Category Archives: Work

The Not-So-Needy

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The Saturday after my last post I bought a smoothie, some tea, a pasta salad and a flapjack. I found the beggar sitting outside my local supermarket and gave it all to him.

The man wore a grey wool hat. He had a vacant expression in his brown eyes and a straggly brown beard. He wore a scuffed grey overcoat and was sitting on a sheet. I explained that I was touched after watching the programme and hoped it would help. He did not smile or show appreciation with any facial expression but thanked me as he stared vacantly at me. This was not the response I was expecting but perhaps he was just really hungry.

Two men watching told me afterwards that he got picked up in a brand new Audi every day and lived on the other side of the city. Perhaps the Audi driver was his drug dealer that he owed money to, who knows. As I came out of the supermarket I saw him coming out with only the tea as he walked off. Had he just claimed a refund for the items? Or thrown them away?

The next weekend I saw him sitting in his usual spot enjoying a pizza.

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I felt a sinking feeling that people appearing destitute might be earning some extra money on the side or for someone else. Indeed, Nottingham homelessness charity Framework warns against giving to beggars as there is no way of knowing where the money is going. This warning came after someone who was not homeless was found with £800 of profits (pictured right). The only way to truly help a street person is to buy a Big Issue magazine or give to charity. I saw a good one called CentrePoint that buys them a room, offers counselling and trains them in skills they need to get work. You get regular updates on their progress. Next time I feel guilty I will give to them.

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Well if it’s on Prince William’s charity list…

Homeless people keep half of the profit they make from selling Big Issue magazines and it was an initiative started by a man who used to live on the streets himself. I went further up the road and bought the magazine. The man was called Ronaldo and smiled broadly as he asked how I was. He told me the magazine was £3.50 and kept me talking. When I asked how he was he smiled and said, “I’m good, it’s a nice day, it isn’t raining”. I thought it was inspiring that someone with nothing could be so positive. Later I realised he’d added a pound on to the retail value of the magazine, but I didn’t mind because I knew he genuinely needed it.

The magazine’s slogan was “supporting working, not begging” and the website states it is a “hand up, not a hand out”.

I would rather do that.

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What’s hot – thermals and my blog on its anniversary!

Hello and welcome on a rainy dark cold English winter evening.

First of all I just want to thank you for checking out my blog over the last year. In 2013 I was unhappily unemployed and decided something needed to change. With qualifications and experience but fighting just to get an interview I began blogging and found a virtual family. Thank you to all those who read, commented, and supported me through that tough time and gave me the strength to keep going.

Thinking of ways I could help readers in my situation gave me something to do other than the endless repetitive task of filling out applications mixed in with a YouTube workout or two. I suddenly had an exciting project to do that stimulated my neurons far more than the endless repetition of personal details.

A year on I yet again face an uncertain future. But either way I will have gained more experience to help me stand out.

So what have I learnt during my year of blogging?

Rose Heart (4)1. Love and relationship stories are the most popular. My highest spike in viewings was the story of my first date. There are some highly entertaining dating blogs out there.

2. To accept an award you are expected to write endless drivel about yourself. I have only done this once, although I have appreciated the nominations.

3. The blog world is a real community – there are always friendly people that have been through exactly what you have and can sympathise. I found this especially helpful during times of financial hardship and struggling to get work. Use this support network.

4. It is a great way to help others. My most popular article remains Pros and Cons of Unemployment. I couldn’t find any articles on positives of unemployment. In this dire situation I thought about the British idiom “every cloud has a silver lining” and realised that if I could focus on this I would be able to cope with the situation much better. I began feeling happier, more confident and began interviews by following my own advice (for once). 

5. Blogging is a great tool to test creative projects – sharing photographs, paintings, cartoons and so on.

international-students1_10892518_std_16. I have been surprised at how international it is – my blog has been viewed in an incredible 87 countries and counting.

7. There is such a great variety out there. Just search for the topic you want to read and it’s all free.

And finally –

I have just realised how fantastic these are. Most people know that wearing layers keeps you warmer because they trap heat. The most important layer is the one next to your skin. Then the second one insulates and is also close to the body to minimise air gaps. You can read more about this technique here.

The lower the rating, the warmer it is! By silk I assume this means thick woven fabric…

Everyone raised their eyebrows and told me they were for the elderly and the elderly alone. When I looked on the thermals section of a clothing company the metrics did show that all comments were from the over 50s. But when thinking about saving money why not remember the wisdom of previous generations. Instead of turning up the heating, buy a few undergarments.

It cost me about £12 for the shirt and for the leggings but it’s a one-off purchase. You will get a lot more off your heating bill than that. I’m currently wearing thermal leggings with trousers over the top, thermal and standard long-sleeved shirts and an acrylic jersey. I have worn them all day. I don’t need an expensive wool one with all these layers. I find it itchy anyway.

As you have clothes over them, it doesn’t matter what they look like and you don’t have to admit to wearing them. But actually there are some good looking ones now – my shirt has dark blue and white stripes and being a scoop neck I can wear it under other tops without it showing. The leggings I’m wearing at the moment are more effective at retaining heat. They are mostly acrylic and their snug but comfortable fitting means there are no air gaps.

So go on, stay warm for less this winter.

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Crossroads

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I come from a background centred around achievement. It’s a matter of family pride and the most common question people ask is “what do you do [for a living]?”

We’re judged on the job we have and stereotypes surrounding it, the jobs our children do, our homes, our cars and 44543483784241483TSzh5a2Qcthe clothes we wear. We’re all expected to have ambition, a drive to succeed.

But what if our dream turns out to be a misguided fantasy? What if we lose our drive and/or just want to enjoy ourselves after work? Is that really so wrong?

I dreamed of being a journalist from a young age. I desperately wanted to join the fast-paced exciting world of newspaper journalism. Or at least I thought I did. But when I did extensive work experience I realised that the glamourous images in my head were vastly different from the nitty gritty reality, as I saw that actually, print journalists were low-paid, stressed out and had dubious morals.

I have an administration job and have just applied for one with a company PiggyBank-About-to-get-Smashedrather than an agency, offering just £15 000 a year. Is that even enough to live on? I don’t think I can save for a house or drive a car on that. Unless you want to go into management, administration does not offer much in terms of salary or progression.

What if our goals do not fit into the vision that our family/friends/society has for us? What if we just want a happy life? I am expected to be a librarian, a teacher or an administrator. Mum says “just write a bestseller”, “be the next J.K Rowling”. If only it was that easy.

When I declared that I wanted to be a nurse, all hell broke loose. My family told me they were stressed-out, low paid and bitchy. My nursing friends told me this was indeed true, but that little things like making a difference made it rewarding. All my friends told me to go for it and that I would make a great nurse. So I did, but sadly was unsuccessful. And as another of my dreams falls by the wayside, I’m taking stock and wondering what to do with my life.

Sure, if I moved to London I perhaps would have got somewhere. There are many large creative companies there offering positions with good experience and progression. But I strongly dislike London. It’s dirty, smelly and stressful. I feel claustrophobic with all the people pushing, shoving and coughing in my face. I feel the soot in the Underground sticking to me, and when I wash my face in the evening the water turns grey. I dislike the cold way people brush right past me, noses in the air, wrapped up in something I could never afford. On that note (literally), I dislike the sky-high prices blowing holes in your wallet.

So I’m left asking myself…

What do I do now??

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Bug Buses

After the 10k on Sunday my legs were achy for the next two days, so I took the bus.

Public transport really bugs me and this week it did quite literally. On Tuesday morning a wasp was diving at the passengers and then angrily hurling itself against the window. It then sought comfort in the blonde’s hair in front of me. The young lady didn’t realise at first and then jerked away instinctively. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

She hit it with the buttoned sleeve of her jacket. There was silence and it disappeared. She looked around for it for a while and then, satisfied it was out of sight, put it out of mind.

As did I. But then I thought “what if it’s crawled between the seats?”. I patted my wide trouser legs. Since I’d lost weight I’d had to secure them with a belt and they were quite roomy. I felt a sudden sharp pain just below my right knee. Rolling the trouser leg up I realised I’d been attacked and pulled out the sting. Ironically on the bus the day before, I had been reading about a guy who stung himself with various wasps and bees and then rated the pain. This felt like more than a 3/5. I patted my rolled-up trouser leg and couldn’t feel anything. For the next 10 minutes or so I squeezed the spot as fire ran through my blood. Some commuters looked, but no one asked if I was alright. I suddenly realised I may have rolled the damn thing up in my trousers. On unrolling it dropped out, dazed.

Having endured enough for one journey, and not wanting to spend another five minutes in the company of this vicious creature I staggered off and limped to work, unable to bend my leg. When I got there everyone crowded around and marvelled at the red golf-ball sized lump. I took two antihistamines, which luckily I had in my handbag, then soaked a couple of kitchen towels in vinegar and secured them to the area with sellotape. I replaced this throughout the day, ensuring the dressing was always damp. I then took two more antihistamines at lunch time. They don’t suit everyone though – a blogger I follow had a reaction to them, so always read the leaflet first.

People asked after my “wooden leg” and told me to “buzz off”. The next day it was fine, but I still had to take the bus as the weather was horrendous, with rain lashing down and thick fog. 

On Wednesday I felt so tired I felt jet-lagged. My throat was a little tender, so I drank honey and lemon in hot water. It was lovely, really soothing and antibacterial. On Friday I woke up at 5am as I was breathing out of one nostril. The infection had gone into my chest and I sounded like Darth Vader’s wife. My body was fighting for sleep but I had to get through the day.

It has been a long week catching bugs of both varieties. On Friday I had an unidentified insect crawling across my paper and a fly buzzed in my face at work, reminding me it was home time.

I commute on a bus packed with snotty school kids. They are then replaced by sneezing students and parents.

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As I’ve previously noted, public transport is great for strengthening the immune system, although as viruses constantly mutate there’s always something new around.

After doing an Olbas and tea tree oil steam inhalation this morning I feel less congested. I haven’t got a temperature which means it’s nothing to worry about. If I did it would mean my body was still trying to kill infection. I’m just expelling the aftermath of a white blood cell battle. But this weekend I have to clean the house for my parents. It’s going to be a wheeze…

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel for optimum results.

Not only do I sound like Darth Vader, this person shows how you can get the look too. Just use a black towel and dim the lights.

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Exercise for Less This Winter

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It’s the time of year when you may think about joining a gym or renewing your membership.

I looked at the glossy online photos and was nearly enticed. Then I spoke to friends about it and realised I was looking at it the wrong way. The cheapest decent gym and swimming pool deal I could find nearby was a fixed 12 month one. It would be £47 per month and that would be off-peak. The hours were not specified.

However, if I go to a gym down the road from work it’ll cost £20 without the pool and then I can go swimming once a week elsewhere for a total £36 a month.

Here is a website where you can search for cheaper gyms near you:

http://www.payasugym.com/

One near me is only £17 and this website lets you pay for just one session to test it. It also gives you the lowdown on opening times and facilities in an easy-read format. Bear in mind that 20% of people stop going to the gym after six months. If you think this could be you don’t enter into a 12 month contract.

There are more money-saving tips here.

Think about it. Are there cheaper ways you can exercise? Can you cycle to work and back with night lights and the right clothing? Just make sure the light is designed for the roads and isn’t too bright or has two settings for on/off road. In the long run (or cycle) that will cost you less. Is there a free group you can join? I am sorted with my cycling one.

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The Chaos that is Public Transport

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Recently we’ve read a lot about late trains in the news, but what about late buses? Surveys should be done on how often they are delayed. As a regular passenger I think I shall do my own.

At a time when Stagecoach recently reported an 8% rise in profits to £2.8 billion, how much of this is being filtered back to customers? Fares have been slowly rising for some time and travel times are worse than ever. I can’t believe my taxes line the pockets of the managers and yet nothing changes for us, the customers.

Today my bus didn’t arrive, resulting in what would have been a 25 minute wait. I had to take a taxi to get to the hospital in time. There was no complaints line given at the bus stop, I suppose because they would get so many. I had to spend 10 minutes in a telephone queue (which I am paying for, thank you Stagecoach) to see when the damn thing would actually arrive. I had to pay an extra £7 in cab fare due to the bus I was expecting not turning up at all.

Yesterday I ran for a tram and even though I got to it and pressed the door button, it just drove off. I was then charged a ridiculous fare on the next one for what was a 10 minute journey. Because it was now late, there were drunkards wandering around town, leading me to get harassed waiting for my connecting bus. A tall, lanky individual swaggered up to me with a beer can in hand and aggressively shouted at me for not talking to him, and then for walking away. Where was the next bus stop? At the other end of town. By the time I got there I only just made the bus. As soon as working hours pass in my city, buses descend into chaos, with one coming every half an hour for a busy route. Sometimes people are queuing across town.

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It is claimed a bus driver actually said this on a forum!

When I got the bus the day before that it took 40 minutes for a 20 minute journey because the bus driver, although 15 minutes late, took the usual two rest breaks. These stops are especially infuriating when you need to get work or just want to get home at the end of a long day. The driver turns off the engine and reads the paper or goes out for a smoke as time ticks by. I am not against drivers having a break, but twice in half an hour on a busy route is ridiculous. I have not had any trouble with female drivers however. They have been punctual and don’t seem to require rest breaks.

Stagecoach adverts on the back of the bus make me laugh: “Craig is looking at the car drivers and thinking how stressed they all look”. More like “Lydia is looking at the car drivers and seeing how relaxed they all look. Lydia is still on the bus getting late for work. Where are you?”

In comparison, First bus drivers don’t take any breaks at all in their schedule, yet still manage to turn up on time. Unfortunately you pay higher fares for this privilege and they come less often.

I am so fed up with having to take these excuses for public transport that I cannot wait to drive. I enjoy cycling because then I have control over journey time instead of helplessly being delayed while a driver chats into his mobile.

Customers must be wondering when profits are going to make a difference to their journey time or whether transport is just another black hole for them to pour their ridiculously high taxes into. I get taxed so much when I do extra work that there is no financial benefit, and then at the end of it I have to sit on a snail form of transport with a driver that stops for a break so often that it sometimes takes double the time necessary to get home. I’ve done the Euro Millions in a desperate attempt to win and free myself from this daily misery.

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