Tuesday, 31 March 2009

DWP = Department of Woeful Pillocks

I know that writing this here will not help my cause, but fuck it.

When I became unemployed on January 1st and signed-on, I made sure that I applied for mortgage interest payment relief. Because the lying-thieving-scum who work in the mortgage insurance industry didn't point out to me that I was no longer covered by any of their policies, even though they were happy to carry on taking £50 a month in premiums from me. Hey ho!

So, I signed-on, took all my mortgage details with me, filled-in all the forms. Hunky dory. Wait 13 weeks until they start paying out, but, hey that's OK, I won't be unemployed that long, will I?

A week later, I had another job. Hooray! Two weeks later the job was finished. Boo! Sign-on again.

This time when I signed-on I asked about the mortgage stuff. "That's OK", said the Job Centre man on the phone, "we've got all those details already from you."

This time though the job centre people realised that MLYW was also claiming and said that we needed to have a joint claim and we should be interviewed together. So I asked the man on the phone if all my previous claim details would be carried over.

"Of course", he said, "just make sure you take the paperwork along to your interview at the job centre to be on the safe side".

So I did. Any they didn't ask to look at any of it. "Oh, we've got all that already", said the slightly dim girl at the desk. So that's OK.


Flash forward, in a LOST style, to today. I ring up the incredibly-hard-to-contact job centre payments people [actually, I've been ringing them most days for the past week and a half. It's taken this long to get through to someone] to ask how our mortgage interest claim thingy is progressing. Because, with luck, we should be getting some money soon.

"Erm", says the man on the phone.

Oh, dear. Through bitter experience I have learned that "erm" is not usually a good thing.

"We have no record of you claiming for mortgage interest relief", quoth he. I tell him about my claim interviews in January and he says that, because we moved to a joint claim, which is now in MLYW's name, we should have re-claimed for the mortgage benefit.

Ah - so the girl at our 2nd interview wasn't dim-looking. She was actually sending us psychic waves of instructions as to how to proceed. You know, rather than actually TELLING us that we needed to do.

So I ask what we need to do now.

"Well, your wife needs to ask for a claim form".

Errr... Why does she have to ask for it?

"Because the claim is in her name".

Really? What about my claim? The one that I sign-on for every two weeks at the job centre. The one that the DWP send me money for, albeit into her bank account.

So, now we have to wait at home tomorrow for a call from the mortgage claim people. What time is the call? "Oh, sometime between 8am and 5pm". Nice!

What amazes me about the whole system is that the drug-addled masses can manage to weave their way through the maze of obfuscation, checks, balances and loopholes and can come out the other side with a decent packet. Despite my liberal leanings, I've always been suspicious and distrustful of dole scroungers and benefit cheats. But, as a genuine claimant, it appears that you need a Stephen-Fry-sized IQ and a Machiavellian mind for warped plots just to get £45 per week to buy baked beans - so anyone who manages to wangle more than that must be a genius and good luck to 'em.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Mystery Tour Revealed

Well done to Jo. Yes, it was the British Museum. And yes, I was an idiot and forgot to disguise the file-name!

More photos of me and Dave's photo trip to the museum here.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Mystery Tour

For a change, I left the house today. Here's a pictorial clue to its location. So - guess where we went.

[Mr Dave 'Delmonti' Dawson and MLYW are forbidden from entering this competition!]

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Remembering Johnny

Some more memories of Johnny and stuff I've come across while we've been sorting out the wheat from the chaff at the house he shared with my late Nan for over 35 years:
  • While I knew he was a keen rifleman, I didn't realise how good he was. For a spell in the 1970s he won at least 12 trophies at Epsom Rifle Club and was good enough to win free entries into three national newspapers' open championships.
  • I was wrong about the MG - he didn't prang it in the '60s. The car he crashed on the A23 (on a stretch of road now covered by Gatwick Airport) was written off. The MG was bought in 1962 (for £423) and used until the late '60s when it was put into storage in Tommy Crossley's garage. Tommy was Johnny's best friend and lived two doors down when they were kids.

  • He built a canoe (and "pinched" a pair of paddles) which he soon overturned in a deep part of the river, nearly drowining himself.

  • In the early 1950s he would go to the pictures, with his mates or alone, 4 or 5 times a week. But then, so did lots of people back then. There were more cinemas and more films back then!

  • Johnny was a good harmonica player and played in bands in his time. We've found 4 Hohner Chromonica harmonicas, in various states of repair - I'm sure that at least 2 of them are playable.

  • His work as a cartographer for the Overseas Development Administration demanded great accuracy and attention to detail. This spilled over to his love for graphic design, typefaces and cartooning. We found dozens, maybe a couple of hundred, sheets of paper and cardboard covered (sometimes literally) with doodles, sketches, designs and hand-drawn and painted lettering - most of it so well done that it would be taken for Letraset at first glance, but then you notice the construction lines underneath. Some sketches seem to indicate that he had a small sideline, maybe unpaid, in sign-writing and designing business cards or adverts for businesses.

  • For around 3 years in the mid-1960s, Johnny was a member of Lasham Gliding Club and he learned to fly gliders.

  • We uncovered a notebook with some handwritten notes that seem to read like a memoir. Some parts are obviously autobiographical. Some could be fictional. But they are written in an easy, almost informal style, but with a real sense of flair and poetry. It's impossible to tell when they were written, or if he ever intended to write more. If only he'd shown them to someone - the talent he had for writing shines through. I'll reproduce parts of it here soon.
This is all random stuff now, much of which I had no idea about before this sad week. The one thing I don't really know - and haven't found any clues about - is what sort of music he liked. I would have thought he'd be a rock'n'roller, but Dad doesn't seem to think so. All their records were stolen at a party, so there's no clues to go on - unless we manage to dig something up tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Uncle Johnny

My Uncle Johnny, my Dad's brother, was born on 26th January, 1935. He died this afternoon, aged 74.

When I was a kid he was my favourite relative. I looked forward to his visits with glee because he always brought us presents - sometimes more lavish than Mum & Dad would have liked. For my first (I think) birthday, he bought me a top-notch Scalextric kit. No matter that I wouldn't have the wherewithal to play with it for another 4 or 5 years, at least. With no wife or kids of his own, and after spending most of his life living at the family home, I guess he could afford to spoil all his nieces and nephews.

One glorious day, in the early 1980s I guess, he turned up driving a fantastic sports car, the like of which I'd never seen before. It was an MG TF, built in 1954. British racing green - as all sports cars should be. Imagine the thrill when he took me for a drive on the recently completed motorway round the corner. The car had been slowly and carefully rebuilt from scratch after it had a "prang" many years earlier (early '60s?), if I remember rightly. Johnny told my Dad that he wanted me to have the car someday. But some time ago he needed money to live on and sold the car to my other uncle. It sits in a garage now, waiting restoration one more time. I couldn't afford to store it anyway...

Johnny and Dad shared the same sense of humour and there was rarely a time when a joke wasn't far from his lips. In recent years, he "let himself go" as people like to say. His long, unkempt beard and habit of answering the door in his underwear could be off-putting, to say the least. And while he spent most of the last 10 or 15 years in the pub smoking his roll-ups, surely a factor in his demise, it never really dulled his intellect.

The last time I saw Johnny was not long after my Nan's funeral. Astonishingly and shamefully, that was nearly 3 years ago. I had 'planned' to go and visit him 'sometime'. To pick his still-sharp mind about the family history and the mysterious fate of his own uncle, their Dad's brother, while he was still around to do so. Too late now...

Johnny was a talented artist; a keen rifleman; and a kind, generous person. He was unique. I'll miss him.


Raymond John Moore, 1935 - 2009. RIP.