Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Having survived Christmas, and those weird days where you may or may not have had to go to work, and eaten and drank your own bodyweight, we come to one last binge – New Year's Eve. I shall be spending tonight at a Seventies themed party, where I shall be dressed as a punk (to be honest, I've just dug out the remnants of my ill-fated goth year at fourteen) and presumably drinking copious amounts of Advocaat.

However, Puritannical January is just around the corner. The adverts for Weight Watchers are piling up, gyms are quietly pushing up their prices for a month, and Nicorette gets ready for a massive boost in sales. I am not particularly against New Years Resolutions; it was a New Years Resolution (timed with a doctors visit, admittedly) that led to my mum losing about two stone of weight and changing her lifestyle, something she's kept up to this day. They can be a much needed kick up the arse, and if you're making one, good for you.

The key, I think, is being realistic. Mum lost so much weight because she was eating the equivalent of a baby horse every day and rarely went outside, let alone exercised. As soon as she swapped crisps for fruit and went to Aqua-arobics twice a week the weight pretty much ran away. My personal resolution of last year – Drink Less Booze You Hussy – was easy enough to achieve because it involved me putting down the damned wine, a choice I could make myself.

However, for the last two years I have also had another, quieter resolution, one that I suspect many graduates also share. It is “Get A New Job”. There are subtle variations, of course; it might be “Get A Better Job” or “Get A Promotion” or “Get Any Kind Of Job”. On the outside, it's a good resolution. You've given yourself an entire year to do it, after all, and an entire year is a long, long time to get a new job.

The problem is that there may not, in fact, be a job out there for you. I'm not saying that there never will be, but the job that is right for you may not appear in the space of twelve months. I could get Any New Job in the space of a year, I'm reasonable confident in my own abilities. However, I have a partner to consider, so geography must be taken into account. I'm also fairly firm that I don't want to move into a job I loathe, as mine frankly isn't bad enough (yet) to be worth the stress of starting a new job and then just hate it. Plus I've decided to stay on at least until I get married (less than three months now!) to minimise my general stress.

But quietly, quietly, I feel that I've let myself down every year with my lack of new employment. So this year, sod it. This year, my resolutions are going to be achievable ones that are entirely within my remit. I will continue to write. I will submit at least two pieces for paid employment – not get them you understand, but to at least submit. I will apply for new jobs, but I will not feel awful if I don't get them. Well, I will, but I'll try not to make it feel so much like a personal failing.

Have a very happy 2012, fellow graduates. If you'll excuse me, I need to go and paint my nails black.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Mistletoe and wine. Well, just wine.

Merry Christmas, one and all etc etc. I am spending the next two days at my parent's house, and shall be offline for the duration.

Last minute graduate Christmas tips: if you are with unfortunate relatives who think that degree=great job and graduate without great job=loser, then I advise telling a strategic mis-truth. A colleague of mine signed up for a marathon just so he could tell people that he wasn't unemployed, he was a professional athlete. If it keeps you sane during a festive season, then go for it.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Unexpected free porn (not just Google bait, either)

We get a lot of free stuff in the office at this time of year. Not from my employer – chance would be a fine thing! - but from various suppliers. Nothing to alert the anti-bribery laws, of course, but little gifts. Some are genuinely just a friendly matter – there are companies we have worked with for years – and some are blatant corporate schmoozing. Whatever, bring on the free mince pies and our yearly Raffle Of The Booze.

We also get free calenders. I love free calenders. I have had Cute Baby Animals on mine all year, and I am going to be distraught if I don't get another one. That baby orangutan really brightened up August for me. So opening the post this month is a bit exciting – between the usual invoices/cheques/abuse complaint letters there are cards! and calenders! and random vouchers! Exciting. Best month of the year to be the post monkey.

A few days ago, I was opening the post. It was a smallish envelope, so I assumed it was usual paperwork. A moment later, I dropped it and squeaked.

“Disorientated Graduate?” a concerned colleague asked. “What's wrong?”

I am normally loquacious. I am the kind of person who likes clever wordplay, and saying six words when I can say two. So please understand my full horror when I tell you that the only thing I could think to say in reply was:


That's right, we received a calender full of ladies who were tragically unable to find their clothing. As a free corporate gift that was presumably intended to be put up in the office.

There are people out there that buy soft porn calenders. There are people out there that produce soft porn calenders. I have some very conflicted views on the whole matter, but in essence I reluctantly feel that it's a part of human nature and frankly enough what you get up in to private is your own damn business. The bit that really struck me was that a company took the time and money to acquire pictures – and yes, it was all pictures of topless women- affix their branding, create a full calender, and send it all out with the Royal Mail to their paying customers. All of this was in a genuine effort to persuade companies to continue buying their products, and was sent out in the full belief this was appropriate marketing material.

Sorry, are we back in the 1970s and no one told me?!

I genuinely feel that nakedness is generally not appropriate in a work context, or at least not in the context of a workplace where high-visibility vests are necessary. So if it had been a calender with naked men, yes, I would still have been deeply offended. If it has been a mixture of men and woman, I would still be offended.

Honestly, though? It made me feel small. I wanted to shred the calender, phone the company up, and have a good shout in incandescent rage. I wanted to say that I was a woman in the workplace and that my contribution was valid, and I could do more than sit there in the corner, silently, with my boobs out. I wanted to say that receiving this calender unexpectedly was rude and upsetting. My female colleagues, who normally feel that this feminism lark is for lesbians and weirdos, were equally upset and genuinely shocked. We expressed this to our line manager.

What actually happened was this: the line manager gave it as a gift to the yard staff. I checked the companies details and it turns out that we owe them money for goods picked up this month, so I didn't shout at them as I am not bonkers enough to destroy relationships all that much.

Instead, I blogged about it. Go me. I mean, do other people thing that this is an appropriate inter-company gift? Did I over-react? Personally I think not, but perhaps that's just me.


Today Kim Jong-il died. I wrote the above post earlier, but I felt it needed mentioning, albeit in a very strange context.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Love, Dave, is not always around.

I have been puzzling for a while exactly why David Cameron decided to stick two fingers up to Europe. For a while I thought it might have been because he just hated the French, but then I remembered that's just my Dad. Then I thought it was because he genuinely just wasn't bright enough to work out that possibly taking down the world economy was a worse risk than annoying his hard-of-thinking Eurosceptic backbenchers.

The thing is, as you may have just guessed, I do not especially like the Conservative party. In fact, to put it into rather more stark relief, I am actually a paid-up member of the Labour party. The thing is, there are individual elements of the Tories who are fine and noble people – SERIOUSLY I'M NOT BIGOTED SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE TORY etc – but as a general rule they sort of worry me. On a more specific level, I feel that David Cameron and George Osbourne are the most worrying thing to happen to the working classes of this country since, well, Thatcher. And rickets. And the potato famine.

I honestly don't think they're stupid though. Desperately misguided and dangerous, yes, but not stupid. So I don't think that David Cameron would really, honestly take that risk through sheer stupidity.

Then I remembered it's Christmas, and that Love Actually is on telly a lot. David Cameron, secretly, is just trying to be like Hugh Grant and stand up for puny Britain to general love, acclaim, and snogs from Martine McCutcheon. Not that bit maybe.

Oh god. I mean, I adore Love Actually and am guaranteed to blub like a baby at the end of it every single time, but I wouldn't base political plans on it.

Except maybe this one:

Merry Christmas.


The festive season is the reason for the recent slowdown of posts despite fairly major important economic issues. I am pleased to report the Christmas party of this year went reasonably well, with no arguments, arrests or vomiting on the boss. However, my life in the evenings is currently a flurry of Christmas cards, socialising and to be quite honest TV specials. I think the problems with being a graduate-in-employment at Christmas are threefold:

1.You want to do Christmas shopping. Your employer feels you should, you know, be in work.
2.You have the money to actually buy people nice Christmas presents this year. The main problem with this is described in section 1.
3.You also have disposable income to go partying. There are lots of parties. BAD COMBO. Or good. Either way.

These are not necessarily problems, I suppose, but it does rather account for a lack of time to do, well, anything.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Thinking space

Ever since I was about twelve, I've always wanted to live alone. I would decorate how I want, keep it exactly to my personal level of cleanliness – no higher, no lower – and watch exactly what I wanted to television. When I got a bit older I realised that living with one other person would be acceptable, mostly because having someone else to keep the bed warm at night is very nice indeed.

Mostly stuff doesn't work out like that. I lived with a small family of mother, father and younger sister until I went to university. I spent university in houseshares with a few people, some of whom I got on with, some of whom... not so much. Still, I assumed that when I left I would get to Live By Myself and that it would be Splendid. I actually did a summer of living by myself, when my housemates went on holiday/home, and I spent the summer drinking too much and heckling the TV. It was good times.

Unfortunately, the only job I could secure for myself after leaving university was a retail job in the city near my hometown; a transfer from my university job. So I moved back in with my parents. Bless them, they were over the moon. I drank a bottle of wine that night, stole a packet of my Mum's cigarettes when her and my Dad had gone to bed and sat in the garden, chain-smoking and crying about being a failure. (I am not a smoker; very occasionally, it seems like a sensible thing to do.) I then lived with my parents and sister for a year, falling into all of the same traps of being eighteen, before eventually moving back into a houseshare. The houseshare was significantly better than living with my parents, and the couple I lived with were fabulous humans, but still, it wasn't what I wanted.

Now I live with Mr Disorientated Graduate in a flat of our own and I'm moving towards actually having the place I want. These flats have paper thin walls, though, and I haven't had a full night's sleep for months as the baby in the flat downstairs is teething. Apparently the only noise that can penetrate my earplugs is the sound of a child crying in another property. BAD TIMES.

This is the economic truth of many a graduate, I think. Although we dream of the flat we'll own ourselves, and decorate, and live to our own rules, the sad truth is that we simply can't afford it. Although Mr DG and I are quietly determined to at least live somewhere with really good soundproofing next time, we're doing fairly well thus far for people our age. As that baby gives yet another wail downstairs, and another set of graduates prepare for their first Christmas as 'boomerang babies', the sad truth is that graduates are some of the lowest people on the rung of houses. The only option to squash together in family homes, in blocks of flats, in what will probably be increasingly rubbish housing.

This post is brought to you by a borderline hysterical lack of sleep. This may be a little obvious.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hurricane Bawbag

Up in Scotland they're calling it Hurricane Bawbags, which resulted in some lolz at work today. Being down in England we're not quite at the hurricane stage yet, but it's insanely windy given that I live along the seafront on the Irish Coast.

It's nights like this I'm pleased to be a graduate; we can at least afford to have the heating on, and I don't have to curl up in the library for warmth.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Graduate Myth #8: The Work Christmas Party

TIS THE SEASON. Today we have ripped open the advent calenders, both the home one and the work one (is it just me who has a home and work one? Seriously, it makes the first five minutes at work less awful) and I will be guiding you through the trials and tribulations of the season. The first is that dreaded, anticipated and sickening event: the work Christmas party.

There seems to be a mental image of a work Christmas party. It's a big boozy lair-up, which starts off like that Boots advert with woman walking in slo-mo and ends up in a big lairy mess with Sharon from accounts snogging Tom from HR behind a pot plant and someone is sick on the boss. A lot of Christmas parties are happening this weekend, so let me guide you through it.

This... is pretty much what happens. Sorry, everyone. The myth is true. I wish it wasn't. There may be companies out there that pay for sophisticated and unique events, but I have yet to work for any of them and I don't know anyone else who has either. All Christmas parties seem to involve some sort of meal, some sort of drinks, and some sort of entertainment (disco/cabaret/clubbing), and all Christmas parties involve dramatic mistakes with alcohol and some sort of colleague drama. However, I bring good news: if you're sensible about it, the work Christmas party can be a hell of a laugh.

I have been on a variety of work Christmas parties. Probably the lowest moment was on one for a part-time job I had in uni. My manager got arrested in a bar for kicking a glass door to pieces, something I only found out two days later as at the time of said arrest I was vomiting lentils from the meal over my bedroom carpet. I am going to regret admitting to that one. We had a lot of booze bought for us on the company account, and, er, yeah. It's a memory I mostly repress, that one, although there isn't an awful lot of memory left.

However, my most recent Christmas party was quite good. A few years of experience at these events gave me the magic knowledge, which is Don't Drink Too Much And Remember Everyone Else Is A Wanker. I danced a bit, drank a bit, avoided Big Bob and his grabby hands and even got to enjoy a hotel breakfast the next day without promptly hurling it up again. Score.

If you really, really hate your place of work and they're not paying for your Christmas party, I hasten to point out, don't bother. They're not fun if that's the case. I work for a company that pays for everything (we tend to go to some sort of local hotel, eat, drink, be merry and sleep), and as I am now The Social Secretary due to my freakish attention to planning detail I even get to unfairly put my preferences out there. I also get on with enough people I work with to enjoy the planning side of things, where we discuss dresses and put some money into a pot to buy a bottle of wine or two to drink before we go to the party itself.

The thing is, I also dislike a lot of people I work with, but I've now worked out the best thing to do is just ignore them where possible. This is easier than you might realise – remember, you're not being paid to be at the Christmas party, so other than remembering not to vomit on the boss you can generally please yourself. If you're feeling really sophisticated, now is the time to start dropping psychological hints about your general awesomeness and why a pay rise would be a good idea, although this won't work if you're trapped with Brian from I.T. all night, mostly because Brian doesn't even work in payroll.

So go to the Christmas party. It won't be the best party of your night, but with just a little work it certainly doesn't have to be the worst.