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The everyday struggles of a commuter

After the seriousness of my last post, I thought why not go back to the whingey ranty Jess that this blog has come to see a lot of?

At least once everyday I tweet some commute related frustration of mine. So I decided it’s about time I compiled them all into one go to blog post. (Not to say I’m going to stop moaning about it on twitter mind, I probably won’t).

So all you commuters out there, lets all unite in mutual misery. FYI If If you happen to be any one of the following ‘types’ of commuters that are mentioned in this blog, please, take note and change your ways. Immediately. ¬†Here are my “Every Day Struggles of a Commuter”:

1. The Lack of Personal space
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If you’re hoping for a nice comfortable seat away from the rest of the masses you can forget about it. Unless you get on at the first station, are old, pregnant, or otherwise incapacitated. (Actually even then you’re still not guaranteed). Instead, you get to spend twenty minutes on a train and another ten on a tube pressed against other people’s sweaty backs. ūüôā ūüôā

2. Coming up against a seat hogger
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Okay this person is the worst. The one who takes up one of the precious rarity’s that is a spare seat with their shopping bags. Look, I get it. You want your space. We all do. But this is no time to be selfish. The worst part is they act like you’re doing them some massive inconvenience when you politely ask them to move.

3. The Ticket Inspector coming around after you’ve put your oyster card back in your bag
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Seriously. I’ve held it in my hand for the last half an hour and you choose to just appear and demand to see it when it’s probably swimming around in the sea of disorganisation and chaos that is my handbag? Rude.

4. The people who stand on left of the escalator
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Tourists I can maybe forgive, but for god sake people there are signs literally everywhere! ‘Please stand on the right’. I know walking the escalators can be a workout in itself and sometimes you just want to stand idly as you rise above ground (literally). But there are times when I am literally rushing to make the 18:01 train and some idiot is standing on the left of the escalator and I’m trapped. Probably going to miss my train and definitely cursing your existence.

5. Slow walkers with massive wheelie suitcases
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No, no, no just NO. Don’t get me wrong, in a city this size there are bound to people with suitcases travelling here there and everywhere. My issue is not with your suitcase (i’ve been there my friend), it’s with your inability to handle it. I know there’s nothing worse than having to lug baggage across public transport, but you need to learn the basic fundamentals of proper suitcase etiquette. Long quick strides, handle down as you walk up the stairs (never drag it up you’re asking for injury). And for heavens sake don’t suddenly stop dead in amongst a hoard of commuters. and don’t roll over my toes!

6. Platform Pushers
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Pushing me on the already crowded platform is not going to get you on to the train any faster. I know we all have to be ruthless in these situations, but come on. If you’re behind twenty others and there’s no room to sneak around the sides, well that’s your own tough shit.

7. The Smelly food eaters
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This has long been a common commuter complain of mine, but funnily enough I haven’t encountered too much of these creatures in London. I suppose there’s no real room to eat at the end of the day.

8. Delays, Cancellations and ‘Signal Failures’
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As IF my commute wasn’t horrendous enough, now because of yet another southeastern rail fuck up I’m spending the precious hours of my evening on a mobbed platform. Delightful. Just where I wanted to be and not snug in bed watching netflix.

9. The fear of falling asleep and missing your stop
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Okay this hasn’t actually happened to me yet (TG, Touch Wood) ¬†but the fear is real. I always feel really uneasy when I see some poor tired soul asleep on the train. Like I know you’re tired, but I don’t want you to miss your stop hun. A guy I work with was coming home drunk one night. He only had to go to Kennington, which was two stops up on the Northern Line. He ended up in Gillingham. In Kent. In Southeast London. No shit, that actually happened. Just sellotape your eyes open and don’t take the chance.

10. Forgetting your earphones
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Easily, without doubt, hands down, the most painful of them all. Now you’re stuck actually having to listen to the insufferable sounds of other commuters. Screeching school children, the cougher, the snuffleupugus. The horrendous squeaking of the train against the tracks. Delightful .
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Getting to The Heart of Homelessness

So today I want to talk about something which I’ve witnessed more and more of since moving to London. Something we are all very much aware of, but often turn a blind eye to.

That something is homelessness.

I know it’s a rather grim topic and isn’t really in keeping with my usual light hearted or ranty pieces. But it’s important. And I feel like we need to keep the conversation going, at the very least.¬†The last three months in this city have really opened my eyes. Behind the twinkling lights and the bustling excitement of London city life are real people on the streets. People without a home. People nobody cares about.

I suppose airing from rural Ireland, it’s something I was never really faced with on a daily basis. Sure I’d hear about the “poor homeless people” on the news.

But I never really witnessed their situation for myself.¬†Only the odd time when I’d find myself in the country’s capital, and even then it was usually just the drug dealing chancers harassing me at the Luas stop. I made the mistake once of giving one of them a couple of euro for a “sleeping bag” only to see him a mere half an hour later sauntering around Abbey Street again, a pack of Malboro Lights in tow.

So how do you tell the genuine from the chancers? How do you distinguish between those who are desparate for food or shelter, and those who are just looking to con you out of a few bob? For me I suppose it comes down to gut instinct. I think the majority of us have enough cop on to recognise when someone is really in need and not just looking for a quick score.

¬†With that being said, It really angers me when I hear people say things like “sure it’s their own fault” “they are druggies” “they deserve to be homeless”. No. No one deserves to be homeless. Sure some people may have made some bad decisions, but haven’t we all?

When you think about it we are all only one step away from homelessness. All it takes is the loss of a job, the inability to pay rent, or a mortgage. Some of us are lucky. We have excellent support systems, loving families who will take us in at the drop of a hat if anything ever goes wrong. But not everyone in this world has that. Some people literally depend on only themselves.

Last Sunday I was walking through Liverpool Street with my boyfriend when another couple approached us. They didn’t look much older than us.¬†In a perfect world you could say we were just two happy couples in love out enjoying a Sunday stroll in sleepy London. Only the other couples reality was far different from ours. They were homeless, and clearly starving.¬†The guy politely interrupted us, apologised for what he was about to ask, and then went on to explain that he and his girlfriend were homeless.

He told us he’s been looking for work for a number of months, but can’t find a job. He asked us whether we had any change at all to spare so that they might be able to get some food or a place to stay for the night. I turned and looked at the girlfriend who was holding her hands to her face and my heart honestly tore in two. I couldn’t help but think how different our situations were. How did they end up in this situation? What if that was us?¬†We didn’t have much cash on us, I could only give them ¬£2.50 and my boyfriend only had change in Euro, but they gladly accepted this anyway. The guy then tried to give us one of the lighters that he was selling but we told him to hang on to it. I couldn’t stop thinking about them afterwards.

I am met with this sad reality every morning on my commute. Many homeless people sit outside at the top of the tube stations, thousands rushing past them, ignoring their existence. We are all guilty of it though. We have more important places to be. We don’t have time. It’s not our problem. They got themselves into this mess, they can get themselves out. Oh if the shoe was on the other foot.

Lately though, I’ve been noticing more and more people stop to talk to the homeless, or buy them food, or offer them some small token or gesture of kindness. Yesterday evening I saw a blonde woman give a homeless man a bottle of coke and a sandwich. He couldn’t stop saying thank you.

This morning at Old Street a man in a suit stopped to talk to guy and his dog sitting on a tattered sleeping bag. “Alright mate” , he said, before saying he couldn’t chat long this morning, but he would see him later. It’s truly heartwarming to see these little moments of kindness in the face of such destitution.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this on my Twitter timeline and teared up.

It would be great instead of shaking our heads and thinking “oh how awful” that we actually took action and did something for these people. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but something as small as a sandwich or a coffee is honestly so appreciated. If you find yourself on a serious budget (like myself), even a smile, a hello or a quick chat could really make all the difference.¬†I know I’m starting to sound like one of those pushy charity workers you find yourself running away from on the street, but it’s just something I really wanted to talk about today. So if you’ve had a particularly shitty Tuesday like I have, be thankful in the knowledge that you have a warm house to go home to, food on your table, and a pillow to rest your head on.

There will be some very cold and lonely people out there tonight.

~J x

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Asking for it a Review: Social Media, Slut Shaming and The Issue of Consent

*Contains Spoilers*

I don’t normally do book reviews, but after recently finishing Louise O’Neill’s asking for it, I almost feel compelled.¬†In fact I think it’s something I’ll start doing a lot more of. Since finishing college It’s great to finally have the freedom to read what I want to read again! So lets get down to it.

I picked up this wonderful gem whilst browsing Waterstones on a lazy afternoon last Saturday.
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The story follows Emma O’Donovan an 18 year old girl from a small town in Ireland.

It was one of those books I found myself wincing the entire way through. It invoked every single emotion in me, and some I didn’t even realise I had.

On the surface Emma seems to have it all, she’s popular, is surrounded by a group of friends and is incredibly beautiful. If I’m honest at first I found her character a little annoying. She’s selfish, inconsiderate, and obsessed with material things. She’s not a good friend and to be quite blunt about it, she’s a bitch.

However, I soon came to realise how important these elements of Emma’s character were for the development of O’Neill’s plot. She doesn’t create the stereotypical ‘good girl fall from grace’.¬†Emma is desperate to prove herself. She does things she knows are reckless to test people’s perceptions of her. She constantly repeats the mantra ‘I am Emma Donovan I am Emma Donovan’, in an attempt to reassure herself that she knows who she is, she is confident and in control, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Deep down Emma is struggling with her sense of identity, placing all of her self worth on her physical attributes. It’s almost as if she views sex as a form of acceptance. She ends up being raped at a party by 4 boys she thought were here friends. The narrative that ensues as a result can only be described as heart breaking.

On the night in question Emma flirts with boys, wears a revealing dress, and even takes drugs. All actions which are used against her afterwards in an attempt to claim she deserved what happened to her, that ‘she was asking for it’. Pictures of Emma passed out on a bed with the boys taking advantage of her are uploaded to a Facebook page called ‘Easy Emma’. In one picture one of the boys is seen vomiting over her, while another urinates on her head, evoking a vile comment on the page saying ‘she deserves to be pissed on’.¬†Emma is completely unresponsive in the pictures, but don’t worry ‘she was asking for it’.

The rest of the novel deals with Emma’s struggle to come to terms with what happened. The saddest part of it all is that like many victims of rape, she blames herself. She didn’t want to report the boys. She¬†wanted to protect them. She even tries to apologise to them after ¬†a school teacher contacts the guards. She lies and tries to pass it off by saying she was pretending to be asleep. It’s her fault her mother has taken to drinking and her father can’t look her in the eye or socialise with his friends. It’s her fault her brother has lost his girlfriend. It’s her fault her friends aren’t really her friends any more. It’s her fault the lives of the ‘Good Boys’ are ruined.

Only it’s not. It’s not her fault at all. And that’s the point O’Neill is cleverly hammering home. Emma gains national notoriety as ‘Ballinatoom Girl’, and it’s an all too familiar narrative. We’ve seen it with Ireland’s own ‘Slane Girl’, where photos of a young girl performing oral sex ¬†at an Eminem concert surfaced on the internet. Of course she was the slut. She was the whore. She was the irresponsible one. No mention of the boys on the receiving end. Or the person who photographed it and circulated for the world to see.

‘Ballinatoom girl’ is not just a work of fiction. She is a representation of every woman who has fallen victim to harassment, assault, slut-shaming, and rape. She is someone’s daughter, sister and friend. She should not be dismissed. We need to talk more about consent and rape culture.

O’neill’s novel is forcing society to take a long hard look at itself. Why are we vilifying young girls for virtually everything they do? So what if they wear short skirts, drink vodka and post selfies. Does that mean they deserve to get raped? I just don’t understand why we are so quick to pardon the guilty and punish the innocent.

The shocking reality is this novel is everywhere. It’s real. It’s happening here in Ireland, and it’s happening all over the world. Take the recent Brock Turner case in the US. It honestly makes me sick to my stomach. A rapist serves 3 months of a pitiful 6 month sentence for the rape of a girl at a college party. But it’s okay. It wasn’t his fault. His¬†life was ruined. Dreams of becoming a professional swimmer slashed as a result of what was it his dad put it? ’20 minutes of action’.

It was all her fault of course. The girl who’s name we don’t even know. The girl who was attacked. The girl who’s body was laid bare behind a dumpster for all to see. The girl who cried rape. The girl who can’t remember. The girl who was drunk.

It’s just not good enough. I am so grateful to Louise O’Neill and the many other talented and brave authors who are writing about this subject.¬†Lets not give in to this ‘keep it quiet’ attitude that Ireland has long grown accustomed to. Let’s give our ‘Ballinatoom girls’ and our ‘Slane girls’ a voice. It’s the least they deserve.