I have written an awful lot of stuff (or a lot of awful stuff, if you’d prefer) about my schooldays in the 27 or so months since I started this column.
There is, however, very little about the time immediately following my departure from the hallowed halls of the school that my esteemed correspondent and former classmate, Vincent, glorifies with the name of “Copleston High”.
There have, however, been various snippets and hints in other articles from which regular readers will have gleaned that my first proper job was as a lowly filing clerk at one of the three Inspector of Taxes’ offices in Ipswich. Specifically, I was a Lowly Filing Clerk at HMIT Ipswich 3rd District in the “Schedule D” Department – that being the bit that dealt with the self-employed and anyone else whose income tax was not paid through PAYE.
Compared to the P.A.Y.E. office upstairs, my office was comparatively small and while my higher ranking colleagues did get through a lot of files (that I had to get out and put away for them) I also got to spend a lot of time out in the main office learning certain interesting things.
These included learning how to amend assessments and, more importantly, how to be not quite so shy, naïve and unworldly!
Obviously this toughening up process was starting to work after 6 months or so (see https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/) and after I’d been there about a year I was sufficiently mature to be allowed to work 2 hours evening overtime until 7pm for up to three nights per week. After age 18 this increased to a maximum of 10 hours per week – but that’s another story which doesn’t fit in this series.
Anyway, I took all the overtime I could get – after all my pay was then about £7 per week – and pretty soon I was learning the tricks of doing as little as possible while getting paid time and a quarter and not attracting the unwanted attention of the nominated supervisor.
OK, since you ask, you started the evening work during the afternoon when there were other people sharing the normal work and tucked the paperwork produced in your desk drawer to bring out again later! This way you were able to take a leisurely permitted meal break (in “The Sporting Farmer” pub across the road) and not worry about the effect 3 or 4 pints would have on your work!
And if my supervisor (as frequently happened) decided that he wanted to stay even longer in the pub I was able to return (like a good boy) to the office and listen to some music. Not on a radio – they were banned except for Budget Day (see my previous link) – but on the telephone!
Some of you may well remember the “Dial a disc” music service that eventually went UK-wide during the 70s. Basically you called a number (at local rates) and got to hear an up and coming chart hit of the time. It was the same song for a whole week and just looped over and over. At the time I’m talking about here, however, the local rate option was not available and the only place with this service available was Hull (which had its own independent telephone system for many years) and that was most definitely an expensive “Trunk” call!
As the Government paid the phone bill, not me, I would listen to whatever was on offer and the one I remember that triggered the above memories was “When I’m Dead and Gone” by “McGuiness Flint”. When I hear it, I can visualise that office, my desk in it and the view out over the town from my window! You can listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0DttYjN5p8
I spent hours playing that track over the phone and the bills must have been horrendous!
And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, is why the BASIC rate of Income Tax for the 1970/71 Tax Year was an unbelievable 41.25% – sorry everyone!