The Graduate.

Updates to follow…it has been a crazy last six months. To my small group of readers – hope you’re all well!!

Finally!

My roll call card – First Class Honours? Yes please.

Holy mackerel. The results are in…

A very quick post just to say that yours truly will be graduating with a First Class Honours degree yay!

It’s been an absolutely crazy, stressful, enjoyable and eye-opening experience to return to university as a mature student. To anyone that is currently studying, regardless of age, I salute you! It’s tough, but so totally worth it! And to anyone who is thinking about studying – I urge you to try it. From short courses through to full-time degrees, I can’t think of a better way to challenge yourself and expand your knowledge.

And now, as I prepare to go off on holiday for a few weeks, I’m left wondering what on earth I’m going to do about this little blog of mine. From discussing random acts of weirdness by my work colleagues, to complaining about the ‘youth of today‘, from telling you about the strange people I come across day-to-day here in London to sharing with you my tales of amusing gym work-outs or catching sneaky mice, this humble little blog has been the perfect scrapbook for venting about my pet-peeves, sharing a thought or two or just writing pure and utter nonsense.

To my incredibly small group of readers – thanks for your support and funny comments over the last few years. You’ve made me smile.

Until next time…

My degree is done! But…

Well folks, it’s done! I finally finished my journalism degree! Towards the end it all became a bit of a caffeine-filled, sleep-deprived whirlwind what with final projects, the dissertation and a media law exam to study for (I’ll post about these later). It’s been three weeks since I returned to ‘normality’ – to my office and usual 9 to 5 routine – and university strangely now seems like a wonderful, hazy memory. While we await our final results (hopefully due out next month) there is one question which weighs heavily on my mind: Now what?

I’m not naive, yet a silly little part of me fantasised that as I walked out of my university campus for the final time I’d be greeted by fan fare and my own marching band while a group of editors vied for my attention as I sorted through a pile of permanent job offers.

Yeh. Exactly.

The harsh reality is that I’ve now found myself at a very interesting cross-roads, and one that I think is a little trickier for the more mature student to navigate. And that, my friends, is the question of money.

One of my fellow mature peeps laughed when I told him this. “Well, we didn’t go into journalism for the money, did we? We knew this before we even started.” Indeed we did. Nope. Journalism – for the average journalist in London – isn’t highly-paid at all. It isn’t even well paid. And a quick career search in Google confirms that it’s not just about salaries – there simply aren’t that many jobs; at least, not that many jobs if you actually want to be paid or you have no prior experience. The media industry does like its unpaid internships – but who can afford to do that in this big, bright, colourful (EXPENSIVE) city?

It doesn’t help that my work experience thus far has been in the delightful world of finance and investment. If I play my cards right, it has the potential to pay big bucks, which makes it awfully tempting to remain in this industry. Money isn’t everything of course, but it sure is pretty awesome, particularly when you have your eye on a couple of pairs of designer shoes.

So while I make up my mind as to who wins my future career battle – will it be the non-materialistic creative heart? Or the practical, shoe-obsessed brain? – here’s something to think about. What the heck do I put as my new blog banner?

Posh Banter: The discombobulations of a ‘mature’aged student…

…to be continued…

The case of the Lost Files: where common sense didn’t prevail.

I have three worst nightmare scenarios:

  1. That zombies take over the world.
  2. That vampires turn out to be real and we end up with real-life Bella Swans running around having unsafe sex and giving birth to half-vampire mind-reading babies.
  3. That I forget to back-up my final-year research and assessment files and the next day my USB stick decides to stop working.

Guess which one happened? Sorry to all you zombie enthusiasts and Twilight fans, it wasn’t scenarios one or two. Sadly it was three, which means yours truly is now devoid of quite a number of pretty important files full of pretty important university stuff. My stress-o-meter is currently at 75. I have the weekend to try and recover the data before I hit 100 and the whiskey.

STRESS-O-METER

While channelling positive chi towards my 4GB USB drive, I’ve been reminded of other times in my life when I’ve had some unfortunate timing, or just pure bad luck, in scenarios that could have been easily avoided, with a little common sense.

If I’d just taken two minutes to back-up my files every few days, none of this would be concerning me right now and I wouldn’t be day dreaming of Jack Daniels.

There’s the time I broke my mobile phone. By putting it in the washing machine. It wasn’t until I became aware of an unusual ‘clunking’ sound coming from the wash, that I realised I’d left my phone in my jeans pocket. I stood there, watching the cycle go around and around, unable to stop the machine. I felt helpless as the little silver flip-phone whirred around, caught between denim and the washing machine window. I didn’t have insurance.

Then there was the time on Christmas eve a few years ago when I locked myself outside in freezing temperatures. I’d gone to take the rubbish out and pulled the front door closed behind me, not remembering that I had no keys on me. I was dressed in nothing but a fluffy pink neon dressing gown and leopard print slippers. My hair was bright orange because I’d decided – the night before – to dye my dark brown locks blonde, and it hadn’t gone so well. After half an hour (the neighbour’s weren’t in) I managed to flag down a courier van and got him to call my housemate, who graciously took time out of work to come home and let me in.

I’ve had my handbag stolen once, which was my own fault for assuming the group of guys I was out drinking with would watch it for me while I made a quick dash to the ladies. I returned to find it missing – goodbye wallet, phone, travel card, make-up and house and office keys. Boy, that was a great evening.

And I’m sure on more than one occasion I’ve booked flights for a quick weekend holiday and only after confirming my card details and pressing ‘Pay’ have I realised I’ve chosen the wrong date. (I admit this is probably more stupidity then lack of common sense!)

I guess we all have a bit of bad luck some times. It may not involve USB sticks or flaming orange hair, but usually a little common sense could have helped. So, lesson learned: Back up before you luck out. And consult a hairdresser before you take to the peroxide.

Work experience: It’s revealed more than I thought it would…

This is me. But without the typewriter and man face.

These last few weeks yours truly has been out and about experiencing the world of working for free in a bid to add some kind of journalistic credentials to my otherwise journalism-devoid CV.

I’ve been pretty fortunate, I managed to secure placements at three publications, two of which are prominent national newspapers; one broadsheet (or what we like to call ‘quality’ papers) and one tabloid. I had been expecting the two to be vastly different, and they were, but I’ve also found out a few (unexpected) things along the way…

Yes, believe the stereotypes

Now I whole-heartedly admit that it’s extremely naive of me to comment on the newspaper industry after spending only a few weeks in it with just two papers, BUT, from the limited time I had with the publications, I was struck by just how many stereotypes of journalists were accurate and abundant.

The Broadsheet was my first placement. Known best as the paper which broke the phone hacking scandal in 2011 serving as the catalyst to the current Leveson Inquiry into press standards, this was a publication which oozed lefty-liberalism and, for want of a better word, egotism. I guess a publication that prides itself on decent journalism, and which has placed itself on the self-appointed pedestal of admirable investigative work, can afford to do that. Everyone walking around seemed to have purpose. There were always meetings going on and it was a hub of activity. To my delightful surprise, I found everyone to be incredibly welcoming. And everything seemed, er, new. Not that one should ever judge a company by the state of its offices, but these were large, open and bright. A mixture of clean-cut journalists and shabby-chic hipster writers, this was a place that seemed colourful, spacious and shiny. Editorial meetings were big and busy and I was fortunate to have some great little projects to work on. I even had my research uploaded on their site. All-in-all, it was time well spent and I enjoyed it.

Cut to a few weeks later and I find myself in the main tower of London’s ridiculous concrete-jungle business district known as Canary Wharf. It’s 10am on a Monday and I’m waiting nervously in the reception of The Daily Red-top. The receptionist, a pretty young woman with a little too much fake tan, is chatting away to someone about her new hair cut.

After a while HR meet me and take me upstairs to the newsroom. I’m given my log-ins and told to “go over to that computer.” There’s no introduction, no tour of the office. I ask around and determine that I’m sitting at the ‘Content’ desk, what otherwise used to be News and Features before they fired a few people and combined the two. I look around and notice how shabby everything is. There are newspapers everywhere and stuff looks old. I remind myself that I was probably quite spoilt at The Broadsheet so not to cast judgement. I then get my first piece of work.

“So, you know how Engelbert Humperdinck is going to be our Eurovision entrant?” the girl next to me asks. I nod. “Well, I’m doing a feature on him and I think it would be good if we could find out if he has a love-child. Can you do some research for me?”

Meet Engelbert Humperdinck. Up until 48 hours ago, I thought he was a character from The Princess Bride.

‘Welcome to tabloids!’ I think to myself, and promptly begin a nice little Google search of ‘Humperdinck’s love child’.

Turns out he has one. From back in the 80s. She made the news back in 1994 after what I assumed was a failed attempt to sue her father. She was having to do a spread in Playboy to pay her way through university. Unfortunately I find no photos so I don’t know if she ever did the shoot. I tell this to the girl next to me. “Great!” she smiles. “See if she has a Facebook account. We could try and get some pics!”

After about 10 minutes, it occurs to me that in the first hour of my experience at a tabloid, I’m already trying to hack into someone’s Facebook account. I stop. “Excuse me, sorry, is there anything else I can help you with?” I ask the girl. Not really, is the reply. I spend another hour searching for his other love children. He doesn’t have any.

It is then that the Content Editor walks over to me. I almost have to do a double take he’s THAT much of a tabloid hack stereotype. He’s short, middle-aged and overweight,  his beer gut almost poking through a shirt that many years ago used to be white. He’s slightly greasy and looks at me through dirty specs. He’s balding and I noticed there’s no wedding band. “I’ll send you some press releases,” he barks. “Write them up for me. Six pars, you know, sentences.”

I nod a little too enthusiastically for the task but the truth is I’m quite excited. Boom. Okay, so it’s writing up press releases but my uni lecturers have taught me well and armed me with the skills to go beyond the PR and actually find a story.

The first press release is from Starbucks. It’s entitled “50% of British women would rather go without sex for a week than go without a cup of coffee.” I sigh. This is not what I was expecting.

Starbucks. I hate Starbucks.

I work on that for a while, manage to get a few lines out. I like it. It’s not news-sy, but it’s quite entertaining and I’m proud of my effort. I send it over. Ten seconds later the guy is back at my desk.

“So, what? It’s all about coffee?” I look at him and try to gauge if he’s joking. “Yes, sir, it’s from Starbucks. You know, Starbucks coffee?” He stands there looking over my shoulder at my screen. “Would you like me to find another angle?” I ask. “So it really is just about, like, lattes and stuff. What’s this sex bit?”. I explain they did a survey and apparently 48-point-something per cent of British women prefer lattes to love. He stands upright. “Oh. Right. Well that’s disappointing. Okay, well scrap that. I’ll give you another one.”

Press Release Numero Dos looks a little more interesting and after working some magic on that one, including calling up people from related institutions and getting some really good pull-quotes, I submit the story. It never makes it into press.

Needless to say, after 1.5 days there, and after a particularly rude-word filled editorial meeting – which included the Content Editor using the ‘c’ word a little too often – I walked out.

So, lesson learned? Yes, do believe the stereotypes. And no, I’m not cut-out to be a tabloid hack.

To be continued…

Procrastination Cookies

Better than doing household chores and sweeter than staring out of the window...

The last few months have seen me explore the seemingly infinite possibilities of the practice of procrastination. Don’t be fooled, procrastination is – I’d like to think – a fine art; one that, if executed correctly, finds the perfect balance between putting off the inevitable while actually getting something done.

With my dissertation deadline looming and a final project plus an array of essays and presentations on my ‘To Do’ list, I’m never short of, what I like to call, ‘Activities for Procrastination’.

In times of good old writer’s block, or when the words in my textbooks begin to look more like pretty lines on a page, I’ll tend to turn to the World Wide Web for some quick mental relief. But online shopping with an empty bank balance, perusing pictures on Imgur or perving on friends on Facebook can only get me so far. No matter how many tabs I open, it is not too long before my mind begins to wander again. It’s moments like these that I move onto something a little more physically exertive!

Household chores are always a good one. Part-procrastination, part-necessity, there’s nothing like a little bit of vacuuming, washing up or clothes folding to leave you with that feeling of accomplishment. But when you find yourself scrubbing the shower grout with a toothbrush for the third time this week, it’s probably time to return to your desk – or in my case – return to the kitchen.

Yes, around October last year I caught the baking bug. In just two weeks I went from owning a couple of wooden spoons and a pack of all-purpose flour to being in possession of an assortment of mixing bowls, cake storage tins, baking trays and measuring cups, a set of scales, a cupboard full of every possible type of flour, sugar and decorative confectionery, a cake decorator’s set (including a ‘how to’ book on getting that icing just right), a rather large electric mixer and a silicon spatula.

In 8 weeks I went up a dress size, but that’s not the point. You see, while in the midst of my new culinary frenzy, I found a brand-new form of procrastination which not only brings happiness and joy (and an extra few inches on the waistline) to those around me, but that I can now unashamedly share with you  – BAKING.

I’m no Marco Pierre White and I’d get kicked off the first round of Masterchef, if I was ever so inclined to enter, but here is a recipe I chucked together after a moment of quick ‘cookie recipe’ searches in Google. I call it:

So within half an hour I had myself a huge plateful of thick, soft, slightly chewy white and dark chocolate peanut butter cookies. Not only had my procrastination produced such sweet happiness but I now had an excuse to leave my desk and grab a cookie from the kitchen whenever I felt I’d had enough of footnotes.

Be warned, they were utterly moreish and my boyfriend has banned me from baking them ever again. So have my hips. Alas, I have a cupboard stacked with baking ingredients so I doubt this will be the last you’ll hear of my cooking escapades.

Until then, Happy Monday and I best get back to, er, what was it again?…oh yes, the shower grout…