It's 3.40am and I am in Bristol airport. The slow, calm murmuring of night-time traveller solidarity; all in the same boat here, avoiding paying for hotels, or on flights so early it's not worth it.

I'm coming back from a job interview in Swindon -- a town which, does actually exist. Part of me was expecting a film set, where nothing is for real.

The position itself is in Bristol, and is a job is so desirable, with good pay by my 'umble northern standards, and annualised hours involving a shift pattern in which every sixth week is a paid week off.

Yet again, I had to borrow the money. Mum ransacked the plastic meerkat moneybox to pay for a flight from Newcastle, which was less than half the price of the train journey. I had planned to "sleep" in Bristol airport the night before my interview, but mum would have none of it, and booked me in to the cheapest B&B we could find in Swindon.

Halfway through the morning, I was convinced I had failed on a listening test. We were told that this had an obligatory pass mark. We had a tense break while they marked our papers. I texted Kim. "Almost certain I've failed. Disastrous listening test." To my great surprise, I was one of the six of the eleven who passed.

A role play, an announcement exercise, then an interview. I played up my northern accent, hoping to suggest that I come from honest, simple stock, someone who needs a bit of a hand up in life -- and the latter is certainly true at the moment.

My answers were galloping bullshit, well-rehearsed now. One is a heartwarming short work of fiction, set in a non-existent cafe, an establishment which has been useful to me before. Overhearing one of our customers getting a bit upset as the first anniversary of her husband's death approached, I got some flowers and a card for her, and next time she came in presented them to her and wrote off her bill; and a more audacious lie about me insisting in the face of managerial displeasure to retain in the firm's employ a young woman with so-called learning difficulties.

We will find out in a week or so, because we're also up against people in a second round of interviews. Halfway through a bottle of Prosecco on the train back to Bristol, to meet my middle daughter for a drink, I bumped into my interviewer, and got a text from Jenny. "Dad, one request. Don't have a drink before you meet me!"

Jenny led me on as long a walk as my imperfectly repaired broken toes could stand, through the seductive Italianate gorgeousness of the suburb of Bristol in which she expensively lives. She showed me round her drama school and all its warrens. We sat amongst the moneyed young. Men in tubular shorts, women in loose culottes and angled cardis. It is deep south, and they are not my people, even in their very body movements, but Jenny is, and gave me a lesson in how to speak Belfast, using the IPA charts modified for that purpose.



At Bristol airport, with six of the small hours to kill, I tried writing to Wendy's Dad, but my tired eyes were too weak to respect the feint lines (what an attractive word that is for paper, suggesting its orthographic relative is too crude.)

I wish I'd gone up to the bar earlier. At 5.30am, it was packed but queuing -- thank fuck we are in England; this would be chaos in Portugal. Hen parties, rugby lads, and families and the retired joining in. The jovial atmosphere continued on the plane. A man had to ask for an extension to his seatbelt because a normal one wouldn't fit round him. "Sit down, can't you?" said their friend. "I can't, 'cos Fatboy Slim here is taking up two seats." Fatboy Slim complained that he didn't want to sit next to the window. "I might get sucked out." "You wish!"