Poverty in the UK; Welfare Reform Act

You’d think, in this day and age, poverty isn’t something that exists in the UK. But it does. A friend of mine has posted her ‘final blog’ where she describes, rather bluntly, her desperate need to work and how these new government legislations on benefits are ensuring she’s unable to keep herself and her son healthy long enough to find a job that will take her.

Her main hurdle is being hard-of-hearing (not deaf enough to qualify for disability, but enough that employers often find excuses to reject her application).

At least reading her post and offering her words of support or sharing it would be much appreciated! If you know of any jobs in the Manchester area, feel free to leave her a message about that too.

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A Week In Review.

In light of the post from last week, I thought I’d post an update on how I’ve been getting on with just the one week so far.

Resolutions I intend to stick to:

*Wherever possible eat healthy, home- cooked food.

This is going really well! I’ve been taking a lot of recipes from a book called ‘Cook Yourself Thin‘ – some really gorgeous recipes, and super healthy too! My favourites are the Sweet Potato Gratin and the Carbonara. Yum yum. In prepping a couple of batches, it keeps me (and Mum and Stepdad) well-fed for the whole week. I feel so much better! And I’ve already lost almost 3 pounds this week!

*Avoid additives and preservatives, especially artificial sweeteners such as those containing aspartame. This includes choosing organic, wherever practical.

This is an ongoing battle, really. I’m beginning to notice how a lot of products seem to sneak in the odd E-number, or random chemical I can’t pronounce. The good thing about making so much food at home though, is that I’m exposed to these things far less.

*Avoid caffeine. Choose decaffeinated and herbal options.

This hasn’t been a problem at all. I feel a lot less like my energy levels are a rollercoaster. I actually feel very stable, and tired when it’s natural to be. Even the coffee shop (NorthTeaPower, Manchester) we went to last Wednesday had a fab selection of herbal teas (I tried ‘blood orange’) and decaff coffee.

*Increase activity and tonal exercises with the aim of reaching a healthy target weight by summer. Goal: 2 pounds a week.

I’ve increased the activity. It’s not been as consistent in terms of how long I’m doing it far, but it’s improving. Just need to make it a habit! I have achieved over 2 pound loss this week though, so I’m happy!

*Be more sensible with money – reduce small outgoings, monitor spending, save for larger purchases, etc. Generally be more organised and less impulsive financially.

Still paying off bills and such, but managed to put £30 in my holiday jar this week. Whoop, whoop!

*Plan solo travelling to see more of the world. 2013′ s planned trip: Italy. (Any advice, suggestions, recommended viewing, etc welcomed!)

My Italian phrase book and audio has arrived, grazie! This shall be my treat to myself if I keep hitting weight-loss targets.

*15 minutes a day on self taught Italian book and audio.

Only arrived two days ago. I’ve been having a browse, and picked up a couple of phrases already. But not consistently spending time on it yet. My memory isn’t what it should be… ho hum. I will get better though!

*Ensure put maximum effort into obtaining good grades on first year my English degree (going well so far) via Open University.

Still awaiting module two, assignment one’s grade. Module one, assignment three was submitted on 10 January too. So far, my grades have been 73% for assignment one, 80% for assignment two… We shall see what the future has in store for me.

*Thoroughly revise and have pro- edited at least one novel, with the view of publishing this year.

One of those things I really need to make a habit of. ‘Psychologies‘ magazine had a really fab section on 2013 year plan. It was very positive and had me focusing on what I want from my life, but editing still really seems like such a chore. Everytime I sink my teeth into it it really drives me nuts as I can’t seem to work out where to start or what to do to get it working right. I’m just finding more and more things that have me feeling like such a fraud. I get lots of negative flashes of submitting a novel, getting it published but people I know reading it and thinking: “What’s the fuss all about? This is crap!”

*Complete at least one screenplay and research markets, with the view of being accepted somewhere.

-not at this point yet-

*Continue to attend writer’ s group set up with few of the 2012 NaNo- ers, meeting once a week.

Still going like a trooper! Even when I’ve come straight off a night shift.

*Personal facebook page has already been deactivated. Ensure contact is maintained with close friends, and author and twitter page is restricted in terms of times accessed and used appropriately.

I’m not missing facebook at all. I actually feel so much better that I’m not on it. I’ve barely even used the author page. I’ve attempted to maintain contact with ‘friends’ via text, but that has a mixed reception. For the most part, I’m beginning to realise I actually have a very limited circle of friends. It’s actually quite liberating to finally know that though.

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May it last.

Resolutions I intend to stick to:

*Wherever possible eat healthy, home- cooked food.

*Avoid additives and preservatives, especially artificial sweeteners such as those containing aspartame. This includes choosing organic, wherever practical.

*Avoid caffeine. Choose decaffeinated and herbal options.

*Increase activity and tonal exercises with the aim of reaching a healthy target weight by summer. Goal: 2 pounds a week.

*Be more sensible with money – reduce small outgoings, monitor spending, save for larger purchases, etc. Generally be more organised and less impulsive financially.

*Plan solo travelling to see more of the world. 2013′ s planned trip: Italy. (Any advice, suggestions, recommended viewing, etc welcomed!)

*15 minutes a day on self taught Italian book and audio.

*Ensure put maximum effort into obtaining good grades on first year my English degree (going well so far) via Open University.

*Thoroughly revise and have pro- edited at least one novel, with the view of publishing this year.

*Complete at least one screenplay and research markets, with the view of being accepted somewhere.

*Continue to attend writer’ s group set up with few of the 2012 NaNo- ers, meeting once a week.

*Personal facebook page has already been deactivated. Ensure contact is maintained with close friends, and author and twitter page is restricted in terms of times accessed and used appropriately

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2012: Blogging in review

I certainly found this really interesting! I had no idea what kind of posts people actually prefer to see. Strangely, people seem to actually like my rambling…

Thank you to everyone who has visited in 2012. I hope you all have a fab New Year, with more fun things to talk about come 2013! All the best. xx

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Book Review: Practical Magic.

Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman.

I’ve had this book for ages but, for some reason, I hadn’t read it. Practical Magic (Griffin Dunne, 1998) is one of my favourite films, so I was a little worried that reading the book would make me feel disappointed by the film. fortunately, that didn’t happen. I loved the book, and I still love the film. For me, I found that there were enough differences that you could see the film was based on the book, but only loosely followed it. The film was written incredibly well, in my humble opinion, so that it complimented the book.

As with the film, it follows the story of sisters Sally and Gillian after their parents die and their move to the aunts on Magnolia street. In the film it follows this idea of being cursed by their ancestor, Maria, and how death follows any who “dare love an Owens girl”. The book differs from this track. It brings up love and feeling cursed, but it’s more centred around what the sisters believe they deserve. Their abandonment issues make them believe that they are not worthy of being loved, or they’re scared to love in case they lose something they care so much about.

They grow up as polar opposites, but are brought together by the death of Gillian’s boyfriend Jimmy. This finally brings Gillian back to the family. Sally left the aunts’ when her two girls (also polar opposites) were babies after fearing they’d be targets like her and Gillian were. As with the film, it follows their journey and how they learn to accept each other’s differences, and to love themselves for who they are.

Both the book and the film are beautifully narrated with vivid concepts, relatable emotions, and ‘real’ family frictions. I’m actually disappointed that Officer Gary Hallet wasn’t how he was portrayed in the film though – I really loved Aidan in this. Gary in the book seemed such a dull character by comparison (which he really isn’t, he just felt different). I’m also sad that Gillian didn’t look like the red-haired Nicole Kidman. The symmetry between Sally and Gillian with Sally’s girls, Antonia and Kylie, was much more subtle than film. In the book, it’s more about attitudes and how personalities can grow, change, converge… dependent upon influences, circumstances and age.

You actually see Sally’s children play a much bigger role in showing this development when it comes to the book.

Despite my love of the film, I still would definitely recommend reading the book as it’s like reading two books based on the same topic – you can see the similarities but, once you accept they’re not the same, you can love both equally.

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Can you see the light?

My field of vision is blurred. I don’t need glasses or contact lenses; I’m not visually impaired in any sense. I’m losing my grip on reality, retreating further and further into a realm of make-believe. Real life holds no magic for me. There’s very little holding me in ‘this’ world. In many ways, insanity would be blessing. Instead, I resort to books, films and writing.

The more shit the world throws at me, the further I want to burrow. I’m a serial ostrich, finding solace with my head deep in the ground. But the real world seeks me out. It claws its way into my subconscious, leaving me to deal with restless nights of vividly disturbing dreams. Unsettled sleep, no work, bills to pay, and feeling as if I’ve lost my way leaving me as a somewhat emotional wreck.

On many occasions, I manage just fine. I keep myself busy and occupied organising other things. Throwing myself into group activities and conversations but, when approached, I can sense that feeling bubbling under the surface. The smallest thing can set me off, which is usually when I’m forced to face reality again.

The reality is I’m a lost soul. I’m stuck in that middle ground of someone who seemed to take the wrong path; I picked the other door and I’m still stumbling down an avenue fraught with yet more obstacles. How did I lose my way? I was a good kid at school. I was academic, conscientious, polite… I hit college and I had split responsibilities. I wanted to do well but I needed to support my family too. My control was slipping, and I opted for work over university.

Maybe that wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe I’d have lost my way anyway. But it feels like that’s where it went wrong. I worked three jobs as well as doing an NVQ (which seems to be useless now). Now that I want to find my way on a career path I can feel enthused by, there seems to be nothing out there for people like me. On paper, I look unqualified. I lack experience, despite the many jobs I’ve had. I can’t even seem to change track – I’m stuck, and without work, losing motivation fast.

How do you stay optimistic when every time you summon the energy to persevere despite the odds, the world shits on you again?

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Book Review: Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study (books 1-3).

Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study (Yelena Zaltana: books 1-3), By Maria V. Snyder.

A series of books that follow a 20 year old woman (Yelena) from her time as a prisoner awaiting her execution, through to the discovery of being a rather powerful magician. To put things into context, the world Yelena grows up in is divided into to countries: Ixia (ruled by The Commander who had killed the tyrannical magic-weilding King, and split Ixia into military districts), and Sitia (viewed as being more liberal. A refuge for those seeking to escape military rule. Also a sanctuary for magicians).

Yelena chooses to accept the high-risk position of food taster for the paranoid Commander and, in doing so, sets about a chain of events that begin to reveal who she is, where she has come from, and a whole host of other events she was embroiled in without even realising. As any main character should know, their very survival is imperative in order to prevent the whole world from being destroyed, or changed in ways that the general populace would be unhappy with.

I really enjoyed this series. It had lots of action, strong female role models, as well as good and evil warring against each other (and many you think fall into one character, end up switching sides frequently). The general storyline comes across like a good YA fantasy, but parts of the content wouldn’t be suitable for younger audiences, as there are many references to rape, sacrifice, and gruesome murders. The rape scenes aren’t particularly graphic, but the murders are.  The many references to  these ‘bad people’ and the things they do to the young and vulnerable could be upsetting for the more sensitive audiences.

That said, our heroine is no Bella (re: Twilight). She has bouts of self-doubt (well, she was a nobody), she’s uncertain of her skill (she was never really trained), she’s consumed by grief or loss (a lot of people die)… but she claws her way back up and out of the cesspool and kicks some motherfuckin’ ass!

A minor issue with this series is the repetition. Chunks of text from previous books are regurgitated in later ones. I am very well versed in both Ixian and Sitian history, magic, and all that jazz since I have had frequent reminders throughout. I expect these tidbits would be useful reminders if I’d left more time between reading each book, but I read them directly after each other, so they became a little annoying.

In the last book, there also seemed to be a lot of people who were smiling “sardonically”.

Like I said though, minor issues. Definitely worth a read!

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