The School of Life

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 22 May 2011 17:37 1 comments
I was one of the hard workers at school. I was in top set for everything, I didn’t get anything below an A for any of my GCSEs, and I always got my homework in on time. Great, you might think. I must be really smart thanks to all those years of learning. Hey, I even have a degree – I must be super clever, right?

Well, wrong. I don’t feel smart. Because no matter what grades you get at school, they neglect to teach you about the fundamental things you will have to deal with in later life. In school we are repeatedly taught about osmosis. Henry VIII. Trigonometry. Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t needed to work out the lengths of the sides of triangles since, ooh, year eleven, and while Henry VIII had a fascinating life that I’m sure could inspire a great horror movie, he has not helped me to understand how the country works and how to be a grown up. So, if the government happens to be reading – can you add these to the curriculum, please? It’s too late for me, but let’s give the kids a head start.

1.    Tax
The inspiration for this post and the most mind-numbingly painful task you will ever have to endure is completing a self assessment tax return. Oh. My. God. The deadline may be January 31st, but I only got mine sorted a few months later thanks to a system that makes no sense, appalling customer service and a complete lack of help available. After spending hours, and I mean hours, on the phone to people who should not be working for HMRC if their advice to me to pay two grand more than I owed ‘or else they’ll fine you’ is anything to go by, I eventually got through to someone who knew their job and told me what I needed to do in two seconds flat. Now, if school included a few lessons explaining how the tax system worked, I would not have a massive phone bill and raised blood pressure, and the tax office would have had their money much sooner. Smiles through gritted teeth all round.

2.    Politics
I used to be one of those people who thought, ‘I don’t do politics’. To me, it was boring, not relevant and far too complicated to understand. Then I grew up a little, went to uni and started to learn the basics about elections, parties and the way the media works to support them, and suddenly it became relevant. I also developed opinions of my own and left my conservative hometown behind. Don’t get me wrong, I still find it a little yawn-worthy and don’t know as much as I probably should – but I wish I knew more and that I’d been taught about how our country politically ticks along back in school. Even an explanation of how the voting system works would have been handy…

3.    Banking and money
Surely, surely this is something that they could squeeze into the curriculum. They could teach it in Maths along with Pythagoras and standard deviation. Just a few lessons on credit ratings, how to get a mortgage, pensions… money makes the world go round but no one tells you this stuff. A friend of mine is about to buy her first house and has been relaying the complicated saga of getting a mortgage, and I feel incredibly stupid just hearing about it – so I suppose it’s a good thing that I’ll probably never be able to get on the property ladder. But still, I’d like to know how it all works. I like learning.

I could go on – useful skills such as basic mechanics (my first car broke down a lot), IT (now that we live online) and maybe even a bit of plumbing (my boiler exploded a bit) would be more useful than learning about photosynthesis and sketching the physical changes to a potato when it’s kept in the dark (seriously, did I go to a stupid school?).  Plus, it would make the homework a lot more interesting. ‘Daddy, where are the keys to the car…?’

(And yes. That's me throwing my hat in the air.)

New Year's Resolutions, Revisited

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 8 May 2011 23:04 1 comments
Well, what's the point in making resolutions if you're not going to keep them? Or, more to the point, why blog about them for all to see if you're not going to at least have a go? You may remember I had five little life to-dos back at the start of 2011 (can you believe it's May already?!) so I thought I would write an update, if anything to motivate me to keep going. It's definitely been a better year than the last so far, and being 25 is treating me pretty well. Here's why... 

Resolution 1: Get me healthy
Still a work in progress - that doctor wasn't listening carefully enough - but I am taking my health into my own hands. I've tried out meditation with a wonderful lady who contacted me through Wahanda, and am probably going to sign up to her online membership (Julie records all her sessions and puts them up online so those of us who find it hard to fit it in can still take part). I am also power plating my way to (hopefully) abs that could be mistaken for J-Lo's, and power walking around the block whenever I get the chance. It's still not enough but it's a start, right?

Resolution 2: Get me outta here
OK, this one is a little harder to do in a short amount of time. But, I have just got back from a family trip to Swanage and am planning a girl's holiday for fun in the sun next month. Plus, my best friend just moved to Dubai (sob) so I am already plotting to go and visit once it cools down out there. As for the rest of the global travel to-do list, who knows... 

Resolution 3: Get me writing again, properly
Those tiny nagging inklings of doubt are still lurking, but I am trying to blog more these days and am still enjoying it - so that's the main thing. I seem to be most inspired at around one in the morning after watching a few too many episodes of Sex and the City, which makes it difficult to get stuck into writing anything solid (unless I want to be up all night), but I have written a few intros to stories that I am pleased with - I just haven't finished them yet. Maybe I'll start with short stories instead of a novel! On the upside, I did write my train etiquette post after one painful train ride too many, and it got picked up by a transport website as well as turning me into an official Grumpy Young Woman - so I am pretty proud of that...

Resolution 4: Get me a life
This one is going fairly well if I do say so myself. I booked myself in for Spanish lessons and am around halfway through. I am loving it. Not only is it great to be learning again (I am such a geek, I LOVE learning), but the language is as pretty as I thought it was and the people are lovely. If I can afford it, I'll be doing level 2 without a doubt and carrying on for as long as I can. I've also got my eyes on a few creative writing courses, am trying to find a cheap piano teacher in London and am generally busy every night of the week these days. I might be a bit exhausted when it gets to Sunday night, but it's so worth it. 

Resolution 5: Get me happy
This one was always going to be the hardest because I tend to compare myself to others with a glass-half-empty mentality - positive thinking doesn't come naturally to me. But, doing all of the above is certainly helping and I am keeping busy enough that I'm enjoying London more (separate post on that to come), feeling more active and, most of the time, looking forward to those slightly blurry goals rather than looking back with regrets. I've just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love - the film of which I've watched around ten times already - and it definitely inspired me to just start living. 2011 is already a big year and it's going to get bigger - so hopefully I will grow with it. Wow, that's cheesy. But true! 

Oh, and the photo is one of me and my sisters that my dad dug out - it makes me laugh every time I look at it. I'm the one in the middle. And I own a pair of sunglasses just like them now, at age 25 - so things can't be all bad!

What about you? Have you kept to your New Year's resolutions?

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