Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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.


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.


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.


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.

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Everyone says: ‘you’ve got to find what you like’

I’ve been debating an issue (in my head, naturally) for a little while. The issue is if you need to love what you do. It’s the career advice I’ve been told since I was 15. Only recently have I actually stepped back and looked at what was being said. (That sentence requires a little imagination but stay with me. I’m tired and I want to get this off my chest).

“Find what you love and it’ll never feel like work.”

That’s the one piece of consistent advice that was said to me from the ages of 15 to now by all sorts of people and articles. It’s a superficially great piece of advice. It’s also slightly ridiculous and not necessarily true.

First, not everyone feels that a successful career results in life fulfilment. Some people feel that as long as a job provides them with money to do what they want then that’s all they need. After all, who says a career needs to be everything?

Admittedly I’m aiming to do the whole what I love thing. Mainly because I’ve wanted to do it for so long, also because I think I’d be good at it and because I can’t really imagine doing anything else.

Still, this advice that has followed me for at least six years of my life probably goes a little way to explaining why I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

I want to travel, live a little like a nomad and see the world and I want to write and tell people about things they don’t know or need to know about. It’s pretty simple. I also want a nice house and at least two dogs and a cat. Maybe even a house rabbit that grows to the size of a crawling human baby. To have that costs money. Journalism isn’t really known for the high pay cheques especially when you’re just beginning as a lowly roving reporter like me.

In today’s society there is definitely a much stronger focus on academia and a career. Because of the stress, commitment and time needed for said career, the only advice given to remedy this complete and utter focus on work is to do what you love.

This results in 15 year olds being asked: “so what do you want to do?” As they feel a little awkward and not knowing, people quickly answer “Oh, you’re too young to know now anyway.” Yet it’s an expectation. A ‘regular’, more elite career is looked at with impressiveness and if you answer with an ambition to the question of “what do you want to do?” People dismiss it and remind you you’ll need a job for that.

Work is seen as a chore unless it’s something you love. Not a great way to promote employment.

Well duh. Obviously you need a job but it doesn’t have to be your life if you have other ambitions. You can decide to go into a career for the money rather than the passion for it and in doing so afford what it is you’re passionate about. Be that cars, holidays, houses, clothes, artwork – whatever.

Doing what you love makes sense to me, it means I will constantly feel driven to do well and to do better. I have a lot of dreams and although some of them require a bit of money (almost cried writing that lie, bit of money is playing it down way too much) I am not driven by those £s enough for that to give me enough of a drive.

For others it’s different. I have a few friends and family that have chosen extremely successful and satisfying careers that they do not necessarily love but allows them to live a life that they do love. That sounds pretty awesome too.

A career doesn’t have to be everything in a person’s life. Doing something as a way of living a life that you want to live is just as amazing as having a career that you are passionate about.

As long as you are living your life your way then nothing else really does matter. There’s no such thing as ‘true, complete and utter’ freedom (that’s a blog post for another time) but that’s the closest we’ll ever get to it.


What’s the big deal?

Lady Gaga has recently been in the news because apparently it’s a big deal that she’s put on weight and is still wearing her stage outfits. It’s a bigger deal that she says she is proud of her body, a big enough deal to have been in main news for at least two days this week just gone.

I don’t get it.

So what if Gaga has put on weight? She was incredibly skinny before and for people to fluctuate between sizes is completely normal. I understand why Gaga was praised for bashing her critics by posting photos of herself in her underwear. However, these photos just emphasised that the original photos were just a little unflattering. Her underwear shots (yes I’ve seen them) show her to be slim and  of a perfectly normal size for her frame. Okay maybe she could do with being a tiny bit bigger but she’s a performer – she does more exercise in one show than I will ever do in my life.

I still don’t quite understand why a woman putting on weight, or losing it, is such crazy news. Why if they put on weight – they are branded either gross or ‘real’ women and amazing for standing up to ‘model’ conventions? If they’re too skinny – they’re a bad influence.

It doesn’t really make sense. To strive to the confusing expectations of what the media think or the fashion world want is to try and get a child of five to make your life choices. They keep changing your minds and then you’re not really sure whether you’re coming or going.

There is no big deal in a celebrity putting on or losing weight. I don’t think it deserves as much space or time in people’s heads as it currently screams for by hundreds of publications and websites.

I know a celebrity is someone that is looked to and a lot of people like to know what said celebrity is doing on a regular basis. I am a fan of many famous people but I won’t dislike them due to the way their body looks and if they put on, or lose, an extra bit of weight.

It’s no big deal. People need to chill out and remember these celebrities are humans. If they want to eat a burger and not work out once in a while and put on a little weight then good for them. After all, who are we to criticise how someone decides to live their lives?


The bookshelf

I have been an avid reader since my mother bought my the Ladybird books in Woolworth’s when I was too young to remember details. When my sister and I were little and shared a room, my mum would read to us every night before we went to bed. As we both got older, we began reading alone and choosing our own books. It was exciting, and it still is.

My favourite shops are book shops. The huge Waterstones just off Piccadilly Circus in London makes me weep for joy. I could spend the whole day in a bookshop, time stops when you’re there. I was lucky enough to go to The Strand Bookstore in New York when I was there this summer. It was indescribable: 18 miles of books: old and new. It was heaven. A book lover’s dream. I added at least 100 new titles that I want to read to my ever growing reading list.

As a book lover, I am in love with my bookshelf. To me, my books are like children – silent, beautiful, well behaved, continually entertaining children. I have tried to give many up during various clean ups of my ever growing pile of ‘stuff’ and my books are always saved. Each one has a memory, each one reminds me of a moment in time when I was reading that book. Most of my books I’ve read at least twice apart from a couple of handfuls that I read only once and deserve a medal for the feat. I have bookshelves inside my wardrobe and one in my room and a load of books in boxes stored around the house.

I am very proud of my bookshelf. Mainly because I love the books on it. I read on The Guardian website about your bookshelf saying a lot about you. You can read the comment piece here. I agree insofar that your bookshelf says a lot about you, mainly due to the titles on that shelf. After all, it will show your interests and your likes. However I don’t think that my bookshelf is my chance to show off: I would never think to organise my bookshelf, and my books, in a way that would be appealing to somebody else in order to instigate a conversation or brag about having read certain books considered more ‘high brow’ (some of them not as special as many lecturers would have you believe).

My bookshelf and the books that I read are solely for my enjoyment. Much like the clothes I wear and the food I eat. I do it for myself. It seems illogical that I would need to organise it in an aesthetically pleasing way to someone that does not have the emotional connection to my books as I have.

It seems that in society now, we are developing a sentimentality of having to always impress, of needing to brand and improve our outer selves to show people just how great we are. I may sadly conform to some of this (for example I don’t pop my blackheads in public or swear like a sailor around strangers) but things such as reading, fashion and food are things that are scared to the individual. They provide escapism, inspiration and a little individuality in a world where we are unsure as to how unique we should be while still being part of a majority.

The bookshelf is a humble piece of furniture that holds some of the most precious possessions I own. Books that have been brought for me by the boy and have been some of the best reads of my life; books I purchased when I was feeling lonely; books I was given for inspiration; books that encouraged me to keep going; books that took me away from my cold, student housing; books that made me grateful and opened my mind.

When I’m grown up enough to be able to afford my own mortgage; I plan on having a room dedicated to all my books. Ceiling to floor bookshelves filled with books and picture frames. Two big, comfortable chairs, one bright light to read when it’s dark and a super comfortable rug for those days when I like to lie and read. That is perfection, and I could not care less about what my bookshelf says to the outside world about me.

Reading for me is an internal, personal things. It has been ever since my mum began reading to my sister and I before bed. As a result, my bookshelf is a little like my body I guess. I’m very proud of it but I’m not going to show the whole world what it looks like just in the hope they’ll think a little better of me.

Oh, look heaven. Let me live here. Please. Maybe with a few windows for some natural light. But still. Please.