Friday, 27 July 2012

# 102 Creative finances

There is no doubt that potentially running out of cash leads to one searching for ever more creative ways to make money. Ebay of course is probably the first point of call. Anything that isn't nailed down and is worth a few quid is likely to be on your hit list. And creating space is good, right?

Thankfully, years of hoarding are now paying off for me and as I wanted to clear out anyway this is definitely killing two birds with one stone. I keep turning up all sorts of hidden gems that are keeping my landlord happy and food in my fridge.

Ebay - helping people sell their crap to other people (source)
But there are so many more ways you can make money. I found this on xoJane today which did make me laugh but it also made me think 'hang on a minute!'

I've actually seen these sorts of listings on ebay as well. I don't know if sellers are making much money but how easy is this???? I am ALMOST tempted to do it. Hell, I WOULD do it. I've actually checked out craiglist and it's loaded with adverts for 'used underwear for sale'. Clearly this is not an unusual way of making a quick buck.

And then there are lists like this. From barbeques to parking spaces anything goes. People are even renting out their possessions. But hang on, haven't they been doing that in London for some time now? Yes they have, and here's the proof. For £12.50 a day you can rent a private drive way in Victoria, London - for example.

Rent a pet - the dog of your dreams for just a day (source)
You can even rent out pets. Surely not. Oh yes, go here to rent a pet. I wonder if there is a site where you can rent a child? For those people that want kids but really don't have the space or time for them.  I guess that's called child minding huh? But I did check on Google, just in case.....

Once I have exhausted my stash of saleable items I'm not sure what to try out next. I have a lot of books, but I kind of need them for the foreseeable future and there's no money to be made in selling my clothes on ebay.

Perhaps I will work as a phone sex chat line operator or start a dog walking service or become a house sitter? Now there's a good idea. If I could set enough of those up, I might not even need a place to live. The mind boggles.......

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

# 101 Feet first

If there is one thing I have always been good at it's jumping in feet first, putting all my eggs into one basket and throwing all caution to the wind. It's the thing my parents dread, because I have done it often and it always bounces back and bites me hard on the arse. And I have always been the one to pay the price.

But EVENTUALLY you do learn the lessons and subconsciously I can confidently say that I have, although not everyone would agree.

I read this little gem today by xojane 'Move in Together, But For God's Sake, Keep Your Couch'. Optimistic young loves will not understand this article and many people will never have to worry about having to deal with these issues, but it's been one of the overriding factors of my life and the hardest lesson I've had to learn so far.

I've always jumped hard and fast into relationships. My self preservation attitude meant keeping costs down by going double dutch on everything and in many respects it made sense since I, and my partners, were never able to financially support ourselves independantly for long. I guess it was just practical at the time. But the fall out was always hard and picking up the pieces miserable.

Despite that I have never shared finances beyond rent and bills. I never had a joint mortgage, bank account or gave up my hard earned savings for anyone (well perhaps once). Now I can honestly say I own not very much of anything. My prize possession is my four poster king size bed. That I won't be giving up any time soon. Apart from that and the tools of my trade, there isn't much else for me to sacrifice these days since I live in a part furnished house. Quite an achievement for a reformed hoarder.

Swinging full circle happened unexpectedly, and I think it's the fear of being alone which is pushing me to take everything in life slower and with more caution, from house moves, to emotional entanglements. I have realised that I have to protect every aspect of my life since, I am sorry to say, nothing is forever and everything in my life currently feels like it sits on a precarious knife edge.

It helps when the people around you give you a dose of reality check every once in a while, even if that makes you sad. Keeping your feet firmly on the ground may be practical but it's not half as fun. I guess that's just one of the things you have to learn to love.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

# 100 Social media timebomb

I have 699 friends on my Facebook profile. Of those, I know or have actually met 442 of them. Of the remaining 257 I have 'virtually' worked with probably about a third (ie lent clothing by post for shoots I didn't attend). Of the remainder they are generally people I have added through mutual friends and therefore probably have industry things in common with - writers, designers, stylists, makeup artists, photographers and models. Some of these people I will work with, some of them I have talked to on the internet and never quite managed to work with, but one day hopefully will.

Sometimes I allow people I do not know at all to add me, but it's rare, and every so often I have a 'friend cull' and remove those people I either don't know, or once added realised I had no interest in anything they had to say. 

I know people who have very few friends on their Facebook and even some who rarely use it, like my brother who seems to only pop past once a month or so to say 'hi I'm still here'. But as I use my Facebook for business as well, the temptation to add people who may one day be useful contacts is hard to avoid and I do add people I would like to work with or who's work I admire. The cross over is therefore quite high between my business and my personal life, hence the number of friends I have there.

Nev, the star of Catfish (source)
I mentioned in a recent blog a film called 'Catfish'. If you haven't seen it, do. It'll make you think very carefully about what you put online in future and perhaps even who you talk to online. If you're slightly unhinged, it might even give you some ideas.

I won't spoil the plot but basically it's about a family the main character 'Nev' meets on Facebook and how the story of their actual meeting evolves. It's disturbing and if nothing else, a warning.

I don't know the statistics for fake profiles but I probably have a few on mine. I know that when I was younger I used to make up fake characters on myspace. It's incredibly easy to do. I have no idea why I did it, I guess I thought they'd be more interesting than my real persona. Those days are long behind me.

If I do meet people from Facebook that I've never met it's always as part of a group or through a personal recommendation ie a photographer to work with or as part of a shoot with a team.

We don't hear much about those individuals who ran into problems when meeting people for the first time through social media. But it's a forgone conclusion that murders, rapists and child abusers would find it a useful aid to targeting potential new victims. Cases like this can't be that rare surely?  A search of Google turns up countless cases of (particularly girls and young women) meeting a sticky end thanks to the joys of Facebook.

How safe are your kids? (source)
But how can you police such a thing? For under 16s it has to come down to the parents but with the internet such an easily accessible part of life, how do you stop anyone from accessing it?

We have an enormous amount of freedom with regards to social media in the UK. Perhaps that's a bad thing? There are countries where most of the internet is censored or under surveillance and I was surprised to discover that there are no less than 51 countries on some level of censorship or surveillance including Italy and Australia! Most of them are to do with terrorism but there are countries that just don't want their residents seeing or doing anything that doesn't fit general social niceties such as social networking, pornography and news. Does this mean they are safer? Probably not and probably they have other things to worry about.

But with Facebook and similar social networks so popular it pays to follow a little social media etiquette to stay safe and keep yourself out of harms way. It's also interesting how people complain when the Government announces plans to monitor our personal internet traffic etc and yet you're probably making life easy for them, by posting most of your life on your Facebook wall. Think about it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

# 99 A Not So Scary Movie

I set myself a challenge this week to find the scariest movies I could. I don't mean blood, gore and violence. There will never be anything better than the Aliens trilogy for me in that respect. No, I was looking for psychologically scary. The kind of films that, even as an adult, have you sleeping with the light on. I love to be genuinely scared, for my mind to play tricks on me. That's the only thing that really scares me these days. But it rarely happens and it's getting increasingly hard to find movies which capture my imagination. Perhaps it's me, perhaps it's the movie makers. I'm not sure.

I was impressed by productions like the original 'Amityville Horror' and 'The Blair Witch Project'. Both these films were billed with 'real life stories behind them' hype. Amityville was supposed to be based on a true account and everyone believed that and The Blair Witch Project was cleverly marketed with an online website style build up that gave it an authentic edge and left viewers guessing as to its origins. If a film can convince you that it might actually be true, there's an added edge that potentially can have you scared out of your wits.

The Blair Witch Project played on its documentary style filming 
to convince its viewers it might not be a made up film (source)

'The Others' was a good one for keeping you guessing and 'The Ring' was just plain freaky but it did the trick. But what's out there now to impress? And I wondered whether it was because films just weren't that good anymore, or that we had become so desensitised to violence, fear and out of the ordinary that the movies just didn't cut it anymore.

I do have a soft spot for documentary style films where you don't necessarily see anything leaving your imagination to do most of the work. Blair Witch kind of started it for me, but 'Catfish' is another good one. It's not that scary but it certainly makes you think, and it definitely had an eerie element to it. Both these films went through the 'were they fake' style debates because the filming style was 'POV'.

The stars of 'Catfish' who showed us how vulnerable we are when 
we expose ourselves to social media (source)

'Paranormal Activity' was another one to to use this style although they used the medium of CCTV footage and camcorder style family shooting to give their film a new perspective. It works well because the CCTV action whilst mostly mundane is the stuff you need to watch. Every time you see it you're expecting something to happen, and rarely does it, but you are constantly left on edge expecting something to occur. When it does of course, like the family you find reasons to justify what's happened. Most of the time.....

Paranormal Activity used the medium of home movies and CCTV to create 
a movie. The night time CCTV imagery is a powerful tool

I've tried a number of films this week but none of them have really inspired me despite the recommendations. I'm beginning to think there is something rather warped about me. I am not easily impressed! I've been advised to watch some Japanese horror. Their films are less violent and far more psychological so I'll be giving them a go. Hopefully I'll find what I'm looking for. Watch out for part two of this blog, coming soon.....

Sunday, 15 July 2012

# 98 Who wants to be a grown up anyway?

Two articles from popped up in as many minutes on my Facebook this week. This and this.

I may not be as young as I was, but I can still remember how conceited, rebellious and just downright bloody annoying I was. I put myself off wanting kids because I can remember being one! I recollect a time when I was so passionate about certain music or films that I became obsessed by them. Now I just cringe when I come across them.

Our perspectives change. The way you feel now will not be the same way you feel in 5 or 10 years no matter what you might think. It's just the way it is, because LIFE shapes you. It is inevitable and you cannot stop it, unless you decide to live in a box all your life and that would be just stupid.

I have a saying - 'I wish I'd listened to my mother'. This, she is rightfully flattered by (oh yes, I did tell her). And I wish I had. I guess a lot of us did. Looking back the advice was quite right. But let's face it, who's kids actually listen to their parents and follow their advice voluntarily? I wasn't the most rebellious child in the village but I certainly wasn't good as gold, and damn did I pay for those rebellious mistakes.Of course, without them I wouldn't be where I am now. Make of that what you will.

That, as you get older, you will become more cyncial, wiser, tougher, and perhaps even like me, less caring about the things that riled you as a teen, is a truth. As you enter the real world, after education, after the University bubble has burst, after you discover that standing up on your own two feet sucks, you will be frustrated and bemused by the way public services work, discover that customer services give anything but, that lovers will cheat on you, that grown up friends will behave just the same as when they were at school, that the food you love will make you fat and that life will become a vicious cycle of work and bills strung together by over enthusiastic bouts of shopping - that temporary plaster that always leads to misery.

Ummm, yes it is
Being vegetarian will not change the way the food industry works and refusing to drive will not reduce our carbon footprint. But of course, that won't stop you giving it a go. If things are going to change, they will just change.

Some of your dreams will inevitably get lost along the way. If you're lucky you'll get a second chance on them. You will discover that you cannot change the world by ranting and raving on Facebook or protesting outside some faceless corporate monstrosity. And one day you'll wake up, hit 30 and think what the f*** happened there?

When I was in my 20s things were much easier. My relationships were a bit hit and miss, but I had work (even if I wasn't following my dream), I went on holiday abroad twice a year, I found it easy to run a car on my wages, I saw my parents regularly. This has changed and right now there's not a lot I can do about it. I made my choices, I took risks that may or may not pay off. It's all a game you see.

There are few philosophies I have followed throughout, except self reliance and that moral code I speak of sometimes. And of course this, because no matter what generation you come from, this always seems strangely relevant. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

# 97 Why I hate labels

When I was a kid, I hated being lumped in with the crowd. I wanted to do my own thing and not be branded. We called them sheep. I don't know if that description still applies these days. I wanted to be the one that did things differently and didn't fit in with the crowd. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

But it's one of the few character traits that have remained with me all my life. It's why I never go and see a film with the masses the first week it comes out (partly because the hype is usually grossly overrated) and I don't bother with mainstream music until I've missed the boat. Even then I generally pick between albums and take out songs I like rather than bands. It's just the way I am.

Now, I don't know many feminists. I'm not even sure I fully understand the term. I am confused by women who claim to be feminists and then do things which totally contradict what I understand feminism to be. Maybe that is what being a feminist is all about. I'm not sure.

According to Wikipedia (that fountain of knowledge):

Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is "an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women."

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that I have no interest in feminism. I am what I am and I don't need to have that kind of label stamped on me. I am an individual. Apart from anything else I do not feel the urge to jump up and down every time something happens real or virtual which doesn't fit my social agenda and makes me feel victimised for my sex. Some times you can get paranoid and take things too seriously and too much to heart.

Doesn't this just get your back up? Source

And I guess this must make me one of the lucky few because I have never felt a need to define, establish or defend my rights. I have never felt unequal, I have never felt segregated or marginalised or singled out in the workplace. And it isn't as if I have lead a sheltered life. I've been out in the real world for a long time now, I've exposed myself to some pretty harsh realities and offbeat walks of life I wouldn't have experienced if I'd towed the line.

I've worked in many business sectors particularly so called 'male dominated' industries, had a number of long term relationships with men and have always been independent and self sufficient. My decisions were my own and the mistakes I made the same. And I rectified them myself as well. Just because that's what you do.I never had anyone else to blame for the way my life ended up.

You might say 'well what about those women who don't or haven't been as lucky as you?' Well yes, but I haven't lived their lives, I don't know what it's like to be them, and so standing up and fighting for the rights of someone who's life I know nothing about and cannot even begin to comprehend contradicts a lot of what I am about.  In fact, it's a bit patronising in some ways. It's not how I operate.

I guess if, god forbid, I was raped I would suddenly be campaigning for rape victims rights, or if I was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing I'd be campaigning for tighter sentences on bad drivers. But I haven't and so I don't. You cannot campaign for everything and my personal feeling is that standing up for something you have no direct experience of is an empty voice. What if you do more damage than good because you didn't understand the implications of what you were actually doing? There are plenty of people out there already who have experienced those things. Let them campaign.

I enforce a moral code based on my own life experiences and I help the people I know as best I can based on this. I may not have direct experience of their problems so I can only impart advice and how I would handle something in the same given situation but I would never bang on about it or force my ideals on people and I would never shout someone down just because I didn't agree with them.

I'm just getting tired of not being able to have a conversation without someone trying to force political agendas down my throat. It's wearing and it's making me completely disinterested in talking about anything of consequence because I seem to be tripped up at every turn.

It's been interesting to find so much writing in a similar vein on the internet. I like their stance although how they came to those conclusions has been very different to mine. Try xojane or alyssaroyse for a more positive stance on not being a feminist and the reasons why. That these women walked away from it for different reasons and not least because they experienced life, is interesting. If you're going to dig your heels in on your opinions and code, get some clarity on the situation. See it from every angle. Live in the real world and then come back with the same philosophy and say it stands up to interrogation.

To me, lived experiences are too complex to carve apart. 
And maybe feminists do need a space that is just about gender, but 
that’s not a space for me, because nothing in my world is that simple. 
That's OK. I don't need to be in every space.

Rant over.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

# 96 The best naturism on the internet

Now that I am managing a small private Facebook group for younger naturists in the Midlands, my interest in other people's writings has really taken off as I populate our wall with interesting links.

Some of the best ones I have seen are on Tumblr - a site I have never really got to grips with - and Wordpress. I've read some incredibly powerful and thoughtful entries on body image both positive and negative, read about people's journeys into naturism as they come to terms with who and what they are, seen a lot of inspiring photographs and have had aspects of my life given a massive reality check.

So I thought I'd share some of my favourite places with you all because I want you to know how awesome some of these people are.

My absolute favourite at the moment is this Tumblr site Fat and Naked. It's run by Cadenza who hails from the USA and embraces her curves in every possible way. And you know what she loves the way she looks. And she looks amazing!

At Home Clothes Free is another site full of interesting bits and pieces. It gathers its entries from all over the internet meaning I don't have to trawl sites for hours. I even found my blog posting from 28th June on there the other day. Kudos!

At Home Clothes Free Source
Project Naked is loaded with personal stories about body image. There are some really heart warming tales and also some very sad ones. Read it if you're in any doubt about your perceptions of yourself.

Another one I've really enjoyed for its positive message is which covers many aspects of naturism and body positive imagery.

The one all encompassing feature of these sites is that your body is your body and no matter what you look like being naked is cool. Naturism is essentially non sexual. It's about being clothes free and nothing more, whether you're an at home secret naturist or you go to clubs, beaches or like to swim naked.

And if you remove the sexual aspect of it, much of our prejudice towards the body and its aspirations to perfection, quickly dissipate which says a lot about the society we live in.

Don't forget it's the Great British Skinny Dip 2012 this weekend. Do something new. Just do it!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

# 95 Money Can't Buy You Happiness But I'd Rather Cry in a Ferrari

I've read some particularly relative articles this week. One I spotted in The Guardian 'Being an unemployed female graduate, as not seen in the movies' came from their 'The Graduate without a future section'. Inspiring huh? Not for the 100,000 plus graduates facing the reality of having to find work in 2012. Graduate unemployment levels apparently match those of school leavers which raises several questions. Worse still articles like this one from the BBC make very sober reading. But why am I not surprised?

I (perhaps rather stupidly depending on how you look at it) decided to get my education in reverse. I suppose circumstances dictated it. I left school having hated most of it and after several poorly paid but interesting jobs and two years at college acquiring one of the most useless qualifications in existence (a BTEC) I landed on my feet when I discovered I was a pretty good PA. I was happily and permanently employed in a number of office positions for more than 10 years. I got a shed load of positive work experience, learnt a hell of a lot about organisation, work ethics and money and rose to a pretty respectable salary to boot. I'm pleased to say that in my entire life I've only ever spent 6 months signing on for jobseekers. And that was 20 years ago so I think I've had a very lucky escape to date.

But I sacrificed it all in 2009 for a belated University education in Lincoln and now, having completed my three years, I am trying to run my own business. Office work, whilst lucrative, was always a stop gap not a career. It was however a pretty long stop gap and I could see my life rapidly disappearing in front of my eyes. Sound familiar? It scared me more than taking the risk and it got to the point where I had to make a decision. I made a lot of sacrifices to get here. Has it been worth it? I'm not sure yet. I'll have to take a rain check on that one.

So I was interested in the Guardian article I mentioned at the start of this blog. It rings true for the most part although I didn't agree with the bit about my 20s and I certainly wasn't a typical student. I was far happier financially in my 20s if nothing else, and that has to count for something. I'd be happy to go back and do them again with some of the hindsight I've picked up over the years.

My 30s have been more of a struggle that's for sure. And there's no doubt that making big changes in your life when things are supposed to be getting easier and you're meant to be settling down is a risky business that you may never recover from in times of recession.

Thankfully I've never really been the settling down kind, which is undoubtedly why I was able to make those risky choices which allowed me to do what I wanted with the employable years I have left. I may have had a lucky escape from that fate, but what lies ahead is far from certain.

So, here I am, mid recession, setting up a business and kind of wondering where the next pay packet is going to come from. It's scary. Sometimes I wonder what on earth I was thinking. But three years ago, with a student grant, my outgoings streamlined to the last penny and thinking that it would probably see me through the recession it seemed like a phenomenally good idea. Now I've been let loose into the big grown up world again and the recession is most definitely still here I'm getting a little shaky.

Perhaps I should string out my education for as long as I can, but post under-grad where would I get the funding? Should I quit whilst I'm ahead and go back to office? Well sadly it doesn't work like it used to. You have to jump through hoops just to get a week's temp work because the standard of staff has become so bad you can't trust agencies (so I was told). Plus the fortunes that were thrown about for temporary staff just aren't there anymore and everyone is watching their budgets. Besides which this is not really going to be an option. I didn't come all this way to default back to where I was three years ago. And whilst moving to a bigger city with potentially more jobs has it's appeal do I really want to quit now?

It's not all about money. But everything sure looks a lot rosier when you have some. Money can't buy you happiness but I'd rather cry in a Ferrari.

And you know what. I would.