Midway through ’66 with ‘Substitute’ peaking at No.5 in the charts, I was ever the peacock strutted Mod telling the world about ‘The Who’ and how they were my friends.
I wasn’t earning a lot of money in any of the legal offices I worked in. Filing clerks were two-a-penny back then and any idiot with a reasonable knowledge of the 26 letters in the English alphabet could be a filing clerk.
A friend told me he’d left his job and went to work for an agency called Alfred Marks. I told him I’d seen Ads on the Tube train for this company but surely it was only for women typists? No, he said, they cover all sorts. You’d be what they call a ‘Temp’. Oh, right. A ‘Temp’.
So what Alfred Marks did was you signed on their books and they sent you to work in some office or store filling in for someone for a week or fortnight. The beauty of it was that you got paid a higher rate than normal ‘cos you got moved around.
The first place they sent me to was an old building in Blackfriars and I spent a week operating a Victorian-style caged lift. It only went to the 5th floor and I spent most of the time checking out my Mod hair-style in the mirror and writing badly worded “Pop songs” on the back of an envelope for my buddy Pete.
After that it was a filler somewhere else but nothing really exciting. Why hadn’t they sent me to assist David Bailey the photographer or give me a month’s stint as a wardrobe manager to the great Peter O’Toole? After all, I was a hip Mod dressed up better than anyone within a mile!
Then I got a call to fill-in for some geezer in the storeroom at the National Coal Board (N.C.B.). I reported for duty at 9am and the first job I was shown was how to make ‘N.C.B. tea’. “We’re kind of strict here about how to make the tea,” I was told.
“And whatever you do don’t come back from the caff with cold sausage rolls for the staffthat’s a hanging offence here, mate.”
I did very well. Towards the end of the week some big noise upstairs wanted to take advantage of my euphemism for clean living under difficult circumstances (as they say)‚ “How do you feel about giving the offices a wash down, Jack?”
I had no option. They gave me a bucket and brush. It was a nightmare job as I had to keep interrupting people and move desks and filing cabinets out of the way.
The brush was too bristled and the spatters were shooting back all over my three-button Piccolo and ruining my Raoul shoes. Hadn’t the National Coal Board ever heard of overalls?
I walked into the last office late on Friday afternoon and apologised for the inconvenience: “That’s all right,” this bloke said, “as long as I can come into a tidy office next week.”
I looked up at him from where I was crouched over my bucket and he said, “Blimey, I don’t believe it. You’re young Jack from the Goldhawk Club!”
I looked at him and it was Ted Woolgar the Goldhawk Club secretary – readers can see his signature on my Goldhawk Club membership card displayed in part 2 of my ZANI interview.
He packed a few files together and went home. Then my store room guvnor said leave everything as it is and finish it off on Monday.
When I got back home to my large room in Holland Road, West Kensington, there was a letter on the mat addressed to me with ‘Urgent’ across the envelope. It was from the agency Alfred Marks.
“Dear Mr Lyons, please report to Whiteleys in Bayswater on Monday morning at 9am sharp. You will be replaced at the National Coal Board.”
It wasn’t unusual to be dragged out of somewhere and put elsewhere without warning, sometimes it even worked to your advantage.
That Friday night I went to the Goldhawk and club secretary Ted Woolgar was all smiles as he told the barmaid Wyn Sleeman about the coincidence. “Just imagine it Wyn, after all my years at the N.C.B. who comes along with a bucket and brush to clean my office only Jack Lyons.”
On Monday morning I reported for duty at 9am in Whiteleys in Bayswater. It was a posh place where sweat was the main ingredient in the kitchen area. I was a pearl diver which readers will realise means dish water. The work was non-stop and people kept disappearing for hours.
The following Friday I bounced into the Goldhawk Club happy to be finished with Whiteleys salt mine, and looking forward to a score of leapers for the weekend. I stood at the counter and gazed with a grin down at my new-found friend Ted Woolgar.
Wyn Sleeman had a funny kind of look on her face and I saw her nudge Ted’s elbow. I got the feeling something was wrong.
He walked to my end of the counter and said, “Here, mate. You left me in a right fucking state last week. You left a bucket of piss water and a fucking step-ladder all over my office. You’re barred!”
(The above pics were kindly supplied by Irish Jack and are used with permission – Steve)