November 7 1998
401B Concrete Shacks
CARPOOL C68 4VZ
You were right. My refusal to engage in any more of the Government’s New Deal sorties to extract ragwort from the verges Up North – has resulted in sanctions. I have been threatened with the termination of my Job Seeker’s Allowance unless I sign up forthwith! I spent days cogitating over this problem and, having done quite some amount of research in the Wortlewell public library, I think I may have found an answer. It turns out that one can be legitimately engaged in ‘work’ as a Wortlewell town councillor – and be in receipt of the allowance paid for performing this service – without said funds being snatched back by the Government! So, Auntie, it has only required me to discover how I might be co-opted into the position occupied by such a person . . .
Last night, arrayed in an appropriately natty, navy blue suit and (polished) black shoes, I mounted the steps of the town hall to engage in a public consultation concerning the town plan. I must say Auntie, as one who has always avoided gatherings of the local Establishment with the maximum possible zeal, I felt a distinct degree of nervousness as I entered a very large room. Would I be recognized, I wondered, as that lout attired in Doc Martin boots (and a shaved head style of haircut) who frequents the tube station entrance with copies of the Anarchist Weekly for sale? There were any number of tables arranged around the room – each of which was labelled with headings such as ‘Employment,’ ‘Health,’ ‘Transport’ et cetera and the idea seemed to be that one approached with a view to making a comment.
Behind desk number one – subject ‘Employment’ – was a rather embosomed lady whom I have often encountered in the post office queue. I don’t know whether she has actually seen me having my benefit voucher book stamped at the counter but, in any event, she seemed more than ready to attend to my view on the recent trend to centralize the job centres. I could actually feel myself getting quite hot under the collar on this subject Auntie – as there are now far fewer of these establishments and they therefore tend to be at least a bus trip away for any unfortunate individual who is required to attend them. My suggestion was that a local service be introduced at The Government’s earliest convenience! In my considered opinion, it is counter-productive to apply the maximum quantity of monitoring, supervision, and control to the struggling benefit recipient – and it surely can’t be actually illegal to advertize local jobs locally!
I thankfully had time to calm down after this outburst (on a heart-felt subject) before I approached the table concerning itself with ‘Health and Lifestyle.’ A middle-aged male had been detailed to attend to public concerns here and he did, reluctantly it seemed to me, bend an ear in my direction. I said, Auntie – before I actually had time to reflect on the wisdom of such a remark – that, in my opinion, the people gathered in the room were hardly likely to form a representative sample of the population, for the probability of the indigent unemployed being willing to run the gauntlet of the town hall steps was virtually nil! And it further popped out of my mouth that such ‘members’ of the community would be very likely to see this venue as the very bastion of the local Establishment.
‘Oh really?’ drawled this male behind the desk. ‘Do you really think that?’
‘I do,’ I asserted. ‘In fact,’ (I lied) up to very recently I was unemployed myself. So I feel like that.’ To his credit, Auntie, he did actually get out a ‘Comments’ card at this point and write down my further expatiations – to the effect that consultations should also be held near schools, supermarkets, libraries, doctor’s surgeries et cetera – if there was to be any realistic hope of a public consultation actually being just that. And, do you know, he looked straight at me and said that he felt the community needed people like me. ‘Would I be prepared to get involved?’ So, you see Auntie, maybe this effort on my part will pay off and – not only may I eventually receive a small remuneration – I could redeem myself both in your eyes and my own.
Back at Concrete Shacks I must say that conditions are presently quite grim. It is very cold, for one thing, as I rarely have even 50p available for the meter. And, instead of being able to watch TV, I have spent several days watching (apparently) the same two house flies flying round and round. I must be feeling quite lonely as, last night, when I inadvertently seemed to smother one under my lumber jacket – I heard a Bzzzz which did not later resume – I became quite frantic. I actually ransacked my armchair looking for the corpse and, although I could not find it, I spent quite some minutes wondering how its partner would survive without it and, indeed, without love. Do house flies feel love do you think, Auntie?