Fortunately my lack of being able to put our Queens English correctly onto paper and to do long multiplication put me at the bottom of theory, however, placed me top of practical abilities, an aptitude to turn my hand to most things constructive.
Talking my way into securing an apprenticeship at the age of 16, I became a minion, I worked hard for a taskmaster, originally wanting to climb ladders and fix multiple array aerial systems on top of chimneys and tune in televisions, sadly, I ended up being pushed into roof spaces and lowered into small trap doors in floorboards, pulling and threading mile upon mile of electrical cables from markers A to B and points beyond, being of small build and vertically challenged, my new owner, saw me as the ideal addition to a perfect business, he himself was a tiny stocky man, with a pencil moustache, a cross between the inimitable Hercule Poirot and the Joker in the BatMan stories, he was a pillar of the community, involved in almost every charitable organisation in the town, even wearing the prestigious Mayoral chain twice, having to succumb to his nemesis between two terms of office.
I wasn’t able to drive a car at that point, but, another of his employees had to chauffeur *nugget* (as he was known behind his back) about, Edward was rewarded well, I’m not sure wether it was the allure of driving the brand new Rover or the desire to wear the double breasted uniform, complete with shining boots and cap, however that was the price he had to pay for being such a handsome young man. EJC did nothing by halves, this was theatre, not quite the West end, but local politics, he did that perfectly.
I was taken under his and his wife’s wing, given extra tuition and guidance, I could do no wrong, simply because I was steered with a rod of iron, I became their golden boy, they had no children, which was sad, in fact we, the employees, were their family.
Every day I travelled to work, either in the back of the van driven by the company foreman who also lived in my home town, or if I was very lucky, sat in the front seat, another passenger normally occupied that seat, he was tall, awfully posh and very well spoken, everyday he carried The Telegraph newspaper, it always being folded tightly to reveal the crossword, a stubby pencil filled the empty white boxes amongst a field of random black squares with speed, by the time we had docked on the other side of the river, it was complete. Always wearing the same trench coat, a long belt tied to one side, he was flamboyant, an accountant, rumour had it that he had a secret.
1972, the IRA were causing mayhem across the United Kingdom, this high profile town, Dartmouth, home of the Britannia Royal Navel college was now on high alert, Charles had been studying there, Royal visitors came and went without notice.
This was different, HM The Queen was visiting, arriving on the Royal Yacht, the pomp, the ceremonies, the Royal Marines band, the shiny boots! so many events were being organised, preparation on a scale so huge it was hard to take in.
I was given security clearance, our contracts included working in this establishment, a very large “vessel” built on land, I was a landlubber aboard a brick ship, suddenly I had responsibilities.
All our hard work was rewarded with the day off, we were allowed to enjoy this spectacle, this family had front row seats, the Mayor with his Mayoress, his secretaries sat next to the accountant, Edward sat next to him proudly wearing his uniform & shiny boots …. I had now sussed out the secret once rumoured!
The Royal Marine band started up …
I started to grow, many a time I have to admit being the butt of a joke, as many an apprentice will be shamed to admit, having queued at the builders workshop for a long weight only happened once, as did the request for a sky hook and ladder adhesive, returning proudly with a wall tie bent at ninety degrees and an old milk bottle with a liquid in it, slightly off yellow, asking why it was warm, I was given an answer, “it’s freshly mixed”, even the obligatory christening down a flushing toilet didn’t break my spirit, all part of my character building, sense of humour and respect to others furthered.
I gained a privilidge, only by chance, of addressing the Second Sea Lord, the Admiral Sir Williams by his christian name, an event I’m not likely to forget, in a clumsy attempt to get his respected title correct and admiring the view, my introduction, became an epic fail, tripping down steps, aerosol over breakfast time into the entrance of his cliff top residence which over looked the beautiful Start Bay, my clumsiness had this gentleman in stitches, as later, also had my knee, he became a great friend, the following years gradually turned a quiet naive boy into a man.
At twenty one, my birthday, I was summoned to see *nugget* immediately, another privelidge was to call him Mr Eric, this day was different, entering into the office you couldn’t but notice almost every inch of the walls were covered in certificates, personal achievements and photographs of dignitaries and Royals, the partners desk dominated the room, ledgers and piles of documentation covered almost every available surface, I had never been invited to sit down, today was the exception, with hardly enough space to walk to get to the chair, I found myself sat uncomfortably, he looked nervous, his stutter, all part of his charm was more pronounced, his words were brief and few, “as is right and proper I have to let you go” there I was, being sent out into the wide world to gain more experience, suddenly at twenty one I was flying back and forwards to Jersey, working on major commercial contracts.
Mr Eric knew many peoples, one such person was a resident of the Channel Islands.