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Regular readers of my articles may recall that a few weeks ago I became the proud owner of yet another P45.
In their rush to hire cheap labour and take the bungs from the Welsh Assembly Government the firm had violated the most sacred principle demanded by the board, and had reversed the ongoing "progressive" process of reducing the number of pale, male faces from the office.
An (offshore of course) HR department were forced to admit that the percentage of ethnic minority employees on the books had "regrettably decreased" because the decision to move the offices to a particular area of South Wales in order to take the bung offered by the welsh assembly meant they were forced to recruit from the local, and "regrettably predominantly white" workforce.
And so it was not a surprise when the oldest (and thus most expensive), palest and malest amongst the workforce were handed P45's.
When I was told I was going to get the fifth such document in my long and generally fairly well paid career you could have heard me shout yippee from thirty miles away. This was clearly not what the guy given the rotten job of handing out the bad news had expected. Oh he expected a certain amout of bravado, a certain amount of defiance, but for someone to be bursting out in ecstasy? This was not on his "how to handle the reaction" checklist.
The reason for my exuberance? I am now freelance again. I go to a client not because some jerk in a swanky suit wishes to make a million from my blood, sweat and tears, and throw me a few scratchings, but because I am the man in the swanky suit, who called to see a potential client with a problem, discussed the technical issues and offered my time and expertise to dig them out of a very large hole. Oh yes I still have to get up in the morning and put myself through the wringer, but I do it because *I* chose to do it, *I* chose to offer to rescue someone from a situation not always of their own making, and when the job is done, *I* choose whether to offer to do the same again, for them or somone else, or whether to take the (large wad of) loot I get for the work, and spread some of it around licensed victuallers and ice cream salesmen in the coastal hideaways of this country for a week or six before picking up the cudgels to do battle anew.
And it has to be said the world is a particularly pleasant place this morning, and not just because as soon as I hit "submit" on this article I will be hitting the "submit" button on the invoice that will give me a wad that includes all of the chunk the bugger in a swanky suit who used to "employ" me would rip off me.
For the environment in which I am now working seems to have fallen out of the same time warp that Brigadoon exists in. Let me give you the benefit of a typical lunch break ...
I rise from my desk, let the client know I'm off for a wander into town for lunch and stroll out of the building. The area is a small industrial estate such as I used to work in during the summer holidays as a student. It is a mixture of warehouse distribution, car repair, and even the odd unit actually making stuff. This for a start arouses my suspicions, as no-one makes anything these days, do they ?
I take a walk down the industrial estate road in the sunshine, my face blasted by the heat that is reflected off the yellow cotswold stone buildings. I reflect on the fact that while some of these are no older than the stamps on the passports waved by those welcomed as the "enrichers" of our country by Tony Blair's New Labour traitors, some of these buildings have stood the test of time, for they are older than the American Dream !
I wander up a leafy lane that goes past several houses in the back of this most quintessential of English villages. To one side the (private, independent) school playing field is equipped for several sports, but alas seems bereft of the markings that suggest the ritual of leather upon willow. No matter.
At the end of the lane I come upon this :-
Believe it or not, there is a small plaque set in the steelwork of this bridge, about half way along it.
The plaque names the bridge after a much loved golden retriever who spent many a happy afternoon splashing in the (three to eight inch deep) water of the river that the bridge crosses.
And then after I stand and stare at the scene for a few minutes, I wander around the corner and come out at the market square which you can see in the picture at the top of this article.
And now a word about that. On one side of the street is an office, a large pub, a town hall, and beyond that a church and churchyard.
On the other side of the road is a shop, next to which is an accountant, next to that a fish and chip shop and then a butcher's which still displays in its window the brass weights the owner's grandfather used to assess the weight of the joint he had just cut for you. Next to that is a Co-Op and next to that a bakers. Up the road from that is a bank, an art gallery of some sort, a health studio and beyond that the houses start, interspersed with a few "shops with flats above"
The buildings are yellow cotswold stone and the street is aligned perfectly North-South (the romans knew what they were doing) so there is no respite from the mid-day sun.
But actually there is if you know where to look.
I pop into the Co-Op and collect 942 calories worth of Ploughman's Sandwiches, Pepparami and Orange Juice and wander up the street to the town hall where someone has thoughtfully put two park bench seats which thanks to the angle of the building offer some protection from the sun.
As I sit enjoying my lunch a number of people, men and women whose ages range from twenty years older than me to twenty years younger walk past and they all say hello. One or two stop to chat about the place, and things that are going on there. The fete, the concert on the green and of course the coming street party.
The people are pleasant, cheery and welcoming.
They are also ALL white. Yes that includes the staff in the corner shop. In four days I have seen only one brown face, and she was clearly a woman in her late thirties proud to appear to have adopted the fashions and customs of the western world.
Behind me, the church clock chimes the quarter to the hour. The bell tones are VERY reminiscent of Trumpton. Indeed, although this place has no fire station I can see, I begin to wonder if the crew they have are called Pugh, Pugh, Barney Mcgrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub.
And then, as the clock completes the chime, I hear overhead the unmistakeable thump, thump, thump of the rotor blades of a heavy duty military helicopter. As it passes overhead, there is an almighty roar from whence it came as a grey metallic ghost powered by the very fires of hell thunders overhead, not more than two hundred feet aloft, its wheels down and strobes rigged for landing.
Two minutes later, another similar plane roars past a thousand feet up a mile away to the right, and then the silence is pierced yet again as the unmistakeable form of an RAF VC-10 punches its way through the cloudless skies. The VC-10 is running very slowly and in an odd attitude, it must be on full flaps with its nose up slinging fuel out of its rear mounted engines like there were no tomorrow. And then I see and hear the two helicopters behind it forming the honour guard, their pilots pushing the cyclic to the limit and the collective biting at the wind like they were trying to outrun the winged messenger himself.
And then I realise what is going on.
That VC-10 is burning fuel like there is no tomorrow in honour of the cargo it is carrying. When they left on one of those starlifters, they were men. for what is brought home, there is no tomorrow.
I finish my lunch, bid the vicar who is standing by the church gate, his eyes cast upwards to the aerial procession, a good afternoon, and I make my way back to the office.
As I do, I notice the memorial plaque on the river bridge. I had not noticed it before. It says something about the English that they would name such a bridge after a well loved pet. I think it is wonderful that they do it. Certainly the "enrichers" would not, for has not their prophet declared such animals of the devil, vile and unclean? But then it hits me that the unbreathing passengers brought back to a corner of the country that remains quintessentially England, an area unstained by the tarnish those who murdered them have succeeded in bringing to the ghetttoes of this country thay have "enriched" have no such plaque.
Alas, the dream is punctured forever. I'm not sure what I will feel as I walk back up that path and over that bridge on Monday. But while a corner of this country remains as it was when I was born, there is still something worth fighting for.