Category Archives: Work

Let it Be

Yesterday my friend had her leaving party before embarking on a whole new adventure. There were presents and tears and gifts and hugs, and it was all pretty lovely.

Yesterday, I was just excited for her, and happy that we managed to send her off smiling and laughing. Today, it dawned on me that she has really left, and that is a little bit terrifying. She made my job not only easier, but a whole lot more fun, and I’m not sure I’m ready for an office without her.

But then I thought some more about it. People leave and move on all through our lives, and I think learning to be ok with that is a true skill. All too often it can feel like being dropped or left behind, overtaken, or forgotten about. The truth is, it’s none of those things. Others aren’t beholden to us, and in the words of tumblr (paragon of all great quotes) “their success is not your failure”.

It’s important not to see yourself as the protagonist every time, and that has to be balanced with not seeing yourself as a supporting character either. You are the centre of your own  story, and it’s right to let other people be part of that. But they are also the centre of their own stories, and sometimes paths diverge. It is never a reflection on you when they do, just a part of another really big story (a lá “A Song of Ice and Fire”, the perfect example of interwoven narrative. Or any epic really. I just happen to like George RR Martin).

The point is (friends), learn to let people go and be happy for them when they do. And try to keep in touch so you can still see their story unfold.


I began this blog around 6 years ago, when I moved to Morocco. That was my second year of my university career. If you’d asked me then how long I thought I’d stay at uni, I’d probably have said “forever”. Which isn’t exactly untrue – that’s what a career at a students’ union affords you after all.

I doubt I’d have guessed 7 years, because that shouldn’t add up to any appropriate number of degrees (not when you start with a 4 year undergrad, at any rate). But here I am, 7 years later, happy to say that my university career is complete, at least for the moment. It’s not been the smoothest ride, but then I’m not sure that exists for anyone.


The Apathy of Youth

As we know, I work at a Students’ Union, and it’s my decision to regret, so I blame no-one.

This week, unions around the country have been holding their leadership elections. We are no different, and part of being a staff member at an SU is always going to be encouraging moody students to take the power into their hands and vote for someone to represent them for 12 months.

So you can imagine how frustrating it is to as “Have you decided who you’ll vote for?” only to be met with “No, I’m ok thanks”.

"What's that? No no, no representation for me. No thanks. I'm ok. I'll just keep whinging about my course costs, and my living conditions, and my tutors, but I'll not do anything so radical as have a say who represents me when those matters are actually discussed"

I think my issue is clear. It’s symptomatic of my generation to have problems and care more about the catharsis of complaining than actually fixing anything. A mindset which was firmly embedded following the apocalyptic swing to the Conservatives during the General Election earlier this year. As one, the leftie youths stroked their manicured beards and said “stuff it, there’s no point trying. Better just whinge about everything via the medium of BBC3.”

This mentality of inaction annoys me, because the beauty of an SU is that it’s a microcosm of political reality, and change is being made every day. It might not be trashing-9K-fees level change, but it’s taking small steps to make actual members of the student community happy, and it’s getting done because people get out of their seats and do something.

Mahatma Gandhi may or may not have said “be the change you wish to see in the world” (I am never convinced that quotes are really real) and that is the message. We can’t all just fall back into our sofas in pathetic heaps of millennialdom – we probably won’t make it out of this century if we do.

In defence of the modern Students’ Union

I feel like I’ve been waiting to wade into this debate for months, and I’m finally ready. Let’s talk about Students’ Unions and freedom of speech.

Except let’s not. After all, everyone else has had their go. The most recent article I’ve read is this one, from the Guardian, and it got me thinking about my actual views on the matter, which are thusly.

  1. Freedom of speech is important. People died for our right to it, and there are hundreds of thousands of places in the world where it’s still curtailed.
  2. Students are people, and people can be hurt.
  3. Universities are places of learning and should be starting those difficult conversations, and encouraging challenging debate (my views on the education system aside)

Right, so these things keep fighting against each other. Students are humans, so they shouldn’t be subjected to situations which feel threatening to certain humans. But they’ve gone to university to learn, and where else will they be exposed to these views? And where better to encourage free discourse, in a sphere of learning and growth.


Let’s just look at the word “union” for a second. A google-define (because I don’t have a paper dictionary to hand, sue me) gives the following definition:


  1. the action of joining together or the fact of being joined together, especially in a political context
  2. a society or association formed by people with a common interest or purpose

Now. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that we think of trade unions as empowering movements of positive social change (or maybe an irritating itch in the side of the status quo), and Students’ Unions used to be the home of debate, free thinking, and general sticking-it-to-the-man. But let’s get real, times have changed.

There’s a consistent rhetoric with the anti no-platform brigade. They criticise SUs for creating a nanny state and reducing the exposure of students to radical thought. Seriously though? I have the internet. I’m on it now. The people (quite rightly, in many ways) actively reducing exposure to radical thought, are the government. Many universities are trying to find ways around that, because in the modern world, engagement with radical and broad-ranging thought is key to degree-level discourse. Yes, there are institutions which are falling down, but it is the fundamental role of universities now to encourage freedom of thought and speech.

Where does that leave SUs? No longer the necessary platform for reform and protest, SUs are free to take on a new (and much-needed, in the current student landscape) position as the provider of a support system. With ever-rising fees and ever decreasing job prospects, students are in need of a place they can go for advice, to maintain their personal welfare, and to find a group of people with a common purpose. And they have a right to consider that space “safe”.

It is pertinent to mention, at this point, that my argument covers SUs as individual organisations, and I do understand the argument as it relates to the National Union of Students. Some of their broadcast views do seem to err in favour of preventing an informative and constructive debate. However, every article that has touched on this subject of late has mentioned “banning” certain things, or not allowing speakers into union buildings. That argument is misguided because it ignores the new value of the SU as an institution. No longer do we need a place to vent our revolutionary angst – universities are increasingly better at being a platform for that discourse – but what we do badly need, in the absence of relevant action from the government, are places to feel safe and supported. Why shouldn’t that place be the Students’ Union?


So last night I happened upon this article. For the lazy, it’s a guy talking about how he began to recognise that small things which didn’t bother him bothered his wife, and how he realised too late that by ignoring the fact that they bothered her (because he didn’t *get* it), he ended up not giving her the respect she deserved.

I think it’s a nicely written piece, and it broadly expresses some feelings I have about my own relationship (though we’ve transitioned from glass-beside-the-sink to recycling-bin-unemptied, which I think may constitute progress). It also made me think about the dynamic of expecting something of someone and respecting someone for doing something.

The continuation of this post is going to come across a little spoilt, because I’m going to use some examples from my own life, so let it first be said that I appreciate my attitudes could change in these situations, and I could work to find them less frustrating. But I still think that all of these examples show a fundamental lack of respect, so I’m going to use them anyway, spoiltness be damned.

There are certain types of people who are always going to be taken for granted, and I am one of those people. I have clear facets of my personality that are asking to be abused, and I am daft enough to allow this with only minor grumbling at the end of the day. I think when you’re a person who is keen to make others happy this is pretty commonplace, but I do think that there are occasions where it goes too far, and a person can stop feeling respected and start feeling devalued.

When I was at school (and in uni, I’m sad to say), most people I spent time with in class, spent time with me because I was a hard worker. I know this, because I still talk to three people who were in my year at school. Three. And two from my degree. I always felt like I had a lot of friends because I talked to a lot of people, and had someone to sit with in every class, and it didn’t matter that those people would copy my work, or casually slide over and see if they could be in my project group. Very occasionally, the lack of actual respect for me would come through, when I’d not had time to finish an essay, or a maths question. There would be an expectation that I’d help other people, to the point where they’d be rudely frustrated if *I* hadn’t done *their* work.

Another personality aspect which people take for granted is my ability to plan. I like having a plan, because I don’t like uncertainty, because it makes me anxious. But that doesn’t mean I like *planning* per se, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy. My work role requires detailed planning, and usually it’s by-the-by to change something, but on occasion it’s incredibly complex. More often than not, the person asking me to change these plans will have had ample opportunity to let me know they won’t work, and yet it is expected that I will change a planned meeting with 15 people in at the drop of a hat. Those people who do this the most frequently are those who are least appreciative of the effort which goes into the process, and that, ultimately, constitutes a lack of respect.

The last trait which I think is under-respected is enthusiasm. It is difficult for a lot of people to be enthusiastic about themselves, and I know how much I appreciate it when my friends are enthusiastic on my behalf. But when you actively encourage your friends on a consistent basis, it becomes the norm, and it becomes expected. Which is crazy, because no-one can maintain that level of enthusiasm for anything. So occasionally you drop off, and ask the wrong questions (or don’t ask any at all), or have the wrong reactions. When that illicits a negative response, that is when your friend is taking you for granted, rather than respecting how much effort you’re putting into caring about their life.

As I mentioned, I think this post comes across whiney, but after reading the article I linked at the top, I really stopped to think about what being respected as a person means. A lot of people find it difficult to value their own strengths, that that is made exceptionally difficult when it is thrust into your face that other people don’t value them either. I’m lucky that I never realised my peers were using my work-ethic, rather than respecting me more as a person for having it. If I’d realised, I might have tried less hard.

Long story short, take a step back and look at the people around you, and take a second to recognise what they do for you, and what it costs them.

This is the end

Hold your breath and count to ten.

Skyfall is a great song, and it’s a real shame that it is such a disappointment of a film. Bring back Sean Connery.

In other news, this is the end of my first week of full-time work. Which as a 24 year old feels like it’s been a long time coming, and I don’t feel like any more of a real grown-up for having gotten to this point.

Yesterday a part of me wanted to insist on going out for drinks and making an issue of myself, but that fairly quickly translated into doing the laundry in my tracksuit bottoms, which was undoubtedly a far better use of the evening. We create these “turning point” moments in our lives, and I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever really felt any different for reaching one of them.

I remember my 18th birthday. I had my friends over, and we sat and ate pizza and watched films. I didn’t get drunk. When I passed my driving test I went into school right after, having missed half of my biology lesson (which is impressive given we only had 3 lessons a day and they were an hour and a half each. I was LATE) and made some excuses about my instructors car breaking down. When I turned 21 I dressed up as a pirate. Most of the people I invited to my party didn’t come.

I felt a bit more important when I graduated, but only a bit. I knew, of course, that I was going to stay in the same city, in the same house, and go to the same university and study for a Masters while doing the same part-time job. I almost had a “turning point” when I quit that job, except that then I didn’t actually stop working for the company, I just felt like I’d made the point that they didn’t need to keep employing me out of any kind of duty.

So this week wasn’t a big deal, despite the fact that I’m somehow two years (at least) behind the curve of having-a-real-job-and-being-a-real-grown-up. I did not feel the Earth move (nice callback to the Adele references I opened with, you’re welcome), and the sky did not fall.

I wonder what it’ll be like tomorrow.

Jessica (or, the anatomy of a spam post)

This has been sat in my drafts folder for a little while now, and I feel like after my last post a little mood-lightening is in order.

I’ve recently changed jobs, and while I can say that I am having a great time in my new place of work, it was a tough decision to leave Webdurance and I’ll always be grateful for the things I learnt there and the generally fantastic and wacky time I had.

One of the things I dealt with on a fairly regular basis while I worked there was spam posts. When you are working in the realms of blogging and content creation it’s really impossible not to, but that doesn’t mean they ever really get boring. This one popped up in my spam filter a couple of months ago and it tickled me so much that I couldn’t help but share it. The following is an actual post that some robot wanted my to accept on my blog (complete, of course, with commentary)

[Let’s start as we mean to go on, by not capitalising anything] admin
[That’s my name!..oh no wait, that is not my name. Though my actual name is plastered everywhere around here…poor botty job]
have you wondered what’s the secret how big company websites get massive targeted traffic and exposure in Google 1st page results for the biggest and toughest keywords?
[Technically, before I worked in webby stuff, yes, but I don’t now. Now, I know. Also, even when that might have crossed my mind, I wouldn’t have worried about it applying to my tiny personal blog. Also also, this is just a terrible sentence.]

Answer is simple links,
[Oh right then, go on]
but only quality links which counts as votes for your site
[Hey guys, you can give votes to my site! Vote for me!]
giving Google no choice but to shoot your site rankings to #1 results so your customers can see your site at the top of Google search results.
[I have no customers. As previously mentioned, this is a tiny personal blog. It’s like you’ve not even read it]
Today is your lucky day
because I’m going to reveal you secret resource of best of the best links from 500’000 website network!
[Oh wow, 500’000 website network! Is that a network of 500,000 sites, or is that the name of a network? Also, please don’t “reveal me” because that is creepy, and not up to you]
Yes that’s correct not some tiny 500 site network but half a million.
[Okidoke, back with you now. It’s half a million websites in a network. Great.]

*Links from real established, authority English actual PR pages with low outbound links max 10
[So now we’re bulleting? Fine. Authority English actual is not what you have in actual English, clearly]
* Skyrocket your website rankings for your website related keyword and get massive laser
[This deal just got sweeter. I am all about a massive laser]
targeted traffic,
customers and $$$ in your bank account.
[Excuse me sir, but this is Britain donchaknow. Dollars are of no use to you here]
Forget about thousands of crap directory and forum links which will do nothing bust just hurt your website rankings.
[This is not actually entirely wrong. Apart from the misspelling of “but”]
Get the real deal at
[Link removed because it seems a bit crazy to do a joke piece about spammers but then actually give them links. No no.]
Yes that’s the future of link building
[Well, if it’s the future then naturally I’m sold. Glad you mentioned it]
After my site is now at #1 position in Google
I think is the game changer in seo world!
[Respectfully, I do not. Also, articles.]
Your friend Jessica.
[You are a robot, and your name is not Jessica. Or, much more worryingly, you aren’t a robot. However, I’m ready to bet your name still isn’t Jessica]

I’m still getting some great spam, but Jessica has definitely been a highlight. Now, this has been very successful procrastination, but it’s probably time to get on and do some work. Ah well.

Teacher teacher

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and always also not wanted to. The second part is easy, I don’t want to be a teacher because it’s one of the hardest jobs ever, being responsible for the progression and development of a bunch of kids who may not want to learn from you at all. It only takes a single watch of “Educating…” (current series is Educating the East End) to see that. The first part is a bit more complicated, so I thought it was probably worth a blog post.

First and foremost, I love teaching. I’ve done several informal teaching jobs through my life and I’ve loved every single one, because there is honestly nothing better than watching people learn and discover new things. I think adults lose the joy of learning very quickly, which is such a shame. I’m a prime example – I’m still a student, and I love it, but then I’m writing a blog post rather than my thesis. The love is still there, but the joy isn’t quite any more.

I also love the idea of helping people find themselves. “The Breakfast Club” is the classic coming of age film, and I remember watching my friends find themselves and learn about their own ways of thinking, their personal philosophies and politics with the help of teachers and through our school years. I’d love to be able to support young people through that time, because it’s so formative.

I think my biggest motivation towards being a teacher is that I love languages and English Literature, and I’d love to pass on everything I know about them to others. The decline of language teaching in the UK is depressing, and I hope to be part of the wave of language teachers who change that and show that languages open up the world to people. That would be the best result of all.

So I don’t know whether I’ll become a teacher, and the prospect is very scary, but if I do, I hope I can manage everything I’ve said here.



After the serious level of post which I’ve had going on for a little while, I thought I’d lighten the mood by allowing myself to be suckered into a click-bait quiz (you know, the ones which tempt you with their silly titles, and then you do it even though you know full well it has no basis in actual fact or statistics. It’s a bit like horoscopes).

I went for the “What job should you really have” quiz. I figured it might be interesting since I haven’t 100% decided on a career path as yet (I plan on doing that kind of grown-up thinking sometime soon…but not now). The quiz had this enlightenment for me:



So there we are. Though I’m flattered, I somewhat feel like this has come from the answer to a single one of the 10 questions. I’m also not sure that these are the only qualifications for being a therapist – while I love the idea that my “warmth and sensitivity can heal others” that’s getting a bit towards the homeopathic for my liking. I’ll probably push along with the current job for the time being.

Service Please

Since I started working, aged 16, I’ve had several jobs which involve customer service on some level, and a combination of that and my heritage have turned me into a complainer. The former because if I see a job done badly when I know I could do better, I complain, and the latter because my mother is a complainer, so I’ve been trained by a master.

As a general rule, I think it’s fair to say that customer service in the UK is not bad. It’s not on the standards of actually getting what you want, but it’s also not at the standards of Spain where even this would not get a waiter’s attention (note the excessive exclamation points – not even that).

Service Please!


Ok so fine, the UK is adequate in terms of customer service, and that’s acceptable most of the time, but sometimes it gets too much, and a little bit of complain comes out in me. Such is what happened yesterday when I did a Sainsburys’ online shop.

Now, let’s be clear. The actual shopping experience was the worst of my life. Never again am I doing my shopping online. It was horrendous. So you can imagine my frustration on getting to the checkout, to discover that the website wouldn’t accept my voucher (which is the only reason I’d done the online shopping anyway). The date on the voucher was 17/08/14, the date of yesterday was 17/08/14, but for some reason (ie, someone in IT had put in the wrong parameters) the checkout said my voucher was out of date.


I emailed the support address, hoping (but not too hopefully) that I’d get a response saying that I could have my nectar points. I actually had another valid voucher, so we used that at purchased the shopping, in part so that I could use the acknowledgement to prove I had tried to use the voucher on my shopping of 17/08/14.

So this morning comes, and there is a message – so sorry for your trouble, but I see you used another voucher, and we don’t allow two in one transaction, that must be the issue. Oh no no no, I reply, I would have preferred to use my nectar points voucher, but I wasn’t allowed. This is no double-voucher mix-up, this is an error with your system, and that’s a problem. I can’t have faith in a job I could do better, and I’ve set up voucher code parameters before.

To be honest, on sending the reply, I didn’t expect anything back. The date has passed, the error is probably a one-off mistake by a faceless IT person somewhere, and I shall resolve myself to the fact that at least one voucher was accepted (and probably the better one, as it was a discount voucher).

But wonder of wonders. I got an email reply. Along with a voucher for me to use (shopping online, clever, clever Sainsburys, reeling me in) I was given some of the best service I’ve ever had from a bigger corporation. I’ll paste the paragraph which pleased me most.

"I would like to assure you that we are aware how much people rely on the online service. We do try to ensure our systems are fully working but sometimes problems can be experienced. I have contacted our IT department who will investigate this further and ensure website is functioning correctly.

We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us as your feedback helps us improve our services."

To which I say, well done.  Which incidentally I did say, because if you’re going to be a complainer it’s important to have the decency to be grateful when you actually get good service. Despite my thoroughly negative experience online shopping, I’ll be happy to continue to patronise Sainsburys, knowing that at least one person in their customer services department cares enough to do a good job.