I, Daniel Blake – A Review (Or, at least, an attempt at one).

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I’ve never really reviewed a film before, maybe some critical post-credit comments in a bar or coffee shop after, but certainly never in prose and published somewhere on the distant plane of the internet. This is probably because I don’t particularly like films all that much; TV is where it’s all at, let’s be honest. Films seem too long to me, despite the fact that they’re much shorter than my average Netflix watching session. I usually just get dragged along to see lots of them (my partner gets very excited at the prospect of a midnight showing). So, when, at the weekend, it was me who suggested we go see a film it was odd to the both of us.

At my local Odeon in Colchester ‘I, Daniel Blake’ only had the one showing at the weekend – 6.15pm on Sunday in one of the Cinema’s smallest screens. Despite this, the room was packed and, apart form a few notable exceptions, I was the youngest person there. The film focusses on the struggles of two people receiving state benefits, a young mother of two and older carpenter who is disabled after suffering a massive heart attack.

I knew the film wasn’t going to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside – I’d nearly teared up just watching the trailer – but I wasn’t prepared for the harrowing picture Ken Loach had created for all of us to see. The optimism of Hayley Squires’ character Katie was continually beaten down by the distressing reality of her life. Katie’s sense of hope as she opened the door to her new flat, “I will make this place home if it’s the last thing I do” set me up to be impressed and proud of the plight of a poor young woman to make the best out of a terrible situation. But no amount of ‘pluck’, ‘grit’, ‘hard-work’ or ‘tenacity’ can get you out of the kind of poverty where you have to choose between having electric or buying your kids school clothes, however much some might try and convince you otherwise.

This ‘home’ that Katie so desperately sought after becomes one of the main backdrops for the film. It is the setting for the compassion and friendship that Daniel shows Katie and she gives in return. As Daniel fixes loos, door handles and teaches the kids how to keep their bedrooms a bit warmer Katie cooks dinner and talks of returning to her course with the Open University. Despite the warmth and strength of their friendship for each other, the flat remains cold and broken. Katie’s optimism about creating a home, her determination to make one, is again overshadowed by her reality. As she tries to scrub the dirty and damp bathroom clean a tile breaks of the wall, revealing more dirt and damp that no amount of scrubbing or optimism could scrape away.

The tone of the piece isn’t wholly dark and desperate though. The opening scene is successfully comedic as it points fun at the ‘healthcare professionals’ of ATOS who are tasked with determining how deserving our poor and sick really are. Dave Johns expertly delivers moments of comic relief with his ineptitude with computers. A moment of dissent from Dan gives the film its longest moment of optimism. Spray painting the wall of the job centre to request two things; firstly, a long overdue date for his appeal and secondly, a demand for the DWP to change their hold music which you see Dan spend hours listening to (and paying for). A seemingly drunk and homeless man congratulates Dan whilst muttering about “Ian Duncan whatshisface”. This scene provides a moment of respite – a half antidote – which is much needed after Katie’s earlier breakdown at a food bank. As the mother collects food – rice and vegetables – she asks for sanitary products but they have none. As Katie continues walking round, filling a white carrier bag with food, she becomes to be increasingly upset and unwell before finally, and desperately, opening a tin of food and pouring it into her mouth.

If you can, like many others, dismiss this film as purely fiction and a great exaggeration of the truth then I urge you to read about the deaths, sanctions and starvation that prove I, Daniel Blake is accurate. Whilst the characters may be fictional the lives they depict certainly are not. This is not a film about poverty, but an expose of a system that creates and perpetuates violence against individuals.

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More Foody Thoughts

Under 200 Calorie ‘snacks’.

So, I really like snacking. A lot. My boyfriend tells me that my ‘snacks’ are really more like meals (like, pfft, what do you mean a bowl of potatoes is a meal?!). This has become something that really pulls my eating off track. I am constantly hungry, like, always. But telling myself I can’t have food – restricting myself – becomes a really dangerous cycle for me that makes me miserable and threatens to become really unhealthy. So I try super hard not to deny myself food when I’m hungry and instead feed myself healthy things that keeps me within my daily targets! (See: not limits)

So, here’s a list of snacks that I find fill me up but don’t put my day off track at all. They’re also really good at helping meet protein targets or my 5 a day!

My thought process for these snacks revolve around the calories we consume in a packet of crisps – around 200 for a 40g bag of Kettle crisps.  I can work my kettle
way through one of these bags in seconds and not feel any fuller than I did before. So, if I can demolish these without thinking twice, 200 calories must be a good goal for a snack.

I’ve yet to try these out, but they look like an absolute god send! Less than 100 calories for  these little egg cup, muffin type things. They’ve eggmuffins-26got veg, eggs and cheese in them. A great mix of excellently healthy things and can be easily adjusted for anyone’s taste! Plus they look super cute and keep well in the fridge. I think I’m gonna start making these up on a Sunday to have when I’m in need of something to munch on (or as a really easy breakfast!)

Egg Muffins!

 

Tuna & potatoes. This one of those ‘snacks’ that Mat deems to actually be a meal. Ahh well. It tastes great and keeps me really full. I suppose if you were that way inclined, this would make a really light lunch. But that just seems silly when you could have lunch AND this snack.

It’s super easy – boil some baby potatoes (76 calories per 100g) and pop into a bowl. Add 1/2 of tuna (80 calories /99 per 100g) add a squirt of  low fat salad cream/low cal salad dressing (30cal for 15g of the salad cream) and any salad leaves you might have popping about (this is usually spinach for me, 23calories for 80g and I probably wouldn’t use quite that much). Mix it all together and you’ve got yourself a little potato-tuna-spinach snack all for 209 calories! You can add or subtract the amount of potato or tuna depending on what you’re looking for (I love carbs for instance, so I’ve got for about a 50:50 split, but you could add more tuna and have less potato if you were a bit more like Mat, and therefore utterly ridiculous!)

Soup! Again, for some people this might be a meal. Like lunch. Or even dinner (*shivers*). But, really, when you’re making a soup that’s less than 200 calories it is, at best, a starter. Using a base of onions, veg and low-salt stock you’d have difficultly getting it over the 200 calorie mark. Adding 0% yoghurt before serving is a great way to add some protein without adding too many calories. Plus it tastes great and lasts ages in the fridge.

So, here’s my simple pea and chilli soup recipe!
Fry off one large red onion (60 calories), with some of your favourite spices. For this soup I use Moroccan spice and chilli flakes to give it heat! I add a splash of balsamic vinegar to add some depth/sweetness (15 calories), continue to fry these together for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft. Then I add peas. Depending on how many servings I want, I’ll use anywhere between 200g and 400g. 200g makes about 3 servings. This adds 120 calories. Then break a stock cube into about 400ml of boiling water (30 calories) and add to the pea and onion mixture.

Leave this to simmer together for 15-30 minutes. Then blitz with a hand blender or food processor. I then add a spoonful of yoghurt once served into bowls. In total, one bowl of this soup is about 100 calories! You can add more veg, mint or any other spices. It’s a great mid-afternoon snack when you start to get peckish.

I’ll keep adding to this post as I find more little ‘snack’ dishes that actually fill me up and keep me on target!

 

Food Things

So I’m *trying* to eat a bit better. Which is a constant battle for me. Because  I fucking love food and I hate dieting – it makes me hella grumpy. I also have a really terrible relationship with food where I’m either eating everything in sight because I’m sad and hate myself or I’m counting every single calorie and classing a bowl of cherries as a meal.

So! In order to combat this, I’m trying to put together a collection of meals that are all healthy. In doing this, I’m trying not to value food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but trying to see meals as energy and fuel or as the source of the nutrients my body needs. So, all these meals have a healthy balance of fruit and veg, protein and carbs. I can pick from almost any of them and know that my dinner is healthy and going to keep me full.

The big thing for me is portion size, I need to eat a LARGE volume of food to feel full. And I’m constantly snacking. So all of these meals yield a larger-than-average portion size. Those marked ‘LARGE’ are generally two regular size bowls (per person) and ‘MASSIVE would be about three. This means I can make dinner last over an hour and not feel so hungry into the evening. All the calories are calculated for the ENTIRE portion, not per bowl.

So, for example, 2 bowls of Dhal is 450 calories in total, so about 225 per bowl. This means meals can be halved for lunch, or shared between a couple of less hungry people.

Hopefully, having this little database of meals with rough calorie estimates will allow me to have a good idea of how much food I am consuming without it driving me crazy. So, at the end of the day I can know how healthy I’ve been without having to put a specific number on it. If I’ve only eaten meals from this list, I know it’s been a fab day. If I’ve had one or two unplanned snacks, I know that’s okay. And if I say ‘fuck it’ and order 2 large pizzas, that’s okay too. Because tomorrow I’ll just eat from the list.

Plus, pizza tastes fucking great.

Here are the meal ideas!

Dhal and Mash: 
450 calorie dinner (per person) and makes a LARGE portion (2x30g lentil portion pp)

  • lentils, stock, cumin, curry powder, onion, peas, root veg mash

Prawn Paella:
500 calorie dinner (per person) makes a sensible portion

  • paella rice, stock, tinned tomatoes, onion, paprika, chilli powder, sweetcorn, green beans, carrots, prawns

Veggie Chilli:
450 calorie dinner (per person) and makes a LARGE portion (if adding yoghurt + 30calories / soft cheese + 50calories)

  • tinned tomatoes, kidney beans in chilli sauce, taco in chilli sauce, two onions, aubergine, chilli powder, paprika, Moroccan spice

‘Meat’ and Two Veg Tea:
500 calorie dinner (per person) makes a MASSIVE portion (about 2 large bowls each)

  • Quorn, root veg mash, carrots, peas, brocoli,
  • Stroganoff Sauce: Onion, paprika, balsamic vinegar, stock, yoghurt

Slow Cooked Thai Green Curry + mash:
550 calorie dinner (per person) and makes a LARGE portion

  • Thai green paste, light coconut milk, onion, mangetout, prawns, root veg mash

Roast Dinner:
700 calorie dinner (per person) and makes a LARGE portion

  • Whole chicken, onions, carrots, peas, new roast potatoes, gravy

Blue cheese and Spinach Frittata:
400 calories lunch/dinner (per person) and makes 2 LARGE quarters each

  • 6 eggs, onions, balsamic vinegar, Moroccan spice, spinach, strong blue cheese, peas/green beans

Tuna Pasta Bake:
700 calorie dinner (per person) and makes a LARGE portion

  • Pasta, tuna, cheese,  tinned tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil

Being ‘Well’ (and Then Getting Ill Again).

It won’t be much of a surprise for most of you to hear about my complex, irritating and often self-absorbed battle with mental illness. Years of crippling self harm, depression and now a new wave of devastating anxiety that leads to terrifying panic attacks have all been defining features of my life.

This has been going on for about a decade; sometimes there are waves when it is tolerable, when I’m treading water (and almost have my life together), until it crashes and I am left drowning – with my lungs unable to find air.

It all felt tragic enough to entertain the idea that I would never be happy – that sadness and emptiness made me cleverer anyway. I romanticised the drinking and cutting and fucking. It all seemed too fundamental to who I was to give up. Meds sometimes patched the holes and other times sent me to overdose. Mostly I just flitted erratically through my life, attempting to stem the tide that so often threatened to consume me.

It wasn’t until this summer that I felt truly happy. I mean, I’m sure young me once felt a sense of stability and happiness but I just can’t seem to recall  it. It was this last July to November that I really gauged how sad I had been most of my life because I had finally started to feel happy. The proper kind of happy that left me feeling empowered, confident and excited by life again. It was 5 months of bliss.

It seemed to come from nowhere, really. I had stopped taking the meds I’d been prescribed two months earlier. But I suppose leaving an unhealthy relationship and realising how much better I was for that begun the process of pulling myself out of the abyss. It was summer, too, and that always helps. I found myself surrounded by old friends (and a new one) which gave me the support I’d obviously been needing. It was wonderful to be able to experience the freedom that comes without a persistent storm inside your head. I travelled, I did some wild things and I fell in love.

I finally understood what it was like to exist without the fog. Without this pervasive sense of doom, dread or a crushing sensation across your chest. I could interact in a room full of people with ease and enjoyment. I was excited about my future, my relationships and who I was as a person. I had never felt more confident in my body (despite being the heaviest I’d ever been). I was so full of confidence and power. My life was busy but I was enjoying it. I had responsibilities and new relationship to work on but it all felt like a challenge I enjoyed.

Now, it’s all slipped back. Mornings are awful. I spend hours wishing I was asleep still (because sleeping is like death – but without the commitment). The panic attacks returned and begun affecting my work. My uni grades plummeted which only added to the cycle of panic attacks which only contributed to being unable to leave the house (and thus leading to the terrible grades). I spend so much of my energy getting rid of harmful thoughts – pushing the images of cutting to the back of my head. I have to constantly check myself when I’m around razors/scissors/blades and focus my mind on not picking them up and slicing through my skin. It’s fucking exhausting.

The pervasive tiredness is back, too. I had forgotten what it felt like to be this fucking tired all the time. The kind of tired that sleep doesn’t help. People who don’t feel like this must be so fucking productive because all I can imagine doing now is lying still and not interacting with anyone. The cycle just feeds itself; I sleep for 10 hours and feel lazy yet still cripplingly tired, the anger at myself fuels the tiredness and leads to more sleep which leads to more anger…

Not everyday is this bad. I am still decidedly better than I was 10 months ago.

I have just never experienced such a contrast in my life. In how I feel, act and in what I am capable of. I feel like I have just had further to fall. I feel cheated. As if I got to this good place, a place where I had felt happy for the first time that I could remember and someone just pushed me back into the abyss.

At least before I had forgotten how good it could be to feel so happy. Now, now I am just aware of how far I am away from being ‘okay’ – from having my life together. It seems like the universe played a cruel joke on me. It feels cruel.

Now, my head bobs below the surface and my lungs begin to fill with water and I can still remember what breathing felt like.

 

 

 

Fucked Up Fees

Yesterday, I attended my first 2 hour Spanish lesson that I am privately paying for. Forking out £200 for classes in order to pass a module that for some shitty reason is required on my course irritated me. It seemed like another example of how working class students can be priced out of receiving a decent university education. I am fortunate enough to have people in my life to help me out with hidden course costs like this, but not everyone is.

While I was sat there waiting for the class to start I did the maths. I was receiving 40 hours of lessons for £200, which works out as £5 an hour. There were only 20 students in this class, substantially smaller than most of my lectures. I was given 6 colour worksheets in this first session to complete – I am not sure I have ever received a handout in one of my lectures. There were also welcome drinks and snacks for this first session. I realised my £5 an hour was getting me far more than my £9,000 a year degree. The teacher was competent and made learning much easier than in the Spanish classes I had taken at university last year.

My class yesterday has left me more frustrated and pissed off than usual. The right wing bullshit about how the marketisation of education is a good thing for universities and pupils alike became more apparent than ever.  What the fuck am I paying £9,000 a year for? My £5 an hour Spanish classes were substantially better than my £115 an hour lectures. Essentially, I’m getting a fancy piece of paper from King’s College London; I am racking up nearly £50,000 worth of debt for a certificate. I want to be excited by learning and exploring and understanding the world more competently. Instead, I’m working 25 hour weeks to pay rent and becoming increasingly disillusioned by an establishment which couldn’t give less of a shit about what I think.

Roar released an article today outlining how TAs are underpaid, overworked and the negative impact it’s having on students.  This is just another example of how students are being screwed over. Half of our teaching is not done by professors and most of our marking is undertaken by exploited teaching assistants. No wonder King’s is ranked 111th for student satisfaction. We exist in a system which sees students as fees, figures and funding and not as a collective future generation who deserve free access to the quality education King’s claims to offer.

It becomes more and more difficult to tolerate the consumerist bullshit about how paying for a degree empowers students to demand more from their universities. The Coalition government has fucked up a generation of students and institutionally fucked the higher education system. Students are not empowered, they are crippled with a debt that seemingly has no positive trade-offs.

To top it all of, this week the Tories released their manifesto.  Their shitty polices range from forcing all students to take ‘traditional’ subjects (and neglecting the varying interests and strengths of pupils) to forcing more testing on students. Their manifesto doesn’t stop at shitty education policies though. No, it continues to support the rich – offering tax breaks to millionaire home owners. They continue to push policies that oppress the most vulnerable in society – from the bedroom tax to scrapping the Human Rights Act. It is clear that they don’t care about vulnerable people.  Increasing fees to £9,000 was only the beginning of their program of exploitation and continued support of the wealthiest in society.

Education is a right, not a privilege. It is a public good. Bring on the revolution.

Another New Dawn.

Last year, I drunkenly rambled and wished you all a wonderful New Year, whilst lamenting the end of – what felt like, at least, – an era.
This time round I feel less sentimental and less maudlin. My whining will be kept to minimum…Promise! London life has been good for me, work has been hard and uni has started to get interesting. I think this term has been a testament to a load of clichés – life is what you make of it/you get out what you put in/hard work pays off… and numerous other sentiments you would find on inspirational posters strategically placed in a counsellors office….
Despite the clichéd mundaneness of the past year of my life, it has been a good one. I have yet to score less than a 67 this year at university, I am still managing to hold down my job (and not be completely terrible at it) and I am weirdly optimistic (by my standards, anyway). I am still smitten with the city; even when it makes me cry a little every time I top up my Oyster card or have to pay rent… Walking over Waterloo Bridge to university and past St. Paul’s to work makes it all worth while (even when it’s pissing it down). I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now.

The last year has been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster and all sorts of other bad metaphors. I have cemented some incredible friendships (hey Nicole!) and become more involved with the things that really matter to me; social justice, politics, making a difference… I have met people who have fundamentally changed my life, all for the better. All in all, it hasn’t been a bad one and being a student in London isn’t all bad.

I really hope 2014 was kind to you and that 2015 will be even better. I leave you with one of my favourite lines from one of my favourite films, (which I’m sure is really only another cliché): “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” (Walt Whitman)

“NOT ALL MEN”

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Feminism is important to me both personally and politically. My last blog post sought to highlight my experiences of sexism. Since then I have only become more committed to the cause. However, the discussions I find myself in too often include the response, by many of my male friends, that it is “not all men”. They declare this indignantly and with a tone of moral superiority. They are adamant that they, personally, “are not like that” and are all  for “equality” [note: not ‘feminism’]. This trope is unhelpful and problematic for several reasons.

I am daily and continually disturbed by society. The rise of fascism is Europe is terrifying,  the unequal treatment of the LGBT+ community angers me and the presence of racism within the “developed” West is disgusting. All of these issues connect to a feminist understanding of society, where power is given to a select few [mainly white middle-class men] and therefore legitimises and reinforces the unequal treatment of certain groups. The retort “not all men” only perpetuates these inequalities.

I become incredibly disillusioned when men reply to feminist issues with “but not all men”. This is not helpful discourse. In fact, I would go as far to say it is fundamentally damaging to the plight of women. It is important to consider that, for many women, speaking out about mistreatment is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It is often accompanied by feelings of shame or guilt. When we feel empowered enough to point out sexism or misogyny your reply of ‘not all men’ only reinforces the idea that we are second class citizens. Our experiences are second to your assertions that ‘not all men are like that’. We must validate our oppression by ensuring you’re not offended. Should we accompany a disclaimer every time we discuss sexism? “I know not all men do this but…..” ? This is just another example of how women’s thoughts and feelings are regulated by how men experience them. We are unable to openly discuss our experiences without fear of Not-All-Man crashing through our window, politely reminding us that you’re not all the same. As if we could have possibly forgotten.

The recent shooting in America has sparked fierce debate by feminists as to the role misogyny played in the tragic deaths of 6 young people. The response has caused women to take to twitter seeking to highlight the systematic oppression faced by many every single day. The hashtag “YesAllWomen” reveals rather disturbing truths similar to that highlighted by the Everyday Sexism Project. For those of you sceptical to the extent of feminist issues, have a read through the twitter feed. However, this free and open discourse has been met by a “notallmen” hashtag. I really do believe that this exemplifies male entitlement. As women begin to discuss the failings of men they do so only under the very oppression they are trying to combat. Men do not think they should be criticised because it is not, personally, their fault. They didn’t go out and rape someone and these discussions are therefore not only irrelevant to them but also offensive. Again, this only serves to highlight how restricted the discourse surrounding feminism is. We are constantly battling against people who do not think it is their issue to deal with.

Instead of relegating discussions of feminism to the trope ‘not all men’ I instead urge you to say to each other “don’t be that guy”. Turn a negative and restrictive statement into one that can have positive ramifications. We know that not all men are like that. That is not what we are saying. We are not man-hating, bra-burning women. I love men. Men are fantastic. Just not when they are involved in oppression or hate. We need a more collective response to feminist issues (which are not exclusively women’s issues). We need men on board to help understand and combat inequality. Rather than declaring your blamelessness, instead ask how you can help be a part of changing things.

I think this tweet perhaps highlights why ‘not all men’ has become such a common response:

“Not all men” does not aid in the discussion of feminist issues, it serves to derail it and reinforces the idea that society’s main concern and focus should be on the feelings of men. Enough men are violent and sexist, that is the point.

 

The ‘F’ Word

Firstly, I would like you all to take a quick test: Are you a feminist? 

Congratulations!  Welcome to the feminist club!

Whilst the quiz is very simplistic, it serves to highlight the main idea: Women are people who are deserving of equality.

A lot of people see feminism as a dirty word, outdated and unnecessary in today’s society. Many regarded the plight of women’s rights over when we won the vote, or again when we saw the first female Prime Minister take charge. Even worse, some still regard women as undeserving of the top jobs or men as responsible for the equal care of children.

Louise_WeissI am a firm believer in promoting women’s rights. This encompasses everything from correct sex education (that discusses more than just using condoms) to educating men on their role in perpetuating the divide and how they can work to improve the situation. Girls out perform boys at every stage of the education system, yet the pay gap widened in 2013 with women earning an average of £5,000 less than men. The number of women in politics is disgustingly low, with the number of female MPs standing at 22%. The overarching patriarchy that prevents women from viewing their opinions as valid or necessary in society is enforced and perpetuated by the lack of female representation in politics and in the most competitive jobs.

I think it is important to realise that equality for women is still a long way off. It is a far away concept in the sense of equal pay and political representation. Inequality is also rife in the everyday lives of women. It is present in the catcalls in the street and in the pop song that blurs the line between consent and sexual assault. You only have to scroll down your facebook news feed to see examples of blatant sexism. Articles such as ‘10 Reasons Not to Give Him a Blow Job’ grace our screens and reinforce the idea that, for women, ‘no’ is simply not a correct response to sexual advances. We must instead weave an intricate web of lies, including our unfortunate ‘mouth fungus’ to get out of giving oral sex. There is a disparity between how men and women view sex. I am constantly shocked by the number of friends who can admit to things like being non-consensually choked during sex, or being asked to perform anal on the first date. Poor sex education and easy access to porn has created this disparity, where young men have unrealistic expectations of what sex is like.

My own experience of sexism shocked me into realising that some people do not regard women as equal, or their issues as important. When I attended a competitive, all-boys Grammar school I was shocked at the misogynistic attitudes of some of the students (and teachers). The ‘lad’ behaviour was sickening, with Year 13 boys placing a wager on who could sleep with one of the new Year 12 girls first, along with delightful recounts of their latest ‘conquests’ in the common room. What  shocked me the most was a hilarious, end-of-year facebook debate discussing whether or not “Most likely to beat their wife/child” should be included in our year book. What probably started off as a distasteful joke became and argument about attitudes to women, and how we couldn’t ‘take a joke‘. These boys attended the ‘best sixth form in the country’ and defended their right to make jokes about domestic violence.

The Everyday Sexism Project aims to highlight the experiences of women on a day to day basis and provides a window into the oppression that women experience every single day. Feminism should not be a ‘dirty word’, it does not mean unshaven armpits or burnt bras (unless, of course, that is your choice). Feminism is about promoting choice and equality for women. It is about educating everyone on rape culture and safe, consensual sex. It is about promoting choice to girls so that they do pursue careers in politics or engineering.  It is about teaching boys that ‘jokes’ about domestic violence are not okay. Feminism should be a subject everyone is familiar with and is discussed everywhere.

People’s Parliament

Since starting university in September I have not been as politically involved as I would have liked. I have found it hard to find my feet here at King’s. My naive expectation was that I would be surrounded by like-minded, inspired and intelligent students who shared my outlook on society and life in general. Instead, I have been faced with vast ideological differences and a right wing, sexist attitude I thought I had left behind at high school. On a whim I decided to attend a talk held by People’s Parliament, on ‘Why the rich don’t pay tax’. It was by far the best decision I have made all year. parliament

Just entering the House of Commons and Parliament in a way I never expected to was inspiring and nerve-racking all at once. Politics was an idea and a dream I gave up on a while ago. Yet, walking through the decadent corridors and sitting in a room full of like-minded people inspired me all over again. The concept of People’s Parliaments is both excellent and paramount. Politics is often viewed as inaccessible, stuffy, boring and elitist. Part of the reason I had begun to give up on going into politics is because it seems so unattainable – I am not a privately educated man that went to Oxbridge. People’s Parliament allows ordinary people and MPs alike to discuss and debate important issues and thus bring politics to an accessible, and even enjoyable, level. The initiatives aim is to ‘liven up’ and provide ‘political depth’ in the run up to the next general election. It became clear to me throughout the evening that there are genuine people in politics who not only vary from the stereotype but also believe in a system that supports everyone – not just the few.

I encourage anyone in London to come along to the events. They are free and informative and they provide a platform for debate on a personal level that I have never seen in politics. I genuinely believe that this idea could be revolutionary. The apathy that has swept the nation needs to be tackled. One of the ways to do this is to show, through initiatives like People’s Parliament, that politics is about more than just white, middle aged men in suits. It is about the views of the people and holding those in power accountable to us, the people.

Check out the upcoming events here, follow them on twitter and like them on facebook.

 

Things to do. Places to see. People to know.

Wanderlust is such a lovely word, I think. It is literally the desire to travel without definite purpose or objective. Planning adventures and escapes is probably my favourite way to pass the time.  Talking to people who have seen more of the world than I have fills me with inspiration (and jealousy).Interrailing last summer was probably the best four weeks of my life. I think it was the careless independence that comes with feeling so free from reality. For a month you get to do nothing but visit museums, make friends, take bad photos and drink foreign beer.

I am desperate to not become content with just being here, with just being who I am. So, I am planning a little adventure this summer. I think I’d like to get a country pass this time. Spend a couple of weeks just touring Germany or Italy. Getting to spend a few days in each of the biggest cities.  This interrailing map is one of my favourite things to look at. It shows all the different train routes across Europe. It makes the possibility of endless travel seem utterly possible.  I could spend hours just planning how I would live my life if I had the endless funds I would undoubtedly need.

I have duck pins on my world map and it just proves that the proportion of the world I have seen is minuscule. I am just so desperate to see everything else.map for blog

I think I am probably leaning toward Germany this summer. I speak a little (a tiny, tiny bit) which may come in handy. Plus Berlin is supposed to be one of the best cities in Europe. I think I shall start planning and keep a log on here as I go. It will be my reward for actually having a job!

Perhaps one day when I am vastly successful I’ll be able to see America or Asia.