Saturday, 16 February 2013

Don't have to make trains run on time, just build a shiny station

may contain sarcasm

Dole-drums. Job centres of the world I have known are numbered three. Liverpool. Chorley. Portacabin in Blackburn. I remember when these people could afford paper clips and Post-It notes. Gov. won't even give 'em scraps to write on now. Mate of mine did his whole BTEC in Media Studies signing on. Gave the same three jobs as evidence he was looking for work every two weeks for two years. Not like that now. You must spend at least 4 hours a day actively seeking work. You must take at least 20 steps per week to secure a job. Looks like you've joined Job Seekers Anonymous.

Still, at least the seating is in one piece. Not long since, I made a lot of money working for a bank. I was there two months before I found a chair without a chunk out of the seat. Screws and bare metal waiting to skewer my hand at every shift. Evening shift. Bottom of the pile. Runts get the worst of it everywhere.

I feel less dignified here, but not so morally bankrupt. It's good to be reminded of the other side. See how bad things are really. See who's doing well out it, who's doing ill.

Laurie Lee once said you can never appreciate what it is to feel full if you don't, on occasion, go hungry. After all, what is hot without cold, large without small, night without day? In most things there is balance, yet walking the streets around here and you see how far the balance has shifted. Some weeks I have gone days at a stretch on but one meal a day. I was in solid shape not so long ago, but I've been three months trying to secure housing benefit to reinforce my finances and am still waiting, held in bureaucratic limbo like some Kafka character, nothing but requests for further information and then the trail goes cold. One letter in three months and that chasing a response to another letter that failed to appear.

It's a brick wall of indifference folks, and if I struggle, how do other people cope? It's a baffling place to find yourself in and it can get quite hopeless. 

A cash grab, a grand heist got pulled in this country not so long ago. The richest got even richer and the people who started it all received an enormous bailout and went back to what they were doing, only with the added bonus of no longer having to share any of the wealth. Lenders were left to the mercy of the Pay Day, 1000% interest per annum mob.

To find out what happened to the remainder of society, spend an hour in a Job Centre. The drawbridge is raised, the watchtowers armed and the peasants left to the mercy of this harshest of winters. Please remember to check all crops with your nearest guard before expiring. And remember to keep repeating to yourself: We're all in this together. We are all in this together. We are all in this together. [dies]

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