Tuesday, 28 December 2010

I've got no unfinished sympathy at all...

It was around about this time that the DHSS decided that the welfare safety net was not actually designed to allow wasters in their mid 20's to sit around on their backsides fiddling with motorcycles, pretending to be in the music business and failing to learn the guitar.
These days of course I'm prepared to accept that it was after all designed to support the poor and underprivileged, and prevent the scenes of degradation that the country had seen in the 1920s.
At the time however it was harder to take. I had got away with it for three years, however, so I didn't have a great deal to complain about.
Damn, you Maggie Thatcher, and I was having so much fun, too.
My penchant for terrible business decisions reared its ugly head again, this time on its most spectacular occasion.
I was firmly convinced that the music business was ready for radical white boy soul punk, but I was approached by a chap who told me that he had just got back from London, where he had been to a few events which involved taking over warehouses and playing funk and dance tunes till the early hours.
These events were called "Raves" or "Warehouse Parties". He asked me If I would help organise a few in Bristol, but I turned him down. There was clearly no future in it. Last thing I heard he was heading for Ibiza with a camper van full of used tenners.
I was also contacted by a band who reckoned they were on to something big - a form of electronic dance music, which they called Trip-Hop, and wanted help promoting gigs. I turned them down too. After all, what sort of stupid name is Massive Attack?

There are nights when I don't wake up in a cold sweat about those decisions.
why, why must you haunt my dreams?

Well, there was a sort of recession on, and all the DHSS could manage to do was a successful attempt to force me into some sort of training.
This turned out to be that of riding the Morini to the Fishponds Skillcentre - a redundant army base turned into a selection of workshops - where we reluctant types were trained to become shoddy plumbers, brickies, hairdressers and, in my case, semi-skilled motor mechanics. Frankly I wasn't much good at it, but then neither were any of the other idiots on the course.
I had become reasonably competent as a bike mechanic, but cars had all sorts of strange bits on them like distributors,  track rod ends and universal couplings.
To give you an example of how inept we all were, consider that I came first in the electrical wiring test. And I'm colour blind.
Then there was the bloke who connected the heater hose on the lecturers Peugeot to the brake servo pipe on the carb manifold.
This filled his engine with water the first time he started it up, and snapped a conrod.
None of us were likely to make onto the McLaren pit crew.
After “qualifying” (and I use the term advisedly) I spent a week in a Lada dealership and I then managed to get a job servicing Renaults.
The job involved the following - change the plugs, change the oil, change the filters, change the brake pads – whether they needed it or not.
I also learned how to put on a driveshaft boot – a horrid job, and how to fix a starter motor by the addition of a £5 electrical component, then spray it blue, and tell the punter you'd fitted a new one and charge them £75.
The chief mechanic wisely kept me away from anything more complex.

While I was there I bought an old Wolseley 1300 automatic which had been traded in.
oooo what a lovely brown!

It wasn’t that great, but seeing as it had only done 20,000 miles from new, still had its original plastic seat covers on and was 20 years old was bit of a bargain at £50.
It should have come with a compulsory flat cap and pipe, a tissue box on the back shelf and a subscription to Peoples Friend.
The automatic gearbox had a two or three second delay before it kicked in, which meant plenty of angry toots from behind at traffic lights.
And it was fitted with sports radial tyres at the front and 20 year old crossply tyres at the rear. This made for some very interesting handling characteristics.

I drove around in it for a bit and added 10,000 miles to it. Its low mileage and simple construction  meant it was incredibly reliable which also meant it was often pressed into service to transport people long distances, but it didn’t suit me at all.
So I sold it for a hefty profit - the first time that had ever happened.
At about the same time I gave up being a motor mechanic, which was just as well for all concerned.
Events culminated one day when I had got so bored with the job that I accidentally fitted a set of brake pads the wrong way round. The owner never got their hands on it, and the mistake was quickly rectified but it was clear that wielding spanners for a living was not for me, and before I killed someone by my cackhandedness, I left the motor trade to drive a van for a living instead.

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