Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Living an Adult Half-life

Checking wholegrain speciality bread for superficial signs of age before ramming it in the toaster. Rinsing out yesterday's mug for another cup of ridiculously overpriced assam. Gazing at the aftermath of yesterday's potato dauphinoise non-event all over the kitchen. I'm living somewhere in the middle of grown-up civilisation and squatter's squalor, and what's worse is that I've only just realised it. It took scraping a kilo of potatoes-worth of peelings from the breadboard in the kitchen before covering my toast in golden syrup to discover that I've got one foot in my thirties, and one foot in my teens. Lying next to full ashtrays and empty Desperados bottles are pizza boxes, the remnants of home made Guinness stew, scatter cushions and ornamental elephants. As we speak I'm occasionally drawn to my reflection as shown in the Southern Comfort branded mirror, next to a floral address book and Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" (I was taking notes for Christmas dinner). My home is filled with the sort of awful juxtapositions you'd see in a final year media student's film about adulthood. As with nearly all the situations I find myself in, I feel like a pretend person, a character used in the background to portray the disintegration of society or some other such bollocks. Read the media student's report on the film project, it's probably got the words "cliché" and "paradox" scattered recklessly across it. If I was a dramatic person, I would now claim this was "JUST LIKE MY LIFE". But I'm not. So I won't. I will say, however, that I need to sort something out, even if it's just the washing up.

When you're a kid, being a grown up seems like something that happens once you have your 21st birthday. You suddenly wake up in sensible clothes - possibly a chiffon scarf or a Hobbs trouser suit - and go to your jobs, knowing everything and able to deal with any and all situations in your path. After all, as every child knows, mums and dads know everything. If they didn't, how would they be able to answer every question that popped into your head? Being an adult must be brilliant. All that knowledge. All that power. It doesn't quite work like that though, does it?

I've been having a few "oh my god, sort it out" epiphanies lately. One occurred to me late one night as I sat on my bathroom floor, sick from actual illness rather than alcohol imbibement, which I hadn't experienced since I was at least 12 years old. Reeling and upset, all I could think about was being looked after. Who would clean up? Who would get me a drink of water? I didn't want to wake Andy up, and the last time this had happened my mum had used her sixth sense to wake up and rush to the rescue. These aren't the thoughts of a 21 year old. I'm a child. So aside from feeling sick and generally disgusting, I felt a big wave of Fail wash over me - I still wanted my mum when I was poorly. I moved out nearly five years ago.

Another such epiphany cracked me on the back of the head while I was shopping last week. I needed a new winter coat, and I was agonising over spending £40 on one item of clothing. "That's how much coat's cost" I told myself. "It's actually quite cheap, feel the quality". Still, in the back of my head I could hear a disapproving voice chiding me for my choice in outerwear. "You'll have to wear it all year," it warned me. "Will you still like it next November?" Total bumwash, I'm sure you'll agree, because after I had the necessary panic attack at the cash desk and got it home, I realised what a stupid thought process that was. I have a job. It's my money. If I want a new coat next year, just because I own one doesn't mean I can't just get another. People own more than one coat. I'm no longer 7 and being dragged around town for my annual back to school Clarks and BHS supplies mission. If it doesn't last me, I only have myself to blame. Fuck it. Spend your money on what you want. Stupid motherly conscience. Why can't I have one of those passive ones that only show up if you're about to charge round the centre of town with a machete?

Being a final year student places you in all sorts of strange situations, so really its no wonder that most feel neither here nor there. After three or four years at your chosen university, even the most hardened independent soul begins to feel somewhat homesick. Meal times become more childish as fish fingers, chips and beans have to suffice due to enormous workloads. Huge responsibilities at work at uni pile up, and rather than rising to the challenge as you assume you will do in your formative studying years, you realise it's a struggle, and all you want is your old bedroom and your mum's mashed potato. Duvets and pyjamas become your best friends. Every day off is spent mainly in bed or in front of increasingly psychopathic daytime TV, making it seem slightly surreal, much like being off school with a minor illness. You feel distinctly adult and can no doubt cope with the pressures, but every so often you take a step back and realise you're wearing a jumper with a cat on it and are making plans to spend your friend's birthday dressed up as Gromit or Postman Pat or Myra Hindley and you suddenly feel tiny again. The worrying feeling is that once you leave university, things will stay the way they are; that you'll remain a perpetual child, forever putting off that Winter Skincare Dos and Don'ts article, going down the pub instead of washing your clothes, and piling up work under DVD cases instead of actually getting on with it.

I don't want to know if that's real life yet. I'm trying to escape it as much as possible for the time being.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A Week's Work

And it still happens to be the world's worst title for a journalism dissertation.

Louis Theroux, Charlie Brooker, David Frost and Claudia Winkleman all walk into a bar – Is blurring the line between Journalists and Personalities a Sacrifice to Credibility?

Hands up who thinks I should have deferred.

On the plus side, I've nearly finished my proposal. I'm sure the carnival is ready and raring to go. You guys. You shouldn't have. (If there isn't a float shaped exactly like the Daft Punk triangle, then you really shouldn't have.)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Interview with Janine Griffiths of LUAF 28/10/09

The Leeds branch of the Unite Against Fascism action group are always happy to speak with anybody about what they do. Their branch meetings around the area may be small but have been growing in popularity in recent months, and protests led by the UAF often call in more than a thousand supporters. On the 31st October, 2009, LUAF held a protest outside Leeds art gallery to oppose the EDL (England Defence League) who were holding a protest of their own on City Square, against, in their own words, "Islamic Extremism in Britain". Although trouble in Leeds remained at a minimum throughout the day, tensions were high, and the opposing ideologies protesting in such a small area as central Leeds stood to highlight the growing separation between political beliefs in the North.

Janine Griffiths is a leading member of Leeds Unite Against Fascism, and over a cup of tea in a pleasant city cafe she answered a few of my questions about the increasing popularity of both her beliefs and those opposing them since I last spoke to her before the European elections, as well as addressing some issues that the UAF have raised in the press.

Since the BNP won seats in West Yorkshire during the European elections, have you seen any changes in the attitude towards them in this area?

Not particularly in this area, I think there’s been a national change in attitude towards the BNP which I think is quite unfortunate. Since they won seats in the European election they have been invited on Question Time, and I think that's really helped to boost their image. I can’t remember the exact figure, but I know that Nick Griffin did boast that there had been an increase in interest in their party since they were shown on the BBC.

Do you think the BBC were wrong to let Nick Griffin air his views on National television?

I think they were absolutely wrong, many people say that they’re just exercising their democratic rights, but the truth is they’ve already been allowed to share their views in newspapers, why should they get more of a hearing than, say, the green party?

Did anyone from the Leeds UAF group attend the protests outside the BBC?

A few of the people from Leeds did go down to the protests at the BBC, because at the end of the day, they’ve got a convicted criminals as part of their party. They’re treated as a credible party, but really, they’re not.

Do you think sometimes the UAFs tactics can be counter-productive towards their cause?

No, not at all. There probably have been a few incidents where people have jumped on the UAF bandwagon and have started trouble, but you get that in almost any protest. The UAF as an organisation want to counter the BNP. Sometimes the advice from other parties is “ignore [the UAF], don’t attend the marches” and this year the police did advise people not to attend the marches, but to be honest I think the UAF has done a lot of work to try and get them [the BNP] out.

Was the storming of television centre a PR coup or a PR disaster?

I think it was more a PR disaster. I think anything the UAF do is going to be a PR disaster because we are seen as the extreme left, which we’re not really. We don’t want a – not an openly-fascist but certainly a racist party - parading round and gaining power.

What are your opinions on why the North seems to hold the most support for the BNP? Why did Nick Griffin claim that had the Question Time he appeared in been filmed in a northern town, he’d have had a lot more support?

First of all I think the North has more traditionally run-down working class areas, and not a lot of money is being pumped into them. It’s fairly easy for the BNP to then whip up paranoia in the people who live there. Secondly, you also get here the petit-bourgeois members of society – they’re not rich but they’re in a position where they’ve got businesses and they are feeling the effects of the recession, and recent polls have shown that the vast majority of the BNPs followers come from these types of people.

Have you got any thoughts, on the instability that’s been reported within the BNP since Nick Griffin’s quite disastrous the BBC QT appearance?

It depends, really, on their future performance. There’s always been a split within the BNP, with those who still support the old-school Mosely views , and those who want to appear more respectable. It depends really on whether they get a new figurehead, and what type of a figure head they become. Really though, I think that whether they are open about their old-school views or whether they stay with Nick Griffin or another person just like him, I don’t think the BNP will change much, or gain anything from a change in leader.

Why do you think people are still voting BNP as a protest when they’ve already seen that this can get them into power?

I don’t know if it was a matter of the BNPs votes increasing, or whether it was just a lack of votes in general that won them their seats. I also think their position has been helped by a lot of people’s fears about this so-called “influx of immigrants” which I don’t think has been helped much by the right wing press. And so I think a lot of people were pushed because they feel that Labour doesn’t do enough for them, when in fact Labour have brought in some of the most draconian measures out of any EU country to deal with immigration.

Where do you think the BNPs views have stemmed from? Why?

Well, I’d have to say two things to that – the first thing is that the core membership of the BNP is made up of fascists and racists, there’s an anecdote Nick Griffin once told about his school librarian asking him is he was a socialist and he said “yes, I am a socialist, a National Socialist”. It is people like that that make up the hardcore of the BNP party. Wheras the rest are just made up of people who are dissolutioned with Labour and feel that they aren’t really representing them.

Has there been an increase in activities by more extreme Right Wing groups such as the BPP and the EDL? Do you think they are bandwaggoning on the BNPs success?

I think they’re definitely bandwaggoning, although I think the EDL are linked to the BNP, so whenever the BNP win votes in an area, the EDL will always follow up with a march. Right wing groups have definitely been given more confidence from the BNPs little successes.

How do you think the EDL will react to Anti-Fascist demonstrations being held on Saturday (31st October) at the same time as their protest?

I think they’ll react the same way as they always do, by making advances, shouting racists remarks. I hope it won’t turn violent, but with thugs like that you never really know.

So do you think it will be like in Birmingham when they were throwing missiles into the crowds?

I think it’ll be very similar to how it was in Manchester where I don’t think they were throwing things if I remember correctly although a few of them did start they were sort of jeering at people and gearing up for a fight.

Do you think they should be allowed to partake in public demonstrations?

I think the people of the BNP already have a right to air their views, but the EDL should be banned simply because most of their demonstrations do turn violent. They went around smashing up Asian-owned shops, throwing things through the windows.

Have the views in the area changed since your campaigning before the European Election?

Definitely people are starting to realise how serious the threat is of the BNP, so we held an anti-fascist meetings and I started one up in Chapel Town and chaired the meeting there, and a lot of people are really starting to realise the seriousness of the situation.

What are your next steps to spread the anti-fascism message?

Well, the UAF are going to hold extra branch meetings. We also go into working class areas and try to speak to people about what the BNP really mean.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Time; the lack therof - a pretentious title for a self-indulgent whine.

There isn't enough time for my laziness any more. I used to spend my days largely dressed in variations on a pyjama/slouchy sportswear theme, watching Frasier and re-tweeting "funny" youtube videos. Should I have been feeling somewhat energetic, perhaps I'd type out a blog post, or even read a book. Then, I'd either cook some tea (because by the time I'd gotten dressed it was either 5pm, or time for me to get ready for work) or go to the pub. Summer holidays life was grand.

Now that I'm back at university, I expected the good times to remain, for at least one or two days of the week. It turns out, however, that third year university students have literally all the books in the library to read, plus photocopied handouts, plus assignments every week and deadlines round every corner, looming overhead like a giant fucking Albatross. An albatross dressed as Death, circling rather claustrophobically close, occasionally brushing your cheek with the tip of it's oppressively large wingspan. Deadlines are killing me. What's worse is that I've been doing nothing about them; simply feeling overworked to the point of complete un-motivation, and then staying up all night, worrying that I didn't do any work. The world's biggest failure at being a workaholic. I can't stop thinking about writing, or working, or potential stories and angles. The problem is, the only time I have to do the work I imagine up for myself is during my few afternoon hours after university, by which time I'm so lethargic and sick of books that I simply slump into my spinny-round chair and watch endless episodes of Seinfeld. And so the cycle of looming deadlines continues.

I'm not complaining about my workload - goodness knows everybody in my year is in the same boat - I guess I'm just using this premise of slightly-humerous incompetance to apologise for my lack of blogging material, and to explain my increasingly large absences between blogs. I set myself imaginary goals, and usually these get me to work harder. Unfortunately, due to a professional's opinion (it turns out I don't have S.A.D - although that does still exist - I have something slightly worse) it would benefit me greatly if I cut down the amount of unpaid writing I churn out in order to a) Improve my uni work, mood, and general quality of life and b) Stop myself from swirling down the crazy drain. So that's what I'm doing. I'm not bloody happy about it, but I'm doing it. Here's the plan.

I will blog a maximum of twice fortnightly for the forseeable future. This doesn't necessarily mean once a week - this is a compromise I had to make with said advice-giver. She said once every two weeks. I say, okay, but if something comes up and I have the time, I can write that too. It's not cheating the system, its doing something enjoyable. She sighed and said "okay, whatever". So I win. I guess.

That said, I have an interview coming up this week that I meant to post up last week before the EDL and UAF protests in Leeds on Saturday that I just haven't had the time for/inclination to get on with. It's been a rough week. So, there will be at least one more blog this week, and we'll see how I feel about limitations after that. I do think though, that this explanation blog was the one I didn't want to write - soemthing about admitting I can't cope with the workload, probably - and I may be back to normal after all. Who knows. Maybe that's extremely uncharacteristically optimistic of me.

To everybody else who's in their final years - good luck! It's difficult, but just keep remembering that it'll be worth it.


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