Record vacancies? That sounds like a “you” problem

Tim Chapman goes back to work — briefly

Artillery Row

How to describe my retirement — the multivarious sources of passive income that I have accrued, as a result of making the prudent decision to be born in the early 1960s. The Pensions. The Property portfolio. The Hargreaves and Lansdown.

If I had to describe all of it in a single word, that word would be “comfortable”. If I had to describe it in two words, it would be “delightfully comfortable”.

There’s a real peace of mind to knowing that every fiscal instrument of the State has been, and always will be, twisted in your favour because of your generation’s outsized political influence. Such a blessing! I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, that’s for certain. 

What with the Winter fuel allowance, the free travelcards and the Cost of Living Payment, I can barely even keep track of how much I’ve got coming in! All without the intrusive, possibly racist, likely Russian nonsense about “means testing”. I’ve paid in my whole bloody life, after all. Do you have any idea how complicated it is to register property under your adolescent children’s name so you can take advantage of the tax-free allowance? It’s none of your business how much money I’ve got, now that it’s all said and done.

Being in your 60s in Britain today is like living through an all-expenses paid work trip for a company you despise, milking every last penny out of the bastards. Train tickets booked on the day, no railcard applied. Yeah, I’ll have the ham and cheese panini heated up — and stick a cappuccino and a boost bar on it, too. Yes, I will need the receipt. 

Then new budget helps those most in need: well paid professionals in their late 50s

I am a creature of Labour, but I must admit I was terribly impressed by the Chancellor’s new budget. It gets rid of the pensions cap to help those most in need: well paid professionals in their late 50s, with a small-c scepticism towards the planning reform and tax-cuts promised in the “Maxi-budget” balls up. If we really must have this growth guff, it won’t be coming from fracking the country to a pile of rubble. It gives us Mental Health Hubs, to get Brits back to work. It separates mothers from their newborn children so they can pick fruit in polythene tunnels. Then there are internships for the ambitious, sharp as a tack geriatrics waiting long into their 60s for their big break.

I’m not surprised that the government is desperate for my generation to get back in the workplace. We are, after all, the generation that took our bottles back to the shop, whose parents fought in the war and let us play outside until sunset. We might not be able to attach a PDF document to an email, but we’ve got a bit of get up and go. With the right training, and the right support, we can add a tremendous amount of value to the workplace. 

It’s my first week in your office. Here’s the deal: you show me how to get my PowerPoint open on a Teams call and how to make “tracked changes”. In return, you’ll get to endure my relentless attempts to ingratiate myself with “young people”, scarcely concealed by a veneer of fatuous self-deprecation.

“Now tell me about this ‘Tok-tik’ I’ve been hearing so much about.” 

“It’s a social media app.”

 “Social Media? You ought to be careful with that. The employers, the employers, it’s the first thing they check nowadays. Remember, once it’s on the web, it’s there forever.”

“Right, thanks.”

“Did you catch the footy last night? Hope Shearer wasn’t in your fantasy league.”

The desperation will pull ever so slightly at your heart strings. You resolve to open the family WhatsApp for the first time in three months. 

I mistake your ambivalent, passive smiling for warmth. Before I can commit to making you a friend, I must nudge ever so slightly against the frontiers of what you believe to be socially acceptable.

I must know — are you one of these Woke students I’ve heard so much about? Brain hijacked by the post-structural Marxism as explained so eloquently by Jordan Peterson? Or are you one of the good ones? Will you stand up for the truth on campus? Will you appear on the New Culture Forum? Will you join me on the common sense crusade?

 “So … ” 

“ … ”

“So, this, err, this trans stuff.”

It begins with a slightly off-colour remark

A pause. It is said that the key to flirting is plausible deniability. From the double entendres to the light touching, we build to passion in a pleasantly deceptive manner — the ambiguity providing us with a safe social escape should the intention not be mirrored. It was just a joke. My hand really did just accidentally brush your shoulder.

The same timid prodding occurs in the relationships of all white men of a certain age. It begins with a slightly off-colour remark. “And I said to this Chinese fella, I mean, sorry, are you still allowed to say that?” An eyebrow isn’t raised — or better yet, a look of recognition flashes, some fellow feeling, some connection. How far will it go? Where the hand was once caressing, it begins to trace itself upwards, gently pushing up along the thigh until it — 

“Err, yeah? What about it?”

You are nervous. I can feel it. But why? We’re safely out of earshot. I read that you lot had all slipped down the alt-right pipeline. Has Prevent already gotten to you?

“Well. Well, you know. You know about these. About these bathrooms, right. These bathrooms that we have at work.” 

“The loo?”

I can feel my skin starting to get warm.

“Yeah. Well, what if you had been training your whole life for it, and some blo — I mean, well, I mean, I get it. I do, but really, let’s be honest here, yeah. If you were running against a man.”

“But I am a man.”

 “Yes, exactly, that’s the point I’m trying to make.”

The first beads of sweat are beginning to take form.

“Could you please expand on that point?” 

I feel the blood draining from my face. My knees are starting to wobble.

The Guardian. He hounded her out of it. Suzanne Moore!”

 “I’ve never heard of her.”

My vision fades to black.

When I come to, I am being slid onto a stretcher. My body feels spry, as it normally does after one of my dizzy spells, usually on the account of my forgetting to breathe during eating. If not for the headrush and starred vision, I could hop to my feet and do a jig. I decide not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and let the team of paramedics struggle manfully to bear me on to the waiting ambulance.

“Oh, God, oh God, Tim, are you okay?” Euan, the Managing Director.

“Oh, crumbs, I think I did my leg in there. No chance I’ll be in anytime soon. What’s that, twenty eight weeks of sick pay? There’s a chance, however slim, that I’ll be fighting fit by then. But I might need more support for my Mental Health. Yes, that’s the other thing, I think this is going to cause me Mental Health. Also, whatever the bloke’s menopause is. I’ll be having that directly after. You’ve already got my banking details, I trust there won’t be any back and forth.” 

“But, but, but you only started here this week!”

“And I was just starting to feel so settled. Such a shame!”

“B-B-Bu … ”

“Goodbye, Euan. And best of luck.”

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