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).

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.

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