Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Getting in the silverskins

The big news today is that I renewed the-spine.com for another two years. Opening my wallet this wide so near to Christmas must mean that I’m still serious about blogging, even if, yesterday, no sooner had I written ‘I’ll be back to my normal blogging habits’ than I got a call to say that I’ll be expected to build three websites over the next fortnight.

I say ‘build’ but they’ll be Wordpress installs with themes I’ll customise. In a way, it’s a disgrace to even suggest that I’ll be building them. Over the last five or so years, website building has gone from being a form of virtual bricklaying to a highly refined form of interior design. Where once I would be found sitting on an old car seat beside a hot brazier, smoking a fag and tutting over my union sanctioned mug of tea as I contemplated the next line of HTML, I’m now usually found flouncing around and clapping my hands and demanding more aqua in the banners PEOPLE! I’m not sure which I prefer.

Talking about unions, I’m increasingly dismayed by the lengths some shops go to prove they’re fun and happy places to work.

At my local Tesco, I spoke to one of the women working the checkouts this morning. She was wearing sagging reindeer horns and a look of joyless intensity.

‘I hope they pay you extra to wear those horns,’ I quipped.

She looked at me blankly and said nothing as she slid me my seasonal jar of silverskins.

On Saturday, I was walking in Liverpool for reasons that will become apparent in coming days. The Clayton Square shopping centre is now almost dead upstairs when I remember it as quite a vibrant little arcade. The Clayton Square planners made a big mistake when they removed the pedestrian entrance, making this little corner of Liverpool a dead end. However, it’s still the easiest way to get up to the level of Lime Street Station (the entirety of Liverpool seems to be one long climb to the railway station) and I used the escalator to take me up to a level and I cut through Boots.

It was in Boots that I saw a woman dressed like a pixie or an elf, complete with mismatching leggings and a red nose. She might have had bells on her toes but I can’t recall, hence the confusion over pixie or elf.

It happens everywhere I suppose but this sight did make me wonder if the poor woman had a choice. What would happen if somebody like me was working for one of these companies and refused to wear something so ridiculous? At one time, the unions would have said something but union power seems to be at an all-time low. If I refused to dress as a pixie or elf, I’d be out on my not-so pointed ear.

I know a person in one of the great professions who is constantly forced to do things which, given any reasonable union power, they wouldn’t have to. Hmm… ‘Great professions’ makes it sound like they work in prostitution when I actually mean the old professions: the law, academia, medicine, TV weather…

Under a boss who micromanages his entire realm, demotivating every employee with his Sauron-like gaze, highly trained people are turned into performing chimps, never making a decision on their own or able to execute the skills they’ve mastered through years of daily grind. I’m being cautious about how I write this because I wouldn’t want my friend to get into trouble. The point is: in all businesses, employees have rights that they’re in no power to enforce. Unions stand by as rules are flouted. In the situation I’m describing, the union representative is as much under the thumb of the boss as anybody and routinely bend to his will.

That isn't to say that things were bad when unions had all the power but now I fear that things have gone too far the other way. ‘Oh, they can’t simply fire so long as you do your job well,’ was always something I believed but I believe it no longer. Companies, organisations, and faculties of the state can always find a way to force a person out if that person doesn’t agree to fiddle the figures, work unreasonable hours, or wear an elf costume.

And, yes, that’s right: two more years of blog posts like this. Won’t that be worth the hard earned £22 I blew this morning?


  1. The Spine is my only RSS feed now. All the other ones made me miserable. After reading a blog about Ryan Giggs, and the well to do bloggers worries about his high energy bills, I realised I'm better off being unconnected. So I would happily pay the £22 for you, and as many silverskins as you can eat* *( subject to availability, my house may be at risk if I don't keep up payments)

  2. I concur with your conclusion even if I feel humbled by the trust you place in me to keep you cheerful. Of course, I'll never be a well to do blogger, so if relatively poverty is a measure of a blog's entertainment value, then mine should be at the top of the heap.

    Your house is relatively safe. I still enjoy pickled onions but not like I did when I was young and used to steal them from the pickle jar. Pickled onions, like Christmas itself, have lost a bit of excitement in my eyes, a thought which is perhaps every bit as depressing as the one about Ryan Giggs and his electricity bill. Of course, Giggs probably spends a good deal of time lying around in the nude on thick tiger rugs, so his bills will be much higher than those of us who stay dressed and lack the suitable shagpile.