Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hi Ho Hi Ho | It's Off To Work I Go

If you read my previous post (Hands of Time) you may recall that I had left school and my father had very kindly on my behalf arranged an interview for a labourers job. It was Easter time and the year was 1966. I was to meet my dad as he finished work then he would drive me down to the place where I was to go for this job.
While still at school, I had actually gone through the application process for three apprenticeships, all successful actually, though I chose to accept the offer from British Rail. The job I was now going for was to fill the gap between me leaving school at Easter and September when the apprenticeship would begin.

Applying for the engineering apprentice positions involved initial interviews, theory exams, practical tests, medicals and final selection interviews. When attending the interview phase it was necessary to project the right image and being of smart appearance was considered essential. Best bib and tucker was definitely the order of the day.
At 5 o'clock I was there as agreed, waiting outside of my my dad's work for him to appear through the factory gate.
"Why are you wearing your school uniform?" he said as he saw me, dressed in grey trousers, black blazer, white shirt and tie.

"Because I'm going for an interview" I replied somewhat perplexed.

"It's a labourers job on a factory, you don't need to get dressed up for that" he said with something of a smirk on his face.

Ten minutes later I was speaking to a woman through a small hatchway, telling her that I had an appointment for an interview.

"You've come for the job 'ave you Duck, here fill this in while you wait." she said as she handed me a form and a pen.

I completed my name, address and date of birth, ignoring the section at the bottom marked "For office use only." I turned the paper over but the reverse of the paper was blank, I looked around to see if I had perhaps dropped another sheet on the floor, but this appeared to be all there was. The woman's head suddenly thrust itself through the hatch and said "Just go through that door there Duck." then recoiled back like a Cuckoo in a clock.
I approached the door that the Cuckoo had indicated and very gingerly knocked on the door. Nothing seemed to happen and I could hear no sound coming from within then suddenly the door was yanked open  making me jump and gasp in surprise.
"Ah, there you are" said a voice belonging to the body that now filled the doorway, "thought for a minute you'd gone." He beckoned me into his office telling me to take a seat as he seated himself down behind the large wooden desk. He now looked me up and down as though not sure what to make of my appearance.
"Have you come for the labourers job? he asked.

"Yes sir." I replied.

"Are you still at school?"

"No, I left last week sir."

"Then why the bloody hell are you wearing your school uniform?" I am sure he wanted to say but refrained from actually doing so.

He glanced at the form I had handed to him then looked up saying "It says here you live in Alsager, how will you get here for 8 o'clock every morning?"

"My dad works in Tunstall and he will drop me off here each morning at about 7.45 which will give him time to get to work himself in Tunstall at 8.00." I answered confidently.

"We work 8.00 'till 5.00 with one hour for lunch. You'll get £4 10s (that is £4 and 10 shillings £4.50 in today's money) a week."
"Any questions?"

"Err no sir."

"Right then, you start tomorrow, report to reception 7.45 sharp."
And that was it. My first job. Interview done and dusted in five minutes flat. I must say the jobs market was so different back then, there were more jobs than there were people to fill them, especially unskilled jobs. I would meet lads who simply went from job to job chasing the best pay. My school uniform was never worn again and the following day I started work for real.
Although I had hated school, I soon realised that working for a living was going to be no picnic. On the dot of 8 o'clock I started work, there was no slacking and I could not take a note from me mum to excuse me lifting anything heavy because my arms still ached from the day before.
The business where I had this job was called Permaflex, they manufactured small ampules of lighter fluid used for filling cigarette lighters. Gas lighters had yet to be invented and people used petrol lighters similar to the well known "Zippo" consisting of a reservoir into which one poured the lighter fuel. The ampules contained enough fluid for a single filling.
My job was to stick labels onto tins, pack trays of the ampules into the tins, package them in cardboard boxes which I had to construct then prepare the boxes for dispatch. I had a table at one end of the warehouse and fetched and carried, stuck and packed for eight hours a day, five days a week. It was hot, heavy and very, very boring, it was not however the worst job I ever had in my working life.
If any of you reading this have ever heard of Permaflex based at Trubshaw Cross in Stoke-on-Trent, you may recall that the building caught fire and was burnt to the ground. But no, that was nothing to do with me, that was many years after I had worked there.
One of the songs I remember from that hot long summer of 1966 is Simon and Garfunkel's Homeward Bound. All day long I would be looking forward to being homeward bound myself. While stood at that bench filling a seemingly endless stack of tins I learned to switch off and escape into my mind, to think of things I would much rather do and places where I would much rather be.
Oh and I had a little insight into the world of merchandising and business. We supplied many different brands of lighter fuels, some very well known brand names of the time, but the only difference was the label on the tin, the contents were the same.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hands of Time

Someone surely has speeded up the Hands of Time, replaced the batteries in the world clock, making the fingers hurry around the dial ever faster. Perhaps our lonely planet has been influenced by a passing comet, causing it to spin more quickly around it's precarious axis.

Whatever the reason, time is going so fast, much faster than it used to pass by. Or is it simply an illusion, merely  one of the effects of my getting older. Do you wonder at the fact that we are now midway through May 2010, it seems like only yesterday that we welcomed in the New year (well actually Mrs Pecker and I did not enjoy that celebration - see this post January).

When I think about this passage of time, as I often do, I see the image of a schoolboy dressed in a drab uniform complete with short trousers and knobbly knees, and that was senior school. This boy could not wait for the day that he would finally be able to leave Alsager Secondary Modern. Yes of course that boy was me, I hated that school, hated it with a passion, hated every last thing about it. I always felt that the day when I would walk across the stage to shake the hand of the headmaster and receive my bible and school report would never come, it always seemed to be so far away as to be unreachable.

Then one day, arrive it did, I could finally leave that school behind and go out into that big wide world out there. No more having to be at school on time, being told what to do, answer for my every action, obey the teachers, Oh what a shock I was in for.

I left school at the Easter holiday of 1966, no exams in those days at a secondary modern school unless you applied to stay on for an extra year. You simply left and went on to an unskilled job, an apprenticeship or very rarely to a full time college course. Jobs were plentiful, dole or handouts of any kind for a school leaver were not an option.

By the time I left school I had already been signed up to an apprenticeship with British Rail Engineering at the locomotive works based in Crewe. This appointment which was for a duration of five years (but therein lies another story) was due to begin in the September of that year, however because of my previously mentioned hatred of school I took up the option of leaving at Easter. I needed to get out as quickly as I could, not wanting to stay a moment longer than I could get away with.

And so it was that on the day before Good Friday 1966, I bid my school a last farewell and I looked forward to a long enjoyable lazy summer.

As my dad returned home from work on the Tuesday following that Easter weekend, he informed me that I had an interview for a labourers job the following day. I was to catch the bus to Tunstall where I would meet him as he finished work, then he would take me to Permaflex at Trubshaw Cross. I needed a job he said to fill the gap between now and September.

I was certainly out of the frying pan but I was headed most definitely for the fire.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Short Term Car Insurance.

Short Term Car Insurance. Insure your car for up to 28 days with Aviva UK it said. Great way to add a temporary driver to your vehicle. There were also plenty of other companies offering the same product - it seems to be getting rather popular.

Search for short term car insurance on Google and it returns About 3,500,000 results.

Some examples of the descriptions on Googles results page:
 "At Day Insure, we provide a range of temporary insurance policies; whether you need to cover a car for a day, or need a van for short term use."
"A short term car insurance policy is extremely useful for you and your loved ones' protection in these temporary situations."
"However, this short term insurance style has come back with some force and it has saved many people substantial amounts of money."
Here is some of the blurb I found on one site;

How does short term car insurance work?
Adding someone to your existing car insurance policy, such as a visiting friend or relative, can be risky because they could wipe out your no-claims bonus. However, by setting up a short term policy, whether it is monthly car insurance or daily car insurance, they can legally drive your vehicle without putting your discount at risk.

Why would you need short term car insurance?
Short term car insurance is ideal for a number of people including:
  • Those hiring a car or borrowing a friend's vehicle.
  • Temporary additional drivers, which could include overseas visitors.
  • Those lending a car to a friend or relative.
  • Drivers who have just bought a new car and need cover as soon as they drive away from the dealership, but who haven't yet had chance to sort out an annual policy.
So why would this be of interest to me, I hear you ask. Well my brother-in-law and his wife are coming over from Australia shortly and I thought it would be a good idea to let them have the use of our car during their stay of 3 weeks. We do at the moment have a second car so the one we would be lending them is a 1998 Ford Estate worth less than £2000.
    Now keep in mind the snippets of the text that I have quoted above.

    The quote for 3 weeks cover was

    £467.10 with an excess of £500

    Looks like they'll be using the bike.


    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Mother in Law continued or One in the eye for MIL

    Well things did not go as expected regarding Mil's visit to the Manchester Eye Hospital that I was telling you about in this mornings post Five hours in total she was there with Su and Si and came away without having it done. So far I have only heard a brief version of what happened.

    Apparently the visit got off to a bad start when they said they had no record of an appointment and so were not even expecting her. She was however seen by the surgeon at some point and underwent a procedure whereby they inject the eye in order to examine the retina. The news was not good, she has two places where the retina has become detached which will need surgery to effect a repair with no guarantee that it will be successful.

    She is now on the list but they could not give any indication as to when she will be recalled, tomorrow, next week, next month they could not say. Just go home and wait.

    Surgeons, doctors, hospitals, medical staff may all do an excellent job technically, they can save lives, sew back severed limbs, perform all sorts of miracles but often they or the system is so removed from the emotional side of humanity.

    Mil is a woman of 84 years of age. She was sick with worry this morning, anxious about the 90 minute journey to a strange hospital away from her home, away from her comfort zone. She was upset to think she was having to rely on others, her son and his wife to drive her to Manchester, myself and Mrs P to take their children to school (no I could not make that journey at that time of a morning because of my own problems) then friends to look after them after school if they are not back.

    Now she has to do it all again, at a time and date as yet unknown.

    Mrs P spoke to her just a short while ago, she says she is not going to have it done, she cannot face that ordeal again.

    Mil is 84 years of age, is British has lived and worked in this country all of her life.

    The School Run | The Mother in Law | Manchester Eye Hospital

    This is unusual, 9.30 and only on my second cuppa, no breakfast yet either. The reason - we've just done the school run, not a normal activity for myself and Mrs P these days. We had set out allowing plenty of time, with two schools to go to, on routes we had not travelled before at this time in the morning.

    Everything went without a hitch though, no great hold ups and we even had to sit outside the second school for 25 minutes before the youngest nephew could go in to join his mates who had by then started to trickle into the school yard. All schools around here seem to have different start times.

    So, why were we doing the school run? Well the answer lies with the dearest Mother-in-law ( Mil ). She has to be at the Manchester eye hospital at 9.00 this morning. Hopefully the magical genius of the eye surgeon will restore the lost vision in her eye, caused they are 99% certain, by a dislodged retina.

    Poor Mil started to have loss of peripheral vision and floating black spots appearing before her eyes a few weeks back. She was quickly referred to a neurology specialist at our local hospital who then referred her to a specialist optician. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps) before she had received an appointment, her vision in that one eye went completely, that was at the end of last week.

     I must say that once this happened they didn't hang about, she was seen the very next day by a doctor at the hospital and arrangements confirmed for the procedure to hopefully correct this detached retina be done today.

    Of course as good as this response to the problem was you are then left with the task getting into Manchester at 9.00am prompt.