With little else to do, I started thinking about all the jobs I’d ever done. All those wasted hours moving objects from one place to another. Then moving them back again. The definition of work according to the dictionary.
I starting writing them down on a page of A4. Then I found two more sheets of paper to finish the job. The results were terrifying. They say a league table at the end of the football season doesn’t lie. Neither did my list of jobs. My CV. My resume – Call it what you want. What a mess! More like some mangled piece of computer code than an ordinary life. I mean, who wrote this stuff? Was it me?
I thought of my cousin Paul, who I grew up with in Leeds. He was older than me by four years, but we got on well. We had the same interests: football, cricket, subuteo, and Madness. And so I naturally assumed that when we grew up, we would end up doing the same things in life. More or less.
How wrong I was.
Since those Sherbet Dip and orangeade days of the early 1980s, I’ve had over 60 jobs and even more addresses. My cousin Paul on the other hand has had the same job since he was sixteen and still lives with my aunt and uncle on the same road we used to play out on as kids.
Sometimes I think he got the better deal. Because the problem is, I’ve never really liked any of my jobs. I don’t know what it is, but a wave of indifference spreads over me as soon as I enter the factory gates or walk through the office door. Causing me to hand in my resignation within a few months. Or simply wait to get fired, so at least I can say it wasn’t my fault.
The few jobs I have liked are the ones where I’ve been left — totally and utterly — to do my work without some dick breathing down my neck. Which I have to say is very rare.
There’s only been one job that has ever come close to fulfilling this criteria. Do you remember the census of 2011? Probably not. Anyway, I worked as a census collector gathering information from households that had been missed off on the original lists. The work was pretty boring, but I had no boss, just an automated system that I emailed my results to each evening. And if I didn’t get any results on any given day, it didn’t seem to matter; I got paid all the same. It was fantastic and a great shame they only do it once every ten years.
This was in stark contrast to working as an order picker at Aldi in 2018. Here I had three different bosses telling me every morning at around eight-thirty the same information over and over again. If you’ve ever watched the film Office Space with those ‘TPS report cover sheets’, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Needless to say, I didn’t last long in that job either. Three months, I think; another entry on my already bloated CV. A CV I must add that I’m actually rather proud of. It’s rich and varied. It illuminates my personality, shows off my character and my abilities as a human being, not as a machine.
Naturally, I would never consider sending it out as it stands. God, no! — I’m not stupid! If I sent this CV out, it’d look like I’m auditioning for a part in the circus. I mean, who in their right mind would hire someone who has worked as a bookseller, a barman, a driver, a chef, and a Christmas tree seller in the same year? No-one. Which is why I stopped bothering with CVs years ago – and generally find a well written, persuasive email or letter is far more effective.
It’s been a good project though, writing them all out. Seeing my entire adult life drift past my eyes as I commit one job after another to paper. It might even become the basis for a book. Now I’ve got the framework in place – the scaffolding. Now all I need to do is build the walls and hang the windows. Fill in the gaps. And believe me, there are a lot of gaps.
The Bloated Badly Coded CV of Philip Ogley, Aged 45
July—Aug 1990: John Smedley Ltd — Labourer July—Aug 1991: John Smedley Ltd — Warehouseman July—Aug 1992: Chesterfield Council — Dustbin man April—Aug 1993: MAFF, Mansfield — Field researcher April—Aug 1994: INRA, Cavaillon, France — Field researcher April—Aug 1995: Zeneca, Bracknell — Field researcher (barley) Sept 1996 — March 1997: Students Union, Nottingham — Cook July 1997 — Aug 1998: Boulevard Sound, Nottingham — S/engineer July-Aug 1998 Perth, Australia. Charity fund raiser. Nov 1998 : Mission beach hostel, Australia — Hostel hand Nov—Dec 1999: Hockley Organic Restaurant, Nottingham — chef Aug 2000: Nottingham Language Centre, Nottingham — teacher Sept—Oct 2000: Papa Language school, Trikala, Greece — EFL Oct 2000—June 2001: Cambridge School of English, Warsaw — EFL July 2001: Nottingham Language Centre, Nottingham — teacher Sept 2001—Jan 2002: Centro de Lenguas, Granada, Spain — EFL Feb—May 2002: BRNC, Dartmouth, Devon — EFL Teacher May—July 2002: Southgate Hotel, Exeter — Barman Aug 2002—Aug 2003: Globe English School, Exeter — EFL Teacher Feb—April 2004: Devon County Council, Exeter — Data Entry April—Sept 2004: Pavani’s Italian, Exeter — Sous chef Sept—Nov 2004: La Vega, Venezuela — Field Researcher Dec 2004—May 2005: Cafe Rouge, Exeter — Waiter May-Aug 2005 Zizzis, Exeter. Drinks Man. Aug 2005: Pizza Express, Exeter — Waiter Aug 2006: Bristol City Council — Telephone Clerk Sept-Oct: Ff Solicitor, Bristol. Post room clerk. Oct—Nov 2006: Bristol Novelty, Bristol — Warehouse picker Jan—May 2007: The Bristol Advertiser, Bristol — Editor Aug 2007—Aug 2008: The Royal Mail, Bristol — Postman Oct 2008—Sept 2009: The Bristol Flyer, Bristol — Barman Jan 2010:The Golden Lion, Bristol — Barman Feb—April 2010: The Mighty Miniature, Bristol — Bookseller May—Sept 2010: Gibbs Catering, Bristol — Driver and chef Nov—Dec 2010: Haines' Trees, Bristol — Christmas tree seller August 2011 - Capita, Bristol - Census Collector March—July 2011: Communicaid, Bristol — EFL Teacher Sept 2011—June 2012: Linguarama, Lyon, France — EFL Teacher July 2012—August 2012: IFIS, Bristol — EFL Teacher Sept 2012—July 2013: Linguarama, Lyon — EFL Teacher Sept 2013—Oct 2014: La Jouachere, Queaux, France — Caretaker March 2015: Cetradel, Bordeaux — EFL Teacher Jan — May 2015: Villa Tosca, Taussat, France — Pool boy June 2015 — Sept 2015: Linguarama, Bath — EFL Teacher Oct 2015: OTP, Marrakesh, Morocco — EFL teacher Nov 2015 — April 2016: Chateau Dumas, France — Caretaker April 2016 — October 2016: Holiday Rep, Souillac, Dordogne Oct 2016 — Dec 2016: Kokopelli Camping, Italy — Nightwatchman Jan 2017 — May 2017: Chateau Dumas (again), Caretaker June 2017 — Sept 2017: Bicycle Courier, Copenhagen Oct 2017 — Jan 2018: Aldi, Order Picker. Liverpool May 2018–Sept 2018: Chateau Dumas (again) — Caretaker Dec 2018 — May 2019: Real Food Kitchen, chef, Liverpool June 2019 — Present: Farm Hand, Mesnil-Germain, France.
Further Listening and Reading
Listen to other podcasts here.
Listen to audio stories here
Read about my Aldi job: The Soulless Emptiness of a Warehouse Order Picker here
Or read my novel here.