ve got Trump doing what Trump is doing, with our Prime Minister refusing to speak out, rather, holding his hand for photo shoots, what has shocked me the most in recent years, is the tide has turned so much so that where once racists and hate filled people kept their horrible little thoughts in their horrible heads or talked only to their friends about their shared horrible little thoughts, we now live in a climate where it’s not shameful to spout hatefulness. Any news article that mentions refugees or immigrants, any news article that talks about Trump, will be littered with comments from supporters of hatred, not under aliases, but out and proud to hate. Shouting loudly about how right it is that Trump should do what it is he’s doing and when is our PM going to do the same. And this has been going on a long time.

Just this weekend on my local newspapers Facebook Page, there was a “story” about and I quote “the Trump Mulim Ban”… here are a selection of the comments…

If they are coming to Europe then its for economic reasons, free hand-outs, money, housing, furnishings, and old & young people who have beautiful eyes who they want to F & rape”

“Sort out this country first …Bide worrying about someone else’s”

“I think people should stick to there own countrys..look after their own first ..full stop!!!!!”

“No he aint we should do the same”

“No not at all,keep them all out .Top guy Mr Trump”

“I didn’t realise I lived amongst so many pathetic snowflakes, get a grip Trump is the President and is going to be a great one too…. I’m guessing the same people that signed this petition are the same idiotic dead beats who want another referendum, very sad individuals you are!”

Glossing over the apparent shared lack of good grammar, that’s just a small snippet, and its the same every damn time. I’ve picked out the least offensive because I don’t want that sort of hate on my blog really, but that’s the stuff that really concerns me. How normalised this hatred has become.

Anyone who cares, demonstrates, protests, comments on memes or Facebook posts, retweets, anything anti trump, or shows any concern at all for the welfare of other human beings outside of our own small circle is shouted down as a liberal lefty (as an insult of course!), the great unwashed, special snowflake…well if caring makes me any of those things then I guess I’ll just have to take that on the chin because I won’t be changing any time soon.

But to circle back to the start of my post, it wasn’t just badness that made me weep this morning, it was seeing so many people standing up and taking action, videos of the protests in the US, marches and rallies being arrange across the UK today. It’s all good stuff.

For a long time apathy has been an issue, but perhaps now, perhaps now the political climate is so extreme, perhaps now, people will find their voices and use them because we must speak out where we see great wrong, I would just argue that people should NOT feel compelled to do so on their beauty/mummy/pet blogs, but do contact MP’s, join any of the many protests today, do whatever, but speak out.

PS: As an aside, but still on topic, I’d recommend EVERYONE read this book https://www.amazon.com/Wave-Laurel-Leaf-contemporary-fiction/dp/0440993717

 

Sub-heading: Dinovember and Expensive Advent Calenders can also sod off.

I’m going to preface this blog post with this picture…

4_1024x1024Looking at this creepy little fella gives me the heebie jeebies…imagine that watching your every move for the whole of December. I could just stop the post there because, y’know, nuff said. But why deprive myself of a much needed rant?

Elf On a Shelf. So for those who don’t know, Elf on a Shelf is concept to get your children to behave well over December, by putting this Elf around your house so he can watch what your kids are up to and report back to Santa, so that Santa can can get his Naughty and Nice lists ready.

Now leaving aside the fact that I threatened my kids with a lump of coal one particularly stressful December, this is a little creepy no? Not only does it look creepy with its Mona Lisa eyes that follow you around the room, but its sole purpose, spying, is creepy too. I also don’t want my kids to be good in December just because of an elf. I want them to be good all year please.

Then, there’s the issue of adding this new commercial tradition to our lives. Wasn’t Christmas traditional enough without this hideous new one? (See Also Advent Calenders Rant further down the Page).  And isn’t Christmas magical enough without this new piece of tat? It certainly was commercial enough.

And somehow, this Elf, oh how his behaviour has evolved. No, he doesn’t just sit on the shelf. No, in order for your kids to believe in the magic, he or she has to move each night while the kids are in bed. So the kids believe he’s real and alive and that he’s been to the North Pole to report back and then come back to your house! But this is where things escalate. While ‘lesser’ parents may just move the Elf from one shelf to the mantle piece, there are those who put a huge amount of effort in creating elaborate scenes to amaze and shock their children with when they get up in the morning. And for those too stupid (heavy sarcasm) to have their own ideas Pinterest is FULL of ideas you can copy. And the thing is, you have to do this every day. If you do something amazing on December the 1st, every day better be amazing and don’t even think about forgetting. Competitive and creative Mummies of course rise to the challenge, while the rest either don’t care or feel inadequate. And a lot of the ideas I’ve seen involve the Elf doing something a bit naughty or cheeky, like tipping something over…remind me what the point of the Elf is again? To encourage good behaviour (blurgh)…. I must give a special mention to those who have their elves doing rude or adult things because that is genuinely funny, and the sole reason I can see for having it. I particularly loved the Elf snorting a line of Cocoa powder and the various pictures of Elf caught in compromising positions with naked Barbies.

It’s a commercial venture, trying to create a new tradition…which makes them money, and its working. There’s the Elf, the book, the dvd and lo and behold, now there’s the Birthday Elf so you can blackmail your kids twice a year, what fun! It doesn’t even make sense. Santa’s Elves don’t give a crap what kids get up to in the month before they birthday. Fact.

And while this post is tongue in cheek, and I don’t really care what you do with your family in the run up to Christmas, there is the issue of your kids asking why they don’t have an Elf if their friends have one in their house, and how will Santa really know if they’ve been good. Frankly, I’ll tell them its just a toy and not to be sad. I’m not going to think up my own elaborate lies as to why the Elf is in their friends house, but not ours.

Christmas is already exciting, the build up in our house is ridiculous, advent calendars, Christmas Jumper days for charity and parties and discos at all their after school clubs and in school, along with a natural excitement mean that for me…in our house, its all quite exciting enough without causing me extra stress (trying to remember to move the damn thing, never mind constructing elaborate scenes with them). So you can stick your Elf on a Shelf “tradition” thanks.

Which leads me onto Dinovember…. a whole month devoted to your kids toy dinosaurs coming to life and getting up to mischief… see previously mentioned pinterest, competitive mummies, feelings of inadequacy and a general feeling of just why. Meh. Oh and the dinosaurs, pretty destructive. The idea is to feed your kids imagination and create a sense of wonder, I get that, and I’m sure that those things are true…but you know… the magic is all uploaded daily to Facebook, where the kids can’t see but all the other parents can go “wow you’re so amazing doing that and I’m so inadequate”. Again, its tongue in cheek and I don’t really care what you want to devote your evenings to, but once my kids are in bed, I’m thinking pyjamas, crap tv, slobbing out on the sofa, not arranging five dinosaurs around a destroyed loaf of bread and uploading it to Facebook. Personally, I think I’m living the after 8pm dream and as for feeding my kids imagination and giving them a sense of wonder, that’s what Minecraft is for no?

Finally… expensive advent calendars. For adults this is a yes from me. I haven’t got one, but I wish I did 🙁 But honestly. I remember my advent calendars as a child, they didn’t even have chocolate in them! You just opened them and all there was, was a poxy picture! But you know what, it was magic and it was wondrous because we were counting down to a huge event. I don’t mind the chocolate ones if I’m honest, and I don’t even mind the Lego or Playmobile ones really… they are just so unnecessary. I can’t even imagine presenting my kids with an Advent Calendar that didn’t have chocolate in it… because somewhere along the way, the point has been lost, its not a countdown to Christmas, its chocolate every single day in December!

I LOVE Christmas, I love that we don’t have long to wait, my kids are already excited, and it is undoubtedly magical. You couldn’t accuse me of being a Grinch in any way, but I really do hate that damn Elf.

Note: I honestly don’t care what y’all do in your family at Christmas, this entire post has been written with tongue firmly in cheek. Much love to you all, no matter how you celebrate, and Merry Christmas (it’s really still too far early for that particular greeting, but that’s another blog post entirely….)

04. 09. 2015

Imagine this. Imagine your worst fears happen. Imagine Islamic State got a foothold in the UK. Slowly and surely things start to change, your wives and daughters are insulted for wearing what they like as they walk down the street, imagine the government appearing to do nothing and things worsening, imagine your daughter being called a whore and given lashes for daring to have a boyfriend, imagine the knock on your door in the morning, and your son being dragged out into the street and being lashed for god knows what, and as you look around your neighbourhood, you see your house is not the only one to have received a visit, your neighbours are crying, some in despair, some in pain. Imagine your son, defiant, fighting back, imagine him being dragged to the Cathedral Green and beheaded. Imagine. Imagine that. As you listen to the news you realise that this is happening in Bristol, Plymouth, Torquay…not just your town.

Imagine, your father comes to check on the family and witnesses an attempt to drag your daughter away and shouts and wails and lashes out with his stick. Imagine he is immediately lashed for his insubordinance, and thanks to his age, he dies. Imagine realising this isn’t just your county, but is happening all over the country. Imagine your father is dead, imagine your son is beheaded, imagine your neighbours are missing, your sister isn’t answering her phone any more, imagine you turn on whats left of the news and realise its not just here in the UK, its in spreading all over Europe. Fear, death, despair. Imagine you have no money left, you can’t go out to work, you need to protect your family, there is no job to go to, life has changed forever. Imagine knowing your daughter, unless you protect her, will be raped, maybe over and over and again. If she protests, she may well just be killed. And imagine all of this, with a back drop of war. There is no hope. No one is coming to help you. So you run, you pack a bag with soft toys and a few clothes, a loaf of bread, the last few pounds you have and you run.

Where do you run? You don’t know, you’re frightened and desperate. Your son is dead, your father is dead, you need to protect what remains of your family. You head to the coast and see a dinghy, you beg and scream and plead to be allowed on the boat, because to remain where you are means certain death, you get on the boat and during the journey people die, they fall overboard, imagine one of those is your daughter, you wail and cry and beat your chest in despair. The pain won’t stop, your life may as well be over, but you look over at your spouse and know that despite everything you must keep going, you must find sanctuary and safety. When you are there you can grieve and try to make sense of the living hell you have been through. And then imagine getting there and being called a scrounger, imagine people thinking you’d come for a pitiful £30 odd a week, imagine being turned away.  Can you even imagine. So tell me, what the hell would you do? Karma is a bitch my friends, do as you would have done unto you, exercise some empathy, help however you can, because you NEVER know when it may be you begging for help.

How you can help, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/03/refugee-crisis-what-can-you-do-to-help

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So there’s a new social media in town and its called Periscope. I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard about it yet? Essentially, like most social media, you follow friends, acquaintances, brands, celebrities, people you are generally interested in. They then broadcast from their device whatever it is they want to show or talk about, and you can watch real time. Or alternatively, you can be the broadcaster and your followers can watch real time too.

In principle its incredible and to be fair, the first broadcast I watched blew me away, not because of the content (although it was excellent) but because as I watched, I could see the possibilities spreading out before me, it seemed innovative and exciting. So I excitedly followed everyone and every brand I could find on there that I was interested in hearing from.

First thing I noticed, was that as a viewer, it wasn’t terribly user friendly…I could see these hearts popping up all over the screen and I realised of course that it was other viewers demonstrating how they felt about what they were viewing, but I had no idea how to do it myself… I asked and it was as simple as tapping the screen, but nothing told me how to do it. You can comment as you watch which is simple. When viewing on a phone, the screen can quickly become covered in comments though, its not easy to see what’s being shown as the comments are distracting. On a tablet this is much better. You can also share broadcasts that others are making, on Twitter for example, so your followers can watch too. If you can work out/remember how on earth to do it. Its a swipe down or right and down, or something, but perhaps that’s just me showing my age.

However, its not really the user friendliness that’s bothering me. It’s the huge invasion of my day.

So I follow 44 people/companies on Periscope. Some of those accounts are quite active.  When someone you follow broadcasts, your device will give a little whistle. Some days my phone is whistling a lot, I find it truly invasive. Who has the time to watch this many videos? Who has employers that would tolerate you stopping to watch videos during your working day?

Now you can turn off the notifications, and I think I’m correct in saying that if the broadcaster enables it, you can watch the videos up to 24 hours later… but I have to ask, isn’t that the opposite of the whole purpose of Periscope, to share something there and then, in the moment? You might as well stick with You Tube if you want to watch things at your own time at your leisure. The very nature of Perisocope is to share the sunrise as it happens, the latest product unboxing, or the celebs walking the red carpet, to feel like you’re there, to get the scoop, to share the moment, but as soon as you start following people in any quantity, you can be so busy sharing other people’s lives that there’s no time left to live your own.

I’m deleting the app, there’s too much social media in my life already without adding to it with an app that screams “look at me RIGHT NOW” 10 times a day, sometimes more.

I can totally see the appeal, I can see how innovative it is, how exciting can be, but no, Periscope, you’re not for me. If this is the future, it’s all going a bit Black Mirror for me, I’m out.

This week the news broke that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got married in the Bahamas in an idyllic beach ceremony. While women the world over wept into their gossip columns, I found myself addressing something that had been lurking in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. I no longer fancy Johnny Depp.

Sometime around 1998 I got this poster (below) from somewhere. I knew his name was Johnny Depp, but other than that, I knew nothing about him, other than he set my teenage heart a flutter.

As the years passed, I, like the rest of the world, came to know Mr Depp very well. It wasn’t just that he was handsome, but he had a true talent and I was impressed by the roles he took over the years, avoiding big budget movies for smaller, more interesting films. Films such as Benny & Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to name but a few.

I’m not sure where it started going wrong for me. Pirates of the Caribbean was a huge leap to the real mainstream and I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it, but the change of direction was fun. Sweeney Todd was dire, Alice in Wonderland was average, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was…okay. I don’t think its a coincidence that these are all Tim Burton movies (I used to love Tim Burton, I’m upset at him too). I saw less incredible acting and more kookiness. And this was something I started to notice in his rare appearances on the red carpets and the like… the strange glasses, the affected styling…it was all just a bit meh. And the divorce from his long term wife and subsequent engagement to Amber Heard… I felt disappointed. I KNOW, I have no idea what was going on in the marriage or whether he and Amber are made for each other, and further more I KNOW it’s none of my business, but I just felt he would age gracefully, stylishly, handsomely whilst still acting with that amazing skill he has. He’s still ridiculously handsome but I’m sorry Johnny, we’re finished.

 

Lets talk about Madonna. In 1984 I asked my Mum what a virgin was, I remember her telling me she’d tell me when I was older. That didn’t stop me saving my 50p a week pocket money to buy the Album Like a Virgin. It was £4.50 on cassette and my Dad took me to Our Price to buy it.

I loved everything about Madonna. The look, the perfect styling and moreover, I loved her for literally decades, through all the different images. Even up to relatively lately when she was prancing about in a leotard and people were moaning about her bony crotch at her age, I was defensive. Why should her age stop her rocking the leotard, she looked AMAZING.

The rudeness, the toy boys, the leotards, all was fine by me, she’s amazing. Watch one of her concerts, incredible.

But then came the grills. I look at this photograph and she looks stunning…

…but all I can think is  Madonna, you massive idiot.

But then there’s the music… I don’t think I’ve heard anything I liked since since 4 Minutes with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland and that was back in 2008 and I know there’s been a few singles since.

The final reason I’m upset with her is because I thought she was a magical un-ageing queen of pop, maybe something like the female Dorian Gray. I just though she, like Johnny Depp, aged amazingly well. This year, I’ve realised the truth. Now actually I’ve got no issue with a bit of help, a nip, a tuck, a filler here, a bit of botox there, if you want it, and you can afford it go for it, and the same applies to Madonna, but my dreams are shattered,  I thought she was the magical queen of pop and now I know she’s not.  I suppose I’m more upset with me than her for being so naive.

It’s a weird thing, because it’s not just about ageing, its something about ageing gracefully, not gracelessly, and that applies to both Madge and Johnny, I don’t care about their age. I think I do feel disappointed in them both because they both appear to be trying too hard to be young, and it smacks of desperation. But mostly, its a weird thing, thirty years I’ve admired Madonna, and now nothing, and its only just less for Johnny Depp and they were possibly my two biggest idols, good looks and talent and far from being sad they’ve aged, or thinking that they’ve lost their specialness because of their age I’d prefer it if they’d just age without the air of desperation (particularly in Madonna’s case).

I’m not even really sure what I’m trying to say in this post, it’s just more of a thinking out loud post really, something I’ve been mulling over for a while now… surely I’m not ageist? You don’t just go off people because they reach a certain age…but I’m not sure what exactly it is thats put me off! I also do my level best to think that people should be free to do what they want with whom they want, whatever they look like, without being judged, but still, I do find myself judging.

So do you have any idols who you’ve gone off? And why? Can you more accurately than me, explain what it is about Madonna and Johnny Depp that I now find so off putting as I’m struggling?

Once upon a time there was a young woman. This young woman never wanted children, nor to get married until one day she met her Prince. Then somewhere around her 30th birthday her ovaries went ping and lo, she longed for babies. And so it came to be that the young woman had two babies and the Prince and the woman decided it would be nice if one of them stayed at home to care for the babies. After looking at their finances it became clear that the obvious choice would be for the lower income to be lost, the young woman’s, but it would be worth it. And so for seven long years the young woman stayed at home and cared for the children, occasionally pushed the hoover about and did a lot of blogging.

Then oldest child started school and the youngest child started going to nursery. Money was a bit tight but the young woman (who wasn’t so young any more), had a bit more time for blogging, and put the hoover about a bit more often.

And finally the day came when the youngest child also started school and so the Not-so-young Woman had a lot more time on her hands and decided it was time to return to work. She didn’t really want to return to office work and fancied being around people a bit more and so she started to search for lovely little shop jobs. Applying for jobs was much harder work this time round as there was now a massive gap on her CV and she had no current references.

However, a little job cropped up that just looked perfect so she applied for it. Much to her joy and her Princes’ pride she got an interview which she prepared well for and joy upon joys she got the job!  One evening she went to her new work place for her induction and it was then that she was told her wage. It wasn’t a lot but it was okay. In the days that followed her induction she realised that some of her hours would mean that the children would need some kind of childcare. When she booked and arranged that childcare with a combination of child minders and after school clubs, it soon became clear that half of her earnings would be spent paying for this child care. The Not-so-young Woman was still optimistic. After all, half the money was more than she had earned in the last years of not working and there were other benefits too, like being someone other than “mummy” and making new friends and having a life outside the home.

And so it came to be that the Not-so-young Woman went for her training in her spanking new uniform and she felt ever so smart. She wasn’t allowed to wear much make up so she enjoyed perfecting the no-make-up make up look and slicking her hair back into a classic pony tail and she enjoyed putting on her crisp ironed shirt and black trousers. And she spent four hours meeting lovely new people and thinking to herself that this working life was going to be quite alright.

In the days that followed, the Not-young-at-all woman realised that the half term holiday was fast approaching and that perhaps she should be organised and book the holiday club for the children for the three days that she worked. It was then that she realised that for the holidays the childcare would cost more than she was earning. Optimistic still, she spent hours and hours looking for cheaper alternatives to no avail, until it was decided that for one week the family would manage, but that the situation would have to be re-thought before the Summer holidays. She wasn’t keen on working for six or seven weeks for nothing. At this point, the Not-young-at-all woman’s optimism started to disappear and so she decided that a positive exercise would be to work out her entire earnings for the next year and the total child care costs for the next year. And to her great shock, the annual childcare bill was MORE than her entire year’s wage. And so the Not-young-at-all woman took to social media networks and other online groups to ask what other Mum’s did. Those that didn’t want to work full time because they wanted to be there for their children some of the time after school. And many people replied. The Not-young-at-all woman was shocked to learn that amongst her peers many worked at a loss in the holidays, many had run up debt by just working, and many had tried to look for work but had the same problems and so had given up and were struggling still with one salary because it just wasn’t worth the Mum working.

And so, with a heavy heart, and a great degree of mortification, the Not-young-at-all woman had to give up her shiny new job before she had even started and embark on a hunt for a  job that either had such perfect hours that no childcare was needed at all, or that paid so well that the costs of childcare were not so important, but with this new job search, her heart was heavy, she felt defeated and pessimistic. After all, with so many Mums in the same position all searching for these rare jobs with great wages and perfect hours, the opportunities were not looking quite as bright as when it felt like the world was waiting arms outstretched shouting “welcome back!”

And so this is a fairy tale that doesn’t have a happy ending but who knows?  Maybe there will be happier chapter two in the future!

*This situation cannot go on, by making the prices of childcare so astronomical, families have to make the decision for either both parents to work full time to cover childcare and bring in some extra income and therefore see much less of their children, or to not work,  a choice which is quite frankly almost criminal to my mind and the fact that isn’t just my experience, but is altogether more common is an absolute disgrace*

09. 01. 2013

I recently had an experience which as a blogger wasn’t great and I wanted to share it with you so that other bloggers can try to avoid the same situation.

I was recently approached by a social media agency and asked if I’d like to try out a product. Now this happens to me all the time, most things I feature on this blog come to me as a press sample and I always feel really lucky. I am selective though and there are many things I turn down as they are unsuitable for my blog, or I don’t think I will like them, or for whatever reason. However on this occasion I really liked the sound of the product so I said yes please, I’d love to try this. This is standard stuff, I do this several times a week. Would you  like to try our product? Yes Please or No Thanks. Product comes. I use it for a period of time, then I blog about it when I’m ready.

However. After I’d said yes please and provided my address, the following day I received an email from the social media agency saying that it had been posted out to me and they were looking forward to hearing my thoughts. Other bloggers should be nodding along at this point, it’s all standard stuff. Only thing is In this email sent confirming the dispatch, was a note giving me an extremely short deadline…at this point, a more experienced and knowledgeable blogger would have said…er no! But I didn’t, I replied saying it was very short notice but I’d do my best.

Lesson One: blogging should be on your terms, unless you are being paid.

They agreed it was short notice but hoped I’d be able to mange it anyway. Now see at this point they had me in their claws, because I like to think I’m an honourable blogger, once I’ve received a product, I feel I have to blog about it… after all, I’ve been sent something lovely for nothing, that’s how I feel. Very rarely I won’t blog about something, usually if I am completely indifferent to it, and I just can’t think of anything to say, but mostly, if I’m sent a product, I review it. I don’t feel happy taking something for nothing, so I view taking the product as a sort of payment. Which in all honesty is fine with your standard blog posts, but when people start giving you instructions then  it becomes less about blogging about lovely stuff, and more like unpaid work….

And that’s when I was provided with the list of keywords I had to insert into my blog post. My blog post which I was given just a few days notice to write. Despite my backlog of things here to write about. Again, the more experienced and knowledgeable would have said, oh no, you can stuff it. In fact that is exactly what I was advised to do by more experienced blogger friends. But oh no, I had product on its way to me, which meant I personally felt honour bound to write the post.

Lesson Two: blogging should be on your terms, unless you are being paid.

And as it happened, the item turned up one day before the deadline. Hardly enough time to try out and review anything much if you want to maintain integrity. But again, stupidly, I felt honour bound to do as I was asked. What I should have said was, no, there’s no way I am doing this, the time scale is too short and I never agreed to use any key words.

But I didn’t because I’m clueless about this kind of thing. But perhaps my experiences might help someone else. The problem from my point of view was the agency didn’t disclose fully what they expected from me in the first instance. If they had have contacted me saying would you like to review xxx product, and could you include these key words, and also we have a very short deadline, do you think it would be possible? I would have probably declined. But I feel this was sneakily done. I accepted the product, it was dispatched and then the various terms were mentioned. And not in one go either.

So bloggers, don’t be a fool like me, if you don’t want to do something or if you feel something is unreasonable, say so, don’t do it, or ask what is in it for you? As a friend said to me recently on this subject…

“bottom line is that
you don’t jump through hoops – they want something from you, not the other way
round. Unless it is a million dollar ***, don’t bother.”

Stick up for yourself and don’t let yourself be taken advantage of and ask when approached by social media agencies in particular, if they have any terms you need to be aware of before accepting the item for review. I did review this product by the way, because I don’t think I’ll ever shake this thing of feeling I need to blog about something if I’ve been sent it, but I won’t be making this mistake again!

Hope this helps someone!

EDIT: just to add, this is by no means entirely the fault of the agency, certainly I have to learn to be more assertive and confident, it’s always been an issue for me sadly!

It’s extremely rare for me to do an all out negative review on my blog. Normally if I don’t get on too well with a product I will be at pains to stress who I feel it might suit and explain why it didn’t suit me but might suit you. This time I can’t think of a single positive. No wait, I can actually think of two, but lets start at the beginning.

I was contacted by Montagne Jeunesse to see if I’d like to review their Skin Hero products. Although it’s lower budget than I’d usually buy for a face mask, I’ve seen the lovely bright packaging around and read good reviews, plus I’ve had a slightly stressful time lately and imagined myself relaxing on the sofa with the face masks and so I accepted the offer to receive them in return for a review. So here we are.

I received the following and thought it was a jolly nice parcel to receive. Something really treaty for me and I was looking forward to giving them a whirl.

Montagne Jeunesse

A cheerful looking collection of products I think you’ll agree.

At the time I received these I was suffering from a small break out, a monthly occurrence unfortunately, so the first one I decided to try was the Break-Out Mask.

Montagne Jeunesse

It sounded perfect. A mud mask fusion of calming Tea Tree and soothing Canadian Willowherb. Followed by a “super moisturiser of tantalising Tea Tree and calming Canadian Willowherb”.

So I slapped it on all over my face (except eyes and mouth obv.) liberally. It felt lovely I must say, a bit mentholly, so cool, smooth and creamy to apply and then as I left it on for the next twenty minutes and as you would expect it dried out giving you that face lift feeling. Then I washed it off and admired my lovely smooth soft clean skin. Then I went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning my face was itchy but it took me a while to drag my sleepy bum out of bed….by which time I realised I was not only very itchy, but my skin was feeling really bumpy and sore too….then I looked in the mirror…. excuse the crappy photographs, I used my phone to take them immediately.

Montagne Jeunesse
Montagne Jeunesse

All over my face. Red. Bumpy. Sore. Itchy and Dry. So, I waited to see if it’d settle, it didn’t then I hit Twitter up for some advice and the very helpful and expert Caroline Hirons came to my rescue  as did the lovely London Make Up Girl. Between them they explained what had happened (Acid Mantle destroyed) and how I could relieve the irritation (antihistamine to relieve the itching and Estee Lauder Advance Night Repair to create a barrier). And do you know what, I’m so grateful to them. The anti histamine very quickly reduced the itching, and the Advance Night Repair soothed quite substantially… that’s not to say I was fixed though. Oh no, this first day was just the start of it. Those things did help to relieve the discomfort a little though.

So after panicking and getting advice from those fab experts, I calmed down and penned an email to my contact at Montagne Jeunesse. I wasn’t snotty, I wasn’t rude, I explained what had happened, explained that I was nervous to try the rest of the products I was sent, I explained how sore I was and what did they think? I think I expected them to consult their “experts” for me or something and offer me some advice on how to treat the damage, explain what might have caused it and whether they thought  I would be okay to try the other products.  And call me unreasonable but I also expected a fairly quick response. All of those things might have helped me to write a more balanced review… you know to include how quick they were to offer advice on what I could try to help and that perhaps they thought it was an ingredient in this one mask and that the others should be fine for me etc.

If someone emailed me saying the acrylic nails I’d done for them had destroyed their hands I’d be emailing pretty sharp to a) apologise b) see what I could do to help fix it and c) do some damage limitation…

But they never replied.

So here it is. A review with no positive input from the company at all.

So after the initial irritation died down, what happened? Well the itching remained for a week, although admittedly, nothing like as bad as the first three days. Then my skin started to get dryer and dryer and dryer. Then it started flaking. There’s no foundation that I own (and I’ve got about 10) that could cover this…and obviously I would want to keep my skin free of cosmetics and just keep it clean and moisturised, but I didn’t feel I could do that because of the final unpleasant side effect. I now have the mother of all break outs. I’m talking more spots than I’ve had in a long time. Massive sore, hard spots. No, no, I can’t go out like that, I just can’t do it. I appreciate that’s my vanity and no one’s problem, all I can say is I’ve put my foundation and concealer on it the morning and as soon as I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the house have cleaned with oils or balms before slathering on my most effective moisture giving products. A week on… the spots remain but the dryness has nearly gone.

So yeah, the Break Out Mask is appropriately named. I sure broke out. And flaked. And itched. And swelled. And got bumpy.

With no input whatsoever from the company I’ve felt totally unable to put a positive slant on this review at all as I normally would, so I’m sorry about that. I won’t be trying the rest of the products they sent me. I won’t be giving them to anyone else to try. I won’t ever purchase one of their products and I will never recommend anyone does.

Just as a final note, I am writing this post a week after using the mask, at the time this post goes live it will have been nearly a fortnight…if by any chance I’ve had a reply from the company in the meantime I’ll be editing this… so if you are reading a rubbish review you’ll know that I gave them a reasonable amount of time before going ahead with this post…

*In case it wasn’t clear – PR SAMPLE*

So some of you may have  seen my panicked tweets a few days ago. Some of you even helped me out for which I’m extremely grateful for. It’s been quite stressful but I’ve learned a lesson and it’s one that applies to blogging so I thought I’d share it here too.

The short version is WATERMARK YOUR PICTURES.

And here’s the long version for those interested.
I received a marketing email to my business email with a photo of my work at the bottom. At first I was  flattered as clearly they thought my use of their products was good enough for a mail out but then it occurred to me that I’d not been credited or asked permission so I emailed and the director called me.

He started the conversation saying that the girl who did the email and himself, believed that if I put an image on Facebook it was fair game. I said I thought that was untrue but even if it was true as a courtesy I felt they could have asked/credited. He agreed. I pointed out that if, as I now know to be fact, I was right and that the law was on my side, I would be entitled to invoice them the going rate for using my image for commercial purposes and that was my right, but before I finished he said “well if you’re going to be combative…” which I interrupted and said that I didn’t want to go the legal route I was just feeling a bit miffed and what I was going to say was that he was lucky I wasn’t going to do that! He agreed that I was right about asking permission and crediting and that in future his team would always ask permission from whoever they were wanting to use images from.  He then made a big fuss out of how good I am at what I do and that his firm like to nurture their talent and he asked if I had a salon he could help to promote or anything. I said I was mobile and so that dried up that avenue and he said well if I did ever open a salon then to go to him. He then said as a gesture of good will he would give me a discount on my next order.
I can’t explain why I just accepted that, but to keep the peace I agreed but little did I suspect that when I emailed him later that discount would turn out to be 10%. Which is of course, insulting. If he had just said let me send you a few bottles of xxxx, I’d have been thrilled!
“As a gesture of good will, I am happy to offer you a 10 per cent discount on your next open stock xxx order.
Let me know which colours you would like.
Best”
Now I don’t know about you but I was infuriated since actually it’s me being goodwilled by not suing them/charging them for using my image without permission.  All I’d like is a some xxxx or something, but to have to place an order and then only get 10% off is insulting… isn’t it? When he offered the discount I accepted and said thank you, but I never dreamt it would be a paltry 10% I was expecting 50%!
So I’d gone from being slightly miffed to feeling very cross indeed. Clearly this guy wasn’t going to accept that they had used my photo illegally.  When I raised this with him, he explained that the 10% offer was nothing to do with compensation, it was to thank me for blogging about the brand in the past, and that there would be no apology or compensation for the use of my image because they’d done nothing wrong. He claims that as my photo is on Facebook it’s in the “public domain” and is therefore fair game. Which is nonsense. You know that, I know that but there are many people out there who don’t know that.
So what can you do to prevent your images being taken?
I’m not sure there is much (well actually I think there are things but they are beyond my knowledge base), but from now on my images will be watermarked. It doesn’t make a jot of difference to anything other than making them less appealing potential image thieves.
You will see my next few posts feature pictures that aren’t watermarked, simply because I wrote and scheduled them prior to this event but in a week or two you should start to see the watermarked pictures filter in.
In my last email from this guy last night he said
“It was for this reason alone, that I suggested that in future, if we are to use images in the public domain – we will once again extend this customer service mantra by ‘going over and above’ to where possible, seek out the originator of the image and respectfully ask permission.

This will not be out of a legal obligation. It will be to uphold our customer service image”

Completely ignorant of his obligations to the end! I’ve heard nothing today so assume that will be the end of it.  You know what? If he’d have just said to me “sorry about this, have a couple of bottles of xxxx” I’d have been thrilled, I’m a small, minute, tiny business and it would have been a massive help to me. As it is, I’m switching brands and it’s taken all I’ve got to not name and shame this firm! There are people who are still advising I invoice the firm and tell them if they don’t pay up I’ll see them in court…but I don’t want to do that, but I’m mulling it over.

Watermark your photo’s people!

EDIT: I did reply to his email above with a few links to the copyright law and Public Domain… and received this back

“I once again assure you that there has been no infringement on copyright law. Having said that, I have instructed my team that to avoid potentially upsetting a customer, going forward we will endeavour where possible to ask permission.”

I’m interested to know readers, what would you do in my position? Because I’m finding the more this company refuses to accept they are wrong, the more I want to prove it…

So, fish pedicures, one of the biggest things to hit the beauty industy in the last year or so. I’ve never had one, but they sound pretty fabulous, if not a little icky. Stick your feet in a fish tank and let the fish eat away all your dead skin leaving you with soft feet free from callouses and dead skin.

Sounds great?

Well it doesn’t really appeal to me to be honest, but I probably would have been willing to give it a go  should the opportunity have arisen…but now I’m not so sure.

I’m not going to discuss hygiene, I know there was recently a scare about disease spreading, but thats not what I’m here to write about.

Lets start by talking a little bit about the amazing Garra Rufa fish aka the Doctor Fish. Amazing little fish, from largely the Turkey area, they consume dead skin, but even more miraculous is the fact that in their saliva contains a healing enzyme which is largely why they are called Doctor Fish. They can really help in skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

With the recent explosion of popularity in Fish Pedicures around the world Turkey has had to legally protect the species from commercial exploitation. What does that mean? It means that Garra Rufa fish are harder to find and more expensive. Other important details are that the Garra Rufa is a toothless fish. It never bites, it nibbles and because it has no teeth and relies on suction it can be used on any part of the body without pain, or risk of any damage, it simply can’t remove healthy skin.

So I’m waffling on but what is my point and what does this information mean to you? Well, what it means is that a some salons are using “fake” Garra Rufa’s. They may be entirely unaware that they are using them, but it is still the case… in the search for the cheapest suppliers they are often unaware that what they are actually buying are Chin Chin fish. They look the similar for the most part. But there are important differences. Firstly they are less hardy and die easily.  Secondly it has teeth. Whilst still young, it’s unable to damage you but once it reaches approximately 6cm you can look out. At this point they need to be discarded (I shudder to think how) and of course this relies on the salon knowing this information, and acting on it.  The Chin Chin is an aggressive and cannibalistic breed of fish… put your feet it at your own peril. In addition, there are no healing benefits to be had from the Chin Chin, it’s not a Doctor Fish. what it does is peel skin, good or bad.

Now, having read a considerable amount about fish spa’s in the last few days I’ve decided I’ll never be having one of these, and I have been unable to find any numbers to substantiate how prevalent these fake Doctor Fish are in the UK, but I know from talking to people online that they have experienced being bitten…. so I’m guessing it’s not just a US problem.

If you really want to go and get yourself a fish pedicure then make srue you can tell the difference between a Chin Chin and a Garra Rufa before you put your feet in that water…

Garra Rufa:

Chin Chin

EDIT: when I found this out I thought I’d uncovered some great controversy that no one had heard of but alas, on googling further I see a few other bloggers have covered this too! Sorry!