Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Forever Autumn

I heard Maybe Tomorrow by UB40 on the way into work today. They're not everyone's cup of tea but I've always had a soft spot for them. That song, though, reminds me of when I first moved to London and what a grim time I was having. I can hear that song now and wallow in a warm, nostalgic feeling that things were going to get much better, give it six months or so.

So I'm going to bore you with a story.

In October 1987 I was commuting from the other side of Twickenham to a job I absolutely loathed near Paddington. After a summer of doing a job where although I was earning no money whatsoever (commission only and you wouldn't see a penny for 13 months), I was enjoying myself and had met some great people through work. But my dad, highly concerned that I was on a hiding to nothing (he was right) made me leave and by pulling strings got a me a job selling classified ad space for in the London office of a Gulf-based Middle East agriculture magazine. (That might actually be it in the picture, it's the right road).

It was kind of him, but I loathed it. There was me and two other guys, much older than me, and a mute secretary. They were away most of the time, and when they were there they were cool with me. I was so bored. I was shit at the job, never wanted it in the first place, and was really lonely.

I'd spend lunchtimes wandering Queensway (pre-Whiteleys), as autumn leaves fell silently onto quiet Georgian squares, wondering what might be around the corner. I couldn't see way out. I earned £4000 a great, which was about £400 a month, IIRC. I was deeply skint. My flatmate paid for most things, while I tried to clear my overdraft. We never went out. We just sat in smoking dope and vegging out to The Two Of Us, Blind Date and other late Eighties heartwarmers. I feared I was wasting my life.

A year before I'd been whooping it up at uni, and a lot my pals were still there. I really missed it. I couldn't believe that life was going to be like this. Work, home, work, home, for very little money. As the weeks went by, I'd sold nothing. This job was not for me.

By Christmas the other guys and me got on fine, and the working environment was far more palatable. But I still hated the job. I was simply not cut out for media sales.

Thankfully there was light at the end of the tunnel. We go the news through that the magazine was closing and after Christmas we'd all be looking for new jobs. I'd never felt so free.

Admittedly I spent the next three months signing on, watching Open Air, Sons & Daughters and Knot's Landing, applying for various unsuitable jobs that caught my eye. I even applied to be Thames TV's new weatherman. What might have been, eh? I didn' t know what I wanted. But come March life was about to properly begin.

It was a darkish chapter - people go through far worse - and I learnt a lot from it. I got out there and grabbed life by both hands. Whenever I hear Faith by George Michael, Hey Matthew by Karel Fialka, Dinner With Gershwin by Donna Summer or Love In The First Degree by Bananarama, I'm transported back to that grim, gloomy, dismal time, but I have to smile that things did improve.

But it's also why I think 1987 is possibly one of the worst years for music.

Here's UB40:


Chris Hughes said...

Meteorology's loss was blogging's gain.

Five-Centres said...

I could have been a non-mumbling Rob McElwee if I'd tried harder.

Chris Hughes said...

I'm just tickled by the idea of Andrew Gardner turning to camera and saying, "now here's F-C with the weather."

You'd have been massive. Grannies would have knitted jumpers for you at Christmas. You'd have been opening fetes and carnivals in Chertsey and Leatherhead. And a bungee jump for Telethon '88.

Five-Centres said...

Things could have been so different. I'd have quite liked that kind of life.

Mondo said...

Is this a teaser chapter from the biog? And isn't it always the way when you're in a dip like this, every other bugger you know (peers mostly)seem to be 'making good, doing well' or leaping ahead with positive prospects

Ishouldbeworking said...

Fascinating stuff. I'm with everyone else in imagining an alternative life for you. Maybe you'd have married Wincey Willis, and then run off with Suzanne Charlton.

1987 was the year I turned down the chance to shag a megastar. "Turn a different corner", huh?

Five-Centres said...

Don't leave it there, ISBW. Hints please!

Simon said...

About 18 months later I was living in a basement flat in Paddington when we had the really hot summers89-90. God Paddington is grim. Our flat was at the bottom of one of those sort of houses in the picture, but at the back, backing onto a hotel that was always full of German students getting drunk and singing.

You know how the backs of those houses have that sort of off-white brick/tiles? That really makes German students singing drunkenly echo really loudly....

Five-Centres said...

It was grim then and it's grim now. I'm glad those days are gone.

Ishouldbeworking said...

Hmm. If I say he wanted to be my sledgehammer, does that help?

Five-Centres said...

Wow, you Kate Bush, Sinead O'Connor, Rosanna Arquette.

Of course I respect you for not doing it.

Ishouldbeworking said...

I won't pretend I wasn't tempted...he was very appealing at the time. But such a hound.