I started work in London. This was in the early 60s – London was being reborn as the “with-it” capital of the world. This was the London of James Bond, Carnaby Street, Twiggy and the Shrimp, of coffee houses like Heaven and Hell, the Beatles and Rolling Stones and miniskirted Dolly Birds. I was sixteen.
The Architect’s Office was located in the London headquarters of the national chain not far from the Tower of London. I had bought a new suit and briefcase and felt very grown up and important as I took the train into the heart of London.
The firm paid us by cheque. This meant I had to open a bank account. I still remember my first cheque-book. It had a wad of crisp cheques and deposit receipts. I bought a new fountain pen to write my cheques and register my deposits. I really loved the look and feel of those pristine cheques and the way the blue ink looked when I entered a payee. I practiced my signature over and over. My dad had a very complicated signature with overlapping and swirling initials. It was entirely indecipherable and to me very impressive. Mine was rather ordinary looking, but my name could be read quite easily.
One of the first assignments I was given was to collect a package from another firm located in Fleet Street. At that time Fleet Street was the famous location of many national newspapers. I felt very important having a business assignment on Fleet Street. I had to take the underground and walk quite a distance to find the address I had written down.
This was an adventure. I found the address, looked up at the brass plate announcing the name of the firm, took a deep satisfied breath, opened the large wooden doors and entered. Inside I found myself in a beautiful reception room with large leather chairs, highly polished coffee tables and a reception desk with two receptionists.
I strode up to the reception desk, looked up and my breath was taken away. Behind the desk were the two most beautiful young women I had ever seen. These were two of London’s exotic Dolly Birds.
I was an inexperienced young man, and had spent the last three years in an all boys school. I had not been well prepared for this. I stood in awe in front of these stunning young women. I may have let my mouth drop open – I’m not sure. Time stopped. My heart was beating loudly and rapidly. I just stood there gaping. Eventually one of the DBs smiled and asked me who I was and what I wanted.
Who was I? I didn’t know…my brain had stopped functioning. What’s my name? I used to know that.
“Who sent you?”.
Who sent me? Who did I work for? What am I doing here? The panic grew. My world became a small dark hole. The beauties just smiled. I must have turned a very deep red. Eventually the name of my firm came back to me and I remembered I was to collect a package.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next, but I must have received the package and returned successfully as I continued to work in the architects office for the next few years. Luckily I didn’t have any more run-ins with gorgeous looking dolly birds.
Next time: Out The Window Wiv ‘Em: Working in London in the 60s Part 3