The decision to leave Saunders Valve Company was taken with some reluctance. I had worked there for a total of 7 ½ years, including my 5 year apprenticeship. I had, by then, several good friends among the ex-apprentices of my generation. But the company I was joining was doing well, winning contracts in two up and coming business areas: the provision of controlled environments for large main-frame computers and the production and distribution of synthetic natural gas.
And it was not as if I was leaving Hereford. We would all still see each other, still attend football matches and enjoy nights out at the supporters’ club. The ex-colleague who head hunted me had done well from the change. Although no immediate increase in salary was on offer, there was a promise of early promotion, something that seemed unlikely at Saunders.
Promotion, when it came, did not suit me. It required skills I was yet to develop and which no-one in the company saw fit to train me for: contract negotiation within the corporate world of what was, after all, a part of the construction industry. When I was transferred back to the drawing office I could see that my future at the company was in jeopardy and decided to jump before I was pushed. The only question was: where to?
And so I came, for the first time, to a decision which would have been easy were I single: the offer of a job with a journal serving the Engineering Profession. It is all too easy to speculate about how my career might have developed had I taken that job. It is also possible, knowing my personal weaknesses, that I might not have survived long in the London of the late 1960s. But I was certain of one thing – the cost of living for a couple with a young child, especially the cost of housing, meant that we would have a much reduced lifestyle compared to what we enjoyed in Hereford.
But there was no doubt in my mind that we would have to leave Hereford to find a job that offered long term career advancement. In the end the choice came down to Coventry or Cambridge. Coventry was near enough to Hereford to make frequent visits home possible. The decision to join Courtaulds Group would prove to be one of the best I ever made. It led to an 18 year career including a spell in South Africa, and the move to Lincolnshire that allowed me to become involved in local politics. Almost 1/3rd of my income in retirement stems from that decision. But it was followed by a series of poor decisions which led directly to a period of straightened financial circumstances. I’ve described these in the Monday Memories post of October 29th 2018.
The decision to end our indebtedness by selling our house was, in retrospect, foolish. But I could not have known at the time that house values would show a sudden spike within months. It meant that we lost any equity we might have gained in the property.
On the one hand, I can see that the opportunity to work in South Africa would have been more complicated were we not in rented accommodation. On the other, when the later opportunity to move to Lincolnshire came up, we would have been able to afford a house in a less down-market district. Of course, that in its turn, would have meant that I would have not subsequently stood for election in a part of town where there was a serious possibility of a Liberal winning. Such speculation is fun but, in the end, pointless. Few of us have the foresight to plan our lives in such detail. We respond to each situation as it arrives. It is in the nature of unexpected consequences that we do not know them in advance. It’s what makes life interesting.