Curriculum Vitae (Ad Nauseam)

After failing to become the next George Harrison, I spent three years idling around, getting into trouble, and generally not knowing what to do with myself.

I had some summer jobs working on a local farm stacking straw bales on to lorries from Cockermouth, feeding turkeys, and working in the grain barn (doing what I can’t remember, although I do remember not being able to breathe because of all the dust).

I remember one day my car broke down, leaving me and my baling partner stranded in a field in the middle of nowhere. It was a very second hand Mini Cooper, which ultimately failed its MoT when the papier mâché the previous careful owner had used to fill the side panel caught fire while the mechanic was welding something (it’s a long time ago, and I never understood how cars work, partly thanks to my Physics teacher, who told all the boys to leave his class on “how cars work” because, obviously, being boys, we already knew).

Anyway, the farmer kindly gave us a lift home. On the way, he told us he would deduct the petrol money (£5 each) from our wages. Now in those days, £5 was quite a lot of money, certainly enough to get royally drunk on at the weekend and still have enough for a bag of chips from the Chinese takeaway afterwards.

I also worked some summers in the plastics factory my mum worked at. She, and the other local mums made children’s play clothes, while the local children put poles into windbreaks to make sitting on the local beaches bearable in the face of the North Sea winds.

I came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me, and so I decided to go to University to study psychology and find a fix.

In order to get into Uni, I needed a better ‘A’ Level result than me three Es from school, so I did a correspondence course in Law and got a B. I could have gone to Manchester Polytechnic, but instead elected to go to Bolton Institute of Higher Education. I was really too terrified to go to Manchester Poly (too big, too big city centre). Christ, I was even terrified of getting on the train (not knowing how or where to buy a ticket, how to know which train to get on, how to know when to get off, etc.).

Manchester appealed because it was where my dad hailed from (well, Oldham, really, although he went to school in Manchester, and, of course, went to Old Trafford to watch Best, Law and Charlton in their heyday).

Bolton was interesting and fun, though, and I made some good friends there, got a 2:1 degree, spent a year in the US on an exchange programme where I did several road trips across the country, climbed a mountain, nearly died in a blizzard, skied down other mountains, made no. 26 on the University Soccer Team, among other things.

In my first semester in the states, I was terribly homesick and made an unscheduled visit home for Christmas and New Year. When I went back, I got into the experience so much I wanted to stay, but couldn’t get a job or visa to do so.

When I finished my degree, I was hopelessly lost again with know idea what to do. My degree had taught me (wrongly, imo) that psychological problems were contained wholly within the individual person and could be treated by taking lots of drugs (not that I was against that, at all). My careers advisor helpfully counselled that I could do anything I wanted to do as long as it wasn’t psychology (for which I’d need a medical degree). I half-heartedly applied to do a Masters degree, but the thought of more constrained studying wasn’t what I wanted (I wanted money to buy drugs).

So, with friends, I got a summer job with an employment agency picking orders in an old cotton mill converted into a warehouse in Shaw. We supplemented the permanent staff, who could mostly be found sleeping in dens hidden inside a maze of boxes, and so had to work twice as hard for a fraction of the pay without any benefits of regular employment like sick pay, holidays, etc. Or in our case, as it turned out, no pay at all, at least until I led a delegation of workers to confront the hapless recruitment agent.

I quit that job, and looked around for work. I remember going to an interview in leafy Stockport (or maybe it was Wilmslow) or somewhere “down south” for some kind of “trainee manager” job. There were a lot them about at the time. While I was waiting to go in, I saw and heard all the staff gather for what appeared to be their regular morning meeting, where they began chanting some bizarre marketing cult bullshit. I made my excuses and ran for my life.

I signed up, instead, as a “trainee manager” for Domino’s Pizza at their franchise in Swinton. I lasted six weeks, although it felt like longer. I worked 80 hour weeks for £80 a week and all the leftover pizza I could eat. My nadir was a Saturday night when I found myself left alone in charge of the shop and unable to cope. I was never the fastest at making the fast food. In those days, Domino’s promised to deliver within 40 minutes of your order or you get it for free. Once I got behind, it was impossible to catch up. On this night I swear people were phoning their friends saying, “Free pizza at Domino’s! It’ll be stone cold when you get it, but hey!”

My dad threatened to get me job in the pea processing plant where he was now a supervisor back in Grimsby, and while I ended up moving back with him I worked in a high street burger bar called Yankees (I called it Wankers) instead. Why? I don’t know, because I was clearly unsuited to the frenetic, frantic pace of the work, and dealing with drunken customers in the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning. I remember chasing a group of youths down the street with a carving knife after they squirted ketchup all over my nice clean shop walls.

Along with my best friend at Uni, I applied for a job at Manchester University as a Research Assistant. I was terrible at interviews then, while he breezed it. I was absolutely gutted, and couldn’t believe it. Then, out of the blue a few weeks later, my mate called me to tell me they had a job for me. So back I went. I spent three years researching nothing at all, but thoroughly enjoying living the life in Manchester city centre, with all that entailed, in the early 90s.