RSS Feed

The Night Before…

Posted on

Dear Readers! How you must have missed me! But lo! I bring you good tidings of great joy… I HAVE  JOB!!

Let me write that again…. I have a job!

I

HAVE

A

JOB

!

And that’s where I’ve been, readers… away from this desk and at another, altogether different desk. Filing things and writing things in which I have no interest and take no delight.

And I love it.

I love being able to grumble about laborious office jobs that make you yawn!

I love being sat in a gossipy room full of women with idle chatter and quick tapping fingers.

I love it.

I love working.

And finally. Finally. I am.

Should I use an emoticon there?

Yes, I think this news warrants an emoticon:

And finally. Finally. I am.  🙂

But how did I get to said wonderous job? Aha! Well that, in itself, is a story. And, for my sins, (and love of alcohol to celebrate Easter), I’m afraid I shall have to tell it in two parts: ‘The Night Before’. .. And ‘The Morning After’.  ‘The Night Before’ will explain why on the morning after, I made a very snap decision that has left me couch surfing and financially broke in Bath, but also extremely, very happy for the first time in months.

And The Morning After will explain…. Wait for it… The JOB!

So without further ado… let us go adventuring together. Only this time, let’s go to London…

So a few weeks ago I was in the Radisson in London – no I hadn’t saved up my paltry £60 a week JSA for a night in the Radisson, I was there with an old and wonderful (if not a literal ungrateful) friend, Mike.  I should tell you now that I am incurably lucky with my friends.  Although when it comes to love I am an arse-hole magnet (this is not hyperbole, this is a fact), when it comes to friends I am sickeningly blessed. They’re all beautiful, smart, funny, intelligent… and worse, they all have enviable jobs.  I am, suffice to say, the runt of the litter. Mike, however, happens to be one at the top of the pack. Now, one of the perks of knowing people who are incredibly talented and good at their jobs is that a few of them, such as Mike, have “jobs” that include being shipped off to all manner of wonderful places on the globe and being paid for it. Mike is an IT contractor and he’d been *ahem* “stuck” (his words not mine) in London, in a swanky hotel suite, with a view over the river and Big Ben for the week. So, naturally, I offered him the pleasure of my company for the evening so he wouldn’t be so bored.  I was in my element, although it did take me a while to pluck up the courage to actually go into the hotel.  It’s a hotel where even porters wear suites. Like full on three pieces, with waistcoat and neck tie. All very impressive. And when the nice man on the door asked me if I’d like to go inside because I looked cold – “Look at you shivering, Ma’am.” He commented. (Ma’am! Miss, I’ll have you know!) – but when he said those fateful words I, suddenly extremely aware of my broad northern twang, put on my best Sybil Fawlty voice and said “Yaaarsss, that would be delightful”. Don’t ask me… I wasn’t even drunk. I don’t know what the fudge I was thinking – but I was shivering (out of fear – not because it was only 3 degrees and I was wearing a summer dress). Three piece suit man just blinked at me and had the good grace not to mention that he’d heard me talking Lancashire only 3 feet earlier. He just blinked, smiled, and ushered me to the revolving doors the way I imagine doctors usher mental patients into hospital. But never one to back down, I sashayed through said revolving doors with my head held high, trying to provide the I’m-totally-down-with-this-I-do-this-all-the-time look and stepped on to the escalators just behind Mike who was looking at me with a what-the-fuck-was-that-all-about look stamped all over his jaw line.

I can feel you feeling sorry for him. Don’t. Mike, you should know, is a hypocrite. Mike is a Brummie whose own Mother hated their accent so much that, when Mike and his sister showed signs of being phenomenally intelligent, had sent them at the tender age of, I dunno, 6 and 4 for elocution lessons to rid them of their accent problem, so I chose to ignore his looks of disdain. The problem I now faced, however, was that I couldn’t simply come back down the escalator with my regular accent suddenly pinning itself to me like a badge of Northern honour. And I enjoy that, I do. I enjoy flying the banner for the North and our friendly ways. In fact, in London, I’m quite content at being the crazy on the Tube who smiles at other people and actively engages them in conversation about the weather, the state of our economy, our job crisis. I enjoy saying things like “Thanks Duck” and “Cheers Love” and “See you soon, Darlin’” and a whole manner of pet names we seem to fling at each other up in North. My personal favourite is “Shug”, because Southerners are never quite sure,what, exactly, a ‘shug’ is. I enjoy people struggling to work out if I’m being genuinely nice or if I’m about to pull a flick knife out and hold them for their I-Phone and all the Wrigley’s gum they have in their pockets whilst cooing at them. They are a strange breed, Londoners. Anyway. That was my dilemma, and, I’m ashamed to say. I pussed out. By the time I got to room 666 (that’s right, 666, <insert evil laugh here>) I had somehow got into character and couldn’t stop talking with the most ridiculous accent I have ever heard. I mean, I didn’t even sound posh. I just stuck a few R’s into words that don’t have R’s in the spelling and took a breath mid way through words like ‘marvelous’, so it came out “ma-harvelous”. God, I am such a twat. But of course, with the accent, came an attitude and that evening I spent my time in the Jazz bar, slurping…I mean, sipping, sipping, on perfect Manhattans and generally pointing my nose as high in the air as it would go.  Giving demure and, I’m pretty certain, not so sexy looks at the handsome bar man. You know, batting my eyelashes and looking up from under them whenever Mike wasn’t looking.  Yes, I was convinced I was Julie London – or, seeing as I’m blonde now, Peggy Lee – tapping my toes in time with the music and running my finger, broken nails and all, round the rim of the glass stained with my bleeding red lipstick. I must have looked a treat. But that’s the problem with perfect Manhattans – they’re perfect. And whilst I may not have been a treat, they certainly were and they slipped down just a little too easily.  I was plotted and doing that thing that plotted people do when they’re trying not to let anyone know they’re plotted, I kept denying my plotted-ness, even though no one had asked me about it. And then, oh no, it happened: The band came on.

Now, it’s a hotel bar. We’re not meant to have high expectations. But I was armed with a whole new accent and, seriously, at this point I was off the reservation, so my standards may have just hit a high somewhere near Simon Cowell’s belt buckle. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. We know there’s going to be an Evie-ism happen any moment, don’t we dear reader? Well, happen it did.  Mike, who had nipped out for a cheeky ciggie (although I imagined a cigar) and a telephone call to someone in God Knows Where and I was left to cocktail.

The saxophonist stole the show, he really did and the Pianist (as he called himself – he was playing a keyboard) was pretty good too. Think Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot, had they been actually playing that is. They were old hands at this malarkey. And the singer was…well… he could sing. Technically. That is, he could hold a tune. But he seemed to hold about 5 or 6 tunes in every song. And he was paying homage to the Ratpack. The Ratpack!  He even had the hat. The hat for Frankie’s sake. So we knew it was coming. Everyone in the bar knew it was coming. And come it did.

“Right, we’re going to finish now” he said, in an accent that was deepest Croydon.  “And we’re going to finish with a song that means a lot to me. Err, this guy is actually one of my heroes.” He said, blushing. “You’ll probably know it.” Err, yah! “This song,” Pause for dramatic effect. “This song is called ‘My Way’.”

I swear there was a collective gasp that went along with the smattering of applause. What the fuck they were expecting I don’t know, Frankie re-incarnated before them? To be in the presence of ‘the next big thing’, to be able to say they saw him before he was famous? I don’t know. I don’t understand how the crowd thought this song would be any better than any of the other songs he’d sang, but they seemed to expect something.

I mean, I’m not a die hard Frankie fan but as a nation haven’t we have naturally come to have low expectations of anyone singing this song? Because in my limited, and humble experience, usually when this song comes on it’s being sung by a drunken man from Grimsby in a cheap bar in Pathos at Happy Hour. That or a family wedding. Maybe Karaoke down the Lord Nelson at half 12 on a Saturday night. Like this. But certainly not a jazz bar. It’s suicide if you consider yourself a singer.  I mean, it’s Frankie, innit? And oh dear friends, what a treat was in store for me at the Radisson. True, the guy was in key – but he was in about ten keys by the time we got to the chorus, X-Factor stylee.  I deliberately slurped my cocktail. It was painful. Mike came in and flopped on the chair across from me and said:

“Thoadhljgfusfgajf… mumble mumble.”

“What?” I shouted back.

“Thoadhljgfusfgajf… mumble mumble.”

“WHAT??” I shouted back again, leaning in.

“I SAID, HE’S PRETTY GOOD ISN’T HE?” Mike bellowed over the last few bars of WAAAYYYYYY. Which sounded more like “WWwwAAAaaAYYyYYyyyYyYy”.

Now, as I have mentioned I was a teensey weensey bit drunk. Just a smidge. And my ears had been up and down so many times during that song they thought they’d been stitched to a rollercoaster, so I feel I can be forgiven for what I yelled out, over the polite, if not slight stunned applause that followed the My Way Rendition.

Leaning into Mike conspiratorially, in my broadest Lancashire, I yelled (and I can’t believe I have to type this)

“WELL WHATEVER WAY HE DID IT, IT CERTAINLY WASN’T FRANKIE’S FUCKIN’ WAY, WHARRIT??”

By this point, *sigh*, the claps had died out.

Shit.

More silence.

Agonising, painful, movie type silence. Simon Pegg would have been proud.

Mike pulled away from me, stood up and beamed at the room. Laughed heartily. A big, apologetic belly laugh.

And then, in a gesture of support, he walked out.

AND LEFT ME!

What could I do? I had to get out of there. But I couldn’t exactly run, could I? Not even because I like to stand by my opinions, but because I was drunk and in 5 inch heels. So I stood up, very slowly, smiling wide like the ladies in the JSA office and somewhere, mid stand, I heard myself say, in a timid, yet once again mightily posh voice:

“Ma-harvellous. Simply ma-harvellous. Really, I think you were quite, quite… (searching for a new word to say in Posh and failing) ma-harvellous” as I walked, as quickly as I could in a pencil skirt, out of the bar.

So. That was the state I was in. Yes. That bad. Several sheets to the wind, with conflicting accents and a slight wobble, I made my way to Suite 666 and flopped into bed, fully dressed, contact lenses still in. I was snoring by the time Mike had brushed his teeth. A sore head , a bad attitude and Neurofen on toast for breakfast the morning after was a certainty. But hey, I could have a lie in, right?

Right…?

Advertisements

Jobsmacked!

Posted on

So I haven’t blogged in two weeks… I’ve been neglecting you, I know. I know you’ve all been frantic, wondering where I am and wishing you could hear my dulcet tones, and I’d love to tell you I got a job and jetted off to celebrate for a week in Bali but the truth is, dear reader, that I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to you. Sorry, it’s true. See, two weeks ago I was delivered a very crushing, very personal blow and I indulged in a fortnight of self pity (naturally coupled with self-loathing) and spent a lot of my time somewhere at the bottom of a whiskey glass wondering why God still hadn’t just come down and pissed on me personally – I can’t be far from that now. Of course because I was wallowing in my self pity each time my fingers started tapping the keys they ended up writing things that I really didn’t mean and I ended up crying into my keyboard. Not really conducive to a healthy blog – so I spared you the agony and waited.

Forgive me.

So. The job hunt. Ahh me. What a learning curve this is. Newspapers such as the Daily Star, usually so well practiced in the art of sensationalism, are finally writing accurate pieces. Have a look. Ok, so Mr. Lawton may have been exaggerating with ‘computer expert’ but the point still stands: the guy’s employable. And 1500 job applications is beyond the pale. Everyday it seems that there are more and more articles complaining about the number  of people unemployed in Britain and statistics are thrown around by journalists like Chris Parsons and Becky Barrow in the Daily Mail to incite hatred and ensure that the reader  is truly aware of the sorry state of Britain, but what makes me really, really laugh is that no one has addressed that the problem is the Job Centre.

Firstly, it isn’t a Job Centre. It’s the dole office. Tart it up anyway you want. Give it highlights and a catchy green and yellow sign. It’s still the dole office. All that the title Job Centre does is sell to us the idea that we’re not dolies. We are. There I’ve said it: I’m a dolie. And if every two weeks you’re expecting to show up with your crappy piece of grey card filled out with all the jobs you’ve applied for so that Zoe, or Beth, or Craig or whoever will sign that little piece of paper that entitles you to £60, then you’re a dolie too.

The Job Centre in 21st century Britain is populated with beings that can only be successfully compared to Dementors. Seriously. You get within 50 yards of your local “Job Centre” and the air drops by 2 degrees and you can feel your happiness, self esteem and remnants of pride being sloughed from you like dead skin. You go in and every one smiles widely, showing all their teeth and not blinking, which, prior to this experience, only indicated to me that said person had just double dropped some really effective acid. And they suck the life out of you these people. They really do.

The last time I went to the “Job Centre” I greeted the bouncer with a congenial “hi” and began to queue to register and wait my turn to see Zoe. After shifting uneasily from one foot to the other and scouring the room from underneath my eyelids (lest any one I know be in there and I die from shame) I eventually got to the front of the queue. I handed over my dole card and my list of job applications and looked into the empty eyes of the woman in front of me. In another world she’s a librarian. You know the sort: Middle 50’s. Specs perched precariously on the end of her nose and prevented from falling underfoot by a chain hooped round her neck. Paisley dress as standard. That sort and in a voice so freaking saccharine it made my teeth hurt she said:

“Ok. I’ll let Zoe know you’re here. Now, would you like to just pop over and take a little look at the machines?”

Pop over? A little look??  Patronising much?

It had been a bad week anyway, as you know. My eye twitched…

I saw red.

I punched her in the face. Swiped all the papers on her podium-esque welcome desk as she staggered backwards, holding her nose. I grabbed the nearest computer, screaming, and tore it from the wall socket amidst sparks and electrical noises that say “This computer’s now f*cked”. I ran through the office, tearing up pieces of paper and pulling posters from the walls, yelling “give me a job! give me a job! GIVE ME A JOOOBBBBBB!”

By the time the bouncers got to me wires were hanging from the ceiling, papers were swirling mid-air, smoke was coming from several vents, chairs were spinning, all the job machines were smashed, whilst helpless Job Centre workers and their soulless eyes cowered under their desks and I sat on Zoe’s desk laughing maniacally, rocking like an autistic child.

…my eye twitched.

“Yeah, sure.” I said, in the politest voice I could manage mid-grimace.

I stalked over to the blasted job machines and jabbed at them. I printed off the first three jobs that came up: HGV driver. Cleaner. Receptionist at the Bowling Alley. I’d already been through the website in the morning and the “Job Centre” don’t have any jobs that aren’t readily available on the government website. No sooner had I done that and flopped onto a very colourful sofa surrounded by greyish looking people who have clearly been dementor-ed for months, then I was summoned to Zoe’s desk.

Now, in fairness to Zoe, she’s actually very nice. Or seems to be. She asked me how the job hunt was going. I told her about all the jobs I was applying for. Responses from employers. How I wasn’t willing to do Sales but everything was sales. Yada yada. Zoe gave me the spiel about finding a job being a full time job, but that she was sure my CV was being well received. Yada yada. And then she said the most amazing thing I had ever heard. It went like this:

“Anyway, you’re trying too hard.”

My jaw literally dropped.

I’m what now??

“Honestly, applying for jobs in the local area, Bath and London is just too wide a field. Narrow it down a bit.”

Jaw dropped a little more as I nodded, incredulous.

“And don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve only been in here twice.” She nodded her head at the office.

By this time my jaw was resting firmly on the desk.

Trying too hard? Too hard on myself? Only twice? To me that sounds like a practical invitation to rest on my laurels and enjoy the delights that £60 week provides. Hmmm… I was mid ponder on how I would spend my hard earned cash when she pushed the paper across the desk for me to sign, saying “ok, see you in two weeks.”

“Yeah. Um. Ok. Yeah. See you Zoe.” I mumbled and walked out, dazed.

And this is my point, you see. All I did in there, in the “Job Centre”, was get signed off for Dole Allowance. There was no discussion on which jobs I should apply for or a “maybe you should see so and so, they know a lot of people recruiting in blah de blah.” None of it. Just a flourishing signature that said I’d done enough work to earn myself £60.

Is it me or is that painfully ironic?

Now if I ran the country and I called a public service a “Job Centre” what I would do in said centre is have a truck load of people who deal in, say, manual labour employment, secretarial and admin employment, education employment, hospitality employment and so on and so forth. You know, someone, an expert, say, in recruiting in that field. And that person/persons should have all the dolies looking for work in that field to take care of. And that person/persons can then sign off on the dole allowance but can also say “This job has come in, you’d be perfect for it” or “You should do this to your CV, this to your covering letter…” and actually provide assistance in actually looking for jobs.

All the “Job Centre” does is indicate that the government don’t stop selling half truths to us. But we’re not that stupid and I feel it’s time we started calling a spade a spade and not an earth removal utensil. It’s time we started calling the Job Centre, the Dole Office. It doesn’t deserve the title of Job Centre – at least not until it is one.

All in favour say “Aye!”

Craughter

Posted on

Now here’s the thing about being on JSA ladies and gentlemen: Short of the job spec outlining a person who is a Korean Spy, if you get offered a job interview and/or job and you turn it down you essentially forfeit your right to JSA. So when I got offered a job interview (albeit ‘informal’) I wasn’t too enthused. Here’s for why. I’d initially sent an application during my bombard-all-adverts-on-the-site-to-prove-a-point phase but, of course, I hadn’t researched the company. This might not seem like a massive oversight. But it is. Oh dear reader, it is. My advice to anyone job hunting out there is to always research the company you’re applying for. I even go so far as to call them up and ask the receptionist a little about it, what’s it like to work for them? What’s the boss like? How long have they worked for the company? Just to get a feel for it. I know you’re thinking “What?? That’s suicide!” It isn’t. In fact it’s a good thing. The worst that will happen is that your future employer might find out and what does it say to them? It doesn’t say you’re assessing them, to them it says “this person is seriously bothered about this company, why else would they bother to do that much research?” In short, dear reader, it shows that even before you’ve got the job that you care. Your future employer will remember that and, more importantly, will remember you and you’ll be a little more clued in to what you’re going to be giving up your time for. It’s a win-win situation and I thoroughly encourage you, if you are job hunting, to man up and dial the company’s number before you go to interview.

But as for me, now I had an e-mail inviting me to an informal interview and I hadn’t done any research on the company. It had started off with an email coming through from ‘Info’ that said

Hi Evie,

If it’s ok with you I’m going to call for a chat with you about the job role and answer any questions you may have. I’ll call on Thursday. Is that ok? And please could you re-send your CV?

Cheers, Grant.

To which I’d e-mailed back saying Yes, of course, my CV was attached and I was looking forward to speaking to Grant soon. At the same time I was thinking Who is this person? Who is Grant at Info??

I didn’t panic. I’m an expert at winging it. It was a skill I honed at University when I attended seminars on books I hadn’t yet read. I wish, in fact, it was a skill I could put on my CV.

Skills.

Expert Bullshitter, ability to talk crap convincingly for undisclosed amounts of time about subjects that I have absolutely no knowledge.

Some people write that description like this: Sales Advisor. But all cynicism aside, I didn’t panic. Whoever Grant was he’d seen my CV and knew what skills and experience I have. They were calling for a reason, so it clearly wasn’t First Busses e-mailing back to offer me an interview; it was something office based and probably involved being on the phone. No worries.

Then, on Thursday, I got an e-mail from Grant (at ***** Recruitment) asking if we could re-schedule for tomorrow.

I sent an e-mail back. Yes, of course. And then I hopped straight on to Google and furiously Googled. ***** Recruitment is a new Recruitment firm that recruits in IT. Ok. Address? Ah. First snag. The business address is a residential address. Ok. Well, I’m not one to hold grudges against start up companies, even if they are run from home. My Dad has his own company and runs it from what is essentially a tin hut in Cumbria. He works bloody hard to keep it alive and in weather such as this, in sub zero temperatures, will still be found in it at 6am, electric heater warming his legs, doing the paper work and sorting out the schedule for ‘the lads’. He still does all this and my Dad is coming up to 60. He bitches and moans but will he give it up? No. He loves that business, even as he hates the struggle against the current economical climate where small businesses are being brushed aside in favour of centralisation and bureaucracy. And I’m bloody proud of him for that. Hear that Dad? Proud.

So I didn’t hold it against Grant. We shouldn’t do. Every company starts somewhere and we should be endorsing local ventures much more than we do. So although he’s in IT (and his website leaves a lot to be desired) and his business address is his residential address, I didn’t flinch. I’m not anyone to hold prejudices against a man trying to support his family – but it did mean I couldn’t fish around for info on the business in general. Plus I love a project. That was fine, I told myself, he and I would have a chat tomorrow and all would be well. I was certain we would get on like a house on fire. I foresaw great business planning and lightening bolt-esque inspiration for a year long strategy, minimum. We might, in our musings, even find the answer to cold fusion.

*snort*

Friday came and I had that Friday feeling – granted it may have been the Crunchie, but I was optimistic.  I was feeling good. I was humming ‘I’m So Excited’ and imagining I was on a rollercoaster. I’d been thinking about business models, talking to a close friend who is an IT contractor and fishing for contacts. You know, getting ahead of the game. Me and Grant. Grant and me. We were going to have a meeting of minds today. We were. This was to be the start of something special, a fantastic working relationship. A flagship business, yes that’s what this would be. The start of big and bright things. No one could call me a dreamer.

Then I received an e-mail. It said:

Hi Evie,

Apologies but I am going to struggle to call today. Are you free to meet on Monday?

Just informally, perhaps the palatine around 3pm?

Rgds

Grant

Hmmm… Rgds? The Palatine? For those of you unaware of what the Palatine is, it’s a pub. My head went off like I’d swallowed an alarm clock.  Even for an informal job interview – a pub? I mean, I know the guy doesn’t have office space – the wonder of the internet is you don’t need it – but a pub? Really?

I took a deep breath.

Right. Be sensible, Evie. A job’s a job.

So I took a gulp of air, put I’m So Excited back on repeat, ignored that Grant had cancelled two telephone interviews in the space of two days and set about enjoying my weekend. Namely, sending out copies of my CV, writing a bit more, sending out more copies of my CV, trawling through job sites and spending quality time with people that I missed sorely when I was in China. The usual, really.

Monday rolled around. I showered. I brushed my teeth extra hard. I spent hours yanking clothes out of my suitcase (I’m still living out of it), trying them on and throwing them around my Grandfather’s spare room. I kept checking my e-mail. No, no, we were still on. No sudden amendments like Thursday … and Friday… I tried on more clothes. And, to be honest, I was nervous. When you’re unemployed a lot rests on that first impression. A lot. You can’t be blasé about it because you don’t have the back up of the job you’re already in. So, yeah. I was nervous. I admit it. Nerv – Uss. Very. And it took me a while to find the perfect I’m a Professional But I Know This Is Informal look. It’s like when your friend texts you saying we’re going dressy/casual. I mean, wtf is that, really?

Anyway, at 2pm I strode into the living room and said “What do you think, then?”

And my Grandfather, without looking up, said “Yeah, you look lovely. Good luck.”

That’s why I love my Grandfather. He knows what I want to hear and he says it. But I decided to take it that I looked like a young professional and I switched my power song on in my head. No, not on my I-Pod, that wouldn’t be professional now would it? No. I switched my power song on in my head and stalked out of the door, en route to interview.

(I’m not crazy by the way, I just think everyone should have a power song that they play in their heads. You know, a song that makes you feel all powerful. And since you ask, mine is Pantera ‘Walk’. I just imagine the opening playing as I walk Bad-Ass into any room and somehow it’s all ok. I could be about to be interviewed by Putin on my bear wrestling abilities and I’d be cool with it. Give it a go before you sit there laughing derisively. It really works, just think of a song that makes you feel confident and play it over and over in your head. It really works.

…Just be sure not to show up actually singing your power song. I’ve done that before, I’ve been so into my own head I haven’t realised I’m actually saying everything I’m thinking out loud. Soooo not cool, it would have been better if I’d shown up with the I-Pod and funnily enough I didn’t get that job.)

I digress.

So, I get to The Palatine, it’s 2.45 (perfect timing), I go upstairs to the Lounge area, and there’s a bag and a half drunk pint of stout accompanying an empty chair in the bay window. Well, at least it’s not Carling, I think and I wait for the guy to come back.

In walks a man in his late thirties, early forties and I walk over with my hand outstretched, saying “Hi, you must be Grant. It’s lovely to meet you, I’m Evie.”

I’m vigorously shaking his hand to show I mean business when he says: “My name’s Gregg.”

Hand still in his, palm now sweating, head tipped to the side, I repeat back to him. “Gregg?”

“Yeah. Gregg.”

“From ***** Recruitment?”

“Nope.”

We still haven’t stopped shaking hands.I hadn’t read the e-mail wrong – I had the wrong guy. F*******ck!

“Oh, sorry. Wrong person.” I look at the clock on the wall. Ten to three. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you anyway, Gregg.” I say, finally releasing the poor man’s hand, but doing it heartily in a way that says ‘well-if-I-was-here-to-meet-you-you-wouldn’t-be-a-disappointment sort of way.

“Yeah, err, you too.” He chuckles nervously.

Awkwaarrdd…

I flop into a chair by the window and look out over the bay.

“Lovely, errr, lovely view today isn’t it?” He says. Dammit. Now he thinks he has to make conversation with me.

“Yeah. Nice.”

I then spent the next 25 minutes crossing and uncrossing my legs, occasionally flicking my eyes up to the clock on the wall, and pinching the skin on my wrist to make sure I was actually awake and I had actually been stood up for an interview.

Yes, dear reader, STOOD UP FOR AN INTERVIEW…

This to me was a new level of low. Had the JSA been in contact with him?Did he have doubts about my Britishness too? Grammatical error on my CV? I mean, what???

At 20 past three I got angry. I imagine as I was silently seething in the corner that the temperature must have dropped and I must have developed a twitch in my eye because Gregg who had been anxiously looking over at me for the past half an hour lest I strike up another conversation with him had, at last glance, turned his chair away from my line of view. I pushed myself up from my seat and felt a thread in my stockings pull. FFS!! (Even as I type that I’m pounding the keyboard) Yes, I snagged my stockings on the pub chair. The pub chair I was only sat in because I was there for an informal interview to which the employer hadn’t shown up.

Fleetingly I considered invoicing ***** Recruitment for the price of the stockings. They were my best pair. Seriously. I wouldn’t have been surprised at this point if God had have come down and pissed on me personally.

I got home at 25 past four, the snag in my stocking now a fully fledged ladder. I didn’t bother checking my phone. I didn’t bother walking into the living room to discuss it with my Grandfather. I walked straight into my bedroom, closed the door and slid down the wall, sobbing. What sort of person am I that I get stood up for an interview? If we follow the principles of Karma I must be a grade A bitch to deserve that. And then the stocking to boot.

There was a hesitant knock as my Grandfather tentatively stuck his head round the door (I’m known to have a temper when I’m angry and he may have been worried it was going to be bitten off).

“Are you ok?”

I looked up at him from beneath my eyebrows, arms wrapped round my knees, mascara dripping onto my blouse and staining it. “Not really, Pappy.”

He didn’t say anything. He just stepped into the room and sat down next to me. He held me for a few moments whilst I cried and snivelled apologies into his jumper.

“Oh, it’s ok.” He said. “I’m used to this sort of thing. Went through it with your Nanna, didn’t I?”

“You did?” I asked, elegantly wiping my nose on my sleeve.

“Yeah. She used to have a bad time of it. Every time it was with her. At least you’re not like that. I know it’s hard for you, it’s hard for most women during…” and he dropped his voice and whispered, huskily “…woman’s month.”

There was a pause, a dramatic one, as I looked up to find Pappy red as Santa’s suit. And then I erupted. I literally cried with laughter. And I couldn’t stop, even as he looked at me bemused, and asked “What? What? Did I say something wrong?” I just couldn’t stop. And then I did that cry-laugh you do, the craugh? Yeah I did that. I was laughing and crying and snorting and craughing and it lasted for about twenty minutes. If I didn’t laugh I’d cry. So I’m choosing to laugh.

Just like that, my Pappy put me back on track. Families. I couldn’t do without mine. They drive me insane but when the chips are down and I’m crying into my knees, they’ll always make me laugh and laughter heals all wounds.

At exactly ten past seven that evening I received an e-mail from Grant. I haven’t been able to screen shot it for you because it’s too big for one screen, but this is what it said:

Hi Evie,

I just wanted to apologise again for today. I completely understand you not wanting to get in touch or wait any longer today, it really was not a nice situation for you to have to wait there for me. 

Whether you wish to interview again, and the offer still stands, i would like the opportunity to explain. Basically, i had some work to do from home and my wife was taking our little boy out. My wife accidentally took my house keys and i didn’t know until she was some distance away and i was stuck in our house with the doors unlocked! 

I tried to get a few friends to come round but none were able to do so in time. I did call and leave you a message, which i am guessing you didn’t get straight away due to the poor signal at the palatine. I emailed and left voicemails and managed to arrive just before 3.30 but the barman said you had left 10 minutes earlier. Again i called, emailed and text but no response. Hopefully you received those, and if so i do understand if you felt frustrated at me being late.

Anyway i just wanted to explain and apologise. If you would like to try again we can arrange another meeting. As we hadn’t spoken before i wanted to keep it quite informal at first. If you would like to attend a more formal interview this week i am able to be quite flexible apart from Friday. 

Best Regards

Grant

I checked my phone and I also had 6 missed calls and two text  messages sent at 3pm exactly saying he’d be late. But so what? Sod off Grant and learn how to use capital letters correctly, the personal pronoun is ‘I’ not ‘i’. And Grant, it wasn’t a date, it was a job interview,  even if it was an informal one, keep your personal life at home or get another set of keys cut. I hasten to add that if I’d have been late because my spouse had taken my keys and I text you at the appointed time to inform you that I’d be half an hour to forty minutes late you wouldn’t have employed me because it would have looked unprofessional. In my experience what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and I expect more from any company I work for, even a new one that’s run from home. You couldn’t have called The Palatine and asked them to pass me a message. Clearly I wasn’t on phone or e-mail.

Jesus and chips! I can only shake my head in disbelief and hope that the JSA will make an exception this time. Because I’m NOT working for a company like that.

Needless to say I am thoroughly disheartened and am struggling to find a positive in this experience. All I can take from it is that perhaps the bosses of this fine country have forgotten that some of their underlings still have that archaic thing called Pride and are proud to be working and contributing members of society. I know at the very least that I am proud to have a level of professionalism that means I at least attend a meeting on time, even one held in a pub to which the interviewer doesn’t appear, a meeting that cost me £12 in stockings, the embarrassment of my Grandfather and twenty minutes worth of craughter.

Proud, I tell you, proud.

H.R.T

Posted on

I know what you’re thinking: I’m going through the change. But I’m not. Not yet. No, no, the acronym doesn’t stand for Hormone Replacement Therapy, although whilst going for the HRT I did encounter one or two hot flushes as a torch was shone in my eyes and I was repeatedly asked how exactly I intend to look after myself and any dependents now that I live in the UK. HRT stands for Habitual Residency Test. Yes, today I had to prove (and once again sign) that I’m definitely, 100%, a UK citizen.

At half past ten Friday morning I returned to that beautiful and uplifting of buildings, The Job Centre. I waited, again, for one of the extremely important and busy ‘Customer Services’ agents to come to my aid and let me sign in. It took a while but after she checked my name off the list and “ummed” and “ahhed” over which colour bookmark she should give me she decided that I was right and it should be the green one.  And for the second time, in two days I was asked to go upstairs and wait for Denise.

So up I went, followed by a twitchy 17 year old carrying an orange bookmark who kept nervously laughing and running is hand through his hair. Before the obligatory tut and raising of eyebrows that people out of work give each other, only moments before launching into the what-a-bloody-mess-this-country is talk, I sat on the opposite sofa, picked up Disability Magazine and did my best imitation of someone reading studiously.

I’d got about 6 pages through Disability Magazine, green bookmark in hand, when I gave up my career as an actress and began looking at the Let’s Work Together posters once again. I’d waited for a good ten minutes for Denise (who, God love her, was genuinely quite ill) before I was re-directed to Gail. Gail was given the unfortunate task of walking me through the HRT. I was quite looking forward to the experience by this point, not only because I’d psyched myself up for anything but because I knew Gail’d be straight talking – she was wearing a tank top. So I sat there, arms crossed, whilst she rolled her eyes and said:

“So, you know, this is to test that you are a … that you are… that you do live in Britain?”

I believe the words she was looking for are: proper British Citizen. I looked at her. She knew it. I knew it. The Government know it. This test is BOLLOCKS.

And before I could respond she said “I know it’s ridiculous, you’d think it’d be easy but … well… I don’t want you to go any longer without financial aid. This could take up to…”

I gulped.

“three weeks…”

Three freaking weeks??

“Do you have any money?”

“Er…no…”

“Right, well, we can give you a crisis loan but…”

“But it has to be paid back.”

“Well, er, yeah.” Gail stuttered. “But no interest.” Smile.

“Right. I’ll give it a miss then.”

“Something to think about.” She smiled even wider. She looked like this. Yes, just like Wendolene. Every single tooth showing. These people must have sore faces by the end of the day.  “Let’s get cracking, then.” I swear I saw her suppress the urge to wave balled fists under her chin and offer me cheese.

And then for the next 15 minutes I answered questions about when I left the UK. When I got back to the UK. Why I came back to the UK.

“Erm… death in the family. I wanted to come back to support my family.”

Gail shuffled in her seat. I’m a cruel cow, for a moment I enjoyed her discomfort, and it really isn’t her fault.

“Oh. Right. Erm, sorry. Ok, next question. Do you have a foreign bank account?”

Here we go. “Yes, I do. A Chinese one. My wages were meant to get paid into it, but as it’s China I never actually got paid anything.”

“Right. I’ll need the details.”

“Well I don’t have them.”

“At all?”

“No, I never used it. I was never paid.”

“Well, I’ll just let you know that if they reject…”

“Who are they?”

“What?”

“Who are ‘they’?”

“Oh. A Board of people in Preston who will assess your claim. They might request to see proof, so a bank statement, your contract, plane tickets, a death certificate. That sort of thing, because you have, you know, a foreign account.”

WHAT THE F*CCCCKKKK?????? 

I didn’t say anything. Of course I didn’t. What’s the point? What, really, is the effing point? So I just said. “Right.”

Gail looked at me with pity.

Now, I know at this point reader you’re probably thinking, Is this for real? Did they really ask you that?  Are you pulling my leg? But I assure you, reader, that A) it is true and B) it’s not a joke.

On a side point, what I am wondering is what sort of far-fetched, ridiculous excuses have the people at the Job Centre heard if they don’t believe that? And who are these people that would lie so brazenly for £60?? And do any of them actually make annual visits to their vaults at Gringott’s to swim in their gold like Scrooge McDuck?

Scrooge McDuck

I mean, I don’t know any of them. Do you? What sort of scummy lowlife makes excuses so expansive and elaborate for a meagre £60 a week that my story isn’t believable?

Jesus. H. Christ.

I can tell you now, if I met any of these social parasites, I’d bloody well give them a smack round the face with one of my duelling gloves, Homer Simpson style, say “thanks” in my most disdainful tone, spin on my heel and walk away leaving them to hold their scalded cheek and wonder WTF just happened??

It took a further 15 minutes to complete the test, wherein I was asked the same questions two or three times, just with varying degrees of intensity. When it was finished, the torch was switched off, my hands untied and I was free to wipe the sweat from my brow, Gail printed off everything I’d said and asked me, again, to sign on the dotted line. I wouldn’t have been surprised at this point if she’d have asked me to provide a sample.

I must admit, I was beginning to wonder why I admitted to working in China and why I didn’t just lie and say I’d spent a year travelling. It would have been SO much easier.

With any luck the nice people in Preston will realise that I am, indeed British, and am in need of just a little bit of help. I’ll keep you posted and if our dear government decide that I’m not who I say I am, I’ll write to you from behind the Great Fire Wall, post deportment.

And so we begin…

Posted on

Ok, now I know what you’re thinking: Dole Dosser. This girl has 2 degrees, work experience coming out of her ears, has travelled the world and a CV to gloat over (not to mention that she’s devilishly good looking and witty to boot, even if the author does say so herself), there’s no reason she can’t get a job. And there isn’t. Not a single reason – except that there are no jobs out there to be had. Trust me on this. I have two outstanding job offers in Russia and Vietnam, but get a job in my own country? Not a sausage.  There aren’t. At least not for me.  In fact, to prove a point to those of you doubting me, like the delightful woman on the JSA switchboard, you can take a looksie at pics up here and you can see that I applied to every job that registered on the recruitment website (w/c: 30.01.2012), just out of spite.

You see, the way it happened was this. I applied on-line for financial support from the government. I did it begrudgingly. I did through gritted teeth. I did it with tears in my eyes. I found the whole experience shameful. Every key press, every mouse click, was an admission of truth: I need financial help. I have never had to claim before, and I, like you, had that ‘Dole Dosser’ image in my head… eugh… I shiver just to think. Anyway, after doing the whole fill out some of the form and have a glass of vino pinko, fill out some of the form and wile an hour away on Facebook, fill out some of the form and pretend it doesn’t exist routine, I’d looked at my shrivelled bank balance, given myself a shake (and more wine) and finished it by clicking ‘complete’. Shortly afterwards I  received a delightfully peppy e-mail saying that the JSA had received my application and I would receive a call or text in the next 48 hours to arrange a ’new jobseeker interview’ for you at a Jobcentre near you. Hmmm. Service with a smile at least. After a short spurt of madness where I wandered around my house chewing my nails and looking through the gap in my curtains I began to relax. It was done. Well, I thought, that wasn’t so bad. No neighbours with torches and pitchforks came to do me over for being a public nuisance. There were no reporters at my door taking a picture of me looking hideous, or worse, a Facebook update telling the world my shame. No, I thought, that wasn’t so bad at all. And I sat back to enjoy what was left of my evening.

48 hours later I was in Bath at a friend’s house, trawling through job sites looking for jobs to apply to and my phone made a lovely binging sound. (Aha! Why are you looking for jobs in Bath when you live in the north? I hear you cry. Answer: Because I have been accepted on a PGCE at Bath University in September and I’d like to find work and a place to live there first.) Any way, I was happy to hear the message tone on my phone, it meant good news, and it meant I was getting myself sorted. But this, dear reader, was the beginning of the end. So much for service with a smile, what I got was a summons:

Your appointment is 13:50 on 31/01/12 at blah de blah. You MUST (yes with capitals!) MUST attend to complete your claim.

Oh MUST I?

So I called up the JSA to explain that owing to, of all things, a job interview that I couldn’t attend the meeting in ********* to go over my application. Naturally I went through the obligatory automated ‘Press One for this’ ‘Press Two for that’ bollocks and when I got the seventh option I smushed the keypad with my fist just so I could talk to someone with a pulse. It connected and a singsong voice called Dan said he’d “pop me straight through” and over I sailed to Pat who, after speaking with her for all of ten minutes, I personally would have fired on the spot. Having worked in the service industry I’m inclined to say that this woman needs to go on a training course, and believe me, I am loathe to say that because Customer Services training courses are courses in ‘how to be polite’. But Pat, dear Pat, needed it.  After I’d explained that because my job interview and my peppy ‘new job seeker interview’ were on the same day, tomorrow, and I was in Bath over 200 miles away Pat breezed at me:

“Ok, I’ll set up the interview for Wednesday then.”

“Well, no,” I countered in my sweetest I’m-so-sorry-to-inconvenience-you voice. “I’ll be away until Friday. I’m staying with a friend down here for a few days afterwards, the train ticket was quite expens….”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence.

“Well, you can’t just expect the government to give you money.” Pat snapped. “You can’t just go on holiday and expect us to pay for it, you know? You’ll need to prove you’re down there for work related reasons. Who’s your interview  with?”

“EXCUSE ME???” I thundered – in my mind. “I haven’t seen my best friend in 10 *^%$*** months and I have a JOB INTERVIEW! On top of which it’s £80 **^^*^* quid to get down here so I’m not coming after being here less than 24 *^%$***hours. Stones, one. Birds, two.  Who the *^% are you to ask anyway? ”

But did I say that? Of course not. It must have been all that call centre training because I very calmly told Pat that I couldn’t remember the name of the company off the top of my head, it was through an agency and I would be back on Friday.

“And I’m jolly well not on holiday! I’m in Bath, of all places. It’s not exactly Tenerife is it?” I thought in an even louder voice.

“Right, well, I’ve booked you in for quarter to two on Thursday. Arrive ten minutes earlier and bring all your stuff with you, ok?”

“Erm, ok, but I’m not back until Fri…”

“I’ll send you a text confirming, thanks for calling. Bye.”

Click.

At this point I was doing my best imitation of a hippo yawning. And I stood like that until a full five minutes later my best friend walked in to find me still stood in the middle of his living room with a very big, very round, very open mouth, phone still pressed to my ear as I listened to the dial tone that Pat had left me with. I was flabbergasted.

See, I told you she needed a course in manners.

I would like to think that she isn’t like that normally, our dear Pat. But I suspect she is. I suspect that, as a rule, she is one of life’s nasty little surprises. Like athlete’s foot. Or thrush. I can only hope that she finds joy in being, shall we say, ahem, irritating? because as far as I can see, that can be the only silver lining to the whole sordid mess – that she hung up the phone and felt good about herself for being so bitterly offensive. The cow. That woman honestly put me in a bad mood for the rest of the night. And my friend, God love him, paid for ANOTHER train ticket (Pat I hope you’re reading this) ANOTHER train ticket back north for me on Wednesday evening.

Out of spite I applied to every job advertisement I came across. Every single one. I mail bombed everywhere. I even applied to be a First Bus Driver – and I don’t have a driving license! Within 24 hours I had received a stream of “already been filled” and “not successful this time” e-mails, as well as a bemused phone call from a girl at the agency asking if I had actually meant to apply to every job on the site. I don’t know why they didn’t take me seriously, because in fairness, I would have done any of them.

I did the interview the next day on the Tuesday. It turned out to be little more than a hand-us-your-passport-and-we’ll-put-you-on-the-books-type-of-thing. I was seriously <insert your own expletive here> off.  And this couldn’t have been explained to me on the phone because….? By the time I got back home I was Tsch. That’s all I can muster at this point. Tsch.

Wednesday. A short day. Same as most other job hunting days. Read rejection e-mails on yahoo. Feel dejected. Have breakfast. Say goodbye to friend. Get on train. Read my book and try, try, try to remember that my trip wasn’t a total bust. Then, somewhere just north of Birmingham New Street I was asked for my ticket and it occurred to me that the total the round trip, thanks to Pat and the incompetents at the agency, had cost me £135. £135 sodding quid. Jesus and chips, that’s steep isn’t it?! That’s, like, 2 weeks JSA. And my bank balance had been depleted to a resounding £0.00 FFS! At this point even Pratchett couldn’t entertain me and I sulked all the way home.

So, today finally arrived. Dawn broke with rosy fingers and I was determined , absolutely determined, that this was not going to be as bad as I imagined. There would be the usual miscreants loitering menacingly outside the Jobshop, sure, but inside there would be a welcoming smile, a pat on the back, perhaps even the offer of a cup of tea and a jaffa cake. By the time I was finished, I told myself, me and the person judging me would be life long pals.

*Snort*

To begin with I was greeted by a bouncer.

A bouncer.

I’m going to say it one last time. A bouncer. Who pointed me to a welcome desk that was manned by no-one.

Ok, deep breath, Evie.

Eventually a woman with an extremely ample bosom tottered over and asked my name as she flicked through a battered file.

“Oh, right. You’re upstairs with Denise. First floor. Hand her this card.” And she passed me a strip of green paper that looked like it was waiting for a child to draw on it and turn it into a bookmark.

Upstairs I went and Gregg greeted me at the automatic doors with an alligator grin that was just a little bit too welcoming and ushered me to the sofa, where, in the ten minutes I waited for the lovely Denise, I counted ten unused and empty desks and nine people meandering around the office, all either deliberating what biscuits to have with their tea, tapping away on their desk (not their keyboard – their desk) or, you know, just generally staring into space. Needless to say my faith had been restored and I busied myself flicking through such magazines as Disability Magazine and Foundation Learning Lancashire that were lovingly fanned across the table. Another 5 minutes ticked by in agonising slow motion and I read the Let’s Work Together posters all over the wall saying that the staff wanted to be treated with respect, spoken to politely and to feel safe in the office. I was midway through my plan to send Pat a copy of that poster, with my fingers steepled and an evil laugh gurgling somewhere in the back of my throat, when Denise came over and asked me if I’d like to sit down. Again.

Now what happened next was very confusing for me, so perhaps, dear reader, you can explain. What happened was this. Denise had a copy of everything I’d painstakingly tapped into the JSA website printed out in front of her. Now I thought she’d grill me over it. But no, she walked through it with me, re-writing what I was telling her onto a notepad. Then she had me sign it. Then we went downstairs to meet another Cheshire cat called Ben who took the notepad and then typed those notes into ANOTHER computer whilst he walked through it with me, the screen swivelled around so I could see exactly what he was typing. All the while he kept saying so “we’ll put that in there, do you agree?” And I nodded in the way you do when approached by someone certifiable wielding a potato peeler.

When Ben had finished inputting all the data I had already inputted, that Denise had already printed out twice and manually copied, he then printed it out twice again (landscape this time) and asked for my signature.

So now the government have four of my autographs that say I will travel up to 90 minutes everyday on public transport to a job that requires me to work from 7am, 12 hours a day, 5 days a week on NMW. Principally that’s fine if you’re into slave labour but that also means I can get sent for a job interview in Manchester for a job that starts at 7am. Meaning I’d have to get the 5.30 train (pay extra because 5.30am is considered “peak time” by the sadists at National Rail) and I could work there until 7pm before heading home and arriving back at about 9pm. All on NMW. Now call me a cynic, but besides working being almost pointless as any wages would go on transport costs, I find myself asking: Is everyone in Manchester employed???

But the crowning moment of Evie’s Day Out was when Denise came downstairs to say that because I’d worked in China for a couple of months (literally a couple of months) that I would have to come back tomorrow to take an Habitual Residents Test. Should any of you wish to know what an habitual residency test is, I shall let you know that it is a test that ensures that I am indeed English and can speak the lingua franca. For those of you in doubt, I can confirm, that I am English and have been since I was born. Apparently providing a Halifax bank card, a British passport and a National Insurance Number, as well as having what can only be described as a Northern Twang, just isn’t enough proof for our government. Although writing down a company’s name on a piece of paper and saying “I applied to them, honest guvna” is.

So tomorrow I have to do a little test to prove it to them and a nice board of people will personally assess whether I am allowed financial support from a tax system that I have paid into since I was old enough to pay tax.

And so I end this post as I started it:

Fucked. Off.