Everybody needs my help.

Stephen P needs my help to make a short film to graduate. He's a very good computer animator but knows next to nothing about sound recording and processing. So I'll be teaching him all about microphones, compressors, delays and editing, sometime this week.

And I'll be doing the music and sound effects for the film.

Roxanne C needs my help to make another short film so she can graduate. This young lady always leaves things till the last minute, and always ropes in her friends to help her get it all hurridly together. The irony is she could do it all herself - she's got the brains and imagination - but doesn't have the confidence. She's also the only person I've met who has a messier home, more hopeless sense of direction or vaguer timetable than me.

She's always extra-nice when asking me to help her out, sometimes improbably promising to persuade her amazingly handsome but completely straight brother to succumb to my, um, attentions. There's two other ironies there - first, I help her out because I like her, not because I fancy the pants off her truely gorgeous brother. And second, if by some dark miracle he left his pregnant girlfriend for this fat old poof...what in hades am I supposed to do with him?

Simon M needs my help to set up a website.

John M needs my help to put together Powerpoint presentations. Though it is one of my small ambitions never to give one of those vaccuously imbicilic presentations where I project buzzwords onto a wall and then read out the words. His consist entirely of great artworks.

Strict Machines need my help to record an album. For the last year their manager has been telling them they need to have a good demo CD to get gigs. Now they've finally decided to do it, just as one band member is ill and the other two are spending weeks in other countries. They know several amateur sound engineers, but only one who can fit their eratic schedule. And more to the point, only one who'll put up with the guitarist's tantrums.

The government needs my help too - to help fake the unemployment statistics. I get reclassified from "Jobseeker" (=unemployed) to "Restart Scheme Customer" (=unemployed but dealt with by a different department), where I shall recieve vitally needed training in Basic Information Technology, how to make a CV, how to read the job ads, how to be interviewed and something called Soft Skills. I've asked my jobsearch advisors, and none of them know what that means.

So, for the next two weeks I will be pretending to learn something new from people pretending to teach me how to look for jobs we pretend exist where I pretend I care about what I'm doing and the boss pretends to know what they're doing, all so the government can pretend the unemployment figures are down. Though no one pretends to believe them.

And that gentle reader, is why I haven't written any more of my murder mystery.