La Vie En Rose

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Hi, I'm Rachel. Here's the story of my life.

I really need to check my job at the door: ...of the bookstore. The other day in Foyles I had to physically restrain myself from re-organizing some Beast Quests that were in the wrong order. Tonight in Waterstones I found myself recommending The Sky is Everywhere to someone looking for a gift for a 15 year old. What can I say? 3 years in a bookstore and old habits die hard.

Overheard in Stoke Newington:
1:"The only good thing about David Cameron"
2&3 in unison: "There's nothing good about David Cameron."
1" his taste in music."

Whigs and Tories: I went to a "mustache and wig" party as a Lib Dem supporter, but no one got it.

[Comments] (1) wwi era tea making: Did you mean: wwii era tea making ?


But Tonks was so cuddly: Dinosaur sandwich? Slumming in giant trampolines of death? I should not be allowed to sleep late; it always makes for crazy dreams.

[Comments] (1) Clothes maketh the woman: It's about time I updated on how my goals for this year are going. I have been meaning to do it for about two months. So far, so good. I have had only one blip.

Sometime in February when it was pouring down rain I was very jealous of Edd who just put on his normal gear and one of those foldaway rain jackets over it. I don't have one of those so I put on my normal rain jacket, but the hood is a bit too effective, meaning I can't see. So by the time I showed up at work I was completely soaked. Thinking about how handy it would be to have one, especially in spring when showers can take you by surprise and an umbrella doesn't go very well with bicycles unless you are in Amsterdam, I nearly went on Amazon and getting myself a foldaway mac but then I remembered my goal. I looked in charity shops, tried to get one on freecycle, and even went on Oxfam online, but no luck. Then on my birthday we were in Oxford St buying knives and popped into Uniqlo. There was one on offer there for £15, pretty much what I wanted exactly, although probably made in sweatshop out of evil plastic, but I bought it anyway. Oh well. I hope it is my only blip. I guess the secret is to keep out of stores so there is no temptation.

Other than that I have been very good. I have bought: a winter hat (allowed because of previous need), tights (underwear so allowed -- but I jumped the gun on that one because I haven't worn them yet), a pair of jeans from a charity shop which were a great purchase, I wear them all the time, and just yesterday a cute top from the same charity shop. It's a great charity shop and I could have easily spent £30 or £40 getting lots of cute clothes I don't strictly need. I only allowed myself the top because I thought it would be a wise purchase, like the jeans. I think even when my clothing ban is over, that will be the main way forward.

That and sewing! I got a sewing machine for my birthday and I am so excited. I'm going to try it out today. It's a proper one, a Bernina from the 70s. I did buy a black suit jacket from Oxfam when I went on looking for a mac (one of the other things I wanted to buy this year but don't strictly need... it was a great deal and a lovely jacket but sadly had a cigarette burn on it so I had to send it back). I also bought some fabric and am in danger of becoming my mother. Hopefully the fabric will turn itself into a cute dress and skirt instead of sitting in my closet for 15 years, but I need to do some rudimentary projects first.

I have also gotten a pair of clarks sandals from freecycle but I haven't worn yet. I haven't decided yet if shoes are included in the ban, but I'm going to try to not buy any this year because I have my bases covered.

[Comments] (2) the great supermarket class war: A while ago there was some #middleclassinsults trend going around twitter. I don't follow twitter so I don't know about these things unless they bleed over into facebook/ blogs, but I had a look at this one and thought it was retty stupid. Anyway I can't remember how it transpired but it lead to a discussion amongst my friend group consisting of brits and non-brits of the middleclass-ness or lack there of of various british supermarkets. My idea is it going something like this:


*I have put Sainsburys above Tesco, despite the fact that I have found shopping for the same things comparable. This is because Sainsburys seems to have a better range of "Taste the Difference" "organics" etc.

The bottom rung sort of bleeds together. I've never been to Lidl but I think Iceland is pretty rank. Budgens/ Costcutter are local supermarkets that never have big versions with delis, etc, so I'm not including them here. (I'm not sure if Iceland qualifies by those terms but it is important to the discussion so whatever.) I'm not sure where Co-op fits in. M&S I have excluded because it is not a grocery store, it is a food store, where you can only buy food that has been preparded and prepacked and costs 4 times what it would if you made it yourself. (I went in one looking for vanilla back in my FOB days... turns out they don't do an M&S own brand vanilla!)

The Hypothesis I want to put forward is simple: It is ironic that in the UK, there is more class status attached to the supermarket where you shop, despite the fact that there is less likely to be a choice (ie you live in a big city and don't have a car, or you live in a small community with only one supermarket in driving distance, and that supermarket has put all of the local shops out of business). In the states this is less likely to be the case (broad generalization and based only on my experience in the highly populated south west where everyone has a car and lives within 10 minutes of 10 supermarkets.)

In the states, by contrast, there are a few exceptions. Whole Foods and similar where the snobby hippies shop. Trader Joes where the proper hippies, students, and other cool people (yes, that is a value judgement) shop. Local and 'mexican' super markets where poor and down to earth people shop. But that's about it. Everything else: Albertsons, Vons, Super Target, those foriegn ones I've only heard of (HEB etc) seem pretty much the same and no one is gong to sneer at you for shopping at one rather than the other. Maybe because they are tooo busy sneering at your for shopping at Walmart. Hmmm. But even that doesn't seem to have the same stigma that it used to.

Back in the UK, where there is great statement attached to your supermarket of choice (or not so choice) not to mention potential price difference, consider the following case study. I have lives in 5 different places since moving to london (all in 2.5 years!) and in each place there was one supermarket within walking distance (proper one with deli, bakery, butcher etc). The first place I lived, in halls in the center of London, had a Waitrose nearby. This is highly ironic. Being central London, the only housing nearby was for students, council flats, and the very rich. The Waitrose catered for the very rich but left the rest of us with little choice. I didn't have a kitchen, so it wasn't a huge deal. I could get my microwave ready meals at the Tesco across from Russell Square tube, about the size of a postage stamp and always with a queue four times as long. Oh well. Then I moved to Seven Sisters where I considered myself lucky to have an enormous Tesco across the street. I suppose this is where I aquired my Tesco habit because when I lvied here before I always shopped at Sainsburys. In East Finchley there was a Budgens and an Iceland. The Iceland was horrible and I only went in if I was feeling particuarily poor, and the Budgens was hideously expensive, mainly because they don't have their own brand so you have to buy the name brand -- thus the refuge for the desperate. There was a massive Sainsburys in Muswell Hill, always crowded but well stocked, however it was a 15 mintute walk (20 with heavy groceries) or a bus ride, and at the time I had a severe bus phobia, so we lived mainly on Tesco orders and topped up at Budgens or places "in town." In Dalston, near Newington Green, there is a massive Sainsburys in the worst shopping centre known to man. Dalston is teeming with life, butchers and vegetable markets and ethnic food stores, so I never understood how that Sainsburys thrived much less was always more crowded than Disneyland, but some things you can only get in a supermarket, or its better, or cheaper, or easier to do your shopping all at once. I don't know. For whatever of those reasons I have been there many times myself, and I always end up wanting to chew my arm off to escape. It's that bad. Well, no more.

The whole reason for these musing is because I recently discovered Morrisons. I took Tonks to the vet in "Stamford Hill" (the bit of Stamford Hill that's right by Stoke Newington station) and I noticed the Morrisons. In my head I got it confused with Somerfield which sells Co-op products so I thought I would go there and check it out and buy some fairtrade chocolate. (There is a Somerfield nearby but I didn't find it.) Whoo hoo! It was one of the most pleasant grocery shopping experiences of my time here. It was crowded, sure, but everyone was polite, the shelves were well stocked, the staff were friendly, no screaming babies and despite the crowds there were no massive queues because all the tills were open. There was a bakery, a butcher, a fishmonger, and a deli, and everything was that much cheaper than Tesco or Sainsburys, but still the same quality. All a 5 minute bike ride from my house. Now, I am trying to kick the supermarket habit, for reasons I'll explain later because this is already too long and I've sat here ages writing it, so I doubt I'll be going to Morrisons every week. But it sure is nice to know its there. I came out very excited, and when I remembered that shopping at Morrisons is supposed to be an insult, I laughed.

On the supermarket class scale, this makes no sense. Morrisons is definitely a 'lower class' supermarket according to these #middleclassinsults. The prices are cheaper, too. But the people in Dalston are not going to trek all the way to Stamford Hill to shop at Morrisons, and the people in Stamford Hill/ Stokie are not going to trek all the way to Dalston to shop in Sainsburys. Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill (to a lesser extent) are definitley areas of middle class-ness in between Dalston and Seven Sisters. For a lot of people, (probably *most* people in London) your supermarket is determined by location. There are always ways around it such as delivery but come on. Why the scale? Why the snobbery?

Vast generalization here, I think that in the US the class obsession is more to do with image, whereas in Britian its more about substance. It's possible that this is changing. That might explain the topsy turviness of this example. A tin of tomatoes is, after all, a tin of tomatoes no matter what the label looks like (except the basics ones... I have in fact found those to be inferior) so, it shouldn't matter where you shop. Hmmm.

Update: Sorry John and Susie, my comments have stopped emailing so I don't notice them till I get on here and now it's not letting me post a new comment. to answer your question what I meant was probably a broad generalization that's not true, but in general I was thinking of American obsession with knock-off designer goods vs. British "poshness" which requires the wearing of quality goods such as Barbour or Hunter wellies, the more worn the better because it means you have been out at your country estate exercising the horses and maintaining the hedge. Or something. (And yes, I have a pair of Hunter wellies thanks to Leonard, and they are the best. Not only do they make me posh by default, they are a great purple color, I get loads of compliments every time I wear them, AND they keep the bottom half of my legs completely dry. Plus they will probably last forever so I will still be wearing them when I am walking my dogs on my country estate. =) And thanks!

British reserve: There was nearly a riot in the post office today. The queue snaked all the way around and back again. I went in to change some money (going to Amsterdam tonight!) and waited for 10 minutes for someone to come up and say "2 min." and then for another 15. So I wasn't very happy about that and the people in the queue were not very happy with how fast it was moving. Then a guy started ranting and after a few uncomfortable minutes others started murmuring "he's right, he's right."

Might I have joined the riot? Possibly. I was not impressed by how long it took someone to come off their coffee break to take my money, and not to mention today I got a "You were out" sheet in the mail. For the record, I was NOT out and neither were at least two of my house neighbors. I had heard that sometimes lazy posties don't bother with the packages and just give the "you were out" sheets as a matter of course, but I didn't believe it till now. Now I have to go wait in that massive queue to pick up my package and pay £1 for the pleasure. From now on I'm having everything shipped to work.

[Comments] (2) A tale of two tomatoes: I have been thinking about tomatoes a lot lately. It started with the tesco delivery missing out the 21 tins of chopped tomatoes I had ordered. Long story short it ended with a call from the manager to apologize and I discovered I am becoming British because instead of demanding the tomatoes delivered for free an my convenience, I accepted his apology. At least I got the original delivery charge refunded.

This afternoon, on my way back home from collecting a brita filter from freecyle, I stopped at the large sainsbury's I love to hate in dalston. My main objects were tea (which Tesco also didn't deliver-- actually I prefer tea from sainsbury's because their own red label is free trade, tastes great and is super cheap) and a filter for the brita, which incidentally I forgot to buy. I also thought I would get some tomatoes since the cupboard is sadly lacking in the department. Then I got to the tomato aisle and remembered this article I read on the guardian about how they are switching their chopped tomatoes from tins to tetra-paks.

I have been having a crisis of conscious since my upstairs neighbor (currently playing the same three chords over and over, but I am doing my best to be equally annoying by blocking him out with amy winehouse.) told me tetra-paks can't be recycled here in Hackney. It turns out they can, but in the meantime I have learned that they are actually really hard to recycle and it's hardly worth it. So I have been torn about what to do about juice and tomatoes, and decided for the benefit of easy recycling to switch from my beloved tomato passata (40p for 500 grams) to canned tomatoes which are slightly more expensive (except when they are on offer, which is why I ordered 21 cans in the first place). But now it seems Sainsbury's has foiled even this small effort. Oh well. In the meantime I bought two cans of whole tomatoes figuring I can put them through the food processor.

I think the best solution would be to grow a years worth of tomatoes over summer and can them. But considering the result of my gardening efforts last year, this is extremely unlikely to happen...

[Comments] (2) Please cosume me! : In general I ignore sell-by dates and the like, but some of them are so ridiculous that I can't believe anyone takes them seriously. For instance the jar from which the pickle I am now eating came says on the label: consume within 5 days.

Really??? I thought the whole point of pickles is that they can withstand a nuclear holocaust.

This is funny because in general I find Brits are a lot more relaxed about what goes in the cupboard instead of the fridge, whatever it says on the label. Eggs are the most famous example. Ketchup. Brown sauce. Chutney. Tabasco. Soy. Lemon juice. Hard grated cheese. Well, it's all in the fridge now. One of the benefits of having my own (sort of) kitchen.

[Comments] (2) : Well it's a new year and time to make new resolutions that I won't keep. Last year I resolved to learn how to sew. I did not do this. In fact, last year I actually owned a sewing machine, and now I do not (Albeit the sewing machine was in storage in California, and I sold it resolving to use the money to buy another here... but I am reluctant to do so till I am settled in a new flat, and so.... ) The closest I came was making the easy half of a dress when I was visiting Susie. Oh well.

It might just be easier to give things up than try and learn new things. I have already resolved, kind of by accident, or at least non-consciously, to not take any short haul flights this year. I came to that one without really thinking about it and it's a good one, shouldn't be too hard to stick to. I have had some of my best holidays on ryanair sales (last year alone I was off to Florence, Barcelona and Serbia on budget airlines), but I am sick of the horrible guilt, not to mention the sneaky charges and the trekking to airports in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and the awful ads they play at ear bursting levels. I think I'm ready to move on. Jenn and I are going to Amsterdam by night ferry, which I'm really excited about, and I can get my share of sun and beach in France via train or ferry. No visit to Morocco, but that's all right. Maybe next year.

So now I am half consciously having another resolution... not to buy any new clothes. I think my definition of "new clothes" would exclude things from charity shops. But I can think of three things already that I need/ will need: a winter hat, nude tights, some underwear... other than that, though. I think I do have everything I need and I can probably go a whole year without buying anything. So why not try?

[Comments] (1) Wishlist update: here is the UK edition (duh)

More fun with google: Did you mean:greece macedonia border near London, UK

no actually I didn't

[Comments] (2) : Well, they've started showing christmas ad(verts) so I guess it's time for this.

Where: early modern England (map): Sometimes the automatic features of Google Calendar crack me up. For instance this Wednesday I am supposedly attending a seminar in "Auschwitz and Israel".

Dear brain:
The novel I wrote 5 years ago is not actually a source I can use in my PhD, even if it does perfectly exhibit the changing standards of propriety during war time.


[Comments] (2) Notes in the column of a chapter of my story:

i'd much rather have the final death scene at the BL but i think logistically that document has to be at the national archives.

before they leave, they recieve a message from

this needs serious work

john goddard macclesfield counciller
"I nearly stole a child on the tube but then I remembered... it was illegal."

cut the anti serbian, anti east london crap

[Comments] (2) Consolidation and Wealth: I'm moving. Therefore I'm trying to get rid of stuff. In an effort at streamlining, I went through my wardrobe and took out everything that I don't wear or don't like to wear because it doesn't quite fit or I don't really like it or whatever. I thought I might take them to one of those clothing exchanges, but I don't really have time for that, so I thought of the brilliant idea of selling them on ebay. (I realise now this is illogical) Then I might make some of my investment back! Well this morning I started the process of sorting and listing and after nearly an hour, no where near done, I realised how stupid I was being. I was using the precious time taken off paid work specifically for academic work, to do something that would make me less money than if I was actually working and that was much less enjoyable. So I crammed it all into bags for the charity shop and started on my paper proposals.

Maybe it's the fact that I'd already gotten rid of it in my head that makes it easier to let go, but I know that once they're gone, I won't miss those clothes or books (yes, books!) With very few exceptions, I've never missed anything I've gotten rid of. There are a few things I wish I could have kept, but that's different, a choice made when knowing that keeping is impractical. There's no point in cluttering my wardrobe with and forcing myself to wear clothes I don't really like just because they're "nice" and/or I spent some money on them last year or 5 years ago. I already get remarkable utility on the stuff I have and do use; time to give the rest a chance with someone else.

[Comments] (1) Consolidation: Getting rid of books is harder for me than getting rid of anything else. Clothes, for example, don't look pretty on a shelf.

on bed: I just love hanging out with my kitty. he is so sweet!

[Comments] (1) How do you tell if a cat has jet lag?: When he wakes you up in the middle of the night demanding dinner, he has jet lag.

[Comments] (1) T update: Tonks seems to be adjusting really well. He spent the first night in Jenn’s closet but last night he slept with us for the first bit and spent the rest of the night prowling or who knows what. How do you tell if a cat is jet lagged? My friend who brought her dog over said he got jet lagged, but cats have such sporadic sleeping hours anyway I wonder if it makes a difference.

He is getting along well with all the inhabitants of the house who seem to have taken a liking to him as well, except perhaps Nimbus who regards him with some caution. I’m sure the idolising stage will come in a bit! As nimbus has always adored having other cats around.

So far he has been busy exploring our house and has not shown any desire to go outside. His new favourite hiding place is behind the couch – although Seb said he had to move it out a bit so he doesn’t get stuck!

[Comments] (2) T plus: 3 days till T time!

Full House: Kristen and Michelle are visiting right now, and Anne is arriving tonight. Michelle has been here for 6 weeks or so, and she met Kristen in Paris over the weekend. Now they are both staying with me. We had a fun day yesterday, a pub lunch followed by a bus tour: the no 11 from Liverpool St which takes in most of London’s main sights. Then we came home and chatted and soaked our ‘feetsies’ in the tub, and I coerced Michelle into giving me a footrub. She gives the best foot rubs! I can’t believe she has been here for 6 weeks and I haven’t made her give me one yet. We are all looking forward to Anne’s arrival and the potential of pedicures. It was so fun just hanging out with them. Being over here I guess I forget what it’s like to be around people who know my family and all the goss, and who have known me for longer than 2 years.

[Comments] (1) Work-a-day London: You may have heard that we are having a tube strike. You might think of me as the type to be in sympathy with strikers, but I say bring it on! Tube drivers already make way more than the average person and they want a 5% raise during a recession when most people consider themselves lucky to find a job. Well, apparently most drivers themselves don't agree, because as I discovered this morning the Northern Line is running with minor delays, so all my careful plans to situate myself in a location where I could walk to the BL were for nought. Also actually walking was quite an enjoyable experience, or at least it would have been if it hadn't been for the rain and complete chaos surrounding king's cross.