Maybe I was naive to expect to casually strut into a new job when I felt well enough to do so. My counsellor and I would chat about it and sentences like “Oh yes, a nice little local job, part-time, do your hours and go home” were quite commonplace. I honestly believe there ARE jobs out there, but it’s not as easy as I thought. I’m up against better qualified people, often over 100 at a time, applying for minimum wage jobs (that’s £6.08 an hour).Today I sent off my 71st CV and visited 20 shops, in a desperate bid not to have to resort to benefits, and then end up spending months trapped. I’ve registered with every agency going, and check vacancies a million times a day (that’s more than I check twitter).
There are some jobs, there are teaching jobs, nursing jobs, even one for a martial arts instructor. I’m also incredibly frustrated that I do not have a forklift truck licence, because I could get a job tomorrow. And my short height and allergy to driving tests rules me out of ever cruising down the motorway in a 7.5 tonne truck. But I intend to keep trying. Today I applied for McDonald’s, Primark, and The POUND Shop. Anything, ANYTHING at all, I’m willing to do.
It got me thinking of my past, all the fun jobs I had before I joined the civil service in 1990, stuff that can’t really go on a CV now because they aren’t relevant, but I thought I’d just document them here, being as I have nothing much else to do to fill my time.
My first job was mucking out horses in exchange for riding a Shetland pony, when I was 11. My parents live on the edge of an estate and back then it was literally feet away from some beautiful Essex countryside (which is now beautiful private housing). From a young age I would sneak into the fields and just jump on people’s horses and have a lovely bareback ride around, always keeping an eye out for the farmers. I got good at leaping off and darting to a hiding spot. They all knew who I was, and I still see one of them now. I think they could see how much I loved their animals, I would spend hours just sitting in those fields talking to the horses, and as far as I was concerned I was totally their most loving friend.
Right at the back of one fields hidden away, was a very old tin can caravan. It was occupied by a very private gentleman, and he had put together a makeshift stable and shelter on the bit of land he was allowed to use to the side of the caravan. He would often ride his HUGE horse called Bill right outside my mum’s house and I would go and talk to him, whilst he let Bill have a graze. I felt quite sorry for him because he never had any company, although I later realised that was just how he liked it. But I was a pest that he seemed to tolerate, and one day he invited me to come and have a look at his stables. I had always assumed that he only ever had one horse, way too big for me, but he had two. He also had “Black Beauty” and he was beautiful! A real life Thelwell pony if I ever saw one. He let me spend some time with him, and explained he really only had him as company for Bill and as a pet, but he occasionally took him out on a gig (a little two-wheel harnessed carriage.
Well of course I persuaded him that he should let me ride him and that I was small enough. But first he insisted that I check with my parents if that was okay. I remember thinking “why?” and I only now realise, he was being right and proper. I sprinted down the field to my house, and in-between my breaths I managed to blurt out the question, followed by extremely serious begging. My parents knew him from the times he had appeared on the green outside the house, and had chatted to him, so they were fine.
I would ride Beauty regularly for a few years, until I got too big for him. We entered shows, we hacked all around Essex and his owner was my best friend in the world. He chose to live alone because he said he hated the rat race. His caravan ran on a car battery, and he made money for food doing jobs for the farmer who owned the land. He is the most self-sufficient person I have ever met and taught me ever so much. In fact, I bumped into him at a bootsale about 4 years ago and was surprised he recognised me. He told me that Bill and Beauty had both lived to 35 years old, and he had them buried on the land that he now owned in a nearby town. I felt sad that that little bit of my childhood was dead, but when he told me their ages, I knew they must have had a good life, because they were the centre of his world.
After that period I thought now that I had a bit of experience with horses I would see what else was about. I was also doing a seven-day a week morning paper-round before school, earning about seven pounds, and getting up every day at 5.30am. But I missed being around horses. One day I just decided to knock on the door of a local stable owner and just asked her outright if she had any jobs for either money or in exchange for horse rides because I just want to be around horses. She had me mucking out a stable at 7am and on a horse (a bigger one than a Shetland pony) by lunch time. It was one of my most favourite experiences in life, I was in a proper paddock, on a proper saddle on a big proper horse cantering around and around! Even thinking about it now gives me goosebumps as being on a horse is one of the most stimulating experiences you can have , all your worries seem to disappear (not that I had too many at 13). I became their regular stablehand, would accompany them to big fancy horse shows and get the odd ride and some money in return. Then they moved when the builders made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. I have not ridden regularly since but I definitely would love to again one day.
At 14 I was still doing my paper-round when a few hours became available in the news agents I did the round for, so I would do my papers and then come back at weekends and spend half a day there on the tills, and a few in the evenings. I think I earned £1.21 an hour, but I was never without money. It was great! I did that for a year, then got a job in the chip shop two doors away. That was okay but you do go home stinking like a manky kipper every night. It was tough, busy work, on your feet constantly, but I liked it. Then my friend got me a job in BHS restaurant, all day Saturday for more money than I was getting with my paper-round and shifts in the shop so I went for it.
I did that every Saturday from 8am to 6pm until I finished my exams and turned 16. I had already lined up a full-time job for the six-week summer holiday before I commenced college, at the Co-op biscuit factory. It’s quite a famous institution in my town, although it has now closed down. I worked 2pm until 10pm monday to friday and paid £3.00 a week towards the subsidised mini bus that would ferry around town to pick the workers up, and then take you home at the end of the shift. You could actually nick fresh, still wet chocolate digestives off the line before they were dried, it was the next best thing to having Willy Wonka’s mobile number. There was also a subsidised shop and canteen, you really felt like you were valued, and it was my first experience of a proper full-time job. Plus I was earning grown up money. I spent it all on vinyl.
In the September I started college, signed on with agencies and worked here there and everywhere. From filling envelopes, to bending plastic, to hammering rivets, I did it. There was always something. Some days I even had to refuse shifts because of college. Then, as I approached my 17th birthday I found college boring and got my job in the civil service and the rest is history. I picked the job out at the job centre, and got the interview that afternoon and got a phone call an hour later giving me the job.
So, it’s not going to be as easy as it used to be, but I know something will come along for me. The good thing about not working right now is having time to visit my poorly gran and support my mum through some very difficult days. Some things are more important than stupid money.