Thursday, July 31, 2014

No tie- no job

Can you imagine these days being sent home from work because you were not wearing a tie.?

On my first day at my first job I turned up one July morning without a tie and very nearly got sent home because of that. There are or weren't apprenticeships for office work in those days, so it was a question of learning on the job.  In large offices if was known as "sitting next to Nellie" in other words the new recruit was sat alongside someone more experienced and learned by watching or being lead along.
In terms of dress of course, you did not know until you arrived, unless you already knew someone who worked there.  There were obviously fairly universal rules and some specific to one place, fads and foibles of the owner or manager etc.
I went to work at a branch office of a large insurance company and had been interviewed at the Head Office in London, so I had not even been to where I was later assigned.
So early on that first Monday morning taking an early tram to New Cross Gate I stood outside the office and waited for someone to arrive.  The Chief Clerk was first, he looked at me a little strange after I had told him who I was, but he made no comment about my grey slacks and open necked shirt and my jacket over my arm.

As the other staff arrived, he introduced me and still no one made any comment about my attire until the Branch Manager arrived.  The Chief Clerk took me into the Manager's Office and introduced me and the first words the Manager said were "Where's your tie?".  I replied that I did not have one.  " You cant work here without a tie" he responded and told the Chief Clerk to take me away, as though I was fouling his office.
The door to the office had been standing open all this time, so of course everyone outside could hear
 all that went on, and most of them were grinning like apes.  To this day I don't know if they were laughing at me or the Manager.  One of the male staff, beckoned me over and pulled a tie out of a drawer and handed it to me.  He explained that all male staff were expected to wear suits complete with ties, but as I was a junior I was excused the suit but not the tie.  Just as well really as at that time I did not own a suit.
This then was my introduction, not just to the world of work, but to the intricacies of office life.

Tell us about your first day at the office.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hop flavoured cheese

I know that there are many varieties of cheese- Cheddar, Cheshire, Edam, Gorgonzola, Brie, Leicester just to name a few.  And like the wine buffs who go on (and on, and on) about the different vintages and so on  trying to put you down if you admit to drinking plonk,  there are cheese buffs as well.  I have met a lot of these, and of course many of them are quite knowledgeable and clever although when they try to tell you that they can tell what kind of clover the cow was eating the day before, well ..........

Anyway, when I meet these types, I have a little game and ask their opinion on "hop flavoured" cheese.  Many of course get a bit snotty cause they  look down on flavoured cheeses anyway, only fit for tesco types not those who order from Harrods, but most have to admit they have not come across "hop flavour".  There are hop flavoured cheeses these days of course, but that was not what I had in mind.

The hop flavoured cheese that I recall  always had a limited clientele and is not even available anymore, as it was handmade just before being eaten.

During the last war (can we still call it that considering the number of "conflicts" since ?) agricultural labourers used to get a larger cheese ration than city citizens, so when the east end families continued to go to the Kent hop-fields, they got extra cheese as well.  Not surprising then that lunch most days was cheese sandwiches.

Picking hops resulted in fingers covered in a sulphuric kind of black coating, impossible to wash off, and in any case lunch was taken in the  fields.  So cheese sandwiches eaten with blackened fingers had a taste like no other, and is quite impossible to describe.  The taste of hops was not unpleasant as imbibers of real ale will tell you, and it had an affinity to cheese.
I am not suggesting you go out and buy the modern speciality hop flavoured cheeses to see what I am on about as it is not the same thing at all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Seven year old stole a silver teapot

I nearly acquired a criminal record at the age of seven by being accused of stealing a silver teapot !
It was all a case of mistaken identity.  My accomplice and I mistook a family heirloom for a common old teapot which was never used and we could not find anything else to use to collect conkers.

As this was during World War Two it is surprising that the irate owner didn't accuse us of being enemy spies or at least saboteurs.

As London evacuees in Guildford, my mate an I already had a record as it were.  We had originally been billeted on two spinster sisters in Shalford, who despite being teachers could not cope with having two unruly seven year old boys actually living in their house.  So after one scrape after another, usually involving not arriving home from school in Guildford at least a couple miles away, until it was dark, we were moved on.

Our next billet was with a family who had only one child, a daughter.  Again it was a question of a lady, her husband in the army, and having no experience of the ways of little boys,  not really knowing how to deal with this species of wild animal.

All went reasonably well for a while, apart from the odd misunderstanding during the school holidays when we boys found it difficult it conform to the restrictive regime regarding our comings and goings.  We were not far from the Quarry park where were quite a few horse chestnut trees and it was the conker season.  We looked around for a receptacle to use to go and collect conkers and all we could find was an old tin looking teapot that was never used.
We took that and off to the park.  As was our won't we did not return to the house until dusk and found a policeman there.  Our landlady had called the police and claimed that we had stolen the valuable teapot and absconded.  As far as she was concerned we were no doubt already back in London with Fagin, Oliver, the Artful Dodger and the rest of that crew.

Despite being assured by the policeman that it was a misunderstanding and no harm had been done, she refused to allow us to remain in the house being convinced that our next act would be to murder her and her daughter as soon as the policeman was gone. So the poor fellow had no alternative but to march us off the the police station to await arrangements for another billet.

And that, as they say,  is another story .