Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

What is it about being in your 40s that is so difficult?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

I’m 46 and I don’t care who knows it. I’m sure some of you would guess it and I’m sure others would argue I don’t look it. Only today I was told I don’t look old enough to have a 26 year old son or a grandchild. It was very nice of the complimentary person, but I don’t really care. I am 46 so would it matter if I looked it? Is there a secret special thing to looking younger? Will I be treated better? Who knows. Anyway, I’m 46. My biggest issues with my age are my utterly rubbish health and my wardrobe. Knowing I don’t care if I look 46 and then seeing me say I have a wardrobe problem doesn’t make much sense does it? Lots of people dress too old for their age, making them seem and act old before their time, a fixed attitude often gets adopted and the world shifts a little bit for every 40 year old who wears a calf length A-line skirt.

This is where I should insert a photographic example of a woman in an aging outfit but I was spoilt for choice. Google ‘frumpy’ and you’ll know what I mean.

It shifts even more for every 40 year old who steals nightclubbing outfits from their young adult offspring. A volcano erupts every time a 40 year old woman wears a plunging neckline or transparent top without a gravity-defying bra.

Perhaps a bra, madam?

A crevice appears in the streets of LA every time a 40 year old man renames himself Bert, wears braces and grows a handlebar moustache. Accept your reality and enjoy it. You don’t have to act like a 20 or 80 year old when you’re 40 (although if that IS your gig then enjoy it my friend, be happy), being 40 is great. Being 40 is all the experience with none (or little) of the incontinence. So who do we turn to to dress like ourselves but ourselves in our 40s? What shop is that recipe from? Jacamo? Wallis? I don’t know but I’ve yet to find the written rule book. There are obviously those words that don’t need to be spoken when a 48 year old man wields a replica 80s Adidas bag or when a woman of 47 buys a dress with cut aways in it.  On one hand I admire the determination to wear exactly what you want regardless of whether you’re slavishly following trends or whether you’ve worn this style of dress for 30 years and you’re not changing now; but on the other hand I feel like there should be more, a layer of shopping and fashion that is not round, one that we can’t access and have no help with  so can we be blamed for looking ridiculous or mundane beyond measure? Yes I’m judging, but I’m not just talking about the choices that we make, but also the choices that we have. Anyway, it’s nothing to worry about, if my crap is just crap, I’m not the Minister for Age-Appropriate Clothing for Ex-Goths and Metalheads, Post-Pubescent Punks and People Who Can’t Dress Down, Even 2 Weeks into a 2 Week Holiday. No, I’m just a person in their 40s trying to be comfortable with my style and questioning whether I ever had one. I have also watched my friends, who used to be hippies, heavy metal faithfuls, new romantics or punks really struggle with the ‘what do we wear now?’ question.

I’ve tried every kind of fashion, non-fashion and trend. Some are a disaster on me, others better, but really I’ve only known one style suit me all my life and I don’t even know if it suits me, I just like it and that’s enough. I bought my first nehru collared tunic from Phool with my Saturday job money at the age of 15. I have loved the simplicity of Eastern design for ever. The last time I bought such a thing was yesterday, a pretty shirt from East but I love kurta and admire a lot of the Asian designs my friends wear. I prefer plain but colourful or simple prints. The main difference, 25 years on, is the design, the accessories and mainly the person inside it.

The only think that seems to be a constant is the older you get the more you have to spend to look good. Where I used to be able to buy a high street dress/trousers from the likes of New Look or River Island I find that I have to pay a bit more and at the very least go to Next and M&S for the basics. I’m the UK average, a 16 and have had four kids. Let anyone who has had one baby fill you in on that, there’s a lot of things that can no longer defy gravity *grim nod*.

Other than the basics and apart from liking Eastern influenced design I have a huge fondness for European lagenlook (which means ‘layering look’ in German) . I have bought a number of pieces over the last few years including a Mary Portas dress which fits into the oversized, layering style of lagenlook that I bought just yesterday (it sounds like I’m always shopping but I’m not, I can’t remember the last time I came home with shopping bags containing clothes for me). Leaders in design of Lagenlook include Sarah Pacini, Rundholz, Privatsachen, Completo Lino, Hebbeding and, well the list is by no means exhaustive and I’ve found the odd piece that fits the look in Primark but that is unusual.

A beautiful outfit from Amalthee Creations. I adore it but the total of the three pieces is over £200. It’s undoubtedly good quality and well designed but ouch.


The clothes are normally very expensive and well made, they transcend the changing seasons of fashion but at the same time can be very edgy and fashionable. I have friends in Germany who are extremely chic with what appears to be no effort, which usually means it’s cost them a bob or two. I need a job with a better salary to enjoy such comfort but I keep buying bits and pieces and know that it is never wasted money (the resale on lagenlook is suprisingly good and very consistent). My difficulty with this style of clothing is that because it’s expensive and because I can’t afford much of it I can’t wear it to work on a daily basis because I can’t wear it consistently so I’d rather stick to relatively mundane for work and keep my happy clothes for outside of work.

One day, when my older children are out if uni and relatively self-sufficient or when I win the prize of a better-paid, more enjoyable job, or even when my ship comes in, I’ll wear what I want all the time. I’m sure it will look great with grey hair.

The Death of a Lonely Bewildered Widow

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Like the biggest tragedies throughout the history of Great Britain, the loss of our industry and the discouragement of social responsibility through the lives of an entire generation is something that continues to cause pain to the people of this country, it is an open wound, unfinished business, an unrepented sin against the working people.

The death of Margaret Thatcher is not something that should be celebrated, in my view, it is sad. It is sad that the irony of her death is not realised by her home county buddies. That her children barely saw her as she lost her grip on reality, that her so-called friends thought the best thing for this frail, demented, elderly widow was to put her in a hotel, thereby fulfilling their responsibilities toward their ‘friend’ in the twilight of her day. She died, like many old people in today’s society – alone, not really cared about, dealt with; those who were meant to be there had consciences clear. Why did this happen? It happened because in three terms as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher may well have led the country with authority but she did so by pushing down the poor, encouraging selfishness and greed in those who wanted a better life and made them believe that by putting themselves first and trying to attain more wealth they could achieve that better life. She did very well, and her buddies in power today continue to do this well. So she died in a manner befitting, with no one considering her, no one caring, all too busy making their own money and using it to put her where they didn’t have to think about her. That is what she considered was the right way to live and so it must be the right way to die, for her. It’s very sad though, as a human being I feel sorry for her in death and the way she was left to decay, regardless of her unforgivable behaviour in life.

I won’t be celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I think my time is better spent thinking about the families and communities who were torn apart by the loss of the coal and steel industry and the people who lost an important part of their souls along the way to their success. The behaviour of the bankers who caused this new tragedy of global financial despair lived exactly by the words of Margaret Thatcher and they continue to rake it in while the poor really do continue to reach breaking point (that’s the point that’s so far under the breadline that most of us can’t comprehend it). My Nan, in the final days of her life, with all those she loves around her, told me that the important things in life were the ones you need to take the most care of and she also told me that there are no pockets in a shroud. At the end of your life, all that wealth she encouraged people to accumulate, that stays here and you leave. You are no better off in the ground a rich man than a poor man. I’m sad for Margaret because she didn’t have my Nan’s wisdom.

An Email to Alec Shelbrooke

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Yesterday Alec Shelbrooke MP tabled a bill to introduce the ‘Welfare Card’. I believe this to be a further worrying development in the Conservative war against the poor. I felt I had to bring a few of my concerns to Mr Shelbrooke’s attention. I realised after sending this that I did not raise the question of purchasing toys for child development, birthdays or christmas or how people on limited incomes, who usually buy replacement white goods second hand in a cash transaction are meant to replace a broken cooker or fridge. I apologise for any important points I didn’t raise. If you feel that you can make further points please do email him before the second reading of his bill. If Mr Shelbrooke takes the time to respond I will update this blog with his response.

Hello Mr Shelbrooke,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. From the outset I should state I am not in support of this card and believe this, the Universal Credit scheme and almost every other Welfare Reform to be ill-conceived and ill-considered. I had a listen to your speech and have a number of points and queries I’d like to raise.

You suggest that there will be no stigma attached to the introduction of this card. Is it your intention that the card will look exactly like a standard debit card or do you have designs for it to be clearly different, as with the Australian ‘basic’ card model which defines the user as someone on benefit and has been the cause of humiliation for many people at the checkout . This detail I believe is very important as dignity is something that you, I have no doubt, wish to allow the claimants.

You wish to limit the use of the card to ‘essential’ items. I’m very keen to know what you consider to be essential items? You stated food and clothing but made no mention of paper products. Will people be allowed to purchase daily newspapers, writing materials, stamps and other stationary?

Would this card system allow the user to buy from any supermarket with a card machine or would it limit their use to the big three or four and prevent shoppers from seeking a better deal in discount stores such as Aldi or Lidl. One may look down the nose at Aldi or Lidl, considering Tesco or Asda to be the main shops of choice but I can assure you that as a family with 2 full time earners and 1 part time earner we cannot afford to shop regularly at any of the bigger food shops. My years of budgeting have taught me to analyse and compare and since changing my shopping habits I have saved well over £1000 a year in food bills. I cannot imagine it would be in the tax payers interests, therefore, to limit the use of the card to the more expensive stores.

I have a concern that the shops and outlets which cannot afford the use of card machines will be destined for certain failure. Independent news agents, corner shops, market stalls etc would not be able to survive the drop in income that may occur due to this proposal. The lifeblood of Britain is its market towns and its corner shops. One cannot state enough that anything that does not safeguard the identity of small towns and high streets in Britain should be rethought. Is the government going to freely supply card machines to all small shops and market stall holders so that they can continue to benefit from the custom of all of their potential customers? If so am I paying for those card machines?

How would parents pay for clubs such as youth clubs, sports clubs, brownies, scouts, st johns ambulance and many other great character building clubs that run on a subs basis? Are we to say that things that give children an outlet and a focus are a luxury too? I don’t think they are, in fact, I believe in a home where there is no working role model (whether by choice or misfortune) that such clubs become even more essential to those children. And whilst I realise that most poor and underpaid families can rarely afford to give their children money the importance of them being able to do so cannot be underestimated. Parents need to reward their children and children, especially teenagers need to feel like they are part of society and having some sort of income is essential to meet their needs. As a tax payer I do not resent the idea of unemployed or low-paid parents being able to treat their children by allowing them to make independent purchases. I’m sure you remember going to a record store to buy your first LP or going to the youth club disco or summer trip. These are important steps in any child’s life, whatever their background.

If a low earnings family wish to take a budget-conscious holiday such as a camping holiday how can they do so without the physical cash to pay for it? Are we to say that non-working and low-paid working families do not have the right to expect a holiday? Do these children not deserve a holiday?

The suggested uses of the card you mentioned included paying fixed costs such as rent, energy, tv licence etc. Will this be money that is ring-fenced on that card so it can only be accessed by a different pin number? This would prevent the monies for these fixed costs being accidentally spent by people who may have no head for figures, no experience in budgeting etc and who have an unexpected cost in their month (for example broken heating, car troubles, etc). If a family uses the money that should be paid to landlords for other items then their housing will come into jeopardy. I believe that the monthly payments intended under the universal credit and this card will, together, cause a huge rise in homelessness amongst families and will, as a result of this, lead to greater costs to the tax payer in the way of emergency housing and rehousing.

Will any of these families be offered budget advice and guidance?

How can these families use the card to pay for taxis? Many families in the low/non income bracket cannot afford to pay for a car and rely on taxis to bring home their weekly shopping. Not every person in Britain lives within walking distance of a supermarket and if they are unable to shop at those places and get their heavy shopping home then they will be forced to use smaller and more expensive ‘convenience’ stores, which as you know, is a poor use of anyone’s budget. Most private taxi firms do not have EPOS machines in their cars and the costs of introducing them to all private taxis would be prohibitive and only be productive to the EPOS manufacturers and the banks.

I am interested in what entertainment items would be allowed using this card. Would people be allowed to buy books and music or should all poor people be culturally bereft? Would they be allowed to use the card to pay for a trip to the cinema or theatre? What about theme park entry for those families who will never be able to save for any kind of holiday but taking a day trip to Blackpool or a theme park would help shape their children’s memories. Would they be able to purchase broadband? If not would broadband be supplied for free to households who need to use this card? I ask because we have seen a huge increase in library closures under both this and the last government and the only access to the internet which many people in the low income bracket have is in the library. The United Nations tell us that internet access is now a human right. How will this right be supported if the card does not allow broadband to be purchased or a free service supplied to these households. How are these people who rely on Universal Credit to access those credits without the access to the internet. I believe that any changes in the way monies are paid to people being supported by tax payers money must be considered carefully to avoid unnecessary infringement of human rights and dignity.

I understand that the Australian model of the welfare card, which has come under both praise and heavy criticism has not reduced gambling in the Northern Territories where it has been tried. I also understand that thoughtless implementation of the scheme means that the card user is unable to make very basic purchases such as jeans!

I believe that the Australian scheme allows the card a certain amount of money for things like alcohol and cigarettes and does not disallow them entirely and this is an important thing. By over-parenting the recipients of welfare the government does not make the recipient more responsible it reduces their personal choices and personal freedom. By implementing this card you will be implementing an unequal system where those who are fortunate enough to have jobs that pay enough are allowed to make all their own choices and those who do not have a job or are exploited in low paid jobs do not only have the humiliation of being in that situation but are also ‘monitored’ by the state to make sure they are being good boys and girls. For my money, and it is my money you’re spending, I have no issue with people who face poor job prospects and endless days of rejection having a drink occasionally or having a cigarette to manage what must be intolerable stress. I have no problem with them trying to make the most of that money by bartering with the second hand shop or market stall. I believe that, if implemented this card system will further increase the distance between rich and poor and further alienate the people from their government. If your government is the ‘working person’s government’ why on earth would you suggest that low-income earners should be forced to use these cards?

My parents are live long Tories, but increasingly since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition has been in place there are changing their minds about what makes a good government, or rather your government is changing it for them. I will never be a Tory for almost every reason I can think of, however that does not negate my views on your bill. Please take my questions in serious consideration. I may be a wage earning fully independent member of society but I have been in a place where every penny counted and my dignity needed to be intact for me to move forward.

Planning or the Absence Thereof

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I’m not even going to pretend to be any kind of expert in sociology or policy.  I’m not going to pretend to be poor, although I have been. There was a time in my life as a divorced mum, working in a number of part time jobs, that I got by by going around kwiksave with my head down, never changing the list, never buying biscuits, squash, sauce, soft loo roll, etc. I never had new things, we lived in second hand clothes, I never had a car and didn’t take holidays. I was 35 before I had Sky TV and went to the cinema about once a year.

Today I work full time and earn a low but steady wage, my husband earns reasonably too, albeit by working 50-60hrs a week. We are currently ok, but if my disability becomes increasingly problematic (as it is threatening to be) then we may have problems, mainly because we no savings other than in the equity of a house that we’re unable to sell in a financial crisis. We feel lucky though, we have our own house and know that if times turn harder we could rent a room out and make ends meet.  We live on a nice street but just a street away there is evidence of extreme poverty. I live in Birmingham edging on Sandwell and this evidence is everywhere. I see stressed people. I also see a real lack of job opportunities and an increasing lack of hope.

The Guardian (who are doing a stunning job of reporting attacks on those who cannot defend themselves and the very nature of British society) have noted London council plans to assist people to be rehoused to cheaper accommodation in yorkshire, hull etc.  I’ve seen an unsubstantiated report that Haringey council are planning on/already in the process of rehoming people to Birmingham. Let’s think about that for a minute. Birmingham where the Birmingham Mail reported in December last year that we are currently only building half the housing stock necessary and that the West Midlands as a whole has a housing crisis. Birmingham where the Post reports we have the highest unemployment rates in the country. In 2008 the Guardian reported that Birmingham was the epicentre of child poverty in Britain. Oh but that was then, this is now, now we see that 46% of children in Ladywood are living in poverty. So for every two children you see in Ladywood you know one of them is potentially going hungry. We see that food banks here are one of the few growth projects. I could go on, fuel poverty, crime rising, you name it, we’ve got it. (Don’t tell my mum, I don’t want her to worry.)

How can moving people to places already riddled with difficulties help them or the area they’re moved to? Do you think this will make the people happier. Are we to get extra funding? Extra youth clubs? Hm, doubtful. I reckon we may see extra food banks though.

The only comforting thought when councils make ridiculous statements like ‘To live in Westminster is a privilege, not a right‘ is that they will be able to boast of plenty of job opportunities in the lower end of the job market in their area because no one will be able to afford to live there and fill those vacancies. The other comforting thought is that while more and more unemployed, desperate people flood the west midlands seeking low rent accomodation  then the area will need increasing numbers of drug & alcohol workers, nurses, teachers, council staff and police.  Yay for social engineering.