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.

N30 day of action for pensions justice

I made it to about midday yesterday and had to do something. I called Mr R at work.

‘I can’t sit here doing nothing,’ I said, ‘I may not be a public sector worker any more but I need to be there supporting them.’ Mr R sounded utterly  unsurprised.

‘Text me when you’re on your way home,’ he sighed. ‘Oh and try not to get kettled.’ 

I packed water, my camera and a warm hat and was up at Charing Cross within the half hour. I joined the march at The Strand and zipped open my jacket to reveal my lime green Unison t-shirt, a relic from March 26th.

We wandered down to Victoria Embankment where representatives from various unions gave speeches. It was good hearing from ordinary representatives of various professions: the nurse, the probation officer and the doctor proudly in their uniforms. London Mayoral candidate, Ken Livingstone popped up for a chat.

Speeches over, we politely filed off back down the road, banners neatly propped against trees. The majority of the marchers headed straight for the pubs for some post rally cheer and the rest of us wandered back to the tube. So much for the notices advising demonstrators to use tubes stations further afield to avoid a crush- I was the only marcher in my tube carriage all the way home.

There was a huge police presence and Trafalgar Square was closed up tighter than  George

Osborne’s purse. I loved seeing hordes of bored police officers climbing into their riot vehicles, McDonald’s bags clutched tightly in their hands.

Like my experience of the March 26th march, this was a polite but angry gathering of ordinary people fed up at having their careers mucked about. And I’m sorry Jeremy Clarkson if think that we should be shot for that. Yes I know you were trying to be ‘funny’ but you were wide of the mark. Oh and that ‘damp squib’ of a strike as the prime minister arrogantly called it saw over 2 million people striking and 50,000 alone on the demonstration in London. The only damp thing about yesterday was the weather. Wake up Mr. C and listen to the people.

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

What do we want? Pensions! When do we want them? Before we’re too old to enjoy them.

When I was a little girl and went to play at my friend’s house we would bandage her teddies and give them pretend medicine but when it was her turn to visit me, we would line up our toys and pretended to be teachers. Many years later she grew up to be a doctor and I grew up to be… well I think you can guess.

When I was that little girl I didn’t think about pensions or the public sector I just wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. And even when I went to university, in between lots of practice snogging boys and drinking too much alcohol, I worked hard to learn my profession. I can’t remember rubbing my hands together in glee and planning to work in the public sector because of the pensions or because it was an easy option. Nascently political, I wanted to teach in state schools so I did.

But teacher pensions are a perk in a job where you get yelled at by parents on a daily basis, abused occasionally by the kids you try to teach and slagged off regularly by the media and politicians. So I’m behind the strikes on Thursday. Michael Gove has already got his knickers in a twist at the thought of striking and calling it a ‘massive inconvenience.’ It will be, especially to some working parents who, as Guardian journalist Suzanne Moore points out, use schools as a child-minding service. It’s frustrating and annoying when train drivers or airport staff go on strike but it’s a last resort and it lets the world know how fed up people are.

The ATL (Association of Teachers and lecturers) is striking for the first time in its 127 year history.

Gove (circled) on strike: teachers will lose respect of they strike .

Perhaps you should start listening to the teachers, Mr Gove. Because of course you’d never go on strike yourself, would you?

For more on this debate read the excellent page in The Guardian. I appear at 1.40pm.

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.

Thank you…but not goodbye

Today is officially R day. My P45 was waiting for me when I got home for work yesterday. I have less than three hours left at work and I really shouldn’t be writing a blog post but I have things to say.

 Back in September I was considering writing a blog to help me manage my feelings about the whole public sector debacle and my own small part in it. I didn’t know any bloggers except my two lovely sisters-in-law, Miss Melancholy and Stray. When they visited us to help cerebrate Mr R’s birthday, I talked to them about starting a blog and they persuaded me that this was a Good Idea. ‘You’ll make friends!’ they said. I scoured the Internet for similar bloggers and tentatively made some cyber friends.

 I wasn’t convinced that anyone would read my ramblings but I set them down anyway and discovered that people did read and respond. Even The Guardian, the paper I’ve been reading since I was teenager, read and enjoyed. I was even an ‘expert’ on the Guardian redundancy Q&A. Memorable for not only being an honour, but also for being in the middle of a bout of Norovirus. I wrote my responses, threw up and lay down for a few minutes in a repeating cycle for the three hours of the live chat.

 I’m convinced that if I hadn’t written the blog I’d be sitting in a corner rocking by now. So a big shout out and a huge thank you to the blog massive especially, Ellen, Guerrilla Mum, fighting for the rights of children with special needs; Tim the Armchair Sports fan who is forever Slouching Towards Thatcham; Citizen CW, my cyber mentor and friend; Andrew Brown, Someday I Will Treat You Good, who I actually met in real life although we didn’t realise it at the time and the Redundant Public Servant who has retired temporarily from the blogosphere but who wrote a blog far more dignified and less indignant than mine. And of course Miss Melancholy and Stray who set me on the blog path and my friends, family, colleagues and tweeps who have been there. Also a huge thank you the brilliant Patrick Butler and very funny Judy Friedberg from The Guardian. Thank you for seeking out the truth.

 I felt like a I wanted to protect my employers so I’ve been anonymous until recently but sod it, I’m on my own now so I’m out of the closet. If you didn’t already know, I manage the Healthy Schools programme across three SW London local authorities and I support schools with all aspects of health and wellbeing (teenage pregnancy, healthy eating, gang crime, mental health etc). My friends call me the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll guru.

 But it’s not over!

 I will be blogging some more here. I’m still a victim of government cuts, I still have friends and family in the public sector and the story is not over. After all the title of this blog is- in homage to bad B movies- I was a public sector worker and a bit like being an president of the United States or an alcoholic, I will always have been a public sector worker.

 Thank you, TTFN and as an actor with biceps the size of small children once said, ‘I’ll be back.’

%d bloggers like this: