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U3A Writing: A Foggy Beginning

...How can one describe the fogs of yesteryear, which have now been almost forgotten? The thick yellow cloud moved, parted and moved again; always swirling - becoming lighter then denser - muffling all sounds. Vague figures loomed ahead - to disappear again....

M Hicks tells of a foggy beginning to a working life.

I was to start my first job in two weeks. To this day I do not know how I got through the interview I was so nervous; my knees would hardly support me. But the fates were kind and I was offered the job as a Bank Clerk at the Cheetham Branch of Martins Bank Ltd.

I was pursuing a shorthand and typing course at Loreburn College in Manchester at the time and only had a lunch hour to eat and to try and find out where Cheetham Hill was. I managed to race across Manchester and find the road but had no time to look further.

The morning came. I caught an early bus or, rather a bus which was late because of a thick, dense, "pea-souper" fog. This fog did nothing to calm my nerves. I could see nothing through the grimy windows of the bus. All traffic sounds were muffled and most of the passengers were quiet, wondering if the bus driver would make it. It seemed an endless journey.

When it seemed to become even darker I realised we had come into Greengate, the terminus situated under the railway arches. Now I had to get myself across Manchester. I knew little of Manchester - only the area where the shops were. Children, in those days, only went into Manchester for a treat so I had nothing much to help me. I made enquiries and started out.

How can one describe the fogs of yesteryear, which have now been almost forgotten? The thick yellow cloud moved, parted and moved again; always swirling - becoming lighter then denser - muffling all sounds. Vague figures loomed ahead - to disappear again.

Droplets of moisture clung to clothes and hair. You heard only your own lonely footsteps. You had very little idea of where you were. I knew I had to cross a wide, busy junction and was very fearful that I wouldn't recognise it. The pavement ended. It must be the junction! Dim lights appeared, crawled slowly past and vanished. I started off. I made it!

I recognised an old, wooden shop. Oh, the relief! Then I saw the sign "Park Place"....but where was the bank? I saw then the usual big, wooden double doors all the banks used but I knew I couldn't get into the bank that way. Banks opened at 10.00 a.m.; not a minute sooner! I tried walking round the building, feeling completely lost. I saw some steps and a door. I knocked on the door, feeling slightly desperate. It was opened promptly, not being locked, and I was welcomed to Martins Bank, Cheetham Hill.

My impressions? Relief that I had succeeded in finding the place; amazement at all the fungi growing up the wall (the top of the Bank had been destroyed in the blitz) and, oh, a delicious smell of coffee brewing on the top of a cooker in a small, damp room where the staff had their lunch. I had never had coffee before.

I passed the day in a complete state of bewilderment - struggling with the 'phone, trying to take in people's names and realising that I was in charge of the stamps and all the postage.

I was also told that when the Inspectors called (announcing their arrival by banging on the front door at two minutes past three) bursting in and seizing all cash and cheques, my stamp book would be included. It did, in fact, happen a few weeks later; fortunately it was the one day when my stamp book was correct! (A little tin box was always hidden, containing the profit on any one day, to subsidise the loss on other days).

I had very little time to worry about the journey home. Fortunately, the fog had lifted somewhat and I felt so proud queuing for the 38 bus. I was now a worker! I would receive 27/6 at the end of two weeks, always a week in arrears. What bliss!

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