Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It's easy to be humble when you haven't got very much. The real trick is in being proud when you haven't got very much.
The lovely Jenny and I have been kicked in the arse fairly severely by the GEC (General Economic Downturn): by my rough calculations, we're down by at least a 6 figure sum. In the past three months we've applied for over 120 jobs each. That means, of course, that we've been told "no" around 110 times each: the other 10 are rejection letters we're waiting for.
I've concluded that my radio / advertising career's down the dunny. It's gone. A thing of the past. It's a Blue Norwegian Fjord Parrot: deader than George W Bush's Big Book of Ideas. So, at 57 years of age, I have to look at alternatives.
It's easy to be humble when you realise just how bloody useless you are. The trick is in being proud of the few things you are good at.
Really, when I take a long hard look at myself, I know that I'm good at precious few things. Well, things that'll make a buck or twelve, anyway. I can drive. My brother may choke on his cornflakes when he reads that, but it's true. He's the expert, I'm the enthusiastic amateur. So, I've applied for driving jobs. I'm reasonably hopeful ogf getting one, too: courier for labtests, a medical laboratory company. I'll be driving blood, shit, piss, sputum, spittle, snot, and semen from a series of collection points to a central hub, from whence it will be despatched to the Place Where They Keep The Test Tubes and Bunsen Burners. Beakers too, I'll be bound. Mind you, this is one of the 10 potential rejection letters that the perverse angels of humility have waiting for me in their wings. But if I get the job, I'll do it well, I'll do it properly, I'll do it with pride.

A couple of months ago I attended one of WINZ's fairly pointless meetings: they hold them to encourage people to look for work. Some might need that encouragement, I suppose. Anyway, I seated next to this burly chap, who had been made redundant just a few days previously. The day after being handed his notice, he walked around the local industrial area, knocking on doors. He'd handed out over 40 CVs on that one day. "If I'm to be a job-seeker, I'm going to be the best damned job-seeker in town." I never saw him again. I assume it's either because he got a job, or is dead. There was no back-down in this man. Pride.

So, I'm good at ideas, at cobbling together a reasonable sentence, and at customer service. These are good qualifications, but they're not good enough to get me a job as a Train Driver, Cheese Salesman, or Greenpeace Fundraiser... or even, it appears, a customer service manager, or sandwich delivery person. Damn. I could have delivered sandwiches with flair.
Being unemployed is debilitating, demeaning, and dire. It grinds your soul to dust. It has no appeal at all. People who rail against dole bludgers know nothing. And, of course, I was one of those who was a little intolerant of unemployed people - at least, until I found myself washed up on this rocky shore.
Humility's easy, when circumstnces have led you to some semblence of wisdom. Pride's easy, too - when your eyes are shut.
I hope that I'm learning from this experience. I think I am. I've learned to be suspicious of unrestrained market forces. I've started questioning how decisions that affect the lives of millions are made. I've certainly become more entrenched in my politics.
I'm proud of most of what I've done with my life, and I look forward to the next thirty years with real optimism. I'm deeply ashamed of the many mistakes I've made, and grateful that I've found myself in a place where the people who surround me are such an astonishing, generous, and humble collection of individuals. What a privilege it is to know people like my friends and family.
The millions of demonstrators in Teheran deserve our support. Battling a fascist regime by hitting the streets armed with a simple slip of A4 paper is surely the bravest thing we've seen since the Tank Guy stood in front of a tank on Tiananmen Square.

From now on, I'm going to close every blog with a list of what I'm currently reading, and the music I've listened to while writing.

MUSIC: I have Nick Cave's "No More Shall We Part" playing. Loudly.

Nick Gaiman "Neverwhere".
Nick Gaiman "The Sandman: Dream Country"
Elizabeth Knox "Daylight"
Guillermo del Toro "The Strain"
Joseph O'Neill "Netherland"

I'm considering every send day's blog should include a few pages from the book I'm writing. I'll let you know my decision tomorrow... probably with the first few pages. No promises, though.


  1. Allan, I feel your pain! Apparently the universities are packing out while everyone "upskills" because of the recession.
    We will soon have a great deal more highly qualified people unable to find work.
    Sadly, I'm discovering - and no doubt you already have - it doesn't seem to matter bugger all what qualifications and experience one has.
    Got a minimum wage job? Cling tenaciously to it!
    I'm currently training as a caregiver, `cause there aren't enough people giving care, apparently. And I can expect minimum wage for this when I do get part time work (hopefully), whilst attempting to study law and raise the Theo. And run the house and pay the bills and all the usual mundane crap. And keep my sanity intact.
    And yes - I am humble, too. Got to be, really. Of you and Jenny I am always proud, and deeply grateful to call you friends.
    Much love, and Kia Kaha.

  2. If there's one thing life has taught me, it's not to say "I love you" unless I really mean it.
    I love you, GF. And Theo, too.