*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?