středa, března 25, 2009

(she’s sending emails to her mate and they follow the same format, twittering or emails perhaps but because there's no wifi access, she just writes them and saves them so she can send them all to her friend later)

6 june 7 am.


I guess by the time you are reading this I'll already be on my way and you'll probably still be at work, sneaking a few cheeky emails during break. Anyway, just thought I'd get in touch with you so you know what's going on. I know you asked me to do this a few weeks ago at that party you brought me to when I told you I was being sent off and I dunno if you were really serious or not but you seemed like you were so here I am, writing this email.

Not surprisingly, the skies are thick and grey this morning. I take a last look around the room, engage in the sheer filth of it, somewhat relieved at getting out of here but also very nervous about going off to Unemployment Island. You hear stories about it there, you can’t tell really what’s credible and what isn’t and since there’s never really any news coverage about it, but the one thing I’m excited about, well, two things actually, is that first of all, the weather is meant to be fucking spectacular. I mean, like sunny all the time, warm, like being on holiday.

The other thing I’m excited about is getting out of this shit hole. I’ve been here, what, a year and a half now? God, I can’t believe it’s been that long. But getting out of here, getting away from these assholes who do nothing but sit around getting high and watching television or trying to come up with new ways to steal food from the Tescos or finding the best food dumps in the city centre, is a blessing I’ve been waiting for for, like, forever.

So this is it. From here, bags packed, the bus is going to pick me up at 10 this morning and take me to the ferry or the liner or whatever the fuck it is, and then we’re off! I can’t wait. Just to get out of here, escape this miserable fucking weather.


Hey. Well, we’ve had a bit of a hold up. The bus got to me ok, it was fucking disgusting. Filthy - all the people in there seemed to smell although maybe it was just my imagination, my expectation, I’ve heard so much about it already.

Anyway, I got on the bus and it took us down to the harbour where we were all supposed to embark on whatever this vessel is that’s supposed to take us to the island like and wouldn’t you know the idiots fucked it all up. The bus pulled up and the driver made this little announcement about there was some mix up and the boat which was supposed to be here had only just left where it was arriving from so it was going to be a few hours of waiting. They let us off but the whole area is caged off. You can walk around on this asphalt car park which has nothing really but a bunch of buses, most of them empty, but on the perimeter of everything are these huge fucking chain link fences with razor wire at the top so if anyone was thinking about getting out instead of waiting, they were kind of fucked if you know what I mean.

People started complaining straight away, you know how people are. Fuck, they started going on about how they didn’t want to be here anyway and couldn’t these officials get anything right without fucking it all up and they didn’t want to stand or sit out in this fucking car park with nothing to do, nothing to eat. I mean there was nothing there, I’m not kidding. Not even a fucking hot dog stand or you know, selling jacket potatoes or whatever.

And as usual of course, it’s raining out. Just a little drizzle, just enough to make you wet, gradually like until you are damp and then you are soaking through, like water torture, quiet water torture when you start off with a few drops of water on you but it starts soaking into your skin and then your skin is saturated (is that even possible, I dunno, but that’s what it felt like) and then the water is just everywhere, everything’s fucking wet and miserable and these people are just sitting around complaining and you’d think jesus, why don’t they just sit in the fucking buses where it’s at least dry and I tried that myself even but then I realised, it stunk in there so bad, without the windows down and the bus moving so fresh air could get in the smell was just horrific. Like a combination of sulphur and I dunno, wet socks and a whore’s perfume. Something like that.

Anyway, they look like they’re getting ready to make some sort of announcement so I’d better move back over to where everyone is. I’ll let you know later what happened. Bye!

9 June

Holy shit, you wouldn’t believe the hassles we had since I last was able to write. The boat was delayed even longer than they expected and after they made the announcement, people started getting more pissed off. It started off with a little grumbling and then, I think people were sort of encouraged by other people grumbling, they started getting a little bolder and then before I knew it, the whole thing kicked off. People throwing punches at each other, kicking each other. I ran off as fast and as far as I could. I found this little empty guard house to hide behind. I watched from behind it. Those people were fucking mental. Rabid-like, you know? They weren’t frothing at the mouth or anything, but they were screaming and shouting and kicking and punching anything that was around them and just when I thought it would just turn into an all out brawl, a few of them sort of united. One guy smashed a few windows on the bus, oh the bus, that was it. Once the bus was established as the target instead of each other, they went crazy. They smashed out all the windows. Somebody or several people really, went inside and started ripping out seats, throwing them through the door because they didn’t really fit getting squeezed through the windows and soon enough, somebody lit the stuffing from the seat cushions on fire and then they jumped out with flames licking out of the broken windows and four or five of them got to one side, the side that didn’t have the flames licking out the windows, the side closest to me, and then they started pushing the fucking bus in some sort of rhythm, kind of like I imagine a bunch of slaves on a ship would row in unison, they were pushing in unison, yelling with loud deep voices, truly excited by their actions, by the possibilities and then soon enough, they got the bus rocking just the slightest bit and a few more people jumped in, pushing in rhythm on the side, one big shove then a step back and shoved until one of them started shouting at the others to move in unison and before you knew it, well, it took quite some time actually to get the rhythm established and then to get enough people pushing but finally they tipped that fucking bus right over on it’s side. And then they all jumped on top of it, even though there was still a fire inside, and they were like crazy men, celebrating.

And not too much longer than that, I mean, it was awhile because these guys still had sufficient time to get pissed off and organise themselves despite their rage into tipping the bus over, but soon enough anyway, a squad of burly guys in uniforms and helmets with shields, wielding billy clubs were driven up to the gates, unlocked them and rushed in, whacking away with their truncheons, their night sticks. A few of the guys fought back and got a few licks in but then the tear gas cannisters were set out and the uniformed guys had masks of course and none of the rioters did so eventually the rioters, between the tear gas and getting beaten down with the truncheons, were quelled. Once in a while one of them would emerge from the tear gas smoke coughing and holding broken arms or limping heavily, blood dripping down from their head or their mouths, spitting out teeth, whatever, subdued, basically, but the unformed guys beat on them some more before tying them by the wrists with some sort of plastic kind of bands that bound their wrists together, you know, the kind a six pack of beer is attached to sort of. Anyway, they load them up in this wagon and within like, minutes, the scene was quiet again. Those left were spitting blood or coughing terribly. And the wagon took off and that was it, they locked the gates back up and wow, I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen and yet just like that, it was all over.

The worst part was the announcement that followed, I mean they must have been feeling bold after quelling that riot, or they just didn’t give a shit, I dunno, but they told us then we were stuck there for the night because there weren’t enough of us left over to merit an entire boat so they’d squeeze on to the next one the following morning along with the scheduled boat load who were already due to be showing up. That sucked. Plus there wasn’t any food. And it’s not like they announced, oh, we’ll be passing out bottled water and like concert kits, you know, chocolates and crisps or even a fucking cheese and pickle sarnie on stale bread like, fucking nothing at all, not even an announcement. I guess the announcement was supposed to be like, subliminal, like fuck off.

Anyway, the battery is fading and I don’t know if I’ll need this later to like summon a pizza delivery or something so I’d better go. Ta.


Hi again. I can't believe they made us all sit out there in the open air all night long with no shelter, no tents, no sleeping bags, no food, nothing. I mean nothing. No a crumb. It's like we didn't even exist. It couldn't have been punishment, the only ones who weren't nicked by the uniformed blokes were us, the ones who didn't do anything to begin with so I really can't understand why they'd try to punish us by like, starving us and not giving us any place to sleep but the fucking asphalt floor of the marina car park.

Nothing much happened for a few hours after the riot and uniformed blokes came by and all that madness ended. Most of the people who were left had been hiding out behind something or other, a little shed or just far off in one of the corners. You could see people moving around once in a while. I had a good spot until one or two people decided they'd try the same thing.

Two girls came up about 15 minutes after all that shit went down. One of them was bleeding a little from the cut above her eye, she looked a little tarted up, the kind you'd rather expect to get involved in a riot if I'm honest. The other girl was this mousy looking girl afraid of her own shadow. I think she was probably that way before the riot even kicked off but even more so afterwards.

The bleeding one just nodded over to me as she stuck her head around the corner. I'd heard footsteps and was looking around frantically for something I could use as a weapon if the need arose but in the end all I had was my purse and the back pack I'd brought. That's what they'd told us anyway, we'd only be allowed two bags and they bags combined couldn't weigh more than 20 kilos. 20 kilos, can you believe that? How was I supposed to fit anything in under that weight limit? Christ, you know me, my bloody makeup weighs more than that and we aren't even considering clothes for god's sake.

Anyway, the bloody one sticks her head round the corner and sort of nods at me and I nod back and she comes around the corner and sort of whispers, you alright? And when I tell her yeah, I'm fine and sorta shrug like what in bloody hell just went down, she smiled and wiped the blood off with her shirt sleeve like it was all going to be alright now. My name's Emma, she says, but I dunno what I'm supposed to say so I just sort of nod. Kirsten, I say. You been involved in that riot, like?

Nah, she says. I got hit with something somebody threw. I was just standing there watching it. It all happened so fast I didn't really have time to get away. Besides, it was fascinating to watch. Until those coppers came in of course and ruined it all. So what do you reckon they're gonna do with us? You reckon they're going to bring in like one of those sandwich wagons or something so we can get something to bloody eat? I'm dying for something to drink.

I dunno. They know we're going to have to wait all night so I assume they're going to make some kind of arrangement...

They're not going to arrange anything, the mousy looking girl who suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere from around the corner, said.

What d'ya mean, Emma asked, pulling absently on her right hand and turning her head ever so slightly to the right like a dog does sometimes.

I had a friend who got stuck at one of these processing centres before. She says they don't give you anything because they don't plan on you getting stuck there over night. You're meant to be just getting on the boat and leaving but if the boat's not there, there's not going to be any food and there's not going to be any place to sleep.

You're kidding me, I says, right? How can they just bloody leave us here all night with no shelter, no food, no water? Fuck, that's inhuman, surely we've got some rights or something, something under like the Human Rights Act or whatever, don't we? Can we sue them?

The mousy girl shook her head and her hair fell in her eyes. She pushed her bands away carefully and tucked her hair behind her ears. Within seconds they'd fallen back into her face again.

I've got a feeling you don't have any rights any more. At least not til you get to the island or whatever. I think we're all just gonna be here on our own, she says.

So anyway, that's basically what happened. We all just kind of hung around. Emma had some fags and we took turns smoking them, passing them around each other to kill the time and kill the hunger. We didn't have anything to drink. Eventually we all just kinda curled up in a semi circle using our bags as pillows, our jackets as blankets and just kind of crashed out. It was really weird....


11 june

Woke up and the sun was out already for a change, no early clouds, no threats of rain. I feel like shit. Like I'm hungover without drinking anything. I feel filthy and it sucks. There's no place to clean up, shower, nothing. We had to piss and shit in the car park, right out in the open. Fortunately there aren't too many people walking around near this place. They kind of avoid it like the plague. Besides, with all this razorwire fencing, nobody's getting in without permission so there's no reason for anyone to come here. Unless of course, it would be to gawk at us like zoo animals or circus freaks. But frankly, we've all decided no one really knows we're here anyway. You think I'm already on the boat, for example, I'm sure of it. After all that's what they told us was the itinerary.

So even though someone knows we're here, because the announcement over the loud speakers around 9 at night confirmed that a boat would indeed be arriving in the morning as well as another bus load or two of people and again reminding we were going be a little crowded on the boat. Fucking idiots. How can they have fucked this up so bad already?

Anyway, we're all fucking starving and I'm starting to get more pissed off the more I think about it all over again now that I'm starting to wake up a little, even though I don't have any fucking coffee to help. Nothing. Not any food. We shared a few cigarettes, Emma, me and the Mousy Girl, just hanging around feeling disgusting and waiting for something to happen.

Worse still, I'm feeling bloated. It's coming again, I can feel it. And I've got fuck all to use, nothing to stop the flow once it starts, shit, I can't believe I was so stupid, didn't plan ahead at all. I went through my purse, I've got like one fucking tampax. Is there going to be some on the boat? Fuck, I hope so, I don't know what I'll do otherwise. Shove newspapers in my panties? Fuck! God, I don't know what pisses me off more right now, only just realising I'm unprepared for this or the fact that they've kept us out here all night with no fucking food or drink or the fact that the fucking boat hasn't gotten here yet.

Anyway, I've got to conserve the batteries again. I hope to be able to send these missives once I've got wifi access again, on the boat or the island or whatever, not sure. But if something happens, I'll add some more. Until then, we're just sitting around here smoking and waiting.

11 june

You wouldn't believe it but the buses and the boat arrived almost simultaneously! I mean one minute we're just sitting there, me and Emma and Mousy Girl, trying to keep out of sight of everyone and waiting for something, anything to happen - a few people were wandering around, you know, the ones who hadn't been hauled in by the uniformed men or hadn't been involved in the riot and had just been trying to keep out of sight and out of trouble like us, they started wandering around. One guy, a hippy-looking sort of young guy came out and started calling out to no one in particular like, is anyone around here? Hellooo? Is there anyone around? Anyone have any food? Any water?

We ignored him of course. He obviously didn't have any food or water so he wasn't much use to us. So we kept hidden back behind the shed and it's funny because in a way you'd think we'd have been easy to suss out, people hiding behind something but maybe it's just that all the shit that went down at the riot all of the sudden made people a little leery and they started wondering about what might be waiting for them out behind the shed and decided fuck it, if someone was back there, there must be a reason and maybe they shouldn't be fucked with.

But then whilst the youngish hippy guy was wandering around, cupping his hands and shouting futily, the first bus pulled up to the gates, a few uniformed people got out (apparently now they new to supervise us all, have armed keepers to keep us in line so to speak,) they opened the gate and the bus pulled up. That's when we thought it might be ok to come out. They drove right past the hippy guy towards the front docks and stopped. Then a few seconds later another bus showed up and then another.

Then all the sudden Mousy Girl starts getting all excited, the boat! she shouts, loud enough that the hippy guy and a few of the uniformed men look our way and then when they make out what she's shouting, they too look out into the harbour and see the boat pulling in.

I have to say, it's not much to look at, was the first thing Emma said. I had to agree. It was sea worthy, apparently, because it wasn't sinking, but that's about all you could say about it. Paint chipped off everywhere, it looked similar to the boats I'd see in dry dock near my auld flat. I used to live near the marina, just above this place that did repairs and refurbishments of boats and the boat bobbing up and down in the water looked a lot like those boats that were in for repairs or refurbishments. Like one of those Filipino or Bangladeshi ferries you read about capsizing with like several hundred people on board.

In fact, the closer it got, that's exactly what it reminded me of. I started looking at the three buses that were parked out in the middle of the car park wondering how many people were in each of those buses, maybe 50 or 70 minimum then doing some simple maths.

I mean, these weren't like those ferries you take for Channel crossings. It was significantly smaller, I mean SIGNIFICANTLY smaller. So the first thing I said to Emma was, I hope we're not going very far in that thing, it doesn't look like it would survive very choppy waters, like. Not even a bloody Channel crossing, innit?

Emma just shook her head, lighting another cigarette. The entirety of her luggage seemed to consist of cartons of cigarettes. Just the clothes she had on her back in layers. Cigarettes might be a big commodity for all you know, she explained when I'd first eyed them rather oddly from the beginning. People run out and if it's some shite lot like this one, there's not going to be any place that sells them, you don't know what they'll have, do you? You can never be too sure. And believe me, if there's no ciggies to be had anywhere, people are going to pay ANYTHING for one.

That was when Mousy Girl chimed in - yeah, IF they're going to pay you for it. You know how people like you end up when other people get desperate? With their throats slit, that's how. Especially on a ferry where they can just throw your body overboard. Mousy Girl let a crooked little smile escape her. Mousy Girl! I was surprised at this little revelation of personality from her.

Well, we'd better make our way over anyhow, I said cautiously, taking a hit off Emma's cigarette and picking up my shet. Whatever happens, I don't want to miss that fucking boat. I can't take another night here.


We get over to where one of the buses is parked and everybody's staring at us as we approach like we're some kind of circus freaks or something. Before we get within 50 meters of the bus, one of the uniformed guys steps up with one hand on his truncheon and the other one held up like stopping us.

Old it royt thair young ladies, he says to us as he approaches. Wha-you doin? Whered youse come from then?

We've only been bloody sitting out here with no food or water all bloody night, that's where we come from, Emma, fairly shouted at the bloke who looked about all of 17.

The buses from yesterday, I tried to assist, the ones whose boat got cancelled or delayed or whatever.

The uniformed bloked looked us over. So where's everybody else then?

Didn't you hear?

Look, we've been in barracks all evening. We haven't heard anything. All I know is, the lot wot is on these buses are going on that ferry, nobody else.

Oh fuck off, Emma shouted, grinding her cigarette out with her trainer toe. We've been here all bloody night, I've just told yea, no fucking food no water, nothing! Now if you don't know what the feck is going on here, might I ask that you check with someone who bloody well does? Is that too much to ask?

The uniformed bloke looked flustered at first but regained his composure quickly, snapping to with his walkie talkie and mumbling something incomprehensible into it. A burst of static followed. He nodded his head and then stepped forward again, motioning us toward the buses.

Apologies, ladies. We weren't told nuffin bout no uvva buses. Gowan, join the others, be boarding in about 30 minutes.


No pushing, no queues - what the fucking hell do you think about a mob of some 250-300 people? It's bloody chaos, it is, that's what. Fucking eedjits. You'd think with all this planning, all the times they've sent people off on these bloody things they'd have it all down by now, innit? But they ent. It's a fucking mad house. Pushing, shoving, people getting up in each other's faces. Well uncivilised.

The ferry itself is only supposed hold, like a total of 8 cars and 45 people in all. For 300 or so of us, imagine. Ok, so there's no cars going on and there's a little more space, say enough for another 100 or so but we've got nearly double that amount and I've no feckin idea how they're going to squeeze us all on. Anyway, batteries are low and I've got to get out with the rest of the lot and shove my way on I suppose. Hopefully I'll have time or space when we're on board to write some more, figure out where the fuck we're going to.

Smoking is not permitted inside the vessel.

Passengers are not permitted to remain in their vehicles during the crossing. If it is necessary to return to a vehicle, passengers must be accompanied by a crew member.
All goods carried on vessels must comply with provisions of the Canada Shipping Act regarding the carrying of dangerous cargo.

Recreational vehicles carrying LPG will have cylinder valves fully closed while aboard the ship, and no appliance will be operated (further information is available at Coastal Transport's Ticket Office).

Terminal ramps - maximum gross weight 43,500 kg.

Pets are permitted to stay in vehicle or on the outside passenger decks. Pets are not permitted on the inside passenger decks.

12 june

well, here we are, at sea.

We still don't know where we're going specifically. There aren't any announcments, haven't been since we got on board.

As you can well imagine, boarding this fucking thing was a nightmare. As soon as they announced orderly lines everyone, it was a feckin madhouse. People pushing and shoving every which way, uniformed blokes trying to cordon off everyone, kind of shoving them inward so that the momentum would carry them forward towards the boat and eventually we all sort of shuffled forward until we were actually on board.

Naturally none of us got a feckin seat. We weren't the last people allowed to board, but it was pretty feckin close considering they let most of the people who'd just gotten off the bus to get in the queue first. Both me and Emma tried to argue that as we'd been waiting all night and hadn't any food to eat all night and all that, we should be the first to board.

But the arrogant cunt who we were tried to reason with just held up his hand and cut us off in mid speech - there's plenty of room on board ladies, he reassured with like, zero emotion in his voice. There's no reason to cut in front of the queue. I do understand some of youse missed the last boat but that isn't really the fault of the people on this bus, now is it?

Then, believe it or not, he looks down at us and whispers to us kind of conspiratorily; You're lucky you're getting on board at all on this one, ladies, he says. Usually, when people miss the boat they're assigned to the have to wait days sometimes before there's another boat with enough room to take them on.

Well, fuck me. Lucky alright.

So we get in this queue and eventuallly get on board. I've got blood I can feel literally, trickling down my fucking leg and the first thing I want to find out is whether or not there's a toilet on board. There is and when we come up to one, I tell Emma and Mousy girl to just carry on, I'll catch them up later.

There's already a queue at the bathroom of course, because it's the first bathroom you come across - for all I know it's the only one, but I kind of doubt it - anyway, there's a bloody queue so I stand there, trying to be patient while the last few people getting on board filter past.

The girls in front of me are chatting about the rumours they'd heard about where we were going. There were all sorts of rumours, believe me. They were sending us to Ireland which was rather daft I mean, if that were the case, why wouldn't they just leave us all in England?

There's some talk about Isle of Man or even getting sent further up North to one of the Scottish islands like Aran or Isley or Mull. I can't really understand why they don't just bloody well tell us once and for all, I mean the longer they put it off the more you start to wonder if they're just not telling us because they don't want a riot on their hands. But what could really be that bad anyway? The Isles of Scilly? The Channel Islands?

Hell, maybe it's France, one of the girls twittered. France, that'd be something, wouldn't it?

Not surprisingly, the tampon machine is empty but I'm grateful at this point that at least there are plenty of toilet paper and towels left, for the moment anyway, so I stuff my bag with these into what little space is left, clean myself off as best as possible, stuff a wad of the towels into my panties as if it's going to do any good and moan because everything is bloody, my panties, my pants, my legs, ankles, even my boots. My seasonal's "must have" boots from like, three years ago. But fuck it, I've already decided long ago that this wasn't going to be a simple excursion with all the mod cons and it's not like I haven't gotten used to living like shit these last few months or year or whatever it's been. I just suck it up, like I've learned to do. Fuck it.

So, after I fix my hair - you never know, there's blokes on board this boat as well - I go back out on to the boat and for a few moments there I'm even thinking to myself hey, this isn't half bad. Out on the seas, out of the feckin city, the misery the hopelessness. I mean, who knows what the fuck it's like where they're sending us but one thing is for sure, it's got to be better than that shit hole I was living in before. You've never been to visit me at that place before have you? Likely because it was so dank and wretched. The people I shared that place with were pigs, plain and simple. So getting out, anywhere really, is a bit of a lift.

I walk around, squeezing past people trying to find Emma and the Mousy Girl. Most people seem in pretty pleasant spirits. They're excited too. You can tell alot of them, dirty and hair that hasn't really been cut and certainly not styled in months, clothes kind of ragged, eyes sunken deep being accustomed to this feckin misery and all, have been in this sort of situation for awhile. Do you remember just god, how long was it, maybe a year ago or so, when we were still working, even though some people had already started losing work, but back when we'd still had our jobs and money good god, fuck, that seems like years ago. Anyway, all of these people on board seem like they've been off of it, out of it, whatever, for many, many months. There's a certain hardness to them. Kind of like how I feel has happened to me. How is work anyway, speaking of which?

Anyway, I've just kind of taken a seat on the floor. It isn't raining and there's a cool breeze blowing up on top. Maybe later I'll look for Emma and the Mousy Girl, it's pretty quiet up here for a change. I wouldn't even mind having a little nap so for now anyway, I'll sign off.

First stop is some port, no one knows which one and we're all unloaded into this fucking pen where they give us some hot soup, a few hunks of bread and bottled water.

12 june, later

Well, I was finally able to run into Emma and Mousy Girl. They were standing on the end of the boat facing where we left from - don't ask me which that is starboard or portboard or whatever it's called. Mousy Girl has been crying since we left and Emma is trying to comfort her by telling her to like, shut the fuck up and it's going to get alot worse before it gets better and that sort of thing. I like Emma in a funny way. She even managed to score some more fags although they aren't her brand. She says she knicked them out of someone's bag whilst we were all being jostled getting on board. She keeps talking about she's going to run out of cigarettes and she's going to fucking kill people if they don't start making some announcements about where we can buy more cigarettes or when we're going to get some fucking food or water or something. She's a tough bird. Tougher than me. But then again, I'm not crying so I guess I'm tougher than Mousy Girl.

Anyway, we're just kind of standing there when there's an announcement, the first we've ever really had and of course as it comes in over the loudspeakers you can't hear a fucking thing because the sound quality is shite and because of the wind and the sound of the motors and everyone's voices going what the fuck is he saying and the like.

Did you hear what he said, Emma asked me and although she was addressing me there were so many people already standing up here with us, several people turned to her to tell her they hadn't heard a thing. Do you suppose it was important? We all shrugged. We're moving. We'll end up somewhere. In the interim, we needed food.

There was in fact, after investigation, several different sources for food although the primary problem of course, seeing as how we were a boat load of people who had been unemployable since the distant past, that we didn't have much money. Not that it mattered. This wasn't a typical ferry. It certainly wasn't the same kind of ferry you'd have taken going to say, Rosslare, which would have been much bigger and suitable for crossing a sea but we weren't really certain where we were going, herded like cattle on to this vessel and frankly, after all the months of propaganda, we were looking forward to it wherever it was, whatever means to get there.

You know how it was Lauren, don't you? Remember when I first received notification a month or so ago, how I'd been kind of expecting it. I mean, what was it? Well, at least several months prior to that, maybe even a half year ago, after at least a year talking about it, they started shipping people out and you and I both know with my dodgy employment history to begin with, not having worked in several years anyway, the minute they brought this little plan out, I kind of figured I'd be one of the first to go. I was surprised it took them as long as it did, frankly.

You've always been so lucky like that, Lauren, having that strong will to work, having that sense of pride and responsibility. Me, I couldn't care less. I mean, I'm not qualified for doing anything that would pay me much more than the minimum wage to begin with, never have been, as you know. How are you getting on with work anyway? Don't you just hate that you have to work so much now?

I suppose you're quite happy to see me getting shipped off, aren't you? You always told me people have to pull their own weight, didn't you? I suppose you've always thought of me as a sort of lie about, a lazy bird who likes going out on the piss, drinking too much wine, laughing too loudly and then having sex with complete strangers. I'm sure it mortified you all those years but what the hell, one of us had to have the fun and one of us had to do the work apparently.

Anyway, you know they've been on about this island for for everybody, a new start, a new life, blahblahblah. I find it a little hard to believe, to be honest. I mean if they couldn't find me any suitable employment all these years in the entire country, why is some strange little island suddenly going to have all this work for me?

To be honest, I think it's a scam of some kind, I just haven't worked out what it is they're scamming us out of. I mean since when would I believe anything the government tells me anyway? Yeah, I know you've never approved of my lifestyle, that I couldn't hold down steady work, that I was on benefits so many years, a council estate flat, drugs, rehab, drinking, but even you have to admit, whatever the government's said these last several years in particular you can take with a grain of salt. They're cooking up some stupid bureaucratic plot, no doubt. Like that time they were going to assess everyone who was supposed to be on disability benefits with like, real doctors instead of GPs who knew we'd be in their offices every day until they signed us off work.

Anyway, who can guess what it is? I'm sure they don't have any work for us but I just can't place it. Emma seems to think they're starting up some kind of giant commune. She's got all sorts of conspiracy theories cooking up in her head. She says she thinks they're creating this giant commune and from it, their going to try and like recreate society, you know, start all over again. So I asked her, like, that's all good and well but what are they going to do about the one that exists right now? Oh, she says with great confidence, that side is going to run parallel to this new one only with better benefits. Eventually, she says, those people are going to form the like, elite class and the people who start up this commune are just going to do all the bullshit work to build the economy and society back up to the level it was before.

Mousy girl has theories too. She says they're going to do some sort of experiments on us, something to do with fixing the economy, like turning us into lab rat societies to find out what way works best and then when they've figured it out, putting it to work in the real society.

I think they're both a bit daft. I think they just want to get rid of us. They're sick of looking at us. They're sick of paying for us. They're sick of being jealous of our freedom, especially nowadays. I mean, even I can see pretty clearly we aren't serving much function like this.

You know good and well Lauren that I wasn't always like this. That's what makes me mad, getting treated like shit, like a second class citizen just because I didn't have a job. It's not my fault. I mean, I dunno, maybe it was, I haven't really figured it out. You remember when Euwen died? I was devastated. I know you kind of implied that it was all my own fault, that just because I'd been out on the piss and left him in the house alone and just because that cigarette burnt the place down with him in it, I mean, you act like I didn't even care. Of course I bloody well cared. I was his mother! You think you can just snap your fingers and be done with it like that?

And I can hear you right now as you're reading this making that stupid clucking noise you make when I say something you don't like or don't want to deal with. Yeah, that's right, you're pretty transparent, Lauren. I mean yeah you're smarter than me and you work harder but what have you got to show for it? You haven't got any kids either. Hell, you probably haven't even had a man in what, years? Is that accurate? You really should get out more.

Anyway, you know damned well that once Euwen died, whatever shred of self-respect or interest in surviving pretty much died with him. I'm still not over it. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. That's why I was drinking so heavily before and using so much. I just didn't want to deal with it all.

But you know I'm off it all now. You know I've tried to sort myself out and move on and you know as well as I do it's pointless with no work being anywhere. So even though I don't really know where the feck we're going on this boat other than some island and even though I have no idea what we're going to be doing once we get there, the thing is, just getting out at the present is good enough for me. It IS a new start, I agree with all that propaganda. I have to. It's either that or go back to the booze and the drugs again.

You wanna hear something strange? Both Mousy Girl and Emma are childless too. I haven't asked them why yet, I mean I hardly know them, but in case you weren't aware, they aren't taking people with kids for this little adventure. It'll be weird going to some place with no children, but maybe it's all for the best. What I want to know is what are they going to do with the people who DO have kids and who aren't working. Surely they aren't going to let them just keep living in the city and collecting benefits just because they still have kids, are they? God, I miss Euwen so much it hurts me. I dig my fingernails into my palms every time I think about him.

Well, we're going to look for food. A few people think the announcement none of us could hear was about all of us getting fed. Could be wishful thinking, but it's worth a punt, I suppose.


It's late.

Seems like everyone else has fallen asleep. The excitement of the day I think. I would probably be doing the same except after we got down to the makeshift canteen where they passed out free broth and rice to us and we sat at these long tables taking turns eating one group after another with a few uniformed blokes lording over it all, making sure no one rioted over it like, what, someone's going to be killing each other over bloody soup or broth even, and rice? I know times are tough but this is ridiculous.

But it was amazing filling. I can't say it tasted amazing but it was filling. We also got crusts of bread to go with it. No bottled water. And when the group of 10 that the separated us into was finished, or nearly finished, the uniformed blokes came over and start grunting at us to finish up, file our dishes away and go out on the deck. It felt a little like prison. Well, I dunno, I've never been to prison of course, but I've seen movies about it and it reminded me of those scenes, you know, when they're all eating in the mess hall or whatever and some guy stabs another in the neck with a fork and then it all kicks off?

Anyway, I don't know what came over me but after we filed away our trays and plates and forks and everything, I felt like I'd been drugged. Maybe I was, who knows, but anyway, one minute I was listening to Emma chatting away and the next minute I'm like, barely aware that her and Mousy girl are like, holding me up, trying to steady me. Maybe it was the euphoria of finally eating, even the food wasn't particularly interesting. After all that time without, it was, I dunno, sufficient I suppose.

So they cleared a spot out on the deck floor, it couldn't have been easy, and sort of laid me out there on the floor, sitting on each side of me. Maybe they were worried I'd been poisoned and they were next, I don't know but they were awfully attentive to me and quite concerned. But I didn't have and fever, I was just exhausted so I just well, fell asleep, right there. Everyone did apparently.

When I woke up it was dark and we're at sea. It was strange, waking up like that, not in your own bed, on some damp, iron floor. I got up and walked over to the edge, careful to step around the sleeping people. I was just standing there looking out at the water, or the darkness that I figured was the water anyway, and I'm sort of lost in my thoughts when all the sudden I feel this tap on my shoulder and I like nearly jump out of my fucking skin I was so startled. I mean I hadn't heard a thing. And it's this uniformed bloke who has wandered over from his post or whatever and he's holding out this pack of Dunhills with one cigarette shaken so that it is sticking out at me.

Care for a cigarette, he asks dully. I can't see his face too clearly what with the darkness and all but his voice sounds young, like in his late teens or early 20s. Sure. I take the cigarette, he even lights it for me and then I realise, fuck, I'm trapped now - I'm sure there's a price of some kind to pay for it, he probably wants a hand job in the dark or something disgusting. That'd be so typical, innit. I let my guard down for a second and then there's this.

But he doesn't say anything. He just sort of stands there, smoking his cigarette, looking out into the darkness. The only thing you hear is the engines and the sound of water lapping up against the side of the boat.

Trouble sleeping? he asks finally.

No, I got an early start, right after the meal in fact. Just I dunno, yeah, I guess trouble sleeping.

I look over at him, trying to make his face out.

So do you know where we're going, or when we're supposed to arrive?

He exhaled. You know, that's the same question everyone asks me, the first question they ask me, everyone.

Does that surprise you? I mean, we're kind of I dunno, lost as to what's happening, nobody tells you anything so I guess it's kind of natural, isn't it, to want to know?

We're sort of whispering so as not to bother anyone who is sleeping but I think he can sense the sarcasm in my voice nonetheless. Was he expecting me to ask after his family or how he enjoyed his line of work?

Yes, of course. He says and doesn't elaborate any further. He takes a final drag off the cigarette and then flicks it out into the sea.

We'll reach a transfer port in the morning, he says finally. It isn't the final destination. But you'll get briefed once you get to the transfer port.

I realise he's probably not supposed to tell me even that but seeing as how I can't see his face anyway, it's not like I can point him out later and reveal him as the one who spilled all the secrets.

Thanks, I say, honestly grateful. My how my standards have sunk. Then I thought about Emma.

Say, I hate to bother you again but before you go, do you think you might be kind enough to leave us a few cigarettes for me and my mates in the morning? We've sort of run out and there isn't anywhere we can get any it appears.

You'll probably be able to get some at the transfer port, he says. Then relents and shakes out a few cigarettes. Just don't expect every bloke in a uniform to be passing them out though. For future reference.

Cheers, I say, taking a hit as he walks away, disappearing back into the ship. I look up at the sky, nothing. Blackness. Not a single star and not even the moon is visible.


I didn't manage to slip off back to sleep. Maybe it was the nicotine keeping me up but I think it was more the anxiety of where we were going to end up today.

Just before dawn, I put my head down and closed my eyes, but my mind was racing, almost a panic. I tried to think about other things Lauren, I really tried. Then I started thinking about how nice it would be to have god, I dunno, it sounds so stupid, how nice it would be to just have someone holding me. Someone who would caress my hair and hold me and tell me everything was going to be alright. Someone who wouldn't come home drunk and rant and rave and tell me what a loser I was. Someone who wouldn't say anything really, just stroke me and hold me so I could feel, I dunno, like a child. Not that mother or father ever did that anyway but I've read it before I think, somewhere, some magazine, I think. I remember reading it and thinking how lovely that would be rather than the life I'm living.

I'll bet you must think of that too, don't you Lauren? Or are you too busy working to think about such things? I always wonder if you ever feel anything, I mean, like weakness or fear. You've always seemed so strong, so certain about what you were doing, so determined to get it right. And here I am, a big loser, stuck on this fucking boat to christ knows where, sleeping outside on the deck, or staying awake actually, trying to sleep, worrying. I never used to worry at all, jesus, I didn't give a fuck. I always just figured everything would sort itself out and funnily enough, it usually did, I mean sure, there were some fucked up things that happened, but I always came out of it more or less in one piece. I try to remember that when I think about what's ahead but sometimes it's hard. I don't feel so much anymore like anything's getting sorted. I feel like I'm just falling deeper and deeper into this pit with no bottom. A free fall.

Anyway, Emma and Mousy girl eventually woke up, as did everyone else, gradually, until the noise of the sea and the boat's engine and the sound of everyone rustling around, starting to get up actually got everyone else up. I handed out the fags I got from the uniformed guy to Emma and Mousy girl. Emma looked at me funny, surprised, I guess because I imagine she thought she was the only one who could manage to fend for us, but she just mumbled thanks and didn't ask any questions.

I sure wish I had a nice cuppa to go with this, Mousy girl said, stretching a little. You think they'll be serving anything down in that mess hall thing?

I doubt it, I said dully. I think we'll be landing wherever it is we're supposed to be landing, this morning. Hopefully they'll have something for us there. But fuck, I don't mind stretching my legs a bit, anyone want to go down and have a look?

We all stood up and walked over to a growing queue. No one was emerging from below with anything. They all seemed rather pissed about it, mumbling about how fucked up it was, how we were being treated like dogs. They don't have anything for us, some guy shouted out to everyone in general when he reached the deck. The fuckers.

And right around then somebody shouted, hey, I see a port! And we all ran to one side to have a look.

Sure enough, out there in the distance, we could make out something - a few buildings and a bunch of other boats. At least we were finally getting somewhere.

God, I would kill for a hot shower, a little biscuit and some coffee right now, Emma said, rubbing her bloodshot eyes and looking towards the shore, the harbour. I mean, what the fuck, isn't that the least they could do after all this?


We pulled into the harbour in excruciatingly slow time. It seemed to inch and inch closer but not fucking fast enough. People were getting really ansy and spending alot of their energy complaining about everything. I never saw people piss and moan so much. I mean, we're here, right? Fuck, it's better than nothing. I kind of got the idea from that uniformed guy this would only be a stop off but who knew?

As the boat finally pulled in and was tied to the docks an announcement came over the speaker for everyone to queue up in orderly fashion to prepare for landing. Nobody bothered to listen or pay attention to it of course, everyone wanted to get off. Discover their new futures. After all, they all believed this was it. But they were in for a little surprise. Mousy Girl and Emma and I hung back the swarms of idiots jostling and in some cases pushing, getting angry, the small pockets of people tusssling for the best positions, the elbows coming into play. We laughed at them.

Maybe we shouldn't be laughing, the Mousy Girl says all of the sudden, growing serious. After all, just because some uniformed guy told you maybe that was the case doesn't mean it really is, does it? And what if this is the place and we're losing out on getting the best accomodations or what if the food runs out or...

Oh, shut the fuck up, will you? Emma hissed, staring down Mousy girl to my infinite relief. To think of having to act like these idiots, these animals, Lauren, well it'd have been to disheartening on top of everything else. On top of bloating and blood, being filthy and unwashed, hungry, uncertain...on top of everything, to have to push and fight and scratch just for a decent bed or a few scraps of food, well fuck it, I'd rather be dead. There's a bloody limit on what I'll withstand, you know that.

So we hung back. And just as well because as soon as we neared the plank exiting the boat we could tell they were herding people into different sections, you left, you right, etc., pairing people off male and female sides and then funneled into other like, holding pens.

We were, the three of us, fortunately kept together, filtered through a a series of razor wire maze-like cages and ended up in a rather large courtyard of sorts where a table was set up. There was already a queue of sorts but it had slackened to some degree because we were some of the last to arrive.

See? I told you we'd miss out on the good food....Mousy girl whispered before getting a sharp elbow from Emma.

The good food? Emma chastised. What makes you think there ever was any good food? We looked down at the buffet of some kind of porridge, tea and coffee and hunks of stale bread awaited us.

Well, nonetheless, food was food and we were all hungry as hell so we picked up the little plastic bowls, the plastic spoons, and filled up with the porridge, grabbing hunks of bread not just for the porridge, but for the hunger pangs later, stuffing our pockets much as others must have done before us. There were a few stragglers of staff who would replenish the porridge pot from time to time or bring out more hunks of bread, some stale, some fresh, or refill the tea server. There was no butter, no jam, no ham, nothing approaching an English breakfast but no one really had to tell us that in advance. I think we all had a pretty good idea these weren't going to be swank conditions.

We sat on the ground like the others, which appeared once to have been grass but which had now worn away to dirt and in some cases, simple rock and mud. Hardly a picnic area. But we sat there quietly, few people saying much of anything, perhaps exhausted by the strain of the trip, the worry, the uncertainty or simply sated from the food and sleepy.

After I dunno, we were there probably an hour or so, there were announcements over the loudspeakers. We hadn't even noticed there were loudspeakers until then, you kind of forget to take in your surroundings your so overwhelmed simply by existence at that point. But once we noticed the loudspeakers, we noticed the razor wire, the CCTV and the uniformed blokes wandering around the circumference of the fenced in areas, or, realistically, the caged areas. We were caged like animals.

The first announcement was that we were all going to be given what they referred to de-lousing, whether we needed it or not. We would be scrubbed, hosed off, covered in some sort of magical powder, hosed off again, given shots, blood and DNA samples taken, blahblahblah. We've been having blood and DNA samples taken for years, you'd think by now they'd have sufficient amounts by then, but apparently, they didn't. Always needed more verification.

Anyway, the shower would be welcomed. Hygenic packs would be made available to us all, travel kits, they referred to them as (when we later got these; soap, hand towel and tampons (what did they give the men as a consolation prize?) for starters. It was presumed we had all brought a change of pants, or not, as the case may have been. )

We weren't told anything more like where we were going, if we were staying, what the next steps were and of course, that kind of pissed everyone off a little bit but the food had kept them happy for awhile as did the promise of a thorough cleaning. At least we did anyway, we'd been on the road two full days entering our third - for most of the others this was still only Day 2.

Lauren, I'd forgotten to tell you (I've now been able to find a power source to re-charge the computer battery although I'm allowed access for only 15 minutes so, whilst I can type these emails for a little while, the power will shut again in due course and naturally, there's been no internet access anywhere.)

Now that I think about it, I rather doubt we're going to have internet access at all. I mean now that I think about it, why hasn't anyone really written from these places before? How come we've never heard a peep out of any of these people who were sent out before us? How come they don't have blogs or vlogs or aren't emailing or twittering or communicating in any way? Seems rather weird when you think about it. But then, if you figure it's some remote island, there isn't going to be any internet, is there? And even if there was, it seems pretty clear they want to control information here so that pretty much discounts the possibility of sending any out or receiving any yourself.

Anyway, since we haven't spoken in a while, I thought since it was on my mind now, that I'd tell you how I got here - I mean, you know, of course you know what I've written so far but all that leading up to it, some of it, most of it, you probably don't know anything about and since sometimes I get the idea I'm not getting out of here any time soon, I figured I'd let you in on it.

Well, you know how I was unemployed? Ha, unemployable is more like it I suppose. Especially after Euwen died. I can talk about that now. Still not in very much detail or depth but they've taught me that much I suppose, I can at least acknowledge that it happened, that it fucked me up worse than I was before, like.

Anyway, yeah, I had little jobs here and there. It was never hard getting a job as a barmaid, just staying sober while I did it I guess. Problem is I never take no shit off no one and in these menial sorts of jobs there's always some asshole who thinks they got to make an example of you, or they don't like your attitude or whatnot and the next thing you know they've got it in for you and are making your life miserable so you've either gotta quit or get fired and then you're back on the dole again and back in those stupid fucking interviews, jobseeking interviews for shit you know you don't have a bloody chance getting.

Well after Euwen I didn't have no place to live either so I crashed on the sofa of some mates for awhile while I waited for the social to sort me out something new. I was a fucking mess back then, I don't mind telling you Lauren. I was doing all sorts, drugs, drinking nonstop, trying to kill myself sort of I suppose, out of guilt.

But it wasn't working exactly. So one morning, after a really fucked up night when I'd gotten into this big row with the mates I was staying with, I ended up sleeping all night out in the park, freezing my arse off, without any money, no booze no drugs, fuck all. So I kind of slept with this guy for a little warmth and a little of his wine and weed. It was fucked. I mean it was the lowest of the low. Not as low as Euwen, sure, but fuck, it just all kind of hit me at once and that was it, I thought, I've finally hit bottom. I've finally touched bottom and now I can make my way back up, back to the surface, back to living like a human being.

But I couldn't do it on my own, you know? I managed to find a few mates who I hadn't fucked over, stolen from or fought with over drugs or whatever, obviously they weren't really mates they didn't really know me that well at all, I think they just kind of took pity on me or something, I don't know. They let me stay with them for a few days, got me into some classes for AA, got me moving forward again, sort of.

Then social got me a place and I started working a little. Just a little shit job answering the phone in this warehouse, but a job nonetheless and I spent all my free time in meetings trying not to get fucked up, and sleeping. That was it. And then because of this fucked up economy, that one job I had I was sacked from. I swear, I didn't do a fucking thing wrong. I was straight as an arrow, never drank, never cursed, just did my fucking job, laughed at the jokes of these assholes who all, without exception, tried their best to fuck me whether they were married or had kids or were just fucking horny, I dunno, they were all trying it on, all the time and that was well bloody stressful, you can imagine (or I think you can imagine, maybe not) but still even after all of this I managed to stay straight, go to my fucking meeetings, listen to everyone's fucking stories, tell my own, and sleep. And I still lost my fucking job, you know?

So I figured fuck it. No money coming in, I'm going to be back on the streets again in no time. And then I got this notification. I was called into these social offices and they said they understood I had been trying hard to get my life back on track and I was getting a new start. Away from all of this. An island somewhere or other where I would get a new start and I'd be able to sort everything out myself. They had to tell me several times like, it was a reward, not a punishment, but I think from the way they were talking to me, like a wounded animal or something, that they were trying to fool me. No doubt.

Anyway, a few weeks or a month or so after that, I get this little notice of the date I'm supposed to ship out, where I'm supposed to go and what I'm not allowed to bring. Not allowed, you know the obvious, the same sort of shit you wouldn't be allowed on a plane or something; petrol, bombs, knives, handguns, tools, anything sharp really, or toxic.. Whateever you wanted, really, but only if it fit in this bag they gave you. Surprisingly, the notice came with one of those little rucksacks. It had a little Union Jack on it and they basically said, bring whatever the fuck you want but if it doesn't fit in this bag, it won't be coming with you. Fuckin hell, you know? I mean, I'm a little luckier than most, I didn't have fuck all anyway but even I had a hard time. I wanted to bring this laptop and the battery you know because ever since I knicked it from one of my mates, it's been a bit of a lifesaver - a little diary, the internet looking for work or housing, it's all I've fucking had since the first lot kicked me out for stealing it and it's kind of like, I dunno, my safety net. It represents somethning to me, a past, I dunno what, just makes me feel good, secure. Music and movies stored on there, places to escape.

So I brought the computer, some toiletries, a few pairs of panties and wore several layers of clothes to save on the packing. That's it. A photo of Euwen. That's it. I mean can you imagine the state I'd be in if I was still using or still drinking? I'd be fucked. I'd be crawling the walls.

Anyway, Mousy girl and Emma and I have just been sort of sitting around for the last few hours. Nobody's doing much of anything. I don't think they have the energy. We're all just waiting to find out what's next.


Finally, after what seemed like hours but was actually still before noon, I guess once they'd finished processing everyone, they started calling us out by name, not quite reduced to simple numbers just yet, and leading us into these buildings with showers. Fortunately both Emma and Mousy Girl were called in with my group. We've sort of realised by now we might be sticking together anyway but at the same time realising, as they carve up the group, we could very well get separated.

But that wasn't our concern, really. Getting clean was. Nice, high pressurised, hot showers. Oh god, it was wonderful. After a few days of grime it was like lying down face first and having your whole body massaged. Delicious, it was. I must have stood there for ten minutes with my eyes closed, just feeling the water beat against my skin and into my scalp before I even picked up the soap to start soaping myself off, But ugh, reality. Over the loudspeakers comes this metallic female voice: 2 minutes, ladies. Make sure you rinse thoroughly. The cunt. I mean, can you imagine? The intrusion. Well, at least I was clean so I rinsed off and got out of there, a little bit more eager this time to see what was next. I was still bloating but the flow had eased considerably, I dunno if it was the stress or what but it was like the quickest period I've had in a long time.

It was kind of like Christmas, Lauren. Not your typical christmas, Lauren, I know. But I mean, conceptually, like. We didn't know what was coming next, a gift? So far we'd had food, rest and then this shower.

We were all herded out of the shower area and offered on tables, folded up neatly, fresh clothes, identical clothes in fact, you'd almost consider them uniforms, like. Jumpers. Yeah, like prison jumpers I suppose. They said we could wear them if we wanted to or wear our own clothes but, explaining more perhaps in 30 seconds than they had the entire time leading up to this moment, the clothes were there to wear if wanted them, if ours got torn or dirty or whatever. They'd bought them wholesale, yes, some prison outfitter, for real, that's what they said, or that's what the rumour was anyway, I can't remember but almost all of us just carried the jumpers and put our regular clothes on. Identity, I guess. We weren't quite ready to lose it yet, ha.

So after all this, they herd us back into another cafeteria sort of place and we get more food! Broth of some kind, a baked potatoe with as much butter as we wanted, and a salad. Not a meal for royalty mind, but a pleasant surprise. Almost normal. They said for us to enjoy it now, some of us would be at sea for many days and the food wasn't going to be as lush as this. I keep saying "they say" but the fact is, it's just what gets back to me in the form of a rumour and for lack of any better information, seeing as how they keep us in the dark like this, rumour is the best bit of information we have, provided it turns out to be proven correct, of course.

Emma and Mousy girl, like me, are starting to get used to the idea of this little adventure. I can hear the excitement in their voices, hell, in my voice even. We spent most of our meal speculating what it would be like, if they were going to remix the sexes again to avoid the lot of us turning into lesbians (that was Emma's little stab at dark humour apparently), if we really were going to have jobs what kind of jobs we'd have. The meal sort of made it real for us, took us out of that surreal movement from the bus that first day, overnight in that car park and then on that boat.

There wasn't any smoking anywhere, which pissed us all off to some degree but the fact was, we didn't really have any tobacco left anyway. Were we going to get access to tobacco? Surely they didn't expect us all to just quit, cold turkey, did they? Outside we could smoke, of course, but we weren't outside and we weren't allowed outside so even though we didn't have any tobacco to smoke anyway, Emma was starting to get a little pissed off, maybe just irritated by the lack of nicotine, I dunno, Mousy girl, I'm beginning to suspect, only smokes to be like one of us but Emma, she, I sense, would chain smoke if she had the chance. She's got alot of pent up energy, always ready for something.

Anyway, after the meal, herded out again, taught to take our plastic trays and plastic bowls, forks, etc, dump them into this cleaning bin and then stack the trays neatly. We're taught this Lauren, like children. Like we're stupid fucking children who have to be told what to do every step of the way.

Then when they've got us all herded into a room they start handing out these little postcards. They've mostly got the same nature scenes on them, generic nature scenes, not postcards of like the camp so we could write "Weather is fantastic, wish you were here" and a bunch of little smiley faces or xxx's at the end. As they passed these out at one end, they started passing out writing pens on the other end until soon enough, we all had a postcard and a pen, just like that, presto.

And the funny fucking thing was no one did a fucking thing with them, you know? We all just stood there like obedient little dogs with our heads tilted to one side waiting for the next instructions. I mean, what the fuck were the postcards for? Were we supposed to take notes about something, write information down, what?

Nope, after they'd finished handing everything out they explained simple as you like, for those of you who want to, you can drop someone, a loved one, whatever, a line just to let them know that you've arrived safely and everything is fine. I mean, how weird was that? How do I know everything is fine? Sure, I arrived safely, more or less. Sure, I've had a meal or two and a nice hot shower. But I have no idea what's happening next, where I'm going and then I started panicking a little like, what if they just want us to write these little postcards out saying everything was just fine and then they herd us into some sort of execution rooms or something. Believe me, I thought about it, I mentioned it to Emma, sotto voce, like because I didn't want to disturb Mousy girl, but yeah, the thought crossed my mind, their little final sentence like, you've caused the state enough economically over the time, there's no more money blablabla so now we're going to put you down.

You think that's crazy? I don't. Believe me, I've seen these heartless fucks in action, they're quite capable of almost anything and just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't, that they are just trying to lull us into a false sense of security before they sort of kill us, bury us in masse graves on some fucking remote island - I mean why else did they summon us here? They can just get rid of us quietly.

Man, I'm freaking out at this stage in my head. So much so, I can't even bring myself to write. Mousy girl is all sincere, writing to her family, telling them as much details as she can fit on the bloody postcard because they've told us the postcards are all going to be sent out, postage free for us, yippee! So all we've got to do is write them. But I'm not writing a fucking thing. I've got it all on this laptop. But then fuck, I start thinking I don't want them to get suspicious or thinking that I'm being uncooperative, so yeah, I lost my nerve after that. I wonder if you've gotten that postcard by now? I wonder if it was ever sent. I wish I could find out. I mean not now of course, but say in a few weeks that you could tell me oh yeah, I received that postcard now that you mention it, no sorry I haven't had the time just yet to read those three lines but I'll try and get to it shortly....

Emma, my god, took the other extreme. She was thinking like they're all censoring these fucking cards and it was her idea that they're just going to bin the fucking things if we wrote anything negative on them so of course she writes nothing but negative things, complains about everything we've experienced to date, not inaccurate, mind but let's just say that perception may vary depending on the person. So Emma is letting it rip and, she says to me before handing it in, the funny thing is I've not sent it to anyone I know. I've sent it to the bloody precinct near my old house. How's that for a larf, eh?

Anyway, we all queue up again, hand in our cards and what next what next we're all thinking....shit, the batteries on this thing are blinking again, it's going to need recharging. I haven't had a chance to find anything like this again yet so I'm kind of fucked. We may or may not get electrical outlets access soon but fuck, I'm trying to preserve this in smalll increments so I don't run out of batteries competely so, bye for now!


Well, quite some bit to report now that I've finally had a chance to solar charge the battery. I still haven't come across an electrical outlet and you must know what a pain solar battery charging is....well, maybe not. I seem to recall you're indoors working most of the time so perhaps you aren't even able to use a solar charger.

Anyway, getting off course. Where was I? I think last we were filling in or writing postcards and handing them in and getting into another bloody queue, that's it.

We're assembled through a series of hallways that eventually lead to this large gated yard, and believe me, I was still thinking at this point about getting gassed or gunned down or something, I mean why else put us all together like that just after we'd gotten done writing postcards home saying everything was ok?

But we're in this yard with no one else, razorwire along the top of the fencing, uniformed blokes standing at the ready but looking somewhat relaxed. I observe that Lauren because I figure if something's going down, the uniformed blokes are going to be on edge, just waiting for it to all kick off. But they seem reasonably relaxed, those capable of it anyway, and once we're all inside they announce a few announcements, the primary one being we are going to be split into three separate groups and two of those groups will be sent off to another island whilst one of the groups are going to stay here on this one.

They don't say who is doing what of course. They don't say why we're going to different islands, what we'll be doing on them or anything else but getting separated caused a bit of a stir, you can be sure. Our group is female only, if I haven't mentioned that before, thought the hosing down story might be a giveaway. Anyway, they wait for the clamour to die down and then carry on with the announcements. Those leaving for Destination A, no shit, that's what they call it, they don't even give it a proper name and surely whatever island they're sticking us on has already got somebody living on it and already has a name but they aren't revealing that much information to us. They just start off saying Destination A and they read down the list.

We hear Emma's name. Well, we hear "Emma", neither me or the Mousy girl knows her surname anyway, but we hear Emma and we look over and she's looking a little stunned, I suppose. We're all waiting to see who, if any of us are going to join her but then there is a little pause and they immediately kick in by saying those leaving for Destination B without letting it sink in to those leaving for Destination A yet, who they are going or not going with, and then giving out the names for Destination B, which includes my name but not Mousy girls. This kind of pisses us all off. I mean what are the odds, I dunno Lauren, you do the maths, what are the odds that none of us were put in the same group? If it was done randomly of course. We sort of suspect it isn't random at all and the fact that none of us are together seems to confirm it.

So if that's the case I reckon they're leaving the least troubled or perhaps the most promising, right here, closest to the mainland. I suppose that makes sense.

And we work out, left to our devices once we're told the ships for Destinations A and B would be leaving in the morning so we had the rest of the evening to ourselves, either A or B is for the hard cases, the ones they perhaps have least hope for.

Well, it makes sense that A is better than B, doesn't it, Emma spits, annoyed that if this is indeed the case, that A is better than B, then she's not as hard as me, pulls on her fag and waits for me to challenge her, like no, it's gotta be A is the worst because she's going to A and she's obviously a bit harder than me and also maybe it's outward placement, like A is closest to here which is closest to the mainland and then every island thereafter from maybe B to Z, if that is in fact the case, is for worse people, otherwise, they'd just stick you on an island until it was too stuffed with people and when one became too full they'd just start filling up the next one and so on, they wouldn't be separating people already. There was certainly some sort of method or reasoning behind what they were doing but they weren't telling us anything.

But basically, we're all sort of focused on this trivial little argument because we don't want to deal with the fact that we're going to be split up beginning tomorrow, left to deal with all this on our own all over again, and it's Mousy girl whose all quiet standing there, a little tear rolling down her cheek.

What are you crying about Mousy girl, Emma demands, still frustrated to think she might not be the harder of the two of us, you're staying. You've got the best seat in the house. I reckon they think you must be rehabilitatable.

This isn't much consolation to Mousy girl, not at first anyway, but as the night wears on and we make all sorts of secret oaths to each other and sit in a little circle smoking fags and making fun of stuff, like how other people look since we can't make fun of how they're dressed any more because we're all in the same uniforms. Eventually we all sort of nod off to sleep, like everyone else in camp. There was the initial buzz of speculation but I suppose that's worn off. We're all people who are pretty accustomed to just dealing what's been handed to us, taking handouts, following instructions, filling out forms, whatever, just to keep us going, so eventually, the novelty of this separation wears off and everyone sort of nods off and that's the end of it until morning.


I finally found out the date, or rather I think I did. I saw it on this little sheet, chart or whatever they were checking off when I was herded off to go to my ship. It's already Friday.

We are kept together in the same group until breakfast is announced. I guess we all feel a little sad this morning. Yeah, we haven't known each other very long but it's the trauma of what we're experiencing, the uncertainty, that binds us together faster, makes us mates more easily that otherwise. I mean sure, I'd probably be mates with Emma anyway but now that we've found each other we're like, fucked. We don't know where the other is going, we don't know how we'll stay in touch, we don't know if we'll ever even see each other again.

When Mousy girl was off to the toilets to ponder her own solitutude, Emma was on about it a little as she smoked and sat cross-legged next to me. You know, she said, it's not like we're fucking lesbo lovers or something but I've grown rather fond of you already, she says, resting her hand on my shoulders and making me feel a little uneasy. If I knew we were going to see each other in a few weeks, or a month or even a fucking year, fuck, I'd not be bothered by this but fuck, all of us are going our separate ways and we don't know where we're going or what's going to happen to us, you know? It just makes everything seem, I dunno, more fragile, I guess.

Yeah, I responded quickly. I feel the same way. I'm sure everybody does. It's kind of fucked. Maybe we could see if they'd change it around abit, maybe there's some other pair who don't want to get split up and we can arrange it so we can swap places or something.

And just like that, Emma was back on her feet, cigarette between her fingers, whiping herself off, fuck yeah, you're right, she says, and just takes off.

I watch her disappear into the crowd just as Mousy girl is returning. Where did Emma go? I dunno. I think she's going to have a word with someone about the arrangements, see if we can switch them at all.

Oh no, Mousy girl said with certainty. They won't let anyone switch. Whatever the reasoning they've had for splitting people into the groups they've split them into, that reasoning hasn't changed. You can be sure they won't let anyone switch otherwise there'd be chaos. Everyone would want to change and be with their mates, innit?

I guess you're right. So what do you think?

I dunno, she shrugged. What does anyone think. We're all in the same boat to speak. Well, she laughed, some of us are on boats, some of us are going to be stuck on this island for god knows how long doing god knows what. I can only imagine this is just some processing centre and they haven't figured out where to put us yet....

Emma was back already. Cunts, she spat. They won't even listen to you. No, they say. Ask why not and they just repeat no. And then they tell you you've only got a limited of time left before you ship out. Which destination are you headed that creepy uniformed bloke asked me.

Fuck this...

We all stood around without saying much until they made the annoucement, will all people who are assigned to Destination A please form an orderly queue by the flagpole in five minutes. A count will be performed, roll called and if you try and switch or change or ignore the destination you have been assigned we will be taking note of you and you will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice for further dealing....

Fuck this, Emma repeated again, stubbing out her cigarette. They're not fucking about, are they?

So we all have our little hugs, no tears and we kind of stand there looking at each other trying to make little jokes to ease the anxiety of the uncertainty of where we were headed or what laid in store for us. There are some people though, who've come together, who knew each other beforehand. I think most of those people appear to be heading in the same directions maybe because as I look around, there are no big scenes, nor tearful farewells. Everyone is just kind of milling around, slowly thinking about making their way to their processing areas.

And then that's it. Before I even realise it I am walking over toward the gate which has a sign above it Destination B, alone yet again although I have to admit, somewhat interested in what's going to happen to me.


The boat I was put on for this Destination B is massive. I mean, MASSIVE. Eight or Nine decks, it's got cabins, restaurant, slot machines, nightclub, cinema, shops. Unfortunately, no one has any money.

There is nothing but a skeletal crew and that crew are in essence, uniformed blokes who are there more for security purposes than anything else. Very little is explained other than go through this door and then when you go through that door there's someone there with a list of names who asks you your name and when you give it, they tell you a deck to go to.

Who gets the cabins is what I want to know. Most of the seating has been torn out. When somebody tries to take a peak in the cabins they are quickly diverted back to the main deck. There are no beds in the cabins, they've been removed as well. So we're going to be sleeping on the floor, it looks like.


Finally have some time, some peace and privacy to carry on with the emails I can't send.

I've been giving some thought, oddly enough only just now, to where I am or where I'm heading, where we even were at the point I was split up from Mousy Girl and Emma.

I've come to the conclusion I haven't a clue.

For some reason I think our first stop over was in Ireland somewhere. Funny thing is, no one even speculated about it while we were there. I guess we were all too dumbfounded, overwhelmed, herded immediately and thus, unthinking. But perhaps it made sense, a sort of transit point in Ireland. Not that you'd have known you were in Ireland or England. It was just an officious little processing centre filled by people with English accents. It could have been anywhere in the world.

And they've given us no indication of how long we're going to be travelling for. When we settled in we all just kind of sat around. It's a weird thing to see, all of these people, mostly strangers to each other, mincing around, sniffing the air, trying to figure out what the fuck's going on, what's the pecking order, whose going to be in charge of what but all of this is going on wordlessly, silently in their heads. You can sort of see them working it all out.

You couldn't imagine it, Lauren so I'll try to tell you - they make sure all along they keep pretty good control of you and most people, by and large are just sort of settling in, not going to create a stir, equally curious about what's going to happen next and everyone just kind of follows everything without question, seating themselves in the designated areas.

Some people immediately lie down, stick a jacket under their heads and try to fall asleep. Other people are restless, wandering, pacing, hands in pockets, hands touching hair, hands fiddling with gadgets that serve no meaningful function, hands itching and scratching.

There's the delay of course, whilst they're sorting every one out, directing them, before the ferry sets off but then there we go, exiting the harbour. I haven't a fucking clue what I'm looking at, what city that is we are leaving, where we were where the processing camp was. Not very helpful am I? So I get up and ask one of the uniformed blokes, just for the fuck of it, like because I know they aren't going to give out information, where we are leaving from, where we are going.

You're leaving Processing Centre A, m'am. Heading for Destination B.

Wow, that's interesting. Do these places not have real names any more?

He looks at me briefly. I think he was staring out at the crowd before that, counting people or making sure no fights broke out or something. He looks at me longer than briefly, stares at me up and down, quite rudely for a moment, then returns his gaze to the crowd.

For security reasons and for your safety, the relevant information is that you are leaving Processing Centre A and heading for Destination B.

That didn't get me very far, innit? So I ask him if he can spare a smoke.

Smoking is permitted in the designated outdoor deck areas only, he recites without taking his eyes off the crowd. There is a limited supply of tobacco in the shop of deck 3.

But you? Have you got a smoke, I ask, pushing him more. He still doesn't look at me.

I do not smoke, m'am. He says flatly.

Fuck it. I can't stand the idea of sitting around or lying around with all those people settling in for god knows how long. I know what section I'm supposed to be staying in and surprisingly, it looks like there's enough room there for everyone so it doesn't seem like I'd have to fight for space. So I decide to check out the shop on the 3rd deck.

Not that I have any money really. I mean, I have a little bit left over from the last stipend. Minimal. They seem to be feeding us, even if the food isn't all that appetising so I figure what the hell, I can maybe buy a few cigarettes. For the first time in months I think I'm craving a drink. There is no alcohol served on board, the sign clearly states before you even enter the shop. So what have they got? Fuck all. Tobacco. Packets of crisps, fancy chocolate no one on board looks like they can afford. The tobacco is even cheaper than on land. Duties suspended on tobacco. Apparently they want to encourage us to smoke, maybe we'll die faster and be out of their hair.

I buy 6 cigarettes and figure I'll smoke one every two or three hours. I'm aware they will run out and that 6 might not be enough to last the entire trip but fuck it, I don't even know how long the trip is going to last. A few hours, a few days, who knows, they won't tell you.

So I take my half dozen fags, carrying my bags with me because for certain I wouldn't leave my bags in that sleeping area. I know what these people are like, they're like I used to be. Petty criminals, druggies, alcoholics. They aren't the kind of people you leave your personal belongings left lying around in front of, inviting them to steal. Still, other than the laptop, I haven't really got much of importance anyway.

As we are leaving the harbour of Processing Centre A, I push open the deck door and find hordes of people standing outside smoking and talking as if we were outside of some trendy night club. It's not quite dusk yet but close. Even above the chatter you can hear the steady drone of the ship's engines and the water pushed aside as we shot forwards.

I set my kit on the ground and put a cigarette in my mouth before realising I haven't even got a fucking lighter! Or do I? I start searching my pockets, casual at first but then with a little more urgency. Finally a hand holding a lighter presents itself in front of me and lights the lighter. I lean forward and light my cigarette before looking up to find the hand is of course, attached to an arm which is attached to a shoulder, a body, a face, a man who is stood there with wild ginger afro hair and a silly grin on his face. He's quite tall but his body is misshapen in some way, perhaps because he is too tall, or uncomfortable being so tall. He must be nearly seven feet tall.

Crazy, innit? He says, running a head into his ginger afro and exhaling smoke into the sea air, slightly shouting over the engines.

Yeah, crazy, I reply presuming he is on about this trip and not his having
given me a light or something else.

I'm Marcus, he says, holding out his hand. Harmless enough, he seems. I shake his hand. Margaret.

He laughs at this one. Marcus and Margaret sound so similar to his ear he finds this hysterical. I begin to think perhaps he's not quite all there but as we continue talking, he seems to fade in and out between coherency and craziness. Not crazy, like dangerous crazy, but just like, unbalanced, or not all there. Kind of like he has some sort of disability maybe. That's it. Like he's got special needs but not so bad that he can't function properly.

We chat awhile. I ask him what he does. Nothing. Of course, nothing, otherwise he wouldn't be here would he? Only the unemployed are gettting shipped out in pursuit of their bright new futures. Nothing at all? No hobbies? I like to dance, he says. Take pills and dance at the clubs, like. Oh. That explains it a little more perhaps. Too many pills, a little brain damage and loud, throbbing repetitive music. It makes perfect sense.

Don't suppose they'll be selling pills or opening up a hard house club on board.

He laughs again, a guffaw, a sort of stutter. And loud. People turn from their conversations when he laughs. It's loud and weird. I feel a little uncomfortable being seen there talking to him, this weird loud guy with a ginger afro but then I realise who the fuck am I trying to impress? These people are all losers otherwise they wouldn't be on this boat to begin with. Fuck them. I'll have my fun and relax.

No, I don't expect they'll be doing any of that sort, shaking his head vehemently, as though dancing even though he was standing there. Or maybe it was just the combination of the wild ginger afro and the breeze coming from the sea.

Well, I say, dropping my cigarettte to the ground. All finished. Thanks again for the light. I wasn't planning on spending my night talking to him. Even if I had no one else better to talk to.

I start to head back inside but the ginger guy puts out his cigarette and follows me in as well, as if we belonged together and he's just making certain the fates get played out. I'm vaguely annoyed. But he's a big guy, even if he's goofy and frankly, the idea of having a big guy around amid all these strangers is not such a bad idea. Say Marcus, I say suddenly stopping a turning. I'm dying for another smoke. Have you got an extra?


So we're out on the deck for quite awhile. The conversation isn't really all that interesting. He's quite a painful conversationalist. Everything is "wild" or "trippy" and the observations are limited in scope. Not that I'm any genius either but my vocabulary isn't as stunted. Maybe I'm just not cool enough any more, you know, brevity in words might be the new thing, display indifference like a peacock's feathers. But what the hell, would I be any less bored just sitting there by myself?

After an hour or so from leaving port the ship's loudspeakers announce the dining area was going to open and we would all be summoned, by the area we'd been assigned to, to an eating shift. That we were, if hungry, meant to assemble in front of the dining hall on deck 3 and await further instructions. And so section by section was called - this was my quick exit from Marcus, for the moment anyway - he was in a different section - and I made my way back.

So here it is, who knows what time now, dark. We've had our free food, a reasonable dinner of fish and chips, believe it or not. Not as bad as I'd imagined either. Certainly edible. Went back and had a nap. Woke up in the middle of the night, no one else awake, snoring, a found a little empty table near a window to stare out into the black of the night. And as I've been writing this, the sky has lightened ever so slightly so that I can almost make out, well, pretty much make out the deep blue of the sea versus the reddish orange of a dawn somewhere out there, and a clue perhaps with the sun appearing to prepare to rise to my right, fuck, thought I might be sharpish there for a minute and guess the direction we were heading but then realised if I don't know North or South the sun rise is not going to help me.

Anyway, it's another day. Or starting to be. I wish I had something to read, something to occupy my mind. I don't want to end up just lying there staring up and letting myself think. I hate thinking because the minute I do that, memories start flooding in and I'm in the mood. I just don't need that kind of shite right now, not with all this uncertainty. Not without knowing what the fuck is next.


Another day has passed at see. Yes Lauren, I did see Marcus again although not until mid day. Didn't see him at breakfast either. I'm quite surprised how well they're feeding us. I wonder if this is an indication that they're fatting us up for the slaughter or if they're trying to help us enjoy our final days on board and on Earth. No one else seems to appreciate that sort of dark humour. Certainly not the ship's crew, who I tried it out on a time or two trying to elicite some answers about where we were headed or at the very least, when we were expected to get there. They're very tight-lipped about it all, the fuckers.

Marcus appreciates it though. Whenever I make one of my snide, cynical little comments, he gets it and snortles his loud laugh. I've been observing this laugh for many hours now. It starts of as a kind of snort and then gets louder until it reaches the point of sounding almost forced. I'm sure I've already mentions he gets alot of strange looks. Yes, the ginger afro and very tall frame don't help either. I asked him if he gets self conscious about people looking at him all the time, about looking so different from everyone else and you know what he said? He said, no Margaret, I don't give a fuck what these people think. And then he leans down to me, sort of conspiratorily, and says, you think this isn't all for their benefit? People are so fucking predictable Margaret. Oh, surprise at the tall man. Oh, surprise at the tall man with ginger afro. Oh surprise at the tall man with the ginger afro with the funny laugh. That's why I don't give a fuck. What am I gonna do, shave my head, keep quiet and hope they don't still stare at me just because I'm tall? Fuck it, might as well give 'em the 'ole show.

We talked awhile about the future, the uncertain future. Marcus has a theory that we're going to some work camp. He thinks the government, either the British government or some sort of world consortium representing a small ruling class' interests, have come up with some idea about how to get the economy rolling or how to make sure their own profits keep rolling in and our labour is going to be the source of it. They've probably come up with some new technology that requires some weird human interaction and we're going to be the experiments - working with robots or something to form a new community, whatja think?

I really have no idea. And I'm tired, Lauren. I'm tired after all these years, all this pain and misery and tragedy and partying and thinking I'm going mad and just when I thought I'd finally got a hold on it all, a hold on my life, gained some control back, the whole world goes fucking barking mad. I feel like giving up.

Marcus is on about wanting a beer so often, so punctually, like every half hour or so, he's got me thinking about it as well. We share stories for several hours between us about nights out, wild parties. My spirits lifts a little. But at the same time it makes me nostalgic. I know, I'm supposed to view it all with disdain, I fucked my life up, right? But what the fuck, it would have ended up fucked up anyway as far as I can tell out here on this boat going christ knows where.


I've lost track of time.

(land appears and the rest is going to be dedicated to describing this primitive organisation, the greeting by unarmed guards, toughs, the clear leader of the bunch, the rules they are doling out, the government has abandoned you and now, as the rules have had to be made up from scratch you will see I am your new ruler. This is no democracy. I am your leader and you will accept it. If you don't well, god help you....

(use the idea of primitive man - they have no tools, the only source of food is vegetation and a few sheep, lambs, cattle - go back to the history, the leader is one of the original imports...)
Salaryman: the term carries associations of long working hours, low prestige in the corporate hierarchy, absence of significant sources of income other than salary, wage slavery, and karōshi. The term salaryman refers almost exclusively to males.

The prevalence of salarymen in Japanese society has given birth to many depictions by the media and various cartoons. The following are stereotypical images of the salaryman:
Lifestyle revolves entirely around work at the office.
Works over-time on a daily basis.
Diligent but unoriginal.
Thoroughly obedient to orders from the higher levels of the company.
Feels a strong emotional bond with co-workers.
Drinking, golf, and mahjong are the three main social activities that provide stimulation outside of work.
Lack of initiative and competitiveness.
Wears a suit, necktie, and dress shoes to work every day without fail.
Late night karaoke.
The image of a lifestyle revolving entirely around work gave birth to the names, shachiku (社畜 ?) meaning corporate livestock, and kaisha no inu (会社の犬 ?) corporate dog, to ridicule salarymen.
The social image may differ according to the time period and economic situation. For example, the salaryman during the Japanese asset price bubble was a business warrior armed with an energy drink, whereas the salaryman in the post-bubble period was a worker cowering in fear of employee cuts or salary-reductions. The image of the salaryman in each period is often reflective of Japan's social condition as a whole.

“If you no longer can sell your property, how can you move elsewhere?” Some people just switch out the lights and leave—property values have gone so low, walking away is no longer such a difficult option.”

Perhaps The City has reached a tipping point, and will become a ghost town. I’d certainly expect it to shrink faster in the next few years than it has in the past few. But more than likely, many people will stay—those with no means and few obvious prospects elsewhere, those with close family ties nearby, some number of young professionals and creative types looking to take advantage of the city’s low housing prices. Still, as its population density dips further, the city’s struggle to provide services and prevent blight across an ever-emptier landscape will only intensify.

3 march am

In the interests of disclosure, I am dictating this on the fifteen minute walk from my flat to work. I could be twittering this or using another even more instantaneous form of social networking communication but I’m not. I refuse to. I am using a hand-held voice recorder for the simple reason that I have trained myself to think clearest when I am walking and given that my walking comprises these days of the 15 minutes it takes to go from my flat in the morning to the office and then the 15 minutes it takes to go from the office to my flat some 16 or 18 hours later, I have trained myself to maximise those 15 minutes back and forth to be able to dictate the entirety of these memoirs or aide-mémoire, of these days, these fleeting hours of solitude and piece, these fragments of time when I am neither here nor there but in transit. The transit between the two stations of living and dying, working and at rest.

(and these will be written in spurts every morning before and every afternoon after, dictation-style because he can’t get out otherwise.)

So I just had to ask myself, since I figured whoever would be listening to this later might think the safe question, why?

I think mainly, it’s because I feel myself slipping into anonymity. Everyone is these days, it seems. Other than the pop icons and their fifteen minutes of fame, that is. We aren’t ever going to be stars. And whilst yes, case by case, these claims made by anonymous others are interesting, they only seem to underscore my loneliness, the solitude of working and working and working and going home just to sleep.

During one of my breaks today I watched this edited documentary on bees and realised for the first time that worker bees aren’t even male bees. They’re females incapable of reproduction. The males are just called drones and basically, die after they mate. Compared to my life, they’re lucky. At least they get that one chance to mate. Me? We have whores delivered from the brothel whenever we’ve reached the 20 hour mark in one day or the 125 hour mark for the week. Our reward.

But copulation in and of itself is no reward. I could just jerk off, if the issue were that pressing. That’s why they used to keep pornography in the bathroom stalls until a few dumb bastards ruined it for the rest of us by disappearing from their desks too frequently or not within their own designated break periods. No, it isn’t the act that’s missing, it’s the companionship. You can’t create companionship in 15 minutes. It isn’t like fame.

Anyway, that’s going off the course. What was I talking about? Oh yes, why am I keeping track of this, making an effort to record what I’m thinking as if it mattered. I just want it there. I’m anonymous, just like the rest of us. Unless number 124 has some sort of social relevance which, I’m quite certain, it does not. So this little bit of record keeping is my means of escaping out from underneath the anonymity of number 124. If there is such a thing as escaping, that is. Metaphorically speaking.

In any case, this is the first recording, the first day. I’ll try and fill in the blanks as time goes on.


4 march am

Well, first day and I’ve already cocked it up. I somehow managed to put batteries in this device that were virtually dead. So when I finally left work with my head bursting with ideas for this thing, there was no power to record with. Anyway, I’ll try to recapture those thoughts on the walk to work this morning.

There’s no real enjoying the gradual change seeing the days lengthen, the dark hours grow shorter. It used to be, back in the days when we’d be done working by 5, this time of year you might notice a difference from say, December or January to the beginning of March. I mean, you’d KNOW because it’d still be light out when you left work.

Not any more, of course. Getting in at 6 am, it’s still pretty much dark. Leaving at 8 pm, it’s dark again. Didn’t see much of the daylight at all. That’ll all change in say, May or June or July when it’ll stay light until 10 at night or so, allow us a little enjoyment, but the sun’s dead by then. It hasn’t set but the warmth and beauty and joy of feeling it is dead.

So how did we get this way? Good question. It all started back during the fiscal meltdown a few years ago. What started off as a few banks going under just kept mushrooming larger and larger and larger until people were, so they said anyway, losing a job approximately every 25 seconds. You can’t keep that kind of pace.

In any event, jobs naturally started getting scarce. A few years before, before all of this started happening, you had your pick of jobs. If you didn’t like it, you just left. Found something else. It’s like they used to tell us about “the good old days” when such and such was in great abundance and no one ever thought twice about using up a resource because it seemed to be everlasting. That’s kind of how it worked with employment. Once a limitless resource, where employers competed with each other for employees, now with jobs so scarce, the roles reversed and with the employers in the driver’s seat, naturally the rules changed back again. Employers could start demanding more and christ knows, once they’re in a position to demand more, they’re bloody ruthless. Squeeze every possible ounce out of every one left with a job. They didn’t even have to tell us we were lucky to have jobs. We knew it. We knew at any minute, if we did anything someone higher up didn’t like they could just get rid of us at the drop of a hat. Employment became a hot commodity.

So the first thing they did was tell us, oh, well, we’ve had to make cuts here and there which means whilst there’s still the same amount of work out there needing to be done, there’s less people to do it. What that means is that the people left have to do more work. Just so everyone can keep up. Otherwise, it’ll all go down the toilet.

And you know, fair enough, we all thought. We worked overtime to compensate for each of us having a larger share of the work. I mean, we were paid overtime, time and half, sometimes double time, because initially, they (management) were still worried about themselves and their results, their productivity, their ability to meet targets, which never changed, despite less resources and if anything, were set higher because now companies had to keep with other companies not just for profits, but in most cases, for survival. So they got budgets that allowed us to work overtime and we worked them.

But then profits continued to shrink and there was less money so the overtime pay was eventually reduced to simply just getting an hourly wage, the normal hourly wage for the added hours you worked. And whilst that was less of an incentive, certain people pissed and moaned about it of course, but those people soon found themselves replaced and seeing people you worked with replaced for the slightest of complaints was a bit of a subliminal message by management that you’d better keep your gob shut tight and get on with it.

And then of course, perhaps even predictably I suppose, they said, look, we can’t afford all this extra pay any more. They had months of meetings. Meetings every day, hours a day, all these hush hush gatherings between managers and managers from higher up, other companies, managers everywhere, like a traffic jam of managers, a glass menagerie of cockroaches.

And then eventually came the big announcement. They gathered us all up in a big meeting room after weeks of speculation, (most of us were convinced this was the end of the end) and sure enough, they made a few sacrificial, symbolic sackings, leaving us with fewer still resources but having completed their sackings, they knew those of us remaining were going to be a hell of a lot more pliable when it came to demands and then to sweeten the pot artificially a little more, they came up with the idea of salary restructure.

Now you might think this sounds pretty ominous. We didn’t know what to expect out of this, especially after the sackings. So after some more meetings and then another big announcement, the big plan was revealed. We’d all be getting larger chunks, bigger salaries!

Anyway, I’ve just arrived at the front doors of the office. I’ll shut this off for now. Hopefully I’ll remember tonight to record some more.

4 march pm

It’s pissing it down at the minute. Fierce rains, howling, gusting winds. The lights from the street lamps are partially obscured so thick and heavy is the precipitation. It’s a fitting conclusion to the day , all day indoors, no windows. Had no idea what it was like outside. My shoes, I’ve discovered, or one of them anyway, has a hole in it somewhere. In this kind of weather, with a hole in your shoe somewhere, your stocking feet get soaked and when I get home tonight I’m going to have to squeeze them out in the sink and hang them inside the shower.

I don’t mean to go on about the weather but it’s exceptional, this rain and wind. I have to walk with my eyes closed for stretches until I start getting paranoid that I’m going to run into a lamp post or walk into the bridge railing and fall over into the floating harbour. The swells are something. You don’t see that much in the floating harbour, the water is pretty stable because there’s no current perse. But the wind is blowing so hard is causing whitecaps. As if it were a proper body of water. I know a lot of people consider it a proper body of water but it isn’t. I used to live near the Channel. That’s proper water, proper storms.

I tried to give it some thought as I was shutting my computer down this evening before leaving the building about what I was going to talk about on the way home tonight. I was going to talk about all the hobbies I’ve given up on since these extended hours, the sacrifices I’ve had to make just to keep my head afloat. It’s stupid to complain about it though. I’m lucky in comparison to other people who don’t have any job and any money and get shipped off to one of those islands. I’ve heard some weird rumours about those islands but nothing substantiated. The news, the rare times I watch the news, rarely cover it. Sometimes when somebody goes mental in the holding yard before they are shipped off, there’s a little blurb or a little remark but mostly you don’t hear much about it all. No one is coming back from. At least no one has yet. That’s all you really know.

But I’ll be honest, this rain and this wind is simply too distracting. I just want to cover my head and face as best I can and think about having a nice bowl of warm soup and maybe watch some sitcom or listen to some music before going to sleep. I’ve only got about 9 hours before I have to be back to work again and after I’ve cooked and washed up I’ll be well knackered and there will probably only be 7 hours left and well, given all the stress at work they tell us it’s best to get at least that many hours of sleep so we’re alert at work and frankly, if somebody doesn’t get that kind of sleep they usually find out about it somehow and the next thing you know, that fellow is gone and someone else might be replacing him. In fact, I take that back, what I said about nobody coming back from the island. I just remembered a year or so ago after they’d sacked Bill Akers for falling behind on some of his work the management was having difficulties finding someone with the appropriate experience and they apparently find someone off some data base kept about people about the island and had him brought back over to us. That’s what was rumoured anyway. We weren’t allowed to talk to him. They kept him in meetings for the first few weeks and then they segregated him off to some other office, a room actually, on another floor where the mail room used to be.

Anyway, here I am, in front of my house, soaking wet. I just want to get inside and get dry and warm. I’ll talk more tomorrow morning. Hopefully the weather will clear.

5 march am

At least the rain has stopped. It’s still pitch black out although the circling seagulls are pretty noisy anyway, making me feel like I’m being followed, spied on. There’s a few other birds, if I wake up in the middle of the night I can hear them singing as though they believe it’s spring already, irrespective of what the calendar says.

I’m still rather sleepy. The storm kept me up longer than usual and I’ve tried to make the coffee stronger than usual today, doubled the usual scoops. I know that’ll probably just make me feel wired and edgy and even then, it’ll only last so long before the caffeine buzz fades but I needed something, a little kick, to get moving.

Last night, had it not been for the rain, I was going to talk about hobbies and interests I’ve had to pretty much abandon since the increase in work. And then as I was getting ready for work I started thinking instead about families. I haven’t got one anyway, which is one of the reasons why I was eligible for these extended work hours and able to keep my job to begin with.

You see, when all this first started happening, you know the severe, almost catastrophic downturn in the economy and businesses started shedding jobs like obsessed fat people trying to shed weight, all these long hours were quite a severe strain on families.

Men and women both were left with the choice of either keeping their jobs and working these longer hours, or finding something else to do, some other way to earn money. At first it was just a matter of small sacrifices and maybe increased costs for day care or whatever, but as time went on, it became quite a severe impediment to families.

I knew people with kids who were really stuck in a hard place. They’d try to alternate working weekends or coming in earlier, working a little later, but when management started pushing the envelope, you know, as is their wont to do given all the practice they’ve had already in the past on maximising profits at the cost of the quality of life of its employees, it started becoming nearly impossible for most families.

The company, like other companies, used some of the extra space cleared out of the building to set up crèches, or company day care centres, the idea being if the children were kept on the premises, the parents wouldn’t worry about them, could even visit them during breaks during the course of the day and initially, people really kind of embraced the idea. Sure, people who had kids who were already in school were a little different because the kids had to go away and organise their own transportation back and forth to school and then there was the issue of who minds them when they’re back from school, I mean certainly you can’t have your kids just coming home to an empty house, doing whatever they wanted.

Or maybe you could. I don’t know. Not being a parent I don’t concern myself with it much but I remember this being all the rage in the company as the demand for working more hours was gradually increased more and more incrementally.

In any event, eventually, management came to the conclusion that certain parents were expendable as employees. It varied really. People who had kids of varying ages could put the burden on the older kids, make sure they were there as sort of surrogate parents when the younger kids got home. Those with kids who were still too young for school were fine as well because they had that on-site day care option. But like always with everything, there are those who fell through the cracks. And those happened to be parents who had kids of school age who were not quite old enough to be able to go back and forth unsupervised. Some of them could rely upon grandparents or other family members to help out but by then of course, people were pretty adapted to ignoring the needs of other people and just looking out for themselves, so it was pretty hard. Anyway, those people, the ones who couldn’t find any other options, were the first to go. In one fell swoop, five or ten people were just sacked and every one of them in the same position; kids of a certain age and no one to mind them in the absence of the parents. I think they all made some noises about taking action, about discrimination, etc but to be fair, they didn’t have a leg to stand on. Management were struggling enough as it were trying to make ends meet, let alone make profit, so they didn’t really give a shit, to be blunt, about what this handful of people, less than a dozen, thought. The rules were changing quickly, all those old rights were going right out the window and these unfortunate numbers right along with them. And just imagine, this scene was playing out everywhere, all over the country. They were like riding along on a tram or a bus and all of the sudden the brakes are slammed on and everyone gets jolted, a few people fall off and then the tram or the bus carries on its route. That’s what it was like.

Anyway, I’m nearly there so if it’s not pissing down again tonight when I leave, I’ll carry on from here, where I left off…

6 march am

Missed last night's monologue. I was irrevocably tired. I worked extra hours. There was some sort of massive screw up on my part that I had to spend extra time covering up in order to avoid anyone higher up finding out. Not sure if it worked but I think the ramifications have been resolved. I'll know within the next few days, likely. No doubt I was less sharp because of the lack of sleep and no doubt that's why management insist everyone get their quotient of sleep. I'm surprised they don't supervise that as well with Orwellian cameras in our flats. Won't be far off, I imagine.

It was incredibly busy all day. Not that it isn't every day. I mean, there's alot of days that go by in the blink of an eye. One minute you're arriving then next thing you know, twelve hours have passed.

Anyway, was simply too fatigued to bother on the walk home last night. Wanted to relax and get to sleep quickly and fortunately, I was able to.

Going back to what I was talking about yesterday, the culling of workers who had too many family responsibilities to keep their jobs, basically, well, I'm one of the treasured ones. I don't have any family, no wife, no kids. They love workers like me. We don't have any responsibilities other than to work. My life is work. My life is to help them make profits. It's not slavery of course, I get paid. I get paid actually not too poorly but the problem is with so little free time there's little use for money anyway so it's kind of a Catch 22. So much of it goes to the state taxes anyway it's rather a moot point.

I wasn't always in the position I am now, not having a family. Obviously, I guess, I had parents. I was an only child and my parents have both passed on. So I'm alone in that sense. I've had girlfriends, moreso when I was younger and times were different, when you would work 7 hours a day and be free the other 17. I'd go out to pubs with mates, do things, meet girls, go on dates. I've had my share of girlfriends in the past. I'm not hideous to look at or anything. But there's no time to engage in meeting women any more. No time, even if you could do it online or something, which I gather alot of people do in their free time, people who are younger, who have more energy and don't need as much sleep to be alert at work.

I mean, I hold out some vague hope that things will change in due course and the work burden will decrease but in the back of my mind I think I'm just kidding myself. That's how these things work. All those decades and decades of struggle to get worker's rights and then poof, it all goes out the window the minute theirs an economic crisis. Granted, this was a prolonged one and much harsher than any other, probably in history, but even if things start to improve, it'll still be a matter of having to claw all those rights back again and frankly, I don't think I'll see that in my lifetime unless there's some miraculous bounce back economically.

Lately mangement have been sort of discovering this problem so many of us have, being lonely. Happy workers are productive workers, no doubt they realise that but if a worker is too happy, he's not going to be as productive, probably just distracted, so they lose out on productivity there. I know for a fact there's rumours to the effect that they're working out some sort of programme. I don't know the details. There's no time for social mixers or whatever. Some of my colleagues have hinted at the idea that they might start providing "comfort women" of some sort but I think it's just wishful thinking on the part of horny men, not based on any kind of reality.

Anyway, I'm nearly to the building so that's it for today. Hopefully I'll have more energy this evening to add to this.

6 march pm

walking back after work it's dark already of course although I can almost smell it in the air, the arrival of Spring. What that will mean of course is that even if I work as late as 8 or 9 at night it's still going to be light out. And even when I leave for work at 6 am it's still going to be light out. The days of eternal darkness, or what seems like eternal darkness, are soon to be over, at least for the next many months.

It's Friday, have to remember that. Not that it matters at all anyway. I still have to be to work at 6 am, just like Monday through Friday. I'm up to 82 hours a week of work, still have managed to have off on Sundays, the only time left to myself.

I remember how Friday used to be something you'd look forward to because it was the end of the week. I guess it's not much different now, it's just that Saturday's the end of the week instead. A day later, a day less off a weekend. It's such a relative thing, I suppose. If we worked every day but Monday, the weekend or what used to be called a weekend, would be a Monday instead of a Saturday and Sunday.

Yeah, almost forgot about that, the disappearance of the weekend. Seems strange now in hindsight, that we'd had two whole days, consecutive no less, off from work before. I mean two whole days off consecutively right now would probably seem like retirement. But I do get the Sundays off still, like I said. It's probably enough, I dunno, what else would I do with my free time if I had too much of it? I'd probably just get anxiety attacks or find myself so bored that I'd just want to go back to work anyway.

Anyway, as I was saying, Friday night used to be the big night out. I used to leave work and usually wouldn't even bother going home to change out of my work uniform; the tie, the suit jacket, the white, pressed shirt, the black trousers, the black, polished shoes. It was almost like telling the work world to fuck off, at least for a few days. Of course, alot of uniforms got ruined that way, which added up to alot of unncessary expense so eventually, I went home first and changed and put on some drinking clothes. Clothes worn. Clothes I didn't care about.

In those days anyway, I'd go out right after work, sometimes with colleagues, sometimes meeting friends, sometimes a little of both, and we'd set about the business of drinking on a path to oblivion.

To be honest, it isn't all that different now except back in those days, I'd go out Friday night AND Saturday night and now of course, it's just Saturday night because Sunday is the only free day of the week. It's probably best anyway, I mean, I spend less money because I only go out half as much, I'm hungover one day ruined instead of two, that kind of thing.

On the other hand, since I've halved my time for fun, for reunions with friends, for trying to find an appropriate mate or partner, those times are a little more desperate. I'd have to say as a release, and this isn't just me, this is most people I know, Saturday night is an enormous event, an enormous event that no one remembers the next day but seems like such an amazing, marvelous time at the time. Like a week of Oktoberfests rolled into one night.

But I'll get to Saturday night when I get to it, I suppose. I'll tell you all about it. For the time being, it's Friday night, which is all the other nights other than Saturday night. Go home, eat something, kill an hour or two or sometimes three, go to bed and then wake up the next day, ready to start it all again.

Sometimes I miss those Friday nights. Especially on a night like tonight, this hint of the Spring and the Summer of what once would be coming, long nights sitting out in cafes drinking and talking and meeting people. Tonight, when I get home, I'm going to cook some rice and maybe lace it with some kind of chicken, I'm going to sit down in my living room and switch on the telly and watch all the shows I've missed that I want to see. At least for a few hours. Friday nights I can afford to stay up just a little later. Technically, I don't have to be to work until 8, but I go in at 6 anyway just to try to stay ahead of others and look good to the managers. And even though we only "have" to work until 6 (so technically, a 10 hour day instead of a 14 hour day because it's the weekend), no one really leaves at 6. It's the last night before The Off Day, which is Sunday, so everyone wants to get everything done since it's the end of the week. All the little tasks you've been putting off all week.

Come to think of it, everyone thinks pretty much the same way I do. The go in early and stay late anyway, all because they're desperate to impress management or avoid getting sacked or trying to outdo their colleagues in case, I dunno, just in case it comes down to the little things. The extra mile.

So, until later....

7 march sat am

There used to be a real different feel to going to work on a Saturday. It used to be optional for one and we used to get paid double time for doing it. It was almost like they had to beg you with incentives. Now of course, everyone's HAPPY to be working on a Saturday, cutting their weekend in half. Happy because they've got jobs, they won't have the same money worries as people who are only finding part time or temporary work or don't have any work at all and are tied into mortgages and can't really go anywhere to seek new work unless they can find someone to to rent their property from them, or they lose their job and go bankrupt or whatever.

In any event, on those rare occasions when I'd work a Saturday, it was special. I'd stay in on a Friday night, which was also special. You know, like you were treating yourself to a night in, or perhaps you'd have a date and instead of the usual going out and getting battered you'd order in some chinese food or a pizza or even cook something and watch a few dvds, mess around a bit or even just fall asleep in each others' arms. It was a nice change of pace.

And then when you woke up on a Saturday morning - not too early mind, because until around 5 or 6, there'd always be those last traces, those last vestiges of partiers, people singing in the streets, wandering home or people talking loudly or arguing, all of the different kind of behaviours, all predictably loud in any event, of people who were drunk and didn't have to work the following day, anyway, when you'd go out the city had this pleasantly dead feel to it. No one was around, no cars on the road, nothing open. Just like a city with no people in it. Or one of those post-apocalyptic sort of movies where the buildings all remain standing but all the people are dead.

And I'd go to work on those mornings, dressed casually, another reason to like it, it never felt like work, more like just I dunno, pretending to work or something, and even when you were there, you'd be dressed in jeans and trainers, t-shirt and hell, you could even listen to music with headphones on whilst you worked because there weren't going to be any telephones ringing.

Anyway, I'm thinking about this right now, as I cross the bridge. Nobody's sick in the street to step around. No abandoned curry or kebob containers. Saturdays are really no different than Fridays or Mondays any more. Well, maybe just a little bit. There's the going out to look forward to. Seeing mates, getting drunk, doing stupid things and losing control of yourself out of relief, a catharsis of sorts but one which you wouldn't remember the following morning.

I try hard not to think about work once I leave the doors. I try not to think about those few other parts of my life when I'm at work. It's not good to confuse the two things, living and working or to mix images from one whilst doing the other. It's a little exercise I perform to try and keep my sanity so to speak. I used to think about work all the time, even when I wasn't there. I'd dream about cases or, worse still, dream about deadlines until the dreams were like nightmares and I'd wake up in a cold sweat and not be able to get back to sleep because I'd be worrying about deadlines.

But I've trained myself over the last year or so not to worry about it. I mean, I worry, sure. But I can't really do anything about it unless I'm at work, these deadlines. And more importantly, I need my rest. That's what they tell you. You need the mental break away from it all otherwise you become like some of these people who simply snap. That's apparently what happens, either you compartmentalise, you snap or, the final alternative, you simply work all the time. There's a few people like that I work with. They're called "Full Timers".

Full Timers are people who have actually given up whatever property they have in exchange for premises right in the building. There were alot of extra rooms available when the cut backs started, people losing work yet there was still all this space, so they started first of all, renting the places out because not everyone who worked here, lived here, you see. If they lived somewhere else but couldn't find any work where they lived, alot of them were forced to leave their families behind and simply go where the work was. They couldn't really commute, because the distances were too far, so they'd find temporary housing of some kind.

Then management got the idea to convert the extra space into little on-site flats. They'd charge a little bit for the space or, if the guys they were hiring it out to didn't have a lot of cash left over supporting their families and paying their mortgages elsewhere, they'd just give them the rooms for free in return for some sort of commitment on working extra hours.

That's how the weekend, the Saturday working started. It started off with these people coming from other cities or towns who stayed in on site flats and didn't earn enough to afford it so worked for free on Saturdays in exchange and then they'd go home and hope to spend a few hours either Saturday night or Sunday, depending on how far away they lived from their work, with their families.

Damned Full Timers are what made it harder for the rest of us.

Anyway, here I am, back at work. I'll speak more later.

7 march saturday evening

I've stepped out of the building, free at last and the minute I've turned this on, the streets are alive, everything seems a bit mad.

Not everyone works as many hours as we do. I mean, I think in most cases people have to work at least part of the day on Saturday but it varies from job to job, salary to salary.

According to startling figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) released last week, there are now 39 pubs closing in Britain each week. Were the closures to continue at that rate, last orders in Britain's last pub would be called for the final time one evening in June 2037.
The closure rate has been creeping upwards for the past six or seven years. Publicans point to a cluster of factors, including the smoking ban, and the wide availability of cheap beer and wine in supermarkets and corner shops - which makes it far more prudent to get sozzled at home (where you can smoke if you must) instead of down the pub.

So as I go past the familiar little square where several pubs are situated, the same little square I have to pass every morning and every night back and forth from work, it's significantly livelier.

You have to wonder how these places stay in business. In fact quite alot of pubs did go out of business over the course of time and these pubs which remain usually have some sort of unique quality to them like live music or free food or cheap drinks or proximity to office buildings.

It's not like the old days when people would go to the pub at lunch and then after work. Most people eat lunch at their desks or get some of the subsidised meals work provides. They certainly aren't allowed a full hour of freedom to just leave the building and do whatever they want, including having a pint or two. I mean, let's be straight, the work I do isn't rocket science, just straight sort of paper-pushing involving claims against insurance companies, many of them fraudulent as it has become a source of income for alot of people who can manage it. Nonetheless, without the freedom of being able to just leave for an hour, the opportunity to have a pint isn't there. And whilst I suppose the opportunity exists to have a pint after work in one of these few pubs on the way home, alot of them aren't open on what you would consider a regular basis. Usually only a few hours a day and not very late at night.

How do they stay in business then? Well, many of them are in fact owned by corporations, the same many of us work for. They pushed out the small guys, who, during the onset of the economic crisis, couldn't afford the rents any more because business was so bad and credit was too tight to keep themselves supplied on a regular basis for beer and spirits.

So alot of corporations bought them out, downsized to limit competition and then just kept a few open. They aren't usually open during the day and only a few hours at night. Except for Saturday night of course. All day Saturday in fact. Like I said, not every body works as late as we do at this place so generally, by the time I'm out at 8 there's already a shift of people who have been out drinking for the better part of the afternoon.

Anyway, the corporations subsidise the pubs by doubling them as day care centres believe it or not. So on the offhand chance there is a set of parents who both work, they are both free to do so until about 6 in the evening. After that, the day care element closes and the pub opens for dinner until about 8 or 9 at night. That's why they're usually closed by the time I leave work.

Of course if you aren't working and somehow subsisting otherwise, you don't really need a pub anyway. There's all sorts of clandestine places I've heard about where people brew beer or make their own gin in their flats and then sell it in these impromptu sort of pubs out of those flats. The problem as always is people not having enough money to drink seeing as how they don't have jobs but the overhead is low so the cost of drinking in these kind of speakeasies is substantially lower than anywhere else.

Anyway, just went past the square, the main one with four pubs, one on each corner. People are already loud and drunk, music is blaring forth from all sections. I'm being accosted from all sides for money and people vomiting and laughing or crying and it's a bit of a relief to get out of there. I won't be going that way tonight anyway. There's a few private sort of clubs that I go to for people like me who have a reasonable sum of money left over during the week and can afford to pay a little more to get away from the crazy people. The crazy people are everywhere of course but these little enclaves are only open Saturday nights and they stay open well into the night, usually until dawn. That's where I'm going tonight. Anyway, nearly home, have to bath and change clothes and get ready. Tomorrow being Sunday I'll have sort of all day to talk into this thing and talk about what, if anything happened.

8 march sunday afternoon

Finally, the week's day off arrives, it's nearly 3 in the afternoon and I've only just roused myself. There was someone, a girl, a woman, next to me when I woke but I've gotten rid of her by now and I can just sit here in my underwear, head fogged and throbbing staring off into space trying to recall last night's events into this recorder.

First of all, please don't think less of me because of the girl. I know it sounds crass but that's the way things are these days. I suppose they've always been that way in one form or another, perhaps forever. But you see, it's all a little easier now, a little more tempting. People who are employed have money, people who aren't employed, don't have money. Well, they have money, they just don't have very much of it. So for a few free drinks, perhaps a decent meal, they're quite willing to chat you up and they're reasonably open minded about other things beyond a simple chat.

Ian says that's because they're desperate. He says we're their meal ticket, literally. He says these women are just looking for some employed guy they can latch on to who will put a roof over their head, food in their mouth and will gone all the time working so they can enjoy their freedom and enjoy it without even having to bother doing something as trivial as work. He's rather contemptuous of them, if I'm honest. It's shocking sometimes, the venom, the bitterness that comes out of him.

I've known Ian for years. We work in the same field, opposite sides, so to speak. He's a solicitor who represents the people whose claims we defend against. I met him in a pub one night and we kind of hit it off, particularly since we were kind of well, meant to be opponents in a sense. But the thing is, in such a business there are so many commonalities, it seems rather natural that we would take to one another seeing as how we dealt in essence, the same thing, albeit from opposite sides. He'd always said to me from the beginning we could benefit each other, sharing each other's insights to give us an advantage, a leg up on our colleagues so to speak. And he's been right. We were both rather successful in that sense, owed in part anyway, to information we shared.

Anyway, we've both survived these economic times and Ian's probably the only person I know who works more hours than I do. Of course, people who work more hours than I do are generally invisible, working out of the building and living in one of those on site flats, never leaving in essence, so the chances of me running into one are pretty slim indeed.

A few months ago, Ian told me about this new club that was opening up that catered only to people like us with steady work and little time to spend money thus, plenty of disposable income when we did have the rare opportunity to go out. It's called The New Deal, which is supposed to be some ironic name having to do with the programme a former American president created to try and pull America out of the Depression.

In any event, we went there for the first time a few weeks ago and I don't mind saying, it's rather fantastic. I mean somehow, they've got all sorts of goods that no one else has seen in months, years. Single malt scotch, Scottish salmon, caviar, hundred pound a glass champagne, fresh fruits, basically, the kind of stuff I probably would never have bothered to pay this kind of money on back in the days before the crash when we were all morgaged up to our eyes, tens of thousands of pounds on our credit cards and barely able to make ends meet by the end of each month, regardless of how much we made.

But now, my tracker interest rate mortgage still at nil, my monthlies shrunk to a half of the size, I paid off my credit cards with the balance and I'm making more money than ever because even though alot of it's unpaid overtime, my basic salary has increased quite substantially. And then of course there's the fact that I have no time to shop, even if the shops are open later, because even if I did, what would be the point in shopping? Who would I have to impress, my work colleagues? They're the only people who ever see me. Except for these nights, in places like these, the lone night we can go out and relax and unlike other pubs and social places open to the general public, this one is invitation only. So we aren't mixing with people who don't have work or women for that matter who are just trying to get their hooks into us, exchange let's say semi-occasional sex for rent-free lodging and board.

Don't get me wrong, there are women here as well and maybe some of them are looking for that kind of arrangement but generally, those kinds of women aren't getting in. The women who are getting in are generally either actual prostitutes, the old school kind but obviously, higher scale and higher class, and other professionals, women like us who work all the time and don't have the free time for meeting anyone, let alone a relationship. There aren't many of them, mind. I reckon generally speaking the male to female ratio is probably at least 10 to 1. Men don't get pregnant, for one. Maybe that's the main thing, come to think of it. Management don't want to have to go to the trouble and expense of training someone new when a woman gets pregnant. And believe me, getting pregnant is virtually the same as quitting your job. There isn't any more maternity leave with the position being held. If a woman gets pregnant, the minute anyone knows about it, they're gone. It's almost a blasphemy in a way. Disrespect to your employers, to the dedication you're supposed to be demonstrating. Getting pregnant is a sign of either poor planning or professional apathy. Either one is one of the quickest ways out. That and getting sick. Well, getting sick enough that you can't come in to work. You come in to work no matter what's wrong with you because if you don't, there's no one to take over your work for that day and whilst some might volunteer to work more hours to pick up that slack, the bottom line is management views illness as weakness and weakness, in this Darwinesque environment, is of course, a means to a quick end.

Anyway, I'm getting off the point. I met with Ian at The New Deal after I'd gotten home from work, showerd and changed. I didn't even get out of the house until almost 10. So I was starving when we got there and fortunately, Ian had reservations for us in the restaurant part of the establishment and, he informed me with great pride as we were standing outside the coat check waiting for our tickets, he'd managed to arrange for two women to join us.

Before you get too worked up, he says as we're walking to the restaurant, they won't be joining us for the meal, at least not the first course or two. They're both solicitors, I hope you don't mind, heh, and of course, working hours like I do and then having to get ready for a proper night on the town, well you can well imagine. I mean you've probably spent as little time as possible on fixing yourself up, judging from appearances and yet, he added with a laugh, you weren't even ready before 10 so I suggest we'll be lucky to see them before midnight.

Now I should admit, if I haven't already, that these Saturday nights are one of my few proper indulgences. Full five course meal, plenty of wine, and basically, a night unlike those when I'm simply too damned tired when I come home at night to do anything but heat a quick meal or a container of soup and rice because I allow myself the luxury I'm sure all my hard work merits but which unfortunately, rarily is practical. So I act somewhat differently. I seek pleasure in ways I wouldn't normally do. I don't have to work on Sunday and I won't be getting home much before dawn.

Anyway, we're halfway through our second course when the two women show up. Ian only knows one of them, Barbara, through some mutual friend in the courts and the other one, Linda, is a friend of Barbara's, a sort of date to make the double date work in theory. Barbara is in her late thirties, I suspect, like Ian, never married, a career woman cut throat enough to have survived a predominatly male professional world and succeeded at that, attractive in a, I dunno, male sort of way is the only way I can describe it. She looks like a woman but she speaks like a man or one of those sexless bureaucrats who usually fit the management profiles.

Linda somewhat younger than Barbara. It isn't clear what her profession is. Not even when I ask her out of politeness. Troubleshoot, was all she said, smiling thinly. But she didn't look like management or even one of those systems gurus who come in to work places and fix them all up on efficiency modalities and the like. I don't have any evidence but I suspect she works as an escort. I don't mind. She's attractive, after all. Quite attractive. She can hold her weight in any conversation, she drinks comfortably without losing control and does a brilliant job pretending to be interested in what I talk about, the last of which is of course, nearly a dead giveaway that she's an escort. But again, I don't mind. Nobody brings it up. I suspect even Ian knows, or is even in on it, but she's nice enough company.

In a sense it's boring because all we talk about is work or rather, Ian and Barbara talk about work, their work, their client's etc. Linda and I struggle at first finding a common ground of interest but then eventually end up discussing the government's new plans to establish island communities for what they call the "chronically unemployed" or "unemployable".

What do you think, she asked me, picking at her lobster and sipping a glass of champagne after I'd made some off hand comment about it.

Well who knows really. It's not like their going to Hawaii. I don't know how many are being shipped out but even if they don't work or pull their own weight, alot of them are the only ones having children so if it weren't for them we might well be a dying breed, I suppose. And they add colour to what would otherwise be a pretty drab community, don't you think.

She smiled to herself, enjoying a secret little joke either reminded of something else by what I'd said or perhaps at my own expense generally, about my opinions. I wasn't used to female company and she rather unnerved me at times.

Yes, they are certainly colourful. And yes, it's difficult to disagree, they are indeed well equipped, time wise if unfortunately not emotionally, resource wise or even psychologically, to be saving our breed so to speak from extinction - rather ironic I think since you've put it that way considering that what some might consider to be an inferior lot being left in charge of perpetuating the rest of us.

Well, I said, warming up to my topic, having considered it many times in my mind, let it roll around for weeks at a time, you have to admit, it's rather short sighted to be encouraging everyone to be working as many hours as they do, essentially cutting out their social lives, leaving them without the facility of interaction that might allow them to find mates and then, even if they did, without the time to parent them properly. Either way you look at it, the repercussions that will be felt years from now aren't even being considered.

You sound like you have a personal stake in this, she said popping an olive into her mouth and chewing slowly. Was she mocking? Again, it was hard to tell. So long without proper conversation, without social interaction.

Well, now that you mention it, I do in a way. I mean, I suppose it's safe to mention this here but there are times when I think how nice it would be to have a family to come home to.

Ian at this point, extracting himself from his conversation with Barbara and waved me off. Now then, that'll be enough of that talk before you're cut off from the wine there young man. That's blasphemy, that is, considering having families and the like.

He tried to make out like he was kidding, having a little laugh at my expense but the truth is, I could see right through him. It was as though the herd has heard the noise of a predator in the field. He was spooked. I could see right through him. He wasn't kidding at all. He had brainwashed himself long ago that having a family was not only pointless, but virtual suicide. He filled my glass to make amends and tried to steer my conversation with Linda back on course by asking Linda where she'd come across that georgeous necklace of hers and then, when he was satisfied I'd returned back to point, allowed me the freedom of guiding my own conversation.

The night went on in that stilted sort of way until we'd had enough wine to make us all feel a little giddy. After that of course, we went to the post-meal pub area with individual fireplaces at each table and a bottle of Chivas to guide us through the night.

Even though Linda was probably an escort, pride dissuaded me from asking her, even after Ian and Barbara had finally announced their departure, making quite a public announcement about their intentions to review Ian's art collection and begging off leaving Linda and I alone.

Would you like me to ring a taxi for you, I asked finally while we sat in uneasy silence for a few minutes.

Whatever for, she asked with surprise. I've been paid for the night, you might as well get your money's worth.

Actually, she didn't say that. I just imagined it after she'd excused herself to go and freshen up. We managed to drag our conversation along another half hour or so before I finally screwed up the courage to invite her back to my flat for a night cap.

So long as you have no intentions of trying to perpetuate the working class with me, she teased.

The rest of Sunday, once my hangover eased with a tiny bit of vodka and tomato juice combined with a long, steaming shower and a jacuzzi, was spent shopping for food for the week, taking care of the dry cleaning, watching a little telly and calling it a night well early, falling asleep on the sofa with the telly on, a Hiruhi piece across my chest and little more on my mind than survival.

Admittedly, I'd planned on Sunday being a day without work that I could spend a great deal of time recording with this thing considering my time is so limited every other day and night of the week. But the reality is I'm feeling a little depressed. I feel this way any time I've had someone over, a woman, I mean. Generally, no one else comes here.

Anyway, it got me thinking about being alone and to reminiscing about old girlfriends and all that rubbish so after awhile, I flicked off the recorder and found other things to distract myself with.

monday 9 march

This is the hardest day. It's been the hardest day for everyone, I think, forever, or at least since everyone, or most people anyway, began working for a living.

Knowing it's going to be miserable, the next 6 days and some 75-85 hours ahead of me, I try to focus solely on the day ahead. Usually on a Saturday night, after work, as I'm getting ready to go out, I'll jot a few notes down, cases I'm working on that are particularly intriguing from a liability or quantum standpoint, something to get my mind interested in what lies ahead.

But now that I'm out here, it isn't raining but it's chilly and overcast, as it always seems to be, and as I'm walking across the bridge, it strikes me again as it does every morning, that I see the same faces, crossing at the same time, day after day after day. I mean, I see the tall thin girl with the brunette hair tucked slightly behind her ear, the clothing or jacket, tasteful yet stylish. I see the guy with the kind of gimpy gait, he has some sort of thing going on with his leg and as he walks past me, one leg down, the shoulders sort of roll and every morning I try not to look at him because obviously its not a novelty any more but I still end up sneaking a glance out of the corner of my eye, some kind of morbid curiosity.

Anyway, you see these people every day and never say hello to them, never even nod to them, acknowledging that they exist. Their faces are so familiar they almost bring comfort to me and yet I know absolutely nothing about any of them. Sure, I try to come up with ideas, imagine their histories, their personal idiocyncracies, but these little games only trivialise their humanity, ignores the reality of movement - we, same people moving in opposite directions along this bridge every day, perhaps seeing each other but never quite making eye contact, everyone lost in their thoughts.

I saw a film one time about a guy who could read peoples' minds and it seemed like a nightmare. Everyone's petty, trivial little worries and concerns audible - can you imagine? Shopping lists, worries about meeting someone, worries about the someone you're with if you happen to be.

I suppose those worries, those preoccupations have changed some over time.

Few people among these anonymous faces I see have families so one of the primary preoccupations I suppose, has been alleviated. All the better for management. Perhaps they are all tightly wound, consumed by the work ahead of them, thinking of ways to be more productive, more efficient.

And just as well. Management will always be coming up with what they allege to be productive and efficient new methods. Elaborate spreadsheets which will allegedly facilitate the number crunching. I have to be honest, may times I have no idea what it is for - monintoring I suppose, micromanaging. In the end, it simply creates more work for everyone, this facility to read numbers and extrapolate new and ever-fluctuating policies of productivity and efficiency. I won't tell you what I think of it. Not now anyway. Coming close to the building. Time to shut it and focus.

monday pm march 9

I stayed a little later than usual tonight, it's nearly 11 by the time I'm finally out of there and I hate to say, there were still one or two stragglers still in there.

Mondays are days reports are due so in essence you're spending all your time preparing data for the reports instead of actually doing the work you're assigned to do, the new cases, the new information about old cases, the incessant telephone calls, faxes, emails, all demanding instant attention. So because you fall behind due to the reports, you work doubly fast or stay late or just remain fallen behind the rest of the week, which can be quite an unnerving existence.

I try to time my thoughts for these moments. I'm beginning to look forward to these walks to and from work, talking into this microphone. It's almost as though I have a friend with this thing. Well, not a friend of course but, I dunno, something to confess to, something to just spill my guts to. Yet I don't have anything in particular to say. My mind is numb from work, as always. But I try to hold a little reserve in my mind all day knowing that by the time I leave, walking like this along the back streets through a bit of a fog, feeling fatigued yet mysterious, I will hopefully have something of some significance to mention.

Oh yes, they've made some sort of announcement today. Fraud is becoming a growing problem. Well, it's always been a problem with these cases, so many people are down and out and making claims are really such a simple way of generating a little extra revenue. The way the legal system works is in essence, fundamentally biased in favour of the claimant. Believe me, I have no idea how this came about. I presume the solicitor's lobby or influence on judges is somewhat more focused than that of the corporations who are paying for these claims and it's almost incomprehensible that in a society that has in essence, pared down existence to its barest essentials that a frivolity like this leakage would be tolerated. No laws have been passed against any of it. In fact, the government completely looks away from it. The entire system is based upon solicitors who pay the judges and judges who fix the system so that the claimants are the advantaged. Well, the solicitors are in fact the most advantaged, but the advantage trickles down to the client as well.

So making an annoucement about a sharp increase in fraud and the creation of a few positions, or perhaps, as it is unclear currently, they will be only shifting some people from one position to another thereby creating even more work still for people who are not making that move and left to take over all the work of those who have shifted over to these new fraud positions, I dunno, it's all still quite convoluted. As always, we're given information in tiny doses, like children, only what's needed. I suppose they withhold the information to given them a sense of empowerment.

But I don't want to go too heavily into policies. No, I'm nearly home, I think I'm going to cook myself a nice steak perhaps and whilst I wait for it to cook properly I'll treat myself to a glass or two of wine. It's been a hard day.

I did a little reading last night, historical reading. A book about peasants. I think I find the congruency between my life and that of peasants quite similar believe it or not. Living just to work.

tues am 10 march

The weather is turning. Gradually, it's getting light earlier. In a month or so, perhaps even as early as daylight savings time, it will be light by the time I leave my house in the morning, just in time to get in to work by 6 am and then, rather than plodding along through the streets in the dark, it will all seem a little more tolerable.

Of course it's all an illusion. I'll still be stuck in doors all day, irrespective of the weather, and even though secretly, I think, like last Spring, we'll all try to believe that things will be getting better economically for the country, for the world, that we've finally turned the corner. They, as in the media, the government, make little hints at what they call sprouts of hope, little shoots, like plants in Spring, rising up, stretching up their arms.

It's funny, how much you WANT to believe them, no matter how many false alarms before, no matter how many times they've said things that are unrealistically optimistic or have distorted the truth outright just to try to give us a little hope.

You think, realistically, after an entire lifetime virtually, as far back as I can remember before all this started, there was prosperity. Here anyway. Yes, there was always those nagging strings of guilt being tugged at; people in far away lands starving to death, but realistically, the media didn't pay much attention to it. It was deemed too unpleasant. So they spoke in platitudes because platitudes means there is nothing controversial, nothing to lie about.

Politicians and athletes speak in that same way, platitudes. There isn't any real direct answers, just words from a script with perhaps four or five different responses, maximum.

It isn't hard to recall when all of this first began, when the first faint rumblings commenced and we were told oh, this is a little blip, a little glitch, we'll smooth it all over, we'll throw some money here and there, patch it up right and soon enough, things will be right back on track the way they always were.

An economic depression was back then anway, something confined to history books. I remember seeing some movie, or perhaps I read it in a book, about the Germans, after World War I taking their pay home in wheel barrows their money was so worthless.

Oddly enough, we aren't in that position. People either have jobs or they don't. At first the prices of everything went down, way down. Ridiculously down. Anything to get rid of their stock. Anything to try and spur what they call growth. Cut interests rate, god, I remember how historic it was all supposed to be.

And yet, nothing happened, it only got worse. More and more people lost their jobs. As a result, the government had less and less, services were cut left and right, higher and higher burdens were put on those like me who were or still are, working.

It comes in the form, of course, of longer hours, firstly. So in a way, whilst there isn't inflation, perse, for example, the cost of most goods I purchase are still reasonably affordable, but to make the same salary I was making before, I have to work nearly twice as many hours.

Sure, in the beginning there was alot of grumbling. But when people started disappearing from their jobs and there weren't any other jobs to come by, they became a scarce, precious commodity, jobs. So you did what they asked. If they said work and extra few hours, fine. Then, as I've probably mentioned before, the length of the day grew longer and longer. So I guess, yes, there is a sort of inflation, the cost of my salary, ha.

Spring in the air, or at least the semblance of it, reminds me of how long it's been since I've been out in the fresh air, got a proper bit of exercise. I used to enjoy going to the gym, going to yoga classes, going to boxing classes. But there isn't that kind of free time any more. That's the other thing that's gone away, free time. The one thing you used to take for granted. Time. And now there was so little of it left every day that its treasured.

Last night, I cooked my steak and had a few glasses of wine, watched the news, filled as usual with scenes around the world of riots, of lengthy lines for food and now, this new thing, this idea that they're creating some sort of alternate place for people who aren't working. The government is saying that the burden for services is growing too high so they're considering shipping people out. Can you imagine that? Shipping people out? Seems unbelievable but so does seeing so many people living out on the streets. Of course they keep the main streets well clear of these people. They gather in these little shanty towns on the outskirts. I'll talk about that more later because actually, I've completely forgotten to talk about this in more depth.

Unfortunately, I'm nearly at my building.

tues 1o march evening

It's pitch black, as usual and I don't mean to harp on about it, but it won't be long now before it's still light when I leave work at 8.

Even in the days back when people only worked until 5 this was somewhat of a big deal meaning that winter was finally over. There's something oppressive about going to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark as though there's no such thing as natural light any more. Now of course, instead of that just being a winter thing, it's all year round except for those waning summer months. Shit, it depresses me just thinking about it sometimes. It makes you wonder...I mean I'm glad to be one of the lucky ones still working but nothing ever comes to rumours of more humane solutions to these problems, like splitting the work in half, employing twice as many people and letting us have our lives back. Isn't that how things used to be done? I've always been puzzled by that. Instead of imprisoning people in what few jobs there are, why don't they...oh yeah, then they'd have to pay two salaries insted of one. Why do that when you can squeeze so much out of so few? I'm feeling a little bitter this evening.

I've got this theory about this self-perpetuating economy of insurance claims and solicitors who make huge profits from it. I suppose, sitting on the other end of it, dealing with injury claims that are completely taking the piss, one or two year whiplash injuries arising out of accidents with barely any damage to either vehicle, like scratches on a fender, you wonder how such an idiotic system came into play but it's quite obvious, when you see the fees the solicitors generate out of this why the system isn't reformed. The solicitors have the system by the balls, sympathetic judges (or, as it's often rumoured but never proven) judges who take kickbacks to make irrationally pro-claimant awards...I try to talk to Ian about this but he always brushes such lines of discussions away. He tells me it's natural that a judge would view any tactics to minimise claims by corporate insurance firms cynically, moreso than tactics by claimant solicitors to urge frivolous or even fraudulent claims. Besides, he always concludes, it keeps us both in plenty of work, doesn't it, not to mention all those people who are out of work getting a chance at a little free a lottery or something.

I suppose he's right in a way. I should just be grateful I'm working. What difference does it make? I'm not paying these claims out of my own pocket. You just wonder though, it's natural, why fraud is systematically encouraged. I know, that's a strong accusation but the evidence is overwhelming. Taking advantage of a system that is built to help people. Compensation culture. That's what they call it. Nowadays, anything happens to you, you put a claim forward, or you sue. The solicitors, I mean the exact same firms who represent the Claimants are often the same firms that represent the Insurance companies in litigation. Somehow they claim there's no conflict of interest but I don't really see how that's possible.

Anyway, home sweet home. The streets are virtually empty tonight.

11 march wednesday morning

The news was full of glowing weather reports last night. Apparently, the last several days the weather has been glorious. Sun and warmth.

I wouldn't know of course. Why would I? Our offices have windows but you don't really see them, or see out of them. We're sat in these little cubicles with dividers between them and the windows nearest to us are usually blocked by large filing cabinets. Plus we never go outside, there's no time for such breaks. We get breaks, tiny little five or ten minute breaks to go to the toilet and that's about it. They bring food to us every day. A different menu of the same shit over and over again. Sandwiches of some variety, packets of crisps, juice or cola or milk, chocolate, and slices of fruit.

Yeah, we used to have an hour to go out for lunch. I think I've mentioned that before. Time enough to go out, get fresh air, forget about work for awhile. They don't want you getting up or forgetting about work or getting fresh air any more. They pipe in some fragrant air now and then, little spurts, spritzed out which keeps the area from getting too stale. I don't imagine it's too healthy but who is going to complain? Complaining about it would be a quick ticket to unemployment and not only that, not only would there be little or no choice in finding another job, you'd get some sort of black mark on your employment record that everyone would have access to. Complainer. Agitater. It's a joke. Worker's rights? Forget it. You're only right is the right to employment, and be thankful if you get even that. All they've got to do is point out the door, let you think awhile about trying to get by on government benefits.

Government benefits, right. I think that's like £100 a month and only lasts 6 months. After that, you're on your own. That's how there came to be so many homeless people of course. And once you're homeless, on the streets, you're in the jungle. I've seen documentaries and news programmes on these people. Rape, murder, you name it. There isn't a law for these people, not within their little homeless enclaves. They're not allowed any way near the city centre where the working people and the businesses are. We're inhabiting what is in essence, a gated community. There's a kind of halfway zone between the city centre and the housing in the city centre but once outside of that, you're pretty much on your own.

That's why this news about an island or series of islands they are going to start shipping people out to is interesting. You wouldn't think forced relocation would be legal but apparently, it is. Apparently, your human rights diminish greatly with unemployment. Sometimes I feel guilty about this but what could I possibly do? If I spoke out, that'd be it. And besides, if I spoke out, who would listen? Only the people who would sack you immediately, that's who. Dissent is dead.

They don't talk about this often in the news. There's this whole other world existing just outside the parametres of my own sterlised little work community and you can only but imagine what's going on in it.

Sometimes I think about it. Sometimes I fantasise about it. I think well, what if I just chucked the job, sold the flat, then what? Well first of all, I'd probably not get much for the flat. Not many people in the buying market any more. Those who can afford it already have it. I've got some money saved up. I mean, it's possible but the problem is once that money was gone, I'd be gone. Usually my fantasy ends there. It's not that I'm terrified by the possiblity of having to fend myself but it's just so, I dunno, unpleasant. I'm lucky. I'm privileged. So they tell me, day after day. Why would any sane person throw that away?

I wish I had someone to talk to. None of my colleagues at work are possible. We work and that's it. There's no banter, no chatter. Just keep your head down, your mouth shut and work. There's no room for getting to know anyone. It's like they're complete strangers. No actually, they are complete strangers. And there's no time for socialising outside of work. Not realistically. Just these Saturday night outings. It'd help if I had a woman I suppose. I suppose I could just find one. Someone who didn't have a job, was looking for support, stability. But even that, I dunno, it seems rather odd. Like hiring a girlfriend instead of a maid.

I think all this revelation about the weather and not being able to enjoy it let alone even notice it, is getting me a little down these days.

When you look at the bigger picture, this drudgery of getting up, working 12 or 14 or 16 hours and then coming home for a meal and an hour or so of telly before falling asleep, well, it's a bit like slavery, or prison, I'm not sure which. The only thing you can tell yourself is repeat what "they" tell you: be happy. You're fortunate. You've got work. You've got money. You've got no worries. Just keep your head down and your mouth shut, work hard and...that's it.

Hopefully some day, the economy will pick up again. But you have to wonder sometimes if it ever will, if there will ever be an escape from this drudgery.

11 march wednesday eve

What a day. I feel happy again. There weren't any fuck ups anywhere, I don't feel like I'm swimming or drowning in a backlog of work with the management staring over my shoulder. Maybe it's not resentment about the weather or the amount of work that had me down, maybe it was just fear, anxiety, building up. It's like that. All the time. I don't think it's just me, or psychological problems or whatever, I think management really want to inspire that in you, the anxiety. They know everything you do. I mean practically down to the key stroke, what you do. And everything you do is monitored, every letter you write, how you deal with any bit of correspondence, how often or how rarily you use your telephone to negotiate - this is a big thing of theirs, one step handling, getting rid of stuff quickly and efficiently yet at the same time economically. Get as much work done as well, beyond possible but then expect, working under that kind of chaotic environment, to get it all right as well.

It's an impossible task and they know it. I know that they know it because they'd have sacked the lot of us already if it weren't the case. No one can realistically meet the targets they set and after awhile, you begin to suspect that the targets are intentionally unrealistic. First of all, to keep you off balance, make you feel uncertain, inadequate, like you should be working harder or you aren't working hard enough or efficiently enough and you're going to be sacked any day. And second of all, to make sure you are so busy trying to meet the unrealistic targets that you've got little or no free time.

That means there will be no social interaction, no frequent breaks, no time for conspiracies or thinking beyond the tasks to hand.

It's all about control. And that's how they've weeded out all but the exceptional, the hardest and most efficient workers, we're all that's left. We've been conditioned, psychologically, to handle the stress and the long hours. Sacking one of us would represent a huge loss of resource so whilst the threat is always hanging over your head, for reasons of production alone, the reality is, your just not going to get sacked. You might end up having to work even longer hours, i.e., punishment is frequent meetings with management with specific deadlines and targets and if it means you have to stay there all bloody day and night, you have to do it. Until it's right, then they take the foot off the accelerator a little.

Of course, dissent, that's another matter. Any form of dissent, from conversational with colleagues, to expressing disagreement even to something like calling in sick, is a dismissable offence and they don't hesitate if they think there's going to be a problem. You'd be amazed. They find out a little cancer is growing somewhere, they sever the limb. There's no half way. They're ruthless.

And now it's time to go home and relax for a change. Go home and for a change, I'm feeling good, positive, I don't need a glass of wine or the telly, I just want a good book, some solid reading, some reaffirmation that I am alive indeed that I'm not just a cog in a machine, anonymous and insignificant. That's what they teach you to do, to combat such feelings of depression and lethargy. Oh yeah, the book - it's been sitting on my shelf for months now since I'd purchased it on a Sunday shopping spree: no, not the book on time management and maximising performances. The truth is, I haven't read that stupid book since I bought it. It's a book called Inside an Ant Colony.


12 march thursday morning

A good day. The air is warm all around me despite how early it is. I feel good, productive. Must be some sort of positive cycle. I didn't watch the news. No. Not at all, not one second. In fact, I'm thinking about boycotting it altogether. I'm thinking it's been watching the news that's been depressing me. So I read this new book instead. Made myself a nice pasta meal, had a cup of tea and read with my feet up on the sofa, classical music on the stereo and just read, relaxed. Hey, I even fell asleep on the sofa. Didn't bother making it to bed. It's the most relaxed I've felt in this flat in months. I'm thinking I should really consider this my personal space. I'm trying to find ways to improve the quality of life outside of work. I know it's not much time but the way I figure it, if instead of worrying about maximising my productivity, I figure out how to maximise my pleasure outside of work, to use those few hours of sanity and freedom to really enjoy myself.

Tonight, I'm going to have a nice meal, a glass of wine and soak in the tub. A nice bubble bath. Maybe some jazz this time on the speakers. Light some candles and give the place the proper ambiance. Maybe I can't romance a woman but I can certainly romance myself, why not? Why should I shut that part of my life out? And besides, any woman I'd meet would just be an escort or some kind of woman trading sex for a place to live or whatever, it's hardly the ideal romantic situation anyway. Maybe I should forget about it altogether.


12 march thursday evening

I don't usually think about work once I leave, I may have mentioned this before, obviously I'm there enough as it is already, it take up enough of each day, enough chunks of my life leaving me with crumbs so the minute I shut that computer down, I'm up, putting my coat on, sticking the old earphones in and listening to any kind of music that can transport me out of there.

Of course that's all changed now that I talk into this recorder on the way home but conceptually, iut's stil the still the same. I shut that part, the work part, the diseased and dead part, out of my mind when I shut down the computer. It's almost as if they are one in the same, my mind and that computer. Which is frightening to think really, my mind shutting down entirely but I suppose, for many months, that's exactly what's happened, I've stopped thinking, I've stopped living and began just existing for work.

So in a large way, that's part of the reason for doing these recordings. I don't want my brain shutting down entirely once the computer gets shut off. I don't want my life to begin and end every day solely with work and frankly, that's how it was getting. Already I feel a little different, first of all, because I've got this little secret, this note-taking bit talking to you, whoever you are, or turn out to be, running through thoughts, coming up with something to say, signs of life, signs that my life isn't simply passing by being eaten at day by day as I've I'm a corpse floating in the water and each day those little flesh eating fish, the ones who just nip at you so subtly you don't even feel it, just eating the dead scales of skin off of you, are just eating away at you until there's nothing left.

So no, this is my action, my statement against that life, against the life I can only imagine so many other people are living, dying without bothering to notice or care, so obsessed they are with work, so fearful of losing that work.

Actually, I've just remembered, it isn't fish eating a corpse, it's just fish eating dead skin, a fish pedicure or something like that I think, where you stick your foot in a tank of water or in water of some kind, they're called garra rufa, that's it I remember seeing this documentary now. You put your feet in these outdoor pools, or spas and fish just nibble off the dead skin, leaving the healthy skin. God, I hate that, when I forget something for that flash split second and then I remember it and realise the analogy I was trying to make is absolutely meaningless because I've gotten the premise wrong anyway.

So how does it relate? Shit, oh yeah, fish eating the dead skin off compared to living my life. Well, I feel a bit ridiculous now, that went nowhere, but what I'm trying to say, let's just forget the analogies for the minute, is that even though I'm dying day by day, everyone's dying day by day, I don't want this to be it. I don't want to give in like I see so many others give in. I want my life back.

There. I've said it. I want my life back, the one I used to enjoy. Ok, I can't have it back fully, there's simply too many hours of work, but if I have to, I'll go on less sleep. It's only on their advices that I've reduced activity and spent most of my free time sleeping so my mind would be fresh for work. They, management, say you need 8 or 9 good hours of sleep which, ha, is a little impossible considering that hardly leaves us with time for anything other than a quick meal after you get home and well, now that I think about it, simply a manipulative bit of propaganda designed to keep us quiet and dedicated.

They've been putting these sorts of useless thoughts in our head for more than a year now and I've just been buying into it thinking I'll do anything to keep my job, living in fear or terror that I'm going to have to be as rested and as clear-minded as I can possibly be to maximise my productivity at work and keep my job and not end up like those savages outside the city centre.

Anyway, that's that. I'm done giving in. I feel like I've had an epiphany of sort over the last few weeks or so, ever since I've started writing this.

I'm going to go home, skip the meal altogether and just read my book on the Ant Colony. Maybe have a little snack. Hmmm, maybe I'll start buying this instant meal packages, so much time is wasted by having to cook fresh, from scratch. I've always thought it added quality to my life and I'm sure that it does but the truth is, my time is limited, quality will come from elsewhere, from actually living instead of going through the motions and simply believing that I'm living when I'm actually not.

So, here I am, home sweet home. But anyway, what I was starting to try to say was that if you find it odd that when I come out of work I'm not talking about a case I was working on, that's why. I try and put it right out of my head. Besides, the cases aren't that interesting and it's an old cliche isn't it, talking about work when you're not at work?

13 march friday morning

A crummy day out already, I can tell it will be. Oddly, that makes me feel a little better. Hearing about what a lovely day it was outside on long days when I don't even SEE the outside let alone experience it, does my head in a bit so when it's damp or dark and cold (well, it's dark every morning) I feel a little better about marching off to work.

So, I did what I said. I sort of skipped the meal altogether. Preparation anyway. I did manage to find some ancient fish sticks in the freezer with the chips and just tossed the lot of it into the oven. I know, not very appealing but I haven't had the time to shop yet of course for the type of food I'll be needing in the next steps of my move to get my life back. Low maintenance, low preparation meals. These have always been popular for people who don't have time or the aspiration to cook a proper meal so they should be in ready supply. I will be able to go either late Saturday night, when the shops are open later to accommodate those working, and Sunday.

While I was waiting for my fishsticks and chips to heat up I started reading that book about the ant colony. Apparently, the can't see anything, they just sort of secrete pheremones, these stinky sort of chemicals, and other ants can smell them. Like someone being identifiable by their bad body odor or something. Anyway, these little chemical get left on their path as a sort of guide for the other ants once food is discovered. Like an invisible runway lit by scent rather than light. To be honest I was hoping to find more in the line of how they work, how it might relate to how we work now but it's early days I suppose. I need to find some comfort in analogy even if it's only equating this useless existence of working working working with an ant. Maybe if I consider it simple survival.

I keep trying to catch the eye of the tall thin girl with the brunette hair tucked slightly behind her ear, the conservatively dressed one, the one I see every day at virtually the same crossing point in the bridge. I haven't caught her eye yet, she stares directly ahead every day that she passes me. She's got a serious face, Germanic almost, I'm not sure why I think that but there's something about her that makes me think Germanic. Perhaps it's that she seems severe.

It's pointless. I had a dream about her last night. Why? I don't know. It's not like I really spend alot of time thinking about her. I'm not infatuated or anything. She just popped up in this dream. I was working in a hotel or a restaurant and she was the owner or the manager or something. And the dream was about me being a waiter or something, a huge crush of people coming in, all around the same time and me running from table to table, taking orders, messing orders up, bringing them to the kitchen, completely forgetting about the tables after I'd taken their orders until they complained, or had their food served and complained that they'd been waiting for their cheque for hours. Anyway, this tall thin girl was there. Not a customer but I think it was her restaurant.

I wonder if it has to do with working in that restaurant at the Inn back when I was in Uni. Nightmarish, I suppose. Bet you didn't even know that, did you? That I worked in a restaurant once. But why the tall thin girl appears, I have no idea.

So anyway, it's pointless, like I said. I'm not going to stop her in the street and say something to her like oh hey, you were in my dream last night. In fact I'm not going to stop her in the street and say anything, why limit it to the dream? I'm not going to see her any time other than passing her on the street and I'm not going to say anything no matter how many days in a row I pass her, so that pretty much negates the possibility of anything but dreaming of her.

Besides, I don't even know that I find her attractive to be honest. Yes, her look is intriguing but who knows, she'd probably not be any fun. She looks like one of those birds Ian brings with him sometimes to our little Saturday night outings, the emaciated women with the chewed fingernails, the humourless waifs, hard and cold.

Well, here I am, day before the last day of the week. Arriving at the ant colony, ha.

13 friday eve march

what a day. they're thinking of introducing this new thing, polyphasic sleep, at the work place.

Of course, I had no idea about what this even was. For the first time, after the email went around, a few of my colleagues ac
tually looked up from their work, whispering to each other.

Jools is the guy who has been sitting silently to the right of me for nearly a year now. I think we've exchanged about 10 words in that entire time. When the email came around we were all pretty shocked. Not just by the content, which admittedly, none of us appear to even be aware of, polyphasic sleep, but also because management sent an email about this new policy. Combined with the information about growing fraud, we've been brought into the loop twice recently which is rather shocking.

Anyway, Jools cleared his throat, just as I'd finished reading the missive and whispered to me out of the side of his mouth, holding up a medical report as if particularly puzzled by its contents. What do you think this means, he asks me without preamble. I shrug. No idea. I go back to work. I've found myself day dreaming a little too often lately and I feel a subconscious stress about meeting targets this week. It's already Friday and whilst I'm not behind the target, I'm usually ahead of it and there was only a day and half more to get above it. (targets are set as a bare minimum, the reality is that they expect you to exceed it - as if there's any logic to that - if the target is higher, just make it higher, why set it to one level and expect you to exceed it?) Anyway, Jools seemed a little disappointed. But I don't really care what he thinks, the truth is many months ago I had some queries I tried to put to him and he just kind of shushed me because he appears to be constantly sweating out the targets more so than most. I didn't really appreciate it which is why I haven't said much of anything to him and why I couldn't be bothered to elaborate on my thoughts about this

So every morning, what did I read about? listened to music, sipped tea or had a beer, and read. tell about that on the way home, tell about the new shit they are doing at work polyphasic sleep.

In truth, I can't wait to get home to try and look it up. It can't be good. If it came from management it's not meant to be good. There is no good news at work, only bad. That's how they keep you motivated. They are interested in whether or not they demoralise you. Their stance is pretty straight forward. Do the work and shut it. This isn't like the old days. Management do not have to pretend to care what you think about policy, they just set it and enforce it, ruthlessly. There are always plenty of people around the corner who are willing, desperate to take your place. And that's just it. We're all easily replaceable so they can say and demand anything they want. Feelings don't enter into it.

There was a bunch of whispering going on as I said, targets or not, until about 10 minutes later there was an annoucement over the loudspeakers to the effect that the new policy would be described in greater detail in a hand out which was to come on Saturday or Monday at the latest as we are leaving so we can review it at home. There is no latitude for anyone to ask questions about it. Not even after you read it. Just read it, understand it and implement it. Simple as.

But it was unusual that they would distract us like that. Usually such annoucements are made just before we are leaving to minimise any distraction. It must be important if they're telling us in the middle of the day, and telling us in a way that seems ambiguous at best. Odd behaviour. You wonder, you have to, if this is sign they are cracking. Will this silent wall of imposition finally come to an end?

I overheard two people talking on the way home tonight. They were talking about this new government policy about moving people out to islands. What islands? Who will be moved? I tried to continue overhearing them but it was in passing and eventually they moved out of hearing distance. So I'll have to try and catch the news tonight and see if there's something else going on. That and look up this polyphasic sleep thing. It can't be good.

Anyway, nearly reaching home. Going to put everything away. I'm more tired than usual. I haven't been disciplined about getting the proscribed amount of sleep this night and it's wearing me down. Maybe management are right about this after all. Maybe I'll stay in Saturday night and catch up on sleep...

14 march sat morning

so, I've found it, polyphasic sleeping, no particular patterns - this is management's wet dream. In theory, if polyphasic sleeping were successful, they could keep you working at your desk for maybe 20 hours a day. Sleep an hour or two here and there, ultranapping when they allow to refresh yourself and then get right back to work.

I'm sure everyone else has read up on it last night as well. I wonder what, if anything, people are going to say. What if we all refused simultaneously? No, it'd never work. We couldn't organise ourselves enough. Where would we find the time? Especially if they try and introduce polyphasic sleeping as some excuse not to let us go home any more.

I think it's impossible but only for a few seconds. I thought alot of this that's been happening would be impossible. If I'm honest, it's not so much I thought it was impossible as much as I just never imagined it happening. No one, I don't think, imagined any of this happening. A little bump in the economy. Like a little turbulence. And then suddenly society, world society is hurtling towards crash and in everyone's panic, in everyone's fear of the crash itself, they became like zombies, or too confused to think and whilst they were too confused to think, oh, management, they didn't hesitate. They were calling the shots from the beginning. They say exactly how to exploit the situation, the fear. They new from one step to the next how easily the workers could be exploited, manipulated, all based upon their fear and confusion.

And now, the dust settling, they're making a push for this maniacal sort of polyphasic sleep routine that would have us sitting in that office every day for the rest of our miserable lives with nothing to look forward to, nothing to do but work. I think that will be the final straw for me. But it depends. This might also be management's Waterloo. This might be the one defining moment, the cohesive anger and indignation, the final straw, that binds everyone together and begins the reverse of the erosion of our rights and our lives that management has been slowly eating from us.

Huh, don't want to sound like some sort of agitator. Maybe they won't even take this further, maybe it's an experiment, or a voluntary thing, like living in those little flats in the office, subsidised flats. For those whose families are elsewhere but who need support.

No, there's no real sense in jumping the gun. Just going to go to work, keep my head down, wait it out, see what happens. No sense getting worked up before I have more details. I mean presumably, that's what everyone thinks, if they bothered trying to find out more about stuff. I'm sure Jools did. And maybe Dave, the guy sat across from me, maybe he's paid attention too. He seems the type.

But then there's people like James, who never says a word and who I'm sure wouldn't care if they put revolvers to our heads and told us not to get up from our desks for a week. He was impervious even before all this stuff happened and now he's well, barely alive, I'd say. Breathing. Eating, Eyes are blinking, but that's about it. Nothing else there - what's that expression, the lights are on but nobody's home?

Well, I guess there's no point. No managerial memos or annoucements are going to happen on a Saturday. It'll be Monday at the earliest. Maybe not til mid-week, or the week after. Still, I don't reckon they'll want us stewing over this for very long.


saturday night 14 march

Well, things weren't quite as quiet as I'd imagined they'd be. Perhaps because it's Saturday and even though we're working we don't have to wear a tie on Saturdays so maybe people feel a little more relaxed or something, I dunno, but there's alot of whispering. I think some note passing even. I thought I saw it anyway. No one included me in on it for most of the day but then, when I was packing my stuff up, getting ready to leave, Jools kind of handed me a little card and on the back of the card was a little handwritten note: Organiser's Meeting, Sunday. With an address. That's logical. Sunday being our only day off. But organising what? What do they think they can get away with before they're sacked? And once they're sacked, that's it, a permanent black mark, some kind of agitator, they'll never find another job and they'll end up out on the streets and who knows, maybe getting shipped out like I hear they're doing to people these days.

When I tried to ask Jools a question he just pointed to the card and nodded his head.

It all seems a bit silly in a way. I mean there's no reason we couldn't all just go out for a pint somewhere straight away after work and have a discussion about it. It almost seems a little more guilty by undertaking this formal meeting on a scheduled date and time and pre-ordained venue.

But I couldn't ask anyone. Nobody really talks to me. I kind of exagerrated the other day how quiet it is. People DO talk to each other, take breaks at the same time, hang out for a quick, cheeky one after work on occasion. They just don't do it with me. That of course, is a sensitive bit of information which is why I haven't mentioned it before but I realised you might think it's rather odd that all this would be going on and yet I wasn't speaking to any of my colleagues so I might as well tell you.

It was shortly after the downturn was in full flush. People were being let go, encouraged to retire early, warned that more people still would be losing their jobs. No one really knew what to make of it of course. Everyone told themselves oh, it's just a blip, just a little hiccup in the market, etc. But that's because that's what they were told and everyone had been spending spending spending for as long as they could remember, like alcoholics who in bars that never called last orders.

Anyway, eventually it became apparent that the media, government, whoever it was, had it all wrong and it wasn't coming back any time soon so businesses were in a bit of a fix and unless you were a big company that hadn't invested carelessly, you were likely to be weeded out.

Likewise employees. Even corporations took a hit. Even injury claims, the cash cow of the legal world, (not counting the high profile divorce solicitors in settlements involving multimillionaires) took a hit. Or to make up for other areas where their profits lagged management sought to pare down the claims department, management started getting people out and that's when they started implementing the cuts I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, whilst my job was spared, I was invited by management for input on people who should be staying and going. Don't ask me why. It's as if they singled me out for abuse because anyone who was let go would figure it was me who put the word out on them but in reality, management were going to do whatever they wanted to do. In fact, in some cases, it seemed like they did the opposite of my suggestions. For example, Jack Duggan, a nice bloke on got on great with, someone I'd have considered a mate back then, was let go even though I'd specifically said he was one to retain given the quality and pace of his work. Let go the next day. So I went to the manager in question the next day and said what's going on, you know? You ask my input, I say someone is definately worth keeping and you sack him the next day...and he looks me right in the eye and says, I've never liked you Conlan. I'd have put you on the top of the list to get the sack, believe me. But your productivity is one of the best on the team and I can't justify to mangement above me getting rid of you. So you're staying, for now. If that productivity drops a tiny, tiny percentile, you'll be out if I have any say in the matter but for now, I'm just going to make this miserable for you. Because I don't like you. So I've given you this high profile role deciding who stays and goes to alienate you from the rest of your colleagues. You'll have work and that's it. You won't have any friends in here, I guarantee it.

And sure enough, he did just that. He made sure there was no pattern or rhyme or reason to it. If I tried to pick people I didn't care about or didn't like, he'd somehow know intuitively that I was only doing it to see them gone and he'd keep them. When I tried to mix it up, the minute I'd submit the name of someone I liked, they'd get sacked. It's as if he could read my mind.

sunday morning 15 march

My first thought upon waking, oddly, hungover, dull day leaking through the curtains in the bedroom, is whether or not to go to the Organiser's Meeting. But then I realise there's a body next to me in the bed. I close my eyes and think again, of course, the body belongs to Linda.

As usual, when I got home Saturday night from work, Ian's message was there waiting: The New Deal, 10 pm, bringing Barbara and Linda again so look sharp.

We've been doing this so long the thought never crossed my mind initially to skip it altogether. In fact it was something I always looked forward to, the lone night out, a chance for some good food, good wine, reasonable conversation and, if I was lucky, some female companionship.

But all this new stuff going on at work of late was troubling me. On the one hand, I thought Ian would be the perfect person to talk about it to but I wondered, in the company of Barbara and Linda, if I'd even get the opportunity to discuss things with him.

Besides, with all these worries, all these fresh concerns, I wasn't much in the mood for a jovial evening of forgetting. Life was inately so dull that this rare opportunity for excitement outside of the predictable realm was rather welcoming. I didn't want to forget it all for the night and throw my cares into the night air. I wanted to dwell. I wanted to ponder. I wanted to have heavy thoughts of merit for a change.

In fact, even as I was getting ready, showering and putting on a nice suit, I was still torn between even going and staying home. I tried to rationalise this by thinking how long it had been since I'd stayed in on a Saturday night, how refreshing it might be to wake up clear headed this once on a Sunday morning and not have the day ruined before it started, to actually enjoy my only day off of the week.

And that was when I decided to try and ring Ian. If he was already at The New Deal, I wouldn't be able to get through as they have a strict policy against mobile phones. I decided to try anyway. After the third ring, Ian picked up.

What's going on? he asked impatiently. I was just about to turn this off for the night and head out.

I don't know that I can make it this evening Ian, I confessed. I'm not feeling that well.

Oh rubbish. You're fine. And if you're not, well, you will be fine after you've had a few glasses of wine and a nice meal so I don't want to hear about it, it's already arranged. Don't be late.

Problem solved. I was going whether I wanted to or not.

And when I got there, Ian looked me up and down disdainfully. You don't look very ill, he mentioned as he ordered a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2004 to commence.

Well, I confessed, hoping to be able to address the issue quickly before Barbara and Linda arrived, it isn't a physical illness so much as trouble at work, things to think out...

Trouble at work? Don't tell me you're getting the sack, are you?

No, I'm not getting the sack. It's complicated. But between you and I, it's a bit of employee organising. You see management are considering the implementation of something called polyphasic sleep, do you know what that is?

Sure. We already do it one week every month at the firm. During big pushes for fees. It works quite well, actually. You don't need as much sleep as everyone always tells you. So what, what's the big deal?

I dunno, apparently claims handlers don't have the same blind work ethic as solicitors, I began, getting a little dig in, I thought, because I was rather annoyed at his nonchalant, accepting attitude of the idea of being controlled and as I was speaking to him was already calculating in my mind what kind of personality must have been driving Ian all along, realising how very different we must have been despite what appeared to be sufficient similarities.

Anyway, I explained, people are pissed off about it apparently. They're organising some meeting for tomorrow. I dunno exactly what they're planning, but it would appear to be some sort of employee action.

Jesus, you don't want to get mixed up in that. What kind of idiots are you working with? Why aren't they happy just to have jobs for crissakes. Don't they know if they go on agitating they're all just going to get the sack?

Well that's kind of what I figured as well only they've invited me to this meeting and well, I'm not really sure what to do.

It's simple. You go to the meeting, absorb all of the information and details and then Monday morning go directly to management with it all. Your colleagues, who are clearly idiots and are going to end up fucked anyway, will get the sack, you'll save your own skin and not only that, you might end up getting a promotion of some kind. Management like that sort of attititude, that sort of loyalty. Especially in light of any sort of organisation by workers. Out of the chaos you can clearly achieve a way forward. This is your golden opportunity.

It was odd, how clearly and quickly Ian saw it, how black and white, knowing what side he was on and how to exploit it. Exposed to his way of thinking it did all seem reasonably clear. But then again, it required firstly a cold-heartedness I didn't necessarily possess as well as an allegiance to management I wasn't sure about either.

But instead of debating it further, I got into the wine as it came and tried to forget it all. Clearly I wasn't going to get any further discussing it with Ian.

Yet I remained distracted. Ian was quite content to prattle on as if there were no concerns. We discussed, as every one did, the economy. We discussed particular sorts of claims cases we were dealing with although none we were at risk of being accused of a potential conflict of interests for discussing. And perhaps most interestingly, we discussed the news about people being exported out to islands for new beginnings.

The news was limited and the information rather nebulous but what Ian gleaned from it, both via the news accessible to us both and inside rumours he'd heard at work was that rather than attempting to continue to fund these massive benefits programmes which had only grown worse and more cumbersome with the massive rise in unemployment and the need for benefits, combined with the dwindling tax base upon which to fund the benefits programme, the government was simply going to start shipping people out, end their benefits and let them fend for themselves elsewhere.

But jesus, these are citizens, aren't they? How can the government just cut their benefits and ship them out?

Ian laughed. Easily. They aren't contributing to society at all, They're just sucking it dry. Look, they aren't shipping out Joe Public who has a family and just lost his job. He still has potential. They're shipping out the lifetime losers, those who have been on benefits for an extensive period of time, some of them, their entire lives living off the backs of others. Surely you can't dispute these sorts are simply parasitic, an unnecessary burden on those of us still working...

No, of course not. I just hadn't realised citizen's rights were so deeply tied to employment and societal utility.

Well wake up and grow up. I don't want to get hit with an even bigger tax burden for these losers. They aren't interested in working. They weren't interested in working even when there WERE jobs. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance. They should strip them of their citizenship as well. They've been taking advantage of the rest of us for too long.

The news of course hadn't polarised the issue to this degree. From what I'd heard so far, their soft tones were still promoting the benefit of new beginnings, second chances.

But before we could discuss the matter any further, Barbara and Linda had made their arrivals and the night and the discussion went elsewhere.


And as the night progressed, my ill ease did as well. The wine wasn't helping me forget it only seemed to accentuate my misgivings not just about what was happening, but about Ian as well. I'd considered him a friend, an only friend of sorts and whilst he hadn't changed at all, not one iota, my perception of him was changing rapidly.

So after dessert had been consumed, I announced I still wasn't feeling all that well, perhaps it had been too much wine, but I had to go home and lie down. Ian, predictably, was disapproving, urging me to forget about it, to have more wine in fact, or perhaps switch to something a little lighter, but I wasn't having it. I didn't care any more. I just wanted to be alone to think.

Once home, the situation didn't get any better. Yes, I was a little buzzed from the wine, but not nearly enough. I opened another bottle and sat down in the living room, put on a Cole Porter CD and tried to relax.

The door bell rang just as I thought I could feel myself drifting off and when I opened the door, to my surprise, it was Linda.

Hi, she said awkwardly. I thought I'd check in on you, see if you were still not feeling too well.

Well, uh, I'm still not feeling that well but...

She invited herself in and, upon seeing the half bottle of wine, asked for a glass for herself, taking off her coat and shoes without my invitation.

Look, she said, pulling out a joint she'd rolled on the way to my house, I know what's going on. I mean, Ian filled us in after you left. He said you're a little troubled by things going on at work....don't forget my profession as a "troubleshooter..."

need filler on what he did with Ian, if anything, did he meet the girl again?

monday morning

the thing is, you've got to have something on your daily agenda other than work in order for your life to have any meaning.

I find myself often times slipping into this state of looking forward to and looking ahead to certain days of the week for their symbolism within work. Thursday, of course, the midway point between Monday and Sunday means we're over the hump. Used to be Wednesday but well, that's changed and as the work environment changes so apparently, did everyone's expectations.

But when you're given so little free time it's difficult to develop and cultivate any kind of consistent hobby. I try, often. The book about the ants, for one. Listening to certain pre-recorded jazz programmes on the radio or via the internet is another. I used to play the trumpet some but not playing I can't really blame on work. By the time I'd figured out all the girls I was interested in thought that playing the guitar was hot, it was too late for me learn a new instrument. I'd been playing only the trumpet since I was about 12. Courtsey of my dear old dad who also neglected to tell me that the girls I'd be interested in later on thought playing the trumpet was boring, for old people. Jazz and all. Any time I'd bring a girl over to listen to Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong or Freddy Hubbard they'd say either it was for old people or it gave them a headache. Why didn't I play guitar like the cool guys? Hell, I didn't know. I trusted my father. He met my mother playing in a jazz band. But that was generations ago. Not all advice is timely, I would tell him now if he were around. And the thing is, if I were just a little older, there'd be women my age now who might think playing trumpet was cool but I sold my trumpet a long time ago and haven't played since so it's rather moot. I still like jazz but I can't play any more.

Anyway, the point is, there isn't alot of time to develope hobbies. So life tends to become a series of days of work followed by a series of nights and then next thing you know, you're wishing days of your life away just so you can get to that one Sunday morning which you'll ironically probably be too hungover to enjoy the day off for anyway.

2. sat night out discussions with Ian. he brings the same two people again. might get used to you if we keep meeting. she comes back and they have their first real conversations.
1. announcement next week, experimental, volunteers the offer comes that volunteers will get one week's holiday for every three months worked, if of course, the programme equals an equivilent hours worked, a sort of new form of overtime, staying awake, short naps, working longer all for the promise of a week off somewhere. god, I haven't had a holiday in a long, long time.

polyphasic sleep.,M1

day by day he's going to take more of his life back and the entries are going to be like charlie.

ian calls him urgently to meet

i know i've not been watching the news so i needed to check it out just the once

a mysterious email or letter.

so and so shows up on his door one night. why? she's a little high, had a little trouble with an escort and just wants to stay for the night.

I sometimes wonder if this is it, if the rest of my life will just be a series of these sorts of days where nothing happens, nothing fills it or fulfills it and I just keep going through the motions as though I'm neither dead nor alive. Just existing.