Monday, 16 November 2009

To Be The Best

When I was a small child in Liverpool we had a neighbourhood street sweeper.  He happened to be called Alfred but that's not relevant except to demonstrate the weird tricks of memory whereby I can recall a name from 60 years ago and not remember momentarily the name of a friend's daughter whom I've known all 40+ years of her life during a conversation when I was speaking on the phone today. 

When I was walking down the road I often chatted to Alfred.  One day he imparted some wisdom to me that I've never forgotten. 

CJ and I went to a small private Prep school in the area.  You need to know that because of what Alfred said.

Alfred said that whilst he was only a street sweeper with little education and I went to a smart school what mattered was who you were and that you strove to do what you did as well as you could.  He said that he was satisfied that he was the best street sweeper in Liverpool.    And he may well have been. 

What struck me later though was his use of the word 'only'.  I have never got used to people who say that.  I once rang an office and when I asked who was speaking was told that it was 'only' the office junior.  I pointed out that most offices can function satisfactorily for a while without senior staff but that most offices seem to collapse if the office junior is not there to find things.  Well that's how it used to be anyway.  There is no such thing, if one thinks about it, as an only in life.  There are just different roles to be played.

It's odd what we recall and what shapes our thinking.  As Andy used to say "It's a funny old world, Dad."


  1. I'm sorry, I think I'm totally missing the point of your post. I'm hung up on the street sweeper. There really was a street sweeper? our life time? I've never seen such a person! I'm sure we didn't have them in Brisbane when I was a child. Mind you, we did have the night cart collection! (but let's not dwell on that, huh!)

  2. Nice post, Geeb. Its so easy to label yourself thus, and kind of sad. I've just caught up on all your blogs, and enjoyed them tremendously - loved the Poor Dog in the woolly jumper! Great photos too by the way!

  3. When people call themselves that, it is usually because they have got used to being treated that way by their "superiors" (the people with the higher wages and the power to decide things).

  4. What an interesting post! I've never really thought about it in those terms, but that "only" mentality certainly is a challenge. Thanks for sharing!