In a nutshell, I had to wheel a large trolley around a huge warehouse holding more than 100,000 tyres and find the right ones to collect. It was damn hard going and, after the first day, I felt like I’d been pummelled by Muhammed Ali.
It was such hard going for one reason – I’d never had to spend a day lugging tyres around a cold warehouse before.
My entire working life had been spent writing for newspapers in warm(ish) offices. Until a few weeks before Christmas 2017 when I was suddenly made redundant due to ‘cutbacks and efficiency improvements’.
Handed a pay-off and three months’ full pay in addition, I could have sat on my backside for several weeks while looking for a new job. But I didn’t – I wanted to carry on working. Doing something, anything, to keep busy.
I therefore found myself climbing up ladders armed with a six-foot pole to try and hook down tyres. It was nothing like I was used to, but it provided a glimpse into a different way of life.
I worked alongside people I would never have talked to in the outside world. Some of them didn’t know where my home city of Exeter is – one suggested East Anglia – but that’s ok, I didn’t know the difference between a Hankook and a Bridgestone.
Without wishing to over dramatise the experience, it was fairly cathartic. I wish I’d never had to do it and I’m sure some of my former journalistic colleagues wouldn’t have done it. Physically couldn’t have done it, or mentally, or both.
Yes, that sound you hear in the distance is me playing a tune on my metaphorical trumpet. I put on my gloves and heavy-duty boots – you wouldn’t want to drop a tractor tyre on your foot without them – and had my eyes well and truly opened.
Two years ago next week, the Portsmouth News offered me a route back into journalism. I will forever be grateful for it, but I will never forget the tyre distribution factory. The experience was short – mercifully, if I’m brutally honest – but I’m a better person for it.
Music has the power to take us back to our younger days
Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite album is – admittedly, this doesn’t happen often – I never hesitate in replying Misplaced Childhood.
Released in 1985, it was Marillion’s ‘breakthrough’ album with regards to commercial success, Kayleigh a top five single.
Last week, in Swindon of all places, I watched tribute band StillMarillion play Misplaced in its entirety.
For a few hours, I was a teenager again. It was wonderful. All my life ‘friends’ have laughed when I tell them I loved the Fish-era Marillion music, and still do.
For one night, though, I wasn’t alone; there are many others who, like me, still remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall…
What will stand the test of time from the last decade?
A few months ago, I passed an enjoyable hour and a half visiting the I Grew Up ’80s exhibition in Gosport.
The fashions, the toys, the first ZX Spectrum computer, a Marathon chocolate bar, a Smash Hits comic. It was a lovely nostalgic stroll back to a far more innocent time.
In 30 years’ time, I wonder what a similar ‘back to the 2010s’ display would look like.
A smartphone, a laptop, a mannequin covered in tattoos, a bowl of kale and a picture of Greta Thunberg titled ‘The Girl That Saved The World’ probably.
Oh, and a snowflake. Ideally a real one, but a drawing would be fine.
To remind us all of the decade where everyone seemingly had to take offence against something.