Monday, January 15, 2007

A Tree Surgeon called Ashley

My most recent and enlightening career's advice came in the form of Michael J. Fox this weekend in his 80's aspirational film 'The Secret of My Success'. I'm all ready fixed in the lowly position within the hierarchy, all I need to do now is find an empty office and proceed to make bold and enigmatic decisions bowling over the upper echelons of management with my charm, wit and boyish good looks.

Funny ole film though. As likeable as Mr. Fox is, you can't help but shudder at the ideals of his dreams of wealth and decadence, and having successfully ousted his evil "coat tail" relative as the director of a major company, his first idea is to use the company jet to fly out to Kansas to show his girlfriend off to them. Surely this is a blatant mis use of his shareholder's money and should be in-dighted at the earliest opportunity and removed so ironically from his new acquired office. It also teaches us that without any experience at all, someone can get a job (providing a relative runs that company) and lie and blag your way up the ladder of achievement -providing you manage to be successfully seduced by your relative's wife. It gives hope to us all, it really does. Aside from, what now appear to be very dated aspirations of career success it was good to watch though.

I recall watching it in my teens and remembering a conversation which takes place in the early scenes of the film, something which I remembered throughout my early post-university days.

Whilst in a job interview:

Interviewer:"I'm sorry, we're looking for someone with some experience"
Brantley Foster: "I've got experience- I've got college experience!"
Interviewer: " Yes, but we're looking for someone with practical, real world experience. If you'd joined us as a junior when you left High School, you'd have the right amount of experience by now."
Brantley Foster: " So why did I go to College for?"
Interviewer: "You had fun didn't you?"

Knowing this, I ensured that I did have fun whilst at Uni- and for the most part I did. Sadly after proudly graduating from university my first job was working as a gardener for the local council. Okay, the term 'gardener' may be pushing my job description somewhat, but I didn't think the term 'Weed remover' would have looked so good on my C.V. Oddly enough this was without question the greatest job I have ever had. I loved every minute of it. The fresh air, summer time in the valley gardens and being at one with nature was sheer bliss. So much so, old folks used to walk up behind me as I was trimming the edges of the lawns and say "you must really love your job". This made me appreciate it more so. I also got to meet Johnny Ball, who actually told me to "clear off for a minute" whilst he demonstrated some fancy pants invention that assisted bin men in their carrying of wheelie bins up stairs-conjured up by some geeky looking local school kid. When I was told to clear off, it was said in a jocular manner, rather than a vicious manner which in writing it may appear. Though when I did decide (for those three months) that I wished to pursue a career in the arts, it was disconcerting to read on every advertisement "Minimum of Two Year Experience required".

I often think back to that job in the sweet summer of 99 with rose tinted specs, and recall how I would joyfully remove the contents from the dog shit bins, whilst dressed in my scruffiest attire; so we resembled members of some Southern American chain gang, how my supervisor called me Max by mistake for four weeks and I spent three days weeding a round-a-bout in on Leeds Road. I also was befriended by an odd fellow who was the new Tree Surgeon called Ashley (or as male Ashley's for some reason prefer: 'Ash'), who at weekends would find a forest and just climb and sit in a tree- at one with nature. He also told me how he goes out on his own on a weekend and that he see's no shame in procuring prostitute when he felt the need was required. Despite the picture I'm painting of him, he was a top fellow and when he was told (by way of punishment for his cheeky nature) to spend the day with me pruning a rather large thorn bush by Harrogate College, we spent most of the day chatting about films and music. I think I left an impression with him too: as we started work at 7am, we used to have a break at 9am where everyone would whip out their Thermos flasks and read their copies of the Daily Star/Sun etc (there was always someone who thought they were above reading the 'red tops' and because they had a NVQ in badger burning or something, they'd read the Express.) Anyhoo, I used to bring some cereal in a tupaware along with small bottle of milk, have my breakfast then. To my amazement, everyone there was shocked by this innovation of packed-breakfast. It was prbably akin to when the Earl of Sandwich brought out of his picnic hamper, a Sun Blessed bread bag containing some soggy cheese and marmite butties. Ash was genuinely stunned. He said that he'd being trying to figure a way of preserving breakfast for years. He said he'd tried toast, cold bacon, sausages, porroge in his thermos etc. I didn't know what to say really. I got the idea when I worked in a Mattress Factory, where the hours where the same, and everyone did it there. But seriously, and alarmingly Ash and the other gardeners were amazed. During my short time there, I saw this innovative method catch on and I felt something of a pioneer. I often think that they ought to have a statue of me eating some Weetabix from tupaware in my honour.

It wasn't all a laugh a minute though, there was a tragic story I learned about whist working there. Every morning for the previous 5 years, the Council workers/Gardeners etc removed from the same bin, a carrier bag full of sick. I too had to remove it and can testify to this- in fact I saw a younger colleague who was unfortunate enough to resemble footballer Peter Beardsley lifting this carrier bag and it bursting on him. At the time, witnessing this was one of the funniest things I've ever seen, but the origins of this vomit appear to be quite tragic. For years, the carrier bags where surrounded by those giant Diary Milk wrappers, but as time went on, the Dairy Milk wrappers became Morrison's own branded milk chocolate, but more recently, they were accompanied by bun cases. The general opinion was that some wretched soul would gorge themselves on chocolate then regurgitate it into a plastic bag, tie a knot in it and leave it in the bin. Clearly judging from the decline in quality of the food substances, money was running out to fuel this obsession and in desperation would bake his/her own cakes to gorge on. Harrogate Council (so I was told) was spending thousands of pounds to install CCTV cameras to catch this culprit. Perhaps ole Michael J. Fox could make a movie about this? Perhaps he could use his patented charm, wit and boyish good looks to get himself promoted from round-a-bout weeding duties to become the mayor? Certainly the supervisor who called me Max, was very much of the same kind of "I'll be watching you, you snot nosed punk" types, that makes films like that so much more enjoyable.

Off to see the delectable and fascinating Joanne Newsome tonight, jealous? You ought to be.

Dinosaur Jr. - Pebbles + Weeds
All Smiles - Pile of Burning Leaves
Mudhoney -Touch Me I'm Sick

1 comment:

mark w said...

A tree surgeon called Ash - excellent. Other career-appropriate monikers:
Betty - a bookmaker
Sue - a lawyer
John - a toilet attendant
Basia - a boxer

etc etc etc