This story goes way back to my first sojourn with the trade; long before I met Chris. It was during the early 80s, 1982 to be precise, the year of The Falkland's War with Argentina, when unemployment here was rife, exceeding three million. Until recently I had been one of them after our company was unceremoniously closed due to cheap and nasty foreign imports. This was so typical of what was happening across our manufacturing industry and it was the beginning of the demise of many of UK's famous engineering names when company after company was closed down. Our government did not seem to mind too much and they tried to steer people into service industries which they thought was the answer to our future prosperity - the short sighted fools! We are still suffering today due to their total mismanagement of our faltering industry and economy. I had lost my job in middle management and frankly had given up on the job market front after 200 rejections. I remember getting so fed up with not even getting a single response to any of my applications I telephoned one company and said that since I had not received a reply from them I was assuming no news was good news and therefore I had got the job and what time would they like me to start working on Monday, 8.30 or perhaps 9.00am. They were highly embarrassed and I received a "No" letter the very next day, delivered by hand. Eventually I decided to work for myself - at least I could not make myself redundant, so I chose to work in something I enjoyed and in which I was very competent - I was always good at DIY and decided to try it. At the time people were very cruel about the unemployment situation, saying catty remarks like, "I know how to cure the three million unemployed - send them all to the Falklands!". I almost came to blows a few times with characters saying things like that because I understood what it was like to lose one's job, with a young wife and family, and I had, and still have, every sympathy for decent and honest folk losing their jobs through no fault of their own. Of course I have no sympathy for scroungers - that is different.
Anyway, enough of all that! I have a very amusing story for you and it centred on the owners of a local Post Office when they planned to move his elderly mother from her home in London to Bristol so they could look after her. The house they bought was just four houses up the road from the Post Office, the proprietors who owned and lived in accomodation over their shop. I imagine they had arranged the sale of his mother's house to finance her new house. I had placed a small advertisement in a local newspaper and a few days later and I was delighted to receive a phone call asking me if I would view a job and provide a quotation for painting and decoration the entire interior and all the external paintwork. It was a huge job and I quoted as requested and to add to the list they wanted also someone to paint the outside woodwork of the Post Office. I left them with the quotation and the next week they asked if I would mind sharing the work because they had a very tight time table and there was too much for one person to achieve the deadline. I did not mind at all so two weeks later I set off with my ladder and equipment - I was doing the external paintwork.
When I arrived I was amazed! There was a chap installing a kitchen and he seemed to be doing all the co-ordinating, if you could call it that. There was absolute chaos prevailing everywhere. Two guys were doing the internal painting and decorating and there was also an electrician and a plumber. We all seemed to get on OK but we did get in each other's way a lot - in fact on occasions we literally fell over each other. There was a huge clash between me and the internal painters because whenever I opened a sash window from the outside they moaned I had spoilt their paintwork and whenever I completed my painting of windows a grubby pair of hands invariably opened the window from the inside and ruined my work, particularly new putty work. Tempers flared on occasions and the kitchen fitter, being by far the worst culprit, constantly caused copious amounts of sawdust to fly from his work by the bucket load all over the internal decorators' new paintwork, causing them to utter long phrases in very strong language which was certainly not in "The Queen's English" and invariably punctuated with a generous supply of adjectives, not appearing in any recognised or authorised dictionary. His response was usually just two words illustrated by two fingers! which almost caused a serious fight on several occasions.
Prior to starting my self employment I was receiving unemployment benefit, known as 'being on the dole', but because I had started self employment work I signed off. During my visit I was amazed to see three people I knew queuing for their unemployment benefit (dole money) . . . . . and yes, you've guessed it, they were non other than our two internal painters AND the kitchen fitter. When they saw me they gestured me to 'keep mum' about it so they did not get into trouble. I duly obliged.
After a frustrating week all the upstairs work was done and I must say the chaps had made a lovely job of the internal decorations. I made good progress also and after a few more days we all had finished with the exception of the kitchen fitter who seemed to be making a big meal of the job.
But what should we see that very afternoon? A fellow called round to work in the roof and his job was to, you're not going to believe this, jack up the roof because it was sagging. Stone the timbers!!! What a time to do that!!! Who the hell arranged the work sequence - it was a disaster!! He went into the roof and jacked it up, inserting extra supports to straighten the sagging roof. It creaked and it groaned and outside we could actually see the ridge moving upwards. Surely this should have been done first!! We were all horrified, including the owners, because all the decorations were ruined 3 inches from ceiling down the walls and the ceilings and top of the walls were cracked. The owners 'did their nuts', as we say, because time was at a premium and his mother was due to move in early next week - it all had to be ready for her. We all put our heads together and came up with a solution and that was to add plaster coving to cover the damage and to repair the ceiling cracks. The decorators rubbed their hands with glee because they would earn extra money for the additional work and repairs. Adding the coving worked and it all looked fine a few days later. By now I was working at the Post Office but I popped round regularly to see how things were progressing. Once I arrived to see the mother's entrance to her new home. In my mind I was humming Handel's "The Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba". We were all expecting to hear sounds of appreciation and see big smiles but . . . . . . instead she flew into a violent rage, saying she did not like the house, did not like the decorations, did not like the 'small' rooms, did not like the kitchen or the bathroom or the garden and she did not like any of us. She demanded to be taken back to her house in London. Methinks the lady did protest too much LOL. Hell certainly did not have fury like this woman's scorn. I felt really sorry for the Post Office proprietors.
I am not sure how it all panned out because that was our last day. I often wondered but never plucked up the courage to see the Post Office proprietor to ask him but I sometimes think about it and have a chuckle. I also often wonder what became of my dubious work colleagues whose names escape me after 29 years, and whether they were ever caught by the authorities for falsely claiming unemployment benefit, Shhh!.
I'd like to invite my wonderful followers and readers to a virtual Labor Day BBQ over at my dear friend, Karen G.'s blog. It starts now and will continue through the 3 day weekend. Why not visit and meet some new bloggers and get a bunch of new followers. Oh, and don't forget to take some BBQ treats along with you. Don't miss it!