My Week: I've found a whole new world of phlegm: Switching his brand of cigs is just one more novelty of life on the dole for Thomas Ho

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The Independent Online
MONDAY: I surface at the crack of 11. We get Kiss FM down in Plumpton, though I'm sure we're not supposed to. They're playing my friend Charlie's new single. I'm pig- jealous and pleased as punch. A cup of tea will sort matters out. On the kitchen floor there's a Giro and a dead vole; one from the Department of Employment, one from that fat cat Flora. What's the difference between a Giro and a dead vole? You can survive for two weeks on a dead vole. I scan the Guardian for those jobs you never get. My mum breezes in to tell me she's been up for three hours and have I washed her car? I'm 26. It's a crisp sunshiny day in mid-Sussex, and I'm out for a run. No one spits quite like me on a four-miler. It's a whole new world of phlegm since I switched to Lucky Strike. I think about the woman I love and Saturday's big game: a top-of-the-table clash with Brentwood. I wish I lived in Soho.

Tuesday: There's no time for tea this morning. I am up at 7.30 and off to Brighton to see my dad in action for the first time. I'm scrubbed up and gowned, ready for the eight o'clock kick-off. Bang on eight, they wheel the 'punter' in. He's 69. I bask in my youth. Dad wades in like he's dishing up trifle. My mum assists, which involves levering open the incision and swabbing lakes of blood. I am staggered at how brutal a hip replacement gets; it's like a cross between all-in wrestling and O-level woodwork. He hammers the prosthesis into the shaft of the hip bone and a plume of marrow squirts on to my gown. The banter is straight out of MASH Two hours fly by and he's closing up. No old-style stitches: they use a staple gun. No one in Brighton has Charlie's record, so I order it from three shops.

Wednesday: I'm bashing away at applications this morning. There are lies, damned lies and curriculum vitaes. Then I do some cold calling. My telephone manner is lamentable, which I see as a sign of integrity. If I was a sweet talker on the blower, I'd be working for Lynne Franks PR. By lunchtime I'm still on the dole. I've just passed my driving test; it's changed my life. I drive to Haywards Heath for some supper shopping at the new Sainsbury superstore. You can't get Lucky Strike in Haywards Heath. I cook a passable liver and onions.

Thursday: I'm painting the garage when a call comes in from a friend who works for a market research company in Putney. Do I want to do a day compiling stats and talking French on the phone? I pack my bag: underwear, football kit and a pair of party trousers. My dad's on his way somewhere, so I get a lift to the station. We stop at the village post office to cash the Giro. The man eyes the Jag as he hands over the pounds 82.50. How I love the anonymity of village life. I take my train to Victoria and head off to my brother's in Notting Hill. The woman I love has gone out to dinner with an employed person. You can get Lucky Strike all over the place.

Friday: The last time I did a day's work, I was picking apricots in Switzerland. I was better paid and it was tax free, but losers can't be choosers. They've all got that Friday feeling in the office. I've got that new-boy feeling and my first call to France goes badly: Monique talks back at me in immaculate English. As the day disappears, I am surprised how euphoric I feel. The Giro money is burning holes in my party trousers and celebration raving is definitely on the agenda. I abandon my pre-match resolutions and spend an ecstatic evening at Bob's Full House in a large shed behind King's Cross station. They play Charlie's record and I dance like a fruit cake.

Saturday: Brentwood fail to turn up at our home pitch in deepest Surrey. However, Cholmleians appear instead. They are bottom of the division. My George Best-style Friday night backfires dramatically, and for the first half I play more like George Michael. I'm steadier in the second, but by this stage we've contrived to go 1-0 down. We lose. We are gutted. We return to London for baths and beers. The woman I used to love thinks it's hilarious.

Sunday: I may never walk again, but I do know a good doctor. For a change I read the Sundays and watch an absurd amount of sport on telly. I envy the people who envy me not having to go to work on Monday.

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