I had put off typing up this column until I was certain that the world would not come to an apocalyptic end on 21 May. No, not the launch of ABSs, but the day of ‘Rapture’ predicted by Harold Camping, an American (of course) evangelical broadcaster who, at 89 years old, is perhaps closer to his day of judgment than most of his fanatical followers.
It followed his previous declaration that the world would end in 1994. It didn’t. But that didn’t prevent millions of dollars being spent on advertising and promoting ‘end of the world day’, followers distributing their worldly wealth and possessions and parties being organised across the land, waiting for Mr Camping’s prediction to come true: that true believers would be swept up to heaven while a giant earthquake brought destruction for those left behind.
As dawn broke on 22 May, some awoke gleeful, realising that their lives had been spared a few months longer. Others woke to realise that all they had left in the world was a sleeping bag and a grateful certificate of generosity from a local cat’s home. For me, I was pleased to once again be enjoying a weekend – a concept I have been unfamiliar with since being made redundant some months before.
My only method of determining what day of the week it was had depended entirely on what I ate for lunch, which in turn was regulated by my fortnightly liaison at the Job Centre Plus (the ‘Plus’, from my experience, being as redundant as I was).
But what joy, to be able to join in once more with the complaining masses, to live for a bank holiday weekend and be spared the daily emotional rollercoaster of Deal or No Deal. Yes, I’m back in a suit and riding the commuter tube once again.
Far from it being the end of the world, there is a new world opening up before me. The excitement of IT training was almost too much for me to cope with on my first day – but that was OK, I have health insurance and a specialist counselling hotline.
Time recording? Of course, I relish it. I can actually see what I have done in the past week and, what’s more, if I am asked I can report back with more detail than “I achieved all stars in Angry Birds.” Admittedly, there is only so much time I will be able to get away with failing to meet targets as I record as ‘non-chargeable’ the hours I have spent aimlessly wandering on the wrong floor of the office looking for my desk.
And if it all gets too much? I don’t have to worry – the death in service benefit will pay for other people to clear up any mess I leave behind. With such an optimistic outlook, not even the gale-force winds, hail stones or curse of the killer cucumbers could spoil my return to working life, try as they might.
This is the first time I have experienced London’s infamous ‘commuter elbow’. I thought it was a myth until I left Kings Cross on the Victoria Line on my first day at 8.45. Three trains left the station as I looked on. The first was surely too busy already to fit on one more adult human form. The second, I was seemingly held back from while a small lady with oversized bags marched straight up from nowhere, ignorant of the poor defeated souls trying to escape the writhing mass of limbs she met on her way, and pushed on through them somewhere between a briefcase and some bare legs.
It was the third train that hurt the most, as I took a commuter elbow to the ribs and a second a little lower – fortunately protecting myself at that stage by my satchel clasped tightly to my chest. Once I made it on to the fourth train, it was only 9 o’clock and there was no sight of a seat. With a sweaty armpit on either side of me and weary from the struggles I had already endured, I sighed a deep sigh. I had finally made it. Not just on to the train, but as a true Londoner.
My new regional status was confirmed at the end of the week as I got off the train back in Sheffield for a wedding. I turned to my partner and said the words I never thought I would say: “It really is true. It’s much colder in the north!” And with that I realised, despite a revised prediction from Mr Camping that the apocalypse would now happen on 21 October, I had already entered a new world. I was a soft southerner.
This article was first published by Solicitors Journal on 6 June 2011, and is reproduced by kind permission