A long time ago, in a work environment far, far away….
The year was 1976. It was autumn, and I was in the second year of my apprenticeship with Post Office Telecommunications – or BT as it has now become.
The beginning of that September saw me transferred from Exchange Maintenance to the Overhead and Underground unit, or Poles and Holes as we called them. Apprentices were rotated through every specialist section of BT telecommunications, so that they are exposed to all aspects of the business.
So far, I had enjoyed working with Subsciber Installations, Planning, Exchange Construction and Exchange Mintenance. I really wasn’t looking forward to working at the industrial end of the business -especially not during the onset of winter!
On my first day of training with them, I strolled into the Telephone Engineering Centre in the sleepy West Sussex town of East Grinsead,
Opening my locker, I pulled my tool kit out, and whistling tunelessly, made my way into the restroom to grab some breakfast, and meet my mentors, before we set off into my next adventure.
I barged into the brightly lit rest room, which was noisy with laughter, and hazy with cigarette smoke. Damn – I just loved the smell of Old Holborn.
I poured myself a cup of tea from the enormous aluminium tea pot, gulping some down as I waited for my two slices of toast to pop. I had to quaff it reasonably quickly as it would have stripped the enamel from my teeth otherwise.
I used the opportunity to discretely assess my new team mates and trainers. In the far corner, sat a small and wizened man, whose leathery skin contrasted starkly with his silver-grey hair, which had been buzz cut to within 2 millimetres of his scalp.
He was chatting loudly with a man of simply enormous proportions, whose bulk leaked like decomposing blancmange into every crevice of the chair he was sitting in.
They were known to all as Laurel and Hardy. The smaller of the two was Jim Smith, and Mr. Blancmange was Bert Handy. I had heard through the grapevine, and from other apprentices, that they were both real characters, but Bert was also “A bit of a Perv.” Whether or not this would prove to be true remained to be seen.
I glanced again at the pair, and was rewarded to see Bert insert one large and grimy finger into his nostril, and enthusiastically start what looked like major excavation work. He didn’t even stop talking to Jim, who seemed oblivious of the fact that Bert was so avidly picking his nose.
So it was that I started this new and somewhat uninspiring part of my training.
My days consisted of driving out to some country lane, somewhere in the wilds of Sussex, looking for faults, or renewing spans of cable.
I had developed a simple routine to avoid the discomfort of wearing my armoured wellies all the time. I left my boots in the box section of the lorry, and simply sat on the bench, placing a foot into each wellie in turn.
The box section of the van contained all that a crew needed to perform its duties, from cables, joints, s calor gas burner, a bench with a vice and a whole spectrum of tools on racks on the inner walls.
The job was frequently a messy one, as the cables were filled with a vaseline type grease to prevent water penetrating the cable. When this was cut, or we were crimping joints together, this messy stuff would get everywhere.
The company had thoughtfully provided hand cleaner, and a couple of large pans for cleaning purposes. They were large and had a long wooden handle – for all the world like a Wok on steroids.
I had been soundly berated a few days after joining the section for preparing hot water for hand washing in the red handled pan. To be fair, I hadn’t been told otherwise.
It seems that the pan with red insulating tape wound round the handle was NOT used for hand washing, but for relieving oneself when working away from public lavatories. such as residential roads, and parts of town centres that had no public conveniences.
Everytime one of the lads needed to go, they would simply discretely climb into the back of the truck, use the red handled pan, and then empty this into the gutter, sluicing it away with water from the jerry cans on board.
So, cutting a long story short…
Once Laurel and Hardy got to know me, they used to fool around and joke.
On this particular morning, they were both very quiet, and I picked up an air of supressed anticipation.
I found out about this, when I sat dowm, popped my size nines into my wellies, stood up, and then face planted myself on the floor.
The rotten sods had screwed my wellies to the floor of the truck!
Oh, how I laughed.
Now, I am not a venegful person by any means, but my nose took a bit of damage in the incident, which caused much mirth and hilarity back at the yard. However, every dog has his day, and I planned my retaliatory mission with care.
The next day, we bumped and groaned our way into the back lanes around Hartfield, eventiually parking up not far from the place where A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie The Pooh stories.
Without delay, we set about locating the fault, and preparing the new piece of cable.
Bert straightened up, and slowly made his way back to the van, whilst Jim and I carried on crimping connectors onto the cable.
I watched as Bert climbed the steps and disappeared into the van, closing the door behind him.
I mentally counted…
“One, two three…” I reckoned it would take about six seconds. “four, five, six, seven….. ARGGGHHHH – You bastards!”
He came rocketing out of the van with the pan in his hand, slopping liquid everywhere. He bent and emptied it into the gutter, and advanced up the road in a very threatening manner.
His overalls had a horizontal wet line running across his upper thighs – in fact he appeared to be soaked in a broad stripe about two inches wide.
It’s amazing what a 1/16th drill can do if applied to a red-handled pan in a circular fashion.
Jim just looked at me. “You nutty bugger!”
Bert was still fuming by lunchtime, but I think he forgave me later, when his overalls had dried out.
There is a further episode to this ongoing battle of wits (or should I say half-wits) but that willl have to wait for another time.
I was enjoying a cuppa in the baggage loaders rest room, catching my breath after working a busy departure in the gate room upstairs. I was working as a Passenger Security Agent for American AIrlines – my first airline job.
Security would’nt have been my first choice of job – I was already a qualified pilot, and had passed all of my Flight Operations and Despatch exams, but nobody gets hired into a blue chip airline in Flight Ops. The only way in is either as a Check In Agent, a Baggage Loader, or a Security Agent.
I chose Security Agent.
The decision was a simple one. After PanAm 103 was brought down at Lockerbie just two and a half years previously, security was uppermost in everyone’s mind. American Airlines were using the profiling system at the time, similar to that used by El-Al.
I learnt behavioural psychology, how to question, how to conduct a proper body search (NOT how Hollywood imagines that it is done) and how to use a security X-Ray machine.
I just thought at the time, that this would be more interesting than seeing a procession of faces, all demanding an upgrade, or doing my back in hefting overloaded bags.
Working in Ops is considered a plum job, as it is remote from the passengers, is conducted in the dry, and is intellectually demanding.
I found an empty space at one of the grubby tables, and sat down to enjoy my brew.
I saw a dark blue silhouette lurch to a stop outside the building, blanking the sunlight streaming through the window, plunging the restroom into a gloom that matched it’s decor.
The door slammed open, and a bearded bloke in his forties appeared. Walking over, he dropped an overstuffed clipboard onto the table, saying “Mind if I join you”
“Help Yourself” I replied, watching as he swiftly made a coffee at the small sink.
Returning to the table, he proffered his hand, saying “I’m Bev, I’m doing the Royal Mail”
I must have looked a bit blank, because he laughed, and said “Mail Sacks – You know, letters for air mail”
I shook his hand, telling him I was in security.
We spent about half an hour exchaning our histories, and it came up in the conversation that we both flew. He had a share in a De Havilland Chipmunk down at Shoreham, and I flew Piper Warriors and Cessnas at Popham.
We went our spearate ways, and it wasn’t until another three years had passed that I ran into Pookie again.
I was the new boy in Flight Operations. Having returned from eighteen months working as Special Services Manager at Stansted, I had finally obtained a position in Ops.
There, sitting at the main control desk was Bev, quietly and efficiently running the entire ground operation at London Heathrow for the 14 daily flights.
I worked with Bev closely for the next three years, and came to love his gentle humour and his ability to produce fantastic caricatures of his colleagues.
Once we had got to know each other, we flew together on many occassions, and in any number of different aircraft. I have shared the sky with him in the delightful Chipmunk, pulling gentle loops, rolls and stall turns over the timeless, grassy south downs.
We pottered up and down the south coast of England enjoying summer in a PZL Wilga (A delightful Polish cross between a combine harvester and an aircraft).
We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in a Piper Warrior, and did a low pass at the small grass strip in Sussex appropriately named Kittyhawk.
We have fooled about in the Citabria, and been school kids in the Stolp Starduster Too. And what can be better than flying in a Bücker Jungmann with a friend, whilst another friend formates on you in a Stampe?
Anyhow, getting back on track…
Pookie’s sense of fun has often been unleashed on his poor, unsuspecting colleagues.
Below is his account of an episode that amused us all back in Ops whilst he was on holiday one year..
Thanks for all the laughs over the years Bev…
And as for the flying?
Well – that’s been a blast!
Over to you.
The following was written by Bev Pook, Pilot, Humourist, Motorcyclist, Bon Vivant and Good Friend.
A Lightbulb On Vacation.
Back in the mid-nineties, I was working for American Airlines as a Flight Operations Agent, planning flights, briefing crews, and coordinating everything to ensure flights arrived and departed on time.
The flight operations room had few windows and was lit with harsh fluorescent lights, which are difficult to work with due to their flicker, The flicker isn’t normally discernible unless you concentrate on your peripheral vision and it can then be sensed.
These lights are very good for office work as they cast little or no shadow, but if using a computer screen (which also flickers) they can cause sight problems as your iris struggles to cope with the flickering.
Enough of the technical details then.
Being heartily fed up with the eye-ache, I ferreted around for a solution, and during one very uneventful night shift, I found a battered old Angle Poise lamp which had been discarded into a dark and cluttered corner of an unused office.
Further investigating led me to a new bulb in a cupboard, and once wiped off with a cloth, the old lamp worked perfectly.
I placed it on the main Ops desk in and I would use it whenever I was positioned in that area. I found it particularly useful on night shifts when I worked alone and could turn off the fluorescents and enjoy a softer light emitted by an incandescent light bulb.
However, I found nobody else seemed to appreciate my light as when I returned on shift after a few days off, the lamp had been pushed back out of the way.
Just before I went on vacation the bulb blew, so I threw it away and departed for a fortnights tranquillity. No sooner had I returned from holiday, I was accosted by my work companions who accused me of taking the bulb on holiday.
Because of this, I decided that my next vacation would see me having some fun at their expense. This time I took the bulb out of the fitting and locked it away in my cabinet, leaving the office with the Angle Poise containing no light source.
After a long and boring flight, I eventually arrived in Muskogee Oklahoma and was met by my good friends, with whom I would be spending my vacation.
Over breakfast the next morning, I asked Terry if I could borrow one of their light bulbs, which was greeted by a strange look but I did get the light bulb.
I then started taking photos of the bulb and me on holiday. Each picture got more and more elaborate and set up to highlight (excuse the pun) that I had indeed this time taken the bulb with me.
Here are a few of those pictures.
I hope you enjoy my rather schoolboy humour.
Sorry Bev, I would have published this as an “Illuminated” manuscript, but couldn’t find the correct keys.
This is another modified extract from my forthcoming book, “A Salesman’s Story (Or Don’t Spend the Commission)
In the early 1980s, the cutting edge of office printing machines was an electric typewriter, and I sold many different models, from a simple “sit up and beg” typewriter, right up through the range to the latest electronic machines that offered a single line LED display, a 4,000 character memory and a Daisywheel printer.
Even in the early 1980s, standard electric typewriters still had a market, particularly with solicitors, as the weight of paper used for legal documents presented a problem to the electronic machines, mainly due to the hammer not striking the character hard enough against the paper to place a successful image on the underlying copies.
Now, I should explain here, that the Eagle 800 was built like a tank, and normally printed via fabric ribbons, which were bi-colour, with one half of the ribbon being impregnated with red ink, and the other half with black.
When powered up, a motor would run, which would spin a powered rubber roller. If a key were pressed, the associated type hammer (bearing a cast image of the appropriate character) would press against the spinning roller, and be flung upwards at great speed.
A simple mechanical link would lift the ribbon carrier to coincide with the type hammer striking the platen, upon which the paper sheet was clamped. The type hammer would then fall back to its rest position.
Now, some of the keys were fitted with a repeat function. For example, the letter “X” key could be held down, and the letter x would be repeatedly typed onto the page, enabling lines of incorrect text to be obliterated from the page.
So, now you know the basics…
As salesmen, we not only had to know the basics, but also had to know every feature, advantage and benefit that each machine in the range was able to offer. To ensure that I had the necessary tools in my sales kit, I was sent to the manufacturers premises in Leicester to attend a product course.
Our instructor, a portly little chap called Richard Scratcher, was explaining the features, advantages and benefits of the Eagle 800 machine. He was extolling its virtues as a very tough and well-built piece of equipment.
“Now, I’m going to show you a very powerful sales technique, guaranteed to help you get the sale”. We all gathered close as he fumbled in his trouser pockets, finally producing a penny coin. He held it aloft like some kind of Devine talisman.
“To show how tough the mechanism is, simply hold the penny against the ribbon guide, and hold down the repeat “X” key, thusly”. So saying and with a very flamboyant flourish, he proffered the penny into the top aperture whilst holding the aforementioned key.
With a noise like a juvenile machine gun, the X type-hammer blurred against the ribbon guide, the carriage advancing at high speed with each impact, stuttering from right to left with a mechanical clatter.
The demonstration complete, the silence was deafening. He passed the coin amongst us; I was surprised. It was deformed, and deeply embossed with a capital X.
The theatrical impact of this would be impressive, and I determined to use this approach when I next went to demo an Eagle 800.
I didn’t have long to wait, and it was two weeks later that I received a call from Mr Rayne of Babbage de Chelwode solicitors in Crowborough. I had met Mr Rayne before when I sold a dictation system to the practice.
He was a curious individual, a cross between John Lennon, with his long, lank, greasy hair, and Marty Feldman, with his bulging eyes lurking behind large, round glasses.
He also had a bad habit of suddenly stopping speaking in mid-sentence, and after a variable amount of time would suddenly recommence. It was like his brain worked slower than his mouth, which had to stop until it had received the next packet of data. It was most disconcerting.
Anyhow, he was looking to upgrade a manual typewriter and had received my letter offering good prices on the Eagle 800.
So here I was, sitting across the desk from him, in the wonderful old Jacobean room that served as his office.
“Now, you see, we have legal engrossment paper here, Judi………………”
I waited. And waited. He was still staring at me through his glasses, like a scene from a Wild West poker game.
I leaned forwards. “Judy?” I ventured, hoping to re-activate his speech system.
“Yes. Judy. You know. Judicial paper for wills and stuff. It’s thick and that’s why we need a manual typewriter as it needs to cut a carbon copy underneath”
I nodded, explaining that there was no typing job the 800 couldn’t do, said with a confidence that was belying my uncertainty.
Paper is graded on its strength in terms of the weight it will bear, expressed in grams per square metre. To assess the standard weight of paper, a square metre of it is clamped into a frame, and weight is applied to it until it bursts or tears.
General-purpose paper is anywhere between 70gsm and 90gsm. Luxury and specialist paper is over 100gsm, with legal paper at the top end of the spectrum at 120gsm.
Naturally, a copy would be needed, so the carbon paper would be beneath the Judicial paper and the copy paper beneath that. My guess was that the total paper weight would be almost 200gsm.
I seriously wondered whether the Eagle electric 800 would be man enough.
I really shouldn’t have worried.
I had set the machine up in his secretary’s office, which was gloriously untidy, with files everywhere, flowing as if a waterfall from her desk, over the carpet.
Now was my moment!
I walked over to the machine and pulled a penny piece from my pocket. I could see they were both regarding me in confused silence.
“To demonstrate the power of the 800, I would like you to watch this”
With a flourish, I placed the penny inside the machine, locating it against the ribbon guide. Whilst looking them in the eyes, I confidently pressed the “X” key and was rewarded with the high-speed clatter of the type hammer reverberating against the coin.
I lifted my finger from the key and passed the coin across to Mr Rayne. He took the proffered penny, and held it up, examining its distorted shape and the deep impression cut into it by the machine.
“Wow!” He exclaimed. “Take a look at that Mary”, passing it to her.
She looked at it – a bit dubiously, I thought.
“So, now let’s have a crack at your heaviest legal paper. By the way, if it does what you want it to do, will you be in a position to place an order today?”
“Oh, I think so….we really need to……………………”
Mary and I both watched him in silent anticipation, waiting for him to finish
“……..bring ourselves up to date”
I inwardly smirked. The 800 was superseded a couple of years ago by the golf ball typewriter, and the golfball was now being superseded by the daisy wheel. Up to date indeed!
I watched as Mary pulled the bail bar forwards, and wound the unwieldy paper onto the carriage.
She started pecking away at the keys, suddenly exclaiming “Oh…it’s not working”
I smiled as I reached forwards, switching the machine on “You now have the luxury of electric power. You don’t need to hammer these keys as heavily as on your previous machine”
The machine was quietly humming, and she hesitantly started typing, speeding up as she became used to the feel of the keyboard. At the end of the line, I saw her left hand reaching for the carriage return lever, which would have been used on a manual typewriter to push the carriage back to the right-hand stop, and advance the roller by one line.
“It’s a common event” I laughed, showing her the key marked RETURN. She pressed it, and the carriage smoothly moved. “Oh My,” she remarked.
Now she was up to speed, and we allowed her to type a few paragraphs.
She pulled the document from the carriage, and we all inspected the output. The print was crisp, dark black, and perfectly aligned. The carbon copy was just as good.
I dramatically passed the carbon copy to Mr Rayne, and he was suitably impressed.
Twenty minutes later, I was happily sitting in my car in the car park, filling out the rest of the rental agreement. Tapping away at my calculator I worked out that a thirty-minute meeting had netted me a cool £60* commission. Snapping my case shut, I started the car, wound down the window a crack, and stoked up a Bensons. I idly watched the tendrils of smoke being slowly and gracefully sucked out.
Twirling the key in the ignition, I decided to head back to the office.
I swung into the office car park in what I considered to be my exuberant fashion. The Managing Director referred to it as “You arsehole” fashion. I know this, as he indicated his feelings by bellowing into the car park from his office like a fairground barker, calling into question both my driving ability and my parentage.
I smiled, and waved cheerily up at him, which, judging by the further incoherent ratings, merely proved to enrage him further. I strode briskly into the office, charging up the stairwell two at a time, running into the Sales department, and plonked myself down at my desk. I bashed away at the calculator, which confirmed that so far, I was having a very good month, and would hit target without breaking a sweat.
I checked my diary for the next day and saw that I had a fairly relaxed day, starting with a local farmer, a simple drop off on the industrial estate, and then a visit to an author to sell a binding machine.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, as I made my way to the rambling old farm in Turners Hill.
This was going to be a simple drop off, and a demonstration of how to set the machine up. I knew that he was pretty switched on, and would pick it up in no time. I was confident that this would be a mere formality prior to me raising an invoice for £400!
My assessment proved to be accurate, and I was finished with him by eleven o’clock. I drove sedately down passed the fruit farms and into the industrial estate, cutting through the side roads of Three Bridges.
Parking up at Worldwide Injection Moulding’s Goods Inwards, I hefted their new typewriter – still in its box – into the bay, and got the warehouse foreman to sign for it, and then I was off again, heading back south and cross country for the pretty village of Horsted Keynes.
The Author was an elderly American chap, called Cyrus J Whittaker. He was the archetypal hippie, with his long grey hair pulled back in a ponytail, secured with a bandana, and wearing a battered old straw hat which I think was actually an integral part of his head – I had never seen him without it.
He was always friendly, and frequently offered me some of his homegrown pot. Today was no different, and on this occasion, I decided to accept his offer. He passed me his tobacco tin, some papers, and a plastic bag full of leaves. I duly rolled a respectable reefer, and we both lit up.
I ambled back to the car, and pulled out the thermal binding system, which I was to demonstrate.
Once the machine was plugged into the mains, and up to temperature, I showed him how quickly he could bind a book. The folders all had pre-glued spines, and the required pages were simply laid into the spine in the correct order, and the whole book placed spine down into the mouth of the machine.
A simple timer would indicate when the process was complete, and the thermal glue had melted and stuck the pages securely to the book.
In his chemically-induced pliant state of mind, he readily agreed to sign the paperwork, which I happily secreted away into my briefcase – just in case he had second thoughts.
It was well gone one o’clock when I walked slightly unsteadily back to my car. I drove very carefully over to the next village and parked up at the Coach and Horses. I was a little disappointed, as none of my friends were about, so I ordered Ham Egg and Chips, and a pint of Harveys.
As usual, the food was excellent, but the combined effects of one large organically grown reefer, and a pint of Harvey’s Best made me very sleepy. I knew that I would have to sleep this one off, so I drove a mile or so up the road to Ghylls Lap car park on the Ashdown Forest, rolled back the seat, and took a restorative doze for a couple of hours.
I woke up refreshed and decided to finish off the promised deliveries. I would need to get a hustle on…
I finally arrived at Babbage de Chelwode’s at a quarter to five, so it would be a quick dash. Happy Jack the town’s parking warden would be on his way back to the Town Hall to sign off duty, so unless I was very unlucky, I could park on the double yellows for the duration of my call.
I switched the hazard lights on, and trotted up the steps, and into the cool reception area.
I was swiftly shown in, and Mr Rayne stood to greet me. I walked forward, extending my hand to shake hands, but he recoiled away. I soon saw why. He held his hand aloft, the thumb was thickly bandaged.
“Ohh – that looks nasty” I exclaimed “What did you do?”
He looked at me very sheepishly. “Well, I had a colleague from Bennisters here yesterday……”
He stopped. I waited. He was still looking at me, and I nudged him “Yes….”
“Well, I decided to show him how tough my typewriter was, so I tried your trick with the penny”
“Yes…” I said, encouragingly.
“Well, it must have slipped, and I engraved a letter X through my thumbnail, and about a third of my way through my thumb”
I visualized this, and immediately had to suppress the desire to laugh out loud.
“Oh dear” I sympathised “That must be really painful”
He grunted his agreement, and I carried on “Does he want a machine as well?
“He didn’t say – as I had to go to the Village Hospital to get the bleeding to stop”.
Flipping my notebook open, I swiftly jotted down that Bennsiters could be in the market for a new machine.
“So” I said, snapping my notebook shut, “I’ll be getting on then. I hope that the machine continues to perform well. I will get the engineers to pop over sometime within the next week or two just to check the adjustments.”
He continued to gaze at me through his glasses, not saying anything, so I picked up my case, and quietly left him alone, contemplating his butchered thumb.
Yesterday, I had started work at 0430, and it had been pretty much full on all day. I was lucky that I managed to slip out at 0830 and grab a late breakfast from the “Roach Coach” burger van, as the crews used to refer to it. The Roach Coach, or Botulism Bus was an old Citroen van fitted out as a kitchen.
Breakfast was usually good and reasonably cheap – I had a simply huge egg and bacon French stick and a mug of tea so strong that it stripped the plating off the spoon. Despite its nickname, in all of the eight years that I used it, I never got any form of food poisoning!
By the end of my shift, I had handled one inbound emergency diversion, two gate delays, and a flight returning to gate due to a technical problem.
My throat was tingling with the tell-tale signs of an oncoming cold, and my nasal passages felt strangely dry and cold, and I was feeling distinctly under the weather as I returned home.
In an effort to clear my head, I dripped some Olbas Oil into a Pyrex bowl filled with hot water, and then draped a towel over my head and around the bowl, so that I could breathe the vapours. My dear old Mum used to swear by this stuff when I was a kid.
I think after about half an hour under the towel, my head felt marginally clearer, so I took full advantage of this, and went straight to bed.
The next day, I was on an 0500 start, and would be co-ordinating the whole of the flight operation at Heathrow for the Mighty American Airlines.
Waking up well before dawn, the hot shower did little to improve either my mood or my well-being, and my throat felt like I had swallowed a cheese grater. Overnight, someone had slipped into my room, and stuffed both of my nostrils with glue, and my head had been packed with cotton wool.
Once I was booted and suited, so to speak, I drove mostly on auto-pilot to the Northside staff car park, and waited in the cold pre-dawn air for the staff shuttle bus to ferry us to the Central Area of London Heathrow’s Airport.
The bus soon filled with security-screened zombies, bright in their High Vis jackets, and the uniforms of many different airlines. The conservative navy blue of my Flight Operations uniform was overshadowed with the bright crimson red of the Virgin Atlantic hostie who plonked herself next to me.
Muted desultory conversations murmured around the bus, but in the main, we all slumped in silence each still longing for bed.
Arriving at the central staff bus stop, I briskly strode the five-minute walk to Terminal Three, the home of American Airlines. The check in hall was almost deserted as I walked through, but some of my colleagues from security were already at work, checking and calibrating the X-Ray equipment and testing the baggage belts and check in computers.
Pushing the large, heavy-duty vinyl doors open, I walked down the gloomy corridor towards the baggage make up area, and waited in line to have my ID card inspected, and walk through the arch scanner.
On this morning I was feeling too miserable to engage in my normal banter with the Indian lady who normally manned this isolated post.
I arrived in the Ops room, snotty and grotty and made myself a hot Lemsip, and then went to look at the movements board, which had been updated by Mick on the night shift. It looked like the system was running normally, with all of the birds departed, and heading east, and no obvious delays or cancellations.
The first arrival from JFK would be hitting the tarmac at about 0615, so I had time to check in with all of the other parts of the operation, doing radio checks with check-in, arrivals, gates, security, catering, special services, ground movements and engineering.
I then sat back sipping mournfully at the Lemsip, in the vain hope that it would clear my head and ease my throat.
It did neither, and by 1300 I was feeling really rough. Thank goodness the shift had run smoothly, with no problems or incidents.
When I got home I was feeling hot and sweaty and my skin had become super-sensitive.
I decided to have a good soak in a hot bath to try and warm up, and feel a little more comfortable.
My nose was still blocked, and my sinuses were still jammed, and I felt totally congested.
As the bath was running, I spotted the small brown bottle of Olbas Oil, still sitting on the shelf over the hand basin, where I had left it after using it the previous evening.
It was then that I had my brainwave.
I could save time if I were to mix the Olbas Oil into the bath water, and gain the benefits of a relaxing tub of hot water whilst the vapour gently penetrated and cleared by nasal passages.
Unscrewing the cap, I looked at the bottle top. There was a small nozzle similar to the shaker top on a bottle of vinegar, so I could apply it easily.
According to the instructions, all I had to do was drip a few drops into a bowl of hot water to clean my passages.
I considered this, and decided that if I needed a few drops in a bowl, I would probably need to shake a considerable number of drops into a bath that probably held 100 litres.
I upended the bottle, and vigorously shook the bottle, watching as the droplets scattered over the water.
I stirred the water around briskly, and was satisfied to smell the pungent odour wafting from the water. I could see that the drops had each formed a miniature puddle that floated on the surface, some refracting the light in a myriad of rainbow hues.
Satisfied that all was well, I climbed gingerly into the bath, the water coming up to the middle of my calves.
Crouching down, I slowly eased myself into a sitting position, sighing deeply as I relaxed back into the water, leaning back into the wonderfully warm water.
I had just shut my eyes, when the burning began.
It started gently initially. A slight tingling in my crotch, and a faint burning in my armpits.
My eyes snapped fully open as suddenly, it felt as if someone had taken a welding torch to my family jewels, the heat searing and eye-watering. I clambered up out of the water as fast as I could, but getting out of the water did nothing to ease my immediate predicament.
The logical side of my mind was telling me that the oil-based product was clinging to my skin, but the other side of my brain was demanding that I use the abrasive cleaning sponge to rid my skin of the intense fire caused by the herbal napalm that was soaking the most delicate bits of my anatomy.
I hauled the shower head from behind the taps, turning the water on full, and attempted to douse the areas that were blazing with the intensity of a bush fire, but it was to no avail, the Olbas Oil was diligently refusing to release my soft tissues from its inferno grip.
Hopping out of the bath, I literally ran down the stairs, and grabbed an ice pack from the freezer, and jammed it lovingly between my legs, praying that Olbas Oil wouldn’t leave chemical burns that would need treatment at Ashford General’s A & E department. That would take too much explaining away.
The ice pack made little difference, but eventually, after what seemed like three days, (but was in fact about twenty minutes) the pain subsided a little, and I was able to face returning to the bathroom.
I spent a good half hour cleaning the bath, wiping the walls and base with a cloth, and rinsing and re-rinsing the entire structure to ensure that there was no Olbas Oil left to interfere with future bathing enjoyment.
I dried off, and eventually conceded defeat to my cold, and went to bed, tired, damp, feverish and very delicate.
So, folks – whatever you do, DON’T climb into a bath laced with nasal decongestant -Stick with bubble bath or foam bath.
I saw her across the bar from me. She was young, She was beautiful, and I was struck by her eyes. The colour of cornflowers, they were calm, and they were fixed unwaveringly on my face. The steadiness of the gaze was impressive, if not a little un-nerving. I felt guilty looking back at her, but she didn’t appear to be with anybody, just sitting there waiting patiently. Waiting for what? Or maybe for whom?
I looked away, picking up my pint, and taking a long satisfying pull from it. I popped open my bag of Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisps, and picked up my book. I attempted to read, but some sixth sense told me that I was still being watched. I furtively looked up, and the same blue eyes were still looking at me. I am not sure what I saw deep in those eyes. Was it desire? Hunger? Maybe. But I also detected warmth and friendliness, I could sense that she was screwing up her courage, and I wondered if I should invite her over to my table.
Raucous laughter came from the other side of the pub, and the spell was broken. She looked away, and I went back to my book with a sense of disappointment. I had hoped I would have had time to invite her over. Sipping at my beer, I managed to get through another few pages of Lee Childs’ latest Jack Reacher novel, when I felt the hairs on my neck prickle. Looking up, I saw immediately that she had made it halfway along the bar towards me. I gazed at her spectacular body, admiring the bright red kerchief that was around her neck.
“Hello” I said softly. I indicated the seat next to me, patting it with my hand. “Come on” I smiled…. “You know you want to”
She hesitated, then elegantly walked over to me. It seemed that now she had made the decision, there would be no stopping her. She plonked herself down next to me, pressing her body firmly against me. I could feel her hot breath in my ear as she leaned over to help herself to a crisp. I cautiously put my arm around her shoulders, and turning, she focused her eyes on me, her whole face smiling. I hugged her tightly, feeling her warmth and strength.
My Mum has always told me, that I must eat my greens,
And for many years I’ve done so, as disgusting as it seems,
But of all the veg I’ve eaten, there’s one that gives me doubts,
Those nasty, bloody, tasteless things, the dreaded Brussles Sprouts
I blame it on the Belgians,they named the filthy things,
I also blame the EU and and all the nonsense that it brings,
Boil them, roast them, fry them, bake them on a griddle,
How to stop them going soft, that really is the riddle
And now we come to Christmas, the season of good cheer,
We cook our Christmas turkeys, and drink our wine and beer,
And after lunch, we watch the Queen, full up lads and lasses,
Then the sprout’s take their revenge, with farts and squeaks and gasses
I was just settled down in my local Costa Coffee last week, my favourite Skinny Wet Latte with an extra shot in my hand, and the Daily Mail (thoughtfully provided by Costa) on the table.
I browsed through the major news stories, which all seemed so boringly predictable, and was about to shove the paper back in the rack when another, more interesting article caught my eye.
Upon reading the story, it became apparent that a “Senior Politician”, in this case, Mr Dafydd Iwan, the former president of the Welsh Nationalist Party Plaid Cymru, has objected to the Tom Jones hit ballad “Delilah” being sung before Welsh Rugby Matches.
I stifled my laughter, as there were other customers nearby, and I didn’t want to be regarded as weird, even although some may say I am.
It seems that the noble politician has got his knickers in a twist because he regards the song inappropriate, as it “is about murder, and it trivialises the murder of women”
Well, I can see his point – to a certain extent. Not, however, to the extent that I believe it should be banned.
For pity’s sake! It’s a song! A very well written song, as evidenced by being awarded the Ivor Novello award for the “Best song musically and lyrically” in 1968. It was so good that it reached Number 2 in the UK top ten in the same year.
Now, using the same sort of skewed logic that our Mr Iwan uses, maybe we should stop singing “God Save the Queen” as this may be construed as sexist, elitist, and theologically unbalanced. Jingoistic, and appealing to the might of empire to obtain wealth and status.
Or maybe we should ban the genteel ladies of the Women’s Institute from opening their meetings with the wonderful Hymn “Jerusalem”. After all, it is condoning violence, “Bring me my bow, of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire, bring me my spear, oh clouds unfold, bring me my chariot of fire”.
The next verse implores the middle aged ladies to wage what amounts to a religious war, with quotes like “Nor shall my sword, sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem, in England’s green and pleasant land”
Maybe Liverpool City football fans should be prevented from singing You’ll never walk alone” as it could be suggesting that it’s encouraging stalkers to follow fans.
What about Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”. This is an anthem in praise of the larger lady, but if Mr Iwan and his ilk have their way, it will be suggested that this trivialises and marginalises the chunkier ladies. – better ban it as we can’t have that sort of suggestiveness!
Rod Stewart will certainly be banned, due to his chart topper Maggie May….in the dreary, dark, PC world that Mr Iwan wants us all to inhabit, this lyrical wistful ballad will be consigned to the Naughty Step, relating as it does, to the seduction of a schoolboy by a mature woman. In his world, this no doubt trivialises such actions.
The rest of us are mature enough to understand that the lyrics are merely a light hearted reflection on the types of adolescent fantasies that most schoolboys (myself included) have about older women.
Dean Martin – well, Little Ole Wine Drinker Me will be scuppered, as this obviously mocks the very real problems of alcoholism, and marginalises the needs and requirements of the alcoholic.
Nursery Rhymes shouldn’t be exempt either, most of which have lyrics that are of questionable integrity.
Jack and Jill famous for decades due to their hill climbing abilities? Banned! Why? Because it condones child labour. Fancy making little kids climb a steep hill to collect water. They obviously haven’t been adequately trained, and a proper risk assessment doesn’t seem to have been conducted. Furthermore, they weren’t wearing any form of protective clothing, or using the correct equipment for manually handling heavy buckets.
Ding Dong Bell doesn’t do well either. Think about it. “Ding dong bell. Pussy’s in the well, who put her in, Little Tommy Flynn”
Sounds like it’s trivialising the abuse of animals doesn’t it?
I could go on, and maybe research even more songs that should be banned using the flawed logic of Mr Iwan.
Ultimately, it’s all too silly for words. So, the lyrics of Delilah tell the story of a man pushed too far. It’s no worse than watching a modern police series, or, dare I say it, a contemporary soap series. You can see it happening for real every night on the TV news.
It’s a great song Mr Iwan. It’s a wonderful powerful stirring ballad that is sung by one of your countrymen, a man with a great voice. It’s been adopted by the Welsh Rugby fans because it is FUN to sing along as a big crowd, and Tom Jones is a true Welsh icon.
Quite unlike Mr Iwan, who I’m sure will sink into obscurity long before Delilah stops being sung by us ordinary, cheerful adults who are able to discriminate between political comment, and a good song.