I left Brighton Art College with a degree in Fine Art Printmaking, licence to be on the dole. The first job I managed to get was at a printers in Lewes who were attached to a veterinary supplies company ( I know I may have told you this before but here it comes again)
I learned how to be a typesetter, setting minute slivers of lead into a form which held them tightly into place so that thousands of addresses on little tablet envelopes could be printed from a massive wheezing, thumping letterpress. All the little lead letters and punctuation and spacers were kept in huge flat drawers in cabinets down the side of the room. I learned how to use a manual press for short runs, and how to melt grains of resin on to freshly-printed paper to make raised lettering for posh writing paper. I learned how to hold huge piles of A4 paper and knock them into shape so that they would fit into the press, and how to package blocks of printed paper neatly and quickly in brown wrapping paper, ready for delivery.
I had to work alone with a horrible man who chain smoked and wore loud checked polyester trousers. He used to tell me about his conquests and his activities in the back of a mini car, and how he used to print pornography in London until the printers there got busted. He was immensely proud of the fact that he belonged to the local National Front in Mayfield, and he had their logo in one of the drawers, but he never asked me to print it, thankfully. He constantly asked me to make him cups of tea and snuggled up to me with his faggy breath as I was working and I had to leap off the stool to get away from him. Ugh. Once, he asked me to draw a JCB for a friend of his who was selling them, and offered me 50 quid. It took me ages to draw and when I'd finished he took it off and refused to pay me. I told the punks in the Windor Tavern about him and they offered to beat him up him for me, but I said no thank you.
One day, a bottle of something called Euthanol turned up by the tea things. I convinced myself that it was for killing animals (as in euthanasia), and it was going to make its way into my coffee, and I took fright. I handed in my notice, requesting that the creep be told not to speak to me again until I left, and went off to be a glorious shop assistant instead.
True fact: remember that song 'Love Don't Live Here Any More'? That poom-poom-pa-pa-poom drum sound was the only thing you could hear on Radio One through the whack-whack of the press when it was on a run of printing, and reminds me eternally of the horror-job.