Google Analytics

Sunday 23 October 2016

One Man’s Week 1974

This was written after reading One Man’s Week in the London Sunday Times. The contributors were always authors, artists, musicians, humourists, television personalities and so on, all of whom led wildly exciting daily lives. As its name suggests, there were never any female correspondents. This particular week the column was by a well-known writer, presenter of television arts programmes and professional Northerner who, frankly, I was sick of seeing and reading about. This was my reaction. Perhaps it exaggerates my lack of direction, hopelessness and want of stimulation at the time, but not by much.

One Man’s Week by Tasker Dunham who works in an office in Leeds


Thank goodness it’s Sunday. Staying with Parents for the weekend, I pick up their Sunday Times and come across One Man’s Week. As usual it is by some irritating celebrity who leads a full and exciting life, has an interesting, creative job and mixes with sparklingly famous and admired people. Why don’t they get someone who does nothing, goes nowhere and knows no one, someone with a boring and hated job, someone like me?

Dreading the impending working week, I sit unoccupied for the rest of the day until it is time to return to my bedsit. Parents wave goodbye from the doorstep and after an hour in my blue Mini I am in my room in Leeds. It is cold, lonely, empty, and the bulb has gone. Must get a new one. I greet my four little fish: they don’t exactly come bounding up to welcome me.

I switch on the television for half an hour before bed time. The picture flickers on. It’s him again: the One Man’s Week columnist. I turn it off and go to bed. Why can’t I have a job like his?


8:15 Eyes open. Radio on. I’ve got to go to work. Must get up. I’ll just have another five minutes.

8:20 Groan! I really ought to get moving, but another five minutes won’t matter.

This continues until 8:45 when a feeble John Timpson joke on the radio gets me up.

At 9.15 I arrive at work. Napoleon, the boss, looks at his watch disapprovingly with raised eyebrows. He says nothing. He is busy working frenetically in his shirtsleeves behind his glass partition. I try to look productive with thoughts miles away. I make a mental note to be on time tomorrow.

Lunchtime arrives. There must be something wrong when the most enjoyable part of the day is going to the shop for a lunchtime sandwich. And they’re so expensive! I must start to make my own.


It must be terrible to work in London where the journey to work might take two hours. In Leeds I can do it in ten minutes, yet I still can’t make it on time. I set off at nine and arrive ten minutes late. Napoleon looks at his watch disapprovingly with raised eyebrows. He is still working frenetically in his shirtsleeves behind his glass partition. Has he been home at all? I genuinely resolve to arrive on time tomorrow.

At lunchtime I return a pile of books to the library, all unread, and have to pay twenty pence in fines. It’s quite reasonable really. Browsing round the shelves I spot a name on a row of novels. Hell! It’s him again: One Man’s Week. Not only television programmes; he writes novels as well. I borrow them all hoping to find the secret of his success.

In the evening I don’t get round to reading them. I am too exhausted after work and have not yet replaced the light bulb. There must be something wrong with me. I’m always tired, I have lots of headaches, I never feel well. I need to visit the doctor.


Today I am not going to be late for work. I spring out of bed at 6.15. I spring back in at 6.20.

I wake up again at 9.30. That can’t be right. Oh dear! 9.30. It is right. I walk to the phone box and tell Napoleon I will be in late on account of having run over a dog on the way to work. I arrive sheepishly at 10.30. Napoleon calls me in and I bleat out my excuse once more, with embellishments. I look disapprovingly at my watch with raised eyebrows.

“Must get on,” I say, retreating.

When lunchtime arrives I reflect that I am still not making my own sandwiches. At least I remember to buy a new light bulb. It gives me a deep sense of accomplishment. 

Back home the fish regard my presence with less enthusiasm than ever. Their tank probably needs cleaning out. Indeed, it smells a bit and there seem only to be three of them now. The other appears to have turned into a transparent husk glistening at the bottom with a kind of wriggling, leechy thing attached. I make a mental note to deal with it.

I pick up one of that man’s books but reading is difficult because the new bulb is too dim. I become lost in thoughts about changing vocation. I decide I am definitely in the wrong job. I will go for occupational guidance to see what they say. Blast! I forgot to make an appointment to see the doctor.


8.30 Why should I have to do this job? Why should I, a person of my considerable intelligence and ability, have to carry out such mind-numbing, menial tasks? Why do I put up with work so beneath my capabilities? I’m not going in. I am definitely not going in. That’s that. I will phone and say I’m ill.

I feel so guilty I remain bedbound until 2.00 as if authentically ill. I stay in bed so long that hunger and headache make me feel truly ill.


I arrive at work five minutes early but Napoleon has gone to a meeting in London for the day. People ask after my state of health. I explain that I had migraine and stomach ache and was unable to phone in. Well, it’s true. I really was ill.

Conscientious people like me enjoy their jobs. If on a particular day they cannot face work, there must be something wrong: they must be ill. Staying home is the sensible course of action.

I am still not making my own sandwiches. It does not matter today as Friday is liquid lunch day, the end of the firm’s unofficial four and a half day week.

The car sounds a bit rough but I drive back to Parents, to cooked meals, clean rooms and country air. Not for the first time I am told I ought to pull myself together, find a wife and be properly looked after. There might be something in that.

Tomorrow I will read one of that man’s books, service the car, get a brighter bulb, buy food for next week....


Instead I stay in bed all morning and then watch wrestling on television. I must make an effort to get things done.

Right! Starting from next week I will make my own sandwiches, read that man’s books, sort out the fish, get a brighter bulb, tidy my room, service the car, go to the doctors, arrive at work on time, seek occupational guidance.....

Thank heavens it’s the weekend.


I welcome comments and hope to respond within a day or two, but vision issues are making this increasingly difficult. Please note: comments on posts over a month old will not appear until they have been moderated.