When I was 15, my mum found me a job working on Saturdays and during the holidays in a local jeweller’s shop. It was called Stephen Tree’s and located in Tower Bridge Road, more or less opposite Manze’s pie and mash shop (see here). There will be more about this London delicacy in the future. The picture of me removing the large pads (do they have a name?) containing rings and watches from the shop window at closing time, to place in the safe. The shop had existed for many years but had been bought, more as a hobby than anything else, I think, by a retired diplomat called Mr. Liesching ( a very unusual name). He was an upper-class, elderly chap whose life had been devoted to administering the Empire. I believe he had spent many years in China. He had that natural air of authority you associate with such people, accustomed as they were to giving orders to their servants and minions all their lives – but not in a condescending way.
The owner sort of took me under his wing as a potential “poor kid makes good.” I worked there until I left school and went to university four years later, the first person in my extended family to do so. That was regarded as a big achievement at the time.
I found this letter from Mr. Liesching to my mother, written after my first stint in the shop. I’m amazed he took the time to write it but he was an old-fashioned “gentleman” in the true English sense of the word.
Working in the shop was interesting because we had a watchmaker and a clockmaker who did repairs. No digital clocks and watches in those days; they were full of cogs, pins and springs and Swiss products reigned supreme. I loved watching the repairmen at work – especially the watchmaker, as it was such delicate work. He used a loupe (thanks Omar), a small cylindrical magnifying glass that fits into the eye socket. He would painstakingly dismantle the watches piece by piece for cleaning, then put them back together again. Fascinating stuff to watch.
The one day that I especially remember was Saturday, 30 July 1966. It was the final of the World Cup at Wembley, and England were in it. I had to work in the shop and so couldn’t watch it on TV. I don’t think anyone came in the shop during the entire match (and it went to extra time!) but I had to make do with listening to it on the radio.
England became world soccer champions for the first time and the Beatles ruled. Shame the Sixties couldn’t have lasted longer…
The title of the post is the famous phrase uttered at the end of the final by BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, which has since passed into folklore. During the War, Wolstenholme was a bomber pilot who flew 100 missions over Germany and won the DFC and bar. Quite an achievement when one considers the casualty rates among air crews.