About Me

My photo
I never wanted to be a fitter and I didn’t even know what a fitter was or did, until it was too late. The story of how I came to be one can be seen on my website: www.calvertonfitter.com After 45 years in industry working on such diverse things as aeroplanes and textile machinery I thought it would be a good idea to start a blog and to share some of the things that I've seen and done. Some of the posts are funny and some are sad. Some are political and some are about racism. Hopefully you will find them all interesting, and even entertaining!

My Favourite Posts

Some of MY favourite posts include: The Congo, Deltic (3 posts), On the Buses, The Bus Drivers Story, Classical Music and Sherry, Working in Karachi 1988, Going to Karachi 1988 (hilarious), Broken Mug, Tilbury (4 posts).





Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Its Xmas

Merry Xmas to you all. Have a good holiday.
There I go again, talking to myself.

It seems strange being on holiday and just being made redundant and wondering how long my enforced unemployment will last. Not too long, I really believe, but I will soon be finding out. Finding a job is a full time job and come January 2nd it will be all go on the job-find campaign.

Today was another of those good and bad days. I visited my mother in a retirement home, she suffers dementia badly, and it was a miserable experience. I'm not even sure if she knew who I was and her words were mostly unidentifiable except for the occasional 'that's a nice coat', pointing at my jacket. I took her a box of chocolates and she set about eating them one at a time and playing with the foil wrappers. On her pillow was a pair of her knickers which she'd pick up, fold, unfold, hold up for viewing then put down for another chocolate. And the place reeked of urine. I can only hope I never end up like that.

Next stop was a lot more pleasant with a visit to my niece and her family to drop off presents for the children. Joseph is the newest at less than 3 months old and I had a great hour cradling him and making what I believe are the appropriate noises. When he wasn't dozing he at least seemed interested. That's my claim anyway. Merry xmas.




Friday, 19 December 2008

Last Day and X-Ray

That's it then, finished for xmas. In fact finished until I get a new job. What a strange day its been, my main job was to take a sledgehammer to a large packing case (large-think garden shed) to dismantle it. Then I took a jig-saw to the ply panels to make them small enough to put in the compactors. I had a walk round the factory, only cleaning jobs happening, and swapped words with some of the guys and told them I'd come round later to say goodbye.
I didn't get to see them again as I had to dash home to take my wife for an x-ray. She hurt her arm last night and its seized up during the course of the morning. I only got to say goodbye to the boss and a couple of fitters I work with. I hate goodbyes anyway.
There was no fracture to her arm, just soft tissue bruising and they want to see her in the new year for physio. Sounds good but she's still getting pain if she moves it.
So I'm thoroughly pissed off and sat here watching 'I've Got News for You'. Somehow its not cheering me up.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Penultimate Day

Tomorrow is my last day at work and today I had a presentation by the guys and was given a bottle of Glenfiddich malt whiskey (wonderful stuff). One of the contractors (the ex-marine) didn't seem to realise that a sort of thanks had to be given in return so I struggled to get it out while he prattled to one of the others. I brought in some boxes of mince pies and other tarts which were consumed throughout the day.

None of us did much today. Mostly preparing the factory for shutdown and no lines ran. What a drag. I did bring a load of my tools home to save time tomorrow.

The German engineers found a major problem with some of the computer hardware they are installing so the project will not get completed until next year after it is replaced.

A manager from one of the companies which does contract work for us came in and was shocked that I was being made redundant. He said he talks regularly to companies who complain about a shortage of engineers and took my details to pass on when he gets the chance. Maybe my xmas holiday will turn out to be shorter than I anticipate.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Nearly Xmas

Hope you like the elephant. Congrats to whoever did it but I still don't know who you are.

What a miserable place work is. Night shift has been called off and only a fraction of the normal production was produced today.(Grief, what poor English but you know what I mean).

I hardly did anything and can't really phone up the people I want to arrange job interviews with until I know when I'll finish. A German engineer arrives tomorrow to start up the line we have been upgrading so maybe if all goes well I will finish on Wednesday. The boss finishes on Wednesday so that's also a good clue. I also managed to get my hair cut on the way home tonight so I almost look human again, fit for a job interview anyway.

Our contract welder(ex Royal Marine) seems to relish playing Dueling Banjo's on his phone when in my presence. He'd made the comment that it wouldn't be played down Moss Side, to much hilarity from the others. I'm obviously missing something here because I saw the film Deliverance and enjoyed the tune, still do, and if I wanted to be stupid I'd be making comments about white rustic inbreds. Crazy or what?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Last Full Week

This was probably the last full week at my current company after nearly 6 years. I would guess that next week I will finish on Wednesday after spending Monday and Tuesday just tidying up and odd jobbing as the project nears completion. The main load will be on the electricians to finish the wiring. (There's a joke there somewhere).
The original planned 14 redundancies turned to 16 as the order book continues to collapse and I'm one of them. Of the 16 just one guy decided to appeal and the union shop steward went in to argue his case with management. He won the case and management therefore fired the next guy on their list. It was the shop steward. You just couldn't make this up could you.
I've applied for 3 jobs and registered with 3 agencies and they are all optimistic that that my skills are just what people want out there and promise me a job very quickly. We'll see.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Just another day at the office

Couldn't resist publishing this picture. I copied it from science blogs which is always worth a visit and where the proper credit can be seen. The post is called 'Quick, put this on a tee shirt'

Our German engineers arrived at work this afternoon, instead of this morning, due to a four hour delay. These Germans just can't get it right sometimes.

The contract welder we have for the next two weeks, ex Royal Marine, revealed that he was born in Zambia of English parents and so had 2 passports. Having been born, and lived there, should have been the opportunity for an interesting conversation but as he had been warned that my wife was black and that he probably had nothing of interest to say that didn't involve the N word there was complete silence. What a shame. Wot izit wiv peepl?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Fork Lift Trucks

Thursday morning I got into work to find that one of the large bendy fork
lift trucks (weighing about 10 tons) had reversed into a wall in one of the warehouses. The truck was undamaged but the wall no longer exists for a few square meters and builders came in to board the area up. The driver says he only just nudged it but knew something was wrong when a breeze block fell on the gas tank. I haven't made this up.
Thats the funny bit out of the way, after all I am being made redundant with a lot of others.
Now the bad bit.
Our electrician walked over to see what he had to do about making any electrical circuits safe when he was hit on the ankle by another fork lift truck. He came into work later in the day from the hospital with crutches and the news that he had a broken bone in his foot. That makes him very lucky. It will be after xmas before he's in work again. In fact I may well not see him again. TGI weekend.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Cold, the Cull and the Huffington Post


It was freezing again this morning and it took a combination of de-icer and scraper to clear the car windscreen. As usual it was the side road where I turn into work that nearly caught me out as it wasn't salted so the car did a little zig-zag into the home straight.

The cull has started at work and it looks like 16 people will be going and it includes me. I will be officially informed on Monday and it looks as if I will be expected to stay until 19th Dec. to complete a project. Aren't I the lucky one. I did expect it though as there is no-one else in the engineering department that could go as there are only 3 shift fitters to maintain 3 shifts and there is no way I'm going to do shifts so there was always a logic about it.

On site today was a contractor who pops in on a weekly basis to check the fume and dust extraction systems which they supplied and when I told him what has happened he immediately gave me his MD's card and to cut a story short I have a job interview the week after next. Funny old thing, life, isn't it?

We have on site a contract electrician for another day and a contract welder to help me out until xmas and they were talking in our works kitchen and playing on their mobile mini pc cum phone thingamajigs everyone seems to have and I suggested a look at huffingtonpost.com the great American liberal blog. A quick scan took place then a frown followed by the word 'Obama' and they glanced at each other and went back to what they where doing. Wot iz it wiv peepl?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Its Cold

Bloody hell it was cold. I don’t think I got warm on Monday at all and Tuesday was only marginally better. On Monday I never took my jacket off all day and arriving at work I found a number of cold related problems: the workshop heater had stopped working, one of the compressors wouldn’t work, fortunately another would, and a couple of machines refused to start. Bugger.

A welding contractor has started in order to further a job, which needs completing for xmas. He’s an ex Royal Marine who smashed his knee falling 30ft with a full backpack and has a plastic cartilage and false kneecap. No limp in sight. He’s very quick and the standard of his work is excellent and he’s done some globetrotting as a welder. After the lemons I tested before I went off sick he’s a breath of fresh air. Even if ccccccold air!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Party Time and the Pledge of Allegiance

Works Party.

Saturday night was party night at Cranage Hall, the annual xmas binge courtesy of the Company, bless their little cotton socks. It was the first one I've been to and I was asked during a moment of weakness having just returned to work after 11 weeks off. What I didn't realize at the time, though it probably wouldn't have made any difference, was that most of the staff were doing there own thing this year and had booked somewhere in the Warrington area (I think) because it was nearer to home.
Anyway the food was quite decent and hot and there was 32 of us between 3 tables and then there was 31 of us as Murphy keeled over and hit the deck. Que first aiders and a ring of the curious and eventually the music was transferred to another hall while the ambulance arrived, put him on a stretcher and took him for a night in the hospital.
Things quickly got back to normal and opinion was that it was an alcohol related problem. He must have started early and was just 'wasted'. I hope that's all it turns out to be, will know on Monday I would think.

Pledge of Allegiance.

George Docherty the pastor who claims credit for the addition of 'under god' being added to the American Pledge of Allegiance, '...one nation under god' has died. The folks at AOL have decided to conduct a poll asking whether it should stay or go and so far the seculists are loosing by about 2 to 1. Nothing is ever that straight forward though and the guys at Pharynula are having fun multiple voting by removing the AOL cookies to give themselves access again. Both sides are doing this as they are good at the spying game and the comments are great on the Pharygula site. Vote now and vote often folks. Go check it out.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Toucan, Redundancy, Religion

This piece of hand art is probably my favourite of the eighteen I have and I've put it here as prelude to a miserable blog.

The vote at work was 34 in favour of a 4 day week and 39 in favour of redundancies to maintain a 5 day week for the remainder. I'm lost for words.

Another bit of misery concerns christian sectarianism in Oklahoma and is described fully on Prof Myers website here. It never ceases to amaze me at the way religion can bring out the shear nastiness in people. Crazy people.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Votes and Jesus and Stuff from my Nose

I've had a terrible weekend having caught my wifes cold and now have interesting stuff comming out of my nose (brains?). I've gone to work anyway, may as well be there and earn money, would feel guilty about having more time off as I've only been back 3 weeks with my new knee.

On Friday we had a ballot at work to decide whether to go for the 4 day week or the redundancy option which management have given us. The ballots were counted out at midday today and we all waited in anticipation for the result to be announced. Then we were told that there are 2 outstanding ballot papers and as the voting doesn't officially close until midnight they will wait until morning. If theres more than a couple of votes in it I'll be surprised. Oh! the antisipation..............

I've tried to download another of those great hand images of animals (by popular request) and failed. The source file can't be found the computer says. I don't know what I've done wrong but will get it sorted as soon as I err.... get it sorted.

Wow so the vatican has forgiven John Lennon for saying the Beatles were more famous than Jesus. I'd like to think that the statement is as true now as it was then. Just back that up a week and think....Wow, the vatican hasn't forgiven the Beatles yet, and the vatican statement can be seen as the meaningless pretentious rubbish that it is. The Beatles have a great song, known worldwide, called Imagine which includes the line, 'and no religion too'. I wonder if the vatican have damned/forgiven them for that. In America it had to be editored out into 'and one religion too'. Ummmm... wonder if I should forgive them for that........ummmmm....

Glad I've got that off my chest.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Hand Images, Redundancies and Debt Advisors

Here's another of the great animal images I was emailed and I still have no idea who created them.

Bad news at work as it seems most guys have voted for the redundancies, hoping it wont be them. The reasoning being that they don't want the 20% wage cut that a 4 day week means. The votes get counted on Monday so we should know then.

I mentioned in a previous post about an advert for Debt Advisors earning up to £5000 per week. The adverts are still appearing but the £5000 has vanished. I can imagine the reps being upset and complaining they are only making minimum wage. Wishful thinking on my part maybe.

Hurray, its weekend!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Sketches from a Fitters Day

I’ve got the barrel back from the contractor and assembled it using the workshop crane, total weight about a half ton. I don’t have a licence to drive a fork lift truck so got one of the others to acquire one out of the factory, put extension legs on it and I slung the barrel underneath. It took a slow careful drive to locate it in position but we succeeded and I started bolting it up. I’m beginning to hate having greasy fingers and I don’t like wearing the latex gloves supplied by the company. Some of the bolts are difficult to access as well which is always frustrating. That’s code for a lot of swearing took place. The machine next to me sprung a water leak so there were clouds of steam billowing all over.

I’m called to the workshop kitchen where the production director is waiting with the others to tell us about the difficult trading position the company is in. We are going to have a ballot he tells us and the company favours option 1 which is a 4 day week from January, representing a 20% wage cut with 3 redundancies and 2 extra unpaid days holiday at xmas. Option 2 is that 14 people are redundant and we try and continue on a 5-day week. He talks a lot about a worldwide recession and hopes it will be over soon and blames the Americans (alleluia). The company have just traded his car up from a Jag. to a BMW 520d. Nice work if you can get it.

Second subject is a health and safety issue regarding fire safety and the engineering manager volunteers to tick the boxes on the weekly form. Are there sources of ignition, are there combustible materials, and are fire exits clearly marked and accessible? etc. This meeting is interrupted by the production supervisor and team leader coming in and complaining about clouds of steam emitting from a machine and can someone fix it please. Two men go off to fix it but quickly come back to tell me to change 2 hoses, they can’t do it because it’s the end of their shift and they’re off home thank you very much. So off I go to fix it and half an hour later the meeting is still going on with the next shift so I sit in again and learn nothing knew.

Back to my barrel and I start bolting on the heaters but I’ve had enough and wonder back to the workshop with my tools and start packing my gear away. I rang the IT department where an old black and white printer is due to be ready for me to take home as mine is bust. No answer. Tomorrow maybe.

Then I realise a supplier hasn’t arrived to look at an adaptor we want and can’t identify in the catalogue. On Friday we had stressed its urgency but I nearly forgot about it today, he didn’t turn up and his office wasn’t answering the phone. Tomorrow maybe.

While having lunch I had to listen to a tirade from one of the guys about a News of the World story he was reading on that poor kid who was murdered. He was upset that the paper couldn’t identify the culprits and publish their pictures. He quietened down a bit when I pointed out that a judge and jury decide whether a person is guilty not a newspaper and then the pictures can be published. Its crazy, why do I have to point this out to grown men.

Boy, am I glad to be home.

Monday, 17 November 2008

4 Day Week!

Here's another of those brilliant pictures. Click on it to expand, its fabulous.

The recession has finally hit my company. It had to happen sometime as we are heavily linked to the car industry. In January we go on a four day week, which isn't so bad except that we will only get paid for 4 as well. Plus an extra 3 days xmas holiday without pay. Plus a few redundancies! Happy Xmas everyone.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Eagle and Murder

I received about 20 pictures like this eagle today. I've no idea who was responsible but they are all fabulous and must have taken a long time to prepare. I'll try and identify the source. Click on it to enlarge.

MURDER
There's an advert in my local paper advertising for Debt Advisors. Earnings circa £5000 per week. No previous experience required! I wonder if it would be possible to murder these guys and get away with it on the grounds of temperary insanity? If I had a bucket I'd be sick in it.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Another Day at the Office.

Second week back at work and things started off very well. I managed to strip a barrel off an extruder in record time with the exellent help of a couple of production guys. Then things went a little pear shaped as I lost control of it as it swung on the crane in the workshop (it weighs about half a ton) and it damaged another small machine knocking it over. The photo shows the barrel which I continued to dismantle and the little green machine at the end is the bagging unit I knocked over. Damn. Slow down crazy fitter.

I watched part of a documentary the other night of Stephen Fry driving across America in a black London Cab (why?). There was a fantastic scene of Stephen in a jacuzzi on the deck of a boat crossing a reservoir which was created from a dammed canyon. Damn, I want to do that.

Recently I did a full tour of the Mississippi from the Delta all the way to the source, and I never left my armchair. I did it on Google Maps clicking on satelite view on full zoom. I could almost see in peoples windows. What a fantastic waterway it is and even at this remote the sheer majesty of it was apparent. If you are thinking River Trent only bigger and with sandbars you're not even on the same planet LOL. Its a real treat and I will do the same with another river soon, I've promised myself.

I got a pleasant surprise when Graham and Chris commented on my posts, thanks guys. I tried to reply on the comments but found I couldn't, I get a notice at the bottom saying 'error on page'. I'm trying to sort it out now. I've always said that cars and me don't go well together but the same applies to computers:(

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Amistice Day

Its Armistice Day and 11am went by without me even noticing (1st time) as my brain was involved in the job in hand. The fire alarm went off at 11 as well but it only registered as a test alarm.

When I was a kid the games I played with friends were all WW2 based as that conflict had only ended some 12 years previous. I could give a great simulation of a soldier being shot. WW1 had been over for 40 years and seemed lost in the mist of history, but incredibly WW2 finished 63 years ago.

I’ve watched many programs about WW1 and its causes and there’s no quick one liner (“WW2-that was just Hitler”). I even watched a programme that explained, quite plausibly, that the railways were to blame.

WW1 was about the arrogance of Europe’s ruling elite and its generals and their imperial machinations and was also the prime cause of WW2. History is a line of cause and effect not a series of pigeonholes to stick book titles into. This ones The Boar War, this WW1 and this WW2 etc.

War memorials are another of my pet hates with their Roman Columns, Angels and pious words. The Glorious Dead. Nope. It’s life that’s glorious not dying violently. I’ve seen one memorial somewhere that claims WW1 was to preserve ‘the Sanctity of Treaties’. I wonder which lying politician thought that one up?

There ought to be a ‘Treaty to Preserve the Sanctity of Life’. And another that states ‘War is a Crime’. I’m not against having ceremonies and monuments but please, where is there a national Anti Fascist Monument?
Dream on crazy fitter.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Autumn Gold



Ok, so the picture isn't brilliant and won't win any prizes but I took it because of the brilliant gold autumn leaves juxtoposed with the grotty industrial waste which is my workshop back yard.

Its amazing that the picture was taken in the first week of November and as can be seen in the background the woods are still green with leaves. It used to be the case that by bonfire night the trees would all be stripped of their leaves. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Patronising Crap

Reading the Guardian at lunch time specifically about the US election, our two electricians decided to have a conversation intended to draw me in and showed themselves to be the most patronising and stupid bastards.
They had discovered, just as I was going off to have a new knee fitted, that my wife was black, but have chosen to not let me know that they know. Probably a safety devise as they worry about what they have said in the past. It’s a shame really as I would have loved to hear their undiluted remarks about Obama’s election. As it was I was treated to the most condescending stupid crap ever.
How about this to make your bowels move. ‘Can we call it the White House now? It’s not very PC.’ Or, ‘ How long before we get a muslim PM. They’ve got in councils because we’ve voted for them to show we’re not racist. We’re too soft, we should be hard. When we go abroard we have to abide by their laws. The Queens head is on our currency, she’s the ‘Defender of the Faith’ so everyone coming here should accept that.’
Normally I wouldn’t write about this kind of shit, but these are the kind of ‘mates’ I work with at the moment. Oh yes, how about this one. Just as I was leaving to go into hospital the electricians were talking about the regulations re installation of kitchen whitewear. (fridges, cookers, etc). One glanced at me saying, ‘maybe we should call it brownwear nowadays’.
Anyone out there thinking I’m redefining the word ‘crazy’?

Just Another Day at the Office


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

US Elections

I stayed up until 2am watching the US election results which was when the first projected gain for the Democrats was reported. I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen. I enjoyed Chris Hitchins comment about Pallin 'She believes in black magic and can't tell the difference between the French President and Inspector Clousou'. I'd watched the video and listened to the phone call he was referring to and find it hard to believe anyone so stupid could ever be elected as anything.
Back at work this morning and all I heard is snatched radio commentary and the newspapers were not up to date and I don't have internet access and I didn't know the final electoral college result or percentages and I just wanted to go home, boot the pc and go to Huffington Post.. Well I did all that, eventually. The difference the internet has made to the election can't be understated and the sooner Britain has its own Huffington Post the better. Is anyone listening? No? Oh, OK then. I loved the tongue in cheek of Andy Borowitz, 'For Democrats, who have become accustomed to their party blowing an election even when it seemed like a sure thing, Tuesday night's results were a bitter pill to swallow.'
Catching snatches of R2 during the day it was good to hear so much home elation at the result but just to put my feet firmly on the ground the only comment I've heard at work was, 'So we've (we?) got a black president have we. How long before we get a muslim Prime Minister?' Beam me up Scotty.
If Obama does a half decent job his main legacy will be to remove skin colour from the equations which select political candidates. Politically he will probably fail as most Presidents and Prime Ministers do but just for now I'm more than happy to celebrate and wish him luck.
Haven't done a lot at work today except clearing up our workshop ready for tomorrows insurance audit.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Fun


Second day back at work and even my welding bay looks like I've never been gone. Big clean up day tomorrow for the whole workshop as we have an insurance audit on Thursday so that should be fun.
Lets see now, whats happening in the political and financial centres of this little old planet of ours? Oh nothing much;) Big clean up day in the USA tomorrow hopefully, so that should be fun. Get some petro dollars from Gulf States to ease through the mess the finance institutions have made maybe. Even more fun.
I've got a great book from Iain M Banks, The Algebraist, which I'm halfway through and will now spend a couple of hours reading. Even more fun, but roll on tomorrow.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Back at Work

I'm back at work, first time since having my new knee fitted on 15th August. This is what my workshop looks like from the mezz. I spend most of my time in the little welding bay which is in the far right hand corner of the picture with the black curtains surrounding.
The welder who was employed from an agency for my absence is off to Heathrow Terminal 5 for a few days, then to Portsmouth and on to Merseyside. 'What recession' he says.
Everything is quiet in our main factory with only a few lines running but the company is still throwing money at machine upgrades so they must be optimistic.
I spent the weekend in London with wife and daughter and after touring the transport museum, brilliant, we went to see Spamalot at the Palace Theatre which was side splitting stuff. A great weekend spoilt only by a wet trip up the M6 home and the thought of being back at work. Well it wasn't that bad after all:)

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Garage

As I mentioned in my last post, this is the interior of my garage. What you can't see is that the roof area is also stuffed. It gives me a headache just thinking of having to find something and with my dodgy knee it can be dangerous. Guess what my resolution is for Spring?
I did find my soldering gear though and have fixed the indicator in my car. I also cleaned it inside and out and hopefully its all systems go for my weekend expedition to visit my daughter.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Car Maintenance

What a miserable cold day its been. I started out with the intention of giving my car an oil change followed by a good clean inside and out. Normally I do the oil change myself but with my dodgy knee I decided to let a local garage do it for me. So far so good but driving home a front indicator stopped working; another simple job I thought, I’ll soon change that bulb.
It wasn’t the bulb though, it was one of the wires that had broken next to the light fitting and there wasn’t the room to fit a simple connector. It meant I had to split the fitting and solder a wire directly onto the pin, at least as a temp. measure as we are off to visit our daughter this weekend.
Next problem is finding my soldering gear; I knew it was in the garage somewhere but it needed finding and my garage is almost a cuboid of solid matter. I did find the gear eventually but I was shivering with cold, my fingers were numb and I decided that it can all wait until tomorrow. In fact I recon I’ll take a picture of the damn place and post it…tomorrow.
We have been listening to the reports of bomb explosions in India which will have been causing my daughter some concern as her flat mate is currently over there doing some work. I can’t contact her at the minute either to find out if she’s phoned home.
There’s no bunch of idiots quite like a religious bunch of idiots. In fact to paraphrase an old saying, it takes religion to turn a bunch of idiots into a gang of terrorists.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Congo

I was very deflated to see the latest problem developing in the DRCongo with the invasion of Tutsi forces from Rwanda. Many people of course will dismiss it as just another demonstration of incompetent Africans mismanaging their affairs. Flippancy and cynicism towards most political problems is widespread so its not surprising that it should manifest itself towards the complex issues effecting Africa.
I recently read Tim Butchers book ‘Blood River’ which describes his recent journey down the River Congo. As the Africa correspondent for the Daily Telegraph he was emulating the journey of H. M. Stanley (Dr Livingstone I presume) who was also a Telegraph reporter at the time.
Tim did his homework and the book is full of the history of the area from the good, bad and ugly of the Belgium era to the modern problems of Rwanda and how they have impacted on the Congo. The area is rich in mineral wealth but the lack of an infrastructure, a corrupt military, civil service and political structure propped up by foreign companies and governments ensure that the area is a honey pot for others to dip their sticky fingers in.
No, I don’t know a solution to the problems other than to paint with a broad brush a scenario where the countries wealth is used for the benefit of the areas people. This in turn implies secure borders, the end of corruption and the sovereignty of the Congo.
This sounds like I’m actually proposing a solution but Tim’s book shows that that these proposals probably represent a challenge that no country or group of countries, given a commitment which they currently don’t have, could resolve in the short term. So the sooner the commitment and effort are made the better.

I've just reread this and decided I'm glad I'm not a politition.

Back to Work. Terrorism.

I’ve just been to see a doctor at an occupational health company to see if I’m fit to start work anytime soon and we jointly agreed that I should start on Monday but to be super aware that my new knee requires TLC. I called into work on the way home to share the good news and came to realize that I really really really don’t want to go back. Damn.
Other news from work while I’ve been off sick include; 2 guy’s have had heart attacks, another has a blood clot in his leg and another has to have a piece of bone removed. We are not even a large company. Damn.

I’ve just been reading one of my favourite websites http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/ which points out that much effort has been made to implicate Obama with terrorism. The nazi’s however, who have just been arrested for plotting mass murder, have not yet been called terrorists. Perhaps only non-white muslims can attain such exalted status? Or a non white, christian, if he’s standing for high office? Call me an old cynic…or crazy……..

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Clocks Going Back!

Not only am I crazy but SAD as well. I’ve just copied this from the BBC’s web site and its self-explanatory.
In October, just when you get used to it getting dark at around 5.30-6.00pm we change our clocks from following British Summer Time (BST) back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). This means it will be dark an hour earlier, and don't we all notice it! It seems as though suddenly the nights are substantially longer. Subconsciously, many of us will feel winter has dawned. Most of us will be travelling to and from work in darkness, so perhaps it's not surprising that so many people, up to one in every 20 people, suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the UK's long winter days. This is a specific type of depression that experts believe is related to a lack of exposure to daylight. It affects people at the same time each year - during autumn and winter.
Dreams of a tropical sun.........................

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Another CV and Fishing

I mentioned in a previous post the absurd CV’s I got when working as team leader in Deltic but the silliest one I ever read was produced by a toolmaker in Siemens, Metering, Oldham. As the company subcontracted more and more of its processes he became the last toolmaker employed by them and I think he fancied he could negotiate himself a pay rise by the expedient of spreading rumours of his departure. He mentioned to me that he hadn’t a CV yet so I suggested he write one. (This is real clever stuff isn’t it? If you can’t follow the technical and philosophical paradigms, don’t get too upset).
The next thing I knew was he had written one, and half the staff, including management, had it thrust under their noses for comment. It was beautiful. There were 5 pages to it and you got to page 3 before finding that he was a toolmaker and page 4 was solely devoted to the fish he had caught as a sea angler. I took pity on him and got him to shorten it to 2 pages. Wasn’t I soft?
One of the other engineers was a course angler and every year sold raffle tickets, the proceeds going to an organisation concerned with the preservation of fish stocks. Our toolmaker (nicknamed keepnet) refused to buy them. ‘I don’t want to preserve ‘em’ he said, ‘I want to catch ‘em and eat ‘em’. Crazy big time.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Deltic Fireworks

Re previous Deltic posts full of doom and gloom I did have some fun as well. We had one great guy, a welder, who was an anarchist. He actually wasn’t and didn’t know anything about anarchy but he did have a Mohican haircut and went to ‘Oiy’ music dances. He thought it was great to wear a tee-shirt that read ‘only insecure bastards want security’ which is as reactionary and anti-anarchist as you can get.
He was always good for a laugh though and one of the things he would do was throw a sponge ball about the workshop, usually catching someone unawares. It was about 6” dia, very soft and absolutely filthy. I hid it one day and painted it black then wrote BOMB on it in white. It was nearly bonfire night so a sparkler was easily obtained which I stuck in it, lit and tossed to our anarchist. I’d like to say that it was the funniest thing to have happened in Deltic for 200 years but heck, Deltic was only about 10 years old.
Poor sod always seemed to have a bad time at weekends, as thugs’d ambush him on his way home from the pub. He’d come into work on a Monday morning with a black eye regularly. Why the idiots want to attack a guy because his hair is spiked up I just don’t know.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Work on Monday?

Oh dear. I’ve just had a phone call from my Personnel Officer about my start back to work on Monday. It’s not going to happen. Instead she is organising an appointment for me on Tuesday with the company that does our occupational health assessments. She also stressed the need for me to be absolutely fit. That’s plan A down the pan, plan B is…………

Macclesfield Canal







It’s Wednesday already and time just seems to be slipping away so I decided to take a walk on the Macclesfield Canal at Higher Poynton and give my knee some more exercise. It was muddy and rainy but the sun did shine through and I hope you like the pictures I took. I did, naturally, wet my whistle in the Boars Head you see here.
A few years ago I was the safety canoe for a group of girls, including Lisa, my daughter, who paddled this canal in fibreglass homemade kayaks for about 20 miles. It was a practice for the Duke of Edinburgh Gold award main expedition in Scotland, which was later that year. The campsite on this occasion was behind the hedge to the right in the last photo but I was disappointed to see it was now dug up.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Damn Car

What a day. My dear wife came home from work yesterday complaining about a problem with the brakes on her car. Todays challenge was to find out whats wrong and fix it. Total failure. Plan B was take it to her brother, on the other side of Manchester, and who knows a thing or two about cars, but he failed as well. I'm a coward and got her brother to tell her the news so peace reigns in the house. She wouldn't have just believed me!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Deltic Again

Its Monday and the big countdown starts for me. Next Monday I should be back at work after 10 weeks absent with my new knee. I don’t know whether I’m looking forward to it or dreading it. Both in like measure.

Still on the subject of Deltic Engineering, (see previous posts), we had a young guy, about 28yo I think, who was appointed the installation and service engineer and he had the job of going to Poland to install the machinery I was writing about.
His first trip lasted nearly two months and when he came back the main subject of conversation wasn’t the machinery but the girl he had acquired. Apparently he had persuaded her to leave her boyfriend and move into the hotel with him.
A short while later he had to return for about three weeks and he came back with the same story. A couple of months went by and he had to return for a week and that is where things went pear shape. (No she wasn’t pregnant). The girl told him she had gone back to her old boyfriend so goodbye. He now got upset and got drunk big time. He went unconscious in the taxi taking him back to his hotel and the driver seems to have robbed him of his passport and money and dropped him off at the hospital. He awoke in a straightjacket in a rubber room and lost 3 days work as a result.
The Polish company were naturally upset by this and of course refused to pay his hotel bill for the three days and other incidental expenses.
Back in Manchester he didn’t even get a bollacking and was treated as a hero, booze and women you see. (Or perhaps you don’t?). He had his fiancĂ© to return to as well. Crazy bastard.
While all this was happening our electrician had to go to South Wales to attend a breakdown and failed to fix the problem. He set off back to Manchester without letting the company know and without phoning us, the first we knew was when an irate manager was phoning us to find out what was happening. We tried to phone him on the company mobile he had been lent, this is 1998 and not everyone owned one then, but it was turned off. When he returned he was in so much trouble he was nearly sacked and when he claimed he didn’t know a mobile had to be turned on (crazy?) it was nearly the last straw. Compare that to the treatment of our man in Poland and its no wonder Deltic was such an unhappy place to work. I think it sent me crazy.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Visit to Work

I've just been into work to say hello and confirm I’m starting back a week on Monday. The guy who’s filled in for me has been very busy in spite of the factory lacking orders and only two lines running. He’s had agencies chasing him for work elsewhere and can’t wait to be gone. Its not that he doesn’t like it here but there’s a lot more money to be made elsewhere. He made me wish I were younger and fitter. Story of my life! Final obstacle will be the meeting with my surgeon next Friday but I don’t really see a problem. I still don’t have full flexibility and I can’t kneel but, what the hell got to make a start sometime.
I’m just having a quick look through the book The Wicked Wit of Insults and I like the religious section. How about these gems: In heaven all the interesting people are missing. And; The trouble with born again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around. Crazy but true.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Deltic Again

Re my last post: I’ve found I still can’t connect to the internet and this time I’ve sent an email for help to D-link. I’m connected at the moment with one of those old-fashioned wire things hanging out the back. Very last century.

Back to Deltic as per previous post. After working there a couple of weeks I was able to show my daughter round and I saw consternation on faces as they realised that my wife wasn’t white. In fact the bosses jaw nearly hit his chin and he had to catch his pipe. This is 1998 not 1898 remember. After the MD were a Factory Manager and a Change Manager who hated each other with venom that was hard to credit especially as it spilled over onto the factory floor where they slagged each other off to anyone who would listen. What sort of change management is that? He was also a longstanding friend of the MD. These two guys also tried to outdo each other in the field of who could be the most racist with constant innuendo and sideways looks at me.
The MD was little better. He had to go to Morocco on one occasion and stated he wished he could meet the customer in the airport and come straight back. When I asked why, seemed a great opportunity to me, he said, ‘Full of arabs’. Smirks all round. When he got back he explained that it was dirty and there were broken windows that weren’t repaired and concluded that ‘Life didn’t have a value’. Crazy bastards.. Then Jews were mentioned and a comment was, ‘Now that lot should be on the moon’. Jesus H Christ, where was I working?
The Factory Manager had a brother who ran an engineering company in Ashton-U-Lyne and also did house clearances which he sold on from his shop in town. The manager took great delight in telling me of a black guy who walked into the shop and said ‘Hello Bill’. The reply was, ‘hello nigger’, to which the guy walked out. Well he would wouldn’t he?
How I worked there for 2 years I don’t know. I’ve got some funny stuff to say about working for Deltic as well but right now I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth so I’ll save it for another post.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Internet disconnection

Sometimes I can really hate computers. I’ve turned it on this morning and got a windows update to download. Having done that I couldn’t establish my wireless connection and had to phone D-Links tech support. It’s an old steam driven laptop so it has a third party connection. They did what they could then said their bit is working so get in touch with Orange to connect up. Orange couldn’t help and went through some bullshit about changing frequency because my neighbours phone might be on the same one. Finished up back to D-Link who made the connection this time, doing what Orange should have done, I now realise, as they had me putting in the Orange security code again. I ought to be able to send my phone bill to Microsoft and put the Orange wally against the wall.
I started the day full of good intentions to write another work related post but I’ve still got steam coming out of my ears so will try again later or tomorrow grrrrrrrrrrr
.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Gods Height

I’m learning the hard way about blogs. Yesterday while browsing guardianonline/blogs I was reading this incredible report about how god is 6’2” tall, and weighs about 200lbs. I’d like to tell you its all a joke but these guys were serious. My crime is that I didn’t copy it and today I can’t find it, its there somewhere. Its to do with a handspan and somewhere in the old testament god is claimed to have a span of 9” and if you extrapolate that to this crazy guys handspan of 83/4” and his height this gives the 6’2” and 200lb. He’s a mormon, why am I not surprised. Should be spelt moron. He’s even in an augument with someone else as to who made this discovery. Somehow these wingnuts manage to scrape enough grey cells together to earn a living. Crazy or what!
While out shopping today I bumped into an old boss of mine and discovered that like me he’s a cancer survivor but really went through the mill with the chemo where I didn’t have any. Well-done David.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Physio, City Bonuses

Have just been to the physio for the last time and she says my knee looks really good with minimum swelling and plenty of movement considering its only 8 weeks since the op. I feel good about it too but have just gone on another course of penicillin because of the high temperature I keep running in the evening.

City Bonuses
While sat in the waiting room I read the Telegraph report that city bonuses were going to be on the low side this xmas at about £3.8 billion. Can’t help thinking that would just about sort out the little Icelandic problem! I wonder if that would stop them giving their annual 50 grand each to the Tory Party. Doubt it. Crazy bastards.
In 1968 I asked for a loan from the Yorkshire Penny Bank, the names long gone but not the business. I was turned down because I hadn’t got enough assets, ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ he said with a sneer. Considering the extent with which they have got the whole country in a mess buying bad debt I really, really want to say something nasty now.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Deltic CV's

There is so much free advice about how to construct a CV that there’s no real excuse for producing a bad one, in fact some real lemons have great CV’s. I also believe that sending a bad one is one way of deliberately not getting a job and while I was section leader at Deltic I received 2 of them.
One guy listed all his 10 GCSE’s as Grade F. I can almost hear his teacher telling him that there is no ‘fail’, just grades.
The second guy needlessly explained that he had been fired from his previous job but had won his case for unfair dismissal at an Industrial Relations Tribunal. Clearly he’s a creature from another planet.
They were either both stupid or wanted to stay unemployed. They were the only 2 CV’s I binned without sending a ‘sorry’ letter.
Crazy? Me? Definitely not.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Hello Joe

Wonderful stuff. Congratulations to my niece Leanne and hubby Paul on the birth of their son Joseph, weighing in at around 9lb, this morning in the local cottage hospital. Hello Joe!

Working for Deltic

In the 2 years up to the millennium I worked as a team leader at Deltic Engineering in Manchester. We made machinery that produced car silencers and I was able to install some of it in Italy and India. I remember on one occasion building a machine for a company in Poland, which had entered into a partnership with an Italian Company, and the Italians arrived one day to have a look at progress. I understood that the Italians were the dog and the Poles were the tail.
One particular bit of equipment wasn’t working properly and the Italians arrived just as I was about to hit it hard with a sledgehammer. I waited until they were hidden by other machines before I did the deed and it had the necessary effect. When I demo’d it, it worked perfectly, for the first time, and when they left I couldn’t get it running again for a week. Phew!
Another problem was that we discovered it woul dn’t make the longest size silencer as it was too near the ground so we had to put 100mm packings under it. When it finally arrived in Poland and installed, the Italian guy was there and looked very puzzled, claiming it wasn’t that high in the factory and the mechanism was a bit awkward to get at. Fortunately our installation engineer went for the Oscar and persuaded him it was always like that and had to be for the longer lengths. Crazy or what? More post about Deltic later.

Bloody hell. Was forced out of bed at 6.30 this morning to look for the de-icer for my wife. Errr…for her car windscreen I think I mean. Its that time of year isn’t it, a long slippery slide to Xmas.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Alpha and Omega

I went to visit my mother yesterday along with my daughter who’s having a few days holiday with us. She is over 80 and living in a retirement home in Derbyshire and it was not a pleasant experience at all. Because of my illnesses I haven’t seen her since Xmas and she suddenly looked 10 years older. I’m not even sure she recognised us but she did try to talk, most of which seemed like gobbledygook.
The room she has appears clean and smart but like the corridor and lounge area stunk of urine. Everywhere is carpeted which doesn’t help when a lot of incontinent people are using it and there is a plan for it all to be replaced with wooden flooring. Sounds good but I can’t help thinking that wood creates its own problems if old folk slip and fall on it.
We forced ourselves to spend an hour with her before fleeing and I suspect she was unaware that we left.

The next visit nearby was a lot pleasanter. My niece is expecting a baby, 2 days ago, so the atmosphere was totally different. Alpha and Omega all in one day.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Shaw Trust and Civil War

Called into work today for my interview with Shaw Trust and found that there was also a rep from the Job Centre as well. It was all very nice but it amounted to waiting until I’m back at work, possibly late October, then bringing in an expert to look at what I’m doing and trying to find ways to prevent me from lifting and kneeling and any other nasty unhealthy stuff like that. Sounds far-fetched but worth a try, It’s a free service after all.

I went into the workshop to say hello to the guys and found two of them prattling about the economic crisis which seems to be biting at our company with a four day week being announced. One of the German sites is already on 4 days and another on 3. These guys have decided that there’s going to be a civil war. They are of course a couple of red-top retards and probably enjoy the fantasy. They blame immigrants generally for our crisis and Turks for the German crisis. The really interesting stuff like what hedge fund managers have been doing is never mentioned. In fact the things they never discuss is legend and I just can’t be bothered. Good grief, I’m to blame!

When my wife got home from work she scratched her car on the gatepost. Enough already
.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Hedge Fund Managers

Another weekend gone and my knee is feeling great. I went to physio on Friday and she was very impressed by the movement in it and the reduced swelling. I still have problems at night though and need painkillers to sleep in spite of the fact that I have no pain. Got a doctors appointment this afternoon for his advice and to try and get extended physio at Withington Hospital.

Another appointment made for tomorrow with the Shaw Trust (see previous post) so that should be interesting.

I was just thinking last week that its ironic the Labour Party will likely be stuffed at the next Election when the main source of financial problems has been caused by the Tories. It was generic type thinking in that city financiers and industrialists would be Tories. Then I open the Sunday Observer and find that the hedge fund managers who have been making masses of money out of falling share prices have been giving the Tories £50K a year each. This gives them membership of the ‘Leaders Group’ and access to David Cameron at functions. ‘Cash for Access’ the paper says. Why am I not surprised?

Anyway, got to put an industrial type post together for Wednesday and stop prattling about idiot politicians and unscrupulous rich men.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Visit to Work

I called into work yesterday to show my face in the workshop and go to a meeting the Company had organised with Shaw Trust. This is what their website says.

What is Shaw Trust?
Shaw Trust is a national charity that provides training and work opportunities for people who are disadvantaged in the labour market due to disability, ill health or other social circumstances. We are the largest voluntary sector provider of employment services for disabled people in the UK.
Did you know?
Only about half of disabled people of working age are in work. For more details, see our disability and employment statistics.
What does Shaw Trust do?
Shaw Trust supports thousands of disabled and disadvantaged people across the UK to achieve their personal development and employment aims. We do this through:-
§ Government-funded employment services to support people moving from benefits to work, with guidance on finding jobs, training and benefits
§ Pre-employment activities in a supportive environment
§ Work-related, accredited training
§ Support for increased independence for disabled people
§ Creating jobs through social enterprise
§ Working in partnership with employers, local authorities and health trusts
For more information on these services, see Finding a job or personal development
Many of our services are tailored to the specific requirements of people with issues such as mental ill health, substance misuse problems or learning disability.

None of this really seems relevant to me but it had been arranged for a couple of other employees so I was to attend as well. So this is what happened. The meeting had been cancelled but no-one had told me.

Well there are always reasons and in this case the Personnel Officers Mother had died and she was off work so the system had collapsed.

Meanwhile back in the workshop I’m told that the project I had missed had finally been completed a couple of weeks late and the electrician explained that he had also been off work having a lump removed from his back which was benign, fortunately. A fitter had separated from his wife and another fitter slashed his hand open. The good news was on the factory floor where a guy won £250,000 on the lottery. I can’t wait to get back to work!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

On the Buses

Another story from my bus driver friend and it predates events of my last post. One day he was being pestered with school children pressing the buzzer for a stop but they were false calls, he was stopping the bus needlessly. He did get his own back and ended the stupidity quite simply by ignoring the legitimate stop request and quite pan-faced said, ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear the bell’. He’s definitely not a crazy guy.

I had an awful experience about a year ago when I was following a school-bus along Kingsway, Manchester when I realised that kids on the top deck were dismantling the seats and pushing them through the windows. Fortunately no pedestrian was hurt. I did manage to pull up by the driver at traffic lights and tell him. ‘Oh no’ he said, ‘not again’.
I thought buses had mirrors for the drivers to see the top decks; they did when I was a kid. Crazy kids.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Bus Drivers Story

This is a great little story from a bus driver friend of mine. He works in Manchester and one of the routes he does involves a major ‘school run’. One day he grew a little tired of the bad behaviour and loudness of his customers so he stopped the bus and told one of them to behave and to write 100 lines, ‘I will behave on public transport’. The bus went silent and he continued his route.

The repercussions were, the boy did the lines and handed them over the following day. General behaviour on the school run improved. The boys mother rang the bus station, told the supervisor what had happened with a request to pass on her thanks. The driver got a lot of good-natured humour from his workmates.

Definitely not crazy, that driver deserved his 15 minutes of fame don’t you think?

I’m still having a lot of problems sleeping at night, post op. Even though I have good days come late afternoon I get a chill through both legs and start running a temperature. Looks like I’ll be visiting the doc again.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Dentist

I still can't put an 'industrial' post together. I've spent the day gardening as its drying up and there might not be another opportunity. Obviously I've overdone it as come late afternoon a chill has taken me over right down my legs and the small of my back. I'm still wearing the surgical stockings as well. Can't concentrate and have no inclination to do any thinking.

I will tell though of my wifes trip to the dentist today. It was the second and final visit for a little work she's having but had suffered from the previous anesthetic and her mouth was still sore. I asked if she had mentioned the problem to the dentist. She had but then said, 'But I couldn't shout at him because he's got such a cute schoolboy hang-dog expression'. What! shout at a dentist just as he starts work on you? Nooooooo way. Crazy or what?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Classical Music and Sherry?

My knee seems not to be improving noticeably (it’s a new one if you have just started reading) but I have just been walking, a bit stiff legged, round the local shops. I’ve also been redoing my CV with a view to working in some sort of admin role as my days as a practical engineer must be over if I’m to make this knee last. It has about 20 years life if I stop scrambling about under machinery and kneeling on it and can find a computer I can sit in front of all day. We’ll see.

Instead of giving another little engineering story I overheard something the other day that prompts me to ask the question; what does classical music and sherry have in common? On first look absolutely nothing but I met a guy once, he lived in the same bed sits I did, who was an assistant bank manager and told me, looking smug, that he was just off to a Young Conservative meeting. ‘We listen to classical music and drink sherry’ he said.

Then during the ‘70’s when I worked at British Aerospace an inspector I was talking to invited me to his house one dinnertime to listen to some classical music. No idea how we got on the subject but I found I couldn’t say no and duly found myself listening to some choral work and having a glass of sherry thrust on me. Back at work I was ribbed a bit and found that a long list of people had also suffered like me. So what is the connection? The only answer I can think of is rather rude so I leave it to your imagination. Crazy or what?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Bus Pass and Mortgages

I went to Tesco’s this morning and got 4-passport photos made in the Kiosk they have. Four quid, cheap really considering I then took them to the Councils Information Bureau located in the local Leisure Centre and applied for a BUS PASS. It will take about 3 weeks to arrive then I’ll be able to travel the length and breadth of the country on local buses absolutely free. I’ve already promised myself that I won’t. Noooo..way!!!!

Just mowed the lawn again, did it yesterday as well, but its still so wet it looks like a field. I just hope it dries off enough so I can give it a proper cut before the winter sets in. Its also got my knee all exited and I’m now collapsed on the sofa giving it a rest and reading about Lehman Bros and not giving my ‘fitting’ experiences the slightest thought.

One of the things the exponents of selling off Council Houses have never liked hearing about is that the richest countries in the world, USA, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, have all got very low rates of home ownership. I knew that attempts were being made in the States to change this but I never realised that the failure to do this would have such far-reaching repercussions around the World. How crazy is it to give mortgages beyond the ability of people to pay? No don’t answer that. And then the state has to bail them out in order to prop up a wide range of financial institutions and try to save the situation. I’ve done some crazy things as a fitter but I’ve never done anything as crazy as this. I know, I’ll apply for a multimillion pound bonus this Xmas.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Football, physio and Tenerife.

Just been watching Ray Stubbs, the anchor on Final Score, and picked up this wonderful insight into the game of football. 'The game isn't over yet and goals can change scores.' I wish I could think of things like that, I could earn a lot more money.

I went to the Physio again yesterday and she was pleased at the progress I'm making and the amount I can bend my knee. About 118 degrees now and I'm off painkillers and crutches and it's only 4 weeks since I got my new knee. Also had my last self administered injection yesterday. Whoopee. Only 2 little probs, I still can't get a good nights sleep, and the scar has opened up a little right in the middle so I'm bleeding a little into my nice white surgical stockings and it leaks to the side of the elastoplast I've stuck on. Probably been bending it too far! Damn, but so what! Next physio appointment in 2 weeks.

Have just been looking at buying airfares to Tenerife next February, half term as well, damn. Nearly booked through Freedom Flights, part of the XL Group and bankrupt overnight. A near miss! Now I'm looking at alternatives and finding everyone has stuck about £60 on the flights. Jet2.com seem to be the least guilty having just added £20 to the outbound flight. But are they next? Crazy or what?



Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Working in Karachi 1988

Following on from my last post about whiskey smuggling to Karachi the job in hand was to install the ‘making up’ end to the production line where quilt covers, fitted sheets, pillow cases etc were made up and packed. The value of our machines was around the £110000 mark and represented the smallest investment in the line but extremely important in that it had to quickly make the finished goods to a high standard.

The mill complex itself was in a walled in compound and we were shown the old part, which was still producing bedding and represented a 19thC Dickensian nightmare. It was dark and hot and the old weaving machines made a cacophony of noise, which hurt the ears, and men worked stripped to the waist and with no ear protection. The new mill complex on the other hand had brand new Japanese weaving machines that were whisper quiet with robots collecting lint from the air. It was very human friendly, but with no humans. The cloth was then taken to the new German bleaching and dyeing equipment and then to the Swiss Printing machines. Then it would be Oldham’s turn with cloth laying up and cutting machines and a variety of automated sewing equipment. That was plan A.

A huge section of wall had been left out to get the four packing cases into the mill and there they were waiting for our tender ministrations. It was a shock to open them and find that they had not been tropicalized and that all our machines were rusted up. I’ve never seen so much rust damage, it seemed to be growing like fungus and paintwork was peeling off as green and blue machines turned to terracotta. Sewing machines showed an amazing amount of damage with their small highly polished chrome parts deeply pitted with rust.

Management’s first instinct was to pack it all up and send it back but the trouble there was that the whole business of finding alterative suppliers, and lead-time and shipping time would put the whole production plan into disarray. The investment had been funded partly by Pakistan Government and partly by World Bank and orders with delivery dates had been won so we had to start stripping down and ordering spare parts from our company in Oldham while they made urgent representations to the packaging and Insurance companies. Our MD actually flew out to inspect and stayed for ONE night as he had a wedding to attend back home!

Yacoob and I were made to feel like naughty schoolboys as we stood in front of the mills directors and asked ‘Is this machinery new?’ The third world has a long history of corruption with old machinery being bought as ‘new’ in financial scams and our stuff was to be examined by Gov inspectors to protect their investment.

We did get it all up and running as replacement stuff was air freighted out and I think everyone was reasonably happy at the outcome.

At lunchtimes we had our own canteen where we ate with a lone German engineer still on site. He asked where our return flight tickets were and when we said the company had them he roared with laughter. Apparently they are internationally known as ‘hanky panky’ tickets. You don’t get home until the job is done! He also gave his opinion of the curried lamb we were served daily, ‘This dog was barking an hour ago’. Yes it was that bad. On our last day we managed to get our team of locals who had been helping us, and would run the machines, to have lunch with us and they agreed the ‘dog’ was poor but said it was better than the company gave them, ‘They think we are pigs’. They also refused the coffee offered to them because, ‘We might like it and we can’t afford to buy it’.

We were treated to some sightseeing trips round and about Karachi which included a visit to the Mazar-e-Quaid the National Mausoleum and tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan. It was a tremendous building and had a soldier slouching in the heat on each corner. I asked one to stand to attention (I mimed) to have his photo taken, and he did but unfortunately I can’t find it in my vast collection.

Another trip was to the zoo were I innocently photographed an elephant being ridden by his keeper. Immediately the elephant rushed towards me and thrust its trunk in my face. Fortunately the locals sat behind us new what was happening and laughingly thrust some rupees at the elephant, which lifted them to its keeper. Panic over. Mugged by an elephant!

There’s a revolving restaurant in Karachi with wonderful views over the city. Its only the outer ring containing the tables and seating that revolves and it was funny to spend time choosing food from the buffet and then finding our table had vanished as it revolved at one rev per hour.

The drink of choice was always pomegranate juice and it was wonderful stuff but hey, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘pint of bitter please’ does it?

We were treated to a tour round the ‘posh’ area of the city, Clifton, where the Bhutto’s lived and they had political slogans in neon lights on their compound walls. Most compounds had a gatehouse with an old man armed with an old rifle sat on a seat outside and I wondered how much use he would be in an attack or burglary. We also saw an uncompleted building, which was going to be a casino, and owned by the Bhutto’s but the arrest and execution of the family patriarch brought that activity to an end. I always got the impression there were scores to be settled but casinos are still illegal.We also watched political parades, which seemed to be bright lively events and the streets were lined with posters from the various parties. Benezir Bhutto was not allowed to be named in the papers by the Junta and was called ‘that woman’ instead. I was startled to read in the English language papers, straightforward reporting of Pakistan Communist Party election meetings, something I’ve never read in English non-censored papers.

The main roads through Karachi all appeared to have machine gun emplacements sandbagged in and completely blocking one pavement as if the traffic wasn’t bad enough. I just couldn’t understand what they were for. Intimidation maybe? I was almost sorry to leave but my family awaited and we finished the job and trained the operatives and received our ‘hanky panky’ return ticket and left the day before Benazir was elected that first time.

The final insurance payout for the job was about £30000 and the packaging company went into liquidation. Good riddance.
Next post will probably be weekend.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Going to Karachi 1988

Every day there’s some improvement in my knee and the swelling has started to go down. Only 6 more injections to go but will have to wear my surgical stockings for another 3 weeks. I never mentioned them before. They are white and called ‘Nora Batties’ by the nurses. and apparently help stop DVT’s. Being housebound I’ve taken to wearing a pair of shorts with them and delight in answering the door in this state. Now I know what ‘funny look’ means but unfortunately the Jehovah Witnesses haven’t been yet.

The election of Mr. 10% in Pakistan reminded me of the 3 weeks I spent working in Karachi in 1988. I was installing textile machinery and will write about that in my next post but this one is about the problem I faced just getting there. It should have been straightforward but…………….

I had been one of the fitters building the machinery, and along with a colleague, Yacoob, who was originally from Kashmir and spoke Urdu, was asked to install it in the client’s premises. Our MD took us into his office and said that when we arrived at Heathrow we were to buy a bottle of whiskey each and one for the Project Manager in Karachi. We did, and Yacoob never batted an eyelid, crazy fitters or what?

The first I knew something was wrong we were on final descent into Karachi and the pilot reminded everyone that no alcohol was allowed. Oops! I asked Yacoob if he’d known and he shrugged his shoulders and said ‘sort of’. As passengers were filing off the plane and scowling at us we were taking whiskey bottles out of bright yellow Heathrow duty free bags and stuffing them into our hand luggage. In the queue at passport control a man came and stood next to me and enquired of Yacoob, in Urdu, if we were together, to which he could only affirm. The expression ‘deep doggy doo’ came to mind. He went through the barrier as we were processed and, oddly, we never saw him again.

Waiting for our cases off the carousel gave us the chance to look around. The hall was filled with trestle tables, which were the green channels, and everyone seemed to be getting a thorough search. There was only one red channel, which was empty, and there was no way we were going there. ‘Just got some whiskey mate, ok?’ Our cases were last, fortune smiled, and we pushed our way to the door.

Three weeks away from the elections and Pakistan is under marshal law, there’s a curfew, essential traffic only, and its 2am in the morning with two soldiers standing guard at the door. We just reach them when there’s a shout behind us and suddenly I’ve got crossed Kalashnikov muzzles in front of my nose. That means ‘stop’ in any language on this planet, and probably on a few others. A rather heavyweight man jogged painfully up to us and asked where we were from, eying up our hand baggage. We told him as he took hold of the bags and gave them a shake. I could hear whisky glugging but suddenly had a brainwave and took out the letter from the company we were going to. I didn’t know it at the time but it was a large, well-known and respected company and he read the letter with a frown on his face before giving one last shake, glug glug, and said ‘All right you can go’.

Good grief, we got away with it, but never again. When we handed over the bottle to the Project Manager he looked in the bag and said ‘That was jolly nifty of you John’. We never did tell him.
Next post on Wednesday.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Working in Dublin

Went to the physio again on Friday and had another dose of ultrasound on my knee followed by a massage. She was well pleased that I could bend it through 110 degrees, which is apparently exceptional considering I had the op. only 3 weeks ago. So I’m pleased as well.

I think it was the same year that I worked in Lurgan that I also installed textile machines in a Dublin Factory and it was a completely different experience. I was a guest of the MD and stayed in the house he had inherited from his father the only change he had made was the addition of a swimming pool. Ooh yes!! And it looked out over Dublin Bay. Stunning. He and his wife took me out to a restaurant and that was real eye-opener as it seemed to be ‘unofficial’ and was just a large Victorian terrace and completely unmarked. He said only tourists went to ‘proper’ restaurants. The chef was the owner-occupier and the staff were dressed as penguins, very proper, and the food was great.
A month or so later my boss had a call from him and I was despatched to Manchester airport the following morning with a drive shaft and pulleys tucked under my arm. It was just too big to go as cabin baggage so had to go in the hold. I was in a queue of English businessmen at check in and they laughed and joked with me that I’d be bringing it back that night. And I did. My boss had got the story wrong, it was just a small adjustment that was needed and damn me, those same guys were at the airport laughing at me and doing the ‘I told you so’. They thought it was an ‘Irish’ problem but I knew better.

I have just been listening to the Pakistan election results with Benazir Bhutto’s widower (Mr 10%) winning the presidential race. I was in Karachi in 1988 when Benazir won for the first time and will try and prepare a post of that experience.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Working in Lurgan

Listening to the news that the IRA are now defunct I was reminded of a time in the 1980’s when I had to go to Lurgan in Northern Ireland to install a textile machine. The whole town centre was decked out in Union Flag bunting and it was just a normal day, no particular celebration at all. Walking round town the protestant area was clearly identifiable by the curbstones which were all painted red, white and blue. The catholic area was also identifiable by the fact it was walled in with ‘all taigs are targets’ scrawled on it. A ‘taig’ being a catholic. Then I spotted a lone soldier walking down a side street, rifle at the ready. Oops, wrong, it was just a policeman. Wrong again, there was another one 50 yards behind. Scary or what? But just another day in the life of…….
I had to go into the managing directors office, and there on the wall behind him was an enormous portrait of Winston Churchhill. The pub I went in at dinnertime, next to the catholic area, was also decked out in bunting and full of Royal Irish Guards memorabilia. Boy was I glad to get home to the ‘mother country’ away from all that crap.
Next post on Saturday.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Watching TV

My knee seems to be loosening up but I still can’t walk downstairs without a strange stiff legged sideways gait. Still can’t get a good nights sleep either.

Just sitting on the settee trying to work out what my next work related blog should be about and got distracted by a couple of TV programmes, Grow Your Own Veg, with Carol Klein and Nigella Express. I never watch a lot of TV but I was suddenly struck by what a couple of smug greasy whatsits they are. It’s the first time in oh……about 10 minutes that I’ve wanted to smack someone.

I have a great plan. If I still can’t sleep tonight I should be able to work out a good blog for tomorrow. That should send everybody to sleep.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Credit Crunch

Went out for a brief walk today and took my crutches in case of need. Boy, did I need. I’m obviously not as good as I thought I was.

Reading all the stuff on the mortgage/credit crunch makes sad reading. How banks and building societies were allowed to lend so much is beyond my comprehension. I was allowed to borrow 2 and a half times my annual salary plus 1 and a half times my wife’s. I can remember building society spokesmen on TV stressing that they kept to these rules but even in 1984 they were being two faced and opening a back door. In my case I failed to meet that criteria on a particular house we wanted by a rotten £2000 but the woman I was talking to in the Halifax told me that if I spoke to a particular man at the Rotherham Branch he would be able to help. I did, and he could, but I would have to have taken out a huge endowment policy so we didn’t. The door has since got so wide I’ve even heard of 120% mortgages. Crazy banks. The result now of course is that the very thing that is needed to help resolve the crisis, more houses, can’t be done. But that’s the err… market err…economy for you..

It’s hilarious. Sarah Palin the prospective Vice President, McCairn’s running mate in the coming USA elections, has a pregnant 17-year-old unmarried daughter. Yes it does happen, but Palin has stopped money being spent on sex education for teenagers. McCairn is in agreement. You couldn’t make this up. I can’t recommend Huffington Post enough for all things American. Linked on the left. If you need a laugh, count on the Americans.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Broken Mug

After feeling ‘not too bad ‘ all day I seem to be deteriorating again come evening and loosing appetite. Damn, how can my knee do this? Another of my daily joys is the anti-clotting injection I have to self-administer. It’s a nothing thing really but hey, only 11 more to go.

All this melancholy reminds me of the time I made a guy cry. It was in early 1969 and I was working in a company in Whitworth, just to the north of Rochdale. It wasn’t a specialist company but still made some quite technical stuff, the machine I worked on was for a laboratory in France. On the other hand some guys did local mill maintenance and were able to make as much as £60/week for 7 X 12 hours. Heady money.
One of the machines we used was a very old radial arm drill, which was botched together with a new electric motor driving through an old Ford car gearbox of some antiquated type.
This guy who cried was the turner and was highly skilled at his trade. He actually wore a blue shirt with a tie and he chain-smoked King Six cigars as he worked at his lathe. “And I’m very partial to a Romeo and Julliet”, he’d say.
One day we had a lot of building contractors in to repair all the leaks in the roof and come tea break it was a case of help yourself to any of the cups of tea on the canteen table. One of the contractors had mine so I picked up another, and it turned out it was our erstwhile turners mug. Boy was he upset. Our tea man told me afterwards that he was mopping tears. Just how stupid can people be? Nope, don’t even try to answer that.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

More on Tilbury

Sunday afternoon already and every ones at work tomorrow except me with my dodgy knee. Good grief, I'm almost a poet! Had physio on Friday and now that the clips are out its feeling a lot better and more mobile. Still got the problem that every evening I seem to start running a temp and getting chills in my legs and back and then another restless night. Got to improve soon.

My favourite blog has got to be the Huffington Post (linked on the left). The coverage of the presidential race is brilliant and some of the quotes are quite breathtaking. How about this from John Harris the Speaker of the House on Sarah Palins qualifications to be Vice President, "She's old enough, She's a US citizen"...............

Looking at my last post on the guy in the Tilbury pub has reminded me that while at Tilbury I had a 650cc Triumph Trophy motorbike and did some pretty stupid things on it so maybe I shouldn't have knocked him so much. In one week while working 12 hours a day for 7 days I managed to clock up 1000 miles. This included 2 trips to a pub in Canterbury and a trip to Brighton where I over indulged in a seafront steakhouse. I started off with a couple of pints at the bar, then a carafe of red wine with the steak (that's when I found out what a carafe was and what red wine tastes like). Then a brandy followed by more beer at the bar. And look, here I am talking about it.

Remembering the crazy labourers we had in the flour mill I recall that they also worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week and their take home pay was only £18/week. One of the crazy fitters persuaded all the contract fitters not to work on Sundays. The reasoning was that with a full week the total stoppages were equivalent to a days wage. Stupid or what? Sundays were double time as well.

One of our fitters was saving up to buy a house - for cash. A terrace could be bought for £850 and one with a garden for £1250. He reconded he'd have the money within a year. Not stupid or what?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tilbury again

Hurray, the district nurse has been and removed all 30 steel clips from my knee and already I'm feeling more mobile. Only 2 clips proved a bit troublesome to remove but hey, I'm a big boy, I just gritted my teeth.

I'm worried just how much Google blogspot is in control of the blogs on its site. When I go to its homepage to log on I look at the 'blog of note' and do a few random hits on the scrolling 'blogs updated in the last 60 seconds'. The latter is producing porn with no prewarning and pop-ups which won't take no for an answer and I have to turn my pc off in a panic and run an ad-aware scan. Fortunately no probs above tai 3 so far. Think I'll dump that habit to be on the safe side.

Back to Tilbury 1969 then to get it out of my system. In a pub one dinnertime I was standing at the bar when a big guy next to me decided he was going to have all my attention and and started bragging about how many yards of concrete he lays in a day and the convoluted method of piecework payment. He then paused for me to admire the income he was on with a smirk on his face. I could only nod agreeably. He obviously liked me. Next subject was the breathalyzer test which was much in discussion at the time. "Are you telling me I can't go out and have my 12 pints at dinnertime?". No sir, not me.

Back at the flour mill it wasn't just crazy fitters we had but one very crazy labourer who was an exhibitionist. By that I mean he constantly got his penis out at every opportunity. (Penis? does that sound a bit biology lesson? Perhaps I should do the red tops p***k. No sod it I'll go Guardianista- 'he got his dick out...'). One day he'd say 'Do you wear underpants?'. 'Errr yes'. 'I don't, look' and in a flash he was unzipped and it was hanging there. 'Do you shave your old man?'. 'Err no'. 'I do look', and there it was again. He was a constant source of amusement and I understand he was married with children. The last time I saw him was on the day I left. He'd just pulled this stunt on some new contract electricians and one of them grabbed hold and was pulling him up the iron steps of one of the walls with him screaming loudly. I suspect he lost the habit.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Saudi Air Force, Tibury and stuff

Tomorrow the district nurse arrives to take out the steel clips from my knee. Yup, really looking forward to that and will definitely load up on paracetamol before she arrives.

Feeling really embarrassed about the closing ceremony at Beijing. Whats with the bus and this stupid dancing and Beckham kicking a ball? Bloody hell.

To continue my story about Tilbury in 1969 I was very lucky to get lodgings in nearby Grays as there were all sorts of contractors sleeping in their cars on the roadside. The going rate for bed, breakfast and evening meal was £5 per week and we were allowed £6.10/- so a small profit was all we got for working away from home. It wasn't long before some idiot told his landlady what the allowance was and suddenly the rate went up for everybody and we got nothing for working away. After nearly 40 years I'm still looking for the bastard!

I was lodged in a house with another guy and we met an interesting character who would pop in occasionally. He had lodged there the previous academic year, being a student at University of London. He was a Saudi called HarnyHarny. Alright, I know the spelling is totally wrong but thats the way the name was pronounced and it was a huge joke as a group called the Archies had a hit that year called Sugar, Sugar (honey, honey etc). He was a member of the Saudi Air Force who were sponsoring him and he used to regale us with stories of crime and punishment back home, theft, adultery, alcohol etc. He also used to turn up with a bottle of brandy and here's the really strange bit, a bottle of coca cola! Who's ever heard of brandy and coke? Bizarre. Our wages were about £18/week and he got £20 for spends. He also said his father, related to the King, had just registered as a millionaire. Unbelievable!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Tilbury Docks

Getting to feel 'on the mend' and even went to a party on Saturday evening and consumed a little alcohol, first in 2 weeks. 30 staples to be removed from my knee midweekish, doesn't that sound joyous?
Back to the industry stuff. 1960 found me working on Tilbury Docks installing the machinery in a new flour mill. There were just a few of us fitters working directly for Carter Bros. and a few more employed by agencies and sent down from the Manchester area. It was quickly apparent that the agency guys thought they were the bee's knee's and even regarded themselves as self employed. And we were 'cowboys', they told us this direct, no whispering here. It turned out that they were the most hopeless bunch of whatsits I've ever worked with. One of them even admitted he'd been 'off the tools' for 9 years, as a petrol pump attendant! In fact he hadn't got any tools and bought a set from a catalogue at 5/- per week. It was the strangest thing I've ever seen. The square box had tools like calipers, punches and scriber hung round the outside and secured with there own lids while most of the rest were inside with a top lid. At every opportunity he would walk round the box opening the lids one at a time and smiling at the contents. I doubt he knew what most of them were for.
These agency guys were always kept together and one day one of them brought me a drill to sharpen as between them they had failed, big time. They had ground it up as if it was a pencil!! Crazy fitters. Let me add that some of the best fitters I've worked with since have been with agencies. Honest.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Tired out

I'm not sleeping too well post op but I've managed to stay awake all day and hope to get a good one tonight.
Another aircraft disaster. This sort of thing affects everyone badly. When we get on those planes we really are helpless and in the hands of the gods. (pick any god or combination of gods this planet has invented).
I worked on aircraft during the 1970's and can tell of one nightshift when we had nothing to do as we were waiting for components to be released from the stores. Out of shear frustration I built a huge spiderweb out of alluminium wire under a wing section and also made up an enormous spider to hang from it. Crazy fitter! I clearly remember the pride we all felt though in doing a good job as we built those planes.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Back from Hospital and Greyhounds

I have just returned home after having a new knee fitted at the Regency Hospital in Macclesfield. All that apprehension for nothing. The spinal block injection was great (and painless) and while I did doze a little I was able to joke with the staff while the new knee was fitted. I wanted a shiny stainless steel one with oilite bushes and a couple of grease nipples but the request was declined so I've got a titanium and high molecular density polyurethane one instead. The hospital was the best hotel I've ever stayed in (I was a NHS patient) and the staff were great. I have to admit that when the spinal block wore off I had a very uncomfortable night and I'd swear that morphine has no effect on me. Thats not a complaint- I've got a new knee.

While laid up I noticed that the greyhound track at Walthamstow has closed and it reminded me of a guy I met in around 1990 who owned a greyhound. At the time I was self employed and had a small industrial unit in Oldham where I designed and built machinery. The unit next door renovated wooden pallets and employed the dog owner as their labourer and general dogsbody (oh dear!). This guy never washed or changed his clothes, "Why should I, I'll only get dirty again?", and it was always essential to stay upwind of him. One weekend he and his wife took the dog in their Reliant Robin to a race meeting in Newcastle (just imagine that journey with the smell) and because the dog hadn't raced for a while and was unfit fed it on sausage and bet on it to come last. That naturally changed the betting odds but the dog won its race and he was warned by the bookies never to go to that track again. And he'd bet on it to loose.
It transpired that the Reliant Robin was only insured third party as "nobody steals 'em". This one was stolen and dumped in the Rochdale Canal. You've probably already guessed but one leg of his spectacles was held on with cellotape.
Anyway, I've had enough for now and need a couple of pain killers.