Stop Dreaming of the End of Work
“Thank you. Do I start on Monday?” I had just been offered an apprenticeship and couldn’t wait to begin my new life as an employee.
“Goodness, no. This will be your last long summer holiday. Make the most of it. Shall we say August 8th.?”
I’d been granted the day off from school for the interview. As the interview took place in my home town, a day’s journey from my boarding school, the Head had agreed there was no point in my returning to school for the final two weeks. The previous year my summer ‘holiday’ had been spent working on a large farm next to the village I lived in. I’d worked there during the Easter holiday, too. Summer was a busy time on the farm. Adolescents and women were always welcome to assist with the harvest: hay, grain, potatoes. In the late 1950s, like many families, mine was always struggling to make ends meet so the only source of ‘pocket money’ for me was to work during the school holidays. That’s what I did for the next four weeks.
In those days, the standard working week consisted of 44 hours. Over the next decade that would reduce to 40 hours. When I graduated to office work it was 39 hours which later reduced to 37.5. But there was always overtime, or some kind of part-time job in the evening or at the weekend, to supplement my principal earnings. Holidays were restricted to two weeks annual leave and a half dozen public holidays each year. As the hours worked each week reduced, so the number of weeks annual holiday entitlement increased: to three, then four.
I was in continuous employment from that day in August 1958, when I started my apprenticeship, for the ensuing 28 years.
In addition to paid employment, I did voluntary work, mostly to do with producing ‘talking newspapers’ for visually impaired people. In the 1980s I extended my voluntary activities to include politics and, in 1985, became an elected member of a large county council. My employer allowed me time off for my council duties but these proved to be so time consuming that I was eventually offered a generous severance package. For the first time in my life, I ceased to be an employee. I was 45 and consumed by the idea that politics and writing would fill…