Frequently portrayed as a job most likely to be seen in the gaslit streets of the grim mill towns in the industrial north of England, but more likely a viable profession anywhere large numbers of people worked for large employers, a knocker upper was responsible for waking people from their rest each workday morning. Why? Well, the alarm clocks of the day, before radio or home telephones, were unreliable, untrustworthy, even if a home could afford one.
From the Industrial Revolution through to the 1950s in the United Kingdom, the knocker upper’s job entailed arriving at the appointed time and tapping on the subscriber’s window with a long pole until they appeared at it. Or a pea shooter with dried peas. Or gravel. Or maybe rocks, but they probaby wouldn’t stay employed for very long.
This morning, a grey and wintry morning in the once-grim, once-industrial north of England, as I waited for my car to heat up a little so I could scrape its windows more quickly and efficiently, I had a brilliant idea, one I just had to share with a near neighbour.
Instead of, in this age of ultra-reliable timepieces, a wake-up call, why not a service that arrives outside one’s home, starts one’s car and scrapes the ice from its windows.
I’m absolutely certain it’ll be big. I see cars throughout the wintry months with uselessly-small patches of cleared glass, just enough to look forward through; it’s obvious their occupants are far too important to undertake the finger-end-numbing task, and prefer other lesser motorists to take any necessary avoiding action during the journey.
So, what time is convenient for you, and what shall I pitch the weekly cost at?
And will you get up when you’re called to pay? Whether you do or not I’m still going to have to pay my legions of early-rising gloved and scraper-wielding slaves, aren’t I.