Thursday, November 29, 2012

Work, Programme

Imagine for a moment that the sole reason for your existence is to find employment for people who do not have it.

Are you imagining it?

How do you feel? Do you feel like it's probably quite a tough thing to do? I think I'd feel that way.

Now imagine that, in order to facilitate you finding employment for people who do not have it, you have been given £435 million pounds since the middle of 2011.

Wow! That's a whole lot of money isn't it? £435 million buys a lot of Jaffa Cakes. It buys so many Jaffa Cakes that my (non-scientific, natch) calculator CANNOT EVEN CONCEIVE OF THE NUMBER. Fortunately, I am cleverer than the calculator and can tell you that it's 10,440,000,000 Jaffa Cakes.

But you haven't used the money you were given to buy Jaffa Cakes, have you? No. Of course not. You've been using it to find employment for people who do not have it.

Which is good, because no-one's going to have given you £435 million without setting some performance targets. If you'd just gone out and bought all those Jaffa Cakes you'd have definitely fallen short of those targets.

Well guess what?

The (private sector) companies who've ACTUALLY been given all this money might as well have just bought the Jaffa Cakes, because despite being given that enormous sum of money (so far, there's more to come) they have collectively managed to find long term employment for *dramatic pause for effect* 3.5% of the people they have had referred to them.

*prolonged slow hand clap*

The target set by The Department for Work & Pensions, by the way, was 5.5%. It's good to aim high, apparently.

Obviously, as I'm a left leaning believer in all things nice and fluffy, I'm sort of questioning whether throwing enormous piles of cash at private companies is really the best way of going about finding people employment. I'm definitely questioning whether it's a good idea to continue throwing more money at them when they haven't met their targets.

I'll stick my neck out here and make an assumption: A few people are doing really fucking well out of all this, but they're not the supposed beneficiaries of The Work Programme. To me, this stinks of giving money to the private sector when they have no chance of achieving a good return on that investment.

Nearly nine hundred thousand people had been referred to one of these companies in the first year of the scheme, are there even nine hundred thousand job vacancies in the country?

Also, isn't this what the Job Centre is for? What sort of results do they achieve? What would be the results if no action at all had been taken? Or if some of the money had been used to provide grants or loans to people who wanted to start their own small businesses?

Unemployment is shit. Really, really shit. And there's loads of it about. So I understand there's a need to do something about it. I just don't think The Work Programme is the right thing to be doing.

And I really want a Jaffa Cake.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soft Play

Generally speaking it seems to be considered unacceptable to pass comment on the parenting styles of other people.

I largely agree with this. Want to feed your baby from the breast? Go for it, breastfeeding is ace. Prefer the bottle approach? Dandy, formula feed to your heart's content. Attachment Parenting? Sounds lovely, who doesn't like a cuddle? (I know there's more to it than this, I'm being facetious) Gina Ford disciple? It's not for me, but shit, it isn't my child so I have no say.

Basically, in pretty much whatever circumstance I've come across in my short stint as a parent I've been happy to let other parents do their own thing. Until last Saturday.

You may remember last Saturday. It was wet. Really wet. With actual floods and shit. Dramatic stuff, no mistake.

Because it was wet, we decided to go to the local soft play centre with a couple of friends and their respective small people.

It was busy.

It looked as if every parent within a five mile radius had been brainwashed by Derren Brown at the request of the soft play centre's owners: "when you wake up, you will go to soft play".

I half expected the world to end while we were inside, only for the moustachioed mind-fucker to debrief us all and tell us we were now reprogrammed to lead far better lives.

That didn't happen.

What did happen was I got into a fight with a three year old.

As, I suspect, most soft play centres do, this one features a "babies only" bit. There is a sign there, which says: "babies and crawlers only". Which seems an odd way of putting it, but does at least suggest that three year olds (most of whom can walk, yes? My knowledge of children isn't great) shouldn't be in that area.

So imagine my surprise when Cam and his little friend Daisy, happily playing in the dinky ball pool, with Daisy's dad and me sitting on the floor next to the pool making sure they didn't do any damage to themselves or each other, were suddenly joined by a boisterous bigger boy.

I say joined. I probably mean assaulted. The bigger boy blindsided both parents and did the full superman leap into the pool, scattering balls and only marginally missing the two babies.

We asked him nicely to leave the "babies and crawlers" area, said he needed to be a bit careful or he'd hurt the babies, because they're only small.

"I'm a big boy!"

*In my head* "Congratulations, now fuck off. Where are your parents?"

*In reality* "Yes, but these two are only little, there's a big ball pool for big boys like you over there, why don't you go over there?"

No. Instead, he sat back and started throwing the balls. At us, rather than the babies, so perhaps he was listening a little bit.

(Where are your parents?)

Periodic thrashing around near the babies made me decide it was time to remove him from the pool. I wasn't sure about this. But I was sure that I didn't want my seven month old baby to receive a blow to the head from this delightful child.

(Where are your parents?)

So, taking care not to do anything which might have been seen as forceful, I moved him out of the ball pool. Stupidly, I didn't pay enough attention to what his arms were doing, allowing him to grab my glasses from my face. Shitballs.


He wasn't about to relinquish the glasses without a fight, which was a bit of a tricky situation, as I didn't much want to deliver a left hook to a three year old (okay, I kind of did, but I NEVER WOULD). I held him in one hand and one arm of my glasses in the other. He had both hands on the rest of my glasses. Stalemate.

(Seriously now, shouldn't your parents have noticed you're having a fight with someone ten times your age? Even if they only wanted to come and cheer the fact you appear to be winning, you'd think they'd notice…)

Cue the arrival of the cavalry: my wife and a member of staff.

Prising his fingers from my glasses, my wife turned the tide. Hell child's spirit was broken, and he was walked over to his parents, who were told what he'd done.

His mother's reaction? She gave him a heavy smack, then returned to her coffee (which, apparently, was deserving of far more attention than her child).

This lovely encounter was how I learned that the time I will judge someone else's parenting is the time that it puts my own child in danger. I think that's fair enough. I wasn't brave enough to say anything to the mother though, she was enormous and looked like a regular from Jeremy Kyle.

Plus, if I couldn't beat her son in a fight, what chance did I have against her?

Have you ever had a run in with a naughty child (apart from your own)? What did you do? What is acceptable? Is a parent smacking their child going to discourage them from behaving violently toward other children? Hit me up in the comments box.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Question Time

A bloke who’s rather good at the blogging game told me once that a meme can be a good way to get out of a blogging slump.

Well, a blogging slump I am most definitely in. So I’m hoping that the tag I’ve got from that finest of pharmaceutical fellows Mr Adam Plum, who blogs at, will help to kick start my brain into producing some more text based fripperies for my readers.

Even if it doesn’t, it will at least give you something to have a look at in a spare five minutes. Don’t say I never give you anything, even if what I give you is rubbish.

I’ve already read a few other responses to this meme, and I’d encourage you to at least check out the two I’ve linked above, as well as the lovely Sunniva Anne’s. It’s legitimised voyeurism; enjoy the insights into people that it gives you.

Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?

A few months back, when I was writing really regularly and thinking blogging was the best thing since cheese on toast, I wrote almost all my post during my lunch breaks at work.

One sad day our internet filtering software was changed. Suddenly, we inhabited a digital prison, trapped behind bars made of proxy servers and site categorisation. Blogger became an unreachable mirage. I turned my attention from writing blog posts, to eating a variety of corn based snacks aimed at children.

My blogging output tumbled, but on the plus side I was rarely more than twenty four hours removed from my last packet of Monster Munch.

Now, when I can be bothered, I write the posts in Word, at my desk, then email them to myself for later posting. Occasionally I write a post at home. To be honest though, I’m pretty sure someone is stealing hours from the day, because there never seems to be time to do that.

So, in short: at my desk. 

What books were your childhood favourites?

This is a bit tricky. 

I was a voracious reader as a child. I loved books. I took to it quickly and was allowed to have my pick of whatever books the school had on offer well before I left infant school.

But I can’t really remember which ones I liked.

All of them?


I did have a particular soft spot for Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen”, which is poetic and dramatic and fantastical, and also has the benefit of wonderfully drawn pictures to accompany the words.

I also read a lot of non-fiction. I loved all the books about planes, cars and dinosaurs which I was given. Space too. I often wish someone had pointed out to me that all of the things in these books (well, apart from dinosaurs) were made using MATHS, a subject I loathed and struggled with, but may have put more into had I known how important it was.

Perhaps they did tell me, and I just didn’t listen.

Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?

I have done the old vanity Google, yes.

Surprised? Largely, no. Historically I’ve not been particularly worried about hiding behind aliases online, so most of what pops up is old forum activity (bikes and Peugeot 106s) and some references to the basketball club I play for and helped to run for a few years.

What did surprise me is that there’s another me. I have a relatively unusual surname, combined with a not too common first name. Another me was not expected, especially as I had known for many years that I was the only one of me on the electoral roll.

The other me is younger, has a genuinely impressive six pack, but also appears to be a bit of a chavvy tool. On the whole, I think I win.

What is your favourite time of day and why?

Depends on the day.

The moment I wake up and realise I’ve done so naturally, and without any baby related interruptions, that’s a good time of day.

The time of day when I finish my battle with the commuting hordes and arrive home to my wife and baby, that’s a good time of day.

The time of day when the quality of light makes me want to grab my camera and run out of the door to try and capture it, that’s a good time of day (unless something stops me running out of the door, as it often does…)

I like all times of day. Apart from 2:30pm when I get my post-lunch slump. That is a shit time of day. 

Who would play me in a movie of my life?

I think I may have answered this in another meme, back in the day. Back then I reckoned on Jason Lee. I stick by that.

One material possession I could not live without.

I think I would be very, very sad if I didn’t have a bike. But I’m also rather fond of my ludicrously enormous barbecue/spaceship.


Actually, could not live without? In the strictest sense? Probably my glasses. I’d trip over something and injure myself, then not be able to see my way to the hospital. So I might ACTUALLY DIE.

Have you ever been naked in public?

I don’t recall ever being naked in public. That’s not to say it definitely hasn’t occurred. But, to be honest, I doubt it.

What/who/where was your first proper kiss?

My first girlfriend (that answers the first two parts of that question, yes?) Outside her parents house. The house which some friends of ours now own and I feel slightly odd about going inside, like it’s a time vortex or something. Even though all the wallpaper’s been changed.

Well, there you go. The meme has been memed. I memed a meme. Now I’d like to invite the following bloggers to do answer the same questions, in order to further memify the internets:

Meme at will ladies and gentleman. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Spy - S

It's Wednesday, it's I Spy time. It works like this: Mum of One tells us the letter for the week, we take the pictures, you all guess what is in there. Simple and fun.

This week the letter is S. Fortunately I recently took a photo of something beginning with S, and here it is:

Leave your guesses in the comment box, then click on the badge to see who else is playing this week.

Mum of One