Saturday, 6 June 2009

Northampton - A History Lesson

I love history. I hate history books.  I love Northampton. I hate Northampton.

I love a bit of prose, though.



Ages ago. 

Before the Reformation and even Coronation Street.

The Jews crucify a young boy.

And Northampton folk, ever thorough and fair,

Drag fifty Jews through their own thoroughfare.

Gold Street turns red as they’re drawn at horse’s tails and hanged.

I’m drawn, myself, to Gold Street 700 years later.

Though I seek biology, I’m too young for history.



Still a while for that Bet Lynch smile.

Charles Bradlaugh, MP for this borough.

He wouldn’t lie and ally to a God.

Enter party-loving Northampton folk to start the hokey-cokey

Four times in and out he went as we shook Parliament all about.

Joyce supported him.

Gandhi attended his funeral.

Dossers and drunks now accompany his statue

Forever searching and lying and trying to ally to a God.



Nineteen years to go.

A returning Stirling bomber. Crippled and circling

Enters Gold Street at 100 feet and not rising.

Wood Hill turns grey metal where it landed

Northampton’s one and only raid by one of its own.

As kids, one of the only nightclubs we could enter 

Was in Gold Street named after this bomber

How I wished a German Fokker had crashed

We’d have never got in!


I have recently felt very, very special indeed. 

Not because I know my wife loves me very much. She has to. She made a promise that I’ve so far made her keep. Not because the kids think I’m a cross between John Cena, Dog The Bounty Hunter and Oopsy Daisy. That’s obvious to anyone who knows me. It’s not even down to the fact that recently I’ve had a mini-series of lottery wins that, whilst not keeping the wolf from the door, have at least moved him on to the next little piggy.

The reason is that just over two weeks ago I found out that I was the victim of debit card fraud. Me! Steve Kerr. 3rd in the 1500 metres at the British Timken school athletics meet in 1980. Football league and cup winner with Delapre Middle School in 1981. One time bank clerk and builder and soon-to-be-baker, though never candle-stick maker. Married with three children, tall guy, likes a pint, you know him. You might not be able to put your finger to a name, but you know the face.

Someone who put all outstretched, greedy little fingers on my money was an unknown company called A grand total of $34.77, around £22, was taken by this company. Most likely in the middle of the night, from my own bank account, whilst I slept upstairs, blissfully unaware that my internet account was being raided. They were very, very quiet. It hardly instils fear into you does it? Glaxo or Total, now they’re companies not to be messed with. But Please. 
Then I realised. A small amount has been taken by an unassuming company…genius!
How many people check their debit and credit card statements like I do right now? I’m like CSi Kingsthorpe when it comes to my financial situation at the moment and I was on it in a flash.

The camera pans to me, close-up, phoning the bank at 7am. One bead of sweat slowly falls down my wrinkled forehead. I’m through…to a number that has now been changed. I redial, take two, re-apply sweat. I’m speaking to a lady who seems genuinely pleased to inform me that I have passed their security checks. I’m thinking that if security is that high on their agenda then my money would not have gone missing in the first place. I decide not to tell her this. Camera pans out. I explain the situation. She checks my account. Yes, she confirms. An amount for $34.77 has been taken from my account. I know this, I tell her. She then asks me the purpose of my call. Fast zoom in. I tell her that I have been the victim of a crime, that I want my money back, and that I want the “perps” rounded up and pistol-whipped, preferably with the shooty end. She didn’t hear the last part as I only thought that. She tells me I need to phone their Special Investigations Department. I’m impressed. They sound, well, special, and they can definitely get me my money back. 
I imagine a dark basement, lots of computers, papers flying around, people cussing the D.A. and coffee being spilled on important case files between expletives.
 She informs me that Kevin doesn’t start work until 9. Fade and cut.

Stephen Kerr received his money back within 10 working days after the Special Investigation Department intervened. A new card was issued and activity on the account has been quiet ever since, though S.I.D. are monitoring.
 This note is dedicated to Kevin and all those brave souls in S.I.D. Making your world just that bit safer. Go Kevin.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

In The Midst Of Loaf We Are In Debt

Another month has passed since I stopped paying the government lots and they started paying me hardly anything. I don’t expect a card from the Job Centre. I don’t think Hallmark has cornered that burgeoning market just yet. 

Now it hasn’t been days of total inaction. Though I never, ever want to see another episode of Cash In The Attic again.

Many people have told me to treat my unemployment as a job in itself. They failed to mention that the job in question seems to be similar to that of Scott of the Antarctic. Battling unbelievable odds. Staying focused amongst feelings of isolation. Trying to get to a place that you haven’t been to before and when you do get there finding out that some bastard’s beaten you to it!

Where do you go from the cold South Pole? I could perish like Captain Oates, all noble, and just pop out for a short time. Not really my thing, though. If I did myself in , my wife, Andrea, would kill me. Practically, and of course geographically, the only way is up! I have come to the conclusion that the only boss I can rely on to employ me is me. 

Many people have told me to concentrate on what I know best if I’m to dip my toe back into the water of self-employment. 

Well, I can reel off all of the Liverpool Championship winning sides of the 1970’s and 80’s with Motson-like aplomb. 
“Neal, paaaasses to Rush, paaaasses to Hansen, who paaaasses to Souness, who paaaasses to Dalglish, who goos raind McQueen”. No. A Northampton accent is a definite minus to a career in football commentary, or indeed any public speaking ventures – town crier aside.
I have a photographic memory when it comes to numbers and letters. I could tell you the registration numbers of all my previous cars and my parents, in-laws and siblings. And though, like Rain Man, I’m an excellent driver, I can’t see any practical application for this savant ability.
I’ve realised that after 22 years of employment I don’t have any qualifications other than the ones I left school with. Not strictly true I suppose. I hold two certificates. One is from a course attended many years ago called "Smile - You're On The Telephone" and the other is a St Johns ambulance certificate in first aid (expired). I was only practically tested on one injury. This would only be useful then if you collapsed in the street with a broken jaw and I just happened to be passing at the time. Then again, if you were one of the many people who have told me to treat my unemployment as a job or indeed to concentrate on what I know best then this is a definite possibility!

So, the debts are mounting up, the Chronicle & Echo jobs section should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act and I’m getting desperate.

Where does a man go when he’s desperate? No, not there. I’ve decided to set up a sandwich delivery business. 
What do you know about sandwiches, Steve? I can hear the question rattle around my head, too. It can’t get out and re-affirms itself every couple of hours or so. 
Nonetheless, it’s a job I can work from home, takes very little start up cost and my natural charm, enthusiasm and 6ft2 bulk should ensure a steady round of deliveries to office girls and oily mechanics around the trading estates of Northampton. 

I’ve registered with the Food Standards Agency and Northampton Environmental Health. Both sounded like they, too, were smiling when they were on the telephone.
I’ll keep you all posted…

Friday, 24 April 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

I have far too much time on my hands these days. 

How much does the internet weigh? Is Most Haunted fixed? Who will play Jade Goody in "Jade Goody - The Musical"? Is there a word for the moment in time when you glance at a second-hand on a wristwatch or clock and it seems to make fun of you by stopping...for ages...then starting with a jolt? Mocking the fact that you have too much time on your hands these days.

All of these questions bounce around my mind like tiny bubbles of pop, occasionally fizzing to the surface where they're released in one joyous explosion, then never to be thought of again.

What I should be thinking of is where am I to find gainful employment following my enforced house arrest at the hands of the faceless Credit Crunch, which sounds like the breakfast cereal rejected by Kellog's. 

Although not in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (surely a Zac Efron, Disney movie waiting to happen), I dutifully sign on every fortnight. 
The irony that a shortfall in my First Class National Insurance contributions means I receive no money, other than First Class National Insurance contributions, is not lost on me.

I meet every other Thursday with a lovely lady, Point 10A, 9.15am, I shall call her. I hand my little card over, showing her all the made-up jobs I have long since put down. She never checks, she never asks. One quick glance at my Looking For Work diary will show she has signed off in the last fortnight my applications for the positions of Ringmaster and Ice Road Trucker. Much too much time on my hands.

I am , though, applying for real, more mundane posts.(just in case you know Miss Point10A, 9.15am).
83 at the last count, though I have stopped counting. If it were sheep I'd have long since gone to sleep.

I am the eternal optimist, however. The 2 interviews gleaned from the harvest of applications may only be a 2.352% success rate (too much time), but I do know somebody who, along with his brother, has won nearly £7million on the lottery a few years back. The odds there are infinitessible in comparison. If they can beat those odds then I can certainly overcome a meaty 2.352%.

So there I am. Waving the wife off to work, ironing tiny school shirts, making lunchboxes, setting the Indesit to 40 degrees, quick wash and truly wondering if there really are 60 Useful Things You Can Do With Vinegar?

The first time I arrived at the kiddies school I became the child and had to be led by my two sons to the drop-off and collection points for them." Don't forget Dad, 3.15 we come out, though George always forgets his jumper, so we might be later".
Who does everyone here think I am? Does everyone know? Do they think I work nights? Do they think I work shifts? Do they think I'm a drug-dealer? Child-minder? Off-duty copper/soldier? I wanted to wear my "You haven't seen me here before but I'm their Dad, look at their faces and mine, we look alike" T-shirt but it would have had to be printed on the back, too, and I'd have spent all morning spinning around so people got the message. The message being, look at the spinning nutter.

Back home, check the Indesit, unplug the iron I'd forgotten to previously and think of chips for tea tonight. Cheap, easy to prepare and the one and only use I have for vinegar.
After that it would be another few applications fired off into cyberspace (surely adding to the weight of the internet?) and the bottle of pop would start to fizz again.

How many Lassies were there? Shall I alphabeticize my wardrobe? How many wristwatches do I own? The answer to the final question is 4, as I wore them all at once. 
Like I said, I have far too much time on my hands these days.