Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Working Class(less)

Hands up who has a job? Now leave it up if it's in a specialist trade. Leave it up if you deal with private information on a daily basis, such as direct debit mandates, insurance details, prescriptions, etc. Keep those wigglers up if you've had to do at least a day's training.

I'm going to go out on a limb (pun slightly intended) and guess that most of you have your hands still up. Pretty much every job nowadays has a certain amount of responsibility. My hand's still up, although metaphorically of course; I'm typing, and also scratching my leg (but that's irrelevant).

The point I am ham-fistedly trying to make is that you can assume that with great responsibility comes great training*. I for instance have had to spend 9 days oop North at company HQ - not that I'm complaining, the shopping was great and the company paid for me to eat like Henry VIII, oh and the course was good too - just to reach the necessary standards dictated by my contract. And I do have a Qualification-specific job, I'm earning an NVQ as I work and I needed to meet entry requirements.

So why in Jenova's name do people still judge me for my age??

Without giving away too much about what I do for a living (or what company I work for, I aught to be very careful on the WWW), I handle public data on a daily basis. I wear a certain uniform and help my colleagues provide a service to the public. I'm currently one of the youngest staff members on my team, the other ladies being in the region of 30-50 years old (I'm 21, fact fans) so I do stick out a little bit. Having said that, I've qualified and trained, passed documentation and tests stating that I am perfectly capable of the mathematics, science and knowledge needed to do my job on a daily basis.

But for some that is just not good enough.

Sometimes, a customer is taken aback by someone who appears to be so young knowing a lot about a specific trade, and that's fine. I've been pleasantly surprised to find an old school friend working in a trade specialist store once: she knew a hell of a lot more than I did about different sizes and thicknesses of MDF and I wasn't about to turn down her expertise based on the fact that she appeared to be under 25.

What isn't fine is judging me to be bad at my job, or somehow not knowing what I'm talking about. Especially since I pride myself on honesty: if I need to go and fetch my boss to check something I will damn well go and fetch my boss, and I will say to my customer "I would just like to double-check this for you". This is to me and many of my customers acceptable in any field of work that requires a certain level of expertise. They don't want me to get things wrong, do they? And in fairness, the girls there that are older do know a lot more than I do. But age has little to do with most aspects of my job.

What is not acceptable is the customer who assumed that because equipment I was using was not working properly, this was down to my own incompetence, and who then began shouting loudly enough for other customers and colleagues to hear that I was too inexperienced. My colleague very kindly told him not to be so rude, and my boss kindly told him to leave quietly and not come back. I have had a few customers like this: thankfully that was the worst it ever got and all he did was made me feel a bit stupid for a few minutes.

On the other scale, we have the thousands of polite customers who have faith that I do actually know what I'm doing. Now I don't want a pat on the head every time I do something at work, but it is nice to be recognised as someone who can do their job. Pop out for a shop and see how many people serve you as you go: how many different races, creeds, genders? And why should you think "Oh, she's too old to work a till." "He's bound to get my prescription wrong." "He knows nothing about perfume, I'll ask a woman." As long as someone does their job confidently, coherently and competently I don't see why anyone should be judged.

Finally just to point out: I am very happy with my job - I'm not revealing what I do for a living and where I work and this should not be interpreted as a complaint against my workplace at all. I am just against discrimination of all kinds.

*Spiderman never said this, I can't be sued. Ner ner.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Like an Album of Your Close Friends [REVIEW]

LABEL: Parlophone

I'm doing my research while listening to Eliza Doolittle (real name Eliza Sophie Caird), and looking at this young lady's CV, I'm impressed. And then intimidated. And then impressed again by the soundtrack to my findings.
Money Box leads the roster, and is quirky enough to have you bobbing up and down to the chorus on the daily commute or while listening to the radio. I quickly grow fond of her lyrical style - certain songs like Rollerblades sound like something I'd scribble in my diary or say in general conversation: there's no pretence here and it's genuine and charming. Tongue-in-cheek phrases and double-entendres paint Eliza as a sweet but not un-threatening songstrel - she's no Dido, sighing and looking wistfully into a cup of cold tea: she's the girl who gets off the bus every morning with a spring in her step.
Mr Medicine is a good little 'breaker number' after the similar hand-clapping ska-pop flavours of debut single Skinny Genes and Rollerblades, with another sing-along chorus and a gentle sway-and-clap-along feel to it. Well-placed samples of catchy hooks, such as the whistling riff from Andy Williams' hit song 'Butterfly' used in Skinny Genes give the tunes a 'vintage' feel, as though she had pinned a family heirloom brooch to a brand new outfit. It's a great touch, and not a glaringly obvious one like some artists' who use samples.
Back to Front follows the whistling hook vibe, and marks a slightly slower pace, but with Eliza there's no jolt from an overtly chipper mood to a sombre one. It's all transitional, which is something I in particular crave in albums. Aurally, Back to Front is like a wistful walk with the wind at your back. A Smokey Room is a little more brash, with vibrant brass licks and a skippy tempo, while So High lets Eliza's voice soar like a well-practiced, old-time blues vocalist. Nobody is happy-go-lucky in lyrics and melody, while Pack Up (her highest charting single so far) is the 'standout track' - the gospel-barbershop flavour making it easily one of the most recognisable songs of 2010. Closing tracks Police Car and Empty Hand seem like an epilogue, soothing you to sleep or just bidding you a gentle 'goodbye' before you move on to the next album.
Now size isn't everything, but the longest track on this album is 3:42 and it's the longest by a little while. The tracks tantalise with their relatively short length, so it comes as quite a relief that there's more than a handful of tracks on the album, all of them with their own memorable quirks - it's like an album of your close friends.

NEETY'S VERDICT: ****/*****
Ideal for a nice relaxing session or a thinking spree, this is comfortable listening for fans of Kate Nash or Paloma Faith who want a laid-back, no strings listen that won't fling you around the mood board. Eliza has plenty to offer and is definitely one to watch this year.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hi-Def Resolution

I bet you thought I'd forgotten. Didn't you?

Well, I haven't. You see, as my dedicated readers will know, I pretty much always do a New Year's blog at the start of every January of the same vein: talking about New Years' Resolutions and what a crap idea they are. #

But oh no. Just like an elephant who witnessed 'Nam, I will never forget.

I've had 21 New Years. I don't remember a good few of them; either from them being too uneventful, me being too young to understand, me being too drunk to comprehend, or some combination of the above three reasons. But I remember the Millennium. Maybe it was because it was the one night in my childhood when I was allowed to stay up as late as my parents.

Do you remember, Dear Reader, how terrified we were of the old Y2K? The Millennium bug? I remember a classmate telling me about it in school: "Cars will stop working and slide off of roads. Aeroplanes will stop and fall out of the sky. Computers in hospitals will stop working and people will DIE." Charming little doom-mongers that young children are, I knew plenty of adults who thought exactly the same thing: And then I remember waking up on January 1st 2000 and not finding the X-1447 to Frankfurt in my back garden. I went downstairs: the toaster wasn't trying to kill my Mum, Dad was tinkering happily with a computer (being the level-headed, sensible IT tech who had dismissed electrical Armageddon as 'crap' and got on with his work) and all was fine with the world.

A New Year changes a few things - the calendar and the clock, and I'm afraid that's it kids. I'm sure you're old enough to know that you won't go to bed up to your eyebrows in debt on Dec 31st and then wake up on Jan 1st a millionaire. But what you may not know is that no matter how much you want to quit cigarettes, or save money, or lose a stone, the day or date doesn't make the blindest bit of difference.

What you need to do is change your attitude first. You can choose to stub out your last fag just as Big Ben chimes, hating yourself two weeks later when you're lighting up out of desperation or sheer habit, or you can choose to use the first few days in January getting a bit of help - finding a support group, setting yourself a realistic goal, asking for advice from sources who've been there and gone through it. If you go 'cold turkey' from the start, chances are you'll be asking too much of yourself. Smoking, biting your nails, comfort eating, over-spending, swearing: they're all habits which can become deep-set and under your skin. Could you go a whole day without saying the word "the"? Not without hesitation and difficulty - and that's exactly how I want you to envisage the first few days of your Resolution. (Notice I said "the" during that latter sentence - if this was my resolution I'd be knee-deep in Quality Street wrappers by now.)

Then there's the other side of the coin: Resolutions aside, if you're in a bad situation then the New Year isn't going to make much difference to you. But rather than dwell on your circumstance, revel in well-wishes from others. Who did you spend the New Year with? Did they hug or kiss you at the strike of midnight? Did they raise a glass to you, or wipe a tear away and promise "This time next year..."? There's a good chance that these people wished you a Happy New Year. Stop and have a think about that: they're not saying "you will clear your debts" or "you will meet the love of your life" - they're telling you to choose happiness. After all, isn't happiness a choice? Yes it is - why else would rich people and poor people, old people and young people, people of all races and creeds and circumstances have it?

I'm not saying it's easy to be happy when the world seems to be against you. But the odds are you've heard someone say to you "Happy New Year" at least once recently. Share yourself and your New Year - spread yourself among your friends and family, your community, your activities. Don't worry about what could happen, or you're doomed. Yes, you might put the weight back on. Yes, you might slip up and have a sneaky smoke or two. Yes, you might fancy a drink after a hard day at work and yes, one day you will die. I'm very sorry about that but it's true. You are a person, not a machine designed to follow one limited pathway to success.

Whatever you set out to achieve this year or in the future, go for it, but pick the right road for you. And chin up, kiddo.