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Open Features: Sid with Brush and Bucket – Part Two

...My workroom was at the back of the garage, buses requiring adverts were often parked out at the front. So, I'd often be seen flying along, with flapping lengths of new pasted posters draped across me, getting them from A to B, up and on, before the paste dried out....

Jacqueline Finesilver, relating chapters of her father’s life story, tells of the time Sid was fixing adverts to buses.

Have you ever heard of the famous London Transport skid-pan at Chiswick Garage? It was an arena for the performance of feats of skill and daring. A large area of tarmac was made slippery with oil and/or drenched by powerful jets of water. Into this arena drove the trainee charioteer at a speed of around 30 mph in third gear. At a bellowed command he had to slam on his brakes, sending the bus into a spin.

It looked quite dramatic to an observer. Someone told me it reminded him of a little man steering an enormous, tipsy partner around a highly polished dance floor. (The 'partner' would have weighed about 1200 stone, or 7620 kg, and been about 14 feet tall and 8 feet wide.) To be honest, it didn't feel specially dramatic to the driver, sitting at the centre of the spin. Confidence building, I suppose it was.

That historic West London arena is long gone. What a lost opportunity. Skidpan Spectacular would have made good Sunday afternoon television.

Well, I was now qualified to drive buses. Only I no longer wanted to. Not full time, anyway. We had just moved to a 'semi in the suburbs' and my wife had a stream of ideas for its improvement. Painting all the walls and ceilings brilliant white was just the start, while she got the place properly in her sights, as it were. (Pretty soon I was requested to knock some of those walls down.) I needed to stay fit. I needed to be able to wield brushes and hammers in all directions unimpeded by ulcers and backache.

So I carried on doing various sorts of depot work. Then a job became available which was just the thing for me - advertisement fixer. I'd be the chap who pasted the bills on the buses. I fancied that. And London Transport's advertising revenue would be in safe hands.

That job was action packed: scraping (the old bills off), mixing, daubing and legging up and down ladders. My workroom was at the back of the garage, buses requiring adverts were often parked out at the front. So, I'd often be seen flying along, with flapping lengths of new pasted posters draped across me, getting them from A to B, up and on, before the paste dried out. Flying Poster Man.

Sometimes I did a bit of bus driving – taking myself or other members of staff or equipment from one depot to another. During the rebuilding of our garage, when some of our buses were parked on the forecourt of a local factory, I had to drive down there. Me and my bus, cruising through the night, just a bundle of posters, a ladder and a bucket on board. I quite enjoyed that.

When I started the new job my nights were dedicated to tea, beer and cigarettes. Most bus advertising seemed to be for these things. Over time, though, travel took over from tea in importance; airlines were enticing everyone to fly to Sunny Somewhere-or-Other. Sea and sand, palm trees and pina colada. Lots of blue and yellow and vivid green. Beer changed its image: gaudy cans of foreign lager replaced jaunty brown bottles and barrels. Cigarettes went all arty. No more boring bloke in a Burberry puffing his solitary fag ('You're never alone with a Strand.'), now you got a pair of scissors and some purple silk. And posters for films and musicals got livelier, especially after 'Hair'. First hand psychedelic experiences did not come my way but, still, I saw explosions of colour on my workbench.

I had a small world of my own as an advert fixer. I got my own workroom - a few square metres filled by hundredweight bins of paste powder, a worktable, packs of adverts, my worksheets and requisitions and schedules. I was lord of all. And in a lordly sort of way I locked my valuables in a cupboard – no one was going to steal my bucket and brushes.

**

To read the first part of Sid's time with London Transport, and other stories and articles by Jacqueline, please visit http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=jacqueline+finesilver

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