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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Slave Labour

I'm never very impressed when I hear on the news about these "schemes" for getting young people into work. Apparently, according to BBC Radio One Newsbeat, an experimental scheme will be introduced in London. This scheme will require anyone under twenty four who is out of work to work thirty hours per week for £56 benefits (I believe it's called "job seekers allowance").

Fifty-six pounds.

Let us work that out.

£56 divided by 30 hours equals... £1.80 per hour.

Are you serious?! That is nothing more than slave labour and certainly NOT a wage that anyone could live on! If you're putting these people into work for thirty hours per week - charity work was mentioned and I would assume basic shop jobs would be plentiful - when are they going to search for a job that they actually want? It's like saying that we have to work harder to get what we want when things are already difficult enough AND, to add insult to injury, it's as if young people are being punished for not being able to find a job.

This scheme could be good, however, if they directed people into work experience that would supplement their careers. Charity work, as a rule, is not going to supplement your career if you want to go into publishing or cosmetics production. Neither is working in a shop. It will just provide slave labour for the lucky overlord rubbing his or her palms together in glee and cracking the whip. Someone sent a message into Newsbeat saying that they took part in an unpaid internship that led to a (paid) job - that sort of thing is GREAT. That sort gives people a solid chance at a job once the internship/experience is over and perhaps will allow them to apply for a job within that company. They might struggle financially through it, but the options at the end are far, far better than this scheme that is currently being proposed.

No. Stop blaming young people for not being able to find jobs and HELP us to find work instead of beating us back and shoving us into minimum wage jobs! We just need direction, not ignorance! :-)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Video killed the radio star


I never used to listen to it but something happened. At the end of May 2011, I started my first official job. I'd been a waitress the summer before but that fell through after a few weeks so I never counted it as something to put on my CV. So my first job was as a care worker. In essence, I cared for mostly elderly people in their own homes and tried to make life easier for them.

The hours were awful.

The support became awful.

The service users varied between amazing, wonderful and sent from hell.

The pay, in hindsight, was awful for the jobs that I was doing.

The "petrol compensation" was awful.

The fact that I tried to continue the job through university was awful. Stupid, stupid decision.

The manager turned out to be awful.

I also became very tired in between the morning and evening shifts and crashed my car as a result when I wasn't working.

All in all, it was a learning experience. I don't regret going to work there because it made my first "university" summer pass very swiftly and I was able to spend money throughout the summer without scrimping and saving constantly. That was very nice and I was able to afford a trip to the Christmas horse show in London (Olympia) at the end of it. I am thankful that I decided to quit (even if it was after a tear-filled evening, during the course of which I was ill, and an elderly man throwing an adult diaper at me) and would never, ever go back into care. I do, however, have a healthy appreciation of the hard work undertaken by carers and nurses especially: they do not get paid enough for this.

As I traveled from house to house in between service users, I spent quite a lot of time in the car. My CDs only lasted for a certain amount of time, so I flipped to the radio stations instead, which had remained unused because I couldn't get my favourite local one when I was out of range, which was to be expected. Eventually, I ended up on BBC Radio 1, not really my "thing". I'm not a fan of pop music and only like a few pop tracks - rock is definitely my favourite genre, anything that's just out of the "I'm at the club and this track is playing" spotlight. But I will listen to anything if I like the sound of it and I'm not picky about genre if it catches my attention. So, the music was mediocre but the DJs... Well, the DJs saved my sanity that summer. I kept the radio on whenever I was in the car and laughed at the morning shows especially. Most of the time, I worked from seven to around two in the afternoon, so my introduction to Radio 1 was The Chris Moyle's Show.

Car park catch phrase remains my favourite game on the radio - easy for me as I love sayings like this but there were always a few that would trump me. This is definitely a show on the radio that I would recommend watching although Chris Moyles is retiring from the show, which I was sad to hear about as I thought he was quite a character, if he pushed jokes a little too far at times. Nick Grimshaw is taking over and I enjoy listening to his show too, so I wouldn't give this one a miss just because Moyles is hanging up his hat! But, apart from that show, Fearne Cotton is a wonderful, funny DJ that always catches your attention with her bright personality; seriously, you could be hanging off the edge of a cliff and Fearne would cheer you up, she has that kind of personality. Perfect for the radio!

There's another game on it that has me giggling although it's not for the easily offended! It's called "Innuendo Bingo" and is self-explanatory at this point! Two people sit opposite each other (they often have guests on here) and take a drink of water. Then a clip is played for them with an innuendo and they have to try not to laugh and spit the water out over one another... I hear that some are not so brave and bring heavy raincoats into this game, but I personally feel that this game would be perfect to steal for use with Ranger Guides and Senior Section in general within Girl Guiding! We'd have a ball with this kind of silly game and, come on, who doesn't giggle at innuendos when we pick up on them? Have a snigger! ;-)

I'm not in the car as much as I used to be so I took the stereo from my grandmother's old house to replace its presence within my home. And now, when I'm sad or studying or writing or creating, I like to put the radio on for an hour or more, just to have in the background and to giggle at some of the things said on the various shows. But on the crazy, wind-blown winter nights, it is very comforting and reminds me that things could be worse and that I'm in a good position. Just a presence, always there, and murmuring non-stop.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

World of Warcraft: not an obsession

Ah, World of Warcraft. It is the one thing that makes every non-player shudder and think: "That's only for nerds or idiots who obsess over a game. I'd never play that." The biggest news is the addictive quality and how "lame" the game is, how everyone who plays it is anti-social and has no life... When I mentioned to a friend that I was playing it, they gave me a look and didn't say anything. Nothing at all. That speaks volumes, doesn't it? However, if I had said something about the other games that I like (Pokemon for the DS and older, Fable for the xbox, Okami for the PS2 etc), they would have had plenty to say, even if it was simply: "Never heard of that one before - what's it about?" But Worled of Warcraft, or WoW for short, is a different story altogether. No, play that one and you're a loser spending their life holed up at the computer. Should I continue?

Truth is that it's a pretty fun game. I started playing in February and it mostly follows a standard RPG format where you complete quests and gain experience points - all the while finding treasure and improving your "armour" and general statistics. Nothing too special there, but what I love about it is that the game is always evolving. There is always something new to find and a new quest to go on. That said, there are so many different "races" and storylines to follow that it feels like you are getting twelve games in one! For a thrifty student, that is surely a good thing!

Let me take you through a bit of the game.

In the above screenshot, I'm using my Tauren (Shadow) Priest to complete some quests. At the top left of the screen, attached to my character picture/headshot, there are two bars: green and blue. The green bar keeps track of your health and the blue bar keeps track of your mana, or how many points you have left in order to cast spells. Spells range from a protective shield, healing yourself, resurrecting a friend, slowing down an enemy, scaring away enemies, causing damage with shadow magic and much more. It's difficult to keep track of them at some points but it keeps the game fun as it's a learning curve all the way through.

Next screenshot! Enemies in the form of animals, enemy humans (sometimes even of the same species as you, if you play as a Tauren, for example) and general monsters roam the land and you have to find some way to get past them. Some of the creatures are peaceful and will let you run past without attacking but others, such as this rhino-like creature, will charge and engage you in combat. Always a chance to gain experience points and the enemies you encounter will count towards quests, which you can then turn in for money, experience points and, sometimes, armour pieces. As the graves in that image show, there are sometimes more casualties than victories!

Combat is often fast-paced while you keep an eye on your health. Oh and you can have "pets" or "companions" in game too - that's mine floating behind me. Cute, right? Only a girl can get away with saying that, but I'm in this to have fun and not be "cool" or something. ;-)

So what's the deal with it? It's just like any other game? Perhaps the addictive factor lies in how much there is to explore and achieve here; you can gain achievements for completing certain quests, doing certain actions and finding certain creatures, which are usually very rare. Don't even get me started on the dungeons and battlegrounds. I'm not a dungeon-goer yet, but I will try them out later on. Battlegrounds are often hectic and rushed, good if people play smart, however. You gain honour points from battlegrounds and the armour that you gain from spending these points is pretty impressive; it certainly helped me out twice when I got to new areas! (Invincible! ...well, not really, but it helped a great deal with defence!)

There's a lot to do in this game and there's even a new expansion pack being released in September, so I expect that I'll be repeating myself soon enough. However, while there are people looking forward to this expansion, I am sure that there are many more sighing and groaning over losing their partner to the online world of adventuring once again.

Like any game, WoW is something that must be taken in moderation. Anyone can get caught up in any game if they play it for long enough and don't limit themselves or pay attention to their other interests. There is more to life than this game, though it is also nice to chat to friends through it and join up with them to play through dungeons, battlegrounds and quests, of course. Even though people will sigh and scoff at me playing (hey, I was laughed at for playing Pokemon, don't judge me), I'm still going to play and have a whale of a time at university simultaneously. My studies will always come first, as does work. But I know the importance of downtime after working myself too hard and, if this gives me some "chill out" time, where's the harm in that?

Everything in moderation!

Sunday, 19 August 2012


This will be a rather unusual blog post more about the abstracts in life - not anything concrete. I'd like to talk about passion and excitement today, although the two topics don't generally go hand in hand.

Where I live (my hometown), there is a distinct lack of passion wherever you go. In school, the teachers that I had did not care to make the subject interesting; they were simply teaching it. They did not love what they do. The college lecturers appeared more passionate about the subjects themselves, which was wonderful, but did not seem to enjoy the teaching process with all its rules, exams, deadlines, marking, coursework, studying to a 'plan'... You get the picture. No one in the shops looks happy or, if they are happy, they are chattering about nothing in particular, films, going out clubbing, drinking, family, who is pregnant, who broke up, who's engaged... Things along those lines. And that is pretty much all that I hear in this area. Is that all there is to life? A basic existence where you live on little and the highlight of the day is watching Britain's Got Talent? Getting engaged, getting pregnant, getting a minimal wage job, having a family? And dying? All this talk about dying and death and who is sick is outright depressing to me, although I understand that it's a natural part of life.

At university, it is a completely different story. Going back to that town is life taking a breath of fresh air and realising that the fresh air lasts much longer than for a single breath. People are vibrant, people are laughing, people are smiling. People have goals and people have ambitions, no matter what their ages are. The lectures are engaged with their subjects and actively undertaking research; their passion shows through and the majority are committed to the part of their job that includes lecturing. The students have so much to talk about, whether it is what they are doing, what's happening in the world or intellectually (to name only a few examples).

And the creativity! This is my passion in life and it is fantastic to meet people on a daily basis that understand, appreciate and share in this passion. Whether it is writing, artistic ability, modelling/sculpting with clay, finding that elusive answer, researching into a historical topic, modern culture - everything - people have an opinion and most are accepting of it. Creativity is something that I thrive on and I hate when people put it down as if it is not as worthwhile as something, such as a 9-5 job that you dislike, accepted by society.  If more people were creative and created beautiful things, maybe the world would be a little happier. If more people designed ingenious entertainment that was affordable and allowed self-expression, perhaps we would be able to live our dreams. If people were not so quick to dismiss reading, as an example, perhaps they would realise that there is more to life than the everyday mundane and they would be inspired to get out there and LIVE.

You can be excited over many things, but I rarely see people excited here. It's children that hold on to this excitement and maybe adults think that "that's not for the grown ups to feel". I don't know, personally - it's only a theory. Have you seen a child excited about going to the theme park? Oakwood? The beach, perhaps? Why can't adults feel that too and feel confident in expressing it? Are we afraid of appearing childish? It seems that a lot of people who "let go" and just enjoy what they enjoy are considered childish, unless it is "society approved", which I find very sad. I get excited when I book a holiday. I smile when I walk down the street. I am happy every time I go horse riding and enjoy the anticipation as much as the ride. I love the photos of new places that I visit and all the new nooks that I will discover. I am proud when I write something that makes people stop and go "wow", when they have to listen. I feel satisfied when I make something out of clay and the learning process pleases me. I love to gallop at full blast and yell because it is so damn EXHILARATING.

Besides creating, horse riding is my dominant passion. Do you know why?

Because, when we ride, we borrow freedom for a little while. And freedom is what I desire.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

The renting (or moving) nightmare

Well, this will not be your typical post, that's for sure!

If you don't know already, I'm an university student and will go into my third year in September 2012. I'm moving into a bungalow with a couple of guys before university starts back and...there have been a few "problems", let us say. Not with the guys, of course not, but a great deal of miscommunication.

First of all, when I saw the room in the bungalow that I was going to be renting, it was full of furniture. I assumed that it was furnished and said "oh, yay, a double bed!". Okay, so then I was told that the bed belonged to the guy there, no problem at all. He said that the bed was kind of rickety so that was why he bought another bed (the original bed for the room was in the garage). Nothing else was said about the contents of the room so I thought that...well...the furniture belonged to the landlord.

Oops, wrong!

Turns out that the furniture belonged to the guy renting that room so, as he has now moved out, the room is completely bare! The only things that are available for the room are: a single, metal bed frame (in pieces, couldn't see any bolts to fix it together), a single mattress (could feel the springs, but it did have a cover), a wardrobe (marked and stained, quite small and not very sturdy at all) and a small unit with drawers (okay!). As a girl... I'm not too impressed by this at all. One wardrobe and a small unit with drawers. Where's everything going to go? If I cut back to the bare essentials for living, that would mean that I couldn't even have any reading books unless I wanted to stack them on the floor. Nope, not going to happen!

Now I have to find a way to somewhat furnish this student room for storage purposes and general living... My main dilemma is that I don't want to purchase cheap furniture made of chipboard because I'll never be able to re-use it - the nails will just break the chipboard up when you take them out or it would fall to pieces when you transport it (what a professional home mover told me). My parents own two houses as my grandmother unfortunately passed away three years ago and I've been considering using furniture from that house for conveniences sake. It would save a bit of money at least. There's a suitable beside table/cabinet that I would be quite happy to take (two, in fact), a small bookcase and, most importantly, a large/tall chest of drawers. IF I can transport the chest of drawers, this might be a perfect solution.

Ah, but this still leaves the matter of a wardrobe. £60 (cheapest) or more for something that will not last if I want to move it... So a one-year life (or three years, if I extend my university life to a Masters) could only be anticipated...

That's where this beauty might enter the mix, as my larger chest of drawers will holds the majority of my clothes:

It's like a shining beacon saying "buy me, buy me"! It's a fabric covered single wardrobe rail, 90 cm across (which is surprisingly wide for a single wardrobe). I wasn't too keen on the canvas wardrobes as people have noted that they don't hold very much and are not sturdy at all for the price. This nifty thing is only £20 and I am fighting the urge to snap it up right now. It would last, could be moved, is easily packed... Not for later in life but for a student, who could say no?

The only question is whether my family will  scoff at it or not... I hope not, because I would love an inexpensive solution right now! Wooden wardrobes aren't always the way to go when you're on a budget!

So this is a bit of a renting or "moving" nightmare. I feel that I should have been made aware of what was available instead of just looking around myself (a friend of mine already lives there and the landlord agreed for him to show me around). I don't count what is already there as "furnished" - more like "part-furnished", if you ask me. Plus, if I wanted the furniture that is currently stored in the garage, why should I have to assemble it, if I am renting a furnished property? Seems a bit unfair to me, but people do think that they can "get one over" on students, unfortunately. I think I'll just smile sweetly and get on with it this time, just in case I ever need to landlord to get something important, such as the toilet, fixed swiftly! It was no fun at all when the shared toilet in my university hall stopped flushing, or when the shower wouldn't drain water away and it took days for them to fix it. Yes, this time I will definitely hold out on the arguments until something serious happens! Oh and one other thing: no curtains! And very strange windows.... Wider but not as tall as normal ones, so I will have to find special, shorter curtains for the sake of privacy!

Ah, well, I guess it happens to all of us when we are renting! I am certainly looking forward to owning my own house in the future - will be a blessing! Until then, I'll keep working on Etsy and post updates on my move!


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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Steampunk project, part one

Have I got a haul and a half this time! Hi!

I recently did very well on some ebay sales (clearing out some vintage toys that belonged to me when I was younger) so I decided to treat myself to a Steampunk project! I don't know at the moment if any of this will go up on Etsy or not, because my main aim with this project is to take some funky, unique jewellery back to university with me in September. So, let us see what I have so far...

I really love this set of keys (molded, not real keys) that I found on ebay (charmingdesignsdna). The one on the far, bottom left is one of my favourites and I am struggling to not put it on a chain as it is - I think it can be spruced up a little more than that! There was a pretty good selection with this set, which I am very happy with because, after all, this is supposed to be a fun experiment. I'm not sure what these are made out of, but the seller listed them as "lead and nickel safe", so...I'm not entirely sure. They were £1.59 for the set. If anyone knows what they are made out of, let me know, because I'd like to know very much, please!

I've been playing around with the filigree pieces and I think one would look lovely behind the heart frames! I'm not sure if it's too much yet, however, but, as a statement piece with a toned tone outfit, I think it would really work well without being gaudy. I could see the heart frames, all geared up, being great little key rings! Hey, they already have keys, right? Not steampunk keys, but I'm sure the little irony would not go unnoticed ;)

Just a close up of the heart frames (sorry about the shadow - I had the flash on!).


I particularly like these oval frame as they have a ring at the top so that it will be very easy to attach them to the chain when the design is complete. I plan to glue some gears in a pattern around the edge of these frames, perhaps in a half-moon shape? I'll see what comes out - I only have two of these to play with, sadly!

No rings on this one to attach it to a chain, but there are so many gaps in the filigree surrounding the heart frame that I don't think it would be a very big problem to put one of the antique gold/brass jump rings in there. The only problem with these would be the durability of the chain to charm attachment; I think it would be quite easy to break off part of the heart frame if you caught the chain on something accidentally, which would be a real shame.

Finally, just some of the chain and clasps that I had to link everything together. I'm a little worried that the clasps are larger than I expected, but at least they are a similar colour to everything else, so that there won't be any problems with matching everything together in this project. I guess that, as the clasps should be hidden by my long hair, they won't cause on problems or be unsightly. But I'm sure I'm not the only one that has a problem with chains moving around my neck while being worn! We will see what comes of that and I know that there are plenty more suppliers if these are not suitable for this particular chain.

I hope you enjoyed my steampunk post and will return later to see what comes of these pieces!

Next post: polymer clay project in motion.

Thank you!