Reconnecting With the People That Matter

Hey Hey Guys!

Travel is exciting. But it has a down side.

my parents and I

my parents and I in Barcelona

It’s been 4 months since I saw one of my best friends. Since I came home just over 2 weeks ago I have tried my best to get back in touch with all the people I’ve missed most since I left, which hasn’t been easy given, you know, people having lives and all that.

And one of my lovely ladies has been particularly elusive given that she works every hour of the day and never takes a break. But today, we had a wee lunch date! As soppy as it might sound, but when i say that 4 foot 10 little lady walking towards me, I really felt happy. I have felt this way another three times since I landed back in Scotland. The first time was when I saw my parents coming towards me as I waited in the airport lounge. Granted, my grin was likely to have been marred somewhat by the frigid air blowing in from outside, but the sentiment was the same.

The second time was when the knock, knock, knocking on my door, a week after I got home, announced the arrival of two of my other best friends. I was dressed in all my glamour, bobbin’ robin pyjama bottoms, no make-up and messy bun, of course. 😉 When you see friends like that, you cannot fake the grin that pastes itself on your face, nor the rosy glow that flushes your cheeks.

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The third was when my best friend at uni and I caught up. The first thing I did was laugh at how much I missed her Northern accent and, other when she broke the news that her radio show was being cut (R.I.P Fred McCauley show!!!!!) I didn’t stop laughing til I realised I wouldn’t be getting another hug from her til after the New year! Noooooooooo!! (Love you Lambie 😛 )

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So when I saw said friend today, it was much the same feeling. I knew she has been working hard, knew her beloved dog had been sick, yet here she was, with me, and it was lovely.

Super thoughtful Christmas present!

Super thoughtful Christmas present!

Ew, whipped cream... dat Carrot Cake though!

Ew, whipped cream… dat Carrot Cake though!

Present exchanges and several hours of gabbing and puppy adoration later (her dog was sick but is back being a bundle of joy again! This coming from someone who hates dogs…) and we both had other places to be. Life is a pain sometimes.

But seeing her today made me realise something. That is me, now. I have seen everyone I care most about since my return home. I have reconnected with the people who have stayed in touch with me, despite the ocean of distance that separated us for so many months. Just in time for the new year.

I hope that this is a sign. I hope that this is a symbol that these are the people I am going to travel into 2015 with, hand in metaphorical hand, no matter whether we bring in the bells on Hogmanay together or apart. I’m not really one for the whole, new year, new me, business, but I’m hoping that it’s going to be a new year, same people to share it with, kind of deal.

I have made so many new friends this past few months and I hope that I will encounter many of them again in the future. But I have also missed the connection I have with those I left at home. I have been with my best friends since I was 5. They are a stirling group of gals and I wouldn’t replace them for the world.

We have seen each other through the elated highs and most proud successes. We have stressed over every exam and bitched about every teacher. We got drunk together for the first time and held back hair when the times that came after went a little too far. Boys had no secrets and every outfit for first dates was a group decision.

They held my hand when I literally thought I was going to die and we have no secrets. I want to share the rest of my life with them because they have saved me and brought me back from the brink when I was on the verge of my sanity. It’s a bigamist marriage, of sorts. Each one of them is a gem and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

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Love you ladies.

SSDD

Studying in Barcelona – Part 1 – ANTICIPATION

SO I spent the past couple of months studying in BARCELONA – y’know, just casually, no big 😉

And I thought I would share my experiences here. I haven’t got a set number so I’m just going to be posting them as they come to me. This first one was actually published on the wonderful site of Soapbox Press, who kindly let me write a few articles about my travels. So here it is, the first post about my adventures in Spain – ENJOY!

Also, check out Soapbox Press! 😀 http://soapboxpress.co.uk/

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

Growing up and growing old come with a myriad of choices and expectations. And I  am going to be delivering you with a series of articles about how some of these choices have affected me.

Towards the end of high school you have to decide when to leave school; whether to go to University or college or just to get a job and work your way up; if you go on to further education, where and to study what; if you should move out; if that thing with that guy was just a party thing or if he’s actually the one… the new responsibilities are endless and the choices you make now can affect your entire life.

I am in my 3rd year of a Multimedia Journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian University. I decided to take a deviation of the academic route by going to University (the “academic” thing) but doing a degree that would allow me to be be creative as well as learn (the “artistic” route).

Since I was 15 years old, I was determined that I would make it to University. I had always been a hard worker and my grades were good. But I knew that the competition for a subject such as journalism was fierce, so I got my hand into as much freelance and work experience as I could and when crunch time came – I made the cut! From 800 applicants, I was one of the lucky 36 to be accepted.

A huge part of picking your University id working out if the options it offers are right for you. What services and opportunities will it provide to get you where you want to be, and if you are not sure yet (as so few 16-20 year olds do) then what can they suggest to you that might help guide you onto a path.

What attracted me to GCU was the chance to travel abroad in the third year. And, after five years hard graft, I am headed to Barcelona!

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. The process has not quite been everything I dreamed it would be.

My fanciful teenage mind had romanticised the whole process. Over the years of anticipating this event, I had not thought about the landmine of paperwork, red tape regarding funding, ‘I’s to be dotted, ‘t’s to be crossed, meetings and consultations to be had, more e-mails than the internet can surely handle, sent across two countries and endless arguing with faceless officials who’s job seems purely to put up as many road blocks as possible. Whew! It’s exhausting even to think about.

But as of Tuesday 9th of September, I am off to Barcelona. The flat is booked, the room mates and I are ready to move in and, on Friday 5th of September – I am still not packed. But I will be, when the time comes.

To conclude this first piece, my main comments are these.

It has been a long, hard road to get to this stage. I have had to work extremely hard to get to this point, overcoming personal struggles as well as fighting off competition to be able to get here. It will be fun, right?

I certainly hope so, because seeing as this is my first time with responsibility for my own place, and I have to live with two boys for the next four months, I am terrified!

SSDD

Holla From Uni

Aloha, Bonjourno Buenas Dias/Noches, Hi, Hello, Wassup, Greetings, Anaeyong hassaeo…

I am alive and guilty – I have been neglecting my bloggerly responsibilities but for good reason I assure you. That educational, unnecessary, expensive yet wonderful resource we call University has called me to its’ hallowed (… plywood…) halls once again and I have begun another academic year at Uni, rendering my time otherwise tied in things of a scholarly nature.

*Ahem* FRESHERS WEEK!! 😛

Ok, so I haven’t exactly been going wild with freshers but Uni has started again and it has taken up a bit of time trying to get into a routine that let’s me be some way to a functioning human being with time to spare. But I’m getting there.

There was an interesting stand at the Glasgow Caledonian University Freshers Fair (the Uni I go to, by the way, I didn’t just wander in off the street looking for something to do). It was to do with the Psychology Society. Now, I don’t study Psychology, but I am sorely tempted to join this society, purely because the guy behind the table refused to ralk to me til I looked like this:

me wearing the hat that was thrust upon me by a “psychologist”

Got lots of work coming my way in terms of freelance writing work so busy busy busy.

Speak soon!

 

SSDD

The Winds Of Change Smell Like Barcelona, Ottowa and Glasgow

The Winds Of Change

The winds of change are getting me all a tither.

The re-start of Uni is fast approaching (literally 2 weeks!!) and it has only just occurred to me that at long last things may be beginning to change in a very interesting direction for me. Instead of the stagnation I’ve been tolerating in certain aspects of my life of late it seems things are gonna be hotting up in terms of my education.

1185197_10151811904576480_934853721_n (1)I’ve never ventured to Barcelona but a couple of my friends are taking a few months there as part of an exchange for our Uni course. A couple more are already attending classes in Canada  (follow her here!!!!!). Things like, studies of Sex and Equality or something else awesome, which, for my pal who is a bisexual feminist, is the exact most interesting thing in the world for her!

 

What’s That I Sense?

Exciting things are potentially floating on the winds that are heading towards us. The thing is, I’m a little bit nervous. I’ve spent such a long time knowing this is coming and yet now that it’s finally here… There is doubt in me that I can pull it off.

wind

Sure, I’m well aware that there’s no point in comparing your life with anyone else’s, so I’m not going to. I’m comparing it to my own life so far. It feels like there has been this great chasm of flux for the past few months, one that grew out of the dark hole of hell and change that came before it. It was a period of relative calm for me to regain a bit of the control I lost and learn how to deal with it.

Yet while I’ve been doing that, my peers have been moving on to bigger and better things – literally! Granted, I was not ready for such drastic continental shifts, though I did move house, I guess, technically (if you could call it that), but as far as selfactualisation goes, I haven’t really been in any position to achieve it to the same standards as my friends. And that frustrates me.

Moving On

I guess this is a little bit of catharsis. Or perhaps a touch of narcissism. Examining one’s own faults is never something we find easy as people and yet we relentlessly punish ourselves with a constant practice of it. One persons success suddenly takes on another meaning and becomes a reflection of your own inadequacy. As pleased as you are for their success, as enthused and elated and over-joyed and excited as you are to hear that someone you care about is happy and satisfied by a job well done, there may always be that little niggle of jealousy, or perhaps disappointment, that your own triumphs seem to somewhat pale in comparison.

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But now that may be about to change. I am embarking on a leg of my own journey that I have long been (re)preparing for and I think the only problem is that I’m nervous I won’t meet the bar my friends have unwittingly set.

That and the fact that the Uni computer system won’t let me bloody register yet!

SSDD

James Watt: Painter for the People

James Watt is a name synonymous with Scottish innovation, the Greenock inventor creating the steam engine.

But another Jimmy has shown his talents, in the form of a Port Glasgow painter by the same name. His recent exhibit at The Beacon Arts Center, Greenock, is his latest public display and his first in the newly built arts center.

Main Entrance - Beacon Arts Center

Main Entrance – Beacon Arts Center

The setting is more appropriate than your usual gallery. As a painter of an aquatic theme, the gallery sees the paintings overlooking the Clyde, the river which inspired the painter for half a century. The Beacons entire back wall is made of glass, giving for a majestic view of the water. One might think this would give visitors some small insight as to why Watt found it such an inspiring location; they would be wrong. It was the smog filled ship yards and dirty working men that lit the fire of creativity in this Port-born man.

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The man himself was in attendance on the Friday I visited, and the day before as well. Watt said of the new local arts center;

“It’s a marvelous building, it really is. For the first time since the ship yards closed I feel we’re really making use of what the Clyde has to offer, if not in such an industrial sense. It’s a beautiful location and it’s wonderful to see the pictures all overlooking the water. It’s where they were all painted, after all.”

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Having come from a line of working class men, poorly educated with little prospect other than to go straight from basic schooling into the expected and predictable future of a trade, Watt found himself of school leaving age during a time of unexpected promise. Further education was no longer an unattainable dream for the working man, a lavish luxury of the wealthy. Scholarship and free further education were being offered to the working middle class and Watts father, being a clever man and self-educated despite his humble station, saw an opportunity to send his equally so ambitious sons on a path to a life he had no hope of attaining.

On workers his opinion was clear;

“Whether they were clever or not was irrelevant; this was what was expected of them. My father was a very clever man. He read books that most of the other men would never have heard of and the fact that he was even interested in what they had to say was strange to them, alien even. Something he would be mocked over. Now we can see that he was just a man with a mind more than his station but with no way to correctly employ that inherent brilliance. It’s very sad, really, because you just don’t know how many others were in the same position.”

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And so it was that James Watt found himself able to attend Art School and begin to create painted works from the scenes he saw growing up. Industry features prominently in almost all of his works and his paintings more often defy the quintessential ideal of pretty boats on sparkling water under a lightly dusted blue skies. They reveal the true rawness and unyielding mire of the yards and the daily toil of the men who worked there.

“It was a toil, that’s exactly the word. Those men had no prospects; they would never leave the yards once they sucked them in. They had no choice but to go straight from school and pick a trade, work at it all their lives and live the predictable, mundane life of a grafter, same as every other man in the yard.” he said, “Not to say that they weren’t extremely skilled, which they were, in their way.”

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Often painting these scenes of graft and Clyde creation in burnished tones, there is an almost sinister, otherworldly atmosphere from them. They depict relics of a bygone age as the shipping industry has since died out from the area, moving on to greener pastures in South Korea and other, offshore locations.

The artists favourite

The artists favourite

Taking great pleasure in speaking to admirers of his work he spoke of the largest in the exhibition being his favourite. Featuring on the main entrance wall of the gallery his fondness of it was clear;

“It’s not even that I think it’s my best painting,” he told me, “But it’s only now that I’ve lent it to the Beacon and it’s no longer hanging on the wall in my house that I can’t help feeling a little bereft in it’s absence. I think it’s more that I painted it at a time I now reflect upon as bring poignant… I’m actually feeling a little anxious with it hanging there, I quite want it back now.” he laughed, but there was a glint of yearning the kind, weathered face.

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My personal favourite was found at the back of the gallery. Consuming a massive expanse of wall, it was one of the lighter, more hopeful images in the show. Titled ‘ARDBEG’ it was painted in 1980 and is oil on canvas.

Ardbeg

Ardbeg

Ardbeg

Ardbeg

There is a light and an optimism for the freedom of boating that struck me as being quietly beautiful, a relief in a collection of largely russet toned canvases.

Interspersing the work yard themed, brazenly painted boat scenes are pictures of a more traditional marine sort. Though one could hardly describe them as “bright”, they are several shades lighted than their harder edged kin. Depicting the cloudy Scottish weather, the waters edge in these smaller canvasses are often lonely feeling, quiet, muted tones showing the simplicity of beachfront life.

The inventor of the steam engine might be a national treasure, but I doubt he could depict his home the way this James Watt does, so many years later.

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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 “refine” the welfare and benefits system by £10B – 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, “We 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’re ever so close to them… yes they are only five and six and the little four year old – bless her- hasn’t started yet but see, they’re just so rooted in this are of middle-class suburbia…”

True story, by the way – 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… 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… 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