Goodbye 2011

This year I…

  • Finished my job on March 31st and unintentionally told the council’s most senior officers what I thought.
  • Sobbed into a dinner lady’s ample chest.
  • Went on the Million Voices for Public Services march on March 26th and the pensions march on November 30th.
  • Registered at HMRC as self-employed online with an ex-colleague because we were too chicken to do it alone. We pressed the submit button on our laptops at the same time.
  • Set up an educational consultancy business with a friend.
  • Didn’t hear back from several high street banks re our business banking account so thought stuff them, walked into the only one we hadn’t tried and asked to see the small business manager (oh the jokes). It was the only day of the week she was in that branch. She set up our account there and then. Sometimes fate intervenes…
  • Designed our own website and discovered what File Transfer Protocol is. Eventually.
  • Discovered that working from home is actually quite fun unless it’s very cold.
  • Learnt how to network and attended lots of networking meetings making new friends and learning loads of new skills.
  • Sang at Wembley Arena (Hello Wembeeeey!) and the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Stood in the pouring rain to watch a recording of the X Factor and froze; watched the recording of Got To Dance and boiled in the September heatwave (watch out for my very red face in the background of the semi-finals). The advantages- some would say- of having flexible working arrangements.
  • Bumped into the prime minister and shouted, ‘Oy Cameron giver me my job back!’ Saw Boris Johnson a couple of times and met Ed Miliband at a Q&A. Managed not to shout at either of them.
  • Did some training and consultancy in schools and discovered that I can be very adaptable when it comes to what I offer.
  • Wrote lesson plans for a major high street supermarket that will be used in schools across the UK.
  • Was interviewed for The Guardian and told it like it was.
  • Got a job.
  • Found out that the world doesn’t collapse just because I lost my job.
Good luck and a happy and prosperous 2012 to everyone.

Happy Jobmas!

This time last year I indulged in the memories of public sector Christmas past- the celebratory meal at the local Italian that did a lunchtime special for less than a fiver; the Michelin star quality of the canteen Christmas dinner (‘she wants vegetarian gravy!’) and the jolly office Christmas card.

Another jolly public sector party

I was also panicking about my future post 31st March and not sure what I’d be doing with the twenty three hours a day that Homes under the Hammer wasn’t on telly. Post redundancy like the infinity of space was hard to imagine without collapsing another synapse.

It’s not, however, been as doom-laded as I imagined. Since April I’ve set up a business with a colleague and recruited lots of schools. Phrases like ‘tax deductible,’ ‘e marketing’ and ‘business networking’ are part of my working vocabulary and I’ve retired public sector favourites like ‘stakeholder engagement,’ ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking.’

I’ve had some work as an independent trainer, have worked for a consultancy and have written for a well-known supermarket chain. I’ve continued my blog and been interviewed for a Guardian article without having to be anonymous.  I’ve also networkedlike a fiend and met some amazing business people.

Worth being made redundant for.

I had been told by a lot of people that being self-employed is a lonely option but I’ve not been lonely at all. I’ve met up with colleagues for coffee on a regular basis and in setting up our business my business partner and I have had to meet a lot, our favourite office being a branch of a well-known coffee chain. We make phone calls, send emails, sign cheques, check out eBay, plan training and design learning resources in our ‘office.’ NB: one of those items is not strictly work related.

It was after one of our meetings that I checked my phone for email and found and interesting message from a local head teacher. It said something along the lines of (and I may be paraphrasing here):

You know how you said you’d rather chew your own leg off rather than go back into school? You’d better sharpen your teeth and break out the salt and pepper because I’d like to offer you a job.

She went on to offer me the acting deputy headship at her school while her deputy is on maternity leave. Perhaps I’d like to meet her for a coffee in the ‘office’ and talk about it.

I discussed the proposition with Mr R who was very supportive. I then phoned my mother who said, ‘excuse while I faint,’ and then fell about laughing. Thanks mum.

I met with the head teacher and we worked out a deal: I’d take the job for three days a week so I can continue with my other projects and will remain self-employed to make the tax/national insurance/pensions thing my responsibility and so as not to confused HMRC. A few days after I accepted the post, the head teacher found someone to fill the post the remaining two days.  I’ll be very busy but it’s not class based and I’m very much looking forward to it. I like to think that maybe the universe has come good after a crappy start to 2011.

So my 2012 is set to be busy, challenging and exciting. Just don’t ask me what I do for a living if I bump into you at a party.

Happy festive season and a happy new year to my readers. Thank you for your support over the last fifteen months and I’ll see you next year.

So comrades come rally

Today millions of public sector workers are striking over pensions.

In the borough where I used to work every school bar one is closing completely or has part closures. These include faith school, academies and special schools. I know some of these head teachers would ensure their schools remained open through snow or illness and would rather snog Michael Gove than close their schools. Today however the schools are closed and the teachers striking over pension changes.

Today public sector workers are marching, rallying and picketing. Many of them will have never been on strike before but this time it feels necessary. Like those head teacher in my ex borough they want to demonstrate their anger and dissatisfaction at the pension changes. It’s indisputable that public sector pensions have to change but the changes are going too far too fast. We Love Local Government explains this far better than I.

Apart from changes to pensions I think the public sector also just wants to make its voice heard. Since the coalition government came into power they’ve constantly criticised the public sector and have branded them feckless and lazy;  greedy pension grabbers that shirk the real world of hard work for a cushy time being babysat by the state.

The government response to this day of action has been one of that teacher who says, ‘you’ve let yourself down, you’ve let the government down but most of all you’ve let the public down.’ If I were them I’d be a bit worried at the anger that has provoked such a massive walk out rather than threatening to withdraw their offer over reforms. But I guess that’s why I’m not in politics. My ego is sadly just not vast enough.

I’ve mentioned before that when I went into the public sector it wasn’t for the pensions or the perks or even the holidays. I wanted to be a teacher and make a difference in children’s lives. I felt I could best do this in the state sector.  As a new teacher of 22 I didn’t care about a pension because it felt like retirement was a million years away (it still is now that the age of retirement is getting higher and higher) and took a big chunk of my wage each month that might be better spent on having fun.

But now after a whole career spent in the public sector I’ve been left high and dry. I don’t pay into a government pension any more because that jo has gone and I have no job to strike from today. But the public sector is where my heart lies so I’m with everyone who strikes today. Good luck and maybe just maybe the government will listen for once.

‘Arise, ye workers from your slumber,
Arise, ye prisoners of want.
For reason in revolt now thunders,
and at last ends the age of cant!
Away with all your superstitions,
Servile masses, arise, arise!
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition,
And spurn the dust to win the prize!
So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.’

The Internacionale

Autumn austerity

In spring this year our winter gas bill arrived and was ridiculously high. We’re pretty sensible about the heating, keeping it fairly low and of course switching it off at night (I’m always surprised by how many of my friends keep their heating blasting all night long) but prices had gone up and last winter was pretty cold.

 Last winter Mr R and I were both at work all day so the heating was only on in the morning for a short while, off all day and on again in the evening. This autumn/ winter however, my office is the kitchen table and given my financial situation we need to economise on the high heating costs. We’re bravely holding out on heating until the end of October which might be fine for Mr R who is from the wilds of West Yorkshire where the wind always howls and people stare and point at the sun in wonder on the one day in summer it deigns to shine up there but I’m a softy Southerner. I’m so pathetic that when we visit Mr R’s parents, my mother in law always says, ‘I put radiator on in t’spare room for you three days ago,’ but I still shiver under three duvets. One Christmas up there I spent the whole day huddled on the floor by the radiator. They’re nails those Yorkshire folk.

Being profligate with the heating is not worth the ridiculous amounts of money we have to pay for it though. I’ve ordered a little heater from Argos and will use this if I’m working at home for as long as I can handle it like some modern day Bob Cratchit. Meanwhile this is what I know about keeping warm:

  1. Wear a hat. My old guide leader gave me this piece of invaluable information the first time I went camping. I was eleven years old, thrilled to be away from home for a few days and didn’t brush my teeth once. It rained so hard and our equipment and clothes got so wet that we all spent a memorable day in the only dry place for miles, an old hut, trying to dry our sleeping bags. If you’ve ever been on guide camp you might remember that when it starts to rain you have to change out of you cosy jeans and into shorts as these are easier to dry than denim. So we went around in our shorts and t shirts in freezing temperatures and pouring rain for a week but I wore my hat. And was warm. The hat hair is a small price to pay.
  2. If you’re chilly, do some housework. I’m not a housework fan but it’s great for working up a glow. Today I climbed onto a chair and cleaned the windows in the living room. I’m warm, the windows are sparkling and the kids from the secondary school on their way to buy chips for lunch had a laugh at the mad woman cleaning windows with pages from The Guardian. Result.
  3. Wear more clothes. ‘Obvious!’ you might think but we’re so used to being warm that we’ve forgotten how to dress cosily. I was listening to a radio phone during the snow spell at the beginning of the year. A Norwegian guy phoned in and called us Brits a bunch of whingeing wimps. Our idea of a warm outfit is not the same as countries that have proper cold weather so we need to consider vests, long johns  and socks more seriously. It’s not sexy but neither are chilblains. I went to Russia a couple of years ago at the end of their winter. It was very cold but everyone is bundled up and warm and they really do wear those fur hats with the earflaps (ushanka) . Mind you, every building we went into including the hotel blasted out plenty of efficient Soviet era heat so you spend half the day just dressing and undressing. It’s exhausting.

    Sean Connery knowsh how to keep coshy in hish ushanka

  4. Shut the doors. No, not the front door. Obviously that’s shut but we’re trying to remember to shut all the internal doors so what heat there is doesn’t spend its time warming the bathroom floor or the bedroom wardrobe.
  5. Slankets and blankets. My name is Citizen R and I own a slanket. Whatever. Top tip: don’t put on your slanket and think you can walk around in it. You can’t. You will trip on the hem and end up in a heap of synthetic fabric and static on the floor.

Right time for a nice warm cup of tea and a spot of warming vacuuming.

I wonder if Mr. Cameron is wearing an extra sweater and worrying about how he’ll pay his gas bill this year.

If any readers have any more ideas on how to keep warm please add them!

 

 

A year is a long time in politics

Happy anniversary Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg but forgive me if I don’t send you a card and a bunch of flowers. You’ve been busy in your first year of marriage.

'Get that morning breath sorted, Nick.'

Let’s go back to polling day, 6th May 2010.

It began with a bang. Literally.

I was driving to a school from the office when a bloke walking along the pavement decided, for no earthly reason, to start walking in the road. I had to do an emergency stop to avoid squishing him but the huge refrigerated van behind me didn’t make it and ploughed into the back of my car. I know it’s wrong but I love my car, it cost me a lot of money and because of having a job that involved a lot of driving, was my living. It was now sitting in the middle of the road steaming gently, its rear end caved in.

Long story short, the local police patrol stepped in and took over and the man in the road was sent off with a flea in his ear. I went home and went off to vote, still shaken and shocked.

Well the van’s insurance company insisted on giving me a fancy hire car while mine was in the garage so I ended up driving around South London in a Mercedes the size of a boat feeling like a drug dealer.

A few days later, we heard that you would be joining together in holy coalitionamony .

To Mr. Cameron, a boy, Nick.

But I wasn’t worried.

We knew that you would be cutting liberally (geddit) and comprehensively but never dreamed of how far you would go. ‘Don’t worry too much, ‘said my line manager at work, ‘you’re frontline staff, they’re getting rid of backroom staff not people working with children and teachers.’

Sadly, however, it was the backroom staff that ended up doing the cutting so they got rid of frontline staff first. Even my line manager got the chop. No one knew how to manage.

Over the last few months we’ve seen you cutting children’s centres, school sports funding and local authority staff who work with children, disabled people and the elderly. We’ve seen you put up tuition fees for university students and cut the EMA grant.

The people are revolting

But we’ve also seen protests and sit ins and the worm turning. The worm seems to have turned mostly against you, Cleggy but let’s not forget the Dark Lord of the Sith. No disrespect, Dave.

But nothing is your fault is it, Dave? You’re till peddling the ‘we inherited these problems from the previous government. ‘Or rather, ‘a big boy done it and ran away.’  No mention of the fact that you were probably rubbing your hands together in glee at being able to restructure local government, the NHS and schools with gay abandon.

As for me, my job is a distant memory and I’m working on building my business and being a private entrepreneur like you always wanted.

So happy anniversary, boys, and I hope you sleep well at night.

PS I’m listening to the radio as I write this. Grant Shapps is saying, ‘we inherited this deficit, it was the fault of the previous government.’ Sigh.

I was a public sector reject

Happy monthiversary to me! It’s almost five weeks since I was in gainful employment.

My final day at work was strange indeed. It began with me struggling to put a large pot plant in my car which was parked outside the training rooms of the professional development centre. As the wind slammed my car door shut for the third time I let out a loud expletive (rhymes with luck) only to realise that the window was open and an entire room of people was staring at me, mouths open. Bad enough but then I realised the room was full of the most senior leaders in the council receiving their CRaPP training. Oops.

I left at noon, arms full of pen pots, folders and spare jackets (the office was always icy in winter). A colleague and I left together for moral support and said goodbye cheerfully to everyone. I had a box of chocs for the dinner ladies so popped down to the canteen to say goodbye and….burst into tears in the middle of the canteen. I was folded into the not insubstantial bosom of the head dinner lady much to the bewilderment of the diners.

The dinner ladies: the ones who think liver pâté is vegetarian, who incinerate toasted sandwiches and whose baked potatoes taste like old army boots. I have no idea why I ended up clutched to a lady in a tabard, a box of crushed Quality Street melting between us.

Minutes after leaving the office, my pass card was deactivated. By 9am the day after, my e-mail account was deactivated so that out of office message disappeared and my P45 had arrived. Efficiency that I had never experienced in all my time with the council. I had been well and truly deleted like one of those Egyptian Pharaohs whose face is chipped off their statues when they die.

Fast forward a few weeks and schools are back and most of the bank holidays have passed. I’ve been meeting with colleagues and planning and drumming up business. Schools are quite rightly cautious at the moment because of their budget concerns but there is small, fine trickle of interest there.

It’s a brave new world out there and it’s time I stopped yearning after my job and started looking forward.

Oy Cameron! Give me my job back.

Trafalgar Square at 8am before it was shut.

Being a dutiful daughter I escorted my monarchist mother to the royal wedding yesterday. Personally I would rather have been safe at home watching it on the telly and pottering around but needs must. We squashed into The Mall at a ridiculously early hour and killed time by watching a rather attractive NBC reporter clad in a smart suit and manky old trainers do his live to camera pieces. We then stood behind a French camera crew (this was the trick- they have so much equipment that you get a clearish view through them and I translated what they were saying for my mother. Hours of endless fun I don’t think.

The French TV crew film an interesting-looking tree

Trafalgar Square was shut so no chance of watching on the giant screens. We hightailed it to a little pub just off Pall Mall and sat on the beer-stained floor to watch the ceremony. The whole pub joined in the singing of Jerusalem much to the bewilderment of the French tourists. (PS three Hubert Parry pieces in one wedding ceremony? They must be keen. Or was that Charlie’s choice?)

I was quite ready to go home but my dear mother was re-energised with royal fervour so we trooped back to the Mall and wandered down where my mother made friends with a bloke in a top hat and feathers. The police were keeping people at arm’s length from Buck House itself (in fact the police did a good job in keeping everyone far away from pretty much everything) but we did get a vague glimpse of the happy couple revving off in that rather fine Aston. By this point my feet were killing me so we were wandering off in the direction of St James tube when we spied a small crowd and, lemming-like, decided to go and have a nosy. Who should emerge from the back of the Palace but the Prime Minister himself, his skin as eerily smooth in real life as on the telly.

Before I knew what I was doing I yelled, ‘Oy Cameron! Give me my job back,’ as he strode off towards his Range Rover with nary a ‘calm down, dear,’ to me. The crowd giggled and even a copper or two sniggered. With my mother in mind, I left it there not wanting her to see me being grappled to the ground by the PM’s security and carted off to the local nick.

But I can’t tell you how good it made me feel.

The thin blue line keeps the crowd at bay.

Travel card for one happy mother: £7.30

Policing: millions.

Shouting at the prime minster: priceless

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