36) Work, the online world, and OXFAM.

“You only get what you give” – The New Radicals.

Hi there, girls and boys, I hope you’re well.

With the re-opening of shops and services here in the UK I was amused at the scenes of people queueing, as we British do, outside of inexpensive clothes retailer Primark at 6.30 in the morning.. why? Can’t wait for socks until later? Then there were the alkies, sorry, those that need social interaction so much that they felt the need to sit outside of a pub, drinking ice cold beer, while the air temp hovered at -1. You can get the same effect by logging into Zoom, opening your windows, ordering cheap booze to be delivered, and all the while be in no danger of contracting anything.

I’ve been taking a break from blogging and being online in general lately, for a few reasons. With the easing of lockdown and the good weather we’ve had a daily influx of tourists here, desperate to enjoy the sun, sand and all-round niceness of the northeast coastline. On my 5.30am runs I’ve noticed a lot more people about, even at that time of the day. Ice cream vans are up and running at 8, and doing trade. There are two bootcamps on Long Sands or Cullercoats which I often take part in. These are being subscribed to in numbers as we all realise that a few pounds may have been absorbed during the enforced time off work.

Both are well worth their time. I must say that I prefer when the tide is out, as running on soft sand is my own personal training hell.

I was due to return to work last week, along with my new title of Pool Supervisor…what was wrong with lead lifeguard? Yes I manage the pool but have done so for six years or so without having a fancy name. Just because the gym likes to have a hierarchy of workers bordering on Mussolini types, doesn’t mean we water-based staff have to adhere to that sort of thing. My position means I also have the keys, can open and close when if I need to, go for a swim at any time, and in my mind have the first pick of any new members….

We were all set, pool filled and shocked, some new staff trained, new flotation devices, new tiles in changing rooms, although I’m not keen on the gender specific light blue and light pink accents, but hey.. Also, our new glass roof! It looks nice, covers half of the ceiling, cost quite a bit, and then developed a crack on the night before we re-opened. The part of the building containing the gym opened as planned, with the cheeky bastard gymbunnies asking me to come in to cover for lunch time.. get knotted. You’ve had eighteen months to prepare your staff for today. Let’s start as we mean to go on after lockdown, you don’t help us, we don’t help you. So I’ve another enforced couple of weeks off work.

So instead of working, I’ve been out camping for a couple of nights. It’s been chilly but nothing a fire doesn’t drive away. On my own, the tent proved to be surprisingly easy to erect. I say tent, it’s one of the coffin type I’ve mentioned earlier. Very warm and cosy. Mrs Sheep was there again to greet me, this time with two lambs, as I bathed in that cold stream. Absolutely adorable.

As I was leaving a couple arrived to set up their own camp. In my mind it’s “my” spot, even though I was introduced to it by others. My third and fourth night was in the woods in Durham, after a trip home for a good bath and spruce up. Got to look my best for the trees. I’m getting good at setting a fire with the striker with cotton wool and vaseline balls. It’s easy to find dry kindling, and before long you’ve a fire on which to boil water for that all-important tea. Being alone in the woods at night holds no fear for me, but a friend in Canada sent me some bear spray, in case any two legged intruders decide they want to rape me. The spray is illegal here in the UK, but more effective than a weedy rape alarm going beep beep. I’m pretty confident I could take on a lone attacker if they were unarmed, at least in daylight and in the middle of a city. A stealthier predator in the woods may be a more difficult thing altogether. But if you dwell on such things, you’d never leave the house.


I dot about online, a week here, a month there. I lurk more than chat. When the bullshit or backstabby-ness on one site gets too much, I move on. Lockdown has let me discover sites and people I wouldn’t have thought of as being interesting. Who would have thought Reddit would be so attention grabbing? Recently I’ve been on a forum dedicated to music, and even there it seems that people just HAVE to big themselves up. Tell us who you’ve worked with, but don’t claim responsibility for number 1 songs!

Why want to be out there as somebody of importance? A copy and paste concerning scientific facts from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33253960 does not make you a scientist that works with CERN, it only marks you as somebody that can copy and paste. Then there are the endless marines, but you know my feelings about them.

Why not want to be part of something ordinary? When people ask me what I do for a living, and I answer lifeguard, some reply, “oh Baywatch?”, as if that’s an original reply. In truth the job is hardly glamourous. I see the odd pretty woman but usually I’m cold, damp, and clammy, even in a heated pool environment. Imagine a corpse but with a heartbeat. Beaches are worse as you not only have the sun to deal with, but the bastard sand. It really does get everywhere.

My past seems to be a topic that others find interesting. What did I do before becoming a lifeguard? I worked for a government department, in London. Nothing important, no international espionage, no destabilising governments, just a desk job. They do still keep in touch every now and again, asking if I would like to return. If the job was closer to home, in fact anywhere other that London, I might. But no, I wasn’t a spy, or a “spy’s assistant”, whatever that is. A friend works for DEFRA and gets the same thing aimed at her.. “ooh you must be a spook”. No, we have perfectly normal jobs, the same as mechanics or farmers, coal miners or welders. Quite where you’d find one of those in the UK though… Cheers, Thatcher.

I’d much rather be asked, what do you do for fun? Online chats can be fun, for instance last week we were laying out plans for a strapon…stay with me. This one has bluetooth capability, and would link to an app on your phone, telling you the strokes, depth, frequency etc. I commented that this would lead to a girlfriend in the corner, blubbering “No more no more” while the partner wailed “But I only need another 2 strokes per minute and I can level up!”. There would be email notifications for the likes of me with no phone or smartwatch. Some took this further, with the appliance having Star Wars sounds, as in lightsabers. I had to ask what these were. It was explained to me and then the Star Wars mafia turned up, complete with that paler-than-me look they have, afraid of the sun, carrying their diet of fizzy pop and cheesey puffs. So you see, my days are filled!


As I have mentioned, I do a bit for charity. While I always give anyone I see begging some food and a drink, never cash, sadly this can’t be done at events. They much rather prefer a cheque than a chicken sandwich and a coffee from Greggs. We’ve raised a fair bit over the years for various causes, from sports pitches to holidays for disabled children, to sensory rooms to wellies for the RNLI. Some of the events have been tiny, some middling, some huge. Every one was good to be involved in. We work hard to make as much money as we can, and if that involves me dressing up as a chicken, crossing the road as many times in an hour as I could, or having wet sponges chucked at my face by ten year olds, or sitting in a bath of custard all day.. so be it. I draw the line at cutting off my hair! We’ve had celebs turn up to auction off memorabilia, strippers giving their time for free to walk round events with buckets, (always a wallet opener, even though they roped me in as well), and extremely well known footballers taking penalties against MP’s. The amounts raised have varied but you would hope that it all goes to a good cause. Wouldnt you?

The amounts paid to charity bosses astounds me. A quick Google shows that, for instance, the average salary for one of these leeches is £185,000. Why do you need that? Save the Children has 346 employees earning more than £58,000. The Salvation Army’s top earner receives between £150,000 and £160,000. Marie Stopes boss Simon Cooke was paid £434,000 last year… for what? When I see the efforts put into charity work by volunteers, the time it takes them to raise what is effect a tiny amount in the grand scale of things, it boils my blood to see the managers enjoying a lifestyle the volunteers can only dream of…. but then as a volunteer you do it for the feeling. Shouldn’t you be paying the CEO a decent wage and giving the rest to the cause it was donated to in the first place?

OXFAM’s boss Mark Goldring receives £124,000. You’d think that they would be able to empower men as well as women then?

I’d much rather donate to a local charity, such as the great St Oswalds hospice in Gosforth.

When helping to organise an event as a fundraiser, I always ask three questions. Will the money raised be able to be seen to affect the reason it was raised for directly? Can I see this happening? And if not, why not? If any of these come back as a no, I don’t help and put it out there on the charity folk media that the charity involved are not transparent. The RNLI are transparent, you can see what they buy, and see it in use. OXFAM are as cagey as they come. They covered up their staff using vulnerable women in Haiti as prostitutes in 2011, and won’t say how much of your £1 is given in direct aid. The Teenage Cancer Trust, wonderful people who are more than happy to show you exactly where the money is spent, say that 60p of that £1 is used to help people. The British Red Cross say their amount is 80p, while St John Ambulance say 87p.

All OXFAM will tell you is that “On average for every £1 we spend, 84p goes on our emergency, development and campaigning work”. Just tell us how much is used for all those vegetables, classrooms, wells, and women, (and we all know how much you value them in Haiti or Chad).

Now I’ve nothing against the people that work in the shops at all, I do it myself for other charities. Unpaid work is good for the soul, they say. You spend your time how you feel it is best served. I wouldn’t lend myself to be in a place that is biased to one sex, as OXFAM are. No mention of helping men on their website. On that same website, we have this statement.. “As an intersectional feminist ally, Oxfam believes in ending sexism”. But only for women, then? You can’t say that you support ending sexism if you don’t also include men. Also this strange one. “We are working towards a world in which women and their allies…” Allies? You mean other humans? These and other are the reasons that many I know just will not help OXFAM.

However, I will continue to support charities that offer something to people other than the stated goodwill in their press releases. Action is needed in so many places. I am tempted to say we should start this at home, an opinion that could well be regarded as insular. I can see where money is being spent in Gosforth or Hartlepool or Manchester or Poole. It is far more difficult to see what, or who, you are spending that cash on in Bolivia. I fear some of it goes on stuff the likes of OXFAM workers in Haiti liked to call “incidentals”.

As ever, thanks for reading.

Anna

Durham

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