Oh! how times have changed.

My blogging friend Marty has been reminiscing about going for job interviews. When I left school in 1963 I had just turned 16. The day I returned home from boarding school my parents had the newspapers spread out on the table looking for a job for me. One possibility stood out, a job with the Electricity Generating Board, in Paternoster Square, London, England.

Paternoster Square was a new development built in 1961 immediately behind or north of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the city of London. The area, which takes its name from Paternoster Row — a street down which the monks of the medieval St Paul’s would walk, chanting the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster means Our Father) — was devastated by aerial bombardment in the Blitz of World War II.

My mother phoned to arrange the interview, and took me up there, coming into the interview with me to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I got hired, I am not sure if it was my pleasing personality, for I certainly did not have any credentials or if it was her firm belief that to work I would go and no messing around please, that influenced the personnel representative. Can you imagine that happening today?

That summer a group of us had our lunch in the courtyard of the building and watched Julie Christie filming parts of “Billy Liar”. The rest was filmed in Sheffield.

The daily commute was quite long. I had a ten minute walk to pick up the double decker bus and then an hour bus trip to the tube station and about 40 minutes on the underground and then a ten minute walk again. To arrive in time for 8:30 I had to get up pretty early. I also had a 9pm curfew if I did not get home on time I was not allowed out on the weekends. Since I took night school classes in Pitmans College en route home three times a week this did not allow for much of a social life.

Ghosts of Christmases past

I remember the day my father left for Iraq, it was in November of ’52. My mother and I looked from my bedroom window and watched him walk away, he did not look back, he hated goodbyes. He was not to know he would never see her again.

My mother suffered from asthma and her doctor and told my father to get her out of England as the smogs would probably kill her. He had had an offer from Boeing in Seattle, and from the Iraq Petroleum Company. I suppose he decided against Boeing because Seattle is damp like England.

My mother, whose name was Noel was born on Christmas Day, sadly she died on her birthday a month after my father left. There had been terrible smogs in London that winter , and thousands of people with chest complaints died.

My father told me that he was working out on the pipeline when the local Imam – the local Moslem religious leader for Kirkuk, came out to see him on his donkey. He remembers the compassion that man showed him , an alien in his country.

My father never forgave himself, for what he perceived as his fault, for not getting her out of London fast enough. He started drinking heavily and most of my memories of him were related to drunkeness, especially around Christmas.

Christmas is still difficult for me, about mid November I start getting angry at all the commercialism, and the excess, but maybe it has a deeper root. I barely remember my mother but I remember that Christmas.