The big wide world

A couple of years after I had completed my apprenticeship I was being sent all over the country. I was sent to Scotland to work on a power station. All in all it got me down so one Monday morning I gave in my notice. The head of personnel wasn’t pleased. He reminded me the company had spent thousands of pounds on my training paying for me to go to Day College and night school. I was resolute. I’d spent five years in an apprenticeship earning less than a plumbers mate. I felt I’d been paid them back and my skills were down to my own efforts.

A week later, I trawled through adverts in the paper.  It wasn’t  difficult finding employment. A London based firm was seeking a qualified plumber for regular work at good pay rates. I was interviewed at an office in Tottenham (London) and started work the next Monday morning. It was a shock.

There wasn’t any plant or machinery I could call upon and I soon realised it was a tin pot “bucket & bike” organisation.  I was working in Edmonton in a huge waste burning  establishment running a water supply to a sink in a back room. John, the foreman, turned up and said he wanted me to work in a restaurant kitchen through a Friday night. It had to be night as the restaurant was busy until midnight. I said I’d do it but asked what was needed and how much would I get? He offered £30 cash so I asked for £50. We settled on £40. I had to take out a steel hot water cylinder replacing it with a heavy duty copper emersion cylinder. I said I wanted to see the job before I started and was given the address in Edgware Road near Marble Arch.

It was a very up-market Indian restaurant and when I explained why I was there the maître d showed me to the kitchen. I was shocked at the heat and general conditions those men were working under, but said nothing. The steel cylinder was in fact a large commercial upright calorifier, tucked away in a small room all by itself, right at the back of the kitchen, there weren’t any windows in the room. It was huge. I estimated it at something like eight feet tall by three feet six wide. I rang John the next day and we had a row. When he finally calmed down I explained I could easily disconnect the primary and secondary feed and returns but the room must have been build round the calorifier as it was too big to get out through the door into the kitchen. That being so there was no room to install the new copper cylinder. Clearly, John was rattled by this news and arranged to be at the job about 1 am, on the Saturday morning.

I was at the restaurant at midnight that Friday and watched in bemusement as the staff cleared away washed up and replaced unused food back into containers. They were anxious to get home themselves. I asked the manager to leave the electric on for me.

I traced the water inlet valves back to the boiler but the valve was seized solid. I had to go through the upper rooms of the building before I located the massive water storage tank, in the loft, feeding the down services. By the time I’d isolated the right stop-cock and drained down, John turned up with his brother and I cut through the pipework to the old calorifier. That freed, John and his brother who just smashed down the door frame and breeze block wall forming the entrance to the room.

“That was easy shouted John to his brother, now you do your thing, the new one is outside on the van”! It was near to 7am before I completed the necessary pipe connections and I was knackered.

I have often wondered how much I could’ve got if I’d asked for more when we saw just how hard the job was.


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The USA a very litigious society

Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her $1,750,000 and a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.


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Canadian Law and Order

Canada’s justice minister was reading his Bible when he came across a verse in Leviticus. It really struck a note with him. It was Leviticus 20:13, which as everybody knows says, “If a man lies with another man they should be stoned.” The legislation he prepared made perfect Biblical sense and was immediately passed by parliament.

It legalized same sex marriage and marijuana.

Ray E

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Jay Rayner reviews Fish and Chips: The Fishmarket, Edinburgh

The fish is fine, but here fine isn’t good enough. You try it and go yeah, that’s a piece of fried fish in batter. But you wouldn’t tip your head on one side, dab an eye and admit undying love, as you might over, say, a plank of the same at the Magpie Cafe, Whitby, where it arrives looking like a golden galleon in sail. Given the lineage and the price- the smallest, when not taken away, is £12- you need to be able to feel you can leap to your feet and applaud.”

The Observer Magazine 14th April 2019 pp29-31

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The World Changed

My Dad was born, over a hundred years ago
History say’s, a few short years before –
The mayhem of war, sacked the Earth
But Dad grew strong, even without his pop.

So many young men, were killed
So many hope’s and destinies lost
They’d be thrilled, at learning
Of this world now, and its computer costs.

A telephone, a portable battery brain
Hand held devices, put progress to shame
Devices, that talk, that reply when asked
They might be seen as, a Devil’s paradise.

Knowledge is power, across continent’s share
All that power, still even few people care
Electricity, homes with all rooms heated
Showers and baths, luxuries that lasts.

Electric cars, fast silent, efficient
Dish washers, washing machines,
Instant cameras that print proficient
Gadgets, from your wildest dreams.

All these things in just a few decades
My Dad would think, such luxury cascades
Inventions that clears all obstacles
Hard to believe, even seen in chronicles.

Of our four great grand-children
What will their lives be?
In sixty or seventy years
What wondrous sights will they see?

Will they, or perhaps descendants of their family
Colonise other planets or moons
Live beneath the deep ocean or travel to the stars
Learn how to live for years in “nil-gravity”.

Or just maybe, my generation has killed their dreams
Pollution, global warming, no pollinators
Plastic and nuclear waste, with a half-life of…
Ten thousand years, is their only chance in space?


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Relative Income and Personal Happiness

Sara Solnick and David Hemenway found that most people would prefer (pdf) an income of $50,000a year when everybody else get $25,000 than an income of $100,000 a year when everybody else has $200,000. If all of us become worse off, therefore, well-being doesn’t fall much: we’ll be comforted by the fact that we’re all in the same boat.


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Britain’s Ceases to be a World Power, December 1943

The USA entered the European theatre following Hitler’s unbelievable declaration of war in December, 1941. Over the next two years, huge numbers of American troops entered Britain. Dwight D Eisenhower became Supreme Commander in Chief of Allied Forces, December 1943, ending British military independence. Churchill rightly believed national pride was irrelevant. Only the USA had sufficient military power to invade Europe, though Britain provided hugely important assistance. Britain’s military independence ended for excellent reasons and it took Churchill’s political courage to do it.

Germany invaded western Europe on the 10th May 1940 with the evacuation of Dunkirk beginning on the 26th... The British, along with the French and Belgium armies, were defeated in sixteen days. The evacuation of Dunkirk is a catalogue of stupendous courage, phenomenal planning, technical expertise and assistance from the German High Command. If the German High Command hadn’t been consumed with hubris, the defeated armies would have been stranded. Instead of this, 338,226 troops were evacuated, of which 140,000 were Belgian and French soldiers.

On 4th June Churchill made a momentous speech about the defeat, which set the tone of British defiance (see addendum). Churchill recognised the crucial importance of ‘the New World’ who’d be ultimately decisive in the struggle against Germany. His relationship with Roosevelt didn’t produce an immediate military commitment but Lend Lease strengthened Britain’s ability to successfully continue the defensive war. Churchill’s strategy depended on the USA. Hitler’s declaration of war, December, 1941, fulfilled Churchill’s dreams of an integrated alliance between Britain and the USA.

The USA was the world’s greatest industrial country and once it was geared to a wartime economy its productive capacity was amazing. They also had a young population. Their armed forces outstripped every other country. By 1943 the US army had eight million men in it2 with a further three million in the navy. When Eisenhower became Supreme C-in-C the USA had more soldiers in Britain than the British did.

Eisenhower’s new command brought British armed forces under his command: in Britain. Churchill repaired the army’s wounded feelings by creating four Field Marshals during 1944.3 The British army was now an auxiliary force. This is vividly illustrated by the D Day landings, the prelude to the liberation of Europe. The USA’s commitment was 156,000 troops at Omaha and Utah beaches. The British landed 61,000 troops on their beaches.

The Germans were caught between two sledgehammers: the USA and the Soviet Union from summer 1944. That they held out as long as they did says a great deal about the Wehrmacht’s excellence. Regardless of military prowess, the logistics of the conflict meant they were only prolonging the inevitable. As Voltaire cynically said, God is always on the side of the big battalions.” By May 1945, Germany was crushed, giving rise to further tensions between Eisenhower and his British colleagues. This was especially the case with Montgomery, who claimed the German surrender for himself at Luneburg Heath, 4th May. His action was deemed improper and the Germans surrendered again at Rheims to a member of Eisenhower’s staff.4 The Soviets wouldn’t accept this and so the definitive surrender occurred in Berlin on the following day, the 8th May, which was designated VE Day.

Britain’s catastrophic defeat in 1940 wasn’t total in the way that France was defeated for example. Nonetheless Britain was incapable of doing more than surviving in the face of an overwhelming enemy. Churchill recognised that only an alliance with the USA could provide the military muscle to land a telling blow on the Germans. Hitler’s lunatic rush of blood to the head meant the British alliance with the USA happened in December 1941. A fully committed USA, coupled with Britain in the west and the Soviet Union in the east, meant there could only be one outcome. The Allied victory created two superpowers with Britain in the second division, where we’ve been ever since.

Addendum: Churchill’s speech 4th June 1940

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. For the entire speech go to:

1 After the Gallipoli fiasco he had to resign but was promoted in 1917 as minister for munitions.

2 To put this into a British perspective at its peak the army had three million men in it in 1945.

3 That the Field Marshals were promoted in alphabetical order (Alanbrooke, Alexander, Montgomery and Wilson) at three monthly intervals during 1944 might reflect Churchill’s famous wit.

4 Hitler’s suicide occurred on the 30th April. The surrender of the Germans in 1945 illustrated the tensions between Montgomery and Eisenhower. Montgomery accepted the German surrender on 4th May but the official surrender happened in Rheims at the Supreme Headquarters of Eisenhower. He didn’t accept it personally but delegated Bedell Smith, his chief of staff.

This anecdote illustrates the quasi-amateurism of the final days of Nazi Germany.

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