Why can’t things work better?

I’ve done lots this week, but nothing big – one of those weeks with many bitty things. I have: had my car repaired and serviced (£393!), booked my speed awareness course, printed name and address labels, had problems with my printer and fixed them, prepared for my Poetry on Loan meeting, done loads of work on the prison Koestler awards entries.

I’ve been running (well, more of a fast walk, really) three times, prepared for a new course which should be starting today (more of this later), done some prep for a slam in Lydney, booked a display board for TADS in the local library, answered millions of emails.

I’ve spent some time in the hospital. It can be sad working there, but at the same time it’s always uplifting. I’ve read a great book – Wise Children, by Angela Carter. I’ve never read anything by her before, but now I’ll have to seek out everything she wrote. I’ve seen Safe House, an all-action film that was well done but a bit predictable. I’d like to see a movie in which the CIA were good, principled people who strive to do the right thing. I’m sure some of them are, but the badness of the CIA has become a boring predictability in movies now.

I’ve done my end-of-month accounting. This has been one of the worst months, financially, that I’ve ever had.

I’ve done some prep for poetry sessions I’m running at an event this coming Wednesday, and for my GP surgery group, paid the balance of my holiday, made two books for a guy at the prison, and phoned everyone who should be starting on the course this afternoon.

I’ve sorted out some props for the TADS play (lots more to do, though), been to a rehearsal, and run my GP surgery group. Wow! I’d asked them to write poems based on a T.S. Eliot poem, and they produced amazing pieces – probably the best they’ve ever done. Give people the chance, and then push them hard, and they’ll jump further and faster than they ever thought possible.

And then I had a phone call. I’m about to launch into a bit of a rant, now, about CRB checks. A few years ago, when it turned out that bad people were working with children and vulnerable adults, CRB checks were brought in – these are checks run on police and similar records to make sure that anyone working with children or vulnerable people are ok. A good thing, obviously; except that the whole system is about as badly organised as it’s possible to be. It should be a national system – seems obvious, doesn’t it? People move, and work in different areas. But it isn’t. I have a perfectly good CRB check fromBirmingham; I need a CRB check for the course that should be starting this afternoon, but it’s run by Gloucestershire, so I need another CRB check. That’s ok, we thought; I filled the form in, and it was sent off, and someone with a Gloucestershire check could be with me this week and next, and then the CRB should be through. I phoned all the people due to start the course. And then late on Friday I had a call saying that until I have my check, I can’t teach these people, even though I would be accompanied by someone who had a check. So – this afternoon’s session will be just for registration, and the rest of the sessions will be delayed by three weeks – during which time, some of the participants (who tend to be anxious or depressed) will get cold feet and change their minds about coming. It’s all stupid. It’s no longer about protecting vulnerable people, but about protecting authorities against potential litigation or bad reports if anything went wrong.

I could go on more about these checks – there is no expiry date on them, so different authorities decide that they are valid for one, or two, or three years, as the fancy takes them; the CRB certificate that comes through is a strange size, so it’s not easy to photocopy; and in fact, legally nobody has the right to ask to see it, because it’s a confidential document. The whole thing is cracked; everyone knows it is. A national replacement (called the ISA – hey! good idea! Let’s call it by an acronym that’s widely known as something else!) was due to come in, but hasn’t yet.

Right. That’s got that off my chest. My complaints will do no good at all, but perhaps if enough people spend enough time complaining perhaps someday, something will be done to make it all better.

And I’ve got plenty to do, so I shouldn’t be spending time ranting. I still love my work, and really, the frustrations I have are nothing, nothing compared to those other people face – but really, why can’t things work better?

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