About Me

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Cromer, Norfolk, United Kingdom

I'm a former hospital radio/club/mobile DJ, avid record collector and amateur musician (playing guitar, keyboards, recorder, harmonica and percussion.) I've even filled in on bass guitar for a couple of local bands as well (although that was quite a few years ago). Also interested in Motorsports, Wrestling/Mixed Martial Arts and Classic Television and Radio from the 1960s - 1980s.

Why am I on here? Well, I'm just trying to make some sense of life before it's too late...but who cares anyway?

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

So This Is Christmas (well, that's what they think...)

I recently posted on Twitter that I was planning one of my regular Sky+ clearout sessions as there wasn't really anything happening in my life over the Christmas period.  Now I'm not trying to make out that I'm some kind of scrooge or buzz killer, it's just that recently, I just can't get excited about this time of year.

You see, when I was DJing back in the day, I used to enjoy myself as this used to be my busiest time of year.  Not only did I have regular weekend gigs, I had an extra night on Christmas Eve, plus a massive New Year's Eve bash at my local pub (where a friend's band was performing - I used to get invited to do DJ slots in between their sets, and occasionally, I'd end up on stage with the band where I'd do a few party pieces - these were mainly Shadows numbers with the odd Del Shannon song thrown in as well.  Even after the old Lamplight club changed hands and I was no longer working down there, I had a couple of years doing my own discos - sometimes over the festive period I was doing anything up to eight or nine nights in a row.  It was somewhat chaotic at times, but I did enjoy those gigs on the whole.  Anyway, to cut a long story short,  the bookings eventually dried up  while the club I was DJ-ing for closed down several months later - the reason it did so escapes me.

Anyway, to my mind, Christmas doesn't really seem to be that special these days.  There doesn't seem to be that air of anticipation there was when I was younger, nor that sense of cameraderie with your mates in the pub while "Merry Xmas Everybody" is blaring out of the jukebox for what seems like the millionth time (but who cares anyway?).  Nowadays it just feels like any other time of year.  I suppose I'll try and make an effort, but once that last bit of washing up's been done I'm getting out of the way ASAP.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Time For A Rant...

Right then.  After Monday's visit to Kelling Hospital, I'm now waiting to find out my next move regarding the treatment for the Social Anxiety Disorder I've been suffering from.  The plan is for me to see a locally based therapist at Merchants Place, which would be a lot easier to get to for me.  (When that actually happens will depend on how far down the waiting list I am.)  Now I find it difficult do express what I'm feeling at the best of times, but Jacqui (the therapist who saw me that day) did help to put me at my ease so I was able to discuss a few problems I had been going through.  As for what's next, it's going to be a case of  "wait and see".

Elsewhere, there's been no luck on the jobs front lately.  I've recently finished yet another training course (such as it was) at Avanta in Norwich.   All I did was spend one hour a week for six weeks looking for jobs on the internet.  Slight problem here - as it was only one hour per week, there wasn't enough time to get any meaningful stuff done. Once your 60 minutes was up, you would be moved off to make way for someone else.  To be honest, I found it difficult to fit in over there thanks to the social anxiety disorder -  I also had a couple of panic attacks during my time there.  Anyway, now that's over, I'm back at home doing my job hunting online, but the jobcentre are now back on their "You didn't get a job as a result of this course - therefore It's your fault." spiel, which is putting me under even more pressure, and as a result, I'm suffering from more panic attacks.  According to the Jobcentre, I need to be doing something different with my jobsearch.  What they fail to realise is, I've tried everything they've suggested in the last few years and it just hasn't worked.  Truth be told, I'm dreading my next visit on Friday, as the advisor says that he may ask management if they have a few ideas of their own.

I've a feeling this won't end well....


Thursday, 31 October 2013

An Update

It's now 24 hours since the appointment at Merchant's Place - still no treatment plan sorted out but I've been referred to a specialist (for want of a better description) for a one-on-one appointment at Kelling in 3 weeks time.   In the meantime I had another panic attack - triggered whilst on the bus to Norwich for a jobsearch appointment. One of the windows shattered without warning, and I was only a few inches away from it at the time.  Luckily the window stayed in place, but it could have been a lot worse otherwise.  In fact, I'm still rather shaky over the whole incident.

I'm not looking forward to the next few weeks....

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Just Dreading Wednesday Afternoon....

There's something I need to get off my chest here, so bear with me.

After all the panic attacks I've suffered recently (sparked off by a very disastrous job interview in Trimmingham a month or so ago) and some encouragement from Paul, I was referred to the NHS Wellbeing service, and told to expect a phone call from them in the next few weeks.   The call came around 3 weeks ago, and to be perfectly honest, I was mildly shocked by the outcome when I was told that I've been suffering with some form of Social Anxiety Disorder.

Now I look back on that e-mail that Derek (My ex-employer) sent me a while back (full story in one of my entries from last year.) when he thought that I may be dealing with an extreme form of stress. In fact I was half expecting the same reaction from the NHS bloke, but when the Social Anxiety thing came up in the conversation, I immediately thought to myself  "people who know me used to think I was nervous and shy, but Social Anxiety Disorder was the last thing on my mind".  I was told that there was a possibility that Generalized Anxiety Disorder could be part of my problem as well, so me just putting it down to extreme stress may have been putting it very mildly to say the least.  Anyway, I'm due to go over to Merchant's Place on Wednesday to see someone from the NHS Wellbeing service and discuss a possible treatment plan.

Since the diagnosis, my colleagues at About With Friends have been extremely helpful, with Richard (who works with me at the charity) coming up with ways to help me cope with the condition. (for which I'm truly grateful).  And once I get started with the NHS Wellbeing service people on Wednesday, I should, all being well, regain a lot of the self-confidence I had lost after that interview in September.

It's likely to take a while, but I've a feeling the result's going to be worth it....

Friday, 4 October 2013

Meanwhile on the other side...

Just a quick update on the "Records Revisited" blog - The first four posts in a series marking the forthcoming release of a limited edition vinyl box set featuring The Jam's studio albums are now online  at http://recordsrevisited.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, 30 September 2013

New Blog Open For Business!

Just to let everyone know that I've started up a new blog called "DJ Raggy's Records Revisited", in which I take a look back at some of my favourite albums, singles, and, maybe, the odd 78rpm disc that I've picked up over the past 30 years.

You can find it at http://recordsrevisited.blogspot.co.uk/ where the upcoming release of a new limited edition vinyl box set featuring  all The Jam's studio albums is marked by reviews of each of the original LPs

All the usual mindless rants and other general nonsense can still be found on this blog, although I'm hoping  to maybe set up a full blown website in the near future which will feature the reviews from "Records Revisited" plus the occasional music DVD or video item.

Oh, when a new entry comes up on the other blog, I'll flag it up here as well so you know what's happening.

Onwards and upwards then...

Sunday, 28 July 2013

"Free at last!"

My time on the Work Programme finally comes to an end tomorrow, when I pop into Cromer Jobcentre to go through some paperwork and discuss my activities while I've been on the scheme.  Mind you, that second bit's going to be damn near impossible - and those of you who have seen my last few posts will know exactly what has (or hasn't) happened in the last few months.  Good example here - during my final appointment at Ingeus, my new advisor (for one day only, I might add) asked me about anything that was preventing me from getting a job.  So I mentioned the various mental health issues I'd had in the past.

"Have you had any help from us with those?" she asked?

"No. It was never even offered to begin with." I replied, going on to mention that I had been on beta-blockers for the last year to control the panic attacks.  (yep, they certainly missed that one, despite the fact that I had mentioned the problems right at the beginning of the programme, so a note to that effect was on file, yet, absolutely nothing had been done about them.)

Anyway, the whole thing lasted less than ten minutes, after which I was packed off with a copy of my exit report. The jobcentre should have received their copy by the time of my appointment tomorrow, but I doubt that it'll give much information as all it says is "this client is work-ready."

In the meantime the jobsearch continues at home, but I now have a more than welcome distraction on Tuesdays - I'm doing voluntary work again, but this time I'm an office support volunteeer at "About With Friends",  a charity based in Cromer which helps people with learning difficulties.   It's been going well so far, and the people there are a bloody nice bunch to work with (which is a bonus).

Oh well, onwards and upwards I suppose...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Just Marking Time...

Now this is really p***ing me off.  An advisor at Ingeus e-mailed me about his upcoming transfer from the Norwich branch stating "you'll get a letter sometime in May regarding your new advisor.

We're now coming up to the second week in June and there's STILL no contact from them.

I recently stopped doing the regular weekly visits (they weren't mandatory anyway) after nearly getting into an argument with reception over travel expenses - they backed down after I told them I hadn't been assigned a new advisor (and chances are, at this late stage, I won't).

I'm now asking myself  "what has the Work Programme done for me?"

"Well, there's the endless round of CV rewrites, free access to the internet, you get your letters posted for you for nothing..."

OK, OK, apart from all that, what has the Work Programme done for me?

In reality, I've been let down and lied to.  I've had endless promises broken, been constantly patronised, roped in for experiments which were dropped for one reason or another, job chances written off by a bloke who gets paid for supposedly helping people find work but failing,  the list is endless....

Frankly, I can't wait for mid-July.

And my final thoughts on the Work Programme?  Well, that'll be two years I'll want to forget in a hurry...

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Lowest Of Low Blows

I mentioned in a previous post that I haven't had much help (if any) from Ingeus recently on the Work Programme - to be honest they've done virtually nothing (virtually being the operative word here given their recent botched up plan to run a  remote job club via Skype.)  So, after being inspired by other people who have been commenting and blogging about their experiences on the WP, and with just over a month and a half to go before I finish,  here's a brief potted timeline of my time on this scheme...

JULY 2011 - JAN 2012:  Initial meetings with Dave, a decent enough bloke who always did his best to break the ice at the beginning of each meeting - so I couldn't fault him at all on that point.  Allowed me to continue my voluntary work at BTCV.  Couldn't do too much more to help me with the jobsearch as (in his words) "the tools were more or less in place" so to speak, but he did come up with some handy resources for finding companies to send speculative letters to. To sum up, a bloke I could (and did) get on well with and who didn't seem judgemental at all.

Fast forward to June 2012 - By the time I ended up back on the regular appointments at Ingeus after getting laid off, the next advisor to deal with me was Lee, who worked on the "rapid response" caseload.  This was another guy I felt I could get on with after the first meeting.  I only saw him for around 10-12 weeks, but he didn't do anything too drastic for my job hunting - just basically checking my job logs every month or so just to see how I was getting on - but I wasn't put under any undue pressure (unlike at A4e where it was more like apply or else.) I didn't get too far with Lee despite the fact that he was happy with what I was doing with my job hunting.

No luck there then.  By October, I had been bounced around a couple more advisors, but didn't deal with them for too long until Marc took me on - and this is where things got interesting to say the least.

His first idea was to remove the entry for Retail Accounting Services from the CV (despite the fact that it was my most recent job) claiming that Derek would not give me a good reference due to the stress-related issues I had while I was with him.  A quick e-mail later and that suggestion was knocked on the head.

He then suggested maybe getting a part-time job (around 20 hours a week) and doing some stuff on the side (like selling stuff on e-bay) for 10 hours and claiming tax credits.  (What? And risk getting done for fraud?)  I didn't hear any more after that, and it was back to business as usual.

Then cane the "Virtual Appointments".  This was basically swapping e-mails, which would have been a good idea as long as it was backed up with regular one - on - one meetings (which didn't happen that often but it was good to see someone try a different approach.)

Things then began to get frustrating for me.

In March 2013, I was told the I wouldn't be getting an appointment until May  (thanks to Marc being on annual leave) but I kept going, making the occasional visit to the Ingeus offices to do some speculative letters and other bits and pieces.  Then there was the farce over the "Virtual Job Club" using Skype (which I've already covered in my last post).

It was a few weeks later that Marc (in an off-the-record conversation) declared "You don't appear to be getting offered admin work because you're too old and the wrong gender.  Most employers these days aren't looking for forty-something males to work in their offices."

WTF is he thinking?  This guy is supposed to be helping me to find work, yet he says that my chances of getting a job are virtually nil no matter how much I do to find work.  I thought A4e were bad enough, but after nearly two years on the Work Programme (which included 5 months in a part-time job) all Ingeus could do is say "sorry mate, we can't help you, you're too old".

It's now getting on for 12 weeks since I had a formal one-on-one appointment with an Ingeus advisor.  Marc has recently been transferred to the King's Lynn branch, so I'm now waiting to find out who my new advisor will be (my sixth one by the way).  In the meantime, I've got an appointment with a client advisor at Cromer Jobcentre on Friday.  And if he asks me about Ingeus, well, I'm going to blow the whistle on them so loudly, they'll probably need earplugs!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Update 04/05/2013

Well, there's been very little of note going on (apart from the usual round of job hunting, visits to local job centre etc) but I'm keeping an eye on a local charity who were looking for admin support volunteers.  I've already met some of the staff involved  (as well as a few of the people they're helping) and they seem like a nice bunch so all I'm doing for the moment is keeping my fingers crossed in case there's any further news.

That looks promising but I can't say the same about the Work Programme, where their big ideas seem to be going belly-up on a regular basis.  The latest one is/was (delete where applicable) what I can only refer to as a "Virtual Job Club".  This would have involved clients linked together via Skype, with an advisor on hand if needed.  Thanks to some "data protection issues"  that scheme has been called off.  (What's the betting someone was bitching to DWP about it and they ended up calling "Foul"?).  And if that wasn't frustrating enough, I've been told that I'm to get yet another advisor.  I wouldn't had minded, but it's the timing of it - I've got 10 weeks to go before my time on the Work Programme ends, so that doesn't leave much time for us to get to know each other and get an action plan together.  I've lost count of the number of advisors I've had in the last 2 years, so it's all the more frustrating when all you end up doing is getting bounced around from one member of staff to another and not getting any serious help with the job searching.

I'll just be glad to get out of there when it's all over....

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Fingers Crossed folks

Just trying to calm the nerves down before the first of two job interviews this week - both of them office jobs.  This particular one is at Cornwall Energy in Norwich.  I don't know too much about what they do, but I've been trying to get as much info on them as I can.

The second one on Saturday is over at Trimingham House Caravan Park - an environment I've had some experience of previously at  the Woodhill Park site where I worked in the shop there -so I might be able to draw on that when the interview takes place.

There's very little I can do now except to try not to be nervous about it all - that's been by far my biggest problem when it comes to interviews I suppose.  Well, let's face it, self-confidence was never my best asset.

The only thing I can do is to not let the pressure to get to me.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Just had to laugh at this...

Just one piece of advice for you courtesy of the late Michael Winner...


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Electric Dreams Or White Elephants?

With mp3s becoming the preferred method of listening to music these days, I’ve been going through a few old magazines to remind myself of some of the developments in home hi-fi in the last twenty years or so which didn’t quite live up to expectations…

One article in particular (in Vox magazine from May 1992) extolled the virtues of  DCC (Digital Compact Cassette to give its full name), which was about to be launched by Philips that year.  While it claimed to bring digital recording into the reach of ordinary punters like you and me, it wasn't the first attempt at such a move.  Digital Audio Tape (DAT)  was launched with similar claims to that of DCC, but there was considerable resistance from the record companies, who were understandably nervous of letting the general public own equipment that was capable of creating master-quality tapes.  This led to Sony, who was one of the companies behind DAT,  buying Columbia/CBS records, which ensured that such a software deficiency situation could never arise in the future.  DCC's biggest selling point was that it was able to play ordinary cassettes as well - which meant that you didn’t have to dispose of your existing tape collection. 

However, Sony launched the MiniDisc format in late 1992, with a record capable machine becoming available the following year.  For a while, the minidisc was seen as the compact cassette's fiercest competition as far as home recording was concerned.  Around the same time Philips brought out a recordable CD machine which could be connected to a home Hi-fi setup which sold for around £400.

So what did happen to DCC and minidisc?  Well, both formats never really  took off as expected. However, you can find second-hand machines on websites like eBay, and blanks are available for both formats if you know where to look.  Even audio CD recorders failed to catch on as it was just as easy to make your own music CDs on your home computer.

Mind you, vinyl hasn’t been rendered obsolete as the experts have predicted, mainly due to a handful of companies like Steepletone in the UK and Crossley in America  bringing out music systems which include a 3-speed turntable - just in case anyone still has some of the old 78 rpm discs in the collection as well as the LPs and singles. They even brought out a record player which looked like the old-style Dansette machines complete with an autochange record deck!  And with USB turntables and cassette players becoming common as people look to preserve their favourite tracks in digital form or transfer them to their mp3 players, the old formats are far from being killed off…

…which is one good reason why I’m hanging on to my old equipment!