So the first day and bit of unemployment is now complete. My plan for the first day was to ring up the department of Work & Pensions (DWP) and make an initial claim for Jobseekers’ allowance (JSA). After so doing, I was going to travel to London for a day out as a tourist. As poor as the latter may seem in light of the former, this was to be just a one-off. The train ticket I used to get to work was always a weekly one, but because of the Easter holidays, the week had been disrupted so the ticket was valid from Tuesday to the following Monday. Hence, I was able to use it on Monday at no extra cost. I wouldn’t quite say it was free, as I had already paid over £90 for it, but it only got me to work for 4 days instead of the usual 5.
Having already phoned up the DWP in the prior week, I knew the phone number I needed and was able to navigate my way through the options menu. I got through to a call centre but this was not like anything that you get when calling the private sector, such as for utility or telephony companies. There was no sales patter or script. They simply had a form with lots of questions on there, which I did my best to help them fill out.
All in all, the telephone interview went on for 50 minutes, though it would probably been a lot longer if my personal circumstances weren’t as simple as they are. With no dependents, no partner and no mortgage, some parts just sailed by.
We probably spent a lot longer than normal on the banking section. This is because I have a small myriad of bank accounts that I keep for various purposes. Trying to explain this over the phone was not fun, and at the end they said it would probably need to be reviewed again when I have a face to face meeting at the Job Centre. This particular appointment was made for the next day (which is why this blog post is called the first day and a half, as there is more this later).
The issue, I think, hangs around a means-tested element of JSA, since one of the questions was “do you have more than £x in savings?” The answer was no, but if you add on the amounts I am owed in terms of salary and redundancy pay, then this may just tip the scales. Though at the time of writing, I don’t know what will become of this.
Having finished the call and made the appointment for a face-to-face meeting, I left the room to go and find my shoes so I could head out. But no sooner had I left the room than the phone rang again. I thought there was some piece of information they had missed off (which was fairly unlikely, as they were fairly thorough, with the possible omission of asking about borrowings).
It wasn’t the DWP calling back at all, but a recruitment consultant telling me that I have a job interview! This has now been booked in for Monday lunchtime. It’s not terribly far away. It’s about half an hour on the train and then about 15 minutes by foot. The company is quite different from that which I just left, but it is a return to the high-end technology companies that I enjoyed working at when I was working in audit.
The London trip
After getting all this out of the way, I was finally ready to go back to London for one last time. Since I don’t know if I’ll be working there again, I went with the mindset that this was the last time I’d likely see the capital for some time. After initially getting on an ultra-slow train, I hopped onto the Gatwick express. At this time, after rush hour, the place was full of tourists and the train seemed to be packed with people who had fled France after the 1st round of voting in the general election. There were a few German voices as well, but as far as my carriage was concerned, my native English was definitely a minority as far as first languages went.
I made my way on a very soggy day to the British Museum, which I had never visited before. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. I’ve been to the Victoria & Albert Museum once, but this was the last of the ‘biggies’.
To begin with, I didn’t really know where to begin. The place was fairly busy with tourists but not packed. I dread to think what it would be like on a bank holiday. I started off on the right and just allowed myself to get lost. I did start to get drawn into the trap as I sometimes do of simply reading the descriptions of the objects instead of really observing them. I won’t bore you with all the details, though it was somewhat sad to see that in this ‘British Museum’ the vast majority of the items had been plundered from other countries and civilisations. Great for learning, but it did leave me feeling a little uneasy about how so many objects had arrived there, particularly as lots of them simply stated “donated by Lord Somethingorother in Suchandsuchayear” without stating how and when the donor had acquired the object.
One item of note, which is probably the most famous object there, is the Rosetta stone. I managed to scare my dad a bit with regards to it. The real stone is housed in a glass cabinet and is almost impossible to view. It’s the most famous and most popular object there, and trying to get close enough to see it is like trying to get on an underground train at London bridge at 8:35am: there were crowds of people 4 -7 rows deep, tightly packed. However, an exact replica of it is housed in a room a few feet away with the sign “please touch” since it’s a replica. So I took this photo and sent it to my dad, without telling him about the replica, just so he’d think I’d got my grubby mitts on the real thing.
After a few hours of very slow walking, I opted to make an exit and head home, which I thought was for the best, overall.
The meeting at church
The following day I headed to the next town down the road, where I go to church. I had made two appointments for this day, one of which was at church and the other back at the job centre which is just a 5 minute walk from my flat. The meeting at the job centre required me to bring a paper copy of my CV with me, but as I don’t have a printer I had to ask a friend to do it, which they were most gracious to do. So I went to pick it up from them around 9am.
My meeting with the pastor was only vaguely booked but I texted him to say I was around in town and free until 11:30, whereupon I’d need to get a train back in order to make my 2 nd appointment on time. He said to come along at 10:30 so in the mean time I looked for somewhere to sit down and either read a book or write some blog material. As it happens, I ended up starting to write this post, which I am conscious is now getting rather long! Sorry; now that I have more time I may need to learn brevity now that it is no longer enforced upon me.
Anyway, we discussed various things about joblessness and church life. This was mainly triggered because I said that since I was going spare (and in another sense, I may go spare, let the reader understand!) I might as well offer to help out. The church has a very small staff, and I thought it would be very easy for little things to get glossed over or where there are those things that you want to do but never get round to actually doing. Anyway, I won’t divulge anything that was confidential, but it was a really helpful chat, though I think I scared the pastor a little and I know he contacted his personal tax accountant shortly afterwards based on some information I gave him which he was unaware about.
The job centre
Finally, we come to the 2nd meeting of the 2nd day of unemployment. This was back at on office I had actually been to before. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much and I wasn’t disappointed. As mentioned above, they had some questions over my savings accounts, and I said I was perfectly happy to demonstrate the evidence for them by logging on either using a spare computer or if they could get my laptop connected to the web. Would they have this? No.
I’ll be writing another whole blog post on this soon as it delves into the question of epistemology and what one regards as acceptable evidence.
They dug out a copy of an agreement I signed 6 years ago where I agreed to do 3 things per week to look for a job, which I would have to keep a record of. The boxes they have are tiny, though so I’ve mocked it up on a spreadsheet and will then try and slim it down so it’ll fit. Though at this stage I’m not sure if “answering a phonecall from a recruitment consultant” counts since it’s a fairly passive action which resulted from a much earlier action.
I’ve got an appointment to go and sign on at the office on the 1st Friday of May, but I need to talk to the building society first to see if they will issue me paper statements for my e-savings accounts, which kind of negates part of the point of e-savings.
The saga continues, and I’ll try to keep you informed.