Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain

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I’ve been wanting to resurrect this blog from its cyberspace grave for some time now.

I always put it off because I tell myself I need to rename it, reinvent it and, most importantly, I tell myself I have nothing to write about.

But something happened today that made me want to tell this online space of mine. I wanted to write about it in the hope that others would read it and understand its importance.

A lot has happened since i stopped writing here.

I’ve been very lucky actually. I got a new job, I moved: not once but twice, I’m in a new city and I am living on my own right now in a wonderful little flat – although not for much longer (the boyfriend just got a new job too and will be joining me soon).

Yet all of these changes have not pushed me to write. Instead, they have given me excuses not to: of being too busy, of wanting to focus on all the things going on around me, of not having time, but today that changed.

I went food shopping after a good day at work to a supermarket nearby. I only had a basket of food. I made my way to an empty check out and started putting my food on the conveyer belt. As the cashier wasn’t serving anyone she started scanning my food and packing it into a bag for me.

That’s it.

That gesture of kindness overwhelmed me. It may seem small; a cashier packing your bag. Heck, some of you may be thinking well, isn’t that just what a good cashier does? But it meant a lot to me. So much so in fact that I thanked her several times in a desperate hope of making her see how much it meant to me and she did what most people do and brushed my thanks away with a courteous ‘don’t worry, it’s no problem’.

In fact I was so touched by the gesture that as I walked away, I felt myself well up. I didn’t cry but I that sensation before you do (you know the one) washed over me.

And before you think I am overreacting, hormonal or whatever dismissive thing could be said about my reaction I think it’s more important to realise how sometimes a small act of kindness from a stranger can mean the world to someone.

I’m not sure what it is about this small act that touched me so but rather than psychoanalyse myself as I always do I’ve decided to embrace it and let it inspire me to be more kind.

I like to think I am kind. I helped an old lady carry something to her car very recently for example, but I could do more. I could be more conscious of kind acts and therefore actually do more good as a result.

Being aware of the people, things, and setting around us and interacting with those people, things and setting is important. It reminds us we are part of a community. That not too long ago, we relied on our group units to survive.

It is easy to forget in our day-to-day lives that there are other humans out there aside from our family and friends that have similar, if not the same, insecurities, hopes, aspirations and fears as you.

Connecting with these humans, these strangers – even if it’s through a small but significant act of kindness – helps remind us that we are part of more than what is inside our own boxes.

Our life is like a star in a galaxy. Alone it is bright, but joined together with all those other lives and connecting with them, even if it is with the smallest of gestures, it becomes brilliant. A beautiful sight to behold.

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Lola arrived in our home as a teeny tiny thing that could fit in the palm of your hand. She is now four months old and no longer tiny but a flying flurry of fur.

I have learnt a lot about myself since Lola entered my life. I have had a lot of animals in my life and each have taught me something different but Lola has done something different. Life changes when something that has never-ending energy and a huge capacity to love and bite simultaneously becomes a part of the family.

Lola at two months old

Lola at two months old

She is a naughty puppy. If something is small enough to go into her mouth then it will. And even if it isn’t she will attempt to dismantle it until it can. This includes everything from pillows, toilet paper, chairs, hands, slippers and anything that resembles some sort of food item. She also enjoys the chase so if you run after her she runs harder. She also enjoys barking at small children and making them cry (this has happened enough times to become a thing). She especially loves to poop and then when you’re picking up said poop, push your hand into said poop. She’s a bundle of fun. No, really.

Lola – despite the fact she likes to do things that aren’t allowed and is probably considered more of a bad dog than a good dog – is amazing. She is a fast learner and is already trained to do a load of tricks that I am extremely proud of teaching her and she has taught me a lot too.

Lola at three months

Lola at three months

A dog expects a certain amount of friendship and as a result that dog promises to be loyal and playful and kind to you. I thought I was patient when Lola arrived and I quickly realised I wasn’t. Puppies like to bite and test things with their mouths much like human babies and when you are trying to relax a puppy in your home will make that feat difficult. I have become more patient since Lola and I met. I have become more considerate as she has taught me to think before I act (even if she doesn’t). Everything I do has a direct effect on her – in a big or small way and she feeds off my attitude and mood. In becoming a more relaxed and patient person I have seen Lola develop to be a better puppy.

She is still stupidly excited about everything – a blade of grass, a sneeze, a tissue – whatever and though I am finding the most trouble with her exuberance during training and obedience, she has reminded me to enjoy the little things. I like to think I remember the moment more now and the fact I should stop consistently fixating on the future. I still do that of course, but I’m working on it and I find myself smiling more and breathing deeper as a result.

A bond has been created that I am not a skilled enough writer to describe. It is a strange thing when something gives you its undying love immediately and continues to give you that even when you probably fall a little below expectations. She has helped me with missing the boy and living apart from him. She has reminded me that the life we continue to talk about is happening right now, it won’t stop just because you have both eyes on the horizon.

Lola drives me crazy at least half the time because if she’s not trying to embarrass me then she’s doing something naughty. But I love her still. I love her with all my heart. She is a good dog and we are both learning from each other. So while I teach her tricks and how to behave in a human world, she teaches me a little more about life – lessons that a human can only learn from an animal like Lola.

The determination in her eyes to come at me and lick my face while I was taking this picture is a little terrifying

The determination in her eyes to come at me and lick my face while I was taking this picture is a little terrifying

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I did not go to university to find a man

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently came out with the golden nugget of knowledge that women go to university to find a man. At first I thought it was some kind of mistake but after a little looking around realised that those words had actually come out of Mr Johnson’s mouth.

At a press conference he joked that women had to go to university because “they’ve got to find men to marry”. The Mayor of London is often making inappropriate jokes and I understand if people were not to take the comment seriously, but it dismissive ‘jokes’ like this that make my blood boil.

I went to university and did not go to find a man. The possibility of finding a man was never something that even entered my mind. I wanted to go to university to learn, to get a degree and to have that experience. I wanted to go to university to study something I love, to delve into the subject deeper than I had at A Levels and GCSE and to inspire me.

I did not go to find a man. It implies a woman only goes into higher education to get hitched. It implies that women are not capable of furthering their education because they want to but instead because they have to find a man. It implies that fulfilment comes from being in a relationship rather than by doing things that you want to do. It implies, yet again, that women cannot be women without a man by their side.

A person like Boris Johnson, a public figure, need to watch their words. They are far more powerful than people often realise and this power doesn’t diminish in any way because the words spoken were a ‘joke’.

Once when I was in a club at university with my girlfriends, I headed to the toilets by myself. As I came back to meet my group, a boy groped me. I turned around and told him to get off. He told me I was sexy and asked if I wanted to go home with him. I pushed him away and told him to F*@% off. He called me a slag, told me I was frigid and then said he was ‘joking’. As if, because it was a joke, it forgives everything.

I see people be rude to each other, offensive in a way that crosses the line and when the other party is hurt, the word ‘joke’ and ‘banter’ is thrown around like it’s a soother. A cure that will heal all wrong-doings. It is like this, through the ‘jokes’ and the ‘banter’ that we take a small step back for every step forward.

Sexism is still a huge part of our lives, especially as women. They may be small acts of sexism that were all part of a ‘joke’ or ‘messing around’ but they accumulate to a wider thinking. They make that person, who is the target of your jokes, uncomfortable, angry, fearful or upset or all of those things. They dismiss a woman as a human being and Boris Johnson’s own ‘joke’ adds a little more fuel to that incessant fire.

Finding a man is not the ultimate task. Marriage is not what defines a woman. We can be fulfilled, happy, successful and confident without a ring on our finger and a man by our side. This has all been said before, it is essentially old news with a fresh coat of paint and yet, it continues to happen. Sexism is still prevalent – and sometimes, often, dismissed. It is still an issue for plenty of women in the UK and millions of women across the world. It is still a problem which is why jokes like Boris Johnson’s will continue being part of that problem. A joke is not an excuse to be dismissive towards half the population. A joke does not validate sexism. It is rude, it is derogatory and it is part of a continuing, long-standing problem.

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Angry TigerI feel like this. The reason for that is multi-faceted and not very hard to explain. But I won’t explain it because I was once told you should never write when you are consumed with emotion – or you should never write anything that may be seen by others when you are consumed with emotions. The best time to write is when your mind is so quiet that you can hear everything you have ever felt and dreamed of and everything you will feel and dream of. You want your mind to be a blank slate rather than a twisted web where you can’t find beginnings or ends.

I often find it harder to write when I am calm. I like to write when an idea sweeps me up in it like a gigantic wave and I have to swim to keep afloat. But maybe that’s why so many things lie unfinished in my desk drawers or in forgotten folders on my laptop. Once the wave of excitement is gone I’m too scared, too judgemental of my own writing to carry on.

That’s the thing with emotions, it is very easy to get swept up in the moment – that’s no bad thing of course, but it does not bode well for when those emotions pass and you are left with the consequences of following your emotions and thinking of little else. I don’t mean in gestures of love, or crazy moments of adventure or of finally taking that step to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Songs, films and novels are created based on those emotional triggers and catching the magic in them.

But there are times when it is best to think, take a step back and breathe. Soak it in and embrace it without having to significantly alter your life or risk altering it in a negative way.

We are not robots obviously and our emotions help make us the people that we are but it’s also worth embracing the calm – the ‘nothing’ – between those moments of euphoria or sadness or anger. It is, after all, where we live most of our lives; not in the extreme but the in-between. I think we would do well to embrace that and enjoy it too. We may become happier, more balanced and better people. Not everything has to be life and death. Joy, or satisfaction, can come from the medium too.



You are not entitled

A Facebook post complaining about the incompetence of the Job Seekers’ Allowance and several other benefits infuriated me today. It infuriated me because the individual complaining about JSA had no real right to in the sense that he should have seen such a benefit as a gift, a lucky token at the fact that he is too damn uptight to get a job “below him”.

JSA is intended as a short-term solution. To help those in the most desperate need who have no other alternative unless they are to live on the street and starve. It sounds extreme but it should be. Benefits are not an entitlement just because the jobs available do not take your fancy. It is for an emergency and it is people that do not treat it as so that give all those claiming benefits a bad name.

After I finish my NCTJ after graduation, I was fully prepared to work for free at any newspaper or magazine that would take me. This meant I would need money and I was fully prepared to work nights wherever I could get work: be that in a supermarket, a warehouse or a bar. It didn’t really matter as long as I had money coming in to support me.

I sound judging but this savvy social media user is consistently posting status in regards to the apparent stupidity of those working in the job’s centres and those in charge of giving him his benefits. He also continually posts statuses stating his disbelief and dismay at the fact that the job centre doesn’t understand why he won’t take up a ‘menial’ minimum-wage job. So what if you’re a graduate? So what if you have experience? The job market is as competitive as ever and not everyone can get those awesome start-up jobs that they want. That’s the way the world works. Even for the people that are truly incredible at whatever it is they do.

The fact that there are jobs open to someone and they have refused them because they think they are not good enough shows what is wrong with this society. This sense of entitlement that we deserve more. We do not. We are lucky in the UK to get what we do, and though it isn’t perfect, it is better than many other countries across this planet. You were lucky to be born into a family in the UK. That’s all it is. Luck – not entitlement.

If there are jobs available, no matter how menial you deem them to be, you take it. You take it because it’s better than nothing and you take it because it is better than the JSA. Especially when you are someone who has no outgoing expenses or other people relying on you like children or someone you must care for. When you are in a situation where you are basically free from constraints and responsibilities (you live at home with your parents, you do not have children, you do not have bills, you do not have rent to pay, you do not own a car, the list goes on) then you take any job you can because JSA for you is not an emergency, it is an excuse not to try as hard.

Just because you went to university, and just because you feel you are too smart for a job does not mean you are above it. You are no better than the person next to you in that job centre, or the person on the bus going to work. If you are not desperate or if your situation is not so difficult that you are actually in crisis then you do not deserve that JSA. It sounds harsh but I speak to a lot of people.

I have met people who deserve those benefits because it’s their last choice: either down to disability or to the fact that without it they can’t afford to feed their families or themselves while they are between work or because they can’t afford their rent without it. Truly difficult situations that nobody would wish themselves in. I see people who refuse JSA and other such benefits because they do not think they are struggling enough yet, because they know they haven’t exhausted every option.

And then I see things like those Facebook statuses and I talk to people who feel entitled, not because they deserve it, but because they refuse to take options that they feel are not suited to them.That is unfair. That is unfair to all those people who do need JSA and other benefits like it. That is playing the system and complaining that it’s not good enough even though you aren’t trying hard enough.

You are not owed anything. You are just like the rest of us and sometimes it is necessary to swallow your pride and get over yourself a little. If there’s a job, take it. You can look for another while you work. Don’t make excuses or cover the fact that you’re not trying hard enough with the difficulty of the system.

JSA is a safety net for those who are falling, it is not a cushion for you to weep in because you feel you’re not getting what you are due.

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A big ramble trying to talk about little things

This time last year I was in New York having the Best Time Ever. This time last year I was posing for a photo outside the New York Public Library (a must for book-worms like me) and still had a whole New York adventure to live out.

Now I am sitting in my parent’s kitchen blogging. The sun is shining, the pup is eating my slipper which is still on my foot and the cats are sleeping in the living room. I am also a reporter on my local newspaper which continues to thrill me with joy even when it’s stressing me out.

It’s funny how things change. The boy and I were planning to go travelling this September but then the opportunity for the job I am in came along and I had to grab it with both hands – the same way I intended to do with travelling. It was a great way of getting on the ladder and learning the ropes the only way you can when you’re in a job. The boy was happy to postpone the travelling and so was I and I still don’t regret my part in that decision after six months. I still plan on going travelling but it won’t be for a little while yet and I’m happy with that.

If you’d told me that last year when I was posing for a photo outside the New York Public Library I would have probably laughed in your face and been a little dismissive. Travelling is something I have always wanted to do, and am determined to do – I would have seen no other way than doing it as soon as possible and that would have been when the boy graduated.

But things change. Opportunities come up that are too good to miss and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t grab onto them with every bit of strength and vigour you had.

I am a planner and it is often difficult to accept that my plans must change. I am also stubborn so this adds to my hesitance of not wanting changes in my plans.

I like change that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone, doing something different and pushing yourself so I plan to do things like that but I don’t appreciate the other type of change that makes you stay right where you are and make the most out of it – milk it until it’s dry and then you can move on. That is the type of change that came in January when a work experience placement turned into a interview for a proper reporting job. I would have been stupid not to take it, even if it wasn’t in my plans and I think that’s why I don’t regret it. It’s an exciting change but a different one to what I was planning. Maybe if it had been a compromise I would think differently, I don’t know.

So right now, I’m not in NY ticking off a dream come true (I have wanted to travel there since I read about it books and realised it wasn’t make-believe) and daydreaming of a travel adventure. Right now I am ticking off a job as a reporter on a local paper – another dream come true.

Just because everything doesn’t happen at once, doesn’t mean it won’t. We leave in an age of immediacy and sometimes we lose sight of the fact that though human life doesn’t last as long as certain other creatures on this planet we have a long while to make the most out of it. We are living longer, healthier lives and we need to make the most out of all of it – not just the first 20 years.

Right now, I feel very, very lucky. I feel like I am milking life and it’s a good feeling. Often in society we’re made to feel narcissistic for bigging ourselves or the lives we lead up but that can’t be good for us emotionally. That means we look for dissatisfaction and unease and stress. So, here I am saying I am happy with life  – though this week has been a little like drowning in mud – it happens. Not every day can be perfect.

This blog post has little meaning, or significance. It is just a person declaring she is happy. A person accepting that change happens and embracing it because it’s another adventure. Not the same one, or a better one, but a different one that’s just as exciting.