Mike Jones: Claims Negotiator, by Jonesy

Ipswich actually is the worse place ever. In my previous life as Mike Jones Claims Negotiator, I worked in Ipswich for three years. On my first day of work, I smoked a joint in Christchurch Park, alone. I couldn't function when I went back to 'the office' so I had to try something else the next day. The next day I walked around Tower Ramparts looking in windows, wearing a grey suit and eating a packed lunch from a Tesco carrier bag. I wanted to throw the bag away but there was the issue of the spoon � the spoon covered in chocolate from the chocolate mousse my mother had packed and I had eaten. I couldn't put that spoon in the pocket of my grey suit, you see? Claims negotiators don't have stains. I'd have to wrap the spoon in the supermarket bag and pocket the whole thing, causing a branded bulge in my jacket. The next day I tried something else for lunchtime entertainment: looking at CDs I couldn't afford in Our Price. I don't think it's there anymore. Probably a Virgin or HIV these days. Browsing music didn't really work either. It was depressing. And so it went on, day after day for three whole years, searching the streets of Ipswich, looking for ways to fill a lunch hour. My final year � after I'd been accepted to University, I'd keep a tally in the back of my General Accident diary. The highlight of my working day was a two-minute ritual: removing the diary from my top drawer, checking to see Sue the Bitch wasn't watching and quietly counting the little five-day tallies to see how many working days were left before I departed Ipswich forever. A brief feeling of elation as I slowly added another black 'I' to the tally, then a feeling of disappointment and recognition almost post-coital in its potency. I recall the day I realised I hadn't factored bank holidays into the equation; that feeling, like a hot shell of blunk exploding on the headboard, as I crossed out an entire week of 'days left' in a single second. Sometimes I'd take my diary to the toilet with me and cross off the relevant day whilst having a poo. Toilets were a major feature of my time in Ipswich. They became a lunchtime haven. I would sometimes hold my bowel until One O'clock (always One, never Twelve � taking the early lunch/long afternoon combo was an invitation to madness) just so I could waste 15 minutes of 'leisure time'. I had two favourite haunts, Tower Ramparts shopping centre and Marks and Spencer's. The latter was a longer walk and an escalator ride, but worth it for the privacy � Marks and Spencer customers are of good enough character to leave one in peace when one is pooing. Tower Ramparts was a different kettle of fish, but more 'convenient'. Haha, look mummy, I done a pun. One day, I was in Tower Ramparts Gents Toilets (Trap Two...always furthest from the door) reading a crisp copy of Empire with Keanu Reeves on the cover. I had screwed up all the little bits of toilet paper required to block the numerous holes in the partition between Trap One and Trap Two, so on my side the partition looked like the wall of some beautiful mythical graveyard, fluffy white flowers bursting from a creeper that snaked across the crumbling stonework and obscured the sweet messages chipped into headstones: 'If you want big cock leave your number here'; 'I fucked his arse 12/03/88 he was cum' and 'Norwich City are Cunts'. This was as good as it ever got in Ipswich. A lunchtime bowel movement beside some Izal flora and the poetry of the wretched. So, I was just getting comfortable when...Pop! One of my tissue flowers fell from its vine and floated to the ground. Pop! Pop! Two more fell. Pop, Pop, Pop. It was like Autumn in the Tower Ramparts toilets. Obviously this was not good. The holes had been drilled through the partition for a reason, and I don't think it was to allow easy irrigation for my imaginary wallflowers. Someone wanted to look at my secret garden. Possibly more than just one person. Possibly one person with many eyes. I covered my privates with an advert for Smirnoff Vodka and froze. Something fluffy appeared underneath my partition � hair - followed by the grinning face of my audience, a man. I jumped up and kicked the face in the face with my cheap shoes. Pulling up my grey trousers, I fled. Like a true Ipswichian, I decided to wait for this person and confront him (punch him hard and maybe head butt). Some time later, an old man exited the toilets with a bleeding face. I'd estimate his age to be over 60. I was at a loss. I shouted something to a security guard like, "Pervert... yeah... I... yeah!... I... he's a pervert!" and left, looking crazy. After that I didn't go to the toilet at lunchtime much. I started going to the library and just reading books. It was good, that. Did that for ages. In summer I would go to Christchurch Park, take off my tie as though I were about to hang myself from a stout oak, then take off my shirt and aim my body, Christ-like, towards the sun. Arms outstretched, begging for a little colour in my pasty flesh. I would lie like that for 45 minutes before dressing myself and returning to 'the office'. After work I would race to my car and drive like a lunatic back to Felixstowe, where I lived and my many unemployed friends had been smoking dope in the sun all day. I would rush to change my clothes and drive like the Sweeney to the cliff tops, Jacobs Ladder, the Spa Gardens... where were they? Where? Where? Why do I WORK IN FUCKING IPSWICH! Often I would find them, around Six O'clock, as the sun was starting to cool in the sky. I'd strip to my shorts and roll a joint. Half an hour later everyone would go home for tea... Sometimes I used to leave my car and get the Bastard Boneshaker Train back from Ipswich to Felixstowe...GET OUT, JUST GET OUT NOW!