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BACK IN THE DHSS - August 1992

It was a hot day down at the JobCentre on Commodoria Main Street. The air conditioning was on the bung and the counter clerks were getting more and more irritable by the moment. Barely a moment went by without an exasperated sigh escaping from one corner or other of the office as tempers frayed in the sweltering afternoon heat. Suddenly, at a quarter to one, it happened - someone snapped.

'Aaarrggh! I can't take any more of this!', screamed Betty O'Leary, one of the office's most experienced members of staff, as she sent the pile of forms skidding off the top of her desk with an extravagant sweep of her arm and strode urgently towards the door, leaving a small white shape sitting bemusedly in the facing chair. Eddie O'Malley, senior supervisor on duty, started in alarm.

'Betty, wait!', he cried as he moved quickly to intercept her movement. 'What's wrong?'

'I'm sorry, Eddie', Betty wailed, 'but I just wasn't trained to cope with this kind of thing. The long-term unemployed I can handle. Retired ex-civil service staff doing up to 16 hours' voluntary work a week and seeking mortgage tax relief - no problem. But this new intake we've had to deal with since the infrastructure re-organisation - agh! They're useless! How am I supposed to find gainful employment for this lot?'

'Come on, Betty, they're only a few computer game characters down on their luck. You can handle it! Look, I'll help you out. Let's take a look at the case histories...'


NAME: Willy, Miner

AGE: 32, but looks 50

OCCUPATION: Miner, socialite

LAST EMPLOYMENT: Self-employed mining venture at a small site near Surbiton. Made vast sum of money, which was subsequently squandered on non-tax-deductible 'rave' parties at a large mansion, since repossessed by building society.

QUALIFICATIONS: Open University degree in rock formations, PHd in Advanced Top Hat-Wearing.

EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT: Mining, champagne testing.


'Hmm. I see your point.', said Eddie. 'Hang on, let's call Billy over.'

Billy O'Flaherty, Careers Advice Officer, responded quickly to Eddie's call.

'Let's see... well, of course, there's no mining industry left in the country to speak of, so that's that avenue pretty much knocked out. The history of alcoholism makes him unsuitable for office work, so we'll need something that keeps slightly less regular hours. Hmm.'

Billy paused, looking thoughtful. 'I've got it! He can wear a top hat, can't he? What kind of job involves top hat-wearing and keeping irregular hours?'

'Being married to the Queen?', offered Eddie, more in hope than expectation.

'Well, you're close.', replied Billy. 'He can be a butler! Betty, check the files. I'm sure we can have Mr Willy fixed up with some fine upstanding gentleman in no time! Now, who's next?'


NAME: Spring, Thing On A.

AGE: Unknown, but rusting

OCCUPATION: All-purpose bouncing

LAST EMPLOYMENT: No history of gainful work.

QUALIFICATIONS: Extreme bounciness, and some magnetic properties.

EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT: Manual work preferred, but office work in a non-clerical capacity would be considered.


'Now this one's a bit trickier', mused Eddie. 'Modern microchip technology has all but done away with the need for simple mechanical tools such as this. We'll need someone from the Council Works department in on this one.'

Luckily, at that very moment, Wendy O'Shaughnessy from the Roads And Highways Department walked through the door. 'Wendy, over here!', yelled Billy. Wendy shook her mane of long blonde hair and strolled over unhurriedly.

'What seems to be the problem, kids?'

'How on Earth are we going to find a job for this, this...thing?', stammered Betty.

'Look, it'll be a doddle. All we have to do is find a vacancy and twist it around a bit so that our chap here can do it. Let me think for a moment...'

The team watched expectantly. A few seconds later, Wendy's face lit up. 'I've got it! Down in Roads And Highways just now we've got a lot of seemingly unnecessary random road-digging up going on at the moment, and we need absoloutely loads of traffic cones. With his spiral-esque construction, Mr Spring would be ideal material for having alternate coils of his springs painted different luminous colours, and with his mobility capabilities he could simply bounce up and down the boundaries of each set of roadworks, saving us the expense of having to put ordinary static cones along the entire length!'

'That's brilliant!', Eddie exclaimed. 'Another statistic removed! We're on a roll!'

'Don't get cocky, Eddie', said Billy. 'The next one's going to be really tough...'


NAME: Bob, Bub And.

AGE: 12

OCCUPATION: No previous occupation (see below)

LAST EMPLOYMENT: Formerly dinosaurs, and hence exempt from seeking work, but were made extinct.

QUALIFICATIONS: GCSE Rainbow-Throwing, and a certificate in Really Fast Arm-Flapping from a correspondence school.

EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT: Ideally, any job requiring to be done by two people, working alternate shifts.


'I see what you mean', uttered Eddie, suddenly deflated. 'I doubt if we're going to be able to do any good with this pair at all.'

'Never say die, Eddie!', Wendy enthused. 'Nothing's ever impossible - you just need to find the right man for the job. Get me Bobby O'Schwarzenegger!'

Billy made a quick telephone call. Minutes later, Bobby O'Schwarzenegger, Inter-Departmental Head Of Really Difficult Stuff, appeared on the scene. 'What seems to be the problem, team?'

'We've got two rainbow-throwing teenyboppers in dungarees and we've got to find them a job.' said Betty, not undespondently.

'Come, come, now Betty', soothed Bobby. 'That's what we're here for. I'm sure we can come up with something appropriate if we just apply ourselves for a moment.' He seemed to glance at Bub and Bob's card for barely a second before looking up, his rugged face a picture of the utmost calm and assured authority. 'Why, I remember only this morning seeing a card advertising a job for two healthy young men that would suit them down to the very ground.'

'What was it?', asked Wendy, in an adoring yet intrigued manner.

'The slaughterhouse needs someone to stun the cows before they cut their heads off.' stated Bobby matter-of-factly.

'But... what about the rainbows and stuff?'

'Oh for goodness' sake woman, this is the real world. Get a grip. It gets them off our hands, doesn't it? Sometimes, you need a more lateral approach. Now, anything else you're stuck with?'

'No, no, we'll manage the rest ourselves now, thanks', said Betty.


NAME: Rit, Tam And.

AGE: Both 7 (22 in fairy years)



QUALIFICATIONS: Both claimants possess the ability to create a magical ladder and move it telekinetically across a limited range.

EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT: Any light work would be suitable, as the claimants have limited potential for hard physical undertakings.


Eddie noticed Betty's sudden darkening of spirit. 'Never mind, love, only a couple to go.'

'Yeah, but these two aren't even proper human beings, Eddie!', she wailed. 'What was the last vacancy we had for a couple of fairies?'

'I know what you mean, but we're doing pretty well so far. Surely we can manage something'

Suddenly, Wendy piped up. 'I don't know about the ladders stuff, but I'm sure there's something about those two that's not on the form... Yes, I remember now! They've got a couple of rods that they can wave from side to side really quickly!'

'Oh terrific. What help is that going to be?', spat Betty. She was beginning to grow tired of Wendy's industrial-strength cheerfulness.

'Well, at least I'm trying', Wendy retorted, her smile growing perceptibly thinner. Madge O'Smith from the Home Helps Department couldn't help but overhear the commotion.

'Actually, I could use someone with a good ladder and the ability to wave their arms from side to side.', she offered gingerly. 'We're always after someone to clean old folks' windows for them. Bung a chamois leather on the end of those magic rods and we might just be in business...'

'Sorted!', roared Billy, waving his hands in the air in a techno rave kind of way. 'Only one left!'


NAME: Dizzy

AGE: Unknown, but dangerously close to going off.

OCCUPATION: Embryonic status, hence no legal employment permitted before the age of 13.


QUALIFICATIONS: Advanced intellect, ideally suited to the solving of obscure lateral-thinking puzzles.

EMPLOYMENT SOUGHT: Anything involving heroic rescues of defenceless females of a similar species.


Dizzy, who'd been sitting quietly at Betty's desk all this time, looked up chirpily.

'Ah, now even I can do this one!', cried Betty.

'Eh?', said Eddie, bemused. 'I'm completely stuck myself. What good could an egg possibly be for anything?'

'Easy', said Betty triumphantly, simultaneously lifting up the small white ovoid in her hand and bringing it down sharply on the corner of the desk with one swift movement. 'Lunch!'

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