Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Resolution Way extract Graeme 1

It’s raining when he sets out to get the train to Margate. A very British rain, cold, relentless, sapping. It seems to have  been raining more or less continuously for the last six months and there has been flooding everywhere, the Thames getting dangerously high. Graeme puts his hood up, hood-rat! pats the pockets of his army coat, checking he has his keys, tobacco tin, the blue plastic oyster card holder he uses as a wallet, his Claimant Card.  

He buys a packet of rizlas in the Off Licence by Woolwich station, uses a tenner and then puts the change in a number of different pockets so when he walks it won’t jangle about and attract attention.  He didn’t use his Claimant Card for two reasons, first he doesn’t want to be building up debt on it. Second, he knows they track every purchase, every movement.

It feels strange to be out and about, going somewhere. He has hardly left the flat at all in the past three weeks, just nipping out to post records off or slogging round to the retail park to get Value pasta and beans from his Designated Retail Point, Charlton Asda. Three whole, glorious weeks with no Giveback that have let him concentrate  on making some money on the side. 

Shop a skiver! the rain stippled  poster on Woolwich station tells him,  a photo of  a swarthy man taking cash from a disembodied hand in the dimly lit kitchen of some local cafe, and he feels a distant jolt of panic. He’s sure he won’t get caught, that he has  covered his tracks but you never know, they are cracking down. Now when he gets emails or texts or letters from the I.W.P. he just ignores them, unless it’s Giveback dates, better not miss that or, he involuntarily draws his thumb across his throat makes a quiet squelching sound out of the corner of  his mouth, staring out of the waiting room window at a pigeon.  The pigeon tilts its head in his direction questioningly. He chuckles. Nah, not you mate. You are all right. Fucking pigeons. That’s the life.

Or foxes. There are a couple of foxes live in the Railway siding round the back of his flat, make a horrible  noise at night sometimes and when he can’t sleep he looks out of the window, sees them standing on the roof of the lock-ups across on the other side of the road, jaws hanging open, tongues lolling out, the noise like a cross between a baby screaming and an android dying. Android. He checks his phone. Nothing. Fiddles with it, power’s all right, I’ve got the power! Serious as Cancer!  He smiles to himself.  

His online piece-work has topped up his housing benefit and his record trading has turned a small profit so he can keep his broadband connection. If that gets cut off he is fucked, as fucked as if they cut off his water. A stab of fear gets in at him, in under his ribs out of nowhere. Dark forces. If he gets cut off now, now that the local library has closed, now the nearest one, down in Greenwich has started charging for internet access and there's like thirty people waiting for their thirty minute  slot by 8:30 in the morning then he‘ll have to start using internet cafes at a quid an hour and almost certainly lose the Cloudsource click-through and O-desk (93 percent positive rating for username GreyHamAdmin) bits of filing and  sorting work that’ve been keeping his head above water for a start.  

It’d knock him out of the loop for his record trading too, which is getting savage these days. In fact, using cafes would leave him out of pocket even just for his mandatory 30 hours of online Jobseek courses, searches and applications. He knows bros who have  found some  way of  free-riding on  other peoples' wireless signals and who are using routers and  mesh systems to pirate bandwidth out of the ether and keep people hooked up for free, and last time he saw Charlie from The Gladstones he promised to let him know the who, how, and when it was going to be accessible round Graeme’s area, but who knew when he was  going to bump into Charlie  again, especially now  he  wasn’t working in the record shop any more.

So, so. If he can just get his hands on something really rare he’ll be able to hold off disaster a little longer. But disaster is coming, isn’t it? Extinction Level Event. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. He can feel it in the  air, everyone  can. Dark forces marshalling, some obscure and final reckoning lurching up over the horizon.

His niche is Drum and Bass, though of course he listens to everything, everything except metal. Can’t stand metal. When he  worked down at the Record and Video exchange in Greenwich he hated working with Chris because all day it was death metal, crust, sludge, doom, hardcore, black metal, technical crust, whatever or maybe Gaba, if they were lucky. Plus he had this kind of attitude that anyone who wasn’t into it somehow didn’t get music and took the piss out of everything else for being too lightweight. Maybe that was one of the reasons he left, he stopped getting on with the  other guys, who had all been to Uni and used to take the piss a bit too much, past the point where it was funny. 

So he left to become a Psychiatric nurse but that meant studying and essay writing and  he wasn’t used to it so he freaked out a bit, jacked it in, couldn’t get his old job back and was embarrassed to keep asking anyway. So for nearly two years now, isn’t it, fucking hell, two  years, where has that gone, he has been Claiming.

Still, it's all probably for the best, he has developed a good relationship with a couple of big collectors in the States and he knows that vinyl, white labels, test pressings, Japanese editions, coloured vinyl, whatever, is played out. The market has shifted, the vinyl side of stuff still goes but it’s finished in terms of  anything new or any chance of prices going up, now the line between music and  memorabilia, even just junk, even just crap, has been blurred, more than blurred. At the moment whenever he looks at the collectors wants’ list on SoundHound he sees that cassettes of music taped directly off the radio are  changing hands for silly money, compilations some sixteen year old kid made in 1985 listening to John Peel on his portable radio with all the interference and the sound fading in and out, sometimes even the sound of the stop and record buttons getting pressed, bits of DJ banter, noises of people chatting in the room where it is being recorded, hand-written tracklists on the insert cards, some with photocopied bits of paper stuck over them. All that stuff.

That is a huge market but difficult to get access to, someone has opened a site, home taping is still killing music, trying to get people to send him cassettes so he can act as  a middleman and  forward them on to collectors he knows, but a lot of the people who have the stuff don't seem to be interested or  don't know about the site. There is an age gap problem, anyone  old  enough to have taped things off the radio is too busy fulfilling their family and work obligations to pay attention to stuff like that on the internet. Sooner or later though the site was going to to get  mentioned in the papers or  a magazine and then the guy who runs it is  going to make plenty of dough, there is  a goldmine  of stuff just sitting out there still waiting to be claimed. Claimant alert! He is  hoping his  brother will give  him his old cassettes he  taped off Klik FM back in the day and on the way  back up from Ramsgate he is going to call in at Maidenhead to see him and Roz, have a cup of tea, try  and get them off him. They’ll split the money of course.

Yeah, this weekend could be the big one in every sense. Shame about the weather, still  it might clear up.  Yeah he owes his brother one  for this, for  putting him in touch with Skillz. His brother knows  everything about the scene, man, everything and everyone. He used to cane it back in the day, going out to dances when he was 16 coming home fucked and their Dad going mental at him. He’s calmed down  though, since he met Roz, since they had Farrah, now he’s got his own business.

That’s what Graeme  needs to do, that’s the way out. He should have  done s something like that Home taping site. He has tried to pick up tips off his  E-ntrpreneur  (pron: eentrepreneur) courses on Jobseek.com, like running a just-in-time inventory but this is almost impossible, when he  finds a bargain he has to buy it there and then and so his bedsit is filling up with records he has no chance of selling though he tries to keep a tally of what he's  bought, how much he’s paid,  what has been  sold and  at how much, a running total of profit and loss. Of course he’s  better at sorting all this out when he  isn’t on a Giveback Scheme, twenty five hours a week of painting railings and sweeping up leaves dressed in the regulation Giveback Team blue-grey boilersuit. He has the idea  that if he  could just get his  act together in terms of the  accounting  then he  could  sign off, run himself  as a small company, that way he can get out of all the hassles and running around of being a tier-three job-seeker.

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