Thursday, 31 December 2009

So long, farewell...

Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. Or a hearty 'piss-off' and middle finger to 2009. I'd like to say it's been a good year but I would be lying. And as you know readers, I do not lie. Actually, I do. Sometimes. White ones only...

2009. The year sucked in epic proportions. Our economy crumpled under the worst recession in years, unemployment rates soared. (Yes, thanks for that). Every week a Soldier was bought back from Afghanistan in a box, younger than the one before. When it felt it had killed enough people, just the threat of Pig flu turned everyone into hypochondriacs and mask-wearing head-cases. Michael Jackson died. So did my Nan. Jordan and Peter Andre got divorced. The bad time shocks were endless.

Still, at least I had my health. Hmm. That's debatable. I spent the best part of the year throwing up and the rest recovering from surgery which felt like my stomach had been run over by a truck. I couldn't walk properly or laugh for months. Oh the joy!

But wait. Through all the sadness, obstacles and general 'such is life' moments, I am forgetting something. It is nearly over. And here comes the best part of a New Year. It's filled with endless streams of possibility. Untrodden paths and journeys. Hope.

Readers, let's take a cup of kindness and drink to that. Happy New Year.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Christmas Message

Behind this screen I sit and pray
That all should have a Merry day.
Forget the sorrow and loneliness,
I wish you health, love, and happiness.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Hope it's a good one.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Hopeless: Coming to Job Centres Near You

After months of constant ear bashing from my mum to 'sign on,' I had a meeting at the job centre. Quite possibly, I am the only person in the UK who doesn't want to be on benefits. Just the mention of the words 'job' followed by 'centre' makes my heart sink to my boots. Which I proceed to stamp all over. Many times.

As a British citizen it's my right to receive help when required. Instead of feeling indifferent and accepting of my unemployed position in these economic climes, I just feel ashamed. Should I really feel this way? Since when has asking for help been synonymous with shame?

Nervous, I hoped that my meeting would shake my fears and settle my soul. So I arrived early. Outside, as my shoes argued with the ice-slicked pavement and the threat of more broken limbs loomed, I stood looking at the grey building, the bright green sign. My stomach flipped. Breath white in the bitter air. Automatic doors slid open and the inside heat enveloped my cold bones, bewitching my feet.

Inside, ten angry/depressed/frozen faces met mine and five voices asked why I was there. Thought that was obvious. Job centres are self explanatory. Directed to a man far too happy at such an early hour, I grew annoyed. As he rejoiced over the cold weather (kills germs, apparently), I spied my surroundings. Inconspicuous desks. Bland faces. 8.20am and bored already. A good start.

Fifteen minutes and four forms later, I sat in the 'comfy' chairs awaiting the next step. The job centre's definition of comfy does not match mine. But you're not meant to feel comfortable. They want you alert, back rigid, on edge for questions. The edge of an IKEA chair perfect for torture. Or bad taste.

As the clock edged closer to 9am, cold air gushed in and out, repeatedly, as more people filed in. Old men. Women pushing prams. Children moaned, babies howled. The office pulsed with disdain. My feet itched to leave. I told them to shut up. I'd come this far...

Finally, twenty-five minutes later I sat opposite another cheerful fellow. He smiled, telling me the systems were down and my application would have to be completed by hand. 'Don't worry,' he shrugged. 'It'll only take an hour.' My returning smile did not reach my eyes.

As we talked about my endless search for employment, I started to feel better. Unexpectedly, it was a relief to discuss it with someone who knew how bad things were. My stomach fluttered with a feeling akin to hope. Then he hit me with it: 'I'm being honest now though, don't think you've got much chance for a while.'

Oh the hope was slaughtered. 'Yeah, if you want to get a job, I'd remove all of your education info from your CV.' It was like he had taken a bat and repeatedly whacked me over the head. He was Al Capone and I was the gangster who had betrayed him. My brains were all over the desk.

Not only will I not get a job for at least another month but I've apparently wasted four years of my life, and thousands of pounds, studying for two degrees. Seemingly, educated people can't get jobs nowadays. But if I lie about what I've been doing all this time, I may end up on someones payroll. It's true. You do learn something every day.

Alas, I left the job centre still hopeless. I put myself out there and asked for help. Where did it get me? Watch this space...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas in New York

Fairy lights glimmer at Rockefeller,
golden sparks leap from green firs;
their elfin flames twinkle in eyes
as I scan the ice,
searching for my sister
who stutters across the frozen sheet.

From here we board the red bus
that rides in the wrong city,
passing snowflakes fastened on the wall
of Bloomies, bullion colour flashing
in sequence to Carol of the Bells
chiming in my ears.

We peer at the Plaza, sited in grandeur
by Central Park, where children wrapped
in coats and scarves and bobble hats
throw tiny handfuls of greying snow
at black beauties standing in rank,
waiting for fools to pay $20 for a ride.

Car horns peal from traffic lined by
FAO Schwarz, where shoppers leave with
bulging bags of toys and treats and
tourists nervously hail taxis for
the Brooklyn Bridge, where they
gaze with glee at the Hudson River.

Ensared in the sleepless city,
we make way to Times Square, where
neon lights blaze, crowds pour from
subways, shops and Broadway shows, and some
buy salted pretzels from the shifty man
frozen on 47th.

Steam rises from subway grates on 49th,
as we hurry down to catch the R,
speeding us to the Empire State,
stemming proudly from the city's middle,
where we soar 102 floors
above the earth.

From this highest point we huddle,
bitter from the minus winds, and gaze at the
yellow ants crawling slowly around blocks
and rows of streets, inflamed by
the city's glow, like streams of lava,
as evening dusk finally falls.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes...'

It's that time of year. The over 65s get flu jabs. Tesco runs out of tissues and Vicks vapour rub. The red-nosed germ infested man breathes heavily down my neck on the central line. Everyone is coming down with something. And so am I. A relentless scratch at my throat. An annoying sniffle. A plague of headaches that will never cease. I am sick. Of. Everything.

I'm sick of hearing about the X Factor. In Sainsbury's. The pub. Boots the Chemist. Even the oldies in the Post Office give me their two pennies' worth. Just the sound of their admiration for the 'sexy' swinging hips of Olly-can't-sing-but-will-probably-win-Murs results in ear ache. Plus an annoying hum that won't end. A bit like the high pitch that accompanied the BBC test card with the little girl and the freaky clown.

I'm sick of reading about Tiger Woods and Tiger's Wood (now an upcoming porno- get ready people). As mistress number thirteen comes out of the woodwork (pun intended) I wonder how he managed to have sex with all those dirty women and play golf. Contemplating levels of sanitation makes stomach heave. Chunks threaten to rise.

I'm sick of Gordon Brown and all the other waste of space MPs who've spent all our money on golden syrup, potted plants and pay-per-view porn. (I've now said this twice in one post. It's getting out of hand- no pun intended).

I'm sick of people thrusting their iPhone's in my space. As if I want to use a phone that doesn't have keys to press and looks like it's been made by aliens. And no I don't care if you have an 'app' that makes the screen steam up like a shower. Will that help me when I need to call 999 after I've had a mental breakdown from all this rubbish? No. But it will look pretty. Sod off.

Henry David Thoreau once said it was healthy to be sick sometimes. If that's the case, I'm the healthiest bloody person I know...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

If Only...the two saddest words in the world

A recent post by fellow blogger Hunter (over at the brilliant Time Crook) got me to thinking. I could demonstrate my wittiness here by inserting 'yes it hurt' or 'that's new' but it would be a lie.

Thinking does not hurt. Nor is it new. I think far too much. All. The. Damn. Time.

As I approach my 25th birthday (8 days, not that I'm counting), I am taking stock of my life. To some this may seem premature; the kind of thing appropriate only for the wrinkled as they sit in armchairs approaching 90. But I like to reflect. See how far I've come, what I've achieved. What I'd like to achieve next. Introspection is good for the soul.

So it follows that Hunter's post resonated with me. He wrote a moving account of childhood regret and I was surprised that his younger self experienced this cruel emotion at such a young age. I've always assumed, perhaps wrongfully, that we only regret things at a more advanced age. When we've seasoned the ability to understand and appreciate our actions, in-actions and wrongdoings. Consequently, I started to think of my own regrets in life. And here came my unintentional revelation:

I have none. Sure, I used to. I thought I did. But as I've got older, I regret not a single thing. Moment. Choice. Person. Situation. Event. Feeling. Not even wearing that pink and green shell-suit when I was five years old. (It was the 80s and fashion was flammable; give a girl a break).

Okay, so that's a silly example. But I figured, if I was to regret everything that has bought pain or difficulty, confusion or disappointment; I'd be crippled under its weight. I've learned from every choice and action that has resulted in a mistake. If I regretted those mistakes, it would mean I'd regret that chance to learn and the path I'm now on. I cannot and will not regret that.

Regret isn't wrong. It is, after-all, a human quality that we cannot escape. But if we learn to accept our mistakes, actions and in-actions that result in this cruel emotion, we won't waste so much time in the past. We'll be more open for the future, for the here and now.

Sure, life is hard sometimes but it's also far too short.

What say you, reader?