Unfortunately, things all went spectacularly wrong a couple of days after the Oddbins cricket match.In fact, within half an hour of me arriving at work on the next working day.
It was a fairly simple problem. Hal, the manager, wanted me to take some wine and deliver it. And I refused. So he effectively sacked me.
It is a little bit more complicated than that, of course. About a month earlier, I had injured my back delivering cases of champagne to a barristers’ chambers. I know that sounds like a horrible cliche, but it is true. Cobden House Chambers (or 68 Quay Street, if you prefer) had a steep set of stone steps leading up to the main entrance and in pulling a trolley laden with close to a dozen cases on it up those steps I injured my upper back, somewhere between the shoulder blades.
It wasn’t the most serious of injuries – it still twinges from time to time, but I’ve grown used to it. It was, however, sufficient to send me running to my doctor for the first time in around three years (possibly longer, the campus GP at university rather put me off going to such places). I was diagnosed with some sort of muscle damage in my upper back and told to avoid lifting for at least a month.
Potentially, this could have been a problem in a job which required lifting boxes of wine day in and day out, but everyone else was very good at accommodating me. Until that morning.
The problem was that Hal had seen me playing cricket and couldn’t understand that I was able to do that but not lift things. In fact, the muscle use is almost entirely different and I had had no problems in taking part in the game. For some reason, this was incomprehensible to him and he basically told me to leave.
I remember travelling home feeling utterly disconsolate and wondering how the hell I was going to tell Helen and my parents. It must have been a horrible experience because I’ve blanked it out completely.
I remember that there was a formal inquiry into what happened, at which it was established that Hal and I never wanted to work together again and that this left nowhere for me to go because there were no other jobs in the area. And so I left, and accidentally became a lawyer myself.