PREGO, PREGO GEORGE by Harry McAvinchey


Is Prime Minister Cameron going to announce “No benefits for school leavers before they are twenty one”? Did I hear that right? I was sitting here wondering will this mizzly, misty  day  burn off and unveil a little late September sunshine. It’s been so unseasonalby warm and humid this past week or so and of course we’ve all gotten used to it .The weather is on everyone’s lips this week. I was worrying about George Clooney too .  You  have  to , haven’t you? George, the film star, director, social activist  and all round good -egg serial- romancer, is currently zipping up the watery canals of Venice  in a speedboat, trying to find his beautiful wife- to- be as the waves of the   paparazzi pack  are in danger of sinking assorted gondolas in their photographic haste. Gondoliers grumping away as the waves wash over the stern. Prego ! Prego! That dubious smelly water doesn’t  seem so romantic close-up  , does it George? Especially when there’s a bit of sunshine heating it up , eh? It brings up  the perfume of used jock-straps and rotting spuds, all right. I remember it well some thirty plus  years later…. It’s as bad as those farmers with their muck spreaders that have the washing-lines  humming….the infamy of it.

George is fifty-three now . How did that happen ? He’s only nine years younger than me and he now wants to get wed. I thought he was still a relatively young man. It just goes to show.You know the way these film stars are stuck in an ageless aspic. You don’t expect them to age like the rest of us. That beautiful, young, soon- to- be  wife of his could be finding the  milk in the oven and the teapot in the fridge any day soon.. It’ll not be long before George is fumbling with his change at the till and wishing he had a third hand. The rages of ageing ….and those senior moments….

Meanwhile, our own  Gregory Campbell is wrangling away on the morning “Nolan” radio show. Could we have your thoughts on these welfare reforms and benefit cuts, Gregory? Well, maybe …some time later on when we’ve all decided what to say at DUP Central. If we can all still agree to be in the same room…that is…..

So  Prime Minister Cameron wants our grown-up children to stay at home  a little longer until they can find jobs. So that we, parents,  can can support them even longer… That’s what it amounts to , I suppose. If there’s going to be no possibility of getting some rent from the dole , there are plenty who will not  be able to leave home and set up their first rathole flat , start learning to be grown-up adults and contributing their taxes . It’s a slow curve usually; learning to  budget and attend to your own affairs;learning to cook instead of waiting for takeaway food or mum and dad’s  home-cooking. The human child takes some eighteen years already to  educate it and  prepare it for an independent life and now the government wants to extend that to twenty-one year olds.

When I was eighteen , I coudn’t wait to move out of the family home. I had loving parents  but  I  knew intuitively  that I  needed to get away and begin feeling like an adult. More and more  the government now  seems to want that childhood to extend into our adult years. The fact that it is harder to find any kind of job or even get on the first rung of the property ladder unless mother and father are rich  enough to help out financially,  seems to have been willully  forgotten.A generation ago it was possible to walk in and out of casual jobs . They may have been manual jobs or menial jobs , if you prefer, but it was possible to knock on a door and actually ask for a job and get a direct answer there and then. All you had to do was turn up on Monday , start to work and if you could cut the mustard , you’d pick up a little brown wage packet on Friday afternoon. Simple , eh? It kept you going until something better came along and it made you feel independent.Generally you  could have a go at anything that came along to keep the wolf from the door. i worked in offices, building sites, factories, dye works, bottling plants, a cannery , warehouses, a cleaning company, shops showrooms, a call centre and even in the fields and gardens,  picking fruit and planting trees and flowers. There was  work out there if you were prepared to have a go and do it .I have to say it all added to my experience of life and gave me some  stories to tell. …as well as making me self-sufficient.

That was in  a time when there was plenty of work and a lot of it did not require a CV or a list of qualifications. We now have a generation of seemingly over-educated  children vying for those same “menial” jobs …when they can find them, but instead of simply knocking on the door and asking, the entrance requirements have been so inflated that it takes a university education to knock on the door . Does that mean that the jobs are any harder or that the employees are any more intelligent than they were a generation ago ? Somehow I don’t really think so  . Those supermarkets might look very bright, cheery  and glamorous but they are still only shops selling washing powder and sausages. Why would anyone ever need a degree to do that work ? Nowadays you don’t even have to count in your head or know how to spell. Computers do it all. You actually don’t even have to write a single line in your own hand anymore. Obviously  people are no more intelligent now ..and it could be argued that they are less intelligent…and a degree now is not the same as a degree was back then .

Of course these requirements mean that someone who hasn’t got the degree hasn’t a chance . The government is steadily steering them into a life of working for very little. A kind of indentured slavery , like the old Hiring Fairs of bygone days. They are going to be asked   to work as  if it is a charitable act   so that they can get basic  benefits. If they are asked to pick up litter for no wages , where does that place those workers who are already being paid to do these jobs?

I’m glad I don’t now have to worry about these choices anymore . Like Mr Clooney, my biggest  fear  in these later years,  will be remembering my name and my ATM numbers…. and did I put the cat in the fridge instead of out through the door…..

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