Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, October 17, 2005

Better living through yawning

Like I say, there's been a few late nights recently. And early mornings. And plenty of coca, nytol, lavender oil, new pillows and all the other useless weapons in the Insomnia toolbox. I'm definitely losing this round.

On the bright side, a combination of all this free time on my hands and having the most financially prudent flatmate in a long time means I might have finally sorted my finances out. After months of walking round with holes in my shoes and a permanent sense of guilt, I've decided the answer to my debt problems is pretty straightforward. Borrow some more. And beg.

No, my life isn't about to resemble one of those daytime adverts, where a new car magically appears in the driveway and the kitchen doubles in size (almost for free). I've worked out that if I take out one big loan to cover the smaller 4, I'll actually be much better off every month. And I get to take a repayment holiday, the full meaning of which I'd never fully grasped up until now. And now it's approved it means I can finally tell the credit card companies and my bank where to go, and switch to a nice ethical bank account which doesn't lend my wages to arms dealers and marketers. Oh, and I can pay my rent for the next three months.

Phase two to this was to get some more money. I'm back in Manager's good books, I hope, and I have taken on a lot of extra work lately. And it's was a bit disspiriting to find that I still earn less than a cleaner in Tower Hamlets. By fifteen hundred pounds. So I decided to try a subtle approach to begin with; I printed out the advert, circled the salary and left it on Manager's desk. For the past 10 months it's been my job to know what she's thinking almost before she does, so I walked away, safe in the knowledge that she'd come in the next day, see it, and be reminded that I deserve just slightly more money.

I came in the next day to overhear Manager in a state of some alarm.
"Who's left this on my desk? Are they saying I should go and be a cleaner? Do my staff think I'm bad at my job?"

My plan had failed. This is why we leave the brilliant strategic thinking to her. So I waited a full week before trying a less than subtle approach.

"Alright Chief?" I'm experimenting with the nickname. I don't think she likes it.
"Hiya, alright?"
"Yeah, can I have some more money."
"Yeah, OK."

Again, I'm thinking the assertiveness training was a good idea.

So, hopefully, by Friday I'll be solvent, ethical and promoted. Who needs sleep anyway.


I'm sitting in a room with a small group of my colleagues. There is a low hubbub of conversation, plenty of laughter, and just the occasional nervous glance. We're here because Scary Colleague insisted.

"So", says the man in the middle of the room, "Any idea why you six have been chosen to go on assertiveness training." There's a few nervous glances.

Scary Colleague is being very much missed at present, unfortunately struck down by the suicide disease.* So whilst she's out of action I decided to unleash my inner Scary Colleague. Waking up at 5 this morning, I was contemplating just how many times I'd let people walk all over me in the past few weeks, and what I could learn from a more assertive approach. So this morning, just for a joke, I wrote WWSCD? on my arm. For those of you not familiar with Americans, that stands for What Would Scary Colleague Do?

Standing at the bus stop a little later, I was enjoying some Mansun when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I took out my earphone.
"Brother, please. I have no food and I'm hungry. Please help me, give me three pounds."
I recognised him immediately. The same scary beggar who accosts me and my mates outside The Green, repeatedly asks for money several times in one evening, and, most unforgivably, physically grabbed hold of me in the High Road at 2 in the morning demanding money. I was kicking myself that I gave him money that time, but, lets face it, I was pretty scared.

But not today. I looked at the letters on my hand, and before I knew it, I was talking.
"But Brother..."
"No, you've told me that before, and last time you were rude, threatening and abusive. Now don't ever ask me for money again."
I put on my headphones and turned around.

Yes, so the highpoint of my day was shouting at a homeless man. But whilst I always give to the man with the sad eyes outside Sainsburys because I want to, I was always giving to Aggressive Beggar because I was afraid. Well, the spirit of Scary Colleague lives on. And hopefully she will too. Of course, thanks to my assertiveness half the office aren't talking to me now. But I can always cheer myself up by shouting at a few more homeless people.

Tomorrow, What Would Northern Nurse Do? Have a pint and a smoke.

*so called because there's only one known cure for the pain. And it's pretty popular

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What can you do?

That's what I've been asking. It turns out for someone with a few certificates, I'm remarkably difficult to employ.

I've spent the past four weeks searching every London borough within the three zones (There's at least 20 on my bookmarks), searching for a social work assistant post that doesn't require a car. There's a few, and I've got the application form down to a fine art, but social services departments so far aren't exactly queuing at my door. They've been outside next door a lot lately though. My neighbour's not a well man.

Hackney's definitely the most profitable place for me to work, with a social work assistant starting on 23,000, a full thousand more than a newly qualified social worker gets in Hertfordshire. It's a bit more dangerous though.

Kensington & Chelsea looks pretty good, with an office on the trendy Portabello Road, a very liveable 18,500 salary and a 3 star rating. It's also the only borough I can get across.

Tower Hamlets have a few posts that look optimistic, but it's hospital social work, which wasn't completely what I had in mind. But it would be fantastic experience.

I'm doing a lot of research into the social services job market in the south east at the minute. Depressing fact of the day was that a "cleansing operative" for Croydon Council earns 700 a year more than I do at the minute. And I beat none of them are turning grey at 25.

Maybe the sensible thing was not to print the advert out, circle the salary and leave it on Manager's desk. I think I need to ask for a pay rise in a manner less liley to cause offence....

I'm a very funny person....

I'm reflecting on the many meanings of the word 'Funny'. Mum certainly thinks I'm one of them.

I had one of those days last week, something that every amateur comedian hopes for. Everything I said, every response, every gesture, everything seemed side-splittingly funny to the people I met. It was a bizarre moment, and I haven't been that quick in years.

Sadly, it was the day of the funeral. I'm reflecting on my use of humour, and hoping it was genuinely well received. If not, I'll probably be the last to know.

My favourite one was when I found myself discussing driving tests with a group of mourners. Stories of the man who failed 9 driving tests with style are in vogue in my family. Except without the style bit.

"It's the minor faults you have to watch for."
"Yeah, a mate of mine drove perfectly, but he just got one minor fault too many. Late signal did for him"
"Did you get many minors on your test?"
I'd been quiet for a moment. "Yeah, one or two. And an Escort."

The strangest thing is that at parties and weddings I'm pretty lousy company.

Monday, October 03, 2005

This is getting out of hand....

It's nice to get comments on my blog. Hi to Papotine, one of my regulars, and the kindly person from Florida who left a comment.

Sadly, they're not all up to this standard. Here's a few examples:
"Your blog is pretty cool. I know that you probably have a lot of women readers, and I have a site that may interest them. It's about flat irons they can get there by visiting "

"Looking for heating and air conditioning info I found your post. I agree! "

"I somehow stumbled onto your jordans shoes blog."

Whilst Doafw may be a broad church, we're not quite that broad. So stay away spammers!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I was at a funeral/ the day I realised

I'm in an austere, vaguely Christian chapel full of people I don't know, watching as curtains close around the coffin of someone who was loved. I can't take my eyes off my friend who's slowly moving from his seat at the front with great dignity, but everytime I look at him I just want to cry for him.

There's a death in the family, and he's asked us to be here. My sympathy card, like the many others put up around the house Christmas-style, said if he needed anything just to ask. I'm aware that this is about the least I could be doing for him now, and I'm just glad he's got my sister by his side. He doesn't have to ask her anything, she already seems to know what he needs to get through this.

I've been to a lot of funerals in my life, and this was the worst. It was a death which, although natural, went against the natural order of things, and although I didn't really know her, it was a terrible thing to witness. The family printed up some poems she wrote before she died, about people I know, and it's been 24 hours and I haven't been able to look at them yet.

I suppose I learnt some important things yesterday, important reminders of why you have to make the most of time with everyone you love, and that you never know when your time's up. For about the first time in my life, I know what it means to have words completely fail me. It was a tough day, and it was just a relief to get home, rest and contemplate what I'd seen in my own time.

I also learnt that humour on the day of a funeral is a very fine balancing act. More about that one later.