Work is The New God

“Sorry to ask because I know how busy you are and how hard you work…”

An email I got last week, asking for a favour. I bit my lip and paused before replying. It’s the way to praise people now, isn’t it? Wow at how busy they are, and compliment them on work ethic, because hardworking is the only thing to be.

In paid employment, we sell our labour for money. The jobs I’ve done over the years have been wide ranging, schizophrenic almost. In alphabetical order they are:

Carer for family member

Cleaner in a private home

Cleaner in a residential home for the elderly

Cleaner in student accommodation

Events compere

Me, doing my events compere thing. I'm smiling...so I can't be working, yet alone going at it, um, hard...can I?
Me, doing my events compere thing. I’m smiling…so I can’t be working, yet alone going at it, um, hard…can I?

Fundraiser

Manager at radio station

Model

Office administrator

Office junior

Radio presenter

Radio talking head

Supply teacher at secondary school

Teaching assistant at secondary school

Tutor for disadvantaged young people

Tutor for knitting group

Volunteer co-ordinator

Writer of fact

Writer of fiction

Sometimes I am well rewarded for my labour, other times not so much. For me, some jobs are physically tiring or leave me with a tension headache; some I dread, and a number I enjoy.  It’s a mixed bag. I’m a writer; I end up doing all manner of things on top, but in all of these jobs, I’ve worked at pretty much the same pace.  There’s no working hard at one and sitting with feet up in another.

We’re told aren’t we, that if we work hard we’ll be prosperous, that’s the golden rule.  Work will set you free, you’ll earn money to put food on the table and a roof over your head, all the clichés, work hard and everything will be fine.

But it’s not, is it? Everything isn’t fine, not at all.

I’m hearing more and more of friends in financial dire straits, homes with two incomes, it’s just not happening, the work hard and you’ll be ok thing. They say they’re lucky to have a job, fortunate for somewhere to live, pleased to be eating and having water in the tap to drink and wash with.

No, they are not lucky. You are not lucky. I am not lucky. We are not lucky. It’s our right to have a good and comfortable life no matter what, and we’ve forgotten that.

The hard working label is a myth. It doesn’t mean anything. How do we measure it, how hard we work? By how many hours we work? How much sweat is squeezed from our pores? How much our muscles ache?  How exhausted we are at the end of a shift? By measuring how much we dislike our jobs? Because surely, if we enjoy our jobs then it can’t be work and we can’t be working hard.  Do we measure it by how much coffee we have to drink (because we’ll collapse of exhaustion otherwise)?

What rubbish. No one is working harder than anyone else. We all work roughly the same but rewarded differently. We need to get our heads around that. People who work harder don’t get rewarded more. The person with the biggest car, house or shinier shoes and who goes on the poshest holiday doesn’t work harder than the one who scours the bargain shelf at the supermarket, or who shuttles from shop to shop sniffing out the bargains.

And it is not just those in paid employment. Disabled people can find it takes as much effort to get through the day as it does for someone else to teach a classroom of boisterous children over the same hours.  Stay at home parents with children, the same.  Unemployed people go through horrors at the job centre, forced to apply for jobs they’re never going to get, Kafkaesque job interviews where the vacancy is already filled, stress levels at the max, dodging sanctions.  If that’s not hard work, I don’t know what is.

But still we all must stress how hard we work.  Hard work is a virtue; work is the new god, one we must worship 24/7, because if we don’t we’re shirkers, or worse – heaven forbid – not hardworking. Hard working is the thing to be, the ideal to strive for. If we’re not exhausted at the end of the day, then how can we have been working hard?

We believe the hard work rhetoric, that if we work hard we get to have nice things. And those who don’t work hard? They deserve nothing, and if they have nice things, then that’s just not right.

Everyone does it, goes on about their own hard work. Everyone. Even if you don’t think you do, watch yourself. At some point it’s slipped out, your mouth forming the words before your brain catches up and chastises you. Sedentary workers stress coffee on an IV drip to survive an exhausting day.   “NEED COFFEE NOW!” No wonder Starbucks do so well.

The unemployed are forced to plead how hard they are working to try and find a job.  Hardworking families, hardworking tax payers… Being hard working makes us righteous, indignant, angry, part of the hard working good; better than those who are not. The lazy, the workshy, the idle bastards, they mean us harm. And if we’re working hard and still skint then it’s our own fault.  It must be.

We’ve been sold a lie. The lie that if we work hard then we get the good stuff, that if we do the right thing – whatever that means – we’ll be ok, and that if we don’t do the right thing, we deserve our poverty.

We’ve been fed the lie and we suckle it up, guzzle it, smacking our lips in approval afterwards.  Yes, we’ve been flogged a lie, alright. Though few of us can afford it, it’s one we’re more than happy to buy.

@cathbore

I’ve been doing something in secret.

It’s not as naughty as it sounds and perfectly legal, but still secret.

Each month or six weeks I get an email telling me “you’re in!” and to expect further communication soon.  Sure enough it arrives, 24 hours before the event, instructions where to go and at what time. And to bring a bottle of something refreshing.

What I’m not told is why I’m there and what is going to happen to me.

Actually, that last line isn’t quite true…

Sofar Sounds is a worldwide phenomenon, people arranging secret concerts in unconventional places, typically residential homes. What the audience is not told is who will be performing on the actual night, in fact we don’t know that until they take to the stage (or living room floor); it could be a name you’re familiar with or someone brand new. The need for respect and trust, no leaking of addresses or locations, makes it kinda sexy, with a rent party vibe. Some Sofar Sounds are free, others you chuck in a few bob and the cash goes to the artists.

sofar sign

Saturday’s Liverpool Sofar was at a new venue/café/art space in the city centre, The Well Space. And it was brilliant! My favourites – singer songwriter Esme Bridie, and R&B soul singer Jálen N’Gonda.

Esme Bridie - and Sofar Liverpool organiser Georgie Pruden
Esme Bridie
Jálen N'Gonda
Jalen N’Gonda

Our first time in The Well Space – tucked away in a quiet corner in town on Roscoe Street, and it has a library too.

sofar library

I love initiatives like Sofar Sounds, so positive and very creative.

(My secret is now out, I hope you’re not too shocked. More on Sofar Sounds here)

@cathbore

Liverpool Is A Village

Liverpool is a village.

I hear this, all the time. Everyone knows everyone else, and if you don’t, you know their mum. There’s an essential noseyness in the blood. I like that. It means you can walk through town anytime and see a familiar face (or their mum’s).

Amanda Brookes

I went to Liverpool author Amanda Brooke’s launch party for The Missing Husband, her brand new novel, on Thursday last at Waterstones in Liverpool ONE. As ever, because it’s Liverpool, I end up talking to people I know, lots of them.

Hello!

Hello, you!

Ahh! You’re here too!

None of them writing people, just folk I know. It’s a joy. A grand evening of wine and words.

@cathbore

Brand New, With Tags.

I stumbled onto the wonder that is Fleabay, online classifieds. The working class equivalent of vintage, no recycled or pre-loved monikers to soften the blow, no Saturday morning traipse around the charity shops. Fleabay is second hand – or die trying. It sells everything. A collection of shoes, sizes three to nine (how many people are in your family, exactly? And why so many feet?), drum kit (“played once”), One Direction duvet set (“daughter scared of it”). 

On Fleabay, I see a Superwoman dress. It’s in my size.

Super Woman dress

 A noisy thing, primary colours shouting, Superwoman logo printed on plasticky cloth, belt drawn on, it has a suspicious shine. It’s a second skin, clinging over breasts, hips and bottom, no cute nipping in at the waist, no flared skirt to hide a pot belly. A squeeze-into frock with hem mid-thigh on the shortest of women (a knicker-skimmer on me) – and like Fleabay, irony free. I just know the belt will ride up, printed on belts never stay where they’re meant to, inching northwards with every breath.  I know it will look awful on me, unflattering, and yet…

Vigilante by Shelley Harris

A few months ago I read Shelley Harris’ magnificent novel Vigilante. Harris’ heroine, ignored by her family and husband and the world, fashions herself a superhero costume, goes out at night and fights crime. It’s the best feminist novel I’ve read since Nina De La Mer’s Layla.

While I read it, I was like, “every woman needs to read this”.

“Ok,” said my husband, not listening. “I will, sometime.”

“Hell, that’s an idea! Every MAN needs to read this!”

“Eh?”

The idea of a woman gone invisible to the world restoring justice and her sense of self is fucking brilliant. So now, post-Vigilante, I’m looking at this dress on Fleabay and I‘m wondering, dreaming.

The dress is only a fiver. I could hang it in the wardrobe and look at it. I’ll know it’s there, just in case.  In case I need to wear it and sort out the world. I like this, the way I’m thinking now.

But the dress has no cape. Super heroines need a cape. Everybody knows that. A super heroine without a cape won’t fly.

I eye up the curtains in the spare bedroom and wonder what could be.

@cathbore 

I have an essay on sisterhood in Walking In The Feminine: A Stepping In Our Shoes Anthology, released this month.

walking in the feminine 1

Free book festivals!

With writing and book festivals getting so pricey, it’s lovely to see free online festivals emerging, so those without cash to splash  or who have other boundaries in their way can be involved.

Coming up later in the month we have BritCrime. It features a mighty array of crime authors, plus giveaways and interactive features.

This week we saw Hayley Webster’s All The Words make its debut; Hayley chats to fab authors like Antonia Honeywell and Amanda Jennings.  Myself and others talk about our writing spaces here.

@cathbore

Flash Flood Journal!

My flash fiction, “Stolen“, is published on the Flash Flood Journal, part of National Flash Fiction Day’s knees up, taking place today. You can read Stolen here, plus dozens of other wonderful flashes from writers all over the world.

Landmark: 2015 National Flash Fiction Day 2015 Anthology is only 99p on Kindle, for now. Contains my story “You Promised”, a trippy tale of unrequited love. You can get a copy here.

@cathbore

All or nothing

I’m proud to have two non-fiction pieces out this week, both in publications funded by crowdfunding campaigns. Crowdfunding gets a lot of stick, and I myself have seen some strange and self-serving initiatives do alarmingly well (potato salads notwithstanding), but these publications are all about the positive.

walking in the feminine 1

Both Breaking Boundaries: Geeked Magazine Issue 8 and Walking In The Feminine – Stepping Into Our Shoes crowdfunded so that contributors can be paid, and receive copies of each publication. Both are small independent feminist initiatives, concerned with compensating writers and artists for the work they do.

geeked june 2015

Increasingly as creatives we are expected to work for nothing – some don’t ask, they assume – in exchange for “publicity” (read my complaint on that subject here).

I subscribe to the everyone gets paid or no one does, point of view. My question is, if two small indies like these can care for their contributors, why can’t the big companies?

@cathbore