I have not posted on my blog for a while - I have been distracted by social media "mini-blogging", and it has recently occurred to me that GooglePlus only retains posts for about nine months. I find my blog very useful for going back over and seeing how life was. I am back.
I started work at 13. My father told me that I should get a job and earn my own money - I earned £1 for cleaning several pairs of boots every week, including his dock coldstore boots.
I remember being irritated by this - and so I got a job in a charity shop, the National Children's Homes.
From there, I got straight into proper retail at 16 through a pisspoor paid apprenticeship programme. I was paid less than £1.70 an hour, full time - about $2.50, for you Americans. Three years gained me several NVQ certificates in retail, and a few in my spare time, word processing and the like at the free local college.
I then had to have reconstructive surgery on my foot - to this day, I still have the scar, the titanium, and the lump of the screw that gets blisters in new shoes... It was at this time that my grandparents let me move in with them; they did not approve of my stepmother's request that I continued paying rent - though I do understand that he was trying to teach me a valuable "life lesson" at the time, the idea that no-one else would do it for me if I couldn't work.
As soon as I was back up on my feet, I was fortunate enough to be accepted for a cashier and stocker position at the shop in the village, a couple of miles down the road. My previous retail experience and certifications helped, apparently, and my grandparents kindly picked me up after late shifts. Those were godawful, working the late shifts and then having to follow it up just a few hours later with the early shift - I don't work well with lack of sleep, and the wages weren't great either. But at least I wasn't the one that got electrocuted... (Though it taught me a valuable lesson in how management pass the buck - and to always put serious issues in writing.)
In the end, I was exhausted. I left and cleaned toilets for a while, for the same wages but... normal hours. I'm not sure which was worse. Though my grandmother calling from the car "Have a lovely day, my little scrubber!" on the way to her WI meeting really made my day. Especially when I explained how this could be misconstrued.
My knowledge of minerals and interest in gemmology landed me another low wage position in a "magical" shop, a job I was happy to do as the hours were better yet again and the work I genuinely loved; it made the naff wage worthwhile. Around the same time, I was headhunted for some hours at Thorntons - our local branch being one of the biggest in the region, and I mixed the part-time hours nicely with my gem-work.
Around this time I got onto a full time course at the local educational institute, a double OCN paper in business. The magic shop sadly closed, but by this time I was juggling more hours as assistant manager at Thorntons, my course, extra courses on computer work (I can audiotype, touch type and a whole bunch of other types.) as well as working as receptionist and archivist for a posh solicitors office.
I had turned 20 and discovered I had a a pretty badass work ethic - and I also discovered my limits. I found I was merely treading water at this point and my boyfriend at the time, of five years, was getting more difficult to manage too. (That's decidedly another story.)
I finished my course, wrapped up all the loose ends, and fled South. My odd skill set landed me a job with the MOD, but they only have temporary contracts - six months is the maximum, and the operation I was brought in to help develop wasn't going to complete. I can't tell you about this work, only that the chap that wrote the programme wrote a 500 page manual... and forgot to add a "how to use this" section. I know it was 500+ pages, because I accidentally fell asleep on it once, and dribbled on it somewhere to the back. I understand the programme was pulled for outsourcing, so at least no-one knows! Well, until now. (I told you, I don't work well if I don't sleep enough - and getting three am calls from your ex does not help sleep. It only took a couple of nights to learn to switch my phone off from 9pm.)
I then got VERY lucky - apparently my MOD clearance enough to get me straight in at the bank, though that was a farce in itself. No one knew who I was when I turned up to work - I may as well have just walked in off the street, hell, I practically did.
My contract had gone missing in the post, it seems - discovered two months down the line when I still hadn't been paid (I was used to working month in hand, after all). Luckily, they kept me on - well, as I pointed out, I already had the safe codes and central computer access by that point, so they probably ought to pay me!
I've been there seven years now, with a few months gap when someone screwed up my transfer back home. The wage isn't huge, but it's better than most in this area - I carried my city contract with me. I am not especially loyal. I will sell my time to the highest bidder - but only on terms that I know I can manage, and if I like the work. I have met my limitations, and I know what I will accept.
I went from having no grades to speak of to having a job I am sensible enough to understand and accept that I'll probably stick with it for life. It's not the most amazing job, but it's steady work. And that's better than most. I know which side my bread's buttered on. I've worked damn hard for it.
More importantly though, I know I've been very lucky to have been able to make the most of the few opportunities that I have been offered. The sad fact is that few people ever get breaks - or are willing to sell their lives for such low prices.
I'm not surprised so many people prefer the dole. It is very tempting, sometimes - accepting being poor in exchange for not having to give your soul and hours doing something you don't enjoy.
Mind you, I like affording things. Well, some things. A few things. Well, more than I could buy on the dole. Eh.