Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The assault on Christmas

I am wondering if the news can get any more dumbed-down than it is. The Six O'Clock News on BBC1 in particular appears to be turning into more of a magazine show rather than a serious news bulletin. Tonight's stories included that ridiculous decision by Radio 1 to censor the words to the Christmas song Fairytale of New York as 'sung ' by Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues as the word 'faggot' was deemed to be offensive. As this song has been wheeled out and played ad nauseam at successive Christmases for what seems like years, why should it suddenly cause offence in 2007? It seems to me that there must be a whole army of people out there just waiting to be 'offended' by one thing or another.

To me it also seems another assault on Christmas, which is attacked in almost every quarter. I really don't understand why these days more often than not I see 'Seasons Greetings' rather than Merry or Happy Christmas. Seasons greetings to me is a silly phrase with no meaning to it. Why can't we just say Happy Christmas?

Then it seems to me that any meaning to Christmas itself has long been eroded. I know, there is an argument as to whether the Christian meaning to Christmas is the right one and after all the day is a pagan festival originally, isn't it? Does it matter? Our society was at least founded on the Christian church and its traditions and festivities and if we are to disregard the story of Jesus then should we be celebrating Christmas at all?

I do wonder though how many people actually celebrate or enjoy Christmas. It seems that most people look at Christmas with such heavy expectations that they are always going to be disappointed. Furthermore we are attacked from all sides by reports about how much we're going to spend and thus be in debt next year, how unhealthy the traditional roast dinner is and if that isn't bad enough we are constantly reminded of how guilty we should feel because some people are going to be on their own this Christmas or not having such a jolly time. Yes, Christmas is a time of crisis and misery for some and I think that partly that is driven by the expectations that we all have of what it should be like.

As an adult one Christmas is pretty much like the last. I don't get excited or even particularly look forward to Christmas anymore and I find the post-festive period one of normally dark moods and regret. Not that I dislike Christmas, on the contrary, I always enjoy myself and yes I do over indulge but then it is only once a year. It is the relentlessness of it all that makes me feel unhappy post-Christmas. No sooner have we had the day itself, then it is over it seems according to everyone who scrambles out to the shops on Boxing Day. Then there is all the build up to New Year and of course we must all be excited and happy about this and going out and getting drunk.

I am not a misery or a scrooge, honestly I am not! I just want to do my own thing. I want to take the time between Christmas and New Year to reflect, to think about the year gone by and look ahead, make plans. I don't want to be hurried along in the post-festive consumer panic or feel that I must embroil myself in the falseness of New Year. I just want to do my own thing, be with my family, unwind, rest and frankly forget about the world out there. Is that so terrible? I really tire of the constant feeling that just because everyone else feels that life has to be lived at a brake-neck speed that I should be the same. Unlike many people, I will enjoy my Christmas because there will be no pressure of expectations and no rush to see it through.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Next year's studies

On Friday an unexpected parcel arrived, which contained my course book and materials for my Open University (OU) studies starting in February. I had completely forgotten about this was coming in light of my recent difficulties. One thing I will say about the OU, you certainly get a lot of material for each course! This one comprises two set books (I have the first) and about six audio/DVD presentations on disc plus the associated, course guide, study guide, calendar, newsletter etc., etc.

The course that I am studying next year is DU301 A world of whose making? which has the rather wordy subtitle: Politics, economics, technology and culture in international studies. Phew! The only part which I am not much looking forward to is economics and looking through the assignments for the course there is a fair amount of economic theory covered including drawing graphs and such like. There is also a question on the curious sounding 'game theory' and I was pleased to note that there is also a question on American imperialism post-9/11. That should be interesting to get into.

This course doesn't have an exam at the end of it. Instead there is an extended essay to be written, which is one of the reasons I chose to study this particular course. My last three courses have all had exams, which while I did well in, I absolutely hate taking. Not that I find writing essays a painless experience but I feel I am able to better express myself and of course have more time to develop and refine my arguments in that format.

The study programme looks demanding but I want to make a start on it now, so that I am already in advance of the February start date. It'll give me something else to do while continuing my look for work and provide something else to focus on rather than my current predicament.

All being well and assuming that I pass the course at the end of next year, I will gain my first Open University qualification - a Diploma in Politics & Government, which will no doubt look good on the CV. As for my degree, well that's going to take a few more years yet but I am going to get there. That's a promise I made to myself when I started and I have no intention of not fulfilling that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trying to keep positive

That is the message to myself is at the moment. It is very hard because there is so much that hasn't gone right of late and I do tend to worry too much anyway so that doesn't help. I am still waiting to hear about the two interviews I had last week. I feel that it is discourteous that neither of them have come back to me as yet especially as I was told that I would have replies to both by now. Despite e-mails and a 'phone call I seem unable to elicit a response. Generally, I feel very down about every interview/application I have made. I feel I am the one who is constantly having to chase, being fobbed off with one excuse after another and I don't understand why. If they're not going to give me the job, just say so! Sigh...

Anyways I said I was going to keep positive and I am trying. Next week I am going to go back round the agencies and get a job, any job. I really don't care any more. I am going crazy being at home all the time and I think if it continues much longer I am just going to crack.

I have planned to meet a few friends over the coming week and I am looking forward to that. It gets me away from home and hopefully from constantly thinking about the job situation for a few hours. Not that I am trying to bury my head in the sand; I need something else to take my mind off the anxiety it is causing me.

I am looking forward to Christmas, not that I can say I have found the enthusiasm to get particularly thrilled about it this year. More than anything I am looking forward to the few days away instead of staring at the same four walls day after day. I haven't decided how long I am going to spend at my parents. It will be dictated by whether I can sort myself out with a job next week.

Fingers crossed for better news soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Some days I wonder if the whole world is against me. You know the kind of day I mean? When you wake up in the morning and everything goes wrong from the moment you make that decision to place one foot out of bed. I am having one of those days...

I had an interview on Monday in Watford. Didn't go particularly well to be honest and it didn't help right at the start when the person interviewing me advised what the salary was. Not anywhere near what I was expecting and for what the job entails and hours required, seems somewhat, dare I say, stingy. I was given the option of not going ahead with the interview but why couldn't they have discussed this with me over the 'phone beforehand rather than allowing me to waste my time and money getting there? Sigh... Anyway, I did go through the interview, which felt more like a 90 minute interrogation. I felt that at times my integrity was being questioned - 'is that what you genuinely believe?' YES! Otherwise I wouldn't have said it! I probably took it a little too personally but it seemed that the interviewer was trying to trick me or trip me up somewhere. I didn't feel great about it and I am not sure if, in the unlikely event they offer me the job, that I want to take it. Financially speaking, I could just about live on the salary they are offering but that's about it.

I had a letter from the OU today advising that my application for one of the jobs I'd applied for with them had been declined. Not even the courtesy of an explanation as to why. Similar response from an application I had with Coutts in Milton Keynes. Took them a long time to tell me that I hadn't been shortlisted for an interview and again no feedback as to why. It would be nice to know the reasons in both cases why I wasn't selected.

Today I also got a letter from the Job Centre confirming that they will pay me Jobseekers Allowance of £59 a week. What a joke! How is anyone supposed to live on that? I don't have an extravagant lifestyle but totalling up my bills and insurances, that isn't going to cover it let alone provide for food etc.

I feel at the moment like I am facing a bleak outlook. I've set myself a target of getting a job sorted by Christmas. If I don't then I am going to have to take whatever I can find in the New Year and I do mean anything. Being at home all the time is depressing me. I feel useless and like I am just wasting my life at the moment. I did take myself out yesterday and I felt a lot better for it, especially as I spent a lot of time walking and doing stuff that took my mind off the job situation. But that is only a temporary reprieve. I suppose most of all I feel a failure at the moment and ashamed that I am in this position.

I do have an interview tomorrow in London and I am keeping everything crossed that this will go well. I really could do with some good news at the moment.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Now there are three

I have started an additional two blogs, which are designed to complement this one, which will remain my main platform as it were. The two new blogs each deal with a particular passion - Delta Source is a Star Wars blog while Multiple Aspects, is dedicated to railways. You can find the links to my new blogs on the right.

Let me explain the reason for these new blogs. I had been thinking of doing a railway blog for sometime. There have been a number of railway themed posts on here and a few where I would have probably gone into more depth and detail than would be appropriate for a general audience. Railways are something that I am very passionate about so rather than turn-off those who are not interested by posting it here, all my railway posts will now appear on the Multiple Aspects blog. The Star Wars blog was suggested to me by Derek as something to take my mind off my current situation and also to develop something that I am equally passionate about. I thought this sounded like a really good idea and again rather than posting lots of Star Wars musings here which may not be appropriate to a general audience, they now have their own home in Delta Source.

With three blogs it inevitably means that updates may be more sporadic than they have been (is that really possible?!) and it may be that from time to time one blog will get updated more often than the other. What it will mean though is that this blog will return more to its original purpose, which is a place for me to have a rant and a rave about everything and anything but with my Star Wars and railways interests to one side. Of course you are all welcome to read and comment on any of my blogs and I welcome your input.