The World of Work 1988

And that was it. My education was over. I went down to Plymouth with no clear idea that I'd ever be coming back.
The parents had moved. I was going back to live with them for a while, until I got a job. And so began a period I modelled on The Graduate - but with no Mrs Robinson in sight (nor a swimming pool, just a lawn), and increasingly stern parents who wanted me out of their hair, I applied for some jobs.

My Godfather, John, a friend of my Dad, started teaching me to drive. He was a professional instructor and did me a good discount. I got good quite quickly, driving a Ford I think. On that basis I booked myself in to take the test around Christmas.
While unemployed I ran up a bank overdraft, naively thinking that that was what an overdraft facility was for – you know – the one they promised you in ads, but the Midland Bank started sending me angry letters almost immediately – which was very short sighted of them. I paid back the over-draft once I began work in October - a piddling £200 - and not long after changed banks. Stuff the Midland Bank!! Bastards!! (stuff HSBC too! – I’m one for holding grudges)
The job search began in earnest once I realised the parents weren’t going for any off that time off / gap year stuff. They wanted me out of the house and in a job!
I received vacancies from my Polytechnic in a regular mailing and also kept my eye on ads from engineering companies. A friend of my Dad tried to find out if there were jobs going in an engineering firm based in Plymouth; think that came to nothing.
So I sent off a few applications – a mobile phone company, the BBC, LUL, and the Met Police (civilian staff, not a member of the filth!) as a stop-gap just to get me back in London.
I got offered an interview with a mobile phone manufacturer in Boringjoke (Basingstoke). It was my first post grad interview and went badly. I was learning how to do it. Knew I wasn’t going to get a job there so asked really stupid questions when being shown around. Might as well get something from the experience. On the way back to the station someone tried to offer me a sales job cos I had a suit on.
I got asked to be interviewed in London for all those jobs. Prior to the BBC job I took a trip up to Exeter to have a look round the BBC Devon Air studios. Took the chance to pay a visit to Jackie, who wasn't expecting me. She let me play on her Star Wars video game -an early games console with very impressive graphics. I even got to meet her husband, the infamous Steve, who came home just as I left.
The interviews I managed to land were arranged to take place in the same week. I went up to stay with Dave for a few days, and travelled into London by train. I failed the BBC interview. It was a better effort than in Basingstoke - fell foul of political questions such as my attitiude to trade unions, etc. I lied so as not to appear left wing. May not have been a good idea. Also fluffed some fairly obvious technical questions, but I was nervous. I did get my first experience of a talking lift though.
London Underground interviewed me twice, I seem to remember. first it was the main boss - name? - of the department in a huge room - 55 broadway? - there were a lot of interviews. it was a panel and I got asked technical questions - one I remember about my final year project building a ----- which worked with lower frequency application such as CROs but not with IT applications which work at higher frequencies. The next interview was with Dave Campbell in a different location. I must have done alright as they offered me the job.
In September I got word that the lads had secured a house in Plumstead with one spare room which was mine for the asking. They were all back on the final year of their courses, while I was out in the world of work. Once I'd got the jobs I told them that I'd be up there in October. It was a close run thing.

Back In London
The first day at work was stressful. I was asked in an hour later than what was to be my normal starting time, and not used to working such long hours, found the day challenging. Wore my posh trousers and a shirt for the first day. Got the train and tube in - remember a handle thing coming off in my hand while I was travelling on the District Line.
Eventually I found my way to my work location, a basement under a high rise office block just by Paddington Station. The building: Telstar House, named after a satellite and Margaret Thatcher's favourite pop tune. There was Dave Campbell, my first contact, and my ultimate boss. I I was introduced to my line manager, Andy, fairly soon afterwards. And I met the two guys who were leaving - one of whom I was replacing. they took me through some things.
I spent most of the first week reading through manuals. What a great start! The manuals served me well though - by the end of that week I pretty much understood the inner workings of jointless track circuit transmitters, receivers, frequency generators and tuning units.

November spawned a monster
The new US president was George WH Bush. The devil incarnate as far as I was concerned. Implicated in Irangate, former head of the CIA; involved in untold shady operations since first working for the Nixon administration in the 60s. And shady things did start to happen - notably the invasion of Panama.

On December 3rd I worked my first signal changeover – a fascinating experience which took me well into Sunday morning – my birthday. As it turned out it was to be my last signal changeover. So far.
What I probably considered to be my birthday do – I would have been way to exhausted to do much on the Sunday once I’d made my way back to Plumstead – went and saw Voice of The Beehive with Andy on Monday the 5th. Andy was living in London then, working for the police and living in a pretty shitty hostel out Paddington way if I remember correctly. He told me tales of lying in bed listening to his room-mate & his girlfriend shagging, as well as other mild tortures. He was lucky though – if I’d taken the job I was offered in September I may well have been his boss! I bought poster at the Town and Country club, Kentish Town.

On the 12th went to see Jesus & Mary Chain with Dave, the day of the Clapham traincrash, and two days later, the14th, the Sugarcubes with Mark @ Kilburn national – they changed the words of Motorcrash to Traincrash. Sick little monkeys. Then I saw the Fall on 20th – and may have been on my own for that one. The run up to Xmas always proved to be a busy gig-going season.

I think the boiler broke down after everyone left for home. I had work so didn't get to go off till 23rd or 24th. It was a cold week. Watched videos and shivered. One I saw was “Robocop” and very much enjoyed it. Robocop had been panned by everyone as some sort of lightweight sci fi pap. I was very much taken with the very intelligent and incisive satire all through it....the dangers of privatising everything and why we shouldn't trust corporations. It was set in Detroit ,which was at that time reeling from corporate flight, and well on its way to being the ghost town it eventually became. Use of drones by civil police forces and other robot technologies is bringing the nightmare future ever closer. Innocent people are now regularly targetted to be wiped out by drone, including american citizens, without trial and without due process.

The Lockerbie plane crash occured on the 22nd and I pored over news reports - reports of strange and shady visitors - US secret service figures - who appeared in the Scottish countryside in the days after the crash. The reports of a whole family disappearing, literally, house and contents vapourised, were, frankly, shocking. I don't think we've ever been told the full truth about this event, and in no way do I believe Libya were soley to blame - they may have been part of a chain. Who knows? I fucking don't!

Brazilian activist Chico Mendes was murdered the next day. this event passed unnoticed by me at the time, but it was to become increasingly significant in my life in the next few years. Looking back - was it a coincidence that the murder occured on the one day that it was almost completely guaranteed not to be reported. For days after Lockerbie the papers were filled with little else. The significance of the violent death of a little known peasant activist across the other side of the world would just not be apparent. Not for a while anyway.

I was in Plymouth through to the 2nd
 of January.
Think I was due to take my driving test over xmas. John had changed his car from a decent one – Ford I think – to a dodgy plastic thing – Italian, may have been a Lancia. I couldn’t drive it and had to bail out.
Had a driving lesson on Thursday 26th Jan. Now getting ready for a re-scheduled test. The instructor, called steve, took me round Welling mainly and Eltham – all the bits that were to soon become my 2000+ stamping ground after marrying S. His car was a small Nissan and not only was it a joy to drive, but put me in good training for the car S was to hand over to me in a about a decade's time.
I visited Plymouth again on 27th – 29th long weekend. Went to see PAFC lose to Everton though my notes say “should have won!” This may have been the weekend we bought our interail tickets.
On Feb 3rd I bought tapes by Lou Reed, Darling Buds, The Fall andCiccone Youth – Sonic Youth’s Whitey album.
Still having driving lessons into February (14th) – I had a mock test due on March 1st which never happened, real test on March 13th – and I passed. A Monday. I immediately got myself registered as an approved driver at work, though I wasn’t very good for quite a while. Andy used to let me drive a bit when we had to go somewhere. But never for very long.
February 2
Soviet war in Afghanistan: The last
 Soviet Union armored column leaves Kabul, ending 9 years of military occupation.
Satellite television service
 Sky Television plc is launched in Europe.
February 3
 leader Ruhollah Khomeini encourages Muslims to kill The Satanic Verses authorSalman Rushdie.