‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk…’

Unlike poor John Keats, dead at 25, it is my head that aches a little, as though of one pint more than usual I had drunk. Last night there was another leaving do. This one took place at the Golden Ball, the community co-operative pub in Bishophill in York. This lovely Victorian pub is now owned and run by the locals, and what a top place it is.

The occasion was a farewell for two members of the National Union of Journalists, Tony Kelly and me. I have been a member since starting out, although with a gap in the middle for a few years, and with occasional ideological wobbles and differences. For now I am still paying the subs, but that may change, depending on what happens next.

What, if any, alternative union would suit me now? The National Union of Displaced Workers, perhaps. The National Union Of This That And A Bit Of The Other might do it. Or maybe the National Union of the As Yet Unknown.

Maybe I could form my own association, the National Union of Men Standing on Ledges. Women standing on ledges would of course be free to join too. Terms and conditions apply: there is only so much room on this ledge, after all; and the committee recommends taking out an insurance policy against a windy day.

Meeting friends and former colleagues was uplifting and enjoyable, and a little poignant. Some of those in the pub had left a while ago, either retiring, moving to other jobs or, in one case, having been made redundant a year ago. The spin-the-wheel redundancy game has been the thing for a while now. Sometimes the spinning finger of fate lets you escape, and then it doesn’t, and you are the one to walk.

Some readers on my old newspaper assume that I have retired. A letter from a kind and rather formidable reader was handed to me in the pub last night. This hoped that I would enjoy my retirement. I hope to do so one day, but not yet: too young for that, I’d say, and there are still the usual suspect bills to pay.

It was good meeting people and I certainly miss my old colleagues when I am sitting typing on this ledge. But once you have left a workplace, the old ties stretch and then snap. The relationships can continue, and I certainly hope they do, but your relationship with the job you once did is over. And that job is now being done differently by new people, or under an entirely new system.

Such are the ways in which one life disintegrates and another begins to take shape. That’s pretty much it for leaving dos for now, although a features desk lunch is still to come. Bit by bit, dusty atom by dusty atom, that which once had seemed solid now falls apart.


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