McDonald’s, Piss & Romance.

One balmy London summer night I found my boyfriend and myself in a side street near Oxford Circus, sitting on the grubby curb with a greasy Big Mac and fries in hand. After watching a few drunken girls stumble past us, bouncers hauling a man down the road and looking at the trickle of a horrible smelling liquid ease its way down the pavement (which was most probably piss), I looked over at my boyfriend and realized that despite the yelling, honking, dirt and burger stuffed in his mouth that this was one of the most romantic times I had ever spent with him.

Romance is built up to represent candle lit dinners, flowers, cosy nights in, spontaneous gifts or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a Big Mac or the smell of piss. The majority of us either founded our view of romance from novels or movies or perhaps even from our parents and friends, but my view of romance was built from the one person who showed me what real romance is, or at least what is real to me.

The closest to romance I had before P was being bought a Panini, but only because the Italian shop owner jokily said that my ‘gentleman’ should treat me to lunch and that a lady shouldn’t have to pay on a date (then ensued the awkward moment where my previous boyfriend had to pull out his wallet for the second time and begrudgingly handed the £3.50 over). Before P I had never known romance and naturally found it strange at first when he wanted to buy my cinema ticket or take me out for dinner.

As the days and months passed by, the romance within my relationship with P changed. As students, the number of restaurant dinners and movie trips began to dwindle (as did our bank balances). Yet I soon found myself happily curled up with him in bed watching a film or cooking dinner together and not caring that I wasn’t dressed up in a nice restaurant or that I was watching a film on my laptop and not the big screen.

Everyone has different views on what is romantic, but sitting on that London curbside with P, I realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I didn’t want to be looking across a candle lit table at him with a fancy plate of food to devour, I wanted to be right there, side by side on the dirty pavement laughing and being ourselves whilst devouring the greasy and glorious burgers and fries. No waiters to pester us, no couples or tables around us, and despite the surrounding drunks or honking taxis, it all faded away and it felt like we were the only two people on that street, just being ourselves. To me, that’s what real romance is, when you can be yourself whenever or wherever you are and still find the romance – even if you can smell piss.

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10 life lessons I have learned from Sex & The City.

  1. The obvious solution if you never find your soulmate… Image
  2. That ugly people MUST be better in bed.Image
  3. That a ginger cropped hairstyle will never get me laid. Ever.Image
  4. Refer to the above for further clarification.Image
  5. That men are easy to understand and not at all complicated…Image
  6. Or not…

ImageImage7. That Carrie Bradshaw may have a few mental health issues… ImageImageImage

8. That size matters… For ALL of us…ImageImage

9. That Carrie Bradshaw chats shit and asks way too many questions (only to make herself sound much more profound and meaningful of course).Image

10. So to conclude, what have I learned about love, sex and life from SATC? Image

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook Feminism.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has been causing quite a political and feminist storm. After writing her book Lean In, which advises women on how to succeed in the workplace, and giving various speeches, Sandberg has found herself and her views under attack.

Sandberg is already considered one of the most powerful women in the business world, yet she believes that there should be more successful women and that the answer to solving political and economic crises is to have more women hold more positions of power.

When addressing an audience at The Times’ London office, Sandberg said that in order for women to begin gaining the equality they need to tackle gender issues, they need to start from within the home.

She feels that the home is where women need to attain more support from their husbands, boyfriends or partners: ‘In every country, women do twice as much housework as men. The workplace will not change until the home changes.’

Unfortunately, her strong ‘feminist’ views have received a fair amount of criticism from her fellow women. A disgruntled female reader of Time magazine (15 April issue) sent in a letter regarding their recent article on Sandberg, stating that gender ‘roles and aspirations are supposed to be different – it’s called compensation and equilibrium… What does Sandberg propose next, male childbearing?’

However, what Sandberg does not seem to address is that women can find arguably the best kind of support within the workplace, rather than in the home. Perhaps Sandberg should consider that the support from fellow working women, instead of a husband or partner, is much more beneficial.1_fullsize-1

In 2003 Gwen Rhys, the CEO of Networking Culture Limited, founded ‘Women in the City’, a network that Rhys quotes on the website as one that aims to ‘promote, recognise and reward female talent’. Through this network like-minded women in the business world can come together and benefit from meeting one another through lunches and networking. Rhys recalls that she felt her conception of ‘Women in the City’ was a ‘simple idea’ and that by organizing events, women who worked in the city would be able to ‘share experiences’ or ‘hear an inspirational speaker’.

The growing network says that women need not look to their other half at home for support, but instead reach out to a network of women similar to themselves. Most importantly, ‘Women in the City’ aims to: ‘Increase each woman’s impact and visibility in her organisation and sector’ and ‘empower, inspire and motivate professional businesswomen’.

The more women start to network and connect with one another through programmes such as ‘Women in the City’ and its events and lunches, the more support is found and provided. Rhys comments that through networking and even shopping trips, ‘some serious business connections are made.’

Despite Sandberg’s view that men dominate the business and political world, perhaps tackling the obstacle of gender issues should not begin within the home. If women are to ever get on top, then maybe the environment to ask for support should be where success is cultivated and thrives — within the workplace.

Link to article: http://www.spearswms.com/spears-world/salon/talking-points/46212/sheryl-sandberg-facebook-feminism.thtml

The Sunday Times Rich list Hits Record Breaking £450bn High.

Monday, 22nd April 2013

The Sunday Times Rich List has revealed that the fortunes of Britain’s richest 1000 have reached a record-breaking £450bn, showing that while the rest of the British economy struggles, the rich are wealthier than they’ve ever been.1_fullsize

After eight years at the top of the Rich List, Lakshmi Mittal was pushed to second place this year, as Uzbekistan-born Alisher Usmanov became Britain’s richest. The Sunday Times reported that this big change at the top was mirrored by ‘sharp fluctuations in fortunes’ elsewhere in the list.

Alisher Usmanov’s net worth is estimated at £13.30bn, up 8 per cent on last year. Usmanov’s business empire started with the making of plastic bags, but now ranges from iron ore to mobile phones and a 30 per cent stake in Arsenal football club. The latter is described by the Sunday Times as one of his ‘smallest but best known investments’, particularly as it represents the oligarch’s intent on strengthening ties with the UK.

But how accurate are Rich Lists anyway?

This year’s rich list also featured a record number of women, with 188 women making the cut. Kirsty Bertarelli tops the list of Britain’s richest woman, thanks largely due to her husband Ernesto Bertarelli’s pharmaceuticals business.

It was also a record-breaking year for philanthropy, with the Sunday Times Giving List, published alongside the Rich List, showing a 20 per cent increase in giving by Britain’s wealthiest.

This year the Sunday Times Rich List celebrates its 25th year. The Queen topped the first ever Rich List in 1989, with her net assets (the including all the Crown Estates) estimated at 5,200 million. The Queen is now valued according to her personal wealth, and is joint 286th on the rich list.

Link to Spear’s: http://www.spearswms.com/spears-world/salon/talking-points/46192/the-sunday-times-rich-list-hits-record-breaking-450bn-high.thtml

The arrest of Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, is no laughing matter.

Wednesday, 17th April 2013

Dubbed the ‘Jon Stewart of Egypt’, political satirist Bassem Youssef is widely known for his late night show El Bernamej (The Programme). However, while Jon Stewart’s Daily Show may pick up criticisms from the bruised egos of US politicians, that is nothing compared to the reaction of politicians in the Middle East.

Youssef, having mocked Islam and belittled Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected but not universally popular president, was arrested with Morsi’s sanction on 30 March.

Before becoming Egypt’s most famous talk show host, Youssef began his career in cardiothoracic surgery and spent his spare time posting political satire on YouTube. However, it was the Egyptian revolution, part of the Arab Spring, that inspired Youssef’s dramatic career change, as he explained to Time magazine: he had ‘an idea to do a show exposing the hypocrisy that was happening, so I became a comedian overnight’.

Worldwide Viewers:

Youssef’s show is hugely popular on Egyptian TV with around thirty million viewers tuning in each week. With over 1.3 million followers on Twitter, Youssef’s skits, comments and spoof’s on President Morsi and his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are widely viewed both in Egypt and across the world.2_fullsize

Youssef’s show not only entertains his viewers but also signifies a cultural change as the Middle East continues its volatile response to the lack of political censorship that can be found on the internet. Unlike Jon Stewart in America, where freedom of speech is sacrosanct, Youssef is a political comedian operating with restrictions on free speech, where any expression of dissent is likely to result in rough justice.

Pettiness:

Upon hearing about his Egyptian counterpart’s arrest, Stewart tweeted: ‘When you are actually powerful, you don’t need to be petty.’ Not long after this, the US embassy in Cairo tweeted the same message, and soon enough a Twitter war ensued, with Haaretz reporting that President Morsi’s office tweeted back: ‘It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.’

The US embassy soon found itself receiving numerous posts from the Muslim Brotherhood until the embassy abruptly deleted its account. Not long after, the embassy’s account was reactivated, with all previous tweets deleted. Washington Post blogger Max Fischer criticized the decision by tweeting: ‘U.S. caves to criticism.’

A political satirist perceived as a threat by President Morsi, Youssef’s arrest has merely given him more material he can use for his next show, which he kindly thanked Morsi for.

Hopefully, when the next show airs, Morsi might have a sense of humour.

Link to article on Spear’s: http://www.spearswms.com/spears-world/salon/talking-points/45992/the-arrest-of-bassem-youssef-egyptand39s-jon-stewart-is-no-laughing-matter.thtml

Lost, but never forgotten.

As yet another jobless/internship-less day goes by, and having finished re-watching the entire Sex & The City (plus the two SATC films to finish it off), I have found myself stuck in an emotional whirlwind.

Unsurprisingly, with my parents divorce starting to get a little ugly and with my boyfriend going through the hell that is the stress of second year exams (whilst knowing that his nan is slipping ever more into the cruel hands of cancer), I have found myself feeling useless.

There is nothing I can say to ease the pain when loved ones slip away, whether it comes to death or divorce, the pain of each is inconsolable at its darkest periods. Sometimes all the one grieving needs is someone to hold and not hear the ‘soothing’ words “it will all be okay”, because in reality we all know that it won’t be okay. A life will soon be gone, but there is no way to sugar coat death or heartbreak with empty words.

Though a life is nearing its end, eventually we have to realize that this life has been lived to the full, and even though we always want more time, we must remember that when they let go of life, they are free from the suffering and slip into peace. When we cry our tears should be not only be full of grief, but also relief and for all the memories we had with that person. They are never gone, because they live through our memories and will never be forgotten.

The passing of a loved one has a crippling effect on those around, but as hard as it is to remember, the passing is the symbol of a celebration of life. Retelling old stories, or jokes, passing round pictures, everything to remember and celebrate the amazing life that was lived.

Mourn not for a life that has gone, but celebrate for the life that was lived and is now at peace. We will all be okay in the end, we will survive and remember, but most importantly, we will never forget.

The monsters inside.

Inside each and every one of us is a smouldering dark pit of unwanted memories, resentments and emotions. This pit within us has the ability within seconds to turn us from a settled happy person, to a raging monster whom we don’t even recognize. Maybe we thought we were always that ‘settled’ and ‘happy’ person, but deep down we all know there is a monster, big or small, inside each of us that sometimes we cannot ignore or control.

As children, we are told of the scary monsters beneath our beds or the ones inside our closets at night. The only scary thing about these ‘monsters’ was that in reality they were not the big hairy ogres that lived in our imaginations, but instead were the memories and emotions that lived and grew inside us.

I remember the day that I started to realize the difference between the monsters of fantasy and those of reality. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and as usual I was sat at the kitchen table doing exam revision whilst my mother made coffee for my father, who had just come in from rowing. There had been a quiz inside one of the Saturday papers titled “how well do you know your daughter?” and my mother thought it would be fun to test my dad on the questions. My mother began with the ‘easy’ ones first: “Name three of her best friends”, my father ‘ummed’ and laughed whilst guessing random names, however none of his guesses were right. “What is her favourite subject at school?”, he didn’t know. “Name a music band she likes”, no answer. “What is her favourite sport?”, another wrong answer. “What is her favourite TV show?”, another wrong guess. By the end of the quiz I was feeling so disappointed and embarrassed that my own father clearly knew nothing about me, but laughed it off and made jokes to try and mask this horrible truth.

This ‘horrible truth’ then manifested itself quickly inside me, growing over the months and years. Every time my father let me down, from not being at a school music recital I was playing in, to only wanting to watch TV and be alone on weekends, the anger, sadness and resentment I felt slowly created a bigger monster inside of me. This was not a monster I could get rid of by simply turning on the lights and looking underneath my bed, but if I could have seen it back then, I would have been too scared to face it and let it out.

Many of us do not face up to the monsters inside of us. Sometimes we would rather pretend that these monstrous feelings inside of us do not exist as we know that facing up to it would mean us having to acknowledge painful memories which then makes that pain or memory much more real. Although facing up to our own demons and monsters puts us in a vulnerable position, the choice to try to tackle each horrible or scary monster shows great strength. The more we acknowledge our feelings, resentments and memories, the stronger we become, as we now feel that we can tackle these monsters, rather than ignoring them.

When my father announced that he and my mother were going to get a divorce, its safe to say that my monster obviously felt it could be contained no longer. By that point it was so big that it was uncontrollable, and all the anger and tears poured out in a rage that wouldn’t be out of place on the Jeremy Kyle/Jerry Springer show. My monster took hold of me and unleashed its burning anger, almost leading me to smash one of the standing lamps on him (I think the only reason I didn’t do this is because my mother told me it was an expensive lamp). I was scared of myself, but this monster wanted to hurt him so badly, for all the years in which nothing had been said. Tears streaming down my face, I told my father: “even if I did smash this lamp on you, it wouldn’t even come close to the pain that you’ve made me feel“.

I had ignored and tried to run away from the ever growing monster that held all the painful emotions and memories of my father for so long, allowing it to fester inside me over the years. As a result, I painfully learned an important lesson: running away from your monster will only turn you into one.