Recently there has been a spate of disciplinary hearings in our department. Many of these were for minor infringements and accidents that not-too-long- ago would have merited nothing more than an appeal to be more careful/sensible in future. All that has changed. Shoestring cutback budgetting makes everything so political that regulations and procedures now take precendence over simple common sense. Now everything goes down in writing - letters of notification lead to formal hearings and written warnings, the whole thing being conducted with all the pomp and panoply of criminal proceedings. We await with bated breath the re-introduction of the death penalty.
In the meantime the spectre of job cutting looms menacingly. Everybody knows that in just over two years time the service will have to go out to tender and if the council lose the franchise to a private contract we could all finish up on the dole. This is a nightmare to a workforce that is largely middle aged - many of whom have given the council long years of service. They all know that if they are made redundant they haven't a hope in hell of finding another job. many people are looking for jobs now, while they're still in work, because they know that unemployed equals unemployable, but really it's a trap and everybody knows it. There's no escape and the future looks bleak. Prior to the last election, hopes were high in our department, but now despondancy and gloom have set in as predictions made some time ago begin to prove all too well founded. However reluctantly, the hatchets are poised to fall.
Despite the universal divide between those who wear the dungarees and those who carry the clipboards there is no serious antagonism between management and workforce. All are united in the the universal recognition that the cause of all their woes is to be found not so much in Calderdale but in that august institution that Guido so lamentably failed to blow up in 1605. Since then the provos have failed miserably, so what hope Yorkshire Republicans? How do we assuage this all-pervading gloom that besets the hearts and minds of council manual workers? The armalite and the ballot box have both failed, so what are we left with? According to ee cummings a politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man. Hopefully, bearing this dictum in mind, the amoral antics of some of our rulers may help aids to succeed in getting rid of them where all else failed. It's a case of gunpowder, treason - or what?
November 6th 1992. As I rise begrudgingly from my bed at 5.30 am and don my overalls I curse the fate that forces me to trudge out into the darkness, miasma and mizzle of this cold post-plot night November morning. The wet road out to Halifax, festering in it's sodium light glow is my lethe and my styx, the primary daily event of a mind numbing lifestyle. I try not to think gloomy thoughts. I recall the lecture I gave the Colne Valley Society in September, where, armed with a song, a concertina and litter pickers, I presented to my audience something of the nature and problems caused by litter. As a wagon races past in the drizzle, showering me with gutter water, reality intrudes once more and it's back to the gloom. I try to retreat into ideas, projects fated to come to nothing when on returning home at the end of the day I find that the daily headlong descent into mind numbing vegetation has turned me into an armchair potato.
Only at the weekend is the dream (just) alive.
Half an hour later I am in Elland, working around the seat by the gardens just outside the council offices. The whole place is in a disgusting state. Across the road is an amusement arcade, a magnet to all the morons of the district. The seat is also a point of congregation for these cretins. After dark, I am reliably informed, it becomes the local drug exchange. The same 'in crowd' gathers there night after night, day after day, littering the whole area with empty Carlsberg cans and Pils bottles. One of this noble band recently attacked one of my friends, an unwell toilet cleaner just about to retire, simply because he objected to him hosing down the floor while he was at the urinal. Such despicable scum do not deserve to live. The police do nothing. A few hours discreet observation and they could have bust the lot of them long ago, if only for littering the public footway, but no doubt they have better things to do!
The sun is beginning to filter through the murk, but it does little to lift my trapped and cornered spirit. I think of myself and my workmates, of my prospects and theirs. Trudging down the road like pacman, muck spattered with a dew drop on the end of my nose, I am picking up empty pils bottles and soggy chip trays from the pavement. I suddenly find, black and twisted in the gutter, an object which says it all about the meaning of modern life. It's a damp squib !