Ron King

Ron was my first boss – in the Registry at Brighton Town Hall. The words I delivered at his funeral in December, 1999 say it all. Ron was so special to me that I was able to conceive and then deliver them entirely in, and from, my mind. I only committed them to paper afterwards – so that I was able to give them to his wife, Joan. By huge coincidence, Joan had been born and raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, then married and moved to live in Brighton. I did the exact opposite!

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Ron's funeral part one 001

Ron's funeral part two 001

Ron Registry Nov 1980 001

Ron – or Mr King, as I always called him – working away in Brighton Borough Council’s Filing Registry in 1980. On the windowsill, you can see a giant antiquated file indexing system. On each flip-over sheet there were dozens of tiny individually typed strips listing the details of every file. Every so often, Mr King would take one of these sheets, wander round the racks and attempt to locate the corresponding file. Any that were missing he would prise the relevant strip from the sheet with a bent paper-clip and toss it in to the bin. Winkling, he called it. I would wait until he had got rid of 50 or so and then, whilst he was round the back of the racks, retrieve them from the bin and insert them on to a subsequent sheet. As there were thousands of strips in existence he didn’t really notice although, from time to time, I did hear the muffled grumble of “I’m sure I’ve already done this fucker!”

Another jolly jape was for me to wait until he was behind the racks once more and then shout out “Tomato, Mr King?” At this point, poor Ron would have to run back to his desk as I tossed in to the air the tomato that mum gave me as part of my packed lunch every day. Mr King had to catch it before it either hit the desk or the floor and exploded. “Why don’t you just tell your mum to forget the fucking tomato?” he complained, daily.

From time to time, I’d have my head down working only for the peace to be punctured by Mr King crying out the words “Mule Train” whilst hitting himself over the head with a file (readers of a certain age may recognise this scenario from the act of 1960s entertainer Rob Blackman. If you don’t, watch it on YouTube, it’s bizarre entertainment from a bygone age). Other renditions from behind the racks included “Shan’t be round tomorrow, donkey’s pissed on the strawberry” and “pardon Mrs Arden, there’s a bleedin’ great cow up your garden.” It really was a hilariously insane time.

Carol and I first met when we both worked for Brighton Borough Council. We returned to Brighton in 2013, as part of Carol’s 60th birthday celebrations, and visited the town hall. The Registry is now the Mayor’s Parlour and we sat and had tea and shared some memories. The heavy old index frames are long gone, but the original windows remained, including the one in the corner that Mr King opened religiously first thing every morning to ventilate the coming day’s cigarette smoke. Later, the mayoral staff kindly took us on a tour of the building and, still sitting in the basement, are files which I had created myself decades earlier.

Ah, the ghosts…

Registry 2013

The ‘Registry’ as it now is, the mayor’s parlour.
The window I refer to is the small square one
towards the left of the shot

Ron Arthur Alf Hennekeys Oct 1980 001

Ron with Arthur Bewlock and Alf Head, other colleagues from the town hall.
Hennekeys, Brighton, October 1980. Lunchtime drinking
was an everyday thing back then. It’s unthinkable now

Ron and Joan 001

Ron and Joan with Christopher and David
at our home in Hove, 1991

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