Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1987: I only wanted a job

So after shipping out of Manor House and all the way over to Twickenham to share a flat with a friend, job hunting had to begin in earnest.

He'd paid the deposit on the flat, what with me having no money. It was a nice flat in a quiet road by Twickenham Green, just a few doors down from celebrity retirement home Brinsworth House. This I only discovered the other day on an odyessy to Twickers to look at my old haunts. I had no idea what it was at the time.

Job hunting in 1987 involved looking in the paper or going to an agency. Fortuitously - or not is turned out - my flatmate's sister worked in an agency on Oxford Street and we rather hoped she was going to set us up with something amazing, which was only a matter of time, with us having absolutely no experience in anything whatsoever.

But after taking a trip to the West End to see Wall Street one Sunday afternoon, we decided that we wanted to work in the City. The Yuppie thing was all the rage, the money was the stuff of dreams and despite having no interest in figures, selling or the markets, I wanted to be opening bottles of champagne in a wine bar of a Friday night. And just think: £12,000 is all we'd need to want for nothing.

So after but a few days we did indeed get jobs - at the same place, in Shoreditch, so it was sort of the City. In those days Shoreditch was a desolate nothingness, full of old warehouses and pubs with lunchtime strippers, and not the uber-trendy chi-chi shopping and dining destination it is today. We were above a launderette opposite Elvisly Yours.

We worked for a company that 'sold' financial services. Dressed in my new suit bought by mum who'd shed a tear when I came out of the changing room, and with Filofax in hand we got the 'drain' with all the other drones and headed off to our pretend bit of the City. I remember noticing how everyone folded their broadsheets in order not to irritate their neighbour.

This job was a strange one though. It was commission only for a start. When I told my dad he was horrified - how was I going to live? This hadn't really occurred to me. Any money you made you wouldn't see for 13 months. It was run by three ex-City wide boys who dished out advice to us every day. It involved a lot of cold calling from the phonebook to set up appointments. That, and exploiting your friends and family first and foremost. No one I knew was remotely interested. Suddenly calling someone you've not seen for years and then springing an investment plan on them sent them packing. You could hear them recoil. This was not good.

The bosses said things like, 'when you call someone say: "I'm in the business of taking people out to lunch"'. This terrified me as I had no money, and my flatmate had set up an appointment with a woman who ordered an £11 salad at Harvey Nicks' cafe. I didn't even have a cheque card. I tried it with Nina Myskow, at the time the Sun TV critic and self-styled Wicked Witch Of Wapping. I got straight through. She toyed with me, but it went no further. Their most lasting piece of advice, however, was that your socks should always match your tie. Well, it was 1987.

After a few weeks of this and having set up one appointment where someone asked me all about different types of mortgages and I couldn't answer their questions, my dad pressured me to move on and if you didn't get results to show off about in the weekly meeting you were on a sticky wicket.

So after a summer of no money but having quite a nice time - we all started together and were all quite good mates by the end of it - I left. And I wasn't the first. We'd all realised this was not going to work, no matter how hard we tried. And mysteriously, when someone did have a guarantee of regular monthly mortgages the bosses were less than helpful. Hmmmm...

So this song soundtracked that hot summer, when London was exciting and new and I was, briefly, a Yuppie. Up next, the next job. What had I done to deserve that?


  1. Oh, you should have told me about your odyssey. I would have loved to have gone on a Five-Centres guided tour of Twickenham.

  2. Have you still got the suit??

    My (now) hubby bought me ten copies of that record for my birthday that year, as I loved it so much that I would have apparently worn out one copy within a day. It still sounds quite good, as it goes.

  3. What's really worrying is that there were people around at the time who used to say 'I'm in the business of taking people out for lunch.'

  4. I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.