It’s been a long time since I scrabbled about in the East End of London’s filthy gutters. In those days, a lifetime ago when Ronnie and Reggie, the Kray twins, ruled, I was well on my way to be being a tough-minded copper in an urban battlefield of crime.
Since childhood, I’d harboured a romantic idea of policing, and clung to that dream only long enough to be beaten severely, see innocent folk locked up, have friends die, and fellow officers set up for refusing to accept bribes. The job definitely had a few grey areas.
That was almost forty years ago. Since then I’ve had some remarkably diverse jobs, from truck driving to driver training, dishwashing to hotel general management, security to surveillance, and now, the best – ghost writing.
Looking back over a remarkable history of employment, one factor, one element, has always made certain jobs more worthwhile than others. Trust. Without it, the work seemed meaningless, even arduous, or, in the case of the East End, downright dangerous.
As a ghost, I have to be trusted, and implicitly. And I’m not talking about the sort of trust that involves fiddling the hourly rate to earn a few more bucks, because, as far as I’m concerned, that sort of thing always works in favour of the client.
No, this is about a deeper sense of trust. Someone, a new client in need of a book, usually someone I hardly know, is about to tell all. Can you imagine how difficult that might feel? They’re going to let everything hang out. Their fears, their dreams, their disappointments, and aspects of themselves that haven’t yet seen the light of day will probably emerge blinking and embarrassed.
While not everyone howls when their personal stuff gets a chance to air itself, I’m no stranger to witnessing tears and knowing the sense of relief and wellbeing that follows. Far from the cut and thrust of the East End, I can get a lump in my throat from a good ad these days. And just check out who’s the last out of a tearjerker at the movies.
Soft? No! Sensitive? Absolutely! I have given myself the right to understand the pain of others and to write about it. Now, where’s that box of tissues?