DJ Taylor: Jeremy Semple is adept at acquiring paid employment - he is equally good at throwing it over

 

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Last week Jeremy walked out of one of his jobs again. It was a moment of (relatively) high drama, which took place in the reception area of the small media production company where he had spent the past month working as an accounts assistant, in front of two startled secretaries, the managing director and a man who happened to be watering the pot-plants.

Jeremy enjoyed it very much. "Quite frankly," he yelled across the shag-pile carpet, "I'd sooner have my leg amputated than work here a day longer." The warm feeling produced by this confrontation lasted for several hours and he spent a very pleasant evening alone in his flat watching a couple of Mighty Boosh DVDs.

In his mid-thirties now, a sharp-faced, intense and rather diminutive man, occasionally given to talking to himself on his morning surge up the Tube station steps, Jeremy has been going through this ritual two or three times a year for the best part of a decade. If he is adept at acquiring paid employment – a not-unmanageable task when you have a Cambridge PhD and a testimonial signed by Richard Dawkins – he is equally good at throwing it over. In the past nine months alone he has said goodbye to a north London council's planning department, an eco-consultancy in Richmond and – one of his more exotic berths, this – the marketing department of a Premiership football club.

There is nothing in the least capricious about these instant departures and fallings-out, oh dear me no. Each, as represented by Jeremy, involves a fundamental point of moral or behavioural principle. The media company were out-and-out sharks, bent on swindling their suppliers. The council-planning department was horribly corrupt. As for the football job, which was supposed to have ended with his throwing a cup of coffee at the advertising manager, well, as Jeremy will not quite apologetically explain, he has never been able to suffer fools gladly…

It is impossible not to sympathise with Jeremy during one of these recitations, for his air is one of bewilderment – the well-meaning, friendly newcomer unexpectedly let down by venality, incompetence or ill will. On the other hand, it is a fact that no one on whom he walked out ever felt the slightest sorrow in seeing him go, and that the circumstances of his exit clearly afford him a psychological kick that would otherwise be missing from his low-key and somewhat circumscribed life.

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