Tag Archives: money

First injection free

Coming from a country that generally bankrupts its citizens if they find themselves in an emergency medical situation, far be it for me to talk smack about the NHS. How can anyone argue with free health care? Sure, the US of A has free speech (sort of), but free health care? That’s for Socialists! Health care in the U.S. is something of a luxury, like a free beer on the airplane or a mint on your pillow in a 3 star hotel paid for by the company account. That is, people who can afford it, get health care.

I understand that the NHS isn’t perfect; what system is? It seems nothing short of backwards that doctors here only prescribe the drugs that you actually need for your condition, and refuse to write you largely recreational prescriptions. Medication is given out like candy in the U.S. –  it’s like Halloween for grown-ups all the time! Provided you have health insurance, or enough money to pay for private doctors, prescription drugs are plentiful for folks looking to make themselves more balanced, motivated and confident, or at least to sedate themselves to the point where they don’t give a shit.

You don’t have to prove you need medication either. In fact, random samples of drugs are offered to patients, pick-and-mix style, thanks to the young, attractive college students working part time for drug companies. Endless gaggles of chatty, blond 20 year olds in their mothers’ heels wheel suitcases full of drug samples into the doctor’s office day after day.

Never mind you don’t feel depressed; you might as well take some antidepressants home for your friends to try out! Finding it difficult to concentrate on writing your Masters dissertation? Here’s a prescription for ADD meds! Don’t smoke? Who cares – try a few handfuls of smoking cessation samples anyway! They have a hallucinatory effect while you sleep, and turn your otherwise boring dreams into Technicolor erotic escapades! The best sex you’ve ever had, the doctor quips with a sleazy wink as you redress. As you hasten to leave, the good doctor offers a course of Botox to remedy that furrow in your brow, with the first injection free as an incentive. (Botox, by the way, is generally extra; no one’s health insurance is that good.) Yes, medication is the American way.

However, if you are unfortunate enough to be like the millions of New Yorkers without health care, you are all but screwed. If by some stroke of terrible luck you end up in the back of an ambulance, the $850 ambulance ride is only the beginning of your financial woes. In your sorry state you might be taken to a hospital (hello lifelong financial bankruptcy for you and your family!), and if you’re supremely unlucky you might be taken to a Brooklyn hospital made famous by video footage of an ER nurse repeatedly stepping over a dying woman (who had collapsed on the floor of the waiting room) with as much concern as for a mop that had fallen over.

If that is your situation, then you’d be better off doing what some churches advertise in a desperate and defeatist attempt to increase their congregation numbers: try praying. Apparently simply dying in the middle of the floor isn’t enough to get you noticed; indeed, even multiple stab wounds to the head might be treated as a you-can-wait-your-damn-turn scenario. You have to be haemorrhaging out of each eyeball, have a knife lodged in your throat and half your brain spilled on the floor for an ER nurse to admit you, and even then you might have to wait your turn because there are countless other bleeding patients ahead of you. This is New York, after all.

So I find it fairly incredible that I can simply go to a UK health center and leave my wallet in my pocket. Not only that, I receive real and timely treatment. Recently, after hanging upside down on a trapeze, I had a brief spell where I couldn’t distinguish between objects of the same colour, and experienced an odd numbness in one arm. So off I went to the GP.

The GP’s extraordinary caterpillar eyebrows furrowed closer together as I talked. He ordered a taxi to take me to the hospital, informing me gravely, “it sounds as if you have a hole in your heart.” Having been in a New York hospital, I prepared myself for the worst. Would I croak on the floor of the waiting room like that poor woman in Brooklyn and my loved ones would have to find out about my tragic demise from video footage on the hospital security cameras?

My worries were assuaged when I didn’t see anybody dying on the waiting room floor. Speedy medical assistants and nurses ran a slew of tests on my eyes that left the world blurry, and then seen by the neurologist who asked if I spent any time upside down. “The trapeze explains it,” he said. “It sometimes happens. There’s no hole in your heart.”

And that was that. Sure, I was temporarily blinded, no one had offered me even an ibuprofen to ease my pain, and the GP was obviously an idiot, but my heart and wallet were intact. I was free to continue ignoring bills and credit card payments without the establishment encroaching on my god given right to ruin myself financially. Instead, I was given a pair of disposable sunglasses (free!) and sent out into the bright light of the day, wholeheartedly grateful to stumble home.

On safari in the land of the dead

Poor judgement led me to be swept away into the stream of bug-eyed, gut-swinging, make-up plastered humans that inhabit the West Quays shopping centre of Southampton. It was by far and away the most harrowing experience of the month so far – and I live in London. London’s a carnival of inhumanity orchestrated by a confederacy of subterranean dunces, and yet still the unending misery of life here doesn’t quite match up to the deranged experience in Southampton’s premier cattle market.

It was like waking up in a zoo, hemmed in by some unique specimens with no clear exit route. I found my trigger finger itching for the blunderbuss – I was on safari in the land of the dead. If this is mankind’s endgame then perhaps we’re due a meteor of extinction proportions. Something large, violent and destructive is the only feasible way to cut through the smog of apathy, gluttony, blind hatred, glum joy and the general victory of all that is smug, artificial and mindless in this consumerist society.

Shopping centres are for people who have nothing to do. Spending your weekend in these air-conditioned hells is essentially declaring to the world that you have no interests, no passion – just a lifetime to waste fawning over shit you simply don’t need. Like people whose favourite crisps are ready salted or like a bit of everything when it comes to music, these ones will be the first to be harvested for organs when the sun implodes.

Watching people clamber over one another in the name of Black Friday is a bit like turning a stone over to see a heap of maggots feasting on one another in the absence of sustenance. How quick we are to debase ourselves for a TV that we can download porn onto. Watching it on the news, I couldn’t tell if it was the beginning of a SyFy disaster movie or just another collective lowering of the bar – pretty soon we’ll dispense with the pleasantries and just get back into hacking one another to death in the pursuit of property.

Conjure up an image of shopping centres and you’re probably seeing fat middle aged goons jostling one another to be first in line to buy household appliances that can tie your shoelaces and teach you Mandarin all at once. Still, it’s probably good training for when they’re wading through charred skeletal remains in search of the last uncontaminated hunk of bread following the inevitable collapse of our consumption-orientated society. It’s just more meaningless shit to put in that tomb you paid a mortgage for so you can sit and stare in horror at something other than one another as you both desperately try to find something to talk about that isn’t the crushing hell of it all.

To what kind of dribbling ape is a shopping centre supposed to have meaning? Given the amount of hours of life lost to these time-vampires we may as well put the bastards on the board of culture and tourism. Perhaps at some point we actually started believing the guff that advertising farted into our minds; maybe we really thought we could get all we’d ever dreamed off at 0% APR with free home delivery and that the terms and conditions might not cost us our collective souls.

It’s all part of this aspirational living that has us all bobbing up and down on steel conveyor-belts like well-groomed cattle to the slaughter. West Quays is an abattoir run by Philip Green that’s free to the credit card-toting public. If the threat of the nuclear bomb rendered death a senseless, causeless event that could sweep us away in a moment, then shopping centres, malls and the like have left life just as meaningless. Judged on the merits of these places, humanity just seems like an awful parade of pampered, farting meat-slabs that are all too impressed with the latest shiny toy that smells like a used car air-freshener.

These emporiums of commercial dreams aim to regurgitate the ambitions of others down our throats, as though happiness is just a new television away. Replete with all the glossy posters of unfeasibly attractive people flogging perfume made from cow semen, indicating that you too can be as happy and as beautiful if only you smelled like a bovine ball-sack. It’s probably got some pheromone-fuelled potential to arouse in others the same level of sexual desire as you’re supposed to feel for the swaggering, pouting chumps that adorn the windows of these shops.

So we walk around shocked and baffled into submission under the barrage of images and claims that your life can only be improved through buying more and working harder to buy some more. Whether it’s the sculpted Hollister models sauntering around topless outside the store like grinning wads of flesh, or nude celebrity endorsements for jewellery, water or whatever else needs to be sold – the whole place helps to reinforce the notion that you have failed in some way, that success is attainable, but only with the guiding hand of money.

It’s as if we should be grateful for the existence of shopping centres; where else could we find so much progress in one place? Everything you’ve ever wanted is there – health, beauty, youth, comfort and happiness – it’s all yours for the taking, provided you can pay for it. Perhaps this explains the gormless look of hopeless despair that’s splattered all over the faces of these wretched souls as they trot up and down the farm of dreams and realise that they can’t afford it all, that they can never attain true nirvana in this church because it all costs too much. In six months’ time it’ll all be out of fashion, out of warranty and the uselessness of it is revealed; so onwards they march, hopeless in the knowledge that they can’t afford to hold onto their happiness and so they go to the food court and wash all that shame down with a Big Mac and watery cola to try and escape all this defeat.

Why do we do it? We run ourselves through the gauntlet of comparable living when we know full well that we can’t afford it, and we don’t really need it. You can’t lose a game you refuse to play, but still the rules ensnare so many people who drag their tired, bloated carcasses around in the hope that maybe there’ll be a sale that allows them just another taste of ‘success’. Come friendly bombs and free us from the scourge of the great British tradition of worshipping weekly in the church of the damned, the fraudulent and the smug.

Busy times, busy people, busy minds

A few days ago I encountered a homeless man near Moorgate Station. It was 1.30am or so, and I was there ’cause I’d completed a random shift at The Water Poet that day (7.5 pounds an hour for just collecting and washing glasses, not bad). It was too late to take the Underground, and I don’t know shit about the buses, so I just got a little bit…lost. It was very dark, I was in a city I don’t really know in a country I’m new to, in a part of that city that was completely alien to me until that day and I was nervous as hell. It may seem ridiculous, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.

But let’s go back to the homeless guy.

He approached me very slowly, smile in his face – not a creepy smile, really, just a warm one – and probably cold to his bones. He talked to me with a very good British accent, using a polite way of speaking, with learned words. He was short, white bearded and very thin. He introduced himself, but apologized and didn’t give me his hand because it was “too dirty”, and then started to ask me if I could buy him some food at Sainsbury’s.

But then he stopped the talk, and frowned. He looked at me and asked if I was lost.

I smiled then and, of course, said “yes”. At this point he started to apologize again because he said he was putting his own problems above mine. He started to ask me what I needed, told me that he knew the bus system, all that kind of thing.

So, at that point, I sort of stopped listening to him. I knew that he’d help me for sure; of course, he had nothing better to do, and helping me could result in a grateful person with money in his pockets. So, instead of listening, I started to think about all the other people I’d approached myself, asking for help.

They numbered five, until the homeless guy showed up.

Two of them just told me something like “busy, sorry” as they walked by, phone in hand and with the same tired face I probably had on. One of them listened to me, but as he didn’t know the place where I live, he just told me that he couldn’t be of any help. The other two didn’t even reply to my “excuse me”.

And that, so far, is the one and only fucking crap thing that I hate about London. I won’t say “people are shit”, no; the main problem is our jobs. There’s always a lot more work that must be done, at all times, in all places. Talking about London is talking about busy times, busy people, busy minds. People tend to act cold because they’re just too tired to be anything else, and only fucking homeless people have the will to be kind or careful with strangers because, of course, they don’t have a job that’s draining their entirely lives out its bodies.

It’s hilarious.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. And of course, I can’t say that every homeless person and every random worker is exactly like this, but the truth is that I got home that night because that guy helped me, and the others just didn’t have the time needed to even listen to my words. It was very sad. I thought of it all the way home, and not in a good mood. It all seemed sad as hell.

And yes, I bought food for the guy.

Perish the race and wither a thousand women

The 1st of February is  a day so comically aligned with the disenchanted masses it is acknowledged as “National Sick Day”.

‘So what?’ I hear you murmur. Well, let’s try and put this in perspective: absence without proper leave is said to cost UK business anywhere between 10 billion and 29 billion pounds, a hefty wedge. The current government’s solution is to make cuts at the heart of British society, the NHS being the most obvious victim, with cuts reported to range around 20 billion.

Agencies have sprung up with offers to track and manage absenteeism. Fair play, they’ve noticed a problem and tried to fix it while making some cash for their effort. Good, good.

But if we want perspective,  perhaps we should look at what happens to cause this phenomenon. There are the classics: poor pay rate, lack of decent holiday, zero-hour contracts and a one-way glass ceiling you will never break through. Up ahead, all you see is darkness, while the suits scornfully mock us feebly trying to survive, in an all-too-Orwellian big brother style. Being disenfranchised with the mega corps shiting all over you is more than enough reason to flip them the occasional bird and concentrate on your life. A moment’s respite from the crap they’ve been shoveling down our throats for decades.

And in striving for this true sight of perspective, it’s impossible to ignore the latest way corporations have chosen to rub our noses in it: illegal corporate tax avoidance. Did you know that the UK loses out on almost £70bn a year? That’s right, those very groups bitching about unauthorized absence have in fact committed the very same crime on an massively larger scale.

And they should expect a strongly worded letter or two, right? Surely the Chancellor is on that? Surely he wouldn’t allow the little guy to be persecuted while letting corporations get away with it? Surely he’s created his very own ‘Untouchables death squad’?

More like the ‘Unfortunately not squad’, as in ‘unfortunately we are not doing a bloody thing to stamp out gross acts of corporate greed and chicanery’. In fact, we are firing 12,000 people. Can’t risk the people finding out about the heavy levels of theft and fraud being committed by Fortune 500 CEOs and the Times Rich List. That would never do. Let’s sack a load of them instead.

‘Perish the race and wither a thousand women’, said George Bernard Shaw. He also talked of ‘a child-robber, a bloodsucker, a hypocrite, and a cheat’. Who could he have been referring to?

Aberdeen is about to be demolished

Dreadful stuff, oil. Anything you can pour on a bird to fuck it right up is awful in the simple layman’s world I like to think I live in, but of course without oil you couldn’t have, well, anything. Oil powers everything and is responsible for all the good and bad things you can buy in the world; there’s no product that oil hasn’t had a hand in, from the enormous new TV you lick with joy when you get home to the internet that rules your life but you can’t actually touch, to the bottle containing the Lucozade Sport you mistakenly think will cure your hangover to the entire floor of horrifying sex toys you’ll find in Tokyo department stores that also sell Lego and Pokemon because wow it’s a strange place is Japan.

And oil, right now, is cheaper than it’s ever been. That’s fantastic news, says the idiot – everything we consume and shit back out without thinking will be cheaper. We can share the boon with businesses that we’ll allow to reduce the prices we pay a bit less than the reduction in oil prices. We win, they win. A victory for the system.

No. It turns out the lower the oil price the more completely wrecked the world’s economy becomes and the worse it is for everyone. There are people on the news horrified that the oil price, presumably set by people rather than by the oil itself, is so painfully low. Sheikhs can no longer afford huge cars they won’t allow women to drive. Aberdeen is about to be demolished. That’s economics.

Two years of pretending to listen to a teacher we used to call ‘Scrippy’, for reasons only entertaining to schoolboys and which with hindsight were stunningly misogynistic, taught me that economics is a dull, largely worthless subject. Perhaps my hatred of capitalism, combined with my guilty acceptance and use of it, stems from my A-level in Economics, in which I got a C.

What’s absolutely certain is that those two years taught me nothing. I have no idea how capitalism actually works.

I’ll give you another example: inflation. Inflation has hit an impressive low of 0.5% in the UK in the last week. Excellent, this must mean the price of things increases slower – that much I did learn from the A-level – which is a good thing for people who don’t own many, many boats laden with supermodels.

No. Inflation being low is bad you imbecile. The Bank of England has a target of 2% inflation – the economy is healthy if this time next year everything is 2% more expensive. Does anyone understand why that is? Is there an obvious reason I missed when poor Scrippy was scooping her mercantile shite into my ears that means it’s strange that prices should change at all? Is it the height of buffoonery to suggest that the price of things should remain the same unless there’s a shortage or surplus of whatever materials are used to make those things?

To make matters worse, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who strikes me as some kind of sprite, appears on the news to explain to us all that inflation being low is a vindication of the government’s economic strategy. Only he knows why, and the only thing that’s abundantly clear is we’re all fucked but they’re all right, plus ça change.

Were I a cynical man I might suggest that there are some among us who would use economics to dishearten and dumbfound the rest of us. When the majority have absolutely no idea what’s going on, when logical statements such as ‘lower prices are good’ turn out to be nonsense, the few people who assert they know what they’re talking about can claim triumph when defeat seems more inevitable than lower back pain in old age. Everything, if you look at it from the right angle, can be both superb and abominable.

The people with all the money get to decide how the money works, what the money does and where the money goes. There are slots on ‘news’ radio shows dedicated to economics and every three months some defiant berk at the head of a supermarket chain has to come on to explain why their devastating financial figures are both good for the economy generally and definitely good for their customers. Mr Tesco, I contend you may not be allowed to retain that Victoria Sponge you’re currently feasting on.

A final example of the madness of economics. To mind mind, there aren’t more cows than there needs to be, and probably not more farmers either. Explain, therefore, how the price of milk has fallen so low now that it’s selling at a lower price than it costs to produce it. Cows are expelling their juice for our benefit without the people manhandling them getting paid enough to make it a worthwhile endeavour, and though milking a cow is probably wondrous the first time you do it, it probably won’t be on at 5am on a Tuesday morning in December.

Is that good news or bad? Milk is cheaper for everyone, and everyone buys milk, so that’s good. But the people who produce the milk are getting stitched up and might then stop producing milk, so there’s then less milk, and the price goes up, and is that bad or good, and where am I? Maybe we’re meant to hate farmers, because they have big sheds that nobody’s allowed in, and inside these big sheds are twenty-foot high chickens, because of all the chemicals they put in them. And these chickens are scared.

Economics rules our lives and yet makes as much sense as the lap-dance dream sequence in I’m Alan Partridge. As far as I can gather, the most I got from Scrippy’s lessons was the knowledge that I will have to live within an economic system that makes no sense at the same time that it controls everything all of us do. For all we know it might be good for us, or it might be 2008 again and we’re all fucked for reasons none of us understand.

Either way, Robert Peston’s voice will still be the most atrocious sound you will hear of a morning.

The Humanity Tax

I sincerely hope I never have to take out a payday loan. The theory behind them is sound enough – if you need to pay a bill or two before your next pay cheque comes in, go to a company with a name that makes debt sound fun and exciting and they’ll give you what seems like free cash at the time but turns out to cost you so much it makes your eyes water like a kick to the cock.

But being in a position to have to take out such a loan must be horrible. Not being able to afford such luxuries as food and toilet paper cannot be the route to contentment. Handy, then, that the government have just made it harder for people who can’t afford to repay such a loan from getting one. People who can’t afford to eat are now going to find it harder to scrape enough together for a box of eight No Frills fish fingers with breadcrumbs that make you cough up blood.

There are people in the world who are really, really fucking skint, absolutely potless, wearing clothes made almost entirely of boracic lint. Some, no doubt, are living well beyond their means, unable to resist spaffing money they don’t have on whatever shiny new treat the TV and their peers demand they own RIGHT FUCKING NOW. The vast majority of people with little money, though, are not in that boat. They don’t have enough money because a small section of people have decided they need it a lot more. They need their second billion more than you need your second tenner.

You know who they are – ‘the 1%’ as they are popularly termed. There’s one over there driving a yacht bigger than the village your uncle used to enjoy living in peacefully before he froze to death last winter. There’s a woman on the television explaining why she should keep her enormous bonus despite the company she runs having directly contributed to the physical and mental abuse of patients at the care home they manage in a brutally lucrative outsourcing arrangement. Oh look, here comes a man wearing a tie-clip and a very big grin, who last night used a £50 note to light a ciger. He needs another £50 to replace that one a lot more than you need it for a ‘grab bag’ of Cheese & Onion.

People tend to accept that this is the way of things. Politicians piss about with tiny taxes on bankers’ bonuses and ruling out miniscule levies on financial transactions. Well, no more. It’s time to introduce the Humanity Tax.

Here’s the detail: you’re allowed to keep a certain amount of money in the various accounts you have in parts of the world famous for nothing but banking, like Turks & Caicos, wherever the hell that is. Everything above the upper limit goes into a big fund that will be shared among a vast number of charities, many of which will be devoted to such rascally schemes as housing the homeless. If you dip below the maximum amount you’re allowed you can earn your way back up to it, but anything beyond that maximum limit will be taxed at an entirely fair level of 100%.

The rich need new golf clubs sometimes, I understand that. So we’ll set the level at…let’s say £500 million. Honestly, I struggle to see what anyone could possibly hope to do with half a billion pounds but I accept that there are people who want to go to the Moon, and that it probably won’t be free. It’s claimed that if you stop people from earning staggering amounts of money they’ll simply stop trying, and entrepreneurship and innovation will just end. What’s the point in making life better for people if you can’t make yourself filthy rich out of it? I think you could argue in response that £500m is probably enough for a healthy supply of logs for your suitably opulent Chesney’s fireplace.

The second aspect of my Humanity Tax involves inheritance. In short, there won’t be any. When you die, everything you have earned up to that point is put into the same charity pot, along with all your savings and everything you own. I’m not a monster; if you have offspring living in a property you own at the time of your clog-popping they’ll be allowed to keep that property, but they have to pay back the value of that property over a number of years, when they earn enough, like tuition fees. The holiday home in the Seychelles that you visit once a leap year that stays empty the rest of the time? We’re sorry to hear you’re dead, but that’ll be ours thanks.

The argument is no longer ‘Why shouldn’t I be allowed to pass my wealth onto my children?’ but ‘Why the hell should my children be gifted wealth they’ve done nothing to earn?’ Little Rupert shouldn’t have his nest feathered simply because Adrian Fortescue-Smythe bent Samantha the secretary over his leather-topped desk in a rash moment of unprotected madness 14 years ago and she ignored his entreaties to have it dealt with.

If you have a serious argument against these two strands of the Humanity Tax I would very much like to hear it. You may believe that people work hard for their money and it shouldn’t simply be given gratis to workshy scroungers who’ve failed to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. I would counter with the obvious truth that boots that normal people can afford don’t have fucking straps and you need to stop being such a greedy, heartless cunt and accept that you have been allowed to make so much money – more than half a billion, remember – thanks to the help or acquiescence of a great many people along the way. Perhaps the woman who cleans your toilet shouldn’t have to live on tins of beans and sausages while she wipes away your Foie Gras-flecked fecal matter from the underside of the seat.

While I understand that these new rules may come as a shock to Petra and Tamara Ecclestone I honestly think they’ll come to adore their newfound status as cross-eyed angels of benevolence. All those people who regularly make that heinous Forbes list of disgracefully rich bastards will realise that money is not meant to be stockpiled and hoarded, but shared to make the world a less angry place. And when someone rich dies, it’ll become something to be celebrated with fireworks that would put New Year in Sydney to shame.

So not everything has to change.

Another five hours mate

Money really does fuck everything up, and not always in the way you think. As people in the western world beat each other senseless in shopping centres for the right to buy that last cut-price giant TV for someone who already has a giant TV, I’ll be getting screwed by money in a wholly different way.

Someone has offered me a job for more money than they should have, and I’ve said yes. My fault, obviously. Applied for a job by accident and the bastards went and gave it to me.

The reason this website exists is because I’m keen to demonstrate I and other like-minded people don’t need office jobs to make a crust – just tell us what to write, we’ll decide where to write it, and we all win. But sometimes an idiot – most frequently the British government in my case – will say “Please sit in my little box doing half a day’s work over the course of a fortnight and I’ll pay for your next holiday to St Kitts, Nevis, or both, plus spending money”.

So here I am, sitting in a government box. Furious with myself for having betrayed my aim of doing a whole year without an office job. I’ve missed it by four days. Four remarkable days in which the man whose job I’ll be taking over in the new year, for at least three months, has explained to me that there’s not only loads and loads to do, but he’s also done most of it himself already, and there’s an almost infinite amount of time remaining to do the tiny amount that’s left.

Here I’ll sit, day after day, thinking of the money, hating myself more and more. Pissing people off moaning about it because they all have office jobs already and don’t see the problem. If I have an office job I don’t see why you shouldn’t too, goes the argument. A similar type of egotistical reasoning could well explain the spread of Ebola.

There are positives; there always are. The job’s in a superb location – Fleet Street, in the heart of my favourite part of my favourite city on Earth. Surrounded by venerable buildings, the river nearby, just about every route to everywhere within easy walking distance.

The people are very nice, as far as I can tell. It’s an office, so occasionally I have to laugh indulgently at humour a child would scorn, but these are friendly people. Not much by means of potential pub comrades, but you can’t have it all.

I’m a bog-standard heterosexual man, and there are more women to look at than there tend to be in my flat. With a nod to headlines agitating that technology is turning infants into filth-hungry fiends who see each other as nothing but objects to insert each other into, my time working at home has made it tricky not to see a shapely female trudging the corridors of the workplace without wondering how she might eat a banana. And it seems I’m no longer trained to hide that natural instinct, much to the very obvious displeasure of the recipient and, imminently, HR.

And as I may have mentioned, the pay’s all right.

Sadly none of these plus points matter a jot when you consider the same journey every day, the same seat at the same desk every day, the same faces, the same conversations, the same set of eight unendurable hours spent doing the same shit that just doesn’t need to be done here. It needs to be done, maybe, though even that’s questionable. But it does not need to be done here.

Here, which is hotter than a Moroccan’s armpit by about midday and yet still there are people wearing coats complaining it’s Baltic. Here, where every purposeless meeting is attended by eight people; one person talking, one taking notes they’ll never, ever look at again, and six embodiments of hatred wishing a fiery death on the name at the top of the agenda.

Here, where a man places a spittle-laden ball of paper over his computer screen’s clock each morning, removing it only when the strain gets too much for him and he simply must know how much longer he has to be here. Another five hours mate. This man spent days hanging on the telephone after his interview, waiting to find out if he’d got this job, and was thrilled when he did.

I’m doing this for the money, despite being one of the least ambitious or avaricious people you’re likely to meet, because I couldn’t justify not doing it given the boost it’ll give the bank balance, and because rounds don’t buy themselves. I like to think I’ll do this for the initial three-month contract and then quit, go back to a life of relative freedom, limitless creative outlets and stoutly defended mental health. It’s hardly an easy life, spending hours every day trying to eke out small monies from huge amounts of good quality work that nobody will ever read, but it’s life.

It’s an uncertain, often worrying existence, but it makes me smile wistfully to think it was my existence this time last week. Then on my very first day in this job I was told “there’s probably years of work here if you want it”, and freedom seems so far away from me there’s probably a NASA probe about to find methane on it.

It’s the ‘here’, not the ‘work’. I will do a sterling job for you people; I always have in every job I’ve had. I’m not one of those chancers who clocks in, does the absolute minimum, badly, and clocks out again, even though my having written this in work hours might suggest otherwise. I take pride in a job done well. Just pay me half as much and let me do it from where I want – can’t say fairer than that, can I?

But how can we have meetings? How can we check you’re not just sitting there beating off to work permits and Chinese visa literature? How can we justify our existence to you if you can’t even see us toil?

Voluntarily back in the rat race. Five days a week for as long as I can take it. And this time it’ll either make me rich or dead.

Jewellery, drugs and homemade destruction derbies

I am a bitter person, I acknowledge that. But very little pisses me off as much as lottery winners.

The truth is that you’ve got more chance of a handjob from Pippa Middleton. Nowadays you put your £2 on at 13,983,816 to 1 and come away with £4m. That’s why not many bookies or mathematicians play the lotto. I don’t mind people winning the lottery, though I will admit there is a little twinge of jealousy when Wayne and Waynetta Slob match six of the smugly colourful fuckers we call ‘the winning balls’.

Still, fair play to people who still put up the cash despite the odds. My real problem is the wankers who go public about their win. The ones you see in on page 6 of The Mirror with a bottle of Champagne that some reporter has pushed into their face. At least have the fucking common decency not to remind the rest of us how poor we are.

Lottery winners who’ve gone public throughout the decades have always interested me, as a self-confessed people watcher, not in the voyeuristic, dogging kind of way, honest. Through all of my memories and even a little research most of the winners who went public seem to have one thing in common – they all appear to be absolute dickheads.

They’re a wide group of people from all walks of life. Take that media proclaimed ‘lotto lout’ Mike Carroll, a fine specimen of a man. That guy won £10m at the age of 19 and managed to blow it all on jewellery, drugs and homemade destruction derbies, and he now has less money than Greece. What about the guy who dumped his wife the week after he went public for some young bimbo?

The only thing worse than those who waste a small nation’s GDP are the other ones, the opposite of wasters, the very worst of the worst, the sub-human scum who say: “I’m not going to quit my job”. Those fuckers make my blood boil. Obviously they’re lying; why the fuck would anyone continue to clean shit-spattered toilets when they have a seven figure bank balance? They’re lying through their teeth and rubbing their win in everybody’s face. If I won millions I guarantee you I’d never work another minute of my life. The fact that they are even misguidedly considering it is like a big ‘fuck you’ to the millions of losers throughout the country.

Some of my research involved searching for reasons people have stated in their decisions to go public. Prepare yourself for this horse shit.

“The best thing about it is being able to meet other winners. Camelot organise parties every month around the country, and the other winners are like a support system. No-one else understands what it’s like.”

“Oh no, my normal friends aren’t rich enough for me and they don’t understand what it’s like to have so much money. I can’t associate with this riffraff any more; it’s bad enough that some of them shop at Waitrose.”

I could have handled these, I really could. I’ve managed to stifle the little ball of rage burning inside me for years. Then I heard something new a couple of months ago. An acquaintance of mine happened to engage in conversation with a lottery-winning couple who bagged a cheeky eight figure sum. Turns out this couple engage in a weekly ritual. You guessed it: they still play the fucking lottery! The greedy bastards think being multi-millionaires isn’t enough! What the hell is wrong with these people?

I don’t mind people winning the lottery; someone has to. I like to see money go to normal people, rather than the rich investing lots of money to make lots more money. I just don’t like seeing those smug bastards popping a Champagne cork in The Sun.

I’m paid to be here

I know I’m probably still drunk because I start the day by putting a winky face in an email to a trader. It’s an improvement on what I was thinking of writing which was “Who gives a shit, you uptight wanker?” Instead I made a sweetly self-deprecating comment about the team I work in and how we’re really just snivelling little wretches compared to the big boys (and girls) on the front line raking in the masses of wealth, whacked the winky face at the end of it to assure him I’m non-threatening and away it went.

It’s had quite a journey, the wink. It’s gone from being a smooth yet wordless come on, through to a warning sign of a sleazy pervert and in cinema it provided the pivotal plot twist in iRobot. Nowadays we bandy winks around like nobody’s business in texts, emails to friends, and emails to professional people at work who we hate. It’s become a prolific part of the way we communicate. If you send something a bit tongue in cheek without the required wink at the end of it, you might just sound like an arsehole.

My decision not to go with something along the lines of “People are dying mate, I couldn’t give two hoots about why this error came up in the first place, just pull your fist out of your arse and fix it” was based on the plain and simple fact that I’m paid to be here.

Like so many people who find themselves working in the recklessly overpaid industry of finance, I am in it for the money. The things I really like doing which are – in no particular order – laughing, writing, drinking, chatting, watching films and trying to be nice to people, are piteously underpaid. So until I can sustain a living by doing any of the above, I’m stuck with it. I do not, I hasten to add, underestimate the fact that the industry I so despise and the job I feel draining the very life out of me is handsomely paid. Loads of people hate their job and get paid fuck all for the privilege. But let’s conveniently sideline that fact because this isn’t about them, it’s about me.

Running concurrently with the issue that lead to the drunken winky face incident was the news that a report that should have been sent wasn’t. I took the necessary steps to rectify the issue, but at no point did I feel sad, angry, hurt or worried about the outcome. A more senior colleague did care and I could sense him prickling behind me while I sat there blithely dismissing his requests about what follow-up action had occurred with the words “I sent an email, I’ll show you in a minute”, while I turned around to finish the article I was reading about the Mitford sisters to find out who the hell they were and why one of them being dead was newsworthy.

When something goes awry at work I ask myself a very simple question: “Did anybody die?” It’s a pretty solid litmus test for how you should react. There are plenty of jobs in the world where people dying is a very real outcome of someone making a mistake. Mine is not one of them.

If the answer is no then I’ll ask myself: “Has anybody been seriously hurt? Do they require medical attention?” Short of falling off a chair, getting a paper cut or walking into a glass door there’s very little in the way of danger in my immediate surroundings so invariably the answer to both of these is also no. With the facts established and with no person or persons in any real, perceived or imminent danger, I limit my reaction to that of perfunctory action. I will do what needs to be done, but there will be no tears shed or recriminations or sleepless nights, because I just don’t care.

There’s a lot to be said for taking pride in what you do and I don’t begrudge anyone that; I applaud it. Just because I have significant dissatisfaction in my lot because it is so entirely contra to my values and beliefs doesn’t mean everyone who does a job that doesn’t involve saving lives, or helping the less fortunate, should drag themselves around in a tortured cloud of misery. We’re all at the mercy of our capitalist existences and require some form of income to sustain ourselves. First World Problems abound, but bills must be paid, nights out must be had, and holidays provide a soothing balm to the tiresome ache of life for the rest of the year.

If you have found something that sustains you financially, intellectually and emotionally, regardless of where it sits on the spectrum of worthy to self-serving careers, then wallow in your smugness; you’ve earned it.

But just try to be self-aware. Try to be realistic. Try not to care too much about something that matters not at all in the wider world. Get some perspective. Be grateful for the money rolling in and out of your account like a healthy turn of the tide every month.

And if something does go wrong, do what you can to fix it and then just chill the fuck out. Unless somebody dies or is very badly hurt, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter you overpaid, self-unaware fuckwit ;-)

Ten minutes to kickoff

TVs aren’t cheap. They’re cheap compared to cars I suppose, but you could get a decent number of Peperamis for the price of a TV and still have change for a packet of Angel Delight to dip them in.

They’re not something to just break at random, at any rate. It’s unwise to smash a TV simply because you don’t like what it’s doing; turning it off would save a lot of money. But if I hear the fey, winsome cover of the Cyndi Lauper song ‘True Colours’ come out of this TV one more time I plan to immediately kick the fucking thing to death and get myself right on down to Currys.

It’s not the TV’s fault; it’s Sky. They’re using the song to advertise an upcoming event on one of their sports channels and they keep playing it every single time there’s an advert break. Perhaps if it was advertising golf or rugby I could ignore it, since my boiling hatred of those two facile activities would drown out whatever shite was soundtracking it. But no, it’s an advert for the new Premier League football season.

You could surmise that I like football. Once a year I donate over a grand to an organisation worth £1.3 billion the last time anyone counted, for the privilege of standing in the same spot a few miles from my flat 26 times a year, and shouting until my hair turns grey and my arse falls out. I probably wouldn’t do that if I didn’t enjoy it at least a little. But I actually do it through habit, because I have for so long and the one time I don’t I’ll forfeit the right to do it again for Christ knows how many years. That’s how they keep us hooked: fear of missing out.

In truth I go to watch my football team not for the football, but for the buggering about. For a couple of hours before every match I stand in the same spot (notice a theme?) in the pub talking complete bollocks with a fine collection of gentlemen my year would be a great deal worse without. We talk about everything but football and we get quickly drunk, it’s superb fun and then someone notices it’s ten minutes to kickoff. With a degree of sorrow, at least on my part, we switch pub for stadium to yell obscenities at people just doing a job, and wish messy death on the few thousand bastards at the other end wearing different coloured replica shirts to us.

While it’s happening it’s impossible not to take an interest, but taking the game seriously at any point outside of the actual 90 minutes is beyond me now. I used to rake any form of press I could for a snippet of information on my team, and thought of very little else but who ‘we’ were playing next, and after that, and after that. It seemed to transcend almost everything and virtually all my friends were the same. The ones who weren’t were weird.

Now – almost certainly because the money in this sport has replaced any form of simple fun that used to exist, or fair play, or competition for the sake of it rather than for the prize money – I couldn’t give a shifty shit about it. There’s such a gigantic disconnect between the people running around on the pitch and the mugs forced to pay exorbitant amounts to support their team live, it’s impossible to feel any more affection for these people than I do for anyone else I spend a lot of time staring gormlessly at, like Krishnan Guru-Murthy, or Tori Black.

Every new season we’re told this is going to be the best and most important ever, as though last season was a selection of friendlies that, yes, we still had to pay a thousand pounds for. Every weekend has a ‘huge’ fixture or a ‘crucial’ or ‘must-win’ game, as though the losers will be lined up and shot through their screams of contrition. The media wallows in the notion that they’ve created a world where people need football facts like methadone, and everyone’s biased and everyone’s wrong when they disagree with you and every defeat should result in sackings and millions more spent on yet more footballers. At no point does it occur to anyone that they’re talking about people kicking a ball around a field.

The ‘True Colours’ advert involves stills of footballers moving slowly across the screen like a teenager’s bad 3D art project. People look serious; livelihoods, if not lives, are at stake. There’s sorrow on the way for the many and joy for the chosen few. And anyone who doesn’t understand how fucking important this all is should just piss off and watch the cricket.

I live in hope that at some point English football will have a moment of epiphany, most likely at the moment it realises it can see its teeth having disappeared so far up its own arse. It might realise how it’s taken the fleecing of gullible, trapped fans a little too far, by charging them five times as much for a season ticket as the best teams in Germany, Spain, Italy and anywhere else football is viewed as a spectator sport rather than an unusual form of banking. It might consider that money would be better spent on allowing as many children as possible to play and enjoy football, rather than allowing as many adults as can afford it to channel pure hatred at each other, while having absolutely no influence over some of the richest people ever to have been paid to have fun.

Or I might be sitting here 12 months from now, looking forward to meeting my mates in the pub before the first game of the season on Saturday, excited about just how ‘big’ this season will be, remembering just how small and pointless last season was in comparison, and wondering who I’ll be ordered to hate most come May. I wonder which is more likely. I wonder.