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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Character Building

As all of the easy options had now been ruled out for the remainder of my summer holiday stint with Bovril/Marmite, I was now (reluctantly) part of the warehouse labouring gang.  This could be pretty arduous, but also had its moments of entertainment.

I particularly liked some of the characters that I met, people who had worked in industry for years and who knew the ropes backwards.  I found one little old bloke very amusing.  He had the knack of being able to vanish for ages and then suddenly appear when we were all tasked with doing something, so that his presence (or lack of it) wasn't noted.  When he did appear, he would work frenetically, but I suspect that there were long periods of 'resting' between these sessions.  What particularly amused me were the little stock phrases that he had obviously developed over many years of working in warehouses.  Most of them were unrepeatable, but the one that sticks in my mind was when we reached the last item on a pallet, or something that we were unloading, when he would always say "that's the one we've been looking for", as if that had been the sole purpose of the exercise.

Another character was a chap who couldn't have been much older than myself, or my fellow students, but who had clearly decided that a career in warehouse work was his goal in life.  He was blonde, sturdily built and, I would imagine, quite handsome.  I was therefore surprised that the girls in the packing department were not all over him.  The answer became apparent the first time I shared a lunch break with him.  He apparently had a weakness for onion sandwiches, every day, and nothing else, just onion.  The smell from his lunch box was sufficient to take everyone's breath away in a one mile radius and should probably have been banned under the U.N. Treaty on the use of Chemical Weapons.

Getting to and from Bovril/Marmite was a bit of a trial, as there wasn't a convenient bus service.  Walking from South Broadway Street to the end of Wellington Street Extension (as it was then) was perfectly possible but took some time.  Given my inability to get up in the morning, I often found myself running the distance in order to make my clocking-in time, leaving me exhausted before I had even started work.  There was, therefore, a compelling case for getting the moped back out and trying to make it do a decent job.  Unfortunately, as I've said before, I have no mechanical aptitude and neither had my dad.  Therefore, putting it back on the road really meant hoping against hope that something magical might have occurred during the months that it had lain under an old overcoat in the yard.  It had not.  If anything, it was worse.  This fact was brought home to me when I realised, as I puttered along, that there were people on the pavement who were walking faster than I was riding.  Pedal cyclists were hurtling past me and cursing me for holding them up.  I was a figure of fun and I wasn't even getting to work any faster than before.

In despair, I gave the moped to a bloke who worked in my dad's department for more or less scrap value.  In his lunch break, he, apparently decoked it and generally gave it the fundamental mechanical sorting-out that it should have had years before.  Pushing it back to his home, he got fed up with the effort and decided to see if he could ride it for the remainder of the journey.  He was on the Trent Bridge at the time.  Apparently, he climbed aboard, started it up, opened the throttle and the thing took off like a Harley-Davidson, dumping him unceremoniously on his backside on the Trent Bridge.  He was delighted with his purchase and I went back to my pedal cycle with the dawning realisation that I would never be a Hells Angel.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks at and