Jobs are funny things … you can invest your heart into them, or you can simply take the money and run. I’ve tended towards the former rather than the latter in the course of my journalistic career, but that’s about to change.
After 18 years with my current employer I’m about to head off into the great unknown – and not by choice, but by redundancy. It’s a little scary as prospects go but I’m hearted by the example of others who have made the same leap and found that everything has worked out just fine.
You only have to look to Pope Francis II for an example. Before he donned a collar of his own, he used to grab people by theirs. You see, Il Papa used to be a bouncer in a Buenos Aires nightclub before he answered the call (and I don’t mean the one for last orders). So, if he can make such a huge leap then there’s hope for us all.
Equally, those of us about to face major employment change can look to America’s first female Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, for inspiration. Before Madeline was involved in high-powered negotiations in which she pledged US support in exchange for trade deals, she sold support of an altogether different nature – bras. Yes, Madeline worked in a department store and specialised in brassiere sales…
Which is almost as bonkers as the idea of another US Secretary of State – Colin Powell’s – former job. Colin – remember, he was a four-star general – once sold baby cribs and prams in a shop in the Bronx.
Still, that must surely be better than Warren Beatty’s previous profession. Before his days bedding an army of Hollywood starlets, the great Lothario worked as a rat catcher. Somehow I can’t see that one working as a chat-up line. Well, maybe if I looked like Warren in his glory days it might…
But Warren’s past profession pales into withering insignificance when placed alongside some jobs from history. In rat catcher wasn’t ‘your bag’ you might have opted for the job of ‘fuller’. In Roman times that job involved one standing in a vat of water mixed with lots and lots of urine. Sheets would be placed in the mix and the fuller would trample the sheets to get the dirt out.
Alternatively, you might have set your sights higher – at the prestigious post of Groom of the King’s Close Stool, for instance. When they said ‘close’ they really meant it. The groom was tasked with, eh, helping the monarch in all aspects of his bowel movements. Now I know why the toilet is sometimes referred to as the throne…
Other royal appointments included that of ‘whipping boy’. This poor little chap would be the companion of a young prince. They would play and hang out together but if the prince was ever naughty, punishment would ensue.
But hey, you can’t punish a member of the royal family… which is where the whipping boy came in. When the royal misbehaved, it was the whipping boy who was beaten.
Some things never change, no matter how much time passes…
I think my favourite job from the past must be that of ‘lector’, and I don’t mean that Hannibal guy. No, a lector was someone who would read articles and works of literature aloud to factory workers engaged in tedious labour tasks. There’s something rather quaint and considerate about that.
People say it’s best to leave the past behind you, but I like to be immersed in it, which is where my own new job comes in. I’ve set up a little business involving past lives, called HistoriesInTheMaking.
The idea is to produce commemorative brochures and interactive digital files which collate family histories, putting people’s own genealogical research into context with other events of the time and presenting it in an attractive, readable format for all the family – not just the history enthusiasts out there.
Check out the link to see if it interests you. Fingers crossed it will be a success – I can’t see any vacancies for fullers at the moment.