Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I recently read that during a recession, there is a boost in lingerie and lipstick sales. This doesn't surprise me as a girl's need to spoil herself is probably heightened when times are tough.

My own overindulgent treatment is a weekly blow-dry, a well honed habit that began when aged 15. Back when I first realised I could pay someone to transform my unruly locks, I would show up at my local salon and exchange my hard-earned babysitting money for a sleeker, shinier do that would last all weekend.

In those days, weekends were spent sitting on a wall trying to look cool in front of the boys and, while I couldn't shift my puppy fat, I learned fast how to achieve perfect hair at a perfect price. Twelve years on and barely a week has passed without booking in for my treat, from my trusted Skerries salon where I now count the girls among friends, to overpriced blow-dries around the world.

Even when I lost my job and my socialising ground to the halt I still managed a blow-dry to lift my spirits. The average cost is €30 and in these recessionary times I still feel it is money well spent, making me look, and ultimately feel, better like nothing else can. I’ m happier to cut back elsewhere than on my hair taming. Usually confined to the weekends, I have dabbled in my confidence trick for interviews, holidays, and even exams! If I added up what I have spent on my hair down through the years, the figure still wouldn't give me the guilts. All girls have their beauty habits that, even now with wage cuts, they refuse to give up. If you saw my 'natural hair', a tangled, frazzled mess that even a GHD couldn’t fix, you would understand my extravagant addiction and on assessment of my overall beauty purchases it seems a small price to pay. I’m not part of the fake tan brigade and in place of nails I have ugly stumps from a lifetime of chewing. I have been to a beautician I think twice – with vouchers.

Call me wasteful, but for the price of a week’s cigarettes, my hair will be glossy and groomed to salon perfection. As well as my regular girls, I have booked last minute blow-dries all over the city... I know which salons open early, open late and open Sundays. I'll happily go without shopping, make-up and even alcohol before my rebellious recession habit.
And I am doing my bit to help the economy, helping hairdressers with my regular visits, southside, northside and nationwide

Monday, May 18, 2009

The recent tease of summer is great for those living the dole dream like my youngest brother. He enjoys the sun while socialising on Skerries harbour and pouring his welfare back into the economy, keeping the gym and local bars in business.

While I'm happy to see he hasn't spiralled into depression, I can't help feeling that €200 a week is not necessary for a well-kept young man living at home and should be reserved for those who really need it.

Still, I guess I wasn't complaining during my own dole stint in February. My other brother was not at all content to be signing on and searched very hard for work. Having lost his job two weeks ago he was, naturally, feeling down, spending his days trawling the internet and wondering how long he could cover his rent before returning home.

I assured him that he would land on his feet, and should ignore all terrifying news reports.

What else could I say? Meetings with recruitment agencies proved pointless: top class college grades were useless as many more experienced marketers were desperate for an interview. He was near defeated, ready to give up his spacious lodgings and return home to his box room, untouched, with dusty exam notes and fading posters half hanging from the walls.

Both of our rooms at home are occupied regularly by the younger bro, as his ever increasing pile of clothes on his bedroom floor threatens to suffocate him while he sleeps.

While Mam is too soft to force rent from his welfare, she sympathises and secretly enjoys having one child still at home.
So the youngest is content to ride out the recession and wait. At least he is happy and can pass time with his friends, an expanding group of decent, intelligent, yet unemployed, graduates.

But how long can their extended gap year last before the boredom sets in? And will there be a happy ending for them all?

Bizarrely, as if by miracle, my job-searching sibling received his happy ending after just two weeks! Not a new position, but it was his original job, which had let him go, that called with the answer to his landlord’s prayers!

After some internal restructuring, it had been realised that he played a great role in the company and the workload was too much for those left behind. A miraculous development !

He is delighted to be back working, I can stop worrying and our baby bro can reclaim sole status as the recession victim we can spoil, in return for ‘minding our beds ‘til we move home again..

Monday, May 11, 2009

May is always a fresh start for me and this year it is especially significant. As I turned 27 last week, I was shocked at the speed 26 had whizzed by but at the same time the rollercoaster of events during the last twelve months justified the passing of a year. My last birthday was celebrated in the family restaurant which has since closed, an upsetting time that heralded the beginning of the recession. My PR career was also suddenly halted before Christmas, but now back on track with the new job, I hope I have a steady year ahead.

I spent most of my birthday waiting on a plumber to fix a toilet leak in our apartment, while my boyfriend returned to hospital for tests on the progression of his virus. We were meant to be in Spain together, a surprise he had arranged for me. Still his health is the most important thing.Missing a weekend away seems trivial, considering all the bad news my friends have been receiving.

Two more friends lost their jobs last week, one of whom is currently building a house and mid-planning her wedding; the other has equally important rent and bills to pay.A third friend is being harrassed by Mastercard over her outstanding debts of €8,000 which, working only two days a week, she is finding impossible to pay.The third phone call from them in a week, offered her a generous reduction to €5,000: however they just don't seem to understand that she is unable to even pay a hundred and won't be for the forseeable future.

With all of this gloomy news, it was the story of my brother's housemate which lifted my spirits. Having just reached his sixth month of unemployment, he had the luck of winning €4,500 in Blanchardstown vouchers on a Dublin radio station! His screams could be heard all the way back to his local dole office in Duleek.Within hours of the win, he dragged his unemployed ass across town where he spoiled his girlfriend (she that pays his rent), stocked up on food and all-important drinks for the long summer ahead aswell as booking two holidays.He is currently in Croatia for ten days, which he set off on immediately. He had none of the hassle of organising annual leave from work!

That's the thing about unemployed friends, they are great for an impromptu plan. With so many not having to be up for work in the mornings, I got to celebrate my birthday after all, not in Spain but in my apartment with it's leaky toilet...and mysteriously, lots of presents from the Blanchardstown centre

Last week, my boyfriend, unhappy with his civil servant wages, bizarrely, landed himself with a second job in the evenings, thanks to previous experience in a bookies.

Life is looking up again and, even though I often lie awake thinking about my brothers, my mother and everyone in between, during the day I relax and try not to worry. Unfortunately, both of my brothers are now unemployed and for some reason, the lot of brother number one, sixteen months my junior and a 1st class graduate, is the one that upsets me more.

It saddens me to see that his talent may be wasted for the unforeseen future, his skills postponed till God-knows-when. Short of paying his rent all I can do is offer words of encouragement, be sure to buy him a few drinks and offer to keep him occupied with paid favours such as 'sorting out my iPod.

Still, since recovering from a deadly bout of Typhoid last year, he might just have a more positive perspective on unemployment... Indeed when the news last week of the flu pandemic spread, the first thing that came to my mind was that my forthcoming American holiday plans might have to be cancelled. Poor me, But there were people all over the world with no jobs and now many dropping like flies and here was I worried that my holiday plans might not transpire.

I felt guilty, but that's what happens when things are going well. Three months ago I could barely afford to travel across town for job interviews yet now I was irked that my holiday plans might be halted.

Ironically, within hours of the swine flu story, my boyfriend himself ended up in hospital... He had been complaining of feeling poorly for days so dragged himself to the doctor, struggling for energy and fear eroding his usually healthy spirit.

He was immediately transferred to hospital where he was diagnosed with a treatable but initially worrying virus. To see his health deteriorate so suddenly, gave us a both a reblast of perspective. We all need such reminders now and then.

Months ago I was worried about being jobless, now holidays and jobs were the furthest thing from my mind. While everyone thought the recession was the worst disaster that could hit us on a global scale, this deadly swine flu may now eclipse all financial woes, as people fall victim to it.

The old saying really is true: your health is your wealth, as is the health of your loved ones..

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

As a birthday treat to my boyfriend I decided to whisk him away for the weekend, a slightly extravagant gift considering we had agreed to cut back since our move to the city. However, I got a bit ahead of myself when starting my new job in March and had all sorts of exotic plans, to spoil ourselves, churning through my brain. Seeing his face light up was enough inspiration to organise our romantic getaway. He insisted the weekend was not to be solely my treat and that we would at least share some of the costs.

We settled on Galway, a B&B by the sea and the promise of inexpensive and uninterrupted quality time. Holidays and mini-breaks mean three things to me ­- eating, drinking, and shopping. Apart from the last, we were a perfect match but he suggested we do things differently and avoid the post-traumatic credit card stress we had both experienced following previous trips away. I wanted to show some appreciation for the support he had given me during my difficult months of job searching. I hadn't always been so sympathetic of his civil service pay cuts and often in my unemployed rage I could be heard shouting “Well at least your job is safe for life.’’

The weekend was certainly different. There was no shopping or even browsing in any clothes, shoe or accessory stores. There was no chance of sampling a cocktail in the G hotel and none of the usual overpriced restaurants we so often treated ourselves to, that always left us bloated and over-drawn.. Our few days away consisted of activities he liked and for the first time I didn't get my way. We drank pints and browsed in record shops. I even sat through an important Champions’ League match, surrounded by lads sloshing their beer in my hair. As I battled the breeze on Salthill promenade one afternoon, nobody around but a few demented exercise addicts, I kept quiet and waited, while he inspected the beach's diving boards - for over 40 minutes.

But in the end I enjoyed it really. I spent the weekend in my converse with no hassle, no nightclub queues, no changing-room queues, no waiting for tables. Through convincing me to agree to a more low-key break, my boyfriend ended up with the best birthday present of all, a weekend filled with his kind of fun - no cocktails, shops or heel hobbling delays. I didn't mind letting him call the shots for a change: after all his birthday only comes once a year!