As i waved my daughter night-night as she set off for work at ten o’clock and knowing I wouldn’t see her until just after seven tomorrow morning, I remembered how I used to work night shifts. I was working at Manchester Airport on teh information desk. In those days, the airlines didn’t make flight announcements we did as well as answering questions and helping members of the public. We had a desk in the main area which led into the departure lounge, and we had a desk in the arrivals hall. There was also another office where we worked uploading information onto the very primitive computer system which took up a whole room and sent flight information to the mechanical display boards in the main concourse and the arrivals hall. We had to programme in the information by typing it onto white tapes which I’m supposing were made of a stiff paper, although I can’t really remember now. These tapes were put into one of the massive eight foot high computers by technicians who wore white body suits, I suppose to be dust free. That information was, as I mentioned sent to the display boards – and monitors which I think we had on the information desk, and others around the airport in the airline offices and their own information desks.
I absolutely loved the job! The other people working on the desk, all women, and all pleasant and friendly, became friends and I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to keep in contact with them as is possible these days. There was a young Dutch woman who was such fun, a mischievous woman who married and had twins, oh and others who I remember so clearly and was so fond of. Although sitting at a desk answering questions about flights and meeting people and nearby hotels and taxi firms and places of interest in Manchester and lost luggage and delayed flights might seem repetitive and dull, in fact it was the reverse. So many different people speaking different languages – I was fine in French, and to my surprise managed sufficient German to help most queries, and there were always others who could speak a variety of European languages.
As well as the other information desk assistants, there were all the other people who worked in the airport who we got to know, airline staff, police officers – including undercover officers who now I would call secret squirrels, customs officers, the men installing the new computer systems – it was a whole little community with as many different people as you could imagine. There was the mundane, the unusual, the interesting, the dull and boring times, the exciting times, the fearful times – when there was an emergency on the airfield or a terrorist alert, and most of all the funny times when we would be struggling to control our laughter and hilarity. I remember my totally inappropriate giggles when a gentleman called Mr Thigpen asked for an announcement to be put out for someone who was supposed to be meeting him, and for some silly reason his name just struck me as really funny. In the end, as I pretended I had a coughing fit, someone else had to put it out, but they too were infected by my sniggering and only just managed to keep a straight face and more importantly a straight voice.
I was reminded of this tonight as my daughter set off because as well as the different shifts during the day – early, middle and late, in the summer there were also night shifts. I enjoyed all the different shifts, and I enjoyed the variety; I can’t remember how long they were, I can’t remember which order they came in, I can’t remember the pattern because of course we worked weekends as well as during the week. I think the morning shifts started at seven, the day started at twelve and the evening started at four, but I might be completely wrong on that. The night shift started at eleven and finished at seven. Each shift had different things about it – the early shift meant you had the late afternoon and evening free – and that was at a time when i went out in the evenings and went clubbing so it was perfect. the middle shift was good too – a lie in and then it finished in time to meet friends later. The late shift meant that pubs were closed when we finished, and straight after work we didn’t necessarily fancy going straight to a disco (yes, it was that era!) but there were places which stayed open – maybe illegally after the strict closing times there used to be.
Night shifts, yes night shifts were usually quite dull because of course there weren’t that many night flights, even in the holiday season. However, for me it was a perfect time, with nothing to do, to write! Although I had a typewriter at home, I did most of my writing by hand – in those days my handwriting was still legible, and I would scribble away, bits and pieces, short stories, two ridiculous and now embarrassingly juvenile novels, thoughts, poems… writing, writing, writing! I had several stories published in a magazine called ‘Honey’ which I’m quite proud of. So when daughter sails off to her job, very different from mine and much busier at night, I have so many happy memories of when I worked from evening until the morning.
My featured image is of our village at night.