Tuesday, December 21, 2004

November 24 (Wednesday): The News. This morning I have to be up for 7AM and being that today it is not out of choice, it is a drag.

Today is Job Centre day and the first time I ever sign on. This is living. I shudder at the thought of seeing anyone I recognise in the job centre. And I find myself running late as I fill in job forms right up to 9AM, when I am supposed to be dropping my car off at Twin Peaks garage for its MOT and service today.

I’m already running late when I leave home and Ben texts me asking if I want to go and see Millwall reserves and Col U reserves this afternoon. Things suddenly begin to look superfine.

I drop the car off at the garage, almost suspicious that I can see/hear them giggling at me behind the glass. I walk into town and head to the library where I intend to settle and study until my appointment at the Job Centre at 11PM.

The early morning library experience turns out to be an eye opening, moral dropping vision. Oh god, this is weekday daytime Colchester again and it’s not made of the stuff of dreams. I browse the shelves for the Raymond Chandler letters/bio book and I find it almost immediately, so the experience starts off well but then as I take a seat and attempt to dig into study it occurs to me that I am surround by strange people with nothing better to do. And I am turning into one of them! Within in minutes of arriving, I become paranoid that staff are wondering “who the fuck is he?” and are looking to throw me out. And I realise this little persecution complex ridiculous but still, for some reason I feel the utter pressures of it. I look around at the people on the library PCs, typing with single fingers barely looking able to work the machines. These people are poor! I watch as one slowly (painfully) types out a CV until his allocated time slot runs out without having completed it and he faces the problem of not having a disk to save it on. And worse still, his significant other turns up to support him (as kind hearted as she obviously is/appears) and she is utterly dressed like trailer trash. These times are really eye opening experiences. I re-attempt to put head back down into my accountancy text books and trying to concentrate on tax, I do find myself ticking off some questions I would be confident in attempting but this is really just scratching the surface. I had hoped to be able to sit down and properly attempt Qs here but too many distractions surrounding me work to do otherwise. And this is only expanded when some unemployed dad is to be seen dragging his apparent son into the library where he attempts to teach him who knows what! Eventually, I throw the towel in on conventional study, falling back into my writing, writing journal entry notes. Today my study ends here at Audit 8%, Tax at 4% and overall 6%.

Not before time comes my appointment with the Job Centre. I check my phone and while I was in the library, the garage phoned, which can only be trouble. I call up the Twin Peaks garage and they can’t find the wheel nut/bolt for my hubcaps. Don’t need to be a genius to guess where I have housed that, with the spare tyre maybe? I shudder at how much extra this little hic-cup will cost when they eventually fleece me like bandits.

The Job Centre interview turns out to be a real experience. Compared to these glue heads battling for their claims, I am a distinct rookie. And the place is so busy, so fucking much for the country running at full employment. I get herded around from sofa to sofa and suspect I get marked as a soft touch by staff, a member of the public that will not give them any trouble in what is probably the most heavily security staffed office I have ever seen in my life. Now I see where the Nazi SS comparisons come from. I sit patiently as much appointment time passes and goes out of the window (so much for punctuality). I look around at fellow inmates and everyone has loser imprinted/stamped on their existence. One guy in a bad shape asks me to tell the SS that if they call his name, will I “let me know that I have gone for my medication”. What’s that methadone? I have to remind the man that he actually to let me know what his name is if I’m to listen out for it (yeah right).

Finally, I get called out and my chance to scream “gimme gimme gimme” one-to-one, face-to-face. I get the impression the bloke is used to dealing with thickos in the manner than he begins condescending me. I play along, wondering whether I should fart and dribble for his benefit. We go through the motions and I just want to be done and gone, just let me know where I’m getting my money from and how much it is. I have £900 of direct debits going out a month, how will the £50 benefit a week cover that? “You’re the accountant” he responds. No, this doesn’t actually happen. I’m good guy, telling him what my skills and vocation are and just what I am doing in order to get a new job. I have my 13 week probation set meaning I will be able to claim the doll without query until mid February, at which point I’ll be sent to a workhouse I believe. I tell him that I am currently revising and sitting exams (basically to better myself) and he promptly tells me to “shhhhh”, looks around and says “don’t mention that, I just didn’t hear that all right”. What? Seems that would complicate things slightly, perhaps to the point he/we would have to fill in another form. We briefly look vacantly on his computer screen and I watch as he fills in details as if he can’t/couldn’t and I have to correct his errors for him. I see him grimacing and then some woman asks him if he’d had anything to eat and he goes “no, I’ve got some Lucozade”. I clock at this point he is probably diabetic, so I drop into conversation that my old man is also and I am expected to be so sooner or later and it helps things slightly. I get through the interview with my life, without developing a habit for something unsavoury. What a shitty job.

Glad to be done, with the time now at midday (was I really in there an hour?) and get a slice of pizza pie for lunch and head back (walking) home, taking the route that avoids walking past my old office (coward!).

As I walk home, Ben texts telling me that he will be around at 1.30 and that Millwall Reserves have a shit hot team out today (Harris and Morris) and that we will probably thump them. Maybe.

I get in at around 12.30, just in time to see today’s Cheers and MSN for a bit with Sara whilst also trying to pull the flat together for Ben’s arrival. As per Ben, he turns up slightly early and expresses disbelief at my current circumstances/recent actions. I show him my dismissal letter and he goes “that’s a bit cold”. I shrug, I’ve learned the difference between business and personal, whilst riding a real grey line/area.

We head out for the 2PM kick off and get a team sheet for the game. Millwall have an amazing reserve team out today: Harris, Morris, Serioux, Dunne, Robinson, McCammon, Sweeney and Cogan (but surprisingly no Marshall in goal). And Curtis Weston, the youngest player to ever appear in an FA Cup final, can only make the bench for the reserves! Along with Kevin Braniff and Charley Hearn, two players with healthy first team experience themselves. As soon as we step into the Layer Road stadium (“what? You don’t have to pay for admission?”) the first thing I see is Adrian Serioux and his silly hair and quickly I become very exciting and start to wonder “is unemployment so bad after all?”. This especially after I had texted Stevo to see if he could skive off the afternoon to come and see the match.

Against Ben’s prediction, Millwall reserves do not thrash Colchester reserves in what turns out to be a semi drab match with the players obviously running on autopilot. It’s funny to watch Harris and McCammon attempting to swap shirts at kick off as Bomber (Super Neil Harris) has by mistake been given the number ten shirt instead of the number nine, which by rights is his property at Millwall. The referee however does not allow this. For putting out such an accomplished team (on paper) Millwall really do labour and frustrations do show as the players looking to perform appear to be hindered by those just going through the motions. The stand out player is the overly physical Mark McCammon (remember him from the Moses Ashkodi butter knife incident at the beginning of the year) who rears into various Col U players too many times before getting ratty with his own teammate Neil Harris. The inevitable Millwall goal comes from a long range effort from Alan Dunne. In the few times I have seen him play this year, Dunne has looked fantastic, a genuine battler fitting the Millwall mould to good results. Against the run of play though, heading towards half time, Colchester came back with two goals and found themselves leading 2-1 at halftime. The second half happens and Millwall put on more pressure than the first and score an equaliser when a blatantly offside Neil Harris gets put through for a routine slot away. By this time, Colchester’s roaming own hobo Hunter S. Thompson-eqse figure has turned up and is shouting his head off (rightly/correctly) at the lethargic linesman. But then, what the fuck do I care, the decisions are going my team’s way. And the same happens again as Harris gets away again, looking blatantly offside and scoring the winner in the process with practically the last kick of the game. So it ends Colchester reserves 2 Millwall reserves 3 and the best way to spend this Wednesday afternoon.

This represents the first time that I have actually seen Ben since the infamous losing night where I started on some bozo. Chris originally thought that Ben and I would never speak again but we’re cool. He does however add that that night it looked like that guy was actually going to kill me! He advises me and gives me pointers as to handle my drink in future, in my opinion the only way I can do this is to abstain entirely. We have the best conversation about things during the game, discussing our current predicaments and getting onto the pleasant subject of cancer. It sounds as if our conversation should have been morose but actually it’s full of substance and devoid of triviality.

After the game, I check on my car. At just before 4PM, it is still not finished. Bad vibes. Eventually around 4.30 the garage telephones me and my car is ready. The car has flown through its MOT easily but the service has taken up time and getting the smashed drivers wing mirror repaired (remember that evening?) means that I am, some fucking how, looking at a £193 bill. What on earth have they actually done to justify this bill? Not for the first time today, I shudder.

I walk over to the garage, a nice brisk thirty minute walk around/through the Oxford area of Colchester, the richest and most desirable/attractive part of Colchester. The walk does me good, allows me to prepare for the heartattack of a £193 bill that awaits me. When I get the invoice, I look it over and it breaks down at: MOT £40, parts £40 and labour £80 (the remainder being VAT). I question the £80 labour but bear in mind that my hourly rate was £30 and a service is probably likely to spill into more than two hours work. Still, I feel thoroughly fleeced and feel myself slipping further into debt by the minute. The guy who serves me (fleeces me) comes over as a real grease monkey dope, almost appearing to be fighting back a smirk. For what it’s worth, I plead poverty and tell him that I have just lost my job but this bill is long set in stone. That’ll fucking pay me to listen to my parents again when they suggest/advice that I get a full service for my car at a time where/when it is actually hopscotch.

From there I proceed to go over to Asda where I purchase some Chinese chicken wings for the microwave and proceed to gut the entire box/pack as I comfort eat my way through the evening.

It’s a low Wednesday and I fall asleep early (unsurprisingly) annoyingly causing me to miss a show about Arthur Miller. Mixed fortunes on this day.

np: Stone Temple Pilots - Sin


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