I thought about Arthur Greaves today. Arthur would know how to deal with an employer who did not listen to reason. A Birmingham man, Arthur worked in Taunton for a major department store chain which refused to recognise trade unions, so Arthur declared himself to be in a one man dispute with the company.
Arthur and his family lived in a pleasant and welcoming home in Langport, but 1979 was a different world and other jobs were scarce in Somerset, so he moved to London for a job.
Because work was scarce, wages were low, and accommodation was not easy to find, Arthur had a temporary address was in a place called Bushey in Hertfordshire. It was from there that he sent a postcard to the student residence in which I lived saying to meet him at a pub in Fleet Street.
At five o’clock on an autumn Thursday evening I went into a bar busy with journalists who still frequented the area in those days, there was no sign of Arthur. Buying a drink, I lingered for some fifteen minutes or so before going to stand in the street in the hope of catching sight of him approaching the bar. It was almost an hour before I finally abandoned hope of Arthur arriving.
The next day I bought a postcard and wrote that I was sorry I had missed him and would he write again. The only address was the one at which he had said he was staying until he found somewhere permanent. I stuck a first class stamp on the card and posted it near Mount Pleasant sorting office, hoping this would hasten its journey.
I never heard from Arthur again.
Telephone calls that year were as difficult as communicating by post. My dad would phone the call box in the student hall of residence from the phone box on our village green; being able to talk required both of us being at an appointed place at an appointed time and having a pile of ten pence pieces.
It is hard now to imagine such times. There are so many avenues of communication that losing touch is impossible unless one is very determined. Even if someone is determined not to be contacted, disappearing is difficult unless they are prepared to cut themselves entirely from old friends who might be on social networks.
Perhaps it is not good that everyone is so accessible, that phones and mobiles and email and the Internet have reduced privacy to a fraction of what it once was. I have never found Arthur. If I did, I would ask him advice – and why he didn’t arrive at the pub that evening.