Normal for Portsmouth

Officially, I am supposed to visit the jobcentre every week, spending ten minutes with my "Jobsearch Advisor" (aka Dole Officer). This is a legal requirement for me to receive GPB57 per week.

In practice, appointments are set for every two weeks because there just aren't enough hours in the day to process every "jobseeker" every week. And meetings last more like three minutes.

Two months ago, a load of civil servants were made redundant nationwide, and in particular a full half of the staff in my local jobcentre were made, er, jobless. The official visit duration was cut from ten minutes to six, so the actual duration shrinks correspondingly.

Today's visit was to discuss the two week course they sent me on recently. In fact it was to tell me I have to go on another course, this one lasting thirteen weeks.

It's voluntary. I don't have to go. I am perfectly within my rights to say no. In the same way I'm within my rights to tell them I don't want their money so could they please stop paying me. With the same effect, in fact.

So, in four weeks (barring another administrative cockup), I move from "actively seeking work" to "intensively seeking work" with a company who, at some point in the three month run, will try to find me a work placement in a firm not more than ninety minutes train travel away,

That's a "work placement" not a "job placement". I don't get paid - instead I get "valuable experience", "reintegration into the working environment" and "a useful source of references". The firm presumably get someone who doesn't want to be there and does exactly as much work as his wages merit.

I've actually been on such a placement once before, at a crappy art gallery. They wanted me to set up an extensive website for them, catalogue twenty years worth of exhibitions, digitise their video collection, and repair their computers.

After three weeks I was asked to leave because I had an attitude problem - I'd told them their expensive video digitisation system would never function, and they'd paid three times the going rate for a room of obsolete computers that couldn't do what they wanted. Actually I was being diplomatic.

I later learned that most employees lasted about a month there - though I had one friend who walked out in disgust after five minutes. As I should have done.

That was 2001, and they've only just got a small website up.

Walking home through the shopping precinct, a middle aged woman asked me if I could spare money for a cup of tea - in exchange for a small purple flower. I gave her a coin and said she could give the flower to someone else...but she insisted on reading my palm.

She didn't actually read my palm - she put a stone on it and told me the lines said I was unhappy. The poor woman was obviously trying to do a cold reading and wasn't any good at it. So I helped her out, saying I was a journalist with girlfriend trouble. She told me I needed to learn to be happy with myself.

I had been wondering whether the whole routine was to distract me while a confederate picked my coat pockets. But no, there were no little movements to indicate a subtle hand. And in any case, any thief who wanted the used tissue paper in my left pocket or the fig biscuit in my right was welcome to them.

On the road just outside my house, a rather nice looking young man suddenly stopped his bicycle and swore loudly. "A cap from my tooth just fell out", he explained. He searched around on the road, found the cap...and put it back in his mouth.

Back home a letter was waiting for me. The gist was, "You emailed us your CV but you didn't get the job. However if you want to be on our non-paper database, please send us your paper CV".

We have a saying around here. "NFP" - Normal For Portsmouth. It means "slightly insane".


  1. The crappy art gallery has an equally crappy website. I'm glad you had nowt to do with it.

  2. I wish my gov't was more active in helping the unemployed. The unemployment system in the US is just plain crap. There are people, like me, who should be able to use it but are ineligible. Then there are people who are on the system and live off it.

    I got sacked on trumped up charges. The owner of the store--who never works with me--said that I had a bad attitude. But because I actually told the unemployment agency of why he fired me, I became ineligible. Apparently, I was fired for good reason. Any employer can come up with that!

    On the other hand, one of our judges just forcibly took off the dole this lady who was living on welfare. "Why aren't you working," the judge asked. The lady actually had the nerve to say, "Because I've got kids to raise." Well plenty of parents have kids and hold down a job!

    Argh! I'm actually looking for a job and I get no assistance. She keeps popping out kids and her check payments increase.

  3. I stopped reading at «repairing their computers.»...
    I have a bad stomach now. It really aches.

    First: what would you do in the UK with c. 342 € a month if you happened not to have a family?

    Second: the century proletarians have degrees (here too, as a matter of fact...)

    Third: if they happen to be unemployed they can easily turn into slaves, working «pro bono» for greedy enterprises...

    What the hell happened to socialism?
    One of these days I'll rather go back to 1917! At least, in those days people had DREAMS!!! Now they've got absolutely nothing and all they can do is think about MORE money.

    Have a nice weekend if you can, dear Captain! :-)