Monday, January 05, 2009

Exit Stage Left




Happy New Year Knicker Lovers.

Apologies for the recent disruptions to service. I am simply bringing TSP into line with the casual approach to commitment practised in the rest of the world. Seriously though, I've been away in Queensland; a situation which although pleasant, adds an extra layer of complication to my already tedious tether to technology. The intermittent connections are one thing but I added hugely to my trials by losing my memory stick. Why are these things so small? Don't answer that. What follows is the post you were meant to get last week.

Tomorrow it will be a year since I left Britain and trekked ‘home’ via India. I wasn’t your average backpacker, having been gone over twenty-five years and I didn’t really trek, although I did have a wicked new Karrimor with lots of straps and zippers. I anticipated when I made the move that I would hate living back here for at least the first year or two. How I detest being right all the time. I must be the only person on this dry and dreary continent who adored the movie and abhors the reality. It makes sense though since I disdained it before I emigrated and it has only become more parochial and intolerant since my own generation has taken charge. I didn’t even like us when we were young and interesting and represented hope. But now we’re stuck with each other for the forseeable future. All things considered, I weathered the global financial train wreck pretty well but will I survive the eternity ahead?

For the last year, I’ve woken every morning with a terrible sense of desertion. Although it’s me that did the deserting obviously, I can’t escape the feeling that my life has done a midnight flit somewhere along the line and left me with a hotel bill and a blank itinerary. I’ve responded by simply putting one foot in front of the other and going in whatever direction presented itself, a strategy which is far less successful than it sounds most of the time. Well, I always said I wanted to be a recluse and now there is very little in the way of alternative courses. I’m pretty much over people anyway. It was the vile spectacle of the power puppets rallying citizens to descend upon their nearest department store with a view to saving the world that finally did me in. Who’s their policy adviser, Oprah?

Although I don’t intend to buy anything ever again out of spite and as much as it pains me to even contemplate it, I will have to go back to work. I have learned to my cost that when you spend most of your money buying a house, the bank no longer sees fit to give you enough interest to live on, even if you do only buy gin, petrol and smoked salmon. I’ve applied for two jobs and had three interviews so far. I punch above my weight in the application department but technical knockouts at interview are not uncommon. I worked contract for the last ten years partly because I can’t stay awake through interviews and also because working more than four months of the year seems like an inequitable work/life balance to me.

My first application was for a job in the state government and it was going fine until they i) lied to me for no good reason, ii) dicked my referees about iii) demanded that I go to Melbourne, (a round trip of nine hours), to meet someone whom I would probably never see again as she was leaving immediately for a secondment in Dubai. It was at this point that I weighed in some of the other oddities about the interview process to which I had previously extended the benefit of the doubt. On the occasion of my second interview, the woman I was going to be working for took me to a hot bread shop and parked me between a slicing machine and a queue of people wanting to buy sandwiches. After spending two hours driving to the rendezvous point, I watched her eat a roast beef roll and tried to lip read for half an hour, then drove the two hours back home. I’m still digging for the positives there. Suffice to say I fell at the third hurdle and deduced the job probably wasn’t for me.

Job number two was one I didn’t think I had much of a chance of getting because I’d had no experience in the field and they did specifically say they wanted that. I only went for it because it was re-advertised and that can mean they’re willing to compromise on the experience bit and the race might just be between you and a dog groomer who didn’t finish primary school. They called me at 5.15pm and asked me to come for an interview at 10.00am the next day. It turns out there was a very good reason for this. I wasn’t on the original short list but two people had dropped out at the last minute. This was a confidence-booster all round I can tell you.

Well, I went didn’t I? I ignored the advice that I should cram on the chosen field from the cornucopia of ‘knowledge’ available on the internet. I’d already told them I didn’t know anything. What purpose would it have served for me to recite some drivel of questionable accuracy just because they wanted to ask a question about it? I like to think I’m better than that. So at the interview I told them I would learn whatever I needed to learn if I got the job. I’d done it before, plenty of times, and I’d do it again. It went down surprisingly badly but not quite as appallingly as the point at which I explained that I’m not in favour of ‘leadership’ as a concept. As Brian Wilson said, ‘I just wasn’t made for this world.’ Alarmingly, I think Bri might also be sitting on a slightly higher marble count than yours truly at this point in time. I’ve had worse interview experiences; like the time I went for a job at Islington Council on an elderly people’s wellbeing programme called Live Long and Prosper. In retrospect, greeting the interview panel with the Vulcan salute probably wasn’t one of my better opening gambits. For some reason they didn’t warm to me. The world of work can relax for the moment. It doesn’t look like I’ll be pulling on the pinstripes any time soon.

I do sort of miss Hackney, but more the Hackney of the eighties than the Hackney of now. Local lad Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve, followed by Eartha Kitt the next day. Both were my kind of rapacious rebel. I’ve written about Pinter a couple of times before so I won’t go over that again but I loved the fact that he’d so quarrelsomely lost patience with just how stupid everyone is. The tirade against the Iraq war that dominated his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech still makes me chuckle. Eartha Kitt was a strong critic of iniquity as well, earning the scorn of the establishment by lambasting the White House over Vietnam back in her heyday. Go girl! I saw her at Stoke Newington Town Hall in 1982. Was a time when Hackney Council used to put on free concerts for residents. You sent in a self-addressed envelope and back came a pair of tickets to see some stoic trouper whose crown had perhaps mislaid the odd rhinestone over time. You don’t realise how much you miss the crusty old lefties and refusniks until they’ve all been replaced by replicants with mission statements where passions should be.

Larrikin’s End is not all that well-endowed with employment opportunities and I’m probably not doing myself any favours by declaring my disapproval of all that twenty-first century organisations regard as sacred like strong leadership (bullying), innovation (not knowing what the fuck you’re meant to be doing) and performance management (making people work more hours for less pay). I’ve no other complaints about Larrikin’s End. Quite the opposite in fact. While most of Australia is one long, seamless palisade of lifestyle opportunities, Larrikin’s End is a gloriously unreconstructed ‘seaside town’. No latté lounges, fusion food or day spas. Just half a dozen chippies, a McDonald’s obesity incubator and zit factory and a pie shop. No jet skiing, paragliding or triathlon training either, mercifully. Just mini-golf,go-karts and waddling up the esplanade with your belly tangoing seductively with your elasticated waistband. With the economic downturn fixed in its trajectory for the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely to acquire a faux Med makeover anytime soon. Perhaps I’ll get a job on an oil rig or a fishing boat. It looks like it’s either that or the graveyard shift at Barney’s vodka bar, where the conversation is refreshingly left-leaning. If there is to be a revolution, you can bet that Barney will be somehow responsible...