“I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life. I seem to be one of them. Writing memoir is, in some ways, a work of wholeness”
For anyone new to Bite Size Memoir, this little exercise is intended as inspiration for anyone to spend 5 minutes here and there, to record some personal memoir in small manageable bites.
This prompt has now closed - Read the round up of submissions here!
There’s a prompt every week and some constraints to keep it small (with full details at the bottom of this post). Feel free to dip in and out without the need for commitment. If you have your own blog and want to participate, please incorporate links to and from your post to encourage readers to blog hop.
This week’s prompt is “First Jobs” – I’ve deliberately left that plural because to debate which of my ‘first jobs’ was actually my first, is a whole philosophical exercise and the important thing is perhaps more, what is significant about the early experience of work and its shaping of us.
As usual I’ve tackled it in two ways to provide examples and there’s a reminder of the rules at the bottom.
“Accept who you are and revel in it” – Mitch Albom
My 10 x I remember statements:
I remember being small enough to sit inside the bonnet holding a torch while my Dad worked on something.
I remember the ‘washing up’ chart on our kitchen wall.
I remember that cleaning the whole house took 4 hours for £5 pocket money.
I remember my hands blistering, packing daffodil bulbs one summer.
I remember the older women wore rubber gloves but didn’t warn me. They didn’t laugh but they didn’t want me ‘permanent’.
I remember others getting the well paid potato picking jobs but you had to ‘know’ somebody.
I remember the TSB share issue and bunging any old postcode on the incomplete applications.
I remember bar work in the local pub and knowing the regulars orders before they got their coats off.
I remember waitressing and A unintentionally lining up a row of peas in a large cleavage!
I remember spilling scalding gravy in a man’s lap and his horror as I tried to wipe it off!
My 150 words prose
Excited but sure they’d soon find me out, I was a 1987 graduate trainee for British Gas ‘Productivity Services’. One of four women, plus a ‘right Sheffield lass’, in a department of fifty, mostly middle-aged men.
‘Induction’? More like ‘baptism of fire’ to catch me out – passed like a rugby ball around a main-laying gang; in agony because I wouldn’t ‘piss in the trench’ like the rest of them; running up and down cellar steps chasing the speed-walking shop steward, stop watch in hand, supposedly rating meter reading for bonus schemes – not a word all eight hours til we parted:
‘Tha’s not bad for a lass..’
I cried all the way home with exhaustion and pride.
Sara helped me out of bed to face the office the next day. A quiet new respect – they’d all heard the union report. More than equal?
It got better after that!
I could write much more about my first job at British Gas – there were several intakes of graduate trainees in the late 1980’s deliberately recruited to help shift the culture following it’s privatisation (including the young men in this photo – not responsible for ‘fitting me up’ in those early days). Consequently we were a strong and resourceful bunch and some of my best times were spent on residential courses or partying with these independent quick thinkers. But having avoided the traditional female departments, my time in (and out of) the office was often much more testing than the actual work.
What do you remember?
Here’s how you join in:
A REMINDER OF HOW THE BITE-SIZE MEMOIR CHALLENGE WORKS
- Each Friday I’ll suggest a topic by 2pm UK time (BST) via my blog and Twitter (using the hashtag #BiteSizeMemoir – You don’t need to be on Twitter to participate.)
2. The challenge will be to write about the topic using
10 x “I remember statements”
150 x words (No more ! – Prose or poetry if you want to stretch yourself)
Either will make you pick and choose your words carefully whilst keeping a tight focus for time’s sake. You might want to write more, to keep at home, but please only submit one option within the limits for sharing (i.e. 10 statements or 150 word prose/poem)
3. The Deadline for sharing your ‘Bite’ will be 2pm (BST) the following Thursday. You can share in either of two ways:
a) Post your response in the comments section of the current topic – I will find it and cut and paste to the compilation of responses. (You may not see your comment appear immediately but don’t worry – I will find and share it)
b) If you have a blog you can post your response on your own blog with a link back to this post, and then also provide the link to me in the comments section. I will then link your contribution back to your post, in the compilation of responses.
4. It would be great if you felt able to include the country the events took place in – I won’t enforce this but I think it provides a significant context for other readers. As an example look at the compilation for “School at Seven”
5. I will aim to compile responses and share them via another post before the next challenge is issued.
A few rules:
- If you need or want to be anonymous that’s fine – When you post a comment just put ‘Anon’ or a nickname in the name field. It does ask for an email address as part of spam filtering but only I will see it.
- Please keep others anonymous to protect their privacy and dignity – change names or use initials etc.
- If you’ve got an axe to grind, please do it somewhere else.
- If you stumble across this after the deadline, do feel free to contribute and include your blog link in the comments section of the compilation, so others can read it.