King of sweet nothing at all: Meet Mick. He's unemployed and a virtuoso at making time pass by, all day, every day. But he once thought things would look up. He tells Patrick Weir his story

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Mick hasn't worked for 12 years. 'I spend my days doing very little,' he says. 'Lying in bed kills around 12 hours, as does sitting down and staring at the back of my mother's head as she watches television. I don't actually believe there's anything wrong with being stationary for long periods of time.'

The last - and only - job Mick had was as a clerical officer with the Inland Revenue. For a bored 16- year-old school leaver, the novelty of earning a wage made another dull environment tolerable. But after six years of 'crushing tedium', he decided to take some time off before going to college to study fine art and design. However, unable to obtain a grant, he was suddenly faced with job-hunting along with 3 million others.

'I navely thought that I'd slip back into work,' he explains. 'But over the years I've been totally cleansed of the work ethic. There are 5 billion people on the planet, so why should I do anything? Is it really necessary?

'Initially I did look for work, but gradually I realised that I'd be paid a pittance and be answerable to an intellectual dwarf. I've met so many cretins in nylon shirts sitting behind desks.'

Which might explain the sabotaged interviews. 'British Telecom asked me why I thought fast and efficient communication between people was so important. I mentioned a quote from the Dalai Lama who, when asked what he thought of Amy Johnson's flight in so many hours from England to Australia, replied, 'What was her hurry?' They also wanted my opinion on their improved telecommunication links with Libya. I said they would come in handy if you wanted a chat with Colonel Gaddafi. Their reaction was a complete blank.

'Look, anyone who's been out of work for this length of time isn't going to be offered anything. A bloke at the DSS actually told me that I didn't have a hope in hell, that I was no longer equipped. He was a short, ugly creature enjoying the only power kick of his life.'

Does he ever look for work? 'I occasionally check the job supplement in the local paper, but that's about it.'

In order to receive unemployment benefit, claimants must sign a contract stipulating that they are actively seeking work. Arranged visits to the Jobcentre are also mandatory.

'It's a desperate measure by the Government aimed at filling in your time,' says Mick. 'But being shown how to lick stamps and pick up a telephone I've not found too useful. I've better things to do anyway.'

Such as? After all, we're talking 12 years here. 'I still manage to read, although my concentration span is almost shot. In fact, half the time I'm unable even to think. Once a fortnight I spend the day in the pub and drink until I drop with all the other grotesques. I receive pounds 44 a week and after I've contributed to the bills, I'm skint and don't go out again until the next cheque arrives.

'I also spend the odd hour or two continually walking up and down the stairs, counting each step. At the end of the day I'm exhausted. I've physically worked and sweated. I'm six stone overweight and pulling my brain and fat together isn't easy.'

What does his mother think of her 34-year-old son still living at home? 'My mother is divorced and when I came home after living away for two years, she appreciated the company. Now she despises me because I'm a sponger. Only the other day she said, 'I hope to God you die very quickly because I'm sick of you doing nothing.' Over the years this mutual antipathy has kept us going.

'Before she retired, I'd stay in bed until five o'clock. Waking up, I'd suddenly lurch into the bathroom, spray my face with water to make her think I'd been sweating, and pick up the Hoover as she walked through the door. Thankfully, I don't have to bother doing this any more.

'Not surprisingly, she thinks I'm a slob. She's certainly given up on the idea that I'll do anything with my life. In fact, I've lived with her for so long, she now regards me as a surrogate husband.'

Twelve years of inactivity must addle the brain. Is he losing his marbles yet? 'Quite possibly. For instance, I'm developing an obsessive compulsive disorder. I wash my socks repeatedly and spend hours stroking the cat. The time simply flies by.'

Maintaining this lifestyle depends on state benefit. Some people might think that Mick is an idle waster who has made a virtue out of his situation because he won't address it.

'I can't pretend I'm not a sponger. But I never dreamed that I'd become a long-term unemployed human being. I assumed things would look up.

'They haven't, of course, and yes, I've become cynical. I'm certainly not virtuous about the situation. It is as it is.'

Lack of cash used to be a problem. Now it's something Mick can dismiss. 'I never was very materialistic and have no wish to become a consumer again. I'm not interested in accumulating surplus and I wear the same clothes because they are all I've got. Yet by means unknown to me, I'm required to dress smartly for interviews. Because I can't afford an Armani suit, I'm seriously considering turning up in a barrel with shoulder pads for the next one. It will show initiative, if nothing else.'

Does he ever think that he is missing out, that there is more to life? 'Of course I do, but I'm reasonably content and enjoy the relaxation of not doing anything. Obviously my self-confidence has been affected as I've realised that certain things are beyond me. Marriage and children are out of the question. When a woman finds out that you can't afford a pair of underpants, she tends to lose interest. But my desires in most areas have faded anyway.

'Most of your relationships break down. When I first started out on the unemployment trek, people sympathised with me. After a few years I was pilloried. Relatives and certain friends don't want to know you as you're expected to change, to do something. Sod them.'

Does he ever give much thought to the future? 'Apart from observing my mother, who is slowly turning into an alien entity, I can't make plans and take each day as it comes. At some stage I anticipate putting my head in the oven. However, before I do that, I look forward to having a nice pair of plastic teeth which clack whenever I speak. Some noisy chompers would do very nicely.

'One thing I have resolved to do is to stop answering stupid questions. An interviewer recently asked me how I managed to spend so much time in bed. The answer was obvious. I just lie there.'

(Photograph omitted)

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