205. OUT OF ESSEX

CHAPTER THREE – An Essex Dawn

Life is ‘trying things to see if they work’

Ray Bradbury

 

 

Around 40 miles east of London, God had big plans for a new experiment.

Humanity needed a giant kick up the backside. The initiative would start in Essex, within the town of Southend-on-Sea, once a thriving tourist resort.

Curiously enough, the town had a permanent memorial to Maggie, Margaret Thatcher House, a now-dilapidated three-floor building built back in the 1980s near to the courts and civic centre. Later, Maggie’s eyes had looked down on Southend shoppers in an advert placed across the north side of the bridge spanning the high street in autumn 2011, two years before her death.

Maggie’s biggest legacy to the wider area was of course the mythical ‘Essex Man’, an unsubtle, noisy creature who supposedly once lived in London and voted Labour, but had moved out and switched to the Tories, helping ensure her success.

 

 

One Southend dweller, Dawn Landais, was also preparing to seize the day. Dawn’s call-centre job fell so far short of her family’s money needs that she had circled eight pay-day lenders in the local paper. If she had bought their council house all those years ago it would probably be theirs by now, she kept telling herself.

Genevieve, her teenage daughter, was finishing some toast. The previous day, two of her rich friends at Westcliff High School for Girls said they felt ‘insecure’ because they hadn’t got a 30 grand deposit already lined up for a house.

“I told ‘em straight mum, they’re wankers.” The school had complained in writing, referencing other, similar remarks

Dawn made up her mind. She shooed Genevieve out the door, telling her to try and behave. Dawn was about to do something she’d always fancied, rather than faff about worrying. She just had to buy a few items.

Dawn had explained it to her mum on the phone. “Two minutes from home, cash in hand. I’ve always been a people’s person, mum. Here’s the plan. Hours to suit me, quid a time. I can do a car’s front and back screen in 40 seconds. Have to, or the rozzers will nick me for holding up traffic. Two months from now, I will know 400 drivers by their first names. And it’ll keep me fit.

As her mum asked about Steve, Dawn recalled her husband’s shining idea all those years ago. Sitting outside the Crooked Billet, pint in hand, on their first date, down in Leigh-on-Sea. “Just by being born, a human is entitled to a certain amount of money, shelter, water, electricity, and so on. People might be willing to put far more into the system than they took out under those conditions.”

None of the blokes in the clubs talked like that. Dawn knew straight away that he was the one.

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