The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell read by Richard Green

A gentle voice with exacting intelligence  mourns England, its living unemployed and its generation of  tall, dead men:

 

Where are the monstrous men with chests like barrels and moustaches like the wings of eagles who strode across my childhood’s gaze twenty or thirty years ago? Buried, I suppose, in the Flanders mud. In their place there are these pale-faced boys .. If the English physique has declined, this is no doubt partly due to the fact that the Great War carefully selected the million best men in England and slaughtered them, largely before they had had time to breed. (p. 98)

But this entire work is a critique that might well have been directed at America, at today’s America, at its unhealthy way of living, its’cheap substitutes for everything’, its ‘tinned food’ which is a ‘deadlier weapon than the machine gun’, its wastage, its UNEMPLOYMENT.

“It is usually impossible to buy wholemeal bread in a working-class district.” .. the working class palate now rejects good food almost automatically. The number of people who prefer tinned peas and tinned fish to real peas and real fish must be increasing every year, and plenty of people who could afford real milk in their tea would much sooner have gtinnerd milk, even that dreadful tinned milk which is made of sugar and cornflour and has UNFIT FOR BABIES on the tin in huge letters.

 

 

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook read by Kimberly Dakin

Fiction that doubles as a helpful manual for out of work women, full of unemployment management tips and personality re-development exercises. Noreen, for example, is asked to say something about herself without reference to her job. She cannot. She can, however, use the fancy sneakers which she purchased at an ex-employee discount to find herself. Noreen is a very sensible girl, so it is not surprising that she spends the next month walking.

First she walks by herself. Then she meets up with a neighbor, and then with another neighbor. Each day, they walk and talk and learn about and from each other. Each day they count their steps.

The Wildwater Walking Club thus embarks upon a curious sort of benchmarking, with the footstep of an 8 1/2 inch sneaker as the only unit of measure. At the end of the month, they add up their miles and ‘trade them in’ for a trip to the Lavender Festival.

Agatha Christie The Hollow read by Hugh Fraser

Have a bit of Christie as social chronicler, as drawing room critic of a leisure class which presents itself as a platform of unemployment. It is 1946 and the Angkatells are gathered togethered, after the murder. Lucy, the mistress of cognitive deviations, Henrietta, clever, independent and detached, Midge, dark, square shaped, and poor, David, a spoiled, sour intellectual, and Edward, the reluctant, bony, undeserving heir.

It is quite obvious that the notion of work is odd, uncertain, and turning: the way milk turns. “Is the woman sympathetic and pleasant to work for?,” Edward asks Midge. “If you must have a job you must take one where the surroundings are harmonious and where you like the people you are working with.”

But how does one explain the notion of work to an heir?

How to explain to a person like Edward… What did Edward know of the labour market, of jobs, They were all divided from her by an impassible gulf: the gulf that separates the leisured from the working. They had no conception of the difficulties of getting a job. And once you had got it, of keeping it… She had found a job for herself at 4 pounds a week… Midge had no particular illusions about working. She disliked the shop. She disliked Madame Alfredge. She disliked the eternal subservience to ill tempered and impolite customers. She doubted very much whether she could obtain any other job….

A 17 year old shop girl, circa 1946 or 2010?

Discontent does not stop at the door of the dress shop. Oxford is overgrown with it; circulates it, exports it.

“I must have a talk with you David and learn all about the new ideas. As far as I can see one must hate everybody but at the same time give free medical attention and a lot of extra education… Poor things all those helpless little children herded into schoolhouses everyday….