Seeing this office canteen in the swish new office block of an old employer of mine reminded me of the early years I worked there. The canteen provided proper meals, cooked on the premises, the highlight being the traditional puddings – bread & butter pudding, treacle sponge, spotted dick, jam sponge. All with custard, all in huge portions, all a danger to health, all delicious. Friday was a bakery day and the kitchen would make breads and cakes for the workers to buy and take home. The company was still owned by its founder and had a family-business feel about it.
Eventually the company was sold – more than once – and the canteen closed to be replaced by a snack bar, so it’s wonderful to see what appears to be the reappearance of a proper canteen in the new office block and in a company ten times the size of the company I knew.
My chiropractor began the session by asking me about the book I brought in with me. I gave an outline and added it was a library book, to which she asked where the library was. I told her and said she couldn’t be local if she didn’t know where it was. She said she lived in a town 5 miles away and I said I worked there for many years. I mentioned the company I had worked for and she said her uncle had worked there. I asked after his name and I was taken aback and asked her where her uncle had lived in the town and she told me, confirming that I knew her uncle. He was a close friend of mine and had died from an illness and whom I’d been at his hospital bedside a few hours before he died. I was so concerned for his health that I rang his brother, my chiropractor’s father, to express my concerns and suggest he might want to visit his brother sooner rather than later. Well he did make the three hour journey and was able to see his brother, my friend, for his last few moments. All this was more than ten years ago. Now, today, my chiropractor and I were somewhat overcome by this shared experience as we chatted over some common memories whilst at the same time she continued pummelling my body. So weird.
In my twenties I read a fair bit of Hermann Hesse. All the main ones, The Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund and several others. I think I re-read most of them in my thirties and, like the first time, I really only understood them as a story rather than anything deeper.
I read a few of E M Forster and George Orwell. I loved Orwell’s Keep The Aspidistra Flying – the cover evokes so many memories. There was a phase of Kingsley Amis – Take a Girl Like You, Lucky Jim, One Fat Englishman.
I had a long phase of reading American crime novels – the Travis McGee books of John D MacDonald and the Lew Archer books of Ross Macdonald. The Travis McGee series all had a colour in the title and had some great covers. I regret letting them go.
Then came a series of psychological thrillers by Ruth Rendell. I vaguely recall them as being about rather inadequate / disturbed people (mainly men?), but they were good.
I would read computer books and manuals – it was the industry I was in after all. In between there was sociological stuff – Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man; J K Galbraith ‘s The Affluent Society, and some politics stuff. Novels by John Fowles – The Magus and Luke Rhinehart’s The Dice Man, were mixed up in there somewhere. There’s lots more that may eventually spring to mind.
I’m currently reading ‘Confessions of a Ghostwriter’ by Andrew Crofts, one of a handful of recent books from Dorking’s Oxfam Books. It’s prompted me to recall the time I sat in an office opposite Colin, who was a freelancer and had the job title of technical writer.
At the time I never understood how someone could write a technical document on a subject they had no knowledge or experience of. My view of Colin was probably also conditioned by the fact that he seemed to spend most of the working day on the phone discussing this, that and the other about cricket. Colin was either a cricketer or involved in the running of a local cricket club or league. I don’t recall seeing any technical documents Colin produced, so I’m not able to judge whether he was good at his job.
As part of the process of developing computer software, I always loved writing the necessary user documentation. I wrote documentation much as I wrote software. I dived in and after many re-writes and revisions I would arrive at what I regarded a pleasing end-product. This is probably not recommended or efficient but it was the way that suited my way of thinking and working.
Interestingly, when it comes to writing a blog post, I can often write something in my head but when it comes to entering it into the computer I somehow lose the words. Hence most of my posts are mainly images!
When did Saturday’s paper stop being interesting? We’ve always bought a Saturday paper. A couple of years or so ago we switched from a lifetime reading The Guardian to The Times. But today I switched back, partly because we were getting tired of The Times. But today’s Guardian is no improvement and costs a monstrous £3.20 (The Times costs £2!).
Is it that we’re already saturated with news? We listen daily to Radio 4’s Today programme and to TV news bulletins, as well as checking out many of the newspaper sites on the Web.
Our daughter has suggested switching to a Sunday paper so maybe that’s worth a try.
I think that at my age I’ve become worn out by politics, endless tragedy, conflict and disaster. I need a rest. I need to block it all out.
I used to be 36
but now I’m 34
I was brought up in St Denys, an area of Southampton. After the Second World War prefabs were constructed that would become my home for over a decade. Sometime after 1976 the prefabs were demolished, as was the adjacent paint factory, and modern houses were built. The following 4 maps show how the area has changed.
All maps are screen-shots taken from http://www.old-maps.co.uk
A big birthday spent with the family in a magnificent converted barn just outside the New Forest. In large grounds, it had a lake and children’s play area and acres of woods to explore.