Friday, 19 September 2014

You ended up with a No? Think how we feel!

Scotland, we knew the #indyref wasn't personal. You were sick of our government, not of us. We get it. Most of us feel the exact same way.

For the most part the referendum was an exciting display of how democracy can work in the 21st century. Citizens of a free country were revelling in the street over the important decisions they were about to become party to - doesn't it make the world seem like a marginally more livable place?

There's a part of me that feels upset about the whole thing though. Scotland have their own parliament, their own voice and their own strong identity which itself is a link to an ancient past filled with warriors, settlers and lore. I want that.

Being English is generally considered an insult to anyone not concerned with how many English flags are displayed from the front-facing windows of their house at any one time. Displaying Englishness is not only fraught with difficulties - how does one act English? - but identifying as an English person in 2014 brings with it so much baggage we tend not to bother.

I'm not just English though, I'm a Northerner, and being Northern in England is tough. For a country so small it has a Napoleonic complex, England has a vast variety of cultures within it, and barely any of these are fairly represented.

For once I'm not talking about multiculturalism because there are hundreds of people who can write about this important issue far more articulately and knowledgeably than I can. What I'm referring to is the total lack of respect for the North of England. Yeah?

When I look at Scotland now in a post referendum haze, I see something I'm jealous of. I felt the same way when I visited Wales over the summer. These countries are part of the UK but they have separate identities, separate voices, unique cultures and ancient languages. Their populations are made up of people proud to share that individuality, who have a reason to be proud. That's the difference isn't it?

I'm not proud to be English. My country does a lot of things I find despicable and even if it didn't, I wouldn't feel any less unresponsive to the worn-out cliches it calls culture.

The world views England as a country split between posh-speaking moneyed stuttering suits and pissed-up sunburned union-jack swimming shorts. I view it as a North-South divide and despite a near constant reminder that such a thing doesn't exist anymore I can't help myself. It just appears to be getting starker.

People who aren't Northern view us two ways: Patronisingly and with reproach. Northerners are on the whole treated as though there isn't much that goes on in the UK that concerns us, from local concerns like shale gas extraction to global issues like whether or not we go to war with Russia. As part of England it's generally assumed that whatever the government say, we're alright with. We voted them in after all.

Except that we're Labourites for the most part, hell bent on ruining the world with our Unions demanding safer, fairer working conditions and care for the vulnerable. Working 12 hour days for 150 years to fuel the Empire was what we were good for - now as the leaders in British manufacturing we're still seen as unskilled rabble-rousers, good for nothing except a bit of a laugh. Aren't our accents funny?

Viewed as perpetually having a chip on our shoulder, Northern views on Northern issues are generally treated as though we haven't got a bloody clue. The thing is, openly admitting that you think an entire population of 14.5 million people's opinions are null (and that they probably just want to steal your tyres or eat chips and pies anyway) is just a bit xenophobic and we're all pretty sick of it now, if we're completely honest.

I want to live somewhere I feel proud to be a part of. In the North, I do have that, it's just not officially represented. Scotland, you've given me ideas above my station. I want a separate Northern government. You can join if you like. You can teach us all how to be proud of a country for the right reasons again.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On being 26.

Being just past my mid-twenties has hit me hard and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I'm edging ever-closer to the doomsday figure of "30". Perhaps it's because I still don't really know what I want my life to be yet. Perhaps it's because I'm suspended between my incredibly immature self and my ready-to-retire self. Perhaps it might even be because I'm older than a lot of my friends. No matter what it is, something is up with me, and it's becoming irritating.

I have two types of friends.

Type 1 says of my continued and increasingly tiresome life crisis: "You're only 26 Katie. You're still very young. You're like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic - you've got a whole world ahead of you. The iceberg is your forties, it's still a way off yet."

Type 2 says: "You're 26? I thought you were our age? Or maybe younger? Wow. You just don't seem...no offense, you just seem a lot younger."

I'm not sure which is worse, to be quite honest. On the one hand I could be happy that I'm not yet old enough to consider my age to be a real problem (therefore negating my concerns as needless anxiety and silly worrying), on the other I could be concerned that people in their early twenties recognise me as a somewhat immature member of their club - young enough to get away with finding fart jokes funny and having no idea what to do with my life.

The past couple of years have seen be do a lot of different things in the name of finding out "who I am"; I'm only just realising that this isn't what I've been doing at all. I've been trying to feel like an adult and have tried nearly everything in order to do so.

Turning 26 was unreasonably traumatic for me. I have no idea why. It's not a milestone age - not culturally or personally. It's not a particularly old age to be, nor is it that frustratingly young (I remember being frustrated at how being young never gave me any credibility). It's just an age. It just feels bad.

On my birthday somebody jokingly wrote "Happy 30th!" on my card and I didn't expect my reaction to be so explosive. I imagined that I had skipped forward four years and it freaked me out. This wasn't what my 30th year was supposed to be sitting on top of! I was supposed to be live via satellite somewhere on another continent for the 6 O'Clock News. Imagining sitting at my desk living another day of emails was almost too much to cope with.

It was just a joke though. So let's move on.

Currently going through another unexpected life change, I've realised that the reason my career hasn't gone the way I planned is because my life hasn't been like other peoples. Rather than taking time to mature and flourish, my career has always been a series of brightly interesting explosions, patches in the sky, and as soon as they arrive they vanish, leaving me trying to find something else to inspire and amuse me. I'm always at a crossroads, turning left and right, going to interesting places, but never in a straight line for long.

I've run my own business, I've been a writer, I've worked in social media (a dying career - get out while you can), I've sold medical software technology to NHS trusts (which was my golden ticket to hell, if any of you see me there in a few years and wonder why); I've been a barmaid, a waitress, a baker's assistant, a pot washer and a cook. I've worked in a record shop, a cinema, two different snooty-ass department stores and for a local 'entrepreneur'. I've worked in twelve different cities and been to uni one and a half times.

Sometimes it's better to remind yourself that sometimes it's impossible to set yourself against normal expectations. How would I have had the time in 26 years to do all of that and build a solid career in global journalism at the same time?

I wouldn't. So crack on. On to the next adventure. Let's get it done.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is being mean about a TV personality on Twitter really 'bitching'?

Probably a bit harsh, but in my defense she had just said her completely perfect picnic pie was rubbish even though it clearly wasn't.

I'm not a particularly highbrow person. Of an evening if I'm not down the pub or up a hill or eating there's nothing I enjoy more than watching my favourite awful TV programme and talking about it, and often enough I'm not impressed.

TV distorts the truth. No matter how much a show touts itself as being anchored in reality, the truth is, it's more entertaining and therefore more worthwhile for producers to pick and choose shots and sequences that portray contestants as exaggerated caricatures of themselves. But you all knew that, didn't you? We've all seen Screenwipe? So let's move on.

These caricatures are what we grow to love or hate. They are manufactured to encourage our pity, enthusiasm or disdain. We pick villains and heroes because it gives meaning to the show. We don't dislike the people, we dislike the character. Perhaps it's hard for people to separate the two, but that's TV for you. Easy to watch, easy to make opinions about, easy to forget, unless you're the person inside the box getting all the shit thrown at you. I'd be tempted at this point to say "well you chose to be on the screen though, didn't you?".

Maybe that isn't fair. Maybe that's cruel. Maybe I don't care. The thing is, people have Tweeted along with the telly for as long as Twitter has existed and TV execs got wise to it years ago. Viewers are actively encouraged to join in the discussion, with companies and programmes employing interns and social media assistants (like myself) to bolster along the conversation and buoy up a little bit of provocation. We say things like "Ooh, how mean was that comment?" or "Oh dear, that didn't look very good did it?" or even "How annoying is that Joey Essex, eh?" to get people talking. We get drawn into other conversations. We just do. That's what gossiping is like.

So, when a bit of mean-natured joshing turns into a national discussion about how we all need to stop judging people, I get a little bit annoyed. I have been known to exaggerate a bit. Hyperbolic hatred can be hilarious. Don't tell me you've never made fun of somebody to get a laugh. You have. The difference is, tossing off a comment online isn't the same as purposefully constructing a deeply resonant insult built to destroy another human being and then saying it to their face. I'd like to think none of us would do that. We're mean idiots but we're not fucking evil.

We aren't. Well, most of us aren't. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely nasty, who send rape threats to celebrities for the sake of poor banter and who make up jokes about babies in blenders and send them to people who notoriously get upset about that sort of thing. Your mates might find it funny (god knows why), but these people clearly don't. Context, people. As I've mentioned many-a time before, saying horrible things does not a Charlie Brooker make.

Lat night I said some harsh things about Ruby Tandoh on Twitter because she makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. In the cold, post-Bake Off finale light of day I should really say that the distilled essence of a Ruby Tandoh character whom I saw on TV for an hour every week for the past month or so makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. Here's the thing though - she's probably quite nice really, so I didn't send any of what I said actually to her. I have nothing against her personally.

Does this make me a bitch? Should I print it all out and send it to her house so she can hear what I had to say? Some people think yes. Some people think that everything you say should be heard by those who it criticizes.

In light of this, I should probably transcribe the rant I had about Morrissey last weekend after five double vodkas and send him a copy. I should probably call up Julia Bradbury and tell her I think she's a joke. I should also email Kevin McCloud while I'm at it and tell him on a number of occasions over the past year I have called him an increasingly insufferable pretension cloud hovering over prime time TV like a smug fart. (If you laughed at that, you're just as guilty as I am.)

At the end of the day, people like me direct our feeble moanings at the telly because it makes us feel better about our lives and nobody really needs to hear that stuff. That's the way the shows are formulated, and that's the trap we fall into. If you genuinely are still @ messaging Ruby Tandoh to tell her you hate her though, perhaps you need to take a look at where your life is at this moment.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Are falling birth and marriage rates really a surprise?



Mendokusai is a word I learned today. Loosely translated from Japanese to English it sort-of means "siiiighhhh, hassle" (the terms the Guardian used was 'it's too troublesome' but I felt a bit more of that heavy shoulder-shrugging gloom about it) and in the context of relationships in which it was used, it made me feel pretty sad.

According to the article I was reading, 45% of females aged between 16 and 25 aren't interested in relationships in the slightest. "So what?" I thought. Reading on, it turned out the issue is far more endemic than simply young women finding independence for themselves. 

A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships)[ - perhaps a good example in itself of Japan's staunchly conservative cultural norms. - KT] Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". More than a quarter of men felt the same way.(taken from The Guardian)

For a country with more extreme cultural values to our own, it's easy to dismiss these figures as the natural progression of a society primarily interested in 'salaryman' careers and the increase in the number of young people more willing to forgo the traditional trends of marriage and family life. Taking a closer look though could possibly reveal more about Western society as a whole than is entirely comfortable.

Throughout the article, women and men of varying ages between their early twenties and fourties were interviewed to speak about their opinions on relationships and to talk about exactly why they were choosing to remain single - a phenomenon in Japan which the media have dubbed "sekkusu shinai shokogun": literally, 'celibacy syndrome'.

The differences between the interviewees' attitudes to single life and that of a more familiar story taken from our own media was that their single lives weren't seen as temporary or finite. For the most part each person described their desires for sex and marriage as non-existent, stating that they doubted they ever would be interested in anything more meaningful than a platonic relationship. Some said their careers were their main priority, some said they simply were not interested in sex. "Mendokusai" they said. It's too much hassle.

For me, there's nothing surprising about this attitude. Of course relationships aren't necessary parts of human life for a lot people, nor should the traditional ideals of marriage and child-spawning be thrust upon people as the only healthy way to live. I'm not going to talk through the implications these new attidudes are having on the wider population of Japan as I'm sure the figures speak for themselves (you can find them all here) but rather the way they are affecting the sociology of the country. 

Society there has been changing dramatically over the past 150 years. As a culture traditionally set on male-breadwinner, woman-childminder values (much like our own), it has apparently been harder for both men and women to turn these stigmas around due to ingrained ideals combined with conservative Japanese attitudes. Calling unmarried sexually-active people "unsuitable members of society" and assuming that being married automatically requires the partners involved to reproduce isn't exactly doing wonders for young people's faith in the societal norm. 

Now that long-term single life is becoming more commonplace in Japan, the Government and media have attempted to backtrack on what they see as a national crisis, but it might be too late. I read this article and wondered why more countries were not involved in the study, and why it came as a surprise that people are no longer seeking stability in a relationship. In 2013, a long-term relationship couldn't be less desirable to independent people struggling to pave a way financially and socially. Given the state of the world, why should young people feel the need to bring children into it? Why should they be expected to rely on another human when they can provide everything they need for themselves?

I haven't seen a more depressing view of the future. That people would give up the chance to be in any sort of relationship because it's just too much of a distraction makes me sadder than any other news story I've read in recent months. In my opinion, and I know nobody asked me for it but I'm gonna storm in there and give it anyway, years of oppressive stereotypes and pressure to have it all have stopped this generation from seeking the traditional ideals of their parents. Add to this a string of economic and ecological disasters and you've got perhaps the least likely place you'd want to start a happy family.

This isn't about people being unlucky in love. This is about thousands of young adults opting out of relationships altogether in favour of playing reality sims, working 20 hour days and having easier, non-sexual friendships, and it isn't going to just stay within the boundaries of Japan's coastline.

Is that an ideal or is it a nightmare?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Should we really care about band t-shirts?

"Blitzkreig Bop? No, that's too commercial."
Once upon a time, band t-shirts were something you wore to display your personality outwardly to the world.

You were young and filled with a million self-doubts and adolescent malaise. It was incredibly important to let people know who you were - you weren't entirely sure yourself. It was self-affirming. The fact that the way you dressed could instantly render an instant opinion of your personality was not only pleasing to you, it was a useful time-saver. People with similar t-shirts (or who claimed to have similar t-shirts at home) would talk to you on the basis of your chosen emblem of the day. It felt good.

Later in your life, they became less declarations of 'who you are', turning into simple tokens of things you appreciated. You felt strongly enough about something to wear it on your person. That's a good thing - it meant you'd not totally succumbed to apathy.

I still wear band t-shirts, however a lot of the time I forget they are band t-shirts and wear them inappropriately. I've had them for so long they've blended into my wardrobe, their recogniseable logos as invisible to me now as the terms and conditions on the bottom of a scratchcard. It can cause problems. I wore my Crystal Castles "Bruised Madonna" shirt to the gym once, only to realise the looks of reproach coming from my fellow Fitness Pilates class members were aimed at the apparent glorified image of a beaten woman. I didn't try to explain. "It's just a band t-shirt!" wouldn't have really cut it. They thought I was a total bastard. I was extremely embarassed.

A similar incident occurred when I wore one of my favourite dresses out in Manchester. It happened to be printed all over with the same geometric patterns as Joy Divisions "Unknown Pleasures" artwork. A man stopped me to say "Somebody told me there was a Joy Division dress! I can't believe it! A t-shirt yeah...but a dress? That's cool, man." A man said that. A fully grown man.

Had I been 18 I'd have been thrilled (and probably tried to sleep with him), however in my mid-twenties, not-nearly-drunk-enough-for-this state I became incredibly embarrassed by my dress. It was betraying me, making total strangers talk to me enthusiastically, forcing me to be social and gregarious. I don't wear it much anymore.

In the music news this week I've seen two stories about music/band t-shirts that caught my attention. The first is about Rihanna, whose music I have already admitted to liking, and whose body I would slaughter countless mythical creatures to attain for myself (funnily enough, the Slaughtering Mythical Creatures pack from LesMills is about due to arrive). According to what I've read, she's been handed an undisclosed sum from the Arcadia group after they used her image without permission on a t-shirt.

Fair enough, I say. Her face is her money. You don't think she makes her bucks from the music industry, do you? *laughs and laughs and laughs until it goes dark*.

The second was an article about Ian MacKay being "alright" with Urban Outfitters selling a Minor Threat t-shirt. Now, if he says it's okay, are you really gonna argue with him? It would be nice for him to get some of the proceeds just as Rihanna has sued Topshop for, but I think he's far too concerned with not bowing down to "the man" to care about that sort of thing.

The thing about the latter article is how band t-shirts are seen by many, including the author, as being an untouchable aspect of a person's own, private cultural beliefs. Owning a Minor Threat t-shirt to this person (and the girl mentioned in the piece) was a statement of unmeasurable status and cooliosity. If you had a Minor Threat t-shirt, to some groups of people, you were the man. Or woman.

So, the implication is then, having a band's t-shirt sold in a high-street store automatically downgrades the coolness of liking this band, therefore downgrading each fan's coolness. Being able to buy a t-shirt in a shop is not good enough to reach the high echelons of cool. I can sort-of see the annoyance - when they started selling Daft Punk t-shirts in Primark I felt like I'd been sterilised - but is it really so bad in the grand scheme of things to have non-fans wearing the names of your favourite musicians on their person?

I have spent too long glaring at youthful, carefree woodnymphs who dare to wear a Blondie or Fleetwood Mac t-shirt that they picked up from Topshop. In the spirit of my efforts to try and let go of all the boiling hate and rage inside of me (there's a lot, trust), I've decided it's better to let them get on with it.

It'll hurt, friends. Oh god, it'll hurt. Seeing a skinny 17 year old Alt-J member lookalike wearing a tye-dyed Tupac vest will never be an enjoyable experience. Just think of this though - one day they will be patiently waiting at a taxi rank or sipping their first pint of the evening when a vaguely unkempt and incredibly enthusiastic person will approach them. They will wave their arms and stand just a bit too close, assuming that this shared t-shirt bonds them together as kindred spirits. They will talk at length about how cool this shirt is, and latterly how cool the person or band depicted on it is. Mr Alt-J will have no idea what to contribute. This will be the most cringeworthy moment of his life.

He will never wear that shirt again.

You see, it'll be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The internet ruined the Millenials.

It has become a concern of mine that my generation, the younger section of the Millenials, a term that makes us sound like wise, post-human ethereal beings, are anything but.

As more of my creative friends are dragged into the disused quarry that is the dire employment cycle of 2013, I've started looking at not only myself and my friends and family but the people I converse with online and even the writers I admire in newspapers, magazines and in blogs. I think we're all dying out.

I can't think of a time when it was easier to distract yourself. I'm doing it right now. I have a list right next to me of articles I could be researching for, articles I need to write, jobs that need to be finished and tasks to do for work, but I've chosen to write this instead. It's on the internet. It doesn't seem like a real time commitment.

I see so many talented people having interesting debates online on a daily basis that could be put towards some really groundbreaking work. They never will be. This is not meant in a disparaging way - creative types have always procrastinated - only that it saddens me so many ideas will go un-explored thanks to how quickly they can be shared, talked about and forgotten.

I wonder if some of the world's greatest philosophers would have managed to change the course of thinking forever had Twitter been around in their day. They'd have managed a good few thousand RTs perhaps (if they'd had a decent following, been picked up by a Blue Tick-er or had written it without punctuation for the Weird Twitter crowd) but they might never have gotten round to picking apart their ideas in a book. They might have become more introverted, speaking their minds only behind a computer screen, discouraging them from attending conferences and making speeches and lectures. It's a hypothetical situation but one that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

More than this, our generation in the West is seen as living out an endless childhood. How can a member of it be taken seriously? Those before us lived through what were perceived to be Real Hardships - wars on their doorsteps, breadline poverty, mills and factories, unequal rights - see us as spoiled or even, to my constant exasperation, ungrateful. Thanks to the incredible lives our predecessors lived we are free to use the benefits they accumulated to spend our lives in a constant state of purgatory, drifting from one thing to the next, living for the weekend in a life more-or-less unchallenged by society or hardship.

We don't always choose that life. As perpetual children of plenty we're, unfairly and wrongly, never really expected to accomplish or achieve anything of much worth. It's partly our fault - fetishising cupcakes, spending our time doing nothing in particular, wallowing in self-pity - I feel like I am still a teenager, but I'm not. I'm at an age where many of my heroes had already begun their roads.

The worst part is, I know what I want my contributions to be, I'm just not doing anything about it. For many (or perhaps most) that realisation of where you want to be hasn't occurred yet and that's a true challenge, one that should never be scoffed at. Our generation has been told by those previously mentioned parents and grandparents who lived through True Hardships not to spend our lives using each day up doing something we hate. The result of this well-meaning worldly advice is that for the most part we feel we are wasting our lives, endlessly trying to reach some happy living Nirvana where time isn't the enemy and activities are meaningful instead of guilt-laden distractions from the real world.

I know that a great deal of my friends and acquaintances have Plans. These Plans have been sitting in folders and in notebooks for months, perhaps years; thought about daily but never acted upon. These Plans might not be fully-formed yet, but they are meaningful enough to keep close, like some desktop talisman glowing from the inside, promising a better life somewhere in the non-specified future. It could be the basic construction of the beginning of a novel (yes, that's me). It could be a spreadsheet detailing how enough money could be saved in a year to go travelling, to go back to university or to start that business you always wanted. It could be a photo album of people you want to get back in touch with, who you know make you a better person, who will be the key to achieving what you want in life. It could be a basic scribbled-down note of realisation that something needs to change, but you're not sure what.

I know one thing - while we're stuck in unfulfilling online purgatory, none of these things will ever be realised. I don't like what this could mean. The internet is a creative chimera - the perfect place to share ideas, research in depth from the comfort of your home and to blow off steam, but it's also the most effective time-sapping device ever created by nature or man, destroying good intentions and wasting days of our lives. If I was the conspirational sort I'd say that perhaps social networking was devised to stop the creative types of the world from doing anything at all.

You could say that it has enabled more people than ever to question the motives of those in power, that it has given the masses access to huge amounts of information and data. You could say that it offers a total and complete resource to find out anything you could ever need to know. You could talk about how it is the perfect place for like-minded people to share ideas, thoughts and values. This is all true. What is being done with this new-found activism though? Are we creating more, doing more? Or are we endlessly recycling it, forming opinions or ideas and then going to make another cup of tea?

We are making ourselves feel impotent when we are not.

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to check your charitable donations go where you want them to.

"I don't give to charity - they just spend the money on advertising and legal proceedings anyway."

I hear this a lot when I talk about giving to charity and I can see where this opinion comes from. Tarnished forever by the actions of charity hawkers in the street, people now view giving as a hassle, and one that won't necessarily end up with any noticeable or fulfilling outcome.

In March 2014 the Charity Commission's data held on the annual returns of charities will be made free open data, however until this point, it's fair to think that charitable donations aren't making any difference. After all, how can you really tell if your charity is keeping their spends a secret?

I give to charity and always have ever since I earned enough money to sustain myself and then have a bit left over for having fun with. I figured since so many people have helped me out over the years (see 'the week my cat died', 'the time our family were technically homeless' and 'all the times I've called free organisations like Citizen's Advice Bureau for advice') this was the best way to give something back to the universe (or whatever). As much as I'd love to be of more practical, personal assistance to my charities of choice, I either can't - I'm in the wrong country for starters - or quite simply, money is far more useful to them.


Macmillan Cancer Support - "How we raise and spend our money"


If giving to charity is only something you do not do because you're afraid your money will only go towards a fancy TV advert or an MD's large salary, this is no cynical thing. At least you're thinking about what you're doing and not giving blindly to the first charity that comes your way. Not all charities and philanthropic organisations act in this way though and it's fairly easy to do some research and find out how to help the people/animals/countries/wildlife/plants/insects/planet in a way you feel suits you best.

Many charities - like British Red Cross as seen here or like Amnesty International seen here - break down their spending in a visible manner, however not every organisation is as transparent.

Alive and Giving is basically a charity comparison website. It helps prospective givers to find out which organisations offer the best 'value for money' - that is, how much of your hard-earned cash will be tied up in fees and legal costs, and how much of it will actually reach it's intended recipient.

Choosing from the type of charity (so "humanitarian", "agricultural", "medicinal" etc.) and then by location, it's also really handy to help you find out about smaller charities doing work in fields you a) are really interested in and concerned about b) may never have heard of before due to their small size, minute advertising budget and remote/local location.

I tend to research charities a lot before I give money to them (why on earth would you give money away when you don't know where it's going?) and I'm glad there's now a site dedicated to encouraging others to do the same.

Visit http://www.aliveandgiving.com/ To find out more about charities you already support or to find a new one you m ight never have heard of which sums up your morals and beliefs entirely.

Sidenote - Some charities aren't included in the scheme which could be for a number of reasons, most likely being that they decided not to opt-in to be scrutinised. I am of the opinion smaller charities do more to help their chosen causes anyway, however if you're looking for an organisation who isn't listed, check their official website to see if their financial info is listed (usually under "FAQs" or "more about us"). Often it is. If it isn't, the choice is entirely yours.

More interesting links: 
Development tracker - how the UK invests in developing countries
Ipsos Mori's report - "Public perceptions of Charity"
5 things charities are spending your money on - LoveMoney
The "non profits" who spend most of their money on fundraising International Business Times (America)
Is the way we view charity spending counter-productive? - The Guardian
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