Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Work, actually

When I was just turned twelve I started a paper round. Legally, I should have been thirteen but I stalled for a year before producing the suspiciously new work permit. In that year I saved up enough to go halves with my parents on a bike. At the time, running that round didn’t seem like hardship – I was earning a wage. At weekends, following horse racing meetings I regularly picked up sodden, torn-up race cards, half-eaten pies, broken glass and the general detritus following a boozy event I was far too young to attend. Both jobs were done in all weathers and I was happy for the work.

When I was around fourteen the potato picking became available to me, along with riddling, hoeing and the general gathering in of various harvests. No paid work was beneath me; I knew no different. As far as my generation, up in rural North Yorkshire, were concerned any and all ways of earning a dollar were legit. Strawberry picking paid the best – four or five weeks of kneeling between the rows, picking for all we were worth, would fund the rest of the summer’s shenanigans. Work... it’s bloody good for you.

When I went to a university in the big city, as a provincial lad I was intrigued by the students who spent all their time in the union bar instead of going to lectures. I was fascinated by the Women’s Society although I could never quite work out what their grievances were – “Pay us attention!” they would demand, quickly followed by “How dare you stare!” The union president – at nearly-thirty, positively geriatric to my nineteen year old self – was an object of some awe. He had yet to complete his bachelor degree having obtained paid sabbatical after paid sabbatical to... well, to sit on his arse in the union bar and convince himself he served a useful purpose.

Although I was dimly aware that tins were being rattled in aid of this cause or that, it had little relevance to me or most of my fellow students. We were there, I supposed, to get an education and then get a good job, not to go on marches. Whenever reports came in about the latest gathering of the clans the chatter was all about what a great laugh it was; I rarely heard about dragons slain, or hydras beheaded, just an endless stream of anecdotes, exaggerated with each re-telling. At the time of my graduation, characters who had seemed to be big figures on campus when I was a fresher were still there, in a state of suspended education, apparently no nearer to whatever they thought they sought, but clinging on to their imagined higher status.

Seeing the massed ranks of teary-eyed youngsters on the streets of London, bleating about how their future had been taken from them I wondered how some of them even managed to continue breathing day after day without some form of encouragement. One thing’s for sure and that is few employers are going to be impressed by a CV padded out with a list of the demonstrations you’ve attended for all the crusades you’ve espoused while having little real idea how anything in the world actually works.

You going on the Trans-body-image-gender-fluid 
Day of Action march, Fred?

I was berated recently for referring to the working class; informed that nobody today is defined by their job. No? How about farmers, fishermen, policemen, nurses, builders? It strikes me that it is far nobler to be recognised for what you actually do, than for how you think you ought to be defined; at school, one classmate told us what nickname he wanted us to use – that didn’t end well. So, you ask, what have I ever done to further the causes of social justice, tolerance, law and order and society in general? I went to work.

1 comment:

  1. So did I - at 18 and haven't stopped yet. 51 years on the treadmill and none regretted.