Watching last night’s episode of The Grumpy Guide to Work brought my worst job flooding back to me – catering assistant at Hamley’s toy shop in 1986.
A fellow undergraduate persuaded me to take the job with Compass Catering on Saturdays, so we could make our grants stretch further. With the recession in full swing and our media careers on hold, we began working behind the scenes at Hamley’s all week.
The security staff would come in for their breakfasts at 8.30am, which meant getting up at some ungodly hour to fry it. Then we’d get two 10-minute breaks either side of a 30-minute lunch hour to feed the shop staff three times a day.
Depending on the behaviour of children on the shop floor, the staff’s mood varied. With tales of toddlers being sick or weeing on the go-karts, they were invariably grumpy as we doled out the latest culinary delights from our moustachioed former Army chef boss onto their plates.
The public catering areas were a lot worse. If we were particularly unlucky, we’d be sent to the public restaurant on the top floor.
Here you sweated through your nylon outfit serving frazzled parents and wailing children in the heaving fast-food restaurant, while trying not to slip up on all the food lying under the tables.
But nothing was as bad as manning the popcorn machine at the ground floor entrance or the ice cream cart outside. The popcorn popper left tiny burns up your forearm as you delved into the heap of hot corn for American tourists, while the ice cream was invariably rock solid as a queue of hungry kids built up down Regents Street.
There were good times as well: lots of ribald humour in the kitchen in between tasks and many a pint downed at the Clachan pub after work. But it definitely goes down as one of my worst jobs ever.
What was yours?