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Fish Pies and Saturday Lie-Ins
“You are so lucky.”
My two best friends. One adjusting her newly acquired name badge, flattening her wayward fringe and zipping on her work fleece; the other, still wedged half-in, half-out of a sleeping bag, blinking in the misty daylight, seemingly too dazed for conversation.
“I’m not lucky! It’s 8am. I have to be at work in ten minutes. And I got all of two hours sleep last night.”
She flicks a stray piece of popcorn from her bag as she gets up to go. Her fringe is not behaving. As the front door opens, the cold worms its way in and wraps itself around the contours of the hallway. My sleeping-bag encrusted best friend shivers and mumbles her goodbyes. My working-girl best friend rolls her eyes and sets off into the early morning frost to earn her first pay package.
In the harsh reality of the morning after a sleepless sleepover the prospect of work is undoubtedly not a ray of sunshine on anyone’s horizon, but no matter how much we two unemployeds enjoyed our lie-ins, our best friend enjoyed her shopping trips a lot more than us, and would probably enjoy university a lot more. She could also rest safe in the knowledge that, if she ever did stumble across The Most Perfect Pair Of Shoes In The Whole World whilst out on a wander, she would be able to snap them up before anyone else could even look twice.
Not only did her honourable sacrifice of Saturday morning lie-ins pay for her footwear fetishes and higher education, but it gave her a status. “Paying her way,” is how my Mother eloquently put it. “She’s paying her way. Learning the value of money. Entering the world of employment. It’ll do her the world of good!”
Which is perhaps a little hard to believe, given it was only a Saturday job in a local supermarket that paid a pittance and, as a lawyer-to-be, she could hardly use an expansive knowledge of frozen fish pies to her advantage when it came to Law School (although I suppose you never know).
But my Mum was right. Even I, as dismissive of adult clichés as next seventeen-year-old, could admit to a change in my best friend. Her confidence grew. When there was a mild confusion at the swimming pool involving rogue four-year-olds, punctured rubber rings and a stunned lifeguard, the complaints department got a well-mannered, tactful telephone call and not a murmured insult on exit. She knew how to deal with people, and she took initiative. The girl who used to shy away from getting a bus on her own was organising our days out for us. She gave bewildered-looking tourists, laden with their â€˜I LOVE LDN’ t-shirts and bumbags and cameras, friendly directions, rather than walking in the opposite direction and muttering about £1 maps.
It’s really quite astonishing what an expansive knowledge of fish pies can do for you.
Months after our sleepover and my best friend’s first day at work, I found myself in the supermarket where she worked, pinning on my very own newly-acquired name badge, and trailing the aisles to replenish the shelves with much-needed goods. After months of going in and out of every single shop in a fifty-mile radius handing in CV’s and Please-Hire-Me smiles, I’d finally got myself a job. It may have been 9am on a Saturday morning, and I could have been wrapped up in bed at home with some early morning telly, but I was raring to go. In a world where people struggle to pay bills, or can’t afford food, I felt exceedingly grateful to have the opportunity to make some sort of go at making my own money. Even in a silly red hat.
A few months later, my second best friend, still as unemployed as ever, rang me up on my lunch break.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m still in bed. I just watched an old episode of Scooby Doo, and apparently it’s America’s Next Top Model next, but I might watch The Notebook instead. Because, you know, I’ve watched Cycle 9 like a thousand times. Where are you?”
I was crammed in between a vending machine that was on humming overdrive and a recycling bin that had apparently not been emptied in at least a year. I yearned for her lazy morning.
“You’re so lucky,” she sighed.
And right then, I didn’t feel it.
But I am. And even though the early risings are a mild annoyance, and the customers moan, and there’s the whole silly red hat thing (seriously. Not a good look), I appreciate my job.
I am lucky.