What? Leaving Again?


Oh dear, off I traipse again – back to the UK.

I am not necessarily as thrilled as I thought I would be. In fact, I am thoroughly mixed up about whether I am happy to be returning or not; these mixed up feelings are nothing new!

I felt initially it was a good thing for me. Time alone, get my head back where it should be, break away from certain ‘stress’ factors. Also, there are still things I have to attend to, things I didn’t manage to fully complete on my last visit. Plus, the summer here has really been taking its toll on me, this year I am SUFFERING!!!!

Yet, I feel a little frustrated by the interruption a return visit to the UK will create.

Today I received an invite to go somewhere from a really good friend here, a good friend that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to. Going back means I will miss this opportunity, yet again, just like last time I had to return to the UK.

In a way it seems like time out makes everything suffer. Recently there has been lots of new things that I am just beginning to really get involved with, and now I have to leave it all behind for a six week stay in the UK!!!

I begin hitting my stride here in Madrid and BAM!!!!! Back to the UK I have to go.

So, not only are plans to progress being thwarted, but plans with friends too. I can’t live a life, a full and rich life with either foot in two different camps. This year I have spent more time in the UK than actually in Madrid – or at least it feels that way.

I know most people desert the city during August, so there won’t be much to actually miss out on, but I feel somehow I WILL be missing out. The issue is, once I return to Madrid it takes me a bit of time to re-adjust, to really get back into living here again. Being in Madrid is a whole different ball game to being in the UK. The more often I return to the UK, the more I can clearly see the differences between here and there;

AND I DON’T WANT TO SEE THE DIFFERENCES!!!!!

I also like hiding away from certain B.S that lurks in the UK. Yes, hiding away!!!

I just want to feel fully immersed in this life, this life here in Madrid.

I know I have another year here, well, until December 2014, but so far getting moving and actually accomplishing anything concrete has been a nightmare.

At the moment feeling I am settling and making steps to move forward is crucial for me. For once, which is unusual for me – I am actually valuing staying put, making plans and not flitting from one thing to another. I am enjoying knowing that I have some stability, something to build up upon socially and ‘career’ wise. All this back and forth just seems to undermine that stability!!!!!!!

 

Anyway, I apologise for how dumb this may ‘sound’ upon reading. I feel these issues really are THE most stupid of things to ‘moan’ about. After all, NONE of these ‘issues’ constitute as the end of the world!!!!!!!! I hear you all say – Bex, WHAT THE HELL?! OK, noted and I am currently shaking myself, and ceasing to be so self absorbed!!!!!!!!

 

Karma Killer


Pic from: bellezayalma.com

Pic from: bellezayalma.com

I don’t want to make this a running theme, but recently I have been considering how the ‘fair share’ of rough deals in life are divvied up.

Hearing from other people too, how recently things haven’t been running so smoothly for them either, I couldn’t help but wonder if these events have something to do with fate, coincidence or even karma.

If it is bad karma or some twisted fate, I don’t know whose I have been drawn into; mine, other peoples, or what! I wonder too, as I know the people who have also experienced bad things recently; could it just be some rotten coincidence we all faced at the same time? Yet, in my eyes nothing happens randomly, it all has a connection and meaning.

How could anyone draw the unlucky card out of the hat so often in just a few weeks; without something else presiding over the events???

I know I don’t feel I have committed some dastardly deed. I don’t feel I need to reap poisoned seeds that I have sown! I know that those other people haven’t either, and yet nevertheless, we have all faced some bad experiences very recently.

Yet maybe the world has to merely apply some equilibrium, where not one person can be left untouched or unscathed for too long a time scale??? We all have to take our share of the bad in life, or do we?????

Isn’t that a fallacy? Something we tell ourselves to sweeten a bitter pill??

The order of the universe, the fine balance, yin and yan – it all has to add up, square off and match.

Admittedly, what has occurred isn’t all as bad as it could have been, but it is pretty unsettling, and it did occur.

I only hope that now the balance of the unseen world has been redressed or appeased; and no more strange happenings will unsettle anyone else’s apple carts!

See related articles: And That’s All She Wrote

Struggling To Make Ends Meet – Poverty in the 21st Century.


Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition Party), Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) and many others are now calling for, and indeed advocating the introduction of a living wage in the UK. What is this initiative? Well, it’s an hourly rate for working people, which is re-set each year to reflect the increases in costs of living. The rate of this living wage is based around what an employee requires to provide their family with the mere essentials of life.

The recommendations for these living wage rates are; £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour for the rest of the UK. Yet, these figures have already come under criticism for falling short of the real requirements of what workers need to survive.

Yet people are expected to now survive on a minimum wage. In comparison to the current minimum wage for those who are aged 21 and above, which is now a paltry £6.19 an hour; the figures above already prove a shortfall for the workforce. Most employers will only pay the minimum wage, regardless of the job, the duties and qualifications required. Cheap labour, exploitation and damn near slavery are what the UK work force is used to. With unemployment on the increase the employer ethos of ‘take it of leave it’ is never more powerful. People will put up with terrible wages and unfair working conditions or face unemployment. It isn’t exactly job satisfaction that keeps people working, inasmuch as sheer necessity. Workers in the UK are already being short changed of the basic requirements that are needed for them to actually live, so then how are they currently surviving without a living wage?

Well, when people don’t earn a living wage they have to work two jobs rather than one, get credit cards and loans merely to eat, and actually to travel to work! People are forced to live in poverty whilst actually working full time, their children aren’t eating properly, they can’t afford to heat their own homes and so and so on. What century is this anyway? Seems awfully analogous to something Dickensian.

Things have changed, relatively perhaps; but the premise remains the same.

So isn’t the living wage an answer to all those issues? Well, it is a fairer and more equitable option, where employees may actually feel they have value. Surely working people deserve to earn enough to live and participate in society, otherwise they might as well be outcasts. What are they working for exactly; and it isn’t just to pay taxes and pay bills (those days are, or I thought they were, over)! This isn’t a time of the landed gentry and farming peasants! People want to live a life! At the moment most people aren’t, so if the current minimum wage isn’t doing society justice then what are the issues with changing it?

Well, the UK Government are the issues. They aren’t sold on implementing a living wage, but crazily enough they are happy to provide benefits to subsidise low income families (those surviving off the minimum wage). In fact the amount of benefits being paid to those in work is on the increase! That means that society is already helping out low-paid employers, which to be honest really makes no sense. Doesn’t that outlay of benefits alone indicate that the wages are too low in comparison to the ever increasing cost of living and taxes? Why not then just solve the root of the issue instead of applying a sticking plaster that clearly doesn’t work; as people are still in poverty!

Yet, it isn’t merely about the cost of these benefits to the taxpayer; it’s about the cost of changing people’s work ethic. Actually demonstrating that is does pay to work. That people aren’t just working to pay the bills, and keep their heads just above the water line. That life isn’t all hard slog and little else; I mean isn’t that what the mill workers in 19th century thought about their lives? When will this working poverty and servitude ever change for the working people of the UK? It is a perpetual and entrenched vicious circle! What does society or the economy get out of such a system, nothing!

I thought we’d left the cotton mills behind?

For those who argue the UK couldn’t afford a living wage, that is somewhat naïve and morally wrong. What makes more sense; extra household debt (ethereal money that doesn’t really exist in the economy, and that no-one can afford to pay back), and money being given in benefits from taxes, or, money given in real wages whereby it can be properly invested into the economy?

I can see why this push for change is being blocked though; ordinary working folk could actually gain something rather than merely get less. I know; it’s a shocker and such an outrageous idea! How dare the ordinary people want more than merely working their hearts out for nothing other than paying their bills! What is the 21st century coming to?! Any new initiative meant to embetter a workers life comes up against opposition; the national minimum wage itself wasn’t looked upon favourably, neither were trade unions, equal pay, employee rights or the abolition of child labour, oh, and slavery.

How can a country prosper if their people don’t? Simple question, yet no one is willing to answer it!

Check out: http://www.livingwage.org.uk/

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion – Beau Brummell and the History of the Quintessential Man’s Suit.


The British Regency period (1811-1820: when The Prince of Wales became Prince Regent), has been described as the most explosive and creative.

Akin to the 1960’s; enormous changes in culture and society all fused together in one enormous burst of energy.

The battle of Waterloo was won. London was completely re-designed. Turner and Constable were painting, the waltz was introduced (highly risky dance for that era), and Jane Austen and Lord Byron were inspired by the life surrounding them to write.

The glamour, the tastes, scandal and gossip, opulent aristocrats, blossoming middle classes, monarchs, decadence, the celebrity culture, the drugs and drink (minus the rock and roll); it was a celebration of youth culture and of course the fashions. The Regency era was an age of exuberance and creativity, but also of excess and deprivation.

The Dandy – Dress Etiquette and Suit Style

Amid all of this was there was rise of the ‘Dandy’, a fashion etiquette and new wave of style.

How is this important? Well, the ‘Dandy’ shunned traditional elaborate aristocratic styles of the time; wigs, breeches and powder were replaced by simplistic elegance. In short, this was when the plain black suit and ‘tie’ became the epitome of the male wardrobe; embracing masculinity and not femininity.

The person responsible for introducing and establishing this modern men’s suit, and fashion necessity was the infamous George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (7 June 1778 – 30 March 1840).

Beau Brummell became an iconic figure in Regency Britain. The arbiter of men’s fashion, and also a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV; this friendship enabled Beau to entrench what might have been dismissed as an insignificant, and fleeting fashion faux pas into mainstream culture. Beau’s ideas were propelled; taking root in society, they had substantial influence.

Brummell was responsible for making a generation rethink their style choices, and ingrained a fresh sense of what fashion was. Men had never before embraced the understated. Perfectly tailored dark coats, polished boots (with Champagne of course), and full-length trousers rather than knee breeches and stockings, and above all immaculate shirt linen with an elaborately knotted cravat; a must of the ‘Dandy’.

The Beau Brummell ‘Dandy’

Beau’s personal habits were as fastidious as his fashion choices. Attention to detail was a prerequisite for any ‘Dandy’, and it was claimed he took five hours a day to dress. Cleaning his teeth, shaving, and daily bathing were part and parcel of achieving the style, just as much as the clothes.

Brummell’s dictum eventually exerted an influence upon the ‘ton’. The ‘ton’ a term used in reference to Britain’s higher echelons of polite society during the Regency era. The word is derived from the French word meaning ‘taste’ or ‘everything that is fashionable’. The full phrase is ‘le bon ton’, meaning good manners or ‘in the fashionable mode’; the characteristics which epitomised the ideals held onto by the British ‘ton’.

Once the ‘ton’ had adopted the style it then became the must for every self respecting fashion conscious man. Brummell’s niche fashion etiquette then became global; making an impression on all fashion from that day to this.

Bronze Statue of Beau Brummell in Jermyn Street, London

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Welfare State or a Scroungers Paradise?


At the moment there has been plenty of media coverage about ‘Social Security’ and ‘Welfare’. It seems if it isn’t the UK, it is Spain or the US that are fighting for more or less of the ‘Nanny State’.

The ‘Nanny State’ is a complex, and often antiquated system founded upon a set of ideals, which works to maintain the status quo of welfare, so it is available for everyone to access; but is it still doing its job and is it this enough in the modern world? Could a radical shake-up of the system be justified? How radical a change would be called for or tolerated to help to reform or re-create the system? Especially a system which might have served a country for so long, it is difficult to imagine being without it.

Welfare in the form of unemployment, sickness and disability benefits have changed lives; brought people out of poverty, saved people from poverty, and helped to support millions. Yet, there are always a number of individuals who spoil the system, flouting the premise of welfare rules just to con the country out money for nothing. This is where the negative begins to impact upon welfare, and soon the rot sets in to unravel any good that was ever done by it.

It is common knowledge in the UK that there are people claiming a benefit under false pretenses, Hell, I should know I have worked with said people! I know the scams and I know they are completed successfully as the system has no safe guard to prevent such fraudulent actions. Consequently, the amount of tax payer’s money leaking from the system every year is unquantifiable. Reasons being are that fraud is difficult to prove, and the evidence alone can take time and yet again money to pursue. So, how can this misuse of time, money and services be prevented?

It seems there is no answer, no Government has found one anyway, or maybe they are unwilling to do what is necessary to stop this. Maybe it would be too radical a step, but then what would be worse; continue pouring billions down a never-ending drain every year, or, fix the problem once and for all so those who truly need help get it!

The fact that there is help available for all, as long as people meet the eligibility criteria for a benefit, is a great thing, but therein lies the parody. A 24-year-old who is physically fit and able, can in theory and practice, claim unemployment benefit in the UK forever. The whole world seems to know this too, as there are many who come to the UK in search of work, and then they too end up claiming benefits. There was a case in the ‘Daily Mail’ recently regarding a Latvian woman, with 10 children, claiming every benefit available to her and still; demanding more. Now, there are people working in the UK, barely scraping by, what with the economy being as dire as it is; but yet they are not eligible for any help, why, because they work and are deemed wealthy enough. Yet, someone who has never worked, and there is no reason that they can’t, is eligible to take from a pot they have never paid into. The contradictions in the system go on and on to the point where people are beginning to question; what is the welfare system truly there for? Is it for those who genuinely need its help or is it just for those who want to scam the system?

I have met so many people who don’t claim what is rightfully theirs, because they feel ashamed, don’t understand the process or don’t know they are eligible; and then I have met others who milk it dry. I have met young men and women who could secure work, and even turn down jobs just to stay on benefits. I have met men of 45 made redundant having worked since the ages of 14 and 15, and they are told they can only claim a benefit for 6 months, and their mortgage payments won’t be covered by the welfare system. Yet, I have seen people claiming they live alone, when they have a partner with them, and they are receiving housing benefits for houses they don’t even live in! I have met people with extreme physical disabilities who get refused benefits, and some who don’t even think to try to claim anything as they just go to work; whilst a person with psoriasis is deemed disabled! Aren’t these the very contradictions which prove the system isn’t working as it should be? That the help isn’t being received by those who truly need it?

Oh, and one final thought: during my time working in the unemployment sector, one specific case stuck with me, and it wasn’t as unusual as it might sound. It was of a man in his late 30’s (physically fit and healthy), married with 5 children; he and his wife had been claiming benefits for many years. He said himself it wasn’t worthwhile him working, though he had been offered jobs, because the salary was so little compared with what benefits he received. Between unemployment benefit, tax credits, child benefits, housing and council tax benefits the man’s income for a month was £2000. That is equivalent to somebody’s monthly salary, and they wouldn’t be eligible to receive any benefits.

So, is it worthwhile maintaining a welfare system that perpetuates unemployment, because it provides more stability and income than an actual job, or, is it about time there were more restraints, and checks to ensure that only the truly in need received the help? Maybe a sliding scale of benefit payments, which could be assessed and based on individual needs, so that not everyone receives the same amounts? Or, is it time to bin the system and start all over again?

What do you think? What is the welfare system like where you live? Have you experience of the system? Do you think it works or is it failing? Do you think welfare doesn’t go far enough, and people need more, not less?

Leave comments below, thanks!

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.