Working Lives

A Cook’s Tour (1949-1995)

Location: Norfolk

Doreen started work in 1949 in Bonds department store in Norwich. After going to America with her husband, she became a school cook in Norfolk.

I started work in 1949 when I left school, and I started at .. . it was Bonds then, the Department Store in Norwich, and I worked in the Hat Department, and as I was the junior in the Hat Department I wasn’t allowed to sell hats but I could sell feathers and ribbons and trimmings for hats. There were senior people who were actually selling the big hats or more expensive commodities. I was there for a year as this junior, and at Bonds we had a workroom where people, if they bought a hat and wanted a feather or a flower sewn onto it, one of my jobs was to take it down to the workroom, and the people there would do this job.

Sometimes a hat would be too big for a person and then the workroom would stitch a piece of felt in the back of this hat to make it fit the person, but I never did all the fitting, I just did the running. And also, the other thing, if a hat was too small for a person we could stretch it; we had a stretching machine, we could take it down and stretch it in. And I quite liked going to the workroom; for one thing it got me off the shop floor, and I used to have a little talk to the people down there and have these jobs done.

So after a year I then asked if I could work in the workroom. There became a vacancy there, so I then transferred for another year to be in the workroom at Bonds, and I did all these bits and pieces, like sewing feathers and things on hats and stretching and making smaller.

I had some friends who were working in the Macintosh Chocolate Factory and earning a lot more money than I was. At Bonds I was earning £1/2/6d a week. Out of that we had to pay 2/4d a week (this is obviously in old money) to National Insurance and so I used to finish up with £1/0/2d a week. I used to give my mother 10 shillings and I had 10 shillings and tuppence. Whereas these friends of mine who were working at Macintosh’s were probably earning 2 or 3 pounds or £4 and they could get bonuses. So, perhaps foolishly, the money drew me. So I left Bonds and I went to work at Macintosh’s in the factory, and it wasn’t such an interesting job as Bonds really, but I was earning more money, it was 5 days a week; I didn’t have to work on Saturdays. So I stayed there until 1963.

Then my husband and I went to America for two years. My husband had a job over there, and I did a bit of office filing work; nothing very exciting. And then we came back to England, and by this time my son was born, and I didn’t work for a little while after he was born. He was born in ’65. And then in 1970 he started school, and I wanted to work and I thought “school meals”. It worked in with his school time, I didn’t have to leave him with anybody, I could then work the term time and have the holidays with him, which worked very, very well. I started at Earlham High School in the kitchen, and my first morning. . .. they had a wash-up room …. we used to do a thousand meals a day … and I went into this wash-up room and I’ve never seen so much washing up in all my life! It was almost piled floor to ceiling. It was a small room but it was just full of dirty pots and pans which all the cooks had used .. . Bearing in mind that I’m going in at the bottom of the ladder as a kitchen assistant – the real bottom! (laughs) – and that was my job. But it suited my lifestyle, because I loved being with my son in the holidays and I didn’t want to farm him out, so it suited me. I stayed there and did this washing up day after day and it worked fine. I had all the school holidays, and then, after about two years I think it was, I did think “Well, he’s 7 now”, and his godmother lived two doors from us, and I thought “Perhaps I’ve had enough of this washing up. Perhaps I will do something different.”

And I went and worked in a garage, in the office; again just very basic office work. But he wasn’t happy in the holidays, and I decided “No, this is not for me”, and I missed spending time with him, so I left there and I thought “Yes, I’ll go back into school meals”. And I went to City Hall and saw the people you have to see, and said “Yes, I would like to come back into school meals, but I don’t want to stay as a washer-up!” (laughs) “I’m quite happy to go back as a washer-up, but if I go back I would like, if the opportunity comes up, to have a better job.” And they were quite pleased actually. So I went back to Earlham School. Luckily they had a vacancy there, and I did wash up for a few months. But then they wanted an assistant cook

In response to a question: Yes we did wear rubber gloves! (laughs)

One of the assistant cooks left, so I applied and got the job as an assistant cook at Earlham School. Thoroughly enjoyed it! And at the same time I kept looking around, because in Norfolk County Council . .. or Norwich City Council as it was then .. . any jobs that became vacant were advertised internally, and after I’d been at Earlham .. . it would have been in 1976, yes … a vacancy came up at Swardeston School. It’s a little village just outside of Norwich, about 5 miles I think, and I lived in Norwich at the time. And they wanted a person to run the kitchen there. There were only 26 children in the school and they virtually all stayed for lunch. So I applied, and at that time I didn’t have any transport (laughs) but I applied for the job and got it! So then I bought a moped – because my husband had a car and he needed it for work – so I bought the moped and used to go every day to Swardeston School on this moped, come rain or shine (laughs). And eventually I did manage to get myself a little Mini car.

But I loved it! And, as I say, it was just a small school, very few children, and I was the only one there, apart from a lady who used to come in and wash up at lunchtime. There was just a set meal every day, no choice.

Three courses?

Two courses. A main course and a pudding, yes. And it was so informal because I think there were possibly the Head Teacher and maybe two other teachers there, myself, and that was it. And the children used to come and knock at the door and talk to me and wave to me through the windows. That was a lovely atmosphere and I really loved it! The travelling didn’t bother me particularly. I mean it wasn’t that far and I managed all right.

And then our Manager came round one day and said .. . there had been the usual advertisements that came round for different schools … and she said to me had I seen the advertisement for Framingham Earl School, which was again about 5 or 6 miles out of Norwich in a slightly different area. And I said yes I’d seen it, and she said, “Are you going to apply?” And I said, “No, no. I love it here. I’m not going to apply.” And she said, “Well do think about it, because this is a small school”. And things at that time … you know, schools if they were getting too small, they were closing them, because only a couple of miles up the road there was another Infant School. And she said “Just be aware that this could close. I’m not saying it’s going to….”. And in fact it didn’t for some time, but she said “Just bear it in mind. And Framingham Earl is a bigger school.”

So I thought about it, having just cooked for 26 children a day, and it was a nice atmosphere. And I did really think about it hard: If I go to Framingham Earl I shall have to cook for 500, but I would have had more staff, obviously. So I thought “Well, yes, I’ll apply”. I may not get it. But her advising me to go for it, I had a feeling she might appoint me for it. So I applied and I got this job at Framingham Earl. By now I had got the Mini which wasn’t so bad, and went from 26 children a day to 500. They weren’t all at Framingham Earl School, but we sent out to two smaller schools in the area. I had myself, who was the Cook Manager, and then I had a cook beneath me and two other ladies who’d come in and help with the cooking, plus various people for vegetables and washing up. And that again was a lovely atmosphere. I loved it there. Super, super job! Lovely Headmaster, lovely staff. It was just great and I was very happy there.

And then (laughs) there became a job for a peripatetic Supervisor. Peripatetic Supervisor is a Cook Supervisor who goes around various schools, and you go in with a new cook and advise them and help them through the job. You then, if a new school opens you go there and help set up that system. But you travel a lot round, and by then, although I was very happy at Framingham Earl, I suppose I’d got the bug to improve myself even more, so I applied for the Peripatetic’s job and, luckily again, I got this job. And I started that and travelled around all over Norfolk.

How many schools altogether?

It’s difficult to say. In Norfolk I think there were then about 270 plus, but I didn’t go to all of them ‘cos I wasn’t just the one Peripatetic. At that time Norfolk was split into 5 sections, North, South, East and West and Central. Central was Norwich, the radius was ….. I don’t know about mileage, what it would be .. .. but it was mainly Norwich area. So basically I was the Peripatetic for the Norwich area, but if there was a problem. … Each Area had a Peripatetic, so if one of those was tied up and I was free I would go to one of their schools. You know, it worked like that, we worked as a team, the five of us, but basically we had our own areas, but we helped out in other places.

So I did that for another two years. Most of my life’s gone in two year cycles actually (laughs) But I did that for another couple of years, and then a Training Manager’s job came up, which was for the whole of Norfolk. Our training kitchen was at St William’s Way in Thorpe, training new cooks. You’d have six at a time and they would come on a three week course to learn as much as they could about the running of a school kitchen. Some came for refreshers and some were brand new, and we’d have three weeks intensive training, not just for the cooking and the cleaning of the kitchen, but we used to have a visiting fireman to come and talk to us about hazards in the kitchen of fire, and Health and Safety. Our Senior Manager from County Hall would come and give them a talk. So mostly in the afternoons on the course they would have a lecture by somebody, and in the mornings we were cooking at the school for the children at that school. There was a full running kitchen there, but we were extras to that. The Cook was obviously very happy when we had a course on because it made her life a bit easier because we were helping her with the cooking, bearing in mind that some of our people were very new so we were much slower. By that time the children were having choices of meals – so she would maybe say you can do the first course or main course of that. It might have been the apple pies and the beef casserole or something. But she’d give us two things a day to do, and our six ladies would do these with me sort of looking after them.

What year was that?

That was in 1983

And they also had to be taught all the book work and the accounts, and recipes, and this and that. So there was a lot; that was quite an intensive three weeks. And we ran these a lot of the time.

When I wasn’t doing that I used to have to work with the Senior Manager at County Hall to plan the menus for the next term, and that was quite an intensive time, and also I would be called to anywhere in Norfolk if any of the Area Managers – each Area had an Area Manager – so if any of the Area Managers had a problem in a kitchen with a new cook who hadn’t been on the course. Or even if a cook came on the course, sometimes they’d ask me to go with her for a week. So I then travelled all over Norfolk wherever I was needed. And that was great. I enjoyed it, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed all the time I’ve been in Norfolk County Council.

And after another two years, unfortunately we had an accident. One of our Area Managers died .. . . and there was a vacancy. And that was for the Norwich Area. The Norwich Area, because it was quite a big area had an Area Manager and an Area Manager Assistant, and the Area Manager Assistant took over that job and I continued with the training.

And then again about another two years later the Area Manager at Great Yarmouth retired .. . . .

Can I just go back a little bit? When I applied for the Area Manager’s job in Norwich I didn’t get the job, but I was interviewed, and when I left the Office….. we had a Senior Manager at County Hall and then overall we had an Operations Manager who looked after the cleaning in schools and the food in schools and the maintenance. So he was like the big, top man. And he was one of the interview people when I was interviewed for Norwich. But Norwich also had one of these Operations Managers as well. And he obviously was going to appoint the girl he knew, and I can understand that. But when I left Mr W. said to me – he was my Operations Manager – said “Don’t give up”, he said, “Keep trying!”.

So then some time later the Area Manager left Great Yarmouth and I applied for that, as Area Manager. The Office was based in Great Yarmouth and that would be looking after 72 schools and Dining Centres, and I applied for that.

What’s a Dining Centre?

A Dining Centre is a school which has meals sent out from a main kitchen. They just serve the meal there, they don’t cook on site, so the meal is sent from the main kitchen. I think it was Loddon School, they send out to about six Dining Centres. All the food is sent out in insulated containers, and then in the Dining Centre there’s just a lady who comes . .. she’s called a Dining Room Assistant …. She comes in, serves that meal, sometimes she washes up as well; it depends how many meals are going out. Sometimes it’s as small as 12 meals, which doesn’t warrant having a cook on site, sometimes it might be 30 or 40. Well then that Dining Assistant would have another helper in; sometimes it’s just one person.

So, as I say, we had 72 kitchens and Dining Centres, and I was duly installed in Euston Road at Great Yarmouth, a lovely area, and took on this job as Area Manager.

What year are we at?

We’re now in 1985, and at that time I was still the Training Manager based in St William’s Way, and the job came up at Great Yarmouth. And I got a phone call at the Training Office this particular evening just before I left off from Mr W’s Assistant … Secretary, a man called Philip. And he rang me at the Training Office and he said”Mr W. wants to see you tomorrow morning at 10 to 9; not quarter to 9, not 5 to 9, but 10 minutes to 9. And I said “Oh Philip, what have I done, what have I done wrong?” And he said, “He just says be there.” And just as an aside really: Mr W was a military man, and everything was .. . that’s the time he said and that’s the time he wanted me there. And I said “Philip, come on, I won’t sleep tonight. Just tell me.” He said “Mr W’s going to offer you the job at Great Yarmouth. But you don’t know anything about it,” he said, “I shouldn’t really be telling you this”. I said “OK. Thank you”. At least I knew what I was going for the next morning.

So I did get there at 10 minutes to 9, and he then offered me this job at Great Yarmouth, and that’s where I stayed until I retired.

When did you retire?

I retired in 1995.

And I had a nice office and I loved being there. I had an assistant, a peripatetic assistant, who I’m still friends with to today, and we worked very well together. I lived actually in Brundall then, which is on the way to Great Yarmouth. My assistant lived the other side of Norwich, actually in Framingham Earl. She actually took over my job at Framingham Earl when I left. I actually interviewed her for that job when I left, so I did know what she was like, and knew she was a good worker. So she then applied to be my assistant at Great Yarmouth, but she lived the other side of Yarmouth. It worked very well, because I knew what she could do, and the peripatetics worked basically the same as me. I was the senior one, but we worked as a team. And it worked because she . . . my Area stretched from the Yarmouth coast, Stalham on one side all the way through Yarmouth, Gorleston, to Loddon on the other side of Norwich. And then inwards with a V as far as Lingwood. So there was like a big V on that Eastern Area. I lived on the eastern side and Nina was more towards the other side . . . I’m trying to get my directions right!

So it worked well. If there were any problems in the Loddon area I could call on her in the mornings. That’s when we used to get our phone calls, about 7 o’clock in the morning. You know “The cook can’t come in” or something like that. And I would call on her, and she would sort of basically look after that area. OK, we worked as a team, but I had to take responsibility, but I could rely on her to do things. And I concentrated on the other half of the Area. And it did work well, very well, until I retired. As I say, we had some fun, we thoroughly enjoyed our job . ….

Was it mainly women?

It was mainly women, but gradually one or two men did creep in and there are still men there now, because times have changed now. They’ve gone more commercial now, because lots of schools have gone to outside companies now. When I started we were all Norfolk County Council, and then things changed and we had to go out to tender. They are still working under the Norfolk County Council, but there’s a company now called Norfolk County Services, which is a separate company but its under the Norfolk County Council umbrella, and they do the cleaning, the maintenance, the grounds, all these clumped together for Norfolk County Services, even some of the transport. So it’s a big company now, but we have to pay our way. We’re not subsidised much by Norfolk County Council. We have to make things work and stick to budgets as best we can.

On the same subject, as things went on we started taking on other things, other than schools. We took on the police stations, we took on the museums. I think the Western Area took on a small Cottage Hospital, so we started branching out, doing these commercial things. The Magistrates’ Court, we had a new one open in Great Yarmouth – because it was an old building they opened a brand new building – and that was lovely; we took that on. And that was another diversion in our job. It made it … not more interesting . .. but it was different, a different aspect to it, the police stations, so different! We took on Meals on Wheels, so apart from schools it was gradually spreading and doing different things.

One of the things I started when I was in Great Yarmouth is: One of my cooks at Martham Middle School, she was very good, and we had this idea of doing birthday parties for children. We thought “I’m sure mothers get a bit fed up with having parties after school”, so we started this lunchtime birthday party, and parents could, for a pound a child, have a table of eight … that child would have its own table of eight, and we would have a cake and a special menu – not the normal school meal – but a few things like crisps, things they didn’t normally have. Make it a party thing and balloons and the cooks would dress up.

Was this at school?

At school. We had it at lunchtime. But there was one table in the same dining room with all the other children, but it was their birthday table. And that just snowballed! You’ve got to have the right Head who will cooperate as well, ‘cos it’s his school and you have to do all these things . .. . I’m a big one for promotions. And that just took off!

How many schools?

Well it started with just the one school. You see you’ve got to have the cook who will do it, it’s extra work for the cook. It’s not disruption for the Head, but he’s got to be prepared to accept that that table’ll be a bit noisy at lunchtime. They’ve all got to agree to it . . . you know, they’ve all got to work together, and that particular school did. And we just went from strength to strength with that, until one year I said to the cook “When’s the Headmaster’s birthday?” (laughs) And we found out, and it was in the school holiday, in the August holidays, so we said, “Well we can’t do anything then”. So what we did, we planned on the last day of term . . . we alerted some of the other staff, but we didn’t alert the Head. So we set a table up for him and did a birthday party for him! For him and his staff; he was in the same room as the children. But it was a real surprise, when he came in for lunch that day; the kids all sang Happy Birthday, and that was his birthday lunchtime with a cake and everything. Again he was the sort of Head who loved it, and it was great!

So that was one thing I started. After that one or two schools started it, but not many. As I say, our cooks .. . that was very hard work and the budgets are very tight and, you know, you couldn’t push some of them too much. But some would do anything. We celebrated .. when Prince Andrew and Sarah got married. We had a wedding day and lots of schools joined in with that. In fact I had one cook at Gorleston whodressed up in an old wedding dress, and one of the other girls dressed up in a sailor’s uniform, and they served the meals like that, and I’ve got pictures of that! (laughs) We had such fun! But lots of schools did it, celebrated. We called things, you know, I can’t remember what they all were now, but we named our dishes after Sarah . . . ” Sarah’s sponge” or something . . . I can’t remember. We had fun things.

When Norwich City got promoted to the First Division – that was some time ago – we did a green and yellow day, because we were really into healthy eating, and again you had to get the Heads to agree, and I said would they let them come if they had green and yellow Norwich City sweaters, would they let them, and most of them said they didn’t mind. So we had a green and yellow day, and it was green and yellow because green and yellow is mainly healthy food, and green and yellow we were promoting Norwich City. And we had balloons and things, and lots of schools participated in that. In fact we had a Norwich City footballer come to Stalham Middle School, and we were actually on the television .. . I was interviewed on the television promoting this. It was good for Norwich City, it was good for the healthy eating, because it was salads and things that they wouldn’t always choose, but because it was a special day you could get children to do anything. If you do something like that you can get them to eat things, but if there’s something special … we used to do little tiny doughnuts and cover them in yellow and green sugar. I know doughnuts are not particularly healthy, but on that yellow and green day, OK, if they had a salad for a main course, they could have a little treat or something afterwards. All sorts of things we used to do, and decorate things with different colours. If there was any sort of special day or we could celebrate, we would have a go at it. Not every school would do it, but I think the majority of them would, and I think they got a bit fed up with me in the end because I was always pushing them to do different things, but I think it is good fun, so I enjoyed it, they all enjoyed it.

During my time as a school meals kitchen assistant and Manager the menus in schools and the meals in schools changed dramatically. When I first started all schools in the first years and the Middle Schools had a set menu, one main course and one pudding and there was a monthly menu and these meals changed daily on a monthly rota. They were based on healthy eating, the quality of the food, and most important the cost. The High Schools did have a choice of three meals a day. There was a main course, a meat course, a fish course and a cheese course, and then there was a choice of three puddings. This was just in the High Schools, and again this was on a monthly rota and all the meals were cost-efficient, the quality was good and they were healthy eating.

We carried on this service until the Government made some changes, and they brought in a change that children could now go off site at lunchtime, they could bring sandwiches . .. and of course lots of parents went for this option with pressure from their children. At Framingham Earl High School we suddenly realised we’d got to do something about this because we were losing customers, and to save our ladies’ jobs in the kitchen we’d got to work something out ourselves. So we offered to do a sandwich service. We used to paste a notice on our kitchen door every day saying the type of sandwich we had on offer. The children still paid for their meals through the school, and we still had the same amount of budget for sandwiches as we did for a meal, but we used to do a sandwich with a flapjack and a piece of fruit and we put it in a little bag for them and they would collect that at lunchtime. We put the notice on the door every day of the sandwich we were doing. I think, if I remember rightly, we’d do a choice of two, maybe a vegetarian and a meat or fish one, tuna or something, and we would put a piece of fruit we thought in and a flapjack or one of our special biscuits which were healthy eating. That took off very well. The children had to come and knock on our door and order their packed lunch every day, so they had to do that before school in the morning, so we knew exactly how many sandwiches we had to make and then we would adjust our main meals accordingly.

The budgets in school meals have always been pretty tight. The average cost for a High School is 42 pence per day, which isn’t a lot of money, and we had to get two courses out of that, and also we had to get our staff wages out of that. That had to cover the food and the cooking costs, so that didn’t leave a lot over. But with a large school you could make a slight profit on that or break even, but we weren’t supposed to make a loss. We didn’t want waste, we couldn’t afford to have waste, so we had to judge our meals accordingly, to what we thought would be needed that day. I mean there’s always the case of children being away sick. We used to be given the numbers each day but there would be certain cases where they would go out on days and we always adjusted to everything like that.

So all this business that’s now in school meals with the Jamie Oliver: We were doing it all those years ago. And then the Government said, when children could go off site, of course children would go to the local chippie, so we then came into another area where we were competing against the corner shop, the local chippie, and, believe it or not, these people were competing against us as well. So we had to make ours as attractive as possible. It was very difficult because it went against all our rules and our training for healthy eating. But to keep the service going and to keep the ladies in a job … and the other thing which we always had to provide .. . there are a lot of children on free school meals, and we are obliged to give them a meal every day, whether it be sandwiches or a hot meal. But we are obliged to give them a meal every day. It was very difficult because even though these children had got a free meal we used to find that sometimes they would bring some money and they would disregard their free meal and still go off site. Again that’s parental control, but they would go off and get chips as well. So it got harder because we were competing all the while to keep the jobs, to keep the service going and to make the meals as attractive as we could.

I always think that cooking on site in a school helps, because when you walk into a school, when you walk into a shop, if you can smell fresh bread or fresh cooking it makes you hungry, and my boss always said “You eat with your eyes”. I think you do, but I also think you eat with the smell of things, because I find if I go into a shop, a bakery, it does make you want to buy in that place. We made everything in our schools at that time. We made our own bread, our own biscuits, we didn’t buy anything in. Unfortunately today, because of the labour costs and how things have changed they buy a lot more in than we ever did. They buy the bread in, they buy the biscuits. I still use a lot of school meal recipes for my cooking, because I know the cost of them and it’s much cheaper to make a batch of biscuits than to go and buy a packet, and you’re getting much better flavour and everything is far better. So that’s how the changes came about.

When we were in this situation of trying to promote the service and to get children to stay to school meals at every opportunity I used to try to do a promotion of some kind, like the Norwich City yellow and green day. The companies that provided us, the wholesalers, sometimes they would give us offers or something. There might be a book or something, a little leaflet to promote … I can’t remember exactly what they were, but they might give us little bits and pieces, and we would have little promotions in the school: If you bought a meal for 5 days, and you had a ticket for 5 days, you might get a little present at the end of the week or something. Something we’d collected from a wholesaler or something.

But as the years went on it got much harder to keep the children interested in what we were preparing, and when you’re competing against the local chip shop and the local shop it got much more difficult. Time’s gone on and various people have suggested ideas to us, but I think the way we started at the beginning was the best way. We knew what we were doing, we could budget a lot easier, it was a balanced meal, it was different every day. We never had … the idea of having the monthly menus to maintain the quality and the balance … we didn’t have fat and flour in both courses, so if we had a meat pie for a starter we would have a mousse or jelly and ice cream for pudding. We wouldn’t have fish two days running. It was all balanced out so the meals were different every day for a month, and each week we’d have a meat day, a fish day, a cheese day, a salad day. And Friday we tried to make as a popular day, because children love a roast dinner. Friday would perhaps be a roast day. We would have a chip day once a week and that might be on a Wednesday. When the Government made the changes the children didn’t have to have a school meal every day; they could pick and choose. That made a difference. So we used to have a roast day and they’d all stay for that, we’d have a chip day and they’d stay for that, and a salad day and they perhaps wouldn’t stay. But we had to do it to maintain our quality and the budgets and healthy eating for all these children, which we were hoping that the parents would let their children stay, but unfortunately they were allowed to bring packed lunches. And I have to say I used to look sometimes while the children were having their packed lunches and I’ve heard in the supermarkets children with their parents, “I want that for my packed lunch”, and I once saw a child with a packed lunch that had 5 chocolate bars in it. That’s the truth and that’s what he was packed up, he or she . . . Another thing, you see, when they pack up lunches, it’s easier to put 5 chocolate bars in a lunch box than make sandwiches or make a little salad. I’m not against the packed lunches, it’s just the quality of them sometimes we used to find quite distressing, because we could see what these children were eating, and I think that’ s why some of them are perhaps obese now. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. My boss always said, because she’s about the same age as me, we were born in the War time, we lived through the War, and people who remember that will know that we didn’t have a lot, and she always maintains that’s why we are so healthy now. Because we didn’t have sweets, because everything was rationed very, very strictly, and that’s why we’re healthy now. And that’s what we were always aiming to do for children in school, that at least they have a good start of healthy eating, which would hopefully benefit them in the rest of their lives. At my age now I feel I’m very healthy. My mother was a cook and we didn’t have a lot of money, but she was a very good cook and we had good basic, healthy food, and I think that’s made me, hopefully, what I am today.

Then I did retire in ’95. I had a lovely retirement day, a few retirement days actually! I had one from all the managers, then I had one from the schools and then I had one from the office staff at Great Yarmouth. So I had a retirement from there, a retirement from the managers and a retirement from the school. And that was a great day! Unfortunately just before I retired my husband died, and so they did ask me if I wanted to stay on, because I wasn’t 65, but I said no, I wouldn’t, I would leave. At that time things were getting more stressful, money was getting tighter, budgets were getting tighter. It was getting more stressful, and, although I still enjoyed it, I said no I thought I would still go. So I retired and I was at home for about 4 months I think, and then I thought “perhaps I’ll do something else”, so I went and I was a temp at Norwich Union , and I was interviewed – bearing in mind I’m in my 60s – and I was interviewed by a young lady of about 24 (laughs)

And she was lovely, and it was for just a filing clerk, and she said “We’re all young in our department. Do you think you could cope?” And I said, “Well, I think I can cope with them if they can cope with me”! And again I had a lovely relationship with all these youngsters, and they used to include me. When they went out for an evening they used to ask me if I wanted to go. I didn’t always go – I didn’t go to the nightclubs! – but I’d go out for a meal with them sometimes.

I had a year there and it was great, and then they got rid of temps. It was one of their cut-back times. So I left, and after about maybe three months, so this is in about ’96, I had a letter from them, or a phone call, I can’t remember; they were taking on temps again, but I had to go into a different department. So I went in this different department, different office altogether, different building. It was like working for a foreign company. It was not the same. I couldn’t settle there, I couldn’t settle at all, it was completely different. I think it was just the environment, just not the same. So I didn’t stay very long, but I heard in the village – Brundall where I lived – I heard there was a vacancy at the village shop and I went there. I did, I think, three half days a week. I did Sunday mornings and a couple of half days during the week. Again it was absolutely great and I loved it! Nice girls to work with. I’d known a lot of them through visiting the shop. And I’m still friendly with them. We still go out for the odd meal. But I loved that, and I stayed there until I was 70. And I thought “I think enough’s enough now!” (laughs) I moved here to Blofield and I thought “I know it’s not far to Brundall, but enough’s enough. I think I’ll give up now and do what I want to do.” And that’s it virtually!

Doreen (b. 1934) talking to WISEArchive on 6th June 2009 in Blofield.

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