In this world, there are a few products and services that I will sing the praises of, without any form of reward from the companies concerned. I’m an Apple convert; a Heinz Tomato Ketchup afficionado; and an advocate of Kellogg’s Cornflakes…
…but above all else, I extol the virtues of a bra fitting and purchase from Bravissimo.

Ever since my transformative experience of their service a few years back, I’ve evangelised on their behalf to countless well-endowed friends. A fairly major victory was getting my sister through their doors last year (she is thankful for finally taking my advice), but it was a delight last week to accompany an American friend to their first Bravissimo experience.

A chance conversation about bra sizes (yes, it’s up there with periods as far as stereotypical female conversations go) revealed information that led me to believe that she was – in common with two thirds of all women – wearing the wrong bra size. Plus, she’s American, and they don’t cater well for ladies whom God has blessed in that department. (I discovered this shocking fact some time ago, I still can’t quite believe it.)

So, in cahoots with another friend, we planned a girly afternoon of shopping, of which bra fitting and purchasing would be a highlight (as would coffee, cakes, cocktails and perfume samples acquisition). During the afternoon, a realisation hit me: we give men a hard time for making stupid jokes about women’s bosoms, yet given half the chance, women can give as good as they get…

As we sat in the waiting area for our fittings, one friend – unable to make a Bravissimo purchase because she doesn’t quite make it into their size bracket – declared: “I feel like a pork pie at a Jewish wedding!”

It continued as we browsed through their catalogue. I spotted a new colour patten in my favourite style (Tango Plunge – FYI) named ‘Tutti Frutti’, to which smaller-busted friend wisecracked: “Wouldn’t it be better if the ‘u’ was an ‘i’?!” [think about it…] – oh yes, we intelligent women in our 30s can reach the same level as eleven year old boys.

We emerged with new underwear and new bra sizes – yes, American friend was in a whole new section of the alphabet (as was I, which was actually something of a shock) and generally delighted with the experience. I commented to her that this would be a life changing experience – in fact, that a weight would (quite literally) be lifted off her shoulders.

Sadly, she hasn’t managed to find this joy yet. At some point during an otherwise fabulous afternoon some idiot stole a bag containing her four new bras. Hugely gutting and a massive let-down after I’d built it up so much.

When comments go bad

I’ve always loved getting comments on my blog – virtual friendships have begun via them; I’ve been affirmed; discovered new blogs; had some great discussions; and been made to look a bit of a twit by friends. Very occasionally I’ve had a bit of a random comment, spam or suchlike, and I’ve simply not published them.

However, over the last week or so I’ve had a series of comments that have been random, fairly offensive and just plain ridiculous – and all from the same person. When I got the first, I thought I’d finally made it in the realms of feminist blogging as I’d had my first troll! In response to my review of How to be a Woman, came:
“feminists are neo lib idiots who have never understood the relationship between splinter groups of vague leftist inverance to the real left, those who fight for the rights of workers every day and every moment. discussing the use of my pussy with bourgeois overeducated morons is not my cup of tea at all.”

Of course, in true cowardly comment mode, the author didn’t have an open Blogger profile, so all I knew was that she went by the username ‘superchick’ and used an ISP based in Italy. I shared it with a couple of friends and a dinner party, we laughed, and I thought little more about it. 
But on Wednesday came a surprise. Apparently superchick fancied joining us in France, having left a comment on my post detailing what activities I’d got up to there. As I told Twitter:

“Curious… The person who left offensive comments on my blog last week has returned & asked if they can come to France. Short answer: no.”

Definitely odd. So this apparently wasn’t a one-off, this random comment-leaver was seemingly intentionally reading my posts. 
Since then, there’s been a comment on every post…

“but you never thought about the people kicked out of their homes and the corruption”

No, makes no sense to me either. 
On Friday’s fun, she left two comments – clearly thinking the first hadn’t worked – but both were essentially the same, and basically just plain rude:

“i think you need to get hold of reality”

I’m not actually sure what I find worse, her rudeness or her lack of grammar. 
Here’s the thing. These comments are becoming really annoying and there’s no way of me blocking them. I may not be publishing them, but I can still see them and they’re so utterly pointless it’s just a pain. So this post isn’t so much for my readers as a whole, but more for superchick herself. [My sister made the very sensible suggestion that I contact her by the only means possible – a blog that I know she’s reading.] I don’t mind random comments on my blog, even if they disagree with my point of view. That’s the whole point of blogging. But writing comments that make no sense or are simply rude is just pointless. You’ve had your fun, now just stop. Thanks. 

A couple of weeks ago, in response to a post I wrote about the benefits of Twitter, a friend suggested I listen to a lecture on the subject of friendship entitled: “You have a friend request: Saving Friendship from the 21st Century”. It was given at the Southborough l’Abri (that’s the Boston version of the place we went to for the film festival last autumn), by a friend of two friends, and is a jolly good listen. Yes, the file says it’s an hour and 52 minutes long, but only the first hour is the lecture, the rest is a (still fascinating) Q&A.

It comes back to the ongoing question of whether social networking helps or hinders good quality relationships – it just so happens that my two friends who know the speaker (whose dulcet southern tones are a pleasure to listen to) are part of a select band of friends who’ve disowned Facebook. I think my views on the subject have been fairly well expressed on this blog. Personally, I find social networking has massively enhanced many of my relationships and I wouldn’t be without them – but, they don’t replace good quality, face-to-face friendships. The lecture has a similar viewpoint, but is less enthusiastic about online friendships.

But it’s not that aspect of the talk that made me so enthusiastic to share it. It’s more to do with a quote from near the end of the lecture: “Hospitality is a fine art”

What Mary-Frances concludes by saying is commonsense. If we’re lonely, we should leave our computers and smart phones, and get out into the real world and make friends.

What’s in my handbag – Greenbelt edition

My handbag’s an eclectic collection of rubbish at the best of times. Take it to a festival and it gets significantly worse…

For example, right at this moment it contains a Blackberry, HTC Desire & an iPhone, plus chargers for all three. (Ok, I lie, the iPhone’s in my hand & the charger’s plugged in…) I’m in the privileged position of having regular access to a room with plug sockets (& wifi) and therefore I’ve become the designated phone charging person. It’s quite a responsibility…

That’s the entire contents spread out (I was looking for something that inevitably turned up at the bottom of the bag.) I’ll admit it shocked me, or, more reasonably impressed me with just how much my bag can contain!

In brief we have:

Clothing: I’m ready for any possible weather event with a hoodie, long-sleeve tee, waterproof, woolly hat & scarf. You might think it’s ridiculous, but so far all I’ve not worn today is the hat & scarf. All day today I’ve been stripping off & layering up, truly annoying and not a great way of keeping your hair tidy.

Snacks + relevant implements & receptacles: Cereal bars & dried fruit are essential & ideal festival food. (They’re more nutritious than churros, that’s for sure.) I’m also planning to keep the spork in the bag from now on as it’s massively useful for emergency cake cutting situations.

Toothbrush & toothpaste: Who knows when I’ll be in a nice toilet with mirrors & hot water? It’s always best to be prepared!

Church Times Guide to Greenbelt & Greenbelt Scratch Choir music: I’m Greenbelting in a lackadaisical fashion with no programme or iPhone app. I’m relying on Dave Walker’s hilarious map & my ability to run into friends who are about to do something interesting. (A friend’s running the scratch choir, so that was a no brainer.)

Notebooks, camera & writing implements: To record festival happenings – obviously.

Now that I’ve tidied & reorganised my bag, I’d better go and find the friend who’s taking me to a salsa workshop. There won’t be any theology there, but perhaps there’ll be men to dance with…

[This my first BlogPress post, so forgive any quirky formatting!]

Under the Sea

It’s not often that the land of my birth is the 3rd item on the BBC Breakfast News, so when I heard Tonga mentioned this morning I was swiftly wide awake and sat up in bed paying attention.

The big news is that a volcano’s erupted under the ocean, resulting in rather dramatic explosions of water:

The good news is that it’s not caused any tsunami waves, but it will have probably damaged fish stocks. The rather eccentric Matangi Tonga has a detailed article about the drama.

What I find fascinating about events like this is how it connects with the Pacific philosophy of the ocean. Moana means “the gift of the ocean” and is the balance of creation in the context of land and sea, informing the islanders understanding of ecology and theology.

Essentially, there is a strongly held ideology that life is derived from the ocean.

  • Out of the ocean comes islands – these are present for a time.
  • Out of the ocean comes life – the weather systems that allow crops to grow.
  • Out of the ocean comes food – the living creatures within it.

However, none of this is permanent because the ocean can reclaim these gifts as quickly as they’re given.

All a bit profound for a post that’s essentially some water shooting up in the air! But it’s not often I get to share Pacific philosophy.