Monday, 11 July 2011

The First Day

Debbie Harry my hero 
.......then and now

This was a route I had travelled many times, the seven stops to Liverpool, although this was the first time on the early commuter train. When I arrived at the small station, the platform, which was very crowded, seemed extremely territorial and hostile to a young girl embarking on her first day of adult life.  People obviously had their own spot, a place where they stood each morning, nonchalantly waiting for the sound of the approaching train, once it was in sight, every muscle would begin to tense, in readiness to elbow and fight their way for a seat.

There was no "women and children first" rule in this situation, the men were usually the more successful and were sat re-opening their papers within minutes, leaving the women to stand, holding onto the leather loops with one hand.  Once recovered from the shock, of being totally knocked out of the way and looking at them, all squashed up in the small hard seating.  Fighting for arm room to open their papers, I thought that standing was much the better option.

Looking around I saw the beautiful girls, swaying with the direction of the train, they smelt wonderful, with perfect makeup and immaculate hair, talking and laughing, flashing rows of straight white teeth.  They were lighting up cigarettes and holding them seductively between elegant fingers, punctuated by long red nails, I realised from their conversation that they were the cosmetic girls working at George Henry Lee, a John Lewis store and the classiest place in town to shop. I immediately wanted to be like them, they were so beautiful, sophisticated in their uniforms of pencil skirts, with high heels and tailored jackets.. 

I looked down at the comparison, drain pipe jeans teamed with a blanket poncho, my own legs so thin they were only just filling the fabric that was designed to cling to them. I had always been a little on the skinny side and recently I had grown a couple of inches, although my weight had remained at seven stone, which for a girl of just under 5'7" was painfully thin.  I had taken ages about deciding what to wear too, I knew that I was not supposed to wear jeans, but my limited wardrobe did not grant me many options.  Under my poncho, I had chosen a mens collarless evening shirt to wear on top and hoped that it would be acceptable, if it wasn’t, I could always just remove the jeans and just wear the shirt.
Well, it was long enough....

My Haircut"The Spiky Punk"

This morning I had also spent ages back combing and spiking my hair. Now to my annoyance, due to the damp morning air, it had begun to curl.  Also the paste diamond, which I had glued to my nose, was beginning to feel loose.  I had wanted it pierced, but that was a definite no at home, I was flying close to the wind as it was, my father did not really want me to be a hairdresser.  I think he was hoping that should I spend a few weeks, brushing floors and washing hair, for long hours and little money, I may change my mind and go back to school..
Then eventually I could get a proper job, one with an index linked pension, preferably at the Giro.

The train stopped and the doors opened, allowing more people to get on, we all moved up, now grabbing onto whatever was available.. For me there was a handle at the top of a seat, I held on tight.  The man below me had the greasiest, dark hair, shot through with grey and speckled with dandruff, this was also sprinkled along the back of his collar, and down the back of his jacket. 

It was warm in the train and the stale aroma of smoke and sweat seeped its way up to me, making me nauseous.  He looked up and smiled at me, giving me a full view of his yellow-brown teeth.  He was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, with a yellow shirt.  I couldn’t quite see, but I knew his shirt was dirty and that underneath was an unwashed body. He returned to his paper and with his head bent forward, I could see that I was correct, the back of his collar was filthy..
It took me many years to find a man in a suit attractive after that.

Beginning to feel nervous now, one more stop and we would be there. Everybody was chattering away, all knew where they were going and what to expect from their day ahead. I on the other hand, was uncertain, this was my first day, in my very first job.  I had previously worked only one Saturday just for a couple of hours, so I could get to know the layout and what was to be expected of me. For this I had earned the grand total of £3.50.  Should I remain in the job, I was to earn £12.50 per week, increasing ever so slowly until you were qualified.
It was little wonder that my father had concerns.

With  jolt we were there and with the same determination used for embarking the train, people stood and pushed their way forwards creating a bottle neck in the corridor.  I was crushed and rather frightened at this stage,  although I was sure I could get used to it, as they carried me along in their flow.  At least we were all going in the same direction, which was off the train and into the city.  It was with great relief, I embraced the diesel fumes of the rather grand station and followed the clicking heels towards the guard and the daylight, that shone behind him. 

Exchange Station Liverpool

I knew the way to the salon by heart, it was where I had my hair cut and currently the best in town.  I was very proud of the fact that they had offered to give me a trial, after all I had skipped school for months and had flunked all my exams, due to total lack of interest.

I wanted to be a grown up, school was just so .. yesterday.
The minute I had entered the place, I knew that I wanted to work there. I wanted to be one of the edgy staff, the glamorous, androgynous people, that I would see hanging out on a Friday night in Kirklands..
I knew they could make me look like Debbie Harry..
I knew that this was where I belonged, with the music, mirrors and pretty people.  Within no time, I was stood outside the glass doors and without hesitation I walked in....

Peter Collinge Liverpool


Todays post was inspired by my eldest boy. He is taking part in his first work experience this week.  To see him setting off wearing his skinny black jeans and shirt, shaved and smelling of Abercrombie and Fitch.  I very suddenly became aware, that he will soon be making his own life in the world.  His own observations about adults and the environment we all exist in.
Unlike me he intends to continue his education, to go to University to read Law, which is his decision and not my ambition...
I hope he achieves it.. but more than that, I hope he finds his niche in life...
Just as easily, as I found mine.


  1. Wow! You had me near tears as I remembered my first day of work...and the thought that my boy will soon be embarking on his own life. I'm so glad you are back! xx

  2. OMG, how I do remember! I also remember our son leaving for university in Paris, after achieving the lowest scores ever recorded at the University of Texas where so many classes in which he had no interest were required. Yes, it did all work out well, but we really do re-live our youth when it comes their time. The dandruff comment made me cringe!!!! Love you....

  3. Welcome my dear friend!! I have missed your wonderful writing and you. You came into my thoughts just yesterday- I was thinking I should get an email to you and hoped all was well on your end. When I saw your comment I was over the moon happy ... just read the previous post ... and I must tell you, YOU have so much to share, you views are both thought provoking and inspiring ... I hope all is going well with the renovations - we finally have a proper kitchen floor -(limstone)- an our renos are almost complete for this phase.. then it will be onto to phase 2.

    Congrats on your son enetering the working world .. he will be brilliant ... and your post brought back memories when I moved from a small town to Toronto after finishing school ... everything seem so huge and magnified... xo , blessings, XO HHL

  4. Funnily enough, you never get over that nervous feeling in the first day of a new job. No matter what your age! Good luck to Wilderness Jnr x

  5. Thanks for the lovely comments .. Sorry about the shit spacing at the end.. Bloody blogger playing up again .. pain :) xx

  6. I'm so glad you're back and blogging. This was, as always, a brilliant read.
    Wilderness Jnr has obviously inherited his Mum's intelligence, good luck to him, a skinny jeaned lawyer sounds a very alternative and cool profession. x

  7. You are such a fine writer. You really are.

    I can't believe one of your boys is old enough to have a job. Wow.

    I love you loads,


  8. That was great. I was there with you! Lovely writing as always. Love you xx