Unemployment – Great hours but the pay sucks

Regular readers, fans and groupies may have noticed over the last few months how dissatisfied I had become with my day job.  It wasn’t just because I hated it though that was true.  It was due to a whole host of reasons that combined together to make it a mission impossible.

The more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed that the previous paragraph is written in the past tense.  That is because towards the end of the first week of March I was made redundant and am now unemployed.

I spend so much time walking the 5 miles to the job centre with a rucksack on my back, I feel I am turning into Grasshopper from Kung Fu. Nowhere to go, no-one to do anything with. Just being told to move on and do better.

This isn’t the first time that in a second I gone from hard-working and contributing member of society and instead been condemned to join the heaped mass of humanity popularly labelled as spongers, wasters, benefit scroungers.   Sadly for them, I am not a teenage single parent, don’t watch any soaps or reality TV and would rather read The Economist than The Sun and watch BBC4 than ITV2.

Hard work isn’t an issue either.  For most of my adult life I have been up hours before dawn either to travel long distances to go to University or to get mired in long distance commuting around the London area.  In one short spot of unemployment I was the very definition of hard worker, often taking 2 or even 3 jobs each day so I could pay my way and not take any money from the state.  I would be up at 4.30am to work in the post office sorting office then spend the 4 or 5 hours working in a shopping centre, office or even a sewage farm before travelling back across town to work in a Pizza Hut until getting on for midnight.

One way or the other American mortgages, London bankers, in my opinion useless and ever so slightly (that is English understatement for those not sure)  incompetent business directors where I work have lost me my job.  I was even told that it was no reflection on myself.  Indeed the last 4 or 5 months have seen my own personal sales figures soar under the most trying of circumstances.  For the last month it was a known possibility I might lose my job but February and early March still were amazing productivity wise.  In fact I was working my socks off right to the minute of my leaving meeting.

So now I don’t have to get up just after 5am (still very much in the dark even in mid-march).  I don’t have to scrape ice off the car every morning (even in mid-march), I don’t have to drive hundreds of miles a week to work and back round some of the busiest and congested roads in the world.  I don’t have to sit in an office with only tiny windows and even them behind me so I get no natural light for about 8 months of the year.  I don’t have to spend all day in a small room with white walls, white ceilings and even white desks and of course white backgrounds in the computer displays all set off nicely with white strip lighting.  Snow blindness was a common complaint in our particular small room!

No more using computer systems not fit for purpose, apologising for things almost entirely beyond my control to customers who were well aware how hard I worked but who knew that the constraints of the business and other things made life pretty much impossible and whom still had their own work lives to deal with and so had little choice to shout down the phone or through the email.  When people from Zimbabwe rang up complaining the average Zimbabwean company was run better than ours, I could do little but 100% agree.  No more being told to do stuff by people who didn’t know what they wanted or often what they wanted it for let alone how to do it themselves .  No more of others telling you how to do you own job when they themselves were new to their own and new about 1% as much as I did and 0.1% as much as my boss did.

No more being told to hurry up and do stuff in an emergency as they had forgotten or not planned their work as well as I had.  No more being asked to do things despite protesting it made no sense or logic and would only harm the business, custom or profit only then to have to live with the consequences or back track whilst the decision makers obliviously refused to acknowledge they cause the problems, or that problems even existed in the first place because they didn’t care, they got their bonus for doing little work before being fired or moved onto a different project to screw up. Alternatively they would fire anyone who did know what they were doing and replace them with someone they could just bully into submission.

Nightmare on the M25

The famous viaduct which I spent many hours stuck in traffic under complete with road works. The bridge is now a listed monument meaning it cannot be altered but just before this happened the graffiti appeared and now it is illegal to remove i.

I won’t miss any of that and a thousand other things.  I worked with some great people though.  Amongst others a fantastic boss who was sat beside me, a lovable rogue down in the stores, a wacky accountant opposite and if nothing else a very special person sat almost opposite me who is probably the only redeeming and good thing to come out of the 8 years working there.  These I will miss.  Along with the walks in the countryside, many customers and other people in the building who worked for other companies.  The Warburtons van who drove like a maniac and would overtake me every day at about junction 4 of the M40 at 6.50am every day as he did about 85 mph whatever the weather.  Even some of the haulage lorries that would normally blight the journey unless of course they had the Downton insignia on the sides in which case I would hum the theme music to Downton Abbey as I drove past or even the bizarre navy blue haulage truck with a print of a masked highway man with the words “Stand and Deliver” which would never fail to have me singing out the Adam Ant song from the early 1980’s.  Well I had to have something to get me through those days.

Honourable mention must also go to the chap who for 5 years I would get stuck behind on the way to work (prior to its relocation out of London).  He worked in the building next to me and never drove above 20 miles an hour.  Even before 7am he caused chaos and I would have to follow him down the side-streets.  For some reason he had a red L for learner sticker on his little red car.  He would drive me mad and for many years he did this seemingly oblivious to the fact that driving with an L plate on your car is illegal if you’re not instructing someone.  Finally one day knowing our company was going broke and about to relocate and got some red colouring pens.  I coloured the white part of his sign so that his red L blended with the red colouring which in turn blended in with his red car.

Oh how hilarious that was!  I watched events unfold from upstairs when he came back to his car one lunch time.  It took him several minutes just to get what happened and soon a small crowd of presumably his workmates and those from neighbouring businesses  came and had a good laugh too.

I will only truly miss one part of my job, apart from the money of course, and that is my very special friend who I was fortunate to meet there and then work with for over 8 years.  I could say that we shared the highs and lows but the highs were all of our own making while the lows were generally from the company.   Now we can enjoy all the highs without the lows even if no longer on a daily basis.  Like 2 old soldiers who lived through the war together, saved each others lives and who can only truly relate to the horrors they have lived through.

Now I don’t have to drive anywhere.  I can do what I want.  I can get up in daylight.  I can have breakfast in daylight and eat lunch somewhere other than at my desk or in the freezing car in the car park.  I don’t have to do anything which I don’t want to do any-more, at least for a few months and hopefully for ever.

Since then, no-one has shouted at me, sworn at me, been rude or abusive.  In a month, no-one has treated me like utter scum, not even the woman at the job centre who when she asked me how I was and I told her that my mother had just died, simply replied “that’s good”.    No-one has nearly killed me by accident or on purpose whilst driving.  I haven’t hurried anywhere or hurried anything.  My lunches can now be eaten when I want and now scoffed down in 8 or 9 minutes.  When I go the toilet, I know it will be clean and have been flushed.  I can be a normal adult in a normal environment, respected and respectful and maybe just a bit happy though possibly very much poorer. (Yes I wrote the previous sentence before my dearest Mam died 2 weeks ago so actually happiness is about as elusive as an oasis in the desert).

I am now officially a freelance writer (and tour guide) on the look out for a normal office job.  In the meantime as the saying goes “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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55 Responses to Unemployment – Great hours but the pay sucks

  1. grumpydenier says:

    It’s good to see a positive end to that piece and I wish you well in the future. I sympathised with the bit about following the red car; I know how lacking in standards and knowledge the average driver is nowadays. I was a driving instructor for many years and despair when I watch the motoring world around me every day.


    • Thank-you. With your experience, I am sure you must get very frustrated. I remember I got stopped by the police 3 years ago as I was driving an extremely old but perfectly legal car. They followed me for 2 miles and in that time, various cars in front of me almost ran over a pedestrian, went through a red light and had a near miss at a roundabout.

      I asked the police whether they didn’t stop them because even though they broke several regulations, they were in new cars. They couldn’t answer me and after checking every light and all the tires let me go.

      Having said that, so many police these days don’t indicate or employ good lane discipline either.


      • grumpydenier says:

        My wife keeps telling me to ‘calm down, dear’ when we’re out in the car. Roundabouts are pretty-well guaranteed to set me off, somewhere during a drive.

        Apart from helping other people gain their licences, I know that being an instructor improved my own driving immeasurably.

        BTW, if you ever need a proofreader just give me a bell. I worked for a London publishing house after my career as an instructor ended.


  2. The trouble with being out of work is that it is addictive. You have been warned.

    Where’s the viaduct? I did the London run from Leighton Buzzard for a few years. Forget that, I’ve just read the caption. Chesham. The queues look familiar.


  3. JC says:

    Lovely to read… Good luck with the writing!


  4. I work from home, but I still get up in the wee hours of the morning and thought the money is quite lovely it would be wonderful, one day, to come “home” and write. Good luck! Your attitude is marvelous and your writing skills intriguing enough to draw my attention in the wee hours of the morning!


    • Thanks, that is quite a compliment. Despite being unemployed I still make sure I am out of bed by about 6.15am ready to jobhunt/write from about 7-8am.


      • argylesock says:

        A morning person! Me too 🙂

        Anyway, about working from home: are you going to follow up this idea? I do it, as well as demonstrating (like a classroom assistant in undergrad teaching labs) and invigilating exams. For me it doesn’t equate to a living wage (disability limits) but for others it does. Becoming self-employed was a big step because I thought the tax return would be awful, but it’s quite straightforward. Now I describe myself as a science whore: pay me and I’ll do it.

        You have writing skills and I don’t know enought about you to say what other skills you have, but no doubt there are plenty of those.


  5. Focus on writing and keep up the good work!


  6. Thatcherism is most definitely alive and well…


    • It is certainly is at my old place of work. Never in her wildest dreams would she think of some of the things that go on there.

      I can’t say the name of the employer of course but the internet is a wonderful information finding tool 🙂


      • Not only at your place of work. The whole economic downturn is because Thatcher shut down much of Britain’s industrial sector, and transferred economic investment to the banks and the City. And just look how that turned out! The most major economic disasters have occurred since Thatcherism. This is why I get so annoyed at those who praise her, only to complain about this country and their current circumstances… But there you go.


        • Yes I do agree, though I wasn’t praising her 🙂 just trying to be neutral.

          So many people forget too quickly or even make the link between politics and some basic problems altogether.

          It doesn’t help that all 3 parties in many areas have been so similar for so long. If any one party stated they would 100% clamp down on corporate tax evasion (not like they all say they will but to the tough standards you or I might want) then I would vote for them. Or even prescription charges, all of them say they are for the poor. All of them say they want to help the NHS. All of them say they are against lawless behaviour and alcohol related crime and yet why do I have to pay £18 several times a year for Asthma inhalers just to be able to breathe in summer and stay remotely well in winter when others go out and get high on drugs or drink before getting into fights or falling over and going to A&E only to get free medication for some condition which was entirely avoidable. Yet no party advocates free prescriptions and no party wants to with-hold or charge patients who get into hospital by their own deeds, let alone tackle drinking seriously.

          Maybe I am getting bitter with my current state of bad news!


          • You can get pre-pay certificates for prescription charges. Besides, I think we need to contribute somewhere for the cost of the NHS, particularly as a deterrent to those who use it to scrounge free paracetamol, which was the case before prescription charges were implemented. The NHS costs TRILLIONS, and it is only right that people contribute something to it. But, it should be means tested, and taken out of income taxes (which it currently does to a point). We are extremely lucky in this country. In Ireland, they have to pay approximately 50 Euro or more just to even see their GP! When I needed antibiotics in Germany, I was part covered by my NHS E111 card, but still had to pay 17 Euro for the GP visit and 60 Euro for a week of antibiotics. In the US, people have to sell their homes for medical care, cannot afford insurance for their children’s health, etc. And then people here moan about a £7.40 or so prescription charge. We don’t know we’re born! Anyway, the NHS is on the road to privatisation with the introduction of the new Health and Social Care Act 2012, so you’ll have more to moan about that the cost of inhalers – We all will.


      • argylesock says:

        As an unemployed person, you might be entitled to free prescriptions I think. I am, due iirc to my being a DLA scrounger.


  7. Rocoja says:

    I wish you every success, your story could be mine, so much of it hits home to me.


    • Thank-you. I hope you find a new job soon. I don’t miss anything about my work at all, except for one individual which is pretty sad after spending years there.


      • Rocoja says:

        Hi Stephen, I’m Working for myself now, Refused to sign on after going there twice & being subjected to their brand of “Help”.
        I struggle, BUT its worth it.
        Best wishes


        • I am thinking of doing the same. I have been unemployed before and not gone for the jobseekers but I have unemployment insurance and one of the dozens of hurdles I have to do to get my insurance to pay the mortgage is get jobseekers.

          Personally I don’t want jobseekers allowance and don’t want to rely on anyone. I am thinking that as the weeks go by and “they” get stricter over things I might just stop claiming before the 26 weeks.

          I just need to find some writing but with funerals and general losing job chores, it is proving impossible to look or find something at the moment.


          • Rocoja says:

            I hear you, I’ve gone from having Asda orders of £250 Shopping delivered every couple of weeks to Pasta & Sauce once a day (If I’m lucky).
            But I really couldn’t face the Job Centre, I decided I’d rather starve than have some 19 year old look down their nose at me & question me over my job-seeking habits…
            I cover my bills right now & am hopeful to be better off by this time next year.


  8. argylesock says:

    I’m ever so slightly sorry to read that you’ve joined the ranks of the benefit scroungers. YOU ARE UTTER SCUM. All you have to do now it to become a benefit cheat like me (I claim Disability Living Allowance, nuff said) and your miserabe failure will be complete.

    Yes I’m joking, in case it doesn’t come across in the written word. I prescribe graveyard humour and tea.


    • Thank-you. Yes I am a total scum bag. I will continue to apply for 30 to 40 jobs a week until after 6 months the job centre will say I am a parasite on society and yet because I don’t have children or fall into other social groups where others may get £25K a year, from the middle of September I will get precisely nothing despite paying taxes for 25 years.

      Nice one!

      Tea consumption has gone up but due to money situation, so has re-cycling of tea bags 🙂


  9. Such a difficult time, especially with your very recent loss of your mom. Walking, taking care and your writing will help ease some of the grief. Sending you healing thoughts.


    • Thank-you so much. I appreciate every well-wisher and good vibes. As much as a funeral can never be a nice thing, I got more hugs in 1 hour than I though humanely possible and I loved every one.


  10. Rosemarie says:

    Well, I am truly sorry that you lost your job, Stephen. Your account of your commute, your co-workers is vivid and warm with sarcasm and pithiness when relevant. I love especially the viaduct with the graffiti that can’t be removed and the slow driver. We can all relate. Enjoy your time off. I’m sure that it won’t last long.


    • Thank-you. It says a lot that every single friend out of work, most in work and even my sick Mam was relieved I was made redundant. I can’t say how I disliked that place. Dreading Monday mornings from about 11am on a Sunday. Looking forward to a week off at Christmas from July or August and everyone there felt the same.

      I always thought the “peas” reference was about the vegetable but apparently “peas” is a local musician and his name was sprayed on there first with the rest of the sentence being added afterwards.

      My wife always thought it was encouraging people to try peas whilst I thought it was some sort of wordplay on “Give peace a chance”.


  11. Stephen, as hard as it is not to get a paycheck, it almost seems like it’s time for a little break. I’m glad you are recognizing the positive things like eating on your own time and waking up with daylight. I’d say you’ve earned it. Oh, enjoy it while you can. This will be brand new beginning for something fulfilling. Best of luck!


    • Thank-you! Yes, after nearly 20 years of work and the last 9 or 10 being totally without redemption I did feel I was wasting my life away.

      I may be a little poorer but am also much happier (considering recent events). After applying for a few more jobs and replying to my blog comments I am going for a walk through the woods and park before a nice leisurely lunch.

      Since leaving work my asthma has got much better, I am getting 1-3 hours extra sleep every night and I so enjoy seeing daylight and getting a little non central heated or air-conditioned air.


  12. Peter says:

    Hi Stephen
    Much of what you write rang cords with me both in my work in the NHS and in universities. I made the decision to jack it all in last September, take early retirement and go it alone doing exactly what I want to do (some writing; some consultancy etc). Thankfully the money situation was good and you are right in that this would have been the major thing that would have changed the situation. It hasnt always been easy – i have had those mornings when I thought of me ‘wasting my life’ etc but all in all has been a very positive experience and I recomend it. I am certainly far less stressed.
    I wish you all the best with yor writing and anything else that you decide to do


    • Hi Peter,

      thanks for your comment. I currently only feel guilty for not earning money but I am enjoying every other aspect. The most common conversation in my old workplace was how we all felt we were wasting our lives and after many years, these last few weeks have resulted in my no longer feeling that way.

      Thanks for your best wishes.



  13. carmenw503 says:

    Hope you find something soon. Sorry I don’t have any peppermint or pizza 🙂 All the best and if you believe in God—-> pray without ceasing for just the right thing for you!


  14. There is lot to explore around… out of those dark office spaces…You will discover soon. Hakuna Matata!


  15. Being an ex-pat in Brazil and not having worked in an office for 17 years, I have discovered that there is a world beyond slavery and am enjoying every blessed moment; simply ctrl C ctrl V tea for coffee and I see me. BTW I am not a bludger… I don’t qualify, I have to work for every brass penny despite being 60+ Which was not what I was promised at the other end of my career.

    Good luck, look for the light, there always is a light you know.



  16. WilderSoul says:

    Hi Steven, your writing is very readable, and I found myself drawn into each post and then read through these comments until I reached the comment box! My plans for self-employment involve creating a book. In my case, a colouring book. It is strange how doing something every day, such as your writing, or my art, can lead to something perhaps unexpected. There are two other writers I enjoy who you may like to visit: OM at HarsH ReaLiTy http://aopinionatedman.com/ and C.P Singleton at http://cpsingleton42.wordpress.com/ All the best with your change of direction in life. 🙂


  17. mrhugo2013 says:

    You sound like a really hard worker have you ever thought about going it alone and starting up your own business?


  18. chr1 says:

    ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’ I couldn’t have said it better myself. Good luck to you.


  19. kbwill says:

    We all hate our jobs at some point, sometimes it takes a big shovel to dig yourslef out of a small hole. 🙂


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