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The Quentin X File: Clive's Story

A tale so sad, you'll be reaching for the pills.

Clint Hughes/Getty Images

When I first started working, back in the day (BACK IN THE DAY? Who says that anymore?) I worked in an industry that positively encouraged you to smoke. Smoke as much as you can. All day, every day. Cigarettes would fly across the office from person to person shortly after the question "Fancy a B&H?". Each desk had an ashtray. That's each desk. Not one ashtray between a group of desks. Each desk. Your clothes stank, not that you knew it as you couldn't smell yourself, or anything else, due to the forty Marlboro red you had smoked that day.

Oh yes, my friend. Forty Marlboro red.

Not Marlboro Lights. They had barely been heard of, never mind smoked. Lights were something that you turned on at night or had on your car. Or the thing that lit your ciggy. If you smoked anything light then it must be a Silk Cut, and they were the preserve of the ladies in the typing pool and the managing director's PA. Or secretary, as she was then known.They had a separate office, only coming in to be wolf whistled at or asked to make a cup of tea "while you're on your way past the kitchen, love".

The working day lasted from nine in the morning until half five at night and by the end of the day a thick fog of smoke lingered on the ceiling, like something from a horror movie just about to coalesce into something malevolent and attack.

You could see it ripple this way and that as the door opened and someone else left for the night, the wind of a passing Northern Line train between Manchester and Liverpool passing and whipping up the wind. I'd stub out my thirtieth JPS Special, as it was four days to pay day and that was all I could afford, put on my coat and walk a mile to the nearest bus stop, this being Trafford Park before Manchester United bought it all.

Obviously I'd smoke on the way.

Every lunch time was spent either in the Trafford Park Hotel or the Village Pub. Trafford Park was still thriving then and both pubs were usually full at lunch time. Battling your way past a throng of men in overalls who did "something in the motor trade", you'd get to the bar and order two pints of bitter, one for yourself mate (as no ladies served in the vault) and settle down to talk absolute bollocks for forty minutes while chain smoking.

Eventually, usually about fifteen minutes after we arrived, one of our salesmen would walk in and sit himself down with us. My supervisor, a genial young guy by the name of Ian Postlewaite, would ask him what he wanted and every day he would reply "Pint of Golden, Pos". This wasn't some sort of golden beer that they now serve in trendy pubs and can be bought in Waitrose. This was half bitter, half lager, and ropey bitter and lager at that.

This was Trafford Park, not Altrincham. He would consume this pint at a rapid rate, order three more and then get back in his car and go out selling again. He was a fierce salesman, armed with thirty years on the road and a hip flask of Teachers for the journey between his home and the first appointment of the day. He eventually got fired after wrapping his car around a telegraph pole in Todmorden, but that's a different story.

This salesman's name was Clive and to this day, almost thirty years later, the one friend that I still have from those days at Davies Turner in Trafford Park and I remark on Clive whenever our first job comes up. We whisper his name in reverentially hushed tones.

Clive had the biggest mole on the right side of his face that you can imagine. Imagine a mole. An actual mole that lives in the ground. It was that size. It had its own beard and probably shared in the four pints that Clive drank in whatever Trafford Park watering hole we were in that day. And that was the four we knew about.

Clive was old school. He wouldn't survive in today's working climate, but he was one of those salesmen of the fifties and sixties who would take their client out for three or four. And had three of four clients a day. And he chain smoked. His car was a celebration of every single fag packet you could buy and when he opened his door it was like a London Pea Souper of before the war, guv'nor.

He cried on the day he was fired. A grown man, in his mid fifties, being escorted from the building by the managing director, a consoling arm around his shoulder, with the words "sort yourself out and there's still a job for you". They took his company car off him that day. He had to get a taxi. To the pub. Whilst waiting for it, he lit up. The managing director was from Liverpool. It was the start of a fierce sense of distrust for people from that city that still lives with me today.

So that was Clive. He wheezed opening doors. He was probably in the first stages of emphysema and no doubt had sclerosis of the liver and brain damage due to the amounts of alcohol he had put into his body. By the time he was fired he was a broken man.

He's probably in his mid 80s now, if he's still alive.

But I bet he's still a better footballer than Dorian Dervite.