From then to now …the training years


There were three trainees started in 1971. The previous year there was only one, so the money the department had saved could be used the following year. Those were the ‘good old days’ of the Health Service. For some reason, I started on the 23rd of August, with the other two (A****w and D***d)starting the following week. It caused a bit of friction with A****w when he realised what had happened. That year the August Bank Holiday was Monday the 30th and Tuesday the 31st. Me starting the previous week meant I was paid for the two days holiday. A****w and D***d started on the 1st September and as such were only paid from the 1st giving them only three days pay that first week. He never let me forget it either.

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One of the main selling points for the job at the hospital was that college Old Catering College would be ‘Day-Release’. this meant that one day a week I would go to the local catering college to learn my trade. The college was based just outside the city centre and was named after the first Lord Mayor of Leeds, Thomas Danby. There were other parts of the college dotted around Leeds but the first one I went to was on Whitehall Road. It is now a part of Leeds city Council, but that may and probably will change in the future as cuts may force the sale of the building.

College was a strange beast, throughout the four years. I would say 95% of the students in each tutor group of the college, were from either hotels or restaurants with majority being from some of the larger hotels in the region. This led to a great deal of snobbery from both the students and to some extent, Industrial Catering Boilermany of the tutors. Students from the ‘industrial’ side of catering were looked down upon as not proper chefs. We would all learn how to create a basic white sauce in a 1 pint pan and then I would go back to work and have to create 40 litres of the sauce using an industrial sized steam boiling pan.  This was something the other chefs could not even imagine, let alone know how to use. We were like the second class citizen of the catering world and this went on throughout the four years of training. But we just got on with it.

One lad, D***y had the problem really bad. He worked in Birkbecks, which was a café in the Leeds Market. The type of food they sold was typical of cafes Birkbecksof the time. Boiled ham sandwiches, bacon sandwiches full breakfasts, sausage and mash, pie and peas, although never fish and chips. It was the food that, at the time was what market traders and customers wanted.  It was good filling food and nothing fancy. He had a none too flattering name for the restaurant and hotel cooks … he called them “Lardys” because he thought them to be a bit “Lardy bloody da!” The name stuck with me for years.

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In the hotels, the trainees would move around the different cooking sections from time to time. One point they would be in the bakery or sweet section, then later they may moveLGI to the starter section and then maybe onto the fish section. The same happened in the hospital, but whilst I was training, we tended to move to different hospitals to learn the different skills. Leeds had two large main hospitals, St James and the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI). I worked at the LGI. But the wider Leeds had many other smaller hospitals, where we would learn the different aspects and diets associated hospital catering. All have gone now, but during my 4 years training, I spent time in most of them.

There was Cookridge Hospital which was a major centre for radiotherapy along side the IDA hospital. I spent 2 weeks at one of them learning about the diets for patients with cancer. There was the Leeds Womens Hospital which only admitted women patients.  The Leeds Maternity Hospital was the place I finished up in after my training. It had High Roydsgreat staff and a family atmosphere that the other places didn’t have. Another place I worked in, during those first four years was a hospital for people with mental health issues. High Royds or Menston Hospital, as it was sometimes known, was a secure hospital for the most severely affected patients. What could I learn here you may ask? Well this was the place I learned my butchery skills of all things. Most of the smaller hospitals did not have butchery section, so the meats were prepared at High Royds butchery for them. I was there for six weeks and had one of the best times.

At the end of the training, we were allocated to one of the the three kitchens in the hospital. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that year there was only two vacancies. I was shipped off to the Leeds Maternity Hospital to cover a staff member who was on long-term sick. I spent a very happy 12/13 months there before being forced back to the LGI where a vacancy had become available.

Next time: back to the LGI

From then to now … the journey begins


So, I’ve bitten the bullet and decided to become a chef. How was I going to achieve this this dream? It Despair-Manlooked like I may have to back the Careers Advice Centre (CAC) and see what they had to offer. My parents put it around their friends that I was wanting to cook for a living and asked them to have a look out for me. I booked an appointment at the CAC but wasn’t really looking forward to it and eventually didn’t go.

I decided to see if any of the teachers could offer some advice. I drew a blank with most of them, but then that certain geography teacher said he would try and find a few things out, if that’s what I wanted to do. After a few days, he came up with a list of options that ranged from a full-time college course to an apprenticeship and even joining one of the armed forces. None of these appealed at all.

It’s now the beginning of May 1971 and we are all 16 years old. The school is now wanting us to leave so they can free up teachers time. The six or seven of us that are still Newspaperleft are simply reading the local papers in search of a job. Then someone, I cannot remember who suggests I might want to have a look at hospital catering as an option. It was the one thing that I had not even thought of. My parents looked into it and somehow managed to get me an interview. I was a bit concerned about having an interview and my father went with me. I think him going with me may have been one of the reasons I got the job. A trainee cook, due to start in August. Their advice was that I should find a temporary job in a kitchen somewhere, doing anything that was needed. To ‘… gain experience of kitchen life …’ they said.

After the interview, we met up with my mum and she thought it would be a nice idea to go and have some tea or coffee to celebrate. Now I thought we would be going to oScholfieldsne of the cafés in Leeds Market, but no mum said we should ‘do it in style’ or words to that effect. The best place in those days was a department store called Schofields. They had an a ’la carte restaurant and a café and we went to the cafe. It was whilst we were there, that someone noticed a small sign advertising a kitchen porter job. We found out who to ask, and I was interviewed the same day. I’ll never know whether it was because I looked the part, or the fact that I was going into the catering industry, but I got that job too.

The actual job title was “Cake Boy” and for the morning entailed me pushing and pulling a huge wooden trolley full of wooden trays (no plastic in those days) of cakes fromCake tray the bakery on the top floor to both restaurant and café. In the afternoon, I worked washing up on a huge dishwasher. It had a conveyer system which was a continual loop. The trays of crockery were loaded as the conveyer belt Conveyormoved along. They went in the machine at one end and came out the other. The image is the closest I could get to the one I used, but you need to imagine the conveyor coming right across the front. The trick was to make sure that you unloaded the clean crockery before the tray got to the place where they would be loaded up again. It didn’t always go to plan and sometimes a double wash would happen.

I was there for ten weeks, before my ‘real’ job started, but I was on the first step of a long catering ladder, and on my way up.

To be continued …

Just another Sunday …


     Yesterday was different. It was an ‘open day’ at R***’s college and we had been invited, and of course Mrs H said we would. The problem we believed would present itself, would be that R*** would not want to go, and we would have major problems with him. In fact, I was quite prepared to say, if needed, that Mrs H should go, and I would stay behind with R***. Just to prove us both wrong, when Mrs H told him that we were going out, he of course said ‘No out!!’, which we have come to expect, but after that, nothing. He got into the car without any fuss, and only mentioned it again, when we got near the college and he recognised the area.

     One of the things he does at this college, is woodwork, and he has made a couple of bird houses and a bird feeder. I was determined to try and talk to the person he works with, and find out how he is doing. All the reports that have come back, tell us that he has found something that he is good at and enjoys, other than the computer. The trainer/tutor/carer (not really sure as to what we call them) explained that R*** seemed to have a talent for woodwork, and they are able to work together very well. He then called R*** over and got him to show us what he can do. It was quite amazing to watch him sawing away, without any prompting or any fuss or upset at all.

     We were there about two and a half hours (two hours more than I expected) and the only disappointment was that the staff that work with him every day were not there. We have met them before, but we both thought that they would have been there.

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On the work front, there is no more news on the forthcoming review. My line manager is pushing me to do thing that I’m not sure about, with the idea that, I’ll get the next available grade up from the one I’m at now. And it is that which I’m not too sure about! All I want is to ensure that I don’t lose out financially. If another grade comes with a huge amount of extra responsibility, then I have worries. My manager tells me it is a confidence rather than a skills issue and I do agree with her on that. I suppose the extra money would be useful, and so I will just have to wait and see what happens.

Snow !!! Working from home


     The weather was a bit bad first thing this morning. I got up at about 5:15 as I was taking S**** to work at 6:45. At that time, there was very little snow about. Just some sleet that wasn’t really doing much. But by the time we left home, it was settling fast. R*** had woke up early too, and was very unsettled for some reason, so I dropped S**** off and came back home. Didn’t want to leave K*** alone with him too long. It had been my intention, to work at a different office today. One that is nearer than my usual base. By the time R*** should have been getting up, we had a good 3 inches of snow on the ground, and there seemed to be no stopping it. So a decision had to be made. Do we send him off to college (we decided to call it college as opposed to anything else) or do we let him stop at home. He stopped at home. I had also decided to do as I knew certain others would do, and work from home.

     Work from home!!! Now this was a new idea for me. My boss has always said, that if I needed to I could work from home. It had been sanctioned from above, and it appears that for certain staff, this is the future for the council. I had already set up my works laptop when I got back, but for some reason, it is always very slow to get logged in. Connecting to the network is fine, but being able to start work always takes a long time. I eventually got started at around 7:40, some thirty minutes after setting up. Everything worked very well, all considering. The network performed as well if not better than I could have expected, and I was not too distracted when K*** put the TV on. Even R***, bouncing around his room singing did not seem to be too much of a problem.

     So now I have another option for work. I already had decided to work one day a week in a different office, and I’m also making plans to work in my old office, one day a week. That is just until I can get the supervisor fully trained up, which should not take much longer, and now I know I can work from home.

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     We also learned, this week, that our team, along with some of the other system support teams are under review again. There are not many details been issued yet, but the rumour mill is in full swing. It seems that we are to become part of a new divisional IT department. That is all I know, except that there could be another worrying few months ahead. I will keep you posted.

It gets closer …..


    I don’t need to tell anyone, but it just over a week to go. Then we can get back to some form of normality, whatever that may be. Just a couple of presents to get, (last minute hints from Mrs H) and I should be done. So I’ll be nipping off to the White Rose centre tomorrow, and I also need to pay a visit to Aldi too. I need to get some Parmesan, and it seems to be one of the best places to buy it. We also bought some ‘mini’ mince pies there last year. They came out top in the Which Best Buy.

     This week will see the usual Christmas Fuddles start. Ours is on Friday, but I’ve also been invited to the one at my previous office, on Wednesday. I made the mistake of saying I would go there on Monday or Tuesday and was told that I was invited. I now have to find an excuse not to go. I never liked it when I worked there, so I’m not going to like it now. I think D*** will get it, but the rest of them won’t.

     K*** and me went to R***’s college on Friday. It is just outside Barnsley, and we (replace the with ‘I’) had to drive through dreadful weather. It was icy, foggy, and rainy at the same time. There had been numerous accidents on the M1, and it had been closed in parts, so we opted to travel the A1 instead. I think, if the weather had been better, it would have proved to be the more suitable road. It certainly seemed a lot easier to find his college this time, and I don’t think it was anything to do with the fact we have been three times before.

     It was a good day, and it was nice to see the flat where R*** has his base, and to meet the support staff he works with. I have just thought though. He currently uses this flat just as a day base. He does not sleep there when he is on respite, because it is/was a shared resource. The person who shared with him, will be based in another flat in the future. I wonder if they have given any thought to R*** using this flat as his respite flat now. To me it makes sense, although there may be many reason why the management cannot put this in place. However, it is worth a phone call next week. I shall let you know.

     His psychiatrist and the community nurse, that works with us, told K*** that they wanted to have their next meeting at a different place from usual. They tried to sell it to me as a way of getting him used to different places. However, it came out in Friday’s meeting, that this place is some kind of secure unit/place of safety. It did not click at first, but his psychiatrist want to get him on to an anti-psychotic drug to help manage his behaviour. Now we had this before, when he was put on a drug, and it completely disagreed with him. It made him worse. He was depressed, sobbing and weeping often, and also self-harming. The self-harm was only minor, hitting the side of his head and nipping himself, but the specialist wanted to increase the drug, bur we said we wanted to stop it. After a day or too, he was back to ’normal’ or as normal as he was before.  So what this new psychiatrist want to do, is to take him into ‘hospital’ so they can observe and monitor him whilst on this drug. This secure unit is the ‘hospital’ they want to use. We are going to have to be very careful here. I don’t want him on any anti-psychotics, and I think K*** feels the same, but I feel that there may be plans that we are not party to. A year ago, he was a teenager with Autism and challenging behaviour. Now it seems that he some kind of psychopath and a danger to the community !!!!! When did that all change.

One Week On


It has been a long week! This was the week when R*** was going to have his first sleep at his new placement (let’s call it college). On Tuesday, the staff took him to visit the place where was going to sleep, just for a look round and to help him familiarise himself with the place. They said he seemed interested (whatever that means for R***.) Then on Wednesday, he stayed later, and had his tea there, again familiarisation. The staff it went really well, once he had accepted that he was having his tea there, and then going home. Thursday was the big one. First of all, he had an appointment at the doctors,and it was a bit of a surprise, that he, and K*** were given their flu jabs. Then he was told, that he was having ‘one sleep, then R***’s house’. I understand that it was not as bad as was expected. K*** got lots of phone reports from the college, to reassure us that he was fine. A little confused at the start of the evening, but apparently settled well. Friday morning, he was nattering to come home, and as an afterthought, maybe we should have told him ‘one sleep, college then R***’s house’. To cap it all, on the way home on Friday, an accident shut the Motorway, which meant he was nearly an hour late getting home. His taxi driver and escort said he had been fine, just a little loud. Touch wood, the weekend is going okay.

         The work in the kitchen is just about done. Just a few little bits to sort out, but that has been a trial too this week. The new fridge/freezer arrived on the previous Friday. K*** had paid to have it installed, which basically involved the delivery people, taking it off the van, putting it in the kitchen and plugging it in. This was never going to be simple !!!!! The first thing we were told, by the driver, was that ‘It’s not going to fit up the steps!’ K*** told them that the gap had been measured, and it would. Then we were told that ’We can’t turn it through the kitchen door!’ We ended up having to get them to put it in the garage. K*** called D*** (the handyman) and explained what had happened, and he said he would come round on Monday, and have a look what could be done.

          The day arrived, and D***, Me, S**** and K**** (the next door neighbour) stood around for about ten minutes, scratching our collective heads, before getting started. The wallThen it was a bit like that old Bernard Cribbens song ‘Right Said Fred’. Got half way up the steps, then D*** realised that half the gatepost had to come off. Bit further, then a fence panel The fridgehad to go. Eventually, after a great deal of manly huffing and grunting we managed to get it up to the door. The next thing was to lift it onto the side wall, turn it then swing the bottom in through the doorway (door had been removed before starting). The grunting and huffing had increased tenfold, by this time. Still, it went in a lot easier than we were led to expect. D*** replaced everything he had removed and went off, leaving K*** to admire her new kitchen. He came back on the Tuesday and did a bit more work, so that it actually fitted in the space left by the cupboard, but all is serene now. Just waiting for K***s next project with bated breath.

It’s been a while


I’m struggling to find anything to write about really. Work plods on as usual, with very little change. There are a couple of courses coming up, but nobody seems to be that excited about it. There are quite a lot of changes going on with some of the other teams. That is causing a lot of stress for some people. doesn’t really affect me directly, but it’s not a nice atmosphere at the moment. But, I went through it, and at least their managers won’t be blaming them for the changes, as happened in my case.

We have had a bit of a stressful time with R*** over the past few weeks. He seemed to have settled into his new placement, or college if you like, but there have been issues. There is a young man that R*** knows from his school, and R*** does not get on with him. We do not know why, but it seems to cause R*** a great deal of stress. We have spoken with the people at his college, and they say they understand, and are going to keep the two apart as far as possible, which may help. The transport has changed, because R*** grabbed the escort and bruised her. That caused more stress for my wife than for R***. Hopefully that is sorted now. To cap it all, his medical team, have decided to change some of his medication. Apparently, he can build up a tolerance to some of the drugs. That makes them less effective, so the dosage would have to increase, which is never good.

It is his birthday coming up soon. We never know what to get him, but his current obsession, is with Pingu. He has searched through Amazon and eBay, and found a Pingu toy that he wanted. This was the first time I had bid on anything (usually just buy the things) but it was the only option. The bid started at £3.99 plus £5.00 postage, which was not too bad. I ended up winning the bid, but it has cost me £30.00 all together. But if it is something he wants it will be worth it. I just hope he is not disappointed when it arrives. I know it is second-hand and there may be some damage, but fingers crossed.

We (or should I say K***, my wife) is having some work done at home. We have an fridge and freezer that sits under the work surface. Over past few years, the seal on the fridge has deteriorated, meaning that sometimes the fridge door is left slightly ajar. K*** has decided that she wants one of those American style fridge/freezers instead. So, that is what we are having installed. The usual handyman is going to remove the old one, build a new cupboard, where the freezer was and dismantle the tall store cupboard/pantry. That is when he finishes replacing the tiles. It will look good, but the house is in such a mess while the work is being done.