7th June 2011 Welcome to the Misery Line

Trav­el­ling in the last car­riage on a south­bound North­ern Line train between East Finch­ley and Cam­den Town before the year 2000, the obser­vant pas­sen­ger might have noticed the Guard sip­ping tea from an enamel cup. Nowa­days the guard is all but for­got­ten and those of you who have trav­elled on the Dock­lands Light Rail­way can…

3rd January 2011 Working in the Family Tradition

When I first came to the caffè as a child, I thought it was a fan­tas­tic place!’ Davide recounts. ‘There were sweet jars on the bar, like those ones in the cup­board now, and ice-cream just over there where that counter is…’ Forty years on, Davide is run­ning the place. He’s the third gen­er­a­tion of…

21st September 2010 A Librarian’s View

Work­ing Life

22nd December 2009 A Day’s Work at Billingsgate Fish Market

Ear­lier this year, I started hang­ing around Billings­gate, London’s whole­sale fish mar­ket. I tell the fish mer­chants there that I’m try­ing to under­stand the whole process, of where the fish comes from and goes to, how it gets dis­trib­uted, who’s sell­ing what, and more gen­er­ally what goes on at the mar­ket. It’s part of an…

12th November 2009 The Piano Tuner

What to wear? This is a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion of piano-tuning. As a piano tuner you will be in other people’s beau­ti­ful homes, walk­ing across their white car­pets, work­ing in their immac­u­late liv­ing rooms or stud­ies. They expect you to be smart, but, on occa­sion, you need to rum­mage about in the filth­i­est of instru­ments to…

2nd November 2009 Being a Navvy

It is 1973 and I am stand­ing in Ilford Sta­tion on a Sun­day after­noon where the track used to be. I’m work­ing as a navvy and accord­ing to my payslip I am a plate-layer. We’ve been here nearly twelve hours already and the job is nowhere near fin­ished — we need to get the new…

27th October 2009 Toads, by Philip Larkin