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Ex Cork, Ireland

In January of 2010 I got a job at a bakery in Cork and signed off the dole.

Friends later told me that this was a big mistake*....

Soon after I started working at the bakery it became clear that there were problems at the business. The health department had various concerns about the suitability of the premises for the scale of on-and-off-site production — but this was only the stated and most obvious concern. There had been other issues, I learned. Some customers had become ill; and there had been the rat infestation. The county health department had begun to press Roddy and Orla to fix problems.

They acted as if there were going to. They had plans to move bread production to a larger space, they said.

In June the bakery closed.

I went to the dole office.

There, in the summer of 2010, somebody finally officially noticed that I'm American. That's not exactly true in one way, and not possible in another. In summer 2002 a lady at the Kilkenny social-welfare office told me I wasn't supposed to have the card I'd showed her (but she didn't take it, and said no more.) The reason that it's impossible that nobody noticed between 2001 and 2010 is that the Irish know the American accent like one of their own. Even with only proper Irish documents across the countertop, after three words I'd be caught out — and the Irish love to talk. No; they all knew.

The receptionist there at the Cork office had a bit of a dark and dirty look on his face as he photocopied my passport. He didn't say anything, but the next day in the post I received a request for proof that I was entitled to assistance.

My friends in Kilkenny suggested that I return there, and they continued to try to convince me to do so. I preferred not to. I missed them, but I'd left a year earlier because the town itself had come to seem oppressive.

I stayed the summer in Cork. The house where I lived had gone into accountancy — the bank had taken ownership. Nobody said anything when I was a bit late on the weekly rent, so I quietly stopped paying. Because of this, I had enough money to live for a while.

In the autumn I finally moved back to Kilkenny.

* At the Natural Foods Bakery, I was working four days per week, and one of them was a Sunday. This meant that I could have gone onto the "dockets," reported three days of work, and still received a small social-welfare payment — and (more importantly) stayed on the dole.
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