London Street Jobs: 1920-1927

After WW1, not that much had changed in London in almost 100 years. Photographers were still keen to document life on the streets, and the jobs of ordinary working people.

A Concertina Man. This elderly man is trying to make a living as a street entertainer, playing his Concertina. His female companion carries the box for the Concertina, and a smaller one for collecting any money people give him.

The Pet Meat Man. These traders would sell meat considered to be unfit for human consumption, and people would buy the cheap cuts to feed their pets.

The Telescope Man. Sitting at the corner of Westminster Bridge opposite the Houses of Parliament, this man would charge a nominal amount to look through his telescope at the surrounding views. He also sold leaflets about the history of Queen Boadicea, who is on the statue behind him, and of Big Ben, the famous bell in the tower oposite.

Gas fitters installing ‘modern’ street lighting.

The window cleaner. This man carried his ladders around on a cart, and would wash the windows of better-off Londoners. They usually had a regular ’round’ of customers. We have a version of those in Beetley, in 2022. They use vans instead of carts, but little else has changed.

The Telegram Messenger. Telegrams were run by the Post Office, and were a popular way to get a message across a long distance to impart urgent information to the recipient.

A 1920s Chimney Sweep. Sweeps were still essential, as everyone had coal fires. But they were no longer allowed by law to employ small boys as assistants.

A Gramophone Man. Pushing a wind-up gramophone in his old pram, this man would wander around the streets playing popular songs of the day. He hoped that people would give him a few pennies for the ‘entertainment’.

A female ‘knocker-upper’. Before the widespread use of alarm clocks, workers who had to start work very early in the morning would employ someone to wake them up by tapping a long pole against their bedroom window. This lady has made life easier for herself by using a pea-shooter to fire hard peas against the windows.

The Escapologist.

At one time, these street entertainers were very common on the streets of London. They would stage miraculous ‘escapes’ after being bound in heavy chains or tight ropes. They could be seen outside major tourist sights like the Tower of London, or entertaining cinema queues before the film show started. They always had an assistant who secured them first, then collected money by passing a hat around the crowd.

Telephone Cable Erector.

As home telephones became more common, these men would do the dangerous job of stringing telephone cables across street to be attached to poles. They had no safety equipment then.

An Alphabet Of My Life: E

E=Examinations

When I was young, the big examination that everyone talked about was called the ’11-Plus’. At primary school, we didn’t have exams beteen the ages of 5-10, but we did have ‘Tests’ as we got older. They took the form of essays, handwriting, or simple times tables and sums. But pass or fail, those tests didn’t really mean that much to us schoolkids.

The 11-Plus however, that was a big deal.

Here is some information from Wikipedia, so you know what I’m writing about.

The eleven-plus (11+) is a standardized examination administered to some students in England and Northern Ireland in their last year of primary education, which governs admission to grammar schools and other secondary schools which use academic selection. The name derives from the age group for secondary entry: 11–12 years. The examination tests a student’s ability to solve problems using a test of verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning, with most tests also offering papers in mathematics and English. The intention was that the eleven-plus should be a general test for intelligence (cognitive ability) similar to an IQ test, but by also testing for taught curriculum skills it is evaluating academic ability developed over previous years, which implicitly indicates how supportive home and school environments have been.

As you can see, if you wanted to get into a ‘better school’ you had to pass it. My parents wanted me to get into a Grammar School. Working-class people always believed that Grammar Schools gave you a better start in life. There was a lot of pressure for me to pass it, and I remember being obsessed with doing so. I was also ‘bribed’ with the promise of a new bicycle if I passed.

When it came, it was nowhere near as hard as I had feared, and I passed it in the top segment of the class, with flying colours. I got the bike, and had such good results I was offered a scholarship to a ‘posh’ school in Dulwich. That made my parents very proud. However, I didn’t want to go to school with posh boys in Dulwich, or with clever-clogs kids to a Grammar School. I wanted to go to a modern mixed-sex school, a progressive school known as a Comprehensive. Despite arguments with my parents, I got my way, and I am so glad I did. Because it was a great school.

A good education

Once I was fifteen years old, we were preparing to take the next round of examinations, known then as ‘O’-Levels. We had been learning the syllabus in those subjects for some time, and depending on ability, we would be entered for up to ten examinations in different subjects. It was well-known at the time that you had to have at least two ‘O’-Levels in English and Maths to hope to get any decent job later. Four were better, six were very good. Having abandoned the science subjects early on, I took eight ‘O’-Levels when I was 16 years old. Maths, Art, French, History, English language, English Literature, Geography, and Religious Education.

When the results were announced that summer, I had achieved pass rates in seven of those, including the desired Grade One in both English subjects and in French and History. Only Geography had escaped me, so I applied for a resit and passed that a few weeks later. My parents were pleased.

I returned to school after the holidays and moved into the Sixth Form. I was set to study four subjects for the higher ‘A’-Level exams that were a requirement for application to a University. I knew I had to have two good-grade passes to get into a university, but four would guaranteee my choice. I picked English Language, English Literature, French, and History. My teachers in those subjects were all very encouraging, but four was a big ask. It was a huge amount of work for a teenage boy that wanted to go out with his mates, had a regular girlfriend, a Saturday job, and had even passed his driving test later, whilst still at school.

Very soon, I started to lose interest in three years more study at University, and despite doing well at school, I resolved to leave not that long after my seventeenth birthday, without sitting those exams. I upset my teachers, and greatly disappointed my parents. At least my eight ‘O’-Levels stood me in good stead, as I was never turned down for any job I applied for.

But exams were not behind me. When I joined the Ambulance Service I had to take regular exams, written and practical, to pass through the Training School. Even once I left aged almost fifty, I had to take some very difficult exams at the Police Training College when I went to work for the Metropolitan Police in London. And they had a sting in the tail. They were pass or fail weekly, so fail the Friday exam any week, and you were potentially out of work, looking for a job. Perhaps the worst pressure I had ever been under.

Thankfully, exams are now definitely behind me for good. Though struggling to learn WordPress blogging in 2012 felt like one, and wrangling with the operating system on my computer continues to feel like one almost daily.

London Life 1957-1962: Photos by Frederick Wilfred

I happened across the work of a photographer previously unknown to me. For five years, Frederick Wilfred took photos of everyday life as lived by Londoners. At the same time, I was aged between 5 and 10, and I grew up looking at the same sights he captured on his interesting black and white photos. A trip down Memory Lane for me.

What was then a ‘modern’ and ‘trendy’ coffee bar. Not much like Starbucks, as you can see.

The famous London Dog Rescue centre at Battersea, with the marvellous Art Deco power station behind. Both are still there. The Dog’s Home is housed in a new building now, and the power station has become a retail and apartment complex, housing a visitor centre and exhibitions too.

Children playing around in an old car. At the time, it was rare for a working person to even own a car. Notice that there are no others on the street behind.

A gang of cheeky boys posing for Frederick. They would likely have been ‘playing out’ on the street at the time.

Two boys playing a ‘war game’. Using sticks, and a lot of imagination.

A well-dressed man having his shoes polished by a ‘shoe black’ on a street corner. Shiny shoes mattered back then.

A road sweeper with his cart containing two dustbins. They were seen on every street at that time. The container in the background was for the sweepers to empty their dustbins into, and it would be collected by a lorry at the end of the working day.

This newspaper vendor has a good spot opposite a busy Tube Station. There would be numerous daily papers to sell, as well as two popular evening newspapers too.

This schoolboy is likely helping the local milkman on his round before going to school. Such part-time jobs were prized then.

A butcher proudly standing behind his display of meat. Note the pre-decimal prices in ‘old money’.

Trouble Keeping Up

With the decluttering finally drawing to a close, (Six bags of my old clothes and shoes destined for the Charity Shops) I have had another busy weekend.

Now dinnertime is approaching this Sunday evening. I have had no spare time to write my next serial episode, and the posts of bloggers I follow keep arriving in my inbox.

So, I cannot keep up today.

Bear with me, and I will read and comment on all of your posts eventually.

 

 

Christmas ‘Jobs’

It’s the tenth today, and things are starting to ramp up for the three-day Christmas season.

Julie wants the tree and its decorations brought down from the loft this afternoon, and I really must write some cards!

On Sunday, we are travelling down to Essex to see some of my family, staying overnight with one cousin so another cousin nearby can come and see us. I have a big box of presents to take to them, mainly for the children. Ollie will enjoy seeing the two small Spaniels she has, and having some stairs in the house to run up and down.

The following week, we will have an extra clean up in the house, and Ollie goes for his ‘Christmas Bath’ at the groomer. I then have to try to keep him out of the river for a while. (Good luck with that, I tell myself)

Not that we are doing much on the 25th, or the 26th. We are going to a restaurant on Christmas Day afternoon for a traditional turkey meal, and have nothing planned at all for Boxing Day on the 26th.

The 27th is another matter. Julie has invited all of her children here for a seasonal buffet, including their partners, and their children. We are not sure who can make it yet, but if they all do show up we will have ten guests, plus us two.

At this time of year, I can usually be heard saying “Roll on the 27th”. This year I am changing that to the 28th.

Selling Yourself: The Last Part

The final episode (that I had forgotten about) of my history of jobs before I became an EMT. No more after this, I promise!

beetleypete

This is the final episode in what has become a seven-part saga relating my experiences in numerous selling jobs. As I come to the end of this part of my history, it has occurred to me that I have now covered on this blog a great deal of my working life; also all three marriages, as well as my day to day life at the moment.

I have commented on countless films, and quite a lot of music, as well as voicing my opinions about world events, domestic politics, and other issues. Almost 330 posts, which I have to look back on, to even remember what I wrote at the time. Am I running out of things to write about? I have lived for sixty-one years, and almost covered that life so far. I will have to hope that this is not the case, and search my memory. I may…

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Selling Yourself: Part Three

Next part in the series of six from 2013. Part three of my early days of employment. This didn’t end so well! I think only Jude has seen this.

beetleypete

My time with sausages and pies was over for now, though I would re-visit this area of sales at a later date. Having sneaked a day off to attend an interview, I had a new job offer, and I was off, to sales pastures new.

The confectionery market is well-known to us in the UK. We have a national sweet tooth, and there are plenty of companies out there willing to exploit this. I saw an advertisement for one of those companies, although the sweets were only a small part of a more complex organisation. Jimmy Goldsmith, father of Jemimah Khan, and businessman extraordinaire, owned a company called Cavenham Foods, producing food of many types. As he is long dead, I feel it is in order to use the actual names.

One subsidiary of this, the third largest company in its field at the time, was an offshoot selling cheap…

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Selling Yourself: Part One

Back in 2013, I wrote a six-part series about my life before I became an EMT. This is the first part. I warn you, it is quite a long read. Not many of you have seen it before ( Except Jude and Vinnie) so it may interest you to know more about my early working life. If you enjoy it let me know, and I will re-post the rest in order.

beetleypete

From the time I left school, until I joined the London Ambulance Service, was a period of less than twelve years. During that time, I had an unusually high number of jobs, all but one of which involved selling, in one form, or another. I have written about some of those jobs before, but I have recently reflected on just how easy it was to get work, to come and go as you pleased, sometimes starting and leaving three jobs in the same year. In today’s world, of high unemployment, no-hours contracts, reduced Trade Union rights, and a return to the Victorian era. with no paid holidays, or sick leave, it makes me realise just how easy it was, to live in the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the present day. My own employment history, before settling down in the Ambulance Service, may seem like a poor CV. In those…

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A Busy Day In Beetley

I am not used to being busy. My life is usually unhurried, with a certain familiar routine that comforts me in my retirement. But when a holiday is on the horizon, there are things that need to be done.

So there was much activity chez beetleypete this morning, including a rare trip into the heart of Dereham. (Sounds impressive, but it’s a very small town)

Up early, in the bath, dressed and ready by the time I am usually contemplating my second cup of coffee. I left a glum-looking Ollie wondering why I was going out without him, and drove through the gloom and light drizzle. In town, I was very lucky to find a nice big free parking spot right opposite the bank, my first destination.

As I do not yet cooperate with ‘Internet Banking’, occasional trips into the branch are necessary. This time I had to transfer funds from a savings account into a current account to ensure there was enough to pay the bill on Saturday week. Then there was a standing order to increase, and a transfer payment into our joint account. Second stop was across the road, to ‘Abigail’s’. This is a privately-owned gift shop that also sells a range of greetings cards.

When we are on holiday, it is our wedding anniversary on the Friday, so I had to make sure I had a card to take.

Back in the car, and less than a mile to the nearest supermarket. It has a petrol station attached, and I wanted to fill my car to the brim with diesel, ready for the longer than usual drive coming up. After waiting behind two cars, I was frustrated to discover that the diesel pump in that lane was ‘Out of Service’. Not wanting to drive around again to a different lane of pumps, I drove just over a mile to a much bigger supermarket where I was able to fill up immediately with no issues.

(*Worth noting here that the fuel prices have increased dramatically. The cost to fill my car has gone up from £55 to £63 today, in a matter of weeks)

Time to go back home. A very early lunch, followed by Ollie’s dog walk. (In light drizzly rain of course) After that, I had to fill the garden waste bin with hedge cuttings, so it can be left out for collection while we are away. I also sorted the regular waste bins while I was at it.

The time was now fast-approaching 4pm, and my next task was to iron the clothes I am taking on holiday. With chilly weather and occasional showers forecast for next week, it was an easy decision to take thicker shirts, and warm tops. I also washed a warm coat and thick fleecy cardigan, as I presume both will be needed.

It is now 5:15pm, and I am getting hungry. I think that is partly because of the early start, but also because it is decidedly cold for August, at barely 15C. Too early for starting dinner just yet, so I came in here to check blog posts and emails. (I also had been doing that between jobs, and when the iron was heating up)

For those of you with genuinely busy lives, my day might well seem like a holiday, I get that.

But I predict an early night for me!

“Dry In The South Today And All Weekend But Rain On Monday”

Yes, that’s what the weather lady said, as she stood in front of a map of Britain with everything south of Scotland showing a cloud-free sky.

Monday is a public holiday in England, so a forecast of heavy rain all day on a holiday is no surpise to anyone English. Still, I should have known better than to stupidly accept her optimistic forecast for south-east England at 1pm today.

Ready to walk Ollie, I wore shorts, a light fleece jacket, and took my dog-walking stick in preference to an umbrella. Leaving the house in reasonably bright sunshine, I could feel the nip of the east wind on my face.

Walking quickly soon made me forget that cold wind, and I covered the area of Beetley Meadows in good time. Once Ollie had marked almost every twig and shrub, I headed across to Hoe Rough, to make a longer walk of it. At the far end of the nature reserve, well past the point of no return, that moment when it takes longer to get home than I had already travelled, there were a few raindrops dropping onto my coat.

The skies darkened, as if someone had switched out the lights, and the chilly wind doubled in intensity. Then the heavens opened, soaking me and Ollie in minutes. My coat collar was damp and uncomfortable on my neck, and my unsuitable casual shoes were soon allowing my bare feet inside to get wet. What sparse hair I have left was slicked down onto my head, and the rain was running down into my eyes.

I headed for home, cursing the smug weather lady who must not have a single clue how to do her job.

Walking back in the continuing rain, I thought -not for the first time- what life would be like if everyone was as bad at their jobs as weather forecasters. Imagine a teacher who couldn’t read, or a policeman too scared to arrest a criminal. A chef with no sense of taste, or a fireman who is afraid of flames.

I could go on with a very long list, including things like a tone-deaf orchestra conductor. But you get the idea.

Weather forcasters are fakes. The snake-oil salesmen of the television age. High time they were all sacked.