Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Top Austerity Tips

Yesterday everybody’s favourite child-faced millionaire, UK Chancellor George Osborne, announced that his super fun deficit reduction measures are going so well they are going to continue indefinitely – or at least for the next six years.

To recap, the British economy is screwed for several reasons, including:

  • Gordon Brown single handedly bringing about global recession (which is sort of impressive, if you think about it)

  • Last year’s Snowmageddon

  • The knock on effect of the royal wedding

  • The Eurozone Crisis

But it’s all good, because after six years of austerity we will be laughing. That or we’ll all have emigrated.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has been taking personal austerity measures for ages. To be honest, I was sort of hoping that by 32 (the age I’ll be at the end of this project) I might not have to anymore. Obviously I wasn’t expecting to have a secure pension or anything frivolous like that, but I thought maybe I’d be in a position where I’d be able to take the odd holiday / run a car / have a child.

Still, I’m pretty lucky to have as much as I do in the current climate and I wouldn’t want to take it for granted. There follows a description of the austerity measures I have been following since 2008, which should hopefully prove invaluable to any other unmarried, childless graduates earning the dizzying wages of 12-15k a year. Follow these simple rules and you too will manage to scrape by.

1. Rent a flat with a minimum of three other people. It’s basically like a considerably less interesting version of The Young Ones. You might think you want to downsize and live a little bit less like a student now you’ve graduated, but be realistic - you can’t afford it.

2. Walk or get the bus everywhere, even if it’s massively inconvenient and has you commuting 3 or 4 hours a day. The price of maintenance, petrol and parking are not worth it.

3. If you must have a holiday, make it once a year and confine it to a long weekend in the UK. Well, we did get a megabus to Belgium for a long weekend about two years back, but the recession wasn’t as deep then.

4. Nights out / trips to the cinema / gigs should happen maybe once every two months. It is far more cost effective to sit in the flat with a cup of tea and a crappy movie.

5. Dispense with aesthetic frivolities like haircuts, makeup, your tattoo obsession, etc. You have had the chance to experiment with your style, now you must eat.

6. Put off registering with a dentist at least until you discover a hole in your tooth the size of a thumb.

7. Do not under any circumstances attempt to heat your home. Wear a dressing gown over your clothes instead.

8. Replacement of old clothes and shoes is manageable within reason – although it’s best to keep everything because layering up will be necessary in winter. I have bought at least two pairs of jeans this year alone (2 for £25 in Dorothy Perkins, yeah), and up to four dresses in online sales. Confessions of a Shopaholic eat your heart out.

9. Food can be pricey, particularly if four years of student-hood has left you pining for a sensible diet. Worry not, sirrah - there is no real need to buy fresh fruit, veg or meat. Just have frozen or tinned.

If you stick to these rules you may even be able to save a little bit of money – although it might be best to stick it under the mattress, given the dubious morals of the banks. Obviously you’ll never have as much as Mr Osborne’s £4million fortune, no matter how austere you are. But it’s a start.

Monday, 7 November 2011

19.57 From Euston

On Saturday, this was doing the rounds on Twitter:

When I watched it, I thought ‘aw, that’s nice,’ posted it to Facebook and promptly forgot all about it.

This being the internet, a few people have reacted in a more considered way.

Natalie Dzerins (Forty Shades of Grey) finds it utterly cringeworthy, which is fair enough – but more than that, she thinks it is demeaning to women; a thought that never even crossed my mind until I read her post. The woman generally speaks a lot of sense so this prompted me to re-visit my initial reaction.

When I shared the vidjo on the book of face, I did so with the tagline “anybody remember the group ‘Disney Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations of Love?’ This guy clearly does, and said, ‘no more!’”

To explain, said group united those who had reached adulthood only to discover a distinct lack of perfectly coiffed prospective partners with freakishly straight teeth and talking animal pals. Where were the dragon slayers, the perky princesses, the lovers who unexpectedly burst into song at the drop of a hat?

Members bemoaned the fact love at first sight is not as common as Disney led them to believe, and that most people are pretty much the same – everyone gets a bit crabbit when they’ve not had enough sleep, wicked stepmothers are not especially prevalent, and most men don’t even own a cloak (excepting the more dedicated Noel Fielding fan, perhaps).

However, the occasional friend will find their own Prince Charming or Cinderella, you’ll be invited to a lovely wedding with a ceilidh and a bucket of stovies, and a collective sigh will go up for lo, there is romance in the world after all. Who doesn’t want a happy ever after in a castle full of talking crockery?

Well, I wouldn’t, to be fair. It’s one thing to enjoy a bit of schmaltz in a movie, quite another to deliberately inflict it on a loved one in a public space.

But I don’t speak for everyone, and I like to think there’s a possibility that the boyfriend in 19.57 from Euston made this ridiculously over the top gesture because they are madly in love, and he knew she’d appreciate it.

Dzerins concedes that it seems to have worked out for this pair, but: “all I can think when I watch it is "but what if she wanted to say no?"”

My instinctive my reply to that would be, she would have said no.

This sort of proposal puts a lot of pressure on the woman to comply, Dzerins argues, because it’s so public. Gangs of total strangers feel they have the right to stick their oar in and tell her to agree, and if she doesn’t he will become some kind of martyr for the romantic cause.

I take her point, but to be honest I’d have thought the emotional fallout between the couple is ultimately the same whether she rejects him in public or private. Yes, if you’re unlucky there is a possibility it goes viral for a week or two and people write some nasty comments about you on Youtube. But surely that’s the least of your worries when you’ve just discovered your partner knows sod all about you – for them to have misjudged your reaction so completely belies some serious communication problems.

My other query would be why is it only the woman is demeaned by this show of affection? The man has spent a load of time and money sorting it out solely to impress her – isn’t that flattering? Couldn’t it even be said he is demeaning himself by reducing his personality to 2-Dimensional cartoon prince purely to satisfy the romantic streak of the otherwise level-headed, educated woman he fell in love with?

The notion that this type of proposal is impersonal, or designed to make strangers think you’re cool, feels overly cynical to me. Yes, it’s cheesy, and no, of course you don’t need to make a massive song and dance over a proposal to make a marriage work - but who says that’s why he did it?

I like to think he was motivated by a sense that his fiancĂ©’s feelings of joy and being special would outweigh the embarrassment either of them felt.

It wouldn’t work for me but that’s OK, because it’s not about me - or my feminist principles, or any other stranger from the internet.

It’s about two hopeless romantics on the 19.57 from Euston.

Long may they be sick-makingly sweet.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Living Dangerously

I have been neglecting this page terribly, and look set to continue a bit longer due to NaNoWriMo. I know, I am a terrible person; but undoubtedly I will be punished for these transgressions in the next life by being a vowel key on a massive old fashioned typewriter of pain. Or something.

However, in the back of my mind I have a plan, and I will now impart this plan to you to see what you think. My thought is, to write a weekly column on this here page. For you see, I recently did an interview for The Clear Minded Creative during which I was reminded of my long held ambition to have my own column in the style of Charlie Brooker, Caitlin Moran, Lucy Mangan, or myriad other broadsheet writers, and I noticed I have not been chasing this dream with appropriate chutzpah.

It wasn't because I'd forgotten so much as because I allowed other things to get in the way, but no more!

After all I need to practice; it's a competitive sort of market and I'm not getting any younger, me knees aren't what they were. So, I am aiming to start a weekly column on here starting Monday. It will likely be about something I see on Twitter, around 500 words a time (maybe a bit longer) and hopefully it'll be hilarious. So if you could greet it with rapturous applause that'd be fab.

OK cool, now have a photo of the sort of book I aspire to write some day: