The CD of my Life: “Silver Machine”, “Hawkwind”.

11 Nov

Basic message (repeated using slightly different words each time): any article beginning “The CD of my Life…” tells you of an event in my life which is brought clearly back to mind by my hearing a particular song.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention to my personal timeline as previously mentioned in WAY too many of these articles, you will know that I left the confines of Copleston School in Ipswich in July 1969 and, after several weeks of family holidays and Boys Brigade camps, started work with the good old Inland Revenue in September of that year as a naïve, spotty 16 year old.

My previous mentions of my early employment (see: and amongst others) refer to those VERY early days when I was a mere
Clerical Assistant at the office of H.M. Inspector of Taxes, Ipswich 3rd District.

However, this particular memory concerns events that happened after I had sat and passed a Civil Service examination and attained the exalted rank of Tax Officer.

“Exalted” because in the rest of the Civil Service the grade was “Clerical Officer” and their pay scale was slightly lower than ours – presumably because of the specialized and complex knowledge we were expected to have that our colleagues in other departments could get along without.

Incidentally, I received the news that I had passed the exam with some trepidation as Tax Offices in those pre-computer days were much more widespread than now and your initial posting could be ANYWHERE! The staff lived in constant fear of an unexpected transfer to Wick on the extreme  north coast of Scotland but I think that was kept as the “punishment office” so you would have had to foul up pretty badly to end up there!

The sense of humour of the people at the Inland Revenue Head Office Establishments Division (who handled all
appointments and transfers) was legendary! One of my own colleagues, on being elevated from Tax Officer (Higher Grade) to the god-like status of “Inspector”, was offered a position at Ilford in East London. As a Suffolk boy born and bred this was a nightmare scenario for him and his young family and he scornfully told those concerned:

“Ilford!  I’d rather go to the bloody Isle of Wight than THERE!”

See if you can guess where they generously changed his assignment to!

I also knew two gentlemen, both bearers of the surname “Cole” who lived constantly with the thought that one day someone at Head Office would find it amusing to “send Cole to Newcastle”!

What I had failed to take into account, however, was that I was still under 18 when I passed the exam and the rules said that “minors” could not be posted anywhere outside of daily travelling distance from their home.

So I finished up at HMIT Ipswich 2nd District – half a mile nearer the town centre and therefore something of an improvement!

Anyway, to return to my proper track, it was the acquisition of those special skills (i.e.  knowledge of the
practical application of the Income Tax Act 1952, (plus subsequent amendments, the annual Finance Acts that followed and its re-birth as the Income & Corporation Tax Act 1970) that had to be accomplished next following the new assignment.

And that was achieved in three ways.

The first of these was the wonderful printed loose leaf training manual which, while not strictly relevant in this article, is worthy of mention for the one particular piece of it that I can still remember.

As well as “up through the ranks” people such as me this large ring binder was intended for those with better qualifications than mine who were able to enter the Civil Service directly at this grade.

Consequently, the first module contained a “look around the office” section for the newcomers and the first person considered worthy of mention was the holder of my own former position, “the filing clerk”. I am not sure that what I remember of the description is 100% accurate but the bit in capitals certainly is:

“…this is the person who looks after our files. THESE ARE THE COLOURED COVERS WE WRAP ROUND OUR PAPERS”.

Now you know why they sometimes cocked up your tax in those happy days before they got computers in to cock it up for them!

It was because your tax affairs were being administered by someone SO thick he or she had to be told what a file was!

The second form of training was the “at the desk” type and was accomplished on a Training Group in company with a couple of other “learners”, two experienced “mentors” and an extremely patient Tax Officer (Higher Grade) as our Manager. These people helped with the practical side of things which were not covered in the manual – letter writing skills, conducting interviews at the counter and how to rifle the stationery cupboard without getting caught – that sort of thing!

And finally…..

We get to the bit that is actually associated with the tune mentioned in the title – Training Courses!

There were various Inland Revenue Training Centres scattered around the UK and the one that people from my
part of the world got to attend was called “London Training Centre B”. It was situated in North London between Edgware and Harrow in a small suburb called Canon’s Park and was a former military encampment of some sort, just across the road from the eponymous London Underground Station.

And what an adventure going on those courses seemed to be! I had been to London many times – but never on my own. I had been away from home for a week at a time – but never in the company of complete strangers or staying in the house of strangers.  For that is how we were accommodated – no hotels for us – just a room in the house of a nearby resident who presumably had some reason to keep on good terms with the tax man!

I recall staying with a Mrs. Whale in Uppingham Avenue and being charged the grand sum of £7 for 4 nights Bed, Breakfast and Evening meal. Against that, however, I was able to claim £3.86 per night for “subsistence” leaving me £8.44 a week for beer and fags without touching any of my own money! Bearing in mind that a pint of beer and a packet of 20 cigarettes cost no more than 20p and 30p respectively in 1972 and figuring in other expenses “fiddles” such as claiming second class rail fare and then travelling by coach you will see that I was able to spend most lunchtimes and evenings in a local pub with my classmates without unduly straining the finances!

The pub in question stood in Honeypot Lane near the junction with Whitchurch Lane and I vaguely recall that it was (for obvious reasons given the location) called The Beehive. I could be wrong though as Google Maps shows it no longer to be there and I can find no reference to a former pub of that name in that area.

Any former North London Taxi or Minicab drivers care to comment?

Wherever it may have gone now we used to meet there each evening after our evening meals at our “digs” to imbibe vast amounts of beer and tobacco each night and while we did so this track always seemed to be playing on the juke box! I then remember wandering uneasily home down unfamiliar roads, letting myself into the B&B and trying way too hard not wake anyone!

Happy days!

Anyway here is my usual You Tube link (which as usual is subject to amendment if friend Vincent tells me he’s posted a better version).

Actually I just watched that performance – Lemmy hasn’t changed a bit and there’s rare footage of “performance artist” Stacia with her clothes ON! Wow!

Incidentally it was to be another four or five years or so before I heard the entire album that Silver Machine came from and it still, to this day, blows me away!



Posted by on November 11, 2011 in CD of my Life


6 responses to “The CD of my Life: “Silver Machine”, “Hawkwind”.

  1. Cy Quick

    November 12, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Much as I like Doo Wop and Rock’n’Roll and even Psychedelia, I do recognize that the new music is very nice too, and I think you young people are jolly good chaps, despite all the fuss made over alleged noise late at night. And, by the way, I never had a harsh word to say against tax. I always knew it was for a good cause. I wonder if anyone ever found out what a silver machine was. I saw a chrome-plated motor bike once. Good luck with the career. I am so glad somebody does the work. I keep meaning to try it someday…

  2. Vincent

    November 13, 2011 at 5:15 am

    “Silver Machine” is one of the few pieces I HAVEN’T put up – but I WAS a North London minicab driver in the Seventies and DID visit the Beehive, many times! We COULD have just missed each other…

  3. Alfie

    November 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Vincent – were you REALLY? What a clever idea of mine to seek advice from you then!

    Unnecessary sarcasm aside, I am extremely gratified to know that the old memory isn’t going yet and that the pub in question was both WHERE I thought it was and CALLED what I thought it was. Regrettably, the “digs” were a short(ish) walk away from both the pub, the Training Centre and Canons Park tube station so I wouldn’t have required your services during my five week-long visits there!

    Sorry and thanks.

    • Vincent

      November 14, 2011 at 5:31 am

      You probably wouldn’t have been able to AFFORD me (as a taxi-driver!)

      Actually, I recall the Beehive – despite its Blytonesque name (obviously inspired by its location) – was a pretty TOUGH pub. I’m glad you SURVIVED it!

  4. Alfie

    January 21, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Of COURSE it was a tough pub – it was usually full of embryonic Tax Inspectors! Nasty pieces of work every one of them – except ME obviously!

    I suspect that when they tore down the IR Training Centre and built houses on it (which Google Maps shows to be the case) the Pub would have become economically non-viable and had to go too – big drinkers those old-style Civil Servants- including ME obviously!

  5. Vincent

    January 22, 2012 at 12:30 am

    If memory serves (and at my age, that is unlikely) the Beehive was largely built of WOOD. Thus a few bottles of Scotch and a match could have saved the demolition squad a heap of WORK!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: