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).

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


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.