I had to attend a ‘Getting Back to Work’ session at my local Job Centre yesterday, which I was absolutely dreading. In fact, I was fully expecting to end up sitting next to a man drinking a can of Special Brew, with a teardrop tattoo adorning his slightly jaundiced face. We’d then be instructed to pair up and hug each other for an hour, after which, I would find myself nestled in the sick-stained bosom of my boozy Job Centre comrade, weeping gently.
Anyway, when I got to the Job Centre I gravitated towards a group of people who seemed to be loitering uncomfortably in the reception area. We all stood slightly apart from each other, shooting off furtive glances to check out the opposition. It was like standing on the awkward fringes of a school disco as ‘Careless Whisper’ was being cued up.
Then, not too long after I arrived, we were all herded through. The group seemed like a really mixed bunch (and not a can of Special Brew or a facial tattoo in sight). To be honest, if I hadn’t been wending my [less than] merry way to a first-floor conference room at the Job Centre, I could very easily have been shuffling through an airport departure lounge to board an Easy Jet flight to Malaga.
In front of me there was a lanky student type and a very attractive woman in her early twenties. “Have you been to one of these sessions before?” he asked nervously. “No. Because I’ve never had to sign-on before,” she replied. (His question was like the unemployed version of “Do you come here often?”)
Once we’d all been signed-in (for the second time) we all had to sit round a long conference table, where forms and booklets had been laid out for everyone. There were about twenty people in attendance – including me – and at least seven were aged between 18 and 25. I felt quite sad that their working life had to start in the drab confines of a Job Centre.
There was one woman present that I couldn’t take my eyes off. She was perhaps in her sixties, with her hair cut into a sensible bowl style, and wore a massive eye patch over her right eye. If it’s ever discovered that the Somali pirates are being orchestrated from the Women’s Institute headquarters in London, I expect this woman will be exposed as the Emilio Largo of the whole operation.
She actually looked more bored with the session than the some of the younger attendees. I wondered if her mind was wandering, not with thoughts about whether her damson jam will make the grade at next week’s church fete, but about a Norwegian tanker that will soon be passing through the Gulf of Aden.
Aside from the interesting people-watching, I don’t really have anything to report about the session itself. It was hosted by the Job Centre manager and one of her deputies, who both seemed to be genuinely nice people. Although, their occasional attempts at injecting humour into proceedings frequently fell flat. I suppose a group of unemployed and miserable people who didn’t want to be attending a ‘getting back to work’ session at the Job Centre were always going to be a tough crowd. But in fairness to them both, they did a sterling job.
Interesting fact of the day was this: (Q) What percentage of jobs are not advertised? (A) 50%
You live and learn.