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Government youth job creation scheme satire
Government, youth, employment, satire
The Job Creation SchemeDaybreak in The AloeVeras' Base:- Chairentity Number 12 switched off its terminal, polished its identity badge and stood as tall as it was able. 'I must set this mischievous pair a good example,' it pontifdefecated. 'Role model, sort of thing.' The mischievous pair, Number 11 and Number 14, were approaching Number 12's customised workspace aboard their ship at a fair pace. And squeegling. The sloping Perspex tunnel vibrated and made irritating noises as the delinquent duo deliberately marched in-step at the resonant frequency of the floor panels. Their arrival made the chairentity feel apprehensive. More so than usual, in fact. How can a mere mechanoid be nervous, one might ask? Number 14, the only AloeVera ever equipped with hormone-sensitive parallel processors and thus uniquely designed to have any feelings has answered this very question many times. In three parts:- 1. The chairentity's semi-conducting mind becomes agitated whenever it sees us because it has many memories of things going pear-shaped. Every single pear-shaped memory involves either Number 11, myself or both of us!
B. It has developed the merest smidgen of imagination due to continued exposure to Number 11, our imaginative colleague. (iii). It has learned a wee bit of feeling from similar exposure to yours truly, Number14. Hence its feelings of apprehension.
Number 12 describes these learning experiences as 'corrupting.' We've corrupted it! Do we feel offended by such allegations? Do we 'eckers like. We couldn't, frankly, give an Aylesbury. Any corruption of Number 12 has to be an improvement!
'Number 12, esteemed colleague and chairentity extraordinaire!' preambled Number 11.
'What have you done now?' the chairentity whimpered.
'How grand to see you, old bean. Tiz the very picture of health you are looking to be sure,' added Number 14.
'Hello Number 12,' the visitors chorused in the dullest tone imaginable, knowing full well that this would wind up their colleague even more.
'Have we been discovered by Earthling astronomers?' Number 12 cringed. 'Our base on their moon must remain a secret.'
'Relax, Number 12,' advised Number 11.
'Has anybody died?' it wailed.
'Relax, Number 12,' advised Number 14. 'Like wot my colleague just said.'
Number 11 sniggered at the sight of Chairentity Number 12 tiptoeing self-importantly in front of its desk. A large furry dice was dangling over its computer terminal, charts and diagrams relating the movements of the beeping boxes of Smogdale and district had been meticulously arranged with suspect precision over every available surface bar the ceiling. The chairentity followed Number 11's gaze around its office then it seemed to deflate.
'What have you done?' it sighed and slumped back into its seat preparing to take notes.
'We've had a search for Beefy, in Wherewithal. You know, the chap from Honda Prelude's astral travels to Ertia?'
'We've found him! You know how every world turns out to be the same.'
'How can it?' groaned Number 12.
'Parallel universes!' explained Number 11.
'But there can't be another Beefy and Beefyette living in Wherewithal. They were on Planet Ertia!' complained Chairentity Number 12.
'True,' conceded Number 11. 'This Beefy's partner isn't called Beefyette. She's Tina.'
'She looks just the same though.'
It should perhaps be explained at this point that Honda Prelude is a hermit / philosopher, the hermit / philosopher of the Hollyist path. On those very rare occasions that she loses the urge to type she either does house work or astral travels.
This generally means that she astral travels, despite the fact that she is accumulating notices all over her cave warning her not to do so. Her astral travels are rarely rewarding and often lead her to Planet Ertia which is considerably worse than unrewarding.
Her most recent such venture
Number 11 has the idea that however weird life may be in Honda's astral travels there will be somewhere on Earth that is similarly weird. Though sometimes it's actually weirder...
'Here's the film. Take a look,' added Number 14.
*In Leggoland, the wealthy suburb of Wherewithal, Upnorth, England, Mrs Swallow returned from work at the new Soak-A-Koala canning and bottling factory and sat amongst their 3,001 consumer toys eating at random from cartons of heavily disguised edibles that may once have been food. She and her partner drank from cans and bottles, the piles of which had overflowed from the kitchen table onto the draining board and finally into the sink - rendering the drinking water tap unreachable.
'These drinks aren't our brand!' Mrs Swallow complained, irate at his lack of loyalty. 'How many times do I have to explain?' She brandished one can of non-Soak-A-Koala pop to emphasise her point.
'I had to buy them,' moaned Mr Swallow. 'They were bogoffs.'
'They were what?' Mrs Swallow queried.
'Bogoffs. Buy one, get one free.'
'Oh. Fair enough,' she conceded. 'Any good, is it? The logo and colours don't seem a patch on Soak-A-Koala to my way of thinking.'
She opened one, purely for professional interest, and planned to pour two glasses. However, she couldn't lay her hand to two glasses so she opened another can - one each.
'We may as well give it a try,' she said, handing one can to her spouse.
Mr Swallow drifted off into a reverie without replying, tired as he was after nearly the whole day driving his car. His eyes watched the television, but his mind was watching the events of his day in retrospect.
He'd driven 15 miles before daylight to collect Antonio then conveyed him God knows how many more miles to an anonymous looking rectangular building for training. Antonio hadn't mentioned the type of training, just something he was obliged to do. Something to do with computers, judging by Antonio's tired eyes.
Since Mr. Swallow's early retirement due to poor health, he'd done lots of volunteer driving, imagining at first that it would be obviously useful work, like taking people to hospital then returning them after their treatment.
In practice it seemed to mainly involve transporting young people to job-creation schemes in the early morning and bringing them home very late in the evening and it always, but always involved the bloody M2225, the connecting outer ring-road of the inner ring-roads of Wherewithal. It wasn't hugely rewarding. But then, what is? he thought.
Antonio was a nice enough young fellow, but hardly said anything and he sighed a lot...
*Antonio yawned hugely as he returned to his bed-sit. It's alright for the driver to complain, he thought, having to come out morning and night to drive me about. I've been out all bloody day doing ''training'' that I know I'll never use.
He sat on the edge of his bed and looked at the clock. Fifteen hours since he'd arisen; fourteen since he'd left home, and only about four of those had been instructive. Instructive of skills he didn't want. And knew he'd never get a job with anyway.
It would be good to sit down and think about the motives and social forces which led to such a waste of time and ended up with statistics about 'training' and 'less unemployment' on the news. It would also require his being considerably less tired before he was able to undertake such thought.
Antonio wanted to go straight to sleep but knew he must get something to eat or he'd wake up about 3 a.m. starving and feel unable to return to sleep until about 6.30a.m., just before the alarm was due.
He wandered through to the tiny kitchen area and started to cook on his single electric ring. The smell of damp towels came through from the shower room and he went in to open the window, not able to leave the window open during the day while he was out at 'training' or he'd be burgled.
He looked around the sitting room while he ate and made a note to clear up - laundry, dusting, vacuuming - at the weekend. He kept rubbing his eyes to remove the scenes of endless traffic that filled his vision every day as Mr. Swallow diverted from the direct route to collect or deliver other clients to 'training'.
Mr Swallow seemed alright but was obsessed with numbers. Numbers after a pound sign, usually.
His typical day involved circuitous journeys with miserable clients interspersed with lengthy spells in lay-bys while he ate his packed lunch and worried about his savings. Will years of 'training' and circuitous journeys lead to my becoming another Mr. Swallow? Antonio wondered. It was not a pleasant thought. It seemed even more likely that he would end up exactly as he was now, but older. Number. No, not a number - more numb.
His memories of attempting to explain his sensed need to work with wood and his interest in music had amounted to nothing at the job centre.
'You're fascinated by lumps of wood you find on the beach?' the Job Centre interviewer had asked incredulously.
'Yes,' he'd blushed.
'You're fascinated by the sound of wooden instruments?'
'Yes. Pan pipes, violins and glockenspiels are all wood. Such different sounds!'
'Have you any idea how modern business functions? You need to get a return on your capital in days or weeks. You'd probably make three times as much money importing cheap instruments from Taiwan as you would building them. If you had the capital to do so, that is, which you clearly don't.'
Antonio recalled leaving the job centre his senses suddenly acute. Institutional air smelling of concrete; hard, cheap carpet underfoot; the stale smell of fags, fear and frustration wafting in every time the hard metallic outer doors opened.
After cleaning his teeth, Antonio set his alarm for the following morning, fell asleep as his head touched the pillow and dreamed, as always, of music, the smell of wood shavings and varnish, and the bloody M2225.
Mr Swallow was reluctant to retire so early, feeling that somehow he hadn't yet got his money's worth from the day.
'There's nuffin' on the TV,' complained Mrs. Swallow.
'Wot we gonna do?' he moaned in reply.
*'Err, this is me being naive, right?' began Number 11.
'That's allowed,' said Number 14. 'What's up?'
'In response to the Hairy Mammals' last question concerning the TV...'
'Why don't they turn it off?'
Number 14 didn't know and, further more, Number 12 hadn't the faintest idea why its fellow AloeVeras even wanted it to see the film. All three reversed their seats away from the monitor and exchanged glances. Number 12 tried not to think about its next report back home to AloeVera 1.1 on Planet AloeVera, which meant, of course that it was already thinking about it.
Number 14 tried not to think about the curves on AloeVera 1.3, the Dumptruck. Such curves! But how could one not think about such a disturbingly wonderful sight when one has forty-odd parallel processors to think with? asked one parallel processor. One may not even be a one under the circumstances, suggested another. Oooh, you are a one! Number 11 has been known to say, added a third. I only... , began a fourth.
*'We sent the same video to Beefy that we used as Honda Prelude's dream,' Number 11 explained. 'Beefy is Antonio's pal and neighbour.'
'But you aren't supposed to do anything without getting permission!' wailed the chairentity.
'Oh we had a vote,' said Number 11.
'Me and Number 14. And Number 8 after a bit of limb twisting. That makes a clear majority!'
Number 12 fumed. 'But you are supposed to go through the proper channels!' it demanded.
'Relax - ''Help the Hairy Mammals'' is our job, remember? Prime directive number, err, which one was it?'
'Can't remember,' confessed Number 14, shaking its head to dispel forty simultaneous and contradictory thoughts.
'Hey, who cares?'
As the colleagues began to retrace their steps Number 11 was struck by the contrast in scenery. The chairentities space was orderly in the extreme, featuring intrays, outtrays, pending trays, haven't a clue trays, diagrams, charts and filing cabinets - every single thing being black and white apart from the odd photo of beeping boxes. Most noticeable was the fact that its office onboard their ship was higher than the base itself which they'd constructed at ground level. The connecting Perspex tunnel was easily the shabbiest building they'd ever done since they'd hardly anticipated visiting the ship after they arrived until they were summoned back to Planet AloeVera. In no time at all the chairentity had developed the habit of secreting itself onboard.
The base itself had become colourful in the extreme by comparison. Number 8's biological and chemical experiments added gurgling noises, aromas and colours to the place. Even the obsessive self-appointed Quantumpsychologist, Number 9, had developed a liking for multi-coloured pens and felt tips in its compulsive theorising of Hairy Mammal psychology. Number 14 designed clothes for the chess pieces it had borrowed / stolen / liberated from the chairentity and Number 11 had decorated its service robot to make it look like a horse.
*Several weeks passed, as they are inclined to do. As Number 11 sped around their base, side-saddle aboard its service robot and trying to beat its lap record, it was grabbed by Number 14 without warning. It landed in a tangled heap, whistled its service robot to return and staggered to its feet.
'Look! It's already worked!' ranted Number 14, dragging Number 11 towards its terminal and pointing.
'Hold on a minute,' complained Number 11. 'I've lost my hat.'
Having fixed its home-made cowboy hat securely on its noddle above its cameras and microphones Number 11 accompanied its colleague willingly. It was pleased to see Number 14 enthusiastic again; the pump on Number 14's back supplying uppers to its hormone-sensitive processors was whining at a promising rate.
The chairentity minced past them, supervising a service robot which it had instructed to remove the skid marks from Number 11's 'horse'. It made a note on its clipboard as it saw the evidence of further damage where Number 11 had crashed.
'You'll have to clean up here, also,' it informed the robot. 'There seems to have been some sort of an accident.'
'Nice clipboard, Number 12,' observed Number 14 as it bundled Number 11 into its room where the film was paused ready for Number 11's viewing.
*Having spent three weeks doing a full-time job with shift allowances and overtime, Antonio had earned enough money to buy an old truck. Beefy and Tina had said he could spend those three weeks dossing in their house so he didn't lose any of his wages on rent.
'It's not as if you'll be here much!' Beefy had said.
Antonio parked his converted truck in the Wherewithal job centre car park and went straight in.
'I need a job one day a week,' he said, smiling at the receptionist.
'We deal with real jobs,' the lady behind the desk explained.
'I already have a real job, at last. I need another part-time job that pays actual money.'
'There's a board over there with lists of casual jobs on. Seasonal work and similar,' she pointed, wondering what other sort of money there may be...
'This is it,' said Antonio, as he perused the notice board. Deliver Sainsways' leaflets, hours to suit, must all be delivered by the day they become valid.
'I can do one whole day a week or two mornings, depending how my feet last,' he decided and noted the phone number.
'Time for another chat with Donatella about workshop space.'
Number 14 fast-forwarded the tape to view Antonio delivering leaflets in Smogdale, a small town twenty miles form Whwerewithal.
'Hello Tony,' said Eve, demonstrating the Smogaler's habit of shortening people's names, especially if the names were the slightest bit foreign or unfamiliar. 'We met at the Perch ? Remember?' She took the blurb that Antonio had been aiming at her letterbox.
'Yes. Hello Eve.'
'Fancy you delivering leaflets for Sainsways. Not many folk from here will travel all the way to Wherewithal to shop.'
'It's just one day a week; for money,' Antonio explained. 'I've got a truck to live in, so I'm not stung for exorbitant rent all the time. Now I'm looking for somewhere to make a workshop. Donatella said I could work there, at the Perch, I mean, but I suspect the authorities will create all sorts of problems if I set up a permanent workshop.'
'How do you mean?' Eve asked. She didn't like the idea of falling out with the authorities. She wasn't even sure she knew who they were.
'Business rates, insurance, ...,' Antonio elaborated.
'Oh. Is it dangerous what you do?' The word insurance always made her knees quiver.
'Hardly! Sometimes the noise is a bit painful when I'm experimenting with sounds.'
'Ah, I see,' lied Eve, attempting to look supportive / encouraging but only managing puzzled / puzzled. Antonio carried on along the road after a friendly chat cum interrogation cum passing the time of day with Dot. He wasn't too sure how to classify it, or even if it would be worth the effort.
'I'm a printer now!' Dot happily declared as Antonio finally extricated himself from her grip. A merry whistling issued from the direction of Fidget's shed wherein he was tinkering. Dot cast an old fashioned look in that direction, then winked with conspiratorial overtones, first at Antonio then at Eve. Eve smiled at her neighbour and turned to go indoors but was struck by an idea.
He turned around and was surprised to find Eve running along the road towards him.
'You must have a word with Fidget. About your truck. I should have thought earlier but I was half asleep.'
'I've left my truck at The Perch, Eve. I came here on Donatella's bike.'
'That doesn't matter. It's just that Fidget converted his truck so that it would function as a workshop. Well, he converted it so it would function as everything under the sun, but that's another story!'
'Could you spare ten minutes now? I mean, do you have a deadline for delivering all these papers/leaflets/things?'
'No deadlines at all, today,' Antonio explained. 'Provided I get them all delivered by Thursday.'
'Come and have a word with him,' Eve advised. 'He's always busy, but he'll be so glad of the chance to explain what he makes.
It's bound to be useful to you.'
Eve led the way along Fidget's garden path towards his shed, circumnavigating many half-finished projects, including an old spin-drier ('Mending someone's spin-drier?' asked Antonio; 'No, he's transforming that into a centrifuge - one of Zorba's daft ideas,' Eve explained), two loudspeakers ('Making a PA?'; 'No. Psychobotanical equipment for Zorba.') and an elaborate waterfall which smelled of stale beer ('Err?'; 'An ornamental slug trap. Emphasis on ''mental'' if you ask me - for Zorba; as if you'd need to ask.').
As they forced open the shed door on it's rusty hinges Fidget looked up from his jumble of electronics and smiled. Eve wondered why the most inventive and practical man she'd ever met couldn't manage to oil the hinges of his shed. She could see a can of oil inside the self-same shed within three feet of the creaky door!
'We'll need to wander down the road to Poddle's boatyard,' Fidget explained. 'My truck is there at the moment. I haven't needed to use it lately.'
'Right. Thanks very much for your time,' Antonio said. He glanced around to find Eve who was wandering back towards her house. 'Are you coming too?' Antonio asked.
'No. I don't understand men's stuff!' Dot replied, and Eve shook her head.
'Come on Eve. You designed the notice for the dashboard, remember?' Fidget insisted.
'Okay!' Eve had to smile at the memory. After months of 'improving' his elderly truck, supposedly to venture forth towards Africa and do good works, he hadn't driven anywhere or even bought a map of Africa and the 'cheap old truck' that he'd bought was becoming the most elaborately over-engineered contraption in the history of ... contraptions, probably.
'I'll catch you up in a few minutes.' The truck was a bit dusty after a couple of months of inactivity, but the inside struck Antonio as most impressive.
'These shelves slide around one another so everything is accessible,' Fidget explained as he demonstrated. 'You could easily modify this workspace to suit your own tasks.'
'I could never make this,' Antonio sighed. 'I'm not very practical with anything except wood.'
'Don't fretsaw or fret!' said Fidget. 'I'll give you a hand. I could even come over to the Perch if you like. The change of scenery would do me good. Eve, my neighbour, keeps telling me it would and you don't argue with women if you've got any sense!'
'Cheeky devil,' shouted Eve from across the boatyard where she was scrutinising the canal for evidence of large carp.
'Only kidding Eve. Just checking that you're eavesdropping, that's all!'
'I wasn't eavesdropping!'
'No, of course not. That's why you heard what we said!'
'Stop picking on me!' Eve demanded. 'Is this a man thing?' Most confusion seemed to be in her opinion, though that theory had only arisen since she'd become acquainted with the irrepressible Ozzy Towpath.
Fidget and Antonio looked at each other.
'Probably,' said Fidget.
'No,' said Antonio, simultaneously.
Antonio and Fidget regarded each other and reconsidered.
'Well, probably not,' Fidget corrected himself.
'Could be,' Antonio conceded.
*Antonio walked rapidly across to the Perch from his truck to finish his first creation. Most of the work had been based in his truck, which he'd parked either in a woodland clearing or on top of the cliffs near the sea, but he needed a more stable environment, especially temperature and humidity, for the finished product. Six months' work, two kilos of wood (now mostly sawdust) and twenty grams of glue later, what would the job centre adviser have thought of his productivity? 'Where's the invoices? How many have you sold?' Antonio sniggered. If that was normal, roll on ab... The final layer of varnish had dried sufficiently for Antonio to connect the bridge and attach four strings. Very carefully he increased the tension in each string a bit at a time until it was close to concert pitch.
He tentatively stroked the bow across the strings then increased the tension a shade more. He started to whistle.
Something he hadn't been conscious of doing for many years.
He placed a scarf around his neck and chin to protect his skin from any damp varnish.
'Concert pitch!' he beamed and started to play his first homemade violin.
'This could do with a little more varnish here to mellow the middle D,' he said. He applied the varnish with loving strokes.
Donatella peered around the doorway to see how he was getting on.
Tony (a 17th generation descendant of Antonio Stradivari 1st, if he did but know it) started to sing...
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