Monday, March 05, 2012

Memory Dual Carriageway

Haven't been posting much: I have been tired and life has been busy and probably quite boring in terms of blogging.
I have just been watching the BBC 4 programme on disco. I had read reviews of it and took to iPlayer to watch but I didn't think it was that good and I have turned it off. Well- it got to the BeeGees, that set of hairstyles atop squeaky voices, and my ears said 'No!'.
It triggered loads of memories of working at Sherry's nightclub in Brighton- must have been 1976 or early 1977, I think, just before punk flooded down from London. I'd gone to ask for a job; they were convinced that I was under 18 but they let me work in the burger section serving up slabs of ghastly meat on disintegrating buns with a sniff of chips at the side- I think that allowed them to have a particular sort of drinks license. I used to go home smelling of hot fat with a couple of 50 pence pieces jingling in my pocket because I got sent out to collect glasses every half an hour and if you looked on the floor by the bar you found all the loose change that had fallen out of the pockets of the eager drinkers.
Harry the doorman with high, black crinkled hair, dead eyes and a smart black suit used to break up the regular handbag fights at closing time and he sort of looked out for me.
I ended up checking in the coats, listening in to migrant workers selling girls to each other (if a girl fancied one of them and he didn't fancy her, he's sell her to his friend). They told horrific stories about the factories they worked in, in Shoreham along the coast: bits flying off machines and knocking limbs off, that sort of thing.
The music was pre-disco, much poppier than the music played by the brilliant DJ in the Art College Basement (wonder what happened to him? This was pre-Cresswell) or the amazing sounds (Manu Dibango and Philly soul) played at the Concorde on the seafront.
There were go-go dancers, and there was a great atmosphere all night, from the relative quiet at the beginning to the thronging crowd dancing themselves stupid under the red lights, the clumsily-painted plaster statues sprouting out of the walls with fags in their gobs, and the final bit of exhausted quiet after everyone left and we waited for the taxis to take us home in the cavernous and litter-strewn aftermath.
These 'simple' jobs (like working in clubs and pubs or shops) have a great dynamic, a beginning, middle and end. Professional jobs don't have that: they take up every waking moment if you let them, and drive you to an early grave (if you let them). Bits of them drip from one day to the next; you are never 'finished'; there is always something to be tweaked, improved, communicated. Anxiety runs like blood through the corridors  and email upon email builds up, stack upon stack, heading towards the last straw on the camel's back.
I used to love working in a shop too: early morning, no punters, have a cup of tea and get everything ready. Then the routine of people in ones and twos, building up to a busy crowd, till the end of the day when you lock the door and cash up. I like to see the street cleaners just after dawn, the people with hidden lives that you don't see. At that time of day the world belongs to whoever wants it; buildings tell you that they are going to outlive their owners and snigger at the ridiculousness of it all. Birds mingle with cats, and night mingles with day as the latest revellers stagger home on the same pavements as the earliest workers.
I cleaned guesthouses (condoms poked down the back of the dressing tables); washed up in a French restaurant (garlic butter up my arms: it floated on top of the water); served breakfasts in the Bedford Hotel on the seafront (pervy businessman trying to get me to feel his leg). I worked in a little antique shop called Quiet Chuckle some Saturdays (bit too quiet: I don't think we sold anything much). I worked on the door at The Alhambra whenever I could (you got to see the bands free).
And then of course, I joined a punk band, and went home every night covered in beer that people threw over us. Never spit: I think that came a couple of years later, thank goodness.

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