When I was a student back in the 1980s, I had way too much fun and needed to finance my teenage lifestyle,
so I took a holiday job delivering coal.
Even then I was surprised that so many people still heated their homes in that way but every day I would bring
the promise of warmth to working class homes and fill their concrete bunkers with a month’s supply of fuel.
Every morning I would get up at 6am and be at the yard by 6.30 to fill the hessian sacks with 25kg of carbon.
By 7am I would be at the wheel of a truck, which I suspect I was not licensed to drive, and would negotiate
my way around some of the roughest estates in Coventry.
As I pulled up outside the faceless, brick houses, I was more often than not greeted by a flatulent old lady
in a dressing gown and slippers, a fag in one hand and a mug of tea in the other, barking some incomprehensible
instruction, which usually involved an unmerited and often ill-placed ‘f-word’.
With a surly, teenage grunt of acknowledgement, I would lower the side of the lorry and slide the sack to the edge
of the platform from where it would need accurate placement on my skinny shoulders. I should point out that each
bag was far too heavy for any mortal to carry in any other way, so there was an art to this.
Many was the time I dropped the contents and spent a good thirty minutes shoveling and cleaning the paths of the good people of Coventry.
Many was the extra hour I worked but did not get paid, because of my mistakes. Much was the satisfaction I gained from a job
that I had not even known to exist.
Today I wake up most mornings around the same time and go straight to the coal face. I love what I do. I am a very lucky man.