Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Nope. No hope.

Today was my penultimate pay day. I checked my bank balance and saw that my wages HAD gone in and my benefits HADN'T.

Terrific.

I called the JSA Helpline and was told that first time payments could take up to three weeks to be paid.

I hadn't received the letter stating that I was entitled to benefits and there was no guarantee that I was automatically entitled, was there?

So, I have to wait for the letter to arrive?

Yes.

Great.

I had that meeting with HR.

It. Did. Not. Go. Well.

Well, it was friendly enough. It turned into an informal interview for the position I applied for.

It turns out that they were looking for someone who had experience in more than one discipline.

Um. Yeah.

And I had only had experience in one section.

Um. Yeeeeaah.

Would I be willing to transfer as and when required to other sections.

Um. Yeah.

We'll let you know.

As I walked out of the site, I was passed by a car driven by one of the other redundant people.

He'd had started in the same section as me and, later, had been farmed out to other sections.

Great.

I knew, as soon as I saw him, that he was going to get the job.

I hand delivered the school laboratory technician and pottered around Dudley for a while before posting off hard copies of a form and my ID to another agency.

1 more application that makes 22 applications in total.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

There it is again. It's that bloody hope stuff looming on the horizon

I received a couple of 'phone calls this morning.

Proactive have a temporary position at the local council at £6ph. Would I like to be put forward?

Would I? Yes, I said, trying not to cheer, I'd be delighted.

The girl told me that she'd send me details if they agreed to interview me and all the details would be in it.

Then Reed rang. Would I be interested in a position in Kingswinford at £7ph?

Uh, yeah, I said, a little shellshocked. Great, said the girl. There are two positions going, they'll put me forward for both and they'd let me know.

Whoo Hoo.

I finished filling in the application for a school laboratory technician as well. I can hand deliver it tomorrow.

After the meeting with HR.

Monday, 28 September 2009

First! Well, actually second....

I signed on for the first time today.

Well, actually I signed the sheet for the first time last Monday, but that was an exemplar signature against which all other signatures will be compared.

I arrived at 11am and waited for the better part of 20 minutes before a doddery looking blonde of a certain age called my name.

She led me to her desk, I handed over my JobSeekers Allowance booklet, she tapped in some details on her computer and handed the long sheet for me to sign.

We discussed my job search and how I thought I was getting on.

I have applied for twenty one jobs so far and heard nothing from anybody.

She sympathised and told me to persevere; all the while her head quivered like a nodding dog bumping over motorway cats eyes. Her hand was trembly as well, but it was her head that commanded my attention.

I told her that when I was signing on the last time (June 2007 - Oct 2007), the benefit was paid the same week as signing on. She agreed. The money would be paid in on Thursday.

I thanked her and we said goodbye and I walked off to the JobCentre computers. There was nothing suitable (driving, mechanics, engineers and sales) so I went home to trawl the internet again.

This computer is like a drug. I hope I get a job soon, if only to get me out of the house and away from the internet.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Can there be a group of one?

My "group session" was embarrassing.

I was the only one who showed up. My fellow group "sessionaires" were missing and accounted for.

For the session, David was supposed to show a PowerPoint slide show which was, frankly, patronising.

Clearly aimed at an audience of knuckle dragging, unskilled, inexperienced, badly educated, possibly drunk or drugged shell suit and trainer wearers, the presentation was redundant for anyone with GCSEs.

David whipped through the slides at dizzying speed, stopping very occasionally and we sat and chatted for nearly 45 minutes about him, his prior experience as a recruiter, me, my CV, how it could be improved (dump the dates, they're ageing) and which websites are worth looking at.

He gave me a snazzy cardboard file for all my accumulating paperwork and all the job search stuff he was giving me. The session ended with him running off to a lunch time meeting across town and wishing me luck.

I need it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

JobCentrePlus.......Plus what?

I had my initial face-to-face meeting at the Job Centre today at 2pm.

To register for Job Seekers Allowance, the initial interview is by a FreeFone number. The "Advisor" asks a long series of often repeated questions to ascertain one's circumstances and how one got there.

There then has to be a face-to-face meeting with "Advisors" at the local JobCentrePlus which in my case is Molineux House, Temple Street, Wolverhampton.

The guy on the 'phone told me my appointment was 2pm Monday 21st September with "Kirk". Miss Kirk, Mr Kirk or Kirk Something, he couldn't tell me.

So I've had my meetings.

With Allison and Mukesh.

Allison was the Financial Advisor. After I pulled out my letters from my last employer proving I was made redundant, my passport to prove I was who I said I was and a proof of address, she pulled out a load of sheets which were obviously printouts of my conversation with the JobSeekers Allowance Advisor.

She went through them with me and I checked my bank account details. Which I know off by heart and didn't require my bank card. She made me check again. With my card. Yep. Same. Then I signed on the bottom line and she discussed the benefits available to me.

Not many.

The newly arrived Mortgage Relief Scheme sounds worrying.

It kicks in after 13 weeks of entitlement to JobSeekers Allowance and pays off the interest only.

I tried tallying that up in my head.

That means it should start up somewhere around the third week in December.

Gulp.

She was bright, smiley, chatty and briskly efficient. She'd had this conversation too many times already and had several to go before her day was over. Such is the job market in Wolverhampton.

She wished me luck and told me to wait in another portion of the huge open plan office to wait for a JobSearch Advisor.

It turned out to be Mukesh.

He and I had a long conversation about what jobs I was applying for.........

Um. Anything I can do.

Where was I prepared to travel to.........

Well......Anywhere the buses go.

How long was I prepared to travel for........

About an hour, maybe an hour and a half, I said, as I remembered the mail sorting in Stoke-On-Trent.

He was impressed by that.

Noting the number of shell suits and trainers being worn around the room by the Job Seekers discussing their various situations, I could tell it wasn't going to take much to impress the people who worked there.

He printed off a letter for me. I was invited to a "Helping You Back To Work" Group session on Wednesday at 11am. Failure to attend could result in the curtailing of benefits.

Mukesh described a number of schemes which could be of use.

There was the Advisor Discretionary Fund (ADF) which could help with one off costs like fares to interviews, clothes for interviews and pieces of equipment like steel toe caps boots or HiVi vests.

The Rapid Response Fund was for people like me. It could pay for courses for people who had been made redundant to make them more employable.

I couldn't think of anything off hand.

He gave me a sheaf of papers which could be filled in for potential employers.

Work Trials.

If I got an interview and it looked like I was a serious contender, then I could waggle the offer of a Work Trial at them.

The Department of Work and Pensions would pay for a limited trial period at no cost to the employer and if they liked me they could take me on after that.

I looked at the crappily photocopied, off kilter sheets of paper and said I'd think about it.

He gave me his 'phone number and told me if there was anything else, I could give him a call.

I smiled, even though I felt sick and said thank you.

And that was that.

I walked home and trawled the internet.

It's starting to get very obsessive, this internet thing.

That can't be good.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Another side of life...

When you're unemployed, the first thing you've got to do is get used to queueing.

Today I joined the queue for Council Tax. I had everything I thought I needed

Passport

2 Proofs of address

Proof of bank accounts

1 Filled in council tax benefit booklet form

2 Mini-statements showing what wasn't in my bank account

and I joined the queue.

There was a fairly scabby looking young woman in a grey shellsuit in front of me. Her lank, mousy hair in a scruffy ponytail. In front of her was a young girl who had misunderstood an instruction she had been given and was now loudly complaining that the mistake SHE'd made was somehow the fault of the woman behind the glass.

The scabby woman and I looked at each other and we rolled our eyes.

Ten minutes later it was Scabby's turn.

She was changing address and needed the housing benefit to be adjusted. The woman behind the counter was asking her for her bank details at which Scabby started kicking off.

She wanted to the money to be paid directly to the landlord because, as she shouted whilst battering the glass "I'll only spend it!"

A well dressed couple behind me (a married couple who were trying to evict someone) started muttering and nodding to each other "Fair play, at least she knows what she's like"

After a full five minutes, Scabby finally "persuaded" the woman behind the counter to give out the right form so that the landlord could fill in HIS bank details.

I got to the counter, was given a numbered ticket and went to sit down. A grandmother was cooing over a tiny baby dressed entirely in Barbie pink, whilst her daughter was sitting at one of the counters.

When I was called I handed the entire lot over, confident that I had everything including a letter which stated I was made redundant and effectively unemployed since yesterday.

Nope.

I needed proof of entitlement to benefits. It was more than likely going to be Contributions Based Job Seekers Allowance.

She took everything, photocopied it and handed it all back to me saying that until I get the letter stating that I was entitled to Job Seekers Allowance, then the claim could go no further.

I had a month to bring back the letter and then they would put in the claim.

Brilliant.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Guess what!?

You'll never guess!



You never will!



Guess who's been made redundant, today?



Awwwwww!



You guessed.



That's right.




Little old me.




I was called up to see my Operations Manager who took me and another woman to an office where a new Chief Executive told us that due to the loss of a series of high value contracts, we were two of nine people made redundant from our site alone.

There was another site completely shut down in the last year and there were no white coats working on another site after this round of redundancies.

Well that made us feel a whole lot better.

As I hadn't been employed for two years, I wasn't entitled to statutory redundancy pay. What I was entitled to would be revealed tomorrow as the HR woman was not on site.

So we were sent home.

On my to the bus stop I found 50p. Walking past the Audi showroom I found a £5.

I've applied for Jobseekers Allowance.

I've collected my Council Tax Benefit application form and I've applied for 8 jobs already.

If I remain unemployed, then it won't be for the want of trying.

Pfffffffft!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

!It's the Itchy and Scratchy Show!

Oy.

I've arranged a few days off for some allergy tests.

I keep coming out in strange rashes. A watch has caused some scabby looking rash as has some of my costume jewellery.

I have been off the antihistamines for two weeks and went to the Dermatology section of New Cross to have the tests done.

I went in on Friday afternoon and had five sticky patches stuck to my back.

Four were the size of A6 pages and were fitted with 10 little aluminium buttons each smeared with some sort of goo. The fifth was thumb sized and had two gooey buttons.

They started to peel the next day.

They had to stay on until late today.

I went to the local Walk-In Health Centre where I was shocked to see a huge queue of women and young girls snaking out the door, down the pavement and blocking the car park entrance.

It turned out they were waiting for the HPV vaccine. Any other patients could cheerfully jump that queue and go straight in.

Once I filled in the form, there wasn't much of a wait before I was called in to see the nurse.

She used Micropore tape to stick the edge of the sticky patches down.

Yesterday was a similar procedure.

Check in, fill in form, wait to be called and have the patches stuck down with more Micropore tape.

It's been horrible. The itching has been driving me nuts. I spent the time smacking myself with a ruler as I couldn't scratch.

Today, I had the patches removed and the results read.

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Except an allergy to the sticky Micropore tape that was used to conduct the tests.

The patches were pulled off my back in front of a mirror. There were great, angry, red, blanks totalling an area bigger than an A4 sheet across my upper back. There were clear red lines around the patches where the Micropore tapes had been added.

That was that.

Nothing else and no further tests unless or until I react to something.

Terrific.

After all that.

Sod's Law rules.

The story of my life.

Monday, 7 September 2009

I must have been very very bad in a previous life.......

So I went to London to see my Dad who is still in hospital.

However, getting there and back has been pretty eventful. London Midland decided that they wanted volunteer train drivers to work Sundays without paying them the Sunday premium and expressed surprise and disappointment when nobody volunteered.

Across the weekend, there should have been about 500 trains in total. They got 1.



1.






One.







There were, of course, engineering works on some other stretches of the railway so the roads took the strain.

And of course, there were roadworks along the way, so that helped.

We got to London in good time, regardless.

We got stuck on the Buckingham Palace Road for over half an hour before the driver found out that a bus had broken down in the middle of a roadworks strewn one way system.

Nutter-On-The-Bus (there is always one) started on at the driver to let him off.

In the middle of Buckingham Palace Road.

We were in the right turn central lane, facing a major crossroads junction, with traffic still moving past us going straight on or left.

Letting us out there would have left us wandering across two lanes of busy traffic, before we got to the safety barrier which we would then have to climb over to reach the pavement.

Great idea.

I did say he was a nutter.

After another fifteen minutes of effing, blinding, whining, shouting and unsuccessfully trying to garner the support of the other passengers, the driver relented and opened the door.

At which, Nutter forcefully waved a hand to point out a left side window

"No! I got luggage!"

What?

He seriously wanted the driver to open the luggage compartment under us so Nutter could stand in the path of the oncoming traffic, search for his suitcases and then try to drag his belongings across two lanes of busy traffic.... you know the rest.

The driver closed the door again and Nutter started shouting and whining and generally rendered himself an even bigger pain in the arse than before.

The Police had to stop all the traffic approaching the junction, so that all the still functioning coaches stuck behind the broken down coach could be reversed out into the middle of the crossroads and sent back down the way they had come, before we were sent the wrong way round and into the Departures section of Victoria Coach Station.

All the while, I was receiving texts from my SiL who was under the impression that she was only one of a cleaning party at Dad's house.

I was stuck in traffic on the coach trip from Hell and Kid Brother hadn't arrived either.

I got requests for more kitchen spray and more antibacterial stuff.

Nearly an hour after we arrived in the general Victoria area, I was still on the bloody coach.

We finally parked up in one of several long lines of coaches who were trying to embark and disembark passengers all at the same time.

All the coaches were parked up about one suitcase width apart from one another. It was mayhem.

There was a insane scrum of people and their suitcases, pushchairs, rucksacks, walking frames and small children trying to push past us to get to the coach that had parked up behind ours as we disembarked into the squirming masses.

There was the obligatory line of people who had tried it on with the driver with stand-by tickets and who were now hoping that there was space to carry them on to their destinations.

They helped.

I had no hold luggage just a small weekend case and a bag. I left my fellow passengers to the experience of trying to find the hold luggage amongst the exodus.

It was dreadful. I was squished between the coaches trying to push against the tide of people coming the other way.

When I got to the Departure halls the same thing was happening. I was walking towards the entrance as people were trying to walk towards the Departure gates.

It wasn't until I got to the entrance and fielded the scruffy little men with the foreign accents asking for TravelCards, that I was able to get out of the way and just stop for breath.

Then came looking for cash so that I could go the Oyster machines and charge up my card for the weekend.

Recently, that has not been a happy experience.

There are four Victoria stations.

Victoria Train Station running mainline trains around the south east of England. A large building which is undergoing refurbishment work. Again. 19 platforms, several exits and entrances, a busy concourse, a number of ticket offices and shops and a large, overpriced shopping centre attached to one end of it.

Although there are ticket machines within the station, they are just ticket machines for the mainline trains. No one thought that London Transport TravelCards or Oyster cards might need to be paid for before hundreds of thousands of commuters travelled on throughout London.

Victoria Bus Station which confusingly sits beside Victoria Train Station and on top of Victoria Underground Station and which acts as a Terminus for virtually all the red London bus services passing through Victoria. Virtually all.

Not all.

You have to check.

At the Bus Station.

Victoria Underground Station which has seen the total shut down of the Victoria Underground line in recent weekends for engineering works. Like the website says, it is one of London's busiest underground stations.

There's a wide flight of stairs just outside one of the train station exits which leads down to the underground station. Thanks to the engineering work and the sheer throngs of people there are not enough ticket machines downstairs and certainly not enough space.

and

Victoria Coach Station which is a brisk walk and completely out of sight from Victoria Train, Bus and Underground stations.

Someone with common sense would have worked out that London Transport ticket and Oyster machines in the Coach Station would be a good idea.

No one with common sense is in charge.

To charge up my card with cash, I have to hoof it down the road. The Buckingham Palace Road. The road I had just spent the best part of a hour stuck on with a mouthy nutter who couldn't be drowned out by my 'phone radio.

Anyway. Past the ticket touts. Over the crossings. Past the Sightseeing Bus touts. Past all the bus stops for all the services that don't stop at the Coach Station. Past an enormous shopping/office centre with steep stone steps that the drunks and backpackers sit and sleep on.

And on to another crossing and on to the expensive shopping centre attached to the arse end of the Train Station. I went to the cash machines to get an up to date mini-statement from the HSBC machine. Nope. Not working.

Through the shopping centre, down the escalator to the station concourse and across the station battling through the scrum of travellers which include tourists, football fans, families on outings and there is often a wedding or a christening somewhere, so there tend to be a small number of people in smart occasion wear and fancy headgear looking very out of place. And all of them stopping to check the sign boards very suddenly and directly in front of me.

And on to the cash machine array down on the concourse. There was a massive queue. No one was queueing for the HSBC machine. I soon found out why. The card slot was blocked and wouldn't take any cards.

On out of the train station to find an HSBC machine for a mini-statement so that I could see how much cash I could get out.

I have a PAYG Oyster which needs to be topped up but I don't usually have enough money to charge it up by card or in most shops (£5 minimum). So I need to top it up with any amount of cash.

I wanted to find an HSBC cash machine to get an up to date mini statement before I thought about spending any money. Money is so tight that I need to calculate to the nearest 50p.

So I walked up to Westminster and back looking for the HSBC. And found it. Near the start of my journey.

I took out a tenner, cracked it at Superdrug for a bottle of drink and a chocolate bar and went to top up my Oyster.

Thanks to the engineering works and the cramped space down underground, to stop people bottle necking, a kind of semi-permanent ticket machine array and a ticket office have been built above ground. Just outside the main entrance to Victoria Train Station.

Directly outside the main entrance and around the temporary ticket office, there's a taxi rank with taxis disgorging and picking up passengers often travelling in large groups with lots of luggage.

There are thousands of people to-ing and fro-ing to the train station and wandering through the milling crowds of people trying to make sense of the underground ticket machines often for the first time and with little English.

And it's true, they don't know how to queue properly.

As well as a giant snake of a queue for the ticket office, there are queues for the separate ticket machines, some of which only take cash, some only take cards, some take both cash and cards, some give the full range of tickets and Oyster top-ups and some only give tickets and some only give Oyster top-ups.

And such is the state of the crowding, it isn't always possible to see which ticket machines are which and which ones have broken down and which ones are free.

It's bedlam.

My heart always sinks when I get to this point.

And then once I've topped up I've got to find a bus stop. The 148 goes straight to Shepherd's Bush via Park Lane and Marble Arch and the C1 goes to the Westfield Centre Interchange (in Shepherd's Bush) but takes the scenic route via Sloane Square, Bond Street, Knightsbridge, South Kensington, Earl's Court, Kensington, the arse end of Holland Park and finally Westfield.

I'd spent close to three hours in Victoria so I got the 148.

Once at the West 12 Shopping Centre, I went to Morrison's.

This place is set at the back of the shopping centre and used to be Presto. Remember them?

An oddly shaped and strangely laid out place with shelves built around pillars, pillars blocking aisles and two separate areas away from the main checkouts for snacks, newspapers, the Lottery, drinks, tobacco and a Pharmacy area.


Being Saturday, it was extremely busy and there were all the usual bugbears present. Stray half loaded trolleys left in awkward spots, children whining and running around, gossiping women parked up and blocking the cramped aisles and long queues of trollies in the basket checkout aisles.

I bought some food for me for the weekend, some cleaning stuff and then went home.

I fought my way onto a 283 Hoppa bus which stops directly opposite Dad's house and once in found my SiL had been, cleaned the kitchen and lounge and gone again, leaving a note.

I started cleaning. The bedroom stank. So did the bathroom.

I stripped the bedclothes, wiped down the plastic mattress protector, vacuumed and wiped the carpet, cleaned the surfaces, tidied away the dried clothes and started piling stuff in the the washing machine.

I started to lay into the bathroom. It was pretty disgusting. Scary brown stains and lots of soap scum.

Once that was over, I brought my suitcase and bag upstairs and came down for the vacuum cleaner before taking that upstairs too.

Starting along the landing, I went in and out of the bedroom at the top of the stairs, down the stairs, into the front room, into the small hall, down through the bathroom, the back room and through into the kitchen.

And on and on it went.

Tasks, chores, errands, visits to Dad in the New Charing Cross Hosptial in the Fulham Palace Road.

More shopping for when he came out of hospital. More cleaning stuff. More cleaning and listening to my Dad in and out of lucidity trying to explain what he thought he was looking at, where he thought he was and why he thought he shouldn't be there.

There was an almighty comedy bandage on his right foot after an operation to remove rotten portions of two of his toes.

In the middle of trying to clean and freshen his bedroom, I received a mobile 'phone from the hospital explaining that even though Dad had a Zimmer frame, he was falling over with the frame as he was trying to escape the hospital.

He wasn't going to leave the hospital without a care package in place, social workers alerted, medication sorted and the doctors were happy to discharge him. That wasn't going to happen over the weekend.

Shortly after this, I managed to pull down the curtain rail as I tried to get the curtains washed.

MwK has removed all working/useful tools from the house as Dad was liable to try using them and hurting himself. Consequently, there were no ladders.

I tried to get the curtains down, had to stand on a chair and managed to pull the rail off the wall by breaking the brackets that attached the rail to the wall above the window. They were brittle after nearly twenty five years up there. The curtains looked as if they hadn't had a wash for about as long.

MwK was there as he was trying to unblock the drain outside whilst trying to avoid the nettle bush from hell growing in from next door's garden.

By the time I left the house on Sunday, it looked and smelt clean. I went to the shops to get yet more stuff, brought it up to the hospital where I found two family friends just leaving and one of my Cousins sitting by the bed.

She and I chatted with Dad who insisted that he wasn't a "fucking invalid" despite all evidence to the contrary and she drove me to Victoria Coach Station.

Clueless about driving around Central London, she asked me to look after the satnav as she recounted the story of a shopaholic friend of her late mother's who needed a drive into town to visit graves after she'd just pop in to M&S.

Hours after Cousin had arranged to meet her husband, they were still in M&S to buy yet more toot the shopaholic would never wear.

All the while Garmin the Satnav was not co-operating. It never acquired a satellite signal and I guided cousin across central London by following the bus route I normally went on.

She parked illegally at the bus stop to let me out.

I just got to the bus stop in time to get on board.

The journey out of London was a nightmare.

We left at 6pm and were still in London by 7:45pm. The traffic caused by the train strike, Sunday drivers and extra coaches was just mental.

Shortly after we started a small baby started crying.

And crying.

And crying.

And crying.

For four long, fucking hours.

The parents were Eastern Europeans, the mother in a long headscarf tied around her head and neck and the baby was tightly swaddled in a blanket.

It was a relative new born and still fairly rubbery. They did everything. Rocked it, shook it, walked it up and down the aisle, took it in turns to rock it, shake it and virtually throw it up and down. It's shocked little face flubbered up and down as it was bounced in its mothers lap.

The heat was stifling and people started to complain. The driver refused to stop at a service station as he was late and wanted to make up time and the mother was crying herself by the time junior started to make some very bad smells.

It got its nappy changed twice, it threw up a few times and STILL it refused to stop wailing.

By the time we got into Birmingham, we were just grateful to get off the bus. We were an hour late.

The replacement driver told us that we had a few minutes and so I went into the station to get a drink.

The first machine took the money but wouldn't let me make a selection so I retrieved my money and went to the next machine which had an OUT OF ORDER sign stuck to it.

I asked the girl at the INFORMATION counter if there was another machine and she said no. So I went outside to get back on the coach only to see the arse end of my coach heading out the gate.

I hadn't been off the bus for more than 5 minutes.

I went back inside. Onwards to the girl at the INFORMATION counter and explained that my coach had left with my stuff on board.

She asked me why I didn't take my stuff off with me and I told her that I was supposed to go to Wolverhampton.

I showed her the ticket.

She told me that she would arrange for the driver to leave my coat and bag at Security in Wolverhampton and I could get on the next available bus to Wolves.

As she tried in vain to get in contact with the driver, I could have told her why that wasn't going to work.

She put the 'phone down and explained that she couldn't contact the driver, Head Office couldn't contact the driver and that Security at Wolverhampton.......

I finished the sentence for her as I watched the minute hand of the clock above her head tick around pass 10pm

"...piss off at 10."

The driver wasn't answering his 'phone. She had left a message at the depot where he would eventually end up after arriving at Wolverhampton to take my coat and bag and put them in the shuttle car that ran between the depot and the bus station. When I got them back, I could get on the next available bus to Wolverhampton.

I was still parched and went off in search of refreshment.

In Digbeth on a Sunday night.

I found the main road and started walking down towards the car showrooms. There were a few pubs that looked like they catered for the alky end of the market, some "adult" bookshops, clothing stores, The Custard Factory, nightclubs and derelict stores.

There was a Subway. Which had closed at 9pm.

I crossed the road and walked back in the direction I'd come from.

There were derelict sites, a Banqueting suite (yeah, right), the old bus station being refurbished and the greasy spoon trailer that sat in the car park of The Dubliner was closed as there was no custom from the bus station for the time being.

I was desperate enough to try The Dubliner but a vicious cat fight broke out in the doorway and spilled out onto the pavement.

I crossed the road away from the pub and towards a chippy.

I ordered chips and two cans of Diet Coke. The bottles were Coke Light and not in English. The chips were horrible. The cold drinks were great.

I walked back to the temporary bus station.

And waited.

10:30

And waited.

11:05

And waited.

I put in a £1 and checked my emails on the PAYG computers that were bolted into a corner of the waiting room.

Nope. Nothing.

And waited.

11:35

The girl from the INFORMATION desk came over, waved her hand in the general direction of the desk and asked if that was my stuff.

I looked over and almost didn't recognise them. Coat and bag. Oh, yes, I said. I can get the 11:45 bus too. Just in time.

Oh, no. She said. It hadn't arrived. It wasn't going to. There were no passengers who wanted to go this far.

I went outside to check.

One small shuttle car. Check.

One large National Express coach being shut down to be returned to the depot. Check.

The INFORMATION girl followed me out as I tried to explain to the two drivers what had gone wrong.

They ignored me completely as the INFORMATION girl explained what I needed.

One of the drivers 'phoned Head Office.

The sensible thing would have been to return the bus to the depot and transport me in the car. The driver had to ask permission.

Nope.

Any passenger had to be driven in the coach.

Reluctantly, one of the drivers took the shuttle car back and the the second started up the coach again.

I only had hand luggage, so the luggage hold check was a bit of a nonsense but it had to be done.

He fired her up, I got on and sat in the seat behind him and we chatted all the way to Wolverhampton.

To cap it all, he knew where All Saints was and could have driven me if not to my front door, then to the bottom of my road. Now I was in a coach, he had to take me to the Coach Station.

Brilliant.

Tired and extremely pissed off, I walked home to get some fresh air.

It has not been the best of weekends.

Note to self.....

1) Fire up the mp3 player and bring it with you

2) Find, clean and bring the ear plugs

3) Next time, bring a cold drink.

I'm knackered. I'm so tired, I was staggering this morning and had to call in sick. It was like being drunk.

This isn't good.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Toot still sells



Hands up who else can see a big bar of soap and a pan scrubber?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Stripping and survivorship

I did a bit of paint stripping on Sunday.

I wore my old clothes and my Totector Pioneer steel toe cap shoes. I'd worn them before when I'd gone to do DIY including paint stripping.

They felt very soft and comfortable.

I used concentrated sodium hydroxide which I painted on and watched as 120 years worth of paint came off as a kind of goo - the consistency of half melted chocolate.

Very dangerous chocolate.

As I walked around the house, I found I was leaving black lumps behind.

I thought it was mud and dirt from when I last did the gardening and, when it was time to start packing up with one side of the door almost completely stripped, I cleaned up the 'soil'.

I sat down to do some sewing and when I got up found more black stuff under the chair.

I sat down and took one of the shoes off to see how dirty they really were when and that's when I realised that it was the soles of the shoes disintegrating.

The chemical paint stripper I used the last time has soaked into the shoes and reduced the thick cleated soles to the consistency of sponge cake. Great lumps of the cleated soles were flapping and falling off.

I had to throw the shoes away.

After 12 years.

It was a wrench.

I kept the shoelaces.

You know, just in case.


Dad's back in hospital. Getting more toes removed. Terrific. I'm visiting him this weekend.


I've been looking at the NHS website for jobs.

A recent report has suggested that approximately 10% of the workforce needs to be fired so that the NHS can come within budget.

May I make a suggestion?

Just a little one.

Stop advertising jobs like this........

JOB DESCRIPTION

POST TITLE: Administration Assistant – Survivorship Project

DIRECTORATE: Strategy and Redesign

LOCATION: Waterlinks House, Richard Street, Aston,
Birmingham, B7 4AA

ACCOUNTABLE TO: Locality Commissioning Director

GRADE: Band 4

SALARY RANGE: £17,732 - £21,318 per annum (pro rata for part time)

CONTRACT: 2 year fixed term contract

HOURS: 37.5 per week

JOB SUMMARY:
The post holder will work closely with the Planned Care Team within the Strategy and
Redesign Directorate to provide full administrative support for the Survivorship
Project.

The PCT is a national test site working with NHS Improvement for the Survivorship
Project. The project aim being to improve support services for breast cancer patients
in the survivorship phase of their cancer journey. The post holder will be a key part of
the project team, providing administrative support to all the project groups and being
a central point of contact for the team.

MAIN DUTIES:

 To provide clerical support to the Survivorship Project team.

 To take accurate minutes at key meetings including the Project Operational
Group, Project Board, Work stream Groups and ensure these are promptly
circulated to appropriate contacts.

 To provide data inputting support to project, accurately entering confidential
patient data and producing statistical reports as part of the project outcomes
and evaluation process.

 To maintain and update a patient database as part of the project.

 To arrange venues, refreshments and other arrangements for meetings.

 To undertake regular administrative tasks including photocopying and filing.

 Type letters, reports and other documents – using shorthand and/or
audiotape and written format.

 To support the project via the gateway process.

 Deal with incoming post and emails on a day-to-day basis including
confidential material, chasing progress and taking relevant action where
necessary.

 Be the initial point of contact for personal or telephone callers to the office,
taking messages and redirecting calls as appropriate.

 To help produce and distribute communication items for the Project.

 Preparing and providing appropriate hospitality.

 Act as a key contact point for the project team providing proactive diary
management.

 Liaise as required with managers within the Directorate, managers within the
trust, and other outside agencies.

 Develop and maintain a comprehensive, up to date and accurate filing system
whilst working towards a paperless office environment by developing and
maintaining a consistent policy on working more efficiently and smarter as an
organisation with respect to communications and record keeping.

 To arrange and co-ordinate meetings within the department – preparing and
distributing agendas and notes.

 Provide cover and support to other PAA staff within the department and other
directorates as required including occasional relief on reception, as agreed with
the post holder and Locality Commissioning Director.

 Ordering of stock and non stock items, dealing with delivery notes and
preparing of invoices for signature.

 To support team events, travelling throughout the NHS Birmingham East and
North area if necessary.

 To represent and promote the trust at all times and on all occasions.

 To undertake additional duties commensurate with the grade as agreed by
the Locality Commissioning Director.

INVESTING IN PEOPLE

The Trust is committed to supporting the development of all staff. All employees
have a responsibility to participate in regular appraisal with their manager and to
identify performance standards for the post. As part of the appraisal process
employees have a joint responsibility with their line manager to identify any learning
and development needs in order to meet the agreed performance standards.

DEVELOPMENT

All employees have a responsibility to participate in regular appraisal with their
manager and identify performance standards for the post. As part of the appraisal
process there is a joint manager staff responsibility to identify learning and
development needs to meet the performance standards required of the post holder.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Attention is drawn to the responsibility of all employees to take reasonable care for
the health and safety of themselves and other people who may be affected by their
actions at work.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

The Trust both recognises and celebrates diversity. The Trust is committed to Equal
Opportunities in employment and seeks to eliminate unlawful racial, sexual or
disability discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and promote good
relations between staff and clients of differing groups.

INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL

NHS Birmingham East and North is committed to reducing Healthcare Associated
Infection. All employees are expected to abide by Infection Prevention and Control
policies relevant to their area of work, and undertake the necessary level of training.
This will be appraised through the KSF review process or other relevant professional
review process.

SMOKING

The Trust actively discourages smoking, and has banned it in all premises, grounds
and vehicles, owned or operated by them

MOBILITY

Whilst the post holder will be based at one of the buildings managed by the Trust you
will be expected to travel within the Trust area and on occasions across Birmingham.
We reserve the right to move the location of this post to any centre currently
managed by this Organisation.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Your attention is drawn to the confidential nature of information collected within the
National Health Service.

The unauthorised use or disclosure of patient or other personal information is
regarded as gross misconduct and will be subject to the Trust’s Disciplinary
Procedure and could result in a prosecution of an offence or action for civil damages
under the Data Protection Act 1998.

JOB DESCRIPTION

This job description will be subject to discussion and review on an annual basis
within the appraisal process.

Post holders signature: ………………………………………………..

Date: ………………………………………………. .

NHS Birmingham East and North

PERSON SPECIFICATION

JOB TITLE: Administrative Assistant

ESSENTIAL DESIRABLE EVIDENCE

QUALIFICATIONS AND TRAINING

(Level of education, specific qualifications,
professionally qualified specialised training,
training requirements for the job)

 Good standard of general education (e.g. 5 GCSE
grades A-C including English) or equivalent

 RSA 2 word processing/typing or equivalent

 Competent in the use of Microsoft Office Applications
to ECDL standard

 Secretarial qualification

 Shorthand qualification

 Audio typing qualification

 Application form

 Interview

 References

 Certification

 Testing

EXPERIENCE

(Length, type and level of work related
experience)

 Experience in an administrative/secretarial capacity

 Experience of accurately inputting data

 Experience in an NHS organisation

 Application form
 Interview

 References

 Certification

 Testing

SKILLS/KNOWLEDGE

(Range and level of skills, depth of knowledge
required for the job)

E.g. IT skills (word processing, spreadsheets,
databases), Communication skills (verbal, written,
presentations), Organisational skills, Analytical/
Problem solving skills, Physical skills.

 Excellent organisational and communication skills

 Ability to produce error free and well presented material
demonstrating a high level of accuracy

 Ability to work on own initiative demonstrating sound
judgement abilities

 Sound understanding of Microsoft Excel, Word and
Outlook

 Excellent verbal and written communication skills

 Ability to maintain a good rapport with individuals

 Ability to speak in a clear and articulate manner

 Time management, work prioritisation and planning
skills

 Personal integrity and ability to demonstrate complete
confidence

 Understanding of Internet Explorer and Intranet

 Application form

 Interview

 References

 Certification

 Testing

APTITUDES AND ATTRIBUTES

(Communication and interpersonal skills,
organisational skills, ability to work on own
initiative, to strict protocols/procedures and time
scale, motivation, disposition and flexibility)

 Flexible working approach – team player

 Genuine interest in communications and involvement

 Flexible working times (on occasions)

 Proactive

 Enthusiastic and positive

 Tactful and diplomatic

 Understanding of Patient and Public
Involvement and PALS

 Application form

 Interview

 References

 Certification

 Testing

OTHER JOB REQUIREMENTS

(Physical/health requirements, specific
requirements e.g. ability to travel)

 Passed fit by Occupational Health Service

 Able to travel and attend events/meetings according to
operational needs of the post

 Car driver/owner with full current UK
driving licence

 Application form

 Interview

 References

 Certification

 Testing

 Cleared by Occupational
Health


There is no way on earth that anyone would seriously tell a breast cancer sufferer in remission that he/she has entered the survivorship phase of their cancer journey. Would they?

And just what is a Locality Commisioning Director?

That's the best part of 18k pa for an Admin Assistant who can drive.

The tragic part is that someone will fire the Healthcare Assistants, Porters and Cleaners, sorry, Front of House Assistants so that Admin Assistants based in an office nowhere near a hospital and duplicating work done elsewhere can remain employed.

If I had the misfortune to suffer from cancer and was seriously told that I had entered the survivorship phase of my cancer journey I wouldn't know who to stop slapping first.

Good grief.