Career in the community…(My working life thus far)
Having recently begun this trip along Bloggers’ Lane I have found myself reminiscing about different subjects and have been deciding which to include. This has led me to reflect on some of my earlier life and times so that I can commit these moments to Blog-Heaven before they are finally and irretrievably relegated to Lost-memory-Hell. So today I will mention some of the jobs I have had in my life. These jobs are reasonably chronological in order but not completely.
When I lived in Chigwell* as a young boy I had a paper round. It covered a great deal of ground as it not only covered the local housing estate but also covered the larger more expensive houses that were situated some way away from the newsagents where I collected my papers from. During the week the round was not too hard though the bag was still a little heavy…but at the weekend the round was extremely difficult due to the amount of papers that customers would read and also because of the fact that these weekend papers were often very thick and also came with colour supplements (magazines to our younger readers). I believe as the round grew I had to eventually break it into two parts and had to return to the shop midway to collect the second batch of papers. I remember the bag’s thin strap made it very uncomfortable to carry and at six in the morning in ice covered darkness it was often back-breaking. (Yes I know that there are people that do this kind of thing and more from a younger age up until their old age in certain parts of the world and for them I am sorry but try telling that to me when I was fourteen and, if I’d been able to move my frozen lips, I’d have told you where to get off). Because my twin and I were quite good at the rounds I seem to remember that we both eventually took on two rounds each so as to increase our wages. This often led to me having to rush to get ready for school and I was then often very tired when I got there. I even remember forgetting my white school shirt one day (Only I could forget I wasn’t actually wearing a shirt) and I had to forage through the lost clothing items at school to then borrow a dirty white collared sports top which I hid as best I could under my blazer for most of the day. It was not until I was changing back from PE (Physical Education) that my deception was uncovered by a particularly spiteful bastard called Mr Davis (I shall discuss him in a later blog). He then proceeded to point out to everyone just how dirty the shirt was that I had been wearing and continued to ridicule me until he had had his fill. What a prick! (If luck should have it that you are actually reading this Mr Davis, then I should point out for legal reasons that I’m only alleging you to be a prick, prick!) I almost got away with the shirt thing too. In fact I would have gotten away with it if hadn’t been for those pesky adults!
One of two life lessons I learnt from the paper round was that people with less often give more and Vicky Vercky. This was something I often witnessed at Christmas when, as was tradition, we would place a card in each customers’ doors thanking them for their custom (in hope of a tip of course, ahem…). When I was left a tip, it was more often the people in the smaller houses (or the houses in the less affluent areas) that left good tips and it was often those in the nice big houses that left little or no tip at all. To give you an idea of the size of house I’m referring to, Sir Sugar, Ben Elton and the designer of the Dalek I believe were three of my many customers.
The second lesson I learnt was, although my Dad allowed me to do it for all the right reasons (and often even came out to help when the weather was too adverse) it’s something I wouldn’t allow my son to do now. Luckily he has never asked to do a paper round but, if he had, I think I’d have been happier with him completing a series of regular domestic chores that led to a payment at the end.
*(Limes Farm actually which is the poor relation to Chigwell that had come to stay uninvited one day and of whom Chigwell never admitted to actually being related to).
Waiter/Working on fish counter – Chariot restaurant, Loughton
For some years when I lived in Loughton**, Essex I worked in a fish restaurant called The Chariot. This was an off and on affair that lasted between and during other jobs up until my late teens/early twenties. The restaurant itself was not too bad, the menu reasonable and the general staff, generally, quite nice. The owners however were a family of brother and sisters who all had a very ‘EastEnders’-Mitchell-Brothers management style. The staff came and went with only a few regular older full time staff ever remaining. I liked waiting on tables and enjoyed the customer interaction (though one American diner did threaten to break my arms once when I offered to take his plate for him because both his knife and fork had been placed together on an almost empty plate. Philistine!) The final night I worked at The Chariot I was sacked. I was working on the fish counter at the time and had taken in a very large order. I had already worked out how much the bill should be as we had prepared it in advance so I told a colleague to just take the money and to ring it up when we quietened down because we were inundated and had begun to fall behind with our orders. This then led to me being called to the office and the owner telling me he was going to let me go and used the incident as an excuse to not pay me the wages I was owed. The money was still in the till but merely hadn’t been rung in. My colleague confirmed that I had already instructed her to ring it up later but that seemed to hold little water with the owner. There was little point arguing with the owner either, an aggressive and tempestuous Neanderthal of a man, as reason was not something I think he had a full grasp of and, besides, I saw being sacked from there as being a form of promotion anyway so…
** Yeah-yeah, okay, so it was Debden, the crap part of Loughton. There’s an obvious pattern forming here, right?
My first ‘proper’ job was with a company called Tomorrow’s World in Loughton. It was a kitchen design and installation company. If memory serves correctly I may have been taken on originally as a fitter but it was noticed that I had an eye and interest in design so I was moved very quickly to the office. Shortly thereafter I was given my first ever company car. It was a Honda, had electric windows and was very-very shiny. Anything else about it I wasn’t really that bothered about, after all it was very shiny! (Had I mentioned that already?) Only seventeen and allowed to have a company car…heaven. I enjoyed the job, the people were nice and I saw myself getting into a career in drawing. Sadly, on the way back from a customer visit one day I was returning to the office when an elderly lady drove into the side of the car as she was driving toward me to pass me. It was a long lane with cars parked along her side of the road only. I remember this very clearly, she had about half a metre or so of space on her side and I had moved as far as I could to the left to allow her to pass. In fact I had moved so far over that I couldn’t even mount the pavement as the wheels were too close to the high curb. It had been raining and she just skidded into me. Having struck and scraped along the side of the car she merely reversed up, got out of the car and walked away. I was left to deal with her passenger, another elderly lady, who looked at me as if I was going to attack her and was accusing me of ramming into them both. Needless to say the owner of the kitchen designers’ shop ‘let me go’ as she believed the elderly woman’s version of events and not those of a seventeen year old ‘boy’.
Collected and delivered second hand cars
Throughout my late teens/early twenties I collected and delivered second hand cars for a dealer in East London. This was not the most interesting work in the world other than the fact that I was allowed to drive a large selection of cars at a very young age. This job came to an end when I slid into a car on a motorway (this was my fault this time as I had turned to see why the car on my left was turning to the side and sliding across the road. This turned out to be because he was avoiding the stationary traffic that was ahead of us and just over the brow of a hill). It transpired that I was not insured to drive the cars. It also transpired that I had never been insured to drive the cars and so, a short court appearance and a great deal of blagging later I managed to walk away from the incident. Luckily no one had been hurt and, what surprised me the most was that, the driver never did pursue me for any form of payment. I put my hands up to the incident at the time and accepted driver liability so, once I discovered I had not been insured, fully expected the 3rd party to seek recompense…but he never did.
Still not knowing what I wanted to do for a living I at least tried to continue working whilst I was still deciding. I found a job (through the local ‘job shop’) as a locker fitter. I passed the interview (which pretty much consisted of them making sure I didn’t have more than ten fingers or toes) and was picked up by one of the workers the following week who took me to a health centre where he had been asked to go and repair some lockers. We drove there, spent a short while troubleshooting the problem, then he came to the conclusion that he would have to instruct a colleague to come and deliver some parts. We spent the rest of the day waiting. Once we had finished waiting…we waited some more. I’m sure I did more waiting that day than I ever did during my time at the Chariot Restaurant and though I tried to find things to occupy myself with it was one of the longest days of my life. I spoke to the fitter about this and asked if this was the norm and it soon became apparent that he had clearly engineered this way of working as he was quite happy to sit about all day doing nothing. He was in no rush and had no intention of looking for any other work to do in his day through fear of actually finding some. This was the one and only day I ever worked for that company. When I rung the next day to say that I would not be returning I didn’t drop the guy in it…I just didn’t want to become that guy myself so walked away while I still had the chance.
I don’t remember a lot about this job other than the fact that the Suzuki flat-back that I was given for the job was incredibly underpowered and also that I was given no training to carry out the required tasks. I was responsible for picking up peoples’ gas cylinders, either domestic or commercial. I had to disconnect the cylinders from appliances and refit the new cylinders, again this was with no training of any kind. When loading and unloading cylinders from the flat-back I also remember that it was common practice to launch them either into the truck or from the truck onto the ground below. Being now employed by the Fire Service and knowing better I advise none of you to try that at home!
The pay was not very good and the company not very nice so I moved on again.
Another job I found through the job exchange was as a life assurance door to door salesperson for a subsidiary of Lloyds Bank. To cut a long story short, during the first few days of training we were literally told that if the customer refuses entry to their homes that we were to then, quite deliberately, put our foot in the door to prevent them from being able to close the door until we had finished our pitch. I shit you not! I finished the day and so too did my career in the financial world.
Skylight company branch manager
How this one came about I really can’t remember. I do remember however having to go up north somewhere for a few days to see how things were run in head-office. Had I had the foresight at the time I would have taken this experience to write The Office but Ricky Gervais clearly had a training day up there some years later and beat me to. How the company were in business I really couldn’t understand and all of the bullshit sales jargon they were feeding me was served with extra ham and excessive amounts of cheese.
I was then allowed to run a small sales depot in Loughton selling skylights. I wasn’t actually that bad at it to be honest and brought in a few big orders. My head office however was not so good so I ended up losing half of the orders I received because they just didn’t send out the orders in time or, at times, didn’t even process the sales at all.
This was yet another job that I was, ‘let go’ from. This time it was due to an issue with my company car, a basic Ford Escort. A few days previously, one of the rear light clusters caught light as I was driving home from work. It was due a service anyway so I had it agreed with head office that I put it in for its service and have them look at the light at the same time. I was told by the garage that any works carried out would be agreed before they were carried out. When I went to pick up the vehicle I was told that the bill was £400. This included the extra works that apparently needed doing to it. Oops. “What extra work?” I asked, “And why didn’t you confirm with me before you carried it out?” None of this went down well with my boss so for this, and my ‘low’ sales numbers, I was asked to leave. Oddly, the same man who let me go was the same man responsible for delaying or failing several of my sales orders and with whom I’d been discussing that very point during the previous weeks. Funny that.
I worked for a company in Debden called Kelly’s Radio. It was a small electrical goods shop that sold and installed televisions, radios and cameras etc. The only three things I remember about the place were as follows:
1 The manageress looked like Arthur Mullard in a dress and was the original Mrs Bouquet.
2 My co-worker, whose name I forget, was a young girl who didn’t like her boyfriend, or anyone if I remember rightly, and often made his life very difficult. This boyfriend was quite smitten by her but lacked self-confidence. She would often use that to her advantage even to the point that if he wanted to have sex with her she would make him pay for it or buy her something expensive. What a catch she was…
3 I once stated, “No that’s fine, I can manage.” Indignantly just before I dropped a 28 inch Sony television onto the floor outside the shop. Oh how we laughed…
British Rail overhead linesman.
I worked for about eighteen months as an overhead linesman and was based in Jutsum Lane, Romford. The work was difficult, involving having to carry extremely heavy wooden ladders for, often, very long distances along tracks and often on ballast/slag. We regularly worked out in the elements and usually were well outside the acceptable limits of Health and Safety. One or two of my supervisors had issues with drink and one of them had only been promoted due to threatening his line manager with legal action after having been knocked back for promotion on several occasions. When he made this claim he had been a cleaner at a station but now he was a supervisor for an engineering crew. Having seen what he was like as a supervising engineer I always wondered how it was that he had been able to sweep stations for all those years without killing himself.
I left after having almost been killed one night by being sent up onto a live wire. For more information on that particular anecdote please follow this link.
And then, in March of 1992, I joined the London Fire Brigade. I was posted to Ilford as a recruit Firefighter and about twelve years later moved to Dagenham as a driver, became a trainer based at Shoreditch in London, went back out to Wimbledon as a Crew Manager on a Fire Station again and then was posted to Mitcham as a Watch Manager in charge of the white watch. Now, I am at Woodside (this is accurate as of 2016) as a Watch Manager on the Command Unit (This is used for supporting incident commanders at larger or more complex incidents.)
I’ve had lots of good experiences within the Fire Brigade and can look back on many funny occasions during my time here so far. It’s not always been perfect and it’s not always been easy (but policies within the Brigade prevent me from saying anything overly negative on social media so that will have to wait for another day) but I’ve certainly met some amazing people and had some interesting experiences.
I would have to say that, so far, my favourite role in the Fire Brigade (now Fire Service) has been as a trainer based in central London. Contrary to popular belief, those ‘who can’ also teach and it was the period in my career where I learnt the most and worked the hardest. I put a lot into it and got lot back in return.
So here I am blogging. Though I am still working within the Fire Service I have begun writing books. I also blog as, obviously, you can see. Writing has been the most rewarding of my careers so far, though perhaps not financially yet, and has finally scratched a creative itch that has been nagging at me for some years. For anyone thinking of becoming a writer or blogger then stop thinking about it and just do it. Writing (or any pastime which involves creativity) is both cathartic and fun.
For more information on my books please follow the link below.
Foreign Legion (mention honorifique)
As a point of interest, though I never did actually work for them, I did once go out to join the Foreign Legion. I even made it as far as the fort in Paris and stayed up until the interviews but if I remember rightly I saw the other people that were applying and thought better of it. Perhaps if I’d had something I had really needed to run from or forget I might have been more motivated to join but there you go. I think it would have been a good move for me too and I’d loved to have had the opportunity to travel more and learn a new language. I’d have enjoyed all of that…but, you know, as for all that killing stuff…maybe not so much.
Ps: Since posting this blog I also remembered working in two branches of sainsbury, being a window cleaner, laminate floor layer and qualified plumber. Just sayin’…
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