In late 1983 I became a PSR (Postal Sales Representative), but like everything in the Post Office, I had to be trained to do the job. Another thirteen weeks course at POMC (Post Office Management College). To be honest that was the icing on the cake. I loved the place. Who wouldn’t? It was like a five star hotel.
I picked up my new company car, nothing fancy, in fact it was the old pool car. A four year old, 3 door Hatchback, Vauxhall Chevette. I didn’t care, I was now an Executive with a company car, business cards and a briefcase.
Not that I would be let loose on the world yet. I still had my training to do. The first two weeks at Management College and then a week out with an experienced London Sales Rep.
I drove up to Coton House (POMC) on Sunday evening to avoid the rush hour traffic on Monday morning. I’d been told by Gary that the place was pretty much deserted at weekends and only really came to life during weekdays. There would be no bar or restaurant open and a room key would be left for me with the Security Guard. I had no idea how many people would be on the course or if any of them would be like me and arrive on Sunday night. I got there at 7.30pm. The car park was deserted. The main entrance was open but inside it was like the Mary Celeste! I shouted out.
No answer. I wandered around the main reception area and called out again.
“Hello. Anyone about?”
A guy in his late fifties with silver grey hair appeared holding a massive bunch of keys.
“What one are you?”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
He repeated the question.
“What one are you? I’ve got three people coming up tonight. So what one are you?”
Now I understood.
“Joe. From London Sales.”
He went behind the reception desk and grabbed an envelope. He gave it to me.
“You’re in room 22. Keys inside the envelope. Nothing is open but you can help yourself to tea and coffee from the kitchen if you like.”
With that he walked away.
I took my things up to room 22 and then returned to reception. I decided to have a wander. The restaurant was in darkness but I could see the kitchen area behind and there was a light on. Once in the kitchen I could see a coffee machine with a full pot of coffee underneath. It looked like it had been sitting there for a while but it was hot so I poured myself a cup. At the far end of the kitchen there was a narrow corridor, I followed it. There were two doors, one to the left and one to the right. I turned the handle of the right hand door.
Fuck me, it was like an Aladdin’s cave. The room was about 10 x 12 and packed floor to ceiling with…wine! Right hand side was red, left hand was white. Hundreds of bottles. I closed the door quickly just in case the security guard was watching. Then I opened up the left hand door. Oh dear. It was the door that led to the small bar in the main reception room. I pulled on one of the taps. Sure enough, cold lager began to pour out.
I was disturbed by a noise coming from the kitchen. I thought it was the security guard so very quietly I turned and walked out of the room and back along the corridor. I called out.
A voice returned my call.
Standing by the coffee machine was a guy about thirty. Dressed casually in Jeans, Tee Shirt and trainers. We shook hands.
“My name’s Danny. I’m from Milton Keynes. You on the Sales course tomorrow?”
“Yeh. I’m Joe. From London.”
He took a mouthful of his coffee.
“Jesus this is like piss. Shame the bar’s not open. I could kill for a pint.”
Music to my ears.
“Stay there and look out for the Security guard.”
I took two coffee mugs and walked back along the corridor. I could see he looked confused. I returned a couple of minutes later and handed him his mug. He looked at it and then took a sip. A big grin appeared on his face.
I told him about the two rooms behind the kitchen. One full of wine and the other was the bar.
“Great news. I think we might be drinking a lot of “coffee” tonight.”
We quickly drank our beers and I went back and got us a refill. We took our “coffee” to the large lounge area.
He told me his story. He was twenty nine and been with the Post office since leaving school. He’d worked his way up the ladder from Postman to PEC but it had taken him twelve years. He’d seen the advert in The Gazette for Sales Reps and thought he’d give it a go. When I told him I’d only been with the Post office for three and a half years he asked the obvious question.
“How the fuck did you get a PEC grade so quickly?”
I just shrugged my shoulders.
“Right place at the right time!”
We were interrupted by a broad Glaswegian accent.
“Hiya. You two on the Sales Course tomorrow?”
Standing at the main entrance was a big guy. Mid thirties, big mop of ginger hair, over six feet tall and about eighteen stone.
We both got up to greet him. We did our introductions. His name was Greg and he was from the Glasgow office. I went behind the reception desk and found his envelope.
“Here you go Greg. You’re in room 23, next door to me. Chuck your bags in the room and then join us for coffee.”
He looked disappointed.
“Coffee? Is the bar not open?”
We both laughed.
“Don’t worry Greg. You’ll love the coffee here. It’s the best coffee you’ll have ever tasted!”
By the end of that evening, we drank an awful lot of “coffee” and me, Danny and Greg became mates. We would soon be known at Coton House as “The Naughty Boys”.