Saturday, 29 August 2009

I Pity the Fool

Well, as some of you may know already from forums I frequent or Twitter posts, I have been well and truly shafted by a money laundering scam disguised as an amazing job opportunity. I shall attempt to explain it all here:

I have missed out on teaching this year (see previous blog entries), so I am now looking for a job that will take me until at least this time next year. I was doing some temp work when I received an email from someone who saw my CV on which is a job site where employers can look at CVs if they are made public. But as the employer has to pay for this privilege and sign a contract with Monster, I wasn't initially suspicious. In this email, they explained that they were an intermediary company that works with people who don't have time to sell their stuff on Ebay and my job would be to make sure each seller received the correct amount of money for their product and report back to them with financial information and reference numbers for transfers (I even made a spreadsheet). I checked out the company and they do exist as a registered trading partner of Ebay, but unfortunately the person who emailed me has nothing to do with them...

Looking back, this seems like an obvious scam but I only had a vague sense of what money laundering was. They had even written out a contract which explained my role and their role in a two month trial period and what they could do to reasonably help me in passing it successfully. I promptly sent to this my mother for her advice (she isn't a lawyer or anything, but mothers know everything) and she has been unsure from the start looking back but she was taken in by the level of detail that went into the agreement. Of course, I signed it and so as well as having my address from my CV, they have my signature and bank details now which means I have to look out for any unsolicited mail now if they attempt identity theft on top of their other crimes.

At the time, the thing that sucked me in was the 'too good to be true' element of the work. In the email, they detailed the working day which would be 3 hours each day from Monday to Friday at £1,800 a month plus 5% commission on each successful transaction. Yes, I am so desperate for work that I fell for this hook, line and sinker. And yes, I am so desperate to reduce my commute and the cost of it every month (over £140) that I was willing to believe a job like this could exist and boy do I feel stupid. It was like winning the lottery when I read that email and I should have realised something was up then. But the fact they had written a contract and found my details from a legitimate source convinced me enough. You know, if they put as much energy into real work as they did on this scam, they would be running Microsoft by now.

So yes, I was working out how much money I could save (and make) each month and the time I would have to do lots of...stuff. But the thing is, I wasn't making ridiculous and unreasonable plans and now I feel robbed of the opportunity to do these things as well as obviously robbed of a job (which I know didn't really exist, but hey ho). I was going to finally get the dodgy window replaced, sort out the damp/mould problem we have in the flat, get new carpets and redecorate, get someone to help with the garden (it is mostly gravel, but Mother Nature has slowly taken over this summer) and even start my driving lessons again. In my afternoons I was thinking how I could help out in a charity shop or an after school club and I would finally be finished work in time to give blood at the community centre that they keep sending me letters for. I was even contemplating joining a gym again. I know! Now, I am hardly a saint, but you know, I was going to help make a difference in my little community instead of spending 3 hours each day on a train and not being able to get home in time for anything other than dinner and some telly. And I know people can do this on top of full time jobs, you don't have to be a superhero or anything. But come on, who wouldn't jump at the chance of not having to do it all on evenings and weekends without having to take any time off work?

So of course, on Thursday this was all shot down when I couldn't access my account online and I rang the bank to find out they have frozen activity on my account because of a payment that was made into it that is expected to be fraudulent (don't ask me how they know these things). So I called the job website with a heavy heart and they said: 'Oh, we have a record of that company, but there is more than one here so I'll email you back with the details once I have found the right one.' So, I felt relieved and still thought the company was legit - maybe the buyer was the dodgy one. But no, after telling me that it all seemed okay they send me an email to say that they have nothing to do with the email that was sent to me and that they have just used the recognised name as a way to get to people. People like me who still think the best of everything despite all the crap that is thrown at them.

I should be angry at them. I have had to go to my bank and try and sort everything out. I had to call the police to let them know I was taken in and that I'm not in on it and above all else, I have to look for another job now. But most of all, my wonderful plans have been well and truly scuppered. But you know what? I am so fed up I am past that now. I am mostly embarassed that I got sucked into this and I felt so stupid explaining it to the bank manager. I had that horrible dread feeling in my stomach before I went to the bank but that's being sorted now - they will cover any losses and once the £2,000 of dodgy money sat in my account has been dealt with they will probably close the account and give me new numbers. But now, the thing that is bothering me is that I have to really concentrate on finding a 'proper' job - none of these temporary contracts that don't help my development in any way just to get a couple of hundred pounds a week. But I'm sick and tired of looking for a job - since February I really haven't had a serious job interview, only temporary contracts or informal arrangements. If I don't get a job soon, I would have spent half of this year out of work which is depressing to say the least.

So, this year has turned out to be one of the worst of my life. Being made redundant, losing another job for no apparent reason, realising a dream but having other people make the life-changing decisions for me and now this. The thing is, I don't think I am clinically depressed or anything, I don't feel I have changed my outlook on life much despite what has gone on. And I am certainly not out for sympathy, I'm just documenting the shit that has happened to me, and it just so happens that it makes an interesting blog. ;o) I still have the same friends (although some of my ex-workmates have really disappointed me), I still enjoy the same pursuits, I still go out and get drunk, I'm always still trying to lose weight (7lbs and counting) and I am still a generally positive person (when I'm not commuting), so I don't think I have done too badly considering.

I apologise for the length of this post, but it has been a while so I'm making my word count up.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

More Disappointment

Well, last week I was hit with a bit of a bombshell and I was asked to leave work. I wasn't officially fired, just asked not to come back and they are at least giving me a week's worth of money (I have just been paid as well so that's not too bad). The problem with the job is that the contract has one job title and the person who did the job before me used another - basically Administrator for the former and PA for the latter - and if you've done either job you'll know that the two are very different.

The job was as an administrator for the projectionists department in a very popular film institute in London, i.e. a glorified cinema. So my job included ordering in equipment for them, as well as making sure the casual staff were paid and any overtime was paid on time each month for the permanent staff. But I also did anything and everything that the head of the department asked which I know is one of the reasons why one of my predecessors left, as it wasn't made clear before the job started that it would turn into basically a PA role rather than as a support to the rest of the team. Now, the reason he said the job 'wasn't for me' is because he wants someone more technical which is a bit of a crap excuse to be honest with you. I didn't have any trouble ordering in equipment and no complaints from the projectionists (in fact, one or two of them were very grateful for my help) so I don't see why he would need someone technically minded when someone with a background and an interest in the creative media (which I have) is surely more important than knowing the ins and outs of the Xenon lamp I'm ordering surely? That's the projectionists job, not the Administrator/PA's. And if he doesn't work out what exactly it is he wants from the job, he is not going to get a PA with technical knowledge at the salary they're offering.

Oh, I should have mentioned that I am the 4th person to work at that job in the last year and a bit.

He did raise some issues with me about a week and a half before he got rid of me. He said that any new scheduling notes from a weekly meeting I attended were not passed on - when I still had the emails in my 'sent' box to prove I did. He said I needed to be more involved with what the projectionists were up to on a day to day basis when I was stuck in the office doing spreadsheets and stats that he had asked me to compile. And most infuriatingly of all, he would ask me about something he had asked me to do weeks ago which I had already sent him an email about and this translated as me not doing my job properly (as obviously, I should have been his babysitter too).

This wasn't supposed to be a rant on what happened with my job, but I do feel extremely hard done by as he didn't even want me to stay long enough to do a handover, or even until the end of my contract which was only until 31st August anyway. And I don't think a week and a half is enough to give me to improve and question the problems that arose I suppose. My continuing anxiety is whether or not I will get a place at university because I am at a difficult time now - do I look for a job that goes on past September and just give notice if I get a place or do I admit defeat and look for a long-term solution? One of the temp agencies I am with is putting my CV forward for a job that starts on 10th August and ends on 9th September to cover someone who is going off to get married, so that would be perfect if I get a place. But if I don't look for something longer-term and I don't get a place then I'm buggered for money unless I get something straight afterwards. Oh! This all feels so familiar!

Anyway, I had to blog as I am up at a ridiculous time and I need to justify the title of my blog. I am sorry for repeating myself and if you're bored just say so, but what is the point of a blog if not a little self-indulgence? Okay, a lot of self-indulgence. ;o)

Monday, 20 July 2009


As the description of this blog implies, I am hoping to become a primary school teacher after being made redundant at the beginning of this year. For all of my trans-Atlantic followers (well, both of them), this means I would like to teach children from the ages of 3-11, but specifically between 3 and 6.

I went to an Open Day for my first choice of university about 3 weeks ago. To be perfectly honest, it was my first choice because of its location and the fact that there were still places left, as making an application in the Spring to start in September is pretty late in the day. Also, I want to be able to teach Spanish with it as I did an A Level in it and kind of regret not taking it any further. Hopefully, if I was to teach it I could make some children passionate about languages and different cultures as I think the English are terrible at embracing anything 'different.' A big bonus with teaching Primary with another subject is that once you get a job you get a 'golden hello' once you get a job as they are desperate for people with certain skills. And at this particular university, you get to spend 4 weeks in Spain teaching over there which would be fabulous! Therefore, the university turned out to be pretty damn good (a Grade 1 provider of teacher training) and I was starting to look forward to the whole studying thing again after such an absence.

Now, about 2 weeks ago I found out that they had rejected my application and as you can probably understand I was so disappointed. I didn't even get to the interview stage which I think would have given me more opportunity to show the tutors how much I want this. The problem is, there are so many people coming straight from university into these post-graduate courses because the job market is looking so crap and I bet there are a good few people in my situation who have looked upon this career path as a last resort due to the secure nature of it (and I'm guessing the time off looks good too).

Now, if I had known the incentives and the funding I could get earlier, I would have taken this path a long time ago. It is something I have kept coming back to again and again whenever I have had choices to make, but I never thought I could afford to do it until now. However, I needed a kick up the arse (ass) to help me on my way and unfortunately losing my job was exactly that. And I just know that there are some people who have got places that don't really want to do it and who will quit before the Christmas holidays start.

One other thing that really annoys me about the whole thing is that I could only put down 2 choices on my application form instead of the 4/5 on the under-graduate forms I did when I first went to university. There were 3 spaces to write in, but as I want to do primary teaching I could only choose 2. Go figure. And because I have the requisite number of exam passes in English, Maths and Science the only way they can decide on who they want to interview is from the personal statements - which couldn't be more than 160 lines. Now, I know they have a hell of a lot of applications to get through, but I don't think that's one A4 page which is not enough to push your case. And that's why I really wanted an interview because I've got so much to say that would show them how sincere I am.

So now that I have finally made a decision about what I want to do with my life, I have to rely on the decisions of other people on whether or not I can actually do it. Which is stressing me out as you can imagine. Everything seems to have slotted in to place for me to do it this year (work contract ends on 31st August, mortgage payments have been reduced etc.) so I don't know if I can wait another year to start my training. If I don't get a place at this last choice, I don't know what the options are if I do want to train this year - but that's something I don't want to think about just yet...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Commuter Hell

Despite the title, this new post is not a direct follow-on from my previous post but in response to what is going on in London at the moment.

In case you've been in a cave for the last week, you would have heard that London Underground staff are on strike at the moment. And while I haven't been affected by it on my journey in to work, I can sympathise with the general mood at the moment. Amongst various other things, they cite the suspension of a member of staff who opened the doors on the wrong side of the train as one of the reasons why they are striking. Now, surely this is a disciplinary issue as there were major safety concerns here and any union involvement should surely be focused as support to the member of staff concerned in any future hearings and not with any wider problems they think they have. With employment being the way it is at the moment, if everyone offered this kind of support to a fellow colleague there would be no-one at work!

And here's another thing, their demands are totally unrealistic as they want pay rises above inflation. Do they live in those tunnels? Can they not see there is a recession on and nobody is getting paid more? In fact, most companies are having to reduce their wages to keep staff in jobs. Also, did they not realise the nature of the job when applying for it? Yes, there could be early mornings and late nights and dark crappy conditions, but you are being paid more than adequately and if you don't like it you can apply for an office job. Then, you might realise what a pain in the arse it is to get to work when there's a strike on. The buses in London run practically 24/7 and you don't see their staff going on strike at the drop of a hat (although they are quite surly, but that's another post entirely).

I could go on, but believe it or not, this post wasn't inspired by the tube strike but by London's reaction to it. Specifically, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Now, I know he's a bumbling idiot (or he's an evil genius with a great cover), but he has absolutely the right attitude. He, for one, is being honest about the effect this is having on normal people in their everyday lives and is not pandering to the unions like the last mayor did. The fact that the other rail union is not supporting this strike and some services are in fact running (sporadically, but still) is proof of the sheer bloody-mindedness of the RMT. Also, BoJo has in fact tried to aleviate the problem by providing more bus services and boat services which Ken Livingstone didn't seem to do. However, one brilliant idea that I think should be rolled out across London permanently is a shared taxi service. There is an article about it here: but in short, people have a coloured ticket that corresponds to a part of London and they then share a cab with 4 other people with the same coloured ticket. This means there will be 5 people in a cab, instead of the 1.5 average. There is a set fare for each person depending on the area you wish to travel to, which means your fare is cheaper yet the cab driver receives more because of the increased number of people.

I for one can't see anything more positive to come out of this strike - everyone's a winner. You pay less, the cabbie gets more, there are less waiting times in queues and the environment probably likes it too. However, the one major problem with this is that we are British. If there are no marshals in queues to see the system works, no-one would dare take the initiative to go up to someone and simply ask where they're heading and if it would be possible to share a cab. And for those who would do it (I am one of them), there is no guarantee that the other person would agree because some people are miserable bastards. When I lived in York and my fiancé was living in London, I used to get the late train home after visiting him at the weekend. This would get me in for about midnight and the queue for taxis was always quite big because the buses would have stopped running by then. It always struck me as odd that no-one would suggest sharing a cab when you would see one person get into a huge people carrier. I did say something on a few occasions, but my new friends were never going in the same direction.

I think if this was to work, the taxi drivers themselves must encourage cab sharing - maybe not move until a couple of other people get in or something. There are some interesting things in the article that cab drivers in other countries do, so I suggest you read it.

I might get a boat home tonight...

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Daily Commute

For those of you who also follow me on Facebook, you would have noticed lately that I have been posting up 'If I Ruled The World' rules as my status updates. And you may also have noticed that the vast majority (if not all) of them are aimed at the people I have to share my journey into work with, i.e. commuters.

I think you can get the measure of a person by how they behave on a bus or train when faced with what they obviously see as challenges. For example, if somebody sits next to you do you a) try and skooch along even though there isn't that much room or b) stretch your legs out even further so that the other person is precariously balanced on one butt cheek? That to me says that elsewhere in your life you are a rude, arrogant person who clearly thinks you are more important than the people you pass on the street. Or how about this one? When walking to or from the train station do you a) hold your head up high, taking care to avoid fellow passengers or b) bury your head in your mobile phone or a book? Now that to me smacks of an inconsiderate and once again, rude person. And as my fiancé so rightly and hilariously pointed out to me the other day, the world is full of cunts.

I wasn't always like this. I lived in York for a few years, and you can pretty much walk everywhere if you live close enough to the town centre. And if I got the bus, my only concern was whether or not I got a seat. It seems like London has turned me into this festering scab of rage as there are far more people to dislike and far more modes of transport to get angry with. Now, don't get me wrong - if anything terrible was to happen to somebody on public transport I would like to think I would step in there and help, but most of the time I bury myself in a good book and play my iPod just to make doubly sure no-one tries to make eye contact with me. I have far more negative experiences on the train than positive, so they have melded into one horrendous train journey, so much so, that the nicest thing that happened on the train with a total stranger stands out so vividly to me. It sounds like such a non-event, but it made my day I can tell you. The man I was sitting next to was doing a cryptic crossword and he asked me for my help on a clue he was stuck on. The fact he thought I should know was nice enough (I did get it actually), but also that he was willing to break the basic rules of commuting and have a conversation with somebody he didn't know was great. I could feel people looking at us and I swear some of them seemed to melt a little and gave off a feeling of jealousy that they hadn't been the one to sit next to this renegade crossword-puzzler. It was a nice sunny day, and I had a little glow inside me for the rest of the morning. Thank you Crossword Puzzle Man, wherever you are.

Despite my very English complaining, I don't want to be the cynical, scowling person that the daily commute is clearly turning me into - I am only 26 so I need a few more disappointments thrown at me before I get to that stage. But it is an awful, awful thing when the outcome of your day can be measured by how you were treated on the train by a fellow human being. One that you don't even know for that matter. And for me, it is so easy to either please me send me into a rage. I saw something that I truly despise and that was a lady walking while sending a text on her mobile phone, holding up a fair sized crowd coming out of Waterloo station. As you can imagine, I shook my head to myself and boiled inside, but then when the guy trying to get past her did the same as me I started smiling instead. I had found my kindred spirit and it made me realise for a split second that I am not alone and that the vast majority of people aren't cunts, they just have to live with one or two of them occasionally.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


So, I started my new job today and while it is still mid-evening (I should have re-thought the title of this blog), I have been thinking about a few things recently.

While it is exciting that I now have enough money to pay my mortgage and the endless bills for the forseeable future, it now seems like I have nothing to do for a few months. I have handed in my application for teacher training and while I wait for my references to come through I have to assume that what I wrote is sufficient to get me into one of the universities of my choice. I am relieved that I don't have to think about it anymore, but I have that awful feeling that I missed something out or put my personal statement answers in the wrong place and I think I should be working on it.

Also, I am not spending my days on the internet looking for work (and starting blogs) anymore, so everything seems really quiet at the minute. I know that once my handover is finished at the end of the week I'll be on my own so I'll welcome the quiet times and getting home to absolutely nothing, but right now it feels like I am in a kind of limbo and while I should cherish it I feel like my life is being wasted. I also don't know what I will do with my life if I don't get the chance to learn to be a teacher. Without realising it, I have pinned all my hopes on getting in to a university and training in September and even my subconcious is telling me this in my dreams. Ones with Johnny Depp in them. Sitting on the sinks of a ladies' bathroom and talking about life no less. Aw, just like high school.

I know that I could find a job for a year, or temp for a year and start next September, but I was so looking forward to starting and I have this awful feeling that if I don't do it now, I never will. While everything may seem rushed; getting student loans sorted, filling in forms, I know that if I have time to stew over them in the future they will never get done. And I have committed myself to a Proofreading and Editing correspondence course that I would like to get finished before I become a student again, but their weird symbols are putting me off.

In short, I have reached a plateau (or is it plateaux?) in my life that even alcohol doesn't seem to be helping (I know! Ludicrous!) and I need a good kick up the arse. Please form an orderly queue.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Written Word

So, I was doing the usual lying in bed and moving around more than I do during the whole day, when I began to think of English in its different forms. I am from an era when you were marked down on bad spelling, punctuation and grammar in exams and not when you got marks for saying 'fuck off;' which apparently is showing good spelling. My point is, I am by no means a purist but I absolutely despise text speak. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that English is constantly evolving and that Chaucer probably had a heart attack when we started saying 'you' instead of 'thou;' but what I object to is the use of text speak when you're not even texting. For example, I realise that text speak came about as an ingenious way of saving space when you have limited characters in a text message and to that end it works wonderfully. It has even been proven that if you olny use the frsit and lsat lterets in a wrod it is prefelcty radealbe (kinda). But when you are presented with text speak on Facebook or Twitter comments is when it really gets my goat. You have a whole keyboard in front of you to type real words and you don't even bother - in fact, I would say it's harder to write in text speak on a keyboard than using real words. I suppose that's a good thing - they can spend more time indoors typing inane messages and leave the rest of us alone. And God forbid, if you actually use it in real life. I don't even use it in texts, but I think that's more of an age thing than anything else. I can stretch to the occasional 'LOL' but that's more of an internet thing anyway.

And as this is the way my brain goes, I thought about the awful way that some people pronounce the word 'ask' as 'axe.' Was that just a communal groan I heard through t'internets? However, I have since found out that this is actually an olde English way of pronouncing the word when I thought it was a relatively new phenomenon. This may be the case, but why is this pronunciation mainly among people of Black African or Carribbean descent? Or white, middle class 'gangstas' trying to look hard of course. The only conclusion I can gather is that when the English so very kindly colonised parts of Africa and the Carribbean, this is how we pronounced the word and it has been passed down the generations so to speak. I know this is how it is also pronounced in the parts of America where there is a large black population so this is the only explanation I could offer myself when contemplating its usage last night. If any of you know different, please let me know because I am genuinely interested in how it has come about and how we can eradicate it from our lives forever.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Fisher Price Memories

Well, here I am starting my new blog and it feels quite good. I just want to get everything down while I remember and then I can start playing with the formats later. You also may have noticed that it is in fact early afternoon and not midnight - I generally think about things around or after midnight while trying to get to sleep and type them up later. This probably has something to do with the fact that the computer is in the shed in the garden (or the Bat Cave as it is affectionately known) and I don't very much like the idea of being sat here on my own at that hour. Which is why I need a new laptop. This is what has been going through my head over the last couple of nights - apologies if it seems like I am typing the new Magna Carta.

I was recently made redundant from my job of 3 years and while I think I am coping brilliantly, there are certain side effects I wasn't counting on. For example, although this has happened to me and no-one else, I have the distinct feeling that there are people out there who know more about it than me, other than the bosses who dealt with it of course. This has left me with a horrible distrust of people as I don't think I know the whole story. I know that I don't have the right to know everything about a single person, but when it comes to things that affect me I think I have a certain right in finding out more. Throughout this whole thing and the six or seven weeks I've had at home looking for work I have found out who my real friends are and unfortunately for me it is far fewer than I first imagined.

So, as this was churning through my head, I began to think of happier times in the good old days - when the sun was always shining and there were more than enough hours in the day even if you did go to bed at 8pm. And I suddenly thought, how cool would it be to meet the 5/6 year old Laura? Not to sit her down and give her a right talking to and tell her who to avoid later in life. It's a bit of a cliché, but I wouldn't be the person I am today if I didn't make the same mistakes, and since I am essentially happy apart from the not-having-a-job situation I wouldn't want to change anything. No, I would just like to meet her and see if she is the same person I remember her being or if my memory has played tricks on me. Initially, I thought the 20 years since had made me into a totally different person, but as I got thinking I realised that I am pretty much the same just with a wider vocabulary (and arse). In the immortal words of Lloyd Grossman, let's look at the evidence:

- The main difference between Laura and me is that she was a very serious, quiet child who seemed to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. For those of you who know me, this can come as quite a shock. This is the only thing I can think of that I haven't carried with me to some extent into my adult years - I definitely came out of my shell and although I am still a sensitive soul, I don't burst into tears at the sight of a blind man and his guide dog. The other big difference is that I don't want to be a ballet dancer anymore.

- I preferred my own company and thought of many ingenious ways to keep myself occupied (see below for examples). Please understand, this was not because of any social difficulties I may have had, in fact I was very polite in company, it was just the way I liked it. Now, I would say that I would prefer company over none any day; especially since being made redundant, the only people I see are Darren (my fiancé), recruitment consultants, bus drivers and shop assistants. But I am more than happy to sit on my own and entertain myself (not in that way).

- So, how did I entertain myself? Well, I read an awful lot - which I still do. The difference being that for me, reading had to be done out loud. With all the voices. And I used to have one of those brown (who thought it would be a good idea to be brown?) Fisher Price recorders where I used to tape my 'performances.' You know the one - it came with a cheap yellow tape which was blank on one side and had some of that non-offensive, bland electric guitar music that toy manufacturers thought was cool on the other side. Not only did I tape me reading - I came up with game show formats and stories that were also recorded over the same side of tape. However, my crowning glory was when I taped my Gran having an argument with one of my brothers and if my mother hasn't thrown it away, it should still be in the loft somewhere.

The whole point of this is that I thought I was different; a more practical and logical person than the creative one I have become. But all this shows that in fact I am pretty much the same person which has made me feel happier throughout this tough time - I still retain some of that childhood innocence and wonder even though I've had some crap things happen to me. I don't tend to read out loud anymore, but reading is probably still my number one past time, I have recorded sketches and stories for a friend of mine who sadly has since passed away, I love the theatre and although I am going stir crazy at times, I still enjoy my own company. I don't dislike people who are not Catholic anymore - a horrible side effect of being brought up Catholic, going to a Catholic school and attending church every Sunday (bor-ring). I have thankfully managed to grow out of that and I view all religion now with a sort of fascinated cynicism.

So in a roundabout way while lying in bed at night, my mind has succeeded in easing my heavy load in that subconcious way it does. And in a roundabout way, I suppose I'm saying that despite things life throws at me, I am essentially a happy person. Who loves to read.