43-years today I started work. With two O-levels you tended not to be placed on the fast-track graduate scheme; you were, however, almost over-qualified to be a messenger.
My role for the first three-months of my advertising career was as a messenger; my role was, twice a day, to travel to Fleet Street, where most for the major UK national newspapers were and representatives of most regional newspapers: 63 Fleet Street housed the Southampton Evening Echo; 85, Portsmouth News and Sunderland Echo, 107, Isle of Wight County Press (handy if you wanted to know what was going on with cats and the rooves of Ventnor supermarket car parks). I had to collect newspapers in which my company’s clients had run advertisements.
During my three-months I worked out I could save the money I’d be given for bus fares by walking from the agency in Howland Street to Fleet Street (this is how money laundering begins!).
Because I travelled alone I would rest in the Wimpy on Bride Lane or Mick’s Café on Fleet Street. I would dream that, with all the savings I was making on fiddling expenses, I’d open my own café, which, of course, would also be called Mick’s Cafe. I also found that, if I’d drunk too many ice-cream floats in the Wimpy, there were very nice toilets, where Kent Messenger was on 76 Shoe Lane.
On one occasion, for our client Martini, I was given an A-Z and told to go to Brewer Street to collect a copy of Men Only, where the client had an ad on the back cover.
I’d never been to Soho before. Not knowing where the offices of Paul Raymond Publications were exactly, I walked quite slowly down Brewer Street. As I walked down the street thinking the lighting bill must be quite large, a man suddenly appeared from a doorway to distract me from my utility costs ruminations. “Would you like a girl for the afternoon?” he asked. I thought to myself, is this a bit like having the school hamster for a weekend – a temporary loan? And would he be supplying the girl equivalent of sawdust and sunflower seeds? I replied, “No thank you, I need to get this month’s Men Only” – he looked at me and, seeing the thick lenses of my glasses, assumed this was probably not the first time I’d sought out a copy!
I found the building and, after asking the receptionist for a copy of that month’s magazine, waited as several scantily-clad women walked past me. I assumed there’d been some failure in the building’s air-conditioning.
(Sadly) I never returned to the building and the nearest I ever got to seeing scantily-clad women was an old woman in a bikini on a beach in Hythe, plastered over the Kent Messenger. I’d often wished to see similar pictures in my local Balham & Tooting News, but a topless Alf Dubbs was the nearest I ever got.
I look back, 43-years later and wondered that I should have thought less hamster more beaver!