Ten Green Bottles And Then Some! Christmas 1979



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Ten Green Bottles And Then Some!

Christmas 1979

You know, over the years l have had some funny jobs, l have had some terrifically great careers, but funny jobs in the interim periods of that limbo land of between jobs. I am rather pleased with my CV [Résumé for those don’t who understand the CV term as in Curriculum vitae]. I have worked for my most of my life and my first job was in fact working in a Woollen Mill gift shop in 1977 in North Wales, in a little village known as Trefriw when l was 14. About the same time l was also getting paid to do ironing at home, no not by my parents, but my neighbours, and then when l turned 15 l started my own business called ‘Jus’ Prest’, because l really loved ironing, and l was really good.

You see if l like something, well l try to make some money from it, and if l can make money from it, then there is a goodly chance that l might be able to mete out an income, and if that happens, then l can usually make it work for me. So, most of my life l have made careers from things that l liked doing, so it never felt like work.

Now of course, that worked well pre corporate career path and post corporate career path when l was doing ‘normal jobs’, l once again only did things l liked doing, and it wasn’t often that l worked with something l didn’t like doing. I have been lucky that way. The Tee Shirt business [2015 – 2017] was a sound idea, but in today’s world it wasn’t going to work because l was using another company [Redbubble] to display my designs on, but what crippled most buyers and in turn the sellers was of course postage.

Most of these firms rely not solely upon the content sales, but the actual postage, which is why it’s really hard for genuine Indie designers and other creative souls to make money selling their designs on someone else’s fabric. The postage is horrendous, which always surprises me when it comes to the likes of Amazon, but hey shit happens. I have not given up on that concept but the market isn’t right, so it’s currently on a back burner.

However l digressed, what’s new?

In December 1979 l was 16 and found myself working whilst on the school holiday in a nursery not far from where l lived. I was trying to save up for an Egyptian Nile cruise for the following year – sadly it never happened! As in the cruise, the nursery work happened.

The nursery l was working for was Jacksons, back then –  no different today, they were a wholesale plant nursery, and my job was to ‘plant’ plants. That was all the  advert said, it didn’t sound awesome, but hey it was a job and the hours were from 6am – 6pm and it paid £5 per hour which way back then was brilliant money! It was for seven days a week for the two weeks leading up to Christmas.


Vintage Viresa Large Green Glass Bottle Terrarium Demijohn Carboy 14″ x 12″

To be perfectly honest, l wasn’t green fingered, but l figured how hard could it be? My Mother said l would probably spend most of my time repotting. Seedlings and what not to sapling status or something of that kin. My Sister said ir sounded as boring as mud, but even back then, l had this mystifying hankering for the mundane. I liked strange jobs, and l liked getting paid for strange jobs, so it didn’t matter if it was boring, l would just switch off and hyperfocus, which l was real good at!

So if you can imagine my surprise on that bitterly cold Thursday morning [6th December] when l rolled up for my first day, wearing about four layers of clothing, and l was led into this humngous warehouse filled with roughly 30 tables that must have been at least sixty feet long and around 4 feet wide and l guess at a push l would estimate that the warehouse was six of these tables wide. But that wasn’t the odd thing, it was what was on these tables! Green bottles! Yep, you heard me right, gigantic green terrarium bottles. Furthermore, l reckon each table had perhaps forty of these enormous bottles on them.

As l was standing there picking my mouth off the concrete floor like you do, l then noticed that l was one of perhaps twenty others, who like me were also looking kind of dumbfound at that sea of green glass! It was – seriously kind of amazing, to see this much glassware.  Further down the warehouse, there were other tables with other bottles on them with  an assortment of sizes!

We gathered there in a small huddle wondering what our jobs were to be, and l sort of had this feeling that l might have known what it was coming up, but didn’t wish to voice my opinion just yet in case l looked like an absolute twit! But looking at the state of the glassware and knowing what they actually looked like in the on-site shop l knew l wasn’t wrong!

This big fella walked in, he was actually built like a brick shithouse – he was that tall, and quite wide, not large as in too large, but stocky. If it wasn’t his size that was impressive, it was the fact that he was covered head to foot in dirt! If you could get over that, then you could also not worry about the fact that he was only wearing a tee shirt, shorts, gloves and boots! Now if you could laugh about that and think nothing of it, then his pearly white teeth smile would not come as a shock either! He reminded me of those pictures you see of Miners whose faces are covered in grime, but the whiteness of their teeth was brighter than the day itself.

“Good morning chaps and chapesses [yes that is what he said] my name is Johnno and you can call me Mr Johnno. until you know me better and then it’s just Johnno, or J, but never just John!”

We all murmered and spluttered back our Good Morning greetings, whilst trying not to shake too much! With it being so bitterly cold.

“It is not cold ladies, l assure you that is entirely in your heads. It’s a case of mind over matter!”

Oh great l was thinking to myself, he is one of those gung ho fellas! You know the sort, crush beer cans with their nose and eat barbed wire for breakfast! Johnno is Desperate Dan! Lucky us!!

“Can anyone here, tell me what they think the job is?” Johnno’ booming voice filled the warehouse.

No one moved,  so l knew l had to say something. “Well at a guess, l would say it’s something to do with the bottles, and l think we have to clean  them, because these one’s here are absolutely filthy and the ones that you sell are not only filled with plants but you can see your reflection in them.”

“Give a medal to the man, that is exactly what you will all be doing – however what they didn’t tell you was this – the more green bottles you clean, the more bonus you earn! You see we have learned over the years, that people hate this job. They come here to work for us and they have high notions and expectations of serving in the shop, or becoming gardeners, or thinking that they are going to get the soft jobs of planting things. I am here to tell you this lovely day, that – that is NOT happening, you will be cleaning green bottles this Christmas!! Furthermore, my delightful appearance is caused by this lovliest of tasks, as l am in shed 1, and this is shed 2, follow me!”

With that we followed Mr Johnno into shed 1 and low and behold, before us was a remarkable sight, one that nearly forty years later still stays strong with me. A shed filled to the brim with green bottles, and a team of the dirtiest people l had ever seen outside of mud wrestling working at top speed. They were cleaning out, polishing up, buffing, huffing and a heaving, as they worked through the tables with bottles! We watched them take a dirty bottle, clean it out, polish it up, buff it up, lift it off the table and put it on a pallet truck, and when the pallets were filled, those trucks were then hauled away into another shed where they were left, and another team grabbed a bottle took it to the planter staff who then made the micro garden a sales possibility and then these new terrariums were put into boxes ready for shipping!

A dirty green bottle could go from an unfit state  to a dressed feature in the space of five minutes tops! It was pretty impressive. It was at this point that l actually fell in love with that job. I know small minds are easily pleased eh?

However, not everyone was impressed and of our small group of twenty, three people basically shook their heads and walked away! Just like that, without even having a go? At the end of the first day another 2 people had left our group. By the time 6pm had come around, l have to concede to being absolutely knackered. I was only managing to clean 3 of these giant bottles every hour and was very disheartened. But Johnno, patted me on the back at the end of the day, and said l had the spirit for being a great green bottle cleaner!

When l got home that evening, my whole body ached, and to boot l looked like a miner! I had a long shower, and then still had to wash my hands repeatedly, as well as use cotton buds to clean out my nose and ears! By the end of my first seven days, l had gotten through an entire box of cotton buds [appx 250], but my speed was intense! I was loving the job so much that l could clean a bottle in the space of two minutes and was so keen, that ‘J’ had me teaching the others how to clean faster!

For those two weeks l worked like an absolute trooper, by the start of the second week, l was like a mini J, as l arrived in shorts, tee shirt, boots and gloves and l was ready to rock and roll green bottles.

Admittedly a strange job, especially for Christmas, but l loved it, they invited me back the following year, but sadly l was working full time and couldn’t get the time off. So how about you? Have you worked any really strange jobs, not just at Christmas but anytime?

You knew this had to make an appearance albeit perhaps slightly differet eh?

Yes, just so you know, l was singing ten green bottles, so much so, and so loudly that people threatened to leave the job!!

Ho Ho Ho!

7 thoughts on “Ten Green Bottles And Then Some! Christmas 1979

  1. Of all of the jobs I had, the ones I enjoyed the most were when I was by myself. For some reason I take comfort in not being around others when a job is at hand.

    I can completely appreciate your zest for such a job.

  2. I had only worked at two jobs before I became disabled. In high school I worked at a dry cleaners. They did cleaning and pressing on site, so in summer it was a horrible job. Then after graduation I got a job with The Automobile Club Of Southern California in their emergency road service department. I started with taking calls from members that needed a tow truck and in six months was promoted to dispatcher. In 1987 I was making $8.50/hour. Fantastic money! I stayed with the company and eventually took a promotion to supervisor. I would still be there if I could work.

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