Tag Archives: Consumerism

Fifty Shades of Grey: A Gay Perspective

13 Apr

I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. And I think that’s what the majority of people have done. They are buying into it because the publicity machine has gone into overdrive and we are intrigued by gossip and juicy details. Just have to look at the bookshelves full of celebrity gossip magazines which pry into people’s homes and lives to know that is what satisfies the general public.
WE are morbidly inquisitive and concern ourselves with things that don’t really bother us. But at the same time, we make feeble attempts to be detached and reserved in our opinions. Such is the nature of the British public anyway.

But I digress. I bought Fifty Shades in a charity shop several months ago. At the time, I seemed to have been in a period of reading a number of trilogies – The Lord Of The Rings, His Dark Materials, The Millennium Trilogy. So I thought, why not read this for a bit of light relief? (pardon the innuendo)

I read the first one. Nothing really happens except Anastasia or “Ana” Steele, a shy, academic 22 year old virgin is attracted to Mr Christian Grey, a 28 year old handsome and incredibly “hot” multimillionaire or billionaire even? who wears sweatpants, jeans or pants “off his hips in that way” whatever that means and they have sex or a mild form of BDSM. He cocks his head, she bites her lips, she says Oh My! Holy Crap! Oh Shit and other such eloquent words a number of times. It’s all very repetitive and TAME. She’s a virgin for goodness sakes and doesn’t know anything different. He’s a control freak and seems to take advantage of her no matter what. Even when she wants “to talk”. HE distracts her with his advances and “her inner goddess” unfurls, purrs and demures. How on earth does she know about her inner goddess when she doesn’t appear to know anything about love, sex, romance or life in general when she is such a bookworm? But then, she also has a more disapproving character in her mind that makes her think twice about what she is doing. However, her “inner goddess” always seems to win and they have the most incredible hot, sexy and amazing sex which always end in mind blowing, earth shattering climaxes. He always makes her come first! Such a gentleman!

Then, it just goes on and on. He buys her expensive gifts, takes her on a helicopter named Charlie Tango, they wine and dine in top restaurants, buys her food and orders her to “Eat” or “Drink” or “Sleep” and she acts like a petulant teenager. He finds it alluring and a massive turn on when she challenges him and in between they declare their undying love for one another in nearly every other paragraph or page.

After Book 1 establishes their great sex life, Book 2 “Fifty Shades of Grey – Darker” provides more insight into the mysterious “Mr Grey” and more one dimensional characters and events. We find out a little bit more about his family and Ana is still trying to come to terms with her rich boyfriends’ lifestyle. For two supposedly intelligent, academic and ambitious young people, their use of language is very simple, they swear a lot and don’t really say much. Oh! And there are numerous emails exchanged that are more annoying to read than allow the reader more insight or excitement. Like two silly teenagers exchanging texts, the emails don’t hold any information of importance or which allow the story to move forward. Just more flirtations between Ana and Mr Grey.

EL James tries to create an enigmatic character in Mr Grey but he fails on all accounts. He’s just boring and we don’t even receive a description of his penis or the size of it. All we know is that he is an arrogant, power crazed, control freak who likes to be Dom with his Subs. He has a mysterious past which does not amount to anything amazing, horrifying or shocking. In this trilogy, cliché after cliché abound and with several “major or traumatic experiences” including the appearance of one of his “ex subs with a gun” scenarios, it just doesn’t flow well at all.

But wait! Book 3 ” Fifty Shades of Grey – Freed” is even worse. Why on earth I bothered with it, god only knows. After a whirlwind romance and three months of out-of-this-world type sex, they discover they really love one another. They even get married and have 2 kids! YES! Really! In between all that, if Ana decides she’s had enough or makes way to leave, Mr ‘I’m so proud me I don’t want to speak to anybody’, breaks down in tears and she does likewise. Oh, she is SOO in love her head is spinning and she doesn’t know what to do. Her former boss who tried to seduce her earlier on ( and she found him creepy) attempts to blackmail her but she shoots him as she attempts to rescue her sister in law. He ends up in hospital, she ends up in hospital, her step dad ends up in hospital. Mr Greys ex is also in hospital but let’s keep all that quiet for now…
Considering how divisive the gun laws are lately, Ana is acquiring a taste for danger and adventure, but she knows how to use a gun and mentions several times to Christian, that she would prefer it if he had a gun. This appears to be a bit of a paradox for Christian, who, who despite his needs and whims for excitement and “kinky fuckery”, is anti-guns.

There are several attempts to inject some tension, drama and tragedy but the threads don’t really flow and we are left bewildered and confused. The two main protagonists tend to contradict themselves. One minute they declare there undying love for one another, consumed with passion, love and lust. But when Mrs Grey declares to Mr Grey that he is pregnant – bearing in mind at that point they are married – he shouts something along the lines of “we’ve known each other for five fucking minutes. I wanted to show you the world and now…Fuck. Diapers and vomit and shit!” Oh My. She doesn’t actually say “Oh My!” at that point but I thought I’d throw it in as she might as well have said it, she says it so often…That’s indicative of the type of language used throughout this tale of poor virgin meeting big shot yet oh-so-sexy Mr Grey.

This trilogy is similar to Dan Browns Da Vinci Code and The Blair Witch Project. It’s not the novel, film or the writing that is great. The stories aren’t even memorable to be honest. What they have behind them is great PR machines. They are in over drive and we have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Fifty Shades of Grey is as dull as dishwater and I think, a crime against literature. No wonder it’s finding it’s way into the charity shops in the last few months. The fad and fuss is nearly over. I thought is it one of the worst trilogies I’ve ever read or THE worst. I’ve decided it’s the WORST one ever! It just irritated the hell out of me and I can’t wait to get it out of my house and into the charity shop. I may just even give it to my friend who said she would like to read it. I know she wouldn’t but she’ll keep it on her bookshelf to make her seem more “current and topical”. It may make its way into the discount stores or bargain basements and in a few years, we’ll be asking what was all that out!? We’d forget about it because they’d be another Fifty Shades of book out there that’ll be making headways. But next time, I’ll make sure I’m definitely not at that gravy boat to all things Grey in more ways than one!

The Learned Kat


Easter Sunday

31 Mar

It’s officially British Summer Time (BST) The clocks were set one hour forward last night. But you wouldn’t think it as the rooftops, roads and gardens are still covered in ice and snow. With a possibility of more to come. Apparently it has been the worst March for British weather since the records began.

I woke up late. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I eventually prised myself away from the warmth and comfort of my king-size duvet and traipsed downstairs.

Vegetables were prepared and lamb  marinated in a thick minted yoghurt with garlic cloves, rosemary and thyme was ready to roast in the oven.

The house was given a good Spring clean and we waited for two friends to join us for Sunday lunch.


Easter Simnel Cake1

Then we ate, and ate and ate. Roast lamb with all the trimmings followed by trifle, Easter Simnel cake, Victoria sponge and cupcakes. Good job I didn’t bake any more hot cross buns. That’s all I’ve been doing in the last few days; baking cheese scones, blueberry muffins, Hot Cross Buns and the rest.



But do I need to be a Christian to celebrate Easter? I just know that I believe. And if I can believe in celebrations that can make the days so much more bearable and happier for it, then is that such a crime? To have a celebration, a meal with close friends, time to look over a few photos and chat about nothing in particular. That’s all it takes to  makes the days so much more productive and worthwhile. Is that too much to ask?


The Learned Kat





Facebook and the Jeremy Kyle Generation

6 Mar

Joining the virtual community has it’s ups and downs. Choosing social networking sites has its own lovers and haters. When I first heard about the social phenomena known as Facebook, I didn’t want to know as it just didn’t interest me at all. All I ever heard was people rating it and saying how marvellous it was to talk to people online and share interests, photos, keep in touch with people and so on. There were also those who said it was a complete waste of time and would rather meet people face to face or hold a good old fashion social gathering or communicate with people on the phone. It’s better that way so you can read peoples body language, facial expressions and listen to their tone of voice. I listened to both sides of the arguments and tended to agree.

Because everyone was talking about it, good or bad, for better or worse, I decided to become a member of Facebook. That was back in August 2007. God, even just writing that date down has made me realise how long I’ve been addicted, if that word can be used to here, to the online community! It was with great trepidation that I typed in my name and created an account. After a bit of research and waiting around, waiting for something great to happen, I suppose, I added  several friends. Then, a couple of months later, I “shared” my first item, an article about new technological clocks and watches that I hoped my brother (and others) would find interesting. Then, I received my first message. Like anything unfamiliar, you allow time to get used to it. So, my only connection with Facebook was a gradual process. I had an account but I was not active  on it for months on end. It took me about two years, would you believe!? to use the account properly and really start to communicate. I really thought I was making headway! I thought I was hip, trendy and flowing with modern culture and technology. I was quite happy sharing photos, conversing with friends, commenting here and there, passing on jokes, updating my status with regular observations or thoughts.

Then, something strange happened. Facebook had gained notoriety on British TV.


“It was Facebook that did it!” the woman screamed. I looked up and it was a woman on the Jeremy Kyle Show. She was blaming the breakdown of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. “What do you mean?” asked a perturbed Jeremy Kyle. He obviously hadn’t joined the social revolution like the rest of us. The woman explained how she had found him speaking to other girls, sharing personal and private photos, making comments about her behind her back, ridiculing and poking fun of her appearance, weight, habits and behaviour. The boyfriend came out and denied all the allegations. “There’s nothing going on!” There followed a spat and it dawned on Jeremy that the manner in which the estranged couple spoke was no different to how the comments were made on Facebook. The ex-boyfriend thanked Jeremy for his understanding and said that that was exactly what he was trying to explain to his girlfriend. “But it was all written down!” she sobbed. There was some more discussion and a reconciliation of some sorts. Now, I’m not a fan of Jeremy Kyle, but when you are flicking channels, sometimes you can’t but help getting drawn in. With many of Jeremy Kyles’ participants’, we know that they are of a certain class, status and social background (I’m not a social snob by the way) But the point being that over a period of time, it was becoming evident to Jeremy and us, the viewers at home and in the audience, that Facebook appeared to be the bane of peoples lives. There were arguments, petty squabbles, bullying, stories of stalking, accusations thrown, physical brawls and other horrendous issues were making themselves present. People on the show appeared to have their family, relationships and friendships lives broken, dictated to and destroyed all because of items or comments made or misconstrued  on Facebook. They would never admit to the fact that in most cases, the majority of the issues were lying dormant or unresolved for years long before Facebook came along. A lot of the stories came about because comments, articles or items posted were misconstrued or insensitively placed  and ridiculed. Sometimes there was deliberation behind what they did, or malicious or vindictive intent. Other times, it was a mistake or a spur of the moment decision made in haste. Overall after a number of years, after a number of debates, altercations, confrontations over the use of Facebook,  Jeremy finally became exasperated by it all and said he was glad he did not bother with Facebook and preferred to talk to people face to face, to talk through any feelings or misunderstandings and was glad to have a close network of friends and a very loving family, people whom he could trust and know would support him.

I agreed with his sentiments as I was beginning to feel jaded by what people were sharing on the site. What started off as light conversation, as a way and means to keep in touch, would soon become a minefield of social etiquette. Do I “like” a comment or not? If I didn’t, did that mean the person wouldn’t speak to me again? Do I comment on what someone has written ort not? If I wrote something humorous, would that make me insensitive? And the questions that worked there way around my thoughts just wore on and on. Eventually, I just became a “skim reader” of status updates and only commented where I saw fit or felt I needed to share something of value, importance or interest. For me, Facebook wasn’t just about sharing things like a cat photo or mundane items like what you’ve had for breakfast, or going out. It was about life events, telling or informing me that my friends, people who I knew, were doing something exciting, inspiring or magnificent even. Tell me something that I don’t know. And the poems or “inspirational” pieces that have been liked and shared thousand of times irritate and annoy me. They are like the junk mail through the letterbox or the spam in the emails. The majority of items shared, we’ve all done it. It’s commonplace the world over.

Anyway. Bear with me, my rant is nearly over! Several months ago, I had joined a community page called The Bearwood Page, with the emphasis being “For people who live, work and use the many facilities in Bearwood, to share ideas for and celebrate Bearwood”. I enjoyed the community spirit and at last, I thought could join an open forum which was passionate, positive about the locality and was obliging to accept posts which celebrated creativity, diversity and ways to improve my community and help others. I read status updates, posted my own items such as poems or photos of my cakes, provided information about businesses, tried to be helpful and thoughtful in my queries and criticisms.

Then, I noted that one or two individuals would provide information or answer queries in a relatively acceptable manner. Sometimes it was useful, other times it was deemed to be “harmless banter”. I took it at face value at first because I didn’t know the people and I didn’t wish to offend, be hurtful in my comments or say something that might be misconstrued. I accepted comments for being there or just skimmed through them. Then, I noticed that if someone posted a query or had something positive to say, there was always someone who would disagree. I understood and appreciated that. But things began to change when I asked the group just to “like or dislike” things about Bearwood. It started off with good intentions, a great exercise I thought to stop the negative attitudes on the page. But it soon lost direction when people started to comment on other things. “AAAAARRRGGGHH!” I shouted at some point. “I just want a LIST! you know, like a SHOPPING LIST!!? Is that so difficult!??” but people were quick to respond and took the thread onto a completely different tangent. So, I kept calm, and moved on…

Three days ago, a random person, new to the area, posted a query on The Bearwood Page. It was just a general question about what groups could she join without it being affiliated to the local Council. She received three relatively useful comment or signposts. Leave it at that, I thought. But then, someone posted a comment and didn’t necessarily mean anything nasty by it. However, this comment was picked up and scrutinised by others; within hours, in fact over a period of two days, the thread was lost to almost 400 comments which were critical, negative, sarcastic, rude, offensive, derogatory, childish, worthless, subjective and had no bearing whatsoever to the original question. Now, the people using the page, I thought or assume, tend to be white, middle -class, educated, professional people. I would think or hoped they would conduct themselves better than that. I mean, if they were at work, would they be so open in their views or opinions? I think not. Hiding behind the façade of a latop at home provides a safe haven to say what they like.  They are probably the same people who would mock, scoff or laugh at the people on Jeremy Kyle shows or turn their noses up at what is presented on daytime TV with disdain and disgust. Like Jeremy Kyle, Moderators debated whether or not they should intervene. After all, the wife of one of the Moderators partners was being attacked on Facebook and he, in turn, would naturally want to protect and support her. The other Moderator thought it best to leave the online community forum as it is. Let them make fools of themselves, he said. Now, if responses or comment to a question or status update has no bearing on the post, why bother to comment? They used to say if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. People you don’t know take liberties and there are certain things that we should be wary or mindful of…Facebook is the Jeremy Kyle Show of the social networks. Forums, Groups and Pages  start off with good intentions but soon degenerates into a farcical, sometimes cruel event without any backup, support or identity. Some issues are resolved easily, others leave a bitter taste in the mouth or leave one angry. This latest incident has made me wonder, is it all worth it? The amount of people who are taken in by the merits of Facebook, have or having experienced anguish, had their health affected, a drain on their mental well being  and physical hurt has been astounding over the years and more recently in this Bearwood Page debacle.

On some websites, like Youtube, comments can start off relating to the music video and can turn into a spiteful, vicious and personal attack on others. In some instances, comments can be disabled so as not to offend. 

They say that about 90% of communication is nonverbal. Can we keep it that way or are we as a society, social beings, losing that connection, losing the power to understand nuances, subtexts, humour, reading facial expressions, sensing something is good/bad, as we seem to rely so heavily now on social networks and online forums and discussions. We appear to becoming so insular, I am reminded of the characters on the ship in Wall-e, an animated CGI film, seated comfortably and not taking notice of the changes taking place around us. At the same time, I also think that no matter what class, social background we come from, education we receive or intellect we perceive we have,  we might not show or demonstrate it physically on television like those individuals on the Jeremy Kyle Show, but we appear to be doing that same thing  in the written word and through the use of online forums. With 1 billion users, is Facebook really a social phenomena or are we taken in by a gimmick, manipulated like those on reality TV? What do we gain by using Facebook on a regular basis?

The Power of the Written Word. Be careful how you use it!

The Learned Kat

Mama: A Review

3 Mar

Two young sisters, a short sighted Victoria aged 3 and Lilly, aged 1 are taken from their home by their dad who is clearly distraught, upset and angry. He bundles them into a car and over the radio news, we learn that the dad, Jeffrey. has murdered his wife  and is trying to get away. We follow them as they drive through snow and icy roads. The car crashes in the woods and they find their way to what appears to be a a secluded cabin. However, there seems to be something evil lurking inside…

Five years later, the girls are discovered in a feral state, are medically assessed and with the aid of Dr Dreyfuss, who specialises in child psychology/psychiatry, are placed in the care of their painter/artist uncle Lucas and his rock chick girlfriend Annabel, much to the chagrin of the aunt, Jeanie, the sister of the childrens’ deceased mum. However, the prospect of looking after Lucas’ nieces proves to be challenging and brings its own sinister secrets and daunting experiences.

Victoria has progressed and can communicate quite well, whereas Lilly is still relatively insular, with an animalistic nature and is drawn to the as yet unseen character known as Mama. As time progresses, Victoria is quite happy to accept the blurred vision of Mama  but gradually begins to take comfort in the real love and affection which Annabel provides. One day,  Victoria decides to keep her spectacles on and face the being which has haunted their young lives. It is at that moment that we, as the audience also share the clarity of the vision and Mama is revealed in her true nature. It’s a screamer of a scene.

Haunted by nightmares, the two adult protagonists begin to unravel the story of Mama and it reveals a historical story of madness, mental asylums and death.

All the child actresses are absolutely adorable, endearing and carry the film effortlessly. As the story unfolds, one is drawn into their world as much as the adult one. Their dialogue is short, concise and conveys messages, feelings and emotions in a simplistic manner. An incredible achievement for such young talent. It remains to be seen if they transform into successful stars and establish themselves over the years, as we know from tabloid press and interviews, making that transition from child star to bona fide adult star is a struggle for many.

From the visionary director Guillermo del Toro who gave the world surreal fantasy/drama Pan’s Labryinth, comes another tale of love & death, courage, sacrifice, jealousy, motherhood,  the role of a mother, and touches of the age old nature/nurture debate.  ‘Mama’ is an engrossing piece of fiction that explores the duality of a parent’s role – to protect children from harm and the possible repercussions of what would be if a parent is to become so overtly protective that the parent becomes jealous, insecure and obsessive. Words that spring to mind are learning to let go; standing up for what you believe in, and what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice = to allow a loved one to go in order to survive.

Mama seems to  draw on the edge-of-the-seat psychology of ‘The Shining’, the fixation and obsession of ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’, the spine-chilling tingles of ‘The Exorcist’ and shades of ‘The Poltergeist’. Yes, we may have seen it all before – the doctor finding and going into cabin in the  woods and Jeanie investigating forms of abuse in the family home provide predictable endings for these two characters – but Mama has re-packaged the thrills and shock surprises for a modern generation of cinema-goers.

As clichés go, it’s a nail biting, edge of the seat horror/thriller with a fantastical ending which would have you crying and calling out for Mama!


The Learned Kat

Emptying the ManCave

26 Feb

The loft in my home has become my personal space, my world, my domain. When we moved into our house, the loft was without light, boarded floors and pitch black. We agreed to convert it into my study and the only place I could keep my desktop computer, books, CD’s and DVDs and anything else that was work related.

Not only did I use the loftspace to use my computer on a regular basis, but it also became my haven to become more “messy” and personalise it as my other half has OCD and cannot bear the idea of seeing magazines, books, cds, and all other such paraphenalia on display. So, we agreed that the loft would be my area to “spread myself” without any such restraints, without limitations or making my other half feel more anxious at seeing items on display. Although, it does not stop him sometimes from re-arranging “my stuff” around as he deems it to be “too messy”!

Anyway, after living in the house for 5 and a half years, I decided to have a thorough clear out…I’ve already mentioned I started to download photos onto memory sticks on a previous post. The clean up campaign didn’t just stop there. In fact, it was just the start of my blitz. Whilst waiting for the images to be transferred, I started to sift through all my old boxes, my work related documents (hard copies) , old bills, payslips, diairies and other such items. I didn’t realise that I carried so much bumph. But alongside all that, I walked down memory lane as I read and shredded each document, copies of application forms, altered CV’s, pages and pages of cover letters with the slightest mistake, memos and Minutes of Meetings…

I was finding it hard to let go of my past. It seemed that the items in question, although they may seem boring and trivial to others, were to me,  mementoes of my life. I found particulars/details and bills fom my first house, a small two bedroom terraced house purchased in 1999.  I pulled out payslips from the days I worked at a Daycentre for people with learning disabilities/difficulties and established friendships with my peers that have lasted for 10 years now. I found minutes from meetings where the people I supervised were more than just workers, they were people with endearing flaws and personalities which created a diverse and dynamic team, which I admired and found appalling at the same time. I found rejection letters and acceptance letters, which reminded me of my struggles to find work whilst living in Devon, I found notes which made me feel angry or sad all over again as it brought back flashes or images of people who had wronged me, I picked up training notes which placed a smile on my face or thought a waste of time as I never had the opportunity to use the “skills taught” in any of my job roles. It was a strangely heartfelt experience…

But it didn’t stop there…I started to look around at my prized collection of over 400 DVDs and shelves boasting a proud collection of over 1,000 CDs. With the recession biting hard in our household, I took stock of my indecision and began to sift through my DVDs. We have bills to pay, and for the first time in my life, I have had to sell some of my items. With each DVD placed on the side, it was heartwrenching to place the barcode on the WebuyDVDs website to find that the majority of DVDs, although purchased between £5 – 15 are only worth 31p each. As my friends’ 25 year old son says, most people are streaming online now…

I remembered where I was and why I bought a certain DVD. I recalled the feeling it left inside me when I watched the film. I was looking at my favourite film, the saddest film, the happiest film, the most sentimental or weepy, romantic or action…each film brought a reaction or emotion and I was having to sell a part of me to be practical…So far, 134 DVDs, which my other half was worth several hundred pounds, have been sold  for a song.  I knew they weren’t going to fetch an awful amount of cash, I was just holding on to what they were worth to me. A collection of specific films purchased over a period of 10 years… to be disposed of within a few days.

My next step would be to download my music collection…I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet but I know it will happen soon. On the one side, I try not to think about it, but on the other, it’s like a relief or self cleansing therapy. Will it all be worth it? I ask myself?

My loft was my space. But soon I think it’ll become an empty shell. Even the computer that I’ve had for 10 years now is showing signs of giving up… I suppose I could’ve used a garden shed or used one of the bedrooms as a study but it’s not quite the same in this house…

I feel my act of disposal is a reflection on todays society and how we lead our lives today. Is that how easily things, whether objects or items, tangible or innate, emotional/physical or practical can be disposed of? Is that how much it’s worth? Like in life, at work and in play, we are easily picked up, used and disposed of, from the “Purchaser” e.g. hirer/employer or even in relationships (partners/spouses/friends etc),  to wait for the next big or best thing…to the item or person being deselected and made to feel redundant, useless or unwanted.

My loft was MY space. But the recession has taken hold, and I feel I am losing faith…

The Learned Kat

Photography is not an Art Form anymore

25 Feb

The last few days have been pretty daunting for me. I’ve spent most of my time downloading photos from my mobile phones and onto my pc, only to remove them and place them onto a memory stick. Initially, I was burning them onto CDs, which seems antiquated by todays’ standards but I was intending to stockpile them for future reference. Then, I realised that the discs weren’t holding as many photos as I was expecting or hoped. Not only that, my computer kept crashing and it took many long hours in the evening into the early hours to have the photos categorised and placed into accessible albums/files or folders. I had over 1,000 photos to sift through, and memories captured over several years.


The photos were of my neighbours, the cats, family, friends, places I had visited, holidays, flora and fauna, landscapes, images of buildings in the city, birthday cakes, random shots, staged images, obscure, faded, some good,  some bad and others deleted as they didn’t portray anything in particular or hold anything of importance or interest. The thing is, with the gadgets and technology that we hold in our hands, it’s so difficult to let go and be more discerning. After all, the images, photos that we take become so personal and subjective, and less objective. I think I’ve almost lost track of what makes or constitutes a “good photo”. With something like Instagram, an app I haven’t yet used, taking photos becomes almost another commodity and part of the “fast food society”.  At one time, photography appeared to be an art form, but now, as we’ve all got that built-in camera on the gadgets we carry around with us nearly all day, every day,  it just seems like we’re all at it.


Photography  seems to have lost that unique quality or value that it once held. We seem to be taking snapshots of everything and anything. It doesn’t matter what it is, we’re snap happy. Snap! Snap! Snap!

Some people appear to take photos of large items like a car and all its body parts, some people will take photos of their dinner and place it on facebook or twitter. Others will take images of tattoos and various body parts, or their dog having a poo, a baby covered in food or whatever else they can find which they think may be humorous, of interest or exciting to others. Personally, I like to think twice about what I take a photo of and ask questions in my mind like: Is it worth taking a photo? Does it gage my interest, does it hold a significant event or memory to retain? Does it tell a story or trigger thoughts or questions in the person looking at it? Is it worth while ? Can I invest my time, effort and money into sharing these photos with others? I know I’m quite happy to take photos but I’m also quite discerning as to the subject matter. There are lots of images out there which you begin to see and say “that’s contrived, cliched or boring”. We’ve all seen that visual image that becomes the pictorial equivalent of the social network status: “I’ve just bought a cabbage/ my night is going to be windy. LOL!”

Then, there are the exceptions which are highly unusual, original, quirky and stimulate the senses or thought processes.

039          044

I have some photos that I’m quite happy to share online, others are just for my own personal use, many I would share with friends. A number of photos are taken, looked at once and don’t even get seen at all afterwards. They  just become stored on my mobile or pc and forgotten about! Then, I would look at them again, and think that’s a photo I remember taking and sometimes recall where, why and with whom. Others I would think why on earth did I take THAT photo!?? and delete it.  It’s good to have memories, but sometimes it’s also good to delete them.

I mean, like a good PC, laptop, mobile, tablet or album, why clog up your brain with useless images when the good, informative ones will provide more hours of enjoyment, entertainment and clearer memories. You don’t need hundreds of dud shots when one quality shot can speak volumes.

The Learned Kat

Searching for NINO pt 2

12 Feb

Last week, I telephoned Her Majestys Revenue and Customs department (HMRC) yet again. Once again, I spoke to an Advisor at a Call Centre, had to repeat the information I had shared on previous occasions about trying to locate my late mothers’ National Insurance Number (NINO)  and eventually was put through to the named person who was dealing with my request.

At last! I thought I had made progress as the Adviosr I spoke to confirmed he had received my written request, had sent a letter in the post and told me to ignore it as communication appeared to have crossed over.
Then, he asked me to confirm details all over again. I was beginning to see red, frustrated at the lack of information given and the repeated questions and answers. I explained several times the reason for my request and the Advisor said he had to pull my letter out in front of him to confirm who I was and cross reference the verbal information with the written communication.
He asked if I was the Executor of the Will, a legal representative or the Administrator? Unfortunately, I had to say neither. He apologised and said that due to the Data Protection Act and the nature of the request, he could not pass on my mothers NINO unless I held any of those roles and responsibilties and could I not obtain that information or consent from the aforementioned? If I could do that, I said, I wouldn’t be wasting my time contacting the HMRC!

So, after trying to request a NINO for several months and negotiate a way forward, I am still left high and dry. Surely I’m not the only person in the UK who is experiencing this difficulty in trying to obtain the NINO for my deceased parent for legitimate reasons? The Advisor at the other end of the phone made every effort to be understanding and in a hushed tone of voice said that that was one of the most common problems faced by people writing in and “people don’t realise the importance of having or knowing their parents National Insurance Number until it’s too late!”

I was provided with the option of speaking to his Supervisor but was told it would be breaching the Data Protection Act if they were to provide me with the relevant number. I ended the call knowing that I had gone full circle on my quest and achieved nothing more than gleaning a new piece of information regarding the protocol of NINOs. I thought there may be a loophole in the legal sytem to make it easier to gain or access a simple number but that is closed. As far as I am aware, the HMRC & NMTS are watertight when it comes to issues and the Data Protection Act.

The link below (which  I found earlier today) provides further useful advice, information & guidance:

The following steps have been copied and pasted from that particular website:

How to request a deceased person’s National Insurance number from HMRC:

  1. The executor of the will, or the next of kin, should send a written request to the following address:
    Non-match Tracing Section      BP1201      HM Revenue & Customs      NICO      Long Benton      Newcastle-upon-Tyne      NE98 122
  2. In the letter, state the following:      – the deceased’s full name, address and date of birth;      – your relationship to the deceased (executor or next of kin);      – your own National Insurance number to confirm your identity; and      – the reason for your request (for example, you are dealing with the probate process and the number is required to complete certain forms).
  3. Enclose the original – or certified copy – death certificate or grant of probate.

But I would say that where it states Next of Kin, remove that and replace it with ” Administrator of the deceased’s estate or the person that dealt with the affairs of the deceased’s estate”.


The Learned Kat