Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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Kindness

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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Class: just another box to put you in

Class was something that was hushed up when I was growing up. You weren’t really proud but you weren’t ashamed. It was what it was and nobody really wanted to discuss it. My parents would be considered working class and that wasn’t a big deal. Maybe because I only really hung out with working class individuals or maybe because I was too young to care. I kind of think it’s because people had more important things to do.

But not class has hit the headlines yet again with two-year research that finds seven different class systems in the UK. More hierarchy. More boxes to fit people into. More tags and labels that aren’t actually necessary.

Nowadays class shouldn’t really matter, I know it does in terms of being some sort of stupid explanation for why you’re a success, why you’re not, or why you’re special. Like when you get the success stories of people who are millionaires or professionals but started off on a council estate. But it just seems outdated.

People can overstep these boundaries, to a degree, through the friends they make and the work they do. Reviving classes, something that has only been revived since the economic downturn to show the people that are drowning and those who are swimming after the crash in a nice lovely, simple label of rich and poor, is just drawing yet another line in the sand. It’s another boundary telling you: you belong here, they belong there. It is another kind of segregation and we have enough of those without making old ones popular.

Classes are just more boxes to put people in. Another term for a group of people. There are millions of people in the world – we are bound to have similarities and we are grouped in various ways to remind us of these and another isn’t necessary – not when it feels so outdated.

I understand that there have to be labels and bands and groups so that a society can effectively work but what I don’t understand is why there has to be so many unnecessary ones. Who gives a flying monkey if you’re working class or elite (one of the new classes)? It’s just more labels to spread an us and them mentality – which just breeds resentment and in my opinion, that is not a healthy feeling to even be hinted at a fully-functioning and happy society.

Saying all this, curiosity got the better of me and I did do the BBC mini class test to see what I was under this new seven category class system that we apparently have in the UK. I fall into the category that the majority of graduates fall into: the new affluent worker. Pur-lease. Do it for yourself here.


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Vulnerability

I was going to write an incredibly brilliant blog post – you’ll just have to take my word for this, as instead I watched this epic video and she made my incredibly brilliant blog post look a little crappy, which is really saying something I swear.

It was also so good that I’ve decided to share it with you guys. Brene Brown’s talk is epic. Enjoy!


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I do

Yesterday, in the UK, the Houses of Commons voted for gay marriage in a pretty big majority. Now that bill needs only pass through the House of Lords and receive Royal Assent and ta dah! It will be law.

This will mean that gay people will be able to actually have a wedding rather than a civil ceremony. Religious institutions still have the option if they will or will not perform same-sex marriages and couples who feel that marriage is important to them can feel that their ceremony is just as important as couples who comprise of a man and a woman.

It’s an obvious right in my opinion. I know people disagree and I respect that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriages but it does not mean I agree. It just means I have a respect for people’s views.

Today on Facebook a friend who is religious posted on his Facebook that in his opinion he could not be happy about the vote and the new rights. Fine, it’s a matter of opinion. He then went on to say that the flaw in the argument of the people that were for gay marriage was that you could not redefine marriage. This is where it is no longer fine. Because that argument is invalid, society redefines words all the time.

The definition of marriage is not sacred. As much as a religious institution may want to monopolise the ceremony, it cannot simply because it does not have the right too. Language is consistently evolving as is our interpretation of it. The way we speak now and the way I’m writing this would have been unheard of 100 years ago.

Of course we can redefine things, it is how we evolve as a species. It is how new things can be discovered and how we can build on what we have learnt. If we did not redefine anything then women and those that are not white would still be considered second-class citizens. If we did not redefine things then we would never progress, things wouldn’t move forward – the world would become stagnant and stationary.

To oppose something because of your beliefs is understandable. After researching several religions I realised that none were really suited to me. Some less than others. I have chosen to not be religious as such. In that I don’t follow one religion, I have my own beliefs and that’s that. Just as many people have chosen to follow religion be that following Allah, God or anyone else.

But it seems strange to me to oppose something because you think we don’t have the right to redefine it when we are in fact doing that all the time. Religions themselves redefine things, science redefines things and that is how the world works.

In my opinion this is progress, slow progress but progress nonetheless. Denying someone a right for no reason is unfair. Criminals that lose their right to vote while serving time in prison: that’s fair, they lose that right through their own actions. An animal abuser not being allowed to own animals for the rest of their lives: that’s fair, because they have abused that right and therefore should not be allowed to keep it.

Two men or two women not having the same rights of marriage as a man and woman: that’s unfair, gay people haven’t actually done anything to have this right evoked. It doesn’t make sense why one set of people that are in love, or not, and decide to get married can and another set of people cannot.

The fact that this new legislation will make gay marriage legal is wonderful. It does not make sense to discriminate against someone due to the gender of the people they are attracted to. That’s they same as discriminating against people with brown hair. Or telling someone who has freckles that they are not entitled to the same privileges as the others in society.

This is a small but significant step towards equality and it’s about time too. And in a 100 years, people will read about this and think the same thing as the majority of the world now thinks of women not having the vote or of black people not being entitled to live around white people: absolutely bloody ludicrous.

By this time next year, anyone will be able to say I do. About time too.

I could find a suitable image to go with this piece that wasn't overly cheesy and just, well, so OTT it was weird. So I settled for cake, because cake is always appropriate.

I couldn’t find a suitable image to go with this piece that wasn’t overly cheesy and just, well, so OTT it was weird. So I settled for cake, because cake is always appropriate.


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Something a little different: a look at Harlow Youth Council

There are no restrictions to what, relatively speaking, an average member of the general public can do at the age of 21. You can have sex, join the army, drive a car, vote in an election, get married, claim benefits and get a job.

At 21-years-old you are an active member of society, contributing fully in taxes and being treated like any other adult. It could be argued, by old and young alike, that at 21 a person is still young enough to be in touch with the younger population of the country while being mature enough to deal with the majority of situations that could be faced by a Member of Parliament.

In recent years, the youngest MPs who have gained seats in the House of Commons have been Charles Kennedy in 1983, a Social Democrat, who was 23 and Liberal, Matthew Taylor (1987) and Labour MP, Chris Leslie (1997) who were both 24-years-old.

It is a rarity for a person in power to be a part of the younger generation. The majority of those currently serving the British public as our MPs are over 40.

To compensate for the lack of a younger voice in positions of power, many local councils around the UK have adopted a Youth Council. Harlow is no exception.

Harlow Youth Council LogoThe Harlow Youth Council was formed in February 2002 and compromises of an elected group of 13 to 19-year-old individuals who live in Harlow.

Councillor Emma Toal, 23, is in charge of the Harlow Youth Council and is the Portfolio Holder for Youth and Citizenship. A new councillor who was only elected in May, Miss Toal began her political career as a Harlow Youth Councillor in 2009.

She said: “My focus is to give young people a voice in parliament. I am the youngest councillor to have been trained in parliament and I am 23.”

Nishall Garala, (17), from Waterhouse Moor, Harlow, has been a youth councillor since he was 13.

He said: “I decided to join the youth council because I want change for young people in the town and wanted to be in a position to make a positive change.”

Nishall, who has been dubbed one of the most enthusiastic councillors by those who work with him, added: “I think the Harlow Youth Council is important because they represent the views and voices of young people in town.

“It is an opportunity for all young people to have their say about things in Harlow through their youth councillor.”

The St Marks student, who wants to go to university to study pharmaceuticals and is considering a possible future in politics, believes in one logical improvement to youth representation in government.

He said: “I think that a clear improvement to help raise the voices of young people is to include young people in the governmental panels that concern them.

“Under 18s would automatically have their voice raised as they are able to have a direct input and it is not only adults making decisions for us, which is not fair.”

Nishall, who represents the Bush Fair ward, added: “To have a young person on certain panels can make a difference. Politicians will see new ideas which could form another perspective, and make a more significant difference than a group made up of adults.”

Emma Toal agrees that more could be done. She said: “I do not think that youth engagement is very high and it is important. The Harlow Youth Council is a start and there are elections every year so more people are involved.

“It is important that young people are fully represented in local government because local decisions are important to under 18s. They care about their town, they care about little things. Local elections affect them. Anyone over 18 quite often forgets this.”

Sam Robinson, (16), of Potter Street is another Harlow Youth Councillor who, like Nishall, joined at 13.

As well as fulfilling his role on the HYC, Sam volunteered to be involved with the review of educational attainment in Harlow.

The youth councillor, who studies at Bishops Stortford High School, agrees with Nishall in how young people’s voices could be better heard in politics: “In councils, having a member of the youth council who has an interest for that particular meeting would be useful and maybe some kind of scheme to cement that.

“I think there would be a lot of support to have young people more involved in politics on a wider scale.”

The key to improve political engagement, especially voting, amongst the younger generation, according to Councillor Toal, is in education: “I think citizenship lessons need to be a lot stronger than they are.

“People are never taught how to vote, nothing is really taught about the importance of voting. A hundred years ago women weren’t allowed that right and they fought hard for it. It is a right that people died for. One that now isn’t seen as that big of a deal.”

She added: “I also believe that voting for under 16s should be allowed. If you can join the armed forces and get married at 16, then you should be able to vote for how these things are governed.

“My friends have never voted and we are all in our 20s. It is in the education. We may have a generation that has never voted or that may never vote and then we do not really have a democracy at all, do we?”


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Does it count?

If you live in England you may or may not know that yesterday were the police and crime commissioner elections. If you live in England, you probably didn’t know that the elections happened yesterday.

In Essex votes came in at 13%. Essex is a huge county, last year’s census said the population was 1,393,600. That’s a lot of people and 13% is a very, very small proportion. Should it have counted? Should the man who won the title of police and crime commissioner, Nick Alston have actually been appointed?

I don’t think so.

Although voting in itself and being given the opportunity to vote is a democratic thing, someone elected that won from only 13% of the Essex population voting is not.

You see those wonderfully colourful figures? That’s how many people voted in Essex, roughly. It may have been a little less.

Fair enough that the people who didn’t vote could have decided against it for lack of caring but with such an extreme low turnout it probably is safe to assume that people either didn’t want the role to exist, didn’t care either way, or didn’t know about it. Any of those options are worrying and all of them demand either a new election or a abortion of the police and crime commissioner role.

Obviously financially speaking this may not exactly be feasible but for a role that will be paid a salary of £65,000 – £100,000 a year, it is important enough that the ‘winners’ should be appointed with at least more than 13% of the county’s vote. Not enough people means the general consensus is not highlighted which kind of defeats the whole point of democracy.

I know that in the long term the police and crime commissioner should be cheaper than the police authorities he is replacing. However the right choice still needs to be made. Especially  with a role as apparently powerful as this one.

If a voting turnout is extremely low then that vote should be voided. Just because a handful of people have voted does not make it something a larger majority of the population would agree with. To get people voting inspired marketing and the importance of a person’s vote needs to be expressed without being patronising.

Politics can often talk down to people and because nothing really, truly changes people begin to switch off. Which is normal and understanding. What people don’t realise is that the population are the people that could really change things.

The only reason it doesn’t happen is because of the lack of organisation and that nothing is bad enough in England for those that could change things, for all our complaints, that we feel we need to stand up and fight against it together.

A vote is a more ‘civilised,’ silent way of getting an opinion heard even if some voting systems aren’t the greatest at getting a balanced display of who voted for what. Still, when that vote is lower than 15% then those people in charge need to take a step back and really consider what those numbers mean.


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Ridiculous Gender Roles

The Great British Bake off has caused headlines today. Not because it’s a great show (I am known to like a good cooking show) but because the three finalists are male. How exciting right? Completely groundbreaking. Holy cow, men can bake.

How ridiculous that this would make news and reignite a debate on gender roles. It’s just baking and men, much like women, have arms a brain and the ability to turn on an oven. It is therefore fair to assume, that they have the capacity to bake. Why is this such a shock to the media and society as a whole?

Whoever can cook this for me: man, woman or bear, I will love forever. If the chocolate can be spread all over the cake then that’s even better.

I read a few articles about this astounding turn of events of having males instead of females in a bake off final and I’m still confused about what the big deal is. It seriously concerns me that this could still be news. The gender roles that many dubbed to be fading or non existent because women were becoming equals (a debate in itself), it seems never left.

It seems strange to me that these three men are deemed extraordinary enough to make news and restart an old debate. These men have made the news not because of being extremely talented or because they’ve achieved something incredible through their baking but because they are men and can make cakes.

These tired and dated gender roles existed in a society when women were expected to be seen and not heard. When women were dubbed ‘angels of the house’ and a man had to be strong, cold and powerful to be deemed a man. These gender stereotypes meant that people chose to conform rather than be ridiculed for not fitting into the ancient texts descriptions and ideals of a man and a woman.

We pride ourselves on being evolved and most humans on this planet think they are better and stronger than the other species on this planet. Yet if a final of a baking competition is all male then this seems worthy enough of news? What’s so special about it?

These gender roles may or may not be believed and adhered to by a large part of society but the newspapers shouldn’t deem it such a ‘crazy, new thing.’ People can do what they want regardless of their gender.

There is no secret to what makes a man and what makes a woman. Whatever is between your legs that determines whether you can tick the female or the male box on application and registration forms. It isn’t what job you have, or what you enjoy doing, or how you decorate your house, or what car you buy or what you wear. That makes a person. It shows you. It doesn’t determine if you’re a man or woman.

Once society works out this obviously very confusing society of vagina=woman, and penis=man; then gender roles can be thrown aside and laughed at for being so utterly stupid. Restricting ourselves because of our gender is just another barrier that has been put there by history, tradition and the inability to change.