Thursday, 31 December 2009

I suppose I ought to do some good....

*sigh*





I said





*SIGH*


Oh, never mind.

I've got a roof over my head, toiletries galore, enough money to pay for the bills, mortgage and loan repayment and I've got warm clothes.

I could be worse off, I suppose.

I went through all my things and working out what to do with them. Keep and use, throw away, give to a good cause or recycle.

I started off with clothes and toiletries. Clothes went in the Salvation Army clothes bin in Sainsbury's car park.

The pretence of keeping fit long over, I can get rid of the hoodie, trackie bottoms and trainers. I got rid of a number of clothes I haven't worn in quite a while and turned to toiletries.

Sainsbury's has been collecting for a local charity called The Haven. Not just money, but stuff. Toys, food and toiletries. There has been a shopping trolley parked by the exit from the main sales floor for most of the year.

I took a long hard look at all the stuff under the bed. And separated out a large carrier bag full of shampoo (even I don't need seven bottles), bubble bath (I shower), face creams (I've still got plenty), toners, self tanning face and body creams and soap. There was no way I'd use all of it before it started going weird because it was too old.

So I took it to the shop with the Sally Army gear, as I needed a few things from the shop.

Not these though.








Jesus! It's not even New Year's Day!!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

As if I didn't feel bad enough already........Christmas sponsored by Ferrero Rocher


Jesus, that was a crappy Christmas!

How shit was it Ginge?

Oh, let me count the ways........ On a materialistic note - I brought presents for brothers, sisters in law, niece, nephew and a couple of cousins who had lost their mum at the beginning of the year and got some chocolates and a Superdrug gift pack back. Mwk's sister in law works for Hotel Chocolat and she bought his presents with the staff discount.

All of them pleaded poverty.

One cousin, after inheriting her proceeds from the house her mother left, is expecting a new baby with her husband, MwK has no mortgage or rent to pay but has taken a lot of time off work to look after Dad, take him to appointments and deal with bureaucracy on his behalf and YMB is saving for the fun park holiday of a lifetime.

Dad was shouting and swearing at any offer of help, hated the carers coming in (they cancelled their visits over Christmas as soon as they knew I was there), refused the offer of Christmas dinner around with MwK, his wife and his children even though he missed seeing the children and generally made himself a pain in the backside all the time I was down there.

I brought round a steaming hot plate of food from the dinner and he threw it all away after deciding that Yorkshire puddings were some attempt to poison him.

I shopped for groceries in the middle of the Christmas free for all that's call Morrison's, I vacuumed, washed, laundered and tidied most of the house and spoke only briefly to other members of the family.

It was absolutely miserable.

The Westfield Centre was awash with shoppers on Boxing Day even though the main department stores weren't open for another couple of days.

Gucci was popular with shoppers both on Boxing Day


and a couple of days later.......



The main atrium was glittering and crammed.......



But it was the tree that was in the worst taste.......



right down to the star at the top (okay, strung over the top)...........



I was grateful to get back to the freezing bomb site I call home.

I had the heating switched on low over the break just to ensure the pipes didn't freeze and switched it off as soon as I arrived home.

I've been wandering around in an overcoat all winter.

I helped myself to seven bottles of shampoo that YMB left in the bathroom cabinet. Dad has one out on the open shelf (not that he'll ever use it), one in the cupboard as a spare and there's one in the upstairs bathroom for my use when I next go down there. So that was ten bottles of Vosene and Herbal Essences just sitting there gathering dust after YMB left home over three years ago.

Still, at least I'll use and appreciate them, eh?

All I have to do is wait to hear about the job offer, apply for other jobs and try to get as much money together as I can.

After I've wallowed in misery for a wee while longer.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Now I really, really feel really, really bad....

There has been a change in the law about how receivership of incapacitated patients is managed.

I am not a Receiver any more, I am a Deputy of the Office of the Public Guardian. The laws and rules have changed regarding payments out that can be made.

The deputy is allowed to make donations to charity on behalf of the patient IF it's something the patient would have done anyway. There are limits to the money that can be given away but donations can be made.

The deputy is also allowed to bestow gifts to people on behalf of the patient IF it's something the patient would have done. The maximum is £500 to any one person.

I'm his niece AND his god daughter, I'm facing financial hardship and it would be something he would have done if he had the capacity to do so.

I've paid myself £500 from the Receivership account.

The money will have to be accounted for at the end of the current accounting year (13/02/2010) and I may be asked to pay it back if the OPG reckon it was an illegal transaction.

Even though there are thousands of pounds in the account and more lodged with the Court of Protection, I feel like a total thief.

I think I've found a brand new low point.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I'm not trying to break records, I'm trying to survive.....

The form arrived today. Today. Wow!

Along with a rejection letter from one of the places I applied to on the 10th. That was fast too.

I filled in the form and went to the Nationwide to talk to someone about filling in the rest of it.

A tall guy with long, frizzy hair in a ponytail came out to talk to me.

He told me it would be sent to the Mortgages Section and they would fill in the form before sending it to the DWP. Of course, being Christmas, it would take a little longer than usual to get the form to where it's supposed to go.

He'd never encountered one of these forms before and he didn't know how long it would take to get it all done "normally".

Great. My heart sank.

I'll have to make the payment in January and after that, the DWP will take over.

Great. My heart sank lower.

I tried to impress upon him how skint I was, but he didn't know how long, or how much or anything really.

Great. My heart went to my stomach and I felt sick as I left.

I'm really not looking forward to this at all.

Monday, 21 December 2009

I feel a potential disaster coming on

I had my thirteen week review today.

I feel sick.

It started off like the usual interview.

How are you doing?

What are you doing to find work?

What proof do you have of your search for work?

And so on.

Then I asked about the Mortgage Interest Payments "thing" that kicks in after thirteen weeks.

My advisor looked it up.

It's not automatic.

What? I went very quiet and pale at that point.

It's not automatic. There's a form to fill in, it has to be given to the mortgage lender to fill in their part, it gets returned, the payments are calculated and then the payments are made to the mortgage lender.

So, can I have a form please?

You have to apply for the form.

What? I asked, getting even quieter and paler.

You have to ring up and ask for the form to be sent to you.

Panic started to grip me.

Whywasn'tItoldaboutthisbeforeIwastoldthatIwouldbepaidthebenefitafterthirteenweeksmymortgageinterestpaymentisdueintheNewYearandthere'snowaythatthepaymentwillbemadeintimeit'lltakeweekstoprocessthatformand....

Well, we can't help you here. You'll have to ring up and ask for the form.

I left making rapid, panicky calculations about how much money I had and how much I needed to meet the bills, mortgage payment, loan repayment and get to London for Christmas.

Each calculation, whether mental, with the calculator on my mobile 'phone, on the back of an envelope or sitting down as calmly as I could with a calculator and access to both mini statements giving up to date information about both my accounts said the same thing.

There won't be enough money.

When I rang the JSA Helpline, I was not reassured.

The form will arrive by first class post but there were the usual provisos about it being the run up to Christmas and how the post is delayed.

Oh shit.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Good grief....

Today was the interview at the Royal Free.

I'm not going to get it.

I got to the station and handed my Rail Travel Warrant in to the Ticket Office. The guy behind the counter asked me when I was returning and I told him today around 6pm to 8pm.

He printed off a return ticket and kept the warrant.

£139.

One hundred and thirty nine pounds.

ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY NINE POUNDS!!?

Straight away, I felt guilty.

There was next to no waiting on the bridge above the platforms before the train to Euston arrived and when I got on, there was a window seat too.

Cool.

I passed the time looking out the window and reading up on my application and job description.

Euston was grim.

The main approach to the station incorporates a dire piazza area. Built entirely from grey concrete and surrounded by black granite and yet more grey concrete, the place is dismal even when the sun shines.

For a pedestrian walking from the bus stop to the station, there are the bus and taxi routes to negotiate and the screen of trees which hide this dump from the main road. There are sets of grey concrete stairs from the road to the cheerless piazza where forlorn little 'retail units' break up the bleakness of the sombre, windswept walk across the concrete to the main doors.

Indoors is no better. In fact, it is frankly worse.

Decorated in a grim palette of dark, charcoal greys, it's an austere, oppressive place with small windows relative to the depth of the concourse. There is a gigantic office block complex built over the station so there is little light from above. The whole place was built HUGE and everything else is completely dwarfed by it.

The hanging baskets filled with artificial flowers are barely noticed, the ticket areas are so far from the main doors they are hard to see and there is a pitiful hole in the ground which constitutes the entrance to the Underground station.

Arriving by train, means a long, cold walk up the freezing platforms and ramps before hitting the concourse and the exits it leads to.

And it was swarming with people. This being the last Friday before the last weekend before Christmas, Euston, the gateway to the Midlands, Gatwick, the North West and the occasional train to Glasgow, was heaving.

There were backpacks wherever I turned. No one knew where they were going - tickets, cash machines, departure boards, arrivals boards, food, Marks and Spencers, drinks, toilets, left luggage, children, change machines and London Underground all vied for everyone's attention.

We were lost, milling around like confused ants and no one knew anything.

I had time to kill before I had to get out of there to Hampstead, so I decided to eat. Even though I wasn't exactly overloaded and armed with just a handbag, manoeuvering through the narrow aisles around everyone else, their luggage and their children was quite an exercise. I got round, paid, staggered and bumped back through the shop to the concourse and then danced an intricate pattern through the crowded aisles to a spare table.

Where I sat, ate and lost track of time. I suddenly went from nearly two hours to get to Hampstead to less than an hour and a half. And I needed the toilet.

The toilet was a walk out of the seating area, around the back towards the platforms and down a dingy corridor where I was met with a long queue of people who had had the same idea. I decided to 'hold it' until after the interview.

The pitiful hole in the ground for the Underground was attracting such a long line of people that the line stretched back towards the platforms.

The station attendants were trying to get people away from THAT entrance and down towards another way down to the Tube.

This entailed a very long walk down the ramps back towards the platforms. At the last minute, we had to turn left and take the stairs down to the Underground station.

Jesus. This was well planned.

There was a suffocating crush of people in the ticket hall. Once down there, people started milling around trying to find gates to the platforms or ticket machines or someone who could help.

I wanted to put a fiver onto my Oyster card. I joined two long queues. The first time the machine wouldn't take the fiver I had and didn't take cards. The second time the machine STILL wouldn't take the bloody fiver, but would take cards. I had to find my purse in my handbag and pay by card.

Then I had to find the gates down through to the platforms and work out which platform I needed.

With the Northern line, that's easier said than done. I needed an Edgware train. It took the better part of twenty minutes to arrive. By the time I got to Hampstead tube station I was seriously cutting it fine.

I walked very briskly past all the twee little shops down Hampstead High Street, trotted down Rosslyn Hill and almost ran towards the hospital down Pond Street. The entrance was hidden by plyboard and scaffolding and I went in by the closest entrance to me. I ended up around the back near the School of Medicine where I was let in by someone who had a pass.

I was panicking by this stage. It was now a couple of minutes after three and, although I was AT the Royal Free Hospital, I had no idea where the Haematology section was. By total coincidence, I realised I had found the closest entrance to the section. There were signs pointing up a ramp, and I could see the sign over the door to the unit. RESULT!!

I quickly walked towards the door and realised that my shoes and the highly polished lino were a very slippery combination. I tried to modify my walk to take the skating rink effect into account, but to no avail.

One split second I was heading puposefully towards the door and the next split second there was no more floor under my feet, backwards was suddenly downwards and I landed painfully on my backside. I ended up lying on my back with my feet up the ramp and my head down trying to orientate myself and work out if I had done some serious damage.

Terrific.

There were students on a bench across the corridor who offered to help, but I'm healthy enough and told them there was no need. I picked myself up and carried on. Carefully.

I was left waiting in the Reception area for a little while and when I was collected I told the lady about my little mishap. I was still brushing myself off when I entered the interview room.

Late, rushed, pink faced and complaining about a fall they hadn't witnessed. Great first impression.

The interview was okay. Just that. Okay. Not brilliant and not great. Just okay. They didn't seem to have read my application and were surprised when I told them I lived in Wolverhampton but could relocate and they seemed to have a poor grasp of how their HR worked.

After I had booked the interview, I received a brusque, confirmatory e-mail not only telling me which documents to bring, but also to bring copies of them as well to save time at the interview. If offered the job, it went on, I had to chase the referees myself AND check with HR regularly to ensure that the recruitment stage was ongoing.

The interviewers had been copying documents all day and had no idea about the instructions the candidates had been given.

So. Showing up their ignorance then. Not good.

We said goodbye pleasantly enough and I was told that I'd know before Christmas. Frankly, I knew already.

I was escorted back to Reception where I stopped to put my gloves and coat on before gingerly negotiating the ice rink outside to find the toilets.

Instead of going out the way I'd come in, I went to find the 'proper' way in. The building was extensive. There were temporary corridors and scaffolding all along ground floor corridors and it was freezing. I found the toilets and the cafeteria and the way out which consisted of plyboard ramps zig zagging out to the pavement.

It was now rush hour. Euston was going to be bedlam. I could sightsee for a while. I took a random bus and went through Camden before stopping at Camden Town. It was dark, it was cold and there is little to see in Camden during the week.

I got another bus towards Farringdon. From Farringdon to High Holborn then instead of taking the road to Oxford Street, I walked down towards Seven Dials and Covent Garden.

Wherever I went it was heaving with people. Everybody seemed to be Christmas shopping or getting ready for a night on the town. The shows, the cinemas, the bars, the late night hair salons with manicures as extras and all the chi-chi little knick-knack shops that Covent Garden seemed made for. There were two shops within a quarter mile of each other that sold nothing but beads. Neal's Yard and little independant book shops and souvenirs and just stuff.

Skint, I just had to pass it all by. I resisted the temptation to browse and just walked by. It was very, very depressing. The whole "Christmas is just rampant commercialism" was really rammed home tonight. It was awful.

And I carried on torturing myself. From Covent Garden, down Shaftesbury Avenue to Piccadilly Circus to Regent Street up to Oxford Circus and the new criss cross crossing up towards Selfridge's.

I love Selfridge's. Every Christmas, when we were children, we would be taken up to Oxford Street to see Selfridge's windows. They used to be dressed along some sort of theme. Fairy tales, Beatrix Potter, pantomime characters and so on. The tableaux would be motorised and robins would pop out of tree trunks to 'sing', letters would be repeatedly posted, trains would run around mountains and there would be many subtle movements which we would compete to see first. The visit to the Selfridge's Santa and the sight of the windows was part of Christmas for many London children.

Nowadays, the windows are well dressed but nothing to do with children. Abstract art displays of some of the products sold in the store or a dressed up version of the standard clothing displays you'd see in many shop windows.

The main revolving door entrance still opens into the perfume department. There is nothing like that first breath of the warm scent loaded air as you walk in through the very posh frontage. So I went in.

I went round and had little squirts from the Guerlain counter of Chamade and once I could feel my fingers again, I went for the bus stop to get back to Euston.

The train journey was uneventful and very warm and I made it back without mishap.

I went to bed deeply depressed. The entire day had been a complete waste of time and had simply reinforced in my mind just how low I had gone.

Needing someone else to pay my fare so I could chase a job in London dressed top to toe in charity shop gear (trousers from Sense, blouse from Cancer Research and shoes from Sense) to help my feeble Dad and then after a disastrous interview, going out and watching people shopping where I used to go regularly.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Doh! HR strikes again!

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Revenue and Benefits Officer - ES2294

I am in receipt of your application for the above position, for which I thank you.

However, due to unforeseen circumstances, I regret to inform you that there will be a delay to the recruitment of this vacancy which is out of our control.

We endeavour to resume the process as soon as possible and apologise for any inconvenience.

Please quote the reference number and job title in all correspondence or telephone enquiries.

Yours sincerely

Xxxx Xxxxxx

Employee Services - Recruitment Team

I wonder why I bother. Really I do.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Found one!

71. Band 3 Pharmacy Dispensing Assistant - Heartlands Hospital

Still looking

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

They didn't write, they didn't call, but I can take a hint.............

Finally! I heard back from Heartlands Hospital.

Well kind of.

The HPA works within the Heartlands Hospital Pathology Laboratory where the employees from the two organisations work side by side.

This is (effectively) the job I applied for at the HPA at Heartlands. I'm guessing they hired someone internally.........

Job Reference: 295-6404YA

Job Title: Band 3 Medical Laboratory Assistant

Area of Work: Pathology

Employer: Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

Department: Clinical Biochemisty

Location: Birmingham

Salary: £15,190 to £18,157 pa

Job Type: Permanent

Staff Group: Additional Clinical Services

Pay Scheme: Agenda for change

Pay Band: 3

Working pattern: 37.5 Hours Monday-Friday:Flexible between 8.00am to 10.00pm

Closing Date:
This job advert will close as soon as sufficient applications have been received. Please apply for this job as soon as you can, if interested.

Description

Department of Laboratory Medicine - Heartlands Hospital

Medical Laboratory Assistant

37.5 hour post: Monday – Friday: Flexible working hours between 8.00am – 10.00pm


We are looking for motivated and reliable people to join our friendly Pathology team. Based in Specimen Reception the main duties include the receipt, sorting, and labelling of patients’ samples, data entry of patient information onto the laboratory computer, and clerical work.

The job also involves dealing with telephone enquiries and visitors to the department, including patients. You must be able to demonstrate good communication and keyboard skills and the ability to file alphabetically and numerically.

You are required to have a reasonable standard of general education, i.e. possession of pass certificates at GCSE or equivalent and have at least one-year clerical/data entry experience. Accuracy and attention to detail are essential.

Full training within the Reception area will be given and there may be opportunities to work towards NVQ qualifications. However, there is no opportunity to progress into the individual specialist laboratories.

It is essential to the service requirements that applicants can work flexibly to cover the annual/sickness absence of other staff and will involve evening/weekend and Bank Holiday cover.

For more information please contact Xxxxxxxxx Xxxxx - Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxx on 0121 xxx xxxx.

The Heart Of England Foundation Trust only accepts ON-LINE APPLICATIONS.

PLEASE NOTE: IN MOST CASES CONTACT WILL BE MADE VIA EMAIL, THEREFORE PLEASE ENSURE YOU MONITOR YOUR INBOX.




I won't be adding this to my Jobs Basket.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Charming!

I am skint. I have very little money and I have to go to London for Christmas.

My mood is very low and it's getting worse with little or no prospect of getting better any time soon.

Looking for jobs is starting to look pointless as everyone is starting to wind down for Christmas. The jobs I can apply for are scarce and the only jobs that seem to be out there are so limited that it would be a waste of time even ringing for application packs

"Do you have an interest in caring for patients with a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders?"

"Are you looking for work as a personal trainer?"

"Are you qualified to NVQ Level 2 in Cleaning and Support Services?"

No. Not really.

This sort of thing isn't helping either

Dear Candidate Re: Cord Blood Bank Technician

Thank you for your application for the above post. I am writing to inform you that the appointment to this position is now on hold due to applications being submitted from internal candidates who are at risk of redundancy. It is the policy of NHS Blood and Transplant to treat employees who are at risk of redundancy as a priority, therefore, no further decisions will be made until their suitability for the post has been explored. Please accept my apologies for this delay and accept my assurance that I will contact you again as soon as I have any further information regarding this post. Yours sincerely Xxxxx Xxxx Recruitment and Administration Assistant

Terrific. That was a total waste of time then.

The people who recruit employees are the same people who make employees redundant. How does stuff like this happen?

I gave up trawling for work in a really miserable mood. And then, I found this when I started trawling the Internet for news.

Gingerism rules.

Great.

Friday, 11 December 2009

I can see clearly in a few days time...

To take full advantage of my dolee status, I made an appointment to see the optician at Boots in Wolverhampton.

The glasses aren't doing what they once did and I'm having trouble distinguishing whether that moving blob in the distance is a truck or a bus.

So I went through the tests. Field of vision, crude focus, the eye puff test and the take-a-picture-of-the-retina test.

Then I went in with the Opthalmologist for the "proper" eye test.

This girl was new. She was pushy from the get go. I made it clear that I was unemployed as I had to show her my HC2 certificate which entitles me to free eye tests and cheap NHS glasses. She said she understood and sympathised.

As the eye test progressed, it became obvious that my eye sight had deteriorated. It took an embarrassingly long time for the red and green lights to appear of equal strength and for the black dots to come into focus. I still can't read that bottom line on the eyechart either.

Again the Opthalmologist sympathised. The only people who seemed to be able to read that bottom line were service personnel. They seem to be feeding them something.

The weird hairs growing out of the corners of my eye were irritating me as they were starting to curl towards my eyeballs. She prescribed hypromellose eye drops and told me to stop plucking them out as that could lead to infection.

After the eye test, she spelled out the options. My eyes had deteriorated significantly and as I neede prescriptions for far and close work, I needed (she emphasised needed) varifocals or, at the very least, bifocals.

As I was unemployed, she continued, I was entitled to financial help with the cost of the glasses and as she was recommending complex lenses, I was entitled to an E NHS voucher as opposed to the standard A NHS voucher.

She hustled me out and sent me back onto the sales floor. The sales girl and I sat down and discussed the options. She recommended the most expensive "gold standard" varifocal lenses. Finally we started talking about prices.

How much would the glasses be?

Smiling, she quoted more than three months mortgage interest payments for the lenses alone. The frames would be an additional cost on top of that.

Pardon?

She made a play of double checking. Yep. More than three months mortgage interest payments.

Then she glanced down at the paperwork in front of her and corrected herself. With the E NHS voucher, that'll only be three months mortgage interest payments.

After I was sitting stunned for a little while, she looked at the cheaper options. The "silver standard" would be nearly three months mortgage interest payments with the E NHS voucher and with the "bronze standard" lenses that would be two and half months mortgage interest payments.

I repeated again, slowly, that I was unemployed and that even with the E NHS voucher, I would not be able to afford a "tin standard", even if they did such a thing.

With a kind of ease which suggested she had done this sort of thing before, she turned the E on the form to an A.

I needed two pairs then, she said, one for distance and one for reading. They were doing a 2 for 1 offer on Boots own brand frames which included the cost of simple lenses and she tried to lead me to the higher priced (and admittedly nicer) frames on the expensive stands.

I went to the lower priced stand with the "little old lady" plastic frames. There were a few metal frames with nose cushions. I pointed to two slightly different metal frames, one for distance and one for close up.

Financially, it turned out to be a very good choice. The A NHS voucher covered the cost of the first pair of glasses and with the 2 for 1 offer, I didn't have to pay for the second pair either.

Aesthetically, it's another story. They do look lame. However, they're free and beggars can't be choosers.

The Sales girl showed me to the till, as I still had to pay £10 for the photograph of my retinas which will remain on file until my next eye examination. She smiled through gritted teeth and told me I'd get a call when my glasses would be ready.

I thanked her politely and walked away wondering what someone with less willpower would have done.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Keeping all my options open

I applied for the NHS job before I left the house. I filled in the application form for the Metrology position and took it to the Post Office to be sent by Guaranteed Delivery.

69. Trainee Metrologist - National Measurements Office, Teddington

70. Band 2 Pharmacy Assistant - St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

I went to formally accept the provsional offer as well.

The list of documents was fearsome. I had to bring

My passport

My birth certificate

A billing letter from Scottish Power

The most recent current account statements from both my banks

Life, home and contents documents

My P45

My last payslip

My NHS medical card

A CRB form completed according to the detailed instructions given in the offer pack

AND

A short formal letter accepting the offer of a position

Once upon a time, a simple "Yes" would have been enough.

I got the bus and went up to the HR office where all the documents were photocopied before being handed back to me every which way.

The next appointment will be for the Occupational Health medical (!).

No. They couldn't tell me when that would be.

No. They couldn't tell me when I might be starting.

Okay, I'll carry on living in suspense then.

They were very nice, but the situation is one of those "How long is a piece of string?" things. The OH medical could be this month or next, the CRB check could take a month or two and only when everything is in place can they know for definite when I'll start.

Good grief.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Still applying

68. Aquisitions and Supply Officer - King's College Hospital

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Still waiting....

67. Data Quality Officer - Lewisham

Monday, 7 December 2009

Okaaaaaaay.....

Before I signed on, I went online to check the price of travelling to London for the 18th.

I printed off prices for travelling around London. Jeepers.

If I got the coach to Victoria then I had the option of tube, tube and overground or bus.

Single Fares 2009

Victoria [London Underground] to Hampstead Heath

Cash £4.00 At any time

Oyster £2.20 Monday to Friday from 06:30 to 09:30 and from 16:00 to 19:00

Oyster £1.60 At all other times including public holidays

By bus it's a simple £1 per ride up to the fourth bus ride which costs 40p and after that travel is free. It's called Oyster Daily Capping. Currently, a one day bus pass is £3.40 and the Oyster card is automatically capped not to exceed the current value of a one day pass.

Booking a train ticket at this late stage was going to be deadly expensive and I was pretty sure the JobCentre wasn't going to waste money in these financially straightened times, ESPECIALLY after the £1.10 palaver.

I visited the National Express Coach Ticket Office and got a quote for a coach ticket to London. They don't print prices anymore. The price varies according to when you book now so if I wanted to book the ticket today it was £18.60. It was going to cost more the later I left it.

By the time I came to sign on, I was prepared. My work search diary was up to date, I had the provisional offer a job AND I could provide proof of preparation for my next interview.

Looking good!

The lady who took my signature was very impressed. And she knew Hampstead as well. Congratulating me on my success she went off to check with The Royal Free as to whether there was a genuine interview. She was over half an hour. I nodded off in the heat.

She bustled back and explained the delay. She had spoken to someone at the hospital who confirmed the interview and had then spent an age checking to see whether they paid fares for candidates. They didn't.

So. They were prepared to issue a rail travel warrant.

Eh?

A. Rail. Tra. Vel. War. Rant. She repeated it slowly as if I were retarded.

Okay.

Once handed this flimsy slip of paper, I checked to see if I understood this correctly.

So, on the day I want to travel, I hand this to the cashier in the ticket office and he'll give me a return ticket to London.

Yes.

That's all I have to do?

Yes.

Okaaaaaay. It was coming up to my thirteen week review...

Ooooh. The lady had been clicking a series of screens on her computer when she suddenly got up again and walked away.

She returned with a letter inviting me to my 13 week review interview. I folded it up and put it into my Jobseekers Booklet wallet.

Was there anything else?

Um....no.

And that was that.

I'm bored now.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Round and round and round and round....

I got up early - ish, finished all the housework I was going to do, packed my case, switched off the central heating system and sorted out all the stuff needed for the launderette.

Disinfectant? Check. Ibcol Floral Bouquet

Washing powder? Check. Um.....Dreft Hand Wash powder - I'll be fine as long as I don't add too much and the attendant doesn't catch me putting it in the washing machine.

There are strict rules, you know.

Machine powders have less by way of foaming agents. This is important. The manufacturers seem to think that we need to see suds to think that clothes are clean at the end of the wash cycle. To an extent, it's true. Sudsy bubbles do help get your clothes clean, but it's a careful balancing act.

By agitating the clothes far harder than hand washing, the machines create suds aplenty. However, machines effectively "choke" if there are too many suds and will force foam out back through the drawer, out of the machine and onto the floor. It could even bust the door mechanism.

Machine wash powders have fewer of these suds chemicals to prevent anything going wrong and hand wash powders have more as we don't agitate the clothes as much as a machine does.

Putting hand wash sudsy stuff into a launderette washing machine is bad and the attendants are on the lookout for this sort of abuse.

I lugged the quilt and the illicit stuff to the launderette a couple of streets away.

This launderette, as far as I'm concerned, has always been there. When we were children, the quilts and heavy blankets were taken to this place for washing twice a year and it was a rare treat to see Mum succumb to technology.

I was always taken with this place. Having seen Mum slaving day after day doing as much as possible by hand, I loved labour saving devices. There was even a special coin-op machine that dispensed mini packets of laundry powder and special powdery conditioners. I loved this place. I wanted to work there when I was a kid. I even loved the smell of the place. Hot tumble drying clothes and soap powder. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........

Over the years, the launderette has had a few repaints and changed hands, but the washing machines remained the same. They take more money now, of course. The tumble dryers were replaced with modern gas powered silver things, but the layout, from the white, pink and brown terrazzo floor, the thin wobbly bench sitting between the two banks of washing machines lining the walls at the front of the shop, the step by step instructions engraved on a piece of laminate plastic on the wall over one bank of washing machines and the long thin bench attached to the wall under the dryers at the back hasn't changed since I was five years old.

Mum hated using a washing machine. Her OCD was all encompassing and not only dictated how often things should be washed but how they should be washed. And with what. The launderette forced her to use the machines AND buy different cleansers.

The launderette was treated with thin lipped unhappiness and constant complaints. Machines never clean as well as hand washing. Apparently.

I didn't care then and still don't. I've never seen much of a difference for normal wash loads. I will, however, use Colour Catchers, soda crystals, disinfectant (Zoflora Flowershop) and the correct powder (colour or delicate). I will soak if necessary.

Me? Problem? Nooooooooooooo.........

With this place, there was always the problem of defective machines. They often didn't have an OUT OF ORDER sign on them, so it was possible to load the machine with washing, pour the powder into the drawer, put the money in and..........nothing.

Then came the drawn out saga of getting the attendant and trying to explain that there was money in the machine but the machine wasn't working. Getting a refund was easier than trying to get the precious powder out of the drawer and into another machine. It involved a kind of poop scoop technique with a plastic bag. It often ended with washing powder stuck under the fingernails and trying to rinse them in the gushing water in the working machine. As far as I was concerned it all added to the experience.

What can I tell you? It was the seventies. There wasn't much by way of fun back then.

Anyway, there was a large washing machine free and I stuffed the quilt into it. Selecting "Warm wash with pre-wash", I put the coins in and only when the water started gushing through the drawer did I carefully pour the powder (with the carrier bag still around the box so the attendant couldn't see what shouldn't have been there). And the disinfectant. Lots of disinfectant. All of the disinfectant.

No problems at all. I didn't even have to wait for a dryer. I still wasn't quite sure about the quilt after about £6 worth of drying. I couldn't put the dryer on "HOT" as the quilt was entirely artificial and would have shrivelled.

I lugged it back to the house, rejigged the laundry that was already drying and draped the quilt over the clothes horse in the front room. I checked the locks, the central heating and the 'fridge, grabbed my suitcase, doubled locked the front door and the porch door, swapped my door keys round so I would have my Wolverhampton keys to hand when I landed at my front door and went home.

Tired and miserable.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Nearly there

There was yet more housework, more laundry, a bit of shopping and the ceremonial wrestling of the stinking double quilt into a large bin bag for the launderette tomorrow to get through before I got up to the Charing Cross Hospital.

Dad had been moved to a large downstairs ward and was with a number of other similarly aged patients. I got there early as I wanted to drop off his socks and thought I could leave them with the nurse in charge. The lady at the desk misunderstood my intentions and told me I could see him as I clearly didn't know the visiting times. Just to make sure next time that I showed up after 14:00.

Nope he wasn't happy. A nurse was trying to get him to stay still as she had to cut some of the stitches. The wound didn't look good. The entire right big toe was missing and there were obvious problems with the second and third toes.

I left the socks; the nurse and I tried to keep Dad calm whilst she cut some of the stitches but it was slow going.

He was on a drip which was hooked up to a rolling stand and he became distracted by that.

Then the nurse saw what he was doing and told him to stop. He'd started to worry at the screw fitting connecting the drip to the cannula in his arm and the three way tap it was attached to as well.

The nurse tried to change the cannula but that meant unscrewing the three way tap and drip from the cannula. Dad had overtightened the fitting and it wouldn't budge. She had a long go at unscrewing it. She went to fetch help and I tried to give it a go.

It shifted loose by the time she came back. With Dad complaining loudly, the nurse changed the cannula and moved on to another patient.

After the nurse, left, I stayed a little longer and Dad carried on worrying at the drip stand. I was then asked to leave as it wasn't visiting time yet.

I went to the internet cafe to find out what the message I received last night was all about. I was going to be interviewed at The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

Wow.

I was invited to click on the link to arrange an interview time and date. No probs.

I clicked on the link and instead of arranging an interview, it told me when I was going to be interviewed.

15:00 Friday 18th December 2009. Take it or leave it.

Okay then, I'll take it. I printed off the page so I could show the Advisor on Monday when I signed on. I was going to need help with the fares for yet another trip to London.

I went for a wander and at 14:00 I went back to the hospital and found Dad sitting in the chair beside his bed. He had unscrewed the adjustable pole for the drip stand, had separated the two pieces and now the drip line, sitting with the drip bag on the bed beside him, was filling up with blood.

Oblivious to the bag beside him, he told me what he'd done, all the while swinging the hooked pole around as if trying to find a new place for it. It was broken, look at it, it shouldn't be allowed, it could be dangerous....

I took the hooked drip pole from him, placed it high in its rolling base, screwed the set back together and reset the bag. Almost immediately, the liquid in the bag and drip righted itself, all the cloudy red murk started flowing the right way towards his arm and the drip started dripping again.

He started worrying at the drip itself including the little wheeled slider which adjusted drip flow. Alternating between all open and stopped. I wrestled it from him and set it to drip at a slow but steady rate.

I went to find a nurse. I found the nurse who had changed his cannula earlier. I told her what had transpired. She went to check and I went with her. We found Dad in the process of unscrewing the drip stand again. He was trying to demonstrate that the pole, completely extended would reach the ceiling.

No chance.

He was adamant that the pole was long enough to reach all the way to the ceiling. We tried to get him to calm down again, but he was having none of it. In the end, I extended the pole as far as it would go and he was satisfied then.

He had also fiddled with the cannula fitting again. This time, when the nurse changed it, there was no trouble. It was clear now that Dad couldn't be left by himself. He was a clear danger to himself at this rate.

I was sent on errands for razors and then, separately, for grapes. This took time as it meant leaving the hospital and going to Boots and Sainsbury's. The hospital shop is extortionate and I have so little money that I needed to economise any way I could. And, frankly, I needed to get away for a little while.

As I went back and forth, I met the nurse on occasion and she told me that they were trying to get Dad moved to his own side ward with someone to look after him round the clock. I tried to explain to her that although he was cantankerous, feeble and had a failing memory, he wasn't normally this bad.

Oh yes, she said, this happens in some patients when they are recovering and are on IV antibiotics. It was quite normal. I wasn't reassured.

I left at meal break, had a wander round and returned at 18:30.

He was transferred to his own side ward. Again, he wasn't happy that there was someone by the open door looking in on him. Like he was going to do something wrong.

(!)

I repeatedly told him that I was leaving tomorrow, that today was Saturday and tomorrow was Sunday. I couldn't see him tomorrow as I had to go back to Wolverhampton. Having established he didn't need anything else brought in for him, we kissed goodbye and I left.

I texted my brothers to let them know where he was and left the hospital. It was cold. It was dark. It was wet. It was miserable. It matched my mood.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Still looking

Yep. He remembered.

After a morning doing yet more laundry and the vacuuming, I went to Charing Cross to find Dad in a relatively lucid frame of mind.

I found him sitting in the chair beside the bed, in a reasonably cheerful mood, with a huge comedy bandage on his right foot.

He even told me that he was going to be spending a long time in hospital.

Wow. Acceptance.

Maybe this time he wasn't going to go doolally?

Nope.

As I sat, stood, wandered round and fetched and carried for him, he deteriorated back to the cantankerous old sod he was yesterday.

Something is happening/he's given some medication first thing which seems to either wear off or take effect as the day progresses.

The staff were coping well (considering) but were concerned as the ward was being shut down for the weekend and they needed to get the patients gone from the ward so the place could be deep cleaned before new patients were admitted next week.

Most of the elderly gents had had their operations/procedures and were waiting to be discharged. However, all of them had medicines and dressings to be collected from the Pharmacy and needed to be "debriefed" on their use before being allowed to leave.

One guy had been waiting all morning and didn't go until after 16:00. He was deaf and it was decided he needed to be given the instructions in sign language. When the interpreter arrived, she was useless. The patient was so old, that he didn't understand BSL.

He'd been taught a earlier form of sign language but could lip read, so the nurse in charge of his medicines had to sit on the bed with him and shout and point. Even across the entire length of the ward, I could see the guy was losing his patience.

The nurse was doing what she was supposed to do, but she was simply parroting the instructions on the packets AND handing him A4 sheets of paper entitled Patient Information for each and every one of his medicines.

He wasn't senile or retarded, he was as sharp as a tack and could read, he just couldn't hear. He remained polite throughout though and told her he understood as she went through everything.

By the time YMB showed up, Dad had decided he was going too. It took a long time to persuade him that he was staying but he was being moved to another ward.

"I'm staying but I'm going"

"Yeah"

He asked for socks as his feet were getting cold. He showed me his hands. They were cold even compared to mine. He still didn't want to put a blanket over himself, though.

"I'm not a fucking invalid!"

"Okay"

YMB stayed with Dad after we chatted out in the hall outside the ward.

Dad still doesn't know I'm unemployed after being made redundant and the brothers know not to talk about it in front of him.

I told YMB that it was going to be a lean Christmas this year. He told me it was the same his end. They were trying to save money and economise as much as they could.

Oh yes? I replied. YMB works for one of the bailed out banks and his wife works on the website for a high street retailer so I thought they might be facing redundancy or cut backs of some kind. It has been that kind of year, after all.

Yes, YMB replied, without a trace of tact or irony, they were saving up for a special trip around the Floridian theme parks next year in a rented RV and they were bringing a few uni friends with them.

It was going to be in February and it was going to be really special as the timing for the planned trip coincided with his wife's birthday and it was close to one of their friend's birthdays as well so they were going all out to make it outstanding.

I did try to sound pleased for him, I did. I tried making the right noises. As it is, I can't afford to turn on the heating at home.

So we agreed that there would be few if any presents this year and he'd let people know by text where the staff moved Dad to when the ward shut down.

I walked out into the cold, dark drizzly evening as if stunned.

I went into the internet cafe again and applied for another job

66. Data Officer. Sandwell.

With all my details already on the website, all I had to do was cut and paste and the job was done within half an hour. I paid and walked out into the rain, taking shelter under a shop awning and fending off a drunk who had lost track of time.

Just after he asked me for money and staggered off, I got a text. From the NHS website.

Please check my emails for a message.

I just had. I checked my watch - it was after 18:00. It was too late to do anything now.

Fuck it. It could wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

touching base and keeping in touch

I did a load of laundry but there is next to nowhere left to dry it.

I have a tumble dryer at home which I forgot is a luxury. Here, there are radiators and a couple of clothes horses and that is it.

Double quilt cover, double sheet, double mattress cover, clothes, more clothes, underwear (which had to be soaked first) and towels. And random stuff which I keep finding in unexpected corners. Like face cloths in the front room....

Speaking of which, the front room has seen better days. Once it was pristine. It was the pride and joy. Gold and deep red flock velour wallpaper, a sideboard, a 'posh' coffee table (with its own sheepskin style rug), an original dark wooden mantelpiece with all the original tiles, a velour three piece suite (yep, it matches the wallpaper), a display cabinet and a large dresser all crammed with knick-knacks, brass which Dad collected from various building sites over the years, tea and dinner services, old wedding presents, cutlery services, photographs and, well, stuff.

MwK's gold record for his work on a Matt Bianco album, YMB's graduation pictures, wedding and christening pictures and souvenirs from various holidays all on stands and displays.

When Mum died, it became obvious, as we went through the house finding random crap, that a lot of money was wasted. Well, we knew that. At least £35,000 went missing from the account that Dad used for business. The vast majority of it was/never will be found.

As Mum went through her mental health sections AND after she died, it became apparent that there are all kinds of leeches out there, happy to relieve the vulnerable of money and possessions. We found begging letters asking for money for various "causes", handwritten receipts for thousands of pounds and pieces of frank rubbish still with their price tags on.

As we sorted through all the drawers and cupboards, we found Elizabeth Duke necklaces and earrings that we had never seen worn, balled up in knots at the bottom of her wardrobe with some pieces deliberately broken, expensive catalogues for overpriced collectibles some of which she bought and dozens of pricey craft projects that never left their bags or boxes. There were also American gun and knife catalogues hidden under the front room floorboards. All paid for and all dearly priced.

We found some Aran wool from a "charity", complete with a badly photocopied knitting pattern which she had paid the best part of £100 for. Dad's sister, Miserable Auntie, took it home and used it up before she died. Even with arthritis, she could knit a basic jumper from scratch without a pattern.

I want to be able to do something like that. (Jealous)

Instead, I took a load of pointless embroidery projects home with me. All the threads had been knotted into balls and it took ages to sort them out. Some of them require a level of skill I don't possess, so I'VE got them hoarded away in a box now.

As Mum ran into her manic phases, the knick-knack count shot right up. "24K gold" labelled vases that were clearly junk, broken brooches (or brooches she had broken) from charity shops, 'collectible teapots' (no one drinks tea in our family), statues, tea trays, 'collectible toy vans and trucks' and cheap plastic toot all had the same value to her as her wedding and family photos.

The hoarding covered every aspect. Dad had no idea that he had pyjamas, let alone four pairs. If the house ever needs new nets - we're fine. And there's plenty of material (floral and velvet) for new curtains.

Dad will never run out of hand towels, bath towels, bath sheets, face cloths, shirts, vests, underpants, bed clothes or socks. After we had rounded them up from all points around the house, he's got an entire drawer so stuffed with socks that it can't close.

Anything of use is packed away in the right cupboard, but there's a load of crap just sitting in the front room as if in some forgotten storeroom. Along with a table in pieces MwK found lying in the road and a occasional table with drawers that MwK was told to get rid of because it was broken. He took it back to Dad's house to fix it instead. It's all sitting there gathering dust and unloved.

This hoarding thing has been inherited by her kids. YMB, when he lived at home, worked at Tesco while he was at university. Every time there was some sort of special offer (3 4 2, BOGOF etc) he bought stuff. There's a row of bottles of shampoo STILL in the bathroom cupboard years after he left home.

Along with the lifetime's supply of 100W pearlescent light bulbs I bought for Dad and the twenty odd rolls of toilet paper.

I hoard, although I know I have a problem and try to keep on top of it, MwK will not throw much if anything away AND, with a large van, he is capable of picking up pieces of furniture and toys left in the street because they're too good to throw away or "might come in handy" or "someone might buy it".

In the middle of the front room, in what little floor space is left, is a clothes horse. There's nowhere else to put it. Dad is so doddery now that it would simply get in the way anywhere else.

Walking back and forth between the garden shed where the washing machine is, through the house and into this dreadful dumping ground with armfuls of wet washing, picking my way through all this crap on dark and rainy days like today, is just......, well........, depressing.

My heart sinks every time I have to go into that room. It is God awful. And there's not much I can do about it.

And all that was before I visited Dad in hospital.

He was even less happy today than yesterday. He didn't want to wash, wouldn't get out of bed, didn't want to watch television. He just sat swearing and gesticulating at the staff who were at a loss.

No, he couldn't go home. No, he couldn't eat anything until 17:30. He was given food last night and refused to eat most of it so yes, he was going to be hungry now. No, he couldn't go home......

One nurse took him on as a personal project. She was going to get "Mr Popular" shifted to the Operating Theatre before she left for that night. She was great.

Of course, she got a racist tongue lashing from Dad every time she went to him to explain what was happening though. Dark black, with a thick African accent, she was on a hiding to nothing. But she did it. And fair play to the poor woman.

I left at 17:45 just as Dad was being wheeled out of the ward to the theatre. I told him I'd be back in the morning.

It was only after I lost sight of him that the nurse reminded me that visiting hours didn't start until 14:00.

Crap! He'll remember what I said and start with me tomorrow.

Anyway.......

I walked down the Fulham Palace Road towards the Broadway. On my way, I found an internet place and logged on (at 50p per half hour) to keep up with my emails. Mainly just to keep the spam down.

I did the usual. I logged onto the NHS website to scan for jobs and check any messages, logged off again and carried on walking.

Down through the bus station, across the Broadway and down the Shepherd's Bush Road to the Green and then on down the Uxbridge Road.

Down to a dusty, neglected house that sucks any joy out of me whenever I go there.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Good grief

The house was in a worse state than I first thought.

Daylight does that.

I found a pair of disposable gloves that the District Nurse usually pulls out to tend to Dad and started.

I stripped the bed and cleaned the plastic mattress protector, found all the dirty laundry I could and set about letting soak while I cleaned out the washing machine.

I was retching as I wiped it out and set it to to wash at high temperature with disinfectant.

Having carefully removed the gloves and throwing them away, I set about vacuuming the place.

I then set about the bathroom.

The laundry alone is going to take days.

The double continenental quilt needs to be taken to the launderette again. More money.

£4 for a warm wash with pre-wash in a large machine and £1 for 20mins in the tumble dryers.

As it's entirely synthetic, it has to be on warm (not hot) and it takes another, what, £5 to dry the thing.

I walked to the hospital to save money.

Dad was grumpy. He'd been in hospital for two days. Monday, they weren't sure he could be admitted so he was there until late at night waiting for a bed.

Tuesday, he'd been Nil By Mouth in case he would go down for his operation but it didn't happen.

Confused about what day it was and where he was and not being able to hear the Australian temp nurse explain what the problem was, he was losing patience very quickly.

Dad hasn't been using any of the sterilizing detergents that he'd been issued with. The MRSA was a major concern.

As he was infected with MRSA, he couldn't just be slotted in 'whenever', he had to come last on the list of patients so that his would be the last operation before they closed the theatre down for the deep clean.

So Dad had to stay hungry until 17:30. If, at that point, there was no chance of him going to theatre, then he'd be given something to eat.

Dad was one of a number of patients who had been emergency listed. He was in an overflow ward with a number of men who were in a similar boat to him. But all of the men around him were going to be operated on before him.

Although elderly and some much older than Dad, they had all been taking better care of themselves and had tested negative for MRSA.

This was deeply unfair as far as Dad was concerned, he'd been in there longer than some of them and he should be 'done' next.

We tried to tell him, but he wasn't listening.

I took all his wet and dirty laundry home with me when he was given a meal at 17:30. It joined the rest of the pile of wet and dirty laundry left to fester until the machine was clean.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Here we go again............

It was a fairly dismal day. I still managed to apply for another job, though

65. Technical Assistant

I went to the doctor, got my prescriptions and went down to London again.

Dad has failed to look after himself so thoroughly that he needs to have a further operation on his foot. Again.

And once again, even though I'm unemployed and not able to pay much out, I'm expected to go down and stay for a few days.

I got to the house about midnight. Again.

And it was in a dreadful state. Again.

One of the first things I'm going to have to do is start cleaning with a vengeance.