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Around The Sun: Meeting Jacquie

Steve Harrison signs on the dole and meets the girl who was to be his companion for seven years.

I worried incessantly for about six months about the prospect of leaving home. I was like a cuckoo, too big for the nest and far too ungainly for my environment.

Then I left, just like that.

The most humiliating time of my life was signing on the dole, queuing for unemployment benefits. I had successfully worked for several advertising agencies. I had tried to establish my own design company and failed miserably. Not that my creative work was bad. I was a lousy businessman, unable to handle the money side of things.

I was offered my old job at the Sell Agency, but I was too proud to go back there and did not want to take what seemed like a backward step.

There was no other choice than to bite the bullet and accept state benefits. For the first time in my working life I was penniless. I had never signed on the dole before, and I never have doen again since that time.

Standing in line to collect a handout was depressing, I had to wait for what seemed like eternity in a queue of people with doom and gloom written all over there faces.

There was one redeeming aspect of visiting the dole office. A terrific looking blonde worked behind one of the counters. I saw her arriving at work, driving a small sports car. I decided to take a closer look at her the next time I visited the office.

It was more than a month later when I next went to collect the dole. The night before I had been out with Barrie. We had got roaring drunk, and I had ended up sleeping in my duffle coat on the rug in his front room. I awoke with a terrific hangover. My senses were definitely out of whack.

And that was the morning when I came face to face in the dole office with the attractive blonde. I asked what they called her. She told me her name was Jacquie. Even though I was under the weather we exchanged pleasantries. We even arranged to go together to a fancy dress party on the Friday of that week.

My friend Gordon, the dodgy car dealer, also wanted to go to the party. I figured he would drive us there, so we both went to a costume company. I hired a French Fusilier's uniform, tall busby hat and all the rest. Gordon was a Roman legionnaire. We were quite drunk when we turned up at the party, in the mood for a good night.

Jacquie came over as soon as she saw me. We got on well together. She had a wicked sense of humour. She told me she would like to see what I was wearing beneath my uniform. We ended up beneath our host's kitchen table. We were soon discovered there and shown the door. This was not the sort of exit we had anticipated in those liberated '70s.

Jacquie suggested that we should go back to her place. Now I have to confess that this was when I became disappointed. Instead of getting into a sports car we rode off in a Volkswagen Beetle. "I thought you drove a sports car,'' I said. Jacquie told me the sports car belonged to another girl who worked in the dole office.

Darn! I'd got the wrong girl.

But Jacquie and I got along very well together. We lived together for seven years, visiting various countries. She was a good girl. But that thought of having got the wrong girl remained with me. But for that Jacquie and me would probably have married, had kids and lived happily ever after.

Damn that girl in the sports car.

And damn me for my chauvanistic attitudes!

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