Hard to know where a book really starts. The longer it goes on, and the more experiences you have, the more likely you won’t finish it. It’s because you’ll keep putting in new stuff that happens, that you experience. The tone of your book will change, relative to your life experience and it’ll eventually feel like a mishmash of nonsense. I was thinking this with my second novel – Fisherman’s Blues. I knew if I didn’t finish soon, I never would. The story would be too old and jaded, having gone through too many drafts, like a shirt washed too many times. It would be soon time to throw it out.
The novel began when I was living in England. I needed a job, fairly handy one, cos I didn’t have any proper credentials. I suffer greatly from Formophobia, see. A unique Irish condition. It means I feel physically sick in the presence of all forms, excel sheets, application procedures, bureaucratic questions and phone calls from Private Numbers. When someone hands me an envelope over a desk and says to fill out these forms, and get back to me, I know I’ll never be back.
But now here there was a lot of talk about Job Centres and uploading your CV. The first place I went was superbly air conditioned. And there was machines that spat out tickets with numbers on them. The plan was to wait until your number was called and talk to the polite Englishman at the desk. When I got there he asked for my details – Employee Number, Address, Utility Bill, I.D., Bank Account Number, CV, Phone Number and what kind of work was I looking for? After a pause, punctuated by Vertigo, he said: ‘You don’t have any of this stuff, do you?’
‘I’m working on it.’
Ok, sir, he said softly. I’m going to give you a bunch of forms to fill out. You’ll need to pop up to Poole and get them stamped, then have a quick chat with the Immigration, go down to the Job Centre in town and get them signed, don’t lose any of them, make sure they’re filled out properly in black ink only. Once you get that sorted, we’ll get you set up and registered here and have you in for an interview in no time at all.
‘How long do you reckon before I could start working?’
Not long, he smiled, five weeks or so.
Thanks, I said, I’ll be back to ye, and I walked outside and fucked the forms in the bin. They wouldn’t fit so I had to stuff them in. After, I felt relieved and concerned at the same time.
Not good, Micky. No Dusht. No hope of getting around them crowd. It was a hot day, with reggae music playing somewhere and lots of noise coming from busy traffic and people talking in shops. There was a smell like liquorice from the melting tar on the road.
I took a left towards the snooker hall. A 24 hour place with cheap drink. Figured everything would look better after a few Kronenberg and a couple of frames. Next thing I spotted a sign on an office window. Hiring Now. So I went for the Paulo Cohello vibe and followed the omens.
The place was called Serendipity. Figure that. Your man inside was called Chris. Wanted to know if I could speak English, had any sales experience. I told him I used to be a top sales man in a Media Company in Ireland. Which wasn’t technically a lie – I used sell Irish Catholic Newspapers for the Legion of Mary when I was a child. Sold 20 one morning after last mass. Record at the time.
Chris asked when was I available to start, he’d pay in cheques, cashable at the shop next door. No need for forms at all. You came to the right place. I told him I’d start tomorrow and we shook hands and I left. Celebrated at the Snooker Hall. Big dhrink.
Years later, Chris became one of the main characters in Fisherman’s Blues, as did the sales office, and many other things that were to subsequently happen.