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Thursday, July 18, 2013

30-year-olds are all doomed, dooooomed I tell you!

The average 30 year old British worker is doomed. Doomed to scrape a meagre living while in their 30s, their so-called 'prime of life', or else doomed to a penurious retirement,  living off Salvation Army means and one lump of coal a day to heat our huts. 

As house prices accelerate 60% faster than the incomes of those who own them, according to Office for National Statistics data, those who are blessed to already be property owners may be thanking their heavenly benefactors that they have at least been able to get on the property ladder, in the hope that this pile of bricks and mortar could provide some income or capital gain in retirement, when the mortgage is paid off. 

That is, assuming that they do not become redundant, or be out of work for longer than their insurance will cover them, or they discover they are exceptionally fertile and do a Dionne Family. Trust a Canadian to name-check something that happened in Montreal in the 1950s. Oh well. 

So assuming the house remains without need of significant or costly repair, those who own their own property still, the rule-of-thumb dictates, have at least six months' salary saved up in case the worst happens. What about Generation Rent? Figures released recently by LSL Property Services cite that the average rental income in London alone is £1120 - higher than a current mortgage on a five-bedroom property in the  'Urbs - and set to rise further.

Even so, the 30 somethings are expected to save at least six months' salary in ready money.

And here is where the doom comes in. I do not see how, given the rising rental prices, the average UK worker in their 30s can, on the gross average UK salary of £26,000, save just over £12,000 (six months' salary gross of any tax). 

Add to this the need to save for their retirement - which could be up to 30 years after the State Retirement Age of 67, given the rising longevity rates - and the doom of this generation is apparent.

Nigel Green, chief executive of the deVere Group, said thirty-somethings should be putting aside £824 a month, if they desire to retire 65 with the recommended level of pension income. 

According to Mr Green, the calculations are based on the average salary UK’s of £26,500, the assumption of retiring at the default retirement age with a pension income of 75 per cent of pre-retirement earnings, no current savings, yearly inflation of 3 per cent, pre-retirement investment returns of 5 per cent, and any returns after retirement of just 3 per cent on their investments.

Now I have always believed in the virtue of saving. Whether it is as simple as me emptying my purse of all small loose change every night into a jar, bagging it and paying it into a savings account, paying into my employer's pension scheme, doing additional freelance work and using the proceeds to boost my small ISA, the value of saving as much as possible is inestimable.

Whether people like me in their 30s can afford to set aside £850 a month for a pension as well as accrue six months' cushion is another matter. If one can try to save 10 per cent of your money each month, in a mixture of employer pensions and Isas, this soon becomes a good savings habit and it will help in the harder times of unemployment, illness, retirement - and quintuplets.

Without any form of saving, no matter how small, it is true that all of us 30-somethings are financially doomed. We need to wake up and smell the coffee, but not expensive coffee-shop beverages. Take a jar to work and make your own and save £3 every day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A day of spurious hatred

Two days ago, on my now-obliterated Facebook page, I reposted an extremely well-argued, thoughtful and balanced blog on the vices and virtues of PRISM and NSA-like activities.

I considered it to present both sides of the story pretty well: the need for scrutiny and to monitor what may be illegal activity, against the rights of the individual to privacy.

It got zero comments.

Not true. It got one comment, from me, stating: "I give you gold, people, and you say nothing. I write about toilet habits and I get 101 comments and 200 likes."

Today, I was late for the train, along with ten other people, who would have easily got on the train before the doors closed, except that some mother was letting her small toddlers dandle down the stairs in front of busy commuters, who could not simply push a child out of the way.

As a result we missed the train by a few seconds. I then posted on my facebook a comment that basically indicated it was unfair for 10 workers to be inconvenienced by a mother. I also said I wasn't interested in hearing whining comments from mothers.

I got whining comments from mothers, some of whom had the utter effrontery to make snide comments about Christianity to me. Pot, Kettle.

1) I can say what I like on my facebook

2) You can argue on facebook, but it is like running the special olympics: you can win, but you're still retarded.

I don't force my life choices on people. Maybe when I am a parent I may have to. But there is no excuse for bringing an enormous pram onto a packed commuter train, while frantic commuters run up and down the platform because they cannot get onto that carriage. This happened at Herne Hill.

That is simply taking advantage of the gift of motherhood and shoving it in people's faces as if because someone has become a mother, therefore they are better and more caring than everyone else.

Right now, let it be clear, I do actually love children. They are great. And I am sure I will become an annoying  mother. But right now I have very little sympathy for mothers who can't get over their own selves but have to resort to calling me "arrogant and entitled" for expressing my opinion that it is not fair that one person should have prevented 10 people from getting to work.

And therefore I realised how all single women, or married women who have chosen not to have children must feel. Second-class. Or that their opinions do not count.

Well here's to those who choose not to have children. I may not agree for my self, but I applaud your decision.

For ten reasons:

1) Being a mother does not give you carte-blanc to think you are better than everyone else. You're the same annoying person you were before giving birth, except now you only have one line of conversation and you think you're right about everything to boot.
2) Your child is not an amazing super-talent or "unlike other children". Balderdash. It poops its pants like every other child.
3) Your two month old did not deliberately elucidate two or three-syllable words, when it can't even say "da"  or "ma" yet. You are simply hallucinating from lack of sleep.
4) When you push your pram onto a packed commuter train and then complain because someone said 'Owch', don't complain. You're forcing your life choices on others, not the other way round.
5) If your precious angel cries or gristles during a service, or a play, or a meeting, yes, this does upset everyone else in the room. Take the thing outside. We didn't force you to have a baby, you chose it and it is your job to deal with its crying, not ours.
6) If you don't want it getting in the way of other people, put reins on it. I had reins and I was always kept safe, rarely had a fall and yes, while I didn't enjoy my 'freedom', the rest of humanity appreciated my parent's consideration.
7) "I can't believe people won't allow children at the wedding." Personally, I agree. I like children at weddings. It's fun. But I can see why some people might want a nice, grown up affair with lovely things that matter if they're broken. Again, they didn't force you to populate the earth, respect their decision.
8) Being single or a non-parent doesn't preclude us from having an opinion. What it does stop us doing is affecting people around us in a negative way. Your child's tantrum in the shop is a pain in the posterior and we will give you dirty looks because it is annoying.
9) Just because some women do not want children does not mean they are not as good as you. Stop being a martyr. You chose motherhood. We didn't choose your motherhood.
10) Don't expect us to do a backflip and clap like a cheerleader when you tell us little Tommy has said his first word or smiled or said no. Big fricking whoop. Wait until he's 20 and then does his first smile or say his first word, then we will rejoice with you. Until then, shut it. You're not interesting. You used to be. You used to have conversation that didn't start with "When you're a mother". When you're no longer a moron, come speak with me again.

I am sure you can think of more. I am sure I'd be DELIGHTED to hear all your comments about how awful, how could she say these things, etc etc. I've got an opinion and I am entitled to it. And to air it on my facebook or twitter or anything without a bunch of self-indulgent holier-than-thou mothers getting all supercilious about it. Half of your children will probably end up throwing you in a cheap retirement home anyway and moving to Australia to get away from you.

Think on that.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The curious case of the cat in the night

Last night my migraine was so bad that I vomited, felt excessively dizzy and hot, and decided to put myself to bed early, 9:30 or thereabouts.

Yesterday being one of the few warm days this year, and my own body temperature reaching that point between 'blood boiling' and 'face exploding', I hesitated before shutting the first-floor kitchen window.

I thought: 'perhaps I shall just put it to; a little cool air may do me some good'.

But then a voice from deeper, further, a voice born of instinct or God, spoke like a wise elder across my thoughts. "Shut the window; something could get in. Could climb on that roof and get in." I was obedient to that voice, shut and secured the window, although in all my nine years living there, nothing has come in, except whatever creature Monty The Cat has deemed acceptable as a half-alive/dead/alive-and-exceptionally-affronted offering. But Monty The Cat was curled up in whiskering contentment on my bed.

We both slept. Until there was a scratching, a tapping at the kitchen window. Because of my migraine, I dozed fitfully, so the noise woke me immediately. It happened again; the cat, too, with his extraordinary sense, looked immediately at the kitchen, bounded noiselessly onto the counter and peered at the garden visible neath the four inches of gap between blind and sill.

Ears forward, tail twitching, he had reached there in a second; my bumbling humanity, tho almost as silently, reached it in four seconds. Nothing was there; the security lights were on downstairs and in the alley to the side, but there was no sign of a fleeing tail or crouching tigger, hidden fox. No sound from outside nor shaking of a tree to indicate the flight of the culprit.

I am sure it was no more than a large bird, or cat or, at an outside chance, a fox - but this is the first time that any animal other than monty has attempted to come in. Mindful of the voice of warning I had heeded, I thought how auspicious it was that I had listened to that voice, even though it had been contrary to my desires.   I glanced at the kitchen clock, which is digitally linked to the correct GMT. It was by then a few seconds after midnight. The scratch, heard by both MTC and myself, happened at midnight exactly. Curious, eh?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Falling into herself: the Mermaid chronicles her descent into a strange mental world

1) A tendency to forgetfulness
This has started to bug me. Every now and then, I am so overheated in my head with thinking about this and that and the other, that something will steam up and I will mislay my keys or forget my phone or someone's name will completely evaporate.

But until recently, these have been few and far between, incidents that were notable for their infrequency, not their frequency. Just three weeks ago, I left my phone at home three times in the space of five days. I regularly forget people's birthdays, things I have to do, where I am going and what I am meant to be doing. I have started emails and forgotten two whom I am writing.

Thing is, I write lists. Copious lists. I have electronic and paper based diaries. I always keep memos of what I need to do and things to remember. But I have been forgetting to look at these.

2) A glaringly long-term memory
Simultaneously, my long-term memory has been sending me flashbacks from the past that have startled me with their glaring intensity. Scenes like a snapshot of my young life have flickered before my waking mind, vivid, suddenly.

I will remember a poem, a line from a book, a sensation of my first taste of olives, a scent of cleaning fluid, the first thing I heard a boy - who later became known to us as 'Big Will' - say at university on the occasion of the first dinner the first night at Tetley Hall ("Flipping hell, look at all the birds"). I will suddenly recall the lyrics to a song long dormant in my neural recesses.

It concerns me that I can remember the distant past and forget the immediate, the just-gone moments.

3) Easy distraction
I will be in the middle of a conversation at work or church or in a professional context and, without realising it, I have somehow gotten the stranger down a complete side road, a leafy avenue of conversation that has nothing to do with corporate bonds or the problems with pensions liberation.

We end up discussing ticks on dogs, the smell of autumn rain, my childhood terror of ceilings that prompted me to cling onto the nearest wall and refuse to let go.

Or I go online to check on someone's job title. I end up on twitter, then flick to a flickr page, then onto a facebook group and so on and so on until I realise I am reading a Daily Mash article about Kim Kardashian's shoes and I have no idea how I got there, or what I was doing at the point of my distraction.

I do not know how I manage to get any stories written or articles produced or the desk managed.

4) Denial and displacement
I know my wedding dress does not quite fit me. I am a little to big for it. I am getting married in 80 days' time. I am ostensibly dieting, I convince myself I am dieting. I am not. I am eating carbs - more and more carbs. I am drinking coffee and getting to bed late and waking up late and drinking coffee and eating carbs and sugar and cakes, all the while knowing that this is not helping but perpetuating the cycle.

But get this - I am still convinced that I am on a diet. I feel that I have hypnotised myself into believing that I am losing weight, that I am on a diet. I cannot believe that my 'little snacks' are anything more than a one-off, any more than I am convinced that my increasing forgetfulness is a series of 'one-offs'.

I am also convinced that when I do eat - it is other people's fault. I am out with them, or being led astray, or coerced into eating what they put in front of me. It is everyone's fault but my own. Except nobody has force-fed me anything. This is all my own doing.

5) The fog
All this above has helped to create a fog. I am walking from day to day in a fog. I am unclear about where I am going, what I am doing - what I am SUPPOSED to be doing, who I am and what did I do with the thingy that I need for the wotsit? You know, the doo-dad that goes in the thing? The who what dowotta now?

Sigh. I am not myself. I am in invisible cotton wool. I have been cocooned in mental bubble wrap, perhaps to protect me against the inevitable pain that will come with the house sale and the house move and the wedding and the honeymoon and the lifechange that is all happening within the next three months.

My fear is that when all this change is done, when all the fog has cleared, will I be the same afterwards? Will I still feel mentally dazed and confused? Has the process of madness commenced already - am I falling into myself? I have met and mentored so many people whose process into a state of duality has started with this dizzying whirl of mental, physical, emotional activity. I am genuinely worried that this will happen to me, and this is why I am writing this blog again, starting once more to collate my thoughts and compose myself. The mermaid is looking for herself and wants to find her.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

50 things people have done that have annoyed me since Sunday

1) Some people have no concept of walking in a straight line. This is exceptionally annoying when they cross in a diagonal right in front of your straight and honest path on a zebra crossing, causing you to stop in your tracks and in the tracks of the waiting cars. Morons. Have you not even started to evolve?
2) Sneezing without covering their faces with their hands.
3) A man coughed on the train, I kid you not, evidently coughed some gloob into his hand, looked at it and licked his palm. LICKED HIS PALM. People are animals.
4) Why do people think it is okay to stop right in front of you in the middle of the pavement?
5) People who do not know how to walk up stairs. Getting the lift to go one floor just to heat their lunch up. They are not ill, disabled or pregnant. I know this because I know them. They are simply lazy.
6) There is a lady (for want of a better word) who works on the 5th floor in the FT building who does not know how to flush the chain. She always takes the biggest cubicle – meant for the disabled, by the way – and proceeds to do a poo. She then leaves all her poo there for other people to flush. This would not be so bad but she only does this when she is on her period. Therefore she leaves poo and blood and smears of bloody-poo stained toilet roll all over the toilet bowl. This woman is an animal and if I find out who it is I will literally drag her back into the cubicle and make her flush the chain. She is a cretin whose parents left her to be dragged up by wolves. She is a disgusting, abominable creature and I will find out who this vile piece of what should be humanity actually is. She will learn to flush, even if it costs me my job.
7) That’s it, actually. Only six things have annoyed me over the past two days.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Here comes the Bride, looking like she's cried

50 Things I have started to worry about as I head precipitate towards our wedding day.

  1. People will take delight in informing me that they are hungry and ask ‘when is the dinner’
  2. People will delay the timings at the venue by being late or slow
  3. The few hardcore drinkers will use up all the free drinks tab and those who don’t drink will have to pay for their own cokes
  4. The table settings will look stupid
  5. The decorations will fall down during the meal
  6. Someone will break something that I will have to pay for
  7. The wedding car will get caught in traffic
  8. The wedding dress will get caught in the door
  9. The wedding dress will get smeared in poo. I do poo regularly throughout the day. What if I can’t hoist it up properly and end up getting poo on it?
  10. My parents will argue with each other
  11. My parents will contain their arguments with each other but tell me all about it instead
  12. My bridesmaids will argue with each other
  13. My bridesmaids will contain their arguments but tell me all about it instead and make me come to the toilet with them, during which I will poo on my skirt
  14. Someone with children will ask me why I am not letting them stay for the evening when other people with children are staying for the evening
  15. Someone’s child will put poo on my skirt
  16. Someone’s child will argue about who will put poo on my skirt
  17. Someone will get burned by the fireworks
  18. Someone I don’t like much will not get burned by the fireworks
  19. People I don’t know will tell me information I don’t need to know
  20. People will offer me tips about the wedding night or make obscene comments
  21. People will wonder why there are no speeches (see the above)
  22. I will have a plethora of calls during the morning from people asking stupid questions of the bride: “What time does it start?” “What colour are the bridesmaids wearing?” “Will it matter if I turn up late?” “Will there be a gluten-free option?” “Have you got so-and-so’s telephone number?”.
  23. I will have spots on my chest from stress
  24. I won’t have time to do my hair
  25. The decorations will go all wrong because I am not there to supervise
  26. I will hate my dress on the day
  27. Only my side of the church will be singing the hymns
  28. The preacher will ramble on and make the same point 100 times as usual
  29. I will need a wee
  30. I WILL need a wee. This is not a fear. This is fact. I have to go every hour.
  31. Despite all the decorations, bouquets, flower arrangements, cards, order of services etc being my designs, my creations and my time-agonising craftwork, I will get none of the praise and all of the criticism: ‘if only it had been taller/smaller/wider/more colourful, or ‘you should have, you could have done, I would have done, I did’.
  32. People will try to pin money on my dress. This will only NOT be a bad thing if there is a poo smear on it, because the money will cover it up
  33. Someone will gatecrash
  34. Someone will get lost and ring me for directions
  35. The best man will decide he does want to do an impromptu speech. At the last minute.
  36. I will fart during the vows
  37. The photographer will charge extra time for people being SLOW or the preacher going on and on and Ariston
  38. The photos will come out looking shocking, what on EARTH is that on my dress?
  39. A million people will tag a million photos of me unauthorised on facebook
  40. Someone will complain about the DJ
  41. The DJ will complain about other people
  42. The best man will forget to pay the rest of the DJ’s money
  43. The DJ will complain about the best man
  44. The Best Man will fight with the DJ
  45. My father will dangle the Best Man over the balcony
  46. The reception will mess up the cake stand
  47. The reception will lose the pre-ordered bespoke cupcakes
  48. A child will lick all the bespoke cupcakes
  49. Bespoke cupcake stains will get smeared on my dress
  50. A stray crow will fly into the building, causing mayhem and destruction and smearing my dress with guano, before plucking out the eyes of a small child who should have been sitting down on the kid’s table but, no, mummy got too precious and decided that little sonny/little bonny had to come and sit with them, which means the person next to them will have had a small foot kicking them over and over and over during the wedding breakfast, until of course the rabid crow comes and de-ocularises the brat.