Saturday, 23 February 2013

# 34 (2013) Back To Work

It is a horrible fact of life that the less you have to do, the less you want to do. I am afflicted terribly by this problem. Once I'm busy and work is buzzing there is no stopping me but when I run out of projects to keep me inspired and enthusiastic it's frightening how quickly I stagnate and lose motivation.

And this is one of the reasons I was interested in the Job Seekers Allowance vs Volunteer Work battle that's been going on lately with out of work geology graduate Cat Reilly. My personal feeling is that as Job Seekers is a payment to keep the bills ticking over whilst you look for work (which is what wages do whilst most of us are waiting for life to happen) there should be some onus on the recipient to earn it. So my initial reaction was, like many people, cheeky sponger!

Success in the courts but still out of work (source)
However. That it is big multinational companies such as Poundland taking advantage of wage free staff through this scheme (particularly when the protesting party was already doing volunteer work far more important and useful) is a moot point. The ethics behind the Back To Work Scheme, that it gets people up, out and earning their 'pay', can't be argued against as a good thing surely?

But there are so many other places where these people would be better placed. Either with needy organisations who survive off volunteer generosity such as charity shops where nearly all the staff are volunteers now, libraries or community projects that really benefit the local area. In return these organisations would give genuinely valid experience and a job reference.

The scheme should work, but as usual it's been badly thought out with no real consideration for the people who use it. The job centre alone is a depressing and largely ineffective place in my experience and this scheme does nothing to improve its image. It stands to reason that it was put together by people with no grasp of what goes on in the real world. So much could have been avoided by a more considered approach.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

# 33 (2013) The Price Of Peas

In less than 6 months the price of a bag of value brand frozen peas at Tesco has gone from 84p to £1.20.

I'm already down to one bag per month and I expect prices to keep on rising. Cheese, butter and potatoes are all off my list now and I stopped buying washing powder about 2 years ago thanks to a handy gadget from Lakeland which has saved me a lot of money.

More than 13 million people live in poverty in the UK, suffering 
food shortages on a scale not seen since wartime rationing

We are all feeling the pinch. Even the most basic things are starting to become luxuries and I'm thinking that I can't be the only one streamlining my shopping basket to such lengths. I am however now beginning to worry how the restricted diets many of us are being forced into are going to affect our health in years to come. Scrimping on fresh fruit, vegetables and a balanced diet is surely going to have long term effects?

Over the last few years my diet has become incredibly restricted. Most of the veg I consume has to be grown in the garden which means that for a large part of the year I don't have much variety. Supermarket prices are now too prohibitive as the price of peas demonstrates. I now have an intake of just five vegetables.

My staple diet consists mostly of meat, fish, carbohydrates (pasta, rice, homemade bread, porridge), milk and eggs which I am sure cannot be good for me. Despite this I've not lost any weight at all which is also a concern because it means I must be eating calorie rich foods and am not getting the right nutrition.

Over the last few weeks I've noticed I am going to bed hungry more often and I skip at least a few meals a week. The food I am eating at home is becoming routine and uninteresting which often means I just can't be bothered with it. And I'm not the only one. This is becoming a regular pattern across the country for people in all wage brackets, in all classes. 

A recent report by Save the Children looked at 5,000 families with incomes 
of up to £30,000 a ensure their children get enough food to eat, 
nearly two-thirds of parents skip meals, go into debt, avoid paying 
bills, and put off replacing worn-out clothing

And there's more to come. As harvests fail due to the weather and we rely more and more on imported food (about 40%), it is estimated that the cost of the weekly shop will continue to rise by about 4% a year until 2022.

The knock on effect is that supermarkets are going to see their profits fall. To encourage shoppers they either have to drop their prices or cover the short fall by putting them even higher. Something has to give. And I can't see an easy resolution to the problem.

Monday, 18 February 2013

# 32 (2013) Space

My relationship history is peppered with ill considered partners. If there was one thing I was guaranteed to do, it was move in with someone too fast and then regret the decision. The main reason was that I wanted a place of my own but I couldn't afford to live on my own (my circumstance of preference). Back then moving in with a partner (who always seemed to come with their own pad) was the compromise I was willing to make.

Looking back, they were bad decisions but there's not a lot I can do about any of that now. However, I'm not going to get all arsey about it like xojane did the other week. There's no point.

I've been with my current partner almost a whole year and we still don't live together. Not only is this a first for me, but it's been a good year. Mostly it's because I've finally met someone who doesn't see me as a mother substitute, accountant, cook or cleaner. It has nothing to do with him not having his own place to live as I've sorted that gap in my life now. As it turns out I've found someone who doesn't need me more than I need him and that is a huge part of why it is working.

The thing is, I've become very used to this situation now and I've discovered that you really can be in a committed grown up relationship and still enjoy your own space. It's the sacrifice traditionally made by long term couples but these days it just isn't necessary. Space is something you just don't get if you move in together. We are both actually really independent people. We don't need to live in each others pockets and a few days away from each other is fine.

And even though I am moving in April and it would be the easiest thing in the world to say, well why don't we just get a place together, somehow it just doesn't seem right for either of us.

I shall probably always be reliant on houseshares for a roof over my head but that comes with a whole set of privacy rules of its own which mean it's not like living with a partner at all.

Will we ever live together? I don't feel at this stage it is inevitable but if it did eventually happen I wouldn't be that surprised. It depends on a lot of things, some of which are out of our hands. But we're not worrying about it because things are just fine and really, that's all that matters.

Friday, 15 February 2013

# 31 (2013) Calorie Counter

I am back on the food wagon counting calories.The main reason is that I lead quite a sedentary lifestyle. My job means I don't do a whole lot of moving about and I don't have the motivation to exercise on a regular basis. I have to pay the price somewhere.

So I'm using my favourite calorie counter Food Focus to log everything I eat and see where I am going wrong because I thought I was now eating a fairly restrained diet and yet me weight is the same.

The sad fact is that pretty much everything you eat is overloaded with calories. My lazy lifestyle means I should be eating less than 1500 calories a day but that's incredibly hard to stick to when you're also challenged with a tight food budget. Most of the cheaper foods that stock my cupboard are loaded with unnecessary calories and aren't all that interesting in themselves so keeping food exciting is a challenge and boredom can lead to all kinds of problems.

The other day for instance I skipped breakfast because of a late start and in anticipation of a larger than average lunch which failed to materialise. So there I was at half past one, hungry. I weakened and bought a 60p packet of biscuits. Now, I only ate 9 of them, but that replaced both the meals I had missed, and not surprisingly I felt hungry again pretty soon and was starving by the time I could legitimately start preparing dinner.

Food should be fun and enjoyable. It can also be hugely comforting - largely I guess because of the artificial flavourings we are all used to these days. But if you can't enjoy food without worrying about what's in it, what's the answer?


Thursday, 14 February 2013

# 30 (2013) The Valentine's Day Rip Off

So how did you spend Valentine's Day? Snuggled up by a roaring fire with your better half? Perhaps a mini break? Maybe against your better judgement you just went crazy with the remnants of your January paycheck and bought chocolates, flowers and a card. That must have set you back at least £30.

We decided to celebrate our first Valentine's Day by doing - well nothing really. If there's one thing we both agree on, it's that Christmas, Easter and all the other 'anniversary stuff' in between is a waste of money. Valentine's Day really gets me. For mum's it's probably the one day of the year she'll get breakfast in bed, for couples it's a meal out but add £30 to the bill.

Seriously, do I actually need one special day of the year put aside so I can tell the person I am with that I love them? Like all the other celebratory days it's just an excuse for retailers to make a quick buck.

It's a religious celebration. Did you know that? Yes, St Valentine was a Saint and yes it is a religious celebration. And with neither of us being religious it seems insanely hypocritical like getting married in church because it's 'traditional' rather than because you go to church and Christmas being all about over-eating and presents rather than Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

# 29 (2013) Anonymous

I like getting comments on posts I have made. It shows someone is reading them and cares enough to respond. I do find it quite frustrating however when I get anonymous posts or those made under fake profiles set up purely for the purpose of adding a single comment.

As the people posting seem to be very passionate about what I have said, sometimes seemingly screaming and often swearing I presume their position must be a very particular to the subject.

On that basis I would be really interested to know who these people are so I can understand where they are coming from and their reasons for being so shouty at me for having a personal opinion that doesn't fit their agenda. 

Is their anonymity because they don't want to be seen making such comments? Because of their background? Because of their connections? I hate to say it but it comes across as cowardice. Of course, I don't know who they are or their reasons for posting under the anonymous banner so I hope they have good legitimate reasons.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

# 28 (2013) How To Choose A Husband

This article appeared in the Guardian on 4th February in the wake of the publication of a book called 'How To Choose A Husband'.

I suppose by rights and given my stance on most things relating to the topics it covers, I should be jumping up and down and screaming. But I'm not because we're all grown up enough to make our own decisions and I doubt most modern girls will pay any attention to it anyway.

Ms Venker attempts to convince girls to return to the 1950s style of relationship as cooks, cleaners and baby makers. It's an impractical concept given our modern society.

Her book which the Guardian described as giving 'a 12-step guide on how to seek and then hook a man in today's 'post-feminist' culture' is curious in that it fails to take modern culture into consideration. Even if a girl wanted this kind of lifestyle she'd be hard pushed to find the man to fill her idyllic partner requirements.

Women don’t make as much as men precisely because they don’t work the 
same number of hours. Women continue to take years off the job to care for 
their children or aging parents or to live a more balanced life. Feminists 
leave that part out.

Ms Venker comments '[Mothers] did their daughters a great disservice. They were wrong to tell their daughters they could never rely on a man.' I look at my own circumstances and try to relate her advice. 

I was always 'advised' that I should be independent, manage my own money and not find myself reliant on a man but I don't remember being brought up to have a bad opinion of men. Thankfully, in retrospect, I followed all the advice and remained theoretically independent. I am frighteningly good at picking inappropriate partners and had I seen any of them as marriage material or the father of any future offspring I would have been destined for a miserable and destitute life. 

As it was, I was in my late 20s when I finally had to concede there wasn't a maternal hormone in my body. I have also learned the lessons and refined how I manage partner relationships.  Things work very well now but I have no intention of settling down and children are absolutely off the cards.

'It's a fairly large assumption to make - that all men want a return to a 
1950s mentality, when their family was completely dependent on the 
success of their job. And just because a marriage survives doesn't necessarily 
mean it's a happy one.'

I do cook. Because someone has to. I see it as a chore but I have to do it. I manage my own money and have NEVER given up the ropes of my finances to anyone else. I have had several long term relationships and never remained single for long but I never saw a pot of gold at the end of any of them and I never got involved on the basis of happily ever after.

I disagree with several of the comments in the article, but I realise that's my personal stance and I can see how what she is saying may actually generally be accurate. Despite everything I believe that an 'old fashioned' family make up does make for the most stable one especially if you're bringing up the next generation. 

The face of modern parenting. You'd never have seen this in the 1950s (source)
It would be wrong to blame women for the change in attitude. Modern culture and the pressure on all of us due to the rising cost of living and changes in responsibility are largely to blame whilst human instinct to nest and procreate remains very active

The 'perfect happy family' has been replaced by broken families, single mothers and unemployed fathers. It's part of life's inevitable downward spiral and it would be wrong to assume that these things never happened in a bygone time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about all the changes and nothing gets me madder than seeing a parade of teenage mums hanging out in town with their prams.

Vengers book is impractical even to those who want it unless they come from the privileged classes. In which case it's probably happening anyway and so doesn't need a champion. From what I have seen noone sees the practical application of the advice. I guess Ms Vengers was just lucky that she was able to tick all the boxes.

Monday, 11 February 2013

# 27 (2013) Money Can't Buy You Happiness

I have always said I'd rather be doing a job I hated and earning money than doing no work at all. Spike Milligan said 'Money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you a more pleasant form of misery'. He was so right.

It's been two months since I did any actual paid work and loath though I am to admit it I feel like a business failure. Of course, I don't have to put myself through it. I would rather be earning money at a regular day job than creating for free. It's a matter of fact that I have to honour the landlord, British Gas, Orange, Anglian Water, Lincoln City Council and Virgin Media first before my personal creativity. Worrying about my business and all the associated domino effects that I get from not earning is killing my creativity and right now sitting in an office doing the 9 - 5 doesn't sound so bad.

So I'm job hunting because I am sick of doing nothing, worrying about the basics and fed up with trying to work out how I'm going to be able to afford to move in April.

I'd rather run my business on a part time basis than give it up completely.

Call it changing the plan for success.

The Gospel according to Richard Branson (source)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

# 26 (2013) Joanna Lumley And The 'R' Word

Joanna Lumley took a beating on xojane last week and to be honest I'm not sure why. Yes girls you do have the right to get as drunk as you like, crawl around in the street and throw up down your own clothing. I guess that's the joy of living in the Western world. But that does not mean the rest of society has to pretend it's okay. Because it isn't. And let's leave the whole rape thing aside for just one nano-second and ask what's the matter with having a little sense of self worth, pride and a bit of dignity anyway?

To get it into context here's a bit of background to this story, which I clearly missed the first time around. And I am still at a loss. Apparently getting pissed and staggering home on your own, vulnerable and unable to defend yourself should not make you more susceptible to law breakers. Well maybe in an ideal world but are you actually kidding me? Do you people not realise that the world we live in is full of monsters, opportunists and lawbreakers.

We all have to take responsibility, on some 
level, for our own safety

Do you think a thief, a violent thug, someone off their head on drink or drugs who happens to pass you, or a rapist out on the prowl gives a rat's arse about your rights or what the law is?

It's your right (source)
 Do you think he (or indeed she) isn't going to see you as the perfect victim whatever the crime whether it is premeditated or opportunist? I am not saying you deserve to get singled out, hell no. But please look at what you are doing and the danger you are putting yourself in. Don't you think you are potentially putting yourself in harms way? What if you drunkenly stagger under a car driving past you? Is that the drivers fault or yours?

I am equally amazed (though I shouldn't be) that everyone has picked on Lumley for including the 'rape' word. I guess it's what everyone wants to read. So let's see what she actually said:

'I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly, which means 
behave properly, be polite, be on time, dress properly – I don’t mean dully – but 
don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a 
taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they’ll rape you, or 
they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.

Please tell me what is so wrong with this sensible piece of advice? PLEASE! Because I do not understand what is so bad about it. Apparently she has no right to say this? Why? Because she hasn't been raped or robbed whilst out on the piss?

Joanna's character from 'Absolutely Fabulous' may 
have been drunken, loud mouthed Patsy but we 
took the piss out of her, right? (source)

I'm not going to deny I had my share of late nights out when I was younger. Yes I got drunk and yes I may have been wandering around at 5am waiting for my ride home but I never ever went out on my own and I certainly never tried to get home on my own. Because I was fully aware that there's a nutter on every street corner.

So good on you Ms Lumley, I don't have a problem with what you're saying. Because it looks to me like good advice.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

# 25 (2013) Mistaken Identity

Everyone has a past. And everyone makes mistakes. It's called life. It happens. And if you spent all your time worrying that what you were doing now might affect someone else somewhere down the line, then you'd be trying to achieve the impossible.

It is the highs and lows, the successes and the failures we experience which shape us into the people we become. It is also these things that keep us learning.

Whatever situation I am in now I have to remember (though I often forget) that I have done a lot with my life. Whilst I always expect more from myself I have been lucky enough to experience things most people can only dream of. I've already had one career and another has simmered in the background for a considerable time and is now slowly coming to the fruition.

I am a published writer, I've had my 15 minutes of fame on television and radio and I have drive and direction and things to focus me. Above all I have purpose and 'a calling'.

To say I have made a few mistakes in my life would be an under estimation. I am bloody minded, impulsive, head strong and invariably think with my heart rather than my head. But I also have survivors instinct and I will do what I have to, to keep myself relatively independent. It is those mistakes and successes which have shaped me. I can't imagine who I would be without them.

If you want people to only see you in a certain way, then don't tell them about the bits that might affect how they judge you. If you want to impress them or remind them that there is more substance to you, tell them about your successes. You know about them, but sometimes we all forget the path we have already trodden and how much more impressive it can be to others.

Some people will accept you for who are, mistakes and all. Some like to remind you that you fucked up. And provided you can take it on the chin that's fair enough.

You will meet people throughout your life who have learnt a whole different set of experiences within different time frames to you. You can be wise at 18, naive at 85. Some people will look down on you because of this. I see a process which forms us into the people we inevitably become.

My experiences have shaped me. I like to think I have learnt all the major lessons I need to stay level headed, grounded and protect myself from meddlers, 'lame ducks' and all the challenges I am likely to face in the future.

We all walk a line, we invariably choose the paths we tread. In an instant your life might go one way or the other. But the choice is made and whatever path you choose, you have to live with it because what's done is done.

Accepting others for those choices is a choice in itself.

Friday, 8 February 2013

# 24 (2013) Financial Forecast

You know you're getting old when you're worrying about the interest rates on your savings accounts. Every April I re-evaluate and move things around. Because someone has to.

I've worked out that if I can keep my ISA at a 3% rate for the rest of my working life I'll be able to retire at 62 with a marginally comfortable pension using today's prices. Which is kind of sad but clearly a necessity. But with no end to the recession in sight, finding that 3% deal is proving tricky. And that's how I know the recession is a real problem.

I didn't have a pension when I worked full time and money was the least of my worries. I spent my money, and spent and spent. And now I have a lot of catching up to do. Let that be a warning to you.

If I want to retire at around about state pension age I've only got 21 years left to muster up about £220,000 which may just keep me in food and heating if I live into my 80s. And who knows how long I'll live after that if I get that far.

Today, for the first time, a person in their 80s 
has higher living standards than someone 
working in their 20s

It's disconcerting how all through your twenties retirement is a whole other existence away. But then suddenly your thirties arrives and you think uh-huh. Real life. But those vital years do make all the difference.

Of course if you think I'm worrying now you need to read this to understand how catastrophic things could get not only for younger generations but also those approaching retirement now. The pension you might be putting away now, isn't actually there. It's being used to pay for a generation of retirees who are already there. But if fewer people are now putting away for their retirement where are current pensions coming from? The state pension may now in some cases be comparable to an early twenties income but an increasing number of pensionable age workers are now hanging in there and still working because they cannot afford to retire.

Many children are now living at home into their 40s because the costs of moving out are too prohibitive and older mothers who have held off starting a family due to careers and money concerns are being blamed for the steep rises in births in the last decade.

I posted a link to a savings calculator above so you can find out how much work you've got to do to give yourself that comfortable retirement package you might already be dreaming of.

Of course, you might get lucky and make your millions, but if you don't this could be all you have so it's worth planning ahead to save yourself from years in poverty or an extended working life when you're older.

Sadly it won't be practical for a lot of us but be armed with the information and make informed choices wherever you can. That holiday in the sun might be just what you need right now but one week and it's gone. Put that money away and it could be paying for that retirement cruise instead.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

# 23 (2013) Here's To The Medieval High Street

I am a Tesco shopper. The reason? It's cheap. It's the one place I can find all the things I need for the price I can afford. I'm not especially proud of this confession but it's the way it is. I am equally aware that had they not been there, I would have found other ways to manage my monthly budget.

The former boss of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, recently aired on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. He described 'the rise of supermarkets and closure of small shops as part of progress'. He also 'called some High Streets "medieval", saying the way people lived their lives had changed'.

You could argue his statements on several points. My first comment would be that if it wasn't for the arrival and general take over of stores like Tesco, people's lives wouldn't have changed that much. It is my feeling that the UK shopper has been groomed into accepting stores like these over local independent shops by seducing them with cheap bulk offers, unhealthy time saving foods and a glutenous attitude towards eating.

You could also say that the only reason the High Street has changed is because of these ruthless multi-million pound companies moving in, not only into large industrial areas with their huge superstores but by infiltrating the high street with its smaller express outlets.

Invading the high street - Tesco took over a prime position at a key junction (source)
Lincoln itself is now riddled with them and they are clearly snatching business from other local independent stores by undercutting the competition thus starving them out of the high street and turning it into a cold and faceless shopping centre. 

On the other hand you could look at Tesco's humble beginnings and argue that here was an independent trader who had a head for business. The store began in 1919 and like many of our well known brands it started as a market stall in London's East End. 

This is the man we have to blame for Tesco. Enterpreneur WWI war veteran Jack Cohen (source)
You can also look at Tim Leahy's humble beginnings and think the same thing. The third of four sons, he grew up in a prefab on an estate in Liverpool. His father was a greyhound trainer and his mother was a nurse. His first job was at Tesco in Wandsworth, London when, as a 17 year old, so had to pay his own way through sixth form college.

Any one of the shops you see on the High Street could have become the next Tesco but it was the supermarket that showed the entrepreneurial skill to make it big. Because it changes with its customers, it gives the customer what it ultimately wants and it doesn't care how that affects the competition or its environment. Like all good businessmen, it is ruthless to the last and it can offer what it does because it has grown and is able to survive recessions and other economic disasters. The recent horse meat burger scare may have dented its profits, but Tesco won't have had to close any branches in its wake.

Tesco opened it's first store in 1929. It looks like a local independent business right (source)
Of course, if things continue as they are our high street is faced with a very bleak future. In the remaining years of our recession more small shops are going to fail. Of that there is no doubt. 

But imagine if the unthinkable happened and Tesco died out. Suddenly. In the wake of a huge economic crash. It could happen. What would be left? A High Street with very little to offer its populatiopn.  And then the enterpreneurs would be back. And so it begins again.

I miss the high street and the way it used to be. Friendly staff you recognised every time you went in to the shops. That personal service, that social experience. But for all its social past, mankind has distinctly lost its touch.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

# 22 (2013) A Pint of Coke

Not drinking is now almost as expensive as having a few beers out but without the hangover. Being charged £2.50 for a pint of Coke or Pepsi has become the norm. There are pubs in Lincoln that charge less for a pint.

I'm okay with this price in the student bar we normally use. It's £2.50 for unlimited refills and we make the most of that offer.

But for £2.50 a go, when I can get 4 litres for £2.50 in Tesco, I might as well stay at home. Pubs, even in student towns are now prohibitively expensive although it you like to get tanked up on shots on a Friday night you'll probably do okay. But why would I want to do that?

Businesses are feeling the pinch. Many of them respond by putting prices up to compensate. But if they put the prices down (ie to sensible prices) wouldn't they get more customers?


Monday, 4 February 2013

# 21 (2013) Zimbabwe Has Just £138 Left In The Bank

Zimbabwe's finance minister announced last week that the country has just £138.34 left in the state bank accounts. This devastating situation has been the result of years of financial rape and catastrophic, bloody minded decision making by the country's president Robert Mugabe, who in turn points the finger at others and blames them for the current situation.

The realisation that I have more money in the bank than an entire country is shocking but doesn't make me sit back and breathe a sigh of relief.

This year I am taking a tougher approach to spending less. I knew I wasn't sticking to the strict budget I had set myself because if I had, I wouldn't be living a life. I haven't gone mad yet so I must be spending too much. But I needed to know exactly where it was going. So at the beginning of January I started keeping an accurate list of where every penny goes.

This month I have spent £770 of which about £80 is what I class as socialising. It takes the form of  lunches out using 2-4-1 offers and other deals of which there are plenty about. The rest of it is house hold bills, presents for family, supermarket shopping. Because of the lunches out, my supermarket shop was only £32 this month so effectively I've spent about £28 a week on food which isn't bad although it's far more than when I was at Uni.

I drew a piechart for you but it wouldn't load on the page. The fact that I even made a pie chart makes me realise I really need to get out more,

But how does that fit into my budget?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

# 20 (2013) Student Applications are Up Up Up

Several days ago The Lincolnite announced that the University of Lincoln had seen a 25% rise in applications for September 2013 - 15,000 applications - the highest in its history. Am I surprised? No.

The reality of student loans is that many students will never have to pay them back under the current system. They're not seen as 'bad loans' because let's face it, everyone of a certain generation has one. And what's the alternative to going to university right now?

I was unimpressed with the student protests last year. I was a student then and even now I owe about £20,000. Am I bothered? Nope. I'm not paying it back because the reality is that me reaching the £15,000 earning bracket I need to start paying it back isn't likely in the foreseeable future. If it is, I'll just be happy to be earning that kind of money again.

Any one of you about to start Uni this year may be racking up loans of £30,000 or £40,000 by the time you leave but until you hit £21,000 in earnings you won't be paying it back. And I hate to put a downer on it but how many of you are going to enjoy that kind of earning potential with the way things are? And if you do, then you damn well do need to pay it back because you're doing better than the rest of us. 

At least the courses getting the highest percentage of applications are useful ones - engineering, computing and nursing. This country needs industry, skills that will kick start the economy.

Everyone seems to want a classless society, for education to be a right not a privilege. But it does not work like that because society and people are built on class and the pecking order. That will never change. It's things like that which cause break downs in society. We are all good at something, but some are better than others.

Getting a student loan is not one of these divisions. Loans and maintenance grants are there for all and they will get you through university if you use them properly.

Or not as it so predictably turns out (source)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

# 19 (2013) Hit Rates

Is it all about the hits or it is the content of your blog that makes it successful?

I finally reached my 6000 hits milestone this last week. I've been running this site for over a year now and I have friends who have been running blogs for far less time and have more hits than me. But is it the hits that count, the content or the quality of the content?

If you're looking for a blog to read do you look at their hit counter first or study the subject matter or do you search by tag words? I tend to struggle with blogs that are poorly spelt so even if the content is interesting I will probably be distracted enough by the way it is written to go elsewhere.

Whilst I am guilty of posting up 'Wooooo look how many hits I've got' style updates, it's more about generating interest in keenly felt subjects or just venting because if I don't I may well explode.  My particular subjects of interest are body image, economy, business and finance and general day to day well being.

Clearly people are reading my blog but I don't worry about how many or who because I know that what I post isn't for everyone but for the people that do read it, it is useful or amuses. Many of my posts are personal to me or local in nature and won't necessarily relate to many of my readers but I do try to touch on subjects that I think will have readership appeal. 

And of course I do check my statistics to see where the trends lie generally or in regards to individual posts. Even so, I have no idea if I have a readership following or if I am randomly collecting readers on a post by post basis. Google tells me I have only three followers but I know more are regularly dropping by.

Some of my fellow bloggers post on subjects that will naturally generate higher hit rates. Fashion, ethical subjects, feminism, naturism and sex are cases in point and I know that if I tag posts that relate to these subjects that the hit rates on these entries will receive more attention. To prove the point I will be tagging the aforementioned words in this one and comparing the results over the next few weeks.

As well as regular readers there are drifters, people who pass through using search words to find individual subjects that interest them. Feminism, sex and business being cases in point.

More than anything, this is where I post what is going on in my life. I know that people have huge concerns about privacy and not letting the world know all about 'you'. I'm not about to post up my address or other intensely personal information but I find this place incredibly useful to me.

I also try to take care that I am not overly posting on subjects that directly link to those around me in real life. Well, not usually anyway. But if something really needs saying, I will say it.

I have many pent up emotions and frustrations and find that they are often best communicated in type face. I never kept a diary, I couldn't see the point in writing only for myself. Once I've written about something I don't necessarily want to be reminded about it. But I love to write. It has always been one of my passions and it's one of the things I have kept up with throughout my life.

Besides which I can reach a lot more people and that can only be a good thing, right?