Thursday, August 23, 2012

When you just need fifty shades of grey.

Bonkbusters leave me cold. If I read a sex-and-shopping novel I find the shopping more interesting than the sex. In fact reading any novel I'm likely to skim over the sex bits, muttering, "Oh, get on with the plot!"

So I'm not likely to grab a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, the mummy porn book with record-breaking sales that has been described by the unkind as having the plot and literary style of Twilight with S&M thrown in. Needless to say I didn't read Twilight either. I had two reviews of it, one from a friend's vacuous teenage daughter who had re-read her copy so often it had fallen apart and could only bubble with incoherent delight and a lot of 'like's about the characters, and a snort of disgust from my intellectual stepson who said it was a poorly-written bit of fluff that set women's lib back fifty years.

But I do have a need for fifty shades of grey.

Or at least more than five.

I'm getting back into painting and drawing, and treated myself to a set of oil pastels last Monday. I've been using soft pastels and after chatting with some artist friends decided to give oil pastels a try. Soft pastels are great fun, amazingly messy, vividly coloured, but they do tend to smudge at the slightest touch and need fixatives. Too much fixative changes their colours, which is exceedingly annoying. Having just got back from holiday and into drawing scenes from Paris with soft pastels, my first few efforts, while not fab as I'm out of practice, were ruined by fixatives.

So. The oils. Great. They only smudge when you want them to. Realistically they don't need fixatives either, which is a huge bonus. But in drawing urban scenes, I found one thing lacking. A pale enough grey. I'd taken the precaution of buying extra greys as well as the set of 48, knowing I would need them. But it's hard to find one that's just a smudge darker than white, that colour that is just perfect for highlights, for sunshine falling on asphalt.

The beauty of oil pastels is that they blend like oil paints, you can smudge and blend and coerce, and use turpentine on them too if you want to meld and blur and blend. So yes, I could blend white with a darker grey, and did. But still... there is that particular pale shade I'm still searching for and that doesn't appear to exist across the major, well-made brands of pastel.

That aside, the first drawing I did with my oil pastels surprised me. I did it in three hours on Monday night (I am an impatient git), and was delighted at the workability of the pastels themselves. I am using Caran D'Ache pastels as research told me they are the softest and easiest to blend; their range of 96 colours is pretty good too.

Suddenly I got my groove back. My drawing turned out as I intended it to in terms of colour, composition and crispness. I'm happy with this.
And now you can see why I need fifty shades of grey!

Friday, August 10, 2012

e-cig or i-fag? You decide

Earlier this year I gave up smoking. Sadly, this attempt at staying nicotine-free didn't last as long as I'd liked. After ten days I had a truly crap day at work and, stressed to my teeth, took up the habit again. Yes, I know I deserve to be smacked.

I have tried the Nicorette inhaler as a means of giving up; it's a little plastic thing that looks like a miniature jet turbine and you insert a capsule of nicotine into it. It's horrible. It is hard on your throat and makes you cough.

My problem is that there are situations where I deeply crave a cigarette:

  • First thing in the morning when I open my email after breakfast and find up to 70 emails, most of them jokes or dross, but usually quite a few that need attention and they are all 'important' or 'urgent'. This sends me into stress mode and I have to walk away and procrastinate about which to handle first, and to do this I head outside with a cigarette. 
  • When I can't get the right words to flow for something I'm writing or designing. It's amazing how a cigarette out in the garden can magically bring forth the perfect phrase or design idea
  • When I'm having a drink. Wine and fags just go together
  • When anything else stresses me - it's an excuse to walk away from the problem for a moment
  • When I'm with friends who smoke

Now looking at this list it covers a lot of my daily activities. This is not good for my health.

I've just come back from a month in the UK and Paris, where I enjoyed my cigarettes but to a lesser degree in terms of actual consumption. We did a lot - and I mean a LOT - of walking over there and my fitness has improved, so that is also a reason for me stopping the fag addiction now I'm back to my usual routine.

A close friend of mine in the UK, Pete, has also unsuccessfully tried to give up the habit, but he has found a solution that I've adopted.

E-Cigarettes. Or i-Fags as G calls them.

These are devices which look and feel like a cigarette but use water and glycerine flavoured with food flavourings and heated up with a battery so you suck and blow flavoured steam. You believe you are smoking. For someone who uses cigarettes for the reasons I do it's the perfect solution. I can keep smoking - or vaping as it's actually called - without inhaling addictive nicotine or harmful tar and chemicals.

In the UK you can buy nicotine juice to go in your e-cig, which Pete has done, but in Australia it's not legal to sell true nicotine juice. People have been hospitalised for nicotine poisoning incorrectly using e-cigs and e-cig sales have been banned in Victoria as a result. You can apparently import it but I'm all for getting rid of the nicotine habit and just fulfilling my need to suck and blow on something (no rude jokes here please... oh, bugger, go on then!). I tried Pete's e-cigs when we stayed with him for a night and was impressed.

So I have ordered and received my pack of i-Fags with plain tobacco-flavoured juice, no nicotine. I got it yesterday, charged it up and took a puff. It actually tastes nicer than real ciggies. I have ordered menthol flavoured refills and also...heh heh... strawberry flavoured. You can get a range of fruit flavourings.

When I was away I bought a carton of duty free cigs which I thought would see me out until I had the money together to buy the e-cig kit, which was about $145 with all the refills etc. Once you've got the kit keeping yourself puffing steam costs about $5 a week for the average vaper. Cost saving and health saving. Anyway I was keen to just get the kit and get started on the e-cigs, so took the money out of my budget, and gave the remainder of the carton (well, most of the carton!) last night to a friend who smokes.  I also tried to interest her in the e-cig :-).

This morning when I did my stint outside after checking the email I had a nicotine-free 'smoke'. It felt just like I'd had a normal cigarette. Only now my clothes and hair don't stink.

It's the habit you have when you're not having the habit. I like it.

Update: Four days later. Not craving real ciggies AT ALL.  The i-Fag is doing the job!