Wrong Place, Wrong Time, or Wrong Guy?

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 22 August 2010 01:24 2 comments
The thing with being single is that you continuously convince yourself that fate will intervene at some point and you'll meet Mr Perfect. You know, your eyes will meet across a crowded room and the rest will be history; your friend will introduce you to their hot single friend and the rest will be history; your first love will build you the house you wanted and the rest will be history... Oh, wait, that's just The Notebook. You get the gist. The age-old tale of 'You'll meet someone when you're not even looking' may actually be true, but this just makes it all the more tempting to indulge in the notion that He will find us, stumble across us and declare his undying love soon after. Happily ever after, the end, etc. 

Well, I think fate is on holiday, because it's all going wrong. Last weekend, I was on holiday myself in Stockholm (stunning place by the way). Rather than being in the right place at the right time, I seem to be forever in the exact opposite. While my friend and I were enjoying our last evening in the city with dinner outside a restaurant, a guy walked straight up to us, on his own, and asked me for a 'favour'. 

This already sounded bad. He explained that he lived in Sweden but was from the States, and that he'd stupidly told his friend over there that he had a girlfriend in the city, after being mocked about not being able to get a girl. He'd lied, of course. And wanted a picture, of us together, as 'proof'. I immediately told him to take a picture of my friend instead but he said I matched the description he gave. (He even gave a description? Jeez). My friend found this all hilarious. We humoured him, he then attempted to get my number, I laughed it off, he left. He looked about 17. 

Now, had that been a Matt Damon lookalike, perhaps fate may have been on the right track (or at least around somewhere). But no, I have to get the loonies who lie to their friends and take home random photos of themselves with girls they don't know. Not cool, fate.

Then, we had the opposite; smart, funny, slightly drop-dead-gorgeous guy who was at a BBQ we went to one evening with my travel buddy's Swedish friend. I could have listened to him chatting all night. But alas, he had to go, and so did we. Plus, fate wouldn't be too clever if I met Mr Perfect in Sweden. I've done long distance but that is quite far. Wrong place, right time. 

Then there's online dating, which kind of kills fate off with a bang because you're quite actively looking and clicking away to find Mr Perfect. When you're both in the same place searching for potential dates, there's nothing but right place, right time moments. A lovely friend recently added me to My Single Friend where I attempted to do the online thing - well, my whole world is online so why not dating? But though I met a really nice guy who I wanted to meet up with, it actually wasn't the right time for me so I shied away. Right place, wrong time. 

Are people ever in the right place at the right time and find Mr Right in the process? Only, now I'm starting to wonder if it is the right time... as since I now keep thinking about said online guy, maybe fate was stepping in after all? Next time, fate, shout a little louder, will you?
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The Last Rolo

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 8 August 2010 14:03 0 comments
A boy gave me Rolos once. Well, I say ‘gave’, he slipped them into my pencil case. This is no metaphor. He put them in my pencil case and that was supposed to woo me.

Things were so simple back then. If only a man would give me a bar of chocolate (Maltesers actually, if you’re asking) today and that would be it. Yes please or no thank you, all sorted, sweet tooth and love in one swift gesture, like those adverts where she knows it’s true love because he just gave her some (actual) sugar.

Only, it’s not that simple. Because for one, I would feel a bit gutted if I turned down some free chocolate. This is possibly a great dating tip for a guy, because, men, if you’re listening – women can’t say no to chocolate. It’s just not right. The answer is always yes. Perhaps though, you could sneak it into our handbags much like…well, let’s call him X. Because then, we get to keep the chocolate either way – in fact, it can even help us to mull over our thoughts of you, with a cup of tea.

But, you see, then we might feel guilty. Like I did back then. Eleven years old and there were already mind games going on. Should I give them back, I thought. No, that would be rude. Should I eat them then, I thought. No, that’s even ruder. I was a well mannered young girl. So I left them in the pencil case and ignored the looks of my classmates who clearly knew exactly what was going on long before I did. I smuggled them home (it wasn’t sweet-day, so mum would have asked questions), and thought about it. I wasn’t one to waste chocolates, particularly Rolos. So I shared them with my sister – I thought that was fair.

But the next day at school of course I had to say something. Well. X and I ‘went out’ for two days, and then I sneaked something into his pencil case – a note, saying ‘Sorry, but I think we should just be friends. P.S. thank you for the Rolos’. Cut throat, I know. But then nowadays, what would I do? Send him a virtual pint on Facebook and say sorry, I think we should just be non-talking Facebook friends? At least it was handwritten.

Dating as a grown up is much more complicated than a note and a tube of Rolos. For a start, the men don’t just rock up to your pencil case and decide they like you; they’re harder to find in the first place and that’s just the start, before nerves, feelings and life gets in the way. They're also less sure of what they want and there's all sorts of mind-boggling going on so you never quite know where you stand. The game playing is only fun if you both get to play. At least when I was eleven the game involved me getting the last Rolo…
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The Single Scoop

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 7 August 2010 17:18 0 comments
Firstly, an introduction. Single Scoop is something that has been in the background of my virtual to-do list for some time, but it hasn’t had a name until now. After reading a brutally honest piece of writing by a good friend, I felt inspired to get started on it – and the name popped into my head. (Ironically, it’s also quite topical as I recently had an odd exchange with a waitress in Prezzo who couldn’t quite accept I only wanted one scoop of ice cream… but that’s another story).

I am quite nervous about this. Not that I have many followers right now to read it. But I’m nervous all the same. I’m hoping it won’t come across like a wittering, sad and lonely account of being single and feeling sorry for oneself – rather, I just want to share the many little (sometimes funny) stories of being single, attempting to date and relationships in general that I have been writing for years in my mind but rarely getting them onto paper.

So, it’s born… *deep breath*… the Single Scoop – the highs and lows of singledom. I really hope you enjoy it.
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Just a quickie to say I'm very pleased my review of Drop Dead Diva, Season 1 has now gone live on Screenjabber! 

I watched the entire season in one weekend... it was long, involved a lot of tea and biscuits, but was fun all the same. If you like Judging Amy, Legally Blonde and Ed, you'll like it. Go read it! 

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Unpaid Internships: Write or Wrong?

Posted by Judy Johnson On Wednesday, 4 August 2010 23:48 6 comments
I've had a bit of a bee in my bonnet the past day or so, and felt I just had to blog about that age-old topic: internships. Not in an angry way - but as someone who has been an intern and now hires interns, I felt the need to share. 

Why this week? Well, the debate surrounding unpaid internships has been floating about in the press recently - are they exploitation, are they necessary, are companies taking the mick by paying nothing but expenses... etc. All interesting questions but really, nothing new. Yesterday, however, I saw a tweet: 'Report claims unpaid internships are breaking the law'. Well, that's new. 

According to a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, anyone who works in the private sector has the right to be paid minimum wage. As Press Gazette explains:

"Employers mistakenly believe there is a ‘grey area’ around internships in the National Minimum Wage legislation and that they are allowed to take on unpaid interns so long as both sides know it is a voluntary position – but they are wrong. The law is in fact very clear and this is simply not the case.
"Under, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 anyone doing work for an organisation must be paid at least the minimum wage. This is regardless of how a job was advertised, what the job title is or whether there is a contract in place. Charities, voluntary organisations and statutory bodies are able to employ unpaid voluntary workers but private companies are not."
  
Yesterday, I also just so happened to interview a new intern for Wahanda, as we've been looking to replace one who recently left. The report even mentioned our advert (though spelt our name wrong), and included that we pay £10 a day expenses. (They left out that we accept part timers and throw in some pampering once in a while - but that's not for this post.) They kindly left out any remarks to what they thought of this but I don't imagine they were recommending it. Enter, my decision to discuss internships; not on behalf of Wahanda - these are my own thoughts - but based on my experience both there and at other media companies. 

Working for nothing?

I can see both sides. I am on and have been on both sides. The thing is - until now (and that's quite possibly because of the recession), internships have just been what you do to get the job you want. They even start you off on them at school - my first 'work experience' post was in Year 10 where I went and joined my sister at a care home for the day. In fact, I'd completed three lots of work experience before my GCSEs were up. No matter what job you think about going into, right from the early stages it is drilled into you - experience is everything. Contacts are everything. The earlier you become a tea-wielding intern, the better.

In the media, this is obviously a hot topic. Internships are like gold dust, or at least they were when I was at uni (only two years ago, thank ye very much). Lately though, with the redundancies brought about by the recession we've seen more and more 'job-like' internships come up - I've even seen some which are listed as Editorial Assistant positions, and then you see the small print: "We are unable to offer any remuneration at this time....". This is frustrating, I know. But I do feel like there's been a change of attitude toward internships because of this change in the industry - and now graduates, even A level students are expecting more, whether it's paid internships or instant paid jobs. I may be wrong - that's just an impression I get. Young writers (and I'm sure other new starters in other careers) don't seem as willing to work for free any more - even if it does get them some valuable experience. 

We've all done it

Here's my problem with that - I was an intern. We've all been interns. Even before my first internship, I was writing for a couple of websites for free, as and when I wanted to (which was a lot of the time). It just is and always has been the done thing - and it works.

I'm lucky, as I've never had a bad internship. In fact, I wasn't even chief tea-maker in any of them. I went from Inside Soap (loved it) to Wahanda (loved it) and then got hired, end of story. Inside Soap was full time, with generous expenses paid, and Wahanda was part time, with our standard £10 a day for expenses. I was happy with this - I'd graduated a few months back, was still finding my feet, was learning a hell of a lot and knew it was a start-up company. I also knew it was flexible, which was exactly what I needed. 

Freedom

Flexibility is an important point, I think; I disagree with companies who strictly write their vacancy ad to say 'This is a six month, full time internship'. That's not fair. You have to accept that your interns will want to keep applying for paid jobs while they are with you, and are logically going to accept one should they get it. 

What does this mean? It means an unpaid internship is not a ball and chain. You are doing the company a favour as much as they are doing you one (yes, they are remember - they are helping you gain valuable skills so you can become editor of Vogue later) - so if you can't make it in tomorrow because it's your mum's birthday or you want to jet off on holiday for a long weekend, you probably can. Give them the respect and give them notice, and they should respect you and understand that it's your right to do that - because they don't pay you so they don't really get a say. 

Be reliable, but not relied on

Companies also shouldn't rely on interns for their business to stay afloat, in my opinion - I have heard about one events website which is pretty much run by interns; if they didn't work for free, the site would have very little content. This is not a way to run a business, not a way to treat your interns and not something you should do for too long - if a company relies on you, do it for however long you feel is right, learn what you can and then move on to somewhere with a better structure where you'll be appreciated.

It doesn't stop there

I'm not saying you should work for free forever - or that it's always the right thing to do. But bear in mind, the people who love that career are often working for free even when they don't have to. I write this blog because I enjoy it. I still write for a few websites on an unpaid basis because I believe in them, I enjoy the work and I want to help out. The many beauty bloggers I talk to on Twitter are mostly journalists or even accountants and 9-5ers who simply love beauty and want to share it with a readership, even if they don't get a penny for their efforts. 

Obviously, the end goal is to get a job - and an internship can be the yellow brick road to your Emerald city.  Every writer at Wahanda, including me, has started out as an intern with the company - we proved ourselves, were in the right place at the right time, and now get to do what we love every day. I've also had the pleasure to work with some fantastic writers who have come along as interns, learned a lot and been a great part of the team during their time with us and then gone onto even greater things. We're always sad to see them go but also pleased that us teaching them CMS or HTML or what a fish pedicure is has helped them get a job they want somehow.

Still not convinced? Then my tips are:

1. Do it while you're studying. It may not feel like it, but if you're a student you're a hell of a lot richer than a graduate - milk that student loan and your job at the corner shop and use your spare time to do a couple of valuable internships whether they're unpaid or not. That way once you do graduate, you're in a better position to moan about still having to work for free (but still won't get much sympathy, as we've all been there before).

2. Don't just rely on set internships. Writers, the web is your oyster - there are so many websites out there that are new and lacking in funding, so they want writers to do the odd article, make their mark on the online world and give them some content. Contribute to these sites and it'll look great on your CV, while being flexible (there's that word again) and relevant, as you can pick your subject. 

3. Write a blog. When interns apply to Wahanda the first people I notice are ones who understand and use the web - and this is instantly recognisable in someone who creates and maintains a blog. It's also a great way to get your writing style up to scratch and in the public eye. 

If you want to get into journalism, don't expect too much and if you are able to, then do a couple of internships. They will make your CV stand out, teach you more than you'll ever learn at uni and will get you some useful contacts along the way. Know your limits, know your rights, but most of all, enjoy it - in some ways, it'll be one of the best parts of your career.

That's my rant over - would love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with unpaid work experience?
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Book Review: The Wedding, Nicholas Sparks

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 1 August 2010 20:53 0 comments
I'm a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks. The writer of many a romantic novel, including Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe and most famously The Notebook and Dear John, his words are so beautiful that reading any of his books fills you with appreciation for that little thing called love. Soppy, I know.

Granted, I appreciated it a lot more when I wasn't single; and since being single I find it difficult, perhaps impossible, to watch or read The Notebook. I haven't seen it in over two years. But it's still one of my favourite films, and books, of all time. Unlike many other novel-to-screen adaptations, I think all the films that I have seen so far have lived up to the books' fantastic standards - particularly The Notebook (helped by the breathtaking beauty and talent of Rachel McAdams and her handsome co-star, Ryan Gosling).

But, back to the books. My mum and I both love Sparks and I make a point of buying her one for each birthday now, which I then borrow and read after she has. The latest we've read is The Wedding, which is as melancholy and wistful as all the others, but in a different way. Instead of moving with the characters as they fall in love, struggle through tough times and end with (often sad) moving love stories, this book is a little backward and all the more enjoyable for it. 

The Wedding is the sequel to The Notebook; the lead character is married to Allie and Noah's daughter, Jane. After a long marriage, things have gone stale, and Wilson could not be less like the sentimental and romantic nature of his father-in-law. The story follows Wilson as he tries to win back his wife's heart by learning to be a little more like Jane's doting father in time for their thirtieth wedding anniversary. 

If you've ever been in a relationship that has lost its sparkle, then you'll relate to this book. At first this makes it hard to read; Wilson is clear about what has changed between he and his wife, what their marriage has become. His doubts over her love for him are sad and as a reader we worry that all his efforts will be in vain, but slowly we see glimpses of hope. 

I won't spoil it by going into too much detail; instead I will say that though the book is about a man who claims to know nothing about romance, it is one of the greatest stories of affection I've read and definitely brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion (including one rather embarrassing moment on the train home - that'll teach me to read on pubic transport). I can already see this book as a film - Sparks' description is so elaborate that you really feel like you are there, and the notorious house from The Notebook is featured which makes it even easier to imagine. Never has a sequel been so perfect.

Have you read it? What romance authors do you swear by?

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