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Hoping tomorrow never comes

Submitted by on February 17, 2012 – 9:53 am4 Comments

So the Tories appear set to bulldoze their latest piece of poor-bashing legislation through Parliament aimed at hurting the most vulnerable in society – namely unpaid work experience places for the disabled and terminally ill.

Someone with seven months left to live would be eligible to be put on this scheme. Instead of worrying about making the most of their final months and working out what will happen to their families after their death, they will instead be ‘taught’ how to do a CV and then forced to work at Tesco, or some other horrendous organisation, for nothing.

Meanwhile, the wealthy tax-dodgers go unpunished, multi-billion pound companies get free labour and chancellor George Osborne gets even closer to abolishing the 50 per cent tax rate for top earners.

The word ‘fascist’ is banded about far too liberally in today’s world, but these policies of targeting the ‘least perfect’ in society has alarming echoes of what was happening in Germany in the 1930s.

Summed up here: www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/16/disabled-unpaid-work-benefit-cuts

We’ve touched on the this disgusting ‘work for nothing or lose your benefits’ policy in A Fine Lung before. Issue six to be precise. Here is the piece we featured:

Sitting, looking out across the gorge, I can see the Indian’s head as he lays to rest on the hill-top, resplendent in traditional headwear.

It may be the mist that envelops the valley or the pharmaceuticals in my system, but today he looks particularly vivid against the Saddleworth sky. Dead. And I chuckle to myself as I exhale.

How did it come to this? In my ex-wife’s car, taken without consent, parked in a lay-by overlooking Dovestones reservoir and considering my options.

The car holds many memories. Some happy ones. The odd row too as we’d got lost en route somewhere or other. And this area, where we used to walk and talk and silently smile at each other, was once ours. It seems the perfect place to put a stop to the suffering and to lie alongside the Indian, still for all time.

It had been a hell of a day, but not untypical in these times. Waking in my mother’s spare room this morning, among the cardboard boxes and bin bags full of my every belonging, I struggled to the bathroom to shower and dress for the rigmarole that lay ahead. The boxes and bags had remained unmoved and virtually untouched since I’d been forced to move back to me mam’s following the repossession of my flat and the breakdown of my marriage.

It had been a long time coming. Gripped with a searing depression that engulfed every part of me, I was no fun to live with. I’d driven my missus daft since I’d been made redundant, so I don’t blame her for doing one, with the little one in tow. I miss her like fuck and the more time I spend doing little more than think, the more it hurts. I ache with loss and I feel bitterness. But not towards her.

The clothes I put on I have worn for 10 years. They’re a little shabby and I keep tripping over my jeans as they’ve become frayed at the backs. But I hardly have to be Jeff Banks when I’m fulfilling my stint of unpaid work stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s in order to complete my ‘back to work’ agreement and therefore qualify for my £40 a week dole money. Sainsbury’s get my free labour, the Government massages its jobless lists, Daily Mail readers rejoice and I’m fucking knackered.

And to think, three years ago I relished my job. Now I’m making ends meet, barely, by growing weed in me poor mam’s shed and smoking what I don’t sell to get to sleep at night and blot out the doldrum existence I’m eking out.

And even then, as I drift off, stoned and whimsical, as Cast of Thousands plays on loop in my ears, I dread the thought of tomorrow coming.

A once proud, educated and well brought up man reduced to this. I look in the mirror and decide not to shave. Razors cost a fortune and it’s only a matter of time before I get caught stealing them from Aldi. I need to conserve. The last dregs of the toothpaste have lasted two weeks. My breath probably hangs, but I’m a dream date compared to some of the backward gets I’ll be ‘working’ alongside today.

Leaving the house, I say goodbye to my mam. She must despair at the state of her first born. So proud to tell her friends of my sterling work with Surestart, where I probably looked after their kids, imagine the embarrassment she felt at the Catholic club when she had to reveal how I’d moved back home at 42. The shame.

It’s lagging down again and the wind is up. It blows the plethora of chip wrappers and cig dimps and plastic bags around to the extent that I feel like I’m Edmund Hilary navigating a blizzard, or I’m approaching a rubbish dump in the slums of Mumbai, not walking the streets of the world’s first industrial city. A place tourist guides once described as ‘vibrant and forward looking’. Now you can’t even piss in a civilised fashion.

The side streets stink of fetid urine and rats beneath your feet plague the concrete landscape. The first time you see a rat in daylight, the image startles you. Now they’re as common as pigeons. And just as repulsive.

I step over at least two dead ones, which won’t be swept up until later since they cancelled the night clean. A young kid picks one up and his mam belts him round the head.

The bus queue is huge. I wonder why we bother. Buses are scarce in these parts. Unless you’re a student living in Didsbury or Wilmslow, then you’ve got no hope of getting to town on public transport.

As I wait, a dickhead in a Superdry coat hassles a woman for her phone. I don’t carry one anymore, it’s too much of an advert for the packs of thieves that roam and wait to pounce. She doesn’t give it up without a fight, but the lad is off and giggling to himself. Could I have jumped in? Maybe, but why bother when there’s no dibble about to back you up and they’d probably just nick me for getting stuck in?

As cars fly by, almost all containing just the driver, I smirk to myself. These pricks are either suited up en route to rip off poor people, or they’re middle class ‘suburbanites’ wearing Egypt T-shirts, as if they’d know what a revolution was. Egypt is the new Che and the people wearing the images are the same old shithouses.

No danger of a bus turning up any time soon, so I set off walking in the direction of Sainsbury’s.

One plus point of the complete lack of services we suffer is that I must walk about 20 miles a day. I say plus point, but I mean in terms of getting some exercise, not like I enjoy taking the toe train. They closed the leisure centre and the baths so this is as good a going over as my body gets.

It gives me time for reflection too. I think about our Joe, clever little fucker. Straight A grades, but for French, in his GCSEs, yet he’s now copped for unpaid work at the Esso garage. Making millions for the oil giants as his intelligence is reduced to swiping credit cards for snots in cars.

I feel ashamed that me and his mam couldn’t help him realise his potential and get him to university. I went, but those were different times. It’s back to the era when my parents thought college was for doctors’ kids and teachers only. Bastards.

I’m late to Sainsbury’s and I’m shaken from my thoughts by the cunt of a supervisor. “You’re late you lazy waste of space,” he screams at me.

“No buses, trains require a mortgage for a ticket and the tram is still burnt out, Mr Cartwright, what do you want me to do?”

He looks at me in complete distain. He thinks he’s mint, managing a supermarket. His job would have been a laughing stock years ago, but now he’s king of the corporate jungle. And doesn’t he know it.

“No excuses,” the twat snarls. “I’ll be letting your dole officer know about this and you’ll probably get docked. Serves you right.”

And with that he tosses my overalls at me and goes off to persecute someone else. I clock in with my card and note the date – February 6th 2013. Fifty-five years since the crash. I cross myself.

I’m not in the mood for volunteering my time to this mundane day of doom. So I read a book I got from the library when it was closed. The woman there tipped everyone off and we went and collected a load of books. They’d have only ended up somewhere else, like Fallowfield, where they hardly need any more books.

I got a couple of Dickens novels. I wasn’t on a mission to cheer myself up or anything. They’re glum, but seeing as how they were written well over a century ago, I can’t see how the themes and society have changed in any way. It fills me with anger.

My uncle used to tell me to read more. He was a good man, but being good is no vaccine against cancer. We couldn’t afford the NHS bills and he perished before I felt I had time to know him properly. To think of him, a man who fought alongside the miners and believed so passionately in the welfare state, dying as it was cut from under us, makes the bile rise from my stomach.

That thought was probably the tipping point. My depression was quite severe and not being able to afford the medication, I couldn’t manage my moods. I could turn on a sixpence. And Cartwright was going to suffer.

“What are you doing man?” He balled in my direction. I was in no condition to talk. Tears welled up and my throat was dry. I marched towards him and did what my addled mind dictated – I cracked him in the face with Little Dorritt.

I didn’t wait around to evaluate the damage.

I was fucked now. Sure to be docked my £40 and put on the ‘list’.

I stormed out and I remember little until I arrived at Sarah’s flats. I thought about shouting up. Telling her how I felt, apologising for my state. But what was the point? She had me marked down as a cunt and I couldn’t put up an argument against that assessment.

Instead I broke into her car. I knew it had a dodgy lock on the front passenger door and I knew the daft cow left her spare keys in the glove box. I felt bad. She was bringing up our youngest on her own, with no prospect of a job and having to dump him on her mam when she was required to attend dole meetings every other day.

But I just felt compelled to escape and I could think of no better place than Dovestones.
As I parked up I felt in my pocket and was ecstatic to discover a bag of skunk. I’d brought it for a lad at ‘work’, but I might as well put it to use myself. I rip a page from Sarah’s car manual and skin up. I spark it on the car lighter and soon I’m dizzy with the weed and the chemicals in the paper. Harsh against the back of my throat, I take a strange comfort. I semi-dream as I hazily float from thought to thought. The protests of 2011 vivid against my retina, as the dibble’s baton strikes my leg. I flinch with the pain even now. We were beaten. Not enough cared.

Out of the window I see the Indian. He’s got the right idea. He too, was beaten. Now he lies there in peace. There’s no tomorrow for him. And as I close the door behind me and walk towards the edge, I think it could be a nice day for a swim.

Click on ‘Buy issues of A Fine Lung’ near the top of the page to purchase issue six or any other issues we have left in stock… All proceeds to FC United of Manchester.

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