Saturday, 26 October 2013

Bridget Jones - Critisisms and Lessons

Having seen the spoilers, out of curiosity I read the new Bridget Jones' Diary instalment. 

My curiosity was how was someone who may not know the widow experience*, write about the widow experience?  Honestly, pretty well, taking into account it is Bridget Jones we're talking about, and she is 5 years into the journey & I'm 18 months.  At least in part, her experience is familiar to me.  Particularly being left on your own to raise young children. 

The widowhood experience is something that is very, very difficult to comprehend until you've been there.  I had not concept before it happened, and the reviews I've read seem to support that; I don't feel there is a widow amongst the critics I've read.  So the book is generally being panned.

Firstly, it was never going to be a contender for the Man Booker - it's chick-lit people.  Take it as such.

One comment that crops up is she's again a singleton/cougar, therefore reverting to type.

Firstly, she's still Bridget. And the singleton/dating scenario is the premise of her character - it's what the first two books were about, why wouldn't the third? 

And I hate to break the 'happy happy joy joy' view that spouses don't up and die on you until you've reached a ripe old age, but we widows are out there. In large numbers. You'll be surprised how many younger widows (and widowers) there are from accidents, suicide, cancer and other medical conditions and illnesses.  And some do want to re-partner down the track, so the fact Bridget's looking (and frankly, only starts at the 5 year mark, with the pressure of her friends - without that she may not have), is also a reality.  This doesn't even cover those divorcees who also find themselves single again in their 30's, 40's and 50's.

Another critique is that she's still a social klutz.  Again, she's still Bridget.  Mark's influence may well have reduced some of those tendencies through her marriage, but the stress and trauma of widowhood may well have brought them out in force again. Widowhood does change your world view and may change your personality in part, but it's not necessarily a complete personality transplant, which one critic I read seemed to expect.  In fact, that she was a social klutz to start with it's not surprising, she remains one. "Widow brain" (that I've heard a lot of long-timers talk about still experiencing, and may be a PTSD manifestation), is likely to amplify rather than dull this trait of Bridget's. The descriptor of 'foundering' by another character actually describes the experience pretty well; floundering is also apt.

Some raise a timing issue of Bridget being 51, with her youngest child a 5 year old.  This rankled with me initially too, but on reflection, we don't know if both kids were the result of a long effort of assisted reproduction (ART), or even egg donor.  It's possible for the 5 year old to be from a Frozen Embryo Transfer.  And it's her contemporaneous diary, there's no real reason for her to mention it (except for back-story, and Fielding chose not to cover it in back story).  That it's automatically assumed that both are natural pregnancies also shouts to the lack of familiarity in the broader world with the infertility experience. Heck, I did it and I HAVE the IF experience!

Some may argue that Bridget talks about Mark's death, why not any (potential) ART?  Having also been through both, you tend to focus on and re-visit the loss of your husband, not what it took to have your child(ren).  And the loss of a spouse is something that hums away in the background and then intensifies to crippling clarity at the drop of a hat.  It's something I've learned to expect to be life-long.

Early in the book it's mentioned that Mark left her a wealthy woman - this is another of the criticisms; that she's rich so it's not reality. First, they were wealthy to start with, and rich people die, too.  Plus he had made sure everything was in place, just in case - as is stated in the book.

Although really just a passing comment, this is the biggest lesson I see to the general readership of the book.  Mark had made sure that his family would be secure.  Mr Trifectagirl and I had not gotten around to getting things in place even though we'd planned to, but our superannuation system meant I've at least been left with a secure roof over J and I's head.   I've encountered a number of widows both on and off line that are not so secure. There was no insurance, or no ability to get insurance, or limited superannuation. They have no choice but to work, and/or they loose their homes when they're still in the depths of grief.  Making sure both partners are adequately insured to keep the family secure is a great lesson from the book.

The upshot is there were moments that cut close to the bone, but it was an overall enjoyable, easy chick-lit read giving an insight into the widow experience through the lens of Bridget Jones.

*in checking, no Helen Fielding has not experienced widowhood. She's obviously done some good research in writing this book. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


My mum and step-father used to make their own laundry detergent, known in the family as 'gloop'.

After the large supply of commercial powder that Mr Trifectagirl was finished some 12 months after he got sick - he'd bought a lot - I started making gloop again as a budget measure.


1 cake of pure soap
1 cup washing soda
1 tsp eucalyptus oil

20 or 10 litre plastic container, old cheese grater, old saucepan (4 litre a good idea)

Time to make: about one cycle of my washing machine - probably about half an hour, but I really haven't watched the clock.

Heat 2 litres of water in the saucepan.

While the water is heating, grate the soap (this is a PITA job - I can't wait until J is old enough to help).

Add the grated soap to the saucepan and bring to the boil - watch it as this has the ability to over boil like milk.  I upgraded to a large stock pan that I found at a second-hand store for this batch after getting jack of cleaning over flows up, and I still had a mess to clean up.

I usually add the extra water to my bucket at this time (see quantity below).

Add the soda and stir until melted.  Forewarning - the soda will cause a reaction that could result in an over-flow if your pan is too small (my old over flow problem).

Pour the mix into your plastic container, and add the eucalyptus oil, and stir to mix.

For a 20 litre container, add 9 litres of hot water and 8 litres of cold water - this results in a claggy mix and use 2-4 cups per load.

I use a 10 litre container and add 3.5 litres of hot water and 4 litres of cold water.  This mix sets pretty solid and I use about 2 cups per load. 

I find this mix lasts a month or so, and at a rough, back of the envelop calculation costs $2 per bucket to make using higher quality ingredients.

 And the best thing about the new pot - all my bits and bobs for making gloop fit in it.  I can put on the lid and put it away until next time.

I've included this post in the Homemade Mondays link party over at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity.