I left university in 1989 and went home, where my mother said: "One month and then get out!" I had to get a job. Job-hunting was a dream: at the first place I looked, Rough Trade Records round the corner in Notting Hill, they were advertising for an accountant to keep the books. They said the vacancy was filled but Slam City Skates, the skateboarding shop next door owned by the same company, needed someone.
At Cambridge I had got a skateboard from a friend and tried to practise in the Jesus College car park but, at 19, was too old. In fact, Slam City didn't want a young skateboarder, somebody who might give stuff to their mates, and after a 15 minute interview I got the job: 10am-6pm, £500 a month, Wednesdays off but work on Saturday.
Skateboards are sold in individual parts; the deck and the wheels are sold separately. I would assemble them and fit the rough tape to the top of the smooth wood. We sold a lot of clothing – T-shirts, trousers, trainers, videos, stickers and magazines. It was very enjoyable work. It was not a hard sell.
It was quite intimidating at first, as some of the customers were cocky, 15-year-old smart-arse art students. I was quite taken aback by the apparent hostility of my colleagues towards the customers but you do get a lot of idiots coming in and trying to be cool. You kept your guard up and if they were nice, you relaxed.
One time, a couple of blokes stole some T-shirts and my colleague leapt over the counter and bolted after them. I didn't. Another trick was that one person would rip the security tag off a T-shirt and go away and the next person would come in and steal it, as it now wouldn't trigger the alarm. This was very rare.
Sometimes boys were hanging around annoying us all day and trying to steal stickers, so we'd throw them out: "You're banned!" Lots of people were my own age or older, doing creative things like fanzines and night-clubs. They were all part of what inspired me to do The Idler.
It was completely different from Tesco's, a slave job! I loved working in a shop, talking to people, waiting behind a counter with time to hang out. I still do stalls at festivals, selling Idler books and T-shirts. You've got your own little space. All you do is sit there and wait for people to come in. It's a bit like working in a café, a good pub, an arts centre or the ukulele shop in Brick Lane. Or a surfing store – except that surfers are a bit less wild. Unlike surfing, skateboarding doesn't connect you with nature; it connects you with concrete, painfully.
"The Book of Idle Pleasures" by Dan Kieran and Tom Hodgkinson and "The Idler No 41" are out now.Reuse content