Rise of the unemployed ghosts

For all my discomfort about not being able to guiltlessly relax while unemployed, always feeling like there’s something I could be doing, I still went to another daytime cinema screening today. 

Monday, mid-afternoon, didn’t expect to share the theatre with much more than a dozen.  But there was actually good few score of people there.

Perhaps I’m being oversensitive about it, but even painfully walking through the modern day gas chamber of a musak-piped shopping centre I felt like I could detect the other unemployed.  A less threatening brand of zombies; ghoulish, defeated, empty, why-me expressions indented on our faces. 

I was only detecting the male unemployed for some reason.  Sexist?  They just appeared more obvious somehow, unshackled by infants – as most females seemed to be.  Not that I actually qualified any. 

One chap, exiting the cinema as I entered, wore a smart-casual suit jacket, as if it injected him with some semblance of self-esteem. And it did make him look better; more respectable.  Our eyes briefly connected, a fleeting mutual suspicion exchanged, a shared embitterment. 

Are cinemas doing a better trade at the moment? 


Last Friday I took up the offer of a grand tour around Westminster’s corridors of political and media power from my much more successful older reporter sibling. 

It was my choice. I’d asked.  They weren’t ramming it down my throat.  But the difference between our statuses could hardly be more pronounced.  The buildings shined a lot, reeked of history and grandure, and was rightly quite pleased with itself.  All these people undeniably doing jolly important jobs for the good of the nation. 

And me.. erm, well, not.

An hour or so afterwards I was in sunny Camden seeking a ticket to the urban live music festival.  And failing.  As it was sold-out I spent some time up there anyway, observing the diverse pedestrian traffic from the open window of a bar.


A telling off from Miss Marple

I’d cycled slowly through the pedestrianised area of the business park, where lots of people cycle even though you’re not supposed to.  It’s a glorious morning, a quietly woozy Foo Fighters song plays in my ears while a handful of people mill about.  I’m happy to come to a complete halt to give way to pedestrians.  My cycle pace isn’t much quicker than walking, I’m not busting a bollock to get to the gym.

When I finally get there and prop my cycle against the last vacant stand, I notice a lady approaching the same stand with her cycle, and move out of the way so she can easily park her’s on the other side.  She says something to me I can’t make out through a louder Foo Fighters song.  I smile and nod, looking up from fixing my lock, thinking she’s commenting about the beautiful morning, or thanking me for moving out of the way.  Then I surrender to politeness and extract an earphone.

“Did you hear what I said?” she asks, in a well to do accent.

“No, I’m sorry,” I confess.

“I said if you’d used the road and not cycled through the pedestrian zone, you’d have got here just as quickly.  I was just behind you entering the business park and now look, we’ve arrived at the same time.”

“Oh right, you were telling me off.  Well, you must just be extremely clever,” I replied, clicking my cycle lock together.

 Then I walked on into the gym, hearing her prim voice yapping behind me, “no, I’m just obeying the rules!”

I appeared as if I didn’t care in the least, but in truth it wrankled with me for some time afterwards.  Speed wasn’t my intention.  It was just a more interesting cycle through there.  A nice morning for dawdling.  Admiring impressive looking, purposeful office workers.

While pondering the exchange further in the gym, I was reminded of Malcolm Tucker, the ferociously brilliant Director of Communications and pastiche of Alastair Campbell in the recent political film, In The Loop.  How would he have reacted?  

A booming, “Oh fuck off back to your knitting and your Daily Mail, Miss fucking Marple!”  Together with an aggressive bulbous-eyed glare in her face.

And how would she have reacted to that?  The idea of actually behaving like that in the real world briefly made me giggle.

Streetkids and loud northerners

We bought the game back to 4-2 and for a short time looked like pressing to reduce the defecit again.  But I had to leave soon in order to cycle back to the flat, shower, take a bus and then a tube to the coach station.  Playing the whole game would make catching the coach extremely tight.  We conceded a fifth and I left immediately, stripping off my kit and leaving it in a pile before throwing on a different pair of shorts and top and cycling off.

Some extremely ‘street’ kids, complete with hoods and chains, aged 14-16 got on the bus and sat behind me along the back seat.  They discussed the previous night’s antics.  One of them had been cautioned by the police again.

“I can’t believe I got my fifth warning, man.  I ain’t no criminal.”

“Yeah you are, a little bit,” his mate replied.

“Fuck you, I’m a nice guy,” he said, sounding sincere, like he believed it.

The conversation moved on and they discussed their girlfriends.

“Show me a picture on your phone, man.”

“No way, blad.”

“Come on, I showed you pictures of Chantele on my computer.”

“I aint got no naked ones though..”


“Ok, I’ll show you half of one.”  He presumably covered part of the screen as he showed his friend his mobile.  They breathe admiringly.

“Man, I am so nicking your phone when you aint looking.”

I make the coach with about three minutes to spare.

The house party I attend is so thickly populated with young people from northern England that it feels like I might be up there.  A group of two or three guys are particularly loud – almost as if competing in volume, uncaringly brash, and wantonly racist.  They do it for effect, to be funny and shocking.  It makes me uncomfortable and quietly angry but I say nothing.

The girls too seem to have little by way of volume control. Drunkenness becomes widespread after a time and some suffer worse than others.  The evening peters out surprisingly early with a number making up their beds in the lounge by 1am.  Roughly eight or nine of us stay overnight.  I shiver without any cover on an inflatable mattress, sleeping only sparingly through the night to the backdrop of various alcohol sweat, farting and snoring.

Before eight in the morning, one of the young, racist northerners returns to the flat after locking himself out and spending the night in his car.  He demands his girlfriend, a beautiful girl he doesn’t deserve, and the rest of their party of two or three leave immediately so he can play football for his pub team later on in the morning.

He’s probably not yet sober, and neither is she, yet she subserviently agrees and sets about packing up their gear with little protest.  There are only a couple of murmurs of discontent.  I crack open an eye and see her rolling and squeezing air from one of the mattresses.  Does she look sheepish, ashamed, embarrassed when she momentarily catches my eye?  Difficult to tell.

They take FOREVER to actually leave.  The blokes especially, fiddling with things, stomping loudly back and forth without much identifiable purpose, chattering and shouting loudly along the way, oblivious to the other dormant bodies in the room.

One tries to put the stereo back on, which is down by my feet.  I click it off immediately.  I can’t bear dithery people who take an age to leave anywhere, even in coffee shops; it makes me want to shake them.  I snap a little, “are you still fucking here?!”  My tone is ambiguous but I think it’s taken jokily.

One or two better hours of sleep are retrieved once they finally leave and I’m given a sleeping bag which had been originally intended for me.  A tall, big-set Irishman, who is part of the northern group and also has a single booming foghorn setting, displays a complete lack of any consideration as he wakes.  He chats to his girlfriend normally, which stirs everyone else.

They speak of their friends and how selfish the guy had been to demand his girlfriend drive him back up north to play football when they were both still over the limit. “They were both selfish,” a girl says of the two guys who had demanded they leave immediately.  I’m not sure how loudly it’s intended, but I sleepily emit, “they were both wankers”.  The following short silence suggests it was audible.