Thursday, 29 March 2007

Plans change again

Told a lie. Poor pathetic auntie isn't getting buried next week, it's the week after next.

There are so many dead people in Shepherd's Bush(!) that the church is stacked up with funerals. The earliest the priest could fit her in was Easter Tuesday. They've even got a funeral on Easter Sunday. We're Catholics, these things matter.

Dad and Alky Cousin (remaining son of Pathetic Auntie) showed up at the hospital and the consultant who was due to issue the death certificate didn't show up until late in the day. This meant that it was too late to go to the Registry Office on Monday. Tuesday they showed up at Hammersmith Town Hall to find the Registry Office had moved to Fulham Town Hall (London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham).

After showing up at Fulham Town Hall, the computers shut down so they were stuck in a queue waiting for the certificates to be handwritten. And Alky Cousin throwing his own vodka shaped spanners into the works was just the final straw for the people around him.

Alky Cousin has had a bollocking from the local registrar (showing up drunk just isn't on), from Dad (who didn't trust him to look after the death certificates) and from a distant cousin who's already fed up with ferrying people around because he's the one who can drive (Alky Cousin didn't even bother trying to learn). I'm really looking forward to the latest family gathering. Not.

So I'm looking for work for next week (which includes Good Friday) and I'm off the week after next. Yeah, right. That'll happen.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Well there's good news and there's bad news

The bad news is that I've hurt my ankle falling into a pothole on my way to the paper bank. This wouldn't be a tragedy if I had a normal office job. However, as I'm trawling the aisles of a warehouse full of file stuffed shelves the ability to walk is a requirement of the job.

I had to hobble home on Sunday afternoon and rest my ankle. Whilst lying on the bed, my Dad called. One of his two surviving sisters had died at about 4am that morning. He was upset. The poor cow has had a rotten life. One son dead in his twenties the other a pathetic alcoholic drug addict and her alcoholic waster of a husband died a couple of years back from smoking. Her death? Entirely self inflicted - lung cancer.

This means that at some stage I'll be called down to London for the funeral. Money will be extremely tight and Dad will insist on paying for stuff even though he has virtually none of his own. He's crippled with back pain and half blind. He can't work and earn the money he's used to and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Agency has still to pay any compensation for the injuries inflicted on him last year.

Of course he won't claim benefits or allowances being too stubborn or proud or just refusing to admit that there's anything wrong with him. He's permanently skint and he still manages regular trips to the pub to get blasted with "a couple of pints". After Christmas in The Kerryman, I know what "a couple of pints" looks like.

The house will be even more squalid than the last time I went down and the social services even more unresponsive than before. I'll be the one who gets to call the council regarding the recalculation of the fair rent for the Stinky Old Bat who is a sitting tenant and won't leave even though she won't wash or allow the "home helps" to help her.

It also means that I can't work this week (ankle), I can't look for other work until the end of next week which will then be the start of Easter. So that means three full weeks without work and, therefore, money. Brilliant.

On the plus side. I won two tickets to the cinema from a Beacon 97.2FM radio quiz and I have an interview. It's on Friday in Coventry City Centre and I've been using my "free time" this week to research and prepare.

I've got to get this job.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Music is my first love..............

The assessment went well. The place is outside Dudley on the way to West Bromwich. There's a Toby Carvery and a 24 hour Tesco superstore close by and the work is mindbendingly boring again.

During the day they scan documents for customers and during the night they trawl through the queries the computer throws up. Basically, the job entails deciphering bad handwriting and educating the system about how that 6 could be a 0 or that 7 is actually a 1. I had it sussed within a few minutes. I was then told that the work started at 8pm that evening - "for training purposes".

I went to HSBC and asked about varying the terms of the loan. No deal. If I had borrowed over £15,000, then we could have talked about extending the repayment term, but as I had "only" borrowed £7,000 there was no chance. Even if the extended term meant more interest for them in the long run.

Then I went home to bed just in case I got the job. I got a call from Brook Street wanting to know the state of play. Then I called Reed who told me that I'd know when they knew. Then I nodded off.

After 5pm, I called Reed again who, after telling me they were just about to call me, told me that I was impressive but not that impressive. I'm on the client's reserve list. I can be called 12 hours beforehand and expected to start that evening.

I called Brook Street and told them that I'd be starting with them on Tuesday, if the position was still open. It was, so I did.

I stayed up late on Tuesday night to finish an application form and only went to bed at 4am Wednesday morning. I was bouncing off the shelved files all the following day.

Thursday, I got a call from someone I had previously applied to and was told that I had an interview. On Friday 30th March. I still haven't received written confirmation from them and my paranoid little mind is now wondering if they've had second thoughts and they aren't interested anymore.

Saga 105.7FM is now called Smooth. I really don't like the new format. The news isn't broadcast regularly and the music is frankly too MOR for my taste. Saga played hits from the 50s and 60s mainly and some from the 70s. I like that kind of music with the some great presenters keeping their news and view topical. But no more. Two of my favourite presenters are off and the format is too bland for my taste.

At the warehouse, there are two radios one set to Virgin 1215AM and one to Beacon 97.2FM. They both play similar types of music but the Beacon reception is better at home. Throughout the day, however, the playlist is repeated over and over again. Patience, Fix You, Chasing Cars, How to Save A Life, The Day we Caught the Train, Grace Kelly, Rehab, Ruby, Piece of my Heart and on and on and on. At least I like the music.

I like the music on Kerrang but they're hardly up on the news and current affairs.

Heart is too eighties and bubblegum pop.

BRMB is barely okay, but they don't play too much music, the presenters are idiots and there is too much by way of chat, phone-ins and competitions.

Although I like news and current affairs, Radio 4 is too much talk - I like a musical soundtrack I can hum along to and keep time with.

Radio 3 and Classic FM are too, well, classical.

Radio 2 is frankly weird. The music is okay but its choice of presenters lets it down and again there's too much talk.

Radio 1 is too r 'n' b as is Galaxy.

BBC WM is nearly all talk, has Les Ross and is obsessed with the local football teams. Beacon plays local matches live as well and it runs 090 type telephone competitions.

107.7 The Wolf is local but, again, there is the football thing (Wolves) and the local thing. There's local - West Midlands region and then there's local - and frankly The Wolf is a tad too "League of Gentlemen" meets "Smashy and Nicey" for my taste. They're based in the Mander shopping centre and the weather is broadcast along the lines of "The temperature at the top of the Mander Centre is 7C". Um, fellas, there is a world beyond the Ring Road, you know.

So it has to be mainly Beacon for now. The morning shows seem to be okay, I like the music (even if it is repetitive) and the news, weather and travel is up to date.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Whooooooo Are You? WHO WHO? WHO WHO?

I really want to know.

I've been thinking about you Anonymous. Who are you? Where do I know you from? Did I give you a nick name by any chance?

YouTube. Hmmmn. I think you're just trying to lead me astray. You naughty boy, you.

At least I think you're a boy.

I got a text about a job from Brook Street. I signed up with them in November and they finally got round to me on Monday evening. I called back, said I was interested and I called in on Tuesday.

The temp desk was being manned by a new guy and he'd sent out fifty random text messages after being told of a vacancy and having a computer full of total strangers to pick from.

My life always seems to have depended on random chance, so what was new there?

There was a filing job. A hospital filing clerk. Was I interested? Um, yeah. £6ph and it was purely filing. On a trading estate outside Dudley. Starting Thursday. Terrific. He even sorted out the two buses I needed to get there. Two buses? Hospital filing clerk? On a trading estate?

The trouble these days is that individual hospitals aren't self contained little townships all on their tod. Hospital trusts are the modern way. There could be four or five hospitals within a trust, each specialising in their own fields of medicine. Patients are ping pong-ed between them according to their physical ailment and not their geographical nearness. This means that everything is centralised or done on an industrial scale to reduce costs.

Dudley is what would happen if one started building on Teletubbyland. Instead of earthworks to flatten the place, strange building techniques have been used to accommodate the hills and hillocks in a still geologically active area.

In some streets there is a 10 to 20 foot drop from the front door to the pavement with steep slopes and/or staircases zigzagging between the two. Bricks are routinely used to park cars on the drives, some strange gardening methods are used to dig the front gardens as each 'flowerbed' resembles a plant trough and simply walking up the garden path requires some perseverance.

In other parts, what would ordinarily be a two story house has a basement garage beneath it. The drive is an alarming slope down from the pavement. What would, on flat land, have been a path beside the drive is replaced by a causeway from pavement to front door with a vertical drop of at least 10 feet from the front door to the bottom of the drive. If you're feeling really brave you don't put a fence along the path to prevent falls.

There are a number of estates with "landscaped" lawns. These really do look like the The Shire of Middle Earth. Disappointingly, the inhabitants are the same as everywhere else around here. Tracksuits, baseball caps and trainers. No Hobbits or Teletubbies.

These past two mornings the weather has been good. There are daffodils nodding in the breeze and, as the buses wend and weave their way up and down (and up and down and up and down) the hills and bends along the way, one glimpses picturesque views of countryside. Hills, fields, pylons and distant towns all fading off into a misty blue green haze. Then it dawns. That's where you're going.

Sure enough, the estate is in the middle of the countryside. Unlike the trading estate in Pendeford, this is huge. There are a series of private roads running through the estate connecting one side with another. To prevent rat running, there is an awesome collection of speed humps seemingly modelled on the local landscape.

One small industrial unit has been converted to a Greggs the Baker. There's a post box on the corner by Greggs and a BP station, a MacDonalds and a Travel Lodge all within walking distance. That's cash, junk food and a regular bus service that doesn't stop in the middle of the day. Luxury.

I was told that the place is kept anonymous for reasons of confidentiality. The bus drops passengers at both ends of the estate and there's a stop in the middle. At each end, stuck to the signs for the estate are flip top perspex boxes containing maps of the estate and guides to the tenants. There was my bunch. Clearly listed with a map reference. Very anonymous.

The hospital file store is a massive warehouse, bigger than a football pitch. It's no place for claustrophobics though. There are aisle upon aisle of shelves stuffed with files in numerical order. Virtually the whole floor is turned over to what's called library space.

There is a massive turnover of files. They are returned by the lorryload in crates. They are scanned into the building using barcodes and then sorted to make the filing easier. Once sorted into boxes, they are laid out on a clear part of the floor.

The first job of the day is filing. This means taking what looks like a shopping trolley and loading up with a box, finding the section you've got to file in and trolling the main aisle looking for your shelves. The files then have to be loaded onto the shelves in keeping with the number order. The shelves are crammed and some of the files are nearly two feet across. It can take up to an hour to try and get enough space to put a file back.

Then comes pulling. There are a series of clinic lists in a pile sorted according to date. Taking your trolley and your 'shopping list' you trawl the aisles again, this time looking for files that have to be pulled off the shelves and placed in your trolley. Once the shopping list is complete, the files are loaded onto another set of shelves ready for the clinic prep team. They sort and scan the files 'out', load up them up into crates and the crates are then labelled and shipped out to the hospitals for the clinics.

It is mindbendingly boring.

The second day, I got a call from Reed. Was I available for a 7ph night job. I could start Monday, I said.

I called Brook Street about a time sheet and told them I was starting another job on Monday. That wasn't good news for them.

Reed called back. I was going for an assessment on Monday. They'd call me back with the time. AN ASSESSMENT?! Well, yes. The client wanted to see I was suitable. If I wasn't? Then I wasn't going to get the job. Oh terrific.

That job too, is near Dudley. If I pass the assessment, then I've got a 7ph night job Sunday to Thursday. And I start Monday night. If I don't pass the assessment, then I'm going to have to grovel back to Brook Street for the filing job. If they haven't filled it already. If they have, then I'm jobless again.

Whoopee do.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Things to do, people to see.

I'm sitting in the college library. Sorry, Learning Resources Area. With no computer at home I need to get creative with how I sort out my cv. I didn't know I was going to be "fired" on Friday so I didn't get a chance to update my cv.

I haven't been to a lesson here since I was suspended. However, I haven't officially resigned the courses either. That means I'm still officially on the roll, I retain my pass, my login privileges and my NUS card. Every little helps.

I'm so down. If any of us knew what life was like and had a choice about being born, how many of us would choose not to be born?

All I've known is physical and emotional pain, thwarted plans and ambitions and a Greek tragedy for a family. No. I wouldn't be born if I had had the choice. But, now I'm here, I have to make the best of it.

So I'm here, out of bed, slapped up, dressed up and sorting out my cv for the temping agencies and job applications. Who knows? It might be my lucky week.

Yeah, right.

I need to talk to the bank about my loan. I've had a word with the building society about the mortgage and there's a chance I may be able to turn it to interest only for a while. If I can renegotiate the loan and increase the payment period, I can reduce the individual payments. The bank will get extra interest out of me, so it's in their interest to allow me to do that.

I've got stuff to do so I'd better get on.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Here I go again

I was offered the job of General Office Assistant. I provisionally accepted it on Thursday and was called Thursday evening by one of the recruitment "consultants" on Thursday evening.

We agreed that the job was wrong for me. However, the office needed someone who could take on the job permanently as there were computer logins which I didn't have for the AS400 system which was limiting the work I could do. We also agreed that one of the first things that I'd do was leave as soon as I was offered a job with more money. So I agreed to leave. I'd give a weeks notice so they could hire someone else (a girl was interviewed last week).

The following day, the consultant rang the office manager. The office manager and I "had a word". I told her that I had changed my mind, it was silly to accept the position when I was going to leave asap. I was doing my best, but the job was boring and I was sleepwalking through it. It was wrong to send me when the agency knew the office was looking for permanent staff and I was happy to give a weeks notice so that they had time to get someone else in.

She agreed. The extra bits of the job that I wasn't doing weren't much of an added challenge and I was told that my term was ending "today". Which was a bit of a shock. I said so. She said that she didn't want me dragging myself out to a job that I was sleepwalking through and hating it so it was for the best. She'd discussed it with the agency and they were confident they could find other work for me. She appreciated the work I'd done, I would get good references and she wished me all the best. All done within 10 minutes.

The office was told, when the new Sales Director (Bob) rang up from one of the sites she was told and I set about clearing my in trays and saying goodbye to people. I left a couple of notes pinned to the kitchen notice boards and sent e-mails to IT and Reception asking them to delete me from address books and telephone lists. There had been talk of putting me in the staff register.

I was given a lift into town by the sales manager and that was it. I was unemployed.

I'm unemployed again.

During the day, I rang the agencies and told them I'd be available for work from Monday morning. They had better be as successful as they are confident.

I'm starting to lose mine. Confidence that is. I'm looking at part time night and evening positions for security and cleaning just for the money.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Well, that went well. Not.

The interview went quite well. Just as well, really, as OFWAT don't want me. I got that letter first thing on Thursday. It was the usual "Regrettably, on this occasion...." blah, "the standard of candidates was extremely high...." blah blah.

Just as well, really. The place was only ten minutes from where I used to work at the Big E.

The place I went to on Thursday is hard to reach. I left the house before 12pm and got to the bus station. I asked at the information desk how to get to the cemetery (which is opposite the place) and I was told it was a bit late to catch the bus to West Bromwich, I needed the tram. The interview was for 2pm. How was it going to take 2 hours to get there?

It only took an hour and three quarters. Tram to West Bromwich and then a special A bus out. There is the 404 and the 404A and it was imperative I got the 404A. The place was small and friendly enough and I seemed to get on well with the interviewers who had to interview me in a freezing file room as the auditors had taken on the spare room for a spot audit. They let me keep my coat on.

I got back to West Bromwich and ran to the tram which had pulled into the station. I got on the tram which had Wolverhampton St Georges as its terminus scrolling across the dot matrix board. I buried my head in the papers looking for jobs and only stuck my head up to show the conductor my ticket and then, to see why the journey was taking so long.

I was heading towards Birmingham. The conductor had looked at my return ticket to West Bromwich from Wolverhampton and failed to warn me I was on the wrong tram. The prissy tram voice announcing the stops had been turned off and I was now where I shouldn't be without a valid ticket.

At Birmingham the tram broke down, blocking the platform. I left and trolled around the Bullring for a while. Bought some stuff at Boots and caught the bus. The 79 bus takes hours. Handsworth, West Bromwich, Hilltop, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Bilston and finally Wolverhampton.

The bus filled up and I saw a spare seat. The lady sitting next to it showed my why no one was sitting there. A blood spatter pattern along the wall finished with a puddle of fresh blood down on the floor. Brilliant. No one was going to tell the driver as that meant taking the bus out of service and delaying their journeys home.

I went upstairs and got stuck behind some Asian bimbo arguing with her boyfriend on the phone. "Where are you then?", "No you're not!", I'm outside Shah's now - you're not there!", I'm not getting off the bus!", "You're seriously pissing me off , man!", "No. No. No. No. NO WAY!". And so on until the outskirts of West Bromwich.

When the bus cleared at West Brom, I went back downstairs. The bus route trails its way through industrial units and there were a lot of workers clocking off and going home. Predominantly Asian and mainly women, they filled the bus and chatted loudly while the kids and the wasters went upstairs to smoke. That's not allowed, by the way.

At Bilston, a black guy got on and he was seriously drunk. He was wet down one side of his body where he'd collapsed and pissed himself and there was a wet slick down one side of his face where he'd drooled over himself. Where did he sit? The blood puddle. No one bothered to tell him.

I remember a conversation with the Bearded Sweetie before he left. I was miserable (quelle surprise), hated my job and had just been rejected for yet another position. I think it was Network Rail. I was crying again. It was only the morning and there was most of a working day to get through.

He told me to think about what was good about the job. I said the money and the benefits. Such as? he asked. The Travelcard loan. I was grateful that I could afford a Travelcard that could get me on the trains. The buses were awful. He joked then that he occasionally took his children on the bus to show them what would happen if they didn't do well in their exams. Cue weak laughter and the business of the day.

Fast forward two years and here I am. Trundling around on a bus with the pensioners, teenage mothers with council house face lifts and pushchairs the size of small cars, their howling, pasty faced bastards, the poor, the wasters and the pissheads.

I'm poor. I'm so poor I'm travelling on the bus from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. Nightmare.

I really need to start earning good money again.