photo credit: surprise truck
’83 was a depressing year for me. I spent a fair amount of it unemployed or drifting between mind numbing, boring jobs. Much of my confidence was knocked when I was sacked from a job in a estate agency earlier in the year. I just wasn’t able to crack it in that line of work and I hadn’t a clue what I was going to do and had little motivation to do anything worthwhile. Such was my state of mind at that time, I used to wish I’d be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness preventing me from working and be left live out the rest of my days in some sort of home. These thoughts went through my mind often as I walked the 3 or so miles to the upholstery factory that I worked in each day in the autumn of that year. It was a simple job, stuffing cushions in cushion covers, all day every day. Even that job ended in being laid off. Not too surprising bearing in mind the UK was deep in recession at that time.
Pressure at home from my parents didn’t help. Constant nagging to do anything only made my lack of confidence worse. I felt anger and I was self righteous and rebellious. I wasn’t mature enough to understand that my parents were simply worried about me.
I was desperate at that time to find a girlfriend. I’d only ever gone out with 2 girls up till then and both relationships that year were short lived. I craved some sort of emotional attachment where I could share my fears and perhaps build some sort of confidence.
In December, my mother suggested I try to get some work at Butlins. There was a large hotel in Cliftonville in those days that took on extra staff for Christmas. Mother told me that my older brother had worked there years before and despite being against it, she said he ended up really enjoying himself. To stop the nagging, I went for it despite really not wanting to do this work at all.
The work involved washing up in the kitchen. This work started Christmas week and involved split shifts every day. Early morning started at 7am till midday, then about 4 hours break followed by another shift into the evening. I hated it with a passion, despite some of my colleagues bringing in cans of lager to drink during the break. Well, that was short lived fun. I just felt more lethargic for the second shift.
The kitchen and serving area was awful. It put me off ever going to eat at a Butlins hotel. Food dropped on the floor was simply scooped up again by the other young folk I worked with and put back on the plate. One day, a guy cut his hand on a knife and ran around the kitchen dripping blood everywhere. I don’t remember anyone doing very much to clean it all up. It just fed my depression. I really believed I was completely incapable of any sort of work ever. I loved Christmas time and doing this was destroying something I held dear.
Finishing the shift Christmas Eve I was at my lowest ebb and I knew I could not face going into work the next day. Christmas morning came and I buried my head into my pillow not wanting to face working at that hotel. The taxi was waiting outside and I was still in bed with mother trying to drag me out. In was a terrible episode, full of emotion. Mother was angry with me and crying. I finally relented and crawled out of bed barely opening my eyes not wanting to face the world. Sitting in the back of the taxi with other young lads picked up that day, I hated their high spirits. Taxi driver shouting “C’mon man, its f****** Christmas Day!” Getting to the hotel I tried to work, but anxiety overcame me. I was afraid of showing my emotion. After a couple of hours, I just walked out.
I walked for hours across the beach, stooped and dragging my feet with my donkey jacket wrapped around me to keep out the cool air. Across the sand, then up onto the promenade and further on up to the cliff top, I watched as families took their Christmas day afternoon stroll. Children with their new toys. a toddler riding his push along car; I felt completely lost and did not want to go home. I felt ashamed. I was cold, exhausted and hungry and somewhat suicidal as I sat on the edge of the cliff considering something unmentionable. The only thing that kept me from any sort of attempt at my own life was the fact that I’d never had a proper loving relationship with a girl and I was, of course, still a virgin and desperately desiring the “experience”. I sobbed virtually all of those (roughly 5 hours) whilst alone. Dusk was drawing in and it was getting colder. I tried to tough it out, belligerently telling myself I was not going to go home. Looking back at it now, I know I was trying to punish my parents by making them worry about me.
Finally, at about 6pm, I gave in and returned home with my head bowed, full of shame. My parents had indeed been worried about me. Mother knew something was wrong all day and she sensed my despair. They accepted that I could not face that work. I finally got my Christmas dinner. I meekly sat and opened my presents, really not feeling at all worthy of them.
On New Years Eve, my friend John came over and we went out to the pub to celebrate new year. I resolved to leave behind 1983 as a bad year (as many of us do) and looked forward to better times in 1984. That night I bumped into a girl I met on a train briefly a few weeks earlier. Lets just say I “pulled” that evening. I was on top of the world at 2am, 1st January 1984 walking along the promenade in Broadstairs in pitch darkness with John bemused by my “over the top” high spirits.
Well, I only went out with that lass a couple of times afterwards. We didn’t really hit it off, but the joy of a little affection from that girl whilst dancing at that new years party turned the corner for me. 1984 was indeed a better year where I found a job I could in, working as an import export clerk. I remained in that career for the next 8 years.
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