Here We Go Again

In which The Author obeys the Law of Gravity

On Thursday, in between the Library and karaoke in the Lighthouse, I posted the following status on Facebook:
I’ve definitely got my writing mojo back, I’m pleased to say. Loads of blogging activity this week, and two new projects on the go. Also, if anyone in London fancies a fairly housetrained guest over the Easter weekend, I’ve pencilled in a visit to the London Book Fair to tout my proofreading skills around the place.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be in this happy place if not for the love and support you all showed me when things took a nosedive a couple of months ago. I can’t repay your kindness individually, as that would take the rest of my natural life, but I can thank you all publicly here. You can have no idea how much it means to me to know that you’re all out there, watching out for me and making sure I’m okay.
The trouble is, of course, that what goes up must come down.
I proved that at just after 10.00 this morning, when a brown envelope thudded onto the doormat.
Inside was a letter from Caerphilly Benefits Centre in South Wales (with a return address in Belfast, Northern Ireland – go figure…) I won’t copy the whole thing out, but the gist of it was ‘We’ve stopped your money.’ There was no explanation, but they thoughtfully included a non-geographical phone number which I can ring if I want to query their decision
Well, no shit, Sherlock, of course I’ll be querying the fucking decision! In fact, I’m going to wait outside their office Monday morning until they open up. I want to be the first through the doors and I won’t leave until I get a full explanation and/or a Mandatory Reconsideration into gear.
As far as I’m aware, I haven’t done anything which would merit a sanction, apart from not being able to provide my mortgage statement back at the end of November (see Journey’s End?) and the subsequent entry. This is entirely the fault of Santander. I requested a copy the day after my visit to the Mental Health Crisis Team. I’ve called into the branch in Aberdare four times to chase it up since then. I actually received a text from Santander on 29 December stating that my ‘request (ref 4354293) is complete.’ Nearly three weeks have elapsed, and I’m still waiting for it to arrive.
I know there was an extended Xmas and New Year break, and some people were lucky enough to get as many as three whole days off during the fortnight. However, the banks were trading pretty normally throughout. Santander’s estimate of ‘ten working days’ ran out a while ago. I’ve kept the Jobcentre up to date with the bank’s lack of progress. As far as I’m concerned it’s a waiting game.
I can’t think of any other reason why I might have incurred a sanction. I’ve played their game decently, and since the ‘S’ word doesn’t appear in the letter I assume that I haven’t fallen into one of the many traps they lay for the unwary.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it’s a mistake. I was due to sign on last Friday (9 January). The previous week I’d had a phone call from someone named Lesley in Aberdare Jobcentre, telling me that my signing had been cancelled because there was a big department meeting that afternoon. Instead, they’d see me as normal the following week (i.e. yesterday.)
In the event, I signed on yesterday. My file was on the desk in front of my ‘coach’ (they don’t call themselves ‘advisers’ any more, apparently.) In the space where I would have given them my autograph last week, someone had written the word ‘Excused.’ My coach didn’t mention anything about my money being stopped. Presumably my details were all on her computer screen, and I’d imagine that anything that important would have been flagged up.
By coincidence, the letter states that they won’t be paying me Jobseekers Allowance from 10 January. Yes, that’s right  the very day after I didn’t sign on last week. Interestingly, the letter was dated 13 January, and took four days to arrive. To my rational mind, that’s easy to explain: a perfectly normal second class postal service, combined with a perfectly normal second-rate Government department service.
To the paranoid part of my mind, this sounds like a deliberate policy, designed to make sure that claimants suffer undue stress during the 48-hour period between receiving the notification and being able to do anything about the contents.
Earlier in the week, I told my Facebook friends about my plan to write a book about the Cynon Valley music scene. Wayne B., an old friend of mine who’s been in several bands over the years, has offered to give me his old digital recorder. It’ll come in handy for recording interviews with the musicians, and then transcribing the good bits later on.
It’ll also come in very handy for recording my visit to the Jobcentre on Monday morning. If anyone else wants to make notes, you’ll be more than welcome to join me.
Needless to say, the results of Monday’s visit will be posted here and elsewhere. If I can pull the audio off, I’ll even be uploading it to my old YouTube account, so that everyone can hear my mellow Welsh tones and marvel at the fluency with which I can string the ancient Anglo-Saxon words together.
I’ll also be bringing the number of the Mental Health Crisis Team with me, as well as an unopened box of prescription strength Co-codamol. The game’s afoot…
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