I’m at home today, I’ve just done domestic things this morning, things I should do more often, but they are always there for me later, another day. I’m beginning to realise how it must feel to be a housewife with no responsibilities other than a home to keep, as sitcoms used to portray. June Whitfield spent all day at home dusting and making cheese straws, then had Terry Scott’s bursting arrival through the front door to look forward to. I don’t think I’d want to be married to Terry Scott. June also had the bizarre unnatural expectation to entertain Terry’s boss Reginald Marsh if ever he invited himself round to bellow at everyone with a cigar and whisky.
Miles and decades away from Purley, silence and cold fresh air are bringing a feeling of calmness and vibrancy in through the balcony door, and allowing release of unwelcome thoughts. Warmth from the sun is sporadic but present. It is not actually quite silent here, wind is blowing the trees, the curtains are flapping erratically. Well, they’re not curtains really, just offcuts of material I found in Central House, London Metropolitan University, before it closed. Funny that I should call them curtains, but I’ve recently thought seriously of getting real purpose made blinds. I’m thinking more about making this a home rather than a temporary stop. Am I becoming suburban and materialistic? Perhaps I should move to Purley after all.
I’m restless, I’m waiting for a telephone call from the universal credit people. Appointments for telephone calls seem so ridiculous, but then I’d rather that than receiving a random call. At present attending an appointment in person is not possible for operational pestilence reasons, and would involve a trip to some stricken suburban asylum, so a call will happily suffice today. The process of claiming social security benefits, under whatever idealistic name they bear, always involves an initial dread, a series of personal questions without exact or valid answers, and a draining of self-esteem, aspiration and ambition. They ask about what type of work I’m interested in doing – a contradiction in itself, I already have a job I’m ostensibly interested in, actually genuinely interested in, want to do, am confident I can do, it just potentially won’t be paying me for a while soon. I usually just mention dull unskilled things like retail work, which I have no interest in, but is (usually) abundant in these parts, and I can do without having to engage or think too much. If I say I want to be a 1920s dandy-esque flaneur, they’ll say there isn’t a SOC code number for that. Confession time here – many years ago I briefly worked for the DWP, during the bleak time in Yorkshire, dealing with benefit claims by ‘phone. SOC codes are three or four digit code numbers used to describe occupation types – retail, management, candlestick maker, slaughterer, etc. I only lasted there about two weeks. I went through a phase of not sticking at jobs then. The telephone room was based in a vast Victorian mill building, at one time the largest carpet manufacturing plant in Europe, allegedly. There were three main employers in Halifax, all employing thousands in their heyday, and the carpet employer was one of them. Sadly ironic that now part of the building services the basic welfare and survival of those who can’t work, partly because industry has gone for good.
Later. The ‘phone call wasn’t as ghastly as I’d thought it might be. The questions were very quick, it felt like they just wanted to enter some answers, whatever they were, just to push the ‘submit’ button and get me “into the system”. They told me about a job working from home doing HMRC call handling, something I feel suitably unenthusiastic about. I’ll apply just to go along with the obedient subservient ‘grateful for the opportunity’ vibe. It’ll be less physically demanding and better paid than the retail world. I will be a prisoner at my desk in my home for hours per day though.
Later still, early evening. My finger is painful when writing. I may have to stop soon, perhaps it is due a break. Not my finger, that won’t break. I mean I’ll stop for today to let my extremities rest, and also maybe stop for a short hiatus, to take stock, to reflect, to decide what to do with all these words. There must be a reason for them, a purpose. It feels odd to think that I might soon have a normal full time office job. I never thought such a mundic fate would befall me.
I’ve just walked past the end of the estate where the demolition machines are pulling houses to pieces for fun and spectacle. Masculine mechanical arms displaying brute force, pushing and pulling at a second storey concrete wall, the last one remaining that high, until it cracked, lost its shape, and fell with a loud noise. A mother with her two small children stood, watched, then turned to go home. That corner feels so bleak now. A newly surfaced road has appeared with neat painted lines, all protected from use by those heavy duty metal fence panels which stand in weighted feet. Turquoise painted plywood hoardings form circuitous hostile walking routes over temporary dirt surfaces, around heaps of concrete waste. It will spread in slow shifting phases, until it creeps to the edge of my decaying block.
This era of contemplation and neglect is coming to a grey, damp sorrowful end, I feel numb of thoughts, and have to prepare, or at least contemplate being productive.