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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A huge thanks


I'd just like to say the most massive thanks ever to all the nice people who have complimented me on the columns (all in the past week - very odd). I really appreciate everyone's feedback. It's nice to know that there are people out there reading it. I've disabled comments for obvious spamming reasons but if anyone want to get in contact or give Graduate feedback you can get in touch via the Cork Independent website here or email my own sweet self at sarah.a.waldron(at)gmail.com.

No (wo)man is an island

If no man is an island then I am most definitely a peninsula. I like to think that I am a law unto myself, but then the flood tides rise and I whine about a lack of resources while the waters swirl insidiously above my neck. Nothing has taught me this in such a hard hitting fashion as a trip back to the hometown. Due to the lack of drinking water I followed the example of the ultimate recessionistas (college students) and found myself on a bus headed straight for the land of milk and honey. It had been a few months since I had returned home. Surely I would get off the bus and be welcomed back in the manner of the prodigal son, with concubines and a banquet and gold galore?
I alighted the bus on a freezing Friday evening, whith the sun setting in a huge red blaze behind me and nary a parent to be seen. I'm used to my mother waiting for me by the family sedan with a friendly smile and an intricately planned menu for the days ahead. Instead I faced an icy trudge home solo.
I navigated my way across a busy main road, an essential shortcut to the homestead, and hoped that someone would be at home since I had foolishly left my keys at a house party the previous day. No such luck. The house looked intimidatingly empty.
I was stranded in my own hometown. I was an island - and I hated it. My parents had forgotten about me. I have never felt so utterly isolated in my entire life.
Stuck on the frozen granite step outside my house, I couldn't help but think that this was all my fault. Only I could lose my keys in a regrettable blackjack game. Only I could come home at the drop of a hat and still expect a degree of fanfare akin to a biblical parable and only I could sit on the ground, cold seeping into my behind, and think about what a sorry sight I made while waiting for my mother to get home from work.
My mother came home after a half hour. With frostbite setting into my posterior, I toddled inside and waited for her to light the fire. She told me to sit down and passed me a cup of piping hot, sugary tea. I was no longer an island. My mother had made the connection to dry land, and I was all the better for it.

Little girl in a big city

For many people teetering back and forth over the poverty line like a tightrope artist attempting to cross the Hoover Dam, all it takes is a little push to land face first in some very deep water. In the case of many of my fellow Corkonian recessionistas, our Hoover Dam is a similarly large body of water seeping into our houses and cars, but unfortunately not out of our taps.
Never before has the phrase 'water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink' had quite as much personal resonance as it has over the past week.

One friend has seen his car swept away by a deluge on Western Road. Many more are facing tough decisions on what to do with the little remaining water they have. A pattern emerges. Men pour little reserves into toilet cisterns for admirably practical reasons. Women use their kettle dregs to wash their hair - a no less practical use.

One of the toughest things about being the proverbial little girl in the big city is the sense of helplessness that can attack like an unfriendly doberman pinscher at the most inconvenient of moments. I was reminded of this unfortunate fact of life this week. My house has no water and it is structured as such that I also cannot put on the the heating. I'm freezing, I'm thirsty and I'm very, very dirty. I can avail of the free water at various points dotted around the city, but the only available transport I can think of has yet to recover from it's brisk dip in the Lee. Coming home from a heavily subsidised session at the local pub, I was beset with a particularly distressing dilemma. Should I drink my last pint of water to avoid the fast approaching hangover, or should I use it to prevent five days of continuous make up application from setting on my face like a crumbling Renaissance fresco? I awoke the next day wish a sparkling clean visage and a tongue that had apparently been replaced with a damp sheepskin rug in the middle of the night. Milk can be such a poor substitute. In retrospect I should have done a Cleopatra instead and hydrated myself properly while bathing in the milk. I always thought that I had a problem with money running through my fingers. Now it's just an effort to get water to run through them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Would Carrie Do?

When the first Sex and the City film came out, I was in the second year of my degree at UCC. I was young(er), I was dumb, I was broke. So broke, in fact, that I could not afford to go see the film all the way through it's months-long run. Hopped up on pilfered vokda and orange in the college bar, I would pump female friends for costume information. They would smile enigmatically like a crowd of Topshop-clad sphinxes. "you'll see' they would smirk, which was code for "if you don't shut up about this film very soon you'll be wearing your drink instead of sipping it".


Now, a few years on, I am old(er), relatively wiser and no less broke. With a second film on the horizon, (I'm going to break into a real Carrie-ism here) I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the girls when the big R set in. That's R for Recession, not for Rodarte.

I had always thought that the laissez-faire attitude to spending money in the show was cool. When Carrie explained that while penniless, she would buy Vogue instead of food because it fed her more, it lent her the romantic nous of James Dean. There was something suicidally cavalier about dropping over forty grand on shoes alone. I too wanted to be sartorially nourished. The whippet thin body of La Bradshaw would also be a welcome side-effect.

Like many but definitely not all women, I would sometimes ask 'What would Carrie do?' as if she was some kind of mid-level deity like Ganesh or Oprah. It took watching the first film to realise that Carrie Bradshaw is a female role model ranking alongside Imelda Marcos in terms of both shoe ownership and rampant self-obsession.

From time to time I will buy magazines instead of food. I currently have four euros to my name. I also have two huge wardrobes bursting with nice clothes. Now that I think about it, the only thing I learned from Sex and the City (apart from 'Men are crap') was the relative merit of a life of fiscal irresponsibility. I became a Carrie clone faster than a trolley dash with Usain Bolt. So take it from someone who knows - next time you wonder what Carrie would have done, go do the complete opposite, Your life will be all the richer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Save the KINO!

This was ostensibly supposed to be a Graduate column, but it probably fits better on the blog. My beloved Kino is set to be closed very soon if sufficient funds are not raised. Sad times for all. I fondly remember the Kino as the place where I could go on many a hungover afternoon with my flatmate Nicola and watch good films in peace. I also remember less fondly one hungover afternoon where we went to watch Rachel Getting Married. It was an amazing film, but the shaky camerawork made us very queasy indeed.

Consider the following a b-side column if you will.

The recession is over. Yes, you heard it here first. Unfortunately it's not over for us in the Emerald Isle but rather in the UK, where the economy has decided, much like a crash dieter, that all this economy shrinking is bad for it's health and will quickly pick up inflationary sticky buns in no time at all (well, until 2011, but who's counting?).
Not so for us in Ireland. The Celtic Hangover seems interminable. The December budget looming over us like a fiscal Freddie Krueger will adversely affect what the press ominously refers to as EVERYONE. Everyone, including children under three, will have to file tax returns. We will return to the Oirish Ireland of Angela's Ashes, where the only forms of recreation (for a woman) is to smoke and tut, (for a man) to drink the money earned on a casual basis as a hod carrier and (for children) retrieve a drunken Da from the pub after too many sups of porter.
Thankfully we in Cork have other, less ultimately depressing modes of distraction. As least we have the Kino, Ireland's only independent art-house cinema; the only place to watch hard-to-get films with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. Oh wait, actually we don't, because it's due to close at the end of the month.
The closure would be conceivable if it was badly managed, but it is not. The movie selections are uniformly good, the prices are reasonable and the coffee is piping hot. The cinema itself seems to be run on a shoestring of duct tape, Hersheys chocolate bars and a bottomless well of love and loyalty from it's staff and many patrons. At the time of writing, a Save the Kino Facebook page has almost eight thousand members, and counting. A fundraising website (www.savethekino.com) provides details on how to donate.
There is a lesson to be learned here. The budget that affects EVERYONE is no doubt affected in part by huge bailouts to our banks, yet the Kino is due to close for want of tens of thousands of euros, a fraction of government funding that was promised but never materialised. If everyone on that Facebook page donated eight euros, then the Kino could be saved. One of Corks most valuable cultural institutions could be rescued from oblivion for the price of a cinema ticket. Unfortunately, by the end of November there may not be any art-house films for Corkonians to watch.

The anti-duckface brigade


I'm starting to notice a LOT of people pulling this face. The pouty-sticky-out-slightly-modelly-but- actually-ridiculous face. Recently I opened a copy of The Evening Echo to reveal a picture of me at a book launch... pulling the duckface. Go here for more examples of the beautiful people.

(via Dlisted and Anti Duckface)

Minefields

The dole queue can be a minefield. I'm by no means insinuating that Mr Cowen et al have installed mines, beartraps, speakers playing Abba's Waterloo on a loop and even the occasional bout of Chinese water torture to deter people from applying for benefits (although you'd never know what will happen with Budget '10). Instead, the mines are planted deep in the consciousness of the applicant. These mines may not be real but are still highly dangerous - like actual incendiary devices, they will affect you worst when you are ill-prepared for the coming onslaught.

"What queue am I supposed to go to?" BOOM! "Ooh, forgot my PPS number, whoops." BLAM! "Form? What form? I didn't fill out any form!" WHAM! "Back of the line, bucko." Here are a few tips to make your Social Welfare application run ever so smoothly. Cut out this article and keep it somewhere handy. After you do that, have a look at my picture. You will probably see me in there. Best of luck!

1) Be like a Boy Scout and/or safe sex advocate: come prepared. Nothing makes a person roll their eyes and emit an exasperated sigh faster that a fruitless fumble for a rent book or mortgage agreement. So bring everything along with you. Bring along the kitchen sink if you must.

2) But don't go too mad. No-one wants to see your Xtravision membership card, bronzed baby shoes or photos from your last boozy stint in Santa Ponsa. Stick to the essential paperwork.

3) Don't get dressed up. To the men in three-piece suits: your application will not be processed faster if you look like you just need a government cheque to light a cigar. A standing ovation to the suited and booted who are so because they just take careful pride in their appearance. A cream pie in the face to those who think that looking like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company actually makes them one and thus entitled to give orders. I actually saw one such specimen physically push a girl out of his way in a queue and swear at the woman behind the counter when she told him to move back. His excuse? He was tired of waiting.

4) Tired of waiting? Bring a book. And don't push me out of the way if you see me queueing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A rock and a hard place

Like a lot of people this summer, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I fact, I was stuck somewhere in between a rock and an Aggregated Diamond Nanorod (commonly believed to be the hardest substance known to man, fact fans). I had spent the best part of June and July siphoning money from my parents and applying for jobs without any discrimination whatsoever.

Someone somewhere would give me some kind of job, wouldn't they?
In retrospect, it was painfully obvious that I wasn't going to land the job of my dreams. To my parents however, I just wasn't trying hard enough. On trips back to the hometown, my father would routinely wake me up at 7am on a Sunday to demand what I was doing with my life. Didn't I know that I could be writing for Vogue if I just got off my lazy bum? Why didn't I have Anna Wintour on the phone right that second? And why didn't I send Obama on some speeches? There would have been no such problems with the Universal Healthcare proposal had I been on board, oh no.

Pending being plucked from obscurity to the dazzling heights of speechwriting stardom, I was sending off CVs to everyone. I ended up sending one to my cousin in lieu of a 21st birthday card (as for what I sent to the manager of Tesco... perhaps it's best if you don't ask). Instead of tips, waiters would get a list of my career objectives. A publicity stunt involving a sandwich board and a whimsical Wonderwoman costume was seriously considered.

All that time it never occurred to me to apply for Social Welfare. It's a common and contradictory trait that while many people of my age are too proud to take money from the State, some of us were only too pleased to be granted an interest free loan at the Bank of Mom and Dad. I was at the front of the queue and far too blinkered to see that my parents could only support me for a certain amount of time. June and July would be wine and roses compared to the Dickensian nightmare that would await me when the funds ran out in August and September. I knew I had to swallow my misguided guilt and pride. And I had to apply for Jobseekers Assistance, if only to assure peaceful weekend lie-ins for the forseeable future.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hard Knocks and Nissans

I'm sitting in a car, sobbing. I am crying big fat tears all over the car's nice leather interior and all over my friend's mother, who is probably regretting having offered me a lift home. I have nine euros in my bank account. All I have to eat at home is one single solitary Petit Filous. I have hit the place just directly above Rock Bottom, because, as my dear departed granny used to say, there's always someone worse off than you.

Maybe I should rewind and give you a bit of perspective. People of my generation were born into a recession but grew up in a time of economic prosperity, therefore it's all we've really known. We lived in the shadow of the magnificent roaring Celtic Tiger, which as of last year had decided that it was a bit tired and didn't feel like propping up the construction industry anymore and went for a very inconvenient nap. So far, so formulaic.

When this all started and recession was a word only whispered about in speculative terms like Lord Voldemort in a Hogworts bathroom, my friends and I had no worries. We were in our last year of college. Surely this recession malarkey would all be over by then and we would emerge from a third-level education fug, Arts Degrees in hand, greedily grasping for manna and cushy jobs in the Land of Plenty, right? Actually, no.

And that is how I ended up crying in a Nissan Primera. Needless to say, my financial situation wasn't at it's healthiest. The cupboard was bare in every sense of the term. The rent was due, my credit card was maxed out. I had no money and was frantically scrabbling around for any semblance of paying work. My friend's mother put her arm around me and let me vent. After a few minutes of panic there was a distinct calm - the kind of resigned calm that comes over a person when you know that there's nothing you can do to change your situation.

I wasn't where I wanted to be by a long shot. However, I got the feeling that I was where I was supposed to be. It's a bitter pill for the children of the WAG generation to swallow, but it's foolish for us to assume that employment will fall in our laps and that we're entitled to the kind of lifestyles that our parents worked so hard to have through the mire of (yet another) recession. They had to earn it. And we do too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Split Personalities...

It’s an often expounded theory that times of stress will either bring out the best in people or expose underlying problems in all kinds of horrible and embarrassing ways. If anything the recession has revealed that people of my generation (that’s anyone under thirty, thanks for asking) suffer from Acute Fiscal Split Personality Disorder, which the yet-to-be-published Sarah Waldron Dictionary defines as ‘a personality disorder that exposes a disproportionate spending habit. Symptoms include mania, hysteria-related hair loss and simultaneously bulk buying tinned food from Lidl while making an appointment with your personal shopper. There is no cure’.

I am an AFSPD sufferer. There, I admit it. On the behalf of myself and all of my female friends I would like to bring this terrible affliction out into the open. We are all intelligent, grounded women. We are good people. However, we are terrible shoppers and this is the very root of AFSPD. We have double personalities; we don’t eat so we can afford clothes, we take cheap holidays but blow the pedalo and sunhat budget on booze, we congratulate ourselves on finding a bargain, no matter how impractical or superfluous to our daily lives (“I’ve always wanted a masticating juicer/ski boots/blue lipstick/koi carp pond!”).

Take my friend L, for instance. L and I had a leisurely breakfast before work this week and strolled down to Recessionista Heaven, aka Penneys for a quick look at their new winter party dresses and jackets. Both of us have no intention of buying anything as I’m cleaned out after an exceptionally tasty Eggs Benedict and L had fulfilled her daily shopping requirements by purchasing a wig for an upcoming fancy dress party.

After a few minutes I sidle up to her and notice an ever-growing pile of clothes in her arms. She turns to me and says “Which blazer do you prefer? I’m going as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction”. “Never mind that – what’s all this?” I say pointing to the polycotton heap. She defensively recoils as if I’m Rumpelstiltskin coming for her first born. “Long sleeve shirts. I need them”. “L”, I patronisingly tell her, “You don’t need them. No-one needs that many. I would certainly never, ever be that impractical. I only ever buy things I really need”.

We proceed to the checkouts, a distinctly frosty atmosphere developing. I turn around to L. “I saw a pair of PVC trousers in Topshop – what do you think?” She gives me The Look. “What?” I practically shriek. “I need them!”