Tonight, a song which means a lot to me.
Actually, three songs.
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve had the misfortune to spend some time unemployed. When you’re around the 40-mark, this is a scary place to be.
Needless to say, it was an incredibly demoralising situation. My jobless times happened to correspond with summer weather, but I can assure you, the last thing you feel like doing is going out and passing the time sunbathing.
The first time it happened, I had just moved from Cardiff to Cheltenham. I’d landed a job with a firm of solicitors, and had been commuting between the two cities for three months whilst I worked out my probation period. Just before that three month period was up, I was called into the office by the MD, told I was doing great and encouraged to make the move to Cheltenham. Which I did, finding a decent two bedroom flat I could afford, and moving in as fast as I could.
No more than a couple of weeks later, I was called into the office again by the main partner of the firm – who had interviewed me, and given me the positon because of my background in insurance – who promptly “let me go” (which sounds so much nicer than “fired”) because I was “too Insurance-y” and because they’d hired people from an insurance background before and “it had never worked”. So: fired for the exact reason I’d been hired. Cheers for that.
There followed an extended period of unemployment, where I was stranded high and dry in a town where there were no prospects, and where I knew nobody (bar one girl, Emily, who I had befriended when she was a rollie-smoking temp at the same firm, summarily dismissed in much the same way as I) until I finally landed a job which allowed me to get the fuck out of Cheltenham and on to London. (As it goes, a year later I got made redundant from that job. I was really on a roll, or as my brother summarised in one phone call “Jesus, you just can’t catch a break at the moment, can you?”)
Anyway, tonight’s song was played quite a lot during the darker hours which occurred during that period of nothingness:
Categorically, this is not how unemployment treated me. It was a horrid, hollow, vacuous experience, where the only person I spoke to face to face was my counsellor, once a fortnight, at the Job Centre. It was not all sitting on Primrose Hill doing magazine sex quizzes.
There are two more songs, which articulate the pit I was in at the time, both suitable for posting here. Firstly, this, possibly one of the most depressing records you’ll ever hear, dealing as it does with rejection, depression, suicide, and the death of your parents:
Cheery stuff, no? But perfect for late night contemplation.
And then there was this, a song about loneliness and depression, but penned in a defiant, triumphant manner:
I would sing along, supplementing the word “Cardiff” for “New York”, and “Cheltenham” for “L.A.”, which, with the benefit of hindsight, didn’t scan so well, if I’m honest.
Ordinarily, I’m a fairly happy-go-lucky, laid back, nothing really fazes me kind of chap, but I’m sure anyone who knew me and was in contact with me in those times would confirm that’s certainly not how I was then. I may have fronted it up, but I was miserable. Had I been to see my GP and explained, I think I could easily have been diagnosed with depression.
Happy to report, though, all is well now. A friend of mine, Holmesy (hello! and thank you!), regularly tells me now how good it is to have “the old me” back, which is just lovely to hear, but the fact he feels the need to say it is a marker for just how down and insular I became.
By the way, I should make it clear that I could never have got through those months without the support of my family and friends. My folks for helping me with the financial problems that being on Job Seeker’s Allowance (which just about covered all of my bills, after which, if I was lucky, I might have enough left over to buy food) inevitably brings; my friends – and Hel in particular – for just saying “Come and see us. We’ll pay. We want you to be here with us.” I can never thank any of you enough.
On top of that, writing this helps. So to anyone who has ever commented or tweeted me because of something I’ve written here: thank you. It really means a lot.
Ahem. *Pulls himself together*
I guess what I’m trying to say is: just because it’s sunny outside, don’t assume everyone is happy inside.
More (and hopefully less depressing) soon.