Our hero makes his own way in the big wide world Pt.1
My first job in 1965 was with Bradshaw &Sons, a builder in Buttermere St., which ran from behind The Pavillion in Lodge Lane, and came out at the top of Upper Parliament St.
A neighbour/sometime acquaintance of the same age started at the same time.He was placed with Jack Condon ( we never made the obvious puns as they weren't called condoms back then, not by us at any rate). Jack looked a bit like an ageing spiv, a ladies man, but mild mannered, I got Fred Fryer, a permanently furious, volcanic, misanthropic little barrel of a man in a flat cap and greasy gaberdine mac. Woe betide the hapless apprentice (me) who cocked up, the penalty being a smack to the head, but to one accustomed to armed nuns (well, drumsticks and ping pong bats, this being St Annes infants) and later, sadistic teachers who relished corporal punishment, Fred Fryer was a doddle.
Fred may have been an old sod, but during my time with him, he taught me to install and repair lead pipe, the newer copper, how to dress lead sheeting,and how to repair lots and lots and lots of drains.
After learning how to brew a can of tea properly (which as a point of pride, involved the 'windmill' stirring technique, which Pete Townsend must have observed somewhere), one of regular morning tasks was to trundle an enormous hand cart to the builders merchants at the bottom of Spekeland Rd.( I say handcart, but I swear the shafts were wide enough to accomodate a pony) and return back to the yard laden with a variety of sand, cement, lavatory pans, and what seemed like miles of coiled lead piping.The cart was seen as a cheaper alternative to the beat up old van for delivering materials to various job sites around town, including on one occasion to an old stable they used as a lockup off Westminster Rd. and back to Lodge Lane.
I was at that time,5'6'' tall and weighed 9 stone, after a year or so of this exercise, and digging up backyards to repair underground bursts, drains etc, I'd gained a stone of muscle, but I was still only 5'6''.
Spekeland Rd. was also the location of isaac's scrap merchants where I would 'weigh in the slummy' most saturday mornings to supplement my meagre wage packet.
After 18 months or so, I made the decision to move to pastures new which didn't involve effluent,( in hindsight, my first mistake, but not my last) and embarked upon a bewildering string of jobs, which to this day I am unable to fully list or recall.
I commenced next with a firm of civil engineers which had offices in Castle St. My job was menial to say the least,I accompanied the surveyors and held the staff while they took measurements with a theodolite.
I worked with two surveyors, one had an accent very much like Brian Epstein and was condescending towards the pr*ck with the stick,(my words, if he had called me that, I would have internally inserted the staff in his person), the other guy had attended night classes or something to quallify, and tried his best to encourage me to improve myself, but a drifter is a drifter. Despite my lack of ambition, I absorbed enough to develop an interest in engineering and building technology which lasts to this day.
The only project I can clearly recall was a vast ex-millitary depot out in the wilds of Simonswood. This place looked like it had been locked up after the war and left untouched.
There were 40's pinups on the walls of some of the buildings, along with graffiti of the time, much of it predictably anti-Adolf.
I didn't own a camera, and no-one else was interested enough to record anything which was a shame, it would also have made a good film studio or set.
Shortly afterwards my feet were itchy, not fungal infection dear readers, but wanderlust, and I was off following my boot heels again.
Th th th th th thats all folks, watch this space for the further adventures of Ramblin' Red Tom.