Friday, July 29, 2011

Life on the Dole - A Part-Fantasy

Well, Geoff. How are you getting on on the old king cole?

Well, it's been six weeks now. I am dutifully applying for at least six jobs a fortnight as the Job Centre Plus demands, whether I want them or not. I don't want any of them but I don't want some more than I don't want others.

No fucker gets back to you. I say no fucker but actually one fucker did get back to me and I went for an interview yesterday.

The life was sucked out of the room. I was told the shit parts of the job which were many, I was told they had between 600 and 1,000 clients and I was thinking there's a fucking big difference between 600 and 1,000. I would be spending a lot of my time chasing up these clients to get their paperwork in on time then I would spend a lot of my time contacting clients to try to get them to take their paperwork back.

So I decided against this job and trotted along to the Job Centre Plus in the afternoon for my third fortnightly appointment.

"Since you haven't got any accountancy qualifications, what about this job?" said the woman seeing to me.

I said, that's in Orpington, a town an hour away by bus, an hour away by train, it would take me an hour and a half to get to work.

She said I was obliged to travel up to an hour and a half to work. Orpington was OK.

I said it was a 40 hour week for £7 an hour.

She said I was obliged to work a maximum of 40 hours for a minimum of the minimum wage, £5.93 per hour. She said the object was to get the jobseeker off jobseeker's allowance and into a job. She said if I'm low-paid I may be able to get other benefits.

I said you're only giving me £68 per week for 26 weeks. I've paid tax and national insurance for the past 29 years. I said I'm doing this so I get my full pension.

She said have you checked how much pension you'll be getting? Go onto the internet, type in "Google" and type in "pension forecast".

I said can you write that down because I don't think I'll be able to remember that. Do I have to turn on the computer first?

She said yes, maybe you could go on an IT course. A lot of our older customers have trouble with computers, how to turn them on, how to turn them off, etc.

I said that would be good because though I've got a computer at home I haven't got any qualifications in using a computer and a course showing me how to use a computer would be very useful especially since I bought it seven years ago and still haven't worked out how to turn the fucking thing on. And I have spent the past 29 years in accountancy blagging my way as I don't know the first thing about it so maybe I can go on a course to, I don't know, I don't know what's done nowadays with all these new fangled machines, did you know when I was made redundant some cunt nicked my favourite abacus?

"So what about we go for this job in Orpington?" she said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aimless (2)

I apologise if you were reading this blog a couple of years ago when a lot of the next few sections of the story were told. But this is the new, improved version!

Also, I am putting my podcasts on a new blog, latest one here.

Anyway, enough of that. The story continues...

My mum and dad met at the Embassy Court in Welling. This was the local place to see and dance to the bands of the day. This was my dad’s music, The Ted Heath Orchestra, big band shit like that. My mum was a big Sinatra fan.

My dad and his friend would stand at the front, close to the band, their necks jerking back and forth like pigeons’ necks, in time to the music. The equivalent of our later headbanging except there were plenty of women around in the dance halls of the day to admire their smart head moves and smarter Tony Curtis haircuts.

My dad was still doing National Service, in the Air Force, when my mum and dad got married. They lived for five years in my dad's parents' home. No room to swing a cat but it was the only way they could save up enough money to get a deposit on a house. In the end, my dad was lent most of the deposit by a man whose gardening he did. They were on the housing ladder and moved to Welling.

When she was pregnant with me, my mum worked at the Atomic Energy. Her best friend at the Atomic was carrying at the same time. A girl. We were the children of the future.

I was born in the cold December of 1961. A Wednesday's woeful child, full of tears.

I've still got the mark where they put the needle in. Antibiotics straight into my chubby little leg.

The first thing I can recall is riding my tricycle, legs pumping away like manic sausages, heading along the pavement to greet my dad as he came home from work, a packet of Murraymints for me in his jacket pocket.

I don't remember our dog. Dino was named after the Flintstones' pet dinosaur and his favourite meal of the day was a packet of my mum's cigarettes. The cigarettes were essentials. The dog wasn’t. The dog had to go.

Dino went to a good home and I was allowed my own space. I soon learned to play alone, happy in the company of Baby and Daddy Mugger, my two pandas. My mum often brings up Baby Mugger, even today. Baby Mugger was the child I never had.

My mum and dad were very close to their respective sisters and parents so there was quite a bit of visiting. I didn't enjoy the company of people outside my immediate family. They were friendly and they gave me nice things to eat and drink but I would rather have been home with Baby and Daddy Mugger and my toy cars. I loved the shapes and colours and feel of the cars and they would tootle along at a nice slow pace under my gentle guidance. I had no truck with those boys who hurtled their cars along as if they were machines of destruction. Those crashing, smashing little bastards were all around but not destroying my toys. Not yet.

When I was four my dad got a job as an engraver on the south coast and we upped sticks for Christchurch.

I loved Christchurch. My dad went to work and I had nobody but my mum for company. We'd go out for walks to the shops, get the bus to the seaside. My white body went brown in the sun and I felt more comfortable exposing the upper half of my body than I have since. I had a Batman outfit in which I ran down Bournemouth High Street, oblivious to the crowds.

My dad loved it there, too. He enjoyed the job and was settled in the house and town.
But my mum hated it. She wasn't making friends. She missed her parents and sisters. As entertaining as I was, I was not adult company. I wasn't due to go to school for over a year so there were no young mothers for my mum to chat to. She was lonely.

Two incidents stick out in my mind from then. I was scared shitless by the steam and whistle of a steam train going under a bridge we were standing on. And I was scared shitless when I was left alone in the house with my cousin one day. She got it into her head that there was an intruder in the house. Silly girl.

Despite those couple of frights I remember it as year of comfort and security. With my mum I was safe, happy playing by myself in the living room, listening to the sounds of food being prepared, rooms being vacuumed and the quiet druggy sound of the radio.

I had no friends and I couldn't have been happier. But my mum was going mad with loneliness. So we moved back home.

We weren't able to get our own place straight away. We spent the next several months at my dad's parents' council house. Yes, back there again for my parents. Even more crowded now and not good for anybody's nerves, especially since my parents had now had a taste of independence.

I went to the chip shop on a Saturday with my dad, watched the wrestling and checked the pools with my grandad. But my happy days with my mum, just the two of us, were gone. I remember being ill most of the time, lying in bed, afraid of the wallpaper.

Shapes moved. They became three-dimensional. They throbbed, heaved, backwards and forwards, side to side, span and spiralled.

I started school, a tiny school around the corner. I immediately contracted measles.

The wallpaper had a field day and the bastard measles perforated my eardrum. As my mum and dad argued, my grandparents argued, the one unifying force was the sick, weak child in the box bedroom. Come on, Dad. Hurry up and get a deposit on that dream house!

Monday, July 18, 2011


As part of an all-out assault on your patience I have decided to produce some podcasts perfectly unsuitable for BBC Radio. I was going to do videos but couldn't bear to look at myself. It's bad enough having to listen to my own voice!

Don't worry, I haven't given up on the memoirs. The next installment will be along soon. Anyway, turn the lights down low, close your eyes and prepare for the sexiest voice on the internet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Aimless (1)

My mum was born in 1931, in Cornwall. My grandad had his own coffin-making business. My nan was a housewife.

My grandad had been in the Great War. He’d been gassed in the trenches. He never talked about it.

My mum had an older brother and two younger sisters. Her brother used to catch rabbits and keep ferrets on his person, under his clothes. All four children were given 'opening' medicine by my nan. They’d get caught short in the fields and have to use dock leaves to wipe their arses.

My nan didn't think much of life. Her most common saying was ‘Life is hell on earth'. As her family were always pretty well-off in the scheme of things, there must have been a depressive streak running through her. She was certainly not one to think of the deprivations of others less fortunate living lives that could truly be called 'hell'.

During the Second World War, my grandad joined the army but was discharged quite quickly. They didn't want old'uns like him. He moved to Welling in south-east London where he lodged and worked locally as a clerk of works.

My mum, meanwhile, was living the idyllic Cornish life, far away from the action. I have an image of my mum running on Marazion beach as a German bomber flies overhead. Jerry looks down and waves.

My dad was born in Bexley in 1932. Born in the same council house he grew up in, the one his mum eventually died in. My dad’s dad was a labourer for the council. He could have been a footballer. Arsenal wanted him but he chose the security of a steady council job.

My dad used to say my grandad was as fast as a whippet and, being small, would run with the ball between big centre halves’ legs. Centre halves were giants back then.

My dad’s mum, like my mum’s, was a housewife. She was more cheerful than my mum’s mum.

My dad’s childhood was idyllic, too. He loved the countryside. A teacher once addressed him in front of the class and said he knew that all my dad wanted was to be in a field, alone, miles from anyone and anywhere.

My dad was evacuated to Derbyshire during the war. Bexley was close enough to London to be bombed. My dad loved Derbyshire. I never knew a place with beautiful countryside that my dad went to that he didn’t love, that he didn’t want to move to.

The war ended and my mum’s dad sold his coffin-making business in Cornwall and bought the house he was staying in, in Welling. The family moved from Cornwall for good. My grandparents knew there was nothing in Cornwall for young women. My mum would have had to marry a farmer, muck out for the rest of her life. The girls wanted more than that. They wanted work, glamour, lights and life. Life, not the slow death of the countryside. Not the sort of place my dad dreamt of.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Preface to 'Aimless'

You know what? I've done over 16,000 words now but I'm missing getting a response from you lot. Writing is a lonely business when you're just writing for yourself. I like to communicate. Oh, how I miss work and its cut and thrust. How I wish I were there now, stressed up to the eyeballs, listening to bullshit.

So I'm going to serialise my life story on here. Right from the very beginning. I hope you'll have the patience to see it through and not desert me as the going gets tough. When I've finished I'll probably self-publish it, something to show the nurse in the old people's home. She or he will say, 'Geoff. At least nobody can say you didn't live a life. Of sorts. No, really, it's very interesting. Honest, it is.'

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Life Story - Excerpt

MJ kindly requested an excerpt from my ongoing autobiography which I am currently doing instead of getting off my arse and finding a job like the benefit scrounger I am. So here is a bit I wrote yesterday, a taster for the best-seller it is sure to be, giving a glimpse of the tragedy to come which would divide our happy nuclear family forever, oh spare me the violins!

80s pop was beginning to break out of its gloomy shell and bright young things were getting more and more outlandishly dressed and fresh-faced. At about the same time in the NME there were articles on two new bands, ABC and Haircut 100. I thought ABC’s cycling outfits were ridiculous and the Haircuts had nice jumpers and sensibly high-slung guitars and were more becoming of the modern pop star. Michael was of the opposite opinion. So I chose Haircut 100 as my prediction to be the next big thing and he chose ABC. This was before either of us had heard a note of their music.

If we’d been kids, ten years younger and more boisterous, maybe we’d have had a fight to decide it like the Gary Glitter boy and the Marc Bolan boy. But we didn’t even have a bet as we knew pop music was to be enjoyed, not to get into arguments about. I have never judged someone by their musical tastes, maybe some light teasing about Cliff Richard or Wet Wet Wet, but as with your football team, I don’t mind who you support as long as you don’t force me to experience them.

So who won between the two bands? ABC were the more popular, I’d say, and made more money. But Martin Fry is still doing those chicken-in-a-basket 80s nostalgia tours whereas Nick Heyward is known as one of the greatest thinkers of his generation and is always being asked for quotes on a whole myriad of subjects.

I was totally bored with my course by now. I’d chosen the wrong subject for the second year in Econometrics with its particularly pointless equations. But I was still there, hanging on, not wanting a job. I needed something to tip me over the edge and make me give up.

It was the day I bought the 12 inch single of ABC’s Poison Arrow. I’d cycled to Cloud 9, all the way to heaven, and back and played it and added it to my growing collection of pretentious early 80s 12 inchers. It was a Saturday evening. I’d had my chips and was settled down in front of Match of the Day. My mum and sister were in bed and me and my dad were watching the football, him shouting out the usual ‘It’s “one-all”, not “one-one!”’ at the blasphemous commentators and ‘Don’t tickle it, it won’t laugh!’ at the hapless “fanny” players. My dad was quite sober that night. A usual night would involve me leaving him downstairs at 11 p.m. so he could eat his one meal of the day in peace, his boiled hearts or kidneys or other muck straight out of the saucepan he’d cooked them in. I’d wake up a couple of hours later to the sound of the television’s high pitched tone, I’d come downstairs, see the red dot in the middle of the screen and turn off the TV. He’d be slumped in his armchair, mouth open, snoring like a good’un and I’d shake him awake with difficulty and coax him to go to bed. Once I came downstairs after being woken up by the TV and found him drowsily pissing into the kitchen sink. When I told him he was disgusting he said his dad used to regularly spit in the sink and spitting in the sink was much more unhygienic than pissing in the sink. I begged to differ but I wasn’t going to make a scene.

His pissing wasn’t confined to the toilet and the sink, however. Once he had a slash out of the bedroom window and woke my mum up. I don’t know if he told her that his dad used to spit out of the bedroom window and pissing out of it was more hygienic, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

So, there we were, father and son watching the football, a happy picture of family male bonding. And the phone rang. He got up so quickly I guessed he had been expecting the call. And he was sober. I heard the mufflings of a short conversation coming from the hallway and he came back in and told me he had to go out.