Friday, November 30, 2007

Fantastic Day

Today was absolutely astonishingly good.

First, I phoned AtW back with the quotes from the taxi companies, which were all the same. AtW Person said that was great, and I could arrange my transport with whichever one of those I wanted, she would send the paperwork for their side of it today and it should be with me on Monday.

Secondly, the post arrived with the application form from Community Transport. I am accepted, I just need to register my details and pay a £5 registration fee. Obviously with AtW sorted, I don't need them for getting to and from work any more - but it will be nice to have them available for shopping, doctors appointments, knitting group and so on - particularly once Steve's back at work.

Thirdly, today my mum recieved the mitts I knitted for her, and she sent me an email telling me how much she loves them and how they look and feel gorgeous.

Fourthly, I had to go to the bank in town to pay in my first paycheque, so Steve and I decided to allow plenty of time and then go to Victoria's for a pre-work lunch of tea and scones. Mmmmmm.

And fifthly, just after 5pm when we'd finished dealing with the post, The Boss and co-workers started drifting into the Dispatch Room, where I was sat doing those sort of wind-down/finish-up type joblets that you do towards the end of a shift on a Friday, and chatting. This isn't really unusual. The conversation drifted towards "you know, with you starting at this time of year as we get the Christmas rush happening, we haven't really had much chance to properly welcome you or congratulate you on getting the job..."

It drifted on, to "usually we'd have been out for a drink by now, but with everyone being so busy... and from what you've said, going to a pub straight after work wouldn't really do you any good at all."

Specific Co-worker chipped in "plus, of course, you've now told us you don't drink, so it'd probably be a bit of a wasted effort."

I was nodding and agreeing because they were indeed absolutely right, and I did rather appreciate being told all this, them making the effort to ensure that I knew I wasn't being intentionally ignored or taken for granted or anything, not to mention them having taken on board that it wouldn't be nice to haul me out to a noisy, uncomfortable pub when after four hours' work all I'm fit for is drinking a very quiet cup of tea and gently stretching while whimpering for painkillers. It's more consideration than I would get from a lot of people.

Suddenly a pretty bunch of flowers was held out to me. And a box of chocolates. And everyone around me saying "you've picked up the job so quickly... you've come right in and got on with it... you're fitting in just fine... we really like having you here..."

WIBBLE! I didn't cry but I did well up and kind of squeeee a bit. And I still haven't wiped the grin off my face.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Access to Work approval

Phone call from AtW. I have been approved for help with transport costs.

The deal is this:

If I was able-bodied, then it would be reasonable to expect me to pay my own petrol or bus fare to get to and from work each day.
So the figure of 25p per mile has been set as the amount that it is reasonable to expect me to pay. This will work out as about £1.50 - £2 each day.
The extra costs above this - the ones incurred due to my disability, as I cannot drive or get the bus as an able-bodied person would - will be met by AtW. So if a taxi charges £2 per mile, then I will pay 25p per mile and AtW will pay the extra £1.75 per mile.

I must pay the taxi each time and I must get a receipt for the amount I pay them, stating the date, where I went to, and where I went from.
I can then submit these receipts, along with a claim form signed by my boss to say that I was at work those days, to AtW on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.
They will then pay their share into my bank account within 7-10 days of recieving the claim form.

So basically I need to get a signature off The Boss every couple of weeks to say that I *did* go to work rather than go shopping.

I need to get quotes from three taxi firms for my transport costs.

Got to go to work now, I may edit this post if I get home and it doesn't make sense.

Monday, November 26, 2007

more Access to Work

As expected, a letter today from Access to Work.

"I am writing to inform you that your application is eligible for consideration and we will be looking at the assistance you need in more detail."

In other words, I have successfully applied for the right to apply... meanwhile I'm embarking on my THIRD week of work without the assistance I require.

I have to go through the form, which is part-filled with my answers from the phone call last week, and complete/amend, sign, and send back to them.

Oh, and I have to make my boss's day by giving him a truckload of paperwork too, and apparently they're going to phone him up to 'discuss' all sorts of things, including my "detailed client needs" because obviously there's nothing he or I would rather do than discuss my medical history when my condition IN the workplace is already taken care of, I only need help getting there and back.

You know, this is really going to ingratiate me as a new employee, at the busy time of year.

EDIT 18:20pm
I decided to put plenty of "Not Applicable" on the forms, with my boss as my boss and with myself as the "employer contact who will have responsibility for ordering support". My boss was fab about it. Conversation pretty much went as follows.
ME: Boss, can I have a word with you at some point?
BOSS: Is it good news or bad news?
ME: It's more of a ten-minute warning in case you get a strange phone call from the disability people.
BOSS: Right... What will they want?
ME: Hopefully just to confirm that I work here, but if we get someone keen, they might start wanting to discuss 'solutions'. Which I don't need, I only need help with the transport. But because AtW is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, they have to approach it as if I needed all sorts of stuff inside the workplace. So they might need you to confirm that things are all okay apart from the transport.
BOSS: Yes, I remember you said about the transport, is that still not sorted then?
ME: *face* I'm working on it. Anyway, I also have to give you this (brandishes sheet "Information for Employers") which is largely irrelevant in my case as none of the help I need is within the workplace. But I have to have given it to you and I have to give them your details as my manager.
BOSS: So I don't have to do anything with this?
ME: No. I know. I'm sorry. It really is just in case they call you.
BOSS: Right. You are okay though? If you need anything, you'll just come and say?
ME: Absolutely.
BOSS: Fine.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Still working

It's been more than a week now since I started work. It's going well. I am getting very sore and tired, true, but the work gets easier to do as I get more used to it. I've learned the job pretty well and am hardly getting brainflustered at all any more. Co-workers continue to be lovely, and I'm now 'officially' an employee rather than the casual see-how-it-goes thing we started out with.

Things at home are settling out nicely as well. The Roomba (or 'Bloop' as he is coming to be affectionately known) is doing well - not only does he clean the carpets, but I think he also makes us a bit more inclined to keep the place tidy, as roombas aren't really compatible with floors full of trailing wires, shoelaces, knitting, paperwork and whatnot. The shopping delivery from Sainsburys the other day was great, everything well in-date and only a couple of substitutions which I was perfectly happy with (eg "we didn't have the pack of two pain au chocolat that you ordered. So we're substituting a pack of four," OH NOES). Steve has been making more of an effort to do stuff around the house, especially the washing up, which has been an enormous help. Of course when he goes back to work, I'm going to have to pick up a bit more of that, but I'm not panicked about it. The only bit that worries me is the kicking him out of bed in the mornings, which is not a task for the easily discouraged. Steve is reading this, but I honestly think he would have to be among the first to admit that first thing in the morning he Does Not Want To Know about the world outside the duvet.

Knitting is seriously slowed at the moment. I did manage to go to knitting group on Tuesday for about an hour after work, but found myself regretting it a bit. I think it might be better to do what Steve suggested - finish work at 5.30, come home, have a nap, and then go out again to knitting at maybe 7.30 if I'm up to it. I turned down this suggestion last week on the basis that it seemed a bit silly for Steve to have to drive into town and back three times in an evening (1 pick up from work, 2 drop off at knitting, 3 pick up from knitting) but it might be the only realistic way to do it.

As you will have noticed, we're still talking about Steve taking me to and from work. On Friday (the 16th) we went to the council offices and got my ID and Blue Badge and whatnot photocopied, and the plan then was that the council would refer me to Community Transport, and then Community Transport would send me a form to apply to them, and once they had that form back, we could see about transport. However, I haven't had the form yet.

Today, I got through to Access to Work on the phone. Someone answered, took my name and number and a brief run-down of what I wanted, and said he'd arrange for an advisor to call me back.

A few minutes later, Yay, points for speedy actualisation of promises, T, the advisor called me back to tell me that he was going to go through a form with me and it would take 15 or 20 minutes. OK, so far so good, it was mostly stuff like name, address, NINo, do you claim this, do you claim that, what help do you want... great.

An interesting question was "do you claim Incapacity Benefit?" to which my answer, which should have been yes or no, was "not since I've started the job. However, when I first tried to call you, between getting offered the job and starting, then yes, I did get Incapacity Benefit. But your phones were down." Surprisingly enough there wasn't a box for that. T couldn't backdate my AtW claim, so he had to put "no" because at the time of our conversation, I was no longer on benefit. But he did ask what number I had been trying, and apparently "that number" was down for about six weeks. Which implies that they have a second number, which the DEA didn't give me, with which I might have got hold of them sooner. Do we think I should make a complaint about this DEA yet?

Fifteen minutes later, the questions were all answered, so now what? Well, T will post the form to me today. If it isn't with me by Monday, I should call them back. When I get the form, I must check it, sign it, date it, and send it back to them. Once they have the signed form back, then another advisor, a notch up from T, will look at the form and phone me to discuss things in more detail.

In the mean time, the DWP and the council and everyone else official are happy for me to be attempting to get by on £20 a week because of the cost of transport to and from work soaking up most of my earnings - it really is just exceptional luck for me that I have someone who can give me financial support and transport for the short-term immediate future. Dear Peter Hain, THIS is why disabled people who are technically capable of doing some jobs get stuck on Incapacity Benefit...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Transport to work.

Fun and games trying to arrange transport to and from work.

I can't drive, due to the effects of my condition. It would be unsafe for me and everyone on the roads and pavements anywhere I was driving.

I can't walk any significant distance. Particularly, I can't walk to useful places like my workplace in the town centre...

...or the nearest bus stop even, so I can't use the buses either. Public transport is cut off for me.

I can use a mobility scooter. What I can't do is safely use a mobility scooter in the dark/cold/wet for the 45 minutes it would take to trundle from work to home after having done four hours work.

I can use taxis. Taxi fare from this house to the town centre is about £7. Taxi fare to and from would therefore be about £14. I am on minimum wage. My four-hour day earns me £20-odd quid a day, after tax and NI that will be more like £18 or £19 a day - call it £95 a week. I am prepared to make the effort to do this working thing, but I'm not prepared to throw away 75% of my earnings just on getting there and back, working myself into agonising pain and utter exhaustion for a profit of £20 a week - and neither would you. Especially when the government will give you £80-odd a week to NOT work.

The DEA told me Access To Work would pay for my transport. But I cannot get hold of them.

I *have* got hold of the local community transport people at the council. At last.

Because I have a Blue Badge, I can use community transport, and because I can't use the buses, I can get something-or-other Tokens instead of a bus-pass.

This is where we discover that community transport isn't set up for the idea of disabled people WORKING at all. Apparently all these Tokens mean is that I get 20 trips at a cheap rate of 55p a mile.

ME: Twenty trips?
Council Lady: Yes, and then it's £1.05 a mile.
ME: So given that I work five days a week, that's two weeks transport?
CL: Yes, that's right.
ME: Wow.

Still, it's 3 miles to work, so that's £3.15 per trip, or £6.30 per day, which is still half the taxi rate and leaves me with about £12 or £13 per day profit, or £65 a week. So I'll still be worse off than I was on benefit, but not *quite* so drastically. Okay, Council Lady. How do I get on this scheme?

I have to:
- Go into the council offices that are hidden round the back of wherever.
- Wait about while they photocopy my blue badge and a couple of utility bills.
- Go away hoping desperately that they will be competent.

Then Council Lady will start a referral to the transport scheme, confirming that I am resident in the area and that I am mobility-impaired and therefore need community transport.

Then Community Transport will send me a form, which I have to fill in and send back to them, and THEN I might be able to actually arrange some damn transport. God knows how long this will take. If it wasn't for Steve still being on his study break I would be screwed. If I lived alone, couldn't wangle an occasional lift, needed to really turn a liveable-on profit... this is probably the point at which I would have given up and decided to live on benefit ad infinitum.

Your (and my) tax dollars at work, people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

First Day - short version

There may or may not be a longer version at some point but right now, I'm too shattered to do a proper post.

Major cock-ups - zero
Minor cock-ups - a couple of "doh" moments but I don't think I *really* embarassed myself.
Pain levels - high
Bewilderment - 68%
Tiredness - exhausted
Co-workers - lovely
Specific co-worker who I will be working with all the time - very lovely, could not have imagined better. He's looking out for me without fussing, he's being patient without being patronising, and just seems like a really friendly guy.
Transport - still not sorted
Clothing - hurrah, I can wear flat shoes and comfy clothes

All in all, I'm a bit dead, but not nearly as dead as I feared I might be. I'm going back tomorrow, when I suspect some things will be easier, but some things will be harder going as I pick up speed.

Popped in at knitting to say hello and let my friends there know how it went, but I didn't have it in me to hang about and knit. Which is a shame, but never mind. Maybe once I'm more used to the nature of the work, I'll be able to go and knit as well.

Dinner and an early night I think, and a long soak in the bath tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

One hassle after another

The world and his dog is conspiring against me and my hopes for a smooth transition from benefit sponge to Usefully Employed Member Of Society.

You've already heard about the woe of the Interview Trousers, and how by the time they are the right length for me, I will already have been working for two days.

Steve isn't feeling well, so I'm worrying about him on top of everything else.

I'm less than optimistic about my ability to do effective grocery shopping in my first week of work, and have similar reservations about my ability to cook. So, I wanted to get a decent amount of shopping dealt with and out of the way, including a load of easy meals in that if necessary Steve can cook (if it was up to Steve he would live off chilli, pot noodle and biscuits, which on the one hand he enjoys, but on the other hand is not a balanced diet or one that I want to live on). Couldn't go shopping on Friday because Steve wasn't feeling well. Which meant dealing with a Saturday Supermarket Shop.

It would not be outrageous of me to suggest that most people find supermarkets on a Saturday at least a little bit stressful. Imagine, then, that you walk into the supermarket clutching your trolley and realise that the shelves are looking a bit... sparse. In some cases, one might even go so far as to say, "empty".

It seems that the local Sainsburys depot has unexpectedly closed, and that therefore the usual stock replenishment has not been able to take place. So there was precious little food to be had, particularly the fresh stuff. What there was, was hovering on the sell-by date, and not even priced down because it was that or nothing.

It wasn't quite a case of fighting scrums of desperate shoppers for the last pack of bacon, but there was a definite air of frazzlement as people tried to re-plan their week's meals, hunted for alternatives, put the goods they had gathered back on the shelves so that they could go try tescos instead... I confess to feeling a little burst of joy as I picked up the last steak pie, in contrast with the realisation that ALL the pre-prepared potato products were gone and that I would have to do my potatoes the old-fashioned, time and energy-consuming way, starting with peeling the damn things.

Still, got a £5 voucher by way of "sorry we didn't have everything you wanted".

And finally... the Muppet Show that is Jobcentre Plus. Ever since I found out I have a job on Friday, I have been trying to sort things out with them.

First, I contacted the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) to tell her that I had a job. Her response was:
1) To give me the phone number for Access to Work - along with a warning that AtW's phone lines were down and that I would get a "this number doesn't exist" type message but that it definitely was the right number.
2) To give me an 0845 number for the Incapacity Benefit section so that I could call them and let them know about my job. When I told her that I only have a mobile phone and that as such, 0845 numbers are very expensive for me to call (they're only local rate from regular landlines), her response was "well, that's their number, you'll just have to phone them."
3) To make unsolicited excuses about Remploy and how busy they are and how that is why I got a job before they got back to me, then telling me that I should get in touch with them, and to give me their phone number as well. My experience in the field tells me that this is less for MY benefit and more for THEIR Key Performance Indicators. I suspect reporting a positive number of disabled people getting jobs is central to certain bits of funding for them.

By this point I was wondering if I'd called a DEA or if I'd got confused and dialled some sort of spontaneously number-spewing Directory Enquiries. I have no interest in spending my time and money on phone-chases in order to make other people who I've never met look good on their KPIs.

Which is probably why I came out with something along the lines of "I'm quite impressed that I managed to get myself a suitable job so quickly. It's reassuring to know that I've still got the skills to negotiate disability issues with an employer properly."

To which she responded with something along the lines of "You're nowhere near as disabled as my other clients. It was hardly difficult for you to get a job."

If it had been "you have a better set of skills and experience", or "you're a very motivated person" or even "you have a lot more confidence" I wouldn't have minded so much, but this woman knows absolute jack about 'how disabled' I may or may not be, apart from that I have a diagnosis of ME/CFS and an IB award until 2010 - which you don't exactly get for no reason. That's leaving aside the whole discussion about how disability isn't on a sliding scale anyway. Gaa.

The woman on the other end of the IB helpline told me that I would have to write a letter with the details of my job and send it to them. Well, eventually she said that. First, she said that my details were still being held by the Bury office and that she would have to pull them across to Cannock. I wouldn't mind if I hadn't already asked for that to happen no less than four times in the last two months and each time been told "yep, no problem".

Access to Work's phone lines are indeed down and were still down on Saturday. It's a good thing I told my new boss I needed Monday to deal with the benefits people. It's also a good thing that Steve isn't at work again yet and can give me lifts to and from work. Hopefully I will be able to get hold of them on Monday, and then make a doctor's appointment if necessary and prepare for whatever other hoops they tell me to jump through.

The actual job is rather secondary in all this faff and stress.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Job Offer

Got the phone call at lunchtime today, and I have been offered the job.

Amazing. One application, one interview, one job offer. I had been under the impression it wasn't meant to work like that.

The manager asked if I could start Monday but I've said Tuesday because I need to go to the Jobcentre and get all that stuff sorted out.

It's sort of casual to begin with - so if I end up after a week or even an afternoon of it going "owww, eeek, I cannot do this after all" then I can just leave, no harm, no foul, which is good, but does add a little to the nervousness.

I am very excited and nervous. I also have this panic on about how I must get all the housework done in the next two days because once I'm working I won't have the energy any more.

A little bit of help in that direction though - the Roomba is now up and running and as I type, is cleaning the bathroom and landing. Well, the carpets, anyway. It seems to be having fun. I still think it's cute. It is still trying to attack Steve periodically. The cliff-sensor works, so it's not falling down the stairs, but there is one of the bedroom doors that doesn't shut as securely as the others and the Roomba keeps trying to nudge it open.

It seems to put Steve in mind of the Luggage from Discworld - pottering about with homicidal tendencies.

Oh, and from what I hear, my friends and relatives in Lowestoft are all okay. Which is good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Very quick post

Interview went ok. I don't think I embarassed myself or cocked it up in any especially spectacular way. I'm fairly sure I could do the job - my guess about what's involved was pretty accurate, apparently it's already been being done by someone else for quite some time but now they have a bit more than he can manage on his own.

There were two interviewers - Chris, a fairly young bloke who is the manager, and Maurice, an older bloke who is the owner. They seemed a bit uncertain about how my health would affect my ability to do the job... I was honest about stuff like not being able to go up and down the stairs all day and not being able to spend all day on my feet. They asked about my health in a conversational kind of way ("are you alright with the stairs there?" followed by "so were you in an accident or something?") and I told them in nice, simple, nonspecific terms that a couple of years ago I got loads of viral infections which kind of overloaded my immune system and led to long-term illness to the point where I had to leave work, but that now I am recovered enough to look at part-time work again. I pointed out that I'm getting good at finding ways of doing things and working around the restrictions imposed on me by my illness, and also that I wouldn't say "yes, I can do this/that/the other" if I can't, because I have no interest in making myself more ill again.

They are interviewing two other people, one this afternoon and one tomorrow (Friday) morning. They will contact me on Friday, to say yes, no, or "we need to think about it over the weekend" but they've assured me they will let each of us know either way.

More importantly, the Roomba has arrived, and it is SO cute! It needs to charge for 16 hours, so all we've done with it so far is set up the docking station, pulled the battery tab, and told it to go find home. I pressed the button too long initially so it was about to start the demo and ran off to nibble Steve's shoelaces, but having read the manual I knew how to stop it.

It goes "bloop!" It is so full of cute! I love it!

Tomorrow, it will be charged, and I will play...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Just had a phone call from the manager at the music shop, offering me an interview tomorrow (Thursday) at 9.30am.

Even as my mouth replied in my best telephone manner that yes, that would be marvellous, thank you very much, my brain was whirling on the priorities, namely, that my lovely new Interview Suit Trousers which needed leg-shortening adjustments won't be available until November 15th. I am disturbed by how my brain works sometimes.

I still has jacket, but must bully Steve into taking me shopping for suitable trousers ASAP. It must be the very special sort of shopping that doesn't leave me too knackered for an interview first-thing tomorrow morning.

A little semi-secret... I have never successfully interviewed for a job for myself. All the jobs I've had, from teenage babysitting to telesales to my most recent job before I got sick (helping disabled people into work) were offered to me directly or were promotions/upgrades from what I was doing before.

In mitigation I have only done about three or four interviews in total for myself, but still.

I am trying to keep giving myself all the advice we used to give clients about interview prep and technique. This includes the difficult balance of positive thinking ("of course I will get this job. I am the person they want. All I have to do is Not Cock It Up," and so on) versus not getting so hung-up on it that it is a horribly crushing blow when rejection happens.

But before all that, I really must find some trousers.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I can has job plz?

Yesterday evening one of the local papers dropped through our letterbox and, as one does, I had a leaf through it. The usual small-town 'news' stories, a couple of advertorials, skip the property section, glance at the entertainment section, and there we are at the jobs pages.

I've been doing this for a while, but there hasn't really been anything suitable. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong papers. Some jobs are out because of distance (Access to Work will do a taxi to the town centre or the industrial estate, but not to Rugby or Coventry). Some jobs are out because they require a drivers' licence. A lot of jobs (double glazing doorstep canvassing, being a carer, delivering leaflets, etc) require a degree of mobility and physical strength/stamina that I simply do not possess.

Then the pickiness sets in. I don't want to "work from home and earn $$$$ in my spare time!!!", partly because considered as an hourly rate, home-working can be less than minimum wage; partly because it takes over your house; and partly because a major point of this exercise is to get me OUT of the house.

Telesales has been considered, and there was an ad for a telesales position in the paper doing 'research' for Barclays Bank (I suspect it may be researching the question 'do you want a loan or credit card? Let me help you with that...'). I've done telesales before, but from what I gather it's changed quite a lot, with automated systems ensuring you are constantly talking to customers, one after the other, bambambambambam, with no chance to take a deep breath after someone difficult, much less to turn away from your terminal and put your head between your knees for thirty seconds because of a killer headache. I could do telesales from home, or maybe in a small team of like six people in an old-fashioned set-up (like with actual phones and a printout wodge of numbers to dial), but I'd be stuffed within minutes of entering a big call-centre factory with dozens of people competing to be heard.

But, there was one other part time job, in the town centre, that didn't appear to require abilities or qualifications that I don't possess. The advert was maybe thirty words, including the "please send a CV and covering letter to...", so a lot of this is guesswork, but. The job is 'CD dispatcher working above a small independent music shop. Good computer skills essential. Mon-Fri 1.30pm - 5.30pm".

IF that means they want someone to drive/cycle/whatever around hand-delivering packages of CDs, then no, this is not the job for me.

Our guess is that it's to do with their online shop, and that they want someone who can look at an order, get together the CDs required, package them appropriately, complete the paperwork on the computer, put the right address on the right package, and put it in a box/sack/wheelybin to take to the post office/give to a courier/attach to delivery pigeons.

The hours are longer than I'm looking for, but whether that's a problem or not just depends on how much actual work there is to do. If it's like "we have an enormous backlog and need a team of people to send out CDs on a production-line basis, go go GO" then I'd be stuffed after an hour. If it's more "we send out about twenty packages a day, and need someone to be here for a few hours every day just so that the orders can be processed As They Come In without the shop-floor staff being overstretched" then it's bloody ideal. The only bit where I fall down is that I really don't have terribly much interest and enthusiasm for music.

Anyway, as the advert requested, I've polished off my CV, made sure it's got an appropriate title (NOT 'myCV.doc') and is definitely in .doc format, and emailed it to them. The only problem with that is that although the paper with the advert in only arrived yesterday evening (Sun 4th), the paper itself was actually several days old (Thurs 1st). I'm hoping against hope that the different jobs climate here (as opposed to Lowestoft) means that the shop didn't receive 100 CVs on Thursday evening and had already filled the position by the time I saw the advert.

This morning I awoke to the horrible thought that with this job-quest I shall have to go clothes-shopping for a suitable interview outfit - if not for this vacancy then for the next one, or the next one, or the next one after that. Call me crazy but I somehow don't think jeans will cut it. I suppose that is at least better than having awoken from a terrible dream where I turn up for interview naked or something.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Boo, Erk, Yay

A mixed day yesterday. Still recovering from having overdone it during the week, but then, I'm at home with the wonderful Evilstevie, Maker Of Cups Of Tea Extraordinaire, so it could be very much worse.

Feeling like this, and knowing that feeling like this is a regular thing, and being in a fairly large house (certainly lots larger than the flat), and knowing that Steve will not always be on study-break, I have finally decided, for definite, that I am buying a Roomba. I found a proper online store in the UK that sells them (as opposed to someone bringing one back from the US), compared various prices and specifications, and chose which one to buy.

Put it in the basket, signed up to the site, chose my options for delivery and gift-wrapping and carbon-offsetting and god knows what else, finally got to the 'now give us your credit card details' bit... and noticed that something had changed. The previous pages had been secure. Yellow address bar, https, little padlock sign, all tickety-boo. The credit card page, however. It still said https, but it wasn't yellow any more, the padlock had a line across it and further investigation offered the warning "some of the information on this page may be readable by others", and I just know that the day I take that chance is the day some bugger steals my credit card details and runs up thousands of pounds' worth of debt that I, having taken the chance, am fully liable for. Paranoid? Perhaps.

Tried to ring them but their customer service line is closed at weekends, so I emailed them instead. Boo.

On, then, to "erk". A friend of ours who lives nearby wants to have a fireworks party on Monday. So yesterday, I had a cuppa with his girlfriend while he and Steve went out to buy some fireworks.

Remember kids, you can't say "firework" without "erk!"

They came back with over £100 worth of fireworks. I asked them, did they bring any sparklers? I like sparklers. The answer was no... they went to an industrial-fireworks place for the stuff and the only sparklers available were in packs of over a thousand. Which would, I admit, be overkill for a party of maybe a dozen people, but makes me even more anxious about the nature of the fireworks they have purchased.

Some of you know Steve. Look upon the following sentence and tremble: In terms of this firework party, Steve is being the voice of moderation. He's even made sure they have purchased a remote detonation system. This is not like Steve. Steve is usually the one shouting for more flammable materials.

And finally, the yay - I got my Ravelry invite! YAY! I've already hooked up to several people I know and I'm sure more will follow. If you want to find me on there, I'm on as batsgirl. Still working on bringing it up to date - so far I've only listed two 'projects', the first scarf I did and that knitting on screwdrivers thing. It does seem a very sensible way of organising things, although I'm still finding my way around it.

Oh, and I've written my letter to WDC, I just need to remember to print it. Thanks to everyone who made suggestions :)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jumping Through The Hoops

Although I still have many hoops to jump through for the Jobcentre, it's all on hold until such time as my medical notes arrive from Lowestoft and I see my new GP.

I swear Waveney District Council must have heard that I was getting a week or so grace from performing for government departments, because they have kindly provided me with more Big Brother tasks.

I was liable for part of the Council Tax on the flat, because while the Jobcentre Incapacity Benefit letters all said "this is the amount the government says you need to live on", the Waveney District Council letters all said "(you must give us money and pay part of your rent yourself because)...your income is more than the amount you need to live on". Which seemed like a bit of a local/national kind of discrepancy to me, but, whatever, I had not got the time, energy, inclination or resources to fight with them over a tenner a week or whatever it was.

Anyway, I made a lump-sum payment to cover the whole year just so that they would leave me alone, which worked beautifully. Unfortunately it meant that, as I moved out before the end of the financial year, they ended up owing me money.

Currently we're on letter number 3. Number 1 said "we will stop your payment." Number 2, the other day, said "we have stopped your payment". Number 3, which arrived in the same post as Number 2, was the one which made me do a double-take. It amounts to "we owe you about £65. We're not sure if you actually want that money. So if you do want it, you can write to us and ask nicely for it."

I am trying, I swear, I am trying to write a concise, polite letter to the effect of "actually yes, I would rather like you to pay me the money you owe me, if you could be so kind" but so far I haven't come up with anything sendable. I fear that a request for payment that is too snarky or sarcastic or critical, may well end up in my file being 'lost' or something. They're that kind of organisation. So I'm blogging my frustration instead.

Your suggestions, sensible or snarky, are more than welcome.

(In other news, there are now only 728 people ahead of me in the queue to get on Ravelry. I'm getting quite excited.)