Friday, 6 September 2013

This blog has moved

I have decided to migrate this blog over to Wordpress. It'll work in the same way, just have a different look. You can find it here with a new name. I hope you'll follow me there.

# 88 (2013) Ironic Is What I Call That

Post my blog of 4th September (#86 (2013) It's Not That I'm Lazy, I'm Just Inspired) I posted a plea to my Facebook asking if someone could give me an interesting job so I didn't have to go back into office work. Low and behold that same afternoon my agency found me a job. And so begins the manic fluster of activity as I reschedule my business clients and try to find some assemblance of office wear.

It's temporary but it could suck me in for the rest of my life if I choose to go down that dependent route. It's a receptionist job for a car sales company. Oh the mind numbingness of it all. But it is only 3 hours a day.

Sure, I can piss around on phones for 3 hours a day can't I? The money is epically bad, but if I can just get the taxman to stop taking what is not rightfully his, I might be able to muster just enough together to pay my bills.So Monday it begins. And we'll see how that pans out.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

# 87 (2013) So You Want To Be Your Own Boss?

It sounds like a cushy option doesn't it? Running your own business. Your own hours and the money's all yours. But wait. There are a few things you should consider before going it alone. Here's the hard sell. Still think you've got what it takes? Then read on and see if you think you could survive your first two years in business.

1. Are you good with money?

If there is one thing you will learn about going it alone it's that money does not grow on trees. If you can't resist the Topshop sale or a Sunday plurge at Primark or your cupboards are brimming with multipack deals from the supermarket you might want to reconsider your options. What's your food budget? A good way to see if you're buying savvy is check the sell by dates on everything in your cupboards. Now ask yourself how much food you throw away at the end of the week because you've not used it in time?

If your cupboards are full of branded products and unnecessary luxuries you should be taking a hard look at how much you're spending or think about being less of a brand snob. It's money you can ill afford to lose if you want to maximise your profit margin each month. 

Learn to turn down the thermostat on your heating and turn off lights when you leave the room. Better still, get those energy saving bulbs. Yes the light is a bit shit but they do save you money. You can also turn down the stat on your fridge freezer. Oh yes you can.

2. Don't give freebies to friends or relatives

It sounds harsh but being generous to your nearest and dearest at the expense of your income could cost you your business. Charge them like everyone else or they will strip you bare in no time. I had a friend who had a cafe and gave away teas, coffees and cake to her friends whenever they came in. Within 6 months she was bankrupt and lost everything right down to roof over her head and her bank cards. By the time she had finished ruining them financially she and her two kids were sleeping in bed and breakfast waiting for a council house. Let that be a lesson to you.

3. Are you admin savvy?

Are you good with paperwork? Or do you put it aside on the promise of doing it later? Get into the habit of filing EVERYTHING as it comes in. It'll make your job come tax return time far less of a headache. Keep spreadsheets. If you don't know how to use them, learn. They are not difficult. If you are really crap at this sort of thing get an accountant or pay a friend to keep your paperwork up to date. It might cost you a few hundred but it could save you much more in the long term.

4. Streamline before you start

Wherever possible streamline your bills before you start. The less money you are haemorraging each month on non-avoidable payments the better. Pay off credit cards and loans if you can, reduce your outgoings wherever you see a way. I moved into a houseshare to keep my bills down. My biggest expense is my car which I need for business. My household bills come to less than £600 a month and I don't owe anybody anything. It means there are never any surprises around the corner.

5. Can you work from home?

This will save you money on travel, rent and you can claim back a bit of your heating and electricity through your tax return. But be mindful not to get lazy. Set office hours and stick to them.

6. Get some savings behind you

Believe me you will need this. Banks won't lend to you and you'll discover how quickly people disappear when you need a financial helping hand. The rule of thumb used to be always keep the equivilent of three months wages in the bank for emergencies. If you're running your own business this applies doubly. If there are months when you've fallen short in sales - which WILL happen, I guarantee it - having enough there to top up the shortfall so you can keep paying for your essentials is a very good thing. But (and refer back to point 1) don't think of it as an excuse to treat yourself.

7. Downsize your social life but not at the expense of your business

You might enjoy drinks out with your mates now, or a couple of meals out a week, but believe me this sort of thing kills your profit when you are making your own money. You  think you're skint now at the end of the month waiting for your paycheck? Wait til there is no regular paycheck. You will get lonely, you will wonder why you bothered, and eventually your friends will probably stop talking to you, but you wanted to run your own business right?

HOWEVER, don't miss business type opportunities such as events where you get to flash your business card. It's not an excuse to flash cash of course and don't wine and dine potential business clients out with your own money (you can't claim these on your tax return) but hobnobbing with other business people who may be good for you can only be a step in the right direction.

This is not an exhaustive list. I think there may at least be a part 2 to this blog entry. But these are the main things I think it's good to know about. After that, you start looking at the finer details. But I'll come back to those later. Are you running your own business or freelancing? What are your tips for keeping your head above water? Message me!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

# 86 (2013) I'm Not Lazy, I'm Just Uninspired

Every time I get a phone call from my agency my heart sinks. Because although I have signed up for admin / office work here in town (my background is as a PA) I know in my heart that the last thing I want to do is get sucked back into some sterile office environment shuffling paper around and trying to deflect office bitchiness between bored secretaries.

I had a temp job back in late Spring and when the six weeks were up I couldn't have been happier. Although to be fair it did lead to more interesting and better paid work two months later.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed 17 years in office work, being enthusiastic and happy. I guess the huge wads of cash I was earning back then sugared a bitter pill. Wages that just don't exist in admin these days. 

The truth of the matter is that despite being a bit short of cash at times as a freelance clothing designer, I would rather be doing this than working the 9 - 5. I am creative at heart and you can't reign that in for long. It needs an outlet. It was why I freelanced whilst I worked full time. But I was less jaded then, less cyncial about the industry and far more enthusiastic about long hours for little money.
I think if my regular job was industry related I'd be happy with that. But I have no retail experience so one of the areas I'd love to try (working in a fashion retail outlet) probably isn't going to happen any time soon. My other job of choice is as a writer, but who pays for writers these days?

So sometimes I deliberately sabotage my chances of getting temp jobs like not returning phone calls fast enough. Other times I just keep my fingers crossed that I won't get them - which I haven't. The wages are generally appalling, (the tax man makes it almost impossible to believe) and the work is mind numbingly easy. There seems to be no real challenge in office work these days.

In the short term I am still happy muddling along. There is some kind of buzz that I get from not knowing quite where the next pay check is coming from. A big sale (like the one I've just secured) will keep me going for several months but they aren't always so easy to come by. And until the right permanent job comes along (I feel it will somewhere along the line) this is how I'm going to play it.

Monday, 2 September 2013

# 85 (2013) Sharing Finances - Do You Don't You?

What is your stance on sharing finances with a partner? I have always been fiercely independent where money is concerned and have never shared a bank account with a partner, even ones I lived with for 8 years. And the reason? Because up until recently my 'other halves' have always been completely incapable with money.

To be fair, I am very good with my cash. I am a saver and am never pushed into hasty decisions by offers, deals or unguarded shopping sprees - no matter how tempted I may be. I am businesses nightmare. You won't catch me out.

I can't live hand to mouth like some people. I put money away for a rainy day. Whether it's a light April shower or a monsoon you should always be ready. I hate debt and avoid it at all costs. And I keep all my spends on excel spreadsheets so I know exactly what I am dealing with. I've always been like this, but going to Uni and then running my own business have shown me that what I am doing is the best way. If I hadn't, I'd be on benefits living in a council flat (if I was lucky) by now. As it stands, my income may not be so great at the moment, but I'm not panicking just yet. I have invested and watch the pennies and it's serving me well. Even four years on.

My opinions on sharing finances has never changed. And it never will, no matter whether I am the main earner or not. Sharing the bills on where you live is one thing. It's an even split. But as for everything else, it needs to be kept well away. I don't care what someone else is doing with their money, but bills come first. And I don't want my surplus cash dragged into the equation.

It's a vulnerable state to be in, having to rely on someone else for your finances. And I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.


Friday, 16 August 2013

# 84 (2013) Emotional Blackmail on the Internet (Or Why I Hate Memes)

I have a love hate relationship with Memes.

There are 'Somecards' which used to (but don't always now) make me smile. And there is emotional drivel like this which makes me want to punch my computer screen.

Only one person can have the best brother in the world. And 758 people thought they were them.
And then there are things like this which make no damn sense at all.

Yes you are. Books are books. People are people. They are not an adequate replacement. Get out of the fantasy. 

On top of that there are those ridiculous messages which tell you to share, like or retweet if you're their 'fweind'. For gods sake, it's like the chain mail letters that said you would die if you didn't forward it on to 10 friends by midnight. NOBODY ACTUALLY CARES!!!!!!!

Annoying but probably true
The occasional meme with a dozen cute kittens or a vulgar insult on it (combined into grumpy cat) I can handle. But why are we so addicted to this tripe and why do we think it enriches our lives?

Now I do post the occasional meme. I am not innocent of this by any means but I am making an effort to stop. And they have to be really good or incredibly relevant for me to forward them on.

Maybe posters get a buzz from seeing the number of likes and shares that result from flagging up something as mundane as this.Maybe they are bored or need reminding that not everyone has forgotten them. Whatever it is, I just wish they'd stop it. Because my Facebook feed is rapidly turning into a graveyard of pointlessness and annoyance.

There are crimes of fashion, but fashion has never been a crime. Get over it. 

Pointless. Utterly pointless.
It's an old phone. And? Do you like showing off how old you are?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

# 83 (2013) Why Womens Magazines Are Trash

I have never seen the value of buying womens magazines. If I want to be shamed about the way I look or how I spend my money or the social life I have I only have to follow the media or watch TV. What I don't need is it sitting on my coffee table as well.

Even my Facebook newsfeed is full of constant reminders I should be dieting, buying pointless beauty products and following some new celebrity fad. And where did the sudden influx of dieting adverts on Facebook come from anyway?

I leafed through someone else's copy of 'Closer' the other day. A more depressing and self absorbing rag you could not wish to read. It's why I stopped buying fashion magazines for research, because, apart from the ridiculous cover prices, they just made me hate myself.

Apparently they agreed to this comparison
Life's hard enough without comparing yourself to something that doesn't exist and if you're in the fashion industry it's always going to be a problem.

So reading about how someone has put on weight post baby or after a ridiculous amount of crash dieting and become a shockingly normal UK12 (which I hasten to add is below the UK national average) does nothing to make you feel positive about yourself, whether you are struggling with your weight or not.

One of the over all vibes I got from this magazine was that going from a size 8/10 to a 12 was BAD and deemed to be a failure. It's that constant pressure that being an average size just isn't enough.

Which is astounding when you walk around any town and see the level of obesity that's taking over our lives. Are these people ex-readers of magazines, failed dieters or what?

The competition to lose the baby weight fast. Let's not forget this is normal.
The intrusive nature of these articles with holiday snaps that celebs clearly did not pose for is at some level also quite hostile. Who has the right to debate on someone's weight regardless of how over or under they are? And if you're on holiday why should you have to see images of your 'bikini body' a week later in the pages of trashy magazines like this?

Note the before and after makeovers to convince you they are happier now than before
The 'miracle' stories of weight loss that you read in the likes of 'Closer' are just that. Miracles. And the sloppy use of photoshop to trim down already triumphant dieters only serves to remind us that it's still not good enough.

These are not adult magazines, they can be bought by anyone. And time and again we hear about how girls as young as 8 are going on diets to lose pounds with no idea of the damage they are doing to their developing bodies. It's setting people up for a lifetime of failure. Diets do not work as a long term solution and it staggers me that magazines are still allowed to produce these kinds of articles with noone to answer to.

Horrifically photoshopped hips.

Even the advertising is fake. Check here for the background story on how shockingly bad this image is. (source).

Thursday, 8 August 2013

# 82 (2013) The Problem with Diets

I watched the first episode of 'The Men Who Made Us Thin' tonight, a documentary on BBC 2 about the highly profitable diet industry and how, despite the failure rate, people keep on trying and failing at them.

The problem with diets is that they are only meant to be a weight loss programme. Often people who diet presume that once it is over they can go back to the way they were or they soon slip back into the bad habits that caused the weight problems in the first place.

Diets give you a starting point. After that, maintenance and moderation are the key. And if there is one thing we lack in our modern society it's moderation.

The problem with obesity the world over is that the food industry is huge. Its advertising is key to making us buy their products. It's a money spinning industry which has turned food from a necessary requirement for survival to a luxury, entertainment, a past time and ultimately to an addiction.

People eat for fun not to live and that is why the diet industry is so huge because people just can't stop eating and they think that a quick fix miracle is going to undo the problem.

If you want to lose a lot of weight, by all means try a diet, but think of it as a new lifestyle choice and combine it with other lifestyle choices that are going to benefit you. And don't assume that once you have hit your goal weight that you can just start eating again as before. You will probably spend the rest of your life watching what you eat, checking that everything is taken in moderation and avoiding certain foods.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most of the food we eat is not necessary. Detaching the euphoria from the food you eat works for me. If you treat food as something you need to do to be healthy and alive you can start to moderate everything. But make sure you have fun in your life. If you use food as an escapism or a kick you need to address the rest of your life. Look at your fitness levels, your routine and address your life. Because that could be part of your key to success.

Tempted? (source)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

# 81 (2013) The Most Boring Version Of Yourself

Do you ever worry that you've become the most boring version of yourself? That all the exciting things you used to do are just stories you tell other people and that the things you still have to achieve are just pipe dreams. Maybe there are exciting things bubbling away in the background of your life but you just can't be bothered to tell anyone, or you have forgotten just how remarkable those things actually are to other people.

I have a wide range of interests, things that would get me out and a whole host of things I want to achieve but I have not the finances to indulge in them. Having a limited lifestyle has a severe knock on effect to everything else and damages your confidence and your abilities.

Recent conversations remind me there are people who have only ever known the poor version of me. So all they see is someone who doesn't go out, doesn't go on holiday. Never wants to see a film or go out to dinner or that drinks night out.  And I'd almost forgotten that I am a very different person to one I was 5 or 6 years ago. Current circumstances (those I've been putting up with for four years now) mean I don't do very much with my life anymore. And the less I do, the less I want to do. And then the more cynical and angry I get and then I just beat myself up about it.

It also means when I'm doubting people and situations and worried about things which ordinarily don't get to me or I could at least rationalise. They become magnified because real life isn't there to put things into perspective.

One or two recent events have made me feel very badly about myself. My confidence has been zapped and that in turn reflects on all the other flaws in my life.  If nothing else it makes me want to fight back, to do something about it. To remind me I don't have to be dragged down by situations that aren't in my control. But temporarily I feel stranded and that makes me frustrated and angry (again).

It won't take much to get me back on track and I am on the precipice of starting something new and big which will change my life for the better. But I feel like I've been waiting forever and letting my life slip away. And that makes me angry (yes it's that word again) at myself. And that feeling never seems to go away.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

# 80 (2013) The Empowerment Playlist

Everyone should have an empowerment playlist.

If you haven't got one, try putting one together. I fill mine with music for when I'm losing direction or need to be reminded about who I am. The words give me a symbolic kick up the arse. But after that, it's all down to me.

My list doesn't have any high culture in it. It's mostly pop and if the stars singing the lyrics had stuck by the words it would have been iconic. But I don't think they all did.

I have on the other hand. And there are one or two in particular that I use at any point I start to lose my nerve or forget what the hell it is I am supposed to be doing with my life. Some of them come from worse times in my life. They remind me of where I used to be and where I don't want to be again.

Monday, 22 July 2013

# 79 (2013) When I Was Twelve

When I was 12 I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a business owner, a costumier and a writer. All together. All at the same time. I didn't want to change the world. I wanted to make a dent. To be remembered for something. Funny how things work out.

I don't doubt for one minute that I see those aspects of my childhood and think there was a core group of kids my age who all believed in themselves and kept on going. I know they weren't all like that but I like to think things were better 'back in my day'.

Working with a new generation of young people approaching their first milestone in education - their GCSE results - has, not so much opened my eyes to some of the difficulties they face today, but perhaps reaffirmed to me that there are REAL challenges for them in the midst of a negative economic led era and a lack of social integration.

Economic downturn, office-tied parents, kids who get no direction and aren't made to feel valued - these are all aspects of childhood I didn't see. And I realise that makes me lucky. When you're young I guess your eyes aren't open to everything and sometimes you don't see how your own situation affects you. You accept things for how they are. Because what else do you know?

You shouldn't expect young people at this age to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives but you do hope they have passions and dreams of where they might be in 10 years time. For some of these children there seems to be nothing. Their future stretches out like a desert. Some are indifferent to that. And that worries me.

Leading by example: Malala Yousafzai's life changing experiences have provided her with a unique standpoint (source)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

# 78 (2013) Kids Today

I am currently working for a Government scheme that aims to give young people a chance to operate outside the classroom. It is designed to encourage team building, communication, direction, personal goals and arm young people with a better understanding of the real world and the maturity to be successful in whatever they choose to do with their lives.

Whilst I was training and reading about how unprepared our kids are for life after education, everything seemed hypothetical. You read about all the ways they plan to get school leavers ready for work, skilled and enthusiastic and you watch from afar and think it won’t work. And I was sceptical about the scheme I had just joined. I could see how in theory it would work, but in practice? 

I have now completed my first week on campus with my ‘team’ of 11 and observed not only them but the campus in general. 

Most of mine are all remarkably lucky young people. They come from comfortable enough backgrounds to have had good all round educations. They are not rich but they are members of clubs and social teams and they are enthusiastic, bright and keen to try new things. I have only one who does not come from this sort of background and the differences between them and their team mates is startling. 

The scheme they are enrolled on does not discriminate between background, disability, financial stability or academic or vocational ability. It is open to all aged 15- 17, whether they be in full time authority education, SEN schools or in another type of educational environment suitable for the age group. Even NEETS get a look in through job centres and other schemes. 

But it struck me quite early on that the general uptake of this project is generally white, middle / working class female students, despite the huge range of initial application forms. No student can be forced to attend. But there is also no excuse for any child not to attend. 

It’s a fantastic opportunity for any young person and I’d encourage any parent to enrol their child but I am concerned about those under achieving students lacking in confidence or motivation who have not attended. Those young people who already have these skills will lap it up and love it. But all in all, is their benefit from it greater or even as good as those young people from less privileged backgrounds who may never have left their own county in their entire lives, who may never get the chance to try archery, raft building or learn to work as a team to read maps across open country? They are simple enjoyments for many children, but for others, just something other people do and something others are too afraid to try.

Motivation is addictive. Once you discover it and the world outside there can be no stopping you. But if you’re used to entertaining yourself in front of a TV, maybe hanging around with your equally unenthusiastic friends in the local park how are you to discover this? Negativity and a lack of direction breed all sorts of problems. 

Already within this generation of young people I can see the cavernous divides between their desire for life, positivity, ability to work with others and emotional and communicative development, purely by the stimulation they get in their home environment and from their peers and family. 

If a young person is told they will never go to University because only ‘clever people go there’ and they have no interests and are afraid to try new things because they are scared of failing or being laughed at, how are they going to survive in life? Because all these things are day to day hurdles that we all face, mostly without a second thought. But for these children who are told they will not amount to much or are not encouraged to do anything constructive, how are they to apply themselves? 

It is not money that gives these children these opportunities. It is a simple sense of being, of appreciation, of value, of being encouraged and praised and if you don’t give these things your children will not know how to make their way in the world, and this is where the problems begin. 

My second week on campus is about to start. It is far more academic than last week where we camped in fields and climbed walls and swam in lakes. And I am intrigued at how things will progress. And I watch the fearful amongst my group and hope they will find themselves and what it is they are meant for in this world. 

Because you cannot teach this stuff. It has to be found from within.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

# 77 (2013) It's Time To Deal With Our Burgeoning Graduate Population

Could we please all start directing our school leavers to websites like this, rather than websites like this?

Because if there is one thing I'm fairly sure of, it's that getting school leavers onto work schemes that teach them business skills, social skills, work ethics and gives them an income whilst they are still living at home, has to be better than three years in the hermetically sealed environment of the classroom living off what is essentially a Government handout.

Study rooms give a classroom protected view of working environments which offer them little experience of what life is really like and does not shape them ready for the real world. Additionally, it means that those students who are severely academically lacking may never get a job at all, which probably partly explains our huge problem with youth unemployment.

It strikes me that we don't need any more post-graduate students. We need skilled workers not statistic meeting, classroom boffins. Now, this may seem like a hark back to the old days of the 'class system'. And that's because it is. And what is wrong with the class system? Not everyone is an academic. Not everyone is fit for Government office, and not everyone can be a plumber. We have a class system because we are an animal with a pecking order and you cannot change that no matter how many degrees you introduce or how many times you put up the minimum wage.

There are people who are good with their hands and not their minds and they have huge potential in the job market if they are given the right education and the right direction. Putting vocational students into academic classrooms and converting vocational courses in BA's and MA's kills these students potential because it is sterile and nonconstructive to their needs and abilities.

And because it is all about hitting targets it often makes their industry appear pretentious (I use fashion and Graduate Fashion Week as a case in point) and unrealistic.

We killed off the polytechnic years ago. But the apprenticeship is making a comeback. Businesses are already seeing the advantage to taking apprentices under their wing. But we need more. To me it represents possibly the best chance we have of rescuing our floundering employment market and our lack of properly skilled workers.

Vocational skills are learnt on the job and not in the classroom. They help students to decide what they want to do because they get the opportunity to try the job for real. How many students have gone through the university system only to discover they don't like the industry they spent three years training to join? 

That nothing seems to change year on year just surprises me. Everything seem to be about statistics and league tables these days, not about people and aspirations and abilities. And it just doesn't work. 

Vocational skills are learnt on the job, not in the classroom (source)

# 76 (2013) How Much Is Enough?

Going back into the job market after a four year absence (three years of Uni plus one year of running my own business full time) it's easy to see why your average Joe in full time employment is struggling to make ends meet. Even living in a house share with fairly basic outlays I still have to factor in an additional £287 a month to cover tax and national insurance contributions to leave me just enough money to live on.

This means I still have to find a job that pays me over £1000 a month in order to survive. My second trade before I decided to go to Uni as a mature student was in administration. I spent years as a PA in London and the surrounding counties mostly in the temping market. Then, it was a lucrative business and often lead to good secure full time jobs. But things have changed a lot and temping just scrapes minimum wage these days. Temps aren't trusted as they used to be and I believe this may have something to do with the screening processes at agencies and the lax attitude of some staff. Attitudes that were few and far between when I was working in London. Companies now, seem to presume you're temping because you're not much good, otherwise you'd have a full time job.

I genuinely cannot work out how people with financial commitments like mortgages, children and debts, manage to survive at all. Maybe they don't. Maybe that's why foodbanks are so essential these days. There are plenty of employed people using them. Perhaps we're all living hand to mouth to a certain extent - living in fear of redundancy and hoping things will change.

It's changed a lot from when I was last employed and that wasn't all that long ago. Tax was 17.5% back then. Now it's 20%. The old rate would have saved me £22.38 a month. That may not sound like much of a saving but over the course of a year that's about £268. For a couple that's a holiday or home improvement, or tax and an MOT on a car.

Where does it end? Will tax go up again next year? Will the price of food continue to rise? Will we all just have to get rid of cars, mobile phones, turn off the central heating? The knock on effect of all these things on our economy is catastrophic and in turn makes the little man have to pull in the purse strings another notch.

What's the breaking point? When do we finally say enough is enough, we cannot live like this any more. It strikes me there's probably a way to go yet and more awful stories of how people are struggling will come out. It's going to get messier and more brutal.

And for those of you lucky enough to have no idea what I'm talking about, I hope you never have to.

Last October food bank numbers reached record levels (source)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

# 74 (2013) Why We Are Who We Are

I never thought much of Russell Brand. He just seemed like another celebrity douche-bag trying to work out what he was contributing to society and failing.

And then I saw his documentary about drug addiction 'From Addiction to Recovery'. And I started to understand him a bit more and respect him for how far he had come and how he had used his experiences to put something back and form his take on the world. The documentary showed him in a different light, as a human being who may have come back from the brink of death and had all the war wounds to prove it.

And I respect that. I have more admiration for someone who has faced some sort of adversity than those who have lived in a bubble all their lives and base their knowledge on what the media tells them or how their family lives their perfect lives.

People who flippantly criticise or look down on others because they can, because they have no time to care about why something is the way it is, really aren't doing themselves any favours in the great scheme of social things.

Hats off to Russell Brand though. He survived something, and that's got to count.

Brand: How it used to be (source)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

# 73 (2013) Everyone Just Wants to Be Liked And Accepted

How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think? And do you think it's worth it? Perhaps it's a good thing that we care what others think. It means we're setting a standard, aiming for something, bending to other peoples desires.

So what happens when you stop caring? Your standards slip? You lose friends? You just stop trying as hard? Or may be it's just too difficult trying to please everyone all of the time and you're fed up with always coming last.

Maybe at the end of the day the only person who really matters is you. And if others see your way of thinking and care enough (by return) they'll just go with it. Maybe those are the true friends and not the ones who want you to comply with their rules. 


Monday, 24 June 2013

# 72 (2013) Where Work Ends and Life Begins

Many of us struggle with the work life balance. And there are those of us who struggle with the work - career - home balance.

After a year of running my own business full time I am conceding temporary defeat and looking for more reliable work. But I still have to honour my business committments and I'd hate to sacrifice it all solely for the 9 - 5 which is a mistake I have made in the past and ALWAYS regretted.

But if I'm doing the 9 - 5, where does that leave my business dream? And where does that leave everyone else in my life? How do you get a three-fold balance to work? Can it work? And when do you call it quits and simply be thankful for any paid employment you can get even if you may well end up turning around in 15 years and wondering what the hell you were doing with your life.

I don't have the answer. I'm sure some people do. This will be the second time I have visited this way of working. And the last time my life existed for the 9-5 and the career dream and little else. Now I am a bit older and have other interests to enjoy and people in my life who I don't want to exclude I don't want to be a slave to the grind all day every day.

It's not an easy balance.

Monday, 3 June 2013

# 71 (2013) Foodie

I have started to notice how my relationship with food has changed this last month or so. I have always loved food. The emotional kick you get or the social connotations of a meal out or just trying something new is fun.

But the dynamics of my life have changed a lot and in many ways. I share the kitchen with two other people so my space is limited. These days my budget needs to remain the same for practical as well as financial reasons.

I have a new policy that I must clear cupboards and fridge freezer space before buying more food. The aim is to see how long I can go between shopping expeditions. Mostly this means that my need for food has become perfunctory. I eat because I am hungry.

Now that I am sharing my space I am seeing the vast differences between how I eat and how my housemates eat. I consume a lot less and in poorer quality. Primarily my purchases revolve around longevity, price and how 'mixupable' it is ie can it go into various meals?

So for instance something like frozen sausages are going to last a long time in the freezer and I can defrost only the number I need per meal. I can get them as part of a 3 for £10 deal and they can go into several meal types such as sausage and chips, chopped up in rice or pasta dishes or cut up in wraps. By buying with these things in mind my one freezer drawer/shelf/cupboard limit can last a month.

But of course this means that short lived and therefore healthier options are generally off limits and I am wondering how this will affect my health and general wellbeing long term. I buy no fruit, fresh vegetables or fresh meat products. Milk I buy in bulk, and put in the freezer. Most other dairy products are now off limits.

I have noticed that despite this unhealthy and repetitive diet I have never lost any weight. Because of my job, and because I'm a bit lazy, exercise is not a regular thing. I don't think I am eating that much quantity wise which suggests I have an unhealthy diet. A quick tot up of today and I've probably racked up around 1000 calories in only two actual meals, too many if I want to drop a dress size but too little in quantity to keep me going. But if I get rid of the unhealthy stuff which helps to make the rest of my food last longer, what do I replace it with?

Friday, 31 May 2013

# 70 (2013) Under Age

Huong Hoang (stage name Junie Hoang) recently tried to sue after it posted her real age on its Internet Movie Database. This despite Ms Hoang providing the site with a year that knocked seven years off her date of birth.

Should ages be such a closely guarded secret and are some industries so fickle that they still make a judgement on someone’s age as part of their ability to do a job? Media would be just the sort of industry to come into the line of fire for behaving like this but is it really the case or is Ms Hoang making a fuss about nothing? She has claimed publishing her real age meant work offers dried up.

Whilst the database has been accused in the past of "facilitating age discrimination" the case was thrown out of court. The site's attorneys said IMDb was not responsible for the actions taken by people who read their profiles.

But is lying about your age such a big deal if you can get away with it? I knew someone in their 50s who struggled to get work interviews. He knocked 10 years off his birth date and instantly started getting interviews and, ultimately, jobs. This I think was the single most influential piece of evidence I saw that ageism really does still exist and the damage it can cause. Age discrimination exists for all age groups of course. Teens are branded trouble makers, and the elderly as infirm and out of touch.

I have for a while been a bit hazy about my actual age. But that’s because I can get away with it. I don't look my age and I don't have all the trappings of someone in my age group so I tend not to be judged and people make a presumption as to my age which is always in my favour. But am I being a bit paranoid about owning up to it and should I take the, now rather repetative, jokes on the chin and be thankful for good genes?

Whilst researching this article I discovered that 'looking younger' syndrome is not uncommon. Apparently we live longer too. It's something to do with key pieces of DNA called telomeres, which indicate the ability of cells to replicate. Maybe I'm actually superhuman? I don't seem to be exhibiting many of the aging signs of people in my group and I know for a fact that in my family history people have lived to some very admirable ages. I've always taken forgranted how I look. But perhaps I should be nurturing it and taking better care of myself?

Thankfully I’ve never lied on a job application, but I do let people assume I am younger than I really am. Whilst I've never suffered because of my age in the work place (many people are often quite envious when they discover the truth), I find it trickier in social situations because my age can be an initial barrier if it's pointed out early on. This is primarily because I often mix with people younger than me. If they are going to find out I'd prefer it to be after they have got to know me. I don’t consider myself typical of my age and I don’t like people making assumptions because of the year I was born.

I may never grow up and if I continue to age at my current rate I may only get more defensive as I get older. Maybe I am making a fuss about nothing. After all, I'm in good company.

Salma Hayek. 46 - I kid you not (source)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

# 68 (2013) Knee Jerk Reactions

I write a lot of posts in haste. Only those that are factual are totally premeditated. But I always hit 'save' rather than 'publish'. Coming back to them a day or sometimes several days later my perspective has often changed. Sometimes it's good to vent, but initial reactions can be irrational and unfounded.

Sometimes I just need to modify my writing a bit, sometimes I delete the whole thing. Sometimes I put the posting on the back-burner if I'm not sure how I feel and then delete it.

I have never published a post without carefully reviewing it at least one day later. Untold damage can be done by not getting the whole story or a proper perspective. Posting knee jerk reactions can do more harm than good. Look at Twitter, peppered with stories of mindless posting without thinking about the consequences.

Although this blog is mine it does affect those around me. Other people, though rarely mentioned directly or indirectly, are often the subject or the cause of my postings and should they read them, it could do more harm than good.

This is definitely a place for me to post my thoughts but it still requires at least a little etiquette. And I am, if nothing else, tactful. 


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

# 67 (2013) Humans of New York

There is a wonderful page I follow on Facebook called Humans of New York. It also has a website here. It's a snap shot of one random individual, animal or object out and about in New York and their by-line.

They are simple, funny, honest, thought provoking, often sad and full of regret and they remind me that I am not the only one who has fucked up and has regrets, hopes and dreams. We all do it to some degree or other. And I am okay knowing that I am not the only one. Small comforts in small places.

'This is the third one I've saved.'

Monday, 27 May 2013

# 66 (2013) Spare Tyres

Last month I did a LOT of recycling. It included 8 car tyres which I very nearly couldn't get rid of at all thanks to new directives from the Environment Agency. Way to go guys!

Household waste recycling centres don't take tyres anymore. There is currently one in the whole of Lincolnshire at Louth but you can kiss goodbye to that soon.

Did you know that in 2011 there were something like 40,000,000 cars on the road in the UK alone and we are second only to Germany in Europe for new registrations? Even if only half those cars have their tyres changed each year, that's a lot of tyres. So where do they all go?

A few are used by outdoor activity centres, play parks and the like. They'll stay as tyres and get turned into swings and climbing equipment for activity days. That's a tiny drop into a rubbery ocean though.

In 2001 alone the Environment Agency revealed that '.....the UK scrapped 50 million tyres. According to the Used Tyre Working Group's 2001 survey, 22% were recycled, 8.3% went to energy recovery, 9.9% were retreaded, 16% were reused and 3.3% were used in landfill engineering. The remainder (approximately 40%) were landfilled, stockpiled or disposed of illegally.'

What to do with all the tyres.... (source)
The thing is this number has gone up but disposal has become harder, meaning more and more tyres are going to be dumped illegally. And then someone still has to pick them up and do something else with them. If I hadn't been able to recycle my 8 car tyres, what was I supposed to do with them?

Take a look at this video which shows some of the ways that tyres can be recycled. But is there an endless demand and with the number of waste tyres rising - something like 55 million now - how are we going to deal with them? We are now banned from putting them into landfill which means they either get stored or have to be recycled. Wastebook will tell you all about this.

Although the options might be simple - why not recycle them into new tyres - the costs of recycling are sometimes more than making new products. Whilst I was at the recyclling plant they told me that it costs more to recycle an old glass bottle than it does to make a new one. So where's the sense in companies recycling if it's not cost effective?

Everyone needs to profit. Money makes the world go round and if recycling was more profitable, everyone would be doing it. Now there's a problem worth solving.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

# 65 (2013) Money Appreciation

I find unnecessary spending rather obscene. I guess having lived at both ends of the financial scale (to a certain degree) I've learned to appreciate and be happy with the basics and abhore excessive expenditure and more than anything else - waste.

I suppose I've got very used to own brands and having only what I need. I don't get a buzz from shopping or spending money. I'd rather have it sitting in the bank where I can find it.

And this makes birthdays and Christmas rather tricky times. I come from a background where quantity has fewer limits, and where if you don't provide some guidance on gift lists, you'll end up with a million things you really don't need. I have therefore learnt to provide plenty of guidance in advance to save on pretended gratitude so that 'Thanks, I really needed that' means it.

I save all my bathroom non-essentials such as perfume or branded products for events such as this and they are easy stocking fillers for anyone because you are grateful for whatever you are given. I have put a stop to bringing back 'tat' from holidays. If you have to bring me something back make it edible because food is always at a premium and I love my food.

Food has started to make regular appearances in my birthday and Christmas gift bags. It seems sad but I get more of a kick from finding a 'luxury' product in my kitchen cupboard than I do in my bathroom.

If ever I make enough money to have spending cash at the end of the month and not have to worry I think I will always lead a relatively frugal existence. Excess funds will probably end up in the bank anyway. I appreciate and respect money and material goods more than I ever did and I don't think I could ever change. It's an inbuilt part of me now.

I no longer waste my money on alcohol or other 'kicks', expensive makeup or branded bathroom products. I just don't see the need. I don't buy entertainment except the occasional film 'treat' and you know what, that's just fine. Because it makes it more special.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

# 64 (2013) Do You Believe?

I've never lived in Scunthorpe. I've never even been to Scunthorpe. And if you've watched 'Skint' on Channel Four you probably won't ever consider going there either. And much like its predecessor 'People Like Us' on BBC Three which was set in Harpurhey, an inner city area of Manchester, it gives a closeted view of one type of person in one specific area.

The programme makers aims are clear. Ratings. Benefits, unemployment and trouble families are high on newsreels and in the minds of working people who are also struggling to make ends meet. And to say there is a little resentment towards their unemployed brethren who just 'hold out their hands for free money' would be an understatement.

TV programme makers thrive off this to create programmes they know viewers will be transfixed to. And even though the programme's subject is very specific it does nothing to enhance the reputation of the area.

Scunthorpe, the only town with a swear word in its name, is probably a very nice town. Perhaps not the Westcliff Estate where 'Skint' is set, but I'm sure there are some very friendly areas. I've been reading various comments and there are people there that love their town dearly. I'm sure Harpurhey also has its fans.

Viewers you see, won't look for the overall picture. They will watch the programmes and tar a community with the same brush. They get fired up and point fingers and so the ratings go up. TV is a very persuasive medium. You can make your programmes aim as open minded or as closed as you like and people will believe what you show them because the camera never lies, right?

But did you know that in 2011 Scunthorpe won a Google award for being the UK's fastest growing online hub? Programmes like this can have a devestating affect on areas already struggling. Of Harpurhey it was noted:

Locals are threatening to picket the BBC’s northern headquarters at MediaCity 
in Salford and claim that children from Harpurhey have been bullied at school, 
appointments at estate agents cancelled and young people turned down for 
jobs since the series began airing earlier this month. 

And no matter what the subjects of the programmes see or tell programme makers during filming, it can be a very different result once it goes on air. If you allow a documentary to be made about you, don't necessarily think you'll be portrayed in a balanced way. Once they have the material programme makers they can do pretty much what they want with it within reason. So watcher beware and don't always believe what the TV tells you. 

Harpurhey residents. But is everyone like this? (source)


Monday, 13 May 2013

# 62 (2013) Downsizing with Dignity And Without Losing Sight of the Dream

A lot has happened in the last year. And the last few months particularly have been ones of change. I have downsized my life physically and financially and attempted to deal with it emotionally. I have achieved a lot but there are still things that need to be done. It's now time to start finding ways to expand whilst still being able to live within my means.

Realising I can do this and make plans for the future has already felt like an enormous weight off my mind but I still have to implement it.

I've taken the decision to downsize my business and go back to work. It isn't able to support me and it's just too stressful trying to be productive and stay positive whilst living on air. This was not something I had planned for.

My business will become a thing of evenings and weekends but at least it will still exist and I will probably enjoy it more. The rest of the time I need to be doing something that is inspiring, fulfilling and socially more interesting whilst not losing sight of my long term aims and ambitions.

One of the problems I have is that I haven't made the most of the facilities available to me in order to promote my business. Most of that is due to lack of effort on my part and I will freely admit to that. I have lost my drive and enthusiasm for the thing I loved the most.

The reason for this is that I have never fully recovered my confidence since finishing university last May. After all the encouragement I was unexpectedly left feeling useless, incompetent at what I wanted to do and unable to fully realise my abilities and I've never been able to shake it off. I have let myself down and I was let down by the university that was supposed to be helping me onto the right road. It killed my love for clothing design and I will never forgive them for that. The knock on effect on my life has been profound and I don't think anyone knows just how much I changed in that year. But I've had enough so it's time to move on.

The city where I live is very limited work wise for both my business and employment generally and it is also full of bad memories I would like to leave behind. I have realised that nothing is going to change unless I sort myself out and I don't believe it can happen here. There are things in my life that ideally I would like to take with me and if I can I will, but it's now time to start again. It think it was going to be inevitable.