Sorry We Missed You, Ma’am

Yesterday I finally caught up with Ken Loach’s latest film, ‘Sorry We Missed You,’ the story of the grinding down of a family by a heartless system. Ricky Turner is fully signed-up to the work ethic, has never claimed the dole and has done a variety of manual jobs; he is clearly prepared to work hard so he and his family can have a home of their own rather than living in scrappy rented accommodation. At first the job sounds great; being your own boss, working when you want, delivering parcels with the opportunity to earn upwards of a thousand pounds a week. But the down-side doesn’t take long to emerge – and it keeps emerging. Theoretically self-employed, the drivers have to either supply their own vans or hire one from the company at an exorbitant daily cost. Not only that but if they take a day off (for no matter what reason) they are responsible for finding a relief driver. That’s just day one – and it keeps ramping up from there.

At first Ricky sucks it up and works hard, tramping up and down the stairwells of flats with broken lifts, braving dogs to deposit parcels in sheds and having to fight customers to present the ID they are legally obliged to show before handing over valuable items. At the bottom of all this is the fear that if anything goes wrong, the driver is held responsible. If the parcel is not delivered, if it’s lost, if it’s broken, if they can’t find anyone to take it – they’re responsible. Not only that but they are tracked every second of their day and have no time for breaks; before Ricky sets off for his first journey a colleague tosses him a plastic bottle. ‘No thanks,’ he says, ‘I’ve got me own.’

It’s not fer drinkin’, says the other, ‘it’s fer pissin’ in. Yer don’t have time ter stop.’

The remorseless wheels continue to grind Ricky and his family into the dust. His son is arrested for shoplifting and he has to take time off to go down to the police station; his wife spends so much time rushing between care jobs that she has no time to look after her own children and the family almost implodes under the pressure but their love for each other stands in stark contrast to the inhumanity of the system. But life just keeps grinding them down and one day, having a pee in his bottle, Ricky gets beaten up and his digital pad smashed. While waiting to be seen at the hospital he learns that he will be fined £1000 for the ‘loss’ of his gadget. Next day, still not having been seen by a doctor (there was a 3-hour wait) he drives off to another day at work, nearly crashes the van, keeps driving. Tears run down his face. King Lear was not more tragic. This miserable abuse is happening now and it needs to stop.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is ‘The Crown,’ (or if you want to pronounce it prawperly, the Crine) an excellent new series starring Olivia Coleman as her maj. If you haven’t heard about this I can only assume you’ve been living at the bottom of the sea for the last month or so because it’s been trailed and reviewed to within an inch of its life.

First there’s the terrific casting: apart from the excellent Coleman Helena Bonham-Carter plays Princess Margaret wonderfully, Jason Watkins is Harold Wilson to the life, Tobias Menzies is terrific as Prince Philip, there’s a surprise appearance by Jane Lapotaire as Philip’s eccentric Greek mother and you’d swear Erin Doherty actually was Princess Anne. Then there’s the pace: some people have complained that The Crown is too slow but I find it perfect. Modern drama is like fast food, gone before you know it and digested so quickly that before you’ve gone to bed you’ve already forgotten what it was you ate, but The Crown stays with you like a long, slow meal; you dine on it and then sit back with a smile to digest.

And then there’s the nostalgia; I remember just about everything from this series, from Wilson’s premiership (and most of his cabinet) to the Aberfan disaster and, this week, the groundbreaking royal documentary which failed to convince the British public and press that the Royals were good value for money and should, as Philip suggested, be given a pay rise.

So I’d recommend both. Watch them in any order and see what an unequal society we live in.

Kirk out

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay?

Some mornings I have to work really hard to keep my blood-pressure level, and this morning a number of factors were conspiring to push it through the roof.

For starters, there was an offensive photograph on Facebook (I’m not going to show it) which had the ‘n’ word in it and clearly implied that black people are thieves.  A straight up-and-down contravention of the rules, surely?  I reported it in the expectation that they would ban the thing straight away – turns out they’re not going to.  So now I’m contacting all my friends to ask them to seek a ban too.  Then there was the 41-year-old man given a suspended sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl: a girl whom the judge described as ‘predatory’.  The words ‘reality check’ were already surfacing in my mind as I heard that apparently the girl ‘looked older’.  For God’s sake!  If you’re a 41-year-old man you should be dating women in their 30’s – or at the youngest, in their 20’s.  If you think it’s appropriate to have sex with a girl who possibly looks 16 then you most definitely need a reality check.  How is that OK?

But what got me going the most this morning was the topic of zero-hours contracts and some prat in the Times writing to say that as a freelance journalist he also has a ‘zero-hours contract’ because he only gets paid as and when they need him to write.  Now, I would like to ask this guy the following questions:

1.  Is this job your only source of income?

2.  Do you only get paid the minimum wage?

3.  Do you have to sit down at your desk at a particular time set by your employer and work a set number of hours dictated by them?

4.  Do you have to take work when it’s offered or lose that employment?

5.  – and, most importantly, was this job forced on you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of those questions then OK, you can compare your work to a zero-hours contract.  But if, as I suspect, you can’t, then it’s you who needs the reality check.  Zero hours contracts are not freelancing – they’re an imposition on employees which means they are often not available to take paid work as they are at the beck and call of the employer; they have no control over their working lives and, worst of all, they have to sign off the dole.

Sorry I can’t find the article but it was quoted on ‘Today’ at around 8-ish.

On the other hand, what I have is not so much a zero-hours as a zero-pay contract.  I work a 40-hour week most weeks and I only get paid – if at all – for a tiny fraction of them.  So what keeps me going?  Basically, three things:

1.  My work gives me enormous satisfaction

2.  I will make a living at it one day soon

and most importantly,

3.  I chose this line of work.

So finally…

Yes, it’s a bit of a rant this morning – and the last thing that got my blood pressure climbing was the continual use of the word ‘so’ when people answer questions.  The interviewer will ask a penetrating question on Today and the guest will say:

‘So we put in place certain measures…’


‘So the government is working hard to contain this…’


‘So the recent guidelines are having a good effect…’

The use of the word ‘so’ in that context suggests a follow-on; a continuation of a train of thought which was merely interrupted by the question and is not a response to it.  It’s rude, frankly.

So stop it!

And don’t even get me started on Nigel Farage defending his MP for calling Africa ‘Bongo-bongo Land’.  The man is a buffoon.–Leaked-recording-UKIP-MEPs-racist-outburst.html

Perhaps I should join a complaints choir:

Still haven’t heard from Arriva about the bloody buses…

So Kirk out