16 July 2020: Chris Grayling, MP has managed to avoid being sacked from his Cabinet posts, despite a number of spectacular cock-ups (awarding a huge contract for post-Brexit cross-channel freight to a company which didn’t actually own any ferries) and was recently appointed to the Chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Or, at least, that was the plan; but one of the other c’ttee members decided to stand against him for the post.
The c’ttee was stacked with Conservatives, and all the members were contacted to make sure that they would comply with the wishes of the Prime Minister and elect the hapless Grayling to the post.
Then Julian Lewis, an MP with considerably more experience in the field of intelligence and security than everybody else in the room, announced that he was willing to stand for election. His appointment caused furious embarrassment to the Prime Minister, and shortly afterwards it was announced that Lewis had been expelled from the Tory party.
18 July 2020: The UK government has recently decided to abandon the daily reports of virus cases and fatalities, because it was noticed that the ‘deaths’ figure will include anybody who dies, even if they were diagnosed four months ago with Covid. Our most recent confirmed statistics are:
US: 3,782,00 cases, 142,000 deaths
UK: 294,000 cases, 45,318 deaths
21 July 2020: Severe back pain – I am trapped in bed, forced to lie flat, listening to Radio 4; the pain is a constant dull ache except when I try to shift my weight, which causes a sudden jolt of agony.
22 July 2020: Requested some Naproxen online, need to wait 48 hours before collection.
23 July 2020: Nineteen years (exactly one-third of my life) ago I started my new job at Sterling Technology. A few weeks previously I had attended two interviews. These meetings started well; I had lots of relevant experience and chatted confidently about my skills in testing samples of polymer coating systems.
‘The trouble is’ said the interviewer, ‘We really need somebody with first-rate computer skills, and you don’t appear to have that much knowledge in that field.’
I replied that I was currently engaged on the European Computer Driving Licence training course, and would be happy to attend further tutorials if the company felt these were necessary.
‘No, no’ he continued, ‘It is vitally important that the person who is taken on for this post has plenty of previous experience, a first-class track record in programming skills, and you don’t seem to have those qualifications.’
‘Well, the agency who notified me about this post didn’t mention anything to me about IT skills being so important; if they had done so, then I would have declined the offer of an interview.’
He sighed wearily, and I made my way home feeling confused about whether I had made a good impression. Two days later, the agency rang me to say that the firm had been quite pleased with me and would I be willing to accept the post if it was offered?
‘Absolutely!’ I yelled, and proceeded to skip around my flat singing ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, and trying to work out how best to transport my belongings to a new city.
A bulky letter arrived the next day; a three-page contract of employment (two copies) and a set of instructions on when they wanted me to start, and how to go about getting a pre-employment medical examination.
My local GP was scornful; the waiting list for medicals was three weeks, by which time I would be starting work. The actual results would take a further two weeks to arrive. I rang the agency and explained that I might not be able to accept the job because I couldn’t get a works medical in time. The agency rang the company who rang my GP, and the agency rang me back and said that in view of the short timescale the firm would agree to take me on, provided that I arranged a medical with a local GP as soon as possible.
So I started work, and began testing production batches and dealing with customer complaints and preparing the occasional development sample.
After about six months I realised that I had not yet been issued with a company e-mail address (indeed, there wasn’t even a PC installed in my office) so I asked the boss whether they had made any arrangements to enter my details on the company network.
‘Oh, don’t worry about that’ he said, ‘There’s no need for you to correspond with customers, so you won’t require any e-mail access. And your job doesn’t involve any report-writing, so you don’t need a computer in the office.’
At the time, I was continuing my ECDL course, learning (at my own expense) how to use the standard software packages – but I wondered if all of this had been a waste of time.
A year later we were all issued with a company memo, reminding us that IT security was very important and that we should all be careful not to access any unauthorised websites or e-mail contacts. ‘Please sign below to confirm that you understand and agree to the terms and conditions outlined in this letter.’ I duly sent the memo back, pointing out that I had never actually made use of the firm’s computer system.
I carried on working there for four years, and then moved from job to job at different places round the UK, eventually landing here, where my salary is still slightly below what it was nineteen years ago.
An Evening Walk
Today I went out for an evening walk, to
Keep me busy on a desperately wet day in July
And give my mad-professor lockdown hair
A chance to take advantage of the rain. On my journey
I encountered gleaming pools of light
Where dancing rings began to swell and burst
Beneath the groaning pressure of the sky.
I spotted the abandoned wage-slips, discarded burger cartons
Like orange books of Styrofoam philosophy
And bushes thick with gleaming thorns bear fruit
Some berries green like mantis eyes of polished jade,
While one or two are bursting purple ripe.
Nineteen sturdy metal poles line up
To form the perfect cage; they threaten to diffract
The butterflies, the sparrows, wasps
And empty beer-cans thrown by angry lads on Friday night.
The harsh grey pylons hang below, humming
With the evanescent currency of dreams;
Reflected railings crumple in the rain, somewhere
A long equation describes with perfect clarity
How dancing circles interrupt
This stern parade of bars.