dedicated with all my love to my great mate, imogen. x :-)


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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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57 Responses to 815

  1. Forrest says:

    Okay, so how’s it work for the unemployed middle class?

  2. soniamain says:

    There a lot more of the unemployed according to the gov stats. Hope your having a great time Imogen.

    I wish I had a gap year, or went traveling when I was younger but my dad it last year with 4 months in Nepal at the age of 58, trecking and then working in an orphanage, he had an amazing time. He is my inspiration.

  3. James says:

    My “gap year” included working, so it was possibly neither of those things..

  4. jonbirch says:

    james… ‘possibly neither of those things’, or possibly at least a bit of one of those things?

  5. jonbirch says:

    yeh, sonia. have a gap year later in life, like your dad. i’m sure you’ll really properly feel like you’ve earned it.

  6. No gap years for me. had a few ‘gap summers’ though.

  7. Rosslyn says:

    You don’t think teenagers, who have just come out of 4 years of exams and intense expectations, have earned it?

    I took a gap year, worked for four months and then went to South Africa for 4 months. It was one of the best experiences I ever had. It was up to me to raise the money, and I had an opportunity to experience a dream.

    I felt I had “properly” earned it and I still do. It wasn’t a holiday, I worked hard and I learnt more about the world we live in than I ever could have in school.

  8. subo says:

    the way we look at one another has such a powerful effect on the others well being

  9. jonbirch says:

    i think possibly some have, rosslyn. sounds like you used your time wisely. it’s a bit of a cruel cartoon in some ways… but surely, however much one’s ‘earned’ it, or whatever kind and generous things one does with one’s time, gap years are still a luxury that the middle classes afford their children, are they not?

  10. In some cases yes Jon, but I know a lot of working class folks who have saved up money through jobs and done gap years through organisations like Project Scotland. They’ve travelled and all sorts.

    And most of the middle class folk I know that have done gap years have spent their time doing voluntary work experience to try out different jobs to see what they want to study or go abroad to work for charities or travel to see a bit more of the world and get a bit of life experience which sets them in good stead for going into university or workplace.

  11. jonbirch says:

    bk… i hear you… and wouldn’t want to do down good work done by young people… in fact i prefer to big it up generally. but, that you know some working class folks who’ve done a gap year doesn’t mean many do in the scheme of things, if you take my drift. i’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a gap year either (although i’m not utterly convinced that all this going abroad is that good for the planet), but just that it’s an undeniable luxury. you know me… just trying to get a conversation going. ;-)

  12. Rockingrev says:

    Is it a luxury? Depends what you do with it. I took a year off between a science degree and my divinity studies to work for the Church of Pakistan as a youth volunteer. Gave me valuable experience which I now can take into my ministry. If it is just an elongated holiday traveling round the world then that is a luxury. As I say depends on what you do with the year.

  13. pssstttt… good opportunity for kids at a disadvantage.


  14. Carole says:

    I think that the idea of a gap year is a great one and know many who have benefitted from the experience. I would class us as a working class family but our eldest took a gap year to work with a church youth project in the North East – turned out to be the worst experience of her life! Maybe in years to come she will find something of value in that demoralising time. What I think you tend to find is that more young people are taking gap years than ever before…but it tends more and more to be about earning a bit of cash to help them through the cruelly expensive student years. Certainly that is what I will be encouraging my youngest to do. But recent experience with the young man living next door to me is that he couldn’t find a job, so sadly the second picture is true.

    I think there is scope for local business/industry/government etc. to create internship programmes specifically for the gap year to give young people a chance to gain some valuable work experience. After all, most are in their early to mid twenties before they enter the workforce in earnest. I was sixteen. I know internships do exist but they are often for graduates.

    My favourite recent gripe is the hypocrisy of our society – in that we throw a lot of spin/sound bites around and seem to think that, simply by doing that, they magically become reality; in fact nothing could be further from the truth – think ‘customer service’ for example. Well another one is ‘investors in people’. I entered the workforce about 30 years ago and it was common practice for companies to offer proper 4 year apprenticeships and day release to do other career related courses. Nowadays you are often expected to personally foot the bill for training – the only loyalty is to the shareholders and the upper echelons of management. What happened to all the great public benefactors in business and industry?

    Sorry, I digress, but I’ve got myself so worked up now I don’t want to scrap it! It is related…kind of! :)

  15. Clare says:

    I think to be able to do something just because you want to do it is a total luxury. In that sense it is irrelevant whether that thing is helping others or not, or whether it is a valuable use of time or a character building experience – it’s still a luxury which is beyond even the imaginings of many young people. When I was 19 I would have loved to take a gap year but couldn’t afford to – even in the days when college tuition fees were paid for you. Those friends who did were all effectively subsidised by their parents one way or another – either with cash handouts or free board and lodging while they earned their travel money. I don’t blame anyone for wanting their kids to have the best experiences – I’m sure I’d be the same if I was a parent. But let’s recognise that it is a privilege not available to everyone.

  16. Carole says:

    Rockingrev – I take your point, but a lot of these gap year programmes require a significant financial input from the person embarking upon it. Most need to choose between that and supporting themselves in the student years.

  17. Carole says:

    Clare – exactly! Don’t forget, if you take a gap year, that is in effect another year that you are without income in your life, too. So, for most families, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.

  18. jonbirch says:

    exactly, clare and carole… what you choose to do may not be to luxuriate yourself at all, it may even be pretty selfless even though it is for your own edification and development, but it is absolutely a luxury to be able to do that.

  19. Rockingrev says:

    If it had required significant financial input, I could not have gone. I paid my own airfare by working for the summer instead of going on holiday like most of my friends and then had a paid job once there. Not well paid, but enough to live on. In some ways it was luxury to be able to do it Jon, but only in that I did a whole lot of research, found a paying volunteer post for the year and then get Edinburgh to keep my place in divinity school for a year.

  20. linus says:

    Earning a living wage is a luxury, in the sense that some people don’t. If we are blessed with much (and if you’re reading this, you are) then we have the priveledge of blessing others out of the blessing we are given. Luxury is not a bad thing in itself. What you choose to do with it…

    “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

    And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

    This is a hard teaching – it scares the shit out of me, frankly – but also a good one. It should be an encouragement, not a condemnation. A gap year is a blessing, a gift from God that can be used to bless others. So is life itself. I must choose to use that which i have to honour God and serve others. Complaining about what i do not have serves no purpose (physician heal thyself!). Make the best of whatever you are given.

  21. Imogen says:

    Everyone so far has made some sort of extremely and well thought out points towards this cartoon. But for me, as im actually on a gap year at the moment, it has ment alot of things for me so far and ive only been away from the ‘luxuries’ from home for about a month and a half. There are a few main reasons in which i have decided to come on a Gap year, and finding the right sort of gap year was also a hard desision becasue with all the competition from different charities and organisations. For me and my personal options i wanted to choose a charity in which would help me grow in my faith but also to learn alot about myself and who i am. Where i have and i know many other people have been stuck in education for the past 14years of our lives without a break, being surrounded by people who may influence us in bad ways or good, were still surrounded by the things that may actually distract us from finding out who we truely are. Like, college was a completley different thing, stepping into an environment in which you can choose your own courses and possibly grow in that, but your still restircted, your being restricted to what the syllabus tells us to learn even though your doing a course you want to learn more in. There should have totally been a lesson in learning more about yourself, but at the same time you need to do that in yoru own time. So thats why i’ve decided to come on a gap year. I have found a really cool charity called Bless (www.bless.org.uk), and they base their ministry around God, which is totally amazing, not just for me because i can learn more about God while im doing my gapyear, but also the whole reason i am here is to help ‘spread the word’ as it were.
    I did have a few troubles though deciding on actually coming, for example some members of my family wanted me to go straight into uni, as they thought that staying a year out of education was a bad thing and that i would loose the routine of learning and stuff. But also at the same time they also thought that me coming on a gap year was thinking that it was like i was being unemployed for a year, of which would have cost me some large sum fo money (im a student/missionary… anything over the amount of 50pounds was alot)
    But the money didnt come from my parents. Like alot of people may presume, or i have heard of cases where the kids are like, ‘i’m taking a gap year’ and the parents are well up for giving them the money in needing to do that. What absolutly crazy mental strange thinking parents. For me, where the whole point in going for a gapyear is to learn about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses. Many people will fundraise to support the finances that they need to go on these gapyears. For example my mum and a few of my friends helped me make around 500/600 cards. Like, that took up sooo much time, i wouldnt have even got minimum wage for doing what i did. Also i did things like going on midnight walks with the church, nd telling people about what im doing, and using something that i enjoy like photography in helping me raise the money. When i was doing this like about 8months before i actually needed to hand in the money, i came to realise that i did grow in myself, knowing my boundries and things like that, because i was spending more time with myself and with God. And from doing that for that amount of time, thinking about what could change for me in the better for coming out in the middle of no-where (i’m in slavonki brod in croatia btw.) was just totally amazing thinking about it.
    Gap years should be a time for spiritual growth and finding out more about yourself, rather than people supporting you for you to go out on your arse and getting absolutly ratfaced every other night, and at the end of it, all they have achieved is a huge hangover.
    I do advise no matter what age you are or in what situation you are in, like if youve got a family, partner, single, unemployed, to try and take a gap year, like, even if its like in a nearby city, or across the world, just take yourself out of your boundries and experience something that you have never experienced before. And t the end of it, it may have ended up being totally balls and crap, but on the other hand it could be totally life changing. People should take the risk and just try something new for once. You don’t have to be old and grey like Jon (joking!!) you still have the time and im sure anyone can find the energy to find a little more about themselves.
    A gap year could and couldnt be a luxury, it totally depends in how you take it. There are peoples parents who have paid for their gap years, which could almost be a luxury or a free holiday as it could have seemed. But alot of people have got it into their heads and have wronly pressumed what a gap year could really entail. I would say stop presumming, and find out for yourself, as stupid and corny as it sounds ‘never judge a book by its cover’, if youve heard storys about how bad gap years can be, dont take that on board because you and the person who just told you that could have different interests, different expectations, and totally different experiences in life that could change your mind about it.
    I could rant forever! But im off to eat some budgeted food and help some disabled kids!

  22. subo says:

    wow folks, this has turned out to be an amazing discussion

    I think it’s good to invest in yourself, in a sense of adventure, and in building your community spirit, at all times of life

  23. youthworkerpete says:

    I would have though purpose has something to do with it. A gap year is when you fully expect to be doing something completely different in 12 months time.

    I have a friend who is currently on their second gap year, and working full time. I’m starting to wonder what the gap is she’s refering too – it seems shes jumped straight into a career!

    As Imogen has put across, for all her reasons, I really applaude gap years and wish I had the foresight to do one!

  24. Tiggy says:

    Why shouldn’t someone have a year of what you’re calling luxury if they want it and can afford it or their parents can? Why shouldn’t they do whatever they want?

  25. Imogen says:

    well it depends on their view on a gap year is, i mean different people do it for their own different reasons. But like, for me its about growing up and becoming your own person, whats the point on going on that sort of journey if your parents are going to fork out the money? Just seems a little bit pointless, as then it seems like their kids are always going to rely on their parents. I dunno, it all depends on how youve been raised and your own opinion. Im at the age when all my life my parents have been apart of me, making my desisions for me, but im at the stage when im ready to make the desisions by myself, and if my parents helped me by giving me all the money i needed it seems like then i would never grow up and i would always expect my parents to give and get me the stuff that ive always wanted.

  26. soniamain says:

    Imogen you have made some great comments. I am really pleased that it is working well for you in croatia, and I know from having you working on my team for the last 3 greenbelts you are an incredible hard worker and throw yourself into the job you are doing. I don’t doubt for a moment that your time in croatia will be inspiring and that you will be continue to grow and develop into an amazing woman.

    I think what can be good about gap year is volunteering and working with people/ groups you might not normally spend time with. However I don’t think you always need to go abroad for that!. Having time to give something to other people is hugely important, be that working in a charity shop, helping in a youth club, in a community cafe, anything really, The act of freely giving your time is an important one to learn. I helped out at my local youth club when I was 15, once a week with the infants club. I ended up years later getting a job with the same organisation, still work there now!.

  27. subo says:

    at times when I’ve been on Iona, I’ve met people who had hit a cruch time, like finding the bullying at work had pushed them to breaking point, I know many people volunteer there as part of developping their ministry, but it shows that there are opportunities when life bottoms out

  28. Robb says:

    I suspect that the main difference implied by the cartoon is that on the left hand side “not knowing what you want to do so exploring” is seen as acceptable where as on the right hand side there is no need to “find out who you are”.

    I know plenty of people on both sides of the percieved divide. I remember falling foul of the right hand box when I was youger. I dropped out of my first year of university and changed course. My miner father said “well I guess you have managed to wangle another year of pi$$ing about before you get a proper job”. 7 years of uni later…

    I wish in some respects that I had done all of thoses things in the left hand box. My best mate went to india and then taught in Japan for two years.

    But then I guess I managed to go on placement in Kampala. So it isn’t all weekends in Whitby.

  29. jonbirch says:

    nowt wrong w’whitby lad. the best jet comes fromt shores o’ whitby. :-)

    imogen said… “You don’t have to be old and grey like Jon (joking!!)”… i see your gap year hasn’t yet taught you any manners young lady. :lol: there’s still time. :-) thanks for coming and bringing such a useful and interesting contribution to the discussion imogen. i admire the effort you put in to get yourself out to croatia and am well used to seeing and hearing about the efforts you put in to all the things you love. i wonder, when i was 19, would i have had the guts to do what you’re doing… i’m not sure i would. respect. :-)

    just to make it clear… i’m not anti gap years… i just want us privileged ones to recognise that even to have the choice of where we put our efforts in is a luxury… and not just by world standards… in our own country there are many people for whom those choices do not exist, so we should remember to be grateful for the freedoms and opportunities we have.

  30. Robb says:

    Let us see if I can muster just the right level of rude….

    Jon – When you were 19 it would have taken months on the boat to get there :lol:

  31. Robb says:

    But you would have been able to to listen to my heart will go on (compulsory listening on all boats back then).

  32. jonbirch says:

    you make me feel glad i’m not 19 again! :lol:

  33. Robb says:

    But those were the good old days…..

    No hang on!!!

    Internet – Remember when we had to go to the library to find things out??!!
    Blackberry – I never need to touch a computer anymore!!
    Money – actual real money!!
    Being able to pay for guitars!!
    Computers that don’t need 10 minutes loading a tape!!
    Motorbike insurance you can actually pay – without selling an organ!!
    Sky TV – that you can pause!! Live!!
    House you can make a mess in without complaints from parents/flat mates!!!

    Need I go on with the list?

  34. Tiggy says:

    I don’t know about a gap year; if I were 18 now, my parents could never afford for me to go to university at all. As it was, I had to work for a few years so I could get an independent grant as they would never have paid for me to go.

  35. Robb says:

    My parents couldn’t afford to send me to university when I was 18. I had to pay for it through loans and a job.

    I did struggle with the concept of standing up and telling pupils to go to university when I was a teacher. How could I ethically tell them to spend 3 years of their life getting into such horrific debt?

  36. @Robb – surely nobody should be telling pupils to go to university, instead it should be about helping them to find their passion, their gifts and skills and find a route to use that for what they want to do. But then I know when I was a pupil, teachers told me I should stay till the end of high school, which universities I should apply for based on the stereotype they had boxed me into.

    They were totally wrong. I’m glad I ignored their advice and left school a year early and went straight to uni. By far the best decision I ever made.

    For some people the route to get to doing something they are good at and doesn’t drive them crazy could mean university. or it might mean getting work experience. or it might mean college. or it might mean an apprenticeship. or a trainee programme.

    And it’s sad to say that because so many people are encouraged to go to get a degree now, a university degree isn’t worth as much as it once was. And there’s less grants and more loans…

  37. Robb says:

    I bow down to your superiority. Clearly my turn of phrase was inadequate and I appologise profusely for influencing the lives of the pupils in my care.

  38. Tiggy says:

    It’s very hard to get on in America without a degree now, and very expensive to get one. I guess it might become like that here. Even to be a classroom assistant there you have to do a three year course.

  39. Robb says:

    it has been heading that way for the past couple of decades. Since the Polys started to become universities. It is all swings and roundabouts. In secondary schools they are pushing towards vocational qualifications once more. No doubt we will soon see polys once more as the further education catches up again.

    It is the one shoe fits all problem.

  40. @Robb – you are excused lol. But I reckon there are LOTS of teachers trained to ‘tell kids they should go to university’ and probably for the same reasons Tiggy said.

    I really hope they don’t end up making teenagers stay in school til they’re 18 like has been suggested. I went nuts staying in school til I was 17, never mind 18! I found school so oppressive to learning.

  41. Robb says:

    To be honest, I don’t remember being trained to say anything about higher education or telling kids to do anything. But when they ask how they can be an X the answer is often university course Y.

  42. Robb says:

    And thank you :lol:

  43. I really hope they don’t end up making teenagers stay in school til they’re 18 like has been suggested.
    …too late Brunetta, it’s law and will happen from 2013.

  44. Tiggy says:

    Poor teachers! I think it’ll lead to a drop in academic standards too.

  45. Imogen says:

    What a bunch of idiots the government can be. Hearts may be in the rigt place but their heads are blatently not there. Keeping kids in school till their 18? Kids are just gunna drop out and do something stupid with their time. Just because the government think that its goign to be good for their kids and all, but, would the people who are involved with the government (im no good with politics) now, qould have they liked to be in compolsery education until the age of 18? They think it’s best, they should ask the kids of our generation what we think, because it may end up our kids being effected by all of this, not the people who are in goverment. ahhh. i wish they would think.

  46. In Africa gap year or voluntary work is like a luxury.

    You are expected to finish school and start working in PAID employment to provide for your immediate and extended family

    I think that there is an option to take time out can e a rewarding experience if you have the right attitude.
    If your working or middle class parents can’t fund it directly, they still do it indirectly by providing free food and board while you fundraise for it

  47. jonbirch says:

    imogen… i think some kids should be allowed to leave at 15 and go and get apprenticeships like in the olden days. what’s the point in keeping them in school longer, given that they’ve already endured ten years of something they can’t stand? best get out and learn a trade or something.

    kim… you’re right. there must be a degree of wealth within the family to make a gap year possible. it is a luxury and you give a good example of exactly why we should be grateful for this luxury.

  48. Tiggy says:

    Well I think they should be allowed to leave at ten and go up chimneys and down mines like in the good old days.

    There ARE no apprenticeships. That whole scheme was a failure. There were just a few for the whole country and in most areas none at all. My nephew tried very hard to get one. Employers don’t want to pay wages to untrained people. They would rather the government paid for their training and then they can get them already competent.

  49. jonbirch says:

    i’m saying that’s how it ”’should”’ be. it worked fine for my dad’s generation in the south and that’s all i can speak for. i’m sure there are horror stories. i’m not suggesting anyone go up chimneys as you well know. i’m saying that learning a skill on the job would be a good thing for some. the fact that your nephew can’t get one when needed proves my point entirely.

  50. Tiggy says:

    I know you weren’t suggesting that; that was my suggestion. I was thinking of my youngest nephew who’s very small and thin – he’d be great up a chimney. It was a joke, which was then followed by a serious point.

    It ain’t gonna happen. Better education is the answer and then people can go on to higher education in technical colleges, if they wish, like in Germany. Unfortunately, this country has a very negative attitude towards learnng. I think one of the problems is how people are treated by teachers. I hated school, but it wasn’t because of the learning – it was the atmosphere.

  51. Carole says:

    Imogen – how true! The government is largely made up of ambitious egos who seem to care not a jot for the greater good but simply about their own advancement.

    John – yes, bring back real apprenticeships lasting 4 years, under the tutelage of older workers who have put them through the initiations of being sent for a long stand/glass hammer etc as an integral part of the training…not the slimline excuses for apprenticeships they have had in recent years.

    Tiggy, yes, education is the answer and not always via the school/academic route. We need to appreciate that people can have proper skills and talents without turning them into academics via the back door. We need fewer dissertations and more recognition of practical knowledge and skills. I’m not impressed, though, with NVQs which seem simply to provide a money-spinning paperchase for the benefit of training organisations and are not actually worth the paper they are written on. When I book a tradesperson for work on my home I tend to go for older people…I’m not denying that younger people may be able to do the job just as well but I don’t have confidence in the training. Hence the fact, I will book an electrician for a job on my house who is in my own age bracket with a proven track record, whose father was a spark before him rather than my own great-nephew who comes highly recommended by his nan (my sister) but has only just completed his 2 years of training…but don’t tell him I said so!

  52. jonbirch says:

    haha… i hope they don’t read that carole. :-)

  53. Pingback: Class and the Framing of a Work-Free Year » Sociological Images

  54. Lou_P says:

    I couldn’t afford to work to save for a gap year trip because even staying at home involved paying rent etc. And the main reson I wasn’t at Uni was that I couldn’t afford it. It’s taken a few years of saving to get me there. This is the flaw with support being assessed on your parents’ income – it does rather assume they agree with the system and are willing to cough up their share! this also usually rules out any support for ‘disadvantaged’ young people because my folks work and earn enough.

    I’ve also always struggled with the idea of spending several thousand pounds going somewhere on a mission/charity project for a few weeks when I have no real practical skills to offer. If I were a doctor, builder etc, I’d feel differently.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people, but still very much a luxury.

  55. Lou_P says:

    I couldn’t afford to work to save for a gap year trip because even staying at home involved paying rent etc. And the main reson I wasn’t at Uni was that I couldn’t afford it. It’s taken a few years of saving to get me there. This is the flaw with support being assessed on your parents’ income – it does rather assume they agree with the system and are willing to cough up their share! this also usually rules out any support for ‘disadvantaged’ young people because my folks work and earn enough.

    I’ve also always struggled with the idea of spending several thousand pounds going somewhere on a mission/charity project for a few weeks when I have no real practical skills to offer. If I were a doctor, builder etc, I’d feel differently. If God really put somwhere on my heart, I could send them the money – and think how much more that could do with local employment, let alone without the waste of an air fare!

    Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people, but still very much a luxury.

  56. jonbirch says:

    sounds tough, lou… and i also utterly agree with your conclusion.

  57. My brother’s taking a gap year between A-levels and uni (hoping to go to the USA). His rationale was that since he’s a dancer, he wants to have more time for training. He wrote a very thoughtful uni application essay about why he did it.

    He’s also working part-time, so not totally economically unproductive. Sis and I are still waiting for him to cough up rent but at least he does the laundry, it’s like having a houseboy =D

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