Jill of all trades. A Norfolk girl. (2013)

Location : Marlingford, Norwich

It's the 8th of January 2013, and I'm talking to Joyce
about her childhood in Marlingford, her early life and her parents' work. Also
she will be talking about her early jobs and subsequent jobs in the Marlingford
– Norwich area. Ok Joyce, you start it, you want to talk about your childhood,
first of all?

Wartime childhood and village life

Yes, I was born just a few yards from where I now
live, my mum and dad had a little bungalow there and my dad had two or three
acres of land. I lived during the wartime years, so I can remember the sirens
going off, and my sister and I were scurried up the garden, and y'know into a
little hole in the earth, where there was a brown, corded curtain hanging up
the door, and we had bunk beds in there, and there we had to stay until the
all-clear went. Because I was so young I didn't really understand what was
going on, I just knew that there was a bit of bother everywhere.

My mum had a lot of evacuees. I know she had a lot of
evacuees, but where she slept them and where she put them I can't really recall
but I think I must have slept in my mother's bedroom. My dad worked at Boulton
and Paul and later on at Laurence and Scott's so he did a lot of night work,
and I can remember lying in bed one night and a head come in the window, and
someone said, ‘can you tell us where the dance is ma'am?' And that was an
American looking for the village hall. And on another occasion I can remember a
friend from down the road during the night and putting his head in the window,
and saying Mrs Rix, Norwich has been bombed. And I can remember us sitting up
the next day waiting for my dad to see if he came home.

They were very hard days, I can remember I had little
dungarees and boots, and standing watching my sister go to school which was
just up the road and down a lane. I eventually went to Marlingford School,
there was just two classrooms, we had a fire, that was the only heating that we
had, we did daily exercises outside. I went there and in 1947 Marlingford
School was closed. We were then transferred to Bawburgh School, the next
village, and the landlord of the Bell public house had a little car, and he
took the back seats out and he put some boards there and we all had to sit on
these boards in the back and go backwards and forwards to school, and I dread
to think what health and safety would say today if they could see us all
bundled in the back of a little car! We went to Bawburgh School, where again
there was two classrooms, and a roaring fire, and I can remember the headmaster
standing in front of the fire with his hands behind his back, keeping all the
heat off us poor children! And again, we used to go outside and do our

I passed the Eleven Plus or what was called the
Scholarship, and I went to the Notre Dame High School in Norwich [and still keep in touch with school friends,
meeting every month]. I left there in 1955 and went to work at the
Telephone Manager's Office in St Giles.

Before you actually start talking about your first
job, could you tell us a little bit about your parents and how hard they had to

Yes, I'll go back to my childhood. My parents, you
don't appreciate just what your parents did in those days. My dad never
travelled on public transport. As I said, he worked at Boulton and Paul's, and
later on at Laurence and Scott's, and he always biked. And he would never dream of having a day off,
I've known my dad to walk to work. He always carried a little piece of string
on his bike so if he saw anything laying in the road or over the hedge on the
way home he could pick it up and tie it on his bike and bring home, he was a
real hoarder. He worked very hard because he grew vegetables, he grew
chrysanthemums, he would sell them at the door, at the gate. Him and my mum
organised things in the village. They raised money to have a village hall
built, they went to whist drives. They used to travel all over the place to
whist drives. And later on my dad was a bingo caller, he was a bingo caller
‘til quite late. He was hardworking, he was – they were always at work. My mum
kept chickens on some of the land, but unfortunately when fowl pest came about,
although they didn't have fowl pest, they had to have all their chickens
destroyed, and my mother never did have chickens again.

She worked hard, my mum was very clever in a way. She
could do needlework, she made someone's bride's dress, my mum helped people
into the world, and she helped people out of the world, she could lay people
out. And in Colton, the village next door, there was Kidner's Farm, and they
had two parts to that, they had a fruit farm, and they had a general farm. My
mum worked on the fruit farm, doing the apples. They used to pull the apples,
they would grade them, and I can remember her taking me up there, I must have
only been about three, and I can remember playing amongst the trees up there.
And the farm foreman was a fat man … And I know we were all a bit frightened
of him, us children, because he was quite loud and quite fat, but I can just
vaguely remember being with my mum on the fruit farm. They really did work
hard, something my sister and I have thought about. I wish – there's a lot of
questions I wish I could ask about my mum.

I think that's true for everyone.

Yes. I can remember my mum coming home from Norwich
and she'd been to the dentist and had all her teeth out. And she couldn't have
been very old. And then she was fitted for dentures, and I said to my sister [quite recently], "Why did she have her
teeth out?" And she said ‘I don't know, I think that's just one of those things
they did'. And I think, I can't ever remember feeling sorry for her, and I feel
really guilty to think, I can't tell her now, I'm sorry! Things were so

My dad had greenhouses, and as I say he grew
chrysanthemums out in the garden but he also grew them in the greenhouse. And I
can remember him cross-pollinating chrysanthemums and having a lovely pale
green chrysanthemum that he had at Christmas time, because he sold them at Christmas
time. And then he would grow tomatoes. And now I never had pocket money, there
weren't such a thing as pocket money because my parents didn't have the money
to give me money to spend. So I used to have to go round the village selling
tomatoes and now I think, oh, the miles I tramped! Knock on the door and, ‘Would
you like any tomatoes this week?' ‘Yes please.' ‘Please could I have the bag
back', and I always had to ask for the bag back because my dad couldn't really
afford to buy bags to put tomatoes in! And
I used to go round and he would give me a penny for every pound I sold, and
that was the pocket money I had, I had to earn it.

And I used to have to keep my room clean, my bedroom
clean. Because you never used to have carpets in those days, you had a piece of
lino squared, and you had the brown polished boards all the way round and I
used to have to polish those boards, polish all my furniture, and you were made
to work. You had to help in your up-keep; you didn't pop everything in the
washing machine!

We had an outdoor toilet, obviously, and my mum had
the old copper indoors where she had to light the fire underneath and I can see
that copper sticking out ‘cause that was lovely and white at the end and she
used to poke the washing and then she used to have to lift that washing out and
take over to a great big sink where she'd rinse it, put it through the mangle.
And you always had homemade cakes – and you always had roly-poly's, and
dumplings and rabbit stew, and I do appreciate now just how hard my mum and dad
worked. But they were very appreciated around the village.

We've got a great big hall in Marlingford called
Marlingford Hall and Major Lombe used to live there, real gentry. But most
people of the village had a job up there, the butler, the gardener, the … my
mum worked there, and there were various grades of people there. You had the
Lady Lombe, Mrs Lombe's lady in waiting – she was very posh – and then there
was the next grade, and she was not quite so posh, and that went down like
that. And you used to sit in church according to your status in the Hall and in
the village, but the class distinction wasn't so, what shall I say … now,
people do feel above their station sometimes but I think in those days the
upper class appreciated the lower class, and they mixed. I mean, Mrs Lombe came
to my sister's wedding, and they knew everyone in the village, they mixed with
everyone in the village. My mum helped her start up the Mother's Union in the
village. There wasn't a Women's Institute but we had a Mother's Union and I
used to go with my mum. My mum used to make clothes for me, we used to have
clothes, only thing is there's eight years' difference between my sister and I,
and I don't think my sister appreciated the fact that she had to wear the same
sort of clothes as I wore ‘cause they were always the same!

But I mean like shoes, you had one pair of shoes and
that was it. My mum didn't … I used to
want a pair of fur boots when they came in but they couldn't afford them so I
didn't have any.

So they were hard workers and you grew up as a hard
worker as well?


First job in the Telephone Manager's office

So we're now moving back to your first job, maybe you
could tell me about that one.

Yes, I went to work in 1955. I went to the telephone
manager's office in St Giles, and I was in wages. I did the engineers' wages.
And that's so primitive come to think of it, they put in a little sheet every
day, of what they'd done and the hours, and I used to have to collate those,
but in a kind of spiral, so I could read all the hours. I used to have to add
those hours up, I used to pin them together – the week's timesheets together –
‘cause we used to work five and a half days a week then, and I used to have to pin
them together, add them up, and that was my job, to do their timesheets.
Because we didn't have telephones in those days, I can remember on a Wednesday
(because a lot of our boys went training – and they went to places like
Bletchley, and Stone in Staffordshire) … I can remember I hated Wednesdays, because
I used to have to ring up and say ‘Stone Staffordshire Five Seven O' and I used
to hate it, hate it! I used to have to give how many hours our boys had done
training and I used to dread that time. Because I didn't know how to use a
telephone, I'd never seen a telephone before! And I can remember then I used to
pass the timesheets over to more senior people and they would work the wages

Living the simple life at Marlingford

[…] So I left British Telecom, the Telephone Manager's Office, and Geoffrey and I got
married. We had a simple little wedding at Marlingford Church, and we got a
little cottage just down the road from my mum, in a little courtyard. There was
one, two, three, four, five little cottages. They were four hundred years old.
We had one room up and one room down. No water or electricity, this was another
thing: when I was young we didn't have water and electricity in Marlingford, my
mum had Calor gas at the latter part of the time. Because electricity had just
come to Marlingford, my mum gave us her Calor gas cooker. I had a flat, a Calor
gas flat, and we had a Calor gas light in the living room. No light upstairs,
and of course no heating at all, we had an open fire. That was a lovely little
cottage though.

That had a little lean-to kitchen, where you had to go
up the step and we used to have this lovely roaring fire but I had to be
careful because they were oak beams. You had to be careful you didn't set the
house on fire. We had a toilet, we used to have to go down a long path, round a
corner past a buddleia bush, and they were semi-detached toilets so you could
sit and talk to your neighbour! And
we used to have a little couple live next door to us, they were a lovely little
couple, and they loved dancing, he used to stamp his feet like this and he used
to run down the path to the toilet, and he used to say (sings-) ‘as soon as I touched the seaweed, I knew it was gonna be
wet!' (Laughter) They were lovely days. But they were a bit airy, ‘cause you
could see the field through some of the cracks in the walls when you were in
the toilet!

But that was lovely. But we had a lot of rats, they
used to run up the walls! Upstairs we used to go to bed by candlelight. The
floor was really uneven. When I had my first baby, to get the pram indoors I actually
had to go down a path that belonged to someone else in that courtyard and right
past their door to get to mine. That was very awkward, but that was very nice,
that was a lovely place. I had an old copper – that was Calor gas – out in my
shed in the back garden, and I would put my washing in there and that would
boil up, that didn't matters if that ran over because that was in the shed! And
then I would go there and I would take all my washing out and put in a bath,
they were old galvanised baths, and I would have to carry that all the way
through the house, out into this courtyard where there was a tap. And I would
rinse my washing by the side of the road at this tap and then I would bring it
all the way back through the house and put it through the mangle. And that's how I managed, I managed all right
like that.

And you were also working, you were doing different

At first I didn't work, when I first had Rosalind; I
suppose for a while I did stay at home. The work was hard, and in those days,
that's strange really, I was very particular. I mean you didn't have carpets,
and the floors were ever so uneven, and I had a kind of pantry, a lovely walk-in
pantry, and I had two buckets, galvanised buckets, and I'd fill them every day
with fresh water from the tap, and bring them into this pantry which was quite
cool, and cover them up, and that was my water. You didn't have taps or anything.
And that was our water supply.

Geoffrey used to grow all the vegetables so we had
vegetables. And I had a lovely pram. Somebody sold me a pram when we were
expecting a baby, we had that all done out and that was a lovely sprung pram,
that was a Dunkley, that was a beautiful pram. And she was a lovely baby. And
then when she was about eighteen months the council came out and said that they
didn't think the house was fit to bring a child up. And so they condemned it,
which was a shame really. And they gave us a council house at Costessey.
Although we were there eighteen years I didn't really settle. I don't know why,
but a lot of my life at Costessey has gone, that's not so vivid as my life here
at Marlingford when things were simple. We never got into debt by the way,
never, and I've showed you my grocery that I had at Marlingford because Geoffrey
worked on the land and I think he only got about two pound something and we
used to have to really make our money go. We had to really work out how much
money we'd got to spend. My rent was four shillings. So we never got into debt
though, never.

You showed me three notebooks, one is your shopping
list for each day?

Yes, and the other is my rent book. You see, one pound,
one pound four pence. I had to keep within that budget. That was my grocery
bill, and I used to have a cylinder of Calor gas, and I think that was one
pound eight and nine pence, something like that. And I think that would last us
two or three weeks but I had to really –

You were
watching every penny?

Yes, and I never got into debt. And to show you how
different things were, these cottages were – there was old tin sheds, and we
were allocated a tin shed. Now our coal was in there but you never had a lock
on the shed, you'd go out and leave your door unlocked, you never dreamt about
people breaking in.

Seasonal work on the farm at Colton – potatoes and beet

But when we went to Costessey, I started to work to
try and save some money so that we could eventually buy a place of our own. I
went back to this Colton farm – but on the general farm this time. That was
very, very hard. A lady in Costessey had a little Ford Anglia, and she picked
up … there was five of us in the car, and she would bring Rosalind and drop Rosalind
at my mum's, when she was a baby. And
sometimes I took Rosalind to work. We would go on to Colton, and then we would
pick Rosalind up on the way back unless she was with me. I went potato
dropping, and now that was a nice job.

That's the planting of the potatoes?

Yes, you straddled a row and you dropped potatoes a
foot apart and you'd just walk along all day long putting one potato in front of
each foot as you walked along, you'd hold the tray with your partner, and you
would just straddle the row and they would be putting potatoes in the row
beside you! We did that, and then in the autumn time we would go potato picking
and that was hard work, because the tractor driver would measure your stretch out
and there would be a stick in, and you and your partner would have your
stretch. And you'd go along and he'd plough a row out and you'd pick them up
into a basket and then you would tip them into a sack. That was hard work. We
used to, ‘you've got a longer row, he didn't put the stick in the proper place,
you've got a longer row than us!', and that was real … we did have a lot of fun
I suppose, you worked all weathers.

You were paid by the sack, presumably?

No, we were paid by the day. He treated us very well,
the chappy who was foreman. We were paid by the day, which was a fairer way
really. If that was raining you'd get wet because he'd plough two or three rows
out ahead and that was hard work, that made your back ache. I had known a time
when the children were with us, ‘cause they all used to play together, the
tractor driver would go into the wood at dinner time and he would light a fire
with some of the diesel or whatever it was from the tractor, and we would all
sit round the fire, and sometimes we'd have a hut that we'd sit in.

Did you have roast potatoes?

No, we never … we had to take sandwiches! That was
quite nice. And then I went pulling and knocking sugar beets once, and that was
hard work, because that's always a very heavy time when you're pulling the
sugar beet, the land was wet. And we had to actually pull the beet up and throw
them up on a cart, oh that was so hard. I can remember a girl working with us,
and she had fits, and her brother was the tractor driver. And I know one day I
threw a beet too hard and it hit her and she had a fit, and he said ‘just leave
her, she'll get over it', and we just left her, poor girl, ‘cause the tractor
was moving all the while! Oh that was hard work. I remember turning up and we
were going to do some carrots, but that was so frozen we had to come home
again. We never knew … that was seasonal work, so you would go months without
anything, so that wasn't regular employment.

So how many hours a day would you do?

I suppose we'd start at nine, ‘til most probably three,
I should think, yes, and have half an hour for dinner. But then we went
chopping out sugar beet. And it's alright – men go along and chop out an acre
of sugar beet, and I think it took me all week to do an acre, and I was only
getting three pound an acre! But our foreman came from Lincolnshire, and they
only have short hoes. So you can imagine going all day long right down here to
chop out sugar beet.

What did you actually use to chop it out?

A little hoe. And they were little short handled hoes.
Instead the men, they had long handles, they could do it all right, they used
to go along and just chop them out like that. But I couldn't get the knack of
that. So our foreman gave us all short hoes to use, and that was hard work.

So you were bending?

Yes, all day long. And you had to keep a distance between each
sugar beet. And you can't replant them, once you've chopped them up, that's up!
But that brought us some money in, which we saved. I did that, worked on and
off there until Caroline, our youngest one, was about ten. Because in those
days, you didn't put your children in playschools, and they didn't go to school
until they were four and a half, five, there. So Caroline, I thought she was
old enough, although I never did leave them, but, what did I do, I went back to
British Telecom, well I think it was still Telephone Manager's Office, or
British Telecom, I don't think that turned to British Telecom ‘til later. I
went back there part time.

Back to British Telecom

So what year are we talking about, more or less?

About '74 I would think. About ‘74, '75. And I went
back to British Telecom.

And you'd have seen a lot of change?

I did, yes. I know my dad was friendly with someone
who had quite a high position at the telephone place. And he came to see me and
he said I'll help you to get a job there. And I went back permanently. And I
think I was only part time, or did I go full time, but I know I worked there
several years. And every year, promotion time would come. And unfortunately, we
used to say, the lower the t-shirt, the more likely you are to get promotion.
And I was passed over so many times. And in the end I said to one of the
bosses, ‘I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll put in an envelope the names of those
who will get promotion this year, we'll seal the envelope and when the
promotions come through you see how near I am'. And he was a little annoyed to
think that I'd got it right! And I actually wrote a poem and had put in our
newsletter, about promotion, but you see I was too handy. I worked what they
call a relief. And I'd go in on a Monday and they'd say, ‘oh so-and-so's ill,
perhaps you'd like to go down to so-and-so.' I did all sorts of jobs.

Can you tell me about some of the jobs?

I did a lot of menial jobs. At the Telephone Exchange,
when they had calls come through they had little cards, and they were put in
trays about eighteen inches long, all these cards. And you used to have to sort
them all out, real tedious job …obviously we were loosely connected with the
exchange, but that was for account purposes, that we had these. And I did jobs
like, I had all this print-out, pages and pages, and they were calls that
people had disputed. And I used to sit there and have to try and find out who
that call was proper to. Had a mistake been made? Where was that proper to?
Really tedious jobs, and I know there used to be a lot of print-out. The
print-out used to be about twenty-four inches wide and about eighteen inches
depth, and they were all perforated. And I used to have to get my ruler and go
up and down, up and down like that, ripping them all apart, working out which
person I'd got to give them to; they were menial jobs.

But did all sorts of jobs; and one of the jobs I was
on for quite a while in the sales group … they used to give the jobs for the
engineers to do, they would tell them what they wanted, either a piece of
equipment added or a piece of equipment taken away, and they would tell the
engineers what they'd got to do. But they used to send down to me all these
little green forms and I had to find that particular person's record, write
down everything they'd got and the prices, and then I'd send them back and
sometimes I'd have eighty and ninety a day and I just couldn't cope with it. I
know there was a chappy in sales, and he could be very rude and very demanding
and, ‘I want that now!' And I used to say, ‘I wish he wouldn't keep bossing me
about', and he once brought me cream cakes ‘cause he, just to say sorry! And
they used to say, ‘He's a bit sweet on you, he don't like telling you off'. But
they were menial jobs. I mean, the accounts – these particular handouts that I
had, we also had them in a green folder everybody's account there in front of
us. And as we got a payment in you would find that person and mark off that
payment. That was all done manually, that was very menial, boring jobs really,
but in a way, that was nicer.

Why do you say it was nicer?

You had more contact, you would look at Mrs So-and-so
and, oh yes, her dog ate her bill, yes he ate that the last quarter, you would
know your customer. But things began – they call it progression – then the
Exchange would send us meter readings down and we would have to sit at a
computer. And all the meter readings came up, and they all had the telephone
number with them, and we had to actually put them in so that they would appear
on their bill, that's when the bills were beginning to get computerised. And
that was a terrible job, we were really only supposed to sit on that computer
for so long, and then have a break, but you used to get, ‘Oh the bills for six
one o's are coming out next week, you've got to put them in', and so you had to
do it. And that was an awful job ‘cause if your mind or your eye wandered you
could put the wrong meter reading to the wrong person. You had to be really
particular, really had to keep your eye on that computer and you had to block
out everything else that was going on – that wasn't a very nice job, but it was
one that had to be done. They were always in a hurry, ‘The bills are coming out
for so-and-so next week, and these meter readings have got to be put in', you
were always pushed and pushed. Things were beginning to change, all the while
the progression was beginning to come into force.

Changes in British Telecom and the effects of progression

I eventually got promotion! Pride goes before a fall.
I was trained on sales, and they gave me exchanges, Hoxton and Ilketshall and
places I'd never heard of! And if I'd been given places like this that I'd've
known, when I could chat to the customer when I ring up, when they ring up. I
trained and I was getting on all right, but there were places where we were
sent to train. Bletchley was one of the places, and a place in London. And me
and my friend, we both got promotion at the same time. And for some unknown
reason, whether that was to point out to us that we shouldn't have kept on
about it, they sent me to Manchester, and Jane somewhere else.

So I had to go up to Manchester for training. And that
was the time when the riots were on. Well, I'd never been anywhere on my own,
and fancy going up to Manchester. I used to go on the train, I used to have to go
on a Sunday night, and I went into a little bed and breakfast place with
another girl, she was from away somewhere, and I came home Friday nights. And
we used to have to travel on a bus to work every day, and we were told that we
were not to get off, that we were not to go out on our own because of the
riots, and as we were going out to where we were being trained you could see
the houses burning down and the effects of some of the riots. And that was a
different world. I was very naïve. I'm different now! But I was very

So what sort of year are we talking about now? Are we
in the 80s?

Yes, that was about the 80s. But for instance, they
had all these different telephones, and this was part of the training, you'd
have to sell that telephone, well I'd never seen some of the telephones, Mickey
Mouse telephone. How do I sell a Mickey Mouse telephone? And that was so
different, that was. And these girls used to go to nightclubs, so I used to
have to go back to my lodgings, ‘cause I'd never been to a nightclub, and then
they said, ‘We'll all go to the pictures', so we went to the pictures and that
was The Jedi, and I couldn't make…oh! There was these things darting across the
screen, and I didn't know what was going on! And I was lost. Really and truly
lost. And as I say I used to come home every weekend and I used to cry because
I didn't want to go back and I know one week I got back to Manchester station
on the Sunday night and I rang Geoffrey and he said your mum has had an
accident in her car. And I think that was just the build-up, that was a
terrible time, that, I hated it.

And as I say I was very naïve and these girls used to
go out and drink and that, and it just wasn't me. I had one nice night where
the lady of the house took us to Manchester Airport and we watched the planes,
but I came back to Norwich and I settled down to my job.

[…] I had a nervous breakdown and I was very very
ill. I was ill for quite a long while, and a lot of people couldn't understand
why I'd had a nervous breakdown, because I was always cheerful. And I said to
the doctor, curtains have been drawn. And nowadays, you read about it, they
say, don't they, when your children have all flown the nest, sometimes women
have this, but I don't think my doctor understood, and I said the curtains have
been drawn and they couldn't understand it and I did have treatment and I was
very ill.

And presumably you were off work during this?

Yes, and strange enough, two other girls at the same
time, were suffering the same. I think because of this progression, perhaps
that was going too quick, do you know, and that was affecting people, and we
all had letters to say they'd like us to leave. So I left, and so that was, my
life I thought was finished there.

Taking O levels and back to BT helping with computerising the directory

I pulled myself together, and …people don't have, not
so much, they do now, but in those days they didn't have … well my mum said
you've got to pull yourself together, but that's the last things you want … Caroline
did get married, and I decided that was probably the best thing if I was to
help myself, I joined up to take exams, which because I'd left school early, I
hadn't taken. And I went to evening classes, adult classes, and for seven years
I took seven O Levels, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But as I say I went back to British Telecom. So I went
back but not on contract. I went as and when they wanted me. But I did do quite
a lot. I think I went back because they were deciding to allow direct debit.
And I'd trained this young girl when she left school and came there and she
remembered that, and her husband, he was going to be in charge of this direct
debit start, so they contacted me and said ‘Would you like to come back and
help us in direct debit?' So I went back, but not on contract. That was quite
an experience, because J. was very strict, and because it was so tedious –
which was a good idea – you'd have two hours doing one job, two hours doing
another and you'd move around. And I got so nervous, one day I only did an
hour's work and changed over and he'd wanted to know why and I said ‘Oh, I was
in such a hurry to get…!' I was frightened that I was late for my next two hour
stint. But anyway I worked there. I think that took about eighteen months, two
years. That was quite a good job.

And then they turned the manual directory over to
something that's now all computerised. And I did that for quite a while. We had
a little room on our own and several of us who'd left for various reasons went
back and we put the directory on computer. That was a nice job, again very
tedious, but that was very nice. I remember there was a young boy, he was a
little devil. He'd failed one part of his Law exams, and I understand you can
take that part again but you must pass that second time. He came and worked to
get a little money while he was getting this second part, and he used to scratch
his feet along the nylon carpet and then put his hands up to your hair and your
hair used to stand on end! And he used to come up behind you when you were
really concentrating and your hair would stand on end! But do you know, he
passed his exam and his photograph had been in the paper and he's to do with…
CPS, is it? He's some top person in the CPS, he's done ever so well for
himself. He was ever such a nice chap, we had a lot of fun there. We had a
little romance there and we watched that progress, and that was lovely.

And at the end of the time we were called together and
Jason Pardon, the artist, he had a painting, and that was put on the front of
this new computerised directory. And he gave us all a picture, so I have in
fact got a picture that's worth some money, ‘cause it was only about fifteen of
us, and we've got it from one to fifteen, and I was given I think it was a ten
pound voucher for the work I'd done, from Marks and Spencer's, so that was
nice, that was. And I had my name put in in full,so
that's still there today! Because I said, there's so many of us, I'm going to
put my name in full! And I think of that when I tell people – I put that in
there myself.


In the Telephone Manager's office – breaking down the formality

They made a new position, it was a clerical assistant
for the area board, because we had about ten members of the area board, and so
I got this position as they asked ‘so would you like to be clerical assistant',
I said ‘yes please', so I was in the Telephone Manager's office with his
secretary in a little room by the doors in that lovely entrance hall with a
little room there. And that was a lovely time.

That is St Giles Hotel, as is it now?

Yes, just inside the door. I was there to greet people,
I did whatever the area board wanted me to, if they were having a reception,
now I don't know anything about drinks, how I got through that I don't know but
I was there. Because B. had worked there on her own as the Telephone Manager's
secretary they were all a little bit staid. And I mean obviously they all had
to be respected. And I worked with B., I got on very well with B.. But I
couldn't be serious. And I can remember .. ‘cause you used to actually come in
and pay your bills then, that was right opposite us… and the lady was going to
retire, T., and I still keep in touch with T. although she's in her nineties.
So I made a great big cardboard flower and I put the dates all up the stem and
I put a kind of little catch at the bottom and she had to move it up every day
getting towards her retirement and when she reached the flower that was her
retirement day. And she had that on show in the cash desk and I can remember
the Telephone Manager coming past and he asked her what it was and she told him
and he said ‘No-one'd ever do something like that for me' and I thought, ‘Alright',
and then another one of the bosses was looking to retire, and he really was a
lovely gentleman, he owned Martham boat place.

And I said to B. I think we ought to do something for
him, but he was very, very strict. Because obviously it was a boat place I
knitted him a hat and I got my son-in-law to make a boat out of some sort of
polystyrene. And I put sails on it and I wrote a poem and I took it to the
drawing office and I said will you print this poem on this sail all nice, and
we made that and I forget what else we did and we put it in his office on the
day he was going to retire. And he always came in mornings and he'd just open
the door and say ‘good morning ladies!' and ‘good morning Mr S.!' and off he'd
go. And he came in that morning and said ‘good morning ladies!' and ‘good
morning Mr S.' and off he went, and poor B. she said, ‘Now I wonder what's
going to happen, he's either going to explode and be angry or …' anyway a
little while later he came in and he had tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘thank
you very much', he said ‘that was really lovely'. And he asked us to have
photographs taken with him and he bought us boxes of chocolate and he really
appreciated that. I kind of broke them all down.

And then when the Telephone Manager was going to
retire, his son lived in Australia, and they were going to have a little do up
in one of the rooms, and when he was going to retire he was going to go off to
Australia, so I thought, ‘Yes, he said no-one would do anything for him,' so I
made a cardboard England and a cardboard Australia and a plane and I put a
ribbon across and I put this plane so he could move it every day. And he had
that on show so that he moved the plane across ‘til he got to Australia and his
retirement day. And I know on his retirement day I went to his retirement do
and his son rang up from Australia. And do you know whenever I saw him – he
died a few weeks ago – he always said to
me ‘I've still got that in my loft'. So he never ever forgot that. And I think
that was nice to break down all that …


Yes. I did enjoy that time, I really enjoyed that
time. But after Mr R. left, again, things changed. And there was no longer a
front office, and there was no longer a clerical assistant needed. On a Friday,
every month I think it was, the wives used to come out and they had a dinner,
all the Area Board. And I used to have to always entertain the wives until the
dinner was ready and they used to have to take them up and that used to all be
set out. So I got to know some of the wives as well. That was rather nice,
because my dad, he always taught me, you're not to – I don't know what
expression is used – lick round people. He said we're all equal, and I was always
taught that, so for me, that was nice because I brought them all down to my
level, and I think they appreciated that because one of them, he was a lovely
man, I was really fond of him, but he used to make me laugh because him and his
wife – he came in one morning and he said, ‘I was locked out all night, my wife
locked me out and wouldn't let me into the house!' And he was a lovely
gentleman, he used to ring me up and say, ‘Joyce' – ‘cause they lived in
Norwich but they had a house down at Cromer – ‘Joyce I'm not coming into work
today', and I say ‘What, do the lawn want cutting?' and he'd say ‘Yes, but
don't say anything'!

But they wouldn't ever take me back on contract. I
finished up on the engineering side, and that was a lovely job. Looking after my
twenty-one boys.

And what did you have to do with that one?

There again, progression had really caught up then.
They used to send me in – like a memory stick – but that was bigger than a
memory stick – but that had their time on. And I had to feed that into the
computer, and that would work out their wages. But there was a lot of red tape
and things, I had to make sure their records were all kept up to date, what
they were doing, where they were. I used to go to the staff meetings for them.
I liked that job. All sorts of things I had to do, anything that they wanted,
any implements, or anything like that that they wanted I had to make sure they
had, different tests that had to be done on their equipment because obviously
when they climbed up they had to make sure their belts were safe and things
like that, all sorts of things like that. But I had a lot of fun there.

There was an office next to this big office that I was
in, my immediate boss sat behind me, but in the next office was the boss over
that particular group, and I still keep in touch with him, we used to look
after his dog. And that's how I kind of intermingled with even the top ones.
But I know there used to be this chap, he used to tease me, and you know when
you punch holes in paper, and there's all of these titchy white pieces of
paper, and he filled my umbrella one day unbeknown to me and I opened my
umbrella and there's all this confetti stuff fell out all over me! And then
another thing if I had all my papers spread all on the table he would put the
fan on and say ‘There's a breeze now coming Joyce!' and my papers would all go
over the floor, and he used to tease me. And I know one morning I heard a piece
of music on the radio. And I aren't very good at remembering songs and all I
could remember was the first line, and every now and then I'd break out into
this line and sing it and all of a sudden he picked up my chair, ‘cause they
were on rollers, he pushed me down the office, he put me outside the door and
locked the door. And I sat outside and this boss who was in next room came out
and he said ‘What are you doing sitting out here?' and I said ‘He won't let me
in!' And that was the way, that was so easy going, that all go on. I found I
enjoyed…I think because I was getting older, and because I didn't really

– redundancy!

And so eventually you were made redundant from that

That was reorganisation, they call it, and they did
away with a lot of people. At the time, Geoffrey had been made redundant, his
place closed down, and he wasn't going to get very much redundancy money. And
because of this reorganisation a lot of my boys were going to be made redundant
or were being offered redundancy and I know they were going to get like forty
thousand, things like that. And I can remember going to the meeting, our staff
meeting, and the boss said to me, ‘Do you mind if I tell them what Geoffrey's
going to get after thirty-one years service and what they're being offered
after just a few years?' And so that's how it was, he explained to them. So I

In between all this time, we'd saved enough money and
had this bungalow built here, back in Marlingford. But obviously I had to keep
earning money because we'd wanted to pay off our mortgage. Because we didn't
have our mortgage ‘til we were forty, we had to keep that money going, because
we wanted to pay that off.

The Christian factory – foreshadowing the future

So what did you do next?

So then I did ever so many jobs, in between times, I
worked at Mothercare when that was up St Stephens; that was a big store up St
Stephens. Do you know I can smell that now. I was in charge of vests, babies'
vests and things and plastic knickers, and – I did three days a week – every
Tuesday, I had to wash everything down and put them all … and I can smell that
now, it was a beautiful smell, that was a nice job.

A friend of mine said … there was this factory on
Bowthorpe Estate that was a bit primitive, and she said ‘would you like to come
help out?'. That was seasonal work, you went as and when they got a job. And …
they only wanted people who were
Christians. And I went and worked in this factory. It was a massive factory.
The first job I had, you all sat there and I had a basket on my lap, and
someone had already put some straw in it, and you just passed it round, you'd
put perhaps a jar of jam in here and that was passed round. And we did hampers,
we did books, we put the sleeves on books, we did Bibles, we did foreign work,
we did diaries, we did all sorts of things but that was very primitive. Because
there was this great big machine in the middle and my friend had to be in
charge of that because she was forewoman. And she used to feed the things
through and they would wrap them. I mean nowadays, that's all done … but she
actually had to do it manually, she had to put them in and that would come out
the other end – and some of us stood and handed her the stuff, another person
would be here taking them out and putting them in a box.

So you all had your job to do. But we were all more or
less the same age. So you found that was very nice, you could talk and you
understood each other. And there were two young boys worked there, they were
far from Christians but they were so funny, they were so naughty. One used to
come and he was all holey, you used to know what kind of pants he'd got on
‘cause he'd have all holes in his trousers. And they used to stick chewing gum
in the radio so that they could only have on what they wanted. We couldn't get
our programmes on! If they weren't there we used to try and get this chewing
gum out and then as soon as he came back, he'd fill the hole up again with
chewing gum! And that was a nice job, that was heavy sometimes. But that was
enjoyable job. At ten o'clock J. would make us a cup of coffee, and again in
the afternoon she would make us a cup of coffee. If that'd got a minute to ten,
and she hadn't stirred, ‘(cough cough), isn't that dry in here?', ‘oh alright
then, I'll go and make it!', but that was nice. We all talked together.

There was only one young girl there, L., she was
eighteen. And she was ever such a hard working girl. And she used to come in
and tell us about her mum. ‘My mum had been sick again, my mum hadn't eaten
anything.' And we used to talk amongst ourselves and say is something wrong with
her mum? But L. would never say a lot. But we did learn that her mum had got
cancer, but L. never mentioned it. And that was a very sad time, I used to sit
and cry sometimes. Because we had several things at – because we were all so
close, you kind of got involved with people. And L.'s mum got worse and worse,
and I know one day I said to her, ‘Tell you what, shall we do a marathon'? She
said ‘Oh, ok', and I was – how old was I – nearly sixty, ‘we'll do the half
marathon, the Norfolk half marathon'. ‘Ok', L. say, ‘I'll come with you'.

We did one or two practice runs, and we went in for
this half marathon. It was ever so hard. Because I can't breathe until I've
done about two or three miles – I don't get my breathing right. And I know they
stopped me when I got up the Colton Road, the St John's Ambulance, and she said
‘Are you all right', and I said ‘yes', they gave me a drink of water, and I
said ‘Yes I'm all right', but because they'd made me drink this water I'd want
to go to the toilet, and by that time we'd got the marshal behind us in the van
and he said ‘you're not allowed out of our sight'. And I wanted to go to the
toilet, and I went into a pit and I said ‘now you've made my shoes all muddy'.
But anyway we ran and walked this thirteen and a half miles. It was very hot,
very hard, and I know when we got back onto the showground, it was ever such a
funny feeling because your legs buckle. And I thought, I've got to do it, and
the time was running out, and I knew that there was no-one behind us, several
people had dropped out already and these marshals had to stay behind us all the

And unbeknown to us, they'd actually announced that
the last two people were then coming in and something about me, I suppose being
older, and as we ran over the line that went – because you had to do it in
three hours, and that flashed up two fifty-five – and as we came over they all
stood and clapped us and put the medals round. But L.'s mum was there in a
wheelchair. And that upset me, and her mum died about a month later. Because I
said to her mum, ‘We've done this for you.' And I've done one or two since
then, but that was hard. And that was L.

When her mum dies they said to me, which I think was
building up in me then, they said to me at work, would you be the one to go
round and see L. So I went round to see her and her dad after her mum died. And
the strange thing is, because this was so primitive we knew that eventually
that would have to close – you know you talk silly things, and we say ‘What shall
we do when we finish here?' And I've always liked funeral work. I said ‘I'll
tell you what we'll do, we'll set up a funeral director's.' And do you know, we
allocated jobs, ‘… you can do the food, because you're very good at food, and
you can do …', and we worked out all what we were going to do, isn't that


I went into that sort of job! But that was a lovely
job. Because that was very primitive, they had to close the factory. I went to
a solicitor's then for eighteen months but that was awful and I tend to push
that right to the back of my mind. I found them very, very rude, I didn't like
it at all.

A new place at Colney …

One Sunday morning we had a telephone call, and a
chappy said, ‘Joyce and Geoffrey will you come out with us this morning? We're
having a protest walk over the new Bowthorpe Estate. Because they're building
all these houses and there's a footpath over there and we want to make sure
that that footpath is retained. And the press are going to be there'. So I said
‘ok'. So we went on this particular Sunday morning and we did this walk and we
had our photographs all taken. Then they said, ‘There's a new place going to
open up at Colney, and someone's going to show us round this morning, do you
want to come with us?' ‘Yes' I said, ‘we'll come'. And I can remember James
Boddy who lives in Colney Hall, he's ever such a nice chap. He showed us round,
and the one impression he made on me was, he lived in that great hall but he
had a hole in his pullover!

He showed us round Colney Wood. At one point – before
my mum and dad came here, they lived at Bawburgh, on the road that leads to
Bowthorpe. And when we were in the Colney Woods, we went up to a point and I
said to Geoffrey, ‘I can see my mum and dad's old house'. And anyway we looked
round, and I said to Geoffrey, ‘Honestly, this is outdoors, there's burials,
what a life, wouldn't that be lovely to be up here?' And would you believe, I
know I went up to – because at the time there was nothing up Colney Wood, no
buildings, and the office was actually up Colney Hall – and I went up there and
thanked them very much and said I'd enjoyed it, and they showed me sketches of
what they hoped to do. And then there was a piece in the paper saying they
wanted a Saturday sales person, Sunday sales person, and so I thought, well I
might as well just – so I just wrote and I said that you know, I only lived a
few miles away, and I liked it, never expecting – and I went up there, and I
saw this chap and he was sort of talking, and he said ‘you'll be expected to
so-and-so', and I said ‘I'll be expected to do so-and-so? Oh,' I said, ‘What,
have I got the job?'. He said ‘Yes, didn't you want it?' I said ‘Oh yes,
please!' And that's how my work began.

And you were working as a guide now, there?

I was working as a sales advisor. I was on my own on a
Sunday. That had opened less than six months before. So M. was there, he went
when that first opened and then I was the next person. I went up there, I
didn't know anything really, people would come – there wasn't many people
buried there then – I can remember my first sale. I knew everyone that came up
there, I greeted everyone that came up there. There was no buildings; there was
an old corrugated tin place where they kept the buggy. I was terrified of the
buggy, oh my goodness, fancy getting in the buggy because I can't drive! Wa'n't
I frightened of that. I had to sit in this tin hut. And I couldn't see who come
in the gate and I was always frightened someone was going to slam the doors and
shut me in! And then in the summertime I'd sit outside and I'd hide my bag up under
some fern. The toilet was a tin toilet, and that was a funny little pauper
toilet thing. And you used to sit there and watch the spiders, ‘cause they had
great big cobwebs up the corner and they used to swing about, these spiders, in
the toilet! After a while they bought me a caravan, and I was really proud of
my caravan, but then the gypsies came and stole it!

I found, I don't know, I just fell into place. I
started to sort of counsel people, I found I could cope with people; I had a
lot of heartache. People used to say, don't you get depressed, I didn't get
depressed, I got upset. I had all sorts of people to deal with, and I think
because I'm a Christian, something – someone else took over. When I had to
approach people, I think someone else took over. I have interred people, I've
helped at funerals, and I worked there for quite a while on my own, and that
was very busy. I've had some experiences up there. I've cried a lot, I've
enjoyed it, I feel very peaceful up there, it's strange: I can feel worried at
home, but once I get up there there's something take over. All sorts of things.

As that's got bigger they – obviously when I got into
my seventies and that I – I go now, only now, as and when they want me. I do on
the odd occasion get people say, ‘Can Joyce do a scattering, or an interment?'
I did an interment a few months back and I've done a couple of scatterings just
lately. I read at the services they had at Christmas, they had two services and
I read at them, I like that. I help at wakes. I wish I was young again because
that is where I would go.

Now one of the things that always intrigued me that I
had that for my mum and dad's funeral: I love the way they walk in front of the
hearse, oh, that must fill you with so much pride and honour, and I was saying
that one day to a funeral director – because once upon a time you couldn't take
the hearse down but they used to carry the coffins but this is when they took
the hearse down – he said if you like you can walk in front. I was so proud,
and to think I walked in front. I do get a lot of satisfaction up there. And I
sometimes wonder whether I should go into counselling, because I do … I mean,
I've had people sit on the settee – we've got a family room – and I would
always most probably kneel down in front of them or sit down in front of them,
never stand up, never be above them. Get down here so I can just touch them.

Well you never know, that might be your next career.
You've had a wonderful life Joyce,

I have.

I've really enjoyed listening to it. And it seems to
me that the older you've become, the better you've enjoyed your work, and life.
Thank you ever so much.

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