Saturday, 24 February 2007

I've got a fan. I got a genuine, bona fide fan. Whoo Hoo.

I went to an interview on Thursday. I came back looking a little bit like a wet cat. No really. The weather was mild and sunny for the three days before but no, Thursday was mild, breezy and wet. And I went for another wash and blow dry. Another £15.50 wasted.

The money thing is started to look dire. I really need to find a job. Not just any job. A well paid job permanent job. Or enough low pay and part-time jobs to make up the £1100 a month I need to keep the roof over my head, pay off the loan, pay the bills and feed myself.

The interview? It was awful. One of the essential criteria for the position was a "confident communicator". So, presented with three smiling women and some tough questions, I stammered and paused and umm-ed and ahh-ed right through the interview. I was cringing every time I opened my mouth.

n-power don't want me nor do Go West Midlands. I managed to apply for a job with Sandwell Council and someone near Rowley Regis Crematorium and Cemetery saw my cv on Monster and wants me to go for an interview next Thursday. When we spoke on the 'phone, he really wasn't sure what the job entailed himself. This sounds like "fun".

The frequency of interviews is about once a fortnight. If I can keep that up and increase that to once a week, I should be able to find a job. Maybe. Perhaps.

Oh God!!! I fucking hope so!!!

Enough panic.

I've trawled through the usual web sites for jobs here in the West Midlands. The local councils are Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Birmingham and Coventry. They should be "safe bets" but they really are asking a lot for the money they offer. A experienced benefits fraud officer is only offered £14,000 or so. The West Midlands Police are also useful. Someone clearly thinks they've got a sense of humour though. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the West Midlands Constabulary's PLODCAST.

Friday, 16 February 2007

METROscope - Wendy Bristow

Aquarius

For an intellectual giant, you're pretty damn intuitive right now. Ok, not everything your gut is telling you feels comfortable - but that's good. Pain always tells us that something needs sorting.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

The interview came and went and went ok. Ish. Sort of.

I decided to save a bit of money and went by bus. Bad idea. I arrived 20 minutes late.

The interview was very infomal and chatty. I told him how long it took to get there (thereby telling him how hard it would be to get to work), told him that I didn't like the sales department and why (disloyally slagging off my current employer) and told him that I was interested in a part time evening role (telling him that he'd have to go through the hiring process again if the role went full time).

It was only afterwards, when I gave myself and the interview the post mortem treatment, that it dawned on me that I had effectively talked my way out of the job. I really don't think I'm going to hear from him. Do you?

I was embarrassed to be provisionally offered the role of Administration Assistant by the Office Manager. It's there if I want it at £12,800 pa. My God, they must be desperate if they're offering me the job after less than two weeks.

Let me see. Although it's more money than I'm currently on, the job is hard to get to. The next door neighbours are a field of cows. There is no hours flexibility, no real career progression and if I took it permanently there would be no time to take on another part time job to make up the £5k pa that I need to pay the bills and feed myself. Thanks but no thanks.

With the money I'm currently on, I can afford to remain unemployed until the end of May possibly June receiving my first pay slip at the end of June or July.

I'll just have to hold my nerve until I get the right money.

The snow was a nightmare. It started snowing on Wednesday night. The forecasters had got it right and the gritters were out night and day making sure the roads were passable. Then the forecasters got it wrong.

People went to work on Friday and instead of thawing, the snow got worse. Everyone hit the roads at the same time trying to get home before it got too bad thereby blocking access to the gritters who were stuck in the traffic jams with every other lemming.

Work was dead slow. There were two sales sites open.

Why!?

Who'd visit a building site in this weather. There were no Customer Enquiry sheets, no papers to file, no files to archive - nothing. I even ended up in a windowless room, supercooled for the computer server doing the filing for another section. Oh joy.

I took yesterday off. I was feeling really down after Tuesday and the walking boots I'd worn on Thursday had really cut into my ankles and left bruises. You can imagine the fun and games if I'd tried to walk through the frozen snow. I'm still limping after Thursday.

I've applied for a Finance Assistant role for a local council and a Receptionist position for a local bus company.

The Finance Assistant job could get me part time AAT training. Let's face it, finance and accounting are where the money's at. Gimme! The Receptionist job has free travel. Not a bad perk.

I've been floundering around youtube.com. So have Bloggorah. Some of the stuff on youtube is completely irrelevant. Some of it is dead funny. I still think this is a brilliant bit of telly. With the Terry Wogan intro - of course.

I've got a load of application forms to get through and stuff to do so I'm off until next week. See you soon.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Horoscope

Aquarius

IF YOU want an easier life, lower your standards. Settle for less. Accept what is offered. Disengage your critical faculties. Be passive and philosophical. Turn a blind eye. I could go on, but I am sure you're sick of hearing this already. It is not how you are, and it is not who you are. Ipso facto, you really don't ant an easier life! So enjoy the difficulties you are facing today. They are a side effect of your determination to achieve something highly worthwhile.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Trains and boats and planes and trams and buses

Centro have simplified the travel card system by re-branding itself as n. Right. A new corporate image is really going to sort it all out for us isn't it? There is no cohesive system like there is in London, no night bus services to speak of and all the bus services that are there are quite pitiful - especially at the weekends.

There are trams (called the Midland Metro), trains (mainline only) and buses (with at least 44 different bus companies). Midland Metro runs in a relatively straight line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, the trains are the fastest way of getting around but it's pricy and the buses go everywhere including Dudley and Oldbury town centres which have no direct train or tram connections.

Busmaster has changed to nbus
Railmaster has changed to ntrain
Centrocard has changed to nnetwork

The Centrocard (now nnetwork) was what I paid for when I was at The Big E. It is the most convenient what with the unlimited travel on buses, trains and trams. Now I have to think about what I need as I can't really afford £22.50 a week. Or £75 a month. Or £66 a month direct debit. Or £226 every 13 weeks. 13 weeks - who thought of a 13 week period? And I definitely can't afford to pay £795 for 52 weeks.

So.

The warehouse I've been working in is at Black Lake tram stop. So I could go for a Midland Metro Card. £13 per week, £44 for 4 weeks, £39.50 for 4 weeks by direct debit but there's no point going for a 52 week card £471 as there is no way I'll get the use out of it.

If I was just travelling between train stations, then an ntrain would be an idea. Wolverhampton is Zone 5 and Birmingham is Zone 1. That's £17.70 per week, £60 for 4 weeks (or 48.50 by direct debit) or £470 for 52 weeks.

I haven't been travelling to any train stations routinely over the past three months (Zone rates go from Zone 1 only, 1- 2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5 or 2-5) and there are vast areas of the West Midlands not covered by train or trams so a bus pass will probably cover all areas I need to get to.

The nbus at £14.90 for 1 week seems to be good value and with the metro add-on only costs £18.10. £18.10 for one week's travel. Or £50.50/£62.50 for 4 weeks.

But.

Travel West Midlands runs the overwhelming majority of the bus services around the West Midlands.

The Travel West Midlands Regional Travelcard (not valid on night services) gets me travel all over everywhere including Coventry. That's £13.90 per week or £16.90 with metro add-on. Off Peak (valid from 09:30 - 15:29 and from 18:00 until end of service Monday to Fridays, all day Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays) is good value at £6.80 for 1 week or £8.10 with metro add-on. 2 week Off Peak is £13/£15.30. But I've got to get to work in the rush hour. Off Peak is useless. A 4 week All Day is £46.50 or £58.50 with metro add-on. The 4 week All Day monthly direct debit price is extremely good value at £40.50/£50 but, again there's little point in going for a 52 week All Day at £486/£603.

But I probably don't need to get to Coventry. In fact, since I er, ahem, left The Big E I haven't needed to go to even as far as Birmingham much if at all. I could just get the Travel West Midlands Black Country Faresaver (AREA COVERED : Dudley, Sandwell (west of M5), Walsall, Wolverhampton. Also Hednesford, Cannock, Codsall, Womborne and Kinver) and pay for separate journeys to Birmingham should the need arise.

They're pretty good value. A 1 week is £10.45, 1 week Off Peak is £5.90. A 4 week Black Country Faresaver is £35.75 or by monthly direct debit £32. Again a 52 week Black Country Faresaver (£384) is probably not going to get the 'wear'.

I don't hold a free Concessionary Pass so the nnetwork, ntrain, nbus (available with or without a metro add-on) or the TWM Early Bird (available with or without the metro add-on) Pre 9:30 tickets (valid from 4am to 9:29 am Monday to Fridays excluding Bank Holidays. All Centro Concessionary Passes valid until expiry) are not worth a second look.

The bummer with the Travel West Midlands Faresavers is that they don't come with the optional metro add-ons which could speed up certain journeys. After all, the bus journey to Birmingham is about an hour and a half.

I do still go to Birmingham however, so a Travel West Midlands Birmingham and Black Country Faresaver (Valid on any Travel West Midlands bus service at any time of day in Birmingham and the Black Country areas. Not valid on Midland Metro services. Not valid on night services. AREA COVERED : Birmingham, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Also Hednesford, Cannock, Codsall, Womborne, Kinver and Coleshill) could be the way to go.

1 week for £12.50. 4 weeks for £42.50 or £38 by monthly direct debit or 52 weeks for £456.

If I do need to travel out as far as Coventry then an ntrain or an nnetwork pass will be better than a Travel West Midlands Regional Travelcard alone as the buses are just too slow even if they cover a wider geographical area. The Travel West Midlands Coventry Faresaver alone covers Coventry plus Bedworth, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Balsall Common and Meriden.

I haven't seen a Diamond branded bus at all. So a Diamond Weekly Ticket (valid for unlimited travel on all Diamond bus services for one week, available on any day of the week from the driver and can be passed to family and friends for extra use) at £7.90 is not a good idea at all.

The trouble is, I really don't know where I'll end up working permanently. It could be anywhere. I can't sign up for a yearly direct debit contract for any one type of ticket either because it's too expensive and probably unnecessary (nnetwork) or too limiting (any other pass). The monthly direct debits are a very good deal though. Some come out less expensive than the 52 week tickets.

I have to be as flexible as possible, as cheaply as possible and I can change the type of ticket once I find permanent work.

Here in Wolverhampton there is the added joy of the availability of tickets. A Star newsagent and a Londis (both shut by 6pm weekdays) are the only places to get such tickets.

So, to keep me mobile.....

I'll have a

4 week

Bimingham and Black Country Faresaver

£42.50 cash.

Thank you.

There. That wasn't complicated at all, was it?

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Things are happening but I wish it meant more money

I've had another encouraging comment! Yee haa!

Where were you before now? Stand up comedy indeed. You haven't seen me in the flesh have you?

Actually, stand up is one of my sneaking fantasies. I've got vague ideas for a routine but no bottle.

The feedback came through for the Wolverhampton City Council post - apparently my time management skills are not all that. I got 45 marks out of a possible 60 and all I needed was 3 more marks to get an interview. 75% instead of 80%. Oh, well, that's ok then.

I've met the sales managers in my office. Boot Face and Bob. Boot Face is female (only just) and really does look like she's been hit with a sack of spanners. Her look is not improved by her make up (stuck in the '60s with frosted lipstick) or her Lady Macbeth demeanor.

Bob is fairly boot faced herself with an extraordinary bobbed hairstyle which requires the kind of care she doesn't seem to have time to give it. Thick, grey, wavy hair which has a mind of its own, it should be blow dried and sleek. It isn't.

Bob is helpless at spelling and so, sensibly, doesn't try to do any of the word processing herself. She just leaves it to someone else to decypher the pencilled scribblings.

Mondays and Tuesdays are "office days". For the rest of the week Boot Face and Bob run around the different building sites with updates and stationery orders. They manage/check up on the poor sods who are stuck in the marketing suites and show homes trying to sell 'cookie cutter' houses to passing punters.

The trouble is there aren't that many passing punters. Sales at one site are so slow that there's talk of special discounts and incentives. The incentives are usually carpets and flooring. Having seen the carpet samples in the stationery cupboard I wouldn't call that much of an incentive.

I've got an interview for a part time data entry position for an environmental charity. Oooooh. Again, I'm not holding my breath but there you go.

I've applied for an part time NHS position and....and.....and actually, I've forgotten what else I've applied for. I've sent a barrel load of on-line applications and two postal applications. I can't remember what for. Brilliant.

I was 39 last Saturday. I got a text message from Brook Street. While it's nice of them to remember me, I wish they would get their fingers out and find work for me. I got a text from Kid Brother and a phone call from Middle Brother. I rang Dad. He forgot.

I had an eye test. I got an eye test as I realised my backache from the Data Entry job was caused by me leaning towards the fixed computer screen to try and see the print. I also went to the cinema and found the two foot high letters a bit fuzzy around the edges until I moved back a few rows. And guess what?

!I NEED GLASSES!

From today I'll be a speccy four eyes. I have a drastic astigmatism in both eyes. Right now it's just the one pair but within a few years I'll need two pairs of glasses. I'll be one of those annoying people who need walking around/driving/distance glasses and reading/close up glasses. And I'll never have the right pair on me when I need them.

One of my many problems is that I've spent the last 20 years of my working life in jeans and a shirt. With the added bonus of flat sensible shoes with or without steel toecaps and socks. After that, It's hard getting to grips with unnatural fibres, slips, tights, roll-ons, no pockets, handbags and the general girly stuff that Trinny and Susannah normally bug on about.

I was given a bit of money at Christmas which I blew on "office" clothes. The trouble is I've now lost enough weight for a lot of all my clothes - the old and recently acquired - not to fit. For the jeans, that's not too big a problem (just tie the belt a bit tighter) but for the new, smarter clothes it's a real pain. No belts mean the skirts are starting to fall off me. Bargain.

I am definitely eating less through a combination of less boredom and less money. I am meeting new people, I am making fewer impulse purchases, I'm not being driven crazy by the same people doing and saying the the same things day after day, I'm simply not as miserable and I just don't have the opportunity to overeat as I did before.

I'm still a member of a gym. I wasn't able to get out of the contracted terms and conditions I've signed. I haven't been for months though. That was an almighty waste of money. But what if you could do this on the treadmills? I'd go more often.