Surviving Thanksgiving with pro-Trump family members

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Image from Elle

I have a heavy heart following the US election result. I kind of thought this would be the outcome, but didn’t want to believe it was possible. I wanted to write something about all of this without delving into either side and read earlier today about people dreading thanksgiving with pro-Trump family members. Regardless of political loyalties, a new President is sure to bring uncertainty to Americans and this has been one of THE MOST divisive and nasty campaigns.The outcome has resulted in protests and people burning flags and effigies?! Among all of this people are scared for a variety of reasons.

So how do you get through a meal with people you love and have grown up with when they have opposing views? Surely you can’t ignore the Trump shaped elephant in the room?

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Image shared by a friend on Facebook

I know a lot of people don’t want to compare Brexit to the US election but the fact is it has bought out similar arguments and opinions TURNED UP TO ELEVEN.

Following the result of the EU referendum here in the UK I considered myself lucky to have friends who had similar opinions to me but anticipated having to fight my corner when in social situations. This came to a head when I sat down to dinner with people recently and there was one person who was particularly vocal about their opinions on the EU ref, which differed from mine. I had sat down to the meal having made the agreement that it was best if we didn’t mention it. But inevitably it came up.

This was awkward. I wasn’t in a position to lose my temper, get angry or tell the person they were being an idiot. They started off telling us their thoughts (and I am fine with political debate or discussion) but quickly they moved onto gloating about  having “won”.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered this so for a time I bit my tongue but, eventually I rose to the bait had to say something.

In response I told them about my experiences the day after the result and how the atmosphere has been at work. We were basically in mourning for the state of society. We all sat in the dark most of the day. We’d had colleagues come in and talk to us about their concerns, we’d had students talk to us about their choices and their future. It was sad knowing that for some people I knew and worked with, the EU ref result would be life changing – and not in a good way. (Of course me hearing about these things is nothing compared to what people are actually going through and I cannot begin to imagine how people are dealing with the US election result)

During that dinner I felt a renewed knot in my stomach, I felt sick, I felt sad, I felt angry. And here was this person, grinning beside us. Gloating about the outcome. How could anyone feel this great about something so sad?

Luckily my fellow dinner eater wasn’t being racist or sexist and had not mentioned immigration. They had just seemed so smug when it was clear the impact this would have on others, even if there were advantages for their agenda. Soon after I had shared my take on things the conversation topic changed. I knew the battle was not at that dinner table. Nothing would be won, lost or changed by causing a scene.

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Image taken from Buzzfeed, made me chuckle

 

This story is unremarkable and I’m not going to patronise anyone by telling them everything is going to be sunshine and roses now Trump will be in charge. I appreciate how much more heated debates will be around American dinner tables. I can’t condone biting your tongue like I did for part of the meal, but I know that in times like these sometimes that can feel like the only option.

I can’t tell you how best to deal with familiar idiots. Often there seems to be no “best way” to shut down people who have opposing view points.

But I can tell you this:

You will get through that family meal, that reunion, that party, whatever. You are not over reacting, you are not being touchy and you are entitled to feel sad about the situation.

The Students’ Union re-brand strikes again

Once again it has been a long time since I have written anything on here. Back in May I posted about how entertained I was with the latest controversy at the  students’ union here in Southampton. I say entertained however I was kind of saddened as well.

There is now a referendum being held to find out whether students want to have the name/brand reverted to SUSU instead of the new name Us. This seems to have been strategically placed to take place at the beginning of the new academic year. Students graduating from the university in July of this year probably would have voted but seeing as their alumni now somehow don’t count? But how are the new students who only arrived at the end of September more entitled to a vote in this situation?

As in my post back in May, I have been struck by the creativity behind “Southampton Onion” a group of students (I think, there is some mystery surrounding this) who are vehemently against the change and wanted the union to remain SUSU. They say that this is (among other things) due to the lack of consultation with students and the absence of any utilisation of student groups who could have contributed such as our students studying art or business. It’s hard for me to tell how sincere they are as some of the things they have been writing are border on being a bit troll-ish.

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Picture from The Onion Facebook page

Onion Southampton have created posters which have been posted around campus and a video which I must admit did make me chuckle. On the other side the SU have created posters which have been accused of being leading or skewed.

This is where student referendums (referenduh!)  are flawed. When I was studying, there was a referendum on whether we should re-affiliate with the NUS and it descended into a slanging match instead of being about accurate,  unbiased presentation of the facts. It became cliques fighting one another.

During this time, I was sad enough to change my Facebook profile picture over it, asking people to say YES to a “proper” referendum (when was the last time we had one of those?) I also had friends who were offended I refused to take a side or take part in any of the squabbling. In the end we remained separate from the NUS and I can’t say that it impacted my experience as a student…or maybe I just don’t know what I was missing.

In defense of the current sabbs who have an unenviable task ahead of them, they did inherit this mess from the previous sabbs who have been able to hand over to them. OK so I sound like a Tory using the “they inherited his” line but it is true. I wrote last time about whether the branding actually matters and I still think it is what goes on behind it that needs to be looked at. I haven’t worked with the new sabbs that much but I have already seen encouraging signs of improvement.

I also feel bad for them as again, they want the best for students and people are attacking them for a monster they didn’t create. In the face of the EU referendum result and the possibility of President Trump being a thing it’s easy to see why students are so fed up and are feeling let down and are therefore taking a stand on either side. Defending the re-brand and saying it’s too expensive to reverse, or remaining loyal to the SUSU brand in all it’s colourful glory.

I think a referendum was probably a good idea but what lies ahead for Southampton Onion if the branding remains unchanged? I feel constantly making fun of the SU won’t always work in their favour. Or maybe I’m wrong…

 

How can a flower start a conversation?

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A lovely sentiment and conversation starter from Carers in Southampton

This morning, I walked to work. It’s three miles and it takes 1 hour. This may not sound like a huge commute but I usually take the bus so getting myself up and ready on a Monday to do this deserves a pat on the back I think.

While walking through the park with a friend, we noticed people across the road with buckets of flowers. One man crossed the road to approach us. My instant internal reaction was “Please, don’t come and talk to me, It’s Monday, I haven’t had any coffee yet, I can’t be held responsible for how rudely I may dismiss you” I expected the man to approach me asking for money. Instead, he held a flower out and said “can I give you a flower for carer’s week?” immediately my heart melted.

I may have taken the flower awkwardly and practically ran away, not used to this kind of exchange, but I’m writing this now to show my appreciation because this has spurred me to start talking to people about it.

No one wants to think about having to take care of a loved one. Many of us assume that if something happened, help would be there and we hope that it will be adequate and of high quality. Through illness or old age, it’s a situation any of us could face at any time. And more often than not, families cannot afford the care needs of people closest to them.

There are people, a ‘silent army’ as Carers in Southampton put it, who look after loved ones who are unable to look after themselves. This strikes a particular chord with me as my Grandmother spent almost 2 years taking care of my Grandfather who had both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Asked only about her finances, my Nan did not get the help she wanted for them and so took care of Granddad as long as she possibly could with some help from my parents. But it was a 24/7 deal even with others around to support. There aren’t enough metaphors or similes for me to describe how incredibly strong and brave she is, nor enough flowers to show how grateful we all are to her. 

Now this may be taking a very sad turn, but this is the point. No on talks about it, no one teaches you about it in School. People don’t like talking about it. The fact I keep using “it” instead of saying caring for someone demonstrates just how tricky a topic this is. And it’s not just about elderly care! There are young people who take care of parents, there are friends that take care of friends with long term conditions. Unpaid carers step in where there is no support. And they need a support network too!

You can read more about the #valueacarer flowers in Carers in Southampton’s article here and visit their website here

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Thank you for brightening up my desk

What is in a Student Union’s brand?

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So events unfolded over the weekend which showed the beginnings of the re-brand unveiling for Southampton University Student’s Union. I’ve seen 3 iterations of the SUSU logo, that I can think of, since  2008 but I’ve never seen such a fuss over it. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t as engaged as I should have been when I was a student. Maybe it’s because I didn’t pay as much in fees so wasn’t bothered. Or maybe the reaction is because this really is a bad move?

I found it intriguing the sudden surge in reactions to the re-brand, some students saying that they weren’t consulted (despite a survey of 2,500 students being conducted) others said that art and design students should have been involved and then there was the general outrage at the amount of money the Student’s Union (SU)  paid a marketing company. But I thought to myself, why do these students choose to engage now? Why engage after all the work is done, only to slate it when it is difficult and more expensive to reverse?

I think perhaps part of the problem is that it wasn’t entirely clear where this rebrand came from or who instigated it. Was it students? Was it the sabbatical officers?  Was it someone who is no longer here? (If that’s the case, why has that been carried forward?) Was it the CEO? Is this a conspiracy to Americanise the SU? Part of the reason was apparently “susu” being Malaysian for Milk (so what?)

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Ultimately, people were always going to criticise. And as I have had to come to terms with in my role; you cannot please everyone. Students are often very good at identifying why something doesn’t work. It is often harder for some of them to talk about what they like about something. SU’s have the unenviable task of having to represent hugely diverse student populations and perhaps this was just a change too far? (They made the cat President for goodness sake!)

What I have really enjoyed witnessing is the sudden creativity that has come out of all of this with students photoshoping the new signs, creating joke re-brand tutorials and setting up parody accounts. All of this during exam season! What better way to procrastinate than to try and unite everyone in one big joke?

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But on a more serious note; a union is much more than its brand/logo. It’s what happens behind the scenes that counts. A shiny new logo does not necessarily equal shiny new policies. Does the outcry from students represent a deeper issue? And does questioning something as fundamental as the Union’s image show students have had enough with tinkering around the edges?

Interestingly I also note they have removed mention of the University in their name. I know the union is technically separate from the institution but in the 8 years I have been here I have noticed that students tend to identify most with the university as a whole as opposed to the union.

“Why should I care?!”, “You’re a bit obsessed” I hear you cry.

Well first of all, I have been having conversations with students about this as I work with Business students. But it’s mainly because I know what it’s like to work really hard on something you think students will like and then have the response not meet your expectations. Unfortunately for SUSU, Us. whatever you call them, instead of my usual experience of engagement being low/people not turning up/people not responding, they have been openly and in some cases nastily criticised for it. I know I have written in the past about students needing to be engaged but maybe people need to dial it down a notch?

Or maybe we are all being trolled?

Images in this post snapped from http://www.union-southampton.org/ 

Read more from the SU President ,the Student Newspaper , Business Management students aaaand The Tab

From personal Twitter, to professional Twitter, to niche Twitter accounts

Short people at gigs (1)

There are two things I love. Live music and Social media.

I think my love for social media/social networking may have got out of hand. I didn’t really use Twitter before this job, then I suddenly started using my personal account more, then I created one work account , then two and now three! But last night following a gig I felt compelled to create another one. Not work related, but one designed to get some engagement and solidarity going among people who are fed up of being unable to see at an event because someone is oblivious to the concept of personal space.

And thus Short people at gigs was born #shortatgigs

I apologise in advance to my tall friends, this isn’t meant to exclude or insult you. I also recognise that for some people their height may not be the reason they can’t see everything they would like to at a gig.

So to make it clear,  Short at Gigs isn’t just for people to moan about the huge guy who made it so that all you saw for most of the night was his sweaty back. (But yes do have a rant about that moron) It is also for people who want to applaud a venue for its accessibility. It’s also for people to thank the person who let them sit on their shoulders during their favorite song. Perhaps you made a friend with a fellow shorty because of your impeded view? Or you may want to thank that person who made your life a little bit easier when you went to see a band you like (shout out to the lady who helped me get water at the James gig last night!)

No one wants to be “that person” who, however politely you put it, asks someone to rethink where they have chosen to stand/stop elbowing you in the face. And lots of people turn to social media to vent. So! Share your experiences with us using #shortatgigs and follow us here

This was also partly inspired by Girls Against who you may have seen in the news recently. They fight to raise awareness of and prevent sexual assault at gigs. In contrast to the page I have set up, they are a much more serious group who are effecting real change.

So apart from that whole ‘pitch’ and request for follows, likes and retweets. I also wanted to write here about a couple of events I am looking forward to over the summer!

Great Escape Festival in Brighton This has to be my favorite festival to date. A great way to discover new music, see some bands you know and see lots of Brighton. One minute you’re in a tiny bar or pub listening to some tunes the next you’re watching a band in a ballroom! This will be the 2nd time I am going and I can’t wait!

Common People Festival in Southampton I am actually going this year! The common is a great place to get together and the line up this year looks really good. I’m only going for the day on Saturday and am sad I will miss out on Duran Duran on the Sunday!

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Side note: Thank you also to my friend and colleague Vicki who helped me tweak my hashtagging ability 🙂 You can check out her facebook page here  where there is much costume, prop and prosthetic goodness for Cosplay, LARP, LRP, Theatre, Dance, etc.

 

 

Baby’s first attempt at getting a promotion

So recently I made my first attempt at getting a promotion within the institution I work in. I have gone for roles in other places but there seemed to be more pressure attached to this one. Like I really needed to prove myself.

Having recently seen a few of my colleagues who had been here less than a year flourish and succeed in getting bigger and better things (YAAASS! SO PROUD!) I was beginning to feel a bit insecure. This is the longest I have been in a role and while I still enjoy it I have started to get itchy feet for a change of pace or scenery.

I didn’t succeed in getting the promotion and I thought it was due to a horrible interview. But no. It was because the panel didn’t think I was ready.

“BUT I AM READY!” I wanted to cry.

Unfortunately, feeling ready and having the necessary mindset to take up the challenge of a more responsible (and well paid) role are not the same thing. No matter how much I want them to be.

So although I left the interview hoping that I had only internally said “SHIT!” very loudly. And although I completely got the wrong end of the stick and thought I had messed up in terms of rapport. I think I am now in a good place to rack it up to experience or practice and look forward to things I DO have going for me, rather than dwelling on what could have been.

Looking forward

I am fortunate that my job is stable and I enjoy it so I am really grateful for that.  Instead of dwelling on not having got the new role as a failure I am planning things in and trying to think of ways to gain more of the skills that were missing from my application or interview. I made notes during my interview feedback conversation and take a lot of confidence away from that.

Onwards and upwards

 

10 reasons you should be playing board games/table top games

If there is one thing people can say I am, whether they like me or not, it’s enthusiastic. If I like something or have an interest in it I want to share it with other people. Maybe I’m simple minded or easily pleased but if I think something is good I want to spread the word! This could be something simple like a product or service or an experience somewhere.

Conversely I don’t have a hobby really, not many things hold my attention for long I never could take to playing a musical instrument, I lost touch with playing sport, I lost my passion for reading, drawing and writing and with my phone or tablet being with me at all times it’s so much easier to tap or scroll my way through really unfulfilling articles, quizzes, games etc. than commit to something worthwhile.

But one thing that has caught my attention again is board games or table-top games.

It was friends of ours that got us into gaming and they have an enviable collection of games, we haven’t been playing that long but we definitely have a crammed top section of our bookshelf dedicated to table top or board games.

I think some people avoid them as they associate them with either Monopoly which some may say is over played or Dungeons and Dragons which carries a certain image with it… (never played it, can’t judge) but I think people underestimate the intelligence it takes to play a lot of the more recent games that are out there.

So here are my 10 reasons you should be playing them!

  1. Escapism.

    You can really get into some games and the characters you take on. You can also pretend to be someone that you’re not. If you really get into it you can be so swept up in a game you forget about the world around you. It’s a nice break from thinking about all the things you need to get done. giphy

  2. Brain training!

    You’d be amazed the dedication and concentration gaming can take! I recently visited a local board game cafe with friends and we ended up spending hours there. Board games offer so much more than computer or console games- they make you genuinely think! Don’t get me wrong, I love Mario Kart as much as the next person but table top games are great for families to spend quality time togethergiphy4

  3. Learning or discovering new skills.

    A lot of modern games require skills that you never even knew you had! They can also make you question what you thought you were good at. From legitimate life skills such as communication, strategy and reasoning to more sneaky skills such as deception and bluffing! I have also used gaming at work as I have been able to help at student board game events and I have had a great time teaching students how to play the games. Lots of them finished the evening asking me where they could buy them which was really nice. I was tricked into feeling like an expert in something for once! You also find yourself justifying why you have done certain things within a game which is also a good tool when it comes to writing reflective reports or in work generally.

  4. Getting to know new people and learning new things about the people you already know.

    Staff in Board game venues are usually more than happy to talk you through a game or just play it with you. This means communicating with someone you don’t know which lets you have a little insight into what they are like – it bypasses awkward small talk. Also playing with your friends gives you insights into parts of their personality you may not have seen before. Some people may be way more competitive than you thought they were! The determination to win can be strong.Equally someone you saw as meek and mild may suddenly be an absolute menace when it comes to gaming. giphy2

  5. Getting out of your comfort zone!

    This sounds really cliche but often people are asked about a time when they have worked outside of their comfort zone or are encouraged to put themselves out of their comfort zone and gaming lets you do that if you’ve not done it before or if you’re playing a game that asks you to take on a character. You start of feeling a bit silly but then you see everyone else is doing the same and soon no one cares.

  6. It helps with language skills

    If English isn’t your native language playing games with native English speakers can be a nice way of learning informal language without it feeling like a lesson for you or a chore for the person you’re playing with. Board game venues are also a fun place to hide away from the rain.

  7. It’s cheaper than a night out!

    OK so some of the huge games can be really expensive but a few smaller card games won’t set you back much. Games are can also be seen as an investment as you can play them time and time again. It also gives you something different to do and makes for a fun and sociable night in.

  8. If you really want to, you can add an alcoholic element to them.

    I saw friends of mine had been playing snakes and ladders with shots the others night! What craziness is this?! I prefer to have a clear head though when I play games, I’m bad enough at them as it is without introducing beer goggles to the situation! Some board game venues may also have alcoholic beverages available so beer and a board game could become a thing. giphy3

  9. You could be helping someone make their design, idea or passion come true!

    It takes a lot of creativity to design a game and try to market it to people! By buying a game from Kick starter or similar you could get your hands on some of the best games at reasonable prices and be helping someone who has spent years developing something for OTHER PEOPLE’S enjoyment. One of my favorites is “Exploding Kittens” which had design input from Xbox and Marvel.

  10. You could be helping local entrepreneurs and businesses! 

    So this last point is a blatant plug and I have linked them throughout this post anyway. But if you find a local venue like Board in the City in Southampton who are using their entrepreneurial spirit and passion for games to help their local community.It feels good going and buying from some of these places as well (if they offer that service) instead of feeding the Amazon machine!

Board game cafes are places filled with some of the best people who want nothing more than to spread the board game and tabletop game love. Board in the City started off by trying to engage disaffected school kids back into the curriculum through board games which I think in itself is pretty awesome. They have now opened their own place where anyone can come and join in and see if gaming is for them and 65% of the profits go back into the community. A must visit venue if you’re down south any time soon.

Anyway. That’s enough of a sales pitch from me.

Here is my Board game “starter pack” or “gateway” games if you want to go away and find out how to get into all of this; 

  1. I started off by playing games that are based on familiar shows such as ‘Pointless’. You can’t go wrong by browsing the games section in John Lewis or Waterstones where they will stock a lot of familiar looking games.
  2. The first expensive game I bought was Zombiecide I really like 28 days later and I liked the idea of playing a cooperative game.
  3. Tabletop on Youtube was a great way for me to look into gaming further without the financial commitment. You can see a game being played out and if by the end of an episode you’re still intrigued you know it’s probably worth buying. Thanks Will Wheaton!
  4. Forbidden Planet is also a good place to look for the less mainstream games.
  5. Some simple card games I’d recommend are; Dobble (they also do a kids version), Arcadia (make your own theme park), Fluxx (where the rules never stay the same)
  6. Games that look pretty that I’d recommend are; Tokaido and Takenoko
  7. As well as Board in the city in Southampton I’d also recommend Thirsty Meepls  in Oxford – even if you can’t get to the venue itself it’s worth checking out their websites and social media channels for their favorites and recommendations.

Happy gaming!