• I left school at 15 with no qualifications. Like a lot of people from my estate I walked in to a job as a City trader. This was the 80s and if you had what it took then old fashioned class distinctions didn't stand in your way anymore. The barrow boy rubbed shoulders with the Eton fop and the barrow boy usually won. Pineapple futures were my thing and I was soon making and breaking the market. To mix metaphors, the world was my oyster. I had my own council flat in Barking, a working toaster and a growing collection of porcelain figurines.
    We'd pull 16 hour days, sometimes 7 or more days a week and then we would live! And love! Money for nothing and your chicks for free, as Norman Tebbit so vividly phrased it. And not just women, the City was a pan-sexual free for all. Oh the divine scaffolders I buggered to exhaustion!
    But something was missing. One day I was staggering home and saw an elderly couple, arm in arm, lost in each other's company, inseparable, as they must have been for fifty years. It was then that it occurred to me - it would be so easy to knock them over and take their money. And it was. So began the second part of my career, a little less well remunerated than working in the markets but not so morally compromised. Violent street crime filled a void. I truly believed that the universe had put those frail pensioners, he a war veteran, she a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, in my path for a reason. When destiny calls you do not let the machine pick it up, you answer, and you answer promptly.
    Much as I would have loved to continue down that path 'society' had other plans. After a ten stretch I re-entered the world a broken man, broken physically, mentally and physically. But, as the saying goes, when one door closes another slams shut in your face and now I find myself, to my great surprise, happy with my volunteer role at a home for rescued circus performers and with my allotment. The money is all gone, the flat is gone, the figurines are in storage but I am happy. Or at least not unhappy. Well, no more miserable than you'd expect. Pretty much sunk in despair and hoping it will all soon be over.


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