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As I sat down to enjoy my beautifully prepared lunch yesterday, things took a drastic about turn. My cosy domestic bubble burst in the manner of a very large party balloon being pricked by a very large, sharp pin.

My mobile phone trilled, !NUMBER WITHHELD! flashed on the screen – Ok, better put my professional/together voice on!

‘Hi, can you talk? It’s me, how are you?’
‘Yes, sure I can talk, fabulous thanks and you?’
‘I’ve got something for you’
‘Great, what it is it?’
‘It’s a blah-di-blah-di-blah at blah-di-blah? Yeah? Interested?’
‘Wow that sounds great!’
‘Read the spec, I need to send your CV to them today, they want someone to start immediately’
‘Sure (choke on flapjack silently) I’ll have to you within the hour – I need to change it. I’m not sure it’s working – I’ve had my CV appraised and was told it would cost £350 to put right’
‘Yeah, that social media thing on it, no one gets it.’
‘OK, I’ll dump it’
‘Good idea – get it over, be quick’

And then three job specs came through on email. Three job opportunities! What a bloody shock. I caught myself suddenly having to think. Life could change imminently. This little adventure of unemployment could soon be over. Shit.

As with all things work related, thought was quickly galvanised into action and I dragged my CV out of the document folder – grrrrrrrrrr. I gave myself an hour to rewrite it in a comprehensive and chatty fashion – yes, I’m a dyed in the wool deadline addict.

I began removing all links to my work on the worldwide wonder web which I’d lovingly searched out in my first jobsearch sojourn. Boo hoo – my social media CV was lame and had to be put out to pasture.

Then taking the advice of my CV appraiser, I dumbed down the font (apparently it was distracting and would mean my CV would be straight in the bin), I removed the bolded type (apparently incredibly distracting and annoying and would mean my CV would be straight in the bin) and I added some editorial around my work (apparently just listing it would be incredibly annoying and distracting etc. etc.). The finished work was much better and I spotted a most embarrassing typo – I’d spelt Communications as communciations – which I swiftly changed. Cringe – my usual faves are brest regards and daft copy which never go unnoticed, thankfully I’ve never committed the cardinal sin of typing pubic relations as many of my (former) colleagues have. I digress, as I pressed send message, I breathed a sigh of relief and waited ten minutes before calling the recruiter.

‘Hi – I’ve sent you my redraft, it’s much better’
‘Thanks, I’ll pop it across’

Ten minutes later, !NUMBER WITHHELD!, I knew it was her…

‘Darling, what was your last job title? I can’t see it on the CV…’

Oh god, in my panic I’d left it off.

‘Don’t worry I’ll change it and pop it over.’
‘Thanks (choke), speak to you soon!’

With that done it was time to pick up Miniminx – we did the weekly shop and went hideously over budget. By the time we got home I was feeling tired and irritable.

‘Sorry, Mummy is feeling a bit cruddy’
‘Don’t worry Mum.’
‘It’s just that there’s all these job thingies.’
‘Yeah great, you need a job.’
‘I don’t know if I want to work, I like being at home and doing my blog and writing.’
‘Well it’s tough Mum, I’d rather be at home all day but I have to go to school. Sorry but you have to go to work’

And so I heard a small version of myself deliver the bare naked truth…Mummy needs to get a job.

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winter-wonderland

Oh my oh my – how much fun we’ve been having the last two days – no school, lots of fun and lots and lots of snow. And the best bit (among many) – I think I’ve finally fallen in love with this area!

I’ve been a complete urban minx for most of my life, so living in Zone 3 has never cut the mustard. We’ve lived here for 2.5 years now and my friends and family have always said ‘It’s great for kids, you did the right thing.’ But when they’ve asked me, ‘Are you happy?’ I’ve always said ‘Yes’ through clenched teeth.

It’s hard to uproot yourself, even if it’s for the better. I love 24hr living – but everywhere shuts early here. I’ve looked for the secret underground bars, but there are none and you can’t get a pint of milk after 10pm. To me, it’s all been a bit on the twee side. It’s very well-to-do, there are lots of 4x4s, boutiques aimed at the over 50s plus very noisy air traffic and even worse, nowhere to work locally. I’ve downplayed this with the upside of good schools and low crime, but it’s never really played out to anything like the way I’ve felt about where I’ve lived before.

I’m pleased, no, delighted, to say that all changed for the better yesterday. I’ll be honest, after an action packed weekend, we overslept and I was tempted to sleep in, but my half Catholic side got the better of me, it was time to get up and face the world.

It was so peaceful, so bright, so wonderful, so snowy. ‘Mummy! It’s Winter Magic!’ cried Miniminx as she looked outside, we both felt like we’d woken up in Narnia! Sitting down to breakfast and I put the news on – Radio 4, lots of snow, England’s gone to the dogs, yada, yada, parents are selfish (see Children’s Society story) and my phone rang ‘School’s closed!’ ‘Thanks heavenly Mum-babe! – School’s out honey, get your cosy stuff on, we’re out there’ – we headed out the door to one of life’s wonders…ankle deep snow everywhere and all our friends having a ball. It was like a perfect dream.

snow-lady

We went down the river (just at the end of our road) and who couldn’t help but squeal with delight and run around – all of Miniminx’s school friends were out frolicking and so were the parents. Lovely rosy cheeks, snowballs and smiles. It’s been such an unexpected delight, two days of freedom for the kids – building snowmen, toboganing, snowballing, crunchy stepping in the frozen snow – and everything pushed aside for once. It feels like a big, huge, belated Christmas present and it looks so beautiful round here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and I’m so happy that we’ve had these two days.

So, it’s time to put out the rubbish and the recycling, make sure we get up on time and find that lost homework, but I tell you, there’s a lot to be said for Winter magic, as cold as it is, just thinking about it makes me feel warm inside, and it’s not just the central heating on full blast!

And a big shout out here – thanks Jo for your lovely bloggers campfire – I’ve really enjoyed reading all the posts and what a great collection of people.

Ciao for now…more snow forecast

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After a sleepless night, coffee seemed to be the solution, but oh, how wrong can you be?

My day is an empty sandwich; I’ve done my good deed for the day.  This morning, I walked Miniminx and her class to their swimming lesson at the local pool – think herding cats across the M4 and you get the picture.  And tonight I’m toasting my Sister’s birthday at the Dorchester and off to the theatre, think sophisticats and you get that picture 😉

But in between?  Yikes, I’ve totally screwed this day up…1 large cappucino + 2 supersized mugs of coffee thick with sugar later and I have percolated a huge sense of panic; I MUST log in to messenger, facebook, linkedin, my new ning thing, my blog – check, refresh, check everything…look at other blogs, check the news, google anything, everything, something, otherwise I’m going to miss out (on what, I’m not really sure).

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.  Only a dummy wouldn’t look for the latest jobs.  I hit the jobs boards, page down, page down, click, click…nothing new, same old, same old. Exhausting.

Oh my god, yes!  That critical appraisal of my CV I got, I MUST reread it immediately and take notes, and I must, I must rewrite my CV – it’s so rubbish.  Or, should I pay them £350 to rewrite it for me – a ‘simple investment in my future’ the email says, lazy way out says me.   But I’m far too embarrassed to even think about sending my CV out to anyone now, apparently the font is wrong, wrong, wrong.  I’ve not sold myself well at all for someone of my professional standing and even worse, the lay out is distracting!  How the hell did I ever get work before, it must have been a complete fluke!!!

Oh, I know, how about all those other exec-jobs-subscription-only web shites sites I got a guest subscription for, should I cough up?  Nah, bad idea. No money coming in remember?? (I refrain from kicking myself for fear of falling off my chair, I’ve already nearly trapped my hand in the bin lid by leaning from my seat to pop something in it with one hand and trying to close the lid with the other hand – well, it seemed like a good move at the time).

Oh, there’s a thought, why don’t I retrain as a plumber? Where’s that email I got in my junk folder on hotmail yesterday….? Oh god, where is it, have I deleted it?  I’m sure there’s a fortune to be made out of drains…and now I’ve lost the blinking email.

I can’t handle this, I can try and fidget out this cappucino-neurosis, but I’m actually going to get a life, switch off my lap top and go and do something more interesting instead. 

Now, where are my glad rags, it’s time to get glammed up…

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All in all, it’s been a pretty good week so far – I’m over the moon to be listed on Alpha Mummy – and I’m really looking forward to a fantastic weekend which won’t really end until Tuesday. Three birthday parties and my own belated birthday present – a trip to see a show. One of my greatest friends takes me to the theatre every year for my birthday and we go next week, I never know what we’re seeing until we get there.

I’m taking it easy today and will be lolloping on the sofa as I did a major work out with my personal trainer yesterday, he may be fit but I look more like this at the gym…

I got a bit of a knock back today. I’ve been rejected at first stage for a freelance job (that means on sight of CV in my world) because I’m not relevant. Well, that’s a bit of lie actually, I’m just being melodramatic…other people are more relevant apparently. From what I gather, there are just too many candidates around for too few jobs. I did the old peashooter/moon trick again yesterday (that’s what I call uploading your CV to apply for a corporate job…see here). I’m spending my days following up on job options and there’s nothing at my level around, I’m overqualified for what’s out there or too restricted by the commute. I simply refuse to spend three hours commuting and missing out on seeing my wonderful Miniminx.

As usual at this time of day, when I’ve exhausted the usual avenues of searching for work, I’m left wondering what I’m going to do. I need some inspiration as I feel like I’m going round in circles at the moment. Do I just start up my own business and dump the career and do my own thing?
Or do I just tough out the next few months? I’ve got some options up my sleeve at least but for now I’m going to get creative again and finish my collage…it could be a good career move!

On days like these, this is the song that always lifts my spirits – INNER CITY BLUES, MARVIN GAYE – I found it on youtube…go on, have a listen, I might just have to play it again, it’s just brilliant, the lyrics resonate completely with our times even though the track was released in 1971

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In an effort to keep myself occupied I’ve decided I’m going to really work this blog world. Personal blogging is hugely different from professional blogging and I am finding it a challenge to keep going. It’s more to do with ego keepy-uppy than anything else – how do you stay a) motivated while unemployed b) able to write dazzling copy c) not sound like a moaner?

The truth is, things are just not hot on the job front. I’m going to have to reinvent myself and learn some pretty new tricks in order to stand out from the crowd. The social media CV just ain’t working. Every recruiter I speak to says it’s hugely competitive out there and there are hundreds of candidates, when only a year ago there were few and far between. When I apply for jobs on corporate web sites, I feel like I’m aiming a pea shooter at the moon. My CV disappears into the ether, I get an acknowledgement and then nothing. Boo hoo.

I’m used juggling career and family and social life and addicted to high octane living, travel, pressure, deadlines, excitement and now my wings are clipped. So while I can chill out and take stock, I really need to feel engrossed, entertained and/or that I’m gaining or learning something and this morning that is how I didn’t feel until I got a few calls and managed to have a bath and get my face on. So what else have I done to do (btw I never add in the 7-9am school run mania, maybe I’ll post on that another time…)

So what have I done today??

Meetings missed = 1
Sick children needing picking up from school= 1
Job opportunity = 1
Cigarettes = 8
Coffee = 2 extra strong
Tea = countless
Cooking = tom yum soup from scratch (may share the recipe one day…)
Social invitations = 2 (thankfully)
Bloggering about = 4 (hours!!!)
Quirky events = 1 (discovered foxes have excavated so much under the garden shed it’s about to fall in the hole)

And it’s only 3.30pm…

And let’s not forget today is one of the most important days of this century – yep, Obama inauguration. It’s unavoidable and fantastic!!! I hope this spells the end of the credit crunch but it’s going to be a hard one to pull off. I’ve said it more than once, 2009 is the last year of the naughty noughties and boy this is one hangover to end all hangovers…

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Yes, homonyms, or in my case, irony!! Instead of doing nothing, I’m going down the signing on to get benefits route – if only they would pay me in Benefit products, at least I’d feel pretty…. Maybe that’s a new marketing idea for the brand, Job Seekers’ Make Overs.

Before Christmas I was listening to Moneybox on Radio 4 and a government spokersperson said everyone was eligible for Job Seekers Allowance. But guess who isn’t??? Yes, the Nixdminx gets nixed again! So while I sold my flat the day before prices plummeted, I have kept the cash but it counts as savings so I’m no better off really. Apparently I will get my stamps paid, but I still have to go and sign on. The ‘rebranded’ Job Centres – now called Job Centre Plus – have just about all closed down, which means I’ll have a 20 minute walk and a tube journey every fortnight to get just about nothing. Even the Lone Parent thing is rubbish. Keeping it all positive, I applied via the government web site for Job Seekers Allowance last week and at the end of pages and pages of forms it said I would be contacted by telephone within 48 hours – it took over a week for someone to call me. ‘Is it convenient? This call may take around 25 minutes…’ Well, I hardly at work am I? I then had to do an online claim over the phone, it was all the same questions which I’d done online, pointless. As a result, I have to go for an interview at the dole office and see two people (what horror!). I’m going to do it Rab C Nesbitt style.

I’m sure this so called modernisation of the benefits system has created two extra layers of bureaucracy to the whole process by adding the online and telephone facilities. At least the bloke I spoke to was ok. It’s all pretty mortifying, they ask you if you’re pregnant and if your baby father is still alive – what a joke.

‘And what have you been doing to find a job?’ I was asked – well, jobs boards, personal contacts, newspapers, seeing recruiters of course. Harumph. I have actually found something pretty cool, a site called The Ladders. I applied to a job yesterday and signed up for a three month subscription which I think will pay off. It’s brand jobs and inhouse mostly and I would recommend it already, even after 24hours, because it has 600 jobs in marketing and a really comprehensive set up – take a look.

And back to my physical and spiritual evolution…I spent 2 hours on Wii Fit yesterday and then Miniminx beat my scores in minutes – we have been having such a laugh – the most hysteria has been raised by the football game where you have to do headers and dodge football boots and Panda heads, it gets a bit scary.

I started my giant collage yesterday and will finish it today. It’s like tapestry of colour and I’m using photos I’ve doctored in photoshop, tear sheets from magazines and acrylic paint, plus some of Nixminx’s art, so it’s a lovely piece. I dug around an old portfolio and found some pen and ink sketches I did about 10 years ago which I’m going to frame as they’re quite inspirational. In my social whirl during the holidays, I realised that most of my friends have got my paintings and photography scattered around their houses and I have very little. They’re very life affirming and I want my own art round me as a bolster – I suppose a bit of a comfort blanket in these strange days…

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…okay, okay, I’ve been lax and not posting recently, I needed to get Christmas out of the way and all the rest. I’d gone into the Christmas break with a flu and unemployment pending so it didn’t feel great and was dreading the whole thing as Miniminx was spending it with her Dad – boo hoo.

In the days before Christmas, I had a look around the internet for anything discussing single parents alone at Christmas – I looked not once, but many times. What for? So I didn’t feel so alone in my situation and such a social pariah – it made me cringe talking to the other school Mums in the playground, it seemed everyone was set for family time except me so it’s hard not to feel bad about the whole situation. I have one foot in the family camp and the other firmly planted in single life these days and this time of the year is the time it really comes to the fore. This Christmas thing seems to be the last taboo – no matter where I looked or what terms I searched under, there were meagre pickings and no advice available even on mumsnet or chat rooms. I used to really like mumsnet until David Cameron did a webchat for them and that nixed it for me – I can’t help but think of it as smug middle class mumsyish twaddle. I feel on the outside looking in and don’t visit the site anymore – why should politics come in to Motherhood??? Grrrrr….

My big question is why don’t people talk about the effect of post separation life – the 14 day rota that evolves as every other weekend is child-free? Is it just too painful? When I lived in bohemian East London there were more people in my situation, now in the W4 middle class ghetto, I’m the odd one out – career girl/single Mum, not stay at home earth Mother.

A couple of days after Christmas, Miniminx called me and we watched a movie, Tooth, together on the phone which was really funny – I mean the film was funny and we were sharing an experience even though we were miles apart. We missed each other like hell so it was great to get her home finally.

So my thinking on this internet community stuff is that people don’t really connect on things that matter to me. I suppose I should have posted something myself somewhere – it’s always been a heinous thought – how can children be wrenched away from their Mother’s on Christmas day? I remember hearing about Princess Diana spending the day alone without her boys and thinking it was tragic, never for once imagining that would one day be my fate, or as it happens, every other year. But I suppose, I signed up to be a fair parent post break up and ensure Miniminx has a life with her Father so that is that…

Happily I spent time with friends and had a great day and we made up for the day by having our own Christmas when Miniminx came home. Thanks Lucky Voice for a fab birthday – I sang my heart out along with my buddies and it was brilliant.

So it’s all on the up now, the dread has gone – I am free of 2008 and going to the gym every day and looking out for a fab job – but there’s not much about. In the meantime, I have to fill my days which is pretty easy. Miniminx is happy I can pick her up from school everyday. I’ve always found the lull between jobs gets pretty stressful after a while. I had a meeting last week with a recruiter and felt pretty ambivalent about the whole thing – having to grin and bear my situation while selling myself as hard as possible. In reality, the meeting went very well and the recruiter told me the job market never gets going until the second week of January, so hang on in there. So in order to keep my spirits up and feel good, the only way for me is to keep active – Wii fit (well it was Miniminx’s pressie) is getting a look in – and my gym gets to see me more. I’m doing yoga, pilates, running and swimming and lots of walking. Hopefully I’ll see a size-mic shift (ho ho) and all this exercise does help beat the January blues which is no mean feat. I’m still loading up my iPod and heading off to my storage unit this week to dig out years of old CDs which I can rediscover – I’m definitely filling my time with inane mundane stuff which I would never usually do if I was working, but it makes my days meaningful. I’m being more social as well – we’ve struck up a friendship with a family a few doors down which is fab – and meeting new people.

I’ve decided I’m going to try something new every day and today I’m going to create a collage on a giant blank canvas…how poetic.

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