November 7, 2015

My Week Was Like a Box of Chocolates ... [Mutual Obligations: ep 25]

The Soft Centres
Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Thanks to social media, have just read that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have filed for divorce!! ....thus the world is told this, before THEY even know it.
But why does that news NOT make me sad?

To think that monsieur and I could have been like Brad and Angelina  ....or Bogie and Bacall .....or Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn ....or even Ma and Pa Kettle? Or, to localise it, Bert and Patti Newton? Or to contemporise it, Mariah Carey and James Packer?

Well we were ....for five minutes in the lift.
But normal life must go on and so it does dear reader.

And in case you are reading this, esteemed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, I don't want you to get the wrong impression into thinking that life as a midlife unemployee is a barrel of laughs, combined with intermittent elevator sex! 

Ha! Far from it.
That elevator joie de vie I'm sure was just a one-off. And I don't expect to see monsieur any time soon. We're both too busy job seeking ...and clearly in the wrong hemisphere.

So it seems.

The Inedibles

Alas, In the words of Forrest Gump, the past week for me has been like a box of chocolates. That is, a box that includes mainly those dreaded inedible ginger ones. Yuck.

Would rather eat the dog's MyDog: Lamb Classic, or tinned Spam slapped onto that 85 cent Coles Sandwich Loaf, than ginger anything. And yes I know, some readers may be either repulsed, or thinking I'm merely product placing such "brands" into this drivel to earn some cash from the associated product consortia.
But no, I only do it for the thrills, and also hopefully to insert some tips for the cash-strapped unemployed among us. And perhaps some Pollyannas, ooops (Freudian slip) I mean pollies out there might happen to be reading this lower than low-brow, trashy drivel. But highly bl**dy unlikely. They're too busy reading about their next junket/international posting, bottle of posh plonk, prime real estate purchase, Cancun cash stash and so forth.

Faux chocolat
Yes, Malcolm, for a while there - like many during your leather jacket phase on Q&A - I saw you as hot stuff. And I recently even copied your "style" by rocking up to a job interview for a volunteer attendant role at the local municipal art gallery, and sporting a cropped leather jacket.

I thought I looked very gallery-attendant-like.  Of course, mine's pleather. And worn over a shift dress, I felt I had the whole gallery, "mature-lady-chick" thing happening ...down pat. That is, I thought I looked quite fetching, in a midlife-hipstery-appropriate way. Almost like a (mature-age) rock-chick - with my flowing dark locks, flashy scarf and black suede boots. The interview was, after all, for a volunteer role, within dog's walking distance from my abode. Too easy.
Moreover, one of the requirements of the role was to go along to opening nights! Win-win for an unemployee, on a budget (actually budget) ....who doesn't get out much.

And applying for the said role, that is volunteering, was an outcome of my own volition. In other words, it had nothing to do with enforced work for the dole schemes, or anything like that. I was just following my passions, contributing to my local community, and connecting.

And, in the role I invisaged myself swooning around the gallery, making pithy comments and so forth, to gallery visitors, for the required three hours per fortnight.

Turkish delighted...
Knew I was armed with key credentials, that would tick the right boxes, be good for sales, shifting stock and so forth. Such as: 1) an art history major (not bragging), 2) criminal history minor (again, not bragging), 3) referee contacts to die for, and 4) surveillance capabilities from being a school library door-bitch. And (despite the latter), I considered myself to have genial and engaging, people-person skills.
Admittedly, I (a post-modern dame of a certain age with chutzpah ....well I think so!) was a little surprised, when I met my two interviewers ...probably best described as a couple of fresh-faced, beaming, nappy-clad Shakespearean twats.

They were so young Romeo and Juliet! And they made me feel so damn old. But rather that then dead. Maybe I scared them? (or maybe I should have done the alluring, double-strength smokey-eye look on that day?) Or, maybe the smokey-eye look would have scared them even more?! Or maybe my witch's broomstick should have been left at home?! Whatever.

Raw vegan gluten & dairy free cacao balls (quite a mouthful)
You see dear reader, in the following days, I got the dreaded phone call from young and shiny, size six Juliet, saying thanks but NO THANKS. Yes, despite having all the "right stuff", I had indeed failed a volunteer job interview!!  And it was on my bucket list too!

What's next? ....failure (on bin night) to put my rubbish bin out onto the nature strip correctly?!

So now I just have a f*ck-it list. Pardon mon French. Actually in French it translates to f*ck liste for you keen Francophile wordsters out there. Everything sounds better in French, or with a French accent ....doesn't it? I think so. (doubtful?'s that last phrase in French = Je pense que oui.) Case closed.
Maybe it was for this reason? (and I don't mean the "f*ck-it" list.) You see, when the young cupid-like guy asked me if there were any areas in the role I'd be interested in being "targeted for" (his words), I looked directly into cupid-guy's youthful eyes and replied (maybe too eagerly), "...oh YOU can target me for anything." Ooops. Well what was I to say? Maybe he took it the wrong way? Or, was my HRT malfunctioning again?

But, keeping things real dear reader, copious job skills/readiness (whatever) training - with monsieur - has taught me that, appli-cant's -  when applying for any roles, should express that they're as flexible as Tiger snakes in a dust storm. Or should that be tsunami? Anyway, am trying to say that said tigers, could confront any situation. Thus at said interview was subsequently, trying to present myself as that same robust species. In other words ....NOT as a desperate, dateless, dormant, and low-functioning, cougar on heat.

The chocolate ganache...

But it was only a volunteer role. And I didn't want to give the (possibly pre-millennial) Shakespearean twats the impression that I wanted to take over THEIR salubrious jobs ...thus leaving THEM on the scrapheap. As if?  Although, for statistical purposes, I do wish I'd asked them (in Judge Judy fashion) if they were getting paid for their roles, and how much! And were they - Romeo and Juliet - dating?! In other words, were their conditions of employment, unionised to speak.
But what did those nappy-clad Shakespearean impersonators want? Perhaps I should have flashed a fake wrist tattoo, or glued on a temporary right-nostril stud?  ....Or perhaps gone in the reverse direction by adopting a "less is more" approach and come across like an understated, beige cardigan wearing, monosyllabic, Miss Marple type of volunteer??
But alas, sh*t happens. No loss.
Moving onto the pure cacao truffles...

There were other opportunities on the horizon during the week. I'm actually legally a librarian - so I had weeks ago, put in three applications for varying roles at the local library - again within walking dog distance from the home office.  Actually, perfect entry-level role for the dog! And yes, paid roles!! And I felt sure we'd get short-listed for at least one of them.
But no cigar there either. And I receive the standard 21st century auto-email application response: "If you have not been contacted within 3 weeks of the closing date, your application will not proceed any further for this position. And we thank you for your interest."
At this stage, I'm feeling desperate to get a job, since living a 2 Minute Noodle lifestyle (only 99 cents a packet from Coles!) is becoming a drag. Plus I have a list of maintenance jobs that need doing. And I don't mean home improvement. I'm talking essentials, like optometry, dentistry, and so forth. Even my mummy dearest just the other day said, "Carmen, you've got such lovely teeth, BUT they could do with a whitening." And no I am not making this up.

Too much Nougat?

Maybe that's what put Romeo and Juliet off? ....and why I've had the therapy!  Was it the teeth!?? Do recruiters now judge applicants according to their teeth? they do with horses? (well it is Melbourne cup season).

I mean really, to streamline the long-drawn out argy-bargy of the application mock-up process - and moreover, to save everybody's time - why don't recruiters just ask we suspicious unemployables, to attach a recent dental x-ray! with our cover letters, when sending our "vital statistics" out into the ether? I'd rather that, at this stage, than the monotony of addressing more banal selection criteria questions nauseum.

So could I crowd-fund the dentistry dear reader ....particularly the teeth whitening, once the root canal therapy is done? (Please message me if you're in the know).

Are there any Dentistes Sans Frontiers out there, who could do the teeth whitening pro-bono? Which third world country must I go to?

Returning to topic and the botox .....I mean, box of chocolates.

Rocky Road ....

So I decide I'm just not going to take it. Clearly, that pathetic auto-email reply (regarding the library roles), indicated that their HR people were a bunch of myopic, ageist, fascist, little weasels (well-paid too), that had given me the flick.

Quoting Tom Jones, "What's new pussy-cat?!" ...I knew I was rejected because the selection panel (no doubt a shambolic collection of befuddled meerkats) perceived from  my application alone, that I was too damn old, perhaps too Amish ...or WHATEVER. And subsequently had stereotyped me (without even meeting me face-to face), as being some hairbrained old git, who had only just got used to using electric light globes, Olivetti typewriters, press studs, assorted metal zippers, and the 1865 AD model Singer Sewing machine.

So what do you do to redress the situation?

(Maybe Bitter 85% Dark Chocolate: dosage 40gm taken regularly?)

Perhaps I could adopt the measures taken by unemployee Bruno, in the 2005 French film, The Axe?? You see, Bruno loved his job as a middle manager at a paper company, and optimistically views being laid off as an opportunity.

However, after two years of searching for a comparable position, his optimism turns to desperation, whereby Bruno concocts a grimly audacious plan to identify and kill his fellow job applicants so that he is the only qualified person left. Thus reflecting a forerunner to the Hunger Games movie  with  a mature-age jobseeking adaptation, inserted into the plot. I like it! But seems a bit messy. An outcome best left for Hollywood to deal with.

The hard toffee ....

Actually, is it just me? .....or somewhat ironically, am I getting the feeling that our Australian government's "unemployment services" policy guidelines, are in fact a warped real-life pastiche of the aforementioned Hunger Games scenario. Of course, tweaked here and there, to deal with Australia's unemployment fiasco . Wouldn't surprise me.

Having said that, do I call A Current Affair? Being a midlife dame of a certain age, would Tracie Grimshaw empathize and see my unemployment journey-story-debacle, as a ratings winner? Would Four Corners be interested? I know PM Malcolm Turnbull and the Job Network isn't. Regardless, all and sundry seem to think the unemployment statistics and consequences, are just a mirage anyway.


To nip it in the bud, I ring the library's number to get some feedback on why they didn't short-list me for any of the roles. Of course three pathetic reasons were given by a lass on the other end of the phone line. Her name was "Jan". And the reasons I was de-selected are too boring to mention here. In fact, too ridiculous to repeat. However the third reason made me want to undertake some revenge strategies (again, if you can think of any cost-effective revenge ideas dear reader ...PM me ASAP).

For the third reason, I wasn't short-listed, I found to be unique. But maybe quite typical.

Although crazy if you ask me.

You see anyone applying for jobs, knows it's standard practice to submit applications online via Seek and so forth.  And that having them hand-written with a fountain pen, and delivered on a silver-tray by a dashing footman is so last century ...better make that the century before last century, as well.

A case of failing to submit properly. WTF?

But here's the thing: "Jan" said, that when sending my application online, it was indicated that I had "hit the submit button three times" and that this factor "'showed my computing skills were questionable."   In short, it was for THAT reason my application was rejected. And again, I am NOT making this up.

Am sure they (the said HR weasels running the said library emporium) would have changed their narrow little minds had they seen my Olympic standard IT skills - in action - at the Coles self-service check-out this afternoon!!!

So there you have it. How does one respond to such pernickety treatment by human resources gatekeepers? By eating a family block of Cadbury chocolate of course!

And, as an experienced dame of a certain age, with skills to go, what can I say to all of this? ... Actually dear reader, the illustration below, is spookily, quite an accurate portrayal of moi! (after this week's shenanigans.) 

Even if I do say so myself. I digress.




A day in the life [Mutual Obligations ep 24]

I say elevator, he says l'ascenseur [Mutual Obligations ep 23]
Hello, is it me you're looking for [Mutual Obligations ep 22]

 Image: via flickr

October 23, 2015

Applying into the Abyss [An Unemployment Story]

Author: Michael Marks

Anyone hiring? How much time have you spent applying for jobs? Not just any random job but a career that you know in your heart you can fill? During this online age it seems the ability to present yourself outside of a resume seems dismal at best. Hundreds of resumes sent out into the ether.

The question that comes after months of this process is natural.

Is it me?

In short yes. You do not have 6 years of experience, 4 Olympic gold medals, 2 tours of military duty and at least 1 trip to the international space station. Your credentials do not match the job posting. Why? Because the job posting is put together by people who do not believe in investing in people.

We hear all the time that people are coming out of school without the skills to join the workforce. But since when did employers feel entitled that every employee that they hire be perfect? While the millennial generation may be labelled as lazy or looking for quick fixes, we find quick solutions on job boards every day. Companies are always in flux, but I can see a direct correlation between lack of investment in people and struggles in growth.

When you hire only engineers with 10 years of experience you definitely have the ability to do the work. But what happens when you need to communicate your value to the world? You hire an agency who isn’t a part of you to explain it to the world. There is room for us all. While companies complain that the workforce isn’t prepared you forget that most of us learn the most on the job. Remember that the person you invest in today can keep the engine running far longer than picking up random mechanics along the way. Make people stakeholders rather than temp workers waiting for their contract to end.

All it takes is a little vision. In this abyss that we all keep applying to, is a wealth of talent that is ready to make a lasting impact. All it takes is a chance. Stop touting all you do for your customers. Create space in your organization for your customers and watch your product thrive. Hard times are just that, hard. But lasting changes can be made if a few insightful managers realize that people have value. May take a little more time. May take interviewing a few candidates who aren’t perfect. But those who put in that extra work are sure to find that extra reward.

We are tired of being overlooked.

Source:  Lady (Un)Employed a blog about office politics and unemployment.
Share your story.



Image: via flickr

October 20, 2015

Could it be my Halitosis? [More on-the-spot reportage from our imbedded Guest Writer in the Trenches]

What better evidence of wanting to work, could a job network agency have, than me, with arm extended, introducing myself to an employee sitting within arms length of my case manger, and me doing a stellar job of selling myself about why I'm the girl for the job.

So there I was, mid-fortnightly interview, when I said...”uh.. hmm - who do I speak to about working at this agency? I know, I know, some of you unemploymentista's might think I'm selling out or joining the enemy. Hell! some of you might even liken it to joining a terrorist organisation. Hope the FBI and ASIO aren't listening - what's that you say? Something about data retention, Geez! I hope not. Are they really listening?, am I becoming paranoid?, quick! Barbs! Slap me (*SLAP*) “For gods sake snap out of it!”.... said Barbs. All of this is for your own good you know.

At first I was given short shift by my case manager. Or should I say, shoulder shrugging disinterest, but I persisted. My case manager answered in a completely bored, I don't know why your bothering to ask kind of way, about whom I should speak to. I found out they happened to be sitting right behind him, when I pressured him further, about how I might get in contact with that person. Aren't these people being paid millions of tax payers dollars to help the unemployed find work because god knows, us unemployables are useless, feckless, rorters who don't know what's good for us. Anyone would think I asked him to eat tripe.

Arm outstretched ready to shake hands I leapt off of my chair and introduced myself and stated my qualifications. I was asked for a copy of my resume and I requested that from my case manager, who during this whole time, had been behaving rather obstructively between myself and the agency worker, during what was a pre-interview process. That'll get me hired for sure!
Asking for the resume was almost tantamount to poking a bear with a stick. I was advised during the pre-interview that they were indeed recruiting casual staff and that they would get back to me in a week or two. In the meantime, I had other applications to attend to and other potential interviews to think about.

I don't always have my mobile phone on, unless I'm expecting an important call. I often get annoying calls from people trying sell me insurance or educational courses from some unscrupulous private VET organisations and many of these surprisingly began this year when I signed onto Job Active, so someone somewhere is doing a good job of retaining data.

So, two weeks on from my plucky arm outstretched cold calling on the spot, in person attempt to secure work, I was contacted by the employee from the Job Network organisation about coming in for an interview.
She left a message on my mobile phone. Just as I was about to return the call, they rang my landline, we had a short conversation and I arranged for the interview to be in two days time. The Job Network employee, assured me, that they would send all of the interview details to my email account; details about who to contact, when to arrive and where. As I was expecting the email to arrive, and I had already spoken to the Job Network employee, I deleted the message on my mobile. Seems reasonable enough to me.  I expected the email to arrive that afternoon as the interview was in two days time, but when it didn't arrive, I figured it would come through the next day.

If you've been unemployed for any period of time, you get used to set backs, knock backs, no call backs, and well anything at all going wrong. When the email didn't arrive I didn't panic. 
Centrelink staff were also on strike during this time, so I thought perhaps it had something to do with that.
My case manager, at the potential opportunity to earn bonus money for my impending interview,  suddenly got very interested in how the interview went, and any other potential interviews I had and quite frankly made several calls to me in the space of two days about this one and two others I had arranged.
I told him, that the details for the Job Network position hadn't come through and therefore I wasn't able to attend the interview, and that I had other interviews lined up, but couldn't give him any-more details. I honestly just assumed that the job had fallen through or that they had put off the interview until some other time, and they would eventually get back to me. After all, clients of the Job Network are the last to know anything at all - if they ever do-  about what is going on.
My case manager said they would make enquires about what happened. In the meantime, I had other applications, cold calls and my own networking to attend to.

When my fortnightly interview with my case manager came around again, I had felt rather pleased with myself for my visual display of job searching that I so enthusiastically  displayed at my last job network interview, and of course my list of jobs I had applied for over the last month.
Boy was my positivity soon busted like a balloon squealing up a storm as the air went out of it. My case manager asked me how the interview went with the Job Network agency and this is odd, because he knew I didn't attend, I had already told him this over the phone. I replied that the details didn't come through in the email. He persisted with this line of questing again and said rather rudely and abruptly that when he enquired about what happened, the employee of the organisation told him I didn't show up and he wanted to know why I didn't.
I'm beginning to feel like I'm being set up for something and I start to get very nervous, but I hold my ground and I reiterate....”well I can't show up if I don't have the details”. I'm feeling a little bit flustered by this time and I'm trying to channel Barbs, she can be snarky with the best of them.
He accuses me again of avoiding the interview, and again I say I didn't have any details. If I'd thought of it at the time, I would have pressed him about assuring me over the phone that he was going to find out what happened and considering he already knew what was he hoping to achieve by interrogating me. He asked me why I didn't phone the Job Network employee I spoke to and and what happened to the email. As I had deleted the mobile message and I didn't have any other way of contacting the employee. I didn't' know her surname, so I couldn't ring the organisation asking for her, and they wouldn't give out that information anyway.
Instead of supporting me, I actually felt like I was being interrogated by a police officer about a potential crime I might have committed. After going backwards and forwards like this for some time, my case manager finally says that the employee of the network had sent the email to the wrong address. By this time, I was a nervous wreck and I clearly felt that I had been bullied by my case manager. I left the service feeling very upset and all 'out of sorts'. You know that sickening feeling you get in your stomach when something like that happens?

After a few days passed and once I'd thought things through, I came to the conclusion that he was my case manager and it was his job to find out what happened and to get back to me.
He should have been supporting me instead of interrogating me. Usually if I send out an email to the wrong address it pings back straight away. Unless of course they got my email mixed up with someone else's. Either way, it was a mistake made by the network employee.
My case manager knew what happened and yet he decided to interrogate me, instead of apologising for what happened and perhaps letting me know that I could be inline again for another position.  At this stage who'd want to work there with this sort of toxic environment happening with people making excuses for their stuff ups. Maybe my case manager bully's other staff members so they try to cover their tracks.

Barbs told me not to mope around the house with a long face and that if the majority of people on Newstart weren't rorting the system then I wouldn't have to tolerate such hard line approaches from Job Network staff.
I tell Barbs that perhaps she should start taking a closer look at politics and educating herself with facts, about how much money the government really spends on Newstart. She fired back that politics is important, and says to me she has a surprise. It's a poster with Barb on it and she's running for a seat at the next federal election. She says to me “Read it, you might learn something and you might get a better appreciation of what exactly I do know about this country and politics."

I can hardly believe my eyes as they dart across the poster, my mouth agape and I make the sudden realisation for lack of success at finding work. I have halitosis!


Halitosis Certification
Muslin Cloth
Shari Lewis

My Fellow Australians, on our very own shores lies a dangerous and frightening threat. We are at risk of being swamped by Terribleists and this is threatening our Australian way of life. I can no longer stand by and let this happen. For this reason, I've decided to run for a seat at the next federal election. I'm just an ordinary Australian who cares about my beloved country, and I'm willing to fight tooth and nail to save this generation and the next from the scourge of terribleism. I promise to work hard to make this country once again great!

Will you join me !

Barbara Ganoush.

October 13, 2015

A Day In The life ... [Mutual Obligations: ep 24]


Ok. So now I can tick off that I've had elevator sex ...on my way to the job network agency, no less. Yes it was under extenuating circumstances. So how did it all end up, dear reader, you are probably keenly wanting to know?

Did the doors open mid-flight so to speak, revealing all and sundry to my case manager? And did the Channel Ten Eyewitness news team, turn up, to telecast the story? And did some selfie fetishist, record it all on their cell-phone and twitter it out to the masses? Well of course they did! Not. But wait a minute. That's not true. Of course it's not true.

But is any of it really true? Well the good bits are ...quite possibly.

Admittedly by the time the fireman, the snacks, the news crew, and my case-manager arrived - post-coital - I seem to have finally passed out, and was taken away on a stretcher.

Ironically, it was a feisty employee from the nearby Bunnings Store who arrived on the scene, thus saving the day - laden with ropes and so forth, who prized open those stubborn elevator doors a suitably appropriate moment, so to speak.

And thank goodness for THAT.
Alas the day ended with me being safely delivered home to my lonely dog, who gave me that adoring, "So what have you been up to mummy ....and how was your day?" look.

As for monsieur, he returned and then left me, like a flash of lightening. Although he did leave a message on a post-it note stuck inside my bag, asking me to call him. But he didn't leave a phone number?

Damn you monsieur. Must you make things so difficult?

Do I have to go via the ICRC Tracing Service or ASIO to track you down again?

Watch this space dear reader.

Who knows what will happen next?


My week was like a box of chocolates [Mutual Obligations ep 25]


I say elevator, he says l'ascenseur [Mutual Obligations ep 23]
Hello, is it me you're looking for [Mutual Obligations ep 22]


October 7, 2015

Barbara Gets her Ghetto On ...and the Job Network Gets a Smack Down ! [By our Guest Writer from the Trenches]

There I was thinking uncharitable thoughts about some of the employees of my Job Network Provider ....and let me just quietly say, *networking*, is such a loose term for that organisation.

Anyway, Barbara said I shouldn’t be like that because the lifters in our country, like the employees of that organisation, were working hard for my benefit, (sorry about the pun) and that I should just pull myself up by my bootstraps. That doesn't seem to be a suggested mental health strategy on offer from the ABC's 'Mental As' - week long focus on mental health, featuring patients with lived experiences and experts a like.

Obviously the lesson on empathy has fallen on deaf ears for Barbs and the information was water off a ducks back. “The devil makes work of idle hands you know she said”

Barbs said the only way to get myself out of the funk I was in, was to purge my uncharitable thoughts with hard work and servitude. So purge! I did!

But before I did, I took the opportunity to tell my case manager that at least two of the jobs he has sourced from Seek weren't actual jobs. One was located in Singapore and didn't even offer a salary or wage of any kind but you signed up to do 'survey's and if you did enough you might get a coupon or two.

One was blacklisted, so I took great delight when attending my fornightly interview, taking the two pieces of paper with me to show my case manager. I suggested the organisation might want to make a list of bogus job offers, and then told him that at our past meeting he shrugged his shoulders when I thought the job looked dodgy.

I suggested that if they were going to force me to apply for employment opportunities that they think are suitable for me, and have me sign a job plan contract - that stipulated that - then they could at least ensure that they were giving me legitimate work opportunities and anything else including 'shrugging' ones shoulders was tantamount to a breach of ethics.

Oh do they have those I hear you say? They're printed on paper, but the staff and management have no training in ethics and probably think it's some "impractical philosophical theory" that one Job Network employee said to me some time ago.

Some people might think that sourcing things off the nature strip for free, means you’re a cheapskate, or, living in the ghetto maybe? Others might see it as thrifty. Then there’s the living off the grid group, where recycling and caring for the environment isn’t something that gets done on garbage night, but is a ‘way of life’ - after all we do consume a vast number of items that we throw away and our economy is indeed dependent on consumers updating their goods regularly.

For me, it’s a matter of survival. But don’t tell Centrelink because Newstart is no longer (but once was mind you) a survivable amount of money. If you're not on the precipice of homelessness and using the food banks regularly your obviously rorting the sytem somehow, someway. It’s now been economically designed to tie you over until you get employed again.  That's why it's called Newstart and no longer called Social Security.

Barbs knows a lot about a lot of stuff  …”don’t you Barbs” and she told me to stop moping around the house. She said there was no excuse for our outside table to be as delipadated as it was, and it looked way to shabby and definitely not chic and certainly not chic elegance, sacre’ bleu.

So I could either wait for council clean up and scour the street looking for something useful, or I could check Recycle and Tushare. Both websites are run by volunteers who host pics and info of free stuff for people to come and collect and most of the stuff doesn't seem to hang around for too long. Not having a car makes collecting these goodies difficult though.

With my neighbour purchasing more and more large complicated trailers and other such things to store his business carni stuff in, taking up space, and bringing our semi 2 bedroom house into disrepute, one of his workers was asked to fetch a bunch of pallets in the truck and dumped them up the driveway, leaning them against the fence.

Barbs feasted her eyes on a pallet that was in quite good shape. Watching  intently over the next few days as the worker got busy sawing and hammering Barbs decided to go see what all the fuss was about. Doing  her usual thang! she sashayed over to Mr carni worker....

"Are those ill gotten gains you have there sir"?, she said. He was bent over with a saw in his hand and a leg up on the pallet to keep it steady, (charming display of masculinity) and he uttered something monosyllabic, I think it was Huh! I half expected to see a person of short stature speaking backwards and dancing like that scene in Twin Peaks when Coopers was having a dream. (Sorry I got sidetracked, being long term unemployment will do that to you).

Where did you get those pallets from she said? "Oh you can get em for free", he said, "Just have a look on gumtree, there's plenty around I think". "Ok" said Barbs, "thanks".

After several days Mr carni operator had one of his contraptions layed out on the front lawn and he was busy making repairs. Barbs in her usual way asked Mr carni operator whether he was going to use all of the pallets his workman had acquired, and he said he was trying to get rid of them and asked if we wanted any. He even offered to take them around for us. "How nice of you" said Barbs, she seemed genuinely appreciative of his kindness, but I suspected he had other motives, like dumping them on us, because he couldn't get rid of them himself.

Barbs told me not to be such an ungrateful leaner and that Mr carni machine operator was a lifter and trying to do his best. "Easy miss hardboil", I said, "I think you're turning soft", she just squarked at me and clucked off into the distance.

One of the pallets was made of nice wood but a bit 'shop soiled', not unlike the descriptions I believe some people think about the mature age unemployed. Useful with some skills to offer, but might be a bit shop soiled, so the government hands out incentives in the way of money to get businesses to hire us. I guess we must be a bit too 'shop soiled' because I hear the take up has been poor.

The other pallet was way to thick and heavy, and not something that I felt was useful. So several days later, when Mr carni operator had gone somewhere in his truck, I wrangled a trolley and my flaty into helping me quickly wheel it back, and stack it with the others so he wouldn't notice.

I spent days and days, hand-sanding the top of the good pallet with a bit of left over sandpaper from some other long ago project, with Barbs weilding her work b&d stick..."Put more effort into it, you've got to get it looking nice and smooth". "Those holes will need fixing and you'll need Timber Mate (a sort of wood putty) to clean up the scratches and knots in the grain".

I've got to hand it to Barbs she would make an outstanding 'work for dole' supervisor. I needed some wood for the legs and Barbs asked Mr carni machine operator if he had anything suitable. He suggested we "knock off" a couple of bits from the heavy pallet we re-homed, with a funny look on his face, but Barbs just shook her head and yelled "too heavy!" and he looked us up and down with uncharitable thoughts of his own, about our physique.

He promised to find something for us, and assured me that he knew exactly what was needed. So there we were, early evening watching telly when I heard a strange sound of something hitting the lawn out the back. Sort of like a Dong!. Our carni neighbour had actually found something and hurled it over the back fence and into our yard like a traditional Scottish caber tosser! (pun intended this time). Unfortunately, it was no good and he doesn't understand the concept of the meaning too heavy! or that Barbs wasn't shouting to the neighbourhood about our weight problems.

While I was waiting for the perfect free wood for the legs to appear, I invested in a cheap tin of satin varnish from Bunnings - a girl's best friend. Barbs was right about the sanding. And the wood grain was now beginning to look beautiful. And the Timber Mate, did a top job of prettying it up. I got sick of waiting for the perfect legs (my own have varicose veins in them) and thought I would see what Bunnings might have on offer.

Wouldn't you know it, they had 'off cuts' that were only $2 each. They were perfect for a girl like me to saw into four pieces without over burdening herself with sweat and pain and looking horribly red faced for my efforts. Attaching them was the tricky bit, but the older fellow who lives next door, has been very supportive throughout my huffing and puffing and sanding and woodworking process, that he could hear, when he wandered outside, regularly to clean up his pet dog’s poo off of his lawn.

''What are you up to?" he would call out to me over the fence. "I'm making a table out of a pallet".

"How do you know how to do that?" he yelled, "Saw it on youtuuuuuube" I said, "but I need something to attach the legs" So he offered to lend me his drill, with a crash course in drilling and screwing, so to speak. He was quite impressed with the quality of the sanding and varnish job.

"Geez you've done a bloody good job there". "Thanks mate" I said. But I had trouble putting the legs on myself without someone holding them in place while I drilled, and all that drilling and automatic screwing isn't my forte' anyhoo.

So I now have a nice country, sort of looking, but unrefined woodworking skills, pine varnished outside table. It looks a darn site better than the horrible old wobbly one we had. It's so incredibly ghetto with its freely scrounged materials - and I'm quite proud of it, if I do say so myself. But don't let Centrelink or Job Services Australia know, otherwise they'll put woodworking skills down on my resume and before you know it I'll be hard at work in a wood mill or making picnic benches for 'work for the dole'.


Stay tuned for more Babaliscious cleaning and make overs for the employably challenged with the delightful Barbara Ganoush.  As seen on The Block 

...well maybe one day??


Also from Barb Ganoush



Image: via flickr