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

Communications …


I’ve come to the conclusion that the work place is not an appropriate scenario for Instant Messaging. As the Council moves away from fixed office bases to a more mobile solution, the need for mobile communication has become greater. The reliance on mobile phone technology as opposed to fixed line, has increased some costs. Some see the way around these extra costs is the Instant Message provision that Microsoft offer. There are enormous benefits to this form of communications, but it also has its downside.

When it first arrived in the office, we were all amazed at the possibilities that email offered. However, it soon became a problem when it was a lot easier to email a colleague than to write a letter/memo and even more convenient than the telephone. Soon we were swamped with masses of email, that we either did not read, or spent most of our time reading rather than working.

Now we have the Instant Message. An email sits the receivers inbox until they read or delete it. Not the case with the Instant Message. The thing about Instant Messaging, is that it only works if both/all communicators are online. But I suppose the biggest downside (well for our scenario) is that, unless your ICT allows to to save your messages, once the conversation is over, all evidence of that conversation is gone. So when your manager says it is okay for you to leave early, there is nothing to back up your claim if your manager denies all knowledge of their agreement.

The other downside is that there is no hiding place. An email can be left until your ready to read it. A telephone can be ignored with the claim that the volume was turned down. An Instant Message is in your face. You cannot miss that persistent flashing icon on your task bar.

I will use the Instant Message tool at work … it’s Corporate. But I will always use email, if I need a record of a communication. It is so much safer.

Life changing day plus 8


When the doctor said that my angiogram appointment would not take long to come through, I was kind of thinking four to six weeks. We all know how the NHS works. Unless it’s an emergency, you wait. Well the doctor was more than right. My appointment is on Wednesday, the 12th of February, which considering that we only talked about it two weeks ago, is a pretty fast move. I’ve told my line manager, my service manager and my former colleague D***, and of course they are all very supportive, but I’m betting they’re more than a little concerned about the timescales. I still have to get some pyjamas!!

It also suddenly hit me that I had not spoken to the two people I supervise. I have been meaning to tell them. I’ve been meaning to get them both together in a room and explain what is happening. I just have not got around to it yet. There always seems to be some reason excuse why I have not said anything. So I’m going to do it the coward’s way. I shall send them an email. An apologetic email. I shall feel really bad about it (I do already) but I hope they understand the pressure I’m under. You see it’s not the op that I’m worried about. I thought I was worried about the recovery time, but it’s not that either really. No what worries me, is what happens while I’m away. I could be off work for three to five months, and a lot happens in a week these days given what the government is doing to public services. I had to explain to our finance person today. One of the things I have to do is run some nine or ten reports on the 1st of April. There was a problem last year, because D*** forgot to refresh the report (it has to save with data) and the finance person has no faith in D*** being able to do the job. I do have faith in him and I am thinking of emailing his manager to ‘fly the flag’ for him. As in the song ‘… there could be trouble ahead ….’

Now, back to what this thread is about. I don’t really think this has sunk in yet. I will have the angiogram next week and then wait. But for how long? A month? Three months? Or will it be the following week? I cannot really get anything straight in my head yet. I suppose with time it will come and the worries that others seem to have will start to form. Hopefully, this thread will help me.

Less than a week has passed …..


    So it has only been six days since post ‘500‘ and quite a bit has happened. One of my colleagues worked out the extra cost, for changing offices to £720.00 per year. In his email to the manager, he stated that this was the extra cost ‘….for each of us…‘ which is not quite accurate. For me, even if I worked at the City office every day my driving would be shortened by 70 miles a week. Working from home one day, would reduce it by another 30 miles per week. Taking it all into consideration, including a £15.00 per week parking cost, by extra cost would be £132.00 pa or £3.30 pw. I think I can manage that.

    What annoys me a lot, is the assumption that we all ‘have a problem’ with this new working practice. There are at least two of us that just seem to want to get on with it. It’s not as if we have any choice! We just have to make the best of it. Change affects people differently. At the end of the day, we will still have a job. We may be put out a little, but in the current economic climate in Britain, having a paid job is something to be thankful for. Of course, the Trades Union is involved at a high level, but we also have a local convenor in our office and his views (right or wrong) seem to be getting some attention. I tend not to take any notice of this person, as I think that his attitude sometimes shows that he is still living in the 1970’s.

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    Another problem cropped up with R*** on Friday. We live on the outskirts of Leeds. Our doctors, however is in Tadcaster. This means we receive our health care from North Yorkshire, and although it calls itself the National Health Service, effectively it is a localised service. So the problem is that R*** needs specialist dental care, because of his condition. Many dentists are very wary of treating people with special needs and Autism can be very scary if you are not fully aware of the issues autistic people face. He had to visit the Community Dental Practice on Friday. They examined him, and found his teeth to be doing okay, but then they dropped the bombshell. They told us, that because of recent changes by Government, they were no longer ‘allowed’ to treat him in Leeds as it was out of the catchment area. We would have to find another specialised dentist in North Yorkshire. It seems that there is one in Selby or York. This will have a serious effect with transport on his days at college and will mean whenever he has a dental appointment he would have to miss a day. We are not happy to say the least.

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    On a lighter note, the mini keyboard for tablet came. It is a lot smaller than I anticipated, and I’m yet to get it to actually work. The accompanying manual seems to have been converted/translated from the original Japanese and some of the words and phrases do not make much sense. Still I suppose you get what you pay for, as I found out with the cheap 32gb SD memory card, I bought. That does not work at all with the tablet. So ‘cheap and cheerful’ does not always pay off in the long run.

A little bit more ranting …


     I’ve just spent the past half hour posting replies to comments on our local online newspaper. I use the term ‘newspaper’ lightly in this case. I have stopped buying and even reading, physical editions of the press. To me it seems a little one way. With a hard copy, or paper copy if you prefer, the only way to have your voice heard is to write to the editor. He or she, then may or may not publish your letter/email when ever they see fit. With the online version, I can post or reply to a comment and it appears almost instantaneously. That is providing it complies within the terms and conditions. This to me, seems to be a far more interactive way of expressing ones feelings. I have to admit though, it can lead to my comments being ridiculed and attacked by some of the other people that contribute to the site. Like many online newspapers, there are a large number of people with right-wing tendencies, that seem to take delight in posting negative political and almost racist comments. I occasionally try and redress the balance.

     Work took an interesting turn on Friday. Our service manager called in at the end of the day, and asked to have a private word with me. The way things are going in the Council at the moment, it made me a little apprehensive. However, and I’m not supposed to say anything yet, she explained that that there might be an opportunity coming up in the next couple of weeks and that she wanted me to consider it carefully. Without going into any detail, it is an area that I did not think I have any experience in. I downloaded lots of information, and I may be doing myself down too much. I may just have enough limited knowledge to pass this off. If I get my head down and start reading all this information, who knows what may happen. Just hope I don’t tread on anybody’s toes!!

     The new car is living up to expectations. Now I’ve had it a couple of months, it’s getting more and more difficult to remember the old one. The mileage is better, although I’m not getting the 60mpg that i was led to believe. It’s more 48mpg, which is better than the 42mpg I was getting with the Ford, so it is an improvement, and with the low tax band, I will be saving. It still looks strange to see my car and S****’s car side by side in the car park. Especially as they have consecutive number plates!

     On a completely different track, I’m starting an online course on Monday 25th. I saw an article in the Guardian online, that explained a little about these ‘free’ courses. It is an organisation called Futurelearn and the quote from it’s website says:

“At FutureLearn, we want to inspire learning for life. We offer a diverse selection of free, high quality online courses from some of the world’s leading universities and other outstanding cultural institutions.”

     I’ve signed up for a course about King Richard III. It is not something I know much about, but the discovery of his remains and the recent television drama about The White Queen, stirred my interest somewhat. It is free, so I have nothing to lose, and it may just benefit me should I attempt to go on Mastermind !!!! I’ve also signed up for a course in programming apps for smart phones, but that does not start until February 2014.

     A couple of post’s back, I mentioned a story idea that I had been planning. Well it is now into it’s fourth chapter, and the story will start to take a different direction. I will not say any more, but I may put an excerpt on here sometime. In fact, I have considered posting the whole story as weekly chapters, but I’ve not decided yet.

Just a quick update


     First thing to say, is “I have a new phone!!”  It’s not that I needed a new phone, but my contract had come to the end of the two year minimum, and my Sony-Xperia-Tprovider gives the chance of an upgrade. There was nothing wrong with the old one, but the new one has a more modern styling, more storage, better range of applications and the new contract, whilst costing a little more, is more suitable for my needs. It is not the latest model, by a long way, but it is still a good phone. To get the latest, would have cost me over £34.00 a month, with an upfront cost of £49.00. Not worth it.

     I didn’t mention previously, that we are having our ensuite updated, or more to the point, completely replaced. Mrs H was wanted it doing for a long time, and the breaking point came, when the shower packed in. Our usual ‘handy-man’ fitted a new one, but it never worked properly. According to the people fitting out the new room, it was totally the wrong type. It never occurred to me to do any before/after photos, so the only one I have is a ‘during’ picture. I will try and remember to do an ‘after’ picture when it is all done. As you can imagine, there are quite a few downsides to the whole project. The biggest two are, the dust, and Mrs H’s dread of taking a bath. In all the years we have been married, I can only think of a very few occasions that she has taken a bath. Always a shower. It has usually been, when we had showers installed/replaced or when we have been away. I prefer a bath to a shower. I love to just lie there and soak, with a nice drink and a good book (don’t try it with a Kindle though.)

     Latest news on the job front, is basically not much more than I knew last month. We’ve been assured, that there are more jobs to fill than staff to fill them, so it’s not a cost cutting exercise. We’ve also been told (not assured) that they are not looking to change grading system, so I suppose, that there is not too much to worry about. My main concern is where we will be based. Seven years ago, when our service moved out of the city centre to an industrial estate just off the M1 KAmotorway, I bought a small car. Using public transport would have meant two buses each way, with ten minutes waiting time between. Although a car is more expensive than public transport, it is far more reliable and convenient. One of the rumours is that we may move back to the city centre, to have a more central base. this would either mean, back to the bus, or pay out over £100.00 a month in car park fees. Now I know that does not sound a lot for city centre parking, but that is the charge in one of the council run multi-storey car parks. The charge has just been reduced from £9.00 to £5.00 all day to attract business. I’m worried, that once the business starts to pick up again, the the council will increase to price again!! We are having a team meeting on Thursday, so may hear a bit more then. It it quite typical of council managers to drip feed information, which has the effect of feeding the rumour mongers. I will update as and when.

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.