Sunday, 29 November 2015

Third Year Realities

Now I'm in the winter of my student years the glitz and glamour of fresher lifestyle has worn off. With that comes the realities of being in the third, and final, year of my degree.

1) In first year the answer to any financial question was the extremely generous overdraft Halifax afforded me. Now that I'm in third year the reality that I have to have that fully paid off in 18 months is upon me so rather than gleefully shoving my card into every available reader I'm trying to work out if there's a way I can possibly graduate in the black.
2) I go out, at best, once a week. And I feel an enormous amount of guilt for it the next day because I have so much work to do that lazing in bed nursing a hangover just isn't cricket.
3) My definition of a night out has changed, in fact it has drastically expanded. An evening in the pub is now sufficient to tick the socialising box on my weekly list of goals.
4) Eating out has gotten fancier because it's less guilt inducing to spend money and time on a nice meal. A girl needs to eat.
5) I legitimately tell my friends that I hate my life and want to die on a weekly basis. I don't fully mean it, but the prospect of an eternal rest does sound pretty good.
6) Social media feeds my anger and resentment; everyone in the world is having more fun than I am.
7) I miss my family more, and not just the home cooking and laundry service. I miss doing the crosswords with grandad, reading the Sunday paper as a family (we rotate the supplements, we don't all crowd around the one) and I miss my cats more than I thought humanly possible (so much so that I insanely show pictures of fattie-bom-battie cat to anyone with eyes).
8) I will not entertain the following: crap nightclubs; melodrama; booty calls; attending an event for free food; recommended reading; and grade grubbers.
9) After two whole years of buying ice, and complaining about buying ice, I've finally bought an ice cube tray so I can have homemade ice.
10) The future is looming and it's frightening as hell. How can some of my friends be ready to jump into 40 hour work weeks?

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What The November 2015 Spending Review Means For Us

I'm back again with a real look at what the Spending Review means for us, the everyday folk. Let's not faff about, it breaks down like this:

First Time Buyers: There's a focus on low-cost buying with starter homes being sold at a discount, the Help To Buy: Shared Ownership scheme, and the Right To Buy (for Housing Association tenants) scheme. Also an emphasis on building new homes and an extension of the popular Help To Buy scheme. Higher Stamp Duty will be imposed on additional residential properties.
Culture: Free admission to museums and galleries will remain. Manchester will be getting some lolly for a number of projects, Birmingham and Plymouth get a look in too.
Sports will profit too as funding (bribe money? Our own State sponsored doping scheme?) will be increased in the hopes that we'll go for gold in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
NHS: £10 billion real terms increase between 2014/15-2020/21, however this will have to fund a 7 day service. Social care and mental health were specifically mentioned.
Rail: Regulated rail fares will be frozen and customers will be entitled to a refund if trains are more than a few minutes late.
HS2: Happening.
Roads: Resurfacing plans for over 80% of the strategic road network. War on potholes declared.
Pensions: Raising by £3.35 per week. I texted my grandad with this news and he replied We can go on a cruise.
Tampon Tax: The 5% tax will remain while the UK can negotiate with the EU to have it abolished. Until then the money raised from the tax will go to women's health and support charities. A great result.
Devolution Revolution: Perhaps my favourite term of the entire Spending Review and I'm guessing George Osborne's too as it's used 6 times in the document. Let's pick it apart bit by bit:
Northern Ireland - Holla holla cash dolla! Also corporation tax is to be devolved; the NI parties have settled on 12.5%. In other news the Republic of Ireland is weeping. The government are supporting plans to extend flight routes from Derry to Dublin (why?).
Scotland - Further extension of powers, budget increases, flight path from Dundee to Amsterdam being supported (presumably to discourage Dundee residents from nipping to Glasgow for a bitta smack), and the City Deals are well underway.
Wales - Same auld jibe, more powers more money etc. Infrastructure is set to improve so more people will have the opportunity to leave. Cardiff might get a City deal, but the fact the Review refers to that as "ambitious" suggests it's not set in stone. Wales will also get a new prison which is delightful news for the sheep (because I imagine all Welsh crime centres around sheep - sheep rustling I mean).
England - The government are selling massive cuts off as an opportunity for local government to go power mad.
The Northern Powerhouse: An insane amount of bonuses and benefits going on. There's so much that I can't fit it in here, but if you live in the North then rub your hands together greedily.
Students: It's a mixed bag. The loans are increasing, but the grants are being scrapped. At this point it's just a drop in the ocean. On the bright side, students will be able to borrow up to £8,000 so they'll end up with more money in their pockets even if it's more debt to their name. Also, the loans will be extended to part-time students and loans will be available for second degrees in STEM subjects.
Postgraduate wise, the loans for taught Masters will be coming in for 2016-17 and will be available to all under 60. The repayment rate will be reduced from 9% to 6% of earnings over £21,000.

Full policy report here.

Review: Marilyn Manson @ Manchester O2 Apollo

It was the final night of the Hell Not Hallelujah tour and Marilyn Manson outdid himself. This was my fourth time seeing him (it would have been the fifth if Alt-Fest hadn't been such a disaster, not that I'm still bitter). It was surprising to see him play the Apollo because it's such a small venue in comparison to the neighbouring MEN Arena, but it made for an intimate show.
The opening act was Krokodil. Don't worry if you haven't heard of them because neither had I, or anyone around me. In fact, a quick internet search brings up desomorphine so I'm guessing the rest of the world is unenlightened too. They performed well but their music genre didn't fit the mood. They had a screaming style of singing which seemed too heavy to be supporting Manson. Also, it would have been better if they'd introduced themselves when they came on stage as I'm still unsure of how to pronounce their name.
After Krokodil the speakers blasted The Devil is Real by The Louvin Brothers; this was then juxtaposed with The Devil is a Lie by Rick Ross ft. Jay Z. It was surreal to have a sudden blast of rap music. We began to wonder whether we were at the right gig, whether we'd confused our Marilyn Mansons or perhaps that this was a sign Manson was going through a mid-life crisis. Whatever the reason, it got the crowd laughing.
Manson then opened the show with Deep Six, one of only two songs from the new album that were played that night. Playing to his strengths, Manson tailored the show as a celebration of the band's past musical successes. Like a well oiled machine he delivered each song with confidence and edge. It truly was a defining moment in Manson's career. Finally he seems to be over his personal struggles and has channelled his energy into finding himself as an artist. He no longer plays to shock value, preferring quality to controversy.
The show ran smoothly and the performances of note were Angel with the Scabbed Wings, Antichrist Superstar and Cupid Carries a Gun. For Antichrist Superstar he wheeled out the old faithful podium but this time the bible ripping was replaced by a self-lighting bible. It was a stage prop, not a divine act, but it brought something a little bit new to a much loved classic. Another source of theatrics were the stilts used during Sweet Dreams. These were not only fantastically creepy but also gave everyone in the crowd a good view of Manson. It was nice to break from craning my neck for three minutes.
The show was fantastically delivered throughout, with less pomp and ceremony than usual. Manson seems to have disposed of all gimmicks and is finally letting his talent do the talking. On top of all that he threw in some crowd interaction - something which has been sorely missing from his past performances.
There were only two flaws on the night: the smoke machine was OTT and meant that the other band members were quite difficult to see, especially the drummer; also it would have been good if Manson had taken a minute to share the spotlight. In any band it's easy to focus on the singer but the members of Marilyn Manson are all extremely talented. They don't need an ego boost, I'm sure, but seeing as the stage was so smokey a special mention wouldn't have gone amiss. In saying that, my desire to give them each a clap is most likely borne out of British politeness so perhaps I should retract that criticism on the basis of transatlantic differences.
Finally, as this is a fan's perspective, the merchandise was all very good. There was a selection of t-shirts, although it's disappointing that there weren't more skinny fit options. The whole oversized t-shirt thing is acceptable if you're a teeanger but, as I'm sure most female fans agree, I want something that's more fashionable and fitted so I can display my fantastic music taste on a regular basis.

If you found that this review wasn't enough for you then you can head to my Twins of Evil Review or my review of Marilyn Manson's 2012 appearance at the O2 Apollo in Brixton.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Puppy Promise

We've heard it a million times before: a dog is for life, not just for Christmas! Yet the message doesn't seem to be getting through to people. This Christmas, Dogs Trust are imploring people not to give puppies as presents because what's December's joy quickly turns into the misery of January.
Owning a dog is a massive responsibility. As many of you know, I'm a cat lady but I have owned dogs in the past and nothing really prepares you for how much work it is. Before you get a dog there are sooo many things you need to consider and I'm going to outline some of the main ones here.

Have you got the space? It's not fair to keep a dog cooped up in a small space. Ideally you should have a garden.
Have you got the time? Working full time? What's your dog going to be doing while you're at work? Okay, it's lovely to have a furry face to come home to, but it's extremely unfair to leave them alone all day waiting for you. And are you going to want to take them on walks the second you get back from the office?
Dogs take looking after! I'm not just talking about the obvious daily walks, there are so many other considerations. Grooming for instance and daily feeding. You can't suddenly decide to spend the evening out of the house and leave your dog without dinner. If you go on holiday you'd better factor in kennel costs so that your dog is well looked after, or arrange for someone to come look after them, or search for a dog-friendly hotel!
Not to mention the mess. Dogs will chew your slippers and destroy TV remotes. Puppies will make more mess than toddlers. And accidents! Even the best of dogs will have the occasional in-house accident and it's not pretty. Obviously, letting your dog out into the garden often is the best way to prevent this but even that creates its own problems. No one wants poop on their driveway!
Breed is important. I'm not talking about prestige here. Breed affects the size of your dog, their temperament, their medical requirements, even how much walking they'll need! If a massive Golden Retriever is your dream dog you'll need to factor in the extra space it's going to need and the long walks too.
Have you got the money? Food costs way more than you'd think and accessories will burn a hole in your pocket too. To give you an idea, we used to spend £50 per month on food and treats for our two Rottweilers and that's a good five years ago. There are also other considerations like the one-off fee to get your dog neutered or if you decide to enrol your pet in obedience classes.
Insurance is essential. Don't even think about cheaping out on this because if something happens to your pet they need to see a vet as quickly as possible. It's not fair to make a dog go without medical treatment because you can't afford it. Pay the insurance and always be safe.
How certain is your future? What would happen if you lost your job? Are you thinking about having children? Dogs live a long time so ideally you should be looking ten years into the future and still seeing that dog in your life.

If after all that you think you couldn't give a dog a good home don't put your own wants before their needs. Just because the time isn't right doesn't mean you'll never get to own a dog. Being a responsible adult means making hard decisions and putting an animal's welfare before all else. If you're still dog crazy consider sponsoring a dog until the day comes that you can give one a home.