They say that fashion is temporary but style lasts forever. I like to think my first work suit fell into the latter category but suspect not.It was a brown, three piece job, a bargain at £14.95 from Hepworth’s, one of the many tailoring chains then based in Leeds. I complemented the ensemble with a knee length, corduroy overcoat – again in brown. With matching suit and tie, I looked like gravy in human form. The coat proved to be pretty much useless at its primary function, namely, keeping the cold out. I remember being picked up from work to travel to Hartlepool for an FA Cup tie. It was January 1979 (just looked it up!) and Leeds won 6-2 but the wind off the North Sea must have been the coldest thing on the planet that night.
The journey to work each morning involved an hour on the 56 bus to Dewsbury. (I could have pretended another form of transport to refer to the gravy train but decided against). A few weeks into my glittering career disaster struck in the form of sitting on some chewing gum. After an hour, steaming on the damp bus, I was well and truly stuck to the seat. I tried to stand (frankly the alternative of life spent riding endlessly between Bradford and Dewsbury was easy to resist). There was a moment when the velour seat and brown suit seat fought a battle to see which could hold the gum longest and the trousers won. I walked slowly around the corner to work, dreading the inevitable piss taking.
In that situation, everybody is an expert. I now know that putting the trousers in a freezer for an hour would have worked but not very practical in a bank, particularly when wearing only two thirds of a brown suit. Eventually, I was despatched to Boots to buy a bottle of carbon tetrachloride, the fluid used by dry-cleaners. Remember, this was the seventies and many dangerous things were freely available! I suspect this is not possible now in a country where paracetamol is only allowed in tiny packets. Another thing to have disappeared since the seventies is the role of bank messenger. Donald, chief messenger, was a lovely bloke, fond of a show tune in the afternoon and teller of the filthiest jokes I had ever heard. He was tasked with scrubbing at the offending spot with the evil smelling chemical. He insisted on doing this in open view of the entire office with a running commentary that left me blushing many weeks later. The final piece was removed to the refrain of ‘gotcha, you little fucker’ and a spontaneous round of applause broke out in the bank.
Every office should have a Donald. It was his instruction that enabled me to make a round of drinks for over thirty people with every conceivable combination of coffee, tea, sugar and milk that was humanly possible. I got it right every time – the consequences of error were just too terrible to contemplate. Today’s trainees get it very easy! I also got to help Donald with a job that would definitely be banned today. The banks in the town had an informal agreement that if one was running short of cash on a particular day, the others would help out. Donald soon twigged that walking around town with briefcase full of used tenners was eventually going to draw attention from some of the many local villains. Instead, the two of us used to set off with pockets stuffed full of cash – sometimes as much as thirty grand. This was very exciting for a 17 year old in a brown suit.
Apart from the show tunes, one of Donald’s favourite topics was dog shit, the volume of it on the streets of the town centre and what he would do to the owners of the culprits. You can imagine. That brings me to the point of this ramble, if indeed there is one – PooPrints. What a brilliant idea for a business! Just in case you missed it in the papers this week and your mind is off on some bizarre Jackson Pollock weirdness, hang on a second. There is a company (American obviously) that offer a service of matching DNA found in dog poo to a database of dogs – genius. Apparently, where the scheme has been rolled out, dog poo has completely disappeared from the streets.This would make Donald very happy. But why stop there? A human database would mean we could be freed from bogeys stuck to the underside of desks, people who don’t understand the curtesy flush and, of course – chewing gum on pavements and bus seats.
Let me know if there are any other service my new company can offer!