For some time now, I have been following a blog written by someone who went to the same primary school as I did. Recently it became apparent that we were in the same year group, but not the same academic stream. After completing the 1st year in class ‘1a’, I was moved down into the ‘b’ stream where I stayed for the rest of the time.
The main memory that this blogger’s post triggered was leaving Primary School and moving to Secondary School. The year is 1965 and I’m thinking it is around September/October time. My father had left his job as a reasonably well paid coal miner because of health problems, and was now working as a bus conductor for what was then the West Yorkshire Road Car company. Times were beginning to get quite tough. Our house was heated by coal fires and as a miner we received, every three months a concessionary supply of coal. What I mean by the word ‘concessionary’ is free. Every three months we would have 1 cwt of coal dropped into the street, which was quickly shovelled into the coal cellar. After leaving the coal industry, this free coal stopped. That and the reduction in dad’s wages were beginning to bite a little.
I seem to remember both my parents and me sitting in the classroom, with my form teacher (may have been a Mr Woods, but I cannot remember) discussing my Secondary education. It was quite plausible it was said that I could go to the Grammar School at Roundhay. I had heard through my school friends at the time that this would be an expensive time. I would have to have a full School Uniform. This consisted of a blazer ( least one) two pairs of black trousers, a number white shirts, a school tie and a pair of black lace-up shoes. There was also a football kit, rugby kit and a PE kit. There was no way my parents could afford that amount of spend. There was a discussion around the fact, that all this uniform was available at a certain store in Leeds, but … it was possible to buy the same clothes as second hand from the school. That was a non-starter, as I had heard on the school grapevine, that everyone would know they were second hand, simply by their condition. This would automatically lead to bullying. I was not going to have that. I began to hope that I would fail my “11 Plus”.
The two subjects that I was apparently good at were Arithmetic and Religious Education. I began to wonder what would happen if I made a mess of those two subjects and I decided to ensure that I would answer some the questions incorrectly. Which is what I did. To this day nobody believes me, but I know I did get some questions wrong on purpose, so who knows. All I know is that I ended up going to the school I preferred and not the Grammar school.
So, I’ve bitten the bullet and decided to become a chef. How was I going to achieve this this dream? It looked 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 left 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 one 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 from 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 moved 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 …
I have been wanting to write some kind of auto-biography some some time now. But I had largely been put off by reading an old work colleague’s attempt. Believe it or not he started the thing the phrase:
“I was born at an early age …”
This was a miss-quote of a quite well known Groucho Marx statement. To be honest, I don’t remember much of my early childhood, and there are not too many people left to ask these days. So I decided that the ‘then’ would be my work start and the ‘now’ would be basically be the start of my current part-time job.
In order to clarify a few points that may or may not crop up in this tale, I need to go back to school. It’s 1966 and I in the 2nd term of my 5th year at Harehills County Secondary school. It was just after Christmas and we were having our obligatory “Careers Advice” meeting. This took place after school an involved my form teacher, some very old bespectacled gentleman from the Careers office and my parents. Oh, and I was there too. My only role was to say what job I wanted to do when I left at the ripe old age of 16. That’s all I did. I said I wanted to be a draughtsman. It was my best subject and the one I enjoyed to most. After stating this, I was totally ignored for the rest of the meeting whilst the other three parties discussed why this was not going to happen. To this day, the only clue I have is that I was not expected to get 2 grade 1’s and at least 2 grade 2’s (these were the CSE or Certificate of Secondary Education. If I had gone to a Grammar School, it would have been the GCE or General Certificate of Education which was the old ‘O’ level.) That was the one and only official Careers Advice I was ever had. In those days, kids who only obtained a CSE normally did not go onto University, and after nearly 12 years in a classroom, the idea of more education certainly did not appeal.
What was to become of me? What else interested me?
The inspiration came from a rather unexpected source. We had a geography teacher, whom most of the class detested. He never seemed very good at his subject and was the most arrogant person I ever knew. But he had a habit of asking kids if there was anything worrying or bothering them. He asked me and I hadn’t realised that I was worrying about my job/career prospects. His advice was to look at interests and hobbies outside of school and consider if there was any opportunity there. I told him my three hobbies and he replied that plastic model kit building would get me nowhere and that at the time, there would be very few opportunities for a male knitter. But cooking, if I was good at it could ‘…take me places…’.
So that was it. I was going to be a cook/chef. Now all I had to do was find a way of getting to that status.
To be continued …
Back in 2016, a few months before I retired I heard a rumour that my old school was going to have a reunion. This was to coincide with the ‘celebrations’ marking 50 years since the England football team actually won the World Cup. I asked the school friend that I mentioned in my last post if he knew anything but he had not heard anything. I did a bit of Googling, but nothing about a reunion turned up. I did however see a name, linked with the school. The person, I’ll call him “Eric”, was not at the school for very long. He started at the same time, but after about 4 or 5 weeks he left. His father was an English teacher and had got a job in South Africa. As a consequence we did not have much to do with him. I remember him because he was the same size as me and had the same side parting hairstyle. He was on “Linked in” and I ended up sending him a message just out of curiosity. Turned out he is a University lecturer now, but in Australia. We messaged a couple of times, but he was more into Skype and Facetime video messaging which is something I avoid like the plague. As with a lot of these things, the messages dropped off and I only hear from him at Christmas and birthdays.
Then in March this year, out of the blue he emailed me with a pdf document. He had written his autobiography and thought I would like a copy to “…remind me of bygone times…” To be brutally honest, it was dire. I’m no writing guru, but I could have done it better without trying. Lots of sentences starting with ‘And then…’ or ‘The next day…’ or ‘After that…” For the son of an English teacher, it could not have been worse. But it got me thinking. Should I and could I do my own autobiography? It could not be any worse than “Eric’s” and I would not be publishing it. I wouldn’t want to do a ‘birth to now’ type, but I could concentrate on my work life. It then struck me that I could write it as a series of blog posts, taking say 5 years at a time and writing about the best bits.
So guess what? I’m going to give it a go. I need to work out some kind of time-line and highlight key points and dates before I start, but I think it may just work. So as the saying goes …
Way back at the beginning of 2017 I posted about a familiar face popping up on FaceBook and how I was in two minds as to whether I should make contact or not. Looking back, I don’t think I posted that I did get in touch. We had a good evening out some time later, and have kept in touch (on and off) ever since. In fact, we had lunch just recently. Now this is where the title comes in. At that first evening meeting we talked about our family and such. But then we got onto work, and it turned out that this old school friend worked for the son of my maternal grandmothers brother (my mothers cousin). Not only did he work for him, but he knew my grandmother and often visited her. All this came out at that evening out. And before you ask, we both did have that amount of hair in those days.
Then around June time, last year I noticed a post, again on FaceBook from a friend that I worked with way back in the late 1980’s. Back in 1986, I went to work as a clerical officer for the Local Authority. She started in 1988 as a clerical officer and left that job around 2001 which caused us to lose touch. The post in question was a reply to another post from a current local friend who knew this girl from college way back in the late 1970’s. Thankfully, although she now lives in New Zealand we are now back in touch again. She and her husband are a couple of the nicest people I know.
Leap forward to this month (May 2019) and the relative smallness of the world is again raising it’s head. This time, through this very blogging platform. I was reading through some of the comments on a post I had just read. I often have a look at blogs of people who make interesting comments and this was no exception. One of the commenters (is that what they are called?) I visited had an interesting post that had an image of a place near where we used to live. I commented on the post and to cut a long story short, after a couple of messages I now find out that this person lives close to my wife’s father, and may even know him. I refer you back to the title …
This was a post on LinkedIn with the hashtag #what did I want to be when I was 15 and I thought it would be good here too.
The year is 1970 and I’ve just had my 15th birthday, literally and I’m in the deputy head’s office for a chat with the careers master. It’s coming up to the end of my 4th year and this is where I’ll find out if I’m going to the 5th year or not. In those days, if you were considered ‘bright enough’ you could go on for a further year and then possibly a 6th year at another school. This did not happen to many kids at my school.
Up to this day, I fancied being an architect, but I’ve just been told that I am not creative enough for that job and should think of something else. The deputy head is the Technical Drawing (TD) teacher and also the class teacher for year 5. He suggests that as I have a knack for TD, then a draughtsman could be a good choice. So that was my choice, a draughtsman. Taking the architects ideas and putting them down in a detailed drawing. Sorted.
Moving on to January 1971 and the results of my CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) mocks indicate that the 3 grade 2s and 1 grade 1, I needed for Technical College, are not going to be forthcoming. So, there is another meeting with the deputy head where I must make another career choice. Just like that. I did have a second choice, which was catering, and that is where I ended up. I was always disappointed that my first choice was side-lined, as I did get the grades I would have needed.
Whenever I talk or write about my schooldays it never fails to invoke laughter, especially among the younger people. They cannot believe some of the things that happened way back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. You tell them about the punishments that were handed out and they are amazed. One English teacher used to have small flat bat, which was called “Heat For The Seat”. You can probably imagine what use it was put to.
On a roll here. Two posts in one day, whatever next?
This one is directly attributable to Facebook. You often get people posting maths puzzles on Facebook. The kind of thing where you get some equations and you have to work out how they get the answers. It is basic Algebra. I love reading these posts, working out the correct answer and then trying to explain to people about the ‘mathematical order of operation’. This one follows the usual pattern but is a little different. Initially, it is easy to work out what the Snowflake image is worth, it must have a value of 10 for the first equation to work. From that deduction the cane must have a value of 5 with the wine glasses having a value of 2. Easy. Then you have to work out the last equation and here, the composer has added a twist by putting a multiplication sign in the equation. This is where the order of operation comes in. From my school days, it was always drummed into me that multiplication comes before addition, unless the addition is held within parenthesis.
Without looking carefully people will come up with the answer 70, 17 or 25. However, there is another twist here. In the last equation there is an image of a single wine glass. I did not see this at first and came up with 25 :- 10 x 2 = 20 + 5 = 25. But this puzzle has fooled many people. The answer a large number have come up with is 15. Many people have made the assumption that the image of the single glass has the value of 1. For me, this is an unsafe assumption. There is no way of safely giving the value of 1 to the single glass. It can have any value except 10, 5 or 2. There is nothing to stop the single glass having the value of 99 for example which would give the last equation the result of 995. It fooled me at first look, but in actual fact, with the information given, a solution cannot be found.