A Working Life I: The Early Years

Last month marked the end of my official full-time employment. This used to be called “retirement” but neither my past working life nor my future activities are so easily compartmentalized. I never really “began work” in a career role until I was in my 30’s and don’t expect to spend my future on the golf course or fishing.

However, as a way of taking stock, I decided to draw up a list of all my paid employment I can remember since my first evening newspaper round in England when I was thirteen.

To make this project manageable, and hopefully easier for you to read, I’ll take my working life a stage at a time, starting with the early years.

The Early Years

1963-65: Evening Newspaper delivery, Wistaston, Cheshire. This was my first paid job. My parents didn’t approve of me working the more lucrative morning paper round because it might make me late for school (so they said) so I jumped on my bike each weekday evening after school and cycled the leafy lanes of my home town delivering the Sentinel. This came to an end when we moved to Shavington.

Old_Farm_Shavington1965-68: Weekend farm laborer, Jack’s Old Farm, Weston Lane, Shavington, Cheshire. I mucked out the cows in winter and helped bring in the hay in summer. Some highlights were rat catching among the sacks of grain, holding down the bullocks while they were castrated and the smell of fresh milk in the dairy. After work my Mum would make me take my jeans and shirt off outside the back door and jump in the bath to get rid of the smell of cow muck. I was, as John Fowles noted in the opening chapter of Daniel Martin:

“…a boy in his midteens, his clothes unsuited, a mere harvest helper…all life to follow…collecting this day, pregnant with being. Unharvested, yet one with this land…Inscrutable innocent, already in exile.”

Fine Fare, Crewe1969-70: Shelf Stocker, Fine Fare Supermarket, Crewe, Cheshire: In my final couple of years in Grammar School I worked an eight-hour day each Saturday at one of the only two supermarkets in town. I was paid 19/6 which was less than £1 and while a pound was worth more then than today it was still piss-poor wages. However, us Saturday boys from the Grammar School got to hang out with the full-time workers who’d left school at 16 and shared a slice of their lives from the other side of the tracks. We stocked the shelves and talked about sex.

Butlins1970: Waiter, Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Pwllheli, North Wales: together with my school friends Alan and Bryan (pictured), Richard and Steve, we waited tables and worked as bar staff in the evenings for the happy campers in this uniquely English working-class holiday-cum-prison camp. Room and board (in a double-bunk chalet), a small stipend, and a summer of love that was a prelude to University passed in a drunken haze.

Next up, I work a couple of part-time jobs in England before moving to America to teach undergraduates, drive a cab and sell shoes.

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