About Me

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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).

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.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

'A' level results and other stuff

I was listening to Terry Wogan on the radio this morning (dare you admit to that?) talking about the latest A level results. The usual old chestnuts were trotted out. Are the exams getting easier? Are the pupils getting cleverer? Even I know that evolution doesn’t happen that fast. This sort of comment used to be published in the early 20th century. Poor old teachers, underpaid and overlooked. I understand that we are one of the few countries in the world that treats teachers with a general contempt and over the years I’ve listened to a lot of claptrap about them. If exam results were getting worse then I’d worry, and the professional commentators could have a justifiable field day.

I’ve copied this from the TGWU website and feel I’ve been living on another planet. I have never understood that my tips were being used for wages but it seems to have been sorted now.

'Waiters and waitresses across the country have won the battle for pay fairness following the announcement by the government that it will take action to close the legal loophole which allows companies to use tips and service charges to top up salaries to the minimum wage. The long running campaign by Unite the union has secured justice for workers in the hospitality industry in their fight for fair tips.'

I’ve been looking on the Learn Direct website and was impressed with their over 50’s section (50 is the new 30). Its well worth a look as there are articles on retirement worries, mentoring, job satisfaction etc.

And today’s bit of humour is: A long time ago I was working in a mill (on Tilbury Docks) when a fitter asked me to pass over his hammer. I slid it over the floor to him and he was upset. “Don’t slide it over the floor. I’ve had that hammer 20 years, it’s had 3 new heads and 5 new shafts”. Where do they come from?

I’m in hospital tomorrow having a new knee fitted so it will be a few days before I get to post again. I'm told I will be given a spinal block, will be awake, its a bit carpentryish. Apprehension, Apprehension, Apprehension.............

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

First Blog

Its Wednesday and this is my first post. A momentus day for me but normal humdrum for everyone else. The idea is to create a blog that industrial workers will find useful and amusing. As a mechanical fitter who has worked in many industries and places I seem to have a wealth of stories to tell and have always regretted not keeping in touch with some of the guy's I've worked with. Hopefully this blog will become a place where contacts can be made, advice sought and given and maybe even develop into a fully fledged website. I won't hold my breath.........

On Friday I go into hospital for a new knee (ouch). I've got a touch of OGS (Old Git Syndrome), arthritis has ground its way through my cartilage so I'm limping around and finally taking a holiday to rest up pre. op. I've already used up my sick leave. We have a big project on at work so the company decided to try and replace me on a temp basis with a fitter who can do electric arc and tig. The 1st 2 interviewees cancelled because they got jobs. The next cancelled because he'd had his car nicked, the next 2 said they could weld but couldn't, I had to give them a simple test. The company then told the agencies that they wanted a welding certificate as proof of competence. The next guy was the one who'd had his car nicked but the agency brought him. He looked at the 2 small pieces of 1.5mm stainless steel I wanted him to tig up and shook his head and said he couldn't do it. He explained that his last company had sent him on a basic tig course for a day then decided not to buy a welding set so he had no experience. "But look" he said "I've brought you the certificate you wanted". Where do they come from.........

Still looking.

I had a little chat with him before he was shown out and he claimed to be registered with 40 agencies and had as many as 20 contacts a day.

This is Manchester we are talking about and I can't find that many relevant agencies and I can't find ones that I've worked with in the past. I've always known this was a bit of a problem and I'm thinking it would be a good idea to make a list of all agencies dealing with industrial workers nationwide so if you send in your lists, or favourites, and with any comments you feel relevant, good or bad experiences, I'll do my best to list them on this site.

Fireplace fitters have just arrived, we're having a new one fitted in the lounge.

End of 1st post. Painless so far.