What you have to do for £50 a week in Britain. This is British life on the dole. Steven Bradbury gives Talking Soup the inside scoop on a life of Job Seeker’s Allowance.
Down on terra firma, it’s my turn to pass through the weathered red, flaking door and into the gloom. The entrance is a small and, currently crowded, five metre square. Despite the doors being open, there is a musty, damp smell which overwhelms the huge spray of carnations, roses and lilies on top of the near empty mahogany bookcase in the corner. I am handed the white order of service by a faceless man and then it’s my turn to whisper clichéd condolences to two men, one of whom I know very well, the other I have never met.
For some reason, my first instinct was to assume that Derick Johnson was a figment of Nick’s imagination or a sort of creative in-joke between some of the players. The name, I observed, sounded like a character from Mad Men. I imagined a dapper fellow in his mid-thirties turning up to play, with a short glass of scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
I’d swoop down upon you each night and stand before you as a silhouette, as a shadow, as a black canvas upon which you paint the faces of all those you loath, as an embodiment of your fear—I’d force you to face your fear, which is at the root of all evil; afraid of change, afraid of difference, afraid of unanswerable questions you’ve held your tongue, spat your lies, chanted your curses, lifted your arm in the air.
Cheap cotton tank top stuck under my armpits, the summer heat was making us light extra candles and pray for extra $5 donations. I was cheap and stuck at Saint Joseph Oratory under Mary’s smile and she gazed at her feet and I felt her son didn’t really save me. You had sad eyes and your hair was the best thing in the heat.
I bit my lip and concentrated as hard as I could at the grainy image on the TV screen. The brief vignette of femme désnudé from the 11 o’clock freeview on the tarot channel. Trying hard to neither concentrate on the phone number nor the colloquially lewd offers at the side of the tiny image, I worked my wrist into overdrive and finally came, it had taken over twenty minutes, fuck sake.
For ten hours on a few Sundays I had the chance to sit and talk with Louis Tindle Dees. I normally found him enthralled in a thick book about Winston Churchill, watching the latest news, or working an intricate puzzle with pieces too numerous for me to even attempt at age 29. He had just turned 92 years old.
The affair happened more than ten years ago. We worked together on a project with four other colleagues. She was married and had two small children. During the holidays, she texted me several times saying that she was thinking about me. The first two or three messages, I ignored. I erased them. I seriously thought she was a no-go. The fourth time, I wrote back: “You’re married.” I thought that would end it….
It used to be a very simple task to purchase a light bulb. Check the wattage on the dead bulb at home, go to the store and pick a similar one from the display shelf, take it home, remove the burned-out bulb from its socket, replace it with the new one, wrap the old bulb in some newspaper, and toss it in the trash.
The words “Great Canadian Beaver-Eating Contest” caught my eye. In another environment, this would have been too good to be true, but at Burning Man festival, where displays of public sex were common, it wasn’t a surprise. In the spirit of adventure, I decided to check it out.
Recovering from schizoaffective disorder was a moment to moment battle that I fought every day. There were many losses and also a number of victories as I struggled through the trauma, social dysfunction, OCD, mania, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia symptoms, and everything else that was hampering me.