Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Once More Unto The Dole Queue

Being a benefit scrounger is hard work.

After trudging through the application form for Jobseeker's Allowance, answering a load of irrelevant questions, dredging up memories of when you or your partner last claimed benefits and working out exactly what savings you might have hidden away somewhere, you then have to dig out all the paperwork that verifies your claims - including requesting ones that might not already exist. How do you prove exactly when such-and-such course ended? Where is the tenancy agreement that you signed nearly nine years ago? What forms of ID are accepted and do you in fact have enough of them?

Then you wait and get told when to turn up and to bring "all the requested information" with you - although you'll be lucky if anyone can tell you what that information was. You trudge across town and wait in an overcrowded room with insufficient seating, and then you get asked the questions you couldn't answer on the application form while at home with access to all your files and all the time you wanted, presumably in the hope that inspiration will strike suddenly. The folder of everything you could think of to bring will inevitably contain many things that are not needed and yet not everything that is, so you're given a form listing the other bits of evidence you need to provide before they can send your claim off to be assessed.

And then you have to go speak to someone else. If you're very lucky, that person will actually explain that they're just setting up a skeleton Jobseeker's Agreement and that this will be added to when you first see your adviser. You'd better own up to any health problems then as no doubt no-one will care to check later on. You may have to fill in details about education and what sort of work you're looking for and quickly think up other ways you can search for jobs beyond checking a few websites, as they all get lunped in together. The Jobcentre must be the only place that assumes people still buy newspapers rather than doing everything online. You sign five or six bits of paper and get sent away having promised to do everything you can to find work and to keep a record of it, which someone may or may not check every time you come in to sign on.

Because of course, then you have to go back once a fortnight to wait in an uncomfortably crowded room where you may get a seat if you're lucky, or you can waste time using the job points which contain all the jobs the jobseekers.direct.gov website does but with a worse interface, only to see someone who doesn't really want to hear about all the jobs you've applied for and sign a bit of paper again so you can continue to receive your money. Occasionally, you'll have to have another interview, which seems to mostly consist of having your ambitions quashed and being made to apply for jobs you don't really want to do. (Maybe, just maybe, I had an unusually bad experience last time, and this time will be better.)

And at some point you might have your claim approved, hopefully before the council decide to reject your claim for housing benefit because you're not actually receiving Jobseeker's Allowance. Suddenly, life becomes affordable again, and while your savings might not actually recover, at least you don't have to worry about putting off dental check-ups any more. You just have the every day grind of checking websites in the hope real actual jobs will appear which you feel you can do and the worry that you won't be able to find enough to apply for to keep the jobcentre off your back and then the constant rejections or just not hearing back which, despite your attempts to be rational, start to feel like a personal attack on your very worth.

Of course, if you do manage to get a job, and you have to immediately tell not only the Jobcentre , but the council's benefit office and the Tax Credit people....and then they may or may not respond before the job finishes. And then you have to go through it all again.

Of course, all this is just if you're capable of working full time. If you have a disability or health problem that prevents that....well. You have even more paperwork to do and ATOS to deal with, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I hope to whatever supernatural forces may exist that I never find myself in that position. I just don't think I'd have the energy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Boring Update

Well I tried thinking of something more interesting to write about but kept coming up blank. So general life update then.

Clearly, my "blog ever day" target didn't last long - another slump in mood and motivation had a lot to do with that. But I saw my GP again today, and discussion with him and J led me to conclude that it's just the lack of routine (again) that caused this: while I was working I've mostly been fine. So I have some plans to keep myself busy, although with J at home too I feel bad hogging the computer and not spending time with her. But as long as I convince myself it's learning useful stuff and not spend all day on Facebook then I might be alright.

Saturday was busy, as I volunteered again at St Nicks (although that was surprisingly quiet actually), we went to Chi Yip so J could splurge on tasty foodstuffs and then visited friend from ex-work who was busy getting ready for party and quickly found things for us do. Boy seemed to enjoy sweeping, and I proved once again how rubbish I am at threading things. Was good to see her again, boy didn't get too bored, and J actually got to meet her at long last. Still feels weird not going to work though....

Sunday is a bit of a blur, think I mostly spent it ironing. Today I started Wii Fit again and remembered why I don't do certain yoga exercises. We also cleared out some of the boy's toys that he didn't play with much. He's even letting his Thomas the Tank Engine train set go. Getting so grown up...

Think that's everything. Tomorrow I'd my New Jobseeker's Interview, so maybe I'll actually have something to blog about again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not the post you are looking for

I had a couple of ideas of what to blog about today. At least I think I did, although now I can only think of one which was about the difference between social awkwardness, ASD and creepy or harassing behaviour.

Then my laptop died, again, and I considered a eulogy for it, or at least a run-down of its previous "deaths".

Then the blues came crashing down out of nowhere and I lost all interest in anything and I hate trying to write anything of length on my phone so I did some ironing and then collapsed in ball of apathy.

Then J gave me wine and put How I Met Your Mother on and...I'm beginning to feel better.

So maybe tomorrow I'll do a better blog post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In which I live-blog my game

Well, live-ish.

Present are myself, my partner J, GM C and other players T, F, D and F. We gather every Wednesday to play Rogue Trader. We start just after 8 pm with cookies and a recap of last three weeks for D who had been away.

20.27 We start! On our way through the warp, taking our passenger to the ork world of Stompgit.

20.35 We receive a message that seems to be gibberish. J takes it to the passenger to see if she can understand it. She doesn't.

20.47 "Define loyal?" "We pay them!"

20.49 Message is an SOS. We decide to investigate.

21.01 There is a hostage situation on a prison space station. We debate merits of inviting potentially dangerous criminals to join our crew. And how our passenger would react.

21.20 After much debate of tactics, they shoot at us and we get the message a hostage is dead. "That's a big explosion from one hostage." We decide to send boarding parties. "We should take over drinks and nibbles, then we can gave a real boarding party."

21.35 M decides to try negotiating. He points out shooting hostages just leads to them running out of hostages.

21.43 "Well, the worst that can happen is we all die."

22.03 We land at various points and begin to attack.M mostly manages to blow up a box of food. I start hacking the computer to disable weapons etc.

22.26 The hostages are rescued, the imperials are on their way, so we retreat after I've downloaded all personnel files.

22.32 Back on our ship(s), imperials turn up and take the station staff back. Apart from one who disappeared after coming on board, who we suspect is a prisoner in disguise. The imperials "shut down" the facility and tell us to taxi the local dignitary home.

22.43 We wrap it up there. Next week - Stompgit!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Once Upon A Fairytale

As promised, here's my attempt at a review of Season One of Once Upon A Time

Fairytale characters from the Enchanted Forest (which contains just about every story ever told it seems) have been cursed by the Evil Queen (Regina): banished to "real world" Storybrooke, trapped in an unchanging town and having forgotten who they truly are, ruled over by Regina as mayor who presumably gets to live out her ideal power trip. All because she wanted to ruin Snow White's happiness. However, magic always comes at a price and curses can always be broken: it is determined that Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter (who is saved from the curse at the last minute by being put in a magic wardrobe (yep, really)) is the only one who can break the curse, at the age of 28. 

So Snow and Charming's daughter Emma grows up without any clue of her parentage or the existence of magic and leads an apparently troubled life. She's celebrating her 28th birthday alone when the son (Henry) she gave up for adoption ten years previously turns up and drags her back to Storybrooke with him. Turns out he's been adopted by Regina (dun dun duh!) and seems to be the only person who knows everything about the curse, thanks to the book he has. Obviously, the adults act as though the poor boy is deluded, but something makes Emma stay in Storybrooke and eventually become Sheriff - constantly butting heads with Regina over Henry, and everything else.

Really, if you want a better explanation, go read the darned Wikipedia article above. 

So in each episode we have a bit of the story "something happens in Storybrooke" (usually Regina being Evil, Emma investigating something and/or Mary Margaret (Snow White) being mopy about David (Prince Charming)) and flashbacks to events in the Enchanted Forest fill us in on various characters' backstories. The overall arc is about Regina trying to keep Mary Margaret and David apart, while hanging on to Henry and getting rid of Emma so she can't break the curse, while Henry tries to get Emma to believe in the curse and do something about it. Despite the characters acting in mostly predictable ways (well, they are fairytale characters) and making decisions purely because the script demands it, and the parallels between current events in Storybrooke and past events in the Enchanted Forest are often stretched beyond breaking point, it works. Overall, it works.

I think my innate love of mash-ups of stories, genres and twists on traditional tales helps, although it possibly hinders in that so many of the plot twists are glaringly obvious to me from the start. It helps that I've never found children in genre series irritating, and I can overlook the melodramatic acting that would annoy the hell out of me in other shows because, well, it's panto. In a sense, most of the characters aren't real people so they shouldn't act like them. This explains the dumb decisions they make too: like trusting Mr Gold\Rumpelstiltskin, and er, well that's the main one really. Although Regina's treatment of the son she supposedly adores and is worried about is pretty lacklustre (he's run away from home at least once to fetch Emma and she still leaves him alone while she goes out, he repeatedly skip school but no-one seems to do anything about checking his whereabouts during the day, etc). Emma's disbelief is understandable at first, but after being confronted by two separate adults who shared the same "delusion" as her son surely she'd start to get a bit suspicious? And I'm still annoyed no-one in the finale seemed to work out that "True Love" doesn't need to be between lovers, but then possibly that's everyone acting to stereotype again. But despite the quibbles, I really did find it must-watch TV, and the set-up for next season (Gold\Rumpelstiltskin lets magic into Storybrooke) looks intriguing. 

Oh, and now everyone remembers who they are, perhaps we'll see more of the kick-ass heroine Snow rather than the wet-drip Mary Margaret (kudos to Ginnifer Goodwin for pulling off both roles though). 

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Tricky Second Post

I'm determined to stick to my "blog every day" vow, or at least, giving up on the second day is too pathetic even for me, so I might as well recap how the day went. I certainly can't think of anything more interesting to say.

Today has been a day of Getting Things Done™. With the Boy starting back at school on Wednesday, there were a few more things that needed doing, as well as things we didn't do over weekend such as weekly shop and laundry. Thankfully it stayed nice and sunny today, so we got clothes washed and dried and can probably manage another load tomorrow. (This is how dull my life is - laundry is a highlight.)

J cut the Boy's hair: he ended up with a shorter fringe than originally intended because he decided to look down part way through and it went all slant-y. We meandered town-wards to see if Keal Teamwear had any of his school branded jumpers in and were pleasantly surprised when they did, and in his size as well! (A little large on him, actually, but, you know. He'll grow into them....)

I wrote a personal statement for a job application and did my damned best to hit everything on the person specification in order. I even used the word "pro-actively". You can shoot me now if you like. It's for an admin job I'm sure I could do and would enjoy but I'm not holding much hope of even getting an interview as my history of success with that institution is virtually non-existent. May try re-writing my past work experience to emphasise the more relevant bits. It may help.

I also started a Jobseekers Allowance application online and struggled through the pages and pages of things I'm sure I only answered a few weeks ago (nearly a year? Really?) until I eventually hit the point where I needed more info than I had to hand and realised I should have prepared a bit better. And a few days ago. And I still need to go poke council in hope of getting Housing and Council Tax benefit sorted too. And...yeah. Not being so organised right now.

Rest of the day went by in a blur of reading, interneting and pausing to eat and wash up. Didn't really pay attention to University Challenge, and missed the beginning of Only Connect due to suddenly realising I hadn't said goodnight to my son (who then wanted a glass of water, etc etc). Am now intending to watch the final episode of Once Upon A Time - have enjoyed the series much more than I thought I would from initial reviews, and despite some obvious plotting and erratic characterisation ("I'll do this! Because this! And suddenly change my mind because the plot demands it!") it's been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to see how this wraps up (or doesn't). Maybe tomorrow I'll get round to doing a proper review. That, or tell you about my laundry again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Proverbial Getting--This-Down-From-The-Shelf-And-Blowing-All-The-Dust-Off Post

*cough* *cough*

Blimey that really is a lot of accumulated crud. Might have to take a wet cloth to this at some point. So, I wonder if this still works...yes, I think that's the light coming on.....

Hello, again.

It's been...blimey, quite a long time actually. Usual reasons - life, depression, lack of things to say. So what have I been up to in the meantime? Well, against all expectation and the trend of the current economy I got a job. It was only temporary, but it was work - and work I could do and enjoyed doing to boot. I know, lucky so-and-so. The people were great, my manager was great, it was a nice enough building and not too bad a journey there. Contract got extended a couple of times, which was fantastic from a money and actually still having a job point of view, but did kind of screw up our plans for the summer. Sorry Granddad and P, sorry everyone in Dublin that we'd said we'd come visit. Maybe next year.

J finished and submitted her thesis, not that there was much doubt she wouldn't, and now just has the stress of having to figure out when they can actually hold her viva. The boy has had a summer holiday that hasn't consisted entirely of computer games - the rain hasn't helped with getting him doing other things though. He's fully got used to having two mums now, and doesn't even seem phased by explaining that to other children. We went to the Gathering, and despite the depression rearing it's head again I still ended up enjoying the last couple of days (so. much. angst.) and am actually looking forward to next year instead of wondering whether I ought to bother. The boy is well and truly old enough to be trusted to just go and play with other kids while we're there, and I'm beginning to feel less guilty about letting him do so.

So with just a few more days until school starts again, this seemed like a good time to start blogging again. Reading Just A Geek has probably influenced that a bit too. I'm currently trying to restart my own career, realising I do need to do something else and to stop seeing myself as a failed mathematician, struggling with lack-of-work related depression, worrying about how I'm going to support my family....yeah, I can sympathise a lot with Wheaton's experiences there and have a great deal of admiration for the way he handled it at the time, and his honesty in writing about it. I know I'm not going to become the new Wil Wheaton (apart from anything else, I'd look rubbish with a beard), but maybe blogging again will at least give me a focus and something to do every day (more or less).

The other New Term's Resolution I've made (well, one of them, the last being Wii Fit again) is to actually learn more computery stuff, and I've already made a start by brushing up and learning more mySQL. Being an utter geek, I've made a database to catalogue books, starting with comics. Need to populate it some more and then maybe try some simple php forms to add and extract info. It seems a not-too-stupid way to practise and expand on the very simple tutorial I worked through a while back. Skills I will probably never need, but it keeps me occupied and may, you never know, lead on to other things.

If I manage to keep it up. A look back through the archive of this blog is all the evidence that is needed that I'm not very good at sticking with things. Good intentions, and all that. Still, I seem to heading that way anyway, so once again I say: I can but try.