An Island Girl stranded in a Multicultural City…

Being a student studying in Preston, from the Isle of Man, has made me realise two things over the past two years:

  1. I’m a lot more proud of being Manx than I ever realised
  2. The Isle of Man is different

But it’s the second point which has particularly been evident over the past few weeks. Moving on from the whole snow fiasco like I mentioned a few days ago (and which I’m sure you’re sick to death of hearing about elsewhere anyway), my taxi driver last night asked a few odd questions. Generally, when I mention the Isle of Man I expect the “Where is that?” “I went there when I was young, where about’s are you from?” or “I guess you’re obsessed with motorbikes then!” kind of introductory comments. These then might turn into typical stone age comments about the Isle of Man’s culture or [supposed, lack of] technology. Or I sit and nod while some motorbike fanatic tells me of his five different motorbikes.

What I don’t expect is “Does the Isle of Man have any Indian restaurants/kebab shops/corner shops?” which is what came from my taxi driver’s mouth last night.

Seriously?

Ironically, though, we actually have very few. Especially in the town where I’m from, we have one Chinese restaurant, one Indian restaurant, three newsagents and the only kebab shop is in Douglas and when all the clubs close at about 1am that’s where we’d all gather. If you’d lost anyone on a night out this was very useful!

Of course, in Douglas it’s different because it’s bigger and given that it’s where the port is you generally see a range of ethnicities though still, this is generally only during peak holiday time like TT. Maybe that is what contributes to our lack of take aways, since there are very few Asian families or other cultures who typically set these businesses up. There’s also no call for many take aways given our restricted nightlife.

I remember during one TT fortnight I worked in a supermarket and had one entire family speaking to me in French, without even a slight attempt at English or even some other sort of indication of what they wanted. It got worse when no other staff member in the entire store understood a word of french. We had never needed to, the community I grew up in didn’t travel, we were born and bred islanders who were very proud of that- well, when I say “we” I mean them, since I was born in Essex.

A day trip to Liverpool was all the excitement I needed.

But when my taxi driver asked me that, it really hit me and similarly when my Asian boss commented that he was going to visit one day. Ironically my first response was “considering a few years ago the front page news was the locals refusing the let the Muslims build a mosque, I probably would stay away.”

I guess I have always had a slight inclination about my community.

Now, I’m not saying the Isle of Man is racist. The one Chinese restaurant in our town is a family run business, and they’re one of the biggest factors in our community. Despite the fact others have tried setting up similar businesses, if you’re a native, you always go to Hong Kong Delight. The Indian restaurant is a lot newer, and was a shock to the system, but even that’s thriving. We do do culture suddenly.

Just nowhere near as much of it as the likes of Preston!

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“The Youth of Today…”

How much of your childhood can you remember? Think back, your teen years, maybe you can vividly remember prior to your teenage life. Maybe it’s a bit of a blur. Maybe, in fact, it’s an absolutely amazing memory and on the other hand… Maybe it’s not.

Now think about one moment you would change. Did you miss out on taking a fantastic opportunity, did you make a wrong decision? Maybe it’s simply not saying something to someone. Maybe it’s not taking that risk.

Maybe it’s following those people you considered your friends into a few situations you were possibly better off staying out of.

Tonight was my second night volunteering with a youth sector for my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Now, I’ve worked with kids quite a bit now and there’s been a variety of ages but I wouldn’t say much touches on what happened tonight.

When I told my boss where I was volunteering, he simply snickered and responded with “let’s see if you make it out of there alive.” Now, if you know me you know I’m not a tough act. I’m honest yes, and I’ll protect my friends. But I honestly can’t take a punch from my little sister never mind someone who actually wants to hurt me (I’ve been slapped once in my life and, though I was extremely proud of that at the time, I never want to suffer that again).

Tonight though we had a bunch of… For lack of a better word, rowdey guys. Well, I say guys, one guy had even brought his little sister along. Now, we were in the local youth centre for a closed event so I guess you could say they were being territorial. The woman who leads the event is a youth worker and she says that in their world, that’s a good thing. I remember a similar situation with our local youth centre, we had a sense of almost pride about this shabby building. But the fact of the matter was it was a closed event and these guys were not going quietly.

This was the first time I’d ever seen something like this first hand. Now, of course when I say that I did grow up around this kind of attitude. Like I said, I have been slapped. I grew up on a council estate. I was part of the “gang culture”, though in fact we were just a few scruffy kids who thought they were hardcore drinking large bottles of WKD in the freezing cold weather. But I can say that, I’m judging myself in that.

But it’s different once you’re considered an adult.

In my opinion this phase happened when I was around 13. I met my ex when I was 16 and I cut all ties with the “bad influences” I considered my friends. I realised I hated the taste of WKD, I didn’t smoke, and I had better things to be doing than hiding in the shelter on the promanade in the middle of the pouring rain at 9pm. So, as the adults say, I can relate. It was the same when this group of lads barged into the youth centre and began stealing pencils and slamming doors.

Stealing pencils… Yes.

You watch them and you know that they’re bored, and it’s cold outside and they have nothing better to do. But it would be considered uncool to simply join in with the event, and to be honest it probably is more fun testing the adults because you know they can’t touch you. I can imagine if it was their parents it would be a whole other story though.

But this isn’t news to anyone. The riots from last year definitely solidified the negative connotation of “the youth of today”. It’s doubtful that’ll actually change anytime soon, if ever. But the worst thing about witnessing all of this first hand, and from the perspective of an adult, is noticing those few who just don’t want to be a part of this. I guess that was me back in the day. While the rest are bundling about like a load of cats on catnip, you’re holding back. You’re not swearing, or being quite as forceful with adults as you could be. You’re the one who helps tidying up, though subtly and in the midst of the madness so that no-one notices because, hey, that just wouldn’t be cool.

Now I’m not saying that this should change people’s opinions but I am definitely saying these kids can’t be bunched together. Just because they’re friends with “certain people” doesn’t make them the same. And it’s these ones who give me hope that, maybe, I might not die of stress within a few years of graduating.

Sexual Assault in Glasgow

Good news is rarely worth reporting because it simply doesn’t attract the same sort of attention as the bad events which are going on in the world. But this was particularly horrible to read. I clicked onto the BBC website to catch up with the latest news, and came across this article regarding the rape of a 14 year old girl. On a public bus.

It’s awful to think that it is almost that easy to be targeted, especially given that, in my opinion, half 10 isn’t that late. I know a few neighbourhoods where you don’t get the “last bus”- that’s the one where you’d be hassled by the drunks getting home after last orders but that would normally be around midnight or later. The lack of CCTV on this bus has also meant that it will be a lot harder to catch the men who committed the assault, when there’s essentially a CCTV camera on every corner you turn nowadays.

Obviously, unless you are directly involved in the case none of us can know what happened. But it’s clear that basic steps need to be taken to prevent these events happening in the future, simple security aspects like CCTV are vital in this day and age. I know that there will be a lot of people shaking their heads, refusing to want to get dragged into a Big Brother society but that’s not what this is. No-one is wanting to control us, it’s the difference between catching criminals through having a physical photo of their mug shot or having to go off the memories of a distressed and traumatised 14 year old.

I’ve been warned time and time again by friends not to take certain routes around the town due to the lack of survelliance, but I’m suddenly starting to appreciate the security of having these cameras watching us.

I really hope that these guys get caught. That young girl will never get over what happened I imagine, but at least it would offer her a little assurance. I hope.

A Cupcake of Happiness

Cheesy title right? Well, I decided to have a bit of an uplifting post after a few days of feeling down, and I’m sat in the library working on assignments at gone midnight so hey.

That's the "cupcake of happiness" in case you didn't guess

That’s the “cupcake of happiness” in case you didn’t guess

So after my lousey mood lately, my friend did something amazing today. Now, this guy didn’t know about the situation with my mum and in all honesty, he was probably stuck for company. But anyway, he text me wanting something to do and I suggested my two typical options: the library or the pub. I don’t do much else and I’m not that creative when it comes to thinking up options. He came up with the idea of going to Blackpool for a cheap day out. Now, personally, I thought that was an amazing idea since I love the 2p machines at the archades probably more than the rollercoasters! But when it came out that it was going to rain (typical) we went off the idea.

Then he decided he wanted cake. Now, I’m not a dessert person in the least and even the 2 for 1 deals at our local don’t sway me to fork out for some “best you’ll ever taste” cheese cake. But if it gave me something to do, then I’d do it. Then he found a cupcake teashop in Preston and wow was he excited.

Now, I’ve never had a cupcake. I prefer pubs over the local cafe scene. I prefer beer over a cup of English Breakfast (tea, for anyone who’s not upper class). But since I’m going to America then I better get used to this: cupcakes are in. Now, if you’re like me and at a complete loss for anything cultural, cupcakes are essentially fairycakes but titled a bit more snazzy. They come in different flavours and amazingly pretty designs on the top and people will fork out for these delicate little teasures.

But wow, I did not expect what we got.

The place we went was Strictly Cupcakes. It’s the cutest teashop I’ve ever seen. It’s petite, and would probably fit about 10 people in. The room looks like it’s been pulled out of a 1950s’ housewife’s dream. It was all pastille colours and delicate china. And, the best bit, they had glass Coka Cola bottles. I swear, I was far too excitable in this place! To be honest, I’d label it Preston’s little gem. They had jaffa cake cupcakes, oreos, malteasers, even the amazing Red Velvet- not that I wanted to try that first. Apparently that one is an acquired taste.

I went for a malteaser cupcake in the end. I was genuinely guttered I couldn’t finish it but my paranoia about chocolate kicked in and I had to leave the topping.

But honestly, with such an amazing service, a quaint atmosphere and even the fact I was persuaded to buy something sweet and chocolate… I definitely think anyone within a 10 mile radius needs to get themselves to this place!

 

Cancer: Stop and think

I’m sorry to continue with the negative tone of emotions but this one has a happy ending, I promise.

The other night I was getting ready for bed when my mum text me “are you awake?” Now, it was only 9pm so I decided I’d phone her to find out what was wrong. Since it was early, I knew there wasn’t much chance her and my sister had had another argument since they’re normally at silly hours in the morning. That’s what I call silly serious, it’s part of our typical family drama. This was serious-kind-of serious.

She’d found a lump.

Now, my mum’s in her 40s. She drinks, she smokes, she doesn’t go to the gym- though she’s not overweight or anything. Like me, she doesn’t eat a fantastically healthy diet and she’s a very stressed person. I don’t really think anyone could find a justifiable “She’s definitely not got cancer because…”

I knew still, the chances of it actually being breast cancer was rare. It was most likely a cyst or something. Nothing to worry about.

It’s funny, but when cancer’s mentioned no-one involved can really believe “nothing to worry about” try as they might.

If it had been a worst case scenerio then America and my masters degree would have had to be put on hold or thrown out altogether. Though I can’t say I would have appreciated this I can’t say I’d have much choice either: she’s my mum. My sister would have had the opportunity to run out of there, and there would be too much chance that that was exactly what she would do. Our relationship with our mum has never been the most close knit.

And anyway, I’m the eldest. Taking care of the family should never fall on the baby of the group.

All this was flashing through my mind. Suddenly I realised how much of my life would change if my mum was to die. It made me realise how much my life would change if anyone close to me was to be diagnosed with cancer. I mean, working in a pharmacy I get confronted with life threatening illnesses everyday, but you’re detached. I’ve had a lot of friends sadly lose a parent and yet, you never feel like that. You post a sentimental message, you send a jar of jam, you offer a sympathetic shoulder, but then ultimately you move on.

It’s not your problem.

I’m not saying everyone’s being selfish. But the fact is the world carries on turning and time will carry on passing you by. If we all stopped, it wouldn’t matter and it won’t solve anyone’s problems either.

But this was the first time I’d stopped and thought about it. I was being faced with my mum’s mortality, my little sister’s need to be looked after and never mind the dogs and the rabbits. Even when my mum text me yesterday announcing her all clear, the idea still stayed with me. As cliché as it is, life is short. Even if you’re not faced with death, something else could happen which could make you stop and think. Your life could flip in a milli second, a phone call or an email.

Hey, it might be a fantastic kind of flip of course. A promotion, a bonus, a lottery win… But it might be cancer.

But hopefully not.

Depression and University

I guess it’s the same for all adults, but being a student makes financial problems particularly evident. We’re all growing up and going through the stages of learning how to handle money when many may have never earned money in their life. Even the fact that I’ve been working since I was 14 never made handling termly installments of £1,500 any easier. Rent, bills… It’s all a brand new, terrifying experience. Throw in the difficulty there is in finding a job in this economic climate, never mind in a university city with thousands of other students in a similar position and life might become overwhelming.

This struck me when I was browsing Twitter and a friend had retweeted this Guardian article. In short, it’s discussing the suicide of a university student and one of the contributing factors is consider to be his debt. All students have found themselves in that position where their bank statement is in the red, it’s one of the advantages of being able to claim an interest free overdraft with a student account. Currently, I surviving on my wages from my part time job because my rent takes all of my grant bar a couple of hundred pounds. I was lucky though, I managed to get that job because I’d by chance applied as a Saturday girl in the pharmacy down the road at home, that experience was essential when I applied for this current job.

But money worries are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to university. Living away from home is a whole over issue for a lot of students, and I know many friends from back home who didn’t care for leaving the island enviroment after all in the end. I have friends from London who have close families who are eagerly counting down the days to graduation. Others have had to drop out to care for their parents or ill relatives. I was lucky in this, university probably acted as more of an escape route/doorway of new opportunities for me though I have sometimes missed the sight of green hills and the sea in the morning.

Organisation is also another problem. Very few students who come to university don’t jump at the chance of having a social life whether that involves alcohol or not. But when it comes to a late, fun night with your friends or a 9am lecture on statistics which one are you going to choose? Before you know it, one missed lecture turns into five and you suddenly discover you have to write a 5,000 word assignment on a topic you know nothing about as well as revise for three different examinations.

And what about the other end of the scale, when you don’t make any friends at university and allow yourself to become bogged down in work. It can be extremely isolating, especially when there are several hours between you and your closest companion- and sometimes a phone call or Skype can only achieve so much.

Unfortunately, university can be daunting. It can be amazing, and of course that’s how it’s generally sold. To be honest, that’s even how sell it. But that article really sent a chill down my spine. But another thing which comes out is the fact that the people who hit that low, are the people who refuse to ask for help. It’s important to realise that even if you do feel like that you are most definitely not the first. And not being the first means measures have been put in place to help you. Even if all you need to do is talk, it’s always a better idea to reach out to someone.

Easter: My Least Favourite Holiday

So the 31st March is Easter Sunday. Of course, there are religious meanings but for a moment let’s focus on the commercial meaning of Easter: Easter eggs! Now I’m probably going to put a dampner on your day, but I depise Easter. Every since primary school I’ve been allergic to nuts in some capacity, but it was until I was 17 that I had my first proper reaction and by proper I mean I went into anaphalatic shock. I’d eaten some Chinese food at a buffet thinking it was a lamb kebab and within a couple of hours I was in A&E.

That’s when it started. Everything new that I ate I could taste a trace of nuts in. Chocolate bars that I’d eaten for years with no problem suddenly gave me an itchy throat and set me off in a panic. Later on I discovered that with an allergy such as this, every reaction causes it to become slightly more sensative which could account for some of this. However, I do think a lot of it is down to paranoia. Once you go through that experience, and you have your doctor repeat that you will die if you have another reaction five times in one minute… You get quite scared.

So what do you do when everyone’s excited for Easter eggs and you know you can’t have any- nut trace warning or not?

It’s a similar issue for my cousin who’s got a baby boy. She decided when he was born that he wasn’t allowed any sort of sweets and she’s brought him up on a nice, healthy diet. But now she’s worrying about Easter, and that he’ll feel left out because every other kid will be counting their chocolate eggs. He’s only one right now, but the problem will probably become more obvious as he grows and he begins to question his diet. I mean, what kid really understands the concept of “sweets are bad for you” when they’re in primary school?

I guess a lot of people will have issues with Easter. But like I said, there is the religious reasons behind the holiday too.