Nobby Clarke wasn’t a man for complaining. His generation, born in the early 1940s during the war, was built of sterner stuff. So when told of the decision he merely shrugged his shoulders and accepted it with a wry smile. Life wasn’t meant to be easy, and for Nobby and his wife Eunice it was about to become a little more difficult. Not dramatically so; it would just mean going without a few things, little things that were not exactly luxuries to everyone, but to Nobby and Eunice they helped make their retirement years that little more pleasant.
You see Nobby Clarke had just become the latest victim of the local government council spending cuts. He was about to lose his job of lollipop man or school crossing patrol officer. He’d had the job for quite a few years since retiring at 65. It earned a few extra pounds every week and it gave him something to do every day, and he enjoyed chatting to the Mums and Dads and the school kids. He had guessed it couldn’t go on forever when they had taken his ‘lollipop’ away 18 months ago. He had been told he couldn’t stand in the road anymore and just had to remain on the curb and press the button on the crossing lights. It all seemed barmy at the time, but the men at the council ‘they’ knew best. Now he wasn’t needed at all. ‘They’ couldn’t afford to keep him. “Sacrifices have to be made,” the man at the council had said. “The current round of spending cuts meant serious decisions had to be made with regard to the provision of council services. Everyone would be affected.”
Nobby knew that to be true. Eunice liked going to the library every week and taking out a book or two. He wasn’t much of a reader, just the daily newspaper, but Eunice liked to bury her head in a good book. Sadly not for much longer. The local library was set to close, and it was a lengthy and costly bus ride to the main city library. Anyway the men at the council; ‘they’ knew best.
Nobby and Eunice wouldn’t be taking the grandchildren swimming on a Sunday any more either. They’d both enjoyed that too and now the youngsters were like little fishes in the water. At least they had learnt to swim. Shame really it had to stop; but the men at the council, ‘they’ knew best.
There had even been a rumour the public toilets were closing too. Nobby hoped not. His bladder was’nt as good as it once used to be. Surely things can’t be that bad. Nobby had told Eunice he had seen the Chief Executive of the council drive past the other day when he was doing his crossing duty. He earned more than David Cameron the Prime Minister, in excess of £200,000 a year and his pay had increased by over 30% in the last 5 years. Perhaps being a council leader was even more difficult than running the country. Nobby wondered what sacrifices he was making and how the spending cuts affected him, not that he was taking a pay cut. He was too important to do that, and it wasn’t his fault that cuts had to be made. His budgetary control and expenditure in recent years were surely beyond question. Like those other officials that Nobby had heard about but wasn’t entirely sure what they did. The nuclear free local authorities secretariat, policy and research officer; the corporate lead officer, lesbians issues; the corporate lead officer, gay men’s issues or the climate change officer. Still, they must be very important and have a crucial role to play in improving everyone’s lives and enhancing local services as they all were immune from the latest spending cuts. ‘They’ must know best, mustn’t they?
Anyway, Nobby knew that if they were careful he and Eunice could manage for a few more years before the day would come when they might have to go into care and the door of the old people’s home beckoned. Surely ‘they’ wouldn’t close that too.
Nobby began to wonder if ‘they’ really did know best at all, and if ‘they’ didn’t then who did.