Summer Holidays

So I have just finished my summer holidays; I took them fashionably early this year. "What did you get up to?" I hear you cry, well this year I decided to take part in a very popular national pastime and join the mass ranks of the unemployed. This was an interesting and informative thing to try but not really my cup of tea.

I had hoped it would prove a relaxing diversion from the world of work, and while it did have some good points it did not suit my temperament.

The main good point came in the form of the East Sands Leisure Centre, which I almost live next door too. I discovered that once I had signed up to the ‘mass ranks’ I could buy a whole months daytime membership to the ‘gym and swim’ for only £10. This meant I could be in the gym about 10:30 and then afterwards swim until lunch. This provided an interesting structure to the morning three or four days each week. Near the end of my break I also took part in three of the Aquarobics classes they ran, these were great fun but cost an extra £3.30 each.

I found I had more time for cooking and drifted into cooking in a style that was more that of my grandmother that my usual approach. As I was planning meals more and cooking sequences of meals I found I was doing thinks like using animal fat to cook in more. This was just because there had been some dripping produced from a previous meal. It was tasty and of course reduced waste, but not sure what affect it had on waist.

Ok, on the bad points. The paperwork, the delays, the phone calls, the confused answers, the endless repeating yourself.

The process of joining is just not very thought out. It starts with a couple of online forms to fill in, like a lot of things these days. The forms were a bit over the top, one took 45 minutes, and the other 30 minutes the first time, then crashed! Even then you had to race about with extra paperwork and attend to discuss your application to join.

The discussion did not go smoothly as it was a bit rushed. By the time I got to the ‘rep’ who processed memberships I was to see it turned out she had been waiting for me for about 15 minutes. She asked if I had been delayed by the traffic, I said no I had noticed the roadworks so arrived 15 minutes early to make sure. I had been sitting in the waiting room where I was put by the receptionist for the last half an hour. The rest of the discussion was as bit rushed as we tried to make up time.

All my application information had been entered into the computer by me at home. The lady had a print out of that, so proceeded to re-type it into her computer, then print that copy out for me to sign.

I went on my way with more paperwork to fill in throughout my holiday so they could see what new activities I was trying. But this new paperwork was just for a record, they also wanted me to put the same info into yet another website.

I also had a number to phone if I had questions. I found if I did not like an answer I could phone again and probably get a different one. This was a little confusing and it proved costly to a certain degree. One answer I got cost about £75 as it turned out the helpline was incorrect.

The main problem I had though was concentration. There were days with organised trips to companies to do things like the logic problems and coding challenges. Those were great and I got to have interesting conversations with some nice people, but the days out were the exceptions. Mostly you were just left hanging about waiting for the next activity to start.

As there was not much notice of these challenges you needed to be ready to attend I found it impossible to concentrate on worthwhile tasks like DIY or sewing. I kept feeling I should be busy doing something else.

Part of the mantra of the people behind organising the ‘mass ranks’ was the belief that you should make as many new friends as possible. To this end you had to send out potted versions of your life history to all and sundry so new people who thought you interesting could get in touch. I found it hard to constantly sound ‘chipper’ on the phone as I was getting all these calls from these new people wanting to know all about me. There was just something a bit insincere in these conversations as you were left feeling they had there own agenda. But it would have been impolite to not sound enthusiastic and delighted that they had bothered to call me.

There where two or three people I genuinely had a connection with and I had several conversations with those. One of whom was instrumental in convincing me to I give up on the ‘mass ranks' altogether.

So all in all I am glad the holiday is over, not something I would choose to try again. And it also felt a bit long at just over 6 weeks, but with all the paperwork would it make sense for much less?

I can see why the number of members of the ‘mass ranks’ has fallen over recent times.