Category Archives: Gripes

Phoning the benefit helplines

Oddly enough, when you claim benefits because you’re not working, they don’t instantly assume you might also want to claim for housing/council tax.
Jobseeker’s Allowance is dealt with by Jobcentre Plus.
Housing benefits/Council Tax benefits are dealt with by your local council office.

Currently I’m not receiving either.
When I switched from “Employment and Support Allowance” to “Jobseeker’s Allowance”, I got a letter from the council saying that due to a change, they weren’t paying me anything anymore, until I gave them various forms of proof of earnings again.
I took them down on the 21st April, and I’ve heard nothing since.

As today is over 3 weeks later and I’ve heard nothing, I thought I’d give them a call to check how it’s progressing.
There’s a nice recorded message saying any new claims or changes to claims are taking 35 days to be processed. Nice.
It tells me to press 9 for an operator, which I did. At which point the line went completely airy. Not quite dead, but nothing happening either.
I hung up.

At least the council offices are Bristol-based numbers though. I can call them from my mobile using my free minutes.
Jobcentre Plus’ phone number is an 0845. I don’t get it free from my mobile, and even the shared landline in my house will charge me to call it.
I do find it slightly ironic that a helpline for unemployed people, isn’t free to call.
I’ve had a look on www.saynoto0870.com and it’s not listed on there, sadly.

What makes it worse though, is the hold music.
When the call is first answered and you’re put on hold because they have high call volumes (absolutely all the time), you’re treated to 40 seconds (I got a stopwatch out) of the first movement of Vivaldi’s baroque classic ‘The Four Seasons’.
At which point the on-hold woman interrupts to tell you how they’re still busy, and to call back another time.
But then, instead of dropping you back into Vivaldi where she left you, the tune restarts.
The first 40 seconds again, and she’s back to give you the opening hours again. Back to the start again, and so on.

I don’t know why, but this drives me mad.
I’m not a huge fan of classical music really, but the first 40 seconds of a tune over and over is incredibly annoying.
I’ve found myself on more than one occasion going “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE PLAY THE REST!”

I left the phone on the table in the end, went and got my iPhone and recorded it via audioboo. Apologies for the quiet nature of it, but come on – how annoying is this, on loop?
Listen!
(Direct link to it, here: http://audioboo.fm/boos/19710-jobseeker-s-boo )

Signing-on

Just had my first real, legitimate, on-the-right-day signing on session at the job centre.

Upon arrival, I was given a questionnaire, which unfortunately for them had questions with multiple choice answers.
The answer options were “highly satisfied”, “satisfied”, “unsatisfied” and “highly unsatisfied”.
Really I wanted an option in the middle called “meh”. As they didn’t give me one, there were several unsatisfieds in there.
The last question asked if I’d be happy to take part in a focus group to give my opinion of the job centre. Fuck it. Why not?

I filled it out, and then I got a little confused.
The woman who gave me the questionnaire said to fill it out and return it to her. She promptly disappeared. When I asked another member of staff where she’d gone so that I might return it, I was told they didn’t know who she was, and she didn’t work for the job centre anyway.
Have I just had my identity stolen or something?

At the actual signing on session, I was told off for not opening and presenting my details in the correct manner, as they apparently only have 3mins for each person.
As she entered some of my details into the computer, she said she needed to see my jobsearch book, so I found it, opened it on the right page and put it in front of her.
She then asked for the jobsearch book, in a surprisingly moody manner. I pointed to where it was on the table, open.
She closed it, read the number off the front, then told me it would speed things up had I opened it on the right page in front of her.
Frankly that’s an argument I can’t be fucked with before noon.

Then I got a little bit of a further bollocking really.
Here’s part of my actual jobseeker’s agreement:

They seem to enforce some parts but not others.

I mean “phone 2 employers”? Who does that? Email/letter perhaps, but I’m not going to waste people’s time asking “you got any jobs going?” when I can just look on their website and see for myself.
Ask “people I have worked with before”? The ones who fired me?
They don’t enforce those bits, and at the moment, they don’t enforce the “apply for 2 jobs per week” bit, as in some areas, there aren’t that many jobs.

What I got the most of a bollocking for was the section that says “I will take 3 active steps each week to look for work”.
I’m not being creative enough with my answers, because I was told today that this would mean they look for at least 6 rows of things.
Yet, they count contacting Jobseeker Direct (Job Centre’s own jobs website/phone line) as one thing.
In which case, where I’ve put “updated CV on Monster, Reed and Jobsite”, presumably that should be 3 things in 3 rows? I’m a fool, clearly.

If I get invited to partake in this focus group, I’ll be sure to tell them just how silly I think some of their rigid rules are.

Living in a shared house while claiming benefits

Yesterday, I was very proud of myself.
I’ve tidied my room, I know where everything is, and I’ve closed an A4 ringbinder as it was full, and started an A4 lever arch file on my shiny new life of employment. Well I’m unemployed at the moment, but more optimistic about actually finding someone who wants to employ me in a job that doesn’t make me want to kill myself.

Today, desperate to piss all over that dream, I get a letter from Jobcentre Plus.
Here it is.

Obviously I’ve removed any of my secret details, lest anyone should steal my incredibly boring identity.
They want it back within 7 days of the date of their letter, yet their letter is dated Tuesday. As it’s now Thursday, that’s 3 days gone already, if I fill it out and send it back today.
I can’t help thinking that seems slightly unfair, but I’ll attempt to let it go.
Clearly I’ve not done very well at that, as I’ve written this blog post about it.

They sent me a lovely form with it to fill out. Wanna look? Well, alright then.

Click to enlarge.
If you still can’t read my writing at the bottom (and I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t), it says:

“I have detailed the answers to your question on a separate sheet, which I have also signed.”

Frankly, I’m a little fed up of answering this question.
During my initial call about claiming benefits back in November-December, I told them over the phone I lived in a shared house. I was told by the second-nicest person I’ve spoken to so far, that unless we were related, a family, or I was married to one of them or something, it didn’t matter.
Even if they pay me for electricity and I pay the electricity bill from my bank account – nobody cares.
It’s only a shared house, after all. Pretty common in modern city life really.

I’ve had varying answers to this since. Claiming both housing benefit and Jobseekers Allowance results in them collating different information, and they treat things in different ways.
At a jobseekers interview, on the 16th April, I was told I had to list all the people living with me, and if they gave me any money.
I’m sure I’ve done this before. I remember writing some figures into boxes, and listing that one housemate owed me money for back electricity.

So this, is what I wrote in my separate letter (recreating their form partially in the process), and sent this morning in answer to their questions (names and some places changed to protect the innocent. Amounts of money removed):

My answer to your question (which I have already notified both you and the benefits office of several times), is too complicated to fit into the small boxes you have provided me with.
As such, I’ve decided to write you this separate document instead.
I hope this satisfies you.

My name: Ben Park
My National Insurance number: xxxxxxxx

1. Who makes the voluntary payment?

– Derek, for his son Jim.
– Edna
– Reginald (not as regularly as I’d like)
and
– after 1st May – Betty (prior to 1st May, this was Arthur)

2. What is their relationship to you? (if only you knew how many times I’d answered this fucking question)

None of these people are any relationship to me. I am not related to any of them. They are people who live within the same 4 walls. We don’t share food or bodily fluids. I don’t have children with any of them, nor intend to have children with them.

3. (and 4, 5, and 6 combined)

Every month, I receive around £xx from a man in Columbia called Derek, via Western Union money transfer.
He is the dad of one of my housemates – Jim.
This money covers Jim’s electricity/gas (which I pay on behalf of the house), and his council tax. I DON’T pay his council tax. The council tax is paid by my housemate Edna. I pay around £xx per month to her, on Jim’s behalf. She then pays this.
This was originally set up because Jim’s dad has to pay a fee for every payment transferred, so doesn’t want to pay everyone in the house separately.
Frankly with the hassle it’s caused me, I wish I’d never agreed to it.

Every month, I receive around £xx from Edna. This is to cover her electricity/gas for the month.

Every month, I was receiving around £xx from Arthur to cover his electricity/gas for the month. He moved out of my house on the 30th April, and has been replaced by Betty. She has not paid me anything yet, but will be paying me the same around-£xx that Arthur paid.

Every month, I should receive around £xx from Reginald. He lives in my house, and owes me for the electricity/gas. He has got behind with his payments, and currently owes me (I believe) somewhere in the region of £xx. He has no plans to move out, and is attempting to repay me in stages. I will be hassling him again about this shortly.

I pay (currently) around £xxx per month to Wankergen for providing our electricity and gas. This is on a monthly payment plan that averages over the year, but could rise or fall at any point. The occupants in my house (4 excluding me) give me 1/5th of this, each month.
All of the money I receive each month, goes to Wankergen for electricity/gas, or Edna for council tax. None of it is kept by me.

7. Are you expected to repay the money?

Edna pays for the council tax for our entire house. (Currently) around £xx, per person in the house, per month. £xx of what I receive from Jim’s dad, I give to Edna for his share. I also give her £xx for my own share.

So, just to clarify again:

– This money comes to me, and goes to either Wankergen or Edna for my/Jim’s share of the council tax bill she pays.

– NONE of these people are related to me. If I got in debt, they wouldn’t help me out. They live under the same roof because none of us can afford the £1000+ per month rent on our own. We don’t eat together. None of them help with my current situation.
If I’m unable to pay my rent, buy food, or do anything else because the DWP/Jobcentre keep asking me to fill out more forms about things I’ve already told them, thus delaying my payments, they won’t help me in the slightest.

I will repeat your own declaration here, for your own procedures.

– I understand
That if I give information that is incorrect or incomplete, action may be taken against me.

– I declare
That the information I have given here is correct and complete.

And signed and dated, as per their original form.

I think purely on a style basis, they’d give me some good points for my sarcastic rant at the end of question 7.
The anticipation of what pure joy they will send me next, is killing me.

Are the benefits departments this rubbish on purpose?

It’s something I’ve been pondering over the last few days.
Since December, I’ve been miserable, signed off unfit to work because of stress, depression, and now (according to government assessments at least), I’m suitable for work again. This means leaving incapacity benefits and switching temporarily to “Jobseeker’s Allowance”.

I’ve claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance twice in my life. This is the second, but there’s been an 8 year gap in between, and some things have changed it seems. Also, I’d never claimed housing benefit before, as last time I was unemployed for a long period, I was living with my parents.

At the end of March, I had an assessment that said I was ready to return to work.
It’s conducted on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions, by an outside company called “ATOS”. It’s a funny name isn’t it? I can’t believe nobody noticed before they had their letterheads printed.
“Dave have you called ATOS? Just give ATOS a cal…wait..that sounds a bit odd”.

The results of the assessment uses wording that made me laugh, so I’ll quote you some here from my “About your limited capacity for work assessment” sheet.

“[Ben has] no problems meeting and mixing with new people or going to new places.”

I think it’s safe to say nobody at ATOS has seen me at a party or in a nightclub.

“[Ben’s] behaviour does not cause problems for [him] or other people”

and

“[Ben has] no problems getting on with other people, and they have no problems getting on with [him]”

I should photocopy this and send it to the two girls who complained about me joking about their religion, and behaving in an apparently “lecherous fashion” in my last job.
If anyone was wondering, I didn’t cop a feel – just had a look at her ample cleavage. What sort of world are we living in where a man can’t have a look at a semi-attractive girl’s cleavage without getting a written letter of complaint about it? That’s another blog post, for another day.

As I said, I’ve never claimed housing benefit before.
When I initially filled out the forms for it, which were posted to me, I reached a section which said “please tick the forms of identification you are submitting”. It didn’t state which ones I needed to send.
Then it told me I should bring the completed form into the benefit office. They didn’t tell me where it was.
I tried my local Jobcentre Plus, but they said it went to the council offices at College Green.
When I got there, the security guard told me that wasn’t right – and I should take it to Amelia Court.
Third time lucky, Amelia Court took my documents, and happily signed for them all.

A few weeks later, I was surprised therefore, to receive a letter stating I must bring forms of identification into Amelia Court, as they didn’t have them.
Despite my written receipt, signed by them, they still claimed I’d never given them to them.
In I went, took them in again, and all fine.

When my “Employment and Support Allowance” (aka incapacity benefits) ended in March, I thought this might affect my housing benefit, as it’s a “change of circumstances” sort-of.
I phoned them up and asked if I had to do anything, given I was switching from one benefit to another.
A guy on the phone (I should have written down his name) told me he didn’t know, and wasn’t sure if he should log that I phoned anywhere, in case it did make a difference to my claim.
I mean what the hell are you meant to do with that? You’re telling them, but they won’t log it in case they’re not supposed to.

On the 14th April, I was delighted to receive a letter stating:

“We have recently received information in respect of your claim, which has raised a doubt over your entitlement to Housing/Council Tax Benefit. As a result, I have suspended your claim, and subsequently no further payments will be made.”

Always nice to enjoy a letter like that over your Weetabix.
Clearly when a claim stops, they feel the need to notify all and sundry, but when you apply for another claim, nothing gets logged.
One change in my circumstances results in all benefits being suspended.

More forms, and proof of earnings (bank statements) taken in, and signed for. As of 30th April, I’m still waiting for any confirmation/money.

Back to jobseeking, this week I had my first signing on day. Sadly, I missed it, because I thought it was Thursday (2 weeks after my work interview), when in fact it was Tuesday (2 weeks, less 2 days, after my interview).
On Wednesday, I found my notes and realised I’d missed my appointment. Essentially I got my days muddled. It probably happens to other people sometimes.

A phone call to the jobcentre, tells me I have to come in “immediately”. She actually used the words “how soon can you get here?”
It was a life and death kind-of situation, where I should ignore all speed limit signs and go literally like the wind.
I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth yet that morning, but this was clearly more important, so I grabbed my keys and ran off to the jobcentre.
When I got there, I was sat down and asked to wait. 10minutes later, I spoke to another person, who booked me an appointment for 3 hours later, to sign-on.
I’m still unsure why I had to go in at all, if they were just going to book me an appointment anyway?
I can only guess this was some kind of payback they hand out to wankers who miss their appointments. I’m a bastard of the highest order, clearly.

Fast forward to the actual meeting.
I’m miserable, seriously pissed off at myself for getting my days muddled, with the pain that this will undoubtedly cost me, lingering in my mind.

Turns out, as I was 27 hours late for my actual signing-on time, this means my benefits stop.
I have to fill out a form detailing why I didn’t turn up, and unless I have a very good reason, they post it to Plymouth who “make a decision”.
If found guilty, my sentence is to lose all Jobseekers Allowance from the time I was meant to come in, til the time I actually came in.
That’s right – if found guilty after all these procedures, I lose 27 hours money. That’s £8.57. I’ll also have another load of forms to fill in to start a “rapid reclaim”.

As a former taxpayer, I’m slightly annoyed that they bother to go through all these checks, admin, posting forms from Bristol to Plymouth and back, and don’t just dock the money to start with? I mean it’s £8.57 for fuck’s sake.

The other thing about the jobcentre is that you’re never told the same thing twice.
When I had my original work interview, I was told I needed to specify some types of jobs I’d be looking for, to enable them to track my progress.
The woman conducting the interview stated I needed three, as that was the number of boxes on her screen.
I could only think of two, so two went down.
However, I was assured by her that IF I didn’t fill out a third, in the first 13 weeks of my claim, all my benefits would stop.

By the time it came to my signing on day, I had come up with a third. Go team Ben!
So I asked the man who I had my emergency signing-on session with, if I could add it.
After a lot of blank looks and confusion, and him telling me I had already done more than three things to look for work, we weren’t getting anywhere.

Then by pure chance, he clicked a button and we were on the very two/three-box screen.
I was moderately excited.
“THERE!! Look! That space! There’s three boxes but only two things filled out! I need a third in there!”
“Oh that doesn’t matter”, he tells me in a very relaxed manner. “You can apply for anything you want”.
I’m not convinced, so protest “but I need a third? I don’t want to have to go through all this again “
He tells me if I’d like to amend my job plan, he can make me an appo
intment to see someone else, and I can come back to amend the third box, but that I really can apply for anything I like.

We’ll see.
If, god forbid, I’m still claiming by the thirteenth week, and my benefits stop because of this, I’m writing an official letter of complaint.
That letter of complaint will then probably be posted from Bristol to Plymouth, where they will photocopy it, and then send it back to Bristol again, before both original and copy, is shredded.

Pointless forms and bureaucracy

As someone who unfortunately needs to claim benefits at the moment, I have a great deal of respect for any benefit cheats out there.
Mine is a legitimate claim. I can’t get a job right now as we’re experiencing the worst recession in my working history, so I need to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance to survive.
But I have a strange new respect for somebody who doesn’t need to claim, but for whatever reason wants to.
Call them lazy if you like, but fudging a claim without the use of children is very difficult.

Here’s just one example.
Since I made the first call to the benefit office, and told them my living arrangements, I was told they didn’t need to know the details if I lived in a shared house. I’m not married to any of them, and if I don’t pay my rent – they won’t pay it for me.
We live in the same four walls precisely because I can’t afford the £1000+ rent for the entire house on my own.

Despite me telling them my situation a lot, and them taking all my details, at a recent interview at Jobcentre Plus (“plus” what? I still don’t know), I was told I must give details of people I live with, despite the fact I don’t live with them. We just live in the same property.
So what’s the form like then? A list of names and a tick box to say I don’t have offspring with any of them?
That’s what I’d have thought.
An “I don’t really know these people, but pass them on the stairs occasionally” tick box would have done.
A perfect solution to a silly problem, and something for some admin temps to mistype in at a later date.

Imagine my surprise therefore, when page 2 of this form asks for very specific details I am completely unable to answer.

“Date of birth [of person who lives with you]”
I dunno? No idea. I could probably guess, but they might take offence.
Maybe take off a couple for the damage their drug problem might have done, perhaps.
Really, it’s none of my (or Jobcentre Plus’) business when 4 near-strangers in my house were born.

“What is the relationship between you and this person”
So far, for person 1 (I have to fill this out for all 4 other people I live with), I’ve gone with “none – we both live in the same house”.
Not really answering the question though.

“What date did you start sharing?”
I don’t really remember. I’ve written “May/June or July 2008”
The others will be more sketchy.

“For what reason did you start to share accomodation with this person?”
I’ve put – “It’s a shared house. I can’t afford the rent on my own.”

“How long do you expect this to continue?”
I’ve gone with “Until either I or they move out”

“Why do you think this?”
Still toying with this one. Something like “because marrying and having children usually forces the option” or “the landlord (due to retire in the next 10 years) says he wants to sell the house when the markets improve”.
I mean why do I think we’ll continue living together til one of us moves out?
I can hardly put: “Because neither of us is likely to die in the near future”.

Maybe I need to think more logistically. The other option is we could both move out at exactly the same time.

What do these people want from me?!

#amazonfail

I was initially intending to blog about my birthday, which happened last week (I assume the cards are all still in the post), but thought I had to give my thoughts on this Amazon possibly/possibly-not censorship problem, which is being discussed at length on Twitter.

The main bulk of the argument seems to be that books about gays or lesbians, or written by gays or lesbians, are disappearing from the Amazon.com salesrank.
This means they’re very difficult (but not impossible) to find.
Certainly the average user would likely assume they no longer stocked the book, rather than wading through to find it.
It will undoubtedly harm book sales of authors.

I’m sure a lot of people will think “who cares?” (even if they choose not to voice those particular opinions.)
I mean I have no immediate plans to buy books by gays or lesbians. I’ve no immediate plans to buy any books at all, so why do I care?

I think what bothers me is that there is any form of censorship on there at all.

Amazon are currently claiming that there is some sort of “glitch” in the system, which is causing huge numbers of books by gay or lesbian authors, or about gay or lesbian characters, to be “accidentally” removed.
To be fair to Amazon, it could be the case. Although one author was told in February that his book was being removed due to “policy”, who is to say they haven’t changed policy again since this?
And there is bizarre happenings, such as paperback versions of books being removed, hardback books not (and vice versa).
Despite the ‘homophobic’ stick that people are beating Amazon with at the moment, it isn’t JUST gay/lesbian books – there are other books that are being removed, for being adult. Also, not ALL gay/lesbian books have disappeared.

Now, I don’t care about ‘categories’ of books being removed.
I care about ANY books being removed.
Think back pre-Amazon to an actual library. The first thing you would do with an English-German dictionary was look up the swear words.
Nudity was available in various forms, and there were various medical books if you really wanted the gory graphic details.
There’s very few good arguments to censor anything, unless it contains graphic sexual imagery and being sold to 8yr olds, or is illegal..etc, surely?
Gay/whatever – you can’t be removing books from the bestseller list because they contain adult themes, or some people don’t feel they’d enjoy reading them.

Fat %$&*! sings!

For a while now, I’ve been getting emails from a website called “The Fatman” or “The Fatman sings”.
They look quite professionally done, but they’re spam.
I don’t recall ever having signed up for them, Gmail blocks them as being spam, and the link to unsubscribe doesn’t really work.
Their emails actually say “please whitelist us”, presumably as a lot of places stop it as spam.

According to their privacy policy:

Does Fatman email me loads of adverts and junk mail?
No, but Fatman does send you some adverts because that’s how the Fatman pays for the website and it keeps the Fatman from starving and it means Fatman can get out there and get the gossip for you! So, please look at the ads because Fatman tries to accept good adverts and does his best only to send you one or two ads per week.

and also:

If you have any queries regarding privacy or if you would like to raise any issues regarding our privacy policy, please e-mail us at privacy@fatman sings.co.uk. Please allow up to 14 days for a response.

Now, while attempting to unsubscribe myself recently, and getting a failure message of some sort, I assumed it had failed yet again, and I’d just have to go and delete more from the spam folder of Gmail every now and then.

BUT, to my shock and surprise, I received this email, shortly after my attempt:

From: Amanda Malyan | Marketing Source
I am now out of the office until Tuesday, 14th April 2009. If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please email fin@marketingsource.co.uk or call the office on 0844 871 4750. This email is not being monitored in my absence.

Regards

Amanda Malyan
Head of Client Services

Marketing Source seems to be a company who stockpile email addresses and rent them on.
What a lovely idea.
At least I now have a contact, if I still continue to receive this junk. Someone I can moan to. It’ll make me feel better anyway.

Cats and a crazy fear of prison

Bloody cats.
I wonder if anyone else finds cats as annoying as I clearly do.

They’re completely two-faced for one. They rub themselves up against your trousers without permission, then try and scratch at you when you attempt to stroke them.

I can get around this by simply never visiting anyone who owns a cat.
Sadly though, they (the cats, now the owners) leave their house and shit in my garden.
We’ve put down spikes in the dirt so they have nowhere to comfortably squat, and chicken wire around the fences to stop them climbing through, and still they get in somewhere.

All that pales into insignificance though, compared to the piss-taking wanker that seemingly wandered into my house this morning.
No doors were open – it literally scaled a wall and climbed through a window.
My girlfriend shooed it out, but it did make me wonder. At what point can you legally kill a cat that wanders into your house? Can I claim self-defence?

I’ve found that when visiting anyone with a dog, they inevitably ask “oh – are you alright with dogs?”
Never do they ask “do you hate cats, by any chance?”
They’ll offer to shut the poor dog in the kitchen, but will they nail the catflap shut while I’m there? No.
As it goes, I’m fine with dogs. They’re mostly friendly, loyal, fun.
When’s the last time you saw a cat on a TV show because it had saved it’s owner from otherwise-certain death? It’s never happened!
Go on! Throw a stick for a cat! I bet you any money it won’t bring it back.
When’s the last time a cat swam a long distance through shark-infested waters, and survived on a near-deserted island?

Dogs = better than cats. It’s pretty clear.

Cats are not deemed in law to be owned by anyone, as they’re not trainable in the same way as dogs. Many cat-lovers have badges proclaiming they are a slave to “Fluffy”, but they’re actually deadly serious.
Also, if you run over a pet, different rules apply for dogs and cats. If it’s a dog, you must report your kill. If it’s a cat, you don’t have to, as they’re semi-wild animals.
Given they’re not in any sense endangered, I wonder if I can legally kill this cat if it wanders into my kitchen again.
It would seem not, as proven recently by lawyers.

If I knew who it belonged to, I’d seriously think about collecting it’s feces and putting it back in the owner’s garden.
Other possible options to rid myself of this cat, include sleeping tablets and traps, and are very long winded.

A Crazy Fear of Prison

A while ago, an acquaintance of mine (I won’t describe him as a friend), asked to borrow a bag from me.
He just wanted a normal holdall type bag to put some clothes and a laptop in, to visit a friend.
He specifically didn’t want a laptop-style bag, as he didn’t want to advertise his electronics to muggers.

He borrowed a bag, and several days later I got it back.
Rather than putting it away though, I’ve left it out for months, wondering what to do with it.
You see, the acquaintance has been known to smoke weed on a fairly regular basis, and I’ve no idea if he transported any within my bag.
I can’t see any, but I don’t own a sniffer dog to make doubly sure.
A normal sane person would have dismissed it. What if he did? What’s it really matter?

Sadly, the irrational side of me started thinking about the occasional people who get stopped going through customs with “2 grams of marijuana” in foreign countries, and end up in jail for years on end.
At some point I might have some money and take a holiday. You never know. It could happen.
It’s bad enough, when asked if I’ve left my bag “unattended at any time”, that I let someone borrow it for 3 days in 2008, but there’s the possibility of milligrams of marijuana residue now.

I don’t want to take the risk, so yesterday I emptied this bag, and hung it out on the washing line in the rain.
How long does it take to wash off marijuana? Anyone know?
I’ll give it a week.