Friday 19 August 2011

My First Proper Job.

My new found retirement (what retirement!) has made me reflect on my 'working' past.

It was only about a week before I left school that I suddenly realised that life was about to become serious, and I'd have to get myself some sort of paid employment.... Strangely, no-one had mentioned this before.

I wasn't prepared to sweep streets or run a tobacconist's shop, so I plumped for the easy option and joined London's biggest playground for overgrown ex-schoolboys; The Stock Exchange.

My father offered me free use of his city tailor, I bought my bowler from Lock's, and my brolly from Swain Adeney Brigg. I had my stiff white collars hand-made in Jermyn Street, and bought my striped collarless shirts from good-old Marks-n-Sparks. I was ready to conquer the financial world.

I took a position with Sheppards and Co, London's oldest firm of brokers, at the staggering salary of 500 guineas a year (this was in 1964), and became what was then called a 'Blue Button' (I don't know if this title still exists); a trainee dogsbody broker.

Almost at once I realised that this was NOT what I wanted to do with my life, but I stuck with it because it afforded me a tiny place in Bayswater, with enough left over to live in reasonable style (all on 10 quid a week). I enjoyed the dandy-ish side of city life, and the kudos of being someone with 'prospects'. One of our senior partners even insisted that I, along with one other Blue Button, attended certain city held 'coming-out parties', where the country's most eligible fillies gathered throughout 'The Season'. (The idea being to make an honest woman out of one of them, and have millionaire prospects over night).

I'd been with Sheppards for just over a year when the word 'bonus' started to be bandied about, and when I opened THAT envelope, I was stunned to discover that mine was twice my annual salary. I couldn't believe my luck, I suddenly had £1000 in the bank and the temptation was too much. I handed in my notice (not what they were expecting) and headed directly for Paris.

City life is brain-numbing. It is simply about MONEY; nothing else. There is no soul in the work, and no creativity. Often I didn't know what on earth I was doing, but I knew HOW it was done, and I did it reasonably well.  As long as the bottom line was healthy everyone was happy. On reflection, I HATED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF IT (other than my bonus).

I chose the picture above because when visiting The Bank of England it was traditional for certain brokers (my firm in particular) to wear a silk hat. Nowadays I can hardly believe that all those years ago I used to strut around Throgmorton Street wearing a freshly brushed topper, but it was all part of the wretched job.

Thank goodness I was wise enough to look for pastures new!
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  1. Hello:
    How absolutely fascinating this is and although not so very long ago, what an indication of how much the world has changed in a comparatively short space of time.

    How brave of you to have taken the bonus and run, so to speak, for the lure of money is very powerful, particularly when young. But, we are certain that your life has been so much richer, if not in monetary terms, for having left the City at an early age and gone on to do so many interesting and creative things.

  2. ...and I'm also very pleased that I didn't go directly to college after school.

  3. the first in a series of wise choices.

  4. Imagine doing that today? It is the type of work that could rot you from the inside out, as it has many. You chose wisely Cro.

  5. It does seem like a soulless life. I think we're all glad you chose the route you did, so that we can read your tales of life in the French countryside. You write it well, and find things most others would find mundane; you always make it interesting.

  6. What a great tale, I was 9 at the time you started work, you made the right choice,"Go on take the money and run" to quote a great song by Steve Miller, I was only talking to a friend today about the importance some people place on the $$. The 54 yr old lady I work for, works 7 days a week chasing the almighty dollar, crazy, there has to be more to life. Love your posts. :o)

  7. Yes, me too. At 25 out of nursing school made $25,ooo a yr. My father had never made more than $16,000 even as a cop. Each year more responsibility and more money but family suffered greatly. Two divorces and three husbands later, I woke up. Started working way DOWN the later. Now hubby and I (my last hubby I promise)are going all the way into self sufficient land where our days are spent living on less than $10,000 a year. We'll be richer than ever

  8. Wow, how dapper! All you needed was a cane, and you could've tap danced a la Fred Astaire.

    Good life choice leaving the rat race. (especially since you have no fondness for rats.)

  9. I do enjoy period movies that relate to your hat here. Although its fun to act out this era, I would think there would be many discomforts as at the baseball games back in the 20s-30s as men wore suitcoats and strawhats. Enjoyed the post, Cro!

  10. I love this peep into your past. What a terrific thing to do with your bonus!

  11. I enjoyed reading this. Loved that you took the bonus and ran!! Not many would do that.


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