All posts by Ash

The invisible, immortal Priest of Time

So, here we are – a ‘New Year’, an arbitrary adjectival assignation to a passage of time that allows us to pretend we have a blank slate, that the excesses of Christmas, the sins of omission and commission of the past 365 days have been absolved by the invisible, immortal Priest of Time.

You know what? Once you’ve crawled out from under your hangover, you’ll be stumbling into exactly the same shitty life you were living on December 31st. Exactly the same bombed-out mediocrity that you’ve been wallowing in for the past 8,760 hours of your rapidly-diminishing life.

“Call me but Romeo, and I be new baptis’d”, exclaims Shakespeare’s doomed hero.

Only he’s not, and neither are you. None of us get a free pass on our mistakes and misdeeds.

New Year is an illusion – firstly, an illusion that we can control time, that it flows as we dictate, and, secondly, an illusion that we can ever completely change, or ever be allowed to entirely reinvent ourselves. And the ultimate lie that paints this illusion as reality? New Year’s resolutions.

If you actually were going to lose weight/stop something/start something/get a new job, you’d’ve done it by now. Apart from getting the job, for example. Which leads me nicely into my next point – the fact that it is completely moronic and self-defeating to set resolutions that rely, in some way, on other people.

You’re setting yourself up for failure if you hang the future of the next 365 days on an action, or course of actions, that only someone else can take. People are capricious, mercurial beings, and very rarely behave as we would like them to. By all means apply for as many jobs that interest you as you can, rework your CV, take some courses that will make it – and therefore you – look better to potential employers, but don’t, whatever you do, make a New Year’s resolution to “get a new job”. In fact, don’t make a New Year’s resolution to do anything.

Without the impetus and frowning judgement of New Year’s resolutions looking over my shoulder, I’ve managed to buy my first house, get engaged (and set a date for the wedding), and “write more” – that vague resolution of scribblers everywhere. Vague, and easily achievable – basically, total up all the words you wrote last year, then write one more. There. You’ve achieved your resolution to “write more”.

The one resolution you perhaps should make is to read more scathing sarcasm. There’s plenty of it on the internet – sit down, leave FaceCrap and TwatALot alone for a bit, and instead have a look around for your particular brand of sarcasm.

Due to the high standard of applicants

“We just can’t get applicants with the skills and attitudes we need.” The constant refrain from employers bemoans a lack of skills, and applicants who turn up in pyjamas and expect to be allowed to drink neat vodka all day, along with an inability to hold a basic conversation. There are, so British industry says, no suitable, skilled, British applicants for UK jobs. At all. Anywhere.

And Peter Pan is real, and lives two doors down from me.

Employers: the reason you’re not finding suitably skilled applicants with a good attitude and decent work ethic is because you don’t get back to us when we email you. We write, in perfectly grammatical Queen’s English, explaining our relevant experience, with examples of things we’ve actually done, and projects we’ve been involved in. We give you the names of real, physical companies we’ve worked for, and who were pleased to have us there (or said they were, at any rate).

We submit our CV, or the carefully-completed online application form, well within the deadline, having checked, double-checked and triple-checked that our email address and mobile phone number are accurate, and that we haven’t inadvertently given you the address of the Facebook and Twitter accounts that we let our mates see – you get the same profile Mummy and Daddy do, where we talk about our volunteering work, the educational programmes we’ve watched on the BBC, and the online courses we’re undertaking to “improve ourselves” and “further our education, knowledge, and experience”.

We make sure that relevant documents are attached to the email, which we’re not sending from our ‘workisforwankers@dossmail’ address, or, if you’ve asked us to be all old-fashioned and post things to you, we make sure everything’s included, the address is right, and that the lady at the Post Office checks the envelope to ensure we pay for the right amount of postage. Then we drop it in the slot, or hit Send, and wait.

And wait. And wait.

Until, three weeks or so after the closing date, we eventually get a terse “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, due to the high standard of applicants, you have been unsuccessful. We wish you luck in your job search.” It’s not even addressed to us, and you’re not even skilled enough with computers to fake that you’re not sending it as a bulk mail job.

And then, a week after we stopped less than an inch short of slashing our wrists in response to your rejection, you’re in the paper, or on This Morning, whining about how hard life is for you, and how no one’s good enough to work for you.

Boo-bloody-hoo. That’s not what you told all those folk currently having their benefits stopped because they didn’t even get to interview with you, so must’ve screwed up somehow. You’ll carry on raking in your hundreds of pounds an hour salary, while the rest of us struggle to buy groceries, pay bills and get by on the same amount you’d spend on a “quiet evening out”.

There are skilled, sensible job applicants out there, who know that they’re expected to turn up on time, do as they’re told, and be professional. Who can write and speak good English. Who know that you don’t wear a tie to an interview for a kennel hand, or a gimp suit to an interview for a job in a solicitors’ office. But we’re not psychic – if you want to interview us, you have to respond to our application. Preferably with your location, and a date and time.

But it’s cheaper for you to ignore any applications you get, and go on TV whining about your life. After all, it’s free advertising, isn’t it, especially if you can get the telly crew to do a few seconds of footage in your offices or your factory. Not an avenue that’s typically open to jobseekers, the free publicity of an appearance on the six o’clock news. The truth is out there, along with the job applicants you claim don’t exist. And the truth is, British industry, that you don’t want a workforce – you want a soundbite.

Drowning the golden goose

The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’. What a load of bollocks. So many shades of stupid I don’t know where to start.

Risk hypothermia and donate to charity at the same time. Riiight. Even drug dealers know it’s not the best idea to risk drowning the golden goose in freezing water, because, let’s face it, that’s what Joe Public is to charities. Especially the ones with ickle-wickle puppikins, or teeny-tiny starving black babies, that can tug at our collective heartstrings and make us feel oh-so-guilty for being human and white, like we had any fucking say in the matter. Freezing water + human body = bad idea.

Waste God knows how many gallons of water ‘for charity’, when there are charities crying out for money to provide water to places where people are actually fucking dying because they have to drink the same water their livestock piss and shit in.

Completely obliterate the whole concept that giving to charity is ‘altruistic’ by getting your ugly mug all over social-fucking-media, ensuring you get to be Little Mr. or Ms. Popular for a few seconds. Most people haven’t the faintest fucking clue what the cause is they’re getting cold and wet for.

Continuing the popularity theme, the Ice Bucket Challenge reinforces the whole hideous, return-to-high-school awfulness of “how many friends have you got?” with the fact that you have to be nominated to take part (this, apparently, is all part of the social media circus of the thing). People actually have to remember that you exist in order for you to be asked to be a complete prat. Either people have forgotten I exist, or they’re aware that I exist but have enough brain cells left to remember that I can be a bastard when I’m angry. And that extremes of temperature make me really fucking angry.

Basically, along with the ‘No Makeup Selfie’ craze, the Ice Bucket Challenge is something started and promoted by vacuous Z-List ‘celebrities’ who’ve run out of marriages and divorces to get them attention, and are frustrated by the wait for the arrival of their next brat for social media to fawn over. These people are followed mindlessly by zombies who haven’t realised that they should actually be killing people in order to get brains, or are perfectly content to carry on without them.

This may come as news to people, but it is entirely possible to give to charity without making a song and dance about it, making a spectacle of yourself, or doing something completely asinine. Although, to be fair, a donkey would have more sense than allow someone to throw freezing water over it.

If you want to experience ice-cold water, get on a plane, go to Sweden, and jump through the ice of a frozen lake, after having had a very, very hot sauna – that’s an experience. And one that you’ll actually be able to look back on, for years to come, and remember fondly, without thinking “Wasn’t I an utter pillock to do that?”

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s commendable to give to charity – but only if you’re doing it for the right reasons. And being part of a social media craze, proving how popular and cool a person you are, is not the right reason.

Illiterate, innumerate

Yet more employers are whining about how “young people don’t have a work ethic”, and how “everyone wants flexible hours and decent pay straight off, they don’t think they should have to earn it”. More hand-wringing over how ‘incompetent’ and ‘lazy’ British workers, particularly young British workers, are illiterate, innumerate, have shit timekeeping, can’t follow instructions, and won’t stick with anything if it’s not exactly to their liking.

Meanwhile, the same young, British workers are driving themselves to nervous fucking breakdowns, applying for everything, posting ads on Gumtree that are only ever responded to by people with poor English skills thinking that the ad is offering a job, or wankers who think it’s funny to take the piss out of the desperate by responding with something sexually suggestive. They’re uploading humiliating begging videos to YouTube and Facebook, because the business world is so immature that it thinks it’s cool to run Dragons’ Den-style recruitment processes. These young workers see all of this and think “What’s the fucking point?”

It’s not going to matter that I could be at a job that starts at 8am by 7.45am, or that I worked a summer job hauling marquee poles around – god, that was shit, but I stuck it out – or that I know better than to turn up to an interview in jeans and a hoodie. Nothing’s going to fucking matter, because you’ve had a few bad experiences with people from my socioeconomic demographic and decided to write the whole lot of us off, and tell the world via social media, newspapers and television that you’re doing so. Fucking great.

I spent my early teens to mid-twenties among the first wave of “useless young people”, despite applying for jobs that would’ve meant an hour and a half on a fucking bus, each way, despite doing a job that meant I had to get up at 4.30am so I could feed and walk the dogs, get showered and dressed and have breakfast before I had to leave the house at 6am to walk to the bus stop for the ONE bus that would get me into the city an hour before I needed to be at work.

Despite getting to work, and having to watch colleagues who lived in the fucking city eating their breakfast at their desks, because apparently I was the only one who could be bothered to be fucking organised in the morning. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a morning person. There isn’t enough coffee in the world for me to be bright-eyed and bushy-fucking-tailed before about 10.30am.

Despite the fact that I was intelligent and capable, and proved it time and time again. No-one was interested, because I was a “useless, lazy, entitled young person”, so they could go and rip off some poor foreign bugger with a clean fucking conscience.

Now, in my late twenties, I’m suffering the effects of that dismissive earlier attitude – my ‘career’ hasn’t ‘advanced’ as far as some fucking suited wanker thinks it should’ve done, so I’m therefore not worth bothering with. I’m obviously a workshy waster who’d struggle to spell ‘work’, never mind actually do it. Or I get the “Oh, that’s quite a way from Norwich – and you don’t have a driving licence?” with the pitying look that says because I’m apparently incapable of doing this piss-easy thing called driving (easy if you have decent peripheral vision, and haven’t had a ‘dissociative episode’ during a driving test), I must also be incapable of reading bus timetables and working out if I can get to and from a place for the times they want me there.

I also get a lot of “Why don’t you move to the city? That would surely make finding work easier.” Yes, because I can pay the astronomical fucking rents on crappy city centre flats with Monopoly money, can’t I?

British business has spent years writing off British workers and they wonder why so many of us are now shrugging our shoulders and saying “fuck you then” at the expense of that mythical beast ‘the taxpayer’, as if we don’t pay fucking tax on just about everything we buy.

I don’t give a fuck that you probably have met some fucking useless twats – I probably went to school with most of them – but until you give everyone in the group you’re so casually trashing a chance, you don’t get to have a fucking opinion on that group as a whole. Talk about the individuals you’ve encountered but don’t fucking tar us all with the same fucking brush. You wouldn’t get away with it if you were saying “all black people are lazy”, or “all Muslim blokes expect a decent salary for an easy job”. Just because there’s no law against this particular prejudice, doesn’t make it right.

Offer me a job. Give me a chance to do it. Then tell the world – if it’s the case – that I’m lazy and incompetent. But you don’t get to fucking judge me until you’ve met me.

A nice-looking mountain bike

I passed the guy while I was walking into town with my dogs. He was posed in the middle of the pavement, one hand casually holding a nice-looking mountain bike by the handlebars. I live out in the sticks, there’s never a copper around to enforce things like ‘no bikes on pavements’, even if the Boys in Blue were inclined to bother about the kind of laws that politicians make on the fucking hoof, after one too many people write whiny letters to the papers.

In his other hand he was loosely waving a slowly-smouldering cigarette.

A fucking cigarette? When you’re busy showing off your health-and-environment credentials with that bike?

Now, I’ll ‘fess up: I don’t smoke. But before you get all judgemental on me, I used to. And I know damn well that I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of managing my three dogs (two Staffie/Collie crosses and an Anglo Wulfdog pup), whom I usually walk together, if the smoking habit were still with me.

Handling powerful-breed dogs requires lung capacity. Cycling requires even more fucking lung capacity. Smoking reduces lung capacity. Are you seeing the contradiction yet?

This guy was old, and looked it; the poster-grandad of the anti-smoking lobby. Maybe he remembered that, in the days of his youth, the two things that had marked lads out as “cool” had been having a bike, and smoking, and he thought that currency might still be valid.

Or maybe he was just a wanker, old before his time and, despite his fucking cycling habit, not long for this world.

The House has already won

The British government have had a Cabinet reshuffle. They do this a lot, usually when it becomes blindingly obvious that the only way they’re going to win the next election is if they kill everyone else, and Britain becomes the dictatorship they secretly (and not-so-secretly) want it to be.

Now, I play a bit of poker, and I know for a fact that, if you’ve got a rigged deck, or the House is on the take, it doesn’t matter how many times you reshuffle that fucking deck; nothing’s going to change for you. You’re shit out of luck, because you’re being hustled by the very best in the business.

Politics is a lot like poker – everyone’s bluffing, everyone’s out for what they can get, it’s greed that’s brought them to the fucking table in the first place – and the House always, always wins. Even when it looks like they’re losing. Especially when it looks like they’re losing.

I remember when I was first shown what poker was. I didn’t get it. How the hell could people sit up all night – sometimes several nights in a row – just betting on whether the total of the cards they had was higher than everyone else’s?

I don’t get politics, for much the same reason. We all file out to vote, like good little citizens, never mentioning the fact that since we still have a ruling monarchy we’re technically ‘subjects’, and put a neat little tick in the ‘correct’ box. Tory if we went to the ‘right’ schools, if we believe that a couple of blokes getting married, or two women deciding to have a baby together using some anonymous guy’s spunk, is going to bring society crashing down around our ears; Labour if our family still talks about the miners’ strike, or burns effigies of Margaret Thatcher; Lib Dems if we’re not really sure what we think, but we’re certain everything’s lovely, really. Drop the fucking card in the slot, and head home, smiling the smug, self-satisfied smirk of someone who has ‘contributed’, who is a ‘functional member of society’, and all that crap. And just like the schmucks who sit there, hour after hour, staring at the cards in their hand, the baize on the table, we’re being laughed at: there’s no point in playing – the game’s been rigged from the start, and the House has already won.

At least in poker you can walk away when you feel you’ve wasted enough money – maybe go and waste a bit more at the bar, or on one of those too-pretty women who’ve been prowling around all night, trying to catch the attention that should’ve been on your cards – and you’ve only handed over a few hours of your life along with your money. When you walk out of that fucking polling station, you’ve handed over five years to people who don’t give a damn about you, people you maybe didn’t even vote for, and so who give even less of a damn about you.

I used to believe that, if I didn’t vote, I didn’t have a right to complain. Then, one day, I realised that it doesn’t matter if I vote or not – every MP is a lying cunt, every party says one thing to get elected, then does another once they’ve tasted the power they’ve been gagging for. I can’t change anything by voting, because the fix was in long before I reached voting age.

The game is rigged, the House will win, and the only option left to me to change things is to complain – to make it as clear as possible, to as many people as possible, that I’m not happy, that we’re being screwed over by the people who should be guiding us to a better place. And hope that, when enough people wake up and smell the stench of the dregs of the cheap, bitter, instant coffee that is life in 21st century Britain, the riot and the revolution that that awakening starts will be so fucking big and powerful that no-one can control, stop or ignore it.

Change won’t come through voting – voting is too fucking polite, too civilised, too pretty words and nice manners: too forgettable. Change will come with a rage that can’t be ignored, and won’t be forgotten.

The treatment process

According to Face-crap, which got its intel from the Telegraph, the great and the good that are the UK government are planning to sanction benefit claimants who “refuse treatment” for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, because, apparently, “cognitive behavioural therapies work”. So say well-off, middle-class wankers whose only experience of depression has been Fortnum & Mason being out of the ’57 Merlot, without which their dinner party will be a complete write-off.

Cognitive behavioural therapies don’t always fucking work. I know this because I spent three years being asked to “imagine the very worst that could happen” – fine, you cunt; the worst that could happen, right now, is I don’t get this job. The jobcentre tossers decide I “wasn’t trying hard enough”, or some such crap that makes an entirely arbitrary decision – based on whether the interviewer’s getting his leg over sufficiently, or the fact that her PA brought her a full fat latte this morning, when she specifically asked for skinny – into my fault. I lose my benefits, including housing benefit, I can’t pay the rent on the hell hole I call home, I end up on the streets and either starve, freeze or get beaten to death.

There – now the fucking therapist is as depressed about the state of the world as I am. Good. Welcome to the world as experienced by the working class, pal. And yes, I’ve taken my heavy-duty prescription medication like a good little boy, too – then stopped, and switched to valerian, which isn’t recognised because you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it, or be seen by a psychiatrist with no concept of how anyone earning less than thirty grand a year could possibly survive, just to get hold of it. And you know what? It has the same effect; I still feel like I should kill myself, I just don’t have the energy to do it.

Job interviews still see me up half the night with stomach cramps, sweating and vomiting, then sitting there, on the wrong side of that fucking desk, shaking and trying to force a coherent answer out of the fuzz in my head; the shakes are just less obvious, so I look weird, rather than alcoholic. I still hear the voices telling me what people are thinking, what threats are out there, how useless I am – it’s just that they’re whispers from the next room, now, rather than someone sitting across the table from me. The other people in my head are still there – they just choose to stay in their rooms, quietly getting on with whatever it is they do when I’m in control of my mind and body.

I’ve “engaged and complied with the treatment process”, as they say in psycho-babble, and I’m still batshit crazy. The craziness didn’t get better when I was on the drugs-and-talking-cure trick, and it’s got no worse since I decided to use valerian to take the edge off everything and treat the people in my head like people that can be engaged with, rather than enemies that have to be destroyed.

Stop my benefits. Call me a liar, a lazy scrounger. Tell me I’m “making it all up”, that “society doesn’t exist to support layabouts like you”. Force me to take a job, any job – then watch as I get sacked, because, from what I’ve seen in the contracts I’ve had for the jobs I’ve done before, from what I’ve experienced first hand, employers are allowed to call insanity “gross misconduct”, and fire your arse without notice.

Whether or not you give me a pittance to live on, whether or not I’m working, whatever names you choose to call me, I will still be depressed. I will still get anxious about anything from the state of the world to the fact that Tesco have put the price up on the yoghurt I like. I will still have five other people living and talking in my head. I will still see things that aren’t there. Your threats, punishments and disapproval will not “cure” me, or make me “suitable” for the kind of twats who get to decide whether or not they want a nutter working for them.

I’ll carry on doing things that I enjoy in the times when my madness decides to take a day off. I’ll write, create, engage in debate, walk my dogs, take care of my partner. And on the days when the world’s inside out and back to front, I’ll stay in bed with the curtains closed, grit my teeth, and endure it until the darkness lifts. My life continues with or without your approval.