Friday, August 19, 2005

Ministry of Truth

Ministry of Truth

Desperately Making-it-up-as-he-goes-along Productions brings you this recycled tale of woe, re-written with 107 per cent more gags, and the promise of nudity (unfulfilled). Normal service next week...

The stench of poverty and failure. An atmosphere of barely repressed violence and hatred where you feared for your safety every time to went down to the shop floor. Dispiriting fraud and lies on a massive scale. I worked in a Dole Office in Thatcher's Britain, an Orwellian nightmare of misinformation and petty sureveillance.

It wasn't as if the office I was in was in a particularly depressed part of the country, it's just that there were so many unemployed chasing so many jobs that people would do anything to get money in their pockets. I saw many genuine claimants living on the breadline, but I also saw many, many chancers, crooks, scroungers and rip-off merchants milking the system for every penny they could. Not least the local bedsit barons who got outrageously rich by setting massive rents for their crumbling properties knowing full well that the state would pick up the tab for their jobless, stinking, alcoholic, borderline psychopath tenants.

And from above, we got an ever-growing list of exclusions from the Ministry to massage the jobless figures lower to make it look like the wizened old cow in Number Ten actually cared. Being in charge of "the count" I ignored these instructions and sabotaged the local unemployment figures upwards by up to 300 per month. By the time I left, our town (population 120,000) had 15,000 on the dole. So they thought.

What made me give it up to pursue a career elsewhere in the civil service, counting cows for the Ministry of Agriculture was the undercurrent of violence that left you a gibbering wreck.

We would write "PVC" on a claim folder. Not a note to get it covered in plastic. It meant "Potentially Violent Claimant", a person who had a history of beating the crap out of the people in charge of his free money.

"Take a chair. Please. Sir." you'd say.

And they would. And if you were lucky, you'd duck in time and it would crash through the window behind you.

God help us if we ever got one of these types REALLY angry. They made all the nutters come in on Thursday afternoons to get them over and done with, so the police knew where they all were, ie the dole office, followed by the post office, followed by the pub next door. When you finished, you went home and took a bath because you would smell like them. And when it rained, the foul smelling grease got everywhere, and you'd run out and puke.

I walked out the day one fella blamed us for not getting his beer money, and shot out all our windows with his air rifle until the police told him to stop. That was also the third day in a row we got shit through the post and the girl on new claims was threatened with rape. Charming.

The job was made bearable only by a) a rather pleasant female boss ("Who always gets 'em out at the Christmas party whilst singing extracts from Gilbert and Sullivan operas", except in the year I was there, naturally) and b) the claimants themselves, who thankfully kept their clothes on at all times. Some of them never actually changing for several months. We had four James Bonds (deed poll jobs the lot of 'em), a Mr Plonker, and on Thursdays, a gentleman of Austrian descent called Herr Wanker.

Would he consider, perhaps, changing his name in order to facilite his search for meaningful employment?

"Vot? Are you joking? I am a Wanker and proud!"

Later that day, I was called into the Big Boss's office and warned as to my future conduct. Laughing in the presence of the unemployed was not tolerated.

Crappus Jobbus.

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