It’s A Jungle Out There

Towards the end of last year I made the decision, one that some have described as “bold”, to quit my day job and pursue my writing dream, in an effort to forge the type of career I have wanted for a long time.  It’s a risk I’ve never taken before! It’s different! It’s exciting! Or is it…?

Yesterday it dawned on me just how overwhelming job hunting can be, and as a result – against my initial plan – it was pretty much an unproductive day, which really disappointed me to be honest.  In my head I had a plan of action: I was going to apply to agencies through the internet and via phone calls.  I was going to search the media sites for current vacancies and apply for relevant posts, and I was going to write and publish a blog post.  But for some reason I just couldn’t focus on one thing.  I would start the agency search online, then spot a vacancy and so open up my email to apply, but draw a blank on the cover letter, so search through previously sent emails for an idea of what to write, then spot a new job alert in my inbox, open that up, go to that website, then search through the current vacancies there, completely forgetting what I was supposed to be doing initially.  Throw in the Twitter and Facebook queries for ideas that popped into my head, and it was just a lost cause!

Today I made a list of exactly what I wanted to achieve: 

1. Contact at least five agencies

2. Make a list of companies to target

3. Publish a blog post  (which is all a part of my writing intentions)

4. Think about possible proposal

I’m not sure that recruitment agencies realise how detached it feels as a potential candidate to be told to check their websites and apply through there.  What happened to the days of calling, applying and then being invited to the office for an interview/induction?  As much as the worldwide web has been a blessing, in a way it has also made things become very lazy.  Part of me wouldn’t mind actually printing off copies of my CV and approaching the offices to hand them out in person.

Regardless of that, I am happy to say that I have ticked three things off that list so far.  But I started this morning, and it is currently 6:43pm.  Job hunting is seriously a job in itself, except I receive no sort of pay at the end of the day, no praise for my efforts, no bonus, and the only benefit is if I am fortunate enough to receive a positive response that is not a standard ‘donotreply@’ email from a company or agency you have applied to (and at this time of going to ‘press’ this has not been the case).  This is hard work!  And tomorrow I will be starting the cycle all over again.  Who wants to come for after (no) work drinks with me?

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Who Remembers: Smash Hits!

Wow wow wow!  I can only smile when I think about this magazine.  It played such a huge part in my life – my magazine obsession started with this very publication.  My interest in the music and media industry was definitely ignited by my love for the magazine.

The first issue of Smash Hits was published in September 1978 as a monthy mag, but due to its immediate popularity it became fortnightly.  I would only have been nine months old when it first came out, so I didn’t start reading it until about 1987, or thereabouts.  I was definitely in primary school – that much I know.  At the time it was just 50 pence, and this is going to sound crazy, but because of Smash Hits, 50p became my favourite coin!  Every time I received a 50p coin in my pocket money or as part of change from the shop, I would keep it (even if it was my parents’ money) knowing full well I’d be ready for the next issue.  Then it increased to 52p, 55p, 60p, and by the time I had stopped collecting it, the price was 75p.  Which worthwhile music mag could you buy now for that price??

The first ever issue of Smash Hits, September 1978

One of the best things about the magazine was the fact that they printed the lyrics to the popular songs in the charts.  My most anticipated issue was the one that featured the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.  My copy became so tatty, because I took it everywhere with me and revised it as though I was about to take an exam – saddo!  I also loved the language they used to speak to readers, and questions posed to interviewees weren’t your usual standard, run-of-the-mill questions, but were always rather quirky.  I also liked the way they slyly took the piss out of the artists and celebs.  For example the members of the boyband Bros were called Matt, Luke and Craig, but Smash Hits referred to them as Matt, Luke and Ken, because poor Craig was the one no one knew or fancied!  AND – every issue contained pull-out posters of your fave stars!  (If you only knew how many New Kids on the Block posters I managed to collect).  Smash Hits was a must for music lovers in the UK at the time. 

If you were a fan of this mag you would know that the two most highly anticipated occasions in the year were The Smash Hits Yearbook, which was a look back at the features through the year, as well as new special end of year interviews, etc, and the fantastic Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.  Maaaan did I love that show!  It was shown on BBC1, usually hosted by Philip Schofield, and was an award show where the winners were voted for by the readers.  They would have the usual categories – Best Male Singer, Best Group etc, but also alternative categories, such as Most Very Horrible Thing, and Most Fanciable Female.  All the most popular would feature, and I always looked forward to seeing New Kids on the Block, because I loved them so…

Madonna with her Smash Hits Poll Winners award in 1991

The last issue of Smash Hits was published on 13 February 2006 as sales had declined and teenagers were turning to that bittersweet medium we know as the internet for their music and entertainment fix.  I don’t actually remember when I stopped collecting the mag, but I do know that by the time we had moved out of my childhood home I had accumulated boxes upon boxes of of issues, and it was VERY hard for me to let go.  The Smash Hits brand still continues in the form of the music channel, digital radio station and website, but none of those will ever top its 80s/90s heyday for me.

The last ever issue of Smash Hits, Feb 2006

The Family and My Family

Due to my recent trip abroad, I missed the last three episodes of Channel 4’s series ‘The Family’ when they were broadcast.  But thanks to good ole Sky+, I watched them last night with my own family.

Seeing the issues that big sister Julie seems to have with her parents, ignited debate among my youngest brother, my mother and me, in an old school versus the new school sort of way.

AFFECTION FROM PARENTS:  Julie wishes that her father Sunday showed his love to them more, giving cuddles and being her friend as well as her parent.  She also thinks her mum finds it too easy to point out the negative things about her and never praises her

I think Julie needs to realise that African parents – especially the dads – are almost nothing like those who were born and raised here in the UK.  The cultures are very different.  The men are very proud, almost to a fault, but that’s just how it is.  In one scene on the show, Julie tells her mother that she nor her father have ever given her a pat on the back or encouraged her in any positive way, but can rather count numerous times when she’s been told she’s not doing well, no matter how hard she tries.  I can understand what Julie is saying to a point, because when I was young I felt the same way about my own dad.  I didn’t think he ever had a good word to say about me, I didn’t think he was ever proud of me, and I even felt at one point that he rather wished that my cousin was his daughter, because I’m pretty sure he frowned when speaking to me, but smiled when speaking to her.  My mum says that my dad has never really been the affectionate sort, and that stems from his own childhood issues, but it has never meant that he doesn’t loves us, and I agree, because we have never been mistreated, and there were a lot of nice things he did for us.  He was just never an outright “I love you” type.  I was 20 when I remember receiving my first proper hug from my dad, and ask my bro, I was talking about it for ages after.  My mum says that she tried to show us affection when we were younger, but we’d tell her not to because we were embarrassed!  That may well have been the case (I don’t remember) but in my defence I’d say that maybe she tried it a bit later when we noticed and felt a little conscious.  Maybe.

Julie Adesina

TAKING AN INTEREST IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE:  Julie complained on the show that her parents sent her younger sister Ola to boarding school, and that while she was at home for the summer they never really sat down with her to find out what was going on in her life at school or otherwise

I argued that a lot of African parents (from my parents’ generation) don’t really acknowledge that their children are actually people, and my brother agreed.  Of course my mum disagreed.  By ‘people’ I mean that we have feelings, issues and experiences that go further than education and housework.  Many parents don’t really try and find out what their children are up to, what their interests are, etc, and many times if it doesn’t lead to a profession in Medicine, Law or Business, it is dismissed as a waste of time.  My dad is an accountant, and until recent years, was pretty much in denial about my interest in the media.  He wanted me to go to university to study Political Science.  I don’t know what the hell that is!  Either that or become an accountant like himself, or an architect.  He even chose my GCSE subjects for me.  I think that was also another reason I felt he would rather have had my cousin as his daughter – she followed in her father’s professional footsteps.  My dad has now accepted what I would like to do in life, because I guess he can now see how broad the media industry is.  I know it’s not completely their fault, it’s just they way they know, and things were different for them back home.

I spent the first few episodes of this series of ‘The Family’ screaming and tweeting about how crazy and full of issues I thought Julie was.  She still needs to watch how she speaks to people, especially her parents, but I also rate her for at least trying to express herself and get through to them.  Her argumentative methods are a bit much, but really all she craves is a loving family environment.  To African parents, children will always be children, regardless of whether they are eight or 80, and they will always know better.  I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times my mum has said to me, “Oh you’re a child, you don’t understand” – even now!  Please don’t misunderstand me though, my family get on absolutely fine, we laugh a lot, we all love and care for each other, and I wouldn’t change anything about my upbringing.  It’s just a case of the two generations meeting in the middle and learning from each other, because as my brother said to my mum, we didn’t ask to be born here, so we can’t help that some things are not being done the way they would “back home.”  It was nice to see that Julie’s mum is slowly coming to this realisation too.

Domestic Bliss

Unfortunately my holiday in Ghana will be coming to an end in two days time, and I’m not yet ready to leave the heat, the beaches, and the general vibe of just chilling.  One of the things I really am going to miss though is not having to clean up after myself! 

I’m very fortunate in how I am able to live when I’m over here.  My dad lives here, and though he isn’t necessarily rich, he had a very good job before retiring, which afforded him the luxury of a house, car, security guards, domestic help and household allowances.  So in that time he obviously became accustomed to that standard of living, and took a few of those aspects with him to his own house he had built, which he currently lives in.  He is also currently having a 6-bedroom house built in his home town of Mamfe, and when I went to visit the site all I could think was that this so-called house looked more like an entertainment venue!

The House That Dad Built (so far anyway)

Some people who have no real idea of Africa, for whatever reason, probably think that when you come here you either live in a shack made of sticks, live in the jungle, or live among lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) who cross your path as you take a stroll around your compound, like they did in ‘Zamunda’.  I can assure you that isn’t the case.  The quality of life that you would be able to afford yourself, coming from the UK or from the Western world in general, is very good.  In our house we have a everything you need to live comfortably;  running water, air-con, a generator for when the government’s useless power supply instruments cut out unnecessarily, wireless internet connection (which is what I’m using to speak to you right now) and even house help – a houseboy and a cook. 

It is very normal to have a houseboy/girl, and contrary to popular belief, they are not always mistreated.  I actually sometimes find it hard to let them do things for me, because I know that if I was at home (in London) there’s no way that would be happening!  Plus there’s no way I would be rude or treat them like they are beneath me, because the next thing you know I’ll be wondering what this slimy substance is in my food…

Quite often, being the houseboy or housegirl comes with the opportunity to go to school or learn a new skill or trade, as their families are usually poor and can not afford to send them.  The boy we have here will be taught how to drive, which is a skill he really wants to learn.  He’s extremely helpful and my dad is constantly describing him as “a very good boy.”  I blame him and the cook for my needing to knuckle down on the weight loss when I return to London.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!   

So now I have two days left in which I can eat and not wash my plate, not clean my room, not hail a taxi myself, and not be sent to the shop inconveniently.

This, indeed, is  the life.

What Would You Call Your Shop?

A short light-hearted post for you today, and I swear it’s real…

Ghana is a very God-fearing country.  The two main religions practised here are Christianity (in whichever form) and Islam, and I don’t think I have ever met a Ghanaian who doesn’t believe in God.  So much so that I want to share some of the shop names and businesses I have seen in Accra, in case you don’t believe me.  And I kid you not:

God’s Way Electrical Goods

All Shall Pass Kitchen

All For Christ Academy

Blessed Hope Agency

Time Will Tell Fashions & Boutique

With God Anything Is Possible Fashions

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to take my own photos of some of them, because I’ve always been in a car and gone past too quickly, but I promise I will try to before I leave.  In the meantime I found these online for you to have a look at..

Grafting in Ghana

Right now I am writing this post while sitting on a beach in Prampram, Accra, Ghana.  I have been in Ghana for just over four weeks now.  I came here to rest, think, plan and of course see my family.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much my body has appreciated the copious amounts of Vitamin D it has been receiving over the last few weeks, and the chance to just to absolutely nothing I don’t want to.

To my right there are a few children playing in the sand, or so I thought until my cousin just informed us that they are actually trying to do back-flips and acrobatics (not very well) in order to impress us, so that we then give them some money for their efforts.  This has got me thinking about the work ethic in Ghana (or shall I say “in Ghana here” as so many do, which I find really funny), especially of the poorer people.  They are actual grafters.  If they don’t make money, they won’t eat, it’s as simple as that. 

If you take a car journey to the middle of town, while sat in traffic you will be bombarded by street sellers flogging the most random items you could think of.  So far I have been offered chewing gum, sweets, flip-flops, water, crisps, lamps, plug extension leads, flags, jewellery, fruits, toys, mobile phone top-up vouchers – the list is actually endless!  And when you couple that with the fact that they are out non-stop in 90-degree heat, you really have to respect their hustle.  Could you do it?  Even if they aren’t weaving their way through the traffic, they will have tables set up on the side of the road, displaying items for sale that you may conveniently need. 

Another thing I have noticed is that little job opportunities are created where it wouldn’t really occur to those of us in the UK.  For example, when you visit a petrol station in the UK, the driver has to get out of their own car and fill their own tank, then take themselves to the shop to pay.  Over here the most you will do is stretch your arm.  There are already assistants who will fill your tank with your desired amount of fuel, and take the money from you. 

The public transport system as another example.  The local bus is known as a ‘Tro Tro’, which is basically a mini-van that transports up to 20 passengers through town.  Not only is there a driver, but also a driver’s mate who shouts and waves at the public, encouraging them to come on board.  Can you imagine this in London??

There are certain people in the UK who could really benefit from coming to a country like Ghana to see exactly what hard work is, and those people are the ones who sit on their arses all day, living off benefits through sheer laziness, all the while complaining that “they’re coming over here and taking our jobs.”  In fact, BBC3 should commission an adult version of ‘The World’s Strictest Parents’ where they get lazy bastards to go and work in other countries, and then try and come back and say they have it hard in the UK.   Those who are “taking all the jobs” are doing work that you wouldn’t even dream of, because they know the value of hard work, how important it is, and almost always have a plan, so it’s a means to an end.  I, myself, feel a little guilt when I think of how I complain about working in a boring office, doing boring admin jobs, when realistically I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to cope with half the tasks people here have to undertake.

I think the words of a young man I met trying to sell CDs in New York City’s Times Square in 2009 are perfect here:

“We grind till we shine, so we can ball till we fall”.