Charity Shopper #4

Charity shopper is a weekly blog post. The rules are that I have to visit a charity shop every week and purchase something from it. I cannot leave the shop without making a purchase and I must use the purchase at least once. I will report every week on what I buy.

It’s more fun if you play at home: this week you have the opportunity to win all of the items I purchased. This is partly to spread the word about the Charity Shopper blog and partly because my wife has threatened divorce if I bring anymore stuff home from charity shops.  To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com and I’ll enter you into the prize draw. If your name is pulled out of the hat then you win: Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, Once upon a Potty by Alana Frankel and The Husband, A Ladybird Book by J. A. Hazely and J. P. Morris.

Last week’s winner was the unfathomably talented @RebekaLord. You should definitely check out her website: www.rebekalord.com and if you are in West Yorkshire over the next few weeks pop along to see her paintings as part of the Turps Correspond Exhibition at the Artworks 1830 Gallery between February 21st and March 20th.

Date: Mon 19.02.2016 

Shop: Dove House Hospice, 7 High St, Market Weighton, East Yorkshire YO43 3AQ

Purchase: Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, Once upon a Potty by Alona Frankel and The Husband, A Ladybird Book by J. A. Hazely and J. P. Morris.

Cost: £1.48

You’ve been quiet this week. A bit tardy with this post, it normally comes out on a Sunday!

I’ve been busy reading.

So I see. A book about potty training?

Once Upon a Potty is a book by Alona Frankel to help parents introduce the potty to their youngsters.

I see. Sounds…

Well, admittedly it’s not exactly…

No, I suppose not. Is it any good?

Erm well, it’s maybe not in the same category as some of Dostoevsky’s stuff but you know. It’s… different…

How so?

Well it’s got this picture in it:

A bottom for sitting and in it a little hole for making Poo - Poo. Once upon a Potty by Alana Fra
A bottom for sitting and in it a little hole for making Poo – Poo. Once upon a Potty by Alana Frankel

Oh! I see what you mean. That’s a little awkward.

The book is regarded as a classic by some and you can buy it on Amazon. For $50.

Say what?

That’s right. Original hardback copies from the 1980s change hands for $50 or more. There are 3 on sale at Amazon.com at the moment. Here’s another odd picture. Is it just me or does the poo look like angel delight?

Later on she made Wee-Wee and Poo-Poo but not exactly into the potty.
Later on she made Wee-Wee and Poo-Poo but not exactly into the potty.

This reviewer from Goodreads.com won’t be buying it though:

“The ugliest, nastiest potty book ever written. What moronic parent would actually WANT to read this one to a kid. “Wee-Wee” and “Poo-Poo”? FEH!
(And please don’t tell me it trained your kid […]. Your kid trained because they were READY!)

There are TONS of good potty books if you insist on reading them to your kids. But don’t expect them to magically train your child–it ain’t gonna happen. Better still, relax and stop obsessing over potty training. Is it going to get them into college someday?”

Oh dear. Alright shouty! Well, it might be a bit difficult to survive at college if you haven’t learnt to use the toilet by that stage. Surely you’re potty trained though?

It’s not for me. I’ve been potty training my daughter.

Our daughter.

Sorry?

Our daughter. Because I am you and you are me. You’re interviewing yourself, remember?

Oh yes.

Why is that?

What?

That you’re interviewing yourself?

Erm… well I don’t know really. I don’t really have any friends to talk to about this stuff… Why do you ask? Do you think I need more friends?

Do you think you need more friends?

Umm, well I’m married and I have children. Do  I still need friends? None of my friends seem to have friends. Well I mean, Rob has lots of friends. He’s divorced though. Lots of his friends come from a website that he’s on… does that count? Rob seems to be very happy.

Why do you think that?

He gets to go to the pub a fair bit and sometimes he rings me up during the early hours of the morning after he’s been to the pub to tell me about how happy he is. I don’t know if I’m as happy as Rob. I feel a bit worried about that. Do you think I should get divorced?

Perhaps you should read the ‘How it works’ book from Ladybird about The Husband before you make and rash decisions.

Ah yes, this is one of those  Ladybird books for adults. I remember reading these as a child…

Ladybird for adults books: How it works - The Husband A Ladybird book.
Ladybird for adults books: How it works – The Husband A Ladybird book.

Brings back happy memories doesn’t it?

Ha ha, yes it does.

Kind of.

Feels and looks exactly like the originals, just funnier…

This is what the inside of Tim's head looks like.
This is what the inside of Tim’s head looks like.
Adrian's wife sometimes cries herself to sleep
The husband likes things to be in order.

 

That’s because the authors, Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, have taken the original Ladybird pictures and put satirical little barbs with them to fit the images.

I’m not sure it’s helping with my anxious feeling though. All the women in the book seem fairly unhappy. So do the men too.

If you’re feeling anxious then maybe you need to read Alain de Boton’s Status Anxiety.

I have been. That’s what made me feel anxious. Having read his incisive study of modern social mores I realise that not having any friends means I lack social status – the world doesn’t love me in the same way that it loves Beyonce and… and… Joe Pasquale. Do you think I should tell my friends about how I’m feeling?

I wouldn’t if I were you.

You are me.

Don’t be facetious. That could be why you haven’t got any friends. You should definitely not mention how you’re feeling to your friends. 

Really?

Absolutely. De Botton says that you are craving the love and admiration of your friends and ‘the quest for love from the world is a […] secret and shameful tale.’

My head is hurting a bit…

De Boton says, ‘to feel that we are taken no notice of necessarily disappoints the most ardent desires of human nature.’

My most ardent desire is to be noticed.

Is that why you’re talking to yourself at the kitchen table at 1.00am and writing down what you say as though it’s an interview?

Umm, I think so…

I thought so too.

God this is confusing!

My head is hurting a bit.

 

The Charity Shopper returns on Monday. 

To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com and I’ll enter you into the prize draw.

If you’ve enjoyed this week’s foray into secondhand land then check out the previous blog posts here:

Charity Shopper #1

Charity Shopper #2

Charity Shopper #3

Talking shop #1

Talking shop #2

Talking shop #3

Talking shop #4

 

The Organized Mind Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

Self Help: The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin

The Organized Mind Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. This week I’m reading Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. In the first installment I reviewed Marie Kondo’s The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying. Last week I tackled Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.

At the start of this post I’ve got to issue a disclaimer – it’s not that I’ve received this book gratis from the publisher (btw – just how do you get those free books to review?) or that I know the author or anything like that: it’s that I am by profession a Science teacher. This is a book, notionally at least, about neuroscience and so I must confess that I have a natural inclination to favour this book over the other two books that I’ve read so far: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

Some of you have noted a faintly derisive tone in the last two reviews and it’s true, my Self – Help Binge is slightly tongue in cheek, but it started with the most serious of intentions and I have genuinely attempted to live by the teachings of Marie Kondo and Paul Arden (at least during the week in which I read their books). Marie Kondo’s writing was annoying but the effect on the tidiness of our home was dramatic. Conversely, Paul Arden had me talking like one of those daily inspiration Twitter accounts and turned me into a really quite annoying person. Daniel Levitin’s Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload seems at first glance to have more potential: Levitin attempts to bring his learning to bear on the problem of our fantastically complicated everyday lives. I feel I certainly fit the bill as someone who leads an overly complex life: I am a teacher, often working upwards of 60 hours in a week, I am father to two small children who attend a plethora of clubs and activities, my wife works full time and I edit themagichappinessof.com which takes up all my spare time; so I have plenty of everyday commitments to juggle.

Levitin identifies attention as the most precious of the brain’s resources. Knowing where best to put your attention is a skill harnessed by a group of people the author assigns the tag HSPs: Highly Successful Persons. These people are CEOs, business leaders, social media tycoons, musicians, presidents and prime ministers. In short, they have a lot on their plate. Levitin argues that the HSPs are where they are because they leverage their considerable mental faculties in the right areas rather than wasting their attention on posting cat photos to Twitter or clicking on pop – ups promising ’15 quick tips to boost your productivity’. The phrase ‘paying – attention’ is one that we give little thought to but the author demonstrates how it has a basis in the way the brain is wired up.

Switching attention between several tasks actually incurs a neural ‘cost’ and the more times we switch between activities the more of a cost we incur. This leads to us becoming tired and tiredness affects our ability to make judgments. I was happy to learn that multi – tasking, something my wife claims to be expert at, is nothing of the sort. During writing this article I have checked Twitter 15 times so far (no one has mentioned me in a tweet, liked or re-tweeted anything of mine in that time scale), checked Facebook 22 times (no new notifications), checked my blog stats three or four times, checked Tumblr and my Google+ account a similar amount of times. All for no yield. This isn’t multi – tasking. This is just switching my attention from Twitter to Facebook to my blog to Google+ and round and round again. ‘Attention is a limited capacity resource’ says Levitin, ‘there are definite limits to the number of things we can attend to at once.’ He gives the example of driving along a street looking for a turning whilst listening to the radio or trying to hold a conversation. Most of us recognise that we tend to turn the radio down or pause the conversation whilst we scan for the correct street to turn down.

It is the same with all those social media accounts: if you are trying to write a book review then write a book review. Turn off Twitter, mute the updates alert on your phone, close the Facebook tab and focus your attention on the book review. All sounds eminently sensible and dare I say it, common sense, so far. The problem is, we are distractable beings. Indeed, we evolved 200, 000 years ago in an environment where things were fairly static. If something changed in your environment then it was a novelty and novelty meant potential danger. The human brain has evolved to attend to novelty. When your phone pings to tell you that you have a new Twitter notification your brain switches it’s focus to that. It takes willpower to ignore the update and focus on what you’re supposed to be doing. But this willpower incurs a cost. Levitin quotes a study by Glenn Wilson of Gresham College, London who found that having knowledge of an unread email in your inbox whilst you are trying to concentrate on a task can reduce you effective IQ by 10 points. That’s just knowing that the email is there, whether you intend to do anything about it or not.

A lot of Levitin’s advice might seem common sense: write everything down that you need to remember, turn off your phone whilst you’re trying to concentrate on a task, stop posting cat photos, organize your contacts, answer emails during a defined period of time each day, get enough sleep. It’s all stuff that you’ve heard elsewhere on productivity blogs or in lifestyle supplements. Where Levitin’s book sets itself apart is in showing the reader how all of this is routed in sound neuroscience.

It’s not easy to adopt new routines though. I’ve tried one strategy from the book which is something that I remember reading about as a teenager in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. ‘Zen and…’  is a strange book and when I read it as a youngster I completely missed it’s function as a self – help book and read it mainly as a novel of ideas.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Prisig

The protagonist uses the idea of writing down his to – do list on a series of index cards. This is something that appealed to me. Each item on your to – do list is written on a separate card and then these cards are shuffled so that the item that is uppermost on your list of priorities sits on top. Once I have completed that task I rip the card up and throw it away. This is much more rewarding than crossing it off an enormous long to – do list. The reward element of completing a task should not be neglected. In a recent review of So you’ve been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson I discussed how social media is designed to hijack our attention systems by offering us a neurological reward – a quick release of dopamine, the hormone associated with our brain’s pleasure pathways – every time we complete a task.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed Jon Ronson

Gaining an extra follower on Twitter or a share on Facebook, responding to a tweet or answering a query in an email counts as completing a task and so generates that little kick of dopamine that keeps you going back for more.

Now these ‘tasks’ are not really tasks of any significance at all. I might spend 15 minutes checking my emails, then 5 minutes going through my Twitter notifications and a further 5 minutes checking my Facebook notifications and responding to inbox messages. None of these little ‘tasks’ is really achieving anything significant but they all bring with them the feeling that I’m being busy. My brain is certainly busy switching from one thing to another constantly and I’m generating the little addictive reward of a kick of dopamine every time I complete a task but I’m not really achieving anything. And whilst doing all this insignificant ‘work’ I am neglecting significant things that need attending to like setting up a new savings account or securing some dental insurance at a reasonable price.

The index cards method of sorting my priorities worked out fine for me for the first two days. I assiduously wrote down every new thing that I needed to attend to and indexed it in my to – do pile. I sorted the pile at regular intervals and when the pile seemed to be getting too thick I whittled it down by actually doing some of the things in the pile. Great. Except keeping on top of the pile required self – control and motivation.

When the colourful index cards were fresh out of the packet they were a novelty and I attended to using them as one attends to a new pet. When I’d lived with the method for a couple of days I started forgetting to write out new cards when a task popped up or skipping it altogether, telling myself that it was too much hassle to fish the cards out and fill one out. Then I started to forget to check them altogether. I could remember what was written on the uppermost card but not the ones underneath.

I think the message from this book is that some of us are more organised than others but the key is that none of us evolved to be this way. Our brains are set up to handle  a much  less complicated world with less information to process and far fewer social contacts to keep track of. Feeling like we’re not on top of our everyday existence causes anxiety and can be stressful. We can teach ourselves to become organised though, but it takes training and practice, like mastering anything else. Oranisation is about embedding good habits into your day to day routine. The trick is to be consistent. Adopt a strategy and stick with it until it becomes a habit.

Next week I will post a review of my self – help progress so far; what’s worked, what’s gone wrong and what I’ve learnt so far. That will give me a bit of time to read the next book on my list which is Thrive by Arriana Huffington and was suggested by Its – Jme whose awesome blog you should check out.

If you’ve read any of the three books I’ve discussed so far I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’d like to suggest a self – help title for me to try out then please comment below, tweet to @TmhoLudek or email themagichappinessof@gmail.com.

Book Club… So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Discussing today: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Hi everyone and welcome to today’s Book Club on http://www.themagichappinessof.com. Today we’re discussing Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’.

It is an uncomfortable truth but lots of people buying this book will have been guided by the same motivation that causes us to slow down at the scene of a car accident on the motorway. In the UK this behaviour is called ‘rubber – necking’. Though most of us would attest that we find it disagreeable to rubber – neck, the tailbacks on Britain’s roads every Friday night would suggest that plenty of us are morbidly curios enough to see what it looks like when a life spins out of control.

The modern phenomenon of Twitter shaming described in ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ ranks fairly highly amongst the things that can wake me up screaming in the middle of the night. Just how bad does it feel when 20 thousand or 50 thousand, or in the case of Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted an ill advised joke, when over 1.2 million people focus their fury on you?

Ronson chronicles public shaming from it’s medieval role as a weapon of justice to some of the worst social media shamings of recent times. He travels the world interviewing the victims about their experiences before, during, and as they try to piece their lives back together, after the shaming. The case studies range from journalists caught fabricating stories to a learning support worker who defiled a national cemetery. In each case the spiral from basically happy, ordinary people, to central figures in the story of their own demise, is precipitously fast.

Social media presents a fascinating opportunity to study the dynamics of large populations. Never before in human history have we all been so interconnected. The theory that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by just 6 degrees of separation was postulated by the Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in the 1920s but new research shows that the figure needs updating. Studies of Facebook reveal it’s more like half that number, and with the opportunity for complete strangers to follow you, I would imagine that Twitter returns an even smaller degree of separation.

The upshot of all this connectedness is that we’re dealing with a social landscape that we didn’t evolve to operate in. In his book The Organized Mind (incidentally also the subject of this week’s self help binge) Daniel Levitin gives and illuminating analogy,

Imagine you are living in the year 1200 […] You know a couple of hundred people, and you’ve known most of them all your life. Strangers are regarded with suspicion because it is so very unusual to encounter them. The number of people you’d encounter in a lifetime was fewer than the number of people you’d walk past during rush hour in present – day Manhattan.

Now the number of people we can reach in the click of a mouse button dwarfs the world population in the year 1200. Something humans are particularly bad at grasping is the scale and the reach of social media. Just why do otherwise normal, well – adjusted people descend into a vicious frenzy of denouncement when a target emerges on Twitter? Ronson investigates the theory of group madness as a possible explanation.

Published in 1895, Gustav Le Bon’s The Crowd, was the central text in the study of crowd dynamics. The work is referenced in Bill Buford’s superlative study of British football hooliganism in the 1980s. During the 80s displays mass social unrest could be witnessed in virtually every city centre in the country as rival hooligan ‘firms’ battled each other for supremacy on the terraces. The scale and brutality of the violence is staggering when regarded from a contemporary vantage point.

Buford addresses the question of why thousands of young men up and down the country would turn out every Saturday afternoon to gouge, kick, punch, stab, slash and burn their way up and down the country:

why do young males riot every Saturday? They do it for the same reason that another generation drank too much, or smoked dope, or took hallucinogenic drugs, or behaved badly or rebelliously. Violence is their antisocial kick, their mind-altering experience, an adrenaline-induced euphoria that might be all the more powerful because it is generated by the body itself, with, I was convinced, many of the same addictive qualities that characterize synthetically-produced drugs.

Social media certainly has it’s addictive properties. That adrenaline – induced euphoria that Buford talks about? Every re-tweet, new follower or like that you receive on Twitter creates a little release of dopamine – a hormone associated with the brain’s response to pleasurable stimuli. So social media has a measurable effect on the brain’s biochemistry.

Ronson discusses the feedback effect:

We express our opinion that Justine Sacco is a monster. We are instantly congratulated for this…

And so we are more likely to believe that it is true. He also notes that you are only likely to share information on Twitter that is likely to go down well with your circle of followers.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a difficult read in many ways. Not because of any defect in the writing which is lucid and intelligent, or the arguments which are backed by infallible reasoning. It is a difficult read because it holds up a mirror that shows a distorted reflection of society. A society viewed through the warped lens of social media. A social world where the voices of moderation and reason have been filtered out of the conversation leaving only the raging poles of opinion. Is 170 characters too short to sum up all the shades of meaning and nuances of language needed to communicate effectively? I think it probably is, and maybe the move to abolish the character limit for a Tweet might be a good thing.

Comment below or tweet me. Let me know what you thought if you’ve read this book or any of the others mentioned. Happy reading.

It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be. By Paul Arden

One book to change your life? Could it be this one? The Magic Happiness of… thinks it could.

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Last week I reviewed Marie Kondo’s The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying. This week I tackle Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.

Sandwiched somewhere between a career’s advice lecture and an evangelical call to self – improvement for anyone with a creative bent, this little book is small enough to fit in the pocket and short enough to read in a matter of minutes. That’s not to say the ideas in it aren’t profound though.

Arden’s little book was a sensation when it was first published in 2003 and has entered the hearts and minds of many an ambitious, bright young thing since. Arden’s prose is direct and bossy, but his message is never less than engaging and thought provoking.

‘So how good do you want to be?’ he asks at the outset.

So how good do you want to be asks Paul Arden
So how good do you want to be?

Well, I don’t know, you think. Probably quite good. Fairly soon though you get the sense that this isn’t good enough for Paul Arden. ‘You can achieve the unachievable.’ he exhorts. By the third page in I’m feeling ecstatic.

Many of the messages are counter – intuitive: ‘It’s right to be wrong,’ ‘fail, fail again, fail better,’why do we strive for excellence when mediocrity is required?’ And Arden’s wisdom is delivered with such clear – eyed certainty that you get caught up in it. The layout of every page is delicious, the bold titles and large text allied with clean, monochrome images mean that it’s easy on the eye. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a former  Executive Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi though would you?

So I’ve been trying to apply the book’s message of ambition, self promotion and positive thinking to my life. I’ve been relentlessly chipper at work. Emma, my colleague, took me aside to ask me if everything was alright. ‘You keep talking to everyone like you’re reading from a leadership manual,’ she said worriedly. ‘Have you been getting enough sleep?’ ‘Without a goal it’s difficult to score,’ I replied, assertively.

I’ve designed myself some business cards. I’m a teacher so they say ‘Headteacher’ on them.

Design your own business card says Paul Arden. Impress people with a completely made up job title.
Get your own business cards. With a made up job title on them.

I handed them out in the staff room at work which went down well. People asked me if I’d gone mad and the real Headteacher said he wants a meeting with me. ‘Getting fired can be a positive career move,’ Arden assures me on page 70. Which is comforting to know.

It’s not How Good you Are…’ is not really a self – help book. You will find it in Waterstone’s in the grey area to the right of the self-help section headed ‘smart thinking’. I’m not sure how much of this book is smart thinking and how much has little thinking behind it. If you suspend your judgement then it’s freshness and energy is infectious.

And then sometimes you come across a picture of some pigeons on a plinth and you are a little baffled.

‘Don’t be afraid of silly ideas.’ (Page 58)

Next week I’m trying Daniel Levitin’s The Organised Mind. If you have read any of the books I’ve discussed on my blog or would like to suggest a favourite self – help book for me to try out then please comment, tweet @TmhoLudek, check out my Facebook or email themagichappinessof@gmail.com.

Look forward to hearing from you all.

 

 

 

Charity Shopper #2

Charity shopper is a weekly blog post. The rules are that I have to visit a charity shop every week and purchase something from it. I cannot leave the shop without making a purchase and I must use the purchase at least once. I will report every week on what I buy.

It’s more fun if you play at home: if you would like to be next week’s Charity Shopper all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com with details of what you’ve purchased and be able to answer some simple questions about why you bought it (otherwise I’ll just do it again!).

Date: Sun 7.02.2016 

Shop: Age UK, 15 Market Place, Pocklington, East Yorkshire YO42 2AS

Purchase: 1 book: How to Be a Brit by George Mikes and a CD: Shall We Dance? Elegant Classics from the 30s.

Cost: £1.98

 

Lets start with the CD; what motivated you to buy a collection of Jazz standards from the 30s?

I thought it had ‘Cheek to Cheek,’ on it – the song Fred Astaire sings to Ginger Rogers in the film Top Hat.

fred and ginger

So romantic!

Indeed.

And does it?

No.

The cheek!

Though I believe the answer to the question, ‘shall we dance,’ should always be ‘yes’ so I bought it anyway.

And the book? How to Be a Brit?

Correct.

Sounds like a pamphlet from a right leaning think tank. Nothing to do with the government’s ‘British Values’ agenda is it?

Hardly. George Mikes was a Hungarian immigrant. It’s his take on British manners. Regarding English attitudes he has this to say: ‘In England it is bad manners to be clever, to assert something confidently. It may be your own personal view that two and two make four, but you must not state it in a self-assured way, because this is a democratic country and others may be of a different opinion.’

A clever dick by the sounds of it.

Umm… possibly, though I didn’t buy it for the witty analysis of the famed British stiff upper lip.

Well why did you buy it?

The cover design caught my eye. I thought it would look good on my bookshelf. Or on the coffee table.

Tsk! Shakespeare and Milton will be spinning in their graves. Don’t you know you should never judge a book by it’s cover?

Not true. How to Be a Brit is published as a Penguin Classic. The minimal, two tone design with large blocks of colour has represented quality since its’ inception in 1935.

Some of the cover designs are as lauded as the books inside them. There are Pinterest boards dedicated to them. You can buy your favourite cover on a T -Shirt, as a Penguin Classics deck chair, tote bags… the list is endless.

What were you saying about quality? Wasn’t Morrisey’s debut novel published last year as a Penguin Classic?

You mean List of the Lost? Ah, it’s not in the Classics imprint. It’s merely a Penguin book. His memoir Autobiography, however, was slotted straight in the Penguin Classics stable.

Have you read List of the Lost?

Umm… I try not to.

Mmm. Didn’t get great reviews did it?

Michael Hann called it ‘an unpolished turd’ in The Guardian.

Yes, he did didn’t he?

And the Telegraph published a list of the 10 most embarrassing lines from the book.

Including: “Preciously kneeling on the upper-crust carpeting, the boys were inexpressive and almost beloved…”

And, ‘Tracey finds the manly central issue too slight to grip…’ Snigger.

Now that’s going too far…

‘Bulbous salutation…’

Enough.

Sorry. Talking of Penguin book covers and The Smiths, have you seen the work of Chris Thornley?

Eh, sorry, what? I was just mopping my brow. I’ve come over all florid…

Chris Thornley has taken a number of Smiths lyrics and turned them into Penguin inspired book covers. They’re really rather good.

Ah. One thing though – if you click on the link above and look carefully you’ll see that Chris, although a very good graphic artist, should be careful what he wishes for!

chris thorley

The charity shopper will be back next week. If you have any particular items you would like to see me discussing (with myself) or if you would like to have a go at being the charity shopper yourself then comment below, Tweet me @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com. 

In the meantime, if you can’t wait until next week, have a browse of last week’s Charity Shopper and the other fabulous content on http://www.themagichappinessof.com

 

 

 

Review: Marie and Me, The KonMari method

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Here’s how I got on with Marie Kondo.

Here’s the thing with me and Marie: at first everything was great between us. There was the initial excitement of a new relationship, the butterflies in the stomach every time I opened ‘The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying,’ counting down the seconds until I could get home from work to be with her. Then there was the physical stuff: tearing our clothes off the shelves, arranging our cups in the cup drawer, folding our socks – all the usual ‘new relationship stuff’. After that though, things fizzled out a bit between us.

Don’t get me wrong, Marie’s a great girl. She’s upbeat (relentlessly), she’s organised (goes with the territory really), I mean – she’d never forget to remind you it was your mum’s birthday. And she’s got a great sense of humour too, I think. When she’s in the mood she can say some pretty funny things, possibly unintentionally, but nevertheless – she’s entertaining company. And she smiles – a lot.

But that’s kind of the thing really. You could never take Marie down the pub to meet your mates. You’d always be a bit concerned she might say something odd. Robbo’s pulled a muscle playing footie for instance. Marie’s advice is along the lines of: ‘a firm but gentle massage by human hands does more to loosen knotted muscles that being pummelled by a massage machine.’

Fair play you think. Nothing too controversial in that. ‘The energy that flows from the person’s hands into our skin seems to heal both body and soul,’ she continues. She’s had a fair bit to drink  by this point: ‘The same is true for our clothes.’

Sorry? What was that Marie? ‘When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy…’ and on she goes.

And then there’s the jealously to deal with. My wife Annie was well and truly sick of Marie by the end of the week. ‘Marie says this, Marie says that… why don’t you just go and bloody well live with bloody Marie bloody Kondo? I mean, where have all my hair grips gone?’

Oh sure though – credit where credit’s due. If Marie’s taught me one thing I’ll take away from this it’s that focusing on what you want to keep and the joy that those items bring you is more important than the tidiness aspect of it all. Just don’t let the lads here me saying that.

With less stuff to sift through I spend less time worrying about what to wear, which shoes go with which shirt, whether the lime green cords really go with anything. I’ve kept a few shirts and jeans that just go with each other and to hell with it.

We ‘Kondoed’ the kitchen and the bedrooms and the house feels fresher. We threw away enough paper work to build and igloo out of and about a dumper truck full of crappy plastic toys. That bit felt liberating. Now that we’re liberated and the house is very spartan it could, ironically, pass for the interior of an East Berlin condominium circa 1978. It feels a bit cold without all our old stuff.

On the plus side. Now that we’ve got nothing left we’ll need to go shopping. Just for some essentials. And I love a good shopping spree.

Next week my self – help binge continues with Paul Arden’s ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.’

Life – changing?

If you’ve been following my posts over the past couple of days (which you absolutely should have been) then you’ll know that I’ve set myself the challenge of transforming my life in six key areas:

  1. To be happy(er)
  2. To not be nearly bankrupt
  3. To not feel disorganised
  4. To have more time with my kids
  5. To have time to be creative
  6. To feel physically healthy

I have decided to go on a self – help binge as a way of exploring whether the $11 billion industry really can improve my life in a sustainable way and I invite you all to follow my progress on this blog – wherever it should take me.

To give you a bit of back story in case you haven’t been following this (if you haven’t then where have you been?): one week ago I came home from work expecting a pizza and Netflix and to fall asleep on the sofa only to find that my wife had been pulled by the Police for driving without insurance. Cue a £300 fine, 6 points on her licence and a massive insurance bill.

By the way, as an aside, the back wheel of her car nearly fell off today but that’s a whole other story.

Clearly my life has some scope for improvement so who better to get the ball rolling than Japan’s self proclaimed ‘expert declutterer and professional cleaner’, not to mention multi – million selling organisation guru Marie Kondo?

The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying arrived through the post today and I felt a genuine thrill of excitement at opening it. ‘The Japanese sensation – 3 million copies sold’ proudly trumpets the cover and I am primed and ready to join the ranks of the converted.

I should confess at this point to coming at this self – imposed challenge with some skepticism. ‘After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child,’ proclaims a satisfied former client of Kondo’s on page 3. Sounds good though it depends what the dream job is. I dreamed of being a fighter pilot and would be stoked if reading The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying could transform my life to such a degree: ‘I went from teaching Science to disaffected teens to fighter pilot months after reading this book. Despite having none of the physical attributes necessary for the role.’

The old adage ‘you get out what you put in,’ applies here though so I press on, resisting the urge to cackle with laughter at: ‘Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce,’ and: ‘Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.’ Presumably the longed for phone call from Michelle Pfeiffer is only a short read away.

‘I finally succeeded in losing three kilos,’ testifies another adherent but it doesn’t specify if that was in body mass or old nail varnish bottles and Happy Meal toys.

Despite all this, and my natural reticence when it comes to self – examination, I have to admit to feeling unduly excited at the prospect of what is, essentially, doing loads of housework. The clean, minimal design of the book cover and short, tidy sentences seem to hint that a life of order and fulfillment lies 240 short pages ahead of me. And watching Marie cheerfully folding socks and undies, who could doubt it?

Play along at home if you have a copy of the book. Let me know your experiences and thoughts if you’ve already done this. Comment, tweet, add me on Facebook.