Cool Hand Bruce

Last week was strangely bookended for me. Interviewed for a university place on Monday morning, discussing William Blake and Ezra Pound in a room full of books and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and then signing on at the dole office for the first time in many years on Friday, with crowds of quiet men and women waiting for their turn to be politely grilled on the "jobseeking" they'd done since they last signed on. They have to do this before they can get their next cheque, and despite the fact that I had to go through it myself, I think it might be a good thing. We all need a little help every now and then, and sometimes a firm push too, once we've settled into the easy routine of living broke and doing nothing.

The decision I've made to do a degree is going to leave me broke for the next three years at least, if I can afford to go at all. I still don't know because full-time students can't get Jobseeker's Allowance or Income Support; they can't, for some reason, get Housing Benefit either, although they can get Council Tax Exemption (the distinction between the last two escapes me). These rules all seem to be based on consideration of the student loan as income, which is absurd because £3000 of that pays for the cost of the course and you can get another £5000 at the most on top of that -- this, at least, is all the money I've been discovered I can apply for so far. I wait for friends who've been down this road before me to tell me otherwise.

The other presumption that entitlements are worked out under the guidance of seems to be that students are all 18, and that if they're not, they will be part of a household where somebody else can support them. I'm not. I have a partner who is earning, but we don't live together. Nor does she earn enough to prop me up through the next three financially grim years.

So I have to rely on the hope that I will find a part-time job of some sort, something which suits my uni hours. This is difficult because my poor health these days procludes me from doing the job for which I'm trained. If I could get a gig as a night care worker for a few nights a week I would be sorted. But care homes don't want to employ staff who might have seizures.

Something will come along, though. I still have two or three months to work it out; and if I don't by then I'll just have to become an epileptic porn star.