Empty Hours, Empty Days

One of the problems with being unemployed is how to fill the hours. Looking for another job will take up some time, obviously (and those ignorant fools of politicians think it should take all your time) but you will inevitably be left with many many hours to fill. How to do that and not go insane is a real battle. When I was unemployed after leaving university, I think it was easier (though not easy) as I had known nothing else. Now, I have had to adjust from working full time. And that fall has been all the harder. No money, that’s a given, (though to hear all the crap from media and politicians you would think it’s an easy life. Makes me so mad), and too much time.

So what do you do? Every day is a struggle, a desperate seeking of distraction to help the hours pass until bed time. A series of futile rituals to avoid thinking. Anger and self-pity, a toxic cocktail too easy to imbibe, one you can’t keep up. It will consume you and that’s a very finite fuel supply. And that is one route to madness. At the moment, between rereading various novels I’m working my way through all my surviving audio tapes and transferring them onto computer. A time-consuming process (ideal then) which has led to my rediscovering music and dramas I had all but forgotten. That kills a few hours. Writing things like this, a few minutes or perhaps an hour if I’m lucky.

But thought will always be there, a constant companion you neither want nor need. One that will always find its way around or through any defences. Now, it’s recollections of the period after I left university and how I filled my hours then. (If I hoped to find anything useful there, I’ve been disappointed). The first winter in a house with no central heating, no cavity wall or loft insulation. And it was fucking cold: cue Four Yorkshiremen sketch: “eeh I can remember condensation freezing on t’inside o’t winda”. Thick socks, thermals, mittens. And yet, I rediscovered my default settings: nocturnal. I’d often be up late, listening to Bob Harris on Radio 1 (he then had the midnight to 2am show). Just like now, but without Whispering Bob. Now I have eighties music via YouTube, but the microwaving of a mug of milk for Ovaltine remains a constant. As is some drink (what the Yanks call hard liquor) on those occasions when I think I can justify spending money on it. Sometimes I wonder if that’s too often, others not. But sadly, it’s become necessary.

I can understand thoughts turning backwards, but I doubt if the past has any answers, or if seeking them is the real reason for looking back. It’s another of those attempts at distraction from the empty hours, thinking back to a time when I was happy. And perhaps an even more futile one as all it really does is to sharpen the contrast between then and now. But it’s irresistible. A black hole’s gravity to any passing light beam. Is that what has drawn me to the audio conversions? A lot of them have been compilations of late eighties music, from when I was at university. As I write this, YouTube is playing Jean Michel Jarre’s 1988 concert Destination Docklands which I remember listening to at the time.

Not just irresistible, but seductive too. So seductive, I fall willingly into its arms, craving their warmth and comfort, however brief. If I’m lucky, an hour or two can go by. Longer than any orgasm and more satisfying. And so more time passes. Time and too much of it, money and not enough of it. Twelve words to sum up a life. How sad is that? Ah, solving that question/Brings the priest and the doctor/In their long coats/Running over the fields.

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