Monthly Archives: November 2011

In which I found work and lost it again

I have recently experienced a spell of employment, which is now over. I have also run out of money.

I  am not going to blog about the work, mainly because I am not an idiot and the agency made me sign a thing saying I wouldn’t. All I really want to say is that I had thought my standards were quite low, but it turns out my tolerance for tedious routine work is not as high as I had thought (or as it used to be). My mum was delighted I had a job, any job, and, exasperatingly wanted me to be happy to experience ‘the dignity of work’. Conversely, I found it useful, politically, to experience first-hand the indignity of precarious, poorly paid, repetitive process work. The mechanisms of control, close monitoring, scrutiny, divide and rule tactics, the humiliating rituals, the dismal surroundings of the ‘technology park’, the terrible coffee. Not to mention the casual routine sexism (and other forms of hate) of the workplace.

The experience, like many I have had since giving up my job and moving to Liverpool, has forced me to face up to my privilege.  I can’t honestly describe myself as poor. I have some of what might be called social and cultural capital, more than enough material possessions and friends and parents who would not let me starve. I am able to come away feeling confidently ‘I’m too good for this work’ and hope, eventually, I will find something less shit. Some of my colleagues were more upset and worried than me about their return to unemployment, and did not deserve to be kicked out, and I feel outraged, and guilty about this unfairness.

But I have also been forced to realise the limits of my privilege, as I have actually run out of money. It’s not really surprising, but the rational knowledge that it would happen soon has not prepared me for the feeling. I feel guilt, for being so spoiled, but also know that many of the ways of making my life more enjoyable cost money.

So, back to the applications, back (more assertively this time) to the dole office.

In the meantime, I wrote two poems about the experience.

The Sack (For Jack)

End of contract
Don’t come back
There it is in black and white
there it is there’s no use fighting it
Some of the others were hit with grief
I just feel a big relief.

Injustice 

The naughty kids were taken in
and told the bad news one by one,
but when she came for Liam
we all wondered ‘what’s he done?’

When we were chatting about cake,
it was Liam who got told off;
the others were not picked on,
but then, we’re not from Toxteth.

I know that when we’re unemployed
I’ll stay in bed ’til three,
but in his orange swimming kit,
he’ll swim in Wavertree.

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Two weeks of exploring in Liverpool

I’ve taken a bit of time over the last couple of weeks to do a bit of exploring – tourism, even – as half term means some visitors from down south, and this
has helped me to feel a refreshed sense of Liverpool. I’ve taken some bracing walks around the docks, and F and I even went on the big wheel (the Liverpool Eye?), which has armed me with some hyperbolic facts about the city.

Some other things I’ve done:

Looked in awe around the Anglican cathedral, and walked round its peaceful gardens.  Taken in some sculpture at the Tate’s excellent exhibition, which sets
familiar and more unusual pieces together in a way that really made me think about the artistic languages that have formed the work, which are often a bit baffling seen alone, the Mike Figgis films of other viewers’ responses creating a sense of conversation. Listened to jazz at Mello Mello –  a brilliant fun night watching some people who clearly love music just getting stuck in. Visited the gents in the Philharmonic (come on, you have to once…) And, bravely, visited
the World Museum during half term. Human-centric as I am, I was only really interested in the cultures exhibits on the 3rdfloor – costumes, gold-weights, and a genuine interrogation of where they come from and why. I’m not really allowed to go shopping at the moment but I did help M find a hat for Halloween and in return, he introduced me to the marvels that are St. John’s market and Grand Central. I bloody love markets, high and low end, and it excites me to know where to go to buy cheap haberdashery supplies, loose fruit and nuts by weight, broken biscuits, as well as dressing-up box vintage (ok, I cracked and bought a dress. But it was only £1). In contrast, F and I cooed over posh foods in the Harvey Nicks store and contemporary crafts – both the skill and the creative imaginations behind it – at the Bluecoat Display Centre and the little craft shops (esp Landbaby) in its courtyard.

           

Dr E and I went to the Wirral (West Kirby) for a walk on the beach, to blow away some cobwebs and appreciate being so near such natural beauty.

I’ve even been to Manchester to watch a MaD theatre company production, a devised piece about youth theatre groups and fame, called ‘The Demise and Rise of Bunny Lamar’ and got involved in promoting Romeo Echo Delta, a
sound art project, part of the AND Festival, which hijacked the airwaves of BBC Merseyside to imagine how an alien invasion of Liverpool would sound through today’s fast-moving media. An interesting idea and well-executed dramatic piece, I couldn’t help feeling it was a little bit too…knowing. I suppose you can’t really build up a genuine popular buzz in such a short time. The MaD production, on the other hand, may not have been high art, but was an exuberant, uplifting night out.

And have I eaten while I’ve been exploring? I’ve wolfed down the Shipping Forecast’s very good hippy burger; slurped up Udon noodles in Tokyou, a bowl of cheap, simple goodness, and at Host, where there was more depth of flavour, silkier noodles and better vegetables; gloried in the Salt House Tapas lunch menu (oh, that bread); and eaten decent, tasty Chinese at Yuet Ben. (I know it’s pretty a basic food porn essential but I’m still too embarrassed to take photos in restaurants most of the time). I’ve also sampled some good and interesting beers – all part of the learning process.