Wilkos’ R&D and Marketing Departments Have ISSUES

Wilko Low Calorie Anti-Reflux Syrup
Yes, that is a grey, underweight-looking body in the background, doing the classic anorexic pose.

I went to town yesterday, and saw this. I was actually shocked, and I am very rarely shocked. Nor am I one of those people who declares shock to try and stir up outrage. But this medicine is messed up. It is marketed completely and deliberately at people (women, specifically) with eating disorders.

I had eating disorders from age 15 to 19 or something like that (my memory of teenage years is mercifully fuzzy) so I know. I still have some part of me, which is ever alert to weight and food weirdness. This particular thing has so many things wrong, which put together, add up to a very definite conclusion.

  1. There is a skinny body in the background. There is no reason for this, at all. No other reflux medicine has similar packaging. The body is androgynous, with pronounced neck and collar bones, in a faded grey. It’s all very ‘thinspo’.
  2. That it says ‘low calorie’ rather than ‘sugar free’. Who worries about the calories in their Gaviscon? Anorexics, that’s who. Diabetics (and parents of hyperactive children) are concerned with sugar specifically, and so usually products are labelled ‘sugar free’. Not many people think ‘Oh dear, I’m carrying a few extra pounds, I should change my diet a bit… I better cut down on the antacids!’
  3. Starving and throwing up both make you really need this product. Marketing team know this. Hell, I still need this product (although please, not caramel flavour), even many years later. (Although maybe the cider isn’t helping either.)
  4. Caramel flavour? Because real sweets bring too much guilt, this is your compensation. Yes, EDs are fun aren’t they.
  5. The text is pink. I know it’s fucked up, but pink is still considered the girliest colour, and eating disorders are stereotyped as a girl disease. Acid reflux in general is not thought of as a ‘feminine issue’. Why would they try to narrow down a wide market by being so weirdly specific? Because marketing is sexist, of course.
  6. The eating disordered population is growing fast. According to charity Beat, 6.4% of the population shows signs of an eating disorder, and the number of inpatient hospital admissions is increasing by 7% year on year. Sub-clinical body image and eating problems are widely prevalent, with up to two thirds of adults suffering negative body image. So it does make financial sense to market to the eating disordered.
  7. After all, what do you think the diet industry is?

I never thought that Wilkos were evil. I know they are just another capitalist conglomerate, but somehow they always gave off a nicer vibe than the other massive chain stores. Who knows why they have made this product? Like chocolate flavoured Ex-Lax, it is inexplicable in its weirdness.

Wilkos’ R&D and Marketing Departments Have ISSUES

What a Weekend

So this weekend was a mad adventure of concordance and coincidence, facilitated greatly by Hels being lovely and loved; whenever I go out with her, we always find friends. Two nights of partying and sleep deprivation, and we also ended up spending a day at Breaking Convention, the psychedelics conference in the insanely regimented surroundings of Greenwich University. Many neat grass squares and white stone columns.

Greenwich University in the Royal Naval College buildings, baroque style with neat lawns outside.
I can’t even imagine going to uni in a place that looks like this. They let students in here?!

We were taken there to help out a beautiful old lady who dresses like a shaman and sure as hell knows how to draw people in and create powerful rituals. Honouring the life/death aspects of the sacred feminine, running around screaming ‘CUNT’, and people really wanted to join in, there wasn’t enough room for them all at once to touch the life-size female form, they were really getting into that cunt. Seems like there is a great hunger for that kind of thing, at least amongst the seekers and scientists of that day.

The actual very important point of this post maybe:

I met this guy! David Graham Scott, who is actually a Scot, and a film maker whose work I know from years on Youtube. Though he has been shown in more selective places like the BBC. He’s a really really nice guy.

Here is his first documentary, which was one of the catalysts to bringing ibogaine into more mainstream awareness. David was a heroin and methadone addict, but he got clean with this plant and ritual. It’s been over ten years now, and he’s not gone back, he’s making his art and spreading the word, trying to help and inform other people. Ibogaine has been reported to help end addictions to opiates, cocaine, alcohol, and even nicotine, as well as offering insight and recovery into past traumas in a way that can offer a pathway through PTSD and depression. It’s not a magic cure though…

Warning: this documentary is intense.

Seeing someone who’s come so far, from way worse shit than I ever had to deal with, is inspiring. I think this is the first time I ever met someone internet famous/a creator of work I admire, and he was so friendly and caring and genuine that it’s like I actually feel like a better, happier person. Maybe because I disproved my evil internal voice, which says that no one would possibly ever want to meet me, and especially not someone well known who has useful things to do and more interesting people to talk to.

I don’t know if it’s just the antidepressant effect of sleep deprivation, or the effect of spending time with two real close friends and meeting many more new friends as well, but I feel good, still 3 days later, though it’s starting to fade now I’ve fully caught up on sleep. Maybe I just sleep too much…

What a Weekend

Creepy crawly leggy walkies

Hey, check out this terrifying squid-monster! Oh Hell No!

I have a fear of things with disproportionately long, fragile-looking legs. Daddy longlegs, craneflies and harvestmen send me into shrieking fits. I’m not generally a screaming girl, and indeed, I don’t generally have phobias, but damn no. They creep me out, fill me with a visceral, crawling sense of appalled disgust and horror.

I remember when I discovered that Japanese Spider Crabs existed. I was not overjoyed.

Japanese spider crab
Ugly bastard

Luckily, they are pretty unlikely to ever cross my path, and I sure as hell aren’t going to look for them. Knowing about them, and the freakish squidthing, and many other uglies that I am not linking here because I refuse to even google them, just increase the general sense that there are numerous horrors in the world, waiting. Waiting to crawl on me, with their creepy, ugly legs.

Creepy crawly leggy walkies

Turns Out I Can Run Further Than I Thought (I thought I could only run for 5 minutes)

For reasons I still can’t quite grasp, I did the Tenby Half marathon yesterday. I don’t run. I don’t even want to run, except when things are chasing me. I didn’t run much at all during this running race, either. There were hills. And I’m pretty sure I walk faster than I run, especially if you factor in the extra time spent laying on the ground moaning that running necessitates.

I think I entered this event due to peer pressure. Mother, brother, two of Mother’s sisters and one of their husbands were all in it as well. Cousin, his wife and baby went along as well, and Father was there to drive me and mum around. It was actually a really fun family occasion, and Tenby is a beautiful seaside town. Sadly, there was no time for the beach. We drove in on Saturday, said hi, had a drink and went to sleep. Sunday we were up early, putting on running clothes (yes I bought sport clothes especially for this) and getting into the specially laid on coaches. The day started warm and pleasant, but by the time we got to the start point at Pembroke Castle, cold rain was falling hard from a sky stretching grey to the horizon. Thunder boomed. as we huddled under a marquee in the castle courtyard, staring up at the grey stone walls and trying to avoid the huge drops of water dripping from the edge of the tent.

Pembroke Castle from the air.
Imagine this filled with people wearing lycra, with water and energy gels strapped to them in various ways.

We had two and a half hours to wait, and the castle grounds were filling up with runners. We took shelter in the museum under a case of military uniforms and those weird helmets with a horsetail sticking out of the top.

3 ridiculous military helmets
The hats of twats

The dingy stone-flagged museum, part of the castle keep, was filled with runners. Some were quiet and intense, others gossiped happily. Eventually it was time to go. The half marathon was part of a huge event. There were people already begun running the full length marathon, and on the previous days there had been running and swimming events. A stage was set up on the grass, and from it a guy shouted at us and told us where to run, before sending us on our way in a lyrca-clad procession up Pembroke high street to the start point, following (what else?) an amateur samba band.

On the other side of the road the marathon runners were passing, and the people of South Wales were out to cheer them on, and to cheer us on as we started running. The route wound through secluded lanes and tiny villages, where the people stood in front of their houses ringing bells and shouting encouragement. It looked like they’d made a day of it, some of them waiting along the verges in vans, others setting up unofficial food and water points. At the first village, some kindly (?) person had fixed a garden sprinkler at head level to irrigate us as we passed. It was cold and still raining on and off, but it was a sweet gesture. The levels of enthusiasm were alarming. Village life must be incredibly boring. If a bunch of weirdos decided to run in a line in front of my house, no way would I be encouraging that.

The route was really, really beautiful. The sun started to come out as I reached the road along the coast. The beautiful views distracted me for a while from the pain and general boredom of trying to make myself move quickly.

Freshwater Beach. I was so tempted to throw myself into the sea instead of finishing.

I broke my personal best for ‘longest continuous jog’, a record previously standing at 20 minutes, now at 27. Having done basically no training, I was planning to just walk really fast, but everyone at the start was running, and I guess I got caught up in the general enthusiasm.

This was a terrible idea, as once people had seen me jogging, they looked and spoke to me like I was One Of Them, so I felt obliged to break into a run every now and then so as not to disappoint them, or the spectators. My mum was jogging too, so I ended up keeping pace with her. A half marathon is 13 miles long. Half way through, I was pretty tired, but enjoying it. By the time there were 4 miles to go, I felt pain in my leg, left thigh muscles for some reason hating me. It had been hurting the day before as well, one of the random pains I seem to get all the damn time for no good reason. I figured I could write it off as hypochondria like I usually do, but I was wrong.

For the last two miles I was powered only by cursed rage, hate for all the children lining the route with encouraging signs, hate for oxygen and humans and running and most of all, hate for myself for my terrible life choices. Getting back into Tenby, the end was near. I caught up with Mum. Reaching a corner, a woman said, ‘Only two more corners to go. You’ve got to run now, there are people there!’

And there were people. Hundreds of them lining the streets cheering, including brother, aunty and uncle who had already finished and were waiting to high five us on the final stretch. A PA announced our names as we jogged through the streets and through the finish arch which was topped with flames. Tacky dance music (sorry, I mean pumping motivational beats) blared as the mayor of Tenby shook our sweaty hands and I felt momentarily better, ie. I didn’t throw myself to the floor gasping, as I had envisaged, but rather walked to get my medal without falling over.

We finished in 3 hours 3 minutes. I came 273rd, with a pace of 4.2mph. Aunty who did actually walk the whole thing came in 25 minutes afterwards. Bro was the fastest with 1h 55, because he exercises. Other Aunty had actually done the cycling event the day before, because she might actually be insane. I’m really glad everyone finished, and nobody got injured. Everyone seemed to have some kind of fun, possibly. Only one uncle swore ‘NEVER AGAIN!’

I still have no idea why I did that, and today I’m so achy I can’t believe it. I don’t know why I’m surprised, even gentle walks leave me in pain half the time, because for some reason my muscles are persistently shite. My thighs hurt so bad I can hardly walk down stairs, although in a random blessing, my crappy knee is fine. Its movements have the usual weird grinding texture, but no pain. Right shoulder hurts for some weird reason, a lot more than the left one. I don’t appreciate the lack of symmetry. Altogether though, I’m pretty glad I tried that out, if only for the views of the coast and the psychological boost of finishing something. If I do it again I’ll train a bit so that I don’t suffer. Sporty aunty is already asking, ‘Next year then?’

Finishers medal
My prize for not falling down dead or throwing myself into the sea.
Turns Out I Can Run Further Than I Thought (I thought I could only run for 5 minutes)

Internet Service Resumes (for a limited time only)

I was doing so well at blogging, until I left my parents’ house and went back to the boat. I live on a rented narrowboat, sharing with a friend. It’s on the River Lea, in an unexpected green space hidden behind the inhuman desert of the North Circular. Boat life is fun, and has definitely made me more healthy. However, there is no internet, and any time you want electricity, it has to come from the generator. With both my phone and my laptop being old and knackered with terrible battery life, I’ve basically stopped bothering. It’s no fun being tied to a chugging generator, desperately trying to angle a dying phone into that one magic place where it will allow tethering.

It’s amazing, being offline. And because my phone is dead half the time as well, usually I’m unreachable. If anyone wants me to do anything, well, they’ll have to find me. And good luck with that, I’m hiding.

All that irresponsible avoidance is great fun, until I go visit somewhere with internet. Which seems to be happening a lot lately, what with family parties and therapy appointments and sporting events. (Yes, I am doing a Sport Thing. This improbable turn of events will be explained in my next post.) I came up to my parents’ place on the train today, and have sat down in the luxurious surroundings, reveling in the squashy faux-leather swivel chair and multiple, always-on plug sockets, connected to the internet for the first time in about a fortnight.

My email inbox is up to 3,400 unread, and that’s just in the main folder. Activist discussions and alerts pile on top of unanswered eBay questions and graduate job alerts for positions that I never apply for. Something I sold on eBay got mysteriously returned to me by Royal Mail, and the buyer is wondering where the hell it is. Evictions have been resisted, meetings held, books launched, all without my knowing.

Instead of blogging, I’ve gone back to scrawling in a notebook while I’m on the boat. But every time I visit civilization, I bring my laptop with me. It’s heavy as hell, but I’ve carried this machine up and down the country probably hundreds of times, not to mention to India and back. I don’t generally get emotionally attached to machines, but this one has been with me a long time. It’s nice to be sat typing this.

Punk laptop decorated with stickers including 'No Gods No Masters' 'Punk - not dead yet...' and a diplodocus
And it’s so beautifully decorated.

I don’t think I’m cut out for the off-network life. Time to get a wireless dongle that actually works? I know I can’t live well in the modern world, or do the best at my writing, without the internet and electricity. I need to make myself at least drag myself to pub or cafe with wifi a couple of times a week. But my bike broke, and computers are heavy! Not to mention the bulky cooling fan mat I have to take with it, because even when it isn’t 36 degrees like it was today, this thing has a tendency to melt itself.

Eventually, I’m going to have to get money together somehow, and spend it on technology instead of drugs. Much as it pains me to to do so, the investment will be worthwhile if it lets me draw a balance between idyllic off-grid boat life and the social life and writing impetus I get online.

Internet Service Resumes (for a limited time only)