Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Being me

Being unemployed is a very easy word to say but hard situation to be in. It’s a state of living that no one wants to be in but a lot of people are.

I’ve been unemployed for about a year and a half. I have been looking for jobs everywhere but there are none to be seen. Well, I am a student so it doesn’t really matter. On the plus side I do get the odd £30 a week from Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which this government is trying to get rid of.

But if you look at the surrounding parts of my life, not having a job is just the beginning of my desperate need of help. My mum is currently raising six children in a three-and-a-half bedroom house, and when I say three-and-a-half I mean the fourth bedroom is not even big enough to fit a single bed. On top of that she also attends college three days a week from 9am till 2pm, so a job is out of the question.

My step dad is 60 and retired, but wants to work again so in the near future he can start his own business; however the irony is that when my mum’s gone to college he has to baby-sit.

My aunty works Monday till Friday as a dinner lady but she doesn’t make nearly enough to help her with bills and to look after her 7 year old son.

I’ve got a set budget that I spend every week. As follows:
EMA payday- remember, EMA does not always come at a set date and it is not 100% that I will get it every week.
· Bus pass - £6.50
· Contribute to electric meter - £7
· Credit on my phone - £5
· Money that I save - £5
· Toiletries (deodorant and soap) - £3
· Cigarettes - £3

PROFIT-50p, LOSS-£29.50

So do you still think being unemployed is easy to say when you only live on 50p? Somehow I am still living. Sometimes I think of dealing on the other hand of the law but I don’t think I would be good role model to the younger generation in my family.

Being me is a way of life. Being me is being broke and angry. Being me is having to walk from Walthamstow to Clapton when you don’t have enough money on your Oyster (transport for London bus passes). BEING ME IS BEING UNEMPLOYED.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bah, Humbug!

Christmas is undoubtedly the time of year when it is easiest to feel inadequate and shittiest about yourself if you are unemployed.

Bear in mind I'm not a parent so it's not even a question of letting down sad-eyed children on the big day.

I'm a bit of an atheist so the religious aspect of the day kind of passes me by.

My big sister has got loads of children, some of whom are grown-up with children of their own. Her old man is a trained chef (although he no longer works as one). So, as I'm sure you can imagine, they have all the right ingredients for a proper Christmas.

Absolute pandemonium Christmas Day morning; children of all ages running to-and-fro, making all manner of noise. A big Christmas lunch. Lots of TV. Enough children around all day long to ensure lots of bickering and falling out. The whole nine yards. An ideal Christmas Day.

I know this because I've been up to visit for Christmas in the past. It's guaranteed chaos but it is also guaranteed to be a good time.

But I won't be going this year. It costs nigh-on sixty quid to travel up there, and that's using National Express, to travel out of London. This is without buying any presents. I'm a great uncle six times over, so that's six little kiddies who wouldn't understand. So I'll keep away, feeling inadequate.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Moving on up

I’m at the job centre. My adviser tells me that I'm going to be put on a 13-week programme. “This programme aims to prepare you for employment and help you find work.” Since when did I become a mind reader? I knew my adviser would say those specific words. I've been told that ever since I have been claiming jobseekers allowance but there hasn’t been any progress.

Starting the 13-week program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My first thought was this would be a waste of my time. It was going to be like the jobcentre. Walking into a room full of people with gloomy faces and downbeat attitudes, I thought this was a depressing atmosphere. I just felt like I wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere but here.

After the first four or five weeks on the programme I met the placement officer. I was told that after being on the programme for a while I would be sent on work experience. The placement officer was really nice and supportive. When I said I wanted to be a writer I wasn’t put down like I was at the job centre or told I wouldn’t make it.

The placement officer referred me to Poached Creative (a writing and design company for charities and the social sector). She told me that if I worked hard a lot of positives would come from this opportunity.

I joined as a trainee at Poached Creative. I was there two days a week. I actually got a taste of what it was like to be a writer in a working environment. It was so much better than sitting in a room full of computers and job searching all day, which I had to do for the three other days of the week.

I feIt I was, for once, moving forward in my life. Learning new things about the creative industry, picking up new skills. This was a whole new experience for me. The people at Poached Creative were very positive and supportive. I felt that this would be a chance to really show what I have to offer.

It was getting frustrating, sending out dozens of CVs to employers. Not hearing anything back. Here I was actually learning new things and getting a taste of the real working environment.

Coming to the end of my six-week training programme, I got offered a job at Poached Creative as a junior writer. At first it took me a while to get my head around it. I didn’t expect to get a job out of it.

After a couple of days I got back to them. This would be my first ever job; I’d be doing what I wanted for a long time. I was excited. I eventually got back to Poached Creative and took the job. For me a job offer like this doesn’t come every day. I’d be crazy to turn this offer down and I would regret this later.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I have got false teeth - only three at the front, a result of an accident on a pushbike. Night-time I put them to soak in water, in a little yoghurt pot on the side. This is on the dentist's advice to stop them from becoming brittle. The other morning I went to take them out of the pot only to find a cockroach floating in the pot right next to my false teeth, gross!

These things get everywhere. There was the time I was at college and I saw this big, shiny, brown, cockroach scurry across the carpet. I pointed this out and one of my fellow students shrieked. It was only on the lunchbreak that I realised I'd probably brought the thing along in my bag.

I have lived in London very nearly 26 years and in that time have had 11 addresses. That doesn't sound too bad, except on closer reflection four of those addresses lasted 22 years which means seven of those addresses lasted four years.

As I'm sure you can imagine these have varied hugely in quality. Of those 11 addresses, there's only been two premises that have had cockroaches. I think we all know that they say that cockroaches would survive a nuclear war.

Where I live now and have been for five years, is infested with cockroaches and I can hardly blame the landlord. Regular as clockwork, the bloke from the pest control people comes round and sprays some chemical gunk under the sink in my room and he visits every single room in the entire building.

The thing I wanted to mention is we get used to what life serves us up, we become inured, we become immune. This isn't right. But it is what you become accustomed to, so even though I now know more than I want to know about the life of a cockroach: I have seen them mate, I know how big their eggs are, I know the places in my room where they like to congregate, I even know that on occasion they will bite humans, I just shrug and put up with it.

People don't choose to live second class lives, but they come to understand sometimes they have no other option.