Eat, drink and be merry (and fat)

What is it about the holidays and the Season of Goodwill that makes us all eat like pigs?

There’s certainly no other time of year when it’s considered not only acceptable but practically ones civic duty to fill your cupboards with box after box of mince pies, fruit cakes so heavy they could sink a battleship and puddings so dense they need to be doused in alcohol and set on fire before eating. There’s certainly no other time of the year when you feel the need to keep 8 different types of cheese in the fridge – 4 of which contain an unidentified fruit and 1 which looks like it belongs in a Petri dish.

And as for the cream. We had nearly 3 pints of the stuff in our fridge over Christmas period. 3 pints? As if, under normal circumstances, we’d even attempt to plough our way through 1. And let’s not forget the chocolate. The stuff we try to ignore, avoid, limit throughout the rest of the year. Come Christmas morning it’s wall-to-wall cocoa beans and anything in a wrapper is suddenly considered fair game – not to mention an essential food group.

And then there’s the bird. The hero of the day and the most expensive slice of dry, tasteless meat that will ever grace your plate.

Our turkey this year led a happy and carefree existence roaming around the Norfolk countryside – or so I’d like to believe, if for no other reason than  to justify the extortionate cost of the thing feather for feather. Hell, for that price I hope the bird had its own luxury living quarters and a personal masseuse right up until the day it lost its head and giblets.

Having selflessly fulfilled its purpose in life, it met its maker on a nearby farm and arrived here in its own fancy cardboard box on Christmas Eve. Weighing in at roughly the same as my Mini Cooper, this gigantic fowl required some major re-jigging of the fridge space and an hour of patient tweezering on my part. As ‘Hollywoods’ go, it certainly wasn’t given a very thorough one I have to say.

And so, with enough food in to see us through until Easter, the Big Day was upon us. As with countless other families around the world, we sat down to a lavish breakfast the size of lunch before spending the rest of the morning cooking enough lunch to feed the Armed Forces. That’s an awful lot of peeling, cutting, boiling, blanching, stuffing, roasting, basting and burning for a morning, especially one that started with a 4 on the clock. And of course there was also the banging headache to contend with, the one that came as a direct result of drinking alcohol with breakfast. No other day would it seem to make perfect sense to start drinking before preparing the mother of all roasts.

This year it has to be said that all went pretty much to plan in our house – unlike C Day in 2009 when spitting fat went into overdrive, the oven burst into flames and the turkey was practically cremated on the spot. The only minor mishap this year was something of a basting affair. My husband, who with the stronger arms was in charge of the turkey, was in the midst of removing our enormous specimen from the depths of the furnace, when somehow he managed to tip the liquid contents of the roasting dish all over his feet.

Now I have to admit my first thoughts were not of his burnt trotters – now covered in sizzling fluid and singed toe hair – they were of our lunch, which was now hanging onto the edge of the roasting tray by a crispy wingtip and threatening to throw itself onto the floor. With visions of the thing skidding across the laminate and under the dusty base unit (as has happened in the distant past), ‘practicality’ came into force well before any thoughts of concern or sympathy. So next to the open oven my husband was forced to stand, teeth gritted while bird and basting fluids were saved, rearranged and returned to continue cooking – or, as in the case of turkey, drying out.

Disaster avoided he (husband not turkey) was finally allowed to sprint upstairs to cool down his skin and change his clothes. Still, no long-term damage done really, and on the upside, at least his feet are now as soft, smooth and hair free as a baby’s bottom.

So now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s become of all that food? Well that’s the worst bloody part. Not only did we feel somehow guilted into buying far more than we needed or could ever possibly consume, but having been brought up to believe wasting food is practically a criminal act, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to throw any of it away.

So we ate the lot. Less a pint of cream and half a box of chocolates I surreptitiously slipped into a departing relatives bag.

And that’s how we waddled into January. Feeling fat, fed up and somewhat horrified at the vast quantities we’d worked our way through. My backside has expanded, my jeans are tighter and my stomach looks like one of those ‘before’ shots for a Z-listers ‘Post Baby’ fitness DVD. And it’s this feeling, I believe, that explains much of why the first 2 months of the years are generally considered the more depressing of the 12. It’s got nothing to do with Post Christmas Blues, having to go back to work or the cold weather. It’s all about the impending diet and realising that unless we get our wobbly arse into lycra and gear, there’s not a hope in hell of looking half way decent in anything less than a burka once the summer rolls around.

So yes, it’s definitely time to ignore the sugar craving and start an industrial scale detox, not to mention resist those last few chocolates still floating around the house. Yesterday I admit I had a minor relapse when I quickly shoveled in a small piece of cake as I walked past. To get rid of the rest, I put the last 2 pieces on the kids plate for tea.

“We can’t eat this,” they shrieked in disgust, “it’s all mouldy underneath.”

That was all my stomach needed to hear. My diet had begun.

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Is the use of a forward facing pram really child abuse?

Professor Cathrine Folwer, a health expert in Australia, seems to be claiming that millions of parents around the world, myself included, are guilty of abusing their babies and small children.

As I look across the table at my happy, well-adjusted, healthy son eating his home cooked lunch it’s hard to spot any signs of this harm I’m supposed to have inflicted on him from birth, but apparently I have. Research says that I (and lots of other mothers I know) have cruelly subjected our babies to a “terrifying and very stressful situation’ every time we’ve taken them out to the shops or even for a walk.

So what have we done? Filled their bottles with vodka? Starved them? Fattened them up with a diet of chicken nuggets? Left them outside in the rain when they refused to stop crying in the middle of the night?

No, it’s something far more sinister than that. We’ve used, oh the shame of it, a forward facing baby sling and pram.

According to the Professor and a study carried out by the University of Dundee, these most heinous torture devices we’ve all been using to transport our offspring have not only caused untold suffering to our little angels, but they’ve also stunted their development and turned them into anxious adults. This is because, so they say, children facing forward rarely get their parents’ attention and therefore suffer stress and sometimes even ‘trauma’.

Imagine if you were strapped to someone’s chest with your legs and arms flailing, heading with no control into a busy shopping centre – it would be terrifying,’ said Professor Fowler. ‘Outward-facing baby carriers and prams give babies a bombardment of stimulus, creating a very stressful situation.

Who knew hey? And there was I thinking it was a good thing to let my children have a comfortable, reclinable seat to sit in, surrounded by toys, books and blankets and a great view of where we were heading. Better that than having to look at my tired, puffy face and standard issue eye bags I’d have thought.

And as for the baby sling – which incidentally shouldn’t be used to face babies forward before they’re strong enough to hold their neck up at about 3 months – how on earth can the use of one of those be considered cruel? Aside from the fact that mothers with multiple children – or even those who need the use of both hands – couldn’t physically manage without strapping a baby onboard, surely these pouches can only be an enjoyable experience for the child? Not only are they securely strapped onto their parent’s body (so as close as possible to be), they also have a great view and a chance to sleep. What’s not to love about that?

And now to the legality of it all. I’m pretty sure that nowhere in the 999 pages of instructions that came with either of my prams was there any mention of the possible side effect of long-term therapy for its pint-sized occupant. So does that mean the likes of Graco, Mamas & Papas and Mothercare are about to face the mother of all law suits from ill-informed parents?!

Of course I also don’t remember either of my children sitting (or hanging) there, paralysed with fear and suffering untold trauma. And yes I think I’d have noticed; babies aren’t best at keeping a stiff upper lip when not happy. In fact if memory serves me correctly, my two spent most of the time looking around them with interest, fast asleep or crumbling whatever snack they were clutching into a million crumbs – all of which disappeared into the inaccessible cracks of said heinous torture device.

So when weighing up the facts and research presented by Professor Folwer alongside the knowledge that neither of my children, now 10 and 5, seem to scream in fear every time they see a crowd or develop a nervous tic when I leave the room, I don’t think I’m going to panic too much about the findings of this report.

But perhaps all this time, money and academic intelligence would be far more beneficial if it was directed towards finding solutions to bigger issues, like SIDS and other life threatening childhood diseases, rather than giving new parents one more thing to worry about before the stork swoops in.

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Why kids must learn to boil an egg and climb a tree

The world has changed quite a bit in recent years; some say it’s changed more over the last few decades than it probably ever has. Technologically speaking that it. Millions of years of lumbering dinosaurs and slowly evolving amoebas, various cold snaps and the dawning of multiple civilizations have all been overtaken by a new era: The Age Of Electronics.

It certainly seems that most things we use today come on a phone the size of your fingernail, as an app through an online store or on a touch screen gizmo that can even make you a cup of tea. They all call for some sort of computerised what-ya-ma-call-it or wireless thingy-ma-jig and require plugging in, charging up and regular (often badly timed) updates.

So what does life in a world of advanced technology actually mean? Aside, that is, from needing to commit to memory a list of passwords as long as your arm. Well, if you break it down, it really means relying on a whole host of different computers to help get us through each day: ipods that rouse us, sat navs that lead us, laptops that inform us, phones that connect us, TVs that entertain us, ipads that amuse us, game stations that mesmerize us and microwaves that cook for us. Wow, what an awful lot of microchips there are controlling our lives.

Yes, that’s right, controlling. Because let’s be honest, the moment any one of these life saving machines stops doing what it should, we all go into an immediate state of melt down and come out in hives. And then, if we happen to be driving at the time, proceed to get very badly lost.

So where might it all end? Possibly with a generation of pale, socially inept kids with short pudgy legs, bad eyesight, tiny lungs and enlarged thumbs. Kids who only communicate with ‘friends’ they don’t know, haven’t a clue how to hold a pen, pick up a book, boil an egg or find their way out of a paper bag. And let’s not forget play. Because it goes without saying kids in the future won’t have a clue how to do that without the aid of an instruction manual.

A recent article in the Daily Mail summed it up in one heading: ‘1 in 3 children has never climbed a tree.’

Based on research carried out by Play England and antiseptic brand Savlon, the worrying results showed that a staggering 60% of youngsters would rather watch television or play computer games than venture outdoors. A 1/3 of children (aged 6-15) have never climbed a tree, a 1/4 have never rolled down a hill, 1 in 10 children cannot ride a bicycle and a 1/3 have no idea how to play hopscotch or build a den. Almost 1/2 of those children asked have never even made a daisy chain. And let’s be honest, 1/2 of those again probably don’t even know what a daisy is.

So what or who is to blame for a decline in the sort of outdoor fun that involves rough, tumble and dirty knees? Is it simply a case of lazy children giving in to the lure of the computer screen, or is it down to the lifestyle of their perpetually busy (and often overweight) parents, who admit they rarely played with their children or took them to the park?

According to Catherine Prisk, a former teacher and director of campaign group Play England, if children miss out on such vital childhood experiences as playing outside, getting muddy and climbing a tree, they may well be heading towards a life as a somewhat dysfunctional adult.

Children are likely to be more physically active when they play outside and are more likely to play with other children.

This is essential for their emotional and physical health, well-being and happiness and is also important for their future development, to build vital life and social skills.

She added: ‘When children learn to climb a tree they are learning to overcome a physical challenge and it will stand them in good stead for overcoming other challenges in life, such as learning to read.

To a generation of parents brought up on fresh air, frozen noses and imagination, the results of this research are a disturbing wake up call to the sedentary lifestyles that we are allowing our children to lead. For while many children today may well opt for a sofa over a swing, it is not down to them to make the change, but the responsibility of their parents to unplug the computers, hide the remotes and, if necessary, confiscate everything in the house that beeps.

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Taken from a blog written for Treehouse Life.

When beauty is only screen deep

I think it’s highly likely that as with most people, regardless of your shape, size or gender, you probably experience those depressing moments when you look in the mirror and realise the person staring back at you isn’t quite the ‘you’ you had in mind.

In your head you’re feeling pretty good about how you look – maybe not quite reaching a supermodel level of gorgeousness, but at the very least the best possible version of yourself. What you see in the reflection however is a rather disappointing mid-winter version; a pale and pasty post-Christmas being that’s eaten one mince-pie too many, had no recent exposure to sunlight or a hairdresser and obviously hasn’t felt the necessity to buff, exfoliate or de-fuzz since the previous summer.

And on these occasions – known as bad hair, face and body days – when your reflection fills you with feelings of hopelessness and despair, being continuously bombarded with an onslaught of impossibly perfect looking people in the media really doesn’t help to boost your moral.

Of course these beautiful creatures who sell us promises of flawless glowing skin, bouncy hair and eyelashes long enough to hail a taxi aren’t actually real. Somewhere between the photo shoot and the glossy pages of the magazine they’ll have had a helping hand, a nip and a digital tuck. Because let’s be realistic, they would have needed to swallow a light bulb to get such a radiant glow. Or sat in a wind tunnel to achieve that long billowing hair. Or stuck on false lashes to achieve that impressive volume and length. Oh yes, they admit that one now don’t they.

True, no one would want to buy clothes or hair and skin products if the model sporting them looked like an unwashed, overweight tramp, but why can’t they be slightly more realistic? Why use prepubescent twiglets to sell skinny jeans and wrinkle creams to more ‘experienced’ women with crows feet, stretch marks and kids in tow?

It’s true we all choose to be a little gullible from time to time – it justifies the joy of shopping and the excessive purchasing of new products we can’t afford – but we’re not entirely stupid. The average person does actually realise a Miracle Cream won’t have you walking on water and Magic Knickers won’t turn you into a super skinny Debbie McGee.

It’s all smoke, mirrors and Photoshop and it really shouldn’t be allowed. Never mind making the average person feel they lucked out on Glamour-Puss DNA, why should kids be growing up believing they need to look like an airbrushed Barbie to be beautiful? Or consider imperfections a problem to be surgically fixed? Or think that even freckles are an unwelcome flaw.

So for all those who are experiencing a bad hair, face and body day, or have daughters who need to see that beauty is most definitely screen deep, here’s a little something to remind you that when it comes to these impossibly perfect people, it is just that. It’s impossible to look that perfect.

OK granted they’re all still gorgeous before being ‘tweaked’, but doesn’t that just  prove that even the ‘beautiful people’ aren’t considered quite good enough to live up to the ridiculous ‘ideal’.

And if they can’t manage it, god help the rest of us. We might as well give up all hope and go and buy a brown paper bag.

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How to stay fighting (Wii) fit and Just Say No

After bleating away to my husband for several weeks that my stomach is getting puffy looking, I realised that it was time to stop waiting for a de-bloating miracle (or a good strong dose of food poisoning) and make something of an effort to stop eating all the foods I shouldn’t and too much of everything else.

So I decided to practice using some self-control and learn to Just Say No. I do actually normally say ‘No’, but my husband has learned over the years to completely ignore me when I say I don’t want anything else to eat. Mainly because even if that’s true I’ll always want what he’s having because of some stupid fear that I’m missing out. Hence the reason his incredibly sweet tooth is resulting in my puffy looking stomach.

Last Saturday I thought I’d made something of a breakthrough and acquired of a will of steel, when I turned down the blueberry muffin that was bought and offered up to me on a plate. I also pushed away the pile of mini marshmallows that came with the hot chocolate. I would have pushed away the hot chocolate as well, but that would have just been rude. Besides, it was expensive, I was thirsty and reckoned I probably needed at least some sugar to get me through an hour and a half at the soft play centre full of wall-to-wall screaming children.

Now had I been good I’d have left the muffin on the plate, but I obviously I hadn’t reached that stage of toughness yet. Plus I simply abhor the waste of any food. So I stuck it in the bag, brought it home and promptly ate it with a cup of tea. Test One: Failed miserably.

So this morning, having remembered that will power is not really my thing, I decided to tackle Phase 2. I dusted off the fitness game I’d bought for the Wii several months ago and stuck it in the machine. Well, more accurately I pushed various buttons and juggled 4 remotes for 5 minutes before managing to get the right machine to flicker into life on the right channel. That done, I stood there (feeling slightly ridiculous) all ready to go with the Wii remote in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. I was obviously taking this very seriously as you can see.

10 minutes later and I’d finally navigated the cursor across the screen to enter my name, date of birth, height, weight, skin tone, blood type, inside leg measurement, favourite food, least favourite colour and what I’d had for breakfast. I’d also dutifully pointed out that I was incredibly unfit, highly uncoordinated and likely to need subtitles to get me through the moves.

Jake (my personal trainer) then bounced up on the screen and told me I was going to have a ‘Blast’ and be ‘Grreeeeaaaat’. I took an instant dislike to him, not sure why, but his eagerness and general 2D fitness was bordering on the side of arrogance.

The first session started, the 3 of them on the screen started moving and I made an attempt to follow suit and keep up. All I can say is what a bloody disaster. For some reason my brain seemed to have shut off all communication with my feet and my arms were moving in every direction but in time with the music. To make matters worse the straps on the remotes keep coming undone, the rug refused to lay flat and Charlie seemed to think it was highly amusing to keep weaving in and out of my legs like he was running some sort of slalom.

Not to be disheartened, I made several attempts at various different ‘sessions’ and even changed personal trainers – but to no avail. I think I got steadily worse as it went on, and to add insult to the injuries I was collecting thanks to the loose strap on the remotes, after 5 minutes of throwing myself around the room I’d apparently only burnt off seven calories. Not enough to even justify the banana I had to give me energy before I’d started.

So, that one came swiftly out and the second game went in: a Yoga and Pilates combo that promised to get me back to fit and bendy former self. Another 10 minutes it took for me to enter my name, age, height and weight etc. This time I even got to choose my body shape and a hair style. So that obviously added a bit of time while I experimented with a blond mullet. Not a good look in case you were wondering.

On pranced the instructor and opened her mouth to tell me how ‘Grreeeeaaaat’ I was going to feel. I changed her straight away; she annoyed me even more than Jake. I opted for a ‘flexibility’ session on a ‘relaxing tropical beach’ setting. Hmmmmm. Let’s just say that after ten minutes of twisting my feet around my thighs and failing to balance on one foot I was feeling neither bendier nor remotely serene.

So I turned off the Wii and, in a last-ditch attempt, got out a Pilates DVD I’d had for ages but forgotten to use. This I felt was more likely to work as A) I’d done Pilates for a year before leaving Perth and B) I didn’t need to use a remote to enter my life’s history first.

The opening credits appeared, I started to get right into the mood, the music started and then …. ‘Maisy, Maisy, Maisy, Maisy Mouse…’  The wrong side of the bloody DVD/VHS machine was playing. Nothing against Maisy of course and I’m sure she’s lovely, but she’s never really struck me as much of a keep fit mouse.

FINALLY I get to where I need to be and I remember how incredibly painful Pilates can be when you’re just starting out, or in my case, have taken slightly too long of a break. Still, I know what to do this time and the searing burn in my legs, bum, abs and arms tells me that it’s doing something. Forty minutes later and I’m actually pink and sweaty. Result. That’s got to have burnt off at least some of the puff.

Feeling light-headed I wash down 7 olives, 2 satsumas and a tomato with a glass of water. As I’m doing this I happen to glance at the calendar on the fridge and realise I have a nurses appointment at 3.40. It’s now 3.22. Now my brain tells me I don’t exactly have enough time to shower, wash my hair and get there in time. But once again I defy common sense and basic timings and throw myself headfirst into the shower. Taking Wash And Go to new extremes, I walk into the surgery a mere 14 minutes later looking flushed and ever so slightly soggy. It obviously helped that it’s only a 30 seconds drive away.

Anyway, the whole point of the ramble above was this:

At my new patient assessment the nurse asked if I smoked (no), how much I alcohol I consumed (not a lot) and how many times in the last year I’d drunk so much that I couldn’t recall what I’d done the night before (none – that I remembered anyway). Then, for the 4th time that day, I was weighed and measured and told that, according to the ‘official’ recommendations, I was actually underweight. 2 whole stone underweight to be precise.

What a load of rubbish. Since when did someone of my height (5 foot 8.5 inches) need to weigh in at 11.5 stone to be considered healthy? Heavens above, if these are the guidelines that the NHS use to gauge the nations optimum weight then it’s not difficult to see why the country is becoming steadily fatter by the second. It sounds to me like someone in the health system is fiddling those numbers to put a better spin on the obesity problem in this county. It’s possible you know, the clothing industry have certainly been upping sizes over recent years to make people feel better about themselves. My proof? Over the last 10 years, despite my body gaining weight through pregnancy and age, I’ve dropped several dress sizes in certain stores.

Perhaps the NHS should test run a new set of ‘official’ recommendation which aren’t quite so generous with their numbers. Plymouth might be a good place to give it a whirl, especially considering almost 1 in 3 of the kids there are classed as overweight or obese by their final year of primary school.

Now if I’m apparently 2 stone underweight (which I am most definitely not) and the same guidelines are used from toddler up, then just how much are some of these little kiddies weighing in at to already be considered obese at such a young age? Rather alarming to say the least.

Could you stomach a fat tax?

The other night I watched a rather good episode of Panorama called ‘Taxing the Fat’. For those who didn’t catch it, despite what the title might suggest it didn’t actually go down the obvious route.

It didn’t suggest that the very obese should pay more towards their own self-inflicted health problems – although they probably should. It didn’t suggest that mobility scooters should be limited to those who really deserve them – although they probably should. It didn’t even suggest that those who weigh more than a set of monogrammed Louis Vuitton suitcases should have to pay excess baggage – although they probably should.

No, rather the program was suggesting that everyone, regardless of their weight or size, should have to pay that little bit more for calorie-laden, high-fat, nutritionally devoid substances. The sort of food and drinks that serve no other purpose in life other than to fill us up quick, make us happy and pile on the pounds.

Unsurprisingly rather a lot of people are a tad concerned, no, let’s make that downright horrified at the very idea. But they shouldn’t be.

Don’t get me wrong,  I don’t particularly want to see the price of a chunky KitKat double overnight, but, as far as the principles of making certain foods a treat as opposed to a staple, I couldn’t agree with the theory more. The Danes have already imposed a ‘fat tax’ and it’s made them the healthiest bunch in Europe.

So how does that actually work for them you may wonder. Well, the forward thinking government over there has piled a 25% tax onto ice-cream, chocolate, sweets and soft-drinks, with margarine, oils, animal fats and high-fat dairy products to be targeted later on in the year. That’s not to say it’s all bad news of course, tax has also been decreased on sugar-free soft drinks.

But while it may have slimmed down their nation’s waistlines, can you imagine the outcry over here if Cameron N’ Clegg dared to try and stop people eating like pigs. Which is, after all, the whole point of such a tax.

People would be striking left, right and centre and coming out with all sorts:
They don’t have the right to dictate what I eat. They can’t police my fridge. They can’t make me healthy if I don’t want to be. They can’t prevent me eating my weight in pizza every night.

But why can’t they? The government already has to use taxes to pay for the disability allowances and stomach stapling operations that people who simply can’t and won’t stop eating say they need, so why not try some alternative funding?

After all cigarettes and alcohol are taxed are they not? And while you may say, but that’s because they’re drugs and bad for your health, well so’s food really. Well it certainly is for those who seem determined to eat their way to diabetes and a very large, early grave.

Of course those who live on junk and junk alone will always give the same excuse for doing so – it’s cheap.  And those who protest against taxing unhealthy food will always say the same thing – it’s not fair. Rubbish and simply not true.

The argument that lower-income families need BOGOF bargain basement food to just survive is a very flawed one indeed. Experts may well claim that the cost of such foods are ‘cheaper per calorie’ than healthier options (and therefore cost you less to fill your tummy) but when these cheaper calories are empty calories then surely that theory is knocked on the head.

Besides which, if you choose to stock your trolley with nothing but rubbish, processed junk and microwaveable crap, and fill your body with nothing but saturated fats, sugar and salt, then let’s be honest, it isn’t all about the low-cost is it. It’s about being bloody lazy.

To sum it all up, there was a woman on the program who came out with an observational gem that went something along the lines of this: “But if they put up the prices then we won’t be able to buy a multi-bag of crisps for ₤1 anymore..”

Yes dear, that is kind of the point.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it

Why is it that some companies just can’t help themselves. First they give you too much choice, flooding your brain impossible decisions. Then they fiddle around with something that already works perfectly fine – and has done for many, many years.

Take the humble deodorant bottle. It’s simple, straightforward and stops you smelling like a tramp on a hot and humid day. It’s not one of those products that really needs to be fancy. You aren’t likely to ever display it next to the cut glass or amongst the family photos. Far from it, when the deodorant bottle does makes it out of the bathroom and into public view, it is normally being whipped out of a bag and up under a jumper in a quick, trying to be inconspicuous kind of way.

And as for the design. Well it’s small, flat bottomed and rounded on the top. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember and always seemed to do it’s job to me.

So given this, why do the packaging, marketing and design gurus out there have to brainstorm themselves into a corner and come up with a new design. Surely that’s a bit like reinventing the wheel, just for the sake of making it that little bit rounder.

I’m talking, in case your wondering, about the new ‘upside down’ deodorant bottle that seem to be springing up all over the place. The adverts are of course very catchy, implying how much easier and better life would be if you lived it upside down. Would it? Really?  I can think of a number of times right of the top of my head when it wouldn’t be so great. Maybe I’m just a fan of gravity.

Of course being a sucker for new packaging, I went out and brought one. I’m a double sucker really, if you consider my line of work and insider knowledge of how to sell a gimmick to the blissfully unaware.  Still, like my other fellow magpies and lemmings, I like bright, shiny things and am always happy to jump off a cliff at least once. Who knows, maybe I thought life in an upside down world might be more fun, it would certainly put more volume in your hair when you’re drying it…

Oh fool that I am, for listening to heart over head and letting my curious fingers do the buying. The bloody thing is useless. Yes, it dispenses a pleasant white lotion onto my skin, that does, granted, make me smell good. But it also dispenses a pleasant white lotion all over my hands, down the outside of the bottle and onto the floor.

Surely it has been tested by small men in white coats for it’s capacity to spill? So how could this be? Hmmmm. Let’s think for a second.

Oh yes, that would be the incredibly stupid nature of the design. Something perhaps to do with the whole ‘let’s push everything to sit in the bottom of the bottle and then remove the lid’ frighteningly good idea. Now how many marketing monkeys, dressed in skinny jeans and Che Guevara t-shirts did it take to come up with this innovative new crap design?

Did they perhaps think a more aerodynamic shape would help the gloop to leave the rolling ball at a greater speed and velocity? It’s a deodorant not a cruise missile for crying out loud. It doesn’t need to break speed barriers or have more bleeding thrust than a Lamborghini.

But then I though, hang on a minute, maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s the way I’m holding the bottle. Perhaps after all these years I’ll find out I’ve been doing this, apparently idiot proof task all wrong. Then I noticed my husbands deodorant. Sat there, just like mine, all upside down on the shelf and caked in dried up gloop.

Haaa! It’s not me after all.

I know that products, especially those of the hygiene and beautifying sort do need to shout ‘I’m young, hip and trendy’ as they jostle for your attention on the shelf. They need to have sexy shaped bottles, bright shiny colours and lids that open in 10 captivating new ways. They need to make attention grabbing promise, ones that blind you with science and conjure up images of molecules, test tubes and miracles.

Of course all they really need to say is   ‘Use me today, and you too can have smooth, glowing, wrinkle free skin…. just like this pretty little pre-pubescent model in the poster’. Or even  ‘ Use me today, and you too can have hair that bounces and shines, never fades with age or splits when you brush it… just like this airbrushed, Botox injected, aging actress in the poster’.

That’s right. We did all notice that anti-aging creams are sold by toddlers, shampoos are sold by wind machines and foundations are sold by Photoshop. We may well be gullible enough to part with our cash, but we’re not stupid enough to believe in perfection.

So really packaging, marketing and advertising guys, here’s a revolutionary idea. Instead of spending 100’s of 1000’s messing around with the tried, tested and perfectly acceptable shapes of our bottles, jars and pots of potion, or trying to sneak a fuel injected turbo engine inside the lid, for a slightly faster roll, why not just lower the price instead?

Yes, yes, it’s a radical thought I know. But remember, the average buyer is of a terribly fickle breed. We hunt out discounts. We study the sales, promotions and BOGOFs like the Pope studies the bible. We want value for money and preferably change from a $10 note.  So make your product half the price of that snazzy shaped bottle sat beside it, and then sit back and watch us buy it right off the shelf.