Confectioner by Trade, Chiropodist by Profession. (2013)

Location : Norwich, Switzerland

You
were going to leave school and your mother wanted you to go and get a good
education and start of a career / working life. So you stayed at school until
you were 16 and you left to go to City College. Would you like to pick it up
from there?

College and working in catering

At college, that was a hotel and catering course, and
I learnt to do cooking and waitering. There used to be eight of us in a kitchen
and two would do the soup, two would do the vegetables, two would do the main
course and two would do the afters. So that would take us all the morning to
make a soup, two of us.

When I was at college I stayed on for a year and got
my City & Guilds and then I stayed on another year and got my City
& Guilds . But my first job, when I started work, was working in the
canteen and that broke my heart that I had to make a packet … I had to make the
soup for the canteen and I made it with Knorr’s tomato soup powder and I was
really upset. Because I was a clever-dick and I knew I’d got my certificates I
couldn’t understand why I had to call everybody Mrs this and Mrs that but I was
J. And I realised that I was the kitchen maid and that really disgusted me to
think that I’d been to college, learnt all that and I could’ve gone straight
from school. And from there they, the management, on a month’s probation,
decided that as I didn’t like the job there weren’t a lot of point staying. And
then in Norwich, in anywhere, you couldn’t get a job, a proper job in a hotel
because the men … that was only men in the kitchens.

I
don’t know if we said this, but that was the telephone exchange of St Andrew’s
Hill / Street?

Yes. Then I did several other jobs in kitchens and
canteens and I worked in the Exchange Street café. And that was when we used to
do stuff for the Norfolk Show and we’d be cooking for 500 and we used to have
to go in nearly 24 hours to do that. Then I worked in different kitchens and
different cafes and in one café I worked and I got 3 pounds 4 pence a week and
the girls who were my mates who worked in the factory were getting 7 quid and
that didn’t seem right, that didn’t seem fair but that’s how the world was.

Then I ended up in Smith’s Bakeries, no Kett’s Hill
Bakeries, and Mr P. was the man that taught me to do the lattice work piping on
wedding cakes. Then I worked at the Smith’s Bakeries, Hethersett and I lived in
Norwich near Earlham Park, North Earlham, and I used to bike to Hethersett and
back. And in the night time I used to hate it because I’m afraid of the dark
and those big pylons used to follow me on the way home and I was terrified and
I’m still afraid of the dark.

Confectioner
in Switzerland

But that was then and then somewhere along the line I
went to Switzerland because the big men like Colmans and Gurney and all those
sort of people got together and made a trust so that young people of Norwich
could experience travelling abroad. I went to Switzerland and I went in a
confectionist place there …. And that was ever such a funny place because
that was a cake shop. Because confectionary in Switzerland don’t mean the same
as confectionary in England. Confectionary in England is sweets, confectionary
abroad is cakes. And I learnt to make cakes and all that sort of thing but all
the people in that café were young like me and that was United Nations. There
was Italian and German and Swiss and you know I could only speak English, broad
Norfolk, so none of them understood what I was talking about. That was a
fascinating place but I was terrified all the while ‘cos I’m a bit of a coward
and to go all that way on my own weren’t very good. I went to Switzerland for two
months and never saw a mountain.

But I learnt a lot I expect (laughs) and I was to stay a month and there was a travel agency in
Norwich called Berlin’s Travel Agency and, because he was a mate of my mum’s
with the politics and what not, he sorted out all my tickets. So all I had to
do was to go to the station and just hand the porter my tickets and they would
put me on the train. But when I got there I’d worked for a couple of weeks and [the
owner] wanted me to stay for Christmas and I didn’t want to stay as long as
that. But I stayed another month and of course that meant all the tickets were
wrong so what he did after the second month he writ it all down for me what I’d
gotta do and he said the same thing – “when you get on the station give this to
the porter and he’ll put you on the right train”. Of course I never thought – I
said “Can you tell me where this is?” and he say “Cor you come from Norwich
don’t ya?”. That was the porter and that was in Switzerland (laughs). So anyway
when I came back I went in Smith’s Bakeries and stayed there until I married.

Did
you meet your husband through that business?

No, I met my husband because my dad worked at a
factory in Norwich and B. worked there as well. And they used to have a
Christmas do and this particular Christmas do I went with my mum and dad. And B.
was only a young man but he’d just lost his wife, about eight months. There was
a lady with B. who was trying to be cheerful and cheer him up and everything
and he got fed up with her keep trying to get him on the floor and he came over
and spoke to me and said would you dance with me? That went on from there and
so that was how I met B. and we were married for 14 years and had three kids.

Sewing,
and caring for the family

And
did you immediately give up work when you got married? What year did you get
married?

What year did I – ’59.

Did
you give up work then?

No, because we lived in a little sort of shared
cottage that we hired and I always kept. I was working at Harmer’s then and I
loved working in the factory. I was on the sewing machines making trousers and
I worked there and there was no need for me to give up work because we didn’t
have any children. And then we decided after about four years we’d better have
some but B. never would put his name on the council list. I mean I’d always
been brought up that you put your name on the council list and then you got
married and then you had children and you stayed in council houses, but he
wouldn’t do that. Then after about four years we bought a house and then
straight away the family was on the way. And once the family started, P. was
first, he was born in ’63 and then I gave up work. I worked right till I was eight
months pregnant and that was when that was really that icy winter, really
really. The girls who I worked with were disgusted that my husband insisted
that I went to work but I did.

And then, and then we had P. and then a couple of years
later we had K., and then six years after that we had V. But I didn’t go to
work, I did a lot of crocheting and used to sew, you know, do them fancy waistcoat
things. I would crochet them and the girls would bring me the wool and I’d
crochet them and then they’d give me a pound. I did that sort of thing but up till
then, you know that was when the kids started going to school and we used to
knit for the school and all that sort of thing but I never actually went out to
work. Although my husband was annoyed but, because I don’t agree with mums
going to work, I think that’s what’s the matter with the kids today, but I
won’t get on that high horse. And so I was a mum with the children and just
doing odd bits and pieces. I did a bit of cleaning and just that sort of thing
not actually really going out to work.

This
was in Norwich, you were living in Norwich?

Yeah, this was at North Walsham Road, Old Catton, near
the Woodman Pub. We lived up there.

Becoming
a chiropodist

So
I believe that you then did take up another career at some point.

Well I left my husband and I went to North Walsham and
we stayed there in this particular house for six years and then we moved into
North Walsham.

You
and your children?

Yeah. And then I was in the Red Cross and the lady
said do you want a little job on a Monday afternoon and so I used to go to work
and clean the surgery of the chiropodist.

So
just remind me of where this is again?

North Walsham.

And so just on a Monday afternoon. And I did that for
18 months and then I was still being a mum and the chiropodist said to me one
day, will you help me to … ‘cos he had to move his little room, and so me and
the kids helped him to clean and decorate the new surgery, that’s the word. He
said to me, we got talking,’ cos I’d never seen him, although I’d worked there
for 18 months I’d never seen him, and ‘cos we start talking about being a
single mum and on security and that sort of thing. He said well if you became a
chiropodist you’d never be rich but you’d keep your head above water. I said I
couldn’t learn to do that – ‘cos I thought I was too thick for that sort of
thing – and he say, “Well you’re passed the first hurdle cause you can cut
toenails” – ‘cos I had to clear them up. So what we did is, I sent away for the
papers to learn it as privately and once a month the papers would come and
they’d ask me, there’d be a questionnaire about what I’d had the month before
and in the meantime I worked for Mr B. as his assistant and he said to me, “Just
be there.” But if ever he said. “Oh this is interesting, come and see exactly
what I’m doing” and I did. Then when I passed the exam I couldn’t do -, ‘cos in
those days you did your exam and then you did 100 hours with a chiropodist and
if they thought you were good enough you then was a chiropodist. But you
couldn’t do the 100 hours with the one you were training with. So I then went
to Cromer and did 100 hours with S. and I worked with her and when I did get my
certificate she then had a baby so I took her surgery over. But my kids were all
teenagers by then. I didn’t go out to work till V. was 12.

So
how old were you when you got your certificate?

Forty. Life begins at 40.

So
that was 1977? ‘37 you were born?

’38.

1978.
Right, so you set off on a new career?

Well I did and I didn’t because in between time I met
my husband, from Wymondham.

Your
second husband?

Yeah, I was in the Red Cross and we went to Pakefield.
The Red Cross used to have Pakefield Holiday Camp for a week and there’d be 300
volunteers and 500 disabled people for the week and we’d work together. And the
first year I saw him but I don’t remember him and the next year we met up, and
then we got married and then I come to move here. But I never worked full time
as a chiropodist because, well for a start that takes some time to build up. And
then he decided, well we decided, that because he then retired that he didn’t
want me working all hours gave, we wanted time together. So I just did a few
here and there, that’s what we did. I’d go out and about to different people
but not as a really really intensive career.

No,
did you ever work as an intensive, when you took over, what did you say her
name was? S.?

I worked for three months.

Three
months? And then you met your second husband?

Yeah, but the thing of it was S., this sound funny,
but that don’t matter now because I don’t think she’s here but when I went and
I was doing the work for S., and going out on the jobs and working in the
surgery. When she came back to work everybody wanted me to do their feet so she
decided that I didn’t ought to stay there.

Right
and so when did you stop being a chiropodist?

I was 60. And I had to stop because I was so, there
was a home in Wroxham and in this home – ‘cos what you do when you go in an old
people’s home to work, they bring all the old people into the main room and
then you just literally go round each one. I did about three homes and we used
to have a sing song, you know. But this particular home had a lady in a bedroom
who had this, well I’ll get this wrong but, MSI, this terrible disease on the
skin, M something?

Oh
yes you get it in hospital don’t you?

Well she had this and so what happened, I’d do all the
people and then after I did her we had to go in there and I had to sterilise
all my gear and I had to have, you know this sort of thing and that really used
to worry me. And I got eczema and with eczema go mad with hassle and my hands just
went to pieces and I was so worried I had to … you know they were splitting and
all sorts. And I went to the doctor’s with them and he said, “You know what it
is”, he said, “you can’t do that job anymore.” And I told him about this lady
who’d got this and he said “She shouldn’t be in the home anyway and you
shouldn’t be doing that” he say and I was frightened about doing it although I
did. And he said, “Look you’re 60 now, pack it up and become a pensioner.” And I
did.

And
you did?

Yeah. I do the occasional tidy up my mates.

You
still do that do you?

Just tidying my mates up. One or two of them that… you
know I still got the gear and I make them comfy.

Do
they pay you for that?

A little bit. But that isn’t necessary ‘cos they’re my
mates.

Well
it’s good isn’t it to have something, in a way you can still do? I think you’re
a woman who likes to feel useful from the way you’ve talked previously?

Well, now I’m a member of the U3A, I’m a member of the
Lex club and I’m a member of the disabled club so they do keep you busy.

So
that was that then and what did you enjoy most do you think? Your first career
or your first job or … ?

I always wanted to be a mum. I still want to be a mum.
I’ve got three children, they’re all grown up. I got grandchildren. I got a
great grandson and I’ve got children on my husband’s side. But my son has now
come to live with me at the minute, ‘cos he’s split with his wife and I
desperately want to cuddle him and say “aah you know, Mum love you” and get him
on my lap well you can’t, he’s a man, you know you mustn’t do that. I do hug him
sometime. But you mustn’t, you know he’s a man, you got to let him make his own
decisions and I mustn’t keep telling him what to do. You know, and my daughter
certainly put me in my place if I start to tell her anything. But that’s the
bit I miss most of all, is not being mummy. I just hate it. That’s such a
special job.

Was
it well paid doing the chiropody work when you did it?

That would have done if I’d have been properly… I mean
when I was doing the chiropody I charged people £5, don’t forget that was a
long while ago. I eventually put it up to £10 but if you want a chiropodist now
that’s £28. But I only did what the other chiropodists did, you know. Even when
I was doing it part time I still had a book keeper and I used to go to him
every year and he used to laugh ‘cos he said that you don’t do enough to even
be a paying hobby. One year I earnt £3, the whole year, and he said to me, “You
know this is ridiculous”. I said, “Well the thing of it is, I’ve got a card.”
I’m known as a chiropodist. If anyone report me I could be in … whoever is
reporting me, the examiner or something, could make up what he like. But where
if I’ve got proof that I only do that sort, ‘cos my husband was a pensioner so
I was his dependent and you’re only allowed to earn £35 a week, which is a lot
of money isn’t it – but I never earnt £35. But you know you have to be careful.

The
lighter side of chiropody

So
if you’d made it kind of like your career if you wanted to you could of…?

I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have some funny
stories.

Tell
me one funny story then.

This man, when I worked with S., he was a real misery
guts, and he was a major in the army and he thought he was above everyone else
and I used to go and do his feet and he wouldn’t talk to you or anything. And then
the first week I went on my own I just got my finger and I went ‘zip’, like
that up his foot. Well you know that make people jump out of their skin and he
roared with laughing and he was all right after that (laughs).

Tell
me another funny story.

This one, this man, it was a shame really ‘cos you
could see how, when you go round to the homes every six weeks, you could see
how quickly people deteriorated. When he first went into this home he was
downstairs ‘cos he was a policeman and he wanted to see out of the window. And then
as you deteriorated you get shoved upstairs so people don’t bother and this
particular day I went round to his, he was stuck in the toilet. Well I know I
got all my first aid certificates and everything, but I knew I mustn’t touch
him. So course I got the girls and they got him and I said if you lay him on
the bed so his feet are hanging over the end I can do his feet while he’s
laying there. So I started, I’d done one foot and then I looked up and he’d got
his mouth wide open, his eyes wide open and he, and I couldn’t see his chest
going up and down and I thought oh my god, he’s dead. Do I send him to heaven
with one foot done or do I do the other one? And then he did a big breath, so
thank God for that (laughs). And so
he had two tidy feet.

Well
you’ve seen life haven’t you? You’ve certainly seen life, you’re a lively
woman.

There is one lady I used to go to, she lived in like a
shed and the only plug, ‘cos in those days… I’ve got a battery one now, but you
had electric, like a little electric drill, only that’s a model thing and I
used to have a little file on the top, diamonds, and you tidied the feet up
with them you know, better than having a file. And this lady she only had the
one socket in the whole house so what I did I bought myself one of those things
that you put on the front of your head so with a battery in it and a light and
I used to put that on and then plug my electric in (laughs). And there was one lady, her husband was livid ‘cos he was
tight and he knew she was dying and he didn’t want to pay to have her feet done.
He knew she was dying but they insisted she had her feet done. So I went there
that day, done her feet, made her nice tidy and she died two days later. He was
furious.

I had to go to somebody once and, I’d never seen a
toenail like that before, but his toe had got a toenail like a snail, like a
winkle, like a winkle. The toenail had grown up and up and up like that. And I
looked at it ‘cos that was hurting him, ‘cos that was hurting his shoe. And I
just looked at it and I thought “How the hell am I going to do it?” And I just
went like that flat on it with the clippers and the whole thing just come off (laughs).

There’s one lady I went to and I used to go to her
regularly. Now this is something that really you don’t know how to work it out.
I used to go to her – she was a little lady, on her own, in this home,
sheltered housing. And ‘cos she’s lovely and I used to go and one lady I used
to go to, she was lovely. And then one
day the boss of the place came out and said “Have you got time to do someone
else?” So I said yeah and when I went in there that was this little lady, she
weren’t any problem. And ‘cos when you go in to see the little lady as the
carer, you can’t say I want to see your feet can you? Well she always had these
sloppy slippers on and her toenails were that long that they were growing that
way under one foot and under her foot this way. Them toenails must have been 2
½ inches long and I tidied all her foot up and just as I’d tidied it up the
doctor came through and I say to the doctor, “There, before and after” (laughs).

I
bet they were a jolly sight more comfortable once you’d done it, poor woman.

She didn’t know, she didn’t know. I mean your nails
don’t grow and hurt you. They will tuck underneath and go that way and that way,
you know, and so you don’t notice it. I mean when your hair grow you don’t feel
it do you? (laughs)

Well
I think I’m going to end it there because I’ll be laughing too much in a minute.

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