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Monday, 28 May 2007

"I give part time help, I'm the odd job man, I can't do what I want, so I do what I can", Harry Chapin, "Odd job man"

I've been unemployed for ten weeks now. However I have had a part time job for eight of those weeks so clearly that has meant that I have been unable to help Mrs Eyes on the Prize with housework or do any of those DIY jobs that should really be completed.

The part time job pays enough to cover the main bills (even after tax) so that means we haven't yet had to eat baked potatoes every day washed down by a refreshing glass of cold tap water though it has been intimated to me that if those DIY jobs don't get done then I may find the menu undergoes a mysterious change for the worst for certain people. And it's no good saying go and do the cooking yourself. When Mrs EotP was in hospital for a few days some years ago the children rushed into the ward when we went to visit her saying "When are you coming home mummy?" "That's nice" said Mrs EotP, "Are you missing me?" "No" they retorted looking hard at me "Daddy can't cook, he's burnt fish fingers and keeps asking would we like to go to McDonalds for dinner." I know when I am whipped.

When you are at work you have a routine, start and finish times, lunch, whinging moments with your colleagues, regular character assassination sessions, long cups of coffee meetings ostensibly to discuss important issues but really because you are so bored you could eat your elbow. You know, all the sort of stuff that makes work really fun. But working part time, well that's a whole different kettle of (in my case burnt) fish.

You see it's like this.
I don't see my colleagues. Yes, it's almost the opposite of "I see dead people". I don't see live people anymore. It is all done over the phone or by email. I am sending emails to and fro to Spain, Germany and France to my colleagues. They reply from their respective countries - or do they? Is it them or are they on the next street? I mean, like most Europeans their English is as good as or better than mine. The main office is about 10 miles away from where I live but there is no need to go on a regular basis - emails, the web and the phone mean I can work at home quite easily. I haven't seen the MD since the initial interview for the part time position - am I working for some covert Government operation that only exists occasionally if you need to go to the office - as soon as you leave it is all packed away or becomes deserted until the next time? Clearly my imagination is too overactive.

The result of this not meeting people (and yes they do exist because I met them all in Paris last week) is that a) I am vastly more effective than if I worked in an office. I do more in four hours working from home than a whole day going into an office. b) You miss going into an office because you do not interact with people on a daily basis - phones and emails are not quite the same. I'm not sure how it would work if we all had web cams and could see each other. c) I do not miss the daily commuting - now it's finish breakfast, start work, need coffee, start work again, need chocolate biscuit to go with coffee, start work again. d) Mrs EotP sees a lot of me and some of that time is, allegedly, spent in front of the cooker whilst she is trying to cook or get on with some household stuff.

I am enjoying the part time work. I am not enjoying the being unemployed bit - could I work full time like this? I think I could but, hark, is that a scream of horror from Mrs EotP?

Anyway - it's time for a little entertainment made by Lazy Feet for Eyes on the Prize productions. Click on the link. Maybe it's true...

Friday, 18 May 2007

Mrs Eyes on the Prize writes ...

“I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”
Rita Rudner

My husband is a lovely man and has many talents. He can wire up a cooker and blow the fuses in the entire house with the best of them, he can fall off a stool and break an occasional table with just his forehead and quite often put things back together that he has previously dismantled but he is not good at hanging around the house.

Without the structure of the working day he gets restless. He wants to stand in front of the cooker when I’m trying to put things in the oven. He wants to stand behind me while I’m washing the dishes and worst of all he gets a pressing need to use the computer to blog when I want to use it for work. I know there’s hundreds/tens/some readers out there whose day won’t be complete until they’ve learned the vagaries of our postal deliveries and bin collections but I do rely on the computer for my work and I like to devote a few hours in the day when I’m not hoovering or helping with homework to doing said work. This blogging malarkey can not be done while I’m prodding my crevice tool under the sideboard – that’s the time when Eyes is telling me his theory of temporal shift – no, it has to be done as my rear end connects with the computer stool and my hand rests on the mouse.

It’s not easy when your partner is home nearly as much as you are. We home workers are used to running the domestic side of things and get quite territorial when someone else starts using the dining room table as a desk and talking when you’re trying to listen to Radio 4. Even if they offer to perform some of this drudgery, it’s still not right because then you feel a bit redundant yourself and start wanting to hang around in front of the cooker. By the time you’ve enjoyed another economical meal based on liver because it’s nutritious and cheap and sat down for the evening you’ve said all you’ve got to say during the day and time can hang a bit heavy.

Now it's his turn to feel territorial so I'm having to promise that this will be my first and last guest appearance on his blog.

Look out of any window, any morning, any evening any day", Box of rain, Grateful Dead

I'm home quite a lot of the time these days. I now get to see a wholly new perspective on what goes on during the day on the street where I live and what a revelation it is. Now I know that this is not a ground breaking observation but you know how it is with say a hotel. You arrive at the hotel and magically it has been cleaned and prepared for your arrival. You leave and the hotel house elves descend on your room and all it becomes sparkly afterwards for the next visitor. I exclude French 1 star hotels from this metaphor on the basis that it seems they defy description in the first place and often there seems to be no difference between one occupancy and the next.

Whilst I was working I would disappear early with a friendly wave to the family, who full of sleep, would grunt at me, and return much, much later to a cleaned house, hot food on the table, scrubbed and attentive children, a chilled cocktail and my favourite brand of cigar. OK I admit that some of the last sentence is based on a 1950s American advert for a fridge that you could keep a small car in. But the point is that stuff happened but I wasn't involved. I mean now I help unpack the food when Mrs Prize comes home from the weekly stripping bare of the shelves of Tescos. I never knew we ate all this food. I am convinced that we are feeding another two families lodging in a priest's hole somewhere in the house. As for cleaning the house, well I've done some. And then Mrs Prize has to go around afterwards with the white gloves on inspecting my dusting prowess. I mean to say. I have a Cub Scouts badge for domestic something or other. Or was it for dismantling a Sten gun? No that was the army cadets.

What do I see through the round window today? A whole new world that's what. For example there are a couple of women that live together who pass by regularly. I've seen them walking and exercising their dogs but only from a height of 500 metres as I fly by in my powerful company car thinking of meetings, aims and objectives and excuses for not doing the things that I agreed to in those meetings. Now we pass the time of day although I harbour dangerous thoughts of violence towards their Yorkshire terrier with the red bow on the collar.

I have met my neighbour across the street. What is so amazing about that? Well he would leave around the same time as me and return late. Now I know he works at home occasionally and so we have spoken. In about 10 years time we will get around to asking each other's name - us Brits are so reserved. In fact I have spoken to many local people as I walk into town and back. They want to know why I insist in wearing a sandwich board saying "Job wanted - talk to me." on the front and "How is my job searching going? Ring 0800 000800 to comment." on the back.

I now know our Postwoman to talk to. "Why do you only bring job rejections?" I demand. "Don't you have a public duty to deliver work to me at home and bring me daily job offers from employers desperate for my skills?". We don't talk much, oddly enough. In the olden days, when Posties delivered your mail before 6am whistling a cheery ode from Beethoven, and there were ten deliveries a day I knew our Postie by name - it was Jamie. Jamie was great. He knew everybody and everything. A rabbit could not escape from its hutch without Jamie letting the neighbourhood know. If you were on holiday he would keep an eye on your house. He knew that Mrs Jones's bunions were playing her up something bad and that meant snow. He could recommend a painter, knew who was selling something you wanted and could talk about Patagonian politics. He was Neighbourhood Watch incarnate. We didn't need CCTVs. In fact we even raised a local petition to the grey, faceless bureaucrats at the local Post Office HQ to "Save our Jamie" when it was decided to redeploy Posties at a moments notice around the UK when there was dangerous Postie work to do. It didn't work, I think he ended up with a round in the Falklands Islands. Anyway we do seem to have some sort of postal consistency at the moment.

I've just watched (so you are really busy today Mr Prize and what of your job searching? Blimey, bang to rights, I'll do it next) the refuse collection happen along with the recycling and garden waste. These guys run along the street. I've not seen this much activity before. When I had a vacation job working on the dustcarts (as they then were, we had to empty ash cans) we were on fixed routes and hours. None of this efficiency lark for us. But the residents were very good. Those that took them used to neatly parcel up their pornographic magazines so the crew could read them at their leisure. I recall the look of horror one day in the cab when I used the built-in wash basin to clean my hands before eating my lunch. The truck was probably at least 5 years old and the basin had never been used before. That neatly labelled me in their eyes as one of those student types. These guys even have someone who comes and picks up the stray litter afterwards.

I've also started developing a rash of "Why on earth don't they..." according to the events going on in the street. For example, today someone's rubbish bag across the street had had a good going over during the night by a neighbourhood fox or one of the people living secretly in our house. The result - litter all over the verge. I saw them come out, look at it, get into their giant 4X4 and drive off. They delivered the kids to school, poor mites it's at least 500 metres to walk to school on level, tarmac'd pavements, returned, looked at the litter again and went inside. Meanwhile I'm in the middle of the road attempting to dodge the traffic trying to pick up an escaped cardboard box moving up the road like tumble weed in a Western town deserted except for the men in the black hats with evil intent on their minds. "Why on earth don't they pick it up..." I begin to say, then caught myself. I'll be writing to my local council next and using Strong Words. Oh just take me out and shoot me now.

There must be more to this new world out of my window. Not seen a policeman or policewomen yet but I'm sure there are legions out there. Postie has now been - no job offers. Better start on todays search.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

"Only connect", Howards End, E M Forster

I have to admit it.
Nothing is cooking in my kitchen.
My boat is not afloat.
My flag is not up the flagpole though I am going to see the doctor about that.
After nearly eight weeks of unemployment there is no end in sight so I thought it would a good time to have a review of what I've done and how effective it has been. And with no end in sight the result would seem to be self-evident.

Sorry there is more. I have been following the "get a new job recipe". There are a number of steps to take to getting new employment though I don't recall being taught this in school. All we were taught was Latin and, frankly, there is not much call for that around here though there is quite a lot of Anglo Saxon being used down the road as workmen repair a traffic light that was knocked down a few days ago.
It's a bit like the movie "Battle of Britain" where the Luftwaffe is throwing all its might against little besieged Britain on that decisive day in the second world war. The wing commander strides into the RAF Ops room where all the WAAFS are pushing those little corks with flags around the planning table like some demented Ouija board game. Taking his pipe out of his mouth he asks grimly "What are our fighter reserves?". "None Sir" replies a pert WAAF, "they are all up in the air". I feel like that with my job search at the moment. I've done all that I can. I have no reserves.
This is what I have done - points are awarded out of 10 for effectiveness.

On-line jobs. I have been auto-emailed hundreds of on-line jobs that "closely fit your criteria". Well the computers must be dyslexic then because they don't and that includes the intern job in Orange County Fla. and the other post in Ontario - a bit of a commute I'd say. If you are in IT or finance sales and you have, dare I say, relatively modest salary aspirations then these sites might conceivably work for you. They really don't work for me so as a tool for finding a new job I give them 1 point. For being unbearably perky and full of garish colours I give them full marks but don't rely on them for the job of your dreams (or nightmares come to that because they probably couldn't match the criteria for that either).

Friends and relatives. I've told everyone who will listen - the milkman, the local builder, the man who cuts my hair - you name them I've told them. People scuttle past on the other side of the road now with their coat collars turned up - a bit of a giveaway on a hot May day - to avoid being told. It's a bit like the so called witches house in the neighbourhood. "Dare you to knock on the door!" "NO - he might tell me how long he's being looking for work and it will bore me to death". Of course there is a natural compassion fatigue so others must go on and live their lives and deal with their problems and it becomes a much lesser issue for everyone. But I know where they live. For finding a new job - 1 point but you never know...

Emailing ex-colleagues and other work related contacts. No response whatsoever. My emails must be directed straight into junk mail. I have become invisible, a reminder that redundancy might taint them. Finding a new job, 0 points.

CV on the web. Yes it's there, nestling away in a tiny corner of the web with all its meta-tags snuggled up to it. And no I didn't really expect to get a job through it. It's more of a short cut to giving prospective employers a taste of just what they'd get with ME. I use it to point people at if if they say "Well, what do you do actually?". Finding a job 0 points, but part of the armoury.

Business cards. This was a recommendation from the States and who am I to ignore the sage knowledge of a guru in San Francisco? I found a web site that prints business cards for free. Yes free, all 250 of them. So I've now got some plain cards with my contact details and web URL to press into people's hands (they are just lucky I didn't order the 25 free fridge magnets as well). The plan is...well you know the plan. This is part of the "remember me" bit. Well it's free got to be worth a try. Points - 0 so far.

National newspapers. Good grief there are a lot of jobs churning around in the economy. Us job seekers know 'cos we look at every Anglo Saxon one. I've applied for three. One interview and subsequent rejection. Two outright rejections. The thing is, the one I was interviewed for was a "oh what the hell I'll send in a standard CV" via the web and one of the ones I had a straight rejection for was a carefully nuanced, weighed, strategically written CV based on every possible competence that they required. I was a perfect match. And I still got rejected because "they had a candidate that more closely matched their requirements." HOW? Did they make the candidate out of spare parts like Frankenstein's monster? Did they use a serif font and I used a sans serif? Did they use a slightly heavier paper for their CV? Did they want a signature in blue ink and not black biro? Once I had stopped sulking after the rejection (about three days) rationale took over and I realised that replying to ads in the newspapers is incredibly competitive, that there will be hundreds of candidates and, sad to say, there really is a candidate that more closely matches their requirements. Or they are mad. As a method for finding a new job 4 points, but the odds are massively stacked against you. Of course someone must be successful, just isn't me.

Networking. Well I've been unemployed for nearly eight weeks. Except that I haven't, because I've been working for six weeks with a part time job that I found, yes you guessed it, through a network. By using some contacts that I had actually kept up with for years, I found an unadvertised job. "Do you" they asked "have any experience with quantum physics, penguins and jacquard looms?" "I'm your man" I shouted 'for I have just woven an Emperor penguin and placed it in Schrödinger's box along with his cat." So I have a job for the next month or two at least (three days a week). And I met the Emperor Ming from Star sec 5/16 last week. OK, actually the MD of a large Group in the Middle East who may (emphasis on may) have some part time work sometime. Yes I know that is vague but I'm clinging onto straws here. Anyway the point is I got to meet him through a connection - another unadvertised post. So for finding a job I award networking 8 points.

Conclusion. So the award for the most effective way to find a new job so far goes to - networking. So why haven't I been networking like mad for the last seven years preparing for this very time? Because you are stupid I hear you say. And you are probably right. All the other things I have done may have had a teeny weeny impact but the only action that has even got me some work is networking. I suppose it's like advertising really "50% works - except we don't know which 50%".

Eight weeks. I wonder how many more? I have no more reserves. But then you only fail when you give up and I haven't done that by a long way.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Adventure of the HR Manager – by Arthur Conan Doyle Prize.

I was seated at my desk one morning catching up on the messages sent by electronic means from my friends in Yorkshire (it was eee-by-gum mail) when the maid brought in a telegraph. I asked her to leave the newspaper on the chair and hasten out and bring in the telegram which I had heard arrive a moment before. In her haste and dyslexia, she had confused the two. “Have you couple of days to spare?” read the telegram “I have been asked by a detective from the Metropolitan Police, you recall Corner of the Yard, to investigate a most perplexing murder in Coventry, the automobile carriage centre of England.”

Having not been sent to Coventry before, well not since that most distressing incident in Prep school concerning the dreadful allegations about the school hamster and the butter, I packed a small bag into a larger bag and caught the 0850 from Liverpool Street Station. At 1015 I returned to Liverpool Street, after a most disconcerting time spent in Brentwood, a small village of no note, and travelled to Euston Station where I caught a further train to Coventry. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the tiny, well kempt station in the Midlands, to note the small meticulously kept village of Coventry. As we swept down from the station in the pony and trap we passed by some of the finest examples of medieval and Tudor houses I had seen anywhere in my travels. Everywhere was neat and clean and the locals pleasant and welcoming. “Surely” I thought “a jewel in the crown of England and no one will permit this to ever change – it will be treasured for ever." I believe this still to be the case.

Holmes was waiting for me at the Inn. He was in a high state of agitation and it took me and the local constable some minutes to persuade him to climb down and join us. His eyes gleamed as he recounted the circumstances of the murder but he professed himself satisfied than he had already solved the case. Corner of the Yard, who had presently joined us from Mrs Godiva’s School for Young Madams where he had been pursuing complaints about some woman from Prague doing the waltz in a local hostelry, or “pole dancing” as it appears to be called locally, said loudly “I nivver fink you ‘av solved the case rite away as you was proceeding in a westerly direction, cor blimey let’s be avin you, it’s ten years in the clink for you m’lad.” (Corner’s father had indeed asked for a refund from the prestigious Swiss finishing school he’d attended – for twelve years.)

“Here are the facts” Holmes said. The “HR manager of the Godiva Rubber Parts for Gentlemen’s Horseless Carriages has been found dead in her office in one of the charming thatched houses that characterises the centre of the village of Coventry. She was surrounded by several hundred applications for jobs. There are two suspects, two people who were turned down for a job whose applications were very close matches to her requirements but were not shortlisted for an interview. The first suspect, Mr Jay Gue’ar was seen arriving on foot at 9am and then seen running out of the office 15 minutes later shouting “You’ve had my application for five weeks now and never got back to me. I’m off to Brown’s Lane to look for a big cat then you shan’t see me again this side of Candlemass.” The other suspect is Eleanor Purrjoe who claims she arrived by car half an hour later merely to hand deliver her job application to the HR manager.”

“But” I gasped, for I had been playing on the childrens’ swings and roundabouts all this time, “You say you know who done it.”

“Yes” said Holmes pressing the fingers of both hands together and staring down his aquiline nose at me and Corner of the Yard. “You see I asked Miss Purrjoe about her car and she told me that she had recently bought an expensive Japanese horseless carriage made in Asunderland. I knew it must be her as soon as she told me that.”

At that point the local constable brought in Miss Eleanor Purrjoe and stood her in front of us.

“You are the murderer” said Holmes “Book her Dano, I mean arrest her and she will get her just deserts at the next assizes.”

“You got me fair and square and no doubt about it.” she said in that delightful accent they have hereabouts “I shall plead guilty and do my time.” The constable led her off.

“Holmes you astound me, how did you deduce that?” I blurted out.

Holmes looked at me and smiled his thin smile.

“Ellie sent CV, by dear Datsun” said Holmes. “Now back to Baker Street on the next train or Mrs Hudson will be flinging our dinner from the window again.”

This has been a "too much time on my hands this week production" by Eyes on the Prize enterprises.