#BookWeekScotland #Rebel #ConfessionsOfARebel @BookWeekScot @scottishbktrust Gordon Brown @GoJaBrown

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Book Week Scotland is a week-long celebration of books and reading that takes place every November. This year Book Week Scotland runs from Monday 19 to Sunday 25 November. I am delighted as always to be supporting this initiative with the support of some of my favourite Scottish Crime Writers!

Find out more about Book Week Scotland here 

The theme for this year’s Book Week is #Rebel and I thought to myself, now surely a bunch of crime writers have some rebellious tales to tell me! So I asked them to confess all! So are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin!

Today I have author Gordon Brown join me with this heartwarming tale telling how a simple rebellious act changed the course of his life! Before I share Gordon’s story, here is a wee bit about him:

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Photo: Paul Reich: Bloody Scotland 2018

Gordon Brown has six crime and thriller books published to date, along with a number of short stories. His latest novel, Deepest Wounds, published by Strident Publishing, is the third in the Craig McIntyre series. Gordon also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival (see http://www.bloodyscotland.com), is a DJ on local radio (www.pulseonair.co.uk) and runs a strategic planning consultancy. He lives in Scotland and is married with two children. 

For more information see www.gordonjbrown.com or follow Gordon on Twitter @GoJaBrown.

You can read my review of Gordon’s latest novel, Deepest Wounds, here

‘Those Apples Are Rotten.’

 

A Story of Fruit, Vegetables and Rebellion.

 By

 Gordon Brown

 

‘These apples are rotten. What kind of shop puts out rotten apples? What kind of person allows rotten apples to be put out?’

I stare at the customer, a small woman, hair in a bun, heavy overcoat, face tripping her like she’s recently sucked a wasp flavoured lemon.

I smile as she talks. My employer requires this.

I nod as she moans. My employer requires this.

I agree as she complains. My employer requires this.

‘I’m sorry madam,’ I say. ‘I’ll remove the bad apples and can I thank you for bringing them to my attention.’

‘And another thing,’ she continues, getting into her stride. ‘Your uniform is dirty.’

I look down at the brown, thigh length, stud buttoned, polyester jacket that protects my shirt and clip tie. It’s spotted in potato dust and tomato pips.

‘We had a slight accident in the back shop,’ I explain.

Her face creases. ‘Disgraceful. I’m going to talk to the manager about this. Standards in this store are slipping.’

A few shoppers are hovering, pretending to inspect the fruit and veg, secretly earwigging. Rubberneckers.

‘I’ll get the jacket cleaned,’ I lie. ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’

The lady shuffles her shopping basket to her other hand. It contains a single can of peas. The yellow label tells me they are from the discount shelf. 7p for the tin.

‘I’m a good customer to this shop,’ she informs me. ‘I dislike shoddy workmanship. I dislike untidiness. You are untidy. Your hair needs a good cut and your shoes are a disgrace.’

I’ll give her the haircut. I’ve not had the time to find a barbers since I moved down from Glasgow. I’ve been working every hour that my employer sees fit. My shoes are filthy – a consequence of the same accident that messed up my jacket.

‘And another thing?’ she says. ‘I really can’t understand your accent.’

You have to understand my situation. The year is 1985. The place London. Putney to be exact. After suffering, what was affectionately known as, the ‘milkround’ of interviews, I’d accepted a job as a marketing graduate within J Sainsbury Ltd after four years at Strathclyde University. Starting in the September of ‘84, it is now a week after Christmas and I’ve already been promoted to Assistant Manager of the produce section. A job I am wholly undertrained for, unsuited to and hate with a passion that clouds my life.

I’d joined Sainsbury in the mistaken belief that my marketing degree would gain me access to their marketing department. Not the world of greengrocery. A little bit of forensic work pre-Christmas, with other employees, had uncovered that the chances of me getting a role in the marketing department were thinner than own label soup.

At that moment in time, customer in my face, my overwhelming urge was to lift the small woman by her grimy overcoat, drag her to the front door and with my ‘disgraceful’ shoes, boot her arse clean across Werter Rd. Instead I sigh and wait for her to run out of steam. Customers usually do. Or they ask, as she is threatening, to see the manager. The latter a regular occurrence.

I remember studying the pile of offending apples. Back in those days the world was not one of pre-packed plastic bags of produce. Everything was loose. Every night I was required to undertake a stock check, clear the back shop and place an order that would arrive at six thirty the next morning, when I would unload the produce and begin the task of transferring it to the front shop. Six days a week, Sunday’s excepted (only because the store was closed). Bruised fruit was unavoidable.

My family were quite impressed with my new job. Sainsbury’s did not exist in Scotland back then and, somehow, they had the mistaken impression that the company was on a par with Harrods.

Three nights after not kicking the wee woman out of the shop I was on the phone to my girlfriend, who, in a far braver move than me, had left university for Toronto to work for Sony. A faulty public phone in my hostel meant that I could talk to Lesley for free, if I repeatedly half-pressed a ten-pence piece into the coin slot when the pips went, careful not to fully insert it.

Toronto sounded so much more attractive than London. To be honest anything sounded more attractive. Lesley and I chatted about life and the future.

That weekend I went for a wander around the centre of London. I was walking along a small lane that runs along the back of the Garrick Theatre. It’s called St Martin’s Close. If I close my eyes I’m back there right now. I passed a phone box and thought about phoning Lesley, but I had thirty pence in my pocket and, unlike the broken public phone in the hostel, 30p would only last a few seconds if I called Toronto.

And here’s the rebellion(ish) bit.

I had cruised through university with the express belief that I would graduate, get a job, work 9 to 5 and that was the way life was meant to be. Back then, only one in ten schoolkids made it to higher education. It was seen as an unrivalled springboard to a magical, fulfilling, wonderful career.

Only there was no magic, fulfilment or wonder about where I was.

Depressed. Unhappy. Miserable.

I slumped against the glass of the phone box and made a decision that would change my life. I entered the phone box, called my mother in Glasgow and asked her to book me a flight to Toronto. I told her to go to the travel agents, first thing the next morning, and make the purchase. It cost me three hundred quid. Almost everything I had in the bank.

At seven thirty the following day I walked into the general manager’s office and handed in my notice.

Four weeks later I was sitting on a plane to Toronto. I had no job to go to in Canada. I had no cash in the bank. I had no idea what I would do. What I did have was a girlfriend that I wanted to be with and a place to stay. I also had just ten weeks before the Canadian government would send me back home.

I could tell you of the nervousness of arriving in Toronto, of delivering pizzas at three in the morning to earn cash, of a memorable summer, of fluking a job in a local brewery, of extending my stay. Of a career in the drinks industry back in the UK as a result of that fluky job. Of marrying Lesley a few years later. Of my two wonderful kids. Of a life changed by that single phone call made on St Martin’s Close.

Was that call rebellious?

All I know is that it is up there with one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Wow! What an amazing story! Without that act of rebellion, Gordon could have been selling you apples in Sainsbury’s!

Gordon’s novels are available to purchase from:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Waterstones

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