Having completed my five year apprenticeship I decided that travelling all over the country wasn’t for me. Building sites from Scotland to the West Country usually with some grim digs that I had to find for myself all added up to a job to be avoided. The personnel manager of G N Haden & Sons weren’t best pleased that I resigned as they’d invested in my training but it was too hard to accept. And, in those days, jobs were plentiful.
I left and quickly got a job with Wiseman’s in Tottenham. This was very close to where I lived and so travelling, which had been my bug-bare, stopped dead. The plumbers hut was a corrugated metal shed, which was tiny and totally unsuitable. In fact it was nick-named ‘Elephant’ and I knew straightaway that I’d gone from a large well organised company to one that was to say the least ‘dodgy’.
My first few weeks went well. My work was quick and clean and I was very much part of the team as we put soil stacks for the maisonettes we were working on. I was warned one day that Les Putts was due on site in any minute. “So what?” I said. They quickly explained that he was a very difficult man to talk to and he wouldn’t listen to any explanation- no matter what.
At about 10 a.m. I returned to the ‘Elephant’ to a get new lead pig, which is an ingot of lead to be melted in the iron pot and then ladled out to seal the joints on the iron soil stack. When I was inside the hut I was confronted by a loud voice from outside-
“What are you doing in the hut, when you should be working?” I assumed, rightly that the voice belonged to the feared Les Putts. Since, in theory, I didn’t know him I decided not to back down.
“I’m working, and who the f..k are you to ask me what I’m doing?”
“I’m the regional site manager and I don’t like your attitude young man.”
“Well I don’t like being shouted at by rude ignorant old men who haven’t the decency to speak to me properly. So until you understand that you can just f..k off.”
I picked up the lead ingot, shut and locked the door, and brushed past him. I wasn’t too surprised to be told by the site foreman that I’d been sacked for gross insubordination. I knew that they couldn’t afford to sack me as they were behind on their schedule and so I smiled as I walked back to the Elephant to pick up my tools. They needed me more than I needed them. My supervisor, Ron Lowrey, caught up with me and told me to go to the Town Hall where they were looking for plumbers.
At the Town Hall Tom Lacey interviewed me and appointed me. This was conditional on me producing my apprenticeship papers and my other certificates, which of course I had as they were very precious. I began work next day and I had a real career working for the Council.