Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Up the junction

My unemployment rages on. The problem with not having a job is that you're exposed to far fewer humans than everybody else. Some may say this is ideal, as in many workplaces colleagues are dreadful bores who are forced upon you, much like lecherous relatives or rude checkout assistants. I am, however, starting to miss interaction that doesn't involved friends I've know for years and my other half. I miss the whimsy and dreaded 'watercooler' moments that you just don't get if you're not trooping into a workplace every day.

The highlight of my unemployment has undoubtedly been attempting to get state benefits. I have signed on twice before: once when I was 'on hiatus' from college and then again just after I graduated. I was on the dole for precisely one week, both times. I don't remember it being nearly as difficult or stressful as it was this time, but perhaps the mists of time have clouded my judgement. I was quite surprised, despite having worked solidly for the last 10 years, to be refused Jobseekers' Allowance. Apparently, there was mix up and they thought I hadn't made enough National Insurance contributions. It's taken two soul-destroying trips to the JobCentre with my P60 (they lost it the first time) to prove I had paid enough. The money, such as it is, is now starting to dribble through.

The most awful bit is signing on itself. The whole process is designed to upset and annoy. You have a fixed time you must go but, without exception, you'll be kept waiting a good 45 minutes. The heat and desperation go hand in hand and every time I'm in there, someone is shouting at a member of staff. Nobody says 'hello' to you: you are just told to sit down. Nobody even looks at you. It's strange. I can't understand why anyone would behave like that, but most of the people who work there do.

The scariest thing is that potential jobs are becoming scarcer. I see around 3 a week that I may just be suitable for. I always used to get an interview when I applied for jobs. Recently it's been a hit rate of 1 in 10. I shine and dazzle in interviews and the potential employers nearly always love me, but the gig goes to someone else at the last minute. Such is life.

I'll stop now before this turns into an employment-related version of those misery novels about harsh upbringings in Ireland. Perhaps I should write one myself called 'Please Recession, Don't Hurt Me' or similar.