I am slowly getting used to being a member of the "benefits underclass" that is currently being despised and vilified if current opinions are to be believed.
I fully expect to have an egg thrown at me soon, if I don't get a job.
The thing is though, the climate is depressing out there right now. I would prefer to be working at something I have always excelled at- teaching. However, given that I am also battling a disability, I can't see myself elbowing my way through the long line of eager,fresh-faced, younger and fitter teachers all fighting for one little job offering reduced rates of pay and a temporary contract. My self esteem is in tatters as it is.
I'd be happy to do some supply teaching if there were any. I'd also be happy working as a teaching assistant- I am not picky! I just want to be able to do what I do best and that's work with kids.
However, I draw the line at going for just any old job as I know I would be useless at it.
I don't have very good people skills as my brief sojurn into retail demonstrated. (I can't operate tills!) No, really! I have an honours degree in a science subject but I still can't fathom how to make a cash register do what it is supposed to do. In the end, they took me off the till and stuck me on the shop floor because I kept losing money. No idea where it went. "The till ate it," I wailed mournfully after my ten billionth time of being "under".
I loved the shop floor at first. There is something very satisfying about pricing up stock, arranging it nicely, daydreaming of sangria with Johnny Depp as we languish by his private pool...until a blimmin' customer comes along and expects you to want to help them!
How am I supposed to get my work done with all of these stupid people wanting to know where the plumbing section is?!!! I work in the Garden Centre section! I only do plants! To be fair, I really liked the plants...
I returned to retail many years later when I first moved to Brighton as a way of earning some money as I launched myself into supply teaching. It didn't go well. I hated all the old people. You know, the sort who don't want to put money in your hand and then dump their change all over the counter, expecting you to pick it up. I also didn't like the way that they would call me "Miss". Only the kids at school are allowed that privilege.
I later procured a dream job at a dream school by day and ran a night club by night. I also sang in a band that took me all over the world.
I wouldn't say I was rich on a teacher's wage, but I was happy, fulfilled, busy and life was, to be honest, perfect.
And so it went on until two years ago when I suddenly became very ill with a long term condition. The school wasn't so fond of me all of a sudden and who can blame them?
I'm not much good as a teacher if I'm not there to teach. In the end, as I wasn't going to be getting better any time soon, I realised that I would have to leave with a wonderful reference and hope in my heart that some day, another school could benefit from lovely, clever, wonderful me.
That was almost six months ago. And here I sit: in my jim-jams at 9am because I don't have to get up and dressed to go to work. I don't even have to get dressed to job hunt. It can all be done at the touch of a button...until you quickly realise the words "NO VACANCIES" are pretty much the only ones I see.
Day in, day out...same routine, same frown etching itself ever more deeply into my un-botoxed face. I can't even afford a decent face cream. However, there is a certain retail outlet that I would thoroughly recommend where everything, including face cream is only £1.
I have learned to live on my meagre benefits. It's a case of: no new clothes. Ever. No food unless it is on offer. NO going out or seeing friends. No driving because petrol costs. No visiting anywhere that isn't free to get in. NO luxuries- no hair cuts or occasional massage for me!
Society likes to have a right old dig at us benefit scroungers, but actually, it IS NO FUN.
If I could have my old life back working 70 hour weeks, getting up early on dark mornings and cycling in the brisk, Winter air there and back, with the sea beside me and my self-esteem fully intact, I would.
In a heart beat.
Instead, I am now sat at home spiralling ever further downwards into depression and low self-esteem. All because I got ill.
It can happen to anyone. It happened to me. Don't think for a moment it can't happen to you.
I stand to lose everything I worked for including my home and not just my marbles...
NEXT INSTALLMENT: How to live on £50 a week.
(SPOILER: you CAN'T)