Sunday, 4 October 2009

In which it must be funny, in a rich man's world.

Printed 17/09/09.

I’ve just had a horrible realisation. I think I have become a boring conversationalist.

This should be of some concern to you, even the four or so of you who aren’t members of my immediate family and thus never get to speak to me face to face. Because logically the next stage after becoming a boring conversationalist is to become a boring columnist (anyone writing to let me know I’m there already will have their house egged). I’m not sure what the next stage after that would be, but I have a sneaking fear it would involve the Readers’ Digest and one of those TV dinner trays with a beanbag underneath. This must stop.

The reason I’ve become boring is that I’ve become poor. Well, actually there are a number of contributing factors - spending two months unemployed, waiting for grainy episodes of Gossip Girl to load up on Chinese websites, is one. Everybody else I know being suddenly absent, on life-changing backpacking trips round Uzbekistan and interning at NASA and starting businesses making their own shoes out of compost and suchlike, is another. But mainly, I blame poverty. I am a boring conversationalist because all I can think to talk about is being poor.

“How about this weather eh?”
“Ugh I know, if only it were raining pennies from heaven… so I could buy a lightbulb instead of just sitting in the dark and pretending to be Victorian.”
“Have you heard about my cousin’s miraculous delivery of triplets in the back of a Leeds to London Megabus?”
“Yes… but have YOU heard that The Guardian only pay me minimum wage? Minimum wage! I earned more at Goring library when I was 15.”
“Can I get you a coffee?”
“No, could I just have the cash value?” And so on.

I think being broke is a bit like being a new mum or a bride-to-be. While plenty of other people are in the exact same position, you somehow believe the situation is unique to you, and only you can really know what it’s all about (obviously the other two get a spouse and a baby out of it, while I just get a big red electricity bill to eat my breakfast with – though it should be noted that the other two also tend to lead to poverty, so I guess we all lose in the end).

Please don’t think, though, that I’m writing about being skint in the hope that I’ll get the same result as last time, when I whinged so much that a lovely old gent sent me a tenner (when I was so filled with gratitude that I wept). No, I’m doing it to see if poverty itself can be my creative subject. I’ve concluded: it can’t. Sorry. But at least now we know, eh?

* * * * * * * * * *

I have discovered the Secret Sandwich Warehouse of Clerkenwell, and it has changed my life. Uncovered one day by my workmate, who followed a hungry-looking office worker, Pied-piper-like, through a gap in a wall, the Secret Sandwich Warehouse is the city’s best-kept bargain. It sells fresh-made sandwiches for 65p.

65p! That’s like, the 80s! Or the North! They’re good, too – Piri piri chicken or salt beef bagels, or falafel, houmous and olive (not so much like the North, then). And they’re 65p. Did I mention, 65p?

Trouble is, part of me suspects the Secret Sandwich Warehouse might not really exist. Perhaps if you went to look for it, it wouldn’t be there at all – like Hogwarts’ room of requirement, it only appears to those truly in need. So tomorrow, I intend to stock up for the week. Because I’m scared that once we finally get paid on Monday, the secret Sandwich Warehouse might disappear forever.

* * * * * * * * * *

The burning question on everyone’s homepage this week: Who will think up the best title for their facebook graduation photo album? The stress! The pressure! I’d like to give special mention to the two runners-up, who both went with classic punnery in their matching titles of ‘Congraduations’. But the standout first prize goes to ‘Clammy Handshake’, for bravely cutting through the glamour to the bare humanity of the situation.

Job well done. (Oh, and on the degree and everything).

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