Monday, 8 June 2015

On Not Giving Up In Corporate London

Note: personally, I'm a copywriter. This may well apply to others who are looking in other sectors, but this is specifically about the creative industry, or my impressions of it so far.

Job hunting in modern-day London is very much like dating. You research (cyber-stalk) someone, get to know them, get familiar with their likes and dislikes, meet them several times and are psycho-analysed several times before being fobbed off with the corporate version of "it's not me - it's you".

Once you've had that long-awaited yet ultimately disappointing phone call, email or text message, you feel rejected, angry and often a bit soiled. You wish that start-up in East London would suddenly finish-up as a result of a freak fire, earthquake or episode of bubonic plague. You rehash everything you ever said to them, wondering where you went wrong - did you say something that might have come across as something you didn't mean to say? Did you misunderstand something they said and interpret it as something they didn't mean to say? Easy enough in a world where "Yeah, you'll have to wait, I'm busy" is translated into "Bear with me, we've plenty of exciting concepts in the pipeline so I'll have to manage your expectations before I action that". Corporate-speak can be both vague and intimidating, and pretentious, too - just ask for clarification.

It's easy to want to give up. Whether you're sat at home in the same pair of jogging bottoms scrolling through recruitment sites with "Welcome to" and similar popping up in your inbox every ten seconds or dragging yourself flat-footed to the same mundane job every day trying not to fantasize about massacring the marketing department, it's definitely easy to consider giving up.

Don't. Although it might seem like there are more recruitment companies than jobs and although you could, theoretically, paper your wall with print-outs of rejection emails and sit in your room howling, don't.  

You're not alone. There are plenty of us out there who have seriously started to wonder what's wrong with us. I myself have been shortlisted for some incredible jobs at some prestigious companies and some truly shitty positions at some dubious establishments; I've sat nervously in every kind of office, from dingy accountancy cubicle to open-plan heaven with panoramic views of the city.

I've had all kinds of interview questions, from "What's the worst thing about you?" (here's where I give you a weakness and show you how I've turned it into a strength - how original) to "Do you like fishing?" (relevant? I think not, urgh). I've also had all kind of let-downs, from "We found someone who fits a more junior position" (genuinely hard to work out what's more "junior" than "junior assistant") to "You were a very credible candidate, but we've found someone with ten years' experience" (they advertised for 1-2 years) to "Smokers... we don't smoke, in this building. It's really a deal-breaker for us," (I don't remember asking to light up at my desk!). 

With so many of us desperate for a job that pays the London Living Wage, it's easy for companies to demand a candidate who looks 20, has 10 years' experience, can also "muck about" with HTML, loves advanced design, knows "a bit" about front-end production, who fluently speaks German/Italian/French/Spanish/Swahili, has an Olympic medal in 800m sprinting and also doesn't mind cold-calling (although the job description didn't explicitly mention that). Oh, and who wants to work for £7 an hour. 

< Internships. It's just occurred to me I left out internships. For the sake of decency, I'll not EVEN GET STARTED on internships, work experience placements and voluntary positions. >

And it's easy for companies to turn interviewing into a long, arduous initiation rite, too. It's easier to get into Phi Kappa Delta in 3-star comedies than it is to get into digital work in London. It used to be one interview, or two, and a test. Now it's a phone interview with the HR manager, then face-to-face with the CEO, then with the team, then with the Sales manager, then with someone else, then a test, then a blog post, and then, if you get it, a six-month probation period and half the salary you specified in the beginning.

Ask yourself: do you want to work for a company that has to meet you twenty times to work out if they like you and you're competent? Do you want to incorporate six job roles into your daily tasks just to become junior sub-assistant for peanuts? Do you want to have to learn to speak the corporate dialect and end up writing about storage containers/pharmaceuticals all day? Don't. There's compromise, and then there's giving up, whether you stop hunting altogether or just take a job you hate the sound of, because you're so grateful someone's made you an offer that you're grinning like an idiot and ignoring that niggling feeling of dread.

Keep going. Make sure your cover letters are bespoke, and punchy - stop filling them with cliches about punctuality, efficiency etc and make sure that the company knows what you want, too. It's not all about what they want - after all, you have to do the job and spend half your waking hours with those people for as long as you stay. Make sure you actually like the sound of everything you apply for, and it doesn't just fit in your vague salary category. Ascertain that it won't mean a three-hour commute daily - people-spotting on the tube gets old, as do black pollution bogies. Apply for the jobs you love and ask for specific feedback if you do get rejected. If you're going through a recruitment company, save yourself some hassle by telling them what it is you do EXACTLY and what it is you can't do - many recruitment agents have no idea what it is you do, really. Ensure if you do complete a test or task, that the results won't be published or used if you're not hired. 

To summarise: there's nothing wrong with you and you're not alone in the situation you're in, so keep trying. We're living in the crappiest recession in almost a hundred years, and it's hard for the older generation to understand - a degree used to equal a job, more or less. My grandparents are constantly baffled when they ask why it didn't work out and I tell them "Turns out they wanted programming skills, too," - they never went through what we're going through. Let me finish by going back to the cheesy dating metaphor - hold out for "the one", and don't let the bastards grind you down.

Met Commissioner calls for porky PCs to be fired

It’s not often you hear a policeman refer to another as ‘porky’ – in fact, the term is more commonly used as an insult by the public. Yet a new study has brought to light shocking statistics: over 75% of male officers and staff at the Met are overweight or even clinically obese. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Police Commissioner of the Met, responded to a Radio Times interviewer who suggested there are lots of “porky PCs” by calling for the annual fitness test to be toughened and for officers who can’t keep up to face being fired.

Currently, officers must undergo the 15-metre “bleep test”, which requires them to run for 3 min 35 secs at an average speed of just 5.5mph. Scotland Yard review results did recommend that officers take this test annually and that those who fail three times take a pay cut, but this seems to have been insufficient to keep the weight of the law down.Sir Bernard, 57, claims to have passed the test himself this year with no problems. He went on to say “For me, the standard is too low: I think it should be higher. It’s relatively easy to pass.” He says that Met police who fail must be given time to slim down and get fitter, but claims that if they don’t, “we haven’t got a job for them”.

He spoke of emergency situations in which police need their colleagues: “If they shout for help, they want fit people to come. They don’t want somebody waddling down the road,” and voiced his admiration for older officers still on the front line, “fighting 18-year-olds, strong, athletic people”. Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, denied the idea of “porky PCs”, claiming the high pass rate in the fitness test showed the majority of officers were more than fit enough to do their jobs. He advocated a healthy lifestyle for officers, but went on to add “When officers are working unsocial hours and rushing from job to job without a break, it can be extremely difficult for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Japan's latest innovation - loos in lifts

You’ll never guess what Japan is planning to put in lifts…

Yes, toilets. If you live in Japan, the good old flushing toilet may be coming to a lift near you very soon. Japan is known for some technological advances and gizmos that we might find a little odd, including their famous ‘used panty’ vending machines:

And the innovative one-armed boyfriend pillow, which offers lonely singles the sensation of no-strings spooning without snoring:

So the idea of toilets in lifts from Japan is not as surprising as it would be elsewhere, but the question remains: why? Most of us have used or use a lift regularly and find we can hold it for a few floors – but oddly enough, there is a good reason behind this quirky concept.

Japan is frequently hit by earthquakes, with the latest being last Saturday at a terrifying 7.8 on the Richter scale. This has caused huge numbers of people to get stuck in lifts for hours and sometimes even days! If you’ve been stuck in a lift for ten minutes, you may have already wished for a handy toilet. As some lifts are smaller than others, there are also reportedly plans for folding cardboard loos fitted with absorbent bags. Sounds a little like kitty litter on a grander scale, but certainly takes care of one of our main fears in the ‘imagine what would happen if you got stuck in a lift’ nightmare!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Man vs Cat

I brought home an adorable, flea-ridden kitten around nine years ago. I brought home said kitten because I desperately needed another pet to go with my ever-increasing number of horrible Russian hamsters (Aww, aren’t you cute, OW IT’S TAKEN MY WHOLE NAIL OFF). My parents were still reeling from the death of our Irish wolfhounds and refused my pleas for another dog.

I went through some hassle getting this kitten into the house. I hid it in a rucksack, and sneaked into the house, trying to pad quietly past the front room where my father was half-watching a war movie sprawled on the sofa. Unfortunately, I was caught. For two reasons: one, my father can sniff out bullshit - and two, I was carrying the litter tray in the other hand. Genius.

Nine years later, I am living in my parents’ house without them, as they’ve relocated to Mexico, and this cat is driving me crazy.

This last week, I’ve had fleas, and nits. Nits, you say? Yeah, I’d forgotten about those too. I hate small children; they get within a metre of me, maintaining eye contact, and then smash something on the floor to show me they hate me. But the other day, I was left to look after a two-year-old (actually, we just had a staring contest), who I suspect passed me the parasites. My head had been itching anyway, because it transpired my cat had become a mode of transport for fleas, and I haven’t had nits since Year 2, so it didn’t occur to me.

So this was already an unusual and annoying occurrance, and to top it all off, my cat gave us all fleas. The entire sodding house was full of bouncy, satisfied bugs that disappeared when you tried to squish them. The cat usually sleeps on our bed - between us, if possible, or on our feet if not, occasionally digging her claws in when either of us have the audacity to twitch. So after hours of fumigation and twenty bags of bedding, clothing and carpet dragged to the garage for washing at horrendous temperatures, the cat has been banned from the bedroom. Problem solved, right? Wrong.

I am lying in bed, reading a so-so book, slowly drifting off, when I hear a bang. Followed by a miaow, another bang, and yet another bang. The cat, head butting the bedroom door. Bang, pitiful miaow, bang, pitiful miaow. Piss off, cat, I’m trying to sleep.
Four hours later, the banging is STILL going. I get up, and the cat hears my footsteps, realises I mean business, and makes a hasty retreat to the shower (her other favourite place to sleep). I put the washing basket in front of the door and swear at the cat. I go back to bed. Muffled bang. I open the door, and the cat is IN the washing basket, banging her skull on the door through the side of it. I will not give in.

9 a.m., and I’m exhausted, getting ready to get onto a very mundane copywriting job, bleary-eyed, clicking away at the sweeteners enjoying the sound until I realise I’ve put seven sugars in my coffee. I go to start working and smell something. Aha. This is a familiar concept: revenge toilet.
The cat has squeezed out an impressive turd (looks more like an Alsatian did it), about ten centimetres away from the litter box on the cream carpet. Okay, given the proximity to the litter tray, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume this is a misfire.

Usually, the cat sleeps on my bed all day, waking up once every five hours to shed manky fur, lick herself, fart and stretch. Now that it’s not allowed in my room, it’s hanging around my ankles ALL DAY yowling for no particular reason. It goes upstairs occasionally, bangs the door to my room with its cranium, comes back down and yowls. I will not give in.

The impressive turd wasn’t a misfire, it transpires, as later the same day around 2pm I am sitting on the floor trying to think of a way to make “This hotel’s been refurbished - now it’s a concrete block with a POOL” interesting, when the cat saunters in, looking suspicious. It looks me in the eye, as the small child did, and, maintaining eye contact, squats and craps on the floor by my feet. Miaow. It legs it upstairs because it knows it will take me five minutes to pull my cramped legs out from under the table.
By five o’clock, it has come out of hiding, and is yowling again. I feed it early, just to shut it up. It gobbles up three pellets, and yowls. This means the bowl is now empty, because there’s a hole in the middle of the food. I jiggle the food around and it eats again. We repeat this process until it has eaten. I get back to work and the cat comes in and promptly throws up next to me.
I should’ve bought a goldfish instead.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Don't want to Shelfie.

And after selfies came the rise of the “shelfie” – the geekier alternative which, at least to me, is far more interesting than twenty-five painfully similar shots of someone’s painted mug tilted at an angle.  
I’m not going to shelfie. I read a lot, and I can’t be bothered to go upstairs and find the two hundred odd books I got down me last year. What I will do, however, is a sort of anti-shelfie.

I’m going to tell you about the big, famous books I started reading last year... and then put down. Forever.

    1)   My number one disappointment. Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”. Donna, I am a die-hard “Secret History” fan, and I even actually adored your second novel, because I’m into that Southern white trash stuff, and yes, it wasn’t quite up to your first novel, and it was a weensy bit of a Faulkner rip-off, but it was great nonetheless. I have waited the better part of a decade for this third novel, and boy, was it a long wait...for this. Boy is trapped in museum during terrorist bombing. Sounds a lot more interesting than it was, as it happens. Boy loses mother, who, frankly, seemed a bit unappealing – didn’t say anything remotely interesting to a child of his age – and goes on to live with a friend’s reluctant family. See, this is actually where I stopped. I stopped, because it was vague, it held no charm whatsoever for me and I didn’t like one single bloody character. I did pick up said book in half-assed manner once or twice since, and couldn’t remember anything about it. Not a good sign, considering I remember the best part of every book I’ve ever read. Boy meets weird antiques collector.  Cue eccentric relationship much like that of students with Julian in The Secret History? Don’t care. Sorry, Donna.

    2)     “How I live now”. Wow, I was going to see this in the cinema, and boy, am I glad I didn’t fork out £9.20 plus bus fare and whatever munchies I couldn’t resist on the spot despite their 400% mark-up. It’s kind of Twilight-esque – but with even less description of the forbidden relationship. There are two key elements of this storyline that had the potential to be interesting: incest, and a third world war. It started on a cliché – girl is sent to live with distant and eccentric relatives at the behest of her new step-mother, with whom she does not get along. Who just kicks their kid out and sends them 10,000 miles away? But okay, even going with that, she arrives and meets her wonderful cousin, and falls in love, and has sex with him, within a couple of chapters. Bearing in mind there’s no description of the sex – it’s just announced in one sentence along the lines of “and so we made love in secret”, and said cousin is also fairly unappealing as a character. With no further ado, they’re separated by this very vague war. Urgh. I put it down. There were glimpses of wit – some funny observations that certainly seemed more like a mature lady than a fifteen-year-old girl, but that was pretty much it. Boo.

          3) This one I was really, really looking forward to. “The Book of Dave”. It’s an old book, but the idea seemed absolutely brilliant. Bitter, chauvinistic London cabbie writes a book to his son. Book is discovered years in the future and spawns a religion in a vastly changed England. Some amusing terminology – “In the first fare” for morning, for example – but a horrific pseudo-phonetic cadence for all the futuristic speech, and boy, is there a lot. These futuristic humans speak only Cockney, and it’s written lyk dis. AnÓ« body hu can be bovvered, I salute you. Beyond that, the names are confusing, the settings are confusing and I think just a little simplification would’ve helped – I’m not a moron, but I had to concentrate far too bloody hard to know what the heck was going on. Couldn’t believe the rave reviews on the back.

To give you an idea of other post-apocalyptic novels I read last year, and thought good, I’ll list a few:
A Canticle for Leibowitz
Into the Forest
The Chrysalids
After Earth
The Last man on Earth

So yes, numbers two and three were disappointing. I love the genre.
Boo, to all three.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Things bar staff say, and what we really mean:

1) To the man who wants change for the gambling machine, we say “Certainly - do you want a ten, a five and some coins?”
What we mean: There’s a bookies round the corner. Go there. Go anywhere else. I’m doing something else, and I know you’re going to interrupt me every five minutes for the next three hours asking for change and telling me you never normally gamble whilst I have to breathe in your vague odour of rubbish bag and mouldy sofa, then argue with you for the hundredth time about cashback until you finally run out of money and lose your temper at someone - probably me.

2) To the students who ask: “What’s in it? How much does it cost?” we answer “Well, it’s a mixture of vodka, kahlua and milk, and it’s £4.00”
What we really mean: A student, you say? Still learning to read? Cos there’s a menu there. Aww, can’t read numbers either? Diddums. YOU ORDER THIS DRINK EVERY TIME YOU COME IN. If you can’t memorise two spirits and a mixer, you’re going to LOVE exams.

3) To the customer who wants to pay for a pint with a mixture of 2p and 5p coins: “Err, just give me a minute while I count that out, it’s not that I don’t trust you…”
What we really mean: PISS OFF with your two pence coins! If you can’t afford to drink in a pub, go get yourself a nice plastic bottle of White Lightning from the offie across the road and go home and get trashed. But you won’t, you’re going to sit here nursing your one pint and then hang around the bar for the next six hours trying to draw people into mundane conversations in the vain hope someone’ll take pity and buy you a drink.

4) To the obese lady who wants her ninth triple vodka and DIET redbull: “Sure, let me just go get you the sugar-free version”
What we really mean: You’re fat. If you don’t want to be fat any more, stop drinking. If you stop drinking, you’ll stop buying those horrible home-time kebabs that you can’t believe you ate in the morning when you wake up and they no longer look even vaguely edible. Then I won’t clearly be able to see that you ate that kebab when you bend over in your two-sizes-too-small lycra mini-dress.

5) To the man whose song hasn’t yet come up on the jukebox: “I’m afraid we don’t have any control over the music, sir”
What we really mean: You’re already PLAYED Toto - Africa thirty times tonight and I’m seriously considering smashing a bottle and swallowing the fragments while simultaneously pouring bleach through a funnel into both my ears. Just keep nagging me about your 20p song and see how long I spend in the hallway picking my nose the next time you’re waiting at the bar.

6) To the man who wants to be instantly served his order of twenty-four different shots because he knows the boss: “Yes, sir, I’ll be with you in a minute, I’m sorry, there are other people who were waiting before you”
Translation: You know the boss? Really? Honestly? Wow. I’m sure no one else in here knows the boss. I certainly don’t know him. Now I’m terrified. Please don’t tell him I didn’t serve you first, suh, massa gon’ done gimme a beating! WAIT YOUR TURN.

7) Similar to the above: Mr “I’m in here every day! I practically live here! I‘m a regular!” wants his white snooker ball exchanged for another one, and he wants it now: “I’ve got a whole load of customers at the bar, I’ll be with you in just a minute…”
Translation: Why are you bragging? WHY? If I was in here every day and not paid for it, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Plus, everyone’s a regular. On top of which, there’s on tiny little detail - you’re not in here every day. I know, because I work here. So please don’t keep assuming I’m going to deal with your every chipped fingernail and ignore everyone else because you drink too much.

8) To the customer who’s already scratching at the door and meowing when you go to open up at 8am: “Sorry, I’ll be with you in ten minutes, I just need to open the bar.”
Translation: You’re an “early bird”, you say? It’s EIGHT AM. Go do what other people who are obviously unemployed do at eight am. Sleep. Watch GMTV. Have breakfast. Smoke a ciggie. Or, alternatively, hit an AA meeting, I hear they have coffee and people who actually WANT to listen.

9) To people who go to the loo in groups of three or four and ALL try to squish into one cubicle: “Sorry guys, health and safety, I’ll need there to be one person per cubicle please”
What we mean: If you want to take whatever passes for cocaine these days, go ahead. But do it subtly. Don’t make my night harder by making it so obvious that I can’t ignore it and have to go call the bouncers to come and drag you all out kicking and screaming. I don’t want to bump into you on my way home at five am exhausted and have you all shriek at me.

10) To girls who pee (or worse) on the toilet seat because they’ve crouched above it in stilettos instead of sitting on the toilet seat: nothing. You say nothing. It’s not polite to comment.
But what I’d like to say IS: You won’t get STI’s from sitting on a toilet seat, you dopey bint. You’ll get
STI’s from that pimply git upstairs in the pink Hackett shirt who’s waiting for you at the pool table. You won’t get AIDs from a toilet seat. How can you walk out and leave that without mopping it up? You can spend six hours getting ready to come out, but when you behave like that, you totally negate all that effort you made to look like a lady.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The Three Most RIDICULOUS terms of 2013.

1. YOLO.

"YOLO"? Well, obviously. Unless you're a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or similar. Sat next to a pretentious pseudo-critic at a film festival last year, and overheard him say to two enthralled blonde tarts "Well, not everybody has the intellectual capability to accept the fact of perpetually iminent death" - maybe there, I could've just said, "Well, y'know, YOLO" - but nah. YOLO generally precedes all manner of retarded behaviour, and doesn't really mean anything. 

TWERKING. Would you pay Hannah Montana attention? No? So why is it when Hannah Montana does a Katie Price/Jordan, we all ALLOW her to put something horrible in the dictionary? 

SELFIE. Yes, it's a picture of yourself, yes, we've all taken them, yes, we did that on MySpace a million years ago. But now it's cool to be a vain idiot, and post three a day. I don't care about your face with the same make-up on from three different angles. Shouldn't you be out doing something else?

Well, let's see what fresh hell 2014 will bring.

Why I'm NOT going to Ibiza.

Noticed the other day, as you do on Facebook, a girl I’d been to school with. We were never best friends, but we had phases where we were reasonably close, and I remember her as a fairly pretty, interesting girl who had some serious ambitions. 
This is not quite what I saw on Facebook. Hundreds of photos of her in the same pose, hands on hips, fairly concrete-looking side boob, orange skin and drawn-on eyebrows. Hair extensions to her hotpant-clad buttocks, false nails that’ll stop her ever dialing a phone number again on anything but those over-sized phones intended for OAP’s and ankle boots with a seven inch heel. So, intrigued, I went to have a closer look at her profile.


More photos of side boob posing, next to sweaty men in v-neck T-shirts and Capri pants, shots of tables with a hundred empty cocktail glasses on them and girls clad in identical bikinis staggering along the beach. See, I’d like to believe that TV programs such as “Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents” and “Sun, Sea and A&E” are exaggerated… but it doesn’t seem they are. 

Why go on holiday to do EXACTLY what you do in Britain? Honestly. Why go on holiday to dress up as you would for a bar here, go out to a bar similar to the one you already go to here, get as trashed as you do here, then (the one crucial difference) go to the beach in the morning to get sunburned and lose six layers of skin? I’m not one of those “Gap Yaah” types who hitchhiked to Malaysia and came back in a filthy poncho to lecture everyone about the importance of spiritual veganism, but neither am I interested in going WIV MA GIRLIES to get my stomach pumped. I do like to see something I wouldn't see at home, and maybe even learn a bit about the local language and customs, rather than paying £200 for an all-inclusive hotel where you can eat English food and drink unlimited dubious cocktails.

All I can say, straight up - I won’t be visiting Costa del Sol, Ibiza, Malaga, or any of those charming resorts where you can get a fried breakfast on every corner and where the beaches are full of hungover Brits roaring at waiters in English - if I wanted to watch people glass each other and “twerk” up and down poles holding fishbowl glasses of cocktail, I could go to Romford. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The price of living in London.

I have just returned to London after finishing my Masters degree at Warwick University, and here's what changed in a year:

Over £15 for a day's travel card, with peak times increased by two hours. £2.40 for a single bus fare without an Oyster card. £10 congestion charge per day to drive through Central London, and let's not talk about car insurance. Average price of a pack of cigarettes £7.75. Average price of a flat in Greater London £404,973. Average deposit for a property in Greater London £29,439. Average annual income of a woman aged 24-30 £17,800. Minimum wage £6.31. Living Wage London £8.80.

My last hourly wage: £6.31. My highest hourly wage to date: £7.75 before tax.
Would someone like to do the maths and tell me how long it will take me to save for a deposit on a flat? When I left London in 2011, I had been sharing a THIRTY SQUARE METRE FLAT in Stepney Green above a row of kebab shops and fast food places, infested with Pharoah ants and rats, for £930 a month.
I returned in 2013 and enquired of my ex-landlord the price to rent the same flat. £1250 a month, not counting the minute parking space and disproportionately high council tax and bills.
His other palatial flat, at 36sqm, recently sold for £236,000, and so is no longer available to rent.

Aaaaand I'm back in my parents' house. 

My last job cost me precisely £15.60 in travel per day. I earned £40 a day after tax. But the good news is, there are a few companies willing to take me on as an unpaid intern AND pay my travel. How nice of them. And the newspapers are full of righteous letters condemning those on Jobseeker's Allowances. Well, I haven't claimed it yet, out of a bizarre sense of contrariness, but as I got up bleary-eyed at six every morning last month to travel two hours on the tube and DLR to be ignored for eight hours a day in a stupid uniform for less than £40, I couldn't really blame anyone who did..

Over the last two years, I have been, among other things: a barmaid, a receptionist, a publisher of engineering manuals, a picker-packer of plumbing components, an events assistant and an office co-ordinator. Three of these were minimum wage, one was voluntary and the rest were temporary jobs from which I was let go due to the company "not being in a financial position to take on permanent staff" before another temp was instantly hired. I have completed several unpaid internships, and applied for over 1000 paid jobs in the last three months alone. I have received maybe 50 replies, along the lines of "We've had many applications for this job, and unfortunately we've decided on a candidate with more experience" - now graduates get to go head-to-head with the more experienced, recently "let go". I've had employers tell me, when I call for feedback on my application, that they only usually read the first twenty CV's.

Those jobs all university students were led to believe they'd get after university have never materialised; instead, a tidal wave of dubious "Commission-based sales and marketing executive roles with OTE of £100k in first year" dominate our search feeds. Any job that isn't the above or the above disguised as something better shows "83 applications today" fifteen minutes after the job appears online.

Back to the point: how are we meant to do this? Are we to live with our parents forever? I am beginning to sympathise with muggers, if not consider becoming one myself.

If there is a 24-year-old out there who has a well-paid job and a deposit down on anything bigger than a shed in the London area, please tell me how you did it, I'll buy you a beer (the cheapest, obviously) and you can share with me your infinite wisdom. Name a time, and a place, but preferably not peak time, and not on the other side of London, or your infinite wisdom will cost me £15.60.

(Sources taken from reliable websites and from personal experience. Sorry if they lied.)

The unwritten laws of Tube etiquette for the unsuspecting foreigner, or My welcome back to London Transport

1) Thou shalt not make eye contact with thy fellow passengers
2) Thou shalt not make conversation with thy fellow passengers under any circumstances
3) Thou shalt not eat or put make-up on the train or thy fellow passengers will text the Metro paper about it
4) Thou shalt stand in front of the tube doors as they are opening for thy ascent is more important than thy fellow passenger's descent
5) Thou shalt not cast thy gaze upon another passenger's paper

Having only recently moved back to London from the Midlands, where - unimaginable, I'm sure - people start conversations at bus stops and smile at each other in the streets, the above laws were a summary of my experiences on the first day back in London using the tube.

Smiled at a lady whose small child was blowing raspberries the other day and said woman grabbed her child protectively as if I was about to kidnap it and ship it to Neverland. When our tube was delayed in a tunnel due to a couple of idiots running on the tracks at Mile End, the man stood next to me sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. I said, "Ridiculous, isn't it," and he turned and looked at me as though I'd just asked him if he'd like to join me in a jacuzzi full of Pepto-Bismol. Tried to run from the Picadilly Line platform at Finsbury Park to the Victoria Line platform opposite to catch my train, which had just arrived, but was prevented by a group of schoolkids who converged en masse in front of the door to chew gum and smell ripe and didn't pass to let me through. Bye train. Thanks, kiddiewinkies.

On the train, subtly (and by subtly, I don't mean I jumped on for a piggyback, exhaled in his ear and yanked his paper away) I glanced at the paper of a man stood next to me, because the headline was something outrageous and caught my eye. He sniffed, turned the page immediately and angled the entire newspaper so I couldn't see it. Oops, sorry, didn't mean to burn the ink off your free paper with my laser eyes, please just lift your arm a little higher, I want a proper whiff of your nylon work shirt. When I did get hold of a Metro paper, the first thing I read on the comments page was a little rant about how women should never put make-up on on the tube, rather, they should get up earlier so men don't have to see that - and God forbid someone should eat a sandwich! Well, I can tell you, on my way to school every morning from Oakwood to Arnos Grove I used to encounter a man who brushed his teeth and spat into an empty sports bag. That's not something I want to see. But it's not quite on the same level. When did people get so bothered by these tiny things?

It's only when you move somewhere smaller, and then return, that you notice just how charming we Londoners are to one another, particularly on public transport. Maybe it was always like this, and I simply never noticed.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Facebook Reports - Anti Islamic World Wide Movement

"Thank you for your report. This photo was not found to violate our community standards and has not been removed."

The photo in question - well, actually, there were many - depicted skinned children, severed hands, a woman who had committed suicide hanging in the kitchen, a woman covered in hundreds of little cuts, etc.
They are all part of a group called Anti Islamic World Wide Movement, and many have misleading or just completely inaccurate titles and posts next to them calling for Muslims to be eradicated. Which is pretty much inciting racial hatred.
I don't even want to talk about Islam, and atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Atrocities are tragically committed in the name of all religions, and Islam is no exception.

What I'd like to query is: why, five or six years ago, was my profile disabled after an EDL group online mass-reported my profile photo, in which I was sitting on a stool with my arm behind my back, after posting it on EDL groups with the comment "This girl is being held prisoner by Muslims. Report her to save her." - but photographs as the ones described above are not removed? There is an entire group dedicated to mass-reporting and spamming left-wing groups in order to have them removed from Facebook - "Operation EDL News" - which posts links to left-wing groups with captions such as "Come on everyone, spam them with porn and let's get their group down again"... and it works. But photographs like the ones I mentioned stay up.

Sure, they don't technically depict graphic violence and self-harm in progress (well, not all of them, anyway) - they depict the aftermath of graphic violence and self-harm. Is it really appropriate to have decapitated bodies in close-up on an open group on a social media site? Freedom of speech or not, posting graphic photographs of dead people with inaccurate descriptions and racist slogans is disrespectful, graphic and in some cases, inciting racial hatred. I won't post any of the photos in this blog, because they're far too graphic, but go and have a look yourselves and tell me if that's something you'd like to see on your homepage.

Parents: is there any point in restricting computer time, having a web nanny, firewalls, changing your settings on Google etc so that your children can't see this kind of thing, if they can see it on Facebook? Very young people are exceptionally both susceptible to propaganda and easily affected by such graphic images. All in all, I really think Facebook have gotten their priorities wrong and their Community Standards appear to be open to interpretation.

Way to go, Facebook.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I read a very popular male blogger’s most recent entry yesterday. This man has had over eight million hits, and the blog entry in particular had over a hundred comments. It was basically about how girls no longer behave like ladies, dress like ladies, restrain themselves with regard to alcohol, know how to behave in relationships etc. All things that everyone knows a lot of young women in Britain have issues with, all things that have been said before, but okay, I agreed with most of his points and they were nicely written. It did, however, infer that most problems between the sexes are caused by scantily-clad, drunken, vulgar women with no idea how to behave with any dignity whatsoever or maintain a normal relationship. It said everything but "What happened to women?"

I’d like to respond with the question “What happened to men?”

Men. Remember those? See, eternally etched in my mind when I think of “manliness” is the original Coca Cola advert - and in fact, comparing this to the Coca Cola adverts made since illustrate my point.
For those of you who don’t instantly remember, it featured a well-muscled man with neat hair in a t-shirt and a pair of normal men’s jeans drinking a Coca Cola in the sunlight. Well, the more recent Coca Cola advert shows a skinny builder in a v-neck t-shirt slurping away at a Coca Cola between the huge gap in his front teeth while sporting a haircut that can only be described as ‘curtains’. 

Want us to behave like ladies, to dress nicely and drink less and know when to let a man be a man?
Start by looking like men, please. Even the “grunger” phase of the late 90’s was better than what we have now. In fact, even the Hackett shirt pastel-coloured Nike rucksack phase was preferable to most of the men I see these days. Not all of them, mind you, but I think anyone in London will have seen the type I'm talking about, since it's spread like the plague. And where do I see them? In Starbucks, on their laptops, scrawny ankles protruding from rolled-up skinny jeans, blogging or Instagramming about the latest unheard-of festival, with awful pseudo-vintage hats perched at horrible angles over their carefully messed up hair. I see them in pretentious cafes drinking perfectly bloody ordinary tea priced at £5 with their pigeon chests clearly visible under the kind of deep v-neck tshirts that no girl could get away with. See them in “vintage” shops where you can buy the kind of stuff you’d turn up your nose at in a charity shop for fifteen times the price - manky plimsolls that no one wanted to wear to P.E. in Year 6, pointy leather shoes that even Clarks can’t sell any more and flasher-type anoraks. 

Seriously. Why would I want to sleep with a man who’s thinner than me, wears lower cut tops than I do, has tiny ankles, doesn’t wear socks even in winter and has more eyeliner than I do? Sure, I know a lot of women who could stand to lose a bit of weight, myself included. But have men given up entirely on their bodies too? Okay, there are the occasional gym-goers and the body-buildery types, but for the most part, men I’ve seen in London don’t seem to bother. Which wouldn't bother me, if they weren't constantly criticizing girls.

But it’s not all about looks, is it? Binge-drinking, a female problem? Well, I’d have to disagree. It’s men AND women. It’s not in any way less repulsive when men drink themselves into comas. Hardly anyone has dignity on a Friday night, sad as it is to say. It’d probably help if “going for a drink” turned back into “going out on a date” - I haven’t had a man invite me anywhere other than “for a drink” in years, but I do still remember the “let’s go to the cinema” era. Manners? Well, when men don’t fall into the category of “hipsters”, they tend to fall into the other most common category. “Lads”. These, whilst undeniably reeking of testosterone, have neither dignity nor manners. If they’re not “down the bookies”, they’re roaring at the football in pubs or downing Jaeger bombs with their wifebeater and making vulgar remarks at anything female that passes.

I've heard male friends who've slept around with hundreds of girls complain that girls aren't "ladies" any more and that girls don't know how to have relationships. This is so obvious I won't even say it.

With regards to men, is there no longer something in the middle left? A reasonably normally-dressed, educated man with no gambling/drug/drinking problem who doesn’t think the point of a date is getting hammered and ending up in bed? A man who’ll get up on the tube and let a grandmother sit down, who doesn’t have to Tweet his every move or wear oversized glasses just because they’ve come into fashion? A man who looks like a man, but doesn’t behave like a pig? Because it seems to be one extreme or the other, these days. It’s not that I’m contesting the points made about a large number of women - it’s just that both sexes have a way to go, it's certainly not only women who've changed for the worse. If you’d like girls to look and behave like ladies, then look and behave like gentlemen as well.