Thoughts and ramblings

Film, Bolton Wanderers, Journalism

My JobCentre experience

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job centre queue zimbio

Not as exciting as The Full Monty (from zimbio)

I’ve just listened to a discussion on Radio 5 Live about the JobCentre and unemployment featuring Theresa May MP and Jim Knight MP. Mr. Knight quoted a report from the  Department of Work and Pensions, and said that JobCentre staff had been “heroic” in their efforts during the recession.

Last year, I spent three months on Job Seekers Allowance after completing my BA Hons Journalism course at UCLan. Those three months were the most depressing three months of my adult working life, and signing on is an experience I do not want to repeat for the rest of my life.

Overall, the JobCentre staff I encountered at Bolton were incompetent, lazy, and un-motivated. There are three instances I experienced that highlight the problems.

  1. The Diary

The first time I went to the JobCentre was to sign a few forms and to make sure I was who I said I was. A lady gave me a bundle of paperwork including a diary to be filled in as I applied for jobs, to ensure that I was maintaining my commitment of looking for work. She also said that some jobseekers preferred to keep this diary on their computers, which for the next two weeks I did. When it came to my first sign-in date, a young JobCentre worker, who looked about as happy to be there as I did, asked me if I filled in the diary, and I said that I kept it on my laptop, to which he nodded and continued tapping away on his keyboard. Sign-in complete. Two weeks later, and on my next sign-in date, I signed-on with a different lady, who kindly informed me that I MUST fill in the paper diary regardless of whether I was filling in an online diary or not, and that I would not receive my payments if I did not fill the paper diary in. Nice consistency.

2. Time spent looking for jobs

One of the most frustrating parts of signing on is the length of time spent with “advisors”. I’m not sure if this is a nationwide JobCentre policy, but the advisors regularly swapped desks – jobseekers are told to sign-in at a designated “box” (desk), in my case it was Box F. In my three months there, there were four different advisors I spoke to. Again, there is a lack of consistency. On one occasion, I spent 45 seconds with my advisor. 45 seconds. I didn’t mean to time it, I just happened to glance at my watch at the beginning and end of the “session”, which consisted of:

Advisor: “Have you been looking for work over the past few weeks?”

Me: “Yes”.

Advisor: “Where have you been looking?”

Me: “Hold the Front Page, Guardian Jobs, The Bolton News, Direct.gov”.

Advisor: “Right ok, sign here”.

I wish I was lying about this and that it was an crap comedy sketch by 6th formers. A rip-off of The Full Monty. It’s not.

3. The graduation

The palaver over my graduation was the most infuriating period of the three months. When I first signed on (when I received my “diary”), I was told that my sign-on days would be on Fridays. I told the lady that my graduation day was on Friday July 17 (my 21st birthday coincidentally), and asked if I would be able to change my sign-in date for that one day. Maybe change it to the Thursday or Monday. The lady said that that would be fine, and that I should speak to my advisor the fortnight before my graduation. Which I did. I was then told to call the JobCentre on July 15 to re-arrange my sign-in date. Which I did. I called, and I was told that this was not an acceptable reason for missing a sign-in.

Not allowed to go to my own graduation. You know, that celebration that 18 years of schooling has lead up to? You know, that party at the end of your three years of university that Labour have pushed and promoted and encouraged so many young people to go into over the past decade? Remember Education, Education, Education? So you saddle us with £20,000+ worth of debt, then you tell us that we can’t celebrate our graduation? And going to my own graduation is not a good enough reason for missing a sign-in which I tried my best to re-arrange?

Heroic, Mr. Knight. Heroic indeed.

On July 15, I was alsotold to call the JobCentre on Monday and explain why I had missed my sign-in. I did, and was then told that my claim had been closed and would have to be re-opened. Which meant more bureaucracy, form signing and passport checking. All for my graduation.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending…yet. I’m currently working at Next on a 12-hour per week contract. The JobCentre offers jobseekers who work less than 14-hours-per-week subsidised benefits. But after my experience with the JobCentre, I do not want to deal with those “heroes” ever again.

Written by bjobbo

February 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Council coverage in The Bolton News

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As part of Sarah Hartley’s investigation on Help Me Investigate into how much local newspaper coverage is dedicated to local councils, I looked at my local paper, The

photo(6)

The Bolton News

Bolton News over a four-day period.

I analysed the editions between Wednesday January 6 and Weekend Edition January 9 2010. The number of pages ranged from 60 on the Wednesday to just 31 on the weekend with the number of pages devoted to news coverage ranging between 10 and 13. The number of pages devoted to local council coverage ranged from 1.75 to 3.25, as per the calculation method set out by Sarah Hartley.

Weds Jan 6 Thurs Jan 7 Fri Jan 8 Weekend Edition Jan 9 Average
Splash Snow causes chaos Grit levels Bin collections Yobs target estate N/A
Number of pages 36 (60 inc. supplement) 48 40 31 39
Number of news pages 13 13 10 12 12
Number of pages containing local council coverage 1.75 3.25 2.75 3 2.68
Percentage of local council coverage in the news section 7% 25% 27.5% 25% 21%

The editions that I analysed were somewhat skewed in their news values by the snow and ice that covered the UK, with the weather making the front page on three of the four days. On two occasions, what I believe to be strong page leads were bumped down to filler status – money from Icelandic banks to be recovered by Bolton Council, and that Bolton schools are £2.6m in debt. Instead, snow was the favoured lead story, with at least four solid pages devoted to pictures of snowmen, igloos, snowbathers etc. over the four days. The majority of the council coverage centred on the council’s response to the weather, and to The Bolton News’ credit, although the coverage was light, the depth and position from which it was reported from – the average Boltonian’s worries (e.g. Bin collections, road gritting, school opening etc.) must be commended.

Written by bjobbo

January 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

How do you solve a problem like Megson?

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I wrote this as a comment on Manny Road’s post about him leaving the BWFC blogging scene because of his disilluionment with the clubs current management. Enjoy.

 

I agree with a lot of what you wrote here Chris. I’ve tried to support Megson as best I can, but I’m not fooling anyone anymore after that performance. The thing is, there are the foundations for something half-decent. For every two bad signings Megson has made, he’s made one decent one e.g. Zat Knight and Paul Robinson for Gretar Steinsson, Sean Davis and Gavin McCann for Lee Chung-Yung/whatever the house style is. This hit-and-miss style is identical to his selection policy. We have a solid team – when they are picked. After some poor performances, Megson dropped Knight this weekend. Great decision. But he then changes the midfield to a duo that never worked at the start of the season or throughout last season – Gavin McCann and Fabrice Muamba. The pair can’t shoot for toffee, and there’s more creativity in…well…I can’t even finish this metaphor they’re so terrible together. I don’t know any other manager who insists on playing two defensive midfielders at home against a team we should be drawing with at the very least.

And still Megson keeps the man, the myth, the legend that is Johan Elmander in the team. Now I want this to be as clear as I can possibly make this. Johan Elmander is the worst striker I have ever seen in a Bolton Wanderers shirt. But will he start our next match? Probably. He must be kissing some serious arse in the dressing room to keep getting in the team.

The thing that is most frustrating is that we have played well this season, and we have the players to play well. Against Tottenham and Everton this season, our attackers played with freedom and confidence, running at players and going past them. We have the players to play well and to attack effectively. Ideally, my perfect team would be: Jaaskelainen – Samuel, Cahill, O’Brien, Steinsson – Gardner, Muamba, M Davies, Chung-Yung – K Davies, Klasnic. Pace, power, aggression and creativity. I don’t see why this team can’t be picked, or why it couldn’t succeed. Oh wait, there’s one thing – How do you solve a problem like Megson?

Written by bjobbo

November 23, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Elmander effect

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Over the past month or so, I’ve got used to seeing Bolton play some decent football. Enjoyable football, so much so that it didn’t feel like a chore going to the Reebok. The watershed moment was the abysmal match against Stoke, where we were outplayed by Stoke. It’s worth re-reading the last bit of that sentence. Since then, at home against Spurs and Everton, the team look energetic, creative, and the players look like they’re enjoying playing for the club. The main difference for me has been the lack of Johan Elmander, who returned to the team yesterday against Chelsea.

Instead of playing with freedom of expression, Megson opted for a defensive line-up lacking in width to try and nullify Chelsea’s midfield. The problem with that is that you rely on your striker(s) to hold the ball up and when there are chances, to get the ball on target. Elmander did neither throughout the match, I’ve lost patience with the Swede, and I can’t defend him anymore. He’s worse than Bobby Zamora. Fact. To demonstrate this point, I’ll compare his 90 minutes to Ivan “2 kidneys” Klasnic’s cameo last week against Everton, thanks to Guardian Chalkboards.

klasnic vs everton

Klasnic had three shots. All were on target and from different distances and places on the pitch. What more could you ask from your striker? Now, Elmander vs Chelsea from yesterday:

elmander vs chelsea

Elmander had three shots in 90 minutes. In better positions than Klasnic, and he still couldn’t manage to get them on target. I wouldn’t mind, but the two shots were within minutes of each other. This just isn’t good enough for a Premier League striker.

We didn’t lose 4-0 because of Elmander, we lost because the team was ultra defensive, which worked for 45 minutes until Samuel was sent off. We came out of our shell a little more in the second half, and Gardner running with the ball definitely made a difference. But we still insisted on playing long balls and crosses from just inside the half-way line, which were useless, as Elmander is truly abysmal in the air. Look at the number of successful crosses vs Everton (without Elmander):

successful crosses vs everton 

And vs Chelsea (with Elmander):

successful crosses vs chelsea

True, this will be due to the fact Chelsea have a better defence than Everton. But Heitinga isn’t a pushover, and neither is Yobo. But look at the number of unsuccessful crosses vs Chelsea:

unsuccessful crosses vs chelsea

Elmander is so useless in the air, it defies logic as to why we tried to cross into the box almost one every five minutes. Look at the number of unsuccessful crosses vs Everton:

unsuccessful crosses vs everton

Against Everton, in total, we made 18 crosses, winning 39% of them. Against Chelsea in total, we made a total of 23 crosses, winning just 9% of them. Why, when Elmander is in the team, do we make more crosses into the box when we know how useless he is? I have no idea why we are more predisposed to hit crap crosses in the box when he plays, but we do. It doesn’t work, and he needs to go.

Written by bjobbo

November 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Inglourious Basterds reviews

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CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! That’s not the intro you were expecting, and surpinglorious-basterds1risingly to me, it wasn’t the opening to Inglourious Basterds, either. Quentin Tarantino’s new film begins at no great pace, with slow langerous shots of the French countryside, and plenty of dialogue. There is a burst of violence, as there is throughout the film, but these do not have the same edge as in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction.

Tarantino goes back to his earlier work to great success in Inglorious. The funky soundtrack, the way characters speak like no-one else does in reality, and Tarantino’s love of genre and love of films themselves. It is no coincidence that the film centres around a small, independent cinema.

When I first saw the trailer, I expected a Kill Bill Vol.1 remake, with Nazis. If you want to see that, you won’t be disappointed. There are some nice, gory, video nasty style prosthetics that will keep the Nazi-hating sadist inside you happy. But the bulk of the film is plot driven dialogue, which I wasn’t expecting. There is a lot of talking in this film, and a lot of it doesn’t develop character. The Basterds themselves are introduced to the audience sparingly – Tarantino has concentrated on plot with this film, and neglected to develop any characters apart from Shosanna Dreyfus, played well by Melanie Laurent. Aside from that, the characters are one-dimensional. From Tarantino’s high water-mark of Jackie Brown, character has taken a backseat.

Inglourious Basterds then is an attempt by Tarantino to get back what was most commercially successful – making everything really, really cool. And this is a cool film – but also a long film. A long film without reason. Characters aren’t developed, some characters come and go, and the story plods on at a slow pace without adding anything to the story. Your head will go with the film, but your bum will go numb. Go see it, but get comfy seats. Your bum will thank you.

As a side note, this is one of the first modern films I’ve seen which hasn’t (to my knowledge) been given the Kermode Seal of Approval (TM), so I’m off to listen to the new Mayo/Kermode podcast and have my opinion re-affirmed/corrected.

Written by bjobbo

August 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

Bolton’s sluggish start to the season

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Zat Knight, looking tall. From keightonknight.com

Zat Knight, looking tall. From keightonknight.com

I don’t normally write things immediately after games, especially this early in the season, but I’ve felt a compulsion to write something after that dire performance against Sunderland. I felt excited going to the game, opening day of the season, I bhoped for  another quick-fire start like last season against Stoke. But no. What was presented was utter crap, some of which I can explain, some of which is beyond me.

Let’s start with the debutants. First in the firing line is Zat Knight. If a club is signing a player to go into the first team, that player must be equal to or better than the player he is replacing. Zat Knight is not a better player than Andy O’Brien. Knight lost far too many headers to Kenwyn Jones, was dragged out of position by Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque, and twice in the game took free-kicks from around the half-way line. The guy is 6ft 6in. Why the fuck is the tallest player on the pitch chipping the ball into the box instead of getting on the end of it? Granted, it must have been Megson’s set piece plans being put into action, but I’ve never seen Peter Crouch take a free-kick in his career. How relieved must Anton Ferdinand have been feeling when he only had to look after Elmander and not Knight?

Next up, Paul Robinson. The same principle goes for him. Jlloyd Samuel did nothing wrong last season, yet finds himself being picked behind a player who is older, smaller, and slower than himself. The only logic that I can come up with is that he’s Megson’s mate from West Brom, because he certainly isn’t a better fullback than Jlloyd. If this is the case, then Robinson should not be picked again, it should be the best XI every game.

Now then, Sam Ricketts and Sean Davis. Well I don’t have anything in particular against these two, they did ok. But the same problem is there – I thought these two would be brought in to make up the numbers. I certainly didn’t think they would be first choice in front of Gretar Steinsson in Ricketts’ case or Mark Davies/Chris Basham/Joey O’Brien/even Tamir Cohen in Davis’ case.

And now we come to Mr. Megson. I can’t remember a team that has ever played at home with three defensive midfielders against a team of similar standing and quality. Why any team would ever need three defensive midfielders AND your average four defenders is beyond me. Sunderland had Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole in front of their defence, and they did more work than our three midfielders did. It was a disjointed, lazy, lethargic, poor performance all round from the midfield. With Muamba, McCann and Davis, yes they are hard working and honest as Megson likes to promote us, but my nine-year old brother has more creativity than those three do. Lumping it up to Davies and feeding off the second balls isn’t going to cut it anymore, sorry fellas.

And finally, the master that is Johan Elmander. Are there any strikers in any of the leagues that don’t score for half the season and still get picked first choice? I know Dave Kitson didn’t do much last season, but I think he at least scored for Reading when he was on loan there. Is there any chance we can go for Tuncay, Megson? He was the best player on the pitch when they came to the Reebok late last season, I’d love to see him here.

Well played Sunderland, and as I mentioned before, Cana and Cattermole ran the midfield.

I really hope I don’t feel the need to post anything like this for the rest of the season, here’s to an exciting, rip-roaring rollercoaster over the next 37 games or so.

Written by bjobbo

August 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Bolton Wanderers

The Gudni, the Ba(d) and the…Warhurst

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I recently finished my degree in Journalism, and so have been looking for jobs, so far unsuccessfully. But inbetween job hunting, I’ve been watching a few old BWFC DVDs (there’s a cracking end of season offer on at the club shop – 3 for £10). I’ve been going to the Reebok for eight (I think) seasons, and I’ve seen a lot of football, some of it brilliant, some of it not so. Here, IMO, is the top and bottom Bolton Wanderers 11 during that time. Feel free to disagree.

Guess which is the better side

Guess which is the better side