Holy moly. So much has happened since my last blog post.
Where do I even begin?
Alrighty, then. I’ll start with the work placement.
So I finally got a letter from Learn Direct telling me to turn up at Longsight Park School on Tuesday the 28th of July to start my 4-week work placement.
It said I was going to do Admin, Catering and Regeneration there. I know Admin is computers and Catering is food. I had no idea what Regeneration was.
Admin and Catering at Longsight Park School?
I was imagining myself serving kids food at lunchtime and probably using the computer to order more food.
Then Lavander pointed out it was the summer holidays. No kids. Duh! Silly me!
Anyway, obviously the placement duration was going to overlap with my intercepting Lavander on the 21st of August. Also I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to still show up for my joke shop sign-on on Wednesday the 29th of July and all subsequent sign-ons during the placement.
Luckily the letter provided a phone number to ring for any inquiries. When I rang it the first time, it took me to voicemail, so I left a rather confused mess of a message while trying to explain what I wanted.
A few days passed and obviously I got no reply that first time so I decided to write down a script for a message to leave on this voicemail and also use as a template in case the guy answers.
I rang again and left a much clearer message and he rang me back later that same day.
He explained that yes, I should go to my joke shop sign-ons during the placement duration and also any days off I have to take are perfectly fine.
So I went to the place on Tuesday…and whoever put down the place-name obviously didn’t do their research. It wasn’t Longsight Park School, it was Richmond Park School. The different name would have confused me had a fellow job seeker not appeared before me. He was searching for the same place and already tried a separate school kinda down the road.
Turns out It was actually the community hut right there on the corner we were looking for, so we went in. There was a whole bunch of other guys and apparently we all had to sit round a table and wait for the Learn Direct guy to show up.
He didn’t show up till after lunchtime. Apparently he was very busy. He explained about what everyone was there to do…he also explained he understood how the job center can be on our backs and very unreasonable about this sort of thing, so basically what he’s doing is providing a friendlier, more flexible working environment for us.
He provided a list of different jobs we could do to pick from. Turns out regeneration meant gardening or building work to improve the area.
I decided I didn’t fancy being stuck in stuffy indoors doing boring admin work all day, and I didn’t fancy cooking food either, so I said I wanted to do something outdoors-y.
I ended up on a team responsible for the maintenance of gardens in the area. Clearing rubbish, cutting grass, weeding, etc.
It was something different to do, I guess…kinda fun, but I very quickly knew I didn’t fancy doing it as a permanent job. Too much hard work.
Some strange things happened while I was on the placement though.
Okay so first of all, there’s the guy in charge of the whole operation who I’ll refer to as “Big Boss Man”
He has a female kinda assistant boss, who I’ll refer to as “Big Boss Lady”
The team I’m put on has this guy who’s kinda the leader. Apparently he’s been working there a while. I believe he was there on a placement at first and decided he liked it so stayed on and achieved something akin to supervisor level.
I will henceforth refer to him as “Crazy Boss” for reasons that will become apparent as I tell the stories.
My fellow job seeker who I ran into on day 1 also kinda features in the stories in some capacity. I’ll refer to him as “F.J.S.”
One of the stories features a kinda tall guy with long hair who I’ll refer to as “Corners Guy” for reasons that will become clear as I tell that story.
And finally one more character who will feature in the story I will refer to as “Hermes” because he kinda reminds me of Hermes from Futurama…same hair style, black skinned…only he’s not as fat, and he wears shades.
Speaking of being black skinned…at least half of the people at the location were black. Big Boss Guy was black, Crazy Boss was black, Learn Direct Guy was black…there was a whole bunch of other black dudes as well…
Big Boss Lady, F.J.S and Corners Guy were white though.
Okay so the first story happens pretty early on in the duration of the placement, during lunch time in the community hut…it was me, Big Boss Man, F.J.S and a couple of other guys.
So Big Boss Man, F.J.S and the other guys were joking about how Crazy Boss doesn’t really do any work. And yeah, having worked with him a good few days already at this point, I couldn’t agree more.
So I tried to join in on the joke. I said something along the lines of “He just sits there and tells you to pick up this weed, pick up that weed”…and they immediately all look at me and their faces go all deadpan serious.
And Big Boss Guy says something on the lines off “Are you complaining? If you’re complaining you should talk about it with me”
So I was sat there like “wtf?”
But that wasn’t the end of it. I went to the toilet and, when I came back out, Crazy Guy was there and he says something like “Are you saying I work you too hard, Thom?”
So I says something along the lines of “I was only trying to join in on the joke!” and Big Boss Guy says something along the lines of “We was only turning the joke around on you, but you took it serious.”
W…T…F….how was i supposed to take it anything other than serious with you looking at me with deadpan serious faces like that? So I says “Right that’s the last time I try to joke with you guys.”
So then about halfway through the duration of my placement, Big Boss Guy gathered pretty much everyone together and led us to a small HQ of what I believe is the company that owns the estate to collect some random woman who I believe is HIS boss or something, and then he took the whole lot of us on a random tour of the entire estate.
I get that you want to show her what you’ve been doing, but, what was the point of bringing us? Was it to help us know our way around better and know where all the streets are? Because at this point, I, for one, knew my way around pretty well.
And then immediately after our little tour-de-estate, he sends the team I’m part of to a little front garden that needed some work, only for the woman who lives there to complain she was told we would be there at 10 but we actually arrived at pretty much lunchtime and she had to go take care of a prior engagement, like, NOW. Crazy Boss had to explain Big Boss Man didn’t tell him about her garden until now.
Then one day around-about week 3…Crazy Boss was absent in the morning, so I was put in a team with F.J.S and Hermes.
We work on a small front garden of some old guy and pretty much complete it in one morning. Easy as pie.
Just as we were finishing up for lunch, Crazy Boss shows up and kinda just watches us finish off some last few bits and then we head off to do our meal.
Now because I finished that front garden, I think Corners Guy found out I was finished and he asked me if I fancied helping him out with his job.
Here’s why he’s called Corners Guy; He and a couple of other guys are clearing weeds off some triangle-shaped patches of dirt that sit on the curb corners of a crossroads that’re kinda in the middle of the estate. These patches of green had been given the nickname “The Corners”. If you saw it, you’d know the nickname kinda makes sense.
So I decide “Cool, yeah, I can help corners guy, that front garden’s done. I won’t have anything to do there”
So I help him rake over one of the dirt patches that has already been cleared of weeds, trying to make it smooth…trouble is it’s full of roots and rocks…and our rakes aren’t having much effect.
So Crazy Boss comes over and tells me to go back to the garden I worked on this morning. Says I’m not supposed to work with Corners Guy because he’s my boss.
So, me , being in kinda “Yes, boss” drone mode, march over to the garden, where F.J.S and Hermes are.
F.J.S is like “What’re you doing here? I thought you were working on the corners with [Corners Guy’s name]”
I say something along the lines of “[Crazy boss’s name] told me to come here and help”
F.J.S is like “Help with what? This job is done! There’s nothing for you to do here. Thom. Go back to the corners and help [Corners Guy’s name], don’t listen to [Crazy boss’s name]”
So I head back to the corners and Crazy Boss is talking to this random chick.
He spots me and is like “What you doing, Thom? I told you to go help on that garden!”
And I’m like “There’s nothing for me to do there, there’s something for me to do here”
He’s not having any and keeps insisting I go back and help on the garden.
So I say, word for word, “Shut up, I’m not listening to you anymore.” and get back to raking the patch of dirt.
Now I kinda meant to say it as a kind of joke, but it didn’t really come out that way…and well…here’s why he’s called Crazy Boss…
Next thing I know he’s all hostile with me, threatening to punch me out and make it so nobody finds me, all while effing and blinding every other word.
So in me mind I’m like “Wtf? this guy’s crazy” And I’m trying to calm him down and the other workers on “the corners” are trying to calm him down but he doesn’t seem to want to listen
He gets in me face looking ready to swing a punch at any second. I have a rake in me hands so I kinda try to use it as a shield to keep his hands busy so he doesn’t swing.
And he’s all spitting in me face as he’s talking and I think some of his spit got in my mouth. Yuk.
Anyway eventually we get him to leave and carry on with our job, but I’m looking over me shoulder every couple of minutes because I half-expect him to be charging round the corner looking to uppercut me to the moon
Eventually it gets to home time and I get back to the community center and Big Boss Man tells me he has spies everywhere and says one of them told him there was an altercation.
So I kinda explain Crazy Boss wanted me to work on a job that was already finished while another guy wanted me to help with a job where there was actually something for me to do.
And he just said something like “You’re a valuable worker, Thom, everyone wants you to work for them, but stick with Crazy Boss, he’s in charge of you”
And inside I’m like “wtf? I don’t wanna work with him if he gets enraged so easily”
The day after our altercation, it rained heavily. Rain stops play and work, it seems, so we were there stuck in the community hut and Big Boss Man gives this whole speech basically about how people of different race, gender, culture, etc… are coming here and we have to respect each other and do the job and then dismissed us all for the day.
The altercation was on a Thursday and the speech was on a Friday so we had a whole weekend to cool our jets. When we came back on a Monday, Crazy Boss pulled me to one side and apologized for his actions.
I do realize I kind of said the wrong thing, but he did kind of overreact to it a bit. I’d understand just saying something like “Oi, don’t tell me to shut up, Thom” or something, but getting all violent like that? Yeah, I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable about working with him, even after the apology.
Anyway Big Boss Man decided Crazy Guy had enough workers already for the job he was doing and put me with F.J.S and Hermes on another job because they seemed a man down.
So F.J.S, Hermes and I do a back garden together and pretty much complete the job in that one day, and we get back for home time.
Big Boss Man’s out talking to everybody and he turns to me and says “Who were you with? These two?” Pointing to F.J.S and Hermes.
Big Boss Man: Did you like working with these two?”
Big Boss Man: Do you want to keep working with these two?
Me (without missing a beat): Yup.
So on my last week I tried to get a spare minute with Big Boss Man to tell him I needed the 21st off to get Lavander, but he was too busy with other people. Eventually at home time on Wednesday the 19th I managed to talk with Big Boss Lady and she gave it the OK and made a note in her diary, saying she would sign me in.
On the last day (Monday 24th August) The Learn Direct Guy was telling me he would word my CV to say my work placement was a retail one rather than gardening by bending the truth a little bit. He says that’s kind of what you have to do to get ahead in the job market. He also warned me they might put me straight onto another 6 month work placement or work program unless I say something like I’m doing voluntary work.
Well I think my Jury Summons might keep ’em from doing that, at least for a while. I’ll get back to that later.
Also on my last day, the Big Boss Lady took me to one side and basically said “You’re really good at talking, Thom. Have you considered a job as a hospital porter? They’re all about talking to patients as well as carting them around the hospital”
How freaky is that? Lavander is studying to become a nurse and she asks me if I fancy being a hospital porter? Maybe I should look into it.
So yeah…what a performance getting Lavander here into the UK was!
So I get to the airport and right to the arrivals lounge, no problem. But then that’s when things go a little pear-shaped.
First I had the place Lav was coming from confused, and thought it was Budapest when it was Bucharest.
As it turns out, the arrival time on plane tickets means the time it would be AT THE DESTINATION, and not the time it would be from where one departed like we, being the silly butts we are, thought.
So as her plane tickets said 2:25, it meant 2:25 here in England, and not 2:25 in Romania, which would be 12:25 here in England…so the fact that I per-ordered my train tickets to and from Milton Keynes Central based on the 12:25 England time, catching a 13:50 train up to Manchester. So obviously that was blown for a start.
Then when Lav’s plane finally DID arrive, she spent another couple of hours in baggage claim waiting for her big suitcase to show up, before airport staff helped her find it.
So obviously I was concerned my train tickets weren’t valid anymore…but lo and behold, they still let us through into the station. Turns out the 13:50 was just referring to a seat reservation on the 13:50 train. No big deal.
So then we make it to Manchester, find our way to the rental…and luckily the rent guy was there waiting for us.
But he was not too happy that we didn’t show up at the time we said we would, which was 4 o clock, and showed up at, like, 8 o clock instead, and didn’t contact him about it…yeah, I don’t blame him, really.
We had no excuse other than we misunderstood the arrival time and getting mixed up in baggage claim.
He told us to go stay somewhere else for a night and come back in the morning, so we had to grab an emergency hotel room in Manchester City Center
Fortunately, he was a lot more reasonable in the morning. He understood we made an honest mistake and sorted everything out with us.
If nothing else, this has been a learning experience. I now know the arrival time of any flight means the time it would be at your arrival destination, and I learned to get the mobile phone number of anybody providing a rental in case things don’t go to plan so you can get in contact with them.
Unfortunately that’s not the end of our rental woes…today, as I type this, apparently one of the other tenants has complained because I keep coming over and spending hours with Lavander and using the kitchen when I’m not paying for it. It’s okay for me to pay short visits, but I can’t stay at their place and use their stuff.
Lavander is very upset about the whole thing.
We just need to get her a National Insurance Number from the Job center, then a bank account, then get her in an apprenticeship so she can start her studies to become a nurse and start earning her own money at the same time, then soon as that’s all done, we’re looking into cheap rentals SPECIFICALLY for couples and we’re getting her the heck out of there.
Yeah, we made a right pig’s ear of things, haven’t we?
Hopefully we’ll get lucky and get all that sorted before the next rent is due.
As for my Jury Summons…I took it to the job center today and they’ve simply excused me from my next signing in the middle of September. They reckon I’ll be done with my jury duty by the time of the sign-on after that at the end of the month.
I’ll keep you all posted with what happens. Fingers crossed all goes well!
Ciao for now,
The Blue Fox Thom.