Readers of a more delicate disposition might want to pass on this one (You have been warned)
“If you don’t study hard and pass your exams you’ll end up stacking supermarket shelves”
(My dad to me and in turn us to the kids.)
So there I was with no job and no money stuck back at home with my parent’s.
“Signing on” was not an option, Dad had very forthright views on such activities so I spent my first day’s away from Skye twiddling my thumbs.
After a week I was going stir crazy and in desperation re-applied for my old student summertime job
Along with my mates Phil and Jimmy we had been offered summer jobs “cutting grass in the Vale of Glamorgan” by the bloke at the job centre,
I noticed he had crossed his fingers behind his back as he said it but didn’t think too much of it at the time.
“Who with?” asked Phil.
“Oh, these people” he said airily pointing to the sign
Y Taff Fechan bwrdd dŵr (carthion is-adran)
Our rudimentary knowledge of our so called native tongue told us “Bwrdd dŵr” meant “water board”
We only found out the carthion is-adran bit meant sewage division once we got to our place of work.
Work crew was Ivor the driver, big Eddie and Bill the Bolshie
Bill, as his name suggests was the local union convenor, he was also head honcho at the works.
I don’t think head office quite thought that one through when handing out the badges.
The first challenge in the morning was to finish the crossword before the regulars had finished their cups of tea and we got out on the road.
Working men the world over can make a cup of tea last half an hour so we weren’t under much time pressure but even so we struggled.
Taken over the course of the summer I think the score stood at something like:
The Sun crossword setters 33
Two of the best brains in Barry (+ me) 4
Llanblethian sewage plant was a spiffy great works outside a major conurbation.
If you ever drive down the hill from Bingham towards Gunthorpe bridge you can see an almost carbon copy on the right.
At the main works they had those massive circular stone works with sprinklers on top, these are full of worms which eat and recycle whatever is fed to them.
Evidently the common worm is not a noted gastronome.
The sprinklers got very greasy (human diet) and needed constant cleaning with a brush, warm water and lots of elbow grease.
Bill was a bit of a lazy fella who would dodge or delegate if he could anything that looked like hard work
One day the normal Mr Scrubbit was on holiday and Bill ended up with the task Assuming no one would be checking Bill decided to make life easier by adding a measure of bleach to his bucket to help clean the grease off
Strong chemicals and worms don’t mix.
Mass worm genocide followed
Each major works produced liquids and solids, a local (rival) works had held the “best water sample” award for the previous few years and to rub it in had a goldfish swimming around in their winning sample
Lucky old goldfish
The solids were squooshed out onto drying beds which were in rows divided by tracks a specially designed “snowplough” (although it wasn’t called that) ran up and down, once dry it was loaded onto lorries and spread over local farmland, any left over ended up in a ditch at the bottom of the works.
We had a marvellous crop of tomato’s evidently the seeds were robust enough to survive the journey.
We kept ourselves amused during lunch hours with races up and down the tracks which were about 6 inches wide with a groove running down the middle.
If you watch the trailers for ITV’s new “The almost impossible gameshow” you can see where they nicked the idea from.
In the ITV challenge it’s only mud that the contestants have to worry about falling into.
Locally the villages were served with old fashioned cess pits, room sized brick lined holes in the ground which filled and emptied with neat brown stuff.
Big Eddie was a man of few words and even fewer which were printable but he did have a very succinct way of summarising the local populaces contributions to our working day
One day the drain got blocked and to everyone's astonishment Bill donned the waders, grabbed a pole and climbed down the service ladder.
He waded out through the thigh high brown stuff and bending almost horizontal proceeded to prod at the blockage his face just inches from the surface.
The noxious gasses must have got to him as he had a sneezing fit, His false teeth flew out and landed with a gentle "plop"
With a well practiced hand he picked them up, wiped them off on his sleeve and deftly popped them back in.
Practice news (1)
And they say romance is dead
I’ve bought Stella a new saw as anyone who’s visited the practice recently can testify
I also took her to see Eddie the Eagle which is great
She actually had a skiing lesson from Eddie Edwards back in the day
What more could a girl want?
Final exams (the resits)
Those four months seemed like a lifetime but eventually the time for resits loomed.
These day’s we scare the kids with
“If you don’t work hard and pass your exams you’ll end up working on the poo farm like I nearly did”
Back then I had the stark choice of knuckling down and doing a bit of revision or a career where promotion meant a shinier shovel.
I decided to revise.
Having learned my lesson the first time round I decided to avoid exotic locations like the plague for my next round of torture.
I booked my place at the London Refraction Hospital and duly turned up having studied and read all I could find on the three subjects I needed to resit.
I arrived fresh faced and early to find myself surrounded by familiar and friendly faces.
Most of the nervousness of the first round had been replaced by a kind of grim determination.
The first two exams on Visual fields and Slit lamp theory were conducted exactly as they should have in the first place.
A comprehensive grilling on all aspects of modern theory, my preparation for once was up to snuff
and so I managed to pass both.
All that stood in my way was Colour Vision, surely nothing could go wrong now.
You can imagine my unremitting joy to find myself confronted with a shock of red hair and an oddly familiar accent.
Evidently in the spirit of inter departmental cooperation and bridge building our man had made a special effort to come all the way down to London
(The cynic in me still reckons his missus dragged him down kicking and screaming as she fancied a day out in the big smoke shopping)
Without further ado he began:
“Why do we dark adapt when we lantern test?”
Now you’ll all know me to be the most placid of characters
However the girls have brought it to my attention that I can get a teensy weensy bit grumpy on occasion
As implausible as this might sound I guess he might just have picked up on the vibes.
My voice dropped an octave.
“You asked me that in Glasgow,
I didn’t know the answer then and I still don’t know it now”
“No, neither do I” he replied brightly and after asking a few more rather basic questions passed me.
I was now a fully qualified OO with a grand total of 19 letters behind my name which say’s more about the duplication in the professional bodies at the time than anything to do with my academic prowess
I was also made a Freeman of the City of London which conferred on me the right to attend the Lord Mayor’s banquet and ancient rights to herd sheep within the city wall’s.
This last my so called chums suggested would probably prove particularly useful for a Welshman.
I did attend one Lord Mayor’s banquet (never again)
And I’ve got the herding sheep bit near the top of my bucket list.
Not sure how that will go down with the local constabulary.
Issue 66 “From da chokey”
Job hunting now began in earnest and I found myself a position with a small group of independent practices grouped around Devizes in Wiltshire.
I rented a cottage in a nearby village and my new life began.
I soon found I’d swapped from a rural idyll where everyone spoke like Shuey McFee to a rural idyll where everyone spoke like Pam Ayres.
plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose