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My Boyfriend’s A Scot & I’m A Spaniard: I Fear The Impact Brexit Could Have On Our Future

July 2, 2016 by

Today I’m featuring a guest post from my good friend, Mireia Nicolàs. Mireia and I have been friends since we met at Salford University in 2008. Originally from Valencia, Mireia came to the UK to study, all thanks to the Erasmus Programme, an EU funded student exchange initiative founded in 1987.

Following the results of the EU referendum last week, Mireia is concerned that Britain’s exit from the EU could have a negative impact on her relationship with her Glaswegian boyfriend, Ewan. Here’s her story:

I could feel Ewan tossing and turning. We were visiting my parents in my hometown of Valencia and it was the night of the referendum. I was sure the Remain option would win. This was like the Scottish referendum all over again, which we had lived through two years prior. People vote to uphold the status quo, and the bookies said so! At 6 AM, I could feel him properly awake checking his phone, so I checked mine. And then, I saw someone firmly in the Remain camp post “Oh, Britain :’(“. My heart sank to my stomach. I kept scrolling. And then I saw it “Britain votes to leave the EU”. I burst out in tears.

I have lived most of my adult life between Spain and the UK. My boyfriend Ewan is from Glasgow. Last year, I took the decision to move back to Spain while Ewan finished his Master’s, so I could have a stable job and a flat for him to come to once he took the plunge. If he couldn’t find a job, we would move back to the UK. It was a Good Plan. We’re children of the EU freedom of movement and, before we met, Ewan lived in Madrid and I lived in Liverpool, thanks to different EU schemes. Thanks to the EU, his degree is as valid in Spain as mine is in the UK. We want to get married and have babies one day but until then, we want to enjoy Barcelona together. We fear that Brexit has shattered our plans to smithereens.

I burst into tears when Brexit was announced because now we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. Will I be able to find a job in the UK? Will I have to apply for a resident visa? The current salary threshold for non-EU residents who marry British citizens and apply for a spouse visa is £35,000 a year. Of course, my own EU status will not change, but if Britain cuts ties with Europe, will rules such as this apply to me? This type of salary is unattainable seeing as how we’re recent graduates.

Am I going to have to marry Ewan at the consulate in Barcelona so that once the Leave process is consumated we can show we have been married for at least two years and maybe, just maybe, then I will be allowed to stay in the UK?

He has Irish ancestry, could we perhaps get him an Irish passport?

What is going to happen to my degree? My Master’s Degree? His Master’s Degree?

What agreement does Switzerland have? Is that what the UK is going for? Surely people know Switzerland still demands prospective residents go through a visa application process, right? Which is tied to a job offer?

Since we’re both recent graduates with under five years’ experience in our fields, what job prospects do we have in each other’s countries? What company is going to want to sponsor me, a translator? There are already so many of us in the UK.

Suddenly, what was meant to be a relaxing trip to my hometown was filled with anxiety, checking the news constantly, trying to gather information. Our life was slowly coming together and now we were thrown into a whirlpool. A shit whirlpool. A deep, dark hole of despair courtesy of Nigel Farage who, by the way, couldn’t even win his own fucking constituency, and David Cameron, who gambled the country’s fate in a schoolboy’s tiff with classmate Boris Johnson.

My best friend is British and lives in Valencia with her Spanish boyfriend. Last weekend we met up with them and shared our worries. We all know non-EU people who had a shit time trying to stay in the EU. It’s daunting to think  our lives could now include just as much paperwork.

There is now an obstacle in our relationship that might be insurmountable – immigration laws. I never thought it might be illegal for me to work in the UK without the right kind of paperwork, because the EU has been a constant in my life forever.

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Mireia and Ewan in Barcelona

If I weren’t with Ewan, I would ask of the EU what everyone else I know is asking: be hard on the UK. No concessions. They don’t want to be with us? Take them out of the common market and cut that freedom of movement. Forget it.

The UK has been a pest to the EU for as long as I can remember, blocking agreements and asking for special treatment.

As someone raised in a Mediterranean town, I am especially resentful of British people: stag dos and holiday apartments are like a scar on the 2000-year-old face of Valencia. The ever-growing expat community, by far the largest foreign group in the region, have their own TV channels, newspapers, political parties. They’re the reason why supermarket chain Iceland has several branches in Spain (all dotted across expat hotspots, because truly what they just wanted was Britain with a bit more sun, not a whole different country).

The expat community is well-known for refusing to integrate, with many of them wearing their inability to speak any Spanish as a badge of pride. They insist on driving their British cars on Spanish roads because of course, the steering wheel on the right makes for a superior automobile.

My experience with expats made it all the more frustrating when British people in Britain would complain about foreigners. You see, I’m the “good” kind of foreigner (and I was literally told so) – I’m from a Western European country, proficient in English, highly educated, and totally integrated. I’m not Czech or, God forbid, Polish or Romanian. It was as though English people felt confident letting out their petty, xenophobic comments in my presence. I was aware of this nasty streak, of the ignorance and the Euroscepticism that was sweeping the UK (I felt like I was the only one who saw all those “FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION” signs across Northern England). I never imagined it would overtake the more gentle side of the British I had seen – well-read, sensible, and aware of what the European Union does for everyone. Talking to people with anti-EU views felt like that Monthy Python’s Life of Brian gag where they ask “What has Rome done for us?” and they keep listing things, but in the end dismiss them, just because.

The worst thing has been seeing the British economy take such a huge drop. Is it even worth moving to the UK now? It seems almost as fucked as Spain!

The uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen is absolutely horrid – we were just starting out our lives and now we have a big sword hanging over our heads and our future. Not knowing if I will be able to legally live in the same country as my boyfriend, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, is breaking my heart and making me lose sleep.

 

Money Opinion Saving Money

The Boomerang Generation: Why Are So Many Adults Living With Their Parents?

May 30, 2015 by

One in four Britons between the ages of 18 and 29 live with their parents, and I’m one of them.

We’re called the boomerang generation, the clipped winged, failed fledglings, and KIPPERS (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings). If you were to believe everything you read in the papers, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re nothing but lazy scroungers sponging off our parents’ savings.

But while the media scowls at our inability to fly the nest (or desperation to crawl back after a stint in ‘the real world’) it’s worth noting that there are so many reasons why an increasing number of adults are moving back into their parents’ home.

High rents

The average cost of renting a home in the UK is £862 a month across the UK and £1,412 a month in London alone. With such high rents to consider each month, wannabe homeowners across the country are finding it more and more difficult to save money for a deposit.

Unemployment

Although 75% of ‘failed fledglings’ have jobs, thousands of other adults have no choice but to move in with their parents due to unemployment.

According to housing charity, Shelter, 17% of adults living with their parents are unemployed or inactive while 8% are full-time students who are not working.

Luckily, the employment rate is climbing, but most of the jobs are part-time, low-skilled and often poorly paid.

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University debts

Most of those who go to university dream of getting a well-paid career as soon as they graduate. But in reality, many reach the end of their course and struggle to find a job.

In fact, in 2013, 8% of graduates were unemployed 6 months after graduating.

47% of graduates find themselves in non-graduate jobs.

The average salary for those working full-time is just £21,000.

Of course, many graduates that leave university earn much less than this. Some are forced to work for free in unpaid internships in order to gain work experience, despite having already studied to degree level.

With new graduates entering the working world with up to £50,000 in debt, many will still be paying the money back well into their 40s and even 50s. Such a large long term debt can make it difficult to pay living costs, save for the future, and in some cases, even secure a mortgage.

Saving for a deposit

Shelter conducted some research to find out how long it would take renters to save for a deposit. They found that:

  • Childless couples in England could face a seven year saving stint
  • Childless couples in London are likely to need 13 years
  • Single people in England will probably have to save for 13 years
  • Single people in London need a ridiculous 29 years
  • Young families in England have to save for 12 years
  • Young families in London need 26 years

Looking at such shocking statistics, it may seem like home ownership is simply not worth it. But despite rising house prices, the average tenant in a three-bedroom house could save £1,300 a year if they bought the property instead of renting it.

With all things considered, it’s no wonder that those who are able to live with their parents choose to do so.

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The pressure on mum and dad

Living with mum and dad can have its downsides. 52% of adults living with their parents say that it prevents them from living fully independent lives. But they’re not the only ones that are suffering. Parents can have a hard time of it too.

Not only is their space invaded by their adult kids, they can find themselves having to dip into their pension pots so that they can afford to support their offspring.

Living in the family home may be the cheapest option for young adults, but parents are having to pay an extra £3,700 a year to feed and accommodate their adult children.

Although the reasons for moving back home are diverse, it’s clear that many of us are falling victim to a country that is plagued with house prices that increase faster than the average wage. Due to unrealistic property prices, unreasonable rents, and poor wage growth, surely it comes as no surprise that so many of us are living with mum and dad.

Photo Credits: Jenni WaterlooChris DeversSteve Snodgrass

Life & Style Opinion

Beach Body Ready: Why Marketers Should Empower Women Rather Than Shame Them

April 25, 2015 by

Protein World has come under fire over the past few days for creating an ad that features a woman in a bikini along with the question “Are you beach body ready?”

Critics have accused the ad of being sexist and promoting the idea that women are not ready to wear a bikini on holiday unless they live up to certain beauty  standards.

More than 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for the posters to be removed, showing just how strongly people feel about the campaign.

Unrealistic expectations

There’s no denying that each and every day women are bombarded with adverts implying that they should look a certain way. It’s also easy to see how these images can seriously affect women’s body image and self esteem. As a result, thousands of women across the world find themselves under immense pressure to live up to these beauty standards. It’s no surprise then that every summer, many women rush out to buy the latest fitness DVD or try a new fad diet in an attempt to lose weight fast.

Tapping into our insecurities

While I certainly agree with everyone who says that Protein World’s ad doesn’t do women any favours, the fitness supplement company is clearly relying on tried and tested marketing techniques that tap into our insecurities and offers us a ‘solution’.

Since this is a fitness brand we’re talking about, and summer is fast approaching, it makes perfect marketing sense for them to capitalise on the fact that many women are looking to get in shape ready for the beach. After all, as Protein World has pointed out on Twitter, it certainly isn’t the first to use the phrase ‘beach body ready’. We see it in magazines all the time.

Also, one could argue that Protein World is simply showing us a model who has the type of body that its potential customers aspire to have.

Nevertheless, I understand why people feel that Protein World is doing very little to break down stereotypes. Just look at the photos below. Here we’re told that men should aspire to be strong and build muscle, while women are told that they should lose weight.

muscle v weight loss

Men build muscle while women lose weight

Sure, the content of these ads may be based on actual data rather than stereotypes alone, but something tells me that advertisers need to start to break the mould and be more adventurous when it comes to reaching female audiences. It’s clear that this type of ad can work for brands like Protein World, but it’s also worth considering other methods of winning women over.

Empowerment > criticism

Over recent years it’s become clear that women want more from advertising. An increasing number of organisations are proving that by empowering women rather than making them feel bad, they can grab their attention and encourage them to act. Whether you like it or not, advertisers are cashing in on feminism.

Perhaps one of the finest examples of a campaign that reaches out to the modern woman and inspires her instead of putting her down is This Girl Can.

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After just a few months the campaign has already started to encourage women to take part in exercise and believe in their own sporting abilities. It currently has more than 64,000 followers on Twitter and you only have to look at the #thisgirlcan hashtag to see just how well the message has gone down with women and girls.

We also have Always and its ‘Like A Girl‘ campaign, which questions why people use such a phrase as an insult, and Lean In’s ‘Ban Bossy‘ initiative.

Even Adidas and Nike have a handful of ads that are seemingly designed to motivate women (as well as sell trainers, of course).

Unfortunately, while these motivational videos prove that there is room for advertisements that encourage women to be themselves and strive for success rather than perfection, the internet in particular still has a way to go.

When celebrities like Beyonce are seemingly photoshopping their legs on Instagram in order to achieve a thigh-gap, what hope do the rest of us have?

Beyonce-Instagram-pic

And when it’s okay for The Mirror to admit to preferring the photoshopped Keira Knightly over the real one, is it any surprise that so many women choose cosmetic surgery to enhance their appearance?

mirror

When will the criticism end?

Fitness and lifestyle blogger, Cassey Ho, recently created the following video after receiving hurtful comments on social media:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsL7W-GHhJA]

Cassey says: “It’s hard to be content with the shape of your body when people are constantly telling you how fat you are. The backhanded compliments, the mean comments, the cyber bullying – all of this messes with us…and it hurts. What if getting flat abs and bigger boobs was as easy as a click. What if you could stop all the hate and just photoshop yourself right now, in real life? What would you change?”

Cassey’s video and the response to the Protein World ad shows that while ‘sexist’ ads have become the norm and there are always going to be trolls and bad comments, women aren’t going to take body criticism lying down.

Whether it’s the Jamelia body-shaming backlash, or the reaction from women around the world when artist Rupi Kaur’s photo was removed from Instagram because it showed period blood on her trousers, it’s clear that many women are willing to speak up until things change.

So what can we do in order to get our voices heard and show advertisers that body shaming just isn’t as effective as it used to be? Until all advertisers start to accept responsibility by striving to inspire women rather than criticise them, we need to do what we can to empower one another.

What can we do?

  • Whatever your size, feel proud of the way you look. Being happy is all that matters. If you want to lose weight before putting your bikini on, that’s okay too. But if despite the best intentions you find yourself doing nothing but sit on your bum and scoff chocolate in the weeks before your holiday, don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • If you want to share photos of yourself looking incredible in a bikini, do it. Don’t let anyone else’s standards stop you from feeling proud of your body.
  • If someone criticises your body in any way, tell them where to go. Most of the time, when a person makes a nasty comment about someone else’s appearance, it’s because they’re insecure about their own looks. Often, they’re jealous that someone else has the confidence to be proud of who they are, while they aren’t proud of themselves. As a result they try to make excuses and find ways to knock the other person down. Sometimes though, they’re just nasty people who think they’re better than everyone else.
  • Stop criticising yourself. How can you expect others to love you and respect you if you can’t love and respect yourself? Also, how can you expect others to love and respect themselves when everyone around them is constantly highlighting their own insecurities? For example, I have a friend who constantly complains about how fat she is despite being a very small dress size. I’m tired of hearing it.
  • Accept compliments. If someone pays you a compliment, whether you agree with them or not, say thank you. Don’t make up excuses, put yourself down, or try to prove them wrong. Here’s a funny and satirical example of how so many of us women are unable to praise ourselves or accept praise from others. I wouldn’t advise watching this if you’re easily offended or in the company of children.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzlvDV3mpZw]

I’d love to know what you think about the whole Protein World uproar. Do you think the ad is damaging, or do you think people have made a big fuss over nothing? What do you think needs to be done to promote positive body image?

Charity Shops Fashion Life & Style Opinion Thrifty

My 5 Favourite Charity Shop Bloggers

April 4, 2015 by

Love talking about charity shops & thriftiness? You’ll feel right at home with my free Facebook group! Join the Money Mess To Financial Success gang to improve your finances and transform your life!

If you’ve visited my blog once or twice before, you’ll probably already know that I’m a little bit obsessed with charity shops. I enjoy trawling through them on the hunt for my next bargain and there’s nothing better than emerging from the shop triumphantly with something new (or old, whichever way you look at it).

I also love reading about other bloggers’ charity shop finds though too, and so here are just a few of my favourite charity shop bloggers that I’ve been following recently. I’m always on the lookout for more vintage/second hand inspiration though, so if you enjoy blogging about your thrifty finds too, leave a link in the comments below so I can see what you’ve been up to 🙂


5-favourite-charity-shop-bloggers

Pauper To Princess

Pauper To Princess is a brilliant charity shop blog created by Louise, from Dorset. It might just be my favourite second hand blog as it’s pretty much a one-stop-shop for all things thrift.

One thing I love about Pauper To Princess is that Louise never hesitates to share tons of stories from fellow thrifty bloggers. After one visit to her website, you’ll leave with a list as long as your arm of other charity shop lovers and thrifting fantastics to keep an eye out for.

I’m pretty jealous of how well-travelled Louise is too, as some of her most recent blog posts have shared unique fashion finds from places such as Amsterdam, Thailand and Estonia.

You might also like: How To Save Money On Clothes (plus a free £5 voucher off your next fashion purchase)

Here's Louise, blogger at From Pauper To Princess during a thrifting session in Chaing Mai

Here’s Louise, blogger at From Pauper To Princess during a thrifting session in Chaing Mai

Paloma In Disguise

Paloma in Disguise is a fashion blog created by Theatrical Costume student, Hannah. Everything she wears is just adorable and I love how she often manages to incorporate second hand shirts from charity shops in her outfits. I often spot old shirts that I like the look of, but if they don’t fit perfectly or I can’t think of something to wear them with on the spot, I tend to leave them on the rail.

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Coat and shirt: Oxfam. Everything else: high street

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Everything: Oxfam

Polkadot Pink

I’ll start off by saying that not everything on Polkadot Pink is from charity shops. Some items have been borrowed from friends and some are off the high street, but the items that blogger, Donna, manages to thrift are just so gorgeous that I decided she’s well deserving of a place in this list.

If you’re a lover of pastels, prints, lots of layers, and great photos, I definitely recommend paying Donna a visit.

Can't beat a bit of mustard

Can’t beat a bit of mustard. Image: Polkadot Pink

Love love love

Love love love

Charity Shop Chic

The woman behind Charity Shop Chic is a clothes upcycling pro! By altering and resizing unwanted items of clothing that she’s found in charity shops, she rescues clothes from landfill by injecting them with a new lease of life. Sometimes, if something looks almost beyond repair, she’ll simply cut it up and start from scratch. If you want to start learning how to alter and customise everything from t-shirts to dresses, then I’d definitely recommend having a nosey at the Charity Shop Chic blog. Hats of to her for transforming this huge frumpy blazer into the one below it.

charity shop chic

Before

 

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After

Charity Shop Gold

[July 2016 update: Charlotte’s taking a break from blogging and her website is currently private]

Charlotte is a fellow charity shop blogger from Manchester. I stumbled across her blog, Charity Shop Gold, through Instagram and it was only after commenting on each others’ photos a few times that we realised we haunt many of the same charity shops as one another. To be honest, as a much more experienced charity shopper than I, Charlotte really does have an eye for tracking down the best pieces, and both her blog and Instagram are filled with gorgeous finds!

In a recent blog post, I shared some charity shop tips, and mentioned the importance of looking out for timeless classics that you’ll be able to wear time and time again, and this is something that Charlotte does so well. After having a nosey at her blog, give her a follow on Instagram @charityshopgold

One of Charlotte's recent charity shop hauls

I’m always on the lookout for other bloggers with a love for charity shops and thriftiness, so if this sounds like you, or you know someone I should pay a visit, please get in touch!

You might also like: 5 Ways To Save Money On Food (Plus a free £5 voucher off your next supermarket shop) 

Life & Style Opinion

What International Women’s Day means to me

March 8, 2015 by

You may find this hard to believe but I think that International Women’s Day (IWD) might just be my favourite day of the year. Even before Christmas. No. I’m serious. Ever since I first started to show an interest in feminism at the age of 20, I’ve loved how International Women’s Day sees millions of equality fighters from across the world come together to celebrate the achievements of females.

IWD means different things for different people. For some, it offers a chance to celebrate and acknowledge feminism’s triumphs and how far women have come. For others, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the various problems that many women still face. For others though, International Women’s Day isn’t such a great day at all. It’s a day to get angry and bitter and feel excluded and resentful. “How come women get a day and we don’t? When is International Men’s Day?” They say. I hope you imagined me putting on one of those really annoying voices that kids do when they’re doing an impression of someone else, just then. Of course, a simple Google search would show that men have their own day on November 19th every year.

I really don’t understand why people feel the need to ruin days like this for other people. If I was to start banging on about how I feel excluded during Black History Month or if I was start a campaign against Gay Pride on the basis that there’s no festival for heterosexual people, you’d think I was crazy. I mean, when is there going to be a MOWO award, for God’s sakes? But anyway, I digress. To mark this wonderful day, I’m going to share with you exactly what International Women’s Day means to me.

My achievements

For me, International Women’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to take note of the things I have achieved, particularly the things I’ve accomplished in the last year. Am I a better person than I was last year? I’ll ask myself. Have I managed to do anything that I’ll look back on when I’m old and feel proud of? Have I stood up for the things that I believe in no matter what anyone says? Basically, it’s a great opportunity for a bit of navel gazing.

The women who got us where we are today

While I like to spend a fair bit of time congratulating myself on the 8th March each year, I know that if it wasn’t for the brave women who fought for women’s rights all those years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of these things. Thank you to Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Wilding Davison and the other courageous suffragettes who stood up for their beliefs on behalf of other women.

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If it wasn’t for feminists, I wouldn’t have my own bank account, I wouldn’t be looking at buying a house all by myself, and I probably wouldn’t have my own career. I might not have even been to University. If I found out I was pregnant, I wouldn’t have a choice whether to keep the baby or not. I’d have no option but to give birth to this baby and would then have to stay at home and raise it while my husband (if I had one) was at work. Think we don’t need feminism? Think feminists are just a bunch of bra burning, “comfy shoe wearing”, hairy armpitted man haters? Think again. Take a look at 50 things feminism has done for you. Feminism isn’t about making women better than men, as you’ll see in that list, feminism takes men’s interests into account too.

As a child, I remember my Grandma once telling me that she never misses a chance to vote because women had to fight long and hard for their right to. I remember being shocked when she said a woman allegedly threw herself under the King’s horse in protest at her lack of rights. As I was so young, I didn’t really understand what she was telling me, but as years went on, every time an election came around and I watched grown ups going to vote, I remembered her words.

Suffragette Emily Davison throws herself under at Epsom Derby

It was only when I was 20 that I really started to realise just how lucky we are now. After discovering this 104 year old sketchbook that belonged to an ancestor, I recently started showing an interest in my family history. I went to visit my Grandma for a chat and she spent hours telling me many stories from life when she was young. She told me that when she was young employers would straight up refuse to employ married women, and there were many jobs that women weren’t trusted to do. When the men went to war, women were allowed into factories to take over the roles that previously would have been for the men only. When the war ended, while women were of course happy at the news, some were also upset that they had to return to their ordinary lives in the home and abandon the work that they’d loved.

How much further we have to go

It’s amazing how far women have come, but there is still a long way for us to go. While on the face of it, it may seem that we have the equality that we’ve been fighting for, in reality we really haven’t. We’ve hit some goals along the way, but I fear that equality may not actually materialise in my lifetime.

Rape and sexual assault

Approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales each year, while one third of rape allegations are dismissed by police forces. Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year and one in five women has experienced some sort of sexual violence between the ages 16-59.

Equal pay

It’s widely believed that men and women receive equal pay now, but so many statistics prove this to be untrue. It’s easy to say things like “I’m female and work at Asda and earn the same as my male employees” or “I’m a board member and earn more than hundreds of men in my company” but the statistics show that women are still on average earning less than men. UK income inequality is amongst the highest in the developed world. On average female bosses earn 35% less than male colleagues.

According to the UN, the gender pay gap will not close for another 70 years.

The wage gap is worsened when you take race into account. While in the US white women earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar, African American women earn just 64 cents.

After talking about ordinary women and their low incomes, it may be difficult to show sympathy for the wealth of Hollywood actresses earning less than their male co-stars. It’s easy to dismiss this on the grounds that these women are earning millions more than we are, but do you not think this is worth addressing too? As a matter of principle, why should these women get paid less than male actors? Are they really less talented? Are they really worth less?

Trafalgar Square 1000 women and girls went on a march demonstrating for equal pay with men

Abortion rights

Abortion isn’t a nice subject, and for a long time I was kind of stupid and a little bit unknowingly pro-life. I know. I’m ashamed to say it. I didn’t even call myself pro-life though. I had a different word for it and secretly told myself I was ‘pro-contraception’. Blergh! I hope you imagined that annoying little kids voice saying ‘pro-contraception’ just then too.

Now though, I’ve seen the error of my ways and strongly identify myself as pro-choice as I finally appreciate just how important it is for women to have the right to decide whether or not they have a baby. No matter what.

Whether she was ‘careful’ or not, was raped or not, has had an abortion before or not, or even if she wants to have an abortion to go on a celebrity TV show, she should have the right to choose. In many parts of the world, women don’t have this right. Imagine being forced to give birth against your will. Imagine having to carry a baby that you know you don’t want for nine months.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland, and women have to pay to travel over to England if they want to terminate their pregnancy, because otherwise they face life imprisonment for aborting their baby in their own country. A part of me understands why many people are opposed to abortions, after all, they are standing up for their beliefs. However, it saddens me that while looking out for the unborn foetus, these people, and Ireland’s outdated laws, show a complete disregard for living breathing women who are already on this earth.

Phone hacking

This may seem oddly placed in this list, but while some may think this only affected a minuscule percentage of women, I think it’s a perfect example of one aspect of sexism that women still face. When hundreds of female celebrities recently had their phones hacked and intimate photos taken, thousands of people across the globe went out of their way to seek and share these stolen private photographs.

I think it’s sad that we still have this sense of self-entitlement when it comes to women’s bodies. Famous or not, these women deserve a right to privacy, and should be allowed to take nude photos within their homes as they please. Just because they’re famous does not give us the right to do what we like with their private information.

Do you not think it’s a little creepy that were choosing to look for photos that these women don’t want us to look at? Imagine if you were to meet Jennifer Lawrence in person. Imagine if she asked you whether you had viewed the photos of her. Would you not feel at least a little bit ashamed if you had to look her in the eye and say yes?

There are so many more things I could include on this list, and perhaps I’ll update it a bit later on. For now though, on my quest to be a better woman than I was last year, I have quite a bit of work to do today, so I must get going!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on International Women’s Day (as long as you’re nice) and so please let me know in the comments below. Are you doing anything nice today to celebrate? Are you proud of something you’ve achieved recently? Or is there something that you feel strongly about that you feel we need to address? I look forward to hearing from you

Charity Shops Money Opinion Thrifty

Expensive Charity Shops: Are They Becoming Unaffordable?

March 7, 2015 by

I’ve seen a few of my fellow charity shop lovers complaining recently that their favourite second hand havens aren’t as cheap as they used to be. They’re not alone. I agree with them and on a few occasions I’ve even joined in with their moaning. I love charity shops and over recent months they’ve kind of become one of my favourite places to be. But I’d be lying if I said that price hikes weren’t frustrating.

On a recent charity shop adventure I spotted a bag for £15 that looked like the type of thing that you could find for cheaper in Primark, and a big green chair for £50 that had yellow stains on it and seemed to have come straight from a retirement home.

Today really took the biscuit though, as I stumbled upon this dress. Just look at the state of it. You can’t really tell in this photo, but not only had the red colour run into the fabric below, but the armpits were pretty much blue! To make matters worse, even if you did want to take this unwearable monstrosity home, it’d cost you £5.99 to do so. Are they having a laugh? I don’t know if you could even upcycle this mess.

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£5.99. You’ve got to be messing with me.

On my charity shop spree this morning I also spotted DVDs for £2.99 each and paperback book for £2.50 each.

I do feel bad criticising charities that are simply trying to raise money for good causes. Charity shops in the UK are now raising over £290m annually and in turn are providing significant benefits to their local areas. In total, 340,000 tonnes of textiles are diverted from landfill every year (which reduces UK carbon emissions by 7.4m tonnes), over 200,000 people gain volunteering opportunities and 17,000 gain paid jobs.

In order to do all this good, it’s becoming more and more important for these charities to behave like ordinary businesses in order to survive. Charities are having to invest in marketing, social media, visual merchandising, and many are even having store refits in order to attract customers and increase turnover. All this comes at a cost.

After years of stick, charity shops are finally becoming cool, and in order to grow in popularity, these ‘chazzers’ *shudders* need to continue to appeal to a younger audience. Once upon a time charity shops were mostly frequented by those who couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else. However, as an increasing number of savvy shoppers and bargain hunters flock to charity shops to fill their wardrobes with vintage and unique finds, it appears that many of these stores are making the most of this by hiking up their prices.  After all, vintage costs so much more on Brick Lane or in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, so really, I guess a sixties dress for a tenner isn’t the end of the world.

But upping the price of items is one thing, selling things at completely unrealistic prices is quite another.  When someone makes a charity shop donation, they obviously want their donation to fetch a reasonable amount, but what’s the point in donating your entire DVD collection if they’re just going to sit there on a shelf for years because they’ve not been priced accordingly? Who really is going to pay 3 quid for Jurassic Park 3 when it’s on ITV2 every other week?

I know that charity shops don’t exist to satisfy bargain hunters. They’re there to raise money for worthy causes and help those in need. Let’s not forget that while most of the people we see on a typical charity shop visit are volunteers, each charity has thousands of staff members that work for them full time and need paying a decent wage just like the rest of us do.

Many are quick to criticise charity workers who take home enviable salaries, as if they don’t deserve the money, but without them charities would struggle. Gone are the days where charities are just, well, charity cases. They’re businesses now and in order for charity shops to succeed they need to behave like proper companies and constantly strive for progression and growth.

Barnardo’s came under fire recently after allegedly paying some lass off TOWIE £3,000 to advertise them on her Instagram account. I don’t think the girl in question should really have taken the money, since all she had to do was hold up a scruffy A4 sheet of paper and post the photo on Instagram, but we shouldn’t be criticising Barnardo’s for using some marketing skills. After all, although the rise in ‘charity shop chic’ may be partly responsible for higher prices, we need more people to buy second hand stuff.

This beauty, from a smaller independent charity shop, was just £3.99

This beauty, from a smaller charity shop, was just £3.99

I don’t completely know where I’m going with this rant and I certainly don’t have the answers. On the one hand, if charity shops stay cheap they’re wasting their best donations and failing to raise as much money as they possibly can for their cause. But on the other hand, if they continue to hike up their prices, they risk losing some of their most loyal customers. Potential customers who have not yet stepped foot in the door of a charity shop also have less incentive to give them a try if their USP has suddenly been snatched away.

As you can see, I’m somewhat sitting on the fence in this matter. I personally believe that charity shops should behave like businesses while making an effort to appeal to younger people, but I certainly don’t feel that this should be at the expense of the poor or the elderly, or even the thrifty shoppers like myself.

What do you think? Have you ever spotted something overpriced in a charity shop? Do you worry that they’re becoming too much like businesses, or do you think that’s how it should be? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Food & Drink Opinion

Get Baked: 5 Social Media Lessons We Can Learn From The Joint

February 25, 2015 by

First thing’s first let me put it out there and say that this post is in no way a criticism of Get Baked’s food. I’ve never eaten there and the reviews of the place are overwhelmingly positive. Also, from looking at photos of their grub, I’m drooling. This post is simply a comment on the restaurant’s marketing tactics alone.

If you’ve not already seen all the kerfuffle or you have no idea what the hell Get Baked is, it all went off on Tuesday night when Leeds restaurant, ‘Get Baked Presents: The Joint’, posted this incredibly angry and sweary Facebook post in light of a review by a blogger called Cous Cous Bang Bang.

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It all kicked off after Cous Cous blogged about a visit to the takeaway turned restaurant. The food critic was less than impressed by Get Baked’s hipster vibes, obsession with weed, and apparently poor customer service, but it must be worth noting that he couldn’t find much fault with the food.  “There’s little to find fault with in the food,”  he said.

Nevertheless, the criticism didn’t sit well in Get Baked’s stomach and as a result, the owner, Rich, flew off the handle and went on a wild roaring rampage of revenge on social media. “Someone telling me my pancakes aren’t amazing when they don’t know what the fucking amazing pancakes are meant to taste like,” argued the Get Baked frontman. Because of course, the only time you can express a dislike for restaurant food is when there is a fly or an actual poo in it. “What do you mean it tastes like shit? How do you know what it’s meant to taste like?” That last bit wasn’t Rich. That was just me.

Then, Rich, (or whoever was in charge of Get Baked’s Twitter account) proceeded to respond to the food critic’s tweets as if he had no idea what he was on about.

The response to the restaurant’s Facebook post was, to be honest, widely positive. With most fans expressing either confusion over GB’s anger or amazement that anyone could be less than blown away by the place. Many were unsure as to why a successful restaurant would throw their toys out the pram over one food critic.  After all, why would a restaurant with a seemingly bright future let one food blogger get to them so much?

While Get Baked’s food is apparently, for the most of it, ‘on point’, I really think businesses can learn a thing or two, good and bad from its marketing tactics.

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I want this in and around my mouth. Photo: Get Baked’s Facebook

 

Criticism: Use it, don’t lose it

When someone sets up a business, they’re setting themselves up for not only a potentially bright future, but also lots of criticism along the way. It’s all part and parcel of the job. Whether it’s Beyonce, Obama, or Jessica Ennis Hill, the most successful people in the world have their critics and I imagine they’re not really that arsed that there are a few people out there that don’t like what they do.

The best way to handle criticism is to either ignore it or act upon it. Obviously, if it’s really nasty, what else can you do other than watch every single Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets back to back, safe in the knowledge that you’re not alone?

Usually criticism should be considered a blessing. If no one was to openly criticise your business whenever they’re dissatisfied, you’d probably start to wonder where all your customers had disappeared to.

Completely losing it and having an angry rant in response to criticism may get people taking notice of you, but for all the wrong reasons.

Treat your customers with respect

Remember that without your customers, you’re nothing. Sometimes customers can be annoying little pains in the bum who you secretly wish death on. The key is in the word secretly. By handling these silly sausages in the right way you can turn a negative situation into a positive one, win them round and perhaps even get lots of nice happy PR for your company.

There’s that saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I’d argue this isn’t true. There’s only no such thing as bad PR if no one has heard of you and you’ve got nothing to lose, or if you’re small enough for the negativity to get forgotten about. Luckily for Get Baked, I suspect this is the case for them and this whole mess probably won’t do them much harm if they turn things around.

Nevertheless, if you’re a good company that deserves to succeed, you can do without the bad PR.

Accept that you aren’t always right

I don’t like the saying ‘the customer is always right’ and I think that any customer who actually says this to a member of staff while complaining about something needs to take a long hard look at themselves. But nevertheless, I can’t think of many occasions when you should bluntly tell a customer that they’re wrong.

A few days ago a woman posted on Get Baked’s Facebook wall to say that her friend had been food poisoned and they were concerned that it happened at GB.

The food poisoning may not have been GB’s fault whatsoever, but the way that it responded to this woman was shocking and, if you ask me, a bit bullyish. I won’t post the whole thing, but here are the worst bits:

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Wow.

I imagine that for restaurants that work hard to prevent customers from getting ill, hearing reports of food poisoning is incredibly worrying. It must be every restaurant’s worst nightmare, especially when the accusation is made public. But it’s 2015! We can’t expect disgruntled customers to write carefully worded letters or pick up the phone or even send an email any more. It’s all about social media and people love to complain on Facebook and Twitter because they know they’ll get an urgent response. They also know that the best businesses will use the opportunity to offer exceptional customer service. Well, most of them will, anyway.

Businesses need to bite their tongues and be nice. Would it have been so hard for Get Baked to reply with something along the lines of: “I’m really sorry to hear that your friend is ill and I’d like to look into this for you. I must say though that this is the first report of food poisoning that we’ve ever had and we always do our bit to ensure first class standards in our kitchen. We’ve even won awards for it. Can we give you a call for a chat?”

Be funny

For all its faults, Get Baked is often pretty funny on social media, (when it isn’t banging on about how many followers it has) and that’s just what businesses need.

Professional no. Funny yes.

Professional no. Funny yes.

Brands can benefit so much from being friendly, personable and showing a sense of humour online, and not only can they increase their following as a result, they can in turn boost sales. But, as more and more brands have started to engage in social media banter over recent years, the number of brands becoming shameless dicks (sorry) has grown too. It’s almost become cool to be rude to your customers, because after all, what does it matter when your thousands of followers are right behind you laughing at your jokes? “It’s just banter mate innit”. I especially hate it when brands adopt troll-like behaviour as if it’s the most clever marketing tactic ever.

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Apologise

To hand it to Get Baked, you’ll rarely find a business publicly accepting they’re in the wrong. And that is exactly what Rich did today. It’s refreshing to see a business owner showing their human side rather than simply releasing a robotic and dull corporate brand response that has been crafted by their PR crisis team.

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It’s unclear whether or not this whole thing was one big trollsome marketing tactic (after The Sun’s recent stunt, I’ll trust no brand) or simply evidence of a serious lack of self awareness. And if it is a tactic do drum up a bit of extra exposure, I guess they’re succeeding. But it is obvious that Get Baked has some work to do if it’s going to win the internet. Considering the food is apparently incredible, and many of the Facebook respondents don’t seem to mind burgers with a side of rage, I guess there’s no need to call in any marketing experts just yet.

It’s clear that Rich is an ambitious and creative guy with big dreams, and for that, I wish him all the best. But along with his big dreams comes a seemingly big ego and an unwillingness to listen to anyone but those who praise him. I don’t have any trips to Leeds planned any time soon, but if Get Baked does come to Manchester, I’d love to try it, but only if “Leeds’ own Walter White” (I’m not sure why either) stays true to his words and works on his ability to accept criticism.