As I stare redundantly out of my window at a dank and fog-shrouded Mortlake, my mind has been wandering paths as diverse as the end of the Bush era, the gloomy economic news, what it means for authors, publishers and booksellers, whether I will soon be re-employed, what the hell I’m going to do if I’m not and realising that if I am successful in my bid to find work my reaction now will differ from what it might have been six months ago.
Then I would have leapt around, called family and friends, bought drinks for the whole of SW14 and been positively ‘Tiggerish’ with joy and relief. Such a reaction would have seemed entirely appropriate, to me at least, marking the end of a period of personal hardship, doubt and worry. But now things have changed.
As the effects of the credit crunch bite ever harder, as the dire daily news is of the closure of yet more businesses, the redundancies of many more tens of thousands reliant on their earnings to feed, clothe and house their families and of the cautious savers already suffering pension fund meltdown and bank failure now also caught in a punishing interest rate trap, such effusive celebratory jinks seem entirely unwarranted.
A couple of days ago I was e-chatting with a friend who works in the press and learned that she is worried about her job. She is a fine writer; kind and thoughtful, professional and conscientious. She holds a post of some responsibility and is soon to find out whether she is to be a casualty of an imminent cull.
Another friend, an author whose works have garnered glorious reviews but whose sales require her to work, tells me that she is moving from Yorkshire to Rome, her publisher unable to take her latest work for lack of ‘paperback support’, the NGO for whom she copy writes having quartered her pay and the language schools in her local city having no vacancies. She is hopeful that in the eternal city there may be more demand for her as a teacher and as she supports her young daughter single-handedly I am hopeful for her.
Even closer to home, my friend, in whose home I have been gratefully billeted for many months during my own period of unemployment, is feeling the pinch as she struggles to pay the mortgage, bring up her son without the benefit of assistance from his absent father and start a new company despite increasing concerns for the chances of success.
Such tales serve to illustrate the hidden trials faced by good people, hard-working and solid characters in the stories that don’t make headlines, and make me wonder just how much fear, how much quiet desperation stalks this land. As I write this there is much discussion on the radio about the fate of graduates in a fast-shrinking job market. It is a hard time already and I fear that worse is yet to come.
If then I am fortunate enough to be successful in my endeavours, I may well raise a glass; I might make a few telephone calls. But they will be less in raucous celebration than in relief. Quiet, grateful and utter relief. If I am fortunate.