What I Hated the Least Today 129/365: Not Not While the Giro

A giro recipient contemplates life (the plastic bottle surely contains vodka)
A giro recipient contemplates life (the plastic bottle surely contains vodka)

*The following is mildly depressing and largely confused.*

This post takes its title from James Kelman’s early collection of short stories, Not Not While the Giro (1983). These were published a decade before Kelman established himself as the chronicler of working-class Glasgow and was launched to fame by winning, with much controversy, the Booker Prize for his novel How Late It Was, How Late (1994).

My reading knowledge of Scots working-class literary dialect is based on guessing—there’s not really a dictionary for the language of the likes of James Kelman, Irvine Welsh and others—hence I never bothered to look up the meaning of giro and assumed that it was social security money. It is for sure in Kelman’s world, but today I discovered that GIRO stands for General Interbank Recurring Order, a phrase that made me dizzy until I realised that it’s what my language calls SIPO. I will not undertake the extreme effort of trying to back-translate this region-specific abbreviation into English.

I never benefited much from the social security support system because I had the good luck of never being drastically poor, just average poor. As I graduated with a PhD last year and inevitably became unemployed, I applied for a bunch of social security benefits and actually was awarded some. I found it rather amazing that a person just walks in and gets money by the sole virtue of being unemployed. (For the sake of brevity, I’m putting aside the red-tape load on the applicant which corresponds to a full-time job workload.)

Among other benefits, I applied for housing support—for lack of a better phrase—a dedicated benefit for those who earn too little to be able to pay their rent and utilities. (Which I think is almost everyone, but I’m not even going to try to penetrate into the logic, if any, of the system.) On submitting my application, I was granted support worth about 20 per cent of my rent. The application is re-examined each three months (which includes re-submitting all paperwork). My application was duly re-examined and today I received a notice that my benefit was raised to cover about 40 per cent of my rent.

I’m extraordinarily delighted. Of course, my delight is bound to be short-lived, since I started to operate as a self-employed individual and after a few months, when the social security system updates their data (the benefit is sent out in back-payments covering the past three months, hence the delay), it will be me again who will start feeding the state money. Now I’m enjoying myself while I can and while the giro.

I continue to be puzzled by the entire system though. I don’t even know where to start as I lack an underlying logical pattern to it. All I have is a bunch of jumbled questions, including but not limited to:

  • How come a regular full-time job (secretary, university teacher, translator, to name those I could do) comes nowhere close to covering basic life expenses (rent and food)?
  • How do I work two jobs when one job takes up about forty hours a week + commute time?
  • Is there a way to draw social security benefits that doesn’t involve having numerous children?
  • When education and skills don’t secure one a job to sustain oneself, what does?
  • How do other people do that (besides living in couples to split the costs)?
  • What am I missing?

Author: Mara Eastern

I'm a sardonic blogger, snapper, scribbler and rhymer; a virtual space invader who indulges in cheerful negativism, morbid self-deprecation and bleak humour.

13 thoughts

  1. It’s a pretty ordinary situation when the system seems pitted against you to keep you poor so you need them more than they need you. Good luck with it all is what I say, though you are quite accurate in saying logic plays little part in government bureaucracy.


    1. No wonder that it was here where Franz Kafka wrote his oeuvre. He was clearly inspired by real life. I fully expect to end up like the protagonist of Kafka’s Trial, accused of an unknown crime, convicted in absence and shot on the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post.
    When I saw the picture and read the subject line at the same time, I assumed giro had to do with welfare, even though giro meant something else to me (in Sweden we’re used to both “bank-giro” and “post-giro”, it’s just a way to pay your bills). Not just a bicycling race in Italy LOL.

    I’ve experienced the system. Been there, for a few months in 1994. Got a lot of help. I think one should be able to support oneself when working full time, regardless of what one does. Not like here, where you can’t.

    The only way I see, that doesn’t involve numerous children, is to become a full time boozer, and that doesn’t seem very appealing.

    It’s a rather sad situation considering you have one hell of an education!


    1. I had the same thoughts as you about the meaning of giro – and when I googled, the cycling race popped up too. The Czech “giro” sounds more like the Swedish version – it’s how you pay your bills.

      I got a bit depressed when I checked my bank account balance yesterday, hence this befuddled post. Incidentally, I read a very interesting article today – a professor whose department was dissolved couldn’t find another job, started drinking, lost his wife and home and ended up homeless. His students discovered him and helped him return to life. It happened here, in the Czech Republic – I’m not a fan of cheesy stories, but this seemed very real. Academics are particularly prone to this kind of downhill career. I find it so interesting that I might even blog about it in detail 🙂


      1. Oh yeah, that happens here all the time. My husband has a ‘great’ (not) story about a guy he knew, from the uni, he lost it all in a couple of weeks. He died.


  3. in the States, it has become a means of support in having child after child. a lifestyle. at the expense of the American tax payer


    1. That’s exactly what I was referring to. Here, too, you can live solely on making children. I don’t find this career too attractive though, so I’m looking into other options.


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