Saving Water to Save Money

So, for all of you that were previously unaware (i.e no-one) and thought the world to be a wonderfully fair place, water actually costs money. It is part of the Earth but someone must obviously own it for us to have to pay for it at the end of every month. London is an extremely wet and rainy city but that has no effect on the price of water and according to my father who is all doom and despair, our water bill (and usage) has doubled, leaving him astounded as to how that could have possibly happened and pointing his accusing finger at those who bathe too frequently or drink too much.

Being the creative and resourceful person that I am, I have come up with some ingenious plans for the conservation of water, to aid my family in their present austerity. If you are in a similar situation, or you are just extremely environmentally friendly, you might find a few of these useful:

1) If it’s yellow, let it mellow- This one I do not recommend but my mother insisted on its effectiveness. It just sounds like a World War II campaign slogan that little village schoolchildren would recite in class. Don’t flush the toilet or Hitler will hear it!

2) Borrow water–  Contrary to what my sister may say, this initiative is completely my own and is the one I most proud of. It involves going to school/work with empty bottles and returning home with water for domestic use. No need to guess where the water comes from. My mother thought it to be a fabulous idea and was mighty impressed by my resourcefulness; my father, not so much. In his own words, it is a “ridiculous” idea, but I know that the real reason he objects is that it is too risqué for him. Oh, and apparently it’s stealing. Who knew?

3) Use 2-in-1-  When I tried to explain this less risky, more legal, money-saving scheme to my father, he came blank. The man just didn’t get it. Instead of having to use shampoo and then conditioner, you save yourself a wash by using them both in one go. I started off explaining this simple concept and ended up explaining what conditioner was!

4) Boycott the bath- everyone’s heard that a shower uses about three times less water than a bath and I can now testify to that. Put the plug in the tub whilst you have a shower and you’ll be surprised by how little water you use in comparison.

5) Don’t cry. Don’t sweat- Crying and sweating wastes water that your body needs to keep hydrated. The water that you release from your eyes and your pores needs to be replenished by more water that you have to pay for.

6) Use the washing machine less– This does not mean live as slob, and dress yourself in grease and grime. Simply, be reasonable when it comes to judging if a piece of clothing is dirty. Take my lazy, little sister as an example. She can not be bothered to fold and put her clothes away and so will throw them in the laundry basket even if they are cleaner than when she put them on, a few hours earlier.

7) Do not take pictures of running water for blogging purposes.








Does any one have any other water saving ideas to contribute?


There’s a War On and I’m Armed

Have you all been following the news lately? Then you’ve heard about the rising tension between the U.S and Iran over their nuclear weaponry and are wondering why this would be of any interest to a girl like me, living all the way in the U.K…

Well then, my mother and her friend have deduced that the recent happenings are a clear sign that World War Three is about to erupt; America is bound to dive straight in and we won’t be far behind. It will not be another Cold War and we will be in the midst of it, therefore, we must be prepared at all times. According to my mother, her friend has an emergency box and is stocking up; we should do the same. I told her that country leaders do not enter wars without giving a reasonable amount of warning; we will not wake up to find nuclear bombs dropping over our heads. Of course, I hadn’t thought of the chaos and rapidly rising prices that a population rushing into the supermarket would cause. It’s better to be one step ahead, even if it’s the wrong one.

It would seem that my mother is joking and that was our initial thought but as tears spilled onto the dinner table whilst some of us laughed on and others shook their heads in contempt, it became evident that she had somehow managed to trick herself into believing her own nonsense. Real tears filled her eyes as she blubbered on about how we would so go through it together as a family…she wouldn’t choose to live through a war with anyone else…we don’t need television if we have each other, so on and so worse…

My sister became extremely annoyed, hinging on disbelieving terror, and arguments ensued about the absurdity of the entire idea. I would rather die than live through a way with you if you’re going to be this emotional. Fortunately, I managed to alleviate the situation by summoning my great expert knowledge in the art of fabrications and convinced them all that, for the moment, we were safe because in accordance to ‘the Geneva Law’ wars can only begin on Mondays and every world war and the Falklands War started on this assigned day. I think they bought it. Unless, they’re reading this.

In the unlikely event of war breaking out, my mother will be well within her right to say ‘I told you so’ and it will serve us all right for not taking heed of her previously ludicrous warning. However, despite the many horror stories of war as well as the grim statistics, the prospect does hold a dangerous allure and evoke some feelings of excitement. All the drama, the evacuation, the heroes and even the food rationing that I have read about would all become a part of my ordinary and action-lacked life. As long as the bombs were falling but nobody were dying, war would be an adventure!

Just in case there is a war and because it is my birthday tomorrow I have finally bought myself my own kindle and will not have to suffer through the rough days of no internet. I spent an entire hour yesterday buying the emergency item, unable to decide between a £60 cheaper and faster kindle without a keyboard or a £60 more expensive and slower kindle with 3G and a keyboard. Decisions, decision and the time bombs were ticking…. I chose the latter, no reason just instinct that took an hour to awaken. So, I await my £60 more expensive and slower kindle with 3G and a keyboard which should be arriving soon. It better arrive before Monday…

In no way am I starting to believe my mother but, in the event of war, what emergency item would help you through?

Sick of being sick

Why is it that you only ever get ill during the holidays? Is it a negative reaction to the decrease in school work? I’ve never heard of anyone being school sick but then, it is only when I am already at home that I fall into a poorly state. I’m not the only one; Facebook statuses agree.

At present, I am suffering from what is in my opinion, the worst malady ever to plague mankind: a blocked nose. It seems like the most insignificant of illnesses when compared to the more visually impressive,;there is no bright red blood flow and the only sign of my condition would be my constant blowing and moans but I truly do hate it.

I can not stand the feeling of restriction, being unable to breathe. Of course there is always the mouth, but I use that for other things! My nose feels heavy and stuffed as I am suffocated from the inside. A more awful feeling could not exist, especially when accompanied by a self-imposed headache. I blow my nose so hard until my nostrils are sore and the skin peeling, until my head is pounding with a headache and I can breathe with no more ease than before.

My will to conquer the cursed thing is strong but my perseverance does me more harm than good. It annoys my family members whose sympathies were short lasted as it became clear that I wouldn’t give up without a fight. My mother calls me a hypochondriac and a communal groan is heard each time my tissue appears. The constant blowing also makes my brain ache and apparently it is possible but not likely that I could be blowing out parts of my brain which I cannot afford to do with exams coming up. I was sceptical at first, but didn’t the ancient Egyptians pull out the deceased person’s brain through their nostrils during mummification?

As this year draws to a close, the holidays fade and my birthday approaches, I sincerely hope that my nose unblocks and that I regain my excellent breathing abilities. Earlier, I joked that I would probably blow my nose into the new year and then I could claim that I had blown my nose for two years. Fortunately, I seem to be making progress and I will readily bet that I am back to my usual state before school starts and will remain so until the next holiday.

I can’t belive I just dedicated an entire blog post to a blocked nose.

My Life In a Box

Everyone’s got one and if you haven’t, now is a good a time as any. It’s a box, that is bigger on the inside but not in a science-fiction (Doctor Who!), kind of way, as it holds random objects that string together to tell your entire life story. They may be things that do not make sense to anybody else, like an inconsequential pencil, or they may be pretty self-explanatory, like a photograph, but every single item is a part of what makes you the person you are.

For a long time I’ve had a few objects lying around, waiting to be boxed, like sentimental treasure in a chest and today, whilst shopping in the jovial mood of the holiday season, I found what I was looking for. Ready-made and with no need to cut, paste or paint, it is the perfect vessel for my relatively short history and as I grow older and things start to speed up, I would like to be able to take a moment to sit down and escape into years past, compressed into long minutes.

To date, and in no particular order, my box includes:

  • A Barbie photo album that was given to me by a classmate when I was seven years old, as a going away gift after a year-long experience, living in Algeria. I can’t remember the girl but I have a whole class photograph in the first pocket and I know that she is in it. Forty children with the their arms neatly crossed, wearing school aprons, accompanied by a strict looking teacher who would shout at them daily, striking with her menacing cane.
  • A battered copy of “Adventures of the Wishing-Chair By Enid Blyton“. It was probably bought at a car-boot sale, it smells old and the pages are browning but that is only a sign that it has been used and loved.
  • An old retainer that is surprisingly odour-free in a small, neon orange box and a mold of my top jaw. Until last year, ever since the loss of my beautiful milk teeth, I had been cursed with the most crooked and crowded set of teeth unimaginable. Fortunately, thanks to years of NHS dental care, I can now smile with confidence although I still have to sleep with a set of see-through retainers.
  • A leopard print mask that my mum made me for our school sleepover by sticking a piece of felt on a plain mask. It looks a bit like a sleeping mask but all the girls loved it and thought that my mum was a crafty genius.
  • A folder full of certificates: academic awards, leadership course, BBC school report, contributions and three medals for collecting house-points. The one I most proud of and which I received three days ago is a Thank You certificate from Save the Children for fundraising. It was a class project; there are only seventeen of us and yet we managed to raise over £10,000, through a lot of hard work and pestering.
  • My very first passport. I must be a new-born in the picture as I was about two weeks old when I first travelled in an aeroplane.
  • A poem, entitled: Rhyming isn’t so bad. I don’t recall ever writing it and the handwriting is a bit different from my own, but it does seem familiar. I can imagine a 9-year old Yasmine proudly reciting it to anyone who would care to hear.
  • A small note from a Mexican woman called Diana, who stayed with us a few weeks. My mum met her through the internet and despite my fears that she would be an axe-murderer who would butcher me in my sleep, she was lovely and we had a great time showing her around London.
  • Two birthday cards from the same school friend, for the same birthday. One is homemade and the other is shop bought with the image of a monkey. They’re addressed Aphrodite, which is a name she sometimes calls me after a book character.
  • A Thank You card signed by every one I met during my work experience at a solicitors’ firm and the I.D card I wore.
  • Year 6 school report
  • 2005 class photo
  • Card paper, with the typed text, “my name is Yasmine- this is a picture of me”. Underneath, in a messy lopsided scrawl, is my younger self’s attempt and an unflattering drawing with no nose, jazz hands and a triangular-shaped body. According to my laid back mother, she was a pushy parent when I was little and I was sent off to nursery already being able to read off flashcards much to the teachers’ dismay.

My blog, as you can see by the links, is like my box. Many items, lead to a blog post and if I look back at it, I start to remember past events. However, in case of the unlikely demise of the internet, it is best to stick to something tangible.

I can see myself, 60 years into the future, revealing the contents of Grandma’s special box to an attentive audience, each item triggering a briefly forgotten memory and leading to a story, starting, “when I was younger…”

Do you have a memory box? No? Make one.

Celebrating 50 years of endurance

Fifty years is an incredibly long time. It’s five times a decade and half a century. It’s the number of years my grandparents have been living as a married couple, arguing constantly and lovingly and the number of years I would love to do the same. Fifty years is an amazing accomplishment.

Last weekend I escaped the Halloween trick-or-treaters and flew off to Spain to attend my grandparents’ bodas de oro (Golden Anniversary). It was a much awaited event that we’d been planning and joking about for years, teasing my grandmother with suggestions that she dress in white and re-walk the aisle whilst my grandfather assured us that he probably wouldn’t make it. He did. Even in their old age and deteriorating health they made it to fifty years and I am proud of them both perhaps even a little jealous.

Just watching them re-exchange their wedding rings and peck each other on the lips made me imagine myself in many years time doing the same. I wonder if they remember their grandparents anniversaries’ and when I am in the same position, will I remember theirs? What about my grandchildren, will they remember mine? All it takes is a few generations worth of family together in celebration, to shrink the timeline of my existence and those intertwined, into the relatively tiny space that is my head as I try to grasp the complicated concept of time. All those different times, beginning and ending, co-existing and separating, and generally making my head ache in confusion.

I hope that after all that internal questioning I actually manage to make it to fifty years of marriage. It would be a terrible disappointment if I were to annoy my husband to an early grave unless I were to consider celebrating in solitude which would be incredibly disrespectful to the deceased. Then, there is the possibility that he annoys me to divorce however it seems unlikely as I will endure just about anything to get my Golden Anniversary. Divorce is not an option.

I want to be able to share the joy of a fruitful fifty years, surrounded by a family built on love. Gather them all around for group photos even as they begin to bore and their cheeks begin to ache. Cry with tears of laughter as a surprise cake is brought in, accompanied by a merry jingle and topped of with a pair of bobbing dolls, magnetically joined at the lips. Toast to fifty long years I will never regret and then when all is silent, cry “long live the couple!”


Indian Summer to the Max

Mid October, and the news reporters are calling it an Indian summer and because we are not easily influenced by the media, us girls headed off to the beach. With winter jackets and my father’s best wishes we were off. Always the optimist, he shook his head in disapproval and announced that he would not be buying anybody medicine when we all came back nursing dreadful colds.

With that in mind we cozied up into the car and enjoyed the lengthy 2 hour view, sleeping against each other and cringing at my mothers version of Queens’ Bohemian Rhapsody. She made for a terrible singer and a most interesting travel companion. She takes the prize for quote of the ride, which surprisingly was not are we there yet, but “I miss the London pollution.”

Once we had passed the motorway, we drove through the New Forest, and saw wild horses in their dozens; black, brown and white; bathing in the rays of sunlight peeking through small clearings in dense forest. We hurried a few snaps as we passed the brave mares at the roadside, inches away from the open windows.

Then, we drove through a quaint little village, complete with thatch roof cottages and funnily named pubs. We exclaimed at all the village sights that one does not see on the London High Streets. Oh look, it’s an apothecary. Oh look it’s an old sweet shop. Oh look it’s a tea room. Oh look it’s a Costa coffee?

Oh look it’s the sea! My mother spotted it first and we all squealed in excitement, anticipating the waves crashing against our bodies as we jumped up and down, getting ready to the build the tallest sand castles.

Well, not me. I didn’t even touch the sand.  I lay my pink snuggly blanket down on the rocks, and slipped into a book. Yes, I could have done that in my garden but the fresh breeze, salty smell and symphony of waves created a better reading atmosphere. I entertained the thought of dipping into the freezing October sea for the duration of an entire page but rid myself of it as soon as I imagined the sand sticking to my wet skin as I tried to get changed under a flying towel. Not worth it.

I was content to just to watch my sisters splash about in the water and return not shortly after, teeth chattering and jumping into their dry clothes. Anyway, I got up to my own fifteen minute adventure, looking for fossils in the cliffs with the only tool available, a fork. No luck, except for a few pin sized shells, but I couldn’t really expect to find the ancient remains of an extinct species on my first go. Maybe on my next.

Kicking off the school year with a Baked Alaska

Today was my first day of my last year in my current school. The holidays have come to a close and it is time to get back into the routine; homework; exams and most difficult of all; normal human sleeping hours. I can no longer observe the sleeping hours of a fanged mythical being…what a pity. After a night of tossing and turning I am almost regretting the damage a summer holiday of “crazy living” has done to my body clock.

This year is a year of change for me. One that will lead on to even greater change and hopefully it will be a memorable one, for the right reasons of course. I would hate for it to be ingrained into my memory as the year were it all went wrong. I am hoping for positive change worth remembering. Our school has a new head teacher, after years of campaigning (moaning) we finally have a new uniform and my year group has formed the school council. To translate; responsibilities, uncertainty and a lot of hard work. But I’m up to the challenge or at least I’m up to convincing myself that I am.

Not to be disheartened by the end of our summer freedom, my little sister and I decided to put a twist on the original bang and kick off the school year with a Baked Alaska in celebration of our sister’s ascent into teenage-hood. Today was a milestone in her short life and she had requested a home-baked cake. Our eagerness to comply had nothing to do with the fact we were saving ourselves from buying presents.

After much deliberation, browsing down the frozen cakes’ and ready-made mixes’ aisles, we decided that we would make the effort and actually start from base. We refused to yield to our mother’s recurring suggestion that we buy a pre-made base despite the temptation. Instead, we put on our aprons and hit the kitchen like professionals with years of experienced cookery programme watching under our belts. We even did the exciting, dare-devilish thing of standing under the bowl of meringue, albeit nervously. It wasn’t as hard as we had anticipated and I survived with only a minor burn.

In the end, the look of delighted surprise on my sister’s teenage face was worth all the fun we had. I suppose she had not been expecting anything as edible as was produced despite her reassurance that she knew we would come through. Either she is a terribly proficient liar or she has a dangerous amount of faith in us.

So, it’s official. My sister has been a constant irritant at my side for thirteen itchy years and if it is up to her, many more. I wish her a Merry Birthday and a Happy School Year!