Its true that I don’t like to do things the conventional way, if there is an alternative route then I always like to take it even if its longer, more complicated and ultimately pointless, I just like to go that way instead of following the herd, if I was a herd animal then I’d be dead by now and the rest of the herd would be in the summer pastures saying “Where’s he gone” to each other and then one would say “Well I saw him heading off up that path that leads to the cliff edge but I thought he must know what he was doing”.
And so when it came to bringing the curtain down on a magnificent scholastic phase of our lives the conventional way was for 20 or so of Form 5S to leave at the age of 16 in 1973 and apply themselves to the notion of working hard for monetary gain for the next 50 years of their lives, for another 9 or so of them, the ones who wanted to be “professionals” the plan was to stay on in the sixth form for another two years, study at “A” level and go on to university in 1975.
For me the plan was that there was no plan, I was not university material that much was plain for all to see, nor was I even “A” level material as all could easily tell, but at 16 years of age in 1973 I just didn’t feel like going to work for pecuniary gain and so by means of bluff and simply just turning up on the day I managed to blag my way onto a couple of “A” level courses that made no sense at all to take in combination with an idea that I’d toss off the next two years sitting in the sixth form common room drinking coffee and listening to progressive rock music even though I disliked the genre – anything was better than working.
But after having successfully pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes for eight months and having failed miserably in every examination during that period, and after even starting to hate the Art “A” level I was studying due to the incredible stifling boredom-ness of the harridan Miss Harlow I came to realise that actually, further education was not for me and a life in the workplace beckoned.
And so I left with no fanfare whatsoever in July of 1974, I became the only one of our original class of 30 year to leave in that year and so on old relics of web sites such as Friends Reunited where such things matter I appear in an alumni that is not mine, on Friends Reunited I am placed in the wrong group of pupils for the class who also left that year were the class below me, for all intents and purposes it looks as though I was kept back for an extra year for “special needs” whereas my friends the truth is that I simply couldn’t be arsed to leave with the rest of them in 1973.
Leo Sayer hated wearing that costume but in those long passed days of yore a songwriter such as he needed a gimmick to promote his tunesmithing and so it was decreed by his manager, former 60s short tongued popstar Adam Faith, that he should wear a ridiculous Pierrot style costume to promote a sort-of circus themed tune what he he written, shortly thereafter and having brought himself to the attention of the public if only for looking so ridiculous he dropped the clown image for some ridiculous but natural afro hair styles and a succession of chart hits – perhaps the most telling quote from that period of his career is the comment he makes that “Adam Faith made more money out of Leo Sayer than Leo Sayer did” despite the fact that Leo Sayer had written the tune, performed the tune, looked stupid on TV, an everything.
Incidently the year previously the Sayer/Courtney writing partnership had flogged a bundle of songs to Roger Daltrey for his first solo album “Daltrey” which included a better version of this song that never charted, in fact the whole Daltrey album is a fine collection of tunes and I would recommend it to the house, helped me through my exams that year and is still very evocative.
And so I sat at home that evening and while my dad read the Evening Post I happened in conversation to mention “Oh by the way, I left school today”, there was no reaction from behind the newspaper other than a slight rustle as he extracted the “Situations Vacant” page from within, suddenly it flew across the room in my direction with the comment “Pick yourself a job out of that lot then and don’t think you’re going to sit on your arse in this house any longer…” he’d obviously noticed my year of lack of anything productive.
I still had no clue as to what my employment should be, no ambition to be anything in particular, my period of education those past 11 years had not instilled anything remarkable in me at all, I had no calling to be anything useful to mankind and I browsed the sheet of local job vacancies with a disinterest that could not have been more disinterested if I’d tried.
I’ll say this for 1974, it was easy to find a job, in fact in 1974 there were more jobs than potential applicants and even though I had no potential to be an applicant for anything I could easily circle three jobs that I thought might hold a modicum of interest – the year before a classmate of mine, Dave Maud, long dead Dave Maud, had got himself a job in the drawing office of a construction company and he didn’t even take technical drawing at school, I had an O level in technical drawing so surely I was easily in with a chance of the job that was advertised for a trainee draughtsman in the same construction office that Dave now worked at, or maybe they’d discovered that he couldn’t draw for toffee and it was his job I was applying for, anyway, I circled the details, sucked the pencil a little more and with the idea in my head that I would become a world beating draughtsman in no time at all I circled two more apprenticeships, one for an famous architect practice and one for a local electrical contractor.
The next morning with the newspaper stuffed under my arm and a pocket full of change I walked down the hill to the phone box and made three phone calls to the three companys, ten minutes later I had three interviews arranged for the following week, yes kiddies, thats how easy it was.
The first interview was on the Monday at the electrical contractors, I sat there for ten minutes chatting to what I imagined must have been the owner of the business but in reality was just a cloud of Old Holborn tobacco smoke, Ron Ransom was never seen in public without a pipe to his lips and rarely seen at all from within the cloud of smoke that always hung over him, his small office was almost impenetrable through the smog and as I spoke to the voice behind it that day he suddenly thrust across the desk a plan of a building, “Can you trace something like that ?” he asked, “Oh yes of course” I replied, “You can start tomorrow then” he said and that was that, I went home, rang the other two companys and told them thank you but I’d have to decline their interviews for I was so full of potential that I’d been snapped up by a rolling bank of fog and was now gainfully employed as a trainee electrical estimator.
And thus began ten years of some of the best fun I’ve had so far…