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.

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 …

Career, what career?


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 cTeacherhat 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.

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Whenever I talk or write about my schooldays it never fails to invoke laughter, especially HFTSamong 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.

If that was the weekend, it’s done ….


   Paint, paint and even more paint. The dining room is proving to be a little better than I first thought. A base coat of white and two top coats, should see the majority of the wall covered. Just a few patches that may need a thin third coat. Then, it will be time to move the heavy furniture, and finish up. There are two small pieces of wall that are hidden behind the two units. Hopefully, I can get some the paint done on Thursday and Friday evening, then I can wallpaper on the Saturday. It will then just be the woodwork to do, and I can do that starting on Sunday.

   Youngest is going on a respite trip tomorrow. We have only just told him, and of course, he says he is not going. But that’s what he says to everything, which is why we have delayed telling him. All he wants to do is stay in his room or play on the internet.  His support worker came to take him out today, and he said he did not want to go. The place he is going to looks like fun, a type of outward bound centre for disabled kids. He’ll be going with his teachers and support workers from school, so it should be a good week. Just got to get through the next few hours.

   Mrs H is at the dentist tomorrow. she is not looking forward to that at all. The last treatment she had ended up with an infection and five days of pain. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen again. I don’t think the anti-biotic worked too well last time.

   Eldest manage to ring and say Happy Mothers Day !! It took a lot of prompting, and the fool rang the land line, and not her mobile (free calls 3 to 3). Still, he called, I suppose.

   Car alarm keeps going off. Well ‘van’ alarm. It will probably be going off for a while yet. The guy who owns it lives a couple of streets away, so he won’t hear it. People who live nearby will not be very happy. They will both be on the lookout for the driver in the morning. Poor devil.

Having a problem thinking of a title here……..


The Germany trip seemed to go very well. They all got back safely, and from all accounts, a good time was had by all. From the looks of his photos, there was a lot to do and see. I’m quite jealous now. I have a massive admiration for his teachers. All the kids are different and have different needs, but the teachers are so confident and laid back, that worrying was not an option (still did though, and would probably worry next time.)

I had a few days off, so that was good. Lunch out a couple of times, and managed to get a few jobs done. We were lucky with the weather for some of the time. Me and Mrs H did the quiz on our own last Tuesday. That was odd. We got a reasonable score, for us, and Mrs H had a joint win on the bingo. So now we have all three won that once, it must be time to win the Footie Card again.

Eldest lad has broken up with his girlfriend, so that is a bit of a downer for him. He says he is cool with it, but he must be …… well you know. I think it has been on the cards for a week or two now though. He is quite wrapped up in his drama this week. It’s an important major role this time. Second lead, and I think it may be his last role until after Uni finishes. He may find it difficult to get to rehearsals after he moves into his flat. The insurance we took out for him to drive, ran out last week, so he has not been able to drive since. Is that a factor in his break-up, or just a coincidence ?? I don’t know if me and the eldest will get to the quiz on Tuesday. He may have some more rehearsals. The shows first night is on Wednesday, so it may be pushing it.

I got my email to Computing’s ‘backbytes’ published. Of course I cannot show it where a certain person may see it, but it can be found here if you want a look http://tinyurl.com/muuetl. Last paragraph is mine. It only means anything if you know who Spike is, and what he is like (the link should be a ‘permalink.) I do like the Firefox add-on, that creates TinyUrl’s. Very clever

The storm blew out the majority of our power sockets at work today. As soon at the computers went down, they started…..”We can go home now…nothing to do”. God they are pathetic. all they seem to live for is excuses to stop work. I would lay money on it being a different case, if the buggers were on overtime when the power went off…… any takers.

The garden is looking quite good at the moment. My dahlias are coming on well, although a couple seem to be having bug problems. The Rocket that I planted 2 weeks ago is coming on well. I just need to ensure Mrs H does not eat it, before it is ready. I want to try growing peas, but in a container. As I understand it. the pot needs to be at least 6 to 8 inches deep, and the pea needs to be a bush variety. I will look into this further.

11:00 pm, and the youngest his having ‘an episode’. He’s been fine all day, except a bit at tea-time, but we have come to expect that. Latest thinking from ‘the experts’ is that his brothers moving out is ‘having an effect’. Where do these people get their ideas from. He would not know if his brother had moved out years ago. It would not have an ‘effect’. Autism doesn’t not allow kids like him to express that kind of emotion. And anyway, he has been like this a long time before his brother decided to move out. Experts…I would not pay them out in book tokens.