My first 'real' job was in banking. I'd done the usual round of student summer work - waitressing, chambermaiding, working in coffee shops and even a hairdressers - but after I left school I decided university wasn't for me, after all, and I opted to enter the world of work and get myself onto the earning ladder. I got a job in a Trust Company.
It was just as computerisation was getting underway - the computer for the company took up one whole floor of the four storey building - but I was a ledger clerk. I was the lowest of the low, bar the cleaner. A little bit like Bob Cratchit but without the Dickensian costumes and a boss called Scrooge, and the office was a little warmer than poor old Bob had to put up with.
But Bob I was - as I sat in my little corner, writing numbers in a ledger, using a massive old calculator to total columns. I learned a lot, including (very quickly) that this was not the life for me and that I should pretty sharpish re-apply for a university place.
Fortunately, I got one - Bath University in England .... the BEST decision I ever made because it turned out to be an excellent place of learning, and fun, and excitement and friendship.
I did last a year at the old bank, and continued to learn and save, which meant that I had some funds when I eventually left my home island of Jersey for Bath. This extra cash in the bank meant I didn't have to scrimp and save quite as much as my fellow students and this freed me up during the long university summer vacations. Which meant I could travel to Maine in the USA, to a summer camp called Camp Sebago where I worked as a counselor for two summers. Again, another fantastic time in my life, but that's another whole story!
Why do I bring this up now?
I'm beginning to wonder - what IF I had stuck it out at the old finance house in Hill Street, St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands?
Well, I wouldn't have a group of most loyal lifelong friends who I met at University. I wouldn't have travelled to the USA to beautiful Maine and I would not have had so many life changing experiences. I would not have, eventually, become a journalist, broadcaster, TV producer, writer, charity PR, trainer and so much more which has given me such an exciting creative life and brought me so many joys.... and some heartaches.
I would not be the person I am today.
I MIGHT now be sitting on a nice little earner, with a BIG FAT pension and annual bonuses way out of proportion to my workload and ultimate contribution to society at least in comparison to people who really make a difference - like teachers, and nurses, doctors and carers.
We heard today that the 'boss' of the State-owned Royal Bank of Scotland not only takes home over ONE MILLION POUNDS in salary every year, but he's to receive (and it's not the first time apparently) bonuses equivalent to almost that again, in shares in the Bank.
I listened to the BBC this morning and heard commentators and politicians wittering on about how this gentleman had contributed so much and kept the Bank on an even keel ... sort of.... even in the current dire economic climate and anyway, banking needs incentives and rewards to keep 'top' people in place and if the government (as they have promised they will) put a stop to these large and rather immoral payments then the board might resign, along with the boss and then the share price of RBS would be in the toilet I guess and .... etc etc etc.
First - I'm sure Mr RBS does do a good job, but this latter argument sounds a little bit like blackmail and greed to me and not entirely in the spirit of trying to help the country out it's massive economic spiral down to financial hell.
Second - I know I'm trivialising this just a little. Having worked in finance, even if briefly and at a very low level, and studied some economics and more, and having been a general hack who has over the years turned her mind and pen to most things (including business reporting) - I know enough about economics to know that I've made some huge generalisations here and of course, 'it's not as simple as that'.
I understand why bonuses might SEEM vital in a competitive banking culture which expects bonuses even when they are not particuarly earned. But .... in the last 20 years the gap between the high fliers in banking (many of whom were responsible for the finanical crisis of the past few years, if not directly then indirectly through their corporate actitivites over many greedy years) and us ordinary people in the street is just now IMMORAL. Someone, somewhere has to insist that a line is drawn. And I guess that's the government because us mere mortals can't effect any change at all. We can complain at the injustice of it all. We might insist that our RBS man willingly gives up his bonus - this year - but it won't make a spot of difference while the finance and banking culture in the UK and across the world, still expects to operate in such a perverse way.
And finally ...
THIRD - I'm beginning to wish I had stayed in Hill Street!