Initial explanation (which precedes, with variations, all articles in this series) – some situations remind me of songs; some songs remind me of situations. If I am ever in a coma and you want me back with full memories, these are the songs to play me!
If you ever dare to venture to the very end of my little pieces you will sometimes find responses posted -usually by friends of mine or even, very rarely, by total strangers.
If you haven’t bothered to read those bits may I ask, “Why not?” You will occasionally (not often of course) get to read something even wittier than what I wrote in the first place.
Come to that, have you ever considered posting a comment to one of my pieces yourself? I do have to approve any such but will always do so unless it’s downright offensive (which hasn’t happened yet) and if I know and trust you (or know where you live!) I can give “automatic authorisation” rights. Please do it sometime – I like to know that I’m reaching more than just my usual correspondents AND I would genuinely like to hear what you think of my efforts.
Every now and then I will receive a comment which has absolutely nothing to do with what I originally posted and THAT happened in October 2012 in connection with two consecutive posts which concerned my adventures working away from home in South-East Yorkshire in the first instance and my final Barclays Bank Trust Co. Training course in the second.
Both comments (which you are welcome to go and look at via the archive facility on this page) might have seemed completely random and only slightly relevant to the articles they related to but as I commented in reply to the vaguer of the two, it all made perfect sense to me. In fact, excluding the writer and myself, there is only one other person in the world who would completely “get it”, another who might have understood part of it and a third who was a part of it all but who is, very sadly, deceased.
And when I read that comment I was back in a particular time and place with a particular piece of music running through my head – which is what this series is all about!
The place was the Barclays Bank Trust Company Office in Chelmsford, Essex and the time was anywhere between January 1983 and February 1988.
This was my second visit to the Chelmsford office and my first transfer that involved a promotion. It was also, if you have been following this series at all closely, the one where we moved house from Norfolk the day before our first daughter was born. Then another promotion occurred when the last survivor of my first stint at that office was transferred out and I took a step up into his place.
From that point onwards the team consisted of: Tom, the Manager (and Eeyore impersonator – his office was nicknamed “The Gloomy Place”); Tony, the Deputy Manager (and Master of the Black Scowl); Me (the Senior Administrator with no Management responsibilities but lots of fairly hard tax cases) along with Janice, Andrew and Roger, the Taxation Assistants.
I always found it interesting dealing with Tom who was so steeped in tax law that one could go into his room with a small technical question and come out twenty minutes later, head buzzing, and with no idea as to whether an answer had been given or not!
Mind you I wouldn’t have won at least one appeal against an Inland Revenue claim for interest and penalties charged to one of my clients if Tom hadn’t advised me of the ramifications of Section 118(2) Taxes Management Act 1970.
Oh all right then!
Section 118(2) Taxes Management Act 1970 states that if a person has ‘a reasonable excuse for not doing anything required to be done he shall be deemed not to have failed to do it unless the excuse ceased and, after the excuse ceased, he shall be deemed not to have failed to do it without unreasonable delay after the excuse ceased’.
There! Aren’t you glad you asked?
Tony, Tom’s Deputy, had one of the most intimidating angry stares that I have ever seen and his respect had, very definitely to be earned. It didn’t always take competence at the job to do this – I gained his respect by taking him to the deciding game in the final of an “in-office” darts tournament involving the staff of the Trust Company office and the Bank’s Local Head Office with whom we shared the building.
That stare did, however, prevent me from asking the most important question on my mind at that time, “Would you mind, every now and then, NOT leaving at 3:50 pm to catch your train so that I can sometimes go home a bit earlier?” I know from my own commuting experience that the 4:09pm was not the only Chelmsford to Colchester train to stop at Marks Tey during the “rush hour” period, so being 30 minutes or so later home once a week wouldn’t really have hurt him!
My “juniors” were just as bad! Especially if I was taking a phone call, and especially if it was Friday afternoon, there would be a flurry of activity at exactly 4pm and I would look up from my call to find myself alone and holding the fort until 5pm! Except, that is for one memorable Friday when I pretended to have a phone call, secretly tidied my desk and files, then stood up at the stroke of 4pm, invited them to arrange their own “cover” until 5pm and left before anything could be said!
That sounds rather unkind but it was to some extent my revenge for other things that they did to me – or more specifically to my post basket. Remember we are talking about pre-email times and your entire workload was represented by paper. This could be letters from clients, possibly attaching bundles of evidence of their income, or letters and assessments from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes. For most of the period from April to October it was more than you could keep up with and made quite a pile even with the letter attachments popped away in the file to await you being able to deal with the letter itself. I would always dread the massive stack that would await me on return from holidays or courses because only the urgent stuff would have been dealt with in my absence. I absolutely HATED having to go back after any kind of break!
And those lovable rogues, Andrew, Janice and Roger would do their utmost to increase my already massive anxiety by secreting a two inch thick telephone directory in amongst that pile of paper! How I laughed!
Most of the time, though, we got on fine and were a damned good team – we realised this when it dawned on us that we had our own “in jokes” that we all found hilarious but which just caused the staff of the Investment or Executorship &Trustee Departments to look at us strangely!
Janice was particularly fond of two jokes that she would trot out at any opportunity – possibly for the relief of work-related stress amongst us. The first of these was:
This woman went into a shop and said “Five pounds of potatoes please”.
“Will you take Kind Edwards” said the shopkeeper.
“No – let him come for his own” she said.
And when in a slightly more surreal mood, this one (which may not be exactly how it went but it has been about 30 years since I heard it!):
A man walked into a pet shop and asked the assistant “Have you got any dog food, Pal?”
The assistant replied “I’ve only got Winalot, Chum!”
Not funny? Try Googling something along the lines of “Dog food brands of the 1980s” because I don’t think “PAL” and “Pedigree Chum” are available any more.
I think it is probably about time that I explained the reason for the song that gave rise to this piece.
The reason for the association with it stems from Andrew, Roger and my attempts at producing a funnier joke than those listed above.
If someone did not put a reference on their letter and there was no way of telling who it was for I would be asked to look them up in our index cards. This task fell to me by virtue of my sitting nearest to the filing cabinet upon which reposed the box with the index cards in. I would then call out the name of the person whose initials were on the card.
If I called “It’s Janice’s “, it was a cue for Andrew and Roger to start singing the chorus of the “Janice’s”(Genesis) song “Turn it on again” and we would all laugh out loud at our own brilliant word play!
Time after time!
As various readers are probably thinking right now – “Little things please little minds”!
Anyway, as is traditional, here is a YouTube link to the song in question: