I’m only borrowing the Battle of the Planets characters; I’ll give them back – honestly!!
“Adam!! Will you get a move on, I’m not having you late for school”
“I know, I’ll be down in a minute!”
Julie sighed, sitting down at the laptop in the corner of the dining room, she booted up and waited. She had just the one appointment today. The ritual fortnightly humiliation that was signing on. How to convince the jobsworths behind the desk that she really was “actively seeking work” when there were no suitable jobs to apply for was a job in itself.
“Have your circumstances changed since you last signed on?” No, unfortunately that handsome millionaire she ordered for Christmas did not show up to sweep her off her feet!
“What have you done to find work in the past two weeks?” Everything you told her to do!
“How many vacancies have you applied for?” As many as she deemed suitable for her circumstances!
“Have you done any paid or unpaid work since your last signing day?” If she found any work, would she still be coming here?
Wouldn’t be so bad if there were vacancies that were even worth applying for, but all the major employers were only offering 8 hour contracts at NMW, barely £50 per week.JSA rules dictate that recipients have to be seeking employment of a minimum of 16 hours to be eligible for payment anyway.
“Oh, but you would still get your benefits!” the Jobsworths say, “and it’s a foot in the door.”
The session would usually end with a look at the recent vacancies on their computer, or a suggestion that she might need to be a bit more flexible when it came to the hours she was available to work.
What flexibility? She was a single mum for Christ’s sake; she had a dependant 10 year old she was required to be home for when he was off school, or would they actually agree that letting him wander the streets unsupervised was a great idea, or condone him staying home alone!
“Has she thought about childcare?”
Oh yes, but not many childminders take on children after they start school, preferring to start them as babies and continue through childhood. Childcare for the older children was sorely lacking in a town such as hers. Thinking about it, would a childminder be happy to suddenly have a client at the door to drop off her charge, when her employer had phoned to ask her to cover for a sick colleague? Even at 8pm on a Sunday evening? Julie couldn’t see that happening in a million years. But that was the kind of flexibility the employers wanted in these days of 24 hour living. The kind of unskilled labour she was expected to apply for was not the regular 9 – 5 Monday to Friday convenience that made working straightforward for parents these days.
No, it seemed 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday term time was a bit too much to ask for.
Was she really being unreasonable though? She felt as if she was doing something wrong by wanting to bring up her own child, of course she wanted to work, being stuck at home alone was no picnic, even if it did seem to be the easy way out. There was no quality of life. TV, internet chatrooms, phoning radio stations to request dedications for made up peoples birthdays. Social Networking sites – what a joke they were. Whenever she logged on to them, the interesting people were at work and she was left with the other bored stay at home mums that had nothing better to do than post pictures of their youngest sat on the potty while watching Tellytubbies on DVD.
And she wondered why she escaped into the fantasy world?
In her imagination she wasn’t Julie any more, bored 40 year old mum, she was Princess, 16 and beautiful. As far away from reality as it was possible to be. Her mane of hastily tied back red hair became sleek, black and wavy, dull blue eyes became sparkling emerald. She was no longer short and frumpy, instead tall, slender with two gorgeous hunks to drool over her. No more the daily toil of mundane chores, instead she was a member of this elite fighting team, G-Force, who would be called upon to save the world – no the universe – from the evil Zoltar from the wicked planet Spectra.
She was the teams explosives expert, knowing exactly how much of each explosive material to use, and where to place it for maximum effect. She was the top computer hacker too, there wasn’t an encrypted code she couldn’t break. The chief wanted the enemy’s secret files? No problem, she would have them downloaded onto disc and be out of there before the timer on the carefully placed bomb went off in the next corridor. And if she did come up against any resistance from the enemy troops, then she knew all the martial arts and could kill hundreds of goons with her bare hands, and frequently did, all in a days work.
Of course there was the love interest too; she had two of them to choose from. Mark the handsome commander of the team. He was head over heels in love with her as she was with him, but he took his responsibility seriously and couldn’t contemplate a long term relationship until Zoltar had been beaten once and for all.
Or there was Jason, the teams’ expert marksman. He was just as good looking as Mark, but in a more rugged way. He was single minded in getting revenge for the death of his parents though, and she never thought of him as the settling down type, more the fast and furious “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type, not right for a ‘nice’ girl like her. Still, he was the one paying her all of the attention she so desperately craved from Mark, and Mark was the one who would completely ignore the not so subtle hints she frequently threw in his direction.
One day, she dreamt, when this war was over.....
The alarm on her phone roused her from her reverie, Julie picked it up, reading the screen even though she knew perfectly well it was only a reminder she had set for herself. She had half an hour to be at the benefits agency.
One day, she thought, the perfect job will be waiting......