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Au no Fair!

2 Aug

My 6 week au pairing experience was drastically cut short, ending after just 10 days. If you read my first post about au pairing you would have read what a great time I was having, blissfully unaware of any apparent discomfort I was causing the family. I want to be respectful and not use the family’s real names so for the purpose of this post I’m going to give them all pseudonyms. The Daughter will be ‘Adriana’, Mother – ‘Carla’, Father – ‘Mario’, (I know some of you are bound to imagine him as Nintendo’s Mario with a thick black moustache but so be it), and the son, ‘Fabio’.

Things began taking a bad turn after just a week. A Thursday evening meal ended with me being quite teary and emotional, after being told that things were awkward and there was a ‘problem’, of which I was at the centre of. I sat at the end of the dinner table, as they spoke in vibrant Italian, their foreheads wrinkled. Their body language hinted it was something serious but of course it was completely undecipherable by me. Their expressive sounds were made intelligible, as usual, by their Father, Mario’s, translation. I can’t remember word-for-word what was said and the general dialogue was delivered somewhat fractured due to his wife’s and daughters’ continued interjections and his faltered English. The general message was along the lines of ‘the children don’t understand you, both my wife and daughter feel uncomfortable, it’s not working’.  Adriana and Carla continued to try to add to his translation.  As each bit of information was relayed in slightly broken English it delivered another slight blow to my bubble, in which I had thought everything had being going well.  It’s a little bizarre that the main issue seemed to be communication when they had deliberately sought out an English speaking au pair; it’s not as though I tricked them into thinking I spoke Italian. I couldn’t even if I had wanted to. The daughter’s English was very basic which made conversation challenging but surely that’s the point? I made gestures, drew pictures, and used Google translate to get what I needed across. She had an English textbook that we went through a couple of afternoons but I didn’t want to force her to do it if she didn’t want to, I don’t want to become the enemy. In fact, this was reiterated in the conversation when the father translated that she didn’t want to be doing a textbook like school work. I had brought children’s books with me. So far we had gone through ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ together, I drew the words and looked up translations to aid her, but she seemed exasperated as though it was too challenging. Ideally, the parents would have been understanding, ‘yes it is challenging’, but encouraging – ‘keep trying’.

Instead the Father concluded with, “How can you fix this problem?” It sounded like he was decisively directing all the blame onto me. I wasn’t sure how to answer and the table seemed to stretch out before me as though adding greater distance between ‘me’, the foreigner, and ‘them’, the family. In that moment, I felt very alone. I apologised, but for what? I wasn’t sure. I felt I had tried my best but agreed I would try harder. We had been to the park, painted, had Fifa tournaments, played ‘Guess Who’, I did English homework with Adriana, as well as getting food shopping and preparing a simple lunch. We hashed out a vague plan of how to ‘fix’ things; I was to do more activities with the children and not only talk more, but to be more determined in my approach to talk to Adriana, (i.e. be more repetitive and do whatever possible until Adriana successfully understood my attempts to make conversation). The Mother, Carla, who I had tried and failed to manage simple conversation with due to her minimal response, upon seeing me well-up, tried to comfort me with a hug. Her affection didn’t go unappreciated at the time, but in hindsight it now seems, as harsh as it might sound, a little weird, since it was she, who decided, less than four full days later, that I should leave.

The next day, I had planned to go to the small nearby park again on the advice that I should be doing more activities with the children. However, due to a misunderstanding, the daughter called her Grandparents and arranged for us to go round to play ping-pong as we had done all together, parents included, one afternoon earlier in the week. I didn’t mind of course, the Grandmother, Mother to the children’s Dad was especially nice. Her English wasn’t great but her effort and perseverance in trying to talk to me, made her extremely likable. I only wish the daughter and Mother had tried half as hard as she did. I searched my memory of Italian words so I was able to express my gratitude and tell her how kind I thought she was. It probably didn’t sound all too melodic, to say the least, but I managed to get my message across.

-On a side note, another misunderstanding led me to spending an afternoon wandering around the town of Macerata alone despite me believing she would be accompanying me. I’m independent enough to enjoy my own company a while I just hadn’t expected it. However, she did kindly drive me into town, point me in the right direction and even provided me with a guidebook. When I explained the misunderstanding to Mario, it transpired that, (roughly translated), she hadn’t wished to ‘cramp my style’. In actual fact, I had been looking forward to us going around town and even imagined us having lunch together in a cafe, as I would my own Grandma.

– Friday seemed pretty successful. The kids enjoyed playing ping-pong with their Grandad and we ate a nice lunch. On the other hand, the children’s habit of turning on the TV in the kitchen during lunch continued. It seemed like a happy distraction from having to try to engage with the stranger in the room – me. I hated being a killjoy but due to the previous night’s conversation, I suggested to the daughter that maybe we should talk instead, reminding her that her Dad had wanted us to talk more. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. She half-shrugged and told me she hadn’t seen the episode before. I mentioned it to Mario when he was home from work, as I didn’t want it to lead to me feeling ganged up on again. Yet, he said it was fine, let them watch TV.  I was getting mixed messages but didn’t want to push the point. I was led to believe that I was there, primarily, to help Adrianna with her English, however after less than a week, she didn’t seem too enamoured with the idea of learning English whatsoever. When I suggested going through her English textbook again she said ‘no’. Again, I didn’t want to force her. Also, she often gave up quickly when she thought trying to explain something seemed like too much of a challenge or would take too much effort. It’s an entirely different dynamic to what I had done in Korea, I was not there to be a figure of authority like a teacher so didn’t try to be, I tried to be their friend but without conversation it was difficult.

I felt bad for the young boy, Fabio, he was full of energy and enthusiasm. I actually think I could have gotten more success teaching him the odd phrase or the lyrics to an English song than his sister, but the parent’s only wanted me to focus on the daughter’s English. They said I shouldn’t try to teach him, instead leave him to his own devices on his Playstation as he was ‘timido’, shy.  This seemed bizarre to me and entirely contradictory, as Fabio was anything but in my company, he would dance around the living room with more moves and mischief than King Louis, of Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’. He was a little cutie. I made him giggle as we had staring competitions, pulled faces at one another and I’d mess up his hair affectionately.

That’s not to say the girl wasn’t nice, she was, she just wasn’t motivated. When she explained to her Dad the following Monday that she didn’t always understand me, which I think is normal when two people of different languages are talking to one another, it was translated as though it was a fault with me, my personality. I was told I needed to be ‘more friendly’ when I don’t believe I was at all unfriendly. Mario said I needed to ‘smile more’ and that I was ‘too serious’. I was actually much more smiley than usual, but they had seemed to have taken my natural expression and odd furrowing of the brows when I was trying to decipher what was being said in Italian, as some kind of, I don’t know, anger…In fact, I specifically remember the Dad telling me I scared them. I can honestly say I never raised my voice to them once; I never even wag my finger at them.

The only telling off I gave them, if you can call it that, was when I asked them to get dressed before their Father came home for lunch. I didn’t get cross; I asked them once. Adriana bluntly replied ‘NO’.  I asked again five minutes later. I again she flatly replied ‘NO’. Leaving a little more time, (this was all whilst I was in the middle of making lunch.) Again, she replied ‘NO’. The fourth time, I went over to the Playstation and said that if they didn’t go to put their clothes on, (I was pointing at my own clothes and their pyjamas, to demonstrate what I meant), that I would turn the Playstation off. Again, Adriana replied, ‘NO’.  I didn’t want to, but I know from experience with my younger sister, that if you don’t follow-through on your threats then you rarely expect to ever garner any respect or have any co-operation from kids. I counted to five, they looked at me as though they didn’t think I would, but I did – I turned off the Playstation. Little Fabio whaled and they both stomped off to get changed. This was all a big mistake, to my surprise, Mario said I should have left them to stay in their pyjamas all day if they wished. That was a little frustrating, it made me the ‘bad guy’, the enemy.

I would describe the parents as quite lenient, very loving, but very lenient. The kids went to bed the same time as their parents and they watched kids TV until 10.30 most nights. They weren’t made to eat vegetables if they didn’t want to. I’m not criticising their parenting it just meant that the daughter knew that she only had to do what she felt like doing, and speaking in English, by the end of the first week, was NOT something she felt like doing. At least, that’s the impression she gave. Of course, as far as she and her parents were concerned, that was my fault.

Pretty much every conversation with the parents, (mainly the Dad, since he was the only one who spoke in English), about how things were going was a re-hashing of the same conversation of the first the one, on the Thursday previous, and with each conversation it made a small issue bigger. What can make an uncomfortable situation worse is talking about how uncomfortable it is. I think it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of awkwardness if you invite a stranger who doesn’t speak your own language to live with you into your home to take care of your kids, but it takes time.  Usually the awkwardness would go unmentioned. Instead it was discussed at length turning it into a much bigger issue. Mario kept bringing it up, probably out of concern – I don’t doubt that he had good intentions, but it just made things worse. I was determined to not let it get me down, I reassured him that I was happy, I hadn’t given up if they hadn’t, and that I was genuinely doing my best to make it work.

Despite me treating each day as a new day, putting their concerns out of my mind and pulling all my usual kids repertoire out of the bag: playing frisbee, football, making silly faces, singing songs, telling jokes, drawing numerous cartoons, showing them how to do origami and performing many magic tricks, (I can literally make a handkerchief disappear – what’s not to love about that?), it all went to pieces.

One day, which turned out to be my last day, I was playing volleyball with the kids on the beach at our usual spot, by the rented sun loungers when a woman from the cafe a few meters away, called the daughter’s name. It was usual for Carla or Mario to call the daughter and check in every 45 minutes or so to see how things were going. However, this time Adriana hadn’t heard her phone ringing whilst we were playing. She missed her Mother’s call. Anyway, she spoke to the Mum via the cafe phone and reassured her that everything was fine. However, when we returned to the apartment, after I set the table for lunch and the kids played FIFA on Playstation whilst we waited for their Dad to join us, things went from bad to worse. First, the Dad dived into yet another conversation about his concerns, all pretty much the same as before. Then his mobile rang. It was his wife, Carla. She crying, saying she was beside herself with worry he told me, she said she “couldn’t trust me and wanted me to leave as soon as possible”. Some painfully awkward hours later, (I hid in my room the best part of it), I was on a plane back to the sunny UK.

And so that’s it. My au pairing experience came to a sudden end. Would I au pair again? Probably not. Not because of that particular experience, every family is different and I know people who have had great au pairing experiences. However, in September I’ll be training to be a teacher. My summer holidays will be precious and I’ll have money to spend making it count. There are still so many places I want to see and things I want to do. I have four weeks left before I have to commit completely to my PGCE and write off my social life for around ten months. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy myself.

Macerata

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I’m sorry about these au pairing titles but for some reason, as cringe-worthy as they are, they really tickle me.

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Oh No Pair!

2 Aug

My au pairing experience turned into a bit of a disaster. I’ve ‘ummed’ and ‘arred’ about whether or not to write a post about it. I told the Father of the family about my blog and he’d visited the page. He even thanked me for the nice things I had said about his family in my first post about au pairing. When things started falling apart, he told me he had checked to see if I had wrote about it online, which left me in two-minds about whether or not I should.

I’ve tried to be as accurate and honest as possible about the experience, but ‘at the end of the day’, (Jeremy Kyle contestants have ruined this phrase for ever!), I don’t feel I have done anything wrong. By excluding it from my blog, and leaving my previous post without an ending, it would feel to me as though I am ashamed, when in fact I have nothing to be ashamed of. I think it’s only fair to be honest about my experience.

All too often people have an online persona, especially on Facebook, which shows their life to be one amazing party or delicious Pizza Express meal to the next. I’m not saying I don’t have an online persona to some extent, (we all pick profile pictures that make us look the best etc), I just wanted to be honest in my blog and show the good and the bad. Life has moments that kick you in the metaphorical balls sometimes; its how you roll with it that counts. As it happens, I think I’ve rolled quite well. I turned being sacked and deported (excuse the hyperbole, poetic license, INNIT BIATCHES!) into a lovely family trip between my Dad’s place and my Aunties, catching up with my adorable cousins and siblings in what happened to be even better weather than I’d had in Italy. Us, English, have been uniquely treated to some amazing weather lately. I feel dead lucky to have a lovely family that picked me up, both in the metaphorical sense and literally, in the case of my auntie, from the Stansted airport. My boyfriend was ever-dependable in his support and my Mam, who I’m eternally grateful – let me know that she would have no problems bailing me out and handing me a get-out-of-jail-free-card in the form of a plane ticket if it all went pear-shaped. Luckily, the family was just-to-say reasonable enough in purchasing the flight home instead. So my next post about how it all went wrong is written and ready to post. It will be up tomorrow.

Sun in London with my Dad

Sun in London with my Dad

Huntingdon Witches and Oliver Cromwell

23 May

I’m dog-sitting for my Auntie in Huntingdon at the moment. I had a mooch around the town and took a few photos. I popped to an antique and craft sale and to the farmers market which was selling goose and ostrich eggs amongst other things. It’s only a small place, but it’s quite nice and happens to be the birth place of Oliver Cromwell. The Cromwell Museum is in the building where Cromwell went to school.

It also has a sculpture of Captain Scott, the Antarctic Explorer that was sculpted by his widow, Lady K.Scott. According to a local man I met in town, Huntingdon is also the last place to kill a ‘witch’. The witch may have been Mary Hickes and her nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who were condemned to death by the Assize Court and were hanged in Huntingdon on Saturday 28 July 1716. They were believed to have taken off their stockings in order to raise a rainstorm.

Also quite spooky is the legend of Hinchingbrooke House, now a school. Originally a convent, Hinchingbrooke House, is said to be haunted. The bridge over the Alconbury Brook, named Nun’s bridge, is said to be haunted by one of the nuns who once lived at the old convent. It’s said she is often accompanied by another ghost which resembles the appearance of a nurse. The myth goes that the nun had a lover, a monk who caused them to be murdered. In 1965 a married couple reported seeing the ghosts on the bridge, and again when they returned home the same night.

Other claims to fame is that between Huntingdon, Brampton and Godmanchester lies England’s biggest meadow. Well…whadda-yer-know… Here’s my pics. IMG_1667 IMG_1668 IMG_1670 IMG_1672 IMG_1674 IMG_1676 IMG_1677 IMG_1678 IMG_1681 IMG_1693 IMG_1700 IMG_1706IMG_1640IMG_1641IMG_1648IMG_1652IMG_1653IMG_1654IMG_1657IMG_1660IMG_1661IMG_1665IMG_1671

Voting UKIP

23 May

If anyone could make me support UKIP it would be their General Secretary, Jonathan Arnott. He wouldn’t make a pretty postcard, his favourite pastime according to his twitter account is taking part in chess tournaments and he’s a maths teacher. I’m not a fan of chess, UKIP or maths, so he wasn’t off to a great start. However, after meeting him, hearing him speak, and chatting with him for almost an hour, he’s won me over.

 

Last week, I went to a party meeting/conference/whatever. I’m not sure what you’d call it, it was basically a handful of over forties, but mostly over fifties, congregating in a pub in Redcar. (I was by far the youngest there.) It had two main UKIP speakers; Jonathan Arnott and Ray Finch, both of which, are MEP candidates. The former for the South East and the latter for the North East.

Cleveland Bay Pub

 

Finch was described at the event as being “Nigel Farage’s right-hand man”. He was a Scouser with a sense of humour. He made a couple of funny jokes but he didn’t say anything that surprised me of a UKIP MEP candidate. He wasn’t a bad speaker, but he wasn’t that thought-provoking either.

Jonathan Arnott, on the other hand, was much more impressive. His answers were balanced and appeared steeped in knowledge. When the floor was open to questions, someone asked him why is it was that immigrants pass through France to come to the UK. I thought he’d give the obvious UKIP response; something along the lines of ‘because they know they can take advantage of our welfare system’, but he didn’t. Instead, he said he thought it was most likely because most foreigners second language is English. English is an international language so it made more sense to go somewhere you can speak the language. ‘Of course! It makes perfect sense. Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?’ I thought to myself. He spoke also of the common-wealth, how Iceland’s, Norway’s and Switzerland’s non-EU position had been advantageous for them and so therefore could be for us, of the Lisbon Treaty going ahead; despite the Conservative’s promise to give us a referendum on it etc. The only thing I would say, is that he did what a lot of politicians do, and went on too much about how the other parties keep slagging them off. Of course they slag you off, you slag them off, you all slag each other off! If they were in agreement with all your policies it’d wouldn’t make sense to have separate parties, would it? There was talk from both Arnott and Finch that suggested the Media was some kind of conspiracy against them. I’m not sure about that one, like I said in my previous post Nigel Farage has had loads of airtime on TV’s Question Time. Farage and his party have been caught saying many things it would be almost impossible not to report, for lack of entertainment, if nothing else. Plus, the rise in popularity of a fringe party like this is unprecedented, they’re bound to get attention.

Jonathan Arnott came and sat with me and some of my family once the speeches came to a close. I think it struck him that I was quite sceptical about UKIP, possibly the fact that I didn’t clap every time Finch or he had finished speaking, or it may have been my facial expressions. (I have quite telling facial expressions, so I’m told.) I asked him questions which I was afraid to voice out-loud in a pub surrounded by avid UKIP supporters. I told him that I found it worrying the amount of members with abhorrent racist views that have been rearing their heads in the media lately, that I have concerns that coming out of the EU would limit my options to live or travel abroad, that I volunteer part-time helping refugees and immigrants to speak English, that I feel more should be done to  he to help immigrants and ethnic minorities integrate into British society, I asked him why UKIP have such bad attendance in EU parliament…He answered all my questions and confronted all my concerns and more. His thoughts and opinions were reassuring. All his responses were coherent, logical and very well informed. I was amazed actually.

The question about UKIP’s attendance in EU parliament was a question Nigel Farage was asked on Question Time just days before this event. Farage said something along the lines of, ‘we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t’. I can see why he would say that – they should have good attendance because they’ve been voted in, yet at t,he same time, it seems hypocritical for them to attend a parliament they want out of. However, I didn’t agree with this stand point at all. Surely, having been voted in, then their whole purpose, as MEP’s of UKIP, would be to stop any legislation coming through which they believe, and their party believes, to be detrimental to the UK? The way I saw it was – if they’re not their to vote against it, then what’s the point in voting them in in the first place? Jonathan Arnott explained, partly in his speech and partly in his conversation with me, was that there were two different types of EU meetings. Some, in which, you merely sit and listen with little to no input. These meetings, he told me, you get paid something like 300 Euros  just to attend. He said he’d been told that they were a waste of time, but said that if he were to be voted in as MEP, he would attend the first couple to form his own opinion. The other kind of meeting is a one in which you can vote. Those, Arnott said, were the ones that they always attend. He then did a bit of opposition party bashing, asking how often I thought David Cameron and Nick Clegg attended EU parliament. On the whole though, his response was far better than Farage’s and made a lot more sense. It made their attendance, or lack thereof, sound reasonable. He didn’t come across as contrived and wasn’t as evasive or as convoluted in his answering of questions as most politicians are. He seemed, dare I say it, honest. 

What was also very enlightening, was a text Arnott said he had received from a big pharmaceutical company. I think he said which one, but my memories fails me. The company had invited him to a big conference in a Hotel in a European city, it could have been Zurich, but again, I can’t be sure. He’d obviously been given the invitation in anticipation for him being elected. He said it’d most probably be  the kind of affair where they would ply you with fancy free champagne in an effort to persuade him to vote in their favour in European parliament, if he were to be elected. He said he wouldn’t be attending, he was disproving of the entire nature of it, but I did find it a little disconcerting that this is what happens in European politics. I’m probably very naive to think it wouldn’t though. Where there is power, there closely follows corruption.

Whilst he was sat with us, a relative asked him what he thought about the recent furore in the media over Halal meat being sold unknowingly to British consumers. He said he thinks that supermarkets should be transparent in regards to the products they sell, so that consumers is aware of what their buying; clearly a fair point. I mean, we don’t need a photo of the abattoir on the packet or anything, but something on the packaging ought to indicate whether or not it had been killed in-line with Islamic guidelines or not. Arnott said he’s been told by a friend of his, who had visited a Kosher abattoir, that although they killed the animal in a similar way, (by slitting it’s throat and allowing the blood to drain away), that it was done, humanely – killing the animal almost instantly and very hygienically. Therefore, he concluded that we should look into how Kosher animals are killed and see if there is a way that it could also meet Islamic guidelines too, and still keep it as humane as possible. He also made a point of mentioning that at present, there is no official law in the UK that states how animals should be killed, despite it being most common to stun the animal first. Someone interjected at this point, I don’t think they’d had heard or had taken in the full extent of the conversation. They came across quite angry, forcefully saying that he didn’t think that THEY should be able to overrule British law.  More was said by the man, but in effect, he was saying that THEY, (they being Muslims or those from Islamic countries), shouldn’t be able to come over here and enforce their laws on us. It may sound harsh, but he didn’t make complete sense. Arnott’s response was brilliant! He very calmly, yet assertively,  put him in his place. “First of all, I don’t think you should use the word “they””, he said, which I was very much in agreement with. Whenever you start to use that kind of detachment vocabulary to refer to a group of people,  it’s as though their ‘the other’, the opposition, the enemy, it’s very risky territory. Arnott, then proceeded to explain that he’d gotten the wrong end of the stick, we don’t actually have a law that dictates how animals should be killed. It was clear that he disagreed with him but he asserted his opposing view calmly and quite respectfully.

Another surprising point Arnott made was that he agreed with some of the things Europe has done, not all, but some. He said if the UK came out of Europe he’d want to keep many of the laws that are already in place, the changes he saw as positive and the ones that made it conducive to economical trade and business. Whether, they’d be able to pick and choice like this is unknown.

Overall, I thought Jonathan Arnott was very personable, down-to-earth and spoke a lot of sense. I think if UKIP was Jonathan Arnott and people like him, then I’d be inclined to vote UKIP. Despite his best efforts, I still won’t be voting UKIP in the near future. I’m still too wary about some of it’s members and the kind of people UKIP attracts. Also, I’m still not convinced we should be coming out of Europe, although I do think it ought to have much more transparency and needs a great deal of reform. I also think we should have the right to opt in and out of laws, if possible, that don’t always have Britain’s best interests. I think it needs more balance. As far as referendums go, on the one hand, I think it’d be great if British people were able to have more say in politics – but on the other hand, the general public put Jedward through to the final twelve acts on series six of the UK Xfactor!!!

To follow the outcome for the EU election live click here.

Coming clean on UKIP

12 May
Maybe if UKIP was just Nigel Farage in a unusally flattering sea captain's hat UKIP would be much more popular.

Maybe if UKIP was just Nigel Farage in a unusally flattering sea captain’s hat UKIP would be much more popular.

I’ve been reflecting on my last post and I’m starting to feel slightly embarrassed about suggesting UKIP is a racist party. It’s a bit small-minded and short-sighted of me. Which in light of what I’m suggesting is quite hypocritical of me.

I do think UKIP aim to insight fear in the public, as though there is an epidemic looming over Britain. That’s clear based on the language used in the leaflets that I receive through the post. However, strictly speaking, there is nothing on their official website that marks them out as being racist. In the up-coming European election they have been very clear about two things: They want stronger regulation on immigration and they want to leave the EU/EEC. That’s not racist.

I’ll be open-minded, I’ll do some actual research. I barely even need to scratch the surface. Second or third link down after typing ‘UKIP’ into Google is their Wikipedia page. I begin to read their relatively brief history, since they began in 1993. It was founded by Alan Sked, who low and behold left the party “feeling it contained members who “are racist and have been infected by the far-right”. This is also my problem with the party. I don’t necessary think the party itself, and what it’s striving to achieve is wholly racist, but it certainly attracts racist people.

Members such as UKIP MEP, Godfrey Bloom, who was reported as calling women “sluts” and criticising foreign aid to “Bongo-Bongo-land” and William Henwood, UKIP council candidate, tweeting that Lenny Henry should “emigrate back to a Black country” are slightly worrying. However, they have both been left the party now.

Nigel Farage, himself, as Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, pointed out on Question Time this week, says some dubiously unethical things. Farage’s controversial remarks is no doubt what has made him the most regular panellist on Question Time since the 2010 General Election. I liked Russel Brand’s comparison to him being like Boris Johnson. The entertainer of politics. Just what will he say next?!

question time

I can see why his plain-speaking manner is very appealing however. In sharp contrast to Conservative MP, Grant Shapps, who ducked and dived questions on Question Time last week, Farage gives very straight answers. Shapps may have been following Margaret Thatcher’s political advice who said “You don’t tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive”. The public has become so familiar, wary and mistrusting of this transparent attempt to be evasive that Farage comes across as quite refreshing. Farage is not all that different from most others MPs in Parliament in terms of background though. He’s privately educated and presumably affluent, since he spent his working life working on the stock exchange for an investment bank. He markets himself as being different from the rest, but when you learn just a little bit of background you discover that the diversity of choice is as slim as ever.

Farage seems to be saying 'Look! I'm just like you - drinking a pint in a pub!" I'm guessing it won't be a Whetherspoons though.

Farage seems to be saying ‘Look! I’m just like you – drinking a pint in a pub!” I’m guessing it won’t be a Whetherspoons though.

At some point in this post I have to come clean and tell you I went to a UKIP fundraiser last Saturday. THE SHAME! I was invited by a family member, I won’t say who – not that they will be ashamed, but just because it’s the proper thing to do. I was curious, I still am. I went under the perception that they’d be a lot of people there and I’d be able to get a more rounded perspective on what kind of people vote UKIP. Are their members are as shady as the Guardian would have you believe? Well there was that AND the free pies. There was not actually a very big turn out.
Although, me and my prejudice, automatically pin-pointed one particular thuggish looking character as being a blatant fascist based on his over-sized beer belly and shaven head. Turns out he ran the venue where they function was being held and did not even seem to attend the event itself! OOPS! There was very little sign of UKIP paraphernalia bar two balloons. I pointed this out and asked someone running the event if they “were keeping it on the down-low?” How ridiculous of me! Why would they? Why should they? Several moments later there was some encouraged chanting. Nothing like a brawling football chant just a simple few encouraged responses from the audience. About as harmless as “Oggy, oggy, oggy!” – “Oi, oi, oi!” I didn’t join in with the chanting and I noticed a couple opposite didn’t either. In my mind, I immediately assumed that, they too, must have felt similarly unaligned with UKIP, going as far as presuming that they also felt a little awkward being there. If they were, it was for very different reasons, as by the fourth and final time the audience was expected to respond shouting ‘UKIP’ one of them instead shouted “BNP!” Once again, I was proven very wrong. Rascism is dressed in all guises. I must admit, I feel very stupid.

Jonathan Arnott, North EAST representative for UKIP. He might not look like much ladie, but he's damn good at chess.

Jonathan Arnott, North EAST representative for UKIP. He might not look gorgeous ladies but he’s damn good at chess.

Now for an even more shocking confession – I have agreed to attend a political UKIP function. Maybe I’ll get a better insight there. My political opinion won’t be swayed into voting UKIP because I wish to remain in the EU anyway. I’m quite proud of that fact that England and the other founding members won the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the EU in 2012. I think that’s more reason to be patriotic about Britain than many. The clearer labelling on consumer goods, some of anti-discrimination treaties, cheaper flights and open borders also appeal to me, so UKIP would never be the party for me. I’m struggling to justify why I’m going. I don’t even think there’s going to be pies! I’m regretting accepting the invitation but I feel as though if I’m going to bad-mouth them, as I have done, then I need grounds to do so. It’s very misguided to believe what the newspapers say since they all have a political agenda. I need to hear it from the horses mouth. Who are UKIP? I’ll let you know who I discover them to be shortly.

Getting a bit political

29 Apr

A few months ago, for the first time ever, I wrote an email to local Labour MP, Alex Cunningham. After working for a short time in a Social Club* I was getting a little frustrated by the level of racism I was hearing. We have a fairly noticeable Asian community in Stockton. I’ve noticed a few African people too, but it’s only because there is few of them that it even registers on my radar. I basically just asked this Mr Cunningham what he was doing to better integrate ethnic minorities in Stockton. He told me about a Culture Centre in Stockton and suggested I popped down. To be honest, the very idea of Stockton having a Culture Centre at all was a surprise to me.

Chilling like a bad ass by Norton duck pond.

Alex Cunningham chilling like a wrong’un by Norton duck pond.

Racism, for the most part, is accepted as being reasonable in Stockton. At least, that’s what I’ve found. I don’t imagine for a second that it’s unique to Stockton, most Northern towns will be similar. Words like ‘Paki’ and ‘Chink’ don’t raise many eyebrows. The phrase “…they come ‘ere and steal our jobs…” gets ignorantly banded around like a Caveman would a wooden club, whilst other mindless people stand by and nod along in agreement. Not everyone thinks this way of course. However, I’ve increasingly noticed hostility towards immigrants since I’ve been away. Maybe after living in Korea and spending most of my free time with open-minded people it has become more noticeable to me. It’s always irritated me but I’ve started to think it’s not enough to just disagree with it; I should do something, hence the email.

I don’t want to be too hard on Stockton. It’s not all bad, as this website shows.

As for the word ‘Paki’ or ‘Chink’, or any other term of that nature, I just feel as though I ought to get something off my chest. People argue in an attempt to justify these terms for Pakistani and Chinese people by saying that “Oh, well, it’s just a shortened term like ‘Brits’”. If it was the same, then why does nobody has ever shout ‘Brit’ at me in the street? If it was the same, then why isn’t “Brit bashing!” ever been a phrase used to intimidate British people? Because it’s not the same, that’s why! The word ‘Paki’ has a huge amount of very negative, hurtful connotations. Therefore, I can totally understand why it would be offensive. It’s nothing like saying ‘Brit’. That isn’t a substantial justification.

UKIP

And the answers would be…yes, yes, yes and yes.

Anyway, I did pop down. I sat in the café, chatted to the Director and left my number with her, told her I’d done some TEFL teaching before, and if I could help – give me a call. She called me and I’ve been volunteering two afternoons a week since then. I teach adults English. The people who attend the class are a mixture of refugees and immigrants living in the area. There are Iranians, Congolese, Polish and other ethnicities. There’s even a lady from South Korea. I was actually very excited about that, what is more – she lived in the same province of Korea as me! She asked me if I knew any Korean so I proceeded to tell her all the Korean words I know. These consist of ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Stop that’, ‘One beer, please’ and some basic directions I learnt to help me describe where I lived to Taxi Drivers. Pretty poor really considering I’d lived there a year, but she politely gave the impression she was impressed.

It’s the second term of English lessons now and some of the students are getting quite good so I’ve moved on to teaching some English grammar. I’m really enjoying it and I hope it means that they are able to integrate better into British society, that’s the aim.

I also think as British people we could make more effort to be more accepting and friendly towards foreigners.  We ought to speak out against racism when we hear it too. Nobody moves thousands of miles from their home country and family without good reason. I took a better opportunity in South Korea so why shouldn’t anyone else? We shouldn’t make assumptions. Let’s exercise tolerance!

I found this article with a link to some anti-racist songs by popular artists.
Click the picture below to be taken to it.
 

Also, this is an interesting organisation. If you’re thinking of voting UKIP you might want to give some of their a quick read first. Click the picture below to be taken to their site.
 

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/why-dont-you-speak-english/4od < This is a good documentary related to learning English as an immigrant. The couple from Redcar, which is not far from where I am, are hilarious! It’s worth watching just for that.

 The European elections are coming up soon. I’m thinking of voting Labour, but I might be persuaded otherwise with a convincing argument. 

*A Social Club, sometimes referred to as a Working Man’s Club, is basically a pub. However, you must be a member to go in and the alcohol is usually cheaper than that in an ordinary pub. Some Social Clubs to this day don’t allow women to have membership.

The Daily Mail timeline of shame – updated

24 Apr

What I LIKE about losing things.

22 Apr

I lose things. REGULARLY. In an attempt to change my naturally negative perspective on things I am looking at the positives of what is a fairly frustrating experience. Most recently, I lost my iPhone. Here is what I LIKE about losing things.

  • Finding other things in the process

So far in my efforts to find my iPhone I have found: a nice pen which I began writing the first draft of this post with; pretty hair grips, actually they’re my Mam’s hair-grips but ‘finders keepers, losers weepers’, (if someone finds my mobile, I hope they don’t live by the same motto…on second thoughts, maybe I should return the hair-grips…); loose change, I’ve made 63p up so now, doesn’t quite cover the cost of a new iPhone but it’s enough to buy a Mars bar at least; snotty tissues and some hardened orange peel. Okay, so the last two things aren’t so great but it brings me to the next positive outcome regarding losing things.

My friend, Yaz, taught me this word. It's such a great word to describe a mess I think we really ought to be using it more.

My friend, Yaz, taught me this word. It’s such a great word to describe a mess I think we really ought to be using it more.

  • How losing an item can force you into tidying up

“This bloody place is a mess! No wonder I can never find anything!” One might cry. So I’ve lost my cat but at least now all my DVDs are  in alphabetical order! When I’ve lost something I tidy up almost as much as I did at University when I had an essay to write. So if I lose things so often why is my bedroom always a mess? Because it takes two minutes to make my bedroom a mess and two hours to tidy it. I rarely get beyond tidying one shelf, but man is that shelf tidy! 

I'm not as messy as Mister Trebus but with a little dedication, I'm sure I could get there...

I’m not as messy as Edmund Trebus but with a little dedication, I’m sure I could get there…

  • When you don’t even realise you’ve lost something

Probably the best thing about losing something is when you don’t even realise you’ve lost it until much later. There is nothing better than discovering a crumpled up five pound note in the back pocket of your jeans. It rivals the feeling of waking up early on a Saturday, realising you don’t have to get up for work/school, and being able to go back to sleep. Finding that fiver can make your day, it can make your week even, (if you don’t have much going on that week).

This is either a photo depicting Rylan Clark's reaction upon finding a fiver in his back pocket or it was taken just after Nicole Scherzinger put him through to the next round of Xfactor.

This is either a photo depicting Rylan Clark’s reaction upon finding a fiver in his back pocket or it was taken just after Nicole Scherzinger put him through to the next round of Xfactor. Either way he’s chuffed to bits.

I could write a far longer, in depth, post/rant about all the things that annoy me about losing things but positive thoughts generate positive outcomes, (or so I’m told) – Oh hey, there’s my iPhone, it was in my pocket all along…

Life After ‘Tefling’

19 Apr

‘Tefling’ obviously isn’t really a word, but you know what I mean, so just go with it. (Life afteyayr Teaching English as a Foreign Language.)

If I was sitting down about six months ago to write this post it would have been quite miserable.  It probably wouldn’t have even been a post, just a series of sighs, grunts, huffs and puffs. I, perhaps quite naively, thought coming home with a years solid graft under my belt, (employers don’t know teaching English in a Hagwon in Korea is one of the easiest jobs in the world), added with the fact that I’ve lived and travelled abroad, giving me some kind of worldly edge or ‘soft skills’ as they’re sometimes known, combined with my English degree, would mean I’d get snapped up quicker than a slapper at a night club at the end of the night. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It was more like I was trying to entice a vegetarian into eating meat with a bag of pork scratchings.

It might be the economical climate, the area in which I live, the fact I can’t drive – it could be any number of things. The fact was, apart from the odd telephone interview, nobody was interested. I quickly reassessed my target for a graduate job and down- graded it to just any job, AT ALL. I finally got a little shop job in a supermarket over Christmas. It was temporary and part time, did I mention it was in a supermarket!? This was a long way down for my aspirations for a graduate job within a large company with quick career growth. Who was I kidding?

However, I realised all this time I’d missed not just working, (and the general feeling of being valuable and productive), but teaching itself. I think going into teaching long-term is probably quite a common route after ‘Tefling’, and it makes sense really. I, personally, really enjoyed teaching. If your thinking of being a teacher but aren’t completely sure I would definitely advise teaching TEFL first. It gives you an idea of the basic principles needed for teaching without having to commit too much. You don’t have to pay tonnes for an expensive course to end up deciding it’s not for you. Yes, you do have to uproot for at least a year, but hey if you hate it after a few months you’ll have earned enough to buy a ticket home again.

Having said that, in my case, I didn’t get into TEFL with any intention to teach long-term. I have friends who’ve wanted to be teachers for years, they did placements and work experience but I thought it wasn’t for me. Things change. I’ve now been accepted onto a teaching training course beginning in September so I’m feeling much chirpier about the future and my career prospects.

Nearly all my other TEFL friends found jobs pretty quickly, which is hopeful. Makes me feel a bit sh*t because it wasn’t the case for me, but still, it means there’s hope for the rest of you! There’s an Estate Agent, an Apprentice Property Surveyor, Flight Attendant, Private Tutor, Educational Administrator and a Business Management Assistant. Impressive stuff. Although, some of those jobs are loosely linked to teaching and travelling, it shows that Tefling really need not have any baring on your chosen career. I’m certain none of them would have left it off their CV either. It’s like any job; you need to make sure it’s tailored to the job your going for. If  it’s a office job then focus on the organisational skills you gained and the use of computer aided things you did. On the other hand, if it’s a client based or customer facing role then focus on how teaching, especially in a foreign country, made you more personable and a better communicator.


chance

Basically, the overall message is do not give up and do not despair. The worst case scenario is that you are back where you were before you left and honestly, did you pack up your bags and travel to new lands to increase your career prospects or did you do it for the adventure? Would you trade in all the new experiences and new friends for a well-paid graduate job? I wouldn’t. I don’t even need to think about that one, and for someone who over-thinks everything, that’s a big deal.

 

Life after TEFLING

3 Apr

It’s coming up to a year since I have finished my contract teaching in South Korea. For anyone curious on the career prospects for an ex-TEFL teacher my upcoming post might give you an insight.

I need to publicly declare my intention to write a post to spur me on to write one.

Quite a few people have tried to encourage me to get my blog up and running again and to continue to write posts on my day to day life. However, as things have been, I simply don’t deem my life interesting enough. I’m pretty sure even my friends see me as a bit of a bore since I regularly decline drunken nights out.* Plus, there’s a spectrum of other reasons, such as the fact that I live with my Grandparent’s. That’s not inherently an issue as such, I’m very fortunate, however, besides from the fact I live with them they also happen to be the most avid readers of my blog. I guess what I’m saying goes along the lines of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. They are lovely, they really are but if I’m to have a blog I want it to be a warts and all kind of blog so to limit the risk of offending them I’m going to keep the internet, and more importantly my Grandparents, from reading my whining.

I want to write about life after teaching TEFL because as my contract was coming to an end I started to get quite anxious about what the future held. I can get a bit panicked about these things sometimes. I started franticly looking up articles and blogs that could console me. Instead, I came across this. The article, published by The Telegraph, is probably the most depressing article about TFEL teaching ever written. My heart sank and my level of panic went through the roof when I read it. I can be very dramatic. A cup of tea later and some words of reassurance from my fella’, Lawson, and I was hunky dorey again. However, months of unemployment confirmed my worst fears. However, it really isn’t all doom and gloom. I’m feeling way more optimistic about the future and I want to write a post of reassurance. Within the next week I intend to write a post about where my life has gone since TEFL, where it is going and where it could go for you. Plus it will be all wrapped in with the usual ramblings of a slightly weird, arguably unstable, twenty something like me!

I’m going to end on a quote from my favourite hottie on TV lately.

My Mad Fat Diary

Finn

*I like dancing, I like drinking, I obviously like my friends. So what’s the problem then? I ask myself this question – because I’m a walking contradiction and I have constant internal arguments with myself. The answer is I just much prefer a select group of close friends in a pub than the whole typical night out package with all the extra rubbish: the sick, alcohol stains on my favourite dress, girls crying in the loos, the drunken idiots that barge into you, regretful casual smoking and greasy calorific fast food…the list is endless.

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