Tuesday, 29 November 2011


My stats just jumped massively. Hello, all of you international sorts! Bet you think I'm about to put something intellectual.

To be quite honest I'm in my pajamas, eating a packet of Refreshers and watching Don't Tell The Bride. LIVING THE DREAM. And my next planned post is Surviving The Christmas Party, ready for all of you hitting the town this weekend with your colleagues. Oh yeah.

However, this is a mildly serious post in order to wish the best of luck to everyone on strike tomorrow, which includes both of my parents. I will not be on strike tomorrow, as I work in the private sector, and there is no relevant union to my industry. I completely support the strike. To everyone on the picket lines: dress up warm, and if I pass one, I will honk in support.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lost generation

Nick Clegg: £1bn youth jobs fund to prevent lost generation

A generation lost in despair at youth unemployment soars

This new housing strategy won't save the 'lost generation'

I have heard more this month about being lost than I do from my SatNav. My whole generation, they would have you believe, is floundering about in the dark and nothing will save us from a life of bad privately rented houses, under-employment and a lack of moral fibre.

This is possibly true. I am, after all, a Disorientated Graduate. My very name indicates that I am, well, lost. I'm lost in a way that indicates I'm directionless through, rather than having been misplaced behind the sofa cushions of recession. The way I see it is that our generation is lost, some behind the sofa but mostly just lacking a clear direction.

It was easier in the past. A hundred years ago, the path would have been clear for me. If I was born into my class as a girl, I would have been expected to go into a local factory, or possibly service. After getting married, I would push out babies and raise them until I fell down through exhaustion or poor housing conditions.

Even fifty years ago, I might have done the same thing if I failed my 11+. Chances are I would have done; both my parents did, after all. I may have survived a little longer, and at least I would have had contraception, but that would have been it. The path would still be reasonably clear.

If I passed my 11+, there were suddenly more paths. Hurrah! Not that many, mind you; teacher training college, perhaps, or nursing. Then it was, yet again, work until the babies.

Thirty years ago, maybe even twenty, it all starts getting a little muddy. I could have gone to university and I would have had a wide choice of jobs. Maybe I could marry, maybe I didn't have to any more; I didn't have to have children. My choices were my own but as long as I worked hard then I would be free to make whatever choice I liked, because the freedom was there.

This was the narrative my generation and I grew up with. Work hard and you too can enter any industry you want, buy a house, have it all. So we worked hard. All of us Disorientated Graduates, and the Disorientated College-Leavers, we worked to the best of our abilities, believing the narrative that all paths were open to us if we just tried. We picked our path, and by god we flew at it.

We're getting lost because the paths have been closed, or become too crowded, or filled with our predecessors. We need a new narrative, a new story to aspire too because the one we grew up with just isn't working any more. I'm not sure what that story should be, but I do know that just telling us that we're lost and building some cheap houses to try and fill the aspiration gap won't help. And going back to the models of fixed places in society is even worse.

I don't think that my future is lost behind the sofa cushions of recession. It's a big sofa, and someone has flytipped it in the way of my path of life (this is becoming a stretched metaphor) but I truly believe that my path is still there and that I am going to find it again once I work my way around the current difficulties. That's all.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Young Apprentice

I quite like Young Apprentice. Although I appreciate that most of the contestants are chosen because they are good telly, I like that there is a genuine effort to try and encourage them. There's slightly less of Nick's raised eyebrows and slightly more emphasis on when they do well.

I also appreciate that 16-17 year old teenagers are, shall we say, still developing. Many of them are actually showing great promise. However, some of them are not. I'm not saying they never will, I'm just saying that at the moment they are, well, teenagers.

(Hark at me. I'm 24, for goodness sake.)

Last night's episode consisted of the two teams creating a new deodorant for the teenage market. Like all Apprentice episodes, I found myself gnawing my own hands off out of sheer embarrassment. I felt sure that at the end either Posh Harry or Boofy Hair James would go. I would have been pleased by this as a result. Both of them need, essentially, a massive failure. A bit of a failure is good for the soul, in my opinion. Failing my music GCSE was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, as it gave me a well-needed smackdown and an appreciation that I couldn't do everything.

Instead, Designer Gbemi went. I admit, she irritated me as well, but I failed to see how the task was her failure.

My heart sank a little when I realised that they were keeping Boofy Hair James and Posh Harry in for telly reasons. In the adult edition, I would understand this, as it means that you get a cracking interview episode. But for the teenage edition, I'm a little skeevy about it. All that happens is that they build those two up further, or alternatively they will be killed in the house by their fellow contestants. The others are taught that attention-seeking is the way forward. Teenagers are taught the same thing.

I am sure that in the end there will be a worthy winner, and I will still watch it every Monday night to get my Apprentice fix, but there we go.

That said, teenagers may as well get into business and learning to rip each other's metaphorical throats out early because it's not like there's enough jobs for them. Perhaps I am old-fashioned.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Graduate Myth #7: Everyone Else Is Better Than You

When a group of graduates get together, you'll find they often start to play a form of one-man-downship. One may be pleased about their new job, and another will express admiration for their progressing career. The first will respond with a variant on “but you have a better job/house/children/dog” and thus does the spiral continue.

The thing is, all graduates are basically failures now, right? Our degrees aren't worth the paper they're written on, we are all spongers off the state and we fail at being adults. As such, when someone makes any kind of progress it merely serves as a reminder that we are all such miserable failures as human beings that we should just lie down and die and stop taking valuable resources away from people that need them.

You will be pleased to hear that this is a myth, and one of the more common ones at that.

I am consistently amazed at how much better than me the vast majority of people seem to be. Wanda and Terry have just bought a house. Doris has just had a baby that she was actually trying for rather than an accident with contraception. Maurice is an area manager. These are not real names (I wish I did know people called that) but these are real examples of people exactly the same age as me. As I sit here in a t-shirt with the Cookie Monster on it and debate whether it is acceptable to eat toast for the second meal of the day, I casually glance at Facebook and despair at my existence compared to all of these amazing people I seem to know. Seriously, I am clearly a wreck masquerading as a human being.

But then, I do have a job. I am sitting in a flat that does not contain my parents. Admittedly I don't own said flat, but who does these days? Plus, I'm getting married in less than four months which freaks even me out, let alone the gasps that the information elicits from fellow graduates.

Going to university, for many people, is a deferral of being a Real Adult. Yes, you go and live by yourself and manage your money and study and love and all those good things, but no one expects you to make commitments. You are not required to buy a house, or have an amazing job, or push out babies, or get married. In fact, people will look at you funny if you do manage any of these things. Contemporaries who didn't go to university, however, tend to manage these things faster. As such, you come out of university, hit about 23, and then panic because everyone is BETTER than you and why haven't you ACHIEVED and OH GOD OH GOD and the cycle starts again.

As such, I'm going to let you in on a secret:

If you're reading this, and you're a graduate, then congratulations! You have achieved something massive in your life! You worked hard enough in school and college and whatever else to get the requisite qualifications to enter a respected institution,where you knuckled down for the requisite amount of time and managed to achieve a recognisable qualification. Dude, you rock!

So there.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Disorientated Graduate's Guide To Winter

The nights are dark, the days are cold and the high street is pushing Christmas like it's going out of fashion. It is, of course, winter, and this presents a new layer of problems for graduates. I am now in my third winter since graduating and feel I can now guide the average graduate through the terrifying world that is the coldest season and the surprising bright sides it can bring. No, really.

The Heating

There are not many times in this blog I'm going to write this, but when it comes to the heating: REJOICE! FOR YOU ARE NOT A STUDENT ANY MORE!

Like so many students, I lived in a houseshare. As energy companies are bastards, we couldn't afford to have the heating on all day. I lived in Scotland. As such, days at home involved waking up and having a very hot shower. When you were out of the shower, you put on your underwear. Then – and this is a knack I am proud of – you put on the wooly tights, then the vest, then the t-shirt and the pajama bottoms. After this came the thin jumper and then over that a hoodie. Add another pair of socks to the equation, and some slippers. Make a hot drink, and then sit in front of the computer with a blanket over your knees. Add a hot water bottle when appropriate.

That, you see, is SURVIVAL. Heating takes away money you can spend on important things, like vodka and cheese, and my student priorities were very clear indeed.

Living with your parents as a graduate is often pants, but it does mean that the heating is on during winter. Remember going home during Christmas, and sweating as you sat in your t-shirt? Well, it's like that ALL WINTER ROUND.

Moved out with people with a job? Possibly not at parent standards of heat, but I am currently sat in a flat with the heating on and it is the most beautiful thing in the world. Sure, we can only afford a few hours a day, but as we work roughly equal hours it means we can time the heating around it.

… and if you are unemployed and can't afford to put the heating on? Well, see my tips as a student for keeping warm. Let me tell you, they're cast-iron.

Time Off

Summer holidays are no more. Spring break is not for you. British laws and customs, however, mean that Christmas represents more of a chance for a little time off. Within reason, of course; many graduates work in businesses that do not shut over Christmas, or only shut for a day.

TIP: Many people do not celebrate Christmas which is all good. However, if you celebrate Christmas find someone that objects to Christmas. Not the type that just 'don't like it' but people who really, really hate Christmas. Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly handy for this, and frankly it's revenge for all of those times you get woken up by missionaries.

Okay, it's not the big amount of time off you had as a student, but at least you don't have to revise for Christmas and/or write a dissertation. Christmas dissertations are rubbish, although asking a drunk father to edit it on Christmas Eve is quite good fun. I don't think he even knew who Charles II was.

… and work

Winter can bring new opportunities for work, through an increase in seasonal labour. Sometimes this can lead to new longer-term opportunities, although I will be the first to admit that being a Christmas retail temp can be soul-destroying.

The weather, however, presents new and exciting challenges. If you are travelling by anything other than a transporter, prepare to add more time on to your journeys. Travelling by train? Buggared. Travelling my car? Buggared. Travelling by foot? Buggared. You will need to get out of bed earlier without a doubt, which is frankly pants.

And yes, it's dark ALL OF THE TIME. Wake up? Dark. Get out of the office? Dark. I cope with this by way of eating more cake and taking more baths, two of the pleasures of winter as far as I'm concerned.

Now wrap up warm and attack the winter! Or hibernate gently. Either way.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


I went to Blackpool the other night. This is generally something of a mistake at the best of times. The Illuminations were switched off early, we got lost trying to get there, even the trams weren't running. It was, basically, fail, and by the end of the evening when we returned to the car we were almost laughing at the sheer despair of the place.

At which point we overheard a frankly appalling conversation on the other side of the road, as a burly man attempted to tell a passing gent about why “Come with me, mate! She'll look after you really well, I'll give you a good price for her, you'll have a good night!” The man he was cajoling walked on quickly. The burly man had a drunken man following him. It was with a sinking feeling that we realised that the burly man was probably a pimp, and lady of which he was talking was probably a prostitute.

Cue my liberal heart bleeding all over the pavement. Oh, god, the poor woman.

As I have discussed before, I am a feminist. I am, overall, not in favour of sex work in an area where it is not legalised. I absolutely think it should be legalised, and self-policed, which would make it safer for all concerned. As the law stands in the UK, it is consistently the women who suffer. I fully understand that there are those involved with sex work that do so voluntarily and enjoy the work.

Perhaps the woman (women?) they were discussing were fully and completely engaged with their work and did so out of choice. Not the kind of choice where it's that or starve, or the kind of choice where it pays for the drugs. The kind of choice where it's that, or be killed. That's no choice at all. Blackpool has, shall we say, a reputation for the kind of women who have no choice at all. And frankly, I really don't like the idea of a man selling a woman like you might sell a potato.

So all I could think about was the woman, and that by watching the interaction all I was doing was facilitating her abuse.

There are so many things wrong with the above sentence. Firstly, I have no idea that what I thought I saw and heard was really what was happening. I have no idea of the state of the woman or women even if my assumptions were correct. And even if it was all of my worst fears, what could I do? I could confront the man, who might have been armed. I'm a short woman with the physical strength of a bowl of noodles. Even if I had over-powered him, how would that have helped the woman in the long run? I couldn't describe the man, and I don't know where they eventually ended up, so I couldn't get the police involved – and indeed, I'm not sure how helpful the police would be.

Finally, my feelings of guilt mean that I am taking away the attention from the women involved and making it about me, and even using it for blogging, which is maybe the worst thing of all.