This country has started to drive me absolutely mad. The house is almost ready to live in as all rooms bar one have been decorated and just need the final polish and eventual hanging up of pictures etc, etc.
I went and signed on at Crewe's wonderful Job Centre where it seems to be cool to be seen hanging outside, covered in tattoos, cider in hand, dressed in a tracksuit while trying to keep a Staffie in control as you talk about how long you've spent inside. Obviously, the longer, the more impressive. I didn't quite fit in with that lot so decided to go inside and meet the charming, flame-red haired Wendi. I was pencilled in for the appointment as 'Zowie' which did, admittedly, make a change from the usual 'Zoey' or 'Zoei'. And I thought Belgium had problems spelling my name....
I followed Wendi, burdened with all my papers that I had been told to bring in, as she wobbled slowly to her desk.
"Right," she started, "What is your full name?" and then proceeded to ask me the usual, mundane questions that I get asked each time I go there.
"Have you got a Form 301?"
A blank cloud loomed over me as I wondered what on earth this could be. A fine? A speeding ticket?
"No, but I have brought in everything that they told me to bring in when I called Chester. Some is in French and some in Flemish - but I was told that that wouldn't be a problem as you have translators here."
Wendi studied the papers and slowly looked up at me and gave me a smile that meant, quite evidently that she wanted to say "like fuck we have" but instead chose to say "I'll take copies of these, if that's alright with you?" After about an hour of going through the papers that I had previously filled in, stating my address and wish to receive corresspondence there (errr.....where else?), my marital status, lack of dependent children, bank account, address (again), vital statistics and so on, I signed the papers, was told to sign on the next day and would be told how much JSA (Job Seeker's Allowance) I'd be entitled to within the next 2 weeks.
I signed on again but had still not received this mysterious letter from Chester and so, after having been told at the Job Centre that I wasn't entitled to anything, decided to make a few calls of my own. After having called the third number given by numerous people at numerous other numbers, it appears that I should be in possession of a U1 form proving that I was in the Belgium system when in Belgium.
The following day, I received a letter telling me that I was not eligible for JSA. No reason was given at all, just the fact that I am not, apparently, eligible for JSA. The letter was sent to.....Richard's.
Not the address that I put down on the papers that I filled in.
I decided to call the number given on the letter to ask why I am not eligible for JSA, simply to see what explanation they would give me.
"You need an U2 form."
"U2? What about the U1?"
"You need to provide an U2 form by next Friday."
"Belgian post is very slow, you know."
"You also need a letter giving you authorisation to seek work in this country."
"But I'm an EU National - surely I can WORK in this country?"
"No, I am sorry, but I'm reading by the guidelines and you definitely need this letter."
"And where do I get this letter from?"
"Oh, I'm sorry - I can't help you there."
I have carried on looking for work but have made it clear for my adviser that I really shouldn't be as I don't have this letter of authorisation from....well, your guess is as good as mine.
And then I went and called Belgium today for my U2 form.
Several pounds poorer and after dealing with a country which refuses to speak French - if you are a francophile and they're not - and I may be slightly closer to getting that U2 form.
It will take 4 weeks to arrive. If I qualify.
I'm thinking of moving elsewhere now.