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Friday, 22 September 2017

Jobs and jabots

Aged eleven I told my father what job I had in mind. Confirmed it four years later and thus joined the local newspaper, aged fifteen and fifty-one weeks. Most agree journalism was all I was fit for but occasionally a maggot nibbles. Suppose my father had lacked influence, that I’d had to paddle my own canoe.

Anything requiring advanced education (doctor, lawyer, academic, scientist, engineer, etc) must be ruled out since I lack the ability to study. Forget too the flamboyant jobs (politician, musician, stand-up comedian, baseball short-stop) given I have neither manual skills nor a viable personality. Nor the nerve for crime, organised or disorganised.

Un-talented men like me often sell things, notably advertising space on magazines I’ve written for. The requisites are mendacity, which I might manage, and constant self-delusion, which would worry me.

The armed services don’t take kindly to those who argue.

Being a priest is fine provided the intercourse never rises above theoretical debate. But I suspect my sermons would be coarse-grained, I could hardly advocate the adoption of an unproven faith, and the super-natural does not appeal.  I have, however, tended to favour all-black ensembles in recent months.

Catering? For two years I cooked for VR who still liveth. But my repertoire is limited to fifteen dishes; enough for me but probably not for paying customers.

I interview well which is not to say I always get the job. To me this skill has always represented a cul de sac.

My late pal Joe and I once met a mendicant poet. A tenuous existence and eventually one starves. A noble end?

Certain court functionaries wear jabots which I’ve always fancied. But are their wearers paid?

Further suggestions welcomed.


  1. First of all, I think you should give yourself some credit. A career is a career is a career, never mind the acronyms to show off various degrees.

    Next, my mantra is lifelong learning as long as it makes sense. So go ahead and find a new challenge. Not having to worry about the pay helps. Something tells me you will never starve.

    As for the rest of it, I often remember my father in law on a specific day, sitting at the dining table of his fabulous house which at the time was our home as well (as usual, my in laws had taken us in after another return from exciting years working in far away places). I had just returned from the godforsaken dole office to sign on and look for work in pre-Celtic tiger Ireland. The glum lady in charge had given me a questionnaire to fill out for my next appointment with no promises of securing an exciting new position anywhere for my impressive set of skills. I found it all quite upsetting and hopeless and noting my distress, my extremely talented and clever father in law, Jack, filled it out for me. He set about with great enthusiasm and clicked all the boxes (are you interested in working with people, children, animals, do you have language skills, university degrees, driver's license, etc. the usual) with a firm NO.

    (Jack had a checkered career without formal education, he started as a school dropout working at the Belfast docks during WWII while the dockers had gone to fight for Britain and retired at age 64 from his last, extremely well paid position which as far as I can remember mostly involved playing golf with foreign trade reps.)
    He then crumpled up the paper and told me to call every number I had written down in any address book. Three days later I had a job. See, Jack said, the power of networking.

  2. Sabine: Childish literature often involves fairy godmothers, a fairy godfather-in-law is rarer. You seem to have been well endowed.

    I didn't really get on with my father but he was influential in Bradford; once he'd established that I was serious about journalism (or as serious as any fifteen-year-old can be about anything) he immediately contacted the editor-in-chief of Bradford And District Newspapers, a distant godlike figure, and then accompanied me to the interview. I said very little as the two of them blah-blahed and quite quickly I became a tea-boy in the editorial department. These days this must sound like the very bottom of the ladder but this was the way things were done then, experience easily outweighed academic prowess. Which was just as well since the interview took place well before GCE results were announced and my modest achievements (Eng. lang, eng. lit, maths, art, German oral) wouldn't have been a strong calling card.

    But what my post was really about was imagining myself taking the road not taken. The years that followed proved that my childish preference had had strong roots and I was in the right job. But just suppose...

    Later National Service loomed and although I benefited intellectually (being forced to accommodate a quite serious discipline - electronics) I was able to see what happened to those who lacked even my feeble accomplishments and who had no idea at all about the future. In the RAF they became clerks and pushed paper about for two years, bored out of their minds. One assumes that this scenario was repeated once they returned to civilian life. Journalism took me round the world and sustained my ever-growing interest in putting one well-chosen word in front of another. Just suppose I'd faced 45 years of paper-pushing. Arghhh!

  3. Sabine: I am just preparing my third novel for publication. It touches on my former trade and I decided it deserved a dedication:

    To that under-paid,
    morally dubious,
    rackety community
    having traded status
    for curiosity
    and armed only by scepticism,
    resides on the dark side
    and is
    unfitted for any other employment.

    Readers, I give you
    The Fourth Estate

  4. Flannery O'Connor said, "I am a writer because writing is the thing I do best."

    You were drawn, filing to the magnet. That's a good enough way to start, maybe the best way. It was certainly my own, early on. And trying on all those hats imaginatively? That's just more of the writer's play.

  5. Marly: A writer never runs out of subjects. Not surprising, really, since there is only one - that ever-diverting process of putting one word after another in the hope that one will eventually be justified in saying (but only to oneself): Lo!