Saturday, 30 June 2012

Things people ask me now that I'm unemployed Part 3/3

"How are things going in Preston?"

I'm never really sure how to answer this one. I think this is a general all-encompassing question that intends to cover the previous two questions. I think they're asking about the job and living with The Person all in one.

I tend to answer in a much more general way and focus in on the Preston part.

I should know the place like the back of my hand having been unemployed and living here for a month and a half. However, due to yet another incident involving high heels and alcohol which took place less than 24 hours living in the city, I have been pretty immobile up until the last couple of weeks (and yes I have now learned my lesson on that score).

In many ways Preston reminds me of a smaller Hull. It's Northern. It's got a standard kind of high street. In some ways it feels really familiar.

I'm still trying to find my way around all the shops - there are a couple of shopping centres - and I might not be able to take you directly to a particular shop (unless you're looking for Krispy Kreme, I can definitely take you straight there) but I can lead you in kind of the right direction.

There are a few little cute independent shops but you need to do some exploring to find them at times. My favourite little tucked away treat is the Mystery Tea House - perfect for if you don't fancy Cafe Nero/Costa/Starbucks etc.

I'd only been out in Preston a couple of times before I moved here but unfortunately the place I went to both times has now closed down. For the Jubilee weekend a couple of friends came to see me and we struck out with nothing more than a starting point and a plan to follow the crowds and see where it took us.

Turns out Preston is awesome. We drank. We danced. And when we decided to call it a night at 1am the pizza place was empty and people were queuing up at the cashpoints, taking more money out. Preston People know how to party.

Local prettiness
There's prettiness abound as well - I live close to the Docks which are beautiful, especially when the sun is shining. Slightly less so when the wind and rain are battering you as you walk round them to get to Morrisons.

Most excitingly they have nature on them. I love a bit of nature sometimes. The Docks currently have some swans nesting*;

And some terns. I was initially excited at how resourceful they'd been, turning an old tyre into a nest, but then I was informed that those have been put there purposely for them to nest in. But I like my version better.

Also close by is the Ribble. I've even been for a run alongside this and was jogging along, admiring its beauty when I realised that I really should be looking where I'm placing my feet and nearly went arse over tit on a bit of loose rubble.

And let's not forget that Preston is only 20 minutes away from Blackpool and about 40 minutes from the Lake District by train.

And here ends my role as Preston Ambassador.

*Since taking this picture I am pleased to report that the swans now have some cygnets - or swucklings as I like to call them. There are 6 of them but I haven't had the chance to take pictures of them yet.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Things people ask me now that I'm unemployed Part 2/3

How are things going living with The Person?

I'm not sure how to answer this one either. I always get the feeling that the people asking are looking for one of two responses;

1) I literally hate him and want to stab him in the face
2) I love him so much I'm going to have his babies immediately

The reality is that it's somewhere between the two I guess. I feel like I need to answer in some kind of hugely dynamic way but the fact is that it's never felt that odd to me.

The person that it was going to have the biggest impact on was, well, The Person. He's been living on his own in this flat for over 2 years now and has never lived with a partner before. I'm the one that's been living in house shares and done all this malarkey before.

So really I think the person you'd need to ask is him. I'm the one who appeared with a ridiculous amount of boxes and invaded his personal space with all my junk. I'm the one who's here every day when he comes home from work -bugging him because I've been sat in the flat on my own any day, starved of human contact. If anyone's going to have something to say on the matter he will.

But no life is happy here to be honest. I wish I had more stuff to tell you.

Don't get me wrong there are plenty of things that I could write about  but they're the bog standard, living with people kind of things that are annoying, they're not specific to living with a boyfriend. You're talking to someone who had previously been sharing a house with three other people, living with The Person was going to be smooth sailing compared to that.*

Most of our battles tends to be fought in the kitchen. I've already mentioned his woefully low-stocked kitchen but that's only the beginning really. We have different approaches to food - he's a food as fuel kind of guy, I'm a Iloveallfoodshoveitinmymouth kind of gal. At the moment I'm in charge of cooking seeing as I'm in the house all day and that's fine with me, he doesn't want dinner on the table when he comes in and is more than happy to cook instead but he gets home kind of late and if I waited for him to cook then I'd have eaten my own arm.

 But yeah it's him I feel sorry for. He goes out to work all day and then comes back home to this little House Imp who has been on her own all  day and is ready for mischief and excitement and chatting. I try to be quiet as a church mouse and let him do his geeky boy things with minimal intervention but sometimes I just can't. help. it. and I feel compelled to go and bug him.

On the whole though we're a pretty good match. Although we're both generally sociable we also value Alone Time - not with each other - Alone alone time, in our own company. So I don't think either of us gets worried if the other person isn't talking or wanders off to do their own thing.

So. In conclusion, things are going well - sometimes there are stab in the fact moments, sometimes there are mushy moments - but on the whole things just feel right. (But don't worry, you'll be the first to know when he does something irritating.)


*Unfortunately my blogging hiatus occurred at the same time I was living in the shared house. This means that you guys missed out on some brilliant Tales of House-Shares, including one that will make your hair stand on end - I'll maybe have to tell you about that another time.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Crazy Cat Lady Part 17: Fred & Lily, The Return

So I went back to the Mothership last week. There were a variety of reasons for doing so but mostly I just missed everyone and everything. I wanted to see my Mum, I admit it, I miss her, I like her. It might not be cool to say but there it is. I also had a friend who was in a play and I wanted to go and support her and I have a friend who's coming out of a long term relationship and I wanted to support her too.

But more than all of that?

I missed the Fred and Lily.

You see I can talk to my Mum on the phone and I can e-mail and text my friends all day long but I can't do that with Fred and Lily. True, I will yell down the phone when I'm talking to Mum but I'm not convinced they know it's me you know.

I could regale you with stories of how awesome they are but surely you knew that already? So maybe I'll just photobomb you all with photos of the pair of them.

I want to squish his FACE.

My sister and nephews were also up at Mum's at the same time which made for a full house. Fred and Lily revel in a full house because it means there's always something to do. Always someone to look at with your head on one side, someone who's willing to play, it's just busy busy busy.

So it means that when everyone left they crashed like a pair of toddlers. I crept upstairs to find Fred like this;

And Lily like this;

I've never known a cat enjoy sleep as much as Lily does. When you look at her sleeping it makes you just want to go to sleep as well because you want to get as much enjoyment out of it as her. Quite often she seems to sleep like a dog, legs all akimbo, or just in weird and wonderful shapes. For example;

I don't even understand how she can get in this shape - I mean her back legs are literally facing the opposite direction to her head. But she digs it. What can I say?

Also the best thing about having cats? They're there when they come home drunk. I decided to have a bit of Hull nightlife when I was back and when I came home it was like double the fun of just coming home normally and being drunk. They came to see me and I told them all about the night and we totally shared my pizza. And I grabbed Lily and squished her for all her worth. As you can see by this photo she loved it.

Ack they're awesome aren't they?

Now I am back home and there are no cats and it sucks balls.

That is all.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Observations of the unemployed #006

The notion that teaching is now a fall-back career.

In an attempt to help me think outside the box and think about transferrable skills I made an appointment with the National Careers Service at my local job centre in the hope that they might be able to help me.

In short, they couldn't.

He waffled around and suggested things that I was already doing/I told him things that he didn't know about and then he said my most hated thing, which is something which so so so many people have said to me;

"Have you thought about teaching?"

I don't know if I'm on my own here but I find this such an odd thing to say. To me teaching is a vocational career - you either want to do it or you don't. It's not something that you do because you can't think of anything else and you have a degree.

Maybe it's because I know teachers, so I know firsthand how incredibly difficult it is to be a teacher and also that there aren't actually a lot of jobs out there. I find it worrying that people seem to be of the opinion that you can just become a teacher with the click of your fingers. I find it even more worrying that this man appeared to think that I was qualified to be a teacher because I have a degree and a Masters degree - not that I have any desire to be a teacher, or indeed any skills - apparently getting through 4 years of university is enough.

This guy was not the first person to say this to me and I have heard other people talking about it in much the same terms. In fact my brother the other day was talking about his career and said, in such an off-hand manner that I nearly fell off my chair, "And then when I get in my 50s I'll probably quit and I'll just become a teacher." Ok then. We'll see how that goes.

I shudder to think that the youth of today are being taught, not by people who really had a passion to educate our youngsters, but because they were made redundant and thought "Oh I might as well teach."

That's what I mean about it being vocational. I'm 29. I know that I don't want to teach right now and I think our education system deserves better than that.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Things people ask me now that I'm unemployed Part 1/3

"How are things going on the job front?"

This question has an unpleasant interesting effect on me. Namely that I get very defensive about it because I assume that people are asking me because they think I'm lazing about doing nothing. I completely understand that this is my issue and isn't at all (probably) what people are aiming for when they ask me but I can't deny that my initial reaction is something to want to throw things.

I knew from the get go that I needed to make sure I kept routine so I didn't end up becoming one of those nocturnal doley bums that sleep all day and stay up all night playing video games. (Unlikely because I can't play games but you get my drift.)

And so I get up every morning at 8.30am and get dressed - very important or else I would live in my PJs all day long - and then I get myself set up on the table, laptop on and then I begin tap tap tapping away on the job hunt.

Things you might want to know:
1) I am receiving JSA from the Job Centre (or will be when they eventually get around to paying me - they owe me about 5 weeks now.) which means I need to go in fortnightly to sign on and fill in a fun little form that details all the things I've been doing to get work. I'm supposed to have at least 15 things a week. This is much harder than it looks, especially when you are like me and did quite a specific job for a long time, making it difficult to find the same job again.

2) I'm working hard on trying to think outside the box and think about transferable skills but it is hard. If for instance your background is in accounting, you can log on to any jobsite out there and click a lovely little heading and there are all the jobs you're qualified to do. I don't have a lovely little heading to click on which makes hunting difficult. Especially as one part of my job title is "Research"  - type that in and all you get is market research jobs. Not what I do.

3) Neither The Person and I are tied to Preston. He's not particularly happy and is looking for work elsewhere too. Neither of us are tied to a particular area of the UK - we would love to stay in the North but we're realistic that we need to go where the jobs are.

The problem however is that at the moment, he can help support me whilst I look for a job but it can't work the other way round. So if I get a job somewhere else, we couldn't both move cities and have me supporting him whilst he found employment - which is why I wouldn't be able to take the Newcastle job I mentioned the other day.

I'm trying to find admin work in Preston just to get a job and have some money coming in and continue looking for my ideal job, finding out where The Person is applying for and looking in the same places in the hope we'll both find something together. Long shot but the only plan I have at the moment.

4) I have the most awesome spreadsheet ever which shows all the jobs I've applied for - when the closing date was, when the interview dates are, salary, etc. It's even colour coded. Sometimes I think that the main thing that motivates me to actually apply for jobs is less about getting a job and more about updating my spreadsheet.


I think that pretty much covers everything. It is pretty strength sapping being out of work. It's incredibly hard to stay motivated and make sure that you don't slip into a complete state of apathy, even when you are being disciplined with yourself.

On the flipside I've tried to tell myself that there might never be this opportunity again, to be out of work and at home every day, so I'm trying to make the most of it - getting my stitching on, reading lots, watching too much silly telly, because I know that before long I'll be back in work and remincising about the time when I didn't have to do anything...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Why the Job Centre probably can't help you get work

I just had a ridiculous interaction with my Personal Advisor at the Job Centre which I need to write down because it perfectly documents the inefficiencies of a system which is bursting at the seams with unemployed people  and which will fail again and again at successfully supporting people back into work.

The background
I received an invite to interview for a job in Newcastle* on Saturday 2nd June inviting me to attend an interview on Monday 11th June. I immediately got myself online to look for train tickets from Preston to Newcastle.


At that point the cheapest option available on Trainline was an open return ticket for £69. Luckily I'm all about the train travel. I know how to work the system so I set about doing all the searches and managed to find the same journey for £45.20.

I thought to myself "Surely my friendly Job Centre, who so wishes to support me back into work will be able to refund my travel costs. Particularly when this trip will be using up over 2/3s my weekly Job Seeker's Allowance."

So, once the Jubilee Celebrations were out of  the way and the Job Centre was open, I rang them and explained the situation. The helpful person on the end of the line told me that because I was coming in the very next day after my interview I could sort it all out then - just to bring along proof of my invite to interview and my train tickets.


And that brings us up to today...

The conversation with my Personal Advisor
Advisor: Did you have anything you wanted to discuss with me?
Me: Oh yes I did. I had an interview in Newcastle yesterday and I was wondering if I could claim the money back that I spent on my train tickets.
Advisor: I'm sorry we can't process travel claims retroactively. You need to call up beforehand.
Me: Well that's interesting. Because I did. I called up and was told that I should bring everything with me when I came to see you.
Advisor: Yeah we can only process them beforehand and then we need 4/5 days to process it.
Me: But I did ring. I rang as soon as it was humanly possible to do so because you weren't open over the Bank Holiday
Advisor: [Apparently ignoring everything I'm saying] Yeah because we would need to make you an appointment to come in and see me who would check that you have an interview. We'd need at least 4/5 days to do that and currently I'm booked up for the next 4 weeks...
Me: So basically you're saying that you'll never to be able to help people claim back travel costs? Because if you 're booked up for 4 weeks how could I make an appointment to come and see you before my interview?
Advisor: I mean I could try and get you an appointment with a different advisor but yeah it's unlikely.
Me: Amazing. Thanks for that.

My thoughts on this nonsense
I am baffled as to why you would need to come in to the Job Centre in the first place - I understand that you would need to verify with a company that someone would be coming for an interview - but that can all be done over the phone - why would I need to come in to give you that information?

But yes, basically, it won't happen. You won't be refunded on your travel costs, despite the fact that your travel is more than likely going to take up a significant amount of your JSA.

So the message I'm getting from the Job Centre, is don't try and find work that you might be suited to do. Don't be so open to getting employment that you are willing to look anywhere in the UK. Instead you should just apply for jobs in the city you're currently living in, where you won't live up to your potential.

Luckily I'm not the kind of person who will still take up an offer of an interview and find a way to pay for the travel - but I wonder how many other people just aren't bothering or actually genuinely aren't able to take up offers for the sake of a train fare?

And I wonder how much of the money that could be spent helping people like me gain employment is being wasted on inefficiencies in the system or propping up people who are possibly not taking every opportunity they get to gain employment.

That is all.

*The interview went ok I think but I'm unlikely to be taking the job if offered because the pay is just too poor to be able to relocate. (A post will be coming soon about my job hunting before anyone leaps down my throat about potentially not taking a job that's being offered to me.)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Observations of the unemployed #005

There is a direct correlation between the length of time unemployed and a decrease in productivity.

You begin by being quite fired up - you're not going to waste this time you're off, you're going to move and shake and get things done.

And then, before you know it, your boyfriend is coming in from work, asking how your day has gone and the only thing you can tell him is that there was a really good episode of Judge Judy on today.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Observations of the unemployed #004

Lots of nail varnish + time off unemployed = my nails have never looked so weird.

I am incapable of just painting my nails one colour. Instead I'm on a one woman mission to try and use as many colours/nail effects as possible.

(Don't worry, my fingers didn't shrink, that last photo is indeed my foot.)

Friday, 1 June 2012

My favourite thing that someone has said to me this week

On Wednesday this week I posted a picture of a duck and her ducklings that had appeared in the middle of the town centre because, you know, that stuff is cool you know?

And then a "friend" made this comment;

"Don't take this the wrong way but you need to get a job - you are becoming way too focussed on our feathered friends!"

Cool. Maybe whilst I'm down there you'd like to kick me in the kidneys with your hobnailed boots you massive jackass.

Because obviously I don't really want a job. I don't spend every day looking and applying for jobs. I'm just sat here waiting for the next bird to walk past me. 

So yes, I'm afraid I did take it the wrong way. Up yours you insensitive tool.


And incase you didn't see it on Twitter and are not friends with me on Facebook I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the fun. May I introduce you to Danger Duck - who thinks it's an awesome idea to walk her ducklings through the town centre across many roads and absolutely nowhere near any water.