Sunday, 10 November 2013

Being a Northerner down south.

There has been a lot of  stuff on the internet this week about the north, and how northern you are, and it made me think of our perception of each other. It's true that southerners think northerners are a bit grubby and common and unsophisticated, whilst northerners think southerners are a bit rude and unfriendly! A lot of this is just banter, but is it actually true?

I have been linked to this post a couple of times this week, and so thought I'd analyse it in more detail: http://usvsth3m.com/post/65623530326/18-things-only-northerners-living-down-south-will

1. You thought your accent was barely discernible, but to people down south you're basically Peter Kay.
True. My accent is nowhere near as strong as some of my friends and family, but I still get laughed at for certain words!

3. You're mortified when you go back home and your friends tell you you're starting to sound like a southerner. True to some extent. My Mum and Stepdad came down this weekend and said my accent was softer, but I've always spoken better than some of my friends (pronounced my vowels etc) to the point where they call me posh. In truth, I had to modify my accent more when I went to University in York than I do down here, and I only do down here because I speak on the phone a lot at work.

5. Down here if you call a woman 'duck' or 'love' she might accuse you of being sexist. True. I have been called 'darlin' a few times though, which I detest and view in the same way, especially when it's someone younger than me.

6. People are just friendlier back home. Not true - Brighton is very friendly, although this is likely to change the closer to London you get.

7. In the South, everyone wears a coat when they go out at night. Not true, but they are more susceptible to the cold than me. It's definitely not coat weather yet, but I have seen people in scarves and gloves!

8. Chips and gravy doesn't seem to have bridged the north/south divide. True :( In the words of Peter Kay - "Has tha nowt moist?!"

14. Sometimes you have met people who have never been up north at all, who think it all looks like this:

                                 

True. It's also quite funny not to dissuade them. If you can persuade them you worked 'dawn't' pit' as well, it's even funnier.

15. And you have to explain to them that time is still moving on north of the Watford Gap. True.

16. Northern countryside is the most beautiful in the world, no two ways about it. True, but the south is prettier than I thought it would be. The hills are just not quite high enough.

17. Northern seaside resorts are just better, and not just because they remind you of your childhood. Not true. In Brighton, you're unlikely to find human waste within wading distance, and far less drunk middle aged, tangoed women with their bits out. (Yes Blackpool I'm talking about you). Brighton is nice, although a sandy beach would be nicer. Think I prefer Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay, but it's nice to see the sea eveyday!

18. No matter where you are, you'll always be proud of your Northern roots. TRUE.

Before I moved down to Brighton, I swore that I'd never move down South. In my head, the south was expensive, and lacked the hills and pretty scenery that I love so much about where my family lives. In truth, whilst some of the south is like that, Brighton just isn't.  I still haven't gotten over the novelty of seeing the sea everyday (even if it is cold, wet and grey!), and the South Downs are so close that I have the best of all the worlds; the sea, the countryside and a city is pretty much on my doorstep!

I also thought I'd stand out a lot more than I do. I don't have the strongest accent, and I'm quite good at subconsciously adapting it to my surroundings. My Mum has always been quite fastidious about me not sounding too much like I'm from Rochdale, so my friends have always called me posh because I pronounce my 'O's more than they do and things like that. I do have an accent however, and whilst that's thicker when I'm talking to my friends at home, it is discernible, especially to the southern ear. The truth is, however, that there are so many different people living in Brighton, that you wouldn't even notice! It's great :)

You also always read about how people in the south are really unfriendly and don't talk to each other on the street - this is so not the case in Brighton! It's so full of weirdos that everyone chats to you as much as you find up north! It's also not as expensive as I thought it would be either - if you go to the right places!! I paid £7 for a glass of wine on my first day down here. That is not happening again!

There are some things about the north that I will miss however. Winter is a good example. They've had the first frost and even a bit of snow up north, yet here it's barely cold enough to wear a coat! Alright, the wind off the sea gets a bit nippy, but it's nothing compared to being in Yorkshire! Winter is my favourite season, so I'll be sad if it doesn't get properly cold.

Seasonal food is another one. Bonfire night is one of my favourite nights of the year; I love snuggling up in my hat and coat and eating jacket potatoes whilst watching the fireworks, then going home to a bit of parkin or some treacle toffee. Black peas are also my favourite to eat around this time of year - I understand that no-one's heard of them, because they are very specific to Rochdale, so that's fine. For the uneducated, they're little black peas that you soak for 24 hours, before cooking until they're really soft, then eat with loads of vinegar and they're amazing). I couldn't believe that no-one had heard of Parkin, however. I assumed it was one of those things like Eccles Cakes or Double Gloucester cheese; regional, but everyone eats it.

I soon rectified that however. My amazing Grandma sent me a package 'for the northerner stranded in southern parts' that consisted of parkin, black peas and treacle toffee and a toffee apple! (I know you can get the latter two down here, but it's all part of the bonfire night experience!) That was too good to share, but last weekend I was bored, and so made Parkin and treacle toffee for the office. It was all gone within a couple of days, so I assume it was a hit! Slowly but surely I'll convert them to the ways of the north!

 

If you want to try it out for yourself, Parkin is like ginger cake, but made with treacle and spices as well. It's really sticky and so yummy!

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1751649/yorkshire-parkin


 

I'm so glad that Brighton challenged my perception of the south (a lot of it exacerbated by the fact that  I love taking the mick out of people, and southerners are easy targets ;)) - whilst there might be a lot of banter in the office between myself and my fellow northerner, and the rest of my colleagues, I have fallen in love with Brighton, and love the whole accessibility of the south! When living up north, I always used to lament the fact that everything that I wanted to do (comedy, live tv shows, gigs etc) were down in London, that is now just 50 minutes away by train! I am also close enough to France that I can go there for a day trip!

I will always be a northerner at heart, but I'm finding living in the south a lot of fun. (Ssh, don't tell anyone up north!) It's alright though, I still scored 99% on the 'How Northern are you?'quiz!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Heading south for the winter...

So I haven't posted for a while, for the main reason that I haven't had time. Why, you ask? Well I've finally got a job!! That's right folks - all the patience and hard-work has paid off, and I finally have my foot on the ladder in the travel industry!

In August, I applied very last minute for a job at a gap year travel and volunteering company. I'd been 'umming and ahhing' about it for a while, then an hour before the application closed, I went head, figuring I had nothing to lose. As it turns out, it was the best decision I have ever made. I was offered an interview, and headed down to Tunbridge Wells (via Reading, which required a 2.30am start - ouch!)

After a full day of tests, group tasks, quizzes and a horrendous X-Factor style 'eviction' halfway through the day, then a one-on-one interview, I was on the train back to London when I got the best phone call ever. I got the job!! (I may have cried a bit on the train - how embarrassing?!). Fast-forward a month, and I have now emigrated from the north - I am now a 'southerner.' Does this mean that I'll start pronouncing my 't's and 'h's and assuming that everything above the Watford Gap is the North?

I'm now living in Brighton (the office has moved from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton - hence the need for new staff), and have a little flat with a view of the sea from my office. Yesterday I went to the Pier for lunch, and I regularly have breakfast on the beach. A month ago, I was working part-time in a crummy little cafe in the middle of nowhere. Now I'm an hour's train-ride from London, closer to France than I am to my family and friends, and slap-bang in the middle of 'London-by-the-sea.' Despite my mum's worries, it is by far the best decision I have ever made (besides quitting my shitty job at the cafe in the hospital of course).

I now have a proper 'grown-up job' with an actual lunch hour (no more 10 hours shifts without a break!), a salary (no more minimum wage!!), and best of all, it's a job I love in the field I want to work in. And that's the best feeling in the world. Now I'm only three weeks into it, so the novelty may wear off (although I doubt it), and I haven't actually been paid yet (that's going to be the best feeling in the world) but I feel I'm actually going somewhere now. Everyone I work with is lovely, and I look forward to going to work everyday instead of dreading it. That's progress right?! If I can do it, anyone can, so don't give up folks. Karma does pay back sometimes, I'm living proof :)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What do I do now?

It's been a while since I posted, but that's mainly been a time thing I'm afraid. It got to a point where I was doing my contracted 35 hours/week at work, plus 10 hours overtime, plus 16 hours unpaid, and it was just all getting a bit silly. I also spent a lot of time worrying and stressing about what I should do when my tenancy ended on the house at the end of June.

My housemates were all moving back home with their parents to save money, and I didn't know whether it would be best for me to do the same, or to try and find somewhere on my own. I stressed about this for months, until I forced myself to make a snap decision, and now I'm back home living with my Mum. This is fine, apart from the fact that my Mum lives in the middle of nowhere, so it's very difficult or very expensive to go anywhere - apart from that it's all good, and I'm grateful to my parents for letting me move back. (There's something good about there always being food in the cupboards and money for heating bills!)

The upshot of that however, is the fact that I had to quit my job, and I am unemployed once more. You might all think I'm mad in this day and age, to lose a perfectly good job when the chances are I'm going to struggle to find another one. To be honest, the job was dire - not only in the way that it was a crappy retail job, when that's not what I want to do in the long-term, as I can deal with that to some extent - but to the point where I was so tired, and so stressed it was becoming detrimental to my health. I'm not a crier, but I burst into tears at work several times in the last few weeks, and made silly mistakes that were gradually getting more serious in nature because I was stressed, and quitting is probably one of the best decisions I have made.

My idea now, is to volunteer to get the skills that most of the travel or charity jobs seem to think I'm lacking, and to build up a network of contacts. I'll hopefully get a part-time retail job to keep me going at the same time, and that should be that. Except of course, that it's never as easy as that. Even retail is struggling at the moment; there are no jobs in places that I've asked round where I live, and I'm being rejected from pretty much everything else.


I have made a spreadsheet of jobs that I'm applying for, and have applied conditional formatting depending on the result of the application; at the minute, it's all red. Red for rejection. I've had some good feedback from some places, suggesting that I'm only a couple of points away from getting an interview, and it's not my skills or experience that are stopping me, but rather the fact that I'm not quite focused in the specific area that they're wanting, but in a way that's worse.

That's not something I can change. I'm not sure what else I can do; I have five different CVs depending on what I'm applying for (some with my degree on, some not); I have written millions of cover letters; I have spent hours on the internet and walking around the local area looking for jobs, and I'm still struggling. Fortunately I've been unemployed for less than a week so far, and hopefully I'll find something soon. I just hope I don't get to the point where I regret leaving my last job.

I also plan to broaden my horizons a bit, and get loads of experience doing as much as possible. I'm determined to be really proactive; keep writing on here, and up my social media presence a bit more (I've had some amazing things happen through Twitter!) I'm going to be blogging much more now, and hopefully I'll have a bit more to blog about if I can make life more exciting!

Other than that, I'm still dreaming of travelling the world. If anyone can recommend any good travelling books to add to my repertoire, they will be very gratefully received (I seem to have a lot of time on my hands at the moment). I'm getting fit again, running 7km several times a week, and I have bitten the bullet and have  dyed the ends of my hair pink! I will be spending a lot of time walking my dog, so expect lots of pictures of hills, and in the meantime wish me luck!!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Wanted: talented graduate who will work full-time in the centre of London for FREE

The tenancy runs out on my house in Leeds at the end of June, and so it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to be doing next. It's a thought that, quite honestly terrifies me. I think I know (vaguely) what I want to do with the rest of my life, but getting there isn't going to be easy.

I've been working towards the goal of working within the global aspect of charity work since I was at University (bearing in mind that I started Uni almost 5 years ago, that's quite a long time now), and yet I'm still nowhere near. In fact, I seem to be going backwards.

Since June last year I've been working at a small cafe/newsagents, and in that time I've been promoted to supervisor and am now pretty much running the whole unit. I am however, bored out of my mind and ready to move on. I work at least 50 hours/week EVERY week, and am paid a pittance for what I do; I rarely make it from month to month without struggling, and running out of money in the last week or so, and I'm by no means extravagant. I always said that I'd rather be poor and happy than rich and unfulfilled, but when I'm poor and miserable you know it's time for something to change.

                                     

Don't get me wrong, I love living where I do now; my house and housemates are amazing, it feels like home and it's in a great location, but I feel like I'm missing out on life. We're all in the same boat, and can rarely afford to do more than the bare minimum. We don't have time to socialise together very often, and when we do it's always on a very tight budget. We can't afford to all go out for tea or bowling, and so are often limited to a cheap bottle of wine or two and a DVD. Whilst this is fun, I feel like I've lived like a student for long enough, and surely by now I should be earning some proper money.

This however, is easier said than done. I'm willing to forgo a high salary for job satisfaction, but getting the job that I want is nigh on impossible. I'm broadening my interests, and am willing to do anything that's even remotely related to the career that I want, and yet I still have no luck. I'm willing to work for next to nothing, and I'm a hard worker; I'll go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that I do the best job possible. I'm willing to move ANYWHERE in the country, or even the world, make any kind of sacrifice possible - but what I can absolutely not afford to do is to work for free. Unfortunately, it seems that's what most employers want. Looking at entry-level or graduate positions, a lot of them are unpaid internships or voluntary opportunities, that 5 or 10 years ago would have been paid and easily-doable.

                                         

Surely I'm not asking for much? I know times are tough, and I'm not expecting to be paid a fortune. I'm happy to forgo a social life and luxuries if I'm in a job I enjoy and I can see I can progress somewhere, but I still need to live. That's not unreasonable, is it? I'm paid slightly more than minimum-wage at the moment, and as I said, struggle for money.

 I pay all my bills on time, and usually have enough food in the house, but that's it. No luxuries, no new clothes, no trips out, nothing. What am I supposed to do when these companies want me to work for free? Who is going to pay my rent, my bills, pay for my food or my travel costs? Most of these jobs are in London; are there some secret, free-rent, free-food places hidden away that only interns know about, or are these jobs only targeted at people who have wealthy families; whose parents can afford to pay for such things whilst they work for free.

If there were bursaries available that would pay my basic costs, I would happily work for free, but it's quite literally not possible. I cannot do it. Take these voluntary opportunities at Comic Relief for example:

http://www.comicrelief.com/jobs/volunteer

I would love to be involved in any aspect of Comic Relief (preferably working with the individual aid organisations nation/world-wide) but their offices are in Vauxhall, London. Even if I lived in the middle of nowhere and commuted for 4 hours a day, I still couldn't do that for free. There's always the option of working full-time alongside it of course, but if I can't live now whilst working 50 hours/week, what hope do I have in London on far fewer?

So what? I've just got to give up on my career because I can't afford to live on the bottom rung? Of course not; I'm not going to give up but quite honestly I'm running out of options. I'm trying to be broad-minded, but I won't be able to save any money as it stands at the moment, and I honestly don't know what other options I have.

I know I'm not the only one in such a situation, and that's what makes me angry. There are so many people of my generation that are struggling to get the experience and contacts they need, because they cannot afford to volunteer or intern. Something needs to be done about it, whether it be assistance from the government, or the organisations themselves. We're not asking for much - just enough to live on would be nice.

I know times are tough at the moment, but we're the future. What happens in 20 years time when there's a huge skill-gap across generations, as most people have been forced to work in monotonous, unskilled retail jobs? Somebody throw us a rope and give us a chance? We can do it, I promise.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

My Biggest Baddest Bucket List

I've recently entered a competition to win 6 months (all expenses paid) travel around the world! Exciting I know. My chances of winning are very slim, but I'd really, really love to and I need your help!

Five of the entries that make it through to the next round do so by getting the most votes - so please vote for me! All you have to do is share this link:

http://www.mydestination.com/users/saffonhalifax/bbb#.USk0RaWSKSo

on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, StumbleUpon or Google+ if you use it!

Please share away, and tell all your friends to as well, and you'll make me a happy Sophie!

Many thanks!

When I grow up I want to be....

It's the question you get asked most as a child, whether it's at school, by parents or well-meaning family and friends. As a small child, your answer is most likely a footballer, a pilot or maybe a fire engine; or a vet, a nurse or a teacher.

For years I wanted to be a showjumper, inspired by my five years of riding lessons. Despite the fact that I only had lessons for an hour a week (which deteriorated to once every two weeks as prices rose), I was certain that I'd be the next superstar and spent hours dreaming about it. This then graduated to a desire - than a serious ambition - to be a doctor, inspired by a long and crazy obsession with the long-running BBC drama 'Casualty.' This ended when choosing my A Level options, upon realising that I was dreadful at science and maths, and I just didn't really enjoy it.
BBC Casualty Series 16 Cast
I then had no idea what I wanted to do until I was half-way through University, when, motivated by my successful climb of Kilimanjaro and three years doing charity fundraising, I decided I wanted to work organising charity challenges, or at least in fundraising. This was my first serious career that I actually worked towards and tried genuinely to get experience in. I organised street collections, volunteered for various charities and managed to get a placement with DfID. Despite this however, alongside a three month (unpaid) internship with the NSPCC, I still can't get the job I want. I'm stuck doing a job that I was doing when I was fifteen, and left dreaming of what could have been.

After my internship, I went to several interviews for jobs that I'd love, and was told each time that I did really well and in any other circumstances they'd love to hire me. Unfortunately, people were now being forced to apply below their stations and I was competing against people with years of experience in the sector. I just didn't cut the mustard. I was told to volunteer for a while to gain even more experience and contacts (it really is who you know), but most internships and volunteering are full-time, or more time than I can give. I don't know who they think is going to pay my rent while I work for free, but it certainly won't be me. 

I know I'm not the only one; my peers are either struggling to find employment, being made redundant or are in rubbish retail jobs like me. So what happened to our dreams? Whether it be the crazy, childish ones or the serious ones, why are we unable to follow them anymore? I have friends that dream of being policemen, art therapists, designers, pilots, midwifes, vets, chefs, biologists and more and yet none of them are able to achieve their goals. Although they have relevant experience and qualifications, everyone I know is stuck working in retail, in minimum-wage roles, unemployed or due to be made redundant. I know a girl who was made redundant three weeks into a new job, and a boy who was made redundant after over a year. Films from Disney upwards make you believe you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard enough and are a nice person, and this just blatantly isn't true anymore.

So with a generation unable to follow our dreams, how are we to stay motivated? With thousands of young people stuck in jobs they hate, or find unfulfilling, how are they to succeed? Retail tends to be monotonous, doing the same thing day in, day out. What happens when people just stop caring about their work; will customer service standards drop? Will this cause even more high-street businesses to go into administration? Or will more people take the option to be unemployed rather than work in an environment they don't like?

How do we combat the social aspects of this? It's not just career-oriented dreams that people are giving up; earning minimum wage, people are struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck. Your twenties is supposed to be full of fun, getting drunk, travelling the world and making silly mistakes. My housemates and I can't even afford to go out for tea together, let alone go on holiday or go out on a regular basis. Stuck in the house when you're not at work, eating noodles or couscous for the third night a row, knowing that all you've got to look forward to is another day at work doing the same thing that you did the day before, it's hard not to fall into a kind of depression that's hard to snap out of. It's difficult to see how things will improve in the future, or how to get yourself out of the situation. It's not that you're unhappy - you love your house and your housemates, it's just that you don't feel like you have a life anymore, or at least not a life that you'd choose.

With the UK rating having just been downgraded to AA for the first time in history, our economy is getting worse and worse, and I'm worried about what's going to happen next. Although we're not quite in the same situation as Spain, with 60% of young people unemployed, we have an entire generation that's unskilled and unprepared for the future. We're going to be getting to all the hurdles in life much later than everyone else - I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get on the property ladder (can't even envisage renting on my own let alone affording a mortgage in the near future), and god knows when people are going to able to afford to get married or start a family. We're not going to be able to afford to start a pension, and so are going to be working much later than previous generations. We are the first generation of the economic crisis, and are living under a government woefully unprepared and with no knowledge of how to help us.

Despite this, I hold out hope that the economy will improve, and that one day we'll all be able to get the career that we want. In the meantime, I'll keep slogging away, and spend my evenings dreaming of travelling the world. Companies, when you're hiring, spare a thought for us lot and maybe throw someone a lifeline. You won't regret it.



Friday, 4 January 2013

2012 in pictures

Sophie

Pirate Halloween

Kings Cross

Trafalgar Square

Harry Potter World

Harry Potter World

Downing Street

Sheep

Pimms

Package from Mali

Flag for the Olympics

Olympic Torch Relay

Dog walking

Rome

Cuddles

Jogging

Puppy Love

Puppy

Dog Walking

Rome

Best friends

Birthday drinks

Family

Halloween

Drunk

20 things I'd like to do before I'm 30.

This past month or so has had me thinking. A lot. No-one I know has had any good news, though there has been a lot of bad, and we all seem to be pretty stuck in a rut with no way of getting out of it in the near future. I know a lot of graduates, and the amount on minimum wage jobs is staggering.

George Osborne has recently released his Autumn Statement, which was pretty depressing. Not going to go into details here (I don't understand a lot of it) but it's bad. We're now in a triple-dip recession, growth isn't happening as quickly as he 'predicted' and it's only going to get worse before it gets better. One of the only 'bright sides' in the statement was the fact that unemployment has decreased slightly. Statistically that might be true, but that all depends on how (and who) you work out the stats. The amount of UNDERemployment has actually increased significantly. This is people who want/need full time work, but have had to accept part-time hours because that's all that's available.

That's me, my housemates and most of my friends at least. And from what I've seen, a lot of people across the country. It's a serious problem, with people struggling to get through month to month on minimum wage and few hours, but with very little/no help because 'technically' they're employed. It makes the stats look better, but actually a lot of people are much worse off.

I can't see the situation improving enough for me to be able to volunteer any time soon (bye bye career), so I've decided to be positive about the future. I might only be 22, but time has a habit of springing up on you, and before you know it I'll be 30. There's a lot of things I want to happen by then, so I thought I'd document some of them here.

1. Travel. I don't care where to, but I have itchy feet that I can't quantify.
2. Be earning more than minimum wage in a job that I can tolerate. Earning a comfortable amount in a job that I love would be a bonus but I'd settle for the former.
3. Lose weight. I've been trying to do it for years, but been too lazy/weak to really stick to it. If I don't get back down to a size 12 before I'm 30 I never will, and then I'll never be happy with the way I look.
4. Be fit. This is probably more important than the point above. I don't want anything stupid to prevent me from doing the things I want to do.
5. Travel around the UK more. I want to climb lots of hills in the Lake District, Scotland and Wales and I hope to have done so by then. Preferably on my own.
6. Live somewhere I am happy and settled. At the moment I have no ties - I am a sail. It's terrifying and exciting, but I'd like to think I have somewhere vaguely home-like at 30.
7. Not care (as much) what other people think about me. Probably the biggest, and the most difficult aim.
8. Speak very good (if not fluent) French.
9. See the Northern Lights.
10. Visit every continent.
11. Have a pension. Or some savings. Or something to fall back on at least!
12. Have attended the wedding of a close friend. Of course this is entirely dependent on them, but I can definitely see it happening.
13. Buy some expensive clothes - i.e. ones that will last a while and are not from New Look/Primark!
14. Have something published. Should be an easy one - you can self-publish on e-readers nowadays ;)
15. Run 10km without stopping.
16. Walk the Coast to Coast.
17. Ridden a horse along a beach (a silly notion I've wanted to do since I was little)
18. Spend a day not caring what other people think of me. More difficult for me than this sounds.
19. Be a better friend/relative - I'm very bad at getting back in touch with people for various reasons, and I know this is something I need to improve.
20. Above all, be happy.