We Don't Know What Work Is – Until We Lose It

Last autumn most of my friends’ lives looked as if they might be recession-proof. I don’t know many people who work in the City, or for wobbly high street chains, and although house prices were dropping and everything was getting a bit stressful, I wasn’t personally acquainted with more than two people who’d actually lost their jobs or seemed at risk. They were feeling poorer, yes, booking holidays in Britain, going out less, not buying new clothes, buying cheaper food at cheaper supermarkets, even thinking about taking their children out of private school (although one friend who informed the headmistress of her intentions was quickly whisked aside and offered a 50% reduction in fees, applicable immediately). But they weren’t sitting in mortal fear of unemployment.

Fast forward six months and everyone’s dropping like flies. The only people who I know are doing well are my hairdressers since, apparently, people in search of cheering up the hard times with a non-grey root or a blowdry no longer travel to West End salons but walk to their local one.

Everyone else has either been sacked or feels as if they’re about to be, has had their hours reduced or had to do the sacking themselves, like my former husband, who wandered around grey-faced for a fortnight. He’d been told a) that he needed to lose members of his staff whom he liked and valued and b) that employment law meant the process would be lengthy and protracted, which does no one any kindnesses. If you’re going to have your head chopped off, you want a clean blow, not daily sawing with insincere reassurances about how you could maybe get together and chat about wedging the head back on.

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