Lucky Jim. Being in the right place at the right time

Location : Germany; Norwich; London

Beginning in the Bank

I
started working at the age of 16; I left a grammar school. My father (fathers
have a great influence on you, what you do) helped me to get into the Midland Bank.
So I went to the Midland Bank in the Strand in London. I spent two quite
enjoyable years there, although I wasn't very successful.

Did they train you on
the job?

They
did, but you also had to do evening classes and I wasn’t very used to doing
evening classes in those days. So I took my banking exams, the first ones, and
I failed every single subject in the banking exams. I got the results one day
before I left to join the Army as a National Serviceman. I was hoping the
results would come out after I left the bank because I didn't want to be at the
bank when the results came out. But alas they did, so that’s what happened.

National
Service – the Royal Artillery

And
then I went into the Royal Artillery.

Why was that?

They
more or less put you where they wanted to. This was National Service – I tried
to join the armoured corps. But they said no and put me in the Royal Artillery instead.

And the date is
around 1951?

Yes,
1951. One of the requirements to be in the Royal Artillery was you had to be
good at maths, and I was fairly good at maths, I must admit, so that’s why I
went into the Royal Artillery. And after being there for a while I served most
of my time at Larkhill in Wiltshire, on the Salisbury plains. I had a good time
there.

What sort of things
did you have to do?

I
was what they call a technical assistant on the guns; I used to have to line
the guns up. Actually they were mortars, a bit unusual for the Royal Artillery,
we had mortars which were100mm diameter mortars and we used to have to line
them up before they fired them. We gave demonstrations on Salisbury Plain and
we actually gave a demonstration to King Hussein of Jordan at one time – that
was good fun. We were on the plains about three times a week and that may well
account for why I'm deaf at the moment!

Did you enjoy your
time in the National Service?

I
did, I enjoyed it very much, had a good time. And I was courting J at the time
as well – not very successfully (laughs). Then it was getting a bit close to coming
out and going back to the bank and I didn't fancy it one little bit. Not that I
didn't have a good time at the bank it was OK; they had good sports clubs as
well and I played football a lot in those days.

What was it you
didn’t actually like about the bank? Was it the hours or regimentation, the 9
to 5?

I
didn’t know that I didn’t like it until I wasn’t in it – if you know what I
mean. In the Army we were out and about a lot in the open air and I really
enjoyed that. Whereas in the bank you were in the same place all day long.
Although we did have some interesting experiences going to collect the money
from the head office in Princes Street – no, Bishopgate in London.

Any awkward
customers?

The
customers were very good actually. Some of them used to play the system –
they’d have cheques going round. They’d pay a cheque to their cousin and their
cousin would pay a cheque to somebody else and each one would have gone into
debt if their cousin hadn’t given them a cheque.

And they sort of did a round robin. That
actually took place.

They just managed to
survive that way? Yes.

Russian, German and
the Cold War

That was pre-war when
times weren’t good?

No,
just after the Second World War. So it was time to come out of the Army – or it
would have been time to come out of the Army, but I saw on the standing orders,
the regimental orders which came out every day, that they were asking for
people to go on a language course, and they would have to transfer into the
regular army. So I thought it sounded like a good idea.

What was the
language?

Russian.
So I did a year's Russian language course and then transferred. It was the time
of the cold war, so they needed Russian language people to … not interpret
… be translators.

So how competent did
you become at Russian?

Not
brilliant, but we started a course in February and we took A levels in
November. The course lasted a year. We did the service translators’ course and
we were just a bit better than A level I would say.

A real crash course
then. OK, you’ve now got your Russian, and what did you do with it?

That’s
the bit where it gets a bit difficult. All I can tell you is that I transferred
into the Intelligence Corps. And I was in the Intelligence Corps for nine
years. What I did with it, well, it just involved the Russian language. I won’t
say any more.

Were you based in
this country?

No,
I went to Germany in 1954 and I moved around Germany a bit; I did almost a year
in Berlin. (That would be 55? No it couldn’t have been.) We went to Berlin in
1954- because we got married in 1955. And then we came back in 1957 didn’t we?
Marriages - Marriage Jim photo berlin before closure.jpg (1399px x 999px)

I’m just intrigued by
learning Russian. Did you have to sit a test to show that you had an ability
for language. How did you get selected for the course?

Well,
they wanted to know if you’d done anything in the past, and I’d been to France
when I was a boy of 14 on an exchange which lasted six weeks and I did quite
well. I was 28th in the class when I went and I was second when I came back, so
it obviously did some good.

You obviously had
some natural ability that way.

I
don’t know, but I did it anyway. And the person who was first, he’d been on the
exchange with me and he was better than me before we started. So they could see
that I could manage. I also got the old school certificate in German as well.
And then they give you an interview, and they give you vetting to make sure
you’re suitable.

If you heard some
Russian today would you still be able understand it?

Understand
some of it. It depends what level were talking about.

Any other languages?

No
– I say no … German, when I was at the college I became involved in exchanges
for students and we went together didn’t we on a couple of occasions (to wife J) we took these students to
Germany for about a fortnight at a time. And these students were not language
students, they were butchers, beauticians, carpenters, welders, plumbers – a
real mixture of boys and girls, or men and women I suppose I should say at that
age.

And
we took them there and got involved with that. And so I used German again
there. Then I wanted to learn a bit more German, so I did an A level at the
college in my latter years there. And then when I left the college I did an
external degree in German with London University. And I’m going to a German
conversation class tomorrow; well it’s not exactly a class, more a meeting of
friends.

The college job, of
course, comes a little bit later. So you’re just about to leave the regular army.

Well,
I always wanted to be in building. My father was in building, he was manager of
a building firm – but he always said building is not a very good thing to be in
because it goes up and down – and he’s absolutely right about that; it does go
up and down so he steered me away from it when I left school. But when I could
choose for myself and I wanted to come out of the Army with J being an Army
wife, it wasn't good for the children and that sort of thing. I thought well,
I'll go into building now he can’t tell me what to do now any more.

Into quantity
surveying and lecturing

And
so I started doing evening classes. Before I left the Army, I went to evening
classes three evenings a week. I did a National Certificate in Building
Subjects and then a Higher National Certificate in Building Subjects. And then
when I left I carried on doing building and I became a member of the Institute
of Quantity Surveyors. So I more or less semi qualified before I came out of
the Army. Then I got this job with Cheltenham Borough Council as a trainee
quantity surveyor.

How did you decide on
the surveying, because you’d obviously had a taster of all aspects of building?

Again,
in quantity surveying you need to be good at mental arithmetic which I was…
Also when I was in the Artillery I had to use an instrument called a director
which is very much like a theodolite. So I knew I could use a theodolite. I
liked using the theodolite, so that’s more or less what determined me really.
And as a quantity surveyor you’ve got to really be au fait with every aspect of
building you can think of because you measure things down to the last nut and
bolt, literally. And that appealed to me.

That logical brain,
obviously.

I
dunno. I don’t think J would agree! (Laughter)

So you got your first
job as a quantity surveyor then. What did that involve? Just remind me where
you were?

I
was at Cheltenham Borough Council. It was to do with preparing documents so
that builders could put in tenders; they could put in their tender all based on
equal information. So if you’ve got six builders trying to get a job they would
all have exactly the same information on which they could base their tender. It
was preparing those tenders, those Bills of Quantities as they were called, for
them to work out their estimates.

How long did you stay
in that job? What date are we up to?

That
was 1962 to ’65, during which time I'd become fully qualified and then – we
needed a bit more money didn't we (to his wife)- and there were quite good jobs
going with various building firms – and you get a different view of things from
the building side than you do from what we call the professional side. So I
applied for a job with a firm in Evesham in Worcestershire, still living at
Cheltenham. They had a sub-office in Cheltenham anyway so I became a builder’s
surveyor involved with running the financial side of it again on the building
contracts. So I did that for two years… but building was becoming – in a very
parlous state. It was very difficult to get work – very much as it is today
actually. Very difficult indeed.

And
when I was working for Cheltenham Borough Council my boss who had taught
quantity surveying at the local technical college, he didn’t want to do it
anymore and he recommended me for it even though I’d only been doing the job a
couple of years. So I started doing part time teaching at North Gloucestershire
College (I think), it was in Cheltenham anyway. So I taught there part time for
a while and it was quite good, I quite enjoyed it. I’d done a bit of teaching
in the Army anyway. So I applied to Norwich City College. Never been to East
Anglia before. J had, but I’d never been to East Anglia before.

So it was just a case
of the job popping up?

Yeah,
and I was very lucky because I was on a short list of two; the other chap was
offered the job and he turned it down. So I was offered the job. I settled in
very happily at it.

What aspects of that
job did you like best?

Well
I taught various subjects with the job. I preferred the teaching of surveying
and levelling, that’s using theodolites and levels. I preferred that. But I did
get on well with the students; I never had the slightest bit of trouble with
any student. Well that’s not strictly true – I did on one occasion. I did like
working with the students; I found the students in this part of the country …
I thought were very conscientious. Yes, I liked working with the students.

And did you notice
them changing at all as time went by? Did they remain pleasant and easy to work
with?

The
whole time. I was there 22 years full time and I did about three years part
time, so I was there about 25 years. They were much the same all the way
through, really.

Did you find the way
the College operated changed much in that time?

Tremendously,
absolutely tremendously! I went up the ladder a bit, so I became a sort of
assistant Head of Department and there were more and more meetings to attend
which I absolutely detested. I’d much prefer to be teaching in the classroom.
These meetings just proliferated and you’d be there for hours and at the end
you’d come out and think, what have I achieved? Oh, I didn’t like it.

What about the
paperwork?

Yeah,
there was quite a lot of paperwork as you can imagine.

Did that escalate as
well as time went by?

It
did a bit. We got a lot more outside interference into the running of the
classes. At one time when I was there, for instance, I would say we are going
to be doing these subjects this year. And if a student came up to me and said,
“Look Mr Marriage, I’ve got a group of architects here they want to do a
certain subject because it fits in with their professional studies, and so on.”
And I’d say, “Well if you can get twelve people we’ll run it.” And we’d do it. But
later on you couldn’t do that, it would have to go in front of an academic
board; everybody in the whole college would have to discuss it. If you were
lucky you’d be allowed to do it. If you were lucky! There was an awful lot of
paperwork, preparing your case and so on.

Obviously you don’t
think that improved matters at all.

I
don’t think it improved it at all.

Did you then choose
to retire? Had you reached retirement age?

No,
I hadn’t reached retirement age. J retired and I was getting to a point where
they were trying to cut back on the number of lecturers they had got at the
college. They didn’t say to me, you’ve got to go, or anything like that but I
thought this looks like a good opportunity. So I went to them and said I’d be
quite happy to retire. In those days they gave you what they called enhancement,
so if you retired, say, at the age of 56 they could give you give you a few
more years as though you were retiring at the age of 62 or something like that.
And and the principle said “I can only give you two years enhancement but if
you’re willing to do that and you think you can manage, that’s alright.” So I
said yes, I’ll take it.

What age were you at
this time?

Fifty
six. I don't regret a second. I don’t regret it for one minute!

But that wasn’t the
end of your career was it?

More
or less.

(Mrs. M.) Not really,
because they didn’t have anyone to replace you, so you went back part time.

I
went back part time for three years or so. Not doing as many hours as I did
before, just a few hours here and there. But the beauty of it was, I just had
to teach the subject, I didn’t have to do anything else.

Learning about
Norwich leads to a new career

But you hadn’t
reached the end of your career so you progressed to the next thing…

J
and I thought we’d like to learn a bit more about Norwich, because we loved
Norwich almost as soon as we got here. So we saw this opportunity to do this
course to learn about the City of Norwich; it was only about 16 evenings or
something like that. It was at Wensum Lodge, wasn’t it? So we learned about
Norwich for 16 evenings. And then we were invited to take a written exam at the
end of the session. So we did the session and we passed the written part. Then
they said “Would you like to become a Tourist Guide?” So we said, “Yes.” So they
said, “There is a practical part to it. You have to go around with somebody who
does the tours at the moment and learn how to do it, and then you have to do it
yourself and then you are tested.” So I did that and became a tourist guide.
Like a lot of things in my life it happened by accident.

And how many years
have you done that?

Fifteen
… or something …27 years or something like that!

You must know every
nook and cranny of Norwich! And you’re still doing it I believe ?

Still
doing it, yeah. Oh, in addition to which J gives talks and I'm her roadie (as
she calls it). I operate the equipment. It used to be slides but now it’s
Powerpoint. So now we do Powerpoint presentations, we do the talks, Women’s
Institutes mainly.

You’ve had this very
varied career as you've said. When you look back, what were the highlights for
you?

Well
getting married for a start! (That was definitely a highlight!) For the career,
joining the Army. That was a highlight really, becoming Sergeant Major.

You didn't say that
you'd become Sergeant Major.

Well
nobody asked! That was interesting as well. We were told that if we wanted to be
promoted we'd have to go on a drill course. And I’ve always been a little bit
awkward at times. I said, “As I’m going to be leaving in a year’s time, I don’t
think there’s any point in me doing the drill course.” “OK.” A month afterwards
I was promoted – without doing the drill course.

Did you ever have to
take the drill?

Occasionally,
not very often. Actually, I took drill in the early stages when I was the
equivalent of a corporal, when I was in the Artillery. I was what they call a bombardier,
the equivalent of a corporal. I used to have to do a bit of drilling in those
days, not a lot. Not being a spit and polish man really.

So the Army is a
definite highlight for you?

I
honestly did enjoy a lot of the Army, but I could see it wasn't going to be
right for a family life.

And what else would
you pick out?

Coming
here I think, coming to Norwich and getting the job at City College. Because I
had applied for a few jobs in other technical colleges without any success, I
couldn't believe it when this other chap turned the job down. Second best again
(laughing).

It sounds like you’ve
had a really interesting career and one you've enjoyed as well.

Most
of the time.

Not so many people
say that.

There’s
been no time for boredom, has there?

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