It’s time to dig out my 1980’s diaries and delve into what is now way back in my past. Can it really be over thirty years since I made my first nervous trip over to the U.S.A? Can it REALLY be twenty three years ago since I began working (foolishly) for the National Bank Of Kuwait, and now thirty three years since my first foray into an adulthood and a working life? How . . . HOW????
First I will go right back to Abberton Walk in Rainham, Essex . . Working aged sixteen for a small German bank in the City, commuting in and out of London on a starting annual salary of £2,650 – yes, fifty five pounds per week before tax, and this was a good job, being paid at least ten pounds per week more than any of the other local lads. I’m surprised they gave me the job – my mother accompanied me to the interview and, once I had joined, I eventually got to read the reference my final school teacher wrote. ‘Grant can at times be sullen and awkward to certain members of staff, and seems completely unable to concentrate for more than a few seconds’. Thanks Mr Harris, loved you too. I loathed my final two years at Britton’s Secondary School, absolutely loathed it. I was itching to get out and venture into the big wide world, totally unaware of just how difficult that might prove to be. I cared not. I was stubborn, and yes, I think I was most certainly sullen and awkward to certain members of staff who basically did not know me at all. The school was huge, over thirteen hundred pupils, only one boy and one girl from each class given any real attention, just to tick the boxes. What they wanted was for the majority of us to leave at sixteen and work in a local shop or factory, pretty much. A job was a good thing, regardless of whether or not that was a good job, or whether or not it would nurture, encourage or inspire you. I had no idea what I wanted to do, none at all. But I knew in my head I wanted more than the very little which seemed to be on offer. With hindsight i’m glad my mum came with me – if she hadn’t i’d have probably gone round inside the swing door and right back out again, making up all sorts of lies about how it was. When the offer letter arrived I knew that was it. This was going to be the change, for better or worse, this was going to be the start of Grant Burnside making his own choices and having his own money in his pocket.
June 10th 1980 – In school for my art ‘o’ level exam only the day before, there I stood on the ‘big’ slam door train up to Fenchurch Street, trembling with fear in my v-neck jumper, shirt, tie and trousers. I shouldn’t have been at work, I should have been hanging around with David, playing my Donna Summer, Blondie and Abba records . . . maybe applying to art school, but no, I had to get a job and pay my parents housekeeping (not that they needed it). Such is life. Art school was for posh or privileged people, and that I most certainly was not. Nobody in my family had been to college or university, and under no circumstances would my parents have kept me whilst I ‘wasted’ my time.
I had no complaints though – whilst working for them I gained so much life experience which had until then evaded me. Naive beyond anyone’s belief ( I once read on a lavatory door ‘Red headed boys wanted for sex – ring Steve’, and I did) I began tip-toeing through those first few months with some trepidation, I can tell you. It didn’t become exciting for quite some time. Moving offices from 55 Basinghall Street into 8 Moorgate during the cold winter months of 1981-1982 was by then very exciting indeed . . . And for all the wrong reasons.