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The axe

  Sun 10th November 2013

I set off to my friends' house. On the way, a phone call from the Moldovans.

"What time you coming back?" "Er, well, not until tomorrow night." There is something in Ionache's voice. "OK--I will be there in half an hour."

Their immediate boss at the University has absconded and they won't be getting paid for the second week of the work they flew all the way from Chișinău to do, on the understanding there was six months' work. The replacement manager on the building project has brought his own men with him and has no need for the Moldovans.

In their room, they are carefully tapping out a card's numbers into the computer, buying tickets for the 3am coach to London. There's no work round here, especially not, I imagine, with the prejudice they'll face as soon as they open their mouths.

I can't do anything to help them. I can't let them stay for nothing while they seek work. But I am very sorry for them. They were decent, sociable, civilised, and--although I hesitate to use a once-innocent word which is now pressed into ideological service--hardworking; they don't deserve to be treated in such a heartless way. It's all very well talking about "precarity", the ugly English academic neologism for the way that workers at the bottom tier of Europe's labour supply survive, constantly on the edge of penury, at the mercy of our emasculated employment laws; but when you see its consequences in front of your own eyes, with people you quickly came to like, it's upsetting.

It's shameful that a University which never tires of trumpeting its "international links", can wash its hands of any centrally-controlled contracts with proper, humane terms and conditions that would have protected people like Andrei and Ionache. The University has millions for its endless physical expansion, but not enough to look after the people who put up the walls and put the windows in. I keep looking at the clock, imagining them on that bus to London; their dwindling money pouring away at a ruinous rate of exchange in a tiny room somewhere.

I arrive at my friends' house; the light is lambent, from a lamp hushed with a red cloth. Half-empty wine bottles, cushions, pint glasses, a coffee table stamped with a ringed history of hot drinks. L has that puzzled-looking amphetamined face, as though turning away from a bright light. They've been up all night watching porn, and after twenty minutes or so L is splaying her hands and moving them across the carpet, which I take as indicating that they'd rather resume that than continue with what must feel like dull conversation with me--straight, sober, bringing my worries into the sanctum.

I ring Kim and she starts talking about the poor pickings on the dating site. "It's just the illiteracy," she says. "You can't willingly fuck someone who spells please as 'plz', could you? It'd be a form of bestiality."

26 comments

Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

Are you sure it was catnip you went for and not Ketamine?

As for penury, that is a fallacy in the 21st century. More likely to be the university contractor discovered they have no real qualifications or knowledge of joinery standards required within the UK.

Whatever the reason, rest assured that both daisyfae and myself are here to offer you our full support. Ignore our laughter, we were looking at something else entirely.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 09:43
Comment from: [Member]

It wasn’t quite catnip, but it certainly wasn’t anything clithridiate.

Poor lads, they’ll be searching for somewhere to stay in the wastelands of Hounslow now.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 09:49
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

I’m sure they will be able to obtain relatively comfortable lodgings there rather than the tired old London pastiche of Reading.

Particularly so, seeing as how they left with your credit card, fathers watch and anything else at Lancaster university that wasn’t nailed to the floor.

Never one to underline the extreme flaws in a persons character, are you sure the crux of the fleeing renters might just be you? Perhaps a little decorum when walking around the dwelling without underpants may suffice.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 10:45
Comment from: Xen San-Lo [Visitor]

Mr Looby, he walk all day long in house with small penis sticking from pyjamas. Me go quickly. Me no likee. Me now round corner, live in house with Srebrenica assassins. Me likee very much. Have shower curtain and hot water. No pay rent here either.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 10:54
Comment from: [Member]

And after all that, the Vietnamese girl today asked to connect with me on Linkedin.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 11:29
Comment from: [Member]

i’m sorry to see the Moldovans depart - both for your need to keep the lodgers income flowing, and from the fact that they were quite certain to provide good entertainment. i wish them luck…

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 15:12
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, me too–very much! I was quite looking forward to some trans-Iron Curtain piss-ups.

Wonder how long the next lot will last?

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 18:01
Comment from: smallbeds [Visitor]

Oh, that’s tough all round. Best of luck to the Moldovans. And to you, finding other lodgers.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 18:21
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks–it’s a blow to us all. But they’re deeper in it than I am.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 19:43
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

That’s really awful. There are few people I have more respect for than the Eastern European boys near me who wash cars 10 hours a day for a couple of quid an hour. Then I meet UK-born teenagers who treat the staff in Morrisons cafe like shit on their shoe, as if that’s more demeaning than their own parents claiming dole straight out of school.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 19:44
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, just to lapse into stereotypes for a minute, I’ve lived happily with Hungarians and Croatians, and would have done so, I’m sure, with Moldovans. I like the way they combine directness with a natural and slightly formal civility, that (running away with myself now in my projections onto the Other) comes from very old practice. They’re self-reliant and responsible, thinking of others back home all the time.

Suffice to say, other things being equal, I’d choose someone from SE Europe again–even if it does mean taking a bit of a hit on the gas bill, since they’re nesh.

But in the short term, any old scrote who can afford the rent is welcome!

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 19:50
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

Oh please… enough with the solidarity, these comments are by the very same people who moan to the auld woman in front of them at the checkout at Sainsburys about their new neighbours not speaking any English and how England is not what it used to be.

At least in Glasgow we have the ability to say what we really think rather than pish and moan behind locked doors and drawn curtains, eh?

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 20:20
Comment from: [Member]

Yes, and people in Glasgow “saying what they really think” has made Glasgow the model of religious-sectarian peace and harmony, and the beacon of social tranquility, for which it is recognised throughout Europe.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 20:27
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

Tell you what, why don’t I meet up with you tomorrow and we can discuss your feelings on Glasgow somewhere quiet?

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 20:47
Comment from: [Member]

All I can vouch for is my genuine regret that they’ve had to leave. Shame they took the axe though–it’s better than mine.

I’m up there often, so once I’m off the wagon I’d be delighted to clink a pint or two in the Dear Green Place with you Chef.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 21:12
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

I’m not sure who “Chef” is so upset with, but if it’s me, I defy you to find one word I have written that even hints at underlying racism.

Sun 10th November 2013 @ 22:06
Comment from: Jo [Visitor]

Enjoy your writing!

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 08:05
Comment from: [Member]

Homer–I’m not sure what’s got under Chef’s bonnet either, but am enjoying the high irony of hearing a Glaswegian lecture on racism. I’ve suggested a pint (well, grapefruit juice in my case) to clarify the situation.

I’ll turn up in my “One Glasgow–One Love” T-shirt, with a little flag which is half Tricolour and half Union Jack above a photo of a Ger and a Bhoy kissing.

Jo–thank you and nice to see you here.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 08:52

Best comment thread I’ve seen in a while. I’m sympathetic. I’ve been fired twice. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Like the floor gave out from under you.

Jo from Please Don’t…>? That Jo? Nice to see you, dear.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 12:06
Comment from: [Member]

Exile–thanks for reminding me of PDEWYMO. Think I must have lost her in the transfer from .com to .co.uk but put her back on the shelf now.

‘tas been quite amusing hasn’t it? I certainly do my dressing gown up a bit tighter now.

Edit: Actually, let’s be sociable.
Please Don’t Eat With Your Mouth Open
Chef Files
Also, 63mago and his connections.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 12:11
Comment from: Jo [Visitor]

Hi, No I’m not that Jo.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 12:30
Comment from: [Member]

I didn’t think the sites matched up somehow! You are every single little atomic bit as welcome here as The Other One.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 13:41
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Very enjoyable tournament, gentlement! You can now put your virtual swords back in their place and settle your differences with beer and grapefruit juice.

Oh, btw: I’m SW European. Does that mean I’m eligible for the rental thing?

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 16:55
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

I must admit that my first reaction was to mock ‘Homer’ in regard to his lack of vision in misreading my original comment. However, ‘Homer’ as it turns out, is not as I first thought, an ageing, latent homosexual Englishman with a penchant for standing too close to school children in the cinema queue on a Saturday morning.

I will admit that the Morrisons inclusion did sway me in that direction at first. I was about to remind the gentleman that the last time an Englishman taunted a Scotsman with the word “defy” it ended rather badly. The city of York was sacked, many English people were angry about having to have their heads sewn back on etc, etc, etc.

However, ‘Homer’ has turned out to be a rather polite and interesting young lady indeed. So, to reply to her leading question about racism and possible hints?

No… you did nothing to upset me. Yet.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 16:59
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

Ah Looby. How easily my hackles are raised in defence of my beloved Glasgow. These days I am a quiet man, I mostly tend to let wide of the mark insults go over my head.

Mostly…

See how the leaf twists and turns in the wind, its veins reddened with the death of the summers term. The wind does blow, the branch does shake, but nature knows that the leaf will never fall very far from the tree.

Mon 11th November 2013 @ 17:12
Comment from: [Member]

Oh Leni–how I wish you were serious about renting the spare room!

I feel the same about Lancaster, Chef, and even mild humorous rebukes on my use of local phrases and terms from my Cornish lodgers rouse my hackles. It’s only worth debating with people who are bright enough to have a decent argument with: that’s why I answered back to you.

Right–off back home to look in the cellar for an old keyboard that could be pressed into service till the replacement arrives.

Wed 13th November 2013 @ 19:10


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