A Brief History of Work

One day I will tell you of the time I worked as the school's milkboy, delivering the fresh crates to the classrooms each morning, then in the afternoon, collecting the vile, curdled, stinking empties, for 25p a week – which is slave labour now, and was slave labour then. I'll tell you of how, after a couple of weeks, I got bored and lay on the stage, in the assembly hall, chucking the bottles across the room while laughing and banging my feet as each one exploded and shattered; how the  teachers congregated at the entrance, waiting the arrival of the school nurse, as they thought I was having an epileptic fit - when really, all I was having, was a whole lotta fun. One day I will tell you of that.

And of the time I landed a paper round with John Menzies. How I rose at 5am each morning and delivered yesterdays news, in the snap cold, pitch black mornings, with all of Central London's paedophiles in hot pursuit. I'll tell you how that comforted me, as at least then (I thought) my sister would be safe. I'll tell you all, and of why I kept my round a secret, as only poor children had to deliver papers to earn money to save up to buy their own clothes and new school uniform. One day I'll write about it: John Menzies, Pimlico, 1987, of how I pissed on the priest's Daily Telegraph, tramped it in dog shit, then posted it through the vicarage letterbox, and how the following day I was refused entry to the newsagents, and my paper round was then the burden of some other poor unfortunate's soul.

And one day I will tell you of the time I worked in the Five Star Car Wash on Shepherds Bush Green, and how we dusted and polished dashboards, shook out and hoovered floor mats, then drove the cars through the wash, hand buffing them the other side. I'll tell of how the tight-fisted owner, a big fat cigar smoking Turk who dressed in fur and gold and had a fleet of second hand Mercedes, how he'd send his  family members through the wash with a twenty pound note placed under the passenger seat to see which of his workers would pocket their good luck rather than put it in the kitty - the kitty which no one ever saw shared out. I'll tell of that. I'll tell you all.

And of how, when I was 15, I passed myself of for 18 and landed a labouring job with Kone Lifts. And how one afternoon, while having lunch with Joe and smoking thai weed on top of the elevator, I fell down the back, my spine bent to snapping point, and Joe clutching a hold of my legs to prevent me from falling 100ft down, to certain death, into the concrete pit below. I'll tell you of that, and of how, when I told my mother she completely freaked out before asking me for the next week's rent in advance: “Just in case!”

And one day I will tell you of the Video Rental Shop where I was taken on for work experience from a YTS scheme, and how I worked 12 hour shifts for not a penny of pay;  how one Friday evening I stole a copy of: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, before ringing the till open and walking out, leaving three hundred plus pounds for some lucky soul to find.

And I'll tell you of the time I spent working at Hyde Park Police Station as an apprentice electrician for Blenheim Electrics, of being treated like a piece of shit by everybody except a man called Ray; of how I hit the head bully across the kneecaps with a scaffolding pole when he tried to strip me naked as part of an initiation ritual, which would end in me being tied to the roof and laughed at for hours before being ordered down to make the tea. I'll tell of that.

And of how I worked for just about every Soho nightclub, handing out flyers while dressed up as an alien with a plastic spaceship sellotaped to my head. All that, for free entry, two drinks vouchers, and a whole lot of trouble from rival club promoters. I'll tell all about it, and off how when Ewan died (their main leafleter and my best friend) they disowned me, blamed me for his death for introducing him to heroin. After that I was no longer welcome in the clubs, and what's more, they grouped together and barred me from the funeral, said that if I attended there'd be another death! All those people Ewan hated so much, putting him in the ground, fake tears behind blacked out rock sunglasses, as now they'd have to find another great guitarist who'd be prepared to record for nothing, and hand out leaflets to boot.

One day I will tell you of it all, and of the years I worked at Vaughans Ltd, employed as the Head Baizer, cutting out and gluing green felt onto the bottoms of reproduction antique lamps; of how I wired 24 armed chandeliers and shot smack in the toilets; of how I went to war with the managing director after he illegally made three workers redundant, and how I brought the place to daily standstills until they'd had just about enough and tried to blackmail me after finding used syringes in my bag. And how, when I wouldn't surrender my position, they offered me £15,000 to accept and sign a dismissal for gross misconduct, which I did willingly , but not before trying to get the work van thrown into the deal - though on being reminded that I couldn't drive, I conceded it was a fair point and took the cheque, and a whole lot of drugs, and that was the start of the good times. One day I'll tell you all about them.

And of my next job, working for Financial Training, employed to pack boxes, yet somehow, two years later, finding myself in the manager's chair wwith a three quarter million pound annual budget - which mostly went on luxury chauffeur driven cars, heroin, and crack cocaine. And that was the start of the even better times. Until I was dismissed a year later due to “horrendous expenditure abnormalities”.  I agreed to go as long as they paid me up until the end of the month. I was leaving the country anyway. One day I'll write about that.

And of my first year in France when I faked enthusiasm and went grape picking in the countryside. How after two days I was a broken man, cursing at how inhumane the work was,  phoning my father-in-law and having him drive 300km, into the thick of the Beaujolais hills, to rescue me.

And one day I'll tell you about my 18 months with Arctic Spas, travelling an hour and a half each morning out into the middle of nowhere, then walking for 25 minutes through fields of cows and horses, to repair, modify and test top-of-the-range jacuzzis, and how one day while on a maintenance call in the Grenoble mountains, ten below zero, I slipped with a screwdriver and pushed the thing three inches down into my hand. I'll tell of how the fire brigade had to come and save me and take me to the nearest hospital, from which I fled as soon as I'd been stitched up as I was getting ill from opiate withdrawals, was more than 4hrs from home, with no methadone, no medical insurance, and no passport. I'll tell you of all that.

And about the time I worked for Envie Rhône, a 'Program of Insertion'  for social misfits, the insane, and those on pre-release from prison. I'll explain of how we fixed-up washing machines, fridge freezers, and ovens, and how the conditions in that place were like stepping back 100 years with every law and safety regulation ever fought for IGNORED. I tell of the workers, all on short 3 month contracts, blackmailed, so if they said anything their contracts would not be renewed, and then it'd be either  back to prison or the mental hospital. Then,  when I complained, having no place to be sent back to, the entire company and every social institution of the region closed ranks and tried to force me out, and when I wouldn't leave (or shut up) they contacted an old success, an ex-prison tough, and had him threaten me, to stop my action “OR ELSE!”

And one day I'll tell of the weeks I spent working in the Beaux Art Museum, how I stood there from 11am to 6pm with my hands behind my back surveying the public and giving them directions when I was lost myself. I'll tell you of how we were allowed to play phone games to pass the time, and  how I pretended I was playing Zombie Shootout or Clubroom Billiards when really I was writing, something they wouldn't have permitted, just in case I was writing about them - which of course, I was. I'll tell all about it.

And also of the time I worked in the Town Hall. Of how I was paid to follow behind the Mayor, fanning his wind to either side as he went, making sure that his councillors, riding in his slipstream, didn't die of intoxication while trying to lay a successful knife in his back before sailing on by. One day I will tell of all that, and of how  on Saturdays I had to dress up like a low class waiter and lead soon-to-be unhappy couples into the marriage room with a low sweeping bow, then walk them down the aisle - the Bride to my right; the Groom to my left - inviting them to take seat on the ornate King and Queen, wood and velvet chairs.

One day I'll tell you about all these things, only not now and not here, as time's ticking on and I'm just not paid to write.

(This post was originally posted in poem format. You can find a copy of the original posting HERE)
A New Memoires post will follow soon...
Thoughts & Wishes To All, Shane, X