Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Grit and grind, baby

While I was growing up, neither of my parents worked. Various reasons. 

My first job was as a paper girl, at 14, carrying the Sunday newspapers back when you couldn't fold them barely to get them through the letter box. Paper list telling me who gets what in one hand printed on a dot matrix printer. Mint and white stripes.

My second job was as a Saturday girl in a bakery. Cleaning the bakery. Lots of lifting heavy stainless steel bits to get into other bits with big mixing blades. Lots of stainless steel counters. Toilets and cake baking studios. £10 for the mornings work, starting at 8am and finishing at midday. The same bakery my mum used to send me down to with 40p in my pocket to get a wholemeal loaf fresh out of the ovens - so fresh it was almost unspreadable.

Then I left school.

During college I worked at weekends at a local supermarket, shelf stacking and on the tills, sometimes standing for 9 hours in the cigarette kiosk, often working 12 hour shifts. In the previous jobs I'd had so little clue what to do with the money that I'd simply spent a pound on the luxury of a weekend newspaper for myself (back then there was no internet and knowledge cost a lot of money - even if it was a return bus fare to the nearest town to go to the local library once a week) and the rest would get used by my mum when she was short. Which was often.

The supermarket money funded new clothes. A novelty. Music, cassette tapes an even bigger novelty. Cigarettes and the odd drink here and there - for some reason because we knew we could get served, we always just ordered halves and never actually really got drunk. 

Off to university. Grants and overdrafts and credit cards because no one explained that a loan would be cheaper. No help from parents - what on earth would they help with and by that point mum was a single parent anyway. First year = debt. Second year = working 5-9pm every week day doing data entry and then 10pm to 3am Thursdays to Saturdays in a local nightclub behind the bar.

Leave university. Fail abysmally. You can guess why, right?

Get a job. Doing data entry at the same company but 9-5pm and then still working at the club but now 10-3am Thursdays to Sundays, supporting two of us on my two jobs, paying the rent, paying the bills, luxury in life being able to afford 10 proper cigarettes instead of smoking roll ups - my secret treat once a week and hidden from the non working partner.

Leave university. Go to London. Temp. Get a permanent job. Get promoted. Take voluntary redundancy. Temp some more. Do admin, do data entry at Loot at weekends, do admin during the week. Get taken on permanently, then apply for promotion and get it. Become a Probation Service Officer and hate it. Back to temping, back to admin.

I have never, not once claimed any kind of benefit. I got into a complete and utter mess with money while a student and just after and I have paid every single god damn penny off. My credit rating has one, count them one, late payment in 3 years across 7 different credit accounts (catalogue, try being a fat person and not shopping with La Redoute and Simply Be).

I have done whatever I needed to do, to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head. I consider myself lucky that I have never had to resort to anything illegal to do so. Instead, I have never turned work down, have never been too proud to take a job, and have used my typing skills to feed myself and often others too. 

I never once looked at my parents and felt disrespect. I never once felt scorn. I never once judged. Conversely, I never considered that that was a life that I wanted for myself, not one which I would have.

Instead, I have worked. Hard. At whatever I was lucky enough to be able to do to earn a wage, more often than not, not a decent one.

Is there a point to this post? Are things different now? Does drive and determination count for nothing? Who knows. But I know where I'm throwing my chips.

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