My colleague, the murderer


‘Beadlebum, Beadlebum, B, B, Beadlebum, 353 8111’.  So went the jingle for Jeremy Beadles talk show on weekend evenings on LBC.  Myself, John and Andreas were huge fans of Jeremy.  When he left his slot was taken over by Tommy Boyd and we quickly became fans of him as well.

I had reached a critical moment of self-realisation during the academic year of 1983-84, which was that I didn’t have the self discipline to pass A levels, there were way too many other attractive activities to enjoy at the age of 18-19.  My activities in the student union had brought me into contact with Neil and I resolved to become a Community Service Volunteer in order to do some work in the care sector.  But first I had to have drinking funds whilst it was being resolved so I trotted up to Aquarius Employment Agency in Archway and offered my unskilled labour.  To my amazement this agency is still operating from the same location over 30 years later.

They in turn sent me to work as an office clerk in a nearby office for the Home Grown Cereals Authority.  This was a government body to which farmers paid a levy so they could pool their resources to advance their businesses.  My role was fairly mundane, involving hand writing addresses on lots of envelopes but there was a good crowd to work with, including Brian from New Zealand and Yvette from Southend.  Also there was Anthony, an upstart from Tottenham who fancied himself as being above us in status because he had a permanent contract.  The day was enlivened by Doris the tea lady who wheeled a trolley and poured out cups of tea and coffee to us at 11 and 3.  Our manager was the wonderful Mr. Nightingale who was a picture of middle class civil service respectability.  But by night and weekend he transformed into jeans and t-shirts and was reputed to attend rock gigs around London.  Mr. Nightingale marvelled at my inability to carry a cup of tea 10 yards to my desk without spilling some of it. It was a shock to aspirational Anthony to realise that all the managers were in a trade union, so he joined, figuring out it was the way to get on in the civil service. He was the proverbial arse-licker who deferred to authority.  Me and Brian asserted ourselves when he tried to pull rank and think he was there to tell us what to do and that quietened the little pip-squeak for a bit.  Another agency worker was Richard Gordon, whose main occupation was that of an author.  Researching this blog I was delighted to find a wikipedia entry about him to which I attach a link.

Sadly he’s no longer alive but fans of science fiction might be interested in his work.  He gave me a book which was essentially a walking guide to Herefordshire with some good pub stops on the way.  Richard said of Anthony ‘I never get angry with people, I just murder them horribly in my novels’.  Towards the end of 1984 I’d had my interview with CSV and I’d been offered a voluntary placement in south Buckinghamshire in the Princess Marina Centre, which was a care home for 52 adults with cerebral palsy.  Mr. Nightingale took me to lunch as a leaving present and ordered sliced bread with his meal, advising that it was a legacy from the war, although he can only have been a child during it.

I got offered some extra work at the Savoy Hotel during this period.  Unfortunately having arrived and waited with the others I had to answer the call of nature and lost the rest of the group who were being taken to wherever it was we were supposed to be working and decided to go home.

Christmas Day of 1984 I spent a lovely evening with my friend Sarah Marchant-Vogel and her family in Highbury.  Her dad was a teacher and her mum a social worker and she had good radical and progressive instincts.

New Years Eve that year John had procured for us tickets to the LBC New Years Eve live show, hosted by  Tommy Boyd.  John, Gilroy and I (and possibly one other) went along to Gough Square, just off Fleet Street and enjoyed the free booze and nibbles and generally mingled and made a nuisance of ourselves.  I snatched the microphone to wish a friend happy new year at one point.  In truth it wasn’t a great party and we left before midnight, probably to the relief of Mr Boyd, and walked towards Trafalgar Square.  There we joined the crowds gathering to hear Big Ben bring in the new year.  After which we walked back home to Holloway, a distance of 5 miles, embracing complete strangers and wishing them a happy 1985 as we went.  Years later concerns about crowd safety caused the authorities to block off Trafalgar Square and they now have an event alongside the South Bank instead.

Image by – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


Use of this image is not an endorsement of myself or my work.



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