Friday, 31 August 2012

This one time I was unemployed.

I thought I should probably provide a bit of a summary of my unemployed life. I know, fun right? I've got to say this one's mainly for me so I can look back and remind myself of what a totally bloody god awful and stressful time it was.

So I ended up unemployed for pretty much bang on 3 months.

I applied for over 20 research jobs - that's all I've got on my uber geeky spreadsheet but not everything went on there, plus you have to remember that the research jobs I am after don't come up very often.

Of those 20 I had 4 bothered to tell me that I hadn't been unsuccessful and 3 invited me to interview, the rest disappeared into the ether never to be heard from again.

The Research Interviews
To be fair, the 1st interview I was invited to was for a charity in Newcastle and they actually did offer me a job. And had I been single I would have gone for it but it was nowhere near enough money to support both me and The Person to move cities. (See - being in a couple isn't all it's cracked up to be!)

The 2nd interview was at Swansea University and was the single most terrifying experience of my life - there was a lunch beforehand where all the candidates met up and it turned out that I was literally the only person without a Phd. Awesome start. And then one of the four people on the interview panel appeared to be playing the role of Simon Cowell that day. That was an insanely long day - I spent a total of 9 hours on trains, travelling down and back there and by the time I came home I was kind of a wreck. I wasn't surprised when I didn't get the job but actually the feedback was very positive - they really liked me but decided to go with someone who had a Phd. I can't really compete with that.

The 3rd interview was down in London. This was a lesson I learned to trust myself. I didn't have a great feeling about this job, didn't really want it but felt pressured into going for it because I felt I couldn't turn the opportunity down. I didn't get good vibes during the interview at all from the people interviewing me and they threw some things in about that job that weren't included in the job description and had they been I wouldn't have applied for it because I didn't have the necessary experience.

The Admin Interviews
Meanwhile the pressure was mounting from the JobCentre Plus to just get an admin job and have done with it. This is an odd policy which makes no sense to me at all. Would it not be better to let me have the time to look for and get the job I want and am qualified for, earning more money and therefore paying more tax? Instead of forcing me to take a job I'm over qualified (which also means I've "stolen" a job from someone probably more suited to the role, much like the Phd people have been "stealing" mine) which means I earn less money so contribute less and don't have the time to look for a better job?

I couldn't even keep count of how many admin jobs I applied for, they didn't make it on to the geeky spreadsheet.

I had 4 interviews for admin jobs though.

One wasn't offered to me because the guy said he knew I wouldn't stay in the job because I was over-qualified. That was hilarious. I lost out to the others on 'not enough experience' grounds.

Then there was the interview for the job I've got now in which my interviewer informed me that over 340 people had applied for the job advertised and they had 4 posts available. And that my friends is the job I'm now in, but that's a tale for another blog post...

In some ways I can't believe it was a whole 3 months I was unemployed for - it feels as if it's passed very quickly although at the time it all seemed to be a long period of forever and a day. I don't know if 3 interviews in 3 months (if we're only counting the jobs I was really after) is good or not. I guess everything has to be looked at on an individual basis taking into account the kinds of jobs applied for etc. I certainly don't know if 3 out of over 20 is good odds. I suspect the JobCentre Plus is pleased that I was on and off their books fairly rapidly but you definitely don't want to get me started on them as a topic.

Funnily enough I'm officially in the phase where I was actually better off claiming JSA and getting some money every other week. I was paid on the 15th of this month for just over 2 weeks work and now have the long, slow, painful wait until the 15th September when I will get a full month's wages. Of course at that point I won't know what to do with'll have to start giving The Person something towards my upkeep. Bollocks.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Why you shouldn't shop with hungover.

This Saturday I had big plans. I had all of the things to do. I had a mental list going on, I was going to get up bright and early and get. things. done.

On this list there was included:
- Watch the 2nd Proclamation in the city centre (I won't go into it all now. It's to do with Preston Guild which only happens once every 20 years and has been going on since 1179)
- Go to the bank and pay in big cheque (been waiting for ages for it, a refund from train tickets from an interview)
- Go and get bus ticket refunds (because Preston Bus operates a frankly insane system where you have to use correct change)
-  Get some new shoes for work
- Get some new trousers for work

But I was foiled in my plan. My big productive plan all went awry on Friday night when The Person and I went out for a "couple of drinks" to celebrate someone's leaving do. This couple of drinks ended at 1am when we were politely asked to leave the pub because they were closing.

It did cross my mind as I optimistically set my alarm for 8am that this might not be the wisest move I'd ever made but when the morning came round I actually felt pretty good about life. I was up and at them and rearing to go. And yet something meant I wasn't moving as fast as I wanted to.

About halfway into town I realised that my hangover was hitting. I was not fine. I was not feeling good about life. In fact, I was feeling decidedly not cool about life.

After being in town an hour I realised I had full on Wandering Ghost Syndrome. Normally I have this in the house and it's not a problem. You know the feeling - you wander from room to room, wanting to do something but lacking the focus and energy to actually get on with it. But this was bad I had WGS in the city centre of all places.

I should have just called it a day there and then and gone home but my WGS continued until eventually I actually developed the shakes. I was a loss of what to do when Twitter provided me with the answer - I should totally go to McDonalds! One Big Mac later and I was feeling better about life and before long decided to make my way home.

Once home I turned to my mental list of things I wanted to do in town:

- Watch the 2nd Proclamation in the city centre  - Nope. Got there too late to hear the actual proclaiming but I did hear a lovely military band and saw some marching and saw the Paralympic Flame.
- Go to the bank and pay in big cheque - Nope. Left that twat at home - clearly my hangover was kicking in earlier than I realised.
- Go and get bus ticket refunds - Nope. Despite the fact they were in my purse and I got a bus to the bus station.
-  Get some new shoes for work - Nope. Felt too hungover to bend down and take shoes off/put shoes on
- Get some new trousers for work - Nope. Too hungover to go trouser shopping, my most hated of all the shopping.

Instead I came home with:
- 4 nail varnishes
- A cardigan reduced in the sale in Fat Face
- A jumper with cats on from Debenhams.
- A meal deal for two for £10 from M&S


Thursday, 16 August 2012

How I became a Spartan

The climbing frame in East Park was shaped like a ship. I used to make a beeline for it every time I came to the park, but I was always relegated to the bows, whilst my friends and other kids played up in the sails, climbing ever higher and all the way back down again.

Occasionally I would be grasped by a determination to conquer the heights and I would set off, a steely glint in my eye only to have to be rescued by a grown up, or talked down by another child as I stood paralysed near the top, terrified to go any further and convinced I would fall to my death if I so much as moved a muscle.

Fast forward to now and I'm not that much better. I don't have vertigo particularly but I'm not fond of situations where I have to climb over things. Not great on ladders especially. Mind you, with upper arm strength like mine, even if I wanted to climb to the top of a rope I wouldn't be able to.

Some time ago, when the year ended with a 1. A friend asked me if I fancied taking part in a Spartan Race. We'd done the Race for Life the year before in an attempt to make us get fit again (and obviously help find a cure for Cancer) but we weren't that fussed about doing it again and this

It was a 5k course. With obstacles. I went on the website and watched the videos. People running through mud and water - it looked like a laugh. Yeah it did kind of look hard, but the people on the video were probably doing a Super Spartan or a Spartan Beast, the Spartan Sprint wouldn't be tough like that.

How very wrong we were.

This Sunday was the hardest physical challenge I've ever been through and when I look back now I'm not entirely sure how I did it without vomiting, crying or giving up - although I won't lie, I nearly did all 3.

Some of the obstacles we faced:
- Pulling yourself through a very dark and enclosed space - no room for crawling, you were on your stomach. Oh yeah and the ground was just stones.
- Wading through 1.5m of water
- Going on your hands and knees through mud, under barbed wire
- Crawling through ice cubes
- Jumping over fire
- Throwing a spear
- Hoisting a ridiculous heavy sack 2m in the air
- Climbing a rope ladder
- Carrying a tyre down an incredibly steep slope, and then carrying it back up again...
- ...Then doing the same with a sandbag
- Scrambling over an 8ft wall

You get the picture. This was no joke.

But there was one obstacle that was the biggest. It was actually quite near the beginning when I was starting to realise how serious this challenge was going to be. There I was, running through the trees when I came round the corner and came face to face with 10ft of netting.

My heart sank. This was actually my worst nightmare. There was no way I was going to be able to do this. Images of all the climbing frames I had tried and failed to climb all through my childhood came screaming back at me.

But this time it was different.

I was a SPARTAN now and Spartans don't let their fear take control. (Also the penalty for not doing the obstacle was 30 burpees and I would rather flay my own skin off than do burpees.) And so I threw myself at it. I got my hands and feet stuck in and I just kept climbing, I didn't look up, I didn't look down, I was concentrating way too much on just holding on. I reached the top and felt more than a little bit ill. I froze for a few seconds and remembered all the times that people had watched me up at the top of the climbing frame shouting that I could do it, yelling that I'd done the hard bit and coming back down the other side was easy, and I gathered it all up and focused it onto my right leg as I swung it up and over the top of the netting. Before I knew it, I was scrambling back down the other side.

I couldn't contain my excitement. I tried telling my friends - "I can't believe I just did that!" and they smiled and everything, but they couldn't really understand. They hadn't been on the ship climbing frame. They didn't know what I'd just achieved.

I put my body through hell in that race. The pain that I've been in since then has been fairly horrific - I really don't have upper arm strength and I'm not a small girl. I had to drag my ass over, under and through things and my poor arms haven't known what's hit them. I am covered, literally head to toe in injuries - I've counted over 20 individual cuts and scrapes and bruises (and shared them all on Twitter because I'm nice like that). 

But it was worth it. And not because of the crawling through mud. Or carrying the sandbag down and up a sheer drop. Or pulling myself along stony ground. Or slithering through ice cubes.

It was worth it because of the netting.

I am no longer, The Girl who never could do climbing frames. I AM A SPARTAN.

This is the face a Spartan pulls when the race is over and before the pain sets in. I didn't even know I'd injured myself at this point. Why yes yes that is mud all over my face. And body. Mud forms a large part of being a Spartan.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Being 30

Last Saturday The Person turned 30.

That means he's a grown up now.

He celebrate by taking part in a Total Warrior race with some work friends. For those not in the know and not inclined to click on the link it's basically a 10km assault course. You run, you do obstacles and it's fun. Some of these obstacles include swimming through mud.

On Wednesday I found The Person's kit that he had completed the race in.

At the bottom of the laundry basket.

Let's count on our fingers shall we? Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.....

That's right. Five whole days of sitting and festering at the bottom of the basket whilst I had merrily loaded more clothes on top. Five days in which those clothes and accompanying towel hadn't dried out but had instead festered, becoming a fetid stink of mud and sweat and general grossness.

Unfortunately I made this discovery at the end of a particularly hard day at work. But I think I did well to not throw his clothes (or something much heavier) at his head.

I now literally understand why my Mum would go mad when I would leave my PE kit to sweat in my bag instead of putting it in the washing machine.

But also, I was at school and not 30 years old...


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Little Tin Bird Therapy Sessions

Did you know that Heather offers therapy sessions?

It's no secret (probably because I published it on ma blog) that I hit a bit of a stumbling block a while ago. In the midst of this meltdown I got an offer from Heather to come and see her and I decided to take her up on it because

a) I've been meaning to go and see her again since the last time I saw her, and 
b) I wanted to see her because it's not often I get to talk to real live pregnant people.

Little Tin Bird Therapy (TM) Sessions consist of a variety of activities;

  • Allowing me to touch her pregnancy bump
  • Allowing me to ask inane questions about pregnancy
  • Allowing me to chunter about losing my job and how well crap it was
  • A mutual cherry tomato love in
  • A refreshing walk up the mountain that leads to her house
  • A Touch Session of her baby's blanket
  • Allowing me to chunter about my big cat experience
  • A discussion of the greatest programme on earth, Animal Park
  • A Touch Session of itty bitty tiny baby clothes
  • A practice push of her new pram around the room
  • A Touch Session with only slightly scary rabbits
  • Allowing me to repeatedly ask her "And what colour is that?" as I pointed to various shades of Stylecraft yarn in her box
  • A free gift of a set of playing cards with cats on them.

  • A trip to the local yarn shop to buy yarn for a blanket that I will blatantly copy off her

Her prices are very reasonable - all you have to do is wrap a present for her because she's too pregnant to get on the floor and do it.

I have signed up for a course of treatment in the future where activities may also include;
  • Getting to push the baby in the pram and pretend that it's mine

I can highly recommend LTB Therapy (TM) as a means to a happier, more fulfilled life.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

How I Kapowed my way to a new table

So a long while ago this little charity shop landed at my front door, courtesy of one of my Stitchettes and ex-Housemate who had knew I was looking out for a table and saw this beauty in a charity shop. I loved him but knew he needed a bit of a make-over because he had seen better days. In fact I even went so far as to make him part of my Not Really Resolutions 2012 (let's not even talk about those just yet though 'kay?)

I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do with them but none of them seemed quite right to me. I don't know when the idea really hit me but one day it was there. I would turn the table into a comic table - paint it bright red and make a collage of old school comics on it.

And just a few weeks later I had this;

I'm normally a very measured person who weighs up all sides before proceeding with caution. Spontaneity is not really my watchword.

But for some reason, when it comes to creative things I am compelled to throw myself in at the deep end with little thought and just hope for the best. Maybe it's because I'm not particularly creative, meaning that when I do get an idea I feel like I have to just start immediately before it flies out of my mind.

With the vague idea in my head, before I knew where I was, I had purchased sandpaper and red paint and was wielding a paintbrush.

Once the table was red - (two coats, although I used surprisingly little paint considering that this has a million more legs than a normal table - just 2.5 of those small match pots you can get) - I turned my attention to the other part of the project; the comics.

Here the wheels came off a bit. Turns out that modern comics now are dark and grimey and whilst very well drawn, not what I was looking for at all. I went to eBay to try and get older comics. Mistake. Something I probably should have thought of before - old comics = precious comics = expensive comics. After picking my jaw up off the floor at some of the prices these comics were going for I was at a loss of what to do and was now saddled with a random bright red table.

Help came in the form of our trip to London when we went to see the big cats. We came across Forbidden Planet which seemed to me like the kind of place someone who was looking for comics should go. Inside there I had an experience which is a blog post all of its own but to cut a long story short, I went downstairs and found exactly what I was looking for - books of reproductions of comics from the 60s and 70s - and even better they were on offer 3 for 2.

So for £11 I was armed with everything I needed. I went for Spiderman, Hulk and Captain America but I was careful to cut out a little bit of everything. I paid particular attention to looking out for "WHALLOP"s and "KABOOM"s and "POW"s because I knew they would be the best parts...

Then I got my PVA glue and masking tape out and started glueing and sticking like a mad woman until everything was in place.

The curved bits were presented a potential problem but I just carefully went round, folding the tape over on itself and then sticking extra bits on to make a smoother finish. But other than that it was easy peasy lemon squeezey. The only thing I had to keep in mind was to make sure I wasn't getting too uniform with my collage - making sure cartoons weren't all facing the same way etc etc.

Once that was done, it was a case of a few coats of varnish (I went for a satin finish) and I officially had a "new" table.

This is the first time I've ever attempted anything like this and although it's not perfect I am immensely proud of it. And it's opened up so many more possibilities. The plan now is to search for chairs (the only chairs in the flat belong to the estate agents and they might not appreciate my attempts at upcycling) and paint them in equally bright colours - I'm thinking a red, blue, green and yellow one. Having seen how much paint I used to paint a whole table, a chair definitely would only need one match pot of colour.

A rough breakdown of what I used:

Medium Sandpaper 150 grit - just did a quick rub down of everything, I didn't get too bogged down in it
Homebase Home of Colour Matt Emulsion in Flame - approx 2.5 pots - £1.47 each
Homebase Quick Drying Varnish for interior use in Clear Satin - approx 1 250ml pot - but I did 3/4 coats on the top of the table.
Homebase Multi-Purpose PVA Adhesive & Sealer - absolutely mahoosive bottle, I could do another 2 tables probably!

All in all it wasn't a massively expensive project - the comics were by far the most expensive part of it and I have loads left - if anyone would like to make their own table I probably have enough left over. But it wasn't about the money (well it kind of was, I did start and finish this project whilst I was unemployed) it was about having a table that's all mine, that no-one else can say they have.

Now I just have to work up the nerve to actually allow us to eat off it...


Please note this isn't a Homebase sponsored post, it's just the closest DIY place to the flat!