I took a trip to Liverpool yesterday to try and find some research material for a short piece I'm writing. The day started auspiciously, with me bumping into Serdar on the train, he was on his way to work at the Liverpool Theatres, where he is an associate director (regular readers will remember he directed my play The May Queen up there last year). When we landed I walked with him to the Playhouse to say hello to my friends there, then I headed off to the Maritime Museum at the Albert Dock, more in hope than expectation. But I got lucky. The extremely helpful archivist-librarian Lorna dug out a document that was absolutely perfect for my purposes - a transcript of a docker's work diary for the first few months of 1923. Written in a prose that is at once mundane and vivid, the diary details the crappy working life of the dock labourer in the days before unionisation had properly begun to improve pay and conditions, and when "health and safety" was not for the likes.
I had a bit of luck this morning and got on at a boat discharging a general cargo. We were getting rice & I was at the door landing & helping to put 5 bags on each truck in their separate marks for which I get 6d a day extra. The job is hard enough when there are a lot of different marks to be turned over. However it is a bit better than walking the streets so I suppose I must be thankful for it.
Thankful, because he knows the following can happen...
Went out again this morning, but after being on 3 stands & failing to get on I went to the Clearing House & signed on for unemployment pay and went home, wet through. Same again in the afternoon.
Same experience as yesterday. No work.
No work. this being 6 continuous days of unemployment I am entitled by the generosity of the government to 20/- to keep my wife and I from going into the workhouse, where it would cost them 30/- each for us.
Got on this morning at a boat discharging cotton trucking over a floor thick with dirt and slime. A heavy job all day, but better than walking round the streets.
Hard times. To think, my Dad's Dad lived and worked in that world.
I found this entry particularly touching...
Got on again this morning at the same job as yesterday. The ship being nearly out, a lot got broke at dinnertime, myself among the number. I tried another stand at 1 o'clock but failed to get on, so being a cold wet day I went home & settled myself down to read.
I wonder what he was reading?