Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Having survived Christmas, and those weird days where you may or may not have had to go to work, and eaten and drank your own bodyweight, we come to one last binge – New Year's Eve. I shall be spending tonight at a Seventies themed party, where I shall be dressed as a punk (to be honest, I've just dug out the remnants of my ill-fated goth year at fourteen) and presumably drinking copious amounts of Advocaat.

However, Puritannical January is just around the corner. The adverts for Weight Watchers are piling up, gyms are quietly pushing up their prices for a month, and Nicorette gets ready for a massive boost in sales. I am not particularly against New Years Resolutions; it was a New Years Resolution (timed with a doctors visit, admittedly) that led to my mum losing about two stone of weight and changing her lifestyle, something she's kept up to this day. They can be a much needed kick up the arse, and if you're making one, good for you.

The key, I think, is being realistic. Mum lost so much weight because she was eating the equivalent of a baby horse every day and rarely went outside, let alone exercised. As soon as she swapped crisps for fruit and went to Aqua-arobics twice a week the weight pretty much ran away. My personal resolution of last year – Drink Less Booze You Hussy – was easy enough to achieve because it involved me putting down the damned wine, a choice I could make myself.

However, for the last two years I have also had another, quieter resolution, one that I suspect many graduates also share. It is “Get A New Job”. There are subtle variations, of course; it might be “Get A Better Job” or “Get A Promotion” or “Get Any Kind Of Job”. On the outside, it's a good resolution. You've given yourself an entire year to do it, after all, and an entire year is a long, long time to get a new job.

The problem is that there may not, in fact, be a job out there for you. I'm not saying that there never will be, but the job that is right for you may not appear in the space of twelve months. I could get Any New Job in the space of a year, I'm reasonable confident in my own abilities. However, I have a partner to consider, so geography must be taken into account. I'm also fairly firm that I don't want to move into a job I loathe, as mine frankly isn't bad enough (yet) to be worth the stress of starting a new job and then just hate it. Plus I've decided to stay on at least until I get married (less than three months now!) to minimise my general stress.

But quietly, quietly, I feel that I've let myself down every year with my lack of new employment. So this year, sod it. This year, my resolutions are going to be achievable ones that are entirely within my remit. I will continue to write. I will submit at least two pieces for paid employment – not get them you understand, but to at least submit. I will apply for new jobs, but I will not feel awful if I don't get them. Well, I will, but I'll try not to make it feel so much like a personal failing.

Have a very happy 2012, fellow graduates. If you'll excuse me, I need to go and paint my nails black.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Mistletoe and wine. Well, just wine.

Merry Christmas, one and all etc etc. I am spending the next two days at my parent's house, and shall be offline for the duration.

Last minute graduate Christmas tips: if you are with unfortunate relatives who think that degree=great job and graduate without great job=loser, then I advise telling a strategic mis-truth. A colleague of mine signed up for a marathon just so he could tell people that he wasn't unemployed, he was a professional athlete. If it keeps you sane during a festive season, then go for it.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Unexpected free porn (not just Google bait, either)

We get a lot of free stuff in the office at this time of year. Not from my employer – chance would be a fine thing! - but from various suppliers. Nothing to alert the anti-bribery laws, of course, but little gifts. Some are genuinely just a friendly matter – there are companies we have worked with for years – and some are blatant corporate schmoozing. Whatever, bring on the free mince pies and our yearly Raffle Of The Booze.

We also get free calenders. I love free calenders. I have had Cute Baby Animals on mine all year, and I am going to be distraught if I don't get another one. That baby orangutan really brightened up August for me. So opening the post this month is a bit exciting – between the usual invoices/cheques/abuse complaint letters there are cards! and calenders! and random vouchers! Exciting. Best month of the year to be the post monkey.

A few days ago, I was opening the post. It was a smallish envelope, so I assumed it was usual paperwork. A moment later, I dropped it and squeaked.

“Disorientated Graduate?” a concerned colleague asked. “What's wrong?”

I am normally loquacious. I am the kind of person who likes clever wordplay, and saying six words when I can say two. So please understand my full horror when I tell you that the only thing I could think to say in reply was:

“BOOBS!”

That's right, we received a calender full of ladies who were tragically unable to find their clothing. As a free corporate gift that was presumably intended to be put up in the office.

There are people out there that buy soft porn calenders. There are people out there that produce soft porn calenders. I have some very conflicted views on the whole matter, but in essence I reluctantly feel that it's a part of human nature and frankly enough what you get up in to private is your own damn business. The bit that really struck me was that a company took the time and money to acquire pictures – and yes, it was all pictures of topless women- affix their branding, create a full calender, and send it all out with the Royal Mail to their paying customers. All of this was in a genuine effort to persuade companies to continue buying their products, and was sent out in the full belief this was appropriate marketing material.

Sorry, are we back in the 1970s and no one told me?!

I genuinely feel that nakedness is generally not appropriate in a work context, or at least not in the context of a workplace where high-visibility vests are necessary. So if it had been a calender with naked men, yes, I would still have been deeply offended. If it has been a mixture of men and woman, I would still be offended.

Honestly, though? It made me feel small. I wanted to shred the calender, phone the company up, and have a good shout in incandescent rage. I wanted to say that I was a woman in the workplace and that my contribution was valid, and I could do more than sit there in the corner, silently, with my boobs out. I wanted to say that receiving this calender unexpectedly was rude and upsetting. My female colleagues, who normally feel that this feminism lark is for lesbians and weirdos, were equally upset and genuinely shocked. We expressed this to our line manager.

What actually happened was this: the line manager gave it as a gift to the yard staff. I checked the companies details and it turns out that we owe them money for goods picked up this month, so I didn't shout at them as I am not bonkers enough to destroy relationships all that much.

Instead, I blogged about it. Go me. I mean, do other people thing that this is an appropriate inter-company gift? Did I over-react? Personally I think not, but perhaps that's just me.

--

Today Kim Jong-il died. I wrote the above post earlier, but I felt it needed mentioning, albeit in a very strange context.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Love, Dave, is not always around.

I have been puzzling for a while exactly why David Cameron decided to stick two fingers up to Europe. For a while I thought it might have been because he just hated the French, but then I remembered that's just my Dad. Then I thought it was because he genuinely just wasn't bright enough to work out that possibly taking down the world economy was a worse risk than annoying his hard-of-thinking Eurosceptic backbenchers.

The thing is, as you may have just guessed, I do not especially like the Conservative party. In fact, to put it into rather more stark relief, I am actually a paid-up member of the Labour party. The thing is, there are individual elements of the Tories who are fine and noble people – SERIOUSLY I'M NOT BIGOTED SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE TORY etc – but as a general rule they sort of worry me. On a more specific level, I feel that David Cameron and George Osbourne are the most worrying thing to happen to the working classes of this country since, well, Thatcher. And rickets. And the potato famine.

I honestly don't think they're stupid though. Desperately misguided and dangerous, yes, but not stupid. So I don't think that David Cameron would really, honestly take that risk through sheer stupidity.

Then I remembered it's Christmas, and that Love Actually is on telly a lot. David Cameron, secretly, is just trying to be like Hugh Grant and stand up for puny Britain to general love, acclaim, and snogs from Martine McCutcheon. Not that bit maybe.

Oh god. I mean, I adore Love Actually and am guaranteed to blub like a baby at the end of it every single time, but I wouldn't base political plans on it.

Except maybe this one:



Merry Christmas.

-

The festive season is the reason for the recent slowdown of posts despite fairly major important economic issues. I am pleased to report the Christmas party of this year went reasonably well, with no arguments, arrests or vomiting on the boss. However, my life in the evenings is currently a flurry of Christmas cards, socialising and to be quite honest TV specials. I think the problems with being a graduate-in-employment at Christmas are threefold:

1.You want to do Christmas shopping. Your employer feels you should, you know, be in work.
2.You have the money to actually buy people nice Christmas presents this year. The main problem with this is described in section 1.
3.You also have disposable income to go partying. There are lots of parties. BAD COMBO. Or good. Either way.

These are not necessarily problems, I suppose, but it does rather account for a lack of time to do, well, anything.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Thinking space

Ever since I was about twelve, I've always wanted to live alone. I would decorate how I want, keep it exactly to my personal level of cleanliness – no higher, no lower – and watch exactly what I wanted to television. When I got a bit older I realised that living with one other person would be acceptable, mostly because having someone else to keep the bed warm at night is very nice indeed.

Mostly stuff doesn't work out like that. I lived with a small family of mother, father and younger sister until I went to university. I spent university in houseshares with a few people, some of whom I got on with, some of whom... not so much. Still, I assumed that when I left I would get to Live By Myself and that it would be Splendid. I actually did a summer of living by myself, when my housemates went on holiday/home, and I spent the summer drinking too much and heckling the TV. It was good times.

Unfortunately, the only job I could secure for myself after leaving university was a retail job in the city near my hometown; a transfer from my university job. So I moved back in with my parents. Bless them, they were over the moon. I drank a bottle of wine that night, stole a packet of my Mum's cigarettes when her and my Dad had gone to bed and sat in the garden, chain-smoking and crying about being a failure. (I am not a smoker; very occasionally, it seems like a sensible thing to do.) I then lived with my parents and sister for a year, falling into all of the same traps of being eighteen, before eventually moving back into a houseshare. The houseshare was significantly better than living with my parents, and the couple I lived with were fabulous humans, but still, it wasn't what I wanted.

Now I live with Mr Disorientated Graduate in a flat of our own and I'm moving towards actually having the place I want. These flats have paper thin walls, though, and I haven't had a full night's sleep for months as the baby in the flat downstairs is teething. Apparently the only noise that can penetrate my earplugs is the sound of a child crying in another property. BAD TIMES.

This is the economic truth of many a graduate, I think. Although we dream of the flat we'll own ourselves, and decorate, and live to our own rules, the sad truth is that we simply can't afford it. Although Mr DG and I are quietly determined to at least live somewhere with really good soundproofing next time, we're doing fairly well thus far for people our age. As that baby gives yet another wail downstairs, and another set of graduates prepare for their first Christmas as 'boomerang babies', the sad truth is that graduates are some of the lowest people on the rung of houses. The only option to squash together in family homes, in blocks of flats, in what will probably be increasingly rubbish housing.

This post is brought to you by a borderline hysterical lack of sleep. This may be a little obvious.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hurricane Bawbag

Up in Scotland they're calling it Hurricane Bawbags, which resulted in some lolz at work today. Being down in England we're not quite at the hurricane stage yet, but it's insanely windy given that I live along the seafront on the Irish Coast.

It's nights like this I'm pleased to be a graduate; we can at least afford to have the heating on, and I don't have to curl up in the library for warmth.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Graduate Myth #8: The Work Christmas Party

TIS THE SEASON. Today we have ripped open the advent calenders, both the home one and the work one (is it just me who has a home and work one? Seriously, it makes the first five minutes at work less awful) and I will be guiding you through the trials and tribulations of the season. The first is that dreaded, anticipated and sickening event: the work Christmas party.

There seems to be a mental image of a work Christmas party. It's a big boozy lair-up, which starts off like that Boots advert with woman walking in slo-mo and ends up in a big lairy mess with Sharon from accounts snogging Tom from HR behind a pot plant and someone is sick on the boss. A lot of Christmas parties are happening this weekend, so let me guide you through it.

This... is pretty much what happens. Sorry, everyone. The myth is true. I wish it wasn't. There may be companies out there that pay for sophisticated and unique events, but I have yet to work for any of them and I don't know anyone else who has either. All Christmas parties seem to involve some sort of meal, some sort of drinks, and some sort of entertainment (disco/cabaret/clubbing), and all Christmas parties involve dramatic mistakes with alcohol and some sort of colleague drama. However, I bring good news: if you're sensible about it, the work Christmas party can be a hell of a laugh.

I have been on a variety of work Christmas parties. Probably the lowest moment was on one for a part-time job I had in uni. My manager got arrested in a bar for kicking a glass door to pieces, something I only found out two days later as at the time of said arrest I was vomiting lentils from the meal over my bedroom carpet. I am going to regret admitting to that one. We had a lot of booze bought for us on the company account, and, er, yeah. It's a memory I mostly repress, that one, although there isn't an awful lot of memory left.

However, my most recent Christmas party was quite good. A few years of experience at these events gave me the magic knowledge, which is Don't Drink Too Much And Remember Everyone Else Is A Wanker. I danced a bit, drank a bit, avoided Big Bob and his grabby hands and even got to enjoy a hotel breakfast the next day without promptly hurling it up again. Score.

If you really, really hate your place of work and they're not paying for your Christmas party, I hasten to point out, don't bother. They're not fun if that's the case. I work for a company that pays for everything (we tend to go to some sort of local hotel, eat, drink, be merry and sleep), and as I am now The Social Secretary due to my freakish attention to planning detail I even get to unfairly put my preferences out there. I also get on with enough people I work with to enjoy the planning side of things, where we discuss dresses and put some money into a pot to buy a bottle of wine or two to drink before we go to the party itself.

The thing is, I also dislike a lot of people I work with, but I've now worked out the best thing to do is just ignore them where possible. This is easier than you might realise – remember, you're not being paid to be at the Christmas party, so other than remembering not to vomit on the boss you can generally please yourself. If you're feeling really sophisticated, now is the time to start dropping psychological hints about your general awesomeness and why a pay rise would be a good idea, although this won't work if you're trapped with Brian from I.T. all night, mostly because Brian doesn't even work in payroll.

So go to the Christmas party. It won't be the best party of your night, but with just a little work it certainly doesn't have to be the worst.

FA LA LA.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Stuff

My stats just jumped massively. Hello, all of you international sorts! Bet you think I'm about to put something intellectual.

To be quite honest I'm in my pajamas, eating a packet of Refreshers and watching Don't Tell The Bride. LIVING THE DREAM. And my next planned post is Surviving The Christmas Party, ready for all of you hitting the town this weekend with your colleagues. Oh yeah.

However, this is a mildly serious post in order to wish the best of luck to everyone on strike tomorrow, which includes both of my parents. I will not be on strike tomorrow, as I work in the private sector, and there is no relevant union to my industry. I completely support the strike. To everyone on the picket lines: dress up warm, and if I pass one, I will honk in support.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lost generation

Nick Clegg: £1bn youth jobs fund to prevent lost generation

A generation lost in despair at youth unemployment soars

This new housing strategy won't save the 'lost generation'

I have heard more this month about being lost than I do from my SatNav. My whole generation, they would have you believe, is floundering about in the dark and nothing will save us from a life of bad privately rented houses, under-employment and a lack of moral fibre.

This is possibly true. I am, after all, a Disorientated Graduate. My very name indicates that I am, well, lost. I'm lost in a way that indicates I'm directionless through, rather than having been misplaced behind the sofa cushions of recession. The way I see it is that our generation is lost, some behind the sofa but mostly just lacking a clear direction.

It was easier in the past. A hundred years ago, the path would have been clear for me. If I was born into my class as a girl, I would have been expected to go into a local factory, or possibly service. After getting married, I would push out babies and raise them until I fell down through exhaustion or poor housing conditions.

Even fifty years ago, I might have done the same thing if I failed my 11+. Chances are I would have done; both my parents did, after all. I may have survived a little longer, and at least I would have had contraception, but that would have been it. The path would still be reasonably clear.

If I passed my 11+, there were suddenly more paths. Hurrah! Not that many, mind you; teacher training college, perhaps, or nursing. Then it was, yet again, work until the babies.

Thirty years ago, maybe even twenty, it all starts getting a little muddy. I could have gone to university and I would have had a wide choice of jobs. Maybe I could marry, maybe I didn't have to any more; I didn't have to have children. My choices were my own but as long as I worked hard then I would be free to make whatever choice I liked, because the freedom was there.

This was the narrative my generation and I grew up with. Work hard and you too can enter any industry you want, buy a house, have it all. So we worked hard. All of us Disorientated Graduates, and the Disorientated College-Leavers, we worked to the best of our abilities, believing the narrative that all paths were open to us if we just tried. We picked our path, and by god we flew at it.

We're getting lost because the paths have been closed, or become too crowded, or filled with our predecessors. We need a new narrative, a new story to aspire too because the one we grew up with just isn't working any more. I'm not sure what that story should be, but I do know that just telling us that we're lost and building some cheap houses to try and fill the aspiration gap won't help. And going back to the models of fixed places in society is even worse.

I don't think that my future is lost behind the sofa cushions of recession. It's a big sofa, and someone has flytipped it in the way of my path of life (this is becoming a stretched metaphor) but I truly believe that my path is still there and that I am going to find it again once I work my way around the current difficulties. That's all.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Young Apprentice

I quite like Young Apprentice. Although I appreciate that most of the contestants are chosen because they are good telly, I like that there is a genuine effort to try and encourage them. There's slightly less of Nick's raised eyebrows and slightly more emphasis on when they do well.

I also appreciate that 16-17 year old teenagers are, shall we say, still developing. Many of them are actually showing great promise. However, some of them are not. I'm not saying they never will, I'm just saying that at the moment they are, well, teenagers.

(Hark at me. I'm 24, for goodness sake.)

Last night's episode consisted of the two teams creating a new deodorant for the teenage market. Like all Apprentice episodes, I found myself gnawing my own hands off out of sheer embarrassment. I felt sure that at the end either Posh Harry or Boofy Hair James would go. I would have been pleased by this as a result. Both of them need, essentially, a massive failure. A bit of a failure is good for the soul, in my opinion. Failing my music GCSE was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, as it gave me a well-needed smackdown and an appreciation that I couldn't do everything.

Instead, Designer Gbemi went. I admit, she irritated me as well, but I failed to see how the task was her failure.

My heart sank a little when I realised that they were keeping Boofy Hair James and Posh Harry in for telly reasons. In the adult edition, I would understand this, as it means that you get a cracking interview episode. But for the teenage edition, I'm a little skeevy about it. All that happens is that they build those two up further, or alternatively they will be killed in the house by their fellow contestants. The others are taught that attention-seeking is the way forward. Teenagers are taught the same thing.

I am sure that in the end there will be a worthy winner, and I will still watch it every Monday night to get my Apprentice fix, but there we go.

That said, teenagers may as well get into business and learning to rip each other's metaphorical throats out early because it's not like there's enough jobs for them. Perhaps I am old-fashioned.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Graduate Myth #7: Everyone Else Is Better Than You

When a group of graduates get together, you'll find they often start to play a form of one-man-downship. One may be pleased about their new job, and another will express admiration for their progressing career. The first will respond with a variant on “but you have a better job/house/children/dog” and thus does the spiral continue.

The thing is, all graduates are basically failures now, right? Our degrees aren't worth the paper they're written on, we are all spongers off the state and we fail at being adults. As such, when someone makes any kind of progress it merely serves as a reminder that we are all such miserable failures as human beings that we should just lie down and die and stop taking valuable resources away from people that need them.

You will be pleased to hear that this is a myth, and one of the more common ones at that.

I am consistently amazed at how much better than me the vast majority of people seem to be. Wanda and Terry have just bought a house. Doris has just had a baby that she was actually trying for rather than an accident with contraception. Maurice is an area manager. These are not real names (I wish I did know people called that) but these are real examples of people exactly the same age as me. As I sit here in a t-shirt with the Cookie Monster on it and debate whether it is acceptable to eat toast for the second meal of the day, I casually glance at Facebook and despair at my existence compared to all of these amazing people I seem to know. Seriously, I am clearly a wreck masquerading as a human being.

But then, I do have a job. I am sitting in a flat that does not contain my parents. Admittedly I don't own said flat, but who does these days? Plus, I'm getting married in less than four months which freaks even me out, let alone the gasps that the information elicits from fellow graduates.

Going to university, for many people, is a deferral of being a Real Adult. Yes, you go and live by yourself and manage your money and study and love and all those good things, but no one expects you to make commitments. You are not required to buy a house, or have an amazing job, or push out babies, or get married. In fact, people will look at you funny if you do manage any of these things. Contemporaries who didn't go to university, however, tend to manage these things faster. As such, you come out of university, hit about 23, and then panic because everyone is BETTER than you and why haven't you ACHIEVED and OH GOD OH GOD and the cycle starts again.

As such, I'm going to let you in on a secret:

If you're reading this, and you're a graduate, then congratulations! You have achieved something massive in your life! You worked hard enough in school and college and whatever else to get the requisite qualifications to enter a respected institution,where you knuckled down for the requisite amount of time and managed to achieve a recognisable qualification. Dude, you rock!

So there.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Disorientated Graduate's Guide To Winter

The nights are dark, the days are cold and the high street is pushing Christmas like it's going out of fashion. It is, of course, winter, and this presents a new layer of problems for graduates. I am now in my third winter since graduating and feel I can now guide the average graduate through the terrifying world that is the coldest season and the surprising bright sides it can bring. No, really.

The Heating

There are not many times in this blog I'm going to write this, but when it comes to the heating: REJOICE! FOR YOU ARE NOT A STUDENT ANY MORE!

Like so many students, I lived in a houseshare. As energy companies are bastards, we couldn't afford to have the heating on all day. I lived in Scotland. As such, days at home involved waking up and having a very hot shower. When you were out of the shower, you put on your underwear. Then – and this is a knack I am proud of – you put on the wooly tights, then the vest, then the t-shirt and the pajama bottoms. After this came the thin jumper and then over that a hoodie. Add another pair of socks to the equation, and some slippers. Make a hot drink, and then sit in front of the computer with a blanket over your knees. Add a hot water bottle when appropriate.

That, you see, is SURVIVAL. Heating takes away money you can spend on important things, like vodka and cheese, and my student priorities were very clear indeed.

Living with your parents as a graduate is often pants, but it does mean that the heating is on during winter. Remember going home during Christmas, and sweating as you sat in your t-shirt? Well, it's like that ALL WINTER ROUND.

Moved out with people with a job? Possibly not at parent standards of heat, but I am currently sat in a flat with the heating on and it is the most beautiful thing in the world. Sure, we can only afford a few hours a day, but as we work roughly equal hours it means we can time the heating around it.

… and if you are unemployed and can't afford to put the heating on? Well, see my tips as a student for keeping warm. Let me tell you, they're cast-iron.

Time Off

Summer holidays are no more. Spring break is not for you. British laws and customs, however, mean that Christmas represents more of a chance for a little time off. Within reason, of course; many graduates work in businesses that do not shut over Christmas, or only shut for a day.

TIP: Many people do not celebrate Christmas which is all good. However, if you celebrate Christmas find someone that objects to Christmas. Not the type that just 'don't like it' but people who really, really hate Christmas. Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly handy for this, and frankly it's revenge for all of those times you get woken up by missionaries.

Okay, it's not the big amount of time off you had as a student, but at least you don't have to revise for Christmas and/or write a dissertation. Christmas dissertations are rubbish, although asking a drunk father to edit it on Christmas Eve is quite good fun. I don't think he even knew who Charles II was.

… and work

Winter can bring new opportunities for work, through an increase in seasonal labour. Sometimes this can lead to new longer-term opportunities, although I will be the first to admit that being a Christmas retail temp can be soul-destroying.

The weather, however, presents new and exciting challenges. If you are travelling by anything other than a transporter, prepare to add more time on to your journeys. Travelling by train? Buggared. Travelling my car? Buggared. Travelling by foot? Buggared. You will need to get out of bed earlier without a doubt, which is frankly pants.

And yes, it's dark ALL OF THE TIME. Wake up? Dark. Get out of the office? Dark. I cope with this by way of eating more cake and taking more baths, two of the pleasures of winter as far as I'm concerned.

Now wrap up warm and attack the winter! Or hibernate gently. Either way.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Dilemma

I went to Blackpool the other night. This is generally something of a mistake at the best of times. The Illuminations were switched off early, we got lost trying to get there, even the trams weren't running. It was, basically, fail, and by the end of the evening when we returned to the car we were almost laughing at the sheer despair of the place.

At which point we overheard a frankly appalling conversation on the other side of the road, as a burly man attempted to tell a passing gent about why “Come with me, mate! She'll look after you really well, I'll give you a good price for her, you'll have a good night!” The man he was cajoling walked on quickly. The burly man had a drunken man following him. It was with a sinking feeling that we realised that the burly man was probably a pimp, and lady of which he was talking was probably a prostitute.

Cue my liberal heart bleeding all over the pavement. Oh, god, the poor woman.

As I have discussed before, I am a feminist. I am, overall, not in favour of sex work in an area where it is not legalised. I absolutely think it should be legalised, and self-policed, which would make it safer for all concerned. As the law stands in the UK, it is consistently the women who suffer. I fully understand that there are those involved with sex work that do so voluntarily and enjoy the work.

Perhaps the woman (women?) they were discussing were fully and completely engaged with their work and did so out of choice. Not the kind of choice where it's that or starve, or the kind of choice where it pays for the drugs. The kind of choice where it's that, or be killed. That's no choice at all. Blackpool has, shall we say, a reputation for the kind of women who have no choice at all. And frankly, I really don't like the idea of a man selling a woman like you might sell a potato.

So all I could think about was the woman, and that by watching the interaction all I was doing was facilitating her abuse.

There are so many things wrong with the above sentence. Firstly, I have no idea that what I thought I saw and heard was really what was happening. I have no idea of the state of the woman or women even if my assumptions were correct. And even if it was all of my worst fears, what could I do? I could confront the man, who might have been armed. I'm a short woman with the physical strength of a bowl of noodles. Even if I had over-powered him, how would that have helped the woman in the long run? I couldn't describe the man, and I don't know where they eventually ended up, so I couldn't get the police involved – and indeed, I'm not sure how helpful the police would be.

Finally, my feelings of guilt mean that I am taking away the attention from the women involved and making it about me, and even using it for blogging, which is maybe the worst thing of all.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Comedy review: Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican: Thoroughly Modern Millican, 27/10/11, Southport Theatre and Convention Centre


I got tickets to see Sarah Millican on my birthday. In these innocent, halycon days (well, August) I did not know the grim truth that she was a panellist on Loose Women. That was a horrible shock courtesy of a sick day, especially when I realised it wasn't a co-hydromal inspired hallucination.

As such, I was still looking forward to seeing Sarah Millican, but when we got to the venue and realised we were possibly the youngest people in the audience (well, at least in the bottom 10%) the alarm bells started ringing. Plus the plastic glasses of wine, although this is, to be fair, now standard across the board.

In the end, I didn't need to worry. It was a fab night indeed. The comedy was like the stuff off the telly, i.e. homely, relationships, weight, and so on. Although I like surreal comedy as much as the next person, it was something that I could absolutely identify with. “You can absolutely have breakfast in bed if you're single. Leave a Twix by the bed before you go to sleep.” Plus, she was completely filthy, so the two things together, personally, made me snort with laughter. She was very good at dealing with the audience of, yes, mostly middle-aged women. (You think that that sort of audience doesn't get drunk and heckle a lot? Clearly you didn't see Take That this summer.)

It's not comedy to set the world alight, and I suspect that although the audience was probably a little older due to being Southport, Land Of The Pensioner, the comedy probably does appeal more to older people. That's okay. I'm basically a pensioner at heart myself. But all in all, it was a very good night out, for a Wednesday in Southport. My main quibble? The bar was out of wine by the interval. I have never been so outraged. I still enjoyed the second half, though, even without a glass of wine in my hand. That's fair praise, right there.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Graduate Myth #6: Work/life balance


When I was a student, one of the things I really looking forward to was not having to 'take the job home', as it were. Being an arts student, the vast majority of my time was taken up with reading. It was, in fact, an endless reading list. Whatever I read, it wasn't enough. I would sit at home/the union/the cinema/etc fretting that I had many things to read. After eight hours of reading and then a shift at my part-time job, there would still be reading to do.

I flailed a lot, but looked forward to the fact that even if I had a horribly high-powered job I would still be able to go home most nights and not worry about my job. And if I had a medium or indeed low-powered job, this would still make life significantly easier because at least the rest of my life would be my own.

Sorry about that hollow laughter in the background there. That's present day me cackling at student me.

I have, at best, a medium powered job. I have a small amount of responsibility, but generally I seem to finish at about 5pm and saunter home. Recently, however, my workload has increased massively, and not the the extent where I can now ignore it. Though a forcible reshuffle of my working habits, I am now more efficient in my day to day tasks, which has helped, but I've still left late every day. More problematically, I'm still drowning in work when I get back in every morning. And it is playing on my mind. Quite dramatically, at the moment, which is why blogging has dropped off a little. I dreamt about a major customer last night. Not in that way, obviously, but in a faintly anxious way.

I enjoyed the reading. I really, really do not enjoy my job.

(Damn, that hollow laughing is getting louder.)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Youth unemployment

I have had the kind of fortnight that makes me fantasise very seriously about quitting my job in dramatic high fashion. It veers between telling arsey clients exactly where they can stick their increasingly high pitched demands for immediate attention or alternatively just throwing a shoe at my boss and flouncing out of the door. How exactly I will flounce with only one shoe on I'm not sure, but it's important not to over-analyse such fantasies.

Only once in my life have I quit a job without another one lined up. I was, for all of a day, working in a cleaning gang for a Pontins contract. The gangmaster was a twat is a suit who was there for all of three minutes before 'leaving us to it'. Never trust a bloke in a suit running a cleaning company,in my fairly considerable cleaning experience. We spent all day cleaning out room after room after room, with no lunch break and then we ended up working an hour longer as some of the other gangs didn't do their rooms fully. The supervisor at Pontins was the most awful person I've ever had the displeasure of working with, and as one of the few women in the gang to speak English she took out a lot of her anger at me. I finished the shift, went home, burst into tears and didn't go back. I wasn't paid for the extra two hours.

The point of all this is that I managed to get another job reasonable swiftly, this time as a carer in a nursing home, which I have relatively good memories of and still pop in occasionally to see the surviving residents. I had enough money to see me through the summer and set me up for another year in uni.

I don't think I could manage that again. I am hyper-aware of my financial responsibilities, mostly because I pay the rent and also I have a wedding looming, and that shit is expensive. My fear of poverty is higher than my loathing of the job, and poverty and unemployment is a very real fear right now.

Youth unemployment is, roughly speaking, when someone between 16-24 isn't in employment, education or training. This is charmingly referred to as being a NEET. I have never been a NEET, I say with some quiet pride, but my sister has. In less than a year I am no longer a youth in employment terms, but I still worry about the future.

Youth unemployment in Britain has now topped one million, and if you think this isn't a graduate issue then you have your head in the sand. It is equally an issue for school-leavers and college-leavers, but crucially it means a generation is being screwed. It's being screwed by short-sighted policies, by increasing unemployment across generations, by the economy. It means I worry about spiralling into the situation in Spain. I look at the protests across the Middle East, where a major factor for social change and unrest is – you guessed it – youth unemployment.

I worry that I am stuck in this job, which whilst paying tolerably well has no chances for progression or training. Worse, though, is the worry that if I quit it I will have no chances for, well, anything, and will eventually just take a worse job in order to fill up the days. I don't exactly have what you might consider a strong work ethic, but I like to have a structure to my day, and to feel that I'm doing something at least tolerably useful.

So, for now, fear of the unknown will keep the image of throwing a shoe at my boss a fantasy.

Friday, 7 October 2011

When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love


I have always thought of myself as a generally organised person. I am the Queen Of The Filing System at work, keeping it alphabetised and everything in correct folders. My desk at work was organised according to fairly sensible rules.

Slowly but surely, the desk system has fallen apart in the last six months. I've taken on a frighteningly large range of responsibilities, all of which come with ridiculous paperwork. The office was reshuffled as well, leading to a reduction in overall desk size. As such, my desk filing system has slowly altered to a state of being in which it has four categories:

1.I'm Dealing With It
(It's currently sat on my desk and I'm ignoring it.)

2.I've Filed That Away
(It's in the bin under an apple core.)

3.That One Is Dealt With
(It's been shredded.)

4.I Have No Idea What You're Talking About
(No, really, I don't. I might have eaten it.)


As such, I finally plucked up the courage to ask for some filing trays. Normally asking for stationary involves producing a spreadsheet in order to prove it will increase your productivity, a small blood sacrifice to the pagan gods and bowing to the full moon over a period of six months. Astonishingly, though, my request was immediately granted, possibly because my boss is out of the country and the office manager is a little laissez-faire about such matters.

I now have a desk with some lovely coloured filing trays on it, and I am as happy as a clam. I can even see some of the wood on my desk. It's a very satisfying feeling, and frankly their arrival represented the bright spot of my week.

Make of that what you will.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Commuting

The problem with commuting is that I can't claim that we were fibbed to about this one. Commuting is universally acknowledged to be basically pants. It's stressful, other humans are dreadful, public transport and roads are worse, and it represents everything that is wrong. Perhaps it needs pointing out be enthusiastic people who reckon they can totally apply to jobs that are about three hours away from where they actually live.

I'm not sure if what I do to go to work counts as 'commuting' but it can quite often represent the most depressing part of my day. Bearing in mind that I work with the general public when they're angry, this is quite a statement.

I used to get the train to my old job. It was a small local train with distressing efficiency; I was never late, there was always a seat and generally a copy of the Metro. Being Trendy Shop Work, I was generally in jeans and looking fabulous(ish), whilst those surrounding me were in business suits. I quite enjoyed it, all things considered. I had time to read, which is always precious.

Now that I work in a rural area, public transport was never a possibility. There is a train station half an hour's walk from work, but it never made sense to take it. I've been driving in to work for the last two years, but only recently has it become the type of drive where you quietly debate crashing into a wall for a bit of variety, with the move to Seaside Town.

My main problems, in no particular order:

1.Recently local councils have been deliberately planning road closures in my route to work, and then moving them to my new route when I finally manage to find yet another new route through twisting country lane. At one point I found myself having a full blown tantrum in the car because all I wanted in the whole world was to be at home cooking my tea, and instead I was stuck in YET ANOTHER diversion.

2.Schoolchildren. Now, I am aware that people have to go to school. I accept this. I went to school myself, you know. I am constantly astonished at how many kids are driven in these days. The drive home, as a rule, is much easier; driving in the morning involves passing two high schools, one sixth-form college and three primary schools. That's with a little effort; if I went some other, theoretically quicker routes, the numbers would double. Irritatingly, the high school in Seaside Town I have to pass starts at 8.30am (i.e. when I'm leaving the house) whereas the high school in Home Town on the way to work starts at 9.00am. There is no way around this that is legal.

ALSO. I drive past a very swanky private establishment, and if one more person cuts me up in a large white 4x4 I will just drive into it. There's one woman in a white BMW monstrosity (why are they so big?) who I swear does it for fun.

3.It is impossible to drive whilst reading.

4.Breakfast radio is appalling. Radio 4 is depressing; Radio 2 is too chirpy; local stations are simply abhorrent. I tend to listen to Radio 1 and then channel hop during the vast majority of the music. This is perhaps because I am an old person now. The journey home isn't too bad; Scott Mills is quite good on Radio 1, and if the guest of the day is of your Cher Lloyd variety, Simon Mayo is acceptable on Radio 2. But oh, the mornings.

5.Every other driver appears to feel just as agitated and unhappy as I do in the mornings, leading to an awful lot of road rage. My cursing is both invective and inventive.

6.The depressing knowledge that I am doing all of this just to go to work, and spending £20 a week on petrol for the privilege of doing so.

In The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, one of the things that Frank is agitating for is the right to be paid for travel time to work. I never agreed with this until I had an hour long round trip every day to get to work.

I realise I have no right to complain. The reason we moved from walking distance from my work is that Mr DG can't drive, and as he works in Seaside Town he was enjoying a two hour trip into work every day, and I'm not that cruel to make him do that after a nine hour day. If I see that ominous 'ROAD CLOSED' sign again, though, I may think otherwise.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Ghost of Student Future

Mr DG and I headed up to St Andrews last weekend for various reasons. It was Freshers Week in the town, and I felt a strong sense of nostalgia. The feeling in the town on Freshers Week is a very special one. St Andrews is small, and with so many activities on, and halls spread around town, the place buzzes with life and fear and quite a lot of alcohol. I listened to the voices passing me, and read the posters, and saw the new bar list for the Union. It was intoxicating, and all I wanted to do was dive back into that life for a week, where everything was new and exciting.

Then I remembered that I really, really didn't want to be eighteen again.

After going for a meal with friends, we headed back to their flat, past a group of young men smoking outside of hall of residence. It definitely wasn't cigarettes they were smoking.

“Yeah, man,” I heard one of them brag in a strong RP accent, “this is the good stuff, I brought it from home, you know?”

I took a slightly deeper smell, and was overwhelmed with the smell of oregano. It could be of course that 'the good stuff' was in reference to a quiche they'd made earlier that night, of which the young gent was particularly proud. Either way, I had a very quiet snicker to myself.

I also found myself curled up on the living floor on a student flat at an airbed at 10.20pm, and fast asleep approximately 30 seconds later. On a normal Friday night in Freshers Week, I would have just been leaving the house in my glamrags at that point.

Whilst I may miss my student days, I think this weekend fairly comprehensively proved that I will never be returning to those days. Plus, there is something lovely about the awed look of terror wit which final year students regard graduates, as we return in the guise of the Ghost Of Christmas Corporate Student Future, telling terrifying tales of council tax, water rates and full time employment.


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Graduate Myth #5: Culture

It was assumed by my parents that by the time I came out of university I would an utterly unbearable cultural snob. This is not an unfair reflection on them, or indeed on me. When I was seventeen, I went to The Theatre. I watched ballet on the telly at Christmas. They felt that in some way this meant I would go to university and the last of my working-class credentials would be wiped away, and I would never watch the Big Brother finale with my mother ever again.

Quietly, I thought this might be the case as well. I hoped I would come out a witty urbanite who could appreciate cutting edge music, jazz, art, theatre, and all kinds of literature. I was seventeen. You show me people who aren't utterly unbearable at seventeen.

Now I am a graduate, and although I have made the effort to read some Classic Literature, I've only been to any kind of theatre to see Russell Howard perform live, the only classical music I've got around to appreciating recently was the Horrible Histories prom and last year I watched Josie Gibson triumph in the Big Brother finale. (I didn't even have to Google her name there.) Ironically, my mum was at a donkey festival in Spain at the time. There's a moral there, but I'm not sure what.

What I should have taken more notice of when I was seventeen is that what I really liked to read was Terry Pratchett, and thought Doctor Who was the best thing on telly. Crucially, this is still the case.

Unless what you're studying at university is “Cultural Stuff To Annoy Your Parents”, chances are your personality won't radically change in the few years you faff about at university. If you are a budding witty urbanite, university will give you the opportunity to indulge this. If you want to watch plays, learn about opera and attend free jazz concerts, then chances are this is the best time to do so. And why not? It's a wonderful opportunity that, if you were a slightly odd sururbanite like myself, you wouldn't have received otherwise. In university, I did go to some plays, acted in one, and took the time to go to some live music performances, but that was about it. I was and am frankly indifferent to things like art and opera, although I do enjoy a musical here and there.

The thing university did give me was the opportunity to be more well-rounded in my reading, because this was something I already enjoyed doing. To be honest, though, I mostly watch TV. True Blood and The Great British Bake-Off tonight, for those interested.

The thing university really taught me, at the end of the day, was to skim read enough broadsheets to blag my way through most topics. Secretly, I think that's the key to being really cultured.

Which leads on to my final point. Whilst wandering through SeasideTown on yet another fruitless quest to find a greengrocer in walking distance (see what I did there?) I saw this little piece of art. “Ooooh,” I thought, and snapped a picture on my phone. I know enough to work out that this is either a Banksy, or someone inspired by him.


So? What do you think? Or have you all been faking culture too?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Ugh

At work, I picked up the phone. This is not unusual, as a lot of my job pertains to customer care. The chap on the other end of the phone wanted to be put through to my colleague, however.

“Okay!” I said cheerfully, finger heading towards the 'hold' button on the phone. “Bear with me!”

“I'll bear with you any time, darling,” he purred, in the most lecherous voice imaginable.

I put him on hold and died a little bit inside.

For the record: I had never met or spoken to this man before. He was simply a customer checking on some delivery details, it turned out. He probably imagined he was paying me a compliment.

I didn't feel especially complimented. When I am at work, I am at work. I am a professional, I am not an object, and to be treated as such by a complete stranger is an insult at best.

END.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

IT'S NOT DEAD MONEY YOU FOOLS

If one more person tells me that renting a house is 'dead money' I swear, I will scream. In fact, I reached this point quite a while ago, but it seemed impolitic to start shrieking at the downstairs neighbour, particularly because I had just hit his car and we had arranged matters fairly convivially up until that point.

When you come out of university, you are almost certainly without money. You are without money in exactly the same way that someone who left school at eighteen is without money. To buy a property is inordinately expensive, tens of hundreds of thousands of pounds. As such, it's frankly bizarre to expect someone in their early twenties to afford a house.

And yet renting is considered by anyone about ten years older than you to be the worst decision you could possibly make. “It's dead money!” they will cry. “Save up for a deposit! Find the money! It will be your PENSION!”

So as I sit here paying my rent, I would like to take a moment to take you through why the above statements are a lie, difficult, impossible, and a downright evil lie, in that order.

1. 'Dead money' is a phrase I particularly loathe. It's that weird, Thatcherite fetishism of money, that money should in some way be doing something. The money IS doing something, and that something is putting a roof over my head. You tell me that's dead money and I'll invite you to sleep outside.

A lot of people choose to live with their parents in order to save up for a mortgage. That's fine. That's your funeral. I lived with my parents for a year, until my sister and I were having daily screaming arguments and I spiralled into what I now realise was the beginnings of a bad bout of... I don't know what, exactly, as I don't wish to be too dramatic, but I think I may have cracked if I'd stayed much longer. It was the point I realised I was crying into some toast on a daily basis that I knew something had to give. I houseshared for a time, and now I'm sharing with Mr DG. I couldn't afford to live by myself, and neither could the majority of people I know. I found the method that worked for me.

This method keeps me with a remarkable sense of self-worth and also means that I am now of much better terms with my family. My parents are even coming for tea tomorrow. That is a healthy parent-child relationship, aged 24. My mother still desperately trying to iron my shirts was really not that good.

2. That said, saving up for a deposit is a jolly good idea. I am all in favour of savings. I really, really am. Mr DG and I try to squirrel away what we can every month, admittedly currently towards The Great Social Event Of 2012 i.e. our wedding, but it means we know we can do it. We don't go out a great deal. We eat cheaply. Buying new clothes are a distant world. Savings are a priority, for us.

However. You need approximately 10-20% of the worth of a house to get a mortgage. An average house around here is £100,000 pounds. That's £10-20,000. My annual salary is somewhere between those two figures. So that's at least a year of saving, even if I somehow managed to spend £0 in that year. So, er, where is my deposit meant to have come from between then and now?

Before any smartarse points it out, I am aware that at the moment it tends to be cheaper in terms of monthly payments when you compare mortgage vs. rent. However, I refer you to the £20,000 deposit above.

3. 'Finding the money is entirely possible'. Unfortunately, none of my wealthy relatives have yet revealed themselves. Bastards. I have also failed to find an old map with an 'X' marked on a treasure island, win the lottery, or worked out a way to rob a bank that is morally correct and 100% likely not to get myself caught.

4. A pension?! MY PENSION?!! What? The money is LOCKED WITHIN THE HOUSE. Locked there UNTO FOREVER. That's like saying that my rather lovely pair of Converse (three years old this year!) is a pension plan. That's not how it works at all. I have bought the shoes, I own the shoes, I will not somehow miraculously get the money back from the shoes. It is money invested, yes. It is a sensible investment, as they go. However, your pension is your pension and your house is your house. Telling people their house was their pension is the reason why we are about to have a whacking great pensions crisis. (Guess what generation is paying for that one, too?)

In conclusion: your average graduate cannot and does not have a mortgage. Your average graduate spends the first few years of post-graduate life doing doggy paddle to keep above water. If you can afford, and want, an aspire to a house then please, go for it! If you can't, though, don't go insane trying to get one. Don't make yourself ill. Try not to encourage any more recessions in terms of becoming over-stretched in your borrowing. (Think of the next generation of graduates there, perhaps.) Try to remember that having a roof over your head is good and safe money, and that our communal fetishism over property-owning as a nation is just plain weird.

And don't ever, ever tell me again that renting is 'dead money' because so help me I will not be responsible for my actions.

There is a Graduate Myth post here, somewhere, but I felt a bit of rage was possibly the way forward.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Some mildly bright news

Occasionally - very occasionally - there is a bright chink of light in the doom and gloom of professional graduate life. I've recently managed to secure a paying - paying! - writing and editing job. It's not very well paying, admittedly, but since it's my first paid gig outside of my job, I am ecstatically happy.

On the plus side, it's something for the portfolio (if I had one) and it's also something to throw into the gaping maw of my overdraft. It's also evidence that no matter how ambivalent your feelings towards your place on employment might be, some people turn out to be unexpectedly useful.

On the negative side, it's editing a re-wording a website that's in the exact same industry I already work in. (No conflict of interest, luckily, that would be a fun one to explain to my actual boss.) It's also effectively a second job, in between working, commuting, blogging, wedding planning and every so often sleeping.

... I, er, wait, why was I pleased about this again?

Friday, 2 September 2011

Standing on a chair, shouting

You know what's awesome? Feminism, that's what.

I've self-identified as a feminist since I was about two, according to my parents. I didn't know the word, but I was perfectly convinced that boys and girls were equal and that was the end of it. It's been the same ever since, really. I have always found myself getting wound up at injustice in the world, and inequality.

That might not be immediately obvious from this blog. Although I'm aiming to make something of a political point in regards of the somewhat mundane reality of being a graduate (you will probably work! it will be mostly uninspiring!) my personal politics haven't really come through too much.

However, here is a relevant point I realised in the office today – I have become significantly more interested in feminism since I graduated, rather than becoming heavily politicised in university itself.

This is, I suspect, not the usual position, and I'm hardly claiming that St Andrews is a den of feminist outrage. It's a famously apathetic university in terms of politics; a recent protest involved someone throwing a key lime pie at a Conservative politician. It's hardly the singing of the Red Flag. However, I work in a male dominated workplace in a male dominated industry and if one more person tells me to make the tea, calls me 'sweetheart' or asks me to go and get a man to check my figures I will explode. In fact, I have exploded. Several times.

However, although I knew the implicit wrongness in everything I've just described there, I couldn't articulate it. As such, I've been quietly self-educating myself on theories of feminism, and working out what I agree with, and what I don't. I went to the library and scared the living daylights of the librarian there. And most recently I read Caitlin Moran's book How To Be A Woman where she advises readers to stand on a chair and declare “I AM A FEMINIST!”

I am not standing on a chair. I am standing on the internet and declaring it instead. That's nearly as good, right?

I'm still trying to educate myself on this, so I don't think now is the time for the super-intelligent analysis. I'm also painfully aware that as a middle-class white graduate type, I'm still doing fairly well in terms of privilege. However, the idea that the graduate world is full of bright and lovely people who are 100% up to equality is completely and utterly wrong, because the world is full of people with meaning and unmeaning biases and we all have to fight against them on a daily basis. It's important to highlight that sometimes.

So the next time someone tells me to 'make a cup of tea, love, I'm parched' in a workplace context, I will put down what is no doubt the quite important work I'm actually doing and make a cup of tea compliantly, but I will think of some feminist outrage and I may even mention it here. All names changed, of course.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Graduate Myth #4: Disposable Income

Disposable income makes the economy go around. It's what makes us all have the ability to buy sparkly eyeshadow, stupid extras for cars, and life-affirming holidays.

I love disposable income.

Despite opinions to the contrary from Mr DG and my parents, I am not particularly profligate in my spending. I spent my time as a student eating on a basic level and not buying many clothes. Money as a teenager came via a badly paid part-time job, and I used most of the cash for driving lessons. So when I came out of university and fell into my first full-time job, it was like the singing of the hallelujah choir. Despite a fairly low wage, I was still living with my parents. They asked, and received, a rent to cover my living expenses. After that, the money was all mine!

… then I remembered that living with my parents was basically crap, and moved out. And lo, I have no disposable income again.

This is true of most people I speak to. Any kind of wages over the basic minimum you used to scrape by with as a student seemed like a gargantuan sum of money, but there was a lot more expenses to being a grown-up than you might first imagine. My two bugbears are the horror that is maintaining a car – necessary in order to get to work – and saving for a wedding. Now, a wedding is exactly the kind of thing that you need disposable income for and yes, it's exactly the kind of thing I couldn't afford a student. But as Mr DG and I sit in our living room and debate whether or not we can afford a pint this weekend (answer: no) I wonder: does any recent graduate actually have any disposable income?

The answer is, yes, a little. We sit and complain that we have no money – but we have no money because we're saving for houses, or we've just been on holiday, or we're getting married. The sad truth is that depressingly, if you work full time and have a couple of incomes and no kids, you do have money. The expectation, though, is that if you have an annual salary approximately four times bigger than your annual budget as a student, the money will be somehow neverending. And, of course, it isn't.

Alas.

Plus, you get the delightful knowledge that whinging because you can't afford new shoes is the absolute worst kind of first-world problems. That's an added bonus.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Party like it's 2005

I have recently been to a few Social Gatherings – okay, boozy birthday house parties – of people that are mostly graduates. This in itself isn't too much of an interesting blog post, as all I can say is that getting absolutely plastered as a graduate is just like getting absolutely plastered as a student, with the exception that ageing in general means that the hangovers get longer and more painful. I don't think I can blame that one on being ill-prepared for graduate life. Alas.

However, at a recent gathering we were all sharing horror stories about being students, including the Spanish test in which I solemnly informed my tutor that my sister was a tall man. Or my old housemate who forgot in an exam whether North and South Korea were, in fact, different countries and went for “the two warring areas”. Amazingly, though, we got to the point where we were comparing our respective careers, and the difficulty of trying to explain our lives to people.

“Oh,” giggled one friend, who is training to be a solicitor. “You'd think mine would be straight forward, but a six year old asked what I did.”

“And?”

“She asked if being a solicitor meant I had to solicit people!”

There are worse graduate careers, we all agreed, before rolling off the sofa laughing. Then we played Articulate for three hours straight, wherein someone thought “Nice jumper, place in between Pakistan and India?” was in fact Arran rather than Kashmir.

Truly, our respective educations were worth it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A-Level results day

Today is A-Level results day, and oh my, I still feel sick when I see pictures of people opening their results. My results were, frankly, splendid – this was back in the day when I achieved things, of course. Still, it was a horrible and dreadful morning when I pulled myself out of bed and prepared myself for having abjectly failed to get into university and having to spend the rest of my life doing the cleaning job I had picked up for the summer.

(In the end, as you know, I went to university. This blog would be the most dull internet hoax ever otherwise.)

Whilst I don’t envy modern students the higher levels of debt, or indeed the horror that must have been applications this year, I am wildly jealous of people preparing to go to university. I was unbelievably nervous about preparing for university – filling in forms about housing, confirming my student loans, buying an abundance of stationary. It was all worth it, though; I met a great group of people very early on, most of whom I was actually living with via the power of fate. It was all worth it in the end – I still wouldn’t trade my university days for anything.

That said, some advice if you are preparing to become an undergraduate.

1. All of the advice you will read will advise you to take tea and coffee making equipment in order to try and find friends. Everyone else has read this advice. EVERYONE. My new housemates and I awkwardly made tea for each other for hours until we realised this one. (The trick: biscuits. Everyone likes HobNobs.)
2. You know what you need? And you won’t pack? It’s a cheese grater, my friends. You’ll thank me when it comes to late night cheese toasties.
3. Finally, don’t pay too much heed to old fogeys like me bitching on the internet that being a graduate sucks. It does suck, but you have years to go before you get to that stage.

Enjoy it. It’s scary and wild and bizarre, but it’s an opportunity to be relished. Plus, you get to be excitingly disillusioned in about three years time.

Guardian Supplement - The Fresher

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Student Debt

Some fascinating stuff in the Guardian today about student loans and debt management. I am having a birthday party/housewarming/potluck thing this evening so to be honest don't have time to go through it fully, but it looks like a good read.

As a heads up, I am fairly heavily in debt, but it could be worse; I have paid back approximately £100 of my student loan and I graduated two years ago. I currently owe a bank a small amount of money in terms of an overdraft, but nothing outrageous. I managed to graduate owing absolutely nothing on credit cards or overdraft due to a combination of being fairly boring, working my socks off, and having a car accident in my fourth year of studies which resulted in permanant back problems but on the bright side I ended up with a payment for the injuries, as the accident wasn't my fault.

I do not advise this as a method for paying off your debts.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to run around Seaside Town like an unsuccessful Come Dine With Me contestant.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Graduate Myth #3: Having Time To Read Fiction Again

The arm is healing nicely, please don't fret too much about that. I can even type properly again, which means it's time for...

Graduate Myth #3: Having Time To Read Fiction Again

At some point during university, you fantasised about throwing a book against a wall. You maybe even actually threw the offending tome down the stairs. (You know who you are, if you're reading this.) Doing a degree involves lots of reading, even if you're a science student. Chances are you probably enjoyed reading before you came to university, and you maybe even enjoyed some of the university reading material.* University tends to attract bookish people, after all. Come the end of your degree, though, and for a while probably the most complicated thing you wanted to read was a cocktail menu.

As the boredom of graduate life kicked in, though, most people I know started picking up novels again, and it was like the universe exploded in me. “Reading!” I exclaimed. “I love that!” I talked about how awesome it was to everyone, and tore my way through novel after novel, re-joined the local library and even read some Classic Books. I read War and Peace, for goodness sake.

This was all while under-employed, working part-time in a clothes shop in between job-hunting and living with my parents again. I used to get the train to work, so I even had a good hour every day to keep reading. It was brilliant, marvellous, wonderful just to read something that no one was going to set me an essay on. And it still is. I am as happy as a clam with a big, thick book, a free afternoon, and a lot of tea and chocolate. A lot of people I know feel the same, and even take their love of reading further by finding the time to write, or even write 12 Books In 12 Months (which by the way is a project you should read up on, as Ali is basically a superhero and disproves all of the theories that I'm about to expound on below. Nevetheless.).

The problem is that free afternoons disappear when you work full time. If you work for eight hours a day, sleep for eight hours a day, and commute for an hour a day, the time for reading quickly dwindles. I have to drive to work now due to inadequate public transport, so I've lost that time. Life gets in the way, in a constant and distressing way, with things like cleaning the bathroom and spending time with loved ones or writing a spurious blog. So the time to curl up with a good book decreases slowly but surely, until you're finally snatching moments before bed or finding esoteric excuses to have a bath.

Which is why I was very pleased to recieve The Crimson Petal and The White for my birthday this week.


That's not the book, that's Romola Garai, but I really fancy her and she played Sugar in the TV adaption which was on recently which makes it completely relevant.**


That's the actual book, and it's 834 pages long. I can't wait for the chance to curl up and read it, but I am mildly concerned about finding the time, and suspect I may be reading it for the next month or so.

As such, the graduate myth about reading fiction again actually had a grain of truth in it – you will get to read again, and it will be marvellous. The problem is that like so many things in life, the time for it is rather crushed by having that graduate job you were really hoping for. Like so, so many things.

*full disclaimer: I keep and still consult a lot of my university texts. ROCK AND ROLL.

**before anyone points it out, I am aware that TV sucks up a lot of time too. This is particularly true if you are massive nerds like Mr DG and I, who are attempting to (re)watch all of Star Trek. All of it. We've even made it through the first season of The Next Generation.***

*** These footnotes are not making me look like the cool and sophisticated front of New Media that I'm trying to present, so I shall stop now.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Ashamed


I, like everyone else I know, have been watching the news with increasing horror. As London burns, I feel that there is nothing else I can do this other than sit and look horrified. And feel a deep, abiding sense of shame.

I am ashamed that as I start to write this, David Cameron has only just come back from holiday. Where has our government been? Do they have such little regard for our country that they feel they can all go on holiday at the same time and hope for the best? I work in a tiny little office and even we can manage a holiday rota. No Prime Minister, no Deputy Prime Minister, no Home Secretary, no Mayor of London, no Leader of the Opposition, no Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As the mob rises, there needs to be strong leadership. I have nothing but distrust and dislike of our coalition government, but here the opposition is to blame as well.

I am ashamed the Metropolitan Police, who seem to do nothing but take bribes from News International, shoot young black men in suspicious circumstances, and kettle students. It's almost like there are gaping holes in their leadership as homes and businesses burn.

I am ashamed of living in a state and society that has created angry young men – I have yet to see any proof that the rioters and looters are anything but angry young men – who are so completely disaffected. Angry young men who believe society owes them something, and can no longer see any way of expressing their unhappiness and rage other than through illegality and theft.

I am ashamed that this is apparently how we protest. These are not mindless thugs – they may be thugs, but they have thoughts and feelings too – but the violence is mindless. This is not a political protest for freedom. This is a riot of vengeance, of running through streets that they feel have betrayed them and damn the consequences, because there isn't an understanding of consequences any more. This is not Tahrir Square. This is a London phenomenon, like the Gordon Riots of over a century ago, born of rage and unspecified grudges and flame, not of thought.

And I am ashamed of myself. I am ashamed that I am not educated enough to talk through the issues properly, and instead have to talk vaguely while desperately reading and tying myself in liberal knots. I am ashamed because I am afraid for friends and family, and I am giving in to that more than I should be, and no longer fully contemplating the motives of the rioters. I am ashamed that possibly this is inarticulate, and simply adds to an overwhelming noise of bloggers already talking about this, but my god, I need to say something.

I hope that something good can come of this, but I am afraid that there is no good to come from this at all.

Useful BBC site.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Minor hiatus

There would be a post about being a graduate here, reflecting on HSBC's job cuts and what a global market means to today's graduate, but I fell up the stairs in work last night.

On the positive side, I did not break the cups I was carrying upstairs to my employer and the people he was in the meeting with. DEDICATION YOU SEE. However I did manage to hit my not inconsiderable weight on my forearm and have quite badly bruised a nerve of some description, according to the nice doctor in the hospital last night.

Typing is currently too tricky to contemplate for a long time, so there may be no new posts for a week or so. On the bright side I have at least got a day off work with some quite exciting painkillers, making the Disorientated Graduate feel very disorientated indeed.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Graduate Myth #2: Saving The World

With your shiny new degree, you are now officially capable of bringing your calm analytical thoughts and youthful exuberance to saving the world. Whether it's fundraising for a children's charity, building houses in Guatamala, or swabbing the deck on the Sea Shepherd, many graduates want to help make the world a better place. Nothing wrong with that! Perhaps in university you volunteered for a charity. That'll help, right? And you can look at all of the wage slave graduates and feel smug that you are Helping The World.


True story: I have a friend who runs a charity shop. She has always aspired to work in the charity sector, and about a year after graduating she got the dream job. She is paid a reasonable salary, and works for a charity that helps disadvantaged children, using the money she raises in her shop. She assures me that she is glad of this, and does occasionally get a little weepy after a few pints if she's been out visiting one of the projects she helps. So the warm fuzzies do, in fact, exist for graduates.

Except.

Saving the world is still work. My friend is the only paid member of staff in her shop, and regularly works twelve hour days. She has volunteer staff who are erratic at best, and she has to deal with all of the HR, all of the paperwork, and most of the retail side of thing. And the health and safety. Don't forget that, it's important. She is currently dealing with a flasher who enjoys coming into the shop and revealing himself to female staff members. (They can't identify him, mostly because they don't focus on his face when he, ah, reveals his identity.) Basically, she has a job that is three times more difficult than most other people and she is emotionally tied to it on the basis that it does, at least, give her a small amount of the fuzzies. The fuzzies, it turns out, are not all that glamorous.

In conclusion: yes, you can get a job that will help you Save The World when you are a graduate. The myth is that it is in some way different from being a job. Nope, sorry, still got all the same problems and indeed a slightly higher percentage of the problems. On the bright side, you do at least get a slightly brighter sense of job satisfaction.

(Don't get me started on 'charity' internships. That's a post for another day.)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Regrets - I have a few?

In between all of the whinging about graduate life, I think it's important to balance it with one very simple fact: I don't actually regret going to university. Not one second of it, not even that time I threw up in my bin.

(Maybe that time.)

I would even still encourage people who want to go to think about it seriously, albeit weighing up the terrifying financial aspects.

I do believe in the importance of learning for the sake of learning. I think that university imparts important life experience on those who choose to go. I also think that some university courses are designed to make you a better fit for the job market (or at least a specific job market). I think that the real problem is believing that simply attending university can give you all three through some sort of osmosis. Osmosis doesn't work past the cellular level. It's not university that taught me that, it's GCSE biology, but the point is roughly true.

Firstly: universities are places of learning. That is what they are designed to do, and it would be a great sadness if that central aim was lost. It is in universities that some of the greatest discoveries and minds have been nurtured, and that should still be the case.

Secondly: university imparts life experience, of a sort. Living imparts life experience, frankly, but the university experience is a special one. All life experience is valuable, and the university experience is right for some people.

Thirdly: some courses will get you a job. Medical degree, anyone?

I was talking about this in the pub the other night, and we were all agreeing very seriously that university was brilliant and learning is ace. “We are all intellectual arseholes, though,” someone said. I'm not sure who, but the fact remains it is true. I am an intellectual arsehole, so yes, I am very biased about learning for learning's sake. It was the most fabulous four years of my life. However, there was no real reason to think that a history degree would enable me to walk into a great job and I think tricking graduates into that was a terrible mistake. With £9,000 per year at risk (plus living costs!) it is morally wrong to tell students that a degree in classics, or hospitality, or biology, will ensure them a leg-up in the job market. You are better working if that is the priority in your life.

Lest I come off a demented Daily Mail reader, I DO NOT think that the amount of money you earn is the most important thing in life. The important things I learnt in university – don't mix lager and Irn Bru, Charles II was awesome, how to actually love someone, that talking about books and films and politics is a really good thing – was something that I wouldn't trade in for the world. Would I pay £9,000 for it? Here I hesitate, a little. I was the last generation on what are now called 'low' fees, just £1,025 a year. That was a lot of money to me then. It is a lot of money to me now! But at £9,000 a year...

With a lot of thought, the answer is that yes, I would. This is because I was trained into university since I was about 11, and academia was what I was always best at. University worked for me, and it would probably work at £9,000 a year. To have had to work this out at age sixteen, when I left school, would have been terrifying. So it should have been made clear to me – and my god, I hope they're making it clear to school-leavers today – that it will not guarantee you a job, or a future. It may do, but it probably won't.

Of course, this all makes a rather large leap of logic – if, in fact, there is currently another option for young people in which they can find the skills to work. I would argue there isn't, which will probably make the prospect of university far more tempting, £9,000 fees be damned. That's an argument for another day, though.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Graduate Myth #1: The 'Graduate Role'

And now, in a new section for this blog: GRADUATE MYTHS. All those things you think are true, and to my mind really deserve to find out long before you pick up the bit of paper declaring you to be university educated. We start with the big one - the 'graduate role'.

Look at this woman. Look at her.


She's calm! She's in control! She's wearing a business suit that she probably didn't get in the sale at Marks & Spencer! She might even have disposable income! You can just bet she goes to work meetings and doesn't quietly fall asleep! She uses her graduate skills in the real world! Before I graduated, I imagined this might have been me. Less blonde, yes, but striding around London with a Starbucks in one hand and a briefcase in the other. (Actually, I wanted to work for the civil service but I rather appreciate this is currently impossible.)

It turns out that the lady in the picture is basically a model and therefore doesn't exist. There are people with those kinds of jobs, and there are even recent graduates with those kinds of jobs, but there aren't many. One day I still hope to stride around looking professional and have a job that challenges me, but it won't be soon.

(There are recent graduates out there with high-powered professional work that challenges them and they enjoy it. If you're one of them, let me know, as it would be nice to know that they aren't up there with unicorns and reputable landlords in terms of myth.)

I am exceedingly lucky. I haven't been out of work for about four years now, taking my university job into a full-time role in a new city when I left and then falling into my current role now, which was described as a 'graduate role'. It's not all bad. I am paid a salary. A SALARY! With SICK PAY! Like I'm a REAL PERSON! That's really very exciting.


It really isn't exciting, though. My role in my job has some seniority (translation: more people shout at me) but mostly involves administration and talking to the general public. And making the tea. I make the tea a lot. I don't even wear a business suit.

One day I will be that lady, but the most important thing I have found in the graduate world is that it doesn't happen immediately, and at the end of the day work experience is the most important thing. That is the most important graduate myth that I feel it is important to break.

{Any suggestions for your own graduate myth that needs busting? Let me know in the comments!}

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

On Saturday, I went out with a few friends and Mr Disorientated Graduate. This is not unusual behaviour. Having recently moved to a new town that's slightly away from the base of our friends, I volunteered to drive, and spent the night drinking lemonade. It was a great catch-up, and even better not too late, as I'm not very good at late nights.

On the way home, passing through the country lanes that link Seaside Resort to the outside world, a thought passed through my mind. I glanced at Mr DG. “Do you want... you know..?”

His eyes lit up, possible under the power of a couple of cheap pints of lager. “Oh yes. Oh yes I DO.”

I put my foot down on the accelerator.

Stop it you filthy creatures, what I'm obviously referring to is going to McDonald's Drive-Thru on the way home and then vegging out in front of the telly. Don't let it be said our relationship is without romance. I then realised that having watching Mr DG drink cheap lager all night, I fancied a drink. I looked at out drinks supply. I shrugged.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I ate a McChicken Sandwich a small glass of port at 11.30pm on a Saturday night.


LIVING. THE. DREAM.

There is also a fascinating piece from The Guardian about graduation. Obviously this blog is superior. Ahem. But if you're looking for some real advice, it's not a bad read.