Thursday, 26 July 2012

Greetings from the North!

Greeting, visitors to Britain! You are probably here for the Olympics, which I'm probably not allowed to talk about, being as I'm not an official sponsor. Before Logoc comes to break my fingers, allow me to express warm felicitations from the North of the country. You know, not London. No, Watford doesn't count.

I hope you're enjoying the warm weather! According to the weather lady on Breakfast (is the lack of adverts confusing you yet, by the way?) she'll cheerfully tell you that 'the UK is getting sunshine today!' This isn't strictly true, as she'll go to mention '… except for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North and some areas of Wales'. It's okay! We're just sacrificing our sunshine for athletes from hotter climes. We're really enjoying having humid yet grim days, and being consistently reminded of how lovely it is down South, like we don't matter. HONESTLY, WE'RE NOT RESENTFUL. NOT AT ALL.

If you enjoy driving, I entreat you to come and visit us up here. We have exactly the same traffic as we always have, not having half of the place shut. I wouldn't advise getting public transport up here, though. Just trust me.

Please also come and see our industrious attitude to work! Unlike our capital, we're all working through the Games, and that's including anyone in cities that are having events, such as Manchester and Edinburgh. When I say 'working' I mean 'signing on', a quaint custom from the 1970s and 1980s that our Government has been working tirelessly to bring back to our cities. Those of us who are not (yet) indulging in this historic tradition may occasionally be found muttering about the difficulty in doing any business south of Birmingham, as for various reasons our economy still swirls around supply there. Still, we're managing to power through the next two weeks, unless the economy drops any more. The excitement, for many of us, is just too much to bear!

You will also be astonished to hear our quirky accents. You won't have heard us on TV before, and no doubt you'll have prepared to cope with London accents via Dick Van Dyke and Audrey Hepburn. Still, if you do take a jaunt up here then try not to look too surprised at our very different approach to the language. “Fookin' cockney twat” is a charming term, we assure you, and please try it on any locals you may find in the East End of the London! They will be amazed at your attempts to take on the language of the entire country. That said, they probably haven't heard it either, as many are of the believe that above Watford simply reads 'Here Be Dragons'.

(We have no dragons. That's Wales.)

Try not to be alarmed at the food prices in the Olympic parks! Come to the North, we can do you double fish and chips with mushy peas for the price you'd pay in the Olympic parks. If you are also alarmed by the security in Heathrow, we can assure you that it's all for your own good. In Manchester airport, it's possible for an eleven year old to wander through without a passport, possibly because the North has also given up all of its Border Agency staff. We do this for your safety, Olympic visitors!

Enjoy the Olympics, and if you have the time, do try to think of the North of the country, and allow us to assure you that we have nothing but warm feelings towards London and our fine and mighty Government!

The author of this piece is in no way bitter and cold about the whole matter, and hasn't just had a surprising and worrying letter at work from some suppliers and contractors about logistics in London, messing up the whole month of plans. Nor does she find the mascots the most frightening thing she's seen in some time. The only sport she's honestly looking forward definitely isn't just keirin. She's overwhelmed with excitement. Honest.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Summer holidays

Most, if not all, schools, colleges and universities have Broken Up For The Summer (excluding you poor buggars doing nursing, who I am aware don't get to have holidays either). Although the weather has yet to show much sign of improving, it's officially summer time. Ergo, it's time to talk about holidays.

I took all of one summer holiday while in university, three glorious weeks backpacking around Italy. (I came back with a deep and spiritual need for tea, mostly.) Other than that, I spent all of my holiday time working, and used to think I was a pretty hardcore and awesome human being, working all through my A-Levels and then my degree. Take your internships and stick 'em up your arse, I thought quietly, I'm going to spend the summer cleaning the toilets.

What I didn't realise was that a change is as good as a rest, and essentially nine months studying and working and then three months working and, er, mostly drinking was sort of like going on holiday. It was a change to the routine, and I was desperate to get back to uni by the end of it.

Now I have, in essence, four weeks of holiday a year. My employer chooses to give us the legal minimum of holidays, and being office based this includes our mandatory shut down periods which eats up a week of leave. As such, four weeks off a year. Last year I hoarded them like a miser in order to take off all of March, and coped with it reasonably well, I thought. This year I am struggling, somewhat.

A week off last week ended in a surprise trip to Venice (surprising to me, Mr DG and probably also Venice) which was wonderful, but the flatness on the return to work was fairly awful. After four days in I headed out again for a long weekend, and now I know that I'm in (including two six day weeks) until September, when I get two weeks off. Weirdly, I'm dreading that (or at least, the bit after it) the most, because then I only have four days of annual leave left to play with.

This is possibly the ultimate first world problem: middle-class Western girl whinges that she doesn't get enough paid time off. BOO HOO. I think, though, that I don't necessarily just want the time off, although a day off midweek here and there would be handy for doing stuff like 'going to the post office'. What I miss is the change from the routine, one long enough to make you grateful for the return to the routine. I'm also aware that I'm going to have the same amount of holidays pretty much for my entire working career.

Honestly, it's enough to make you go into teaching. Then I remember that if I did that I'd have to, you know, actually teach children, so perhaps I can cope without the holidays.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Anyone after some work?

Any graduates looking for work? I hear that G4S are getting a bit desperate...

Joking aside, I actually do think that on one level this is a graduate issue. This sort of temporary work is the kind of thing that unemployed graduates flock towards, and it's crap, let's not put too fine a point on it. Not the work itself, I hasten to point out, but the conditions. G4S waited until the last minute to hire staff because as far as it was concerned, temporary workers are disposable scum who you can always get more of. You can hire and fire at will, and not give them decent working conditions and training because who will they complain to? Put off the recruitment process – after all, you can even get them for free and make them sleep under a bridge

Then again, if you've been out of work for a little while and are desperate for a job, even without the prestige of the Olympics, you'll take anything, and you will put up with these conditions. That's the point. Things like this have been going on for years now, but it took a multinational event and a massive cock-up to give them a spotlight.

There will always be a need and a market for temporary workers, and there are some temporary workers and agencies that are undoubtedly treated very well. I just hope that this makes the government think twice about outsourcing to companies that don't seem to have done their homework, particularly when it makes Britain and it's industry look like complete dicks on the world stage.

Oh, and for the love of whatever it is you believe in, Nick Buckles, please prepare the next time you're hauled in for a Parliamentary enquiry hearing. And give back the management fee, because this mess-up isn't management by any definition.

Friday, 13 July 2012

More learning?

So being a graduate sort of person, you're probably reasonably intelligent and not too bad at this whole 'learning' schtick. Plus, your career may be moving somewhat slower than you were hoping, and the general sensation of ennui leads to a feeling that perhaps you should be doing Further Training.

Getting another degree is somewhat tricky, and daunting considering the amount of debt you're already in. The same with postgraduate work, or specialist training. It's a big commitment, particularly if you're not entirely sure what direction to go in, though.

So when the little notice goes up in the staff canteen, advertising training courses, you sign up like a bolt. Apart from anything else they may also herald a few days out of the office and paid expenses. They look great on the CV, and you don't have to pay for them. Score!

Which, a few weeks later, is how you find yourself in a room full of strangers learning how to perform CPR on co-workers. Remembering what your co-workers look like and how they spend their spare time, you suddenly realise this is the worst idea you've ever had.

… or to be put it the other way, I am now a fully qualified first-aider for my workplace. Oh dear. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The course itself was quite interesting, I must admit, but the people on the course didn't, perhaps, share my enthusiasm for learning. This makes me sound like a cow, I realise, but a degree does seem to give you a kick up the arse when it comes to retaining information; the younger ones on the course, like myself, were taking notes and doing the prep work we were asked to do overnight; older ex-dockyard workers rocked up and hoped for the best.

Will this course help me at all in my future career? Or even better, give me a slight payrise? Not entirely sure yet, mostly because I did the course and then went on a week's leave, which is nearly over now and more on anon. I hope it does, mostly because I still have my head that learning=success (a narrative we frankly should have learnt is a lie by now, but there we go).

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Shock realisation: we are governed by morons

I have come to the conclusion, spurred on by this final news story, that David Cameron just doesn't care any more and is spurting whatever daft opinion the1922 Committee has come with this time. No more benefits for anyone, particularly not those scum who are under 25! Let's leave the EU and go to war with France again for good measure! Schools abolished for poor people!

I'm being deliberately facetious there, but this week it's felt a little like that. It's that or he's deliberately winding up the left with a series of daft proposals in order to get the headlines away from Jimmy Carr and corrupt banks, possibly because he doesn't want to rock that boat too tightly. (Is Jimmy Carr finally paying his tax the reason for the freeze of fuel duty? Doubt it.)

I really dislike the right using the E.U. as catnip for the crazier fringe, trying to bring in the nastier elements and probably nark off the Lib Dems at that. Genuine worries about sovereignity always seem to be taken over by frothing xenophobes, who classify the E.U. as a sort of Gomorrah of liberal ideas/fascist removal of sovereign rights AT THE SAME TIME, despite the fact that all countries seem to send over a contingent of equally bizarre people who reckon that standing for the European parliament is totally the best way to remove themselves from it.

I feel a little fatigued with the news at the moment. When it's a graduate specific story, it's a little easier to comment on it in the spirit of the blog, but stuff like this just keeps me so utterly flabbergasted that I'm unable to rebut them. It's a bit like being asked to explain why falling in a pit of spikes is a bad idea – it's so patently a bad idea that it's hard to know where to start, as it includes stuff that you assume a rational human being would know instinctively.

Possibly assuming that we are governed by rational human beings is where I've been going wrong.