Fluency & Familiarity

This is a great article, made me remember the reason we need to remember think about our audience when communicating ANYTHING! People always tend to see doing this as a hindrance because of the additional thought it entails but if people cannot understand what you’re telling them you may as well not have bothered in the first place!

Gareth Roberts

Studies show we like things that are easy to think about and dislike things that are hard to think about.

You see it all the time.

Complex sentences filled with obscure words and phrases which we have no idea of their meaning.

Topics glorified with the aim of dazzling those communicated to.

But, why?

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in 1950 during the Korean War.

North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, fought against South Korea with the support of the British and US.

These US troops were stationed at the Chosin Reservoir.

But they weren’t alone.

15,000 US troops were surrounded by 120,000 South Korean and Chinese troops, advancing on their position.

Stranded, they were in trouble.

Temperatures fell to -25 degrees at night as the winter conditions became apparent.

And to make matters worse, the mortar sections of the US Marine Corps…

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UK Snow Day 2018 in Pictures Daily Post Photo Challenge

Isn’t it wonderful how everyday places are transformed once the snow arrives?

 

I went for an early morning walk today and took some pictures while it was still quiet & the snow was fresh and crisp. Ordinary landscapes become transformed with a dusting of snow but with several inches of snow the local park becomes a landscape reminisce of Narnia; a magical wilderness with nothing but the crunching sound of snow beneath your feet & the sound of birds rustling in the trees above your head. Here are some of the pictures I took; I hope you like them.

 

Alice on Wednesday! Tokyo Rose Part 2: The Japanese Concept Store

 
On the last day of my travels in Japan, I jumped on a train from Kyoto Station to the nearby city of Osaka (a 30 minute train ride) not knowing what to expect. Reality was setting in: I was going back home and most of my travel companions were already homeward bound so I needed to feel like I was still ‘travelling’ just a little bit longer before my flight that evening. 

My guidebook pointed out a cool shopping district a stones throw from Shinsaibashi Station that goes by the name of  ‘Amerikamura’, or American Village. The district has been in existence since the 1970s, initiated by the large amount of US clothing and general Americana memorabilia imported for the expats based there (hence the name). It has been referred to as the ‘Harajuku’ of Kyoto due to the large alternative scene based here, where fashionable teenagers flock to in order to show off their latest outfits. Signs outside various stores advertise ‘Gothic Lolita Fashion’.

‘What is Gothic Lolita Fashion’, you may be wondering? Well, it is a particular style which basically involves wearing the frilliest, girliest dresses you can possible think of. And in predominantly black. Think Gothic Japanese Little Bo Peep or Little Red Riding Hood. Lace, bows, frills and more frills, this is clothing originating from the Victorian Era, but with an cooler edge to it. There is nothing seedy about it, the look originated from women simply not wanting feel like they have to wear skimpy clothes in order to attract the opposite sex. And because it’s fun to wear. The clothing is very modest (petticoats are essential garb) and most of the girls wearing look like they’ve escaped from a Disney Film. 

Lolita Goth: Japanese Street Style. Image from Pinterest (Bethany Hoffman)

Osaka is also home to a very large number of 1970s era vintage fashion shops, a great selection of bars and restaurants and what looks like a thriving music scene (I was only there for a day trip but saw lots of advertisements scattered around the shops).

So, back to the purpose of this article; the Alice On Wednesday concept store. I was wandering past a queue of excited teenagers being policed by an elderly, rather angry looking security guard. Two english speaking tourists asked if I wanted their spare tickets for the 2pm time slot to join said queue. 

Here marks the start of the queue.

 

‘Sure, Ok!’ (I was feeling spontaneous)

(Thought a minute) ‘Er…so what is the ticket for exactly?’

‘It’s an Alice in Wonderland concept store. We read about it on the internet, they’re supposed to be the new thing.’

‘Ah, Ok. Thanks!’

I was still none the wiser to what a concept store was exactly, so I decided out of curiosity to return to the queue at 2pm and see what was at the front of it. Because when has there not been anything worth seeing at the front of a long queue? Unless your waiting for a bus. Or buying stamps. Or going to the bank. OK, maybe there are exceptions to this statement. Nonetheless I was joining that queue.

So after buying a large quantity of slogan T-shirts, knocking over several precariously balanced bicycles outside of a cafe (they weren’t looking where I was walking!) and a rather delicious meal in a Spanish themed noodle bar ( I don’t get it either) I headed back to The Queue to see what the fuss was about.

The security man had since become more bad tempered, was shouting in Japanese and waiving some tickets for later time slots (the earliest was 6pm). I took a closer look at the entrance to the store. ‘Alice on Wednesday’ has three fairytale-esque potential entrances and excited teenagers appeared to exiting the smallest door (about 4 foot in height) in dribs and drabs. They must be the 1.30pm time slot. I took my spot at the back of queue of about 10 excited teenagers taking selfies.  

The Entrance (and exit) of Alice On Wednesday

 

‘Do you speak English?’ An Australian tourist has sheepishly approached me in the queue.

‘Yes’.

‘What’s at the front of this queue?’

‘I don’t know’.

More youngsters leave the store laden with large themed shopping bags and I eventually get to the front of the The Queue. My time to enter the Wonderland has finally come…

The small, modest entrance immediately opens up into ‘The Red Queen’s Room’ which is a gothic themed room painted bright red with a black and white chequered floor. A ceiling adorned with glistening chandeliers, floor to ceiling mirrors and a long dining table which stretches from one end of the room to the other. Floor to ceiling antique bookcases line the walls. And located in every possible nook, cranny and crevice is gifts and memorabilia associated with The Lewis Carol story. Watches, hair slides, necklaces, cushions, playing cards, you name it’s here. An everything in here has a sparkly, almost magical appearance (it must be the lighting); all of it screams ‘Buy Me’. And buy they do; another large queue of teenagers starts form at the checkout. 

The Red Queen’s Room in Alice on Wednesday

 

Moving on into the second from ‘The White Queen’s Room’ is bulging at the seams with sweets and random themed food items for sale. Giant lolly pops, jars of wonderful looking sweets and glass bottles containing mysterious concoctions with ‘Drink Me’ labels on the front. My personal favourites were the themed ‘recipe boxes’ which contained ingredients to make a small selection of meals.

Emblazoned on the front of one of them was the following: ‘Alice made this Thai Green Curry for the White Rabbit. Do you want to try?’

A stretch too far? Certainly. Did I want to buy and try that curry? Of course I did!

Alice On Wednesday: A new, rather unique concept in shopping. 

To find out more visit http://www.aliceonwednesday.jp

 

 

 

 

 

Cats on Sushi! Tokyo Rose Part 1: The Weird and Wonderful World of Japanese Toy Vending Machines

Well A BIG HELLO To Everyone! And a special hello to the patient individuals who are still following my blog after all this time! It’s been a while. Unfortunately I was cursed with a massive writers block that I felt could only be remedied by a bit of a break and a few holidays here and there. So I went and booked myself on a trip to Japan, didn’t I?! It’s been on my bucket list for years so carpe diem and all that, I just booked it over Christmas and set off last month for a rather fast paced tour of this fascinating country… 

‘Japan Express’ is a 9 day group trip you can book through Intrepid Travel and I added a few days before and a week after to do some solo travelling (including my first hostel experience at the age of 31!). In 9 days you can sample the key highlights of Japan; starting at the mad metropolis that is Tokyo, heading north to beautiful Nikko, then finally taking the bullet train across to Kyoto to be bathed in culture and Japanese tradition. 

So this morning, with it being Good Friday over in the UK, I was till sat in my dressing gown at 11am (don’t judge me!) and suddently became inspired to update my blog. Not in detail about my holiday (I think my friends are going to start avoiding me soon if I keep up with that!), but because I felt the need to share with you one of the weirdest yet coolest things I saw when I was out there. No it wasn’t the Golden Pavillion. Nor was it the Geisha Girls. Or even the Sushi. Yet, it’s stayed with me and become one of my new obesssions. 

Gashapon. Yes, Gashapon. Japanese Toy Vending machines to you and I. Please bear with me a moment whilst I elaborate further. Now, who remembers from their childhoods those machines you put small change into and they spurted out a rubbish toy? Well in Japan, they have become a rather incredible thing, a National Obsession. The toys themselves aren’t rubbish, they’re not only rather well made but deeply, deeply funny. Hundreds of these machines can be found everywhere, each containing a series of bizarre collectable yet deeply unnecessary objects that you feel compelled to possess. They don’t make any sense, but by the end of my trip I found myself piling Japanese yen into these magical machines and bartering with locals to swap duplicate toys with me. Here’s how they work: you simply put your coins in the machines, twist the wheel untill a little egg pops out containing a random toy from the collection stipulated on the front of the machine. 

 

It’s the End of the World and Nothing but Gashapon have survived.

 

It’s had to put into words the level of weirdness I saw being marketed as collectable items. The mere existance confirmed that the Japanese have a wicked sense of humour, possibly better than us Brits! Some are collectable figurines from Anime or Manga so fans of these would be in seventh heaven. But I wasn’t interested in those. I was interested in the random, the disturbing and the hilarious. So Part One of my ‘Tokyo Rose’ Blog will bring to you today’s Top 5 Weird Gashapon Toys of Japan. 

So let’s kick off with what started this voyage of discovery with Cats on Sushi. Yes, Cats, that look a bit upset, on Sushi. A series of five collectable figures at only 400 Japanese Yen each (about £2 UK pounds). 

 

Cats. On Sushi.

 Next comes Dogs…In Bread! A series of collectable dogs, trapped against their will in different types of baked goods. Only 200 Japanese Yen. 

Dogs. Trapped in Bread.

Fancy a romantic night in with your Smartphone? Then indulge it with it’s very own velour dressing gown, complete with hood. Only 300 yen. Crack open the bubbly and get prepare to indulge!  Let’s not make this any weirder than it already is. 

A Dressing Gown. For Your Smartphone.

Next up: don’t you just find it utterly adorable when a dog llifts it’s leg to relieve itself? Well, now someone has captured this special moment in a series of collectable figures for your viewing pleasure!  

Dogs. Having A Wee.

Ever wanted to see what historical statues would look like without their nostrils. Then you’re in luck, for only 200 Japanese yen you can possess your own unique take on history.  

Statues. Without Nostrils.

Speechless? I know the feeling. But the more I saw them, the more I wanted to possess them all! My suitcase ws bulging with these little eggs of joy on my way back home.  

That’s  all for now, mainly because I’m hungry now. But please like and share if you’ve enjoyed my post, if not for me then for the Cats On Sushi, they’ve been through enough.

 

Claire

 

x

Back to Work Already?! Don’t Despair! Top Tips for Surviving the Workplace over the Festive Period

 

Did you leave the house this morning under the cover of darkness, scrape an inch thick layer of ice from your car (last used on or around the 19th December) and begin that trudge to work on desperately quiet roads?

Last seen December 19th 2014

Did you see a warm glow emitting from the houses of your neighbours, inside blissfully unaware of your imminent commute and probably not yet even surfacing from under their duvets? Did you attempt to head to the shops for a quick lunch but had to turn back as you were overrun with smug shoppers, still on their holidays with days to kill and wandering at a snail’s pace around Marks & Spencers?

But I only wanted to pop out for a quick sandwich!

Then A Big Welcome to you my friends! You are in good company. Read on and I will attempt to get you through this difficult period of the year, using a powerful combination of bitter experience and some rather amateur attempts at positive mentality. 

Yes, this is my top tips for Working Over Christmas or a being a WOC (apologies for rubbish acronym but I couldn’t help myself being back in the workplace an’ all) from a WOC Veteran of 3 years (and counting…)

1. Ease yourself back in to your pre-Christmas food regime 

Now, just because you’re back in ‘work mode’ with respect to attendance and actually having to do work, this does not mean you can’t reward yourself with the odd indulgent snack throughout the day to take the edge off the post holiday blues. It’s still far too early to be starting any New Years Heath Kicks. Save that for when ‘the others’ have come back. Treat yourself to a giant pastry (like me this morning) or even a mince pie (erm, also me) and at least your digestive system can still feel like it’s still on holiday.

It’s Still Christmas – Leave me Alone!

2. Snack Attack!

You know the tonne of snacks and general Christmas treats everyone brought in just before they left for the holidays? They’re still here. And guess what? No one is going to want to touch them when they get back after they’ve had a fortnight of chocolate selection boxes and cakes. Do them a favour and remove the temptation before they get back and complain about them.

THIS can wait until January

3. Ever Chaired a Meeting but never been senior enough to do so? Now’s your chance!

Now, since nobody is around, use the opportunity to make some important decisions around here. You have the rare opportunity to simultaniously be the Chair, minute taker AND core attendee of your very own meeting! Now don’t let the power go to your head!…

Be the envy of your colleagues and have Albert Einstein at one of YOUR meetings!

4. Perfect that ‘post holiday’ conversation

You know the one…

‘Did you have a good Christmas?’

‘Yeah, it was good thanks, what about you?’

‘Yeah really enjoyed it thanks, it was a bit quiet but it was nice to have a break’ etc etc BLAH BLAH BLAH

Use the additional week to your advantge and enchance that post Christmas exchange of words. Rehearse some Christmas holiday stories that will astound, entertain and perhaps even concern your colleagues. If you’re short of ideas, simply steal a plot from a recent soap opera storyline and (as long as your colleague doesn’t actually watch said soap) have fun watching your colleagues awkward reponse.

Take two…

‘Do you have a good Christmas?’

‘No, not really actually.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, this might sound a bit far fetched, but I found out on Christmas Day that my sister is actully my Mother.’ (REMEMBER TO KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE AT THIS POINT)

‘Oh right…um, I don’t know what to say’. And from this moment henceforth, no one else will dare to ask you how your Christmas holiday was. (You’re Welcome WOCs!)

5. Last but not least, the quiet…oh the peace and quiet

This week, my office is down from 30 to erm, 3. And this means the office is practically deserted. No, I’m not suggesting doing anything untoward here, because after all you have professional standards to maintain. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce just a leeeetle bit of fun to break up the long days of loneliness. For example, haven’t you always wanted to sing Celine Dion ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the top of your voice in the open plan office, or wear a Mullet wig and feather boa whilst sat working at your desk. For no other reason than you can. And it would be mildly amusing.

Coming to an open plan office near you

Now my fellow WOCs, if you have managed to get this far in this article, I’d love to hear from you in my comments section…what silly thing have you introduced to bring a teeny tiny of joy to your working day whilst everyone is still shoving down the last remnants of the turkey and watching the third repeat of the Miranda Christmas special on the TV. The Fools. 

I hope this article helps get you though this difficult period. And please, follow me if you’d like to read more from me. I’m fairly new at this Blogging malarky, so would really appreciate your likes and or ‘feedback’…or what I like to refer to as a sh*it sandwich; a slice of negativity in between two big thick slices of positivity!

And last but not least, I wish you a very Happy 2015!

Stay safe,

A Former London Girl

x

Happy 2015!

 

My Top Tips for Finding Happiness in a New Place

I don’t know if i’m going to one day regret saying this, but I think it may be a sign of getting old when you see yourself becoming more like your parents but you don’t actually mind as much as you once would have done. Uh Oh. Well, they have much less to worry about nowadays, they’ve not got that much to do (being both retired and bordering on retirement), they are always laughing about something and they don’t particularly care when they say weird stuff.

Yes, the Parental Unit have been in residence. Since I’ve moved Up North, Mum and Dad visit me every few months; occasionally they stay with me in my house (like this time) but mostly tend to rent a cottage in Richmond which is about a 40 minute drive away. The reason for this is because after a few days in each other’s company it becomes apparent that there are too many egos in too small a space. Plus, a few years ago, my father became rather attached to Richmond, so much so that he wishes to move there. So it’s nothing personal. I hope. Despite this, I’ve really enjoyed them staying. We went into Yarm (the local town) and my father bought what will be known henceforth as ‘The Coat’. Let me explain. When Dad (or any other member of the Banton family for that matter) spends more than approximately £7.50 on an item of clothing, Mum exhibits the following patterns of behaviour:

1) She brings up said expenditure in literally every other sentance.
2) She sneers when she mentions said item of clothing.
3) She goes unusually quiet and you can literally feel her thinking about the expenditure and if there is any possible way that it can be undone.

When I bought my Biba fur coat the other week (no regrets), even though she was 400 miles away at the time, she instinctively knew that a Banton somewhere was spending more than the aforementioned amount on clothing. Her left eyebrow started twitching. I’ve since been informed that she didn’t eat her dinner that evening. Where this level of thriftiness has come from no one fully understands. I do however know that my Grandad (her father) painted the front door of their family home the worst shade of pink I have ever since in my life (it stayed like this for at least 3 decades) and he did this simply because it was the cheapest paint he could locate in the North London area. So one can start to understand her extreme dislike of spending money or the general treating of oneself. This has since been transferred onto me in the form of guilt; I felt I had to confess that I had bought the coat before she visited so that she could disapprove in advance without impacting on her visit. There was days of questioning. It will never be forgotton.

Anyway, whilst they were visiting, we drove up to Beamish which is a Victorian town near Newcastle. My Dad recalled that when I first moved up I attempted to drive them to Beamish but we never actually made it because I got stressed, lost and drove the wrong way around a roundabout. I had actually forgotten this had happened and it got my thinking about how disorientated I was when I first moved up to Teesside, so much so I was in a permanent state of confusion for several months desperately trying to find my feet and establish a sense of normality. This memory gave me inspiration to what I would write about next; I decided on a series of quick hints and tips which I have found worked for me to help find ones feet and address this disorientation. The first few months of a new location are a blur of new faces and places (so much so you apparently forget the Highway Code) and it’s important to try and establish some sort of foundation and routine which you can subsequently build on. So here it is, my handy tips for finding ones feet in a new area:

1. Buy your local paper (particularly in the UK). Relying on electronic media like Facebook is a surefire way to not find interesting stuff to do and see. My personal things to find in local media are vintage fairs, craft fairs, gigs and one off exhibitions.

2. Say yes to EVERY invite. I’ve met all of my best friends through acquaintances who have invited me along somewhere & I’ve subsequently lost contact with the original introducer strangely enough.

3. Establishing a routine is critical and leads to greater stability and wellbeing. Every Saturday, I love going into my local coffee shop, buying a sandwich and reading the Saturday paper from cover to cover. Every Tuesday I buy the same celebrity gossip magazine on my way home from work. Familiarity does not breed contempt, it builds comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.

4. Write to your friends. Receiving letters in return are one of the loveliest things to experience, especially if they are on fancy paper. If you don’t particularly want to write to anyone, write to yourself on fancy paper, you can’t but help getting absorbed as it’s deeply theraputic. I read a great quote last weekend which sums this up: ‘An email is a record of your words; a letter is an expression of your state of mind’. I write my thoughts down before I transfer them to my blog, I seem to be able to capture my state of mind better on paper for some reason, perhaps it’s because I grew up writing things down as opposed to typing.

5.Take up old hobbies as well as considering new ones. When I lived in Warrington, I thought it would be a good idea to go to a life drawing class to try and meet new people. I was appalling at life drawing and I was surrounded with people who were very talented at drawing and were rather amused by my attempts to participate in the class. It was never going to work out. I later decided joined a band as I loved music when I was younger and played the piano for years as a child. As this was something I had an actual ability in so it was much more enjoyable and I again met one of my closest friends through doing this.

6. Take up running. Until a few years ago, I had never ran anywhere ever except perhaps for the bus and away from people I disliked. Now, I regularly run between 3 and 6 miles at a time. I started running on my own and totally enjoyed my own company doing this. Mainly because I used it as an excuse to zone out and completely immerse myself in my music collection whilst doing it. I later joined a club and it was one of the best decisions I made. Running clubs are perceived as a scary place but if you find the right one, they become part of your extended family. It is the single best way of meeting new people that I’ve found over the years and you can’t find a better way of both getting fit and becoming more positive in your outlook on life. I know it sounds a bit evangelical but I have indeed become one of ‘those’ people. See featured image for some of my lovely running friends!

7. Buy an Ordnance Survey Map of your local area. In other countries this is the equivalent of a detailed map of footpaths, features of interest etc. The reason for this is you take things like knowing where paths are etc for granted in your home town and it takes a very long time to find them on your own in a new area. A map like this really helps you to find your feet quicky.

8. Write a to do list. Plan things in to give yourself things to look forward to that involve your family and closest friends, even if it’s as simple as telephoning someone for a chat. When you are new to an area you sometimes have evenings and weekends to fill until you establish new friendships and it can be lonely at first.

9. Take time to put all your photos in photo album. The problem with digital images is that you forget about them and it’s really comforting to have the physical images in an album to look at.

10. Relax. Don’t feel like there is a rush to make a circle of friends, this does not happen naturally if you try and force it. Learn to enjoy your own company in the immediate, friendships will come in time and with patience. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from people who don’t make you happy, even if it means you have more time to yourself for a while when you do this. I’ve learnt from experience that when you stop spending time with people who bring you down and feel miserable then kinder, better friends will eventually fill the place they once occupied. It’s a happy truth.