Wasn’t There Supposed to Be Cake?

Hey Hey Guys!!

Cake is a curious thing.

It’s something that is expected in certain situations, can have strong connotations and memories associated with it, the taste, the texture, the scent, the colour. Where you had a certain piece and how it made you feel.

Then there is cake in a general sense. It appears in certain situations; birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… funerals.

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Have you ever noticed (well, you will have, even if you don’t immediately realise it) that cake is often present to¬†sweeten the pill in horrible situations?

mood cookies

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg...

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg…

Now, I’m going togeneralise here and cast the¬†same net over certain biscuits as well as cakes. In¬†fancy waiting rooms, there is often a sweet “treat”. You might be offered a slice of battenburgh with a beverage, or a very British, Victoria Sponge, if you are particularly fortunate (and so help¬†you god if you mention the fact that¬†you recognise that cheap, dry sponge and overly sweet, grainy filling as the ¬£1 round you get from the co-op when you are absolutely desperate for a favour to take to the neighbours’ BBQ).

homemade cupcakes

homemade cupcakes

**As a wee aside, I actually hate Battenberg cake and am always bitterly disappointed to see it in a selection. Marzipan is the devil. It is always a bad omen.**

I absolutely HATE Battenberg...

I absolutely HATE Battenberg…

The thing is, there are some situations where cake is a terrible omen. Whether you are presented with a stale selection of sponges that might be the same ones you declined from your elderly neighbour, or strike gold with one of those pick ‘n mix boxes of biscuits, the result is always the same and always two-fold; the custard creams, jammy ones, cookies and anything containing chocolate are snapped up as soon as the seal is broken and the Garibaldis’ and those weird little wrinkly edged ones that taste like cardboard and aren’t quite a tea biscuit, nor a shortbread, are always left neglected. And you are in for some serious news. Generally, bad.

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See, these are the sweets and semi-sweets that are broken in places like hospitals, doctors surgeries, lawyers offices. Places where there is a 50/50 chance you were to nervous to have lunch before you went there so just swigged from the open wine bottle in the fridge, put on you best “I’m totally in control” mask and walk in there like you’re heading to the gallows. Those who run these establishments know this and it means all sort of paper work for them if they have a client pass out on them, so they try to gently pump you full of sugar.

But when I got my bad news today, it was over the phone. I was on my way back to my (soon to be vacated) flat. I was outside. So I ask you;

Wasn’t there supposed to be cake?

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SSDD

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The Yellow House By The Sea

Hey Hey Guys!!

Inverclyde Council have passed a motion to have a bright yellow house re-painted, citing it as being “too bold” for the local area.

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The Varese family have spent £3,000 painting the front of their house yellow, making it a ray of sunshine on an otherwise grey, waterfront street.

The decision to force the family to cover the yellow is based on an that is almost as archaic as the idea of paying for produce with buttons; an official statement in the initial planning report said:

The bright yellow and gold tones of the dwelling are not colours which would traditionally have been used on a house of this period style or have been found within this part of the Greenock West End Conservation Area.

“The colours form an intrusive feature within the streetscape and are therefore not appropriate.

“There is no objection to the use of colour on The Esplanade to add variety to the appearance.

“However, the shades would require to be derived from soft, pastel hues found in traditional limewashing which are appropriate to the period of the buildings.”

Basically, in keeping with traditionalism, the house shouldn’t be that colour.

Let us ask ourselves; who is this hurting? Laws have been passed recently that “break from tradition” as they have been seen as outdated and irrelevant – allowing gay people to legally marry, for instance, women being Bishops (because being a woman totally makes you less holy and connected to God, of course, because that makes perfect sense…)

If a mans home is his castle, why shouldn’t that castle be any colour you want it to be? Why should a persons vision of ideal and happiness be limited to the imagination of the few who dictate the norm?

Some people live in Mansions, others cottages. Yet, do the walls around them decide how satisfied the occupant is to live there? Does the colour on the outside reflect the worth of the dweller within?

Of course not. We all have the right to live where and how we wish. So the wall is yellow. So is the sun. So are buttercups. So are bananas. Are the council now going to pass a motion that nothing yellow can be seen for fear of being seemed too obnoxious?

So, the current occupants say they will not re-paint the house unless the council come in with a bull-dozer. Personally, I’m on their side. Lighten up, Inverclyde!

SSDD

Are You Happy In Your Job? Neither’s America!

Are you happy at your job?

Think about it – are you¬†really happy doing whatever you’re doing?

Phillip DeFranco’s Youtube¬†video the other set me onto an interesting thing.¬†A social experiment was conducted recently in America and it turns out the American dream ain’t all so accessible for 52% of Americans. That’s how many people were said to be unsatisfied in their job and that the “perks” of working in certain establishments, such as games rooms and massage parlours and free catered meals and casual Thursdays, beer Fridays, health care and dental and whatnot, are not enough to grant them overall satisfaction in their work. 18% said they were “actively disengaged”.¬†Essentially these people are just slumped over their desks, buggering about, pressing a few keys then slipping off for a beer to take the edge of the boredom.

What makes me sad is that only 30% felt their job to be “actively engaging or inspiring“. In a population of millions, in a country apparently busting at the seams with opportunity and preaching happiness and fulfillment and all that overly positive¬†Americanness, such a tiny number of people have actually found that.

What does that say about the productivity of such a vast country? If they can have the amount of influence that they do with only 30% of people actually doing any properly motivated work, can you imagine the madness that would ensue if the other 70% were engaged?? It would either become a world so overrun by sunshine and productivity that the actual sun would feel like an underachiever and find another solar system (assuming of course it isn’t an unmotivated working class American, of course, in which case it would probably just¬†stop shining) or it would be¬†complete carnage!¬†War. Need I say any more? They’re already farting rainbows over there, who’s to say what could happen!

When_The_Sun_Is_Gone_by_artofkerem

Which made me think. This isn’t even the number of people who are not doing the job they want, that dream job that has everything they are looking for in a satisfying occupation – these are just the people who are doing¬†a job, one to get by, get some money, get paid and go home. What of the people who got the dream job – then discovered it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

I’m under no illusions. In a society so uncertain of its future, life seems to be filled with “just getting by” moments, people doing what they can for money to support themselves and their families – but isn’t that such a crap way to live?? Argue that life is full of winners and losers, people who get what they want and people who don’t and that it all comes down to whoever has the balls to go out and get what they want¬†gets it, but I think that’s a load of bull.

happy accordion player

happy accordion player

That’s like saying those 52% of unhappy people never tried to achieve their dream. Maybe they did. Maybe it just didn’t quite workout. Maybe they wanted to¬†make it as a street accordion player, but unfortunately, the public were more into skater haired street buskers at the time. Gutted for them. Now they sell insurance in a call center.

Forget that – who is to say they’ve even decided what they want to do with their lives and are just trundling along at half speed til they can work it out.¬†I’m 19 and I’m currrently trying to work out what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life. There are times when I think “well Gem, you’ve made a royal balls up of your life so far, what are you going to do about it??”¬†Terrifyingly (though not altogether unexpectedly) the general response from that voice in my head is either silence or… “…fuck if I know, you control the legs in this situation, you work it out!”¬†Yeah, coz the voice in my head is extraordinarily rude, by the way. Should probably have a word with it about that actually…

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

So now I’m wondering; what can the people represented in that awful stat do about it? Can they do anything? Go back to that accordion and hope the market’s changed? Get a hair cut and conform for the sake of a taste of success? How do you even¬†measure success. I think it’s personal. If you are satisfied then surely that’s a job well done? You might not have millions in the bank, but you will be rich in spirit.

From the sounds of America, this whole appearance of total contentment in life is a facade, a nation wide pass time of pretence and self disillusionment. Maybe they should take a look at a happy busker, an old man¬†and his accordion. A guy¬†who took up the art again after years wasted in a desk job, having given up on the dream of his youth ; chances are there are holes in his shoes and a couple of missing buttons on that old thing, but I’ll bet there’s a smile on his face. Because he’s¬†made it; he’s playing to his audience. Whether they listen or not is irrelevant – that little bugger with the cool hair has gone home… I hear he sells insurance now…

SSDD

Sometimes We Must Weep For Kismet

I think of myself as being open minded. I may not be religious, but I believe in¬†something being out there, exerting some kind of control over the goings on of the world. A tweak here, a nudge there. Maybe even a big ol’ slap in a certain direction from time to time.

But there are some things that make me hope to (a metaphorical) god that there is some kind of quantifiable reason for. Because if there’s not – whatever force influences us is a bit of a scummy entity.

s-JUSTIN-STANFIELD-THOMAS-large http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/08/justin-stanfield-thomas-killed_n_3407551.html

I encountered this story on the Huffington Post Crime and it made me feel sick. A father and his 4 year old son went to visit a friend. Somehow, the boy got hold of a gun fired it. The bullet hit his father. His father is now dead.

Some things you hear make you weep for the way the world spins. Surely this proves American gun laws are stupid. Surely this is another nail in the coffin of the argument in favour of guns being allowed in private residencies; a coffin, I might add, which has now got to be so riddled with nails that it resembles a giant stud ball, by the way. Kids are still getting hold of guns, even if this was an accident – guns. and. people. = bad. I am quite sure residents can look after their homes without them.

No more details are known, other than the fact that the father and son were visiting a friend and the bot is now with his mother. I have no idea how or why the gun came to be in that child hands, but the fact remains that it did. And now a man is dead.

Something has to change.

What if that gun had blown off the head of the 4 year old? Would that have been better? Worse? No, it would still have been tragic. It just means that now someone has to have the job of telling that poor child the truth when he asks why daddy isn’t still around. Can you imagine how that conversation might progress?? Oh, I’m sorry sweetie, you shot him when you were 4. Now he’s dead and you are to blame. Well, American gun laws are also to blame. But still, you killed him.

He may have pulled the trigger, but as far as I am concerned, America handed him the gun.

 

SSDD

Today, The Tyranny of Thatcher Is Truly Burried

Today, the tyranny of Margaret Thatcher was finally laid to rest. Literally.

Great Britain’s longest serving and only female Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, was granted a funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

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More than 2,000 guest were present in the cathedral, which has served as the funeral location for some of the nations most famous leaders, including Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.¬†Lady Thatcher’s coffin was carried from the cathedral and returned to a hearse which took it to the Royal Hospital Chelsea. From there is was taken to Mortlake Crematorium in south west London for a private cremation.

The streets of the capital were lined with thousands, the crowds containing both of mourners and critics. Celebrations were held across the country, some in commemoration of her life and rich political history, others in jubilation at her death, aged 87.

Famous in this country for all the wrong reasons, haters of this prominent figure of British political history seemed to grossly outnumber her supporters. Not only was she the first and only female Prime Minister we have ever seen, she was the longest serving. During her 11 year rule her decisions inspired much hate and controversy, implementing policies which became known as “Thatcherisms“. Despite her strong leadership in difficult times, to say she was popular now would be wildly inaccurate.

_67056105_67056104Without a doubt she was not the working mans candidate, favouring business over labour, privitisation over Trade Unions. She had several names. The Iron Lady, for one. Know as “The Milk Snatcher”, she took free milk from schools in 1970 as a result of educational budget cuts.

Her name will forever be synonymous with some of the darkest times of Great Britain’s history, but the public reaction to her death has been something utterly unprecedented. Instead of laying to rest a political figure who divided a nation, she has died as she lived – in a haze of controversy and antagonism.

Upon word of her death from a stroke, parties were held in the streets, including one in George Square in Glasgow, a practice that was quick to be condemned by the local police force. Protesters today were in uproar at the fact that, despite these times of austerity, the taxpayer was still obliged to fork out an estimated £10m for the pleasure of seeing her burried with honours similar to those of the late, and much loved, Princess Diana.

Margaret_Thatcher

Yet despite her many¬†adversaries, final respects were payed to her with cheers as her body was taken to be cremated. Few deserve to be jeered and spat at, purely in spite, in anger, in disgust at their audacity to die. While her policies may have been unpopular, many of those disrespecting her memory were not even born during her reign. Such barbarism is deplorable, especially from those who are uneducated and had no experience of her a leader. This behaviour is an example of inherited prejudice. Perhaps now that she is gone, such anger will finally dissipate and this country can rid itself of Thatcherites and move on to hating David Cameron for his failing efforts at “New Conservatism”.

No politician gets it right for long, as the Baroness so acutely demonstrated. Yet it cannot be said that her career was a failure, It id certain that she has left an indelible mark on our country. Whether that mark is a light or a smear, is for the individual to decide.

 

MARGARET THATCHER, 1925-2013

BBC News Gallery of Margaret Thatchers Funeral

SSDD

Aside

Is 20 Years Old, Old?

Is 20 years old, old?

I am approaching my 20th year on this here planet and I have got to thinking – is 20 old, or young?

Reaching your second decade means you are no longer a teenager. But what does that actually mean? Does it mean you must leave the land of youth and frivolity, depart with silly decisions and “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments? Are these things which should be left behind, remnants of a carefree past and a life lead with empty-headed trust in the sureness of your own future, to be replaced with the trudging tread of maturity?

In today’s society there is the argument that “children” stop being children much earlier than before. When once someone might be considered a child right up to their late teens, we are seeing 13 and 14 year olds parading about like their elder peers, in a way I certainly wouldn’t have had to the nerve to at that age. Even now, as I prepare to leave my adolescence behind, I still often feel like half my actual age!

So is it a generation thing or a personal state of mind? Scottish Parliament passed a bill just a couple of days ago to give 16 year olds the vote. Now, at just 16, we can vote, get married, smoke, enlist in the armed forces. By 18 we can drive and drink too (preferably not at the same time), so where, then, do we draw the line under childhood?

My friend today turns 20, but I doubt he woke up this morning thinking, right, time to dig out the tie and get in the sensible car to join the production line heading to the 9-5 office job. He will have woken up thinking yas, party time! Just because we are older does not necessarily mean we are any wiser, nor that we have to give up our childhood hopes and dreams. But it does make me wonder if, or when, we should.

When I finally abdicate me teenage throne, I hope I ascend to a similarly intriguing adult one. And I hope too that I feel mature enough to hold it’s mantle. This past year has aged me past my 19 years in many ways, and made me appreciate my youth. It always irked me when people older than me said “savour your youth, your only young once!” Now I realise, they are right. But you are only old once too. Immaturity is the blissful ignorance of adulthood, and adulthood the learned weariness of experience. To¬†alleviate some of that¬†languor, perhaps we should remember what it is to be young again?

Take a leaf out of that lazily filled in diary from your youth and add it to your senior memoir.

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SSDD

Taxing Top Earners For Being Too Rich and the Poor for Not Being Poor Enough

So you’ve spent your entire life building up a company, working your way from the very bottom wrung til you’re in the position you currently preside in, top dog, King/Queen of the Company. You don’t work for a bank, you drive a sports car because you can and sure, you’re mansion has a maid, but you need one for while you’re tending to the horses.

Well, says the government, seeing as your property is worth quite a bit more than the average British home and you’ve spent your entire life working to be able to afford such luxuries, I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to give a little more of that back… in taxes…

Liberal Democrat Logo

It is not difficult to see why the proposed Lib Dem “Mansion Tax”¬†is not being best received. Business Secretary Vince Cable said on Monday 24th at the Lib Dem Party Conference of the tax that:

“It terrifies the Tory backwoodsman but it is popular and right. The super rich can’t move their chateaux to Monaco or Switzerland so let’s get on with it and tax them here.”

Vince Cable, Business Secretary

Consider his implication here; not only are politicians across the board happy to be taxed on properties they most likely bought as they could get a ridiculously good deal on them from not being taxed, he was outright stating that members of the public found this appealing as well. One thinks he might need to get out of the office, because it seems more likely that these “supporters” are in fact also known as “imaginary¬†friends”.

Benefits and taxes. Bored already? Not surprising! But it’s an issue of extreme contention in the UK right now because of the extremely erratic handling of it we’ve seen here since the coalition take-over. They whole system is under immediate review, but there is very much a tug-of-war situation between the Torys and Lib Dems as each side fights for maintain their own parties integrity, solve the real problems at hand, as well as pander to the favour of the public in efforts to keep voters.

One of the long term plans of the government to cut public spending is to ‚Äúrefine‚ÄĚ the welfare and benefits system by ¬£10B ‚Äď in other words, they want to catch out all those cheats that are continually slipping through their nets with utterly ridiculous claims that are somehow legitimate due to legal loop holes that need closing. However, they also plan to raise foreign aid by ¬£12B. How on earth do they think these kinds of numbers balance!? On what planet do those sums make sense? I would say a few quid could be saved in sacking whoever is producing that kind of arithmetic anomaly.

To make these cuts they have decided upon two courses of action – tax top earners to the point where a doctor might as well be making the same as a brick layer, and catch the cretins who are quite simply, at it.

At least they have realised that the real fraudsters are not people who claim disability or incapacity benefit for an illness that some people (usually a vast minority of sufferers) are able to hold down work with. They have finally come to the oh-so-astonishing realisation that it is the families who claim things such as, ‚ÄúWe simply must have this ¬£34,000 worth of benefits per year, because there is just no other accommodation suitable for our three kids in the area that is affordable and, of course, it would be just cruel to ask them to share a bedroom, I mean, they are each and entire year apart in age, and they all have their little friends at school and they‚Äôre ever so close to them‚Ķ yes they are only five and six and the little four year old ‚Äď bless her- hasn‚Äôt started yet but see, they‚Äôre just so rooted in this are of middle-class suburbia‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

True story, by the way ‚Äď neither parent in that household had worked in several years and both had claimed some form of incapacity benefit for a period of that time (funnily enough, it was long enough for them to not have to go out and find a job and instead claim job seekers allowance over that period‚Ķ hm. Funny that, eh?) So while their neighbours were working 40-50 hour weeks and struggling to pay the mortgage that accompanies rural England and the 2.4 kids lifestyle, they were luxuriating in‚Ķ utter luxury.

Lawyers are now claiming that the same private schools that were once the utopia of our countries great thinkers and legal minds are now out with even their reach. Considering barristers are amongst our countries top earners it would not be silly to find this concerning.

For example, with fees of over £20,000, only 6% of the population are thought to be able to legitimately be able to afford all boys private domain Harrows School and only 7% of children in the UK now attend a fee paying educational facility.

Harrow School

Yet, despite this irrefutable information, as well as statistics showing over a 30% decrease in private school enrolment from the past 20 years and more than 54% of current entrants now coming from millionaire families, the government still feels that an appropriate way to crack down on the benefit fraudsters is to tax the top earners.

I am in no way in favour of those who play the corporate game at the expense of the grafting public, but when those big earners become the ones who also suffer, perhaps after decades of building personal wealth through genuine hard study, that is when we should begin to see an issue of balance.

Because there is a pool of money does not necessarily mean the government should be dipping into it; this seems to be something they do not quite seem to be grasping. Especially when it comes to the fact that it is not actually their money to be slicking their palms with.

 

SSDD