A human right not to stack shelves? She's off her trolley
Work experience: Cait Reilly said she had to sweep up and fill the shelves at the Poundland store
Life is not going well for geology graduate Cait Reilly. And shall I be the first to tell her? It is just about to get a whole lot worse.
Miss Reilly is the former student who is taking legal action against the government for trying to make her work as a shelf stacker in Poundland. For two whole weeks.
Really. The bare-faced cheek of the blasted Coalition. The nerve of those utter scoundrels. How dare they wreck my life, says the put-upon Cait. How dare they interfere in my plans, seems to be the gist of her hard-boiled beef.
Having been on the dole since leaving Birmingham University last year, Cait wants to work in a museum. She has even volunteered at a museum in the hope it will eventually lead to a job in that sector. So far, so very good for her. Excellent initiative in the face of a dispiriting economic climate. You have got to give her that. Then the trouble started.
Under a government scheme designed to encourage the long-term unemployed back into work, Reilly was told that she had to leave the museum for a temporary stint at Poundland — and that she risked losing her £54 a week Jobseekers Allowance if she turned down the unpaid work experience, which involved stacking shelves and sweeping floors. Instead of meekly going to work at the discount chain, she went to the law.
Miss Reilly and her lawyer say forcing her to do this menial work is slave labour and, of course, against her human rights. Not to mention beneath her dignity.
You might think that a student with barely an NI payment to her name would be happy to put something back into the pot, would be very grateful to be in receipt of taxpayer-funded benefits in the first place.
Yet this is clearly not the case. Predictably, Reilly has been photographed in front of her local Poundland wearing the traditional, poor wee me, sad-clown victim face.
Cait, I really want to say this to you. Two weeks stacking shelves in Poundland — a breach of your human rights? Grow up.
Graduate: Miss Reilly has been looking for work since she left Birmingham University (pictured) and had been volunteering on an unpaid basis
It is hardly ten years’ imprisonment without charge in Guantanamo Bay. It is hardly like being incarcerated in a Nazi prisoner of war camp for five long years, never knowing each day if you would live or die, sewing cross-stitch samplers to stop yourself from going insane.
I would argue that doing a little unpaid work in return for benefits is not a breach of your human rights, it is actually a bonus. See it as a life lesson — and you might get more out of it than you think.
I would argue that a little perspective might not go amiss, even from a typical 22-year-old graduate who knows everything and has big ideas about what she wants to do in the world.
I would also argue that her stance is deeply insulting to those whose jobs actually do entail sweeping floors and stacking shelves. And who do so without complaint to feed their own families and to help to pay Cait Reilly’s benefits allowances. For nobody owes this girl a living. Least of all those who work for a living.
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Don’t forget that she is doing unpaid work at the museum because she wants to — not because she has to. Unlike so many out there, who have no choice except to toil away at grotty and gruelling jobs which they hate.
One might hope that any kid walking into a lawyer’s office with this sorry tale would be laughed out of the door. For there are plenty of serious human rights abuses for lawyers to get worked up about. However, few of them would score quite so many political points — and get them into all the newspapers.
What I am really thinking is that Reilly’s lawyer Jim Duffy has much to answer for. A high-profile landmark case such as this might do much to enhance his reputation. However, win or lose, it won’t do much for Cait Reilly’s employment chances — as a shelf stacker or a geology-specialising museum boss.
Believe me, such a pinched sense of entitlement at this nascent stage of her career will not endear her to many putative employers.
But Miss Reilly said: ‘I was actually doing something that was helping me work towards a job and was taken away from that to do something of no value to me. It was very frustrating.’
She has now returned to her voluntary role at Birmingham’s Pen Room Museum of writing and pen trade memorabilia, still looking for paid employment. Well that sounds very delightful, I must say.
In the meantime, solicitor Duffy maintains that the Poundland deployment contravenes article 4 (2) of the Human Rights Act, which states: ‘No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.’
No one has a right to a lovely job admiring nibs in a pen museum either. Speaking as a former shelf stacker myself, the whole thing makes me mad.
This can't be the basis of a stable relationship
Bridget Jones feared dying alone, decomposing slowly as her pet Alsatian ate her face. After being jilted, Miss Havisham went mad in a darkened house, her wedding cake slowly rotting on the table in front of her. After the sexual highlight of a kiss from Piers Morgan, virginal Susan Boyle now only has her cats for company.
To this nightmarish list of spinster scenarios, we can now add this one: Moving In With Your Horse.
Mane attraction: Sixty-five year-old spinster Stephanie Noble in her house with her pony, Grey Lady Too
This has just happened to Stephanie Noble, a 65-year-old divorcee who lives on the Scottish island of Lewis. Claiming that there was nowhere suitable to stable her pony, Grey Lady Too, over the winter, she moved the beast into her semi-detached house instead.
Noble made a bed by paving half of the living room with 60 litres of cat litter, topping it with straw and blankets. Nice!
I can’t imagine the neighbours are best pleased, but the local council says she can do what she wants at home, and the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims the horse is not being harmed.
Ms Noble said: ‘If I want to keep even an elephant in the house I can. I have had nothing but stick from people because it is unconventional.
‘It is not normal to keep birds in a cage — because they should be flying about — but people don’t complain about that.’
Actually, it is normal to keep birds in a cage. A great, sludge-dropping four legged critter in the front room? Not so much.
Stephanie, right, is another batty delusional who sees persecution in the perfectly reasonable objections of others. She says of her horsey tenant: ‘All I’m doing is fighting for my rights against people.’
What a lot of steaming manure.
It seems obvious that she bought this animal without having the financial means or wherewithal to look after her properly.
And now others have to suffer because of her incompetence and stupidity.
It’s the horse I feel sorry for. The telly is rubbish at this time of year.
Vulgarised: New mum Beyonce's £3,200 Swarovski crystal baby bath and £10,000 crystal high chair
It is official. Out there in the Land of Little Taste, there is no item or furniture nor clothing that cannot be further vulgarised by being hosed down in Swarovski crystals.
Look at new mum Beyonce, who has just taken delivery of a Swarovski crystal baby bath (£3,200) and a Swarovski crystal high chair (£10,000) for baby Blue Ivy Carter.
Hideous. Once upon a time, Swarovski just used to make little glass swans and inoffensive napkin rings.
Now Swarovski crystals are the shining symbols of the newly wealthy, quite the tackiest embellishments on the planet.
Bling, bling, kerching! They’re absolutely everywhere, but that doesn’t make them acceptable.
Madonna looked fabulous at the premiere of her new film W.E..
Face as smooth as a peeled egg, hair de-crinkled by forces unknown, biceps bulging like rugby balls carved from ivory.
What a picture. In her lace cape, inky column dress, matching red gloves and heels, she looked like a superhero. Holy cryptogel – its Captain Creaseless!
As time goes on, I admire Madonna more and more. Make a movie with no previous directing experience? Why not? Still believe in knights in shining armour after two failed marriages? Why not that, too?
However, although she may be optimistic and adventurous, there is no sign of The Madge mellowing in old age.
Andrea Riseborough, who stars as Wallis Simpson in W.E. - unwittingly revealed a strange terror of her boss. She described Madonna as ‘ethereal, beautiful, delicate and gentle’.
Arf! Madonna is about as ethereal and gentle as a tugboat going over a cliff. The actress refused to say anything about Madonna that wasn’t a gushing compliment – although she might still be in trouble.
Fashionistas claimed that Miss Riseborough had beaten Madonna in the battle of the W.E. red carpet.
Run, Amanda, run! It’s not too late to hide from the wrath of Captain Creaseless.
This tot should be in her cot!
Donna Sercombe is the young mother who delights in taking her baby daughter to London film premieres. Tyler is only one year old – but already she has met over 130 stars and been photographed with a great number of them. They include George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Boy George, Elton John, Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, to name but a few.
Innocent fun? I don’t think so.
In my opinion, Donna is lucky not to be reported to social services. Look at her. She has foisted her childish and idiotic obsession with meeting stars onto her poor innocent child.
Not George Clooney again, mum: Donna Sercombe has dragged around her baby, Tyler, to meet 130 stars
Night after night, Tyler is used as celebrity bait, a cute tot dangled on the red carpet to attract the attention of passing stars - just so gabbling mum can say hi to her heroes.
It is appalling.
Mother and baby wait for hours in the crush at premieres, in the cold and wet amongst screaming fans. It is noisy, it is panicky and raucous, there are flashbulbs going off in tiny little eyes.
It is no place for a sensible adult. It is certainly no a place for a baby. A baby which should be tucked up in bed in a warm home, instead of being dragged around the London’s West End by her daft mum.
Boy's own Blumenthal
Boys' hero: Television chef Heston Blumenthal
Last week in his new television series, Heston Blumenthal had some interesting tips about steak. He suggested leaving them uncovered on racks in the fridge for a few days to dry age them. He also insisted we turn steak every 15 seconds when frying or grilling.
And on week two of How To Cook Like Heston on Channel 4, it was all about eggs.
Fascinating stuff, even if he does suggest a method that takes half an hour to fry the perfect egg.
That is why, I feel, Heston remains at heart a boys’ hero, not a girls’ one.
Multi-tasking women are just too darned practical and busy to take all that time over a stupid egg. It’s not perfect? Bang. Frying pan on table. Bang. You’re eating it anyway.
Plus in the yin and yang of the kitchen, women nurture cooking ingredients. We coddle them along, show them off to their best advantage in meals and preparations.
Heston and his macho male acolytes, just want to dominate and conquer food. Then they want to change it into something else.
Next week - he has really gone too far this time - the specialist subject is chocolate.
Heston! You must realise that women are in charge of the household choccies. It's the law!
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