Earn Enough for Uson July 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm
The thing that nobody tells you when you’re at school is that work is about ritual. It’s about repeating the same gestures and processes over and over again so that they become ingrained. And as they become ingrained, they become meaningless. Laura could review and certify an eight page application in under five minutes, but she couldn’t tell you anything about the person behind it. What she did probably made a difference to them, but we’d lost sight of what that difference was. We worked to earn money so Alison could buy dolls and hairspray, and Laura and Michael could pay their rent. We were abstract.
Staff Services was the zenith of ritual. They were responsible for staff welfare, and that made them the most important people in our world. They organised rotas to ensure that everybody else organised social events. They held training at short notice, and if you didn’t attend you could be sure it would be marked on your personal record. They were responsible for the famous downsizing of 1988, where we’d lost a hundred colleagues, but Staff Services had grown by twenty people. We feared them, so Laura volunteered to go and represent us.
Alan Taylor has swum with dolphins. He has presented awards in a football stadium in Vietnam. He has driven through Manila and Jakarta while the people were rioting around him. He has turned down offers of marriage from millionaires, and has been propositioned by celebrities. He works in an office. That’s worth mentioning, because it’s important. It’s not even a nice office. It was built in the sixties, where a school used to be. They didn’t need to tear down the old building, but that’s what they did because that’s how they did things in the sixties. He gets a bit depressed about that. He’s drunk Cuba Libres in the back streets of Havana. He’s sipped cocktails in a rooftop bar overlooking Hong Kong Harbour. Sometimes he wears a waistcoat. He’s met Scarlett Johannsson. He’s burned books in a wheelbarrow. He makes a mean lasagne. He’s fascinated by personal geography. This is who he is; this is what he does. This is why he’s written the story that he has written. It’s for his grandmother. In a sense, it’s about her. He had a cardigan once, but he hasn’t seen it for years.