Butcher Boy ( Part Two, First Impressions)
I opened my eyes on a Saturday morning and was met by the sound that would send fear into any 14 year old boy " Its about time you got yourself a Saturday job". It was Mum. I took no notice and went back to sleep.
The following Saturday I was awoken again by Mums voice, this time it struck much more fear. "I've got you a Saturday job, get yourself down to Roy the Butchers cos he's looking for some help clearing up on Saturdays".
And so on Saturday 14th March 1972 I set off to see Roy the Butcher, I knew the shop well, I had to pass it everyday on the way to school, but had never taken any notice of it. To me it was just another shop in a small parade of shops on a busy street.
The shop was about 20 minutes walk from our house and I was as nervous as I had ever been in my life. Not quite sure what I expected but it was work and that was never good!
I arrived at the shop at 11.20.
The first thing I noticed was the smell, it was a mixture of sawdust and raw meat, and I loved it. I don't know what it was about the smell but it somehow made me feel at home. There seemed to be a lot going on, activity everywhere, customers were talking, the Butchers were talking and laughing, there was a radio on in the background pumping out sounds from Radio One, it was hard to take it all in!
There was meat everywhere hanging fron every available space, Rabbits, Legs of Pork, Bits of Lamb, even Pig Heads. It was fantastic, I was like a kid in a sweet shop!
It wasn't a big shop but the way it was laid out made it look much smaller than it really was. This of course ( as I learn't later) was all a con. As soon as there were 5 or 6 people in the shop it became crowded, anyone else coming in had to start queing outside, passers by would then assume that they must sell really good quality meat as there was always a queue of people waiting to buy their fabulous meat.
I was greeted by a lad of about 17 called Micky. I recognised Micky straightaway as he had gone to school with my sister Ruth, and I funnily enough had gone to school with his sister Jean. He was skinny with long blond curly hair, he had one of those 70,s perms that men for some reason in the 70,s thought looked good. Imagine a blonde Kevin Keegan in 1972, that was Micky. He looked at me and smiled, but was also holding the biggest knife I had ever seen, he had a twinkle in his eye. He looked like he would do well with the girls!
"Ah you must be Joe?, Roy, the new Saturday Boys here!"
From out of the back of the shop Roy appeared, over 6ft tall, thick black hair with a large droopy moustache, the sort you see on a Mexican in an old cowboy film. He was mid twenties, big frame, extremely muscular and a kind of aura about him. Once you met Roy you would never forget him. A big smile swept across his face and then in a voice that seemed to boom throughout the shop he said " The kettles out the back make us all a cup of tea, here's a quid, walk over to the Bakers and get us a dozen doughnuts" He laughed and then dissapeared into one of the walk in fridges.
I was stunned, I thought I was going for some kind of interview, instead I was now the new Saturday Boy and was working straightaway. Micky got me a white coat and a striped apron to wear, I put the kettle on and before I knew what was happening I was walking across the road towards the Bakers to buy 12 doughnuts. I kept wondering who they were all for, there were only three of us afterall.
As I walked into the Bakers, the ladies behind the counter started to laugh.
" Dozen doughnuts love?"
" Yes please" I replied. Wondering how they could possibly have known!
"You must be the new Saturday Boy, whats your name love?"
"Err yes I am, Joe, thanks"
All the girls in the Bakers wished me good luck and I returned to the shop with a little grin, I felt like some kind of celebrity!.
"Right" said Micky " There's no sugar, cos none of us take sugar, so I guess that now means that you don't take sugar, we like it strong with just a small drop of milk, teas a must in this shop so every hour just stick the kettle on"
"Ok" was just about all I could say and started to make the tea.
Roy came over and said " Ok, 4 doughnuts each for now, we'll have a proper bite to eat a bit later"
4 Doughnuts? I can,t eat 4 doughnuts was all I could think of, and what was this about eating something proper later?. What I came to realise later was that all the work in the shop was manual and heavy, these guys were burning calories like it was going out of fashion. They started at 07.00 and finished at 16.00 on a Saturday and for those 9 hours they worked constantly.
Roy and Micky drank their tea, eat their doughnuts in minutes and were straight back to work, either serving at the front of the shop or replacing the meat in the window or cutting up fresh cuts. They were constantly on the go.
Everyone that came into the shop was known by their first name, and if in doubt the woman were called "Darling" and the men were caled " Guvnor".
They cracked jokes with everyone, were a bit risque with the woman, lots of double meanings, if you know what I mean. A young woman would come in and ask for a pound of sausages, Micky would say " Good choice darling, you look like you could do with a nice sausage tonight!". Micky would laugh, Roy would laugh, the young lady would laugh and everyone in the shop would laugh! No one took offense it was al good clean fun. All day long seemed to be one big party.
I carried on with my work, which included washing and scrubbing the cutting blocks, making sure the floors were kept clear so no one slipped up, put extra sawdust down if needed, in short was a general gofer.
At two oclock, Roy gave me some money to get 3 bags of chips and 6 buttered rolls. Although I was still full up from the doughnuts, I ate my 2 chip rolls, drank my tea and got back to work just like the other two.
When 4 oclock came and we were almost finished, I was completely knackered. I had never worked so hard in my life, but had loved it, it all seemed to be one big adventure.
Roy called me over and gace me 3 crisp £1 notes. " There you go son, I've paid you for a full day even though you only worked from half past eleven, take a few pork chops home for your Dads tea as well"
" Now next week we all start at seven, so see you then"
Seven?, did he really say seven?. I had never seen seven oclock in the morning. That would mean I would have to be up at 6.00 and leave at 06.30. Not quite sure I could do that!.
I left the shop and walked part of the way home with Micky. "Well, what did you think of your first day?"
"Hard work, but I enjoyed it and it went really quickly"
"He's a bit of a character is Roy, but he looks after you if you work hard, there's a lot that goes on in the shop that you'll get involved in as time goes on. See you next Saturday, seven oclock, don't be late, Roy hates anyone thats late!"
I walked the rest of the way home, gave Mum the pork chops, sat in the armchair, fell asleep and woke up 6 hours later!.