Things I Don’t Like That Happen in Restaurants

Man with sandwich board outside restaurant

1. When the server memorises your order rather than writing it down. It makes me nervous. Listen buddy, I didn’t come here to be impressed by your incredible feats of memory, I just want you to get our order right, and I’d feel much more relaxed about that if you wrote it down, ok?

2. When you finally decide what to order after having turned the waiter away an embarrassing number of times, and then it turns out they’ve now run out of that thing because you took so long, so rather than going to your second choice, you panic order something that hadn’t even made it into your final shortlist of five, something that you don’t even like, but once you’ve said the words it’s too late, you would look a fool if you said “No, wait! I don’t like that!” Far better to eat and pay for something you can’t stand.

3. When you order a load of drinks and they add it up in their head, far too quickly for my liking, and throw a random figure at you. Well ok, it’s probably not a random figure, but it may as well be for all the confidence I have in it. Again, I don’t need a demonstration of your impressive mental arithmetic skills my good man, I just want to know that you’re charging us the right amount!

Vanessa looking at drinks

Ok wait, nobody drink anything else until I’ve added this up myself…

4. When they think you’re stupid. I had a waiter in a restaurant once try to convince me that spinach turns white when you cook it. This was in response to me questioning why my spinach risotto was completely white. Seriously.

5. If you’ve gone to a restaurant with a group of people, and you deliberately only order a small bowl of soup and a glass of tap water in order to keep your costs down, and others have had lobster, filet mignon, a crate of wine each followed by aged whiskey, and then someone says “Let’s just split the bill equally, it’s much easier that way!” Yeah, much easier for you if I pay six times as much as my meal actually cost!

6. This is one for my fellow introverts – when you’ve gone to a restaurant because it’s your birthday, and despite you giving strict instructions to the people you are with NOT to tell the server it’s your birthday, they do anyway while you are momentarily distracted by a falling napkin, and next thing you know, you’re being forced to lead a balloon and pineapple dance around the restaurant wearing a penis hat and doing monkey impressions, whilst everyone sings a hilarious alternative version of Happy Birthday and throws peanuts at you.

7. When you’re with people who want to try your meal, and want you to try theirs, and they start shovelling forkfuls of their meal onto your plate and then they’re cutting bits off your meal and loading it onto their plate. No. I’ve ordered this because this is what I wanted. You ordered that because presumably that is what you wanted. If I wanted that I’d have ordered that and if you wanted this, then you should have ordered this!

8. When the meals arrive and you wish you’d ordered what the person next to you has got. But that doesn’t mean you want to start swapping some of yours for some of theirs, oh no no no, number 7 above still applies, got it?

I know at this point, you’re probably thinking “Gee that Vanessa sounds like a real joy to go out with!” so in order to redress the balance, I will finish on a positive note and tell you something that I DO like when I go out to restaurants…

- I like it when numbers 1 to 8 above don’t happen.

There, see, I AM fun to go out with after all!

Vanessa grinning

photo credit (top photo of man with sandwich board) : pheezy via photopin cc

What Constitutes a Hand Cream Emergency?


Whilst browsing the backside of my hand cream tube (you know how much I enjoy reading packaging, as demonstrated here and here), I was amused to see a phone number to call “In case of emergency”. This got me wondering what might constitute a hand cream emergency? They can’t be talking about some kind of medical emergency like a severe allergic reaction, because in that instance you would surely seek proper medical attention, not just call a number on the back of the tube right? No, can’t be that, so what can it be? Maybe one of these situations…

1. Your hands are suddenly unusually dry, you reach urgently for the hand cream, only to discover the tube is empty! What do you do? Well you call the emergency number of course, and they will no doubt rush you an emergency supply over, pronto.

2. You do that thing where you accidentally apply too much hand cream and after rubbing your hands together for quite some time, they are still way too greasy to do anything with. What do you do? Do you keep rubbing your hands together for longer? Do you grab a cloth of some kind to wipe the excess off? Or do you decide to spread it further by extending your rubbing zone beyond your hands, right up your arms across your back and down your legs? You can’t possibly make that decision alone, no, you need advice from the hand cream emergency team.

Hand cream emergency lady

See what lovely hands she has? She can help with all your hand cream emergencies.

3. You are distracted while squeezing your tube of hand cream and totally miss your hands, a dollop lands on the carpet, or the couch, or your clothing. Oh no! Can you just rub it in? No, you can’t do that, it’ll stain…won’t it? You’re not sure. Can you grab some tissue and blot it it? That probably won’t be enough…or will it? You think you might have read somewhere about a paste you can make involving baking soda and vinegar…or was it lemon juice and borax? No, white wine! What ARE the ingredients to that hand cream removing paste you read about damn it! You need to act quickly or it will be too late. If only there was an emergency number you could call. Oh, wait.

4. You realise that you’ve spent way too much time thinking about hand cream and may need to reassess your priorities. Who can you talk this crisis through with? Yep, you’ve guessed it.

Any other hand cream emergencies you can think of? Or any other non-emergency emergencies you can think of? Or any other strange things on packaging you’ve spotted to feed my obsession?

Photo credits:
Top photo of hand cream: Vanessa-Jane Chapman
Call centre lady: via photopin cc

When Advertisers Get It Wrong, Especially You, California

Some of you may have seen this picture circulating on social media recently. It’s particularly worrying that it’s an advertisement for an educational establishment…

Education poster

You just think “Really? Nobody noticed before it went out?” However, Salesian College in Farnborough probably doesn’t have a particularly large advertising budget. But what about the California Travel and Tourism Commission? They presumably have a pretty significant advertising budget, they are after all representing a whole state. They probably spent a pretty hefty sum of money on this advertisement in 2011 trying to encourage people to visit California. Do you remember it? It was shown on TV here in the UK, and no doubt in many other parts of the world too. Overall I think they did a pretty good job of making California seem like a fun place to visit, but why did none of the people involved in making the ad spot the big fail in the very first sentence:

If you’re not inclined to watch it right now, the first sentence is “People have a lot of misconceptions about California, but none of them are really true.” Hmmm. Anybody see what’s wrong with that? Some people blamed Kim Kardashian, the utterer of those words for the error, but that’s probably a little unfair, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t responsible for the script. Although having said that, she is reading a book about Quantum Physics in the ad, so you’d think she’d have been able to spot and point out the error in the words she was being asked to say.

What about this one, on the first reading all seems well, but give it a minute, think about it…

Action banner
Presumably they’re using some kind of brain washing tactics?

This next one isn’t strictly an advertisement, but a sign printed on a shop door. A friend posted it on Facebook and added the comment – “That’s a bit mean, considering they are working for charity and everything!” -

Shop dog sign

He was of course referring to the bottom line, which if you can’t read properly with the glare says “No dogs accept guide dogs.” Ha!

And finally I must give mention to supermarket giant Sainsburys who blundered in a different way here in the UK last week when they accidentally put a poster up in the window of one of their stores that was clearly meant to be posted only in staff rooms -

Sainsburys 50p poster

It says “Let’s encourage every customer to spend an additional 50p during each shopping trip between now and the year-end.” I have to say I was a little shocked by this. I guess I must be somewhat naive, because whilst I understand that businesses are of course always looking for ways to get customers to spend more, I didn’t think they would be so brazen as to produce a poster about it like that. Makes me wonder what kinds of methods the staff will be using to encourage this extra 50p spend on every shop. Any ideas?

Have you spotted any advertising blunders lately?

Meeting Another Blogger

Vanessa with JM

Last week I met one of my bestest blogging pals from the States for the first time, jmmcdowell, hurrah! I had heard a few months before that she and her husband were planning a trip to England, so of course I insisted on a meeting. She tried to put me off with cries of “Oh but surely you’re far too busy!” But no. I wasn’t. And so she had no choice. Leading up to the day I was excited and a little nervous about meeting her, not that there was anything particular about her that would make me nervous, but as an introvert, meeting new people is always a bit scary! Would I be awkward and stuck for things to say? Would I chatter on incessantly in an overcompensating-for-my-introvertedness way and not let her get a word in? Would JM be happy with the British weather and British food during her visit (both of which I obviously felt personally responsible for. Thankfully both weather and food were fine thus far at the time of our meeting. Phew), but most importantly, would those people on the table behind us mind being in our photo?

I needn’t have worried. Both JM and her husband were lovely, and it was a pleasure for Neil and I to meet both of them, there were no awkward silences and hopefully I didn’t chatter on maniacally too much (I’m sure JM would be far to gracious to say anything if I had!). It was early on in their trip when we met them, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing how the rest of it went. I won’t say anything about where we met, or what they did on their trip because I think JM will want to talk about what they did on her own blog, so look out for that any day now (no pressure JM to get on and post about it quickly ok? Just ANY DAY NOW is fine). Meeting a blogger that I’ve been following and reading for a long time felt a bit like meeting a celebrity – JM likened it to meeting a pen pal which is also a good comparison. So kind of like meeting a celebrity pen pal. There.

Have you met any fellow bloggers before? Or any celebrities? Or any pen pals? Or any blogging celebrity pen pals?



I haven’t been around blog world for about a month now, and I’ve missed you all. I was busy finishing off my last two essays and dissertation, and so had to stay right away from blog posts to avoid distraction. Yesterday I handed it all in and I’m finished, hurrah!!! It was definitely a challenge doing it in one year rather than the three years that was the more usual option, but I’m so pleased that I chose that route because now I’m finished, hurrah!!! (Did I say that already?).

In the year of my course I wrote six 4,000 word essays and one 18,000 word dissertation, obviously it’s all the reading and research around each one that takes the most time. With each essay, and the dissertation, I seemed to go through the same kind of anxiety pattern, and I decided to turn that into a chart for your entertainment (To read it, you’ll probably have to click on it to open it up bigger, unless you’re on a phone or other small device in which case you’re going to struggle to read it whatever, and therefore I wouldn’t bother trying, just accept that you would have really liked it if you’d been able to read it, so just smile and nod).

Essay anxiety chart

What’s been happening in blog world then? I clearly won’t be able to catch up on all the posts I missed, but I will gradually make my rounds and visit my regulars. In the meantime, if there are any posts you wrote (or saw) in the last month that you really think I should read, then by all means pop a link to them in the comments and I shall endeavour to visit soon.

Hope everyone is well, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things around here again now!


Disconnected Reflections As I Enter The Home Straight

Equality does not mean justice

This picture is a good representation of some of the issues I’ve looked at. There are so many versions of it online I don’t know where it originated in order to credit properly

We’ll be back to some funny stuff around here soon, but not yet. I’m nearing the end of my Masters Degree, and over the year that I’ve been working on it, I’ve kept note of little facts and quotes that I’ve found interesting, or things that I’ve learned which I wanted to remember because they’ll be useful in other contexts. There are far too many to share in one post, so I’ve selected a few…

I’ve learned that:

- If I reach the point where I feel blocked in my writing, whether from writing exhaustion, or lack of inspiration, and I’m just staring at a blank screen, I can break through that block by simply changing something physical about what I’m doing. This usually means either picking up my laptop and moving to a different room, or switching to writing a few paragraphs in longhand on paper instead (yes, I still have to type it up later, but it’s worth it just to break through the block). I can’t fully express quite how incredibly effective this method is for me. Previously I would have either taken a break, or switched to a different task, but this way I can carry right on with what I’m doing which is sometimes what needs to be done.

- Goal setting doesn’t work for me. I always knew this really but because it’s repeatedly put forward as the best way to achieve things, I kept doing it, and kept feeling like a failure when I didn’t achieve my goals. During my course I read an article by Joanna Swann who is fiercely opposed to the practice of goal and target setting; she speaks particularly about the field of education, but what she says can be applied wider. In short, she puts forward an alternative method of achieving what needs to be achieved, by articulating it as a series of problems that need to be resolved rather than goals or targets that need to be met. Clearly everybody is different, but what she said really resonated with me and it’s worked when I’ve put it into practice. (I have already mentioned this to a few other bloggers individually).

- When I’ve completed a writing session, it’s worth spending a couple of minutes jotting down where I had got to in my thought process and what I was planning to write about next. It makes it much easier to get right back into it next time. It’s so easy to forget where we were in our thought process if we leave it, even for a day.


A picture from one of my study days at home – not too shabby right?

A couple of quotes I liked:

- “We become conscious of many of our expectations only when they are disappointed, owing to their being unfulfilled. An example would be encountering an unexpected step in one’s path: it is the unexpectedness of the step which may make us conscious of the fact that we expected to encounter an even surface.” (Karl Popper)

- “He who loses his crown and lives without it is more than a king: from the rank of a king he rises to the rank of a man.” (Jean-Jack Rousseau)

A couple of things that came up which made me think:

- The Chinese (as I understand it) believe that the differences in educational achievement between students are attributed primarily to the different rates at which people learn, and not to different ceilings that people are capable of reaching. Whilst I don’t wholly embrace that view, I do think it’s worth considering in part, especially when we talk about helping children to “reach their full potential” which is a term that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with, because I find it actually quite limiting.

- If a teacher said that they had a child of 14 years old in their class who couldn’t read or write very well, or couldn’t add up simple numbers, we would probably describe that child as having special educational needs (or in the UK we would, other countries have other terms of course). Whereas if a teacher said they had a child of 14 years old on their class who wasn’t very good at composing music, or remembering dates in history, we wouldn’t attribute that to special needs, we’d just say that different people are good at different things.  So some subjects are deemed to be the deciders of whether people have something wrong with them or not. There are reasons behind that of course, but it’s still worth a little ponder before we make those judgments.

Studying with the cat

Another study day, with help from the cat

Right, better get back to those essays now…

Hurry Back Valerie

Me and girls in France

From L to R: Me, Emmanuelle, Joanne, Valerie. France, 1976, shortly before we moved up to the mountain.

Visitors to the mountain were extremely rare. In fact, aside from the night that I’m about to recount, I can only remember one other occasion in the year when we had visitors, but that’s a tale for another day.

The other children and I slept in the same room. We had a motley assortment of beds and mismatched bedding, and I was in charge of making the beds every morning. We generally slept well after our daily wanders in the mountain air. On this particular night, we had gone to bed. As usual. And drifted off easily. As usual. I couldn’t tell you what time it was, but sometime after we had fallen asleep, we were awoken by the sound of loud bangs. Pounding bangs. We sprang up sharply in our beds. Confused. Fearful. More bangs. After some whispered discussion we concluded that it must be someone at the door. Somebody was pounding at the door. Who? It wasn’t a noise we were used to.

We sat very still. Unsure. Afraid. Shortly afterwards, we heard the adults lumber down the stairs. More bangs. Raised voices . The door must have been opened because the banging stopped, and new voices were heard. Muffled. We couldn’t make out what was being said, and people were shouting over each other.

Next, the sound of something being dragged. Furniture being moved? Why? Doors being open and closed. Still the raised voices. What was happening? Why was nobody coming to tell us what was happening? We had instinctively clustered together on the same bed now and held each other tightly. Joanne said that she would creep down the stairs a little to peep. Joanne was brave, but we said she was too young, so Valerie went instead. We urged caution, and let her go. We waited. Clutched each other in the darkness. Hurry back Valerie.

After a short amount of time, she scampered back in. She didn’t speak until she was right back into our huddle, and in urgent hushed tones announced “C’est la police!”

This is my fourth memoir piece from the year I spent as a child living self-sufficiently with my mother and another family in an abandoned village in the French Alps, with no electricity, or any modern conveniences. If you missed the previous parts, they are here: A year in the French Alps

How Vivid the Painted Rainbow Stripes Were

Vanessa and Emmanuelle

Me (bottom) and Emmanuelle. France, 1976

There were rainbow stripes painted on the upright canes. So pretty. Magical almost to our young eyes. There were four canes, wedged firmly into the ground, and they formed the four corners which supported the makeshift roof. The whole thing was no wider than the width of my arms stretched out, or rather Emmanuelle’s arms, as she was the one that took the measurement. And probably half the depth, but I can’t be sure because we didn’t measure that. The canes were of the type that might be used in gardening, for plants to know which way to grow, thicker though than the ones my Dad used for his tomato plants. The sides and roof had been made from branches and grasses that must have been found close by. It was difficult to tell though where the structure ended and natural growth started, because they had become intertwined over time.

We pushed through the growth and sat inside. There was just enough room for the four of us to kneel in there. We looked up at the sky through the gaps in the branches of the roof. We knew there would be much fun and adventure to be had here, but not today. Today was for sitting and looking up and around and feeling happy at our new discovery. We imagined children such as ourselves must have made it, maybe with grown-up help too. We were sure it must have been made for playing in though, we couldn’t imagine grown-ups having a use for it. This was a place for make-believe.

It must have been there for some time because nobody lived in that part of the mountain any more apart from us. It had somehow withstood the adverse weather that is prone up there, and still it stood. Perhaps more surprising was how vivid the painted rainbow stripes were still. Yellow. Red. Orange. Green. Blue. It aroused the curiosity of young minds. We wondered whether the children would come back sometime to play in it again. Or just to see if it was still here. Perhaps we would get to meet them. What fun that would be. New people to play with. But maybe they were too old to play now.

We had ventured a little further than usual today, probably further than we were allowed if we were to check. Sometimes it’s best not to check.

This is my third memoir piece from the year I spent as a child living self-sufficiently with my mother and another family in an abandoned village in the French Alps, with no electricity, or any modern conveniences. If you missed the first two parts, they are here: A year in the French Alps

A Small Favour (with a ‘u’) To Ask…

Dolls in school

I need some help with sharing a link, via Twitter, or whatever means you would like. It’s part of the research that I’m doing for my dissertation. I’m looking at how mentoring is used with students in schools, particularly students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I’ve set up a survey which is for staff in any schools in England (secondary school age) to fill in. Even if you’re not based in England yourself, you probably have followers on your social media platforms who are, so the more people who can share the link, the more potential survey-completers I will find!

This is the link to the survey:

I’ve prepared a couple of versions of a tweet that you can simply copy and paste (you’re welcome), or feel free to share the link to the survey in any other way you would like. I would be SOOOOOO grateful.


Do you work in a secondary school in England? Do you have 10 mins to fill in a survey? @VanessaJ2011

If you work in a secondary school in England, please consider filling in this survey, thank you! @VanessaJ2011

The survey will be open for two weeks initially, but I may extend if I need to.

Apologies that I haven’t been as active in reading and commenting on your blogs lately, I’ve been busy with my studies, some of you have been lucky enough to receive a visit from me, ha! But it’s all been a bit random. Normal service will resume in September.

Thanks in advance of your help!

photo credit: - Annetta - via photopin cc

Packaging and Meaningless Multipliers

Woman and cleaning products

With such a range of cleaning products, it’s no wonder that lucky gal is delighted!

I have previously expressed my amusement at packaging labelling (oh yes, it’s all party party party around here!). Recently I’ve been noticing something new – an increase in the use of meaningless multipliers. Let me explain…

First, take my make-up remover wipes. Actually don’t take them, I need them, just look at them:

Makeup wipes I don’t know if you can read the small black print on there, but it says “2 doses of cleansing milk”. To the best of my knowledge, a dose is not a specific amount in itself, and nowhere on the packaging do they tell us how how much one dose of cleansing milk is, therefore stating that there are two doses is completely meaningless.

And look at these crisps:

Crisps Twice flavoured indeed (and yes Mike, flavoured has a “u” in it).  It seems to me it would be more efficient to just put enough flavour on in the first place rather than having to do it twice.


My laundry liquid says “3 x Cleaning System” :

Laundry liquid

Does anyone have any idea what “3 x Cleaning System” means? I certainly don’t, and there is no explanation on the back either about it. Just the usual instructions, warnings, and reassurance that the queen is a fan of products made by this company – I always insist that my household products have that royal stamp of approval, if it’s not good enough for the queen then it’s not good enough for me right? :

Back of laundry liquid  Queen approval

My hair conditioner boasts “Triple resist x 3″ So does that mean 9 times resist then? And what is it resisting? Close scrutiny I expect.


In fairness to this conditioner, it does attempt to explain what triple resist means with a little list of three things further down:

1. Reinforces
2. Nourishes from root
3. Feels stronger

I’m not convinced that those three things actually work as an explanation for “Triple resist x 3″ though – Number 3, “Feels stronger”, surely that’s an outcome of numbers 1 and 2 working well? But I guess we’re not meant to over-think any of these meaningless multipliers, we’re just meant to believe that we’re getting a few times more of something than we would usually expect to get.

Have you noticed any meaningless multipliers cropping up on your packaging?

Smiling lady with cleaning products photo credit: missmac via photopin cc