Reach for the stars and earn a living

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

While listening to assorted folk talking the other day, I was rather tickled about some of the supposed professions these days as to what they did, or do. Their job title or description is no help without a code book, as they sound like something from another planet until you realise it’s all quite basic and it’s just the inflated job title to keep up with the herd that is the crux of the matter.

I remember Roge – it’s the name Roger cut down, by dropping the “r” it sounds more trendy today, but in “our day” it saved a bit of ink, true, only one letter, but it all helped – and when he became unemployed many years ago, at least that long ago anyway, he saw somebody in the then Employment Exchange, now re-branded and re-badged (depending on your mindset) the JobCentre in case you wonder, and said staff person within gave him some advice like: “No matter how humble you feel, just aim for the stars” but, in fairness, she gave this life-changing, motivational message to just about anybody who sat across the counter from her and when done, with all the warmth of a Russian bingo caller on holiday relief in Siberia as a reward for good behaviour, she then hollered out at full throttle: “Next one!” and the next combatant lurched forward, to no doubt also hear their life-changing, motivational message, which might, amazingly, be the very same one as the script that was read out to Roge.

With Roge, minus the “r” lest we forget, it may have been a case of he perhaps misunderstood her as he could have misheard and thought she said “stairs” instead of “stars”, as he became a carpet fitter. A minor misunderstanding, but at least it put him on the right path – or rug – maybe? Another slightly “not with it” chap I came across, via assorted folk who had had dealings with him, was Graham, who was a sort of self-styled “motor mechanic” who based his skills on reading assorted car magazines – and perhaps astrology columns slung in, to make it a healthy reading balance of sorts, if the following is anything to go by.

I was in an adjacent business unit getting my requirements, you know the sort of thing – “Well, the compootah says we have them in stock but it might be a moment or an hour to see if I can find them, as nobody ’ere knows how to put things back in the right place on the shelves” – and while waiting, being a sunny day I wandered outside to sit on the wall and on the forecourt of the next unit was Graham, going about his trade with an elderly couple, who had entrusted their car into his hands for, I would hazard a guess, some work to be done and a quote as to the final cost.

As he walked around the car, he made the standard issue nasty sucking noises, as in “That will be expensive you know, Guv”, plus “Not sure you can still get parts for these any more”, and this is normally used for making the job bigger than it really is. The next bit was quite something, as he then knelt down and appeared to look up the exhaust pipe and after wiping his finger on the said exhaust pipe’s innards, and withdrawing it partially covered in black soot, he proclaimed: “I think your big ends are on the way out as well, Guv.”

This was not lost on the elderly gent who I assume was the proud owner. He looked at Graham and then at the car as he spoke: “Are you any good at reading tea leaves as well?” followed by “Gwen – get in the car, it’s not as bad as we thought it was.” He then reversed out and went straight up the road at quite a fast, unhindered, speed.

Graham noticed I was sitting there taking this pantomime in, looked at me and said: “You try your best for some people, but you can’t always be right, but it’s what you find these days, innit, mate?” and, to add to the saga, I asked what the problem was that brought them to his garage,’ or unit where he performed his handiwork, and he replied: “Fink he said the locking filler cap was not working sharp after he put petrol in.”

Ha! Well, how sad, never mind, oh deary me, carry on and back to the madhouse then for me, to see if the items I had requested had been found, as the compootah said they were in stock and, as we all know, the compootah is never wrong– and by the same line of thought, I also believe a man can fly.

Another chap seemingly blessed with “mechanical knowledge” who went from job to job with assorted stories as to his, er, “skills”, was Len the Lively Legshaker.

Len was/ perhaps still is a delightful person, so rumour hath it, who used to get into conversation with anybody and due to being rather over-the-top with his stories, or ripping yarns, shall we say, in that, if the listener was getting wrapped up in whatever he had dreamt up, his leg would start to shake, and if he was really on a “gud ’un”, the shaking would be so pronounced that he would fold his arms to sort of slow the shaking down, otherwise he was not far off breaking into a Riverdance routine – or at least one leg would.

Somebody pointed out that with the folded arms, he could pass for a part-time Russian (is there any other type or breed going?) Cossack dancer, if he crouched down. I was intrigued and I asked someone who seemed to know him well or it seemed that way at least, why so, and she replied quite simply: “He does like to embellish – or fib mostly – about things a lot and this is his way of letting off steam with the leg, but the trick is not to show any interest in what he’s saying otherwise he’s away like Fred Astaire.” Another trait noticed by assorted people who knew him: it was cheaper to tell him something in confidence and let him rush and tell everybody in earshot, rather than pay for a full-page advert in newspapers and bus shelters.

I asked if it was a sort of nerve thing, and yes, in a way, as he got on just about everybody’s nerves, and on inquiring as she knew so much about him, were they related? she replied: “Yes, sadly – he is my offspring, but I don’t want any publicity about it – we were really hoping for a son but these things happen of course, but then again it don’t help with the company he keeps as I have a coal shovel that is brighter and more useful than the crowd he hangs about with.”

It’s at times like these that the maternal instinct sort of flows, or in this case, fair gushes over.