Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Raiding my mum's music collection and bopping along to 'I'm still standing'

Iz back.

Dudes. Oh dudes. Where do I begin? I would apologise but that seems odd, as I doubt me keeping a blog up-to-date really has a massive bearing on people’s lives/ dire, doom mongering implications/ CONSEQUENCES FOR THE WHOLE UNIVERSE, so actually I’m sorry for me that I’ve had to let my ‘appymum’ project slide a bit, but I doubt there’s cause to be sorry for you.

So what have I been doing? Tis a long story:

The proverbial shit has well and truly hit the fan in relation to finances now I’m on my unpaid maternity leave and we really have no one to blame but ourselves. I prided myself in my early twenties (in the dark old days when we were a starving student family in Manchester with, our then, one child in tow) on making a £20 pound note stretch for the entire week and I’m not kidding. ‘Aldi’ was my favourite haunt for everything, from groceries, to skincare and even Christmas presents for the extended family. I was the budgeting, thrifty queen of awesomeness. As we both eventually grew up and settled down a bit and finally started drawing two salaries into the household, we became a bit complacent and set in our ways in regards to some things, food shopping definitely being one of them. Working for the company I do I get discount at a high-end national supermarket and good god do I make the most of this discount. It doesn’t help that my nearest branch is a ten minute stroll away. So rather than take the 30 minute schlep up to our nearest ‘Iceland’, when we knew money would eventually become a bit tight, we opted for the fancy pants, convenient option and in doing so we’ve probably wasted hundreds that we could have saved. Although my discount takes our food-shop down to a more reasonable ‘Tesco’ level of food-shop, it is certainly not ‘Iceland’- ‘Lidl’ combo food-shop! I’ve obviously become a bit of a food-shop snob and I need a slap round the chops pronto. Now we’re on the thin end of my unpaid maternity leave I’ve suddenly come to my senses and remember the savings way of yore, I only wish I’d realised sooner as I’d have a nice cushion of cash to tide me over rather than biting my nails with fear each time a new bill hits the doormat. I think we’ve been playing ostrich like, with our head in the sand, but no more.

Our big, looming issue is we have to move come September and so far have no deposit saved to do it. Crap.

So, what have I been doing to rectify the situation? Well I’ve certainly not been sat on my arse just hoping and praying everything somehow rectifies itself. In case you hadn’t noticed I’ve been desperately trying to get a new job since January! I couldn’t even guess at how many applications I’ve sent out over the past five months, out of these the only interviews I’ve had have either been internal or set up through friends of friends. I cannot lie, the fact I haven’t been offered any positions after interview has left me feeling completely dejected and flat, but I’m still trying, I have to. It is seriously hard to put on your happy face when you’re met by constant brick walls and silence, it grinds you down.

But at least, no matter how much it makes me weep at the thought of it, I have a job to go back to at the start of July. It might just be my old 14 hours a week, stand at a till/ phone/computer and be shouted at because someone can’t get a refund on a paperclip, position but it will help us save towards the move. If it’s the choice between that and being homeless I’m obviously going to have to invest in some discreet earplugs.

It’s not all doom and gloom though peeps!  I’ve started doing some freelance work for a fab parenting site called http://www.parentpages.co.uk. After we’ve moved, if as is very likely I’m still in my current job I think I will be moving on concentrating on this project and seeing what other freelancing projects I can secure. This will also mean I will have time to finish my degree with the OU and will have time to give the ‘Appymum’ project the full attention it deserves. Most importantly I’ll be there for the boys. I’ve always said for the right job I would work full-time, but I’m not happy to do so if it makes me thoroughly miserable. Particularly if financially we’re no better off due to the cost of childcare whilst the boys are very small.

Lots to consider and mull over, but I’m sure come September things will work out…. Or we’re crashing over at yours, okay?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I just came to say 'Hello' by Dragonette

Hello blog.

I know, I know. Don't look at me like that. I'm sorry you've been sorely neglected. You are the very bottom of my priorities at the moment I'm sad to report. The world has gotten awkward. Children have been needing attention and I have been searching desperately to find something that pays, so it's all been rather distracting.

I had an assessment for an internal position and it was absolutely terrifying to see just how competitive the job market has become for even administration roles. They had over 200+ applicants that were whittled down to us final 12, the chosen ones from so many. GULP. And my god was the standard of candidate high. I didn't think I had a chance. We were assessed on group work, presentation, numeracy, literal reasoning and even handwriting! I was gob-smacked at the depth they had to delve to, to even get considered for interview stage, which thankfully, I have gotten to. Hurrah! We'll see how that goes, I'll do my very best to try and come across as intelligent, articulate and capable, rather than a quivering mess. It's all I can do.

Also hurtling towards me like a car crash (ha ha) is my impending practical driving test. I'm not freaking out about this remotely yet which is surprising, but it is taking up a fair bit of my free time and head space in preparation. I can't believe I might potentially be driving, on my own, in a car, controlling the bloody thing soon. For someone whose been driven around for the past nearly 30 years that's just a mental concept to get my head around! Actually being able to afford to run and own a car, now there's a separate matter...

IN APPY NEWS: Draw something. OH MY GOD DRAW SOMETHING. I'm hooked like every other 7 billion people on the planet. It is literally sucking the life and soul out of me. I do this though, I absolutely binge on an App for a week or so and then quickly get bored until I find the next great addiction. Please remind me to put Draw Something down and put some effort into coding again people, okay?

That is all, the big boy is killing 'Iron man' on the Wii (or something like that) and the two little ones are dozing, it's a rare opportunity to grab some lunch in peace!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Having a moan along to 'Creep' by Radiohead

The lament of mothers everywhere: Suffering from a complete and utter lack of TIME.

I cannot believe how insanely busy I've been recently. I've barely had a moment this week where I've just got to sit still and breathe let alone attempt to get some coding practice in. Every spare minute isn't spent merely multi-tasking, oh no. it's spent attempting to be super woman/ mother/ mentalist by combining activities that shouldn't really be combined. I had to call my mother FROM THE LOO (sorry mum) whilst simultaneously attempting an urgent bank transfer on the laptop, whilst I could hear Reuben kicking off downstairs and the baby wailing his head off in the cot. That's just how busy I've been. Having to call people FROM THE LOO (I have to capitalise it just to emphasise the wrongness). It's just been impossible to get anything I want to do, done. This small boy herding gig can be hard sometimes.

Ed's had a lot of social engagements recently, so the time I'd normally spend getting a bit of headspace to myself has been negligible this week. I think that's why when I convinced him to take the boys to the CO-OP round the corner this afternoon so I could have a little lie down, it turned into a three hour sleep marathon. Did not mean to do that. I feel a strange combination of groggy and wired as a result. 

In promising developments: I have a job interview on the horizon and my practical driving test is booked. Freedom? bring it.    

This week I swear I will not be calling anyone FROM THE LOO.     

Monday, 19 March 2012

Crashing into 'Another brick in the wall' by Pink Floyd

Hello wall.

SMACK. That's me, crashing to a massive halt. This is a big old big brick wall in my way this time, a huge insurmountable wall that makes all my previous technical difficulties look like a sunny summer day in the Surrey countryside. Let this be a salutary lesson to you all, do your research before flinging yourself head-first into things. I had been going through this Mac refurbishment process on a step by step basis. I would follow the next logical stage of the process without giving much thought to what could possibly be coming next.

Turns out I have upgraded the Macbook as far as it will go. To run Xcode (The software developers kit that Apple provide you with to develop Apps) you need to have OS Lion installed. To run Lion, you need an Intel core 2 duo processor. I only have an Intel core duo. Turns out that little 2 is very important! This basically means I cannot develop Apple Apps on the piece of crap Macbook as a processor isn't something that's easily upgradable without a handy soldering iron. DOOOOOOOOOM. The end of days. Very sad times.

I was very sulky and despondent about this on Saturday, just where do I go from here? After sleeping on it I reaslised the answer was staring me in the face, or at least keeping my lap very warm. My Acer netbook, my gloriously named 'Aspire one Happy' (and it does keep me happy, it's orange) as well as running Windows, also can operate on an Android platform. Why don't I attempt to build an Android App initially instead? After doing some tentative research I've found Android Apps are built with Java, a programming language I have a basic acquaintance with, AND I will still be able to utilise the piece of crap Mac for the job in meantime as it will run an Android software developers kit quite happily. Hurrah. And why don't I treat myself to a better spec Mac when I eventually have more capital and then build the iPhone App?

So in summary: All is not lost, the Appymum project is still go, go, go. It will initially just be on a different platform that was originally envisaged. Secondly, if I want a better spec Mac (and that all essential thing to function in a capitalist society. I think its called money)  got to gets me back to work ASAP. Whether this will be for my current employers or not remains to be determined...



Thursday, 15 March 2012

RAWHING along to "WAR, what is it good for?"

Wow. What a fortnight

I’m so sorry this hasn't been kept up-to-date. I’ve been collapsing with exhaustion any spare minute I’ve had these past 12 days, it’s been absolutely mental!

My time spent not blogging has instead involved (as well as the usual small boy herding): 5 slogs up to Central London, a visit to the Royal Opera house, lots of lovely meals out and coffees with friends, a fabulous free day out at Legoland Windsor and battling with my piece of crap Mac. Good god have I been at war with my piece of crap Mac. But it’s all fine now, we are friends again. I ordered the upgrade of the operating system as I realised Tiger couldn’t run the Mac App store, and I need the Mac App store to download the applications I need to develop. Doh. I am thrilled with just how cheap as chips Mac’s OS’s are in comparison to Windows by the way, but I suppose if you charge a hefty premium for the hardware, SOMETHING has to be cheaper. The OS Snow Leopard disk arrived and I was super happy until I realised I did not have the required RAM. ARGHH. My Mac was running at 512mb and I needed at least 2GB worth of memory and I wasn’t sure my piece of crap Mac was going to be able to cope with 2GB, It might burn out with that kind of memory! Nevertheless, I thought I’d risk it and ordered myself a twin set of 1GB memory modules. This is normally the point I cry “DAAAAAAAAAD” down the phone and get my father to come over to sort the hardware out for me, but that was going to be problematic as he lives near Walsall. I live in South London. That’s a big old distance. I decided, what the hell, unless I can upgrade the RAM, the Mac will be pretty useless to me, so I might as well try to swap the memory modules myself and not freak out whether or not I was going to break it.

When the memory modules arrived I looked up exactly how the hell one goes around changing memory modules. It can’t be too complicated right? Right?! My first challenge was getting into the correct compartment which proved to be a total ballache. Apple are very helpful with their online ‘how-to’ guides, but they didn’t factor in my limited equipment of a dinner knife and a magic screwdriver. Both of which proved useless. Getting the battery out to get to the correct compartment was easy enough, what was impossible was trying to get the L bracket off that sealed the compartment.  I lamented this fact down the phone to Eddie who suggested I use the screwdriver out of his spectacle repair kit which worked perfectly, thank god for marrying a dude in glasses. Then it was just a simple matter of switching them memory modules over. The old ones slipped out easily enough, but getting the new ones to install was a complete mission. It took ten attempts to get the Mac to recognise them, but recognise them it eventually did once I started to get impatient and jammed them in there REALLY HARD. I’m learning that’s the trick with my Mac, it likes a bit of rough.

Finally with the new RAM capacity in place, getting Snow Leopard to install should be an absolute piece of cake right? Wrong. That took about 4 days, 4 DAYS to get the bloody machine to accept the new operating system. Tears were shed, tantrums were thrown and that was just the Mac. In the end it turned out the PRAM needed resetting… No I’m not entirely sure what this is either, but as of yesterday, I’m FINALLY all good to go. Watch this space! 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Waking with good intentions to 'Heaven' by Emeli Sande

Open to suggestions! I’m very suggestible.

I’m currently working on my top ten list of all-time favourite iPhone Apps, but I want to see what recommendations you guys have. Please feel free to send your suggestions my way either via comments, twitter or facebook. It’s all very much welcomed.

I’m having a little wobble at the moment, nothing too serious or dramatic (or remotely App related – although an App that helps you when having a ‘bit of a wobble’, a cup of tea of Apps if you will, now there’s an idea) it’s more of a confidence wobble in how I’m presenting myself professionally, what am I missing in comparison to others?  I’m normally a fairly laidback individual when you disregard the constant, overarching need for a project that’s going to drive me INSANE, but it is hard to see others (using others in the generic sense, not one individual) continually get something that you really wanted. I keep getting bypassed and I don’t know why, I am never given a reason why. I’d like to think I’m a magnanimous individual and I genuinely derive joy from other people’s pleasure, but to be slightly envious is to be human I guess, and I’m very much that. I have no idea why I get so worked up about the whole job situation other than the obvious financial issues. I’d hazard a guess and say it’s probably status related. Stay at home mothers and ones with part-time jobs are sent very confusing messages by the media (I need to learn to ignore the ‘Daily Mail’, I KNOW). Society tells you this is the most important role of your life but it’s NOT ENOUGH to just bring up children into functional, competent, pleasant adults any more. You’re expected to be CEO of a FTSE 100 company as well. How did we come to this?!


Appymum project: All systems are go go go! I have now set myself up a computer work station that consists of the Macbook, the monitor and my Acer netbook. I’ve taken over the kitchen table with a veritable spaghetti junction of leads and cables, so I have a feeling I may have to relocate to the bedroom to a) keep the equipment away from the curious fingers of the children and b) not piss anyone else off (We share our house with Ed’s very tolerant brother who already puts up with a tremendous amount of mess and junk from us, I feel terrible adding to it!). But even if I do relocate upstairs it doesn’t matter, as point is, I can now get this show well and truly rolling. After Kam’s ballet class on Saturday, I’m starting my steep learning curve that will be ‘Objective C’, I promise to keep this blog updated every torturous step of the way, hell, then we can all be App developers! Wouldn’t that be nice? You could all suffer with me! 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Singing along very, very badly to 'Survivor' by Destiny's Child.

Just to get one thing out of the way and clear:

My 7 year old son does ballet. People occasionally look at me a bit oddly and sideways when I reveal this fact, but I’ll sum up the reasons why:

1) He enjoys it.

2) He really enjoys it.


Now that’s out of the way, I was chatting with some of the other ballet parents today (who I love by the way, they’re a hilarious bunch of genuinely interesting people) about working a low wage shop job and how government support for families like mine is rapidly shrinking. Therefore I’m slightly green with envy at some of their fabulous sounding careers and pay packets. But I can see why they are comparatively further on in their careers despite the age gap not being massively huge. It’s all down to timing i.e., not graduating in an economic downturn and the different paths we choose.     

Initially I wanted to be a performer (actually, initially I wanted to be an archaeologist, but when I realised it was less ‘Indiana Jones’ and more ‘Time Team’ my interest quickly waned). Miraculously I was accepted to one of the country’s top stage schools, ‘Italia Conti’, at the age of 17. I think I must have pulled out a very convincing, totally fluky audition that day as this is an institution rammed full of some very good looking, super talented people who ooze charisma, charm and confidence like it’s carbon dioxide. People like me: ginger, geeky, stammery, odd, likes hiding behind their own hands and rarely answers the telephone to strangers through sheer fear were very few and far between.

I found the ambition and drive of some of the other students very, very full-on scary.  But that’s how driven you have to be in the entertainments industry. In my late teens, my idea of being ‘driven’ was in the back of my Dad’s car. It’s not that I didn’t want to work for it and I was lazy, it was that I was too frightened to truly go for it. Fear has always been my bitterest and oldest enemy.  I lacked ambition and definitive direction through fear of saying what I wanted and being ridiculed for it. If I can pass just one thing onto my kids it would be this: Fear is a part of life, but do not let it control you or it will stop you, learn to control it.
I knew that performing wasn’t right for me when I realised I just did not have it in my bones and blood like some of the other kids, it did not motivate me out of bed, it was not my reason for getting up in the day. It dragged me half-heartedly and blearily eyed into the dance studio the majority of the mornings but I knew once I graduated I wasn’t passionate enough or competitive enough to push through the constant rejection that is a career in the performing arts, although I refused to see this at the time despite it staring me in the face in the mirror every morning for three years. More to the point, I was just not, for a myriad of reasons, mentally resilient enough for it. I felt like I was going to die on the spot if I didn’t get to do it for a career, but that’s more because I just didn’t know what else to do, life felt huge, overwhelming and terrifying. I was PARALYZED BY FEAR at this very thought.

Not long after graduating Conti’s and with frightening speed, myself and Ed found we were expecting a baby. This changed my total life outlook. It was like a weird overnight transformation. Once I became a mother I was willing to push myself academically, professionally and personally in a way that I just wasn’t able to before, the fear didn’t go away, but I learnt to deal with it. I had to. Nothing is as scary as a responsibility for a tiny, helpless person. In comparison to that, I can do anything. I turned into some kind of ‘must achieve, must achieve MUST ACHIEVE!’ obsessive. I don’t want to be written off, underestimated, patronised and belittled purely because I have reproduced another human being and did so relatively young. I wanted to get a decently waged job and provide for my family and the obvious route to get one, at the time, appeared to be University. My Conti’s diploma just wasn't going to cut it as proof that I was academically competent apparently! So I put myself through an access course coupled with a minimum wage job to get myself to University. Once there, as well as the standard Uni workload I also had to work 20 hours a week, again in a variety of minimum wage jobs to support our basic financial needs, like eating. The overall goal was to finally have a graduate level job.

Now I’ve had to scale back my ambitions, which I have spent the last decade being doggedly determined and persistent in my pursuit of, now I’d be happy for a modest paying, 9-5 job, that doesn’t involve being yelled at by randomers and I am still not there yet!  

I’m starting to think, career ambition. Meh. Can’t we all just go live on a commune? When the nuclear Armageddon happens that’s what will happen anyway right?   

I suppose this is what is driving me to create an iPhone App from scratch, the inability to get a decently paid career in this current economic climate. I think the fact I went to a stage school and also that my degree was in Chinese suggest something else too: I’m always driven to do something a little bit different.

I’m not frightened of failure any more, I have failed repeatedly, spectacularly with many, many things and NOTHING has killed me yet. I’ve made myself look a fool, stuck my neck on the chopping block and lived with the results of my decisions. While the career might not be there, everything else is. I have a cracking family of boys, therefore life is pretty damn great. I’m grateful.  So there. IN YOUR FACE FAIL FEAR.