Sunday, July 3, 2011
My first English Snow - December 1968 - and preparing to leave our jobs.
One of the first things everyone back home had said to me when I was leaving was...
'You lucky thing, you'll have a White Christmas!'
I now know it doesn't actually snow all over Britain on Christmas Day but years of Northern Hemisphere Christmas Cards (actually it wasn't just NH CC you could buy snowy ones in Australia as well) and story books had me believing that it did!
At around this time we both gave in our notice at our places of work in preparation for our first trip to Europe. (The Common Market hadn't arrived so Great Britain was Great Britain and France, Spain, Italy and so on was Europe.)
When I started my job at Reid and Campbell in June 1968 I was replacing another employee who left to have a baby, behind my desk was a one metre by one and a half metre wide bookcase full of Fire Extinguisher Contracts or queries it was my job to attend to these, so that's what I did and I really enjoyed the feeling of working through that pile of papers, some of which were several years old and watching the pile shrink was very rewarding. After a couple of weeks a delegation of the other employees in our room approached me and asked me not to work so hard.
This was a real revelation LOL
The rest of the staff in our room would arrive sometime between 9am and 9:30am, they would first go to the Loo to take off their coats, adjust their make-up and hair, then come back to our room, make themselves a cup of tea or coffee and stand around chatting about last nights TV or Bingo Night out... by about 9:45am they started looking busy and would rush to their desks to work but the chat went on all the time. Morning Tea was at 10:30am but the girls had to leave their desks before that time to go back to the do the Loo routine again. By 11am they were back at work again only to stop at about 12:15pm for another trip to the Loo in preparation for their lunch hour and so it went day after day.
I was a disgrace and an embarrassment to them. I arrived and started work at about 8:30am, I had to drop David at his work place which started at that time, I didn't wear make-up, I didn't drink tea or coffee or go to Bingo Nights and I didn't really join in their conversations because I didn't know what they were talking about most of the time, I did my shopping and washing in my lunch hour* and worst of all I enjoyed going through those contracts! I had been a Nurse previously so I knew and loved hard work.
When I handed in my Notice my Supervisor was horrified, she bustled off then came back and told me I had to go and see the Big Boss Man, a man I'd never even known existed! Anyway I was taken up to his Office by my Supervisor and both of them tried to get me to stay, I told them we were going to tour Europe for an unknown length of time and they were not impressed, I reminded them that I was an Aussie and here on a working holiday which they'd known when I applied for the job. (At this time British people were known to go to Europe but only for their two week package holiday, not for an unknown length of time.) They even offered me more money! I told them that I had almost got through the pile of overdue Contracts and would finish before I left and we parted on good terms with a promise from me to keep in touch which I did but never went back to work with them.
When I left, the girls in my room must have sighed one very big collective sigh of relief but they did buy me a going away gift, a hand held cheese slicer and a bread board. I had put money in for everything that they collected for so I guess they owed me this.
At this place of work I met John Savage who became and still is one of our dearest friends... more of him later.
*Once a week in my Lunch hour I would take 'Tabitha' into Horsham and park her at the very back of the town's main Taxi rank, there was rarely a Taxi waiting so I didn't think it would hurt. (Did I just hear Adrian sigh heavily?) And anyway our taxi looked the same as the others. Then I would take our laundry to the Laundromat put it in the washer, go off to Tesco's for the week's and weekend's camping groceries, put the shopping back in 'Tabitha', go back to the Laundromat to put our clean laundry in a dryer and then sit down and eat my sandwich while the dryer did its work.
After a few months of using this very handy parking space and not long before we left for Europe, I came back to 'Tabitha' loaded down with clean laundry to find her surrounded by a group of real Taxi Drivers! They had been waiting for me.
'You can't park here you know.'
But it's a Taxi I said, thinking acting dumb might help.
'No it isn't, you aren't registered'
Indeed 'Tabitha' no longer had her meter or registration, but these fellows weren't angry they were more interested than angry and wanted to know about the Kangaroo on the side and why a young girl (who looked all of 16) was driving an old London Taxi, so we chatted, I made some new friends, then in the end they said they would let me park at the back but only once a week :-)
Weren't they lovely.