This is the week that is

Cuts? Cuts? Ohmigod, not the CAKE!

And so begins the last week of work. Not mine, but an awful lot of people. I’m sure this is the last week of work for many of the 3-500,000 who wrecked their thighs walking at an unnaturally slow shuffle through London on Saturday – enjoying their last proper weekend by giving the Coalition the referendum they never asked for.

Of course, most of the weekend’s protesters probably still have their jobs – those who aren’t retired, that is. But some, like me, will be fighting to cling to temporary contracts in organisations where the simple need to get the work done is no longer a good enough justification for keeping someone on. Some will have taken reduced hours or massive pay cuts to keep in work. Some will have revised their ambitions from – well – ambition, downwards to where just keeping a roof over their heads is a major success.

The “squeezed middle,” according to our fearless (because too foolish to perceive disaster) leaders, begins well below the average income. In fact, if I remember correctly, it begins at something like £13,000 a year, an amount I can’t imagine having to try to live on. (Though I have in the past been paid so little I worried about accepting an invitation to a picnic.) And now the safety nets, the housing and other benefits that helped people survive on less than it costs to survive, are going to disappear. To say nothing of the NHS.

Well, anyway, this is the start of the final week of work for about 70 of my colleagues, as well as many others in other places. Everyone is being quite plucky, and some are even maintaining a very impressive appearance of actual cheerfulness. I shall be arriving at work with three bags of sweets, and the coconut macaroons one of the team loves, to see us through, and I have no doubt that others will do the same. It has been remarked already that the whole organisation has been awash in cake since the announcement in January, and I believe one of our number has committed to one of her huge, exciting blueberry cakes on Thursday. (Hmm… I think I will propose that we all bring something in, and have a Let Them Eat Cake Day – it feels more cheerful somehow than a Last Lunch, though we’ll probably have that, too. Call it lining our stomachs.)

In the meantime, we’ve got tons of actual stuff going on too, so it would have been a very busy week even without all this current affairs happening.

Then on Friday, after the massive leaving drinks, the survivors will stumble bleary-eyed into a half-empty office, and no doubt begin rifling through our colleagues’ abandoned desks, looting spare Sellotape, the good staplers and any folders that are actually A4 instead of foolscap. It will be like The Bed Sitting Room, only without the man on the bike. I remarked to a colleague recently that April 1st was going to be strange, and he said, “Not just strange for us – strange everywhere!” He’s right, of course. It’s going to be odd in the neighbourhoods, where people may be milling around a little bit dazed (and possibly hungover from the leaving drinks), having never seen the place on a weekday lunchtime before. You may notice them, if you’re in a neighbourhood scenario yourself during the day; some may even still be wearing suits.

Your correspondent here is pretty safe till June (though with a rent increase notice that takes me rent up to more than half my take-home pay). But between now and then there is going to be absolute masses of work to do (and even more retrenching; I have a feeling that not only handbags but also blueberries and sweets will be well off the agenda).

You know what this is, it’s democracy in action. It’s the Zeitgeist (or, as my brother helpfully points out, the spirit of the times). Just like when the people used to collect for the miners outside the supermarkets and everybody used to give them tinned ratatouille, thinking it might make a  nice change for them. We were HERE. We marched on London and didn’t even get a Fortnum’s hamper to show for it, and this will be one of those defining moments. Now where’s my cake slice?

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