Thursday, 24 October 2013

Alternatives to Operation Christmas Child

My daughters brought the following leaflet home from school recently that instantly made my heart sink:

On the face of it it's a lovely idea - you pack a shoe box full of small gifts that are sent to a deserving child in a third-world country.

However, there are many reasons not to support Samaritan's Purse who run the programme, not least because their main mission is evangelical, rather than charitable.

In fact, instead of me listing those reasons, I'd urge anyone interested in finding out more to please, please read the following; Reasons Not to Support Operation Christmas Child , which offers a far more eloquent and well-researched list than I could probably muster.

I'll be writing to my children's school with my objections, which obviously come too late for this year, but I hope that they will reconsider their support for future years.  I have also discussed it with my children as best I could, and together we have decided to make a commitment to sponsor a child via PlanUK instead - which I hope will give them a more lasting insight into life in the 3rd world, and instill in them the message that charity is not just about presents and is not just for Christmas.

However, if you do feel strongly about an alternative and can't afford to make a lasting commitment, you can still purchase more of a one-off gift from organisations like Save the Children, who have some great Christmas gifts that can make a real, practical difference without a hidden agenda.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Five things I have learnt whilst job hunting

1) No matter how much you brace yourself for it, that first rejection is hard. Especially when it's a job you really, really wanted. Bah.

2) Despite how optimistic and upbeat I feel on a Monday morning, the weekly trip to the job centre is guaranteed to leave me feeling deflated and slightly grubby.

3) When trying to explain the sort of job you are looking for proves difficult when you are explaining it to adults, it is ten time worse trying to explain it to children. In fact, my children have given up trying to work out what I want to do and instead have come up with their own suggestions for me. According to them, I should try to be:
 - a hairdresser; because I'm "good at cutting fringes"
- a chef; because I'm a "great cook".
- a postal delivery person; because I could "get to see inside a post box", and I could finish at 2 to do the school run.

4) There are actually plenty of jobs out there, however, most of them appear to want such specialist experience that I wonder how some of them ever get filled at all. (Kids, my advice to you - learn a programming language.)
Contrary to popular belief, being a "generalist" is actually making it fairly tricky to find the right things to apply for. I'd always assumed that I had quite a few skills that were transferable between roles and between industries. Yet, no matter how hard I try to broaden my horizons, people will try very hard to pigeon-hole me into a very specific niche.

5) As I'm sure any stay at home parent will attest, school hours are really not long enough to get anything sensible done. As job hunting is also permanent job in itself it appears my dreams of doing anything particularly productive outside this activity were probably a tad optimistic...

Onwards and upwards...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Is there anything more frightening than make up counters?

As someone who is very-nearly-but-not-quite-thank-you-very-much 40, it strikes me that it's strange how there are still some things that can instill an irrational amount of fear into me. I'm not necessarily talking about those weird phobias that we all have, but more the kind of things that you would think become easier with practice. Silly things like tipping, public speaking and eating spaghetti in public without getting it all down your front.

One thing, however, that still brings me out in a cold sweat is the department store make-up counter. There's just something incredibly intimidating about those immaculate assistants smiling at you from behind a shiny glass stand with their perfect teeth. A smile that's supposed to signal encouragement but more often than not reeks of pity as you hover nervously wanting simultaneously for them to ignore you and take you in hand and sort you out. My experiences over the years have not been mixed, it has to be said. My first ever purchase was a blusher from a Clinique counter that prompted my then-housemate to declare that the makeover was "quite nice apart from the blusher". Plus, each one of them seems to have been obsessed with putting put me in the brightest Barbie pink lipstick they can find.

I've noticed over the last year or two that I've definitely hit a tipping point when it comes to make-up. Once, I used to wear make-up to look older. Going out without it meant I'd get asked for ID ("I'm 35!" I once squealed at the elderly dear in M&S, secretly wondering if they did it on purpose so that people like me would have a story to boast about), answering the door without it meant the double-glazing salesmen would ask if my parents were in (this happened to me at 31. Have I given you enough clues about how wonderfully youthful I once looked?)

Anyway, these days I'm now at the stage where I wear make-up to look younger. I no longer get asked for ID when I venture out without it. Instead, people act concerned and say things like "you look tired, are you ok?"

Then there are the studies and womens' magazines that tell us things like "36 is the optimum face age" or "women at best at 30, start to age at 41". Plus stuff about how wearing the same "look" you've been wearing since you were 20 isn't flattering once you get past 35. Much as you tell yourself you are above that stuff, eventually the insidious messages get to you. So you finally pluck up the courage to approach the women nearly half your age on a random make-up counter.

"Can I 'elp you?" she says. (Winning smile. French accent)
"mumble...mumble..update look...mumble...mumble..." (pick up random highlighter pen hoping it will leap onto my face and instantly cover up my blushes).

Thankfully she takes charge straight away, and sets to work with a random selection of products, all the time oohing and aaahing over my bone structure and my skin colour, and I'm finally starting to relax. We even converse in my rusty French, and I teach her the word "oomph" for "'ow you say in Eenglish, ze peps?"

It's all going swimmingly. Until, that is, she delivers that killer line: "Ah, I zink we 'ave similar skin. I 'ope mine is as good when I get to your age".

I'm sticking to Boots in future.

via Beauty Blitz

Monday, 7 October 2013

8 Reasons Why I Don't Want To Be An Aristocrat

1) Let's face it, the only way you can survive is by inviting paying plebs to traipse around your ancestral pile

Not a bad gaff, though, right?

2) You can never re-decorate and are stuck with the wallpaper and/or taxidermy some great-aunt once chose

3) You have to give your children traditional family names and can't go for something nice and modern like Kai or Beyonce.

4) You have to wear silly costumes on dreary state occasions:

5) Your rooms are ridiculously large and very draughty, and therefore must be terribly difficult to keep warm.

6) You have to pretend to still be into religion.

7) Imagine having to walk from one end of a room to the other to fetch something - let alone just "popping to the loo" down three miles of corridors. I suppose you'd be fit. Unless you had loads of servants.

8) You are unable to hide the fact that one of your ancestors was fond of wearing a onesie:

No, I wouldn't want to be a toff for love nor money....but sometimes...just sometimes... it's nice to pretend...

(an early birthday present - if you want to find out about where we stayed, pop over here soonish...)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Signing On

(Never let it be said that my posts aren't topical.) 

With the debate about whether the long-term unemployed should be made to work for their benefits in full swing, I took it upon me this week to officially join the ranks of the jobless.

There used to be a certain stigma about "signing on", but (despite the Tories' best efforts?) these days it seems rare not to know anybody who has spent some time out of work. I, for example, have a plethora of ex-colleagues that have been made redundant over the last few years, and who have been through the process of claiming job seeker's allowance cycle.

It would be a lie, however, to say that I skipped to the job centre with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, however. A small part of me is still slightly in denial about the whole "I need to find a new job" situation, and this seemed like a step too far towards the scary reality. 

However, the process was remarkably swift for a public body - certainly faster than getting a doctor's appointment - and relatively painless -again, the staff seemed friendlier than some doctors' receptionists I have come across, and I escaped feeling relieved and unscathed.

I fear, however, that the bright colours of the new claims section may have lulled me into a false sense of security and will give way to the usual smell of dejection and grey public waiting rooms when I have to go back to the inner sanctum next week...


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