Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Unemployment brings out my hermit side

Being under-employed makes me even more antisocial than normal.  I know, that's hard to imagine considering I'm not the touchy feely type and I've already admitted to being a misanthrope.  But really, I'm not Oscar the Grouch, I promise.

It's just that sometimes I just really don't want to talk to people.  Especially when I just don't feel like having any conversation that remotely deals with my life.  It's impossible to have meaningless conversations that don't even tangentially come into contact with some facts about your life.  For instance, any conversation with someone you have just met or hardly know inevitably ends up here:

"So... what do YOU do?"

Stop me if I'm wrong... Do your conversations with new people always end up here eventually or not?  Yep, that's what I thought.  So, this is how mine typically end...

"Oh you mean me?" I ask hoping desperately the answer is no.  Stalling for time with this last desperate question.

"Yes, I feel like I've been talking too much about me.  So, what do you do?" persistently and annoyingly curious person.

Damn.  Did it occur to you that perhaps I would prefer to talk about anything other than myself?  No, of course it didn't.  And now you've asked me the worst question possible.  The one that leads to all the others.  If only it was polite to stomp off every so often without a word.  Sigh...

"Well, at the moment I'm volunteering at a museum and looking for work." I finish quickly drinking something so I don't have to see that look in their eyes.

The worst part of being unemployed isn't the financial trouble, though that is worrying, or the job hunting stress, though that can be exhausting, or the self doubt you wake up to every morning, though that is depressing.  No.  The worst part of being unemployed is talking to everyone else about it.

Don't get me wrong, I do not enjoy being penniless and living like a pauper in one of the world's most expensive cities.  Thank you London.  But the worst thing about it is you have to admit to people that you are either under-employed or unemployed and now all your private doubts and worries are suddenly the subject of public debate.  Oh, what are you looking for?  Are you qualified for those positions?  How long have you been unemployed?  etc.

All your flaws are suddenly layed out for everyone to see and talk about and laugh at.  Aired like so much dirty laundry.  For some reason everyone believes they have a right to delve into your personal life here.  If you had a job the conversation would go, "I do this, I love it," they would get bored and then move onto another less personal topic.  But if you don't have one you must have failed somewhere and they believe they are allowed to poke around in this fascinating subject that is your life til they find out why.  Stomping around on your feelings and raising up your doubts in the process.  

The only reason to be unemployed, of course, is that you failed.  Not that the economy is terrible or that you made choices better for your health that possibly made your career path more difficult.  Nope, there is not other explanation.  If you do not have a job currently you must be at fault somehow.  You failed at your previous job or you are somehow responsible for failing in the job search process.  You aren't applying to enough jobs, or the right ones, or you aren't writing the cover letter in the right way.

Teddy Bear Left in Window - Huddersfield
Being unemployed AND being forced to talk about it,
leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable.

Never mind that you already wake up doubting yourself and your abilities during this time.  Never mind that many vacancies are filled internally and you didn't have a chance to start with.  Never mind that it's physically impossible to send out more job apps on some days (because you woke up and applied all day til you went to sleep).  Clearly, it is somehow, in some way... all... your... fault.  And worst of all they feel like they need to tell you so.  These irritating people feel the need to point out all the places you could possibly have failed.  Just in case you didn't know all the ways you might be failing.

Giraffe left forlon in a window - London
Please pick me.  Please?  I am trying really.

Let me be clear.  Friends offering suggestions is not the same thing.  You can suggest different jobs to apply to or maybe even help edit a cover letter without being this sort of obnoxious intruder.  These are the sorts of questions and judgements you have to endure from people you have never met before or barely know.  Their judgements are least welcome and interestingly enough the most forthcoming.

Maybe I should start answering this question with increasing doses of sass.  Oh me?  Yes, I do lots of things.  I do laundry, I read, I paint (but only in the afternoon when the light is right), I travel, I talk to friends across the world.  Sometimes I skype with my parents or spend time volunteering at the museum.

Maybe I should leave it at that and let them imply that I'm unemployed.  Maybe I should make them ask me what I do.

"Haha, laundry.  NO, I meant what is your job?"

"Oh, so you want to know about my personal finances?  Well I do declare, the impertinance of some people..." and I will storm out with high heels and my perfectly polished pearls reassuring me that I am a lady of.... wait, I don't own pearls.  Ok, maybe I shouldn't opt for this one.

Maybe I should go a step further with the cheeky reply and invent my own job.

To do that I need to set straight some definitions.  I think it is reasonable to define profession thusly.

Profession: the use of skills and abilities particular to the individual in the pursuit of financial stability

And if we define profession in this way then I can confidently say that I am a professional applier.  I apply and apply and apply to jobs of every description, salary and location in the pursuit of financial stability.  Now, I am not successful at achieving stability in this profession, but success is not part of my definition.  It is all about the doing.  And so am I.

Maybe my new strategy for this question should be more cunning.  Perhaps when I have been trapped in this corner of the conversational ring and I am no longer able to dance my way out I will open with this little number.

"What do I do?  Do you want the grim, sarcastic or fictional answer to that question?"

People, I am assured by many studies (on choice and on the anchoring effect which suggest people pick the middle option), when presented with three choices, two similar options, one of which is slightly more appealing, will typically choose that and ignore the third unrelated option.  So, if I give them a choice of truth that is grim, truth that is sarcastic, or fiction, I am guessing they will opt for sarcastic, as the more appealing of similar choices and the middle option.  And I'll pull out my "my life is fabulous I'm a professional applier" routine, which I will no doubt have perfected in no time.

Then again, they could surprise us all and persist in being nosy and annoying and demand the sordid details of my floundering career.  If this is true, I shall not hold back and maybe, just maybe I'll make them sorry for asking.  Next time take a hint, if I do not want to speak about myself just continue talking about you.

People and their questions.  Pah.  Mutter mumble mutter mutter.

Maybe I should just avoid talking to people for awhile.  At least until I'm less grouchy, or maybe until I've sorted out some things in my life, for example, finally found a job.  Then again, I'm in a bad mood and I'm thinking that my old plan of becoming a hermit permanently is sounding like a better and better idea.  People.  I don't really like people.

So, please excuse me while I go be antisocial and grouchy for awhile.  Don't worry, it's probably just the weather and I'll be cheery again tomorrow.  I hope...  Disastrous rainy country!  Grey and miserable...

Mutter mutter mutter....

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

It's not belated, it's prolonged.

If I had been home for Father's Day I would have done all the traditional celebratory things.  I would have brought my Dad donuts for breakfast and handed him a card and a book.  If I we were lucky it would be one he hadn't bought for himself last week when he went to the bookstore, despite the house rules that he is banned from them one month prior to any major holiday or gift giving day.  He always breaks this rule though.  In our family obedience has never really been a strong suit.

Stubbornness we could probably win Olympic medals in. That is just the sort of family we are.  When we decide on something there is really not much you can do about it.  We are just that stubborn or focused.  We do not have hobbies we have obsessions, a concept which one of my aunts explained perfectly by stating matter of factly that "If it is worth doing, it is worth over-doing".

Train-watching isn't just a hobby it's a passion.  Or even a career!  (I only partially jest, I am a Medievalist, you know.)

This brings me to the part where I would like to make a wild claim (another family specialty).  I am going to claim that if fathers are so important that they should have a day, a point I agree with, than they really ought be treated to more than just one day.  One single day is not enough to celebrate our fathers, so I am extending it to the whole week.  That is why I am writing today and not on Sunday.  And not of course because I am belated in writing this post.  Of course not.

So, as I am not there to bring my father all the right things I am going to tyrannically make demands from afar.  You must eat red licorice.  You must drink root beer.  You must read a good book this week.  And you must nap.  These are the little things and the best things about life.  So, do them and I will toast you from afar.  Happy Father's Day, or week, Dad.  xxx

Monday, 20 May 2013

Inexplicably Lovely

Today is one of those days that is simply lovely without a reason.  Perhaps that isn't fair.  There are lots of little reasons, but nothing incredibly big, exciting or extraordinary is happening to make today lovely.  So, because there is a hint of sunshine behind these large London clouds, and because I am just in that sort of mood I am going to declare today a day for enjoying the little things.  Today is a celebratory day.  The sort of day you randomly buy yourself a cake to enjoy because it's a great day and why not?

So, here is some cake for us.
Chocolate birthday cake
Wait, that's not quite right....  Hold on... Here try this.
Chocolate happy unbirthday cake
Yep.  That's better.  Happy Merry Unbirthday to me and maybe even to you!  Happy day!  Let's celebrate with cake!  It's just the sort of day that demands it, don't you think?

So, in celebration of this inexplicably lovely day, a day in which I am happy just to be alive, I am going to take a bit of time and be thankful for all the little things.  For a start I am happy that someone came up with these cookies.
Jazzie biscuits
Not only are these cookies all pretty and colourful with sprinkles they even have this great name with little jazzie cookie mascots on the packaging.
Jazzie biscuits with sprinkles
Plus, when I see a cookie in a jazz hat with a cane saying jazzie I can just hear this distinct accent coming from its mouth.  An accent that places more emphasis on the first syllable and turns the word into jazz-eh more than jazz-EE if that makes any sense at all.  If not, well, then, just think about how cute he is with his little hat and so forth...
Jazzie biscuits

I am happy that this large wooden gate guards a house in Moortown, Leeds.
Large gate in Moortown Corner, Leeds
Doesn't it just make you smile that this sort of thing still exists?  I would love to have a house behind such a gate.

To continue with architectural features I love that if you look closely you can find beautiful details everywhere.  I liked the stone rose detail here. 
Stone rose architectural detail
And I love that under one of the arches on this same structure you can find a bunch of architectural details all in one place.
Stone arch with lantern

On the subject of architecture, I love finding random details in train stations. Details like this just make life more pleasant.  Don't you think?

Pretty iron work at a train station in Yorkshire

I just love it when you round a corner and find an unexpected Ferris wheel.  I thought this one was lovely all lit up at night.  It made my trip home from work more exciting.
Ferris wheel at night in Leeds
I just love the way it lights up the whole street.
Ferris wheel lighting up a street at night in Leeds

I am happy that some people actually take the time to create graffiti art rather than simply tagging a wall with misplaced words and strange lettering.
Graffiti art in Huddersfield
I don't know why, but I find this little guy quite compelling.  I love the way he is peering out from beneath his glasses.  I found him in Huddersfield and I just couldn't resist photographing him.

So there you have it.  A number of randomly lovely things.  The sorts of things that make my day.  The sorts of things you don't expect to find but make you smile anyhow.  There are so many of them out there.  They are everywhere if you know how to look for them.

Now if you will excuse me I need to celebrate this inexplicably lovely merry unbirthday day with some cake.  And if it is not too impertinent of me, I suggest you do the same.  Unless of course it's actually your birthday.  In which case, you may do better with a birthday party and perhaps an appropriately lettered birthday cake.  However, I suspect that you, dear reader, are more likely in my situation and it is simply a merry unbirthday day.  So have cake.  It is after all a great day to be alive.

A merry unbirthday to all!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Mom,

It is now officially Mother's Day in the US and therefore it is time for me to wish you a second and more official Happy Mother's Day.

If you were here I would take you for a walk to see all the lovely flowers that are out for spring.  Spring in the UK is truly beautiful.  This is not just because we are just way too excited to see the sun again. 

Seeing as you are still not here however, I will simply have to make do with sending you a few pictures of flowers.  So, here you have it, some flowers from a stroll around the UK.

These lovely pink flowers were blowing gently in a brisk Leeds wind.
Pink flowers in front of the Leeds Minster
I found them quite pretty.
Pink flowers in front of the Leeds Minster
Then I went for a stroll along the river in the adorable little town of Walton-on-Thames.  Spring had arrived there too and graced a lovely old Medieval House.
Medieval house surrounded by white blossoms in Walton-on-Thames
Spring here really is lovely.
Sundial in a garden surrounded by spring flowers in Walton-on-Thames
I hope that you are enjoying this fine spring day and there are loads of pretty flowers for you.  Happy Mother's Day Mom.

I love you.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Breaking News: Mugger claims Scurvy made them do it!

Some day it will come to this.  One day I will hardly be able to fend off the scurvy and the madness and I will simply snap.  This will be my headline.  Mugger claims "Scurvy made me do it!"

I can tell you are confused.  That furrowed look on your brow, that raised eyebrow, that slightly narrowed eye tell all.  You cannot understand what I am talking about.  Well how could you?  YOU do not have scurvy.

At first I just thought I was tired from working too hard and maybe the tiniest bit lazy.  But then I realized the terrible truth.  I was in line to buy my handful of bargains at M&S when realization struck.  Out of all the things I could have selected to buy I had chosen to buy a lemon cake, a lemon mousse and a grapefruit.  I wasn't just tired and lazy.  I was craving fruit.  I had scurvy!  The hard yellow evidence was staring me straight in my scorbutic face.

Pirate birthday cake
Maybe the presence of this pirate cake alongside my lemon cake subconsciously started this whole thing? Nah, it was the scurvy.  Had to be.
Scorbutic, that's just such a great word.  No, focus Madder Hatter, you must stay focused.  Don't let the scurvy take you like this.

Ok, produce wallet, produce change, pay for citrusy products.  Almost safe.  No, the madness is taking over.  The scurvy... It. Is. Too. Powerful.

I stumbled back to my desk at work, delirious with laughter and the sickness.  I managed to obtain a spoon somehow in this state, peeled back the lid with trembling fingers and dug into the lemony mousse.  Ahhh.  The cure.  I could feel the sugary lemony goodness fixing me.  The madness slowly receded to a normal level and I went back to my work.  I had been saved from the scurvy, but not before I had realized my fate.

You see, it seems to be my fate to constantly battle scurvy.  I do not eat enough broccoli obviously, as I have explained before here.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must realize what my eventual fate will be.  I am destined to battle with scurvy my entire life.  Yes, tragic, but true.

I will not always be so lucky as to be within reach of a cure, however.  So, I am doomed to be the madman on the loose grasping at anything that even looks like a cure.

Mad with the scurvy I will scuttle down the street.  Nobody sitting at a quiet breakfast with grapefruit will be safe from my ravenous need for citrus.  I will be forced to grab lemony desserts from people's hands and down them without elegance or dignity.  Scorbutic hands trembling I am doomed to terrify the lone bearers of fruit flavoured cakes on public transportation.

With wild and anxious aspect I will spy the cakes from a distance, perched prettily on the lap of an unsuspecting bus passenger.  My desperate deficiency heightening my senses and screaming that I act now to restore my health, I will leap to my feet and race to my supposed salvation.  Muttering in demented demeanor aloud to myself about the scurvy I will pitch back and forth with the motion of the bus.  The scurvy will feel the motion, reach back into its ancient memory and believe with renewed audacity that it is afflicting a hapless sailor, demanding satisfaction in a fruit flavoured cake sacrifice to its honour.

I will battle with the scurvy.  I am a good person and won't want to take the poor passenger's cake.  But the scurvy will be strong and I will eventually be forced to steal their cake.  Unceremoniously, I will be found tearing into it to relieve my scurvy and become the world's weirdest and wildest mugger.  Stealing cakes from innocent people.  Once the scurvy has been sated and my sanity has returned to me it will be too late.  I will try to explain that the scurvy made me do it as I am led away in handcuffs for mugging some poor old lady bringing a lemon cake to her friends birthday.  But it will be too late she will already be terrified and traumatized by my public scorbutic debacle.

I am doomed.  Summer days may find me trying to pry orange popsicles from unsuspecting little fingers.  Fingers that will point me out as the orange-handed culprit.  Sure, sure I could have asked where they got their popsicles from, but scurvy doesn't heed logic.  Scurvy does not brook disappointment.  Scurvy is a law unto itself.  It is a bleak bleak future that awaits me.

Even if I try to stockpile on citrus products there is no telling when scurvy could strike.  I could be anywhere and nobody will be safe from my scorbutic mania.  Maybe I should get a lawyer.  Perhaps a good lawyer could explain that these innocent victims had knowledge of the whereabouts of the popsicle and cake vendors and that they were withholding that information from me.  I was forced to steal the popsicles and cakes out of great underprivileged need.

Or insanity.  The insanity plea could work.  The terrified lady from the bus could probably testify on my behalf even.  Insanity may just be my salvation. 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mother's Day in March

It is after midnight so it is officially Mother's Day here in the UK.   Across the pond we celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May, but here it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.  It just so happens that this year it is today, Sunday March 10th.  So, while I am not officially bound to celebrate Mother's Day today I think I shall anyway.  My mother is simply that great.  She deserves two whole days, not just one.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers here who are celebrating officially and Happy Mother's Day to you Mom.  It seems that it is tradition to give your mother daffodils here in the UK, a fact which has been made difficult this year with the cold weather causing a shortage of the cheery yellow flowers.  And, well, it's a bit hard for me to give flowers to you anyway.  So, what I will do is amass some pictures of flowers for you.  This will be my way of saying extra thank you to you today.

Here are some British Daffodils for you.  Some from Grassington and some from Roundhay Park.

Daffodils in Roundhay ParkDaffodils by the road in Grassington 
Now that I have given you these daffodils I have realized that flowers from England are not enough.  I need to travel the world to select the best and brightest flowers for your bouquet.  

Some of them I got to share with you in person, like these from Berkeley.

Climbing roses in Berkeley, CA
Orange roses
 Some flowers I had to travel further afield to find.  I had to go to Rome to find these for you.
Wisteria along a yellow wall in Rome
Wisteria across a private gate in RomeWisteria in the Roman Forum
Wisteria on a street corner in Rome
Then I realized I was lacking some yellow flowers since those are your favorite. So I went to Geneva to get you some yellow tulips.
Yellow tulips from Geneva
Delicate Iris with an ant climbing it, found in Geneva
While I was there I picked up an iris for you because I think they are pretty and I wanted you to have one.

I then came home for a rest and found these yellow flowers amongst the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
Yellow flowers growing along the ruined steps of Whitby Abbey

Yellow flowers growing at Whitby Abbey

Yellow flowers growing atop a door frame at Whitby Abbey
The drive home from Whitby Abbey brought us along Robin Hood's Bay and I stopped to pick you these pretty purple wildflowers.  I think the view made them smell sweeter.
Wildflowers overlooking Robin Hood's Bay

  Back in Leeds I picked these for you on campus and out in my favorite thinking place.

Striped tulips on Leeds University campusWhite summer daisy
Purple wildflowerYellow rose unfurling in a spiral

In Hebden Bridge I made sure roses grew on a trellis for you, lavender graced your windowsill and yellow flowers bloomed by your gate.

Pink climbing roses on a gate

Lavender in the window
Yellow poppies growing by a gate

Then I went to Italy all the way out to Hadrian's Villa to pick you some lovely red poppies to give you a bit more colour variety.  
These yellow wildflowers next to the ancient ruined frescoes were too lovely to leave behind.  So I brought those home for you too.  After all it was you who taught me to see beauty in the tiny forgotten things.
Yellow wildflowers next to ancient Roman frescoes

While I was in the area I stopped over by Villa D'Este to get a few blooms for you.  They suited you too, happy and cheerful.  The sort of flowers that just remind me of you.
Tulips in the gardens of Villa D'Este

Red and blue flowers in the gardens of Villa D'Este
Yellow tulips near a fountain pool in the gardens of Villa D'Este

Speaking of tiny overlooked yet beautiful things, these poppies in Pompeii couldn't be appreciated better by anybody else.
Red poppies by a column in ancient Pompeii
Nor could the beauty of a vivid dragonfly against an orange flower.
And very few people would stop to admire the red hibiscus flowers that dropped red petals on red tiles next to this red bench in the heart of Benalmadena, Spain.  But I know you would.
Red Hibiscus flowers in Benalmadena, Spain

Finally I made one last stop.  I went to Paris to find you the last most necessary flowers.  I needed to find you some lilacs and I did find them in this garden.
Lilacs in a Parisian garden

Pink blossoms in a Parisian garden
While I was there I also found yellow flowers dripping with rain, so delicate and lovely...
Yellow flowers covered in rain drops in a Parisian garden
Stained glass flower from St Denis, Paris
 and a glass flower.  I brought them along too because I know how strong you are and sometimes I forget that you are also fragile.  I didn't want to forget so I added them to my bouquet for you. 

 Pink flowers in front of Notre Dame

I know I haven't always been nearby and we haven't always been able to share all our adventures together.  But I want you to know that you have always been close to my heart.

Bleeding Heart flowers from a garden on Leeds University campus

Happy Mother's Day Mom.  I love you.