A Lack-of Morality-Tale for our times

SCENE – Woman finds herself unemployed for no fault of her own and seeks help from the UK Job Centre to find work.  She enters the gloomy building at the appointed day and time and walks up to the Job Centre staff member

Woman:  Hello…erm…I’ve never been to a Job Centre before so I don’t really know what the procedure is.  Can you help me?

Staffer:  It’s up to you to learn how the system works.  We can’t offer any assistance.

Woman:  Oh.  Well, um, should I fill out a form, or wait in line, or do something with the computers?

Staffer:  Fill this in.

HANDS OVER A LARGE FORM

Woman:  OK, great, not a problem.  Then what do I do with it.

Staffer:  Everything is on the form.  I can’t help you. You can’t fill it in here.  You have to go home to do it.

Woman:  And then what?  Do I bring it back here?

Staffer:  Everything is on the form.

Woman:  Ah, right, I see…oh, it says to post it back, first class (at my expense I see) and wait for a new appointment.

Staffer:  Goodbye.

SEVERAL WEEKS LATER…THE SAME SCENE

Woman:  Hello again, I’m back for my appointment.  How are you today?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  Right…erm…OK.  Well, I filled in the form and returned it and was told to come meet you today and you would tell me how to proceed with getting help to get a job.

Staffer:  Have you completed the form?

Woman:  Yes, I just told you that.  Didn’t you hear me?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  Hmmm?!  Well, yes, I did and that is why I am here.  Look, to be honest, I am really rather embarrassed about losing my job, and I’ve never been unemployed before and I really want to get back in to work, any work will be fine, I just need your help to get going with it.  Well, I say I need your help, but I have already started applying for jobs myself, but according to your form these don’t count.  I have to come here, meet you every 2 weeks and be ‘helped’.  So, will you help me?  First of all I wondered if I could get any Job Seeker’s allowance, to help pay for all the applications and bus journeys and getting all the way here and back every fortnight?

Staffer: Let me look at your file…hang on…

SOUND OF TYPING ON COMPUTER

Woman:  Well?

Staffer:  We can’t help you.  You aren’t eligible for Job Seeker’s Allowance because you’ve been working.

Woman:  Well of course I’ve been working!  I’ve been working all my adult life!  I’ve paid my insurance and tax.  Doesn’t that entitle me to just a little bit of help?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman: Argh!  Look, sorry, I know you are just doing your job, but surely there is something you can do to help?

Staffer: Fill in this form and bring it back in two weeks to be signed off.  If you don’t apply for at least 6 jobs every two weeks you won’t be entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance.

Woman:  WHAT?!  But I’ve already given you evidence of over thirty jobs I’ve already applied for.  Don’t they count?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  And what do you mean I won’t be entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance?  You’ve already told me I’m not getting any?!

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  Aaarrghh!  Look…OK…right…I know it is just the system, not you.  So…I wanted to ask…I’ve been offered a job, a good job, but the employer needs me to have a certain qualification.  Now, I used to live abroad, in Europe, and while I was there I got the qualification, but it was obviously a European version.  Can you help me get it recognised in the UK so I can accept the job offer?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  Oh for the love of Pete!  Well, if YOU and Job Centre can’t help, who can?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.  It is your responsibility to research and contact anyone who can help you get a job.  The Job Centre does not help you get a job.

Woman:  Right!  So!  IF I can find someone to help me, is there any funding available to pay for the cost?  Or…if I have to retake the qualification can you help me with the cost of the training?

Staffer: The Job Centre offers no financial help with training or gaining job skills.  Since you have been working recently this is your responsibility.  Please fill out this form and return in two weeks.

Woman:  Aaaaarrrgghhhh!!!  Right, that is it…I’m off and I’ll sort it out myself.  Thanks for nothing.  Do you know how much help you’ve been to me today?

Staffer:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

TWO WEEKS PASS.  THE WOMAN DISCOVERS SHE HAS TO RETAKE THE TRAINING AT HER OWN EXPENSE.  SHE BORROWS THE MONEY FROM FAMILY.  THE TRAINING IS DUE TO BE ON THE DAY SHE IS MEANT TO RETURN TO THE JOB CENTRE.  SHE CALLS TO REARRANGE HER APPOINTMENT.

Woman:  Hello?  I was wondering if I could rearrange my Job Centre appointment on Friday?  I have a training session that day.

Anonymous 1: Please wait while I pass you to someone who can help.

PAUSE

Anonymous 2:  Hello?

Woman: Hello?  I was wondering if I could rearrange my Job Centre appointment on Friday?  I have a training session that day.  Can you help?

Anonymous 2: Please wait while I pass you to someone who can help.

PAUSE

Anonymous 3:  Hello?

Woman: Hello?  I was wondering if I could rearrange my Job Centre appointment on Friday?  I have a training session that day.  Are YOU someone who can help me?

Anonymous 3: Please wait while I pass you to someone who can help.

PAUSE

Anonymous 3:  Hello? Job Centre appointments.

Woman: Hello?  At last!  I was wondering if I could rearrange my Job Centre appointment on Friday?  I have a training session that day.  Is that possible?

Anonymous 3:  Training, you say?  Well, in that case just don’t come on Friday and call us on Monday to re-apply.

Woman:  Re-apply?  For what?

Anonymous 3:  How many hours training are you taking?

Woman:  Well, it is three days, 9 to 5 each day, so that would be 24 hours in total.

Anonymous 3:  Is your training for more than 20 hours?

Woman:  I just told you, it will be approximately 24 hours over 3 days.  Didn’t you hear me?

Anonymous 3:  I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

Woman:  What does it matter.  Surely my taking training to gain a qulification which will help my job prospects is something you would approve of?  What does the number of hours matter?

Anonymous 3:  Since you are training for more than 20 hours, we have to sign you off. You are now in full-time education and no longer eligible for Job Seeker’s Allowance.

Woman:  WHAT?!  But I DON’T GET Job Seeker’s Allowance!  And it isn’t full time education.  I am not a student.  I am re-qualifying for a qualification I already have because you wouldn’t recognise the original qualification!  Aaarrgghh!

Anonymous 3:  Please call back on Monday and we will start the signing-on process once again.  I hope this has be of help to you in finding a new job.

Woman:  Who are you?!  What is going on?!  Why won’t you people help me?!  I just want to get a job and not be a burden on my family and the tax-payers.  I want to do my bit, and earn money!  Why won’t you people help me?!

Anonymous 3: I can’t offer you any response.  The Job Centre is unable to help you with this information.  Please look online or on our website for further assistance.

WOMAN SLAMS PHONE DOWN

N.B.  This is based on a very true, very real-life story which is on-going.  I have been disgusted with the Job Centre and the UK Government’s approach to honest, hard-working individuals who simply find themselves out of work and desperately seeking new employment.  There is NO HELP WHATSOEVER.  What there is, instead, is form-filling, pointless appointments and heap loads of guilt and embarrassment.  The system appears to be setup for the feckless and work-shy.  Those who work at the Job Centres, while grossly characterised within this short play, genuinely seem to either be unwilling to find ways to help, or genuinely unable to help because the system doesn’t allow help to be offered to those who most need it.  We want people back in work, and we want them to feel supported and encouraged.  Right now, from my recent experiences, I can say that none of this is happening.  Shame on the Job Centre and shame on the UK Government.  All your big plans for benefit reform are great for the papers, but come down to street level and start fixing the almighty cock-up that is the day-to-day system.  Stop making it impossible for those who want work to get help to find work.  Right now, all I can say to sum up the Job Centre experience is:  EPIC FAIL!

Stuff Wot I Made You Can Buy!

It’s quite extraordinary but some of the radio and audio productions I have produced are available to purchase from the luminaries at the BBC.  So, in the spirit of wanting to make some cash to pay for the cats’ food, I thought I might introduce you to some of these rather wonderful audio products, and offer you links to where you can buy them…please buy them, many many of them, and then buy some more for your friends and families…all the oney goes to a good cause (well, the BBC and then a little to me, sort of!)

The Brightonomicon 7 CD box-set

The Brightonomicon 7 CD box-set

THE BRIGHTONOMICON by Robert Rankin

13 half hour episodes / full-cast audio drama / award winning production / as heard of BBC Radio 7

starring David Warner, Andy Serkis, Rupert Degas, Sarah Douglas, Martin Jarvis, Jason Isaacs & many more

written by Elliott Stein & Neil Gardner / music by Jeremy Paul Carroll / edited, produced & directed by Neil Gardner

a Ladbroke Productions / Hokus Bloke co-production for BBC Audio

“A stellar cast including David Warner, Rupert Degas, Andy Serkis, Mark Wing-Davey, Michael Fenton-Stevens & Martin Jarvis bring Robert Rankin’s extraordinary fantasty tale to life! This is the tale of two incredible people – one who knows he is incredible and the other who learns to be incredible. Set in 1960 in Brighton, self-styled guru and magus Hugo Rune rescues a young man from drowning and persuades him to become his assistant and partner in solving 12 mysteries. Rizla (for such is the young man’s assumed name) agrees to help as he has lost his memory and has nowhere else to go. There then follows 12 of the most baffling, surreal, exciting, head-scratching and downright far-fetched mysteries ever written…all based in and around the suburbs of Brighton. Across the mysteries Rizla and the audience learn about the Brighton zodiac, the chronovision, time travel, centaurs, a dastardly plot where the NHS kidnap vagrants for body parts, space pirates, the real history of Victorian Britain, Brighton pirates and the fate that awaits mankind should Hugo Rune fail in his task. And of course, there’s a very bad man involved indeed – Hugo Rune’s arch-nemesis of the ages, Count Otto Black – who wants to rule the world (what else!) You will never hear anything else quite like this in your lifetime. Yet another slice of far-fetched fiction in the Rankin tradition.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY FROM THE BBC SHOP

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes The Brightonomicon (Unabridged)

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The Stuff of Nightmares

The Stuff of Nightmares

DOCTOR WHO: HORNETS’ NEST (1): THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES by Paul Magrs

1hr 12mins enhanced reading

starring Tom Baker & Richard Franklin

recorded & edited by Neil Gardner / produced & directed by Kate Thomas

a BBC Audio production

“Tom Baker reprises the role of the Fourth Doctor in the first of five thrilling brand new audio adventures, with Richard Franklin as Mike Yates. ‘Wanted: retired army Captain for light household duties and fireside companionship. Must tolerate mild eccentricity and strong scientific advice. Knowledge of Giant Maggots, Super Intelligent Spiders and Prehistoric Monsters a positive boon.’

Responding to an advert apparently worded for him alone, Captain Mike Yates (retired) is reunited with a ghost from the past. But why has the Doctor, that mysterious traveller in Time and Space, sent for his former UNIT acquaintance? Trapped by a horde of vicious creatures in an apparently innocuous English country cottage, the two old friends are on the brink of an enormous adventure. As the Doctor relates his recent escapades, it becomes clear to Mike that they – and the Earth at large – are facing an enemy of unimaginable power and horrific intent.

The nightmare is only just beginning… With Tom Baker as the Doctor, Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, Susan Jameson as Mrs Wibbsey and Daniel Hill as Percy Noggins, The Stuff of Nightmares is the first of five linked stories written by the acclaimed Paul Magrs.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY FROM THE BBC SHOP

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  Doctor Who: Hornets' Nest 1 - the Stuff of Nightmares (Unabridged)

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The Dead Shoes

The Dead Shoes

DOCTOR WHO: HORNETS’ NEST (2): THE DEAD SHOES by Paul Magrs

1hr 05 mins enhanced reading

starring Tom Baker & Richard Franklin

recorded & edited by Neil Gardner / produced & directed by Kate Thomas

a BBC Audio production

“Tom Baker reprises the role of the Fourth Doctor in the first of five thrilling brand new audio adventures, with Richard Franklin as Mike Yates. What is so special about a pair of ballet shoes on display in Cromer’s Palace of Curios? When the Doctor meets Ernestina Scott there in 1932, they discover the horrific truth together. The second of five linked stories written by the acclaimed Paul Magrs, The Dead Shoes also features Susan Jameson, Clare Corbett and Christian Rodska.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY FROM THE BBC SHOP

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The Year of the Flood 14 CD box-set

The Year of the Flood 14 CD box-set

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

14hrs 30 mins unabridged reading

read by Lorelei King

recorded, edited & produced by Neil Gardner

a BBC Audio production

“Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, the preservation of all species and the tending of the Earth – has long predicted the Waterless Flood. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have avoided it: the young trapeze-dancer, Ren, locked into the high-end sex club; and former SecretBurgers meat-slinger turned Gardener, Toby, barricaded into a luxurious spa. Have others survived? And what are the odds for the human race? By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most effective.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY FROM THE BBC SHOP

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  The Year of the Flood (Unabridged)

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6000 Postcards radio feature

6000 Postcards radio feature

6000 POSTCARDS

27mins 30secs radio documentary / as heard on BBC Radio 4

presented by Chris McManus

produced by Richard Bannerman / executive produced by Neil Gardner

a Ladbroke Radio production for BBC Radio 4

“Chris McManus uncovers the secrets of a collection of 6000 dusty old postcards that turned up in a forgotten cupboard in the Psychology Department of University College London. It started with two medium-sized cardboard boxes. When Richard Rawles of the Department opened them, he found the cards, with postmarks dating from August 1953. They were addressed to the BBC Television Service, and the search was on to find out how they came to be there and what information they contained.”

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  6000 Postcards

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Bridging The Gap radio feature

Bridging The Gap radio feature

BRIDGING THE GAP

27mins 30secs radio documentary / featured on “Pick of the Year” / as heard on BBC Radio 4

presented by Simon Fanshawe

produced by Tamsyn Challenger / executive produced by Neil Gardner

a Ladbroke Radio production for BBC Radio 4

“Simon Fanshawe visits an ambitious community project in Bridging the Gap at 1100 on Monday 7th August. The gap in question is the cavernous void between young and old that breeds mistrust and anxiety. Pat Stewart and Rob Burley run the On the Streets project in Gorton, Manchester. Their aim is to develop in young teenagers a sense of their community and show them there is more to life than spiralling from ASBO to serious crime.In the programme, the 15- and 16 year-olds talk frankly about a life they feel has little to offer them – with few or no facilities, threats from gangs, and nothing to occupy their time.The programme attends an events day run by Pat and Rob at the Angel Community Centre, where one highlight is the hand massage session that not only gives the over-60s a chance to relax and enjoy a bit of pampering, but more importantly, a chance for young and old to talk and exchange stories from their very different lives.The campaign itself has won awards for breaking down barriers and helping to develop communication and common interest across generations, and Pat and Rob are determined to “take young people out of the thug mode and elderly people out of the victim mode”. As one of the documentary’s producers, Tamsyn Challenger, says, “To hear a 14-year-old talking about 80-year-old Lou on his estate is heartening when there is little positive coverage of 14-year-old Manchester lads living in depressed areas.” Simon Fanshawe discusses the project both with the scheme’s leaders and also with the police, and guides us through the On the Streets story.”

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  Bridging the Gap (Unabridged)

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Giants On Our Hands radio feature

Giants On Our Hands radio feature

GIANTS ON OUR HANDS

27mins 30secs radio documentary / featured on “Pick of the Week” / as heard on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service

presented by Adam Fowler

produced by Adam Fowler & Anna Scott-Brown / executive produced by Neil Gardner

a Ladbroke Radio production for BBC Radio 4/WS

“For 5,000 years and more, elephants have served humanity, as a living tractor, pile driver, fork-lift, tank, and 4WD. But the working elephant is now at the end of its economic usefulness. Adam Fowler explores the plight of thousands of captive elephants in Asia and their historic and changing relationship with man.”

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  Giants On Our Hands: The Unemployed Elephants of Asia (Unabridged)

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Rembrandt 400 radio feature

Rembrandt 400 radio feature

REMBRANDT 400

43mins 30secs radio documentary / as heard on BBC Radio 3

presented by Neil MacGregor

produced by Richard Bannerman / executive produced by Neil Gardner

a Ladbroke Radio production for BBC Radio 3

“Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, marks the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth. He visits Amsterdam, where Rembrandt made his home for the major part of his creative life, and where he painted the masterpieces that hang in galleries around the world. Rembrandt’s birthday is on July 15, and Amsterdam has marked the year with all kinds of events, from a new musical on Rembrandt’s life to exhibitions looking at every aspect of the artist’s work, from the epic painting of The Night Watch to small-scale etchings and drawings. Neil MacGregor, a longtime enthusiast for Rembrandt’s work, begins the programme in the house where Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam from 1639 to 1658, when bankruptcy in his later years forced him to move. Here, from the basement to the attic, are the everyday objects that Rembrandt would have known, from his box-bed to the huge collection of antiques and curios from all corners of the Dutch-traded world, which Rembrandt made use of to bring the excitement of the exotic into his work. Nearby in the Rijksmuseum, an exhibition puts Rembrandt’s major paintings against those of his slightly earlier Italian counterpart Caravaggio, showing the play of light and dark which gave both artists’ work that gleaming, arresting quality, and which lent a powerful drama to the Biblical or classical scenes they often depicted. In Rembrandt’s case, he turned away from images of beauty or flattery to depict people in all their human frailty – their tenderness, uncertainty, pain, and mortality. It is these qualities, as Neil MacGregor says, that make his paintings reach out so directly to us today, as well as impressing the spectator with their mastery of skill and often dazzling richness.”

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  Rembrandt 400 (Unabridged)

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The Forever Trap 2 CD exclusive

The Forever Trap 2 CD exclusive

DOCTOR WHO: THE FOREVER TRAP by Dan Abnett

2hrs 20mins reading / exclusive adventure from the BBC

read by Catherine Tate

recorded & edited by Neil Gardner / produced & directed by Kate Thomas

a BBC Audio production

“Catherine Tate reads this exclusive thrilling story, in which the Doctor and Donna are imprisoned on the Edifice – and become neighbours to a terrifying assortment of aliens.  When the TARDIS is invaded by a holographic marketing scam, the Doctor and Donna find themselves trapped on the Edifice, a purpose-built complex of luxury apartments in space. Their new environs leave much to be desired: millions of beings from across the Universe have been gathered to live side by side in similar apartments. Instead of creating neighbourly affection, it’s led to terrible battles being waged in the corridors and on the stairwells.   The Doctor and Donna must cross the paths of deadly alien mobs as they search for the Edifice’s ultimate authority. Who – or what – lies at the heart of the incredible complex? What destructive scourge is eating away at the Edifice itself? And are the Doctor and Donna trapped forever in this living hell?   The Forever Trap features the Doctor and Donna, as played by David Tennant and Catherine Tate in the hit BBC Television series Doctor Who. Written specially for audio by Dan Abnett, it is read by Catherine Tate.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY FROM THE BBC SHOP

CLICK THE ICON TO BUY & DOWNLOAD FROM iTunes  Doctor Who: The Forever Trap (Unabridged) (Unabridged  Fiction)

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