Friday, 30 March 2012

I change jobs and buy a house

Volume 2 – A new life begins – chapter 5 – early marriage – part 4 – I change jobs and buy a house – post 57 loaded on 30/03/12

A few weeks after we became aware that we were having a baby fate hit us with another unexpected blow that meant a major change and a radical redirection of the course we were to follow. Our landlady, whom we had never met, announced that she wanted the bungalow for other purposes, and requested that we made arrangements to move elsewhere, no great rush of course, but would we make the arrangements at our own convenience. There was no explanation and we had no right to ask for one, but it did cross our minds that she might have heard of the impending increase to our family and decided that she did not want children putting sticky fingers all over the wallpaper, or something like that. Once again our future was looking decidedly shaky.

Quite a few weeks marched by and I could find no other accommodation to rent, the problem was that this was a holiday town and all accommodation was reserved for high paying holiday makers, if locals could not afford to buy a house then were forced to move on. Moving on into the winter of 1957 Jackie drew near to her time, which arrived in the early hours of the 1st December. Arrangements had been made for Len to take her to a nursing home at Prestatyn when the time came, so at 3am or 4am I found myself galloping up the road to the phone box to call up the cavalry to come to our rescue. It was a cold frosty morning but Len was used to being called out at all hours, and he arrived in a few minutes, away she went in good hands, while I got ready to meet the bus that would take me to work.

The time had not yet arrived when a man was expected to be present at a birth, the general opinion at this time was that a woman having a baby was entitled to complete privacy, and to me that seemed sensible. Why would a woman going through the trauma of giving birth want an audience? Throughout the day I was given progress reports, and became quite worried when I was told that Jackie was having a difficult birth; the baby was said to be big and slow to appear. It was not until about 5pm that the news finally arrived that it was a boy weighing 8lbs 9ounces, and I would be allowed to visit my exhausted wife that evening and see the new arrival. I went to have tea with Ethel Grant and afterwards she drove me to the nursing home for our momentous visit; Len was working but had left the car for our use and though it had gone dark Ethel insisted she would drive. I had no say in the matter though I knew what an appalling driver she was; I had experienced the terrors of riding with her on a couple of previous occasions. In addition to her lack of ability and poor eyesight, there was the problem of a failing car which had done too many miles and was overdue for retirement. It was a Ford ‘Popular’ which was not well made, it rattled and banged and had the world’s worst headlights; Ford cars had a bad reputation at the time, there was a saying: ‘A Ford, a Ford, four wheels and a board.’ Even in competent hands this old flivver was a risky proposition, but when driven by Ethel it was a recipe for disaster, and we came within a whisker of it that night.

Mrs Grant was a temperamental person at the best of times, but when driving it did not take much to upset her; the state of the car did not help matters either. It was a dark damp sort of night to which you could add the driver’s very poor sense of direction, which meant that she was soon in a state of nerves, ready to panic at the slightest thing. About half way through the journey our moment of crisis came when we found ourselves behind a big double - decker bus which decided to stop part way up a long steep hill. In a state of complete dither Ethel pulled out to pass the bus and finding she was slowing down rapidly she decided to change down a gear. The worn gear box required firm handling and when my hapless driver began to stir it like a bowl of pudding mix she lost all communication with the gears completely. At that moment over the brow of the hill coming in the opposite direction came a car moving faster than it should have been. It all happened in an instant but to me it was taking place in slow motion, we seemed to crawl slowly passed the bus turning in to our side of the road, at the same time the approaching car swerved onto the footpath and squeezed passed us so close it almost took the paint of the side of the cars. I could hardly believe we were still alive, and when I began to think how the new born baby had almost lost his father so soon after his birth, I began to break into one of those silly nervous uncontrollable giggles. Ethel had no idea why I was laughing, but that sort of nervous laughter is infectious, and being in an almost hysterical condition she began to giggle. We had just about recovered from our hysteria by the time we reach the nursing home, but then it began all over again because Ethel could not park the car. Our destination was on a steep hill, and when we stopped the hand brake would not hold the car, for a moment I could see us careering down the hill to smash into a brick wall at the bottom. Then I got a grip on myself and told Ethel to turn into a short entry way by the nursing home, where the car could stand on reasonably level ground. It almost did the trick, but there was still a little slope and the car began to move again, then I suggested she put the transmission into gear and that finally solved the problem. We sat for some minutes afterwards laughing uncontrollably before we finally pulled ourselves together and went to see Jacqueline and the baby.

It seemed that lady luck had smiled on us that night, something she did again within a few days. A new factory was being built about a mile outside St Asaph (which is the smallest cathedral city in the United Kingdom) this new factory would be about 7 miles from Rhyl out along the Glas-coed road and though only part built the owners were looking for staff. It would be some months before everything would be ready for production but in the meantime the company wanted to put in place an efficient security force. With the thought in mind ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and with my needs being urgent, I decided to try my luck. This new venture was being set up by the largest privately owned company in the UK, which was Pilkington Bros Ltd of St Helens in Lancashire. They were one of the world’s largest manufacturers of glass, and they had gone into partnership with Chance Co Ltd of Birmingham, one of the most technically advanced manufacturers of lenses and other optical products in the country. Their new factory would be full of the latest advances in lens making, and some of the processes were so secret that they wanted to impose strict security on the site, even before it was completed.

Company personnel and management staff were interviewing at the biggest hotel in St Asaph so I presented myself hoping that I might be accepted. My interview went well though I quickly realised that I was up against some tough opposition; they had already employed a number of older more experienced men, most being ex policemen. All I could claim was that I had been briefly in the Royal Military Police, and that I was only 24 years old; however, my luck was holding out, they told me that they wanted to employ a range of ages so that the whole force would not think about retirement all at the same time. They would accept me though I would be the youngest and most junior officer of the group. We would be expected to work shifts, all expect a senior man who would work normal office hours; his name was Dick Jones a retired DI (Detective Inspector) from the CID office of the Liverpool Police. We would be required to commence work right away, and the salary would be about £600 per annum which would be paid monthly. I could not believe my luck, my pay would be nearly £100 a year more than I was getting at present, and what is more I would be able to cycle to work which would save me further travel expenses.

There is little point in reminding myself that I was doing it again, lying and cheating to secure a chance to show what I could do. To get this new job I had claimed to have served in the RMPs, though technically I had only passed the training course. It would never have crossed my new employer’s mind that I was not a completely fit young man; I looked fit, and when it came to physical things I had learned to bluff people into believing I could do anything. I had to admit to myself that I did appear to be making progress, like it or not my dishonesty was actually working, I had cast aside my morals and ethics and there was no going back now. At long last the storm clouds were disappearing and the sun was shining down on me, my troubles were not over yet but the situation was improving, and I felt that there would be more to come, and I was right. It was not long before I discovered there were some perks from working for such a wealthy company, they had an arrangement with a large insurance company called Sun Life Insurance it was that any employee who was designated staff was entitled to a 100% mortgage on a new house. I should mention that a large number of skilled workers were to move into the district from the parent factories in both St Helens and Birmingham, so this arrangement with the insurance company must have been one of the carrots they were holding out to the people they wanted to move to North Wales. At the same time that I found out about the mortgage offer, I also discovered that a friend, who was a builder (Mr Owen the Welshman I had met at parties held at the Grant’s house,) had just completed a row of new semi-detached houses. It was not long before I was the proud owner of one of these houses, though it was easy to forget that I had borrowed all the £1950 it had cost me.

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