From then to now … yawn …


As I mentioned earlier, my time at Hillside APH was a little boring. The job had no prospects and had little in the way of Yawnchallenges. Compared to the previous 15 years, the work was easy, although some of the staff weren’t. But it paid the bills and we were soon back on the right foot again. So much so, that by December 1988 were discussing the possibility of having a child. Early in February 1989 K**h discovered that she was pregnant.

Work for me was much the same as it had been all along. The only thing that changed was that I had started to get paid for any overtime. There wasn’t much overtime and what little there was was paid as time off in lieu. Basically you worked on your day off and you got that day back at some point. For some reason, and I think it was something that the unions had been working, we were now getting paid at time and a half. So the money was increasing slightly but the work load remained the same. The problem had been (as I was led to believe)  that although the APH was owned an run by the Local Authority, the support or ancillary staff were employed by the APH and paid for out of the establishments budget. As I understood it was the unions that had forced a change, so that the support staff were now employed by the Local Authority and now came under their rules and conditions.

The pregnancy followed its course without too many problems (those are for another time) and at Babythe end of October 1998, S***e our son was born. Work was still the same, but towards the end of December things began to change.

Firstly, the Council ‘Rumour Mill’ began to feed stories into the work place. Again, the word LaundryPrivatisation” was banded about. Some APH’s in other parts of the country had trialled outsourcing some of their support jobs with laundry service seemingly the most popular. Then in January it was announced that the laundry at Hillside was to become privatised. It didn’t seem to have any effect in the early days. The staff stayed the same, they were paid the same and did the same hours. But when one retired, she wasn’t replaced. We now had two people doing the work that three used to do.

Things were starting to have the effect that the unions had been talking about for a couple of years.

From then to now … the start of something big


One of the things that was enjoyed during those early years was the local pub. For us in the Main Kitchen, our favourite port of call was The George. ItThe George was quite easy to get to, just a matter of out of the kitchen, through the loading bay, cross the road and we were Town Hall Tavernthere. The staff in the Staff/Private Patients Kitchen tended to head to their nearest pub which was The Town Hall Tavern. Both were Tetley houses which was the only local brewery in those days. It tended to only be weekends and birthdays that staff enjoyed a pint or two in either of these two pubs.

We normally only got a half hour lunchbreak, but often people started early and turned the half hour into a full hour. It wasn’t officially allowed, but we seemed to get away with it and I was a regular partaker. It was on one of these lunchtime forays, that I got to know the ‘new girl’ a bit better. She was called K***, and someone invited her to the pub one Sunday lunch. That ‘someHouseone’ then said they could not go, and totally out of character I said I would like to take her for a drink. We got on quite well, although I thought she was a little posh at the time. Her father was the senior Pharmacist which was a position that was Consultant level. One lunchtime led to another and before long, I plucked up the courage to ask her out in the evening. More evenings out ensued complimented by full days out. I was on a different planet. She was my first proper girlfriend and it was always going to end a certain way. Early November 1978 we were married. We bought a house in Bramley, just off Raynville Road. Life and work was really good.

However, by the middle of 1979 it became obvious that we could not work together in that kitchen. We were always on different shifts. An example would be K*** starting at 6:00am and me starting at 11:45am or the other way around. Days off together seemed impossible as the then manager could not afford to have his two ‘star cooks’ (his words!) off together. We decided to talk the the Catering Happy CooksManager about the issue. As luck would have it, one of the trainees that started with me had left his job in the Staff Kitchen, so there was a vacancy there. The so called interview went my way, possibly because I was the only applicant and I was soon installed in a different job. Days off were beginning to happen and I could often swap shifts so we started and finished around the same time. Everything was back on track.

From then to now … back to the start


I was informed by a phone call from the Catering Manager, that I was to return to the LGI the following Monday. It was as simple as that. I was half expecting it to be honest as the the person I was covering had come back to work. It wasn’t expected as everybody thought that the pressures of the job was too much for him. That was the main reason he had been on long term sickness and the reason I was covering his job. But he had returned and as such I was  surplus to requirement. The worrying thing was that the follow up letter from the Catering Manager, talked about the post I was to take up as being a ‘temporary position at the moment’. That did not sound so good.

At the time, I was not a big fan of the hospitals Trades Unions. The primary two were the National UnionUnion of Public Employees (NUPE) and the Confederation Of Health Service Employees (COSHE). The issue I had was that neither of these would have anything to do with employees under the age of 18. This I thought was unfair as the people most likely to have issues were the youngest of the workforce. However, one of my colleagues, K**** was a good friend of the shop steward. ContractHe mentioned to the steward (called D***) the problems I was facing . He looked closely into my initial contract and found a clause that stated that at the end of my training, I would be found a permanent position within the catering teams. The kicker to this clause was that it never been changed in subsequent contracts and still stood. They had to provide me with a permanent position. I was a bit worried that I would need to join the union, but this never materialised.

This delayed my return by a couple of weeks until I received a letter explaining that there had been “… some confusion … the job was a permanent job, but not necessarily in the same kitchen …” The letter finished with “…please report to the Main Kitchen for 9am on Monday …”

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The kitchen was divided into three sections: the vegetable section; the meat and fish section and my Vegparticular favourite; the pastry section. I was hoping that I would get pastry as it was what I felt was my best area. But there was some new girl in that section. More about her later. No, I got the section I was dreading, the vegetable section. I was not a veggie person, in fact apart from  baked beans and processed peas, I did not eat vegetables. Simply did not like them, and to be given the job of cooking the stuff felt like a little bit of ‘pay-back’ for my unintentional union help.

Hospital vegetables were not cooked the way vegetables are cooked these days. Before the late 1960’s vegetables were always cooked to death and whilst the 1970’s saw new thoughts on cooking, hospital vegetables were still being over cooked. The premise was that poorly people needed soft food. Thankfully, to a greater extent that has changed for the better.

There was a set order for the rotation of vegetables on the main meal. I cannot remember the order, but the list consisted of: carrots, green beans, swede, peas (always on Swede n CarrotFriday with the fish) and cabbage. Occasionally, there were broad beans and very occasionally mashed carrot and swede. The broad beans were always served in a white sauce, but the swede/carrot mash-up only occurred if there was a shortage of one or both of the two vegetables. I love it now but back then I thought it smelled awful, and fully thought it would taste disgusting.

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That first week was terrible and I did consider looking for another job. Staff treated The Goonsme very indifferently at first, but as the weeks went by, I found myself enjoying my role more. The person I worked with shared the same interests as me both in hobbies and music and had a very similar taste in comedy. We were both huge fans of The Goon Show and often talk to each other using a couple of The Goons voices.

I was also getting to know the ‘new girl’ a little better and things were starting to get to a similar stage as they were before I was forced to leave the Maternity hospital. And the ‘new girl’ was beginning to play a very important part in my life.

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 …

From then to now … the prequel


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.

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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 SchoolSecondary 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 Draughtsmanto 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 Knittingperson 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 Chefadvice 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 …

Should I, could I? …


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 World Cupteam 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 Biowithout 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 …

Watch

A small world …


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 School palsI 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 Typingfor 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 WPhead. 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 …