No longer as truthful as should be deserved, some names, places and events deliberately vague to protect identities that aren't mine

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The money crisis: Part 3 (Bad Math)

I posted recently about my extreme level of being poor.  Or rather, my extreme lack of income to do anything other than put a roof over my head with.  We've been holding auditions recently for the new January show and it came up in conversation with the boyfriend last night as to what salary they earn.  Standard equity rates.  The bf said, "I assume even less than you", seeing as how being a low grade performer is not a hugely well paid job, and me, being management staff in a permanent position and all, you would think would be on a decent wage, comparatively speaking of course.

But of course you'd be wrong.  Equity rates are currently about £350-450 per week, depending on what you're doing, and this allows the company contracting you up to 8 performances in a week, plus rehearsals..  We generally do 5, but this allows us some breathing room for special events and private lunches and other such things.  My gross salary doesn't even break 300 per week, and by the time tax is taken into account, it's barely over 200.  The actors are getting twice my salary, for turning up half the time I do.  Obviously I appreciate there's more that goes into acting, singing, juggling etc, than just turning up and doing the job.  There's time spent learning lines, practicising songs, recognition of the time and investment others have spent refining their skills, a coverage of the necessary insurance premiums incurred by stage fighters etc.  You're paying for recognition of the level of their skill, not just the skill itself.  But that puts my recognised skill level pretty fucking low based on the quality of a lot of the auditionees we've had.  And I do things in my own time, I look to further myself, my skillset, I spend time awake at home creating a new lighting plot instead of sleeping.

I'm not entitled to equity rates.  I'm not on an equity contract, I'm not equity registered or affiliated, and I took my job at the offered rate of £7ph.  I effectively operate as the venue's technical manager, due to it being a small scale venue as far as the world of theatrical entertainment goes.  I'm expected to be designer, manager, operator and builder all in one.  And I am not a Mountview Stage Management graduate with a nice accreddited degree.  That's kind of fine.  That goes with the job, it goes with the industry, it goes with what I signed up to do.

But I really wish my salary reflected even just a little bit of that.  As an Equity Stage Manager I would be entitled to the same rate as our actors.  If you wanted to take into account the fact I have to do frequent and regular designs for lights, sound, set, etc.  Then freelance fees for a lighting design, even small scale, are considerable.  I both stage manage and I don't.  Lisa spends more time on the floor, doing what would count as stage management in this venue, but I will be taking over a lot of the backstage authority come January.  A stage manager gets paid a premium per performance.  Generally, a lot of techs aren't paid equity rates, it's not a luxury we have.  Entertainment, like retail, architecture, and city banking is one of those industries where it doesn't matter how many hours you're putting in, if you bitch about it there's a queue of other people waiting to do your job and not bitch.  But generally you're paid something such that you don't start bitching it in the first place.  Especially when you're a one man tech show.  Unless you're at Edinburgh of course, but that's 
an isolated microcosm in itself with its own laws of physics, so we can exclude it from our studies.

If you discount the rather wide remit of my role, if you discount the management aspect of it, the design aspect.  If you just count what my new starter wage form precisely says, I am a technician. So fine, count me as a theatre technician.  If you look at average theatre technician salaries. I come very firmly in the bottom region of what could be expected.  On a regional breakdown, I get paid about £10k less than expected for a theatre technician.  If I could get the extra £10k, I wouldn't even begin to mention the fact I design and manage on top of that.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

And that has made all the difference

It pisses me off a lot that I always seem to have to be the one to initiate the conversation.  Sometimes I give up entirely and refuse to do so anymore.  But eventually the urge to say hi gets the better of me, usually no more than a week following.  And whenever I do say hi, I'm reminded that it's worth being the one to always start it, because he always comes back at me with a pet name, and tells me that he loves me and misses me. :)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Balancing the Budget

Net Income: £200pw (~£800pcm)

Rent: £433.33
Utilities: £50 (water, electric, gas, internet)
Phone: £50
Council Tax: £152
Credit Cards: £60 (2x £30)
Travel: £80 (£20pw)

This comes to outgoings of £825pcm
You may, or may not have noticed, this is not including food costs of approx. £100 per month, which I actually can't afford at the moment, so the bf keeps graciously buying it so that I don't starve, but thus my outgoings are in fact in the region of £1000pcm, before any incidentals or disposable income.

This is, as shown, in all cases, more than my monthly income.
And thus, I am flat broke., in fact I am beyond flat broke and steadily getting worse and worse, as inevitably, I do spend money on a magazine, or some lunch, or the extra £5 return travel to see a friend once a week, and the £10 monthly spotify membership so I can carry my music wherever I am, so I lose more than just £25 per month.

There are some fine points to note; I pay all the council tax by myself as I'm the only working person in my house, so I'm effectively paying 3 people's share of it.  £1000 worth of outgoings sounds like a lot, but actually is fairly reasonable for someone living in London.  When you think about it, this requires a net salary of £12k, which works out at around £13k gross, so hardly extravagant.  I could live further out for cheaper, but that would involve longer commute times (not appreciated during 90 hour weeks), and incur higher transport costs, so a lot of the goodness would be negated.  I could get rid of my mobile phone, or my spotify membership, and sell my tv and computer and such, but I like to allow myself some form of entertainment and connection to the rest of the world beyond my house, my work, and the number 254 bus between them.

Like I said in my last post, I REALLY don't get paid enough for this shit.  At least not enough to stay in this job for an extended period of time.  And I think this also illustrates why we have the problem that emergency services staff often struggle to actually live in London, despite having to work there.  If only ALL jobs in London were subject to salary weighting.  Or at the least, if only this country had a proper concept of a living wage and actually paid it.  Currently, I'm 85p an hour below the rate set for the LLW, which equates to a difference of about £100 a month.  At least maybe then I'd be able to eat and not be systematically bankrupting myself.  In a perfect world, I'd like to actually contribute to my pension each month too.  £100 per month paid from birth till retirement gives you a nice tidy pension of £500k, before adjusted for inflation and accrued benefits.  My parents got me one and paid in it till i was 18, so I'm currently about £5k behind schedule.  I often live beyond my means but I'm not completely idiotic.

Addendum:  I also discovered I earn a mere 20p an hour more than the poverty level.  whoo. That makes me £30 richer per month than an official poor person.  This also puts me in the bottom 10% of full-time London earners, and sets me in approximately the 6th percentile, which let's face it, is a pretty crappy place to be, and sets me at worse than the majority of part time London earners.  WHOOP!

Fuck this, I'm going to Hogwarts.

So a while ago work actually discovered my blog, so this will inevitably get back to them, but oh well.  To be honest, depending on how much of my blog they read upon discovering it, they already know far too much about me anyway, at least enough to know the Hot Tour Guide story...

Ugh  Is what I'd like to say, just ugh.  Work, frustrating me no end at the moment.  We are launching a new show in January, in fact we held the auditions for it yesterday  (8 hours of watching people audition on only 2 hours sleep also earns an ugh, but that's a different matter). We also have very busy month in December, with almost double the amount of shows, as we are often doing full shows during the lunchtime period, as well as in the evenings.  For the January show, there was a big back and forth about whether we should close beforehand or not, and eventually it was decided that we would indeed have a 2 week dark period, in which to rehearse for the new show, the kitchen to get their times sorted, and for me to completely overhaul, rewire, and reinstall in several cases, the entire technical system, which is kind of a mess.

We already had some full nights booked for this dark period, so it was decided to honour them, fair enough. And although I don't know what cut off mark they used to declare 'full', this now means that 7 days of the 2 week dark period we are open and running a show.  What show I don't know as the contracts for the old show will have finished, and the new show won't be ready but *some* form of show.  This means that we have no more than 2 days in a row dark at any time during this 'dark' period.  During which, we need to have a complete PAT test; I need to take down all the lights, re-lay all the dmx, cat5 and power cabling, in the main room; reinstall all the lights in new positions and potentially install some new additional lights, which would further involve running in and rearranging the power and data cabling daisy chains; regardless of new lights or none, almost certainly repatching the entire system; potentially installing new LED drivers as the current set-up means they are not, and cannot be divided into architectural zones, so you can either macro every LED in the building, or none at all; on top of this I need to basically rip out the entire tech room, dispose of several obsolete bits of equipment, rearrange and redesign the layout of the currently useful equipment, replug the entire sound system from scratch; update the pc lighting software and try linking the control pc and dmx interface into the wireless hub so that i can remotely control it; and then of course, FINALLY, I need to TEST all of this work to make sure the damned thing still actually operates, and perform the inevitable troubleshooting that will be required.

Now whilst a lot of this work can be worked around our need to function and commitments and such, needless to say, a lot of it equally needs us to be closed, and thus not require it functioning, for more than 2 days.  As it is we're closed Mondays and Tuesdays in a normal week, so actually, we've gained very little, at least from a technical perspective.  Being open only 3 or 4 days a week and for relatively short periods puts them in a better position to conduct rehearsals, but they will want lights, and sound, and the absence of technical equipment being all over the entire venue floor in order to do that, so I am no better off than if they'd just bothered to stay open.


Beyond this, I'm having issues with time off in work.  Now I understand I was brought in especially for managing and producing this new show, so its important that I am involved with it as much as possible, and time off is a luxury I am not likely to be able to afford, especially in the few weeks either side of our gala reopening night.  I do get this.  But I asked like a month ago for some time off, some in likely earlyish february, as Terence is coming over, and aside from the fact I would obviously spend 24 hours a day with him given the chance, he was really really good to me over the summer, and spent loads of time with me and took me out loads and cooked and everything, and I'd really like to return the favour, and that's going to be hard to do if I'm gonna be in work 1600 - 0200 every day.  He doesn't know for certain if/when he's coming yet, which obviously complicates matters, and I realise getting a full week off around then just isn't going to happen, but 2 or 3 nights would be nice.

There's then one or two nights I might need off mid February.  I might be able to swing these, but until the reason I need these nights off is set and the date in place, I see no real reason to try and swing these.

And then moving on into March, it'd be hugely advantageous for me to get a week off for a project I'd like to be involved in, but even though we should be 8 weeks into the new show by then, so everyone should have it down fine, I have heard nothing about whether I can have this off despite asking a month ago and I really need to know sooner rather than later, and I still highly suspect the answer will be no.


Work isn't completely oblivous to the fact that they will be monopolising my time, and I will likely be working 90 hour weeks again in January and February (on the basis the show takes up 1800 - 0000 minimum, which is already 30 out of 40 contracted hours a week, and that's before I actually do any set up, rehearsals, maintenance, forward planning for special events and other such things during the day), I have been encouraged to take as much time off in December as possible, and bar the need to do some lunchtime shows, I could probably take virtually the entire month off more or less, which is nice and all, but not that useful.  Taking time off in advance so they can make me work 90 hour weeks doesn't really make up for 90 hour weeks, and I don't want a month off in December, I want a week off in Feb and a week off in March, because that's when I have things to do during those weeks, rather than just taking time off because it's convenient for my workplace if I do and there's nothing for me to be at work doing.

The time off is all rather pointless anyway unless I can get someone to cover me.  Ideally, I would love to hire someone part-time for 20 hours a week, this person could cover the shows I couldn't do, take over some of the more basic maintenance and upkeep that is all too time consuming, and would be especially useful for special events where as an example, the other day I was in work for 15 hours on a Sunday in order to do a wedding reception.  Being able to take 8 hours of an extra person would help immensely.  In a perfect world of course, the place could actually do with 2 full time technical staff, but there's no way in hell I'd get that.  Then again, I don't think there's any way in hell I'll get the budget for £500pcm worth of staffing costs.  Getting £10 for a tin of paint here is enough of a struggle.  Hell they still haven't even let me set up trade accounts with the suppliers so I keep having to use my own money and charge it to expenses, when we don't actually have any form of expenses at this company, they just grumble at me and then EVENTUALLY pay me out of petty cash, but that relies on me having the funds to spare, and the funds being within my means rather than some of the bigger purchases I would like to make.


I don't get paid enough for this shit.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Muscle Memory

My body is wierd.  Obviously this should come as no surprise at all to anyone who knows me well enough to read this blog, but occasionally, I get reminded of this fact in rather overt ways.

You should all by now know the convoluted nature of my love life, and that whilst I love Chris, I don't miss the other boys any less as a result.

Your body notices things subconsciously, if you wear a necklace every day you notice that you're not because of  the slight difference in weight, freedom of movement, and comfort (or discomfort).  Given the same requirement or circumstances over a continued period of time you develop muscle memory, which equally takes a long period of time to change or lose.  That's all fine, I get that.

When I get into bed some nights, and put my arm around Chris, my body notices something... not wrong, just different to what it expected.  The body it's over isn't as scrawny as it was expecting, I can't feel the entire spine and ribcage; or my arm isn't as high up as it thought it would be, because chris sleeps on his front rather than his side.  The boy I've just put my arm around is Chris, and not either of the other two it might want to be cuddling up to.  But what's constantly wierd about this is that I haven't gone to bed wishing I had Terence to hug or whatever; I've gone to bed thinking, "yay, getting into bed with boyfriend"  and then "snuggle up to chris time."  I'm very obviously and consciously thinking about the fact that Chris is the guy I'm with.  And then I put my arm over him and there's a physical body driven response that goes, huh, "that's odd... oh yeah..."  What further confuses me about this is that I haven't spent that much time with the people who aren't Chris; just a few weeks with each of them.  That shouldn't be long enough to develop that kind of muscle memory, and given the amount of time apart, and that it's Chris I get into bed with every single night, it certainly should have got out of that problem.

Like I say, it's not that I'm going, "oh, chris isn't the person I want", it's that my body just doesn't seem to be expecting it, despite all rather obvious signs to the contrary.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I'm Spinning Around...

I can't get enough of these songs at the moment:

Timo Descampes - Like It Rough  Obviously the title should give something away as to why I love this.  It's the official song of the upcoming Judas Kiss movie, which I can't wait for.  ANd as a bonus, the music video has Brent Corrigan shirtless, and being bitten by Timo as a vampire in it XD

Katy Perry - Firework  I actually hated this the first time around.  I mean what the hell is with the sparks shooting out of her chest, could she get any more sexual metaphorical?  But then the second time I loved it and since then I've been hooked, this is probably the song I'm listening to most at the moment and could play on repeat over and over again.  It sends me manic, which is great.  I love when I find a song that can do that.  Lesbianism and cheesy popness aside, I'm really really into this song.  Plus, it has gay boys kissing in it, and that's always nice to see in something mainstream.

Glee Cast - Teenage Dream.  Another Katy Perry song technically, after like 5 singles that I LOVE, I think I'm forced to concede I am now truly another Katy Perry fangay.  Aside from the acapella arrangement of this being fantastic, something about a hot boy basically begging me to grab his arse in song form just gets me going, mmmm....

Christina Perri - Jar of Hearts  This is a lot more downbeat that all the others.  The music video is wierd, I get what they're trying to do with the formal slowed down dancing, but I don't it works to be honest, but the song is still constantly in my head, and it's a great bitter angry burned by the person you trusted most kinda song.

American Hi-Fi - The Break Up Song  Terence is to blame for this one.  He constantly reminds me of all the crappy teenage bands I used to <3, because he still listens to them all (one of the many reasons we get on, we will both happily rock out at the top of our very bad singing voices to New Found Glory, The Starting Line, etc).  If you're the one that broke up with someone and your ex is pissing you off, listen to this, or send them it as part of an angry i-hate-you mix tape.  It says it all really.

Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are  Chris hates Bruno Mars, I kinda love him.  Like Katy Perry, I know it's really bad overproduced pop, but I just find it so uplifting.  This song just describes love to me; how its stupid for the person you love to be worried around you, because you always think they are the most incredible person you've ever met; they're amazing, and all the little thing that they hate most about themselves, are the bits of them you find the sexiest.

But that's what I'm listening to these days kids.

EDIT:  I forgot to include the following:

Enrique Iglesias - I Like It.  I also have to confess to being a secret Enrique fan, the man's damn hot, and he does awesome jumpy music (this one, Bailamos, Escape, etc.) and can then go right to the other end of the classic ott love song (Hero).  This is one of my songs of the (late) summer, that happens to still be ticking over in my head.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Anarchy in the UK

I used to have a picture from one of my anarchist websites.  3 frames, with a cartoon illustrating each of the following

A single person asking for change achieves nothing.
A large group might get a response
But simple direct action gets immediate results

This last frame was illustrated by a little anarchist setting fire to the giant man of government standing in his way, thus causing giant man to yell and run elsewhere.

Direct Action, and Civil Disobedience, are complex terms.  How they are defined, the context they are used in, how they are understood and interpreted by others.

It's #demo2010 today and between 20,000 - 50,000 (or 500 'radical socialists' if fox news deigns to give it a 15 second segment) students, graduates, researchers and lecturers have taken to the streets to protest the proposed changes to university funding and teaching cuts.  It is expected to be the biggest march since the Stop The War protests (which I was at and was pretty fucking phenomenal).

The right to protest, the right of freedom of assembly and the right of freedom of speech are things I will gladly fight to the death for, and I'd be a pretty crappy anarchist if I didn't staunchly believe in these things.  Any society that purports to be a 'democracy' of any kind, whether accurately or not, must allow its citizens these rights (amongst others).  Protest rallies, marching, striking, petitioning, whether I personally support the cause or not, is all admirable as far as I'm concerned, and whilst, like every other Londoner, the clockwork regular tube strikes and inevitable transport chaos piss me off no end, I will never support those who would restrict any person's, union's, or body's right to strike freely.  Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety and all that jazz.

As is inevitable with protests, there is always a minority who cause 'trouble'.  Be it because they genuinely are that angry and frustrated with society, or because they got bored of chanting and only recognise 'anarchism' as the outdated, defunct, and offensive definition that means rioting and looting at will.  And that is what gets reported and is what people remember years down the line.  It tars the entire group with the same brush, and certainly in this country, violent disobedience is not tolerated; it tends to go down a little better in European countries for some reason.

Civil disobedience is allowable, that covers simple protest, and striking, because those are disobedient in regard to the rules you have been mandated to abide by in a particular context (such as conditions at work).  There is also the less reasonable and accepted methods; rioting, mobs, etc

Direct action, is also, a fairly allowable thing, peaceful direct action has existed for a long time.  Slow-downs, sit ins, picket lines to mark denial of entry during strikes.  And again it has its less tolerated examples: assault and arson being two.

It's stupid to ruin something respectable with a few ignorant actions using the wider cause as a defence for wanting to be simply uncivilized.  It's stupid to become so wrapped up in the chaos and destruction and anger of what you're doing you ignore the reasons you're (supposedly) doing it in the first place and start throwing fire extinguishers off roofs.  When people from the NUS or UNITE or whatever call for civil disobedience or direct action from their members, they refer to peaceful protest, but some use that as a defence to argue their counter productive actions are justified and called for.

But then again, how counter productive are they?  Simple direct action gets immediate results.  It is not laudable, it shouldn't occur, though it also shouldn't be the case that 16 million people world wide need to protest a war, but sometimes it is, and those violent outbursts, make the events so memorable.  People remember what happened in Greece because it was aggressive.  People remember the Boston Tea Party because it was an unoffical declaration of war from a nation feeling severely oppressed that was a key point in a chain leading to a formal declaration of war.  Direct action, in the not-always-peaceful definition of the term, does get results.  It gets you noticed, for better or worse, and it gets results, for better or worse.  Protesters throughout the ages who have been jailed, reproached, and criminalized for their actions, and suffered for it, have often been the pioneers of those who have brought about a change for the better for the rest of us.

I do not, will not, and cannot condone the actions of a few violent, ignorant individuals whose aim is largely to break some shit and feel all powerful and important for 2 hours whilst the news helicopters circle above and before the riot police club them into submission.

But I do not believe that the action of a lot of people shouting loudly about how unfair life is and waving some placards they made the day before will ever achieve much of any import.  A protest march is important, it galvanises people, it gives them something to believe in, it is representative of how unpopular a cause of action is, and in many cases, gives people the means to pool together and achieve legal recourse to defend their causes by forming into a group.  But if 16 million people shouting can't stop a war, and if legal recourse can be appealed and retried and appealed and retried all the way up to that nation's supreme courts (and beyond in the case of EU nations), taking years before any significant change is finally agreed upon, I have to believe that direct action, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes not so, is the way forward, because it has so often achieved results where mere complaining to those who are oppressing you in the first place, not surprisingly, results in fairly little being done, beyond maybe a small but ineffectual concession if you bitch long enough and loud enough.

Do I think this protest, or the rioters at Millbank will actually change anything about the proposed funding legislation.  Not at all.  But I stand by every single damned one of them for having the courage to make people notice.