Thursday, April 18, 2013
I have done lots of other jobs besides working in theatre. I have mentioned in earlier posts my time working in stage management with a variety of different regional theatres. But I have also spent quite a lot of time working for temp agencies. Not all of it what you would call 'intelligent' in that it wasn't exactly using much intelligence, just a means to an end you might say, a way to pay bills and keep the proverbial 'wolf from the door.' I don't know what the situation is now as regards temp work, but some 20-30 years ago you could sign up with several temp agencies and almost always rely on one of them to provide some sort of work. I used to be with Blue Arrow and Manpower in Bedford. If my memory serves me well, I worked for a now-defunct agency called Find-A-Job. More on these later, but at one time I had a more permanent job for a company called A.M.S. (I'm not sure what the initials stood for, but I believe it was a subsiduary of Blackstone or some such named company.) Anyway, A.M.S. was based in a building in Costin Street, off Bedford's Midland Road, and sold and distributed motor spares to garages and motor mechanics in and around Bedfordshire and surrounding counties. You must remember that this was around 1977-78. They employed van drivers who went out delivering these car spares and I was one of them. We would do two deliveries, morning and afternoon. Sometimes we worked Saturdays, but I'm not sure whether this was every week. Anyway, the job was advertised in the Bedford Job Centre. I was actually quite surprised when I got offered the job, as my only real qualification was that I had a clean driving licence and that I could drive, and I suppose had a relatively good knowledge of the local area. I think that was part of the attraction of the job, driving around the Bedfordshire countryside. As long as the items were delivered to the correct place, it didn't really matter how fast or slow you did it. It was also great that you weren't constantly being supervised, there was nobody looking over your shoulder all the time. When I started the job I was shown the 'route' by another member of staff who had done the job for quite a while, a lady who lived, I believe, in Marston Mortaine. It wasn't exactly difficult, it meant remembering where most of the garages were, and in particular, the motor repair shops that are/were hidden away in back streets and on out-of-the way industrial estates and villages dotted about throughout Bedfordshire. I have to say, as a creative person, and as someone who enjoys writing and at present is in the process of writing a novel (and other pieces) all this sort of work is really useful, as I have a good filing system (my memory!) and meeting so many various people over the years means I can recall characters for inclusion in my writing. So, however boring and mundane a job might be, whether it's delivering car parts or working on a production line, it means I have got plenty of characters to draw on!
I used to get a lift from my home in Cople, Bedfordhire, on a Saturday morning, from the manager of the A.M.S. branch. I really cannot now remember his name. He drove to the branch with his wife who I presume went shopping in Bedford, while he was working in the office in Costin Street. They also had a son, who wasn't exactly the brightest candle in the packet (or whatever metaphor you can come up with!) Let's just say he wasn't exactly top-draw intellectual material. He wouldn't make it to Mastermind or University Challenge, let's say. When I first began at A.M.S. he was off on sick pay, as apparently he'd had an accident on his motorbike or something. I think he only got the job because his father was the manager. I think they lived in Sandy, which is some 12 miles from Bedford, and meant they drove past Cople on their way to Bedford, so giving me a lift on a Saturday meant they weren't going out of their way. The whole family remind me strongly of the Thenardiers in Les Miserables (although not for any kind of criminal wrong-doing that those villains get up to in that book and musical, you understand!) Why? I don't know, but they certainly had that sort of air about them. I'll write a bit more on this subject in my next post.