Sunday, 25 October 2009


I've started a new blog; The Pole Affair II.

You can click through to it from my profile. In the wake of the current court case, I'm going to leave the original offline for a while.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Job Centre

After four months of unemployment, I go to sign on for the last time. The woman who calls me to her desk is new and full of bright, apologetic smiles that try to convey in the brief five-minute time slot her empathy and that I am a person in this system designed to shame me back to work. I let her go through the motions of checking my job search record book and asking about my Jobseekers' Agreement but when she pauses, I tell her I have been offered and have accepted a job. Her enthusiasm is embarrassing as she tells me what wonderful news that is and I squirm, but it's when she asks me if I'm looking forward to it that I have to fight back the tears because there's no place here for me to confess my terror of returning to work, or to admit how useless I feel and how worried I am that I will not cope. That's what unemployment and an infantilising system does for you. She goes off to ask a colleague about some aspect of the process that follows my news and I am left in the busy job centre, staring at the ceiling, trying to compose myself. I get a picture of myself and how ridiculous I must look. People rush about, in and out, processing the jobless, trying to remain positive in the face of their inertia, ineptitude and, as in my case, hopelessness. I've played the game and the system has supported me in that. I'm grateful - grateful for the benefits and grateful I won't have to go there again. But I still leave with a heavy heart.


After two days of steel skies so heavy with relentless rain, I awake to sunshine. At first, I can't quite believe it or shake off the dark, compressed mood that settled, bedded in and held my head down. Driving under the bright blue sky, past a carnival of autumn foliage, I still can't bring myself to feel anything but crushing sadness and disappointment at the path life has taken. Eventually, the hot sun fills the car and I open the windows, am forced to breathe in fresh air laced with sunshine and hope in the midst of this kaleidoscope of decay. My chest expands and lets in air and light. I sing along to the music on the radio and cry painful tears, tears of loss and tears of fear. And when I arrive, park, and step out of the car I realise, for the first time in many days, that I am aware of the world around me. My skin registers the warm sun, my lungs register the fresh air, the breeze caresses and I feel pleasure, my stiff muscles ask to be stretched and smile at the long strides I take. The enervating greyness gone, sunshine lifts me and I understand why the birds sing.