Three months before I was due to leave home and embark on college life in Middlesbrough, I took a temporary job in a cable factory at Eastleigh, near Southampton. The job was a clerical one and my office was to be a small, blue shed inside the factory. My task was to deal with a huge backlog of paperwork relating to goods received and issued. I had to enter the details of each movement into an appropriate page in an appropriate ledger. What a nightmare! A vast number of screws, nails, nuts and bolts, in a multitude of sizes and type. More often than not the description in the paperwork was insufficient to correctly identify the appropriate item in the ledgers. Having exhausted the patience of my supervisor with my numerous requests for help, I ended up making educated guesses. I’m sure the resulting records were hopelessly inaccurate. The records for the cables themselves were easier to match up and thus probably more reliable, though I do vaguely recall doing a stocktake of the large reels of cables and discovering mismatches between the records and the reality.

While working at the factory I met my first girlfriend (if I exclude SW at infants/junior school!). M used the perfume Memoir Cherie – I sometimes think I can still sense the smell, decades later. We would catch the train (steam?) into Southampton and in those days carriages had corridors, and compartments with blinds. Taking M home there wasn’t much light in the compartment as the train passed through a long tunnel leaving Southampton station, and it was there that the delights of innocent snogging began. M was to cause me much heartache as we attempted, and failed, to continue a relationship when I went off to college. The Beatles’ song Hello, Goodbye always triggers memory of the break-up meeting, just before Christmas. <sobbing>

I had my first pint in a pub. I think it was probably the day I had an interview for the job. Fish and chips and peas, and a pint at the Railway Inn (?). Happy days.

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