Here we are in Lockdown 2: The Sequel. Having discovered how much happens in one week I thought I’d keep going.

Wednesday 11

We haven’t had a fire alarm sound in the building for a while, but today we had two. One at 4.30am. Fortunately I’m an old man now and have to get up in the middle of the night anyway… The irony of this fire alarm was that letters have just gone out to all residents about the balconies. The bits we stand on are wooden, and post-Grenfell have now been classified a fire risk. Barbecues were forbidden anyway; now smoking is as well, and more obvious things such as tealights. And anything wooden, such as seating, has to be removed.

How that works with plants and small trees (wooden…) I don’t know. Note that the kitchens have wooden doors and are next to a heat source, but they’re not banned. Sad.

Saturday 14

Only two things in my diary today: haircut and “Spare Weekend?” Haircut cancelled thanks to Lockdown 2: The Sequel, of course. While the weekend is technically “spare” (no football crowds to worry about thanks to the internationals) it’s not as if anyone can do anything. Ho hum.

Tuesday 17

One of the few advantages of having Type II diabetes arrived today: my medical exemption card, which means I don’t have to pay for prescriptions. Not that the Doctor or Surgery told me I could claim for one; that was the Boots pharmacists at Leeds Station. A £9 refund for my last prescription from them, a promise to add them to my Christmas card list from me.

“Write Christmas card list” was, funnily enough, on my task list for last week. And this. And probably next week as well. Wonder when the Christmas stamps come out? Haven’t seen them yet.

Sunday 22

Last day with the TiVo, as I’ve cancelled the TV element of my Virgin Media package to save money. It’s not as if I watch that much TV anyway, and the football/MotoGP I do watch is on BT Sport (a fiver on top of my EE account, although I can only watch it on my iPad. And not record or download it for later viewing). That means having to buy a Freeview box (with recorder), but I’ll make my money back on that after three months thanks to the voucher I had, and using up all of my Nectar points at Argos.

It’s going to take some getting used to, after all these years of the TiVo, but I was a Freeview/ITV Digital/OnDigital person for about 15 years before upgrading to TV (which I only did because the Bundesliga moved to BT Sport).

Monday 23

Back on the 11th I sent in an application form for a role that closed on the 12th. On the afternoon of the 13th I was invited to an interview, today – and then send the full job description. Now, if I’d asked for that at the time I might have thought twice, as it seems to be more of a change management / internal comms role, usually done by an HR person with experience of change management. But not so much comms. Put it this way: there’s a table of various skills required for the job, ranked 1 (lowest) to 3 (highest). Communications is ranked ‘2’. The job title is… Communications Manager.

But, an interview is an interview, and a job is a job (even in London). First time I’ve been asked for my salary expectations though, which is why I made a call-out on LinkedIn before applying. If I’m being honest with myself, the interview could have gone better if I’d been able to prepare answers more; but it was a toughie to pin down.

Tuesday 24

In the middle of last month I applied for a job (not yesterday’s interview, to be clear); the no-thanks finally came through today. They’d had so many applicants they increased the scoring so that you had to score 5 on your freeform ramble and 5 on your CV. It didn’t say what that was out of. But then, at the bottom of the email, were a few paragraphs clearly not meant to be there, about not sifting on physical location. Whoops.

Ninety minutes after that a more fulsome rejection arrived with the usual “lots of applicants”, “high quality”, “it’s not us it’s you”, “no feedback” sentences. Four minutes after that another email summarising the 5+5 element in one sentence. But still no explanation of what it means. All of the emails came from an unattended account, so it’s not as if I can go back to them. It’s as if everyone on the sift group realised they hadn’t sent out any responses and all decided to do so in case no-one else did.

I won’t name and shame the organisation, but it has been an education.

Wednesday 25

A fourth job rejection email arrives, explaining that the bit about location in the first rejection email was confirming that there is no geographical positive bias involved. I was always taught that, when you find yourself in a hole the first thing you should do is stop digging.

Today is my friend Chris’s 54th birthday. Or would have been, had he not died of bowel cancer at the end of May.

It’s been a tough time for his family and his wife, and for some reason I seem to be feeling it as well. Perhaps because I’m single and unemployed, with no other things to distract my mind. I do recall earlier in the year, six or seven months ago now, when it became clear just how quickly he was going downhill that I was very firmly in the ‘bargaining’ stage of the five stages of grief. I have nothing and no-one to live for, whereas he did. I’d happily have swapped places.

Is that bad, that I don’t think anyone will miss me when I’m gone? Then again it’s not as if people miss me while I’m alive.

And, the inevitable rejection email from Monday’s interview. Not wholly unexpected after that performance but still a kick in the nuts every time it happens. Oh, and another rejection-before-interview email. That’s the problem with Covid-19: there are now so many candidates for jobs, with better interview skills, fewer nerves and recent employment that it’s making it harder for the rest of us to get a look-in.

It’s now almost 17 months since my last gainful employment. If mum hadn’t died…

Thursday 26

Best apply for Universal Credit then.

On the plus side I’ve done this before so I know the routine. On the down side my email address is different to last time and I don’t have the special PIN needed to log in when you haven’t been there for a while (15 months, in my case).

So I did the decent thing and rang the number as asked. It’s not a new claim, I just need the special PIN. Phone answered within a minute, I explain my problem, lady says “You need option 1” – the new claims option.

So I start a whole new claim, create a whole new account with a whole new email address and username and supply lots of personal information (again). Much easier that way, let’s be honest. I got a note added to my account saying that they’ll determine how much I get by 28 December and that the first payment will be on 1 January. As if!

Saturday 28

Would you believe, another fire alarm? At 7am this time, at least it was light. I’ve bumped into the immediate neighbours twice on the way out but still haven’t spoken to them, which is a shame as they seem quite nice (when not out on the balcony (which is this weather is hardy behaviour)). I did discover, however, that our wooden balconies will be replaced with metal flooring, I’m guessing similar to that at Whitehall Riverside a bit further back down the river. So my plants won’t need a new home and the smokers will be out again… not that there’s a timescale for this, of course.

Monday 30

Like the first cuckoo of spring, the first Christmas card of the season has arrived… from someone whose address I don’t seem to have. Still, plenty of time to find out as I have only just worked out what my card list is, given that some people aren’t around to hand them to (which saves a few).

As usual, ending the month with a slew (five) of job applications in. Wonder what December will bring?