Summer dreams

Not so much ripped at the seams as the months went by in a blur and I have autumn/winter dreams instead. How is it nearly back to school time? I didn’t even buy a new pencil case yet.

Lockdown has eased, so that’s exciting if you want to get out to Wetherspoons for a pint of plague beer. I don’t, so mostly what it means for me is Sainsbury’s are delivering again. Win. No more clicking and collecting. But, I’ve got my Sainsbury’s need down to monthly, I think, basically by buying stuff from a bunch of different places instead.

Partly, that’s because I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of plastic I buy. So:

Toiletries  – From &Keep, everything I’ve had has been great and none of it has come in plastic packaging. So far, I’ve had soaps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, body lotion, almond oil, non-cotton buds, and bathroom cleaner in a refillable glass bottle.

Milk etc – From Milk & More, as it turns out that a milkwoman delivers to this area. So now my milk is on the doorstep by 6.30am, in glass pint bottles, like ye olden dayes. Along with juice, smoothies, cheese, bread and washing up liquid in a refillable glass bottle. It’s a great service, and they deliver a few times a week.

Deodorant – From Wild, which is a subscription service. You get the reusable, non-plastic container and the first deodorant stick, and then refills turn up whenever they turn up. It works. I walked 20,000 steps today and did a 30 min HIIT workout, so I’m pretty confident it can stand up to my regular daily activity of typing.

Would I be putting all this effort in if I had to trek round various shops? Hell to the no. But what I realised is that when you are in the house for everything to be delivered to you, there is no inconvenience.

I’m also still getting my fruit and veg from the local fruit and veg stand, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve walked there. It’s about 12000 steps round trip, however far that is. Last week I walked through the fields and braved the cows with calves. This week, I risked the road, which isn’t great simply because it’s twisty-turny and you have to pay constant attention to being positioned so that vehicles can see you. But either way it’s doable, and exercise as a byproduct of doing something else useful is my favourite way to make it happen.

I’m trying to figure out if I can get rid of my car, and walk, taxi or hire cars instead. As long as I’m not commuting, this makes total sense, because I barely go out and if I want a car a couple of weekends a month, then hiring one is still cheaper than owning. If I lived in a more urban area, it would be a no brainer but here it requires more thinking about. There’s no local car hire, no Zip car, so every trip would demand a certain amount of logistical planning. But owning even my shitty car demands about £4k a year and I could put that money to much better use.

Like, for example, Forest Christmas! Which is booked for November and if we’re all in another flavour of lockdown again, well, I’ll get a refund. Unbelievably, my employer is still paying out bonuses this year and on that hinges my plan for Other Christmas, which is to fuck off to the Maldives. This may well be a total fantasy and I’ll end up splurging my entire bonus on a medium sized bar of Cadbury’s Whole Nut (the back up plan) but my goodness, I like the idea. I’m not normally a beach person but for once, there’s something about spending a week in a country with predictably good weather, turquoise seas and white sands that is incredibly alluring. I’ll know this week, and I won’t be disappointed either way ‘cos I’m always happy with free money.

 

More Ava Lee

The third Ava Lee novel, The Wild Beasts of Wuhan, finally turned up and I guess I have not to mind it took so long since it came from California. So then I read that and The Red Pole of Macau in 24 hours and now I’m back to ‘what am I going to read?’ You’d think I would learn.

They were both very different, which is something I’m appreciating about this series. In The Wild Beasts of Wuhan, Ava is tracking down art forgers to recoup the money for her clients. That takes her from China to Europe to the Faroe Islands and back again; the amount of time she spends on ‘planes is exhausting just to read about. It’s a fairly complicated puzzle to unravel but of course, Ava does. That is not a foregone conclusion, though and I wonder if there’s a future novel where it all does go wrong?

The back story is also building across the novels, and in The Red Pole of Macau it’s that which is the starting point. Ava is Chinese-Canadian, the daughter of Marcus Lee and his second wife, Jennie. Marcus also has a third wife who lives in Australia with her children. Although all the families know of each other, they remain separate.

Marcus asks Ava to help Michael, his son with his first wife, and this draws Ava into a family financial mess. Michael is also heir and future head of the family, who will pick up the responsibility for looking after all three families when Marcus dies. Although, based on the evidence of this novel, Michael is no kind of business man and they’re SOL if that happens. Anyway, when it transpires he’s gotten into a very dubious investment with what turn out to be gangsters, Ava feels she has no choice but to get the money back. The alternative is that Marcus will bail him out and the entire extended family will suffer.

In effect, a couple of idiot men have screwed things up and a couple of smart women will have to sort it all out. And that’s what they do. Michael’s dumb ass business parter gets kidnapped and Ava spins Michael a line about how she’s going to get the ransom money together, all the while planning a nice, set piece rescue. For this, she gets help from May Ling, her client from the previous novel and a woman with an enormous amount of contacts and influence.

There’s not more violence in this book, but it’s of a different sort and it starts to take Ava down a different path. She always refers to herself as an accountant, although acknowledging that if the people from whom she is trying to reclaim money are recalcitrant, she’s prepared to have their fingers chopped off to help persuade them otherwise. But the action in this book leads to an execution.

There are 8 further novels so far, and copies of those are all probably in California as well. So I’m interested to see how Ava’s character development goes.

In audio land, I’m spending a lot of time in Wyoming, with Sheriff Walt Longmire. This is doing nothing to put me off the idea of going to Wyoming. Big, open country full of no-one, you say? Huh. Now that I’ve finally upgraded my OS again and have AppleTV, well boy howdy, I get access to the TV show too. And therein rings the death knell of Netflix again.

 

I got new rules

As I’ve scarcely been out of jeans since March and yet, miraculously, can still do work, I decided it’s a one way trip out of business casual.

Secondly, one of the smaller points that snagged in my mind when I was reading up on the whole INTJ business is attitude to clothing and colours. Plain clothes, neutral colours, maybe lots of black. For years, and I do mean years, I’ve felt that I should put more colour in my wardrobe. I get told that red suits me and turquoise suits me, and I buy those colours and I feel really uncomfortable and I don’t wear them. Mostly, what I actually like to wear is black, grey, khaki, white, navy and maybe a couple of other shades of blue. That is it. Then it all goes together and you don’t have to think about it.

Consequently, I’m not so much overhauling my wardrobe as having a good, old clearout with very little intention of replacing much. All my tailored trousers are gone, anything that needs ironing is gone, anything that requires me to wear tights is gone. Enough with the dressing up and the costume.

I’m also ditching heels. I loved wearing them, but now, I just can’t be bothered. Flats can be just as uncomfortable but trainers seem to be sticking around as a style, so I’m in.

Making the decision to give up on all this is liberating and feels like a load that I didn’t know I was carrying has been taken away. I’ve had a lot of fun with clothes but as a woman, particularly, you have to spend such a lot of time thinking about your appearance: look smart, look capable, look attractive and a bit sexy but not too sexy, look young (of course), look thin, look feminine but not too feminine in case you’re not taken seriously, look effortless…  But by the power of Greyskull, surely one of the benefits of being middle aged is I get to opt out of all that shit?

If I’m not going to buy much, I can buy better. To replace all the above, I want a pair of Hiut jeans, a new black tailored jacket (been looking for a year, can’t find the right one) and some black trainers (I’d really like white, but that’s not practical and I can’t make myself buy them.) I didn’t do fast fashion anyway, but I can up it a level more. And if I really have to go back into an office, I’m prepared to compromise and throw a jacket on.