alan little’s weblog

the day i sold guitar strings to the clash

16th October 2003 permanent link

I was thinking the other day about job insecurity in the software industry (and every other industry), and drifted from there onto reminiscing about other jobs I did before I was in software - mostly part time things when I was a student.

I was a Christmas postman several times, and in the summers I mostly did warehouse jobs. Warehouse work was good because it was physically hard and generally only came a few days at a time. I was big into rock climbing in those days, so having plenty of time to go climbing between spells of getting paid to do weight training was great.

The best warehouse job was the summer I worked for a guy from my local climbing club, who was a publisher of climbing books. Whenever he had a big order or a stock-take, Ken would round up a couple of the lads from the climbing club and pay us to lug boxes of books around for a few days. The working hours - the working days, in fact - were flexible. Ken was amenable to labour negotiation tactics like “er, Ken, the sun’s shining …”, to which if he was in a good mood and the job in hand wasn’t too desperately urgent, he would reply “ok, but I need you back by Thursday”, and off we would hitch to North Wales or the Peak District to go climbing for a day or two. Ken didn’t need ladders or fork-lift trucks (or health & safety regulations) in his warehouse - we positively enjoyed clambering up wobbly piles of boxes, and the more weight training we got paid to do, the happier we were.

Then there was the Saturday job I had in a music shop, for which I was spectacularly unqualified as the only member of my family who can’t read music - my brother and sister were in one of the country’s top youth orchestras at the time. The only real highlight of the job was The Day I Sold Guitar Strings To The Clash. Imagine: (a) this would have been circa 1978, when The Clash were one of the two or three top live bands in Britain (there are those who believe The Clash were one of the two or three top live rock bands of all time, anywhere), and their idea of a fun Saturday afternoon before a gig was to go out together into whatever boring little provincial town they happened to be playing that evening (Leicester) and look for a music shop where they could buy guitar strings; and (b) this was the only thing I ever did that even faintly impressed the punk chick in the record section upstairs, on whom I had a major crush, and whose name I can’t even remember a quarter of a century later. Possibly Claire.

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