To you, Bank Holidays may be a time for getting completely legless on Sunday night and feeling sick in jams on Egdon Heath. Not so for temps. Bank Holidays bring a sense of dread: not only are you going to miss a day's pay, but many businesses take the holiday as an excuse to throw in the towel for the entire week. You don't even get those "sorry, everyone's at a party" switchboard shifts that Christmas brings. A Bank Holiday means a month spent panicking about the rent.
But there's an extra reason that I dread the things, and that is that I get to spend time with flatmate Craig, and that means too much time with his self-pity.
Craig and Trish and I graduated in the same subject two years ago. Since then, none of us has landed the job of our dreams, but we've approached the problem from opposite angles. Craig signed on. Craig claims housing benefit and perfects his resentment while Trish and I type and file and sometimes have pounds 20 left over for fun after bills and travelcards; but neither of us would have it any other way.
Craig and I ended up having a huge row on Monday. I was reading a book and fretting about what work I would pick up when the agency reopened on Tuesday, when he heaved one of those boy-sighs: full from the chest with a surreptitious glance to see that I was attending.
"What's wrong?" "It's Carnival," he said. "It's raining," I said. "Mmm," he said gloomily. "Everyone else will be going." "Not me," I said. I would rather have my teeth drilled than spend four hours dodging flying Thunderbird bottles in Ladbroke Grove in the pouring rain only to have some jerk steal my moron chicken, or some moron steal my jerk chicken, whichever it is. "Why don't you go?" "No money." I fished out my purse. "I'll lend you some."
Craig snorted. "Don't be stupid. What would I pay you back with? You know I haven't got a job." This made me doubly grumpy: when you've got no money there's nothing like people resenting you for offering to lend them some. "Well, why don't you get one?" "I can't," said Craig. "You know how hard I try. There aren't any jobs. I send off my CV everywhere, all the time, and I never get a job. I sent out 18 last week." "Well, why don't you just try working while you're waiting?"
"It's all right for you," said Craig, slamming copies of the employment pages around. "Look!" he snarled, "Look at all these things I applied to last week! How many have even bothered to reply? None! That's how many!" "Well, me too. Why don't you try walking into an agency? We do it. You just make an appointment." Craig marched up to a mirror, glared at himself in it. "Why should I? I've got a degree! Why should I do stupid secretarial work when I've got a degree?" "Well, I do. So does Trish."
"Well, you're girls - " It slipped out. He looked embarrassed. The he tried to cover up. "I mean, you can type." "Learn, then." "Why?" "So you can get some work." "I've tried for work. I apply and apply and no-one ..."
And that was my Bank Holiday. A whole afternoon, covering the same ground. Trish came back from her parents to find us sitting in our bedrooms, sulking. On Tuesday morning, the phone went at nine. Maxine with the offer of two more days at the cancer hospital. I accepted, pulled on my respectable dress and left the house, slamming the door to make sure I woke my flatmate, who had sat up all night watching telly and was still firmly in the sack.