Thursday, 10 April 2014

Living a life without feeling the need to 'get' one.

There are many things about Facebook that give me varying degrees of rage. Poorly punctuated cat memes, updates every five minutes about how someones baby is feeding/sleeping/talking/making noises/having a poo.....However, I have recently experienced the oddest yet; the friend request from someone who made my school life a bloody nightmare. Not only a request but also a message, just saying hi and hoping all is well, I probably don't remember them but they saw my profile and thought they would catch up and it looks like I've had a very interesting life.
I am now a [fairly] well adjusted; 34 year old wife and mother; and yes I have had a fairly interesting life but just seeing that picture of her sitting grinning just made something rise up inside me; something I cannot explain.
I have always alluded to the fact that I was bullied as a youngster (just saying that makes me feel old), but I have never really expanded on that; to be honest I try and block it out and pretend it never happened; but here it is looking at me uninvited in my own home.

It is quite fortuitous really that I got this request as I am about to write a book. As I am approaching my mid life crisis; it occurs to me that all I may be remembered for is being a fairly nondescript suburbanite. However; during my 20's I finally managed to step out of the shadow of my former self and live my life. Grow up, travel, get some experience. Now in a bid to show there is more to my life than work, cupcakes and playdates I am putting pen to paper....well, keyboard to kindle and getting it all down.

As I look at my first draft then look at my former classmate it hits me. As much as this book is about funny/interesting travel experiences; I can't shake the fact that it is, in its own way, a big two fingered salute. A giant "up yours" to the people who called me fat, called me ugly, made fun of me because my reading choices were different to 'Sweet Valley High', that I listened to Green Day and not Boyzone and went to the newsagents for comic books and not Smash Hits. All the people who made my life a bloody nightmare; whose favourite put-down was 'get a life'.

Well, I may still be the comic book reading nerd I was when I was 12 but I have made peace with that. I am happy and confident and have had an amazing and interesting life without feeling the need to conform to the boy-band loving stepford Barbie that defined my generation (who are all now strangely a bit like the 12 year old me; wearing 'NERD' t shirts and thinking they are cool because they have watched 'Thor' - but that's a whole other blog post).

Have to go and start proofreading now, but before I do, I must adjust the privacy settings on my Facebook page.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Why we cannot redirect Foreign Aid to UK flood hit areas

Firstly, I wanted to say I feel for the South of England, I really do. I also have family who live in the some of the flood hit areas and seeing how this is disrupting their lives is awful.

However, what I have also noticed, since the flooding began, are calls to have UK Foreign Aid re-directed to the flood hit people in the South of England. Now, whilst I can understand the frustration at being taken totally unawares by the weather, and the massive effect that this is having on our lives, I cannot, for the life of me understand why anyone would think this is a good idea (let alone a national newspaper start a campaign).

Before we take this argument any further, let me please set out a few statistics, basic facts about our Foreign Aid budget that might help underpin my point.

UK Aid budget: £8.6 bn
Total spend on cigarettes in the UK: £15-18bn
UK Defence spending:£45.6bn
Tax avoidance in the UK c £70bn
Combined wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK (2012) £414bn
You can look at any spending in isolation and feel it is totally out of proportion, but, before we cut back on helping those in absolute need, remember, that we spend twice as much on smoking, 5 times as much on the military, allow 9 times as much in tax avoidance and our current level of aid could be paid for the next 48 years by just 1000 people.

Also, the 0.07% (really yes, its that small) of GNI that is allocated to Foreign Aid has a caveat, that the ‘aid’ is to be determined by the OECD, this makes it impossible to redirect the money back into a UK ‘pot’ as, we would not be classified as needing aid.

There is then the ‘charity begins at home’ mantra that is trotted out again and again and again. This is a point I do agree wholeheartedly in, however, we do not live in a small isolated commune; we live in a global community. Our neighbours are no longer the Smiths or Jones’ next door who are struggling to keep the water out of their home or the fence panels up in their garden; they are the people in Syria who are having their own governments use chemical weapons on them; They are the families in Africa whose children are dying of completely preventable diseases; who are dying of water borne illness because they lack the basic human necessity of clean water; the girls in the middle east who are being married at ridiculously early, risking their lives; suffering a lifetime of abuse and being denied an education; the people in the far east who have lost everything in massive floods.

We were all born into this country by luck (apparently good or bad, depending which newspaper you read). How can we justify to ourselves, attempting to stop any of the help that goes towards solving any of these problems, just because we have been let down and left very ill prepared for the storms that have ravaged the UK this winter.

There is also the argument that there are people here who are having to stay overnight in community centres and don’t know when they will be able to return home, this is really not comparable with people having to flee their homes with nothing, and not knowing if they will ever even get a tent/something to keep them out of the elements and how long they will have it for; knowing they will never get to return home. Missing the point spectacularly that our gov’t is doing something, you are sheltered, you are fed and you are warm and you will get to go home at some point.

So I guess what I am trying to say is, I understand your frustration and I understand your angst. I know that everyone is feeling the pinch and so giving money to ‘furriners’ whilst we are struggling, may grate at some people, I cannot see how anyone would think  that we are even in a comparable situation. We spend less in a year on fizzy pop than we do on Foreign Aid, and yet we think it will be ok take that away. Yes; your homes are flooded; yes its hard, but for gods sake people are dying; children are dying in completely preventable circumstances every day and if we have now become a nation that values our [insured] property over the lives of other humans, then; for the first time in my life; I truly despair.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Just be lucky you have a job

As many of you who know me know, I work in the public sector.

Things are very tricky in this particular sector at the moment with the almost constant onslaught of budget cuts. Though apparently the government say we are in economic recovery, yay! All hail ‘call me’ Dave.
However, I can’t help but take issue with this.

As my cost of living goes up and up and up, my salary is going down, almost constantly, year on year. We are told every year that “these measures are only temporary”, yet, year after year they increase. Our salaries drop/freeze, our pension contributions go up, whilst what we will get at the end is going down (gold plated my arse). It is becoming harder and harder to save.

Of course the PR machine of the organisation I work for goes into overdrive, telling us that yes, we will be fucked over again this year, but it will save a HUNDRED jobs.
Why oh why is there this obsession with saving jobs rather than looking at actually making changes, changes that will make a difference to everyone. Everywhere you look from within the system you can see changes that can be made. Positions that really aren’t necessary, but we hang on to them like Kate Winslet hanging on to a wardrobe door, because they have always been there so we feel we need to keep them.

Yet every year, the same line is trotted out...”just be thankful you have a job”. Strangely always said by the people who are sitting there in huge salaries, telling us (the general workplace population, who struggle to budget month on month), that we are lucky.

We are lucky to have had our departments cut to almost half while being given twice as much work, we are lucky, that there is no room for progression or professional development but most of all we are lucky that soon it will cost us more to come to work than we will actually make.

To be honest, the only reason I feel lucky, is because I like my job. The rest is just bobbins.