Saturday, 27 January 2007

No job. New job. Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to me. I'm 39. Big whoop. It's also Holocaust Memorial Day. Happy. Happy. Happy.

I haven't got the job as a Clerk Assessor at Wolverhampton City Council. I can ring for feedback on Monday.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in full make-up first for the job interview and second for a tour round all the employment agencies. That's how I got a temp position in a God forsaken business park on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. A complete new build complex on green belt land and entirely designed for cars, there are no pavements.

During the icy spell, we had to skid across the streets with the cars doing strange thing on the black ice beside us. It is deadly. The buses are specially timetabled to run during peak hours only. A local bank called Birmingham Midshires has a huge complex here. There are so many people working there that can't/don't drive they even has a coach firm contracted to shuttle people back and forth to the main road.

One evening, after I missed the first of the special buses, I tried getting on one of Birmingham Midshires buses only to be asked for my id. Even though there were only 3 people on a 30 seater coach, the driver still insisted on id. I told him I was new. Nope. Oh. I thought it was a general service. Nope. Birmingham Midshires only.

There's literally nothing else around. Three different sandwich vans show up during the morning and if you miss those then there's nothing else to eat during the day.

I'm a temp to possibly perm General Office Assistant/Administrative Assistant in the Sales office of a new homes builder. There's a kitchen where there's all the water you can drink, a 'fridge overfilled with sandwiches and a dishwasher from an old show home. The front fascia is missing so that sales advisors could show how the machine could be built in to the kitchen decor of the buyers' choice.

The toilets are twee and very well looked after. On the backs of the cubicle doors are notices with the deathless verse

If you Sprinkle
When you Tinkle
Be a Sweetie
Wipe the Seatie!!!

There are air fresheners everywhere in the building. Little "classy" glass ones giving off citrus scents, automatic puffer ones giving off magnolia and lily scents and if they don't do the trick, ther are spray cans dotted about as well. If I hang around one area for too long I start to feel sick.

The four women I've shared an office with all have cheery high pitched voices. I sound butch by comparison. They deal with new house and apartment sales, part exchanges, the sale of part exchanged old houses and the computer data entry of said sales. I do the filing.

There are hundreds of house sales and hundreds and hundreds of bit of paper. It's tedious work but it's absolutely vital to keep each file up to date. As a way of doing something different, I was given the job of sorting out some of the shelves in the stationery cupboard.

Flags, banners, hi-vi vests in assorted sizes, hard hats, cuddly dogs, giant dog stickers, plastic and metal keyrings, promotional leaflets, specs for different houses (we have to watch out for brick, render and special West Midlands types of houses/apartments/coach houses) and brochure folders. Underneath all this there are post-its and pens but they don't take up too much space.

The high point of this week was being given a login and password. I can now print labels, sort out the file of form master copies and, next week, I'll be shown how to access the pro forma letters so that I can write and print off letters to clients. Whoopee!

I've even got a whole 6p an hour pay rise. £6ph and I'm working in a proper office. Whoo Hoo!

Excuse me. I've got to go to the optician now. Old age is creeping up on me.

Monday, 22 January 2007

You said it, mate

Jackasses Led By Ostriches

To condemn Jade Goody for being a racist bigot is like condemning Adolf Hitler for being a bad painter.

The accusation monumentally misses the point, which is that the unanswerable and deeply depressing case against Jade Goody is that she is Jade Goody.

England made her. She is the end product of the comp school she went to, the neighbourhoods she grew up in, the trash magazines and newspapers she reads (if she can read), the trash TV she watches (and appears on), the trash DVDs she rents, the trash talk radio shows she tunes in to, the trash clothes and trinkets she buys, the rubbish food she eats, the rubbish friends she cultivates, the rip-off clubs she patronises, the rip-off minicabs she takes home after an evening spent sipping a disgusting green drink with two glace cherries on a toothpick and a paper umbrella.

And her mother came too.

Jade, in short, is a victim, a sucker, a patsy, an ideal candidate for that brave new Blair world of all-day pubs, ASBOs, super-casinos, and the promise of sink schools where illiterates in baseball caps can simmer their lives away up to the age of 18 when they can join their friends on the human slagheap.

Sir Christopher Wren (famous architect, Jade, an architect being a geezer what designs buildings) has as his inscription in St Paul's Cathedral: "If you would seek his monument, look around." If you would seek a monument to Controlled New Labour, look at Jade Goody.

As for the charge of racism, I have heard worse.

Jade's outburst against the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, it seems to me, is based less on the fact that she is Indian (or a 'Paki', as Jade's equally thick boyfriend would allegedly have it) than that she is middle-class, educated, talented and beautiful - all the things that our ambassadress of the underclass is not.

Had the utterly English Kate Middleton been rash enough to set foot in the House of Horror she would presumably have got the same treatment.

But what interests me is the reaction of our politicians - Blair, Brown, Straw and Co. - to the ensuing uproar (and incidentally I place little value on the opinions of the hordes who called in to protest against the programme. They seem to be treating life itself as an extension of a Big Brother vote).

To a politician, they stuck scrupulously to the racism issue. The fact that this unpleasant interlude exposes equally to the world the deficiencies of our education system, the paucity of our moral values, the poverty of our culture, seems to have eluded them entirely. A nation of jackasses led by ostriches.

Meanwhile, as Jade is given a massive thumbs-down, thus signalling the end of her second 15 minutes of fame, her fortune begins to trickle through her podgy fingers.

The 'up to' £8million she is supposed to be worth is drying up, as her own stupidity sabotages a lucrative career.

Even so, the message Jade Goody leaves to an upcoming generation is that you don't have to do anything, you don't have to be anything, you don't have to know anything, you don't have to learn anything, to become a celebrity - a word you probably can't even spell.

Jade's world - and welcome to it. And proof, to reverse one of Oscar's better-known aphorisms, that we are all looking at the stars - but some of us are in the gutter.

Keith Waterhouse
I agree with this almost 100%. There's just one slight problem - Jade Goody is a child of the Conservative era. She was born, grew up and was educated when Margaret Thatcher and John Major were running the country.

While Conservative rule saw a decline in standards that were simply a continuation of the already poor comprehensive system of education, the decline accelerated through the 80s and 90s. I know, I was there too.

I don't see New Labour actually slowing down that decline, let alone stopping it or even improving things like they said they would.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

I must have been an arsonist in a previous life

There is one perk I miss about The Big E. Confidential waste.

At The Big E, as with all major employers subject to all kinds of legislation, there were a series of waste procedures. Chemically contaminated, Biohazardous, Sharps, "Ordinary", Glass, Batteries, Cans and Aerosols, Solid Chemical, Liquid Chemical, Non-Chlorinated Solvents, Chorinated Solvents, special procedures for Mercury waste and, after a few more special ones, Confidential.

The confidential waste was placed in big sacks which would be security shredded by a contractor before being recycled. In this modern age of identity theft, this was an important perk. All my Direct Debit slips, anything with my name and/or address on it, old bank and credit card statements - all this and more was taken to work to be securely destroyed.

Then I bought my own house. And discovered the joys of a working chimney. It was great. I'll admit that my attempts at setting fire to big envelopes densely packed with paper were a non-starter at first, but after I got the hang of it I really looked forward to my burning sessions.

The trick is to avoid dense packing. Let the air in (maybe scrunching the paper up into balls) and you can have hours of fun and keep warm at the same time.

However. My Dad and my brother found a lovely old fireplace being thrown onto a skip by Polish builders and brought it up to me. It's rusted through in places and isn't in working order. Dad screwed it into place over Christmas and now my working chimney is unusable because it's blocked - ironically with a fireplace.

Filling in all these application forms is a drag. I have amassed a collection of half filled in forms, addressed envelopes, cv drafts and all the usual financial stuff that I would usually get rid of with a box of matches. There is now a huge amount of confidential waste which I can't burn. I can't throw it away or recycle it. So I bought a cheap shredder from Partners.

It can't take more than 5 sheets at a time, it overheats if "overworked" (I had to put it in the fridge to make it keep going), it makes a horrendous noise, doesn't keep me warm and frankly isn't half as much fun as setting fire to it all. And, after all that, I've still got to get rid of three large carrier bags of shredded paper. Bummer.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Same old, same old

Well that was a non-starter. The weather was atrocious. It was fine during the morning and started chucking it down in the afternoon just as I was going out the door.

That's £15.50 wasted on a decent hair do and I spent another £15 at Rackhams on a new umbrella as the old one blew inside out, the fabric unpinged from the spokes and the spokes fell apart. Bits of the broken spokes were swinging down underneath the umbrella and getting painfully caught in my windblown hair.

It wasn't even an interview. It was a test and sift exercise. If the candidates passed that one then there was a second session on another date and then, maybe, a panelled interview. There were about 60 people there including a few familiar faces from The Big E.

I've got a letter this morning stating that as the candidate level was so high, I didn't get through to the further test exercise. I rang the given number for feedback and was told that I'd be called back later.

Later, as I was having a shower and washing my hair I got a 'phone call. I answered the 'phone not even wearing a towel (non pretty) and was told exactly what the letter stated.

The candidate level was extremely high. I've got to keep plugging on. Keep smiling (!). I had lots to offer a prospective employer. It's extremely tough changing careers these days. The lady told me that she spent 20 years in retail and it took years for her to get a job in recruitment.

Unfortunately, I don't have years. I have months. I was crying when I put the phone down. Again.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Ready, steady

Ok, quick checklist for the job interview tomorrow afternoon.


Check. Acne vulgaris galore. I've been blitzing those zits with Oxy, Clearasil and Neutragena and still ended up with new ones.

Cold sores or something else to blemish appearance?

Check. My whole mouth is sore. Nothing visible yet but there's still time for them to show up tomorrow. Zovirax instead of lip salve.

Cold, 'flu or something else infectious?

Check. One cold present and correct. A real snotfest with a chesty cough. With the lofepramine interacting with the decongestants and my allergy to alcohol, all I've got to treat it with is paracetamol and tissues.

No preparation or research?

Check. The local library has set the security internet filters so high that I've been unable to research the organisation I've applied to.

Bad hair day?

Actually, I'm embarrassed to admit that I've book a shampoo and finish for tomorrow morning. I think I've got enough going against me for tomorrow so I'm not too worried on that score.

I've applied to a newly set up Home Office Quango/Agency and I haven't got a clue what's going to happen. I've got a really good feeling about this one!!

Friday, 5 January 2007

Same old same old

I contacted AXA. The Big E is no longer part of the Civil Service. This was fine - although we should have said something last December - we could get away with that until the Big E changed from the Home Office Pay Service (pens, carbon paper and maybe getting it right most of the time) to a new, privately contracted, pay roll service (bright, fast, computerised, efficient!).

The AXA money has been deducted from my wages (£200) and can't go to the AXA Civil Service Save From Pay Scheme via the existing Civil Service payment arrangement because the bright, new, efficient, payroll service is not a part of the Civil Service. So the bright, shiny, new, efficient payroller has taken my money and only it knows where it is. Terrific.

I gave AXA the number for the Big E HR bunch and I'm going to let them sort it out amongst themselves. I've also asked them for a surrender value for the money paid into the scheme so far. I've paid £1800. The surrender value will be considerably less, but no, said the Bristolian with the ooh-aar accent, he couldn't give me any figures over the 'phone. Great.

I am knackered. With Dad up for Christmas I couldn't fill in all the application forms that I had. There are three jobs I've lost out on because I couldn't get the forms filled in on time. I've fillled in two both with deadlines for today. I posted one yesterday (after staying up until 03:00 to finish it) and I hand delivered one this morning to the local council offices after staying up until 02:00 this morning. I'm going to bed early tonight!

The work is horrible. I'm processing envelopes with little electronic tracking gidgets in them. All the data has to be entered onto a database using the keyboard and a barcode scanner. Pick up, put down, pick up, throw into box, count the batch numbers, remember there's 50 to a batch, when was the envelope sent, what size, what postage, when did it arrive, how was it addressed, was it addressed correctly ... we're supposed to manage about 100 per hour. My lack of sleep is really slowing me down on that score.

Monday, 1 January 2007


Daily Mail 1st January 2007

AQUARIUS Jan 21 - Feb 19

You will enjoy January. It may or may not show you the shape of things to come in 2007, but it will certainly bring forth a series of events and experiences that will get your year off to the best possible start.You will find yourself in demand socially and even romantically. You will prosper on the material plane and on higher levels too. In the realm of creative imagination, you will be blessed with great gifts of lasting value. Shrug off your negative expectations. You have much to look forward to.

Okaay. Right. Does that mean I'll get a job in time to stop me losing my house?