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Monday, 31 March 2014

Stupid bloody practice exam

So I've got a multiple choice exam for Social and Developmental Psychology, and you know me, revision isn't really something I do, though I am trying to get better at it. There's a practice paper online, and I've run through it to see how much revision I need to do, see how much or little I know. I've got 23/25, but I cannot figure out which bastard two bastard questions I'm getting wrong! I should probably do an hour or so's revision...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

It is a year and three days since Cattenberg and I formally announced the splitting up ness of it all

There is a lot of piss taking of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's "conscious uncoupling" announcement, and in fairness it does make it all sound a bit wanky. But here's the thing. Sometimes the acrimony is already done by the time you decide to split up. Sometimes splitting up is a way of actually holding on to the good part of a relationship, by removing the taint of the bad. For Cattenberg and I splitting up was a way of regaining a friendship, by removing the fa├žade of something that wasn't there anyway we were able to be kinder to each other, be supportive of each other, because we were no longer operating under the pressure of pretending to ourselves and to others that we were more than that. It was a way of being the parents that we wanted to be, and creating a happier, albeit geographically wider, home environment for Kittencat. Having parents who live together is surely less important that having parents who can have a civilised conversation, who care about each other and can be in the same room together. We regained that by breaking up. Though there is no residual attraction, we talk a lot, and we still value the others time, company and friendship, and, as well as friendship, a lot of the value we place on each other is based on our relationship as Kittencat's parents. Our break up was probably the most civilised I've ever heard about, it took months to gather the courage to broach the subject in the first place, yet the relief we both felt as we had the conversation was palpable. We bought each other splitting up presents, and we stopped avoiding spending time in which ever room the other was in.

This is how we told our friends. There's never a great way, but we sat down with respective laptops, agreed that I would do bad cop, and then Cattenberg would lighten it, and sent the following messages.



Me:
Dear all, 

[Cattenberg] and I wanted to send you a message to let you know that we are splitting up. It’s entirely amicable, and there’s no ill feeling, so we don’t want anyone to feel awkward about taking sides, or who to invite to what etc. We’ll still be living together for a time whilst we figure out logistics, and no doubt we’ll still like things on each other’s Facebook pages, and, occasionally, babysitting permitting, still go to the same events. We both feel that we’ve been living separately for a long time now and really this is just an acknowledgement of the way things are. We’ve still got family to tell, so we’d appreciate it if reference to this does not go on either of our facebook walls for a time.

Cattenberg:
What [Woodcat] said, basically. Mummy and Daddy love you all very much and this doesn't mean you'll have to go to a new school or split Christmas.



I think it went well, and that as friends we are awesome. As more than that we are significantly less, and I'm glad that we were brave enough, and honest enough, to allow each other to be happy by walking away. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A metaphor for life

I hate clothes shopping. I really do. It's time consuming, vacuous, and you can never find what you're looking for. Sometimes though, sometimes when you aren't looking, something catches your eye. Something beautiful, truly special. Invariably, it's out of your price range, and the sensible thing to do is just assume it won't suit you and walk on by. But sometimes... sometimes you convince yourself that you need to try it on and prove to yourself that it doesn't suit you, smother the ideal in the ugly reality. And often, it works. But sometimes... Sometimes you find yourself stood in the perfect dress, top, whatever. And now you're attached. You really like it. It withstood the test designed to eliminate the chaff. And you stand there. Unwilling to take it off. Unable to buy it. It is not yours, it never will be, and you've denied yourself the chance of imagining that it wasn't mean to be, that it wouldn't suit you, because you tried it, and you've never before found such a perfect fit. You contemplate your precarious bank balance. You change, and walk away. The sun shines brightly. You get on with your day, unable to shake the impression that you've made a mistake. Let's face it, you probably have.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A small, true ghost story

Some years before my Gran died, she moved into one of those retirement flats with the "come and help me because I fell" cords in every room. This meant getting rid of a load of stuff, mainly carbooting, but she also gifted some stuff. To me she gave a small Bakelite clock that I absolutely love. It doesn't work, but it's lovely, and someday I'll get it fixed.

Because the flat that we lived in when Kittencat was born was incredibly tiny, the clock stayed at my mum's. It wasn't wound, but, two days before Kittencat was born, it started to tick. When Kittencat was born, we had hellish problems feeding, raw skin, mastitis, all sorts of fun, and it took just over two weeks to get to a point where we didn't have to express and could just do it straight. Nobody wound the clock, yet it carried on ticking for a total of nineteen days, only stopping at the point where we had got the hang of things.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Physically, metaphysically, I'm starting to be less broken.

There's work to be done, and it's all going to get slowly documented on the other blog, but I'm starting to get better. The plan was always about fixing my brain, because I'd given up my body as a lost cause, but truthfully I feel INCREDIBLE. My brain works. My body is good because, well, I finally don't notice my body, mostly, because it works and it doesn't hurt. I walked about 4 and a half miles yesterday, at a pace, without needing my inhalers, and feeling ready to do more at the end of it, today all I have is a slightly dodgy stiffness at the tops of my legs. This time last year, a shorter excursion left me with a broken foot. I am better on a cellular level. I am happy, most of the time, I'm not anxious, my brain works, my skin is better, I look younger, and I am no longer down on myself, mostly because I am ace, and becoming more so. What I look like is doubtless a matter of taste, but I'm vital, healthy and excited by the world, and beyond that, what else is there? What I am not is in any way concerned about what others think of me. I'm awesome, and I'm only getting better. I'm mending myself, I'm mending my mother, and I'm building an increasingly large stack of knowledge that is only making me want to learn more and more.

So yeah, I'm happy about who I am. Not sure I've ever had that before, but there it is. 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Recollections of poverty in employment

When I was 26 or 27, I got my second proper grown up job, the first with a proper grown up salary. I'd been working in the resource and planning dept in a call centre, outsourcing to India meant we were all redundant, and the centre duly closed. I accidentally acquired a job as a software tester. Someone put my name to a company, I trotted along for an interview, told a couple of mucky jokes, and was told I'd fit in just fine. And so, three days after my old job ended, my new job began. Technically, it was quite a step up. I think I was earning £5000 a year more before tax. But my commute cost me £250 a month. Regularly we worked away, and although expenses could be claimed, they occurred in the following months salary. They'd go on your credit card, and any profit to be made from expenses would be lost in interest. My take home pay would be about £1400. So lets do some sums.

Lets take off £430 for rent. That leaves £970. Now lets take electric £80, on a single fuel bill there is no discount and having to heat an entire tank of water because you don't have a combi boiler costs, leaving £890. Lets take the rest of the bills, council tax, water, phone, internet (essential for occasional home working), mobile, tv license, roughly £200. That's £690. Now take transport, £250, leaving £440. Sounds good so far, right? Now take the inevitability of trying to pay off debts accrued from university, approximately £400 a month across a loan and a credit card.

£40 a month. I lived on that most months for three years. I am no stranger to the £6 (or less) a week food shop. Now on the outside, to a stranger unaware of my budget, I would have looked well off. They could have had no understanding of how precarious my life was, how easily the rug could have been pulled from under my feet.

Occasionally, working away would give me an extra £20 or £30 a month disposable income (and occasionally more, when, after weeks of living in hotel rooms off cold tins of beans, expenses would come through), and yes, I spent it on seeing my friends and going to gigs, and on social conventions like birthday and Christmas presents for my nephews. How terribly profligate of me. People I know will wonder how I managed to go out as much as I did. I largely went to gigs, a whole night out for £6, and although when I drank it was too much (and best forgotten), mostly it is possible to spend nothing in a bar, because soda water is usually free.

Even with a fuel bill of £80, my flat was freezing, in the winter even with its two inefficient storage heaters it was impossible to reach a temperature higher than 9 degrees, and that was only possible within 3 ft of the heater. My bedroom had no such luxury, and was much colder. I spent my evenings wrapped up like the Mitchelin man. I slept under numerous blankets, in hoodies and jogging bottoms with my hat on. I was surprisingly frugal with my electric consumption, unfortunately I think the clock on my meter for the economy 7 was wrong, so it was really never that economic.

People really have no idea what it means to be poor. Bear in mind that I never considered myself poor, but my situation was horribly precarious. If just one thing had gone wrong, everything would have crumbled.

So yes, before you judge those who don't look to be in need, just consider how fragile many lives are.

Friday, 7 March 2014

People.

I was too angry to write this yesterday. I'm still too angry, so I apologise. This will not be eloquent.

I heard people on the radio phoning in to talk about people in need using food banks. Judgemental, small minded people. Here is a selection of some of the disgusting things they said, things that boil my blood even now


"Fat people using food banks? They could do with with being hungry for a while, do them some good"

"Nobody with an iPhone should be allowed access to a food bank"

"If they can afford a range rover they don't need food banks"

"They can afford booze, they shouldn't have access to food banks"

"If people can't find work, why don't they just move?"

"If they can afford branded clothes, they shouldn't be using food banks"


There was more, but I shut my ears to those who've shut their hearts. Circumstances can change on a knife edge. We are advised, by parents, financial planning websites, that we should have a contingency of at least three months salary to buffer in the event of job loss. Be honest, how many people have that? How many people at the lower end of the earning world earn enough to put by even £50 a month? £10? £5? Even if they do, in the event of catastrophe, how long do savings last with fuel bills, rent or mortgages? Most people with a mobile phone are tied into a contract, phone companies won't release you because your circumstances change. And in the modern world, communication is vital in the work market. Should you sell your clothes for less than the value of rags, so that you will be deemed more worthy? You still need clothes, and how do you try and get back into work if you no longer look the part? The buffer once provided by savings, has been slowly eroded and replaced by credit. And when the rock falls from beneath your feet, the credit companies aren't sympathetic. They don't give you time. They will eventually negotiate payment plans, if you hound them enough. But most people are too scared. Too scared of the obligation, too scared of what they owe. Too scared of debt collectors, county court judgements. Too scared of losing everything. The limited help they may receive from the welfare system won't help them, and it's likely that they'll try and meet this debt using money that should be spent on food, on heating. And contrary to popular opinion, there are many reasons for being overweight, not simply greed. And those who are overweight do not have the luxury of being able to simply stop eating until they are thin enough to be deemed worthy, their bodies magically converting fat stores to energy in place of food. No, they will get malnourished, just the same as a thinner person. It is entirely possible to die of malnourishment and still be overweight. Their lack of compassion extended to those with children, families, breastfeeding mothers were shown no mercy. 

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." You people have no right to judge the circumstances of others. Outward appearances deceive, and when circumstances change quickly, it takes time to adapt. I could opt to sell my car, but how long it takes to sell unfortunately is not down to me. Selling possessions, moving house to find work, none of this can happen instantaneously. It can take months or longer. Starving on the other hand... That's a relatively quick process. So if you think you have the right to judge those in need because they don't look to you like they are in need, I'm afraid you're wrong. In every small minded, petty, measly way, you are wrong.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Curled up in my bed

For the briefest of moments, I felt keenly my solitude as I got into bed a moment ago. And then I remember the loneliness sharing a bed can bring.
I shall sleep soundly tonight.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Love Lost: #1

Not the first, and not the last, but one that still feels a shame, even after the passing of nearly ten years. He was my housemate and we met the day he moved in, about a week before the rest of the house came back after the summer. We danced like idiots to Infected Mushroom, and discovered that he'd been responsible for getting me shot in the boob at paintball the previous summer. The connection was instant, we knew each other immediately. Some people are simultaneously easy and exciting to know. That was us. Not in a sexual way, so far as I understood it. But we were best friends, we held each other semi-clothed watching cartoons in our hangovers, we loved each other and held no notable secrets. We occasionally slept together, just sharing a bed, nothing more, wrapped around each other, happy and peaceful. Not exciting, not excited, but there was peace, affection. We occasionally kissed. He always brightened my day. We talked about everything and anything.
It changed a little after University, but we were still close and we still talked all the time, and saw each other a lot. I never thought anything of it, but friends, family have subsequently commented on how close we were. Apparently we were "all over each other" in public, though it never felt like that, it was just natural to have our arms about each other in some way. But it wasn't like that. He had a girlfriend, and I was the flake I've always been. When I eventually moved back to Manchester, we spoke nearly every day.
The end came when I went to visit him one St Patrick's Day, many moons ago. Eight hours on a bus melted into nothing when I saw my best friend. Everything was the same, so easy, so happy. There was everything to talk about and talking about nothing, just as it always was. We walked arms around waist without a second thought on the way to book a restaurant for him and his girlfriend, who was visiting the night after. We made dinner; I was sceptical about wrapping bacon around a chicken breast in turn wrapped around half a banana, but it is still possibly the best chicken recipe I've ever tasted. And then we went out and got drunker and drunker. After many pubs, and even more beers, we ended up in a club where, no doubt due to my extremely short hair, I was getting a lot of attention from the ladies - short hair in West Country villages tends to elicit assumptions. Ever the gentleman, my friend pretended to be my boyfriend to alleviate this, but he was getting a little too into the role. I thought this was drunkenness, and didn't put too much store by it, but as we were stumbling home, wrapped around each other, he kept telling me he loved me. I assumed in the way I loved him, and kept saying "I love you too". But he wasn't. I pretended to misunderstand, safe in the knowledge that we'd get back, I'd pass out on the sofa and it would be back to normal in the morning. But we got back, and Peter Parker was asleep on the sofa. No pseudonyms here, he was actually called Peter Parker. Peter Parker, asleep, in a living room with a massive spider in a tank in the corner. So we bunked in. And he made a move, and I said no, you're drunk, you have a girlfriend, and you'll thank me in the morning. For a while he was quite insistent that I was wrong, but eventually he passed out. The next day was awkward, though we both professed it wasn't. And for me it wasn't. Not really. But after a fairly reserved, polite morning, I got on my bus. And we never spoke again. He married his girlfriend. I did the right thing. I lost my best friend. Once or twice I wondered if I should have behaved differently. But even though we were so much to each other, we weren't that. We never would have been that and for all I miss my friend, and will miss him until the end of days, we weren't that. Both of us very sexual people, but never a glimmer with each other. At least not for me. I loved the time I lived with my best friend, but it's a different sort of love, a different sort of intimacy, and if I'd acted differently that day I'd have been opening myself up to the possibility of settling for less than everything, to be happyish, but never quite happy enough. I will miss you forever.

Advance warning of a series of posts

I've been thinking a lot recently about intimacy, past relationships, stuff like that. I'm pretty happy, experience has taught me that to be single is infinitely preferable to me than being alone in company, nonetheless there will always be moments marked with poignancy, a tinge of regret despite having no desire for it to have been any other way. So please be warned, over the next few whatevers, posts may appear entitled Love Lost: #_. Entirely one sided, and no doubt entirely inaccurate, but not in anyway sad. For all that was, or was not, what is is so much more.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

AND RELAX

So my discussion was bordering on barely there, and my abstract is a little shoddy, and I based my argument largely on the premise of "Let's argue with Nathaniel Hawthorne", but the intro and the stats were fine, and my originality report came in with only 17% similarities to other sources on the web (all referencing).

So yeah. Fuck that shit, I'm going to sleep.