From Beer to Print via Shoes?

Location : Norwich & Newcastle

I was born in 1928 and spent most of my working life in Norwich, but I did have a period when we left for pastures new and then returned to our home city. The way I'd like to approach this is how we were as families in those days when, by today's standards, we were really poor. I had five siblings; there were six of us, and dad was a timekeeper at the Gas Board at the end, having been a policeman and a publican. But the significant time of my life was really in the spring of 1939 when we sat the dreaded 11+ examination which was designed to sort the wheat from the chaff. My three older siblings had all been there and failed, and I know the impression was I was going to be the fourth failure. But (laughs) I surprised everybody and little V, he passed his 11+ and went off to the CNS (City of Norwich School) and, looking back now I can see that that, like a lot of systems, it sorts some of the wheat and some of the chaff, but I knew some of my brighter friends were left behind, and some of the lads who actually got to CNS didn't really stay the course.

Of course we had the difficult years of 1939 to 44, and we had other things to contend with like going down air raid shelters at school to be educated and at the end of our time, after our allotted span of five years, we sat what was called the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate, and, surprise, surprise, I did achieve what in today's terminology I think would equivalate to about two A levels and 5 O Levels. But then again there were some of my contemporaries at school who were nailed on to get it, and they didn't. But in those days I think most of us were classified as potential office material. We were going out into the world to be clerks. Hardly anybody stayed in the 6th Form and even fewer went off to University.

I can clearly remember I had two interviews, one at Norfolk County Council and one at the Norwich Building Society, both of which I failed to get in. But then my dad knew a guy who was the Assistant Head Cashier at Stewart & Patteson's Brewery in Barrack Street, and I went off for my interview and I was in. And I remember that we left school on a Friday and I think I started work on the Monday. That was what was expected of you, not to have a few weeks of playtime! It was to get out to work and start bringing in the money. And looking back, ‘cos Stewart & Patterson's was a very local brewery owned by gentleman farmers and a retired colonel, life was fairly comfortable. But it might seem strange sitting here that one of my first duties as the office junior every morning was to go round with a big stone jar of black ink and fill up the inkwells, and most people therefore had desk blotters, so another was to make certain that everybody started the day with a clean sheet on top. Absolutely bizarre today when you think of computers and that.

Looking back my station in life was in the front office and I was also receptionist. Now today receptionists are highly trained people usually, but straight from school I was meant to deal with the people that came in and make certain that they got to wherever they wanted to go. One of my main jobs was that every bottle of wine or spirits that left the brewery as a sale had to be accompanied by a Customs & Excise certificate giving the names and dates of where it was, and I had to sign this certificate, and I used to sign about five hundred a week (laughs). So we jogged along there for a couple of years . . ..

Was it the job that you wanted to have?

I was just happy to have a job! Yes, the idea was to get a job and get a pay packet and of course in those days as an office junior you were paid annually, and we were paid twelve times a year, not like a State pension, thirteen times. So you had two four weeks and five weeks, but you got the same money, so that five-weeker was fraught with difficulties.

But I was eventually conscripted into the RAF, but I'm happy to say that I was not part of the National Service scheme. That hadn't arrived. Our terms were, we were called up "for the duration of the present emergency", although hostilities had obviously ceased in 1946. So it did mean I did serve actually two years and five months because we were delayed because of the Berlin Airlift. Nothing spectacular about my RAF service. I could say at this stage that when we were at school we were all either in the Army Cadets, the Air Cadets or the Sea Cadets. I was a Sea Cadet and when I went for my interview prior to being called up I was offered the post of cook or steward, which was infra dig for me, so I said no, I'd go in the Air Force and be a pilot!

That was a big mistake because you should have said, "I don't care what I do in the Navy, I want to be in the Navy" because once you got in you did whatever you wanted to do more or less. So I went into the RAF and went up to Padgate which was a steep learning curve and I settled in quite well there. I had the comfort that one of the lads from CNS was with me, Bernard S, and he still lives around here in North Walsham. At the end of my three months square bashing, as we called it, I was graded as a Clerk SD. What is a Clerk SD? Clerk Special Duties. This was the job title of those who worked at the radar stations on the plotting tables all during the war and the designation "special duties" was that if you got captured the enemy wouldn't know what you did (laughs). Top secret! Most of the lads who were Clerk SD's were actually clerks in civyy street, so we all had something in common. The object of the exercise was that we would end up at the major site here in Norfolk at RAF Neatishead. But no, not V. You couldn't go straight from Padgate to your station, you had to wait for another training course, specialist training course, so I was posted to West Raynham near Fakenham and spent three or four months there before the call came to RAF Bawdsey which was down in Suffolk opposite Felixstowe, so I wasn't moving around too far. We did our stint then and logically I would have been transferred to Neatishead, but no, I ended up in Nottingham. Could I say that while I was at Bawdsey. K. and I got married, We were both quite young and so when I went off to Hucknell, near Nottingham for my first posting I found myself in Air Traffic Control for which I had not been trained so after a certain while they said, "Well, we don't really want him here, do we? We will move him on." So they sent me to RAF Stanmore. Guess what, Air Traffic Control! So after several meetings and a bit of time I did get my transfer to Neatishead, which was good to be close to home and I was doing what I had really been trained to do. Then in 1949 at the end of January we had to go back to Padgate again to get formally demobbed and discharged and get fitted out with civilian clothing. We got a suit, a trilby, pair of shoes. . .

Were you happy to leave? Would you have stayed?

Well, it never occurred to me that I could forge a career in the Air Force. Most of the lads just wanted to get back home. But I did head back to the brewery, but about 1955 I got called up yet again under the G Reserve. I think that was the time of the Suez crisis. We had to go down to somewhere near Bedford and get kitted out again. Complete uniform, greatcoat, underwear, shoes, socks, and then we had to sign a form saying that we would be discharged in a fortnight but if we were recalled again we would have to bring our own kit back and anything that was missing you would be charged for. Thank you! So it's not many people who were called up twice, but that only lasted a fortnight, being just a refresher course at Bawdsey again.

So the brewery were ok about that?

They didn't have any option, the same when I was first called up, they had to give you your job or equivalent back. So we were ok in that respect.

I actually went back in the front office in the junior's chair again – or stool, we sat at high desk with stools in those days – while they decided what they were going to do with me. After a short while I moved back into what they called the ledger room, the back room, and again when you think of computers today there we sat – high desks, stools, inkwell, blotting paper and we transcribed the orders that were written up in the front office for delivery. A copy came to the back and we transcribed that into their ledger account. You would have the name of the pub, and the publican at the top of the page and when you had to turn over a page only certain people were allowed to write those tops in – if you were not deemed to have neat enough writing you weren't allowed to do that. All these pages – the ledgers must have been a good two foot by about 15 inches, weighed a ton – they were all added up in your head, and written in pencil. Every three months they were balanced up and if you were a copper or two out you had to recast all the ledgers. There were about eight or nine of us in the office all sitting there recasting these. Until somebody shouted "hurrah!" they had found a tuppenny error!

But the light at the end of the tunnel was that there was a traveller's role. They were the guys who went out in their cars round all the pubs in the county. The city publicans came into the brewery to pay. They went out and about and collected the money and oversaw minor repairs and things like that. The system had been for years that you were junior in the ledger room and then to the travellers. But when I thought my time had come I didn't get it! My old mate Reggie – though he was older than me he was sitting in the junior's desk then – he went in. I said to myself, "That's it, sufficient is enough, I must do something about that." But after a few applications and rejections I realized I had very little to offer prospective employers other than very much a like for like – or a like for less!

Then one night we were looking at the old Evening News and K. said, "There is a job here in the shoe trade, Assistant Production Office Manager wanted by Sexton, Son and Everard." Of all the shoe factories there are in Norwich, Sextons was one of the big three – no chance. Two or three days later K. said to me again, "Is it too late to go for that job?" And I said, "Well, I'll write a little note and pop it in the door on the way to work in the morning." We cycled to work in those days. One little anecdote – when I was at the brewery after I came back from the Air Force I bought a new Raleigh bicycle, brand new. When I cycled to work we put them in what we called the old stables and people from all round the brewery came to see Vic's new bike! Now it's. "Come and see my new Maserati."

So I put the little note through the door and about 3 o'clock someone said, "There's a phone call for you." I thought, "Oh, it's K." We had like a telephone box in the office – you could go in there and be private. It was Sexton, Son and Everard saying, "We‘d like you to come for an interview." I said, "Yes, when?" "Like … now." I said, "Well, can we just leave it about an hour and I will come and see you, and then when we finish I can go straight home." That made sense. It was a fairly easy place to get out of without questions asked. If we wanted a haircut we just sort of put our coat on and walked up to Stump Cross and got a haircut. It was that easy going.

I saw this guy Max G who was the Production Office Manager and had a chat with him. He said, "Hang on a minute", and he produced a Bob J, who was the Personnel Manager and we had a little chat. "Thank you very much." Went home and reported to K. We had our two little children then, you see, it's not going to be easy. It was fortunate too that the very next day was the end of the year when we were told what our annual increase was going to be. I was on £480 a year then, and I had been upstairs and been told I was getting another £40 which was a fairly good rate of increase. You could get anything from £10 or £15 a year. I thought, well that's a sop, because they have upset me. That would put me on £520. The phone rang again, "Can you come and see us again?" "Same arrangement, yes." Trotted off at 4 o'clock on my bicycle, met the Company Secretary, he was Bill H, and there was Tony E who was a fairly recently appointed PA to Eric Sexton, the Managing Director. I was asked to wait and Max G came back and said, "We would like to offer you the job at £550 a year." I said, "Yes, thank you very much, just like to go home and have a little chat to the wife," sort of thing. So we said, "Well, we are now going to change jobs for about £30 a year into the unknown and K. said, "Go for it."

So I went for it and it went well because I soon discovered Max was very ambitious and he was trying to create a new job called the Factory Controller and so he wanted to have an assistant, and then when Max got his way to be moved along to become Factory Controller I was actually made Production Office Manager. The day I walked into Sexton's I was in charge of an office of 44 ladies. Wow! In the production office they did everything involving paperwork necessary to make shoes other than the accounts; that was the Company Secretary's department. So we did all the paperwork, the work tickets, piece work coupons, and controlled all the sales figures, sales analysis, daily production schedules, targets. It was a boom time in the shoe industry when I was there. When I went the workforce was 800 plus, and when I left four years later it was on 1100. In 1959 we actually celebrated with a big dinner dance the fact that we had exceeded one million pairs of shoes made in 12 months. That was a hell of a lot of shoes. It was all pretty top grade stuff.

Was it a stressful environment at all? Given the expansion – did it create a lot of work for you, lots of stress?

Yes, the main stress was, as I said before, the brewery was calm, cool and collected. Sometimes the directors would pass you in the corridor and say "morning Smith, or Jones", they couldn't even remember your name. The first thing I noticed at Sexton's was – there were tea trolleys used to go round – management or foremen all wore white starched coats and they would gather round the tea trolley and they would have blazing rows! I'd never seen anything like it. I thought, "Cor, what's going on here?" My way of doing things was totally opposite. I never lost my rag there, I found I could get what I wanted doing it my way, you know, gentle persuasion.

But there were two significant things that happened. We had a section called "the group" and they would produce the actual work tickets and they used to type the spirit stencil way which was a white chinagraph sheet, a piece of carbon at the back and it transferred an image onto the back of the white chinagraph which you could then feed through a spirit machine and run off multiple copies. You could also retain it for a limited period for reruns. The carbon we used was the purple variety which went everywhere. The girls used to get it on their hands, on their hair, and their faces … There was a better alternative, black, but that didn't reproduce the number of copies we wanted. I had enough about me to know about wax stencils, so I eventually got the system switched over to wax stencils which made it a lot cleaner for the typists. It didn't make it too much cleaner for the girl who ran the stencil machines ‘cos the old stencil used to come off coated at the back, thick black ink, and you had to put a backing sheet before you could hang it up.

One day Tony E said to me, "What do you know about offset litho?" I said, "In a word, nothing." (Laughs). He said, "There's a big national exhibition coming up in a few months' time and I thought we'd go down and have a look at it, but first of all", he said, "let's see what you can find out locally." By that time I belonged to the Institute of Office Management. That was good fun. But what we did have was a central register where we all registered the equipment that we used in our daily lives wherever we worked, and then if you wanted to see a piece of equipment you could ring somebody up. I rang up a chap called Len D at Jewsons in Colegate. And I went round one Saturday morning. This was how life was in the shoe trade – my hours were 8 o'clock till 6 o'clock, but none of the white coats went at six, they were still there till half past six, quarter to seven, seven o'clock. I remember, I started on a Monday of course, and on the Thursday K. and I were going to the pictures to celebrate the new job. So I put my coat on at 6 o'clock and walking down the corridor and Max G said, "Excuse me," he said, "Where are you going?" I said, "Home". He said, "You know we don't go home at six." I said, "Well, you know, special occasion …you know, going to the pictures." He said, "Fair enough, don't do it again, though."

Saturdays was the big day for getting the export orders out. We had a big push on Friday and the export had to go out Saturday morning, and the export people had to go in, so we all had to go in. And there were traditions like that which were quite mind-blowing. I popped round to see Mr D and, not surprisingly, a few days later the rep for the offset machine was tapping on my door and saying "Hello, I hear you've been to see Mr D at Jewsons, what can I do for you?" I said, "Well, come in and have a quick look at what we do and see whether that is within your remit". "Oh," he said, "That's right up my street". I said, "Well, Tony and I are coming down to the exhibition, when you come in I'll meet you there", and all that, being a good guy.

And when the Gestetner people got to hear about that, they said, "Oh, be careful, K Shoes put that system in and it's in the cupboard, never been used." Tony said to me, "Well, that's strange," he said, "Do you know anybody there?" I said, "Yeh, Jack L". "Ring him up and see if we can go and see him." We tootled off, and what had happened, their directors had been the previous year, liked the smaller machine, bought it, had it delivered and then just said to them, "That's what you'll use." And they didn't use it, they found every excuse under the sun not to use it. Tony said, "Well, let's offer him a hundred quid, see if he'll send it to us," he said, "and then we can do our own little experiments." We did that, they said, "Yes." Bought this little machine, took it back to Sexton's, got some of the staff interested and saw enough to really give it serious consideration. This was Tony's inspiration. He said, "What we won't do is the K Shoes approach; what we'll do is make up some masters and you, Vic, can go round and see every foreman, every under-foreman, anybody who is likely to be involved in handling these work tickets and get their opinion, their input, do some offset mockups. So when we did go live we had everybody with us. We decided that we would go ahead, but Tony had to put the case for this to the Board. I sat there like a little mouse, actually. Eric Sexton said "How much is this going to cost me?" Tony said, "Eleven hundred and fifty quid". "Good God," he said, "I could buy a new Jaguar for less than that!" Tony just said, "Yeah, and the moment you buy your Jaguar that's going to cost you money. This is an investment, it's going to save you money ". By just those simple words, he won the day.

What this is all leading up to is that after four years I was approached by Eric G, the rep for Addressograph Multigraph who supplied the equipment – he took me out to lunch actually. He dropped out that he was looking for an assistant. He said, "Did you not see our advert?" I said, "No." Simply I wasn't looking for a job. He said, "Well, we didn't get much response, so we suddenly thought about you. How do you fancy it?" So I said, "Well, tell us what it involves." So the net result was I went up to City Wall House in London for an interview and I came back with a job, three months basic training at the rate of eleven hundred a year, but by then, I went to Sextons at five hundred and fifty a year but when I left I was on nine hundred and fifty a year. So I had done quite well moneywise there. But there was a little fly in the ointment, after three months basic training on this pro-rata wage, it was then commission only, supply your own vehicle, and you had an allowance of £4 a month towards travelling expenses. That of course was a tax ploy, because you would calculate your expenses and put them in to the tax man at the end of the year, and all you had was 48 quid coming in!

So I did the three months in City Wall House and got through that. The idea was that Eric G would maintain his territory of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, but I would look after Norfolk and Suffolk, apart from one or two major accounts, and see how we went. In those days we were sort of brand leaders, we had a growing market, there was a good training scheme and after-sales service was good. So I had a couple of years on the road working from home. The way it was in the early days we had no phone at home so I used to have a bag of pennies and go down the street where there was two phone boxes, and hog one and use a public phone box to phone up people to say, can I come and see them – make appointments. I stood in there one day in the freezing cold and I went home to K. and said, "That's no good, we've got to have a telephone." So we did.

You must have been quite confident that you could make it work on a commission basis.

Yeah, for some reason that didn't worry me. I suppose I had spoken to so many of the lads when I was down there for three months and knew how well they were doing that I just vaguely thought, well I could do likewise. So I did that for about two years, and the number of installations were increasing and the number of engineers were increasing so they decided they'd set up a sub-office in Norwich. I would run the little sub-office but report back still to City Wall House.

Working for an American company, although we had our British headquarters at Hemel Hempstead, they used to send a new Managing Director over every two or three years and this meant constant change. They either centralized or decentralized, depending on what happened last, and the new guy would come in and undo it all and try and make a mark for himself, but City Wall House was eventually going to close and be relocated at Watford, so that was nearer to Head Office, and I presume the lease at City Wall House was pretty well up in any case. So after I had had a couple of years working from home we set the sub-office up so the engineers could keep parts and everything and we had a little office in the terraced houses in Princes Street, which was quite adequate for our needs. We added another couple of salesmen to the team and we grew on from there.

Then they made a major decision, they were going to relocate the training department out of Hemel Hempstead which covered sales and technical, and they wanted to relocate it to Norwich. One of the reasons being, it wasn't easy to access by road from Hemel Hempstead and would keep nosey head office people out. They might do it on the roads once or twice but they would soon get fed up. We were going to take a fair number of people from Europe so they could fly in from Amsterdam to Norwich airport and we ended up in St Andrew's Hill, in what was the old Press office; Mills and Reeve took the front part and we virtually took the rear part. They couldn't have a sub-office in a posh training environment like that, so I did get the Manager's title on the door then.

When they set up the Watford one, apart from the lease up, I think most of the management team there were getting retirement age, so they were induced to go and I actually got the Branch Sales Manager for my division in Watford. We went off down there and had quite a good time. There were massive territories there – Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, plus Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. So I didn't actually move down. The guy who came in as the Branch Manager said "Well, what you could really do," he said, "is have Monday in Norwich, Norfolk, and that would give you a long weekend at home and come down to the Watford area and work for your team for the remaining four days. I did that for several years and then we had another change – we were going into decline by then and they were reducing the number of branches. They had a peculiar way of doing it. Managers would be summoned to Head Office for a specific appointment. You were instructed to enter the front door, not go into the office or factory but sit in reception, and you exited by the back door. (Laughs). I eventually got my turn to go down. You either went down and came out with a job or you came out and you didn't have a job.

I was lucky again and went off to Newcastle-upon-Tyne – you know, cloth caps and whippets. We sat at home and said, "Newcastle, you know, pit-heaps and all that sort of thing up there." But I thought, "There are possibly other options here, but I'd like to stick to the one I know." So we upped sticks and went to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Oh, it was wonderful up there, you know, Northumberland, the Whitley Bay coast, the Lakes were thirty minutes drive away, and we were enjoying it when we had another cull, another summons to Head Office, so down I went again and came out with another job. I'd got Leeds, but I retained Newcastle as a sub-office, so you know, reducing the number of managers. I'd only been there six months and only me got called to Head Office, I said, "Aye-aye", so we all ring up and say, have you got an appointment? And Terry said, "We'd like you to go to Manchester." I said, "You mean I've got to go home to K. and say, ‘we've been here six months in Harrogate and I've got to move.'" He said, "No, because you're going to keep Leeds, you can do four days in Manchester area and one day in Leeds." So we settled in there.

Another couple of years on there was a big cull again and I came out – kept my old job but I got Scotland tacked on the end. So I was now Regional Sales Manager for the North of England and Scotland; this territory went from Humberside on the right, across Chesterfield, North Wales and everything upwards. That was good, I enjoyed that, because it lasted 28 days. (Laughs). We were sitting in the Manchester office and we were having a meeting because we were setting up an exhibition and I was late going to the boss's office and he came through and he said, "We're waiting to start." And I said, "Yes, I have just been on the phone." So I go into his office and he said, "Who was on the phone?" "Head Office." He said, "What do they want?" "They want to see me, 4 o'clock at a hotel in Wakefield." They all sat there and sang "V's got the chop, V's got the chop."

We went off, the exhibition was in Bolton and we had a look round and had lunch and a few beers as one did in those days. I went to Wakefield and I was greeted by the National Technical Director and he says (he's a Scotsman), "They's waiting for youse in the other room." I said, "That isn't good news, is it Alf?" And he says, "No". So I went through, and it was my turn to go. 1985. The terms were that I would be paid for three months and I could continue working for three months and keep the car for three months. Or I could go. I said, "I'll go." I'll clear out Leeds in the morning, I'll clear out Manchester in the afternoon, say goodbye and then kaput, you know, finish it". One or two I know went in the office every day after they had been made redundant. I don't think that was good for anybody. You couldn't contribute anything. I went home, found a very joyful wife hearing the news and I'm redundant, and we can come home! The funny thing was, in the January of that year when we were steaming back up north after Christmas, K. said "The trouble is, living up here, the grandchildren will grow up quickly and not really know their Nanny." She got her wish, so we came back to Norwich.

So I came back to Norwich jobless, and I went to see a friend of mine who had just bought a major stake in Crowes the printers in Norwich. Now Maurice had worked in Norwich with me and I did promote him to Technical Manager in Norwich, so he owed me a favour. I went in his office and we sat there and had coffee, and he said, "What have you come for?" "Well, here I am looking for a job." He says, "You are just what I'm looking for." He had bought a stake in the company which was on the verge of going out of business. They had been running for about six or nine months and all the money that came in had principally, under the bank's direction, to go in an account to pay the wages to keep it going and it had got to the stage where there was not enough money in the kitty to pay the wages. So though Maurice bought a stake in he didn't part with his money too quickly. But we formed a very good partnership, and he just let it be known that he was the boss, which was fine by me.

I finally stayed about 15 years there. So it was about 1998 when I left, I was 70. For the last five years, working one day a week, I had a specific project to do, so it wasn't too bad, well it was essential, otherwise I was going to get in people's way. They wouldn't tell me anything because I wouldn't to be there the next day to do anything about it. It was the British Standard equivalent to the European Directive on best practice at work. You had to have a document where everything you did in the office and factory had to be documented in a certain way as evidence that this was what you were doing. It took me five years on a one day a week basis. I wasn't in a hurry to finish it…

So the company turned around enough to …

When I was made redundant I was 57, so pensionwise, of course, at that age it is a body blow. But the fact that I went to Crowes and got in at Director level on a pretty good salary, was just what we needed. It was helpful that I knew a lot of people in Norwich so . . . I think the first thing I said to Maurice was that his turnover was about £350,000 a year. I said something along the lines that we wanted next year to get that up to half a million without any increase in overheads, in other words no extra people, same equipment, get more out of the pot. At the time I left we were up to the four million mark. The factory was unrecognizable. Maurice has retired now, but he was an unusual chap. He had great command of finance and technical, you don't often get that. He had his finger on the pulse of everything that happened in that place and that was good for everybody.

And I sit here now as an octogenarian, enjoying life the best I can while I can. That was my working life. I've been very fortunate.

I had a reunion with some school chums from the 1939-44 years at the CNS. I managed to get ten together and it was interesting, the different levels that they had achieved. I don't know if I had reached their level of achievement, but I certainly did as far as income goes.

But, going back to Sexton's, on my first day I was taken all the way round the factory to meet the foremen and the under foremen, chargehands and what have you and introduced to a chap called Frank F. He said "Where did you go to school, boy?" And I said, "City of Norwich." And he said, "You'll know my son, young Frankie." "Yeh." Now young Frankie went through school at my level which wasn't the upper echelons of the year. Comfortably in the middle. And "Oh," he said, "did you know he is a doctor now?" I thought . . . I knew he was interested in medicine because he belonged to St John's Ambulance rather than the Army, Navy or Air Force cadets. He went in the Navy and got into the medical side and it seems the Commanding Officer said to him just on his way out, "What are you going to do with yourself, F?" "I'd like to stay somewhere in medicine," he said. "Right," he said, "I'll give you some names, get yourself up to London and meet these people." He ended up as one of the Consulting Surgeons to HM The Queen!


Now he's retired and lives out at Stalham, Wayford Bridge.

You'll have to get in touch with him.

He's ex-Directory. I tried to get in touch with him for the reunion. The only way I'm going to find him is actually to drive out there.

When I was in Princes Street I came out of the front door one day and a smartly dressed lad was walking up the street. I said, "Hello Andy, I haven't seen you for a long time." He did three years at CNS and his mother was desperate for money, but he could leave at 14 and he got a job on the railways as a fireman on the train. That was the last I'd seen of him and here he was in his Savile Row suit walking up the street. Somehow he had got into the electronics industry in South America. And he was then going to see his two lads who were boarders at King Edward VI Grammar School at the Close and he just came through and came to the top of the pile. You think, how strange … how people's lives hinge on certain directions they take deliberately or indirectly.

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