By Vijay Shah
Fresh out of university, I found myself moving back to my parents’ house in Plaistow, and was in desperate need for a job. I was finding it near impossible to get into my chosen career of journalism, and my stepfather was giving me a lot of headache and pressure to get employed ASAP. This meant many trips to the local Jobcentre Pluses and hours in front of library computers searching and applying for job after job, without much success. Then in December 2006, I found a vacancy for door-to-door leafletters from a company called ABI Leaflet Distribution, based in the Blackhorse Road area of Leyton, London. In need of a wage of any sort and fast, I duly sent my CV (resume) via email to the named contact, and was accepted for an interview. The job was simply just being issued with a thousand leaflets and then sent to a different part of London or surrounding area with a map. The hurriedly photocopied maps denoted the area where I was expected to place the leaflets through people’s doors. The clients I and my colleagues delivered for ranged from estate agents to concerns offering tuition classes for children. The disadvantages about the work were that it was arduous, with heavy bags to lug and many miles to walk. The pay was crap, as we were paid per leaflet delivered, which in order to make income worth surviving on at all meant working full-time hours. This was meant to be a part-time thing. We had to work in all weathers, come rain or shine. It was safe to say that I didn’t enjoy leafletting very much. But I always try to see the bright side of life. Apart from travelling over much of central and east London (we had to pay for our travel out of our own pocket 😦 ), I and my fellow co-workers also travelled to locations beyond the M25 motorway. I was so good at the job that I was soon promoted to team leader – responsible for training/supervising new employees, but I quit a month or so later. I worked at ABI Leaflet Distribution from January to April of 2007.
While we were working our backsides off and avoiding canine and human occupants with anger-management issues (and ubiquitous “no junk mail” signs), we fitted in some sightseeing, met many interesting people and saw many interesting things.
One of the conditions of employment was that we had to carry our mobile phones on our person at all times. This was so that our boss, Mr. Miller and his secretarial support team could keep in contact with us, but also because we were kept tabs on through mobile signal tracking. Very Orwellian you must be thinking, but we had to accept the status quo; slackers/skivers weren’t tolerated one bit. At that time I had this Sony Ericsson K610i which had a reasonable 2 mega-pixel camera built into it. I was, and sort of still am, a bit of a photography buff and enjoyed capturing individual still images of any sights or places that attracted or spoke something to me, and my short stint as a ‘pamphlet distribution agent’ gave me plenty of perfect opportunities.
Before writing today’s piece, I had a dig-around for my trusty Busbi USB memory drive and found a selection of snapshots from back then that I’d thought I’d share with my Brainiacs. Over six years later, the memories are still as fresh as they were then, and it was an interesting phase of my life.
LOCATION: Epping Forest, near Wanstead Flats.
DATE: 25 January 2007
Even though the sun was out, it was a chilly winter’s afternoon. I took this picture because the scenery felt tranquil, a little rural. The fluffy and sparse clouds in the sky have a relaxing sensation about them, and I like the contrast between the blue sky and green field here. The area around the Forest was a notorious leafletter’s nightmare, with its palatial homes and massive driveways, but seeing a place like this after a hard day’s lugging around brochures was a reward in itself.
LOCATION: Lettsom Walk, Plaistow
DATE: 16 February 2007
The more observant Brainiacs will note that this is the picture used on the Half-Eaten Mind blog’s “about” page. The tower blocks here are located in the Plaistow district and were built in the 1960’s as council (local government) housing for low-income families. I would call this image an example of ‘urban beauty’ because while apartment blocks from that era are ugly and grotty, both inside and out, there is a good contrast of shade and colour between the buildings still shrouded in darkness and the sunset-drenched clouds above. I took this one as I was on my way to the tube station for the job. I assume it was around 6:30 – 7:00 am. By the way these tower blocks have names: Willett and Scott Houses.
LOCATION: Near Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
DATE: 24 March 2007
This smokey feline with the alluring beige eyes took a liking to me while I was leafletting in the borough of Broxbourne in the greater Epping valley, north of London. Cats that encountered me on my rounds usually did one of 2 things: they either sprinted away as fast as their four legs could carry them, or they sashayed up by my side for a quick chin-scratch and stroke. As far as pets were concerned, like our postal worker cousins, it was the dogs we most worried about. Many times I would feel a canine’s cold moist nose brush against my fingers as I gingerly placed a leaflet through someone’s letterbox. Some of the more ‘boisterous’ mutts would even yank the leaflet completely out of your hands. More mental ones would run and body-slam the door, accompanied with crazed barking perfectedly suited for The Hound of The Baskervilles. Not surprisingly, we were warned against placing our fingers right inside such doors.
LOCATION: Beckton, south Newham
DATE: 12 April 2007
Again on the subject of animals, I snapped this friendly horse tethered near the Beckton Park. Most likely he/she belonged to a member of the Traveller community, a nomadic people found all over Britain who trade and rely heavily on their steeds. Our photo subject could not really tell me who it’s owner was, but it was more than happy to pose!. I think by now you might have gauged that I am an animal lover.
LOCATION: Beckton Green Road, Beckton
DATE: 12 April 2007
On the same day as I clicked the Beckton Horse, I also took this one as I waited for the bus to take me back to base. The quiet lane and even more quiet bus stop reflected the loneliness that was at times an inescapable part of this job, and also my relief at finally finishing for the day.
Part 2 of A Leafletter’s Photo Album coming soon….