Once a fortnight I have the dubious pleasure of visiting a building that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place on the same industrial estate as Sunshine Desserts to give my autograph to someone who knows me as no more than a series of letters and numbers. They feign concern at my jobless status (that’s what they’re paid for) and ask for my John Hancock. Then I usually return from whence I came none-the-wiser and no more employed than I had been over Weetabix and coffee earlier that morning.
I’d slept in the last time I was due to sign on so I made sure every alarm was set, especially as I’d enjoyed a post-radio show gin with a good friend (and long-time listener) on the way home and eventually crawled into bed just after 1am. Being Friday I also had the “Big Shop” to do , as well as collect a delivery from Next for she-who-must-be-obeyed and mow the lawns front and back before the Scottish sun migrated for the summer.
First stop was Next to collect something the good lady wife had ordered online and after trying the door at 0915 I spotted, hidden away in the window by some clothes I wouldn’t be seen dead in (summer frocks do nothing for my legs), a sign showing their daily opening time of 0930. Fair enough. I didn’t have to be at the re-branded jobcentreplus (plus what? 50% more misery? get one job rejection have another one free?) until 0950 and as I was first in the queue I’d be in and out in a flash. I say “queue” but there wasn’t really one. A couple of women stuck around to see if it would open on time – it didn’t – but all the others, and there were at least 20 of them, didn’t hang around. It struck me as odd that this was the only shop in the High Street that wasn’t open and they’d missed out on a lot of passing trade within a 15 minute period. Mary Portas would’ve had a hissy fit. I even acted as a quasi door steward, telling everyone who tried to enter that it wasn’t open yet. Some ignored me and tried the door anyway, some went elsewhere, including Primark next door, and a couple even pointed out, quite rightly, that Next had just lost some business. I can’t believe that Next have been so unaffected by the recession that they can afford to ignore such prospective business, for the sake of half an hour.
They still hadn’t opened by 0935 so I headed off to the new improved jobcentreplus (Helping Those on The Brew Since 2002). Amongst a group of similarly disparate and cheerless individuals I waited to be called. A girl who had finished her appointment collected her two pals and headed out the door and down the stairs, shouting “Wankers!” as she went. If Bananarama had moved to Dunfermline, got fat, had tattoos and started wearing vests they would’ve looked like this pottymouthed triumvirate.
I signed my name under the previous one and showed the (insert generic office admin job title) my jobseeking “diary”, which hadn’t changed much in a fortnight. One job rejection (from the Dunfermline Press) had been added, there was one I still hadn’t heard from although I pretty much knew I hadn’t got it because employment agencies are lazy and can’t be arsed to tell you when you’ve been unsuccessful even though emails are free and would take 30 seconds to type and send especially considering people have spent a long time putting together a cv, online form and/or application form…(where was I?)… oh, yes, and one ongoing application.
So it was back to Next. It was miracle; they were open and the shop had customers. My collection was dealt with in a functional and professional manner and as I left Teenage Fanclub’s “I Don’t Want Control of You” came over the tannoy. Oh, the irony. If I was in control and the shop was advertised as opening at 0930 I would make sure that each and every day it was open at 0930. Prompt. Next!
Off to Tesco for the weekly shop but not before I almost knocked down a postal worker on Woodmill Road outside the sorting office. If you cross the road at the top of a small hill you can definitely see what’s coming from both directions so there are no excuses. It was obviously too much like hard work for him to move his head from one side to the other. I gave him a friendly blast on the horn and greeted him with the timeless salutation of “Dickhead!”
As usual Tesco’s car park was littered with old people who can’t park, men who can’t park, females in 4x4s who can’t park and any other category not previously mentioned who can’t park. It’s a bloody rectangle and a big one at that. How hard can it be?
(Count to 10 and go to Happy Place)
The shopping was reasonably straightforward and I exchanged pleasantries with one of my next door neighbours and an off-duty policeman I had a nodding acquaintance with.
I see the Friday Big Shop as more of a mission than a food gathering expedition. I need to get in, shop and get out, like an SAS platoon. Once the trolley has been filled I like to do is queue up at a till behind someone else who also has a big shop. The reason being that it gives me time to get all my stuff on the conveyor belt and be ready to start packing before the person in front has finished paying for their goods. The Tesco card is handed over – BEEP – and the shopping trolley is placed perpendicular to the packing area. Let’s pack!
Now, I don’t know if any other men have noticed this but sometimes if it’s a, shall we say, “more mature” woman on the till, they have a tendency to push through the items at breakneck speed, especially if you’ve declined their offer of assistance to pack. This assertion of your manhood and slight on their character has obviously upset them. “Who does he think he is, packing his own shopping? I’ll show him!” Your purchases are pushed through so fast that a lesser man might crumble but, no, not I, I will survive. I pack my bags in a deliberate way and place them in the trolley in a pre-planned fashion to counteract the speed and ire of the shop assistant scorned and it works. Before she tells me the total I’m already waiting for ‘the damage’. Didn’t get me this time, na, na, na-na, na!
However, the big man upstairs looked down at the smugness of my victory and decided to ensure that the £70 I had on me wasn’t enough. I was 69p short. D’oh! I had to use a debit card which somewhat defeated the purpose of me bringing enough cash to ensure I didn’t have to use a debit card. Grrr…
My mood didn’t improve when I got home. Just to add insult to injury, while trimming the edges of the newly mowed back lawn, the strimmer ran out of, er, strim (you know, the wire strimmy stuff) and then I dropped it on the patio, splitting the strim-head-cover-type bit.
After a stressful week at non-work, I was glad to sign up to the weekend.