Fifty years on . . .


After a recent online chat with an old school friend, we both realised that he had forgotten a few things from those last days, and so had I. So, I thought it would be a good idea if I made a written record of some of the things I can still remember.

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From early on in my final year, there were rumblings about students going to university. It is interesting to note, that in year five, we were now students as opposed to being school kids. The previous year saw 20% of the students go on to university and the teachers (yes, they were still teachers and not tutors) were hoping to improve on that percentage. The previous year had twenty students, but my year had only 16. That meant that if the same number of students went on to university, the percentage would rise to 25% which had the teaching staff chomping at the bit, so to speak.

We had some informal discussions with our form teacher regarding what we wanted to do, what we could do and what was expected of us at the end of year five. I had this idea that I would have liked to be a Technical Draughtsman. I was excellent at Technical Drawing and coupled with my math skills, meant I had a good chance of realising that ambition.

In January 1971, the formal career discussions began. I outlined my ‘ambitions’ to my form teacher who also happened to be the Careers Officer for the Education Authority. That discussion, which lasted a mere twenty minutes shattered any dreams I had of becoming a draughtsman. It was explained that I would first need to go to university for two years (pushing the university theme again) followed by a three year course at a technical college, with a two year apprenticeship after that. The very thought of another five years of full-time education, and then earning a pittance as an apprentice was not something I wanted even to consider. I was told to go home that night, have a talk with my parents and come up with some other options. He said I should have a think about the things I liked to do, hobbies and such like. I didn’t think I could become a professional Airfix model maker or eastern European stamp collector, which were my only hobbies at the time.

It was a neighbour that came up with the cooking idea. I did like cooking and was, even though I say it myself, quite good at it. But then again after discussing this with my form teacher it became obvious that it would be a two year full time course at catering college.

At the time my maternal grandmother, who had recently retired from a clerical job, was working for her next door neighbour. The family owned a local Italian restaurant, and my grandmother was washing up three nights a week. For some reason, she had been invited to have a meal with some of her close family as a celebration. I have an idea that the place had been open for five years. Whilst we were eating, the owner was told that I was interested in cooking for a living, but that I wasn’t happy doing a full-time catering course. He said that he could only take on trained Italian chefs but would keep his ears open.

It was then that something, which I still find a little bizarre happened. A fellow diner at the next table apologised that he had overheard the conversation but wanted to offer a suggestion. He explained that his younger brother had wanted to be a cook but had had no luck in finding anywhere suitable. He told us that his brother had then seen an article in the local newspaper advertising a training scheme for cooks at one of the local hospitals. He went on to explain that his brother would be in a working kitchen, earning money but at the same time going to college one day a week to learn how to cook professionally. It sounded like a great idea, and it could be just what I was looking for. Training and getting paid. Best of both worlds. We asked at the local career’s office and they investigated it for us.

Schofields of Leeds

At the beginning of September, I had left school and was working as a porter at a large department store in the centre of Leeds. I received a letter one morning asking me to come for an interview at the Leeds General Infirmary. My Dad went with me, but if I remember correctly all the questions were directed at me. It seemed to go well, and I was quite pleased with how I had handled the interview. A week later, I received another letter asking me to go back for another interview. I was convinced that I hadn’t got the job. But everyone told me that you don’t get a second interview if you haven’t got the job. They were correct. I was asked if I was still interested, to which I seem to remember blurting out “Yes please!”

I was asked to start at the beginning of August and had to explain to my manager at the department store that I was leaving. I was told that I should have given a months’ notice, but as I had only been there eight weeks, a months’ notice would not have been very practical.

And that’s how I started my working life in full.

Work concerns …


Work at the cafe is going through a funny phase at the moment. My hours are normally 10:30 until 17:00 on Monday and Tuesday Usually we are quite busy for the start of the week but for the past three weeks, cover numbers have been dropping. From an average of around 65, last Monday the covers dropped to 31. This was so low that the owner told me not to come in until 12:00 the next day. The numbers were slightly up on the previous day, but not to such a great extent. This lead to the boss saying that she would ‘let me know’ what hours I would be working this week, by the end of the week.

To me, the ‘end of the week’ meant Friday, but it did not happen, and I resorted to texting her on Saturday evening. The answer came back more or less straight away. It was to 12:00 until ‘finish’ both days and that ‘we can take it from there!’ The problem I have is that my job as a kitchen assistant/porter is a zero-hours contract. In fact, the only two people who have proper contracts are the assistant manager and the main chef. The rest of us, even the full-time waitress are on zero-hour contracts. It is just the nature of the business, and as I have recently discovered the hospitality section is one of the biggest users of zero-hour contracts. It is very disturbing.

From Then to Now … Journeys end


It was an unusual way for me to find a job. I had been on LinkedIn for quite a few years, and it never really had much for me. It was basically just a way of staying in touch with colleagues that didn’t use the ‘normal’ social media platforms. I had entered all the usual details about me, but never used job hunting. Oddly enough, I was scrolling through some of the bizarre jobs that it was deemed I would be interested in, when one came up that seemed to tick all my boxes. It was part-time, local, no responsibilities and paid what was expected for the role. It was advertised as a ‘Kitchen Porter/Assistant’ in a small but popular local cafe, and I could apply by just clicking a button. This apparently sent my ‘CV’ to the employer and just over an hour later, I received a phone call asking me to call in for an informal interview.

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The interview went very well, and to this day, I still think that I was interviewing the owner as I seemed to ask more questions than he asked. He confirmed the hours and rate of pay and then asked if I wanted to see where I would be working. I said it would be a good idea and he took me to the kitchen. He pointed out all the parts of the kitchen and then went into great detail about how to use the dishwasher and what to do if if got blocked. I was then shown the food store and he explained the procedures for dealing with the waste bins. He told me that the cafe was a very busy environment and it would be a very rare occasion if I was needed to work over-time. We agreed that I should have a ‘trial run’ the following Monday and we could take it from there.

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The Monday came and I was introduced to the chef and the table staff and the job started. It was hard and heavy work at times, but all the team were nice to work with and I enjoyed my trial day. It came to light during the course of the day, that two of the waitresses knew my eldest son and had worked with him for a time. By the end of the day I was a little tired, but generally speaking was pleased how the day had gone. I was paid ‘cash-in-hand’ for the day and and was told “See you on Monday then!” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement to which I agreed “Yes. See you on Monday!” I had a job, and when I looked back, I had come full circle. I had been a Kitchen Porter/Assistant in my first job after leaving school and I was back doing more or less the same job.

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I am now furloughed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and if I’m honest with myself I can not see me going back to work there if and when the cafe reopens. It will be simply impossible to have the number of tables that we currently have and less tables means less customers, which in turn means the need for a reduction in staff. The kitchen is not much bigger than the average domestic kitchen, so safe distance working would be difficult. However I may just be proved wrong.

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This brings me to the end of this series of posts. I hope you have enjoyed my journey as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

You know what !!!


Well my little part-time job in the local cafe has gone. Hopefully just for the time being. It wasn’t the most intellectually challenging work I’ve ever done, ‘Pot Washer/Kitchen Porter/Kitchen Assistant’ but it was a small friendly place that got me out of the house for a couple days a week. I say ‘hopefully’ because you never know what pressures small business owners have in keeping their business open. I suppose one of the dangers is that the owners will just give up, call it a day and that is my worry now. If the shutdown goes on for too long then maybe the staff will think the same. It has crossed my mind. I was aiming to hang my apron up just before by State Pension date in April 2021, but that may have to change.

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K*** has gone off to work and she is not looking forward to it. She works part-time in a large supermarket and has seen first hand the chaos and bitterness this virus has caused. It’s the staff that are getting the blame for the shortages and it can get dangerous in some cases. I can understand a little about ‘panic buying’ and stock piling. When you see someone buying up packs and packs of toilet rolls, you begin to think, maybe I should do the same. But what I don’t get is some of the things people are stockpiling.

I needed to get a few things on Friday and went to a nearby S********s. It was only bread, eggs and a bit of veg that we wanted, but I passed an elderly couple pushing a trolley. There wasn’t much in the trolley, but they were discussing how many bottles of ketchup they needed. As I ‘ear-wigged’ it came to light that they already had two bottles, at home and were a bit disappointed that they were only allowed to buy three. They were actually thinking about coming back later in the day and getting some more. How many bottles of ketchup do anyone need? Crazy! I do think that the rationing most stores are doing, should have been started a month ago though.

There’s a crossing of fingers …


I’ve got a job interview today! No-one is more gobsmacked than me. It’s the hours I was looking for, the days I wanted (no weekends) and the area could not be better. The job is “Kitchen Porter” at a café in Wetherby called PomfretsPomfrets. It is a highly renowned establishment and get excellent reviews on-line. Now I know some people will say that going on my experience and qualifications, I am over qualified for that type of job, but to me that doesn’t matter. I’m looking for a job that will give a bit of ‘pocket money’ for a few hours a week. I don’t want a career path, and am not looking for promotions, just a job that I can do without the pressures of trying to prove I can do better. I’ve been there and done that, and I don’t want to go back to that type of work. It’s come up at just the right time really. The end of October sees the 2nd anniversary of my early retirement/voluntary redundancy. I did hope at the time, that I would have a job within 6 months, but the jobs that came through the recruitment sites all had either too many hours, had weekend work or the location was too far. As I say, this one ticks all the boxes. Fingers crossed