Pumping petrol

On the road from Glastonbury to Taunton, it was a filling station in that old sense of the term. It was not a garage, for that would have suggested the possibility of mechanical repairs, instead it was three pumps with a small shack set back from the forecourt. It sold petrol, diesel and oil, nothing else. There was a counter inside the shack on which rested a temperamental cash register. There were no facilities, no toilets, even the air line worked only intermittently.

Unattractive, lacking in investment. The poor condition of the place was not assisted by an owner who would come into the shack and take notes from the till in order to go horse racing. The tanks must have been leaking, or perhaps water was deliberately added to the fuel, for more than once customers returned to complain about having to take their car to the garage, only to find there had been water in the petrol. There was no canopy, the pumps stood in the open, operating them on wet and windy days was a miserable experience. It would always be in the pouring rain that one of them would refuse to reset to zero, no matter how forcefully the lever was pulled down, the metal digits would obstinately decline to move.

The pay was poor, sixty pence per hour, a figure that was around the lowest an employer might pay in 1978 and still hope to have someone working for him. I worked there from 1 pm to 8 pm on a Saturday and from 8 am to 1 pm on a Sunday for £7.20.

The man who worked the remaining hours of the week was paid at the same rate, but he was a novelist, who was just waiting for a publisher. A draft of one of his novels lay in a drawer in the shack, it began with a scene involving red-coated huntsmen, it did not seem very exciting, but what would a seventeen year old student know about such things?

There were few other buildings in sight and no-one else to whom to talk. A transistor radio provided the only diversion and, while it would have been possible to take a book to read, the radio was always sufficient. The favourite times were the hour before closing on Saturday and the first two hours on Sunday when customers were few and there was nothing to do other than just sit and listen to the radio.

Is it possible now to be seventeen and to find hours of contentment in something so simple?

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2 Responses to Pumping petrol

  1. Shiney says:

    Had a similar job – the filling station on Berrow Triangle. I was 16. Can’t remember the pay. Saturday and Sunday mornings.

    I used to listen to radio as well. Also found a dog-eared copy of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Golden Apples of the Sun’ – probably left by a previous employee. Read it cover to cover several times.

    Once I accidentally splashed fuel over a local ‘dignitary’ who had an account at the place when I wasn’t concentrating and the nozzle hard-stopped ….. Boss was not pleased.

  2. Ian says:

    There used to be a capacity to be content with simple things which I have lost!

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