I haven’t always been an electrician and musician and writer. The crazy thing is when I was young I had absolutely no interest in music. Even less interest in writing. All I wanted to do was be a scientist. So I became a biologist. Went to university etc, landed a job working for the government, watching lapwings on an airfield. Lasham if you must know, it’s in Hampshire. But I was paid a pittance £47 a week. Scandalous. My mate who I shared a house with said “Why don’t you work for me as a landscape gardener?”
“How much will you pay me?”
“£80 a week.” It was a done deal.
Within three weeks that was upped to £100, because I became a worker /driver. Then three months later a job as foreman came up. The boss Bob went round the whole company asking everybody if they wanted to be the next foreman. There was me jumping up and down saying “Me Me Me! I’ll do it. I can be foreman.”
“Fuck off Mikel! You’ve only been here three months what do you know about being foreman?” he walked away. Everybody laughed at me. I was only twenty one.
So Bob asked Steve who had been in the building trade man and boy for the last thirty years. He refused. So he went to the next guy twenty years experience. Not interested. They didn’t want the responsibility. And I’m still shouting “Me Me Me!”
Eventually Bob struck out no one was interested and he wandered back to his office.
I turned to the guys and said “I’m gonna get that job.” They almost wet themselves laughing at me. But I went to the office anyway. Bob was sitting behind his desk.
“Yes?” he said impatiently.
“I want that job.”
“no wait a minute here’s the deal. You already pay me £100. As a foreman you’ll pay me £140. So you only have to find another £40. Now if you advertise that’s going to cost you. Then when you get your man you’re gonna have to pay him £140. So if you give me the job you save the money on advertising and the time and effort of interviewing and it’ll only cost you an extra £40 a week instead of £140 so in the year you’ll save over £5,000. Money you’d rather have in your own pocket I bet.”
He sat silent for a while. I could tell he was going through the figures in his head.
I went on. “If it doesn’t work out I’ll go back to what I was doing. And you’ll have lost nothing. But if I do the job which I know I can. Hey you’re on a winner.”
He was softening. Eventually he leant back in his chair and said “I know I’m going to regret this but you’ve got the job.”
“Thanks Bob I wont let you down.”
I walked out of his office back into the yard and all the guys were there. I had my head held low and shuffled my feet a bit for maximum effect. They all started taking the piss and laughing at me. I just stood there and said “Right, you can call me Sir now.”
“You got the fucking job?”
“Believe it. I’m now your boss.” And I still didn’t know the first thing about being a landscape gardener.
It was the middle of winter and my first job was to lay a concrete path through the middle of a customers garden. I had my team. Steve the guy who had worked in building man and boy for thirty years was working for me.
“What do you reckon Steve?”
“well it’s frosty so the concrete could crack in this cold, so we’d better use some Febspeed”
“It’s a plasticizer stops the cement cracking, makes it more pliable in cold conditions.”
“Good thinking. What mix do we use?”
“Oh five to one obviously. …. Hey! I’m not saying that. It’s not my decision.”
“Of course not.”
“I never said anything to you alright?”
“What ever you want.”
I turned to the rest of the team. “OK boys we’re going with a five to one mix and put a dab of Febspeed in it to stop the cracking. Let’s do it.”
And so it went on.
The next job I had to lay a patio at the back of this rich guys house. When we got there it’s was raining very hard and the patio area was a quagmire. We couldn’t work in those conditions. Steve wanted to go back to the yard to check with Bob but that was an hours drive away. Then an hours drive back. We didn’t have mobile phones in them days. I looked at the situation and decided that it would be better to do next weeks work this week. That was build the concrete path down the hill leading to the patio. So I gave the order to start work. The guys were obviously worried about this because we were suppose to be laying a patio. “Bob will kill us if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do.”
“But we can’t so we’d better do something useful.”
“no we’ve got to go back to the yard.”
“no I’m not wasting Bob’s money. We’re going to lay this path.”
The customer was looking through his window at us and saw we’d started work other than what was on his schedule. He phoned Bob to complain.
Forty five minutes later I heard Bobs car screach to a halt outside the front of the house. The guys all had smug grins on their faces, knowing I was in for a pasting. Or even better the sack.
Bob came round the back red faced and ready for an argument. “What the fuck is going on?”
“See for yourself Bob. It’s a quagmire here. We can’t lay a patio on this it’ll sink as soon as it dries out.”
“So why didn’t you check with me as to what to do next.”
“Because Bob you are paying me to make decisions. So I made the decision. We’re laying the path first where it’s drier. That way, later we can use the path to get the materials to the patio easier. Rather than struggle through the mud. And also so we don’t waste all this money you pay us to do nothing.”
Bob was desperate to bluster some more but he could see the sense of it. “I’ll go and speak to the customer. Explain what’s going on.”
“Ok we’ll just get on with what we’re doing then?”
After that I never had trouble with my team ever again. They respected my decisions.
I still didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. But I had logic and common sense on my side. And that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a fucking good excuse for doing it. You can fuck up big style but if you have a good reason for doing what you have done then the world is your oyster.
When I was still at school I got a job as a refrigeration engineer for during the holidays. Mother didn’t like me sitting around moaning I was bored. One day we had to go to fix the fridge in a mortuary. We got there and it was this ramshackle building with a corrugated iron roof. The mortuary attendant showed us to the cooling unit and we got to work. After a while he asked us if we wanted a coffee or tea. Fred, the guy I worked for, said that would be great. The kettle was boiled cups prepared and and tea served. Then the mortuary attendant said to me “Fetch the milk boy. It’s in that drawer over there. Second on the left.”
So I went to the drawer second on the left and pulled it open. Sitting in between a pair of toe tagged feet was a bottle of milk and a plastic bag of sandwhiches. Eeeek! I kept my cool. I wanted to be sick. But I knew it was a wind up. I wasn’t going to let him have the satisfaction of getting one over on me. So with my back to the attendant I said to the body “Oh pass me that bottle of milk will you………Thanks awefully.”
I didn’t have milk in my coffee.
My children are not normal children. I’ve already told you this. Tonight I was talking to my boy Jamie. The conversation was all about contract killers and their methods. We sat in the sitting room and he said “we need to carry on this conversation somewhere else to get a new perspective on it.”
“Ok where do you want to go?”
“To the pub.” That’s my boy. So we drove to the pub. And discussed how to kill people. Really, I kid you not. Jamie is the least violent boy you will ever meet. But in the interests of research for HIS stories he wanted to thrash out a few ideas. I hope no one overheard us talking about how to kill people.
On the way home he asked me “How do you know all about killing people like that?”
“I’ve looked into it for my own stories. Accuracy is the key. Research. It’s got to be believeable.”
We even discussed making a Monty python quiz the first question was going to be What were the knights that said Ni formally known as? But that sort of fizzled out as we went on to other stuff. Gemmalah meanwhile was having a playstation night with her friends. My ex is in Scotland on a freebie holiday. I’m really pleased she told me the kids were going to be all by themselves this week. Not! Cause she didn’t tell me.
Am I allowed irony here?
That’s it. May your god be with you.