At the time of my first encounter with Angelo Carrara, I was working for my father’s company in Glasgow, a salesman, with a huge territory. They’d fired all the other reps, other than one, and given me an expansive area to service. I was driving from the south-west of Scotland all the way to the north-east, and back again, and I was doing this week in and week out. There wasn’t much time for anything except driving and attempting to make a living, and I was putting about 1000 miles a week onto the odometer of my pale blue Hillman Avenger. I loved that car. Manual, with only 4 gears, it went as fast as I could push it and it never let me down. I’d mentioned in my last blog that I used to time myself from place to place. I had regular routes, and so I kept a book with my times, because not only did the routes rarely vary, I loved to beat the previous times and beat them as legally as possible. Driving had become a hobby, and I was good at it. The roads in Scotland were narrow, and certainly not what they are today, and so to get from my house to Aberdeen, I had virtually no motorway to assist. My journey used to take me through Glasgow, then up to Stirling, Perth, and then on to Aberdeen, through Stonehaven. There was another route, which went to Edinburgh and up, but I preferred Perth. I would pass the famous Gleneagles Hotel and golf course, I would see deer, often stags, and other wildlife, and castle after castle would disappear in my rear view mirror, all ancient, and all still standing! To explore was to live and to live was my dream. I explored Scotland, saw it all, not just once, and I met the most wonderful people and made the best of friends.
Angelo wasn’t expecting me, as I walked into his office, all smiles.
“YOU!” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe you have the gall to walk back in here”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. I was shocked by his demeanor and surprised by the tone in his voice. “I came to see if you got your bags and if you wanted more”
“My bags???? Your company never delivered any bags and told me my credit was crap”
“What?” I said again, ” are you serious?” I could see he was irate and becoming very frustrated, so I asked, “Can I call my office to find out what’s going on?”
I picked up the phone, called the main office number and was put through to Ellis, our general office manager. Ellis was 5′ 10′ and had no legs. He has prosthetics, but more about them later. Ellis was stalky, with a rough beard and moustache and a wicked sense of humor that never seemed to dry up. Now, baring in mind that when Ellis came to be interviewed by my dad, he told him that he’d left school with 6 O levels and 3 Highers and had a degree in something or other, and after having worked at the company for ten years, he then told my dad, and the rest of the board that he’d lied his way into this job, and didn’t even finish high school, and so, although he was a lovable guy, he was not always correct when making internal financial recommendations, this being one of them.
“Ellis, I am up in Aberdeen with an irate Mr. Carrara” I began, “Can you please let me know why we didn’t deliver his bags?”
Ellis told me that the credit rating for Modern Method Cleaners had come up as being unsatisfactory, and that he felt delivering these bags was too much of a risk for our company. As he was talking to me, I was relating the conversation word for word to Angelo. Ellis then asked me, “Are you telling him what I am telling you?”
“Yes” I responded, to which a nuclear bomb exploded at the other end of the line!
“What the fuck!” shouted Ellis, “don’t tell him all of that”
“Why not? I like him and he likes me, so why not?”
“Well, well it’s not the right thing to do” said Ellis, “but now that you’ve put your foot in it, tell him the bags are on the way”
As I looked blankly into the telephone, Angelo said to me, “Tell him to fuck off and if he wants to send the bags, I want a big discount because he fucked me about for 4 weeks”
Ellis heard that and agreed. In the blink of an eye, Angelo had his bags, I had my commission and everyone, other than Ellis was happy.
“Want to go to the pub for lunch?” Angelo suggested.
“Yep, why not” And off we went, soon to become the best of friends, a friendship which, as I mentioned before, has lasted through to this day. I used to love going out with Angelo and his wife Sheila, and the two boys, and even stayed with them when, in the years that would follow, my visits became more infrequent and my desire to stay with Mrs. R, disappeared. As for Ellis, a nicer man you could not ever meet. He and I got on really well. When I was a kid, working with the overprinter machine, alongside Richard, at lunchtime, Ellis would take us to the pub. Lunch would consist of as many pints of ‘heavy’ as everyone, other than me, could muster in one hour, and no food! I was 15 at the time, and Ellis would tell the bartender I looked young for 22. The legal drinking age being 18. We would sit and eat pies and Ellis and his cronies would drink beer, pint after pint, and this was EVERY lunchtime, without exception. Today, these antics would be impossible, but back then, it was all part of the culture. Everyone would stagger out of the bar at 2 pm, saunter back to the office and finish working around 6 pm, unless overtime was required, which normally happened on Wednesdays. It was all expected, rather than forced, and most of us did it because we just knew it was the right thing to do. There were no unions, no compliance issues and not a care in the world, except that pay check on a Friday evening, when Jean would walk round the office and give us all our wee brown envelopes. There was one character called Davie Collins, who always wanted paid in 1 pound notes, so he looked rich when he hit the clubs on a Friday night.
All this travel, all these experiences, were such good grounding for a life to come. Nothing was given, nothing taken and everything was earned. Quite the opposite of the way society has become.