A Day of Consultation

Every now and then I’m called upon to be the fount of all knowledge, or at least the nodding insurance advert dog that people come to for permission to do what they’ve already decided to do – or for sounding board duties while they justify the decision their subconscious has already made.

Today has been that day. Thankfully I was only due to work a short shift as the hours were swapped with yesterday so that we could head off an issue with cover.

During the scant few hours, somehow every single conversation was about the same small pool of topics and individuals. I was therefore very relieved to get away for a coffee date after work with another colleague. An hour of gossip and putting the world to rights was just the right antidote to it all.

In other news, I’ve been confirmed as a Mental Health First Aider, and training booked in for early next month. Just in time for the big restructure. Just, generally, in time.

SDAC – Queen’s Award

On Friday last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to the formal awarding of the Queen’s Award to Surrey Drug and Alcohol Care

Queens Award Certificate
The Queens Award Certificate

which was held in Woking, and attended by assorted Lord Lieutenants, Mayors, MPs, sponsors and charity members past and present. The award was presented by Richard Stilgoe, standing in for the current High Sherriff of Surrey – and I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy talking with him while we all shuffled people around between sections of the presentation, speeches and general information dissemination.

We had talks on the medical effects of alcohol on the human body with a spirited debate afterwards about the various bits of advice bouncing around in the media about what helps or harms – most interesting to see the politicians among the most vocal critics of the surgical advice given. Then we had a section by two members of Narcotics Anonymous, who shared with us how they had taken their lives back into their own hands with the aid of the NA Fellowship. An amazing couple of people who were very brave to get up in front of the massed assemblage of dignitaries and talk with humble honesty about the difficulties they faced. Again, interesting to see a number of politicians having quite… reserved reactions.

I was there ostensibly to look after one of the VIPs (who actually ended up not arriving until the end when the photos were due), but ended up managing the reception desk, meeting and greeting, giving out badges and ensuring that people a) didn’t mill around the entrance and b) took away commemorative mugs and material at the end of the day’s event. I’m quite proud (spoken with tried and tested British understatement) to have been part of it, and to continue to work with SDAC – if nothing else its opening up all sorts of new doors.

Concentration? I Remember That!

I blinked and a couple of days became a couple of weeks – not good when you’re trying to knuckle down to a writing schedule, apply for jobs and do the housework all at the same time. Of course, from one point of view I have a good excuse – t’other half has been less than well, with back problems recurring and what we suspect is a case of gall stones (blood test results pending next week)

still, I am managing to get back into the swing of things and have an article that I’m hoping will be published soon that I’m currently letting sit in draft for a few days before I take another look and notice the horrendous spelling and grammar. So fingers crossed for that – and there’s some possible volunteer publicity work on the cards too. Nothing paid but it all goes towards making a portfolio.

In the meantime I’m aware I’ve been lax in posting more recipes, so I’ll see what I’ve made recently that is different from usual and write it up – and yes, there will be more fiction now I’m starting to get back on a roll…

Keeping Busy

Its been a fairly fraught week with sad news from t’other half’s side of the family as her uncle died in the early hours of sunday morning. He’d been in hospital on palliative care following a major heart attack the previous week so in one respect we had a little time to mentally get used to the idea but there’s still that nasty little shock when the news comes.

So, a quietish household at the moment.

On a more positive note, the charity I work for – Surrey Drug and Alcohol Care – has just been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. I’ve reproduced the Press Release below:

GUILDFORD, June 2, 2011 – Guildford based charity, Surrey Drug and Alcohol Care (SDAC) has been awarded the prestigious Queens Award for Voluntary Service. This award, inaugurated in 2002 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee year, is made annually to groups who have given “outstanding voluntary work in the community”. SDAC provides a confidential 24/7/ 365 day telephone support-line for anyone concerned about issues relating to substance abuse.

Mike Sproule, acting Chairman commented: “this unique National Honour is a tribute to the 50-60 volunteers at SDAC who tirelessly donate their time, energy and compassion to meeting the needs of anyone, including users, families, friends and carers, suffering from drug and alcohol dependency in Surrey. In our 25th year of service to the community, the importance and value of SDAC has never been greater. I hope this award will encourage more people to work with us: the more volunteers we have, the more support we can give back to those in need in our community.”

The helpline operates 24 hours a day, offering advice, support and referral into treatment services, for Surrey residents.  Families, friends and carers of those involved in alcohol or drug dependency are also given the same support.  It is manned at any one time by the 50-60 volunteers who give up their time to help anyone concerned by drug and alcohol use.  In 2010, SDAC took over 2,500 calls to the helpline, and alcohol dependency in Surrey forms the largest share of calls to the line.

Anyone who is concerned about drug and alcohol can call the 24 hour helpline on 01483 300112.

For more information on the Queen’s Award, there’s an informative link here

Oh, and on a slightly more selfish note, I’ve decided to start putting myself forward into various short story competitions. Today’s stab in the dark went to the Flash Fiction Competition 2011 – go on, have a go (no, I’m not affiliated in any way with them – I just figure at 250 words and only a couple of quid to shuffle into, what’s to lose?)

Self Employment

So… that’s the paperwork off, and a long day spent at the HMRC on a couple of seminars… and didn’t I start doing this last year? So what’s different this time?

I’ve just registered as self-employed for the purposes of concentrating on the writing, and in common with a number of people I’ve encountered recently – including the spouses of HMRC employees – I’m partly doing it to get the powers that be to back off and let me get on with my life without having to trudge down to the Job Centre and be patronised at length on a regular basis. With my other half back in work and bringing in enough to cover the household I believe that the small amounts of Class 2 National Insurance and the calculated Class 4 and self-assessed tax is worth the peace of mind to not feel like people are peering over my shoulder and trying to meddle all the time.

And any additional income I do manage to generate is a nice bonus for running the household – but in the meantime I can be useful being a househusband and concentrating on the writing which I’ve been wanting to do, while doing the training for the Surrey Drug and Alcohol Careline which will hopefully then lead to being able to retrain as a counsellor.

As a nice bonus we’ve had some good weather this week so I’ve been able to feel a little smug about not being trapped in an office, and in being able to restock the kitchen without having to trip over too many small children.

And now to field test a revised lemon chicken dish I recently made – shouldn’t take long and if it works I’ll post the recipe

Volunteering – signing up

So, at the urging of my local job centre I’ve just been down the local shopping centre to find the local volunteer centre – based out of one of the shop units opposite the Matalan.

Stepping inside is an experience, reminding you that by necessity it is all run on a shoestring with bare walls and recycled posters alongside folding furniture and temporary displays – and I’m not sure if the expression on the people on duty at my arrival was more surprised or startled – which probably tells you more about most people’s attitude towards Big Society than springs readily to mind.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, perhaps some form of interview, but I was sat down with a form to capture my personal details and a checklist of areas I had an interest in. With that done, and a minimum of chat to check details, I was presented with an enormous laminated folder of possible things to do, separated into sections such as Mental Health, Children or Administration. The suggestion was to find three or four possible things and note their reference number down.

And that was, essentially, that – I picked out four options and explained why I’d chosen them, and the volunteer service is now going to go away and see if anyone wants my help.

Oh, and I was told I could also use the Do It volunteering website. That was basically “it”. We’ll see what happens from here…


Another week, another trip to the job centre – I’m now moved upstairs in the category of “long term unemployed, and we’re not sure why” – which equates to slightly more push being given to try and work out why nothing seems to be working yet. My suggestion that I’m cursed didn’t seem to carry much weight, while the suggestion that I have been tarred with the “local government” stigma by private companies so they won’t hire me, while most councils aren’t actually making hiring decisions in my field while the budget concerns are up in the air got a rueful acknowledgement.

So to try something different I’m meeting the local volunteer services tomorrow to see if I can get some experience towards counselling, or something similar, to draw on my experiences and my coaching training. It would seem to be an option to open some doors without slamming them on the on-going job hunt, while also being something else to cram onto the CV.

I’m hoping it will give me some insight at least into whether counselling is a new career path that I would want to do – given how many people have encouraged me in this direction in the past. If it turns out to not be something that floats my boat, at least I’ll have tried without spending money on training courses first.

At least it will get me out of the house…