We probably all reach those crossroads at one point in our life and though we may not realise it at the time, when we stand at those crossroads of life, our life can be changed completely by the choice that we make.
I stood at such a crossroads, more a fork in the road actually, in June 1977.
I had a good job in an office within walking distance (a good long walk it has to be said) of my home, I was being paid the respectable stipend of £1500 per annum, yes, per annum, every annum too, money to burn I had, I was the company estimator and bonus surveyor, on my say-so seventy electricians got, or not got, their bonuses every week, I was twenty years of age, single, and if I say so myself, I scrubbed up well although most days I chose not to scrub up and certainly you never scrubbed up for the Friday nights in The Queenswood Club, Steve Burt said I was the only person he knew who came in from work on a Friday night and dressed down to go out.
And then one day my boss walked into the office, and there I stood for a moment at the crossroads.
“How would you loike to gow to New-carstle for two weeks ?” he asked in his broad Bristol accent (say it like a pirate).
And the idea struck a chord, I needed to get away from living at my parents house, there comes a time in every young persons life when they start to think of moving out and at that point I was stood, like a two week old sparrow, on the edge of the nest stretching my newly feathered wings a bit and thinking that I knew how to fly now if someone would just give me a push.
“We’ll pay your ‘otel bills of course” he added
That was the push that I needed, “OK” is all I said.
This was a Friday, he gave me the keys to a spare Escort van, gave me the address of the newly opened office in Newcastle and told me to be there at 9am on Monday morning and be back in Leeds in two weeks time – and that was the last time I saw him, and the Leeds office too come to that, its a good job I emptied my desk as I left that night.
That first drive up the A1 was a long one, probably the longest time it took me over the next seven years as I made that journey a 6.30am start and all the way there I wondered what the hell I was doing, I’d never been this far north before, hadn’t a clue what to expect when I got there, knew nobody, knew nowhere, nothing was familiar, and then the traffic ground to a halt near Catterick.
It was an omen, there was a bad accident just a few hundred yards in front, I could see a couple of trucks sideways across both carriageways up in front and didn’t know then but there was also a car underneath them, well not until two hours later when a breakdown truck extracted it and brought it back down the other side of the carriageway, crushed almost beyond recognition and in those days of pre-seatbelt driving, pre-airbags, pre-anything to do with road safety, if your car got crushed between two trucks then you died, as had the driver of that car – I was to see many more of those sorts of accidents over the next seven years.
Still, I was twenty years of age, indestructible, the thought that I’d only been three or four minutes behind a car wreck never crossed my mind and eventually I arrived at the Newcastle office to a bollacking for being three hours late.
It was in my second week in the job that I was called in to my new bosses office.
“Sit yersell doon man” he said
“Pardon ?” I asked, I was almost getting the hang of this accent but not yet
He pointed to an empty chair, I sat doon.
“Whey ah’ve got surm bad news for yers” he continued
“Oh yes?” I replied, I think he’d said that he had some bad news, ah well, back to Leeds it is then…
“Aye, wor acoontants flew urp ter Leeds this mownin lad”
“Oh yes ?” no, didn’t get any of that
“Aye, an they’ve clersed yow’re Leeds office an ivveryone’s bin payed off”
Now that sounded just like he’d said that I didn’t have a job anymore because our head office in Bristol had closed the Leeds office with absolutely no notice period at all and now all of my colleagues in Leeds were out of work – you could do that in the 1970s you know.
“Erm, does that mean I don’t have a job then ?” I asked
“Well, they only said they’d clersed the office” he replied, “They nivver mentioned yous”
“So what do I do then ?”
“Well if ah wor yous, ah’d keep coming urp here-ya as lerng as they keep paying yers hotel bill like man”
“So I keep working for you for as long as they forget that they should have made me redundant this morning “?
“Aye, thats wor ah said man”
“Right, and what about the van as well ?”
“Whey thats a Leeds van” he replied, “But they’ve forgetten aboot that an all, so keep bringin it up here-ya”
“Aye all-reet” I replied, within seconds I’d become a Geordie, see I’d do anything for money me, “an ah’ve gor a Leeds petrol card too”
“Aye” he replied, “Ah knerr, keep usin it until an acoontant ner-tices”
“”Aye, howay the lads” I left his office wondering why I was now speaking in tongues, still puzzled as to how a two week loan to our Newcastle office had become a permanent arrangement without so much as a “Would you mind awfully if….”
By the time I left the North East in 1985 i had aquired a wife, a house and a Geordie German Shepherd Dog who only understood Geordie commands like “Howay” and “Doon yer buggah-man”
I’m still not sure whether I chose the right road at those crossroads.