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

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

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

It’s just like potty training. IT IS.

‘It’s just like potty training, you’ll be fine,’ my friend tells me. I’m disturbed. I’m getting varifocals for the very first time and she gives me advice like that. ‘It just takes lots of practice before you get used to them.’

Two years ago Mr Optician warned, ‘next time, we might be talking varifocals, I’m afraid’, and clicked his teeth in pity. I waited for ‘like a grandma’. It didn’t come, but we both heard it, because varifocals are a sign of grandma. My own nan had them, two milk bottle thick half-moons perched on the end of her nose. Varifocals are for old people, it’s the law.

It turns out my eyes listened keenly to Mr Optician. “Might be” morphed into “100% definite” over the two years and I’ve lived in a quiet blur for months now. It’s not always the worst way to be, avoiding sharp lines of reality, but when I found myself holding my book at a ridiculous arm’s length, I got measured up.

‘You long sightedness should level out in about ten years,’ Mr Optician smiles at me like I’m in for a treat, and I need something to look forward to.

A part of me dies.

I try on my varifocals when they are ready.

‘I can see!’ I blurt out, in front of Mr Optician. It’s a bit sad really, admitting that. Mr Optician smiles thinly, he’s heard this sort of thing before. He’s already got my money, there is no need for him to patronise me now, clicking tongues no longer necessary.

glasses q

You’re not allowed to drive, he says, with the look of someone who will take my new glasses off me if I try.

But I can’t drive and haven’t got the money to run a car anyway – I’ve just handed a wad of cash over for new specs. I walk home.

I’m walking and everything is clear and bright like just after rain, the sky washed blue, the edges of everything is hard, too clean and weirdly sharp. Perspective is all wrong; the ground looms large and wide, it feels like it’s going to smack me in the face. I have sore eyes, because any sudden movement and I have a dizzy turn; stairs are a nightmare and turn into giant steps.

The next day, my eyes like boiled eggs, I have to have a lie down in a darkened room like a Victorian heroine suffering an attack of the vapours, by mid-afternoon. I can’t do much writing, the black letters on white are hard and nasty and they hate me. Reading hurts. The arm of the glasses rubs the top of my right ear red, so I wear them at an angle, my vision turns wonky. I sulk.

Day three, and it’s better. I still have a moan and a whinge, because it seems the thing to do. By Monday I don’t remember until mid-morning that I’m wearing varifocals.

My friend was right. It is like potty training, after all, this varifocal business. Kind of. (But for slightly older people.)

@cathbore

Twisted Tales – Flash Fiction Anthology 2015 – the Shortlist

Cath Bore:

I’m so very chuffed to have my flash fiction Friday Roses on the Twisted Tales Flash Fiction shortlist! Congrats to everyone on the long and short lists x

Originally posted on Annie On Writing:

Judging is well and truly in full swing over at Raging Aardvark Publishing. With 8 international judges, its a lively discussion on every story submitted.

We have 27 wonderful Flash Fiction stories which have made the second cut in the selection process. With a huge response and such high quality entries, its made paring entries down from the longlist very difficult. Congratulations to all those who are listed below.

Our line up of stories to be published in the anthology  (expected to be between 12 and 15 stories)  will be announced on the 27th of July.

Congratulations

The New Thieves – Thaisa Frank

Debut – Therese Edmonds

Friday Roses – Cath Bore

Goodbye Cruel World – Warren Glover

Elevation – Vesna McMaster

Crank Call – Phil Rossi

Liberty – Gareth Cadogan

A Good Boy Killer – Gareth Cadogan

The Bunk Bed Incident – Allan Heller

Vixen – Simon Sylvester

Silhouette –…

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Paying for our pleasures

I wrote You Promised a year ago, and on Tuesday it found a loving home in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2015, out next week. I workshopped You Promised last year and played with my smutty trippy tale of unrequited love ever since, until it was ready.

Landmarks : NFFD Anthology 2015, edited by Calum Kerr and Angi Holden (Gumbo Press)
Landmarks : NFFD Anthology 2015, edited by Calum Kerr and Angi Holden (Gumbo Press)

I believe in celebrating successes when they happen, you never know when the next one will be, but Tuesdays are a strange night for a celebration. Tuesdays are part of the slow sad shuffle to mid-week, uphill all the way, the inside a Lowry painting plod to the production line, a black and white telly and kitchen sink drama type of day.  But Tuesday is when the success comes to me this week and I needed to celebrate, with wine; You Promised deserves it.

Saying that, it still didn’t seem quite right to me to splash out on Tuesday wine, no matter what, it’s an extravagance too far. But, I have a silver slummy jar and a bag and fruit bowl of copper coins. I’m not paying for wine with pennies, but silver is respectable enough.  Coins from the slummy jar are play money, not real money at all. You can buy anything with them, that’s the law.

I go to the supermarket and pick a nice bottle of still Prosecco.  I pay for it with my coins at the self-service till and avoid the cashiers. They have enough to do without me with my mountain of money holding their queues up, coins escaping everywhere.

Of course supermarkets have machines now where you put in your slummy and out pop shiny new £1 coins in reply. I’ve two problems with this (of course I do); if slummy is converted it’s not play money anymore, and that’s no fun at all. And they charge 7p per £1 of slummy you put in. 7%! The machines are laughing at us, my friends.  In the self-service till area where it’s safe we can slip in our coins, one by one and buy our lovely wine.

The trouble is, self-service tills accept coins when they feel like it. I give it too many 5ps in a row and it spews them out in disgust, me paying with such a lowly denomination an affront to its morals.

Go away, you pov. Come back when you’ve 20p at least, then we’ll talk.

The self-service till man keeps looking over as I pay coin by coin, 5p pieces pinging out again like I’m running a dodgy racket. I go sweaty faced and red but look grimly ahead, cast glances at my wine for assurance and keep slotting in those coins. I start to think I look like I’m desperate, gone round phone boxes picking up change so I can get my £6 Prosecco. He’s thinking, “spot the boozehound!”.

By the time I’m home and the wine is chilling in the fridge I’m ok about it. Writers have been playing for pleasures with silver slummy for centuries. It’s a right of passage for each and every one of us. This is what self-service tills were invented for, to get rid of your slummy. Especially on a Tuesday.

@cathbore

Cath Bore

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Originally posted on :

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FRIDAY ROSES

The red roses Brian sends on Fridays are delivered to the house, bound in a tight bundle. The taut rubber band pinks my fingers and thorny stems long and tentacular splice my skin as I unpick the stubborn brown rubber. My fingers cut and bleed but push the flowers into a vase.

‘Have they arrived, the flowers?’ Brian rings up and asks, as always.

‘Yes, they’ve arrived. Thank you.’‘And do you like them?’ He says this each time too.

‘I love them.’

He makes me say it every week, forces me to lie. Sometimes I think I hate the roses more than I despise Brian. They offer up no scent, shiny plastic petals scratch the end of my nose as he forces me to sniff them and inhale plain air that smells of tap water.

Flowers every week, how romantic, everyone says.  You’re so lucky.

‘Yes,’ I smile…

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