EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Get a job sitting on your backside doing sod all...”

“IF you’ve just arrived home from a hard day at the office and turned on the television, you’ve missed a cracking start to the European Cup final between Liverpool and...”

“Hard day at the office? Who’s had a hard day at the office? Does he think everyone spends all bloody day sitting on their backsides behind a desk doing sod all? Some of us have to work...”

The commentator’s use of the term that suggested a tough stint in a room with a table, chairs, typewriter, kettle, radiator and perhaps even a secretary never failed to anger my dad.

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His outburst rarely varied as he recovered from his 6am-2pm shift mending looms in a noisy and hot  weaving shed. The only time he didn’t shout back was when he was actually missing the match because he was on the 2-10pm shift.

“You want to get one of them jobs in an office lad. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Find a job where you don’t have to do much.”

He was kind of right and wrong at the same time.

There’s no way I would have been much use in a mill, though I did hold down a position in a plastics factory for nine months and, to be fair, made a surprisingly good fist of it. Thirty years on my thumb still blisters up from its twisting and breaking up of hot plastic moulds.

The office myth was smashed sometime in the ‘90s though when conditions worsened, hours grew longer — often 12 a day for a while — and pay shrunk in comparison to those working in trades.

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Suddenly the plumber, the joiner, the electrician, certainly the builder and even the odd-job person were earning way more per day than those in an office “sitting on their backsides behind a desk doing sod all”.

Emails arrived, then mobile phones with all kinds of messenger services and you were contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Previously you could go on holiday for a fortnight and arrive back to a few hand-written notes, safe in the knowledge that all queries, calls and typing had been taken care of by your secretary. Secretary? You don’t see many of those these days.

The mills have mostly gone though and my dad’s skills with them, just as a lot of office jobs and associated expertise — including in journalism — have disappeared.

The world changes and people have adapted alongside these sometimes seismic shifts, particularly over the past 20 years with the rise of digital technology.

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My dad has been gone 19 years and never saw a mobile phone. He didn’t use a computer — he did have a calculator though which he thought was the same thing — and wouldn’t have had any desire to do so.

He wanted to work in the real world with machines, tools, car engines, carrying out bits of DIY.

He was disappointed that I was so useless at any of that and showed no interest in learning.

It was his fault though. He was the one who told me to get an office job, and as the first week of the football World Cup comes to a conclusion I will think of him fondly when the commentator offers up “If you’ve just arrived home from a hard day at the office and turned on the television...”


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