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Friday, June 10, 2011

The homelessness of Kenneth Fleetwood

Chapter 1

It was a typical day really. The tube was delayed by nesting birds shorting out a signal box. A light rain had found the minute hole is his left work shoe. Breakfast had been a bacon sandwich made on the run that had dripped mayonaise on to his plain black tie.

But somehow Kenneth Fleetwood made it to his office with body and soul together. He'd even managed to catch the lift as the doors were closing, giving a friendly nod to the new security lad, who'd put his hand in to hold it up.

Kenneth settled at his desk, fixing the position of his rubber plant. It had been a gift from a thankful Malay he had helped in obtaining a position in a kitchen. The man had begun on washing up duty, worked his way to kitchen hand and gone on to open his own small kiosk offering Laksa and Rendang.

The plant was a reminder of success. One needed such icons at Jobcentre Plus. It used to be the Department of Work and Pensions, but the government had paid an advertising agency several thousand pounds to jazz it up and come up with an energetic new "brand".

You can't fight change, Kenneth thought.

Cup of tea, two biscuits, faint sugar high and then first file of the day. He turned on his computer, a plodding PC that refused anything more modern than Microsoft's 95 Office suite. It refused to recognise his password on the first two attempts. Yes, the universe was in order.

PCs... Kenneth was an Apple man. Along with West Ham United, the odd sneaky wank and bacon, it was his sole vice. When a new product came on the market, he'd be first at the doorstep. He'd even taken two days off sick to camp outside the Apple Shop to get his hands on the first iPad.

Yes, if a new Apple computer was spied in the office, you could be fairly certain it was Kenneth Fleetwood's Mac.

"Watch the match?" asked Daniel "Spiv" McTierney, doing the cubicle lean, one arm propped on the top, the other leaning down with apparent palsy.

"Might the pope be a catholic?" Kenneth replied.

"Assume so," said Spiv. "As well as a Nazi and a paedo."

"Friend and protector of the paedo," Kenneth said. "There's no evidence he diddles himself, just covers it up for the bishops. I won't have slander in a government office."

"Goes without saying."

Spiv was a good man. Solid. Did everything he could for the people who came in down and out.

Kenneth's first client was an accounts person, pretty, tired looking, as if she had had a big night, perhaps with karaoke.

They used to be called jobseekers, but that was now said to be humiliating and belittling.

Isabelle ("Call me Izy")had chipped nail polish and wrinkled clothes that suggested she hadn't quite made it all the way home (though a lucky lad might have had that thrill). Kenneth imagined her having a go at "Heart of Glass", holding the microphone at a suggestive angle, slight slur in her voice.

She had the right dirty blonde hair for the part. But she was in her late-20s and probably wouldn't know Deb Harry from David Blunkett. No, she'd be on your Lady Gaga or Adele (Amy Winehouse without the crack).

Kenneth sighed.

"You alright?" Izy asked.

"Long week," he replied.

And I'm old, he thought. Too old to ever know the faint taste of nicotine on your kiss. He gripped his tea with a full hand around the porcelain, the painful heat bringing him out of his moment of unprofessional longing.

"Did you have a big night," Kenneth asked.

Her shoulders tensed. "Does that affect my dole?"

"No, of course not," Kenneth said.

The rest of the session was conducted in tense tones with minimal banter.

Izy was another castaway from downsizing Government departments, happy to take her redundancy, thinking it a chance to catch up on the party. The young didn't understand that the Blair years were an anomoly. Rarely in history did the banks line up to offer mortgages to punters without two quid to rub between their thumbs.

But it wasn't Kenneth's job to lecture. In his kind uncle voice, he had outlined programs that might help land a new job, but Izy was looking queasy and in need of a full English and the afternoon buried neck deep in a feather pillow. He wished her luck and told her to ring anytime.

And then she was gone, her stocking clad legs disappearing down the polyester carpetted corridor.

There were so many folders.

The in-box was practically overflowing.

"Get your finger out," Spiv said, walking by.


  1. Sounds interesting! Although I'd call it the "Apple Store".

  2. Jack,

    Good to hear from you. Hope all is well and that your studies are going well. Thank you for the feedback. I believe this novel may be THE ONE.

    Stay well,

  3. I like it. Well done. How are you Nate? Well, I hope? Rebecca (aka @BlackpuddleRock) :D

  4. Hello Rebecca,

    I'm well. And you? How is your young lad?

    Thank you for reading and your kind words.

    Stay well,

  5. See? Told you I'd read your novel when I got the chance.

    Good start - I like the character. I'm getting social commentary from the p.o.v. of a modern day 'everyman'. There's definitely enough here to make me want to read on.