Returning to the story of my early days with Helen, you will recall that I lost my job at Oddbins when my contract expired and wasn’t capable of being renewed. I spent the next six weeks or so looking for graduate level jobs and finally landed one, as a trainee manager with Booker Cash & Carry.
At the time, I still thought that my future career lay in the retail sector, so all of the jobs I had applied for were roughly in that area. Unfortunately, I was no good at interviews (and never have been) so I never got past the first hurdle for most of them. I then got a second interview for a retail banking job, resulting in a trip to one of the dreaded ‘assessment centres’, where I made a mess of that instead. The experience stood me in good stead, though, and after making it through to the assessment centre for Booker I was not actually surprised to be offered the job. That might sound immodest, but everyone else was making the same mistakes I had made at the bank one and I knew that I just had to avoid those pitfalls to be in with a good chance.
I also really wanted the Booker job. I had spent two years at university in a room next to someone whose mother had worked at their head office for about 20 years, so had heard many good things about them. Unfortunately, the reality was very different.
I was posted to the Blackpool branch. Having been assured that I would be sent to a store local to Manchester for my first store. It was hellish, a long drive (which ultimately killed the car) to a windswept barn where the staff were stealing everything not nailed down, the deputy manager quit the first week I was there and the store manager was a stereotypical moustachioed git with a messianic complex.
If that last comment seems a bit extreme, during the time I was there the country was hit by gale force winds, which brought huge damage to some parts of the country and resulted in a warning not to travel unless absolutely essential. The manager and the regional manager (who was a short angry ginger bloke) went ballistic because I wouldn’t drive through a gale to go to work in a place which always seemed to exist in its own personal jetstream anyway. I detested those guys so much that I have blacked their names out in my memory. If you want to work out who these two ****s were, the year was 1991 and the month February. It shouldn’t be too hard to name them.
How much did I hate it? So much that after the first day there I came home and, for the only time in my adult life, I wept. Fortunately, Oddbins came back to save me