Scouting for students

first_imgwas six months old when my father started working at St John’s. That was in 1946, and heworked here thirty odd years, into his seventies. He was a scout. Back then it was all malescouts. He made beds, brought the coal in, cleaned shoes, and was generallya skivvy; a nursemaid, I suppose you’d say. It was quite different in those days; it was realhard graft. My eldest sister worked here, in this building, for about thirteen years. Sheleft just over four years ago. So there’s been me, my dad and my sister, and actually mydaughter worked here for about five years as well. Back then a lot of families worked here.The husbands, the wives, the children – that’s how it was in those days. It has changednow, of course: people don’t stay as long as they used to. When I started, women were ableto bring their children along to work with them during holiday time, which is no longer thecase, and I think that’s why a lot of them did this job. It was a way of working when you had a young family; a way of going back to school whenyou didn’t have a career. That was what you did: you either worked in a college or worked ina school, and because my father was involved in college life it was pretty obvious I would betoo, somewhere down the line. Life’s changed a lot since then. Everything’s got faster. Allthis health and safety has come in and there are all sorts of different gadgets for variousthings. And there’s now only about three or four of us left who’ve been here for a few years.When I started I just did one staircase in the block and my sister did the other two. now I dothe whole lot. As long as you’re in a routine, you’re alright. I get in at half six in the morningand do 36 hours a week. I live 11 miles out of Oxford so although my husband drives me towork, it still means an early start for me.I was born in north Oxfordshire and lived in Central Oxford all my live until about 8 yearsago. My mother still lives in the house I grew up in, in St John’s Street. I started coming inearly so I could clear up after the bops while everyone was still in bed. There’s usuallyloads of rubbish afterwards. It’s surprising how much there is to do, really. I try to pace itout: I do the loos first, then start going round the rooms at half past eight. Some people areup by then. I do all the bins and what I can in the rooms when I’m going round. I have mycoffee at 10 o’clock, then start the hoovering on the staircase. The showers and thebathrooms are the last thing for the day. I’m here all year round but I prefer it when thestudents are here. We’ve had a few interesting people staying. There was Jonathandimbleby’s son, and Tony Blair was in this building too. I don’t think I was working here atthe time. My sister was, but she can’t actually remember him. Typical of my sister. At thebeginning of a new year it’s diffi cult because I’m quite nervous and the students must findit odd too. Some students will talk and some won’t and you can usually tell from the veryfirst time you meet them whether they’re going to speak or not. I’ve been here nineteenyears now, and I’m actually going to retire in March. It’s the end of an era from the family’spoint of view, but it’ll be nice not to have to get up so early in the morning. That is one thingI’m really looking forward to. Susan Gulliford talked to Julian CotteeARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005last_img

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