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Take That to the Bank!

Clive told Derek (aka Dudley Moore and Peter Cook) that th worst job he’d ever had was “removing lobsters from Jayne Mansfield’s arse”

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I have been, for better or worse, self employed since 1982. But in the six years previous to that I had an assortment of jobs, too many to mention or remember. However I thought I’d share a few experiences of those days because there are a few anecdotes and experiences worth sharing.

To set the scene, at school one of my teachers called me an under achiever to my face. It was something that stuck with me and always spurred me on even in the rough times which were to follow. To be fair, my secondary school years were rather overshadowed by some difficult family circumstances but none of that was really an excuse.

I didn’t like school.

In fact I hated it with such a passion that the idea of further education of any kind was not one which appealed to me nor one to which I aspired.

I wanted a job.

Any job.

I’d show them all. I’d go back to that school and light up a fag with a twenty pound note in front of that teacher .

Or so I thought.

I wrote to many prospective employers and had a few interviews while I was still at school. One interview was with the Clydesdale Bank. It took place at their head office in  St Vincent Street in Glasgow.

It was late 1975.

The Office was large. It was marble and where it wasn’t marble it was mahogany.  This was the kind of mahogany that looked as if it had been polished that very day and each day since its installation. There was one of these old mahogany calendars with the rolling canvas days and dates on them.

There were blotters, fountain pens and old musty looking and smelling ledgers. The office I’m sure had remained pretty much unchanged since the war. Which war I’m not sure but I would doubt that any bank worker from the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries would have had any trouble recognising the environment. I looked at the calendar and speculated that it must have been round the complete rolls of canvas at least 100 times.

The man who interviewed me was not made of mahogany but he seemed to have a similar demeanour and elasticity. From his brylcreemed hair (with stranded combover) to his starched collar, from his Dunn Brothers suit to his Crockett and Jones shoes and from his brylcreemed moustache to his company tie, this was the personification of banking 1970’s style.

I panicked.

No matter how I didn’t like school this was worse. This guy seemed like one of the German officers from Colditz (which was at that time being serialised on TV) but perhaps lacking some of their joie de vivre and reckless abandon.

However as well as my dislike of school, my imperative to secure employment was hastened, at least in my own mind, by the premature death of my dad a few weeks before the interview. I needed a job and convinced myself, despite all the misgivings, it’d be worth a try.

After answering all the questions by lying assiduously (Hobbies? reading and stamp collecting. Newspaper? The Daily Telegraph. Why do you want this job? The great career prospects and opportunities for security and advancement) I then asked some questions. These were carefully prepared as all the advice was that asking questions was good.

A week or so later the letter arrived informing me that my application and interview had been successful and to report to the local branch of the bank at 8:45 am on the 14th June 1976. My salary was to be £28.50 per week paid monthly. My title would be Office Junior.

Hmmm office junior, I thought. Ah well, everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe I’ll be manager of my own bank some day, I thought.

The day came. I had prepared by having had a suit purchased for me by my mum, from Burtons.

I walked into the branch. It was dark and sombre. It was painted plaster rather than marble but there were still neo-classical columns and there was plenty of mahogany. After being introduced to the manager and all the staff I settled down to my first morning’s work.

This consisted of having four rubber stamps and two pads, one green and one red. I had a pile of cheques, well actually several piles of cheques, which had to be individually stamped according to whether they were Clydesdale, Other Scottish or English bank cheques.

As soon as one batch of a thousand or so cheques were done, another thousand were dumped in front of me by Mahogany Tits.

Sorry I haven’t introduced you to Mahogany Tits yet. That wasn’t her real name of course but it was my pet name for her.

She was English with a high pitched voice that made chalk squeaking on a blackboard sound like a soothing aria by comparison. She was pregnant with all the attendant hormonal behaviour and attitude problems. She was humourless and sarcastic. She smelled. She was quite without exception the most objectionable and rude human being I had ever met in my life to that point.

She was my immediate boss.

The tin hat was put on things when I discovered that a series of banking exams would have to be studied for over a period of several years to progress from being general dogsbody treated like the lowest form of human life office junior, to even the first rung on the banking career structure.

I had decided by the end of my first week that an exit strategy was probably going to be needed from this hellish mahogany mausoleum.

I think the defining moment came when after being there for a month, Mahogany Tits, obviously after previous consultation with some of the other staff instructed me to go for “a long stand” at the local ironmongers “They’re expecting you” said MT almost unable to contain her cackle.

I had probably had this trick played on me first in primary six. However I said nothing and went. I didn’t however go to the ironmongers. I went to the local Italian Cafe and had a coffee. Then I had another one. I waited for about an hour and went to the ironmongers. “Has anyone from Clydesdale Bank been looking for me?” I asked. They had. They had phoned, they (in the form of MT) had been round. They had phoned again. “You’d better get back there” said one of the ironmongerers “I think you’re in trouble”.

Good I thought.

I went back to the bank. Mahogany Tits was in a state of high dudgeon. “Where the HELL have you been?” “For a long stand” says I. “Why didn’t you go to the ironmongers like I told you?” said MT. “Oh, I knew some better places for a long stand than the ironmongers”

MT and co didn’t dare try to take the piss again.

I handed my notice in after two months. Two months of stamping cheques, thousands and thousands of cheques, making coffee and going for the milk and Mars bars. That and doing the bidding of Mahogany Tits who never quite forgave me for the long stand incident.

It was a very rude awakening and introduction into the world of work.

That was banking off the list then.

I didn’t know if removing lobsters from Jayne Mansfield’s arse would have been less pleasurable.

Somehow I doubted it.

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7 Responses

  1. Ken Fitlike’s first place of employment – in august 1971-

    http://www1.snapfish.co.uk/slideshow/AlbumID=822046016/PictureID=28473129016/a=8058012_8058012

    Luckily all the staff were pretty decent to the naive young loon and there wasn’t an MT-a-like in the building.

    ‘junior bank clerk’ wiz rubbish though. ( both the actual job and the person who was doing it.

  2. Light weight! I managed the aforesaid stamping (as well as the bacon butty run and filing cheques) for 6 months before moving onto the great heights of filling customer passbooks and updating hand written ledgers (although they did have biros by then!). Have heard of folk who joined only two or three years before me having to clean out the manager’s coal fire every morning and light the branch heating boiler.

  3. Well well……

    I expected a reply from you Robbo, and to be honest if I’d been smart like you and stayed I may have been able to retire at fifty 8) instead of remaining a slave in the machine! The desk I think was called the proof desk (where all the stamping was done). Actually I was underestimating at two months – it was ten weeks!

    But Ken – imagine that, you started oot with the same employer as me. Actually most of the other staff were fine but it’s amazing how one person can make your life a misery. I had a week in the Alexandria branch and it was great and totally different.

  4. Not the first job I had, but the one where I was worked the hardest, paid the poorest, and ended up the filthiest, was working on a potato farm for a summer after I was made redundant, on the basis that some income was better than none.

    I was working on a potato grading machine and hauling 1 tonne crates of spuds about, until the boss found out I had pipe fitting skills and I spent the next month fitting enormous diesel tanks, miles of steel piping and 2 fuel pumps for his private filling station on the farm for all the farm vehicles.

    That was before the days of minimum wage and I can’t believe how little money I was paid for coming home totally shattered and caked in mud every day. I still enjoyed it more than one or two other places I’ve worked though.

  5. [...] Posted on July 28, 2009 by bigrab In June I wrote here about my first job at the Clydesdale Bank. From there I went to college for a year and then had a [...]

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