Wearing your headscarf at work

‘Time is a construct of man, a means of adding value and structure to a chaotic universe, it serves no real purpose, it’s endless and infinite, unfathomable and subjective’

‘You’re still bloody late’ replied my boss.

Funny old world isn’t it.

I saw an old film on Facebook, showing a lot of women leaving the Jute Works in Barrow. It was probably shot before the first war or perhaps not long after. All the women were wearing headscarves. Indeed with their long heavy skirts and high necked knitted cardigans they were perfectly dressed for the hard dirty work that they were doing. The fact that it was a dress code that would have found favour with even the most zealous mullah is by the way. Of course I couldn’t find a still photo, but some ladies from Lancashire have gallantly stepped into the gap


It certainly brought back memories. I suppose round here I was brought up being used to the concept that families were run by tough working class women. They kept order at home, in the street; indeed they dominated the local church or chapel, even if they weren’t formally in charge.

I can remember one lady telling me of an incident that happened before I was born. She got home from work to discover her son had been punished at school for something he couldn’t have done. His alibi was that at the time whatever it was happened, he was with his mum. The teacher hadn’t believed him and hadn’t checked.

As the lady said, she never even stopped to take off her pinny (something she always wore, as much a protective garment as the overalls her husband wore). She crossed the road to the school, dragging her son behind her, knocked on the head mistresses door and proceeded to tell her exactly what she thought of her. Looking back I remember her commenting that middle class women tended to be ‘stuck up’ and didn’t understand the basic realities of life.

Looking back they had short, hard lives. Admittedly they still tended to outlive their husbands whose lives were also short and hard. There was none of this nonsense about job satisfaction, career progression or things like that. She had perhaps a dozen jobs over her life. At times she did cleaning because it fitted in with the children. Actually it was pretty much the same sort of working life as her husband; a job for life was for the sort of people who got a job on the council or worked in a bank.

I often wonder what she’d say to people now. Those who promise everybody job satisfaction and similar are just lying. Looking at my male friends, I can probably count on the figures of one hand the number who’d keep doing their job if they were paid whether they turned up or not.

One thing I remember learning from some of these women was that what mattered wasn’t job satisfaction, but life satisfaction.

The job is just the thing that you do that pays for the things that matter. It’s nice if you enjoy it, it’s even better if you do it surrounded by people you quite like and get on well with. But it is not your reason for existing.

Oh, by the way, in this regard do as I say, not as I do, but I’m self employed and that means I don’t count because I don’t have a job anyway.


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7 thoughts on “Wearing your headscarf at work

  1. M T McGuire November 17, 2014 at 6:09 pm Reply

    So damn true. 😉 Nice one.

    • jwebster2 November 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm Reply

      I’ve watched too many men work too many hours, getting all the overtime they can, earning as much money as they can.
      Most of them died in their sixties

  2. The Story Reading Ape November 18, 2014 at 11:25 am Reply

    Great article Jim – I worked under contract for a number of Companies during the course of my long and checkered career and for any reason part from death or hospitalisation, I was not paid if I didn’t turn up (and sometimes even not then)
    This greatly concentrates the mind and attitude!
    Job satisfaction is dependent on attitude – if it’s only a means to pay your bills – it’s a job.
    If you enjoy what you do and get on with your colleagues, it’s a bonus.

    • jwebster2 November 18, 2014 at 11:31 am Reply

      I’ve been lucky having been self-employed all my life. What this has meant is that when friends meet up and talk turns to moaning about work, I’ve got no dog in that fight so I just sit watching and metaphorically taking notes.

      • The Story Reading Ape November 18, 2014 at 11:34 am

        lol Same here Jim 😀

      • jwebster2 November 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        There are times when you feel more like a visiting anthropologist than a participant 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape November 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        😀 😀 😀

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