Nail or nothing

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

Ray was telling me that he had just applied for a part time job and had actually got it, so I wished him well as basically being retired he wanted something to keep him active in a sense as since his ‘other half’ had passed on, the quietness around him was deafening.

He explained the procedure about the assorted form filling with all manner of stretched out common sense questions being asked that were plainly obvious and I pointed out it gave somebody else a job or something to kill time while they were waiting for their next social media contact to get in touch as it had been, say, a whole seven minutes since the last message asking what the time was at their end.

Further discussion was about assorted workplace fundamental things like would he be going on a regular basis (?!), where would he be parking his car etc, which he found rather amusing if not patronising at the very least as we both come from an era where basic common sense was still used as opposed to making problems where none existed like today plus the laughter aspect was the stuff of legend.

We had both met years ago when we worked or performed for the same company.

The ‘induction process’ as it’s called today was quite brief and to the point then.

My first morning went something like this: the company was small, basic with no frills as it might be termed now and as I made myself known to the bod in the office, I was asked if the coat I wore would be the one I would be using to come to work most of the time and to be honest this was a new one on me – the question, not the coat.

I was quite mystified by such a question but said I was not sure and the response was one of a sort of puzzled stare, as the bod turned out to be the manager, owner and soothsayer.

He then opened a drawer in his desk and got out a smallish, grubby looking cardboard box.

He then turned the contents of the box out on the desk top and there was a pile of assorted nails.

Looking through them, then a quick gaze in my direction, then he selected one that he ‘thought’ would do me (?!) and handed it over and told me this was my coat hook based on the weight of my coat I was wearing.

He pointed out that heavy or winter type coats would need a long, thicker nail as opposed to lighter coats and to sort of make conversation on hearing this, I asked what size nail he himself had and he said he had a screw hook, chrome finish, that was left over from a job they did work on because, as I was to learn while there, nothing was wasted.

He then took me along to the ‘cloak room’ or the passageway to the toilet and showed me a space at the end of a wooden board on the bare wall where assorted coats hung, and suggested I could have any space to bang my nail in on the end of it, but not near Harry’s nail as he wore a duffle coat in winter and what bearing this had I was never really sure about to be honest – roll on winter then, I like excitement.

The toilet arrangements were also explained as he picked up a toilet roll and asked if I minded ‘sharing’ – as you do – but he further pointed out that if I ‘felt comfortable’ with whatever I was using at home, he did not object to me bringing and using it at work but suggested I write my name on it but near to the middle of the roll as the more you used it, the name vanished.

You don’t say, I thought.

I was tempted to ask where the coin slot on the cistern was but held back, first day and all that.

He also pointed out that there was a new set of screws holding the bolt on the toilet door and I wondered if they too were left over from a job they had done as well.

I was then told about the tea break times, how long they were and asked would I be taking any (!) as they ‘were not compulsory’ as far as he was concerned and on hearing that I cannot put into words what a comfort it was to hear that.

Next was the fire drill procedure.

If a fire or similar should happen the idea was to inform the management, as in him, and then depending on the size of it he would decide on what action to take.

This could be either attempt to put it out ourselves or dial three nines to get the professionals to attend.He pointed out that small fires were okay to tackle but bigger ones were best left to the fire brigade plus it saved on the firm’s water rates.

I still don’t know if he was serious when he said the annual works outing always went to Great Yarmouth so that the fire buckets could be ‘topped up’ with the sand from the beach.

For the first few days there I was quietly probing the fire buckets trying to find seashells when nobody was about.

First Aid consisted of a box of plasters, a few bandages with rusty safety pins being of a certain age or century, so if the cut or abrasion didn’t get you the possible metal poisoning from the latter safety pins would.

So that was about it really – the ‘induction process’ fully explained.

We had a sort of ‘office girl’ that was always making a mess of things as in even mundane things in the admin side were catapulted into full blown catastrophes sometimes with just the mere flick of a ball point pen as it was difficult to apply her make up and write at the same time as she pointed out quietly when the big boss man was not in earshot.

One classic moment was when she told us that after one incident (there were many) the boss had called her a ‘daft tree’ but as we later found out, what he actually called her was a ‘silly birch’ which is a tall tree with peeling bark or something similar but you had to allow for her spelling as well.

After one, and the final, make up session she left us as a form of gainful employment not to mention shelter for her as she was shown the door and the boss’s wife took over her job or whatever it was she did up to that point as nobody was really sure.

Being the boss’s wife, she did not apply make up during working hours but applied it before coming to ‘work’ but in fairness, she always arrived two hours later than anybody else so this might be her make up time in lieu of slapping it on while with us.

Think her name was Betty but everybody called her ‘Buttercup’ and so this turned out to be a real ‘family ruin’ business but perhaps more on that another time and page.

Back to the present and I was tempted ask what size nail Ray had selected but I forgot.