Sunday, December 05, 2004

Signing On

So I finally decide to call the council and sign on.

It’s been several years since I did such a thing, and I’m pleased to note that I’m not actually going to be trying to deceive (mislead perhaps) anyone this time. I really am looking for work, and aren’t trying to avoid council tax or anything.

I consult the good old yellow pages. You see, I don’t have internet at home any more. So, I’m out of practice. I look up Job Centre.

It tells me to me to look at Employment Agencies and Local Government and Government. Hmm, I start to remember why we developed the internet.

Employment Agencies was useless, as you’d expect, as was Government,
both local and not. I checked Council, but that wasn’t useful either.

Eventually I find a number in the front under ‘useful numbers’.


I dial the Job Club Plus, or something. The cheerful man from
the ‘east’ of England didn’t know London, but he did look up the
nearest job centre for me. I had told him that I wanted to sign on.

‘Seven Sisters Road’, he says, ‘do you know it?’

I do.

‘Oh no, hang on,’ he adds, ‘no, that’d closed. They’ve moved to
Holloway Road.’ He gives me the address.

I ask for a telephone number.

‘Oh, just use the old Seven Sister’s one,’ he tells me, ‘I’m sure
they’ll have redirected it.’

They haven’t though and it just rings forever. I picture a lonely
phone in an empty office, surrounded by dismantled desks and rubble,
ringing forlornly.

The next day I take a trip to Holloway Road and discover that the
office is closed. I peer through the window at the empty office full of dismantled desks and rubble, and sigh deeply.

There is a number on the door, the same number I called the day before. I call it again, from a phone box to save cash. It takes a long time to connect.

Calmly, I explain what happened.

‘Medina Road,’ says a new man, ‘it’s a Medina Road in Finsbury Park

‘I see.’ I say.

‘But, for that office we make an appointment over the phone. We can do it now if you like?’

We do. Name, age, date of birth, address, phone number…

‘We don’t have a phone. I’m in a call box.’ I say.


There is a pause. A telling pause. I don’t want them to have my
mobile number. Imagine, the job centre calling you on Sunday afternoon to ask what you’re doing, or to offer you a job in a fish and chip shop on Monday.

Now, I’m never a liar. So, what I mean next is, no, not for you I

I say, ‘No.’

He says okay.

At that moment, my mobile, in my pocket, which just before going into the phone-box, I had turned up to max-level ‘Outdoor’ setting, so I would hear it, decides to go off. It’s the wife, as it’s her personal ring, ‘Supergirl’.

It’s very, very loud. I fumble for it and turn it off, eventually…
Silence on the line.

‘You can um, answer that if you want.’ He says.

‘Ah, no, I’m, um, fine,’ I tell him.