Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 2

A continuation of Grovel Greg, Grovel - Greg moves to London.

It is 1976. Greg is a shy and naive 19 year-old, who has decided to take his chances in the big city.

He must pitch his wits against racism, unemployment, and people who want to take advantage of his inexperience.

But things don’t go well, and by the Autumn, he has disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Or has he?

In Part 2 Greg moves to London, and takes-up residence in the strange lodging house, "Turbot".

Part 3 is set in the present day, as his sister sets out to discover what really happened.

One chapter will be published on Movellas each day, until the story reaches its gripping conclusion.


7. Greg Gets the Sack

Madge is delighted to see that Greg has brought a typewriter. She knows it is something he has always wanted. Before going to school, she reads his typed letter eagerly- he has not written to her for quite a while. She soaks-up its every detail. He has made quite a few spelling mistakes, which is unusual for Greg, but she puts this down to  her brother's excitement at getting a new typewriter. She makes plans to visit London, to meet him at the time and place stated in the letter.

Meanwhile Greg gets ready to go to work. It had been a bizarre weekend, marked by triumph and disaster in almost equal measures. But as Sunday had progessed, he had gone some distance towards coming to terms with impending eviction. Alcohol had helped. He had hit the Britannia, a grubby Victorian local, at the stroke of lunch-time opening, and not left until the very last order of the lunch time session. And he had gone there on his own. There had been no sign of Zepp, or Bollocky, or Olly. Anyway, Zepp and Bollocky were light-weights, scarcely worthy companions for a lunch time binge. Olly was the only one who could keep pace with Greg, but Greg had grown weary of standing his rounds. So Greg had gone to the pub on his own. He had sat in the tiny beer garden with a paper and a sucession of pints, absorbing the sun's rays. Inevitably, he had become extremely pie-eyed, and by tea time on Sunday had developped a cracking hangover. Even by Monday morning, he was still noticing its effects.

            But some time during Sunday afternoon, as he teetered between drunkenness and a hangover, he had vaguely recalled seeing Olly earlier that weekend. This thought comes back to him as he walks towards Mark Loan this morning. Yes- it was on the way to Leomi's place, that was it. He had seen Olly talking to that black guy, the spiv. How did Olly know The Spiv? And what were they doing? It looked like Olly was giving something to The Spiv. It had looked furtive. Had Olly seen him, Greg wonders?

As soon as Greg has reached his desk at Mark Loan, he is summonsed to Mr Markarian's office.

            "Greg," says Mr Markarian, "we are going to have to let you go." Greg, who is still young enough to be naive in certain matters, takes a while to digest this phrase. 'Letting you go', he eventually realises, is a euphemism for terminating his employment. Greg is shocked. Eventually he manages to say:


            "There has been an economic downturn," Mr Markarian says, with uncharacteristic smugness that reminds him a little of Mr Zabbath. "Of course, we will pay you to the end of the week, but you can leave today. Now, actually."

            Greg, struggling to hold back tears, tells Nadia that he has been sacked.  But Nadia looks through Greg, and focuses her gaze on some imaginary point on a distant horizon. She says nothing. He must be invisible. That look on Nadia's face, at that moment- the ghastly look of non-recognition, was something that would stick with Greg for the rest of his life.

There was what felt like an eerie calm around Turbot, when Greg had returned there at the unusual time of 10 am that Monday morning. Actually, this is what Turbot always felt like during a weekday morning, when all its inhabitants were out. It was something that Greg would become used to over the next few weeks, as he started his new role as an unemployed person. And of course, the more used to it he became, the less eerie it felt.

            During the day, Zepp is at college, learning Business, while Bollocky grafts-away at some dull job or other or whatever it is that he does when he is out of the house. Greg catches the occasional glimpse of Olly, doing his deals as he goes about whatever business it is that he does. Greg has never asked Olly what it is that he does for a living, and now that they are scarcely on speaking terms, Greg guesses that he will never find out.

            Greg has been to the agency- the one that had found him the job at Mark Loan- but it had no work for him. They told him not to bother coming back, as they would not be able to get him another job because he did not have a good reference. Greg is surprised by this, as he had always worked very hard at Mark Loan. He has tried the Labour Exchange, but there are no jobs there that he can do. Either that, or the jobs are utterly boring or badly paid- probably both. Accordingly, Greg learns to have sympathy with the "Can't Be Arsed Brigade”, ‘can’t be arsed’ being a phrase he often hears in the signing-on queue at the dole office. Greg has even seen Olly at the dole office, but whenever Greg ventures to speak to him, he disappears.        

            One thing that Greg has discovered during the process of claiming benefits is that Mr Markarian had not been paying Greg's national insurance contribution. As a result, Greg's dole money soon drops from the 'Unemployment Benefit' rate to the 'Supplementary Benefit' rate, which is 20 pee per week less.

            Greg has also discovered the Claimants' Union at King's Cross. The people there have been very helpful in helping Greg's to avoid eviction. They have written to Mr Zabbath, saying that he cannot evict Greg unless he takes him to court, and the court would need to see a rent book and other documents showing things have been dealt with according to statute. Mr Zabbath has not issued any such documents (although the  Claimants' Union has helped Greg fabricate versions of the absent documents so that Greg can get his rent money from the dole. The worker at the Claimants' Union even thought it amusing that Mr Zabbath had tried to evict Greg in such an amateur way).

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