LOVE IS THE SLUG
1977, January. I left school, again, and got a job. It wasn’t easy. Over fifty applicants, I was second best. The first, took the job, but left after a week. I was given a call, I accepted the job. Trainee Die Sinker. £18 a week. I loved it, ok I had to make tea, I had to fetch sandwiches, I had to brush the factory floor. Despite this, it was interesting. I got to engrave with a pantagraph.
An amazing machine. You get a 3-d model of a coin and then engrave it onto a die. Very precision oriented work, the cutter blade had to be measured to microns. It was totally mind consuming, you got lost for hours in the work. Just like painting or sculpting. I used to spend hours watching the model maker and the engraver, and I was totally engrossed in the work. The firm liked me. The gave me a £3 raise after three months. Then I got the call from Wyatt & Green, they wanted to take on a couple of trainee diamond setters. They offered us, me and David Buffery £28 a week. I reluctantly accepted their offer. Although I loved die sinking, they told me that I would never earn as much as I could setting.
Dave and I were apprenticed to Ken Hughes. We were started on coins… Ironically. Ken showed us how to grind down a two-pence piece on a shellac stick. We would the practice drilling holes, setting stones ( only spinels) into these two-pence blanks. Apart from this, we were expected to make tea, fetch sandwiches and all the other mindless chores allotted to trainees. On Saturday mornings we would be allowed to mop the shopfloor for overtime.
After about three months, Ken Hughes had had enough of training us, and he went and took a job as a porter. Can’t say I blame him. For myself, I wasn’t a great student. I got bored easily. When Ken left, Buffer and I were left high and dry. It was decided that Bobby Elwell would take on Buffer and 2 or 3 other trainees. I can’t remember exactly when everyone started but, in the end Bob had Buffer, Noel, Neil and Richard under his wing. My Dad got the short straw, and took on my training.
It was about this time, I became Slug! It was a gradual transition, from Dale the whale, to snail, then to slug and last but also very least… Slimy. Yeah Nice. A nickname to savor. After my Dad got fed up with my lack of interest, I eventually came under the calming influence of Dougie Kyte. A real Gent. And a real drinker. He would have at least 4 pints every lunch hour. It was about this time that Chris Shellis started at the firm. He used to accompany me to the pub every lunch time. he had been away to Jersey for the summer season, and it was due to his influence that I eventually decided I wanted to go travelling.
In those days, we had so much work we were on unlimited over-time for months on end. Up to 96 hours in a week, It became ridiculous. I was earning loads of money, but when the bosses left at 5.30, we would play cards until 9.pm. I was young and gullible and would practically lose all the extra money I made playing 3 card brag. Working 6 1/2 days a week for no extra money soon becomes old. I began to hate the job.
I left Wyatt & Green four times, twice resigning, twice finished. First time I left, I decided maybe it was just the firm I hated. I took a job up at the Hockley Centre. As a proper setter… I was promised loads of incentives, but after a week of setting silver spinel single-stone earrings and 250 old vics with garnet and opals. I told them where to stick it and went back tail between my legs to the old firm. Then I broke up with my girlfriend Kate, and decided I wanted away. I left again, this time vowing never to come back… I went to Jersey, Then Sandbach… And came back on a temporary contract for three months. John the manager, called me into the office…
” Is that your BMW outside?”
“Err Your contract is up and we are not renewing it. Thanks for your help.”
A man with real people skills.
I came back for another 3 month contract when my daughter was born… But once again they decided not to renew my contract. Whilst there on the last occasion I got talking to someone who was going through Uni, after taking an access course. I have him to thank for introducing this to me, for after making some inquiries, I discovered that with my one A’level I could get myself into uni by taking this year long course.
So there you have it the history of love is the slug…
Thanks for reading.