Sunday, 30 October 2016

Random access memory # 60. (1987)

The most important change in my working life happened soon after I moved to Deptford.
I'd just left a telephone sales job for a firm that sold lighting equipment. In the Jobcentre I saw an advert for a job as an admin officer at the local Unemployment Benefit Office.
Politically, I was already a strong believer in the welfare state, so I asked about the job. That was the first time I actively chose a job for my own reasons, rather than just settling for whatever was available.
I almost fell at the first. The job required 5 'O' levels or equivalent. I had 4 'O' levels from school and an 'A' level from an evening class. The woman at the Jobcentre told me, incorrectly, that this wasn't enough. I think I might have asked her to check.
I got the job. I was only there a few months. That was where I met my first love.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Random access memory # 59. (1972)

RK, the doctor's daughter, and SH, were the two girls universally and enduringly derided as teachers' pets at primary school. During the industrial unrest of the early 1970s SH was asked to read out a composition she'd written in front of the rest of the class. It was critical of striking workers and described an invented scenario where somebody died during surgery due to a power cut, or some such Daily-Express-style nonsense.
In the piece she used the word 'electric' when she meant 'electricity'. I knew that was wrong and had a satisfying little sneer to myself. I would have been about ten. I think even then I was beginning to have a feel for which side my bread was buttered politically.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Random access memory # 58. (1978)

Mr Gall the English teacher got us to do a talk to the rest of the class on a subject of our own choosing. I did mine about illegal drugs. I pursued my interest in the subject more directly later in my teens.
Gall was really impressed and my classmates seemed interested. It made me feel good.
S H, who'd always been teacher's pet even from primary school, did her talk about a school skiing trip she'd been on. Even at the time it seemed to me from her approach that she might have had some coaching, or got a book out of the library on public speaking. She incorporated a visual element by pointlessly drawing the ski-lift on the blackboard. She also tried to introduce an element of humour, which fell completely flat and, I thought, just made her look a dick. She always seemed like she was trying a bit too hard.
I thought my presentation was better and more interesting than hers and that felt satisfying. Although I was nervous about doing the presentation, at least I turned up. MC went off sick that day for the first and last time in her school career. It was suspected to be a ruse to avoid doing the presentation. She was odd and thin and serious and I fancied her slightly.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Family business #22. (1973).

The Long Lost Sister was, I think, the first person I encountered who would express what could loosely be called a social conscience. I mostly remember it from comments she made.
She retold a story about the diminutive black weightlifter Precious McKenzie, who featured regularly on TV's Record Breakers at the time. McKenzie rang a bed and breakfast to book a room. Inferring from his surname that he was Scottish (and white) the landlady duly took the booking. When he turned up the landlady refused to honour the booking, claiming it was a misunderstanding and she'd 'thought he was Scottish'. The Long Lost Sister was critical of the racism of the landlady.
She also commented on TV programmes of the time like 'Edna the Inebriate Woman' about a street-homeless alcoholic, and 'Gale Is Dead', a documentary about a young woman who'd died of a heroin overdose. In each case she expressed empathy for these people.
Nobody else I knew talked about that kind of thing, in that way. In some small way, it was an influence on my thinking, an early clue to the importance of a sense of affiliation with others.