A Brief History of Work

One day I will tell you of the time
I worked as the school's milkboy
Delivering the fresh crates
To the classrooms each morning
Then in the afternoon
Collecting the vile, curdled, stinking empties
For 25p a week
– which is slave labour now
and was slave labour then –
And how after a couple of weeks
I got bored
And lay on the stage
In the assembly hall
Chucking the bottles across the room
Laughing and banging my feet
As each one exploded and shattered
The teachers congregating at the entrance
Waiting for the arrival of the school nurse
As they thought I was having
An epileptic fit
When really
All I was having
Was a whole lotta fun

One day I will tell you of that
And the time I had a paper round with John Menzies
How I rose at 5am each morning
To deliver yesterdays news
In the brittle cold
Pitch black mornings
With all of Central London's paedophiles
In hot pursuit
And how that comforted me
As at least then
I thought
My sister
Would be safe
I'll tell you of that
And of how I hid my job from my school friends
As only poor children had to deliver papers
To earn money
To save up to buy
Their own clothes
And new school uniform
One day I'll write all about it:
John Menzies
Pimlico
1987
Of how I pissed on the priest's Daily Telegraph
Tramped it in dog shit
Then posted it through the vicarage letterbox
And how the following day
I was refused entry to the newsagents
And my paper round
Was then the burden
Of some other poor unfortunate soul

And one day I will tell you
Of the time I worked in the Five Star Car Wash
On Shepherds Bush Green
And how we dusted and polished dashboards
Shook out and hoovered floor mats
Then drove the cars through the wash
Hand buffing them the other side
And I'll tell of how the tight-fisted owner
A big fat cigar smoking Turk
In fur and gold
With a fleet of second hand Mercedes
Would send family members through the wash
With a twenty pound note
Placed under the passenger seat
To see which workers would pocket their goodluck
Rather than put the find into a common kitty
which no one ever saw shared out

I'll tell of that
And of how when I was 15
I passed myself of for 18
And landed a labouring job with Kone Lifts
And of how one afternoon
While having lunch with Joe
And smoking thai weed
On top of the elevator
I fell down the back
My spine bent to snapping point
Joe clutching a hold of my legs
Thus preventing me from falling
100ft down
To certain death
Into the concrete pit below
And I'll tell of how
When I told my mother
She completely freaked out
Before asking me
For the next week's rent in advance
“Just in case!”

One day I will tell you of that
And of the Video Rental Shop
Where I was taken on for work experience
From a YTS scheme
And how I worked 12 hour shifts
For not a penny of pay
And how one Friday evening
I stole a copy of
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Before ringing the till open
And walking out
Leaving three hundred plus pounds
For some lucky soul to find

And I'll tell you of the time
Working for Blenheim Electrics
As an apprentice electrician
At Hyde Park Police Station
Of being treated like a piece of shit
By everybody except a man called Ray
Of how I hit the head bully
Across the kneecaps with a scaffolding pole
When he tried to strip me naked
As part of an initiation ritual
Where I'd be tied to the roof
And laughed at for hours
Before being ordered to make the tea

I'll tell of that
And of how I worked for just about every Soho nightclub
Handing out flyers
While dressed up as an alien
With a plastic spaceship sellotaped to my head
All that
For free entry
Two free drinks
And a whole lot of trouble from rival club promoters
I'll tell all about it
And off how
When Ewan died
(their main leafleter;
my best friend)
They disowned me
Blamed me for his death
For introducing him to heroin
After that I was no longer welcome in the clubs
And what's more
They grouped together
And barred me from the funeral
Said that if I attended
There'd be another death
All those people Ewan hated so much
Putting him in the ground
Fake tears behind blacked out rock sunglasses
As now they'd have to find another great guitarist
who'd be prepared to work and record for nothing
and hand out leaflets to boot

One day I will tell you of it all
And of the years I worked at Vaughans Ltd
Employed as the Head Baizer
Cutting out and gluing green felt
Onto the bottom of reproduction antique lamps
Of how I wired 24 armed chandeliers
And shot smack in the toilets
Of how I went to war with the managing director
After he illegally made three workers redundant
How I brought the place to daily standstills
Until they'd had just about enough
And tried to blackmail me
After finding used syringes in my bag
And when I wouldn't surrender my position
How they offered me £15,000
To accept and sign a dismissal for gross misconduct
Which I did willingly
But not before trying
To get the work van thrown into the deal
And on how
When being reminded that I couldn't drive
I conceded it was a fair point
And took the cheque
And a whole lot of drugs
And that was the start of the good times

One day I'll tell you about them
And of my next job
Working for BPP
Employed to pack boxes
Yet somehow
Two years later
Finding myself in the manager's chair
With a three quarter million pound annual budget
Which mostly went on luxury chauffeur driven cars
Heroin
And crack cocaine
And that was the start of the even better times
Until I was dismissed a year later
Due to “horrendous expenditure abnormalities”
And I agreed to go
As long as they paid me up until the end of the month
As I was leaving the country anyway

One day I'll write about that
And of my first year in France
When I faked enthusiasm
And went grape picking in the countryside
And how after two days
I was a broken man
Cursing at how inhumane the work was
Then phoning my father-in-law
And having him drive 300km
Into the thick of the Beaujolais hills
To rescue me

And one day I'll tell you about my 18 months with Arctic Spas
Travelling an hour and a half each morning
Out into the middle of nowhere
Then walking for 25 minutes
Through fields of cows and horses
To repair, modify and test luxury jacuzzis
And how one day
On a maintenance call in the Grenoble mountains
Ten below zero
I slipped with a screwdriver
And pushed the thing three inches down into my hand
And how the firebrigade
Had to come and rescue me
And take me to the nearest hospital
Of which I fled
As soon as I was stitched up
As I was getting ill from opiate withdrawals
And was more than 4hrs from home
With no methadone
No medical insurance
And no passport

I'll tell you of that
And about the time I worked for Envie Rhone
A 'Program of Insertion'
For social misfits
The insane
And those on pre-release from prison
I'll tell of how we fixed-up washing machines
Fridge freezers
And ovens
And how the conditions in that place
Were like stepping back 100 years
With every law and safety regulation ever fought for
IGNORED
The workers
On short 3 month contracts
Blackmailed
As if they said anything
Their contracts would not be renewed
And then it'd either be back to prison
Or the mental hospital
And when I complained
Having no place to be sent back to
The entire company
And every social institution of the region
Closed ranks
And tried to force me out
And when I wouldn't leave
Or shut up
They contacted an old success
An ex-prison tough
And had him threaten me
To stop my action
“OR ELSE!”

One day I will tell you of that
And of the weeks I spent working in the Beaux Art Museum
How I stood there from 11am to 6pm
With my hands behind my back
Surveying the public
And giving them directions
When I was lost myself
I'll tell you of how
We were allowed to play phone games to pass the time
Of how I pretended I was playing Zombie Shootout
Or Clubroom Billiards
When really I was writing
Something they wouldn't have permitted
Just in case
I was writing about them
Which of course
I was

I'll tell you all about it
And also of the time I worked in the Town Hall
Of how I was paid to follow behind the Mayor
Fanning his wind to either side as he went
Making sure that his councillors
Riding in his slipstream
Didn't die of intoxication
While trying to lay a successful knife in his back
Before sailing on by
One day I will tell of all that
And of how
On Saturdays
I had to dress up like a low class waiter
And lead soon-to-be unhappy couples
Into the marriage room
With a low sweeping bow
And walk them down the aisle
The Bride to my right
The Groom to my left
Inviting them to take seat
on the ornate
King and Queen
Wood and velvet chairs

One day I'll tell you all about these things
Only not now
And not here
As time's ticking on
And I'm just not paid to write.

2 comments:

  1. So when they pay you huh. This is amazing work Shane. You do deserve to be paid for your words!

    ReplyDelete