How to Improve the World with Four Easy Steps

August 30, 2007 at 10:57 am (life)

Well, unfortunately, unlike the title suggests, I don’t have any actual answers so, please replace the word ‘steps’ with ‘questions’ and then read on…

After reading A’s post about the fact that simply changing the world isn’t good enough, I decided that I would like to make a response, as similar thoughts have been plaguing me recently.

It started when I was told how much money a friend of mine could normally expect as a Christmas bonus and it turns out that it’s just a grand and a half less than my annual salary. The amount of money really shocked me; it’s not that I don’t think she deserves it. I know for a fact that this particular person is the hardest working person I have ever met and has been since we first got to know each other at school. If anyone deserves a cracking bonus, it’s her. However, it just seems rather unjust, as her job is not one that is trying to improve England or its inhabitants and it is also not adding anything to the community.

1. Why don’t the people working or fighting for a cause get all the bonuses?

The way life works, especially in London, is that you have to earn a respectable amount of money in order to survive. But does that warrant a bank giving out bonuses bigger than some nurses salaries? What exactly are these high flying business men and women doing in their job to add to or improve our society?

I won’t lie, at first, I may have been a bit jealous of the huge amount of money. My initial thought was “I’ve worked hard (granted not as hard) but where’s my big bonus at the end of the year?”. However, when later challenged with the question “well what do you actually want all that money for?”, I didn’t have an answer! Yes, I’d love to have more shoes (wouldn’t we all?) and I’d like to not have to worry about where my next pay cheque is coming from and at some point in my life, I’d like to be able to buy a house and provide for my family. Although I believe these things are all do-able on an average salary, you don’t need millions of pounds to be able to buy shoes for your children. So, I have come to the conclusion that as long as I have enough money to get by happily, then I don’t need millions.

What do people do with millions of pounds any way? Put it in the bank to make more millions? Is that not greedy? I’m sure that some people donate chunks of their money to good causes, but is it enough? Should it be left up to the individual to decide whether he/she wants to donate money or should it be done automatically for us? Is it our responsibility, as British citizens, to ensure that the health system works well and to ensure that those people doing jobs for the benefit of all of us, as a country, should be paid adequately?

2. Should salaries be worked out by evaluating an employees ‘worth’? i.e. how much the individual is adding to society.

Why is it that nurses, who work extremely long hours, and are trying to help save lives, do not earn much money? Are their jobs not some of the most important in the country? We expect the NHS system to be there when we need it but how can we expect medical staff to work when they are not being paid a fair amount? I feel that these jobs are more worthwhile and needed compared to all the jobs where someone is taking the role of the middle man in order to simply ‘make money’. It is far too easy to choose a job on the basis of its salary and not on the basis of its moral obligation. Why is this so?

In England there is no sense of rewarding those who are working to try and improve what we have. Take teachers, for example, they are educating our future, they are battling with stroppy teenagers and crying infants to try and change something, to make a difference. This is one of the most important jobs in the world. (Yes, I know that the education system itself is not perfect but that is a different battle entirely.) The teachers who are improving our children’s lives and encouraging their brains, creativity and abilities to grow, should be paid much higher salaries. The salary should compensate for the long hours, the swearing kids and give recognition to the fact that without them, we would be up shit creek without a paddle!

3. Why is London playing a different game to the rest of us?

In the big city that is our capital, it appears to me that we are playing a cut-throat game. Only the wealthy can get wealthier and it is extremely hard to get on that ladder without pushing your morals to one side. Another friend, who works in recruitment, said recently something along the lines of “You do what you’ve got to do, in order to get the job done and to get the sale”. What does that mean? Forget about your morals as long as you’re making money? Recruitment is an industry that I despise, they find you a job and then cream a certain percentage off your salary. Nice! What are they actually achieving and why do they deserve your/the companies money? As far as I can see the positives of this industry are:

  • They find you a job and (hopefully) make it less stressful then it would otherwise have been for both the employer and the employee.
  • They might be able to find the right job for you as they have a large network of contacts.

The negatives:

  • It has become virtually impossible to find a job without going through an agency because so many companies use them.
  • You loose a chunk of your money. (You could be on a higher salary if the agency wasn’t involved.) Or, the company looses a chunk of its money that could be put towards better things (supporting local apprenticeships for example.)
  • People are being paid a packet to be the middle man. What can they say that they’re adding to society?

4. How much money do we actually need?

If you were rolling in cash what would you do with all the money? How long would it take before you got bored of the second home in LA and the expensive car? What would having those things do to enrich your life? As the saying goes: money can’t buy happiness. I’m not saying that having lots of money wouldn’t be fun, but how much do we really need to have a happy and fulfilling life? I think what I’m trying to say is that the proportions of the countries money and how it is divided, doesn’t seem fair. I’m not sure if I’m saying that I want there to be more taxes because unfortunately I don’t know if I trust the government enough! I would like more money to be poured into education, medicine and given to charities, but I’m not sure if I trust the government to do that. They’d probably blow a whole lot of it on a war somewhere, that we didn’t really want or need, thus f***ing up another country as well as our own – good one!

Take some time to ponder over these questions, if you will, and give me your thoughts. Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Do bank employees deserve to be the richest people in the country? As you can see, I don’t know any of the answers; I am merely asking the questions that are revolving in my head, so that we will think about what we really want out of our lives. It would be nice if one day we live in a country where people only take as much as they need and do not hunger for more, just for the sake of it. Then, hopefully, all sectors of the community will be paid adequately and maybe we will feel a moral obligation to find, or do a job, that satisfies us whilst helping our neighbour.

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More Piano

August 28, 2007 at 4:41 pm (music, sign language)

Well, I finally got round to watching ‘The Piano’ two nights ago and it was brilliant. It was so moving and brilliantly acted and if that wasn’t enough, it was about a mute lady who used sign language! All my favourite things rolled into one film…ok well not all my favourite things, chocolate didn’t materialise in my hands whilst I watched it, but hey, you can’t have everything.

When you next go to the video shop, I recommend that you get this out, it’s fab but be ready with the tissues!

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Cooking alla Italiana

August 23, 2007 at 10:00 am (food, Italy)

I’ve been cooking and concocting like crazy; trying to get into the Italian lifestyle. So far:

  1. Home made basil and red chili pesto
  2. Champagne chocolate truffles
  3. Champagne chocolate ice-cream
  4. Tiramisu with coffee, chocolate and champagne
  5. Slow roasted tomatoes
  6. Roasted pepper and cherry tomato pasta sauce

Recipes to follow

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The Piano

August 22, 2007 at 10:44 am (Italy, music, studies)

Whilst sitting in Piazza Bodoni with the Verdi Music Conservatoire behind me, I could here someone playing a gorgeous piece of piano music, which reminded me of my quest to find more music. The piece was ‘The Heart Asks the Pleasure First’ by Michael Nyman, which was written for the film The Piano. So, I decided to start my broadening of musical horizons with Michael Nyman and spent the day trawling through videos on YouTube and listening to various pieces. I am absolutely in love with ‘The Heart Asks the Pleasure First’ and probably listened to it about 20 times in a row! It’s one of the most calming and thought provoking pieces of music I’ve listened to in a long time. Yes, it is very romantic and all very melodic and dissonances are rare but in my opinion this is nothing to be frowned upon; it’s just a really well written piece of music. Have a listen. This is a video of the piece with some clips from the film-enjoy.


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August 17, 2007 at 1:54 pm (Italy, studies)

Throughout my life I’ve always been told that I have a very English accent, some say posh, some say BBC and others say just plain. So, it came as a shock when, on Wednesday, I was told by an Italian lady that I didn’t have an English accent. I couldn’t quite understand what she was trying to say and wondered if she meant that when I spoke English I didn’t have a regional accent. When I asked for clarification, she replied, “No, when you speak Italian”. Wow! The biggest compliment ever, to be told by an Italian lady that I don’t sound English when I speak her language! I am very chuffed with myself and have a sense of renewed confidence; bring on the job interviews!

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Did We Get it Right?

August 12, 2007 at 10:04 am (Italy)

When we first visited Torino last March to check out the city, we stumbled across a nice little street that had everything you might want. Three butchers, a little supermarket, fresh bread and cheese shop, a pizza restaurant and a few other little boutique-style shops. We ‘Oohed’ and ‘Aahhed’ at this cute little arrangement and agreed that it would be a brilliant place to live.

However, since moving here, we have only mentioned that street a few times, for example: “I wish we could find that cute little street again” and “Is this street it? No, I don’t remember that being there” and we haven’t been successful in finding it again….until yesterday.

After the obligatory siesta, we went in search of a butchers (sausages were calling me). Our normal route for shopping has provided us with cheese, bread, pasta and veg shops a plenty, but no butchers. We both remember seeing one next to the pane al angolo shop about half way down our street, so we head in that direction. (Our road is very long, as it goes from the centre of town, by the station, right down to the river Po.) Unfortunately, the butchers near the bread shop is closed but we spot two more on the other side of the road. “Hang on, I recognise those shops!” “Yeah, and that little supermarket Meta next door!” Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’d found the little street that we’d always wanted to live near and here’s the best part; it’s our street! Via Mazzini really is turning out to be fab, I think we made the right decision when we rented this apartment, even if we didn’t know why at the time!

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“Drip, Drip, Drop, Little April Showers……”

August 9, 2007 at 11:23 am (Italy, photos)

Would you Adam an Eve it? It’s raining! I don’t mean any of your drissly, light rainy either; we have got thunder, lightening, the works! I was just about to lay the table for lunch on the terrace when the sky turned grey and the wind got up. (What the wind was doing previously, I have no idea, perhaps taking a siesta, but whatever it was doing, it got up off its lazy arse and started to whip around the streets of Turin.) It was quite fascinating really, shutters were banging, people in flip-flops and short skirts were dashing down the street in search of shelter and we even heard some windows smashing! At this sound, I raced into the lounge to close the doors and shutters, in an attempt to save us from the same fate.

A and I stood watching the courtyard of our apartment block for a while before I realised that I probably should change out of my mini-skirt and bikini top and into something more suitable. It’s the first time that I’ve worn a jumper since we arrived two weeks ago and I’m rather upset about it!

Took a few snaps but I didn’t want to get drenched so they’re from the window!

I suppose today probably wasn’t the best day to wash and hang out our bedding when we’ve only got one set! Oops! (Note to self: always check the weather forecast before washing things that have to be dry by the end of the day!)

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Wine 2

August 8, 2007 at 2:33 pm (Italy, wine)

Wine number two:

Prosecco Spumante’. Another sparkling wine but this is not as sweet as wine no.1.

Found on the list of wines that are sold by the 10cl, 1/4 (quarto) litro e 1/2 (mezzo) litro, at ‘Kipling’s Cafe e ristorante’. Wines listed in the official wine menu can only be bought by the bottle. Prosecco means dry, spumante means sparkling wine and this wine does exactly what it says on the tin. This wine is a little more expensive than the other wines on the list but at 6 euros for a 1/4 litre, I wasn’t complaining.

The Moscato from the previous ‘Wine’ entry was also on the wine menu but under the dessert wine section – so that explains why it was so sweet! (I don’t think I’d want to save it just for dessert though – my sweet tooth is present at all the courses!)

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Apartment Pics

August 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm (Italy, life, photos)

So now that we’re in and a bit more settled, we’ve taken some more snaps of the apartment.

This is the fresco on the lounge ceiling.

The terrace.

We also took some photos after we cycled up to a viewing point. It was far too hot so we didn’t hang around for long but this is Torino.

For the other photos go to my flickr account and they are in the folder ‘Appartamento Torino’

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Montebello Gamelan

August 5, 2007 at 10:32 am (Italy, music, my links)

When the decision to move to Torino was made, it seemed rather random to have chosen a city in the north that doesn’t normally attract a vast amount of tourists. I was informed, however, that nearby there was a man who had his own gamelan. After contact via email, we were invited to visit the mountains to the north of Torino, for a ‘merenda sinoira’. The area is 5 mins away from Castellamonte and is found by driving up a number of small windy roads and passages. Giovanni kindly led the way (or I don’t think we would have ever found it!) up the windy roads, past fields of corn and up some dirt tracks, until we came to a gorgeous villa in the mountains. The well decorated house (white walls with dark green doors) stands on acres of land that is made up of fields, wild areas, trees and the most impressive of gamelan pendopo I have ever seen. Having not been to Java, my knowledge of gamelan houses is fairly limited but this has to be one of the most impressive. The pendopo (in the picture above) on which the gamelan is set out, is raised on wooden struts and the top part (when it is not being played) is surrounded by a protective canvas. When we first arrived I thought it was a shame that we could not see the gamelan and hoped that we might get a glimpse later. Sure enough, Giovanni suggested that we have a look and maybe listen to some music and play along. (I found this extremely difficult as it is a different type of gamelan to the one I used to play. The Montebello Gamelan is Javanese and my gamelan knowledge is purely Sundanese.) We only had a little tinkle and did not play any instruments properly (although I did attempt the bonang solo of a Sundanese piece on the gambang) but even so it has the most amazing sound. The gamelan house is surrounded entirely by nature and open fields so the music can drift out, instead of being trapped in by walls and sometimes sounding too loud and encroaching. To sit at the foot of the pendopo whilst gamelan music was pouring out of the PA system (that is constantly set up on the platform) was one of the most relaxing things I have ever done. The views were gorgeous and the evening a general success.

We were treated to the Italian equivalent of ‘high-tea’ which consisted of a very tasty African dip, foccacia, salami sticks (that reminded me of pepperami), an Italian rice dish and we also tried some Javanese drinks. All were delicious.

My only regret is that I did not take my camera with me, so I have no photos to show you. (The photo above is taken from the website It truly is an amazing place and it is a shame that the gamelan is rarely in use. If anyone out there knows how to play Javanese gamelan and fancies a holiday to Torino then please let me know, as I would love to hear the live gamelan music drift over the picturesque Italian landscape, as I’m sure so many would if they only knew what potential it held.

Click here to listen to some Javanese gamelan. Once on the site, choose a CD from the list on the right and then ‘from the tracks’ at the top left. Then pick which track you want to listen to – easy!

(All the websites linked to and photos provided in this post are owned by Giovanni – thank you!)

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