View from the Bridge: 28

by John Morrison


28: Open-collar workers

A lot of Milltown folk work from home. Very convenient for writers and designers, of course, but a bit of a bugger for deep-sea divers. To the notion of 'blue collar workers' and 'white collar workers', we have added another category: 'open collar workers', who believe, reasonably enough, that ties restrict the supply of oxygen to the brain.

It's a term that might suggest a life of indolence and unruffled ease: sprawled on a sofa, eating chocolates and watching daytime TV. This is certainly true of our Town Drunk, the Jersey Royal of couch potatoes and a long-term signatory to one of the Government's lesser-known Work Avoidance Schemes. He manages to fritter away the long hours while the pubs are shut by wrapping himself in a soiled duvet and checking out what's happening in Tellytubby land. Given his limited horizons and garbled speech it's a place where he feels very much at home.

However, for most of those who work from home the everyday reality is more likely to be penury, self-doubt and social isolation. It's a problem that is routinely addressed by the alternative practitioners and healers who have gravitated to the town. On a wet November day there are dozens of unfulfilled folk waiting in small ante-rooms all over Milltown: people who could benefit from some gentle counselling. Unfortunately most of them are therapists.

So who are these therapists, these artful purveyors of hokum to the hopeless? Most of them claim to be qualified, though not necessarily in the disciples they practise. And the clientele? Mostly troubled folk who, having lost faith in conventional medicine, happily entrust themselves to self-appointed therapists. After all, how can seven years hard slog at medical college compare with a GCSE in corn-dolly making and a collection of Readers Digest articles about faith healing?

Since anyone can set themselves up as a therapist, it's no surprise that there are rented rooms all over Milltown manned by obliging charlatans. You might want to take a good long look at some of these unregulated teapots before entrusting them with your mental equilibrium. After all, would you hire the services of a fingerless carpenter?

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