Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Nowt Teaches Better Than Experience.

    I was reading an article in the Times by a writer, Liam Marks concerning the ignominy of signing on at the so called Labour Exchange. I remember it well, a depressing, demeaning occupation. In my case its a long time ago plus I reckon as a 'youth' I was oblivious to the real world. Life is an 'experience', you only get one chance at it and its makes us 'what we are'. But this article brought back memories galore.
    I worked as a 'barbers boy' at nights and weekend prior to leaving school. Too quiet for a sixteen year old but happy days. I soaked the odd customer during shampoos and embarrassed customers when my sales of durex lacked discretion. My attempts at window dressing were abysmal and I destroyed the radio by knocking a cup of tea into it. (I'm left handed, do you think that's the problem.) It is not true I found bits of ear in the sweeping up!
    I worked for Betterware selling brushes etc from a suitcase of samples. Sales were delivered Fridays, commission six and eightpence in the pound. Only I never sold anything, first day on a wet Monday morning in Ilkeston. Not impressed, so I called in a pub, had a pint of shandy and went home minus the case.
    I was 'sent' by concerned relatives to seek work in various places. (I was orphaned at a young age.) I visited Rolls Royce offices (I am not cut out for manual work). A world renowned establishment full of proud workers who had spent their entire lives there; but I reckoned a boring place full of boring people. A safe, well paid job for life; whatever turns you on, but not for me!
    In turn I visited the Derby locomotive works and was introduced to another large office. Rows and rows of men seated at desks, ledgers to the fore, a silent array of conditioned unsmiling individuals, though individuals in name only.  I had even at that age literary leanings and thus recognised the Dickensian connections. Did they each have a quill or a pen, I can't remember. Forty years of gloom beckoned and I fled once again.
     Not keen on other peoples ideas (One uncle tried to get me enrolled as an apprentice jockey, me, a lad who has never ridden and no love of horses) I got myself an appointment with a firm, so I thought connected with the art world. They were something to do with posters and I had a GCE in art. Only it turned out that their arty connection with the art world was that that they put up posters on billboards around the town!
    Being less than brilliant at job finding myself I allowed the local 'job centre for juniors' to send me for an interview with F W Woolworths. I suppose I was desperate to work and being out of work was unfashionable in those days. So I 'signed on' and in fact worked for them for just over two years. This is not the place to go into detail, (see post dated 10th March 2009 ) until an altercation on my motorbike with a lorry, March 10th, 8 25am, 1959 curtailed my Woolworth career; I remember it well!
    Six months later, unable to return to Woolworths I obtained a job with a Jewish tailors as a trainee window dresser. We, me and 'the main man' travelled around in an Atlas van, dressing one window a day . They were 'teddy boy' shops in far from salubrious places; Clay Cross, Arkwright Street and Radford Road Nottingham amongst others. I remember fetching leaves from the Forest area of Nottingham for an autumn display and little else. It was never going to be a job for life but I was still surprised to be 'sacked' the week before Christmas. You weren't 'made redundant' in those days, merely got rid of, no redundancy money, nothing. Miserable lot, it put me off Jews for ages. I remember thinking, 'Don't Jews celebrate Christmas!'
    Mind you, I had the last laugh. I bought a Crombie type coat, a silk scarf, a striped shirt, corduroy  trousers and posh brogue shoes, all at staff discount prices! They all cost me every penny I had but it was worth it!
    Which all brings me back to Labour Exchanges. Because for the first time in my life I 'signed on'. And I was definitely the best dressed man, nay boy in the 'dole queue. Mind you, being unemployed is no fun and two weeks later I started work as a most insignificant office clerk in a British Celanese factory. But that's another story!
Most of the above covered in more detail in the ebook, 'A Childhood Revisited' hopefully out soon. By the way, I was fully dressed at all the interviews I attended!