In the spring of 1960 I was transfered to a section called the “Short Order Department”. This is where orders for small quantitues of valve components were hand made. It consisted of a half dozen or so specialist machines and a couple of work benches located in the same building as the tool room but under the supervision of a different man. Here I, and one of the new intake of apprentices, were assigned to an elderly craftsman.
This gentleman was a Scot who had worked as a mechanic with the Allard motor racing team and still drove an Allard sports car. He had a war injury which meant he walked with a pronounced limp. In addition to being a master craftsman, he was a patient and sympathetic teacher from whom I and my fellow apprentices learned a lot more than Engineering skills.
I have written elsewhere about the brand new pillar drill which I damaged through my stupidity. After quietly upbraiding me, he carried out an invisible repair so that no-one but he and I knew what had happened. There were a number of apprentices in this department, most older than me and more advanced in their skills training, though less accomplished academically. The young man who shared the bench assignment with me became a close friend who would in time become Godfather to my son.
In the autumn I was transferred to the final test department where detailed adjustments were made to finished valve assemblies in order to ensure that tight criteria were met. This often involved dismantling the valve, checking dimensions, making minute adjustments then reassembling, retesting and recording all the results. Each valve was treated in this way, a time consuming yet somehow rewarding process which I enjoyed being a part off.
At the beginning of 1961, having successfully passed my final ONC exams the previous summer, I was moved to the drawing office. I was now working office hours and in an environment where I could analyse and solve simple problems and exercise a degree of creativity. Within the first few weeks I began having fits of coughing. Initially diagnosed as bronchitis, my illness was subsequently redefiined as whooping cough. Either way, it led to my being off work for around 6 weeks. I remember spending some of the time writing a story about a young man in prison awaiting execution for murder.
Missing most of the second of three terms of first year HNC meant that I failed my exams that summer and had to repeat the year. And summer 1961 brings me full circle, to the point where I started these Monday Memories with my meeting with the girl who was to become my lifetime partner.
So what is next? I am not sure. I may produce a series of posts abut my garden.
Or I may spend time discussing some of the lessons learned – if any – in my 70+ years on this planet. That is the project to which I am most attracted. It might involve answering questions about some of the decisions I made along the way: would I take a different path knowing what I now know?
It might involve a close look at almost 60 years of partnership with my wife: what keeps us together? And all of that has to be in the context of the incredible technological, social and cultural changes that have taken place in that time.
Thank you for reading this far – and if you have joined in comparatively recently you might want to follow the link to the first Monday Memories post provided above.