Monday, September 5, 2011

1987: We were watching TV

On this day, 24 years ago, I pitched up for my new job.

I was dreading it, naturally, but what choice did I have? My dad had not only made me leave my ridiculous commission-only job but also set me up with a new one. It was kind of him, but I didn't want it, had no interest in it, but while I had no clue what I wanted to do yet I had to do something to bring some money in.

Money. I had none. I was skint, overdrawn, not allowed a cheque card or even a cashpoint card and spent lunchtimes queueing in the bank for them to charge me a fiver to phone my branch and authorise a cash withdrawal, usually of about £30 a week, minus the fiver. For a phonecall! That still makes my blood boil. No wonder I had no money.

So there was money coming in but this job was not going to make me rich. My starting salary was £4000. A year. That worked out roughly about £400 a month, before tax. Never mind. In my new sales job I could make commission and that would bump it up. After all, who wouldn't want to buy ad space in a trade magazine about agriculture in the Middle East? That's right, no one. In four months I sold one classified ad to a shed manufacturer near Birmingham. I don't even think he ever paid.

It was a miserable existence. Me and two blokes, both about 10 years older than me and both suspicious I was a mole for my dad sat in a one-room office. They were as northern as I was southern, hated my smoking and initially were really off with me. I'd met one of them before when he'd called to come ask me to explain mortgages to him. i knew nothing and bluffed it, but I clearly hadn't fooled him. When I arrived to start work with him on September 5th, 1987, he said he hadn't realised I was starting that day.

His main reason for being off with me was that he and the other guy were convinced I was a mole. My dad was the boss, you see. I wasn't, and had no interest in being one, but I could see their point. They had a nice life in the London office, while their boss who they couldn't stand (and neither could I), and their boss's boss (my dad) were all far away in Bahrain. So was I planted to keep and eye and report back? I wasn't, and neither was it ever asked of me.

So there I was, sitting at a bare desk with just a phone. No computers of course, and nowhere to hide. They'd be away a lot so it was just me and the office secretary making small talk while she typed my letters. I had to cold call business that might be potential sales. I'm phobic about phones at the best of times - thank God email was invented - so I hated this. I had a script, but I was tongue-tied, I stumbled, I quite clearly didn't believe in what I was doing and had no interest in it. I was bored to tears.

I'd spend lunchtimes wandering Queensway (pre-Whiteleys), browsing in what shops there were. In the evenings I'd go back to the flat I shared with a uni friend in Twickenham and watch the telly. At least on Friday, when LWT took over from Thames we got things like The Two Of Us and The Six O'Clock Show. When I think of those shows I feel an autumnal, nostalgic pang. It was a mistake to be stuck out in Twickers, but we had no money to do much else than sit in at our house or other friend's houses or have friends over. Was this going to be my life?

So the leaves fell, the evenings drew in. I'd drive home dreading the same few songs that were played to death on Capital Radio's drivetime show with David 'Kid' Jensen: Love In The First Degree by Bananarama, Faith by George Michael, Dinner With Gershwin by Donna Summer and this one. It had a dark feeling, much like me. To think, a year ago I was back at uni for the final year, carefree and with no thought of the future. If only I'd known it would be like this...


  1. Another song I'd never heard before. I can imagine how its catchy, jolly little riff might have sounded like it was taunting you, as you trudged miserably towards that office for another meaningless day.

  2. What a time - I don't know how we coped in offices before computers and all the distractions.

  3. My first radio theme tune, for easily guessable reasons. I still like it. Better than the alternative by Cat Stevens.