This week’s Bite Sized Memoire challenge from Lisa Reiter is ‘First Jobs’ (http://sharingthestoryblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/bite-size-memoir-no-6-first-jobs/). As 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.