It is Nineteen forty-six, and my sister Iris is preparing me for a job interview. She has bought me a new shirt, trousers, shoes and even a tie, and has just finished knitting some sort of jersey, she calls it a cardigan, which I am trying on for the first time. It is not hanging well.
” Are cardigans meant to be so long Iris”?
“It’s the way you hold yourself, you are not making any effort, are you? I’ve made it a little bit bigger because you’ve got such long arms, how do you think that you would ever come to anything standing like that”?
These are cruel words to say to anyone, leave alone to an exceedingly tall and skinny fourteen-year-old boy—with a voice impediment and twitchy eye. But that is my sister Iris, for you she doesn’t beat about the bush.
She stands back, looking at me with a sort of a wincing smile, I have the feeling that she is not happy with what she sees. She pulls the sleeves one way and another. I try standing upright as my sister says I must, but she keeps telling me that I am a funny shape. The sleeves are now much too long and have to be turned up, I look down at my new cardigan, saying.
“Dark green cardigans with big white buttons are for old people not for teenager’s”.
She gives me another of her looks.
“Teenager’s, where do you get all these slang words from. Anyway, cardigans are very popular in America, I got the pattern from a film magazine. Perry Como and Frank Sinatra wear them. Over there it’s sometimes called a smoking jacket”.
“A smoking jacket! I don’t even smoke Iris”.
To my sister, clothes will make all the difference, but I’m wondering what a potential employer would think of a fourteen-year-old boy, with a voice impediment, applying for a job wearing a bottle green smoking jacket with big white buttons.
The afternoon drags on, I start to stammer, and my funny eye begins to twitch, a sure sign of stress. Admittedly I am shy and a bit odd. It isn’t my fault though, it’s just the way I am.
I don’t need to say of course that I didn’t get the job, the following week I started work at ‘Chase of Chertsey’, a local factory, but I’m quite content with this, some of my friends already work there.
When I told Iris, the job that she had lined up for me had come to nothing, she seemed surprised and asked.
“You made sure you were nice and tidy with your shoes polished and did you wear the tie I bought you”?
“Yes of course I did, I thought it was going quite well, the man asked me all about my model making and what Church did I go to and if I belonged to the Scouts or the Army Cadet’s. When I said I didn’t belong to anything, he wrote something down and didn’t ask any more questions. He just said he would let me know, but he did say he liked the cardigan you had knitted for me”.
Iris looked at me as if I had said something really bad.
“You didn’t, did you? Please tell me that Alan, you didn’t wear it to the office, did you? What am I going to do with you? It’s not meant to wear to work, it is for when you are relaxing at home”.
It was a simple misunderstanding, it could happen to anyone, anyway I was never cut out to be an office boy, and as Iris said
“It’s the way you stand, you are not making any effort are you”?