oh, well, whatever . . .

the scaffold in the field

leave a comment »

It rained this morning for the first time in a while. The world was soft and grey.

Mandy, Mr Zee and the kids were in reception when I arrived. Mr Zee was in his full brown as peat regalia – mask too – and standing in his characteristic legs astride, taller than a tree posture. He was holding Sparky’s hand. You have to admire any man who finds the time to take this much care over his appearance in the morning.

‘Debs is on holiday,’ I said. They knew. The duty worker was seeing to them. They were still having benefits problems. Sparky was wafting a new plastic sword around and looked happier than he has for a while.

Michelle was on duty and she was on the telephone to the benefits agency when I went through. They were being their usual helpful selves. Michelle was getting nowhere fast and they weren’t offering any suggestions as to how Apple and Sparky might be fed today. It wasn’t their fault, they said. It’s the system. They can’t do anything about it. The tax credits needed sorting. Mandy was up to her limit on social fund loans. They couldn’t give her a crisis loan. They’d try to get it sorted by the end of the week. The usual script.

‘So should we suggest they become beggars instead – or buskers maybe?!’  Michelle put the phone down and looked at me as if she was gobsmacked.  ‘Or should I say Mr Zee should just go and do a bit burglary – he’s got the mask for it?!’

She shook her head in dismay. It’s always like this, she was saying. I laughed.

‘Oh, it’d be beneath the dignity of a man of Mr Zee’s standing to be involved in the felonious acquisition of someone else’s property,’ I said. ‘And besides, he’d stand out a mile at the identity parade.  Give them twenty quid and tell them to come back at the end of the week if their benefits still aren’t sorted.’

Income support benefits are meagre and inadequate, and the whole system seems designed to be as difficult as it can be. The poor are still out there, even if they’ve have been rendered largely invisible by governments who want to pretend they don’t exist and who turn the visible few into miscreants and fiends, the kind of people who mug old ladies, drag tiny toddlers into the bushes in the park, spray paint obscenities across the walls of public toilets, set pit bull terriers on meter readers. The kind of people who would steal a broken blue swing. Yobs, junkies, psychos, perverts, scroungers and paedophiles . . . The tabloids remind us of the cast every day. The fairy tale tells us that the poor are basically a bad lot because if they weren’t they’d have money in the first place. Or possibly because Gordon has turned them that way. Which ever way you throw it though, the undeserving poor are now the only poor there can possibly be, and Mandy, Apple, Sparky and Mr Zee must therefore be numbered among them.

Michelle gave Mandy the cash and she, Mr Zee and the two children set off in the direction of Netto’s. Shortly afterwards Lily came in chuckling, having just encountered Mr Zee for the first time as he was leaving the office.

‘He’s not for real, is he?’ she asked, rhetorically.

‘I’m afraid he is,’ Michelle replied, ‘which is more than you can say for the benefits agency. Put the kettle on, Lily.  Let me make you a brew.’

I had to go to Morpeth this afternoon. The rain had stopped and a warm haze floated among the hedgerows and trees as I drove back by Plessey Woods and over Hartford Bridge. When I got home Margaret was standing on the pavement outside of Geraldine’s house. She and Geraldine were having an animated discussion about the Citadel. I pulled into the drive and looked up at the red girders glaring down at me through the mist. Hugo was in his castle bolting spiked black railings to the top of his garden wall.

‘Here, you all right, mate?’ he shouted over.

‘Yeah, not so bad, Fletch. You’ve got yourself a few fortifications, I see.’

He laughed. ‘Yeah, not bad, are they?’

For tea I had carrot and coriander soup and a few thick slices of olive bread. Margaret was still talking to Geraldine. I sat in the conservatory drinking a capuccino. I asked De Kooning if he’d like me to read something by Larkin to him. He jumped up and sat down beside me. We didn’t bother with the Larkin. We just gazed together at the scaffold in the field beyond the house.


Written by yammering

May 28, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: