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Category Archives: CD of my Life

The CD of my life: “Under Pressure”  “Queen and David Bowie”

For new readers unfamiliar with the concept the series of articles on this site with titles beginning “The CD of my life” comprise the contents of the little boxes of particular memories of events in my life which are triggered by my hearing a particular song.
At least thats how it normally works. Sometimes, however, it works the other way round – thinking of a particular event brings back the song I (often for very obscure reasons) associate with it.

I should also say that the events brought back are not necessarily highlights of my life and in this instance remind me of a monumental injustice that still annoys me even after more than 30 years!

In 1982 I was in what turned out to be my final year at the Norwich office of Barclays Bank Trust Company  an office of around 60 people in all. In the normal way of things in Trust Company offices this meant that the more sociable of us struggled to put together teams of four people for the various Norwich inter-branch competitions which we were entitled to compete in.  I’m not sure whether this was because people tended to live a long way outside of Norwich and after-hours attendance was required or just because they were a boring and apathetic bunch!

Actually I am sure that both of those explanations were right, with the second part applying to members of the Executorship & Trustee Department – it must have been something to do with them dealing with dead people all of the time! I recall an occasion when a member of that team walked past the Tax Department, yawning prodigiously.

One of my colleagues looked up at me and remarked “He’s been talking to himself again!”

Anyway!

1982 was the year that General Knowledge quizzes really took off  prompted I think by the launch of the board game Trivial Pursuit in that year  and, not to be left out, Barclays Norwich area Sports & Social club decided that an Inter-branch knock out quiz competition would make a refreshing change from the old favourites of Darts and Ten-Pin Bowling.

So we entered a team. Actually I do seem to think that as this was more an intellectual pursuit than physical, we got more interest in the office than usual and entered TWO teams.  I dont think the other one lasted long, however, and I was only really interested in mine anyway!

I remember that 16 teams from the central Norwich branches (Trust Company included) gathered at a function room of a large city centre hotel in Norwich to be reduced down to the single team that would take on the winners from 3 other parts of the district in the Grand Final in a few weeks time.

I dont recall too many of the fine details and I think most of the questions were given to the teams in turn and answers had to come through the team captains. I do remember that both teams had either buzzers or bells so there must have been at least one quick-fire round in each match,  quite possibly the music round.

At this point it is relevant for me to digress slightly and educate you about banking qualifications of the time.

All Bank staff (those with any expectations of a career anyway) were expected to be members of The Chartered Institute of Bankers and were expected to study for their qualifications. To achieve the prestigious ACIB letters after ones name it was necessary to complete the 5 more generalised subjects of part 1 before moving on to the more specialised areas of part 2. For most people Part 1 was as far as they wanted to go especially as you had to get 2 of the 5 subjects at one go before knocking off the other three at leisure.

I tried Principles of Law and Accountancy at my first attempt.  I passed the first but failed the latter because of an innate inability to get the hang of double entry bookkeeping! Basically I learned in the classroom of Ipswich Civic College that the Debit side was the side nearest the window and then had to take the exam in a hall which only had skylights!

So, for my second attempt I did Law again, tried (and failed) Accountancy again and also took (without any course of study at all and on the grounds that I shouldnt really have needed one for that particular subject) English.   I got my two passes and decided that was enough for the time being.  I never, in fact, got any more! The Law exam contained a compulsory question (that had to be passed in its own right for one to get any sort of pass in the whole thing) on Negotiable Instruments – that is to say, Banking Law which had no bearing on my work at all but which does have a bearing on where this is going.

Those examination passes, I should mention also, were obtained in 1975  seven years before this story  so I could probably have been forgiven for having forgotten most of the subject matter.

Meanwhile, back at the inaugural inter-branch General Knowledge quiz, the Trust Company team sailed majestically and easily through the first three rounds to the final where we were to meet the top team from the main Norwich banking branch, Bank Plain.

Despite having had a degree of success with their team we were rather surprised when our opponents made a substitution for the final. We were told that their normal captain had not been able to attend earlier because she was taking her Institute of Bankers examinations.

We were still pondering why this was so important when the Question Master and organiser announced that the final was to contain an  extra round worth eight points. on BANKING LAW!

For some reason all of the Banking Branch teams had been made aware of this but no-one had thought to notify Trust Company (although we had received all other communications)!

With a sense of foreboding we took our places, tested our buzzers and things were fairly even over the opening rounds.

Then came the additional special round where our only consolation was that incorrectly answered questions were not offered to the other teams for bonus points.

Not too surprisingly, with their captain perfectly primed with the required knowledge the Bank Plain team gained all eight points – we got ONE and were thus well behind as we got to the final music round. It was a simple name the artist or band round following the playing of an excerpt from a song and I rather lost track of who had answered which question correctly as it progressed.

As our Captain I went last and correctly identified Queen & David Bowie following a snippet of the track mentioned as the title of this piece.

And then came the scores.

We had lost by ONE POINT!

To say that we took our defeat well would not be absolutely true and I was still seething the next day when I was asked by Eric Northam our Tax Department Manager how we had got on.

Eric was a calm, quite gentle person but after I explained he asked me to close his office door and listen while he called the organising manager at his desk in a nearby branch.

He delivered a blistering bollocking about the special round and went into great detail about how Barclays was much more than just staff in Branch Banking. He did not allow the other guy a moment to try to refute the obvious accusation of cheating and asked how HIS branch would have felt if they had got to the final and been confronted with similar questions on obscure points of UK Tax Law!

“Well dont ever do that again” was how he finished off before throwing the phone back into its cradle, then turned to me and advised me to forget about it!

As you see though, I didn’t and even though its been 34 years it still rankles!

Here is the usual link to a YouTube version:

Alfie

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Posted by on June 29, 2016 in CD of my Life

 

The CD of My Life – “She wears Red Feathers” – Guy Mitchell

You all know this bit in its various forms! If you ever need to get ME back from a coma or similar brain wipe situation – play me these tracks and read me these articles as they are inextricably linked in my head.

The song that is mentioned above came on the radio the other day and, on hearing it, Faith asked me if it was from the 1950s.

I responded that it was indeed almost as old as me and that I clearly recalled hearing it at my Grandmother’s house. From that point onwards I was back there, which is all it takes to qualify it for this series – as I’ve said before I don’t really have to like a song to include it here and this one never has and never will be on my list of personal favourites. I do find it almost embarrassingly “cringy” in fact!

I was born in the front room of my maternal grandmother’s house at 177 Ranelagh (pronounced “ran-lee”) Road, Ipswich in 1953. I was supposed to be born at our house near Bourne Bridge but at the time I was due the 1953 floods were only slowly abating and we had to relocate to somewhere a midwife had a good chance of reaching without a boat!

A bed for my mother was set up in the downstairs front room – my Gran considered that pregnant women should not be allowed to attempt perilous activities such as climbing stairs! I mentioned one of her other strange beliefs here https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/ .

Later on when I actually remember that room it had the best sofa and the piano in it but most of my visits were spent either in the long, narrow garden that stretched down to the railway sidings, or in the “living room” which contained the dining table, a couple of armchairs, the TV (in later years) and a massive walnut veneered Radiogram.

For the uninitiated a Radiogram was the Music Centre of its day combining (as the name suggests) a large radio using thermionic valves instead of micro circuits and a mains powered record player (to replace the impossibly old-fashioned clockwork gramophone).

It is probably fair to say that my Gran had any number of records, gathered over the years but most would have been scratchy pre-war 78 r.p.m 10 inch objects the content of which would not have interested me in the slightest.

There were, however, two 7 inch, 45 r.p.m. records that I was interested in and I remember asking her to play them at every visit I made either pre-school or in the school holidays up to about 1960 when I would have been 7 years old.

As with “Last Train to San Fernando” the song that properly started this series, I would sing along to this one without really knowing what the words actually were!

Here is my usual YouTube link to it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91g54hkWG0I

As you are probably wondering what the OTHER one of Gran’s two singles was I shall tell you that it was “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller – a slightly later song than “Feathers” and which was also the title song of a movie. Which came first I don’t know. Here’s a link to that as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLw7Rot-9oY

And when I told that story to Faith and she suggested it should be part of this series I was already leaning over the side of the bed and making notes in the little book I keep for just that purpose!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in CD of my Life, Ipswich

 

The CD of My Life – “Bad to Me” – “Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas”

Perennial reminder – this is a series about songs that remind me of specific events (and vice versa). While they may not be either important events or necessarily songs that I like, the two are inextricably linked in my head.

About 23 years ago my wife, children and I relocated our lives to the outer edges of Peterborough – specifically to the area known as Orton Wistow. Unlike some Peterborough estates blessed with the “Orton” prefix, this is quite a respectable part of town, despite ME living there and the houses being a bit closer together than I would really have liked.

What it lacks in “personal land” it makes up for in that the vast expanse of the Ferry Meadows Country Park is about a 5 minute walk away. Here are woods, fields, lakes and the River Nene – and I frequently refer to it as “my other back garden”.

When we first moved here my children, then aged 10 and 8 respectively) were allowed to play in the more open parts but we, as with most parents of that time, had been scared by the plethora of child abuse (and worse) stories into ensuring that they were never, EVER unsupervised.

And exactly when, I hear you ask, is this going to turn into one of Alfie’s musical memories?

Well…….

When I was but a wee, skinny lad (which indeed I was until about age 13 or 14 when I became a TALL skinny lad or until about 40 when I turned into a tall FAT lad) I lived on the outskirts of Ipswich just off the road leading eastwards out of town along the southern bank of the River Orwell.

Our cul-de-sac was the last residential turning off that road and was where the Ipswich Borough Transport bus route 1a used to turn around, presumably on the grounds that that if it went 200 yards or so further it would be outside the Town boundary whereupon the Driver, Conductor and diesel engine would all have stopped working!

The actual boundary for the end of the Borough of Ipswich was the bridge over a small spur of the Orwell fed by Belstead Brook and just before THAT was the long driveway leading under the railway bridge to Bourne Park – maybe 5 minutes’ walk from my home.

So, at the same age as my younger daughter was when we moved to Peterborough I also had a massive park to play in.

The big difference was that I didn’t want, need or get supervision.

The far side of that park from where I went in was bordered by the Maidenhall council estate where most of my school friends lived so, having made arrangements at school during the week, we would all meet up at the swings on a Saturday morning (no we didn’t text each other – most of us didn’t have phones in our houses at that time!) rain or shine.

We would, with the exception of a break for lunch involving running home, remain there all day.

As far as I can recall, the most warning I got from my parents was “Don’t talk to any strange men”! No hints about what a “strange man” would look like or why they would be considered “strange” were ever forthcoming.

Incidentally, I note that we never warned about “strange women”. This is obviously sexist as I’m certain that women are, and always have been, just as capable of being deranged child abusers and murderous psychopaths as men are. Just doing my bit for equality, you understand ladies – please don’t hurt me!

In any event I was never spoken to by, or indeed ever saw, anyone on that park that even came close to meeting that description and the only real worries were physical injuries sustained in the course of our normal activities.

Grazed knees from falling off swings and the like were commonplace and I did get clobbered by cricket balls on the head and other more tender places on a couple of occasions!

The particular connection for the song mentioned arose from a Sunday afternoon in August 1963 which I spent on the park flying elastic band powered balsawood model aeroplanes with my friend Peter Burch who lived on the aforementioned Maidenhall Estate.

Peter was the only person I knew at that time who possessed what was then known as “a transistor radio”. That is to say – a long/Medium Wave radio that ran on batteries instead of mains electricity and which could be popped in your pocket rather than requiring a strong man to move it from one side of the room to the other.

He had this expensive and marvellous piece of modern technology with him on the park that day and my most particular memory is of us sitting – the only people in acres of grass – on that hot August Sunday afternoon listening to the BBC Light Programme (1500 metres in the Long Wave), specifically Alan Freeman doing his chart countdown show “Pick of the Pops”.

There are actually two tracks that flip the catch on that particular “memory box”, both of which I may have been hearing for the first time that day – “Bad to Me” by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas is the first one I think of if I reverse the normal process by thinking of the situation first but I get the same memories when I hear “I’ll Never Get Over You” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.

As is customary here are links to YouTube offerings for both in the order I just mentioned them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2BVAcjRMlQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-Gz8HjUtNc

About 5 months after that day in the park my family and I moved to a new development in another part of town – I then had acres of heathland to play on instead of carefully tended grass but it was never quite the same!

Alfie

 

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2016 in CD of my Life, Ipswich

 

The CD of My Life – “The Liquidator” – Harry J All Stars

To repeat (ad nauseum!) the basic premise of this series – if I ever suffer profound amnesia, playing these pieces of music and reading my notes on the associated memory MAY help to restore me. The event described always reminds me of the music and vice versa.

This particular music\memory combination is one that I had forgotten about until late summer 2013 when I went out for a drink or several with some old colleagues but that’s often how these things strike me – and once I’ve written them down I will always have that long –forgotten memory box appropriately labelled. There will be more about the exact circumstances of that recollection later.

Let’s go a long way back in time, as we so often have to with these items, to the tail end of my schooldays – when I looked pretty much as I do in the “About Me” link on this page.

This puts us in the brief period from somewhere in 1967 to 1970 when the nature of my social life changed rather drastically.

The earlier of those dates marks the time when, at the suggestion of the older brother of my sister’s then best friend, I joined the 3rd Ipswich Boys Brigade. This was, and as far as I know still is, based at St. Johns United Reform (formerly Congregational) Church at Cowper Street in Ipswich roughly one and a half miles from my home – about half a mile further on from Copleston School.

Boys Brigade evening was normally Friday each week and this was extended at some point just before I started to include a “club night” on Tuesdays when various games such as Table Tennis and Darts were available.

This was only for BB members and took place in the large metal-framed hall at the back of the site, down a long drive between the vicarage and the church itself – the hall we used for drill, band practice and the like. This, incidentally is the hall that gets a brief mention here, https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/ in a post that will probably get rewritten at some point to fit it into this series.

It was the building on the site that was furthest from the houses in Cowper Street and therefore the one where the noisiest activities took place. It was, however, rather Spartan and cold and when the senior Boys Brigade members got together with the senior Girl Guides and younger members of the Church who did not belong to either to suggest a regular Youth Club, this was not the hall we suggested.

The original hall was brick built, like the church of which it was a physical part and did actually have an indoors connection to the main building. It also, unlike the external building, had a kitchen, a number of coffee tables and chairs as well as a dartboard and a handy corner where the BB’s table tennis table could be set up.

There were “political” difficulties with the influential old farts of the Men’s Fellowship who tended to be “anti” anything that the youth groups wanted to do on principle! They did not want it at all on a Sunday night and when they had to accept that (after we promised not to start until after the evening service had ended) they then insisted that there be no “pop music” played!

I don’t think I would have bothered going at all if THAT restriction had stuck but fortunately the Minister’s daughter persuaded her father to veto the objection and we were allowed to use the portable record player belonging to one of the boys who lived just around the corner.

Others brought in their record collections and while I am sure there must have been more lively Youth Clubs in the UK during the late 1960s it was a good place to relax with a few games of darts, some Table Tennis and a few soft drinks before getting back to the grind of GCE “O” Level examination courses at school.

And underlying all of that, with its little speaker at full volume to try to fill the room, was Chris Baxter’s record player kicking out a wide variety of late 1960s singles and albums.

There are, now that I have been reminded of them, quite a number of tracks that clearly call up my memories of those Sunday evenings but the key to the “memory box” containing them was discovered during that night out that I mentioned at the start.

My former colleagues Joe, Dave, Stuart and Andy (the latter two were with me on my memorable fortnight working at the Italian Yeast Factory in July 2012 – which I may have mentioned here on occasion) were having a “reunion” Thursday night out at “The Bell” in Sawtry, just down the A1 from Peterborough, and as there weren’t many others out that night we had the Games area to ourselves with Pool and Darts available.

Once the landlord realised that we were there for the evening he switched on the computer based music system with its extensive touch screen menu for us.

Once the others got fed up with Joe and I picking nothing but our favourite tracks by “The Who” they started choosing things themselves at random and at one point someone called out to me “You’ll be the only one here who can remember this!”

Before I could phrase any response of the “Cheeky young sods!” variety the song named in the title of this piece blasted out and I was instantly transported back to any given Sunday in 1969 and St. Johns Congregational Church Hall.

As usual here is a YouTube link to “The Liquidator” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEt7PtNz6_o

…and to another of the songs of the same era and same genre – “Double Barrel” by Dave & Ansell Collins – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_7Kx2FlFQY

Enjoy.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in CD of my Life, Ipswich

 

The CD of my Life – 10c.c. – “I’m Mandy, fly me!”

…..also known as – “Treasure 4 – the Caister taster”.

Regular readers will know that I rather like articles that can be grouped into “series” – I have done quite a few in the more than 6 years since I started this blog.

Of these, the longest by far is the “CD of My Life “series which records the “memory boxes” that open for me on hearing certain songs or pieces of music. This is one of those.

It is also, however, the final episode of the much smaller “Treasure” series which I began several years ago when I located, after many years, the key to a locked deed box and decided that there were stories to tell about some of the items I found in it.

For some reason the piece I intended for the remaining item got started, abandoned, scrapped then restarted so many times that I more or less gave up on it. I just couldn’t get the right angle to make it GO anywhere! And then……

I heard the song that opened the same store of memories that the deed box item did and for some reason that made all the difference.

So, after what must be the most long-winded introduction I have ever done I will get on with the story – some of which has been cannibalised from the one remaining earlier version.

And just so that you know that this is indeed a series “crossover” I will tell you that song is, as recorded in the title 10cc’s “I’m Mandy, Fly Me!” and the “Treasure” item is an A5 sized booklet entitled “The Caister Taster 1976”.

***

The year 1976 (and most of 1977 until November when I started going out with Faith and she began the lengthy, and still ongoing, process of civilising me) was a strange and rather wild interregnum in my life – rather like a long gap year.

I had, by the start of that year, escaped (in every way except the legal technicalities) from an extremely unpleasant but fortunately short lived mistake of a first marriage and felt that I deserved a little – no, let’s be honest, a LOT of – fun!

And, despite most of my earnings going on servicing a crippling £6000 mortgage, I did indeed manage to have a LOT of fun!

While a great deal of that fun was had with my lodger, Andy, and his circle of friends an awful lot came from the other friends I had been in the process of making when my life changed for the better in October 1975.

These were the members of the Ipswich branch of an organisation glorying in the title of “The National Federation of 18 Plus Clubs”, usually just shortened to “18 Plus”. This was a social organisation for young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and while I don’t know how it works now, in THOSE days there was one in nearly every town.

I should at this point stress very strongly that we were in NO WAY connected with “Club 18-30” a holiday company for people of that age group with a terrible reputation for foreign holidays in the sun involving excessive imbibing of alcohol and sexual depravity!

OUR activities were nothing like THAT – we didn’t go abroad!

Where we did go, however, was to a couple of nationally organised “gatherings” in the UK each year.

The first of these was the Easter Gathering taking place over the long weekend at what was then called (and may indeed still be called) Ladbrokes’ Holiday Camp at Caister-on-Sea, just North of Great Yarmouth.

After hearing stories from the tired and rather dissipated looking survivors of the 1975 event, a group of about a dozen of the Ipswich club members, myself included, decided that we’d like to try it out and achieve that same dissipated look!

By some feat of timely organisation that cannot possibly have had anything to do with me, a swift application for 3 four-person chalets was made and sent in at the earliest possible opportunity – so swift, in fact, that only the organisers (who, of course, had advance knowledge) got accommodation nearer to the bars, discos and restaurants than us. This was good as it was a large site anyway and late bookers had an extra walk because they actually wound up on an adjoining caravan site and had to come and go via a perimeter gate that was locked between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day.

Incidentally, for those readers worried about the moral welfare of this group of impressionable young people, I should point out here that the three chalets mentioned each had one double and one twin bedded room. Our group of twelve comprised 6 of each gender and included 2 couples and 2 sisters – those three pairs had the “doubles” so that no-one had to sleep in the same bed as a comparative stranger of the opposite sex! I’m sure you are all really pleased to know that!

What really puzzles me is that I have hardly any recollection of the layout of that chalet or of being in it except for going to bed and getting up but I do recall all of the inconsequential stuff in the previous paragraph!

Among the things I DO remember, however, are that it was quite a warm Easter weekend (possibly because Google tells me that Easter was quite late that year, 16th to 19th April) and, as the bars in those days did not do 24 hour opening, I recall “sunbathing” on the grass outside the chalet between the lunchtime and evening sessions. I had with me my recently purchased Radio\cassette player and the track that inspires these memories was being played at quite regular intervals by BBC Radio 1. That is really the only way I could have heard it so often – “I’m Mandy….” is not the sort of song that would have fitted in either the fast or slow dance categories in the noisy, hot, sweaty, alcohol ridden nightspots on the site.

Strangely, given the fuzzy, drunken state that I spent much of that weekend in, I can remember those late-night dances quite well, particularly dancing quite energetically in a circle with the other males of our party and probably some people we knew from the Colchester, Braintree and Sudbury groups. If that doesn’t sound very masculine to you I should explain the Ipswich 18 Plus “variation” whereby each of those male lunatics leaping around to Status Quo and the like was doing so with a girl sitting on his shoulders! We were dancing around their handbags while they joined hands and sang along with the lyrics about eight or nine feet off the ground. The Health & Safety police would probably stop that were anyone to try it in a club nowadays.

I have to say, though, that while my diet of beer and beef burgers (I THINK we must have eaten at some point) was not ideal it didn’t half make you STRONG!

I have mentioned our proximity to the facilities – the only down side to this was on Monday morning when the Radio 1 Roadshow crew arrived early to put up their stage in the nearby carpark with much loud hammering and sound system checks. It was quite entertaining to open the chalet window and listen to the angrily hung-over loudly expressing their displeasure to the crew

I learned quite few new words from that but the most entertaining remark was a loud female voice shouting “Would you mind not banging while we’re banging?!” That got a big cheer from the “Roadies”.

The little book that I found in my deed box was intended as a guide to the facilities but it does contain a record of the alcohol consumption for the equivalent 1975 event (which I am fairly sure we exceeded) and which I list below. This was for around 1500 people over four days (or perhaps only 2-and-a-bit due to travelling on Friday and Monday).

12800 pints Draught Beer

7680 bottles Beer

800 pints Cider

960 bottles Cider

100 Party 4 cans (remember them? – 4 pints of beer in a tin)

100 Party 7 cans (the 7 pint equivalent)

100 12oz (normal size) cans Beer

5376 measures of spirits

11 Cases (not bottles) of assorted wine

After thinking about my share of that lot I’m surprised I can remember ANYTHING of it but here is your traditional link to the song that still brings it all back to me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv8N6zSzL7k

Alfie

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in CD of my Life

 

The CD of my life – “Genesis” – “Turn it on Again”

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.

What’s that?

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B1ub5g5L0k

Alfie

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in CD of my Life

 

The CD of My life – “Scooter” – “Jumping All Over the World”

As I have said before, I do not have to like a particular song or piece of music for it to open one of the “memory boxes” in my head containing full recollection of an event or situation in my life – and this started out as one of those that I really hated!

As readers of some of my other series of articles on this site will be all too aware I have, for the last fourteen months, been working on a contract converting Associated British Foods computers to the Windows 7 operating system – a job that has taken me all over the country and beyond. And until last week I can say that there was no particular piece of music that would have brought the whole experience back to me.

However, in the penultimate week of the contract, my colleagues and I were working away in our assigned meeting room at AB World Foods offices at West Malling in Kent when one of our number – thanks Eric! – for reasons unknown decided to play this 5 year old track over his mobile phone.

I immediately disliked it for the simple reason that it samples (with some alterations it is true) “Glass of Champagne” by “Sailor”, an old favourite of mine from the 1970s and I always hate it when musicians find it necessary to mess about with other peoples’ songs – especially when I like them.

Despite my inbuilt prejudices I watched the YouTube video that goes with it and it slowly started to grow on me. It might still have disappeared without trace but for my dear friends and colleagues on this team who, appreciating my expressions of dislike for it naturally played it over and over and over at higher and higher volumes!

Anyway the fact of the matter is that by the Thursday of last week it had become what is known as “an earworm” – that is to say I could not get the bloody song out of my head and was enjoying the daily playing of the video that you can find here:

It would rather help the continuation of this story if you would follow the link and watch it before you go any further.

Done that? Good!

And now let us pray that there were no CCTV cameras covering the car park of that office building because any such would have been treated to the ludicrous sight of two of my colleagues and myself (a man then one day past his sixtieth birthday) attempting the dance that the two characters in the video are doing “all over the world” while on our way to the local supermarket for sandwiches!

Is this “second childhood” beckoning? I do hope so!

It has, in fact, now become a daily ritual to play it in the workroom and don’t tell my colleagues but I have now included it on my personal mp3 player! Plus it has already become indelibly linked in my mind with this work contract.

Oh, and if any of you feel like doing the comparison here is the link to the “Sailor” original referred to above:

Alfie

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in CD of my Life