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  1. What I do

    6 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – If you couldn’t answer with your job, how would you answer the question, ‘what do you do’?

    Hmm, this is a tricky one. What do any of us do, apart from our jobs or being in education? I just added it up and going to work (including travel and lunch hours and things) takes up just under half of my waking hours each week. It actually feels like far more than that so I’m a bit surprised, but I suppose you can’t argue with a calculator. So anyway, if I eliminate those hours I’m left with sleeping and whatever I do in between sleeping and going to work. I’m not putting sleeping as my answer, so here are some of the things that I do when I’m not sleeping and not at work and that make up who I am:

    I eat
    I love eating, and I really love eating out. If I could afford it and it wouldn’t make me massive, I’d eat out every single day. I like eating with friends, and finding new and delicious things and then eating them as often as possible. I don’t really cook very much, but I bake a bit and I like that you get a nice cake as a reward for your hard work when you do it.

    I drink cocktails
    I probably drink a bit more than I should, but I do like a nice cocktail after work or at the weekends. We have a bar area in our kitchen and I get quite excited when I see Chris is doing something over there as it might mean I’m going to get a drink in a minute. Sometimes when I’m sitting on the sofa a Martini will just materialise over my shoulder (the kitchen is behind me) and I am informed that it is Cocktail Hour. Who wouldn’t love that?

    I learn bits of languages then stop and pick a different one
    Languages used to be my major passion, but I don’t do this one quite as much as I used to. I do still love them though, and I’ve started lots of different languages over the years. The beginners bit of learning a language is the easy bit you can do on your own, and I generally learn enough to be able to talk a little bit about myself and to get the gist of simple texts and to understand how the grammar works. The grammar is the bit I like best really, and once you understand that you only need a dictionary to be able to make your way through most texts, even if you have to go really slowly. I find there is only so far you can go with self study though, so unless I do a proper course in a language I tend to stall at this point and then just start another one a little while later. The only language I’d say I really speak properly is French, and I can sort of wing it in Italian as long as they don’t say anything unexpected. I don’t mind that I’m not brilliant at any of the others though, it’s the learning of them that I like rather than their usage anyway.

    I look after Chris
    This is a bit of a funny one, because Chris doesn’t really need any looking after. He’s very low maintenance generally. I try to make sure I look after him a bit though and I devote quite a bit of energy to considering what might make him happy. I help him with things, just little jobs and favours really, as much as I can, so that he thinks that I’m useful and worth having around for a bit longer. I’m the only one who knows how to work our washing machine, and I’m holding that as my trump card as I’m sure he can’t do without that. If they ever invent a voice activated washing machine I’m fucked.

    I support my Mum (and Dad)
    This takes up more of my time than it really should. If my Mum is stressed or anxious, she rings me up. If she needs something looked up on the internet, she rings me up. If she’s bored or bickering with my Dad, she rings me up. If her printer won’t turn on, she rings me up. I’ve tried to be as kind and helpful as I can to them, and to be a supportive son since Mum got ill about 12 years ago, but I’ve sort of turned myself into a crutch for them and that’s probably not very good as I don’t know how they’d manage without me now. Mum says ‘I don’t know how I’d manage without you’ to me quite often, so it’s true. They would just manage, of course, because people’s stress expands as far as the people who will listen to it. People come to rely on however much support is available to them. But if I’m talking about what I ‘do’, I do this quite a lot.

    I administrate things
    I look after a lot of the administrative things in our life, and I wouldn’t want to give up control of them even if I could. I sort out the bills, I did all the mortgage and legal stuff when we bought our flat, I research where we can get the best rate on our savings and then move them around when needed. I could easily steal all of Chris’ money if I wanted to, because he trusts that I’ll put it somewhere safe and give it back to him if he asks for it. I like putting things in alphabetical order and arranging books on shelves (the correct way is to pull them all forwards until they are all flush with one another – none of this some shoved in more than others business). I suppose part of me doing all this is related to the section above about looking after Chris, because his job means he can’t make phone calls in the day or look things up on the internet whenever he wants, so it makes sense for me to do it. But also I just LIKE it. I like order. That’s why I like grammar – it’s ordered, and all the words have to line up in their proper places or be executed by red pen firing squad. I used to work in a library, and after university I was an administrator for quite a few years, and it suited me.

    So what do I do? I eat nice things and drink nice things and sit with Teach Yourself Swedish on my lap. In between I file things and look things up and try to help the people I love by offering them administrative services. I don’t think I’ve ever summed myself up better in two sentences.

  2. My friend Sarah

    5 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Publicly profess your love and devotion for one of your [blogger] friends

    I’m not going to write this about a blogger friend because if they’re a blogger it means they’d read this, and I think it would be a bit weird if I’m all like ‘URRRR I LOVE YOU’ and they’re like ‘Urkh, this is exhausting, you know? We are never getting back together. Like ever.’

    So I’m going to write about a real friend instead, because she won’t read this and then it won’t be weird.

    I love and am devoted to my friend Sarah. She’s just lovely, and beautiful, and leggy, and bold, and vulnerable, and a mess, and amazing. We have great nights out with Sarah and she’s so much fun.

    This is Sarah:

    Sarah hug

    Part of what makes Sarah fun is once she’s had a couple of glasses of wine she’ll do pretty much anything we tell her to, including getting in a bin:

    Sarah getting in the bin

    And posing with a strangely abandoned walking aid:

    Sarah uses a walker

    We met Sarah in quite random circumstances, and the universe obviously just decided that we should be brought together. We were at Worthing train station on the way home from an evening out with some friends one night (why did we go out in Worthing? God knows) and we were talking loudly and drunkenly about the relative merits of flaky versus puff pastry (an important debate). A girl on her own a little way down the platform started laughing at us, and Chris shouted ‘We can hear you laughing at our pastry conversation!’ at her. We got talking to her on the train back to Brighton and exchanged numbers, and she was duly assigned the name of Sarah Train, as that is where we had met her.

    A couple of weeks later we arranged a night out with one of my friends from work and his housemates, and Chris texted Sarah Train to see if she wanted to come. It turned out that she did and she said she’d meet us at the bar where we were meeting my work friend. When we got there, my friend said ‘Let me introduce you to my housemate: this is Sarah,” and IT WAS SARAH TRAIN. Our arrangement to meet two groups of people was actually an arrangement to meet one group but in a sort of pincer movement.

    So we decided from that point that it was meant to be, and we’ve been friends ever since.

    I love Sarah. I love that she’s scatty and she loses everything – she’s no longer allowed to carry possessions when we’re out, she has to give them all to me and then ask me for money when she goes to the bar. I love that you can be anywhere with her and still be laughing the whole time.

  3. Favourite quotes

    4 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Favourite quote (from a person, from a book, etc) and why you love it 

    This is a hard topic for me, as I don’t know that I really have any favourite quotes. I’m not into those inspirational quotes you see posted on Twitter particularly; most of them are a bit twee.

    I do however have this quote stuck up next to my desk, alongside two Dilbert cartoons and an X-Men graphic novel flyer.

    “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it” – William Feather

    I suppose I stuck it there because I know I worry too much, and I can sometimes let that get in the way of enjoying the moment. I expend an awful lot of energy worrying about things and planning for all sorts of eventualities, and then they rarely turn out as badly as I was expecting and the stress is rather needless.

    I did a quick search for William Feather while I was writing this just to make sure he actually said this quote, and I found a whole page of them attributed to him. I quite liked this one too:

    “No man is a failure who is enjoying life.”

    It seems he’s one of those people who said lots of quote-worthy things, like Mae West.

    The only other quote I like that I can think of is John Le Mesurier’s last words summing up his life before he died:

    “It’s all been rather lovely.”

    That seems like a nice sentiment. It’s not sad; it sounds contented, and I hope I’ll be able to look back as fondly when I’m old.

  4. Things that make you go HURK

    3 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Things that make you uncomfortable

    Lots of things make me uncomfortable. I suppose there are many more things that make me annoyed – my resting state seems to be ‘slightly annoyed’ – but there are quite a few things that make me uncomfortable as well. Often it’s a bit of both, as there are times when I’m uncomfortable about something but too polite or inhibited to say or do anything about it.

    Here are a few things anyway:

    Being called quiet
    I am quite a quiet, shy person. I’m particularly bad in social situations if I don’t know the people around me very well, and much more so if I really want them to like me. Which is a bit unhelpful of my brain, as you generally need to talk to people to get them to like you, unless they’re interviewing for a Mute or something.

    But what makes me much, much, MUCH worse  is if someone says ‘You’re quiet, aren’t you?’

    Or ‘Why are you so quiet?’

    Or, and this is the worst one and I’ve actually had this said to me, ‘You’re quiet. I don’t like quiet people.’

    Well fuck you, bitch! I’m sorry if I’m not a gobby trout in a stupid jumper like you, but I’m SHY. (she actually did have a stupid jumper on in this instance, that’s not just an example)

    So yeah, being called quiet makes me very uncomfortable and causes me to clam up completely. It makes me very self conscious, and I always think ‘Yes I know I’m quiet – why would I need you to tell me? In what world did you think this would encourage me to talk?’

    People kissing their partners
    I don’t mean people giving their partner a quick kiss, or a peck hello, or a thank you kiss, or anything brief like that. I mean people snogging their partners on the mouth for more than a few seconds when they’re in a social situation like in a pub or in my living room. This happens particularly when they’ve just started going out and are still all loved up about it.

    It’s RUDE. There are other people in the room, they were speaking to you just a moment ago, and now you’re sucking each others’ faces. Where am I supposed to look while you’re doing that? I can’t look AT you, that’s weird. Am I supposed to look away? Do I pretend I haven’t noticed? Presumably I can’t ask you a question or anything or interrupt you. Should we talk amongst ourselves? How long are you going to be? Are you snogging for my benefit, to let me know you’re in a relationship and you’re soooooo happy and in love with your ‘babe’? I DON’T GET IT. I don’t know what to do with myself when this happens. Stop that. Stop it right now.

    Running for the bus with an audience
    Sometimes when you’re approaching the bus stop, you can see that a bus is there but you can’t quite tell which bus it is. There are people at the stop, or hanging around generally, and I can never decide if I should run or not. There’s something weird about an adult running in the street if they’re not wearing a jogging outfit. It makes people look at you. ‘Why are they running?’ they think. It attracts attention. And if you’re running for a bus (a reasonable excuse to be moving at speed), it would be much worse if you were to arrive at the stop and suddenly decide it’s not your bus after all. Do you just stop and look sheepish? Do you KEEP running and pretend you were heading for something else? You could end up anywhere. And if it is your bus and you miss it, you have to make some theatrical show of annoyance so everyone knows you were running for that bus and now you’ve missed it and it’s annoying. So that moment, when the bus is there and my knee jerks forwards as I go to run and then I think wait do I want to run for this there are people over there and they’ll see me and what if it’s not the right bus and what if it drives away and what if the bus driver isn’t even on the bus because he’s on a break and I get there and can’t get on, THAT moment of indecision makes me uncomfortable.


  5. Those crazy French

    2 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at

    I found this topic really difficult, and it presented a major stumbling block to me getting going on this challenge. I know about lots of different things, but I feel that most of them are… well, boring for everyone else. I know about web things and languages, but what can I write about those that’s interesting to other people? In the end I plumped for something language related and that I learnt about while doing French at university. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

    The French Republican Calendar

    Please try to stifle your yawns.

    I find this sort of interesting, because most people wouldn’t be aware that after the French revolution, as part of a massive drive to decimalise everything, they actually made up a whole new and completely RIDICULOUS calendar. And made everyone use it for about 12 years, until Napoleon abolished it and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

    Behold how stupid this is.

    There were 12 months (that’s not very decimally is it? You missed a trick there, Frenchies)
    Each month had 30 days, divided into three weeks of 10 days each (which meant the tenth day, the new Sunday, only came around ONCE EVERY TEN DAYS and you had to work nine days in between. Er, HELLO? Five days between weekends is bad enough)
    Each day had 10 hours
    Each hour had 100 minutes
    Each minute had 100 seconds
    Because the Earth unhelpfully refused to go around the Sun in exactly 360 days, they had to stick five (or six in leap years) extra days on the end each year. I’m sure that made them very huffy. It’s just not TIDY, you know?

    The days had boring names meaning ‘First day’, ‘Second day’, etc., instead of Monday, Tuesday, blah blah. So that’s not very exciting. But the months had these delightfully childish names:

    Vendémiaire – ‘grape harvest month’
    Brumaire – ‘foggy month’
    Frimaire – ‘frosty month’

    Nivôse – ‘snowy month’
    Pluviôse – ‘rainy month’
    Ventôse – ‘windy month’

    Germinal – ‘sprouting month’
    Floréal – ‘flowery month’
    Prairial – ‘grassy month’

    Messidor – ‘harvest month’
    Thermidor – ‘hot month’
    Fructidor – ‘fruity month’

    What the FUCK is that, France? No wonder it didn’t catch on. No one wants to be born in Fruity Month.

    Every day of the year was also associated with a plant, an animal a tool or a mineral. I am rapidly losing the will to live just trying to explain it to you. How much time did they spend devising this?? And it only lasted 12 years anyway. It’s like a really shit, early version of Pokemon where you have to learn a million things then realise it’s pointless anyway.

    So yeah, if you’re interested, you can find converters online to look up what your date of birth would be in the French Republican Calendar, like this one. I was apparently born on:

    10 Floréal (flowery month) CLXXXIX (189th year – they ditched Jesus and started the years again from zero).

    Wikipedia helpfully tells me that was the day of the RAKE. Which is sort of apt as I could pass for one if I combed my hair forwards.

    I am terribly sorry that I couldn’t educate you about anything more interesting than this. You have at least learnt, however, NEVER LET THE FRENCH DO ANYTHING. THEY’RE MENTAL.


  6. Blog every day in May – The story of my life

    1 May 2013 by superlative

    A few people I know are trying to do the ‘Blog every day in May’ challenge set by the Story of My Life blog, so I thought I’d join in. It’s only challenges like this that seem to get me blogging with any regularity, and as it includes a set of suggested topics for each day I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to know what to write. The hardest part is going to be keeping up I think – especially as my Mum is coming to visit for three days this month, and then I’m in Spain from the 26th. I’ll just have to try to do a few posts in advance I think!

    Today’s topic is: ‘The story of your life in 250 words or less’. So here we go…

    I grew up in East London, and it never really suited me. It was a bit rough and I didn’t feel I really fitted in. Going to a Catholic boys school was sometimes hard, not least because I found out later I actually find it much easier to talk to girls than boys. I met Chris, my boyfriend, then partner, then husband, my life, while I was at college aged 17, and that’s when the fun part of my existence really began. Everything changed from that point. I’ve done so many things, laughed so much, found out so much about myself and who I want to be. I feel very lucky to have him and he’s made me a better person. We went to the University of Sussex together, and it was great. I studied French and Italian, and spent a year on my own living in Geneva. It was a wonderful experience, but it made me value my life back home even more and I was glad to come back. After university we stayed in Brighton and I apparently became a web developer. It turns out I’m quite good at it, and I enjoy it, but I’ve always felt I could have done more in my working life. Work has never been my priority. Chris and I got married in 2008 and bought our first home together in 2011. Today I live a happy, supported, cosy, fun little life of simple pleasures, drinking cocktails, dancing, and pulling stupid faces.

    Other posts on this topic by my friends:
    Nic | James | Lee | Chris | Matt

    I’ve really enjoyed reading these. It’s amazing what you can learn in 250 words, and what people pick out from their 20-30 years on the planet so far.

  7. 25 things about me

    23 April 2013 by superlative

    I found this old post on Facebook just now, where you had to write 25 things about yourself that your friends might not have known. It was quite nice reading it again, and even though I wrote it in 2009 I was surprised how little I’d change now. I’d only really change the bit that says I like children – because I HATE children – but I like nice children, and I like being an uncle.

    So anyway, I thought I’d post it again on here.


    1. I’ve kissed a total of three women in my life, just to see what it was like. It was fine, softer than a man, but didn’t do a lot for me. I don’t know how many men I’ve kissed.

    2. I’m technically a cockney, but Mummy raised me to speak properly so you wouldn’t know it.

    3. I was mugged three times when I was growing up. I still feel afraid of people sometimes when I’m walking around, but I hide it.

    4. I know how to knit and I enjoy cross-stitch.

    5. I’m more interested in politics now than I ever used to be. I don’t like it when people use labels or hackneyed phrases during a political discussion, like ‘nanny state’ or ‘she started a war to win an election’; I think it’s lazy and shows a lack of understanding of the topic.

    6. I’m quieter than I’d like to be, especially in social situations or with people I don’t know. People often take this to mean I don’t like them. It doesn’t.

    7. I hate being contradicted. I tend to think I’m right (I usually am), and don’t like it when someone disagrees with me.

    8. I’m petty and will bear a grudge really, really badly. If I decide I don’t like someone it’s unlikely I’ll ever change my mind.

    9. I like studying languages, especially new ones, and don’t like it if someone can speak something I can’t. I’ll often start a language but only learn a bit before I move onto another one though. I speak French and Italian well, and have at times studied Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Swedish, German and Spanish.

    10. I’ve never taken an illegal drug. Although I’m sometime curious, I’m too stubborn to break a vow I made never to try them when I was about 14. My opinion is they’re illegal for a reason.

    11. I came out to my Dad in front of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wasn’t ready, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve done.

    12. I was quite badly bitten by a dog when I was about 5, and still don’t trust dogs I don’t know. Its owners gave it away before the police could destroy it.

    13. One of my best friends drowned when I was 6. I sometimes wonder what his life would have been like if he’d survived.

    14. I enjoy watching You’ve Been Framed, even though I know it’s really low-brow.

    15. I, rather sadly, view having a cup of tea as a bit of a treat.

    16. I can be a bit smug and like to show off what I know. Number 9 is a prime example of this, I didn’t need to list all those when “I like studying new languages” would have done.

    17. When I was little I wanted to be a chef when I grew up. I wanted an ‘A La Carte Kitchen’, one of those ones you push along, but was bought the (cheaper) Magic Glow Oven instead. Now, I probably only cook dinner about 3 times a year.

    18. I would like a better build, but overall I’m fairly happy with my body and how I look. I wish I had better energy levels and a stronger immune system though, as I’m often ill and sometimes feel like a burden.

    19. I’m not very spontaneous and have trouble making decisions in my personal life. I over-think things and could do with loosening up more. Saying that though, my cautious attitude has served me pretty well so far.

    20. I like children, but don’t know if or when I’ll ever have any of my own. If I can be a really good uncle to someone else’s, that might be enough for me.

    21. I really like to dance, even though I think it is out of character for me. I don’t see the point in going to a club if you’re not going to dance.

    22. I’d love to write a novel, and then see it on the shelf when I go into a bookshop.

    23. I feel like I have a very fortunate life and I’m grateful. There are very few things I’d want to change about where I am in life right now.

    24. I sometimes worry about how much I drink, but not enough to change it.

    25. I sometimes feel bad that I haven’t done something more challenging for my career. This is mostly due to people asking me why I haven’t done something more challenging for my career. I like my job though, I like that it doesn’t stress me out and that I can leave it at the office when I go home.

  8. Thanks, O2, for being deliberately vague and annoying

    5 April 2013 by superlative

    A couple of weeks ago I realised that I suddenly had no mobile reception at home. I live in a basement flat, so reception can always be a little bit patchy, but this was different – there was absolutely none at all.

    I’m currently a giffgaff customer, which means that I use the O2 network but I pay my money to giffgaff. I’ve been pleased with giffgaff overall – after a few problems getting my number ported over to them, my service has been very good and they’re very cheap. I don’t blame giffgaff for my coverage problems, as they don’t maintain the infrastructure; that side of it is up to O2.

    I rooted around a bit online and found the O2 webpage where you can check if there are any problems in your area, and sure enough it told me ‘We’re currently working on a mast in your area’. So I stuck with it for a bit, but after a couple of days there was no improvement and I started to get huffy.

    I asked the O2 Twitter account if they had any information, and they requested that I send them my postcode so they could check. When they came back to me they said ‘We’ve upgraded nearby sites to increase signal and we’re putting long-term steps in place to restore service.’ Oh right, I thought, they’re doing some upgrade work, and once they’ve finished I’ll be back to normal, possibly with better coverage than before, because it’s been upgraded.

    Except I won’t be because it hasn’t. I found out yesterday that what’s actually happened is my nearest O2 mast on top of the Royal Sussex County Hospital has been decommissioned to make way for a new helipad they’re building there. O2 hasn’t been successful in getting planning permission to build a replacement mast nearby, so all they have been able to do is boost the capacity at their other nearby masts to try to compensate for the big hole that’s been poked in their network coverage.

    So when they said ‘We’ve upgraded nearby sites to increase signal and we’re putting long-term steps in place to restore service’, they weren’t lying, but what they actually meant was ‘We’ve decommissioned a mast; we’ve tried to compensate from other masts (but that obviously isn’t doing very much, as loads of people in Kemp Town now have no network); and we’re looking into a replacement but have no idea what or where that will be, or how long it will take to get planning permission for it’.

    So that’s a bit shit really. They skirted round what the real explanation was, and have left anyone who asked them hanging on thinking that their network coverage would be restored within a few days. I can’t see them being able to sort this out in anything less than a few weeks, and it may even be months. So what are people meant to do in the meantime? A mobile phone really does depend on having a network connection, otherwise it just becomes a very small tablet computer that magically transforms into a phone once you get the bus to a different part of town.

    I’m quite annoyed with them, because they were deliberately vague to try to delay any loss of customers. When I asked them about their lack of clarity, they replied ‘unfortunately we didn’t have this information [about the mast being decommissioned] at the time’. Oh REALLY? It wasn’t struck by lightning. It was dismantled, and it belongs to you. You must have known that was going to happen, and you must have known you had no location for a replacement mast. Did you tell anyone? Your own customers, or giffgaff so they could tell their customers? No. You switched it off, waited for people to start complaining, and then fudged a response.

    I think that’s very poor. If a service you provide is going to be significantly disrupted and you know about it in advance, the least you can do is tell people. It’s just treating your customers with respect. But they haven’t done that, and now I’m most likely going to have to leave a network I was otherwise happy with and transfer back to Orange (/T-Mobile/EE/can you PLEASE just pick a fucking name and use it?).

    Poor show, O2. Very poor.

  9. A media-fuelled recession?

    15 March 2013 by superlative

    This blog post is a bit economics-based, sorry, but I read an interesting article in the Economist this week and it resonated with something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

    The article concerns consumer spending habits in the UK, and the effect they have on our economy and GDP – in other words, on whether we are in a recession or not. A recession is usually defined as two consecutive quarters of a country’s GDP going down rather than up. I was surprised to read in the article that spending by private households accounts for a whopping 63% of the UK’s GDP, and so changes in our spending naturally have a large effect in our overall growth.

    Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, many people have felt (and in lots of cases are) poorer. We are also more worried about money generally, and keener to reduce the size of our debt and increase our level of savings. These are noble ambitions, as an over-reliance on debt by the country as a whole played a big part in creating the crisis. It has always been my view that, as far as is possible, it is much better to save up for something and then buy it than it is to buy it with debt and pay for it later.

    The article describes how our saving rate fell from 6% in 2001 to zero in 2008 – meaning we as individuals were spending pretty much everything we earned by 2008, confident in our expectations that our incomes would continue to grow and we didn’t need to save for the future. Then came the financial crisis, and our saving rate jumped back up to 7% and has stayed that way for five years. We have been responsibly saving for a rainy day and not splashing out like we used to. In comparison with previous recessions, where spending returned to its previous level after a couple of years, this has been a much longer period of belt-tightening. What interested me is the Economist‘s assertion that if our spending rate fell back to around 4%, an extra £41billion would be released into the economy, raising GDP by 2.7% and therefore taking us well out of recession.

    I found this interesting because I have often felt that the reason we are so pessimistic about the future, about the woes of the euro and the financial crisis on a global level, is that the media never shuts up telling us to be worried about it. We become paralysed by a fear that our livelihoods are threatened because we are told that this is the case, not because we are aware of it ourselves, and it is the effect that this has on our behaviour that makes the situation much, much worse.

    If we were never told any news about the state of our economy, or of Europe’s, how much would we really have felt affected by the financial crisis? For me personally as a public sector worker, the answer is fairly little. The main effects have been that the administrative staff union at my institution has agreed to more modest than usual cost-of-living increases to our salaries, and the organisation has restricted recruitment, preferring to recruit internally as much as possible. My income has continued to grow though, albeit more slowly than in previous years, and on top of that I have still received an annual increment to the next salary point, as these are contractual and I get them whatever happens. I think that’s the case for quite a lot of public sector workers.

    Many people have been affected more than this of course, particularly if their employer has folded completely or has had to lay people off (like my Dad, who lost his job). Some of this comes back to consumer spending though – people haven’t been buying their products, and the company can only endure a drop in income for so long before their finances fall apart. It becomes a vicious circle where individuals and companies hunker down to weather the storm, they restrict their spending and their hiring to give themselves a more secure financial base, and in doing so drag down demand even further.

    More people then end up unemployed, inflating the state’s welfare bill further and making government spending more difficult, and they can’t then go out and spend lots of money because they only have benefits to live on.

    Individuals, companies and banks have all been hoarding cash as much as they can to reduce their exposure to future risks; and it is this lack of confidence to spend that perpetuates the need to save. It is for this reason that some people argue that the government should borrow more so that it can spend, and help to improve confidence generally in the country and break the cycle. I don’t agree with the government borrowing more, but I can see the point of the argument.

    I just feel that, if we weren’t so worried about how dire the state of our economy is, if we weren’t always being told to worry about it and that we’re in the midst of a disaster, the economy would actually be in much better shape. And this seems rather sad, rather cyclical, and rather pointless, like much of economics.

  10. What I’ve been up to

    8 March 2013 by superlative

    I haven’t written since Christmas about anything that I’ve actually done, so in order to try to get back up to date, and to make Lee shut his cakehole, I’m just going to do a little post now to cover what’s been going on in my life.

    Thing are going fine in our flat still. We have continued to make small improvements to it every now and then, including redecorating our guest bedroom. That’s the first bit of decorating we’ve ever done, and it came out quite well really.

    We have hopefully fixed the massive hump that we get in our hall floor during the summer too, which was caused by the poor laying of the wood flooring. Last summer it looked like the whole lot was going to split, so we couldn’t leave it any longer really. Chris has since lopped 5cm off the end of it with a massive chisel, and with a bit of luck he’ll have lopped off right bit for the wood to expand when it wants to.

    We may also have fixed the pigeon problem that was ruining our decked patio (they used to roost on part of our building’s fire escape and then crap all over our lovely decking). I got a quote ages ago from a bird control company about putting some netting or something up, and they laughably wanted £1,300 for it. So we thought fuck that, and after much deliberation and planning and sketching ideas on a bit of paper, Chris climbed up the rickety old cast iron ladder and we’ve hung our own net up there. It’s been four months so far, and there have been NO pigeons. The netting and the clips and things only cost us about £12, so I think that’s a big win for us and £1,288 I should be able to spend on presents for myself. We haven’t actually had any nice weather since we put the netting up (it was November), but I’m hoping that come the summer we might be able to use the patio a bit more now and maybe have a glass of wine out there on warm summer evenings.

    Noise from the flat above us has still occasionally been a problem, but we had a blissful period where it wasn’t rented out at all during January and much of February, and that was really nice. The rentals have started back up again now, but I am trying very hard to be more relaxed about it (because I’m so well known for being relaxed and easy going). Things I need to keep reminding myself are: the flat is often empty, especially midweek and in the winter; some people have noisy neighbours above them ALL the time, so we’re lucky ours is intermittent; many people who stay there are quite quiet; you can’t live under other people and have no noise at all (so I’ll never be buying a flat under other people again, but anyway); and we have earplugs for when it is noisy that are AMAZING. Seriously, they’re called Hearos, they’re American, and they are simply the best earplugs I’ve ever used or heard of. I can’t recommend them highly enough if you have noisy neighbours, and they’re so comfortable you barely know they’re in.

    I still get a little bit stressed about the noise, particularly if we have guests because I feel so bad if they get disturbed in the night. I also get annoyed if I think too hard about the woman who owns the flat because, nice as she always is to us, essentially she doesn’t really care if we get disturbed, she just wants the money from the flat (and at £125 a night she must be RAKING it in).

    On the job front, I am currently still working two days a week in my new and much more interesting web development role at the university, and three days doing my regular job. It’s still officially a ‘temporary’ arrangement though, and I’m hoping very much to get something more permanent agreed this month. The best case scenario for me I think would be to move full-time into the new role, but they may not have the money or the work for me to do that. Worst case would be to go back to doing five days a week in my regular job, which is increasingly boring. I’ve positioned myself fairly well in the new role though, and tried to make people think I’m helpful and produce good work, so I’ll have just to wait and see.

    I think that’s most of my news really. Mum and Dad are coming to stay again in May, which is a bit earlier than I thought they’d be back (it was only September last time), so I’m sure I’ll get a bit stressed about that as the time approaches. Dad has had some cardiac tests and investigations done, but still no news on why he blacked out those times. He hasn’t blacked out since anyway, so that’s something. And I’m going on holiday to Sitges again, with friends this time, at the end of May after Mum and Dad have gone. So that should be fun, and I’m desperate for some sunshine. I’m so sick of being frozen or soaked on my way to work on the stupid bus every day.

    I’m going to try to intermingle some of these posts about my life with other opinion pieces on news or things I find interesting  because it’s a bit boring just reading about my life if you don’t know me. My brother enjoys keeping up to date on what I’ve been doing apparently, but that’s probably about it. Feel free to write THIS WAS BORING in the comments box below and I’ll try to adjust accordingly.