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


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.