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Monday Memories -Back in the Real World #6: Another Power Station

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If you saw Back in the Real World #5 before I changed it, you need to know that I was made redundant (again) shortly before my birthday in autumn 1994.

One place I went to for an interview was McCain Potato Products at Scarborough. That would have been an interesting job, had I got it. One day in December I got a call from a firm in Sheffield. They were very interested by my CV and invited me for interview. The company was run by two brothers, one who had designed the firm’s unique product and was responsible for sales and tendering, the other in charge of production and installation. The product was installed into large warehouses and industrial buildings at a particular stage during construction. This required detailed planning to ensure that everything was ready at the right time.

I was, the Production half of the duo thought, just the man for the job. But he needed his brother’s agreement. Maybe a second interview would be arranged immediately after Christmas. A few days later the brother rang me. He didn’t need to interview me. He wanted me there as soon as the Christmas holiday was over. Oh, and yes, they’d find me a car.

I was there exactly two months. They were, it transpired, in serious financial trouble, with bills outstanding at several important suppliers. I would be chasing up promised materials, or the delivery to site of a hired machine, only to be told “You need to talk to your finance department. We can’t supply you until we get some payment.”

Eventually I came in one Monday morning toward the end of February to be told to pack up my things and leave. The Production Director apologised. They had held a board meeting over the weekend to try to find a way through their problems. The only way was to reduce staff numbers. I was not the only one affected. I pointed out to the Director that I had been extremely busy throughout my short time there, even coming in some Saturdays. Who was going to do all the work I’d been doing? “I’ll have to do it all myself, just as I did before I hired you,” was his response.

I was, this time, out of work for just a few weeks. The agency contacted me to tell me that my former employer, the power station overhaul specialists, needed an experienced Planning Engineer. The only snag being that it was in Kent.

Another Power station image.
Kingsnorth Power Station (The station was demolished a few years ago). Image from KentOnline

Kingsnorth power station, like Eggborough, had four coal fired generating sets. Two were to be overhauled this summer and the other two the following year. The company had a team permanently based on the site, dealing with routine maintenance as well as major overhauls. It served as a Southern Region Office for the company.

I began work there in April, lodging in a pub in Strood and travelling home Friday afternoon, returning Saturday night. Because Freda needed a car to travel to her work at the nursing home, I had to purchase a car. I booked us into a nearby holiday camp for a week between the two outages. I also found a self catering flat nearer to the plant which was much more convenient than the pub in Strood.

In between working mostly long hours that summer I also managed to explore the area, taking long walks, sometimes along the coast, sometimes in Rochester. I remember the weather in the summer of 1995 as being mostly warm and dry. Although we worked Sundays we tended to finish around 2pm so Sunday afternoons were free.

With the second overhaul completed that autumn, I was kept on to assist in preparing the detailed pricing for the following year’s outage. We also tendered for a quantity of new work in the vicinity, including at Dungeness nuclear station. Having visited the station and spent several weeks compiling the tender, the completed document had to be delivered to the BNFL head quarters in Cheshire to meet a deadline.

It was decided that posting it could not guarantee its arrival in time so I drove home one Friday evening, setting out later than usual as last minute adjustments were made, taking a roundabout route via the M1 and M6 to Cheshire to deliver the documents than back East on the M62, arriving home around midnight. Our tender was not accepted.

After the Christmas and New Year break it was back to Kent once more, this time staying in the pub again. But I did not relish another 9 months of the weekly commute from Yorkshire to Kent and decided to find out what was available nearer home. The agency responded by saying that a team was being established at British Steel in Scunthorpe to deal with a significant new project and they were recruiting for a Planning Engineer. I attended for interview one Monday morning, got a phone call that afternoon offering me the job and handed in my notice to the team in Kent the same day.

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7 Comments

  1. Sha'Tara says:

    It is very hard for me to picture all that shuffling around, Frank. I spent 42.5 years working for one corporation… without a break! I called it a life sentence without parole, although I finally “paroled myself” at age 65. When I was quite young I also bounced around from job to job but I hated it. I applaud your determination, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • franklparker says:

      I suppose the point is that I brought the situation about by my own action in trying to escape the corporate career after 18 years. In total I had 8 jobs in as many years before I finally got the job, in a very corporate environment, which lasted me through until retirement at 65. It’s also testament to the wisdom of what I was told at a very young age: “get a trade before you think about a career as a writer; if you fail you’ll always have the trade to fall back on”. I doubt that anyone these days can expect to have the same job for 40+ years.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Phil Huston says:

      There are all sorts of life sentences, eh?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Phil Huston says:

    Our parents worked a lifetime for an entity or themselves (doing the same thing). Not anymore. Tenure is a thing of the past. But this one? I love it when a plan comes together. However there is no solution to “Oh, you’re going to be a corporate musician instead of a writer? Well then, good luck with that.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sha'Tara says:

    My parents were the ones with no education, fought a war for “freedom and democracy” to be ignored when it was over, emigrated to Canada to find a home and ended up moving here and there with no actual permanence. I decided that wasn’t for me: I needed permanence and I basically created my “trade” in vending equipment install and maintenance. There was no one else like us. We were the ultimate specialists who couldn’t be replaced, just upgraded! Our training and our career kind of took turns pushing themselves along. Except for those who died, or switched, or royally screwed up (mostly stealing from the coin boxes!) we were all “life-timers”. I did a lot of writing over the years, mostly articles and letters for environmental organizations, political pressure groups and even church magazines but I never saw writing as an actual career, just a way to communicate ideas.
    Do you think that the current trend to short term commitments to jobs and location says much about the condition of society in general, that it is experiencing a general, global breakdown? If we can’t expect a life-long career in one place, aren’t’ we “job refugees” as were the dispossessed in the great depression? If we cannot find stability for ourselves, how can there be hope for stability in society or civilization? The insecure individual creates an insecure community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • franklparker says:

      I’m guessing your job involved a good deal of traveling, Sha. I tend to think it is the people who stay in one place/one job who end up losing out, missing opportunities to experience a lot of what the world and its people have to offer. It’s certainly true that the world is changing much faster today than when I was young. It is also true that a lot of skills are interchangeable or can quickly be adapted to suit new situations. The bottom line is we all have a duty to be more than self-sufficient – we need to be able to produce a surplus in the good times to see us through the bad times when they arrive, as they inevitably will. Even if it is only amassing savings to ensure we can live comfortably in old age.

      Like

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