Yesterday morning out of the corner of my eye I noticed this skinny young guy leaning into the wind. He was holding a handful of yellow leaflets which he was posting door to door: two for the price of one pizzas. It reminded me of one hot summer holiday day in Stoke when I was about twelve. Me and my mate Rob Moulton were hanging about the streets of Rob’s estate when this guy in a Mk II Cortina pulled up to the kerb and asked us if we’d ‘like to earn a couple of dollars.’ This sounded like a sensational offer, you could see big silver coins spinning in front of your eyes. So we said, ‘Most definitely. What do we have to do?’ All we had to do was ‘deliver a few leaflets.’ I can’t remember what the flyers were about, but I have a strong feeling they were for cavity wall insulation, the preferred rip-off building trade wheeze of cowboys back in the day.
After a couple of hours the guy tracked us down and treated us to a meal before we got cracking into the afternoon shift. Lunch was taken in the Cortina with two other boys that he’d lifted from Chell Heath. As these boys were our sworn enemies, being from the from the next estate over, lunch was an uneasy, though nutritious, affair – two packets of biscuits and a bottle of pop to share around. Our employer looked like a poor man’s Russell Crowe. He spent lunch telling us his tales of daring do from when he’d lived in NZ and wrestled sharks and advising us about all the great birds you could pick up while delivering leaflets in the afternoons – ‘horny bored housewives,’ the world being, ‘stuffed full of ‘em.’
After lunch Russell opened the boot of the Cortina where, to our dismay, there were twenty-thousand more leaflets. The system was that he caught up with us every hour or so to replenish our supplies. At the end of an eight hour day we had blisters on our feet and were giving whole avenues and cul-de-sacs the swerve and dumping the leaflets down drains and into the bins that used to be attached to bus stop posts. We’d spent some time speculating what ‘a couple of dollars’ would turn out to be, I think we were expecting about two quid each. Finally, we were paid: fifty pence between the two of us, which we managed to negotiate up to fifty pence each. Funnily enough, our disappointment and disgust soon turned to the bitter ironical laughter of old men who’ve seen it all before; I think it was the first time in our lives we’d ever been actively ripped off, and I think we sort of admired our hoaxer his technique, because he hadn’t really lied (though he had tried to underpay us). Back then, as we later verified, too late, it was about two dollars to the pound. We never found any desperate housewives either.