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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Over doing it

Consumerism. It’s got me written all over it. I don’t like to think that I equate happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possession, because if I did, I’d be shallow and superficial, my life would have no true meaning and you’d think I was vain and inconsiderate of the real issues of the world – of poverty and disease, of politics and war.

Well, I do care about those things, but I also like buying things. Can I be a happy consumer with a conscience?

Whilst on my recent holiday, I noticed that I was on a downward spiral of spending. It wasn’t my fault. It was my camera’s fault.

Because I am snap happy, I took lots of holiday pictures. Lamenting the death of the printed picture, I decided this time, I’d buy an album and make sure the pictures got printed and put in a pretty album for my coffee table. Not just any old album. It had to be a Paperchase album, they are so pretty. And we’ll need a nice new frame for the best picture, to go on the mantelpiece. And if it’s going on the mantelpiece, we better get some candles to go next to it. With matching coasters. Those coasters only come with matching tablemats. Ooh! Look at that table runner. That’ll look good when we have guests. Let’s get a fancy wine bottle holder too. Going to need some good wine to go in it. Have you tried this new recipe? It goes well with wine. Maybe I need an apron, for all this cooking. Perhaps a new outfit. Some new shoes to go with my new outfit, as I simply have none that match. Some new plasters to mend my feet where my new shoes rub. Fun plasters, I like the fun plasters best.

Taking that first holiday snap has proved rather costly and suddenly I now have a whole new wardrobe. But then, if I didn’t buy that new dress, then I'd effect so many people. If I can get my head around the politics of the recession, as my dad has tried so many times to explain to me, then as I understand it, if we all just carried on spending, they’d be no recession.

(All I hear is, carry on spending. Then my mind wanders off while he explains recession and depression and currency and …. Oo! Currants! They go down nicely sprinkled on yoghurt. See? How will I ever learn, when all political lessons drift into culinary delights?)

Anyway, what my father is trying to teach me, is that if I don’t buy my dress, the shop sells less dresses, so they buy less dresses, so the dressmaker is told to make less dresses, so she sells less dresses, so she makes less money, so she spends less money, and so on and so on, until suddenly I’m responsible for the lorry driver who would have delivered my dress to the shop being made redundant and the dress maker having to sell her children to make ends meet. Just keep spending, Kim, just keep spending. These people need you.

I do have a needy urge to spend on a regular basis and I satisfy this urge by being ‘in charge’ of the weekly shop. My feminist, independent friend Nic thinks I’m mad for relinquishing the responsibility of food shopping from my fella, but I know if he did it, he’d come back with a crate of beans, a carrot, and a bewildered look on his face. More importantly, I would not have satisfied my spending urge, so would end up on a website clicking ‘add to basket’ manically at 3am with a carrot in my hair and beans in my tea.

I’m not shallow or superficial, honest. The true meaning of my life is to spend quality time with my loved ones, to laugh and feel thrill and content on a daily basis. I’m considerate and only slightly vain. I help blind people cross the road, on my way to the shops. I care about the world, I buy fair trade, I recycle.

Half of me wants to give it all up, live on a deserted island with nothing but a coconut for company. The other half likes my new outfit. And I do already live on an island. The island of the United Kingdom. Bring on consumerism and it’s many outfits. I can get a coconut in Asda.
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Wobble my knobble

Wootton Primary School Knobbly Knees Competition, 1988. Winner, Kim Willis, aged six. Thank you, thank you very much.

I haven't won much in my life. No lotteries, no holidays, no hampers. But I did win that, and I thank my knobblers for it. I love them. They look like the knee cap is out of joint. My mum says they’re endearing, my boyfriend finds them funny. Whatever they are, there’s one thing they are not, and that is touchable. So why, woman, go for a full body massage? Aren’t you just asking for trouble?

We were on holiday, the sunshine was effecting my decision making. Oo, yes, a full body please, where do I sign? It had all the ingredients for a perfect hour. The Thai beach, Thai masseuse, Thai sunshine dancing through the leaves of the Thai trees. Thai flies hovering around the sticky, warm Thai massage oil… just heaven.

I closed my eyes and waited to be transported to a fluffy cloud of relaxation. A damp flannel was placed over my eyes. I listened to the gentle, rhythmic sound of the ocean, the waves crashing onto the beach just yards away. I breathed in, I breathed out.

Hit me! Hit me relaxation, I’m ready for you!

She began. She was gentle. Too gentle. She was tickling me. I tensed up. My knuckles went white, my muscles were taught. Stop tickling me, woman, for the love of god! (This was, of course, an internal monologue. I wasn’t about to break the British code of conduct – stay silent at all times, keep all grievances internal and mumble a pathetic and insincere thank you at the end).

Full body massage? It was like she’d spied the only parts of my body I did not want massaged and homed in on them. My knees, my elbows, my feet, my thighs. Thighs? As if knees weren’t bad enough, who can stand having their thighs prodded? Not I.

The flies were so insistent that, to presumably help me float off to a world of calm, she lowered the flannel currently only covering my eyes, so it covered my whole face.

So I couldn't breathe. I wondered at what point of this excruciatingly ticklish massage I was going to break my Britishness and ask her to stop wobbling my knobblies, and that, if it's not too much bother, would she mind if I had some oxygen. Perhaps just before I lost consciousness I might have dramatically peeled back the damp flannel and gasped, if not ‘get the hell off me,’ then at least ‘tell my mum I loved her.’ Then I could flop back down, apparently dead, and finally relaxed. Death by knee massage. It would certainly be a different way to go.

Concentrate. Stop thinking about dying. This was supposed to be relaxing. Breathe, Kim, breathe. I realised I hadn't for a while. But then, at last, she moves onto my back. My back, I could enjoy. The flannel fell off my face as I turned over and I took a much needed breathe. I made it a long one.

My back massage lasted ten seconds. Then the torture restarted.

My eyebrows! I’m not lying to you, she massaged my eyebrows. Is that really necessary? I was not aware that my eyebrows were tense (although, at that moment, every single inch of me was tense, longing for my hour to be up so I could have my body back).

Please, God, let it be over.

God, you are a bastard. The eyebrows were not the end.

The eyeballs, people, she moved on to the eyeballs.

Horrible for most people, but for a contact lens wearer like myself, it was hell on a Thai beach. Hell. I squirmed, it was all I could do. She laughed and carried on. The wench.

I don’t like massages anymore. I’ve realised although some parts of it might be enjoyable enough, I never know when the next knee rub or elbow prod is going to happen, so I spend the entire hour in a constant state of pent up fear, my muscles taught, my teeth gritted. And I’m the mug paying for this experience.

The hour finally comes to an end and my sister and father sit up beside me, breathing deep, satisfied breaths and saying ‘oooh’ and ‘ahh’ a lot. I had better join in.

‘Yes, amazing, mmmm, great,’ I agreed. Are they just being polite like me? ‘The best massage I’ve ever had,’ Tammi said, smiling kindly at her masseuse. Alright, Tammi, don’t over do it. They’ll get ideas. ‘Thank you,’ I mumbled, pulling on Tammi’s elbow, trying to leave.

Too late. She’s only gone and suggested we come back same time tomorrow.

‘Yes please, I’d love to!’ I said out loud, while the little man in the control panel inside my head puts his little head in his little hands and sighs wearily.

‘Kim you idiot,' he sighed. 'Who's in charge here? Just. Say. No! Thanks to your quick tongue, you're paying for another hour of your life to be stolen by a gentle, ticklish, eyeball prodder. That's it, I quit.' And with that, the little man in the control panel inside my head hops off his little stool and, grabbing his little hat from the little hat rack he keeps beside my frontal lobe, he stormed out.

Oh, holidays, they’re just so much bloody fun aren’t they?
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