Category Archives: university

Working Without Pay

Far be it from me to wax negative on the unemployment situation in the UK, but the more I see of this sh*tstorm about job seekers having to stack shelves in supermarkets to earn their benefits, the more I want to eat my own eyes.

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Filed under adulthood, Edinburgh, government, graduate, scotland, unemployment, university, vocationaltraining

Linked In

This evening I have done a bit of housekeeping.  You may notice that the appearance of this blog has changed, for example.  And I have joined Linkedin.

It’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to do for ages, for no very concrete reason other than the fact that people keep telling me to.  I fully expect to wake up to an inbox full of job offers tomorrow.  If you want to connect with me (and I’m sure you do), you can find me here.

Thus far I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to persuade the site to let me upload my CV, but it keeps telling me that I need to try in a PDF or Word format.  I have of course tried both, and sacrificed quality resolution to shrink it down to less than 500KB… but it’s not happening.  If I wasn’t so tired, I would almost certainly commit violence of some sort.  As it is, I’ve made it available on this page again.  Take that, bandwidth.

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Let’s Get Lyrical #34 – last.fm

To wind down my lyrical posts, I thought I might have a look at snippets of lyrics from each of my top 10 most listened to tracks on last.fm. These are the songs I have listened to most over the past four years.  A lot of them are ones I had on repeat during my last couple of years at university.

1. stellastarr* – My Coco (203 listens)

This is a bittersweet song of love lost, which is great to dance to. There aren’t any lyrical zingers, but I quite like the notion that the singer is upset but not angry about the enigmatic Coco vanishing without a trace.

You were gone when I came through, and I’ll remember you oh oh oh!
Well some day I’ll dance with you
When I’m dreaming, my Cococo.

2. Modest Mouse – Float On (193 listens)

Float On is good because it’s chilled.  It reminds me of indie nights at the student’s union in St Andrews.

I drove my car into a cop car, the other day.
Well he just drove off – sometimes life’s OK.

What a nice sentiment.

3. Aereogramme – I Don’t Need Your Love (149 listens)

See previous post for thoughts on this!

4. The Postal Service – Such Great Heights (146 listens)

This is just a nice love song.

I am thinking it’s a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images, and when we kiss
They’re perfectly aligned.

Aw.

5. Aereogramme – Inkwell (144 listens)

Humble, callous one
I call you Inkwell

He isn’t the best in the world at nicknaming, clearly.

6. Hefner – The Day That Thatcher Dies (116 listens)

This is out and out brilliant, but my two favourite bits are:

It was love, but Tories don’t know what that means (IFBIT, LOL)

and

The playground taught her how to be cruel,
I talked politics and she called me a fool,
She wrapped her ankle chain round my left wing heart.

For some reason this puts me in mind of Adrian Mole.  Not sure why exactly.

7. Aereogramme – Barriers (115 listens)

See previous post again!

8. Idlewild – El Capitan (110 listens)

I hope you take your camera
To photograph my tears as they hit the ground

What an emo tastic notion!  A good tune though.

9. Arcade Fire – Crown of Love (108 listens)

I carved your name across my eyelids
You pray for rain, I pray for blindness

Violent, but it stays with you.

10. The Rapture – Whoo! Alright – Yeah… Uh Huh. (105 listens)

People don’t dance no more
They just stand there like this
They cross their arms and stare you down
And drink and moan and diss

It’s true.  Not like the old days when people broke out in dance at the drop of a hat.

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Filed under adolescence, adulthood, letsgetlyrical, music, noise, scotland, university

Let’s Get Lyrical #30 – Unrequited Lurve

A lot of the lyrics I’ve written about come from songs that I don’t have a particular emotional connection to. This is probably because I’ve always found it harder to write about music I like than music I hate. I tend to worry that being effusive or sycophantic makes for dull reading, whereas pointing out the shortcomings of Paul McCartney and Wings is of course hi-larious.

But Let’s Get Lyrical is kind of meant to be about the lyrics that you love, so I think it’s time to post a few of those bad boys on here.

One of my favourite songs at university was Aereogramme’s I Dont Need Your Love, which was my companion during a period of unrequited love.  Specifically I like the part that goes:

Honestly?
We shouldn’t be
Here.

‘Here’ for me at the time was the awkward phase after confessing my feelings and being told they were not reciprocated, thank you very much, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Honestly?
We shouldn’t be
Here.

We were good friends, and got on really well with one another, and I was a bit concerned I had ruined it.

We should be dancing

Not on our own, particularly, but as part of a big group of mates at the alternative music society’s bi-weekly club nights (at which we were both DJs).

We should be friends
Celebrate our victory
All over

We weren’t not friends, but it felt a little strained for a while.

Maybe time will tell
Only time will tell

It did – we’ve now been together for nearly three years.  Even though my favourite part was:

But I know
I don’t need your love
I don’t need your conscience
To base my life upon

I was very conscious at the time that I didn’t want to be one of those girls that wasted time by pining for some guy when they could be doing something constructive, like drinking gin and writing satirical news stories.  I was – and am – a strong and independent woman.  I didn’t need his love to validate me!  And anyway, I had love from all kinds of sources.

Perhaps I had a small case of ‘the lady doth protest too much’, but it’s a lovely song regardless.

I also found ‘Barriers‘ pertinent to my situation, particularly:

‘let me tell the truth/let me come alive/let me build bridges/into your life’.

Listening to these songs now makes me feel very nostalgic for my bench looking out over St Andrew’s East Sands on a starry night.  How pretentious of me.  But it made me happy.

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Let’s Get Lyrical

On this very day in 2007, I posted on my old blog asking people if they had any requests/suggestions from people on things to write about.  One of my friends commented saying, “You should analyse song lyrics and music in a geeky type fashion and then write extensive journal entries about your findings.”

Now, I have wide and meandering musical tastes, and being geeky about it isn’t my style.  There are too many bands and genres, and not enough time for me to learn the intimate details of them all, what with writing 12 books in 12 months and working and sleeping and all.  However I do love taking apart lyrics and poking fun at them, and I have sporadically done so ever since.

In related news, you may be aware that this year, UNESCO’s annual literary campaign is taking the form ‘Let’s Get Lyrical’.  They want YOU to tell them about the lyrics you love, thus combining reading and music into one almighty celebration.  There is an extensive programme of events running throughout February to support this, with lots of local authors and musicians getting involved.

I think it’s a fantastic idea, and to show my support I plan to conduct a comical dissection of a song every day from now until the end of February.  To start us off, here is that first example from way back in the mists of 2007.

The Smiths’ 1984 top ten single, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, is lyrically one of my favourite songs ever.  It makes me laugh every time, although I appreciate that might be missing the point to some extent.

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now

OMG, HOW TROOOOO!!!! It’s like, you’re happily sitting in the Union quaffing pitchers of Purple Cheeky Sex On The Swings or whatever with your best girls, and it’s all Vaseline round the edges, everybody laughing, then a few hours later you’re all alone with a beast of a sugar come-down and the skin of a 13-year-old. It’s only a few short steps to injecting lambrini and secreting strawberry bon bons about your person.

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

It’s like, you look on the interwebnet and in the paper and all that and it seems like you’re qualified for bugger all, then you find one, and apply, and get it, and you’re all woo, and then you work in it for three months and they STILL DON’T PAY YOU but you can’t stamp on your line manager’s head cause she’s heavily pregnant and that’d be pretty poor form.

In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?

Well, there’s a question. It’s something about the human compulsion to do stupid things, such as fall desperately in love with people who don’t know you exist, or to ski jump off the edges of cliffs (which is sort of a physical equivalent). There’s also the fact that we’re always wasting time, playing solitaire or watching telly or whatever, it’s not till you look back that you consider time a valuable commodity, and that’s only because it’s now unobtainable and therefore has a mysterious allure.

Two lovers entwined pass me by
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

Pfft. Doesn’t bother me, he’s probably given her chlamydia.

(I was looking for a job, and then I found a job/…/To people who don’t care if I live or die?)

What she asked of me at the end of the day
Caligula would have blushed

That must have been some question. This is a guy who is meant to have had incestuous relationships with his sisters after all. Amongst other crazy people pastimes, such as tyranny, nicking shells to annoy Neptune, making his horse a priest, and declaring himself a god. What makes such a person blush? Maybe he farted…

“You’ve been in the house too long” she said
And I naturally fled.

Mmm. If you’re especially flatulent and you’ve been in the house for ages, I guess it is a pretty natural reaction to do a runner when someone else gets back home and forces a confession. Very insightful.

In my life
Why do I smile
At people who I’d much rather kick in the eye?

Possibly my favourite line, not least because he somehow tricks the listener into thinking that the words ‘eye’ and ‘smile’ rhyme. I would love to be able to kick anyone in the eye; it should be an accepted social thing. People who blank you, for example, ought to be punishable by a kick in the eye. But yes, why do we smile at them? Is it a case of simple good breeding? Or perhaps it’s a defence mechanism – if we smile, they won’t kick us in the eye? I personally do it to freak them out. Muhahaha.

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now
“You’ve been in the house too long” she said
And I naturally fled.
In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?

The vocal inflections on ‘live or die’ by the way, very silly. Hooray!

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Filed under adolescence, adulthood, Edinburgh, letsgetlyrical, music, noise, university

I Invented The Moon

You may be shocked to learn that I’m not the only one who has found it hard to obtain fulfilling / paid work since leaving university.  Surfing the web today I came across this echo of my graduate sentiments by London based Emma Hyatt, who is having a pretty rough time.  And yesterday this was doing the rounds on Twitter – again, I completely empathise.

On the plus side though, at least I got uni over and done with before the coalition happened.  And live in Scotland.  Our jobs market may be markedly more tumbleweedy than England’s, but the Graduate Endowment was scrapped when I was in third year and my debt is considerably lower than the students of the future as a result.  I count myself lucky on that point, even if it is a moot one.  I’m never going to be earning enough to pay anything back.

Unless of course I miraculously make it as an SEO writer as per the many emails I keep getting from the long distance journalism course I signed up to.  No, twinkly Australian man, I do not want to spend $17 on your ebook about how to write content for the types of site most internet users try to avoid.  I do not have $17 to spare, certainly not on the dubious pastime of buzzwording morons into buying enough green tea to sink Boston. Those dollars are going to be 18 gold ingots in British currency soon, and I’ll need them all to swap for powdered eggs and tripe when a birthday comes round.  #BigSociety

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Filed under government, graduate, limitlesspotential, scotland, unemployment, university

#demo2010 – The Scottish Solution

According to BBC Reporting Scotland, students protested in Edinburgh on Thursday to send a message to Holyrood not to follow the lead of MPs in Westminster on tuition fees.

Via SSYP website

The twitter hashtag #solidarity suggested a more general motive of support in my eyes, but what do I know.  Watching the rest of the beeb’s report, I couldn’t help thinking they haven’t bothered to get the full story at either side of the border.

For one thing, they branded every one of the London protestors with a hood up as being a troublemaker. Watching the footage back that was evidently not the case – some were undoubtedly just a bit cold. It is winter, you know.  I’d have been more inclined to judge that bunch of reprobates who were all dressed in black and wearing masks whilst they smashed the windows of the Treasury.

Anyway, back to my point. Are Edinburgh students genuinely worried that the Scottish government will renege on one of the key issues of devolution and suddenly start charging people £9,000 to go to university where at the moment it’s free to Scottish students?  They only scrapped the graduate endowment when I was in fourth year, a mere three years ago.  Surely politicians are not so fickle?! *cough* Clegg *cough*.

MSPs are all swearing blind this will not happen, although nobody has been particularly forthcoming on an alternative funding model as yet.  There will be a green paper released on the subject next week, and in a chilling piece to camera on STV, president of NUS Scotland Liam Burns warned that he WOULD BE WATCHING.

But if Scottish students do continue to study for free (excepting of course their cost of living, books and actual graduation after four years), what does that mean in terms of finances for our universities?

MP for Edinburgh East Sheila Gilmore has been quoted this week as being concerned that universities, who have struggled with some fairly brutal cuts over the past few years, may take higher quotas of fee-paying students from England and abroad to try and raise some money, to the detriment of bright and able young Scots.

Taking this to the logical conclusion, we’ll still be churning out graduates, but they’ll presumably decamp back down south after graduation and the Scottish economy will see none of the benefits of their (alleged) higher earning power. Meanwhile we’ll have a larger number of unqualified natives working three or four menial jobs to try and make ends meet.
Sorry, but this smacks of scaremongering, and xenophobic scaremongering at that.  Whilst there are a lot of English students in Scotland, there would need to be an exponential surge in numbers for them to overtake the levels of Scottish students.  According to data collected by The Higher Education Statistics Agency in 2006-2007, out of 223, 532 people studying for their degrees in Scotland, 21,514 were from England, whilst there were 158 983 Scots.

However, the nationality of our students seems irrelevant given that the chance of anyone getting a decent job after graduation is fast becoming an urban myth.  The jobs market in Scotland is a barren wasteland, littered with the dead aspirations of graduates who wanted to do something interesting and found instead that it was bottom rung data entry, retail or dole.  One of my friends tells a story of how last year he attended a training session in an Edinburgh branch of Waterstones where one St Andrews graduate (who also had an MLitt from Edinburgh University) taught four other recent graduates how to lift a box.

We don’t have to start paying back our SAAS loans until we’re earning more than 15k, and I only know about three people who have got to that stage.  I graduated in 2008.  Meanwhile the new legislation from Westminster gives people till 21k before they have to start paying things back.  It could take years to get to that stage.  The way things look right now, it might never happen.
In that case, what is the point of getting a degree in the first place? You’d be as well doing your 6 months on the dole straight from school, then getting on the career ladder ASAP.  Except that when you then want to go for those middle management, 20k promotions in your late twenties or early thirties, they turn round and tell you that you do need a degree after all.  Not because you can’t do the job, particularly, but because all the other candidates have one.  It denotes a particular aptitude for handing in paperwork that you may not have as someone who came to work straight from school.

Furthermore, according to a Universities Scotland report, employment growth will continue to be concentrated at graduate level over the next few years.  Although as far as I can gather, ‘graduate level work’ almost exclusively involves moving to London and working for companies like Deloitte doing something you have no real interest in.

This is probably a product of my arts degree.  I didn’t go to university to become an historian; I went to work on the student press as part of my quest to become a journalist.  Whilst the experience has done nothing to get me work paying more than 13.5k pa; it was a valuable and worthwhile experience which taught me to think and communicate in a number of different ways.

As a result, I do think that people ought to have the option to go and on a personal level I’m open to the idea of a graduate contribution to facilitate this.  Who can really argue against putting something back into a system that enabled you to go as far as you could intellectually and financially?

I don’t know what our ‘Scottish Solution’ to the problem of Higher Education is going to be, but I do think that a graduate contribution of some kind makes sense.  Just as long as the Scottish Government don’t present it in the same cack-handed way as Clegg and the coalition, because that makes people angry.  And people put their hoods up when they’re angry.

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