What was your first job like?


Well having returned to the hallowed halls of QVC this last week, I hardly seem to have had time to draw breath! Thanks so much for all your lovely comments, and I hope that the various weddings, days out, and special occasions you told me about have all run smoothly.

The big date in the diary last week was Tuesday, and it dawned grey, windy and wet… not quite as poetic as I would have liked, but truthful. 🙂 I had to set my alarm to rise early, and then get Sam up and out of his 'pit' so we could drive to Derby University. I think I mentioned that we've been touring around the Midlands and Oxfordshire to see what's what, and this is the fourth of his choices. 

It's the same one that Lucy attended back in 2005, and not only did she get a great degree, but she loved it there and felt very much at home. What cheers me is that it's only two hours up the M1 so happy days! 🙂 I have to say both Sam and I were very impressed with the course which is set up in the new campus, complete with new equipment and a really enthusiastic tutor. 

Of course, Sam now has to decide which will be his first choice… and I have to try and avoid thinking about him leaving…

When I left school…

Don't know about you, but when I left school University wasn't really something I ever gave a great deal of though to. Dad had been to Manchester, Mum went straight to work, and when I was studying it was one of those options I thought was reserved for the incredibly clever, or those who attended Grammer School. 

Now it seems to be a far fairer system with a great deal more choice when it comes to chosen subjects or course, although when talking to Julia, she told me that most of those available are over-subscribed this year..! So I'm keeping everything crossed for Sam.

When I was 16, Mum was bringing the three of us up on her own, so in our family it was a case of decide which career path you wanted to pursue and take A levels, or get a job. At 16, I couldn't decide, but following a number of interviews locally at the Milk Marketing Board (don't think it exists any more) and also a well known High Street Bank, I opted to work in London at Shell Centre on the South Bank in
their Public Affairs department. 

I still didn't have much of an idea where the job would take me, but our careers lessons at school hadn't been that helpful… one job suggestion was to be an Egg Packer – required skills? Nimble fingers… :) 

Mum did bend over backwards to get me an interview with an independent careers advisor after I'd told her I'd really love to read the news on TV or radio. When I got to meet the somewhat officious individual I
bottled it, and said I wanted to be a cookery demonstrator in a store… I didn't get an O Level to cover that one sadly! 

My first jobs

I loved working in London and used to cycle to the station every morning to get the train from Hampton Court Station into Waterloo. Funny to think I was only 16 and yet I had absolute panic attacks about letting Lucy (at the same age) get a train into Milton Keynes on her own! 

I moved from Shell Centre to a lovely book publishers in Bedford Square when I was 18 and started working in their Publicity Department. I thought it was a terrific job – basically pulling together press packs for authors, arranging magazine, radio and TV interviews for them and, of course, signing sessions. Virtually everyone there was a graduate, some schooled at Roedean and Stowe, so I felt even more fortunate that
they felt I could handle the job and would fit in. 

Ali's signed book To Alison, sincerely Sophia Loren I'll never forget when we published Sophia Loren's autobiography and I set up the signing session at Selfridges. So many people turned up they had to close off part of Oxford Street!!!! The excitement was awesome.

Not only did I get a signed copy of the book (left), but was also given a pair of Sophia's stockings (complete with foot chippings)… eeeuw! Not for my use I hasten to add, but to be auctioned at the Help a London Child event! Did I get to meet her? No… but never mind eh :) 

I did, however, meet the late but very lovely Barry Sheene, Spike Milligan, Melvyn Bragg, Pam Ayres and a host of other notables, but the highlight for me was the night of our Christmas party when Stan Barstow arrived. His book 'A kind of Loving' which was made into a film starring Alan Bates, was incredible. An insight into life in the 50s and beautifully written. It was actually one of a trilogy, and as I worked for the publisher I had them all… and he signed them all. 

I spent a long time talking to him and loved his honesty and modesty. It's a night I'll never forget and the books have moved with me to every home I've lived in and will always have pride of place on my bookshelf. Well worth a read…

Rainbow Rainbow It has been a somewhat circuitous route that has led me to QVC, but all the jobs I've had, and the experiences I've gained have helped me move on and into the next stage of my life – if that makes sense. 

Do you remember your first job? Where it was, or some of the characters you met there? Maybe you still work for the same company? I'd LOVE to hear your stories. Maybe I could pull them all together and write a book myself!!

I thought I'd leave you with this photograph of an amazing rainbow (above left) that appeared right the way across the sky on Saturday evening. I couldn't fit the whole thing in so took both ends – I'm sure my clever editor can make it look more complete though :) 

Have a wonderful week, and I look forward – as always – to hearing from you. Makes my day.

Love Ali xxx


  1. Martin forbes July 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm -  Reply

    hi alison you ahve had avaried life of jobs.
    Hope you are well.
    iam not bad.

  2. Rhona Fenton July 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, love your blog as always and I hope sam does really well but I am sure he will do you want me to send plenty off hankies for the big day when he leaves:( my thoughts will be with you when that day arrives as I remember when my Alison left never thought anything could hurt so much now it’s the other way round when she comes home for the day it hurts, only kidding:) now I will give you a laugh to cheer you up my first ever job I remember well, I was a womble on a caravan site in St Andrews at the grand old age of 9, my parents brought us up to work:) my dad made me a stick with a nail in the end had my bag and off I went picking up the rubbish, the hardest bit off the job was going round all the caravans early in the morning to the smell off bacon and eggs cooking:( I loved that job, but moved up years later to a posh eating house in the town:)but can now say Interior Designer:)hope that will give you a smile:) please pass on my very best wishes to Sam and I wish him the very best:) always glad to hear from you, love Rhona xx, ps I remember you on TV before joining QVC:)

  3. Magda Chetty July 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm -  Reply

    What a great blog, but again all your blogs are great, and always from the heart. Wish Sam from me all the best, and hope he gets just what he wants. half way through reading your blog, I thought I must ask you if you ever think about writing a book, Iam sure it will be great, and all of us will read it.
    My first job only lasted 3 days, when i finished university, i went to work for the National bank of Egypt, and was told that I need to speak perfect English to move up, and as I always wanted to see London, I told my mum that I have to go to London to learn English for the good of my career, and 3 days later I was on a plane to London.
    I loved London so much, I never left. Then I worked in a travel agent, where I was lucky to travel around the world. And on one of my trips I had a seat on the plane just behind Roger Federer.
    Then I moved to Mallorca, and last May I was lucky to visit QVC and meet Julia Roberts, who is a real star.
    Lots of love from a very hot Mallorca, hope the sun always shine for you and your family.
    Much love.

  4. alison keenan July 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm -  Reply

    Hi Martin, I’m very well thank you, and glad to hear that you are too. Yes variety is the spice of life I feel, and I’m very lucky to have had such a choice of jobs over the years. Thanks for writing, Ali x

  5. alison keenan July 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm -  Reply

    Rhona, you’re always guaranteed to make me smile 🙂 Yes, I fear tissues may well be needed. I remember crying all the way home on the train having left Lucy in halls there, and I’m sure I’ll be the same with Sam. Some of my friends think I’m mad, and no doubt when faced with bags of washing I may not be quite as emotional 🙂
    Loved you telling me about your Womble job – hope someone gave you eggs and bacon when you’d finished your sterling work! You began your career a tad earlier than me – I was 11 when I got a paper round – permament sloping left shoulder following that job 🙂 Love to all Rhona, and lovely to hear from you, Love Ali xx

  6. alison keenan July 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm -  Reply

    Magda, that’s a heck of an achievement! Well done you. To just up sticks and set off to learn a language and way of life in a different country is incredible. Wonderful that you stayed and made a life here too, before heading off to Majorca. Your family must be very proud of you. Julie said how good it was to meet you, and I will forever sorry that I missed your visit. Maybe next time. Very hot here, but sun hidden by thick cloud….. we just need some wind!! Enjoy the summer, and thanks for writing. They say there’s a book in all of us… maybe one day 🙂 Love Ali xx

  7. Una July 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    Hope you are well, and getting back to the routine!!!
    My best wishes to Sam when he goes to uni. He will have a FAB time. Will be graduation day in no time at all, and we will all be wating to see your outfit for that.
    My first job was in a local fish and chip shop, when I was 12. they also made their own secret recipe ice cream. I can hand on heart say, that i have NEVER tasted ice cream that came even close to it. Unfortunately the owner passed away, and literally took the recipe to his grave. Oh well, hagen das it is then!
    I remember i got 20 PENCE an hour, and thought I was the bees knees. I even remember the first thing I bought with my “wages” it was a green nail polish called, “heavenly teal”. I have no idea how it was heavenly. The first time I wore it and visited my granny. She thought I had caught my fingers in the door, and my nails were ready to fall off!!! i was so upset and indignant, LOL!!!
    Ah, those were the days!
    tell you what Ali. these blogs dont half take you down memory lane sometimes! Plus, I watched your show at the weekend, and you were talking about the summer of 76! Now that DID take me down memory lane. That was the year i fell in love for the first time! Ahhhhh,bless, I was 16, he was 21, had his own car, and my parents hated him. They kept grounding me, and I kept climbimng down the bathroom drainpipe to meet him, LOL, I kept falling the last foot or so, and had bruised knees for the entire summer (from climbing down the drainpipe I hasten to add!!!!) I ran out of excuses for the bruises by the end of the summer!!!
    The things we do for love as they say!!!!
    Take care Alison
    love Una x

  8. mandy nicholls July 21, 2010 at 10:59 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    Your blog is great as usual, I really enjoy reading them!! Both my boys are still at home Josh who is 20 did not want to go to uni but has got himself a reaonable job and his happy!! that is all you ever want for your children. Alex just turned 16 GCSE’s over and is enjoying a lovely long summer, so I am blessed with them both still being at home, still cannot imagine them not being here (even when the music is way too loud and you long for peace and quiet!!)
    My first job was as a receptionist in a factory where I met my lovely husband (24 years ago now!!) and my current job I have had for the past 20 years!! still love it and the people I work with!!

  9. Una July 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    me again, sorry.
    Just realised, I wasnt 16, had only just turned 15, and was nearer to 14, THATS why my parents werent happy, ahhh, NOW I get it!!!!!
    Una xx

  10. Judy July 22, 2010 at 12:07 am -  Reply

    My first job – well, here’s a thing. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in acadaemia, my Dad died when I was 14 and school didn’t seem that important. My lovely Mum had a son in the Navy a daughter who was a nurse in a London hospital and me – a stroppy teenager. She kept threatening me with ” you’ll end up in Woolies if you don’t get any exams ” Well, I must have done some work and got accepted to train as a Nursery Nurse in a residential childrens home in Sussex. But — there wasn’t a place for 3 months so, I needed a holiday job. You’ve guessed it – I DID go to work in Woolworths. I was on the biscuit counter, with those huge tins of every sort of biscuit known to man. I quite liked the weighing out and bagging up , but after I’d been behind the counter there were always a few more broken biscuits to fill that tin with. Remember them ? They were sold cheaply.I never did turn into one of those disinterested girls who said ” If you can’t see it, we haven’t got it !” !! But perhaps if I’d stayed longer, who knows ?

  11. Louise July 22, 2010 at 7:25 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali. Can I firstly say how much I appreciate the fact that you do write a blog regularly; I enjoy reading your news. How lucky were you to meet Pam Ayres? I loved reading her poetry when I was a kid. And that accent was brilliant! Do you ever wish you’d taken a different path? I can remember you presenting This Morning
    I’m 44 now, and I would like to go into politics, I’m looking into it at the moment, perhaps political journalism. Think I’m too old for a career change?
    Take care.

  12. Rosalyn Claydon July 22, 2010 at 9:29 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali, Just wanted to say thank you for last weeks blog and all the kind comments everybody wrote afterwards.
    My first job was as a student nurse and left home to start that when I was 18yrs. I still remember the nurses home a magnificent building circ 1930’s and all the rules and regulations we had to abide by including no “guest” in our rooms after ten thirty. Lol as if that would stop anybody. Most of us wide eyed and innocent and sadly three of the 24 girls I started with got pregnant in the first year. By the time I qualified three years later there was only 12 of us left. If was a tough training but the pride I felt when I was finally allowed to wear the beautiful silver buckle (21st birthday present from Mum and Dad) on my blue belt was worth every tear and heartache. We wore hats in those days as well. Pretty lace that had to be starch. First monthly pay packet £98. Happy days though and lots of memories. with love Rosalyn

  13. Marg July 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali, My first job was a Saturday job when I turned sixteen,I attended an all girls convent school and couldnt wait to work in a shop. Well my best friend worked in good old WOOLIES on Saturdays and holidays,so I went along for an interview.The lady who interviewed me was a very straight backed stern looking person wearing a sombre black suit, white blouse with a broach at the neck and cuban heeled lace up black shoes just like my grans and she looked about six foot six,my thought was ‘out of the fire etc.’. Oh and she wore her glasses half way down her nose,which was a long way from her eyes,know what I mean?
    Anyway I was given a mental arthmetic test sheet,I was shaking so much I could ‘nt remember my name never mind count in my head,this was very important as we were not allowed pencils and paper at our counters. I past the test and I was told I could start work that week, we then went on to conduct becoming a young Woolworths employee, then she said ‘there are two very important rules which must be regarded as top of the list of behaviour,that is why they are seperated from the others,they are 1- you must never call a custumer dear and 2- you must never call a bag a poke.I swear it was like being given the commandments personally by Moses.I will remember that till the day I die,word for word.
    She turned out to be a lovely lady,I worked there till I went to university,and kept in touch with the ladies till I moved away when I got married. I look back on those days selling soap and ‘Midnight in Paris’ at the toiletry counter in Woolworths as some of the happiest days of my life.The sense of humour was brilliant,and I grew up.

  14. Dorothy July 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    My jobs were not as glossy as yours, I worked in a Mace shop dont know if you have heard of them it was family run, I was there for 15years. Everything was sold loose from butter sugar flour etc so that was the job on a monday showing my age. then on a night i worked in a club that was a good laugh and i met Davy so his excuse was he had to come out every night to see me still together 30years next year. Hope Sam enjoys uni Laura loved it i was in tears when she first left home, when they got the house 4girls we went over with food parcels, when we came to the estate i kept saying are you sure this is the right place, he just kept laughing. The house well what can i say should have been a cleaning parcel so that was me on hands and knees scrubbing cupboards and floor’s, I was laughing and saying too them dont wipe your feet going in wipe them coming out. She lasted 2years then came back home and just travled. By the way wedding photo’s are gorgeous you and Colin make a perfect couple.
    love best wishes
    Dorothy xxxx

  15. Teresa Karasavvas July 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    My first job was in a solicitors office working as a junior/typist at the age of 16. I am still working in a solicitors office albeit a different. Have been a legal secretary now for some 32 years.
    I remember one lady in my very first job who always watched her weight therefore I remember she would have a tiny bite of a chocolate bar called a “mint cracknell” every day and the bar would last her a week! My she must have had some willpower. I was amazed as I would have put the whole bar into my mouth at once – most unlady like!
    The bar contained two pieces and so therefore the whole thing would last her two weeks – perhaps that is a Guinness world record for the length of time taken to eat a chocolate bar.
    Take care and thank you for your kind words about the ring I had made in Kefalonia.
    Best wishes

  16. Gail July 23, 2010 at 9:57 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali, hope I’m not too late to blog. My first job was when I was just 13. My mum found me a Saturday job in the local dry cleaners. I was always big for my age; now I’m just BIG. I loved meeting all the people and the local shopkeepers. They were all protective of me as I was so young (the days when there was real community – remember?). I worked in all 4 of my boss’ shops during the holidays (not all at once you understand). One of the shops was in St. Johns Wood near to Sir Paul McCartney’s house. I always hoped that I would see him but, alas, never did. I loved all the local shopkeepers and I have very happy memories of those days. I was there for about 3 years until I started my permanent job after leaving school. I was only the shop assistant but I was taught to learn the Hoffman Press when trade was slow. Not that I was ever expected to do the pressing; it was just something that I wanted to do. I still press the meanest crease in a pair of trousers as there really is a knack to pressing a pair of trousers. Claim to fame – being able to press a pair of trs, not very glamourous buy hey ho, happy days. With the perk of free dry cleaning, I never realised my family had so many clothes. Times were hard and we didn’t have much (violins please), but oh how I wish I was back there. Very, very happy days. Take care and speak soon, with love from Gail xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  17. alison keenan July 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm -  Reply

    Hello there Teresa, it was lovely to read about your first job and interesting to see that although in a different role, you’ve stayed in the same area of business. You took me back with your mention of the old Mint Cracknell – and I would agree with you – amazing willpower to make one bar last a whole week 🙂 ! A little tip if you are trying to cut down on chocolate consumption (although Debbie Greenwood would have a fit of the vapours if she heard me even suggest such a thing) put the bar in the freezer and break off just one cube at a time. It takes so long to thaw in your mouth you feel as though you’ve eaten a whole bar!! Keep in touch, and thanks for writing. Have a great weekend, Love Ali xx

  18. alison keenan July 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm -  Reply

    Dorothy I take my hat off to you working two jobs at once, and clearly the bonus being you met your Davy there! I do remember the Mace – there was one in Esher or Claygate I think. I used to work in a supermarket called Bishops, but I don’t think they exist any more either. You are a good mum Dorothy. I’m sure your Laura (and her housemates) were very grateful to you for all your hard work and it was probably the cleanest their ‘home from home’ ever was! My Lucy was very good at keeping her part of the house clean so I was never needed to don the rubber gloves – although I would have 🙂 Hope Laura’s home from travelling now and you get to spend some time together. Thanks for writing, and hope all’s well with you, Love Ali xx

  19. alison keenan July 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm -  Reply

    Marg, lovely to hear about your early days at Woolies. I tell you I wouldn’t have stood a chance, mental arithmatic is not something I shine at, and my nerves would have got the better of me. You paint a great picture of the lady in charge, but wonderful that she turned out to be a friend. The fact you stayed there until you went to Uni speaks speaks volumes, and some of MY best memories of previous jobs, always involve working with people I could have a laugh with. It really is the best medicine. Hope all’s well with you, love Ali xx

  20. alison keenan July 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ros, thanks for your comments. I know from talking what an incredibly specialised job nursing is, and I think the fact so few of you managed the three years training speaks volumes. My great Aunty Ivy was a nursing Sister, and I remember her beautiful silver buckle. She left nursing in her 50s and used to have her buckle on display in her ‘china cabinet’ – a beautiful glass fronted piece of furniture in her living room. She’d actually been a nurse in the Second World War too, and drove the ambulances as well as working in the field… A fascinating lady, and completely dedicated, as I know you are 🙂 Enjoy your weekend, Love Ali xx

  21. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 5:58 am -  Reply

    Una, you are a hoot! Loved reading all about your job in the fish and chip shop – 20p an hour?! You are clearly far younger than me – or lived in a better area – ‘cos I used to rake in 89p a WEEK for doing a paper round! And I had 42 papers on a Saturday!! 🙂 Interesting to hear about the green nail polish – I think that’s back in fashion now – aren’t grandma’s great? I had some stick on red nails and my nanny told me they made me look like a ‘woman of the night’….very confusing when you’re 12! Infact off the back of your hilarious tales of first love, I feel another blog coming on!! I don’t recall doing anything quite as athletic as climbing a drainpipe in the name of love, but I did plenty of other things….! Would be good to compare wouldn’t it? Hope you had a great weekend, and the sun will shine for you – a la 1976. Love Ali xx

  22. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:02 am -  Reply

    Hi there Mandy, lovely to hear from you. Your boys are exactly a year younger than my two. Jack sounds the same as your Josh, and has no plans to go to Uni, and I hope that Alex is pleased with his GCSE results. As you say, so long as they’re happy that’s all that matters. Glad you like reading the blogs, and I love reading all the comments that follow! Congratulations on your 24 years with your husband – Silver Wedding on the horizon! How lovely to still be in the same job and to have literally grown up with your friends at work. Do keep in touch, and thanks again for writing, Love Ali xx

  23. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:07 am -  Reply

    Cripes Una….! Just found this post, and now I get it! Not surprised your mum and dad were having kittens! You should have blamed it on the heat of the endless summer of ’76 🙂 Ali xxx

  24. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:13 am -  Reply

    Hi Judy, and thanks for writing to me. I’m not at all surprised school wasn’t that high on your list of priorities having had to deal with losing your dad at such an early age. How sad for all of you, and very hard as you say for your mum, and I very much hope that over the years, things were less difficult. Yes I do remember the biscuit counter at Woolies, and loved the biscuits! I worked there too for just a couple of weeks until I could find a Saturday job that was closer to home, and they used to keep the broken biscuits in a box in the staff room! I hope that your career as a Nursery Nurse was rewarding and that life has turned out well for you. Do keep in touch, love Ali xx

  25. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:22 am -  Reply

    Louise, you’re never too old for anything! A career change – particularly in politics – sounds interesting, and I’m very much of the view nothing ventured, nothing gained 🙂 Political journalism would certainly be a challenge, so do let me know what you decide on – and which paper you could be writing for! So glad you like reading the blogs – I love writing them – and better still, reading the replies. To be completely honest I’m delighted with the path my career has taken me over the years, and consider myself very lucky to have been constantly in work doing what I truly enjoy. I would love to write a book or screenplay one day….who knows when I retire maybe 🙂 Good luck with your choices Louise, and do keep in touch, Love Ali xx

  26. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:24 am -  Reply

    Oh, and Louise, you were right, Pam Ayres was an absolute joy. Her accent and her smile, and of course her poetry! Wonder where she is now? xx

  27. alison keenan July 26, 2010 at 6:34 am -  Reply

    Hi there Gail, no you’re never too late to write a comment and I’d miss them if you didn’t! You are funny, and I tell you, ironing in a decent crease is not to be knocked! I was always very chuffed that my mother-in-law (first one…) said I was better at ironing than her, and she did razor sharp creases, and hung everything straight onto hangers! What a shame you didn’t get to meet Sir Paul – although he probably had his own dry cleaners set up in his home! I’m glad they were happy days back then, and hope that whatever job you went on to get, you were appreciated in the same way. Have a great week, and I look forward to hearing from you again, love Ali xxx

  28. Una July 26, 2010 at 9:28 am -  Reply

    Hahaha, i blamed it on everything but the heat!!! They thought I was out getting drunk, which was even worse!!!!! I think by the time autumn came, my Dad was ready to ground me till I was 40!!!!!! I ended up dumping that guy, and then started going out with a guy, who wore drainpies, a yellow leather jacket ,and had a purple and yellow mohican. i thought he was gorgeous!!! So did he. My dad had just about calmed down to a nervous breakdown level, then he was off again!!!!!!!!!!! The thing is, that boy was the quietest, most thoughful person I ever met. He opened doors, bought me flowers when I had a cold, and was generally a very kind person. HE dumped ME, cos he said I was a bit of a handful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THEN, my Dad was singing his praises, for goodness sake!!!!!!!!
    I think I lived in the twilight zone for a while!LOL!!!!!!
    Love Una x

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