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Mrs Claims Advisor is getting a bit fed up of me. Now that unemployment has shrunk to its lowest level since 2008, I'm starting to become a cause celebre. She's already done her best to have my title removed and begin her attempt to turn me into an indentikit working class grunt. Do I not think that I should remove "Lord" from my CV? Not really. Boring old Mr Caldrail got maybe two or three views with each iteration. My last CV, as similar to the others as it is possible to get (apart from being labelled "Lord Rail") saw twenty five views last month alone. So I got paid for this fortnight. Money in my pocket? Woo hoo. Once more unto the shops, dear friends, once more... Those who did not shop this day will hold their wallets cheap... You have to admit, Shakespeare had a misquote for every purpose. How about one from The Scottish Play, dangerously close to becoming foreign literature...Who be that Unemployed Man? That question was asked by a policeman who was getting out of his patrol car parked on the other side of the street as I squeezed past an illegally parked car. From his perspective it probably looked like I was trying the doors to an expensive looking Mercedes. "Yeah, get out of here..." He called after me. It's unbelievable. My car gets vandalised regularly, finally stolen, and the Police tell me to investigate it myself. Then this constable starts looking at me like I steal cars from other people! Justice has a very sour taste in my area. I don't know what that crowd of policemen were doing outside the old hotel across the road earlier yesterday morning (I diagnose a possible crime scene), but I hope the long arm of the law reaches in the right direction this time. If they get enough practice, they might realise I'm not guilty of anything else than wearing socially unacceptable military surplus trousers. More From The Scottish Play With the referendum on Scottish Independence happening today, the news is all "Scotland Decides". Maybe the reason Mrs Claims Advisor is hustling me along is because she risks being arrested as an illegal immigrant in a weeks time? One can only hope. But what's this? Gordon Brown coming out of retirement to make a speech arguing about the need for Scotland to stay within the United Kingdom? Not only that, he sounded very passionate and shock horror he actually impressed me. That's a first. A part of me hopes Scotland will fall flat on its face if they vote for independence. Not because I want to see any hardship foisted on the Scottish, but because I don't think I could stand Alex Salmonds smugness if he wins. Not Playing Fair Having avoided arrest I wandered into the park to enjoy some peace and quiet. A pointless exercise after lunch however. The park is almost deserted in the morning but with a balmy afternoon every person unemployed since 2008 find some reason to be there, shouting loudly for no other reason than peace and quiet would leave them no distractions and so they would be forced to endure their own thoughts. Nonetheless the park is large enough to find somewhere to sit down quietly. So I found my quiet corner and sat down. There he is again! Not the policeman, I mean Sid the Squirrel. Every time I sit down on that particular park bench he appears, trotting along the path ungainly, sniffing and scratching at anything that interested him. Squirrels at top speed in the branches are wonderfully graceful. Walking slowly along the ground they somehow resemble an inebriated scotsman. Sid wandered by, minding his own business. Well, unlike some of our local residents, at least he's not stealing cars. There he is again. As I left the park to go about my business the very same policeman pulled out of the side street and coasted past in his patrol car as I waited to cross the road. Well, unlike some of our local residents, at least he's not stealing cars. Sale Of The Century At the Charity they do a roaring trade in bric-a-brac. Where does all this stuff come from? Who on Earth is buying it? I found myself a few times sat outside in the sunshine becoming quite adept at my marketplace banterm pulling in unsuspecting punters and persuading them that they need a little bric-a-brac in their lives. My sales record was beginning to rival the local expert. Some stuff doesn't get sold however. Either it's not in saleable condition, or it was merely rubbish to begin with. One item on the point of being binned was a plastic skull, looking for all the world like an albino martian (Mars Attacks!). It was so cute I couldn't resist saving it from the great recycling centre in the sky. Unfortunately I was called upon to head out on the furniture van to boldly lift where no lifting has been done before, so I had to leave Sid the Skull behind. I asked the lady on the bric-a-brac desk to look after him. So she sold Sid for 60p while I was away. Gasp! Poor old Sid. Sold into slavery when he could have a home where he would have been looked after and exercised regularly in a socially acceptable manner. There's no justice. or Maybe... Or maybe there is. This morning I received a letter from the Department of Work & Pensions admitting the error in my dole payments was theirs and I don't have to pay the money back. Neither am I being hit with a Civic Penalty Charge. Ahh yes... It's these little things that make my life worthwhile.
At the Charity life went on in a sort of organised chaos. You turned up, sat through a prayer meeting, then got told what your duties were for the day. I suppose I was lucky as I often got scheduled to work as a drivers mate on the company van, collecting and delivering secondhand furniture. A relaxing sort of job. Mostly. Okay, the driver was a bit highly stressed, often losing his temper, and of course the drawback to collecting and delivering furniture is that bulky objects are often heavy and don't always coveniently fit through the gaps provided. I had an advantage of course. Unlike many of the unemployed layabouts drafted to work at the Charity, I've long experience of getting musical equipment in and out of gigs, of long days and nights spent in a van, and even some casual multi-drop delivery work. I also had long experience of helping my father move furniture around the house. Not sure why it was ever necessary, but it gave him something to organise and so I got on with it. So it turned out to be something of a busman's holiday. The weather was glorious, we all had a good laugh in the van (except when the driver got annoyed at somebody), and trundled around the local area visiting houses we never knew existed, meeting all sorts of strange new life and new civilisations, going where vans have never been before. Sometimes you stopped by a huge expensive house to pick up donated odds and ends. All smiles and hearty farewells. Sometimes you delivered to the less salubrious hovels in town, places that haven't been cleaned since 1972, that stink of curry powder, urine, or other strange substances. Sometimes you had to take the door off to get the goods inside. Sometimes you had to disassemble the goods to get them through the door. Failure was never an option. It meant going back to base to face a manager who'd received an angry phone cal about wasted money. It's a funny thing. Life. I trained as an engineer, learned to be a musician, studied various categores of academic knowledge, became a private pilot in two countries, and yet despite all of that I still end up moving furniture around. Struggle Of The Week My fight for sanity in the jobsearching business goes on. Firstly there's Mrs Claims Advisor, who has been programmed by some secret organisation to repeat the same conversation over and over. "I don't why you're not getting anywhere. You're jobsearching is a high enough standard..." Think we might have covered this last week. And the week before that. "Why do you think you're not getting anywhere?" And this week too. So I patiently trot out the same reasons why finding gainful employment has so far eluded me. I'm not being dishonest or looking for excuses, but the reason she wants me to admit to is... Ummmh.... Errrr..... Actually I do know what she wants me to say but she's wrong. Completely. All she wants is for me to be exactly the same as every other claimant who comes before her. Variety, or indeed any form of individuality, is a difficult concept for a claims advisor. The other aspect of my fight for truth, justice, and the employable way us the Job Agency. I might have mentioned them earlier. Never in any sphere of human endeavour has a bureaucracy accumulated siuch a mammoth collection of self serving small minded pedantic pen pushers. Take this example. I look for work on an internet website. Usually you just select the vacancy that interests you, click on a few choices, add a little bit of supportive text, or perhaps answer a stuid question or two, then click on 'Apply'. You sit back and wait for the rejection in anything between two minutes and two months. Easy. However some agencies think applicants should be given more opoortunity to waste time and effort in applying for work, so they disable this easy option and get you to make a phone call instead, in which they tell you that they have a vacncy exactly the same as they advertised and could you please come and see them in their office? So why not just suggest that on the website and save me the bother of paying for a phone call? It gets worse. I asked for the name of the person the advert specified as the contact, which in this case turned out not be a person, but the agency itself. Eventually this confusion was ironed out. Who says I don't have communication skills? Then the lady said "All we have is this furniture warehouse vacancy. It will involve some heavy lifting...Is that what you want to do?" You know what? It was my childhood dream to lift heavy objects. I studied heavy weights at school, and got myself an O Level in Applied Lifting followed by a Degree in Industrial Physics. Ten years appprenticeship as a Manual Load Handler, followed by a fifteen year career of shoving and pushing. I also lift weights for a hobby. No. I'm joking. My CV doesn't say that, and neither did I. In fact I could barely resist laughing as I told her that lifting heavy objects wasn't exactly a career of choice but if it pays the bills.... You could hear her disappointment over the phone. Is she serious?
I got drafted. There's no other word for it. David Cameron's Big Society means that I have social responsibility and thus I must accept that occupational contribution, voluntary work, workfare, or whatever you want to call it, is now feature of being unemployed. So I reported to the charity organisation as ordered, only unlike National Serice of previous generations, I didn't bring a sitcase and toothbrush. Not everyone who volunteers gets through basic training. A few listless youngsters faded away over the first few days. The professional malingerer Mr J was there, immedioately claiming that he suffered from this ailment or that, what cruel world world it was, that voluntary work was too lowly for him, or whatever excuse he could think of. And once again, he stomped out in moral outrage, going back to his laid back llifestyle while I and others roisk life and limb in the secondhand furniture trade. The charity I was ordered to volunteer for was a sort of furniture warehouse combined with a cafe. The sort of place whee you can drp in, enjoy a coffee, exchange a bit of banter, and buy some secondhand furniture. The furniture gets donated by all sorts of people, rich or poor, so that people without money can purchase stuff other people don't want. My first day was in the workshop, sanding down neglected garden table and chairs, and then to varnish them. Not with any old creosote mind you, thinned down yacht varnish. Only the best for the financially challenged. Of course it was pointless arguing. The workshop leader was an old craftsman who didn't talk to anyone else and got disgruntled by everyone elses lack of craftmanship. Like mine, as it transpires. So I spent the day mindlessly daubing the table and chairs with none-too-cheap varnish and getting suburnt. Aside from the lack of olive green clothes and some african american sergeant in a slouch hat yelling ayt me to do yet more press ups, the oppressive heat of our flaming July, I might as well as gotten off a bus at Biloxi in the deep south of the USA. All for Queen and country. I'm in the Charity now. Opinion Of The Week I happened to be watching the news channel Al Jazeerah the other day and along came a report about a film festival somewhere out there in the world. There's a strong theme of war films apparently, with no punches barred, covering some controversial subjects. It inspired an interview with someone who spouted this little nugget of ridiculous wisdom... The purpose of art is to force us to face our most painful truths What? That most of us are either talentless or gifted con merchants? Art exists as a form of expression. We can express anything. Romanticism, entertainment, drama, political beliefs, religious sentiment, or simply a statement of ego. If you want to comunicate pain, so be it. Personally I like my landscapes, or those pictures that invoke moods and dreams. I already know the truth of it - that I prefer the escapism, the suggestion that I'm glimpsing a time and place I canot otherwise experience.. But getting back to the point, what do we want to see in a war film? I note that the nastiness of war is becoming the prevalent theme. Camaraderie, heroism - these aren't forbidden subjects but it seems as if they're deeply unfashionable. Why is the world film industry suddenly getting so moral and determined to express political controversy? Is it because there are important messages to be said, or is it because people are bored with commercial stereotype movies, or is the constant barrage of media broadcasts politicising our view of human conflict and the injustices it generates? News reports don't change the world into a better place, so I seriously doubt art is going to. However seriously some artists want to be taken.