Working it out

This week’s Bite Sized Memoire challenge from Lisa Reiter is ‘First Jobs’ ( triumph_tr3-pic-9921As usual it promotes many memories, soooo so many I think this week I’ll indulge both the 10 x memories and a piece a flash.

  • I remember Bob-a-Job (does that translate across various ponds? It was a Boy Scout thing and, by the 70s with hyper-inflation a bloody rip off – a ‘bob’ for the younger reader is 5 p in new money) and the local doctor who had me creosote his paddock fence. It was sort of inevitable that I ended up with more of the tarry black stuff on me than on the fence;
  • I remember manning the book stall at a jumble sale with the Archaeologist. We were allowed to chose to book each as payment. While I bought The Crab with the Golden Claws and Five Go Skinny-Dipping (or whatever it was), he bought the Iliad and Morte d’Artur. I was ten and he eleven.
  • I remember being made to wash and polish the car every Sunday. Neither the Archaeologist or I were paid and we decided to follow the miners’ lead and strike. I didn’t work; Mum withdrew her labour and refused to cook us lunch;
  • I remember working at a carnation farm with some of the nuttiest people I have ever came across. The foreman, Norman, spent the summer trying to teach Pat the rudiments of tractor driving – when he mastered reverse he proudly took the tractor back into the barn for the night, waving to his adoring crowd of supporters only to emerge through the back wall seconds later in a crescendo of splinters;
  • I remember chasing rats out of the barn, having first tied string round our trouser legs;
  • I remember working in a local hotel (the inspiration for my forthcoming novel, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle). I lived so deep in the country that I cycled most of the way to work without holding the handlebars, only to come a cropper when I encountered the local bread van;
  • I remember working for my father filling drums and sacks with foul smelling chemicals at Union Carbide Chemicals on Southampton water – I drank tea by the gallon from the most tannin-encrusted teapot I have ever seen;
  • I remember, at the same job, trying my hand as a forklift truck driver and very nearly decapitating the foreman;
  • I remember being sent home one day with a five litre can of fairy liquid (illicitly made by the ‘lads’) on the back of my moped – it was so heavy that as I waited for the security barrier to rise on my way out the front wheel came off the ground. I ended up doing a bowel-loosening wheelie past my father’s office;. Dad was furious at the theft, but Mum was still using the contraband four year later;
  • I remember working for the Post Office delivering the Christmas post. I’ve never since worked in a job where I’ve received as many smiles and thanks as I did in those four days.

But my first job was gardening. Six shillings – 30p – an hour. Luxury. This is what I remember about that one and the two important lessons I took away from it….

Working it Out

Our village was run by a Mafiosi of formidable women; my mother, second lieutenant, secured me a gardening job with the ‘Boss’, Mrs G. She was never still, generally leaving people in a cloud of confusion and talcum powder. She waved vaguely at flower beds and instructed me to ‘involve’ myself. I was 14; I had no clue what that meant, but whatever I did seemed to please her. Every second Sunday her son came home; he was a newly-minted solicitor – after university (Bristol) he and his girlfriend took a campervan across Europe, ending up in a kibbutz. While he rebuilt his sports car, a TR3, I held the spanners and absorbed his extraordinary stories of drink and drugs and sex (especially the sex) at Bristol, in the van and while training in London. I resolved to follow suit. I made it to Bristol and became a lawyer. The rest was bullshit.

The lessons? Don’t follow your first role model – and if a lawyer looks you in the eye when shaking your hand, count your fingers.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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12 Responses to Working it out

  1. lorilschafer says:

    Love the prose here, particularly the opening sentence – what an image!


  2. I instantly smelled talcum powder when reading the second sentence of your prose. Enjoyed reading all the different firsts in your list. I love that your mom refused to cook you lunch because you refused to wash the car. 😀

    Morgan Dragonwillow


  3. Charli Mills says:

    Your list of memories reminds me that childhood is built around our labor, often free or for a “bob.” The description of your Mum and the neighborhood ladies as Mafiosi is so revealing! It reminds me of author Robert Jordan and how he often refers to “the women’s circle.” I suspect he grew up amidst his own female Mafiosi in South Carolina. So sorry the solicitor tricked you into the non-glam life of soliciting! Better than tarring fence posts, I suppose.


    • TanGental says:

      I don’t think my job choice was too bad, in fact, and Bristol did have the compensation that I met the Textiliste; waited seven years for her to ask me to marry her and then it’s been thirty years of marriage to this year. Not too shabby.


  4. Sarah Brentyn says:

    Love the prose flash. Great images. I think my favorite is your parting line (not included in your 150 words) “The lessons? Don’t follow your first role model – and if a lawyer looks you in the eye when shaking your hand, count your fingers.” NEVER follow your first role model. Really, people. Or even your second. And I don’t know what to say about the lawyer line except it had me laughing out loud.


    • TanGental says:

      I think all professionals take themselves far too seriously. As one client memorably told me ‘I laughed at all your jokes until you sent me your bill…’


  5. Pingback: First Jobs | Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

  6. You remind me of my husband who grew up in the UK at the time of the mods and the rockers and then the free love period. He says it passed not only him by but everyone he knew as well. All your “I remembers” had me laughing out loud. Loved your Mum’s reaction to the strike.


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