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Reviewing the Reviews

After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

On the Gravy Train


My last stint of casual labour, before being pitched into permanent work, was the summer holiday job at Bovril/Marmite that provided the funds for my first foreign holiday - a week in Arenal, Majorca, courtesy of Clarkson's. 

 I had been granted something of a non-job in my first holiday job at Bovril/Marmite, supplying the cap hoppers on the filling lines, which neatly avoided having to do too much in the way of offloading lorries or humping goods about the warehouse.  This was largely in deference to my emaciated appearance (see below), very young age (I was only 15 at the time) and the fact that my dad was a departmental manager there.  I did not expect to get such favourable treatment in my second visitation and, as I anticipated, I was assigned to the group of university students etc. destined to labour in the warehouse.  Thankfully, they clearly decided that I was "too light for heavy work" (as did I) and found me a job working on a new bit of plant that looked to be nearly as good a job as the cap filling from the previous year.



Bovril/Marmite were in the process of launching an exciting new product, a Bovril-based gravy powder.  I was to be assigned to a team of three who were packing this powder.  This involved rolling tubs of powder into the filling room, using a vacuum system to suck it out into a hopper from where it was funnelled into cartons, which were then sealed and stacked ready for despatch.  My bit was the rolling tubs and vacuuming bit.  This was great, as all I had to do was keep the hopper full, and the vacuuming bit was quite fun.  The rest of the time I could sit and listen to the radio.  All went well for the first few days and I was congratulating myself on my life choice of being a complete wimp in appearance and actuality, when, out of nowhere I suffered the worst nose bleed of my life.  I was carted off to the Nurse's Station and had to lie down for half an hour or so before it would stop.  Two days later, it happened again only more so.  Cue more time in the Nurse's Station.  The next day, I was horizontal with the Nurse again, but not in an exciting way.  In the absence of any underlying medical reason for these sudden nasal exsanguinations, she came to the conclusion that the salt in the gravy powder, which filled the room in which I worked, was attacking my nasal linings.  The cure for this?  Stop working in the powder room.

Consigned back to the warehouse, my nose might have been fine again but the rest of me was falling to bits.  The idea of weeks of stacking heavy boxes and shifting sacks was somewhat unappealing and I doubted that I would survive to see Majorca.  Fortunately, another less exacting role appeared just in time.

The gravy powder, that had been my undoing in the powder room, happened to be the subject of a massive national promotion in which a sample jar of powder, a coupon to purchase more of the product and a promotional leaflet were to be sent to every household in the country.  A gang of students, including me, were assigned to the job of assembling this lot, slipping them into a jiffy bag, stapling same and repeating the exercise ad infinitum.  Nice dry work with no heavy lifting involved.  Unfortunately, putting a bunch of teenagers together on a boring job is bound to lead to joking and timewasting and this was no exception.  We had great fun but the work rate was not quite what Bovril/Marmite had hoped for.  Before too long, we were replaced with a team of girls from the filling lines who could multi-task sufficiently to laugh, joke and pack jiffy bags and it was back to the loading bank for me.

See Part 3 - Character Building

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Moped Moping


I suppose it was only a matter of time before my juvenile reluctance to get up in the morning collided with my continued employment as a paper boy. 

For the first year or two, I had been a relatively keen employee.  Not particularly punctual, I'll admit, but usually amongst those present.  However, in the latter part of my final year at school, it was no longer necessary to attend class all day, every day, as we were deemed to be determinedly revising.  Without the incentive of having to be up anyway for school, the daily tussle between dozing or delivering papers became an ever more unequal contest.  Therefore, after a number of weeks in which my morning presence had been, at best, sporadic, it should have been no surprise that when I turned up at Mr. Kidger's shop one evening, armed with my latest excuse for my non-appearance, he sombrely relieved me of my paper bag, handed me the meagre amount that I had earned that week and said that he thought we should call it a day.  It was like the newsagent's version of being cashiered.  I felt as if I had had my stripes ripped off and my epaulettes sliced away by a sabre. I could hardly protest, as he had been more than patient with me, and so I trudged back home to reveal that, once again, paid employment and I had parted company.

For the next few months, I was reliant on my pocket money (about 50p per week, I think) and whatever I could drum up by collecting empty bottles to return for their deposit value, until the local off-licence got wise to the fact that we never actually bought anything from there, and discouraged the practice.

That I should move from this state of impecunity to one of fabulous wealth (by my standards anyway) seemed unlikely, but it happened.

I have mentioned before that I worked for a few weeks at Bovril/Marmite during the intervening period between my leaving secondary school and starting at Burton Technical College.  I cannot remember how much money per week I was earning then, but I do know it was far more than I had ever had in my life.  Even with my dissolute habits, it was impossible to fritter it all away, and so I started to think about how I could usefully spend all of this cash.  I decided that I would really need some form of transport to get me to and from South Broadway Street and Burton Tech. and started to look longingly in the window of Jacksons' Motorcycles in Borough Road.  My dad, however, diverted me to the adverts in the local paper.  One short visit to a rather nice lady in Stapenhill later, I became the owner of a Mobylette moped that she had, apparently, never really taken to.

Complete with 'L' plates, provisional licence and a tank of two-stroke mixture, I was ready to roll.  This may have been an accident waiting to happen, given that I was not all that competent even on a pedal cycle.  However, any misgivings my parents might have had about a motorised me, were quickly dispelled when it became apparent that I was never going to be challenging the local chapter of the Hells Angels on this contraption.  In fact, I would have been hard put to out-run a group of schoolchildren on a Cycling Proficiency Test.

Obviously never designed for tremendous speed, even though it had a speedometer that optimistically finished at 80mph, it was clearly less nippy than it should really have been.  As I had no mechanical aptitude, and neither did my father, there was really nothing much I could do about it other than to fill it occasionally with petrol and hope that it would miraculously sort itself out.  Nevertheless, it was pretty embarrassing to be overtaken by people on push-bikes. 

I persevered with the moped during my first year at college but, eventually, consigned it to a temporary retirement in our back yard.  I couldn't afford the petrol, but, more importantly, I couldn't stand the embarrassment of parking it by the sleek, shiny motor scooters of my contemporaries.  

See Part 2 - On The Gravy Train

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and now read the new bumper collection of stories, Crutches For Ducks at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com