Sunday, 14 April 2013

Funemployment 12 - A New Low

This may (not) come as a shock to some of you  but during my last visit to the Job Centre they managed to hit a new low. Now, I have come to expect a pretty dismal level of service from the Job Centre and the majority of the time they seem to be a hindrance rather than a help in my job hunt, last week they got worse.

I arrived duly on time for my appointment and took a seat to wait to see my 'adviser'. Usually the Job Centre runs at least ten minutes late but I make it a matter of principle that I will always be on time even if they are not. After around ten minutes a few people had been seen, various 'advisers' were industriously typing away (on what I couldn't see, probably Facebook, but they looked busy) and others were sitting on each others desk gossipping about their weekends. NB in the over 25 section there are no filing cabinets for them to lean against so desk-sitting is the new gossip position.

After about twenty minutes my general mood was decreasing - people coming in after me had been seen, people before me had been seen and no one had come to ask anyone elseo who was also waiting who they were here to see. I was on the verge of going up to the nearest 'adviser' and pointing out that I had better things to do with my time than sit and listen to office gossip while being ignored by people who were meant to be advising me. This was until I remembered that I hadn't actually signed on yet and that if the advisers got confused by me being polite then sarcasm would probably not go down well and may even be taken as a reason to put a strike against my name.

After a further five minutes one of the advisers started to 'free lance' from desk to desk and appear to be, well, actually working. Once he had finished with his last person I went up to him and explained, politely, that I had been there for nearly half an hour, I just needed to sign on, no one had called my name and that I wanted to know how much longer it would be before I was called. The adviser took my name and went to ask his colleagues.

Upon returning the conversation went as follows;
JCP: Sorry about that, but it turns out that the person you are due to see isn't actually here and doesn't work on X.
Me: Oh, well that explains why I didn't get called
(in my head): well there's a bloody surprise! I've been booked in with someone who's not even here, how incompetent do you actually have to be to work here? Is it some kind of specified skill on the job description?
JCP: Yeah, well I'll just go and get your record and we'll sign you on.
Me: Cool, thanks
(in my head): You haven't even pulled my record out?! I come in on the same day at the same time every fortnight and no one has found my record?! If I were this disorganised and useless at my job I'd had been fired!
JCP: Right found it *types away and brings up my page* ok if you could just sign here
Me: Ok *signs paper waits with baited breath for 'a have you considered MI6?' comment*
JCP: Ok, I have also booked you in with Y at X on Z and because this is your M visit next time you'll be having a, what we call, 'Personal Intervention'.
Me: Ok.....
(in my head) What the hell is that?! Have they been following me and are going to formally reprimand me for blogging about them? Or my drinking? Bollocks this does not sounds good!!!
JCP: *looking at my confused expression* don't worry it's not as scary as it sounds you will just sit and go through everything that you have done to find work with one of our 'advisers'. 
(in my head): oh God! This sounds worse than I feared
JCP: you can also tell them how you feel about job hunting
(in my head): hello! Someone is actually going to ask me for my thoughts on job hunting, he he he, they may live to regret that!
Me: Ah ok, that sounds useful
JCP: do you have any other questions?
(in my head): yes, can I bloody leave now please
Me: No, don't think so
JCP: Goodbye then! Sorry again about the wait.
(in my head): DW you're still doing better than Haringey Council! 

At this point I grabbed my stuff and ran out the Job Centre still slightly stunned that someone had actually booked me in to see someone who would not even be there. Seriously, if I had done something like that when I worked as a receptionist then I would have been in big trouble. It's no wonder that the DWP has problems if they can't even book someone in for an appointment and not cock it up. Needless to say I am now very much looking forward to my 'Personal Intervention' *slightly evil grin* if I get asked for my honest opinion on job hunting then they may find that they have a lot of feedback about my experiences.

The job hunt continues.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

RIP Margaret Thatcher

On April 8th 2013 it was announced that former PM Margaret Thatcher had passed away in her sleep at the age of 87. The news of her death brought about strong reactions on both sides of the political spectrum; those on the right have mourned her passing while some of those on the left have literally danced for joy.
Margaret Thatcher has always been a figure that people seem to either love or hate. However, just a thought to those celebrating her death; while you may be happy that she has 'finally gone' please bear in mind that you are in fact celebrating the death of an old lady. While you may not agree with her views, policies or what she did she is still someones mother, wife, daughter and friend, and above all else is someone who deserves our respect. 
Lady Thatcher was the first woman to become Prime Minister of the UK, won three consecutive General Elections and stood to her guns when dealing with the unions. Feats for which she should be praised. No one since has been so successful in a General Election and many of her policies are still in place today. Things that bring to mind the old saying 'if you want something done properly, get a woman to do it'.
When I first began to be interested in politics and get involved it was Margaret Thatcher who stood out as a role model for the aforementioned reasons. Politics may be an area that is predominantly male but it is still one where women can succeed. Margaret Thatcher may be gone but her legacy will live on and she will most certainly not be forgotten.
I leave you with a video mashup from some of her speeches;


Since becoming funemployed I have tried to use the time that I have not been looking for work to see some parts of London I have not seen, read some new books and try some new experiences. One such experience that I have tried is attending the gym. Yes, I know, I am as shocked you dear reader!
Earlier in the week one of my housemates informed me that LA Fitness were offering 5 day free trial passes and that there was a gym fairly close to our flat. So, given that a. is it free and b. I have some free time I decided to give it a try. 
Now, I feel at this point it is important to note that I have never set foot in a gym in my life as working out is not really my thing, but this gym had a swimming pool and given that the local leisure centre charges £4.70 a swim and is, well, shit I decided to give it a crack.
Day One went fine, the pool was lovely, I made a new friend in the sauna who also shared my views on the condition of the local leisure centre, and the only thing to mar the experience was the news that Lady T had passed away. God rest her soul.
Day Two however was a somewhat different experience. Things began well - nice swim, bit of time in the sauna, then when I was back swimming I suddenly became aware of a lot of older ladies beginning to enter the pool and remove the rope that sections of the laned swimming. Next thing I know the pool is now full of about twenty older ladies and somehow, I still literally have no idea how this happened, I have become part of an over 60s aquaerobic class.
After several failed attempts to leave the pool and being stopped by said older ladies in brightly coloured, floral swimming caps I decided that the best thing to do was try to hide and ride it out. Things were going rather well with this plan until one of the ladies next to me informed me in a rather loud voice that caused several other ladies to turn and look at me that I was not doing the exercises properly as I had to somehow alternate my feet and hands. How on earth she noticed this through all the splashing I have no idea. Still I thanked her, explained sport was not my thing and once again tried to remain inconspicuous. Well as inconspicuous as you can when you are surrounded by twenty ladies who are a good forty years old than you and all in floral bathing caps.
My plan went well for a further five minutes until the instructor shouted out 'and jump and turn 180 degrees'. I resisted the urge to shout 'oh buggar' rather loudly as I had now managed to be at the front of the class and all of the ladies were now watching me. Luckily, for me, the instructor then asked everyone to jump back by 180 degrees and I was now at the back again and able to try to hide.
The problem that I now had was that every ten minutes or so the instructor changed the types of exercises we were doing so as to work out different parts of our bodies. After an initial gentle warm up it then moved on to the more strenuous exercises that involved a lot of jumping and clapping. The movement caused by twenty older ladies and myself jumping more or less in unison caused a lot of tidal waves that crashed over the edge of the pool knocking the grates out of places and also moving several nearby flipflops along the side of the pool. The sight of which caused me great amusement and I had to try very, very hard not to laugh each time this happened.
After about half and hour the exercises had changed again and the instructor's back was now to us so I decided to try to make a dive for the steps and run off and hide in the nearby steam room. Sadly, once again my path mysteriously became blocked by some of the older ladies and I had no choice but to remain in the pool until the end of the class.
Luckily, after 50 minutes the class came to an end and I was able carry back on with my swimming and try to pretend that nothing had happened. I also decided that if I was swimming and had my head under the water then the instructor would not be able to catch me and ask me why exactly I had decided to gatecrash an over 60s session and I would be able to escape trying to explain that the older ladies had seemed to decide to band together and stop me from leaving. 
So, having now taken part in my first, and well last, aquaerobics session I can safely say that it is not the sport for me. Not just for the fact that I had been criticised by an older lady for my lack of co-ordination, the tidal waves that were created by the jumping that kept making me giggle but also the fact that it is rather embarrassing when the instructor asks you to stand on one leg and it is me that fall over and not the older ladies.
Now back to job hunting.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Do You Remember This Lady?

Earlier today I was forwarded an email about one truly inspirational lady and her actions during the Second World War. Sadly she missed out on a Nobel Peace Prize but she is someone who should not be forgotton! Rather than forwarding the message to those I know I am instead putting it here so that even people I do not know can read the message.
"As General Eisenhower said at the time, "we want plenty of photos so no one can ever say this did not happen."

Remember this lady?

Irena Sendler
Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.  She had an ulterior motive.  Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried.  She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.  The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.  Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard.
After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family.  Most had been gassed.  Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was not selected.  Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.  Later another politician, Barack Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN.
In MEMORIAM - 65 YEARS LATER I'm doing my small part by forwarding this message.  I hope you'll consider doing the same.

It is now more than 65 years since the Second World War in Europe ended.  This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!

Now, Iran , and others, claim the HOLOCAUST to be 'a myth'.  It's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again."

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Favourite Literary Quotes

Being unemployed has, obviously, given me a lot of free time something, which after six years at UCL, is a slightly strange experience. Now, I am the sort of person who likes to put their time to good use and not be without an occupation. So, aside from when I am doing job applications, attending interviews or doing work for my internship I am using my time to explore parts of London I have not visited before and to read my way through all the books I have wanted to read and not found the time to read.

Now, dear reader, before you jump in and remark about 50 Shades of Grey I feel I should state that this is NOT on the list. My 'To Read' list comprises of a mix between classic literature such as Dickens, Hugo and Wilde as well as some more modern works such as Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. Aside from finally managing to discover some great works of literature I am also finding some fantastic quotes and I will share just a few of them with you.

From The Picture of Dorian Gray by the wonderful Oscar Wilde we have;

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” 

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly -- that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to oneself. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion -- these are the two things that govern us.” 

From Dickens there is;

"Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy who poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my min has ever become acquainted with... To the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil."

And from Tolkien;
“Where there's life there's hope.” 

“Don't ever laugh at live Dragons, Bilbo you fool!”  

Now back to job hunting.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The New Class System

Today the BBC announced that Britain no longer has a three tier class system but instead can now be divided into seven different groups. The new groups are Elite, Established Middle Class, Technical Middle Class, New Affluent Workers, Traditional Working Class, Emergent Service Workers and Precariat. It is these groups that allegedly replace the old and more basic system of Upper, Middle and Working Class.

Pretty much all day my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been filled with people taking this quiz to discover what new class it is that they in fact now belong to. So not wanting to be one to be left out I decided to give it a try. I decided that the best thing to do was to begin by filling it in honestly as reflects my current work situation and leisure activities. 

The quiz begins by asking you to tick boxes to provide your rough income level; 0-10K, 10-20K etc, then whether or not you own your own house and lastly what your savings level is. The next section gives you a list of jobs of varying levels of pay, intelligent and skill with the very general question of 'tick if you know someone who works in this industry'. Lastly, you are given a list of cultural activities and asked to tick which of them you do in your free time. These activities range from 'listen to rap music' to 'go to the opera'.

After a few seconds (it was peak time and Virgin Internet does not like this) my results were in and am I pleased to announce that I am now a member of the 'Emergent Service Worker Class'. The definition of which is a 'class group [which] is financially insecure, scoring low for savings and house value, but high for social and cultural factors' and whose key points are that I am young, cultural and rent my own flat. In other words 'unemployed middle class'. 

My reaction to this was one of 'well no shit Sherlock' given that I am currently unemployed, spent six years at University and read Dickens, Wilde and Tolstoy for fun it comes as genuinely no surprise to me that my income is low, my friendship circle includes nurses, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, and in my spare time I listen to classical music, read, visit museums and watch sport. Nice to see that my license fee to the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation is going to good use on truly groundbreaking research.

If you would like to take the quiz and finally discover which class it is that you in fact belong to then click here. Warning! The results may not surprise you.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Funemployment - The IDS Challenge

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has said that he would be able to live off £53 a week the amount that one Benefit Claimants states he has after the costs of rent and bills have been met. This news comes after IDS was on the BBC Radio Four Today Programme defending the upcoming cuts and changes that will be being made to the Welfare System. On the programme IDS stated that if forced to then he would be able to live off this figure.

For some reason this news that a person can live off £53 a week seems to be completely shocking despite the fact that this is what thousands of unemployed people do every week. Based on the comments section of The Daily Torygraph website it would seem that the shock stems from the fact that most seem to have casually missed the phrase 'AFTER rents and bills have been met'. While the article does not define what 'bills' actually covers it would be fair to assume that it covers gas, electric, water, mobile etc but most likely not food, transport or entertainment. In other words you would be left with £53 to feed and entertain yourself.

The Welfare System was introduced as a safety net for those who have fallen on hard times so that they would be able to buy food and shelter etc for themselves until they get back on their feet. However, somewhere along the line this idea has been lost and it is now viewed by some as a career option - what's the point in working if the State gives me the money for free? It is this kind of attitude that the reforms are clearly aiming to stop.

Without going into great detail the basic Human Rights of a person are;
1) the right to life
2) the right to clean and safe water
3)the right to a healthy or adequate environment
4) the right to reproduce
5) the right to refuse to kill
in other words a person living in the UK legally needs to have access to food, water and shelter. However, in the UK we are more accustomed to a higher standard of living than it is possible to have while on benefits. £53 a week will buy you food (value rather than Waitrose Finest) what it will not buy you is alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, an Xbox or a holiday to Spain. These things are classified as luxury goods and are the things to buy once you have a job and disposable income.

So, to defend poor old IDS, who seems to have gotten a lot of stick for his claim that he could live off £53 a week, it is possible. It may not be fun, enjoyable or ideal but it is possible, you may need to make some rather drastic lifestyle changes and adapt but no one ever died from not being able to play Xbox, watch Sky TV or travel first class to Disney Land. If you want these things then the solution is simple - work for them. Life isn't fair so stop expecting the moon to be handed to you on a stick but go and get the moon yourself.