Monday, 29 August 2011

Graduate Myth #4: Disposable Income

Disposable income makes the economy go around. It's what makes us all have the ability to buy sparkly eyeshadow, stupid extras for cars, and life-affirming holidays.

I love disposable income.

Despite opinions to the contrary from Mr DG and my parents, I am not particularly profligate in my spending. I spent my time as a student eating on a basic level and not buying many clothes. Money as a teenager came via a badly paid part-time job, and I used most of the cash for driving lessons. So when I came out of university and fell into my first full-time job, it was like the singing of the hallelujah choir. Despite a fairly low wage, I was still living with my parents. They asked, and received, a rent to cover my living expenses. After that, the money was all mine!

… then I remembered that living with my parents was basically crap, and moved out. And lo, I have no disposable income again.

This is true of most people I speak to. Any kind of wages over the basic minimum you used to scrape by with as a student seemed like a gargantuan sum of money, but there was a lot more expenses to being a grown-up than you might first imagine. My two bugbears are the horror that is maintaining a car – necessary in order to get to work – and saving for a wedding. Now, a wedding is exactly the kind of thing that you need disposable income for and yes, it's exactly the kind of thing I couldn't afford a student. But as Mr DG and I sit in our living room and debate whether or not we can afford a pint this weekend (answer: no) I wonder: does any recent graduate actually have any disposable income?

The answer is, yes, a little. We sit and complain that we have no money – but we have no money because we're saving for houses, or we've just been on holiday, or we're getting married. The sad truth is that depressingly, if you work full time and have a couple of incomes and no kids, you do have money. The expectation, though, is that if you have an annual salary approximately four times bigger than your annual budget as a student, the money will be somehow neverending. And, of course, it isn't.


Plus, you get the delightful knowledge that whinging because you can't afford new shoes is the absolute worst kind of first-world problems. That's an added bonus.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Party like it's 2005

I have recently been to a few Social Gatherings – okay, boozy birthday house parties – of people that are mostly graduates. This in itself isn't too much of an interesting blog post, as all I can say is that getting absolutely plastered as a graduate is just like getting absolutely plastered as a student, with the exception that ageing in general means that the hangovers get longer and more painful. I don't think I can blame that one on being ill-prepared for graduate life. Alas.

However, at a recent gathering we were all sharing horror stories about being students, including the Spanish test in which I solemnly informed my tutor that my sister was a tall man. Or my old housemate who forgot in an exam whether North and South Korea were, in fact, different countries and went for “the two warring areas”. Amazingly, though, we got to the point where we were comparing our respective careers, and the difficulty of trying to explain our lives to people.

“Oh,” giggled one friend, who is training to be a solicitor. “You'd think mine would be straight forward, but a six year old asked what I did.”


“She asked if being a solicitor meant I had to solicit people!”

There are worse graduate careers, we all agreed, before rolling off the sofa laughing. Then we played Articulate for three hours straight, wherein someone thought “Nice jumper, place in between Pakistan and India?” was in fact Arran rather than Kashmir.

Truly, our respective educations were worth it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A-Level results day

Today is A-Level results day, and oh my, I still feel sick when I see pictures of people opening their results. My results were, frankly, splendid – this was back in the day when I achieved things, of course. Still, it was a horrible and dreadful morning when I pulled myself out of bed and prepared myself for having abjectly failed to get into university and having to spend the rest of my life doing the cleaning job I had picked up for the summer.

(In the end, as you know, I went to university. This blog would be the most dull internet hoax ever otherwise.)

Whilst I don’t envy modern students the higher levels of debt, or indeed the horror that must have been applications this year, I am wildly jealous of people preparing to go to university. I was unbelievably nervous about preparing for university – filling in forms about housing, confirming my student loans, buying an abundance of stationary. It was all worth it, though; I met a great group of people very early on, most of whom I was actually living with via the power of fate. It was all worth it in the end – I still wouldn’t trade my university days for anything.

That said, some advice if you are preparing to become an undergraduate.

1. All of the advice you will read will advise you to take tea and coffee making equipment in order to try and find friends. Everyone else has read this advice. EVERYONE. My new housemates and I awkwardly made tea for each other for hours until we realised this one. (The trick: biscuits. Everyone likes HobNobs.)
2. You know what you need? And you won’t pack? It’s a cheese grater, my friends. You’ll thank me when it comes to late night cheese toasties.
3. Finally, don’t pay too much heed to old fogeys like me bitching on the internet that being a graduate sucks. It does suck, but you have years to go before you get to that stage.

Enjoy it. It’s scary and wild and bizarre, but it’s an opportunity to be relished. Plus, you get to be excitingly disillusioned in about three years time.

Guardian Supplement - The Fresher

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Student Debt

Some fascinating stuff in the Guardian today about student loans and debt management. I am having a birthday party/housewarming/potluck thing this evening so to be honest don't have time to go through it fully, but it looks like a good read.

As a heads up, I am fairly heavily in debt, but it could be worse; I have paid back approximately £100 of my student loan and I graduated two years ago. I currently owe a bank a small amount of money in terms of an overdraft, but nothing outrageous. I managed to graduate owing absolutely nothing on credit cards or overdraft due to a combination of being fairly boring, working my socks off, and having a car accident in my fourth year of studies which resulted in permanant back problems but on the bright side I ended up with a payment for the injuries, as the accident wasn't my fault.

I do not advise this as a method for paying off your debts.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to run around Seaside Town like an unsuccessful Come Dine With Me contestant.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Graduate Myth #3: Having Time To Read Fiction Again

The arm is healing nicely, please don't fret too much about that. I can even type properly again, which means it's time for...

Graduate Myth #3: Having Time To Read Fiction Again

At some point during university, you fantasised about throwing a book against a wall. You maybe even actually threw the offending tome down the stairs. (You know who you are, if you're reading this.) Doing a degree involves lots of reading, even if you're a science student. Chances are you probably enjoyed reading before you came to university, and you maybe even enjoyed some of the university reading material.* University tends to attract bookish people, after all. Come the end of your degree, though, and for a while probably the most complicated thing you wanted to read was a cocktail menu.

As the boredom of graduate life kicked in, though, most people I know started picking up novels again, and it was like the universe exploded in me. “Reading!” I exclaimed. “I love that!” I talked about how awesome it was to everyone, and tore my way through novel after novel, re-joined the local library and even read some Classic Books. I read War and Peace, for goodness sake.

This was all while under-employed, working part-time in a clothes shop in between job-hunting and living with my parents again. I used to get the train to work, so I even had a good hour every day to keep reading. It was brilliant, marvellous, wonderful just to read something that no one was going to set me an essay on. And it still is. I am as happy as a clam with a big, thick book, a free afternoon, and a lot of tea and chocolate. A lot of people I know feel the same, and even take their love of reading further by finding the time to write, or even write 12 Books In 12 Months (which by the way is a project you should read up on, as Ali is basically a superhero and disproves all of the theories that I'm about to expound on below. Nevetheless.).

The problem is that free afternoons disappear when you work full time. If you work for eight hours a day, sleep for eight hours a day, and commute for an hour a day, the time for reading quickly dwindles. I have to drive to work now due to inadequate public transport, so I've lost that time. Life gets in the way, in a constant and distressing way, with things like cleaning the bathroom and spending time with loved ones or writing a spurious blog. So the time to curl up with a good book decreases slowly but surely, until you're finally snatching moments before bed or finding esoteric excuses to have a bath.

Which is why I was very pleased to recieve The Crimson Petal and The White for my birthday this week.

That's not the book, that's Romola Garai, but I really fancy her and she played Sugar in the TV adaption which was on recently which makes it completely relevant.**

That's the actual book, and it's 834 pages long. I can't wait for the chance to curl up and read it, but I am mildly concerned about finding the time, and suspect I may be reading it for the next month or so.

As such, the graduate myth about reading fiction again actually had a grain of truth in it – you will get to read again, and it will be marvellous. The problem is that like so many things in life, the time for it is rather crushed by having that graduate job you were really hoping for. Like so, so many things.

*full disclaimer: I keep and still consult a lot of my university texts. ROCK AND ROLL.

**before anyone points it out, I am aware that TV sucks up a lot of time too. This is particularly true if you are massive nerds like Mr DG and I, who are attempting to (re)watch all of Star Trek. All of it. We've even made it through the first season of The Next Generation.***

*** These footnotes are not making me look like the cool and sophisticated front of New Media that I'm trying to present, so I shall stop now.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I, like everyone else I know, have been watching the news with increasing horror. As London burns, I feel that there is nothing else I can do this other than sit and look horrified. And feel a deep, abiding sense of shame.

I am ashamed that as I start to write this, David Cameron has only just come back from holiday. Where has our government been? Do they have such little regard for our country that they feel they can all go on holiday at the same time and hope for the best? I work in a tiny little office and even we can manage a holiday rota. No Prime Minister, no Deputy Prime Minister, no Home Secretary, no Mayor of London, no Leader of the Opposition, no Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As the mob rises, there needs to be strong leadership. I have nothing but distrust and dislike of our coalition government, but here the opposition is to blame as well.

I am ashamed the Metropolitan Police, who seem to do nothing but take bribes from News International, shoot young black men in suspicious circumstances, and kettle students. It's almost like there are gaping holes in their leadership as homes and businesses burn.

I am ashamed of living in a state and society that has created angry young men – I have yet to see any proof that the rioters and looters are anything but angry young men – who are so completely disaffected. Angry young men who believe society owes them something, and can no longer see any way of expressing their unhappiness and rage other than through illegality and theft.

I am ashamed that this is apparently how we protest. These are not mindless thugs – they may be thugs, but they have thoughts and feelings too – but the violence is mindless. This is not a political protest for freedom. This is a riot of vengeance, of running through streets that they feel have betrayed them and damn the consequences, because there isn't an understanding of consequences any more. This is not Tahrir Square. This is a London phenomenon, like the Gordon Riots of over a century ago, born of rage and unspecified grudges and flame, not of thought.

And I am ashamed of myself. I am ashamed that I am not educated enough to talk through the issues properly, and instead have to talk vaguely while desperately reading and tying myself in liberal knots. I am ashamed because I am afraid for friends and family, and I am giving in to that more than I should be, and no longer fully contemplating the motives of the rioters. I am ashamed that possibly this is inarticulate, and simply adds to an overwhelming noise of bloggers already talking about this, but my god, I need to say something.

I hope that something good can come of this, but I am afraid that there is no good to come from this at all.

Useful BBC site.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Minor hiatus

There would be a post about being a graduate here, reflecting on HSBC's job cuts and what a global market means to today's graduate, but I fell up the stairs in work last night.

On the positive side, I did not break the cups I was carrying upstairs to my employer and the people he was in the meeting with. DEDICATION YOU SEE. However I did manage to hit my not inconsiderable weight on my forearm and have quite badly bruised a nerve of some description, according to the nice doctor in the hospital last night.

Typing is currently too tricky to contemplate for a long time, so there may be no new posts for a week or so. On the bright side I have at least got a day off work with some quite exciting painkillers, making the Disorientated Graduate feel very disorientated indeed.