Haven't been watching a lot of TV lately but managed to catch one or two that interested me.
Jean Byrne continues to be delightful. This week included tight black satin trousers and a figure hugging elbow length black top - unfortunately married to a puffy white jacket that kind of reminds me of a chessboard. Not one of the better ones, but hey its new. The leather jacket from her 11th Hour appearance last week was almost certainly Joanne Hynes - a really gorgeous number I have to say, very feminine and nicely matched with a simple top with design. Despite some fairly heavy lighting, Byrne still managed to look about half her age, and came across as very appealling, the sort of person you'd be very happy to get stuck beside on a long flight or in the cube next to you at work. Incidentally, forgot to mention two rather funny things from that programme. Byrne picked out music from David Bowie and Welsh singer Duffy.
Bowie - good choice, I thought - Fanning put on heroes. Funny comment Byrne made was that men wearing makeup was an interest - when I caught that it was a real case of Don't say that, you'll only encourage them!! Liking guys with makeup on isn't your average middle Ireland hetero thing - although it might turn off a few potential stalkers not to keen on having to don lippy and eyeliner. In fact the main reason most girls I know don't like it because the guys they know who do that, not only want to wear THEIR makeup, but half their wardrobe too. Say no more. Anyway, we'll put it down to and off-the-cuff remark rather than a deep knowledge of the crossdressing fantasies of so many hetero males. (Oh yes many - you'd be surprised how many good male friends I have, married with kids etc, who like nothing more than to don a short mini, a shocking wig, heavy slap and 6 inch heels). I loved Bowie as vampiric lover of Catherine Denueve in the Hunger
- one of his most sublime performances, particularly the scene in the mens where he looks at his aging self in the mirror, and the rather sad and painful scene where he devours his lover's favoured teenage violinist. Fabulous. Very angrogynous and an almost unwitting statesman, along with former wife Agnie, for bisexuality. Anyway, nuff of that.
Duffy I didn't immediately get but I had forgotten that Duffy's debut was a 60s-esque style number which started "You got me begging you for mercy, Why won’t you release me." Ok nobody else spotted this (not even on BDSM-Ireland's recent discussion of BDSM themed songs) - but well - the imagery is just too close to the popular folklore regarding tight leather tunics and determinedly straightening your long black tresses.
Anyway, more of Byrne soon. I didn't watch the finale of Lost, having lost touch with it during the first season, but unsurprised to hear of the finale. Ok, I got that as soon as I heard they started quoting one of my favourite author's - Flann O Brien, in his book The Third Policeman
. Did you know that O'Brien became an honorary member of the Irish Housewives Association? I'll bet you didn't. Its one of the many pieces that my baby sister has dug up in her PhD study of womens organisations in the middle of the 20th century. He poked a bit of fun at them in his column, but according to Ash he was in fact a good supporter, especially in their lobbying for better prices for consumers. Ash also says that while IHA supported the Mother and Child scheme, they were not so keen on the children's allowance because it was allocated to the husbands, and there was still shortages. She says that they feared price inflation because of the perception of greater consumer power and preferred instead a system of vouchers. I skim read the Sisters piece in the Irish Times during the week and I really felt how so many women, even now, could read this and find it hard to relate to. Maeve Binchy's piece was good, but I do feel sometimes that ordinary women with husbands and kids, who sometimes work and sometimes don't, might find it easier to relate to groups like IHA and ICA than more overtly political groups. The north has a good string of community based womens groups that in context of over heavily divided communities, can actually be more than a bit diverse. In fact I found out about the northern groups through a closet lesbian single mum of two in a large town. Someday that could be ripe pickings for a PhD.
Anwyay, 2nd programme I watched this week with interest, was Rising After Redundancy
. You might have seen Bill Cullen's little performance on the Front Line a while back where he demonstrated vast ignorance of the reality of unemployment today as compared to 20 or 40 years ago. Indeed, vast ignorance of Ireland, full stop. Cullen grew up in inner Dublin, in a Dublin where tenements were the way of life. I know a little about these as many of my family grew up in them also. You'd have as many as 80-100 people living in a large Georgian house. Families of 10 in 2 rooms. As a result, from the 1940s onwards, slum clearance programmes aimed to move people to less cramped housing in order to mitigate against many of the problems of overcrowding. This was well in progress in the 50s and 60s, and many of Cullen's age would have moved from these areas as children to a variety of places, nice and otherwise. Dad's family were particularly fortunate and moved to Marino. Those less so found themselves in places like Coolock and later, Ballymun. Anyway, Cullen doesn't get one thing - housing is now a huge expense for the under 40s. And many older people too. There simply isn't cheap, low quality housing for purchase and even less so for rent, which remains stubbornly high. This eats heavily into the salaries of low paid workers. In the 50s, those with low paid or occasional work could survive because of cheap if poor housing.
One of the primary impacts of better housing in Ireland from the 60s onwards has been the massive inflationary bubble which in reality started in the late 1960s and ended with the collapse of house prices in 2008/9 - and is still ongoing. House prices started doubling every 4-5 years from the end of the 60s, and in fact, this continued until the stagnation in the 80s and early 90s. It picked up where it had left off around 1994, and relentless increases continued for the next 12 years. Rents shot up even faster - especially housing policy changed and welfare-dependent renters were dumped into rented sector rather than social housing from the mid 90s on. My Dad also, funny enough, went to primary school in Gardnier St. Anyway, the key problems today are a workforce that is immobile because of negative equity in housing, and inflexible because of poor skills. This is to top off the fact that about 250,000 jobs have simply vanished, leaving a hard core of unemployed chasing a declining number of open vacancies.
Unlike the 80s, when the mantle fell particularly harshly on young workers, and workers over 40, this has been a far more democratic recession. But Cullen was ignorance itself when he suggest that people "work for nothing." Now don't get me wrong. Unpaid internship is great for young folk without experience, fresh out of college and with some skills but little practical experience. But its totally unworkable for somebody on the dole with maybe a mortgage and a few other debts to pay. Those inbetween - early career years to mid career, in the 25-40 age group would be particularly hard hit because there is an assumption, especially if they are highly skilled, that they will not only find a job quickly, but that they will find one paying the same. And contrary to popular folklore, there are loads of people who simply wouldn't survive if they had to take a 20-30k paycut from maybe 40-50k to 20k for anymore but a brief term.
So the programme, unfortuantely, almost starts at the common view made of redundant folk on tv: not looking hard enough, unrealistic expectations, unsuitable skills. The big thing I notice is that a lot of people let go are being dropped from areas which in a normal job market would have reasonable currency. Things like administrative work, marketing, IT, etc. The recruitment guy - I am sorry, but I find him an obnoxious tosser. I have really grown to like most of the others, but he just rubs me up the wrong way. Barney is particularly likeable and probably very typical - like the 130,000 construction workers who were let go, he probably just found his role in Aer Lingus in the 70s or 80s, worked through trainee programmes, did fairly well, managed to survive all the various turbulence in that industry. This is why Michael O Leary's nasty little propoganda campaign against the DAA is so insidious: the workers at the former Team Aer Lingus plant were old fashioned, older, heavily unionised. O Leary would never give them a job. Instead he would have taken in school leavers on the minimum wage and possibly on temporary contracts for ever. If he was ever to start such an operation, it would be to break the spirits of those workers. But he'll never do that - he can well afford to play the media game - after all thats what O Leary does. He is a master of marketing and subtle propoganda. He runs a lean airline that focuses on a very particular type of travel that probably makes up about 75% of all travel - and just does it very efficiently. Thats why Ryanair, in its current guise, will never run a transatlantic flight. What they will probably eventually do is adopt a failing carrier or start a separate company - probably as a kind of experiment, only they don't really need to - lots of carriers in Asia are doing this on Australia to the Far East and I reckon O Leary is watching carefully to see what he can learn and reproduce.
Anyway the problem I have with this kind of programme, are these points:
- that the work is out there, but you are not really trying hard enough
- that you can pitch yourself to any job without having the qualifications and experience - or worse still, that you can "retrain" overnight and be a huge success - "Decide and start a course, just do it, it will never be a waste when it's an area that you're interested in."
- that you can change everything overnight and on aspiration alone, be hugely successful
- that you have to lower your expectations and work for little or for free
- and finally, the big one, that something in yourself needs to change - "Back yourself, believe in yourself and you will succeed."
The last point is the big one. This programme is based on a kind life coaching thing run by a company called Harmonics. Like many of these companies, this advice doesn't come cheaply. "Career Health Check Programme"
as its called on their website, will set you back an eye watering 1500 euros - that 7 and a half times the adult weekly dole rate - nearly 2 months of payments or 1/6 of an unemployed persons annual income. Exploitation? I think at this rate, yes. They do cv/interview prep too - for a cool 400 euros for 4 hours. Ok, thats 2 weeks dole - or more than a week on the minimum wage. But the big Daddy of them all, the "career and financial planning" - thats 2,900. Yes, you read that right. Thats 4 months on the dole. In fact its more than I get after tax in a month. Its considerably more than an average earner will get after tax in a month. Guess what? I changed career for free. In fact lots of people do it. Or, you can spend your 2900 on something like this
which is a rather good Certificate in Management from the Open University - very useful for anybody considering starting up their own enterprise.
I wouldn't have an issue with this programme were it not for the obscene amount that they are looking for. The career health check for example, amounts to 150 euros an hour - i mean, aside from hospital consultants - who gets that? And why are RTE doing a great big glossy ad for not only this company, but the many, many, often much worse and more grossly exploitative parade of often inexperienced and unaccredited "social marketeers", "consultants" and "coaches" of all descriptions. People are really getting ripped off by this kinda stuff.
Thing is you see, I spent about 8k on the Open University, and slowly, its working for me, even though I'm not finished. What shines far more on your cv than yet another get-rich-quick and believe-it-and-it-will-happen session is that 4-6 years you spent working away. I really do have an issue with the poking through peoples lives on this programme because it makes it look like these courses are good value for money. As it happens I spotted some (and I have to say - quite good) writing online from one participant, and I don't know if its really worked for him, and I can only presume that he didn't have to pay 1500-2900.
As for "start your own business" which is the mantra of many of these programmes - please please please will Fas get in and make everybody who wants to do this go through a full time one week course first? One which explains things like your personal liability, the impact on your PRSI payments (which effectively remove you from many entitlements people take for granted) and the complexity of dealing with banks etc as a self employed person? I know a lot of self employed people who have lost houses, have nearly lost houses and even one who is likely to lose a SECOND house because if things get bad, its potentially even worse than the dole. Its NOT a get rich quick route. For most people its a good way of life, but not a wealthy one.
Anyway on to the TVnow awards. What can I say? Just awful. Excruciating to watch. Embarassing. And who the fook is Anna Daly? Jean was robbed (but the frock was nice - bring a chaperone next time - it helps, believe me). Whoever edited this should never be let near a film again. I could have done better myself. Not inviting nominees was just pathetic. And the two RTE ladies who were completely hammered were painful. Less red wine next time, girls.