Sublime to Ridiculous

Back, grimy and exhausted from London. Very informative and uplifting conference, but ultimately too much. I tried to make some notes, but didn't have the time or energy to write much in the notebook - and then lost the notebook anyway. I'll see what I can tell from memory later, after a long shower and longer rest.

While I've been away, the civil service has seemingly slid further into the black pool of incompetence that's not just garden variety blithering idiocy, but 100% proof Kafka.

Two thursdays ago (29/06/2006) I filled out an innocuous form at the jobcentre to the effect that I'd done 3 days voluntary work, and furthermore, seeing as it was voluntary and therefore unpaid, my total pay amounted to zero pounds and zero new english pence.

On the day I leave for London (06/07/2006), I get an A15C form to fill out. These were the relevant sections:

Front: "You have a part time job or are doing voluntary work"

Question 1: "Do you have a Job?" Answer: "No". Go to Question 2.

Question 2: "If you do not have a job, what was your last job?" Answer: "Technician". Go to Question 18.

Question 18: "Have we asked you to answer the questions in Part B about your partner?" Answer: "No". Go to part C.

Part C: Your Signature.

Signed, dated, and sent off to whichever tedious penpusher sent me the pointless form in the first place. Now I get the form back, and a note, saying:

You provided a declaration of work/earnings, stating that you did some work at the Door One Theatre on 29/06/07

Incorrect. I stated that I had done three days voluntary work for the Door One theatre company, starting on 29/06/07, at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney. There is to my knowledge no Door One Theatre

We sent you form A15C...which you returned stating you didn't work.

Incorrect. I ticked a box stating that I was not in paid employment. The form did not ask about "work" - it asked whether I had an employer to who I sold access to my skills for a specified period. That is, whether I had a job.

Can you either:-

* Complete the form fully, if you intend to still work for the Door One Theatre.

Ah, I see the point where you have become confused - sometimes you correctly distinguish between doing work and having a job, and sometimes you don't. Please clarify what you mean by "work" (paid or, in this case, unpaid) as opposed to "job" (paid by definition).

If you mean any human labour at all, that includes all human activity except possibly sleeping. If you mean performing tasks on a voluntary basis that might otherwise have been done by waged labour, I will have to register with you as "Prostitute" the next time I have sex. If you mean paid employment, I haven't done any, and this makes the third time I've told you that. If you don't know what the hell you mean, please fall under a train so someone who knows what they're doing can take over.

* Provide a statement confirming that you only worked one day and do not intend to work there again.

I never said I worked one day, I said I worked three. I was never asked whether or not I intended to work there again.

Yours Sincerely

Yours Faithfully. If you're going to misunderstand your own nomenclature, at least try getting the form right.

There's a saying about being nibbled to death by ducks.

In any case, I have no plans to do further work with Door One, for the same reason almost all the actors don't - the director is the equal and opposite of these civil servants. They are sticklers for irrelevant details which they then get wrong. He doesn't do details at all, and consequently gets the whole thing wrong.

UPDATE: Regional head office were a little difficult to get in touch with, partly because both telephone numbers they rubber stamped on their forms were wrong, and partly because they don't answer the phone much anyway.

Eventually I got to talk to a helpful lady who, after much digging and consultation with colleagues, found that (surprise surprise) some of my documentation had gone astray. Which does seem to happen quite a lot.

The upshot it, I can completely ignore the A15C and the nasty covering letter, provided I do all the paperwork I did two weeks ago again. This also seems to happen quite a lot.

CW sympathises, because his bank also messed up recently. It looks like I won't get to see him for another two weeks, because just as my busy fortnight away ends, his begins - huh, typical. Some people have long distance relationships because they live 100 miles apart - we have one because our homes are 2 miles apart, but we're never there at the same time.


  1. Welcome back!

    I'm going back to bed. Reading about swivel servants has exhausted me. It's no different here in Canada. Or probably in any government office anywhere in the world for that matter, eh?

  2. Some cilly servants are bright enough (or have been in the service long enough) to realise how pointless and fraudulent most of their work is. In fact, I think most of them have some level of awareness - it's just usually quite low.

    But there's also the minority who genuinely believe humanity couldn't function without colourcoded forms, countersigning and endless work duplication.

    These are the ones with rulebooks instead of brains, who regard the real world they administrate as an inconvenience, getting in the way of their world of paper.

    I believe in doing things thoroughly and well, simply because there are practical benefits. The believe in procedure, simply because it's sacred.

  3. PS. Sweet dreams. I think I'll join you.

    Um. So to speak.