Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I've mentioned jobs in earlier blog posts on here that I've done over the years, including my time working in stage management, most of them enjoyable, but there were times when I did some work out of necessity which wasn't so enjoyable, and, on reflection, from the perspective of some 30 years or so, were, quite frankly, totally unsuitable. I can't think how on earth I had either the temerity to apply, or why the companies or organisations offering the said employment would even consider me for employment. A bit like the Groucho Marx remark about resigning from some club or other, where he says 'I would never join a club which would have me as a member' or words to that effect, I could never see why anyone would want to employ me (in these particular roles) as I'm sure I was never actually suitable in the first place! Groucho is, by the way, one of my all-time favourite people. I could write pages and pages on here as to why, but won't at the moment. I may do in a future post.
I worked as a postman, briefly, based at Bedford Central Sorting Office. On applying you have to fill in the usual application form, as you do. I don't think you had to give so much information as regards your identity as you would if you were applying today. Perhaps when I was applying there wasn't so much what is called 'identity fraud.' But with my background in professional stage management and puppetry, was that good experience for someone delivering mail? I can't think that it was. You had to go through a somewhat weird testing process which included some rather embarrassingly simple intelligence tests, none of which I can remember now. But, to tell the truth, honestly and simply, I didn't last long in the job. The idea of having to get up at around 4.30 a.m. in the middle of winter to go out and deliver letters to the people of Bedford in the pitch black streets on a bicycle with a very heavy bag of recently-sorted mail and attempting to read addresses on envelopes by the light of a not particularly efficient torch was not my idea of a great career move. Trudging the aforementioned streets of Bedford attempting to find a particular house number when the numbering system of a particular street was incomprehensible was not exactly inspiring. Probably to my bank manager, but certainly not to me. Why were the numbers of some streets so erratic, to say the least? It was and still is a mystery. Some property developer who was responsible for building some of the housing estates on the outer fringes of the town has a lot to answer for in regards to my sanity! But, saying all this, I think I can appreciate more fully from this experience the work and dedication of the staff of Her Majesty's Royal Mail. I have nothing but admiration for them, although I expect it's far more mechanised and the work simplified since I worked for the Royal Mail.
Another job was working for the education department of the Bedford Library Service and based at County Hall in Cauldwell Street in Bedford. I was taken on as a driver for the library van which went round local schools and the idea was that we restocked this vehicle regularly then visited schools, mostly primary, where we drew up in the playground and the children and staff could come on board and they could choose their books. We also delivered books to the schools own libraries as well as collecting books to return to the base in what used to be the County Library (now closed, but later merged into what is now the Central Library in Harpur Street. The old County Library building was or is used for storing books and the educational department was or is in the floor beneath the old library at County Hall.) Part of my job was going to include reading to the children, which I never got chance to do because I left before having a chance to do this, sadly, as I enjoy reading aloud, I suppose being vaguely associated with acting and theatre.
The biggest problem with this job was the actual driving of the library vehicle. Thinking about it now it seems strange to think they even gave me the job. I had driven since getting my driving licence in 1969 and had only driven cars, so why on earth did they think I would be suitable to drive what was in actual fact a Heavy Goods Vehicle of about the size of a single-decker bus? Someone with either a P.S.V. (Public Service Vehicle) or H.G.V. (Heavy Goods Vehicle) would have been far more suitable. When I went for the initial interview for the job I had to drive this vehicle around the car park at the library and if my memory serves, around the one-way system in Bedford. I think I must have crashed the gears several times but it wasn't exactly a good driving test and wasn't going to show me as what you might call a proficient driver, and certainly not of a vehicle of such a size. A very cumbersome and awkward vehicle, to say the least.
I began the job and we went out on several drives to some of the village Primary Schools, turning up in the playground or the road outside and we delivered boxes of books to the libraries within the schools. But the big problem was getting the library van back into the garage at County Hall at the end of the day. It was supposed to be reversed into this fairly tight space. If you visit this building I'm sure you'll see the garage which was where the library van lived and you'd see what a problem it was reversing into this garage. Some clever architect who designed County Hall couldn't have made it more difficult to reverse such a large vehicle into that space as well as providing a loading bay which stuck out so that you had to reverse around it making it doubly or even trebly difficult to make this manoeuvre without hitting it. Unfortunately, on one occasion, when I was reversing into this confounded garage, at the end of a day driving around the schools of Bedford, I managed to scrape the side of the library van. You'd think I done it deliberately, according to the head librarian. It was this which lead to me being sacked, which, on reflection, was somewhat unfair. Nothing was done to make the job any easier. For a start, as I pointed out, the garage was actually designed with two doors, one at each end, so, had it not been blocked up with piles of boxes and other rubbish, you could, in actual fact, drive in forward through one door and out the other end to get out. But nobody had the intelligence to see this, so you were expected to reverse in, one of the most difficult bits of driving imaginable and even more so when driving such a large vehicle. The library staff were totally uncooperative when we went out to the schools. On several occasions when we visited a school and I had to reverse the confounded van they refused to help, just getting out of the thing and helping me reverse would have been useful. But no, they seemed to think it beneath them to do such a thing.They would arrogantly sit in their seats and refuse to budge. No help at all. I am actually grateful to them in some respects because they have afforded me plenty of scope for my writing as I have filed all this at the back of my memory and they are the basis for material for my writing. As have quite a few of the people I have worked with over the years. Nothing is wasted and any or all of the jobs that I did over the years which weren't exactly great career moves have afforded material for my writing. So I thank them heartily. Where are they now, I wonder, and do they actually realise the stress they caused and the lack of cooperation they offered? I don't think they know. Perhaps and again perhaps not.