A pencil and a dream can take you anywhere

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Stop the world I want to get off.....

I’m going to risk sounding like an old lady in these blogs, harking for simpler times, asking for less complication, for bicycles to be the only form of transport and for teenagers to stop hanging around on street corners. Okay I’m joking about bikes.

It seems to me, as I observe the world from my pious watchtower, that things they are a-changing and not always for the better. I read an article about 100 things that are actually getting better, and although I didn’t get a personal mention, I persevered with my reading. It did include polyester and floral arrangements, Wal-mart and office chairs but I thought there must be something in there worth inspiring me, I couldn’t agree with the Beatles getting better (half of them have passed on from this world) it did mention being single, comforting after my 17 year old hairdresser saying that being 31 and single can be fun too, quite a concession. The one I liked the most was number 100. You. It said, and I quote, “You’ve just got this glow about you—some combination of wisdom and inner peace, plus a lovely self awareness. You’re not sweating the small stuff; you know what feels good, feels right and you simply don’t muck around with the rest. You’re not a kid anymore, and we mean that as a high compliment. There’s a new kind of lightness about you. And your hair has never looked better” It was like it was written for me; to me and about me ;) the last one is purely because I was at the hairdressers this very morn.

Anyway. I wanted to talk about things that haven’t got better. Harking to simpler times comes mainly because I think an influx of products has made us as consumers, perplexed. Don’t leave me now; this is not an economic essay.

This is mainly because I keep witnessing a few things, first of all when someone wants to lose weight they don’t just research healthy food and benefits of exercise, they search the internet for the easiest weight loss plan with the quickest desired results. Then everyone has become, thanks to the all-dancing interweb (that never lies) all nutritionists in training/practice, some people can tell you the very last calorific content of a dustmite (it's zero by the way) Others ‘know’ that in order to shed x amount you have to burn x amount through exercise, other diets tell you to cut major food groups like carbs, others to survive on protein and eat air, others purely cabbage, others chocolate ice-cream whilst sitting on the sofa. Is it any wonder the world’s combined waistline is getting bigger? We live off old information especially information on chicken that convinced us it was lean meat, um thanks Fat Fighters—maybe so, that was until they started pumping the chooks with lots of growth hormones in order to keep up with the demand, but this is not about the chickies.

My sister wanted to buy a pushchair; she already had a toddler and wanted to be able to have them both in, or at least in the vicinity of, the pushchair. The information was overwhelming, added to that we are all bonafide critics as well as part time nutritionists and our own GPs. She was besieged with information, she asked a few people (the pope suggested maxi-cosi) and conducted a national survey. Did she want her baby to hang low? Did she want to tie him in a knot, or tie him in a bow? Did she want one hanging off her back or clinging to the other for dear life? Or side-by-side within regulatory kicking distance of the new sibling, unable to get through any normal sized door and unable to fold into a car? Decisions, decisions…. I wondered if everything had been simpler how would she have felt if she only still had one or two choices and all 2009 mothers chose the exact same one. Maybe when nursery finished you just put your child in any chair and stroll away… simples. My mum was given (I know, like for free) a pram when I was born, a large silver cross pram with a hood, she put me in lying down and my older sister sitting towards the front of it chatting to her (this eased the situation of people walking past looking at my mum strangely for having a full blown conversation/sing-song with a comatose baby)

The same goes for supermarkets; there are so many different varieties of everything. So do you get the more expensive one with more colours on the tin (oooh, aaah), the one that says 'value'/El cheapo/savers or the one still made by the exact same company with more (flashy, bright, colourful, mesmerising) colours on the shiny tin and a 5p increase in price? Ah, those companies must be laughing when they are working in the same baked bean factory putting the same product in different tins at different hours of the day!

What gets worse is that we have so much information that we get into what I will call 'pick and mix' territory. I have a friend who reads so much about diets (in the hope that is enough for the fat to just slide off her body) Although the placebo effect of the books has yet to kick in, she takes a little bite from every diet, she doesn’t just follow the one and wonders why she sees zilcho resulto… ohhh noooo, she chooses to follow a diet that cuts carbs and then eats pizza or loads up on chicken, as it is ‘lean’! She tells us how much we should exercise (though we do and she doesn’t) and cuts out caffeine one week because one book says you should and wine the next (“it’s full of sugar dontcha know?” “Uh yuh, I told you that”). She is a prime example of things becoming too complicated. Companies quickly realised that the dietary industry was ginormous business (ah the irony) and it has resulted in people wanting a share of the multi-billion pound industry and, for us mere consumers (Sheep), to be confuseated (confused and nauseated- see what I did there?) with a deluge of information.

Then there are trends and fads that are just that because something will come out that says you should drink x amount of water a day (“but Evian said I should”) then someone else says that isn’t actually necessary (“Carling said so”) Do you walk with weights strapped to your arms and legs? Yes? Have you been doing that for a good few years now? Great, because someone wants to tell you that actually it doesn’t make any difference, whatsoever. We are all waiting for current information to be contradicted. With that in mind- is it any wonder some people do sweet FA and that the fence actually seems like a very comfortable place to perch?

Then we have things that work for some people and not for others, instead of ‘one size fits all’. It seems almost everyone is now a reviewer of everything. These people want to tell you what worked for them and what didn't, we don't question that we are not actually the exact same person. Recently Amazon (foolishly) allowed people to review everything from a ballpen to a bed and the amount of entries were astonishing. One such reviewer wrote of the ballpen: “worked perfectly with one hand but completely crap with the other”….

So, although I can concede that one thing can work well for one person and not another, in our pursuit of happiness (and everything in between) hasn’t the market been flooded with too much choice? That’s what I mean by a simpler time, when you went to a shop and could buy one brand of baked bean, one type of cauliflower, one brand of toothpaste, people just didn’t know any different. Hasn’t a little stress been added with trying to get good value for a good product, aswell as something that makes our teeth whiter, our hair blonder, our potential wrinkles avoidable (as long as you use it for 30 years prior), our stomachs flatter or our cholesterol lower….?! Then some may wonder, did I make the right choice? In those simpler times there could be no comparison with what someone else had bought. We could rest assured we bought the right monkey back scratcher, because it was the only one.

With Sky and digital tv we now have about a 1000 channels (and Bruce Springsteen thought he was making a point when he sang '57 channels and nothin on'!) I actually feel less stressed when I have five channels; I don’t take too long to choose between a programme about a pygmy elephant boy in Outer Mongolia or Under Siege. Don’t misunderstand me, I like to have things at my fingertips too, but I still think it needs to be tailored just a little.

So as for me, I’ll eat healthily, exercise the way I want, choose the one (unless he’s a blind deranged ex-asylum mental patient) that asks me to marry him, eat only Heinz baked beans, carry my (for now imaginary) children over my shoulders, watch only channel 4 and eat only Haagen Dazs ice-cream and I will wear my hair the way I like it because, not only are trends fleeting but I'd rather skip looking like Victoria Beckham/ the population of Essex --thanking you muchly! I am pro-choice (as long as it’s mine).

It seems to me that Woolworth’s has gone but pick and mix still remains.