Business Studies and improved Alertness to my Surroundings

I`ve always considered myself as having quite a critical eye for the world I live in, but it`s amazing how many new things I can see (or see more clearly) since I started studying Business. And I`m only four blocks in.

Take, for example, the concept of people branding, which is hiring staff for their ability to help building and maintaining an image as well as doing the job description. Has anyone read Restaurant Babylon (can recommend the whole series!!)? This guy openly admits that, in order to get a bar job with him, you have to be female, young and sexy. He wants punters to come not just for the food and drink, but also for the eye candy. And while I`m not saying that`s fair, I can see his point. Most places are selling the same drinks, and many are serving similar foods, so you have to pull all strings to differentiate yourself from the competition. I`ve insured my car with a  company who takes pride in being local, and I only ever spoke to people with a broad Scottish dialect. In an investment bank who caters for a well heeled middle class however, this dialect may be considered “common” and hence not employable. My course work featured a piece about a coffee shop chain who likes to hire young Italians for their bars. It doesn`t sound right, however, when I go for an Italian meal, deep down, I like to be served by Italians, or when I go for a Chinese, by Chinese. I just assumed that it was all family businesses rather than staff hired for their looks.

Most of my observations relate to marketing, for example, price differentiation – where different people pay different prices for the same thing. My course cites student discounts or peak time surcharges, and the media have picked up on single use razors, which seem inappropriately pricier for women than men.

Here is another one: I work in a care home for the elderly. We have a visiting hairdresser who is herself over 60 and has a speech impairment. This lady comes once a week to work in an adequately sized and furnished salon in the main corridor and charges £6.oo to females and £4.oo to males. Comparing this to what I pay makes me want to weep, but I can now appreciate that I`m getting an awful lot more for my money. Our residents probably don`t care much about stylish surroundings, the chat and look of their stylist (see people branding above), opportunity to buy products and have your nails done in the same place, or the prestige of being seen to walk in and out of this swanky place. I`d love to say neither do I, but granted, when I get my hair done, it`s a holistic feelgood experience rather than just seeing to a necessity. We`re talking not just about price differentiation (discount for the elderly) but also fringe benefits (the more attractive surrounding in which I receive my service).

Or take filling stations. They were named in either my course work or some other book: Everybody hates taking petrol. You have to interrupt your journey and add time to it, they are seen as tax collectors for the state, and you don`t even get anything for your money other than protection from the inconvenience of running out of petrol or having to stop using your car. Recognising that they are unpopular, filling stations have, first slowly, started selling other items, too, in order to make the experience more bearable by attaching a use (buying necessities) or pleasure (buying a bar of chocolate) to it. Just the other day, I found this concept working perfectly on myself: I didn`t actually need petrol, but I needed bread and milk and didn`t want to do the detour. A filling station featuring a minimarket however was on my route, so I stopped there, bought what I needed and, because it was now convenient, I also filled up on petrol again (here rather than elsewhere) and saved myself doing so again for that bit longer.It felt good having done three necessary things so quickly and conveniently, and because my tank was still half full, it didn`t even cost much – going to this petrol station had become a feelgood experience.

I really enjoy what this course is doing for me in addition to teaching me skills for my career, and felt a spontaneous need to share this morning. 🙂

Alcohol free – over a month

I finished work at 8pm last night, and that`s me off until Tuesday morning. Those delicious prospects were enough to relax me, drink not required.

Earlier this week, we had a couple of days in London, and I must admit that those were testing. Imagine hubby and I, tired but in an extremely cheerful mood, in a rather nice Italian restaurant, eating a wonderful fish stew and… Yes, I would have loved a glass of white with that, but what exactly would it have added? The moment was perfect as it was; the wine is just a habit, but a thing that can be done without.

The next day we met a friend we haven`t seen for years. She caringly suggested a mocktail bar, which turned out to be too far away, and then a juice bar, which closed at 5pm. The vegetarian eatery where we dined instead had a highly appetizing cocktail menu rather prominently on display. I must admit, I really fancied one, and I also would have liked to participate when my husband and my friend decided to share a bottle of wine. But once again, why? The evening was lovely and couldn`t possibly be enhanced by alcohol. Later, we did a little pub crawl, and as I was sipping my lime and soda I was grateful to be sober. Because for me, it`s all or nothing. If I had had that Bellini, I`d have had the wine, and had I had the Bellini and the wine, I`d now have moved on to pernot diet coke, and then my husband would have had to drag me home. When we came back to the hotel just after midnight, I was tired but fresh and envirogated at the same time, and that`s how I still felt in the morning where easily a hangover could have spoilt our last day.

Another friend was messaging me about my birthday party: “PS: bubbly is cooling!” I replied that I`m not drinking at the moment, and she asks: “Not even a cheeky Kir Royale on your birthday?”

Memories are conjured up of only a bit over two months back, of her and I in her beautiful kitchen baking for Christmas and sharing a whole bottle of champagne and cassis while doing so. My inhibitions to help myself decreased by the glass, my drink became darker every time, I was giggling about nothing and was so happy I wanted to grab her and dance. Later, we had dinner with wine and our other halves, and when this was gone and a glass of whisky had with dessert, I just couldn`t say my goodbyes quickly enough and go home to bed. I was working the next day and remember lying sleepless thinking why, oh why, did I do that again?

“I`ll do my very best to try to tempt you,” she was teasing now, and after having second thoughts I texted back please don`t, I`m really needing this break.

I can`t give in to the first person who pesters. I haven`t really missed drink other than feeling an occasional slight pinch of missing out, so there is no need to re-invite this into my life other than social pressure, which I never considered an excuse for anything. I`ll have a good time without the bubbly. I like the idea, but I`d either get tired of it all before the night is over or suffer repecussions the next morning.

As I really cannot take much drink, and neither can I have just one. And as a grown up, I need to accept this.

More about St Julian`s, Malta


You`ll probably agree that at first sight, St Julian`s is beautiful and all we typically associate with the Mediterranean.

The picture below however shows why I did`t like it that much. It was hard to photograph without any of those ugly hotels or blocks of flats spoiling the scene of those ancient buildings you see at the front, and neither was it easy to get away from British food and pub culture. We made some lovely trips to Valletta, Gozo, and other parts of the island, which I`ll still show you, and which were indeed beautiful. We also enjoyed the weather and the cats; but St Julian`s (which, BTW, has a large clubbing district) was just the wrong resort.


… and to finish, this is the spectacular rain storm I wrote about in this blog here, 20 December:


Alcohol Free: Into Week 4


Tonight, I really fancy a drink. As I left work, two of our residents were dying. Both are in their 90ties, and one of them, I never met, but I`m feeling for the families and for my colleagues who have to deal with it tonight, and I really would have liked a glass of wine, so I can de-stress. But of course, it wouldn`t have prevented matters, and most importantly, my husband poured himself water, too. I never asked him not to drink (and neither do I feel I should), but I made a remark, and he said he realised he was drinking too much – no, not necessarily more per sessions, but more often – since he retired. Although my initial resolution was stay off drink only until I really, really fancy it (which I do) I am much too impressed with and supportive of him.


I had a rum baba though, yesterday. Hubby offered me a taste of his own, and I forgot. But my resolution isn`t about the substance perse but about drinking and how it was forming a habit.


Today, a man complained to me about his own drinking, totally randomly. You could almost think he discovered my blog. He`s retired, and he said both him and his wife drank way too much ever since – at least a bottle and a half of wine a night between them, and sometimes two. He, too, sees it as a bad habit rather than a substance problem, but he, too, is starting to feel concerned.


Ever since I stopped drinking I eat more sweets, but I don`t know whether this is because I have a real need for something, or just because I bought them. I was scared I`d miss wine too much without them, but I will now stop buying them – consider it the next step… BTW, my weight is still the same. Although this wasn`t a concern or goal, I had been wondering whether anything would happen in that department.

I read this book here. When I` doing those projects, I don`t want to just experience them, I also want to get some input from others. I`m finding the author a bit full of himself, but I like his approach. It`s the same as Alan Carr`s “Stop Smoking”, which instantly helped me do the very thing almost 20 years ago. He basically tells us how alcohol is just a big marketing ploy that our whole society has bought into. Alcohol doesn`t make a good night, vacation or celebration, but it`s associated with it because it`s always there. We drink it automatically, just as we eat cake at a birthday party, even though we`re watching our weight, because everybody else does, and it would be rude not to.

I`ve got night out coming up. I had already decided on the venue when my husband showed me a Groupon deal for 57% off cocktails and tapas. My first impulse was BUY!, thinking even if others don`t want a cocktail, I`ll manage four over the course of the night, since it`s my own party. I had genuinely considered giving the drinking ban a break for that night (anyway), but I really don`t miss drinking a single bit, so it would have been drinking for drinking`s sake, because I have an excuse. My favourite dish there is not a tapa, and I expect to have the same level of fun and much more stamina with lime and soda, as I would have drinking 4 Capirinha cocktails. And BTW, I`m working the next day, so I have a good excuse for not drinking, too.

Cats of Malta – Part II

I`ve never seen so many stray cats in one place as I did in St Julian`s. And all looked exceptionally healthy, glossy and well fed. In fact, we heard one rather amusing rant by a Russian waiter who complained that those cats were “the size of tigers” and people would do better buying rice for Africa rather than feeding them, as they could eat fish and raid bins.

One adorable thing we discovered in advance through the internet, is the cat village: This old lady has made a little sanctuary for cats in her own garden, and people are explicitly invited to feed and stroke the cats, leave food, toys or monetary donations. It wasn`t difficult to find:


I wish they had places like this on Crete, where most of the cats were really thin…

Alcohol Free – into week 3

Not drinking takes away a lot of decisions. Will I have a drink after dinner? What will I have? Will I take a night cap when I come home from my (alcohol-free) night out? Do I really want wine, given that it`s so expensive in here? Can I go out till late, given that I`m working tomorrow morning? All those questions are no longer relevant. Perhaps, I`ll even find myself going out *more*.

Sometimes, I find myself looking forward to my glass of wine during the day, but then I remember, and that`s fine. The evening comes, and I don`t miss it at all, and my husband knows to skip the question.

The tricky thing however is: he still drinks. I don`t grudge it in the slightest, but I fiercely dislike the smell. As men do, my husband has always been drinking more than I, but just one glass on my behalf would erase my awareness of it. In fact, the very reason why I started drinking socially in the first place was so I wouldn`t be repulsed by my own friends. Deep down, I dislike drinking to cope with other people`s drinking, but I live in Scotland, and Scotland is… exactly like its reputation.

I`ve just finished reading this book here. The author lives in Australia, but she was born in Edinburgh, and I have to confirm all she says about its drinking culture. Getting drunk is normal, like a hobby for its own sake; everybody does it. If you want to remain on the same wavelength, you have to join in. And I for my part really can`t stand it when a human being smells like disinfectant. Yes, we do. All of us.

Fortunately, I have many interests and don`t have a social life that revolves strongly around alcohol. Many people however do and would need to change their lifestyle beyond not drinking, if they find temptation difficult. When I`m thinking about holidays, though, balmy summer nights in Greek tavernas, I`m missing the wine already. But hang on: I don`t even like Greek wine. I established that when I first went to Crete. It`s too sweet, yet, I kept drinking it, because it`s all they have, and it`s what you do. And I can think of many a drink which I didn`t like when I first tried it. Cigarettes, too.



Our beautiful cats, at 7 Months old <3

Time again for a post dedicated to our beautiful Amber and Leo, who are both 7 (and 7 1/2) months old now, with us for four. They are both adorable, beautiful, loving, and very healthy, greedy cats, who each developed their own little personality. Leo was so timid when he came to us, but he has now transformed into a “proper” very attention seeking, noisy and VERY JEALOUS Siamese cat, who is glued to my hip most of the time. I can`t believe how big he`s getting! Sometimes, he already looks like an adult. Amber likes to be very independent during the day, but she slips under the cover in the early morning hours, purring and kneeding. She loves water and has taken to joining us into the bathroom demanding loads of cuddles on the carpet before we are allowed to do anything else… Love them to bits!!

Valentine’s Day Ideas and Thoughts on Commercialism

Really interesting bits about the marketing – just what I always thought, but it is powerful, because even if the guy himself does not believe in it, he may be scared that his lady does, and spending $ 59.99 on a bouquet of roses will be easier than the aggros he may be getting if he doesn`t… A post like this, in my eyes, does not help. I`m sure this was not the intention, but I actually find it damaging, to both boys and girls…

Source: Valentine’s Day Ideas and Thoughts on Commercialism

Another one of those Projects: Alcohol Free

You`ll probably have picked up by now that I love a little project to myself, and although this one has been at the back of my mind for a while, I always realised that it could be…  contentious.

Is she an alcoholic, as she has to do that? 

No, I`m not an alcoholic. I don`t even drink that much. But I don`t tolerate alcohol very well. At home, I quickly and very suddenly want to go to sleep, but then wake up in the middle of the night, as my liver its working its hardest around 3am (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) to get rid of it. Outside my own house, I have been known to embarrass myself. No, not often, but quite often a big deal. To myself, at least. And on one occasion, someone approached a subject that would never have been discussed without drink, but sadly, I had at least one glass too many and was unable to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. This, I will regret until the day I die, and it was then when, although very tentatively, I first imagined what it would be like to stop drinking altogether.

Towards the end of last year, I went through a time of intense stress. Every night, I came home late and tired, and all I wanted to do was make myself a sandwich (quick) and then collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine, or sometimes two, to help me sleep. It was at that time when I started to feel uncomfortable about my drinking, for it was almost daily and could have been considered problem drinking. I installed a tracking app (DrinkAware), but reassuringly remained in its green “low risk” category (<14 units a week).

While I was still tracking, we took two breaks in the Mediterranean. There was wine with every meal (and sometimes in between, and/or a cocktail in some nice bar at night), and suddenly, the app was saying that I had binge drank on a particular day and that my overall weekly consumption was now putting me into the “medium risk” category (14-21 units a week). When we came home I decided to cut back, but I really missed that glass at night, which made me feel even more self conscious. Drinking at home should not become a habit, and you shouldn`t have to actively “resist” it.

At one point, I considered to stop drinking at home but not out, but I don`t think this would work for me. True, many social gatherings involve alcohol, but I know a few people who don`t drink, and they still participate, have fun and are considered fun by other people. If anything, they spend less money, get home safely in their own car, and will wake up bright and alert the next morning, with no regrets. In Britain, it`s very socially acceptable to drink too much and then boast about it, but I never felt this was compulsory. I also just moved from a job where social things involved getting hammered to one where we do sponsored walks for charity.

Last week, I discovered that I had completed a full week without a drink and hadn`t missed it at all. Time is now, I decided spontaneously, let`s see how far I can go without actually finding it difficult.

I`ve got social things coming up, but I can`t let those hold me back. I cancelled one on Friday, which I wasn`t so much looking forward to anyway. I went to one last night, which I was also apprehensive about (I worked today), but deciding not to drink has reassured me that I`d come home at a decent time and be fresh for work again this morning. Everyone accepted this for a reason (and some didn`t even seem to notice my not drinking), but I must admit that things became a bit annoying in my eyes as others (strangers!) became increasingly drunk and I was still sober. So I left first, got the second last bus, and I was home 5 minutes after midnight.

As usual, I`ll keep blogging about the project in inconsistent intervals…





Oh yeah, decluttering. This project that we did last year, and that I started in good spirits again in January. I promise from the bottom of my heart that I kept decluttering (just brought the last bag away today), but to tell you the honest truth, I got bored blogging about it. I felt I was cluttering my blog with pictures of my clutter.

I was loving the project last year – there were at least two handsful of people participating, we were all laughing at and commenting on each others` things, but this year, it was just me and one other person (from my friends group, anyway), and while the other blogger fared quite a bit better, I attracted no comments on my clutter. Classical example for the effectiveness of support, or its withdrawal in this case. Maybe even of competition.