Friday, 3 January 2014

Jobcentre Plus: Friend or Foe?

Most likely you have walked past the local Jobcentre Plus in your town, but what exactly do they do? Help you find a job? Check your CV maybe? Until recently I had absolutely no experience of a Jobcentre. 

A few months ago my dad was made redundant after 20 years on the press so yesterday, as naive job hunters, we thought to venture inside. This is my experience:

As we walked in we were greeted by a man (who we can only assume was a security guard) in a G4S uniform "What are you looking for Sir?". Reasonable so far.To which my dad replied "a job" - the cockney joker inside couldn't resist the opportunity. 

"Well you can't get a job here."

The man was not joking. 

Not one bit. 

We should have taken the hint then and left. 

However, we didn't leave. My dad explained how his main objective of the visit was to find out more about his National Insurance contribution while he 'enjoys life as a house husband' and as a main carer for my sister. Needless to say, we never given this information. 

To every question my dad asked, the response at all times was "do you have a computer?" The exception to the rule was when asked about courses on offer. I was then pointed at and told "we could find a course for her but not you, not over 25's. Do you have a computer?"

We were given a sheet of paper from RoboG4S comprising of a list of webpages where my dad could look for a job. These included "", "" and "". Then we were told the alternative was to "pay an agency to find a job". 

Understandably, we left pretty promptly.

Although this experience got me thinking. What is the purpose of a job centre? I envisaged a hive of activity, with empathetic workers eager to discover your skills, direct you towards courses or CV clinics and answer the questions of the unemployed facing uncertain and often worrying times.  

There were 2.39 million people unemployed aged 16 and over in the UK at the end of 2013. Coupled with the statistic that "Only 10 percent of people get their jobs through Jobcentre Plus." So, is the Jobcentre Plus a viable service in the modern day?

Just imagine for one moment being unemployed, unable to pay the bills, desperate to find a job and you experienced the same treatment we had at the Jobcentre? What if you don't have a computer, or even know how to use one? How would you respond to a person, with the appearance of a security guard, repeating robotic statements at you? 

The frustration, anger and isolation would be incomprehensible. 

I asked around to see if perhaps my experience was unique, but unfortunately it was not. The consensus was that staff are rude, unhelpful and do not understand the processes.

The public's perception of a Jobcentre contrasted with their actual experiences could be the reason for the 'Commons Select Committee on the Role of the Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System'

The Parliament website describes a Jobcentre Plus as having three functions: 

  1. Providing a public employment service for unemployed people;
  1. supporting a flexible market; and
  1. protecting and enforcing benefit claimants' rights and responsibilities, including through conditionality and benefit sanctions. 

In loose terms, providing a list of website where you can find a job may be considered a service to unemployed people. Supporting a flexible market is questionable, from my experience the service was certainly not flexible to those over 25, nor those with queries that did not relate to joining the public welfare system.

A Jobcentre is supposed to be a working age support service. As a third party in the proceedings, I saw no support and certainly no service. It is now more understandable why people become 'stuck on benefits'. Where is the help to get them out of the vicious cycle? The Conservative party has introduced the concept of Job Clubs, a place where you can meet and share your experiences of job hunting. It is a chance to network and gain support from people in the same situation. Is this the future for job seekers? If only 10% of people are using Jobcentres then this more personal, community based ideal could be the future but if not where do we go next?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Tapas in Surrey

Saturday night was the time we would be together as a spanglish family of 8 until the next time we can match up our diaries. Therefore the natural thing to do was to go out and celebrate our fantastic time together. So off we went, 5 Spanish, 2 half Spaniards and my very English father, by convoy to the only place to eat tapas in Surrey- La Terraza.

My mum and I had been trying to explain to our family for a while why this is our favourite restaurant, but it has always been hard to put our finger on the precise reason why. Was it the excellent food? The same, friendly camareros who greet you as old friends? The busy ambience? Traditional decor? Or even the fact that there is always a football match on in the background? Whatever it is, it works.

Before long we were sipping glasses of Rioja Bordon, saluting glasses of Estrella and swapping around large plates of tapas like a family at their own private fiesta.

These platos were delicious as usual. So much so my Aunt and Uncle said the food was better at La Terraza than in most tapas bars in the Baleares and Spanish peninsular itself. Now from two people who make each meal taste out of this world (see some photos here), it's a big compliment.

As usual we sampled most things off the tapas menu, including Arroz con Pollo, Calamari Frito, Berenjenas and Patatas Riojanas. However by far my favourite dish was the Pulpo a la Gallega. Now I understand that octopus is not a common dish in the UK but it's delicious, and in some places it can acquire a tough texture but not here. It was so delicious, we had to fight my little cousin for the plate. As for the Pimientos de Padron, I managed to get a spicy one so I'm thrilled to see what my good luck for the year will bring!!

As the evening drew on, it would have been rude not to have a small postre. Like with everything else on the menu, it was hard to choose but my sister settled for her favourite Homemade Profiteroles with thick chocolate sauce with just reminds me of times in Spain. Whereas I couldn't go to La Terraza without having the Flan de Huevos- it's a must for anyone.

So if you only eat out once this year, make sure it's tapas and make sure it's at La Terraza.
Thank you to everyone there who made it a perfect evening to end my spanish summer adventure.

Take care,
The Learned Rose xx

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Surrey Girl Returns

Well hello there!

It's been a whirlwind two weeks. I had the most horrendous DELE exam, which luckily I passed with a surprisingly good grade and proceeded to take full advantage of a rest day down at the beach. Even more so, seeing as I was to catch a flight back to London the next day!

I'll miss you!

I cannot lie to you, it is strange being home. My language skills are all a muddle, 'spanglish' was all I could muster for a fair few hours. My little cousin came over to the UK with me, which is lovely as it means I can ease into UK life without missing my beautiful island too much.

However, there wasn't time to miss anything or anyone as the next day was my little sister's birthday, and not just any birthday, her 18th! We had a breakfast of ensaimadas and a day of pampering, before partying on down at the Drift Golf Club in East Horsley. It turned out that a friend who I hadn't seen in far too long was working behind the bar, a lovely surprise! We also had a fantastic DJ, Guy Sunshine, who was helpful and cheerful despite our embarrassing song demands such as Whigfield's Saturday Night, dance moves included. Our little cousins loved dancing the night away, even after they had to change into their pyjamas! At midnight we returned home, like cinderella although a little less graceful. My sister's party was A LOT more sophisticated then mine, I couldn't help but reminisce back to my soldier and sailor themed 18th where everyone was much more underdressed lets say... But that was nearly 5 years ago now! Wahhh, I'll be trialing anti-wrinkle cream before you know it.

My sister and I- When did she get so grown up?!
The DJ's hard at work, keeping us on the dance floor
Our friends and family know how to move

Due to the summer holidays I have been on a few day trips with my little munchkins, including Hampton Court and Arundel Castle. We also made our own afternoon tea including bread for sandwiches, cupcakes and exquisite lemon drizzle cake bars. I wish I took a photo. Amongst all of this I have been trying to help my mum organise some very important, exciting things which we hope to share with you all very soon.

Hampton Court- Photo by @surreygirlgrace (Instagram) 
Getting lost in the rose garden at Hampton Court
Arundel Castle- Photo by @surreygirlgrace

However all this means I'm still living out of a suitcase, maybe it's a sign I should take a weekend break away somewhere?! Think that's unlikely somehow...

Anyway, that's the update for now.
Take care my beauties!

The Learned Rose xx

¡Que aproveche! ¡Bon Profit!

Food is a big thing in Mallorca, as with most Mediterranean countries. Not only does it taste great but it looks fantastic too. The people of Mallorca take great pride in their meals, where the food is sourced from and most of all, the cooking of the meal. Everyone takes an interest, men, women, children and adults alike.

Here are some examples:

Breakfast - Desyuno:

The most important meal of the day in the UK but here it is much more relaxed. Breakfast during the week might consist of some Maria biscuits, or a Magdalena to dip into your coffee. However at weekends the ensaimada is a staple breakfast which is light in taste but I'm sure heavy in calories, yet it is a must if you visit the island. No one can quite make the ensaimadas like the Mallorquines. Children or those who have not acquired a taste for coffee will usually enjoy a glass of Cola Cao with their breakfast instead.

Cafe con leche

Cola Cao

Lunch - Comida:

Lunch in Spain is usually a lot later than in the UK, typically at around 2/3pm. However before this the Spanish generally have a break and a bocadillo. Any country which has a sandwich as a snack will forever be in my heart!
'Thin' with chorizo and salad

Dinner - Cena:

The best meal of the day. Dinner time is usually about 9pm bringing a great variety of foods but typically Mediterranean as you can probably imagine.

The fish is always fresh and most often sourced from the waters around Mallorca itself.
For example, my aunt when to the fish market so that last night we could have fish cooked in a terracotta dish with a base of potatoes and topped with vegetables and lots of tomatoes.

The paella by my family is perfection though, words cannot even begin to describe it. So here's a picture:

Also, Paella is a great dish to be cooked outside, especially on a wood fire.

Another favourite is fideua, similar to paella yet made from a type of pasta. This is just as delicious as it soaks up all the juices and has a completely different texture.

Fideua as you'd find in the supermarket

Food in general - Alimentos en General:

There is never a lack of snacks, Quelitas are savoury biscuit snacks which originate from Mallorca itself. Much better for you then crisps and so much more tasty! Bread is also a key part of the Mediterranean diet. Furthermore, the tomatoes here are HUGE (and delicious)!!

Drinks - Bebidas:

The spanish don't particularly like Don Simon sangria as it is said to be made we bad grapes. But for just over one euro, it's a tourists dream (tastes amazing cold, with ice). Beer is part of the diet in Spain, drinking before 12 is never a taboo either. However, what is becoming more popular is alcohol free beer. Personally I cannot taste the difference and a nice cool beer is the perfect thirst quencher! If neither of these take your fancy, I always find that Fanta limon tastes much better on the continent. The reason why I will never know!

So there's a snap shot of food and drink in Mallorca!
Hope you found it insightful, 
Take care,

The Learned Rose xx

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Stormy Nights

Me encanta las tormentas, muchísimo. Although dangerous, storms mesmerise me. I can't help but stop whatever I am doing and just watch, waiting for the next blast of thunder and burst of static.

The tension has clearly been building all day. From the moment I woke, there was this tremendous pressure on my head and I dreaded a migraines. This lingered all day, until about an hour ago, when it lifted and a truly magnificent thunder and lightening storm began.

I took some amateur photos and footage, although I wish you could have been here to see in person!

View from the terrace

Take care,

The Learned Rose xx

Friday, 19 July 2013

Evening Sun

"A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east."
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The Learned Rose xx

Monday, 15 July 2013

Heladería y Chocolatería Can Joan de s’Aigo

Nestled amongst the quaint side streets surrounding Palma Cathedral is where some of the most breath taking architecture, exquisite views and cutest cafeterias can be found. Today I was introduced to something quite unique: the Can Joan de s'Aigo Heladeria y Chocolateria. 

This is not just any old cafe. This is not even any old spanish cafe (that I am also rather partial to, of which you may be well aware), this beautiful cafe is something in a world of its own. As you make your way through the grilled french doors, you find yourself stepping on to the antique ceramic flooring, which instantly tells you that this is somewhere which respects its surroundings and the beloved Mallorquin heritage.

Ceramic floor tiles

The place was heaving, we had to wait to be seated, but this alone shows Can Joan de s'Aigo is somewhere special. Not your average Starbucks or Costa. The wait was appreciated, allowing time to take in the delightful heirlooms and start craving the many cakes, pastries and tarts on display.

I so want this for my room
Drawing of a woman in traditional Mallorquin dress
Which one to choose?
However, be warned, this is not the place for the standard tourist. Only hours before I was discussing with my padre the differences between tourists and travellers. This cafe is certainly only for a traveller wishing to breach upon the culture of the Mallorquines, amongst locals and islanders alike. The menu is in castellano and catalan only, but do not be disheartened as you would not want it any other way.

With the list of ice creams and sweet treats as enticing as the interior, it was hard to choose. Eventually I settled on the Almond ice cream and cuarto. I am not a big fan of ice creams, yet you could taste this was natural, with flakes of almonds supplementing the light, cloud like texture of the cuarto.

I can't wait to go back, hopefully next time it will be with my mum and sister as I know they would just love it here!

Take Care,
The Learned Rose xx