Sunday, 30 August 2009

Money Money Money, not really funny

I'm awake at 9.30am on a Sunday. This is an extremely rare occurrence and only happens when a) There's the prospect of a free breakfast b) I'm so hungover I need to get Alka Seltzer out of the medicine cabinet. Neither of these are the reason for today's early arising. Instead, my mind is riddled with financial woes. Now, despite it being the credit crunch/recession/era of the staycation where everyone is growing their own fruit (Gemma!) and cutting back to save money, I still feel my financial position is a pretty bad one. For several reasons:

1. I earn considerably less than 90% of the people I know despite being well educated and fairly skilled in my profession.

2. I still have to borrow money from my parents once in a blue moon to stay afloat.

3. I have paid off a negligable amount of my 10k student loan having graduated 6 years ago.

4. I spend pretty much what I earn every month, which means I can't save anything. Ever.

5. I have no assets except my CD collection.

Now you're probably reading this thinking either 'Don't worry about it, you're in your 20s, just go with the flow and everything will be OK', or 'Don't be such a selfish bint, there are starving people in the world and you're worried about YOUR finances - at least you have clean water and a roof over your head'. My response to both these thoughts is: a person's financial woes are relative to their peer group and social circle. Yes, I am lucky not to be living in the third world, but not everyone in the third world is unhappy - because they have no outside frame of reference; everyone they know is just like them financially or otherwise. When I was at university, I didn't have any money - but that was OK because none of my friends did either. When we were all young graduates, I was earning pittance, but again it was OK because everyone else was too. The difference is now is that I still earn pittance relative to what everyone else is earning. A couple of weeks ago I told my brother what I earned and he laughed - unsure that I was telling the truth. He then (both helpfully and unhelpfully) said 'When I was your age I owned my own flat in Highgate and had a BMW'. Thanks dude. The thing is, if I did want to try and save money, I would have to cut back to the point where I would FEEL a lot worse of on a day-to-day basis. There's a great episode of Friends where Joey, Rachel and Phoebe are at odds with Ross, Chandler and Monica over their respective earnings. Monica wants to go to a fancy restaurant to celebrate a promotion and Rachel ends up ordering tap water and a side salad. I don't want to be that person. If I go to a restaurant I want to be able to order (within reasonable means), the thing that I actually want to eat, otherwise what's the point of going? But if I want to save I won't be able to do this, or even go to restaurants in the first place which would be disastrous because eating out is one of the greatest personal pleasures in my life.

I could, on the other hand, become richer by getting a job that paid more. The problem is, I have quite a nice job, and due to the basic economic principle of supply and demand, lots of people would like my job and as a result I have to put up with low wages. I was never motivated by money in my career - earning shed loads of money is not what I'm about and my stress is not because I don't earn a lot of money but rather I earn considerably less than my peers. I've always stuck to my principles of never becoming a corporate whore. I could be one - lots of PPE graduates are, and earn loads and have nice houses and cars. But I bet when they tell people what they do, no one cares. Whereas when I tell people what I do, people are genuinely interested. But are my financial worries the price that needs to be paid to have a genuinely interesting job?

My other half always tells me to stop stressing about money. But he earns twice what I do. And apparently even he finds it difficult to save. So maybe I am actually doing OK - that thought might help me sleep better on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Axis of Awesome

I love Edinburgh during festival time – the crazy street performers, the late night/early morning drinking, the rain. There’s so much good stuff going on it’s hard to know where to dedicate your time. Insider recommendations always help which is how I found myself watching The Axis of Awesome. Crass journalists would probably describe them as ‘Flight of the Conchords meets Tenacious D’. I would describe them as a paradoxical rock trio with a lead singer that looks (and knows that he looks) like Jack Black. So there’s Jack (real name Jordan), a nerdy looking keyboardist who is fluent in German and a guy dressed as a cow, with a guitar. The stage was immediately set for laughs and power chords. They opened with the riff from Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire. But instead of sex being on fire, the milk (to make a cup of tea), had expired (note the excellent use of rhyme). The first highlight of the show was the ‘songs you never really know the lyrics to’ medley which included the incomprehensible Informer by Snow, Come on Eileen and, to much hilarity – a piss take of Bob Dylan and his inability to enunciate his lyrics. The grand finale was the second highlight, an astute and witty compilation of pop songs that follow the same I, V, VI, IV chord progression – type in Axis of Awesome Four Chords into YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. Whoever knew that pretty much every number one of the past decade has been based on four chords. Well actually, I did (being a Grade 8 pianist and all) but it was still hugely entertaining seeing it executed with such gusto. Songs in the mix included James Blunt/You’re beautiful, Beyonce/If I were a boy, Elton John/Can you feel the love tonight, The Calling/Wherever you will go. Can you hear it in your head? If not, check them out.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Beauty of The National

I wish this entry was actually a review of the gig that took place last night at London's Southbank Centre. Alas it is not. Because I didn't manage to get a ticket. Because it sold out in like 2 minutes and spares were going on ebay for 100 quid a pop. BOO!

But seriously, The National, in particular their Alligator album, are awesome. They were a band I discovered when looking for some trendy/non-commercial/emotional-but-manly new music for my other half. He only listens to stuff that is written by white men with guitars. He likes Dylan, The Boss and Morrissey - nuff said. And I too am a fan of modern American rock that doesn't suck but quite a lot of it does suck - so it really has to be something special to make me want to buy it. The best thing about the band is lead singer Matt Berninger. His voice is amazing. So amazing it would turn even the most bleach-blonde, WKD-drinking Essex girl into a hardened whisky-straight up and give me a cigarette NOW type of lady. The melancholy, the subtle anxiety - all interlaced with simply guitar riffs. It's mesmerising and depressing, but that's what makes it awesome. It's the type of music that would make you want to feel more depressed even if you're only feeling mildly depressed, just so you can tell people know depression better than they do because actually, that would make you feel better about yourself. Each of their songs has a nuance that make them special - from moody strings to glitteringly pretty trumpet fanfares - not what you'd expect from this 'sort' of band. But it works and they understand music beyond just thrashing guitars with drums. Next time they play in London, I'm going. No matter how much it costs.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dogs I

I was watching an episode of House the other day (that American doctor drama that has Bertie Wooster in it). It involved a 30-something man with motor neurone disease who had the constant assistance and brilliant companionship of a dog. The dog in question was a type of border collie who had the ability to press buttons at road crossings and help his owner put clothes on. Cats would never be able to do this. This is why dogs are amazing - they can do stuff to ACTUALLY help people. Anyway, by the end of the episode I was in floods of tears. Why? Well, the man dies - but this is not what caused the initial waterworks. I cried because the love the man showed towards his dog on his deathbed and the human-like sympathy which overcame the dog was so incredibly emotional I couldn't hold back. I hate crying at television - it's for morons. But seeing the bond between man and his best friend is something to behold. Dogs will never have a go at you, or play mind games, or give you the silent treatment - they will simply be there for you. I bloody love dogs.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Coast Dining Camden, London

The first of many reviews. I'm going to try and not be wanky like Giles Coren or AA Gill.

So, my better half took me on a date on Saturday night to Coast Dining, a restaurant that bills itself as being able to bring the taste of Cornwall to Camden. I've only ever eaten Cornish pasties and Cornish cream so I did wonder what was in store. Firstly, the manager was ever so good-humoured when I accidentally set my menu on fire on the tea light placed lovingly on the table. Apparently it has happened more than once which to me suggests they should invest in slightly less naked flames. Closed lanterns maybe.

Pyromania aside - the evening was delightful. The place felt clean, bright and breezy - everything you'd want from an apparent indoor seaside experience. I started with an incredibly fresh 'glass' of tiger prawns with aioli. Succulent as could be. I then moved on to an absolutely divine lobster tagliatelle for the bargain price of 15 quid. Hearty chunks of lobster in a fragrant wine and cream sauce - so delicious the man at the next table started salivating and ordered the same. Best of all - the alcoholic accompaniment: a reasonably priced sancerre which would compliment the most basic of cheese sandwiches let alone what we ordered. All in all, a lovely experience.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Where am I going?

So, I live and work in London. I have a "nice' job but I don't think it was my calling in life. The problem is I'm not sure what my calling in life is - no one's called to tell me. So I figured that by electronically jotting my thoughts I might, over time gain a clearer picture of which direction to head in. Be prepared for some seriously mediocre ideas along with the odd review of gastric delights, super sounds and the all important item for a person of little direction - the box set.